yeovil at War

herbert charles blake

Killed on Christmas Day in the Somme Offensive

 

Herbert Charles Blake was born in Yeovil in 1887, the son of leather stapler Elias Blake and his wife Sarah. In the 1891 census Elias and Sarah were listed at 91 Park Street with their children; Ethel aged 8, Bessie aged 6, Ernest aged 5 and Herbert aged 3. By 1901 the family had moved to 1 Smith's Terrace, Newtown and 13-year old Herbert was listed as an errand boy at a fish shop. He now also had five more siblings; Bertie, Flossie, Elsie, Percy and George.

Herbert enlisted in the army at Yeovil in January 1910 as Private Herbert Blake (Service No 8572) of 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards. In the 1911 census, while his family were living at 1 Smith's Terrace, Newtown, Herbert (incorrectly listed as a 19-year old) was listed as a Private in 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards at Ramillies Barracks, Aldershot.

Almost at the outbreak of war, as a Reservist, Herbert was called up. At the onset of war in 1914, the 2nd Battalion was part of the 4th Guards Brigade which was part of the 2nd Division of the Expeditionary Force. War was declared on 4 August and the 2nd Battalion embarked for France on 12 August 1914. All three battalions of the Coldstream Guards were taken for active service, with the 1st Battalion in 1st Guards Brigade and the 2nd and 3rd Battalions in 4th Guards Brigade.

Upon landing in France they all moved to the Belgian frontier. During this march the entire Regiment found itself all together at Oisy, the first time that the entire Regiment had been on active service together since March 1688.

On 23 August the 2nd Division moved forward into Belgium. On the same day the British were forced to withdraw from Mons, due to the withdrawal of the French on their flanks. The retreat ended on 5 September, by which time the British had marched 170 miles in thirteen days reaching an area south of the River Marne east of Paris.

In the summer of 1915 the Guards Division was formed and the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards moved to 1st Guards Brigade. In July 1916 the Division left the Salient to take part in the great Allied offensive of the Somme.

On the 15th September all three Coldstream Battalions were in the front line of assault, the first and only time the Regiment has gone into action as a whole. The losses in the three Coldstream Battalions amounted to 40 Officers and 1326 other ranks.

The winter of 1916-17 was spent in trench warfare on the Somme but sadly, on Christmas Eve 1916 Herbert was shot by a German machine-gunner. He died the following morning, Christmas Day, aged 29.

On 5 January 1917 the Western Gazette reported "The sad news has been received by Mr. E Blake, of 1 Smith’s Terrace, Eastland Road, of the death in action, on Christmas morning, of his second son, Priv. H. Blake, of the Coldstream Guards. Private Blake, who was a Reservist, was called to the Colours at the early part of the war, and had previously been wounded. Private Blake was 29 years of age and always of a bright and cheery disposition."

The Western Gazette, on 12 January 1917, reported "The sad news has recently been received that Priv. H. Blake of the Coldstream Guards, son of Mr. H. Blake of 1 Smith’s Terrace, Eastland Road, has been killed in action. The following letter has been received from an officer in his regiment:- “I much regret to say that your son has died of wounds. He was wounded by a German machine-gun while entering the reserve trench on Christmas-eve and was shot through the abdomen. I can’t tell you how much I sympathise with you in your great loss. Your son was an excellent soldier, and will be greatly missed, as well as being a great loss to the Battalion. The Commanding Officer wishes me to send you his condolences.”

Herbert Charles Blake was interred in Grove Town Cemetery, Meaulte, Grave II.G.5. His name is inscribed on the War Memorial in the Borough.

 

gallery

Two men of the Coldstream Guards having a drink from a forward water supply. There is a large camouflaged metal water tank next to the men, with a sign reading 'DRINKING WATER ONLY.' A pile of sandbags has been carefully stacked beside the tank. There is a pipe coming out of the tank, with a number of taps running along its length.

 

Men of the Coldstream Guards and a newly captured German 5.9" gun.

 

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Herbert Blake.

 

Grove Town Cemetery, Meaulte, Somme, France.

In September 1916, the 34th and 2/2nd London Casualty Clearing Stations were established at this point, known to the troops as Grove Town, to deal with casualties from the Somme battlefields. They were moved in April 1917 and, except for a few burials in August and September 1918, the cemetery was closed. Grove Town Cemetery contains 1,395 First World War burials. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.