"Cuinchy bred rats. They came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly"

                                                                                                                                                 Robert Graves

                                                                                                                                                 Goodbye to all that

BERNARD ALFRED HEATH

Bernard Alfred Heath was the son of Thomas and Mary Heath and was born in about 1883.  By the time of the 1911 census Bernard was at home in No 3 Myrtle Cottages, Chipstead Lane.  His occupation was listed as "Book Hall Clerk".  His Father and Mother were there and he had 4 sisters: who were named Muriel, Daisy, Winifred and Vera.  Muriel was 2 years older than him and had been born in Sevenoaks but the other three sisters had been born in Riverhead.  He also had a brother whose name is difficult to decipher - possibly Lindsay - who had also been born in Riverhead.  His service records also reveal that, subsequent to that census he acquired another brother, Gordon, who was 19 years his junior having been born in 1912.

 

He enlisted on 2nd September 1914 in Tonbridge - one of the million or so volunteers who, by November 1914, had responded to Lord Kitchener's poster informing them that their country needed them.  As such he was part of the "New Army".    It appears he had already served for about 5 years in the reserve force of the RWKR.

 

He arrived in Boulogne with the RWKR 6 battallion on 1st June 1915 just after the battle of Neuve Chappelle had come to a close.  They moved to St Omer and by 6th of June were in the Meteren-Steenwerck area.  Their Divisional HQ was established at Nieppe.  On 19th June 1915 he made an informal military Will leaving everything to "my Mother, Mary Ann Heath of Myrtle Cottage, Chipstead Lane Riverhead Kent." 

 

He would likely have seen action in The Battle of Loos from the 30th of September 1915. 

In December 1915 his Division took over part of the line North of La Bassee Canal at Givenchy.  After a period of training in open warfare they returned to the front line at Loos in February 1916.

 

By April they were stationed near Vermelles and Cuinchy opposite a trench system known as the Quarries.

 

The battalion diary for 4th April 1916 reads:

"A quiet day - 'B' Coy changed with 'D' Coy in the afternoon - killed OR 2, wounded OR 2 including 1 at duty.  Draft 51 OR joined."

So it appears he lost his life not in a great battle or engagement but simply as part of the day to day activities of the enemy in the opposing trenches on what was deemed a "quiet day".  The 1919 War Office document certifying the validity of his Will states that he was "Killed in action."  The following day the battalion exploded a mine and so there must have been some mining activity.

 

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