31st Jul 1915. Shirts, Socks and Wild Thyme



Many people are anxious to help their country in the present crisis, and children will be interested to learn that there is a way in which they can assist. Wild thyme, which grows plentifully in certain localities—and also the cultivated variety for the matter of that—forms the basis of an important disinfectant, of which there is just now a great shortage.

At Rugby School Chemical Laboratory arrangements have been made in connection with some work asked for by the War Office, by which large quantities of thyme can be dealt with.

Here is a splendid opportunity for school children to render valuable aid, and an appeal is made to boys and girls of the district to collect as much thyme as they possibly can during the next six weeks, and forward the same to Mr B B Dickinson, 5 Barby Road, Rugby.

Of course, it is expected that this will be done voluntarily, as there is no fund from which payment can be made ; but no doubt many children will be glad during their holidays to gather the thyme growing wild in the locality near their homes, and if in each village community one or two leading residents will interest themselves in the scheme, and see that the thyme when collected is duly despatched to Mr Dickinson, their assistance will be much appreciated.

In most large gardens, too, there is sure to be a certain quantity of the cultivated thyme in the portion allotted to herbs, and this will also prove most acceptable. Anyone willing to contribute or help in any way is invited to communicate with Mr Dickinson, who will be glad to give further information.


Mrs Spencer, 17 High Street, Rugby appeals to the people of Rugby on behalf of the Rugby boys of the old “ E ” Company, serving in France, for shirts and socks, or subscriptions for purchasing same. The boys are badly in need of both shirts and socks, and Mrs Spencer will be pleased to receive same at her residence to forward to them. Some have already been sent out, but many more are needed, as there are between 60 and 70 boys of the old “ E ” Company serving in France.


To the Editor of the Rugby Advertiser.

DEAR SIR,—Seeing in a copy of your excellent paper a message for “ the boys from the landladies,” I now take the opportunity on behalf of my comrades of letting you know how much the letter, or rather message, was appreciated,

I myself received the paper while in the Red Cross Hospital at Giza, Cairo, Egypt, where I am recovering from wounds received in Gallipoli, and after perusing its columns I blue-pencilled the message and re-posted this good old Advertiser to my chum on the Peninsula. A few days afterwards I received a letter telling how the paper was passed from hand to hand along the trenches of my regiment (the Inniskillings), and how the message brought memories back and gave the battalion something to talk about—for landladies were the sole topic in the trenches for the next week, and all were saying how they would enjoy themselves in Rugby when they had completed the job on hand, viz, dealing out to their “ Oriental friends ” a very-much-needed lesson.

Well, I will close now, wishing you and your paper the best of luck. Hoping I am not intruding on your valuable time, and at the same time thanking the people who inserted the message,—I am, sir, yours truly,

C BEST (Bandsman),
Red Cross Hospital, Giza, Cairo, Egypt.
July 15th, 1915.


Pte George Walden, of the 2nd Coldstream Guards, who went out to the front with the original Expeditionary Force, is visiting his patents at 20 Campbell Street, New Bilton, on sick leave, having been wounded in the wrist at La Bassee on June 15th. During the ten months that he was at the front Pte Walden took part in the big engagements in which the British were concerned, vis, the Retreat from Mons, the Battle of the Aisne, the first attempt on Ypres, and the glorious charge in the La Bassee brickfield. In his opinion the worst engagement, however was the rearguard action in the retreat from Mons, when the British covered 186 miles in eight days. Personally, Pte Walden has been very lucky, for although practically the whole of the original battalion to which he belongs has been wiped out, it was ten months before he was hit, although on more than one occasion he has had narrow escapes. On one occasion during the fighting round Ypres he had an exceedingly close shave. Being a staunch teetotaller, he refused tea with rum in it, and went out to fetch some water. The Germans caught sight of him, however, and opened fire with a machine gun. Realising his danger, he fell on to his stomach, and crawled the remainder of the way. On his return he was again fired upon, but luckily reached the lines safely. Our representative then asked Pte Walden what was his opinion of the personnel of the German army, and whether the stories to the effect that it was not so good now as at the beginning of the war were true ? In reply, he stated that there was little doubt but that the flower of the German Army had been destroyed, but the present troops were quite as good as their predecessors in trench warfare. It was in advances and retirements, however, that the difference was apparent, and in these directions the German troops of to-day were vastly inferior to those Germans who faced the British in the early days of the campaign. The original Prussian Guards were a fine body of fighters, but by the Kaiser’s orders they were pitted against the British Brigade of Guards, who completely wiped them out. Pte Walden paid a tribute to the marksmanship of the German troops and to their effective use of the hand-bombs. In conclusion, he wished to remind readers through the medium of this paper that the most acceptable gift at the front is “ Woodbine ” cigarettes, which are in greater request than any other brand.


WOUNDED SOLDIERS ENTERTAINED.—A party of nineteen wounded soldiers from the “ Ashlawn ” Hospital, Rugby, were very kindly entertained on Tuesday last week, by Mr and Mrs Wilcox, of “ The Knob,” Stretton-on-Dunsmore. The party, in charge of a nurse, arrived about three o’clock by break, which Mr Wilcox had sent for them, and various amusements, including whist, were indulged in till four o’clock, when tea was provided indoors, as, owing to the uncertain weather, it was not thought advisable to sit outside. After tea the party spent the time strolling round the garden. A start was made for home about six o’clock. The wounded men were very hearty in their thanks, and were loudly cheered by the villagers when they left. On the kind invitation of Mr and Mrs Wilcox, many of the inhabitants assembled to meet the soldiers, and were hospitably entertained afterwards. Among the wounded guests were some men who were present with their regiments when the King inspected the famous 9th Division on the London Road, a few days before their departure to the Dardanelles. The drive down the London Road was, therefore, particularly interesting to those men.


GRENADE-THROWER WOUNDED.—Recently Messrs F W Neal and Thomas Neal went to London to see their brother Jack, who lies badly wounded in the King George Hospital. Jack Neal was one of 25 picked men who were instructed to throw hand-grenades into the German trenches, which were only about 13 yards away. Before throwing the soldier pulls a piece out of the ball, which leaves him only a few moments before it goes off. Somehow one that Jack Neal was going to throw went off in his hand, which it very badly damaged. The extent he does not yet know. He has part of a finger off and one hanging loose ; he is also badly wounded down the right leg, and it is said it is miraculous that he escaped alive. Jack Neal enlisted in December. The other week he just escaped with his life. His company were asleep in the trenches with someone on watch when his pal (Tibbs, from Napton) shouted to them to get out quick. He had to call several times before the worn-out soldiers heard him, and just as they bolted to safety a shrapnel shell came down where they had been asleep. It killed the fellow who followed Jack Neal when racing from the spot, and smashed up Neal’s rifle.


Sapper Charles W Walton, of the Royal Engineers, youngest son of Mr E Walton, 81 Claremont Road, recently had a remarkable escape from death at the front. On July 1st, at Festubert, he was working with a small party, including Sapper Snook, of Rugby, who, as we reported last week, was also wounded, when he was struck by a bullet in the region of his heart. Upon examination it was found that the bullet had struck a pay book and wallet, which were in a pocket immediately over Sapper Waltons heart. These evidently diverted the course of the bullet, and saved the young man’s life. The book and wallet, together with the contents of the latter, were considerably damaged, and at first sight bear the appearance of having been gnawed by a mouse. Sapper Walton joined the Army in August, and is now in the Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, where he is doing well. On Friday last week his photograph appeared in a daily paper in connection with a garden party given for wounded soldiers there.


A Rugby member of the Warwickshire Yeomanry in writing to a friend, states that they are now encamped in one of the best parts of Alexandria, close to the sea, where there is some fine bathing. The regiment has been turned into an army of occupation, so that there is little prospect at present of them seeing any fighting ; and this, the writer says, has given rise to a certain amount of grumbling, the men not liking their inactivity. He states that he receives the Rugby Advertiser each week, and notices that recruiting is still going on, and ventures the opinion that some of those who are hanging back ought to go to Egypt and see some of the wounded Australians, who had been brought back from the Dardanelles. These had not only bullet wounds, but deliberate atrocities had been committed upon them by the Turks. “ If these men could only see such sights as we who are here do Lord Kitchener would have 3,000,000 men.” At present, he says, the Yeomanry are doing routine work, principally training the horses they received to replace those which were on the Wayfarer. They recently experienced a dust storm. The wind blew half a gale, carrying dust and sand with it, and filling everything with fine sand. The temperature was 108 in the shade and 132 in the sun, and the men of the regiment, who were in “ stalls ” at the time, went into the sea and stood with the water up to their chins for two hours. The storm lasted from 9 a.m to 3.30 p.m ; and the men, he facetiously adds, were “ eating ” sand for two days afterwards. He concludes with the opinion that there is no place to beat Warwickshire, with its green fields, even if it is cold and wet. One can have too much sand and sunshine.



Bombardier Turner, of the Royal Field Artillery, whose home is at 21 Plowman Street, and who has been at the front since the commencement of the war, visited his home for a few days this week. This is the second time Bombardier Turner has been home on leave, the first occasion being in January last. Although he took part in the retreat from Mons, and has been in most of the great fights since then, he has, fortunately, so far escaped injury. Nevertheless, he has had many narrow escapes. He is now attached to the grenade section with the Royal Engineers, and his duty consists in keeping the infantry men well supplied with hand grenades and operating the trench mortars. In his opinion, the British force is now in a better position than it has been in since the commencement of the war-in fact, had they been as strong last August the retreat from Mons would never have taken place. They now had plenty of ammunition, good serviceable guns and men, and, he added : “ If Mr Lloyd George will only keep on giving us ammunition like he is now doing we shall be all right.” Life at the front is evidently not all hard work, although there is plenty of that and to spare, for Bombardier Turner informed our representative that the trenches have now been made very comfortable, with arrangements for pumping out water in case of floods, and facilities for games are provided. Sports of various kinds are arranged in the rest camps, and recently a horse-jumping competition for a small gold cup, presented by King Albert, took place between the British and the Belgians, ending in a win for the latter. In an international football match the British Cavalry Division defeated the Belgians, and secured the medals given by the King of Belgium. Cricket and other games are also indulged in, and Bombardier Turner, who left on Thursday for the front, volunteered the information that the troops were quite cheerful and only waiting to “ slash it across the Germans.”


News has just been received in Rugby that one of the first volunteers to enlist from the B.T.H Works has been decorated with the Distinguished Conduct Medal. This decoration has been awarded to Pte A Hotz, of the 1st East Surrey Regiment, for conspicuous gallantry on Hill 60, where he placed himself in front of a communication trench occupied by the enemy, and on the enemy advancing attacked them with hand grenades and dispersed them. Pte Hotz was employed in the construction department at the B.T.H Works, and the members of the staff are naturally very pleased that this award for gallantry has been received by one of their number.

Lce-Corpl P V Stent, of the 5th Service Batt Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, whose parents live at 28 Worcester Street, Rugby, has received the D.C.M for valour in the trenches, He was a bomb-thrower, and succeeded in taking a trench almost entirely by himself. He brought back with him an explosive mine and showed it to his Colonel. Lce-Corpl Stent was for seven years in “ E ” Company, Rugby, and when he enlisted at the beginning of the war was employed as a moulder at Willans & Robinsons.


The following have been recruited at Rugby Drill Hall during the past week :-H Smith, R.W.R ; J Ryan, Scottish Rifles ; J Clowes, R H Lucas, R S Hirons, H R Hirons, and H Matthews, East Kent Regiment ; E Humphries Webb, Oxon and Bucks L.I ; E J Dalzel, J Welch, and H Lines. R.A.M.C ; C A Goodman, R.F.A ; J Andrews, R.G.A.

More recruits are still wanted, and arrangements have been made for each town to raise its own Company, to be drilled together. At present those who are willing to join are asked to send in their names to the Recruiting Officer, Drill Hall, Rugby. When sufficient men have been obtained to start training they will be called up.


Watts, Albert Edward Joseph. Died 30th Jul 1915

Albert Edward Joseph Watts, was born in Swinford, Leicestershire on 17th Oct 1893, the son of Albert Edward Watts and his wife Annie Elizabeth (nee Bailey). Albert senior was born in Newbold and worked as a railway engine stoker on the L & N W railway.

In 1901 the family were living in Old Station Square, Rugby and by 1911 had moved to 38 Dale Street. By this time Albert junior was working as a core maker in an Iron Foundry. At the age of 17 he was the eldest of five children, all boys. The family subsequently moved to 2 Worcester Street, Rugby.

Albert enlisted as a Private in the 7th Battalion of The King’s Royal Rifle Regiment, No. R/1607. He must have enlisted at a similar time to Rifleman Herbert Smith, regimental number R/1621. They both went out to France.

He had been promoted to Lance Corporal before he was killed in action at the Battle of Hooge on 30 July 1915. (See more information about the Battle of Hooge Crater, on Rugby Remembers)

The Rugby Advertiser of 14th August 1915 reported:


 Amongst the men of the King’s Royal Rifles from Rugby and district who have recently been killed in action or are missing, it is feared must be included the name of Lance-Corpl Bert Watts, whose parents live at 2 Worcester Street, Rugby. The first intimation that Lance-Corpl Watts was missing came from his “ pal,” Rifleman Alf Potter, whose home is in Victoria Avenue, New Bilton. The following is an extract from the letter to Mrs Watts:—” We went to the trenches the other night, and towards evening some bombardment started, and both sides had a very hot time of it. Everything went all right till the evening. I saw Bert, and we had a chat together. There was going to be an attack, so we had to leave one another, and both of us wished the other the best of luck. There was a charge made, and Bert was seen to fall and many others. In the evening we were released from the trenches and we had a lot of chaps either killed, wounded or missing. I enquired who they were, and was told Bert was one of them. You can guess how I felt when I heard this—absolutely down-hearted. Of course, we did not give him up, for he might have crawled out of the firing line, and perhaps be picked up by somebody and taken to some hospital. We are staying at a rest camp now, and all the hospitals round about have been visited to see who could be found, but nothing has been heard of Bert, so it does not seem as if there is any hope of him.” Up to the time he enlisted Lance-Corpl Watts was employed as a coremaker at Messrs Willans & Robinson’s Works. He was a footballer and popular amongst his workmates. He has two brothers in the Army, one being at the front in the Royal Field Artillery.

Albert was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Albert has no known grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Panel 51 and 53.  He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate.





Tomlinson, William. Died 30 Jul 1915


William Tomlinson was born at Hyson Green in Nottingham in 1891. He was the youngest child of the 7 living children of Henry, a Lacemaker, and Harriet Tomlinson. In 1911 he was working as a Carriage Hand in a Lace Factory in Nottingham.

On 28 December that year he moved with his parents to 20 James Street Rugby as his elder brother Ernest’s wife had committed suicide by drowning in the Brownsover canal leaving 15 month old baby Jim to be looked after.

William then worked in the Pattern Shop at the BTH Rugby. He was 5’6″ tall and 35 days short of his 23rd birthday when he and his elder brother Ernest enlisted with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 7th Battalion on 3 September 1914 and were posted to Aldershot on 5 September.


On 19 May 1915 they landed at Boulogne and fought in France and Flanders. The British Infantry had captured Hooge on 19 July but on 30 July the Germans used their new flame throwers and reclaimed their positions.

William R/79 a Rifleman was shot and killed on 31 July 1915 and his brother Ernest was shot in the head & badly injured at the same time.

William was awarded the British Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Photo of William Tomlinson in February 1914.

Photo of William Tomlinson in February 1914.



Smith, Herbert. Died 30th Jul 1915

 Herbert Smith died 30 July 1915

Herbert Smith’s birth was registered in April 1894 in Rugby.  His parents were Edwin and Elizabeth Ellen Smith, née Mawby, who were married in 1885.

Herbert had two older siblings, William and Mabel Nellie.

In 1901 the family were living at 21 Rokeby Street, Rugby. Herbert’s father was an Engine Driver with the L & N-W Railway.

In 1911 the family were living at 186 Oxford Street. His father was still working at the L & N-W Railway and Herbert, aged 17, was a newsagent’s assistant.

By the time war broke out Herbert was employed in the wagon department on the railway. He was a teacher in the Sunday School and member of the Bible Class at the Wesleyan Church in Cambridge Street. The Rugby Advertiser reported that he was the third young man from the Church to give his life in the war.

Herbert enlisted as a Private in the 7th Battalion of The King’s Royal Rifle Regiment, regimental number R/1621 and he went out to France.


Rifleman Herbert Smith was killed in action at the Battle of Hooge on 30 July 1915. (See more information about the Battle of Hooge Crater, on Rugby Remembers)

He was awarded the Victory, British and 1915 Star Medals.

Herbert has no known grave but is commemorated with honour on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres, on Panels 51 and 53, and on the Memorial Gate at Rugby.



Roberts, Charles. Died 30th Jul 1915


It was 1912. They were desperately in love. Charles Roberts and Maud Neale had to get married – she was five months pregnant. They received little support from her family, who were all strongly religious Primitive Methodists and thoroughly disapproved of Maud’s sinful behaviour. Charles’ family were scattered around the country and he was on his own in Rugby, working as a printer for Robert Frost & Co.

The problem was that while Charles was 30, Maud was only 16 and already five months pregnant. Here the marriage certificate tells an interesting story. Maud’s full name was Ethel Maud Neale, but she was known as Maud. The certificate shows they married in a register office after licence; she gave her age as 21 while he gave his as 26, and it was witnessed by a couple whose names do not ring a bell with anyone in the family – perhaps they were brought in off the street! All this sounds rather hasty and done without parental consent.

Ethel Maud Neale

Ethel Maud Neale

Nevertheless, they were very happy together and there is an apocryphal tale that when Maud was 18 she got drunk and danced the can-can on the table… it was a fun-filled marriage in which she produced two baby girls in 18 months.







Charles Roberts

Charles Roberts

Charles heard the call to fight for his country in 1914 and enlisted in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. His daughter Kathy remembers him sweeping her up in his arms to say goodbye, and feeling the rough cloth of his uniform.
He sent his little daughter a birthday postcard addressed to
Miss K.M. Roberts, 7, Newbold Road, Rugby, Warwickshire:
(Kathy was two years old on October 28, 1914)
Dear little kid,
Only a wish for your birthday, that I was with you, and that your dear little self may have all that is possible to make you happy, for all time.
From Daddy to his little Duck – Kathy.

A Christmas card arrived from
1243 9th Battn, “A” Coy, KRR Corps, Petworth:
Dear Kiddy,
Just a sincere wish to you, and although you may not receive this letter before Christmas, still I trust the latter part of the wish will be realised. I go to Aldershot on Monday next, and probably by the following Monday I shall be having my 8 days furlough. Living in hopes of soon seeing you all in the best of spirits
Yours ever loving Charl
Charles did get his furlough, and went to Bournemouth to see his sister, May Marinier, and his wife who travelled from Rugby to be with him.

Then he was off to France with his regiment and sent postcards home from the battle front.
Roberts Chas PCfrom war1Dear Sis,
Thought perhaps this would be of interest to you, the tower of the church still remains but the place itself is one mass of ruins. I’ll send you an occasional PC and will write you at the earliest opportunity. I could not thank you on a field pc for your present which you may guess is very acceptable, and I now hasten to apologise for delay in thanking you. Did you think photo of Kathleen “May” good? The one you have of me is a poor one as now I am dark as a nigger. Remember me to Tony and your chicks.
I’m keeping photo in my “will” book. Shall be going in the trenches tomorrow night – great fun!! Charl


Roberts Chas PCfrom war2Still at it “somewhere in Belgium”. OK up to now, been in the trenches, (firing line) the worst part is getting in them and coming out. Have been watching the huns’ shells bursting near us – not over us, though near enough – about 100 yds off. This pc will give you an idea of what results from a shell. Hope to get time to write a letter soon. Let me know if you have moved yet. What do you think of my little girl? Having a presentday photo soon. Love to all. Hope to see you sometime. Charl

Notes from Charles’ war diary , 1915.
Watch no: 516549
Height 5’7 1/2”
Moved from Aldershot to Petworth (Sussex) on 23rd Nov (1914) In billets Mrs Bronhams, White Hall.
January 6th Wed Finished firing, With field practice
7th Thurs Returned to Petworth to join Battn
8th Fri On Pass . Xmas leave to Bournemouth via Portsmouth
9th Sat Arr Bmth 1am
13th Wed Photo taken with M.R.
14th Thurs Returned off Pass. Left Bmth 4pm arr Petworth 9.30. Letter from Frost, Rugby.
15 Fri Attached to new draft of Recruits, as instructor
16 Sat Birthday Mrs Roberts
19 Tues M.R. left Bmth for Rugby
21 Thurs March to Whitney Common, 14 miles for the night. Mud mud mud. Thank goodness don’t stay.
22 Fri Snowing, march 4 miles for review. K of K stood 2 hrs in snowstorm, no greatcoats on. 4 miles back to barracks, then marched to Petworth. Snow all day. Half dead.
23 Sat No Parade. Up at 10am.
25th Mon Recruits with ‘Coy’ in Park gathering snow.
26 Tues Nothing doing
29 Fri Pay day
4 Thurs Birthday. Parcel from Rugby, mitts etc.
9 Tues For “office” made full Corporal
10 Wed Returned to duty with coy.
11 Thurs Battn training in park
12 Fri Battle with Rifle Brigade 7.30-2.30
13 Sat Wet. 1 hr drill in town hall
14 Sun Ch Parade
15 Mon Battle with Rifle Brigade 8-3 o’c
25 Thurs Left Petworth for South Camp. ?Talaocra Bike
26 Fri Buff marker for 2nd Recruits
1 Mon Started firing. Trained soldiers course
9 Wed Grouping 8th 20 pts
8 Mon Finished firing course. Total 115 points Total 105 for 1st cl. shot. Inoculated.
9 Tues Off Parade
10 Wed Off Parade
11 Thurs Squad Drill. Transferred to Sec 2
16 Tues Inoculated 1st time
28 Sun Inoculated 2nd time
29 Mon Recommended for sick leave 5 days
5 Mon Returned off pass
6 Tues Coy office
12 Mon Field firing. 3 days free pass
15 Thurs Returned off pass
29 Thurs Promoted to Lce/Sgt
1 Sat Photo taken of Battn Sgts
5 Wed Review by Lord K of K Laffens Plain. March past of 42 Brigade
10 Mon Handed in all spare clothes &c Coy office
13 Thurs 1st lesson Revolver practice. 24 rnds 30 yds. – Appointed Coy Range Finder
via “Battn Orders”
14 Fri 2nd lesson Revolver practice 90 pts of poss 96
16 Sun Orderly Sgt
27 Thurs Marched to Cassell. Billetted at St Silvestre
30 Sun Left for Dickebusch
31 Mon Went out making trenches
1 Tues Germs. shelled position of trenches
2 Wed Much shelling in the district of Dickebusch where we go out tonight
7 Mon To Reminghelst
8 Tues In the trenches, at the firing line
9 Wed Ernie Tomlinson shot in forehead; seriously. B. Bint shot
10 Thurs Returned to Reminghelst midnight
12 Sat Back to Ouderdom
14 Mon To Vlamerteighe
15 Tues In trenches. Terrible bombardment, at Ypres. Captured 3 trenches
16 Wed In trenches. Relieved m.n.
17 Thurs Parcel from home
19 Sat Off to “Dug outs” as supports
20 Sun Fatigue to Ox & Bks with ammunition
21 Mon Fatigue party 11pm-3am. m.n sand bags & bbd wire racks to R.B’s
22 Tues Fatigues to Ox & Bks with rations & water, much casualty by shell.
2 killed, 7 injured
23 Wed Fatigue Ox & Bks with rations
24 Thurs Leave m.n for rest camp
25 Fri via Poperinghe
29 Thurs Shelling Poperinghe
30 Wed Fatigue to trenches via Ypres by motor-bus
4 Sun Fatigue to trenches
5 Mon Serious trouble. CO offence resulting from wrong & misleading messages. Reprimand
8 Thurs Go to trenches
12 Mon Firing line. NE of Ypres
There are no further entries

WithTheColours coverFrom “With the Colours”, published in the interests of the employees of Albert Frost & Sons who have answered their Country’s call and joined the colours

In Memoriam
ROBERTS. C.. Sergt. It is with the keenest regret that we have to record the death of Charlie Roberts, who was killed in action on July 30th. We deeply sympathise with his young widow and two small children. The sad news, coming as it did so quickly after the news of Redfearn’s death, was staggering, and it was some time before we could realise that he had really “gone”. We print below a letter received by Mrs.Roberts from his platoon sergeant, which not only clearly shows how Roberts died, but also pays the highest tribute to his memory that it is possible for a soldier to do. He died a noble death. We are all very proud of this. We knew he was game by the way that he got up from a sick bed to join, when he learned that Kitchener’s Army was taking married men. He was advised not to go, but he was determined to do his “bit” at any cost. That his heart was in his job is proved by the fact of his rapid promotion to the rank of sergeant.
Roberts joined us in December 1909 and was a first-class printer – one of the best men we had. He was very popular, and his death will be felt as a personal loss by everyone here.

And on 5th August, Maud received the letter everyone dreaded:

Dear Mrs Roberts,
I regret very much having to write to tell you that your husband, Sgt C Roberts, was killed in action on Friday July 30th /15.
I am taking this opportunity of writing to you, in the absence of his Officer, to tell you how very much we appreciated the help and support that Sgt Roberts always gave us, and express our sincere sympathy for you in so great a trouble. Although not actually with him at the time of his death, I understand that he had no pain whatever. He was attempting to get an important message across an open field which was swept by the murderous fire of the enemy, when the bullet caught him and brought about his untimely end.
His platoon join with me in the heartfelt sincerity which we have tried to express in this letter.
I should like to tell you that Sgt Roberts died a noble death, upholding to the last the tradition of his Regiment.
He died the death of a soldier.
Again sympathising with you in your great sorrow.
Yours sincerely
Sgt H Dyson

Maud was left with two small children, Kathy and Rene.

She wrote to May Marinier, her sister in law, asking for details of Charles’ birth for official purposes. She received this reply from

15 Barnfield Road
18th August 1915

Dear Maud,
In answer to yours of last night I believe you will have to write up to Somerset House for a copy of the birth certificate of poor dear Charles; you must state that he was born in 1882 at Wimborne, Dorset, his father having been a Chemist of Shaftesbury Dorset.
I might as well tell you that owing to unfortunate business speculations, my poor father’s circumstances became very indifferent a few years after he married my mother, and while Charlie was but a baby our beautiful home had to be sold up. This ruined my dear mother’s health, and things only got worse. Then my father came to London and took another business somewhere, but he took a cold which turned into pneumonia and only lived a few weeks.
Owing to all this sad trouble my brothers were never educated in the way they should have been, nor brought up in the positions their birth would have befitted. But no doubt Charlie has told you this – or he may not have done so, thinking it useless. One thing I am certain of – our parents would be happy if they knew, or could know, that their youngest has died an unselfish hero.
Do not hesitate to ask me anything; for his sake, and because I love and respect the memory of my parents I am pleased to do anything I can.
You have received my letter I hope, and I am waiting to know whether I may come and fetch little Kathy next Sunday. I hope you will soon feel better and more able to bear your burden; be brave for the sake of his little ones.
Yours very sincerely
May M.

There are tear stains on the letter. Maud took Charles’ death very hard and grieved bitterly for him. Later, on Armistice Day, she would take her young daughters and weep at the memorial gates at theentrance to the park on Hillmorton Road. The children, too young to understand, wept in sympathy.

On 16th March 1920, Maud received a letter from the Record Office, Winchester:

I am directed to transmit to you the accompanying 1914/15 Star which
would have been conferred upon R/1243 L/Sergt C Roberts KRRifC
had he lived, in memory of his services with the British Forces during the Great War.
In forwarding the Decoration I am commanded by the King to assure you of His Majesty’s high appreciation of the services rendered.
I am to request that you will be so good as to acknowledge the receipt of the Decoration on the attached form.
I am,
Your obedient servant,
A R Davies
Major i/c Records


(This article was compiled by Janet Turnbull a relative of the subject)


Preston, John Henry. Died 30th Jul 1915

Rifleman John Henry Preston died 30 July 1915

John Henry Preston’s birth was registered in the fourth quarter of 1883 in Rugby. He was the son of George William Preston and Zillah Taylor.

In 1901, John Henry was aged 17 and a House Painter living with his family in 68 South Street, Rugby.   In 1911 he was still with the family but now at 97 Wood Street, Rugby. He was still a house painter.

On 2 September 1914 he enlisted in the 7th Battalion of The King’s Royal Rifle Corps and his regimental number was R/78.


He was killed in action, aged 31, at the Battle of Hooge Crater on 30 July 1915. (See more information about the Battle of Hooge Crater, on Rugby Remembers)

The Rugby Advertiser reported John Henry Preston’s death as follows:

“A note was received by Mr G W Preston of 97 Wood Street Rugby on Thursday morning that his son, Rifleman John Henry Preston, of the King’s Royal Rifles, had been killed in action. The message came from the Captain of the Company to which deceased belonged, and briefly stated that he was killed on July 30th. It has not yet been officially confirmed.

Previous to enlisting, on September 2nd last year, Rifleman Preston was employed as a painter at the BTH Works. He went over to France in May last. He was a native of Rugby and as a boy attended Murray School. For some time he worked as a painter for Mr F G Rainbow (his brother in law) and about four years ago transferred his services to the BTH Co. In the past few months he had had a number of very narrow escapes. The shell by which Rifleman Fiddler was killed threw him a distance of five yards, and he was quite close to Rifleman Benford when the latter received his fatal wounds. Rifleman Preston’s relatives have regularly kept him supplied with food and delicacies, a parcel being dispatched as recently as Wednesday – the day before the news of his regrettable death was received.”

John Henry Preston is remembered on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial, Panel 51 and 53 and on the Rugby Memorial Gate.





Pee, Frederick. Died 30th Jul 1915


Frederic is my husbands 1st cousin

He was born on 15th December 1895 at 15 Rossetter Gardens Flood Street South Chelsea London his father it says on his birth certificate was William Henry Pee and his mother Annie Elizabeth Pee formerly Andrews.

Frederick or should I say Frederic as his birth certificate says was registered 1896 Q1 Chelsea, he was the 4th child of William Edward or William Henry Pee and Anne Elizabeth Andrews, sometimes called Andrew, although his father appeared on his birth certificate it was always a saying in the family that Eric Pike was his father but that’s another story.

Frederic in 1901 census was living as Fred Allen age 5 with his mother Elizabeth Allen age 26 and 4 siblings at 391 Spoilbank Rugby; we still don’t know why the family called themselves Allen. No father in the household.

Frederic in 1911 age 14 he was Frederick Branston and a paper deliverer for Whymans newsagents and living 391 Clifton Road Rugby with his step father Henry Branston his mother Elizabeth and 4 siblings, his mother Elizabeth had married Henry Branston 6 months earlier.

He was Frederick Pee when he “joined up” on 8th September 1914 and his regimental number given was S2152 in the 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade. He was 19 years and 30 days old and his trade was Press hand he was 5ft 6 inches tall he weighed 115 lbs his chest expansion was 34 inches and his range of expansion was 2 inches.

Our Frederick was not a perfect soldier on 6th December 1914 Frederick was at Grayshott and was late “falling in” on Church Parade, punishment was 3 days CB i.e. Confined to Barracks name of witness was Company Quarter master sergeant Jackson, punishment was awarded by the Captain, he again committed an offence on 8th December 1914 while at Grayshott his offence was making an improper reply to an NCO i.e. None Commissioned Officer   witnessed by Corporal Belbow and Sergeant Browning, and again on February 14th 1915 our Frederick was absent from midnight on 14th February his punishment was 4 days CB i.e. Confined to Barracks and on 26th February 1915 —-? Illegible rank his punishment was 2 days no pay.

His Medal card tells us he was awarded the Victory, British and 15 Star Medals.

His mother Elizabeth Branston signed for the 15 Star Medal on 15th March 1919 and signed for Victory medal on 10th August 1919 it also confirms British Star Medal was despatched to Mrs E Branston of 19 Houston Road Rugby on 16th February 1921.

His military history tells us his entitlement went from 7th September 1914 to 19th May 1915 and looks like 253 days he got another 72 days entitlement from 20th May 1915 to 30 July 1915 he was reported missing or killed in action on 30th July 1915.

He was in France on 20th May 1915.

“Rugby Advertiser on 25th March 1916 says Rugby Soldier reported killed, Rifleman F Pee age 19 who has been missing since July 30th, has now been reported killed in action on that date. His home was at 391 Clifton Road rugby and before war broke out he worked in the machine shop at the B.T.H. He enlisted in the Rifle Brigade the beginning of September 1914 and went to France the following May.   He was in the liquid fire attack at Hooge on the 30th July and was not seen afterwards. His name has been put on the Hooge Memorial”

Hooge is in Flanders Belgium on the road from Ypres to Menin, and is mentioned as the Hooge Crater, a private award winning museum has been set up in Hooge their website is http://www.hoogecrater.com

In May 1919 Statement of names and address of all the relatives of Private Frederick Pee gives his mother Elizabeth Branston age 46 and his brother John William Pee age 26 both living 19 Houston Road Rugby his married sister Ellen Elizabeth Montgomery age 28 living at 32 Sandown Road Rugby and his other sister Florence Pee age 25 living 19 Houston Road Rugby.

17th September 1919 Memorandum effects form 118a from the Officer in charge Infantry Winchester to the War Office Imperial Institute South Kensington London SW7 says that any article of personal property now in the possession of Mrs Elizabeth Branston of 32 Sandown Road Rugby it also adds any medals granted to the deceased that are now in your possession or that may hereafter reach you should be disposed of to Mother and it is signed by C Harris Assistant Financial Secretary.

Frederick Pee S/2152 8th Bn Rifle Brigade who died on 30th July 1915 is remembered with honour on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.


Rachel Andrews



Jenkins, James Henry. Died 30th Jul 1915

James Henry SIMS a.k.a. JENKINS, died 30 July 1915

James ‘Jenkins’ is recorded on the Rugby Memorial Gates as JENKINS J. S., and proved very difficult to identify. His story will explain why.

James was born in about January 1895, in the town of ‘Mexico’, in the United States as James SIMS.   Mexico is a town in the northeast part of Oswego County, New York state.

His mother Louisa Margaretta Evans, was born in Swansea in 1870, the daughter of William and Louisa Evans, and she was 10 months old and living in Swansea for the 1871 census. Her marriage to James’s father, William James Sims, was registered in the Swansea registration district in the first quarter of 1892.

Very little census information is available, and it seems likely that the family spent much of their time abroad, seeing that James was born in the USA.

At some date James came to Rugby and the BTH records show that he was employed as a ‘winder’.

Fortunately James’s Service File has survived in The National Archives ‘Burnt Records’, although some sections are not legible or are now missing. It is these that have helped ‘reunite him with his name and family’ and provided the evidence of his birth in America.

Just before the war, James had been an apprentice and his Attestation noted that his ‘leave to enlist expires August 1916’. When he joined up he was 5ft. 9⅓in. tall, weighed 131lbs., and had blue eyes and brown hair.

James enlisted at Rugby for three years on 31 August 1914, as Private No. A/3456, in the 8th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He was 19 years and 216 days old and was posted to his unit on 3 September 1914.

After 216 days ‘Home Service’, during which time he would have been at the Winchester Depot and elsewhere undergoing training, he went out to France on 19 May 1915, landing at Boulogne.

He was ‘killed in action – in the field’, 73 days later, during the Battle of Hooge Crater on 30 July 1915.

(For more background to his training and more detailed information on the Battle of Hooge Crater, see the separate article on ‘Rugby Remembers’)

James was awarded the 1914-15 Star – received by his mother on 25 March 1920; the British War Medal – received on 2 February 1921; and the Victory Medal – received on 18 May 1921.

James Henry SIMS has no known grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Panels 51 and 53.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission record noted that he was the ‘Son of Mrs. Louisa Margaretta Sims’.

However, there is no record of a James Sims on the Rugby Memorial Gates. It seems that his father had died, and his mother had ‘remarried’ although, again, there appear to be no formal records, and quite possibly, his death and her remarriage were actually both abroad.

The details provided in the Service Records for the return of James’s effects, on 6 March 1916, now gave his mother’s name as Mrs. Louisa M S Jenkins’ and her address as ‘16 Hallbrook Place [probably Holbrook Avenue], Rugby’. His effects included: ‘Correspondence, Photos, Photo no Case, Diary, Note Book, Religious Books.’

His Service Records include documents detailing his next of kin, to allow payment of outstanding back pay and gratuities. The form was postmarked Winchester, and then ‘Rugby Station’ on 12 May 1919, but the return was not signed by his mother until ‘23 July’ – the year being burnt, but presumably 1919. His father, Henry James Sims was recorded as deceased.   His mother had moved house and was now recorded as Louisa Margretta Jenkins of 49 Manor Road, Rugby. There were two younger brothers, ‘of the full blood’, named in the army records: William Frederick Albert Sims, and George Stanley Sims, then aged 21 and 18 respectively, suggesting births in about 1898 and 1900.

There were also three children who were ‘of the half blood’: William ?Freeon? Jenkins, then 14, having been born in about 1905; and two girls: Daisy and Mabel Jenkins, then aged 12 and 10 born later.

The names and ages would suggest that James’s father died sometime about 1900, and his mother remarried [or commenced a relationship] with a Mr. Jenkins by about 1904.

The first payment of James’s financial effects, on 26 February 1916, was to’ Mrs Louisa Margaretta Sims Jenkins’, who received £4-13-9d. James’s two brothers received payments of £1-3-6d each. His mother received a further £3 on 5 September 1919.

It was no doubt his mother’s new surname that caused the confusion and use of the Jenkins surname for James on the Memorial Gate, and in the BTH Memorial Book.

The BTH Memorial Book records ‘Jenkins J H S – Winding Dept., Rugby – Rifleman – King’s Royal Rifles – 3456 – killed 30 July 1915’ as serving. He is then recorded in the Roll of Honour as ‘Jenkins H S’ with exactly the same details.

However, the list of names on the BTH War Memorial as reported in the Rugby Advertiser, on 4 November 1921, included him as ‘SIMS James H’.

A ‘SIMS W F A’ is also recorded as ‘serving’ and was also in the BTH ‘Winding Department’ at Rugby.   He was a ‘signalman’ in the Royal Naval Division, No. BZ 2304. This would have been James’s brother, William Frederick A Sims, who seems to have retained his original surname – no doubt as he was available to correct matters.

The list of BTH casualties also included a SIMS Frank William W. He seems to be unrelated, although working in Rugby, and seems to have been Private, No: 295288, who served in 2nd/4th Bn., London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), and who was killed on 26 October 1917; he also has no known grave and is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial.



Coley, George Edwin. Died 30th Jul 1915

George Edwin Coley died 30 July 1915


George Edwin Coley’s birth was registered in the fourth quarter of 1888 in Crewe, Cheshire. He was the third child and first son of Frederick Coley (b.1854) and Elizabeth Jane Smith, who were married in 1879 in Newport Pagnell.

In 1891 the family were living at 46 Sandbach Street, Crewe. George’s father was a Blacksmith’s Striker.

In both 1901 and 1911 they were living at 1004 Old Station, Rugby. Railway workers had to live within walking distance of work, and it was useful to the railway to be able to get hold of staff if something unexpected happened. By providing houses for their staff spread along the line, the railway solved all these problems and the London and Birmingham Railway built several hundred houses. The houses were each given a number and the earliest in Rugby were in the 700s. These were all near the new station, on the west side Newbold Road, both north and south of the railway.

In the 1901 census, George’s father, Frederick, was described as “deaf”, quite possibly caused by the nature of his work. The 1911 census described George as a boilermaker in the loco department of the LNWR railway.

By 1915 Mr and Mrs Coley were living at 89 Newbold Road, Rugby.

On 7 September 1914, George enlisted as a Private in the 8th Battalion of The King’s Royal Rifles Corps, and was later to be promoted to Lance Corporal; he served at the front in the stretcher-bearer section.

George was present at the action at Hooge, in which the Battalion had the misfortune to be the first to be attacked by the German flamethrower.
“On the night of 29th-30th July, 8th Rifle Brigade, 41 Brigade, took over this sector. They were new to the trenches. They had only been in France since May and the Germans opposite were aware of their lack of experience and that that they were total strangers to the positions they had just taken over. So they attacked at 3.15am using liquid fire for the first time, spewing it out from pipes that passed though their parapet. What it was like when these jets of flame and thick burning smoke hit the front line of trenches of 8th Rifle Brigade we will never know because no-one from the two companies who manned it survived. Those on the periphery spoke of the intense heat. The Germans then opened up with artillery and machine guns. German infantry followed and 8th Rifle Brigade was overwhelmed. Eventually they were forced to fall back with losses of nearly 500.”[1]

More details of the Battle of Hooge Crater on 30 July 1915, are given elsewhere on ‘Rugby Remembers’.

The Rugby Advertiser reported:

One of the most popular and highly respected men employed in recent years at the L & NWR Erecting Shop at Rugby was George Coley, a boiler-maker, son of Mr and Mrs Coley of 89 Newbold Road, Rugby. On September 7th 1914 he enlisted in the 8th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifles and had been serving at the front in the stretcher-bearer section.   News reached Rugby at the end of last week that he had been killed during an action in which the regiment suffered very heavily, and the tidings caused much regret amongst all the shop mates, who were pained to think they would never see their old friend again.

The deceased came to Rugby from Crewe when a boy. He spent a year or so in the time office at the erecting shop and then was apprenticed to the boiler-making, subsequently serving as a journeyman. He was always sociable and affable with a cheery word for his fellow workmen by whom his death is regarded as a personal loss.   Mr Shaw the foreman in the erecting shop suggested that a flag-pole should be erected and the Union Jack flown at half-mast in memory of Rifleman Coley. This was done and erected near the entrance on Mill Road.

A letter sent to George’s mother by Sergeant Cowen said “Your son gave his life for his comrades. He was shot while looking after the wounded. In fact he was in the act of dressing a wounded man when he was killed….”

The Erecting Shop Insurance Society, of which George was a member, sent a letter of condolence to his parents.

The Commonwealth Grave Registration document noted

‘COLEY, Lce. Cpl. George Edwin, S/1275. 8th Bn. The rifle Brigade. 30th July, 1915. Age 25. Son of Frederick and Elizabeth Jane Coley, of 155, Newbold Rd., Rugby.’

George is remembered on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial, Panels 46 – 48 and 50. and the Rugby Memorial Gates.

[1] http://www.londonwarmemorial.co.uk/view_profile.php?id=19634&limit=20&offset=0&sort=&a=Lived/Born In&f=James&s=jenkins&r=Rank&u=Unit&b=&d=Date Of Death#sthash.GA4fS2og.dpuf




30th Jul 1915. Battle of Hooge Crater


In spring 1915, the Army was suffering a shortage of heavy artillery and machine guns and general orders limited operations to small aggressive threats which will not require much ammunition or many troops.

On 2 June 1915, a German bombardment followed by an infantry, led to the loss of the ruins of the Hooge Chateau and Stables, then on 19 July, a large mine, the first using the explosive ‘Ammatol’, was exploded under the German trench positions at Hooge, and the crater was occupied by 4th Middlesex whilst artillery quelled German attempts to recover the crater.

In the Hooge Crater action that was to follow on 30 July 1915, eight men from Rugby were ‘Killed in Action’ in the defence and counter attacks. Their biographies are given in more detail on this ‘Rugby Remembers’ site, but all were in various battalions of the Rifle Brigade or the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, which although having similar names, and in this case the same Battalion numbers and histories, were separate Regiments.

In the 41st Brigade, two of the Rugby men who died that day were in the 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade: Lance Corporal George Edwin COLEY, S/1275; and Rifleman Frederick PEE, S/2152.

Three and most likely four were in the 7th Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps: Rifleman, John Henry PRESTON, R/78; Rifleman Herbert SMITH, R/1621; and Lance-corporal, Albert Edward WATTS, R/160; together with Rifleman William TOMLINSON, R/79, who having the next number after John Preston, was probably also in the 7th Battalion and had joined up at the same time.

One other Rugby man was in the 8th Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps: Rifleman James Henry SIMS a.k.a. JENKINS, A/3456. The 7th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade was also in the 41st Brigade.

In the 42nd Brigade, Sergeant Charles ROBERTS, R/1243 from Rugby was killed in action that day serving in the 9th Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps. The 9th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade was also in the 42nd Brigade.

The 7th, 8th, and 9th Battalions of the Rifle Brigade were formed from volunteers at Winchester on 21 August 1914 as part of K1 [Kitchener’s New Army, K1 Army Group] and all came under command of 41st Brigade [and 42nd for the 9th Battalion] in 14th (Light) Division. They moved to Aldershot, going on to Elstead, Grayshott and Petworth respectively in November before returning to Aldershot in February [9th with 42nd Brigade] and March 1915. They arrived in France, landing at Boulogne in May 1915.

There is a similar history for the 7th, 8th, and 9th Battalions of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. They were also formed from volunteers in Winchester as part of K1, on 19 and 21 August [and on an unspecified date for the 9th].   They also came under command of 41st Brigade [and 42nd for the 9th Battalion] in 14th (Light) Division. They moved to Aldershot, with the 7th and 8th going to Grayshott in November and in February 1915 to Bordon and then returned to Aldershot in March 1915.   The 9th went to Petworth in November with 42nd Brigade and in February 1915 returned to Aldershot. The three Battalions also landed in Boulogne, France in May 1915 (on the 19th, unspecified and 20th respectively).

Initially without equipment or arms of any kind, the new recruits in the 41st Division were judged to be ready by May 1915, and landed in Boulogne, although their move to the fighting front was delayed by lack of rifle and artillery ammunition.

The first significant action for the 41st Division was in the Hooge area and the 41st Brigade of 14th Division took over in the sector a week before the end of July 1915. The 8th Rifle Brigade held the Hooge Crater lip, with the 7th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps was to their right.

On that fateful day, 30 July 1915, the Germans launched an attack to recover the Hooge Crater. The attack began at 03.15am using flamethrowers with ‘jets of flame streaming from the German parapets rather like water might come from a large hose’.   This was the first use of these terrifying ‘fire weapons’ against the British. The Germans achieved complete surprise, and caused much confusion and panic amongst the British defenders. The British front line was evacuated. The 42nd Brigade on the left was not attacked at that time.[1]

At 11.30am, a counterattack by both the 41st and 42nd Brigades was ordered after a short artillery bombardment. The 41st Division attack failed, although the 9th KRRC of the 42nd recovered some of the lost lines. The 43rd Brigade relieved the 41st during the later afternoon. Another flamethrower attack that night was repulsed, and further efforts on 31 July came to nothing.

A subsequent attack by 6th Division on 9 August 1915 regained all of the ground lost, including the ruins of the Hooge Chateau Stables.

The 14th Division lost almost 2,500 men at Hooge on 30 July 1915.



This article on the Hooge Crater action was written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, July 2015.


[1]       Information and illustration from: http://www.ramsdale.org/hooge.htm.