Ezekiel Gill

Ezekiel Gill, with his brothers David and William, formed a trio of Gill brothers that were in the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium. The second son of David and Louisa Gill, he was born on the 27th of December, 1894, just over 123 years ago, in the post-Christmas and pre-New Year’s period, just as we are in right now. In the 1911 census he is listed as still living with his parents, and working as a bottle packer at a glassworks.

On August 3, 1913, at the age of 18, he married Rosa Charlotte Kitchener, and very soon afterwards, they were expecting their first child. Their son, Ezekiel, was born in the spring of 1914, but sadly did not see his first birthday, passing away in early 1915.

Ezekiel’s military service record was destroyed among the other “burnt” service files, so we are left to piece together his service from other sources. Family documents shared with me by a Great Grand niece of Ezekiel suggest that he, like his brother David, first joined the Royal Field Artillery. At the very least, the family is fairly certain that he was present at the Battle of Loos in the fall of 1915, as his second child, David, born in December 1915 was given the middle name “Loos” presumably after this battle.

At some point after the fall of 1915, Ezekiel was transferred to the 1st Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment in the 1st Division.  His service between late 1915 and the fall of 1918 cannot be ascertained through the military record, although he must have had some time on leave as his wife, Rosa, was again expecting a child that fall.

In September of 1918, the Battles of the Hindenburg Line began in which the allied forces worked to break the defensive position the German forces had held since 1916. On the 28th of September, the men of the 1st Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment had baths in the morning, and by 5pm they had been ordered to move to the front to relieve the 2nd Infantry Brigade. The next morning marked the beginning of the Battle of the St. Quentin Canal.  The 1st Battalion was ordered to take and hold three strategic objectives, some of which were heavily defended by machine guns. The artillery was supporting them, but bad misty weather, heavy hostile shelling, and a great deal of noise made it difficult for officers on the ground to discern whether their artillery support was even there.

By midday, conditions improved, and the 1st began a creeping barrage toward their three objectives.  This was a gruelling series of hours with heavy artillery creating a screen allowing infantry to slowly advance 50 metres at a time. By dark, their targets had been captured, but at a toll of 55 casualties, including 8 men killed.  Among them was Ezekiel Gill.  He was 23 years old.

Ezekiel’s daughter, Rosa Louisa Gill, was born just over three weeks later.

Ezekiel is buried in Vadencourt British Cemetery in Maissemy, France.  I am honoured to share the CWGC commemorative certificate for my cousin here.

 

Edmund Alfred Perring

Edmund Perring was born in July 1892 in the urban district of Edmonton (UK) to Joseph Perring (my 4th Great Uncle) and Sarah Elizabeth Oliphant, making him my first cousin four times removed. Sarah is listed in 1881 census as a servant, specifically a domestic nursemaid to the children of the middle-class Pallett family of Edmonton. She was 16 at the time.  Two years later, she married Joseph Perring who I will write more about in a future post.  Together they had thirteen children, the fifth of which was Edmund.

In the 1911 census, Edmund is listed as living with his family and working as a “carman” or someone who drives goods for a business.  There is no other mention of him in any of the records I have found until his military service papers where his trade or calling is listed as a “bender of sheet metal.”

His military papers also reveal that he had been conscripted into the British Expeditionary Force under the Military Service Act (MSA)  of 1916. Under this legislation, every British male subject (not including those living in the Dominions such as Canada) who, on 15 August 1915, was ordinarily resident in Great Britain,  had attained the age of 19 but was not yet 41, and, on 2 November 1915, was unmarried or a widower without dependent children, was deemed to have enlisted.  This was effective Thursday 2 March 1916.  There were a series of exemptions that applied to this, but none of of these applied to Edmund, and on November 10, 1916, he was “called up” to begin his service.  He was 24 years old.

MSA Calling up

Portion of Edmund Perring’s Service Paper upon being “called up.” 

He was initially assigned to the the Gloucester Regiment, and served the duration of 1916 and all of 1917, and the first part of 1918 on home soil. In January 1917, he was assigned to the 17th Battalion which was formed  1 January 1917 from what had previously been the 82nd Provisional Battalion of the Territorial Force.  It is difficult to say what filled Edmund’s days during this time; the only clear point in his service record was that he was punished for “being asleep whilst on duty” on March 30, 1918.

Whatever was occupying him with the unit, he must have had some time for considering personal matters as on April 28, 1918, he married Amelia Groves in St. Peter’s church in Edmonton.

On June 10, 1918, he was one of 160 men from the 17th Gloucester transferred to the newly formed 33rd Battalion of the London Regiment. They embarked for France on July 3rd. The summer was spent training and working behind the lines before the battalion was moved with the rest of the 14th Division to Belgium in late August to take part in what would be some of the final battles of the war.  That said, for better or worse, Edmund did not take part in these battles. Prior to the battalion being sent to Belgium, Edmund was treated by a field ambulance unit then admitted to hospital with diarrhea on August 24, 1918, four days before his battalion was moved.  He remained in hospital or at convalescent depots for over two months, not returning to his unit until the 29th day of November–18 days after armistice.

The remainder of 1918 and the first part of 1919 were spent in Northern France engaging in ceremonial drills, physical training, recreational games, and educational opportunities for the men as, bit by bit, parts of the battalion were demobilized.  On March 16, 1919 Edmund was one of 120 men who left the unit by train to be transferred to the 2/17 Battalion of the London Regiment in Boulogne on the western coast of France.  In November he returned to England for demobilization.

Edmund and Amelia went on to have two sons, Edmund Henry (born 1924) and Alfred (born 1926). Alfred did not live to see his first birthday, passing away early in 1927.  Although Edmund Henry lived to adulthood, he died in 1953 at the age of 29, with the National Probate calendar stating that the administration of his estate was left to “Edmund Alfred Perring, sports groundsman.” Edmund and Amelia outlived both of their children.  Edmund died three years later, still living in Edmonton, UK.  His wife lived another 14 years, passing away in 1970.

Like many of the men I will profile over this year, Edmund was not the only member of his family to serve. Next week I will profile his brother, Alfred Charles Perring, whose journey in the war was quite different than his brother’s.