Haggar, William Muston. Died 21st Mar 1918

William Muston HAGGAR, was born in Rugby in about June 1890, the sixth child of James Haggar (b.c.1860 – 1928) a railway fireman born in Stafford and Hannah Maria, née Leeson, Haggar (b.c.1860 Rugby – 1949). James Haggar had presumably moved to Rugby at some date before their marriage was registered in Rugby towards the end of 1879, and the birth of their first child in Rugby in later 1880.   They were boarding in Rugby at 58 Union Street for the 1881 census.

For the 1891 census on 5 April 1891, William was 10 months old. The family were living at 10 Wood Street, Rugby.   William’s father was an Engine Fireman, and he had five elder siblings.

In 1901, William had, additionally, two younger siblings, a sister and a brother. His father had been promoted to be a ‘railway engine driver’, and three of his elder brothers were working as ‘railway engine cleaners’, and one as a ‘refreshment room attendant’. They had now moved to 17 Wood Street, Rugby.

By 1911 the family had moved again to 10 Alexandra Road, Rugby, and only William, now 20 and a baker, and his younger brother, Percy, 18 and a clerk, were still living at home.

He enlisted in Rugby as a Private No. 23224, in the Worcestershire Regiment and is variously listed in the 2nd/8th Battalion; the 2nd/6th Battalion where he was a Lance Corporal when he was awarded the Military Medal, although this Battalion does not seem to have existed; and the 3rd Battalion, presumably later, as he was listed there as a Corporal. He is assumed to have served again in the 2nd/8th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment as this is the Battalion where he is listed in the casualty records. In the absence of a detailed Service Record, it is not possible to be more exact.

William’s Medal Card and the Medal Roll for the 1914-1915 Star shows that he went to France on 12 July 1915, which suggests he was at that date in another Battalion than the 2nd/8th.

He was in action at some date before July 1917, when he was awarded the Military Medal (M.M.) which was awarded for ‘bravery in battle’ – ‘23224 Pte. (L./C.) W. M. Haggar, Worc. R.’.[1]

He is seen as a Corporal (left[2]); and a summary of his military service, is given in the Regimental History, which also lists him serving [latterly] in the 2nd/8th Battalion.

‘2/8th, Haggar, William Muston, 23224, Cpl., F[rance] & F[landers], 21/3/1918, M.M.’.[3]

The 2nd/8th Battalion Territorial Force of the Worcestershire Regiment was formed at Worcester in September 1914, and in January 1915 transferred to the 2nd/1st Gloucester & Worcester Brigade of the 2nd/1st South Midlands Division at Northampton. They moved to Chelmsford in March/April 1915 and in August 1915 the formation became part of the 183rd Brigade of the 61st Division and was on Salisbury Plain in February/March 1916. The Battalion mobilised for war and landed at Le Havre, France on 24/25 May 1916. The Division was engaged in various actions on the Western Front including in 1916: the Attack at Fromelles; and during 1917: the Operations on the Ancre, the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, the Battle of Langemarck, and the Cambrai Operations.

On 11 February 1918 the Battalion absorbed personnel from the 2nd/7th Battalion and transferred to the 182nd Brigade of the 61st Division and that Division was engaged in actions on the Western Front including, from 21 March 1918, the Battle of St Quentin, which was the start of the German assault, Operation Michael, when the Germans launched a major offensive 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 actions of Operation Michael have already been described in some detail . However, the 2nd/8th Worcesters were in the thick of the first day’s action:

‘The fourteen German divisions … had little difficulty in capturing the forward defences of the 30th and 61st Divisions. But … the line of redoubts put up a much more prolonged resistance …’.[4]

‘A mile north of Manchester Hill in the 182nd Brigade sector was the Ellis Redoubt. The brigade was responsible for an area which ran from the southern edge of Fayet to the old Roman road running out of St Quentin towards Selency. On 21 March the 2/8th Worcestershire Regiment was in the Forward Zone with its two forward companies manning a series of posts between Roses Wood in the south and the edge of Fayet to the north, each of which was linked by a shallow communication trench. Battalion headquarters was in the Ellis Redoubt which drew its name from the officer commanding 201/Field Company, and it was the sappers of 201/Field Company that constructed the redoubt and sited it on the banks either side of the Vallee du Chemin 1’Abbaye about half-a-mile east of Selency. … In addition to the fire power of B Company the redoubt also housed two trench mortars and two Vickers machine guns. Very little exists today as to what happened here but we are told the Worcesters held on until 5.30pm when their ammunition ran out and the fall of the Enghien Redoubt on their left flank had left the German infantry from IR 109 and GR 110 free to deal with them. The Official British History records that only one officer and six men made it back to brigade headquarters that evening.’[5]

The 2nd/8th Battalion Diary[6] provides a more detailed summary of the actions on 21 March 1918.

20 March 1918: – Enemy quiet. Our patrols active keeping gaps in enemy wire open. Evacuated part of our outpost line during 2/6th Warwick’s raid from 9-11pm.

21 March – 4.40am: – Enemy started intense bombardment of our line with 5.9s and trench mortars. Gas shells used in Selency Valley against Ellis Redoubt. Morning very thick mist mild & still.

2.30pm: – Report received at Brigade HQ from time to time of fighting in the whole forward zone, at 2.30pm the last messenger that got away from Ellis Redoubt reports garrison completely surrounded.

5pm: – One officer & 10 OR returned from line of resistance and report enemy in large numbers in all forward zones. Ellis Redoubt surrounded but still fighting. No one relieved from forward zone after this time. Major Davis now commanding Bn. Lt Col Bilton being in command of Brigade.

7.30pm: – Sent patrol to endeavor to get to Ellis Redoubt they failed to do so as the enemy were assembling in large numbers along the whole Savy-Hulnon Road. There was no sign of any fighting in the forward zone. Missing [20 officers listed]. Wounded [1 officer listed].   Missing 566 O.R.. 1 O.R. to C.C.S. sick. Wounded 18 O.R.

Transport moved from Germaine to Matigny arrived at midnight. Details left Germaine at 2pm and marched to Ligny-l’Equipée and formed with other details with an entrenching Battalion – Dug posts on the line Ugny – Douilly Road.

22 March: – Posts completed & manned. Ordered to withdraw to Offoy where posts were manned. Transport moved to Billancourt arrived at 11pm.

William Haggar, aged 28, would have been one of those 566 Other Ranks Missing from the Battalion, and whilst many were probably surrounded and captured, he was one of about 22 men from the Battalion, who were ‘Killed in Action’ on 21 March and whose bodies were never found. Because of the intensity of the battle, and as the Germans were moving forward, many of those killed were never found or formally identified.

William Muston Haggar is remembered on Panel 41 of the Pozieres Memorial. Pozieres is a village 6 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert. The Memorial encloses Pozieres British Cemetery.

The Pozieres Memorial relates to the period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields, and the months that followed before the Advance to Victory, which began on 8 August 1918. The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918.[7]

William was awarded the Military Medal for ‘bravery in battle’; the Victory and British medals and the 1914-1915 Star. He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate.

After William’s death, the allies continued to withdraw, until they were able to hold the advance which had badly weakened the Germans and overextended their supply lines. Then in August 1918 the allies fought back. During this period William’s Battalion would have been involved in the Actions at the Somme Crossings, the Battle of Estaires, the Battle of Hazebrouck, the Battle of Bethune, the Battle of the Selle, and the Battle of Valenciennes.   The 2nd/8th Battalion ended the war in France, south of Valenciennes on 11 November 1918.[8]

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on William Muston Haggar 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, December 2017.

[1]       The London Gazette, 27 July 1917, Supplement:30209, Page:7768; also The Edinburgh Gazette, 30 July 1917, Issue:13121, Page:1562.

[2]       From: http://www.inmemories.com/Cemeteries/pozieresmem.htm#up.

[3]       Stacke, Capt. H. FitzM., Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War, Vol. 2.

[4]       Murland, Jerry, Retreat and Rearguard Somme 1918 – the Fifth Army Retreat, Pen and Sword Books Ltd, 2014, ISBN: 978 1 78159 2670, p.59.

[5]       Murland, Jerry, Retreat and Rearguard Somme 1918 – the Fifth Army Retreat, Pen and Sword Books Ltd, 2014, ISBN: 978 1 78159 2670, p.66-67.

[6]       From War Diary: 2/8 Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, TNA Ref: WO 95/3057/2, 1918 Feb.-1919 Apr..

[7]       Information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web-site at https://www.cwgc.org/ .

[8]       https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/327/worcestershire-regiment/

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