Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The first of two brothers to fall: Elphinstone Aplin, 13 May 1915


John and Francis Pepys 
Image credit: Charterhouse for Francis Pepys 

John and Francis Pepys were two brothers from Knowle, killed in action in 1914, as mentioned elsewhere  on this blog. Their heartbroken father died in 1920. 

Along with the 163 people linked to the Lower Otter Valley who lost their lives on active service during the First World War, many families sadly had to deal with the loss of more than one family member.

Finding at least half a dozen families from the Lower Otter Valley alone who lost two or even three sons between 1914 and 1918 is one of many  sobering indications of the scale of human suffering in the Great War.  Cruelly, some were even reported killed on the same day.


 Elphinstone Aplin, killed in action in May 1915
Image credit: Heather Aplin

Lieutenant Elphinstone D'Oyly Aplin was the son of Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Aplin and his wife Annie, of Links Road, Budleigh Salterton. He was born in 1892 at Upnor Castle, Rochester, but in 1901 according to the 1901 census, was living in West Teignmouth, Devon, as his father was working for the Royal Naval Ordnance Depot at St Budeaux, Plymouth.  Educated at Kelly College, Tavistock, he later moved to King's School, Rochester, before entering the Army in February 1913. He was promoted Lieutenant  in October 1914, joining the 2nd Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment and fighting in Flanders.  

The remains of trenches at Sanctuary Wood
©  Mo Sandford FRPS 2014
More of Mo Sandford's remarkable photos of World War I battlefields can be seen here

A few miles east of Ypres, in the area known as Sanctuary Wood, he and his men found themselves trapped by a barrage of enemy shell and rifle fire.  While attempting to lead them to safety he was severely wounded and died on 13 May 1915. 

Bailleul Communal Cemetery   
Image credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Elphinstone Aplin is buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery, in the Nord district of Northern France.


Eric Aplin, killed in action in March 1918
Image credit: Heather Aplin

In the final year of the war, Hugh and Annie Aplin received a second blow. Their son Eric, like his brother Elphinstone, had attended King's School, Rochester before joining the 2nd Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment. He was wounded at the Battle of Loos in September 1915, when gas was first used by the British, and was wounded again in November 1916 during the later stages of the Battle of the Somme. By 1918, now promoted to Captain, he was involved in the heavy fighting which had been taking place around the Belgian village of Passchendaele from July of the previous year.


Nine Elms Cemetery
Image credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Eric Aplin was mortally wounded on Passchendaele Ridge while leading an offensive patrol and died on 11 March. He is buried in Nine Elms Cemetery, shown above, west of the town of Poperinge in Belgium. Both brothers are remembered on the brass plaque in St Peter’s Church, Budleigh Salterton, and on the town’s war memorial.

‘The Great War at Fairlynch’ 2015 exhibition at Budleigh Salterton’s very special museum! Reviews included: “Wonderful display on WW1, informative, bright and relevant. Well done!! 


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