ORBELL, Ernest

No.G/26908, Private, Ernest ORBELL
Aged 20

12th Battalion, Duke of Cambridge's Owen (Middlesex Regiment)
Killed in Action on Thursday, 3rd May 1917

Ernest Orbell was born on 20th November 1896 (Thingoe Q1-1897 4A:822), baptised in St Giles, Risby on 5th November 1897 son of Walter and Emily ORBELL (née SPENCER)

1901 census...Aged 4, he was at Sycamore Road, Risby with his father Walter ORBELL [59] warrener born Risby; his mother Emily [45] born Staffordshire; sister Maud [20] born Risby; brothers Thomas [17] born Bradley, Frank [11] and Albert [5] both born Risby.

1911 census...Aged 14, a kennel boy, he was at Sycamore Cottages, Risby with his parents; brothers Thomas, Frank Austin and Albert Spencer. All his brothers were farm labourers. Of the 8 siblings, one had died.

His Army "Personal Effects" entry shows his sole legatee as sister Mary.

He enlisted in Bury St Edmunds.
The war diary has:-
"1st May - moved to front line before CHERISY VILLAGE, remained during night 1-2.
At 3:45 am the battalion attacked CHERISY and FONTAINE trench in front of it, the first objective being the high ground beyond the SENSEE stream, the second being the high ground beyond it.
Owing to the darkness the Coys immediately lost touch with their flanking troops and went on on their own. "C" and "D" Coys.,(L and R leading Coys) were followed by "A" and "B" in support. Soon after the start the 7th Bedford (on R of "D" Coy., and 1 platoon of "B" came back to the front line. This was due to someone on the right having shouted "retire" and at the same time a tank came beck from the direction of Bosch line. All were sent back, except the "B" Coy., who were kept in Reserve in case of severe counter-attack on our front line.
The BED and "D" Coy had now however lost the barrage and took up a line in front of FONTAINE Trench (about 200 yards SE of CHERISY VILLAGE). The 2 left Coys had kept their direction and formed a line along bank of SENSEE Stream. "A" could not get beyond the village and established themselves in ruins there, establishing a strong point at S end of village. This consisted of 50 men, eventually reduced to 8 and a Sergt of whom 5 and the Sergt eventually got back. The 11th R FUSILIWERS were now ordered to reinforce but owing top heavy fire could not get across the open. The Bedfords were said to be in FONTAINE trench and wood (SE of it)
A message came back from "C" Coy about this time by Pte FOX (who had come the whole way under heavy fire) "C" Coy were holding back in O.33.a and were in touch with 7th Buffs on the left and "A" Coy on R. Now another message came from OC Beds denied that his men were in FONTAINE Trench
The 55th Brigade (on our left) now came streaming back on their own and Col.Johnston stopped 300 or 400 of them and they packed into our front line trench. Our men and the Beds, seeing what had occurred also began to fall back. All these troops were then sorted out and sent back to their sectors by Col.Johnston and the line was held., Fusiliers on the left, Middlesex on right, BED beyond latter assisted by a Coy of Northants. Another Coy of Northants were placed in support trench in reserve.
"A" Coy were now the only troops in front and they were still holding out in the village. These were gradually reduced however and finally the remnants got back.
"A" and "C" put up a splendid fight and used their rifles with great effect. Of the survivors none had fired less than 60 rounds, some between 150 to 200 rounds.
All officers, both C.S.M.s and all N.C.O. except Sgt WHALE in charge of strong-point mentioned above, were casualties. At night the NORTHANTS attacked again and during the attack many men of "B" and "D" Coys in the shell holes joined them and returned with them.
Officers- 6 killed, 3 wounded, four missing, 1 captured. O.R. 19 killed, 111 wounded, 173 missing"

CWGC, with of course access to later figures regarding missing, has 111 (all ranks) killed and not one man has an identified grave.

trench map above, disputed area O.33.a. below

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Ernest Orbell is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, Faubourg d'Amiens bay 6

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