Duncan Reginald COLEMAN was born in Wardington, Oxfordshire on 27 August 1894, and baptised there on 2 December 1894. He was the second son of George Henry Coleman [a plasterer, b.c.1856 in Warmington, Warwickshire] and Emily, née Treadwell, Coleman [b.c.1864 in Wardington, Oxfordshire].
In 1901 the family were living at the ‘Red Lion Beer House’, in Wardington, probably following in part the family trade – as George Henry’s father had been an innkeeper in Milcomb. George Henry was however still working as a ‘plasterer’.
At some date before 1911, the family moved to Rugby and in 1911 were living at 102 Lawford Road, which seems to have been later defined as 102 Dunsmore Terrace, Lawford Road, Rugby. George Henry was now 55 and his wife Emily was 45. They had had nine children, but one had died and it seems that one had already left home. However, seven children were still living at home: Muriel Blanche Coleman was 24; Mary Olive Coleman, 21; Albert Victor Coleman, 18; Duncan Reginald Coleman, was now 16 and already working as a moulder in an Iron Foundry; Ida Cerise Coleman was 12; Stanley Winston Coleman, 11; and Lena Emily Coleman, was 8.
A somewhat complicated set of Service Records survives for Reginald, as it seems he had a number of postings and was also wounded. Together with various other surviving documents it is possible to provide an outline of his military career.
In summary he was: Days
Home 17 – 4 – 16 to 15 – 7 – 16 90
BEF France 16 – 7 – 16 to 10 – 5 – 17 299
Home 11 – 5 – 17 to 22 – 12 – 17 226
BEF France 23 – 12 – 17 to 11 – 11 – 18 324
Total 2 years 209 days
He was living at 102 Lawford Road, Rugby, when he first signed up at Warwick for General Service, posted to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and then posted on 18 April 1916 as a Private, No.18102 in the 11th Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR). He was 21 years and 7 months (or 210 days!) old, 5ft 6¼ inches tall, single and working as a ‘moulder’.
He was transferred as a Private to the ‘Expeditionary Force France’ on 16 July 1916 and embarked for France on 19 July 1916. On 24 July 1916 he was posted to 11th Bn. RWR, ‘In the Field’.
He was wounded in action with a ‘GSW chest sev’ [Gun Shot Wound to the Chest Severe] on 23 April 1917, and on 3 May 1917 he was ‘adm 4 Gen H’ [Admitted to 4th General Hospital] at ‘Dannes Camier’. He was then transferred to England on the ‘HS [Hospital Ship] Cambria’ two days later on 11 May 1917, being transferred to the Home Depot that day.
He was admitted to the Eastern General Hospital, Edmonton for 21 days from 11 May to 1 June 1917 and this was extended for a further 10 days from 1 June to 11 June 1917 for the same ‘GSW Chest’ at the Edmonton Military Hospital – probably the same hospital, but with different stamps!! After these periods, he was pronounced ‘Cured – No FB prelit? or disability – furlough thence CD’ [probably ‘Command Depot’].
On 22 October 1917, he was posted to the Essex Regiment, and on 28 October 1917, he was re-posted as a Private, No.45263 to the 17th Battalion, Essex Regiment at Dover. On 22 December 1917 he went overseas again from Weybourne, by way of Folkestone on 23 December, arriving in Boulogne to join the BEF on the 24 December 1917. On the same day he was transferred ‘in the field’ to the Royal Engineers, as a Pioneer, No.358639 and on 27 February 1918 to the Royal Engineers, No.4 Foreway Company, ‘at RE Rates’ from 28 February 1918.
Later that year, on 19 September 1918, he was ‘temporarily and compulsorily’ transferred to the Railways sub-unit in the Transportation Branch RE and from 20 September became a Pioneer with the 234th Light Railway Field Company and allotted a new regimental number: WR/358639. The letters ‘WR’ stood for ‘Waterway and Railways’. The 234th (Forward) Company was formed in France and operated there.
The formation of the RE Light Railway Companies in early 1917 was an innovation that was one of the factors that transformed the operational abilities of the army. Goods and men could now make the last leg of the journey to the front by light rail. Until that time, ammunition supply in particular had been subject to delays and required vast numbers of men and horses, and the light railways helped overcome both problems. Traffic and wear on the roads and tracks leading up to the front was eased, and fewer men were required to repair them. … The Company consisted of approximately 200 men, … Drivers, Brakesmen, Guards, Wagon Repairers, Repair Shop Engineers, Traffic Controllers and Storesmen. There were few officers among this number … The job … was to run the trains, with the tracks being laid by RE Railway Construction Companies – often with the assistance of whatever Labour Corps Company or ‘resting’ infantry were at hand.
At some stage, presumably in early November, he became unwell and was transferred to No. 29 Casualty Clearing Station, which was then stationed at Delsaux Farm. It was from there that his death was reported, ‘Died – Influenza – 11.11.1918’. He died of Pneumonia on ‘Armistice Day’, 11 November 1918, aged 25, at ‘29 CCS’. A confirmatory report in his Service Record, from the Captain RAMC, Medical Specialist, 29 CC Station, read,
358639 Pnr Colemen DR, 234 Light Forward Railway Co. RE
The a/m man died from Influenza followed by Broncho-Pneumonia & heart failure.
The disease was brought about by exposure whilst on military service in France.
Later, the German graves were removed, and in 1920, the British burials were exhumed and reburied at the Delsaux Farm Cemetery, adjacent to the Casualty Clearing Station. Duncan was reburied in grave reference: III. A. 17. His gravestone bears the family message ‘Greater Love Hath No Man’.
A draft and copy of a letter sent to Duncan’s father is with his Service Record.
Royal Engineers, Record Office, Chatham – 16 June 1920
I beg to inform you that in accordance with the agreement with the French and Belgian Governments to remove all scattered graves, small cemeteries containing less than 40 graves and certain other cemeteries which were situated in places unsuitable for permanent retention, it has been found necessary to exhume bodies buried in certain areas and re-inter them, therefore the body of your late son, No. WR/284262, Pioneer, D. R. Colemen, R. E., has been removed and re-buried in DELSAUX FARM BRITIH CEMETERY, 3 ¾ miles E. of BAPAUME.
The necessity for removal is much regretted but was unavoidable for reasons stated above.
The removal has been undertaken with every measure of care and reverence and special arrangements have been made for the appropriate religious services to be held.
I am, Yours faithfully, for Colonel i/c R. E. Records.
The cemetery is near the village of Beugny, in Pas de Calais, France, some 19 kilometres south-west of Cambrai.
Delsaux Farm was a point on the German defensive system known as the Beugny-Ytres line, which was reached by Commonwealth troops on 18 March 1917, and passed on the following day. The farm was lost on 23 March 1918 after the gallant defence of Beugny by the 9th Welsh Regiment and their withdrawal, but it was retaken by the 5th Division on 2 September 1918, and on the next day the same division occupied Beugny village. After their advance in March 1918, the Germans made a cemetery (Beugny Military Cemetery No.18) at the cross-roads, and in it buried 103 Commonwealth and 82 German dead. The site was extended in October-November 1918 by the 29th and 46th Casualty Clearing Stations, which came to Delsaux Farm and made the present cemetery. A little later, the German graves of March 1918 were removed and the 103 Commonwealth dead reburied in Plot I, Row J, Plot II, Row A, and Plot III, Rows B, C and D. The rest of the cemetery was made when graves were later brought in from the battlefield. … The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Duncan Reginald COLEMAN was awarded the British War and Victory Medals. He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and on his CWGC gravestone at Delsaux Farm Cemetery, Beugby.
Duncan’s outstanding pay of £24-3-8d was paid to his ‘Fa[ther] & Sole Leg[atee] George H’ on 12 April 1919, and note stated that this was ‘Including War Grant £14-10-0’. On 17 April 1919 his property was returned to the family: ‘Letters; Shaving brush; Badge; Photos; Wallet’.
His elder brother Albert Victor Coleman, signed up on 12 December 1915, and also served initially in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as No.3098, and later in the Royal Berkshire Regiment as No.44920. He survived the war.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on Duncan Reginald COLEMAN 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 RFHG, October 2018.
 UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919.
 The No 4 General Hospital was at St Nazaire in September 1914; at Versailles from September 1914 to January 1916; at Camiers, when Duncan Coleman was admitted, from January 1916 to April 1919; and at Dunkerque from April 1919 to November 1919.