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Person Details
19 Oct 1889
West Bridgford Nottingham
He was the son of Tom Taylor, a bank clerk and Frances Mary Whitlock of 67 Sneinton Road, 'Bank House' Sherwood Rise and later 126 Radcliffe Road West Bridgford (all Nottingham). His half brother Tom Oliver was also killed in action.
He was a bank clerk lodging at Sutton in Ashfield in 1911.
01 Jul 1916
821222 - CWGC Website
12th Bn York and Lancaster Regiment
He enlisted at Sheffield on 4th September 1914 and was posted to 15th battalion on 30th October 1915. He went to France with 12th Battalion on 11th May 1916. He was killed attacking the village of Serre on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He died of wounds received earlier in the day leaving as estate of £168.
E. F. Whitlock, 12th York and Lancaster Regiment, belonged to one of the most well-known attacking battalions on 1st July 1916, the Sheffield City Battalion, part of the 31st Division. It had been raised as a Pals battalion from the men of Sheffield at the outbreak of war. The battalion had been raised from a wide variety of men in the Sheffield area, friends, work mates and relatives all joining up to ensure that they served together. Socially, they were a diverse bunch of miners, railway workers, professionals and office workers. They spent 15 months training as a battalion in England at camps near Rugeley, Ripon and Salisbury. In December 1915 they sailed for Alexandria in Egypt as part of 31st Division to help protect the Suez Canal from Turkish attack. However, two months later they were moved to the Western Front in preparation for the Somme Offensive. As the Sheffield City Battalion marched towards the frontline at Serre, prior to their attack on 1st July, they were startled to see German observation balloons flying high in the clear summer sky. They were able to watch all the men marching up to the British frontline, so no doubt they knew perfectly well what was being prepared. The men also had to march past freshly dug British graves, which must have put a damper on their spirits. Prior to the battalion’s attack, on the night of the 30th June 1916 a patrol from the Sheffield City Battalion blew a gap in the German barbed wire opposite their positions and laid white tape over No Man’s Land from the gap, as a guide to the attackers next morning. When they went over the top at 7.30 a.m. on 1st July 1916 the men looked for the white tapes put down the previous night, but they were gone. The Germans had pulled them up during the night. The slaughter at Serre amongst the Sheffield City Battalion and the Accrington Pals, attacking with them, was tremendous. The German artillery blasted the battlefield. As one German soldier facing the Sheffield City Battalion stated later, “When the English started advancing we were very worried; they looked as though they must overrun our trenches. We were very surprised to see them walking, we had never seen that before. I could see them everywhere, there were hundreds. The officers were in front. I noticed one of them walking calmly, carrying a walking stick. When we started firing, we just had to load and reload. They went down in their hundreds. You didn’t have to aim, we just fired into them. If only they had run they would have overwhelmed us” (Musketier Karl Blenk, 169th Regiment, German Army). From War Diary 12th Bn York and Lancaster Regiment On the morning of 1st July the first wave of the battalion moved 100 yards into No Man’s Land at 7.20 am and lay flat on the ground as the brigade mortar and divisional artillery placed a final heavy bombardment over the German front line. A few minutes later, with the British front line coming under an intense counter barrage from the German artillery, the second wave took up position 30 yards behind the first. At 7.30 am the bombardment lifted from the German front line. All four waves rose, took a moment to aligh themselves, then advanced steadily towards the German lines into a devastating hail of machine gun bullets and shell fire. An ineffective smoke screen exposed the battalion to machine gun fire from the left as well as from ahead. The third and fourth waves, caught on the opposite side of the valley, were reduced to half their strength before even reaching No Man’s Land. On the left of the battalion front, long stretches of barbed wire had been left uncut. Men brought to a halt in front of the impenetrable entanglements were reduced to firing vainly through the wire to the German front lines beyond. Only on the right of the attack were a few men somehow able to force their way into the German trenches. Some found themselves alone and managed to return to the British lines. Others were never heard of again. Within minutes it was as if the battalion had been wiped off the face of the earth. In the aftermath of this terrible slaughter the battalion was taken out of the line on the evening of 3rd July, having lost 513 officers and men killed, wounded and missing. A further 75 were slightly wounded. The loss to Sheffield of so many men being killed so suddenly was obviously very painful, but was not unusual for these “Pals” battalions raised solely from one specific area. The fortified German held village of Serre was not captured by the British throughout the long months of the Somme battle. It was during this engagement that Eric Whitlock was killed and his body never recovered, or never identified, as many bodies were only brought in from No Man’s Land in May 1917. 1.7.16 1.40am Battalion Headquarters consisting of Major A. Plackett, Commanding; Major A. R. Hoette, second-in-Command; Captain & Adjutant N. L. Tunbridge, Lieutenant H. Oxley, Signalling Officer, and other Headquarters' Details arrived at JOHN Copse. All quiet. Nothing seen of "A" & "C" Companies. 1.55am Captain Clarke reported our own wire cut on our front and tapes laid out in front of our line, vide Battalion Operation Order, No.15, para.2 (a,b,c,d.) Laying of tape completed about 12-30.am. Report sent to Brigade Hdqtrs in DUNMOW. 2.40am The first and second waves of "A" Coy reported in position in the Assembly trenches. Company Hdqtrs established in the front line near its junction with JORDAN. 3.45am Lieut. ELAM reported Battalion in position in the Assembly trenches. Reports not yet received from "B", "C", & "D" Coys, however. 3.50am "D" Coy reported in position. 4.5am Enemy started shelling JOHN COPSE and front line. 4.25am Report sent to 94th Infantry Brigade. Battalion in position in Assembly trenches. 6.0am "C" Company report our own guns firing short on the front line between JOHN & LUKE COPSES causing casualties. Reported to Brigade by runner telephonic communication being cut. 6.30am "C" Coy reported Bays 31 to 38 heavily shelled. 8 killed & 6 wounded -- principally No 12 platoon. Reply sent "Report again at 7-0 am. Nothing can be done at present." 7.0am "C" Coy reported no further casualties, but that our guns had been firing short, and had been hitting our own parapet in the front line. This was reported to Brigade. NOTES: The Communication trenches i.e., NORTHERN AVENUE, PYLON, & NAIRNE were in an exceedingly bad condition owing to the heavy rain; in places the water was well above the knees. This caused great fatigue to the men and consequently delayed assembly of Battalion in the trenches at least 2½ hours. The Eastern end of NAIRNE was found to be considerably blown in, but was passable. The front line was badly smashed up throughout its length; also the Traffic trench. COPSE trench was also badly smashed up. MONK & CAMPION were in a bad state, but this was due to the weather rather than to the enemy shelling. From the outset telephonic communication with the Brigade was cut, and the only means of communication throughout the day was by runner. The enemy artillery continued shelling heavily from 4.5 am, until the attack commenced. In view of the fact that the enemy artillery became active as soon as it was daylight, it would appear likely that the enemy was warned of the attack by observing gaps cut in our own wire and tapes laid out in No Man's Land, thus obtaining at least three and a half hours warning of the attack. "A" Company reported no sign of the tape which was laid during the night; it had, apparently, been removed. It served no purpose at all except to give the enemy warning. The wire in front of our lines had been cut away too much and as the gaps were not staggered, our intention to attack must have been quite obvious to the enemy. 7.20am The first wave of "A" and "C" proceeded into No Man's Land and laid down about 100 yards in front of our trenches under cover of intense bombardment by Stokes Mortars and Artillery. Casualties were not heavy up to this point. 7.29am Second wave moved forward and took up a position about 30 yards in rear of the first wave. The third and fourth waves left CAMPION & MONK and advanced in section columns. The enemy started an artillery barrage commencing at MONK and gradually rolling forward to the front line, where it finally settled. 7.30am Barrage lifted from the German front line and first and second waves moved forward to the assault. They were immediately met with very heavy machine gun and rifle fire and artillery barrage. The left half of "C" Coy was wiped out before getting near the German wire, and on the right the few men who reached the wire were unable to get through. As soon as our barrage lifted from their front line, the Germans, who had been sheltering in Dug-outs immediately came out and opened rapid fire with their machine guns. Some were seen to retire to the second and third lines. The enemy fought very well throwing Hand grenades into his own wire. NOTES: A great many casualties were caused by the enemy's machine guns; in fact the third and fourth waves suffered so heavily that by the time they reached No Man's Land they had lost at least half their strength. Whole sections were wiped out. The German front line wire was found to be almost intact, particularly on the left. A few men of both "A" and "C" Coys managed to enter the German trenches on the right of the attack, but in all other parts of the line men were held up, being shot down by the Germans in front of them. The few survivors took shelter in shell holes in front of the German wire and remained there until they could get back under cover of darkness. The failure of the attack was undoubtedly due to the wire not being sufficiently cut. Had this been cut the enemy's machine guns could have been dealt with by the men who managed to reach the front line. As it was, they could not be reached and there was no means of stopping their fire. Bombers attempted to silence them with grenades but could not reach them - consequently succeeding waves were wiped out and did not arrive at the German wire in any strength. 10.30am Major Hoette wounded in JOHN COPSE. No reports from Coys yet to hand. Reported to Brigade. 1pm Battalion Hdqtrs moved to MARK COPSE, as JOHN COPSE was full of wounded. Still out of touch with Coys; reported to Brigade. 8.21pm Reply sent to BM 41, enquiring as to strength, ammunition, bombs, Lewis guns, &c., in front line: "Strength of Battalion - 10 men unwounded. These are runners and Signallers. Have no Lewis Guns. 3000 S.A.A., 350 Bombs. Lewis pans -- nil." 10pm Message received from Brigade that we should be relieved by the 13th and 14th S. Battalions, York & Lancaster Regiment, in the front line; the Battalion to withdraw to ROLLAND trench. Hdqtrs withdrew from MARK COPSE at 10-15 am, and was established in a deep sap in ROLLAND. During the night message received from Brigade to say that information had been received that about 150 men of our men had penetrated the enemy front line opposite MARK COPSE, and were still maintaining their position in the German front line. Every endeavour was to be made to get into touch with them and withdraw them. 2.7.16 1.30am to 3.15am Two Officer patrols were sent out from MARK COPSE with men borrowed from the 14 Battn, York & Lancaster Regiment. These went out into No Man's Land and approached the German wire. No signs of any fighting were apparent, and wounded men, who were met and brought in, stated that any men left in the trenches, had become casualties and unable to offer further resistance. Patrols consequently withdrew. German machine guns were very active, sweeping No Man's Land and a large number of Very lights were sent up. Lieut. H. Oxley was slightly wounded. Captain E. G. G. Woolhouse and 2nd Lieut. W. H. Rowlands arrived with 80 1st reinforcements. These joined up in ROLLAND trench with the remainder of the Battalion. The Officers now with the Battalion were: Capt. E. G. G. Woolhouse, Captain & Adjutant N. L. Tunbridge, Lieutenant E. L. Moxey (M G Officer), 2nd Lieut. C. C. Cloud, 2nd Lieut. W. H. Rowlands, also Major A. Plackett & Lieut. H. Oxley. 12 NOON Casualty Return: Killed in Action: Captain W. A. Colley, Captain W. S. Clark, 2nd Lieut. C. H. Wardill, 2nd Lieutenant E. M. Carr. Wounded: Major A. R. Hoette, Captain R. E. J. Moore, Lieut. C. H. Woodhouse, Lieut. G. H. J. Ingold, Lieut. F. C. Earl, Lieut. F. W. S. Storry, Lieut. H. W. Pearson. Missing, Believed wounded: Lieut. C. Elam, 2nd Lieut. P. K. Perkin, 2nd Lieut. A. J. Beal, 2nd Lieut. F. Dinsdale. Killed, Wounded & Missing: Other Ranks: 468. LATER: Major A. Plackett and Lieut. H. Oxley, evacuated wounded. Headquarters removed from ROLLAND to TROSSACHS, owing to there being better dug-out accommodation. SPECIAL ORDER OF THE DAY: In a Special Order of the Day, Brigadier-General H. C. Rees, D.S.O., prior to handing over the Command of the 94th Infantry Brigade, to Brig.-General T. Carter-Campbell, D.S.O., said: "In giving up the Command of the 94th Brigade to Brigadier-General T. Carter-Campbell, whose place I have temporarily taken during this great battle, I wish to express to all ranks my admiration of their behaviour. I have been through many battles in this war and nothing more magnificent has come under my notice. The waves went forward as if on a drill parade and I saw no man turn back or falter. I bid good-bye to the remnants of as fine a Brigade as has ever gone into action." 3.7.16 12 NOON CASUALTIES: Officers as reported yesterday. Other ranks: 468 previously reptd "Killed, wounded & missing", now 21 Missing rejoined unwounded, 67 wounded, 6 killed. Casualty since 1 O.R., -- 373 Missing. Research Simon Williams
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