Philip George FINNEY
Rank: Rifleman
Number: 6400
Date of Death: 31 October 1914
Age: 28 (based on 1901 Census)
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

The 1901 Census shows Philip living at 37 Cunliffe Street, Stockport, with his parents James Henry Finney and Anne Maria Finney and sister, Caroline. At the time, he was earning his living as a railway clerk. His parents were earning extra money by taking in three boarders who also were working for the railway company. At the time war was declared, the family had moved to Stockport Road, Cheadle and he was working as a rural postman based at Cheadle Post Office. To have been fighting so early in the war, Philip must have been a reservist. This means that, for some period between the 1901 Census and the commencement of his employment as a postman, he had been a regular soldier. He would have been recalled to the colours at the outbreak of war in August.

He had probably been in almost constant action since late August taking part in the Battles of Mons, the Marne and the Aisne. October brought the 2nd Battalion to Gheluvelt on the outskirts of Ypres (now called Ieper) in Belgium. It was a desperate situation with the British troops fighting against massive odds. They had hastily dug in on the 29th to the south of the village and spent the next day trying to improve their defences, whilst under continual shellfire.

On the 31st, the enemy attacked in strength but was held off initially. They managed to get into part of the British trenches and were firing down the trench with a machine gun. At one point, they brought up a field artillery piece to within 800 yards of the British line, intent on demolishing the defences. “A” and “B” companies were now almost surrounded. Most of the men were dead or injured and several started to be taken prisoner. Coming quickly to the assistance of the British, the Field Artillery brought up their own gun and fired point blank at the Germans advancing down the main street of the village. This stopped them in their tracks for enough time for the Battalion to withdraw to a position on higher ground outside the village.

Throughout this time, there was fierce hand-to-hand fighting, especially in the village. The Germans managed to position a machine gun in a side street, which enabled them to fire on the British reserve trenches. Orders were given to retire from this position. The withdrawal was covered by two platoons of “D” Company who managed to hold up the German advance for 40 minutes, leaving when the enemy was only 40 yards away. The remnants of the Battalion were reorganised and brought back to reinforce the fighting line

The Stockport Advertiser, on 2 July 1915 reported that “Information has been received that Pte Philip Finney of the Kings Royal Rifles who has been “missing” since last October, is at present in a prisoners camp in Germany.”

The information was clearly wrong and Philip had been killed. It may not have been possible to absolutely confirm this until after the war ended and prisoners returned home. His body was, however, never identified. He was one of 60 members of the Battalion killed on that day.

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