Bland, Reginald George. Died 4th Jun 1918

Reginald George Bland’s birth was registered in Q4, 1899, in Rugby (6d, 592).  He was the son of William Bland, b.1864 in Knighton, and Ellen, née Cross, Bland, b.1871, in Southam, who were married in Stockton on 7 September 1893.

The family lived at 1 Pinders Lane, Rugby, where William senior was a Cab Driver.  For the 1901 census, still at the same address in Pinders Lane, Reginald was the youngest of four children: Rosetta J Bland, 5; William A Bland, 4; Charles H Bland, 2; and Reginald Bland, 1, and his father was a ‘cabman and groom’.  By 1911, with his father still a cab driver, there were now four more children.  Charles was 12 and still at school, and then or later attended the Elborow school,[1] as did his elder brother Charles H Bland.[2]

It seems that Reginald later worked at B.T.H., as he appears on their War Memorial.  At some date, probably in later 1917, Reginald George Bland enlisted in Rugby[3] as Private, No. 62584, and was at least latterly in the 16th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers.

The 16th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers (the 2nd Salford Pals Battalion) was raised on 5 (or 15) November 1914 in Salford, by Mr Montague Barlow MP and the Salford Brigade Committee.  They began training near home and on the 28 December 1914 they moved to Conway for training. They became part of the 96th Brigade, 32nd Division and moved in May 1915 to concentrate in Shropshire at Prees Heath.  The camp was found to be too wet for training and the Division moved on 21 June 1915 to Catterick in North Yorkshire, using the firing ranges at Strenshall.  In August 1915 they moved for final training and firing practice at Codford on Salisbury Plain.  The Battalion went to France, landing at Boulogne on 22 November 1915.  Their first taste of action was at Thiepval Ridge on the Somme on the 1 July 1916, the battle resulted in the Salford Pals being almost wiped out.  The battalion was reinforced and saw action throughout the war.

Reginald’s Medal Card gives no date when he either joined up or when he went to France – it was presumably after training in UK, and when he was 18 years old in later 1917 – unless he had given a false age!  He was probably part of one of the reinforcements and but was probably not involved in 1917 when the Battalion was involved in Operations on the Ancre and later in the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line in early 1917.  In 1918, by which date Reginald may have been in France, the Battalion was in action on the Somme and later in the Battles of the Hindenburg Line and the Final Advance in Picardy

The Battalion War Diary is located within the 96th Infantry Brigade Documents.[4]

In April 1918, the Battalion was located about 5 miles south of Arras.  After training in early May, on 11 May, ‘The Battalion relieved the 17th R.F.s. and proceeded into the line at BOIXLEUX AU MONT, one wounded.’  They were there until 20 May when they were relieved by the 2nd Manchesters and went into reserve at BLAIREVILLE, with one wounded.

Whilst in Reserve they had one killed and 17 wounded and they then went back into the trenches on 25 May, after relieving the 15th Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers, when three more men were killed and 19 wounded.  They were relieved in turn by the 2nd Manchesters on 31 May, by which date, another man had been killed and 11 more wounded.

At the start of June 1918, the Battalion were back at Blaireville in reserve, and suffered no casualties for three days.  However, on 4 June 1918, ‘The Battalion relieves the 15th LANS. FUS. ‘C’ & ‘D’ Coys. in Line.’.  Whilst taking over in the trenches that day they suffered ‘4 killed and 7 wounded’.

Reginald was one of those who were ‘Killed in Action’ on 4 June 1918, presumably when in, or taking over, the front line trenches at BOIXLEUX AU MONT.  He was only 19 years old.

He was originally buried in a small cemetery, the Blairville Orchard Cemetery [Map Ref: 51c.X.4.d.2.9.] in Plot 2, Row B, Grave 9., presumably just behind the lines and indeed where they had been when in reserve.

In 1923, this small cemetery was ‘cleared’ and the bodies were ‘concentrated’, i.e. exhumed and moved to a larger cemetery where the graves could be properly tended.  He was recovered and  reburied by ‘Local Labour under the supervision of Mr. R. Stiles, ARO’.  His identification was confirmed by the original Cross at the smaller cemetery and by his clothing.  He was reburied in Plot: VIII. M. 22., in the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez.  His family did not request any personal inscription on his gravestone.

The Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery is situated between two war cemeteries, one French and the other German, south of the town of Souchez in France.  Cabaret Rouge was a small café, its brick building with red tiles was distinctive in the village where most of the houses were thatched.  It stood less than a mile south of Souchez and was destroyed by heavy shelling in May 1915.

Commonwealth soldiers began burying their fallen comrades there 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 [including as noted above, that of Reginald George Bland in 1923] from more than 100 other cemeteries in the area.  For much of the twentieth century, Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery served as one of a small number of ‘open cemeteries’ at which the remains of fallen servicemen newly discovered in the region were buried.  The Canadian ‘unknown soldier’ was selected from those in this cemetery, and many Canadians from the Battles at Vimy Ridge were buried here.

Later in June, the Rugby Advertiser recorded,
‘Mr and Mrs Bland have received news from the War Office that their son private R G Bland of the Lancashire Fusiliers was killed in action on June 4th.  Also a letter from the Chaplain to say he had buried him in one of the Military cemeteries and the Battalion had erected a cross to his memory.  He was 18 years of age and an Elborow old boy.’[5]

Rugby Directories for 1919 list William Bland a labourer of 1 Pinders Lane.  In the 1922 directory Mrs Bland is listed at the same address, William having died about March 1920 aged 56.

Reginald George Bland was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and on the BTH War Memorial.[6]

Two of Reginald’s brothers also served

His eldest brother, William Arthur Bland was recorded as working at BTH, and then serving.  He enlisted under Lord Derby’s scheme, ‘Enlistments at Rugby under Lord Derby’s Scheme in December 1915.  ‘The following additional men have enlisted at Rugby under the Group System in connection with Lord Derby’s Recruiting Scheme.  Single Men.  Bland, Wm Arthur, 1 Pinders Lane, Rugby.’[7]  He survived the War and later married and was working as a Crane Driver in 1939.

His elder brother Charles H Bland served and was ‘Killed in Action’ on 1 July 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme,[8] – see here.  His death was later recorded in the Rugby Advertiser in September.[9]

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

Some information for this article on Reginald George Bland was initially provided for this Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by Peter Davies, and further details were added as they became ‘findable’ by searching on-line by John P H Frearson.  The article is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, May 2018.

[1]      Rugby Advertiser, 22 June 1918.

[2]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 23 September 1916, and see also .

[3]      Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919.

[4]      The National Archives, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Various Infantry Brigades, 32nd Division, Piece 2397: 96 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919) – also available on www.Ancestry.co.uk.

[5]      Rugby Advertiser, 22 June 1918.

[6]      The list of names on the BTH War Memorial is taken from the list in the Rugby Advertiser dated 4 November 1921.

[7]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/4th-dec1915-lord-derbys-scheme-part-2/.; also in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 December 1915.

[8]      Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/bland-charles-henry-died-1st-jul-1916/ .

[9]      Rugby Advertiser, 23 September 1916.

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