Genealogy 4 – Tragic Hero
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Having followed the family ‘pedigree’ line back to the 1600’s the focus now turns to specific individuals and events that occurred within the family. During the last century, there were two world wars, and no family in Britain escaped them. Every family has its own stories of heroism, the blitz, evacuations and tragedy. Most tragic of all are the numbers who gave their lives for the freedom we have today. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a Debt of Honour register containing details of 1.7 million members of the commonwealth forces (plus 67,000 civilians) who lost their lives during these conflicts.
John Torry, whose life we have already explored had a cousin Alfred Freer Torry. Alfred’s son, Arthur James Dashwood Torry born in 1886 saw active service during the first world war, being given a commission in April 1915. In September 1915 Lieut. Torry was attached to the North Midland Heavy Battery, one of the first territorial batteries to go to the front, and joined them in Flanders, where he remained until the Somme offensive, when with some other North Midland officers he joined the 132nd Heavy Battery on the Somme. He was slightly wounded in October 1916, but remained on duty. At the taking of Thiepval he went out with a telephone wire immediately behind the Infantry, and was able to send word through of their position. For this deed he was awarded the Military Cross, the official announcement being: “He established and maintained communication under very heavy fire, displaying great courage and determination.” This was one of the 2885 Military Crosses awarded during WWI.
The feat, for which he was awarded the Military Cross, is thus described by another officer in a letter to Lieutenant Torry’s family : “We were both detailed for forward observation work on the 26 September 1916, when the attack was made on the Zollern, Hessian and Regina trenches, resulting in the capture of the two former. The greatest difficulty was experienced in keeping the communications intact, but it was done, and some useful information thus obtained. It was an exceedingly hot time, and your brother was the most fearless man I have ever had the pleasure to meet. On that day our wire was running short, and he took the wire over the top of the trenches to save taking it round the traverses which would have necessitated the use of more wire, and he would do it himself and not endanger the lives of the remainder of the party, five in number, by allowing them to do it. By the goodness of God we all returned safely that day, although personally I hardly thought we could.”
In the summer of 1917 he applied for transfer to the Royal Flying Corps, and came to England in September for training. He left for the Front as an observer R.F.C. on October 2nd and was killed in aerial combat on October 9th. With the exception of his month’s training and an occasional ten days’ leave he had been at the Front without intermission from September 1915 until his death. Another officer wrote as follows : “There was an attack on October 9th, and a number of planes took off for patrol work to keep the Hun from crossing our lines. Quite unexpectedly two Hun planes dropped out of the clouds a few hundred feet above them and attacked from both sides at once. Arthur got his machine-gun on one of them, but the other had pretty much his own way for a few seconds, and one of his bullets got Arthur. By this time some of our other machines arrived and drove off the Huns. Arthur had been badly hit, and only lived a minute or two and was dead when they landed at the aerodrome a few minutes later. His Flight Commander and other officers all spoke of him in the very highest terms, although they said he had been with them such a short time.”
He is commemorated, and his name is on the war memorial, in St Marys Churchyard, Marston Morteyne (Bedfordshire) where his father Alfred was Rector. However, his actual grave is in a military cemetery in Belgium. You need to find the reference of his grave (a roman numeral, a letter and a 2-digit number) in order to find the cache. If the roman numeral is A, the letter B (converted to a number as in A=1,B=2 C=3 etc), and the two digit number C, then the cache is on a footpath at :N 53 20.(A+B+B)*(B+C) W 002 59.A*(C-B)
Parking is not recommended on the nearest road as this is busy and does not give direct access to the cache location. Instead I’d suggest parking in the housing estate at the co-ordinates at the top of this listing, as this is far safer, and you’ll also find an easy way to walk to the cache.