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Henry Evans

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Died : 14 March 1916


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Not to be confused with Harry John Evans who died on 30th June 1916, Henry was no direct relation. He did however often go under the name of 'Harry' ! This poor man perished on 14th March 1916, some three months before his namesake. The son of David Henry and Jane from Paygate Cottages, New Road, Ringmer, they had originally lived at Swing Gate. Young Henry was born on 13th April 1885 and baptised in Ringmer on 7th June the same year. He was schooled at Ringmer until 17th April 1896 when he left having achieved the required standards.

It appears Henry followed literally in his father's footsteps in that he also became an agricultural labourer. He responded to the call for volunteers and joined the 11th Essex Regiment at Westminster, despite living in Ringmer at the time. He sailed with the Battalion and landed at Boulogne, France on 11th October 1915, thus qualifying himself for the 1914-15 Star to go with his British War & Victory Medals. Three of his brothers also joined the Army. James was a Lance Corporal with the Royal Army Medical Corps. David was a Private in the Army Service Corps and Richard a Gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery. Obviously this family was truly committed to the war effort.

Until 27th October 1915 the 11th Essex was part of the 24th Division, the deployment of which in France had been severely delayed by shortages of materials. Henry was then in the same Division but a different battalion to Henry Stevens, another man on the Ringmer War Memorial. Sporting a fine moustache, number 13505 Henry Evans was to rise to the rank of Sergeant within a short time. Transferred to the 6th Regular Division, the 11th Essex found itself holding the line in the Ypres Salient.

In early March 1916 an area around Potijze was the assignment for Sgt. Evans and his men. It was the usual arrangement whereby the enemy were continually harassed to implement the 'offensive spirit' policy of the High Command. The War Diary of the 11th Essex Regiment reads:

"On 14th March at 3am a strong patrol of Captain Bartlett [himself killed in action on 15th September 1916], 2/Lt Frion Garson & 23 other ranks went out on a minor enterprise against German wire. They killed one and wounded one or more Germans and brought one of the latter as a prisoner. He belonged to the 233rd Regiment. Useful information, as this regiment was not known to be in these parts. Five slight casualties in this enterprise. Later on Sgt. Evans was killed in our lines by a sniper and Private Coleman was also sniped and died of wounds."

A letter from a second lieutenant of 11th Essex regiment (most probably his platoon officer) is slightly more explicit. It states, "It is my painful duty to advise you of the death of your son, Sergt H. Evans. About 7.45am today he was washing himself in the front line trenches when a bullet pierced his brain, death following practically instantaneously. Your son, Sir, had gained the esteem of all with whom he came in contact - both officers and men. He will be missed and his death is greatly regretted. Sergt Evans was prepared to make, and has made, the greatest sacrifice for his country."

Sergeant Henry Evans was laid to rest by his comrades in Potijze Burial Ground not far from where he fell.

Adapted from Valiant Hearts of Ringmer by Geoff Bridger: Ammonite Press, 1993