Private 21121 Christopher Steel
7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment.
Killed in action on the Western Front in the France and Flanders campaign on the 14th July 1916 aged 30 years.
He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France, Panel Ref: Pier and Face 2C and 3A.
Son of Charles and Matilda Steel of Town Green, Rothley. Brother to Charles, Mary, Ruth, Alice, Charlotte M., Tom, George, and Matilda. Married Mary Elizabeth Waite in 1914 and baby Monica M. Steel died in 1915.
Named on the War Memorial, Parish Church Roll of Honour, Parish Church Triptych Roll of Honour and Mountsorrel War Memorial.
The War Diary for the events of the 14th July 1916 records:
ATTACK ON BAZENTIN LE PETIT WOOD and village by the 110th Brigade. The battalion was drawn up for the assault in four lines. The first three lines were in front of MAMETZ WOOD and were to move forward in succession at ZERO, the first line to take, clear and hold the German first line, the remainder to push on to capture and consolidate the FOREST TRENCH (enemy support line). The fourth line were drawn up behind the north edge of MAMETZ WOOD to move forward half an hour after ZERO, and push forward through FOREST TRENCH ready to assault the German third line. By 2.55am. all dispositions were made, each platoon being on its correct adjustment. A number of casualties were suffered during this operation, one platoon of "C" Company losing almost half its number. The men behaved admirably under trying conditions.
At ZERO 3.25am. when the barrage lifted our first trench was hardly close enough to it to rush the first line before the enemy could man it, as a result the advance was rather ragged. The right (A) Company in conjunction with the 6th LEICESTERSHIRE REGT had little difficulty in entering the trench. The left (D) Company were momentarily held up by machine gun fire but managed to keep up close to the parapet and rush the line. The two centre ("B" and "C") Companies were held up for about 20 minutes by machine guns. The pressure was relieved by parties from the right working down a flank. The centre Companies were then able to rush the trench. The second and third lines coming on, swept the remainder of the first line then, and made for the second line (FOREST TRENCH). By this time of the officers of "B" Company only 2nd Lt. EVANS was left, in "C" Company only 2nd Lt. REED, while in "D" Company all the officers were out of action. The enemy in the first line trench at first made some resistance but many were caught in their dug outs, and the rest seeing that they could not stop our rush retreated into the WOOD and made no resistance in the FOREST TRENCH.
By 4.00am. our whole line was in occupation of FOREST TRENCH and the work of consolidation was begun. Captain A.A.CLARKE taking command, 2nd Lt. EVANS then sent back Company Sergeant Major GEARY to ensure that the German first line was cleared of the enemy. This N.C.O. with his party found a number of the enemy who had been passed over in the rush. In the meantime the left Company (D) after pushing on too eagerly under our barrage and being forced to retire, turned towards the flank and established connection with the 8th LEICESTERSHIRE REGT. At 4.25am. Captain A.A.CLARKE, leaving 2nd Lt. EVANS in charge of the first trench, went forward in charge of the party to capture the third objective. No resistance was met with on the right, but on the left considerable trouble was caused by a machine gun and by snipers and close by the observation post in the tree both captain CLARKE and Lt. WAKEFORD were hit. This left the assaulting line without an officer, but Sgt. WALKER ("A" Company) and L/Sgt. SHERLOCK ("C" Company) rallied their men and made good this line. There was no German trench in this position and in some cases the men again pressed forward and came under fire from our own barrage. Meanwhile the left ("D" Company) being checked by the machine gun on the crest of the wood and being unable to make headway were rallied by L/Cpl. BUSH, and an attempt was made to get round the position on the right, with the result that this party lost direction in the wood and finally found itself among the 6th LEICESTERSHIRE REGT. L/Cpl. BUSH then placed himself under the orders of an officer of that Battalion. Almost before the barrage lifted, the party under Sgt. WALKER rushed the German trench on the north side of the wood. The enemy made no resistance here and being caught between the barrage of shell fire and our advancing line gave themselves up. By 6.45am. we were established in the line on north edge of the wood.
Subsequently officers of the 8th LEICESTERSHIRE REGT., bringing up supports took over command of this sector. About 7.15am. Captain GWYTHER was commanding the Battalion, ordered 2nd Lt. EVANS to push forward from FOREST TRENCH in support of the front line, on reaching the position selected for the strong point on the RAILWAY, this party came under machine gun fire from the north west corner of the wood. 2nd Lt. EVANS took up the line covering the strong point and prepared for reconnaissance. The position therefore at 8.00am. was;- Northern edge of wood held by us. Possession of the north west corner doubtful. Line of RAILWAY and strong point secured by us. Throughout the morning the enemy kept up an intermittent bombardment with 150mm Howitzers and a few 27mm's, which grew in intensity about midday and the afternoon. About 1.00pm it was believed that the Germans were still holding the edge of the wood at the north western corner and an assaulting party of the 7th and 9th LEICESTERSHIRE REGT. was organised to clear them out. The bushes and trees were very thick round this point which necessarily made progress slow, the enemy evacuating and manning a trench about 30 yards from the wood, before our men could get through we suffered several casualties from a machine gun in the above mentioned trench. An attempt was made about 9 o'clock to reorganise the Battalion, as they were considerably mixed up, most of the officers becoming casualties. Lt. Col. DRYSDALE was wounded whilst the battalion was marching to its position in front of MAMETZ WOOD, Captain and Adjutant A.A.ALDWORTH taking command. Captain's WRIGHT, GIFFORD, Lt's. BURNETT, HOLLIS, ABBOTT and 2nd Lt's. NEWTON, GUTTERIDGE and BAIN being all killed before our troops reached the first line. 2nd Lt. PICKERING-CLARKE, SIMPSON and REID also Lt. WAKEFORD were killed in the wood. The wounded officers were Captain A.A.CLARKE, Lt's. THOMPSON, WEBB and ORRIT-NICHOL.
Our total casualties were 18 officers and 535 men killed and wounded. Our men along with the 9th LEICESTERSHIRE REGT. manned the trenches at the edge of the wood and remained there until the next morning. The night was quiet."
The area of attack
The 7th Battalion War Diary of the 14th July 1916 recording that 18 officers and 535 men were either killed or missing that day.
The War Gratuity of £1.11s.6d payable to his wife Mary Elizabeth sent on the 21st June 1919
CHRISTOPHER STEEL IS WITH 72,254 OTHER NAMES
The name of C. Steel on the Thiepval Memorial
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM