FINCH, Bertram

No. 14000, Private, Bertram FINCH
Aged 37

8th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
Killed in Action on Tuesday 31st July, 1917


Born in Burwell in Q4 of 1879 [Newmarket 3b:526], the son of Joseph and Emma FINCH (née PEACHEY) of Newnham, Burwell.

1881 census...At Newnham, Burwell were Bertram [1] with his father Joseph [38] a maltster labourer born Burwell, his mother Emma [40] born Soham, sister Florence H [12] born Burwell, brother Lewis [4] born Soham

1891 census...Still at Newnham were Bertram, his parents and brother Lewis, now joined by sister Kate [8] born Burwell and sister Clara [24] born Burwell and presumably her son Russell H [10 months] born Burwell and entered as grandson of Joseph.

1901 census...Still at Newnham were Bertram [21] now a horseman on farm, with his parents. His siblings are not there.

1911 census...At 76 St Philips Road, Newmarket was Birt FINCH [31] a general labourer born Burwell lodging with his sister Clarissa and brother in law Charles and their 4 children. His parents were still at Newnham, Burwell

Bertram married Ethel May DEVONISH (b.17-12-1883) in St Martin's Church, Exning on 11th July 1911, they lived at 2 Church Street, Exning. The illuminated scroll in St Martin's Church has his address as Mayes Yard (now 10 Church Street).

The pension card records Ethel May at Church Street, Exning with their two sons, Archibald Alec Roy (b. 11-10-1911) and William (b.1-8-1913)

Bertram's entry in "Our Exning Heroes" reads as follows:

Finch, B.   8th Suffolks
Bertram Finch was a native of Burwell, and formerly worked in the cement works and at Mr. Beale's in Newmarket. He was married in Exning Church on July 11th, 1911, and leaves a widow and three children.
He joined up on September 2nd, 1914, and went out to France in July the following year. He was killed on July 31st, 1917, at the age of 37. The Chaplain to his battalion wrote as follows to his widow:
"It is with the deepest regret that I write to convey the sad news of the death of your husband. He was killed by a shell and died instantaneously, and is buried in the Zillebeke Cemetery. He has paid the full price of service, and officers and comrades know his loss. He has proved his worth, I deeply sympathise with you in this loss."

Three Exning men died on the first day of the 3rd Battle of Ypres (now known generally as Passchendale). This offensive cost the British 310,000 casualties. Imagine advancing to fight through a field of mud, then add in the fact that in the ten days leading up to the attack, 4.25 million shells were fired by our artillery alone. The 8th Service Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment were involved in the attack on Pilckem Ridge as part of 53rd Brigade. They reached their assembly point at 2 am on 31st July and by zero hour (3:50) had established HQ. at Wellington Crescent. During this move enemy shelling set fire to some dumps and a tank, lighting up the ground. As "C" Coy.was passing through Zillebeke a shell burst amongst them, killing and wounding several. The attacking division, through which the 53rd Brigade were to leapfrog when the 1st objective was take, moved off and the 8th Suffolks and 6th Royal Berkshire waited for front line reports that would tell them the way was clear for their advance. By a tragic mistake the 30th Div infantry wheeled to their left and attacked Chateau Wood instead of Glencorse Wood. This misleading information that Glencorse Wood was in our hands led to the 53rd Brigade plunging into a fatal gap. Some did reach the line of the 1st objective. Lt Bolingbroke with scouts, went forward to clear Sanctuary Wood and place signposts to guide the companies. Sniper fire made this a precarious operation but the message was sent back that 30th Div were on the north of the Menin Road and in Chateau Wood.
Despite machine gun fire a platoon of B Coy got up to Lt Bolingbroke's postion and they decided to attack the second line (Surbiton Villa) with what troops they could collect, without waiting for support. In severe fighting around Surbiton Villa a party of "A" Coy managed to wipe out a machine gun post.The battalion got onto the Menin Road near Clapham Junction and advanced several hundred yards beyond it before they were checked and forced to shelter in shell holes. That was the end of the attack as the Germans were in great strength around Glenclorse Wood. Whilst waiting here a cock pheasant alighted about fifty yards ahead. A runner shot the bird, carrying it out of battle on the end of his rifle, probably not the first time he had killed game without a licence!
177 casualties were sustained by the battalion in this action, of these 61 were killed and only 6 have known graves.

The two other Exning men lost that day were Robert Fallick and William Scott

No Known Grave
Bertram is commemorated on the Menin Gate, Ipres, Belgium Ref: panel 21

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details