Cyril Charles Gordon Roe

Lieut. 1st Royal Marine Bn, (1/RMLI)
Died 28th April 1917, aged 21
Remembered at Arras Memorial
& on both Blakeney War Memorials

Cyril Charles Gordon Roe was born 2nd July 1895 at Blo’Norton, the son of Rev. Canon Robert Gordon Roe and his wife Isobel Kysh who were born at Cambridge and in India, respectively. He was the youngest son of three and last child in a family of six. All the sons fought in WWI, Robert for the Canadian Over-Seas Force, Douglas for the United States Army and then Cyril, the only casualty. Canon Roe was Rector of Blakeney from 1915-1923 as well as Vice Chairman of the Parish Council 1916-1918, Hon. Canon of Norwich 1918 and then Rector of Acle 1923-27.

In the 1911 Census, Cyril, aged 15, was a scholar at St Johns College, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex while his parents were at Leiston, Suffolk. They had been married for 27 years and had 6 children.

No Service Records have been found for Cyril just a brief service history that reads as follows: “ex-No.2 Officer Cadet Bn., ex 2nd Lieut. 2nd Suffolk Regt. (To France 30/8/14 – 1914 Star issued by War Office); Commissioned Temporary 2nd Lieutenant Royal Marines22/11/16; Draft for BEF 8/2/17, joined 1st RM Bn. 23/2/17-28/4/17 DD.” Cyril joined the 1st RM Bn. a week after their disastrous engagement at Miraumont (Ancre, 17th February) when they had suffered grievous casualties and their strength was greatly reduced from 500 to barely 100 fit for duty. The 1st RM Bn. (1/RMLI) was one of the four battalions of the 188th Brigade, the other brigades making up the 63rd (RN) Division being the 189th and 190th.

Two months later the marines saw action in the Second Battle of Arras. The role of the 189th & 190th brigades was to take Gavrelle, a small village between Ypres and Passchendaele to the north, the Somme to the south and overshadowed by Vimy Ridge to the north. This they successfully achieved on the 23rd-24th April. Then on the 28th April the 1/RMLI and 2/RMLI, battalions of the 188th Brigade, moved forward to take Gavrelle Windmill and the high ground to the north of the village.

Almost immediately all communication with 1/RMLI was lost. Some marines made it through the German barbed wire defences to the other side but the men were in isolated pockets. Gradually these small groups were overcome either being killed or forced to surrender when their ammunition ran out, at which time they were taken prisoner. The War Diary entry for the day reads “Bn., attacked on sector left of Gavrelle-Oppy Line at 4.25am and gained objective but was driven out by counter attacks” followed by 2/Lt Roe listed amongst the missing officers, assumed dead.

By next morning the 1st RM Bn. (1RMLI) once again ceased to exist as a fighting unit having suffered more casualties at the Battle of Gavrelle than in any other single engagement in their entire history. For his grieving parents, the Blakeney War Memorials are where they chose to commemorate their youngest son even though it is doubtful whether Cyril ever had the opportunity to visit his parents at Blakeney.