Private Wilbert Devine
5371 2nd East Lancashire Regiment
Lived at 39 Briercliffe Road
Killed in Action 24th April 1918, aged 22
Buried in Adelaide Cemetery, France
Burnley Express 15th June 1918

Burnleys Great War Centenary Sponsored by: Anne Phillipson

Oxford Diocesan Guild
On Tuesday 24th April 2018
All Saints, Calverton

A Quarter Peal of 1260 Plain Bob Doubles was rung to commemorate the centenary of the death on this day of Lance Corporal Wilbert Devine of the 2nd Bn East Lancs Regiment, great-uncle of Anne McIntyre, who was killed in action at the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux aged 22.

Son of James and Susy Ann Devine of 39 Briercliffe Rd, Burnley, one of six children. His cousin Joseph (No. 53859) was a driver with the South Wales Borderers.

Wilbert's Parents - James and Susy Ann (nee Crabtree)

Wilbert was in the 2nd Battn E Lancs, part of the 25th Brigade in the 8th Division.
He took part in the battle of Villers-Bretonneux. The 8th Division was holding the line in front of Amiens by the village of Villers-Bretonneux. On the 23rd April 1918, the German attack on the village started and they captured the village during that day. The 8th division was positioned to the south and east of the village and the German attack reached them in the early morning of the 24th. It started with a short artillery bombardment with mustard gas and high explosive shells which resulted in the soldiers having to wear gas masks for two hours. The attack was supported by German A7V tanks and this resulted in the first ever tank vs tank battle between 3 German A7V tanks and 3 British MkIV tanks. It was during this fighting that Private Wilbert Devine was killed probably around 6.30 to 9.30am.
Later that day, the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions with units of the 8th and 18th Divisions recaptured the village.

Wilbert was buried initially at Chalk Lane Cemetery near Villers-Bretonneux and later moved to Adelaide Cemetery, Villers-Bretonneux.
A report of his death was featured in the Burnley Express dated 15th June 1918 and he is also commemorated on the war memorial in St John’s RC Church in Burnley and on the family gravestone in Burnley Cemetery.

Extract from the War diary for the 24th April :
“At 3.20am the enemy commenced an intense bombardment of our front line village defences and in rear. Gas respirators had to be worn for about two hours. At about 9am the enemy attacked with tanks and broke through the right of the Divisional line up to the 2nd Rifle Brigade front. The companies of the Bn. Held their ground with heavy casualties until 9.30am when the tanks having outflanked them, they were forced to fall back and a new line was taken up west of the village to prevent the enemy debouching.”

Extract from Australian Corps report :
“At 3.45am on the 24th April the enemy opened a barrage of gas shell and H.E. on the whole divisional front … and on the divisional fronts of the 8th Division on the right and the 3rd Australian Division on the left. Enemy infantry action developed against the 8th Division at about 6.30am.”

(Courtesy of Anne McIntyre)




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