Sedgley, Frank Wilfred. Died 25th Sep 1918

Frank Wilfred SEDGLEY was initially impossible to find – except in some military records.  However, a mistranscribed, Frank Sidgeley, was found with his grandparents, Charles, a ‘threshing machine proprietor’ and his wife, Harriet, in Shawell in 1891.  A better lead[1] was a family memorial in the Clifton Road Cemetery which allowed him, and his family, to be identified.

Frank Wilfred Sedgley was the eldest son of John Charles Sedgley b.c.1860 in Shawell, and his wife Clara, née Goodwin, Sedgley, b.c.1850 in Deenethorpe, Northamptonshire.  Their marriage in Shawell was registered in Q2 1881 in Lutterworth, and Frank’s birth in Shawell was registered in Q2, 1882, also in Lutterworth.

The family moved from Shawell to Rugby sometime between 1885 and 1887, and by 1891, they were living, at 11 Dale Street, Rugby.  John Charles Sedgley was a carpenter.  There were five other children at home: Maud Sedgley, aged 6, had been born in Shawell.  The younger children, Ada M Sedgley, 4; Annie Sedgley, 3; George Charles Sedgley, 2; and Florence C Sedgley, 1, were all born in Rugby.  As noted above, Frank was with his grandparents in Shawell on that census night.

In 1896, John Charles Sedgley was listed as a Carpenter in the Midland Times & Rugby Gazette.  He was still at 11 Dale Street.

By 1901, the family had moved to 7 Princes Street, Rugby.  Frank was now a ‘Carpenter’s Apprentice’, presumably working with his ‘Carpenter’ father.  All six children were still living at home.  Frank’s eldest sister was working as a ‘Corset Maker’.

John Charles Sedgley, Frank’s father, died aged only 46 years, on 18 September 1905.

Frank married, after banns, some four years later on 12 April 1909, at New Bilton Parish Church, with Ada Elizabeth Stevenson.  He was 27 and a ‘carpenter’; she was 20 and had been born in New Bilton.  Her father was a labourer.  They both gave their address as 200 Lawford Road, New Bilton.

Later that year, they had a son, George, who was born on 2 October 1909, and who was baptised as ‘Cyril Charles George Sedgley’ on 3 November 1909 at St Matthew’s church, Rugby.  They were then living at 44 Pennington Street, Rugby.

In 1911, Clara, Frank’s widowed mother was still living at 7 Princes Street, with her four youngest children, now aged 26 to 21.  Frank and his wife, Ada, had moved to live in New Street, New Bilton.  Frank was now working as a labourer for the council and their son was one year old.  They had a ‘bill poster’ as a border, and it seems they were also sharing their four room house with an ‘Artist’, Timothy Bourne Whitby and his wife.

According to the ‘UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919’, Frank signed up in Coventry and the ‘UK, WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920’ stated that he was initially a Private, No.267927, in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and was later posted as a Private, No.152327, in the Machine Gun Company (M.G.C.), (Infantry).  The CWGC records state that he was in the 25th Battalion of the M.G.C.

The Machine Gun Corps was created so as to form a single specialist Machine Gun Company per infantry brigade, by withdrawing the guns and gun teams from the battalions.  They would be replaced at battalion level by the light Lewis machine guns and thus the firepower of each brigade would be substantially increased.  The Machine Gun Corps was created by Royal Warrant on 14 October 1915 followed by an Army Order on 22 October 1915.  The companies formed in each brigade would transfer to the new Corps. … The pace of reorganisation depended largely on the rate of supply of the Lewis guns but it was completed before the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Machine Gun Battalions – as opposed to Companies – were formed in the Divisions in the early months of 1918, by bringing together the four MGC Companies into a single command structure.  The Battalions took the number of their Division.  In March 1918, the 7th, 74th, 75th, and 195th Machine Gun Companies joined the 25th Division to form the 25th MG Battalion as 25th Divisional troops.  In 1918, they were in action on the Somme; the Battle of the Lys; the Battle of the Aisne, the Battles of the Hindenburg Line and the Final Advance in Picardy.

Although 1918 had started fairly quietly, the 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 25th Division was unlucky during the 1918 German Spring Offensives, being attacked three times.  It was on the northern flank defences during Operation Michael in March 1918 and was moved north to refit.  There it lost more men in the Battle of the Lys attacks in April.  Moved south to another quiet area, it was attacked for a third time in the Third Battle of the Aisne.  After suffering severe casualties in June 1918, it underwent a major refit and reorganisation, with infantry from divisions then serving in Italy.  The reformed division moved back to France in September 1918.

Whilst the 25th Division underwent its refit, after the successive attacks of the ‘Spring Offensive’, from 23 July 1918 the 25th Battalion M.G.C. was transferred from the 25th Division to the 59th Division for three months, until it returned to the 25th Division on 19 October 1918 when the Division returned to France.

There was considerable movement in this period and no doubt casualties would have occurred from enemy shelling in back areas and from sniping as they approached the Front.  The Battalion Diary[2] provides details of locations and operations whilst they were with the 59th Division.  The 25th Battalion M.G.C. were in CREQUY from 1-17 July; they moved to BOIS DES DAMES from 18-23 July and then to MAGNICOURT on the 24 July and successively to SAULTY, and into the line in the BOYELLES-MERCATEL Section.  They remained in MERCATEL from 1-24 August and then via LIETTRES to the LESTREM Sector from 27 August to 6 September, when they moved to the LAVENTIE Sector from 7 September to the end of that month.

Frank Sedgely would thus still have been with the 59th Division when he was wounded,[3] and this would have been at some unknown date before his death on 25 September.

The Battalion Diary[4] also provides details of the daily events immediately prior to Frank’s death, when the Battalion was at LAVANIE.

‘23/9/18 – Intermittent shelling throughout the day.  A few bombs were dropped by enemy aeroplanes during the night on back areas.  ‘B’  Company carried out the usual harassing fire  …

‘24/9/18 – Hostile artillery were rather more active.  Several battery positions & roads were shelled during the day.  Harassing fire was carried out by ‘B’ Company on …. & roads and vicinity. …

‘25/9/18 – throughout the day enemy artillery was active …’

There are no casualty reports in this War Diary, and it seems that Frank was an isolated casualty – or indeed may have been wounded some days before his death – as there seem to be no other 25th Battalion casualties on 24 or 25 September 1918.  He was probably evacuated to a Field Ambulance, which had returned to an earlier location near the Pont-Du-Hem Military Cemetery, after the area was recovered in mid-September during the ‘100 Days Advance’ to Victory.  The CWGC site does not include any Concentration Report, so it is likely that Frank was buried in the cemetery soon after his death.

Frank Wilfred Sedgely was buried some 3km south-east from Lavantie, in grave reference: I. F. 8., in the Pont-Du-Hem Military Cemetery, La Gorgue, Nord, France.  No additional family message was added to his memorial stone.

Pont-du-Hem is a hamlet situated on the main road from La Bassee to Estaires.  It is about 10km north-east of Béthune and the same distance west of Loos.  Pont-du-Hem was in German hands from mid-April to mid-September 1918, during the ‘Operation Michael’ offensive.  The Cemetery was begun, in an apple-orchard, in July 1915, and used until April 1918, by fighting units and Field Ambulances; these original burials are in Plots I, II and III, and Rows A and B of Plot IV.  …  After the Armistice, … British graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields and from many smaller burial grounds, some of which are listed on the CWGC site.[5]

Frank was awarded the Victory and British medals – although it seems that his medals may not have found his family or may have been ‘returned’ as sometimes happened, perhaps his family did not want to be reminded of their loss.

Frank is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate; and on a family grave, No. H233, at the Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.  As noted above, his father, John Charles Sedgley, died young on 18 September 1905, aged only 46 years, and his mother, Clara, outlived her husband by some 34 years, dying on 23 September 1939 aged 89.  Frank’s sister, Annie Sedgley, is also remembered at Clifton Road – she predeceased Frank by some five months and died on 22 May 1918, aged 30 years.

Frank’s younger brother, George Charles Sedgley, also enlisted but survived the war.  His records, although possibly somewhat confused, still exist, but have not been analysed in detail at present.  He was a Private, No:26355 in the Royal Berkshire Regiment and seems later to have been in the Devon Regiment and the Labour Corps.  He joined up on 5 February 1916 and went to France on 14 June 1916.  He was injured on 2 December 1918.  He left France on 13 January 1919, and demobilised in UK on 11 February 1919.

Frank and Ada’s son, George (above), was baptised as Cyril Charles George Sedgley, but was also known as ‘George C C Sedgley’.  He married Violet Neal in 1930 in Rugby and they had a son Roger.  In 1939, George was living in Southam and working as a ‘Skilled Worksman Post Office Engineering Dept, Cable Joiner Electrician’.  From 2003-2005, named as Mr. Cyril C Sedgley, he was living at Flat 2, Dickinson Court, Barby Road, and he died as Cyril Charles G Sedgley, aged 96 in November 2005.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Frank Wilfred SEDGLEY 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, May 2017.

[1]      With many thanks to Christine Hancock who was able to provide the transcription.

[2]      TNA, UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Machine Gun Corps, 59th Division, Piece: 3017/10: 25 Battalion, Machine Gun Corps (1918 Jul – Sep). Also available as 59 Div. Troops, 25 Bn, Machine Gun Corps 1918 July-Sept at http://www.nmarchive.com/search-the-war-diaries/.

[3]      Information that he ‘Died of Wounds’ is given in UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919.

[4]      TNA, UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Machine Gun Corps, 59th Division, Piece: 3017/10: 25 Battalion, Machine Gun Corps (1918 Jul – Sep). Also available as 59 Div. Troops, 25 Bn, Machine Gun Corps 1918 July-Sept at http://www.nmarchive.com/search-the-war-diaries/.

[5]      https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/66000/pont-du-hem-military-cemetery,-la-gorgue/.

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