Lieutenant Eric Unwin Laurie - MC

Date of Birth 11 October 1890
Age at Death 27
Date of Death 24 March 1918
Service Number
Military Service 58 Battalion Machine Gun Corps
Merton Address 3 Vineyard Hill Road, Wimbledon
Local Memorial Baptist Church, Wimbledon

Additional Information

Eric was born in 1890 in Rakwana, Ceylon ( now Sri Lanka. ) He was the son of a tea planter, Frank Laurie and his wife, Annie ( Nee Pigott ). The couple had two older children – Maxwell and Irene, plus four younger offspring - Beatrice, Gertrude, Winifred and Kathleen.
After spending his early years in Ceylon, Eric was sent to school in England. He attended Bishops Stortford College, Hertfordshire, as a day boy until c. 1901 and is likely to have joined the Officer Training Corps.

Eric appears to have returned to Ceylon at some point prior to the war. He was listed amongst the passengers travelling back to England in 1915 aboard the MALWA, before enlisting in the army. He secured a commission as Lieutenant in the Dorset Regiment, later transferring to the 58th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps. Formed in Grantham, the Battalion joined the 19th Division in France in February 1916.

The 58th Machine Gun Corps is known to have taken part in many of the key battles on the Western Front, such as the Battle of the Somme ( 1 July – 18 November 1916 ) and the Third Battle of Ypres,
( 31 July – 10 November, 1917 ) including the offensives at Messines Ridge, Polygon Wood and Passchendaele.

Eric was clearly a courageous officer and was awarded a Military Cross. According to Chris Pigott, this was "for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, firstly when acting as Liaison officer between Infantry & Machine guns, when he sent information of the situation which was of the highest value; and later, when in command of the five machine guns, one of which lay mounted in the most exposed position, on a bridge-head; for six and a half hours, he remained with the guns, firing almost continuously, despite his severe losses, and causing heavy enemy casualties. He set a magnificent example throughout of courage & resource."

Having survived some of the bloodiest attacks of the war, he was finally killed at the Battle of Chauny on March 23, 1918. The circumstances of his death were described by one of his men, Private H F Haine:
“Whilst wading through the marsh, Lieutenant E W Laurie was just behind me, after going a short distance he appeared to be wounded, as he suddenly sank, I looked around, but he never rose again”. Another unnamed soldier wrote to Eric’s father to say “[ I did ] what I could to assist your son… I was able to get him behind a fallen tree, but was unable to do more for him… I am very sorry I was able to do so little.”

Eric was originally buried where he had fallen but c.1920 his body was exhumed and reburied in Chauny Communal Cemetery, France. His headstone reads: “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.”

By the time of Eric’s death, his father had returned from Ceylon and was living at “Lankawa,” 3 Vineyard Hill Road. This may explain why Eric was also commemorated at Wimbledon Baptist Church.

His Brother in Law came from Australia for further Military training in the UK in 1920 and staying with Eric's parents, was overwhelmed by his welcome, being received into the family in Eric's place.


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