Beechholme memorial plaque
Great War Memorial

If you have more information about a name or would
like to correct or remove any of the information please
mail the Webmaster.
Surnames beginning
with the letter
previous letter
next letter

IRWIN, Frederick Arthur

Private 640234,

21st Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment)

Killed  in Action 15th August 1917.

Aged 19.

Brother of  Harold.

Frederick was born on 12 May 1898 probably in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. He was the son of William James Irwin and Catherine Amelia nee Bailey. He was the fourth youngest of the five children born to this couple and the sad story of what befell this family is told in his brother Harold’s write up.

In 1901 at the age of two Frederick is in the Chelsea workhouse Infirmary in Cale Street. He was admitted to Beechholme on the 24th of February 1903 then sent to the infirmary on the 6th of June that year. Poor Law records state he was an orphan and his next of kin was Mrs Epps, his sister of 47, Flood Street.

He cannot be traced on the 1911 census. In 1912 at the age of eleven he arrived at the port of Halifax, St.John, New Brunswick, Canada being sent from the Liverpool Sheltering Agency. His arrival date was 5 April 1912 and he had sailed on the ‘Corsican’ from the port of Liverpool.

From Frederick’s Attestation Paper he was attested on 7October 1916. His occupation was given as farmer and he was living in Oxford Station, Ontario. His next of kin was given as his brother Peter Alexander Irwin of the 5th Dragoon Guards.  Frederick was 5 feet 6 inches tall and was of dark complexion with brown eyes and black hair.

 The 21st battalion served with the 4th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Division from September 1915 until the end of the war.

It is not known when Frederick arrived on the Western Front but he took part in the Battle of Hill 70. This took place between the Canadian Corps and the German Sixth Army  along the Western Front on the outskirts of Lens in the Nord, Pas De Calais region. The primary objective was to inflict casualties and draw German troops away from the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

Hill 70 was a perfect defensive position. It was a maze of deep trenches and dugouts and included deep mines dug during peace time. Coiled barbed wire up to 5 feet in height was in front of the trenches and would make frontal attack difficult. Machine guns were deeply entrenched in the slopes of the Hill. Additionally in July 1917 the Germans introduced flame throwers and mustard gas.

On the evening of 14 August the attack commenced with bombardment of the Hill by the Canadian Artillery, damaging the trenches and blowing holes in the defensive wire. At 4.25 am, dawn, of 15 August the Canadians went over the top. Ten battalions advanced up the Hill closely following a rolling barrage by the Artillery. They took their first objective in twenty minutes.  By 9.00 am the Germans began to counter attack and started a barrage of high explosive and mustard gas shells. The day was hot. Being forced, because of the gas, to work fully clothed and wearing gas masks, several men died from heat prostration. Wearing a gas mask rendered the men half blind, but removing them could cause a horrible death by the mustard gas searing the lungs. Many men had to remove their masks whether to aim accurately or whether to extricate themselves from holes or wire on the Hill slopes, and suffered from facial and internal blistering as a result.

The attack on Hill 70 resulted in 1,505 men killed, 3,810 wounded, 487 wounded by gas and 41 prisoners taken by the Germans.The bulk of the casualties were on the first day of the attack.

From the War Diary there follows an account of the 14th /15th August written in the appendices at the end of the month of August. 

“ During the night and the day of the 14th, although the enemy shelled consistently, there was little unusual to report. Our final artillery preparation was carried out.

“ The night of August 14th/15th the battalion moved to its assembly position as planned. The time of Zero Hour had been notified as 4.25 am and at this hour our barrage of hundreds of guns, howitzers and machine guns opened on the German positions for miles on the now famous battle front North-West of lens. Our artillery roared accompanied by the familiar sound of the machine guns. The weather was ideal, officers and men (seasoned) soldiers and those with shorter experience at the front were keen and in the highest of spirits. At Zero Hour the assaulting waves of the 21st battalion with the 18th on the right and the 20th on the left advanced to the assault on their section of the enemy’s trenches which were the objectives of the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions in the attack on Hill 70.

The enemy responded with a barrage which opened up about two minutes after Zero. Our artillery preparations had been thorough, remnants of wire which remained were little obstacles and the enemy’s front line trench was soon in our hands. The advance continued and the second line was captured and the battalion continued on to the final objective CHICORY and CONNECTION trenches. In what remained of some of his strong points the enemy resisted to the last. Casualties up to this time had been comparatively light.

In the afternoon a Hun aircraft flying low ascertained our position and fired at our men which accounted for many of our casualties. “

The Canadian Circumstance of Death record states “ Previously reported missing now killed in action. During an attack on Hill 70 near Lens on the morning 15 August 1917, and after the battalion had reached their objective, one of a patrol which was out in front of the line was wounded. Private Irwin went out with a stretcher party to bring this man in, and was killed by an enemy sniper. Next of kin-Mrs Ivy Black, Box 53, Yorkton, Saskatchewan.  Isolated grave about a quarter of a mile north of Lens”

Presumably the grave was lost with later fighting in this area .

GRAVE REF :- Vimy Memorial.

Pas de Calais.

NB There is no panel reference number.

Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :-, Find My Past, CWGC, Canadian and Library Archives, Wikepedia
Canadian Great War Project, Canadian Service Records-available online from Canadian Library & Archives.

Last updated: 21 Feb 2017

Beechholme WWI memorial

IRWIN, Harold William

Gunner L/36741

190th Brigade Royal Field Artillery, "D" Bty.

Died of Wounds 16th September 1916.

Age 27.

Brother of Frederick (see above).

Harold Irwin was born around 1890 in either Kensington or Walton-on-Thames as it varies on different census returns. Harold was the oldest child born to William James Irwin and Catherine Amelia nee Bailey. This was a second marriage for William who was some twenty years older than his wife. He was employed as a cooper, and in 1891 the family are living at New Road, Walton, with three older children from William's first marriage. In total there had been seven children from the first marriage and William's first wife had died in 1887.

By 1901 both Harold and two of his younger brothers were pauper scholars in Beechholme. A third brother was in the Chelsea Workhouse Infirmary aged just two. An infant sister had been adopted by a family in Hammersmith.

A major tragedy had befallen this family as the father, William, had murdered his second wife for her association with another man although they were estranged at the time. Catherine worked at Peter Robinson, the large London store, and although not living with her husband had been helping him financially. On her way to work on the 22nd June 1900 her husband accosted her, and even though she was in the company of a fellow worker, William stabbed her in the chest. Catherine was rushed to the Middlesex Hospital where she died later that day of a pierced lung.

William's defence was that he had inflicted the wound in a moment of passion being jealous of Catherine's relationship with another man. Despite a plea for clemency the jury found William guilty as charged and he was hanged at Newgate on the 14th August 1900. A full transcript of the trial may be found on The Old Bailey Trials website.

Harold was admitted to Beechholme on the 31st of August 1900. Poor Law records state that he was an orphan and that his next of kin was a married sister, Mrs Epps of 47, Flood Street. Harold's previous address was given as 50, Blenheim Street and his parents had lived there for at least three years. Harold was discharged from the school on the 11th of November 1905 and was then employed by Mrs. Allen of Archway Road, Westfield, Barnes. His conduct was good and his wages were eight shillings. A follow up visit reported that he had left this employment to take up an indoor position in Barnes.

By 1911 Harold is aged 21 and a Grocer's Assistant. He is living in lodgings in Barnes. Of his three brothers Arthur (or Frederick Arthur) was also killed in the Great War and the other two served but survived the war.

Unfortunately there are no surviving service records for Harold and his medal index card has very little information on it. The 190th Brigade were raised in Wimbledon in September 1915 and sent to France in May 1916. Harold enlisted in London. He may well have been conscripted as he does not possess the 1914 /15 Star and therefore wasn't an early enlister.

It is clear that he was wounded at the Somme and Soldiers Effects records held by Ancestry record that Harold died in the field.

Grave Ref : II.2.D Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension.

Harold's brothers and sisters were the legatees of his will.

Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES:-, Find My Past, CWGC, Old Bailey Trials, The Long, Long Trail, part of The Great War Forum.

Last updated: 21 Feb 2017

Beechholme WWI memorial

IRWIN, George Percival 


Private 16645


20th Royal Fusiliers


Formerly H/29313 Southern Cavalery Depot.)


Killed in Action 16 April 1917


Age 28


Son of James and Emily of 78, Harlesford Road, Kennington.



NB. This man was known as Percival or Percy which has added to the difficulty of tracing him. The regiment and rank held in the Beechholme records are different to this man's details but he is the only Irwin with the initials. “G.P.“ which tallies with the Beechholme record. Due to these discrepancies we cannot be absolutely certain we have the right man. If you have any information that may assist us, then please do contact us.


George Percival Irwin was born on the 14th of March 1889 and christened just one week later at St Mark’s in St John’s Wood. He was the son of James, a coachman and Emily nee Lewis. James Irwin was born in Ireland and Emily was Welsh. George was the youngest child of at least eight born to this couple. The children from this marriage were born in a wide variety of places - two in Wales, one in Hampton Wick, one in  Cornwall, one in Kent and the remainder in London. This was perhaps because James was employed as a coachman and may have travelled for his work.


On the 1891 census the family are living at 34 Cornwall Mews, Kensington, and George was aged two. By the next census Emily is a widow and is employed as a dressmaker and two elder sons are living back home both employed as soldiers. The loss of her husband’s wages would have meant that Emily had to find work and the older sons would have no doubt helped their mother financially.


George was admitted to Beechholme on the 9th of June 1894. His next of kin was given as his mother Emily of Queens Gate Terrace.
He was discharged from the school on the 15th of May 1900 to her care.

George's brother David also enlisted in the military and he was a musician with the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; he contracted tuberculosis and died in 1909.


George cannot be traced in 1911. His mother was employed as a live-in cook at this time. There is no trace of his other siblings.

Soldiers Died in the Great War has him listed as Percy Irwin and indicates that he was living in Shirley near Southampton when he enlisted. His service records did not survive but from his medal index card his date of entry was  3 August 1915 and his theatre of war at that time was the Balkans. He is listed as being in the 2nd Royal Fusiliers. The 20th Royal Fusiliers battalion did not serve in the Balkans campaign but the 2nd battalion certainly did, and from Gallipoli via Alexandria they moved to the Western Front in early 1916. It would appear therefore that at some point George was transferred into the 20th. His citation on the Commonwealth War Graves site lists him as being in that particular battalion .


After the bloodbaths at Verdun and the Somme, the Allied high command elected to move forward with two offensives in 1917. The main assault was to be led by General Robert Nivelle’s French troops at Chemin des Dames which he believed could end the war in 48 hours. To support the French effort, the British Expeditionary Force planned a push in the Vimy-Arras sector of the front. Scheduled to start a week earlier, it was hoped that the British attack would draw troops away from Nivelle’s front. Led by Field Marshall Douglas Haig, the BEF began making elaborate preparations for the assault.

On 9 April after a days delay, the assault moved forward. Advancing in sleet and snow, British troops slowly moved behind their creeping barrage towards the German lines. At Vimy Ridge the Canadian troops achieved stunning success and quickly took their objectives. In the centre British troops attacked east of Arras with the goal of taking the Monchyriegel Trench between Wancourt and Feuchy. A key section of the German defenses in the area were taken on 9 April, however it took several more days to completely clear the Germans from the trench system.


By the second day German reserves were beginning to appear and slowed British progress. On 11 April a two-division attack was launched against Bullecourt with the goal of widening the offensive on the British right. Over the first few days the  British had made dramatic gains  including the capture of Vimy Ridge, and had advanced over three miles in some areas.

By 15 April the Germans had reinforced their lines across the Vimy-Arras sector and were prepared to launch counter attacks.

Though losses were increasing rapidly, Haig was pressured to keep the attack going.

In the fighting around Arras, the British suffered 158,660 casualties. Although the Battle of Arras is generally considered a British victory due to the capture of Vimy Ridge it did little to alter the strategic situation on the Western Front.


An entry from the war diary of the 20th Royal Fusiliers :-


April 15 1917.

7 am. “ 2 Companies moved to HINDENBURG SUPPORT”


April 16  BOISLEUX AU MONT . In the Line.

1.30am. “ 2 Companies to reinforce the 2 Companies already there. Night march successfully carried out and arrived at place of assembly at 2.45 am. Attacked enemy position with battalion. A and D Companies in front line, B Company in second and C Company in third. A,D and B Companies formed up and proceeded about 100 yards when heavy machine gun fire was opened from front and flanks. Progress then was slight and the attack was inclining too much to the right. The advance was stopped and C Company entered the trenches. The attack would have been successful but machine gun fire was too severe and the attack failed.”


There are only mentions of officers killed on this day in the war diary.





The cemetery was designed by Sir Edward Lutyens  and Noel Ackroyd Rew. Heninel and Croisilles are villages approximately 5 kilometres and 8 kilometres south west of Arras. The 21st Division captured Heninel on 12 April 1917 and advanced eastwards on the two following days. The 33rd Division (which included the 20th Royal Fusiliers) then took over the attack. These two divisions are largely represented in the cemetery. After the Armistice graves were brought in from a wide area round Heninel.


Inscribed on his gravestone was the following " In Loving Memory of my Dear Son Percy. May we meet in Heaven. Mother. ". 


His mother Emily was the sole legatee.


George Percival Irwin Beechholme WW1


Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :- Ancestry, Find My Past, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, The Long, Long Trail War Diary courtesy of National Archives-WO 95/2423/3. ` .Military History, Wikepedia,  Grave Inscription courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Last updated: 21 Feb 2017

Beechholme WWI memorial