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«1 The Gravesend Imperial Paper Mills Great War memorial plaque is located at the entrance to the White House, which was formerly the offices of the ...»

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Gravesend Imperial Paper Mills


The Gravesend Imperial Paper Mills Great War memorial plaque is located

at the entrance to the White House, which was formerly the offices of the

Imperial Paper Mills at Imperial Wharf. Gravesend, as can be seen on one of

the accompanying photographs by Rob Bedwell. On the opposite of the

entrance is another plaque which is in rememberance of Alfred Charles

William Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe. We are much indebted to Rob

Bedwell for the photographs, and to Patrick D. Scullion for carrying out the following transcriptions The Great War memorial plaque is inscribed with

the names of fifty four casualties, and bears the following inscription:-




The Great War 1914 -1919 AITKEN, Lance Corporal, WILLIAM WHITELEY, G/731.

"C" Company, 7th (Service) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).

Died Thursday 3 May 1917. Aged 20.

Born New Mills, Manchester, Lancashire. Enlisted London. Resided Gravesend, Kent.

Son of William Alexander Aitken and Sarah Elizabeth Aitken of Alexander Lodge, Lennox Road, Gravesend, Kent.

Commemorated on the Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. Bay 2, and on the Gravesend, Kent civic war memorial.

When William enlisted in the army on 7 September 1914, he stated that he was 19 years old and employed as a Paper Maker. Following his training and service in England, William was posted to France on 28 July 1915. With some justification it is probably fair to say that the various commentators remarks about the action fought on the 2/3 May 1917 at the village of Chérisy, to the south east of Arras, France, by the 7th (Service) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), and by the other battalions taking part, along the lines of it being a failure are well grounded. It should be hastily pointed out however, that non of those (irrespective of country etcetera) who have passed judgment on same, have ever leveled any criticisms or disparaging remarks about those who took part in the action, which was undertaken as part of the overall battles of the Scarpe. On the night of 2/3 May 1917, William’s battalion was opposite the village of Chérisy, which is situated only a short distance to the south of the Arras to Cambrai road (D939). Waiting in readiness for the attack were the officers and other ranks of both ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies who had been selected to be the assaulting companies, with ‘C’ as the supporting Company, and ‘D’ Company being held in reserve, waiting in shell holes to the rear of the support trench. At 0345 hours the first two companies set off towards the battalions prime objective allotted the battalion on the morning of 3 May 1917, it being a location named Keeling Copse. Fortunately all the battalion were clear of the front trench prior to it, and 2 other locations being bombarded by German artillery. Blame for the confusion which had prevailed during the attack has been ascertained to numerous causes and people, but an overriding factor oft referred to was the fact that during the early stages of the days events, it had been pitch black. As the direct result of the lack of light, all the sections, platoons and even companies seen got mixed up and muddled. At one point virtually the whole of the 12th (Territorial Force) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, had crossed in front of the 7th (Service) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), but with a measure of commendable skill that error was corrected. With the coming of dawn the village of Chérisy was not only reached but actually passed, and as it was entered by the battalion touch was made with the same Middlesex battalion which had ‘strayed’ across its front earlier in the attack. Upon reaching the river Sensée beyond Chérisy, it was noted that the adjacent battalions had in fact lost touch with each other again. As the result of the set-back, Captain Black of ‘A’ Company wisely halted the battalion, and set about forming a defensive flank along the road which runs to the south east of Chérisy. Before the reorganization could be accomplished, the troops were heavily attacked, which had the additional result of the message sent back by Captain Black failing to get back. By 0900 hours Captain Black’s Company on the right flank of the battalion was unable to move. Resulting from the situation which ‘A’ Company was in, had the effect of those on the opposite flank losing what advantages it had made, with both ‘B’ and ‘C’ Companies having by that time also fought their way to the Sensée. Shortly afterwards, fresh orders were received by the 7th (Service) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), to advance in unison with the 8th (Service) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment to the ‘Red Line,’ and their fellow 55th Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division, members of the 7th (Service) Battalion, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), to consolidate the ‘Blue Line.’ At approximately 1100 hours unclear reports filtered through that a general retirement was taking place, at a time when stretcher bearers and the like were engaged on rescue undertakings. An unfortunate result of the confusion generated by the ‘retirement’ was that those engaged on the rescues, those retiring and the enemy soldiers were to all intents and purposes intermingled, which had the knock on effect of making it virtually impossible to open fire. After the ‘retirement’ was stopped the attack, albeit with less momentum got under way again, and as late as 1915 hours an attempt was made to reoccupy ‘Cable Trench’ by the 7th (Service) Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), supported by William’s battalion, but is was to no avail as the assaulting battalion was driven back by intense German machine gun and rifle fire. By the end of the day on 3 May 1917, the 7th (Service) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) was back in the original front line trenches. As the result of the failed attack at Chérisy, the battalion had two officers killed, six wounded and four missing, and the casualties to the other ranks were one hundred and twenty killed, one hundred and sixty nine wounded, and approximately one hundred missing. Initially, William was numbered amongst the other ranks of his battalion who were posted as ‘Missing,’ but later for official purposes the Army Council presumed that he had died on 3 May 1917.

3 BENNETT, GEORGE. Private, CH/8200.

Royal Marine Light Infantry. (RMR/B/838). H.M.S. Cressy.

Died 22 September 1914. Aged 42.

Adopted son of Maria Bennett of 18, Newman Road, Perry Street, Northfleet, Gravesend, Kent.

Commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial. Panel 7, as shown above, and on the Gravesend, Kent civic war memorial.

Early in the Great War, the Royal Navy maintained a patrol of old Cressy class armoured cruisers which was called ‘Cruiser Force C,’ in an area of the North Sea known as the Broad Fourteens. On 16 July 1914 the German submarine U-9 had become the first submarine in history to reload torpedoes whilst still submerged, and on 22 September 1914 the same submarine under the command of Kapitänleutnant Otto Weddigen who had commanded the U-9 since 1 August 1914, sighted H.M.S.Cressy, H.M.S.Aboukir and H.M.S.Hogue all steaming NNE at 10 knots without zigzagging, although the patrols were supposed to maintain a speed of 12 to13 knots and zigzag, the old cruisers were unable to maintain that speed, and the zigzagging order was widely ignored mainly due to the fact that there had been no enemy submarines sighted in that area of the North Sea at that stage of the war. Otto Weddigen and his crew later the same day put into practice under wartime conditions what they had perfected in peacetime, and were able to reload torpedoes beneath the waves. Otto Weddigen maneuvered the U-9 to attack the three cruisers, and at approximately 0625 hours fired a single torpedo at H.M.S.Aboukir which stuck her on her port side. H.M.S.Aboukir rapidly suffered heavy flooding and despite counter flooding developed a 20 degree list and lost engine power. It was soon clear that she was a lost cause and Captain Drummond ordered her to be abandoned although only one boat had survived the attack, as the result of which most crew had to jump into the sea. At first Captain Drummond thought that H.M.S.Aboukir had been mined and signaled the other two cruisers to close and assist with the rescue of his crew, but he soon realised that it was a torpedo attack and ordered the other cruisers away, but too late. As H.M.S.Aboukir rolled over and sank only half an hour after being attacked, Otto Weddigen fired two torpedoes at H.M.S. Hogue that hit her amidships and rapidly flooded her engine room. Captain Nicholson of H.M.S. Hogue had stopped his ship to lower boats to rescue the crew of H.M.S.Aboukir, thinking that as he was the other side of H.M.S.Aboukir from the enemy submarine he would be safe. Unfortunately the U-9 had managed to maneuver around H.M.S.Aboukir and attacked H.M.S.Hogue from a range of about only 300 yards, and it only took H.M.S.Hogue ten minutes to sink as the Uheaded for H.M.S.Cressy, which was commanded by Captain Johnson.

H.M.S.Cressy had also stopped to lower boats but she quickly got underway on sighting a submarine periscope. At about 0720hours Otto Weddigen fired two torpedoes, one of which just missed, but the other hit H.M.S.Cressy on her starboard side. The damage to H.M.S.Cressy was not fatal but the U-9 then turned round and fired her last torpedo as a coup de grace, which hit 4 H.M.S.Cressy sinking her within a quarter of an hour. Survivors of the disaster were picked up by several nearby merchant ships including the Dutch vessels Flora and Titan, and the British trawlers JGC and Corainder, before the Harwich force of light cruisers and destroyers arrived. Flora returned to Holland with 286 rescued crew who were quickly returned to Britain, even though the neutral Dutch should have interned them. In all 837 men were rescued but 1459 died, many of whom were reservists or cadets. On 18 March 1915 the German u-boat U-29 was rammed and sunk by H.M.S. Dreadnought in the Pentland Firth, all 32 submariners onboard perished including Otto Weddigen who had been in command since 16 February 1915.


1st/4th (Territorial Force) Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment).

Died 28 July 1917.

Born Northfleet, Kent. Enlisted Gravesend, Kent.

Son of George and Maria Bennett.

Commemorated on the Kirkee 1914-1918 Memorial, India. Face 7, and on the Gravesend, Kent civic war memorial.


24th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), (2nd Sportsman’s).

Died 15 January 1917. Aged 19.

Born Southampton, Hampshire. Enlisted and resided Gravesend, Kent.

Son of Mrs. Gertrude Biddlecombe of 17, Bligh Road, Gravesend, Kent.

Buried Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt, Somme, France.

Grave Ref: IV. A. 20.

Commemorated on the Gravesend, Kent civic war memorial.

Formerly Private, L/10661, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).

BONNER, JAMES GEORGE. Driver, T/20320.

Army Service Corps.

Died 6 December 1916. Aged 33.

Born Tovil Maidstone, Kent. Enlisted Maidstone, Kent. Resided Northfleet, Kent.

Son of Elizabeth Bonner of 93, Farleigh Hill, Tovil Maidstone, Kent.

Husband of Nellie Emma Bonner (née Harflett) of 73, Rural Vale, Rosherville, Northfleet, Kent.

Buried Louvencourt Military Cemetery, Somme, France.

Grave Ref: Plot 1. Row E. Grave 4.

Commemorated on the Northfleet, Kent civic war memorial, and on the Rosherville, Kent civic war memorial.

When James enlisted in the army as a regular soldier on 12 October 1903, for an engagement of 3 years with the Colours and 9 years in the reserve, he stated that he was 19 years and 3 months old, and that he was employed as a Paper Makers Assistant. In reply to being asked a question if he had a preference regarding which regiment or corps he served in, James replied the Army Service Corps. Following his enlistment, James joined the Army Service Corps at 5 Woolwich. On 12 January 1905 having completed 2 years service, James was awarded a Good Conduct Badge, and on 11 January 1906 he was discharged from his regular army commitment having completed his 3 years service as a Driver. At the time of his discharge, James was placed on the Army Reserve with instructions to report back to Woolwich if he was recalled in the event of a national emergency. James married Miss Nellie Emma Harflett at Maidstone Registry Office on 10 August 1907. At the commencement of the Great War James was recalled, and as instructed he reported back at Woolwich on 6 August 1914 and rejoined the Army Service Corps as a Driver, and of prevailing operational necessity he was posted to France for service in the British Expeditionary Force on 17 August 1914.


8th (Service) Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment).

Died 17 August 1916.

Born Northfleet, Kent. Enlisted Gravesend, Kent.

Son of Mrs. Mary Jane Bassant (formerly Bourne) of 209, Dover Road, Northfleet, Kent, and of the late William Thomas Bourne.

Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France. Pier and Face 11 C, and on the Northfleet, Kent civic war memorial.

When William enlisted in the army ‘For the Duration of the War’ on 30 November 1915, he stated that he was employed as a Labourer, and that he resided at 209, Dover Road, Northfleet, Kent, at which time he was 22 years and 137 days old.

Following his enlistment, William was placed on the army reserve until being mobilised on 22 January 1916. William’s initial training was carried out whilst serving in the 9th (Reserve) Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment). On 18 May 1916, William was posted to France with the 8th (Service) Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment).

BRADBROOK, JOSEPH WILLIAM. 2nd Corporal, WR/552550.

Inland Water Transport, Royal Engineers.

Died 11 March 1918. Aged 32.

Enlisted Gravesend, Kent.

Husband of Mrs. L. Bradbrook of 42, Cutmore Street, Gravesend, Kent.

Buried Basra War Cemetery, Iraq. Grave Ref: I. H. 16.

Commemorated on the Gravesend, Kent civic war memorial.

Formerly Sapper, 196938, Royal Engineers.


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