Category Archives: Royal Berkshire Regiment

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.

Henry Thomas Eighteen


Henry Thomas Eighteen
Private 20350
1st/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

At the time of the death of Henry Eighteen on 24 November 1916 the 1st/4th Battalion was serving on the Somme in the area of the Butte de Warlencourt. The Butte was an ancient burial mound some fifty feet high held by the Germans. In the gently undulating fields of the Somme it gave the occupying force not only an observational advantage but also a strong point of defence. The Butte was part of the last line before Bapaume. The Germans had the visual advantage in an area where the British trenches were dangerous with gaps in their defence. Conditions for the Berkshire men were dreadful and it was common for the 1st/4th to suffer six or seven casualties each day for the period they occupied these trenches.

s death refers to him having been killed in action in Albert. The Butte de Warlencourt is on the Albert to Bapaume Road about 10 miles from Albert.

Private Eighteen is buried in Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont, Somme.
This cemetery is a concentration cemetery. It was made after the Armistice by the concentration of graves from the battlefields and small cemeteries surrounding Miraumont, and particularly the Canadian battlefields around Courcelette. The cemetery name comes from reversing the name Canada and the maple leaf is much in evidence. It was fortunate that Henry’s original grave was well marked and that it was not lost during later battles, as often happened.

Henry’s story illustrates how information must be gleaned from several sources in order to give a complete picture. In his case the local newspapers have been particularly valuable. Henry Thomas Eighteen is now known to be one of the five sons of Mr Frederick Syer Eighteen and Mrs Charlotte Ellen Louisa Eighteen (nee Smith) of 30, Leopold Rd., Reading. Work done on the Eighteen family tree available throught Ancestry UK indicates that there were 12 children. The 1911 census indicates that Frederick senior was a fish salesman, sons Stanley and John were both helping in the business and the rest of the children, including Henry Thomas were in school.

The Reading Chronicle 31 August 1917 gave notification of the wounding in the eye of Stanley James Eighteen on 18 August; he had been in service 18 months and had spent 14 months in France. This notice indicated that there had been five sons serving in the army, two had been killed, two wounded and one was still serving. From another report came information about John Bernard Eighteen, Driver 10213 ‘D’ Battery 75th Brigade Royal Field Artillery. It is now known that he was Henry’s older brother. John Eighteen died of wounds and is buried at Wimereux Cemetery. Wimereux was the site of many base hospitals. At the time of his death on 25 June 1917 John was aged 21. Stanley James was an older brother to both Henry and John and he survived the war living until 1956.

Both Henry and John Eighteen are commemorated on the memorial of the Trinity Congregational Church, Reading.  On the second anniversary of Henry’s death another ‘In Memoriam’ was published in The Reading Chronicle, 22 November 1918. It was particularly poignant because the Armistice had just taken place and people were looking forward to loved ones returning, it should be noted that in this document the father appears to be a widower:

Eighteen – In ever loving memory of Henry Thomas killed in action November 24th 1916.

He left his home in the flower of youth, he looked so strong and brave,
We little knew how soon he was to be laid in a soldier’s grave;
But the hardest part has yet to come, when the heroes all come home,
And we miss among the cheering crowd one that will never return.
From his loving father, sisters and brothers.

The name Eighteen is not particularly common, only three soldiers of that name appear in Soldiers Died although it was a well known name in Reading.  The impact of the war is illustrated by another entry in The Reading Chronicle September 1915 when it was reported that H. Eighteen, Horse dealer of Reading, had sold his business when both his son and nephew enlisted.


A Cook

There are two men who could possibly be the A. Cook on the Alfred SuttonSchool War Memorial. As they both lived near the school they are both included in this entry. In any event as Reading men they ought to be remembered.

(1) Albert E. Cook
Private 34087
1st/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment.


For the 1st/4th battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment Third Ypres was probably their worst experience of the war.  Albert E Cook died of wounds during the time of the Third Ypres campaign. The personal details are very limited but it is known that Albert was evacuated to a base hospital at Étaples although it is not known when or how he received his injuries. Albert Cook’s home was given as 56, Amity Road, Reading. He died on 17 August 1917; his age at the time of death is unknown.

Albert E. Cook is buried at Étaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, location XXII. P.11A.

(2) Arthur Cook
Sapper 137828
15th Field Company Royal Engineers



Arthur Cook lived at 68, Watlington Street, Reading. He was killed in action on 27 May 1918. Arthur Cook had no known grave and the caption under a photograph of him records him as missing in action. Sapper Cook is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial to the Missing, which is to be found just below the city cathedral. The memorial has a unique centrepiece of three soldiers wearing greatcoats standing shoulder to shoulder and commemorates almost 4,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom forces who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne in 1918 and who, like Arthur Cook have no known grave.