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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 26712
2/7th Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derbys Regiment)
Who was Killed in Action on Thursday, 6th December 1917
Age 29

No Known Grave. Panel 8
Cambrai Memorial to the "Missing", Louverval Cemetery Doignies, Nord, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Cambrai Memorial

Cambrai Memorial to the "Missing"
Louverval Cemetery, Doignies, Nord, France

Percy Cordon was born in Beeston, Nottinghamshire in 18882, the only surviving child of Henry (b. c1861, Bramcote, Notts) and Lydia Hannah Cordon (née Wright, c1862, Beeston, Notts)3. Sadly, Lydia died either giving birth to Percy or very soon afterwards4 and Percy went on to live with his paternal grandmother, Caroline Smith, a widow who traded as a pork butcher on Middle Street, Beeston5. In 1889, Henry had married again, to Emma Williams6 and, by 1901, they and their four children, along with Percy, were living at 12 Brown Lane, Beeston7. Henry was working, as he had for at least the previous ten years, at the railway sleeper creosoting works, next to the LMS railway line near the eastern boundary of Beeston. In January 1911, Percy married Minnie Heath and later that year they were living with his father's family at 44 Chapel Street, Beeston8 with both Percy and his father working as labourers for a railway contractor. Later that year, Winifred Emma, Percy and Minnie's first daughter, was born. Kathleen Grace, their second daughter, was born towards the end of 19129.

Percy's Army Service Record records that he attested at Nottingham on the 29th May 191510 and joined the 16th (Service) Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby), known as the Chatsworth Rifles. This battalion had been formed at Derby on 16 April 1915, by the Duke of Devonshire and the Derbyshire Territorial Force Association11.

Training began immediately, at first in Buxton, Derbyshire, before moving to Redmires, near Sheffield in early June. This area is known to have been used to teach trainees the techniques of digging trenches12. In September, they came under the orders of 117th Brigade in 39th Division, moving to Hursley Park, near Winchester. They moved to Witley Camp, near Godalming in Surrey in late 1915.

On 7th March 1916, the battalion left Southampton and landed at Le Havre, France in heavy snow. After a brief period of trench familiarisation, they soon saw action and began to incur the inevitable casualties. In June 1916 and continuing into July they were part of battles at Ferme du Bois, near Richeboug which had been ordered as a diversionary attack to attempt to draw the enemy away from the Battle of the Somme which was launched on 1 July. In total, the battalion was in the front line trenches here for a total of 35 days, engaged continuously with the enemy. Two officers and 12 other ranks had been killed and four officers and 85 other ranks had been wounded13. Percy was one of those wounded, receiving a gunshot wound to his back on 7th August. On the 23rd, he was repatriated and admitted to Southern General Hospital, Dudley Road, Birmingham for treatment and convalescence14.

But the demand for men on the frontline was relentless and those that had been wounded and had recovered were soon returned. In Percy's case, he was sent back to France on 15 June 1917 to join 1/7th Sherwood Foresters and the horrors of the Third Battle of Ypres (widely known as 'Passchendaele').

In November, the Cambrai operation got underway. It was described by Sir Douglas Haig as the gaining of a 'local success by a sudden attack at a point where the enemy did not expect it' and to some extent it succeeded. The proposed method of assault was new, with no preliminary artillery bombardment. Instead, tanks were be used to break through the German wire, with the infantry following under the cover of smoke barrages. The attack began early in the morning of 20 November 1917 and initial advances were remarkable. However, by 22 November, a halt was called for rest and reorganisation, allowing the Germans to reinforce such that by 29 November, it was clear that the Germans were ready for a major counter attack. During the fierce fighting of the next five days, much of the ground gained in the initial days of the attack was lost. For the Allies, the results of the battle were ultimately disappointing but valuable lessons were learnt about new strategies and tactical approaches to fighting. The Germans had also discovered that their fixed lines of defence, no matter how well prepared, were vulnerable15.

The 2/7th Battalion was held in reserve and took little active part in the early stages of the operation but, on December 5th, it was called in to hold the line and cover the withdrawal of other units. During this two day operation, the battalion managed to meet its tasks and to take several enemy prisoners but it faced enemy shelling and there were considerable casualties. One of those reported missing was Private Cordon.16.

As Private Cordon's body was never found, he is commemorated on the CambraI Memorial which stands on a terrace at one end of the Louverval Military Cemetery, which is situated south of Louverval a small village on the north side of the N30, Bapaume to Cambrai road, 13 kilometres north-east of Bapaume and 16 kilometres south-west of Cambrai. The Memorial commemorates more than 7,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South Africa who died in the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917 and whose graves are not known. It was designed by H Chalton Bradshaw with sculpture by C S Jagger. The chateau at Louverval, was taken by the 56th Australian Infantry Battalion at dawn on 2 April 1917. The hamlet stayed in Allied hands until the 51st (Highland) Division was driven from it on 21 March 1918 during the great German advance, and it was retaken in the following September. Parts of Rows B and C of the cemetery were made between April and December 1917 and in 1927, graves were brought in from Louverval Chateau Cemetery, which had been begun by German troops in March 1918 and used by Commonwealth forces in September and October 1918. The cemetery now contains 124 First World War burials17.

Private Cordon was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal18. His Army financial effects of £9 1 2d were paid to his widow, as his sole legatee, on 8 January 1918. She also received his War Gratuity of £11 10s on 22 December 191913. From 5 August 1918, she was awarded a weekly pension of 25s 5d for herself and her two children. It wasn't until 24 September 1918 that Percy's death was officially recognised.

Emma Cordon, Percy's step-mother, died in 1935 and Henry, his father, in 1944. His widow, Minnie Cordon, married James Richard Proctor, who had served throughout the war and worked as a railway shunter, in 1938, but died a year later. She is buried in Beeston Cemetery where a memorial survives. Kathleen Grace Cordon, Percy and Minnie's second daughter, married Horace Smith in 1935 and they set up home at 95 Robinet Road, Beeston. She died in 1966. Her older sister, Winifred, married Arthur Leonard Carnelly in 1938. They set up home, close to her sister, at 103 Robinet Road, Beeston. She died in 197714.

1The photograph of the Cambrai Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q2/1888 (Ref 7b 194). He was baptised at Beeston Parish Church on 5 September 1888.
3Henry and Lydia Hannah, the daughter of Titus & Eliza Wright, were married at Beeston Parish Church on 5 March 1882. As well as Percy, they had at least three children who died as infants.
4Both Percy's birth and his mother's death were recorded in Q2/1888 in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part). Lydia Annie died on 16 June 1888 and was buried in Beeston Cemetery where her memorial survives in her maiden name as part of that of the wider Wright family (seen here).
5Beeston, Notts 1891 Census, Pork Shop, Middle Street - Piece 2671 Folio 109. Percy's father, his second wife and their son were living nearby at 12 Brown Lane, Beeston.
6Henry's marriage to Emma, the daughter of Alfred & Hannah Williams was recorded in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q3/1889 (Ref 7b 284)
7Beeston, Notts : 1901 Census, 12 Brown Lane - Piece 3153 Folio 99. Brown Lane is now the upper part of Station Road.
8Beeston, Notts : 1911 Census, Piece 20431 RD429 SD3 ED6 Sched 45. Percy had married Minnie, the daughter of Harry & Eliza Heath at Beeston Parish Church on 14 January 1911.
9Winifred Emma Cordon was born at Beeston on 3 June 1911. Kathleen Grace Cordon was born there on 12 November 1912.
10The dates of Percy's attestation, transfers, etc are from his Army Service Records which is available on ancestry.com.
11Details of 16th Battalion's formation and early deployment is from the Notts & Derby site (www.nottsandderby.co.uk/Notts___Derby/notts___derby.html) and The Long Long Trail site (www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/sherwood-foresters-nottinghamshire-derbyshire-regiment/).
12The site at Redmires was the subject of archaeological surveys between 1999 and 2006, by students from The Institute of Lifetime Learning, University of Sheffield. Their comprehensive report can be found at www.pals.org.uk/sheffield/redmires.pdf
13This account of 16th Battalion's action in France and Belgium during 1916 is a summary of its war diary (available on ancestry.com).
14As recorded in his Army Service Record. 1st Southern General Hospital at Birmingham University had been used as a military hospital from 1 September 1914 and provided 1,000 beds by early 1915 and other buildings in and around Birmingham became hospitals as the number of casualties increased. These included the Poor Law Infirmary on Dudley Road, designated 2/1st Southern General, which was where Percy was probably treated.
15This outline of the strategy and outcome of the Cambrai operations is from the Commonwealth War Graves description of the Cambrai Memorial.(http://www.cwgc.org)
16This brief account is based on 2/7th Battalion's war diary - available at ancestry.com.
17This description of the Cambrai Memorial is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
12Private Cordon's medal awards are recorded on his Medal Card and in the Medal Rolls, available on ancestry.com. A period of service with 12th Battalion Sherwood Foresters is mentioned in the Medal Rolls, although there is no indication of this in his Service Record.
13Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.
14This summary of the later family history is derived from a range of standard genealogy sources, including the 1939 Registration

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