Reginald Charles Earle Gatehouse

Reginald Charles Earle Gatehouse
Private CH/19258
“Zeebrugge” Battalion
Royal Marine Light Infantry

Gatehouse pict Gatehouse headstone


Reginald Gatehouse was born the 27 August 1897 the eldest son of Earle and Alice Gatehouse of, 6. Clarendon Road, Reading. In 1911 the family were living at 42. Clarendon Road. Earle Gatehouse’s occupation was given as a stableman jobmaster. Reginald then aged 12 and noted as being at school; he had two younger brothers and a baby sister. His maternal grandmother was also living with the family.

The Reading Standard of the 5 May 1918 outlined his service career. Reginald enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry in October 1914, at the age of 16 years. After a period of training at Deal and Chatham he was placed on a monitor, the H.M.S. Roberts:

‘He spent 12 months in the Dardanelles, where he had many thrilling experiences and several miraculous escapes. On one occasion twelve of his comrades, who were on his ship at the time, were blown up by a shell, he being the only one uninjured. Later he was sent to Russia for special service and subsequently took part in the shelling of the Belgian coast by monitors’.

We are also told that he had been to France with his officer, who was engaged in a series of experiments and that Reginald had assisted him. We can only speculate on the nature of these experiments.

Five weeks before he was killed Reginald had been home on leave. On his return, preparations were in hand for the forthcoming strike at the German U-boat bases of Zeebrugge and Ostend. Described as a ‘Brilliant Naval Raid’ in the Chronology of War, Peter Liddle is much more circumspect in ‘The Sailor’s War 1914-1918’. German U-boats presented a considerable threat to shipping in the English Channel and in 1918 Vice Admiral Sir Roger Keyes was determined to strike a blow at the German U-boat bases. Unfortunately the raid on Zeebruge did not go quite according to plan.

During the attack Reginald Gatehouse was believed to have been on board HMS Iris, which, with HMS Daffodil, was one of  two Mersey ferries being used in the attack. The HMS Iris came to the aid of the Vindictive and ensured the cruiser reached its objective by ramming it into the Mole at Zeebrugge. However, in the process HMS Iris  drew heavy fire and of the platoon of forty-five men on board only twelve men were able to land.

An official Admiralty report described the raid:

“ with the exception of covering ships the force employed consisted of auxiliary vessels and six obsolete cruisers. Five of these filled with concrete, were used as blockships…and, in accordance with orders, were blown up and abandoned by their crews. Two blockships were sunk in the entrance to the Bruges Canal at Zeebrugge and a third ship grounded on the way in: storming parties landed on the Mole, which was much damaged by the blowing up of a submarine loaded with explosives. A German destroyer was torpedoed and other craft damaged. One British destroyer and two motorboats were lost. At Ostend two blockships were blown up. Storming parties were landed from ‘Vindictive’.”

Everyone concerned wanted to believe that there had been a great victory but in the event the attack was less decisive than was reported to the public. The blockships had sunk but not quite in the correct position and the gallantry of those who lost their lives or were wounded had achieved little. It was not too long before the U-boats were back in operation harassing the channel. However, the depressing events of the German spring offensive on the Western Front meant morale at home and at the front was low, so it was important to put a positive gloss on the Zeebrugge attack and much was made of the ability of the navy to strike decisively at the enemy.

The total casualties for the attack amounted to 16 officers, 86 men killed; 5 officers and 121 men wounded. Young Reginald Gatehouse was amongst the dead. He was 19 years old when killed in action 23 April 1918.

Reginald was brought home for burial, which took place at St. Peter’s Church, Earley. The funeral was a significant occasion and well attended by those who knew him. A picture of the scene at his funeral was published in the local paper.

Gatehouse funeral

Ronald Charles Hirst Gazzana

Ronald Charles Hirst Gazzana
Private 1124 “C” Company
8th Battalion Canadian infantry. (Manitoba Regiment)

 Division 35

 Gazzana grave Gazzana tree

Ronald Charles Hirst Gazzana has a  CWGC war pattern headstone upon which is carved the emblem of Canada the maple leaf.  Behind the headstone is a graceful Maple tree, a simple but fitting memorial probably planted shortly after his funeral.  The grave number is 16111. His parents names are carved into the stone, he was the son of Charles Joseph and Ada Briffet Gazzana.  Their home was “Ronaldhirst  Farm”. Fairford, Manitoba.

 Private Gazzana died as a result of gas poisoning received on 24th April 1915.  This was during the week that the Germans first used poisoned gas.  The Canadians were at a place called St. Julien in Belgium.

 A report of his military funeral was published in the Reading Standard, 29th May 1915.

Gazzana funeral

“A military funeral is always impressive, but that at St. Giles Church, Reading on Wednesday afternoon particularly so.  Pte. Gazzana, aged 20 of the Canadian Contingent, had come to the aid of the motherland in the time of her stress and trial and had died a hero’s death fighting for the cause of freedom. 

“He was a victim of the foul weapon of gas, with which he was struck down near Ypres at the end of April.  He was conveyed to Reading War Hospital and thence to the Royal Berkshire Hospital.  At first he appeared to be making rapid strides towards recovery, but he had a relapse and on Monday passed to his rest.

 Sixteen wounded Canadians from the Reading War Hospital, and all were sufficiently well to attend,  were present to pay their last tribute of  respect to Pte. Gazzana.  Two of them were in his contingent.  They were conveyed to the Church in Red Cross cars.  Men of the 35th Division Signal Company, Royal Engineers, from Wantage Hall, under Lieut. E. Churchill, provided the escort, bearers and a firing party, and the drum and fife band of the “King Alfred” Training Brigade played the Royal Salute on entering the cemetery gates.

The service was conducted by the vicar, the Rev. F.J.C. Gillmor, and the Rev. H.A. Smith-Masters, and as the coffin, enveloped in a Union Jack and covered with beautiful flowers, was borne away on a cable carriage large crowds gathered in the streets and showed signs of sympathy.  After three volleys had been fired at the graveside, the “Last Post” was sounded and Pte. Gazzana was “left alone in his glory”.

 Among those present were the Mayor Mr Leonard Sutton, Major (Dr) G. Stewart Abram, Sir Percy Sanderson, KCMG (President of Caversham and Reading Veterans Association Mr Cyril Tubbs (transport officer), Mr. J.R. Cook, Lieut. Beaumont etc.

 Pte. Gazzana’s home was at Great Missenden, Bucks, his father holds a commission in the Royal Engineers.”  

Sidney Henry George

Sidney Henry George
Private 28566
11th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment

 Division 29

George SH and brother photo

Sidney Henry George was the son of William John and Annie George, of 16, Richmond Road, Reading; and husband of Louisa George, of 19, Richmond Road, Reading, Berkshire.  He was killed in action on 24th September 1917.  He is commemorated upon the kerb stones of his parents grave in Reading Cemetery.  Grave number 17590.   The Berkshire Family History Society classification is 29G25. 

Sidney George has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial, Panel 23 to 28 and 163A.

 The battle, of what was subsequently known as the Menin Road Ridge, began on September 20th.  The British threw themselves at the German strong point known as “Tower Hamlets”.  The Australians fought for Glencorse Wood and and Nonne Bosschen,  the South Africans took the Breman Redoubt.  There was fierce fighting all along the front, particularly in front of Langemarck.  During the following days the Australians fought for Polygon Wood which was the key to the ridge and Passchendaele.  It was during this fighting that Sidney George lost his life.  Greater detail of the battle can be found in ‘Passchendaele’ by Martin Matrix Evans.

 Sidney was wounded in the neck by shrapnel on April 28th 1917 but recovered sufficiently to be sent back to the front.  His brother W.J.George was invalided out of the army with trench feet.  (Reading Standard 12th May 1917)