yeovil at War

Edmund John B Gapp

Killed in action during the Second Battle of Arras

 

Edmund John Gapp was born in Swindon, Wiltshire, in 1894, the son of railway worker John Edmund Gapp (1850-1921), originally from Clerkenwell, London, and Kate née Hudson (1857-1917) originally from Lewes, Sussex. In the 1901 census John and Kate were living at 8 Farnsby Street, Swindon, with their children; Edmund, Maurice Percy Joseph (1896-1947) and Dorothy Lena V (1898-1980).

Little is known of Edmund's early life but he is known to have moved to Yeovil and worked as a shop assistant at Clement's grocery stores in High Street.

In November 1915, at Yeovil, Edmund enlisted in the Royal Horse Guards, his Service Number was 2561.

In September 1916 Edmund married Mabel N Butcher of Penfield, at Yeovil.

On 1 September 1916 Edmund was transferred to a new and unusual unit, the Household Battalion. This was an infantry battalion formed at Knightsbridge Barracks in London from reserve units of the Household Cavalry: 1st Life Guards, 2nd Life Guards and Royal Horse Guards. It was formed on 1 September 1916 and filled rapidly. Numbers 1 to 1234, for instance, all date to 1 September (Edmund's new Service Number was 422), and a reserve battalion was already recruiting by October 1916.

Much retraining and re-equipment was necessary to convert the cavalry troops into foot soldiers, capable of conducting the increasingly mechanised war on the Western Front.

It landed in France as a unit on 9 November 1916 and shortly afterwards was posted to join the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division, an experienced formation of the regular army that had been in France since August 1914.

The Division was heavily engaged for the first time in the Second Battle of Arras in April 1917.

The Second Battle of Arras, fought between 9 April and 16 May 1917, was the British contribution to the Allied spring offensive of 1917. The original Allied plan for 1917, agreed at the Chantilly conference of November 1916, was for a second offensive on the Somme, but that plan was abandoned after a change of French leadership and it was decided that the British would attack around Arras and involve troops from three armies. In the north the Canadian corps of the First Army would attack Vimy Ridge. In the centre of the line the Third Army under General Allenby would attack from Arras. Finally, the British Fifth Army under General Gough would attack on the right of the line. The entire British attack was supported by 2,879 guns each of which had close to 1,000 shells. The British attack made impressive progress, but it did not achieve a breakthrough on the first day, allowing the Germans to rush their reinforcements into the gap and launch a series of counterattacks thereby slowing down the British attack. A renewed British attack at Bullecourt on 11 April failed to make any progress and the attack was suspended. The month of fighting around Arras cost the British 84,000 casualties and the Germans 75,000. Tactically it was a clear British victory, but the overall plan to cut off the German salient had failed.  

Edmund Gapp was killed in action on 3 May 1917. He was 23 years old.

In its edition of 23 May 1917, the Western Gazette reported "The intelligence has been received by Mrs. B Gapp, of 4 Penfield, Sherborne Road, that her husband, Trooper Edmund J. B. Gapp, of the Household Cavalry Battalion, was killed in action on May 3rd. The distressing news was conveyed to the deceased’s wife on Saturday in an official notification from the War Office. The deceased enlisted in the Scots Guards [sic] in November 1915 from which he was subsequently transferred to the Household Cavalry Battalion, with which he was serving at the time of his death. Trooper Gapp was, prior to enlisting, a shop assistant at Messrs. Clements’ High Street grocery stores, and had been in France about six months. Sincere sympathy is extended to Mrs. Gapp (who resides with her parents Mr. and Mrs. W. Butcher, of Penfield) and all other members of the family in this sorrow. The deceased’s home is at Swindon, and he was only married last September."

Edmund Gapp is remembered on Bay 1 of the Arras Memorial and his name is recorded on the Yeovil War Memorial in the Borough.

 

gallery

 


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

Clement's shop in High Street, photographed around 1900. Edmund worked as a shop assistant here before enlisting.

 

Men of the Household Battalion prior to departure for France in 1916.

 

Taken during the Second Battle of Arras, fought between 9 April and 16 May 1917.

 

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Edmund Gapp.

 

The Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

The Arras Memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, with sculpture by Sir William Reid Dick. The memorial was unveiled by Lord Trenchard, Marshal of the Royal Air Force on the 31 July 1932.