The Fallen of Ewhurst and Ellen's Green, Surrey  
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  Nelson Herbert Whitty 

Private 37173

12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry
Killed in Action 10/12/1917, aged 36

Buried in:
Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel (P.90)

 Remembered on :
Ewhurst War Memorial,  Memorial Plaque and Book of Remembrance



NELSON HERBERT WHITTY was born in 1878 (1) in Castle Hill, Dorset, the son of Christopher and Elizabeth Whitty. The family had originated from Dorset, but moved to Surrey shortly after Nelson's birth, his father taking the position of head gardener at Burrows Lea Garden in Shere (2). Nelson was the youngest of four children, Arthur Edward (born 1868,(3)), Amelia Jane (born 1873 (4)), and  Edward Ernest, (born 1873 (5)), who became a carpenter, and was killed in action on 20th October 1915. During this period, Edward's cousin, Mark Brett Whitty was also living with the family. He subsequently married and remained living in Shere. One of his sons, Cyril J Whitty is remembered on the Shere Village Memorial.

By 1891 the family had moved to Munday's Hill in Ewhurst (100m north of the Bull's Head  public house) and in 1896 Elizabeth Whitty died. By 1901 the family address was Woodland's Cottage. Nelson's occupation was noted as a gardener/domestic servant, living with his father and elder brother Arthur.

In March 1903, Nelson married in Guildford (6) and it is thought that Nelson became the father of four children Harold Nelson (b Sept 1903, died Mar 1904 ), Harry Reginald (b Mar 1905) Fred. Elizabeth (b Dec 1906) and Kenneth Nelson (b Sept 1908). By 1911 the family were living in Ockley Road, Ewhurst and Nelson was working as a house painter.

In October 1915 sympathies were mentioned to Nelson in an article in the Surrey Advertiser following the death in action of his elder brother Edward, who was serving in France with the 7th Battalion The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. In the preceding 12 months Nelson had also lost his father, Christopher, and sister, Amelia Jane, making him the sole survivor of his family.

Initially the 12th Bn was the 1/1st West Somerset Yeomanry, a cavalry unit based at Taunton at the commencement of the war. They formed part of the 2nd South Western Mounted Brigade, but were dismounted and sent to Gallipoli in October 1915. The battalion, attached to the 11th (Northern) Division, landed at Suvla Bay on the 9th October 1915, and, whilst on the peninsula in November, were attached to 2nd Mounted Division. With the evacuation of Gallipoli on 19th December 1915, the battalion returned to Egypt and the following February were absorbed into the 2nd Dismounted Brigade, part of the Western Frontier Force.

On the 4th January 1917, whilst in Ismaila, Egypt, the unit was converted to an infantry unit, becoming the 12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion,  Somerset Light Infantry, a part of 229th Brigade, of the 74th (Yeomanry) Division. The battalion fought in Palestine, against Turkish forces, at the Second Battle of Gaza (17-19/04/1917) and Third Battles of Gaza (27/10-07/11/1917) and took part in the capture of Jerusalem (07-09/12/1917).


On the night of 6th December 1917, in poor weather,  the 12th Bn SLI was with drawn from the line to move south-east along the Ludd to Jerusalem road to take part in the attack on Jerusalem. They arrived in position early on the 7th, and used the remainder of the day to prepare for the action which was scheduled for the following day. On the 8th December, the plan was for the 74th Division's 230th and 231st Brigades to attack to the left of the line, with the 229th Brigade to the right of the line. The Division's right flank bordered on the Wadi Hannina, on the far side of which the line was continued by the 60th Division.

Within the 229th Brigade, the 12th Bn SLI supported the 12th (Ayr and Lanark) Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, advancing at 0345am and achieving their first objective at 0515am. At 1230, 'C' Company of 12th Bn SLI advanced between 230th Brigade and 12th Bn RSF, and the fighting intensified over the village of Beit Iksa, which was captured at dusk. The following morning, following a withdrawal by the enemy, the advance was continued, 'B' and 'C' Companies of 12th Bn SLI in the front line, with 'A' and 'D' Companies in support.

On 10th December the battalion advanced in support of the Australian Light Horse, during which they came under heavy shell fire from the north. 2 men were killed and one officer and 6 men were wounded, one of the men killed being Private Nelson Herbert Whitty. He lies in the Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel, in grave P.90. At 1230 on the 10th, the city of Jerusalem surrendered to the Allied forces. His death was reported in the Surrey Times on 22nd December 1917 and on 12th January 1918 the paper reported:

“Pte Nelson H Whitty Somerset Light Infantry was killed in action at Jerusalem on December 10th.  Deceased who was 40 years of age, joined the Gloucester Reg. and was transferred to the Somerset Light Infantry when in Egypt.  He was for over 20 years a member of the Ewhurst Band.  He leaves a widow and 5 children.”

Very little information is detailed on Nelson's medal card other than that he was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. Following the war Nelson's widow and children remained in Ewhurst.

On 4th July 1918 a grant of probate awarded Nelson's estate (incorrectly stated as a Private of 12th Bn South Lancashire Fusiliers) to his widow, Caroline and Harry Stephens (a farmer). His estate totalled £543 3s 2d.



Follow this Link to details about First World War Medals


(1) Free BDM, Birth registered in Dorchester.
(2) 1881 Census
(3) Plumber & Glazier (1901 Census). Married (Rosa Tickner?) Guildford June 1903, Died Guildford 1908)
(4) Birth registered Dorcester, (twins) became housemaid to William Webb (uncle of Evelyn Webb) of Woodlands, Ewhurst,  marriage registered Hambledon 1896 to Harry Preston,
(5) Birth registered Dorchester (twins)

Free BDM unable to establish wife's maiden name.


Other sources:

  • Book of Remembrance

  • Soldiers Died in the Great War












Andrew Bailey, Ewhurst, Surrey