Biographical Notes 4
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Cavalry in Akeman Street.


PRENTICE TO YOUNG


 

HARRY PRENTICE

Private, 2nd Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry, service no. 2901.
Son of Frederick and Eliza Prentice of 49 King Street, Tring.
Enlisted at Aylesbury.  Killed in action on the 19th July 1916 aged 18.
Buried in Laventie Military Cemetery, La Gorgue, France, grave ref. III. C. 24.

Headstone inscription: GOD BE WITH YOU TILL WE MEET AGAIN.


It appears that Private Prentice was another victim of the slaughter at Fromelles (see Sidney Pratt).

As planned, the Battle of Fromelles (19th-20th July, 1916) aimed to prevent the Germans moving troops away from the Fromelles sector to the Somme battlefield fifty miles to the south, and possibly forcing the German High Command to move more troops from the Somme to support those at Fromelles.  It also aimed to eliminate a salient (the Sugarloaf) occupied by German forces that gave them observation over no man’s land on either flank.  The attack was masterminded by Lieutenant-General Richard Haking, commander of the XI Corps, [Note] one of the few generals to earn a ‘donkey’ reputation while the war was still in progress rather than after it.


Battlefield map showing 2/1 Bucks.


Two divisions of XI Corps of the First Army took part in the attacks, the British 61st and the Australian 5th.  Both had recently arrived in France and were devoid of combat experience.  Against them was the experienced 16th Bavarian Reserve Division (whose numbers are believed to have included Corporal Adolf Hitler).  The infantry attacked at 0600 and was immediately subjected to intense machine gun fire and shelling in a 300 metres-wide section of no man’s land, four waves of which were mown down in succession.  Some Australian soldiers succeeded in penetrating the German lines, but they were quickly isolated and subjected to counter-attacks.  No man’s land became filled with the bodies of dead and wounded, some likening the macabre scene to a giant butcher’s stall.

In spite of the initial failure a second attack was launched at 9 a.m.  Totally isolated after a night in the German trenches, the Australian survivors of the first attack attempted to regain their lines on the morning of the 20th July, but the enemy’s machine guns once again took many casualties.  In a period of twenty-four hours the Australians lost 5,533 men and the British 1,400 with absolutely nothing to show for this loss.

Private Prentice was killed in action of the 19th July.  The following extract is from the War Diary [Note] of the 2/1 Ox and Bucks Light Infantry for that date:


July 19th: ‘Zero’ was at 11am, and at that hour our bombardment started.

5.30 p.m.: by 5.30pm we had lost nearly 100 men killed and wounded by shell fire. This was serious as on July 18th ‘A’ coy (which was holding the Battn. front) lost 78 men gassed - owing to one of OUR shells having burst on gas cylinders in our trenches.  The Battalion went into action with 20 officers and 622 other ranks. This was reduced by casualties suffered during the action to 6 officers and 300 O.R.

5.40 p.m.: What was left of ‘A’ and ‘D’ coys (the assaulting coys) − about 120 men − filed into NO MANS LAND by RHONNDA SAP, and lay down in 4 waves.

6 p.m.: with a cheer, the four waves leapt up and assaulted the enemy’s trenches.  Even before 5.40 p.m. the enemy’s machine guns had become busy, and at 6 p.m. they mowed down our advancing waves, so that only a few men actually reached the German parapet.  These did not return.

Telephone communications between Battalion Battle HQs and Front Line was soon cut (about 1 p.m.).  After many gallant attempts to mend the wire, success was obtained at exactly 5.40 p.m. and from 5.40 till 9.30 p.m. the telephone was in constant use and saved many lives − in that the runners were spared.

Reports that flowed in over the telephone were sent on − as they came in − straight to BDE
[Brigade] HQs and were very contradictory.  Owing to the distance between the trenches and the continuous bombardment and smoke, the officers who were observing found this task almost impossible of fulfilment with any degree of accuracy.  Seeing our own men actually on the German parapet it was concluded that a certain number must have got in.  But it is certain that very few survived the enemy’s machine gun fire and whether they got in or not they never returned.  C coy (the coy. which carried out R.E. material for consolidating purposes) went out into NO MANS LAND at 6.10 p.m. but, again, the enemy’s machine gun fire prevented any advance without extermination.

6.30 p.m.: by 6.30 p.m. it was clear that (1) the attack could not succeed without more men (2) that given more men (say two coys) the attack must have succeeded.  No reserves, however, were available and the Commanding Officer of the Battn. was ordered to reorganise and to attack again at 8.30 p.m.  This order was received at a time when every man, save a few telephone operators, orderlies and wounded, was in NO MANS LAND.  Gradually about 80 men (of A, C, & D coys) were reorganised, and 40 men of B coy (the reserve coy) were added.

7.30 p.m.: the order came to postpone attack till 9 p.m.

8 p.m.: and at 8 p.m. the order came through that no further attack would take place that night.  Every officer who went out with the assaulting coys was either killed or wounded and Capt. H. S. G. Buckmaster was the only officer who went out into NO MANS LAND who came back physically unhurt.

During the 18th and 19th July the Battalion lost 322 ALL RANKS as follows:


Killed: Capt. H. C. Church; Lieut. C. P. Phipps; 2nd Lieuts. H. R. N. Brewin and F. R. Parker.

Died of wounds: Lieut. D. G. Chadwick.

Wounded: Capt. I. Stewart-Liberty and V. W. G. Ranger; 2nd Lieuts. H. G. Baddeley, A. T. Pitcher, B. H. Drakes, G. D. W. Oliver, T. J. Relf and J. S. Rutherford.

Other ranks: killed, 62; wounded 180; missing 65.


The whole attack was unsuccessful in that the enemy's trenches, though penetrated, were not consolidated and held, but a very great measure of success was obtained in that (1) the enemy suffered severe casualties (2) he was and will be prevented from withdrawing either infantry or guns for the support of his forces further South on the SOMME.

One of the most striking lessons to be learnt from this attack is that the very greatly superior method of holding trenches adopted by the Germans should at once be followed by the British and French armies. Whereas on our Battn. front the Regt. had NOT ONE bomb-proof shelter, and lost 100 casualties from shelling alone, the Germans appeared to have about 6 teams of machine gunners, and very few infantry, and even after seven hours of bombardment by our guns, these six teams of machine gunners appeared intact, firing over the parapet at our assaulting infantry.

By crowding three companies into three hundred yards of front, our casualties from shell-fire were the more heavy.”


From the Bucks Herald 5th August 1916:


“THE WAR. − PRIVATE HARRY PRENTICE KILLED. − News was received at the end of last week that another Tring lad had lost his life in the great advance.  Harry Prentice, of the Bucks Territorials, was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Prentice of King-street, and though then not quite 17, joined up soon after the outbreak of the war.  He went to the Front last May.  No particulars beyond the fact that he was killed on the night of July 19th are yet to hand.  His parents received a letter from the Sergeant-Major of the Company, in which he speaks of Harry as a quiet, unassuming boy, always ready to do his bit without a grumble, and as one who would be much missed by his comrades.  The Chaplain of the 2/1 Bucks Battalion, in a letter expressing his deep sympathy and sincere regret, said: ‘I thought it might be a comfort to you to know that I buried him with his comrades in a burial ground, where a cross has been erected over his grave with name on, etc. His grave will be well cared for.’”



Laventie Military Cemetery is located in the commune of La Gorgue in Northern France.  The cemetery is half a mile northeast of the centre of the municipality of Laventie, but in the territory of La Gorgue.

For most of the war the villages of Lavence and La Gorgue lay in allied territory.  The cemetery was started by the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division in July 1916 and also used by other British units during 1916 and 1917.  It remained in use until April 1918, when the area fell into enemy hands during the German Spring Offensive. [Note] After the German withdrawal, more burials took place in September 1918.

There are now 468 British (including 8 unidentified), 5 Australians, 71 Indians (including 43 unidentified), 1 unidentified Chinese (employed by the Chinese Labour Corps ) and 3 Germans (including 1 unidentified) buried in the cemetery.


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ARTHUR HENRY RANCE

Corporal, 62nd Machine Gun Corps (formerly with the London Regiment), service no. 66504.
Born in Tring.  Son of Henry and Mary Rance, Husband of Alice of ‘Glenside,’ Bulbourne, Tring.
Formerly employed as a draper’s assistant.
Killed in action on the 9th June 1918 aged 33.
Buried in Bienvillers Military Cemetery, grave ref. XXI. C. 6.


From the Bucks Herald 2nd September 1911:


Wedding.  On Saturday, August 26th, in delightful weather, an interesting wedding was celebrated at New Mill Baptist Church between Miss Alice Bovington, second daughter of Mr R. J. Bovington of Wingrave Road, New Mill and Mr Arthur H. Rance of Tring. There was a large attendance of relatives and friends at the service.  The ceremony was performed by the Rev. C. Pearce, the pastor at New Mill, the Rev. T. Percy George being away from home on his holiday.  The Hymn ‘The Voice that breathed o’ Eden’ was sung during the service, and Miss J. Clark, the organist, played a selection of festival music while the guests were assembling and again while the register was being signed.  The bride was charmingly attired in a dress of cream silk.  She was accompanied by Miss Olive Ruth Bovington (sister) as “best girl”.  Two children Iris Rosa Bovington (sister) and Frederick Kent were in attendance.  Mr Bovington gave his daughter away and Mr Frederick Kent sen. was best man.  Mr and Mrs Rance left Tring later in the day for Leigh-on-Sea.”


Prior to the formation of Machine Gun Battalions, a Machine Gun Company was attached to each Infantry Brigade and their subsequent Division.

Following the formation of the 62nd Machine Gun Company at Grantham, it moved to France where it joined the 62 Infantry Brigade of the 21st Division on the 4th March 1916.  On the reorganisation of machine gun companies into battalions, on the 24th February 1918 the 21st Machine Gun Battalion was formed from the Machine Gun Companies of the 21st Division. [Note]  During 1918, they were in action during the Battle of the Lys, the Third Battle of the Aisne, The Second Battle of the Somme, the Battles of the Hindenburg Line and the Final Advance in Picardy.  At the Armistice the Division were around Berlaimont, on the 12th they moved to Beaufort, then in mid-December they moved west of Amiens and began demobilisation, which was completed by the 19th May 1919.

The brief obituary in the Bucks Herald (below) states that Corporal Rance was killed by a shell, but if this was so the circumstances appear not to have been known.  The Battalion War Diary [Note] for the 9th June (and preceding days) suggests that the Battalion was undergoing training − indeed the whole of June appears to have been devoid of fighting, which is in sharp contrast to the end of May when the Battalion appears to have been in the thick of action stemming the German Spring Offensive: [Note]


 

Arthur Rance (above left) pictured in the uniform of his first regiment, the Seaforth Highlanders, and above right in an undated picture.


From the Bucks Herald 22nd June 1918:


“The war has made yet another claim in the town by the death of Corpl. Arthur Henry Rance, M.G.C., on Sunday 9 June, and much sympathy is felt with his bereaved wife and relatives.

Although he left Tring a few years ago, Corpl. Rance was well known in the town, as for some eight years he was assistant in the establishment of Mr. E. K. Fulks, draper and outfitter, and whilst there, and also in his younger days, he was held in high esteem by all. He was 34 years of age, and married, his wife being the second daughter of Mr. R. J. Bovingdon, Glenside, Bulbourne, with whom she had been residing for some time.

Before joining the Army he was in business in London, which he disposed of when he was called to the Colours. The Chaplain in conveying the sad news to Mrs. Rance, said he understood he was killed by a shell, but had not been able to see anyone who has actually been present at the time.

The body has been laid to rest in the British Military Cemetery at Bienvillers au Bois. His officer wrote: − ‘His comrades are deeply grieved, as he was much loved by his men, and they wish me to tender their deep sympathy in your great trouble. Perhaps it will console you to know that his death was instantaneous, and he did not suffer any pain.’

Corpl. Rance joined the army in August 1916, and went to France in the following March.”



Bienvillers Military Cemetery was begun in September 1915 by the 37th Division, carried on by other Divisions in the line until March 1917, reopened from March to September 1918, when the village was again near the front line, and completed in 1922-24 when a number of graves, mainly of 1916, were brought in from the battlefields of the Ancre. Its twenty-one plots show a remarkable alternation of original burials in regimental or divisional groups, and groups of concentrated graves.

The cemetery now contains 1,605 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 425 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to two casualties known or believed to be buried among them.

 
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HARRY RANCE

Bugler, 58th Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regt.), 451060.
Charles Street, Tring.
Died of cerebro-spinal meningitis at Cambridge Military Hospital on the 6th January 1916 aged 22.
Buried in Tring Cemetery, grave ref. E 119.


From the Hertford Mercury and Reformer 22nd January 1916:


“The death occurred last week of Bugler Harry Rance of the 58th Canadian Light Infantry, son of Mrs. Rance, 38 Charles Street, Tring, and the late Mr. W. Rance, formerly bandmaster of the Tring Band, and a Band-Sergeant in the old Berkhamstead Volunteer Battalion Band.  Deceased, who was 22 years of age, came over with the Canadian Contingent, and visited his home at Tring for Christmas leave.  While home he was seized with illness, and was certified to be suffering from cerebro-spinal meningitis. He was removed to Cambridge Military Hospital, where he died.”


From the Bucks Herald 15th January 1916:


“On Wednesday afternoon Bugler Harry Rance, of the Canadian Light Infantry, was buried at the New Cemetery, Tring, with military honours.  Bugler Rance was a son of the late Mr. William Rance, and went to Canada a few years ago.  On the outbreak of the war he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and came to this country.  While spending a short leave at his home in Tring he was taken ill, and the military medical officers diagnosed his disease as cerebro-spinal meningitis.  He removed to Cambridge, where special facilities exist for treating this mysterious malady, but died on the 6th, aged 22.

The body was brought home on Saturday.  The funeral procession from his home in Charles-street to the Cemetery was most impressive.  Members of the Harts Territorials formed the firing party, and the Band of the Cambridgeshire Territorials played as the cortege moved slowly along.

At the graveside the service was taken by the Rev. H. Francis, vicar of Tring, and one of the Army Chaplains.  On the advice of the military medical authorities it was decided not to take the body into church.  At the conclusion of the prayers two verses of ‘Abide with me’ were sung, and with the firing of a volley over the grave and the sounding of ‘The Last Post’, the impressive and reverently conducted service concluded.

Floral tributes were sent ‘From his loving mother’; ‘His sisters and brothers’; ‘Cousins Hettie and Charles’; ‘Fred, Lizzie and Nancy’; ‘Aunt Ellen’; ‘A soldier’s mother’; ‘Mr. and Mrs. F. Budd’; the Brentford officers of the 58th Battalion C.E.F., the Brentford Platoon, C Company, 58th Batt., C.E.F., and the Bugle Band of the 58th Batt. C.E.F.”





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WALTER RANCE

Lance Corporal , 2nd Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment.  Enlisted at Bedford, service no. 265718.
Killed in action in Italy on the 29th October 1918 aged 30.
Born in Tring.  Husband of Elsie A. Rance of 35 Albert Street, Tring.
Buried in Tezze British Cemetery, grave ref. Plot 4. Row A. Grave 14.


The Italians entered the war on the Allied side, declaring war on Austria in May 1915.  Commonwealth forces were at the Italian front between November 1917 and November 1918. 

On the 21st October 1918, Commonwealth forces comprising the XIVth Corps (7th and 23rd Divisions), which had been transferred from the Asiago sector, took over the part of the River Piave front from Salletuol to Palazzon, serving as part of the Italian Tenth Army.  On the night of the 23rd October, the main channel of the river was crossed using small boats and the northern half of the island of Grava di Papadopoli was occupied, the occupation being completed two nights later by a combined Commonwealth and Italian force.

After capturing the island, the bridging of the Piave proceeded rapidly, although the strength of the current meant that the two bridges built for the crossing were frequently broken and many men were drowned.  The Allied attack east of the Piave began early in the morning of the 27th October.  Despite stiff resistance and difficulties with bringing forward supporting troops across the river, the Austrians were forced back over the next few days until the Armistice came into effect on the 4th November.

The following are extracts from the 2nd Battalion’s War Diary [Note] covering their operations from late on the 28th October to the 30th.  It isn’t apparent from this record what happened to Lance-Corpl. Rance (or to others in “A” Company), but his name is recorded among the fatalities sustained by “A” Company in the final section below:






From the Bucks Herald 16th November 1918:


“Lance-Corpl. Walter Rance, Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, resided at Unity Cottages, Albert Street, and joined the Army some two years ago.  He served six months in France and twelve months in Italy.  On Wednesday morning his wife received the sad news that her husband was killed by a shell in October last.  His officer, in conveying his sympathy, described Corpl. Rance as a brave and cool man, and a splendid example to the gun team, which he commanded.

Rance was a member of the Tring Fire Brigade, and before joining up was employed by Messrs. J. Honour and Son
[builders].  He leaves a widow and two young children.”


From the Parish Magazine December 1918:


“K.I. A. 30th October 1918, during the big offensive in Italy.  He joined up two years ago and after his training, served for six months in France, where he was wounded and then for twelve months in Italy.  In former days he was a member of the Y.M.C.A and in our Local Fire Brigade.  His lieutenant writes: ‘It is with deepest sympathy and regret that I have to tell you, that your husband was killed in action on October 30th.  A few minutes after we came in to action on that morning (about 10. a.m.) your husband was struck by a shell, while laying alongside me, and you will be comforted to know that he could have suffered no pain, as he died within a couple of minutes.  Your husband was a very cool and brave man, and a splendid example to The Gun Team he commanded.  He was a most willing and capable soldier, and a very popular with all who knew him, and his loss is keenly felt by us all, and especially by myself, who was his Platoon Officer.  He died, upholding the best traditions of an Englishman and a Soldier.’”



Tezze is a village in the Province of Treviso, a large town north of Venice. It was captured by the Austrians in the advance in the autumn of 1917 and remained in their hands until the Allied forces crossed the River Piave at the end of October 1918.  Many of those who died on the north-east side of the river during the Passage of the Piave are buried in the Tezze British Cemetery, which now contains 356 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.


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SIDNEY JAMES RANDALL

Private, 44th (New Brunswick) Canadian Expeditionary Force, service no. 2225677
Born 16th July 1897.  Son of Mr. A. E. Randall, Albert-street, Tring.
Died of wounds on the 12th November 1918 at the General Military Hospital, Rouen.
Buried in St Sever Cemetery Extension, grave ref. S. III. AA. 24.


The 44th Battalion (Manitoba) was an infantry battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  It embarked for the U.K. on the 23rd October 1915, moving to France on the 12th August 1916.  It then fought as part of the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division [Note] in France and Flanders until the end of the war.  In August 1918, the 44th Battalion was renamed the 44th Battalion (New Brunswick), Canadian Expeditionary Force.


Archives of Manitoba: of all the “Originals” from the 44th and 61st Battalions, only 100 came home.


Private Randall died of shrapnel wounds on the 12th November, 1918, but the Battalion War Diary [Note] gives little help on the circumstances in which these were acquired:
 

Fri, Nov 8, 1918: the Battalion moved forward to billets in THULIN, arriving there at dusk.  Four casualties (wounded) occurred from enemy shell fire immediately after the Battalion had arrived.

Sat, Nov 9, 1918: the Battalion was ordered again to move forward by Route March to JEMAPPES which was reached at 19.00 Hours.  The route was via BOUSSU - HORNU - QUAREGNON.  Throughout the whole march the streets were lined with cheering civilians who gave the Battalion a tremendous reception.

Sun., Nov 10, 1918: on the morning of the 10th the Battalion relieved the P.P.C.L.I. and took over a Company of the R.C.R.  The area extended from the CONDE-MONS Canal to the HYON-QUESMES Road in Q.13.C.  As soon as this was completed the Battalion commenced to press the attack on MONS from the Western and Southern outskirts and penetrated the city and the neighbourhood of the Railway Station at 01.00 Hours on the 11th.  During the afternoon, while the enemy were shelling JEMAPPES, the Battalion suffered most unfortunate casualties in its Transport Lines.  An H.V. shell burst in the Farrier’s workshop killing two men outright and wounding ten others, four of whom afterwards died of wounds.  The majority of these men had come with the Battalion from Montreal and had been with it for thirty-seven months in France.


However, the Manitoba Government website holds a listing (.pdf, 5.4MB) of soldiers from the province who are known to have perished in the Great War.  It includes an entry for Private Randall, stating that his occupation was that of a blacksmith.  Thus the reference in the War Diary above (10th November) to a shell exploding in “the Farrier’s workshop, a place in which you might expect a blacksmith to be working, might refer to the incident in which Private Randall lost his life.

From the Bucks Herald 23rd November 1918:


“ROLL OF HONOUR. − We regret to learn that two more families of the town have suffered bereavement by the loss of sons in France.  Sidney Haystaff was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Haystaff of Brook-street.  He belonged to the Canadian Grenadier Guards, and was killed in action on Nov. 5. − Sidney James Randall, son of Mr. A. E. Randall, Albert-street, died of wounds in the General Military Hospital, Rouen, on Nov. 12.

Both these men emigrated to Canada as lads, and they joined the forces about a year ago.  Randall was a member of the Tring Y.M.C.A., and Haystall one of the first, and certainly one of the most proficient, members of the Tring Company, Church Lads Brigade.”


From the Parish Magazine December 1918:


Sidney James Randall. 44th BN Canadian Infantry, died in the General Hospital at Rouen on November 12th 1918, as the result of severe shrapnel wounds.

He joined up in Canada twelve months ago, and went to France last August.  As a lad, he was a member of the Y.M.C.A. in Tring, and is affectionately remembered by all who knew him here.”



St. Sever Cemetery Extension is located within a large communal cemetery situated on the eastern edge of the southern Rouen suburbs of Le Grand Quevilly and Le Petit Quevilly.

During the First World War, Commonwealth camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen.  A base supply depot and the 3rd Echelon of General Headquarters were also established in the city.  Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for practically the whole of the war.  They included eight general, five stationary, one British Red Cross and one labour hospital, and No. 2 Convalescent Depot.  A number of the dead from these hospitals were buried in other cemeteries, but the great majority were taken to the city cemetery of St. Sever.  In September 1916, it was found necessary to begin an extension in which the last burial took place in April 1920.

The cemetery extension contains 8,348 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, ten of them unidentified.


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DOUGLAS JOLLAND REW

Second Lieutenant, 5th Essex Regiment.
Son of Major and Mrs. H. G. Rew of 61 Norbury Court Road, Streatham, London.
Assistant scoutmaster at Tring.
Killed in action in France on the 28th June 1917 aged 33.
Buried in Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, Pas-de-Calais, grave ref. Plot 1, Row 5, Grave 32.


Although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission list 2nd Lieut. Rew as a member of the 5th Battalion Essex Regiment, which he may have been, he was not killed while fighting with that unit, which served at Gallipoli and in the Middle East.  The Roll of Honour of the Artists Rifles, his former regiment, lists 2nd Lieut. Rew as being near Loos and on the strength of the 11th Essex at the time of his death . . . .


Artists Rifles.  Regimental Roll of Honour and War Record 1914-1919.


and it is in the War Diary [Note] of this unit for the 28th June 1917 that his death is reported.  At the time the men of the 11th Essex were in the trenches near Les Brebis, a small hamlet north west of Grenay and Maroc in the Loos sector.  On the evening of the 28th June they carried out a raid on the opposing German trenches, the general objective of which was:


“11th Essex Operation Order No. 91.

The Battalion will carry out a raid on the enemy’s trenches on the 28th instant in conjunction with the 2nd Durham Light Infantry, who will raid on our immediate right (South).

Object: to take prisoners, obtain identification, and destroy dugouts and mine shafts
.


The report of the raid makes no mention of Rew’s death − although it does refer to two unnamed officers being killed − but the Battalion’s daily log does:


“1st Army, 1st Corps, 6th Divn, 18th I.B., [18th Infantry Brigade] 11th Battn. Essex.

28th June, 7.10pm: Capt. Silver’s party raided the German trenches.  All desired ends were attained.  A prisoner was captured, the party remained in the German line the full hours appointed, mine shafts and dug outs were destroyed, a large number of Germans were killed and much artillery fire was diverted from the operations of the 46th Divn. on our right.  For details see orders and reports in App. I, II, and II. 2nd Lieuts WEARNE and REW killed.

A very quiet day. Trench strength 177 offs 437 other ranks. Lieut M. R. Robertson
[?] who led the party over was twice wounded.

The Battalion was relieved by the 14th D.L.I.
[Durham Light Infantry] and proceeded to billets in LES BREBIS.”


With regard to casualties suffered during the raid, the official report goes on to say “A list of casualties will be forwarded [not attached to the War Diary]. I regret they are heavy. Two officers are known to have been killed and one wounded Enemy’s retaliation was particularly heavy, causing a number of casualties in our lines.”  Perhaps this “retaliation” was the “bombardment” referred to below in which Rew was killed?

From the Essex Newsman 28th July 1917:


“Sec-Lieut. Douglas Jolland Rew, Essex Regt., killed during a heavy bombardment on June 28, was the third son of the late Major H. G. Rew and Mrs Rew of 22 Queen’s Road, South Norwood.  He obtained his commission in the Essex Regt. from the Artists’ Rifles O.T.C., and served at the Front with the 13th Essex Regt., being severely wounded. He returned to the Front last April, being posted to another battalion, and was again wounded.”


From the Parish Magazine August 1917:


“2nd/Lt Douglas Rew was not for long a resident of Tring, but during his period of residence here he rendered good service.  For nearly two and a half years, he acted as Assistant Scout Master to our troop.  He proved himself a most conscientious and willing worker.  The scouts are not likely to forget the interesting problems that he used to set them on a Saturday afternoon, and the help he gave on the allotments and on the football field, or at fretwork table in the clubroom.  He was able sometimes to take a class in Sunday School but most of his Sundays were devoted to Cheddington Church, where he read the lesson.

Soon after leaving Tring, he joined the Artists Rifles and from that Corps, obtained a commission in the Essex Regiment.  Part of his training was done at Halton Camp.  He was twice wounded whilst in France, but returned to duty until, on June 28th he was called to higher service.  His officer comrades wrote to him; ‘He was always self reliant and thorough in what ever he took up, and was one to do his absolute duty’.  He was killed, together with two of his men, whilst visiting them during a heavy German bombardment.  His Captain writes that his death must have been instantaneous.”



The Philosophe British Cemetery was started in August 1915.  In 1916 it was taken over by the 16th (Irish) Division, who held the Loos Salient at the time, and many of their dead were brought back to the cemetery from the front line.  Succeeding divisions used the cemetery until October 1918, and men of the same Division, and often the same battalion, were buried side by side.

After the Armistice, this cemetery was one of those used for the concentration of isolated graves from the Loos battlefield.  The bodies of 41 men of the 9th Black Watch were brought from positions a little West of Loos, and those of 340 officers and men of other Regiments from different points in the communes of Cambrin, Auchy, Vermelles, Halluch and Loos.

There are now 1,996 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in the cemetery, 277 of them unidentified.


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THOMAS WALTER ROBERTS

Private, 7th East Surrey Regiment.  Enlisted at Watford, service no. 2857.
Born in Tring.  Son of Walter and Mary Ann Roberts of The Gas Works, Brook Street, Tring.
Killed in action on on the 23rd July 1916 aged 18.
No known grave.  Commemorated on Thiepval Memorial, ref. Pier and Face 6 B and 6 C.


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission record states that Private Roberts was attached to the 7th East Surrey Regiment, but obituary notices in the Parish Magazine and Bucks Herald − presumably based on reliable information − go on to say that he was fighting with the Manchester Regiment at the time of his death, but without stating with which of its numerous battalions.  Commemoration on the Thiepval Memorial narrows down the possible actions to the Somme offensive, [Note] so within that boundary it is a matter of looking to see what battalions of the Manchester Regiment were in action on the 23rd July, the day on which Thomas Walters disappeared.  However, the account follows is unavoidably speculative.

On the 1st July 1916, the first day of the Somme, the Manchester Regiment had nine battalions committed, including the 16th (1st City), 17th (2nd City), 18th (3rd City) and 19th (4th City), all serving in the 90th Brigade of the 30th Division. [Note]

On the 23rd July at 3.40 a.m. the 30th Division attacked the French village of Guillemont with one battalion from Trônes Wood and one from Longueval Alley to the north.  The bombardment of the village and the trenches in front of it appeared to have been highly destructive, as was a standing barrage by heavy artillery, but it did not cut all the barbed wire.  The field artillery fired [Note] a creeping barrage [Note] in four lifts through the village, stopping on the south and east sides 45 minutes after zero hour.
 

Soldiers leaving the trenches at Guillemont.


The 19th Manchesters moved into Trones Wood where the men took advantage of the cover of shell holes to await zero hour for the attack.  The Battalion, which had lost 14 casualties on the way up to Trones Wood, was shelled continuously by the Germans during the night. 

At 2.30 am, the Battalion moved into position for their attack.  ‘A’ Company moved along the railway line and formed up to the north of ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies, with ‘B‘ Company in support behind them.  At 3.40 am the attack began and from the start it was subjected to heavy German artillery, machine-gun and rifle fire.  ‘A’ Company managed to negotiate the uncut barbed wire and passed through the enemy front line without serious opposition but then came under heavy fire from six to eight German machine guns on their flanks and from the ridge in front of them.  Nevertheless, elements of the Company did reach Guillemont.

However, by 6.00 am it was clear that the 19th Manchesters’ attack had failed and that the survivors would have to withdraw.  About 30 men of ‘A’ Company managed to reach British lines, but a party holding a quarry outside the village was wiped out.  ‘C’ Company, to their right, entered Guillemont in strength, some reaching the eastern edge of the village and attacking the headquarters of the German defenders, but they were steadily cut off and surrounded.  Very few managed to escape.  ‘B’ and ‘D’ Companies suffered slightly less.  By this time communications with the rear had been cut by a German barrage in no-mans-land and by a smoke screen that was intended to mask the attack from the Germans.

For the Battalion, the attack on Guillemont was a disaster.  They suffered 571 casualties, over two thirds of their strength, of whom no fewer than 496 men were recorded missing.  That evening the survivors withdrew to Glatz Redoubt, which they had captured with distinction three weeks earlier.
 

The High Street, Guillemont, September 1916.


From the Bucks Herald 23rd June 1917:


“A MISSING SOLDIER. − For some months past considerable doubt has been felt as to the fate of Pte. Thomas Walter Roberts, son of Mr. W. Roberts, the esteemed manager of the Tring Gas Light & Coke Company, Limited.  The young fellow, who was then only 17 years of age, joined the East Surrey Regiment at an early stage in the war, and in June last year was sent to France, being attached to the Manchester Regiment, with which unit he went into action on July 23, 1916.  He failed to answer the roll-call after the engagement, and was presumed to be ‘missing’ or a prisoner.  Enquiries have since been made, but no trace can be found of him, and his parents have been notified by the Army Council that they have been regretfully constrained to conclude that he is dead, and that his death took place on July 23, 1916.  Much sympathy has been felt with his parents in the long strain of uncertainty which has hung over his fate for so many months, and that this has been further extended now that the news of a more definite, though regrettable, character has been received.”


From the Parish Magazine June 1917:


“Thomas Walter Roberts, who has been missing since 23 July 1916 is now reported to have been killed on that day; though no facts have come to light.  He joined the East Surrey Regt in 1914, giving his age as 17 years.

It was in June of 1916 that he went to France attached to The Manchester Regiment.  It was in the ‘push’ on the Somme that he made the great sacrifice.  All who knew Tom Roberts, speaks of him as a thoroughly good chap.

May our lord, in his mercy, grant them rest and peace.”



Following Guillemont, the 19th Manchester Battalion was incapable of further action for some time due to the heavy losses it had sustained.  Many of those killed on the 23rd July − Tom Roberts among them  −  have no known graves and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing  of the Somme.

The Thiepval Memorial bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before the 20th March 1918 and have no known grave.  Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916.  The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.


――――♦――――

 
FRANK ROBINSON

Private, 17th Tank Corps, formerly with the Hertfordshire Regiment.  Service no. 304916.
Born in Tring.  Son of Thomas and Alice Robinson of Cherry Tree Cottages, Cholesbury.
Killed in action on the 11th June 1918 aged 21.
Buried in St Martin-Aux-Bois Churchyard.


The Royal Tank Regiment’s formation followed the invention of the tank.  Tanks were first used at Flers in September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.  At that time the six tank companies were grouped as the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps (MGC) [Note].  In November 1916 the eight companies then in existence were each expanded to form battalions; [Note] another seven battalions were formed by January 1918.

On the 28th July 1917 the Heavy Branch was by Royal Warrant separated from the rest of the MGC and given official status as the Tank Corps, meaning that by the beginning of 1918 the fifteen units were redesignated as the 1st to the 15th Battalion, Tank Corps.  More battalions continued to be formed, and by December 1918, 26 had been created.

In April 1918 the 17th Battalion converted from tanks to armoured cars, becoming known as the 17th (Armoured Car) Battalion, Tank Corps.  The Battalion was equipped with 16 Austin Armoured Cars, the general specification for the 1918 series vehicles (there were earlier types) being:


Designer and builder: the Austin Motor Company
Armour: 3–6 mm
Main armament: 2 x machine guns (Maxim or Hotchkiss)
Engine: Austin 4-cylinder inline, 4 stroke, water cooled petrol engine of 50 hp (37 kW)
Power/weight: 9.5 hp/ton
Transmission: 4 speed, 1 reverse gearbox
Suspension: 4x2 wheel
Operational range: 125 miles (201 km) radius of action
Speed: 35 mph (56 km/h).
Weight: 5.3 tons
Crew: 4 or 5.


Austin armoured car, 1918 model.


The 17th Battalion arrived in France in April 1918.  Its first operations in June were to support the French Army.  It returned to the British Army in August and was very successful at the Battle of Amiens.  The Austins were towed in pairs by tanks across the battlefield.  Once they reached better ground on the other side of the lines, they ranged freely.  A German Corps headquarters 10 miles back was captured and German reserves, artillery and supply lines were shot up.  The 17th was the first British unit to cross the Rhine in 1918.

The following extract is taken from Tanks in the Great War 1914-1918 by Brevet-Colonel J. F. C. FULLER, D.S.O. (Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry) 1920.  It leads up to an action on the 11th June 1918 (the date of Private Robinson’s death) in which the 17th Battalion was in action with French forces attempting to stem the German Spring Offensive: [Note]


In March 1918 the 17th Tank Battalion was in process of formation at the Tank Training Centre at Wool, when the German spring offensive resulted in so great a demand being made on the home resources that it was converted into an Armoured Car Battalion on April 23. On the following day the drivers were selected, and sixteen armoured cars, which were earmarked for the eastern theatre of war, were handed over to it, the Vickers machine guns being replaced by Hotchkiss ones.

On April 28 the cars were embarked at Portsmouth, and on the 29th the personnel, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel E. J. Carter, left Folkestone for Boulogne. Thus in six days the whole battalion was formed, equipped, and landed in France.

Immediately on landing the 17th Battalion was attached to the Second Army and ordered to proceed to Poperinghe, but the tactical situation improving these orders were cancelled and it was first sent to the Tank Gunnery School at Merhmont for instruction, and later on to the Tank Depot at Mers.

After some ten days
training the 17th Battalion joined the Fourth Army and went into the line at La Hussoye, being attached to the Australian Corps.  A few days later the battalion was transferred to the XXIInd Corps, which was then resting in G.H.Q. reserve, immediately behind the right flank of the British Army, and battalion headquarters were established at Pissy.  Here training continued until June 10, when at 9.30 a.m. instructions were received by Lieutenant-Colonel Carter to report to the headquarters of the First French Army at Conty.

At Conty orders were issued for the battalion to proceed to Ravenel near St. Just.  The battalion was notified of this by telephone, and, although the night was very dark and wet and the roads crowded with traffic, it reached Ravenel by 5 a.m. on June 11, after a sixty-mile journey, and went into action with the Tenth French Army in its counter-attack at Belloy on that day.  In this battle two sections of armoured cars engaged the enemy with machine-gun fire, but the quantity of debris scattered on the roads, and the fragile nature of the chassis of the cars, prevented their being freely used.  On the conclusion of these operations the battalion returned to the XXIInd Corps.”


The page from the Commanding Officer’s Report in the Battalion War Diary [Note] for the 11th June 1918 is missing, but its final sentences appears at the top of the page covering the following day’s activities.  They read:


“The Companies eventually rallied at VAUMONT and parked for the night, with the exception of one car on the TRICOT-COURCELLES road which was hit by Shell fire.  This car was recovered next day.  Casualties, 1 Gunner killed, 1 driver slightly wounded.”


The 17th Battalion lost one man on the 11th June, and although he is not named it follows that this was Private Robinson.

From the Parish Magazine October 1918:


“Frank Robinson joined The Herts Territorials in February of 1914, and was among those camping in Ashridge Park.  Just before the war began at the commencement of hostilities his regiment was mobilised and he was in France by November 1914.  He was invalidated home, but returned to the front later on, and was attached to the tanks, and killed in action on June 11th 1918 and buried in a cemetery about eight miles behind the line.  His Lieutenant, writing to his parents, says ‘I had only known your son for seven weeks, but I found him to be cool, cheerful and very popular among his comrades.  He had just been recommended for promotion and would have risen rapidly.  He leaves a gap in the ranks which is hard to replace and I had come to rely on him, and never found my trust misplace.’  He was evidently, as another officer, says ‘a very gallant soldier’”.


Saint-Martin-aux-Bois Churchyard contains one Commonwealth war grave from the World War I . . . .


Private Frank Robinson,
 ‘A’ Company, 17th (Armoured Car) Battalion, Tank Corps.


――――♦――――

 
HORACE HEDLEY REGINALD ROLFE

Air Mechanic 2nd Class, 1st Wing HQ Royal Flying Corps, service no. 16186.
Died of wounds on the 26th September 1916 aged 25.
Son of Frederick  (a coal merchant) and Agnes of Western Road, Tring.
Husband of Doris C. (née Plater) of Green End Street, Aston Clinton.
Member of the United Free Church.
Buried in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, grave ref. 1D42.

 

Reginald Rolfe died of wounds on the 26th September 1916 after his BE2c [Note] was hit by anti-aircraft fire over enemy lines during air reconnaissance on the previous day.  So far as I can ascertain his pilot, 2nd Lieut. Reginald Stanley Haward RFC [Note] was wounded in the incident, but appears to have survived (and survived the war).

From the Bucks Herald 7th October 1916:


“News reached the friends of Airman H. H. R. Rolfe last week that he was very ill in France, and that permission could not be given for anyone to see him.  The vague nature of the communication naturally gave rise to the most alarming surmises, and all attempts to obtain more definite information were ineffective.

On Sunday a letter reached Tring from the sister in charge of the clearing station
[Cemetery records suggest this was No.6 Casualty Clearing Station at Barlin, west of Lens] saying that Reginald Rolfe, who had been in the hospital wounded, passed away on the evening of September 26.  Further particulars are given in a letter from a chum.  It appears that Airman Rolfe was crossing the enemy’s lines when his machine was hit by a German anti-aircraft shell and he was badly wounded.  He did not fully recover consciousness after he was struck.  Several officers of the R.F.C. were present at his funeral, which was conducted by one of the Chaplains to the Forces.
 


Horace Hedley Reginald Rolfe, who was always known as ‘Reggie’, was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs Frederick Rolfe, of Western-road, Tring, and before joining the Colours was associated with his father in business, taking a special interest in the firm’s motor traffic undertakings.  In December, 1915, he joined the R.F.C. as an air mechanic, and after a short period of training at the Curragh, Ireland, went to France.  He was qualifying for a commission as a flight lieutenant, and at the time of his last flight was undergoing a period of probation as an observer.

‘Reggie’ Rolfe was a young man of great daring and courage; flying always had for him a great fascination, and had his life been spared − he was only 26 − he would doubtless have worthily sustained the reputation of the R.F.C. for fearless valour.  It is evident from the letters received from his friends that ‘Reggie’ was very popular among his comrades.  He was a frequent and acceptable performer at concerts got up by the men, his violin playing being greatly appreciated.

The greatest sympathy is expressed to his young wife, his parents, and the other members of his family.  His early death is a tragedy, but the circumstances of his death were just such as he himself would have wished.”


From the Parish Magazine November 1916:


“Reginald Rolfe R.F.C. was hit by anti aircraft fire on September 25th, while flying with his Lieutenant over the enemy lines, and sustained injuries from which he never recovered.  The machine came down in our own lines and he was laid side by side with hundreds of others who, like him, have made the great surrender ‘he was’, as his Commanding Officer writes, and we, who knew him in Tring, would have expected, ‘Very keen indeed on his work, and showed exceptional promise, besides which he was always so cheerful’.  It was his great wish to be an airman, and he died, as he would most eagerly have desired to die, doing his duty.”


Reg’s young widow, Doris, received a letter of condolence from Reggie’s commanding officer:


1 October 1916
. . . . I am sorry to say he was not with us for long.  He came on probation as an observer on the 20th of last month.  On the 25th he went out with Lieut. Haward over the lines.  They were unfortunately hit by anti-aircraft fire, all the controls being cut.  The machine fell in our lines and some sappers immediately went to the assistance of your husband and Lieut. Haward.  I am sorry to say that your husband sustained injuries in the crash, from which he did not recover . . . .
Yours sincerely,
P. C. Maltby,
Royal Flying Corps, B.E.F.

 


Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension was begun by French troops in October 1914 and when they moved south in March 1916 to be replaced by Commonwealth forces, it was used for burials by the 6th Casualty Clearing Station. [Note] In November 1917, Barlin began to be shelled and the hospital was moved back to Ruitz, but the extension was used again in March and April 1918 during the German advance on this front.  The extension contains 1,095 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 2 being unidentified.  There are 63 French and 13 German burials including 2 unidentified.


――――♦――――

 
WILLIAM CHARLES SEABROOK

Sergeant, 1st Aeroplane Supply Depot Repair Park, Royal Air Force, service no. 2102.
Son of Mr. and Mrs. C Seabrook of Western Road, Tring.
Died of wounds in France on the 25th September 1918 aged 24.
Buried in Terlincthun British Cemetery, grave ref. IV. C. 47.


As its name implies, the 1st Aeroplane Supply Depot (at Marquise near Boulogne) was used as a park from which new aircraft were supplied to squadrons and where repairs were carried out.  On the night of 23/24th September the Depot was attacked by 13 German bombers in what would be the most devastating raid on a British aviation facility during the War.  It is estimated that some 12 tons of bombs were dropped on the Depot, killing 48 men and injuring another 124.  The damage to planes was also considerable with 26 destroyed, 73 damaged and spare parts (including aero engines) and a number of aircraft hangars also being destroyed.  I have been unable to discover what types of planes were involved, but they were probably of the AEG, Friedrichshafen and Gotha G-types, such as that below.


Gotha bomber


From the Bucks Herald 5th October 1918:


“Flight-Sergt. William Seabrook was severely wounded in an enemy air-raid on Monday, Sept. 23, and died two days later at a Canadian hospital at Boulogne, whither he was conveyed at once for operation.  A Sister at the hospital, writing to his parents, said that the injuries were so serious that recovery was impossible, and in a very brief period of consciousness he asked her to inform his friends.  Official notification of his death has since been received from the War Office.

Sergt. Seabrook was 24 years of age, and the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Seabrook, 59, Western-road.  He had completed nearly four years’ service, joining up in the early months of the war.  For five years he was employed at the Napier Motor Works, London, where he was held in very high esteem as a most capable mechanic.  At one time a member of the Y.M.C.A., Tring Branch, he was one of the best-trained lads in the gymnastic troop, and took part in many displays.  His loss is felt deeply by his numerous friends, and the sympathies of all go out to his parents and brother and sisters in their bereavement.”



The first rest camps for Commonwealth forces were established near Terlincthun in August 1914 and during the whole of the First World War, Boulogne and Wimereux housed numerous hospitals and other medical establishments.

The cemetery at Terlincthun was begun in June 1918 when the space available for service burials in the civil cemeteries of Boulogne and Wimereux was exhausted.  It was used chiefly for burials from the base hospitals, but Plot IV Row C contains the graves of 46 RAF personnel killed at Marquise in September 1918 in a bombing raid by German aircraft.  In July 1920, the cemetery contained more than 3,300 burials, but for many years Terlincthun remained an ‘open’ cemetery and graves continued to be brought into it from isolated sites and other burials grounds throughout France where maintenance could not be assured.

During the Second World War, there was heavy fighting in the area in 1940.  Wimille was devastated when, from 22-25th May, the garrison at Boulogne fought a spirited delaying action covering the withdrawal to Dunkirk.  There was some fighting in Wimille again in 1944.  The cemetery suffered considerable damage both from the shelling in 1940 and during the German occupation.

The cemetery now contains 4,378 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and more than 200 war graves of other nationalities, most of them German.  Second World War burials number 149.  The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.


――――♦――――

 
CHARLES EDWARD SPINKS

Lance Corporal, 7th Bedfordshire Regiment, service no. 43355.
Brother of Mrs. A. Charlton of Byker, Newcastle-on-Tyne.
Enlisted at Tring.  Killed in action on the 11th January 1918 aged 22.
Buried in Artillery Wood Cemetery, grave ref. XI. C. 2.


The 7th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment [Note] was formed at Bedford in September 1914, as part of ‘K2’, Lord Kitchener’s 2nd call to arms for another 100,000 men to leave their civilian lives and enlist into the rapidly expanding British Army. [Note]  The 7th battalion served entirely in France and Flanders between their arrival in July 1915 and their disbandment in May 1918.  During this time they were involved in major battles every year of their service, winning a well deserved reputation and numerous gallantry medals including two Victoria Crosses.

In 1918 the 7th Battalion was heavily engaged in the First (1918) Battles of the Somme − also called the German Spring Offensives [Note] −  namely in the Battle of St Quentin and the actions on the Somme crossings in March, the Battle of the Avre in April, and the action at Villers-Bretonneux on the 24th April 1918.


Bedfordshire Regiment wounded.


So far as I can gather, at the time of Lance-Corpl. Spink’s death the 7th Battalion was at BABOON CAMP north of Ypres near the Flanders village of Boesinghe (now Boezinge).  During the war the village was in the Ypres Salient, making it the site of the battles fought there.  Today there are memorials and war cemeteries in the area, many of which are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  This from the 7th Battalion’s War Diary: [Note]


10-1-18 54th Brigade moved into the line again in the HOUTHULST FOREST Sector in relief of 55th Inf. Bde. BABOON CAMP 1 pm 7th Bedfords relieved 7th Buffs in BABOON CAMP.

11-1-18 C Coy. practised wiring. Weather very cold. 5 pm B & D Coys. employed in carrying wiring material from KOKUIT DUMP to ADEN HOUSE - casualties 1 Killed.  2nd Lt. E. J. Scott joined the Bn. & posted to B Coy.”


and later . . . .


CASUALTIES DECREASES The Commanding Officer regrets to announce the following casualty.  KILLED IN ACTION 43365 L/Cpl.Spinks, C. B’ Coy. 11/1/18.”


From the Bucks Herald 26th January 1918:


“ROLL OF HONOUR. − We have the deepest sympathy to record the death in action of yet another promising young man belonging to the town, Lance-Corpl. Charles E. Spinks of the 7th Beds Regiment.  The sad news was sent by a comrade, who states that Spinks was killed by a sniper’s bullet when going on duty to the front line trenches on Jan. 11.  He was 21 years of age, and had seen just over two year’s service, 19 months of which was spent in France.  He was the son of the late Mr. H. and Mrs. Spinks, of Bunstrux Cottages, and before the war was employed on the Home Farm of the Tring Park Estate, where he was held in the highest esteem.

This is the second member of the family killed in the war, the older brothers Sergt. W. Spinks, of the Herts Regiment, being killed in action in September, 1916, and recommended for the D.C.M. for his special gallantry.

The deepest sympathy is felt with the two sisters and young brother of these two brave young fellow in this added weight of bereavement, for during the war they have not only lost by death these two brothers, but also both father and mother.”


From the Parish Magazine:


“L/CPL Charles Edward Spinks joined the First Herts Regiment in November 1915, but when he went to France in the following May, he was transferred to the Bedfords.  One of his Friends writing home says: ‘He was hit by a sniper’s bullet on the night of January 11th and died almost immediately.  I took it to heart as much as if he had been my own brother, as we have been together, practically for the last 18 months, side by side in most of the big battles.  It was hard lines for him, as he was not warned for the trenches till the last five minutes.  He was buried in a cemetery in as good conditions as can be expected.’”



The Artillery Wood Cemetery was established in 1917 after fighting in the immediate area – the Battle of Pilckem Ridge – had moved away, and it was used for burials until March 1918.  At the Armistice there were some 141 graves in the cemetery, but concentration from the battlefields and three smaller cemeteries (Boesinghe Chateau Grounds, Brissein House and Captain’s Farm) enlarged this to the present 1,307.


――――♦――――

 
WILLIAM GEORGE SPINKS, D.C.M.

Acting Sergeant, 1st Hertfordshire Regiment, service no. 1732.
Son of Harry George and Sarah Charlotte of Bunstrux Hill, Tring.
Killed in action at the Somme on the 26th September 1916 aged 25.
Buried in Auchonvillers Military Cemetery, grave ref. Plot: II. I. 10.


From the Bucks Herald 22nd January 1916:


HONOUR FOR A TRING MAN.
Local Lad Wins the D.C.M.


Corpl. W. Spinks, of the Herts Territorials, whose name was in the Honours List published on the 14th inst., is at home on a short leave.  He is the eldest son of Mr. Henry Spinks, of Bunstrux Hill, Tring, and enlisted in the Herts. Territorials at an early age.  He is now only 21.  When he got home of the 16th, he received the first intimation that he had been awarded the coveted distinction of D.C.M.  He had previously received the following letter from the Commanding Officer of his Division: –


Your Commanding Officer and Brigade Commander have informed me that you have distinguished yourself by conspicuous bravery in the field, on Sept. 27th.  I have read their reports, and, although promotions and decorations cannot be given in every case, I should like you to know that your gallant action is recognised, and how greatly it is appreciated.

W. J. Horne,
Major-General, 2nd Division.’ *


Corpl. Spinks, who has been in France since November, 1914, is very reticent as to the gallant action which gained him his decoration, and it is not so much from his own modest statement as from letters from admiring comrades that one is able to glean particulars of his brave deed on the La Bassee frontier.

It seems that on Sept. 27th, two days after the Battle of Loos, the Division was expecting orders to make an attack.  There was a special piece of work to be done, and Corpl. Spinks with two volunteers, started off in broad daylight between the British and German trenches to make certain observations.  When they were half way through the Germans opened fire upon them, but they kept on till one of them fell wounded.  Corpl. Spinks got the information wanted, and starting back alone, amid continuous fire, reached headquarters in safety with his report, which probably saved the position.

Since he has been home, Corpl. Spinks and his parents have been the recipients of hearty congratulations on all hands.  The Corporal’s leave expires on the 24th.


* I can’t trace a Major-General W. J. Horne, but the career of General Henry Sinclair Horne, 1st Baron Horne GCB, KCMG (1861 – 1929) as he later became seems to fit the picture.


1732 L/Cpl. (A/Cpl) W. G. SPINKS 1st Bn. TF


For conspicuous gallantry.  He had been ordered to make a difficult and dangerous reconnaissance; he went over the parapet, the enemy being only 50 yards distant, and firing heavily.  He returned, and his report saved a useless waste of fire.


From the Bucks Herald 7th October 1916:


“OUR ROLL OF HONOUR.
SERGT. SPINKS D.C.M.


We have to record the death of a promising young soldier, Sergt. Spinks D.C.M., of the Herts. Regiment.

At the beginning of the year we had to chronicle the fact that Corpl. Spinks had been awarded the D.C.M. for conspicuous bravery in the field.  He was promoted to the rank of sergeant, and was greatly respected throughout the Battalion for his sterling qualities as a soldier and a man.  The news of his death was conveyed to his father in a latter written by Corpl. Whitby, from ‘B.E.F., France.’  He says: –


‘DEAR MR. SPINKS, – You will have heard from other sources of the death of your son, Sergt. Spinks.  I do not wish to intrude upon your grief, but I cannot refrain from letting you know how much he was admired and respected throughout the whole Battalion.  The platoon wish me to convey their sympathy with you in your great bereavement, and to say that your loss is also theirs.  As you know, he had only been in charge of the platoon for a very short period, but during that time we had learnt to have great confidence in him.  He was always cool, steady and reliable – a fine Briton.  He was killed by a German trench mortar bomb yesterday evening, and death was instantaneous and without suffering.’


Mr. Spinks has been informed that his son was buried in a little military cemetery behind the lines, and that his grave will be cared for.”



From the outbreak of the war to the summer of 1915, this part of the front was held by French troops, who began the Auchonvillers Military Cemetery in June 1915.  It continued to be used by Commonwealth field ambulances and fighting units, but burials practically ceased with the German withdrawal in February 1917.  After the Armistice, 15 of the graves (Plot II, Row M, Graves 4-18) were brought in from scattered positions east of the cemetery.

The cemetery now contains 528 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, the French graves having been removed to other burial grounds.  Casualty Details: UK 496, Canada 8, New Zealand 24, Total Burials: 528.


――――♦――――

 
CHARLES SIDNEY STEVENS

Private, 15th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Battalion Territorial Force.  Enlisted at Bedford, service no. 51856.
Born in Aylesbury.  Son of Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, 2a, Albert Street, Tring.
Killed in action in Belgium on the 2nd November 1918.
Buried in Lamain Communal Cemetery, Hainaut, ​Belgium (near the far end of the left part).


The 15th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Battalion was formed in Egypt on the 5th January 1917 from dismounted Yeomanry regiment. [Note]  In January 1917 the Battalion came under command of 230th Brigade in 74th (Yeomanry) Division. [Note] On the 1st May 1918 the Battalion embarked at Alexandria for Marseilles, landing there on the 7th May after which it was engaged in various actions on the Western Front [Note] including The Second (1918) Battles of the Somme, The Battles of the Hindenburg Line, The Final Advance in Artois and Flanders. [Note]  The Battalion ended the war at Tournai in Belgium.


Headquarters officers of the 15th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Battalion, near Carvin, 14th August 1918.


From the extracts below it appears that Private Stevens was killed on the 2nd November during the German shelling of the Belgian city of Louvain (Leuven).  This from the Bucks Herald 16th November 1918:


“Pte. Charles Sidney Stevens, 3rd Suffolk Regiment, son of Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, 2a, Albert Street, was 28, and had served in the Army for over two years, but only proceeded to France some nine weeks ago.  Information was received from his platoon officer on Thursday week that Stevens had been killed in action at Louvain on Nov. 2nd.

Before joining the Army Stevens was employed at the Museum, and was held in the highest esteem.”


From the Parish Magazine December 1918:


“Charles Sidney Stevens, Royal Suffolk Regiment, was killed on November 2nd.  He only went to France in September, though he had been in the army for two and a half years.  For many years he was a member of our Church Lads Brigade, and rose to be an instructor, and was among those who worked hardest to make his company the most efficient in the Diocese.  His Lieutenant writing to Mr and Mrs Stevens, says: ‘He was killed early in the morning of 2nd November and injuries were such that death was instantaneous.  He was buried next morning at a neighbouring cemetery by the Padre.  You have my deepest sympathy and I am more exasperated, because he fell a victim of the Hun brutality in shelling villages which he knows are occupied by civilians whom it is impossible to evacuate.  He is buried in the Belgian Communal Cemetery and a cross has been erected over his grave.’”



Lamain Communal Cemetery, Hainaut, ​Belgium, contains just eight Commonwealth burials of the First World War, all men of the 74th (Yeomanry) Division who died during the Advance to Victory in October and November 1918.


――――♦――――

 
ARTHUR STRATFORD

Private, 5th Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry, service no. 7686.
Born in Tring.  Son of Elisha and Charlotte Stratford of 9 New Mill Terrace.
Husband of Mrs. G. Stratford of 86 Cecil Road, Wealdstone, Middlesex.
Enlisted at Houndslow, Middlesex.  Killed in action on the 17th October 1915 aged 30.
No known grave.  Commemorated on Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, panels 37 and 39.


The 5th (Service) Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was raised at Oxford in August 1914 as part of Kitchener’s First New Army [Note] and joined 42nd Brigade, 14th (Light) Division. [Note]  After training they proceeded to France, landing at Boulogne on the 21st May 1915.  They fought in the Action of Hooge – being the first division to be attacked with flamethrowers (30th July 1915) – and were in action in the Second Attack on Bellewaarde (25th September 1915).

Private Stratford was believed killed in action in a German mine explosion on the 17th October 1917.  At that time the Battalion was in the vicinity of Railway Wood, located a little north of Hooge (a small Belgian village on the Bellewaerde Ridge east of Ypres).  The following extracts are from the 5th Ox & Bucks War Diary [Note] (I’ve inserted hash symbols where I can’t read a word and question marks where I am unsure):


Railway Wood trenches:

16.10.15: Quiet morning.  Heavy fog early.  Unfortunately party of 5 men carrying knife rests
[Note] down the railway were caught by fog lifting & 2 were killed & 2 wounded.
Enemy fired Crumps & Whizz-bangs
[types of German artillery shells] into RAILWAY WOOD in the afternoon & our guns retaliated.
Every available man in the Battn. worked (?) all night, as there is a great deal of repairing and drainage to be done.
Casualties - killed ORs 2, wounded ORs 6.

17.10.15: 5.15am, enemy exploded mine
[Note] under the junction of H20 & H21.  Our mine shaft in H20 was blown up.  It appears to have been a defensive measure only as no Art. fire was opened, & no attack made till later.  The ### trench at the junction of H20 & H21 was destroyed for about 4 bays on either side of the junction.  The earth was very much thrown up round the lip of the crater, and runs in a long ridge to the enemy crater of the 25th. Size of crater about 40 yds in diameter and 30-40 ft deep.
7am. About 7am the enemy made 2 bomb attacks, one directed against the crater, and the other against the SUNKEN ROAD.  Both were easily repulsed by our bombers & by rifle fire.


The behaviour of the men was excellent throughout, though for the great majority of officers, N.C.O.s and men it was their first experience of the trenches, there being only 3 officers, including the Colonel and Adjt., who had been in the trenches before.

Immediately after the mine went up, the survivors in H20N, & in H20S opened a very steady rapid fire, to which there was hardly any reply: 2 platoons started work at once under 2nd Lt RODOCANACHI
[possibly Capt. Theodore Emmanuel (Michel) Rodocanachi, DSO MC (1889-1983)] to dig out the men buried in H20, and they succeeded in getting several out alive.  They continued the work through the bomb attack, & in spite of severe ### fire by the enemy.  Work was also started on wiring between H20 & S20 & digging a trench round the crater.  The wiring was completed that night, & also a trench encircling half the crater, with a bomb post & loophole at each ###: S20 was also continued towards H21 to join up N of Crater.

2000 bombs were sent up by Brigade during the day, also 1 Coy 5/KSLI (???) & 16 of their bombers.  Battn. stood to arms all night.

Casualties, killed Captain R. O. LOGAN, 2nd Lt A.D.J. MELLISS, 13 O.R. missing; believed killed in the mine O.R. 22. Wounded O.R. 31.

18.10.15: Situation quiet, except for a lot of trench mortaring & sniping.  During last night an enemy M.G. north of the railway continually ### our trenches with fire, especially those in RAILWAY WOOD.”


Mine exploding beneath Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt on the Western Front, 1st July 1916.
Photo by Ernest Brooks.


From the Parish Magazine December 1915:


“Arthur Stratford a reservist serving in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, who has been reported as missing since 17th October is now said to have been killed on that day in a trench that was blown up by a German mine and has not been seen since.  He was wounded in one of the earlier battles of the war, and sent to England.  After eight months at home he returned to France on 2nd October .  He was 29 years of age.  We offer our deep sympathy to his friends.”



The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is a war memorial in Ypres, Belgium, dedicated to the 54,896 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown.  Broadly speaking, the Ypres Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.


――――♦――――

 
FREDERICK TURVEY

Private, 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, service no. 40490.
Born in Chesham, Bucks, of Tabernacle Yard Tring.
Enlised at Tring, formerly with the Bedfordshire Regiment.
Killed in action on the 8th August 1917.
No known grave.  Commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, panels 44 & 46.


The 9th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was raised in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army [Note] and joined 49th Brigade, 16th (Irish) Division. [Note]  They trained at Buttevant, then moved to Ballyhooley in June 1915.  In September they crossed to England for final training at Blackdown.

In December 1915 the Division proceeded to France, landing at Le Havre and then concentrating in the Bethune area.  In 1916, at the Battle of Hulluch (27th April) near Loos, the Battalion was subject to a German gas attack in which it suffered heavy casualties.  It was in action on the Somme during the The Battle of Guillemont (3rd–6th September) – in which the Division captured the village – and The Battle of Ginchy (9th September).  During the Third Battles of Ypres (31st July–10th November 1917) the Battalion fought at the The Battle of Messines (7th–14th June) and The Battle of Langemark (16th–18th August).

The Battalion ceased to be an effective fighting unit following heavy losses during Langemark, and on the 24th of October it was amalgamated with the 8th Battalion to form 8/9th Battalion.  Following further heavy losses, in February 1918 the 8th/9th and the 10th Battalions were disbanded and their men transferred to the 1st and 2nd Battalions.

Private Turvey was killed in action on the 8th August 1917, presumably in the heavy German artillery bombardment that commenced on the preceding day and extended into the 9th August.  The following extracts are from the 9th Battalion War Diary [Note] covering the period (Brandhoek is a small hamlet in Belgium situated between Ypres, Vlamertinge and Poperinge):


BRANDHOEK AREA.

2.8.17 - 5.8.16. Battalion remained at TORONTO CAMP till the 5th August 1917 when the Brigade moved to the VLAMERTINGHE AREA No. 3.

7.8.17. The Battalion relieved the 8th(S) Bn. R.
[oyal] Dublin Fusiliers in the BLUE LINE, with Headquarters at WILDE WOOD.  The BLUE LINE was subjected to an intense bombardment during the time the Battn. was in occupation, and suffered severe casualties.

7.8.17 - 9.8.17. ‘C’ Coy commanded by 2/Lieut. J. J. COYNE, suffered heavily. 2/Lieut. COYNE, 2/Lieut. F. DOWLING, 2/Lieut. W. A. HARTY being killed.  2/Lieut. J. McGRATH was the only officer left in ‘C’ Coy and did valuable work in keeping the Company together under the most distressing circumstances.

10.8.17 - 15.8.17. The Battalion was relieved on the night of the 10th by two Companies of the 6th Bn. CONNAUGHT RANGERS, and on relief proceeded to Camp in the VLAMERTINGHE AREA No.3. and remained in this Area till the night of the 15th inst.

15.8.17 - 18.8.17. At 8pm the Battalion moved up to the position of Assembly on the BLACK LINE.  Companies reported in position at 11-30 p.m.  ZERO Hour for the attack was notified at 4-45 a.m. 16.8.17.  Previous to ZERO the enemy opened on the BLACK LINE with 5.9s and heavies
[i.e. artillery] [Narrative report in pdf format - Part 1  Part 2].

18.8.17. At 2.25 p.m. the Battalion entrained at VLAMERTINGHE en route for WATOU No. ‘A’ Area and detraining at POPERINGHE marched to Camp.”



From the Bucks Herald 1st September 1917:


Pte. Frederick Turvey, son of Mrs. John Smith, Tabernacle Yard, is reported killed in action on August 8.  This gallant soldier was 27 years of age, and belonged to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, to which he was transferred from the Bedford Regiment.  He joined the Colours in February, 1915, having previously been in the employ of Messrs. Prentice and Son, marine store dealer.”


Exterior of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.


The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is a war memorial in Ypres, Belgium.  The Memorial is located at the eastern exit of the town and marks the starting point for one of the main roads out of the town that led Allied soldiers to the front line.  Its large Hall of Memory contains the names on stone panels of 54,395 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Salient, but whose bodies have never been identified or found.

Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and built and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Menin Gate Memorial was unveiled on 24 July 1927.


――――♦――――

 
ALBERT JOHN TYLER

Private, 10th Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry, service no. 29788.
Born in Tring.  Son of Clara Jane of 51 Wingrave Road, New Mill, and the late Thomas Tyler.
Enlisted at Watford, formerly with the Surrey Regiment.
Killed in action in France on the 25th March 1918 aged 20.
No known grave.  Commemorated on the Arras Memorial, bay 6.


The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (DCLI) was formed in 1881 when the 32nd and 46th Regiments of Foot were amalgamated as part of the Childers Reforms. [Note]  The newly formed Regiment [Note] went on to serve during the Second Boer War (1899-1902) – fighting at Paardeburg and Bloemfontein – and the two World Wars.  During the course of the Great War, the Regiment raised 16 Battalions, was awarded 57 Battle Honours and 1 Victoria Cross, and lost 4,510 men.

In August 1914 the DCLI consisted of five battalions, 1st and 2nd (Regular), 3rd (Special Reserve) and 4th and 5th (Territorial).  Apart from the 2/4th, which spent the war in India, all the newly raised service battalions [Note] served in France and Belgium.  Two of them, the 1/5th and the 10th, became divisional pioneer battalions. [Note]


Troops of No. 1 Platoon, A Company, 10th Battalion, DCLI near Le Quesnoy,
27th October 1918.


The German Spring Offensive [Note] – designed to separate the French and British Armies and push the British into the sea  –  commenced on the 21st March 1918.  Much of the ground fought over was the wilderness left by the Battle of the Somme in 1916.  Although the offensive was at first spectacularly successful, with the Germans penetrating in places up to 40 miles into Allied territory, it eventually ran out of steam and was reversed. [Note]

Private Tyler was killed during the Offensive in what his sergeant, writing to Tyler’s parents (see Parish Magazine below), described as “this big retirement”, his euphemism for “retreat”.  Although in retreat, the Battalion War Diary [Note] for the day of Private Tyler’s death describes heavy rearguard fighting (note that the 10th Battalion were Pioneers, not trained as Infantry men):


25/3/18: platoon of ‘X’ Coy. met a large force of the enemy face to face in the Sunken Rd. about N7 c 1.7 and there was a real good scrap, both O.C. Coy. and Platoon Officer were badly injured and three quarters of the platoon went down but they wiped out the enemy to a man with the bayonet [marginal note reads ‘estimate that they killed 50 Germans.’]  Owing to this unfortunate occurrence there was a gap and by referring to the map it will be seen that it was exceedingly dangerous as the enemy could approach the left rear down the valley of which we had no observation.  There were no reserves at all as the line was too long for the number of men already, so it was decided to send every Signaller, Officers’ servants, 2 Sgt. Instructors and half the runners to fill the gap.  Touch was then established with the 1/4th Shrops L.I. 19th Divn. and the position saved.  This happened about 9am.

10.30am: about 10.30am the enemy had received reinforcements and luckily for us the 1st. K.R.R. Corps
[King’s Royal Rifle Corps.?] came up and in consultation with their C.O. it was decided that they should cover the general retirement by manning the high ground in M23 central, as the 63rd Division on our right were retiring thus leaving our flank in the air.  This was done and the firing line retired to the same position, the left flank being in touch with the 19th Division who had fallen back a little further in order to have a better field of fire.  The volume of fire from M23 central seemed to make the enemy somewhat shy of taking risks and he consequently came on very slowly.  When the enemy had advanced to within 300 yds of our line it was found that our right flank was again in the air so it was decided to retire to the ridge in M15 & 20, leaving rearguards of DCLI in LE SARS under 2nd. Lt. A. A. R. OXFORD.  This rearguard did very well indeed and allowed the main body to take up their new positions unmolested and to distribute S.A.A. [small arms ammunition], the shortage of which had now become acute and it was only by everyone looking out for abandoned clips that the situation improved considerably.  This position was not held long as the enemy M.G.s fire on the high ground in LE SARS was very well directed, also the fact was that the 19th Divn. on our left were again retiring before we were ready to; possibly they were hard pressed.  Two points are worth noting here; first, the enemy used a cavalry patrol on the LE BARQUE-EAUCOURT ABBAYE Rd. which was promptly and efficiently dealt with by a Lewis Gun [Note] team of this Battalion; Secondly, about this time all O.C. Coys. [officers commanding companies] were lost and it is certain that the casualties to officers were greatly caused by the insufficient experience of N.C.O.s and men of what to do; on one particular occasion a signal was given and the N.C.O.s and men did not know how to act on the signal. It is a great pity that the Battalion had not been given training, as when in extremity Pioneer Battalions are called up to do infantry work.

2p.m.: The Bn. crossed DYKE Rd. about 2p.m. (All were fighting on empty stomachs except for Iron Rations, which most had not had time to eat) and took up a very good position on the high ground in Sqs. M13 & 14.  It was at this point that news came that the rearguard 10th DCLI, 1st KRR and small party of Royal Berks. were to go through the 5th and 6th. Inf. Bdes. who would take up the fight.  S.A.A. was finished, men were tired, thirsty and hungry, no water was available and the above news bucked us up considerably.  During the whole of these operations up to this point, close relationship had been kept with the C.O. 1st KRRs.  The trained Infantry men of this Corps gave considerable moral as well as physical support to men of this Bn. who as was only natural lacked the necessary experience.

The Battalion was formed up into Artillery formation in Sq. 57
### R60 [?] and proceeded according to orders to concentrate at BEAUMONT HAMEL.  An impression had arisen at this time that we were out of danger and that new troops were covering us; this inclined the men to straggle somewhat and lack of definite instructions made it very hard for Senior Regimental officers to make arrangements or to look ahead.  At this point, however, all were brought to their senses by G.S.O. 3 meeting the Commanding Officer and saying that the Battalion, and also several other units would man the high ground about 57C Q12 & facing S.E., this position to be held for 6 hours only when the Battalion would be relieved.  Eventually this ridge would be manned, the men dug fire steps and made the trench ready to receive the enemy.  The Battn. was under the 99th Inf. Bde. in this Sector.  Hot food was provided for the men which put a different complexion on life.  Rations were also delivered, thus making the men a fighting force again.  The night was spent in this position and was without exception the coldest night for three years.  Two patrols were out but found no sign of the enemy.


The casualties listed in the 10th Battalion War Diary for the 25th March 1918 were: officers, 1 killed; 7 wounded. O.R.s, 14 killed, 76 wounded, 19 missing.

From the Bucks Herald 27th April 1918:


“THE ROLL OF HONOUR.–The absence of definite news from the Front has caused much anxiety amongst the relatives of Tring men who are known to have been in the last great German attack, and it is pleasing to hear that letters and cards have been received telling of safety.

It is feared, however, that some of the men have yielded their lives, whilst of others tidings are anxiously awaited.  Albert John Tyler, D. of C. Light Infantry, of New Mill, formerly employed by Messrs. Glover and Sons, grocers, has been reported killed . . . . ”


From the Parish Magazine:


“Albert John Tyler, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry was killed in France on March 25th 1918.  He enlisted in the Royal West Surrey Regiment in November 1916, but on being sent to France in December 1917, he was transferred to the D.C.L.I.  His Sergeant, writing on behalf of himself, the N.C.O’s and men, says ‘I have to break to you, the sad news, that your son was killed in action, while in this big retirement.  I did my best for him, and stopped with him until his life went.  He was by my side, when he got hit by a bullet in his back.  I am sorry to have to lose such a good fellow, for he was always willing to do anything in his platoon.  He fought well to the last, for his King and Country, and we all wish to express our deepest sympathy with you in the loss of your son.’”



At the entrance to the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery in France stands the Arras Memorial.  The Memorial commemorates nearly 35,000 soldiers of the British, South African and New Zealand forces with no known grave.  Most of those commemorated were killed in the Battle of Arras, fought between the 9th April and the 16th May 1917, and in the German Spring Offensive fought between the 21st March and the 18th July 1918.

Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the Memorial includes sculpture by Sir William Reid Dick.


――――♦――――

 
ROLAND MADDISON VAISEY

Captain, 36th Royal Field Artillery.
Son of Arthur William and Esther.  Husband of Violet Vaisey of ‘The Bungalow’, Tring.
Killed in action in France on the 7th September 1918 aged 31.
Buried in Vaulx Hill Cemetery, grave ref. II. H. 1.


From the Bucks Herald 14th October 1911:


MARRIAGE OF MR. R. M. VAISEY.


A wedding of more then usual interest to residents in this part of the country was solemnised at the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Shenfield, Essex, on Saturday.  The bridegroom was Mr. Roland Maddison Vaisey, second son of Mr. A. W. Vaisey, solicitor, of Tring, who, as Clerk of the Tring Urban District Council, the Berkhamsted Board of Guardians, the Governors of Berkhamsted Grammar Schools, and Churchwarden of Tring Parish Council, is so prominently associated with the civil and ecclesiastical life of the district.

Mr. R. M. Vaisey, who has recently been taken into partnership by his father, has for some time been actively interested in the work of the various appointments held by Mr. A. W. Vaisey, and having lived all his life in the town, is well known and very popular in and around Tring.

The bride was Miss Violet Landon, second daughter of Mr. Harcourt Palmer Landon, of The Lodge, Shenfield. Mr. Vaisey’s elder brother, Mr. H. B. Vaisey, married some few years ago the only daughter of the Rev. Canon Quennell, formerly Rector of Shenfield, and so his family are already associated with the parish where the bride’s father is churchwarden.

The church, which had effectively been decorated, was crowded for the happy event, the congregation including, in addition to relatives of the bride and bridegroom, several prominent residents of Tring.  From the lych gate to the entrance an awning had been erected, and a carpet laid for the bridal procession . . . . The bride wore a beautiful dress of ivory white satin trimmed with duchesse lace, given by Mr. and Mrs. C. P. Martin. Her veil was the one worn by her mother, and she also wore a wreath of orange blossom and carried a magnificent bouquet of white carnations, white heather and orange blossom. Her chief ornaments were a diamond and pearl pendant, the gift of her Uncle, Mr. W. M. Munro, and a diamond paste buckle, the gift of Miss McLeod . . . . ”


The 36th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, [Note] was originally formed with 15th, 48th and 71st Batteries, and attached to 2nd Infantry Division.  [Note]  On the 4th August 1914 the Brigade mobilised at Aldershot and was brought up to strength with reservists and drafts from other units; an Ammunition Column was also formed. the Brigade was sent to the Continent with the British Expeditionary Force, [Note] disembarking at Boulogne the 19th August 1914, thereafter serving with 2nd Division throughout the war. A howitzer battery was formed in May 1916 from a section of each of 47th (Howitzer) and 56th (Howitzer) Batteries, and designated ‘D’ Battery.


The 18-pounder was the main British field gun during the First World War,
forming the backbone of the RFA.


Captain Vaisey was killed in action during the Hundred Days Offensive [Note], the 36th Brigade RFA at the time being in the vicinity of Vaulx-Vraucourt, a village in the Hauts-de-France region of France.  The village was taken in the spring of 1917, lost after severe fighting in March 1918, [Note] and retaken in the following September.

During the night of the 7th September the 99th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, located in a dugout on the Doignies-Demicourt road, came under bombardment.  The brigade transport was passing at the time and, among others, Captain Vaisey had the misfortune to be caught up in the shelling and killed.  Other than recording his death, the rather sketchy 36th Brigade War Diary [Note] does not refer to the incident:


“VAULX-VRAUCOURT.

1918.

Sept. 1st. The enemy still holding onto N & E edges of VAULX.  Batteries moved up into action behind VRAUCOURT during the morning.  Afternoon passed quietly but Boche bombers very active during the night on roads in vicinity of batteries.

Sept. 2nd. 2nd Div. attacked at 5.30am intending to push on to MORCHIES – partly successful, reaching VAULX COPSE & MARICOURT WOOD.  Enemy M.G.s offered stubborn resistance.

Sept. 3rd. Batteries fired barrage to take MORCHIES. Infantry found no enemy & pushed through MORCHIES, BEAUMETZ-LEZ-CAMBRAI, & DOIGNIES, meeting no resistance till the DEMICOURT-HERMIES line.  Brigade concentrated in I4 & remained in reserve remainder of day and following night.

BOURSIES

Sept. 4th. Batteries went into action in valleys south of BOURSIES.

Sept. 5th. Infantry pushed on towards Canal
[probably the Canal du Nord] bank & took the SLAG HEAP but were forced to evacuate it owing to M.G. fire.

Sept. 6th. Quiet.

Sept. 7th. Capt. R. M. Vaisey - adjutant - instantaneously killed by a shell.

Sept. 7th - 10th. Quiet.”


From the Bucks Herald 21st September 1918:


“CAPTAIN R. M. VAISEY.


Captain Roland Madison Vaisey, R.F.A., who was killed in action instantaneously on Septemver 7, was the younger son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Vaisey, of Tring, and was born on Dec. 31, 1886.  He was educated at Shrewsbur, admitted a solicitor in 1909, and practised with his father.  Obtaining his commission in July, 1916, he immediately afterwards went to France, where he served continuously until his death.

His Colonel writes:– ‘He has been my Adjutant now for over a year, and has been a wonderfully good and efficient one, and more than that, he has been a very great personal friend and companion.  He will be a very great loss to me and all my brigade, in which he was universally liked and respected.’

Captain Vaisey married on October 7, 1911, Violet, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harcourt P. Landon of Shenfield, and his widow, a son, and two daughters survive him.”


From the Church Magazine:


“On 7th September (the anniversary of his parent’s wedding) Captain and Adjutant Roland Maddison Vaisey R.F.A was instantly killed in action by an enemy shell.

Possessing great physical strength and fond of outdoor pursuits he entered whole heartedly into the life of the Army and having also, (though he always disclaimed it) a gift of superb courage, he had come serene and cheerful through some of the hardest fighting of the war. His fine and manly character and lovable disposition will long be remembered in the town of his birth where a useful career seemed to lie before him.

To his wife, and to his father, mother, brother and sisters our sympathy has gone out in full measure; they speak of with grateful hearts of the strong ties of love by which he was bound by them; they know that he lived and died in the true faith of a Christian man. He leaves for them, for his children, and for all of us, a good record of duty well and simply done.”



Vaulx Hill Cemetery was started with just 17 graves of September 1918 (in Plot I, Rows A and B).  The rest of the cemetery was formed after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields in the immediate neighbourhood and the following smaller cemeteries.  The cemetery now contains 856 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War.  258 of the burials are unidentified but special memorials commemorate 29 casualties known or believed to be buried among them, and four others buried in other cemeteries whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.


――――♦――――

 
ARTHUR WELLS

Stoker 1st Class, HMS Aboukir, Royal Navy, service no. 24578.
Killed in action (lost at sea) on the 22nd September 1914 aged 28.
Born on the 29th May 1886 in Tring, Hertfordshire.
Husband of Mrs. A Wells, of 40 Sheldon Road, Silver Street, Edmonton, London N.
No known grave.  Commemorated on Chatham Naval Memorial (6), Kent.


The incident in which Arthur Wells lost his life took place before the Royal Navy had fully woken up to the risk posed by submarine attack.  The loss of 3 cruisers and many lives in a single incident caused outrage in the country and damaged the Royal Navy’s reputation.

On the morning of the 22nd September 1914, the three elderly cruisers Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy were patrolling at 10 knots in line abreast.  The German submarine U-9 had been forced to dive and shelter from a storm.  On surfacing, she spotted the British warships and positioned herself for an attack.  At 06:20, the submarine fired a torpedo that struck Aboukir on the starboard side, flooding her engine room and bringing the ship to a standstill.  As no submarine had been sighted, the Aboukir’s captain assumed that she had struck a mine and ordered the other two cruisers to close in to help.  After 25 minutes Aboukir capsized, and then sank five minutes later.  Her two sister ships closed in to rescue, whereupon Hogue was torpedoed followed soon after by Cressy.  By 7.55 the three ships lay beneath the waves together with many of their crews.
 

“Victories of U-9” — a contemporary German postcard showing the sinking Aboukir and Hogue
with the photo of the submarine’s commander, Otto Weddigen, in the corner.


Soon after the Dutch (neutral) steamship Flora approached the scene and rescued 286 men.  A second steamer, the Titan, picked up another 147, and more were rescued by two Lowestoft sailing trawlers before Royal Naval destroyers arrived on the scene.  In total 837 men were rescued while 1,397 men and 62 officers perished.

The submarine commander, Otto Weddigen, died while commanding U-29.  On the 18th March 1915, U-29 was rammed by the British battleship HMS Dreadnought in the Pentland Firth.  She had broken surface immediately ahead of Dreadnought after firing a torpedo at HMS Neptune, and Dreadnought cut the submarine in two after a short chase.  There were no survivors.

From the Parish Magazine November 1914:


“The first name of anyone from Tring who has given his life for his country, and therefore, will always find a place in our Roll of Honour is that of Arthur Wells, Stoker, R.N. Reserve.  He was probably on duty below on that fatal 21st of September, when H.M.S. Aboukir was torpedoed by the German submarine in the north sea.  R.I.P.

We offer his wife, who will now return to her mother’s home in Albert Street, and his parents (of Tring Ford) who have three other sons on active service, and two more serving on merchant ships, our very sincere sympathy.”



Chatham was a principal manning port of the Royal Navy during the First World War and thus was dedicated as the site of one of three memorials to sailors, airmen and marines of the Royal Navy.  The Chatham Naval Memorial is made of Portland stone with bronze plaques.  Unveiled on the 26th April 1924 by the Prince of Wales, it commemorates more than 8,500 Royal Navy personnel of the First World War who have no known grave and over 10,000 of the Second World War who were lost or buried at sea.

 
――――♦――――

 
ARTHUR FRANK WELLS

Private, 74th Royal Army Ordnance Corps, service no. 24578.
Husband of Lillie of 31 Albert Street, Tring.
Died of pneumonia/influenza on the 19th February 1919 aged 40.
Buried in Blargies Communal Cemetery Extension, grave ref. I. G. 1.


Private Wells was not (unless an extreme situation required it) a fighting soldier.  As a member of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps he was attached to the branch of the Army that handled both supply and repair.  In the supply area the RAOC was responsible for weapons, armoured vehicles and other military equipment, ammunition and clothing (Private Wells was a tailor), and certain minor functions such as laundry, mobile baths and photography.  The Corps was also responsible for a major element of the repair of Army equipment.


Patients lie in an influenza ward at a U.S. Army camp hospital in Aix-les-Baines, France,
during World War I.


However, the enemy that Private Wells encountered and succumbed to, Spanish Flue, was in every way as deadly as a German bullet or artillery shell. [Note]  From the Bucks Herald 1st March 1919:


“Frank Wells, of Albert-street, was carried off, after an attack of [Spanish] influenza, somewhat suddenly at a hospital in France.  The sad news caused general regret, Mr. Wells being held in the highest esteem and a much respected Deacon of High-street Church.  He leaves a widow and three children, with whom the deepest sympathy is felt in their great loss.  He was buried in Blargies Cemetery on the day following his decease.”


From the Parish Magazine Easter 1919:


“Arthur Frank Wells, died from pneumonia following influenza.  He joined up in November 1916, and crossed the channel in the following month.  He worked at his trade, and was regimental tailor.  His Captain, writing to his wife, says: ‘Your husband was well liked, and his death came as a very great shock to us all.  He was only in hospital for a few days.  He was buried yesterday, and his funeral was attended by myself and several of his comrades and a wreath was place on his grave.’”



In 1916 Blargies became an important centre of British and native labour attached to the dumps and depots at Abancourt; and in the same year it was found necessary to open an Extension of the Communal Cemetery for the burial of men who died in the hospitals of the Camp.  The Extension was used until 1920.  There are now nearly 250, 1914-18 and a small number of 1939-45 war casualties commemorated in this site.


――――♦――――

 
JOSEPH WEST

Private, 7th Royal West Kent Regiment, service no. 205506.
Son of Martha West of 19 Albert Street, Tring.
Died of wounds on the 12th June 1918 aged 31.
Annois Communal Cemetery, France, grave ref. plot 1, row B, grave 2.


The 7th (Service) Battalion, [Note] Royal West Kent Regiment was raised at Maidstone on the 5th of September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army [Note] and joined 55th Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division. [Note]  After initial training near home, in April 1915 they moved to Colchester and then, in May, to Salisbury Plain for Final training.  On the 27th of July 1915 the Battalion landed at Le Havre, their Division concentrating near Flesselles.

In 1916 they were in action on The Somme [Note] in The Battle of Albert capturing their objectives near Montauban; The Battle of Bazentin Ridge (including the capture of Trones Wood); The Battle of Delville Wood; The Battle of Thiepval Ridge; The Battle of the Ancre Heights (in which they took part in the capture of the Schwaben Redoubt and the Regina Trench); and The Battle of the Ancre.

In 1917 they took part in the Operations on the Ancre including Miraumont and the capture of Irles.  They fought during The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line [Note] and in The Third Battle of the Scarpe before moving to Flanders where they were in action in The Battle of Pilkem Ridge; The Battle of Langemarck; and The First and Second Battle of Passchendaele.

In February 1918 they transferred to 53rd Brigade still with 18th (Eastern) Division.  They saw action during The Battle of St Quentin; The Battle of the Avre; The actions of Villers-Brettoneux; The Battle of Amiens and The Battle of Albert, where the Division captured the Tara and Usna hills near La Boisselle and once again captured Trones Wood. They fought in The Second Battle of Bapaume; The Battle of Epehy; The Battle of the St Quentin Canal; The Battle of the Selle and The Battle of the Sambre. [Note]  At the Armistice (11th November 1918) the Division was in XIII Corps Reserve near Le Cateau and demobilisation began on the 10th of December 1918.

The note from the Parish Magazine below states that private West was captured – apparently wounded – in March 1918, which suggests that he was taken prisoner early in the German Spring Offensive. [Note]  In this context the Battalion War Diary [Note] for the first part of March contains nothing of note, but from the 20th March onwards it makes alarming reading, describing clearly the Allied retreat in the face of Ludendorff’s sudden and overwhelming offensive:


LY FONTAINE

19.3.18. Enemy aeroplane forced down in our lines at about 6.45 am. Pilot was taken prisoner and sent to Bde. HQ under escort.
Battalion relived 10th Battn Essex Rgt in Southern subsector of Northern Sector of 18th Divisional front, night of 19th/20th. Lieut. Col. J. D. CROSTHWAITE M.C. assumed command of Battalion, vice Lt. Col. C. H. L. CINNAMOND.

IN THE LINE

20.3.18. Battalion holding line near MOY, “Standing to”. Information received that enemy was massing in large numbers.

21.3.18.  Under cover of dense mist enemy advanced & surrounded Battn. HQ at about 11am.  ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘C’ Coys were also surrounded at about 10.30 am.  Capt A. V. McDonald M.C. 2nd in command was sent to Brigade HQ at about 9am.  From there he gathered remnants of Battalion, and all available reinforcements (which had been sent from ‘Details’ at FRIERES CAMP), and took over Command.  Battn. gradually withdrew to FAILLOUEL and held BLUE LINE just West of Canal.  Approximate casualties – 20 officers & 577 OR.  In addition, personnel from 18th Div Wing III Corps RTC
[possibly related to training] had been sent to various parts of the front, together with personnel from courses etc.  The greater portion of these also became casualties.

22.3.18.  Battn. withdrew to former Divn HQ at ROUEZ during night 22nd/23rd.

ROUEZ

23.3.18.  In Divisional Reserve.

IN THE LINE

Fell back in evening on VILLEQUIER AUMONT, taking up line running just WEST of CHAUNY, joining up with 9th Cuirassiers a #### in the Village (2 casualties).

23/24.3.18. Withdrew to COMMENCHON.


24/25.3.18. Held CREPIGNY line but fell back at midday on MONDESCOURT, holding hill West of Village.  Then fell back behind BABOEUF (8 Casualties on 24th) (37 Casualties on 25th).

25/26.3.18. During night fell back on PONT OISE & billeted for night.

26.3.18. At 10 am moved to CAISNES. Rested there till 5pm; then moved to NAMPCEL where night was spent.

27.3.18. At 4pm moved from NAMPCEL via AUTRECHES to MANTEBRAY where Details and Transport joined at 7.30pm.

MANTEBRAY

28.3.18. Resting and cleaning up.

29.3.19. At 4am Battn. moved off & boarded lorries at 6.30am. Proceeded to BOVES, arriving at 6.30am 30th.

30.3.18. Marched at once to GENTELLES & immediately took over Corps Reserve Line just beyond Village.  Battn. returned to billets at 9pm.

31.3.18. At 12.30 am moved off to take over Support Line at HANGARD. Received advice of about 500 Reinforcements from 12th Entrenching Batt.”


And so ended March 1918, the Battalion by then having an extraordinary number of officers – including the Battalion commanding officer, Lieut. Col. J. D. Crosthwaite M.C. – posted “missing” (other ranks are not detailed).




In May and June, 1918, a German field hospital for prisoners was at Flavy-le-Martel, and soldiers from the United Kingdom who died in the hospital were buried in Annois Communal Cemetery.  There are now over 60, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. The two plots cover an area of 253 square metres and are enclosed by stone curbs.


――――♦――――

 
ARTHUR WILKINS

Rifleman, 10th Battalion Rifle Brigade, service no. S/10834.
Son of Mrs. M. Wilkins of 4 Western Road, Tring.
Killed in action on the 3rd September 1916 aged 20.
No known grave.  Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 16 B and 16 C.


The 10th (Service) [Note] Battalion 10th (Service) Battalion was formed at Winchester in September 1914 as part of K2. [Note] Following training,  in July 1915 it landed at Boulogne as part of the 59th Brigade in the 20th (Light) Division [Note] for service on the Western Front. [Note]  During 1916, the Battalion saw action at the Battle of Mont Sorrel, The Battle of Delville Wood and The Battle of Guillemont, the latter being the action in which Rifleman Wilkins was killed on the 3rd September.

Progress on the eastern flank of the British line was essential if the French and British were to cooperate properly north of the Somme. [Note]  By the start of September the capture of Guillemont had become urgent, as the plans for an attack north toward Flers and Courcelette began to take shape.

The battle for Guillemont took place between the 3rd and 6th September, 1916.  With its maze of underground tunnels, dugouts and concrete emplacements the village was a substantial fortress that held out for some time, with British attacks on the 30th of July and the 8th of August proving unsuccessful. Guillemont eventually fell on the 3rd September in an attack by XIV corps (5th Divn; 16th Irish Divn; 20th Light Divn) led by the 20th Division, with the 5th Division to their right.

The plan was to attack the village from north, west and south.  Assembly trenches were dug north of Guillemont Station to aid the northern attack, and at 6 a.m. on the 3rd of September, 1916, an artillery [Note] bombardment commenced.  The infantry attack at noon proceeded well, but with casualties, with the second objective (the eastern side of Guillemont) being taken by 1.30 p.m. after fierce hand-to-hand fighting within the village.  German units fought to the death in the frontline trenches until overwhelmed.  Fusilier Regiment 73 of Lieutenant Ernst Jünger was involved in the defence of Guillemont and in his memoirs, Storm of Steel, he describes the dreadful conditions the Germans had to endure.  Regiment 73’s history states: “Nobody from 3rd Company can provide a report – all the men were killed, as was every officer”.  There were 5 survivors of 5th Company Infantry Regiment 76.

The third objective was reached later, but attacks to the north near Ginchy were unsuccessful and the Germans counterattacked at Guillemont.  However, on the 4th of September the 20th Division troops pushed forwards again, and reached their final objective supported by troops from the 16th (Irish) Division, who also took Ginchy on the 9th of September.

In the 10th Battalion War Diary [Note] casualty list (dated 20th September 1916), Rifleman Wilkins (together with many others) is posted missing on the 3rd September.  The following War Diary extract describes events on the 3rd September and adjacent days, while the Report that follows is from the Battalion’s Commanding Officer:


 “Nr. Carnoy

September 1916

1st. The Battalion remained in the trenches and dugouts at the CRATERS on the CARNOY-MONTAUBAN road, resting and equipping for the assault on GUILLMONT which had been fixed for the 3rd.

2nd. The hours of daylight were spent at the CRATERS, and final touches put to the preparations for the next day’s operations. In the evening four officers were sent back to the Transport Lines to form a reserve Viz.: – Major E. LASCELLES, Liuet H. B. EVERARD, Leut. W. T. KENNEDY and 2/Lt C. M. BEAZLEY.

At 9pm the Battalion began to move up by Platoons to the trenches West of GUILLMONT, which they reached with only a few casualties from shell fire on the way.  On this occasion the whole Battalion and the 11th Battalion were concentrated in the forward trenches LAMB and EDWARD (East of ARROW HEAD COPSE) which had been prepared as assembly trenches during the previous tour of the trenches.  Joint Headquarters for the two Battalions were in a dugout in the forward end of Scottish Alley.  Advanced Brigade Headquarters and report centre were at ARROWHEAD COPSE.

Around Guillemont

3rd. Up to noon on this day the two Battalions waited in the Assembly Trenches suffering considerable discomforts from overcrowding and casualties from shell fire.  At noon, which was the ZERO hour the advance began and proved completely successful.  The operations are described in detail in the attached appendix ‘A’
[REPORT that follows] from which it will be seen that by 2.30pm the Brigade had reached the line of the GUINCHY–WEDEWOOD Road, where they remained.  The rest of the day was spent in consolidating the position gained.  The night was uneventful.

East of Guillemont


4th. The day was spent in the consolidated line, which was heavily shelled by the enemy the whole time.  During the two days the casualties were unfortunately heavy, and amounted, among other ranks to Killed 35, Died of Wounds 6, Wounded 195, Missing 54, Total 290.

Among Officers, the following were killed, Lt. F. D. Byng; Lt. J. Y. Scott; Lt. R. W. Hatch; 2/Lt. A. V. Fox, and the following were wounded:– Lt. Col. W. V. L. Prescott Westcar, Capt. & Adjt. C. P. Warren, Lt. P. Dalton; Lt. G. G. Averdieck (Died of Wounds 14/9/16) and 2/Lt. C. R. N. Routh.

Only two officers came through untouched, viz., Capt. L. H. W. Troughton and 2/Lt. G. W. White.

During the afternoon of the 4th. two of the reserve officers rejoined the Battalion under Orders from the Division, and on the commanding officer being wounded MAJOR E. LASCELLES, who then assumed Command also went up to the line.

After dark relieving troops from the 16th (Irish) Division began to arrive and relief proceeded under great difficulties and pouring rain.”


________________________________


REPORT ON OPERATIONS ON SEPTEMBER 3RD, 1916.


On the 3rd September the Amy resumed the offensive.  The 20th Division, in conjunction with the 16th Division on the left and fhe 5th Division on the right, was detailed to assault the strongly fortified village of GUILLMONT.  The place had resisted several previous attacks by other Divisions and its capture was repeatedly declared by the higher command to be of the upmost importance.

The scheme of the attack was to assault and carry the village by a series of ‘bounds’, each ‘bound’ being consolidated and cleaned up before a further advance was made.

The final objective of the 20th Division was to be a line from the West corner of LEUZE WOOD to GUINCHY TELEGRAPH.

The 59th Brigade, which was the assaulting brigade of the 20th Division, formed up with the 10th and 11th Battalions Rifle Brigade and the 6th Battalion Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry (60th Brigade) on the right and the 10th Battalion K.R.R.
[King’s Royal Rifle Corps] with one Company of the 11th Battalion K.R.R. on the left:.

The 10th Battalion Rifle Brigade assembled in COPSE TRENCH and the trenches east of it, its left on Guillemont Road, its right on Point S.30.b.3.2½ (opposite centre of ARROW HEAD COPSE).  The 11th Battalion was on our right, with the 6th Oxford & Bucks L. I. behind both Battalions.

The Infantry Advance and intense Artillery Bombardment began at noon, which was the Zero Hour.  After this the Artillery barrage lifted at the rate of fifty yards a minute.

At noon the Battalion left its trenches in four waves, ‘C’ and ‘D’ Coys forming the first two ‘A’ and ‘B’ Coys the two behind.  Headquarters accompanied the fourth wave.

The first Battalion objective, viz, the first SUNKEN ROAD from S.30.b.9.8. to S.30.b.7.2. was taken in one rush under heavy fire, and the enemy's trench was thoroughly ‘mopped up.’  Several prisoners were taken here.

The Battalion then moved forward, following up the barrage, to its second objective viz., the second SUNKEN ROAD from T.25.a.2.8. to T.25.a.4.2.  On the way very heavy rifle and machine gun fire was encountered from both flanks and especially from a trench running roughly East and West between the two objectives.  The fire from this latter trench checked the advance momentarily, but a Lewis Gun [Note] was pushed forward to enfilade it. [Note] This enabled the trench to be stormed and every German in it was killed.

The greatest resistance met with during the operations was encountered at this second objective but in the end it was effectually dealt with and the second SUNKEN ROAD fell into our hands.

After this the third objective, viz., from T.25.a.7½.7½. to the South East end of the village at T.25.a.10.4½. was successfully reached, though on the way our casualties from both shelling and machine gun fire the right were somewhat heavy.

The fourth objective, viz. the road from T.25.b.1.9. to the point of the village at T.25.b.1.5. was taken without much hand to hand fighting.

After the capture of this objective it was found that the Battalion front had swung round somewhat too much to the right and a movement half left was necessary for the advance on the fifth objective, viz., the GUINCHY-WEDGE WOOD Road.

The line of this road was gained about 2.30p.m. and here many Germans were killed and many prisoners sent back.

Owing to the advance of the 5th Division on the right being held up, it was decided not to attempt to push on to the final objective (see Para. 3. above) although there is little doubt that this also could easily have been reached.  Accordingly the line of the GUINCHY-WEDGE WOOD Road was consolidated and battle patrols pushed out well forward to LEUZE WOOD.  The work of consolidation was carried out quickly and thoroughly in spite of the exhaustion of the surviving troops, and in the line so formed the Battalion remained until relief on the following night.

All attempts to keep up communication during the attack by telephone proved unsuccessful and it was necessary to employ runners for all messages.  Invaluable service was rendered by the contact control aeroplanes, with whom the Infantry was always in touch.


The work of the artillery was excellent and their co-operation with the aircraft appeared to be perfect.

Major.
[
E. LASCELLES]
Commdg 10th. (Service) Bn. Rifle Brigade.
30/9/16.”


From the Bucks Herald 28th October 1916:


“MISSING. – Three more of our Tring lads are reported missing.  Arthur Wilkins, son of Mr. Mark Wilkins (who for many years lived in Akeman-street, before he moved to London), joined the Rifle Brigade, and went to France.  Captain L. W. Troughton, his commanding officer, writes to his parents: – ‘He has been missing since our big attack on September 3.  I am afraid there is no hope that he is alive.  We all miss him: he was full of pluck and a good soldier, and one it will be difficult to replace.’  A regimental chum, writing to his brother, ventures to hope that Arthur may have been only slightly wounded, and made his way to a dressing station.

Arthur Wilkins was educated at Tring Boys’ School, and was a chorister at the Parish Church.”


From the Parish Magazine November 1916:


“Another of our old Tring lads and choir boys, Arthur Wilkins, 10th Rifle Brigade (son of Mr. Mark Wilkins, who lived so long in Akeman Street).  His Commanding Officer writes: ‘He has been missing since our last big attack on Guillemont on September 3rd.  I am afraid there is no hope that he is alive.  We will miss him: he was full of pluck, and a good soldier, and one it will be difficult to replace.’”


The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.


Following lengthy negotiations about the site, construction at Thiepval began in 1928 and was finished in 1932.  Foundations were dug to a depth of 30 feet, uncovering wartime tunnels and unexploded ordnance. The Memorial bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before the 20th March 1918 and have no known grave.  Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916.

The Memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.


――――♦――――

 
FRANK GEORGE WILKINS

Private, 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, service no. 20915.
Son of George and Sarah of 12 King Street, Tring.
Killed in action on the 4th March 1917 aged 36.
Buried in Fins New British Cemetery, grave ref. VII. C. 17.


Frank Wilkins first signed up in the Army at Berkhamstead on the 1st April 1901, joining the Royal Regiment of Artillery.  He was then 20 years of age, 5ft 3 ins  in height, and gave his occupation at stableman.  His first period of service with the Colours was short-lived, for on the 5th July 1901 he was “Discharged as not likely to become an efficient soldier”.  Not to be deterred, he next appeared at the recruitment office of the Worcestershire Regiment in London where, on the 15th July 1901 he re-enlisted, in April 1904 extending his service “to complete 8 yrs with the Colours.”

Frank’s second period of service took him overseas, his service record showing that he served in:
 

The U.K.

              

15.07.01 to 14.02.02

Bermuda

 

18.02.02 to 05.12.03

West Indies

 

06.12.03 to 07.11.05

Malta

 

08.11.05 to 07.05.06

Egypt

 

08.05.06 08.06.06

Malta

 

09.06.06 to 20.10.08

The U.K.

 

21.10.08 14.07.03


On the 14th July 1913 his second term in the Army ended and he was  “Discharged on termination of his period of engagement.” Unfortunately the usual local sources of information – the Parish Magazine and the Bucks Herald – have nothing to say about Frank’s death, so one must assume that as a former servicemen Private Wilkins was called up on the commencement of hostilities.  If so, he will have landed with the 1st Battalion at Le Havre in November 1914 for service on the Western Front [Note] as part of the 24th Brigade in the 8th Division. [Note].  In March 1915 the Battalion played an important role at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.

In 1917 the Battalion was engaged in the ‘Operations on the Ancre’ (a river of Picardy), a series of military engagements on the Somme front between the British Fifth and the German First armies that took place between the 11th January and the 13th March 1917.  The 8th Division conducted one such attack on the 4th March on the Épine de Malassise, a long narrow-crested ridge with slopes of nearly equal steepness that overlooks Bouchavesnes and the Moislains valley towards Nurlu.  The objective of the attack was to capture the north end of the spine to deny the Germans observation of the valley behind Bouchavesnes and the view towards Rancourt.

 

A sentry from the Worcestershire Regiment manning a position
in France during 1916.


The freezing weather prevented the digging of assembly trenches and the leading waves had to form up on lines of tapes, ready for the attack to begin at 5.15 a.m.  A creeping barrage [Note] began on time and after five minutes began to lift.  The first objective at Pallas Trench was taken on time with few losses and at the junction of the attacking brigades, a small section which held out was quickly captured, before reverse-fire by the Germans there could stop the troops who had passed beyond.  Pallas Trench was occupied by moppers-up and the attacking troops reached the second objective at Fritz Trench on the right and Pallas Support Trench on the left.  Some troops advanced so swiftly that they went beyond the objective to Fritz Trench and captured two machine-guns before returning.  This from the 1st Battalion War Diary [Note] for the 4th March, 1917, the day on which Private Wilkins was killed in action
 

“BRAY

March 1917

1st:   Batt marched from billets at BRAY to ASQUITH FLATS (Bgde Reserve).  Weather fair.

2nd: Billeted in dugouts ASQUITH FLATS.  Later Bn left ASQUITH FLATS evening of 2nd and took over trenches BOUCHAUESNES NORTH sector.  Took over from 2nd DEVONS.

3rd: In trenches.  Quiet, weather fair.  One German walked into our line and was captured night 2nd/3rd.  Casualties Killed 1 O.R. Wounded 6 O.R.

4th:   Battalion in conjunction with 2nd Northants & 2/Royal Berks R
[egiment?] attacked the German positions E of BOUCHAUESNES.  Attack was delivered at 5.30 am under a creeping barrage. [Note]  Order of Coys. A left Coy. D centre Coy. C right Coy. B support Coy.

Attack was quite successful after heavy bombing fights in places.  A great many Germans were killed, 2 machine guns were captured after their crews had been killed, together with about 100 prisoners taken by the Battalion.  PALLAS TRENCH (German front line) & FRITZ TRENCH (Support line) were captured.  From FRITZ TRENCH excellent observation was obtained over country near MOISLAINS & excellent observation for our artillery was obtained.  Enemy shelling was very heavy & a barrage was kept up on captured lines & lines of communication all day.  The observation obtained from FRITZ TRENCH enabled the Battn. to beat off counter attacks by means of Lewis Guns
[Note] & rifle fire.  Small German parties hurrying up from direction of MOISLAINS were dispersed by Lewis Gun fire.  Very heavy casualties were sustained during the attack.  The enemy’s heavy shelling was responsible for the large proportion.

The Battn. was relieved by 2/West Yorks night 4th/5th.  A heavy barrage was kept up by the enemy during relief. Bn. proceeded to ASQUITH FLATS on relief.

Casualties. Officers: killed 5, wounded 4; missing 1.   O.R.s: killed 44; wounded 158; missing 1.

5th. to 7th.: Billeted in ASQUITH FLATS. Recuperation & cleaning up.”


German bombardments continued during the night of th/5th March, before an attack on the British right flank, which captured a trench block and about 100 yards of Fritz Trench to the north, before a local counter-attack recovered the recaptured ground.  German artillery-fire continued all day and at 7,30 pm, German infantry seen massing on the right flank were dispersed by artillery and machine-gun barrages before they could attack.  German bombardments continued on the 6th March, before slowly diminishing, but by then the 1st Battalion had left the line.

The operation cost the British 1,137 casualties; 217 German prisoners and seven machine-guns were captured and “exceedingly heavy” German casualties inflicted, according to surveys of the vicinity after the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. [Note]  The new positions menaced the German defences at Péronne and the defences further south, which with the capture of Irles by the Fifth Army on the 10th March, forced the Germans commence their retirement towards the Hindenburg Line two weeks early than planned.



Fins and Sorel were occupied at the beginning of April 1917, in the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line.  They were lost on the 23 March 1918, after a stubborn defence of Sorel by the 6th K.O.S.B. and the staff of the South African Brigade, and they were regained in the following September.

The first British burials at Fins were carried out in the Churchyard and the Churchyard Extension, and the New British Cemetery was not begun until July 1917.  It was used by fighting units and Field Ambulances until March, 1918, when it comprised about 590 graves in Plots I to IV.  It was then used by the Germans, who added 255 burials, including 26 British, in Plots IV, V, and VI.  In September and October 1918, about 73 British soldiers were buried by the 33rd and other Divisions, partly in Plots I and II, but mainly in Plots V and VI.  Lastly, Plots VII and VIII were made, and other Plots completed, by the concentration of 591 graves after Armistice from the surrounding battlefields and from other smaller cemeteries.

There are now 1289, First World War casualties commemorated in this site.  Of these 208 are unidentified, and special memorials are erected to nine soldiers from the United Kingdom who are believed to be buried among them.  Another special memorial records the name of a soldier from the United Kingdom, buried in Fins Churchyard Extension, whose grave could not be found on concentration.  Nine graves in Plot VIII, Row E, identified as a whole but not individually, are marked by headstones bearing the words: “Buried near this spot.”  There are also 276 German burials here, 89 being unidentified.


――――♦――――

 
OLIVER WILKINS

Bugler, 1st/1st Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry, service no. 265633.
Son of Thomas and the late Maria Wilkins of Tring.
Killed in action on the 16th August 1917 aged 20.
Buried in New Irish Farm Cemetery, grave ref. XII. E. 12.


The 1/1st Battalion (Territorial Force) [Note] Ox and Bucks L.I. was formed at Aylesbury in August 1914.  Mobilised for war, the Battalion landed at Boulogne in March 1915.  In May it became part of the 145th Infantry Brigade of the 48th Division, [Note] thereafter engaging in various actions on the Western Front [Note] including:


1916 – The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, The Battle of Pozieres Ridge, The Battle of the Ancre Heights, The Battle of the Ancre.

1917 – The German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The Battle of Langemarck, The Battle of Polygon Wood, The Battle of Broodseinde, The Battle of Poelcapelle.  In November the Battalion deployed to Italy to stiffen Italian resistance to enemy attack after a recent disaster at Caporetto.

1918 – The Division held the front line sector at the Montello and then moved west, to the Asiago sector and then engaged in fighting on the Asiago Plateau, The Battle of the Vittoria Veneto in Val d’Assa.  The Battalion ended the war near Trent, Austria.


The Battle of Langemarck (16th–18th August 1917) was the second Allied general attack of the Third Battle of Ypres against the German 4th Army.

So far as the 145th Infantry Brigade was concerned, the objective was to capture the high ground overlooking the valley of the Stroombeek.  The order of battle of this Brigade was the 1/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment on the right, the 1/1st Bucks Battalion in the centre, the 1/4th Battalion Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry on the left, with the 1/4th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment in Brigade reserve.

The British front line on the Brigade front lay immediately west of the Steenbeek, whilst the Germans were holding a line consisting of organised shell-holes and reinforced houses, along the ridge 200 yards east of the stream.  The Battalion was to form up for the attack west of the Steenbeek, on a front of 500 yards immediately north of the St. Julien bridge on the 16th August.  The formation was to be: two companies in front, A on the left and B on the right, each in two waves of two platoons, with C and D in artillery formation behind right and left respectively.  Tanks were to have co-operated, but owing to the waterlogged state of the ground they were cancelled at the last moment.

Bugler Wilkins was killed in this action while “acting as a runner in an attack by the Battalion on an enemy position early on August 16th”; in other words carrying messages back to Battalion HQ (see letter extract, Parish Magazine below).  The following is taken from the 1/1st Battalion War Diary: [Note]


DAMBRE CAMP

August 1917

11th: IN CAMP. During the day the Battalion carried out a practice attack in connection with the forthcoming operation. Weather wet and rather cold. Ration strength 22 officers, 806 O.R.

12th: IN CAMP. SUNDAY Church Parade Service. In the afternoon OFFICERS and platoon SERGTS attended a lecture by the CRA in connection with the forthcoming operation.  During the afternoon one of our KITE BALLOONS was brought down by an E.A.
[Enemy Aircraft], and later one of the E.A. was brought down by gunfire.

At night 1 OFF and 16 OR went up the line to reconnoitre assembly positions in connection with the forthcoming operations returning at 5.30 am.  Ration strength 22 officers, 804 O.R.  Weather fine.

13th: IN CAMP. Battalion again carried out a practice attack in connection with the forthcoming operations.  Weather fine.  Ration strength 212 offs  804 OR.

14th: IN CAMP: Repeated practice attack of previous day during morning.  Ration strength 22 offs 806 OR.

15th: IN CAMP. Battn. marched by Coys at 200 yards intervals to CANAL BANK leaving DAMBRE CAMP at 11 am in accordance with W3.  Dinner and teas eaten there.  Men made to rest the whole afternoon.  Started moving from CANAL BANK by platoons at 11pm.  Route up to forming up positions – CORDUROY track past HAMMONDS CORNER – JULIES FARM.  Considerable delay at HAMMONDS CORNER, owing to Lewis gun
[Note] limbers [Note] not arriving in time, they having been blocked on the very dark night.  Zero to be at 4.45 am, 16th inst.  Ration strength 22 offs 806 OR.

A, B, & D Coys formed up by Zero.  Only 1 casualty.  C Coy late owing to above mentioned Lewis Gun limbers, & heavy enemy shelling which they encountered on way up.

DISPOSITIONS

The Battalion in four waves.  Each company on a two platoon front.
A Coy on left & B Coy on right forming 1st two waves.
C Coy on left and D Coy on right forming 2nd two waves.
Battn. HQ at C12CO3
1/5th GLOUCESTER REGT on right.
1/4th OX & BUCKS LI on left.
1/4TH R. BERKS REGT in support.

OBJECTIVES

1st wave – HILLOCK FARM line of gunpits to its right.
2nd wave – Green line (SPOT FARM
SPRINGFIELD LANGEMARCK Rd.)
3rd wave – Red line.
4th wave – Blue line – Right Coy – STROPPE FARM; Left Coy – GENOA & HUBNER FARM.

For detailed objectives see 0025 paras 8. 9.10. 11. 12.

ARTILLERY
See 0026

NARRATIVE

Soon after leading company (A) reached its forming up position W of STEENBEEK, enemy commenced to shell ground about 150 yds behind.  To keep all companies clear of this, the leading companies were sent forward close to the stream.  Two leading companies (A & B) crossed stream at Zero – 7.
1 platoon C Coy arrived about this time.  Remaining 3 platoons did NOT arrive until Zero + 20 &, losing direction to the left, were, so far as this Battn. was concerned, NO further assistance in the attack.

The right of the leading wave lost a few men from our own barrage, but this lifted before they could reach the ridge E of the STEENBEEK and they came under very heavy machine gun fire while topping the ridge.  This fire was very rapidly reinforced by considerable rifle fire from trenches to the sides and front of numerous concrete blockhouses out of which the machine guns were firing.  The leading wave of the right company was almost entirely annihilated by this fire.  The second wave closed up and engaged the enemy with fire, while parties worked round the flanks. But the enemy kept up a very strong resistance & until the 3rd wave joined in & closed on them with a rush they showed no signs of giving in.

After this charge there was a short bout of hand-to-hand fighting before the enemy, in and around one house put up their hands.  This was about 6 am.  After this the other garrisons soon followed suit.

The left leading company met with less resistance at first, but after going about 150 yds E of the STEENBEEK they came under a very heavy crossfire from Machine Guns at a distance & the first wave reached the gun pit line with about 16 men.  The second wave closed up but the left platoon was absolutely stopped by fire from the left gun pit & a trench immediately N.E. of it, also from MAISON DU HIBOU & TRIANGLE FARM.

The right half of the second wave went right through, passing S.E. of HILLOCK FARM apparently taking with them the remains of the right platoon of the 1st wave, altogether about 25 strong, & reached SPRINGFIELD road to left of it about 6.45 am.  Several of these were seen to fall en route especially by line of gun pit about C12a87.  Six of our men were seen at SPRINGFIELD about 9 am & four were seen led away by Germans about 9.30 am.

At about 7 am Battn. HQ moved forward to Blockhouse at C12a51. At that time situation was as follows:

(a) Capt. PULLMAN, 2/Lt REEVES, with about 25 men & LGs holding line from C12c96 – 78.

(b) About 15 men & 1 Lewis Gun C12c65 – 58

(c) About 20 men astride road in neighbourhood of HILLOCK FARM

(d) 1 officer & 6 OR at GUNPIT C12a34

(e) 4 men under a Cpl at C12a6245

(f) About 25 men & 1 Lewis Gun reported to have got through to SPRINGFIELD

2/Lt PASSMORE, although slightly wounded was commanding left half of the line & Capt. PULLMAN right half of the line.

On the right it was impossible to get on as there was a large sheet of water in front and the ground all round was little short of a morass, with a blockhouse and gunpit the far side held by enemy Machine Guns & a number of snipers.  Every attempt at movement resulted in casualties.  2/Lt JOHNSTON was seriously wounded in trying to get touch with this party of D Coy.  Several attempts were made to get forward on the left but all were stopped by enemy MG fire.  At this time there was no connection with the Battalions on either flank.

About midday, casualties from enemy snipers & MG on the left had become so numerous that we were forced to withdraw from HILLOCK FARM & take up a position immediately to the South of it.  This proved to be but a slight improvement as enemy fire from TRIANGLE FARM & MAISON DU HIBOU never stopped sweeping the TRIANGLE – ST JULIEN Rd & the ground on either side of it.

Finally, at dusk, after an enemy counter attack, the left withdrew to a line C12a23–C12a72–C12c88.  The right consolidated their positions consisting of a disused trench.

By evening it was evident that we did not hold SPRINGFIELD any longer.  A patrol set out to get there during the night but lost their way.

ENEMY COUNTER ATTACKS

About 8am the enemy were seen to be coming over the ridge N of SPRINGFIELD in threes and fours & dropping into a trench just SE of crossroads C6d21. This continued for some time. About 9 am, two or three lines of men came over the ridge & moved down towards TRIANGLE FARM. There was also some attempt made to reinforce the gunpit opposite our right. By this time a Vickers Gun had been mounted on top of one of the blockhouses close to Battn. HQ & two others arrived about this time & were quickly got into action in a trench about C12a30. All available men round Battn. HQ were sent up to reinforce the line round HILLOCK FARM. 1 platoon, 4th R Berks, was asked for & put into position about C12a25, to protect left flank. This platoon were in position by 10 am.

Our fire stopped the enemy advance about TRIANGLE FARM & after about 20 minutes many of them were seen returning over the ridge.

About 7.30pm, the enemy attempted to rush the gunpits at about C12a24 but were stopped & suffered heavily.

At 9.30 pm he again attacked from direction of TRIANGLE FARM & rushed our posts with bombs, succeding in driving them in [unclear on this text].

The night passed without further incident.


The Steenbeek the way the 1/1st Ox & Bucks L.I. would have found it.


The enemy belonged to 7th Bavarian Infantry Regiment.  The attack proved that our barrage had no effect whatever on the garrisons of concrete blockhouses, and that for future operations it was essential that these should be dealt with by heavy artillery prior to an assault.  For such a comparatively small advance it was a costly attack.  Casualties reported in the 1st/1st battalion War Diary (other sources give slightly different figures) were officers; 1 killed (Capt. G. V. NEAVE) and 8 wounded.  Other ranks; 43 killed, 49 missing (14 later reported P.O.W.s), 189 wounded, 5 wounded slightly.  Some of the wounded personnel were described as  “severe” and might later have succumbed to their wounds.
 


From the Bucks Herald 1st September 1917:


“Pte. Oliver Wilkins, Oxford and Bucks L.I., has made the great sacrifice acting as a runner in an attack made by the regiment on August 16.  This young fellow was 20 years of age, and joined early in the war.  He was formerly a chorister at the Parish Church, and belonged to the Boy Scouts and Church Lads Brigade.  He had been home to England suffering from shell shock, and returned to the front in May last.”


From the Parish Magazine September 1917:


Of Oliver Wilkins his Captain writes: ‘He was killed whilst acting as a runner in an attack by the Battalion on an enemy position early on August 16th.  He was renowned in the battalion for his cheeriness.  I picked him out of the remainder of the company as a runner, a post which means a great deal of common sense.  He always carried out his duties in a thoroughly efficient manner, and was always willing to perform any duty asked of him.’  The Chaplain adds: ‘He was a good soldier and very popular with the other men in the battalion.’

Oliver was for some years a chorister in our church; for some time was a member of the Tring Troop, Boy Scouts and afterwards joined our Church Lads’ Brigade.  He enlisted in the Bucks Battalion in September 1914 when he was only 17 years of age, and went to France on March 30th 1915.  He was home in England for sometime suffering from severe shell shock, but returned to the front in May 1917.  May god accept the life given.”



New Irish Farm Cemetery was first used from August to November 1917 and was named after a nearby farm, known to the troops as “Irish Farm” (originally there was an Irish Farm Cemetery immediately South of the Farm.  New Irish Farm Cemetery is about 300 metres North of the Farm at a crossing once known as Hammonds Corner).  It was used again in April and May 1918 and at the Armistice it contained just 73 burials, but was then greatly enlarged when more than 4,500 graves were brought in from the battlefields north-east of Ypres, including many soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in the Langemark area during August to October, 1917.

There are now 4,719 commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery.  3,271 of the burials are unidentified, but special memorials commemorate four casualties known or believed to be buried among them.  Other special memorials record the names of 30 casualties buried in four of the cemeteries removed to New Irish Farm whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.


――――♦――――

 
SIDNEY WOODS

Private, 8th Bedfordshire Regiment, service no. 19523.
Husband of Maud and father to four children.
Died of wounds on the 3rd November 1916 aged 29.
Buried in St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, grave ref. O. I. B. 5.


The 8th (Service) [Note] Battalion was raised at Bedford in October 1914, as part of Lord Kitchener’s 3rd ‘call to arms’ [Note] for another 100,000 men to enlist into the expanding British Army.  Following mobilisation the Battalion landed at Boulogne on the 30th August 1915.  On the 17th November they Battalion became part of 16th Brigade in the 6th Division, [Note] thereafter serving entirely on the Western Front [Note] where they played some part, with distinction, in every major battle in which the British were involved.

In April 1916 the Battalion lost heavily during a massed bombardment and raid on their lines.  Later in the year they were engaged in The Battles of the Somme (1916), specifically the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15th–22nd Sept)  and the Battle of Morval (25th–28th Sept), and the Battle of Le Transloy (1st–18th Oct), the last 4th Army offensive in the (1916) Battle of the Somme.


Ampthill Training Camp, where Private Woods enlisted.


There is nothing in the records I have to indicate when Private Woods received his ultimately fatal wounds, which might have been some weeks time before his death.  But a look through the Battalion War Diary [Note] suggests mid-October 1916 (Battle of Le Transloy) is a strong possibility, for on several days in succession the Diary records casualties:


12 Oct: trenches east of Gueudecourt. Relieved 1/KSLI [King’s Shropshire Light Infantry] and 2/Y&L [York and Lancaster Regiment] in trenches E. of GUEUDECOURT at night.  2/Lt Sharpin wounded.

13 Oct: in trenches as above. Enemy artillery active also snipers. Intense bombardment at 5.45 pm to 6.15 p.m. Casualties 4 O.R. Killed 11 wounded.

14 Oct: in trenches as above. Artillery very active on each side. Casualties 3 O.R. killed & 10 wounded.

15 Oct: in trenches as above. Intermittent shelling whole day very intense for about half an hour at midnight 15/16. Three Enemy snipers shot down. Casualties 2/Lt Gibson died of wounds 2 O.R. killed, 8 wounded.

16 Oct: in trenches as above. Clear sky most of day aircraft very active resulting in less hostile shelling during daylight. Intense hostile shelling for half an hour commenced at 5.45 pm. Casualties 4 O.R. killed & 4 wounded. Another German sniper shot down

17 Oct: in trenches as above.  Artillery very active all day on both sides.  At 5 pm intense hostile bombardment lasting 40 minutes.  Casualties 4 killed 3 wounded.”


A squad of the 8th Battalion in Brighton during their training in 1915, led
by one of the regular sergeants (they didn’t then know what awaited them!).


Sidney Woods was born in 1887 at Ridgmont, Bedfordshire, into a farm labouring family.  In the 1911 Census (then aged 24) he is recorded living at Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire, with his wife Maud (aged 23, married in 1908), a daughter Florence (aged 2) and a baby son Frederick, his occupation being ‘traction engine driver’.  This from the Bedfordshire Times and Independent 10th November 1916:


“News of the death of Pte. Sidney Woods in France from wounds, has been sent to his widow.  Much sympathy is felt for Mrs Woods who is a native of Husborne Crawley.  She is left with four young children.

The deceased soldier was well known over a wide district through his work as a trashing machine hand.  Prior to the war he left the district to work at Tring, but came back to join up at Ampthill Training Camp.
[The Ampthill Command Depot Diary lists Woods as from Bulbourne]  He was the youngest son of Mr. T. Woods, of Station Road.  He was a member of the village branch of the National Deposit Friendly Society.”



During the First World War, Commonwealth camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen.  A base supply depot and the 3rd Echelon of General Headquarters were also established in the city.  Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for practically the whole of the war.  They included eight general, five stationary, one British Red Cross, one labour hospital, and No. 2 Convalescent Depot.  A number of the dead from these hospitals were buried in other cemeteries, but the great majority were taken to the city cemetery of St. Sever.  In September 1916, it was found necessary to begin an extension.

St. Sever Cemetery now contains 3,082 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, plus 1 French burial and 1 non war service burial.


――――♦――――

 
ERNEST GEORGE WRIGHT

Private, 1st/4th Battalion Essex Regiment, service no. 201132.
7 New Cottages, Brook Street, Tring.
Husband of Ada Cato (formerly Wright).
Killed in action of the 3rd June 1917 aged 32.
Buried in the Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, plot F 421.


The 1/4th Battalion was a Territorial unit formed in the Childers Reforms of 1908 [Note] with its headquarters in Brentwood.  The 1/4th, together with the 1/5th, 1/6th and 1/7th battalions, formed the 161st (Essex) Brigade in the 54th (East Anglian) Division. [Note]

After serving a period in home defence, the 161st Brigade landed at Suvla Bay on the 12th August 1915 to reinforce the Gallipoli Campaign.  There the Brigade saw some hard fighting, but having lost even more men to sickness it was withdrawn to Egypt before the Gallipoli Peninsula was finally abandoned in the following January.

On the 16th December, the 1/4th Battalion landed in Alexandria.  After time in the desert west of Cairo and a period of absorbing replacement officers and men, the Battalion arrived in Cairo on the 24th March 1916, later to be deployed eastwards to protect the Suez Canal and its vital supply route – an area known as the Southern Canal Section – from Turkish attacks across the Sinai Peninsula.

Early in 1917, the 161st Brigade crossed the Sinai Desert to take part in the Palestine Campaign. [Note] The first two British attempts (the First and Second Battles of Gaza) to invade southern Palestine, held by the Ottoman Empire, were fought in March and April and resulted in British defeats.  There followed a period when both sides held their lines of defence from Gaza to Beersheba during which extensive entrenchments were constructed.  These were particularly strong where the trenches almost converged at Gaza and Beersheba, while in the centre of the line the Ottoman defences overlooked an almost flat plain, devoid of cover, making a frontal attack virtually impossible.


East Kent Regiment passing over the Jebel Hamrin (Palestine),
December 1917.


Numerous raids on the pattern of those familiar on the Western Front were carried out, although it was necessary to conduct almost all operations at night due to the intense daytime heat.  After dark, as on the Western Front, trenches were raided and fighting under exploding star shells and flares in no man’s land occurred, while repairs and improvements to trenches were made, barbed wire strung, communication trenches widened, cables buried, and gun emplacements constructed.  Judging from the date on which he was killed, it seems likely that Private Wright fell during this period of trench warfare.

The trench warfare extended from April to October 1917, when the stalemate in Southern Palestine ended with the Allied victory at the Battle of Beersheba.

From the Bucks Herald 23rd June 1917:


“ROLL OF HONOUR. – Still another name has been added to the Roll of Honour of residents of the town who have laid down their lives in the great war.  News has been received that Ernest George Wright of Council Cottages, Brooke-street, was killed in action in Palestine on June 3.  Much sympathy is felt for the bereaved wife, who is left with five children, ranging from 10 years of age to 15 months, especially as this is her second great bereavement in a few weeks, Mrs Wright being a sister of the late Albert Baldwin, whose death occurred as the result of an accident with a traction engine.

Wright who was formerly in the employ of Mr. Frank Grace, as a carter, was 32 years of age.  He joined the Essex Regiment early in the war, and after a few months service in France proceeded to Egypt.”


From the Parish Magazine July 1917:


Ernest George Wright was killed on 3rd June 1917 in Palestine, two days after Stanley Miller.  He joined the Army in June of 1915 and spent eight months with his regiment, the 4th Essex in France, afterwards proceeding to Egypt.  No further details have yet been received, but he will be remembered here as one who fought and died bravely.  May he rest in peace.”



In the early part of the First World War, Kantara was an important point in the defence of Suez against Turkish attacks and marked the starting point of the new railway east towards Sinai and Palestine, begun in January 1916.  Kantara developed into a major base and hospital centre and the cemetery was begun in February 1916 for burials from the various hospitals, continuing in use until late 1920.  After the Armistice, the cemetery was more than doubled in size when graves were brought in from other cemeteries and desert battlefields, notably those at Rumani, Qatia, El Arish and Rafa.

The Second World War again saw Kantara as a hospital centre.  No 1 General Hospital was there from July 1941 to December 1945 and two others, Nos 41 and 92, were there in turn for varying periods. One of the major allied medical units in the area, No 8 Polish General Hospital, adjoined the war cemetery.

Kantara War Memorial Cemetery now contains 1,562 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and 110 from the Second World War.  There are also 341 war graves of other nationalities in the cemetery, many of them made from the Polish hospital and concentrated in a distinct Polish extension.


――――♦――――

 
GEORGE WALTER YOUNG

Captain, 8th East Yorkshire Regiment.
Born in Tring.  Son of George Thomas and Eleanor Young of 8 High Street, Tring.
Killed in action in France on the 27th May 1918 aged 21.
No known grave.  Commemorated on Soissons Memorial


The 8th (Service) Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment was formed at Beverley in September 1914 as part of Kitcherner’s Third New Army, K3. [Note]  The Battalion moved to Tring and later to Godalming for training as part of the 62nd Brigade of the 21st Division. [Note]  The Battalion mobilised for war, landing at Boulogne in September 1915 in time for the Battle of Loos (25th–28th September).  In November the Battalion was transferred to the 8th Brigade in the 3rd Division, thereafter engaging in many major actions on the Western Front. [Note]

In February 1918 the Battalion disbanded, its remaining personnel forming the 10th Entrenching Battalion. [Note].  In turn, the 10th Entrenching Battalion was disbanded in April, its men joining the 7th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment and 10th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment to make good the heavy losses sustained early in the German Spring Offensive. [Note]

Following his death, correspondence received from the Battalion informed Captain Young’s parents that “He was killed by a shell with several others of his men on the Heights of Craonne on May 27th,” which suggests that his Battalion was engaged in the 3rd Battle of the Aisne (named after a river in north-eastern France).  It was a battle of the German Spring Offensive in which the Germans aimed to capture the Chemin des Dames Ridge near Craonne.

The defence of the Aisne area was in the hands of General Denis Auguste Duchêne, commander of the French Sixth Army.  The German attack came as a complete surprise.  At 1 a.m. on the morning of the 27th May the Germans began a bombardment of the Allied front lines with some 4,000 artillery pieces.  The Allies suffered heavy losses because Duchêne was reluctant to abandon the Chemin des Dames ridge after it had been captured at heavy cost in the previous year, and had ordered them to mass together in the front trenches in defiance of instructions from the French Commander-in-Chief, Henri-Philippe Petain.  Huddled together, the Allied troops made easy artillery targets.  The result was massive destruction of the Allied front line and a huge advance by German forces into open country.  The fighting continued until to the 6th June.


The morning of the first day of the Battle of the Chemin des Dames, 27th May 1918.
German troops crossing a canal and awaiting orders to continue the advance.


From the Bucks Herald 15th June 1918:


“ROLL OF HONOUR. – The war has taken yet another toll of the brave lads of Tring by the death of Capt. George W. Young, East Yorks, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. G. T. Young, of Tring Park Estate Office, with whom the most sincere sympathy is felt, especially as their second eldest son, Lieut. M. Young [below] has not been heard of for some considerable time, and has been missing since one of the great battles of the recent offensive.

Capt. Young was only 21 years of age; he joined the Public Schools Battalion early in the war, and on being promoted to a lieutenancy in the East Yorks was for some time in training at Halton camp. He went out with the 21st Division, and was wounded in the Battle of Loos, since which time he has been wounded twice.

Going out to France for the fourth time on April 16 last, he served with distinction in the great battles until May 27, when he met his death, notification of which was received from the War Office on Saturday. His Lieut.-Colonel, in a letter to Mr. Young, said that Capt. Young fell on the heights of Craonne, doing splendid work, and that his loss came as a great blow to the Battalion.”


From the Parish Magazine July 1918:


“George Walter Young, Captain 4th East Yorks Regiment, joined the public schools Battalion on the out break of the war.  In October 1914, he got his commission as a 2nd/Lt in the 8th East Yorks Regiment and came for training with the 21st division at Halton Camp.  He proceeded to France with the division and was second in command of his company at the Battle of Loos, where he was severely wounded.  He was promoted to Lieutenant, January 1915.  When he recovered he re-joined his regiment on 25 September 1915 and was again wounded during the fighting at Munchy Le Prieux.  He was made Captain early in 1917.  As soon as he was strong enough he started off for France again, and was wounded for the 3rd time at Noreuil on December 17th 1917.  Once more when he recovered and pleaded to re-join his men, and crossed the Channel on 16th April 1918.

He was killed by a shell with several others of his men on the Heights of Craonne on May 27th.  His Colonel writing says ‘He has done splendid work and his loss comes as a great blow to the Regiment.  We were awfully proud to have him with us, and he will always remain a splendid memory, both for his soldierly and personal qualities which bound everyone to him.’”


This fine memorial was designed by G H Holt and V O Rees,
with sculpture by Eric Kennington.


At the end of April 1918, five divisions of Commonwealth forces (IX Corps) were posted to the French 6th Army in this sector to rest and refit following the German offensives on the Somme and Lys.  Here, at the end of May, they found themselves facing an overwhelming German attack which, despite fierce opposition, pushed the Allies back across the Aisne to the Marne.  Having suffered 15,000 fatal casualties, IX Corps was withdrawn from this front in early July, but was replaced by XXII Corps, who took part in the Allied counter attack that had driven back the Germans by early August and recovered the lost ground.

The Soissons Memorial commemorates almost 4,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom forces who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne in 1918 and who have no known grave.


――――♦――――

 
MARCUS ERNEST YOUNG

Second Lieutenant, Royal Field Artillery.
Killed in action in France on the 24th March 1918 aged 19.
Son of Gorge Thomas and Eleannor Young of 8 High Street, Tring.
Buried in Chauny Communal Cemetery British Extension, ref. FR 1893 Special Memorial “A”

 
Marcus was the brother of George Young, whose name appears above.  From the Parish Magazine 1919:


“Marcus Ernest Young, 2nd/Lt R.F.A. [Note] left the Modern School Bedford in July of 1916, and joined the Army in November of the same year, going through a course of training at the R.F.A Barracks at St Johns Wood.  In the following March he was appointed to the Special Reserve of Officers and in June 1917 received orders to go to France.  On March 22nd 1918 he was reported missing, and subsequently, through the Red Cross in Geneva, he was said to have been killed on that date and buried between La Fere and Fargniers.

The Captain of his battery, when writing to his parents, said that: ‘He went over the top with an N.C.O in order to get information about the guns which had been captured earlier in the day.  He did not return nor did the N.C.O.  It was a very plucky thing to do and was done on his own initiative.’”  R.I.P.



The Chauny Communal Cemetery British Extension was made after the Armistice for the burial of remains brought in from the battlefields of the Aisne and from smaller cemeteries in the surrounding countryside.  The majority of those buried here died in 1918; among the rest were soldiers who fell in September, 1914. There are just over 1,000, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site.

Included in this figure is one soldier, whose grave is known to be in the cemetery although the exact place of burial could not be established.  It is commemorated by a special memorial headstone “A” inscribed ‘Buried in this cemetery’.


――――♦――――

 



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