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Basil Owen Tatham (1884-1915)

Report on his military service
compiled by The Yorkshire Regiment Museum and Archive

CAPTAIN BASIL OWEN TATHAM

According to the regimental journal "The Snapper", Basil Owen Tatham was the elder surviving son of Mr and Mrs Arthur Thomas Tatham, of Doddlespool Hall, Crewe. Basil Tatham was educated at Charterhouse and, at eighteen years of age, on 3rd June 1902, was given a Militia commission as a Second Lieutenant, in 3rd Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment.

The Militia was a part-time organisation where, after initial training, the officers and men would return to civilian life; each year they would report to the regimental depot (Victoria Barracks, Beverley) for a month in the summer for training. In the event of a war the Battalion was used to supplement the regular army. In 1908, the Militia became the Special Reserve. The only change apart from the title was that, in war, the members of the Battalion would go as individuals as reinforcements to the regular Battalions.

Basil Tatham was promoted Lieutenant and appointed the 3rd Battalion's Instructor of Musketry on 2nd June 1906; as Instructor of Musketry he was the officer in charge of rifle training. He was promoted Captain on 6th August 1907.

B O Tatham was recorded as attending annual training camps in 1904, 1905, 1906 and 1907. He was not included in the lists of officers attending camps in 1908,1909, 1910 and 1911; in 1912 he was recorded as formally excused attendance at camp because he had submitted his resignation. Captain Tatham resigned his commission in 1912, on taking up the managership of a rubber plantation in Malaya. The Snapper of August 1912 records Captain Tatham's resignation as from 13th July 1912.

Returning home at the outbreak of war, Basil Tatham was appointed Captain in 3rd Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, based at Hedon in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The January 1915 edition of The Snapper shows Captain Tatham commanding 'G' Company, based at Hessle Road in Hull. He was not mentioned in a report of the Battalion's October 1914 activities in the November 1914 edition of The Snapper; it may be that at that time Captain Tatham was attending some course or other to fit him for his duties.

Captain Tatham left Hedon with 50 soldiers on 9th February 1915 en route for France. At that time the 2nd Battalion was 'resting' at Vlamertinghe, near Ypres. On llth February it went into trenches in the Ypres salient. It was relatively quiet until 17th February, when the Germans blew a mine under part of the Battalion's trenches and occupied them. The Battalion regained their positions at a cost of 70 casualties. On 21st February, the Battalion left the trenches and moved into huts near Vlamertinghe. On 26th February, the war diary records Captain Tatham as Officer Commanding 'C' Company, one of four rifle companies in the Battalion. On that day the Battalion moved into trenches near Zillebeke, where it remained until proceeding again to Vlamertinghe on 1st March. On 5th March, the Battalion was in Bailleul, and Captain Tatham, together with a few other officers, is recorded in the war diary as visiting trenches at Wulverghem.

March was relatively quiet, the Battalion being in and out of the trenches and having 63 casualties.

On 3rd April, the Battalion went to Westoutre where it remained in rest until proceeding, on 9th April, to the front line near Zonebeke. The Battalion alternated between Zonebeke trenches and rest at Ypres until 23rd April when it was at St. Jean. At 4.30pm the Battalion was ordered to attack German positions 1,500 yards to their front. The East Yorkshires advanced under heavy German shell-fire and machine guns. Losses were extremely heavy (14 officers and 369 soldiers) and it was realised that even in the unlikely event of the German positions being taken, they would be impossible to hold. Captain Tatham is recorded in the war diary as one of the officers who died. His identified body was never found and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate.

In April 1916 The Snapper commemorated the 2nd Battalion's fighting on 23rd April 1915. It mentions no names but uses pseudonyms. Reference is made to "Capt. Tatters, the soul of joy and life, who, when wounded severely in both legs and strongly recommended by Major Po to take cover in a shell hole, merely clamoured for a cigarette, which he had hardly time to light when he was unfortunately struck in the head by a fragment of shell and passed cheerily away West". Tatters seems likely to be a nickname for Tatham; no other officer of the regiment who died that day had a similar name that might attract such a nickname.

Captain Tatham's active service in 1915 earned him the bronze 1914/15 Star. His star automatically earned him the silver British War Medal 1914-20 and the bronze Victory Medal 1914-20. These campaign medals would have been sent to his father, as next-of-kin. His father would also have received a named copy of the large bronze memorial plaque.

Graham Dyson
Assistant Curator
The Yorkshire Regiment Museum and Archive
02 May 2012


Linked toBasil Owen Tatham (Military Service)

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