Date of birth: 1898
Date of death: 30.11.1917
Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Family information: Son of Joe and Elmira Thorpe
Service number: 40427
When Percy Thorpe joined the army, he was initially assigned to the Army Service Corps and allocated the service number 285986. The Army Service Corps was responsible for the logistical operations, in supplying the army’s requirements to wherever point they were needed. These requirements included supplies of food, ammunition, men, horses and machines.
Sometime during his army service, Private Percy Thorpe was transferred to the 15th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. The 15th Battalion was serving with 105th Brigade, 35th Division, on the western front. In the absence of his service record the date of this transfer is not known.
The 15th Cheshires was formed at Birkenhead on 18th November 1914, as a “Bantam” battalion. Such battalions were manned by troops who were under the normal regulation height, but otherwise fit to serve. The 15th Battalion went to France in late January 1916 and initially concentrated around St Omer. During the Battle of the Somme, which lasted from 1st July to 18th November 1916, the 35th Division was deployed at Bazentin Ridge, Faifemont Farm, Arrow Head Copse and Maitz Horn Farm.
On 8th December 1916 the Divisional C.O. complained that replacement drafts were not of the same physical standard as the original bantams, being under-developed and unfit. As a consequence 2,784 men were removed from the Division and transferred to the Labour Corps. Their places were filled by men transferred from disbanded yeomanry units.
In the spring of 1917 the 35th Division was involved in the pursuit of the retiring German Army, towards the Hindenburg Line. The Hindenburg Line was a vast defensive system which stretched from the Arras area to south of St Quentin. The 15th Cheshires remained in the Somme Region until the beginning of October, when the 35th Division entrained for Elverdinge in Flanders.
On 31st July 1917, the British Expeditionary Force had launched a major offensive at Ypres. The third Battle of Ypres coincided with heavy rains, which turned the battlefield into a quagmire. The ground conditions and strategically placed German pill-boxes armed with machine guns had slowed the infantry assault towards the village of Passchendaele.
The 15th Cheshires, in Brigade, entered the battle on 22nd October, when they were involved in a general attack south of Houlhulst. The Battalion remained in this area for two weeks, deployed on rotational tours in the front line, before moving to Proven. On 24th November the 15th Cheshires moved to their new positions in the line, south-west of Poelcapelle. When passing through an area known as “The Triangle” they were shelled by the enemy and sustained 19 casualties. On reaching their positions, two Companies had to take positions in mud filled craters. Here they remained, in bitterly cold weather and under enemy bombardments, until relieved on the 28th November.
It was during this tour on the front line that Private Percy Thorpe was wounded. He was taken to the Casualty Clearing Station, known as Dozinghem, near Westvleteren, but died from his wounds on 30th November 1917. Private Thorpe was buried in the adjacent Dozinghem Military Cemetery, which now has 3,174 Commonwealth and 64 German burials from the First World War.
Percy Thorpe was born at Huddersfield in 1898, the eldest son of Joe Thorpe and his wife Elmira, nee Woodhouse. His parents had married at Huddersfield, earlier in 1898, when his father was employed as a boot and shoe maker. At the time of the 1901 census Percy Thorpe was at the home of his uncle George Wadsworth, at Lockwood, Huddersfield. His parents were at the home of his grandmother, Jane Woodhouse, at Hill Lees, Huddersfield. The family later moved to Leeds Road, Outwood, where his father had opened his own business as Bootmaker Dealer. When living at Outwood, two further sons, Frank and Joe, were born.