It was the sombre culmination of months’ of research.

In a ceremony at Netley military cemetery pupils from Wildern School laid a wreath to mark 100 years since the last day of the Battle of the Somme on November 18 1916.

The Hedge End children had looked through archives from all over the world to piece together the forgotten stories of those buried at the Royal Victoria park cemetery, who had all been treated at the military hospital.

Speaking after the ceremony Councillor Andrew Gibson said: “Until recently, only one soldier injured at the World War I battle was known to have been buried at the cemetery linked to the site’s former military hospital.

"However, a century later, and as part of a Living Memory project undertaken by the county council and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, local school children have discovered ten more soldiers buried at the cemetery who were wounded at the Somme.”

Also present at the event was Stan Newell, whose father Percy was one of the few survivors of the Somme.

After being shot by a German sniper on no man’s land Percy went missing but was eventually brought back to Netley military hospital where he spent 18 months, before recovering and spending the rest of his life in West End.

Stan said: “It’s been a very memorable day for me.”

The ten soldiers can now be added to the commission’s official list of UK Somme casualties.

They are:

Private John Fiddler

John Fiddler from the Hulme area of Manchester, worked as a carter on the railways before volunteering to enlist in August 1914. He was sent to the Western Front in March 1915, before taking part in the Battle of Hill 60, Ypres, Loos and Vimy Ridge as well as other engagements. Private Fiddler was amongst the thousands of British troops who went ‘over the top’ on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July, 1916, as part of the attack on Mouquet (‘Mucky’) Farm. He received a ‘gun shot wound of the upper extremities’ and was evacuated to the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley, where he arrived on 2 July.  He died on 11 July. He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the General Service and Victory Medals.

Private John Frater Christmas

Australian John Frater Christmas enlisted in 1915 and later joined the 7th Machine Gun Company. Students researched Australian websites and archives to discover the former electrician from Tasmania suffered a gunshot wound to the head during a heavy German bombardment on the night of 5 August, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme. He was transferred to the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley and died on 30 August 1916, aged 26 years. He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Private Norman Elmo Anstis

Norman Elmo Anstis was a farmer from New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand before he enlisted in the Wellington Infantry Battalion, B. Company.  Students used records held by the Auckland Museum in New Zealand to discover that he embarked on 8 January, 1916, on the ship Maunganui, heading first to Suez and then to France in April 1916.  Students believe that he was wounded while the New Zealand Division were carrying out trench raids in the Armentieres sector to divert the attention of German High Command away from Allied preparations for the offensive on the Somme. He died at the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley on 5 August, 1916.  Students have discovered that his funeral took place at Netley at 2pm on Monday, 7 August, 1916, and wreaths were sent by the New Zealand Office.

Second-Lieutenant James Thursby Roberts

James Thursby Roberts was born and educated in Kent before his family settled in Westtow, North Yorkshire. He received a commission in The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) in August 1915. Despite being only 20 years old, the Second-Lieutenant was in command of the ‘B’ Company of men at the Battle of the Somme. On 1 July, 1916, he went ‘over the top’ to capture German front and support trenches on the southern edge of Mametz-Bulgar Alley. Students discovered he was named in the Regiment War Diary as performing “specially good work.” Just two weeks later, Second-Lieutenant Roberts was shot in the neck, paralysing him. He was taken by ambulance train to the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley for treatment, but died on 20 July, 1916. Students also found an extract from the Burnley Express dated 9 August, 1916, announcing his death. 

Sergeant Henry George Young

Researching army records, students discovered that Henry George Young was a gardener, living in South Woodford, London when he enlisted in the Royal Regiment of Artillery on 2 January, 1915.  Aged 22, 5’8” tall and weighing 148lbs, he was described as being of ‘good’ physical development.  Students found out that with the 29th Division, Sergeant Young was stationed near the village of Beaumont-Hamel and was in the heart of the action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  Army records show that he was wounded in action on 1 July, 1916, and was admitted with a gun shot wound to the 29th Casualty Clearing Station at Gezaincourt.  From there, he was moved to the 1st Stationary Hospital in Rouen and then invalided to England.  Students found records that show that on 8 July, 1916, Henry George Young died in transit to the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley from gangrene and the gunshot wound to his thigh.

Private Thomas O’Keefe

Thomas O’Keefe was born in Dublin in 1876.  He first joined the army in 1896, aged 20 and served for 12 years.  He then worked as a Carter before re-enlisting in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 17 May, 1911.  He was posted as part of the British Expeditionary Force on 2 May 1915 and joined his Battalion on 5 May.  We know from the history of the Dublin Fusiliers that they were involved in the attack at Beaumont-Hamel on 1 July 1916.  During that attack, out of the 23 officers and 480 men who left the assembly trenches, 14 officers and 311 men became casualties.  It is highly likely that it was during this attack that Thomas O’Keefe received his injuries.  He was admitted to the 19th Casualty Clearing Station at Beauval in the Somme the same day with gun shot wounds to the left arm and hip.  He was transferred to the Number 1 General Hospital in Le Havre on 2 July, 1916, and then evacuated to England on 4 July.  He was admitted to the Red Cross Hospital at Netley on 5 July but died on 8 July.

Private Arthur Chester

Arthur Chester was born towards the end of 1891 in Boston, Lincolnshire. He had a sad childhood, growing up in the Union Workhouse in Boston along with his mother and brother.  However, by the time he was 19, Arthur had moved to Leeds and was training as a teacher, later working at Murton Council (Junior and Middle) School in County Durham.  Arthur enlisted in the 18th Service Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, posting first to Egypt and then to France, arriving at the Front on 11 March 1916.  In the Battle of the Somme, the Durham Light Infantry were some of the first troops ‘over the top’ in the attack at Serre.  Arthur’s service record shows that he was admitted to the 35th Casualty Clearing Station at Doullens on 4 July 1916 with multiple wounds.  From there, he was sent to Number 2 General Hospital and then to England on the Hospital Ship ‘Asturias’.  He was admitted to the University War Hospital, Southampton, on 7 July 1916 with multiple gun shot wounds – to the abdomen, flank and ankle, and his medical history form states that the abdominal wound had led to him contracting peritonitis – a rapidly spreading infection.  He died at the hospital on 27 August 1916 and was buried in Netley Military Cemetery.  He is commemorated on the County Hall War Memorial in Durham.

Private Edwin Victor Coates

Edwin Victor Coates (also known as Edward) was born around 1898 in Norwich, Norfolk.  We do not have a copy of Edwin/Edward’s service record, but other records show that he enlisted as a Private in ‘A’ Company, 1st Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment and served with them in France.  Edwin Coates is listed on the ‘Battle of the Somme Roll of Honour’ website as having died of wounds on 12 September 1916.  There are 243 names listed for the 1st Norfolks on the Roll of Honour as having been killed in the Battle of the Somme. Of these, 100 were killed in action on 4 September 1916 at the attack on Falfemont Farm and a further 30 (including Edwin) died of wounds in the month afterwards.   The Regimental War Diary states that at 3.10pm, ‘A’ and ‘B’ Company made their assault.  It says: ‘Very heavy machine gun fire opened on them immediately.  Capt. Francis and a few men of A Coy. Succeeded in reaching the S.W. corner of the farm but were bombed out – and the remainder of the attack was held up by cross machine gun fire.  The situation then became very involved, as all the officers but two were either killed or wounded, and the advance over a 600 yard front was very split up as the only way to go on was by crawling from shell-hole to shell-hole – any attempt at an advance was immediately stopped by M. Gun fire.’  From this, we can infer that Edwin Coates was wounded in the action on 4 September, which was the attack on Falfemont Farm. It’s not known when he was transferred to the Royal Victoria Military Hospital in Netley, by the date of death marked on his gravestone is 12 September, 1916.

Private Donald Campbell Wood

Donald Campbell Wood was born around 1895 in Clapham and his parents were Walter (a schoolmaster) and Mary Wood.  A search on the internet for Donald Campbell Wood showed that he had been a pupil at Alleyn’s School in Dulwich.  He is listed on the World War I casualties from the school and his death was announced in the Edward Alleyn Magazine in December 1916.  The magazine states that he was a pupil at the school from 1905 to 1911 and was a House Prefect in 1911. He matriculated at London University in the Honours Division in July 1911 and went on to Dulwich College.  According to the death notice in the magazine issued in December 1916, Donald Campbell Wood “enlisted in the London Scottish and after seven months with his regiment in France, he was seriously wounded on July 1 and died, at Southampton, on July 18.”  From this, we understand that Donald Campbell Wood was wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when his Regiment (as part of the First Division) were fighting in the Battle of Albert. It’s not known when he was transferred to the Royal Victoria Military Hospital in Netley, by the date of death marked on his gravestone is 18 July, 1916.

Lance Corporal Frederick George Coles

Lance Corporal Frederick George Coles was born in Devon and worked as a Shipwright for Philip & Sons in Devonport.  Frederick George Coles first joined the army on 7 August 1914 as a Private in the 7th Devonshire Regiment.  He was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal in ‘F’ Company on 12th May 1915.  We know that he was married because his military record includes a letter stating that the issue of ‘separation allowance’ (money paid to the family of a soldier serving abroad) to his wife had been stopped because of her “persistent drinking and dissolute conduct”.  On 18th May 1916, Frederick transferred to the 2/5th Worcestershire Regiment as a Lance Corporal. Frederick’s Medical Report states that he was wounded at Contalmaison on 10 November, 1916.  He sustained a wound of the spinal column which had caused a complete transverse lesion of the spinal cord at about the 6th-7th dorsal nerve.  The bladder had become infected before admission to the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley. He steadily deteriorated and died on 13 December, 1916.