Private Cecil Berkeley French

Additional Information

Cecil was born on 6 January, 1887 and baptised one month later at St. Mark’s Church, Surbiton. He was the son of stockbroker, William French and his wife Clara. The couple also had two younger sons, Vernon and Kenneth. During the 1890s the family lived at Kent Villa, Claremont Road, Surbiton, later moving to 7 Victoria Road.

Cecil was educated at Shrewsbury House School, Surbiton and King’s College School, Wimbledon. By the age of 22, he had moved out of the family home and was living as a boarder in Thames Ditton, whilst working as a stock exchange clerk.

Cecil volunteered for military service on 26 August, 1914, just three weeks after war was declared. He joined the 10th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers – this was effectively a “Pals” battalion. Raised by the Lord Mayor and City of London on 21 August 1914, its 1600 recruits were chiefly drawn from business staff in the City, including many stockbrokers. At the time of his enlistment Cecil was described as 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing 126 lbs, with brown hair and eyes.

By September 1914, Cecil’s unit had become part of the 54th Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division. In March 1915 the men joined the 111th Brigade for training on Salisbury Plain. They were sent to France in July, landing at Boulogne before moving to the conflict zone. On 4 February, 1916 Cecil suffered a severe wound to the abdomen. He died four days later – one of 400 men from the 10th Battalion to die on the Western Front. He is buried in the Doullen Communal Cemetery in the Somme region of France and commemorated on the war memorial at King’s College School, Wimbledon.


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