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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 122469
1/3 North Midland Field Ambulance - Royal Army Medical Corps
Who Died of Wounds on Friday, 25th October 1918
Age 23

Plot IX Row A Grave 12
Harlebeke New British Cemetery, Belgium

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Harlebeke New British Cemetery

Harlebeke New British Cemetery, Belgium1

Harry Tebbutt was born in Chilwell, Nottinghamshire in 18952, the fifth of six surviving children of William Tebbutt (b. 1852, Beeston) and Betsy, his wife (b. 1862, Harby, Leicestershire née Norris)3. William and Betsy's family were all born in Chilwell where William working for forty years in the local brickyard. By 1901 they were living at High Road, Chilwell4 but, soon after this, William suffered serious injuries in an accident at work, when he was buried in a clay pit when the sides collapsed5. By 1911, the family had moved to Beeston to live at 101 Gladstone Street with William having found light job as a wool winder. Harry, then 16, was working as an errand boy for the local Co-op Stores6. Now with a relatively settled family life, they could not have imagined the terrible tragedies that they would experience as a family when war came just a few years later.

Harry was not amongst those who enlisted so enthusiastically in the early months of the war. By the middle of 1915 however, the number of volunteers had dropped off and the relentless demand for more and more men at the front was not being met. In an attempt to boost numbers without invoking the unpopular option of conscription, the Government adopted a scheme devised by Lord Derby that became known as the 'Derby Scheme'. It encouraged men to voluntarily attest, for service at a later date and, in the mean time, to be placed in an army reserve and released to everyday life until needed. Those in the reserve were categorised by age and marital status to be called on in a structured way. Harry attested on 8 December 1915, just before the scheme expired7. As his Army Service Record has survived we are able to follow the subsequent timetable that eventually took him to service on the Western Front.

Having attested, he returned to his job in munitions work as a milling machinist and his family which had just been deeply saddened by the death of by the death of Harry's eldest brother, William Thomas, who had enlisted with the South Lancashire Regiment in January 1915 but had died of pneumonia during basic training in February 1916 after only 20 days service8.

In February 1917 he was recalled for a medical examination and was further graded for service and, perhaps as the result, the option to join the Royal Army Medical Corps rather that the normally more likely local infantry regiment, The Sherwood Foresters, became a possibility. In the event, on 5th April 1917. he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps at its training school at Blackpool. On 25 January 1918, Harry's younger brother Charles was killed in action while serving in France with the Lincolnshire Regiment9.

On 23 July 1918, Harry arrived in France and, after a brief period in a holding depot at Le Havre, he was posted to 3rd Field Ambulance, part of 3rd Brigade in 1st Division and began to take his part in the unit's almost never-ending task of helping the sick and wounded as well as more general duties such as supervising sanitary conditions in the field. Field Ambulances were not vehicles but front line medical units. operating at Divisional level, that could be moved as needed. They were designed to treat 150 casualties but were often required to deal with much greater numbers. In a battle situation, as part of the evacuation chain, they provided stretcher bearers to evacuate the wounded from aid posts in the front line and operated as dressing stations so that the wounded could be passed to the Casualty Clearing Stations10.

By August 3rd Field Ambulance was part of the great push forward that became known retrospectively as the Hundred Days Offensive, which was to finally lead to the end the war. Progress against the enemy was impressive but there was still much hard fighting to be done against an enemy which was not about to give up easily. In the Battle of Cambrai, in early October, Canadian forces, advancing alongside British and New Zealand forces, were able to take Cambrai days ahead of expectations and it became apparent that the enemy was now nearing exhaustion. During this series of battles the 3rd, as well as other field ambulances worked tirelessly to help the many wounded often involving dangerous front-line work. In October the enemy established new positions to the east of the Selle River and, on the 20th, attacking Allied forces, including tanks and infantry, were able to reach their objectives despite heavy enemy resistance and bad weather conditions. It is likely that it was then or shortly afterwards in the subsequent fighting that Private Tebbutt was severely wounded, in all probability while acting as a stretcher bearer or similarly exposed to battle conditions. Despite the efforts of his colleagues and others in the medical evacuation chain, he died on October 25th 1918.

Private Ellis was first buried near where he died but after the Armistice, in May 1920, his body was exhumed and reburied in Harlebeke New British Cemetery, about 32 kilometres east of Ypres, in Belgium11. Harlebeke village was taken on the night of 19-20 October 1918 by the 9th (Scottish) Division. Harlebeke New British Cemetery was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields of 1918 and, in 1924-25, from German cemeteries or plots in Belgium. The earlier concentrations are in Plots I and X, and the later in Plots I, II and XI to XIX. In the latter group are many graves of October 1914. The cemetery now contains 1,116 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 181 of the burials are unidentified and a special memorial is erected to one casualty who is believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of 19 casualties buried by the Germans in other burial grounds whose graves could not be found on concentration. There are also ten burials of the Second World War in the cemetery. The cemetery was designed by W H Cowlishaw12.

He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal13. His financial effects of 12 18s 11d, which included his War Gratuity of 8 10s, were paid to his father, as his Sole Legatee, on 21 February 191914.

William and Betsy had lost three of their six sons in the war and, in addition, their daughter Mabel's husband, Private Charles Waters had died of wounds on 23 April 1918, while serving with serving with the South Lancashire Regiment. Betsy had died in the summer of 1917, aged 54, so it can it can at least be said that she was spared the terrible shock of three family deaths during 1918. Her husband William, now at 21 Collington Street, Beeston, lived on with help from the family. He died in 1927 aged 74, probably in Chilwell.15.

1The photograph of Harlebeke New British Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Shardlow Registration District (of which Chilwell was part) in Q2/1895 (Ref 7b 515). He was baptised at Attenborough Parish Church (which then served Chilwell) on 22 August 1895.
3They were married at Attenborough Parish Church on 9 April 1882.
4Chilwell, Derbyshire: 1901 Census, Piece 3208 Folio 5. His then living siblings were William Thomas (b. 1883), Mabel Annie (b. 1884), Alfred (b. 1887), John James (b 1891) and Charles (b. 1889). A younger brother, also named Harry, was born in 1889 but died in the following year.
5Details of this accident as well as the cause of William Thomas Tebbutt's death in 1915, are based on research by the late Ray Smedley.
6Chilwell, Notts: 1911 Census, Piece 20428 RD429 SD3 ED3 Schedule 299.
7These, and all other details of his enlistment and deployment are derived from his Army Service Record.
8William Thomas Tebbutt's memorial page can be seen here
9Charles Tebbutt's memorial page can be seen here
10This description of the work of Field Ambulances and the casualty evacuation chain is derived from the on the Long, Long Trail website at www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/a-soldiers-life-1914-1918/the-evacuation-chain-for-wounded-and-sick-soldiers/.
11The position and other details of his original burial are recorded on the 'Concentration of Graves - Burial Return' which can be seen on his Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial page.
12This description of the Harlebeke New British Cemetery is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
13Details from Harry's Medal Roll entry and his Medal Card - available on ancestry.com.
14Details from his entry in the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929 - available on ancestry.com.
15Details of the family in the post-war period are derived from standard genealogical sources.

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