Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Regiment: 3rd Battalion Worcester Regiment
Died: 3 September 1916
East Budleigh Memorial Cross, East Budleigh Memorial Tablet
Other Memorial: Blighty Valley Cemetery [Google]
PDF Download: GIBBS William Beresford
William Gibbs was born in 1881 in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, the son of the Rev William Cobham Gibbs and his wife Annie Catherine Gibbs (nee Downall), who lived in the Vicarage in Albert Park.
His brother, Edward Reginald, became a chaplain with the Grenadier Guards, and also lost his life in the Great War.
His father later became the Rector of Clyst St George near Exeter, and retired to Temple Hill, East Budleigh.
William attended Newton College in Newton Abbot, Wellington College and then Sandhurst, the military academy.
He had fought against the Boers in the South African Wars, and was also awarded the 4th Class Order of the Nile by the Sultan of Egypt.
In the Great War, he was commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion Worcester Regiment, which fought on Somme on the Western Front.
In early September 1916 the Battalion was to attack the western side of the Leipzig Salient. During the night of 2-3 September the battalion filed forward into the front line and prepared for attack. At 5.10am the British guns opened fire and shells rained down on the Thiepval Ridge and the battalion advanced.
The leading companies advanced behind the barrage and plunged into the German trenches and overwhelmed the crouching defenders, then attempted to entrench the ground gained, but the trenches had been practically demolished. The enemy, realising the situation, opened an intense bombardment against their lost front line.
Both the Company Commanders were killed then Colonel Gibbs was hit. A young adjutant took command and reorganised the defence and his fearlessness inspired the survivors and all did their best to consolidate the battered trenches but there was very little protection left, more men were struck down every minute and it became clear that under that fire it was impossible to hold the captured ground. Orders were given to retire and the survivors of the two companies fell back to the original front line.
Lt Col Gibbs died of his wounds on 3 September 1916 and is remembered with honour on the East Budleigh Memorial, and at Blighty Valley Cemetery on the Somme, where he is buried.
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