yeovil at War

henry david adams

Killed at Messines Ridge


Henry David Adams was born in 1884 in Yeovil, the son of George Adams (b 1856) and Mary née Foot (b 1856). By 1901 his father was dead and the census listed Henry's widowed mother Mary with her six children in Wellington Street. Henry's mother and eldest sister Edith were both listed as 'Glove Back Pointer', his older brothers William and Thomas were a wood chopper and a mason's labourer respectively, while Henry gave his occupation as a leather dresser. In the 1911 census Mary and her four sons, all unmarried, were still living at 36 Wellington Street. Henry, now aged 27, gave his occupation as a 'St Ivel Cheese Maker' and was working in the creamery department of the Aplin & Barrett factory in Newton Road.

Around 1905 Henry enlisted in the army and served with the 2nd Battalion, the Dorsetshire Regiment (Service No 18055), and was stationed in India for some eight years. He returned to England and in the spring of 1913 he married Ellen Brown at Yeovil. They were to have two sons; William George (1913-1995) and Edwin CD (1916-1917). Ellen died in Yeovil during the autumn of 1916, aged just 37.

Henry was called up under the Derby Scheme. The Derby Scheme was a short-lived voluntary recruitment policy in Britain created in 1915 by Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby. The concept behind the scheme was that men who voluntarily registered their name would be called upon for service only when necessary. Married men had an added incentive in that they were advised they would be called up only once the supply of single men was exhausted. The scheme classified men in groups according to their year of birth and marital status and were to be called up with their group when it was required. Ultimately the scheme proved unsuccessful and was abandoned in December 1915.

In any event, Henry enlisted at Yeovil and became Private Adams of 2nd Battalion, the Duke of Edinburgh's Wiltshire Regiment (Service No 26736).

The 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment had been stationed at Gibraltar before the war but returned to England in September 1914 where it came under command of 21st Brigade in 7th Division. The following month landed at Zeebrugge, Belgium. Henry, as a regular soldier, is likely to have joined his new Regiment straight away.

The 2nd Battalion started 1915 in the Fleurbaix area remaining in the waterlogged trenches when they were relieved by the Canadians in March. They were removed from the line to prepare for a major assault at Neuve Chapelle which started on 9 March. By 14 March the battalion had suffered nearly 400 casualties. After a few days rest they returned to the line at Laventie where they resumed trench warfare. In May the battalion took part in the Battle of Festubert where they suffered 158 casualties for one mile of ground taken. This was followed by a rest period in the Bethune area where they were reinforced. In June they were one of the leading battalions in the attack at Givenchy where after taking significant casualties the operation was cancelled. This was followed by many months of trench warfare in different sectors leading up to the Battle of Loos in September where their casualty figure was 400. Rest and reorganisation followed and in early December they were again redeployed to another Division, the 30th ending the year at Autheux.

The beginning of 1916 saw the 2nd Battalion in the area of Amiens. They remained in this general area, relieving units in trenches and training for an offensive that was going to take place in July. On 1 July they were in support in the area of Montauban, followed by two days of attacks. They remained in this area for most of July. On the 8th July they played a leading part in the attack on Trones Wood and at one point bayoneted their way through what remained of the German defenders in the wood. They suffered 240 casualties in this action but were awarded 23 decorations for gallantry. Further attacks followed in the Somme and Flers areas and they ended the year just South of Arras.

The 2nd Battalion spent the first three months of 1917 around Arras. On 9 April they took part in the attack on the Hindenburg Line. Very few men reached the objective and those that did found that the German wire was undamaged. On 11 April they came out of the line weaker by 16 officers and 363 other ranks. After ten days rest they returned for a further weeks fighting in the same area. They then spent a month training before a long march north to the area of Ypres. For most of July they were in training. On 31 July they took part in the Third Battle of Ypres near Hooge. In Late August they relieved the Australians on the newly capture Messines Ridge. They remained here for three months digging deeper and taking part in many trench raids. Henry Adams was killed in action on 30 August 1917. He was aged 36.

On 21 September 1917 the Western Gazette reported "Mr T Adams, of Cecil Street, has received news that his brother, Private HD Adams, of the Wilts Regiment, has been killed in action in France on 30th August. Private Adams, who was 36 years of age, had been with the Dorsets for eight years in India before the war, and was called up under the Derby scheme about 18 months ago. He had been in France about a year. Before joining the army he was employed in the creamery department of Messrs. Aplin & Barrett. His wife died about a year ago, and two children are left orphans."

Henry David Adams is commemorated on Panel 119 to 120, Tyne Cot Memorial, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium and his name is on the War Memorial in the Borough.




The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of John Harris.