680581 DVR. P. C. WHALLEY. R.F.A.
Percy Cleminson Whalley was born in the first quarter of 1897 in Preston. His father was William Whalley (b. 1868 in Preston), a commercial traveller. His mother was Alice Ann Coventry (b. 1869 in Brooklyn, USA). Alice’s father, John Coventry, was born and married in Preston, but he and his wife Alice Dowbiggin lived in the USA between 1868 and 1875, so although Alice was born in the USA she was brought up in Preston and gives the town as her place of birth in the 1911 Census. William and Alice were married in Preston in 1892 and they had seven children, but lost two in infancy. The survivors were: Frederick (b. 1893), Annie (b. 1895), the Percy, Alice (b. 1901) and Doris (b. 1906). In 1911, the family lived at 42 Curwen Street, Preston. Percy, aged 14, had started work as a cotton weaver.
Percy Whalley enlisted in 1915 just after he had turned 18, though he may have been in the Territorials before that. He joined the Royal Field Artillery and was assigned service number 2032, which was later changed to 680581. He was posted to “A” Battery of 276 Brigade. 276 Brigade formed part of 55th (West Lancashire) Division. Percy was with the Division when they landed in France on 30 September 1915 although he was still only 18. 55th Division fought at Guillemont and Ginchy (on the Somme) in September 1916, suffering severe losses especially at Guillemont. They also fought at Flers-Courcelette and Morval later that month, and then in October 1916 they were moved to the Ypres Salient, at the time a relatively quieter part of the front. Although there were no major engagements in early 1917, there was constant harassment, shelling and raids.
1917: Third Battle of Ypres
From 55th Divisional History: "The objective of what was called the Third Battle of Ypres was the capture of the enemy's Gheluvelt-Langemark system... The weather during the whole of June and during the greater part of July had been ideal for campaigning purposes. Unfortunately, on Sunday 29 July a particularly heavy thunderstorm filled up the shell holes and turned roads and tracks into a morass. The succeeding days were dull and hazy, making the completion of the artillery preparation peculiarly difficult and typical Flanders weather conditions prevailed on the morning of the 31st - the moment chosen for the attack. Low lying clouds which made aerial observation and cooperation as difficult as could be imagined; a dampness of atmosphere, threatening rain at any moment; a half sodden ground, greasy and depressing; such was the luck of the weather at 3.50am on 31 July 1917, when the barrage opened. Not since the war began had so intense a barrage been put down, and of its wonderful effectiveness all ranks in the line bore eloquent testimony."
According to SDGW and Soldiers’ Effects, Percy Cleminson Whalley was killed in action on 5 September 1917. He was 20 years old. It’s not clear what the circumstances were as, according to the Divisional History, 55th Division spent the period from 7 August to 12 September either at rest or in training, so possibly he may have been killed in an accident in training.
Service No: 680581
Date of Death: 05/09/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “A” Bty, 276th Bde.
Grave Reference: IX. H. 23.
Cemetery: VLAMERTINGHE NEW MILITARY CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of William and Alice Whalley, of 1 Penguin Street, Preston, Lancs.