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17th DECEMBER 1917, AGED 27

ROBERT PERCIVAL YOUNG was born in Horsham on 1st May 1890, the only child of the Rev. Arthur Frederick Young and Alice Maud Young, whilst his father was the curate of Horsham. Robert’s father was the vicar of The Holy Trinity Church, Rudgwick from 1908 until 1916, when he moved to St. Luke’s, Queen’s Park, Brighton .
Robert was educated at Horsham Grammar School and St. John’s Foundation School, Leatherhead (1901 Census) and by 1911 was boarding at 50 Cartwright Gardens, St Pancreas, London, whilst studying as a dramatic student. He went to America in the Company of  the famed actor Cyril Maude.
Robert enlisted for service with the 23rd (Territorial) Battalion, The London Regiment on 31st August 1914, becoming Private 2467. After officer training he was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th  Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment on 7th December 1914, joining the unit in Horsham.
On 24th April 1915 the battalion transferred to the 160th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division at Cambridge, moving to Bedford in May 1915. On  2nd July 1915 orders were received to re-equip for service in the Mediterranean and on 16th July the battalion left Bedford aboard two trains bound for Devonport.
On 17th July 1915 the battalion embarked on the HMT ‘Ulysses’ at Devonport for service with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. The ship docked in Alexandria, Egypt, on 28th July 1915 and then departed for Port Said two days later, arriving on the same day. On 4th August 1915 the ‘Ulysses’ departed Port Said for Mudros Bay (on the island of Limnos), arriving three days later. From there, the ‘Ulysses’ sailed for the island of Imbros and then on for Suvla Bay on the Gallipoli peninsula. The 1/4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment entered the First World War on the evening of 8th August 1915 and first experienced hostile shellfire the following day. The Division suffered heavy losses in the Sulva operation.
Robert’s medal record card indicates that he first arrived in Egypt on 8th September 1915 and then continued onwards to join  1/4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment as a reinforcement on the Gallipoli peninsula. The battalion was to remain in action at Gallipoli until 13th December 1915, when they were evacuated from the peninsula aboard the S.S.‘Elkahira’, sailing to Mudros Bay. 53rd (Welsh) Division had been reduced in strength by approximately 85%. They arrived in Alexandria on 19th December 1915 and at the end of January 1916 the battalion strength was given as 19 officers and 316 Other Ranks. Over the next five months the battalion was restored in strength to 39 officers and 887 Other Ranks, replacing the losses of the Gallipoli action. Robert was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st June 1916.

On 26th March 1917, after a prolonged period of training in Egypt, the battalion returned into action against Turkish forces in Palestine, initially in the area of Gaza (First Battle of Gaza). On 9th April 1917 the battalion participated in the Second Battle of Gaza, and the Third Battle of Gaza on 6th November 1917, the 53rd (Welsh) Division attacking at Tel el Khuweilfeh. It appears that Robert was wounded in the First Battle of Gaza, but had made a recovery such that he was able to return to service in the final months of the year.

The British forces pressed the Turkish defenders north towards Jerusalem, which was captured on 9th December 1917. General Allenby, the commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force entered the city two days later on the 11th December.
At dawn of 17th December 1917 two battalions (2/4th Bn Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) and 1/4th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment) of the 160th Brigade attacked the El Aziziye ridge east of Abu Dis  (approx 3 km south east of Jerusalem old city). The ridge was captured with the loss to the enemy of forty six killed, 126 prisoners and 2 machine guns. 1/4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment lost Lt Robert Percival Young and seven men killed in action. It appears Robert was serving with the battalion’s ‘A’ Company.

Lt Robert Percival Young was also posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Robert had two poems published before his death, one before his departure from England, the other after his death in a newspaper article.

On 29th December 1917 the West Sussex County Times included an article titled “Death of Lieut. R. P. Young:
“All classes in Horsham will feel deep sympathy with the Rev. A. F. And Mrs Young in the loss of their only son on the 17th inst. in Palestine. Only on Sunday last his parents received a letter from him telling them of the awardment to him of the Military Cross, In the first month of the war Lieut. R. Percival Young enlisted in the London Regiment, and took his commission in the 4th Sussex in the following December. He went to the Dardanelles in September, 1915 and served uninterruptedly until his death in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine. In March he was wounded at the battle of Gaza and killed in action at the early age of 27 in Palestine. He was educated at the Horsham Grammar School and St. John’s School, Leatherhead. As a career Lieut. Young adopted with enthusiasm the dramatic profession, and went to America in the Company of Mr Cyril Maude. The Rev. A. F. Young, who was for a number of years curate in charge of St. Mark’s, Horsham, and subsequently Vicar of Rudgwick, is the Vicar of St. Luke’s, Queen’s Park, Brighton. The following lines were written by Lieut. R. Percival Young in the trenches in Gallipoli and were published in the “Westminster Gazette” of February 5th 1916:-

“A Brief Record of the Advance of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force Under the Command of General Sir Edmund H. H. Allenby G.C.B. G.G.M.G. July 1917 to October 1918.”
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-1924
Census Returns
Medal Record Index
Battalion War Diary
West Sussex Gazzette
Ottoman Machine Gun Corps in the vicinity of Gaza, 1917
Robert was buried near Abu Dis and re interred after the war in the Jerusalem War Cemetery . His officer Commanding wrote “I feel his loss, not only as being a good officer, but also a loyal friend” and another officer: “He was always cheerful in mess, keen on parade, ready to help in everything for the welfare of the men … Every officer and man in the regiment will miss him.” He was awarded the M.C. (London Gazette 18 Feb 1918).
What did you do when the foemen came?
What did you do to defend your name?
What did you do for England’s fame?
          When The Trumpet Called!
Did you fight for the Right ‘gainst the enemy’s might?
Did you rush like a man to the thick of the fight?
“Ready Aye Ready” to die for the right
          When The Trumpet Called!
Did your women folk try to hold you back?
Did your sweetheart sigh when men called you slack?
Was your conscience torn like a soul on the rack?
          When The Trumpet Called!
How did you feel when your pals came home?
Speeding their way o’er the joyous foam
Did you regret that you did not go?
Did you regret that you answered no?
          When The Trumpet Called!
Brother! Brother! I tell you “arise”!
Wake for the dawn is red in the skies
Gird on your armour, make ready to fight
If you die - be it written “He died for the Right”
          When The Trumpet Called!
(West Sussex County Times 26 June 1915)
Beneath the cold white stars - amid the sound
And sight of shrieking shells above, around,
And bullets sped to silence in a ground
Cumbered with graves - I rest.
The parched and crackling tussocks on the plain
Speak not to me of peace, while there remain
Live horrors, All that breeds where death has lain
Is here - and here I rest.
For always shall there sweetly come to me,
The spirits of those comrades who are free,
To bid me - waking - follow steadfastly -
And now - to rest.