Private Harold ORGILL

Devonshire Regiment
(Formerly: Royal Navy)
8th (Service) Battalion
Service Number:
(Formerly: O.S. 358977, Royal Navy)
Date of Death:
25 September 1915 - Killed in Action
(MIC endorsed: "Presumed Dead")
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 35 - 37.

Personal History:

Harold was born on the 21st December 1880, probably at 7 Tor Street, Buxton, the son of George (Joiner) and Emma (née Littlewood) Orgill. He had an older sister, Florence, older brother, William, and two younger brothers, Herbert and Arthur. About 1887 the family moved from Buxton and in 1891 (Census RG 12/3176) were living at 25 Lord Street, Gorton, Lancashire.
By 1901 (Census RG 13/2112) Harold had joined the Royal Navy and was living in the Royal Naval Barracks, employed as "Domestic". Harold's parents and brothers had moved to 18 Ash Terrace, Fairfield (Census RG 13/3270). When reporting his death in September 1916, 'The Buxton Advertiser' said that Harold had: "... served for no less than 18 years in His Majesty's Navy, but on the outbreak of war was transferred to the Army." This would indicate that he enlisted in the Navy in 1896. His Naval Service record shows that Harold was 5 ft. 9 ins. (1.75 m) tall, had brown hair, blue eyes and a 'fair' complexion.

On the 6th January 1907 Harold married Ethel Louise Dyer and four years later (1911 Census RG 14/13016) the family was living at 23 Marlborough Street, Devonport, with son, Roy George. He was an "Officers Steward" in the Royal Navy. The following year, 1912, they had another son, Harold V. The 'Advertiser' gave Harold's parents' address as still 18 Ash Terrace, Buxton, in 1916, and that his wife and two children were living in Plymouth.

Military History:
As stated above before enlisting in the Devonshire regiment, Harold had served for 18 years in the Royal Navy. His Service Record shows that he was employed in a "Domestic" capacity, until early 1907, when he became an "Officer's Steward". A large proportion of his service was spent at H.M.S. Vivid 1 - the name at that time of the Navy's shore base at Plymouth. Interspersed with this service were deployments to a number of ships, though in the main for relatively short periods - in some cases of just a few days.

At the outbreak of War (5th August 1914) Harold had just returned to HMS Vivid after just 5 days on HMS Eclipse, the lead ship of her class of cruisers. On the 3rd October he was posted again to HMS Tiger, a battlecruiser, launched in 1913. Tiger was the most heavily armoured battlecruiser of the Royal Navy at the start of the First World War although she was still being finished when the war began. Up to this time all of Harold's character had always been "Very Good", but after just 8 days on HMS Tiger his Record was endorsed "Unreliable, dishonest, inefficient".

He was discharged to 'Shore' with the very adverse description described as "G ...Mod". This was his last assessment for Character and Efficiency and probably implies that he received a serious disciplinary punishment during 1914 (and thereby broke his VG Conduct record); "Moderate Efficiency" suggests that he was assessed as less than average in his substantive rating. Harold's last entry was "  SNLR" (Services No Longer Required)".

This seems to be the reason for him leaving the Navy, but certainly he was still determined to serve his country, enlisting immediately into the Army. According to the SDGW database Harold enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment at Devonport. Unfortunately, his Army Service Papers have not survived. However, by comparing the enlistment dates of Battalion members whose dates of enlistment are known, it is fairly certain he joined up very early in the War.  His Medal Index Card shows that he entered France with his Battalion on the 25th July 1915.

The 8th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment was originally formed at Exeter on 19th August 1914 as part of ‘K1’, the first hundred thousand men who volunteered for Kitchener’s New Army, and attached as Divisional Troops to the 14th (Light) Division. In May 1915 the Battalion left the Division and landed at Le Havre on the 26th July 1915, so Harold was posted with the original deployment of the Battalion. On the 4th August 1915 it was attached to the 20th Brigade, 7th Division.

On the 13th September the Battalion War Diary recorded that they "Left billets unexpectedly at 8.00 a.m. for VERQUIN. Dirty billets." On the 14th: "Left again suddenly for VERMELLES. Arrived there about 11.00 a.m. There are not billets at all, the entire town being in ruins." After two days when they were shelled, the Battalion returned to Verquin on the 17th September and on the 23rd returned to Vermelles to ".. go into trenches at 9.15 a.m. on the 24th for the attack which is due to take place on 25th."

At 9.15 p.m. on the 24th the Battalion moved into trenches for the attack the following morning.
The trenches were reported as "… very muddy and difficult to moved about in."

"As soon as our guns started the intense bombardment the German guns - scenting what was
in the wind - replied with heavy and light artillery and caused some casualties though not many.
On the signal being given 'C', 'A' and 'D' companies seemed to all go forward together in one
line, this happened probably because 'A' and 'D' companies started too soon. The result was
great crowding towards the gaps in the wire and consequent increase in casualties, most of
which occurred just outside or in the midst of the wire in front of BRESLAU TRENCH."

The Diary goes on to say that during the advance on the Breslau Trench all but three of the
Officers were killed or wounded. These included Lt. Col. Alexander George William Grant,
Kekewich, shot through the head and dying soon afterwards. In all 13 Officers of the Devonshires
were killed on the 25th September.

"As soon as the attack reached the German trench the few Germans therein put their hands up and surrended." The attack continued across the Hulloch Road and no opposition was met and Gun Trench was reached, again with the German defenders surrendering in large numbers.

By 8.00 a.m. the Battalion had reached the cross roads west of Hulloch, though by then they were down to about 100 men, in charge of Captain Gwynn. "All machine guns were gone - 2 knocked out in the first advance and the other 2 … lost on the outskirts of Hulloch."

This position was held all day until about 9.30 p.m. when the enemy got behind the position. "A retirement was then made to GUN TRENCH in the course of which many losses were sustained owing partly to rifle fire and bombing by the enemy and partly from rifle and machine gun fire from the Bedfords in gun trenches who in the dark mistook friend from foe."

Both the 8th and the 9th Battalions of the Devonshires were completely shattered at the Battle of Loos on the 25th September 1915. The survivors of Harold's 8th Battalion continued to fight through the 26th, before withdrawing under fire the next day.

It was almost a year later that 'The Buxton Advertiser' reported Harold's death, stating that he had been: "Originally reported missing after the great attack at Loos about 12 months ago, there seems to be no doubt now that he has bravely laid down his life.". Not surprisingly, after all that time, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. The CWGC records show that the 8th Battalion had 298 Officers and men killed in action on the same day as Harold. 290 have no known grave and are commemorated with him on the Loos Memorial.

· Harold's brother Herbert enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry on 22nd November 1915.
· I am grateful to Michelle Young for the photo from the Loos memorial.
· ... and also to Richard Brindle for the War Diary extract and trench maps
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - 2 September 1916
· National Archive - ADM/188/544

Link to CWGC Record
The Loos Memorial
Pt Orgill's name on The Loos Memorial
8/Devons Position at Loos
8/Devons Position at Loos, 25 Sept 1915