PRIVATE RALPH DAUGHTRY

Regiment: 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment.
Service No: 28088. Formerly 2306 Royal Sussex Regiment
Date & place of birth: 1st qtr. 1889 in Heyshott
Date & place of death:  26 September 1916 (aged 27) in The Somme, France.

Ralph Daughtry first enlisted into the Royal Sussex Regiment in Worthing but later transferred into the 1st Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. He served on the Western Front and died of wounds on the Somme in September 1916.

Family Background

Ralph was the younger son of James Arthur Daughtry (1855–1945), a labourer and his wife Rosetta née Miles (1861–1938), both of Heyshott.  They married in the last quarter of 1883 and had their first son Basil in early 1885 and Ralph was born four years later in January 1889.

At the time of the 1891 Census, they lived on the main street of the village. At this time James worked as a hoop maker.  By 1901, they had moved to a cottage at Coldharbour. James was now an underwood buyer and both of his sons were working as wood hoop makers.

By 1911, Basil had already left home but Ralph and his parents were living in Copse Cottage at Browns Copse. James was working as a jobbing gardener and Ralph is recorded as working as a general labourer; he was employed by Sir John Archibald Murray Macdonald, who was M.P. for Falkirk Burghs in Scotland, who had a house nearby at The Coppice. The family also had a lodger, George Honeybun from London, who was also killed during the war and commemorated on the Heyshott war memorial.

Military service

Ralph enlisted in Worthing. He originally joined The Royal Sussex Regiment but transferred to the 1st Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. This was probably after 1915, as he was not entitled to the 1914-15 Star. It is known that by 1916, members of the Battalion were serving in France and this is where he died on the battlefields of the Somme.  The Département de la Somme is situated in the beautiful rural landscape of the region of Picardy. However during The Great War it was a scene of terrible carnage with the loss of 58,000 British troops, during the battles which took place north of the River Somme from July to November 1916.

The main battles, which Ralph’s battalion were involved in prior to his death included the attack on High Wood 14 July – 15 September. This wood, situated in an elevated position, offered a strategic advantage to the Germans in July. They managed to hold it for two months despite a series of attacks by the British but their hold was ended with a final assault on 15 September. This was followed by the Battles of Flers-Courcelette 15–22 September and Morval 25–28 September; these were the final general offensives mounted by the British Army during the Battle of the Somme. By their conclusion, the primary objective to cut a hole in the German line had not been fully achieved, although radical gains were made in the capture of Courcelette, Martinpuich and Flers.

Death and commemoration

The grave of Private Ralph Daughtry at  Grove Town Cemetery, Meaulte
The grave of Private Ralph Daughtry at Grove Town Cemetery, Meaulte

Ralph died of wounds on 26 September 1916, aged 27. He is buried in Grove Town Cemetery in Méaulte, Département de la Somme, Picardie, France. In September 1916, 34th and 2/2nd London Casualty Clearing Stations were established at the place where the cemetery now stands, to deal with the casualties from the Somme battlefields. It was known to the troops as Grove Town, so hence this was the name given to the cemetery, where patients of the clearing stations, who died of their wounds, were buried.

Ralph was posthumously awarded the Victory and British War Medals. He is commemorated with his brother Basil, his cousin Frank and other fallen comrades in the Heyshott Memorial Window in St James Church.

Subsequent family history

Ralph’s older brother, Basil, died of influenza two years later, while serving with the British Army in India. James and Rosetta must have been devastated by the loss of both of their sons. They continued to live in the Midhurst area until their deaths in 1945 and 1938 respectively.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project