Vernon JEPSON
Rank: Private
Number: PS/5133
Unit: 2nd Battalion ROYAL FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 15 April 1918
Age: 32
Cemetery: Ebblinghem Military Cemetery, Nord, France

James Jepson and Margaret Ann White (or Wight) had married at St Paul's Church, Withington, Manchester in the late spring of 1883. When Vernon was born three years later, the family was living somewhere in the area of the Heaton Norris Urban District Council. A daughter, Dorothy, was born in about 1893. When the Census was taken in 1901, the family was living at "Saltash", Queen's Drive, Heaton Mersey and this remained the family home at least until the early 1920s. James was an architect and surveyor and his income allowed the family the trappings of the middle classes of the time. A live-in general servant, Ellen Wall, was employed and Vernon was being educated at boarding school - Ashton Grammar School at Dunstable.

Nothing further is known about Vernon's life before the War but, when he came to enlist, he joined one of the so-called "public school" battalions of the Royal Fusilers. At some later point, he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion.

On 9 April 1918, the German Army launched the second phase of its spring offensive. As the first phase in March, it was devastatingly successful driving the British back many miles over the following days. Vernon and his comrades were not in the area of the attack on the first day but were rushed there as re-enforcements. They arrived on the 10th, immediately deploying to support troops holding positions at Estaires - a village 20 kilometres south of the French town of Bailleul. They were forced to withdraw at 4am.

At noon on the 11th, the Battalion took over defences at Le Doulieu, a few kilometres to the north of their previous position. Here they engaged in brisk fighting with the advancing Germans which held up the attack for several hours. The Germans had worked their way around the British position, leaving Le Doulieu as a small salient which it became difficult to hold. At about 2am on the 12th, a further withdrawal was made to a new position some two miles to the rear. The Fusiliers were heavily attacked at 9am and fell back to Bleu where they stayed until 4pm. The rest of the day was spent in a series of further retreats.

The next day, the 13th, they again came under heavy attack, but they held off the enemy on the left by the use of their light Lewis machine guns. The Germans then switched the emphasis of the attack to the right flank and, by nightfall, both flanks were exposed and the Germans were starting to work their way round to the rear. There was no option but a further retreat and the Battalion was relieved from the fighting during the night and moved to camp at Borre. They had been in the sector for just 52 hours and had suffered 339 casualties - dead, wounded or missing.

Vernon was amongst the wounded and had been evacuated to a field hospital - 2nd or 15th Casualty Clearign Station - at Ebblinghem. There, military surgeons would have done all they could to save his life, but without success.

   
           
   
     
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