Category Archives: 32nd or 35th Div. Signal Co. RE

Eustace Martin Sutton

Eustace Martin Sutton
Lieutenant 35th Signal Company
Royal Engineers

Division 65

Sutton EM photo

Eustace Martin Sutton was the second son of Leonard Goodhart Sutton and Mary Charlotte Sutton (nee Seaton).  His mother died in July 1900 probably giving birth to the only girl in the family, Emily May. The family home was ‘Hillside’  Allcroft Road, Reading. He was the fourth of the Sutton brothers to lose his life in the war.

Eustace was educated at St. Andrew’s School Southborough, Kent and Repton School. He had qualified to enter Balliol College in 1915. However, he was appointed from his Officer Training Corps to a commission in the Royal Engineers and he entered the Army before going to Oxford. He went abroad in January 1916.  The 35th Signal Company was one of three Royal Engineers raised in Reading at the behest of his father.

The German Spring Offensive along the Western Front began on the 21 March 1918.  In the early days of the attack the Germans made fast progress and great advances with the British taken by surprise. The fighting was fierce but the British found themselves in retreat and the bodies of the fallen easily lost as the Germans advanced. Eustace Martin Sutton was killed in action on 24 March 1918 aged 22. He has no known grave and his  name is commemorated on the Poziers Memorial, Somme.

The local newspapers reported that Mr Sutton had received the following letter from the Brigadier-General of the brigade to which Eustace Martin Sutton was attached.

“My dear Mr Sutton,

I am writing to express to you my great sorrow at the loss of your son, E.M.Sutton, and to offer you my very sincere sympathy.
He was killed most gallantly leading a counter-attack, made up of signallers and other headquarters men, who were hastily collected and thrown in to stop a local rush of the enemy round brigade headquarters.
I last saw him full of keenness dashing  forward cheering on his own signallers and the other details he had collected.
The enemy who killed him was bayonetted by one of his own signallers.
He is a very great loss. We were all very fond of him in our mess. He was a most reliable worker, and most gallant on all occasions and in several previous fights had done most valuable work. His cheerfulness and unfailing good temper were invaluable.
Please accept my very sincere sympathy for your loss.”

A sapper in Eustace’s signal company wrote:
“Poor Mr Sutton died a real hero,leading his section. We are all proud of him, and I sincerely hope his gallant action, which undoubtably saved a critical situation, will be duty recognised. Mr Tomson has taken Mr Eustace’s place. One of my operators,  named Mr Davis, was killed.
The company has suffered very severely again, especially in officers. Mr Sutton’s place will be very hard to fill, and we all miss him terribly.  It seems as though we had all lost a brother and a good friend.  Personally, I suppose, owing to my many happy associations with him, I feel his loss more than anyone else. He always treated me so well, and I feel almost broken-hearted.
He died a hero’s death, shot by a sniper though the head, as he was leading part of his section into action at a very critical time during an attack, and it is the opinion of my men that his gallantry undoubtedly saved the situation.”

Frederick Charles Ayres

Frederick Charles Ayres
Serjeant 69105 35th Signal Company
Royal Engineers

Division 79

 Frederick Charles Ayres was born in Reading.  He was the youngest son of Ernest and Annie Ayres and the husband of Edith Jean Ayres, of  Osborne Cottage, Warfield, Berkshire.  He died of sickness at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, on the 7th August 1919, aged 26.  His is a registered war grave with a CWGC war pattern headstone.  Grave number 16642.

 The 35th Signal Company was raised by the Mayor of Reading, Leonard Goodhart Sutton.  Frederick Ayres served in France according to the caption on the photograph above.


Ernest George Edward Adams

Ernest George Edward Adams
Pioneer 103144
32nd Division Signal Company Royal Engineers


Ernest was the only son of Mr and Mrs Ernest Adams of 97, Addington Road.  Mr. Leonard Sutton, once the Mayor of Reading, raised both the 32nd and 35th Signal Companies, initially based at Wantage Hall.  He appealed to the young men of Reading to enlist and one such person was Ernest Adams.  Born in Reading he had attended Redlands and Wokingham Road Senior schools.  He had been employed in the Berkshire Insurance Committee offices.   Ernest was a well known and keen footballer, he played for a local team, the Corinthians, in the position of goal keeper.   

Ernest was only 17 years old when he was killed.  Theoretically he was too young to have served abroad and it is not clear when exactly he enlisted.  It is possible that he gave miss-information to the recruiting sergeant as many young men, eager to do their bit, often did.  With his father and four uncles also serving in the army Ernest was obviously keen to join them.  However, in spite of his age, we are told that he excelled at signalling and was with a sergeant engaged in new aerial signalling before he was killed. He must have been serving for some time in order to have gained sufficient training and experience.  Ernest was with his battalion on the Somme when he was killed on the night of 4th July 1916.  He would have experienced the allied shelling in the week before the ‘big push’ and would have been aware of the gains and losses made in those first few days.  He met his death, only a few weeks before his eighteenth birthday, when a shell burst near him, he lived for only three minutes after being hit.  The same shell injured many others.  

Ernest is buried at Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuile Wood, the Somme.  Grave location I. B. 2. 

The cemetery was begun in July 1916 and used continuously until November 1916. The cemetery originally contained 212 graves in Plot I; it was not used again until after the Armistice when 784 graves were brought in from the battlefields and smaller cemeteries to the East, most of whom fell on the 1st July.  Authuile Wood, near the River Ancre,  was situated right at the heart of some of the most severe fighting which took place during the July 1916 Somme battles,  the missing dead of those battles being commemorated on the near by Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.  A cheery face looks out from his photograph and the “In memoriam” of 1917 refers to him as “Ern” a “dear and only son”.