ROLFE, Philip

recorded as ROLPH only on memorial

No.G/15095, Private, Philip ROLFE
Aged 19

6th Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
Killed in Action presumed on Saturday, 7th October 1916

Identification of this man made possible from Suffolk Regiment Museum information as supplied to East Anglian Daily Times 2014.

Philip Rolfe was born on 22nd July 1897 in Shippea Hill (Mildenhall Q3-1897 4A:837) son of Charles and Mary ROLFE(née FOREMAN ).

1901 census...Aged 3, he was at Station Drove, Prickwillow with his father Charles ROLFE [30] farm labourer, born Mildenhall; his mother Mary A [26] born Mildenhall and brother Victor J [2] born in Ely Trinity.

1911 census...Aged 15, farm labourer, he was at Low Barn, Soham Fen with his parents; sisters Bessie [[6] born Mildenhall and Dora Margaret [2] born Soham; brothers Victor James (farm labourer), Charles Edward [9] born Ely, and Walter [5 months] born Soham.


He enlisted in Newmarket, when living at Robbs Cottages, Burnt Fen. By the time of his death his father had moved to Beck Row .
Enlisted on 15th November 1915, tested at Ely, giving his place of birth as Shippea Hill, age 18 years 5 months, a farm labourer. He was 5ft 2.75 inches (159.4 cm)tall weighed 116 lbs (52.8 kg), chest 36.5" to 39" (92.7 to 99.1 cm). He declared he would be 19 years old on 22nd July 1916 and gave his address as Robbs Cottage, Burnt Fen, Cambs.
The living family form completed by his father in 1919 gave father-Charles Rolfe [50]; mother Mary Anne-brothers Victor James[20], Charles Edward [18] and Walter [8]; sisters Bessie [14] Dora Margaret [11] and Sophie [6], all living in Beck Row. Placed on Reserves and mobilised at depot on 11th May 1916, posted to 9th Royal West Kents on 15th May 1916. On 1st September he was posted to the 3rd battalion. He joined the BEF on 13th September 1916 at Infantry Base and was posted to the 6th battalion on 29th September 1916. Reported missing on 7th October 1916, presumed to have died that day.

One easy confusion with regiments is the The Queen's (the Royal West Surrey Regiment) and The Queen's Own (the Royal West Kent Regiment) and here they were operating close together.

The war diary has :-
6th - trenches- A fine day- heavy shelling went on all day - at night moved up to front line trenches and relieved the 6th Queen's ready for the battle on the 7th.
7th - Guedicourt- Heavily shelled during the morning and lost 18 men by a shell which landed in trench. Attacked at 1:45 pm, was met by fierce machine gun and rifle fire and held up under the bank about 150 yards from our trench. C Coy who was on the left managed to get as far as the sunken road and hung on until night and then withdrew bringing their wounded with them. During the afternoon the enemy kept up a constant barrage on the front line.
Relieved by the 6th Queens at 12 midnight. Casualties 2 officers killed...6 officers wounded...Other ranks killed 23, missing 89, wounded 185.

They then had a period of rest, recuperation and training before entering the trenches again on 25th October. CWGC records show 98 killed of who only 12 have known graves.

The Bury Free Press of 16th December 1916 reported:-

We much regret to hear that Prvt.Philip Rolfe, son of Mr. and Mrs.Charles Rolfe, of Burnt Fen, has been missing since Oct.21st.Much sympathy is felt for the parents in the anxiety they are experiencing concerning his fate.

The Bury Free Press of 25th August 1917 reported:-

Prvt.Philip Rolfe, 6th Batt., Royal West Kent Regiment, was reported missing on October 7th 1916. A field postcard was all that his parents ever received from their son. The parents, Mr. and Mrs. Rolfe, Burnt Fen, Mildenhall, have now been officially notified that the Army Council is reluctantly compelled to believe he was killed about the date mentioned. Sympathy is felt for the parents.

Although referred to by the Army and the Press as of Burnt Fen, Philip is not named on the memorial there, but is on the memorials of Mildenhall and Beck Row.

Philip Rolfe is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial, pier and face 11C

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