Herbert Edward Elphick was born in Newick in 1891, the seventh child of John Elphick, a bricklayer, and his wife Laura, who were both from Fletching. The family were living in a house in Western Road in 1891, and by 1901 they were at the same address and had a total of 13 surviving children (John, George, Frank, Laura, Kate, Stanley, Herbert, Percy, Daisy, Ellen, Richard, Agnes and Ada). By 1901 John and Laura had moved out. Herbert attended the village school between 1898 and 1903.
By the time of the 1911 census the Elphicks had had another child, Emily and John had died leaving widow Laura and children Herbert, Percy, Daisy, Frederick, Agnes, Ada and Emily still living in Western Road. Herbert’s trade was shown as ‘Gardener (Domestic)’. Herbert married Mabel Burley in 1913. A newspaper article published after his death (see below) recorded that he was still working as a gardener at the outbreak of the war, having worked at Newick Lodge for a number of years.
Herbert enlisted on the 7th April 1916; official records show the location as Lingfield in Surrey. No. 6019 Private Elphick joined the Sherwood Foresters (Notts. and Derby Regiment) and was posted to a nominally Territorial Battalion, the 1/7th (nicknamed The Robin Hoods). He sailed for the Western Front on 16th July 1916. From 1st March 1917, men serving in Territorial Units were given a new number with a ‘TF’ prefix, and Herbert became TF267197 Private Elphick.
By April 1917 The Robin Hoods were in training close to the Belgian French, border, the daily routine broken by lectures and football matches (the 1/7th Battalion officers beat those of the 6th Battalion 1-0 on the afternoon of 11th April at Westrehem). On the 13th the Battalion moved south to Annezin near Bethune, and then on to Meoux-les-Mines on the following day. On the 19th the battalion moved into reserve positions behind the line near Lievin, close to a chateau that was within range of German heavy artillery. The Foresters moved into the front line on the 23rd.
An article published in The East Sussex News of Friday 4th May 1917 provides details of his death. According to letter written to the family by an army chaplain, Herbert was killed by a shell while acting as a stretcher bearer on the 22nd April 1917. The Chaplain went on to say that he officiated at Herbert’s burial. He was 26 years old. His pension records show that Mabel gave birth to a daughter shortly after Herbert’s death.
Herbert is buried in Lievin Communal Cemetery Extension, which lies in the south-west part of the town. There is no personal inscription on his gravestone. The Extension was begun after the Armistice and contains the remains of 688 men whose bodies were brought to the burial ground from many smaller cemeteries located in the general area. Herbert’s remains were exhumed from a local churchyard where the chaplain buried him, and he was reburied at the site in 1920. Nearly a quarter of the graves in the cemetery belong to men from Canadian Regiments.
Private Elphick is commemorated on both of the village’s original War Memorials, and in the Roll of Honour and Book of Remembrance, and at The Green. He is also remembered in two further Books of Remembrance, one held in The Sherwood Foresters Museum Gallery in Nottingham Castle, and one in Derby City Museum and Art Gallery. The books contain the names of the 11,409 men who fell during the Great War while serving with the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment).
Herbert was entitled to the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. Durviving records do not give any further biographical details, but give his place of residence as ‘Nutley, Sussex’ so presumably Mabel Elphick was living there immediately after the war and would have been sent Herbert’s medals as his next-of-kin. His name does not appear on the memorial plaque in Nutley Village Memorial Hall. Mabel and her young daughter moved back to Newick in 1920s when she remarried.
Three of Herbert’s brothers also served in the army during the Great War; Stanley, who was a pre-war regular with the Royal Garrison Artillery, Richard, who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and Percy, a Territorial before the war, who was severely wounded in 1917 and awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The East Sussex News article also recorded that two of his sisters were engaged in war work, employed as cooks at Pirbright Camp, Surrey, which survives as a military training facility to this day.
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