Captain Edward Harold BRITTAIN


Regiment/Service:
Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)                        

Unit:
11th Battalion

Service Number:
n/a

Date of Death:
15 June 1918 - Killed in Action

Age:
22

Cemetery / Memorial:

Grave Number:
Plot 1. Row B. Grave 1.

Awards:    
Military Cross




Personal History:

Edward was born on 30th November 1895, the son of Thomas Arthur (Paper Manufacturer) and Edith Mary Brittain of Glen Bank, Chester Road, Macclesfield. (1901 Census RG 13/3312). Edward was a pupil at Holmleigh School and the younger brother of Vera Mary Brittain, author of "Testament of Youth," whose ashes were scattered on his grave after her death in 1970.
In 1911 the family, less Edward, were living at 'Melrose', North Road, Buxton (Census RG 14/21236) After the War the family moved to 10 Oakwood Court, Kensington, London. Fifteen years old Edward was a Boarder in School House, Uppingham School. (Census RG14/19394.)

Military History:
At the outbreak of the War Edward sought a Commission in the 11th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) and joined them in time for the opening day of the Battle of Somme (1st July 1916) and was immediately wounded and was awarded the Military Cross, "For conspicuous gallantry and leadership during an attack. He was severely wounded, but continued to lead his men with great bravery and coolness until a second wound disabled him." (London Gazette: 20 October 1916).   Apparently his MC was not added to the Buxton war memorial when it was erected. When Vera visited Buxton in 1935 (the first time in twenty years) she was very dismayed to find the omission. [N.B. Berry and Bostridge in their biography of Vera Brittain state that the MC was not added for another 50 years after her visit to Buxton in 1935.]

Edward's 11th Battalion was part of 70th Brigade, 8th and 23rd Division, and on the first day of the Battle of the Somme it attacked at Ovillers, moving forward to the front line from the reserve at Authuille Wood. The Battalion continued its advance as far as the German first line, facing machine-gun fire from the front and both flanks, which eventually halted the advance in 'No-Mans-Land'. Casualties totalled 518, of which 126 Officers and men were killed in action. The Battalion was relieved that night and withdrew to Long Valley.

After suffering such serious losses Edward's Battalion did not returned to the front until late July and again in October for the final attempt to break through the German rear position. The Battalion lost a further 114 men killed or died of wounds before the end of the Somme offensive, many in the first few days of October, attacking Flers Trench, near Sars - an attack which began from Destremont Trench at 9.15 a.m. on the 1st. The objective was achieved, with 169 casualties. In 1917, the Battalion was again heavily engaged in the Second Ypres Battle for
Passchendaele Ridge, where 52 men were lost between 15th and 30th September, with a further 30 between 16th and 21st October.

In November 1917 the 23rd Division moved to Italy where it remained until the end of the War. It concentrated between Mantua and Marcaria on the 16th November, before taking over the front line at the Montello on the 4th December 1917. The 11th Battalion was noted for its heroic stand at Asiago, where the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Edward Hudson DSO, MC, was awarded the Victoria Cross for outstanding bravery and leadership.

Edward was killed in action on the Asiago Plateau, Italy, aged 22, on the 15th June 1918. Edward's Battalion was severely under-strength with only 19, out of a possible 34, Officers. However, it occupied the San Sisto Ridge on the 11th June, after a period in reserve. Edward's 'A' Company and Captain Frith's 'D' Company, with only about 100 NCOs and men each, occupied about 900 m of forward trench.

The enemy assault began at 6.45 a.m. and 'A' Company suffered severe losses to machine-gun and artillery fire. Edward re-organized the defence of the trench, forming a flank with what troops were available, by now probably no more than 50, but apparently he paused to observe the enemy, and was killed by an Austrian sniper.

After the Armistice many of the buried men, including Edward, of 'A' Company were re-interred at Granezza British Cemetery.
Edward was a close friend of Lieutenant Jerry Knowles Garnett, who is also commemorated on this site.


                                                                                   .


Sources:
· La Grande Guerra - Vera Brittain's Pilgrimage
· 'Asiago - Italy' - Francis Mackay (Pen and Sword Books, Ltd.) ISBN: 978-0850527599
· 'Vera Brittain: A Life' - Paul Berry and Mark Bostridge, (Virago Press Ltd.) ISBN: 978-1844085460


Link to CWGC Record
Edward's Grave at Granezza
Captain E H Brittain
The Military Cross
poppy
.. about the Asiago Campaign and Vera Brittains pilgrimage