Blundy, Albert Neate. Died 28th Apr 1918

Albert Neate BLUNDY was born on 29 June 1893 in Burbage, Wiltshire. He was baptised on 6 August 1893 at Burbage, Wiltshire. He was the son of William Blundy (1856-1936) and Martha née Neate, Blundy (1858-1913) who married in Marlborough in 1882.

In 1891, Albert’s father, Edward, was a ‘general haulier’ and the family were living at 23 Stables, Burbage. They then had four children. By 1901, when Albert was eight, the family had moved to live at the White Hart Inn, Stoke at St Mary Bourne, Hampshire, where Albert’s father was the publican.

Before 1911, the family moved to Rugby. In 1911, Albert’s parents had been married 28 years, and had had eight children, of whom seven were still living. Albert was 17 and a ‘machinist’ at BTH; his eldest brother was a ‘fitter’ there, and a younger brother of 14, was already working there as a ‘clerk’. They were living in a six room house at 172 Oxford Street, Rugby.

Just before the war Albert was working in the BTH Generator Department, and in an item ‘Rugby’s Magnificent Response’, in the Rugby Advertiser on 5 September 1914,[1] ‘Blundy’ is listed as joining ‘From the Works’ at BTH.

Albert joined up as No. 10852 in the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Ox. & Bucks.). His record in the ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ states that he enlisted at Rugby, and his ‘Medal Roll’ indicates that he was initially in the 5th Battalion, and that he was later in the 2nd Battalion.

He went to France on 20 May 1915, and so became eligible for the 1914-1915 Star. This was the date that the 5th Battalion went to France, so Albert would have gone to France with his Battalion. In the absence of any Service Record for Albert, the date that he transferred to the 2nd Battalion is unknown, so the actions in which he was involved must be assumed. However, like all infantry soldiers, Albert would have experienced alternate service in and out of the front line, and occasions of desperate fighting.

5th (Service) Battalion, Oxford & Bucks. Light Infantry was formed at Oxford in August 1914 as part of the First New Army (K1) and then moved to Aldershot to join the 42nd Brigade of the 14th Division and then moved to Cranleigh, Guildford. In February 1915, it moved to Salamanca Barracks, Aldershot.   On 21 May 1915 it mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne and engaged in various actions on the Western Front.   In 1915 it fought in the Action at Hooge, and experienced the first flamethrower attack by the Germans, and then the Second Attack on Bellewaarde.

In August 1915 the Rugby Advertiser advised that Albert had been wounded.
The old scholars of St Matthew’s, Boys’ School have suffered badly in recent engagements. Corporal G S Rowbottom, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, who, as recorded on page 2 of this issue, succumbed to wounds last week, making the sixth old St Matthew’s boy to give his life in his country’s service. Lce-Corpl A Ashworth, Pte A Blundy, and Pte R J Skinner, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, and Sapper E R Ladbrooke, of the Royal Engineers, have been wounded.[2]

In 1916, the 5th Battalion – and indeed also the 2nd Battalion – fought in the Battle of Delville Wood, and the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. At some date Albert was transferred to the 2nd Battalion and possibly this was when he was promoted to Lance Corporal.  However both the 5th and the 2nd Battalions were involved in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, and the Battles of the Scarpe in 1917.

The 2nd Oxford & Bucks L.I. had returned home from India in 1903. When World War I started the Battalion was stationed at Albuhera barracks, Aldershot, and was part of the 5th Brigade of the 2nd Division. As a regular Battalion it mobilised for war early, on 14 August 1914, and landed at Boulogne and was engaged in many actions on the Western Front.

If Albert had been transferred to the 2nd Bn. in say 1917, a summary of the campaigns in which he may have been involved is described below.

‘The New Year of 1917 brought with it a period of severe weather conditions on the Somme plain which led to an unofficial truce between the two sides. In March 1917, the Germans began the withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line (14 March – 5 April) and at the end of March the 2nd Ox and Bucks moved from the Somme to the back areas of Arras. The 2nd Ox and Bucks and other battalions of the regiment saw much involvement in the Arras Offensive … The 2nd Ox and Bucks took part in the battle of Arras from 11 April and had a leading role in the battle of Arleux on 28-29 April: during the battle the battalion protected the right flank of the Canadian 1st Division which was critical to the capture of the village of Arleux and sustained more than 200 casualties.’[3]

1918 started fairly quietly.

In January 1918, the 2nd Ox and Bucks marched to Beaulencourt, later that month they moved to Havrincourt Wood and then on 9 February to Metz-en-Couture. The 2nd Ox and Bucks were at Vallulart Camp, Ytres, when on 21 March 1918 the Germans launched the last-gasp Spring Offensive (Operation Michael).[4]

This anticipated attack by the Germans, Operation Michael, was launched on 21 March 1918, 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.

The 2nd Ox and Bucks were due to go into the corps reserve when the enemy began the Spring offensive with a colossal bombardment of Allied positions. The Spring offensive led to the furthest advance by either side since 1914. On 22 March 1918 the 2nd Ox and Bucks were in position around the village of Bertincourt. The 2nd Ox and Bucks and other battalions of the regiment sustained heavy casualties as part of the defence of the Somme during the Battle of St. Quentin (21–23 March), the First Battle of Bapaume (24–25 March) and in subsequent battles that saw the Germans achieve significant gains. The 2nd Ox and Bucks were forced back across the old Somme battlefield to the 1916 line on the Ancre. The battalion remained in the Ancre area from 29 March 1918 to 3 April 1918. After the enemy Spring offensive … lost its momentum, the Germans launched Operation Georgette in April which the Ox and Bucks defended against in the Battle of the Lys and subsequent actions.[5]

There was a general fighting withdrawal following the German attacks. The Diary of the 5th Brigade ‘… is necessarily incomplete owing to the documents required for it being lost or destroyed during the retirement between 21st and 28th.’[6]

The Chronicles of the 2nd Ox & Bucks noted some of the events in the following period.[7]

16 April – the Regiment relieved the 2nd H.L.I, in the right sub-section of the Brigade front; H.Q. at Boiry St. Martin.   Two men wounded.

17 April – A Company was on the right front; D on the left front (railway inclusive); C in support; B in reserve. Casualties :- 1 man killed, 1 died of wounds, 2 men wounded, and 2 missing.

19 April – Inter-company reliefs carried out.

20 April – 1 man wounded.

22 April – After a quiet 6 days’ tour the Regiment was relieved …

25 April – the Regiment relieved the 2nd H.L.I. in the left sub-section of the Brigade front, without incident; H.Q. at Boisleux-au-Mont; … A continuous front line, and fairly good trenches.

28 April – Inter-company reliefs carried out.

As can be seen, in the period prior to 28 April, the Battalion section was relatively quiet, and there are no more obvious actions when Albert may have been wounded. It is not entirely clear whether Albert was killed or wounded. His Medal Card notes that he ‘Died’ rather than ‘KinA’ or ‘DofW’. This implies that

‘… some time had passed between … being wounded and dying – the next-of-kin were informed that he had ‘died’, rather than ‘died of wounds’.   Exactly how much time had to pass before this distinction was made is not clear.’[8]

It is thus possible that Albert was wounded at an earlier date, and had reached a medical aid post before he died on 28 April 1918. The battalion was in action near Boisleux-au-Mont which is some eight kilometres south of Arras. It seems likely that he was wounded and that he was evacuated to an Advanced Dressing Station, possibly the one at Blairville.

On the 27th March a corps main dressing station was formed at Bac du Sud on the site of No. 43 C.C.S., with advanced dressing stations at Wailly, Blairville, and Monchy-au-Bois.[9]

Blairville is some six kilometres to the west, and this is probably where Albert died and was first buried, in Plot 1, Row B, in the nearby Blairville Orchard British Cemetery.

This small cemetery was not preserved and in 1923, the soldiers buried there were ‘concentrated’ [exhumed, identified, moved and reburied] some 25 km north at the Cabaret-Rouge Cemetery. His body was identified by a ‘cross, numerals, Lance Corporal’s stripes’. Effects, forwarded to base were ‘9 coins and Disc’. The ‘removals were undertaken by local labour …’.

He is now buried in Plot: VIII. R. 38. in the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, which is just south of the town of Souchez, some four kilometres south west of Lens.

‘Caberet Rouge’ was a small, red-bricked, red-tiled café that stood close to this site in the early days of the First World War. The café was destroyed by shellfire in March 1915, but it gave its unusual name to this sector and to a communication trench that led troops up the front-line. Commonwealth soldiers began burying their fallen comrades here in March 1916. The cemetery was used mostly by the 47th (London) Division and the Canadian Corps until August 1917 and by different fighting units until September 1918. It was greatly enlarged in the years after the war when as many as 7,000 graves were concentrated here from more than 100 other cemeteries in the area.

Albert was awarded the Victory and British medals, and also the 1914-1915 Star. It seems that nobody had applied for his medals as the ‘O i/c records, Warwick, requests auth. re disposal of medals of dec’d men of Ox & B L I – 13.9.20.’.

Ernest is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and also on the list of BTH Employees Who Served in the War 1914 – 1918,[10] and on the BTH War Memorial.[11]

Albert died one year to the day, after a fellow Rugby member of his Battalion died – Ernest Edward Welch is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate.[12]

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Albert Blundy 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, February 2017.

[1]       Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5th-sep-1914-rugbys-magnificent-response/, and Rugby Advertiser, 5 September 1914

[2]       Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/21st-aug-1915-gas-boiling-oil-tar/, and Rugby Advertiser, 21 August 1915.

[3]       https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfordshire_and_Buckinghamshire_Light_Infantry

[4]         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfordshire_and_Buckinghamshire_Light_Infantry.

[5]         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfordshire_and_Buckinghamshire_Light_Infantry.

[6]   WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920,Various Infantry Brigades, 2nd Division.

[7]     Based on Extracts from the Regimental Chronicles of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, see: http://www.lightbobs.com/1918-april—august.html.

[8]         http://www.epitaphsofthegreatwar.com/killed-in-action/.

[9]         https://archive.org/stream/medicalservicesg03macp/medicalservicesg03macp_djvu.txt.

[10]         https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-employees-who-served-war-1914-1918-d.

[11]     This is a list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled. It is taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921. See: https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-war-memorial.

[12]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/welch-ernest-edward-died-28th-apr-1917/.

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