Gibbs, Bertie. Died 5th Nov 1918

Bertie GIBBS was born in Wandsworth, London, in 1895 and his birth was registered in Wandsworth in Q4, 1895.  He was baptised on 6 November 1895 at St Stephen’s church, Clapham Park, Lambeth.  He was the son of William Henry Gibbs, b.c.1870, in Lambeth, and Alice née Tuck, Gibbs, b.c.1871, in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.  Their marriage was registered in Q2, 1892 in Wandsworth.

In November 1893, when Bertie’s elder brother was baptised at St Stephen’s, Wandsworth, they were living at  5 Elizabeth Place, and his father was a ‘Retort Setter’.  1895 the family were still at 5 Elizabeth Place, Clapham, but in 1891, when Bertie was 5, the family was living at 5 Shuckfords Buildings, Great Yarmouth.  His father was still a ‘retort setter, gas works’.  Bertie had an elder brother, William Henry, 7, and sister, Rose May, 6; and a younger brother, Sydney George, 4.

In 1911, when Bertie was 15, the family was living at 45 Tyrolean Square, Great Yarmouth.  Bertie was working as a ‘factory hand’, and now he had another brother, Alfred, who was 7 years old.  His father was not at home on census night, and no further trace of him has been found.

At some date after 1911, Bertie moved to Rugby, and Rugby was recorded as his place of residence when he ‘signed up’.[1]  It seems that he worked before the war in the Rugby Steam Shed, as a ‘B. Gibbs’ is listed on their memorial.[2]

Bertie joined up in Coventry,[3] and his Medal Card showed that he served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (R.War.R) as a Private with, at least latterly, the Regimental Number: 42579.  The CWGC confirmed that he finished his service with that number in the 1st/8th Territorial Battalion (Bn.) R.War.R.  There was no date on his Medal Card for when he went to France, and he did not receive the 1914-18 Star, suggesting that he went to France after the end of 1915, possibly some time after he had joined up.

The 1st/8th Bn. R.War.R had mobilised for war and landed at Havre on 22 March 1915 and became part of the 143rd Brigade of the 48th Division and was engaged in many actions on the Western Front.  In later 1917 they were moved to Italy, and remained there in 1918, until they left the Division on 11 September 1918 and moved to back to France, to join the 75th Brigade of the 25th Division.

The 1st/8th Bn. R.War.R. War Diary[4] for their time with 25th Division gives an outline of their actions in the last month or so of Bertie’s life, when they were back in France, and during the Pursuit to and Battle of the Selle (17–25 October 1918), and its immediate aftermath, which were all part of the final ‘Hundred Days Offensive’ of World War I.

8 Oct – The success of the operations of this day brought the battalion into action at SONIA farm, where it held a gap between the 30th American Div. and our 7th Brigade. … moved up to the forming up positions between SERAIN and PREMONT.

9 Oct – Zero was at 5.20 … the battalion advanced and took its objectives beyond MARETZ …

10 Oct – Starting from a point N of HONNECHY …the battalion advanced after heavy fighting to the outskirts of LE CATEAU. … The Americans … had been held up … the positions taken were consolidated and held.

11 Oct – … the battalion marched out to HONNECHY … this was … the heaviest and most continuous fighting which the battalion had met and the battalion came out with fresh laurels added to its reputation. …

12 Oct – The battalion marched to SERAIN to rest.

13-15 Oct – Sunday … services … reorganisation and re-equipment … and training …

16 Oct – … in reserve …for attack … on R. SELLE … moved to HONNECHY.

17-18 Oct – HONNECHY – supporting Gloucesters and Worcesters …

19 Oct – … C&D Coys moved with Worcesters to attack BAZUEL which was taken and held. …

20 Oct – … battalion relieved and marched out to ST BEN[I]N . …

21 Oct – Here the unit rested and reorganised.

22 Oct – … the battalion … moved up to its forming up position along the railway …

23 Oct – POMMEREUIL – The attack commenced at 01.20 hours. … to be used to help mop up POMMEREUIL … owing to heavy fog the attacking units of the first wave became rather mixed up … but on Capt W Mortemons M.C. who was commanding the battalion … going out and taking command … and organising attacks on enemy M.G. nests which had been missed …the situation rapidly cleared and all objectives were gained.

It is known that Bertie was wounded, and it might have been some days before his date of death.  He might have been wounded in this same action at Pommereuil, when a fellow Rugby 1st/8th Bn. soldier, Frank John Garrett,[5] who had only joined the Battalion on 8 October, was ‘killed in action’ on 23 October.

He may, of course, have been wounded later, in early November, and the further actions described in the War Diary are summarised below.  The Battalion carried on training until the end of the month and then,

31 Oct – The Battalion relieved the 11th Sherwood Foresters …

1 Nov – LE FAUX – the Battalion was holding the left sector …

2 Nov – Dispositions remained unchanged, the day was quiet …

3 Nov – Owing to the rainy weather the forward Companies were relieved …

4 Nov – LANDRECIES – At 00.15 the Battalion attacked and after a very severe fight secured its objective which was the line of the River SAMBE at LANDRECIES …

5 Nov – MAROILLES – the Battalion received orders to continue the advance … moved along the LANDRECIES – MAROILLES road … and advanced without opposition … Companies were billeted in houses along the LANDRECIES – MAROILLES road, and rested there the day.

6 Nov – No change, O.O.21., ordering the Battalion to continue the advance received.

7 Nov – … orders to resume the advance … the advance continued from the eastern outskirts of MARBAIX, to the village of ST. HILAIRE SUR HELPE where the vanguard was engaged by strong M.G. nests.  The mainguard was not involved … and on relief, marched out to billets in MARBAIX.

The Casualties in this period of action were 1 officer and 27 OR killed, 2 officers and 106 OR wounded.

It seems more likely that Bertie was wounded in the ‘very severe fight’ against LANDRECIES on 4 November, or possibly during the advance toward MAROILLES on the day of his death, Tuesday, 5 November 1918.

He would have been carried back to a Regimental Aid Post, which was typically within a few hundred yards of the front line, and then on to an Advanced Dressing station [ADS].  As he was doubtless a more serious casualty, he would have been moved next to a Field Ambulance, a mobile front-line medical unit, before he was transferred on to a Casualty Clearing Station [CCS].[6]

The time this would have taken makes it more likely that he was wounded on 4 November, becoming one of the 106 O.R.s wounded in early November.  In Bertie’s case it is likely that he was transferred to one of the Casualty Clearing Stations at Bohain, some 15 miles to the south-west, through which area the Battalion had passed on their advance on 6 October.  Whether he survived that final journey to the CCS is unknown, but he died from his wounds on 5 November 1918.

The CCSs used the neighbouring Premont British Cemetery, some two miles to the north-west of Bohain.  Bertie Gibbs was buried there in grave ref: II. D. 22.

Premont is a village in Aisne, some 19.5 kilometres south-east of Cambrai.  Premont village was captured by the 30th American Division on 8 October 1918.  Premont British Cemetery was made and used by four Casualty Clearing Stations (the 20th, 50th, 55th and 61st), which came to Bohain in October 1918, and it was closed in the following December.

No family inscription was added to his memorial by his family, and there is no next of kin or family name in the CWGC record.  It may be that it was his mother, Alice Gibbs, who died in Yarmouth in Q2, 1915, aged 45 [Yarmouth  4b, 38].  His father, as mentioned, has not been found.  His siblings appear to have remained in Yarmouth, or returned to London, and may well have lost touch.

Bertie Gibb’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  He is also remembered on the Rugby War Memorial Gates in Whitehall Road, and on the Rugby Steam Shed Memorial.

The ‘100 Days’ Advance to Victory’ continued and only six days after Bertie’s death, the War came to an end.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Bertie GIBBS was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, August 2018.

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

[2]      Rugby Loco Steam Shed Memorial.  This is a bronze tablet bearing the names of the dead, mounted on white marble, superimposed on black slate.  On either side of the tablet is hung a framed illuminated roll of honour, containing the names of members of the department who served in the forces during the war.   (From a report of the unveiling – Rugby Advertiser, 11 March 1921.)

[3]      Also shown in: UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919

[4]      TNA, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 25th Division, Piece 2251/4: 8 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1918 Sep – 1919 Feb).

[5]      See ‘Rugby Remembers’ for Frank John GARRETT, died 23 October 1918.

[6]      Outline from http://www.qaranc.co.uk/Chain-Evacuation-Wounded-Soldiers-First-World-War.php which provides greater detail of the WWI chain of medical evacuation.

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