Thursday, 8 December 2016

On this day in 1916, Private Edwin Philp was killed

Private 19854
2nd Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
Died age 24
8th December 1916
Of all the names researched so far for this series of biographies, that of Edwin Philp is the one whose details are most unsatisfactory. All of the evidence supports what is written below but undisputable validation has not been possible. Further research will either confirm or dispute these findings.

Edwin Philp was born in Tutwell in 1886, one of the sons of William Henry and Elizabeth Anne Philp. William Philp was a farmer and fruit grower and Edwin worked on the family farm until he enlisted in the army at Launceston on 24th April 1915. He was initially assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry with whom he landed in France on 24th August 1915. Nothing is known of his service in France but he was subsequently transferred to the 2nd Battalion, which became part of the British Salonika Force (BSF) to fight in what has been rather disparagingly called, a ‘peripheral campaign’.

In October 1915 the first British troops landed at the Greek port of Salonika (now Thessaloniki) from Gallipoli and France. The BSF fought alongside French, Greek, Italian, Russian and Serbian contingents. British and French colonial troops from the Indian subcontinent, Africa, and Indochina also took part. Of a total allied force of around 600,000 men the BSF numbered 220,000 men at its peak strength. War Office reluctance to support the campaign led to a gradual decline in numbers and, until April 1917, the front was relatively quiet. The major effort came in September 1918 as part of all-encompassing allied offensives, which led to the end of hostilities with Bulgaria on 30th September 1918. As well as battle casualties, the force suffered severely from malaria, there being about 160,000 admissions to hospital in three years, almost equal to the fighting strength of the force. The health of many men was permanently ruined.

The 2nd Battalion DCLI was heavily involved in the actions of the campaign and, in December, took part in an attack on Tumbitza Farm on the Struma Front in Macedonia. At a location called Rabbit Wood, Edwin was killed in action on 8th December 1916. He was the only man killed in action from his battalion that day and his body was never recovered. As well as on our local war memorials, he is commemorated on the Doiran Military Memorial, which is situated in the north of Greece close to the Macedonia border and near the south-east shore of Lake Doiran.
The Doiran Memorial stands roughly in the centre of the line occupied for two years by the Allies in Macedonia, but close to the western end, which was held by Commonwealth forces. It marks the scene of the fierce fighting of 1917-1918, which caused the majority of the Commonwealth battle casualties. The memorial serves the dual purpose of Battle Memorial of the British Salonika Force (for which a large sum of money was subscribed by the officers and men of that force), and place of commemoration for more than 2,000 Commonwealth servicemen who died in Macedonia and whose graves are not known.

The memorial stands near the Doiran Military Cemetery. The cemetery (originally known as Colonial Hill Cemetery No.2) was formed at the end of 1916 as a cemetery for the Doiran front. The graves are almost entirely those of officers and men of the 22nd and 26th Divisions and largely reflect the fighting of April and May 1917 (the attacks on the Petit-Couronne), and 18-19 September 1918 (the attacks on Pip Ridge and the Grand-Couronne). In October and November 1918, after the final advance, a few burials were added by the 25th Casualty Clearing Station. After the Armistice, graves were brought into the cemetery from the battlefields and from some small burial grounds, the most important of which was Strumnitza British Military Cemetery, north-west of Doiran, made by the 40th Casualty Clearing Station in October and November 1918. The cemetery now contains 1,338 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 449 of them unidentified. There are also 45 Greek and one French war graves.

No comments: