Loders: Church of St Mary Magdalene (Dorset)

Loders: Church of St Mary Magdalene (Dorset)

966382 Lance Bombardier Leslie Albert Clark of the 303rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery died of illness in Egypt on the 9th January 1919,aged 23. Lance Bombardier Clark was also a bellringer at Loders (Dorset) and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR). Of those commemorated in the Rolls of Honour of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, Lance Bombardier Clark was the final Dorset bellringer to die as a result of the war.

Leslie Albert Clark was born at Loders (Bridport registration district) in the 1st quarter of 1895, the son of Job Clark and Amelia Clark (née Greening). Leslie’s father died in 1897. At the time of the 1901 Census, Leslie was six years old, living at Loders with his widowed mother and three older brothers: Arthur (aged 21, a flax dresser), Fred (17, an engineer’s labourer), and Ralph (13, a labourer on farm). By the time of the 1911 Census, Leslie was sixteen years old and working as a drayman for a corn and seed merchant. Leslie’s mother had married again, so Leslie and two of his elder brothers (Job and Fred) were living at Loders as part of the household of George and Amelia Brown.

Leslie Albert Clark married Harriett Elizabeth Larcombe at Whitchurch Canonicorum (Dorset) on the 15th August 1914, when they both were aged 19. Harriet Larcombe had been born at Whitchurch on the 16th September 1894, the daughter of George Larcombe and Kate Larcombe (née Taylor). At the time of the 1901 Census, Harriett was six years old and living with her parents and five siblings at the Mason’s Arms in Shipton Gorge. By the time of the 1911 Census, she was sixteen years old and working as a servant, part of the household of Arthur Frederick and Eliza Hitchcock at the Royal Oak Inn in Charmouth. Leslie and Harriett Clark had one child, a daughter named Lily Alberta Clark who was born at Bridport on the 28th December 1914. She was baptised there on the 30th January 1915. After Leslie’s death, Harriett  married Albert J. Read at Bridport (registration district) in the 3rd quarter of 1919. She died at Bridport in 1981.

Service with the 303rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery:

Lance Bombardier Leslie Albert Clark’s service records survive as part of the First World War ‘Burnt Documents’ series (WO 363/4, available from Findmypast) and, combined with other sources, they provide an useful framework for understanding his service career.

Leslie Albert Clark enlisted at Bridport on the 6th March 1915, joining at first the 3rd Dorset Royal Field Artillery. His attestation form records that at the time he enlisted, he was 20 years old and working as a carter. Gunner Clark was immediately embodied, but was transferred in April to one of the County of London Territorial Force Royal Field Artillery (RFA) Brigades. The handwriting is difficult to decipher, but the unit was probably the 2/8th London Brigade, RFA — part of 60th Division — which in 1916 became the 303rd Brigade, RFA.

The 60th (2/2nd London) Division was a second line unit of the Territorial Force. Its field artillery component comprised the 301st, 302nd, and 303rd Brigades, RFA. After initially operating as a source of replacement troops for first line units, the 60th Division began preparing for overseas service in early 1915. In January 1916, the Division moved to Salisbury Plain (Warminster) for “final training and reconditioning prior to departure overseas” [1].

Some insight into the formation of Territorial Force Field Artillery Brigades in contained in a document from April 1915 that forms part of the 303rd Brigade’s War Diary (WO 95/3027/6) [2]:

STATEMENT ACCOMPANYING WAR DIARY.
For April 1915

2/8th London F.A. Brigade.
2/2nd London Division.
Boxmoor,
Herts.

(a) Mobilisation – This F.A. Brigade of the 2nd Line was formed early in October at Plumstead. It now consists of 17 officers and 514 N.C.O’s and men.

(b) Concentration at War Station – The F.A. Brigade moved on 9th April, 1915 to its War Station at Boxmoor, Herts, by rail.

(c) – It has no armament. Four dummy howitzers and limbers were constructed by the Brigade at Plumstead, and 24 sets of condemned harness were obtained from the Woolwich Arsenal. Except for this, no training beyond Recruits, Drill, Rifle Drill, and Riding Drill would have been possible. As it is, the component units of the F.A. Brigade are gradually instructing the Gunners in standing Gun Drill on the Dummy Guns, and the drivers in Driving Drill, and coming into action. Four teams can be turn[ed] out daily for this purpose.

Plumstead, being in the vicinity of Woolwich, was well adapted for the quartering of a large body of men, without armament – as classes and courses in different subjects were easy to arrange – classes in the Arsenal, at the Herbert Hospital, Veterinary Courses, Shoeing Smiths Courses, etc. Such an opportunity was taken full advantage of.
Much time has been devoted to signalling, map reading, reconnaissance etc., but the F.A. Brigade has not yet been supplied with Range Finders or Directors – though Dummy Directors were constructed for instructional purposes.

(e) Discipline – The general discipline of the F.A. Brigade has been excellent. Much time has been devoted to instructing the Territorial Officers in the correct procedure as to the disposal of prisoners, and in rooting out a general tendency to departure from the authorised list of summary punishments (K.R. 500, 501) Such instruction is producing good results, Minor Offence Reports are forwarded daily by the Units to the F.A. Brigade Office, and are daily scrutinized and criticized in writing by the O.C.

(f) Administration [of supply & remounts]. The development of the F.A. Brigade has been much hampered and retarded by the lack of remounts. It has had on average about 40 or 50 availables [sic] for the training of some 500 N.C.O’s and men. It is earnestly to be hoped that this deficiency may now be remedied.

(g) Re-organisation of T.F. into Home and Imperial Service – I am of the opinion, that Territorial Units under such circumstances should invariably have the advantage of an expert Regular Officer appointed to them as Adjutant – with a full Instructional Permanent Staff of N.C.O’s. The F.A. Brigade under my command has never had an Adjutant and only one P.S.N.C.O.

H. B. Burrard
Lieut. Colonel, R.F.A.
Commanding 2/8th London F.A. Brigade.

By the time this document was written, the 2/8th Brigade, RFA had moved to Hertfordshire, where the 60th Division was concentrating prior to their move to Salisbury Plain. The 2/8th Brigade seems to have been designated at that time as a howitzer brigade. In May 1915, the Brigade received two 5″ BL Howitzers and Limbers, which were then allocated to each Battery in the Brigade. The 2/8th (How) Brigade, RFA remained in Hertfordshire until the 25th January 1916, when the Brigade left Buntingford by train, destined for Salisbury Plain.

The 2/8th Brigade, RFA then found itself in camp at Boyton, in the Wylye Valley near Warminster. There it trained hard and reorganised several times, also being redesignated the 303rd Brigade, RFA. By June the Brigade had four Batteries, which seem to have operated a mixture of 18-pounder guns and 4.5-inch howitzers. By 1916, divisional field artillery brigades typically had three or four batteries; “A” and “B” Batteries operating 18-pounder guns, and “C” and “D” Batteries operating 4.5-inch howitzers [3]. Alan Smith notes that this mix of equipment provided flexibility in the engagement of targets, “the howitzer proving useful where a steep descending trajectory was required to engage enemy guns on reverse slopes and in ‘dongas'” [4].

IWM Q 24267: A British 18-pounder Field Gun firing from an open position in the flat desert landscape of lower Mesopotamia

IWM Q 24267: A British 18-pounder Field Gun firing from an open position in the flat desert landscape of lower Mesopotamia. © IWM (Q 24267): https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/ object/205215660

In June 1916, Gunner Clark was appointed acting Bombardier in “B” Battery of 303rd Brigade, RFA. The Brigade moved to France shortly afterwards. Acting Bombardier Clark embarked at Southampton on the 21st June 1916, arriving at Le Havre the following day. At the time, the British Army on the Western Front would have been gearing-up for the “Big Push” on the Somme, but the 60th Division moved to the Arras sector near Mont St Eloi, where they would be initiated into trench warfare by the 51st (Highland) Division [5]. They would remain in that sector until late November, when the Brigade moved to Marseilles, prior to their move to the Salonika front.

Acting Bombardier Clark thus embarked at Marseilles on the 4th December 1916, arriving at Salonika on the 12th December. After travelling to the front, the 60th Division would take part in operations near Lake Doiran (Dojran) in April and May 1917, part of a much-wider offensive planned on the Macedonian front by the Army of the Orient. By early June, however, the 60th Division was on its way back to Salonika, where it would embark once more, this time for Alexandria and the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF).

Australian War Memorial C00643: A team of camels stands ready to begin pulling a 4.5 inch howitzer across the desert near Moascar, Egypt

Australian War Memorial C00643: A team of camels stands ready to begin pulling a 4.5 inch howitzer across the desert near Moascar, Egypt: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C999819

After the end of the Sinai Campaign in late 1916, the EEF had began to push into Ottoman territory in Palestine. After the failure of two attempts to capture Gaza in March and April 1917, a new force commander had arrived in June. This was General Sir Edmund Allenby, who had most recently been the commander of the British Third Army on the Western Front. There followed an extensive reorganisation of the EEF, which included the arrival of the 60th Division. It seems to have been some time in late 1917 that Clark formally became a Lance Bombardier.

After several months of preparation, the Palestine campaign resumed in late October 1917 with an attack on Beersheba. The city was captured on the 31st October and the Ottoman forces withdrew into the Judean Hills. The 60th Division was involved in the capture of Beersheba and several other engagements of the 3rd Battle of Gaza, including the Battle of Hareira and Sheria in early November. By late November, after victories at Mughal Ridge and Junction Station, attention turned to the capture of Jerusalem. but attacks on Ottoman defensive positions near Nebi Samwil, in the hills to the north of the city on the 17th to 24th November, met with fierce resistance. Eventually, however, the city of Jerusalem surrendered on the 9th December.

The 303rd Brigade, RFA had a curious role in the surrender of Jerusalem. On the 9th December 1917, the Turkish mayor of Jerusalem (Hussein al-Husayni) and other civic figures tried several times to hand over the keys of the city to the British military authorities. They encountered members of 60th Division several times. They first made contact with some mess cooks from the 2/20th Battalion, London Regiment (Blackheath and Woolwich), who beat a hasty retreat. After that, the delegation tried again with some sergeants from the 2/19th London Regiment (St Pancras) and then with some officers from the 60th Divisional Artillery, but all were reluctant to accept the surrender. David Woodward explains what happened next [6]:

At this point, Lieutenant Colonel H. Bayley, the commander of the 303rd Brigade RFA, 60th Division, appeared on the scene. ‘Arriving at the top of the road within sight of the Jewish Hospital in Jerusalem and with my 3 battery commanders I was amazed to see a white flag waving and a man coming towards me. I beckoned him on and speaking French he said the Mayor of Jerusalem was at the flag … We sat on chairs on the road outside the Jewish Hospital and he informed me that the Turks had left Jerusalem during the night retreating towards Jericho … Much photographing of me and mayor.’ Bayley then sent the following message to the 60th Division headquarters; ‘Jerusalem has surrendered. Col. Bayley D.S.O., R.F.A. is now with the Mayor awaiting any General Officer to take over the City.’
The first general to appear on the scene was Brigadier General C. F. Watson, the commander of the 180th Brigade, 60th Division. Watson, characterised by Bayley as ‘an awful little ass who specially wanted to be first there’, joined Bayley in making their way to the Jaffa Gate and walking through the gap (made especially for Kaiser William II’s earlier visit) to be greeted by an enthusiastic crowd. General [John Stuart Mackenzie] Shea [the commander of 60th Division] arrived shortly thereafter. Shea, unhappy that he had been upstaged by Watson, repeated the surrender ceremony, only to be informed by Allenby that the honour of receiving the surrender belonged to him.

In 1918, the 60th Division took part in the advance on Jericho in February and in the First Trans-Jordan Raid in March. In September the Division was engaged in the Battle of Megiddo.

Lance Bombardier Clark’s exact whereabouts are not easy to ascertain from his service records. His “Casualty Form — Active Service” shows that he was at Kantara (Egypt) in August 1917. Another entry shows that he rejoined 303 Brigade in Palestine on the 21st September 1918, but whether he had spent the intervening months in Egypt is not entirely clear. On the 5th October he was admitted to hospital suffering from Pyrexia of Unknown Origin (the term that was used for trench fever).

Australian War Memorial P01480.009: No. 17 British Military Hospital, Alexandria, Egypt (1916).

Australian War Memorial P01480.009: No. 17 British Military Hospital, Alexandria, Egypt (1916): https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C195683

Lance Bombadier Clark rejoined his unit on the 9th December 1918, just over a month after the conclusion of the Palestine Campaign on the 30th October. On the 30th December, however, he was admitted to No. 17 General Hospital in Alexandria, suffering from malaria and jaundice. By the 1st January 1919, he was deemed to be dangerously ill with malaria and gastritis. Lance Bombardier Clark died on the 9th January. Blackwater fever (a complication of malaria) is crossed out on his “Casualty Form — Active Service” as the cause of death, and replaced with: “chronic nephritis, toxaemia [?] and cardiac failure.”

Lance Bombardier Leslie Albert Clark’s death was reported in the Western Gazette of the 24th January 1918 [7]:

LODERS.
DEATH OF BOMBARDIER CLARKE. – Last week Mrs. Clarke, of 194, North Allington, Bridport, received official news of the death of her husband, Bombardier Clarke, R.F.A., which occurred on the 9th inst. in hospital in Egypt, from black-water fever. He leaves a widow and one child, with whom much sympathy is felt. The deceased, who was formerly a carter in the employ of Messrs. Handeford & Sons, joined up in March, 1915, and had seen service in France, Salonika, and Egypt. He was the youngest son of Mrs. Brown and the late Mr. Job. Clarke of Loders, and this is the fourth son lost during the war two others having been killed in action, while another, who served in the Boer War, died at home.

Lance Bombardier Clark was buried at Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery (H. 83.), not too far away from the grave of Gunner Thomas Sylvester Pope of 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, a bellringer at Curry Rivel (Somerset) who had died of broncho-pneumonia on the 5th January 1919.

This blog has already noted David Woodward’s comments on the significant threat that sickness posed to the EEF by late 1918 [8]:

Exhaustion, stretched supply lines, and especially disease represented the greatest threat to the EEF. A worldwide flu epidemic combined with malaria in striking down many men.
[…]
Tragically, many who served in the infantry as well as the cavalry died after the armistice with Turkey [30th October 1918]. The EEF’s death toll from disease in October and November was 2,158. By contrast, the EEF had suffered only 453 battle deaths during the last two months of the war.

The deaths of Gunner Pope and Lance Bombardier Clark in Alexandria in early January 1919 demonstrate that the threat of disease would persist for some time.

Bridport: War Memorial (Dorset)

Bridport: War Memorial (Dorset)

Family Background:

Leslie Clark’s father, Job Clark, was born at Loders in the 2nd quarter of 1852, the son of James and Jane Clark. He featured in the 1851 Census, aged two, the second youngest James and Jane Clark’s six children. Job was still resident with his family at Loders at the time of the 1861 and 1871 Censuses, when he was working as an agricultural labourer (1861) and labourer (1871).

Job Clark married Amelia Greening at Bridport (registration district) in the 3rd quarter of 1871. Amelia had been born at South Poorton (Powerstock) in the 3rd quarter of 1849, the daughter of Robert and Jean Greening. By the time of the 1881 Census, Job and Amelia Clark were living at Loders, and they now had five children: Louisa (aged 9), Lillie J. (7), Job (5), James W. (3), and Arthur (1). Job was 32 years old and working as a railway labourer. The family were still resident at Loders at the time of the 1891 Census, when Job was 42 years old and described as a worker on the line. Lilly (now aged 17) and Job (15) were by this time working as mill hands, and Jim (13) as an agricultural labourer. Emma (13), Arthur (11), Fred (7), and Ralph (3) were all still at school.

Job Clark died in 1897 (or very late 1896), aged 48, and was buried at Loders on the 2nd January 1897. The 1901 Census records the widowed “Mary Clark” as being resident at Loders with four sons: Arthur (aged 21, a flax dresser in hemp mills), Fred (17, an engineer’s labourer), Ralph (13, a labourer on farm), and Leslie (6, who was still at school).

Amelia Clark (née Greening) then married George Brown in the second quarter of 1901. George Brown had been born at Netherbury in around 1846, the son of Matthew and Matilda Brown (the family moved shortly afterwards to Loders). Like Amelia, George Brown had also been married before, to Esther (sometimes Hester) Travers Hyde in the 2nd quarter of 1870. They had at least two daughters, but Esther died in the 2nd quarter of 1897 and was buried at Loders on the 27th April 1897.

The 1911 Census found George and Amelia Brown living at No. 16, Loders with three of Amelia’s (now mostly adult) children: Job Clark (aged 35) and Fred Clark (27), both of whom were working as farm labourers, and the sixteen-year-old Leslie Clark, who was at the time working as a drayman for a corn and seed merchant. Amelia Brown died in 1945, aged 96, and was buried at Loders on the 17th April 1945.

Loders: War memorial plaque in the Church of St Mary Magdalene (Dorset)

Loders: War memorial plaque in the Church of St Mary Magdalene (Dorset)

As the death report in the Western Gazette noted, three of Leslie Clark’s brothers also died during the war years, two on active service:.

  • Job Clark had enlisted in the Dorsetshire Regiment at Dorchester on the 4th Februrary 1895 and he served in some capacity or other until 1905. He died in the 2nd quarter of 1915, aged 39 and was buried at Loders on the 3rd July 1915.
  • 10228 Private Arthur John Clark of the 6th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment died of wounds (gunshot wounds, multiple) at No 6 General Hospital, Rouen on the 16th July 1916, aged 36, and is buried in St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen (Seine-Maritime).
  • 82438 Private Frederick Clark of the 58th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps (previously of the Dorsetshire Regiment and the 5th Battalion, London Regiment) was killed in action on the 24th April 1918 and is remembered on the Pozières Memorial (Somme).

Leslie Albert Clark and his two brothers are commemorated on the war memorial in St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Loders. Leslie is also named on the main Bridport war memorial and the war memorial in St Swithun’s Church, Allington. Despite this, there is no mention of Lance Bombardier Clark in J. W. Rowson’s memorial book, Bridport and the Great War [9].

Bridport: War memorial in the Church of St Swithun, Allington (Dorset)

Bridport: War memorial in the Church of St Swithun, Allington (Dorset)

References:

[1] O. F. Bailey and H. M. Hollier, “The Kensingtons,” 13th London Regiment (London: Regimental Old Comrades’ Association, ca. 1935), pp. 219-220; Naval and Military Press reprint.

[2] WO 95/027/6, 303rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[3] Alan Smith’s book on artillery in the Palestine Campaign records that the 303rd Brigade, RFA comprised three batteries: “A” and “B” with six 18-pounder guns, and “C” with four 4.5-inch howitzers; see: Alan H. Smith, Allenby’s gunners: artillery in the Sinai & Palestine Campaigns, 1916-1918 (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2017), pp 308-309.

[4] Ibid., pp. 36-37.

[5] J. Stirling, The Territorial Divisions, 1914-1918 (London; Toronto: J. M. Dent, 1922), p. 169:
https://archive.org/details/territorialdivis00stirrich/page/168

[6] David R. Woodward, Forgotten soldiers of the First World War: lost voices from the Middle Eastern front (Stroud: Tempus, 2006), pp. 203-204; Woodward here cites two sources from the collections of the Imperial War Museums: diary and letter of 10th December 1917, IWM, Bayley MSS 86/9/1; and diary, IWM, Chipperfield MSS 75/76/1.

[7] Western Gazette, 24th January 1918, p. 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

[8] Woodward, op cit., pp. 271-273.

[9] J. W. Rowson, Bridport and the Great War: its record of work at home and in the field (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1923).

Update January 9th, 2019:

I have just noticed that 966395 Gunner William Henry Hardiman, a bellringer at St Mary’s Church, Bridport, had a broadly similar service history to that of Lance Corporal Clark. Hardiman enlisted at Bridport on the 6th April 1915 and, like Clark, at first joined the 3rd Dorset Brigade, RFA, part of the 3/3rd Wessex Brigade. J. W. Rowson’s memorial book on Bridport provides some more background on the Dorset RFA [1]. The Dorset Battery had been formed as part of the Territorial Force in 1908 and it mainly recruited from Dorchester and Bridport. The battery mobilised for war in 1914 and volunteers for overseas service provided a first line unit that sailed to India later that year with the Wessex Division, where they (under various formation names) remained until the end of the war. A second line unit was also established, which also served in India as a garrison and training unit. After the departure off the first two units to India, the parts of the battery that remained at Bridport became the 3rd Dorset Depot Battery of the 3/3rd Wessex Brigade. In 1915, the unit moved to Kettering (Northamptonshire) and became part of a training brigade known as No. 3 Reserve Brigade, RFA. The Wessex units in this brigade eventually became part of No. 303 Brigade RFA and proceeded to France in June 1916. I have yet to work out, however, the finer details of how No. 3 Reserve Brigade and the 2/8th London Brigade came together in the 303rd Brigade, RFA. Gunner Hardiman was  killed in action on the 9th November 1917, probably during the advance that followed the Third Battle of Gaza.

Reference:

[1] J. W. Rowson, Bridport and the Great War: its record of work at home and in the field (1923; reprinted: Lyme Regis: Cobblyme Publications, 2003), pp. 135-146.

 

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Posted by: michaeldaybath | January 8, 2019

Private Frederick William Samways, 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment

Hilton: Church of All Saints (Dorset)

Hilton: Church of All Saints (Dorset)

27969 Private Frederick William Samways of the 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment died on the 8th January 1919, aged 19. Fred Samways was also a bellringer at Hilton (Dorset) and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR).

The death of Private Samways was reported briefly in the Western Gazette of the 17th January 1919 [1]:

SAMWAYS. – Jan. 8th, at Fulham Military Hospital, London. Private Frederick William, the eldest dearly beloved son of Beatrice and William Samways of Hilton, Blandford, aged 19 years.
He gave his life for his country.

The Fulham Union Infirmary had opened in 1884 to provide medical support for the Fulham Workhouse. It was taken over by the War Office in 1915 and became the Fulham Military Hospital. It was on the site of what is now the Charing Cross Hospital, adjacent to the Margravine Cemetery (which I walk through on most days that I am in London).

Private Samways was buried in Hilton Churchyard. His name also features on the village war memorial (a churchyard cross), on the roll of honour inside the Church, and on the SDGR Dorchester Branch memorial in St. Peter’s Church, Dorchester.

Hilton: War Memorial (Dorset)

Hilton: War Memorial (Dorset)

I have been unable to discover the exact cause of Private Samways’s death. However, we do know from a earlier item in the Western Gazette (28th June 1918) that he had been a prisoner of war [2]:

HILTON.
FOR PRISONERS OF WAR. – Private Walter Hanham and Fred Samways having been taken prisoners, collections for their succour have been made in the church and village, amounting to £14 7s.

Fortuitously, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have digitised  the index cards of the International Prisoners-of-War Agency as part of the 1914-1918 Prisoners of the First World War ICRC Historical Archives project [3]. One of Private Fred Samways’s index cards [4, 5] links to a German camp register that records his transfer from Lüttich (Liège) to Dülmen POW camp in Germany [6]. The register states that Private Samways was taken prisoner at Messines on the 11th April 1918, while serving with ‘B’ Company of the 1st Wiltshires.

Dülmen Prisoner of War Camp, ca. 1917. Source: Australian War Memorial P01981.059

Dülmen Prisoner of War Camp, ca. 1917. Source: Australian War Memorial P01981.059: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P01981.059/

Dülmen POW camp was near Dülmen in North Rhine-Westphalia, south-west of the city of Münster.

It has not been possible to discover that much more about Private Samways’s service during the war, although his medal index card (The National Archives WO 372/17, available from Findmypast) suggests that he had served in the Duke Of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (Service No. 37543) before joining the 1st Wiltshires. His comparative youth suggests that he was most likely to have been one of the many freshly-trained men sent to the front after the start of the German Spring Offensives in 1918.

The political and logistical background to this has been described by Malcolm Brown [7]:

There were 17,000 troops in Britain in late March in a more or less reasonable state of readiness; these were instantly made available for France, while during April another 52,0000, not all in the prime of condition, were assembled from various sources. Up to a third of the 170,000 were under nineteen and thus, officially, not to be sent on active service except in an emergency; but clearly that is precisely what this was and a near-desperate situation required near-desperate remedies.

The 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment

During the First World War, the 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment were initially part of 7th Infantry Brigade in the 3rd Division. In October 1915, however, 7th Brigade joined the 25th Division in exchange for 76th Brigade. The battalion would serve as part of the 25th Division until June 1918, when they would transfer to 110th Infantry Brigade in the 21st Division.

During the early part of 1918, the 25th Division were to face the onslaught of the Kaiserschlacht (Kaiser’s Battle) three times: on the Somme, the Lys, and the Aisne. At the start of Operation Michael on the 21st March, the 1st Wiltshires had been based north-west of Bapaume, near Achiet, although they were not actually in the front line (the other brigades in the 25th Division had been deployed closer to the front). The 1st Wiltshires did rapidly, however, get caught up in the withdrawal across the old Somme battlefield of 1916, and the much depleted battalion was transferred to Flanders at the end of March. There they were brought up to strength, including the incorporation of large numbers of newly-trained recruits.

Operation Georgette then commenced on the 9th April with a major German attack between Armentières and Givenchy. On the following day, the Germans attacked further north near Ploegsteert, where the 7th Brigade were defending the area to the east of Ploegsteert Wood. Over the next few days, the 1st Wiltshires withdrew to the Ravelsberg area, suffering many casualties. The Ravelsberg is a small hill a mile-or-so east of Bailleul, so the extent of the withdrawal was quite substantial.

Ploegsteert Wood. Detail from Trench Map 28.SW

Ploegsteert Wood. Detail from Trench Map 28.SW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 7B; Published: July 1918; Trenches corrected to 11 July 1918: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464924 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland(Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The War Diary of the 1st Wiltshires (WO 95/2243/3) provides relatively little in the way of detail of what happened on the 10th April 1918 and successive days. The diary records that, immediately prior to Georgette, the battalion was based in the area east and north-east of Ploegsteert Wood [8]:

[Trenches N of RIVER LYS] [APRIL] 9th. Quiet day. The dispositions of the Battalion were as follows, ‘A’ Coy. in front line, ‘D’ Coy. in close support, ‘C’ Coy. in support at IRON GATE, ‘B’ Coy. in reserve in PLOEGSTOERT [sic] WOOD. Casualties, O.R. 1 wounded.

do. [APRIL] 10th. After an extremely heavy bombardment the enemy attacked at 3.30 a.m. & penetrated the line on both flanks of the Battns. with result that ‘A’ Company was cut off. After resisting the hostile attacks for more than 1 hour, ‘D’ Coy. retired to ZAMBUK POST & the Battalion took up the line of ZAMBUK POST & ULTIMO CRATER which was held for the remainder of the day. Casualties. Officers Major F. G. Wynne, D.S.O., Lt. F. Naylor, killed. Lt. Col. S. S. Ogilvie, D.S.O., 2nd Lt. S. J. Parker, M.C., D.C.M., Capt. F. Smith (Missing). O.R. 13 killed, 90 wounded, 75 missing.

Trenches E. of PLOEGSTOERT [sic] WOOD. APRIL 11. Hostile artillery bombarded the Battalion’s position during the while day. Owing to the enemy capturing the CATACOMBS & PLOEGSTOERT [sic] WOOD the battalion was forced to withdraw to vicinity of RAVELSBERG. Casualties O.R. 1 killed, 5 wounded.

Trenches around NEUVE ÉGLISE. [APRIL] 12. The battalion took up a position around NEUVE ÉGLISE. Hostile artillery very active all day. After dusk the Battalion marched to BAILLEUL to support the troops fighting to the East of that town but the Battalion was dispatched to hold a position at CRUCIFIX CORNER between NEUVE ÉGLISE & the RAVELSBERG. Casualties: Officers, Lt. R. M. Evens, U.S.A. R.A.M.C. missing; O.R., 4 killed, 16 wounded, 282 missing.

Ultimo Crater and Zambuk Post. Detail from Trench Map 28.SW.

Ultimo Crater and Zambuk Post. Detail from Trench Map 28.SW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 7A; Published: May 1918; Trenches corrected to 11 May 1918: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464927 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland(Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Chris Baker’s recent “Battleground” book on the northern Lys sector in 1918 provides far more detail on the 1st Wiltshire’s positions at the start of Georgette, which seems to have made good use of the principles of “defence in depth” [9]:

The much shorter left-hand sector of the 25th Division’s front was held by 7 Brigade, which placed the 1/Wiltshire and 4/South Staffords in the front. The Brigade’s reserve battalion, 10/Cheshires, was positioned on the far side of Ploegsteert Wood, in the shelter of the network of dugouts and tunnels below Hill 63 that was known as the Catacombs.
[…]
He [the 1st Wiltshire’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Sholto Stuart Ogilvie] placed only his A Company in the front line posts at La Basse-Ville (but strengthened it with an extra platoon on 9 April), with C and D forming his main line of defence further back, in Ultimo Avenue. B Company was held in reserve in the shelter of Ploegsteert Wood. Ogilvie set up his headquarters in the old Post Office at St Yves [Saint Yvon]: alert to the possibility of attack, he ordered the battalion to stand to during the terrific German artillery bombardment in the early hours of 10 April.

Edwin Astill’s commentary on the battalion War Diary provides an overview of what happened to the 1st Wiltshires on the 10th April 1918 [10]:

The divisional sector […] was about 7,000 yards long, between the River Lys to the River Douve, with the 7th Brigade on the left. They were now part of the IX Corps of Plumer’s 2nd Army, and were on the right flank of that Army. On 9th April the Germans attacked the area held by the Portuguese, south of the line held by the 25th Division. This was the start of the ‘Georgette’ offensive, made against the line north of the line attacked during ‘St. Michael’. 1/Wilts War Diary reported a quiet day. This was to change on the 10th, when the German attack through the early morning mist was preceded by a heavy bombardment. They used the infiltration tactics employed during the previous attacks and were thereby able to penetrate between units and cut them off. The War Diary records that ‘A’ Company was cut off, and that after resisting attacks for more than 1 hour ‘D’ Company and remainder of the battalion took up a line (Zambuk Post-Ultimo Crater) which they held for the rest of the day. The Official History [1918 Vol. 2] records that “The company of 1st Wiltshire (7th Bde) in La Basse Ville (just south of Warneton), in the front line, held out until 8.35a.m., when the few survivors, having expended all their ammunition and bombs, were forced to surrender.” It goes on to record that attempts by the 7th and 57th Brigades to retake Ploegsteert Wood were driven back, but that “further enemy advances were stemmed due to good artillery over (aided by good communications due to buried signal cables), short range fire and a lifting mist.”

Comines-Warneton: Ultimo Crater from Chemin de St Yvon (Hainaut)

Comines-Warneton: Ultimo Crater from Chemin de Saint Yvon (Hainaut); the trees mark the location of the crater

Chris Baker’s book on the northern Lys sector provides additional information on the German units on the other side of the line from the 1st Wiltshires [11]:

Facing the Wiltshires, Infanterie-Reiment 70 of 31st Infanterie-Division prepared to make the assault. They had endured a miserable night’s march in rain and fog, on wet, rutted and jammed roads, from Comines to Warneton […] The regiment placed its III Battalion on the left, facing the sugar factory at La Basse-Ville, and I Battalion on the right, nearer to Warneton.

Baker also describes what happened as the attack unfolded [12]:

At 5.10am the bombardment lifted from the Wiltshires’ front line and within minutes it became necessary for A Company to fire an SOS signal rocket to call for assistance as German infantry loomed out of the mist. But no one saw the rocket in the gloom, no artillery response came, and runners were sent rearwards to take the urgent message. By good luck, a runner reached Ogilvie and he was able to put through a telephone call to the artillery. He also ordered B Company to reinforce C and D. By this time, A Company’s four forward posts had already succumbed to III/IR70, and German troops were advancing northwards from the area held by 75 Brigade, cutting off the rest of the company. Despite Captain Frank Smith and his men of A Company doing their best to fight their way out, their supply of bullets and grenades soon ran short and at about 8.30am the remaining garrison of Smith and some thirty men surrendered.

Comines-Warneton: Ash Crater, south of Nieuwkerkebaan (Hainaut)

Comines-Warneton: Ash Crater, south of Nieuwkerkebaan (Hainaut)

Further back, the remainder of the battalion also found itself under severe pressure [13]:

With the South Staffords holding on, the Wiltshires found it was their right flank that was under the most serious threat. Ogilvie ordered his three remaining companies to hold the line Ash Crater – Zambuk Track – Ultimo Crater […] and thence down to the edge of the wood [Ploegsteert Wood]. Repeated attacks were also made on this line throughout the rest of the day, but it was still intact by nightfall.
[…]
With his battalion reduced by the fighting of 10 April down to about 130 officers and men in all, and with his headquarters now practically being in the new front line, Ogilvie moved rearwards to the Catacombs, a location which had the advantage of a deep-buried signal cable line by which contact could be made with division and the artillery. During the night a welcome draft of thirty men arrived.

As the battalion War Diary had recorded, the 10th April was not the end of the 1st Wiltshires’s ordeal. Astill again provides some more detail of what happened on the 11th April [14]:

Further German assaults forced the Division back, the War Diary for 11th April simply recording that the enemy’s capture of the Catacombs and Ploegsteert Woods forced the battalion to withdraw to the the vicinity of the Ravelsberg. The Official History tells us more. “The enemy made strenuous efforts all day against IX Corps”. The fighting on 10th April “had left 7th Brigade in a pronounced salient at St. Yves [Saint Yvon], which represented a 2 mile face to the south along the north edge of Ploegsteert Wood as far as Hill 63, whose flat top afforded good observation.” The 1/Wilts were one of the units holding this face. The Germans were able to make advances on the flanks of 7th Brigade, and their position looked increasingly precarious. The Brigade were ordered to fall back to high ground west of Neuve Eglise and the ‘Catacombs’ – a series of caverns dug into the west face of Hill 63. The Official History points to confusion here in orders, and a cancellation of the retirement order in the late afternoon. However the enemy were able to close around the Catacombs and Hill 63 position. Two companies of the 1/Wilts who had held Zambuk post during 10th and 11th April were able to reach the new position near Neuve Eglise, led by Capt. Priestley. The Catacombs position, housing the battalion Headquarters of both the 1/Wilts, 10/Cheshires and 4/S. Staffs, was overrun by the enemy. Amongst those captured was Lt. Col. Ogilvie, who had served with the battalion since 1914. Again, the 1/Wilts were reduced to a remnant – the Official History stating that it stood at 70 men of all ranks, and pointing to interference from Divisional Headquarters as being responsible for an “unnecessary disaster”.

Comines-Warneton: View of Factory Farm Crater from south of Ultimo Crater, from Riche Rue, Saint Yvon (Hainaut)

Comines-Warneton: View of Factory Farm Crater from south of Ultimo Crater, from Riche Rue, Saint Yvon (Hainaut)

Chris Baker again explains what this meant on the ground [15]:

In the early morning of 11 April, Ogilvie […] was told that there was now a gap of some two miles on his right, as 75 Brigade had carried out a deep withdrawal, leaving the battalions of 7 Brigade in an uncomfortable, exposed salient. The area of Hill 63 and the Catacombs came under heavy and sustained German shellfire during the morning, but despite frantic SOS signals from the front line and calls put through the telephone system, the British artillery response was weak and made little difference to the growing pressure from German infantry. After conferring with Lieutenant Colonel Finch of the 4/South Staffords and hearing reports that the enemy was in occupation of Grande and Petit Munque Farms, further bad news came when brigade told Ogilvie that it was imperative to hold on to St Yves and Hill 63, and that he should ‘hold on to the last and then fight my way back’.
At 6pm, a fresh bombardment heralded a strong German infantry attack from Ploegsteert Wood and up the steep-sided Hill 63. Intense Lewis gun and rifle fire was opened upon the advancing infantry, but the hill was soon surrounded from the rear and with it fell the entrances to the Catacombs. Within half an hour, Ogilvie – wounded in the ear – fell into captivity, along with others of his headquarters. About forty-five of the Wiltshires, led by Captain Geoffrey Wait, managed to escape from the forward position and through St Yves before the German net was fully closed around them.
[…]
By 5am on 12 April, the remnants of the brigade were gathered in a position near Aux Trois Rois Cabaret, west of Neuve Église.

During these initial stages of Georgette, the 1st Wiltshires suffered many casualties, killed, wounded and missing. Private Mohan, who joined the battalion at Jock Camp (near Poperinghe) later in April, recorded the human cost in his personal war diary [16]:

[…] out of 800 of the Battalion who went into action, besides reinforcements received during the action, only 80 came out. The Band and all the Bandsmen were captured complete. Drafts of men were sent straight from the base, and joined the Battalion but were not even known, or placed in any Company but were killed or taken prisoners almost at once – many of them boys of 18!

The CWGC database [17] records 73 members of the 1st Wiltshires that died between the 10th and 12th April 1918. They are mostly buried in Strand Military Cemetery, Ploegsteert or commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Comines-Warneton: Strand Military Cemetery, Ploegsteert (Hainaut)

Comines-Warneton: Strand Military Cemetery, Ploegsteert (Hainaut); seven of the grave markers in this row (X. R.) are Wiltshire Regiment casualties from April 1918

The ICRC Prisoner of War records state that Private Samways served in ‘B’ Company of the 1st Wiltshires. The battalion War Diary notes that this company was in reserve within Ploegsteert Wood on the 9th April. After the German attack on the 10th April, ‘B’ Company was ordered to reinforce ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies in their positions around Ultimo Avenue. After that, all three companies were ordered to hold the line Ash Crater – Zambuk Track – Ultimo Crater, from which they were forced to withdraw the following day. According to the Dülmen POW camp register, Private Samways was taken prisoner near Messines on the 11th April 1918, which would fit with this general picture. He was probably one of the 282 other ranks counted “missing” in the 1st Wiltshires’ War Diary of the 12th April.

Comines-Warneton: Mud Corner Cemetery and Ploegsteert Wood (Hainaut)

Comines-Warneton: Mud Corner Cemetery and Ploegsteert Wood (Hainaut)

After their withdrawal, the 1st Wiltshires were soon in operation again, based in trenches around Neuve Église, operating as part of a composite battalion of the 7th Brigade. Later the same month, 39769 Private Oscar Penny Whiting of the same battalion (from Wool, Dorset) was killed-in-action during an Anglo-French attempt to recapture the village of Kemmel on the 26th April 1918, aged 19. In May, the 1st Wiltshires would move to the Aisne sector, where they would once more get caught up in the opening of a major German Offensive. On the 21st June 1918, the battalion transferred to 110th Infantry Brigade in the 21st Division. The 1st Wiltshires would play a full part in the Hundred Days Offensive, advancing from Engelbelmer to the Canal de la Sambre à l’Oise, south of Valenciennes. Another bellringing member of the battalion, Private Clarence Vivian Clements Fry (from Bridgwater, Somerset), died of wounds at Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot on the 5th November 1918, aged 20.

Family background

Frederick William Samways was born at Dorchester (Dorset) in the first quarter of 1899, the son of William  Samways and Beatrice Samways (née Fox). He featured in the 1901 Census, aged two, living with his family at Muston, near Piddlehinton. By the time of the 1911 Census, the family had moved to Hilton; Frederick was by then twelve years old and still at school.

Frederick’s father, William Samways, had been born at Dorchester in the third quarter of 1876, the son of Thomas Samways and Jane Samways (née Eveleigh). At the time of the 1881 Cenusus, William was around one year old and living with his family at Winterborne Came, where his father was working as a thatcher on a farm. By the time of the 1891 Census, the family had moved to Poxwell and the fourteen-year-old William was already working as an agricultural labourer.

William Samways married Beatrice Fox in the Dorchester registration district in the fourth quarter of 1898. Beatrice Fox had been born at Charminster in the 1st quarter of 1880, the daughter of Philip and Emily Fox. At the time of the 1881 Census, she was living with her family at 16, Grove Buildings, West Fordington and her father was working as an agricultural labourer. By the time of the 1891 Census, the family had moved to Townhill Cottage, Frampton. At the time, Beatrice was eleven years old and still at school.

At the time of the 1901 Census, William and Beatrice Samways and their family were living at Muston, a hamlet a few miles south of Piddlehinton. At the time, William Samways was 25 years old and working as a carter on farm, and Beatrice was 23 years old. Their children were Frederick (aged two) and the infant Charles. By the time of the 1911 Census, the family had moved to Hilton. At the time, William Samways was 35 years old and working as a farm carter; Beatrice was 21 years old. The census return shows that they had had four children, all of whom were still living (and all were still resident at the family home). The eldest was Frederick (now aged 12), who was followed by: Frank (aged 10, born at Muston), John (4, born at Osmington), and Sidney (1, born at Hilton). Also living with them was William’s father, Thomas Samways, now a 67-year-old widower working as a farm labourer.

Beatrice Samways died in 1851; William on the 13th March 1953, aged 76. Both were buried at Winterborne Steepleton.

Dorchester: SDGR War Memorial, St Peter's Church (Dorset)

Dorchester: SDGR War Memorial, St Peter’s Church (Dorset)

A search of the British Newspaper Archive uncovered a curious story about Frederick Samways’s mother. In 1913, Beatrice Samways and Elizabeth Fripp were accused of the theft of furniture and other items while helping an elderly neighbour, Mrs Joanna White, move house to Gillingham. Samways and Fripp came up before Mr. W. E. Lawrence and Alderman J. J. Ball at Blandford at the end of August 1913. They were charged with stealing a table, wicker chair, flat-iron, hook, poker, tongs, blanket, and banister brush, valued at 11/-. At the time of the case, Joanna White would have been around 81 years old (in the 1911 Census, she had been recorded living at Hilton with her daughter-in-law, Gentilla White, and two grandchildren, Rosalie Annie and Ira Frank White). The Western Gazette of the 5th September 1913 described the case in some detail [18]:

Gentilla Elizabeth White, of Gillingham, deposed that on August 16th, she was having her mother-in-law’s furniture removed to Gillingham. When the furniture arrived at Gillingham, she missed the various articles and gave information to the police. She last saw the articles when they were brought out to be packed on the wagons at Hilton. The defendants helped to bring the furniture out of the house, but were not given permission to take anything.

Mrs Samways was accused of taking a blanket and a brush, Mrs Fripp of furniture and a few other items.

P.C. Clarke stated that he interviewed and cautioned Mrs. Samways on Aug. 23rd, and she replied “Yes, I was there helping, and I have the blanket upstairs. I found it in a bag of rags which was given me by Mrs. White. It was very dirty, and I have washed it, and was going to send it back to them when they had written to me as they had promised.” He afterwards saw Mrs. Fripp, who pointing out a chair, flat-irons, tongs, and poker, said “Yes, I have some things here which was found out in a pig-stye of mine after they had gone with the other furniture.” Witness asked her several times if these things were all she had and she replied, “Yes.” He told her she had been seen to take a table into her house and she replied “Oh, yes, I forgot about that, there it is there.” The table was in use, a clock and several pictures being upon it. On the following day, in company with P.S. Miller, he again saw Samways who said “I have the brush here; it was left for me to clean up the house.” They also saw Fripp, who said “I did take the table. It was not out in the pig-stye with the other things, as I told you last night.” I thought I would have something, seeing what I have done for the old woman. The children were playing with the other things out there, and after they had gone with the load of furniture my little boy came in and told me there was a chair out in the pig-stye. I went out and found it with the other things there, and brought it indoors, and was going to write to them when they had written to me.”
Defendants elected to be dealt with summarily, Samways pleading not guilty, and Fripp admitting she took the Table and flat-irons.

It then transpired that Samways and Fripp were well-acquainted with Mrs White, and had been very helpful to her in the past. If one believes the testimony of the defendants, the matter could probably have been sorted out by the simple return of property, without recourse to law. Both defendants, however, were fined and bound over.

George Robert White, son of the owner of the furniture, stated that Samways had been the best friend his mother had had, and asked the Bench to do nothing in it.
The defendant Fripp said she had kept the old woman in food, although she had a family of six children. With the exception of the flat-irons and table she found the things in her pig-stye.
Samways said she had sat up with the old woman at night and had washed and dressed her. She found the blanket in one of three bundles of rags which had been given her, and the brush was left for her to sweep up with.
The Bench bound over both defendants to be of good behaviour for six months, and ordered Samways to pay 7s costs, and Fripp 16s costs, which included the cost of the conveyance to bring her to the Court.

Hilton: Roll of Honour (Dorset)

Hilton: Roll of Honour (Dorset)

Update January 14th, 2019:

Since I first published this post, Robert Wellen very kindly contacted me to share some more information about Private Samways. In 2015, Robert had been contacted by Frederick Samways’s niece, Cynthia Hart, who was able to corroborate many details of his service life. For example, she was able to confirm that Private Samways had started his military service in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry before transferring to the Wiltshire Regiment. She also noted that he had been repatriated from Dülmen POW Camp in January 1919, and that his death had been a direct consequence of his time there:

He was a prisoner of war and very emaciated when he returned to England. He was in hospital in Hammersmith and died, just being too weak to recover.

The death certificate describes two causes of death: “acute pulmonary tuberculosis,” and “privation when prisoner in Germany”. Robert Wellen also sent me a comment by C. H. Jennings (Dorchester Branch Secretary) that was published in the SDGR Annual Report for 1918 (p. 12): “The last named [F. Samways] with W Hannam (also of Hilton), was a prisoner of war in Germany, and died after being released and admitted to Hospital. He was practically starved to death.”

Hilton: Grave marker for Private Frederick William Samways (Dorset); photograph by Robert Wellen

Hilton: Grave marker for Private Frederick William Samways (Dorset); photograph by Robert Wellen

Life in Prisoner of War Camps in Germany during the First World War had never been easy, but by 1918 the economic situation in Germany was grim. Richard Van Emden noted that the economic decline had become evident to British prisoners in Germany, especially for those sent on working Kommandos [19]:

Exchanged Allied prisoners reported the decline, too. In interviews, they were adamant that whereas food served to prisoners in 1915 had been intentionally substandard, as the Germans then had plenty, by 1918 meals were inadequate simply because the Germans had no more to give.

The SDGR Annual Report for 1918 also mentioned Walter Hannam, another bellringer at Hilton that had been a POW in Germany. The digitised records made available from the 1914-1918 Prisoners of the First World War ICRC Historical Archives project was also able to provide a little more information about him [20, 21, 22]. 203062 Private Walter Hanham (which was the spelling used) of ‘A’ Company, 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment was captured near Saint-Quentin on the 21st March 1918, the opening day of the German Spring Offensive. The 2nd Wiltshires were in the front line near Saint-Quentin on the 21st March. By the following day, the battalion had effectively ceased to exist. The battalion history commented that all that remained of the battalion was their transport and quartermaster’s stores, together with a few individuals that had been kept out of the battle [23]. Another Dorset bellringer in the 2nd Wiltshires, 27123 Private Arthur John Marsh from Preston, was killed in action on the 21st March 1918.

Prison camp registers record Private Walter Hanham (i.e. Hannam) in May 1918 at Cassel (presumably Niederzwehren POW Camp, Hesse), and then (with other former members of the 2nd Wiltshires) in July 1918 at Langensalza (Bad Langensalza, Thuringia) — where his first name was incorrectly transcribed as Walker. Both registers note that Private Hannam was “unverwundet” — not wounded.

The Scotland’s War (1914-1918) website contains an account by 235590 Corporal Golding of the 8th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment that provides an insight into conditions at Langensalza towards the end of the war. Golding held the Commandant directly responsible for the bad conditions at the Camp [24]:

In my opinion, he [Captain Alexander] could have done a good deal to improve the conditions of the camp, and particularly the sanitation, which was very bad indeed. Had he wished to do so, I think also that he might have done something to relieve the British prisoners who came into Langensalza from working behind the lines. These men were in a terrible state of emaciation, without clothing, when the Help Committee were able to give them food, and although they nearly all went to hospital, the only medical comforts and food they got came from the Help Committee.

Three British POWs were killed after the Armistice, an event that Corporal Golding was  able to describe in detail.

The POW camp registers also record that Walter Hanham / Hannam was born at Hilton on the 30th April 1892 and that his mother was named Sarah. This matches with the Hannam family that were resident in Hilton parish from (at least) the time of the 1851 Census. At the time of the 1901 Census, Walter was eight-years old and living with another grandson (Arthur, aged 22) in the household of their grandparents, William and Mary Ann Hannam, who were by that time both in their seventies. Also living in the household were three of William and Mary Ann’s children: James Hannam (aged 52, a general farm labourer), Sarah Hannam (48), and Elizabeth Hannam (45, who had been blind since childhood). Walter was baptised at Hilton on the 3rd July 1892; the information provided by the baptismal record (available from Findmypast) and the POW camp registers suggests that the Sarah Hannam recorded in the 1901 Census was Walter’s mother. By the time of the 1911 Census, Walter was an eighteen-year-old estate worker. He was still resident at Hilton, part of the household of James Hannam (now a 64-year-old farm labourer) and his siblings (which included Sarah, now said to be aged 62). Curiously, both Arthur and Walter were both now said to as James’s brothers. After the war, Walter Hannam married Gwendoline Holmes at Hilton on the 25th October 1922.

References:

[1] Western Gazette, 17th January 1919, p. 10; via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] Western Gazette, 29th June 1918, p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

[3] 1914-1918 Prisoners of the First World War ICRC Historical Archives project: https://grandeguerre.icrc.org

[4] Samways, Frederick; index card, 1914-1918 Prisoners of the First World War project: https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/3619352/3/2/

[5] Samways, F. W.; index card, 1914-1918 Prisoners of the First World War project: https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/5576483/3/2/

[6] Page from the Dülmen Camp register, 1914-1918 Prisoners of the First World War project: https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/List/3619352/698/42915/

[7] Malcolm Brown, The Imperial War Museum book of 1918: year of victory (London:  Pan Books, 1999), p. 70.

[8] WO 95/2243/3, 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew; transcript also in: The Wiltshire Regiment in the First World War: 1st Battalion, 2nd ed. (Salisbury: The Rifles Wardrobe and Museum Trust, 2011), pp. 182-183.

[9] Chris Baker, The Battle of the Lys 1918: North: Objective Ypres (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2018), pp. 29, 31.

[10] Edwin Astill, 1st Battalion the Wiltshire Regiment in the Great War: a commentary and analysis of their War Diary (Salisbury: RGBW (Salisbury) Museum, 2005), p. 65.

[11] Baker, op. cit., p. 31

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., p. 33.

[14] Astill, op. cit., p. 65.

[15] Baker, op. cit., pp. 33-34.

[16] T. G. Mohan, “My War Diary,” Imperial War Museum Collection Ref. 80/28/1; cited in Astill, op. cit., p. 98.

[17] CWGC database: http://www.cwgc.org/

[18] The Western Gazette, 5th September 1913, p. 10; via British Newspaper Archive.

[19] Richard Van Emden, Meeting the enemy: the human face of the Great War (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 298.

[20] Hanham, Walter; index card, 1914-1918 Prisoners of the First World War project:
https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/2706071/3/2/

[21] Page from the Cassel Camp register, 1914-1918 Prisoners of the First World War project:
https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/List/2706071/698/23263/

[22] Page from the Langensalza Camp register, 1914-1918 Prisoners of the First World War project:
https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/List/2706071/698/27494/

[23] W. S. Shepherd, The 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment (99th): a record of their fighting in the Great War, 1914-18, 2nd ed. (Salisbury: The Rifles Wardrobe and Museum Trust, 2011), p. 145; first published by the Wiltshire Regiment, 1927.

[24] “Langensalza POW Camp,” Scotland’s War (1914-1919):
http://www.scotlandswar.co.uk/pdf_Langensalza_POW_Camp.pdf

 

Curry Rivel: Church of St Andrew (Somerset)

Curry Rivel: Church of St Andrew (Somerset)

110171 Gunner Thomas Sylvester Pope of the 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery died of pneumonia in Egypt on the 5th January 1919, aged 30. Thomas Pope was also a bellringer at St Andrew’s Church, Curry Rivel (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers (BWDACR).

Curry Rivel: War Memorial (Somerset)

Curry Rivel: War Memorial (Somerset)

Sylvester Thomas Pope was born in the second quarter of 1889 at Curry Rivel (Langport registration district), the son of John Pope and Mary Elizabeth Pope (née Louch). He was baptised at Curry Rivel on the 26th May 1889. In the 1891 Census, the two-year-old Sylvester T. Pope (spelled “Silvester”) was living with his parents and an older brother at Curry Rivel. At the time, his father, John Pope, was forty years old and working as a stone cutter; his mother, Mary E. Pope, was thirty-eight years old and working as a dressmaker. His older brother, Ernest L. Pope, was a six-year-old scholar. Also living with the family was a lodger, the thirty-year-old Ellen M. Louch, who was presumably a relative of Mary Pope.

At the time of the 1901 Census, the twelve year old Thomas S. Pope (as he was now styled) was still living with his family, now at the Barton, Curry Rivel. John Pope was fifty-one years old and still working as a stone cutter; Mary Pope was forty-nine years old and still working as a dressmaker. Thomas’s older brother, the sixteen year old Ernest, was at this time working as a saddler’s apprentice. By the time of the 1911 Census, the family were living at Church Street in Curry Rivel. Thomas Sylvester Pope was at that time twenty-two years old and working as a gardener. John Pope was sixty years old and working as a general man on a farm; Mary was fifty-eight years old and working as an upholsterer.

Thomas Sylvester Pope married Violet Sarah Louch at South Petherton (Somerset) on the 30th September 1913. Violet Sarah Louch had been born at Fivehead (Somerset) in 1892, the daughter of George Louch and Ellen Mary Louch (née Tolman). She was baptised at Fivehead on the 13th March 1892. At the time of the 1901 Census, Violet was eight years old and living at Fivehead (Somerset) with her parents, the second eldest of four children. By the time of the 1911 Census, Violet was nineteen years old and working as a servant in the household of Adina Chelmsford, a widow living at 34, Onslow Square in Kensington, London SW.

Curry Rivel: War Memorial (Somerset)

Curry Rivel: War Memorial (Somerset)

Gunner Thomas Sylvester Pope’s service records survive as part of the First World War ‘Burnt Documents’ series (WO 363/4, available from Findmypast) and they provide an useful, if incomplete, outline of his service career. They also reveal that Thomas and Violet Pope had two children: Reginald Louch Pope, born at Curry Rivel on the 30th September 1914, and Clement Lionel Pope, born at South Petherton on the 6th November 1916. It seems that at some point during the war years, Violet Pope moved to live at the Royal Oak Inn, Over Stratton, a small village south of South Petherton.

Thos. Sylvester Pope, an innkeeper and gardener resident at the New Inn, Hambridge, Curry Rivel, attested at Taunton or Yeovil on the 9th December 1915, aged 26.  He was mobilised on the 31st July 1916 and initially posted to No 3. Depot of the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA), based at the Citadel in Plymouth. Gunner Pope then served (or trained) for a while with various RGA units in the UK, including the 57th Company at Pembroke Dock (from 12th August 1916), No. 250 Siege Battery (from 23rd September 1916, before they were posted to the Western Front), and then at Portsmouth (from 21st December 1916), where he joined 37th Company on the 13th January 1917. On the 22nd March 1917, Pope was posted to No. 5 Reserve Brigade Artillery at Catterick, where on the 14th April he joined “C” Mountain Battery, RGA at Scotton Camp.

Australian War Memorial A02940A: Members of the 11th Mountain Battery in action using a light field 3.7 inch mountain howitzer:

Australian War Memorial A02940A: Members of the 11th Mountain Battery in action using a light field 3.7 inch mountain howitzer: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1022843

Gunner Pope’s spell at home finished when he joined the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) in September 1917, embarking at Southampton on the 14th September 1917 for Le Havre, then at then Marseilles on the 22nd September for Alexandria, where he arrived on the 27th September 1917. On the 29th October, Pope joined No. 11 Mountain Battery, RGA, which had been arriving and concentrating in Egypt (Sidi Bishr) since August 1917, and was part of VIII Mountain Brigade, RGA. On the 29th October 1917, Gunner Pope was posted again, this time to the IX Mountain Brigade, RGA.

IWM Q 31711: Men of a Royal Garrison Artillery mountain battery dragging their 2.75-inch mountain gun along a track in the Krusha Balkan Hills, 1916

Imperial War Museums Q 31711: Men of a Royal Garrison Artillery mountain battery dragging their 2.75-inch mountain gun along a track in the Krusha Balkan Hills, 1916. © IWM (Q 31711): https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/ object/205297316

RGA Mountain Batteries used either the 2.75-inch mountain gun or the more up-to-date 3.7-inch mountain howitzer, both of which were designed to be broken down into smaller loads for transportation by mules over inhospitable terrain [1]. The EEF order of battle for October 1917 recorded that IX Mountain Artillery Brigade were GHQ troops, and were thus not assigned to any particular Corps or Division. At the time, both A and B Batteries of IX Brigade were using the 2.75-inch gun [2]. It is possible to trace some of the Brigade’s activities (but not that of all their constituent batteries) by their occasional mentions in the British Official History. Where Gunner Pope actually served has been impossible to discover, so the following paragraphs will simply give an indication of the types of operation that the mountain batteries (including Gunner Pope’s unit) were involved in.

For example, in November 1917, B Battery of IX Mountain Brigade  operated in support of the 52nd Division during their advance into the Judean Hills [3]. Later the same month, B Battery also took part in the Battle of Nabi Samwil, where it operated during the 75th Division’s attempt to capture El Jib on the 22nd and 23rd November 1917.  The Official History noted that the battery only had three guns in action, “and they were worn and consequently inaccurate; so that gallantly as they were handled, they were not of great service” [4] (a Bridgwater bellringer, Captain Arthur Oswald Major of the 1/5th Somerset Light Infantry, would be killed-in-action at El Jib on the 23rd November).

On the 8th December 1917, as part of EEF operations around Jerusalem, B Battery of IX Mountain Brigade and the 10th Mountain Battery operated with 179th Infantry Brigade (part of 60th Division) in an attack on the village of Ain Karim [5]. Towards the end of the year, both batteries were active again in the defence of Jerusalem [6].

In March and April 1918, the IX Mountain Artillery Brigade took part in both Trans-Jordan raids. In the first, IX Brigade and the 10th Heavy Battery (Gunner Pope’s future unit) formed part of a column known as “Shea’s Force,” who were to cross the Jordan and advance on Es Salt and Amman [7]. The column managed to cross the river and capture Es Salt, but failed in its ultimate objective of taking Amman and was eventually forced to retreat back to the Jordan valley. During the second Trans-Jordan raid, towards the end of April, the IX Mountain Artillery Brigade took part in the Second Action of Es Salt on the 30th April 1918, but the raid was ultimately no more successful than the first — except in perhaps misleading the Ottomans as to where the main EEF offensive would strike [8].

The IX Mountain Artillery Brigade would go on to take part in the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918, which was the final major offensive of the Palestine campaign. Long before then, however, Gunner Pope had been admitted to hospital on the 26th June 1918 with a knee injury or wound (the abbreviation in his medical records is difficult to decipher). Several months later, on the 7th September, Gunner Pope was posted to the General Base Depot (GBD) at Kantara (Egypt), prior to further postings to the 205th Siege Battery and finally, on the 28th September 1918, to his final unit: the 10th Heavy Battery, RGA. Heavy Batteries operated four 60-pounder heavy field guns [9].

Australian War Memorial J06536: A battery of 60 pounder guns in action during fighting in the Sinai area

Australian War Memorial J06536: A battery of 60 pounder guns in action during fighting in the Sinai area: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C4343

According the the EEF order of battle for September 1918, both the 10th Heavy Battery and the 205 Siege Battery were operating as corps troops, assigned to XX Corps [10]. During September, the 10th Heavy Battery had been involved in the Battle of Megiddo, where XX Corps attacked along the line of the Bireh – Nablus road [11]. The British Official History reveals the extent of the “mechanisation” of EEF heavy artillery by this stage of the Palestine Campaign. In a note on the move of the 10th Heavy Battery and 205th Siege Battery up the Jerusalem – Nablus road towards El Lubban on the 20th September 1918, Cyril Falls recorded that [12]:

[…] guns were drawn by four-wheel-drive lorries and detachments and ammunition carried in ordinary lorries. They could thus move on the main road at 6 miles an hour, and were generally ahead of the field artillery and even the mountain batteries.

After the Battle of Megiddo, the EEF (chiefly the Desert Mounted Corps) pursued the defeated Ottoman Armies into Syria towards Damascus, which was captured at the beginning of October 1918. Some units, including the 5th Cavalry Division, then continued the pursuit towards Aleppo, which was captured by Arab forces on the 25th October. Alan Smith has noted that the pursuit effectively sidelined the operation of most field, siege and heavy artillery [13]:

The mounted troops were maintained with the sole task of remaining mobile. To this end all transport, including water carts, was left in parks. Guns, ammunition wagons and ambulance vehicles were all that accompanied the columns and the animals carried two days’ rations and forage. Orders directed the cavalry to ‘live off the country’ until such time as the logistic tail caught up with the advance.

The campaigns in the Middle East ended with the signing of the Armistice of Mudros on the 30th October.

The end of fighting, however, did not mean that all danger had passed. David Woodward has noted that after Megiddo, one of the main threats to the EEF was sickness [14]:

Exhaustion, stretched supply lines, and especially disease represented the greatest threat to the EEF. A worldwide flu epidemic combined with malaria in striking down many men. ‘Sickness is troubling us’, [General] Allenby wrote Sir Henry Wilson [Letter, 22nd October 1918, in Matthew Hughes, ed., Allenby in Palestine (2004), p. 210], ‘I had the mosquitos [sic] well in hand; and soon the Jordan Valley had become almost a summer health resort. Now I’m in Turkish territory, and malignant malaria is laying a lot of people by the heels. I’ve a good DMS [Director of Medical Services] now; one Luce [Major-General Richard Harman Luce], and he is doing all he can, but his beds are all full. I want to send some thousands of sick to Malta; but Salonika appears to have filled up most of the beds there.’

The effects on the troops could be devastating [15]:

The advance to victory thus found Allenby’s forces crippled with disease, with inadequate medical care for many. The cavalry’s distant trek had been accompanied by remarkably few battle casualties, only 650 in five weeks, but disease was another matter. According to Gullet [E. S. Gullet, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Vol. 7 (1923), p. 773], ‘Every headquarters from corps to squadron was more or less a hospital, where the fortunate lay on stretchers, but most had to be content with a place on the floor, or out in the shade of the trees, while they battled with raging fevers. Tragically, many who served in the infantry as well as the cavalry died after the armistice with Turkey. The EEF’s death toll from disease in October and November was 2,158. By contrast, the EEF had suffered only 453 battle deaths during the last two months of the war.

The artillery were not immune. Gunner Thomas Sylvester Pope of 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, died of broncho-pneumonia at No 19 British General Hospital at Alexandria on the 5th January 1919. He was buried in Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt (G. 47.).

Australian War Memorial A02858: No 19 British General Hospital at Alexandria,

Australian War Memorial A02858: No 19 British General Hospital at Alexandria, through which thousands of soldiers passed during the Gallipoli campaign. An Egyptian red star and crescent flag is flying on the building: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A02858/

Gunner Pope’s death was reported in the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser of the 22nd January 1919 [16]:

CURRY RIVEL.
SOLDIER’S SAD DEATH. – Gunner T. Pope, who has seen a good deal of active service at the fronts in Italy and Mesopotamia, was on his way home from the last mentioned place, when he was taken ill with pneumonia. He was disembarked to Alexandria, and after a short illness, succumbed. The sad news came to his father, Mr. John Pope, last week, and caused very great regret in the village. Before joining up he was the licensee of the Hambridge Inn. He leaves a widow and two small children, with whom the greatest sympathy is felt.

Curiously, Gunner Pope’s service records do not include any suggestion that he had served in either Italy or Mesopotamia.

Gunner Pope’s records, however, do contain a copy of the message sent to his widow after his death. It was sent from the RGA at Dover on the 8th January 1919 to Mrs V. S. Pope at the Royal Oak Inn, Over Stratton, South Petherton, Somerset. It wasn’t very long:

B6616 Regret inform you Officer Commanding  3rd Echelon Alexandria reports 5 Jan 110171 Gunner T S Pope 10 Heavy Battery RGA died 5th Jan Pneumonia.

A few days afterwards, Violet Pope wrote back to the regiment concerning Thomas Pope’s will:

The Royal Oak
Over Stratton
Nr South Petherton
Somerset
Jan 13th 19
No. 940/125/-
Will you kindly inform me as soon as possible if my Husband
110171
Thomas S. Pope
10 Heavy Battery R.G.A.
Which died at Alexandria of pneumonia, left a will. If so will you please send me a copy as it is needed for money matters.
If you cannot tell me, will you kindly forward this to the proper quarters & greatly oblige.
Yours sincerely
Violet Pope

In due course, Mrs Pope received her husband’s effects. These were listed in a message sent from RGA Records at Dover, which was dated the 6th May 1919: “letters, photos, cards, purse, 2 chevrons, 2 dentures, disc, strap, cigarette case, souvenir cig case, 2 safety razors & strop, note book.”

Curry Rivel: War Memorial plaque in the Church of St Andrew (Somerset)

Curry Rivel: War Memorial plaque in the Church of St Andrew (Somerset)

Gunner Thomas Sylvester Pope’s name appears on the war memorials at Curry Rivel and Hambridge, and on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey.

Curry Rivel: War Memorial (Somerset)

Curry Rivel: War Memorial (Somerset)

John Pope, Thomas Pope’s father, was born at Curry Rivel in the 4th quarter of 1950, the son of Thomas Pope and Sarah Pope (née Guppy). He was baptised at Curry Rivel on the 6th January 1851. In all census returns from 1851 to 1881, John Pope was recorded living with his family at Curry Rivel, e.g at Town’s End (1861), Alma Cottage (1871) and Townsend (1881) . By the time of the 1871 and 1881 Censuses, John was working as a labourer.

John Pope married Mary Elizabeth Louch in 1884, when he was aged 34. Mary Louch had been born at South Petherton in 1852, the daughter of Silvester and Sarah Louch. At the time of the 1891 and 1901 Censuses, John and Mary Pope were living at Curry Rivel, where John was working as a stone cutter and Mary as a dressmaker. In 1891, they had two sons: the six-year old Ernest and the two-year-old Silvester (Thomas). By 1901, the sixteen-year-old Ernest was working as a saddler’s apprentice, while Thomas was twelve years old. At the time of the 1911 Census, John and Mary Elizabeth Pope were living at Church Street, Curry Rivel. John was by that time working as a general man on a farm, and Mary as an upholsterer (on her own account). Their youngest son, Thomas Sylvester Pope, was still living with them and was at the time working as a gardener.

Mary Elizabeth Pope died at Langport (registration district) in the second quarter of 1929, aged 76; John Pope died at Bridgwater (registration district) in the second quarter of 1936.

References:

[1] A detailed account of the role of artillery in the Palestine Campaign can be found in: Alan H. Smith, Allenby’s gunners: artillery in the Sinai & Palestine Campaigns, 1916-1918 (Barnsley: Pen and Sword Military, 2017).

[2] Cyril Falls and A. F. Becke, Military Operations Egypt & Palestine: from June 1917 to the end of the war, Pt. II (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1930), p. 666.
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.6782/page/n319

[3] Cyril Falls and A. F. Becke, Military Operations Egypt & Palestine: from June 1917 to the end of the war, Pt. I (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1930), p. 165:
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.211976/page/n229

[4] Ibid., p. 205, n. 2:
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.211976/page/n283

[5] Ibid., p. 244:
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.211976/page/n353

[6] Ibid., p 283:
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.211976/page/n399

[7] Ibid., p. 331:
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.211976/page/n463

[8] Ibid., p. 367:
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.211976/page/n511

[9] Smith, Allenby’s gunners, pp. 37-39.

[10] Falls and Becke, Military Operations Egypt & Palestine: from June 1917 to the end of the war, Pt. II, p. 669:
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.6782/page/n321

[11] Smith, Allenby’s gunners, p. 260

[12] Falls and Becke, Military Operations Egypt & Palestine: from June 1917 to the end of the war, Pt. II,  p. 497, n. 1:
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.6782/page/n119

[13] Smith, Allenby’s gunners, p. 272.

[14] David R. Woodward, Forgotten soldiers of the First World War: lost voices from the Middle Eastern front (Stroud: Tempus, 2006), p. 271.

[15] Ibid., pp. 272-273.

[16] Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, 22nd January 1919, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

Poster for the Memory Makers conference, Amsterdam Museum, 29th November 2018

Poster for the Memory Makers conference, Amsterdam Museum, 29th November 2018

Last week, I was able to attend the conference “Memory Makers: Digital Preservation Skills and How to Get Them,” which was held at the Amsterdam Museum in the Netherlands. The conference was organised by the Netwerk Digitaal Erfgoed (Dutch Digital Heritage Network) and the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) and was mainly focused on the digital preservation skills agenda, looking at it from a variety of different perspectives. The opening day coincided with World Digital Preservation Day (WDPD), which also provided a focus for the conference discussion on Twitter (#WDPD2018).

Amsterdam: Seventeenth-century entrance at the Amsterdam Museum

Amsterdam: Seventeenth-century entrance at the Amsterdam Museum

The opening session included welcomes from Judikje Kiers (Executive Director of the Amsterdam Museum) and William Kilbride (Director of the DPC), followed by an entertaining presentation by Eppo van Nispen tot Sevenaer (Director of Beeld en Geluid, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision), which ended with a recitation of W. E. Henley’s well-known poem, Invictus, which ends:

I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

This was followed by three presentations on the development of university syllabi that incorporate digital preservation (DP) to a lesser or greater extent. The presenters were from the University of Amsterdam, Aberystwyth University, and King’s College London. First, Eef Masson of the University of Amsterdam described the development of a Masters course on the Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image. A key theme was the university’s ongoing co-operation with heritage institutions to help shape the programme. Sarah Higgins then introduced the DP components of the Information Studies programme at Aberystwyth University. In the course of the presentation and the resulting discussion, Sarah argued that the point of the course was about educating students for a profession, rather than for proving training in the use of particular tools or DP systems. This would include, for example, looking at the role of individual tools rather than their use within a given DP system. Sarah also noted that many Information Science students at Aberystwyth had non-technical (primarily humanities) backgrounds; they were ‘digital natives’ in the sense that they were perfectly happy using technology, but they had not really dug into it that much deeper. Some students were primarily interested in other elements of the course, but had chosen to do DP modules simply to expand their knowledge of the management of digital content. In the final presentation, Professor Simon Tanner provided an outline of King’s College London’s MA in Digital Asset and Media Management. Digital preservation elements were integrated into many parts of the course, although Professor Tanner noted that not all of the students on the course were planning to work in the educational or heritage domains after graduating.

The second session moved on to consider DP training, e.g. that conducted for and within institutions. First up was Sharon McMeekin of the Digital Preservation Coalition, who outlined the results of a survey of DPC members’ training requirements. Sharon wondered whether the DP community might need to revisit aspects of the DigCurV (Digital Curator Vocational Education Europe) Curriculum Development project, especially in developing new “lenses” to cover specific perspectives (e.g., IT colleagues). My colleague Maureen Pennock then gave an overview of DP training activities at the British Library, emphasising that DP involved colleagues from all across the organisation. She noted that the training courses arranged for DP staff were quite diverse, including courses on strategic management, project management methods (e.g. Agile), and statistics. The final presentation of the day was given by Chantal Keijsper, director of the Utrechts Archief and Flevolands Archief. This covered some of the many competencies required for doing DP, using the following main categories:

  • Knowledge, e.g., subject knowledge, digital technologies, digital strategy and policy, computational languages, systems and applications, digital humanities, laws and regulation, etc.
  • Attitude, e.g. curiosity, responsiveness to change, customer orientation, being proactive and flexible, etc.
  • Skills, further divided into: hard skills (e.g. about collection management or digitisation) and soft skills (e.g. collaboration, communication, creativity, problem solving)

Keijsper also referred to a recent generic model for 21st Century skills (21e eeuwse vaardigheden) that had been developed by SLO and Kennisnet [1, 2]. This model (Figure 1) incorporated a range of skills, including: critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, computational thinking, information skills, ICT basic skills, media literacy, communication, collaboration, social and cultural skills, and self-regulation. The key theme from all of the presentations in this session was that DP training should not just be about specific DP (or technical) knowledge and skills, but needed to also be about developing people’s attitudes and soft skills.

SLO/Kennisnet, Nieuw model 21e eeuwse vaardigheden (2016).

SLO/Kennisnet, Nieuw model 21e eeuwse vaardigheden (2016). Source: Kennisnet [1]

In the evening of the first day the ceremony for the Digital Preservation Awards was held at the Amsterdam Museum [3]. The full list of winners included:

  • The Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) Award for Research and Innovation: Stanford University Libraries (ePADD); also certificate of distinction presented to: Sarah Higgins, Aberystwyth University (Digital Curation: Contributions towards Defining the Discipline)
  • The DPC Award for Teaching and Communications: Jennifer Allen, Matthew Farrell, Shira Peltzman, Alice Prael and Dorothy Waugh (The Archivist’s Guide to Kryoflux)
  • The National Records of Scotland (NRS) Award for the Most Distinguished Student Work in Digital Preservation: Anna Oates, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • The Open Data Institute (ODI) Award for the Most Outstanding Digital Preservation Initiative in Commerce, Industry and the Third Sector: Crossrail and Transport for London (Archiving Crossrail)
  • The National Archives Award for Safeguarding the Digital Legacy: IFI Irish Film Archive (IFI Loopline Project)
  • The DPC Fellowship Award: Barbara Sierman (Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Nationale Bibliotheek van Nederland)
Memory Makers conference, Amsterdam Museum, 29th November 2018.

Memory Makers conference, Amsterdam Museum, 29th November 2018.

The Memory Makers conference continued on the Friday morning with some case studies and a final session on collaborative learning. The case studies followed the four DPC award finalists in the Teaching and Communications category. Amber Cushing of University College Dublin presented on the development of the first postgraduate course on digital curation in Ireland. The project team had undertaken an extensive survey of the digital curation landscape in Ireland before developing a programme in Digital Information Management. The results of a questionnaire demonstrated a surprising lack of awareness of DP / digital curation in Ireland. Rosemary Lynch of the Parliamentary Archives introduced the Ibadan/Liverpool Digital Curation Curriculum Review Project, which was looking at ways to share skills and knowledge across archival education programmes at the Universities of Liverpool (UK) and Ibadan (Nigeria). This used the DigCurV curriculum as a template to evaluate the respective courses taught at the two universities and to identify areas where the respective programmes could be improved, e.g. by sharing knowledge and/or teaching materials. Frans Neggers of Het Nieuwe Instituut (Rotterdam) then presented Leren Preserveren, an introductory course on digital preservation for practitioners, that had been developed by the Instituut together with Netwerk Digitaal Erfgoed [4]. The course used a mixture of online and face-to-face training and had been very well received by students. Finally, Dorothy Waugh of Emory University introduced the Archivists’ Guide to Kryoflux, which had won the DP Award the previous evening. Waugh started by explaining her excitement on receiving her institution’s Kyroflux board and her disappointment on discovering that the documentation was rather lacking: “I’ve bought hair products that come with more instruction.” The Archivists’ Guide was an attempt to remedy this. It has been published on Github [5].

After coffee (and stroopwafels), the conference continued with a final session on collaborative learning. Jasper Snoeren of Beeld en Geluid introduced the training programmes that his organisation had prepared for those responsible for AV collections, which often had very few staff (some of them volunteers). Beeld en Geluid ran winter schools on different topics; recent events had covered: bridging gaps between theory and practice, and preservation policies. The organisation had also organised some interactive “knowledge cafés.” In the next presentation, Puck Huitsing of Netwerk Oorlogsbronnen (War Documentation Network) deliberately avoided talking about DP at all, focusing instead on methods for community building, advocating (amongst many other things): solving problems collaboratively, getting management involved at an early stage, and starting small and not being afraid of making mistakes. Huitsing’s inspiration was the guild system — once popular in the Netherlands (and elsewhere) — which used practice-based methods to transfer craft skills from one generation to the next. The final presentation was given by Valerie Johnson of the National Archives (UK). It provided an overview of how TNA was working with the wider UK archives sector to develop its knowledge and skills, e.g. through the Archives Unlocked vision [6].

References:

[1]  Rob Voorwinden, Nieuw model 21e eeuwse vaardigheden, Kennisnet, 6th September 2016: https://www.kennisnet.nl/artikel/nieuw-model-21e-eeuwse-vaardigheden/

[2] Marjan Vermeulen and Emmy Vrieling, 21e-eeuwse vaardigheden: achtergronden en onderwijsimplicaties in zeventien vragen en antwoorden (Heerlen: Open Universiteit, n.d): https://www.poraad.nl/system/files/rapport_ou_wereldkidz.pdf

[3] Digital Preservation Awards, 2018: https://www.dpconline.org/events/digital-preservation-awards

[4] DPC blog on Leren Preserveren: https://www.dpconline.org/blog/idpd/what-we-learned-from-leren-preserveren

[5] Archivists’ Guide to Kryoflux: https://github.com/archivistsguidetokryoflux/archivists-guide-to-kryoflux

[6] Archives Unlocked: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/archives/Archives-Unlocked-Brochure.pdf

Posted by: michaeldaybath | December 3, 2018

Sergeant Charles William Walter Speck, Royal Air Force

Lytchett Minster Church (Dorset)

Lytchett Minster Church (Dorset)

207687 Sergeant Charles William Walter Speck of the Royal Air Force died of pneumonia at Haslar Military Hospital, Gosport on the 3rd December 1918, aged 31. He was also a bellringer at Lytchett Minster and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR).

On the 3rd July 1908, the 21-year-old Charles William Walter Speck enlisted in the Territorial Force Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) at Poole, initially serving with the Dorset RGA. His service record (available from Findmypast) shows that 687 Gunner Speck attended annual training camps at Nothe Common (Weymouth) in 1908 and 1909. He then transferred to the Hampshire RGA in 1910. After the expiry of his initial four year service, Speck was re-engaged in August 1912. He was embodied on the 4th August 1914, on the outbreak of the war. He then served for a year on the home front. On the 14th August 1915, Gunner Speck was discharged from the Hampshire RGA at Southsea Castle, on termination of engagement. On the 17th of the same month, however, he joined the Royal Navy, serving as a mechanic with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). On joining the RNAS, Speck seems to have been immediately promoted from Air Mechanic Grade 1 to Leading Mechanic.

Leading Mechanic Charles Speck’s naval service record (ADM 188/575/7687) shows that he was assigned to the shore station HMS President II from August 1915 until the end of 1917 (President II was the accounting base for the RNAS). We know from Leading Mechanic Speck’s naval records that he was based at Eastchurch (on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent) until October 1916, and then at Polegate in East Sussex. He was promoted Petty Officer on the 1st November 1917. In January 1918, Petty Officer Speck was transferred to HMS Daedalus (a naval air station, also known as RNAS Lee-on-Solent).

Petty Officer Speck was discharged from the RNAS on the 31st March 1918 on his transfer to the Royal Air Force. The following day, Petty Officer Speck became a Sergeant Mechanic in the RAF. Sergeant Speck’s RAF service record (AIR 79/1867/207687) shows that he served at Upton, Polegate, and Calshot . A handwritten note on his service records adds that Sergeant Speck died at Haslar from pneumonia on the 3rd December 1918.

Sergeant Charles William Walter Speck was buried in the churchyard at Lytchett Minster. His name also features on the Lytchett Minster war memorial, a churchyard cross, and the Roll of Honour inside Lytchett Minster church.

IWM Q 48005: Submarine Scout Zero Type Airship S.S.Z. 37 flies above a minelaying sloop.

IWM Q 48005: Submarine Scout Zero Type Airship SSZ 37 flies above a minelaying sloop. © IWM (Q 48005) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/ item/object/205196445

There is no concrete information in Sergeant Speck’s service records about the work that he might have undertaken while he was serving in the RNAS and RAF. However, there may be some clues in the various locations noted in his service records, which were mainly on the south coast of England between Poole and Eastbourne. The stations mentioned were: Eastchurch (Kent), Polegate (East Sussex), and HMS Daedalus (Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire) when Speck was in the RNAS, and: Polegate, Upton (Dorset), and Calshot (Hampshire) when he was in the RAF (although it is worth noting that Daedalus may have just been an accounting centre). Both HMS Daedalus and Calshot were seaplane training centres based on the Solent. By contrast, Polegate (near Willingdon, East Sussex) and Upton (near Poole) were bases for coastal observation airships. Airships based at  Polegate and its sub-stations (which included Upton) were used by the RNAS to patrol the English Channel looking for German U-Boats, which were a growing threat to the UK from 1915 onwards. The station at RNAS Polegate included massive sheds for airships, workshops, and huts for accommodation [1].

The airships used at Polegate included the S.S. (Submarine Scout) class, followed in 1916 by the S.S.Z. (Submarine Scout Zero) class. The S.S.Z. had three crew, a pilot, engineer and wireless operator. The ships were filled with hydrogen, which occasionally led to disaster. On the 20th December 1917, bad visibility due to worsening weather resulted in a collision between Polesgate-based S.S.Z7 and S.S.Z10 (which was tethered to the ground). The flaming hydrogen from Z10 ignited the stern of Z7. Two of the crew of Z7 jumped and survived (although severely injured), while the pilot, Flight Sub Lieutenant Richard Swallow, was killed [2]. Air Mechanics did sometimes form part of the crew of  airships, but we do not know whether Sergeant Speck ever acted in this role.

Upton, which would have been very close to Sergeant Speck’s family home, was a sub-station of Polegate based near Poole in Dorset. There was another airship base in Dorset, at Toller, near Beaminster [3].

Charles William Walter Speck was born at Lytchett Minster on the 11th April 1887, the son of Charles Henry Speck and Ann Speck (née Baker). He was baptised at Lytchett Minster on the 5th June 1887. At the time of the 1891 Census, Charles was three years old and living at Lytchett Minster with his parents and two step-sisters. By the time of the 1901 Census, Charles Speck was thirteen years old and still living at Lytchett Minster with his parents. At the time, his father was 66 years old and a clay pit worker, while his mother was 56 years old. At the time of the 1911 Census, Charles was 23 years old and now working as a wheelwright and carpenter. At the time, he was living at Candys Lane, Corfe Mullen with the family of his cousin, Henry Speck.

Charles William Walter Speck married Ella Maria Jackman at Lytchett Minster on the 8th April 1912. His RAF airman’s service record shows that they had three children: Charles Edwin, born at Wimborne, 20th November 1913; Iva Ella, born on the Isle of Wight, 5th January 1916; and Bernard Wilfred, born at Poole,  27th September 1918. Unfortunately, Bernard Wilfred Speck died in infancy, on the 26th October 1918.

Lytchett Minster War Memorial (Dorset)

Lytchett Minster War Memorial (Dorset)

Charles Speck’s father, Charles Henry Speck, was born at Corfe Castle (Dorset) in around 1835, the eldest child of James and Jane Speck. He featured in both the 1841 and 1851 Census, living with his parents and siblings at East Street, Corfe Castle [*]. By 1851, both Charles and his father were working as labourers in the local clay pits. I could not trace Charles in the 1861 England and Wales Census, but according to the British Army Worldwide Index (WO12 / 10196), 515 Private Charles Speck was serving at the time with the 4th Battalion, Rifle Brigade in Malta. He was still with the 4th Rifle Brigade in 1871, when the census return recorded him being resident at Shorncliffe Camp, near Cheriton in Kent. Private Speck’s was discharged from the Rifle Brigade on the 18th January 1878. His discharge form (available from Findmypast) noted that he had attested on the 14th January 1858 and had served for twenty years and eighteen days. In that time, he had spent just over five years at Malta, almost two at Gibraltar, just over two in Canada, and four-and-a-quarter years in India. He was discharged on disembarkation, “being found unfit for further services.” His discharge paper provides an indication of his character:

His conduct has been “very good,” he is in possession of four good conduct badges, and the medal for long service and good conduct, he is not in possession of a school certificate. His name does not appear in the Regimental Defaulters Book and he has never been tried by Courts Martial.

The medical report (Netley, 7th May 1878) suggested that Private Charles Speck suffered from general debility and impaired vision, which was judged to be the “result of his military service and exposure to climate in various parts of the globe.”

At the time of the 1891 Census, Charles, now aged 46, was living back with his parents at East Street, Corfe Castle, and working as a general labourer. Also living with them were George and Edward Speck, both aged 17, the grandchildren of James and Jane Speck (presumably they were nephews of Charles). Charles Speck then married the widowed Ann Cookman (née Baker) at Lytchett Minster on the 26th November 1885.

Ann Baker had been born at Lytchett Minster in the 4th quarter of 1845, the daughter of Thomas and Susan Baker. At the time of both the 1851 and 1861 Census, Ann was living with her family at Lytchett Minster. She married John Thomas Cookman at Lytchett Minster on the 12th March 1865.

John Tom Cookman had been born at Lytchett Matravers in around 1843. There are some inconsistencies in the genealogical records available, but this is my best attempt to work out some of his family background. At the time of the 1851 Census, John Cookman was eight years old and working as a shoemaker’s apprentice. That census recorded that John was living at Lytchett Matravers with his widowed mother Ann (a pauper servant) and three siblings, part of the household of a cousin, Silvanus Hallaway (Holloway?). By the time of the 1861 Census, the family had moved to Slip Lane, Lytchett Matravers, and Thomas Cookman was a seventeen year old clay miner. The household included his widowed mother (now 52 years old and working as an agricultural labourer), two siblings and a lodger.

After their marriage in 1865, the 1871 Census shows Tom and Ann Cookman living at Upper Ham, Hamworthy, near Poole. Tom was by now 26 years old and working as a farm servant. There were also two young children: Elizabeth (aged 5) and Susan (3). Unfortunately, John Thomas Cookman died in 1871 and was buried at Lytchett Minster on the 17th May 1871. The 1881 Census shows the widowed Ann Cookman, aged 36 and working as a laundress, living with her widowed mother Susan Baker (also working as a laundress) at Peter’s Finger, Wareham Road, Lytchett Minster. Also living with them were three of Ann’s daughters, Elizabeth (aged 16, working as a domestic servant), Ellen (9) and Julia (1). Julia Annie Cookman had been born in the 1st quarter of 1880 and baptized at Lytchett Minster on the 4th January 1880, but the records available to me remain silent on the exact identity of her father.

As we have already noted, the widowed Ann Cookman (aged 40) married Charles Henry Speck (aged 49) at Lytchett Minster on the 26th November 1885. The 1891 Census records Charles and Ann Speck living at Lytchett Minster with her daughters Ellen and Julia Cookman and the three-year-old Charles. Also, visiting them at the time of the census was Henry Speck.

At the time of the 1901 Census, Charles and Ann Speck were still living at Lytchett Minster and the 66-year-old Charles was a clay pit worker. Ellen and Julia Cookman had by now left the household (e.g., Julia had married Joseph Henry Chapple at Lytchett Minster on the 22nd May 1899), and the younger Charles was thirteen years old.

In the 1911 Census, Charles and Ann Speck were living at Lytchett Minster with a grandson, Francis Butler. Charles was by now 75 years old and an Army pensioner. Ann Speck was 65 years old. That census return recorded that the couple had been married for twenty-five years (it also confirms that the younger Charles was their only child). Charles Henry Speck died in 1912, aged 76, and was buried at Lytchett Matravers on the 11th January 1912.

Lytchett Minster War Memorial (Dorset)

Lytchett Minster War Memorial (Dorset)

References:

[1] East Sussex First World War project, Polegate Royal Naval Airship Station at Lower Willingdon: http://www.eastsussexww1.org.uk/polegate-royal-naval-airship-station-at-lower-willingdon/

[2] East Sussex First World War project, Airship disaster on the Downs: http://www.eastsussexww1.org.uk/airship-disaster-downs-20-december-1917/

[3] Pete London, The Dorset airship stations that played a vital role in World War One, Dorset Magazine, 2nd September 2014: http://www.dorsetmagazine.co.uk/out-about/places/the-dorset-airship-stations-that-played-a-vital-role-in-world-war-one-1-3748615

Note:

[*] Some of my own ancestors were also living at East Street, Corfe Castle at this time.

See also:

Alan Regin, Roll of Honour of ringers killed during WWI, The Ringing World, No. 5613, 23rd November 2018, p. 1126.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | November 13, 2018

Rifleman Percy Walter Camplin, Rifle Brigade

Isleworth War Memorial (Middlesex)

Isleworth War Memorial (Middlesex)

At the staff entrance of the British Library building at St Pancras, London, there is a large wooden memorial plaque containing a list of 142 names. This is the roll of honour for the British librarians that lost their lives while serving in the First World War. The names for the memorial were collated by the Library Association after the war.

London: British Librarians War Memorial, the British Library (London Borough of Camden)

London: British Librarians War Memorial, the British Library (London Borough of Camden); this panel includes the names of both Riflemen Boxall and Camplin

A few days ago, this blog briefly introduced Private Frederick James Boxall of the 1st London Rifle Brigade, the last librarian named on the memorial to die prior to the Armistice. Today, we mark the anniversary of the death of 52132 Rifleman Percy Walter Camplin of the Rifle Brigade, who died of wounds on the 13th November 1918 while serving with the 1/28th Battalion, London Regiment (the Artists’ Rifles). The Artists were part of 190th Infantry Brigade in the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division.

Both Boxall and Camplin died in the fighting that followed the capture of Valenciennes by Canadian and British units on the 1st and 2nd November 1918. Rifleman Boxall was wounded on the 6th November, when the 169th Infantry Brigade (part of the 56th (1/1st London) Division) were struggling to cross the Honnelle River south-west of Mons, and died the following day. Shortly afterwards, the 56th Division began to work alongside the 63rd Division, which had recently arrived in the area.

Former Artists' Rifles headquarters, Duke's Road, London

Former Artists’ Rifles headquarters, Duke’s Road, London

The 1/28th Battalion, London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles) were an unusual formation. The 38th Middlesex (Artists’) Rifle Volunteer Corps had been formed in 1860 and became part of the Territorial Force in 1908 as the 28th (County of London) Battalion of the London Regiment. The popularity of the regiment meant that recruitment was restricted by recommendation; one result being that the Artists became a popular unit for recruits from public schools and universities. The 1/28th Battalion travelled to France at the start of the war, but almost immediately found itself attached to General Headquarters with an officers’ training role, first at Bailleul, then at St Omer. From the 28th June 1917, however, their role changed and the 1st Artists became part of 190th Infantry Brigade in the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division.

In October 1918, the 63rd Division were advancing in the area around Cambrai, and the Artists were in support in an attack at Niergnies on the 8th October. After a brief time out of the line, the 63rd Division was transferred to XXII Corps in early November. The Artists then moved from Le Forest, near Douai, to the front east of Valenciennes.

Early in the morning of the 7th November 1918, 189th Brigade (63rd Division) relived the 168th Brigade (56th Division) in preparation for an attack at 9 a.m. that same day. Leonard Sellers’s history of the Hood Battalion of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve suggests that the attack went reasonably well [1]:

The Hood [Battalion] led the attack, advancing on the Bois d’Audregnies and capturing the main part of it by 11am. Enemy counter-attacks were repelled as the Drake [Battalion] leap-frogged the Hood to a second objective, and the advance continued: the main limiting factors were the state of the roads and the difficulty of getting rations up to the troops in the forward areas.

On the 8th November 1918, units of 190th Brigade, including the Artists, relieved units of the 189th Brigade east of Witheries. The War Diary of the 1st Artists’ Rifles (WO 95/3119/2) provides a basic outline of battalion movements from that time to the Armistice [2]:

8/11/18 Battalion marched from ANGRE to AUDREGNIES at 10.00 hours to relieve 189th Brigade holding line E of WITHERIES. Shortly after midday moved from AUDREGNIES to WITHERIES and at 15.15 hours advanced towards BLAUGIES, two Companies being in front and two in support. Battalion were under observation from BLAUGIES as enemy put down a scattered fire of 4.2 hows.
On entering outskirts of BLAUGIES heavy machine-gun fire was met with [at] 16.00 hours. At 16.30 hours all Companies reached objectives and counter Machine and Lewis Guns were posted. Touch was obtained with MIDDLESEX REGT. On right and 7th Battn. R.F. [Royal Fusiliers] on left. During night a hostile machine-gun on right was put out of action and captured by B. Coy.
BLAUGIES 9/11/18 At dawn Battalion advanced and discovered enemy retreating. Advance was continued through the BOIS de SARS, LE BRUYERE & QUEVY LE PETIT and main line was taken up just W of MONS-MAUBERGE [i.e. Maubeuge] Road with outpost line on high ground beyond it.
Towards dusk enemy harassed with M.G’s, T.M’s & light field guns. Battalion dug in for night.
10/11/18 Battalion advanced in a N.E. direction and took up a line facing NE N of the MONS-MAUBEURGE [Maubeuge] Road at 9.30 hours.
While 188th Brigade passed through ASQUILLIES (Battn HQrs) enemy shelled village with 5.9 Hows, causing some damage.
At midday orders were received to relieve 56th Division on right.
Battalion moved at 16.00 hours S through HARVENGT and took up line just E of HARVENGT.
Capt. CROFT, B., 2Lt KING, H.W., killed; 2 Lieut CONWAY, F.H., wounded; OR’s killed: 2, wounded: 25.
HARVENGT 11/11/18 Hostilities ceased at 11.00 hours.

Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Holdsworth Goldthorp, the Commanding Officer of the 1st Artists from September 1918 until the end of the war, contributed to a short account of the battalion that was published in the Artists’ Roll of Honour (1922). This provides an far more detailed story than the War Diary and contains some interesting anecdotes as well as a hint at the personal impact of a unit suffering casualties at this late stage of the war [3]:

On the 7th [November] we were off again to Sebourquiaux. By this time the Brigade that we were following [the 189th] were in action, and we were moving up in readiness to go through it when ordered, and that evening reached Angré.

Early the next day (8th) we reached Audregnies, where we went through the other Brigade, and had three objectives assigned, but it was obviously impossible that we should accomplish them in the time that was left us in the day. Near Wilheries there was a fair amount of indiscriminate shelling on forward slopes and we lost some men. However, we moved on in artillery formation, keeping pretty well closed up and halted in the outskirts of Blaugies where we managed to get on the line of our first objective without further trouble and had to pass the night there as we could not overcome the Boche machine-gun fire.

November 9th was a day which I do not think any Artists who were then with us are ever likely to forget. We advanced in all 15,000 yards, as the crow flies, which of course meant considerably more trekking, and a good bit had to be done through woods and across country. We started off something like a triumphal procession, as we were the first English troops to enter Blaugies, and we were met by the inhabitants, who rushed out and kissed us, old and young alike, and offered us coffee, liqueurs, and anything they could lay their hands on. It was really pathetically sad, and yet very funny, and it was with difficulty one refrained from crying, by the necessity of laughing.

Passing through Blaugies, we ran into our own barrage, which eventually I got stopped, as it was falling amongst the cavalry and was holding up our advance. From that moment we were not bothered with any more barrages, the artillery being attached to us, which is really far the most sensible way in going through open country, as we were. It gives one the means of visible retaliation, which is always lacking when dependent entirely on artillery behind you, whose doings, except barrage work you know nothing about. We next had to go through the Wood of Sars-la-Bruyere and on to the village of the same name, where again we were welcomed by the inhabitants in like manner. I was presented with a large bouquet of flowers, tied up with Belgian ribbon and had to walk through the village carrying the beastly thing. The centre of this village had been our last objective, and we had no sooner got through than we had orders to move on again to a railway embankment on the other side of the wood to the east of Sars-la-Bruyere. Further orders came extending this objective right up to the Mons-Maubeuge Road in front of Quevy-le-Petit, so we packed up once more and started off. Then taking two runners with me, I started off straight through the wood, arrived in the village before the Battalion and took up my H.Q. in the Burgomaster’s house, which had only been left a few hours earlier by a General of the German Army, who had stopped to watch our advance and then gone off in a motor car. At last the Battalion was in possession of their objective and settled down for a few hours rest.

The next morning (10th) I got orders to ‘side-slip’ to the north, take up a position on the Mons-Maubeuge Road to the west of the village of Harvengt and support the Fusiliers and Bedfords. This was the first time that the Artists had been in support to either of the other Battalions since coming north from the Cambrai Sector, but it only lasted half a day. I met my Company Commanders at a Chateau on the Mons-Maubeuge Road, just below a bridge, which the Germans had blown up. We had a short conference in a delightful room placed at our disposal by the owner of the Chateau, then marched on up the road and we were in our place almost as soon as the cavalry had gone out.

I noticed going up the road that there was a Boche Observation Balloon up – the last one we saw during the War – and the only one which had been visible since our start on the 5th. Unfortunately, it saw the other Brigade, which was coming up to go through us, and this drew a considerable amount of fire round our H.Q. in the village of Asquillies.

Just after they had gone, I got the news by runner, that poor old Croft had been killed. It is no use trying to tell you what that meant to the Battalion, or to me personally. He had not been back with us very long after a prolonged absence, and I know he felt like coming home when he rejoined us at Brias. He was always like a ray of sunshine if there was anything doing. With him were two other good fellows, 2/Lt. King and Sergt.  Garbutt; also a Lancer with whom they were talking at the time; a stray shell fell in the sunken road and killed all four of them.

We were anxiously expecting rations and orders to return to Asquillies for the rest we were all wanting, but were sent forward to Harvengt where there seemed to be a good deal of confusion, so I halted the Battalion and had a look round. I found from the 56th Division who were there that they had been held up just outside the village by heavy machine gun fire and that it would be quite impossible to go forward that night. Eventually it was arranged that the Artists should relieve the 1st London and we moved forward again as far as we could get.

November 11th. At daybreak I started off up the line, having received information that the Battalion had commenced to move and that the Boche had ‘hooked it.’ Reaching Harmignies, I found that our men had been in within less than half an hour after the departure of the Germans, and our patrols reported that at two of the villages in front there were no signs of the enemy. We had orders to take up our position and remain at Harmignies, and that the 188th Brigade would go through us early in the morning. I went round, saw everybody and waited until the other Brigade had started to move forward and then set off to return. On my way back I met a whole lot of the Lancers, all formed up ready to go through. It was a fine sight seeing them all on their horses anxious to be off. On getting back I was met by a Doctor who said that he owed me some money (he had made a bet with me; that there would be no armistice or peace this year). For a moment I could not quite make out what he meant, until I noticed that everybody seemed pleased and then I learned the news of the Armistice which had come through a few minutes previously. I saw the Brigadier, got confirmation of the Armistice news, sent it up to the Companies, scrounged round making arrangements for baths for the men, got them all back again, and they had their baths and went to bed.

In the afternoon the Band arrived, after a somewhat chequered journey from England, very sorry for themselves. Also British prisoners, who had been left behind by the enemy, began to trickle through; they were in a most pitiable state. And so came the Armistice to the Artists – in the line to the very last. It will always be a satisfaction to us when we come to look back upon things that we were there when the end came and that the efforts of our Division contributed in no small degree to the final collapse of the Boche.

IWM Q 42481: The "Cease Fire", Artists' Rifles, 11th November 1918.

IWM Q 42481: The “Cease Fire”, Artists’ Rifles, 11th November 1918. © IWM (Q 42481).

Rifleman Percy Walter Camplin must have been wounded in one of these final actions of the 1st Artists on the Western Front. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database, Rifleman Camplin died on the 13th November 1918. His death was reported in the Middlesex Chronicle of the 7th December [4]:

DEATH OF THE CHIEF LIBRARIAN.
News came through on November 15th that Mr. P. W. Camplin was mortally wounded in the head and died unconscious early in the morning of the day the Armistice came into operation, and was buried by the Chaplain to the Canadian Forces in a British Cemetery at Valenciennes. Mr. Camplin came to Isleworth from the Wimbledon Free Library to take charge of the Isleworth branch when it was opened, and on the retirement of Mr. D. Lomaz he was promoted to full charge of both Hounslow and Isleworth. Whilst at Isleworth he acted as hon. secretary to the Regatta Committee.
He leaves a wife and one child and is sadly missed by all who knew him.

Ward scene of a Canadian Casualty Clearing Station in Valenciennes, November 1918.

Ward scene of a Canadian Casualty Clearing Station in Valenciennes, November 1918. British Library: Canadian War Memorials Fund, Canadian Official War Photographs: Volume 4, ref: l.r.233.b.57.v4_f047r. Source: British Library, via Flickr .

Percy Walter Camplin was born at Chelsea in August 1881, the son of John and Julia Camplin. He was baptised at St Jude’s Church, Kensal Green, on the 18th September 1881. The 1891 Census records that the family were living at Galton Street, Chelsea, and that Percy’s father, John W. J. Camplin, was working as a fire and life assurance agent. Percy himself was nine years old and still at school. He had an older brother, James, who was working as a builder’s office boy, and a younger sister, May (her name was given as Mary in the census). By the time of the 1901 Census, the family were living at 25 Pembridge Road, Kensington (Notting Hill). The census return (perhaps mistakenly, as we will see) describes Julia Camplin as a widow. She was by that time working as a tobacconist. Percy was nineteen years old and working as a library assistant. His younger sister May was working as a tobacconist’s assistant.

Percy Walter Camplin married Florence Elizabeth Hatton at St Mark’s Church, Notting Hill on the 19th November 1905.  Florence Elizabeth Hatton had been born at Kensington in the 4th quarter of 1872, the daughter of John E. and Eliza Hatton. At the time of the 1881 Census, the family was living at 8, Farm Street, Kensington, when John Hatton was 33 years old and working as a billiard maker. Florence was one of six children. I could not trace the family in the 1891 Census, but by the time of the 1901 Census, Florence was the head of household living at 41, Courtnell Street, Paddington. At the time, she was 28 years old and working as a tailoress. Also living the household was her 22-year-old brother Sydney A. Hatton, a barrister’s clerk

A son, Reginald Walter, was born to Percy and Florence Camplin at Brentford (registration district) in the 1st quarter of 1908. The 1911 Census records the family living at 8 Newton Road, Isleworth (Middlesex), when Reginald Walter Camplin was three years old. The census return describes Percy as a librarian (public) working for Heston and Isleworth Urban District Council. In 1912, Percy became the chief librarian at Hounslow.

The outbreak of war in 1914 led to some immediate changes. The librarian at Isleworth volunteered to join the Army and was replaced by a female assistant [5]:

Librarian for the “Die-hards.”
Mr. Harold Groom, the librarian at Isleworth, wrote asking the [Library] Committee to consent to his enlistment in the 10th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. – The Chairman said that Mr. Camplin had suggested that Mr. Barnett should take charge of the Isleworth Library, and that a girl of about 16 years of age should be appointed as temporary assistant at the Hounslow Library. Girls were, as a rule, very smart at library work, and for his part he thought that the suggested arrangement would be the best they could make under the circumstances. – After a brief discussion, it was agreed to appoint a lady assistant at ten shillings a week, and to transfer Mr. Barnett to the temporary charge of the library at Isleworth. Consent was also given to Mr. Groom, subject to the same conditions as the other Council officials.

Percy Camplin was still Chief Librarian at Hounslow in April 1915, when the Libraries Committee praised his practice of book selection [6]:

Mr. Bennett complimented the Librarian on the fine report he had provided for the year, and on the way the Library was managed. He had heard frequently compliments as to the courtesy received at the hands of the librarian and officials. – Mr. Lowry complimented Hounslow on the excellent way in which the Library was being built up on such limited means. Only the Books Selection Committee knew how carefully and judiciously the books were selected by the Librarian. Every penny was spent in the best possible way. – Mrs. Baldwin agreed, and said that Mr. Camplin never spared himself any trouble to do what was asked of him.

Things would change the following year. The Public Libraries report in the Middlesex Chronicle of the 18th March 1916 noted that Percy Camplin was due to be called up [7]:

The Chairman [Miss A. C. Young] said that it would be necessary to make arrangements to fill the office of Librarian, as Mr. Camplin would shortly be called up for military service. It was suggested that the Assistant at Isleworth should take the position. – Mr. Lowry observed that as the Library was a public necessity, he thought the Committee should claim total exemption for Mr. Camplin, although he knew he did not wish to be excused. – As a general opinion was expressed that the Tribunal would not grant exemption Mr. Lowry did not press his point, and it was decided to consider the matter in camera at a special meeting on the following Monday.

It seems that no exemption was applied for as the regular “Our Local Warriors” column in the Middlesex Chronicle of 6 May 1916 contained the following item [8]:

Mr. P. W. Camplin, the Librarian for Hounslow Free Library, is among those called up for service on the 29th inst., and is in Group 40.

This was followed up by an item in the same column the following month [9]:

Mr. P. W. Camplin, chief librarian at Hounslow, joined the 24th Middlesex (Public Schools’ Battalion) on May 30th, and is now stationed at Rushmore, Aldershot.

York: FWW ambulance train exhibit, National Railway Museum (Yorkshire)

York: FWW ambulance train exhibit, National Railway Museum (Yorkshire)

Relatively little is known about Percy Camplin’s service career. We know that he initially served with the Middlesex Regiment. Medical records note that on the 2nd March 1917, 3405 Private Camplin of the 17th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment was admitted to 31 Ambulance Train for a journey from Edgehill (near Dernancourt, Somme) to Étaples, suffering from trench foot. It seems that at some point Private Camplin must have returned to the UK for training, as he passed out as a first-class signaller at the Thames and Medway Brigade School of Signalling in August 1917 [10]:

THE WAR
OUR LOCAL WARRIORS.
Private P. W. Camplin, the Heston-Isleworth Librarian, has just passed out as 1st Class Signaller at the Thames and Medway Brigade School of Signalling, Belvedere, Strood. He expects to return to France within a fortnight or three weeks.

It also seems that, while away on service, Percy Camplin kept up with the very latest news in Hounslow and Isleworth [11]:

Mr. P. W. Camplin wrote giving his best wishes to the [Library] committee and expressed pleasure with the library lectures reported in the “Middlesex Chronicle,” which he received every week.

The January 1918 Library Committee report in the Middlesex Chronicle of the 12th January 1918, included the following [12]:

The Librarian [Miss E. G. Humphries, deputy librarian] reported the receipt of a letter from Mr. P. W. Camplin, stating that he had been in the trenches all through Christmas and was in good health.

At some point during his service career, Private Camplin must have transferred to the Rifle Brigade. 52132 Rifleman Camplin died of wounds on the 13th November 1918, while posted to the 1/28th Battalion, London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles).

Percy Camplin’s widow, Florence Camplin, died at Brentford (registration district) in the 3rd quarter of 1935, aged 62. Their son, Reginald William Camplin, married Mabel C. Tysoe at Battersea (registration district) in the 2nd quarter of 1934. Reginald died at Kensington in the 3rd quarter of 1966, aged 58.

Isleworth: War Memorial (Middlesex)

Isleworth: War Memorial (Middlesex)

Percy Camplin’s father, John William James Camplin, was born at Islington in the 2nd quarter of 1850, the son of John Camplin and Emily Camplin (nee Griffiths). He married Julia Ann Bateman at Holborn (registration district) in March 1872. Julia Ann Bateman had been born at Mile End (Bow) in the 2nd quarter of 1854, the daughter of Jane Bateman and her husband (a printer). At the time of the 1861 Census, Julia was seven years old and living with her family at 27 Cross Street, Liberty of Saffron Hill, Holborn. By the time of the 1871 Census, Julia was seventeen years old and living at Henry Street, St. James Clerkenwell, Holborn. John and Julia Camplin had five children. The eldest, Emily Jane, was born in December 1872, but she died in infancy. Emily was followed by Alice Elizabeth (1874) and James Frederick (1876), both of whom were born at Clerkenwell, then by Percy Walter (1881) and May Louisa (1883), who were born at Chelsea. At the time of the 1881 and 1891 Censuses, the family were living at No. 36, Galton Street, Chelsea. Also living with the household in 1881 was Julia’s mother, Jane Bateman, and a boarder, John Griffiths, who was a mineral water factory worker (he was also probably Percy’s great uncle). By the time of the 1901 Census, the family had moved, and were living at 25 Pembridge Road, Kensington (Notting Hill).

While the 1901 Census described Julia Camplin as a widow, the 1911 Census recorded John William James Camplin (aged 61, a canvasser for a life assurance company) and Julia Ann Camplin living at 193 Milkwood Road, Herne Hill, Lambeth. The 1901 Census contains two main possible matches for John Camplin: one a domestic servant living at Admiralty Harbour Dwellings in Limekiln Street, Dover; the other a widower living on his own means living at 24, Cathay Street, Rotherhythe (Southwark) — but it is possible that neither is the person that I was looking for. We do know, however,  that John W. J. Camplin died at Rochford, Essex (district) in the 4th quarter of 1935, aged 85, and was buried in St Katherine’s Churchyard on Canvey Island on the 2nd January 1936. Julia Ann Camplin died very shortly afterwards, in the 1st quarter of 1936, aged 81, and was buried in the same churchyard on the 10th January 1936.

Isleworth: War Memorial (Middlesex)

Isleworth: War Memorial (Middlesex)

Rifleman Percy Walter Camplin is buried in Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery (1.C.27.). As well as the British Librarians memorial, his name also appears on the war memorials at Isleworth and Heston, on the memorial in the Church of St Leonard, Heston, and on a plaque in Hounslow Public Library.

References:

[1] Leonard Sellers, The Hood Battalion, Royal Naval Division: Antwerp, Gallipoli, France, 1914-1918 (1995; Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2003), p. 276.

[2] WO 95/3119/2, 1/28th Battalion, London Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[3] R. H. Goldthorp, “With the Royal Naval Division: a short history of 1/Artists in the line, from July 1917, to the Armistice,” in: The Roll of Honour and war record of the Artists’ Rifles (1/28th, 2/28th and 3/28th Battalions, the London Regiment, T.F.), 3rd ed. (London: Howlett & Son, 1922), pp. xxxvii-xxxix
https://archive.org/details/regimentalrollof00highiala/page/n5

[4] Middlesex Chronicle, 7th December 1918, p. 7; via British Newspaper Archive.

[5] Middlesex Chronicle, 14th November 1914, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[6] Middlesex Chronicle, 17th April 1915, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[7] Middlesex Chronicle, 18th March 1916, p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

[8] Middlesex Chronicle, 6th May 1916, p. 8; via British Newspaper Archive.

[9] Middlesex Chronicle, 24th June 1916 p. 8; via British Newspaper Archive.

[10] Middlesex Chronicle, 25th August 1917, p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

[11] Middlesex Chronicle, 15th December 1917,  p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

[12] Middlesex Chronicle, 12th January 1918, p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

37682075691_fc9a2fa8d1_b

Artists Rifles badge on the Royal Naval Division Memorial, Horse Guards, London

Acknowledgements:

Some of the information used in this post has been derived from the research published by the Isleworth 390 Project:
https://www.isleworthww1.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Camplin-Percy.pdf

There is a photograph of Percy Walter Camplin from Hounslow Local Studies on the Lives of the First World War site:
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/701997

Update November 13, 2018:

Yesterday evening, I attended a very interesting talk on Percy Camplin at Isleworth Library, which was given by James Marshall, Local Studies and Archives Manager at Hounslow Library Service. The talk carefully traced Percy Camplin’s life and professional career and provided a clear outline of the Artists’ Rifles activities in the final weeks of the war (with maps). Rifleman Camplin’s memorial plaque from Hounslow Library was also on display.

Isleworth: Memorial plaque for Percy W. Camplin, normally at Hounslow Library (Middlesex)

Isleworth: Memorial plaque for Percy W. Camplin, normally at Hounslow Library (Middlesex)

I also took the chance to revisit the Isleworth war memorial to see the names of Percy Camplin and that of the Isleworth bellringer, Private William Joseph New, who served with the 2/5th Durham Light Infantry before his death in Greece on the 19th October 1918.

45859749041_c4bfd256d9_b

Isleworth: War Memorial (Middlesex)

Posted by: michaeldaybath | November 7, 2018

Rifleman Frederick James Boxall, 1st Battalion, London Rifle Brigade

IWM Q 78805: British troops in the ruined street at Valenciennes, 2 November 1918.

IWM Q 78805: British troops in the ruined street at Valenciennes, 2 November 1918. © IWM (Q 78805): https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/ item/object/205323565

At the staff entrance of the British Library building at St Pancras, London, there is a large wooden memorial plaque containing a list of 142 names. This is the roll of honour for the British librarians that lost their lives while serving in the First World War.

Just under four years ago, the British Library’s Untold Lives blog briefly introduced the first of the librarians named on the memorial to die. Quartermaster Sergeant Herbert Gladstone Booth of the Royal Field Artillery, previously of Burnley Public Library, died of illness (dysentery) in Egypt on the 30th November 1914 [1].

Of those listed on the memorial, the final person to die prior to the Armistice of the 11th November 1918 was Frederick James Boxall, formerly an assistant at Sion College Library in London. 305423 Rifleman Frederick James Boxall of the 1/5th (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment, the 1st Battalion, London Rifle Brigade, died of wounds in France on the 7th November 1918, aged 19.

Frederick (Fred) James Boxall was born at Battersea on the 25th February 1899, the son of James Boxall and Edith Kate Boxall (née Bishop). While Frederick’s parents had been married at Wandsworth (registration district) in 1897, they had both been born outside London: James Boxall had been born at Cranleigh (Surrey), Edith Bishop at Bishops Cannings (Wiltshire). At the time of the 1901 Census, Frederick was one year old and living with his parents at 13, Brassey Square, Battersea. In that year, Frederick’s father James was 30 years old and working as a carpenter. Later that year, on the 21st July 1901, Frederick was joined by a younger brother, Herbert. The family moved at some point over the next couple of years to Croydon.

School records show that Frederick studied from 1904 at Ecclesbourne Road Infants School in Croydon, transferring to Winterbourne Boys School in 1906. At the time of the 1911 Census, the family were living at 27, Maplethorpe Road, Thornton Heath, Croydon. Frederick’s father James was by that time 40 years old and working as a house carpenter and joiner.

London: Victoria Embankment

London: Victoria Embankment, from Blackfriars Bridge. The redbrick gothic-revival buildings on the left are the former Sion College buildings (the Portland Stone building on the right is the former City of London School).

Frederick Boxall left Winterbourne Boys School on the 12th December 1913 to become a junior assistant at Croydon Library. Two years later, he was appointed assistant at Sion College Library, which was based on the Victoria Embankment in London, west of Blackfriars Bridge. Sion College had been established in 1630 to support the education of Anglican clergy based in London. It moved into buildings at 56, Victoria Embankment in 1882, but these were sold in 1996. The manuscripts and older printed items from the Sion College Library now form part of the collections of Lambeth Palace Library.

Frederick Boxall was called-up around about a year after he joined Sion College. He attested at Croydon on the 9th December 1916, when he was seventeen years old. He served with the 1st Battalion, London Rifle Brigade, a Territorial Force unit that was in late 1918 part of 169th Infantry Brigade in the 56th (1/1st London) Division. On the 5th November 1918, the Division was advancing towards the Honnelle River, close to the Franco-Belgian border between Valenciennes and Mons. The city of Valenciennes itself had fallen to Canadian and British forces on the 1st and 2nd November.

At 5.30 am on the 5th November 1918, the 169th Brigade attacked and captured the village of Angreau. Attempts to advance any further were, however, then prevented by heavy machine-gun fire. The 169th and 168th Brigades attempted to continue the advance the following morning. The 1st London Rifle Brigade were successful in capturing their first objective on the 6th November, but strong German counter attacks eventually pushed them back to their original lines.

The 1st London Rifle Brigade’s War Diary (WO 95/2962/6) provides a little more detail on the events of the 5th and 6th November 1918 [2]:

SEBOURG [1918 November] 5, 4 am
Battalion assembled in Sunken Road, E of SEBOURG, for attack on ANGREAU. The attack was made under a heavy sweeping barrage – Zero 5.30 a.m.
The attack was successful and patrols entering ANGREAU. Prisoners were captured at the farm buildings, NOUVEAU MONDE, (A16c), and also in the village of ANGREAU. The village was thoroughly searched and all enemy M.G.’s were finally destroyed by 11 a.m.
11 am
Battalion attempted to resume the advance but were held up by heavy M.G. fire from the thick woods, east of HONELLE RIVER. M.G. fire also opened from ANGRE & from the deep Railway cutting A11d6.2 D Coy formed a defensive flank on the North of the village, with C Coy in support. A Coy took up position, facing East in the ROISIN-ANGREAU Road with B Coy in support. 33rd Brigade [11th Division] in touch on our right and 168 Brigade on our left near at Cross Roads, A16b, & unable to take ANGRE.
From 12 noon the Germans heavily shelled the village (ANGREAU) with 8” 5.9 and 4.2, doing enormous damage to the houses but inflicting very few casualties, either on the civilians or troops. Gas shells were also sent over.
ANGREAU, Nov 6, 1 am
A and B Coys were relieved by 2nd London and concentrated for the attack behind C and D Coys.
2.30
Battn HQ moved from NOUVEAU MONDE to ANGREAU. Dispositions for the attack. B and C Coys Firing Line, A and D Coys in support.
5.30
Zero: Under a creeping barrage the attack commenced. ANGRE was still held by the Germans; Heavy M.G. fire opened from both flanks and on our front. B and C Coys reached their first objective (Railway A12d and A18b) capturing over 50 prisoners, including 2 officers, and killing several Germans. The advance was however checked and a German counter attack was successful in pushing our men back to their original line. The failure of this attack was largely due to the fact that ANGRE was still held by the enemy and the troops on our right had also failed to make progress.
2 Lieut COCKERELL, killed. Lieut C. P. BARRINGTON wounded, 2 Lieut E. Barnes, killed.
For this attack the weather conditions were not good. Rain fell all day and the River HONNELLE had to be waded across. The depth was about 3 feet.
Hostile shelling of ANGREAU continued until 6 pm.
1918 Nov 6, 9 pm
Battalion was relieved by 7th Middlesex and marched to rest Billets at SEBOURG.

The published history of the 56th Division shows that the London Rifle Brigade were not the only unit in 169th Brigade to be involved in heavy fighting on the 6th November 1918 [3]:

Meanwhile the 169th Brigade was engaged in heavy fighting. Only the northern portion of the Bois de Beaufort was included in the attack, and the enemy were found to be strongly situated on ground which dominated the western bank of the river. The attack was delivered with spirit, and the enemy driven back. The 2nd Londons had the wood in front of them, and the London Rifle Brigade shot ahead on the left, outside the wood. The enemy rallied and counter-attacked the forward troops, while at the same time a force of Germans debouched from the wood on the right flank of the Rifle Brigade men, who were driven back to the west of the river. Some of the 2nd Londons were involved in this successful enemy counter-attack, but a party of forty—a large party in those days—held on to the position they had reached in the Bois de Beaufort until late in the afternoon, when, discovering what had happened on the left, and being almost entirely surrounded, they retired fighting to the western bank of the river.

As we have seen, the battalion war diary noted that the weather conditions were not that good: “rain fell all day and the River Honnelle had to be waded across.” The failure of the operation, however, was attributed to the fact that the village of Angre was still held by the Germans, and that units on the battalion’s right had also failed to make progress.

The mention in the London Rifle Brigade War Diary of civilians in Angreau shows how the fighting in the last few weeks of the war had changed completely from the trench-based warfare that had previously held sway. The history of the 1/13th London Regiment, who were in 168th Brigade of the same Division, compared the crumbling heaps of masonry represented by the places they had previously fought — Neuve Chapelle, Aubers, Neuville Vitasse, Oppy — with the pretty villages that now, “stood amongst trees, now gaunt and dripping in the November mists, but still natural and undefiled by war” [4]. Many of the villages were still inhabited, and their populations would now became dependent on the extended Allied transport lines to keep them supplied with rations and other essential supplies.

Ward scene of a Canadian Casualty Clearing Station in Valenciennes, November 1918.

Ward scene of a Canadian Casualty Clearing Station in Valenciennes, November 1918. British Library: Canadian War Memorials Fund, Canadian Official War Photographs: Volume 4, ref: l.r.233.b.57.v4_f047r. Source: British Library, via Flickr.

It was on the 6th November that Rifleman Boxall was wounded. His death was the topic of short item published in the Library World in December 1918 [5]:

We regret to announce the death of FREDERICK JAMES BOXALL, assistant in Sion College Library, who was mortally wounded while succouring a wounded comrade on 6th November, and died next day. Boxall, who was nineteen years old, served as a junior in the Croydon Libraries from December, 1913, to December, 1915, when he was appointed at Sion College. A gentle-mannered, earnest and promising young man, his early but heroic death is much deplored.

Rifleman Boxall is buried in Cambrai East Military Cemetery in France. In addition to the British Librarians memorial, Rifleman Boxall’s name also appears on the West Croydon Congregational Church war memorial, which is now in East Croydon United Reformed Church.

References:

[1] Margaret Makepeace, Jason Webber, From Burnley to Cairo, Untold Lives, 30th November 2014:
https://blogs.bl.uk/untoldlives/2014/11/from-burnley-to-cairo.html

[2] The National Archives, Kew, WO 95/2962/6, 169 Infantry Brigade: 1/5th Battalion London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade) War Diary, November 1918 – May 1919.

[3] C. H. Dudley Ward, The 56th Division (1st London Territorial Division) (London: John Murray, 1921):
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/50379

[4] O. F. Bailey and H. M. Hollier, “The Kensingtons” (13th London Regiment) (London: Regimental Old Comrades’ Association, ca. 1936), p. 192; Naval and Military Press reprint.

[4] Library World, 21(6), 1918, pp. 130-31:
https://doi.org/10.1108/eb037988

Acknowledgment:

This is a longer version of a post that was published on the British Library’s Untold Lives blog on the 11th November 2018:
https://blogs.bl.uk/untoldlives/2018/11/from-library-to-battlefield-rifleman-frederick-boxall.html

Bridgwater: Church of St Mary (Somerset)

Bridgwater: Church of St Mary (Somerset)

43835 Private Clarence Vivian Clements Fry of the 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment died of wounds at Aldershot on the 5th November 1918, aged 20. He was also a bellringer at St Mary’s Church, Bridgwater (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers. Private Fry was one of two members of the Association to die on the 5th November; the other being the Milverton bellringer, T4/186776 Driver Fred Norman of 163rd Horse Transport Company, Army Service Corps, who died in Greece while serving with the British Salonika Force.

Clarence Vivian Clements Fry was born at Bridgwater in October 1898, the only child of William Fry and Rosa Fry (née Clements). He was baptised at Holy Trinity, Bridgwater on the 20th December 1898. In the 1901 Census, Clarence was two years old and living with his parents at 27, Lyndale Avenue, Bridgwater. At the time, Clarence’s father, William Fry, was thirty-four years old and working as a provision merchants clerk. Rosa Fry was twenty-seven years old. Also boarding with the family at the time of the census was Anna E. Green, a twenty-seven year old schoolmistress who had been born at Aldershot.

Clarence’s mother, Rosa Fry, died in the Williton registration district in the 4th quarter of 1904, when she was aged 31. William Fry then married Amy Mary Hawker in the Taunton registration district in the 1st quarter of 1908. At the time of the 1911 Census, William and Amy Fry were living at “Verona,” 58 Ashleigh Avenue, Bridgwater with the twelve-year-old Clarence (who was still at school) and his two-year-old half-sister, Amy Marguerite E. Fry.

Relatively little is known about Private Fry’s service career. We know from the Soldiers Died in the Great War database (available from Findmypast) that he enlisted at Taunton and that before joining the 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, he had served in the Army Service Corps. His ASC service number, M/297131, suggests that he had been part of a Motor Transport section/company. Private Fry’s death was reported in the Roll of Honour column of the Taunton Chronicle of the 20th November 1918 [1]:

ROLL OF HONOUR.
[…]
FRY.—Nov, 5, at Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot, from wounds received in France. Clarence V. C. Fry, younger son of Mr. W. Fry, Ashleigh-avenue, Bridgwater, and grandson of Mr. and Mrs. W. Clements, Stogursey.

Private Fry is buried in Bridgwater (Wembdon Road) Cemetery.

The 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment:

Without additional information coming to light, it will be impossible to establish exactly when and where Private Fry was wounded. The general movements of the 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, however, are easier to trace. After serving since October 1915 with the 7th Infantry Brigade in the 25th Division, the 1st Wiltshires transferred on the 21st June 1918 to the 110th Infantry Brigade in the 21st Division. Throughout the Hundred Days’ Offensive, the 1st Wiltshires would advance from just north of Albert (Somme) to the River Sambre near Berlaimont (Nord).

Solesmes and Le Cateau. Detail from map showing the advance of 110th Brigade in late October 1918

Solesmes and Le Cateau. Detail from map showing the advance of 110th Brigade in late October 1918, from H. R. Cumming, A Brigadier in France (1922), pp. 248-249. Source: Internet Archive.

At the beginning of August 1918, the 1st Wiltshires were in the line at Engelbelmer. Over the following weeks they would advance through the 1916 Somme battlefield, taking part in the capture of Beaulencourt, south of Bapaume, at the beginning of September. In September and early October, the battalion would take part in the various Battles of the Hindenburg Line, including an 110th Brigade attack on the Beaurevoir line on the 7th October during which they suffered a number of casualties (12 killed, 81 wounded, and 2 missing). After some time for rest and reorganisation at Caullery, the battalion would return to the line near Neuvilly on the 22nd October. Edwin Astill’s commentary on the 1st Wiltshires war diary provides a brief summary of their subsequent capture of the village of Ovillers [2]:

Towards the end of October (22nd) the 1/Wilts were back to the attack, making a route march during that day via Neuvilly to take up positions to attack at Ovillers. They were marching in exactly the opposite direction to that taken during the retreat from Mons to Caudry, and just a little to the south of the route they took then. The whole 3rd and 4th Army fronts were involved in this forward movement, and the plan was to take a number of objectives in ‘bounds’ by successive waves of units. Just after midnight the battalion were assembling the men in preparation for the attack. A mist formed, and they moved forward and out of the mist to where tape was being laid. At this point the enemy artillery opened up causing casualties and disrupting the preparations. At 2a.m. on 23rd the British artillery barrage started, and the objectives were rushed. In the capture of Ovillers ‘A’ and ‘C’ Companies went forward to the next objective but the rest of the battalion got lost in the dark. Further advances were made on 24th October, with the battalion marching to Poix du Nord, although enemy machine gun fire held up the advance of the 64th Brigade, and so the Wiltshires withdrew.

During the attacks at Ovillers, the war diary [3] recorded that two officers and 23 other ranks had been killed, four officers and 129 other ranks wounded, and 7 other ranks missing. After a spell in billets at Ovillers, the battalion moved to Poix-du-Nord on the 29th October to be in Brigade reserve. While there, they were bombarded several times by heavy artillery, suffering a number of casualties. Brigadier-General H. R. Cumming recorded that [4]:

Poix itself received considerable attention, mainly between dusk and dawn, with a certain amount of gas. The billets were good in Poix, but it was hardly a safe place of residence.

The 1st Wiltshire’s war diary reported that three other ranks had been killed during this shelling, and 21 wounded.

Bellringing at Bridgwater

From: The Ringing World, 31st October 1913, p. 291.

From: The Ringing World, 31st October 1913, p. 291.

It is not known exactly when Clarence Fry learnt to ring, but Bridgwater seems to have had quite a large number of keen young change-ringers in the second decade of the twentieth century. For example, in October 1913, the fourteen-year-old Clarence rang the treble at St Mary’s Church in an extent of 720 Grandsire Minor. Five of the band were under the age of twenty, so the achievement was publicised in the Ringing World [5], followed a few weeks later by a photograph of the youngest members of the band [6].

From: The Ringing World, 17th October 1913, p. 258.

From: The Ringing World, 17th October 1913, p. 258.

The teenage members of the band were, in age order: Ruth Coles (aged 12), Clarence Fry (14), Leo Jennings (15), Cecil Sanderson (14), and Harry West (18). The conductor was Ruth Coles’s father, Albert Edward Coles, a prominent Bridgwater bellringer of the time.

From: The Ringing World, 31st October 1913, p. 291.

From: The Ringing World, 31st October 1913, p. 291.

Ruth Coles, Leo Jennings, and Clarence Fry would go on to ring in a 720 of Plain Bob Minor at Bridgwater on the 10th October 1915 [7]:

From: The Ringing World, 19th November 1915, p. 238.

From: The Ringing World, 19th November 1915, p. 238.

The team of bellringers at Bridgwater seeems to have been hit very hard by the First World War. Clarence Fry was one of three bellringers that would die as a result of the conflict. The first to die was Albert Edward Coles, the eldest son of Albert Edward and Ida Belle Coles (and thus the brother of Ruth Coles). Second Lieutenant Coles of the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry was killed in action near Ypres (Ieper) on the 4th October 1917, aged 20, while attached to the 11th Trench Mortar Battery. His death was reported in the Taunton Chronicle of the  24th October 1917 as follows [8]:

BRIDGWATER.
[…]
KILLED IN ACTION.– Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Coles, of the Gables, Hamp Green Rise, Bridgwater, has received a telegram from the Secretary of the War Office stating that their eldest son, Second Lieut. Albert Edward Coles (Somerset L.I., attached to a Trench Mortar Battery), is reported to be missing since October 4th. Lieut. Coles, who is only 20 years of age, was studying for the Church at Oxford University before enlisting in March of 1916. He obtained his commission in the following November, and proceeded to the Front in December. He was home on leave only a few weeks ago.

Second Lieutenant Coles’s name features on the Tyne Cot Memorial in West Flanders. The following month, Captain Arthur Oswald Major of the 1/5th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry was killed in action on the 23rd November 1917 near El Jib in Palestine, aged 42.

Bridgwater: War Memorial (Somerset)

Bridgwater: War Memorial (Somerset)

The names of all three feature on the Bridgwater war memorial as well as in St George’s Chantry Chapel in St Mary’s, Bridgwater, which was restored after the war as a memorial to those who had died in the war.

Bridgwater: War Memorial (Somerset)

Bridgwater: War Memorial (Somerset)

Clarence Fry’s Family:

Clarence Fry’s father, William Fry, was born at Bridgwater on the 22nd December 1866, the son of John Colmer and Elizabeth Prior Fry. William was baptised at St. Mary’s Church, Bridgwater on the 22nd August 1986. At the time of the 1871, 1881 and 1891 Censuses, William was recorded living with his parents at North Gate, Bridgwater. In 1881, he was fourteen years old and still at school By 1891, he was twenty-four years old and working as a grocer’s assistant. William’s father, John Colmer Fry, was recorded as working as a clerk in a corn merchant’s office (1881) and as an accountant (1891).

William Fry married Rosa Clements at Stogursey (Somerset) on the 30th April 1896. Rosa Clements had been born at Stogursey in the 3rd quarter of 1873, the daughter of William Clements and Mary Jane Clements (née Webber). She was baptised at Stogursey on the 12th September 1873. At the time of the 1881 Census, Rosa was seven years old and was living with her parents at the General Shop in Fore Street, Stogursey, the second oldest of seven children. At the time of the census, Rosa’s father, William Clements, was forty-years old and working as a draper and grocer (he seemed to be the shop’s owner). Also living with the family was William’s father, George Clements (a mason), two of his nieces (one working as a draper’s assistant, the other as a nursemaid domestic), a servant, and a visitor. By the time of the 1891 Census, Rosa Clements was seventeen years old and working as an assistant in the shop. The family were now living at High Street, Stogursey, and Rosa was now the second oldest of nine children. Also living with the family in 1891 were George and Mary Webber (presumably relatives of Rosa’s mother) and a servant. As we have seen, Rosa married William Fry at Stogursey on the 30th April 1896, when she was aged 22. William and Rosa’s son Clarence was born in October 1898. In the 1901 Census, William Fry was recorded as working as a provision merchant’s clerk. Rosa then unfortunately died in the 4th quarter of 1904.

William Fry married again. He married Amy Mary Hawker in the Taunton registration district in the 1st quarter of 1908. They featured in the 1911 Census, living at 58 Ashleigh Avenue Bridgwater with the twelve-year-old Clarence Fry, the only child of William’s first marriage, and the two-year-old Amy Marguerite E. Fry. Amy Mary Hawker had been born at West Monkton (Bathpool), near Taunton in ca. 1884, the daughter of Frederick and Fanny Hawker. At the time of both the 1891 and 1901 Censuses, the Hawker family were living at West Monkton (first at Bathpool, then Monkton Elm), where Frederick Hawker was working as a commercial traveller and a manufacturer of cattle feed. At the time of the 1891 Census, Amy M. Hawker was seventeen years old. William Fry was to die in 1932, aged 65.

References:

[1] Taunton Courier, 20th November 1918; p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] Edwin Astill, 1st Batttalion the Wiltshire Regiment in the Great War: a commentary and analysis of their War Diary (Salisbury: RGBW, 2005), p. 79.

[3] The Wiltshire Regiment in the First World War: 1st Battalion, 2nd ed. (Salisbury: The Rifles Wardrobe and Museum Trust, 2011), pp. 202-203.

[4] Hanway R. Cumming, A Brigadier in France, 1917-1918 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1922), p. 253 (also cited in Astill, p. 79):
https://archive.org/details/brigadierinfranc00cumm

[5] The Ringing World, 17th October 1913, p. 258:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/rw1913_b.pdf

[6] The Ringing World, 31st October 1913, p. 291:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/rw1913_b.pdf

[7] The Ringing World, 19th November 1915, p. 238:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/rw1915_b.pdf

[8] Taunton Chronicle, 24th October 1917, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | November 5, 2018

Driver Fred Norman, 163rd Horse Transport Company, Army Service Corps

Milverton: Church of St Michael (Somerset), by Martin Southwood (CC BY-SA 2.0), Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Milverton: Church of St Michael (Somerset), by Martin Southwood (CC BY-SA 2.0). Source: Geograph, via Wikimedia Commons.

T4/186776 Driver Frederick (Fred) Norman of the 163rd Horse Transport Company, Army Service Corps (ASC) died in Greece on the 5th November 1918, aged 39. He was also a bellringer at St Michael’s Church, Milverton (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers. Driver Norman was one of two members of the Association to die on the 5th November; the other being 43835 Private Clarence Vivian Clements Fry of the 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, a bellringer from Bridgwater that died of wounds in hospital at Aldershot.

Like Private William Joseph New of the 2/5th Durham Light Infantry — an Isleworth bellringer who died of pneumonia on the 19th October 1918 — Driver Norman died while serving with the British Salonika Force (BSF) in Greece. He is buried at Mikra British Cemetery, Kalamaria, near Thessaloniki in Greece. According to his entry in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) database, Driver Norman was one of several burials moved to Kalamaria after the end of the war. The CWGC concentration records suggest that Norman was initially buried in a cemetery at Stavros [1]. The exact cause of death is unknown, although most likely to be from sickness or accident.

WM Q 15138: Railway construction with the Salonika Expeditionary Force, 1917-1920

IWM Q 15138: Railway construction with the Salonika Expeditionary Force, 1917-1920 © IWM (Q 15138): https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/ object/205250019

The Horse Transport companies of the Army Service Corps were responsible for the transportation of supplies, equipment, ammunition, men, and much else. Horses and mules were extensively used for transport on the Salonika front, and maintaining them in good health became a key part of the campaign. Alan Wakefield and Simon Moody have noted how British veterinary services developed in Greece and the Balkans during the war [2]:

As equine forms of transport were also vital in Macedonia, an extensive network of veterinary services was established. By spring 1917, the BSF had three veterinary hospitals (each capable of treating 1,250 animals), one base stores depot and records department and six mobile veterinary sections. Due to the knowledge that, like most things in the campaign, horses and mules would be in short supply, every effort was made to rehabilitate sick and wounded animals. Particularly good work was done in combating disease, in particular the scourges of biliary fever and mange. Once a horse or mule was back to full fitness the animal was sent to a remount depot, where it would remain until assigned to a unit. Veterinary officers also instructed members of horse and mule transport units in the art of horse-mastership and made regular inspections of animals belonging to transport companies and front line units such as artillery batteries. It was generally found that animals with transport units were overworked whilst those serving with the artillery lacked exercise. To counter the latter it became standard practice to allow horses to wander at will during the day and then round them up for feeding times.

According to the ever-useful Long, Long Trail website [3], the 163rd Horse Transport Company was initially formed in November 1914 and originally served as 16 Horsed Transport Reserve Park Company. This unit, however, did not go to France, and was later converted into 18 Auxiliary Horsed Transport Company and sent to Salonika.

Fred Norman was born at Cardiff (registration district) in the 2nd quarter of 1879, the son of Abraham Norman and Elizabeth Norman (née Richards). He was baptised at All Saints Church, Cardiff on the 11th May 1879. At the age of two, he featured in the 1881 Census as “F. Norman,” being resident with his parents and two siblings at 1, Canal Parade, Cardiff (his father Abraham’s occupation was described as “Dock Gate Man”). In 1885, the family moved to Milverton — Abraham Norman’s birthplace — and by the time of the 1891 Census, the family were living at Fore Street there. Fred was by then eleven years old and still at school. His 53 year old father was now described as a “Naval Pensioner.” The children were now named as Henry (aged 13, a mason’s labourer), Fred (11), and Charles (10), both of whom were still at school.

At the time of the 1901 Census, Fred Norman was 21 years old and working as a grocer’s assistant. The census return describes him as a “visitor” at the Post Office in Milverton, the home of James Slade Allen, the postmaster. Both were still living in Fore Street, Milverton at the time of the 1911 Census, although the 31 year old Fred Norman was now described as a boarder. Tragedy would strike in December 1915, when James Slade Allen committed suicide [4]. Fred Norman was a witness at the inquest, which was covered in detail in the Taunton Chronicle of the 22nd December (further details are available in an Appendix to this post).

At some point after the Norman family’s move to Milverton, Fred and his brothers must have learnt to ring the church bells. Fred Norman rang his first peal at St Michael’s Church, Milverton on the 13th November 1902, the method being Grandsire Triples [5]. Fred’s older brother Henry also rang in that performance, which was followed by several other peals rung at Milverton over the next decade or so.

From: The Bell News and Ringers' Record, 22nd November 1902, p. 392

From: The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 22nd November 1902, p. 392

Some time after the outbreak of war, Fred Norman rang in a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples at Milverton on the Sunday following Christmas Day in 1915. This had been specially arranged for Fred’s brother Henry, who was at home on leave from the Army [6]. This was also a first quarter peal for “C. Norman,” presumably Fred’s younger brother Charles.

From: The Taunton Courier, 12th January 1916, p. 5.

From: The Taunton Courier, 12th January 1916, p. 5.

Driver Frederick Norman’s entry in the Soldiers Died in the Great War database (available from Findmypast) states that he enlisted at Taunton. The inquest report published in the Taunton Chronicle in December 1915 shows that Fred was still working as a grocer’s assistant at Milverton at the end of that year. In May 1916, Fred’s employer (E. S. Heale) applied to the Somerset Appeal Tribunal for his exemption from service, but this was only deferred by a month [7]:

Mr. E. S. Heale appealed on behalf of his assistant in his grocery store at Milverton — Frederick Norman, aged 37, an attested man. — Adjourned for a month, appeal to be then dismissed.

Fred Norman was one of five members of the Taunton branch of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association to die while serving in the First World War, the others being William Fudge and Sidney Archibald Phillips (Taunton), Henry James Webber (Bishop’s Hull), and Henry William Weaver (Trull). All five were remembered during a branch meeting held at Taunton in January 1920 [8].

From: The Ringing World, 30th January 1920, p. 53.

From: The Ringing World, 30th January 1920, p. 53.

Fred Norman’s father, Abraham Norman, had been born at Milverton on the 3rd May 1837, the son of Henry Norman and Grace Norman (née Carpenter). He was baptised at Milverton on the 18th May the same year. At the time of the 1851 Census, the family were living at Sand Street, Milverton. Grace Norman was by now a 48-year-old widow, working as a laundress. Her eldest daughter, Maria, was sixteen years old and a pauper. Abraham Norman was thirteen and already working as an agricultural labourer. All except the youngest of the other children were still at school: William (aged 11), Sarah (8), Charles (6), Jane (4), and Emma (1).

Abraham Norman joined the Royal Navy in 1854, when he was aged 17. An obituary, published in the Taunton Chronicle of the 12th July 1916, provided a brief overview of his naval career [9]:

MILVERTON.
OBITUARY.– The death occurred at Milverton on Saturday last of Mr. Abraham Norman, a respected and honoured Milvertonian, and an old Navy pensioner, at the ripe old age of 79 years. He had been suffering from ill-health for a considerable time. The deceased entered the Navy at the age of 17 years, in the year 1854, and within three weeks of joining was sent on board H.M.S. Miander for duty in the White Sea, where he was stationed during the Crimean War, and subsequently saw service on the following of H.M. ships, viz., Wolverice, Eterel, Greyhound, Donegal, Zebra, Adventure, Royal Adelaide, Black Prince, and Aurora. He had a long experience of foreign service in the China Seas, occupying the position of 1st-class petty officer and Bo.’s mate when pensioned off in February, 1875. On leaving the Navy he was appointed as berthing master at the Bute Docks, Cardiff, which post he held for upwards of ten years, returning to Milverton, his native town, in 1885. The interment took place in the Milverton Churchyard on Wednesday last, and was attended by a large number of relatives and friends. The funeral service was read by the Vicar, the Rev. E. F. Felton. There was an unusually large number of beautiful floral tributes of respect. The deceased was also a most trustworthy friendly society man and true Forester [i.e., a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters, a friendly society]. He was a member of Court “Marquis of Bute,” 2842, of the Cardiff United, for over forty years, and was also greatly respected by the local members of Court “Pride of Milverton.”

While he was serving in the Navy, Abraham Norman married Elizabeth Richards at Milverton on the 23rd September 1869.

Elizabeth Richards had been born at Milverton on the 29th September 1837, the daughter of Edward and Ann Richards. She was baptised at Milverton on the 8th October the same year. Elizabeth would feature in the 1841 Census at the age of four, living with her parents and five siblings at a dwelling in the Square in Milverton. By the time of the 1851 Census, she was fourteen years old and working as an agricultural labourer. At that time she was living with her large family at Perrywinkle Street, Milverton. As we have seen, Elizabeth married Abraham Norman at Milverton in 1869. At the time of the 1871 Census, Elizabeth was 33 years old and living at the Square, Milverton with the extended family of her widowed mother (presumably, Abraham would have been at sea).

The 1881 Census found Abraham and Elizabeth Norman reunited and living at 1, Canal Parade, Cardiff, where Abraham was working at the docks. Living with them were also three infant sons, who are only identified by initials in the census return. By the time of the 1891 Census, when the family had moved to Fore Street Milverton, the children’s names emerge as: Henry (aged 13, a mason’s labourer), Fred (11), and Charles (10), who were both still at school. At the time of both the 1901 and 1911 Censuses — while Fred was living at the nearby Milverton Post Office — Abraham and Elizabeth Norman, and their youngest son Charles (in 1901 a 20-year-old carpenter’s apprentice; in 1911 a carpenter), were still living at Fore Street, Milverton.

Elizabeth Norman died in the 1st quarter of 1914, aged 76. Abraham Norman died in the 3rd quarter of 1916, aged 79, described by the Taunton Chronicle as “a respected and honoured Milvertonian.”

References:

[1] CWGC, Driver Fred Norman:
https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/341492/norman,-fred/

[2] Alan Wakefield and Simon Moody, Under the Devil’s Eye: the British military experience in Macedonia, 1915-1918 (2004; Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2017), p. 153.

[3] The Long, Long Trail, Army Service Corps Horse Transport Companies:
https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-army-service-corps-in-the-first-world-war/army-service-corps-horse-transport-companies/

[4] Taunton Courier, 22nd December 1915, p. 7; via British Newspaper Archive.

[5] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol XXI, No. 1076, 22nd November 1902, p. 392:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/bn21_02.pdf

[6] Taunton Courier, 12th January 1916, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[7] Taunton Courier, 10th May 1916, p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

[8] The Ringing World, 30th January 1920, p. 53:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/rw1920.pdf

[9] Taunton Chronicle, 12th July 1916, p 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

Appendix: The Death of James Slade Allen, December 1915:

The Taunton Courier of the 22nd December 1915 (p. 7) provided a full report of the death of James Slade Allen and the subsequent inquest:

MILVERTON POSTMASTER’S TRAGIC DEATH.
SUICIDE IN A LAVATORY.
A PATHETIC NOTE.
“I AM DRIVEN TO DESPERATION.”
Quite a sensation was caused in the usually quiet town of Milverton on Tuesday, when it became known that Mr. James Slade Allen, who for many years had been the respected postmaster and banking agent, had been found dead in the lavatory of his house, the result of terrible wounds self-inflicted with a razor in a most deliberate manner. It appears that the deceased had lived practically alone on the Post-office premises for some years, with the exception of a friend, Mr. Fredk. Norman, who shared his bedroom. The last time he was seen alive was at 10.45 a.m. on Tuesday, when he appeared to be in his usual spirits, and the tragic discovery was made about three hours later. Mr. Norman visited the Post-office during the dinner hour to go to the bedroom to get a razor, and it was then that he first found that all was not as it should be. A note on the dressing-table did not arouse suspicion, but the fact that the lavatory door was locked lead to further investigation, and Mr. Allen was found lying dead on the floor. The deceased was organist at the Parish Church of St Michael for many years, and has been very kind to the poorer inhabitants of the Royal Borough.
THE INQUEST
was held at the Post-office on Thursday afternoon by Mr. T. Foster-Barham, coroner for West Somerset. Mr. Robt. Andrews was chosen foreman of the jury, and the police present were Supt. Hallett, Wiveliscombe, P.S. Guppy, and P.C. Short.
Frederick Norman, a grocer’s assistant, who resided with the deceased for 19 or 20 years, gave evidence of identification. He said Mr. Allen was postmaster of Milverton and manager of the branch of Parr’s Bank. Of late he had been very low and depressed, complaining of influenza. For many years he had had fits of depression lasing three or four days, but the last time he was depressed for quite  month. The only thing that troubled him was the death of Miss Slade, a cousin. He had never mentioned any money troubles. On Tuesday witness went into the deceased bedroom at 1.20 p.m., but failed to find him there. He usually had dinner at his father’s house, but he came to the Post-office and went to the bedroom to get a razor. On the dressing-table he found a note as follows:– Please let those who have left deposit receipts with me know at once they are safe, and let Mrs. Dyte have her S.B. book.” Witness thought that this note was written to be put on the bank counter for reference for Mr. Andrews, the deceased’s assistant, and that deceased had rushed off in a hurry to catch the mid-day train to Taunton, as he sometimes did, and forgot to take the note down to the counter. Witness walked along to the lavatory, and saw that the door was closed, but his suspicions were not aroused until he put his hand upon the handle to open it and found it locked. Witness then took the note to Mr. Andrews, and asked him if he could tell what it meant. Subsequently witness fetched Mr. Wm. Andrews, and asked hi to bring a ladder to the lavatory window, which he did, and discovered that Mr. Allen was dead. The notes produced were in the deceased’s handwriting, but some of the words were mis-spelled. He did not see the body, and had not seen it since.
Wm. Andrews, jun., mason, of Milverton, stated that on Tuesday last he was called by the last witness to enter the lavatory window. On entering by a ladder he found the deceased in a crouching position. He was dead and covered with blood. A blood-stained razor was lying on the seat, and he reported the matter to the police.

More details followed on the examination of the body and the recovery of a note from the inside breast pocket of Mr Allen’s coat:

“I am driven to desperation by remorse for having borrowed and appropriated monies not my own, and feel I cannot live longer. I ask God if He will hear me and comfort and relieve all those I have so cruelly and wickedly wronged. It is only a few days since I realised my awkward position and its terrible consequences, and the agony of mind I have endured is inconceivable. I tried to open my grief but could not. Oh, wretched man that I am, I must be mad. Mercy.”

Allen had previously told his doctor that he had been feeling very depressed. Dr. Randolph, of Milverton, stated that Allen had suffered an attack of influenza around two months before.

It was not a bad attack, and as far as one could see did not affect his head in any way. The depression seemed to have come on of late. He was not inclined to be morbid, far from it, and was of a cheerful disposition.

After dealing with the immediate cause of death and the mental state of Mr Allen’s late mother, the inquest turned to consider some financial matters:

Mr. H. G. Fanning, from Parr’s Bank at Taunton, said that as far as they were concerned, everything was in order as far as they knew at present.
The Coroner: You don’t know anything as to this statement? — The deposit receipts are quite in order.
What has he to do with the bank? — He really runs an agency under Taunton. The books are kept at Taunton, and he renders a daily statement.
If there had been any money defalcations it could hardy arisen as far as the bank is concerned? — No.
You have not found any defalcations at all? — No.
You have nothing to do with the Post-office? — No.
You do not know whether he has appropriated any money at all? — We cannot say, we don’t know.
What form could it have taken? Could he have taken money and not placed it on credit? — That is so.
People could have left money with him, which he did not place on deposit in the bank? That we cannot trace.
The Coroner, in summing up, said that so far as they had been able to ascertain there was nothing wrong with money affairs at the bank or Post-office. It might have been that the deceased received money from depositors, which was not duly credited in the deposit account, but that they did not know. That apparently was the only thing which could justify what he had written in the letter. They had a further important piece of evidence, that the mother of the deceased was for many years before her death of unsound mind. It might be due to old age, but he did not understand that that was so from the doctor. The jury would have no difficulty in finding that the deceased killed himself, and the only matter that would require their consideration was whether he was of sound mind when he cut his throat. The doctor was of the opinion that he could not have given himself such serious injuries if he had been of sound mind. That was a matter of opinion, and they would be justified in forming their own opinion whether it was so or not. The material point was his mother’s insanity, and secondly, his depression. From his experience as a Coroner he had found that influenza suddenly upset people’s minds and people had frequently taken their life through depression following influenza. It was a curious disease which attacked one’s weak point. It might have been that the deceased’s mind was not a very strong one, and through inherited weakness was liable to be unhinged by a disease of that kind.
[…]
The jury returned a verdict of “Suicide whilst temporarily insane.”

To the report was also appended a letter from Mr Allen’s friends, including Fred Norman:

To the Editor.
SIR,– I am writing on behalf of Mr. Norman and myself, friends of the deceased, who had some little knowledge of his affairs, to say we think there were no grounds whatever for the statement made in the letter found by the police on the body of the deceased, re his financial difficulties, and that it was undoubtedly penned under a severe mental aberration. If, therefore, you are inserting the letter as part of the evidence, we should be glad if you would make a slight reference to our remarks, or insert the whole,
Yours faithfully,
E. S. HEALE.

Source: Taunton Courier, 22nd December 1915, p. 7; via British Newspaper Archive.

Wilfred Owen, from: Poems, by Wilfred Owen, (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920)

Wilfred Owen, from: Poems, by Wilfred Owen, with an introduction by Siegfried Sassoon (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920). Source: British Library: Digital Store Cup.410.f.490 (Public Domain)

The centenary of the death of Lieutenant W. E. S. Owen, M.C. of the 2nd Battalion, Manchester Regiment is unlikely to go unnoticed today. Lieutenant Owen was killed in action on the 4th November 1918, aged 25, during the crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal and he is buried in Ors Communal Cemetery in France. In Shropshire, a programme of events, known as Wilfred Owen 100, has already been running for around three months [1].

Today, Wilfred Owen is probably the most well-known British soldier-poet of the First World War. Despite this, circumstances dictated that very little of Owen’s poetry was actually published in his own lifetime. While Owen’s poetic reputation was firmly established in the decades that immediately followed the war, some recent scholars have argued that his current importance in British popular culture owes as much to the 1960s as it does to the First World War.

For example, a recent post by Professor Harry Ricketts on the University of Oxford’s World War I Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings blog has argued that Owen was, essentially, a poet of the “turbulent 1960s.” In the post, Ricketts claimed that it was the sixties that transformed Owen from a relatively obscure poet into a household name [2]:

The claim for Owen as, in essence, a poet of the ’60s, might seem initially quirky, but is, I think, in its own terms, unanswerable. Of course, his war poems had always (so viscerally) dramatised World War I as a kind of hellish cockpit, with the imagined reader a pitying spectator watching, often in appalled close-up, the actions of unwilling victims subject to irresistible human, mechanical, chemical and political forces. The poems had always been that. But it was the 1960s which allowed that vision to achieve its full horror and pity.

To support his argument, Ricketts cites a wide range of evidence, from Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem (1962) to Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy (1991-95), via Alan Clark’s The Donkeys (1961), the musical Oh! What a Lovely War! (1963), new editions of Owen’s poems and letters (1963, 1967), the BBC’s documentary series The Great War documentary series (1964), and Blackadder Goes Forth (1989).

The argument is not particularly new. For example, in his book The Long Shadow (2013), David Reynolds argued that the 1960s was the decade when the Great War poets became “iconic” [3]. Amongst other things, he attributed this to popular poetry anthologies published to mark the 50th anniversary of the war, e.g. Brian Gardner’s Up the line to death (1964), and I. M. Parsons’s Men who march away (1965). In these anthologies, Reynolds traced the influence of an older interpretive framework — one which he attributed to Edmund Blunden — that both privileged the work of the soldier-poets (over others), and which largely viewed the poetry itself as reflecting a growing realisation of the grim realities of trench warfare as the war progressed [4]:

The fiftieth anniversary anthologies sanctified Blunden’s canon of Great War poetry: the verse of junior officers steeped in Romantic literature who moved from patriotic innocence to horrified candour and eventually a recognition, in Owen’s now clichéd words, of ‘the pity of war’ rather than its glory.

Like Ricketts, Reynolds concluded that, “it was in the 1960s that Owen became the pre-eminent symbol of war poetry for British popular culture” [5]:

Because Owen’s poems spoke so much of suffering and victimhood, they fitted the British experience of the Second World War and 1960s attitudes to war in general better than poetry that focused on the moral ambiguities of fighting and killing.

Naturally, neither Ricketts or Reynolds argue that Owen was completely unknown before the 1960s, just that his current pre-eminence as the war poet dates from that decade. Perhaps as a balance to Ricketts, the Oxford WW1 blog also published a post by Vincent Trott that explained in more detail the reception of Owen’s poetry in the immediate post war period and afterwards [6].

Shrewsbury: War Memorial in Shrewsbury Abbey (Shropshire)

Shrewsbury: War Memorial in Shrewsbury Abbey (Shropshire)

Nevertheless, on the 100th anniversary of Owen’s death, I thought that it might be interesting in this post to explore a few responses to his poetry from the immediate post-war period.

Coterie, No. 3 (1919):

The first example is a short review of a literary journal called Coterie that was published in the Daily Herald of the 31st December 1919. The review is not primarily focused on Owen, but it does favourably mention the one Owen poem published in the anthology: “Mental Cases” [7]:

A LITERARY QUARTERLY
Coterie. No. 3 (Hendersons. 2s, 6d.)
Coterie is a bright quarterly, which contains a great deal of verse, a little prose, and four drawings. The cover design is by William Roberts, one of the most notable of the official war artists. The Editorial Committee includes T. S. Eliot, Richard Aldington, Aldous Huxley, and Wyndham Lewis. Since the contributors belong to several young intellectual sects, Coterie does not represent “a circle of persons associated by exclusive interests” (dictionary definition). This is very much to its credit, and it is refreshing to find Georgians, Imagistes, Athenæumites, Sitwells, and other diagnosable individuals so cheerily collected under one wrapper. Probably the most interesting poem in the book is one by Wilfred Owen, who was killed in action a week before the Armistice. I am glad to know that the rest of the contributors are still with us, although several of them take a somewhat gloomy view of human affairs. Aldington, for instance, in a remarkable poem called “Bones,” queries:–
“What quaint adventures may there be
For my unneeded skeleton?”
But as a cool contrast to this, E. C. Blunden writes serenely about freshwater fish:–
“The rose-finned roach and bluish bream,
And staring perch steal up the stream.”
And Sacheverell Sitwell gives a free-verse dialogue between a rich lady and her gardener, which is undeniably brilliant.
What a relief it is to find poets being witty, instead of maundering on about botany and the weather, washed down (or out), with what might have been their emotions (only they got them from Daddy Wordsworth, who really knew what he was getting excited about). Owing to shortage of space I cannot deal with the emotional vagaries and vicissitudes of the remainder; they are a bit weak at times, but I am sure they don’t mean quite all they write, as when Herbert Read complains:–
“The pendulous trunks of elephants
Disturb my peace of mind.”
Anyhow, I’m longing to see what they’ll say next time.
S.S.

The review was written by Siegfried Sassoon, who was at that time the literary editor of the Daily Herald.

Coterie was a literary journal published in six issues between 1919 and 1920 by Hendersons of 66, Charing Cross Road, London [8]. Each issue contained poetry, mixed with fiction, criticism, and the occasional illustration. According to the Modernist Journals Project, an initiative of Brown University and the University of Tulsa, Coterie was “an important part of the post-war literary and artistic scene in England” [9].

Sassoon seemed pleased that the issue of Coterie that he was reviewing included contributions from several of the different literary groupings that were current at that time. Of the four specific groups that he identified, the “Georgians” and the “Imagists” are probably the most well-known today.

Georgian poetry emerged in the immediate pre-war period, and is often linked to a series of eponymous anthologies edited by Edward Marsh. The first issue had been published in 1912 and contributors included: Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke, Walter de la Mare, W. W. Gibson, D. H. Lawrence, John Masefield, and Harold Monro. In trying to define Georgian poetry, Matthew Hollis has written [10]:

The Georgians looked to the local, the commonplace and the day-to-day, mistrusting grandiosity, philosophical enquiry or spiritual cant. […] The style was innocent, intimate and direct; lyric in form, rhythmic in drive, it dovetailed short sketches of the natural world with longer meditations on the condition of the human heart.

Contributors to later issues of Georgian Poetry included the war poets Robert Graves and Edmund Blunden, as well as Sassoon himself. While none of his poems actually appeared in the anthologies, Dominic Hibberd has noted that Owen did personally align himself with the Georgians [11].

Imagism was established, in part as a deliberate reaction against the Georgians, by the American-born poet Ezra Pound. Reynolds explains some of his poetical principles [12]:

Pound advocated free verse, where rhythm and metre were adapted to the emotion the poem sought to convey rather than the other way round, and also ‘permanent metaphor’, using ‘absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation’.

Pound’s first anthology of Imagist poems was published in 1914 under the title, Des Imagistes [13]. Amongst the contributors were Richard Aldington, H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), James Joyce, and Pound himself.

Of the other groupings mentioned, the “Athenæumites” were presumably writers associated with The Athenaeum, a weekly literary review that was edited by John Middleton Murry between 1919 and 1923 (in 1921 it merged with The Nation to become The Nation and Athenaeum). In Middleton Murry’s time, the review featured work by T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and Clive Bell; Aldous Huxley also briefly became associate editor in 1919 [14]. There seems to be, therefore, at least some overlap between the Bloomsbury Group and Sassoon’s “Athenæumites.” Sassoon’s final group, the “Sitwells,” seems to consider Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell as a distinct literary movement of their own!

In practice, the exact boundaries between the different groupings wasn’t always that clear. Reynolds has argued that,”they should be understood not as rival schools but as different currents in the same swirling stream” [15]. That said, Sassoon’s comments in the review about poets “maundering on” about botany or the weather does echo some contemporary Imagist or modernist criticism of Georgian poetry.

In retrospect, Sassoon’s positive comments on Owen’s poem simply highlights that he was not really a neutral reviewer of Owen’s poetry; his support for the development of Owen’s poetry, at Craiglockhart and afterwards, is well known [16]. We also know now that Sassoon had corresponded with Blunden about his poems earlier in 1919 [17]. The Blunden poem quoted in Sassoon’s review was “The Pike,” although the edition of Coterie being reviewed also included his: “An Evensong,” “The Unchangeable,” and “A Waterpiece.”

Chatto and Windus advertisement for Wilfred Owen's Poems, published in Coterie, No. 5

Chatto & Windus advertisement for Wilfred Owen’s Poems, published in Coterie, No. 5 (1920), p. 80. Source: Modernist Journals Project.

Poems (1920):

Wilfred Owen’s poems were first published in book form by Chatto and Windus in 1920, the volume including a short introduction by Siegfried Sassoon [18]. This edition included twenty-three poems — including: “Strange Meeting,” “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” and “Dulce et Decorum est” — as well as Owen’s own unfinished preface, with its famous lines: “Above all, this book is not concerned with Poetry. The subject of it is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”

Title page of: Poems by Wilfred Owen (Chatto & Windus, 1920)

Title page of: Poems, by Wilfred Owen, with an introduction by Siegfried Sassoon (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920). Source: British Library: Digital Store Cup.410.f.490 (Public Domain)

A broadly-positive review appeared in the Aberdeen Daily Journal of the 24th January 1921 [19]:

POETRY.
Wilfred Owen on War and Slaughter.
POEMS. : By Wilfred Owen. London: Chatto and Windus. 6s.

Wilfred Owen was an Oswestry man who was killed at the age of 25 while endeavouring to get his men across the Sambre Canal on November 4, 1918. He was one of those sensitive and imaginative minds in which war created a sense of horror, disgust, and futility, and of all the war poets of that type Owen showed the greatest promise as prophet and seer. His thought and his execution in these poems are still for the most part immature: experiments rather than complete achievements; yet no one can read his verses without feeling that their author was one who was treading the narrow path to the fuller understanding of life. Sometimes, it is true, carried away by his repugnance to war, he became bitter, cynical, and transient in his thoughts; but generally he read the larger lesson into the compressed episode of war and slaughter —

Heart you were never hot,
Nor large, nor full like hearts made great with shot;
And though your hand be pale,
Paler are all which trail
Your cross through flame and hail;
Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not. [Extract from: “Greater Love”]

In several of the poems there is an experiment in rhyme, or rather in assonance. The end-words are not in accepted rhyme, but have a close connection with one another formed by a similarity of consonants and a slight different in vowel sounds —

Let us forgo men’s minds that are brute’s natures,
Let us not sup the blood which some say nurtures,
Be we not swift with swiftness of the tigress
Let us break ranks from those who trek from progress. [Extract from a variant of “Strange Meeting”]

On occasion the innovation has an energising influence, but too much of it palls by losing command of the ear, which, becoming muddled, misses the effects which are intended to be conveyed.
Mr Siegfried Sassoon contributes an introduction to the poems, which are tastefully arranged and published, and there is a frontispiece photograph of the author.

The volume was also favourably-reviewed  by Vita Sackville-West in The Woman’s Leader and Common Cause of the 11th February 1921, part of an overview of recently-published verse [20]:

Poems. By Wilfred Owen, with a preface by Siegfried Sassoon. (Chatto & Windus. 6s.)

The late Wilfred Owen, in his fragmentary preface to his own verses, makes upon them the following comment: “This book is not concerned with Poetry. The subject of it is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.” – and it is a comment which comes nearer the truth than the comments of most poets on their own poetry. Nevertheless, if a passionate conviction allied to a use of words both unpretentious, forcible, and bold, and to a technical originality of extreme interest, can produce poetry, then this volume is poetry. It may not be primarily concerned with the making of poetry; but it is more truly poetry than half the fanciful verse-making or far-fetched surprises that impose themselves upon the credulous in the semblance of that art. It had in it the genuine stuff of poetry, which, rarely met with, is always recognisable.
Wilfred Owen was killed in action at the age of twenty-five, seven days before the Armistice was signed in 1918, and all the poems contained in the present volume deal with the war. Of them all perhaps the most admirable is “Apologia pro poemate meo,” but it is hard to choose among excellences, and, while strongly recommending any lover of modern poetry to buy, or at least to read, not extracts, but the whole of this short volume, I would like to point out the peculiar technical interest of Owen’s method, his lavish use of the onomatopoeic trick (for example, “The stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle, Can patter out their hasty orisons”), and his highly original experiments in rhyme. One is perhaps tempted to dwell too much upon such curious pairings-off as blade and blood, shoots and shouts, sap, soap and soup – the rhyme of consonants rather than the rhyme of vowels – whereas the truer interest lies in speculation as to the system Owen would surely have evolved, had life granted him the leisure, a system of harmony or discord according to the subject of the poem, an experiment carried out by a sure and audacious hand. It must be remembered too, that he was too much of a poet to be carried away by the mere craftsmanship of the art he practiced, and one might reasonably have hoped to find a rare alliance between emotion and expression. Amongst the young poets fallen in the war, Wilfred Owen must always stand as one of the bitterest losses.
I should like to quote one short poem, entitled “Futility”:

“Move him into the sun –
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds,
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved – still warm – too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
– O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?”

Poems (1931):

A much-larger edition of Wilfred Owen’s poems was to follow in 1931 [21]. This was edited by Edmund Blunden, who also contributed a substantial memoir. The reviewer in the Yorkshire Post was evidently not that impressed by Blunden’s labours [22]:

WILFRED OWEN.
“The Poems of Wilfred Owen.” Edited with many pieces now first published, and notices of his Life and Work, by Edmund Blunden. (Chatto and Windus, 6s)
This new edition more than doubles the published work of Wilfred Owen. Thirty-five new poems have been added, with a memoir, notes, and an appendix, but some of the additions muddle rather than elucidate one’s understanding of Owen. This is partly the fault of Mr. Blunden, who has not done his work particularly well, or on a very clear plan. All the poems (three or four excepted) are quite unworthy of Owen at his best. Several are fragmentary or tentative, several decidedly immature and bombastic, and Owen himself, it can hardly be doubted, would have destroyed or at least never published the majority. Mr. Blunden scatters them among the twenty-four, till the best that Owen wrote is half-smothered in the worst.
The memoir, too, is a muddled piece of work, but valuable as an account of Owen’s short life, illustrated by excerpts from his juvenilia and his letters from the Front. The portrait of Owen (different from the fine, clear photograph in the earliest edition) is in keeping with the rest of the book. It is blurred and muddy, and was not worth reproduction. All told, this editorial handling of poetry, still so vital and young, comes perilously close to sacrilege.
G. E. G.

Owen’s manuscripts at the British Museum (1934):

With the financial assistance of the Friends of the National Libraries — whose first major donation it was — two volumes of Owen’s manuscripts entered the collections of the British Museum in 1934. They are now British Library Additional MSS. 43720, 43721.

Herbert Milne, a classicist that worked in the Museum’s Department of Manuscripts, provided an overview of the two volumes explaining their significance [23]:

THE POEMS OF WILFRED OWEN.

The fame of Wilfred Owen has been of steady growth. Many hold him to be the greatest of England’s war-time poets — great in achievement, greater still in promise — and his untimely death, almost within hail of the armistice, re-enacts for our century the bitter tragedy of Keats. It was therefore meet that the titles of his poethood should rest in the keeping of his country. With the help of the Friends of the National Libraries and separate subscribers this desirable end has now been effected, and the haphazard materials, eloquent of those unquiet times, now repose in the Department of Manuscripts within the boards of Additional MSS. 43720, 43721. The former volume was already bound when received and has been left undisturbed save for a few insertions. It includes, along with some other pieces, all the verse published in the first (Sassoon’s) edition of Owen’s poems. The second volume has been arranged in two main divisions: (1) The poems in the order of Blunden’s edition, either variant copies or final versions, in so far as these have not found place in Add. MS. 43720; (2) the remaining material, outside both Sassoon and Blunden, in rough chronological order.

We have thus in the Museum a unique series of documents for the study of a poet’s development, telescoped within a few crowded years. Keats, overtly or subtly, is the dominating influence, and to Keats Owen must have recognized a special affinity, much as Keats himself acknowledged his own kinship with Shakespeare. Moreover, as in the letters of Keats we can often trace the germ of an idea which later comes to flower in his verse, so in the many variant forms of Owen’s poems we can follow the whole course of a poetic thought from the first rough jotting as it strikes the brain through successive enrichments to its full presentation.

Finally, a word must be said about Owen’s peculiar contribution to the technics of English verse, his masterly use of assonance. This device is of course not an invention of Owen’s, but no poet has employed it to such purpose. The strange, intense effects he draws from it can best be studied in those two most personal and most moving of his poems. The Show in which he perceived with horror the vision of his own death, and Strange Meeting in which his brooding spirit, escaped at last from the outrage of war, reconciles itself in death with the ghost of the slayer — ‘Let us sleep now.’

Shrewsbury: Wilfred Owen Memorial "Symmetry" (Shropshire)

Shrewsbury: Wilfred Owen Memorial “Symmetry” (Shropshire)

Moving beyond the 1960s:

“The fame of Wilfred Owen has been of steady growth.” Thus Herbert Milne welcomed two volumes of Owen’s manuscripts into the British Museum in the 1930s. According to scholars like Ricketts and Reynolds, however, Owen largely remained a “poet’s poet” until the 1960s when changes elsewhere meant that his poetry (or a very small proportion of it) broke into the cultural mainstream. From that decade on, Owen and the war poets have sometimes been seen as being appropriated to a dominant view that promulgated the First World War as an exercise in futility, particularly from a British point of view.

The very strength and longevity of the futility meme — characterised to some by the ending of the final episode of the BBC comedy series Blackadder Goes Forth (1989) — has meant that the war poets have sometimes become collateral damage in ongoing debates about the war and its conduct. While Owen and his contemporaries did not necessarily aim to become the “voice of a nation,” their importance to the prevailing cultural narrative on the First World War has led some ‘revisionists’ to argue that the war poets’ experiences were somehow unrepresentative. Here is a (fairly mild) example from Gary Sheffield’s Forgotten Victory (2001) [24]:

It would be wrong to deny that poetry represents a valid expression of a particular individual’s experience, but one should no more rely solely or even primarily  on literary sources to understand the First World War than base ones entire knowledge of fifteenth-century Anglo-French relations on Shakespeare’s Henry V. Still less should one imagine  that the War Poets represent ‘typical’ British soldiers. The poems of Sassoon, Owen and the like provide, at best, a very limited and skewed view of both the war as a whole and the experience of the frontline infantryman.

Others, like Reynolds, argue that the soldier-poets were not even representative of First World War poetry more generally [25]:

Yet we now reserve the term ‘war poets’ for a few celebrated soldiers such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. The latter were, moreover, atypical soldiers as well as unrepresentative poets, being young unmarried officers, sometimes uneasy about homosexual leanings and uncertain about their own courage — who often ended up with a martyr complex. […] The fact that Owen, Sassoon and their ilk penned some of the most powerful anti-war poetry in modern literature should not blind us to their atypicality.

Arguably, portraying Owen as a poet of the 1960s could be seen as part of this wider attempt to decouple the soldier-poets from the war that was the primary object of their work.

That said, it seems unlikely that the poetry of Owen, Sassoon, Blunden, Ivor Gurney, David Jones, and others is going to slip into total obscurity in the near future. In his review of Reynolds’s book, the cultural historian Jay Winter accepted the atypicality of the poets’ experience, but wondered if there might be reasons why their view had eventually become the dominant one [26]:

[…] it is undoubtedly true that we cannot take the war poets as representative of the attitudes of contemporaries about whether the war had to be fought. The intriguing question is why over the course of the 20th century the war poets’ view, if there was one, has come to dominate later understandings of the 1914-18 conflict in Britain, and to a certain degree in France.

It is just possible to imagine a different world in which Owen could have himself became a genuine 1960s poet, albeit at the age of sixty-seven. Sadly, that did not come to pass. Rather than seeing Owen as a poet of the 1960s, perhaps it would be better to regard him both as a poet of his own time, but also as a poet for all time?

Futility, by Wilfred Owen

Move him into the sun —
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds —
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
— O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?

Lieutenant Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, M.C.; 5th (T.F.) Battalion, attached 2nd Battalion, Manchester Regiment; born Plas Wilmot, near Oswestry (Shropshire), 18th March 1893; killed in action on the Sambre-Oise Canal (Nord), 4th November 1918, aged 25; buried at Ors Communal Cemetery, Nord, France (A. 3.). “A poet of repute …”
https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/336417/owen,-wilfred-edward-salter/

References:

[1] Wilfred Owen 100:
http://www.shropshireremembers.org.uk/partners/wilfred-owen-100/

[2] Harry Ricketts, Wilfred Owen: The ’60s Poet, World War I Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings, University of Oxford and Jisc, 16 October 2018:
http://ww1centenary.oucs.ox.ac.uk/aftermath/owen-the-60s-poet/

[3] David Reynolds, The long shadow: the Great War and the Twentieth Century (London: Simon & Schuster, 2013), p. 342.

[4] Ibid., p. 347.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Vincent Trott, “The Poetry is in the Pity”: Wilfred Owen and the Memory of the First World War, World War I Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings, University of Oxford and Jisc, 16 October 2018:
http://ww1centenary.oucs.ox.ac.uk/teaching/the-poetry-is-in-the-pity-wilfred-owen-and-the-memory-of-the-first-world-war/

[7] Daily Herald, 31st December 1919, p. 8; via British Newspaper Archive.

[8] Coterie, Nos. 1- 3 (1919):
https://archive.org/details/coterie1to300lalluoft

[9] Modernist Journals Project:
http://modjourn.org/render.php?view=mjp_object&id=coterie.catalog

[10] Matthew Hollis, Now all roads lead to France: the last years of Edward Thomas (London: Faber and Faber, 2011), p. 13.

[11] Dominic Hibberd, “Wilfred Owen and the Georgians,” The Review of English Studies, Vol. 30, No. 117, 1st February 1979, pp. 28-40:
https://doi.org/10.1093/res/XXX.117.28

[12] Reynolds, op cit., p. 195.

[13] Des Imagistes: an anthology (New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1914):
https://archive.org/details/desimagistesanan00alberich/page/n5

[14] Oscar Wellens, “The Brief and Brilliant Life of The Athenaeum Under Mr. Middleton Murry” (T.S. Eliot), Neophilologus, Vol. 85, No. 1, January 2001, pp. 137-152.

[15] Reynolds, op cit., p. 189.

[16] For example: Dominic Hibberd, Wilfred Owen: a new biography (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2002; London: Phoenix, 2003), pp. 331-356.

[17] Peter Parker, “From Blunden to Sassoon, with gratitude,” TLS, 20th February 2013:
https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/from-blunden-to-sassoon-with-gratitude/

[18] Wilfred Owen, Poems by Wilfred Owen, with an introduction by Siegfried Sassoon (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920):
http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_100010960246.0x000002

[19] Aberdeen Daily Journal, 24th January 1921, p. 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

[20] The Woman’s Leader and Common Cause, 11th February 1921, p. 10; via British Newspaper Archive.

[21] Wilfred Owen, The poems of Wilfred Owen, edited with a memoir and notes by Edmund Blunden (London: Chatto and Windus, 1931), Phoenix Library edition (1933): https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.505111/page/n3

[22] The Yorkshire Post, 13th May 1931, p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

[23] H. J. M. Milne, The poems of Wilfred Owen,” The British Museum Quarterly, Vol. 9, no. 1, September 1934, pp. 19-20.

[24] Gary Sheffield, Forgotten victory: the First World War: myths and realities (London: Headline Book Publishing, 2001) p. 19; the comparison with Shakespeare and Henry V doesn’t really look exact!

[25] Reynolds, op. cit., p. 187.

[26] Jay Winter, review of David Reynolds, The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century, (review no. 1628), Reviews in History, July 2014; DOI: 10.14296/RiH/2014/1628:
https://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1628

Shrewsbury: War Memorial in Shrewsbury Abbey (Shropshire)

Shrewsbury: War Memorial in Shrewsbury Abbey (Shropshire)

Appendix: British Library website items on Wilfred Owen:

British Library, Poetry manuscripts of Wilfred Owen, British Library Treasures:
https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/the-poetry-manuscripts-of-wilfred-owen

Sandra M. Gilbert, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’: tracing the influence of John Keats, British Library, Discovering Literature: 20th Century, 25th July 2016:
https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-literature/articles/anthem-for-doomed-youth-and-dulce-et-decorum-est-tracing-the-influence-of-john-keats

British Library, Discovering Literature: ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’:
https://www.bl.uk/works/dulce-et-decorum-est

Santanu Das, ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’, a close reading, British Library, Discovering Literature: 20th Century, 25th May 2016:
https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-literature/articles/a-close-reading-of-dulce-et-decorum-est

Santanu Das, Wilfred Owen, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ (video), British Library, Discovering Literature: 20th Century:
https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-literature/videos/wilfred-owen-dulce-et-decorum-est
YouTube: https://youtu.be/fp4QMI9hKdk

British Library, Discovering Literature: ‘The Next War’ by Wilfred Owen, published in The Hydra:
https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/the-next-war-by-wilfred-owen-published-in-the-hydra

Santanu Das, Reframing First World War poetry, British Library. World War One:
https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/reframing-first-world-war-poetry

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