THOMAS PHILP AND EDWIN GEORGE MASSEY written by Linda Trim.
Brothers who were also good friends were killed in action on the same day in 1918.
3rd City Pals, 19th Battalion Kings Liverpool Regiment
Edwin George, known as George to his family and Thomas Philp, known usually as Phil or sometimes Pip, were sons of Thomas Massey, 1857-1938 and Ann (Annie) Burnett, 1866-1903. Thomas Massey was, by 1881, a Miller’s manager and still living at home in Aston, Warwickshire. By the time of his marriage to Annie on 21 May 1885, he had become a Commercial Traveller. He must have been a hard working and prudent man, because by 1894 the family was living on the Wirral, and he was a Blacking Manufacturer, in partnership with his brother, and living at 5 Marine Park in West Kirby, Wirral, Cheshire. This street was – and still is – a lovely wide street with large and imposing houses either side. Unusually for someone of the middle class, they had no live in servants until after Annie’s death. She died on the 19th of September 1903 having had typhoid for 10 days before she passed away. They might have had day servants come in, and also some help from the girls to run the house. Thomas and Annie had a total of six children; John Worsley, 1887-1972, Elizabeth Ann, 1890 – 1974, Edwin George, 1891 – 1918, Thomas Philp, 1893-1918, Harriet Burnett, 1894 – 1971 and Ellen Brown, 1898-1989, with the first four children born in Warwickshire.
In 1911 George was still living at home and working as a Lithographer, while Phil was a Farming Student living with his uncle, John Burnett, at Home Farm, Little Aston, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire. Both young men had attended Calday Grange Grammar School in West Kirby, which would have given them a good education. Thomas Massey, who was himself a good cricketer thought that George was a good all rounder.
George and Phil on Caldy Grange Grammar cricket team c 1907
EDWIN GEORGE MASSEY
George left school at 16 and served a 6 year apprenticeship with Brown & Rawcliffe, Pall Mall, Liverpool. They were a firm of Chrome Lithographers and it was this subject that he studied. He was actually working as a Commercial Traveller for them at the time of his enlistment in 1914. When he filled out his Attestation papers he stated that he had been with the Territorial Army for four years, with the Liverpool Scottish. It may be assumed that he joined the Liverpool Scottish because of the Burnett connection with Scotland, as Annie’s father, George was born in Kinghorn, Fife but moved to Warwickshire as a young man.
Unlike many of the young men who rushed off to sign up with the army, he signed on to the regular army on 14th September 1914 as Private 17655, and was part of the 1st/5th Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment, the regular army, due to having served 4 years with the Territorials. He was 6 feet tall, weighed 164 lbs and had green eyes and brown hair with a fresh complexion, and was 22 years and 332 days old at enlistment; 5 days after he enlisted, on the 19th September, he was appointed Lance Corporal.
Cap badge 1st/5th Kings Liverpool Regiment
On the 3rd of March 1915 he was promoted to Corporal and posted to the 19th Battalion KLR (3rd City Pals), but on the 18th June 1915 he requested that he be returned to Private, and this wish was granted. The regular army probably sent him to the Pals regiment in order to have a middle class young man overseeing other middle class young men, because working class men supervising middle class ones were often not well received. It might have been difficult being a Corporal over all those new enlistees anyway at that time.
On the 7th of November 1915 as part of the Transport Section of the 19th Service Battalion, he arrived in Boulogne, France. While on the train to Southampton for embarkation to France, he wrote to his sister Elizabeth requesting tobacco, Wills cigarettes, socks, candles and matches. It must have been known by that time in the war, that these items were very much needed. George’s war records do exist, but they are in very poor condition, making details hard to read.
On the 14th of September 1916 he received a Good Conduct badge and professional pay class 1 at the same time, showing that he was in good standing with the Army. On August 27th 1917 he was granted leave to England and rejoined his unit on on the 11th of September just missing his brother’s leave.
From May to August of 1918 he was at a Depot in France awaiting posting, and possibly receiving additional training. This was a period of reconfiguration of some Battalions because the loss of men caused some of them to be too short of men to continue as such. On the 24th August, George was posted to the 13th Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment. In the period during and after his arrival to the 13th, the Second battle of Bapaume was being fought on the Somme. This battle was later known as the Allies Hundred Day Offensive. On September 3rd, after the storming of the Drocourt-Queant line, Buissy was reached, and it is likely that this is the advance that both brothers were involved in. George was killed on the 31st of August, and is buried at Queant Road British Cemetery in Buissy, France in plot 4, row H, Grave 1. He was originally buried in another grave, but according the records held by the Commonwealth War Graves, he was reinterred to a grave that could be properly maintained. This might account for the fact that the men’s graves are five miles apart.
Queant Road British Cemetery, Buissy, France
Birth: 12 Oct 1891 Saltley, Warwickshire
Death: 31st August 1918 near Buissy, France
Addresses: 5 Marine Park, West Kirby, Cheshire
Occupation: Lithographer/Commercial Traveller
Units: 1st/5th King’s Liverpool Regiment: 19th (3rd City Pals) Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment; 13th Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment
Number and Rank: 17655 Private
Medals: 1914/15 Star, Victory & British War Medals
Commemorated: Calday Grange Grammar School, West Kirby, Cheshire; Queant Road British Cemetery, Buissy, France; St. Bridget’s Cemetery, West Kirby, Cheshire
Sources: CG, CWGC, FT, SR, MC, PR, Prob, Census 1901 & 1911, Robert Freeman Family Tree
THOMAS PHILP MASSEY
Although Thomas was called Phil or Pip by his family and friends, the Philp name is not a misspelling, but is in fact the maiden name of Annie Burnett Massey’s Scottish Grandmother, Agnes Philp (Burnett), Phil’s Great Grandmother. At the outbreak of war he was working as a Farm Bailiff having completed the training with his uncle.
Phil attested at Larkhill, Liverpool, Lancashire on the 14th of November 1914 aged 21 years and 300 days. He was 5′ 11″ tall, weighed 181 lbs with a 38″ chest that expanded 3″ to 41″. He had a fresh complexion, brown hair, grey eyes and stated that he was a Wesleyan. He enlisted in a Pals regiment, the 19th (Service) Battalion (City) King’s Liverpool Regiment, as Private 21705. On June the 5th 1915 he was promoted to Lance Corporal (unpaid) and on the 27th of July he was promoted to Corporal. An incident occurred the specifics of which are unknown today, and on the 12th of October 1915 he was accused of irregular conduct, but the case was dismissed. It is obvious that he must have been in overall good standing or he would not have been promoted.
On the 11th of November 1915 he embarked at Southampton for France, landing in Boulogne. Phil was serving with the Transport section and first saw battle the same month.
On the 1st of June 1916 he got leave to England, returning to his unit on June 13th. It must have been good to get back home and see his family and girlfriend, Frances, again. On the 13th of July he was promoted to Lance Sergeant and on October 26th that year he was sent to Base Transport Depot for courses. He did not rejoin his unit until the 22nd of November. He continued in the Transport Section and received another promotion on the 3rd of April 1917 to Sergeant and was posted to the 19th Battalion. On the 12th of September he was again granted leave to England, and it is believed that this was when he became engaged to Frances. A picture of him and Frances Kendall was taken at his sister Elizabeth Ann Massey’s wedding to Harold Bottomley on the 24th of September at Emmanuel Methodist Church in Ormskirk, where his family was now living.
Phil and Frances Kendall in 1917
He rejoined his unit on the 25th of November, and on the 12th of May 1918 He was sent to a Transport Course (his records are not not very legible at this point) at Cucq near Étaples. On the 22nd of June 1918 he went to the 30th Transport to DHTD Abbeville and moved again on the 10th of July 1918 and joined DHTD Étaples. He seemed to be moving around a lot during this time, and was posted on the 24 of August, and, just as was his brother, he was sent to the 13th Battalion. He too was killed on the 31st of August 1918. The records show that he was with the 19th Service Battalion KL number 2 Company, although he had been sent to the 13th. At the time of his death the Allies were fighting the “Hundred Days” advance to Victory . He is buried at Ecoust-Saint-Mein British Cemetery, Ecoust-Saint-Mein, France, Row D Grave 53. This grave is shared with Private W. Dodd. He left £41.00 to his father in his will.
Phil’s shared grave in Ecoust-Saint-Mein, France
In 1916 Thomas Massey, father of these two young men, sold the business he shared with his brother J.W. Massey and it was around that time that he moved to Linden House, St Helen’s Road, Ormskirk, Lancashire. When he was notified of the death of both his sons on the same day, Thomas attempted to find out what happened. We can only imagine what it must have been like for him to see his boys go all the way through the war, and to have survived the action in Passchendaele on the Somme, but die on the same day so late in the war. Although it was know George was missing, there was no further information from the Army at that time, so Thomas advertised in the Liverpool Echo newspaper asking if anyone knew what happened on the day they died. A reply was received from A. Woods who had been an Officer’s groom and was friends with the brothers, and who took part in the offensive that caused the Massey brothers’ deaths. He stated that they were sent “over the top” shortly after joining the 13th, with the objective of taking the village of Ecoust which was about 100 yards ahead. Woods stated that taking the village was a ‘walk over’ but going on further they ran into a nest of machine guns; Phil was the platoon Sergeant. This platoon had many new arrivals who had not seen service before and Phil died trying to do his utmost for them. Here is a direct quote from the letter.
“We jumped into shell holes for cover, but these young lads turned around to run away. I marvelled at Phil, bravest of the brave, standing on top ordering them here and there, to get cover for them, until he fell with a bullet through his back. I was pretty close at the time and as far as I could see he was killed instantly”
During the ensuing confusion, the Germans followed the men up and they had to run for it. The few that made it back to the starting place were ordered to go over the top again as half the Battalion who went around to the left of the village had gained their objective. George was in the group of men who went around to the left as when these lads finally got around he was with them and his first question to Woods was “have you seen Phil?” He did not tell him because he thought George was suffering quite enough to have this suffering on his mind. George guessed from the look on Woods face that something was amiss.The following day George approached Woods and asked him to to tell him what had transpired.Woods told him that Phil had been wounded and probably would be in hospital already. George wanted to take off then and look for Phil, but was talked out of it by Woods, who stuck by George all day to make sure he didn’t go over the top looking for Phil.At 6 pm new orders were received to go over the top again, and over they all went without much opposition. George and Woods went over together and reached the objective just as darkness came upon them. A few minutes later George had gone and was not seen again.
Another letter was received from a Private E.C Foster from West Kirby, dated February 28th 1919, which differs slightly from the account by Private Woods. In December of 1918 a man came into the Ward of the Wallasey Hospital where Pvt. Foster was hospitalized with the flu, and asked the men there if they knew any of the missing men from the KLR , and Private Foster responded that he did, and one was a chum of his. Foster stated that he knew Phil had been killed, and George left Foster saying that “he didn’t care what happened to him now, he was going to try and find his brother”. At that time Foster did not have Thomas Massey’s address because he requested it, but it was not given to him. He obviously found it later on. The official date of death for both men is 31st of August 1918. Neither of these young men is on the Grange Hill War Memorial but they should be as they were brought up in West Kirby, and they are not remembered in Ormskirk either, where their father was living at the time they died.
Special thanks to Robert Freeman for allowing me access to his family tree and photographs.
Birth: 13 Feb 1893, Washwood Heath, Birmingham, Warwickshire
Death: 31st August 1918, near Ecoust, France
Addresses: 5 Marine Park, West Kirby, Cheshire (1901), Little Aston, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire (1911)
Occupation: Farm Bailiff
Unit: 19th (3rd City Pals) King’s Liverpool Regiment: 13th Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment
Number and Rank: Sergeant 21705
Medals: 1914/15 Star, Victory & British War Medals
Commemorated: Calday Grange Grammar School, West Kirby, Cheshire; Ecoust-Saint-Mein British Cemetery; Ecoust-Saint-Mein, France; St. Bridget’s Cemetery, West Kirby, Cheshire
Sources: CG, CWGC, FT, SR, MC, PR, Census 1901 & 1911, Robert Freeman Family Tree