Boyes, Frederick Ernest. Died 16th Aug 1917

Frederick Ernest BOYES’s birth was registered in Q3 1896 in Rugby, he was the son of John Boyes, b.c.1858, in Willoughby or Rugby and Anna (Annie) Marie, née Webb, Boyes, also b.c.1858, in Lawford or Rugby.

He appears to have been baptised twice: first on 2 December 1896 at St. Andrew’s church, Rugby, with the surname spelled ‘Boies’; he was then baptised again on 9 May 1897 also at St Andrew’s with the correct surname ‘Boyes’ entered in the register.

On both baptism dates, the family were living at 11 Worcester Street, Rugby, and his father was an ‘Engine driver’ or an ‘LNWR Driver’. In 1901, they were still living at 11 Worcester Street; Frank was about two and the youngest of six children then at home – his father was still a ‘railway engine driver’.

By 1911, the family had moved to live at 84 Railway Terrace, Rugby.   Frank’s parents had been married 31 years and had had 9 children, of whom eight had survived. His father was still a ‘Railway engine driver’; three sons were still at home, with Frederick, now aged 14 working as a ‘Confectioner’s Errand Boy’.

Frederick Ernest Boyes

The exact date Frederick enlisted is not known but was probably sometime in later 1914 or earlier 1915. He enlisted at Rugby, as a Private, No.11104 in the 6th Bn. Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (‘Ox and Bucks’).

6th (Service) Battalion was formed at Oxford as part of the Second New Army (K2) in September 1914 and then moved to Aldershot to join the 60th Brigade of the 20th Division. In March 1915 they moved to Larkhill, on Salisbury Plain, and then mobilised for war on 22 July 1915 and landed at Boulogne.

Frederick’s Medal Card states that he went to France on 7 August 1915, which was just after the Battalion’s initial mobilisation, and after trench familiarisation and training, the Battalion was in various actions on the Western Front, although none of the major actions in later 1915.  However, in 1916 they were engaged in: 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.

At some date Frederick was promoted to Lance Corporal. He had already been wounded twice as a later report stated that ‘… Another son, Pte F E Boyes, Oxon & Bucks L.I., has been twice wounded; …’,[1] although it is not known in which actions these had occurred.

In 1917 the Battalion took part in the actions during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line and the Battle of Langemarck, on the opening date of which, Frederick was killed.

The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The Battle of Langemarck, The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, The Battle of Polygon Wood, The Cambrai Operations.”

It seems the Battalion was not involved on the first day of the 3rd Battle of Battle Ypres and the Battle of Pilckem Ridge (31 July – 2 August 1917), however, they were involved in the first day of the Battle of Langemarck, (16 – 18 August 1917).

RECORD OF THE 6th (SERVICE) BATTALION.

August 16th

Having placed the units attached to the Battalion and the Battalion itself in position, the C.O. and H.Q. established themselves in a block-house on the bank of the Steenbeek (since known as Jock’s House) and waited for zero hour (4.45 a.m.). ….

All was quiet, with the exception of the usual intermittent bombardment. The enemy had been dropping shells about 200 yards behind the K.S.L.I. off and on all night. He evidently had no idea that the whole front under his very nose was crowded with men. It was a wearing time to go through, as if the enemy chanced to discover how things were situated, he could have converted our entire front into a shambles. However, the luck that followed us right through the operations held on this occasion, and we lost only 5 men wounded during the night.

THE FIGHT FOR LANGEMARCK.

I doubt if there was a single man in the Battalion who did not heave a deep sigh of relief when zero at length came (4.45 a.m.). I know that I did. For about an hour before this our artillery had put up a fairly heavy barrage on all the enemy positions. At 4.45 a.m. it sounded as if someone had been careless about leaving the lid off hell. The scene beggared description. It was just light enough to see one’s way. The first thing that struck me was the immense variety of fireworks that the Hun was sending up. There was every known variety of Very Light, and some that I had not seen before. In fact, the only thing that he did not send up was a set-piece, with a portrait of the Kaiser, and God bless our Home in golden rain.

The 11th R.B.’s put up a smoke barrage, and rushed forward to try conclusions with Au Bon Gite.

Before describing our own movements, I will deal with the work of this company of the 11th R.B., for no account of the Langemarck fight can be complete without justice being done to the bitter struggle for Au Bon Gite. First and last, the passage of the Steenbeek cost the 59th Brigade almost half its number in casualties. This was chiefly due to this Au Bon Gite concrete block-house, xcellently planned for defense, and held grimly by the Germans until surrounded and cut off.

The block-house, which had loopholes for machine guns, was irregular in outline, but wonderfully well sited. Around it were five or six smaller posts, and from it to the stream a barbed-wire entanglement ran diagonally in such a way as to break up any attacking party which should attempt an enveloping movement. With the smaller block-houses in the vicinity, there was formed a kind of triangular position of immense strength, and absolutely impervious to artillery fire.

The capture of Au Bon Gite seemed well nigh impossible; the general advance went on regardless of it, and it was perhaps this fact that upset the calculations of the enemy and caused him to surrender about an hour after the attack had been launched. Captain Slade and his company of the 11th R.B., with the aid of a smoke barrage, succeeded in getting under the walls, and, after much discussion, the defenders agreed to surrender, when 32 Germans were made prisoners and two machine guns captured. Had they stuck to their post they could have absolutely hung up the attack of half our Battalion frontage.

Now for our own proceedings. What struck me most at the start was that everybody with one accord lit a cigarette, and promptly looked at peace with all the world. If the boys did feel bloodthirsty, they concealed the fact to admiration. So great was the revulsion of feeling after the trying night, that they went forward smoking, laughing, and talking as if they had just heard that peace had been declared. Our first wave moved forward with parade-ground precision, getting well up to the barrage, which started just the other side of Au Bon Gite; and the rear platoons came over the bridges with perfect steadiness, taking up their correct dressing, and moving on as they got their distance. I will say here that the whole manoeuvre of crossing the Steenbeek was perfectly carried out. The barrage was splendid all the way through, and the highest praise is due to the gunners.

The 60th M.G. Company put up a barrage which must have been a demoralizing affair to face. The 60th Trench Mortar Battery had not any call on their services during the day, but lost fairly heavily, and must have had a fearful time carrying their mortars through the mud.

Our advance was well and steadily carried out. The two left companies suffered heaviest all the way, due to the fact that Au Bon Gite and other positions were firing on them as they advanced; also they had to advance over very bad ground and mud of the worst description.

I myself, with the Scouts, went forward with the second wave, and having watched the operations against Au Bon Gite for two or three minutes, during which time one of its machine guns did a great deal of firing to the east, though without much effect, we moved on to the block-house on the road (B), which had just surrendered, and was disgorging about a company of Boches. I do not know how many were there, but I saw at least forty come out.

I then established a forward runners’ relay post at Block-house A, to which Colonel Boyle shortly afterwards moved his H.Q.   Colonel Wood, of the 6th K.S.L.I., moved forward with his men, and took up his H.Q. at Alouette Farm later on. It took six men to dig him out of the mud on one occasion, but he had the air of enjoying himself immensely.

The 1st Objective was reached with only a trifling loss of men in the right companies; but, as I have said, the left companies suffered more heavily, C Company having been very badly cut up, and A not much  better. Here we were, I think, slightly behind the barrage.

When the time came to go on to the Green Line (2nd Objective), D Company got there and consolidated up to time. C Company were slightly behind them, but the manoeuvre was at length satisfactorily carried out, and the work of the Battalion in the advance was completed.

It hardly comes within the scope of this account to follow the fortunes of the 7th K.S.L.I, and 12th K.R.R.C.; suffice it to say that they went on and carried their own objective forward in good style. More of them later.

Having seen the Green Line taken and consolidated, I went back to the H.Q. block-house, and made a personal report on the situation to Colonel Boyle. Afterwards I visited the whole of the Blue and Green, Lines to make a review of the situation and to collect reports. I collected the following information:

A Company. 2nd Lieut. Cockshut wounded about the time the Blue Line was captured; shot through the thigh – not severely.

2nd Lieut. Moase in command. He estimated his casualties at about 40 up to that time. Well dug in. Getting badly shelled on left.

B Company. 2nd Lieut. Mitchell still in command; has lost 2nd Lieut. Riley, wounded (not severely), and 17 other ranks killed and wounded. Has 5 Lewis guns (his own and those of the 12th R.B.) under 2nd Lieut. Little, who has lost his two subs, 2nd Lieuts Milner and Wastell.

C Company. Captain Middleditch wounded; 54 other ranks not accounted for, but not believed all killed or wounded.   2nd Lieut. Broke in command. Connected up with Somerset Light Infantry on left.

D Company. Captain Money thought that he had lost 40 other ranks (which turned out about right). Well dug in, and well connected on right with 7th Dorsets.

I returned via Alouette Farm, and found 7th K.S.L.I. H.Q. installed. Colonel Wood told me that a Hun counter-attack was threatening from Poelcappelle, and that whereas he got his objectives, the 12th K.R.R.C. had been obliged to fall back from theirs a matter of 200 yards. The Lancashire Fusiliers, on the right, had not gone forward farther than 200 yards beyond the Green Line. He asked for more men and, the Brigadier having assented, at 9 a.m. Colonel Boyle placed our C Company at his disposal, and sent it up to help out the K.R.R.C., who were having a terrific handling.

The Boche counter-attack crumpled up beneath our artillery and rifle fire. The 12th R.B. threw two companies in on the right flank of the K.S.L.I., and the 10th Welsh put a company into Au Bon Gite. By dark the situation had become less critical, and could be said to be in some measure safe. The enemy shelling kept up all the afternoon and night.

So ended the fight for Langemarck. To the military student the fight itself has no special interest. It was merely the conventional advance well carried out. But as an example of troops forming up under the noses of the enemy without shelter trenches or, indeed, any shelter, and with nothing to guide them, it will, I venture to say, stand for long in military history among the offensives of the war. It is an excellent example of what may be done with well disciplined and well officered troops.

The following messages were received, through the Brigade, from Divisional H.Q. :

‘Corps and Divisional Commanders send warmest congratulations to 60th Infantry Brigade and 61st

Infantry Brigade on capture of Langemarck.’

Following message received from XIVth Corps. Begins. ‘The Corps Commander most heartily thanks 20th Division and 29th Division and all the Artillery for the complete success gained today (16th). He particularly congratulates all the fighting troops on their determination to overcome all difficulties of mud and water as well as the opposition of the enemy, Ends. Addressed all concerned.’

Following message from XIVth Corps. Begins. Commander-in-Chief called on Corps Commander this morning (17th) and ordered him to convey his congratulations to all troops engaged in our operations yesterday. Ends.”

August l7th

The morning passed fairly quietly. We managed to get water and rations to the men.

The forward line being considered unsafe, the 12th R.B. detailed two companies to endeavour to correct it; the K.S.L.I, also cooperated, and the attempt was fairly successful.

At 6.30 p.m. the preparatory barrage opened, and A Company moved up to, and to the north of the Alouette Farm road, behind the Green Line. C Company, it will be remembered, had already gone up to the assistance of Captain Lycett and his BLR.R.C.

At 7 p.m. the R.B. made their attack on the Red Line, losing heavily, though being fairly successful.

During the remainder of the night there was intermittent artillery fire over the whole area.

August 18th

A quiet morning. No change in the situation. Heard with no great grief that we were to be relieved at night by the 14th Welsh in the Blue Line, and by the 10th Welsh in the Green Line.

The relief went well, and the Battalion came back to Malakoff Farm (B.23.a.30), the same camp as before, and nowise sorry to get there.

The total casualties in the Battalion during the operations of 16th-18th were :
Killed, or died of wounds, 38 other ranks;
Wounded, 3 officers and 148 other ranks;
Wounded and missing, 4 other ranks;
Missing, 8 other ranks.[2]

Frederick was one of those Killed in Action on that day. His body was either never found or not identified. He is remembered on one of the panels of the Tyne Cot Memorial. He is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby.

Frederick’s Medal Card and the Medal Roll entry showed that he was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914-1915 Star.

The Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects, recorded a payment on 22 November 1917, to his widow, Georgina, of £3-1-5d and then a payment of a war gratuity of £4-0-0d on 10 November 1919.

Mr and Mrs Boyes, of Railway Terrace, Rugby, have received information that nothing further has been heard of their son, Pte F H Boyes, Royal Berkshire Regt, who was reported missing on July 1st, 1916, and it must be presumed he has been killed. Pte Boyes was a drummer in the 1st Rugby Boys’ Brigade before enlisting in March, 1915, when only 16 years of age. He was in France before attaining his 17th birthday. Another son, Pte F E Boyes, Oxon & Bucks L.I., has been twice wounded ; whilst a third son, Pte W J Boyes, 7th Warwicks, has also served.[3]

Lance-Corpl Boyes had two brothers who were also serving: his brother Frank Harold BOYES was in the 2nd Bn. Royal Berkshire Regiment and was reported missing, presumed killed in action, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916  The other son Pte W J Boyes, was in the 7th Warwicks, and wrote a letter to the Rugby Advertiser which was published on 23 October 1915 (see also Rugby Remembers).

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Frederick Ernest BOYES 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, June 2017.

[1]       Rugby Advertiser, 16 June 1917.

[2]         http://www.lightbobs.com/6-service-bn-oxf–bucks-li-1917-1918.html, transcribed from The National Archives, Document Reference: WO 95/2120/2, War Diary of the 6th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, Date: July 1915 – Jan 1918.

[3]       Rugby Advertiser, 16 June 1917.

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