Born: 1899, Rawdon
Died: 19 September 1918
Buried: Epehy Wood Farm Cemetery
Address: Brook House, Apperlay Bridge (1911)
Parents: John Henry and Sara, nee McIntyre
Siblings: John, Stella, Donald, Elsie, Claire, Edward
Rank: Pte
Rolls of Honour: Greengates
Regiment: Royal Fusiliers
Jasper McIntyre Whitehead
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Jasper McIntyre Whitehead, was born in Rawdon in 1899, the sixth of seven children of Holbeck-born wool and textile machine maker, John Henry Whitehead, and his Glasgow-born wife, Sara, nee McIntyre. At the time of the 1911 census Jasper, aged 11, and his six siblings were living with his parents at Brook House, Apperley Bridge along with two servants. We are grateful to David Whithorn for sharing his extensive research into Jasper’s war: Like his brother Jack, Jasper McIntyre Whitehead also went to Woodhouse Grove School but left when 16 to complete his education at Sedburgh School. Conscripted He left here in March 1917 and most likely would have been conscripted straight into the army. At this stage of the war, his public school education would not have guaranteed him gaining an immediate commission and he would have had to join the ranks. Jasper was killed in action on 19 September 1918 and is buried in Epehy Wood Farm Cemetery, aged just 19. Originally he served as a Private with the 19th London
Regiment. However, due to casualties he had been transferred to the 3rd London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) when he was killed. Sadly, along with 66% of other ranks service records, Jasper's have not survived. This means finding further details about Jasper's service in the army is not possible. It is probable that Jasper would have been sent, having just completed his training, to the front in the early part of 1918 (when the German Spring Offensive had nearly broken through British lines). The normal age for conscription was 18, the trained soldier being then eligible for active service overseas at 19. By April 1918, this was reduced through dire need, enabling soldiers of 18 to go to the front. At this stage of the war, individual soldiers had little choice as to their posting, which may explain why Jasper ended up in a London rather than a Yorkshire regiment. Tide turned The tide of the war turned on 8 August 1918 when the allied counter-attack, began some weeks before, finally broke through the German lines and, more importantly resulted in large gains and thousands of German prisoners being taken in a single day. Thus began the 'Final 100 days' or the 'March to Victory'. The Allied advance proved unstoppable and on the Somme, by September, the advance had reached the village of Epehy. This village had originally been taken by the British in 1917 during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line and had remained in Allied hands until April 1918, when the Germans re-took it in their Spring offensive. It was now time for the Allies to re-capture this village (or what was left of it) for the final time. The attack was due to be spearheaded by the British 58th (London) Division. The first attack
took place on 7th September with 175th Brigade taking Saulcourt Wood to the southeast of Epehy. 174th Brigade pushed through them to attack the twin villages of Epehy and Pezieres (the 3rd Londons, with Jasper Whitehead, being in 173rd Brigade, in reserve, that day). The attack was successful, but not sufficiently so to be able to retain the ground gained. September 9 was given over to a full-scale bombardment of Epehy. It was decided to broaden the attack to include objectives north and south of Epehy by other divisions. The next attack took place on 10 September. Here 173th Brigade took over, the 2/2nd Londons would attack the line of strong points: McPhee Post, Morgan Post, Proctor Post, McClean Post through Pezieres and the northern part of Epehy. On their right, the 3rd Londons would attack alongside them with their southern objective of Fisher's Keep and the railway embankment on the far side of Epehy. It turned out that the preliminary bombardment had failed to silence many of the machine guns that held up the advance, began at 5.15am that morning. Although all the objectives were taken by these battalions, they still could not be held, as there had been little progress made on either flank by other units, leaving the successful London battalions liable to be cut off. Final attack As a result, they withdrew from their exposed positions almost back to their starting positions. These units stayed in the line for the next week sending out patrols, testing the German defences and consolidating their positions awaiting the next attack. The final attack on Epehy came on the 18 September. The plan was the same as on the 10 September. Again the 2/2 Londons and 3rd Londons successfully captured their objectives. This time the
flanking units also captured and held theirs. The 3rd Londons by now were reduced to attacking with just two composite companies. 173rd Brigade strength had been reduced from nearly 3000 to just 900. In the final consolidation of Epehy, the 3rd Londons had particular difficulty in subduing two German strongpoints (although these had been effectively surrounded), one being Fisher's Keep itself. Heroic The 3rd London's renewed their attack on the morning of 19 September and, together with the 1/1st Cambridge, they successfully took and held Fisher's Keep at 7.45pm that day. The defence of this position had been an heroic one, this being by 46 men of the Bavarian Alpine Corps. Only 11 of these remained at its capture It was during this final attack on Fisher's Keep that Pte Jasper Whitehead was killed. 173rd Brigade had given its all to capture Epehy and were finally relieved on the 20 September.
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