Two local officers died in France on 6th July 1917: Captain Cyril Arthur Mecrate Butcher 10th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (attached 62nd Trench Mortar Battery) and Second Lieutenant Henry Joseph Watlington, Royal Flying Corps.
Although the Commonwealth War Graves entry lists Captain Butcher as the son of John Herbert Butcher, it seems that John Butcher was actually Cyril’s stepfather. Cyril Arthur Mecrate was born in Shrewsbury in 1896 and he was the eldest of the two sons of parents Robert Nash Mecrate and Anna Kathleen (née Griffiths). His brother, Patrick Seymour Mecrate, was born in Knowle on 7th January 1900.
In 1893 Robert Nash Mecrate was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the 1st Worcestershire and Warwickshire Volunteer Artillery. He resigned his commission in 1898.
In 1901, the family was living in Leamington Spa, with 36-year-old Robert recorded as an insurance agent. Robert died in 1904, leaving his widow, Anna, with two young sons. She married bachelor John Herbert Butcher, a manufacturer, at Edgbaston on 22nd February 1906, and her sons subsequently adopted their stepfather’s surname. John and Anna also had a son together, Herbert William Eric Butcher, who was born on 16th May 1907 and who served in the Royal Army Service Corps during the Second World War, being awarded the MBE (military division) in 1944.
By 1911, the family home was in Moseley Road, Birmingham, although Cyril and Patrick were both at boarding school. Cyril attended West Buckland School, Devon from 1909-1912, whilst Patrick was at the Convent of the Visitation School, Bridport, Dorset. Both boys are listed under their birth surname of Mecrate.
After leaving school, Cyril joined Manifoldia, a wholesale printing firm in West Bromwich. With the outbreak of war, he enlisted in September as a Private (no. 2810) in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, first entering a theatre of war on 22nd March 1915. He subsequently attended officer training as was commissioned Temporary Second Lieutenant with 10th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) on 16th January, joining “A” Company on 22nd January 1916. He was later in command of a Trench Mortar Battery, assuming the rank of acting Captain. He was killed in action on 3rd July 1917 and is buried at Boyelles Communal Cemetery Extension.
Cyril’s address was listed in probate records as Batts Hill, Warwick Road, Knowle, although his mother and stepfather subsequently moved to Beaucastle, Bewdley. According to The Price a Parish Paid, by Michael Harrison, at the time of his death Cyril was engaged to Miss Undine Nancy Weaving who, in 1924, married Gilbert Thomas Walker, brother of Eric Arthur Walker, who was killed in 1915.
Cyril’s brother, Patrick, changed his name by deed poll in January 1935, stating that he was renouncing his previous surname of Mecrate, and the surname Butcher, by which he was usually known, and adopting the surname Mecrate-Butcher instead. He married Nance Jessie Jacobs in Birmingham in the same year and their only son was given the first name, Cyril, presumably in memory of Patrick’s brother.
Henry Joseph Watlington was born in Bermuda on 14th September 1896 and was the eldest son of Henry William Watlington, a Member of the Colonial Parliament who was knighted in 1933, and his wife Lucy (née Trott) who had married in Bermuda in 1891. The couple had another son – Hereward Trott Watlington (born 1902) – and five daughters: Marjorie Trott (born 1900); Helen Elizabeth (born 1904); Lucy Clare (born 1906); and Anna Louisa (born 1909).
Henry attended Upper Canada College in Toronto from 1911-1914 and joined the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps in September 1914, which left Bermuda for England in May 1915 and reached the front in July 1915. He was severely wounded in the hip the following winter, and spent five months in hospital in England. He trained for a commission in the Royal Flying Corps, being posted to Denham Aerodrome in October 1916, before being transferred to Oxford. He was posted to 28 Reserve Squadron at Castle Bromwich in April 1917 but then spent a month at Turnberry Aerodrome in Scotland, which was used for aerial fighting and gunnery school training. He returned to Castle Bromwich at the end of May 1917 and was posted to 70th Squadron on 23rd June 1917. He was reported missing believed killed whilst on a photographic reconnaissance mission on 6th July.
Flight Magazine reported his death and noted that he was married in July 1916 to Isabel, daughter of Mr & Mrs Harrington Emerson of New York.
Henry Joseph Watlington has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. His name is also included on the Castle Bromwich War Memorial and the roll of honour in St Mary & St Margaret’s Church, Castle Bromwich.
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