Merton Osbert(Bertie) Beard, Age 24
Private, 200202, 1/4th Battalion, Kings Shropshire Light Infantry.
Merton was the son of James and Annie Beard, of 63, Yew Tree Road, Aston, Birmingham. He had been born at Broesley and was residing at 16 Langley Terrace, Dawley, when he enlisted at Dawley in about first week of April 1912 into 4/K.S.L.I. Merton was originally given the number 1541.
He would have landed in India with 1/4/K.S.L.I. in November 1914, having had previously seen service in South Africa, India and China before seeing service in France, During October 1917 his battalion were involved in the third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). My thanks to Annette Burgoyne for the below report,
The 1/4th Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry-Albatross Farm, near Passchendaele: -
By 5 a.m. the 1/4/K.S.L.I. had consolidated on the Albatross Ridge about D.2.d.8.9. in readiness to counter-attack should the German attack and take any of the 190th Brigade's line.
The British barrage for the second phase of The Second Battle of Passchendaele started at 5.50 a.m., and the German artillery replied within minutes.
The Canadian Corps were again making the main attack. The 5/C.M.R. on the far left of the Canadian line had managed to take Vapour and Vanity Farms but had suffered heavy casualties due to both their flanks being in the air.
The 190th Brigade, 63rd Division, who were on the left of the Canadians, primarily to protect the Canadian flank. Again like the 188th Brigade it attacked in knee deep mud. The .Germans unexpectedly altered their barrage line on the morning of the battle, and attacking troops suffered heavy losses in the opening seconds of the attack. On the left the Artists' Rifles, despite heavy losses, advanced on Source Trench, but were held up in front of it by close range machine guns. Here one company of this battalion was annihilated. In the centre, and on the left, the 7/R.F. and the 4/Bedfords could do no better; movement was in many places literally impossible: in all, it was futile.
To protect it's own front the 5/C.M.R. attacked and captured Source Farm which was in the 190th Brigade's sector, the 5/C.M.R. were now weak in numbers, and many of it's forward troops were isolated and cut off. A report at about 10.50 a.m. stated a strong German counter-attack had been driven off but Vanity House was back in German hands. Another report at 11.40 a.m. stated small parties of Germans had been seen on the high ground NW. of Vapour Farm.
Source Trench which lay on the 190th Brigade's right flank had coursed great problems to the Brigade but the garrison of this trench could also fire into the 8th Canadian Brigade's un-guarded flank because the trench ran S.E. to N.W. It had at first been reported that this trench had been captured by the 1/Artist Rifles but they had either been driven back or all killed and wounded because Source Trench was still very much in German hands. Source Trench had to be captured and at 11.10 a.m., and the 190th Brigade were ordered to send two companies of it's counter- attack battalion, which happened to be the 1/4/K.S.L.I., to capture it. Also a message came from the XVIII Corps Commanding Officer confirming that the counter-attack Battalion could be used and that he wanted a third company of K.S.L.I. to be sent to reinforce the Canadians at Source Farm. On receipt of these orders it was at once arranged with the 3rd Canadian Division that one company of the 1/4/K.S.L.I. would be sent to Source Farm via Kronprinz Farm, where Canadian guides would be waiting for them. But it seems these instructions did not reach the 5/C.M.R. H.Q. and possibly not even the 8th Canadian Brigade because the latter's War Diary reported a company of K.S.L.I. had wandered into their area, which was not the case.
At 1.30 p.m. "A" & "D" Companies, under Major Litt, were ordered off to capture Source Trench, and fifteen minutes later "B" Company, under Captain Hughes, was ordered off to Canadian H.Q. at Kronprinz Farm.
"A" & "D" Companies sent a message that they had capture Source Trench but it soon transpired that Source Trench was still in German hands, it is thought they had lost direction and the trench they thought was Source Trench was the old Canadian front line.
A Canadian report states under 2.45 p.m. that a company of the 1/4/K.S.L.I., under the command of Captain Hughes reported at the Battalion H.Q. at Kronprinz Farm. The report states Captain Hughes had no definite instruction and that he did not appear at all clear as to what was expected of him, except that he had been sent to connect up the Canadian garrison at Source Farm with the right of the 190th Brigade (near Valet Farm). The report goes on to say Captain Hughes was ordered to place himself under the orders of Major W. Rhoades at the Advanced Battalion H.Q., and that he was furnished with runners to guide his company forward. On arrive at the 5/C.M.R. forward H.Q. Major W. Rhoades ordered Captain Hughes to prolong the defences flank at Source Farm and connect up with the right flank of the 190th
Brigade, this was an impossible task seeing that the 190th Brigade's right flank was back near Valet Farm, and the whole area under heavy machine gunfirefrom both front and flank. Major W Rhoades pointed out to Captain Hughes where Source Farm was and the approximate position of the 190th right flank but no guides seem to have been allotted to him, possibly due to the lack of man power. The 5/C.M.R. and the two companies of the 2/C.M.R., who had gone up to help, had suffered heavy casualties from the machine gun fire from the front and from machine guns in the 190th Brigade area east of the Paddebeek. Captain Hughes and the rest of ''B'' Company K.S.L.I. now had the task of pressing forward under this heavy machine gun and shell fire, the ground was muddy, although possibly not as bad as that on the front of the Paddebeek. Another hurdle for Captain Hughes, was he had no knowledge of the ground ahead of him, it resulted in "B" Company losing direction and final it came to halted, and they dug-in. According to the Canadian report Captain Hughes' right flank resting on their jumping off line at about D.4.a.35.80. The Canadian report also state they received no reports whatever from Captain Hughes, not surprising seeing that they had lost direction and most likely no longer had a clue where they were not alone where the Canadians were.
The 1/4IK.S.L.I.'s Battalion HQ. had been receiving conflicting reports during this time, so it sent T/Captain and Adjt. G. F. Bright, to try and find out what the true situation was.
During the hours of darkness the 5/C.M.R. had ordered "B" Company 1/4/K.S.L.I. to move forward and established a line of posts from the left of Source Farm and to link up with "A" & "D" companies, who facing Source Trench, which was still in German hands. The K.S.L.I. had also connected up with the right flank of the 190th Brigade near Valet Farm.
In the meantime because T/Captain Bright had not returned, Lt. -Col. Garrett, made his way to the Canadian H.Q. at Kronprinz Farm to discuss the situation with the Co. of the 5/C.M.R., leaving Captain Wace of "C" Company in Command of the Battalion. On arrival at Kronprinz Farm at about 9.15 p.m., Lt. -Col. Garrett met T/Captain Bright, who had just arrived from his travels, he brought Lt. -Col. Garrett and Canadians up to speed with the situation between Valet Farm and Source Farm.
T/Captain Bright then returned to Battalion H.Q. at Albatross Farm to report the situation and to organise water and rations carrying parties from "C" Companies of the 1/4/K.S.L.I. to take supplies up to the front line.
Early in 1918 his parents had appealed for information in the local Wellington and Shrewsbury Journal for any information regarding Merton stating that he had last been seen, being carried to a dressing station on the 30th Oct.
Merton's body was never found and he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial, panels 112-113, his initials being listed as M. A., Merton's date of death is given as the 30th October 1917.
200885 Pte. Alfred Thomas Suthern, the son of Mr & Mrs Joseph Suthern of 6, Lightmoor, Dawley, Shrops, also fell during this action.
|Victory Medal||British War Medal||Territorial War Medal|