The Men from Hyde – Samuel Perrin Jeffery

The parents of Samuel Perrin Jeffery were George and Elizabeth (nee Attwood) who married in Winchester in 1868.  Samuel was born in 1877, the sixth of seven children.  George was a bricklayer, born in Winchester.

Samuel’s mother died in 1880 at the age of 37.  A year later his father George can be found in the 1881 census, living at 46, Lower Brook Street, a widower looking after six children between the ages of 2 and 11.

Three years later in 1884, George married Mary Garnett on the Isle of Wight. The couple can be found in the 1891 census, still at 46, Lower Brook Street, with Frederick (15, a porter), Samuel (14, errand boy), and Leonard (12). George is 48, still working as a bricklayer, and his wife Mary is 44.

By the 1901 census, Samuel has left home.  He is now aged 24, living at 2, Tower Street and working as a house painter.  His father and stepmother are still at 46, Lower Brook Street.

In the 1911 census, Samuel is living at 2, North Walls, boarding with William Carter, also a house painter.  Samuel is 35.  At 46, Lower Brook Street, Samuel’s father George is 69 and calls himself an invalid; Mary is 64 and states that she has been married for 22 years and had no children.

Samuel’s father George Jeffery died at the end of 1914 at the age of 72.

It is not clear when Samuel enlisted as a Sapper in the 77th Field Company of the Royal Engineers.  He was given the regimental number 154608.  He is not listed in the Winchester War Register, nor are there any surviving army records for him.

Royal Engineers recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 4 inches tall. They initially enlisted for six years with the colours and a further six years with the reserve or four years and eight years.  Unlike most corps and regiments, in which the upper age limit was 25, men could enlist in the Royal Engineers up to 30 years of age.  They trained at the Royal Engineers Depot in Chatham or the RE Mounted Depot at Aldershot.

In 1915, in response to German mining of British trenches, the corps formed its own tunnelling companies. Manned by experienced coal miners from across the country, they operated with great success until 1917, when after the fixed positions broke, they built deep dugouts such as the Vampire dugout to protect troops from heavy shelling.

From October 1916, the Royal Engineers worked underground, constructing tunnels for the troops in preparation for the Battle of Arras in 1917.  Beneath Arras itself there is a vast network of caverns called the boves, consisting of underground quarries and sewage tunnels.  The engineers came up with a plan to add new tunnels to this network so that troops could arrive at the battlefield in secrecy and in safety.  The size of the excavation was immense.  In one sector alone, four Tunnel Companies of 500 men each worked around the clock in 18-hour shifts for two months.

The Royal Engineers fought at the Battles of Ypres at the end of 1917.  Samuel Jeffery was injured and died of his wounds on 8th January 1918, but the circumstances surrounding his death are not known.  He was 41 years old.

Samuel is buried at Mont Huon Military Cemetery at Le Treport, about 25 km north of Dieppe.  The inscription on his headstone reads “So dearly loved so deeply mourned”.

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