Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Minia Camp

Cheshire Yeomanry arrived at Alexandria, Egypt, on 14 March 1916. The 25 officers and 451 men remained on board HMT Haverford until 15 March, when they disembarked and entrained in open cattle trucks for camp at Beni Salama. This camp in the desert was not popular with the men or officers and it was likely with some relief then that the Regiment moved to Minia, some 150 miles south of Cairo, on 18 April.

The men, accompanied by the Shropshire Yeomanry, travelled by rail again in open trucks. The journey was made at night to avoid the heat of the day and arriving at Minia around 2:00am they tramped three quarters of a mile laden with kitbags to their new camp in a wadi near the Nile. Once the new camp was established field training continued, including rifle fire at targets.

The Nile. Our camp at Minia (T.B. Minshall)

The Regiment had been sent to Minia to prepare for operations against the Senussi, a religious sect in Egypt, Sudan and Arabia, who were persuaded by Turkey to attack the British. A coastal threat had been defeated before the Yeomanry arrived in Egypt, however inland the Senussi had occupied oases to the west of the Nile.

T.B. Minshall
At this time, the Regiment was responsible for sending out regular reconnaissance patrols on camels to see if there was any sign of the Senussi. Lasting four or five days, these patrols were a considerable ordeal in the prevailing temperature of 110 degrees (43 deg. C) and a scorching wind. Wrist watches, knives, spoons and forks were too hot to touch.

When Lieutenant Aldersey returned from patrol on 13 May 1916, Lieutenant Soames insisted in taking his turn, despite being unwell the previous week. Three days later he returned, barely recognisable and was admitted to Minia Hospital.

On the night of 18/19 May 1916 both Lieutenant William Noel Soames and Lance Corporal Thomas Bolton, of Cheshire Yeomanry, died at Minia. Their deaths appear to have been related to heart disease and the rigours of the climate. They were buried together in the Coptic Cemetery the next evening.

Lt. Soames
William Noel Soames was the son of Frederick William Soames (1857-1926) and Julia Mary West (1859-1940). Frederick was the owner of F.W. Soames and Co. Brewery in Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales, and the family are recorded at Llwyn Onn Hall there in the 1891 census, and Plas Power Hall in 1901.

William was born at Wrexham, on 6 January 1889. He was educated at Cheam School, Cheltenham College, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Before the war he was manager of the family business. He received his commission in the Cheshire Yeomanry on 2 July 1912, and was promoted to Lieutenant on 26 August 1914. He was assigned to B Squadron. At the time of departure of the Cheshire Yeomanry from England, in March 1916, he was Orderly Officer.

News of Lieutenant Soames death was published in various newspapers, including the following:

Liverpool Echo - Monday 22 May 1916


Mr. Frederick W. Soames, of Bryn Estyn, Wrexham, has just sustained a second bereavement in the war by the death, in Egypt, from heart disease, of his eldest surviving son, Lieutenant Noel Soames. This officer, who was 27 years of age, went out in February last with his regiment, the Cheshire Yeomanry, of which he had been a member for four years, and died last Thursday while on camel outpost duty.

Prior to the war he was manager for several years for Messrs. F.W. Soames and Company, Limited, brewers. His brother, Captain Henry Soames of the Royal Flying Corps, was killed in this country some months ago by the fragments of an experimental bomb.*

Footnote by FWWj
* Captain Arthur Henry Leslie Soames, of the 3rd King’s Own Hussars, and Squadron Commander of the Royal Flying Corps was killed in 7 July 1915. He was attached to the Central Flying School at Upavon, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, and fatally injured while testing a high explosive bomb by means of a fuse. He was behind a tree 90-100 yards away from the explosion, but was struck by a piece of the projectile, and died shortly afterwards.

Lt. Soames' grave
Pictured right is the original grave of Lieutenant Soames.
The inscription reads:


MAY 18TH 1916


Besides the grave of Lieut. Soames, can be seen that of Private William Isaac, 55th Field Bakery A.S.C., who died on 26 June 1916. (Service number S4/157241)

Thomas Greenall Bolton was born at Greenfield, Yorkshire, in 1884, the son of Thomas Bolton (1846-1913) and Elizabeth Porteous (b1849). Thomas (senior) and Elizabeth were both born in Preston, Lancashire, and this is where the family were living in 1891 and 1901 and where Thomas was employed as a carter. In 1901 Thomas G. Bolton was an apprentice wood turner, and his obituary notice below carries a little further information. According to his entry in the Army Registers of Soldier’s Effects his cause of death was heart failure.

Lancashire Evening Post - Monday 05 June 1916

Preston Soldier’s Death

Mr. W. Bolton, 3 Park-road, Preston, has been officially notifed that his brother, Lance-Corporal Bolton, Cheshire Yeomanry, died on active service on May 18th. He was a Preston man, and was 33 years of age. He enlisted on the outbreak of the war, prior to which he was employed by Colonel De. Knoop, Calveley Hall, Tarporley, Cheshire.

The graves of Lieutenant Soames and Private William Isaac, pictured above, are their original burial locations at Minia. This is also where Thomas Bolton was buried. On 30 April 1960 they were reburied at Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt. In all, 85 First World War graves were concentrated here from Minia War Cemetery.

These soldiers, and others who were buried in smaller or isolated cemeteries, were exhumed and reburied in war cemeteries. The concentration of cemeteries allowed otherwise unmaintainable graves to be moved into established war grave cemeteries where the Commonwealth War Graves Commission could ensure proper commemoration.

Lives of the First World War:

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