Posted by: michaeldaybath | November 18, 2017

Wessex bellringers between Ypres and Cambrai

Lytchett Minster Church (Dorset)

Lytchett Minster Church (Dorset)

Between the formal end of the 3rd Battle of Ypres on the 10th November 1917 and the opening of the Battle of Cambrai on the 20th, the trench war on the Western Front continued with its continuous drain of casualties.

On the 18th November 1917, two bellringers from Somerset and Dorset died on different sectors of the front. Private Edward Ernest Brown of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment was killed-in-action near Passchendaele (Passendale). He was also a bellringer at Lytchett Minster in Dorset and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR). Private Raymond Loxton of the 7th/8th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was killed-in-action near Fontaine-lès-Croisilles while his unit was gearing up for an attack on the Hindenburg Line. Loxton was a bellringer at Weare in Somerset and a member of the Bath and Wales Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

Lytchett Minster Church (Dorset)

Lytchett Minster Church (Dorset)

38504 Private Edward Ernest Brown, 2nd Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment

Edward Ernest Brown was born in the 4th quarter of 1898 and baptised at Dorking (Surrey) on the 11th December 1898. His parents were Ernest Albert and Elizabeth Brown.

Ernest Albert Brown had been born near Weymouth (Dorset) in the 4th quarter of 1858, the son of Stephen and Louisa Brown (census returns suggest that Ernest was born in either Preston or Broadwey). It is possible to trace Ernest in successive census returns living with his family at various addresses in Dorset: first at Preston (1861, 1871), and then at Bere Regis (1881). In 1891 he was 33-years old and lodging at a London address: 34 Morrison Street, Battersea, and working as a house decorator. By 1901, he was married to Elizabeth — who came from Gowles in Bedfordshire — and they were living at Dorking, with 5 children (born both in both South London and Dorking) and a lodger. By 1911, the family had moved again, back to the country where Ernest had been born, Broadmayne (Dorset). The dates and places of birth of Edward’s younger siblings suggest that the family moved to Broadmayne between 1901 and 1903. At some point after 1911, they must have moved to Lytchett Minster, near Poole.

Lytchett Minster War Memorial (Dorset)

Lytchett Minster War Memorial (Dorset)

Edward Ernest Brown first features in the 1901 Census as a 2-year old, living at 5, Jubilee Terrace, Dorking. By 1911, Edward is aged 12, living with his parents and siblings at Broadmayne, and still at school. From Soldiers Died in the Great War, we know that Edward joined up at Poole. Private Brown was killed in action on the 18th November 1917 while serving with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire Regiment). His name is recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing and on the war memorial cross at Lytchett Minster.

Royal Berkshire Regiment badge on CWGC grave marker (Cholsey, Oxon)

Royal Berkshire Regiment badge on CWGC grave marker (Cholsey, Oxon)

The 2nd Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment was part of 25th Infantry Brigade in 8th Division. The Division had taken part in the 3rd Battle of Ypres, notably at Pilckem Ridge and Langemark, but by October and early November 1917 were mainly based at Menegate Camp in the area west of Armentières. From there, they spent time in the front lines near Ploegsteert and also in the rear areas of Ypres itself. From mid-November, the 8th Division began to relieve the 3rd Canadian Division in the left sector of the Canadian Corps front at Ypres. After having spent some days training in the La Motte area in early November, the 2nd Royal Berkshires moved to the Ypres area on the 16th November.

Bellevue Spur from near the Canadian Memorial, Passendale (West-Vlaanderen)

Bellevue Spur from near the Canadian Memorial, Passendale (West-Vlaanderen)

On the 17 November, 25th Brigade moved into the line, reliving the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade. For example, the 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade relieved the 42nd Canadian Infantry (Royal Highlanders), the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment relieved the Royal Canadian Regiment, and the 2nd Royal Berkshires relieved the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in Brigade Support. The 2nd Royal Berkshires established their headquarters at Bellevue, and their four companies were split evenly between Bellevue and the area NE of the village of Passchendaele. All that the war diary [1] says for the 18th November — the day that Private Brown was killed-in-action — is “Ditto,” so one can assume that there had been no significant change in deployment from the previous day. The war diary does, however, include a short note on casualties: “Lieut. A. F. R. Brown, wounded (gassed), 4 o.r. killed, 57 o.r. wounded,” suggesting that the battalion had been subject to shelling.

Detail from Trench Map 20.SE

Vindictive Crossroads. Detail from Trench Map 20.SE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5A; Published: January 1918; Trenches corrected to 17 December 1917 http://maps.nls.uk/view/101464870 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

25th Brigade were, in turn, relieved by the 24th Brigade on the 19th November and removed to Ridge Camp. The 2nd Royal Berkshires returned to the front line on the 29th November and took part in an attack on German lines north of Passchendaele on the 2nd December. While the 3rd Battle of Ypres had officially ended on the 10th November 1917, it is clear that the fighting on this front did not cease immediately.

Church of St Gregory, Weare (Somerset)

Church of St Gregory, Weare (Somerset)

41741 Private Jack Emery Loxton, 7th/8th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Raymond Jack Emery Loxton was born at Lower Weare in Somerset in the 3rd quarter of 1898, the son of John and Sarah Loxton. While Sarah Loxton had been born at Upper Weare – the part of the parish that contains St Gregory’s Church – her husband had been born at nearby Compton Bishop, a village in the western Mendips near Crook Peak. Both of the 1901 and 1911 census returns state that John Loxton was working as a brickyard labourer. At the time of the 1901 Census, the family were living at Mendip View in Lower Weare, which is the part of the parish on the old turnpike (now the A38). Mendip View Farm can still be found on the main road close to the turn for Upper Weare, and it would still be able to boast a view of Crook Peak.

War Memorial, St Gregory's Church, Weare (Somerset)

War Memorial, St Gregory’s Church, Weare (Somerset)

In the 1911 Census, the twelve-year old Raymond Loxton was the eldest of six children, four of whom (including Raymond) were still at school (the others were even younger).  It has not been possible to find out that much about Raymond’s service career. From Soldiers Died in the Great War we know that 41741 Private Ray Loxton enlisted at Weston-super-Mare. At the time of his death on the 18 November 1917, Private Loxton was serving with the 7th/8th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was killed-in-action, aged 19. He is buried in Croisilles British Cemetery, in the Pas-de-Calais département, near Bullecourt, around half-way between Arras and Bapaume. His name also appears on the war memorial in St Gregory’s Church, Weare and the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey.

Detail from Trench Map 51B.SW

Tunnel Trench. Detail from Trench Map 51B.SW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 8A; Published: May 1918; Trenches corrected to 25 April 1918 http://maps.nls.uk/view/101465074 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The 7th and 8th (Service) Battalions of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers had been amalgamated on the 23rd August 1917. The battalion formed part of 49th Infantry Brigade in the 16th (Irish) Division. Throughout September and October 1917, the battalion alternated between stints spent in Enniskillen Camp at Ervillers and the front line near Fontaine-lès-Croisilles. There was a successful company-strength raid on German positions on the 29 October, which concluded that the German trenches were “in such a bad state that they were practically untenable” [2]. After another spell at Enniskillen Camp, the battalion were back in the front line on the 14th November. On the 17th, the battalion was busy:

A third TMB [trench mortar battery] shoot, again successful.
During the whole time, the Heavy Batteries were engaged on wire cutting and shoots on MEBU [concrete forts] in enemy front line systems. This shooting necessitates a constant clearing of the front line, but only a very few shells fell short.
The enemy were fairly quiet. He scarcely retaliates to our periodical bombardments but he shot some Heavy Trench Mortars onto JANET AVE which he damaged in several places.

On the 18th November, the 7th/8th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were relieved by other 16th Division units, in preparation for an attack on the morning of the 20th. These included the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment and the 7th/8th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers from 49th Brigade, and the 2nd and 10th Battalions, Royal Dublin Fusiliers from 48th Brigade. The 7th/8th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers then moved back to Belfast Camp, Ervillers. This was the day that Private Loxton was killed in action.

The following day, the 7th/8th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers moved back up to the front line, where various platoons were attached to other units for the 20th November attack (the remainder of the battalion acted in support). The 16th Division with 9th Brigade of 3rd Division were tasked with capturing a section of the Hindenburg Line near Fontaine-lès-Croisilles called Tunnel Trench [3]. This attack was intended to divert German attention away from the major 3rd Army attack on Siegfriedstellung (Hindenburg Line) defences further south near Cambrai (the opening phase of the Battle of Cambrai).

In the month of November 1917, the 7th/8th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers lost seven other ranks killed-in-action, with another 37 wounded.

References:

[1] WO 95/1729/1, 2nd Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[2] WO 95/1977/4, 7th/8th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[3] The Wild Geese website, “Tunnel Trench: 16th (Irish) Division Clears the Way at Cambrai”: http://thewildgeese.irish/profiles/blogs/tunnel-trench-16th-irish-division-clears-the-way-at-cambrai

 

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Responses

  1. […] south from the Ypres sector and became part of Third Army. Another Somerset bellringer, 41741 Private Jack Emery Loxton of Weare, was killed-in-action near Fontaine-lès-Croisilles on the 18th November 1917. From […]


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