Monday 10 April 2017

Frederick Tilbury 1887-1917

Frederick Tilbury 1887-1917

Frederick Tilbury was born in Swallowfield in Berkshire in the summer of 1887, the youngest of nine children. His father James Tilbury married Jane Wheatley on 18 Aug 1867 at Swallowfield Parish Church. James was a baker and had a shop in the village of Swallowfield, south of Reading. The first of their children, also James, was born in 1869 followed by Mary, William, Arthur, and Sarah at two year intervals. Louisa arrived in 1881, then George, Edith and finally Frederick.

Frederick grew up in Swallowfield and along with all of his brothers became a baker and grocer.

On 23 Apr 1909, Frederick married Jessie Newton at Wokingham Register Office. Their first child, also Frederick was born in May 1910, followed by Edna in 1912 and Beatrice in 1916.

When Beatrice was six months old, Frederick was called up and he was assigned to the 1st/7th Battalion of The Durham Light Infantry. The 1st/7th Battalion was a pioneer battalion as part of the 51st Brigade in the 50th Northumberland Division. 

He joined the war at the beginning of a quiet winter when there had been little progress on either side. However in the spring of 1917, allied troops gained huge ground and took back many villages along the Western Front. This was also a time of much increased air activity with bombing and reconnaissance aircraft in use on both sides. In spite of the successful pushing back of the German lines by the allies, the Germans were still dug in over an eight hundred kilometre lines from the North Sea to the Swiss border. Planning began for a new offensive in the Arras Sector of the Western Front. Huge numbers of troops were deployed all along the front line and the action lasted from April 9th – May 16th. Commanders had made use of underground caverns beneath the city of Arras to shelter the men. These caves were so extensive they housed a hospital, a telephone exchange and even had a tramway to connect them.

The 1st/7th Durham Battalion were part of a huge attack aimed at taking German trenches and recapturing the village of Feuchy. The battle, now known as the first battle of the Scarpe, began on April 9th. Over the next few days huge progress was made and on April 12th, the village was taken. It was generally seen as a better organised and co-ordinated attack than earlier battles had been and a victory for the troops but with many casualties including somewhere in the melee on April 11th, Frederick Tilbury.

He was initially buried near the battlefield but on 1 Sep 1919, his widow Jessie received a letter from the Colonel in Charge of Infantry Records York to tell her that Frederick had been exhumed and reburied.
 “I beg to inform you that it has been necessary to exhume the remains of the late no 277337 Private Frederick Tilbury 7th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, for proper burial at Tilloy British Cemetery, 2 miles south east of Arras. The new grave has been duly marked with a cross bearing all the late soldier’s particulars. The removal was undertaken with every measure of care and reverence and the re-internment conducted by an army chaplain.”

He now lies in the graveyard at Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines and on his stone is engraved “Until the Day Breaks.”

In October 1917 Jessie received Frederick’s personal effects; Soldiers’ and Sailors Companion, note book, photos, cards, 2 mirrors, disc, gospel, stamps. 2½d. She was awarded a pension of 26/3 a week with effect from 29 Oct 1917.

In the summer of 1918, Jessie married again and had two more daughters, Joyce and Gwendoline. Neither of them married and they lived together in Reading until their deaths in the 1980s. Her three Tilbury children did marry and she had five grandchildren. Jessie died in Reading in 1957.

Frederick’s father James was my husband’s 3x grandfather, thus Frederick was his great-great uncle.

In Memory of
Private Frederick Tilbury
277337, 1st/7th Bn., Durham Light Infantry who died on 11 April 1917 Age 29
Son of James and Jane Tilbury, of Swallowfield; husband of Jessie Overton Tilbury, of Odiham Rd.,
Swallowfield, Berks.
Remembered with Honour
Tilloy British Cemetery

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