George William Ward Hipwell was born in Old Basford, Nottingham on 9 April 1885, and was christened in New Bilton, Warwickshire on 9 December 1885. His parents were George Henry Ward Hipwell, born in Ullesthorpe in 1859 and Annie Elizabeth, born in about 1862 in Long Lawford. In 1911 George Henry was a cabman living at 27 King Edward Road, Rugby, they had ten children and nine were still living, and living with them, in 1911.
George William was the eldest of those ten children and in 1911 he was an Electrical Engineering Fitter at BTH works in Rugby.
George William enlisted in Rugby, as a Private, No.11894, in the 5th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He probably joined up at the same time as many other men – many from Hillmorton – who also joined the 5th Battalion. He went to France with his Battalion on 22 July 1915.
He must have had leave as his marriage with Bertha Frances A. Ingram was registered in Rugby in the first quarter of 1916 [Rugby Q1, 1916, 6d, 1383].
George was killed in action on 3 May 1917. The action on that day was recorded the following day, by Lieut.-Colonel, H. L. Wood, who was commanding the 5th Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
RECORD OF THE 5th (SERVICE) BATTALION.1st July 1916 to 30th June 1917.
The movements of the 42nd Brigade to positions of assembly on “Y” day and “Y”/”Z” night had been previously notified, thus:
The 5th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry from N.14.b via Brigade H.Q.(N.15.d.4.4), N.22 central, N.23.d.8.4, along the bank and via the railway. The Battalion will move by platoons in file at 3 minutes’ interval. The leading platoon to arrive at Brigade H.Q. at 8 p.m. Water will be issued to men requiring it, under Brigade arrangements at Brigade H.Q. The Battalion will be clear of Cross Roads N.22.a by 9.15p.m., and will proceed in file to their Assembly Trenches. All trenches have been labelled. All units (less 9th K.R.R.C.) will report by runner to Advance Brigade H.Q. in the Stag as soon as they are in their positions of assembly. As soon as Battalions are in their Assembly Trenches an issue of hot tea and rum will be made under Brigade arrangements. The Assembly Trenches were named “zoologically,” and the Battalion assembled for the assault in portions of the Ape, the Boar, the Buck, the Lion, and the Bison. ‘Z’ day was 3rd May and zero hour 3.45a.m. The following is Lieut.-Colonel H.L. Wood’s Official Report of action of the Battalion:
At zero the Battalion was formed up as follows: A and C Companies in the front line, A on the right, C on the left; B and D Companies in the second line, B on the right, D on the left; each company in two lines of two platoons. The front line was on the taped line, the second line in Ape Trench. The German artillery and machine-guns opened fire within 3 minutes of our barrage commencing; most of the artillery fire was between Ape and Bison. Until the advance commenced at zero plus 18 there were only a few casualties from artillery fire in Ape, and none in the companies in front. On the other hand, the machine-gun fire was very heavy and accurate, and came from the left flank (either from St. Rohart Factory or from the Quarry in 0.15.c) and front (from the Quarry at 0.21.b.8.0 or from Triangle Wood).
At zero plus 18 the advance commenced and reached a line about 50 yards west of New Trench, beyond which it was found impossible to advance farther on the left. On the right of the line 2nd Lieut. Peel (A Company) found it possible to avoid the machine-gun fire by crawling, and he got a few men forward and occupied part of New Trench. As touch had been lost with the 8th K.R.R.C., 2nd Lieut. Peel brought up the reserve platoon of A Company on his right flank, and gained touch with them. This was about 4.30 a.m. About this time the remainder of A Company and part of D Company managed to get into New Trench on the left of A Company. The Germans who had been holding New Trench retired to a line about 40 yards in rear, from which they heavily bombed and opened fire with two machine-guns on New Trench. These were, however, soon silenced by rifle and Lewis-gun fire. It was, however, found impossible to advance owing to the very accurate and unceasing machine-gun fire from the left, and also to a certain extent from the front. The artillery fire also became fairly heavy about this time. The situation now was as follows: about 50 men of all companies in New Trench, and parties of B and D Companies (about two platoons in all) in a line of shell-holes about 40 yards behind. This party tried to consolidate, but found it impossible to work owing to the incessant machine-gun fire, snipers, and heavy Vane-bomb fire, which came from the left flank, probably from Hillside Work. The situation remained unchanged until about 10.45a.m., New Trench being shelled continuously, while a very heavy barrage was maintained on the Assembly Trenches. At about 10.45a.m. the troops on our right were observed retiring, and a strong enemy counter-attack in 6 or 7 waves (each estimated by those in the front line at about 150 to 200 men) was launched against New Trench. Fire was immediately opened on them with all available rifles, Lewis-guns, and two Vickers which had come up, and many casualties were inflicted, but without stopping the counter-attack. When the enemy had got within 50 yards of New Trench, and our ammunition was practically all expended, the remnants withdrew to the Assembly Trenches, bringing back as many Lewis-guns as possible. The two Vickers had to be abandoned.
… The casualties were: A Company (Right leading) 75, out of 129 who attacked. C Company (Left leading) 84, out of 118. B Company (Right Support) 57, out of 123. D Company (Left Support) 62, out of 123. H.Q. 13, out of 30, including bombers who went over behind the leading company.
Of the 12 officers and 523 N.C.O.s and Men who went into action on 3 May 1917, 8 officers and 291 N.C.O.s and Men became casualties.
George William Hipwell’s body was not found and he is remembered on the Arras Memorial at Faubourg-D´Amiens Cemetery, Arras.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
– – – – – –
This article was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, May 2015.