Unit: 2nd Battalion
Service Number: 8732
Date of Death: 11 March 1915 – Killed in Action
Age: 27 years
Cemetery / Memorial: Le Touret Memorial
Grave / Panel Ref.: Panel 11
Percy was born in May 1887 in Arnold, Nottinghamshire, the son of Benjamin (Farm Labourer) and Mary (née Hopkinson) Robinson. About 1890 the family moved to 14 Providence Square, Sleaford. (1891 Census RG 13/2578) Percy had an older sister, Florence (born 20 December 1886), and two younger brothers, Walter (b. in 1888) and William (1890).
Ten years later (1901 Census RG 13/3048) saw the family much enlarged with the births of Joseph (1893), George (1895), Frederick (1897), Mary Ann (1898), Harold Benjamin (1899) and Alfred (1900), and a move to Knipton Houses, Ruskington (a small hamlet about 2½ miles [4 kms.] west of Ruskington). Another 10 years (1911 Census RG 14/19618) saw a further 4 children born to the family – Clarice Eveleyn (10 July 1903), Albert (26 May 1905), Arthur Edward (22 June 1906) and Ethel (5 June 1908).
The Census record of that year shows that Mary had borne 17 children, 3 of whom subsequently died. By then, though, Percy had left home to join the Army in June 1909. At that time he stood 5 ft. 3½ ins. [1.61 m] tall, had a ‘fresh’ complexion, grey eyes and fair hair, and weighed 10 st. 2 lbs. [64.4 kgs].
At sometime during the War Benjamin and Mary moved to Chapel Yard, Dorrington, Lincoln, where Benjamin died on 13 December 1921.
After Percy’s death his mother, Mary, had his ‘effects’ returned to her November 1915. These totalled £13 13s 8d [£13.67 is equivalent in value to about £1,800 today – 2023] and in August 1919 she received a further £5 [about £330 today] War Gratuity.
With effect from 3 May 1919 a Pension of 3s 6d per week [£0.17 to about £38 today] was awarded to Percy’s father, Benjamin. After he died the Pension was transferred to his widow, Mary, and increased to 10s [£0.50 about £30 p.w. today]. Mary died in Nottingham in the June quarter 1937.
Percy was a serving soldier at the outbreak of the War, having enlisted in the 2nd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, in Lincoln, on 8 June 1909, aged 22. From that date to 6 December 1910 Percy trained with his Battalion, before being posted to India, where he gained his 3rd and 2nd Class Certificates of Education.
In August 1914 the 2nd Battalion was in Ranikhet, part of Gharwal Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Division of the Indian Army. Like several other battalions, fears of a rising among the native Indian population meant that it was not at once dispatched to France.
However, mounting casualties among the BEF, and the growing realisation that this was to be a long war, prompted the Indian Government in September 1914 to offer an Indian Corps for service in France. The offer was accepted, and on 20 September the Battalion sailed for France. On 12th October 1914 the Division arrived in France and by the close of the First Battle of Ypres, the Corps was in the trenches.
For the next twelve months, as part of the Meerut Division, the 2nd Battalion endured hardships of cold and enemy fire until it fought at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 (where Private William Buckingham gained a Victoria Cross, the first for the Regiment since the Crimea). Percy’s Medal Index Card shows that he arrived in France with his Battalion on 12 October 1914, clearly showing he had been with it in India.
Percy’s Service Papers record his death as between 10–13 March 1915, which was the period of The Battle of Neuve Chapelle. The Garhwal Brigade of the Meerut Division, Indian Corps attacked with all four battalions on a 600 yards (550 m) front, from Port Arthur to Pont Logy.
The Garhwal Brigade’s Indian battalions were held up by uncut wire, but the 2nd Battalion led the brilliant attack on the right and smashed a way through or over all obstacles and quickly overwhelmed the enemy holding the trenches covering the village and woods at Neuve Chapelle.
On the right the attack quickly collapsed, both companies losing direction and veering to the right. The attack confronted a part of the German defence not bombarded by the artillery and before the mistake was realised the two support companies followed suit. The Indian troops forced their way through the German wire and took 200 yards (180 m) of the German front trench, despite many casualties.
During the Battle the 2nd Battalion had 92 Officers and men killed in action, only 19 have a known grave, the remainder, with Percy, are Commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial. In total Percy had served 5 years 269 days with the Colours, of which 3 years 287 days were in India and 153 days in France. His Service Papers report simply: “Killed in Action. Place not stated“.
— about the 2nd Leicesters at Neuve Chappelle
As Percy’s family lived only a short time on the periphery of the village, and having joined the Army in 1909 he may have been only an infrequent visitor, it is not surprising that Percy’s name does not appear on any of Ruskington’s ‘official’ War Memorials.
[The Roll of Honour webpage: – Dorrington War Memorial has photos of all of that village’s Memorials and Rolls of Honour.]
- I am grateful to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project‘ for the photo of Percy’s name on Le Touret Memorial