yeovil at War

Edgar George Jesty

Killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Albert

 

Edgar George Jesty was born in Yeovil in 1897, the son of Timber Merchant George Ernest Jesty (b 1868) and Mary Elizabeth née Tutchings. In the 1901 census George and Mary were listed at 29 Earle Street with their children Dorothy (b1892), Winifred (b 1895), 3-year old Edgar, Olive (b 1900) and Hilda (b 1901). By 1911 the family were living at 57 Earle Street and 14-year old Edgar was working as an Errand Boy at a Hotel.

Edgar's military career is a bit sketchy - he initially enlisted at Yeovil in the Royal Field Artillery (Service No 86593) but was then posted to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (Service No G/15371). His transfer was most likely around the time that the Battalion arrived in France from Egypt in March 1916.

Also known as the City of London Regiment, the Royal Fusiliers raised no fewer than 47 battalions for service in the Great War. This makes it the fifth largest after the London Regiment, Northumberland Fusiliers, Middlesex Regiment and King's (Liverpool Regiment).

Edgar's service history is unclear but he was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

The Battle of Albert, 1-13 July 1916, is the official name for the British efforts during the first two weeks fighting of the First Battle of the Somme. As such it includes the first day of the Somme, the most costly day in British military history and one that has coloured our image of the First World War ever since. The Battle of the Somme had been intended to be a big Anglo-French assault on the centre of the German lines but, by the time the battle began, it turned into a largely British affair, with support from the French Sixth Army on the Somme itself. The artillery bombardment began seven days before the infantry were due to go in. It was not as effective as had been hoped, leaving large portions of the German front line intact. The German lines on the Somme contained a large number of deep concrete bunkers, which protected the Germans from the British bombardment, allowing them to emerge once the bombardment ended. Worse, along most of the British front the bombardment failed to destroy the German wire.

The attack on 1 July 1916 was made by eleven divisions along a fourteen mile front from Montauban to Serre. Haig hoped to capture the German front line along this entire front, then break through their second and third lines, before turning left and rolling up the German lines to the sea. This would prove to be the most ridiculously optimistic plan. Along the northern two thirds of the front virtually no ground was taken. A few indents were made in the German front lines, but they were impossible to extend and difficult to support. The British suffered 57,000 casualties on 1 July, the most costly single day in British military history. Thirteen divisions at full strength contained 130,000 men, so the British suffered over 40% casualties in a single day. Among these was Edgar Jesty who died, aged 19, on 1 July 1916.

Edgar was interred in Hawthorne Ridge Cemetery No 2, Auchonvillers, Grave B5. His name is inscribed in the Somerset County Roll of Honour in St Martin’s Chapel, Wells Cathedral and his name is recorded on the War Memorial in the Borough.

 

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The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Edgar Jesty.

 

Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery No 2, Auchonvillers

Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery No 2 is 460 metres South of No 1. It was made by the V Corps (as V Corps Cemetery No 12) in the spring of 1917, and seven isolated graves were brought in after the Armistice. There are now over 200, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, over 50 are unidentified. The great majority fell on the 1 July 1916. The cemetery covers an area of 1,019 square metres and it is enclosed by a low stone rubble wall.