Posts Tagged ‘Charles Whitley’

Remembering Charles Whitley killed WW1 Arras 11 April 1917

May 16, 2017

Remembering Captain Charles Whitley, 7th KRRC, brother of Paignton Zoo founder Herbert Whitley, who was killed at Arras,  11 April 1917.

The Battle for Arras finished today 100 years ago on the 16th May 1917.

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Hibers cemetery, where Herbert’s brother Charles Whitley is buried, on the brow of the hill to the left of the cross of sacrifice (Image; CWGC website)

A mistake in blogpost scheduling meant this did not go out on the 11th April on the centenary anniversary as intended.

Captain Charles Whitley, 7th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Military  Cross, died aged 28 on 11th April 1917 during the Battle for Arras (9 April – 16 May 1917).

He is buried at  Grave Reference C. 15, Hibers Trench Cemetery, France.

http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/31605/HIBERS%20TRENCH%20CEMETERY,%20WANCOURT

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website lists him as born at Halewood, Liverpool and as the Son of the late Mr. Edward Whitley and Elizabeth Eleanor Whitley, of Primley, Paignton, Devon.

His headstone personal inscription is a Bible verse chosen by his mother:  “I  thank my God upon every remembrance of you. Philippians Chapter 1 Verse 3”

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KRRC soldiers are buried alongside their Captain Charles Whitley at Hivers Trench Cemetery, Jersey. Surrounding cemeteries at Wancourt and the Arras memorial bear more names of Whitley’s fellow KRRC soldiers.

There are several websites which describe Charles Whitley including portraits, obituaries and pictures of his headstone:

http://www.flintshirewarmemorials.com/memorials/hawarden-memorial/hawarden-sodliers-2/charles-whitley/

In the 1911 census, Charles Whitley aged 22  was  living as the Joint Owner and Occupier of “Weatherstones”, Windle Hill, Neston, Cheshire.  The other Joint Owner and Occupier was Edmund Page.

Both Charles and Edmund were engaged in a similar  type of stock breeding venture as his brothers Herbert and William in their farming and stock ventures in Devon. Charles was partnered with Page in   “a special and scientific line in farming and cattle breeding” (Hawarden Parish magazine, memorial service / obituary 1917 shown in the Flintshire War Memorials website.)

Looking at the portraits of Charles and brother Herbert you can see a strong family resemblance.

The Battle of Arras

For 38 days the Battle of Arras saw the highest average daily casualty rates of any British offensive in a First World War Battle. Over 300,000 soldiers were killed or wounded on the British, Allied and opposing German side.

From 9th April to the 16th May 1917, British troops attacked German defences near the French city of Arras on the Western Front.

At first it seemed like success, the British and Allied army achieved the longest advance since trench warfare had begun, surpassing the record set by the French Sixth Army on the first day of the Battle of The Somme 1 July 1916, which went so badly wrong for the British Army. This British advance slowed in the next few days, the period when Charles Whitley was killed, as the German defences recovered.

The Battle of Arras soon became a costly stalemate of trench warfare for both sides.

By the end of the Battle of Arras on May the British Third and First armies had suffered about 160,000 casualties and the German 6th Army 125,000 casualties. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Arras_(1917)

Several zoo keepers from London Zoo and other zoos were also killed in this same 1917 period and Arras battle. No doubt many of the various Whitley family’s farm and estate workers in Wales and Devon also served and some died.

ZSL London Zoo librarian Henry Peavot

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/remembering-zsl-london-zoo-librarian-henry-peavot-killed-ww1-21-april-1917/

ZSL London Zoo Gardener Robert Jones

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/robert-jones-london-zoo-gardener-killed-battle-of-arras-april-1917-ww1/

J.L. Jennison of Belle Vue Zoo

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/remembering-j-l-jennison-of-the-belle-vue-zoo-jennison-family-died-ww1-3rd-may-2017/

Ralph Stamp of Belle Vue Zoo https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/remembering-ralph-stamp-of-belle-vue-zoo-manchester-died-23-april-1917-ww1/

Charles’ brother Herbert Whitley, a keen zoologist and gardener,  established his Zoological Gardens at Primley, Paignton, Devon in 1923 partly as a Botanic Garden.

Many Botanic garden staff were killed in WW1 including during the Battle of Arras..

Botanic gardeners, naturalists and scientists killed at Arras 

Charles Beswick of  Kew Gardens and Fota

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/22/remembering-charles-beswick-of-kew-gardens-and-fota-died-ww1-22-april-1917/

F.T. Pursell of Kew Gardens

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/04/remembering-f-t-pursell-kew-gardens-ww1-died-4-april-1917/

Fred Honey of Kew Gardens

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/remembering-frederick-honey-of-kew-gardens-died-ww1-17-april-1917/

Munro Briggs Scott of Kew Gardens Herbarium

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/remembering-munro-briggs-scott-of-kew-gardens-herbarium-killed-12-april-2017-ww1/

Australian herpetologist Dene Barrett Fry

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/remembering-zoologist-dene-b-fry-aif-fellow-linnaean-society-nsw-died-arras-1917-ww1/

Many of these men who have no known grave are remembered on The Arras Memorial, maintained by the CWGC

http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/82700/ARRAS%20MEMORIAL 

CWGC have also produced an interesting online booklet about the Battle of Arras, including mention of poet Edward Thomas killed on its opening day. http://blog.cwgc.org/arras-intro/

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Herbert Whitley, trademark cigarette in mouth (Image source: Paignton Zoo website)

One wonders what might have happened if Herbert Whitley had been fit enough to fight?

Herbert Whitley was lucky in someways to have had poor enough eyesight to fail an army medical, likewise his brother William was unable to serve, having severely damaged his leg in a riding accident years before. Their contribution to the war effort would be as estate owners, animal breeders and farmers, then a reserved occupation.

‘What If’ History?

Captain Charles Whitley served on the Western Front, gaining a Military Cross for gallantry before being killed in 1917.

If Herbert had been fit to serve, this could well have been his story. A What If? history that would see no Paignton Zoo opened, no Slapton Ley nature reserve was preserved for the nation from inappropriate development and ultimately no Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) was formed on Whitley’s death in 1955.

Read more at:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/war-and-the-whitleys-para-medics-peacocks-and-paignton-zoo/

Remembering Charles Whitley, the men of the 7th King’s Royal Rifle Corps and the many casualties of the Battle of Arras on both sides, 100 years on from this 38 day battle ended, 16 May 1917 / 2017. 

Thankfully there is now a lull in the casualty lists amongst zoo and gardens staff until August 1917 when the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium known as Passchendaele dragged on bloodily into the harsh muddy winter months from 31 July – 10 November 1917 (3 months and 6 days) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo.


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