Phillip James KELLY
Rank: Private
Number: 37838
Date of Death: 2 October 1917
Age: 31
Cemetery: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium

Phillip's inscription on the Stockport War Memorial is amongst those men who served with the Royal Engineers and, indeed, he originally served with an East Lancashire Territorial Army Company of Engineers. He enlisted into the Engineers on 2 March 1916 and is understood to have been transferred to the Leicestershire Regiment at the end of the year. He went overseas, as an infantryman the following month.

When Phillip was 14, he is believed to have apprenticed to his father to learn the craft of stone masonry. He was the second child, but eldest son, of Joseph and Margaret Kelly and had been born locally on 1 May 1885.  In 1901, he was living at the family home at 3 Coronation Street, Stockport. By 1917, Joseph had died and Margaret had moved to 76 Wood Street. Living with her were three of her other children - Esther, Joseph and John. The youngest, Henry (known as Harry) was also serving with the Army in France (and is thought to have survived the War).

On 4 August 1909, Phillip had married Elizabeth H Downs (or Jackson) and they are thought to have set up home at 5 Mahood Street, Edgeley. They would have five children together - Norah, born on 26 May 1911,  twins Phillip and Doris, born on 24 April 1913, Margaret, born 18 December 1915 and Vera who was born on 7 October 1917 and must have been conceived just before Phillip left for the front.  

The Third Battle of Ypres (often known as Passchedaele) had opened on 31 July 1917 and had, almost immediately, become literally bogged down. Weeks later, the British had advanced managed to advance their line through the mud, in a series of hard-fought attacks. Phillip died at a Casualty Clearing Station (field hospital) at Poperinge,some miles behind the front line. As such, it cannot be known for certain when he was wounded, but men usually never stayed for more than a day or so at a CCS - they had either been moved to more permanent hospital facilities, or they had died.

On 1 October, the Fusiliers moved into support positions at Polygon Wood, some 8 kilometres east of Ypres (now Ieper). This was a new section of the trench system and there were only partly dug positions for "B" and "C" Companies. The other two Companies had to dig their own trench. Luckily, this was completed without a single casualty. However, at 4.45am, the enemy opened an artillery barrage on the front line and, at 5.20, the German infantry attacked with it's main force being delivered against the Battalion on the right of the Leicesters. It was in danger of being forced out of its trench and the Leicester's "B" Company was sent forward to re-enforce it.

The remainder of the Battalion, still in support, now came under artillery fire and moved to the east to escape the barrage. Further platoons were sent to support the front line units but these suffered heavy casualties as they passed through the artillery barrage. A defensive flank was, however, able to be formed at the eastern edge of Polygon Wood.

The next day, the Battalion's War Diary notes that it was fairly quiet except for some exchanges of artillery fire between the two sides. There was an enemy sniper in a concrete shelter who also caused some casualties. "2nd Lieutenant Dowell crawled out and engaged this sniper and was wounded through the shoulder whilst firing at him".

Sometime during these two days, Phillip was badly wounded. He was evacuated from the front line to a field hospital (No. 10  Casualty Clearing Station) a few miles away at Poperinghe. There military surgeons would have done all they could to save his life but without success.

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