1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

Henry Arthur Somerville

Contributed by: Shirley Hewitt, on 2008-11-12

Henry A Somerville
Rank
First Name Henry Arthur
Surname Somerville
Year of Birth 1895
Year of Death 1918
Regiment Royal Field Artillery
Place of Wartime Residence Eastbourne, East Sussex

Henry Arthur's Story

This is the story of my great uncle and what a brave man he was.

Enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery in 1911 and transferred to the 21st Lancers in 1912. Subsequently he became attached to the 9th Lancers and with that regiment embarked to France in August 1914. He was present at the Retreat from Mons, the battles of the Marne and the Aisne and also the first two battles of Ypres where he fell victim to the gas attacks and received a shrapnel wound to his arm. These injuries forced a six week stay in hospital. He was promoted to sergeant in November 1914.

He later joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment and, after 6 weeks, attained officers rank for conspicuous service in the field and was commissioned in the Royal Sussex Regiment on January 1st 1917. It was whilst with them that he gained the Military Cross "for most conspicuous gallantry and good leading in the Battle of Ypres on July 31st and August 1st and 2nd, 1917. This officer showed wonderful energy and initiative in consolidating the captured position under very heavy enemy barrage. He took out a party of 24 men in the daylight right up to the line of the Steenbeck and occupied four posts as an Outpost line, when he came under heavy rifle and machine gun fire, having 3 men killed and 4 wounded whilst getting into this position, he then held this line for 24 hours under very heavy artillery fire and was much troubled by snipers. He spent 4 hours endeavouring to establish touch with the unit on his left flank, whilst under fire. The wonderful good spirit under the most difficult of conditions won for him the admiration of all ranks."

Later that August he returned home to take an instruction course as an observer with the Royal Flying Corps. In November 1917 he returned to the front and during his first flight, on January 9th, 1918, was with Capt. Zimmer in an RE8B of 21 Squadron over Mooslede on a photographic mission. Their armament comprised 1 Vickers and 2 Lewis guns. At approx. 11.35 a.m. they were attacked by 7 enemy aircraft with one enemy craft getting within 25 yards of RE8's tail. Somerville fired 50 rounds into it when it turned away and burst into flames. They had also been attacked 15 minutes earlier and over the 2 combats 300 rounds were fired. The RE8 was also badly hit.

It later emerged that the camouflaged Albatroos Nieuport type plane shot down had been piloted by Max Muller, an ace who had 38 British kills.

In a letter home he wrote "Max Muller was giving a lecture to German airmen on how to bring down the English and the next day he was attacked, we were nearly the 39th. In his last letter home he wrote "A few lines to say I am OK. We are having a glorious time with the Hun - never has he had to pay the price as he is doing today". Three days later on March 28th ,1918 he was killed by machine gun whilst flying in France with 82 Squadron.

He is remembered at the Dompierre French National Cemetery.

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