Captain Reginald Underhill


Killed in Action on Saturday, 18th November 1916, age 29.
Commemorated on Pier and Face 12D and 13 B of Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

11th Bn. attd. 4th Bn., Middlesex Regiment. 63rd Brigade of 37th Division.
Formerly 16378 7th Canadian Infantry.

Son of Dr. and Mrs F. T. Underhill, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Born: Tipton Green, Enlisted: Valcartier, Canada, Resident: Vancouver, Canada.

First landed France & Flanders, before 1st January 1916.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived, not yet transcribed.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/817673/

Genealogical Data

1891 Census
37 Owen Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Frederick T. Underhill (32, General Practitioner, born Tipton), his wife Beatrice A. (27, born Norwich), and their 4 children: Muriel B. (4, born Tipton), Reginald (3, born Tipton), Ella M. (1, born Tipton), and Frederic C. (6 months, born Tipton).
Also a GP's Assistant, Medical Student, Governess, Cook, Housemaid, Domestic Nurse and a Groom.

1901 Census
Burrard, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Frederick T. Underhill (42, Doctor Surgeon, born England), his wife Beatrice A. (37, born England), and their 7 children: Reginald (13, born England), Clare - actually Frederic C. (10, born England), Jim (8, born England), Bertie (7, born England), Bill (5, born British Columbia), Sybil (4, born British Columbia), and Enid (2, born British Columbia).

1911 Census
Valor Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Dr. Frederick T. Underhill (53, Doctor, born England), his wife Beatrice Alice (48, born England), and their 11 children: Reginald (22, Bookkeeper, born England), Ella Margueritta (21, born England), Frederic Clare (20, Civil Engineer, born England), James Theodor (19, Surveyor, born England), Charles Bertram (17, Schoolboy, born England), William Leslie (15, Schoolboy, born British Columbia), Sybil Mary (14, Student, born British Columbia), Enid Anna Cathleen (12, Student, born British Columbia), Helen Elizabeth (10, Student, born British Columbia), John Edward (8, Student, born British Columbia), and Richard Walter (3, born British Columbia).

Personal Data

Reginald Underhill was born on 22nd July 1887 in Tipton, the eldest son of Dr. Frederick and Mrs Beatrice Underhill. Dr. Underhill was the General Practitioner and Factory Surgeon living and working at 37 Owen Street. In 1894 the Underhill family emigrated to Canada. They initially settled in Fraser River in British Columbia, and then in Vancouver where he became the Medical Health Officer. His fascinating life is covered in the book 'Dr. Fred and the Spanish Lady' - this refers to the Spanish Influenza pandemic.

Five Underhill brothers volunteered for service during the Great War. Reginald's younger brother, Charles, was also killed. Frederick Clare and James Theodor served with the Canadian Artillery and were both wounded but recovered and served until the end of the war. The fifth brother would have been William Leslie, there is no trace that he served overseas. Reginald attested at Valcartier, Quebec, on 18th September 1914, becoming Private 16378 of the 7th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Reginald's brother, Charles, attested on the same day and place, and in the same unit.

Reginald was 27 years and 2 months old, 5 feet 9½ inches tall with a 38-inch chest and weighed 162 pounds; his physical development was noted as 'Good'. His eyesight was noted as being slightly defective, but not sufficient to cause rejection from the army. He had a fair complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, and a hairy mole on his right forearm. His occupation was given as 'Secretary and Accountant', he was Church of England. His next-of-kin was his father Dr. F.T. Underhill, City Hall, Vancouver, BC. Reginald had served 10 years in the Duke of Connaught's Own Rifles, one of the Canadian militia units, this was recognised as he was promoted to Sergeant in 'B' Company on 25th September 1914 whilst still in Valcartier.

The 7th Battalion sailed from Quebec on 4th October 1914 aboard the S.S. Ruthenia and arrived in England on 14th October. Training took place at Lark Hill, Salisbury Plain. Reginald was struck off the strength of the 7th Battalion on 28th December 1914 when he was commissioned into the New Army, in effect joining the British Army to train as an officer.

Action resulting in his death

From 'History of the Middlesex Regiment':
"In the first half of November 1916 the 4th Battalion was involved in the battle of the Ancre. Returning to the Somme sector for the first time since 11th July, the battalion arrived at Brigade HQ at Hedauville at 3pm on 14th November, the day after the initial failed opening attack of the Battle of the Ancre. Detailed to act as Brigade Reserve they moved up to Station Road, east of Hamel by 2 am on the morning of 15 November. They were third in line, behind the front line and the support line trenches. The 4th Middlesex remained in reserve until the morning of the 18th, furnishing; carrying and working parties for the battalions in front of them. During those three days the trenches were shelled heavily at intervals and as a result suffered 40 casualties."

Reginald was killed in action on 18th November which appears to be the day they were being relieved. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

Newspaper Cuttings

De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour
UNDERHILL, REGINALD, Lieut. 11th (Service) Battn. The Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regt.), son of Frederick T. Underhill, F.R.C.S.E. Medical Health Officer, D.P.H., Vancouver, late of Tipton, co. Stafford, by his wife M. Beatrice A.,. 2nd daughter of C.E. Muriel, of Norwich, co. Norfolk, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P.; and brother to Lieut. C.B. Underhill (Q,V,); born Tipton 22 July 1887; educated Vancouver High School; was subsequently an Assurance and Real Estate Agent; served 10 years in the 6th Battn. The Duke of Connaught's Own Royal Canadians with the rank of Sergeant; volunteered for Imperial Service, and enlisted in August 1914; came over with the first contingent in October; was gazetted 2nd Lieut. The Middlesex Regt. 22 December 1914; served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders; was wounded in March 1916; returned to the firing line, being Acting Captain for three months, and was killed in action at Beaucourt 18 Nov. following. Unmarried.