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Victor Louis Chevalier was born in 1882 in Flixton, Greater Manchester, his father, Henri Louis Chevalier and mother Ann Williams married in the Cathedral in Manchester on the 17th August 1874. This was his father`s second marriage, his first was to Harriet Howden in 1866 but she passed away just five years later. As Victor`s surname suggests he did have French ancestry, his Grandfather Victor Eugene Adolphus Chevalier was originally from Paris but his father Henri Louis was born in Manchester.

Victor was the youngest of three children, he had two sisters, Marie Adele born in 1875 in Manchester and Adeline born 1879 in Flixton. His father Henri Louis died in Manchester on the 9th November 1893 and two months after the death of her husband Ann Chevalier had 12 year old Victor baptised at St. Michael`s Church in Flixton, his baptismal record noting his father as Henri Louis Chevalier and his occupation a `foreign correspondent`.

In the Census of 1901 Victor, his mother and sister Adeline were living in Urmston, Manchester where Victor was employed as a `draughtsman` and his sister a `lady`s clerk`. His eldest sister Marie Adele (Watson) and her husband Henry and their 1 year old son Cuthbert were also living with the family. Not long after this Census was recorded Victor`s other sister Adeline married James Horncastle Watson a Master Mariner who was working out of the Port of Liverpool. At some point after Adeline and James` daughter Maddie was born in 1903 they moved to 162 Duke Street in Southport.  The Census of 1911 shows Victor and his mother also living at the same address in Southport with Adeline named as head of the household. Victor`s occupation was recorded as a draughtsman (engineering).

Victor enlisted on the 7th September 1914 at Preston, his occupation was noted as `draughtsman` and he was single and confirmed that he had no previous military experience. His home address was now 10 Riverside in Preston and prior to enlistment he had been employed in the drawing office at Dick Kerr`s Works on Strand Road in the town. His medical inspection revealed that he was five feet three and a half inches tall and he weighed 140lbs. He had blue eyes and brown hair and his only distinguishing feature was said to be a scar under his left elbow. Victor named his mother Ann of 162 Duke Street, Southport as his legal next of kin, this was later amended to Flat 2, 191 Lord Street, Southport. He was allocated the service number 13047 and posted to “D” Coy (Preston Pals) of the 7th Battalion LNL.

In the weeks following the outbreak of war, one of the local newspapers, the Preston Herald began to publish the names of the men who had enlisted, Victor`s name appears on the one shown below;

The 7th Battalion remained at home in training until the 17th July 1915 and then left their camp at Tidworth by train for Folkestone and from there made the crossing to Boulogne. The strength of the Battalion at this time was 30 Officers and 900 other ranks, the Battalion coming under the Command of the 56th Brigade of 19th (Western) Division. By the 3rd September 1915 Victor had been promoted to Lance Corporal (unpaid).

The Battalion took part in the Battle of the Somme and on the 20th July 1916 they marched from Henencourt Wood to Bazentin-le-Petit. It was here that they held an extended line of over 1000 yards in length. At 19:00 hours that night they managed to shoot down a German aeroplane with a Lewis gun, the plane bursting into flames just in front of their line. On the morning of the 23rd July 1916 the Battalion were ordered to attack the switch line with the intention of taking High Wood (there had been several attempts to take High Wood in the past week by other Divisions). Now it was the turn of the 19th Division (including the 7th Bn LNL) and the 1st Division. It was during this days` action that Victor Louis Chevalier met his death.

An unnamed member of the Preston Pals who survived the action later penned a letter describing the Battle, extracts from the letter appeared in the Preston Herald on the 26th August 1916;

WHAT THE PALS WENT THROUGH

“I wish to tell you all that I know and what exactly happened in the attack on the morning of 23rd July July. After being out for a rest behind Albert a few days after the first attack, orders came through suddenly on the night of the 19th July and we moved up to the trenches, straight into the support trenches the same night. We had been heavily shelled and it had been a long march up the valley, but we had a few casualties, and pushed forward through the remains of Bazentin-le-Petit and dug in about 400 yards in front of the village between two roads, with a ridge between us and the Huns rising to the right, and High Wood on the right flank.

We had some men sniped while we were digging in, then we held the shallow trench for three days in a very hot sun, with little water and no chance of making any tea, and no communication only over the top. On the first day we saw one of our planes bring down an Alleymayne plane down after a hard fight nearly over our heads and very near the floor. Our plane drew slightly away and our rifle and machine-gun fire finished the Bosche, one of the greatest sights we have seen.

On the night of the 22nd the heavy artillery on both sides were very active and the Hun sent a lot of high shrapnel over our trench, and the machine-guns played incessantly. There were the lights of a big strafe going on in High Wood and about 1 o`clock we were reinforced by our other two companies coming over the top from support just in front of the village.

In about ten minutes word came down “B” and “D” Companies prepare to mount the parapet and we saw our Captain (Thompson) and Sergeant Major getting over on the right. The boys went over and troops (regular and otherwise) never went over in better spirit in the face of a very heavy shrapnel and machine-gun fire. Things were not so bad till we got to the ridge, and we had kept in line and direction as well as possible in the dark.

MOWN DOWN LIKE CORN

When we got over the ridge we were met by a strong enfilade fire from the right, which mowed us down in rows like corn, and in a few minutes before we could get a footing in the trench, all our Officers were gone, and very few men left, and after two rushes to try and get into the trench on the right we had to withdraw and try to get back to our own trench. It was impossible to tell who was next to you, only by shouting. The bullets tore up the ground and tinkled as they hit the steel helmets, and a lot of chaps who got back, had bullet holes through their canteens, or their clothes ripped. There were very few of our platoon left. We were relieved very early that evening by another Regiment and went back into the reserve trench in the wood behind the village. During the day we were only able to get the chaps in who were wounded near our line”.

The action had been a costly one, the Battalion losses amounted to 11 Officers and 290 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.

Victor`s service record makes no mention of whether any of his personal items were ever returned to his mother in Southport.

After the war Ann Chevalier took receipt of her sons` 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

As Victor`s body was never recovered and as such he has no known grave his name was later added to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.

Victor`s name was also added to the War Memorial in Southport (pictured below);

The War Memorial can be found in London Square in Southport, the rolls of honour are located on the inside walls of the two large buildings on either side of the Memorial. The names of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment men who fell are in the building on the left of the photo, the section bearing Victor`s name is shown below;

Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 13047
Date of Death: 23/07/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, ‘D Coy’ 7th Bn.
Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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