Rifleman Bernard Whitehouse

Thank you to John Callcut for letting us reproduce the following information, taken from his book: A Village at War. Newdigate in World War One.

There is only one Bernard Whitehouse listed by the Commonwealth Graves Commission and it has proved to be quite difficult to find any connection with Newdigate.

He was born in Greenwich in 1897 and enlisted at Bow, joining the 5th London Regiment (2972). He later transferred to the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (12/44595).

The 6th June was a tense day for the men in the trenches at Kemmel as they were given precise instructions concerning the forthcoming attack on the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge. The men were told that souvenir hunting was strictly forbidden and that Germans who showed the slightest sign of resistance had to be killed at once. Prisoners had to be employed taking the wounded back to the lines. Haversacks could not be carried into action, and shaving kit and other small articles had to be left in them and clearly labeled with the man’s name and platoon. A small pack on the back was permitted and was to contain a filled water bottle, iron rations, unexpended portions of the day’s rations and a waterproof sheet.

One man in four, in addition, had to carry solidified alcohol. All officers had to wear rifleman’s clothes and equipment but they had to wear their badge of rank on their shoulder and the regimental blue tabs on the back of the collar. They were not permitted to carry sticks.

On the 7th June 1917 at 3.10a.m., just as the first rays of light gilded the Eastern sky, mines were exploded and the artillery struck with a deafening roar. The men went over the top and Pte. Whitehouse was killed when several men were caught by falling debris from a late-exploding mine. The crater today is known as the Pool of Peace.

He is buried at the Lone Tree Cemetery along with eight other comrades who died on the same day.

The company achieved their objective and the commanding officer, Lt. Col. W. R. Goodman reported that twenty officers and 507 other ranks had gone into action and losses were slight, two officers and fourteen men killed. He spoke in glowing terms of the bravery of the officers and that many prisoners had been taken and six machine-guns, two large trench mortars, three minenwerfen (mortar) and one flammenwerfen (flame-throwers) had been captured. He also reported that, wherever the wounded men were lying, the man’s rifle was stuck with the bayonet in the ground, and this was of great assistance to the stretcher bearers when searching for wounded.

A Mr. Whitehouse played the piano at a concert in Newdigate on the 2nd June, and again at the Newdigate Place Garden Fete on the 6th June, so it is possible that he had an affection for Newdigate as he had been there at the time of his son’s death, and so requested that his son’s name be put on the memorial. However further evidence appears in the 1911 census where Bernard Whitehouse, then aged 14 and at school, can be found living at the Waldrons, 6 Gravel Hill, Bexleyheath with his elder brother, mother, and father, William Edmund Whitehouse who was a teacher of music. By 1918, according to the electoral register, William was living at Greenhill (later known as Stoneways) in Partridge Lane, Newdigate so the connection becomes clear.

Born Greenwich, London
Son of William Edmund Whitehouse, later of Greenhill, Partridge Lane, Newdigate
Regiment 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Number 44595
Date of Death 7th June 1917
Place of Death Messines Ridge, Belgium
Cause of Death Killed in Action
Age 20
Cemetery Lone Tree Cemetery, Spanbrockmolen, Belgium

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