Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1918, Private Wallace Victor Tout, 12th (Service) Bristol Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment, was shot and killed at Le Vert Bois farm while taking a wounded man on a stretcher to safety.
One of five children, after leaving school he worked on a farm in Chapel Allerton. At the outbeak of the Great War he was working for the Chiesman brothers who owned a large successful department store in Lewisham (later acquired by the House of Fraser), having already spent a period of time with the City of London Fusiiers (Territorial Force).
Private Tout re-enlisted in the 20th Battalion, County of London Regiment (Blackheath and Woolwich). Six weeks later he was discharged as medically unfit, but was determined to serve and was finally accepted in the Royal Army Service Corps – he arrived in France in November of 1915 as part of the Expeditionary Forces Canteen, the pre-runner of the NAAFI. Some of the mobile canteens were situated very close to the front lines, selling food, tea and assorted goods.
Infantry units suffering heavy casualties meant that soldiers could be transferred from the Royal Army Service Corps, so in November of 1917 Private Tout joined the 12th (Service) Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. The battalion had suffered the loss of 350 men during the Battle of Passchendaele and was under strength. Private Tout travelled with them to Italy and trained in the mountains near Bassano, after which, in January of 1918, the battalion occupied the Italian frontline trenches. Two months later they were ordered back from Italy just before the German Spring Offensive. Private Tout saw action during the Battle of Hazebrouck, and after a brief respite the battalion returned to the frontline tenches, where they were bombarded with gas shells and explosives. They suffered serious losses after a German attack on the 12th of April.
On the 22nd of April the battalion held the line opposite two farms, Le Vert Bois and Rafia, which were located southeast of the Nieppe Forest. On the 25th they attacked the farms in order to occupy a new line - they were successful, capturing a mile of line with a depth averaging five hundred feet, but suffered the deaths of twenty-three men, including Private Tout. He was shot in the head and died instantly as he helped to take a wounded man to safety. One of his superior officers wrote to his parents: “He was buried by his comrades near where he fell. He met his death in a most gallant manner, trying to alleviate the pains of his comrade and during the whole time he was in the line he always did his duty in an exceptionally brave and faithful way. He is much missed by all his fellows as his cheery disposition had endeared him to them all”.
The whereabouts of the grave referred to in the letter are not known, so Private Tout is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Hainaut in Belgium. He is also commemorated on a marble plaque in the Mark Church, on which are carved the words “Peace after strife”. He is commemorated also on a stained glass window at Allerton Church on the Isle of Wedmore.
Wallace, from Mark Causeway in Somerset, was 30 years old.