Albert Edward Essery
Albert Edward Essery was born on 23rd January, 1881, in Turvey, Bedfordshire, to railway labourer, John Essery and his wife, Mary Ann Essery nee Collins. Albert grew up at the family home on Mill Green in Turvey with his three brothers and three sisters.
When he was old enough, Albert left Turvey and entered service. He moved to the neighbouring county of Cambridgeshire where he was employed as a footman at Moat House in Melbourn before moving to Leicestershire. The census return of 1911 recorded Albert working at Egerton Lodge in Melton Mowbray for Arthur Vickris Pryor and his wife, Elizabeth, Countess of Wilton, after whom Lady Wilton bridge in Melton is named. Albert was employed as valet to Mr Pryor. Sometime after the census was taken, he moved to Goadby Marwood where he became butler to Capt. Robert Sheriffe at Goadby Hall.
Albert volunteered for military service shortly after war broke out, he enlisted at Melton Mowbray on September 15th, 1914, and was posted to the 8th (Service) Battalion Leicestershire Regiment. Formed at Leicester in September 1914, the 8th Battalion was one of the ‘service’ battalions of Kitchener’s New Army and was initially attached to 23rd Division before being transferred to 110th Brigade, 37th Division in April 1915. In July 1915, following a period of service on home soil, the 8th embarked for France for service on the Western Front.
Albert's medical examination record described him as 5 feet 8 inches tall with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. Albert quickly progressed through the ranks. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in October 1914, full Corporal in November 1914 and Sergeant just one month later. In March 1915 he was appointed Sergeant Major but it seems his responsibilities weighed heavily on him as a few months later he was reverted to Sergeant at his own request.
On March 12th, 1916, Albert attended the funeral service held at Berles-Au-Bois Churchyard for his comrade, Pte. Harry Bottrill, an under-gardener at Goadby Hall. As the eldest and senior ranking of the so-called ‘Goadby Boys’, it is likely that Albert felt a certain responsibility for his younger comrades.
In October 1916, Albert was awarded the Military Medal. The medal was awarded to other ranks of the British Army and Commonwealth Forces. It was bestowed for gallantry and devotion to duty when under fire in battle on land. The reverse of the medal is inscribed For Bravery in the Field.
The 8th Battalion saw action in a number of Allied operations including the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, and the retreat to the Hindenburg Line, the Arras offensive and the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. Albert served with the 8th Leicestershires from September 1914 through to October 1917. He was killed in action on 1st October, 1917, during the Battle of Polygon Wood. His death was reported in the Melton Mowbray Times on October 26th:
The news that Sergt. A. E. Essery, Leicester’s, had been killed has been confirmed this week. His parents who reside at Bedford, have received a letter from the chaplain of his regiment, and Lance-Corpl. W. Butteriss, who is home on leave, was with him shortly before and after his death. He states that after an attack Sergt. Essery emerged from a shell hole, and had only gone about four yards when he was shot in the stomach by a sniper, three others falling at just about the same spot. He only lived about a minute, and was buried on the battlefield.
The Battle of Polygon Wood was the fifth major battle by the British Army during the Third Battle of Ypres, which later became known as Passchendaele.
Passchendaele is today seen as a vivid symbol of the madness and the senseless slaughter of the First World War. During the summer of 1917, a series of failed assaults against German forces holding the plateau overlooking the city of Ypres, turned the battlefield into a quagmire. British and French troops assaulted German trenches on July 31st, and over the following weeks hundreds of thousands of soldiers on opposing sides attacked and counterattacked across sodden ground, in an open landscape almost devoid of buildings or natural cover, all under the relentless barrage of exploding shells and machine-gun fire. Few gains were made by either side. In total an estimated 245,000 troops under British command and 220,000 German troops, died at Passchendaele.
Polygon Wood was a significant landmark in the Ypres Salient battlefields. It had been fought over throughout the war and the trees had been all but destroyed by shellfire. Photographs of the remains of the burnt trees taken at the time are now synonymous with the horrors of the First World War.
Albert Essery was buried on the battlefield where he fell, he is commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial in Zonnebeke, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. He was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory medals, and the 1914/15 Star, which were received by his parents in Turvey. As well as being mentioned on The Goadby Marwood Roll of Honour, Albert is also commemorated on the War Memorial which stands in front of All Saints’ Parish Church in Turvey, the Bedfordshire village in which he was born and grew up.
CWGC Memorial - Albert Edward Essery
Albert Edward Essery
The Battlefield of Polygon Wood 1917
To learn more about the individual soldiers of Goadby Marwood who gave their lives for their country follow the links below:
Herbert Scarborough KIA 22 Aug 1915
Harry Bottrill KIA 11 Mar 1916
Cecil Thomas Foister KIA 03 May 1917
William Henry Pizer KIA 17 Aug 1917
Albert Edward Essery KIA 01 Oct 1917
Gerald Edgar Ellis KIA 01 Oct 1917
Harry Armstrong KIA 15 Jul 1916
John Thomas Pears DIED 02 Sep 1918