Category Archives: St. Batholomew’s Church

Frank Washbourne Earley

Frank Washbourne Earley
Private 200566 ‘D’ Company
1st/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

 Earley FW and bros photo

Frank  Earley was the son of Harry and Margaret Earley, of 12 Manchester Road, Reading. Harry worked at the biscuit factory. Before the war he worked as a cleark in the Borough Accountant’s Office and his brother Jack who enlisted in the same regiment worked, for the County Council. It is not known exactly when Frank and his brother joined up but they enlisted in Reading.

The 1st/4th battalion the local territorial force,  arrived in France in March 1915. Several of Frank’s letters were published in the Reading Chronicle. In his first letter published in April 1915 Frank writes:
‘We are sleeping in barns, and have moved several times since we have been over here.’ 

Frank’s experiences at Ploegsteert (know by the British soldiers as Plugstreet ) illustrate what life was like in this largely ‘quiet sector’ where the ‘Saxons’, in the trenches opposite, had a mild reputation and sniping and firing on working parties was their main preoccupation:

 “We have been in action and are having a rest at the present time. We were in the trenches 24 hours and I was on outpost with two other of our chaps. It was a bit of an experience, as we were only about 100 yards from the Germans. They send up flares at night and light up the surroundings just like daylight, and if you move your foot or any part of your body you get a shower of bullets round you. The worst part of trench fighting, I think, is getting in and out of the trenches, as once you are in it is fairly safe except, of course, if they shell the trenches accurately. Then it must be hell upon earth. They tried to shell us with lyddite, but they did not find out our trench, although they found out one of the others.”

Frank served throughout the Somme campaign and during the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. No information has been found to indicate that Frank was wounded during any of these campaigns and it must be assumed that he got away unscathed. Having spent a bloody time at Ypres during the summer and autumn, the men were preparing for their next action which they thought would be at Cambrai. They were all surprised when the 48th Division was directed to Italy. Various actions took place during their time in Italy which cannot be gone into in the space available here however, generally the time was fairly quiet. In June 1918 the Germans stirred up the sleepy Austrians opposite the 48th Division to launch an attack which in the event turned out to be the last serious attack for the division. However, whilst the fighting raged, Frank Earley, veteran of so many famous battles, died, not on the battlefield but in a hospital bed of the deadly influenza virus that was sweeping through the ranks. Frank had been ill about four days before his death.

Frank had been home on leave at Easter just a few weeks before his death. Frank was aged 21 or 22, depending on the source of the information, when he died on 13 June 1918. He is buried in the Montecchio Precalcino Communal Cemetery Extension, Italy, location Plot 2, Row C, Grave 3.

Frank had three older brothers and it is believed that they all survived the war because only Frank’s name is recorded on local war memorials. Jack  (real name John )reached the rank of Lance Corporal and was mentioned in despatches by General Plummer.  Brother  Albert who was 12 years older than Frank served in the Royal Engineers and Alfred, 10 years older, served in the Royal Naval Air Service.

Frank was a popular young man and an active member of St. Bartholomew’s Church. He sang in the choir and was a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade, he is remembered on the church war memorial.

Ralph George Pusey

Ralph George Pusey
Guardsman 16604
Number 4 Company,
1st Battalion Grenadier Guards

Pusey RG photo Pusey RG name

Ralph George Puseywas the only son of Frank Howard and Sarah Jane Pusey of 134, Cumberland Road. He had one onlder and two younger sisters. He had attended the Wokingham Road School (now Alfred Sutton Primary School) and his name appears on their war memorial. The 1911 census indicates that at age 15 years he was a baker’s errand boy, his father was a labourer at the biscuit factory.

Ralph is believed to have been in the regular army when war was declared on 4th August 1914. He spent August and September in training, leaving England for Zeebrugge on the 5th October as part of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force).  By the time Pusey and his regiment had arrived the original BEF had already been in action.  After marching for almost two weeks the BEF engaged in the Battle of  Mons on 23rd August.  When it was realised that the British troops were out numbered, an orderly withdrawal, starting on 24th August and lasting many days was begun.  The BEF marched, south.  On the 26th August some battalions fought a holding operation which became known as the Battle of  Le Cateau.  By September 6th the BEF had marched, in the heat of summer, over one hundred miles to the Marne.  There they fought a four day battle which ended with the British pursuing  the Germans who were moving northwards.  Heavy fighting then took place around the Aisne and Albert on the Somme.  When the Grenadier Guards landed in Zeebrugge on October 7th the Germans were occupying an area around Ypres.  Belgian soldiers were in action around the Yser canal and the British had been in battles at Aubers, Armentières, Neuve Chapelle and Warneton, in what was later named the Battle of Flanders.

 When the Grenadier Guards arrived in Belgium they went by train and route march, stopping at various points along the way, to arrive at Ypres on the 14th October.  One stop saw them billeted near a dye works and issued with velvet in lieu of blankets!  When they arrived at their sector of the front they set up out posts between, what in time would be the famous or infamous, Menin and Messines Roads. The first Uhlans, cavalry soldiers of the German Sixth Army were sighted.  The Guards dug  defensive positions at Zandvoorde on the 16th October and moved forward to Kruiseecke on the 17th October.   There the battalion began an attack on the 19th  October but were soon ordered to withdraw.  On the 20th October the Germans attacked the Guards positions in the afternoon, coming within 200 yards of their line. Ralph Pusey was probably killed during this attack.  The 19th October 1914 marked, what historians later referred to as, the start of the First Battle of Ypres. 

 Ralph’s parents were initially informed that Ralph was wounded and reported missing on the 24th October.  This information was published in the Reading Standard 2nd January 1915. Further detail stated that he was believed to be a prisoner of war.  However, his body was never found and he had no known grave.  Ralph Pusey was 19 years old. 

Two memorials were constructed to commemorate the men who were lost in this and the subsequent battles of Ypres.  The Menin Gate, carries 54,896 names of men lost in Ypres before 1916 and the near by memorial at Tyne Cot which commemorates another 35,000 soldiers with no known grave, killed after 1916. 


Thomas Pocock

Thomas Pocock
Private 43323
2nd/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment

 Division 39

Pocock Th photo  CIMG2001

Thomas Pocock  lived at 44, Amity Road, Reading.  He was the son of Thomas and Mary Pocock. The 1911 census indicates that he had two older brothers Albert and Harry and one younger brother Ernest Frank who were living in the family home. His mother had given birth to ten children of whom seven were living. Thomas was a labourer at the biscuit factory like his father and older brothers. He was aged 22 when he was killed in action on 9th  October 1917.  This day marks the beginning of the third phase of the Third Battle of Ypres.   

Passchendaele by Martin Matrix Evans describes the scene that Thomas Pocock would have been a part of: “..troops moved up in anticipation of the attack of 9 October.  Lieutenant P. King described the horrors of the march up from Ypres.  ’It was an absolute nightmare.  Often we would have to stop and wait for up to half an hour, because all the time the duck boards were being blown up and men being blown off the track or simply slipping off – because we were all in full marching order with gas masks and rifles, and some were carrying machine guns and extra ammunition’.

At 5.20am on 9 October the 2/9th Manchester Regiment and the 2/4th East Lancashire (both 198 Brigade, 66th Division) advanced against Dab Trench.  Fire from Hamburg Redoubt, the strong point in the centre of the obstacle, cut the men down and an attempt by the 2/5th East Lancashire to take it failed.  King describes it.  ‘We went over this morass, straight into a curtain of rain and mist and shells, for we were caught between two barrages.  Well, of course we lost direction right away….The machine gun fire from the German positions was frightful…. We could hardly move because the mud was so heavy that you were dragging your legs behind you, and with people being hit and falling and splashing down all round you, all you can do is keep moving and look for some form of cover’.”

 It is not therefore surprising that Thomas Pocock has no known grave.  He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 120-124 and 162-162A and 163A