‘Tribute to my great uncle who died from World War One battle wounds’

trench map
trench map

The great nephew of a Luton-born soldier has paid tribute to him on the 100th anniversary of his death in the First World War.

Roger Atterton, of Eckington, Derbyshire, contacted the Luton News, asking us to tell the story of Pte 42359 Stuart John Webb, of Westbourne Road, who was born in Luton, and was the son of a local dentist.

Pte Stuart John Webb

Pte Stuart John Webb

Roger said: “It is 100 years ago that my great uncle Stuart died from wounds sustained at the Battle of Poelcapelle. It would be an honour to see his memory published in your newspaper. There could be a chance that the family name will jog memories in Luton.”

Pte Stuart Webb was called up to serve in the Northamptonshire Regiment on February 22, 1917 age 21. He was posted to France where he was transferred to 2nd/7th Bn Manchester Regiment.

At the start of the Battle of Poelcapelle, recorded as October 9 and 10, his regiment had been held in reserve but on October 6 according to the 2nd/7th Manchester Regiment’s War Diary it relieved the Australians in the Zonnebeke-Staden line, the relief was complete by 1pm on October 6.

The Regiment’s War Diary for 7th October has the following entry:

“At 5pm the Bn HQ blown up by a ‘Bosche’ barrage which preceded a counter attack. Reinforcements came from Support Bn 2nd/5th Manchester Regiment and the attack was driven off with heavy loss.”

Stuart’s wounds were sustained on October 7 but not reported officially until October 8.

64 Fd Ambulance recorded on his casualty card that he had received gun shot wounds to his legs and ankles. The 21-year-old was taken to 37 Casualty Clearing Station for initial treatment but his wounds were so serious that he was taken by Ambulance Train No. 9 to 26th General Hospital Etaples where remained in hospital until October 23 before he finally succumbed to his wounds.

Stuart is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery, grave reference XXX F 21A .

He was officially unmarried but evidence suggests he was in a relationship as he declared himself married on enlistment, wore a wedding ring on his left hand and carried a lock of a woman’s hair, recorded amongst his personal effects found after his death. There is no record of who this lady might have been.

He was survived by his parents George and Elizabeth Webb, a sister called Florence and his eldest brother George. He also had two other brothers – Cyril, described as an invalid who died in Luton from ill health, and Bernard, a Sergeant in the Machine Gun Corps, who was killed in 1918, age 20. He is buried in Caestre Military Cemetery, the Ypres sector of the Western front, close to where he was killed in action.

The war memorial in Luton town centre bears his Stuart’s, as well as that of Roger’s other Luton-born great uncle who perished in battle. Bernard Vincent Webb died in France age 20, and is buried in the CWG Caestre. The 100th anniversary of his death will be May 22, 2018.