30th Mar 1918. Fatal Flying Accident in Rugby

FATAL FLYING ACCIDENT AT RUGBY.

The death took place at the Brookfield Nursing Home this (Tuesday) morning of Mr H N Van Duzer, an officer in the American Flying Corps, as the result of injuries received in an aeroplane accident on Sunday.

The deceased officer and another aviator had been flying over the town at a very low altitude, and at about 5.30, while they were over the Eastlands Estate, something apparently went wrong with Mr Van Duzers’ engine, which caused the machine to nose dive and crash to earth. Mr Van Duzer received shocking injuries to the head, arms and legs, and was conveyed to the Brookfield Nursing Home in an unconscious condition, from which he never rallied.

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

Pte W H Linnell, jun, R.E, son of Mr W H LINNELL, has been wounded in the leg.

Mr J A Middleton, son of Mr & Mrs Middleton, of Watford, near Rugby, has recently been gazetted Second-Lieutenant in the M.G Corps, after serving three and a-half years in Gallipoli and Palestine.

The death from wounds is reported of Lieut H C Boycott, Coldstreams, the International hockey full back. Boycott won many prizes at lawn tennis tournaments, was a brilliant cricketer, and a smart golfer, being the first secretary of the Northamptonshire Golf Club.

Sergt H Collins, son of Mrs Collins, 73 New Street, New Bilton, has been transferred from his interment camp at Wittenberg in Germany to Holland. Sergt Collins was taken prisoner of war in the early days, and had spent four Christmases in Germany. Food parcels have been regularly sent to him through the Rugby Prisoners of War Help Committee.

News has been received that Pte A W Bottrill, Coldstream Guards was killed in action on March 18th. Pte Bottrill, whose parents reside at 94 Bridget Street, was an old St. Matthew’s boy. He went to the front in the first month of the War, and was in the retreat from Mons and many of the subsequent heavy engagements, being badly wounded on two occasions. The Captain, writing to his friends, remarks : He has been all through the war without once going home, except on leave, which surely is a magnificent record. There are too few of our original Expeditionary force left to tell their glorious story, and now there is yet another gone.

THE GREAT GERMAN OFFENSIVE.
SLOWING DOWN.

Since Friday last week the British Armies on the Western Front have been fighting with traditional valour and endurance against the stupendous forces launched against them by the Germans in making their promised offensive movement. In the course of three or four days of the bitterest fighting, unprecedented in the annals of war, our front line troops had to give way in front of vastly superior numbers, but have systematically retired on prepared defences. The result is, we are on an average of 15 miles farther back on a frontage of 50 miles than when the attack commenced. There has never been in the history of the War a battle of such continued intensity, and the reason for this is very clear. There has not been one wave attack, but at least three, carried out on the German side by three relays of armies. The usual breathing space which has hitherto followed the most intense period of battle has been denied to our troops, for the simple reason that the German has no sooner exhausted on army than he has put in another, the fresh troops passing through the forces which have been exhausted and carrying on the battle without loss of time.

We are not for the moment interested in German losses. They have (remarks the well-informed London correspondent of the “ Birmingham Daily Post ”) undoubtedly been colossal. We cannot even console ourselves with the effect which those losses will have upon the people of Germany when they are revealed. The only thing which interests us is the question : “ Will the German succeed in breaking the British Army and destroying our power to continue the War ?” It is treason of the worst kind to rave about a British defeat. We are not defeated because we have given ground. We cannot be defeated until our Armies are broken. The German is defeated on the day the official despatch admits that he is checked and held. The German advance is perceptibly slowing, the intensely active front is becoming perceptibly restricted. Of the 96 divisions on the British front 73 have already been identified. Considerably more than a third of all the German’s strength in France is at Present in motion against our Armies, and that enormous force has been met, checked, and decimated by less than a third of the British Army. The people who draw comparisons between this offensive and the offensive against Italy or the big push against Russia are wide of the mark. In point of morale and armament of the defender there is no comparison. So far as reserves and readiness to meet the attack are concerned there is no comparison.

Thursday morning’s news was to the effect that the Allies are holding the line, and the fighting was more in our favour.

RUGBY FOOD CONTROL COMMITTEE.

At a meeting held on Thursday in last week there were present : Mr T A Wise (chairman), Mr H Tarbox (vice- chairman), Mrs Dewar, Mrs Shelley, Mrs Townsend, Mrs Peet, Messrs A Appleby, G H Cooke, C Gay, W A Stevenson, J Cripps, J H Meller, T A Smart, A Humphrey, R Griffin, and A T Watson.

Messrs Bluemel were given permission to purchase sugar for use in their factory canteen, which, it was said supplied meals to 300 workpeople daily.

The B.T.H Company applied for permission to purchase 40 lbs of sugar for the month ending April 20th for use as a lubricant for drawing wire in their lamp factory.—Mr Stevenson enquired how the company had obtained their sugar for this purpose in the past ?—The Executive Officer replied that they had been taking it from the supply allowed for their canteen, but he had informed them that this must not be done in the future.—Mr Stevenson enquired if the company would still be allowed the same quantity for their canteen ?—Mr Mellor said the past they had been drawing 3lbs per week from the canteen for this purpose, but the difficulty experienced in getting carbon for arc lamps had caused a great run on electric lamps, and an increased quantity of drawn wire was required, with the result that they were now using about 10lbs of per week for this purpose.—The permission was granted.

On the application of the L & N-W Railway Company, it was decided to allow the licensee of the Royal Oak, Brandon, to keep a quantity of tinned meat in stock for the use of fogmen.

A letter was read from the Divisional Commissioner with reference to the new wholesale price for milk, and suggesting co-operation between districts where similar conditions are uniformity of price. The Executive Officer read the price list as under :—April, 1s 3d ; May, 1s ; June, 1s ; July, ls 2d ; August, 1s 3d ; September, 1s 3d—average ls 2¾d.—In reply to a question, the Executive Officer stated that the resolution of the committee agreeing to the price remaining at 1s 9d per gallon till the end of April would have no effect, as it had not been confirmed by the Divisional Commissioner.—In reply to Mr Stevenson, it was stated that local committees had no control over wholesale prices.—The matter was referred to the Rationing Committee.

The Finance Committee reported that they had received £216 3s 1d from the Ministry of Food, which would meet all expenses incurred by the late Urban Committee up to December 31st. A cheque had been sent to the Urban Council for this amount, and it was decided to apply to the appointing authorities for a further grant.

SUGAR FOR JAM.
OUTLINES OF DISTRIBUTION SCHEME.

Following on the statement made by Lord Rhondda in the House of Lords with regard to the distribution of sugar for jam-making, the following announcement is made by the Sugar Department of the Ministry of Food :—

Forms of application can be obtained on and after March 23rd at the offices of the Local Food Control Committees, and must be returned on or before April 4th. Applications will considered only when they are made by persons actually growing the fruit which they wish to preserve. The form of application will require the applicant to state, among other things, the number of persons rationed for sugar as members of his household and the amount of fruit which he is likely to have available for preserving. The extent to which such applications can be met will be determined by the Director of Sugar Distribution in conjunction with the Local Food Committees.

Two classes of permit will be issued to applicants, one for soft fruit available between June 8th and July 31st, and the other for hard fruit available between August 1st and September 30th. “ Soft fruit ” will be taken to mean any fruits normally ready for preserving before the end of July, and in this category rhubarb may be included. “ Hard fruit ” will be taken to mean any fruits ready for preserving after July 31st, and in any area where vegetable marrows are usually preserved the local committee may in its discretion include them also in this category.

It has been decided that in no case shall the total amount of sugar for making jam for home consumption exceed 10lbs per head of the household. There will be many people, however, who will have fruit in sufficient quantities to enable them to use more sugar than this, and in these cases they will be invited to state what weight of fruit they are prepared to convert into jam on the understanding that they are to place the jam so made at the disposal of the local food committees at prices not exceeding the current wholesale prices.

It is most important that the application forms should returned on or before April 4th.

LOOKING AHEAD.
DISAPPOINTMENT FOR WEDDING PARTY.

Considerable amusement was caused at a meeting of the Rugby Food Control Committee on Thursday afternoon last week when a letter was read from a Craven Road grocer to the effect that a customer had ordered a 12-lb ham from him for a wedding which was to take place in few months’ time. He asked for permission to sell the ham, and keep it in stock until the event took place.—The Chairman (Mr T A Wise), in reply to Mr Mellor, stated that if the customer bought the ham he could possibly be prosecuted for hoarding. A person was not allowed go into a shop and buy what he wanted, and arrange with the trader to keep it in his warehouse until it was wanted, instead of the customer keeping it himself. That would get over the hoarding order at once : and, if they consented to this, it would open the door very wide.—Mr Cooke : If it means getting excess food we shall all be getting married soon.—The committee instructed the Executive Officer to reply that thy did not approve of the arrangement.

WOMEN’S INSTITUTES.

So many of these Institutes have now been started in Warwickshire, and have been so warmly received, that a County Federation has been formed in order to link them up together, and to co-ordinate the work generally. The first Federation meeting was held at Leamington last week, when a large number of delegates from the different villages where institutes have been successfully started attended. Lady Isabel Margesson, (hon secretary of the Worcestershire Federation), speaking on behalf of the London Federation Committee, explained the scheme. In her preliminary remarks Lady Isabel laid special emphasis on the revival of rural industries, and on the development of the whole of the rural life of the country. She pointed out that, although the great object of that development was Food Production, it was not restricted to that most important endeavour. The village institutes were the response of the women of the countrywide to the call to do their utmost for their own neighbourhood. Force and strength came from acting and meeting together, and results showed that every institute had its own character and individuality. Women’s institutes were NOT to interfere with, but to co-ordinate, the activities of a place. The Government concerned itself more and more with the homes and families of the land, and women’s institutes provided a homely organisation that could receive what the Government wished to give.

Several of the secretaries present spoke of the useful work done by the institutes, and Mrs Miller (Coundon, Coventry), gave an interesting account of a scheme in hand for promoting the toy-making industry.

The meeting, having unanimously decided to form a Federation for Warwickshire, proceeded to elect its officers and executive committee. Mrs Fielden (Kineton) was duly elected vice-president, the Mayoress of Leamington chairman, and Miss Bryson hon secretary.

The eight members of the committee proposed and elected were : Lady Likeston, Lady Nelson, the Mayoress, Mrs Fielden, Mrs Miller, Miss Fortescue, Miss Sargeaunt, and Miss Bryson.

It should be noted that anyone desirous of starting a women’s institute should apply to the War Agricultural Committee, Warwick. Once started, the institute is handed over to the care of the County Federation.

IN MEMORIAM.

BATCHELOR.—In memory of Pte. THOMAS BATCHELOR, of the 5th Royal Berks, who died of wounds in Germany, December 25, 1917.
“ God knows how we shall miss him,
And He counts the tears we shed,
And whispers, ‘ Hush, he only sleeps ;
Thy brother is not dead.’”
—Sadly missed by his loving Sisters Lizzie, Nellie, Ida, Hetty, and Beatie.

CLARKE.—In ever loving memory of Pte P. CLARKE, 31st T.R., who died in the Military Hospital at Dover, March 29th, 1917.
“ The flowers we place upon his grave,
May wither and decay ;
But the love we bear for him,
Will never fade away.”
—From father, mother, brothers, and Sisters at Kilsby.

TOMPKINS.—In memory of PRIVATE WILLIAM TOMPKINS, 24th T.R., dearly-loved youngest son of the late A. J. and Mrs Tompkins, Barby, died in Fulham Military Hospital, March 25th, 1917, aged 19 years.
“ Nobly he answered duty’s call,
And for his country gave his all.
A year has passed ; our hearts still sore,
Day by day we miss him more.
His welcome smile, his dear sweet face,
Never on earth can we replace.
—Sadly missed by his loving Mother, Brother, & Sister.

 

 

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Keats, Bernard. Died 26th Mar 1918.

Bernard KEATES – or KEATS on the Rugby Memorial Gates – was born in Willenhall on 25 December 1898, registered as KEATES in Birmingham in Q1, 1899 and baptised as KEATS, on 26 January 1899 at St George’s, Birmingham, when his family were living at 8/4 St. George’s Street.

Both spellings of the surname seem to have been used indiscriminately, the family and enumerators adding the ‘E’, the military generally omitting it!

He was the third son of James Keates [b.c.1863 in Willenhall – a labourer] and Sarah, née Agus, Keates, [b.c.1873, also in Willenhall], whose marriage was registered in Wolverhampton in Q4, 1892.

The three eldest boys, Bernard and his two elder brothers, had been born in Staffordshire, but before 1901, the Keates family had moved to live in Rugby and was lodging at 28 Gas Street, Rugby. Bernard’s father was a ‘labourer carter’.

By 1911, the family had moved again and was living at 55 Pinfold Street, New Bilton, Rugby. His mother, now 38, was recorded as the ‘Head’ of the family – but was still enumerated as married, which she had been for 18 years, with five children, all still living – the three older boys, and now two girls, aged 8 and 4, who had been born in Rugby after the move from Staffordshire. Bernard was aged 11 and still at school. Their house had six rooms and they had two boarders. It is not known where Bernard’s father was as he seems to be missing from the Census.

There are very few on-line records of Bernard’s military career and no Service Records for him have survived. It seems that he enlisted in Warwick as a Private, No.35506 in the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire) Regiment. The absence of a date that he entered a ‘theatre of war’ on his Medal Card, suggests that this was after the end of 1915. A commentary on the war service of the 1st Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment gives an indication of where Bernard Keates may have served.[1]

In August 1914 the 1st Battalion were based at Tidworth … On mobilization the 1st Battalion left for France on the 13 August, taking part in the battle of Mons 10 days later and followed by the retreat from Mons. The ‘retreat ‘was a fighting withdrawal with a number of significant actions fought along that route. The battalion remained intact and ended the retreat on the outskirts of Paris. Once the line stabilized the battalion took part in the First Battle of Ypres, and Neuve Chapelle by which time they had lost 26 officers and 1000 men, the equivalent of a whole battalion. This was followed by trench duty at Hooge and then Kemmel where they remained for the remainder of the year.

[In 1915 -] The 1st Battalion spent the first few months on the Messines Ridge engaged in Trench warfare until March 1915. In March they took part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, followed by several more months in Trenches in the Dickebusch area. In June they took part in two attacks on the German Trench system round Hooge Chateau, where the fighting was most severe. The next few months were spent in the trenches near Ypres, Hooge, alternating with rest periods in the ramparts at Ypres, itself under shell fire. In September they took part in a Major battle at Loos. In October together with the rest of their Brigade they were transferred to a New Army Formation, the 25th Division to provide experience. They spent the remainder of the year in the trenches at Ploegsteert Wood. Christmas dinner was not eaten until the 1 January 1916.

It seems more likely that Bernard might have joined his Battalion in France in 1916.

At the start of 1916 the 1st Battalion were in reserve at Papot. They remained here for three months when they went south spending three weeks near St Pol. After relieving the French at Vimy Ridge they spent two months engaged in trench warfare near La Targette. Unspectacular work but it still resulted in 82 casualties. In July the Battalion moved towards the Somme area. They did not take part in the attack on 1 July but did go into action at Thiepval on 4 July. On the 22 July together with the 3rd Worcestershire Regiment, they assaulted and captured the Lepzig Salient, including the Hindenburg trench.   They withstood a number of counter attacks by the Prussian Guards all of which were beaten off. Other attacks followed together with more time spent in the trenches. In October they moved north and took up a position in the Ploegstreert where they were at the end of the year.

[1917 – ] The 1st Battalion started the year in the area of Ploegsteert, being relieved mid January for a fortnights hard training. In February they carried out a daring daylight raid in conjunction with the 10th Cheshire’s. The raiders won six Military Medals. In late February they were relieved by New Zealand units, spending the next seven weeks training. This was required due the reorganization of all battalions whereby each platoon became self sufficient in terms of weapon capabilities. The Army was starting to move towards mobile tactics. In April they took over some trenches from the Australians near Plogsteert. They went in and out of the lines until 7 June when the battalion took part in the attack on Messines Ridge. Two days later after hard fighting they had taken 148 prisoners and 7 machine guns,   but they had sustained 170 casualties.   One of the officers being awarded the Military Cross in this action was Captain R Hayward (later to win the Victoria Cross). This was a significant action because in taking this high ground it improved the situation in the Ypres salient, which had been overlooked by the Germans for most of the war. In July they moved to Ypres and had their first taste of mustard gas. At the end of July they took part in the attack on Westhoek Ridge remaining in the area under heavy shell fire until 5 August. After a short rest they returned to the Ridge to support other units under pressure from the Germans. On 10 September they moved south to join the First Army moving into the Givenchy Sector, near Bethune where they took up a position in October remaining for two months. At the beginning of December they were transferred once again, this time to the Third Army, to the Laqnicourt Sector near Bapaume. They were at this location at the end of 1917.

[1918 – ] The 1st Battalion started the year in the Laqnicourt sector, North East of Bapaume remaining there for two months.

On 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army, and the right wing of the British Third Army.   The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

On 21 March 1918 they [the 1st Battalion] were in reserve at Achiet-Le-Grand when the German Army launched a major offensive. The battalion were in contact with the enemy for the next six days during which Captain Hayward MC won the Victoria Cross. By the end of this period the battalion was reduced to Company strength.[2]

It would appear that Bernard was wounded – presumably in that period when the Battalion lost so many men, between 21 and 25 March 1918 and was taken prisoner, and then died of his wounds, probably at a prisoner of war camp on 26 March 1918, although his date of death was also recorded as 24 March 1918 on some of the earlier records. He was buried in a German Cemetery, adjacent to the German prisoner of war camp, at the east end of the village of Oisy-le-Verger. This cemetery originally contained the graves of 24 prisoners of war from the United Kingdom, six from Italy and three from Russia, and 247 German soldiers. It was and about 5 miles north-west of Cambrai.

After the war, the British soldiers buried at Oisy-le-Verger were ‘Concentrated’ [exhumed, moved and reburied]. Bernard Keats’ ‘body naked’ was identified by a standard cross, and the German burial list and plan. There were no effects. Bernard was reburied in the Ontario Cemetery at Sains-les-Marquion in Grave ref: II. E. 15.   There was no personal message from his family on the memorial stone – it is possible that they could not be traced.

Sains-les-Marquion is about 2 kilometres south of Marquion, which is on the Arras to Cambrai road, some 14 kilometres from Cambrai. Ontario Cemetery is 1 kilometre due south of the village. The cemetery was made at the end of September and the beginning of October 1918, after the capture of Sains-les-Marquion (on the 27th) by the Canadian Division. It contained, in its original form, the graves of 144 soldiers from Canada and ten soldiers (or sailors of the Royal Naval Division) from the United Kingdom … It was enlarged after the Armistice by the concentration of graves, partly from the battlefields, but mainly from the many neighbouring German cemeteries, including … Oisy-Le-Verger German Cemetery, …

Bernard’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate, and as KEATES, B., on the New Bilton War Memorial by the chapel in Croop Hill Cemetery, Addison Road, Rugby.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Bernard KEATES 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 RFHG, January 2018. It is dedicated also to the memory of Graham Gare who had chosen to undertake the research on this soldier before his untimely death.

[1]         http://www.thewardrobe.org.uk/research/history-of-regiments/the-duke-of-edinburghs-wiltshire-regiment-1881-1920-the-wiltshire-regiment-duke-of-edinburghs-1920-1959. Further details may be found in the Battalion War Diary, The National Archives, Piece 2243/3: 25th Division, 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment (1915 Nov – 1918 Jun), also available at www.ancestry.co.uk

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[2]         http://www.thewardrobe.org.uk/research/history-of-regiments/the-duke-of-edinburghs-wiltshire-regiment-1881-1920-the-wiltshire-regiment-duke-of-edinburghs-1920-1959. Further details may be found in the Battalion War Diary, The National Archives, Piece 2243/3: 25th Division, 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment (1915 Nov – 1918 Jun), also available at www.ancestry.co.uk.

23rd Mar 1918. Daylight Saving, Arrival of “Summer Time”

DAYLIGHT SAVING.
ARRIVAL OF “ SUMMER TIME.”

We remind our readers that after midnight on Saturday, March 23rd, [?] on Sunday, March 24th, they must but their clocks FORWARD one hour.

It may for convenience be done when going to bed on Saturday night.

The period of saving has been extended this year five weeks, and will terminate on Sept. 29.

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

Cadet C Wright, son of Mr E Wright, of Long Lawford, who was sent home in July last (while on active service in France) for a commission, has been gazetted Second-Lieutenant in the 4th Batt. Royal Warwickshire Regt.

FOOD PARCELS OR MONEY FOR SOLDIERS AT THE FRONT.
SYMPATHY FOR DEAR FRIENDS AT HOME.

A letter which has a bearing on this subject comes from a Rugbeian in an Artillery Regiment on the Western Front. He writes :—

“ How good of you to send us a P.O. I happened to be ‘ stoney broke,’ and we had a feed that night. We can get things at our canteen very cheap. Can get a brand of tobacco for 5d per ounce which costs at home 8½d. I see you are all on the ration system in England. We live extremely well, and begin to feel sorry for all our dear friends at home having to go so short.”

It will, therefore, be seen that, as far as the Western Front is concerned, plenty of food can be procured, provided the men have the money. But in Egypt, and Mesopotamia it is probable that parcels of suitable food which will not suffer from climatic conditions will be more useful.

THE TRIBUNALS AT WORK.
RUGBY URBAN DISTRICT.

Thursday, March 14th. Present : Messrs J J McKinnell (chairman), L Loverock, T A Wise, W H Linnell, and W A Stevenson. Mr H P Highton was the National Service representative.

The case of a jersey manufacturer (31) was again considered.—The case had been adjourned for the man to be examined by the Volunteer Corps doctor. He had not received notice to submit to this examination, however ; and even if he was passed fit, he would not now be able to attend the drills, because since the case was last heard his wife had died, and he had one to look after his house. He was making Cardigan jackets for the War Office, and he had not done any civilian work since May. He had not tried to get a protection he thought it fairer to leave for the Tribunal to decide.—The case was further adjourned, and Mr Morson was directed to communicate with Capt C H Fuller. The man was also advised to approach the War Office with a view to obtaining protection.

Other results were :—Clerk, 23, single, B3, June 15th, and advised either to get work in a munitions factory as a clerk or on the land. Fruiterer, 41, married, June 1st, on condition that he took up work of national importance for three days a week. July 15th plumber, married, and wholesale grocer, 40 married. July 1st, blacksmith’s doorman, 33, married, and accountant clerk, 41, single. June 1st, church caretaker, 42, married, and printer’s machinist.

THE NEW SYSTEM OF ALLOCATING MEAT SUPPLIES.
A GILBERTIAN SITUATION.

At a Meeting of the Rugby Food Control Committee on Thursday afternoon a resolution was passed protesting against the new system of allocating stock to butchers by which the stock in a market is divided out amongst the whole of the towns in the scheduled area which are represented at the market. As a result of this system the Rugby butchers must attend every market in Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, and Shropshire before applying to the deputy meat agent for a further supply to make up their quota—a proceeding denounced by several members as wasteful and ridiculous.

(A report of the discussion will appear next week.)

THE PRIME MINISTER AND POTATOES.
APPEAL FOR A MILLION MORE ACRES.

A letter has been issued from 10 Downing Street for publication in the Press. It says :—“ I desire to impress upon all farmers and small growers the vital importance of increasing, to the utmost extent possible, the supply of potatoes this year. There is no crop under existing war conditions which can compare with it in importance as a food for either man or beast, and it would be quite impossible to plant too many potatoes this spring. . . . If we can get a million acres under potatoes in Great Britain this year the food situation will be safe, and farmers will have rendered an immense service to their country. The grower is in the front line of the fight against the submarine. He can defeat it if he chooses, but victory depends on his action and exertions during the next few weeks.—D LLOYD GEORGE.

THE DUNCHURCH ESTATE AGAIN ON THE MARKET.

Messrs May & Rowden, of London, in conjunction with Messrs James Styles & Whitlock, of Rugby, announce that they will sell by auction in June various portions of this property, extending to about 4,550 acres, including the whole of the parishes of Church Lawford and Kings Newnham and a portion of Dunchurch parish.

DEATHS.

MEREDITH.—November 20th, 1917, killed in action near Cambrai, OWEN WATKIN WYNN HARDINGE MEREDITH, 2nd Lieut. R.F.C., aged 24, the only and beloved child of the late Ven. Thomas Meredith, M.A., Vicar of Wolston and Archdeacon of Singapore, and of Mrs. Meredith, Park Road, Leamington.

IN MEMORIAM.

CHEDGEY.—In ever-loving memory of Sergt. PERCY JAMES CHEDGEY, Bitteswell, Lutterworth, who gave his life for his country in France on March 22, 1917.
“ To live in the hearts those we love is not to die.”

DODSON.—In loving of our dear son, Rifleman WILLIAM DODSON, who died of wounds, March 24th, 1915.
“ We loved him—oh ! no tongue can tell
How much we loved him, and how well.
His fresh young life could not be saved,
And now he lies in a hero’s grave.”
—From his loving Mother, Father, Brothers, & Sister.

FOX.—In memory of our dearly loved son, NORMAN H. FOX, killed in action, March 21st, 1915.
—From Father and Mother, who loved him better than life.

HADDON.—In loving memory of Lance-Corpl. C. F. HADDON, of the Winnipeg Rifles, who was killed at Vimy Ridge on March 29, 1917.—Not forgotten by loved ones at home.

LEESON.—In loving memory of our two dear lads, ALBERT (Bert), killed in action, March 20, 1917, and FRED ( Bob), missing since September 25, 1915.
“ Two of the best that God could send — Loving sons and faithful friends.”
—From Father, Mother, Brothers, Sister, & Hilda.

LANGHAM.—In loving memory of HAROLD F LANGHAM, who died of wounds in France on March 23, 1917.
“ He sleeps not in his native land,
But under foreign skies ;
Far from his friends who loved him best,
in a hero’s grave he lies.”
—From his Father, Brother and Sister.

MONTGOMERY.—In ever-loving memory of my dear husband, HERBERT MONTGOMERY, of 6 Oak Terrace, who was killed in Egypt on March 27, 1917.
“ A light from our household is gone.
A voice that we loved is stilled ;
A place is vacant in our home
Which never can be filled.
He bravely answered duty’s call,
He gave his life for one and all.”
—Deeply mourned by his sorrowing Wife and Children.

SALISBURY.—In ever loving memory of WILFRID, the dearly beloved son of Mr. and Mrs. E. Salisbury, 17 Clifton Road, who was killed while mine sweeping on March 25th, 1917.
“ A light has from our pathway gone,
A voice we loved is stilled ;
A place is vacant in our hearts
Which can never be filled.”
—From Father, Mother, Brothers, & Sister.

 

Wilson, Edwin Thomas. Died 23rd Mar 1918

Edwin Thomas WILSON’s birth was registered in Rugby in Q3, 1894 and he was baptised on 29 July 1894 at Bilton, Warwickshire, England, when his family were living in Victoria Street, New Bilton.

He was the eighth child of Ellis Wilson [b.c.1851 in Hillmorton – an upholsterer] and Sarah Jane, née Rotton, Wilson, [b.c.1860 in Birmingham], whose marriage was registered in Birmingham in Q4, 1876.

The three eldest children had been born in West Bromwich in about 1877, 1879 and 1883, and then the next two in Tipton in 1884 and 1886. Before 1887 when their next child was born, they had moved to Rugby, and for the 1891 census they were living at 11 Bridget Street, Rugby.

By 1901 the family had moved to live at 103 Victoria Street, Rugby, where Edwin’s father, Ellis was an ‘upholsterer and general dealer’. His father’s death was registered in Rugby in Q2, 1909 – he was 58.

By 1911, the family had moved again and was living at 65 Campbell Street, New Bilton, Rugby.   Edwin was a ‘Winder (Apprentice)’ presumably at (BTH) in Rugby as he was subsequently employed just before the war in the BTH Winding Department.

There are very few on-line records of Edwin’s military career and he changed Regiments as his career progressed. If a more detailed history is required his file is available at the National Archives.[1]

It seems that he enlisted early from BTH, and was probably one of the three ‘Wilsons’ who are listed in the Rugby Advertiser on 5 and 26 September 1914.

B.T.H. Company to the Rescue. – From the Works. This is an additional list of men who have left to join the Colours from August 27th up to and including September 2nd: … Wilson … Wilson[2]

Recruiting at Rugby slows – Latest B.T.H. Recruits. – Since our last list of recruits from the B.T.H Works was compiled the following have enlisted: Works: …, Wilson, …[3]

Edwin’s Medal Card shows that he was initially a private No.21111 in the ‘Hussars of Line’, and then an Acting Corporal, No.G3/10243 in the East Surrey Regiment. It seems that this was for a fairly short time, as he was chosen for a commission, and two identical notices appeared in the Local War Notes in the Rugby Advertiser on 23 October 1915 and 22 July 1916.

Mr B Whitbread, only son of Mr Charles Whitbread, and Mr Eddy Wilson, youngest son of Mrs E Wilson, have been gazetted to commissions in the 12th Reserve R.W.R.[4]

Mr B Whitbread, only son of Mr Charles Whitbread, and Mr Eddy Wilson, youngest son of Mrs E Wilson, have been gazetted to commissions in the 12th Reserve R.W.R..[5]

The first notice agrees broadly with his Medal Card which noted that he was appointed to a Temporary Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 20 October 1915; the second may have appeared when the two new officers went overseas in 1916. Indeed 2nd Lt. Basil Whitbread’s Medal Card does have a date when he went to France – 4 March 1916. However it seems that he was serving with a different Battalion, the 14th, when he was killed in action on 22 July 1916, during the battle of the Somme.

The 12th (Reserve) Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment was formed in Parkhurst (Isle of Wight) in October 1914 as a Service battalion, part of K4, and in November 1914, came under command of 97th Brigade, original 32nd Division. However, on 10 April 1915 it became a Reserve battalion and in September 1916, it absorbed into the Training Reserve Battalions in 8th Reserve Brigade.[6]

At some date Edwin transferred from the 12th Reserve Battalion into the 10th Battalion – quite possibly when he went to France.

The 10th (Service) Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment was raised at Warwick as part of the second of Kitchener’s new armies. The Battalion was assigned to the 57th Brigade in the 19th Division training on Salisbury Plain.   In December 1914 the Battalion was in billets for the winter and in March 1915 concentrated with its Division around Tidworth. Whilst some records suggest that the Battalion embarked for France and Flanders on 17 May 1915, other records have the division landed in France on 17 July 1915.   During the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the Battalion was in the operational area between 1 July and 7 August and between 7 October and until the end of that battle on 18 November 1916.

In early May 1917, the Local War Notes reported –

Second-Lieut E Wilson, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, son of Mrs Wilson, of Bridget Street, is in hospital at Rouen suffering from a broken leg.[7]

This was at about the time of the Battle of Arras but of course may have been due to a fall rather than enemy action!

The history of 19th (Western) Division[8] shows that it was involved in 1917 in the following actions:

The Battle of Messines [7-14 June 1917]
The Third Battles of Ypres [from July 1917]
– The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge
– The Battle of Polygon Wood
– The Battle of Broodseinde
– The Battle of Poelcapelle
– First Battle of Passchendaele
– The Second Battle of Passchendaele

The following year, on 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army, and the right wing of the British Third Army. The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

The formation for the British order of battle for that period, which was also known as the Battle of St Quentin (21-23 March 1918), included the 10th Warwickshires which were near St. Quentin with the 19th (Western) Division and the 57th Brigade in the Third Army (under Byng). The Battalion was in action east of Beaumetz facing Doignies.

The Battalion Diary[9] devotes several pages to the actions from the opening of the German assault on 21 March, until Edwin’s death on 23 March 1918.   some extracts are given below.

21.3.18 – 5am – The Battn. was in rest camp in BARASTRE when the alarm was given by intense artillery fire; orders were given to stand to arms and extra S.A.A., bombs, rifle grenades, rations etc were issued; the Battn was ready to move by 5-45.am. Breakfasts were then served.

 11.50am – Orders to move to assembly positions were received … The following officers were present … B Coy: A/Capt. H. A. Hewett, in Command. 2nd. Lt. E. T. Wilson … …

3.20am – The Battn. was ordered to move into position for a Brigade counter-attack on DOIGNIES; for this Battn. was in Brigade Reserve …

6.40pm – The remainder of the Brigade … launched counter-attack.

7.45pm – The line dug roughly followed the 120 contour …

22.3.18 – 8.50am – Ground close in front and behind line held by battalion was heavily shelled.

1.15pm – Shelling as at 9am … road by Bn. Hd. Qrs. was heavily shelled.

2.35pm – Bn. observers … reported that enemy were attacking …

23.3.18 – 2am – Orders received … our left must swing forward and establish two posts, … to block the S. Eastern exits from BRAUMETZ; the two left platoons of B Coy. were ordered to do this. … the Battn. was to hold its position to the last, and was not to reinforce the troops in the 3rd system or to counter-attack should the enemy succeed in breaking into the 3rd. system.

      7.30am – Batts. observers reported enemy massing W of DOIGNIES.

      8(?)am – An artillery officer reported … shortly coming into action … About 1½ hours later this officer again reported … that the guns were withdrawing.; the O.C. 10/RWarR protested … the artillery assistance was required and that the battalions had no intention of evacuating their positions. Apparently these guns fired very little if at all.

9.20am – D. Coy reported enemy cavalry on high ground …

9.25am – Battery … withdrew.

9.55am – 800 – 950 Germans debouched from S.E. of BESIMETZ. …

10.50am – … C Coy reported situation desperate on our left flank owing to withdrawal of all troops.

12.30am – VELU WOOD was occupied by the enemy.

12.30pm-1.30pm – Battn. was driven back to the road running E & W through J.26. where another stand was made…

3pm – The Battn. and machine gunners were ordered … to withdraw to Embankment … and then round the E & S sides of BERTINCOURT. … subsequently orders were received … to march to BAUCOURT, which was reached about 7pm.

Casualties were:- OFFICERS KILLED: 2nd Lt R H Burningham and 2nd. Lt. E. T. Wilson, 23-318 …Officers wounded – 9; Wounded and Missing – 2; Missing believed prisoner – 1. Other Ranks: killed – 33; Wounded – 191; Missing – 83.

Edwin, as noted, was killed in action on the third day of the battle on 23 March 1918, aged 23. Because of the intensity of the battle, with the Germans moving forward in strength, and in the confusion of the retreat and rearguard action, the bodies of many of those killed were never found or identified.

Edwin Thomas Wilson is remembered on Bay 3 of the Arras Memorial which is located at the entrance to the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery in France. The memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period … [and in Edwin’s case, sadly was] the German attack in the spring of 1918.

Edwin’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, and on the BTH List of ‘Men who Served’, and the list of ‘Men who Gave their Lives’ as inscribed on the BTH War Memorial.

After Edwin’s death, on 24 March 1918 the 10th Battalion RWarR was again manning a line somewhat further to the rear. The Battalion was involved in the Battle of Bapaume, the Battle of Messines, the Battle of Bailleul, the First Battle of Kemmel Ridge, the Battle of the Aisne, the Battle of the Selle, the Battle of the Sambre and the passage of the Grand Honelle. During these the allies finally held the German advance which had badly weakened German numbers and lost them many of their more experienced troops. The German advance had also overextended their supply lines, and from August 1918 the Allies were able to regroup and fight back. The 10th Battalion ended the war on 11 November 1918, in the same formations, just west of Bavay, France.

In 1922, his mother, Mrs. S J Wilson was recorded on his Medal Card as living at 41 Bridget Street, Rugby.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Edwin Thomas WILSON 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 RFHG, January 2018.

[1]       2nd Lieutenant Edwin Thomas WILSON, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, TNA file ref: WO 339/45499.

[2]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5th-sep-1914-rugbys-magnificent-response/.

[3]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/26th-sep-1914-recruiting-at-rugby-slows/.

[4]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/23rd-oct-1915-local-territorials-do-good-work/.

[5]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/whitbread-basil-died-22nd-jul-1916/.

[6]         http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/royal-warwickshire-regiment/.

[7]       12th May 1917. Rugby Advertiser, 13 May 1917, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/12th-may-1917-food-economy-campaign/.

[8]       Information from ‘The Long Long Trail’.

[9]       War Diary, TNA Ref: Piece 2085/3: 10 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1915 Jul – 1919 Mar), pp.506-513 of 517. Also available on Ancestry.co.uk.

Chant, George Frederick. Died 23rd Mar 1918

George Frederick CHANT was born on 28 January 1880, in Enfield, Middlesex, the son of Anthony Chant, a coachman from Yeovil, Somerset, and Ellen, née VALE, Chant who was born in Westminster. George was baptised on 20 June 1880 at the Enfield Jesus Chapel, Enfield, when the family was living in Turkey Street.

In 1891 the family were living in ‘the cottage’ in Enfield, apparently not far from the ‘Spotted Cow’ beer house. The family seems to have remained in Middlesex, but George was elsewhere and has not been found in the 1901 or the 1911 censuses.

However, it seems that he was one of the many workers who came to work in Rugby at the expanding British Thompson Houston (BTH) works in the years before the war. Thomas moved to Rugby and went to work in the BTH Stores. He married with Alice E. Welch, the marriage being registered in Rugby in Q2, 1915.   They later lived at 43 Union Street, Rugby.

At some date, possibly somewhat later in the war, he joined up in Rugby as a Driver, No.88840 in the Royal Field Artillery. There is no surviving Service Record, so the details of his service are unknown – and being in the Artillery it is less easy to plot his progress. His Medal Card shows him in the Royal Field Artillery but there is no qualification date for when he went abroad, so it was probably in 1916 or even later. In March 1918, he was serving with the Royal Field Artillery, at the Headquarters, 4 Corps.

However, on 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army. The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then the front-line infantry. The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

Whilst the first bombardment of artillery positions was on 21 March, artillery attacks continued and George Frederick CHANT was ‘killed in action’ on the third day of the battle on 23 March 1918, aged 23. Because of the intensity of the battle, with the Germans moving forward in strength, and in the confusion of the retreat and rearguard action, the bodies of many of those killed were never found or identified.

George Frederick CHANT is remembered on Bay 4 of the Arras Memorial which is located at the entrance to the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery in France.   The memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. [One of the] … most conspicuous events of this period … was the German attack in the spring of 1918.

His death was reported in the Coventry Evening Telegraph,[1]

THE ROLL OF HONOUR. Coventry and District Casualties.

The following Coventry and district casualties are notified in the latest lists:
Killed. … Chant, 88840, Dvr. T. (Rugby), R.F.A. …

George Frederick CHANT is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, and his name appears also appears as ‘CHANT G F’ on the list of ‘BTH Employees Who Served in the War 1914 – 1918’; and as ‘CHANT George F’ on the list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled in 1921.[2]

His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

The Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 showed that his back pay of £1-16-2d was paid to his widow ‘Alice E’ on 25 June 1918, and then his War Gratuity of £17, in two payments: £5-13-4d on 27 November 1919 and £11-6-8d on 25 February 1920.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on George Frederick CHANT 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 RFHG, January 2018.

[1]       Coventry Evening Telegraph, Thursday, 16 May 1918.   The death in action of Lce.-Bdr. F. Ward, No.11115, (Rugby), who was also in the R.F.A., was notified in the same edition – he is not on the Rugby Memorial Gate.

[2]       Taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921.

Fretter, Charles James. Died 22nd Mar 1918

Charles James FRETTER was born in mid to late 1875 and was baptised on 30 April 1876, at St. Matthew’s church, Rugby. He was the son of Samuel Fretter [b.c.1841 in Hillmorton – 1914] and Harriet née Tomkins Fretter [b.c.1848 in Dunchurch – 1912]. They had married in Dunchurch parish church on 20 November 1868. Between 1861 and 1871, and probably soon after their marriage, Samuel and Harriet moved to Rugby, where their eldest daughter was born in early 1869.

In 1871, Samuel, a boot and shoe maker and his family were living at 12 West Leyes, Rugby, initially with his widowed mother. There were then two girls, Elizabeth and Alice. By 1881, after Charles’ birth it seems Samuel’s mother (Charles’ grandmother) had died. Charles would later have two younger sisters and two younger brothers.

By 1891, the family were living at 44 Pennington Street, Rugby. Charles was now 15, and was working as a milkman.   By 1901 the family had moved again to 38 Plowman Street, Rugby and Charles was now a general labourer. By 1911 they had moved yet again, to 60 York Street, Rugby – Charles was 35, still single, and was now a general labourer in the building trade.

At some date Charles enlisted at Rugby as Private No.18034 in the 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The 10th (Service) Battalion was raised at Warwick as part of the second of Kitchener’s new armies. The Battalion was assigned to the 57th Brigade in the 19th Division training on Salisbury Plain. In December 1914 the Battalion was in billets for the winter and in March 1915 concentrated with its Division around Tidworth. Whilst some records suggest that the Battalion embarked for France and Flanders on 17 May 1915, other records have the division landed in France on 17 July 1915.

There is no embarkation date on Charles’ Medal Card, so he probably joined his Battalion later and went to France/Belgium with reinforcements after the end of 1915, and would not have been eligible for the 1914-15 Star.

During the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the Battalion was in the operational area between 1 July and 7 August and between 7 October and until the end of that battle on 18 November 1916.

The history of 19th (Western) Division[1] shows that it was involved in 1917 in the following actions:
The Battle of Messines
The Third Battles of Ypres
– The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge
– The Battle of Polygon Wood
– The Battle of Broodseinde
– The Battle of Poelcapelle
– First Battle of Passchendaele
– The Second Battle of Passchendaele

The following year, on 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army, and the right wing of the British Third Army. The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

The formation for the British order of battle for that period which was also known as the Battle of St Quentin (21-23 March 1918), included 10th Warwickshires which were near St. Quentin with the 19th (Western) Division and the 57th Brigade in the Third Army (under Byng). The Battalion was in action east of Beaumetz facing Doignies.

Because of the intensity of the battle, and as the Germans were moving forward, many of those killed were never identified. Charles was killed in action on the second day of the battle on 22 March 1918, aged 43.

In the confusion of the retreat and rearguard action, Charles’ body was either not found or not identified, and it was probably lost in the area that the Germans overran. He is remembered on the Arras Memorial which is located at the entrance to the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery in France. The memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave.   The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and in Charles’ case, the German attack in the spring of 1918.

After Charles’ death, the allies held the advance which had badly weakened the Germans and overextended their supply lines, and they fought back. The 10th Battalion ended the war in the same formations on 11 November 1918, well to the east, just west of Bavay, France.

Charles James Fretter is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates.   His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. The Medal Roll allocated him to the 11th Battalion.

Various small amount of his outstanding pay was split between his brother and sisters. His Gratuity of £9.00 was paid to his eldest sister, Elizabeth, on 12 December 1919 – she was now married.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Charles James Fretter 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 RFHG, December 2017.

[1]       Information from ‘The Long Long Trail’.

Smith, Thomas J L. Died 21st Mar 1918

Thomas J L SMITH, having such a common surname, and probably having moved from some distance to work at British Thompson Houston (BTH) in Rugby, has not been specifically identified, although some parts of his life and his military career can be followed briefly in the records.

Before the war Thomas was working in the BTH Drawing Office, and this is later confirmed as his name appears as ‘SMITH T J L’ on the list of ‘BTH Employees Who Served in the War 1914 – 1918’; and as ‘SMITH Thomas J L’ on the list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled in 1921.[1]

A search for births found nothing definitive, however a search for a marriage produced a registration in Rugby in Q3, 1914 [6d, 1583] between Thomas J L SMITH and a Nellie M DAVIS.

Further searches for Thomas – and indeed Nellie, with her almost equally common surname – in Rugby proved fruitless and it is likely that he was one of many workers who came to work in Rugby at the expanding British Thompson Houston works in the years immediately before the war.

Thomas joined up early, and indeed, the various dates could suggest that he may have already been a member of the territorial force. On his Medal Card he is listed as Thomas J Smith, a Corporal, No.187, – a very early number – in the 1st/1st Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery (Territorial Forces). At a later date it seems he was transferred to the ‘Som Royal Horse Artillery’ – probably the Somerset Royal Horse Artillery – as No.618345 – a much later style number.

The Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery was a Territorial Force Royal Horse Artillery battery that was formed in Warwickshire in 1908. On the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, many territorial members volunteered for overseas service and the unit was split into 1st Line (liable for overseas service) and 2nd Line (home service for those unable or unwilling to serve overseas) units.

The 1st Line battery was embodied with the 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade on 4 August 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War. Initially, the brigade moved to Diss, Norfolk and joined the 1st Mounted Division. Later in August, a concentration of mounted brigades was ordered to take place around the Churn area of Berkshire and the brigade moved to the racecourse at Newbury.

At the end of October 1914, the Warwickshire Battery departed for France, landing at Le Havre on 1 November. The Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery was the first Territorial Force artillery unit to go overseas on active service, spending the whole of the First World War on the Western Front, mostly with 1st Cavalry Division and 29th Division.

The ‘qualifying date’ i.e. the embarkation date on Thomas’s Medal Card, is 31 October 1914, thus it seems that he was indeed with the battery when it went to France on 1 November 1914. He would thus have also qualified for the 1914 Star.

It is uncertain what Thomas’s movements were thereafter. The activities of the 1st/1st Warwickshire RHA are well documented, however, Thomas’s Medal Card also includes the ‘Som Royal Horse Artillery’ – and a later service number: 618345 – and although also well documented they fought in different actions.   However, still with this same later number, Thomas is recorded by CWGC as being in “A” Bty. 298th Bde., Royal Field Artillery. When and why he might have transferred between these various batteries is uncertain – and no Service Record survives to record his movements.

Suffice to say he remained on the Western Front and at some date before late 1917 he had been promoted to Corporal and in later 1917, he won the Military Medal for bravery in the field.

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Military Medal for bravery in the Field to the under mentioned Non-commissioned Officers and Men:-
… 618345 Cpl. T. J. Smith, R.F.A. (Rugby).[2]
… 618345 Cpl. T. J. Smith, R.F.A. (Rugby).[3]

Rather than outlining his possible movements and actions in three different Batteries, until any further information appears, one must assume that he was involved in a great many actions, and being in the artillery was less likely to be killed than as a front-line infantryman. As mentioned the CWGC indicates that in March 1918 he was with “A” Bty. 298th Bde. Royal Field Artillery.

On 4 April 1917, 298th (N. Midland) Bde, RFA (TF) was re-designated as 298th Army Brigade, RFA.[4]

During 1918, 298th Brigade, RFA was an Army Brigade, RFA and from 28 February 1918 to 30 March 1918 it was supporting the 14th (Light) Division of III Corps.[5]

However, on 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army. The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then the front-line infantry. The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.   It was possibly during this initial shelling of the British artillery positions early on 21 March 1918 that Thomas was killed.

The Brigade War Diary indicates that on 21 March 1918 the Brigade was in positions in the Montescourt area. Early that morning it was ordered to fire on a line between Sabliere Farm – Manufacture Farm. The Brigade Wagon Lines were heavily shelled with 40 horses, one officer and four men killed and six wounded.[6]

It is possible that Thomas was killed, or indeed wounded, later dying, on that occasion during the shelling in advance of the opening of Operation Michael.   The 61st (South Midland) Casualty Clearing Station which was stationed at Ham from January – March 1918,[7] started to receive casualties at 5.00a.m. on 21t March 1918.[8]

Thomas could have been one of the early casualties, and was either already dead on arrival or died soon afterwards and he was buried adjacent to the Casualty Clearing Station. There appears to be some confusion in the description on the CWGC site [unless there really was a pre-existing German cemetery on the site] however, it seems that the CCS were burying their dead, including Thomas, in what would later become the Muille-Villette German Cemetery, after the area was over-run.

The British soldiers buried in what became a largely German Cemetery at Muille-Villette were ‘concentrated’ [exhumed, moved and reburied] in 1919. The Ham British Cemetery was constructed next to and just behind the Muille-Villette German Cemetery, and the British graves were regrouped in this new cemetery, which explains the same map reference being used.

Thomas’s body could be identified as he was originally buried under ‘Foot Board: E55’ at ‘MR: 66D Q 2a 1-4’ from ‘Official Identity’. He was reburied in Plot ref: I. E. 21 at the new Ham British Cemetery. There was no age or personal family message on the gravestone.

Ham is a small town about 20 kilometres south west of St. Quentin … The British Cemetery is in the village of Muille-Villette. In January, February and March 1918, the 61st (South Midland) Casualty Clearing Station was posted at Ham, but on 23 March the Germans, in their advance towards Amiens, crossed the Somme at Ham, and the town remained in German hands until the French First Army re-entered it on 6 September 1918. Ham British Cemetery was begun in January-March 1918 as an extension of Muille-Villette German Cemetery,[9] made by the Casualty Clearing Station.

In 1919 the British graves in the earlier and German cemetery were reburied in the new British Cemetery, together with those ‘concentrated’ from two other German cemeteries, and communal cemeteries and churchyards.

His death was recorded in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, but seems to have been missed by the Rugby Advertiser.

‘The Roll of Honour, Warwickshire Casualties. Rugby Men in Casualty Lists. Three employees of B.T.H. to make the supreme sacrifice are: Corpl. T. J. Smith, R.F.A., Sapper E. Wagstaffe, R.E., and Pte. Alfred William Elson, Hampshire Regt., …’.[10]

Thomas J L Smith is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates as well as on the BTH Memorial to those who fell, as noted above. His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, the 1914 Star and the Military Medal for ‘bravery in battle on land’.

On the back of his medal card is written, ‘N M Smith applies for her late husband’s medals 7.11.20’, which also confirms his marriage with Nelly M Davis.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Thomas J L Smith 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 RFHG, January 2018.

 

[1]       Taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921.

[2]       Supplement, The London Gazette, 12 December 1917, p.13021.

[3]       Supplement, The Edinburgh Gazette, 13 December 1917, p.2569.

[4]       The brigade’s war diary for the period January 1916 to February 1916 can be found at The National Archives under WO95/3016. Its war diary from March 1917 to February 1918 can be find under WO95/456. Information from Dick Flory at http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/168241-a298th-north-midlands-brigade-rfa/.

[5]       Information from ‘quigs1969’ at http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=694165.0; and from Dick Flory at http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/192545-298-brigade-rfa/.

[6]       Information from ‘quigs1969’ at http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=694165.0; and from Dick Flory at http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/192545-298-brigade-rfa/.

[7]       However the 61st CCS Diary states that the CCS at Ham and their patients were evacuated by 23 March and the area was captured by the Germans.   One reference [http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk] suggests the CCS were also in Ham from March – April 1918, and then were at Vignacourt, although the War Diary suggests they had withdrawn.

[8]       WWI War Diaries, 1914-1920, Royal Army Medical Corps, 61st Division, from www.ancestry.co.uk, p.290-291.

[9]       See comment in text above as to the sequence.

[10]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Saturday, 20 April 1918.