Victor Frank De Ritter

Second Lieutenant
Somerset Light Infantry
Date of death 
9 August 1916
Age of death 
Cemetery / Memorial 

Born on 16th June 1897 at Poplar, son of Walter Henry (Marine Mechanical Engineer) and Ada Lydia De Ritter. 1901: With his family at 7 Oriental Street, Limehouse, Poplar. 1911: A pupil at Cranleigh School, Cranleigh in Surrey. His will shows the address of 62 East India Dock Road, Poplar, though his mother was living at 5 Wavertree Road, South Woodford by 1918.

He arrived in France on 21st May 1916. The Battalion was among the initial attacking units at 07.30 on 1st July 1916; The Battle of the Somme. No ground was gained, and by the evening the Battalion was rendered ineffective apart from a few men. 26 Officers and 478 men were killed wounded or missing. Victor De Ritter was among that small portion of the Battalion not committed to the assault, and he was sent back to the reinforcement camp at Bertrancourt. This small team was the core around which the Battalion would be reconstructed in the event of heavy casualties.

At 22.30 on 8th August 1916 the rebuilt Battalion was preparing to hand their positions to the Rifle Brigade, and march to the rear in a planned rotation. As they were doing so the trenches were attacked with a mixture of Chlorine and Phosgene gas - the first time the latter with its delayed action had been used. The noise of the men moving en mass had masked and sound of hissing from the gas canisters, so it was only detected when it entered the trenches. There followed a bombardment of the Somerset’s positions, but most casualties were caused by the gas, some many hours later due to the presence of Phosgene in their clothing.

It is believed that Victor De Ritter died from the effects of gas poisoning rather than wounds caused by the artillery bombardment.

Research by Adrian Lee, Local Historian


1 Battalion History by Major VHM Majendie DSO