Elias LESTER
Rank: Private
Number: 6898
Unit: 2nd Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Date of Death: 25 May 1915
Age:
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

Before her marriage to John Doran, Elias' mother, Eliza, was named Lester. She is probably the Eliza Slattery who married Elias Lester at Chesterfield in 1877. In the early part of 1878, in the same town, William Lester was born and he was, almost certainly, their first child. The future soldier was also born in Chesterfield in 1884. Two daughters, Mary and Alice would follow but, by 1888, Elias, senior, had died. Sometime over the next 5 years, Eliza and her two sons moved to Stockport.

By 1901, when the Census was taken, she had married John Doran, a tailor, and they were living at 13 Great Portwood Street (and, later, at 20 Eryngo Street). They had had three children together. At that time, Elias, his brother and two sisters were all known as Doran, after their stepfather but, in later life, Elias reverted to using Lester as his surname.

In the late autumn of 1911, he married Nellie Simpson and they would live at 18 Brewery Street, Portwood, with their daughter. Elias worked as a tripe dresser for the local firm of Kent & Swarbrick. The firm had a works at Back Water Street and tripe shops at 15 St Petersgate and 7 Tiviot Dale. Regimental records published after the War note that Elias enlisted at Liverpool. It's not known why he would travel this far, but his service number is sufficiently low to suggest that he may have served as a regular soldier at some and still been on the reserve, being recalled to the colours when War was declared in August 1914.

The period between 22 April and 25 April is officially designated as the Second Battle of Ypres with the last two days being known as the Battle of Bellewaarde. The Germans opened an artillery bombardment at dawn on the 24th, followed up with an infantry attack which was partly successful in driving the British out of their trenches. The Shropshires were in reserve at this time, but were ordered forward to prepare for a counter attack to recapture the section of trenches between Bellewaarde Lake and a nearby railway line. This attack went in at 11pm, with the Shropshires on the left and a battalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps on the right. "Y" Company advanced through Railway Wood and captured the German front line, but it proved impossible to move on towards their second line, due to heavy machine gun and rifle fire from the front and both flanks.  By dawn, the position was becoming untenable as the Germans were receiving reinforcements and the fire was become even more intense. Accordingly, the Shropshires withdrew to a position west of a road near Whitteport Farm where they dug in.

Elias was one of 61 killed in this engagement. He was originally posted as being missing and it was not until March 1916 that the War Office determined that he must have been killed. Only one of the 61 has a known grave.

   
           
   
     
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