Steam punk engineers

26th September 1914

The Dorsets continued digging in, deepening existing trenches and connecting them with communication trenches.

They were assisted by sappers from the 17th Company Royal Engineers, led by C.E.R. Pottinger, who appears to have been a character out of a steam punk novel. Gleichen describes him; “young Pottinger, a most plucky and capable youth wearing the weirdest of clothes—a short and filthy mackintosh, ragged coat and breeches, and a huge revolver.”

Charles Evan Roderick Pottinger was born in Ahmednuggor, India in 1890. In the 1911 census he’s a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, 21 and living in Gillingham, Kent. This is the location for the headquarters to the Royal School of Military Engineering which is now the Royal Engineers Museum, Library & Archive.

Gleichen annotates Pottinger’s name with this sad comment: “I grieve very much to see that he was fatally wounded outside Ypres (15th May 1916).” He actually died of wounds a year earlier than that, on 11th May 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres. He also appears in the Irish list of Casualties of World War One, so I wonder if he was from Irish lineage? He lived at “Glenshee”, Cambridge Park, Twickenham, which is my old stomping ground, but I haven’t been able to unearth any more information about him at this time, not even a photograph.

He left an awful lot of money (£14,105 – the equivalent of about £1 million today) to Arthur Godfrey James who, in 1911, is living in bijoux Kensington with his wife Helen and a raft of domestic servants. James’ son’s first name is Evan. I wonder if there’s a family connection here? A little more digging around and it appears that the (very posh) Twickenham address was owned by Sir Henry Evan Murchison James. He’s another Evan. I’ve written to one of his descendants and am still waiting to hear back. I’ll update this post if I learn anything new.

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