Frederick Charles PRATT was born in very late 1896 or early 1897 in Wolston, and his birth was registered in early 1897 in Rugby. He was the son of George Pratt, a gardener from Newton and his wife Elizabeth who was born in Lambourne, Berkshire. Frederick had seven brothers and sisters.
His eldest sister was born in Clifton in about 1893 but in 1901 the family was living at Priory Hill Lodge, Wolston. Before 1911 the family had moved again and was living at 1 Bridle Road, New Bilton, Rugby – ‘Fred’ aged 14, was still at school.
When war broke out Fred would have been 17, and officially too young to join up. However he could well have lied about his age because he joined up in the 6th Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry – the ‘Ox and Bucks’ – as Private No.11097. It is known that a Charles James Keeber signed up in Rugby on 31 August 1914 with an only slightly lower number 11068, and numbers up to 14707 were still being used by the Ox and Bucks in later 1914. This must be speculation as his service record has not survived, but it is likely that he did not hesitate to join up in 1914.
The 6th (Service) Battalion of the Ox and Bucks was formed in September 1914 at Oxford as part of the Second New Army (K2) and then moved to Aldershot to join the 60th Brigade of the 20th Division. In March 1915 they moved to Larkhill, on Salisbury Plain for further training.
On 22 July 1915 the Battalion mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne – and Fred’s Medal Card shows that he also went into the France and Belgium theatre of war on that date. The battalion undertook trench familiarisation and training and was then in various actions on the Western front including in 1916:- the Battle of Mount Sorrel, the Battle of Delville Wood, the Battle of Guillemont, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the Battle of Morval, and the Battle of Le Transloy.
The New Year 1917 brought a period of severe weather conditions on the Somme which led to an unofficial ‘truce’ between the two sides. The Battalion Diary provides scant details in early 1917, but in February ‘… the Battalion took several tours of duty in the trenches in front of Guillemont, losing 8 men killed and 2nd Lieuts. Higlett, Skoulding, J. W. Wright, and 26 men wounded. 2nd Lieuts. Skoulding and Wright had been with the Battalion less than a week.’
Fred’s Medal Card notes: ‘DoW’ that is that he ‘Died of Wounds’ and this together with the location of his burial in Rouen, some 100 miles from where the 6th Battalion had been in action, suggests that he reached one of the rear area hospitals, which implies that he must have been wounded quite a few days before he died on 1 March 1917.
He was probably one of those 26 men from the battalion wounded in February ‘…in the trenches in front of Guillemont.’ He would have been moved to a Battalion Aid Post, ‘Field Ambulance’ or Advanced Dressing Station, then back to a Casualty Clearing Station, before being transported back to one of the Base Hospitals – in Fred’s case in Rouen. During the First World War, camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen. Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for practically the whole of the war. They included eight general, five stationary, one British Red Cross and one labour hospital, and No. 2 Convalescent Depot.
Sadly he died there and like the great majority of the dead was taken to the Rouen city cemetery of St. Sever. He was buried in the St Sever Cemetery Extension in grave reference: O. IV. S. 2.
St Sever Cemetery and St. Sever Cemetery Extension are located within a large communal cemetery situated on the eastern edge of the southern Rouen suburbs of Le Grand Quevilly and Le Petit Quevilly. The extension had been started in September 1916.
The Battalion carried on, in and out of the line as before, with camps at Carnoy and Guillemont; and then moved gradually forward as the German retreated to the Hindenburg Line [14 March – 5 April 1917].
Fred was awarded the Victory and British medals and the 1915 Star.
He is remembered also on the Rugby Memorial Gate and also in Rugby Baptist Church, where there is a Memorial Tablet above the Minister’s vestry in the Church. It notes …
‘This tablet and the organ in the Church are erected to the memory of those members of this Church who laid down their lives in the Great War 1914- 1918, whose names are given herewith also as an act of thanksgiving for the safe return of the many others from this Church who served in the war.’
‘On waters deep in the treacherous mud.
On rock bound heights and burning sand.
They poured the offering of their blood.
They kept the honour of the land.’
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on Frederick Charles Pratt 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, November 2016.