This biography was written by Victoria Doran.
Edwin Prytherch was a single man who enlisted shortly before conscription was introduced, survived 2 years service in France, but died of his wounds in a German War Hospital in France in 1918. His surname is of Welsh origin.
Edwin Prytherch was born on 9 March 1885 in Liverpool, the eldest son and 3rd child of Zebedee Prytherch (1855-1934) and Ellen Kean Coller (1855-1926). His parents later had another son and 2 more daughters.
Zebedee Prytherch’s parents, George Prytherch (1812-1884) and Eleanor Evans (1815-1868), were both born and married in Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales. George was a tailor. In the early 1850s they moved to Liverpool, where they brought up their family at 160 Hornby Street. Zebedee started life as a journeyman tailor.
In April 1875 he married Sarah Tessimond at St Titus, Liverpool. This proved to be a major mistake as she was very soon committing adultery with a seaman. Unusually for the time, he was eligible to seek a divorce at public expense (pauper cause) and on 5 November 1878 he was granted a divorce on the grounds that she had had a child by another man. He and Sarah had no children together or he would not have been able to obtain a divorce in this way.
He was fortunate to find another wife very speedily, marrying Ellen Kean Coller on 18 November 1878, just a fortnight after his divorce was finalised.
Ellen Kean Coller was born in St Johns Wood, London the daughter of James Benton Coller (1824-???) and Ann Bishopp (1829-???) Her father was a master butcher and in 1861 had a shop at 52 Upper Henry Street, St Johns Wood and employed 2 assistants. She had just one sibling, her brother James Bishop Coller (1859-1902). After 1861, there is complete mystery. No trace of any of the family has been found at the 1871 census. No trace of her parents has been found after 1861. By 1878 Eleanor had found her way to Liverpool. Her brother James had also moved to Liverpool by 1881.
In 1881 Zebedee and Ellen were living in Everton and he was still working as a tailor. However Zebedee then changed trade completely, setting up as a retail chandler at 159 Great Homer Street in Liverpool by 1891. It is not clear how he and Ellen managed to find the expertise or capital to start such a business, but they flourished at it.
It is clear that Ellen was a business partner as well as a wife. By the time their penultimate daughter May was born in July 1898, Zebedee and Eleanor had set up an ironmonger and chandler shop at 148 Banks Road, West Kirby. West Kirby was rapidly expanding at that date, and they clearly took their opportunities.
This photo from about 1912 includes the Prytherch shop.
By the time of the 1901 census, Edwin was working as an assistant in the shop, and he continued to work with his parents until he enlisted in the army on 10 December 1915 at Hoylake. Quite a number of men enlisted towards the end of December 1915. Possibly, as conscription was coming in in 1916, they enlisted in order to have some influence in which regiment they served.
He was placed on the Reserve until the army was ready to train him. On 25 March 1916 he was mobilised as Private 36550 in the 14th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. The 14th Battalion was a training Battalion, and he will have done his training at Prees Heath, Shropshire.
Cap badge of the Cheshire Regiment
On 16 July 1916 he landed in France having completed his training. Just 9 days later he was transferred to the 10th Battalion.
He had some home leave in November 1917, but otherwise served in France for nearly 2 years.
In May 1918 his Battalion formed part of the Front Line between Soissons and Rheims. They were under the command of General Duchêne of the French Army. He placed the British troops in the front trenches to defend the Chemin des Dames Ridge, which had been won at great cost in 1917. Contrary to the orders of Petain he decided to defend it to the death. On 27 May the Germans started the Spring Offensive with Operation Blücher-Yorck in the 3rd Battle of the Aisne with a very severe surprise bombardment followed up by poison gas. Edwin and his colleagues stood no chance as the Germans broke through the Front Line.
Edwin was injured in his lower back and lay on the battle field for 2 days until members of the German Red Cross found him. He was then taken a few miles further back behind the German Lines to the German War Hospital at Chateau-Porcien, a village in the Ardennes. Although severely injured he was able to send a post card home. However he never recovered sufficiently to write a letter and he died in the same hospital on 30 Jun 1918 at the age of 33.
It was September 1918 before his parents were informed that he had died the previous June. Sadly his mother heard a rumour in January 1919 that he had been seen alive in another hospital very recently. This proved, of course, to be false, but much correspondence was carried out by the ladies of the Cheshire Regiment Prisoners of War Aid Association before that was known.
His mother Ellen would have had a very dreadful 6 months as her nephew William Coller also died on 13 Jun 1918 at Wallencourt in France whilst serving with the 27th Battalion of the Australian Infantry. Edwin’s cousin Florence Coller (1890-???) lived with the Prytherch family in Banks Road for a period including 1908. It is very likely that her brother William Coller (1888-1918) and Edwin knew each other.
Edwin’s younger brother Albert (1895 – 1949) had enlisted in the King’s Liverpool Regiment on 29 October 1915 6 weeks before Edwin enlisted. However he was discharged on 12 February 1916 die to sickness.
Edwin is buried at the small Sissones British Cemetery in Picardy.
Sissones British Cemetery
He is also commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial, the plaques at St Bridget, St Andrew Churches and the plaque at West Kirby Methodist Church.
Birth: 9 Mar 1885 at Liverpool
Death: 30 Jun 1918 from wounds in a German Hospital at Chateau-Porcien, Ardennes, France
Addresses: 159 Great Homer Street, Liverpool (91); Banks Road, West Kirby (01); 148 Banks Road, West Kirby (11)
Units: 10th & 14th Battalions, Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 36550; Private
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: Sissonne British Cemetery, Sissone, Picardie, France
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, SR, MC, PR, DA, BN, ICRC, FT, Census: 91, 01, 11, BR, Probate