Posted by: michaeldaybath | November 21, 2019

W. R. Lethaby’s “Memorials of the Fallen”

Title page of: The Hibbert Journal, Vol. XVII. Source: Internet Archive.

Title page of: The Hibbert Journal, Vol. XVII. Source: Internet Archive.

This is the text of an article on war memorials by the architect William Richard Lethaby (1857-1931) that was first published in The Hibbert Journal in 1919. It has been transcribed from the digital version made available by the Internet Archive from a copy in the University of Toronto Library (Call number: AAA-7174). I think that it makes for very interesting reading just over a century later.

I like the quiet way that Lethaby drops into his list the ideas of constructing a tunnel under the Irish Sea and the “re-building of the greater part of London.” While his call for more festivals, folk-schools, and eisteddfods may now seem rather niche, on some other topics Lethaby really does seem to be rather ahead of his time:

“How best to live with the least consumption is an aim which might safely be put before all people when a time comes for considering possible ideals in civilisation.”

From: The Hibbert Journal, Vol. XVII, No. 4, 1919, pp. 621-625; Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/hibbertjournal17londuoft/page/620

MEMORIALS OF THE FALLEN: SERVICE OR SACRIFICE?

PROFESSOR W. R. LETHABY.

THE other day I was asked some questions on the cost of stained glass, as it was proposed to put a stained-glass window as a memorial in a village Wesleyan chapel. Another memorial has been mentioned to me: “the form decided on is the replica of some old village cross”; and yet another was to be a “runic cross.” The spirit of the inquiries was entirely wholesome and sweet, but it raised (as it will in the minds of crotchety people, “who never agree with what they don’t propose themselves”) a whole flight of preliminary questions and doubts as to ultimate possibilities. There are thousands of other cases where like questions are being asked without our being ready with considered replies. As usual it will be muddle. Again the generous people are untaught; again they are to sacrifice before an idol, or a whole row of idols.

Is it necessary, is it what the fallen themselves would have wished, that four and a half years of war and destruction shall be followed by a great outpouring of unproductive, and indeed futile, labour? Must a sort of murder be followed by a sort of suicide?

The problem as a whole in its great mass needs thinking over and out, and it would be well if the intelligent people of the universities, churches, and councils would consider it and take the responsibility of giving some teaching. Have the universities no national functions? It seems that millions of pounds are again to be wasted, and at such a time, in doing what we at most can least well do. Sometimes, indeed and alas! it may be spent in further vulgarising our ancient churches. Meanwhile Englishmen and heroes have too few houses to live in, arid too little vital and reproductive work to do. Why should it be unmonumental to provide some of these? Billiard-marking and diamond-cutting will not be enough to employ all who come back. Would it not be possible to direct some of the memorial streams to irrigating truly productive work? The best of all memorials would be those which helped speedily to organise the drifting masses of men who are returning to promises, and the unproductive monuments will not do that.

There is a feeling in the air that we ought to offer pure sacrifice for the fallen, and that there is some meanness in making memorials serve a useful purpose — that we must advertise our regret and compassion in lavish oblations of marble, brass, and glass. Then there are artists and firms all ready to provide the expected right things; but we must remember that these are the priests who live by the sacrifices, “thrusting their forks into the cauldron.” It is in the nature of things that artists should be chiefly interested in their own matters, and we can hardly expect a general theory from them unless they were called together in consultation, when they would be quite equal to giving disinterested advice. What we most need is some such calling together for discussion. If we could hold a meeting of the fallen and put some suggestions before them, is it the brass and glass that they would choose? We might readily find out with a high degree of probability by holding a meeting of the maimed and injured and asking them what their fallen comrades would have liked — this or that?

This idea of a stone sacrifice is very largely a modern development. Of course there have “always” been monumental memorials, but they were generally direct records, a writing on a wall, or they were tombs. Now, tombs in antiquity were not simply monuments to the dead; they were eternal houses for those who were in some ghostly way living another kind of life. They were not mere memory memorials.

More self-conscious memorial monuments and pompous tombs came in with the Hellenistic decline. The great “Mausoleum” of the semi-oriental satrap was soon followed by huge trophy monuments, triumphal arches, and sculptured memorial pillars. All these are heathen, imperial, and part of the apparatus of hypnotism by pomp.

On the other hand, great and serious works of service have generally been associated with the thought of memorial purpose. It was known that only life can ensure further life: only living grain can fructify.

Pericles rebuilt the sacred high city of Athens as a memorial of the Persian War. Alexander founded Alexandria as a memorial to himself. S. Sophia, Constantinople, was in some degree a memorial of the putting down of the Nika riots. So our own wise Alfred re-founded London after withstanding the Danes. Most of the great works of men have been memorials, and all the greatest memorials have been aids to life. The earliest churches were martyr memorials.

In the Middle Ages the favourite memorial was abbey founding, and abbeys were experiments in community life. At the Renaissance time colleges, schools, almshouses were built. “Almshouses “: the very words are memorially beautiful if we had not starved the meaning, so thin, bony and grim cold as charity. Of modern-time works Waterloo Bridge is very far the finest memorial we have; indeed, it is in a different category from “memorials proper,” and is in its way perfect. Again, the Albert Hall is as much better than the Albert Memorial as it is more serviceable. Trafalgar Square is at least superior to the Nelson Column. Only reality can give the true monumental note.

If we think again of our need and purpose, there is an enormous volume of noble constructive work which is necessary to the life of the people, works from those of a national scale down to those suitable for our villages.

The nation might consider some such schemes as the following:-

  1. Town and village re-building and re-enlivening. A general effort after health, joy, and beauty; a policy of weal in place of “wealth,” festivals, folk-schools, eisteddfods, stadiums.
  2. The establishment of a dozen new universities of experimental types, recognising crafts, art, and all kinds of research, production, making, and doing.
  3. National old-age hospitals in place of the feared and hateful workhouse infirmaries.
  4. Country redemption and general tidying up, burying old tins, burning old paper, and tearing down insulting advertisements.
  5. Making the railway system rational, efficient, and orderly: our stations and station-yards must be nearly the worst in the world.
  6. An Irish Channel tunnel and finely constructed railway to a port on the Atlantic. A really worthy gateway to the West, a British Appian Way.
  7. The setting up of a Ministry for Civilisation, which would recognise the need for national story, music, drama, and art, and give some attention to our wretched coins, stamps, public heraldry, and “brilliant ceremonies.”
  8. The re-building of the greater part of London.
  9. The embanking and guiding our over-flooding rivers, and planting the wasteful hedges with fruit trees.
  10. The organising of summer camps attached to all large towns, where some of the experience gained during the war might be maintained.

Every county might experiment in building a new town. Every town might throw out a garden suburb. Every village might build at least one stout and neat little house which might be let to someone who has suffered. It would be perfectly easy to put a worthy commemorative inscription and list of names on such a building. Organised labour could make use of the memorial motive in founding a town for craft teaching and industrial research, also for experiments in well living in small houses. The ideal is certainly the house which could be worked without slavery and without the greasy waste and hidden squalor of rich houses. How best to live with the least consumption is an aim which might safely be put before all people when a time comes for considering possible ideals in civilisation. Here indeed would be a fair field for the play of our competitive energies. We need a practice of economic experiment and research, health laboratories, group living, community hospitality, better cooking, and some human amusements which don’t pay dividends. The material appliances of our civilisation are altogether inadequate. We badly need Wisdom in her works as well as in her words. We have to think of civilisation as a whole, as an ambition, as experiment. If we could establish a wisdom council on this one object of making worthy memorials the precedent might widen, and it might at last be remembered that even Government must recognise that it has to be more than an “administration.” Some day when we have learnt not to slay ideals with our “sense of humour” we may find it desirable to have a Minister for Civilisation.

The ever-accelerating momentum of modern life — or existence has passed into eccentric orbits, and we seem to prefer to patch wreckage rather than to make a plain way. A special effort is necessary to find the bare data for rational production. It is hardly possible to get it understood’ that a “work of art” is not a design thrown off by a genius, but it is a piece of honest work consecrated to a noble purpose. At least a work of art implies workmanship. Labour of course must-be cast into appropriate forms, but the craftsmen saw to that before “design” became the tastes and whims of middlemen. We have to wake to the understanding that nobody really cares for “art” sterilities, and we are not even able to do them speciously well. After the mayor’s speech at the unveiling function we turn our backs on our monuments, and never speak of them again; except of some which we make into whetstones to sharpen our wits, or rather our tongues.

Those strange peoples the ancients made memorials simply and directly, building their hearts into them. We have heart, too, but not frankness; we seek manner, not speech; and we spend our strength in preliminary anxieties, so that the works themselves are born tired.

The very names we call the “styles” confess all. Designs in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Gothic, Elizabethan, and Georgian styles are only waxworks in a chamber of horrors.

Ornamental design is dealing with signs and symbols, the saying of something in another mode of language. Our hope in some abstract beauty which shall say nothing, being without natural affection, meaning, feeling, heart or head, is altogether vain. These designs in the “grand manner” are pompous nullities, which only advertise that dulling of the spirit we call education. In seeking the beautiful nothing we seek a ghost which is not there. May we not sometime learn from our failures, and so make these, too, of worth? Must hope be always the bud of disappointment? A designer takes infinite pains to be quite safe and non-committal, and then committees sit on the “design” till it has been finally made dull arid dead. Nothing living can pass through the torture of anxious committees. In a work of art courage is needed and an untired mind in the worker. Every fine work is the embodied enthusiasm of maker-poets we cannot take fire from the cold ashes of committee compromises or the reflected flames of stylists.

We are not ready to produce works of art consciously poetic wherefore again let us do things obviously useful for life’s sake. Above all things the returned soldiers, or their widows and mothers when they return no more, need houses. Would not a pleasant, tidy little house in every village bearing on a panel, MEMORIAL COTTAGE, and other words and names, be the most touching, significant, and beautiful of all possible monuments?

W. R. LETHABY.

HARTLEY WINTNEY, HANTS.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | September 26, 2019

Arnhem and Oosterbeek, 75 years on

Arnhem: John Frostbrug and Eusebiuskerk (Gelderland)

Arnhem: John Frostbrug and Eusebiuskerk (Gelderland)

Seventy-five years ago today, on the 26th September 1944, Operation Market Garden came to an effective end with the evacuation of the remnants of the British 1st Airborne Division across the Neder Rijn (Lower Rhine) from the village of Oosterbeek. The operation had commenced with high hopes on the 17th September, with three Allied airborne divisions landing in the Netherlands in an attempt to capture river crossings (Operation Market), which were then intended to be consolidated by the rapid arrival of ground forces from the British XXX Corps (Operation Garden). The night before before the withdrawal of the 1st Airborne on the 25th/26th September, the 4th Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment made an assault crossing of the Neder Rijn to the west of Oosterbeek.

The first part of this post will provide a short summary of a personal visit to Arnhem and Oosterbeek undertaken on the 20th September 2019, which happened to coincide with the 75th Anniversary of Market Garden. This will be followed by a short account of the operation, focusing on the crossing of the Neder Rijn by the 4th Dorsets on the night of the 24th/25th September 1944.

Arnhem:

I was staying at Leiden, so I left the hotel at 09:00 and took the next train from Leiden Centraal to Utrecht Centraal, from where I changed onto a Nijmegen service. I arrived at Arnhem Centraal at around 11:30. Almost as soon as I had arrived, there was a flypast of several C-130 aircraft, which I think would at some points during the weekend were doing parachute drops.

Arnhem: US Marine Corps C-130 (Gelderland)

Arnhem: US Marine Corps C-130 (Gelderland)

The city of Arnhem itself was in the midst of its annual Airborne commemorations, with plenty of special events planned to mark the 75th anniversary. All of the streets in the centre of the city were decorated with maroon and pale blue Pegasus airborne forces flags and many shops had incorporated historical photographs of the damaged city into their window displays. On heading into the city centre, I eventually ended up at the Eusebiuskerk. On venturing inside, I found that visitors could pay to visit the tower, with elevator access to a video presentation on the battle as well as the carillon and some viewing platforms.

The second floor had a video presentation following the experiences of a firefighter who in 1944 had acted as a lookout in the Eusebiuskerk tower. It told the story of the arrival of the 1st Airborne Division on Sunday, 17th September, and its bitter aftermath, including the departure of civilian refugees after the failure of the Allied operation and the rebuilding that followed the end of the war. The war took its toll on the Eusebiuskerk, leading eventually to the collapse of the church tower.

Arnhem: View from the tower of the Eusebiuskerk (Gelderland)

Arnhem: View from the tower of the Eusebiuskerk (Gelderland)

The elevator had a mind of its own, so it took a little while to get to the next stage of the visit, which was the sixth floor. This brought visitors out at the level of the carillon bells, with staircases leading down to the booth containing the carilloneur’s clavier. Cantilevered out from the east and west side of the tower, however, were two glass viewing galleries.

Arnhem: The John Frostbrug and the Nederrijn, from the tower of the Eusebiuskerk (Gelderland)

Arnhem: The John Frostbrug and the Nederrijn, from the tower of the Eusebiuskerk (Gelderland)

Being careful not to look down too suddenly, I ventured out on these to take in the views of Arnhem and the Neder Rijn valley. On the east side was the Sint-Walburgiskerk and the replacement for the well-known “bridge too far” over the Neder Rijn (the John Frostbrug); on the west could be seen the river working its way down towards Oosterbeek and beyond. The bridge had a large screen attached, as preparations were underway for an evening multimedia event known as “Bridge to Liberation.” At this point in my visit, there was a slight disappointment, as an Eusebiuskerk representative came to inform all visitors that the church would be closing shortly, requesting that we return to the second floor gallery or  exit. The elevator was still behaving oddly, so this process took a rather long time. The end result was, however, that I (and several others) never actually got to the viewing gallery on the seventh floor.

Arnhem: John Frostbrug (Gelderland)

Arnhem: John Frostbrug (Gelderland)

As soon as I left the church, there was yet another flypast of the C-130s. I walked past the  Sint-Walburgiskerk to the memorial on Airborne Plein, and then up to the Rijn Bridge itself. The footpath on the east side was open, so I walked across and along the Neder Rijn a few hundred yards to the east. I then retraced my steps back over the bridge and prepared to explore the north bank of the river in the city.

Arnhem: The John Frostbrug and a temporary stage set up for the "Bridge to Liberation" event (Gelderland)

Arnhem: The John Frostbrug and a temporary stage set up for the “Bridge to Liberation” event (Gelderland)

There was another memorial in the form of a 25 pdr field gun just to the north of the road running parallel to the Neder Rijn. On the other side, a stage (for the “Bridge to Liberation” event) had been set up on the river itself, and a sound check was in progress as I passed by (a woman was singing a cover version of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colours”). Eventually leaving the riverside, I headed back to Arnhem Centraal Station to find a No. 51 bus that would be able to take me to Oosterbeek.

Oosterbeek:

I got off the bus at the stop nearest the Oude Kerk in Oosterbeek, which is on Benedendorpsweg. As with Arnhem, Oosterbeek was also very busy with visitors (and almost every building had a Pegasus flag).

Oosterbeek: Memorial marking the withdrawal of 1st Airborne Division on the 25th/26th September 1944 (Gelderland)

Oosterbeek: Memorial marking the withdrawal of 1st Airborne Division on the 25th/26th September 1944 (Gelderland)

I had been to the Oude Kerk before, on a damp, grey day in late November 2013, when the church was not open. This time, a pathway marked by white tapes led down to a memorial next to the Neder Rijn. Before visiting the church, I therefore took a quick walk down this part of the “White Ribbon Mile” [1]. Adjacent the river was a memorial marking the evacuation of 1st Airborne on the night of the 25th/26th September 1944 (Operation Berlin). During this operation, troops were ferried at night across the river in small boats operated by sapper field companies of the Royal Engineers and Royal Canadian Engineers. From the beach near the memorial on a sunny afternoon, the southern bank of the river did not seem that far away, but in September 1944 the river would have represented a significant obstacle.

Oosterbeek: Oude Kerk (Gelderland)

Oosterbeek: Oude Kerk (Gelderland)

Leaving the river bank, I walked back to the church and had a quick look inside before heading eastwards to my next riverside destination, the Heavadorp-Driel ferry. The line of the river has changed since September 1944, but the ferry marks the area where the 4th Dorsets made their crossing om the 24th/25th September. To the north of the ferry is the high-ground of the Westerbouwing, which was defended by the Germans as the Dorsets made their crossing. Waiting in the car park by the ferry were a large number of Polish soldiers. While I was there, a coach came to take them on to their next rendezvous.

Driel: The Heveadorp - Driel ferry crossing with the Westerbouwing on the horizon (Gelderland)

Driel: The Heveadorp – Driel ferry crossing with the Westerbouwing on the horizon (Gelderland), June 2011

In retrospect, I wish that, after visiting the ferry, I had walked up to the restaurant on the Westerbouwing, which has memorials to the 4th and 5th Dorsets and to the 1st Battalion, Border Regiment (in 1944, part of 1st Airborne Division) — as well as splendid views across the Nederrijn valley towards Driel and beyond.  However, I had previously visited the restaurant in June 2011, and was determined to press on in the hope that I would have time to visit Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery before it got dark.

Oosterbeek: Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery (Gelderland)

Oosterbeek: Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery (Gelderland)

I therefore followed a footpath (Kerkpad) back to the Oude Kerk and then walked up the hill into the main part of Oosterbeek, which was by this time very much in party-mode. I made a quick diversion to the Hartenstein (now the Airborne Museum) before walking up Stationsweg to Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery. Seating had already been laid out in the cemetery for the flower-laying ceremony on the Sunday (and perhaps other anniversary events) and many of the grave markers had been decorated with flags and photographic portraits. This was especially true for the grave markers of the Polish armed forces.

Oosterbeek: Polish Forces grave marker in Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery (Gelderland)

Oosterbeek: Polish Forces grave marker in Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery (Gelderland)

The cemetery contains the graves of thirty-one members of the Dorsetshire Regiment, all dating from late 1944. Only four of them served with the 4th Battalion, more of whom are commemorated on the Groesbeek Memorial or are buried elsewhere in the Netherlands. A larger number (nineteen) had served with the 5th Battalion, which was one of the first 43rd (Wessex) Division units to arrive at Driel. The remaining eight Dorsetshire graves commemorated those who had served in the 1st Battalion, who were part of 231 Infantry Brigade in the the 50th (Northumbrian) Division.

Oosterbeek: Grave marker of Cpl. Arth Schofield, 4th Dorsets, died 24th September 1944, Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery (Gelderland)

Oosterbeek: Grave marker of Cpl. Arthur Schofield, 4th Dorsets, died 24th September 1944, Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery (Gelderland)

With the 75th anniversary in mind, I looked for grave markers commemorating soldiers that had died on the 20th September 1944. There were many. For example, in Plot 6, I found the grave marker of Major Charles Neville Bruce Dawson, M.C. of the Royal Berkshire Regiment (Service No. 69165), who had been attached to the 4th Parachute Brigade HQ. Major Dawson was killed south-east of Wolfheze on the 20th September 1944, aged 27 [2].

Oosterbeek: Grave marker of Major C. N. B. Dawson, M.C., Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery (Gelderland)

Oosterbeek: Grave marker of Major C. N. B. Dawson, M.C., Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery (Gelderland)

After visiting the Cross of Sacrifice and signing the cemetery visitors’ book, I spent some time wandering amongst the (mainly) XXX Corps grave markers in Plots 7 to 14, before returning to Oosterbeek station and (via Ede-Wageningen and Utrecht Centraal) my hotel in Leiden.

Operation Market Garden:

Operation Market Garden commenced on Sunday 17th September 1944 with the landing of three Allied airborne divisions in the eastern Netherlands. Their role was to capture river crossings that were intended to be consolidated by the rapid arrival of ground forces from the British XXX Corps. In the most southerly sector, the US 101st Airborne Division quickly captured most of the bridges that had been assigned to them. To their north, the US 82nd Airborne Division captured the bridge at Heumen, but did not capture the key bridge over the Waal at Nijmegen until the 20th September. The British 1st Airborne Division landed successfully in their drop zones between Ede and Oosterbeek on the 17th and 18th September, but over subsequent days were unable to secure the key bridge over the Neder Rijn at Arnhem (the, so called, ‘bridge too far’). While the airborne divisions attempted to capture the river crossings, XXX Corps was supposed to advance rapidly through them towards (and over) the Rhine. For a variety of reasons, however, the lead units very soon fell behind schedule and the opportunity to capture the bridge over the Neder Rijn at Arnhem was soon lost.

On the 20th September, the same day that XXX Corps were finally able to cross the Waal at Nijmegen, a small force of British paratroops that had been holding the north side of the Arnhem bridge were finally pushed out. From that point on, the 1st Airborne were restricted to a shrinking pocket of land around the village of Oosterbeek, which was known to the British as the “Perimeter.” Even at that point, the remains of the 1st Airborne attempted to hold on, hoping that they could hold a bridgehead on the north bank of the Rhine until XXX Corps could arrive in strength.

Part of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade arrived at Driel (south of the Neder Rijn) on the 20th September. Some parts of that brigade were able to cross the river on the nights of the 22nd/23rd and 23rd/24th September, and these were used to reinforce the 1st Airborne’s Perimeter. However, the continued delays to the movement of XXX Corps further south – largely due to the dependence of the Market Garden plan on a single route of advance and supply – the position of the 1st Airborne on the north bank of the Neder Rijn had become untenable by the 24th September.

The 4th Dorsets crossing of the Neder Rijn:

At some point on the 24th September 1944, it was decided that what remained of the 1st Airborne Division needed to be withdrawn from the north bank of the river. In the meantime, however, units of XXX Corps were finally beginning to approach the southern bank of the Neder Rijn. On the 24th September, the 4th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment (part of 130th Brigade in the 43rd (Wessex) Division) and the Polish 1st Parachute Battalion were ordered to make a night crossing of the Neder Rijn. This may have originally formed part of a plan to reinforce (or extend) the 1st Airborne’s Perimeter, but by the time the crossing was put into operation it had undeniably become part of a withdrawal plan.

Oosterbeek: Driel - Heveadorp ferry (Gelderland)

Oosterbeek: Driel – Heveadorp ferry (Gelderland)

The commander of the Polish Parachute Brigade, Major-General Stanisław Sosabowski, objected to the planned operation, noting that the proposed crossing point near the route of the Heavadorp – Driel ferry was overlooked by German positions on the Westerbouwing. His objections were overruled, however, and preparations began for the night crossing. Anthony Beevor’s book on Arnhem notes that the presence of the German positions on the Westerbouwing meant that the proposed river crossing had effectively become an opposed assault [3].

Oosterbeek: Driel church from the Westerbouwing (Gelderland)

Oosterbeek: Driel church from the Westerbouwing (Gelderland), June 2011

In the circumstances, the commanding officer of the 4th Dorsets, Lieutenant-Colonel Gerald Tilly, did not view the prospect of crossing the Neder Rijn with particular enthusiasm. Beevor has recorded some of Tilly’s misgivings [4]:

He felt that his battalion was being ‘sent to its certain death’ for no good reason, so he left his second-in-command and adjutant behind. Tilly took Major James Grafton, one of his company commanders, aside afterwards. ‘Jimmy, I must tell you something because someone other than me has to know the real purpose of the crossing. We’re not going over to reinforce the bridgehead. We’re going over to try and hold it while the airborne is withdrawn. I’m afraid we’re being chucked away to get the airborne out.’

The 4th Dorsets moved up to Driel, arriving at around 21:30. There was still time for much else to go wrong, not least the late arrival of an inadequate number of boats for the crossing. Some trucks with rubber dinghies drove directly into German-held territory at Elst, and were captured, while other vehicles became bogged-down in the mud. The Dorsets did not get their (limited) number of boats until 01:00 on the 25th, and there were even fewer vessels available for the Polish paratroopers. The battalion history describes the start of the operation [5]:

At 0100 hrs on the 25th the forward companies moved down to the bank under a heavy artillery barrage; the first flight of boats left for the opposite bank and was immediately engaged by withering fire from the enemy. The crossing continued until 0215 hrs, when it had to be stopped owing to enemy pressure, though later three D.U.K.W.’d managed to get across with supplies.

Major Whittle of ‘B’ Company later provided an account of the crossing [6]:

The enemy opened up with counter-fire, and at least two of the ten boats in my company group were holed badly before reaching the bank. We were launching the first boat when they opened up with M.M.G. fire from the opposite bank, the boat sank, and we had several casualties. We discovered that this fire was on fixed lines, and by moving a few yards the remainder of the boats were launched successfully.

There was a strong current, and my two leading boats were swept rapidly towards the West where the factory, about 400 yards down stream, was ablaze, and we should have been beautifully silhouetted. By using spades as well as the quite inadequate paddles we eventually landed about 100 yards East of the factory and got ashore without much trouble.

During the Dorsets’ crossing, the boats became separated and the battalion landed at various points of the northern shore, where the German defenders were dug in on the Westerbouwing heights above.

While an estimated 297 men and 17 officers of the 4th Dorsets crossed the Nether Rijn [7], they were unable to regroup in strength or to contribute that much to the defence of the Perimeter (which was further to their east). An article by Spencer Lane in Britain at War magazine explains why [8]:

Most of the Dorsets never regrouped in any organized fashion and were forced to fight in small, disorganised groups, no larger than a platoon, and often only twos or threes. Nor were they thoroughly integrated into the paratroopers’ defensive lines; although some made it into the paratroopers’ perimeter, many were in isolated positions, behind German lines or in a no-man’s-land near the river. Most were out of contact with any friendly units.

That included Colonel Tilly’s small party, who fought until they ran out of ammunition and then surrendered.

Many others were taken prisoner that night. Tim Saunders’s “Battlefield Europe” book on The Island records the experiences of of Private Mathews, a signaller from ‘C’ Company [9]:

We started to cross the river but a mortar shell hit the first boat, two comrades were wounded and had to be evacuated. We tried again later in a second boat, halfway over the officer i/c shouted “Turn back.” He was wounded and the boat riddled with shrapnel and bullet holes. We then transferred to another boat for the third time. The major was wounded but refused to be left behind. After many minutes of horror, toil and sweat, reached the other side. “Duce”, the company runner as I started to make our way to the RV [rendezvous] through dense woods in absolute darkness. We suddenly stopped, looking down the barrels of German rifles. I quickly turned the tuning dials off frequency on the radio set. We were blindfolded and marched away to a house. I was terrified. After being interrogated and asked many questions, all our personal belongings were taken away. We were thrown into a cellar and left for several hours frozen stiff. The Jerries gave us some water and tiny pieces of bully beef.

The experiences of Private Aubrey Steirn, from the same company, were just as bad [10]:

At first light, we decided to move further into the woods in an attempt to gain contact with other members of the battalion. I was in the lead when a machine gun opened up on me from a very short distance. I was knocked over and remember, in what must have been seconds of unconsciousness, my past floating by and thinking I was too young to die. Obviously I was, because I came to in one piece, apart from a facial wound and a badly bruised shoulder where a burst of fire had “clipped” me and left metal fragments in my uniform. In the meantime, the Germans had been dealt with, and we moved on and encountered more fragments of the unit, including the CO. We occupied German trenches in the area and continued to operate until completely surrounded.

Oosterbeek: The Nederrijn (Gelderland)

Oosterbeek: The Nederrijn, near one of the embarkation points for Operation Berlin (Gelderland)

In his account of the 4th Dorsets’ crossing of the Neder Rijn, Beevor commented that, “like most of Operation Market Garden, almost everything went wrong, usually due to incompetence compounded by bad luck” [11]. General Sosabowski’s concerns had been fully justified, although it did not stop him being relieved of his command later in 1944, partly on the advice of Montgomery.

The following night, the remains of the 1st Airborne (and all others in the Perimeter, including a few of the Dorsets) were withdrawn across the Neder Rijn as part of Operation Berlin. Compared with much else that happened as part of Market Garden, this particular operation went reasonably well. It has been estimated that around 1,741 men of 1st Airborne, 160 Polish paratroopers, 75 Dorsets, and 422 glider pilots were evacuated over that night [12], and a few more would escape on subsequent nights. Despite that, around 200 of the Dorsets had been captured by the Germans. Those that died are commemorated on the Groesbeek Memorial or now rest in various Dutch cemeteries, including a handful buried in Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery.

Operation Market Garden ended in failure, with the Allies still on the south side of the Rhine. John Buckley has described the Market Garden plan as “poorly conceived, ill considered and deeply flawed,” arguing that it stood little chance of success from even before it had begun [13]. Success depended upon all of key operational objectives being achieved within a very tight timetable — which even at the time should have seemed unlikely to happen. Buckley has concluded [14]:

Such was the small chance of resounding success in MARKET GARDEN when it began on 17 September, that any analysis should not look for reasons for failure as they were all too apparent, but more for why it came as relatively close as it did to succeeding.

References:

[1] White Ribbon Mile: https://whiteribbonmile.wordpress.com/

[2] Major Charles Neville Bruce Dawson:
http://www.pegasusarchive.org/arnhem/bruce_dawson.htm

[3] Anthony Beevor, Arnhem: the battle for the bridges, 1944 (London: Penguin, 2019), p. 308.

[4] Ibid., p. 317.

[5] G. J. B. Watkins, From Normandy to the Weser: the war history of the Fourth Battalion the Dorset Regiment, June, 1944 – May, 1945 (Dorchester: Henry Ling, 1956; reprint), p. 33.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Spencer Lane, “Against the flow: the Dorsetshire Regiment at Oosterbeek,” Britain at War Magazine, 24th April 2017:
https://britainatwar.keypublishing.com/2017/04/24/against-the-flow-the-dorsetshire-regiment-at-oosterbeek/

[9] Tim Saunders, The Island: Nijmegen to Arnhem, September 1944 (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 2002), p. 88

[10] Ibid.

[11] Beevor, op cit., p 317.

[12] Ibid., p. 332.

[13] John Buckley, Monty’s men: the British Army and the liberation of Europe (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2013), p. 208.

[14] Ibid., p. 231.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | August 10, 2019

Private Thomas Leonard Ward, 11th Battalion, Australian Infantry

Ditcheat: War Memorial and the Church of St Mary Magdalene (Somerset)

Ditcheat: War Memorial and the Church of St Mary Magdalene (Somerset)

1859 Private Thomas Leonard Ward of the 11th Battalion, Australian Infantry died of wounds at Alexandria (Egypt) on the 10th August 1915, aged 25. Before emigrating to Western Australia, Private Ward was a bellringer at Ditcheat (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers (BWDACR). He is the only Somerset bellringer known to be a casualty of the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915.

Private T. L. Ward, 11th Battalion. From: Western Mail (Perth), 10th September 1915, p 4.

Private T. L. Ward, 11th Battalion. From: Western Mail (Perth), 10th September 1915, p 4. Source: National Library of Australia.

Private Ward’s service records have been digitised and have been made available by the National Archives of Australia [1]. Cathy Sedgwick has also put together a comprehensive account of his life, based on genealogical records and other sources [2]. The short account published here is based on both of these, supplemented by other records made available from Findmypast [3].

Thomas Leonard Ward was born at London (St Pancras) on the 28th March 1890, although his birth wasn’t registered until the second quarter of the year. He was the son of Henry Walter Ward and Mary Anne Elizabeth Ward (née Bartlett). Cathy Sedgwick has noted that Thomas was baptised at St. Stephen’s Church, Canonbury Road, Islington on the 25th May 1890. The one-year-old Thomas L. Ward featured in the 1891 Census, when he was living with his parents at St Pancras (13, Murray Street). At the time, Thomas’s father, Henry W. Ward, was twenty-four years old (he had been born at Islington) and was working as an optician. His mother, Mary A. Ward, was twenty-three years old (and had been born at Ditcheat). They had married at Edmonton, Middlesex (registration district) in the fourth quarter of 1888. A younger sister, Mary Estelle Ward, arrived in the first quarter of 1894 (she was born at Camden Town).

At some point after the 1891 Census, Thomas’s father died, possibly the Henry Walter Ward that died at London (Pancras) in the second quarter of 1897, aged 29. Henry’s widow and her young family afterwards moved back to Somerset.

At the time of the 1901 Census, the family were living at the Post Office at Ditcheat, part of the household of Thomas’s grandmother, Mary Bartlett — who was a sixty-five years old widow, working as a sub-postmistress, draper, and grocer. Her widowed daughter, Mary Anne Elizabeth Ward, was twenty-three years old and described as assisting in the business. Thomas L Ward was eleven years old, his sister Mary E. Ward was seven. By the time of the 1911 Census, not that much had changed. All four had become ten-years older, but the most substantive changes were that Mary Bartlett had progressed to being a postmistress (as well as a draper and grocer), while the twenty-one-year-old Thomas Leonard Ward was working as a Postman.

At some point after the census, Thomas Leonard Ward must have emigrated to Australia. Looking at records of arrivals in the National Archives of Australia [4], the most likley candidate would the “Thomas Ward” that arrived at Fremantle, Western Australia from London on the “Australind” on the 4th November, 1911. Another possibility might be the “Thomas Ward” that arrived at Fremantle from London on the “Armadale” on the 1st July 1912 (although at the age of 29, this Thomas seems too old).

From his service records, we know that Thomas Leonard Ward joined the Australian Imperial Force at Narrogin, Western Australia on the 20th January 1915, aged 25. His attestation form records that, prior to his enlistment, Private Ward had been working as a farmer (this is borne out by his entry in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, available from Cathy Sedgwick [2]). 1859 Private Thomas Leonard Ward was posted to the Depot Company on the 23rd January 1915 and then transferred to the 4th Reinforcements of the 11th Battalion, Australian Infantry on the 16th February 1915. He embarked for the Mediterranean from Fremantle, Western Australia on HMAT “Argyllshire” (A8) on the 19th April 1915. The landings at Anzac Cove would commenced a few days later, when HMAT “Argyllshire” was still on its way to the Mediterranean. Private Ward was taken on the strength of the 11th Battalion at Gallipoli on the 4th June 1915.

The 11th Battalion, Australian Infantry:

By the time of the Gallipoli campaign, the 11th Battalion, Australian Infantry was part of the 3rd Brigade in the 1st Australian Division. The battalion had been formed in Western Australia in August 1914, and the original battalion sailed from Fremantle at the end of October, arriving in Egypt in December. After a short spell at Lemnos, the 11th landed at Anzac Cove on the 25th April 1915. From Private Ward’s service records, we know that he was taken on the strength of the battalion (D Company) from the 4th Reinforcements on the 4th June, when the 11th were based at Anzac Cove. The War Diary of the 11th Battalion does not record Private Ward’s arrival, although entries later in the month do report on other arrivals from the 4th and 5th Reinforcements [5].

Towards the end of July 1915, the 11th Battalion returned to the line at a position named Tasmanian Post. The battalion was to take part in an attack on Ottoman positions, preliminary to the Battle of Lone Pine, which would commence on the 6th August.

Map of 11th Battalion, Australian Infantry attack near Tasmanian Post, 31st July 1915

Map of 11th Battalion, Australian Infantry attack near Tasmanian Post, 31st July 1915; from Bean, Official History of Australia in the War, Vol. II, p. 476.

Private Ward’s service records indicate that he was wounded (“bullet wound in back”) on the 1st August 1915. It is highly-likely, therefore that he was wounded in this action near Tasmanian Post. The War Diary of the 11th Battalion provides a broad outline of the attack [6] — although far more detail is available in the Australian Official History (see the Appendix).

27-7-15. The Bn. moved from Reserve Lines and relieved the 12th Bn, whose lines trenches we occupied at TASMANIAN POST. During the 2 weeks we were in Reserve we had to supply a large number of fatigue parties at all hours of the day and night. On some days as many as 450 men were thus employed so that the men got very little rest.

31-7-15. We received orders to storm and capture a line of Turkish trenches immediately in front of TASMANIAN POST. A party of officers and 200 men were detailed under Capt. R. L. LEANE to carry out the operation.
At moonrise, the Engineer Coy exploded 3 mines which had been prepared in communicating tunnels towards the Turkish trenches, immediately the storming party climbed over the Parapets and charged to the enemy trenches. These they occupied, bayonetting such Turks as did not run away at the approach of our troops.
The first line of the storming party was followed by the Working Party close at their heels and on getting into the trench they immediately got to work and made it defensible.
The storming party was divided into four Columns of 50 each commanded by the following officers – Capt. W. H. ROCKLIFF, 2nd Lt PUCKLE, C. E. M., 2nd Lt T. W. FRANKLYN and Capt. S.H. JACKSON.
A reserve of one officer and 50 men was placed on either flank, under Lt. DARNELL, A. H. and 2nd Lt POTTER, G. – When the trenches had been occupied it was found that a small portion was still in the hands of the enemy which divided our troops and prevented communications being established – An attempt to dislodge from a flank to dislodge the enemy having failed, 2nd Lt POTTER with 25 men was instructed to make another charge on this portion of the trench [?]. This was carried out with great dash and the whole length of enemy trench secured to us.
The whole operation was carried out with great coolness and dash and was led in a brilliant manner by Capt. LEANE.
Communications were soon opened up by the craters created by the explosion of the mines and further tools, supplies, &c, were taken forward to the trench.
The Garrison under very fire continued throughout the night the work of improving the trench and by daylight it was fairly well protected.
Our Casualties during the operation were Killed – 2nd Lt PUCKLE, C. E. M., Other Ranks 35, Wounded – Capt. R. L. LEANE, Capt. S. H. JACKSON, 2nd Lt POTTER, G., Other Ranks 70. – It was estimated that the enemy’s casualties were 60 killed, the wounded being carried away.

On the 1st August 1915, Private Ward was admitted to 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station with an bullet wound in the back. He was the same day transferred to the hospital ship, HMHS “Rewa,” disembarking at Alexandria and being admitted to the 19th General Hospital in Alexandria on the 7th August. He died of wounds received in action on the 10th August, the cause of death being a gun-shot wound in the back. Private Thomas Leonard Ward was buried the same day by the Rev. Page in Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt (Grave Ref: J. 129.).

Back in Western Australia, the wounding of Private Ward was reported in the Roll of Honour published in the Western Mail (Perth) of the 10th September 1915 [7].

Ditcheat: War Memorial plaque (Somerset)

Ditcheat: War Memorial plaque (Somerset)

In Australia, Private Ward is commemorated on the Narrogin War Memorial in Western Australia and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. In Somerset, Private Ward is commemorated on the war memorial at Ditcheat and the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey.

Family background:

Thomas’s mother, Mary Ann Elizabeth Bartlett, was born at Ditcheat in the first quarter of 1868, the daughter of William Bartlett and Mary Bartlett (née Gardiner). She was baptised at Ditcheat on the 17th May 1868. Thomas’s father, Henry Walter Ward, was born at Islington in the 4th quarter of 1866, the son of Eliza Ward (née Whitmore), who was a widow by the time of the 1881 Census. Henry Walter Ward married Mary Ann Elizabeth Bartlett at Edmonton, Middlesex (registration district) in the fourth quarter of 1888. As previously related, Henry Walter Ward probably died at London (Pancras) in the second quarter of 1897, after which his widow and children returned to Somerset.

Thomas Ward’s grandmother, Mary Bartlett, was born Mary Gardiner on the 17th May 1834 at Hurcot, near Somerton (Somerset), the daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Gardiner. She was baptised at an independent church at Somerton on the 19th June 1834. She featured in the 1841 and 1851 Census as resident with her family at Hurcott, the eldest of several children. Mary Gardiner then married William Bartlett at St Cuthbert’s Church, Wells on the 2nd April 1860, when she was aged 24. William Bartlett was a grocer who had been born at Compton Dundon in around 1836, the son of Richard Bartlett (a farmer) and Elizabeth (Eliza) Bartlett. He was baptised at Compton Dundon on the 31st January 1836. According to their grave marker in Ditcheat churchyard, William Bartlett died on the 18th April 1899, aged 63, while Mary Bartlett died on the 5th September 1923, aged 88.

References:

[1] National Archives of Australia, Army Personnel Records WW1 (NAA: B2455, WARD THOMAS LEONARD, barcode #8347391):
http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/a-z/researching-war-service.aspx

[2] Cathy Sedgwick, WW1 Australian Servicemen  /  Women Commemorated in the UK: https://ww1australianscommemorateduk.weebly.com/ditcheat.html

[3] Findmypast: https://www.findmypast.co.uk/

[4] National Archvies of Australia, Passenger arrivals index, 1898-1972 (NAA: K269, 4 NOV 1911 AUSTRALIND, barcode #9878991):
http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/family-history/passenger-arrivals-lists-1897-to-1966/index.aspx

[5] AWM4 23/28/3, 11th Infantry Battalion War Diary, June 1915, Australian War Memorial, Canberra:
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1341899

[6] AWM4 23/28/4, 11th Infantry Battalion War Diary, July 1915, Australian War Memorial, Canberra:
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1341908

[7] The Roll of Honour: West Australians, Western Mail (Perth, WA), 10th September 1915; via National Library of Australia:
https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/37431520/3492416

Appendix: An extract from the Australian Official History:

Charles Bean’s Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 contained a very detailed account of the 11th Battalion’s action near Tasmanian Post on the 31st July and 1st August 1915.

THE staffs of the New Army brigades were about to reach Anzac; the accompanying portion of their artillery had already landed; the torpedo-boat destroyers had just entered upon the final week’s programme in their nightly bombardments, when General Birdwood was asked by Sir Ian Hamilton to make some further pretence of an intention to break out southwards from Anzac. It chanced that, a week previously, Brigadier-General MacLagan, commanding in the sector southernmost but one, had asked leave to drive the Turks out of an inconvenient position in which they had newly established themselves in front of Tasmania Post. This suggestion was now seized upon by Birdwood as offering an opportunity for a suitable demonstration.

[…]

As a matter of fact the completion of this trench [opposite Tasmania Post] was one of the measures taken by the 16th Turkish Division, when warned on July 27th to prepare for the coming British offensive, of which news had arrived from Germany. Such was the position when, on July 29th, Hamilton’s desire for a further demonstration on the southern flank was made known to the commander of the 1st Division, to whom Birdwood suggested that the new Turkish works opposite Tasmania Post might be attacked that night.

As, however, the capture of the post and not a mere raid was intended, MacLagan asked for two further days in which to have the tunnelling completed. The attack was accordingly fixed for moonrise on the night of July 31st, and was to be delivered by the 11th Battalion, which had then relieved the 12th in Tasmania Post. The operation was carefully planned. A portion of Snipers’ Ridge, where there were known to be at least two machine-guns and a trench-mortar bearing on the position, was to be bombarded during the afternoon by the newly-landed howitzers of the 13th (British) Division, with forty rounds of high-explosive shell. During the actual fight other enemy machine-guns in the northern bastion of Snipers’ Ridge were to be smothered with shrapnel, while the whole semicircle of surrounding positions would be kept as far as possible under shrapnel from the artillery and intense rifle-fire from the Australian trenches on that flank. At the hour of the assault mines were to be fired by the 3rd Field Company in each of the four tunnels, one under either end of the enemy’s trench and the others at even distances between. The assault was then immediately to be made by four parties under the command of Captain Leane — the same who on May 4th had led the raid upon Gaba Tepe. The signal for the attack was to be the lighting of a red flare on the parapet of the old firing line.

Early in the night of July 31st there was a violent outbreak of firing on the left of Anzac. It died down and left an almost unbroken quiet. As the moon began to rise, a single red light appeared on the black hillside behind Tasmania Post. Twenty seconds later, close in front of the post, a shower of red sparks, caused by the explosion of one of the mines, was projected twenty feet into the air, followed almost immediately by a second flash near by. Several rifles were fired from the position attacked, and the sparkle of distant rife-fire quickly ran along the surrounding ridges from Echelon Trenches to the Pine.

When the red light appeared, Captain Leane, whose four parties were lining the parapet of Tasmania Post, each opposite its allotted mine, had given the signal for the firing of the mines and for the attack. But there followed only two explosions, one at either end of the enemy’s trench. It was impossible to judge whether the other mines had altogether failed or whether their explosion was merely delayed, in which case there would be extreme danger for the centre parties. But there was only one wise course to pursue: Leane instantly led out the attack. As it reached the trench, the southern of the two central mines, which — like the northern — was a few yards short of the trench, exploded, burying one or more Turks and at least one Australian, who was already in the trench.

With the débris still raining from the air upon some of them, the parties reached the Turkish trench. The bombers, as they approached it, flung percussion bombs both into it and down the steep slope beyond. The trench proved to have a parapet of sandbags with large sand-bricks on its nearer side, behind which, jabbering and scrambling, and staring up in an amazed manner, was a line of Turks. The Australians stood firing down at it until spaces were cleared and they were able to jump in, the Turks rushing to the rear through the communication trenches. The central portion of the fire-trench was easily captured, and Leane thereupon turned his attention first to his left flank and then to his right.

The left party, under Captain Jackson, which had to traverse about sixty yards of No-Man’s Land, had found that the northern part of the trench “petered out” into the head of a washaway, which served the enemy as a communication trench. Beyond was the Wheatfield, in which were only some unfinished excavations. Some of the Western Australians dropped into the end of the trench; but Jackson and ten men found themselves in the cornfield north of the washaway. His men chased a few Turks down this gutter and, after killing several, returned. As one of the enemy’s machine-guns was playing in this direction, the open end of the trench was forthwith blocked with sandbags, while Jackson and his ten followers dug rifle-pits in the Wheatfield north of the washaway. His working party had not reached him, but Lance-Corporal L. B. Taylor, twice going to the captured trench, brought thence a dozen men. Tools and sandbags were also thrown from the trench into the washaway, whence Jackson’s men fetched them. The head of the washaway was then filled and protected with a breastwork, this labour continuing during the night.

The mine in front of Lieutenant Franklyn’s party, which started south of Jackson’s, failed to explode, but the enemy, on being attacked, ran off through a short communication trench into the Valley of Despair. Leane at once ordered Sergeant Louch to block this exit with sandbags. Then, seeing that the left was safe, he turned to ascertain the situation on his right.

As he proceeded southward, he observed that several men who were endeavouring to cut fire-steps in the wall of the trench fell shot from the rear. In order to solve this puzzle he sent his “observer,” Lance-Corporal F. Smith, to get touch with the party on that flank. Smith presently reported that a strong party of the enemy intervened.

The right central party, under Lieutenant Puckle had been unable to clear its sector of the trench. The mine on its front was that which exploded late, burying one or more of its men. Most of them, however, leapt into the trench some distance north of it, the Turks at the same time recoiling southward. Some of these withdrew into a Y-shaped washaway on the valley-side, and others into a trench-bay which projected sharply towards the Australian line. Puckle endeavoured to seize the opening to the washaway and thus cut off the enemy in the bay, but he and several of his men were killed. A barricade was therefore hurriedly raised across the trench, the enemy remaining in the bay south of it, from which he fired continually towards Tasmania Post.

The southernmost party of the 11th was under Captain Rockliff. Of its fortune Leane knew nothing, except that, by the sound, it was still fighting. As a matter of fact it had been engaged from the first in a severe struggle. As it reached the trench, the enemy at that end had been hurrying away down three short saps into the Valley of Despair. Rockliff’s men, who had reached the trench without a casualty, instantly began to tear down the sandbags of the Turkish parapet, and to throw them, together with the sand-bricks and any other available material, across the mouth of the communication saps, in order to block the exits. In the southernmost sap a number of the enemy appeared to wait in anticipation of further explosions, and the barricades were only a foot or two in height when these Turks began to creep forward again and throw bombs.

Rockliff’s four bombers had carried between them thirty-two percussion bombs, but many of these had been used, and the remainder were now soon thrown. A box of jam-tin grenades was to have been brought across, but its bearer could not be found. The supply was thus exhausted. A machine-gun under Sergeant Hallahan, which had accompanied the party, was set up on the edge of the trench, but was at once put out of action. When calls for ammunition were sent along the trench, no reply came back. On the contrary, amid the din of bombs, rifles, and shells were heard shouts: “There are Turks on the left!” But so critical was the position that Rockliff could pay little attention to this cry. From the open communication trench the enemy was bombing with impunity, and, though the Australians were throwing back some of the Turkish grenades, this situation could not have lasted long. Just then Rockliff, looking out from the back of the trench, saw lying in the open what appeared to be a box of ammunition. It was fetched in by one of the men, and was found to contain the missing jam-tin bombs. Clumsy though they were, their effect was decisive. The Australians threw one after another, the dust and smoke becoming so thick that there was some anxiety lest the enemy might creep round under cover of it and attack the trench from the rear. But the Turks had been driven far along their trench. The work of barricading the exits was resumed, Rockliff preventing his men from firing, as there were no visible, targets.

It soon became clear that the party was not connected with the one on its left. Corporal McNamara, in charge of the working party for Rockliff’s sector, had entered the trench alone farther north and found Turks in it immediately north of him. He had then turned southwards to join his own party, but found his way blocked by what he at first believed to be a fall of earth from the nearest mine. Clambering out of the trench and round this obstacle, he came on his men in a continuation of the trench five yards away. He set them to clear the trench and then discovered that it had never been fully dug through, but merely spitlocked. He reported this to Rockliff, who looking northwards, could see the flashes of the enemy’s rifles, firing over the rear of the trench, and occasionally the Turkish uniforms lit up by the flashes; farther north the Australian rifles fired in the opposite direction. Corporal McOmish, creeping out to within three yards of the portion held by the Turks, confirmed their presence there.

Sketch of Leane's position, from C. E. W. Bean, Official History of Australia in the War, p. 480.

Sketch of Leane’s position, from C. E. W. Bean, Official History of Australia in the War, p. 480.

Messengers from both Rockliff and Leane independently brought news of this discovery to the 11th Battalion headquarters. But in the meantime Leane made an immediate effort to oust the Turks. Their position was clearly marked by the flashes of their rifles and the burst of an occasional bomb. Upon Leane’s instruction, therefore, Lieutenant Franklyn and a dozen men attempted to charge over the open in rear of the trench towards these flashes. The position, however, was confused, since some of Rockliff’s men, apprehensive of attack from the rear, were intermittently firing in that direction. As the Turks were also opening with rifles and bombs, Franklyn’s party was driven back.

Shortly afterwards, however, the commander of the 11th, acting on Rockliff’s report, ordered Lieutenant Potter with a reserve platoon from Tasmania Post to charge the section held by the enemy. The trenches of the post were at this moment blocked with the passage of wounded men to the rear, which caused a difficulty in launching all the men simultaneously, and Potter himself was wounded as the attack started. But both he and Sergeant M. Ringwood, an old South African soldier, led small parties straight for the enemy, a burning immediately behind the Turks, serving as a guiding mark. They were met by heavy fire, eight of the fifteen with Ringwood being hit before the trench was reached. It was not captured, although several Australians were killed in it. A further batch of Potter’s men dashed forward soon after, losing heavily, but some reaching Leane’s position. Eventually a supply of grenades reached Leane and, as the Turks refused to surrender, they were attacked with these and shot down in the trench or when attempting to leave it. The outlet to the Y-shaped washaway was then hurriedly barricaded with their corpses and with sandbags pulled from the parapet, and the trench thus finally secured.

Meanwhile the four mine-tunnels were being opened for communication, Lieutenant Croker of the engineers having reconnoitred the craters and repeatedly crossed the open with his men, who with parties of infantry were opening the passages from both ends. The air in the tunnels being pure, three of them had within an hour been sufficiently cleared to allow sandbags and other material to be handed through the holes in the craters. But the regular passage of men was not possible till early morning, and during the night they traversed the open.

By 1.30 the gap between Rockliff and the main trench had been cut through by a shallow trench, which by 3.20 was “passable and defensible.” Along the rest of the position, by dint of heavy labour, the Turkish parapet was before daylight transferred to the eastern side, overlooking the valley, and in some places had been doubled in thickness; traverses had been made against enfilade, with well-recessed fire-bays between; in each bay fire-steps had been cut, loop-holes made, and the trench deepened. By the small hours three of the tunnels were open for communication. The northern flank was now protected by several low sandbag breastworks or sangars, standing isolated above the trampled yellow corn.

Both during the attack and afterwards the coveting fire of the Anzac artillery hampered the Turkish machine-guns, and the counter-attacks of the Turkish infantry, when once Rockliff had driven them back on the right, were feeble. One or two weak efforts were made to bomb up the southern communication trench, but were easily defeated by the throwing of a few jam-tin bombs. On the northern flank, shortly after midnight, signs of enemy movement in the Wheatfield were quickly suppressed by the fire of the 9th and 11th and of a machine-gun emplaced at one of the sapheads. Later, near the centre of the position, the observers perceived about twenty of the enemy clinging to the hillside close below them, but these were quickly dispersed with a few jam-tin and Lotbinière grenades.

Had this sharp action occurred three years later in an Australian sector in France, the regimental quartermaster would have had his settled part in it, and, whatever the conditions of weather or fighting, the troops would have been served with a hot drink, if not a hot meal, before daylight. But the importance of the commissariat in a fight was not yet realised. Water for the attacking troops had, it is true, been specially stored in Tasmania Post; but it does not appear to have been conveyed to them, probably in consequence of the difficulty of passing through the congested communication tunnels. For the same reason the dead of both sides had been left in the bottom of the trench, where they lay trampled on by the workers. The men were worn out with strain, absence of sleep, and heavy labour; when at dawn the Olive Grove batteries opened strongly upon the post with high-explosive, they were subjected to a severe trial of their nerve. Again and again the parapet was blown down. Part of the garrison was accordingly withdrawn into the tunnels, and most of the Wheatfield party was brought into the trench. Leane and many others were wounded. But at 5.30, when the bombardment ceased, no attack followed.

In the evening a company of the 12th relieved the 11th in the captured position (henceforth known as “Leane’s Trench”), and garrisoned it during that and the succeeding night. The fight, which had been a trying one, cost the 11th Battalion 36 killed and 73 wounded. On the Turkish side the loss was greater. The attack had cleared the enemy from a position from which he might subsequently have harassed the flank of the troops attacking Lone Pine. Its value as a demonstration must be judged in the light of later events.

From: C. E. W. Bean, The story of ANZAC from 4 May, 1915, to the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula, 11th ed. (The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Vol. II; Sydney, NSW: Angus and Robertson, 1941), Chapter XVII, pp. 475-484:
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1416621

Posted by: michaeldaybath | August 9, 2019

Private Alfred Harry Day, 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment

Corfe Castle (Dorset)

Corfe Castle (Dorset)

Prior to the First World War Centenary, I had not known that much about my own family members who had fought in the war. That said, I did know that my paternal grandfather, Henry Augustus Riggs Day, and his brother-in-law, William George Rawles (my great uncle), had both served with the 1/4th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment — but I did not have a detailed understanding of what they had each done after the battalion had sailed to India in late 1914. While looking for information on my father’s ancestors, however, I found a more distant relative that had died during the Gallipoli campaign. Alfred Harry Day shared the same great-grandparents as my grandfather (George and Margaret Day, who lived at Corfe Castle at the turn of the nineteenth century), so I think that it works out that he would have been my second cousin, two times removed.

10073 Private Alfred Harry Day from Corfe Castle (Dorset), serving with “D” Company of the 5th (Service) Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment, was killed-in-action on the 9th August 1915, aged 27, during the battalion’s assault on Ottoman positions at Kiretch Tepe Sirt, which followed the Suvla Bay landings a few days earlier.

Corfe Castle: War Memorial (Dorset)

Corfe Castle: War Memorial (Dorset)

Alfred Harry Day was born at Corfe Castle in the second quarter of 1888, the son of Charles Day and Sarah Day (née Tuck). He was baptised at Corfe on the 1st July 1888. At the time of the 1891 Census, Alfred H. Day was three-years old and living with his family at East Street, Corfe (a street where the family would reside for many years). At that time, both Charles and Sarah Day were 42 years old, while Charles was working as a journeyman mason. At the time, Alfred was the youngest of five children, the others being: Edwin (aged 17, a journeyman butcher), Charles H. (8), Eva M. (6), and William A. (4).

By the time of the 1901 Census, Alfred H. Day was thirteen years old, but still living with his family at East Street, Corfe. Alfred’s father, Charles Day, was at that time 52 years old and working as a mason (walling); his mother, Sarah, was also 52. Only two of Alfred’s older siblings were recorded as living in the family home: Eva M. (aged 16) and William A. (14).

Charles Day died in the first quarter of 1908 and was buried in the Old Cemetery at Corfe on the 27th February. At the time of the 1911 Census, Charles’s widow Sarah was 62 years old. All three children that were living with the family in 1901 were still resident, namely: Eva Mary (aged 26), William Arthur (24, a journeyman mason working in a builders’ yard), and Alfred Harry (23, now a journeyman baker). The 1911 Census return recorded that Sarah Day had had eleven children, of whom nine were still alive. Sarah Day died on the 27th July 1937, aged 89, and was buried in the same cemetery as her husband.

The 1891 Census return stated that the family (as well as several others) were living at Poorhouse Yard, which I think means that it would have been Uvedale’s House, which in the sixteenth century had belonged to a prominent Corfe Castle citizen named Henry Uvedale. The building at some point passed into the possession of the Bankes family. In 1732 it was an alehouse known as the “King’s Arms,” while in 1796 it was converted into a poorhouse. A recent archaeological assessment notes how the conversion to multiple tenements changed the nature of the building [1]:

In that year [1796], the overseers of Corfe’s poor agreed to take Mr Bankes’s house and put as many poor in it as could comfortably be lodged’ the whole place was divided up into accommodation units and there are still little fireplaces inserted throughout the building and steep narrow flights of stairs.
[…]
The 19th century census returns show Uvedales packed with labourers and men on low wages who were employed to cut clay on the heathland between Corfe and Wareham (great clay…it got shipped up to Staffordshire for Wedgewood’s potteries). By the 1850s, East Street was known as Poor Street.

The building has a full archaeological description (with plan) in the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England) volume for South-East Dorset (Corfe Castle, Monument #32) [2]:

Uvedale’s House, now divided into six separate tenements, was built in the late 16th century at a date formerly indicated by painted glass that bore the arms of Uvedale and the inscription ‘Henry Uvedale; I.V. John Uvedale, 1575’ (Hutchins I, 509). Though it has deteriorated, it was a house of architectural pretensions befitting a family important in the life of the borough under Elizabeth and James I; John Uvedale was mayor in 1582.

The building consists of a main range facing W. to the road and an E. wing. The W. range, originally of two storeys throughout, was reduced in its N. half to one storey and attics in the 18th century; the E. wing is of three storeys. The plan of the W. range comprised a hall lit by a long window; opposite the window was a large fireplace. The hall was probably entered at the N. end from a through passage of which the two opposed doorways remain though rebuilt. N. of the passage was an unheated room. The staircase, since removed, may have flanked the hall fireplace on the N. side; the cupboard now occupying this space is entered by a timber doorway with a four-centred head. The E. wing comprised, on the ground floor, a W. room which was no doubt the kitchen, since it has a large fireplace, and an E. room which was unheated. A small room added to the S. of the kitchen is entered from the hall.

Few original features are visible. The hall window, partly blocked, is of six lights under a rubble relieving arch and has hollow-chamfered mullions; the label stops bear the initials I.V. A window of the same size on the first floor has the initials H.V. on the stops. Inside, in the kitchen the outline of the fireplace-head is traceable and N. beside the stack is a stone doorway with a triangular head. The roof trusses of the E. wing comprise principal rafters and collar beams.

Some of Alfred Harry Day’s service records survive as part of the “Burnt Documents” series (WO 363, British Army Service Records 1914-1920; available via Findmypast). They show that Alfred attested at Wareham on the 22nd August 1914, afterwards being posted to the Dorsetshire Regiment Depot at Dorchester. Private Day’s attestation form records that at the time he joined-up, he was twenty-six years old, working as a baker, and still resident at East Street, Corfe Castle. 10073 Private Alfred Harry Day joined the 5th (Service) Battalion of the Dorsets on the 1st September 1914, embarking for overseas service on the 2nd July 1915.

Corfe Castle: War Memorial (Dorset)

Corfe Castle: War Memorial, the cemetery gates (Dorset)

Private Alfred Harry Day of ‘D’ Company of the 5th Dorsets was killed-in-action at Gallipoli on the 9th August 1915, a few days after the battalion’s arrival at Suvla. In Turkey, he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial (Panels 137 to 140). His name also features on the Corfe Castle war memorial, which is part of the arched gateway to the Old Cemetery, on East Street.

The 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment in the Dardanelles:

The 5th (Service) Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment had been established shortly after the outbreak of war and its first detachments moved to Belton Park, near Grantham (Lincolnshire) for training on the 28th August 1914. There, the battalion joined the 11th (Northern) Division, a First New Army (K1) formation. After several months training in Lincolnshire, the battalion moved in April 1915 to Witley Camp (Surrey). From January 1915, the 5th Dorsets formed part of 34th Infantry Brigade in the 11th Division.

The 11th Division was one of three New Army Divisions sent to the Mediterranean in the Summer of 1915. Together with other K1 Divisions, the 10th (Irish) Division and the 13th (Western) Division, the 11th formed part of a new IX Corps allocated to support the Gallipoli campaign, which had been largely at stalemate since the initial landings at Anzac Cove and Cape Helles on the 25th April.

On the 3rd July 1915, the 5th Dorsets sailed on the RMS “Aquitania” (a Cunard liner) from Liverpool, arriving at Lemnos (Greece) in the Aegean Sea on the 10th July. Later that month they moved to Imbros, where the 11th Division was concentrating. On the night of the 6th/7th August 1915, the battalion were to land at Suvla Bay. The original plans for the landings have been outlined by Peter Hart [3]

The original concept was for a coup de main whereby the covering force of the 11th Division would land on the night of the 6 August on the beaches to the south of Nibrunesi Point and overwhelm the Turkish outposts on the Lala Baba hills and Hill 10 before moving swiftly inland to seize the Kiretch Tepe and Tekke Tepe ranges that dominated the whole Suvla Bay area.
[…]
One thing was certain: the high ground must be seized as soon as possible, thus allowing the 10th Division to come ashore and then co-operate, if necessary, in the ANZAC Corps’ advance on Hill 971 and the Sari Bair range. But the main intention was to establish a secure supply base for the future push forward across the Peninsula after the success of the Anzac breakout.

The plan was then adjusted by IX Corps headquarters, a process during which the urgent need to seize the high ground became obscured. They also decided to land some of the force in Suvla Bay itself, which would have consequences later on.

Despite the general mood of caution, complacency was rife at the highest level. The IX Corps commander, Lieutenant General Sir Frederick William Stopford, commanded the landings from on board HMS “Jonquil,” famously going to sleep while the actual landings were in progress.

The plan for 11th Division on the the 6th/7th August was for 34th Brigade to land on the northern side of Suvla Bay, capture Hill 10, and secure the Kiretch Tepe ridge further north. In the meantime, the other divisional brigades were detailed to land just south of Nibrunesi Point, with the 32nd Brigade then moving north via Lala Baba hill to join the 34th, before both would swing around to attack Chocolate Hill.

The reality was somewhat different. The assault battalions of the 34th Brigade, the 9th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers and the 11th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, were landed too far south and also struggled to get ashore when the landing vessels, motor-lighters known as “beetles,” beached some way offshore. In the confusion, the Lancashire Fusiliers were unable to capture Hill 10. In the meantime, the 5th Dorsets were waiting in the bay on two destroyers, HMS “Beagle” and HMS “Bulldog.” The first of the lighters carrying the Dorsets from the “Bulldog” (which included “D” Company) set off at around 01:30, but beached around sixty-yards away from the shore, so rowing-boats had to be deployed to get the men ashore. There were then further delays before all of the men from the “Beagle” could be landed. The situation on the ground was absolutely chaotic.

Hill 10 was finally captured just after 06:00. C. T. Atkinson’s regimental history of the Dorsets explains that the position was heavily defended and that their attack went in at around 06:00 on the 7th August [4]:

“A” Company on the right giving covering fire while the others advanced against the trenches west and north of the hill. The move was a complete success. Covered by “A’s” fire the other companies pushed rapidly forward over the scrub-covered dunes, making ground by short rushes. The Turks kept up a hot fire, but the Dorsets’ steady advance was too much for them, and when the leading line was still about 200 yards off the Turks started to go. The Northumberland Fusiliers and some of the 32nd Brigade had meanwhile renewed the advance from the south, and less than twenty minutes after the Dorsets started their advance Hill 10 was in British hands and the surviving defenders were decamping N.E. with the Dorsets in pursuit.

Progress beyond Hill 10 was slow due to the ground conditions and the difficulty of keeping the battalion together. At the end of the day, Chocolate Hill remained untaken. The regimental history is withering in its conclusions on the Suvla landings [5]:

Thus ended the 5th Dorsets’ first day under fire. It had been an unsatisfactory and disappointing day, not so much for the Battalion, which had done all that was asked of it, as for the Division. From the first things had gone wrong, the misfortunes that had attended the landing of the leading battalions and had led to the 32nd being mixed up with it had thrown everything out of gear; where resolute handling and vigour were urgently needed, resolution and initiative had been conspicuously lacking. The situation at Hill 10 had not been handled, and even after that position was eventually taken, when energy and determination might still have retrieved the situation; inactivity and depression had prevailed at Brigade headquarters.

The same problems persisted on the following day, Atkinson suggesting that the “the exact situation was not known by the higher authorities, much less appreciated.” The Dorsets consolidated and prepared to renew the attack on the 9th August.

The plan for the 9th August was for the 11th Division and part of the 53rd (Welsh) Division to attack Scimitar Hill and Ismail Oglu Tepe, while the 10th Division advanced on their left flank along the Kiretch Tepe Sirt, covered by the 5th Dorsets and the 9th Lancashire Fusiliers. The Dorsets received their orders to move early in the morning, meaning that many of the men started out without supplies of food and water. After reaching the start point, “D” Company was to lead the attack [6]:

“D” Company, which was the freshest, not having been on out-post, formed the leading line. At first the advance went well enough, though the ground was broken and very difficult. The Battalion had to cross a series of ridges, separated by deep gullies and covered with thick scrub, which tended to break up formations by making touch and direction hard to keep, while the crests apparently served as aiming points, for on reaching one the Battalion usually met heavy fire, and the men had to double over them into the dips beyond.

With the help of naval gunnery, the Dorsets progressed to a ridge running south-east from Kiretch Tepe Sirt near a place later known as Jephson’s Post. There, they waited for units of 10th Division to catch up. Facing them on a ridge around 900 yards ahead were large numbers of Ottoman troops. With the Munster Fusiliers from 10th Division pinned down on their left, the Dorsets could not press forward. Eventually, they were forced to withdraw in order to conform with the 10th Division on their left and the Lancashire Fusiliers on their right. Eventually, the battalion was ordered to fall back to trenches on Karakol Dagh for the night. The regimental history comments that casualties had been fairly heavy [7]:

Besides the officers already mentioned [Captain Henry Neville Le Marchant, killed; Major Weldon, Lieuts. Horton and Clayton, wounded] about twenty men had been killed, over sixty were wounded and a dozen missing.

Other men were still out in front, but were able to re-join the battalion later. The regimental history reflected on another failure [8]:

August 9th had been another disappointing day, though once again the 5th Dorsets had given a good account of themselves and only retired in conformity with the Brigade with which they were acting. But the failure to clear Kiretch Tepe Sirt was far from the worst feature of the day. The attack on Scimitar Hill and Ismail Oglu Tepe had been repulsed, the 53rd Division’s advance had failed completely, Turkish reinforcements had come up, and only with difficulty had their vigorous counter-attacks been checked.

Hart is scathing about the Sulva debacle [9]:

The IX Corps was thrown into battle long before it was ready with incompetent commanders and preposterously optimistic plans which, despite the experience of the last four months, seemed to ignore the possibility a potent Turkish resistance.

General Stopford was dismissed on the 15th August 1915, the command of IX Corps being taken up in the short-term by Major-General Henry de Beauvoir de Lisle. Shortly afterwards, Major-General Frederick Hammersley, the commander of 11th Division, was replaced by Major-General Edward Fanshawe. Things at Suvla did not improve immediately. The 5th Dorsets would be involved in yet another futile (and even more costly) attack on the 21st August, the Battle of Scimitar Hill. Joining them in that battle would be the 2nd Mounted Division, featuring the 1/1st Dorsetshire Yeomanry (Queen’s Own), fighting dismounted.

Including Captain Le Marchant, the Helles Memorial contains the names of sixteen members of the 5th Dorsets that died on the 9th August 1915. They include the names of Lance Corporal Edwin Henry Foot, formerly a bellringer at Buckland Newton, and that of Private Alfred Harry Day from Corfe Castle.

Family background:

Alfred Harry Day’s father, Charles Day, was born at Corfe Castle in the first quarter of 1849, the son of William Day and Ann Day (née Battrick). William had married Ann Battrick at Kingston Chapel [10] on the 8th April 1835. Charles Day was baptised at Corfe Castle on the 11th March 1849. At the time of the 1851 Census, Charles was two years old and living with his family at East Street, Corfe. At that time, Charles’s father, William, was 39 years old and working as a labourer in clay pits, while his mother, Ann, would have been 46 (although the census return seems to state 40). In 1851, Charles was the youngest of seven children living in the household, the others being: Henry (16), James (12), Elizabeth (10), William (8), Sarah (6) and Edwin (4). The two eldest were already, like their father, working as clay pit labourers, while the remaining four were still at school.  The Day family were still resident at East Street at the time of the 1861 Census, when William Day was a 49-year- old clay digger and Ann Day a 56-year-old needlewoman. Charles was at that time twelve years old and working as a bricklayer’s apprentice. Charles’s older brothers were either working as clay diggers (James, aged 22, William, 15) or as a shoemaker’s apprentice (Edwin, 14).

The old Church of St James, Kingston (Dorset)

The old Church of St James, Kingston (Dorset), now a private dwelling. The church (then a chapelry) was opened in 1833, replacing an older building. William and Ann Day were married there a couple of years later.

Charles Day married Sarah Tuck at Wareham (registration district) in the fourth quarter of 1869, presumably at Corfe Castle. Sarah Tuck had been born at Corfe in the second quarter of 1848, the daughter of William Tuck and Sarah Tuck (née Riddle). At the time of the 1851 Census, Sarah Tuck was two years old and living at Bridge Street, Corfe Castle with her parents and six siblings. William Tuck, who had been born at Bransgore in Hampshire, was 41 years old and working as a general labourer, while his wife Sarah was 37. In 1851, the younger Sarah was the second-youngest of seven children, who included: Charlotte (17), George (15, a groom), John (10), Jane (8, both at school), Susan (5), and Ellen (2 months). By the time of the 1861 Census, Sarah Tuck was twelve years old and still at school. In the census return, she was recorded as visiting the household of Richard Searley at Arfleet, just to the north of the village of Corfe.

The 1871 Census featured the recently-married Charles and Sarah Day living at 83, East Street, Corfe Castle. At that time, they had one daughter, the one-year-old Charlotte. At that time, Charles Day was 22 years old and working as a bricklayer, while Sarah was also 22. Interestingly, Charles is described as a “lodger” rather than as the head of household. The family were still living in East Street at the time of the 1881 Census. By then, Both Charles and Sarah Day were 32 years old, while Charles was said to be working as a mason. By that time, they had four children living with them: Sarah (aged 9), Edwin (7), Elizabeth (5), and Ellen (3).

Charles’s mother, Ann Day, had died in the second quarter of 1875, aged 70, and was buried at Corfe Castle (Old Cemetery) on the 13th May. Charles’s father, William Day, died in the third quarter of 1884, aged 72, and was buried in the same cemetery on the 22nd July.

As stated previously, Charles Day died in the first quarter of 1908, aged 59 and was buried at Corfe (Old Cemetery) on the 27th February. Sarah Day died on the 27th July 1937, aged 89, and was buried in the same cemetery as her husband on the 30th July.

Charles’s older brother William — a clay digger at the time of the 1861 Census — later became a market gardener and moved to nearby Swanage. One of his sons, James Day, later became Mayor of Swanage and a major benefactor to the town.

References:

[1] Martin Papworth, “Uvedales, Corfe Castle from Town House to Poor House,” Archaeology National Trust SW, 22nd November 2015: https://archaeologynationaltrustsw.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/uvedales-corfe-castle-from-town-house-to-poor-house/

[2] Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England), “Corfe Castle,” in: An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 2, South-East (London: HMSO, 1970), pp. 52-100:
https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/dorset/vol2/pp52-100

[3] Peter Hart, Gallipoli (London: Profile Books, 2011), pp. 279-280.

[4] T. C. Atkinson, “History of the 5th Battalion, The Dorset Regiment, 1914-1919,” in: History of the Dorsetshire Regiment, 1914-1919, Part III, The Service Battalions (Dorchester: Henry Ling; London: Simpkin Marshall, 1932), p. 17.

[5] Ibid., p. 20.

[6] Ibid., pp. 21-22.

[7] Ibid., p. 23.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Hart, op cit., p. 367.

[10] Colin Trueman, “Kingston’s other church,” Dorset Life, October 2017:
https://www.dorsetlife.co.uk/2017/10/kingstons-other-church/

Long Ashton: Church of All Saints (Somerset)

Long Ashton: Church of All Saints (Somerset)

4810 Lance Corporal Charles George William Butler of the 2/6th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment died of wounds on the 20th July 1916, aged 24. Lance Corporal Butler was also a bellringer at Long Ashton (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

Charles George William Butler, who was apparently known as William Butler, was born at Dursley (Gloucestershire) in the third quarter of 1891, the son of William Butler and Hannah Butler (née Baker). The eight-year-old “Charles Geo. W. Butler” featured in the 1901 Census, living with his family at Upper Cam, near Dursley. At that time, William’s father, William Butler sr., was thirty-nine years old and working as a rollerman in a flour mill, while his mother was thirty-six. William jr. was the eldest of five children living at the household, which also included: Blanche M. (aged 6), Violet L. (5), Victor H. J. (3), and Albert F. (3 months).

By the time of the 1911 Census, the Butler family had moved to Laburnum Terrace, Long Ashton (Somerset). William jr. was by that time nineteen years old and both father and son were working as gardeners. The census return recorded that William and Hannah Butler had had nine children, eight of whom were still living. William jr. remained the eldest of the five children that were part of the household, who included: Albert (10), Doris (8), Kate (6), and Ruby (2). Also boarding with the family was Minnie Morris, a forty-five year old invalid from Rhymney.

Long Ashton: War Memorial in the Church of All Saints (Somerset)

Long Ashton: War Memorial in the Church of All Saints (Somerset)

Lance Corporal Butler’s death was reported in the Western Daily Press of the 1st August 1916 [1]:

LONG ASHTON.
Much regret was expressed when the news came that Lance-Corporal C. G. William Butler had given his life for his country. The news was conveyed to his parents in a letter from the chaplain. On Sunday evening there was a memorial service held at the Congregational Church, Long Ashton, the service being attended by the officials of the Pride of Ashton Lodge L.A.O. Shepherds: W.M., Tom Beames; D.M., W. M. Hynan; P.M., H. S. Barnes; Guardian, Edwin Burge; P.M. and Trustee H. G. Stone; P.M. and Treasurer, George Yeo; Trustee, W. H. Barnes; Secretary, R. E. March; and a number of members. The Rev. W. Gordon Hatcher was the preacher. The Vicar (the Rev. Philip Young) also made sympathetic reference at the morning service to the death of Lance-Corporal Butler, and at the close of the evening service the ringers rung muffled peals. The deceased, prior to his leaving Ashton, was for many years a ringer.

The L.A.O. Shepherds refers to the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds, a friendly society that was organised into local branches (or lodges). The implication of the newspaper item is that Lance Corporal Butler had been an active member of the Long Ashton Lodge (the other bellringing casualty from Long Ashton, 22692 Private Harry Fisher of the 12th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment — killed in action, 8th May 1917– had also been a member of the Pride of Ashton Lodge).

The 2/6th Gloucestershires were part of 183 Infantry Brigade in the 61st (South Midland) Division, a second line Territorial Army formation. The division had arrived on the Western Front in May 1916 and were settling in to trench warfare in the Fleurbaix sector. While the main axis of the British offensive in the summer and autumn of 1916 remained the Somme, the 61st Division was chosen to take part in diversionary scheme  in French Flanders, the Battle of Fromelles. It seems likely that Lance Corporal Butler died as a result of this action. He was buried in Merville Communal Cemetery (Nord, France), grave reference XI. B. 32. His name also features on the war memorial at Long Ashton and the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey.

Lance Corporal Butler’s family placed memorial notices in the Western Daily Press on the first anniversary of his death [2]:

IN MEMORIAM.
BUTLER. – In memory of our loving son, Lance-Corpl. C. G. W. Butler, who died of wounds, in France, July 20, 1916. A devoted son who braved the storm of life’s troubles and cares; his many kind acts and labours of love; his task is now o’er, his labour’s done. – Mother and dad.
BUTLER. – In affectionate remembrance of our dear brother, Lance-Corpl. C. G. W. Butler, who died of wounds, in France, July 20, 1916. Gone, but not forgotten. His loving brothers and sisters.

The very next entry refers to another villager buried in the same cemetery as Lance Corporal Butler:

DORE. – in loving memory of our dear and only son, Tom, died of wounds July 20, 1916, Resting in Merville Cemetery, France. Still sadly missed by mother, dad, and his sister Lil. One year has passed since that sad day, When his young life he freely gave. No mother to soothe her dying son. No fond one’s farewell kiss; But when we meet again, dear one, What everlasting bliss.

5018 Private H. T. Dore also served with the 2/6th Gloucestershire Regiment.

Another memorial notice appeared in the Western Daily Press of the 23rd July 1921,  close to the fifth anniversary of Lance Corporal Butler’s death [3]:

IN MEMORIAM.
[…]
BUTLER. – In loving memory of our dear son, C. G. W. Butler, died in France, July 20, 1916.
Can a loving mother e’er forget
The son she loved so dear?
Ah no! The voice that now is still
Keeps ringing in her ear.

Le Tilleloy and the Sugarloaf. Detail from Trench Map 36.SW

Le Tilleloy and the Sugarloaf. Detail from Trench Map 36.SW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 10A; Published: January 1918; Trenches corrected to 22 December 1917: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464975 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The 2/6th Gloucestershire Regiment:

According to the Long, Long Trail website [4] The 2/6th Battalion of the Battalion was formed at St Michael’s Hill, Bristol in September 1914 as a home service (“second line”) unit of the Territorial Force. In January 1915, the battalion became part of the 2nd Gloucester and Worcester Brigade, in the 2nd South Midland Division. In August, this became 183rd Infantry Brigade in the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division (the other infantry units in the 183rd Brigade were the 2/4th Gloucestershire Regiment and the 2/7th and 2/8th Worcestershire Regiment). The division concentrated at Northampton and, from then on, mainly occupied stations in Essex (including at Epping, Chelmsford, Kelvedon, Danbury and Brentwood). While the battalion was at Epping, Thornwood Camp was bombed by a Zeppelin on the night of the 11th/12th September 1915, but there were no casualties (the battalion War Diary (WO 95/3060/2) contains a plan of the camp showing where the bombs landed [5]). The battalion War Diaries for the first few months of 1916 are missing, but on the 23rd May, the battalion set out from Tidworth (on Salisbury Plain) for France. They sailed later that day from Southampton on the “St Marguerite” and the “Bellerophon,” but could not land at Le Havre due to the presence of German submarines. They tried again the following day, and finally disembarked at Havre early on the 25th May, heading to billets at Busnes.

The 2/6th Glosters spent the first part of June 1916 in divisional reserve to the 35th Division. They moved from Richebourg Saint-Vaast to Pont du Hem, before spending some weeks in trenches near Fleurbaix that was often used as a ‘nursery’ sector for fresh divisions. From the trench map references given, by mid-June, the battalion was in the line near Mauquissart, facing Aubers. On the 21st June, the 2/6th Glosters moved to billets in La Gorgue. After a short spell at Laventie, the battalion moved to trenches near Fauquissart on the 9th July, where a new operation was being prepared for the 61st and the 5th Australian Division, which had also recently arrived in the area.

The 2/6th Glosters at the Battle of Fromelles:

Further south, the Battle of the Somme had commenced on the 1st July 1916. While the first day of the offensive had completely failed to live up to the optimistic expectations of its progenitors, the battle itself was to continue throughout the summer and autumn of 1916, with hard fighting throughout July near Bazentin Ridge and Longueval.

In an attempt to delay the movement of further German units to the Somme, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, General Douglas Haig, looked again at an older proposal from the XI Corps Commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Haking, for a diversionary attack further north on the Aubers Ridge. After some debate around the form of the attack, a date for the proposed operation was provisionally set for the 17th July 1916. Haking’s orders for the 61st Division and the 5th Australian Divisions were rather prescriptive, specifying that each should attack with its three infantry brigades in line, each brigade to be led by two assaulting battalions, each covering a front of around 300 metres.

The First Army order, issued on the 15th July, outlined the objectives of the operation [6]:

[…] to prevent the enemy from moving troops southwards to take part in the main battle. For this purpose (it was added) the preliminary operations, so far as is possible, will give the impression of an impending offensive operation on a large scale, and the bombardment which commenced on the morning of the 14th inst. will be continued with increasing intensity up till the moment of the assault.

The Australian military historian Peter Pedersen has noted some of the problems with the planned attack [7]:

The tactical difficulties were immense. Protected by wire entanglements five metres deep, the German front-line breastwork comprised a sandbag wall over two metres high and six metres across that was impervious to all but the heaviest shells. Machine-guns in the Sugarloaf Salient enfiladed the ground on either side. Owing to its flatness, they were also capable of grazing fire, in which the centre of every burst does not rise above the height of a standing man. The combination of enfilade and grazing fire maximises a machine-gun’s lethality by enabling it to catch an assault flank on with no dead ground for cover. Haking gave the Germans another ace by setting the interdivisional boundary for the attack virtually on the Sugarloaf. As this meant that the strongpoint could rake both the British and Australian assaults, the commanders either side of the boundary had to be able to act instantly without compromising the other, not easy when they were out of touch in the heat of battle. The boundary should have been drawn so that only one division was directly affected.

Moreover, the Germans knew the area intimately. The 6th Bavarian Division had held it for well over a year and many in its ranks, such as Lance-Corporal Adolf Hitler, had been fighting since the start of the war. In May 1915 they helped to shatter a British assault on Aubers Ridge in which Haking and Monro [General Sir Charles Monro, the commander of 1st Army in 1916] were senior commanders. What experienced divisions had been unable to do on much the same ground then, they were ordering two green divisions to so now with next to no notice against strong defences manned by veterans.

These were not the only problems with the plan. There were logistical issues related to the length of time the 5th Australian Division had been in the sector and with artillery preparation. Shortly before the 1st Army order had been drawn up, the 4th Australian Division, who had been holding the line north of Fromelles, moved to the Somme, being relieved by the 5th Australian Division. The 5th was a new formation (established in February 1916) and had been in France for even less time than the 61st Division.

The amount of artillery was also insufficient. Charles Bean, the Australian official historian, commented that [8]:

[…] at 2 a.m. on the 14th, Haking learnt that the field-artillery provided for him by Second Army was not, as foreshadowed, that of three divisions but only of two — and those the 4th and 5th Australian, which lacked experience and full training.
[…]
He therefore wisely decided to narrow his front of attack to 4,000 yards, and to attack with two divisions, the 61st striking at the Sugar-loaf, as already arranged, from the west, and the 5th Australian Division (instead of the 31st) from the north, with its left flank at Cordonnerie.

Moreover, other problems resulted from the almost continuous tinkering with the plan. For example, a few days before the proposed attack, misgivings emerged from further up the command chain. Bean writes [9]:

It is evident from the records that Haig’s staff, far from pressing for the demonstration to be made, regarded its probable results with deep misgivings, aid it seems certain that some members of the staff would gladly have seen the orders cancelled.

Haking, however, remained confident in his plan. Following further discussion the operation was allowed to proceed, although Haig insisted that infantry should not be used unless “commanders were satisfied that they had sufficient artillery and ammunition not only to capture, but to hold and consolidate, the enemy’s trenches.” [10].

It rained on the 17th July, so the attack was postponed. The delay gave yet another opportunity to cancel, but Haig was now in favour. Bean highlighted how the purpose of the operation had changed several times during the planning phase [11]:

Suggested first by Haking as a feint-attack; then by Plumer as part of a victorious advance; rejected by Monro in favour of attack elsewhere; put forward again by G.H.Q. as a “purely artillery” demonstration; ordered as a demonstration but with an infantry operation added, according to Haking’s plan and through his emphatic advocacy; almost cancelled-through weather and the doubts of G.H.Q. – and finally reinstated by Haig, apparently as an urgent demonstration – such were the changes of form through which the plans of this ill-fated operation had successively passed.

After the rain, the attack was postponed until the 19th July. After an insufficient artillery bombardment and further delays, the attack eventually went in at 18:00 hours. The 61st Division were attacking to the south of the Sugarloaf, the 5th Australian Division to the north.

Fauquissart. Detail from Trench Map 36.SW

Fauquissart. Detail from Trench Map 36.SW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 8A; Published: March 1917; Trenches corrected to 14 February 1917: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464978 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Bean describes the position of the 61st Division [12]:

The 61st Division was in a less fortunate position [than the 5th Australian Division]. The strength of its battalions was only 600, and, although it had carried out a number of successful raids, and possessed an artillery more experienced than that supporting its neighbour, its infantry was still inexperienced and of much slighter physique than the Australian. Its staff had ordered that, instead of moving over the parapet, the infantry should emerge into No-Man’s Land through a large number of narrow sally-ports.

The German counter bombardment created additional mayhem [13]:

The 183rd and 184th Brigades had each, before beginning to deploy, suffered under the German bombardment. The 183rd had therefore reinforced its line; but, at 5.30, immediately it commenced to file out into No-Man’s Land, it had been observed by the enemy and brought under heavy machine-gun fire. Both of its assault battalions, the 2/4th and 2/6th Gloucestershire, had thus lost heavily; part of them appears to have been late in making the subsequent advance, and, the German machine-guns again opening, the enemy’s breastwork was reached only at one point, north of the Wick, by a few of the 2/6th Gloucestershire.

183 Infantry Brigade were attacking the line in the vicinity of the village of Le Tilleloy. Its assault units were the 2/4th and the 2/6th Battalions of the Gloucestershire Regiment. As Bean has noted, they didn’t get very far.

Pedersen’s book on Fromelles provides some more detail [14]:

“No Man’s Land in front of 183 Brigade was 200 yards across and at one point 150 yards, making it the narrowest stretch along the 61st Division’s line. The engineers had driven exits under the breastwork so that the assault waves could move unseen into the ‘borrow pit’. Two ‘pipe pushers’, ammonal-filled pipes pushed out into No Man’s Land a few feet below the surface, had been blown at 4.30 pm to provide ready-made communication trenches. Because 3/16 BRIR [Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment] opposite also held the line facing 184 Brigade and much of 15 Australian Brigade, 183 Brigade’s attack would fall mainly on a single company, the 9th, commanded by 2nd Lieutenant Reher. For all these reasons, it was better placed than either of its sister brigades.

Unfortunately, the German bombardment hit 183 Brigade hard and forced both assault battalions to draw on their reserve companies to replace losses. Conversely, the British bombardment did little damage to the German breastwork and the wire was virtually uncut. Captain Gebhardt, the commander of 3/16 BRIR’s front line, had ordered its lookouts to remain at their posts throughout the shelling so that the moment of the assault would not be missed. They saw the leading waves start through the sally ports. Haking’s order to use them left idle the underground exits that would have concealed 183 Brigade’s forming up.

Pedersen also quotes the after action report by Lieutenant-Colonel J. A. Tupman, the commanding officer of the 2/6th’s sister battalion, the 2/4th Glosters, who were to their immediate left [15]:

At 5.31 pm, the time ordered for deployment in NO MAN’S LAND, A Coy (the left assault) filed out through Sap 7a and successfully deployed three platoons. […] D Coy (the right assault) was delayed for a few minutes, and by 5.50 pm had its leading platoon deployed in NO MAN’S LAND, the next platoon of this forming the 2nd wave partly out. At this point in the operations a heavy machine gun fire was opened on D Coy in the open, and the men were driven back on me into the Sally Port of sap 9 where I was standing. This machine gun fire was particularly heavy and appeared to come from the Front and Right Front from at least 5 or 6 M.Gs.

At 5.55 pm I received a report saying A Coy was pushing on all right and I at once ordered the 2nd, 3rd & 4th waves of D Coy to be moved to the other Sally Port (No. 7a), and gave the Officers orders to push out there as rapidly as possible and to work up to the right of A Coy. I then went to the Sally Port (7a) and on arriving there found that A Coy by that time 6.10 pm had also been driven back. I ordered that the men should be collected and all be ready for a push forward should the opportunity occur. At the time I considered further attempt to advance in the dace of this M.G. fire useless.

The War Diary of the 2/6th Glosters (WO 95/3060/2) over the relevant days hints at the muddle that surrounded the Fromelles operation from the start, as well as the short-lived nature of the attack itself in the 183rd Brigade sector [16]:

[TRENCHES Nr FAUQUISSART]. [July] 14. All preparation for GAS Attack. Wind failed & attack cancelled.

[July] 15. Bn. relieved by 2/4 GLOSTERS & 2/4 R. BERKS [part of 184th Brigade in the 61st Division]. Billets at LAVENTIE

[July] 16. Move into trenches to take over part of line from 2/4 GLOSTERS

[July] 17. Awaiting orders to attack – orders cancelled pending further preparation.

TRENCHES Nr LAVENTIE. July 18. Trenches. Attack still postponed. Carrying parties &c.

[July] 19. Bombardment of E. Trenches 11 am. Return bombardment, about 50 casualties. First wave of two platoons left trenches at 5.40 pm. Barrage lifted 7 o/c. Two more waves & part of 4th went out. Men practically blown back as they went over parapet by machine gun & shrapnel. Withdrawn about 7 o’clock. Artillery turned on E. front line again. 8 o/c orders received to attack again at 9 p.m. 8.20 p.m. orders received cancelling attack. 9 p.m. orders received to prepare for relief by 2/7 WORCESTERS. Relief complete 2 a.m. Total casualties, 13 officers, 165 O.R. LIEUT-COL HAMILTON was wounded at 6 pm. MAJOR BARTLEET assumed command.

LEVANTIE [sic]. [July] 20. Rested reformed companies.

[July] 21. Reforming & equipping Companies. Short route march. Carrying parties.

[July] 22. Inspection by G.O.C. Carrying parties.

An appendix in the War Diary (183rd Brigade Order No. 23) detailed the proposed relief of the 2/4th and 2/6th Glosters on the 19th July [17].

The 2/4th and 2/6th Glosters will endeavour to withdraw wounded from NO MAN’s LAND and the 2/4th Glosters any of their men from the enemy lines about X 16. For this purpose the centre group R.A. will continue a barrage on the enemy trenches at this point, and maintain fire on the front trench elsewhere. The 2/4th Glosters will arrange to send a patrol as soon as it is dark with the object of discovering if any of their men are in the enemy lines about X 16. Should it be previously ascertained that there are no men here, a report will at once be made to Brigade Headquarters.

Le Tilleloy. Detail from Trench Map 36.SW

Le Tilleloy. Detail from Trench Map 36.SW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 8A; Published: March 1917; Trenches corrected to 14 February 1917: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464978 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

In the meantime, to the north of the Sugarloaf, the 5th Australian Division had made some initial gains and had begun to dig in. At around 20:00 on the 19th July, Haking ordered the 15th Australian Brigade to co-operate with 184th Brigade in a renewed attack on the Sugarloaf. As we have seen, however, the 61st Division had not made that much progress – except (temporarily) in the 182nd Brigade sector on its right. At 20:20, Haking cancelled the 61st’s attack, proposing that the division would resume the offensive on the following morning. The assault units of the 61st then withdrew, while the 182nd Brigade on the right were pushed out of their tenuous positions by a German counterattack. News of the postponement of the attack did not reach the Australians, and the 58th Battalion, Australian Infantry, with support from remnants of the 59th Battalion (both from 15th Australian Brigade), carried out their planned attack on the Sugarloaf at nightfall, which was described by Bean [18] as “one of the bravest and most hopeless assaults ever undertaken by the Australian Imperial Force.” The battle continued on the Australian front throughout the night, but German counter attacks gradually pushed the Australians back to their original lines. The attack of the 61st Division was not resumed on the morning of the 20th July, and the Battle of Fromelles was over.

There was a very high number of casualties, with the 5th Australian Division particularly badly affected [19]:

Each of the three Australian brigades lost more than 1700 men, either killed, wounded, missing or captured. In one terrifying night the Australians suffered a total of 5533 casualties – 178 officers and 5355 men. This was more than the combined total of all Australian losses in the Boer, Korean and Vietnam Wars. The British lost 1547 killed or wounded while the German casualties totalled less than 1500.

Despite this, the British GHQ issued an upbeat communiqué [20]:

Yesterday evening, south of Armentières, we carried out some important raids on a front of two miles in which Australian troops took part. About 140 German prisoners were captured.”

Describing Fromelles as a raiding operation did not go down very well with the Australians. Pedersen has commented [21]:

The Australians were also angered by the official communiqué, which described the operation as ‘some important raids’ to conceal the severity of the reverse. Notwithstanding this purpose, Bean questioned ‘the good of deliberate lying like that’, because the scale of the casualties and the loss of over 400 men as prisoners made the truth obvious. The Australian public saw through it as soon as the facts were known and from then on British official statements, which had usually been accepted at face value were treated with great scepticism.

Patrick Lindsay’s book on Fromelles viewed the statement as part of what he described as “the cover up” [22].

A German communiqué, which was published in many British newspapers on the 21st July 1916, invested the raid with far more significance [23]:

Considerable British forces attacked our positions north and west of Fromelles. They were repulsed, and wherever they succeeded in penetrating our trenches they were ejected by counter-attacks, in which we captured over 300 prisoners, among them being some officers.

Another German communiqué, which was published in the Manchester Evening News (and in many other newspapers) the following day, expressed some bafflement about the purpose of the attack [24]:

THE ATTACK NEAR FROMELLES.
German War Correspondents Puzzled.
Amsterdam, Saturday. –
[…]
The British attack near Fromelles (west of Lille) puzzles the German war correspondents not a little.
They make varying suggestions as to its aim. Some consider it as the introduction of a new offensive, others as a serious attempt to advance in the direction of Lille, while others regard it as a demonstration to prevent the Germans from sending troops from this part of the front to menaced sectors. – Central News.

The news also very soon reached Australia. For example, on the 24th July 1916, The Argus (a Melbourne newspaper) carried a short report from Bean, who was an official reporter [25]:

AUSTRALIA’S SHARE IN GREAT OFFENSIVE
A Heavy Engagement
All is Well on Somme Front
IMPORTANT RUSSIAN GAINS
(From Captain C. E. W. BEAN, Official Reporter with the Australian Imperial Forces.)
BRITISH HDQRS., IN FRANCE, July 20.
After a bombardment, an Australian force on Wednesday evening attacked German trenches south of Armentieres. On the left, the Australians seized the German front line, and passed beyond it to further trenches of the enemy’s first system. In the centre, the Australians carried the whole of the German first system, and reached the more or less open country behind it.
On the right, our troops had to cross a much wider stretch of ground between the trenches. Here the Germans held a very strongly-fortified salient. The Germans were ready for the attack, and had managed to save a number of machine-guns from our bombardment. In spite of their very brave efforts, our troops on this flank were unable to cross the ground between the trenches, and only managed to reach the German trenches at isolated points. From these they were driven out.
This success enabled the Germans to concentrate fire of all sorts of artillery on the portion of the trenches which we had captured. The Germans battered down their own trenches, where they were occupied by our men. They also turned water from a channel down their trench on the left flank, and the Australians there, shortly after reaching the trenches, found themselves standing in water, which rapidly rose until it was waist-high.
Our men endured a tremendous bombardment until early in the following morning, when, after 11 hours in the captured position, such Australians as retained the small remaining portion of the German line were ordered to retire. By dint of very brave work, our engineers and infantry, in working parties, had managed to get communication trenches dug completely through to the German trenches. These trenches were dug under very heavy shell-fire, and they enabled our troops to carry out their retirement with loss which was slight when the extraordinary difficulty of the operation is considered.
Among, the last who returned to our trenches were eight men, who said that they had got lost behind the German trenches, and had been wandering about till daylight in country in the rear of the enemy’s front line.
Our troops in this attack had to face shell-fire more heavy and more continuous than was ever known in Gallipoli. Many of them were quite untried previously. But the manner in which they carried the operations through seems to have been worthy of all the traditions of Anzac.
At least 200 Germans were captured, and we secured several machine-guns. Many Germans were killed. The losses among our troops engaged were severe.

Lindsay sees Bean’s report (which was syndicated elsewhere, including in the Sydney Morning Herald) as an good example of how Bean had to balance facts with the ‘official’ line, noting that Bean recorded in his diary that he was happy to get his description of the operation as an ‘attack’ past the censors [26].

Bean’s considered conclusion in his Official History is far more critical [27]:

The reasons for this failure seem to have been loose thinking and somewhat reckless decision on the part of the higher staff. Had the heavy British howitzers continued ostentatious registration without the activity having ever culminated in an actual attack, or had it been possible for the unprepared enemy to be shocked by a strong, well-prepared, and successful blow (such as that delivered at Lone Pine, the most effective feint ever undertaken by Australian infantry), the Germans might have been deceived at a price not disproportionate to the value of the result; but it is difficult to conceive that the operation, as planned, was ever likely to succeed.

Haking himself, looking for scapegoats, blamed the inexperience of the attacking divisions. Like a real-life General Melchett, he was particularly exercised with a perceived lack of offensive spirit in the 61st [28]:

The 61st Division were not sufficiently imbued with the offensive spirit to go in like one man at the appointed time. Some parts of the attack were late in deploying […]
With two trained divisions the position would have been a gift after the artillery bombardment […]

I think the attack, although it failed, has done both divisions a great deal of good, and I am quite sure as a result of the attack that the Germans are not likely to move troops away from the front for some time.

Evidently, Haking had learned absolutely nothing from the similar failure at Aubers the previous year, which had used more experienced divisions.

In his comments on the Australians, Haking described the 5th Division as “not sufficiently trained to consolidate the ground gained.” In his Official History, Bean  begged to differ [29]:

The troops were admittedly raw; but it may be doubted if any infantry in the world could have crossed No-Man’s Land where the 15th Brigade failed; and the completion of the communication trench and of nearly the whole of the new firing-line across No-Man’s Land during the night under intense fire was an achievement not often matched in the history of such actions.

The Fromelles operation also contributed to emerging Australian prejudices about the fighting-qualities of British formations. Pedersen explains [30]:

The finger-pointing was not just directed at the [battalion] commanders. Contrasting the 1,000 yards of German line they had taken and held for over twelve hours with the almost total failure of the 61st Division, the Australians felt badly let down. As far as they were concerned, the battle confirmed the impression formed formed during the Gallipoli campaign that the new British divisions were not up to a tough fight. In the case of the 61st, others thought the same. At a press briefing, ‘The 1st Army told the correspondents that the Australians did quite well and would have held on if 61st Division had done so. The 61st Division, they said, were rather second-rate territorials’. Disparaged by its own high command, the 61st may have believed it. By 1918, the division ‘reckoned that it had been unlucky at everything it had attempted and called itself the Sixty-worst’.

Whether it was or not was immaterial. Like Thiepval’s attackers on 1 July 1916, the 61st Division faced a task that could have only been carried out by bullet-proof men. 184 Brigade’s attack foundered because No Man’s Land was so wide in front of it, the same reason 15 [Australian] Brigade failed. On the flanks, 182 Brigade had to go almost three times as far as 8 [Australian] Brigade.

As the first major action of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on the Western Front during the First World War, the Battle of Fromelles had even longer-term political consequences. Don Farr has commented that it began “the process of Australian disillusionment with British generalship on the Western Front” [31]. The battle remains a topic of controversy in Australia [32].

Today, there is an Australian Memorial Park at Fromelles. It contains the “Cobbers” memorial statue (Peter Corlett, 2008), which recreates the rescue of an unknown wounded Australian soldier by Sergeant Simon Fraser of the 57th Battalion, AIF. Fromelles is also the location of a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery that was dedicated in 2010. Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery contains the remains of 250 Australian and British soldiers recovered from mass graves used by the Germans after the battle [33].

A memorial to the 5th Australian Division can be found at Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, near Ieper (Ypres) in Belgium. The division fought in that sector during the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917.

There is a memorial plaque to the 61st Division at Laventie, representing the area where the division had first fought in 1916 (including Fromelles). The plaque was unveiled in 1935 in the presence of Major-General Sir Colin Mackenzie, its former commanding officer [34]. There is also a memorial to the officers, NCOs, and men of the 61st (South Midland) Division in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-on-Avon.

Elsewhere in the 61st Division, a composer and poet was serving with one of the other Territorial Force battalions of the Gloucestershire Regiment, the 2/5th Glosters in 184th Brigade [35]:

THE STRONG THING

I have seen Death and the faces of men in fear
Of Death, and shattered, terribly ruined flesh,
Appalled ; but through the horror, coloured and clear
The love of my county, Gloster, rises afresh.

And on the Day of Days, the Judgment Day,
The Word of Doom awaiting breathless and still,
I’ll marvel how sweet’s the air down Framilode way,
And take my sentence on sheer-down Crickley Hill.

References:

[1] Western Daily Press, 1 August 1916, p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] Western Daily Press, 20 July 1917, p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

[3] Western Daily Press, 23 July 1921, p. 8; via British Newspaper Archive.

[4] The Long, Long Trail:
https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/gloucestershire-regiment/

[5] WO 95/3060/2, 2/6th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[6] Cited in: C. E. W. Bean, Official history of Australia in the War of 1914-18, Vol. III: The Australian imperial force in France, 1916, 12th ed. (Sydney, NSW: Angus and Robertson, 1941), p. 334:
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1416847

[7] Peter Pedersen, ANZACs on the Western Front: the Australian War Memorial battlefield guide (Milton, Qld: John Wiley & Sons Australia, 2012), pp. 15-16.

[8] Bean, op. cit., p. 336.

[9] Ibid., pp. 345-346.

[10] Ibid., p. 347.

[11] Ibid., p. 350.

[12] Ibid., p. 359.

[13] Ibid., p. 360.

[14] Peter Pedersen, Battleground Europe: Fromelles (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 2004), pp. 56-57.

[15] WO 95/3060, Report to 183 Bde, 20 July 1916, 2/4th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew; cited ibid.

[16] WO 95/3060/2, 2/6th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Bean, op. cit., p. 394

[19] Patrick Lindsay, Fromelles: Australia’s darkest day and the dramatic discovery of our fallen World War One Diggers (Prahan, Vic.: Hardie Grant Books, 2008), p. 143.

[20] GHQ Communiqué, cited ibid., p. 151.

[21] Pedersen, Fromelles, p. 115.

[22] Lindsay, op cit., pp. 151-162.

[23] Western Daily Press, 21 July 1916, p. 8; via British Newspaper Archive.

[24] Manchester Evening News, 22 July 1916, p 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

[25] The Argus (Melbourne), 24 July 1916, p. 7; via National Library of Australia:
https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/1605102

[26] Lindsay, op cit., p. 151.

[27] Bean, op. cit., p. 444.

[28] Haking , cited Lindsay, op. cit., p. 157.

[29] Bean, op cit., p. 446.

[30] Pedersen, Fromelles, pp. 114-115. Pedersen cites: Martin Middlebrook, The Kaiser’s Battle: 21 March 1918: the first day of the German Spring Offensive (London: Allen Lane, 1978), p. 92.

[31] Don Farr, The silent general : Horne of the first army : a biography of Haig’s trusted Great War comrade-in-arms (Solihull: Helion & Co, 2007), p. 133.

[32] For a recent Australian account of the AIF on the Western Front in 1916, see: Peter Fitzsimons, Fromelles & Pozières: in the trenches of hell (North Sydney, NSW: William Heinemann Australia, 2015).

[33] Julie Summers, comp., Remembering Fromelles: a new cemetery for a new century (London: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 2010)

[34] Plaque à la 61ème division britannique:
http://memoiresdepierre.pagesperso-orange.fr/alphabetnew/l/laventie61britannique.html

[35] Ivor Gurney, Severn & Somme (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1917), p. 33:
https://archive.org/details/severnsomme00gurn/page/32

Brent Knoll: Church of St Michael (Somerset)

Brent Knoll: Church of St Michael (Somerset)

3/8315 Private Alfred George Webber of the 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment was killed in action on the 1st July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. Private Webber was also a bellringer at Brent Knoll (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

I happened to be at Thiepval on the 100th anniversary of Private Webber’s death, when I attended the Somme 100 memorial event. Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity that day to take photographs of the relevant part of the memorial, but my friend and colleague David Underdown was happy to oblige a few weeks later.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Panel 1C

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Panel 1C (photograph by David Underdown)

The coach taking us back to Albert from Thiepval that afternoon first took the road to Pozières, and then turned right onto the D929 Albert-Bapaume road, the old Roman road that became the pivot of the 1916 Somme offensive. On our way to Albert, we passed to the south-west of the village of Ovillers-la-Boisselle, just beyond which Ovillers Military Cemetery could be seen across a slight dip in the landscape known to the British during the First World War as Mash Valley (the corresponding Sausage Valley was on the other side of the Albert-Bapaume road). Although I did not know it at the time, Mash Valley was where Private Webber’s unit were attacking on the 1st July and highly-likely to be the place where he was wounded or killed.

Ovillers Military Cemetery (Somme), taken from the Albert-Bapaume road (1st July 2016)

Ovillers Military Cemetery (Somme), taken from the Albert-Bapaume road (1st July 2016)

On a more recent visit to Albert, I was able to get sight of the village of Ovillers-la-Boisselle from the heights of the rue de Bécourt. Today, the landscape looks largely peaceful, a far cry from what the battlefield would have been like for Private Webber over a century ago.

View of Ovillers-la-Boisselle, from the rue de Bécourt, Albert (Somme)

View of Ovillers-la-Boisselle, from the rue de Bécourt, Albert (Somme)

Alfred George Webber

Alfred George Webber was born at Brent Knoll in the second quarter of 1887, the son of William Webber and Emily Webber (née Baker). He was baptised there on the 24th April the same year. At the time of the 1891 Census, Alfred G. Webber was four years old and living with his parents and three siblings at Mark Road, Brent Knoll. At that time William Webber, sr., was thirty-one years old and working as an agricultural labourer, while Emily Webber was thirty-nine years old. In 1891, Alfred’s three siblings were: William (aged 9), Annie (7), and the four-month-old Fanny. By the time of the 1901 Census, the family were one of several households living at Elm Cottage, Brent Knoll. At that time, William Webber, sr., was forty-two years old and working as a general labourer, while Emily Webber was fifty. Alfred himself was fourteen-years old, but does not seem to have yet started work. His older brother (William Webber, jr.) was nineteen years old and working as a groom (domestic), while his younger sister (Fanny) was ten. In the 1911 Census, the family were still living at Brent Knoll (“nr. Church”). William, sr. was fifty-three years old and working as a jobbing gardener, while Emily was sixty-one. Alfred George Webber was the only one of their children still living with them, now a twenty-four year old groom and gardener.

William Webber, Alfred’s father, had been born at Mark (Somerset) in the 2nd quarter of 1859, the son of George and Louisa Webber (née Bael). He was baptised at Mark on the 15th May 1859. At the time of the 1871 Census, William was living with his parents (and siblings) at Northwick Lane, Mark. At the age of eleven, William was already working as a farm servant. His parents were both thirty-six years old, and George Webber was working as an agricultural labourer.

William Webber, sr. married Emily Baker at Brent Knoll in the second quarter of 1879. Emily Baker had been born at Axbridge in around 1850. It is possible (but not certain, given the popularity of the surname) that she was the fourteen-year-old Emily Baker living at Churchill (Somerset) at the time of the 1961 Census, the daughter of Benjamin Baker (a farmer of 60 acres) and Ann Baker.

The 1881 Census recorded the married William and Emily Webber living at Brent Knoll (Mark Road). At that time, William was twenty-one years old and working as a general labourer, while Emily was twenty-eight. According to the 1911 Census, they had four children: William Frank (born 1881, baptised at Brent Knoll on the 12th June 1881), Annie (b. 1883, baptised at Brent Knoll on the 16th December 1883; married Ernest Corp there on the 10th April 1907), Alfred George, and Fanny Margaret Louisa (b. ca. 1891, baptised at Brent Knoll on the 4th January 1891, died Weston-super-Mare (district) 1968, aged 77). William Webber, sr. died in the second quarter of 1928, aged 69.

Bellringing at Brent Knoll:

Brent Knoll (formerly South Brent) is a village nestling under its eponymous hill, a former island rising above the Somerset Levels near Highbridge.

Brent Knoll, from Uphill, Weston-super-Mare (Somerset)

Brent Knoll, from Uphill, Weston-super-Mare (Somerset)

St Michael’s Church has a ring of six bells. John Taylor and Co. recast the back three bells of the ring of five in 1881 [1], then a sixth bell (cast by Mears & Stainbank of Whitechapel) was added when the bells were re-hung in 1910.

Bell News and Ringers' Record, Vol. 1, no. 8, September 1881, p. 203.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. 1, no. 8, September 1881, p. 203.

The new bell and bell-frame was dedicated on the 28th February 1911, with a short report of the service appearing in the Wells Journal of the 2nd March [2]:

The new bell, which is an addition to the former peal of five, and also an entire new cage are the generous gift of an anonymous donor (through the vicar). After the service the parish ringers repaired to the belfry, and the additional bell was heard to great advantage.

It seems that Alfred and his father and brother all learnt to ring around about this time. After the first peal on the bells had been rung in November 1911, the Ringing World reported that the local band had been taught over the past seven months by E. B. Crowder from Burnham-on-Sea [3]:

Ringing World, 10th November 1911, p. 565.

Ringing World, 10th November 1911, p. 565.

The peal was 5,040 changes of Grandsire Doubles [4], conducted by Alfred’s brother William; Alfred rang the third bell, while their father rang the cover bell. The Ringing World report states that it was the first peal on the bells and the first by all of the band except for William, jr. I have been unable, however, to trace any earlier peal that included William, jr.

Ringing World, 10th November 1911, p. 561.

Ringing World, 10th November 1911, p. 561.

A slightly different band rang another peal in July 1912, this time in two Doubles methods (Grandsire, Plain Bob). This also included all three members of the Webber family, ringing the same bells as before. This was rung as a farewell to their former tutor, E. B. Crowder, who was leaving for Deptford [5]:

Ringing World, 2nd August 1912, p. 72.

Ringing World, 2nd August 1912, p. 72.

There would not be another peal rung at Brent Knoll until 1955 [6]:

Ringing World, 21st January 1955, p. 38.

Ringing World, 21st January 1955, p. 38.

The 8th Division at Ovillers, 1st July 1916:

On the 1st July 1916, the 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment were one of the assault battalions that attacked on the Somme front shortly after Zero. At the time, the 2nd Devons were part of 23rd Infantry Brigade in the 8th Division. On the 1st July, the 8th Division and the 34th Division were part of the British III Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir William Pulteney. The divisions had been detailed to attack on both sides of the Albert-Bapaume road, the main axis of the British offensive on the Somme.

Mash Valley. Detail from Trench Map 57D.SE.4 (Ovillers)

Mash Valley. Detail from Trench Map 57D.SE.4 (Ovillers); Scale: 1:10000; Edition: 2B; Published: 1916; Trenches corrected to 27 April 1916: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464801 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

On the morning of the 1st July 1916, the 8th Division were to attack north of the Albert-Bapaume road. Their sector ran, broadly speaking, between features known as the Nab and Mash Valley. In this sector, the opposing trench lines were a long way apart from each other, meaning that an attacking force had to cross a lot of ground in order to reach the German front lines. The Germans also had a considerable topographical advantage.

The German First Position in the III Corps sector was made up of deep trenches and strong-points, all connected to the former villages of Ovillers (Ovillers-la-Boiselle) and La Boisselle — which had been turned into highly fortified positions either side of the Albert-Bapaume road [7].

The topography was extremely unhelpful to an attacking force. Alun Miles Thomas’s PhD thesis on the 8th Division provides a summary of geographical features [8]:

III Corps’ area was bisected by the old Roman road that ran from Albert to Bapaume. Running across the battlefield were a series of spurs. In the south was the western edge of the Fricourt spur. Then there was the La Boisselle spur. The next spur was at Ovillers. The re-entrant, or valley, running between the Fricourt and La Boisselle spurs was known as ‘Sausage Valley’. Supposedly, this was because there was a German observation balloon of that shape flown at its head. Logically, to the British soldier, the adjacent re-entrant between La Boisselle and Ovillers was labelled with what would be a proper compliment to a sausage. Therefore, the reentrant was named ‘Mash Valley’.40 To the north, in X Corps’ area of objective, lay another spur, that of Thiepval. This dominated all of the German front line to the south through which III Corps would have to advance.

The 23rd Brigade were to attack on the southern flank of the divisional front, just to the north of the 34th Division’s assault on La Boisselle. The lead battalions were the 2nd Devons and the 2nd Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, with the 2nd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment and the 2nd Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) in reserve. The brigade plan has been outlined briefly by Saunders [9]:

The essentials of Brigader General Tuson’s plan for 23 Brigade, to attack with two of his four battalions, had been laid down by 8th Division. He decided 1/Devons and 2/Middlesex were to provide the leading assault waves, who were to break into the German front line trench system, fight through the southern portion of Ovillers and capture the enemy’s two intermediate lines. At this point, the Brigade’s reserve battalion, 2/Scottish Rifles and 2/West Yorkshire, following closely behind the leading battalions, were to take the second and third objectives, in the German Position and around the village of Pozières respectively.

The 19th Division was in Corps reserve at Albert, and it was hoped that it could move up and consolidate the success of the assault battalions, and reach the German third positions. As with the whole Somme operation, a lot of faith had been placed in the artillery preparation. In addition, the 8th Division would be dependent on the success of its neighbouring divisions, in particular on the capture of La Boisselle by the 34th Division. The 8th Division history emphasises what a tough task faced the assault battalions on the 1st July [10]:

If all went not well elsewhere, it was obvious that both from Ovillers and from la Boisselle spur a deadly flanking fire could be brought to bear on our troops as the struggled up that desolate valley towards their distant objective […] The village of Ovillers was a solid and terrible obstacle. It will readily be appreciated that unless the results of the final intense bombardments were such that the defence was for the time being put almost completely out of action, and unless the progress made by the troops on either flank was rapid and successful, the 8th Division was likely to find its task beyond the power of human accomplishment.

On the III Corps front, two large mines were blown near La Boisselle shortly before Zero. One of the explosions was famously witnessed by the Royal Flying Corps pilot, Cecil Lewis, who was flying above the battlefield [11]:

The whole earth heaved and flared, a tremendous and magnificent column rose up into the sky. There was an ear-splitting roar, drowning all the guns, flinging the machine sideways in the repercussing air. The earth column rose higher and higher to almost 4,000 feet.

The scene was now all set for Zero …

Ovillers-la-Boisselle, Mash Valley, and La Boisselle. Detail from Trench Map 57D.SE.4 (Ovillers)

Ovillers-la-Boisselle, Mash Valley, and La Boisselle. Detail from Trench Map 57D.SE.4 (Ovillers); Scale: 1:10000; Edition: 2B; Published: 1916; Trenches corrected to 27 April 1916: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464801 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment:

The relevant War Diaries of the 2nd Devons (WO 95/1712/1) were produced on a typewriter using a red ribbom. The entries for the days immediately preceding the attack show the battalion arriving at the front, digging (and redigging) trenches, and then it records the assault companies moving into their jumping-off positions [12]:

[June] 29th. 6th Day of Bombardment. The Commanding Officer addressed the Battalion on the forthcoming operations. The Battalion moved into the trenches. “D” Coy dug a new assembly trench during the night.
2/Lieut G.W. Dibble and 1 other rank were wounded while digging this trench. One man wounded by shell fire.

[June] 30th. In the trenches. 7th day of Bombardment. The enemy shelled our trenches intermitintly [sic] throughout the day with 5 9.cm. shells, 4 5.cm. shells and 77. mm. shells, there were few casualties and the trenches were knocked in, in several places, one shell going through the Battn. Fighting Headquarters which were to be occupied the next day. This damage was repaired by the Regimental Pioneers during the day.
C.S.M. Turner was killed and two men wounded by shell fire.
“C” Coy completed the new assembly trench. The Battalion moved into its position of assembly. A and B Coys moved into the new trench (front line and BORDER STREET. C and D Coys moved into RYCROFT STREET and part of FURNESS STREET. Battalion H.Q. moved to the Fighting H.Q. in FURNESS STREET at Junction of CONIDTON STREET. The 2/Middlesex Regt were on the right, 2/West Yorks Regt in support and 2/Scottish Rifles in Reserve.

1916
July 1st. See attached report.

[July] 2nd. In Bivouacs at MILLENCOURT. About midday received orders to move at once to MERICOURT where the Brigade would entrain.
The Battalion marched to MERICOURT and entrained about 8 p.m.

[July] 3rd. Arrived at AILLY about 12.30 a.m. and marched to La CHAUSSEE arriving there about 4 a.m. and moved into Billets. The same evening orders were received from the Brigade to move to SOUES next morning.

The account of the 1st July offensive is provided in a typewritten report comprising three-pages of foolscap, corrected and annotated in pencil — presumably by the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Devons, Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Joseph Elton Sunderland. The very title of the report shows that the battalion’s ultimate objectives on the 1st July were at Pozières, which was some distance beyond the German first line position. The body of the report, however, shows that the 2nd Devon’s attack was effectively over almost as soon as it had begun. The report also demonstrates the ineffectiveness of the artillery preparation as well as severe problems in battlefield communication at that stage of the war.

REPORT OF THE PART TAKEN BY THE 2ND BATTALION DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT DURING THE ATTACK ON POZIERES ON THE 1st JULY 1916.
——————————————————————

It was a comparatively quiet night and there was little fire on either side until “[redacted]” [redacted] 7.30 [corrected in pencil to: 6.30] a.m.
At 7.30 [corrected in pencil to: 6.15] a.m. our artillery which consisted of artillery [corrected in pencil to: guns] of all calabres [corrected in pencil to: calibres] opened an intense bombardment which lasted for one hour. The enemy front and support line came in for most of the shelling. The enemy’s reply was not very vigourous [sic], most of his fire being directed on our Support and Communication trenches.
During the last 7 to 10 minutes of the intense bombardment “A” and “B” Coys left the “NEW TRENCH” and advanced in open order to within about 100 yards of the enemy trenches, closely followed by “C” and ”D” Coys, who moved down to the new line and advanced from there.
This advance was carried out in four successive waves in the most perfect order; the Casualties were not very heavy during this advance. Lieut. Temp. Captain E.G. Roberts who was in command of “A” Coy was badly wounded by shell fire while leaving our front line, 2/Lieut L.A. Carey also of “A” Coy was killed at the same time.
Just before the advance began a mist drifted over from the enemy’s line towards our own and made observation very difficult. Captain J.A. Andrews was in Command of the Front Line and it was due to him, to a great extent, that the advance from our front line was carried out with such remarkable coolness and precision. At the same time as our Coys advanced towards the hostile trenches, the 2/Middlesex Regiment on our right and the 2/Royal Berks. Regiment on our left, advanced with remarkable coolness and order.
At 8.30 [corrected in pencil to: 7.30] a.m. our artillery lifted from the enemy front line trenches on to the trenches in rear. During this pause the hostile artillery fire had gradually increased. As soon as the artillery lifted Captain J.A. Andrews got up and gave the order to advance, hardly had the order been given when he was killed by a hostile bullet which struck him in the head. As soon as the order to advance had been received, the four waves dashed for the German trenches opposite X.8.c.5.2. – X.8.c.8½.2½. – X.8.d.2.4.
Immediately the troops advanced the enemy opened a terrific machine gun fire from the front and from both flanks, which mowed down our troops, this fire did not deter our men from continuing to advance, but only a very few reached the German Lines alive. Some of these managed to effect an entry into the German Lines, where the [corrected in pencil to: they] “put up” a determined fight against enormous odds and were soon killed.
At first and for some little time owing to the mist and dust caused by our shell fire, it was difficult to realise exactly what had happened, although the heavy hostile Machine Gun fire told its own tale. The lines appeared at first sight to be intact, but it was soon made clear that the lines consisted of only dead or wounded, and that no one was there to support the few that had got in, and to carry on with the advance.
The cause of this was eventually discovered: the 2/ West Yorks. Regt who were in support had been caught by hostile Machine Gun and Shell fire as soon as they advanced from their assembly trenches, and had been cut to pieces.
The Brigade was informed as to what had happened to the Battalion but no information could be given to them as to what had happened to the supporting Battalion, as our runners were unsuccessful in getting in touch with them, neither could any accurate information be given as to what had happened to the 2/Middlesex Regt on our right and the 2/Royal Berks Regt on our left. From observation it was soon ascertained that the Battalions on either flank had also been caught by the hostile Machine Gun fire and had been unable to take the German trenches. This information was communicated to the Brigade. This information was shortly coroborated [sic] by our wounded who began to crawl back to our lines in small numbers. None of the runners sent by Companys [sic] reached Headquarters, they were all either killed or wounded.
No accurate information could be ascertained as to the exact number of casualties the Battalion had suffered, although it was clear that there were very few left who had not been hit; the enemy began to snipe our wounded. [typewriter overlap] When it was quite clear the we were not holding the front line the the [sic] barrage was brought back on the German front line trenches, and the 2/Scottish Rifles were moved forward to the “New Trench” and were told to hold themselves in readiness to advance.

(2)

During this time the hostile shelling had increased and the front line systems of trenches were very badly knocked about.
The enemy used a very high proportion of lachrymatory shells which caused a great deal of inconvenience to anyone not wearing gas goggles.
The enemy continued to confine his shelling practically entirely to our front line, support and communication trenches.
About mid.day orders were issued by the Brigade that no further advance would take place till further orders;
Our wounded still continued to crawl in to the “New Trench” but great difficulty was found evacuating the wounded to the Regimental Aid Post as the trenches were too narrow to allow a stretcher to pass and also the trenches had been so knocked about that in many places one was exposed to hostile Machine Gun and Shell fire.
The Medical Officer went down to the “NEW TRENCH” and bandaged all the wounded while the Stretcher Bearers and parties of Regimental Pioneers from Headquarters carried the wounded back to the Aid Post on their backs and in waterproof sheets. By this means all our wounded which it was possible to get at were removed to First Aid Post where the M.O. attended to them [amended in pencil to: redressed their wounds]. The supply of Orderlies for removing the wounded from the Aid Post was not good. Several messages had to be sent asking for Orderlies to be sent up to remove the wounded.
About 4 p.m. all Adjutants were ordered to report at Brigade Headquarters. The Brigade Major started to dictate orders to the effect that the Scottish Rifles would take over the front line and the remainder of the other Battalions of the Brigade would move into [added in pencil: the] support trenches. While taking down the orders the 8th Division informed the Brigade that the whole Brigade would be relieved that night, and that orders for the relief would be issued. Adjutants then returned to their Battalions and C.Os were ordered to re-organise their Battalions.
About 4 p.m. the artillery fire on both sides slackened down considerably.
During the day wounded and unwounded crawled in in small numbers. The unwounded were organised into parties by Companys [sic].
About 8 p.m. orders were received that the Brigade would be relieved and that in the meantime the 2/Scottish Rifles would hold the line and the remainder of the Battalions were to move into dugouts in HODDER and HOUGHTON Streets, in the vicinity of Bde Headquarters and that the Brigade would later move to bivouacs in MILLENCOURT. By this time about 40 men not including Headquarters had been collected.
By 10 o’clock all the men had been placed in dugouts.
The C.O. and Adjutant then proceeded to Brigade Headquarters where a conference was held by the G.O.C. 23rd Infantry Brigade, on the operations and the best methods of overcoming the difficultys [sic] which had been met.
The remnants of the Battalion moved off for MILLENCOURT about 11 p.m. The C.O. and Adjutant left Brigade Headquarters for MILLENCOURT about 1.30 a.m. on the 2nd July and arrived at MILLENCOURT about 3. a.m.

The following Casualtys [corrected in pencil to: casualties] were suffered during the action:-

Captain J.A. Andrews. Killed (In Command of Front Line)
Captain A. Preedy. -do- O.C. “B” Coy.
2/Lieut. L. A. Carey. -do-
2/Lieut. E.M. Gould. -do-
2/Lieut. C.V. Beddow. -do-
2/Lieut. M.C. Ley. -do-
2/Lieut. E.A. Jago. -do-
43 Other Ranks. -do-

Captain E.G. Roberts. Wounded. O.C. “A” Coy.
2/Lieut. C.O.R. Jacob. -do- O.C. “D” Coy.
2/Lieut. A. R. Newton. -do-
2/Lieut. J.A. Rennie. -do- [added in pencil: Since died of wounds.]
2/Lieut. A.H. Cornell. -do-
194 Other Ranks. -do-

2/Lieut. J.S. McGowan. Missing. [added in pencil: Since reported killed.]
2/Lieut. G.S.D. Carver. -do- [added in pencil: OC C Coy.]
2/Lieut. F.B. Coldwells. -do-
178 Other Ranks. -do-

(3)

Two Lewis Guns were lost ther remaining 4 [amended in pencil to 6] were brought in during daylight under heavy fire, 2 of these by Privates who were the only men left of their teams.

The following Officers took part in the operations.

Lt. Col. A.J.E. Sunderland.
Captain. A. Tillett.
Captain. J.A. Andrews.
Captain. A. Preedy.
Captain. E.G. Roberts.
2/Lieut. C.O.R. Jacob.
2/Lieut. L.A. Carey.
2/Lieut. E.A. Jago.
2/Lieut. G. Parker.
2/Lieut. H. Acomb.
2/Lieut. A.H. Smith.
2/Lieut. A.H. Cornell.
2/Lieut. M.C. Ley.
2/Lieut. J.A. Rennie.
2/Lieut. F.B. Coldwells.
2/Lieut. A.R. Newton.
2/Lieut. C.V. Beddow.
2/Lieut. E.M. Gould.
2/Lieut. F.B. Lloyd.
2/Lieut. H.H. Goodman.
2/Lieut. G.S.D. Carver.
2/Lieut. J.S. McGowan.
2/Lieut. G.W. Dibble.
[added in pencil: 2/Lieut A.E.A. Phillips, att. To Brigade H.Q.]

The undermentioned Officers were detailed to stay behind to replace Casualties:

Major. C.H.M. Imbert Terry D.S.O.
2/Lieut. R.J. Andrews.
2/Lieut. S.M. Neilson.
2/Lieut. H. St. Hill.
2/Lieut. H.H. Jago.
2/Lieut. J.H. Vincent.
2/Lieut. H.W. Jones.

Aftermath:

While elements of both the 2nd Devons and the 2nd Middlesex did reach the German trenches, both battalions suffered very heavy casualties and were ultimately unable to hold on to any of their gains. The 2nd West Yorkshires, following up, made even less progress. Within an hour-or-two of Zero, the battle in Mash Valley was over.

Further south in the III Corps sector, the 34th Division attack on La Boisselle also failed,  its units suffering the most casualties of all the divisions involved on the 1st July.

IWM Q 4045: Destroyed German trenches at Ovillers, looking towards the Bapaume road, July 1916

IWM Q 4045: Destroyed German trenches at Ovillers, looking towards the Bapaume road, July 1916. © Imperial War Museums (Q 4045): https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/ item/object/205236521

One cause of the failure was deemed to be the artillery preparation, both in terms of its effect on deep dugouts and wire and its inflexibility once the offensive had commenced. A 23rd Brigade post-action report concluded [13]:

A bombardment on some given line may be of value in damaging the enemy’s defences and preventing supports from being sent up; but if the line in question is 1,000 yards behind the line from which our assaulting troops are being held up, as was the case on July 1st, the position is far from satisfactory. To prevent reinforcements from reaching the enemy is but of minor value if we are ourselves unable to maintain our hold on the enemy’s front line. I consider […] that no barrage should lift until the infantry concerned have notified that they are ready.

Hostile machine-gun fire in Mash Valley was also a problem, including enfilade fire from La Boisselle. Alun Miles Thomas quotes from a letter written by Captain H. B. Savile of the 2nd Middlesex, who were attacking to the right of the 2nd Devons in the Mash Valley [14]:

There were at least 2 Machine Guns (probably Machine Gun Corps Weapons) traversing our front line trenches from the moment our intensive barrage opened at 7 a.m. Our heaviest casualties occurred as we started to descend into the narrow bottom of Mash Valley and were caused by Machine Guns firing from our flanks (Ovillers and La Boisselle).
I do not believe that these guns were anywhere near the German trenches we were assaulting but were in specially prepared positions either in front or behind the trenches. [From: CAB 45/137, letter from H.B. Savile, dated 19 May 1930, Official Historian’s Correspondence, Battle of the Somme, The National Archives]

The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Thiepval

The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Thiepval, on the 1st July 2016

It is a pity that only officer casualties are described in detail in battalion war diaries. Of those mentioned in the diary of the 2nd Devons: 2nd Lieut. Maurice Carew Ley is now buried in Ovillers Military Cemetery; Captain James Allfrey Andrews and 2nd Lieut. Cecil Victor Beddow in Serre Road Cemetery No. 2 (all three were moved to these cemeteries after the war). The remainder — Captain Alban Preedy; 2nd Lieutenants Leonard Arthur Carey, George Sholto Douglas Carver, Francis Baker Coldwells, Eric Melville Gould, Edward Arthur Jago, John Spence McGowan — have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. The Thiepval Memorial also contains the names of 119 other ranks casualties from the 1st July. This includes the name of Private Alfred George Webber from Brent Knoll. Private Webber’s name also features on the Brent Knoll war memorial and on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey.

Brent Knoll: War Memorial (Somerset)

Brent Knoll: War Memorial (Somerset)

References:

[1] Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. 1, no. 8, September 1881, p. 203
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/bn00.pdf

[2] Wells Journal, 2nd March 1911, p. 4; via British Newspaper Archive.

[3] Ringing World, 10th November 1911, p. 565:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/rw1911.pdf

[4] Ringing World, 10th November 1911, p. 561:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/rw1911.pdf

[5] Ringing World, 2nd August 1912, p. 72:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/rw1912_b.pdf

[6] Ringing World, 21st January 1955, p. 38:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/rw1955.pdf

[7] Alun Miles Thomas, “British 8th Infantry Division on the Western Front, 1914-18,” PhD Thesis, University of Birmingham, 2010, p. 149:
https://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/599/1/thomas10PhD.pdf

[8] Ibid., pp 149-150.

[9] Tim Saunders, West Country regiments on the Somme (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 2004), p. 73.

[10] J. H. Boraston and Cyril E. O. Bax, The Eighth Division in war, 1914-1918 (London: Medici Society, 1926), p. 70; cited in: Saunders, West Country regiments on the Somme, p. 73.

[11] Cecil Lewis, Sagittarius rising (1936)

[12] WO 95/1712/1, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[13] Cited by Saunders, op. cit., p 85; the reference given is WO 95/1579, which seems to cover the 1st Devons in the 95th Infantry Brigade (5th Divsion).

[14] Thomas, op. cit., p. 172.

Update, November 11th, 2019:

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme: Part of the Devonshire Regiment panel

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme: Part of the Devonshire Regiment panel

In late October, I was able to briefly visit the Thiepval Memorial again, and managed to obtain my own photographs of Private Webber’s name on the Devonshire Regiment panel.

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme: Part of the Devonshire Regiment panel

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme: Part of the Devonshire Regiment panel

The Devonshire Regiment panel also contains the names of Captain Alban Preedy and others of the 2nd Devons who died on the 1st July 1916.

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme: Part of the Devonshire Regiment panel

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme: Part of the Devonshire Regiment panel

On this trip, I was also able to visit the grave of Second Lieutenant Maurice Carew Ley and other members of the battalion that are buried in Ovillers Military Cemetery, Ovillers-la-Boisselle.

Ovillers-la-Boisselle: Grave marker of 2nd Lieut. M. C. Ley, 2nd Devonshire Regiment (Somme)

Ovillers-la-Boisselle: Grave marker of 2nd Lieut. M. C. Ley, 2nd Devonshire Regiment (Somme)

Posted by: michaeldaybath | May 24, 2019

Lance Corporal Harry Van Tromp, 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers

IWM HU 93558: Lance Corporal Harry Van Tromp, 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers

IWM HU 93558: Lance Corporal Harry Van Tromp, 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. © Imperial War Museums (HU 93558): https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/ item/object/205023908

256 Lance-Corporal Harry Van Tromp / Van Trump (both spellings are used) of the 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers was killed in action near Vimy Ridge on the night of the 23rd and 24th May 1916, aged 34. Harry Van Tromp was also at one time a bellringer at the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton and a member of the St Mary’s Guild of Bellringers and of the Ancient Society of College Youths (ASCY).

The 22nd (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers:

The 22nd (Kensington) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers was a Service Battalion that was established in September 1914 [1]. Its origins are discussed in H. C. O’Neill’s The Royal Fusiliers in the Great War [2]:

The 22nd (Kensington) Battalion was raised by the Mayor of Kensington, then Alderman William H. Davison. C and D Companies were directly enlisted for service in this battalion; but A and B Companies were formed as King Edward’s Horse, and joined C and D at the White City in September 1914, to form the 22nd (Service) Battalion Royal Fusiliers. The battalion combined a very good type of Londoner and a very good type of colonial, and the two amalgamated very successfully. They trained at the White City, Roffey (Horsham), Clipstone Camp, and Tidworth, sailing for France on November 15th, 1915.

In June 1915, the battalion had become part of the 99th Infantry Brigade, at that time in the 33rd Division. The other units in the 99th Brigade at the time were all Service Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers: the 17th (Empire), the 23rd (1st Sportsmen’s), and the 24th (2nd Sportsmen’s) Battalions. Shortly after their arrival in France, however, the 99th Brigade transferred to the 2nd Division, exchanging places with the 19th Brigade. In a further reorganisation of the 2nd Division’s brigades in December 1915, the 17th and 24th Royal Fusiliers were transferred to the 5th Brigade, while their places in the 99th were taken by the 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment and the 1st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) from 6th Brigade. The infantry units in the 99th Brigade were, therefore, a mixture of Regular Army and Service battalions.

After their arrival on the Western Front in November 1915, the 22nd Royal Fusiliers were mainly based in the Béthune sector, before moving in March 1916 to the area between Lens and Arras. At about this time, British units were beginning to take over the Vimy Ridge sector from the French, who were becoming increasingly preoccupied with the defence of Verdun.

Souchez. Detail from Trench Map 36B.SE.4 & 36C.SW.3 (Givenchy)

Souchez. Detail from Trench Map 36B.SE.4 & 36C.SW.3 (Givenchy); Scale: 1:10000; Published: 1916; Trenches corrected to 8 April 1916: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464726 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The area around Vimy Ridge was a prime site for the underground war and the British took over several mines from the French. Several German mines were blown in late April 1916. On the 3rd May, four British mines were fired and the craters occupied by the 1/21st Battalion. London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles), part of the 47th (2nd London) Division. These formed the Kennedy craters, named after the commander of the 1/21st Londons. Further south, more mines were fired on the 15th May, resulting in what became known as the Crosbie craters.

In an attempt to disrupt this mining activity, the Germans carried out a large-scale attack at Vimy Ridge on the 21st May 1916. Their temporary commander was General von Freytag-Loringhoven, Deputy Chief of the General Staff. The attack was intended to push back the British to the line held by the French prior to September 1915, and thus deprive them of access to their mine shafts. [3]

The attack came on the 21st May, following a heavy artillery bombardment. Nigel Cave’s Battleground Europe book on Vimy Ridge sets the scene for that day and the few that followed [4]

The German advance started at 7.45 pm, and for the most part they were able to make easy progress as the British lines had been all but obliterated. On the right the British were forced back to the road running at the base of the Talus des Zouaves. Sappers took the precaution of manning the defences before Cabaret Rouge [at Souchez] on the west side of the valley. The situation was one of confusion – but at least the line about Broadmarsh [crater] was secured, and the Germans had made little progress north of Momber crater. An ill-considered counter-attack was launched at 2 pm and achieved nothing, although the line on the left of the German attack was partially restored by the 8/Loyal North Lancs (Loyals). Once the new line had been ascertained, [General Henry] Wilson [commanding IV Corps] was all for launching a new counter attack, but this was vetoed by Haig, unless it had been properly prepared. An attack on the 23rd soon broke down and in the end the British learned to live with the situation, especially as it became clear from aerial reconnaissance that this was a local attack and not a full blooded affair to capture Arras as Allenby, commanding Third Army, at one time feared. Unsatisfactory though the new position might be, Haig did not consider it untenable, and the only alternative – a full blooded offensive with all that that entailed – could only detract from plans for the Somme.

Lance Corporal Van Tromp would be killed in that counter attack of the 23rd May. At the beginning the month, the 22nd Royal Fusiliers were alternating between billets in Bouvigny and the front line at Souchez. On the 11th May, the battalion started a series of moves, first to a tile factory at Hersin, then via Bruay and Camblain Chatelain to Ourton, where they undertook manoeuvres in practice trenches on the 20th May. The following day, they started to move back to the front line. The battalion war diary (WO 95/1372/2) records the following [5]:

May 21st. The Bn. moved to billets in HERSIN and at 10 am became G.H.Q. Divisional Reserve. At midnight the Bn. moved in motor busses, as did the rest of the Brigade, to the neighbourhood of the BOIS DE LA HAIE, about W.5.d.

May 22nd. Bn. moved to billets in VILLERS AU BOIS, and in the evening moved to the existing front line trenches in the TALUS DES ZOUAVES, the left resting on GRANBY trench. The 1st Royal Berks were on the right, the 20th London Regt. On the left, and the Bn. relieved the 17th London Regt. Advanced Bde. H.Q. were at CABARET ROUGE.

[May] 23rd. Orders for an attack at 1.30 AM were cancelled. The Bn. remained in the same trenches during the day. Orders for an attack at 8.25 PM in conjunction with Battalions on right and left were issued. At 8.15 PM, as the 1st R/Berks were unable to prepare to advance owing to the heavy barrage, the Commanding Officer (Major Rostron) cancelled the […] advance. The message did not reach B Coy which advanced and took the German trench, remaining in it for an hour and a half until recalled.
Casualties: — Capt BANBURY and LT C. J. FOWLER wounded. O.R. 7 killed, 78 wounded. Also 2nd LT. E. WALKER wounded.

May 24th. At dawn the 1st KRRC relived the 1st R Berks and the 1st Royal Berks relieved the 22nd Roy. Fus. Who moved back to the BAJOLLE and MAISTRE Lines. In the evening the Bn. moved to billets in VILLERS AU BOIS. The following officers joined the Bn.: — CAPT. H.S. JOHNSON, 2nd LTS. F. M. PERRATON, L. H. BAYLEY, N. WORSHIP, R. A. DURAND, H. A. HOLMES, F. ADAMS, E. G. HAYES. LT. COL. R. BARNETT-BARKER resumed command of the Bn. and Maj. H. ROSTRON (slightly wounded) went to hospital.

A little more detail on the counter-attack was contained in the War Diary of the 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment, also in the 99th Brigade [6]:

22/5/1916 – France, BERTHONVAL SECTOR
[blank] & [blank] Coys left HERSIN in motor buses about [blank space] A.M. en route for GOUY SERVINS. No more buses were available so the other half battalion commenced to march to the destination but were met about 2 miles out by motor buses which picked them up and completed the journey, arriving in bivouacs in a wood at Q.35.c about 4 am. On arrival the Battn found the 22nd R F in occupation of the wood, but they were replaced by the 1st KRRC at 8am. As the weather was very fine the men were able to get well rested. The C.O. was sent for by Bde Hqrs at VILLERS AU BOIS at 12.30pm and was informed by the Brigade Commander that the Brigade would make a counter attack that night on two lines of trenches which the Germans had captured from the 47th Divn (7th London Regt) on the 20th May. The time of assault was to be 1.30am. Battalion Commander then went to view the line. The CO returned about 15.30pm. At 6.15pm after the Battalion had paraded in readiness to move orders were received from Brigade cancelling the attack for that night but instructing us to relieve the 7th London Rgt in the trenches from which the attack was to have been made. Relief was completed about 1.15am.

23/5/1916 – France, BERTHONVAL SECTOR
About 5 am the right of our line held by B Coy was heavily shelled causing them 18 casualties. In the morning about 11 am a German prisoner belonging to the 86th Prussian Rgt was captured and sent to Brigade Hqrs. Fresh orders were received from the Brigade ordering the attack to take place on that night at 8.25pm.
Dispositions made by Commanding Officer. The assault was to be carried out in six lines as follows:
1st line. 1 Platoons of C Coy
2nd line. 2 Platoons of C Coy and 2 Lewis Guns
3rd line. 2 Platoons of D Coy with orders to consolidate captured trenches. (They carried picks and shovels), followed by 2 platoons of B Coy carrying SAA.
4th line. 2 Platoons D Coy and 1 Lewis Gun
5th line. 2 Platoons A Coy with orders to consolidate. They carried picks and shovels.
6th line. 2 Platoons A Coy.
The first three lines had as their objective the old British Support line. The 4th, 5th and 6th were to occupy a trench in rear of that captured by the 1st three lines.
The remaining half of B Coy and the remaining Lewis gun were to remain in OLD BOOTS TRENCH, their original position. About noon the enemy opened heavy shell fire on the TALUS des ZOUAVES and Headquarter trench, which was continued without cessation until 7.45pm when the bombardment developed into a dense barrage which was continued until 9.30pm. Companies received orders to be in their assembly trenches by 7.55pm but this was rendered impossible by the barrage. C & D Coys each made an attempt to get into position but both were checked by the heavy fire. About 8pm the Commanding Officer ordered Coys not to attempt to get into their assembly trenches but to stand fast and await orders. The assembly trenches were very shallow and afforded no cover. A wireless message (a station had been established in the morning at Battn Hqrs but it could not receive messages) was sent to Brigade about 8.10pm informing the staff that it was impossible to carry out the attack.
The Brigade Commander came up to the trenches and ordered the 1st KRRC to relieve the Battn and carry out the attack at 1.30am but this order was cancelled and it was finally decided that no attack would take place that night. On relief the Battn moved over to relieve the 22nd RF.

24/5/1916 – France, BERTHONVAL SECTOR
On taking over from the 22nd RF, Battn was ordered to commence work on a new line about 250 yards in front of the TALUS des ZOUAVES which at that time only consisted of shallow trenches. Work was commenced at once and considerable progress made. On the whole the day was quiet and with the exception of occasional shelling of the communication trenches the enemy showed no activity.

In the sector to the south, Major Richard Johnston of 7th Brigade (25th Division) testified to the scale of the German bombardment on the 23rd May [7]:

May 23rd. Went up to the left sector to get the exact situation and make arrangements for the evening attack. The poor old Regiment (3rd Worcestershires) has had a bad shelling in places, and one trench was full of bodies, and 5 more men were knocked out close to me by a minenwerfer. In the afternoon was busy getting orders out, and went across to Cabaret Rouge to arrange details with the Brigade on our left who are making the big attack. From about 4.30 om onwards there was a tremendous bombardment but I am afraid the Germans were expecting the attack, as they put down an almost impregnable barrage, chiefly on the Zouave Valley on our left. The Regiment started their attack sharp at 8.25 pm and captured the trench all right, but as the Brigade on the left was unable to start on time owing to the enemy’s artillery fire, their left was right in the air, particularly as we were a lot in front of the other Brigade at the start. Result was that they had a bad time from machine guns on their left, and in the end had to be content with holding on to the southern portion of the trench only.

The death of Lance-Corporal Harry Van Tromp was recorded in the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser of the 7th June 1916 [8]:

“Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori.”
OUR LOCAL ROLL OF HONOUR.

KILLED IN ACTION.
LANCE-CORPORAL HARRY VAN TRUMP.
OFFICERS’ TRIBUTES TO A GALLANT SOLDIER.
Both in Taunton and Bridgwater the news has been received with deep regret of the loss of a gallant young somerset soldier in the person of Lance Corporal Harry Van Trump, of the 22nd Royal Fusiliers, who was killed in action on the 23rd May. The first intimation was received by Alderman and Mrs. Van Trump at Taunton in a letter from the Captain of the deceased’s Company, who wrote on May 26th as follows: —
“Dear Sir, — I am deeply sorry to have to tell you that your son, Lance-Corpl. H. Van Trump, of this battalion, was killed in action on the 23rd May. As a soldier he did his part splendidly in upholding the high standard of the battalion. All of us who knew him sincerely deplore his loss. and condole with you deeply in your sad bereavement. But in spite of our sorrow we have a source of pride and lasting happiness in knowing that he died doing his duty as a brave soldier and serving the cause of his King and country. — Yours sincerely GERALD W. DAMAN, Captain 22nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers.”
On Friday Alderman Van Trump received the following letter from the Commanding Officer of the battalion: —
“Dear Sir, — I am very sorry to have to announce to you the death of your son. He was killed in action on the Vimy Ridge on the night of the 23rd. He was a most gallant fellow, and liked by everyone, so we shell all miss him immensely. His company actually captured the German trenches. I personally knew him very well and so feel his loss more than anyone else. He was killed instantaneously, which is a great comfort. I cannot really speak enough of his coolness and gallantry. To you the loss is irreparable, and I can do nothing in any way [to] lessen your sorrow. We soldiers all have to go through with it, and its the example of heroes like your son that make us long to follow their example in the same cool, gallant manner. You have my deepest sympathy. — Yours Truly, R. BARNETT BAKER [i.e., Randle Barnett Barker], Lieut.-Colonel, Commanding 22nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers.”
Lance-Corporal Van Trump was the eldest son of Alderman and Mrs. H. J. Van Trump of The Elms, Taunton, his father being the head of the well-known firm of collar and shirt-blouse manufacturers, the Tone Vale Manufacturing Company, of Taunton and Bridgwater. He was 34 years of age, and was educated at Huish School under Mr. C. R. Humphrey, and at Queen’s College [Taunton] under Mr. Bramley and Mr. A. S. Haslam. On leaving school he joined his father’s business, and took an active part in it until the outbreak of war, being one of the directors of the Company. He was a member of St. Mary’s Church, Taunton, and for several years acted as one of the ringers. Keen on all kinds of outdoor sport, he played football for the Bridgwater Albion Club, in which he took a warm interest. He was also a member of the Cannington Park Golf Club and a keen motor-cyclist.
In September, 1914, he enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers, and preferred the lot of an ordinary soldier to obtaining a commission, which he might easily have done. Whilst undergoing a year’s training with the Fusiliers, he acted as a motor despatch rider, and on nine occasions carried carried despatches from the War Office to the Western Front. When the battalion was ordered on active service he gave up despatch riding to take his place with his comrades in the trenches, and for the past six months his Regiment has been engaged in trench warfare. During this period he had some very exciting experiences. Just before Christmas, one day when his Company was coming out the trenches, he had to cross a road which was being shelled by the enemy. A shell burst among his platoon, killing one man and severely injuring several others, himself among the number. Although wounded he insisted on helping to bring under cover seven of his comrades, and for this gallant deed was given his lance-corporal’s stripe on the field.
Only about ten days before his death he was home on leave with his parents at Taunton — from the 13th to the 19th May — and on the Sunday attended St. Mary’s Church, while on the Tuesday (May 16th) he visited Bridgwater and spent some hours at the factory. He was in the best of health and spirits, and was warmly welcomed by the employees of the firm, among whom he was a great favourite, owing to his genial and kindly disposition.
The great European conflict was not the late Lance.-Corpl. Van Trump’s first experience of active service, as he went through the South African War with the West Somerset Imperial Yeomanry, in which he served as a trooper for two and a half years, and saw a good deal of fighting against the Boers, holding both the South African medals. Of an adventurous spirit, he took the keenest interest in flying, when transit in the air came into vogue, and he was the hero of a most exciting exploit with Salmet, the famous french aviator, with whom, in May, 1914, he took a flight over the Bristol Channel from Minehead to Weston-super-Mare, and had a narrow escape from drowning, being rescued with his companion from the sea off Watchet, when the machine, owing to an accident, had fallen into the water.
One of the late Lance-Corporal Van Trump’s sisters is Mrs. Humphrey, wife of Mr. H. I. Humphrey, of the West of England Cabinet & Perambulator Company, of Bridgwater. The sincere sympathy of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances in Taunton and Bridgwater has been extended to Mr. and Mrs. Van Trump in their heavy bereavement.

Some more reaction in the town was published on the following page of the Taunton Courier [9]:

THE LATE LANCE-CORPORAL HARRY VAN TRUMP. At the St. Mary’s men’s service on Sunday afternoon, the Vicar (Canon Corfield) made sympathetic reference to the loss sustained by one of their churchwardens in the loss of his gallant son, who fell in the service of his country.

It is possible to infer from the Taunton Courier obituary that Lance Corporal Van Tromp was part of ‘B’ Company of the 22nd Royal Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Harry Van Tromp is buried in Zouave Valley Cemetery, Souchez, France (Pas-de-Calais). The cemetery contains the graves of ten other ranks from the 22nd Royal Fusiliers that died on the 24th May 1916. L/Cpl Van Tromp has a special memorial (Sp. Mem. 8.), which indicates that, while he is known to be buried in the cemetery, the exact spot is now unknown.

Bellringers' memorial plaque, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset)

Bellringers’ memorial plaque, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset)

The name of Lance-Corporal Van Trump also appears on the main Taunton war memorial in Vivary Park, as well as on the memorials in the churches of St Mary Magdalene and St James. In St Mary’s, L/Cpl Van Trump has a brass memorial plaque on the wall of the south aisle and is also named on the bellringers’ memorial tablet in the west tower. This tablet mentions the Treble bell that Harry’s father donated in 1922 in memory of the four Taunton bellringers that died during the war. During 2017, when the peal of twelve at St Mary’s was replaced by a completely new ring of bells, the memorial bell was removed from the tower and hung in a special frame in the south aisle of the church. L/Cpl Van Trump’s name probably also appears on the war memorial at Queen’s College, Taunton, although I have not been able to confirm this personally.

Taunton: Memorial bell for members of the St. Mary's Guild of Ringers, cast 1922 (Somerset)

Taunton: Memorial bell for members of the St. Mary’s Guild of Ringers, cast 1922 (Somerset)

A report from the dedication service for the new ring of twelve was published in the Western Daily Press of the 23rd October 1922 [10]:

BELLS OF ST MARY’S.
DEDICATION OF SOMERSET’S ONLY PEAL OF TWELVE.
Re-opened on Saturday afternoon with the dedication of two new bells, the famed West Country peal of St. Mary’s, Taunton, has now the distinction of being the only “ring” of twelve bells in the Bath and Wells Diocese. The dedication ceremony was performed at a largely-attended service by the Rev. Claud Parker, Master of the Diocesan Association of Change Ringers, and ringers were present from many Somerset towers, and from Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter and Cornwall. Following the service, a grand peal on the twelve bells was rung by members of the Bristol and Gloucester Ringers’ Association.
The bells of St. Mary’s have just been re-hung in a new frame on the latest improved system, and the clock chiming apparatus has also been completely renovated. One of the old chiming bells has been recast for addition to the peal, and the other new bell has been given by an ex-Mayor and Freeman of Taunton, Councillor H. J. Van Trump, in memory of his son, Harry Van Trump, and three other ringers of St. Mary’s who were killed in the war. The work of re-hanging, etc., has been carried out by the oldest firm in the Kingdom, Messrs. Mears and Stainbank, whose records date back to 1570, and the cost amounts to close upon £1,300, about 1,000 having already been subscribed.

The other Taunton bellringers commemorated on the memorial bell are:

Harry Van Trump:

Henry (Harry) Van Trump was born at Taunton in the third quarter of 1881, the fourth child of Henry Joseph Van Trump and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Van Trump (née Stone). Henry first featured in the 1891 Census, living at 59-60, East Street, Taunton (St Mary) with his parents, five siblings, and three others. At the age of nine, Henry was the eldest son, his siblings at the time of the census including: Lizzie M. (aged 18), Elsie (13), Gertrude (12), Bertie W. (6), and Alice (30).

During the South African War, Harry served with the 25th (West Somerset) Company of the 7th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry (Service number: 21539). He, therefore, does not feature in the 1901 Census, when most of the rest of the family were still living at 59, East Street, Taunton. Henry Joseph Van Trump was 55 years old and working as a linen collar and clothing manufacturer. While Elizabeth was away at the time of the census (she was living with the family of her eldest daughter (Harry and Lizzie Humphrey) at Bedford House, Monmouth Street, Bridgwater), the household at 59, East Street included four of Henry Joseph and Lizzie’s children: Elsie (aged 23), Gertrude (22), Bertie (16), and Alice. The household also included Henry Joseph’s niece, Winifred Trace (aged 17, a draper’s apprentice) and a domestic cook (Flora Jennings).

At the time of the 1911 Census, Harry Van Tromp was back in Somerset, living with his family at “The Elms,” Taunton. Harry was now 29 years old and working — like his father — as a collar manufacturer. In fact, Harry was helping to manage his father’s business, the Tone Vale Manufacturing Company, which at that time had factories at both Taunton and Bridgwater. “The Elms” in 1911 was quite a large household. Both of Harry’s parents, Henry Joseph and Elizabeth Van Trump, were 66 years old. Also resident were three of Harry’s adult sisters: Elsie (now aged 33), Gertrude (32) and Alice (23). Also at “The Elms” were two of Harry’s nieces (Joyce Margery and Christina Mary Humprey), a visitor (Devonia Stone, the younger sister of Harry’s mother), and a servant (Bessy Grigg).

A few months before the outbreak of the war, Harry Van Tromp was involved in a flying accident in the Bristol Channel. The report of the incident published in the Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser of the 6th May 1914 shows just how dangerous flying could be at the time [11]:

TAUNTONIAN’S ADVENTURES IN A WATERPLANE.
THRILLING EXPERIENCE NEAR WATCHET.
3,000 FEET PLUNGE INTO THE SEA.
RESCUED THREE MILES FROM LAND.
Mr. Henry Van Trump, eldest son of Alderman and Mrs. H. J. Van Trump, of Taunton, had a thrilling and nerve-trying experience in a waterplane on Monday [the 4th May 1914]– an experience which will live in his memory to the end of his days. In the course of an interview yesterday with Alderman H. J. Van Trump, we learnt that Mr. Henry Van Trump went to Minehead on Saturday with the set intention of having a flight with M. Salmet [Henri Salmet], the well-known aviator, who is touring the coast with a waterplane [probably a Blériot XI-2, fitted with floats], but something went wrong with one of the stays in the machine, and the Tauntonian was much disappointed at having to return home without the experience of a flight. However, he made an appointment with the aviator for Monday morning. This flight was entirely successful, and Mr. H. Van Trump said “It was a splendid ride.” For some distance the Tauntonian travelled at the rate of 100 miles an hour, and most thoroughly enjoyed the trip. So enamoured was he with flying that he asked M. Salmet if he would take him in the plane from Minehead to Weston that same day. This was agreed, and it was also decided to make the journey via Bridgwater and Burnham, so that the people might view the machine. Alderman J. Van Trump has considerable factories at Bridgwater, it should be added. In the afternoon, M. Salmet and his passenger started from Minehead quite all right, but when off Watchet, and at an altitude of 3,000 feet, the engine got out of order and stopped, with the result that the waterplane plunged down into the sea about a mile out from the harbour. The outward tide was strong and the wind was very rough; and these two factors caused the machine, which had alighted on the water in a fairly comfortable position, to drift rapidly out to sea. The oil tanks kept the plane afloat, and both passengers remained strapped in to their seats. Owing to the roughness of the sea they were drenched by every wave. Their plight was indeed perilous, as the machine would only float for a certain period, roughly. Meanwhile, a Watchet resident, Doctor Graham, had been following the flight by the aid of his binoculars. He noticed that the propeller stopped, and that apparently something serious as the matter, as the plane suddenly commenced to fall very rapidly. The doctor at once called to a number of boatmen to go out to the assistance of the aviator, and a boat was quickly manned by six men, who rowed hard in the direction of the waterplane. M. Salmet and his passenger found their plight getting more and more serious and hopeless as the plane was gradually getting lower in the ware, and the sea was awfully rough. In fact the waves were so boisterous that the two men never saw the approaching boat until it was quite close. When they had been washed nearly three miles out from land M. Salmet realised that the plane was about to sink, or would soon be sinking, and he told his passenger to unbuckle himself from his seat, as they were practically going under. Then the boat arrived just in the nick of time and effected a rescue after the plane had been in the water well over half an hour. It seemed a miraculous escape from drowning for both aviator and passenger, and for the latter the experience was the experience of his life, and must have been exceedingly nerve trying to the strongest nerved person. Both M. Salmet and Mr. H. Van Trump were safely landed at Watchet, and after a change of clothes the former proceeded to Weston, and the Tauntonian returned home. Alderman H. J. Van Trump also informed us that his own son Henry did not seem at all upset after his experiences, but was still full of his newly acquired love for flying. Mr. Henry Van Trump left Taunton as usual by the 8 a.m. train on Tuesday morning for Bridgwater to attend to that section of his father’s businesss which falls under his charge. On arrival at his offices at Bridgwater he found awaiting him a “Daily Mail” certificate for the successful flight he made with M. Salmet on the previous day – referring, of course, to the Monday morning flight. The waterplane, which is being toured by M. Salmet for the Daily Mail, was subsequently secured by a Norwegian steamer passing through the bay, but as  the boat will not be able to come into the harbour until Wednesday or Thursday the condition of the machine could not be ascertained, nor could it be discovered what actually caused the fall into the sea. Alderman H. J. Van Trump and his family have received many hearty congratulations from their very numerous friends on their son’s lucky escape.

Harry’s service records (part of WO 363, First World War Service Records ‘Burnt Documents;’ available via Findmypast) show that he re-enlisted at Shepherds Bush (London) on the 14th September 1914, when he was aged 30. He was immediately posted to the 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers as 256 Private Harry Van Tromp. Curiously, Harry’s attestation form (B.248) states that he had been born at Pretoria, South Africa, which is very difficult to square with the other information available from census and BMD records, etc. We know (from his B.248 form) that Harry enlisted under the Dutch form of his surname and he had also obviously spent some time in South Africa, but his claim to have been born there is puzzling (his name also appears in the South Africa Roll of Honour, 1914-1918). It is possible that the initial connection between the 22nd Royal Fusiliers and King Edward’s Horse (which had strong links with the colonies) may provide some kind of explanation, but it is still puzzling.

Taunton: Memorial for Harry Van Tromp in the Church of St Mary Magdalene (Somerset)

Taunton: Memorial for Harry Van Tromp in the Church of St Mary Magdalene (Somerset)

Private Van Tromp embarked for France with his battalion on the 16th November 1915. He was admitted to a dressing station with a foot problem (a sprain?) the following month, being discharged on the 23rd December. He was appointed (an unpaid) Lance Corporal on the 28th January 1916, in the field.

Taunton: War Memorial (Somerset)

Taunton: War Memorial (Somerset)

Bellringing at St Mary’s, Taunton:

It seems that both Harry and his brother Bertie (Bert) learnt to ring when they were in their late teenage years.

The St Mary’s Guild at Taunton seems to have been reasonably active at the turn of the twentieth century. Harry Van Tromp was one of five Taunton bellringers that joined the Ancient Society of College Youths (ASCY) in 1900 [12]. The proximate cause of their joining the College Youths seems to have been a peal of Grandsire Caters rung at St. Mary’s, Taunton on the 31st December 1900, one of the very final peals to have been rung in the nineteenth-century [13, 14].

The Bell News and Ringers' Record, 5th January 1901, p. 430.

The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 5th January 1901, p. 430.

Harry himself did not ring in the peal, but the band included Harry’s brother, Bertie W. Van Tromp, who had joined the College Youths at the same time as his brother. The band also included Joseph Fowler, the then sexton of St Mary’s, who was the father of another Taunton bellringer who would be killed-in-action during the First World War (Colour Sergeant William Albert Fowler of the Royal Marine Light Infantry died near Grandcourt on the 5th February 1917, while serving with the 2nd Royal Marine Battalion in the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division).

Apart from Harry and Bertie, the other Taunton ringers that joined the College Youths at the end of 1900 were: Ernest A. W. Poole, William White, and Charles Summers. Three of the five would ring in the December 1900 peal. The other ringers in the peal — James Burge, William Eveleigh, Joseph Fowler, James Routley, Frank Sadd, and Edward Wyatt — had all joined the ASCY in 1898 (a College Youths peal of Grandsire Triples had been rung at St. Mary’s, Taunton on the 12th December 1899 [15]).

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 16th December 1899, p. 356.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 16th December 1899, p. 356.

The validity of the December 1900 peal was later challenged by a person using the nom-de-plume “Scientific.” This generated some initial correspondence in the Taunton Gazette and then in the change-ringers’ weekly, the Bell News and Ringers’ Record. The grounds for the complaint were rather technical — at least from a non-change-ringing perspective — but it placed doubt on whether the peal had been rung fully in accord with the claimed composition by John Reeves [16].

The Bell News and Ringers' Record, 9th February 1901, p. 482.

The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 9th February 1901, p. 482.

The Bell News itself weighed in with an opinion a few weeks later. While the newspaper remained concerned about the performance, it argued that the anonymity of the accuser/s justified the conductor’s refusal to engage with the complaint [17]:

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 16th March 1901, p. 546.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 16th March 1901, p. 546.

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 16th March 1901, p. 547.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 16th March 1901, p. 547.

This prompted a longer article on the subject of anonymity by (ironically) an anonymous contributor calling themselves “Jingle” [18]. The salient points of this were mostly the same as the Bell News editorial, but “Jingle” also thought that the local paper was not “the proper medium for one ringer to show up another.” In addition, “Jingle” found inconsistencies between the account of the end of the peal by “Scientific” and the composition by John Reeves, also noting a reply published in the Taunton Gazette expressing the opinion that “Scientific” seemed to know very little about change-ringing (“scientific bell-ringing”).

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 23rd March 1901, p. 555.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 23rd March 1901, p. 555.

“Scientific” had apparently threatened to raise the issue at the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers. “Jingle” argued that, in order to achieve anything in that forum, “Scientific” would have to reveal their true identity:

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 23rd March 1901, p. 555.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 23rd March 1901, p. 555.

The Bell News then declared the correspondence closed. It did, however, print one more letter the following week. This was a letter from a T. Doble of Taunton denying accusations that he had some kind of link with “Scientific” [19]. Whatever the facts of the matter, the controversy suggests that there might have been tensions in Taunton bellringing at the turn of the twentieth century.

The evidence of the Bell News suggests that Bertie was probably a more advanced change ringer than his older brother. H. Van Tromp rung the Treble bell to his first 500 of Grandsire Triples on the 20th May 1900 [20]:

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 7th July 1900, p. 119.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 7th July 1900, p. 119.

As we can see from the reports in Bell News, by the time that Harry had rung his 500 of Triples, Bertie was already ringing quarter peals of Grandsire Caters on an inside bell. Indeed, Bertie had rung his first peal (5,040 Grandsire Triples) in Birmingham for the Midland Counties’ Association in August 1899, when he was aged 15 [21]:

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 26th August 1899, p. 163.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 26th August 1899, p. 163.

At the time Harry and Bertie were ringing at St Mary’s, their father was one of the churchwardens. Either Harry or Bertie (Herbert?) was elected steward of the St Mary’s Guild in 1900 [22].

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 27th January 1900, p. 423.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 27th January 1900, p. 423.

This seems to have been the “high-water mark” of both Harry and Bertie’s involvement in bellringing at St. Mary’s . Neither feature that much in the Bell News after 1901. The reason for this in Harry’s case was that he was was most likely already serving with the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa.

Bertie Van Trump:

Harry’s brother, Bertie William Van Trump, was born at Taunton on the 18th June 1884. He was baptised at St Mary’s, Taunton on the 17th January 1888. At the time of the 1891 and 1901 Censuses, he was living at the family home in Taunton (East Street). Like Harry, at some point Bertie started working for the Tone Vale Manufacturing Company, although he seems to have been based at their factory in Bridgwater.

Bertie is occasionally mentioned in newspaper reports from the Military Service Tribunals that considered applications for exemption from conscription. For example, the Taunton Courier of the 11th July 1917 contains a detailed report from one of the tribunals [23]:

The military appealed against the decision of the Bridgwater tribunal, in exempting on June 22nd for four months Bertie William Van Trump (32), married, Class A, a member of the Tone Vale Manufacturing Company, engaged at the Bridgwater factory. The four months’ exemption, which was given in substitution for conditional exemption on  military review application, was granted having regard to the statement that the firm employed 400 to 500 girls and women, and that the services of Mr. Van Trump were essential to the carrying on of the factory. The appeal of the military representative was that the temporary exemption allowed should be made final. – Mr. H. J. Van Trump (Mayor of Taunton) appeared to answer the appeal, and informed the tribunal that the firm had lost 54 of their men, who had joined up, and they had trained a number of women to do collar cutting. This was an entirely new trade for women, and he believed theirs was the only firm who had put women on such work. They had now in hand an order for 40,000 dozen collars, which were going to the Colonies. They kept stocks in London, Manchester, and Glasgow. They now employed over 600 women and girls at Bridgwater and Taunton. Mr. Van Trump also incidentally mentioned that his eldest son was killed in action at the Front last year. – Military appeal dismissed.

Bertie William Van Trump would eventually enlist in the Royal Navy on the 30th January 1918 [24]. He was initially based at the accounting centre HMS President II, before being transferred to HMS President V Stratford in April 1918, reaching the rank of (Air) Mechanic First Class with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The mention of Stratford presumably means the RN Experimental Station at Stratford, in East London. Mechanic First Class Van Trump was demobilised in January 1919.

He was back in Taunton for the Tone Vale Manufacturing Company’s peace celebrations in December 1918, a detailed report from which appeared in the Taunton Courier [25]:

TONE VALE MANUFACTURING COMPANY.
EMPLOYEES’ PEACE CELEBRATION.
TAUNTON’S MAYOR AND FACTORY STAFF.
The staff of the Tone Vale Manufacturing Company’s Taunton factory celebrated the coming of peace on Friday, the 13th inst., in a most happy and enjoyable manner, thanks to the generosity of the firm, of which the Mayor (Alderman H. J. Van Trump) is the senior member. His Worship desired the employees at Taunton to have a celebration similar to that of the Bridgwater staff a week or two ago, and with the hearty co-operation of Miss Van Trump and a Committee of heads of departments an entertainment on generous lines was arranged, beginning at three in the afternoon, and winding up at two a.m. Saturday. The big first floor work-room was quite transformed by effective decoration, and its festive appearance was most pleasing, as well as being highly creditable to those responsible for this work. Another gratifying feature was the fact that a party of wounded soldiers from the Depot Military Hospital had been invited to spend the afternoon and early part of the evening with the staff. Their presence, needless to say, was extremely welcome, and the entertainment given to them was of the best. The Mayor, Miss Van Trump, and First-Class Air Mechanic Bert Van Trump were present throughout the afternoon and evening, and in a genial, kindly manner took an active part in the proceedings.

There followed a full listing of songs and performers, also a description of the unveiling of a patriotic tableau.

At the supper interval the Mayor congratulated the staff upon the splendid decoration of the room and the capital programme they had got together for their entertainment. He thanked Mr. Coyle and other friends who were not members of the staff for the help they were giving towards making the evening a success, and was glad also to have the wounded soldiers with them. That happy gathering was the result of a promise made nearly two years ago that they would have some such celebration as soon as the fighting was over, and it was now suggested that they should have a similar festivity when peace was signed. That gathering gave some indication of the amicable way in which they worked together in that factory, and it was gratifying to him to know that they were generally able to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion whenever any difficulty arose. He had always found it best to have any difficulty discussed frankly and fairly, and with regard to the every day working, he would like to thank the four or five forewomen for the efficient manner in which they discharged their duties. Some of the staff had been there since the business was started in Taunton, and he hoped they would long continue in their employ. (Applause.)

Mr. P. Pursey, of Bridgwater, thanked Mr. Van Trump, on behalf of the Taunton staff, for his kindness in regard to that entertainment, and expressed the hope that he would be spared for many more years to be closely identified with the business. As a visitor from Bridgwater, he found it difficult to say which was the best decorated room on comparing that with the decorations at the Bridgwater factory. They at Taunton certainly deserved equal praise. It was also a great pleasure to see the soldiers from the Depot Hospital having a jolly time with them, and he thanked them for what they had done for him and those dear to him. (Applause.) They must not forget the poor lads who had suffered as prisoners of war in Germany, one of whom they were proud to have amongst them that evening. (Applause.)
Corpl. Farrow returned thanks on behalf of the lads of the Military Hospital, and assured the Mayor and all present that they had thoroughly enjoyed the treat of being there.
After supper the soldiers returned to barracks, and the programme of songs and dances was resumed. The health of the Mayor and his son was subsequently proposed by Mr. C. Smith, and was drunk with musical honours. – After His Worship and Mr. Bert Van Trump had replied, a hearty vote of thanks was accorded Mr. Smith, on the proposition of Miss M. Mockridge, for all the valuable assistance he had given in carrying out the celebration.

There followed a list of musical accompanists, the event committee, and those who had prepared the refreshments.

In the morning, before the entertainment commenced, a photograph of the decorated room was taken, with the Mayor, Mr. Bert Van Trump, and Miss Van Trump in the foreground. A very good picture was obtained, all the decorations showing up well, including the large scroll at the end framed in evergreens, “God Bless our Boys.”

BMD records suggest that Bertie W. Van Trump married Edith M. Copp at Colchester in 1971. He died at Weston-super-Mare (registration district) in 1974, aged 89, and was buried at Taunton on the 25th March.

Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset)

Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset)

Henry Joseph Van Trump:

Harry Van Tromp’s father, Henry Joseph Van Trump, was born at North Petherton, near Bridgwater (Somerset) in 1846, the son of William and Elizabeth Van Trump (although, as ever, the spellings vary in BMD and census records). Henry Joseph Van Trump was baptised at Durston (Somerset) on the 13th February 1846 (Somerset Archives, D/P Durn 2/1/2; via Findmypast). There was more than one William Trump / Van Trump living in the North Petherton area in the mid-nineteenth-century, but at the time of the 1851 Census, Henry Joseph’s family was probably the one resident  at North Moor (Northmoor Green or Moorland), in the parish of North Petherton (the dates and places of birth fit). Oddly enough, that particular census return only contains initials for most people’s given names, but it does record the household of William Trump, a thirty-nine-year-old farmer of 80 acres (born at Durston), and his forty-year old wife Elizabeth (born at Creech St Michael). They had seven children– four sons: W. (aged 16), H. (6), and J., and four daughters: E. (15), Emily E. (12), S. (14), and A. (10) — who had all been born at either Bridgwater or North Petherton.

At the time of the 1861 Census, “Henry V. Trump” was sixteen years old and living with his parents at Woodbine Cottage, Higher Durston, near Taunton. His father, “William V. Trump,” was now fifty-seven years old and described as a landed proprietor; Elizabeth Trump was fifty-two years old.

Henry Joseph Van Trump married Elizabeth Stone at St Paul’s Church, Honiton (Devon) on the 12th August 1869. The entry in the marriage register (South West Heritage Trust 1639A/PR/1/26, available via Findmypast) states that Henry Joseph was 23 years old, resident at St James’s, Taunton, and was working as an outfitter. Elizabeth was 24 years old and resident at Honiton. The “rank or profession” of their respective fathers was given as farmer (William Trump) and tailor (John Stone).

Elizabeth Stone had been born at Honiton in the third quarter of 1844, the daughter of John Stone and Susan Stone (née Humphry). At the time of the 1851 Census, the family were living at New Street, Honiton. At that time, John Stone was 39 years old and working as a tailor (employing four men and boys), while Susan Stone was 27 and a tailor’s wife. At the age of six, Elizabeth was the eldest of their three children; the two younger sisters were: Devonia (aged 4) and Susan (2 months). I could not find Elizabeth at all in the 1861 Census, but the Stone family were still living at New Street, Honiton. John Stone was still a tailor (employing three men and a boy). Devonia (aged 14) and Susan (10) were still living with the family, but had also been joined by Louisa (7), Alice (5), and the infant John H.

Taunton Courier, 7th April 1880, p. 4; via British Newspaper Archive

Taunton Courier, 7th April 1880, p. 4; via British Newspaper Archive

After their marriage, the 1871 Census found Henry J. and Elizabeth Van Trump living at Taunton (59, East Street). Both were twenty-five years old and Henry was working as a pawnbroker. Also living with the couple  was the ten-year-old John H. Stone, Elizabeth’s younger brother. The family were still living at the same address at the time of the 1881 Census, and Henry was still working as a pawnbroker (advertisements published in the Taunton Courier in the 1880s, however, show that Van Trump was already operating as a clothier). In 1881, both Henry and Lizzie Van Trump were thirty-six years old and had three children: Lizzie May (aged 8), Elsie (3), and Gertrude (2). Also living with the family was a servant, the thirty-year-old Louisa Wood. At the time of the 1891 Census, the family were still living at East Street (now recorded at no. 60) and Henry was still working as a pawnbroker. Henry and Lizzie by that time had six children, now including: Henry (aged 9), Bertie (6), and Alice (3).

Chard and Ilminster News, 24th December 1887, p. 4; via British Newspaper Archive

Chard and Ilminster News, 24th December 1887, p. 4; via British Newspaper Archive

The family were still living at East Street, Taunton (Nos. 59 and 60) at the time of the 1901 Census. Henry J. Van Trump was now fifty-five years old and was as a linen, cotton and clothing manufacturer (and an employer). The household also included four children — Elsie (aged 23), Gertrude (22), Bertie W. (16) and Alice (13) — a niece (Winifred A. Trace, a seventeen-year-old draper’s apprentice), and a domestic servant (Flora A. Jennings, a twenty-four year old cook). At the time of that census, Elizabeth Van Trump was resident at Bridgwater (Bedford House), living with the family of her eldest daughter: Harry and Lizzie M. Humphrey, who had two young daughters.

Taunton: Former Shirt and Collar Factory, built for the Tone Vale Manufacturing Company (Somerset)

Taunton: Former Shirt and Collar Factory, built ca. 1890s for the Tone Vale Manufacturing Company (Somerset)

At some point, probably in the 1880s or 1890s, Henry Joseph Van Trump established the Tone Vale Manufacturing Company, which made shirt collars. The company built factories in both Bridgwater (ca. 1897) and in Taunton [26]. The Bridgwater factory was taken over by Van Heusen in the 1950s, but was closed in 1990 and has since been demolished. The Taunton factory on St Augustine Street still exists, but is currently not in use. The Tone Vale Manufacturing Co. was initially a family-run business, and at least three of Henry Joseph Van Trump’s children worked there, Harry and Bertie as managers, Elsie as a clerk.

By the time of the 1911 Census, Henry Joseph and Elizabeth Van Trump had moved to The Elms, Taunton. Henry Joseph was by that time sixty-six-years old and working as a collar manufacturer (and employer). Of their children, Elsie was thirty-three and working as a clerk in a collar factory, Gertrude was thirty-two, Henry (Harry) was twenty-nine and was (like his father) a collar manufacturer (and employer), while Alice was twenty-three. The census return states that Henry and Elizabeth had had seven children, of whom one had died. Also living with the family were two granddaughters — Joyce Margery and Christian Mary Humphrey (respectively aged 6 and 4) — a visitor (Elizabeth’s sister Devonia Stone, now aged sixty-four), and a domestic servant (Bessy Grigg, aged 22).

Elizabeth Van Trump died in March 1922, aged 77, and the first part of her funeral service was held at St Mary’s Church, Taunton, where the newspaper report [27] noted that she “had worshipped with her husband for more than half-a-century, whilst her children had here been taught the faith, and she and her husband had laboured for the good of the parish and the town in general.” 

Henry Joseph Van Trump would marry again shortly afterwards. He married Nellie B. Mockridge at Taunton in the third quarter of 1922.

Henry Joseph Van Trump died in November 1925, aged 79, the first part of his funeral service again being held at St. Mary’s, Taunton [28]:

A large crowd assembled in the vicinity of the church and the Parade to see the funeral procession, while hundreds proceeded to the cemetery to be present at the interment. The church service was choral, the full choir being in attendance, with Mr. Reginald Ward at the organ. The ringers were also present under the leadership of Mr. S. Wyatt, and subsequently rang a muffled peal. It was only fitting that Mr. Van Trump should have thus been honoured in death at the church which he and members of his family had loved and faithfully served. He is well remembered as a former churchwarden and as a generous supporter of parish funds. A benefaction of recent years was the gift of a bell to St. Mary’s peal in memory of his son, Mr. Harry Van Trump, and other old ringers who fell in the war.

Amongst his mourners were his widow, his surviving children — Mr Bertie Van Trump, Mrs Lizzie May Humphrey, Miss Elsie Van Trump, Miss Gertrude Van Trump, and Mrs Alice Urch – and his son-in-laws: Mr. H. J. Humphrey and the Rev. H. S. Urch (the vicar of Street).

The Taunton Courier also contained a tribute from Mr Van Trump’s fellow magistrates:

“UNIQUE RECORD OF SERVICE.”
MAGISTERIAL TRUBUTE TO MR. H. J. VAN TRUMP, ONE OF THE OLDEST JUSTICES.Before the commencement of the business at the Taunton Borough Police-court on Wednesday morning, the Mayor (Councillor J. C. Lane), on behalf of the Bench, expressed the deep regret they felt at the death of the late Mr. H. J. Van Trump, who had been a magistrate ever since the town was granted a separate Commission of the Peace, and was consequently one of the oldest justices of the town. It was also well known that he was on four occasions Mayor of the borough. The Magistrates’ Clerk, Mr. H. T. Kite, associated himself with the expression of regret.
Mr. F. W. Pritchett-Brown, the Deputy-Mayor, speaking in support, said that the length of service put in by the late Mr. Van Trump was unique. In addition to being a magistrate and four times Mayor of the town, h was also one of the very few Freemen of Taunton. His kindness and consideration for all those who came before him as a Justice of the Peace were very notable and the probity of his judgement was outstanding. Continuing, Mr. Pritchett-Brown recalled the extreme kindness he himself received from the deceased gentleman when he was called upon, during his mayoral year, to occupy the magisterial chair.

Henry Joseph’s widow, Nellie B. Van Trump (née Mockridge) died at Taunton in 1954.

References:

[1] The Long, Long Trail, Royal Fusiliers (City of London) Regiment:
https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/royal-fusiliers-city-of-london-regiment/

[2] H. C. O’Neill, The Royal Fusiliers in the Great War (London: William Heinemann, 1922), p. 17:
https://archive.org/details/royalfusiliersin00onei/page/16

[3] Nigel Cave, Battleground Europe: Arras: Vimy Ridge (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 1996), p. 54.

[4] Ibid., p. 56, 58.

[5] WO 95/1372/2, 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[6] WO 95/1371/1, 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment War Diary; in: The Royal Berkshire Regiment in the First World War: 1st Battalion (Salisbury: The Rifles Wardrobe and Museum Trust, 2011), pp. 141-142.

[7] Alexander C. Johnston, “My Diary at the War,” cited in: Cave, op cit., pp. 84-85.

[8] Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, 7th June 1916, p. 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

[9] Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, 7th June 1916, p. 4; via British Newspaper Archive.

[10] Western Daily Press, 23rd October 1922, p. 5; also Shepton Mallet Journal, 27th October 1922, p. 2; via British Newspaper Archive.

[11] Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, 6th May 1914, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[12] Ancient Society of College Youths, List of members, 1900-1924: http://ascy.org.uk/mem1900-1924.htm

[13] Ancient Society of College Youths, ASCY 1900 peals: http://www.ascy.allton.org.uk/ascypeals_1900.html

[14] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 5th January 1901, p. 430:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/bn19_01.pdf

[15] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 16th December 1899, p. 356:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/bn18_99.pdf

[16] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 9th February 1901, p. 482:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/bn19_01.pdf

[17] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 16th March 1901, p. 546-547:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/bn19_01.pdf

[18] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 23rd March 1901, p. 555:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/bn19_01.pdf

[19] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 30th March 1901, p. 567:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/bn19_01.pdf

[20] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 7th July 1900, p. 119:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/bn19_00.pdf

[21] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 26th August 1899, p. 163:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/bn18_99.pdf

[22] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 27th January 1900, p. 423:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/bn18_00.pdf

[23] Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, 11th July 1917, p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

[24] ADM 188/640/48690, Admiralty: Royal Navy Registers of Seamen’s Services (RNAS), F48690 Bertie William Van Trump, The National Archives, Kew.

[25] Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, 18th December 1918, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[26] Historic England, Listing, Grade II: Former Shirt and Collar factory premises of Barnicotts Limited Printers, St Augustine Street, Taunton:
https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1391326

[27] Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, 15th March 1922, p. 4; via British Newspaper Archive.

[28] Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, 11th November 1925, p. 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | May 13, 2019

Private Arthur Charles Janes, 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers

Lympsham: Church of St Christopher (Somerset)

Lympsham: Church of St Christopher (Somerset)

Private Arthur Charles Janes of the 9th (Queen’s Royal) Lancers was killed in action on the 13th May 1915, aged 33. Private Janes was also a bellringer at East Brent (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers (BWDACR).

East Brent: Church of St Mary (Somerset)

East Brent: Church of St Mary (Somerset)

Throughout the First World War, the 9th Lancers were part of 2nd Cavalry Brigade in the 1st Cavalry Division. On the declaration of war, the regiment were based at Tidworth (Wiltshire). On the 15th August 1914, the regiment marched to Amesbury where they entrained for Southampton. On the following day, they sailed for Boulogne on HMT Welshman and HMT Armenian. Less than ten days later, on the 24th August, the 9th Lancers would be involved in an action at Audregnies, for which Captain Francis Octavius Grenfell would be awarded the Victoria Cross [1, 2]. The citation read [3]:

For gallantry in action against unbroken infantry at Andregnies, Belgium, on 24th August 1914, and for gallant conduct in assisting to save the guns of the 119th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, near Doubon the same day.

By October 1914, the 9th Lancers had moved north to the Ypres Salient. After November, the regiment would spend considerable amounts of time in billets at Méteren, but combined with short spells in the front lines around Ypres (Ieper). During the Second Battle of Ypres (22nd April – 25th May 1915), cavalry units would be pressed into action to defend the Salient, operating in dismounted form.

Sint-Jan: The Frezenberg Ridge from Oxford Road / Wieltjestraat (West-Vlaanderen)

Sint-Jan: The Frezenberg Ridge from Oxford Road / Wieltjestraat (West-Vlaanderen)

Private Janes was killed in action during the Battle of Frezenberg, an action of the Second Battle of Ypres. During this episode, the 1st Cavalry Division was one of several British Divisions (both cavalry and infantry) defending the Frezenberg Ridge, east of Ypres. The scene is set by the British Official History [4]:

The relief of the infantry of the 28th Division had been carried out without incident during the night of the 12th/13th, and the Cavalry Force was disposed from Bellewaarde Lake, to a point 600 yards south-east of Mouse Trap Farm, where the 4th Division took up the line.
The trenches taken over, having been dug in haste after the 28th Division was forced back, were poor, had no communication trenches, and practically no wire. Though every effort was made to improve the defences during the night there was little time, and unfortunately the engineers and infantry parties sent up to assist failed to find the rendezvous. The 3rd Cavalry Division was specially handicapped as its field squadron R.E. was absent working on Army back lines.
The heaviest bombardment, shrapnel and high-explosive, was directed on the 13th May on the front between Hooge and the Ypres — St. Julien road, a sector held by the 80th Brigade (27th Division) and the Cavalry Force, where shell fire and the rain, which fell without ceasing from early dawn until night, soon reduced the trenches to a quagmire. About 8 a.m. the enemy broke in on the front of the 7th Cavalry Brigade (right to left the Leicestershire Yeomanry, 2nd and 1st Life Guards, each about 800 strong), which, being exposed on a long gentle forward slope, was held very lightly. Having secured a footing in the line the enemy gradually bombed out the remaining defenders, who had no hand-grenades with which to reply, the two squadrons of the Leicestershire Yeomanry being driven southwards into the sector of the 6th Cavalry Brigade. The third squadron, however, in support trenches three hundred yards behind, by steady fire — although the rain and mud made the use of rifles very difficult — covered the gap and prevented any further advance by the enemy, who thereupon set about building up a firing line opposite it.
The 5th Dragoon Guards (1st Cavalry Brigade) in the centre of the 1st Cavalry Division front and a squadron of the 18th Hussars (2nd Cavalry Brigade) on the extreme left nearest the 4th Division, were also shelled out of their front line. In the 4th Division itself the front trenches of the 5/London (London Rifle Brigade) and the 1/East Lancashire were flattened out and had to be evacuated. But these gaps made in the line, except in the 7th Cavalry Brigade sector, were almost immediately repaired by the local commanders sending up supports — part of the 11th Hussars and the 2/Essex. This battalion, under Captain L. O. W. Jones, which was in support, had to advance over nearly half a mile of open country, losing 180 men in the operation, but reached the front line, the 1/Rifle Brigade, to the left, standing up and cheering it. Two platoons of the latter battalion holding Mouse Trap Farm on which, it was counted, over a hundred shells a minute were falling, were annihilated; but the farm was reoccupied in the evening, with the assistance of the East Lancashire, although the Germans had sapped up to within 30 yards. Various infantry attacks on the 4th Division front followed, from trenches two to three hundred yards away, particularly against the Hampshires and Somerset L.I. In some cases the Germans reached the wire, but were driven off by rifle fire; and when the shelling ceased at times, men of the 11th Brigade stood up and dared them to come on. But it was soon obvious, as on the previous day, that they would not do so until the ground had been swept clear of defenders by artillery fire. The 80th Brigade on the right of the cavalry, with the 4/Rifle Brigade and 3/K.R.R.C. in front line, reinforced at 2 p.m. by the 2/Royal Irish Fusiliers (82nd Brigade), maintained its position in spite of all bombardment.
Thus it was only in the sector of the 7th Cavalry Brigade that the situation was doubtful. Communication with the front was difficult, and dense black smoke from the very intense shelling prevented any part of the line being seen: so neither the actual extent of the gap nor the fact that it was blocked by the Leicester Yeomanry squadron was known for some time. Right and left of it the North Somerset Yeomanry (6th Cavalry Brigade) and Queen’s Bays (1st Cavalry Brigade) held on.
As a first step to remedy the situation, the 8th Cavalry Brigade (Royal Horse Guards, 10th Hussars and Essex Yeomanry) was deployed behind the gap; and, about 10 A.M. General Briggs, who had come up to Potijze, ordered Br.-General Bulkeley-Johnson to make a definite counter-attack. An artillery bombardment was promised to begin at noon, but the preliminaries could not be completed until 2 P.M. and the counter-attack followed at 2,30. Part of the 9th Cavalry Brigade supported the 8th, and the survivors of the Leicester Yeomanry joined in led by Captain the Hon. D. P. Tollemache, the brigade major of the 7th Cavalry Brigade, both the commanding officer, Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. P. C. Evans-Freke and the second-in-command, Major W. F. Ricardo, having fallen. In spite of very heavy shrapnel fire, the original line was regained in places, and the Germans who had taken possession of the ground were turned out and in some cases pursued. But shrapnel and machine-gun fire made it impossible for all to reach the old line or for any one to remain there, and a new line a thousand yards in rear, consisting chiefly of shell holes on a long reverse slope, was occupied. It extended from Railway Wood on the right to the trenches of the 1st Cavalry Brigade on the left, with a flank along the railway. Towards evening the 151st (Durham L.I.) Brigade arrived to hold the G.H.Q. Line behind the threatened front; but the Germans did not advance again, and did not even take possession of the ground vacated.
In the very severe fighting thus briefly summarized, the cavalry lost very heavily, no less than one brigadier and seven commanding officers becoming casualties.
In consequence of the reduced strength of the Cavalry Force, the 27th Division took over the right of its line up to the railway, relieving the 6th Cavalry Brigade; the 4th Division took over the left, closing to within five hundred yards of the Ypres — Verlorenhoek road, relieving the 2nd Cavalry Brigade. Thus General de Lisle’s front was reduced by half.
Both General Joffre and the Second Army commander, General Plumer, sent their congratulations to the cavalry and the 4th and 27th Divisions, to which General Allenby (V. Corps) added a special compliment to the 80th Brigade on its success. The Germans had shelled the V. Corps off the untenable position on the front slopes of Frezenberg ridge and in six days had gained a slice of ground between Hooge and Mouse Trap Farm a little over a thousand yards deep in the centre, but that had ended their advance. Assisted by less than a dozen modern heavy guns, handicapped by lack of ammunition, the miserable condition of the trenches, and the unquestioned domination of the German artillery, the British had, by their endurance and tenacity, made even such a small success too costly to be continued ; they were worthy successors of the men of First Ypres From the German account, which is given below, it would appear that if even one really fresh brigade could have been sent up on any single day in the period to attack at dusk, when the German guns were neutralized by darkness, a great result might have been achieved.
The total casualties of the V. Corps in the battle of Frezenberg 8th-13th May had been 456 officers and 8,935 other ranks.

Wieltje and Verlorenhoek. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW

Wieltje and Verlorenhoek. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5A; Published: April 1917; Trenches corrected to 1 April 1917: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464897 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The War Diary of the 9th Lancers (WO 95/1113/2) contains a very short account of its actions on the 13th May 1915. However, the diary entries for the week leading up to those events are interesting because they show some of the many things that cavalry units ended up doing in the times that they were not fighting dismounted in front-line trenches [5]:

May 3. WALLON CAPPEL. Orders received that the Bde is to be ready to move 2½ hours from receiving the order. In spite of this longer notice, the Bde left billets 2.30 pm and marched via LEDRINGHEM – WEMAERS CAPPEL – STAPLE to WALLON CAPPEL arriving 6.30 and went into billets. 6 names were forwarded for Russian decorations.

May 4. [WALLON CAPPEL]. Remain in billets WALLON CAPPEL.

May 5. [WALLON CAPPEL]. Gen MULLENS inspected billets. 1 case of suspected Diphtheria evacuated.

May 6. WORKING party 1 mile N of YPRES. A party of 250 men with 22 officers of the Regt marched via STEENVOORDE – ABEELE – VLAMMERTINGHE [sic] to BRIELEN arriving dismounted, leaving horses at BRIELEN, and dug trenches on EASTERN bank of canal about 1 mile N of YPRES. Dug till 2 am May 7 and marched back on foot to BRIELEN.

May 7. WORKING party 1 mile N of YPRES. From BRIELEN Bde marched to 7th Kilo stone on YPRES-POPERINGHR road arriving 4.30 am. Remained in a field all day.
7.15 pm Bde again marched to BRIELEN, and leaving horses, went further N up the canal and dug from 10 pm to 1.30 am, then picking up our horses again at BRIELEN, marched to our old billets at METEREN arriving 5.30 am May 8.

May 8. METEREN. Echelon ‘B’ turned out of WALLON CAPPEL at short notice and returned here yesterday. Regt rested METEREN.

May 9. Support trenches G.H.Q. line POTYZE-MENIN road. Orders received to turn out at once at 2 am. 2nd Cav Bde concentrated at BERTHEN and marched to VLAMMERTINGHE [sic], leaving horses at 5th Kilo stone from YPRES, made a detour round YPRES dismounted and occupied trenches in G.H.Q. line from POTYZE to MENIN road about 1½ miles NE of YPRES. We were heavily shelled for 2 hours and later the Bde in support. 1 Regt (4th DGs) of Bde went up to support forward line at 11 pm.
[6 O.Ranks wounded]

May 10. Bivouac at Château 1 mile W of YPRES. A good deal of artillery and rifle fire during the night. 8am our trenches were again shelled for 2½ hours. From 1 pm to 3 pm there was a tremendous bombardment of the trenches to our right-front. 2nd Cav Bde now under orders of 27th Div, and we may have to reinforce in the direction of HOOGE. 1 officer reconnoitred the route to HOOGE. Regt relieved by Queens BAYS about 11 pm and marched to an old château about 1 miles W of YPRES, after making a detour of the Town. bivouac.
[4. O.Ranks wounded]

May 11. CHÂTEAU 1 mile W of YPRES. 1st Cav Div. relieve part of 27th Div. tomorrow night. 300 rifles per regiment required so we have to take men from the led horses and Echelon B.

May 12. Trenches WIELTJE. Regt 300 rifles and 14 officers relieve WARWICKS in trenches about WIELTJE. NE of St JEAN at 11 pm. Trenches very much out of repair, and work carried on all night on them.
[Reinforcements Recived O.Ranks 19, Riding horses 11]

May 13. [trenches WIELTJE]. Bombardment of our trenches started 4 am and continued with the greatest violence for 11½ hours.
[1 Officer, Lt. G. H. LUNAN, RAMC and 13 O.Ranks killed. 2 Officers, Lieuts. H. KEVILL-DAVIES, and C. J. CHISHOLM, and 50 O.Ranks wounded. 40 Ranks died of wounds. 2 O.Ranks missing.]

May 14. Huts S of VLAMMERTINGHE [sic]. 9th Lancers relieved by Royal IRISH FUSILIERS 1.30 am, and back to support trenches in G.H.Q. line in front of POTYZE CHÂTEAU. 9.30 pm made the detour round YPRES and to billets in huts between VLAMMERTINGHE [sic] and RENINGHELST 2.30 am May 16.
[3 O.Ranks to Hospl.]

Ieper: Verlorenhoek from Aeroplane Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Verlorenhoek from Aeroplane Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

Attached to the War Diary was a more detailed report by the commanding officer of the 9th Lancers, Major Desmond John Edward Beale-Browne:

Appendix 1, Volume 7.

Report of Operations,

May 13th, 1915.

The 9th Lancers took over the trenches E of WIELTJE from the Warwicks at 10 p.m. on the night of the 12th. The trenches were in a bad state of repair and we worked all night through with sandbags repairing parapets and making traverses. At 3 a.m. I was able to see the situation, our trenches were on rising ground, on our left we were linked up with the 18th Hussars, slightly to our Right front were the trenches of the 5th D.G’s with a very large wire entanglement between our parapet and theirs. I at once realized that from our position we could command all the ground to the right even if the Regt. On our right had to withdraw.

At 4a.m. a very heavy bombardment started, which lasted for 11½ hours without any cessation. I had 3 Squadrons in my front lie, Capt. GRAHAM’s Squadron being on the Left; between 5 and 6a.m. I received word from this Officer that the 18th, Hussars were retiring, I at once told him to protect his Left by a fortified post, this he did without waiting for orders and also put a post on the Left Rear on the summit of the ridge. Some Germans then advanced towards the 18th, Hussars trenches but were at once stopped by Machine Gun fire from this fortified post. Capt. GRAHAM then received a verbal order by a Corporal of the 18th, Hussars asking him to cover their retirement, Capt. GRAHAM asked by whose order they were retiring and the man did not know; this message was passed down to me, and I replied that there was to be no question of any retirement whatever, this was communicated to Lieut. LANE 18th, Hussars who remained in his trench with two troops on my Left the whole day (though I was not aware of this till evening).

I now asked for a Squadron of the 4th, D. Gds. To be sent up to strengthen my Left, it was impossible to get them into the 18th. Hussars trenches as the latter were blown in, so the Squadron remained in my line. The trenches were fearfully knocked about by mid-day and as one of my Squadrons had suffered heavily I withdrew what was left to the supporting dug outs and replaced them by a Squadron of the 4th, D. Gds. which had been sent up.

The German trenches were on the rising ground to my front at ranges varying from 600 to 300 yards and very roughly constructed. During the morning I observed a considerable concentration going on behind the ridge to my front, considerable bodies of Germans then passed from behind the Ridge to my front going towards the Right of the Cavalry Line, had there been an Artillery Observation Officer up with me in the trenches really good targets could have been obtained as with my glasses I could plainly watch the Germans.

In the afternoon the 5th. D. Gds. left their trenches on our Right and retired altogether, I at once brought a Machine Gun to bear on the vacated trench and with another Machine Gun and rifle fire opened on the Germans who were now coming down a shallow trench with the intention of occupying the vacated ones, this had the effect of making them return very hurriedly and no further attempt was made to occupy those trenches. Very good work was done by our machine guns in stopping the fire of a German Machine gun which was sniping the gaps in our trench.

About 6p.m. the shelling of our position started again and this time as a variation from every known sort of shell a large MINNENWERFER was brought up and turned on to our trenches. I then sent Capt. PORTER back to get the Howitzers to shell the German trenches which they did, at dusk the bombardment ceased. My casualties were roughly seventy including 1 Officer killed and 2 wounded.

I would like to emphasise to my utmost the wonderfull [sic] spirit shown by all ranks during this terrific bombardment, throughout it many men stood at he parapets and sniped the Germans who were digging, evidently thinking they could do so with impunity and when the shelling ceased the men begged that if the Germans would’nt [sic] come on we might got for them. I should also like to emphasise the assistance rendered to me on this occasion as on many previous ones, by the gallant 4th, Dragoon Guards. I forward at the same time a list of Officers, N.C.O’s. and Men for special recognition.

May 15th, 1915.

D. Beale-Browne Major.

Commanding 9th Lancers.

The 9th Lancers would be back in the front line a few days later, defending positions south of the Menin Road near Hooge. On the 24th May, Captain Francis Octavius Grenfell VC, commanding ‘B’ Squadron, would be killed in action. He is buried in Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery.

Lympsham: War Memorial in the Church of St Christopher (Somerset)

Lympsham: War Memorial in the Church of St Christopher (Somerset)

Arthur Charles Janes:

Arthur Charles Janes was born at Lympsham (Somerset) in the second quarter of 1882, the son of Thomas Janes and Mary Ann Janes (née Lewis). He was baptized at Lympsham on the 9th April 1882, when the family were resident at Boat Lane in that village. Confusingly, transcripts of his baptismal record (Somerset Archives, D/P/ LYMP 2/1/8; available via Findmypast) suggests that he was baptised Arthur Charles Fouracre Jeanes (other transcripts state “Fouracre or Jeans”). Indeed, transcriptions from the Lympsham baptismal records suggest that most of Arthur Charles’s siblings (as well the family of his aunt and uncle, John and Fanny Fouracre, who were also resident at Lympsham) were baptised using the family name “Fouracre-Jeans” (with or without the hyphen), e.g. there are baptismal transcripts for: Fred (1884), Ernest Lewis (1886), Beatrice Jane (1888), Eveline Annie (1890), Olive Mary (1892), Margaret Helena (1894), Gilbert Lewis (1896), Phyllis (1897), Mildred May (1901), and Edith Victoria (1904). The family seems to have gone by several different names in census and other records, so I will try to use the form here that was used in the relevant document (or transcript).

In the 1891 Census, the Fouracre family were living at Lympsham (the only time that they were recorded under that name in the census). Tom Fouracre was twenty-eight years old and working as an agricultural labourer, while Mary A. Fouracre was thirty years old. At the age of nine, Arthur C. Fouracre was their eldest child and was still at school. There were also three younger siblings: Fred Fouracre (aged 9, a scholar), Beatrice J. (2) and Eveline A. (1890), all of whom had been born at Lympsham.

By the time of the 1901 Census, the family had moved to nearby East Brent (Dodds Lane), where they had seemingly reverted to the family name “Janes.” Thomas and Mary Ann Janes were now both recorded as being forty years old. Thomas was working as a farmer, a step up from working as a labourer. Arthur C. Janes was now nineteen years old and classified as a “farmer’s son.” There were also six younger siblings still resident: Beatrice (aged 13), Olive M. (9), Margaret (7), Gilbert L. (5), Phillis J. (3), and Thomas (2), all of whom had been born at Lympsham. Also boarding with the family was the twenty-five year old Henry Wilson, a farm servant.

By the time of the 1911 Census, the family were living back at Lympsham. Thomas Janes was forty-nine years old and still working as a farmer, while Mary Janes was fifty years old. Arthur Charles features as plain Charles James, a twenty-nine-year-old farm labourer. He was the eldest of the seven children that were still resident: Frederic (27, a farm labourer), Gilbert (15), Phyllis (13), Lionel (12), Mildred (9), and Victoria (6), all of whom were farm workers.

Lympsham: War Memorial in the Church of St Christopher (Somerset)

Lympsham: War Memorial in the Church of St Christopher (Somerset)

It has not been possible to find out any substantive information about Private Arthur Charles Janes’s service history, other than that he enlisted at Weston-super-Mare (Soldiers Died in the Great War database; via Findmypast).

Private Janes is buried in Divisional Collecting Post Cemetery and Extension (II. D. 8.), which can be found just to the north-east of Ypres. His name is also recorded on the 9th (Queen’s Royal) Lancers memorial in the cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral. In Somerset, Arthur Charles Janes is commemorated on the war memorial in the Church of St Christopher, Lympsham and on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey (where his family name is unfortunately misspelled “James”).

Family background:

Arthur Charles Janes’s father, Thomas Janes, was born at Lympsham in the first quarter of 1861, the son of Arthur and Ann Janes. At the time of the 1871 Census, the family were living at Purving Row, Lympsham, where Arthur Janes was a forty-one-year-old farm labourer (born at Lympsham), and Ann Janes was a forty-four-year-old charwoman (born in Warwickshire). Thomas James was ten years old and a scholar (i.e., at school), the third eldest of five children, who also included: John (aged 15, a labourer), William (12), Mary Ann (7), and Henry (4). The family (now spelled “Jeanes” by the census enumerator) were still living at Purving Row at the time of the 1881 Census. Arthur was fifty-two years old and working as a labourer, while Ann was fifty-nine. Thomas himself was now twenty-years old, the second eldest of the five children still living there, which additionally included the six-year-old Gilbert.

Thomas, now styled Thomas Fouracre, married Mary Ann Lewis at Lympsham on the 1st November 1881. They would feature in the 1891 Census under the Fouracre name.

Mary Ann Lewis had been born at Upper Weare (Somerset) in the first quarter of 1861, the daughter of Thomas and Hannah Lewis. At the time of the 1861 Census, the family were living at Upper Weare (Splot), where Thomas Lewis was around twenty-nine (?) years old (born at Shipham), and Hannah Lewis was twenty (born at Mark). Mary Ann Lewis (spelled in the census return as “Mary Anne”) was recorded as being one month old. At the time of the 1871 Census, Mary Ann Lewis was ten years old and was still living with her parents and two younger siblings at Weare (Sparrow Hill), where Thomas Lewis (aged 27) was now working as an agricultural labourer. By the time of the 1881 Census, Mary A. Lewis was working as a dairy maid at Lympsham, a servant living as part of the household of William Bennett, a farmer of 95 acres, and Mary Bennett.

Thomas Janes died at Axbridge (registration district) on the 7th July 1922, aged 60, and was buried at Lympsham on the 13th July. Mary Ann Janes of Eastertown (part of Lympsham) died in the Weston-super-Mare (district) in 1945, aged 83, and was buried at Lympsham on the 3rd February 1945.

References:

[1] Wikipedia, Francis Octavius Grenfell:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Octavius_Grenfell

[2] Gerald Gliddon, VCs of the First World War: 1914 (1994; Stroud: History Press, 2011).

[3] London Gazette, No. 28976, 13th November 1914, p. 9373:
http://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/28976/page/9373

[4] J. E. Edmonds and G. C. Wynne, comp., Military operations: France And Belgium, 1915 (History of the Great War: based on official documents; London: Macmillan, 1927), Vol. 1, pp. 332-335:
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.210675/page/n411

[5] WO 95/1113/2, 9th (Queen’s Royal) Lancers War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | May 13, 2019

Captain Stanes Geoffrey Bates, North Somerset Yeomanry

IWM HU 113482: Captain Stanes Geoffrey Bates. Unit: Adjutant North Somerset Yeomanry, attached to 7th (Queen's Own) Hussars; died Hooge, 13th May 1915.

IWM HU 113482: Captain Stanes Geoffrey Bates, Adjutant, North Somerset Yeomanry, attached to 7th (Queen’s Own) Hussars; died Hooge, 13th May 1915. © Imperial War Museums (HU 113482): https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/ object/205290240

Captain Stanes Geoffrey Bates of the 7th Queen’s Own Hussars and the North Somerset Yeomanry was killed in action near Hooge on the 13th May 1915, during the Battle of Frezenberg (an action of the Second Battle of Ypres).

Paul Chapman’s book on the casualties commemorated on the north-side of the Menin Gate Memorial provides a brief summary of his life and service with the cavalry [1]:

Capt. Stanes Geoffrey Bates, 7th Queen’s Own Hussars, and Adjutant North Somerset Yeomanry: only s. of the late Gilbert Thompson Bates, J.P. (d. 1915), tenant of Mells Park, Frome, Somerset (2nd s. of Sir Edward Bates, 1st Bart., M.P.), by his wife Charlotte Thaxter (Donnington Hall, Ledbury, co. Hereford), dau. of George Warren, of Woolton: b. London, 2 June 1884: educ. Farnborough, Winchester, and R.M.C., Sandhurst: joined 7th Queen’s Own Hussars, 22 April 1903: promoted Lieut. 27 April, 1907; Capt., 11 May 1912: spent 2½ years in South Africa and returned with his regt. December 1906, when they were quartered in Norwich, and afterwards at Aldershot: went to Bangalore with the regt. October 1911, where he remained until July 1913, when he returned to England on leave, shortly afterwards (1 November) receiving the Adjutancy, North Somersetshire Yeomanry: went to France with this regt. where he was wounded at Vlamertinghe during the First Battle of Ypres, 16 November 1914, but was able to return to the Front from the Base Hospital after a few days. Killed instantaneously at the Second Battle of Ypres, in the trenches at Hooge, by a shell explosion, 13 May 1915. Buried there the same day, amid a few trees behind the line held by the North Somersets. For their conduct on this occasion the North Somersets were specially Mentioned in Despatches. Much beloved by his men in both regts., his loss is deeply regretted by his Colonel and brother officers of the 7th Hussars. A good all-round sportsman and well known with the Blackmore Vale Hounds. Age 30. unm.

There is also some information on Captain Bates on the Winchester College at War website [2].

Hooge and Bellewaarde. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW

Hooge and Bellewaarde. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5A; Published: April 1917; Trenches corrected to 1 April 1917: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464897 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

On the 13th May 1915, the North Somerset Yeomanry were in the line south of the Ypres-Roulers railway (now the N37 road). Captain Bates was killed by a shell in trenches near Bellewaarde Farm.

Ieper: Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial to the Missing (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial to the Missing (West-Vlaanderen)

Captain Bates is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial to the Missing (West-Vlaanderen). He is also commemorated on memorial plaques in the Church of St Andrew, Mells (Somerset) and on the village war memorial at Mells, which was designed by Edwin Lutyens.

Mells: War Memorial (Somerset)

Mells: War Memorial (Somerset)

Paul Reed’s book on Walking Ypres includes the details of a few others from the 1st Cavalry Division that died on the 13th May 1915 and who are buried at Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery [3]. These include Major the Hon. Clement Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford, D.S.O, 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own), in whose memory his father (Lord Redesdale) gave the wrought-iron gates of the cemetery (he also has a memorial in St Mary’s Church, Batsford, Gloucestershire).

References:

[1] Paul Chapman, Menin Gate North: in memory and in mourning (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2016).

[2] Winchester College at War:
https://www.winchestercollegeatwar.com/archive/stanes-geoffrey-bates/

[3] Paul Reed, Walking Ypres (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2017), pp 183-184.

 

Bath: The grave marker of Private John St. Clair Cotterell in Bath Abbey Cemetery (Somerset)

Bath: The grave marker of Private John St Clair Cotterell in Bath Abbey Cemetery (Somerset)

In Bath Abbey Cemetery, on Prior Park Road, can be found the grave marker of Private John St. Clair Cotterell of the 10th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, who died of wounds on the 13th May 1917. This is one of just three Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) burials in that particular cemetery [1]. While the grave marker is not the exact same shape or size of a standard CWGC headstone, it does look as if it might have been inspired by one, and it includes a maple leaf motif, an incised cross, and a text:

And what death can man have better
Than facing fearful odds
For the honour of his loved ones and the temple of his God.

The quotation is a very free adaptation of verses from Thomas Babington Macaulay’s “Lays of Ancient Rome” (1842) [2]:

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods.”

898307 Private John St Clair Cotterell of the 10th Battalion, Canadian Infantry died of wounds at the Westminster Hospital on the 13th May 1917, aged 26.

The family connection with Bath is fully explained in the funeral report published in the Bath Chronicle of the 19th May 1917 [3]:

MILITARY FUNERAL IN BATH
INTERMENT OF PRIVATE JOHN ST. CLAIR COTTERELL.
Much public interest was manifested in the funeral, on Thursday [17th May], of Private John St. Clair Cotterell, eldest son of Mr. T. Sturge Cotterell, J.P., of Bath. Deceased, who was 26 years of age, was educated at Bath College, and left England to take up the life of a rancher in Canada. Here he joined the Alberta Rifles and saw service on the Western front, where he was dangerously wounded in an attack on the Arras front on April 28th. He was, however, brought back to this country, only to succumb to his severe wounds in Westminster Hospital on Saturday. He leaves a widow and one child.
The funeral took place with military honours, nearly a hundred soldiers attending. The service was held at the Abbey Church at two o’clock, and the coffin was borne between two lines of soldiers from Stall Street through the churchyard to the Abbey. The soldiers were in command of Lieut. Bullock. The coffin, which was palled with the Union Jack, and bore choice flowers, was borne by six soldiers. The Rector (Preb. S. A. Boyd) officiated. The family mourners were Mr. and Mrs. T. Sturge Cotterell (parents), Messrs. Eric and Dick Cotterell (brothers), Miss Maud Cotterell (sister), Mr. Henry F. Cotterell, Bristol (uncle), and Mrs. Middleton and Miss Holmes (aunts). There was a large gathering of the public in and in the vicinity of the Abbey, among those present being Mr. C. Lewis (churchwarden), Messrs. E. Founds and Ar. Stocks.
As the cortege re-appeared at the western entrance to the Abbey, the members of the firing party of twelve reverse arms, and a military band of eighteen, headed the cortege on its way to the Abbey Cemetery, via North Parade Bridge, its progress being watched by large numbers of people. The Dead March in “Saul” and Chopin’s “Funeral March” were in turn played. The Rector also officiated at the committal portion of the service, at the conclusion of which the usual three volleys were fired, and two buglers sounded “The Last Post.”
Among those sending flowers were the widow and parents; Eric, Dick and Molly (brothers and sister); Maud (sister); the grandmother (Mrs. F. Cotterell, Clevedon), Mrs. Middleton (aunt), Aunts Agnes and Gertrude, Diana and Cicely (cousins), Mr. and Mrs. Pudsey (Combe Down), Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, Miss Rawes, Capt. And Mrs. Macintire, the Quartermaster’s staff at Mount Vernon Military Hospital, Hampstead; the Sister at Westminster Hospital; “his colleagues in his ward at Westminster Hospital,” etc.
Messrs. Powell and Powell were responsible for the funeral arrangements, Mr. Wm. Powell personally superintending.

A much shorter account of the funeral was published in the Western Daily Press of the 18th May 1917 [4]:

MILITARY FUNERAL AT BATH.
Private J. St. Clair Cotterell, Canadians, elder son of Mr T. S. Cotterell, J.P., of Bath, who died from wounds received in France, was buried at Bath Abbey Cemetery, yesterday, with military honours. The first portion of the service was at the Abbey. A military band preceded the cortege, which included about 100 soldiers. The Rector (Preb. S. A. Boyd) officiated. The family mourners were Mr and Mrs T. Sturge Cotterell (parents), Messrs Eric and Dick Cotterell (brothers), Miss Maud Cotterell (sister), Mr Henry F. Cotterell, Bristol (uncle), and Mrs Middleton and Miss Holmes (aunts).

A photograph of Private Cotterell was published in the Bath Chronicle‘s Roll of Honour on the 26th May 1917 [5].

Pte. J. St. Clair Cotterell, from the Bath Chronicle, 26th May 1917, p. 9; via British Newspaper Archive.

Pte. J. St. Clair Cotterell, from the Bath Chronicle, 26th May 1917, p. 9; via British Newspaper Archive.

John St. Clair Cotterell was born at Barton Regis (Gloucestershire) in the fourth quarter of 1891, the son of Thomas Sturge and Edith Maria Cotterell. He was baptised at St Saviour’s Church, Woolcot Park (Redland, Bristol), on the 23rd October 1891. At the time of the 1901 Census, John was nine years old and living at Edgbaston, Warwickshire (70, Gough Road), the household of his grandparents, Alexander and Mary Holmes.

Bath: Combe Down War Memorial (Somerset)

Bath: Combe Down War Memorial (Somerset)

Private Cotterell’s name appears on the Combe Down war memorial and the Bath College memorial in Bath Abbey.

According to his service records, Private Cotterell’s widow, Gladys May Cotterell (née Nettleton), lived at Nobleford, Alberta. Gladys May Nettleton was born at Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma, Ontario on the 16th October 1896, the daughter of John Nettleton and Elizabeth Nettleton (née Gray). At the time of the Canada Census 1911, the Nettleton family were living at Medicine Hat, Alberta. Both John and Elizabeth Nettleton had been born in England in the 1850s and had emigrated to Canada in the 1880s, where in 1911 John was working as a farmer. In 1911, they had two children living with them: Ernest William, a 32-year-old farmer, and the fourteen-year-old Gladys May. John St. Clair Cotterell seems to have arrived in Canada in around 1910 or 1911, although I have not been able to find a record of his marriage to Gladys May Nettleton. They had one daughter: Helena Grace Cotterell.

Private Cotterell’s father, T. Sturge Cotterell, M.B.E., J.P., was Alderman and the Mayor of Bath (1930-1931). As chairman of the city’s Mural Tablets Committee, he was also responsible for many of the plaques that can still be found in Bath, marking the residence or temporary residence of well-known people. He died at the end of February 1950 [6].

From 1915 until 1919, the 10th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regiment) fought as part of the 1st Canadian Division. The Division was involved in the capture of Vimy Ridge in April 1917; they would move to the Ypres Salient for the final part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres in November 1917.

Private Cotterell’s service records, made available by Library and Archives Canada [7], state that he was born in Bristol, England on the 17th September 1891. He enlisted at Pincher Creek, Alberta in March 1916, when he was resident at Beaver Mines, Alberta and working as a farmer.

Cotterell arrived in the UK in November 1916. He then served for a time with the 9th Canadian Reserve Battalion at Shorncliffe and Bramshott. He joined the 10th Battalion and moved overseas in March 1917. He spent much of his time overseas in hospital, suffering from mumps (e.g., No. 2 General Hospital and No. 4 Convalescent Depot., Le Havre, from 8th March to 10 April) and thus seems to have missed the capture of Vimy Ridge.

The medical records in Cotterell’s file show that he was admitted to No 32 Stationary Hospital at Wimereux on the 29 April 1917, “dangerously ill” with a gunshot wound in the back. On the 3rd May, he arrived at Westminster Hospital, Broad Sanctuary, London S.W. A medical summary concluded that Cotterell had been admitted in an “hopeless condition,” with a shattered vertebra and complete paralysis in his lower limbs. He died in the Westminster Hospital on the 13th May 1917.

Arleux-en-Gohelle. Detail from Trench Map 51B.NW

Arleux-en-Gohelle. Detail from Trench Map 51B.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 6A; Published: March 1917; Trenches corrected to 4 March 1917: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101465068 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

It is most likely that Private Cotterell was wounded in an attack on German positions at Arleux-en-Gohelle on the 27th-28th April 1917, following the capture by the Canadian Corps of Vimy Ridge on the 9th April. A contemporary history of the 10th Battalion contained the following summary [8]:

The “Arleux Loop,” an intricate system of trench fortifications enmeshing the village of Arleux-en-Gohelle, was next marked out for assault, and the taking of the village itself was allotted to the 2nd Brigade. The Arleux ruins bolstered up with concrete, encircled with deep belts of wire and pitfalls, and protected by countless machine guns, should have been impregnable, according to German calculations. All these horrors failed, however, to keep back the 5th, 8th and 10th Battalions when they attacked at midnight, April 27th-28th. They drove the Germans foot by foot from every hidden fort and shelter by sheer fighting ability. Desperate hand to hand battles were fought by small groups and individuals as the men ferreted among the cellars and ruins, clearing out the cornered Huns. Arleux was won and the Canadians pushed on rapidly and established themselves in the wood beyond, leaving behind in each battered gun emplacement little mounds of dead – the picked men of the German Army.
The 10th Battalion was relieved on the night of April 29th 30th and marched wearily to billets in Mont St. Eloi, but here luck dealt hardly with the resting men. The Germans, enraged by their defeat, brought up heavy naval guns mounted on railway trucks, and on May 1st began the systematic bombardment of the billeting area, causing many casualties.

References:

[1] CWGC database entry:
https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/393930/cotterell,-/

[2] Wikipedia, Lays of Ancient Rome:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lays_of_Ancient_Rome

[3] Bath Chronicle, 19th May 1917, p 15; via British Newspaper Archive.

[4] Western Daily Press, 18th May 1917, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[5] Bath Chronicle, 26th May 1917, p. 9; via British Newspaper Archive.

[6] Bath Chronicle, 4th March 1950, p. 10; via British Newspaper Archive.

[7] Library and Archives Canada:
http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/first-world-war-1914-1918-cef/

[8] J. A. Holland, The story of the Tenth Canadian Battalion, 1914-1917 (London: Canadian War Records Office, ca. 1918), p. 30:
https://archive.org/details/tenthbattalion00holluoft/page/30

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