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Henry Bussell killed in action

 Bussell final

We honour our fellow Wellensian, Lt. Henry Richard Bussell (OW 1897) who died for his country exactly 100 years ago, on 17th August 1917 at Langemark, near Ypres.

Henry was serving with the 5th Battalion (and attached to the 7th Bn.) of the Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s). The Battalion was part of 61 Brigade, 20th Division and fought in the battle of Passchendaele, an allied attack which had begun on 31st July.

On 16th August the Brigade was responsible for a front about 700 yards wide on the western bank of the Steenbeek brook less than half a mile from the village of Langemark. From zero hour at 4.45am, the Brigade crossed the brook and had a comparatively easy advance (apart from endless deep mud) with 7th Bn. Somerset LI and 7th Bn. King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry advancing to take the first two objectives, coming under fire from Au Bon Gite until that was taken by 12th Bn. The Rifle Brigade of 60 Bde. The advance continued, taking a blockhouse west of Langemarck and Langemarck Station. 12th Bn. The King’s (Liverpool) Regt and 7th Bn., Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry then took over and continued to the final objective by 7.45 am.

So, the day before he died, Henry took part in the advance across the Steenbeek within a few hundred yards and on the same day as Harry Patch (7th Bn. Duke of Cornwall’s LI), ‘the last Tommy’, who died at Wells aged 111 in 2009.

On 17th August the Battalion War Diary records;

“At 2pm OC 7/Som LI was ordered to arrange a further attack on the enemy in conjunction with 60 Bde. The 7 DCLI & 12 Kings were each allotted half of the task with 7 KOYLI & 7 Som LI in support. Zero hour was at 7pm. At 6.30pm advanced Bde HQ was established in a concreted bunker NE of the village. Our artillery commenced on objective at 6.30pm and as soon as it commenced the enemy commenced shelling the NE end of the village and heavy machine gun fire came from the right flank and rifle fire from the left flank. At 7pm the 12th Kings having moved forward, C & B coys 7 Som LI occupied the line vacated by them. At about 7.30pm OC 7 Kings sent back a message to say that he thought a few of his men had reached the objective, that he had had heavy casualties and asked for reinforcements. B & D coys were pushed forward with orders to join the 12th Kings and found them held up by the boggy and impassable ground. The Battn on the right was also held up so OC 7 Som LI gave orders to dig in & OC 15th Welsh agreed to take over the situation as it stood and carry on with the relief which was completed by 1am.
Casualties estimated at 4 officers killed, 8 officers wounded. OR: 33 killed, 18 missing and 121 wounded.”

Sadly, one of those officers was 2nd Lt. Henry Bussell aged 38. His body was never found and his name is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial and also at the Estate Duty Office.

At Wells, Henry was a star scholar. In the fifth form he won a Bronze medal, The Dean’s Prize for English Composition, The Plumtre Memorial Prize for Greek Testament and The Collins Prize for Drawing. In the previous year he had also won four prizes.

He was the younger son of Prebendary Barton Bussell and Mrs Catherine Bussell who lived at 4, New St., Wells. In Feb. 1904 Henry joined the civil service at the Estate Duty Office at Somerset House. Immediately on the outbreak of war in 1914 he enlisted voluntarily as a private in the Prince of Wales' Own Civil Service Rifles. In 1916 he was gazetted an officer with the 5th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry.

We will remember them.

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