Basil Armitage CARVER
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Unit: 6th (Inniskilling) DRAGOONS
Date of Death: 21 August 1916
Age: 19
Cemetery: Ecoivres Military Cemetery, Mont-St Eloi, Pas de Calais, France


William Oswald Carver, Basil's father, was a very successful cotton goods merchant. It had allowed him and his wife, Kate Bentley Carver, to buy Cranage Hall, near Holmes Chapel. The 1901 Census gives an indication of the wealth that Manchester's cotton trade had brought to a small number of merchants. The Census records William, then aged 45, and Kate, 42 and their three children: Alan (15), Alison (9) and Basil (4), but it also shows that they could afford to employ 8 live-in servants - a housekeeper, cook, nurse and 5 maids. Basil had been born at marple on 22 November 1896.

The family owned Hollins Mill at Marple and also had offices and warehousing in central Manchester's "cotton district".

Basil was educated at Horton School from 1906 to 1910, when he went to the well known public school - Charterhouse, where he was a lance corporal in the school's Officer Training Corps. Basil's family applied for him to go to Sandhurst Military College to study for a cavalry cadetship, which he started on 11 November 1913. He was still finishing his studies when war was declared in August 1914. He received his commission just before his 18th birthday.

Basil left Southampton on 11 December 1914 to join his Battalion at Marseilles on the 15th.

By the middle of 1916, Royal Engineers were digging tunnels towards enemy lines around the Messines Ridge. Eventually, these would be packed with explosive and exploded on 7 June 1917, immediately before an infantry attack. It was hard and dangerous work for the specialist tunnellers. When not in the front line trenches, other troops would be kept active by undertaking less specialist work such as carrying the spoil from the tunnels away from the digging area. On 21 August, Basil was supervising his men in one of the tunnels near the village of Neuville St Vaast, doing that sort of work.

Four of the Royal Engineers were overcome by toxic fumes and Basil and several of his troop went deeper into the tunnel to try to rescue them. They failed and he and four men were also overcome and died. It was probably a build up of carbon monoxide that caused the deaths. One of the men who tried to rescue him was Sergeant William Fletcher. For his bravery, William was awarded the Military Medal. Mr & Mrs Carver later presented him with a gold half hunter watch inscribed with their thanks for his efforts.

Basil was related to a number of men commemorated on local memorials. His brother, Oswald, died on 7 June 1915. He also had two cousins: Harold Barlow and Geoffrey Bagshawe.

(Updated: February 2008. My thanks to a descendent of William Fletcher for the information about him. JH)

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