Edwin Fillingham – casualty of the Somme

Arthur Edwin Fillingham, Private 15/327, 1st Leeds Pals

Arthur Edwin Fillingham was born in Hunslet in 1896, and was baptised on the 7th April 1897.  He was probably the second child of Arthur Herbert Fillingham, a teacher of music, book-keeper and later county court clerk, and his wife Kate, née Ramsden, (1867-1935), who he had married at St Peter’s Church, Hunslet, on 9th May 1893.  Arthur was born in Hunslet on 6th December 1863, and died on 12th December 1939 age 76.  They lived at 13 Lindon Grove.  On the 1911 Census it states that there had been eight children, six of whom were still living, and they are named as Arthur E, John H, Grace, Herbert R, Bertha and William.  On the 1901 Census an older child, Kate E, was given, but she presumably was one of the two that did not survive childhood.  Also on this census Arthur E is listed as Edwin, the name by which he seems to have been known in the family, possibly to distinguish him from his father.  At this point the family was living at 61 Tempest Road, Hunslet, but by 1911 they had moved to 3 The Crescent, Roundhay, where they lived for the duration of the war.

Edwin had a good voice, and as a boy held a choral scholarship at Lincoln Cathedral, but as with all boys his voice broke, and at the age of fifteen he moved to Leeds Boys’ Modern School, where he proved to be a keen sportsman, and played for the school cricket team.  After leaving school he worked for the Legal and General Assurance Company in Leeds city centre.

When war was declared Edwin was 18, and wasted no time in volunteering for the Pals, enlisting in August at the Town Hall, as is shown by his low service number.  He was posted to D Company, where he joined 12 Platoon and ultimately became platoon bomber.  But first he had to follow the training pattern of the battalion, going initially to Colsterdale, then Ripon and finally Fovant in Wiltshire.  In December of 1915 he sailed, with the battalion, to Egypt, where they would guard the Suez Canal, against possible attack by the Turks.  But on 1st March 1916 he sailed again, this time for France, to prepare for the Big Push, the Battle of the Somme.

On 1st July 1916, at 7.30 in the morning, the Leeds Pals, together with the Bradford Pals and the DLI, climbed out of their trenches to attack the village of Serre.  But most of them got no further than No-Man’s Land.  The German defences had not been obliterated after all.  Over two hundred Pals were killed, or died later from wounds received.  One of them was Edwin Fillingham.  He was 20.  His body was never found, and he is listed among the missing on the Thiepval Memorial.  He is also named on the memorial in St Edmund’s Church, Roundhay, and on the Leeds Boys’ Modern School memorial.  He was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, and his family would also have received a bronze Memorial Plaque and certificate.


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Researchers: Peter Taylor and David J Owen

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