Two years after leaving school in 1912, Esmond Kellie had passed the exam for the Civil Service. But on the outbreak of war, he joined the 28th Battalion of the London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles). The following January, Kellie was transferred to the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, along with another young officer, Charles Kirch.
In April 2015, the Battalion was involved in the bitter competition over “Hill 60”, a spoil heap just south of Ypres. The small mound afforded an excellent viewpoint from which to observe the ground around Zillebeke and Ypres, and was the only place in the area that was not waterlogged. From the 12th to the 16th of April, the battalion prepared for an attack on Hill 60. They worked day and night reconnoitring disused French and German trenches, and in opening up communication trenches.
They were ready to attack on the 17th and, with the help of mines and heavy artillery, the Hill was successfully taken by the British. However, Hill 60 projected into enemy territory, which left it exposed and costly to occupy. The German counterattack the following day resulted in considerable casualties, and part of the hill was temporarily lost. The shelling and bombing intensified, and Kellie was killed on the 19th of April, along with Charles Kirch who had joined on the same day.
The Germans’ second attempt to recover the hill was successful, and Hill 60 was lost on 5th May, following a series of gas attacks.