Sergeant Robert STARKEY


Regiment/Service:
Lancashire Fusiliers
Unit:
1/7th Battalion
Service Number:
280512
(Fly.: Private 2376 Lancashire Fusiliers)
Date of Death:
22 July 1918 - Killed in action
Age:
24
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 32 to 34.


Personal History:

Robert was born on the 23rd November 1893, the son of Edward (Slater) and Martha (née Ashmore) Starkey, of 6 Byron Street, Buxton. (1901 Census RG 13/3269)

He had an older sister, Alice Maud, and five younger siblings, Arthur, [see Footnote 1 below] Edith, William, Reginald and Florence (1911 Census RG 14/21241). In 1911 he was employed as an "Apprentice Shoemaker".


Military History:
Robert's Service Papers have not survived but it is known that he enlisted in Salford, Lancashire. His Medal Index Card shows that he was posted abroard as part of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division.

'The Buxton Advertiser' of 7th September 1918 states that ".. he joined up in the early days of the war". Robert's 1/7th was one of the Battalions of the Territorial Force and in August 1914 was based in Salford, part of the Lancashire Fusiliers Brigade, East Lancashire Division, which incuded three other TF Battalion of the Regiment - the 1/5th, 1/6th and 1/8th.

The Division was advised on the 5th September 1914 that it would be sent to Egypt and four days later it began to embark at Southampton, sailing on the 10th, and arriving in Egypt on the 25th September 1914.The Division's main aim was to defend the Suez Canal from the Turkish troops that were massed in Palestine.

The report in 'The Buxton Advertiser' goes on to give brief details of Robert's service, as follows: "He went to Egypt on 3rd September 1914; fought through Gallipoli and then on the Sinai Peninsular. In March 1917 he went with the 42nd Division to France, and was killed on July 22nd last."

The history of the East Lancs Division shows that they remained in the Canal Zone, until ordered to reinforce the beleaguered garrison on Gallipoli in 1915 and in the first week of May 14,224 men of the Division landed at Cape Helles. The Division was involved in three notable attempts to break out of the Helles bridgehead to capture the dominating heights around the village of Krithia, but by the middle of August 1915 the East Lancashire Division, through battle casualties and sickness, was down to little more than one third of its normal establishment and was finally withdrawn from Gallipoli in January 1916, returning to Alexandria.

Between the 1st May and the end of 1915 Robert's 1/7th Battalion lost 232 men, either to disease, wounds or killed in action. 33 were between the 4th and 6th June, and a further 98 between 7th and 9th August. 144 of these casualties have no know grave and are commemorated on the Helles Memorial.

After returning to Alexandria the Battalion was heavily involved in The Battle of Romani (4th - 5th August 1916) in intense heat, before the Division was ordered for the first time to the Western Front. All units embarked at Alexandria by the end of February 1917. The Lancashire Fusiliers had lost of total of 1634 men to the Gallipoli and Palestine campaigns.

Throughout July and August, the Division carried out rest and training near to Albert. Then in September 1917  moved north, to join the offensive at Ypres that had opened on 31st July. This is officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, or more often known as Passchendaele.

During 1918 Robert's 42nd Division were involved in the First Battle of Bapaume, (24th - 25th March), just after the first day of the German Spring Offensive ('Kaiserschlacht') on the 21st March; First Battle of Arras, on the 28th March, and The Battle of the Ancre, 5th April 1918, at the end of the 'Michael offensive', all phases of the First Battles of the Somme' 1918.

On the 21st July 1918, there was an order (No 22) to the 42nd Divisional Artillery for the support
of a minor operation by 125th Infantry Brigade (which included the 1/7 Lancashire Fusiliers) that
says "The 125th Inf Bde are advancing our line by establishing a line of posts at the following
points on morning 22nd July 1918" and lists the posts. The trench map roughly shows these
posts and the barrage detailed for 42nd Div artillery.

Robert was killed in action on the 22nd July 1918. The Battalion History records the following for
the 1/7th for that day:

" On the morning of the 22 July, C company of the same battalion (1/7th), tried to capture a
trench known as " Watling Street." The attack was not successful, but Private G. Heardley,
M.M. , gave further proofs to his courage. When the leader of his section was severely wounded,
he carried him under point-blank machine gun fire to a place of safety and then returned, took
command of the section and fought the enemy under heavy fire and bombing. Company Serjeant
-Major J. Lindon earned a distinguished conduct medal. Partly for good work on this occasion in
reorganizing parties under heavy shell fire. The company lost 2 officers killed and 1 officer and
34 other ranks wounded." 

Another source writing about Pt. Heardley adds: " ... and during a daylight raid on the 24th he led
his section to attack a party of forty Germans in their trenches and killed several, though before
leaving our lines he had been wounded, but did not mention the fact." [See Footnote 2 below]

The CWGC database records six other men, in addition to Robert, being killed in action on the 22nd July. Robert's body was not recovered and he is now commemorated on the Memorial at Pozières.




                                            


Footnote 1:
· Robert's younger brother, Private Arthur Starkey, 8th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, was reported missing, presumed killed,
  on 4th October 1917.

Footnote 2:
Before this action Private Heardley had been awarded the Military Medal (London Gazette, 27 June 1918).

On the 30th October 1918 Private 280993 George HEARDLEY was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for the above action (London Gazette, 4 November 1918). His citation reads:

"280993 Pte. G HEARDLEY MM (Longsight Manchester) - For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During an attack by our troops when the leader of his section was severely wounded, he carried him under point-blank machine-gun fire to a place of cover, and then returned and took command of his section and fought the enemy under heavy machine-gun fire and bombing. Two days later he commanded a section in a daylight raid, and though wounded before leaving our lines, he carried on with admirable courage and endurance, attacking a party of 40 of the enemy in their trenches and killing several. His gallant conduct and devotion to duty and endurance were admirable."

Sadly, however, he never learned of his award, he had died of wounds on the 27th September 1918 and is buried in Grave IV. B. 1., Ribecourt Road Cemetery.

Sources:
· The Buxton Advertiser 7 September 1918
· 'History of the Lancashire Fusiliers, 1914-1918', by Major General J C Latter, (1949) - ASIN: B001OXZHQO
· Duncan ("Rammy-lad") via the Great War Forum, for the extract from the Battalion History
· Robert ("BoltonArty") via the Great War Forum, for the trench map

Link to CWGC Record
The Pozieres Memorial
Sgt Starkey's name on the Pozieres Memorial
Sgt. Robert Starkey
Trench Map July 1918
poppy
... about the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division