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Robert (22), a harness maker, and Elizabeth Stile (23) appear on the 1891 Census living together at 43 Spring Cottage, Kilmington, near Axminster, Devon.
The family next appear on the 1901 Census living at 21 Silver Street, Kilmington, near Axminster, Devon. Robert, the head of the family is absent from this census, and his wife is shown as the head of the house. They married in Alphington, St.Thomas, Exeter in 1890, so why he wasn't living at the family home in 1901 is unknown, he is boarding elsewhere, and his own entry on the census is availble in the links below.
Robert does , however re-appear with his family on the Census of 1911. At that time, the family were living at 4 South Lea Terrace, Pinhoe, near Exeter, Devon. Robert was still working as a harness maker, with his sons William John (19) working as a tailor, and Walter Robert (14) an apprentice tailor. The other children were still at school; George (12), Arthur James (10), Rose Ellen (6) and Reginald (4).
Later that same year, in 1911, Robert Stile died, aged 42.
Whilst no solid evidence has been found, in addition to William, Walter and Arthur who are listed below, George probably served too. The most likely candidate indicates he may have joined up under age with the Devonshire Regiment and served in the "Adriatic" campaign, Probably in Italy.
Robert Stile (The Father) - Birth in 1869
Robert Stile (The Father) on 1871 Census
Robert Stile (The Father) 1881 Census
Robert and Elizabeth on the 1891 Census
William John Stile - Birth in 1891
Arthur James Stile - Birth in 1900
The Stile Family on the 1901 Census (Robert Absent)
Robert Stile boarding elswhere on 1901 Census
The Stile Family on the 1911 Census
Robert Stile - Death in 1911
Walter Robert STILE (Private)
1964 (Later 457211), Royal Army Medical Corps
Military Medal*, British War Medal and Victory Medal
*Replica gap filler
19 year old Walter Robert Stile went to France in January 1916 with the 2nd/1st Wessex Field Ambulance, as part of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division. The division contained 3 different Field Ambulances, the other two being the 2nd/1st and 3rd West Lancashire FA. Each Field Ambulance, when at full strength, comprised of 10 officers and 224 men. The theoretical capacity of one of the Field Ambulances was 150 casualties, but in battle they needed to deal with very much greater numbers. Walter's unit would be responsible for every man in the 55th Division's immediate medical needs.
The duties of a Field Ambulance were varied, but included establishing and operating a number of points along the casualty evacuation chain, from the Bearer Relay Posts which were up to 600 yards behind the Regimental Aid Posts in the front line, taking casualties rearwards through an Advanced Dressing Station (ADS) to the Main Dressing Station (MDS). It also provided a Walking Wounded Collecting Station, as well as various rest areas and local sick rooms. Members of the RAMC did not carry weapons or ammunition, and whilst they did wear a "red cross" armband and it was generally accepted that medics would not be fired at, artillery was far more indescriminate and being a stretcher bearer in no-mans land was an extremely risky business.
After seeing action near Arras in April, the 55th Division moved to the Somme area and saw action prior to The Battle of Guillemont in early August 1916. They alone sustained 4,126 casualties in the month of August, almost half of their original full strength. During the action a member of the 55th Divison, Captain N. G. Chevasse, Royal Army Medical Corps and attatched 1/10th King's (Liverpool Regiment), was awarded a Victoria Cross. He would later become one of only three people to be awarded it twice. Walter would have seen the carnage of the battle first hand, with the other members of the RAMC.
On the 5th September 1916 the 55th Division moved to the front line on the North-East Fringe of Delville Wood on the Somme, later engaging in battle for the "Brewery Trenches". They were relieved on the 12th September. Between the 18th-28th September they were back on the line near Fler, participating in attacks of "Gird Lines" to the West of Gueudecourt. They went on to take part in The Battle of Ginchy, followed by a short rest period before being thrown back into the Battle of Morval. The 55th Division was then moved to the Ypres salient, where it remained for up to a year.
In 1917 the division took part in the Third Battles of Ypres (Battle of Passchendaele) ( 31 July – 10 November 1917) and Cambrai (20 November – 7 December 1917).
Some time during the Third Battles of Ypres, Walter Robert Stile was awarded the Military Medal for "bravery in the field". It is mentioned in the book "The Story of the 2/1st Wessex Field Ambulance 1914-1919" (shown above - click to enlarge). Unfortunately there were no published citations for MMs during WW1, but he was listed in the London Gazette of the 2nd Novemeber 1917 (shown below - click to enlarge). The unit's war diary may mention the action which earned him this gallantry award, and further research into this is pending. His Military Medal has at some point become separated from his other medals, and I would be looking to re-unite the group should it ever re-surface.
Nothing else is known about Walter's service. He may have subsequently been with the Division at the Battle of Estaires in 1918, where it successfully fought the "First Defence of Givenchy", where they fought off constant attacks by three German divisions between 9–16 April. Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée was eventually selected as the location of a large memorial to the Division (shown below - click to enlarge). By the Armistice of 11 November 1918, the division had reached the Tournai area, having advanced fifty miles in eighty days.
In 1923, Walter and his wife Lillian Kate Stile (nee Mills) had a son, also called Walter Robert. Our Walter appears to have stayed in the Exeter area and he died there on the 19th Novemeber 1965.
William John STILE (Lance Corporal)
O/4309, 30th Company, Army Ordnance Corps
British War Medal and Victory Medal plus Bronze Memorial Plaque
Very little is known about William's war service. What we do know is that he probably signed up around the same time as his brother Walter, and joined the Army Ordnance Corps. The main job of the AOC was to repair and maintain armaments and munitions. It was both a supply and repair corps. In the supply area it had responsibility for weapons, armoured vehicles and other military equipment, ammunition and clothing and certain minor functions such as laundry, mobile baths and photography.
William served in the Middle East as part of the Mesopotamian campaign, and sadly died on the 28th March 1918, aged 26. He was buried and remembered with honour in the Basra War Cemetery. He is also remembered on the "Basra Panels" outside of the city at the Basra War Memorial (shown bleow - click to enlarge), and in the Basra Books of Rememberance held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commision.
The Basra War Cemetery has been repeatedly vandalised and looted follow the fall of Saddam Hussein. When British troops first took control of the city in 2003, wreaths were laid at the cemetery on Remembrance Sunday for the first time in decades. Some soldiers even honoured the graves of relatives who had died in action during WW1 (shown below - 2005).
However in 2007, it became impractical for the British forces to protect the site. The locals destroyed what was left of the cemetery and turned the area into a makeshift football pitch. It was too dangerous for the Commonwealth War Graves Commision to maintain, and now, after complete destruction of the cemetery, it is unlikly William's grave will ever be found to be properly marked once again. Although a new perimter fence has gone up, and the erected goalposts removed, all that remains of the 4000 headstone markers is a few small heaps of rubble. Click to enlarge the photos below taken in 2015 at the start of clear up works, removing the innappropriate structures and installing new perimeter fencing. The full article in The Telegraph from 2013 can also be found below.
William John Stile - Medal Index Card
William John Stile - Medal Roll
William John Stile - Effects Register Entry
William John Stile - Effects Register Entry 2
William John Stile - Grave Registration Document
William John Stile - Grave Registration Document 2
William John Stile - Headstone Schedule
William John Stile - Headstone Schedule 2
William John Stile - Memorial Certificate (PDF)
William John Stile - Basra Panel List
The Telegraph - 10 Nov 2013 - Article on Basra War Cemetery Destruction
Arthur James STILE (Private)
8/40225, 53rd (Young Soldiers) Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment
No Medals Issued
Arthur Joined the army immedietly after turning 18 years old. He was placed in the "Young Soldiers" battalion of the local infantry regiment. This unit was designed to train young soldiers, and despatch them to replace losses in other units in France.
Arthur died of flu during the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic in England, spread throughout 1918 by returning soldiers before he even got the chance to go to France, just two weeks before the armistice which effectively ended the war in Europe. As he never served abroad, he was not entitled to any medals. He is buried and remembered with honour in St. Michaels Churchyard, Pinhoe, near Exeter, Devon (headstone below - click to enlarge).
Arthur James Stile - Cemetery Register
Arthur James Stile - Effects Register
Arthur James Stile - Grave Registration
Arthur James Stile - Grave Registration 2
Arthur James Stile - Headstone Schedule
Arthur James Stile - Memorial Certificate (PDF)
Pinhoe War Memorial
Both Arthur and William are named on the Pinhoe War Memorial in the churchyard of St. Michaels near Exeter in Devon. See images below (click to enlarge).