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  • Christina Drummond

Captain Charles Vincent Edmunds, 1st/5th Battalion, The Essex Regiment

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Captain Charles Vincent Edmunds, 1st/5th Battalion, the Essex Regiment, was killed in action in the First Battle of Gaza.

The son of the vicar of Broomfield in Chelmsford, Captain Edmunds was educated at Repton, then went on to Cambridge where he obtained an M.A. degree. Before the war he worked as a tutor at Windlesham House and Winton House, Winchester. He enlisted at the outbreak of the Great War, and served as a private for a fortnight before being promoted to lance-corporal. He was commissioned in 1915, and served as adjutant of his battalion. In November of 1916 he left England for service on the Western Front, then on to Palestine in 1917.

The Battle of Gaza was considered to have been a success by some, a defeat by others. General Sir Archibald Murray sent a message to the War Office: “"We have advanced our troops a distance of fifteen miles from Rafa to the Wadi Ghuzzee, five miles west of Gaza, to cover the construction of the railway. On the 26th and 27th we were heavily engaged east of Gaza with a force of about 20,000 of the enemy. We inflicted very heavy losses upon him ... All troops behaved splendidly.” Lieutenant General Charles Macpherson Dobell reported: “This action has had the result of bringing the enemy to battle, and he will now undoubtedly stand with all his available force in order to fight us when we are prepared to attack. It has also given our troops an opportunity of displaying the splendid fighting qualities they possess. So far as all ranks of the troops engaged were concerned, it was a brilliant victory, and had the early part of the day been normal victory would have been secured. Two more hours of daylight would have sufficed to finish the work the troops so magnificently executed after a period of severe hardship and long marches, and in the face of most stubborn resistance.” The enemy didn’t agree, dropping messages from a plane: “You beat us at communiqués, but we beat you at Gaza." The defeat was considered small by Western Front standards – the British were up against 20,000 of the enemy and suffered these losses: 523 killed, 2,932 wounded and over 500 missing, including five officers and 241 other ranks known to be prisoners.

Charles, from Chelmsford was 33 years old.

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