yeovil at War

Frederick George Silvester

Killed in action in Mesopotamia

 

Frederick George Silvester, known as George, was born in Yeovil in 1878. He was the eldest of the seven children of fish merchant Frederick Silvester (b1855) and his wife Frances, known as Fanny (b1858). Frederick and Fanny's children were; Frederick, Willie (b1880), Harry (b1882), Alice Elizabeth (1885-1970), Bessie (b1887), Annie (b1889) and Ada (b1894).

In the 1891 census the family were listed living at 7 Quidham Place - a very early 'court' of dwellings, homes to the poorer classes, off the south side of Vicarage Street. By 1901 the family were living at 45 Vicarage Street. Frederick Snr., 21-year old George and his 18-year old brother Harry all gave their occupations as dealers in fish.

In the winter of 1905, at Bristol, George married Ellen Williams. They set up home at 192 Park Street where they were to have two daughters; Gwendoline (b1906) and Dorothy (b1908). In the 1911 census George gave his occupation as a general dealer and Ellen gave hers as a leather glove liner.

Although the date is unknown, George enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry. His Service Number was 15300. He was then transferred to the 7th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment. His new Service Number was 25836, indicating that he transferred during November or December 1915. It appears there was a group transfer of men from the Somersets to the Gloucesters, as fellow Yeovilians Walter Brown and Frederick Harrison also transferred at the same time.

The 7th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, was raised at Bristol in August 1914 as part of Kitchener's First New Army and joined 39th Brigade, 13th (Western) Division which assembled on Salisbury Plain. They moved to Tidworth and and spent the winter in billets in Basingstoke. They moved to Blackdown, Aldershot in February 1915 for final training and sailed from Avonmouth on the 19th of June 1915 landing at Alexandria.

They then moved to Mudros by 4 July 1915 to prepare for a landing at Gallipoli. The infantry landed on Cape Helles between the 6th and 16th of July to relieve 29th Division. They returned to Mudros at the end of the month, and the entire Division landed at ANZAC Cove between the 3rd and 5th of August. Soon afterwards they transferred from ANZAC to Suvla Bay. They were evacuated from Suvla on the 19th and 20th of December 1915, and after a weeks rest they moved to the Helles bridgehead. It was probably around this time that George joined his battalion. They were in action during The last Turkish attacks at Helles on 7 January 1916 and were evacuated from Helles on the 8th and 9th. The Division concentrated at Port Said, holding forward posts in the Suez Canal defences.

In February 1916, 13th (Western) Division was holding posts along the Suez Canal when it was informed it was to move to Mesopotamia. Handing over the posts to the Ayrshire and Lanarkshire Yeomanry on 12 February.

The Division sailed from Suez on 14 February, disembarked at Basra on 27 February and, following concentration, began to move north along the River Tigris. On 13 March, Divisional Headquarters had reached Shaikh Saad, and by 27 March the remainder of the Division had arrived. However, this did not include 7th Gloucestershire Regiment who had remained at Basra following an outbreak of scarlet fever. The 7th Battalion rejoined the Division on 19 April 1916. This was the day that Private Frederick 'George' Silvester was killed in action. He was 38 years old.

The Western Gazette, in its edition of 26 May 1916, reported "News has been received to the effect that Private G Sylvester of the Somersets has been killed in action. The late Private’s parents reside in Middle Street." His photograph was printed in the Western Gazette in its 9 June 1916 edition.

George Silvester is commemorated on Panel 17 of the Basra Memorial, Iraq, and his name is recorded on the War Memorial in the Borough.

 

gallery

 

Quidham Place photographed in 1931. At the end of this narrow alleyway the court opened out somewhat, to the left in the photograph. The Silvester family lived here in the 1890s.

 

British troops on the banks of the River Tigris during the siege of Kut, early 1916.

 

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of George Silvester.

 

The Basra War Memorial was destroyed during the Iraq war and, once the current climate of political instability improves, will be rebuilt by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.>

The Basra Memorial commemorates more than 40,500 members of the Commonwealth forces who died in the operations in Mesopotamia from the Autumn of 1914 to the end of August 1921 and whose graves are not known. The memorial was designed by Edward Warren and unveiled by Sir Gilbert Clayton on the 27th March 1929.

Whilst the current climate of political instability persists it is not possible for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to manage or maintain its cemeteries and memorials located within Iraq. Alternative arrangements for commemoration have therefore been implemented and a two volume Roll of Honour listing all casualties buried and commemorated in Iraq has been produced. These volumes are on display at the Commission's Head Office in Maidenhead and are available for the public to view.