ORBELL, Douglas

Lieutenant, Douglas ORBELL
Aged 30

1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment
formerly 1627, Corporal, Suffolk Yeomanry
Killed in Action on Thursday, 5th September 1918

Douglas Orbell (also known as 'Tim')was born in Denston (Risbridge Q3-1887 4A:621), baptised in St Nicholas, Denston on 7th August 1887, son of William and Elizabeth Mary ORBELL (née SERGEANT).

1891 census...Aged 3, he was at Sheepcote Farm, Denston with his father William ORBELL [44] farmer born Pentlow, Essex; his mother Elizabeth Mary [34] born Brockley, Suffolk; sisters Henrietta [11] born Hawkedon and Phyllis Ada [8 months] born Denston; brothers William [9], Jack [7] and Aldridge [2]. All the boys were born in Denston.

1901 census... Aged 13, he was a boarder, with his brother Aldridge [12] with Louisa BRUCE at The Nook, Granville Road, Great Clacton. His parents were at Sheecote in Denston still with his sisters Mary Elizabeth [23] born Hawkedon, Henrietta, Katherine [15] born Denston, Phyllis, and Ellen [8] born Denston; brothers William, George [7] and Charles L [5] both born in Denston

A Jack and Douglas ORBELL sailed for Canada on the SS "Tunisian" from Liverpool to Montreal on 3rd May 1906.

1911 census... Aged 23, helping on the farm, he was at Sheepcote with his parents, sisters Mary Elizabeth, Henrietta, Katherine and Ellen.

He married Doris Claire ROACH (Bury St Edmunds Q4-1915 4A:2579), having a daughter Mary C, born 1916, and lived at Chudleigh, Queen's Road, Bury St Edmunds. She re married to ALSTON, Hill Farm, St Totham, Witham, Essex

His cousin James ORBELL was killed in 1916 in France see here

The battalion war diary :- Sailly-Sallisel 5th.. 12:30 am CO returned from Bde HQ. Orders were issued for an attack on NURLU.
3:45 am Battn marched and were guided by an officer of MGC through VAUX WOOD to canal bridge below RIVERSIDE WOOD. The passage through VAUX WOOD was rendered difficult owing to heavy shelling both HE and mustard gas, the latter was very strong but only one casualty occurred in the whole battn.
7:45 am NURLU. "A" and "B" Coys attacked in rear of right flank of 7th Norfolk Regt, "D" Coy attacked to S of NURLU in the direction of VESTA TRENCH.
"A" Coy, splendidly led by Capt A JOHNSON made steady progress until they were held up by extremely thick wire and heavy M.G. fire W of AJAX TRENCH
"B" Coy advance was at first successful and several prisoners were sent back. On reaching the ridge immediately W of NURLU they came under intense M.G. fire and suffered heavy casualties. Lt ORBELL OC Coy was instantaneously killed, likewise 2/Lt Huckle and Lt Banyard was seriously wounded. 2nd Lt NOCK (Suffolk Regt att 1/1 Cambs) led the remnants forward in a most gallant way until he reached a trench about 100yards W of the village but the opposition was too strong and he and his party were all killed or wounded.
"D" Coy meanwhile had advanced in a SSE direction across the valley towards VESTA TRENCH, they captured about 20-30 prisoners but on reaching the ridge found their way absolutely barred by extremely thick belts of wire and by heavy M.G. fire from the valley and the hostile positionL of the NURLU-PERONNE road.
"C" Coy remained in reserve under Capt BOYD at RIVERSIDE WOOD. Owing to all three front companies being held up by wire and M.G. fire they were compelled to consolidate where they were.

CWGC has 27 of the battalion killed, all bar two in Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension now. Douglas was originally found as shown below

The Bury Free Press of 21st September 1918 reported:-

Information has been received of the death in action on September5th of Liuet (acting Captain) Douglas Orbell, of Wickhambrook, who was killed whilst leading a company in the fighting before Norlu. He was shot through the heart
The gallant officer, formerly of Rolfe's Farm, was the third son of Mr. and Mrs. W.Orbell, of Sheepcote Farm, Denston, and was the son-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. F.G.Roach,the esteemed master and Matron of the Bury St.Edmund's Workhouse. Much sympathy is felt for those who are so suddenly bereaved, and general regret is expressed in the district at the officer's sacrifice.
Lieut Orbell joined the Suffolk Yeomanry in 1914, and transferred to the Cambs Regt. Three brothers are serving also, one in France, one in Palestine and another in training.

The following week the same paper published the photograph above

photo: Rodney Gibson

photo courtesy Philip Orbell

Douglas Orbell is buried in Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension grave 5:M:5

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details

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