Private, London Regiment, ‘A’ Coy. 23rd Bn.
Service no. 701038
Died on 5 April 1918, aged 19
Remembered at Martinsart British Cemetery, Somme, France
Chris Burge writes:
Mark Harry Briggs was born in Lambeth on 14 May 1898 and was baptised at All Saints’, South Lambeth on 12 June. He was named after his father, and his parents Mark Harry and Elizabeth Jane Briggs were living in three rooms at 5 Madrid Place, off Dorset Road, which was still the family home in 1911. Six of Elizabeth’s eight children had survived infancy and in the 1911 census, Mark’s father had placed his son, now aged 12, above all his sisters names in the census return. They were: Elizabeth Jane, 17; Esther Amy, 11; Phyllis Winifred, six; Florence Gertrude, five; and Ruby Ellen, just eight months old. Mark’s father was working as a house painter and his sister Elizabeth as a domestic servant. There was one final addition to the family when Ernest John Briggs was born in 1912.
Mark was 16 at the outbreak of war and was underage when he volunteered at St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction on 18 April 1915, the administrative base of the 23rd London Regiment. He claimed to be over 19 and at 5ft 6in in height passed the medical with ease. He was posted to the 2/23rd London Regiment as 3556, Pte. Briggs. His parents informed the authorities of his true age and prevented him from going overseas until he was over 19. Mark spent time in the 108th Provisional Battalion before being sent to France on 29 September 1916. In the summer of 1917 he was hospitalised in France with pleurisy, suffered an arm wound in November 1917 and was unfit for duty for a month. He was granted home leave in January 1918. In March and April 1918 the 1/23rd London regiment were on the old Somme battlefield near Aveluy Wood, north of Albert. They were in the path of the enemy’s spring offensive and suffered hundreds of casualties at the end of March and particularly on 5 April 1918.
In early May 1918 Mark’s parents received notice that he had been reported missing and his name subsequently appeared in British Red Cross & Order Of St John Enquiry List of missing or wounded on 2 August and 20 November 1918. When the military authorities presumed Mark’s death had occurred on, or since, 5 April 1918, the Briggs family were left to come to terms with their loss
It was Mark’s father who completed Army Form W5080 naming himself before his wife and children in order of precedence of the relatives of a deceased soldier. It was witnessed and countersigned at St Anne’s, South Lambeth, on 27 October 1919.The family’s address was now 2 Madrid Place. In another blow to the family, Mark’s father died late in 1921, aged 48. Mark’s mother Elizabeth only received her son medals after providing evidence of her husband’s death.
Mark’s mother Elizabeth remained at 2 Madrid Place into the 1930s before moving to Tooting. She passed away in 1946, aged 71.