Robert Boothby, Private 7511, 1st Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Killed in action 19th December 1915 in Belgium, aged 31
Robert Boothby was born in Macclesfield in spring 1884, the son of Mary and William Boothby, a silk weaver. In 1891, 7 year old Robert was living at 14 Silk St, Macclesfield with his parents and siblings Joseph (13), Mary (11), William (9), Eliza (5), Alice (2), and half-sister Sarah Shirley. Robert received his education at Duke Street National School.
By 1901 Robert had moved to 146 Prince Street, Ardwick, Manchester with his widowed aunt, Alice Barr, and her four children. Robert was employed as a “cycle apprentice”.
Robert joined the 4th (Militia) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment for a period of six years on 7th November 1901, when he was 17 years and 7 months old, receiving service number 4778. He stated that he lived at 3 house 1 court, Statham St, and was employed by Mr W Brocklehurst as a silk piecer. He was described as 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighed 104 pounds, with a 32 inch chest, and had a light complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair.
The following year, on 30th December 1902, Robert joined the 5th (Militia) Lancashire Fusiliers for six years, receiving service number 2068. This time he said he lived with his sister at 3 house 1 court, Statham St, and he was a wire worker for Mr P Davenport at Bridge St Silk Mill, Macclesfield.
Robert later served with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, and may have been serving with the regiment in India at the time of the 1911 Census. He left the army in 1911, returned to Macclesfield and initially found employment at Messrs. Heath’s mill in Pickford Street, later working for Mr Hadfield, chemist, in Mill Street.
As a reservist, Robert was recalled to the army very soon after the start of the war, joining the 1st Battalion of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, which came under the command of the 16th Brigade in the 6th Division. He was posted to France with the regiment on 10th September 1914, landing at St Nazaire.
His death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 14th January 1916:
Mrs George Sharpley, 4 Cotton Street, Macclesfield, has received official intimation that her brother, Private Robert Boothby, was fatally “gassed” in France on December 18th. According to information contained in letters sent home, a “beautiful scent of lilac” came over the trenches. It was discovered to be gas, whereupon an officer rushed along and warned the men to put on their gas helmets and goggles. Unfortunately Private Boothby was immediately overcome by the fumes and died. Several of his comrades had to be taken to hospital.
Captain Hall, commanding ‘A’ Company, 1st KSLI, has written the following letter of sympathy to the bereaved relatives: “… Private Boothby has always been a most conscientious and hard-working soldier, and is a great loss both to his comrades and officers…”.
Private Boothby, who was 31 years of age, was a native of Macclesfield. Both his parents are dead, and he made his home with his married sister. He was educated at the Duke Street National School. He served twelve years in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, six being spent in India, and had been in Macclesfield about three years when war broke out. After leaving the Army, Private Boothby was employed at Messrs. Heath’s mill in Pickford Street, and at the time of mobilisation as a reservist worked for Mr Hadfield, chemist, Mill Street. Drafted out to France in September 1914, the deceased took part in many battles and went through some very severe fighting without receiving a scratch. Last September he was in Macclesfield on five days’ furlough, and had been at the front ever since. He was a single man.
Private Robert Boothby is buried in Grave Ref. I. F. 36. of the La Brique Military Cemetery No. 2, near Ypres, Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Robert Boothby, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
Uncle of Mark Sharpley, who served as Private 10132 with the 2nd Cheshire Regiment and died in 1918; and George Sharpley, who served as Private 202540 with the Yorkshire Regiment and died in 1917.