Roll of Honour

Augustus Bertie Salmon

Augustus ‘Gussy’ Bertie Salmon was born in Felsted in 1898, the son of Sydney Bertie Salmon and Alice Harriett Salmon (née Hartley). His father had been born in 1876 in Felsted; his mother in 1875 in Braintree. They had married in the spring of 1896.

Augustus’ siblings included Mabel Maud Salmon (born in the last quarter of 1896 in Braintree) and Doris Freda Salmon (born on 11th October 1906 in Woodford and christened at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 5th December 1915).

The 1901 census recorded three year-old Augustus living with his parents, sister and a boarder at New Barnes, Luxborough Lane in Chigwell. His father was a market gardener. A decade later the 1911 census recorded Augustus, then 14, working as a market gardener and living with his parents and two siblings at 9 Phillip’s Cottages in Springfield. Augustus’ father was a domestic gardener and his elder sister a wire manufacturer at Marconi’s.

Augustus lived in Chelmsford enlisted in prior to the war at Chelmsford into the 1/5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment, serving as Private 1724 (renumbered in 1917 as 250185). The battalion was a Territorial unit formed in 1908 with its headquarters in Market Road, Chelmsford, and it consequently contained many Chelmsford men who were to lose their lives in the war. The term ‘territorial’ indicated that the volunteers such as Augustus who served with the battalion were under no obligation to serve overseas, with their focus on home defence, but many like him agreed to serve abroad after the declaration of war on 4th August 1914.

Following its withdrawal from Gallipoli the 1/5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment landed in Alexandria, Egypt on 17th December 1915. On 28th December 1915 it was sent to El Hamam, Egypt where it formed part of the Western Frontier Force.  On 5th March 1916 the battalion left for Mena Camp near Cairo, Egypt, before it was moved eastwards to protect the Suez Canal and its vital supply route, in an area known as the Southern Canal Section, from Turkish attacks across the Sinai Peninsula. The battalion remained there until January 1917 and it was during this period that Augustus probably joined it overseas for the first time.

By early 1917 the Turkish forces that had been threatening Egypt were being steadily driven back across the Sinai Peninsular towards Palestine by the advancing Allies. The 1/5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment spent most of February crossing the Peninsular and by late March 1917 was close to the Palestine town of Gaza, then still held by the Turks.

The initial attack to capture Gaza, known as the First Battle of Gaza, began early on 26th March 1917. The Allied plan was for the main advance against the town was to be made by 53rd Division, to which was temporarily attached the 161st Brigade, including the 1/5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment. It would attack against the southern side of the town. At 1:30 p.m. the 161st Brigade, including the 1/5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment, was called in from Mansura to assist the 53rd Division attack by taking a hill known as Green Hill south-west of Ali el Muntar.

Chelmsford Cenotaph, and detail from name plaque in the Civic Centre

The 1/5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment suffered very heavily at the First Battle of Gaza - the Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists 117 fatalities for the battalion on 26th March 1917 plus 113 in the 1/4th Battalion of the Essex Regiment. Among them was Augustus, who was killed in action, aged 19. The heavy casualties were mainly caused by the steady fire of three Turkish machine guns and one automatic rifle.

The Essex County Chronicle of 20th April 1917 reported:
“The son of Mrs. Salmon of Arbour Lane, Springfield is missing.”

A similar report appeared in the same day’s Essex Weekly News:
“Mrs. Salmon, Arbour-lane, Springfield, has learned that her son, Augustus B. Salmon, also of the Essex, is missing.”

On 15th June 1917 the Essex Weekly News carried an appeal from his mother:
“Mrs. Salmon, 15, Arbour-la, Springfield, would be glad of any information from his comrades regarding her son, Pte. A. B. Salmon, Essex Regt., officially reported wounded and missing since March 26th.”

On 7th December 1917 the Essex Weekly News reported:
“Pte. A. Salmon, son of Mrs. A. Salmon, Arbour-lane, Springfield, previously reported a prisoner of war, is now stated by the British red Cross to be ‘missing’.”

In December 1917 the Essex County Chronicle reported:
“Pte. A. Salmon, son of Mrs. A. Salmon, Arbour Lane, Springfield, previously reported a prisoner of war, is now stated by the British Red Cross to be ‘missing’.”

Augustus has no known grave and is commemorated at Jerusalem Memorial in Israel, which lists 3,300 Commonwealth servicemen who died during the First World War in operations in Egypt or Palestine and who have no known grave.

He is also remembered on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, on the Springfield Parish Memorial at All Saints’ Church and the Great Eastern Railway Memorial at Liverpool Street Station in London.  He was entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Whilst his extended family remained in Felsted he is not remembered on the village memorials.

The 1918 register of electors listed Augustus’ parents at 15 Arbour Lane, Springfield. Later they lived at Dovedale Cottage, Vicarage Road, Chelmsford. Augustus’ mother died in 1953, aged 78; his father died in 1962, aged 86.

Most of the above information is drawn from the website: courtesy Andrew Begent (copyright reserved)