Charles Edwin Exell

Memorial: Thornbury - St Mary's Church

Regiment: Somerset Light Infantry

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

Rank and number: Private 7467

Parents: Henry and Evalina Exell

Home address: Woodbine Cottages, Crossways, Thornbury, Bristol

Pre-war occupation: Plumber/Army

Date of birth: 1886

Place of birth: Thornbury, Bristol

Date of death: 02/11/1914

Buried/Commemorated at: Ploegsteert Memorial (Panel 3.)

Age: 29

Further information:

Bronze Tablet and Wooden Memorial Board

Charles Edwin Exell, known as Edwin, was the eldest son of carpenter Henry Exell who lived just outside the town at Crossways. Edwin was baptised on 10th September 1886.He had at least four brothers and five sisters

When he applied to join the Devon Royal Garrison of Artillery in 1904, just before his 18th birthday, he said he was employed as a plumber for George Hall of Castle Street. He signed up for an initial period of six years. Thornbury’s newspaper The South Gloucestershire Chronicle reported that Edwin was on reserve when WW1 was declared ‘having served 7 years with the colours and done service in India, during which time he served with the Somerset Mounted Infantry and as an officer’s servant’

Edwin was probably called up shortly after war was declared. The 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry was soon in France, arriving at Le Havre with the British Expeditionary Force on 22nd August 1914, in time to fight in the retreat from Mons. It saw action at the Battle of the Marne and the Battle of the Aisne. In early October the Battalion entered the trenches for the first time, in Ploegsteert Wood, Flanders

The Battle of Messines was fought in wet and cold weather between 12th October and 2nd November 1914. On 30th October the British 4th Division extended its line from St Yves to Messines. At St Yves the Germans broke through, but the advance was halted by a counter attack made by Edwin’s Battalion. Heavy fighting continued on the 1st of November. On the 2nd November a new position held by the Somersets was open to enfilade fire and the trenches were shelled by enemy guns. The Battalion Diary records that ‘Both this Battalion and the Hants suffered very heavily’

The local newspaper reported that Edwin was killed in action on the 2nd November after being ‘hit by a shell bursting in the trench at St Yves'

The Ploegsteert Memorial commemorates more than 11,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in this sector during the First World War and have, like Edwin, no known grave

Edwin’s younger brother Hubert is also commemorated on the Thornbury Memorial

It is worth noting that six of Henry and Evelina Exell’s children ‘did their duty’ during WW1. Their sons Albert (Royal Navy) and William (4th Dragoon Guards) survived the war. Two daughters served as professional nurses in an English Hospital in Paris. They also had a niece serving as a VAD and at least eight nephews who were involved in the fighting. Four of these died, either in action or as a result of being wounded, and one was a prisoner of war in Holland

By kind permission, this information is based on the following source(s):

Thornbury Roots Website. Thornbury and District Museum Research Group, Forces War Records and the CWGC