CAFFERATA, Herbert Percy [1889-1917]

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202793, Rifleman, 1/5th King's Liverpool Regiment

By Richard Cafferata

Died 20th September 1917

Herbert Percy Cafferata was the third cousin, three times removed of Tom Cafferata and had the distinction of being the only person by the name of Cafferata to be killed in action during World War One. Born in Liverpool in 1889, he was the eldest of four sons of electrician Herbert William Cafferata and his second wife Alice (Née Matkin). He was baptised in St Catherine’s Church, Edge Hill, Liverpool on the 18th December 1889. A mobile family, they lived at 60 Milroy Street, Edge Hill at the time of Herbert’s baptism but the 1891 census showed the family had moved two streets to Durning Road. They moved again in the 1890s to Walton on the Hill, and at least once more to Cascough Lane, Melling before the 1911 census. By this time Herbert was in his early twenties and old enough to be earning a living as a locomotive cleaner, although he was still living at home with his parents.(1)

The family’s frequent movements were commented upon in a letter by Herbert’s Uncle Arthur, in which he told of a brief move to a house in Picton Road, Wavertree in 1899. This move was not a success, with the family only staying for one week! The hasty departure from their new home was brought about through leaving food out at night and finding it gnawed by rats and full of bugs in the morning.(2)

Following the outbreak of war in 1914, Herbert was one of more than nine million men who saw service before the armistice was signed in 1918. The best sources of information on soldiers in the Great War were their service records, but a German air raid in 1940 destroyed more than half of these. Unfortunately it seems that Herbert’s service record was one of those destroyed so information has had to be gained from other sources. As a result, there is much about Herbert’s war service that we don’t know, including the date, or even the year that he joined up. The fact that his medal card shows he didn’t receive the 1914 or 1914-1915 Star indicates that he didn’t join up until at least 1916 though.(3) It may have been his occupation as a railway worker that caused him to delay joining the army but we do know that when he did finally enlist, he joined the 1/5th King’s Liverpool Regiment. The 1/5th King’s was one of 4 battalions that made up the 165th Brigade of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division, the other battalions of the 165th being the 1/6th King’s, 1/7th King’s and 1/9th King’s Liverpool Regiments.(4)

When Herbert went to France is another fact we don’t know, but he was certainly in England during the spring of 1916 because he married Emily Bradshaw in East Kent.  It could be that he married her before he joined up, whilst on leave or just before he departed for the trenches for the first time.(5)

As part of its establishment, the 1/5th King’s would have originally had two machine guns and crews, though this had increased to four by early 1916. On the 26th February 1916 all of the 165th Brigade’s machine guns were amalgamated into a single company of 16 Vickers guns, to be deployed as required. Each Vickers gun required a six to eight-man team to operate: one to fire, one to feed the ammunition, the rest to help carry the weapon, its ammunition and spare parts.(6) The troops for these companies were drawn from the battalions and were usually allocated men as opposed to volunteers. At some point, Herbert was assigned to the Machine Gun Company of the 165th brigade(7) and it would appear that he spent the rest of his service in that unit.

Throughout 1916 the 55th Division (and consequently the 165th Brigade and 1/5th King’s Battalion) took part in a number of actions, including fighting on the Somme. In 1917 the division was sent to Ypres where they remained for many months, taking part in the Third Battle of Ypres, which took place throughout the summer and autumn of 1917. One of the objectives of this battle was to divert German attention from the weakened French front further south. The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, which started on the 20th September 1917, was just part of this much larger battle. It was here that Herbert would unfortunately lose his life.

The operation order for this offensive set objectives for the 165th Brigade of attacking positions to the north-east of Ypres near Zevencote and included the capturing of German strong points of Gallipoli, Hill 35, Iberian, Delva, Capitol and Hill 37. Once secured, machine guns were to be placed at all of these except Iberian, with additional guns being placed at Kaynorth, Irma, Tulip & Cabbage Cottages, Gallipoli Copse and an un-named Strong Point. The 1/7th was to lead the attack on the right, with the 1/9th attacking on the left. The 1/5th and the 1/6th were to act as reserves. The initial attack of the 1/7th and 1/9th started at 5.40am, each battalion attacking in four waves fifty yards apart, under a creeping artillery and machine gun barrage. The 1/5th and 1/6th launched the second wave of the attack at 8.35am. The Machine gun Company was divided into four sections, each supporting one of the battalions.(8)

The War Diary of the 1/6th King’s Liverpool Regiment for the 20th September 1917 provides a clear account of the day’s action:

“165 Brigade attack Green Line from 100y S. of KANSAS CROSS to a point 100y E. Of WATEREND HOUSE with 9th K L R & 7th K L R to take first objective, & 6th K L R  & 5th K L R to take GREEN LINE. Zero hour 5.40 a.m.  The 9th & 6th K L R became heavily involved in the fight for Hill 35 which was finally captured after a stiff fight, the 6th consolidating strong points in Hill 35 including LENS. Major Gordon & Capt Phillips wounded while reorganising the line for further advance. Capt Eastwood, 2 Lt N.R. Phillips, 2 Lt Spratt were killed on Hill 35. 2 Lt Wallington and all No. 1 Platoon of “A” Coy were killed in a gallant attempt to capture a strongpoint to the SOUTH of Hill 25. The 1/5 Loyal North Lancs & the 1/5 South Lancs having come up to reinforce Hill 37 was captured by them & the survivors of this Btn.
Towards dusk a strong enemy Counter Attack in Hill 37 was beaten off with heavy casualties to the enemy.”

Unfortunately, we don’t know to which section of the Machine Gun Company Herbert was attached, but it seems that only Number 4 Section reached its objectives without incident. It is likely that Herbert became a casualty in the initial attack as the other three sections all encountered problems. The 165th Machine Gun Company War Diary related what happened:

“No 2 Section’s advance was delayed by Infantry being held up at IBERIAN FARM and one gun was brought into action on the light tripod by the section Sgt & caught a number of the enemy returning from IBERIAN to DEVLA FARM. The Section Officer No 2 had been wounded prior to this happening, the Sgt having taken charge of the Section...
...During the advance one gun & team of No 2 Section were put out of action by shell fire & the reserve gun of No 4 Section from POMMERN REDOUBT was sent up to take its place...” (10)

The War Diary then took up the stories of Number 1 Section advancing to the right, and Number 3 Section advancing on the left:

“Two guns on the left were unable to get forward owing to snipers but later moved forward to their positions; one at GALLIPOLI COPSE and one at HILL 37. The gun at HILL 37 was immediately put out of action on arrival by shellfire. During this advance the Section officer of No 1 Section became a casualty (wounded) & prior to that the Section Sgt had also become a casualty...” (10)

If Herbert wasn’t killed in the morning advances, then he probably died in the German counter attack in the early evening, which was broken up by British artillery and machine gun fire around 6pm. He was one of 10 soldiers from the Machine Gun Company to die in the operation before the company was pulled off the front line on the 24th September. His body was not recovered and he was later commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at nearby Tyne Cot Cemetery.(11)

He left £148 in his will, which his mother, Alice, administered. As well as his mother he was survived by his father and two brothers, Frank and Arthur. No further mention of Emily, his wife, has been found so far.



(1)   1891 Census: RG12/2994/13/19; 1901 Census: RG13/3451/85/37; 1911 Census: RG14/22818 RD457/1/4/135 Baptism:, Liverpool, Lancashire, England, Baptisms, 1813-1906.

(2)   Letter from Arthur Charles Joseph Cafferata, quoted by Alana Part.

(3), British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920. Record for Herbert Cafferata.


(5)   England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1916-2005


(7), England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations),1861-1941. Record for Herbert Percy Cafferata.

(8)   165 Infantry Brigade Operation Order No 129 and Addendum; National Archives WO 95/2926 Image ref: 380

(9)   1/6th King’s Liverpool regiment War diary 20/09/1917; National Archives: WO 95/2926 Image ref: 381

(10)  165th Machine Gun Company War Diary 20/09/1917; National Archives: WO 95/2927/3

(11)   Commonwealth War Graves Commission record:
Rank: Rifleman Service No: 202793
Date of Death: 20/09/1917
Regiment/Service: The King's (Liverpool Regiment) 1st/5th Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 31 to 34 and 162 and 162A and 163A.

This page was added by Website Administrator on 15/08/2014.
Comments about this page

I have come across another soldier with the service no. 202793. I always understood that a service number was unique to one individual. The following was taken from

First Name:A                                                                                                    
Index Number of Admission:36098                                             
Information:Entrained No. 27 Ambulance Train                                                                                                    
Service Number:202793                                                                                                    
Years Service:2 years                                                                                                    
Months With Field Force:8 months                                                                                                    
Ailment:Inflammation of middle ear                                                                                                    
Date of Admission for Original Ailment:25/06/1917                                                                                                    
Date Transferred to Other Hospitals:No. 6 Convalescent Depot 30/06/1917                                                                                                    
Number/Designation of Ward:9                                                                                                    
Notes written in the Observations Column:Ypres. 22/06/1917. No. 46 Casualty Clearing Station                                                                                                    
Regiment:Gordon Highlanders                                                       
Battalion:1/4th Battalion                                                                                                                (Why is this important?)                                            
Other unit info:B Company, Attached 1/5th Battalion                                                       
By John MacLean
On 16/11/2016

Regimental numbers were not unique in WW1. Within the Territorial Force battalions of a particular regiment (eg The King's (Liverpool Regiment) at the beginning of the war there could be a man in each battalion with the number 1234. In 1916, Territorials were allocated six figure numbers (I think the block for 5th King's (Liverpool Regiment) ran from 200000 to 239999 and the 6th King's from 240000 on etc . Numbers were then unique within a regiment but a Gordon Highlander Territorial (a different regiment) or a Territorial of any other regiment eg the Manchester Regiment could have a number such as 2002345.

By Ian Riley
On 08/11/2017

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