A number of men in The Willis Tree fought ‘for King and Country’ during the Great War (1914-1918) and World War 2 (1939-1945). Â Two brothers – George and Edwin Pile – are recorded as showing exceptional bravery in the line of duty…
George was born in Pluckley, Kent in 1887, the fourth child of Jessie and Frances Pile. His brother Edwin Thomas was born in 1892.
Both brothers served as Privates in The Buffs (the East Kent Regiment), George in the 1st and 5th Regiments and Edwin in the 1st.
George PILE (1887-1917)
George was mentioned in the book Turkish Front 1914-1918 written by Field Marshall Lord Carver and published in 2003 (ISBN: 0-330-49108-3)
The following words were spoken by Sergeant J.W FARNOL of the 5th Battalion, The Buffs:
One of our fellows, a jolly brave old chap named George PILE, had been sent back for ammunition and could be seen with the box struggling along with it forward. The bullets were striking all round. Every moment we expected him to drop but he managed to reach us, laughing like ‘dood wallah’ [a milkman]. They [the Turks] very nearly put paid to your name that time Uncle some wag shouted. I don’t think that there’s a bullet made for me replied George. There wasn’t, for poor Uncle died a natural death at Amarah this summer, after many more narrow escapes of this nature.
George was clearly a very brave man!
He was killed on 19 June 1917 aged 30 and is buried in the Amara War Cemetery in Iraq.
During June 1917 the 5th battalion was inactive from a combat point of view. It spent most of the time at Bakuba and Abu Kamed on the Diala River. The weather was hot and humid and the battalion lost many men through heat stroke.
Edwin Thomas Pile (1892-1916)
Edwin was one of a band of local men who joined the Territorial Force in Pluckley in Kent at the suggestion of Doctor Waite and the village Rector.
After joining Edwin went to Kamptee in India with the 5th Buffs. He regularly wrote to the Rector of Pluckley about his war experiences. His last letter read –
The men are very determined to give a good show to Johnny Turk. We feel no fear and we are going onwards with a brave heart leaving the issue to God.
On the 6th January 1916 a signal came from Kut saying that large numbers of Turkish troops were moving downstream of the River Tigris towards Sheikh Saad. An aircraft spotted the troops entrenching both sides of the river. The Tigris Corps of which the Buffs was part of moved to meet the enemy. The 5th battalion attacked the Turk positions head on and by nightfall it became obvious the attack could not succeed.
The next day 7th January the Buffs alongside The Black Watch and The Seaforth Highlanders were again ordered to attack in strength. As the British moved forward under heavy fire the Turks attempted to encircle the Tigris Corps. By nightfall the position remained stalemate. It was later discovered that the Turks had withdrawn upstream. British Army casualties at Sheikh Saad were over 4,000 men.
Edwin was one of the fatalities that day, aged just 23 years old. He, like his brother, is buried in the Amara War Cemetery in Iraq.
Both brothers are commemorated on the war memorial in their home village of Pluckley in Kent.