Phipps, Charles Percy

He was the younger son of the Reverend Canon Constantine Osborne Phipps, The Lee Vicarage, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire and brother of Major Constantine James Phipps, D.S.O., (H, 1907-1910) King’s Liverpool Regiment, who died on active service in February 1919 – see individual entry. Both brothers came to Winchester from Cordwalles School.

He was gazetted in October 1914 to the Buckinghamshire battalion of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry and went to the front in May 1916. With him was his brother-in-law, fellow Wykehamist Captain Ivor Stewart-Liberty M.C. (G 1900-1905) who was married to Phipps’ sister Evelyn. He would be wounded in the same action in which Phipps was killed.

On 10th June Phipps came under fire for the first time, and records in his diary “March to Laventie.   Occupy trenches. Shelled directly we are in….  One shell exploded ten yards from me and made me very frightened for some hours.”

A letter home dated 27th June describes how it “has been raining again and there is a horrible mess everywhere.  It makes it very hard to walk about.   Heaps of men are falling down in the mud all the time…. Cole was killed last week.  Rotten luck but still there are bound to be some casualties.   I had tea with Ivor the day before yesterday and I’ve never seen him so cheerful”.

A dairy entry of the same day records how he took off his clothes for the first time in eighteen days.

On 1st July the British launched their great Somme offensive and Ivor Stewart-Liberty wrote to his wife (Phipps’ sister) “Charles was up (in the front line) last night, having a busy time.   I hope he won’t have to do anything violent – he’s too young….”

On 17th July 1916 the Ox and Bucks LI were in position to attack a particularly strong German defence in an area known as The Sugar Loaf, near Fromelles on the Somme,which was full of machine guns and constructed of thick concrete.  The attack was put off due to bad light and Phipps’ platoon returned to their billets although their reprieve was short-lived and the following day they returned to the front line.  Phipps’ diary records an unfortunate incident that morning when A Company were gassed by their shell landing on one of their gas cylinders, causing 78 casualties.    At 11 a.m. the bombardment started and continued for 7 hours.  The German response wreaked havoc and by the evening nearly 100 men had been killed or wounded by shell-fire.  They had gone into battle with 20 officers, of which only 6 remained and 300 other ranks survived out of just over 600.

Both Phipps and his brother-in-law were casualties.  Phipps was at the head of his platoon when struck by a bullet, which broke his leg. His batman, 19 year old Private Damant, picked him up to try and carry him back to the British trenches but both were then struck by machine gun fire. Phipps was killed instantly and Damant died later and is buried in grave XI.A.21 of the Merville Communal Cemetery. Stewart-Liberty was severely wounded in the left leg, and Sergeant Joseph Petty spent the next five hours dragging him back to the British trenches. He survived the war.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Phipps
  • Forenames or initials: Charles Percy
  • House: H
  • Years in School: 1909-1912
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry
  • Date of Birth: 12th December 1895
  • Date of Death: 19th July 1916
  • How Died: Killed in action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer F2
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Unknown but commemorated on Panels 83-85 of the LOOS MEMORIAL