Edward LEE
Rank: Rifleman
Number: R/6267
Unit: 12th Battalion KINGS ROYAL RIFLE CORPS
Date of Death: 2 December 1917
Age: 24
Cemetery: Cambrai Memorial, Louveral, Nord, France

Edward is the oldest of three brothers, with Frederick and Leonard, commemorated on the Cheadle War Memorial. A fourth brother, Harry, served with the 3rd Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps and was wounded on 23 September 1915 in France but survived the war. The youngest brother, Bob, was probably too young to serve abroad before the War ended.

He lived with them and his parents, William & Elizabeth, at 13 Platt Street, Cheadle and worked as a gardener for Mr J Jones, Mosley Hall, Cheadle.

He enlisted in November 1914 at Stockport . On 11 September 1915 he was wounded in the left foot and recovered in hospital in Boulogne.

The Stockport Advertiser in its edition of 8 October 1915, wrote about the family “The patriotism of the family is another shining example of Cheadle’s share in providing young men for the defence of our King and country, but it is a pity for the mother that the only grant allowed by the Army Authorities is 9s per week for her husband. No allotment is made for the sons’ service.”

On 1 December, the battalion was entrenched near the village of Gonnelieu, about half way between the towns of Arras and St Quentin , in northern France. The village had been captured and the enemy had launched a counter attack against the positions held by “D” Company. Nearby, “B” & “C” Companies held slightly higher ground at La Vacquerie, and Edward was amongst these troops. Under cover of a heavy bombardment and machine gun fire from Gonnelieu Ridge, the enemy succeeded in advancing down Barrier Trench and were also moving across the open ground in small groups. These were held up for a time by rifle and Lewis Gun fire. Other German troops equipped with grenades and machine guns had more success and pushed “B” Company back some 70 yards. “B” Company then counter-attacked and drove the enemy out. A second attack then took place and severe hand-to-hand fighting took place.

After Edward was killed, the Battalion chaplain wrote to the family “He did a very brave thing just before he was killed. Jumping out of the trench and running along with the bombs, which he threw on the heads of German bombers who were working their way along the trench in which we were. It was due to his devotion and that of a few other men that we were able to hold our positions.”

Although Edward is not mentioned by name in the Official History, the act is recorded “Sgt Chatt of C Company, Sgt Steele and Rifleman Sergeant of B Company were most conspicuous in leading the counter attack. They jumped out of the trench and threw bombs on the heads of the enemy below. Their brave action and example inspired our exhausted men and, after a fierce struggle, the enemy were driven back to the Cambrai road. The Germans who attacked la Vacquerie were brave and determined men.”

No further attacks were made, although the enemy continued to use snipers against the British positions throughout the afternoon and evening. The Battalion War Diary also notes that the enemy “also had a little gun which fired at short range, possibly direct over the sights. The small high explosive shells which it fired were damaging not so much in fact as to morale, because men felt that it was shooting at them – not at the area they occupied – as was indeed the case. “

The men were now exhausted and were relieved during the night to Farm Ravine and the area of the British front line of a few days before. The War Diary notes four casualties from shell fire during the 2 December and Edward was probably one of these. It is also possible that he had been killed by shellfire during the previous evening and this fact was not recorded until the 2nd.

(Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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