Jeeves, Claude Alfred. Died 1st Jun 1916

C Jeeves on the Memorial Gates appeared to have had no connection with Rugby, although one record, ‘UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919’ suggested, incorrectly that a had been born there, possibly because he had been recruited there.

Claude appears to be the Claud Alfred Jeeves who was born in about mid-1894 in Northill, Bedfordshire. His parents were Harry, b.1872 in Sandy, and Rose née Murden Jeeves who had married in late 1890 or early 1891 in the St. Ives registration district. In 1911 the family were living at 2 Ewelme Terrace, Moggerhanger, Sandy. Claude was a 16 year old ‘farm labourer’, and his father was a ‘Chemical Manure Labourer’, probably in the local ‘coprolite’ industry.   His siblings were then: George William Jeeves, 19; Francis Arthur Jeeves, 12; Albert Leslie Jeeves, 10; and Ada Maria Jeeves, 7.

Claud later moved to Rugby and worked at the Rugby Engine Shed. He would become the sixth man connected with the Rugby Engine Shed to be killed, in addition to the nineteen wounded.   Flags were flown at half-mast.[1]

 It is not known when Claude enlisted. The UK, ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919’ suggests that he was initially recruited as No.2263, in the Rifle Brigade. At some unknown later date,[2] probably from comparison with other numbers, between May and June 1915, Claude enlisted as No.23278 in the 2nd Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Claude’s Medal Card shows that he went to France, presumably after training in UK, arriving there on 20 July 1915. Later he was promoted to Lance-corporal.

The 2nd Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry ‘… was in Britain [in Ireland], on the outbreak of the First World War. It deployed to France and landed at Le Havre in August 1914, remaining on the Western Front for the duration of the conflict.’[3]

The 2nd Battalion was among the first troops into France from 14 August 1914. It was part of 13th Infantry Brigade, 5th Division, 2nd Corps and took part in the retreat from Mons and Le Cateau. Whilst acting as rearguard at Le Cateau on 26 August 1914 they won two V.C.s and lost 600 officers and men.   For the rest of 1914 it was desperately involved in the battles of the Marne, Aisne, La Bassee, Messines and the first Battle of Ypres. …

When Claude joined the battalion in late July 1915, the Battalion was in the Ypres area, but he would have missed the fierce battle of Hill 60 (17 April – 7 May 1915).

In theory the 5th Division was resting at the time of the Somme but some battalions had been switched to mix experienced and newer troops. In December 1915, the 2nd Battalion had joined 32nd Division, 97th Brigade, and was thus with them for the opening of the Battle of the Somme.

32nd Division, was given the formidable task of capturing the Thiepval Spur, one of the toughest positions on the Somme front. German engineers had methodically converted a village of about 100 houses into strongpoints. Close by was the Leipzig Redoubt, a defensive work from which machine guns could fire into No Man’s Land, and there were further redoubts to the flanks and the rear of the German positions. Both armies recognised the Thiepval Plateau for what it was – dominating ground that had to be taken if the British attack was to make progress.

At 7.30am the attack began. The men of 32nd Division’s 96th Brigade clambered out of their trenches and were raked by perhaps 30 machine guns from Thiepval village. It was a massacre. Three battalions of volunteers from the North of England, 1st and 2nd Salford Pals, and the Tyneside Commercials, could make little headway, although isolated parties got into Thiepval village. Worse was to come: reports that the village had actually fallen to 32nd Division led to the Royal Artillery ceasing to fire on this target.

The attack by the 97th Brigade on the Leipzig Redoubt fared rather better. … The Glasgow Commercials crept to within 30 or 40 yards of the German front line. When the barrage lifted, the infantry were able to race forward and get into the German trench before the defenders could properly respond. Leipzig Redoubt was taken and held, but the weight of fire was such that 32nd Division could not get any further forward.[4]

Claude Alfred Jeeves was probably killed during that attack on the Leipzig Redoubt. His body was not found or identified, and he is remembered on Pier and Face 11C., and 12A., of the Thiepval Memorial, which tops the spur that he was attacking.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932.

The Register of Soldiers’ Effects shows that his gratuity of £15-15-8d was paid to his [?father’s] ‘sister-in-law’, Mrs Rose Jeeves on 9 December 1916, ‘at brother, Harry’s request’. This would seem in fact to have been Claude’s mother. There was a later payment of £8-0-0d on 17 October 1919.

Claude Alfred Jeeves was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, having come to work in Rugby between 1911 and 1914, and the station staff had remembered him and registered his name.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

 

– – – – – –

 

This article on Claud Alfred Jeeves was researched and 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, June 2016.

[1]       Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 29 July 1916.

[2]       His Service Record has not survived, but the KOYLI numbering can be used to approximate attestation dates.

[3]         http://www.nam.ac.uk/research/famous-units/kings-own-yorkshire-light-infantry.

[4]       Gary  Sheffield, Professor of War Studies, University of Birmingham, The Somme: a terrible learning curve, article in History Extra, http://www.historyextra.com/feature/somme-terrible-learning-curve.

 

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