Private Percy Clayton Farley

Percy FarleyRegiment: 7th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers. (63rd Royal Naval Division)
Service No: 65432 (Formerly 32975, East Surrey Regt.)
Date & place of birth:   1st qtr. 1893 at Cocking, Sussex
Date & place of death:  26 August 1918 (aged 25) at Ligny-Thilloy, France

Percy Farley was a member of the Farley family who were long-term local residents, both in Cocking and in Singleton. He was killed in action during a “disastrous” attempt to capture the village of Ligny-Thilloy in August 1918.

Family background

Percy Clayton Farley was born in early 1893, at The Bell inn, the first of three sons of Frederick Clayton Farley (1863–1929) and his wife Elizabeth Ann née Clayton (1864–1927), who had married the previous spring. Frederick was the publican and also rented Sunwool Farm at Bumblekyte on the Heyshott road at the foot of the Downs. The family was also involved in forestry work (coppicing and hurdle making) in the winter months. The family moved to Wolverstone Farm, on the southern edge of the parish, around 1902.

Military service

Percy originally joined the East Surrey Regiment, enlisting in West Lavington, but was later transferred to the 7th Battalion of The Royal Fusiliers (also known as the City of London Regiment).

The battalion landed at Le Havre on 24 July 1916 and on 27 July 1916 they joined the 190th Brigade, 63rd (Royal Naval) Division.

Percy Farley's name on Vis en Artois Memorial
Percy Farley’s name on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial

Death & commemoration

On 26 August 1918, the battalion took part in an attempt to capture the small villages of Thilloy, Ligny-Thilloy and Riencourt, just south of Bapaume in northern France. The attack was a failure, described in the Regiment’s history as a “disastrous day”, with the attack being beaten off by machine gun fire.

Percy Farley is one of 14 soldiers from the Royal Fusiliers who were killed on 26 August 1918 whose bodies were never recovered and are commemorated on the memorial at Vis-en-Artois.

Subsequent family history

Percy’s brother, Gordon (born 1895), served with the Royal Artillery during the war. In 1915, while returning from the front line, Gordon met a horse which he recognised as from the farm at Wolverstone. To his delight, the horse also recognised him. (This story is illustrated on the Cocking History Column.) Gordon survived the war, although he lost his teeth as a result of malnutrition and his hearing was destroyed by shellfire. He remained in the area until his death in 1982. Gordon married Olive Hopgood in 1926 and they had two daughters. Ann (1927–2011) spent many years as postmistress at Cocking Post Office.  She lived at Wolverstone Farm all her life and looked after both Gordon and Bill in the last years of their lives. Betty, born 1936, who married David Callow, died in October 2013, aged 77.

The youngest of the three brothers, Bill (born 1903), remained in the area until his death in 1984.

Other family members

A cousin, Frederick (born 1891), was a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers and was killed in action at Gommecourt on 1 July 1916, aged 25, and is commemorated on the Brighton war memorial. His father, Arthur, was born in Cocking in 1865, the younger brother of Percy’s father, and moved to Brighton following his marriage.


Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project