Lance Corporal Harry Puplett

Thank you to Clive Gilbert for the following research.

Harry Puplett Plaque. Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert

Harry Puplett was born in 1890 [1] the only son of Stephen and Annie Puplett née Elsey. Harry’s parents married in 1884 [2].

The 1891 census records the family living at ‘Oakhurst’, Ockley. Harry’s father, a 31 year old Agricultural Labourer was born in Bow, Middlesex c1860. His mother, a 30 year old Wash Laundress was born in Reigate, Surrey in 1862 [3]. Harry’s sisters, Annie and May were aged six and four respectively. Also recorded were servant Mary Chiat aged 18, a Laundry Maid Domestic, and Harry’s aunts Ada Elsey aged 20, a House Maid Domestic and Alice Elsey aged 19, a General Servant Domestic. Harry, aged 5 months, was shown as Stephen, presumably his birth was not registered straight away and he was eventually registered as Harry.

In 1901 the family were still living at ‘Oakhurst’. Harry’s father was now recorded as a 39 year old Coachman Domestic. His mother, also aged 39 was a Laundress Wash. Harry, a Scholar was aged 10, whilst sister Annie was a 15 year old Laundry Maid and sister May aged 14 was simply described as a Domestic.

By 1911 the family had moved to ‘Osbrooks Lodge’, Capel. Harry’s father was recorded as a Gardener Domestic. His mother, a laundress, stated that she had been married for 27 years and that all her three children were still alive. Harry, aged 20, was, like his father, a Gardener Domestic. Their servant, 15 year old Annie Daws, was a Help in Laundry.

Unfortunately, Harry’s service record did not survive the 1940s blitz, so we know very little of his service. Harry enlisted in Cricklewood and was given service number of 4994. This number indicates that he signed up in the latter part of 1916. In early 1917, all territorial army soldiers were given new numbers, and Harry’s new number was 242018. Harry’s battalion formed part of the 153rd Brigade in 51st (Highland) Division.

The Battle of Arras commenced on 9th April 1917. Harry’s battalion was in trenches at Roclincourt, a village just north of Arras. On their left was the Canadian Corps, which famously captured the Vimy Ridge, and on their right was the 34th Division. From their trenches in Roclincourt the battalion was ordered to attack the enemy trenches. On 12th April the battalion was withdrawn.


Gordon Highlanders

Pte. Puplett was killed in action on April 16th, as reported in our last issue. He was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Puplett, of Osbrooks Lodge, Capel.

Harry Puplett Death Notice © Dorking Advertiser

Unusually the War Diary names the casualties caused by the fighting, and between 9th to 12th April there are 19 shown as being killed. Harry is one of the 19. However, the Soldiers Died CD records that between 9th and 12th April, 42 men lost their lives. The CD also records that Harry’s death occurred on 11 April whereas the CWGC has 9th April as his date of death. When and exactly how Harry died will never be known.

Harry Puplett Gravestone. Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert

The War Diary has an interesting document regarding casualties, which reads as follows:


Instructions for Offensive Operations

Section XIX                                        Casualties and Burials

1. Coy Commanders are reminded of the necessity of sending in estimated casualties early and regularly during action. On this depends the despatch of reinforcements.

2. It must be impressed on all ranks that identity discs on the dead are not to be interfered with by anyone but properly constituted burial parties.

3. The upper (green) identity disc will not be removed, but will be buried with the body. The lower (red) disc will be removed and disposed of as formerly.

4. All dead killed within our lines will be deposited for burial at the mortuaries in the following cemeteries:-

                           ROCLINCOURT     A.29.c.1.6.

                           ANZIN                     C.29.d.2.3.

5. Dead killed beyond our front line will be buried in groups in convenient spots selected by chaplains or officers in charge of units’ burial parties. The chaplain or officer in charge of the party will notify to the Divisional Graves Record Officer the number, rank, name & unit of each man buried, and the map location of the cemetery (or other site) where he was buried.

6. A Divisional Burial party of 2 officers, 3 chaplains and 100 other ranks will work under the Divisional Graves Records Officer. It will work forward over the Divisional area but will not absolve units from burying beyond our present front line, under the orders of Infantry Brigade Commanders as soon as parties can be made available and circumstances permit.

7. Dead animals will be buried by the unit nearest to the carcass.

8. Cresol and quicklime can be drawn from Brigade Dumps and from Divi. Ration Dump

                                                               Capt & Adjt.

                                                   1/5th Bn. Gordon Highlanders.

Harry is buried in grave 1.B.15. in Roclincourt Valley Cemetery. The CWGC records that he was the:

Son of Stephen and Annie Puplett, of Osbrooks Lodge, Capel, Surrey.

Harry was awarded the 1915 Star and the Victory medal, and is commemorated on the St. John the Baptist Church memorial, Capel.

Born Ockley, Surrey
Lived Capel, Surrey
Son of Stephen and Annie Puplett of Osbrooks Lodge, Capel
Regiment 5th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders
Number 242018
Date of Death 9th April 1917
Place of Death Arras, France
Cause of Death Killed in action
Age 26
Cemetery Roclincourt Valley Cemetery, France

[1] GRO reference: Mar 1891 Dorking 2a 155

[2] GRO reference: Sep 1884 Reigate 2a 263

[3] GRO reference: Jun 1862 Reigate 2a 124

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