28th Dec 1918. Christmastide at Rugby

CHRISTMASTIDE AT RUGBY.

It to many years probably since the message of Christmas, “ Peace on earth,” struck such a real note in men’s hearts as during the Christmas of 1918, which has just passed. For the past four years the Continent of Europe has been deluged in the blood of the flower of the human race, and the annually recurring message of Christmas seemed to many a bitter mockery. Now, however, the armistice has been signed, and once again peace reigns on earth ; and this fact could not fail to react on the celebrations just concluded. Everybody seemed to be in a real festive mood, and the old-time greeting, “ A Merry Christmas,” was given and received with its old-time heartiness. The shops in the town were well stocked with provisions, toys and gifts of all kinds, and for several days prior to the festival the streets swarmed with eager shoppers, the crowds being augmented by an unusually large number of soldiers, many of whom were spending their first Christmas in the family circle since the outbreak at war.

There was an abundant supply of poultry and game on sale ; in fact, the supply was rather greater than the demand, a number of fine turkeys being sold late on Christmas Eve for 1s per lb ; while several fowls failed to secure buyers at 1s 3d per lb.

The principal feature of the festivities at the Rugby Institution was the sumptuous Christmas dinner which consisted of roast beef, pork, mutton, plum puddings with sauce, beer and mineral waters. The dinner was attended, as usual, by members of the Board and other friends, vis, Mr & Mrs W E Robotham and family, Mr C H Rowbottom, Mr C G Steel, Mr & Mrs A G Salter and family, Mr F M Burton, Mr J H Burton, Miss Fenwick, Mrs Stimpson, Messrs J W Pendred, A J Holt, and C W Clayson. Several friends sent gifts, and apples, oranges, sweets, biscuits, tobacco and cigars were distributed amongst the inmates during the afternoon. The Chairman (Rev Canon Mitchison) sent cake for tea and this was much appreciated by the old people. Everything possible for the entertainment of the inmates was done by Mrs Dickens (the matron) and her staff, and a very enjoyable day concluded with an impromptu programme, sustained by the inmates and friends. Selections were played by the Salvation Army Band during the morning.

At the Hospital of St Cross everything possible was done to ensure the happiness of the patients. Early in the morning the nursing staff made a round of the wards (which had been prettily decorated), singing carols. An excellent dinner was provided, the principal viands being turkeys (one of which was sent by the Portland Cement Company) and plum puddings. Dr Simey carved for the men and the children, and Dr Hoskyn for the women. The service in the chapel in the afternoon was conducted by the Rev W F Stokes. In the afternoon the patients were allowed to receive their friends, and in the evening an enjoyable entertainment was given by the nurses.

Special services were held at all the Churches, and these, which were of a bright and hearty character, were invariably well attended. At the Parish Church the services partook of the usual Christmas character. The Rector preached an appropriate sermon in the morning, and at evensong the Te Deum was chanted to a setting by Stanford in B flat. The carols sung were : “ On the Birthday of our Lord,” “See amid the winter snow,” and “ Bethlehem.”

SEASONABLE WEATHER.

The unsettled and showery weather which prevailed last week gave way to more promising conditions, and on Christmas morn a light fall of snow gave a seasonable touch to the countryside, and the air was keen and exhilarating. Boxing Day was bright and frosty.

HARBOROUGH MAGNA HOSPITAL.

On Christmas Day the patients of the Isolation Hospital, Harborough Magna, had a most enjoyable time. The Matron and nurses did everything possible to make it a joyful festival. The wards were very prettily decorated, one of the chief features being the Christmas tree, from which the Matron gave each patient a gift. The early morning was spent singing carols, after which Father Christmas visited each patient. The rest of the day was devoted to playing games, &c.

MONKS KIRBY.

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS have been sent to all soldiers and sailors serving with H.M Forces from this parish, including Street Ashton.

PTE H A WHITE, Worcester Regiment, who has been a prisoner of war since May last, returned home last week, and was heartily welcomed by his numerous friends. He does not give a very good account of Huns treatment of our prisoners. After his capture he was compelled to work behind the firing line, and lastly in a mine, with very little food. Although parcels were sent to him regularly, he never received one.

CO-OP. CHILDREN’S TREAT.—The annual treat to the children of members of the Co-operative Society serving with the Armed Forces was given by the Education Committee of the Society on Saturday last. Nearly 700 children accepted the invitation, and a most enjoyable time was spent. A capital tea was provided, and this was followed by a programme of vocal and instrumental music and a ventriloquial entertainment. A large Christmas tree, prettily illuminated with a multitude of coloured electric lights, was heavily laden with useful presents and toys, and this was stripped by the members of the committee amid a regular babel of joyful sounds. Mr A E Holdom carried out the secretarial arrangements, and assistance was lent by the members of the General Committee and the Co-operative Women’s Guild.

PETTY SESSIONS.—There was only one case at Rugby Petty Sessions on Tuesday (before Dr Clement Dukes), vis, a charge of being an absentee from his unit, which was preferred against Sapper Frank Cooper, R.E, 16 South Street, Rugby. Defendant admitted the offence, but asked to be allowed to re-join his unit voluntarily, and this course was permitted.

TROOPS ON LEAVE.

During the week ended December 21st an enormous number of troops on leave have passed through the L & N-W Railway Station. So great at times have been the crowds that even the spacious platforms at Rugby have been rendered almost impassable. Many special trains have been run from London to the North, and when there has been a sufficient number of passengers to warrant it a special has been run to Birmingham and district so as to avoid a long wait for a regular train.

An extraordinary amount of work has also been thrown on the telegraph offices at the termini and large junctions on the railways, the number of telegrams handed in at Euston alone amounting to between 2,000 and 3,000 on one day. The number passed in at Rugby was also greatly in excess of the normal quantity, and required the constant attendance of one clerk at Rugby Post Office to deal with them.

Another branch of railway work which has shown an enormous development during the War is the supply of cups of tea to the trains from barrows. In the early days of the War small tea barrows were provided, but as the business rapidly increased two of these were joined together by means of planks so as to form counters, and the number of cups of tea supplied from them must number many thousands.

PIVOTAL MEN in the building trade can now be released from the Army, and such employees should make application to the local Labour Exchange.

FOUR YEARS A PRISONER IN GERMANY.
THRILLING EXPERIENCES OF A RUGBY MAN.
HUN BULLIES.

Among the first English soldiers to be taken prisoner was Pte S Beard, son of Mr Beard. 46 Murray Road, Rugby, who returned to his home last week, after having been a prisoner for over four years. Pte Beard joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1911, and after spending some time in Malta he was drafted to the “International Army,” which was formed to support the first King of Albania on the throne, and was so serving when the War broke out. He was drafted back to Malta, and thence to England. Three weeks after his arrival in England he was sent out with the famous 7th Division, which landed at Zeebrugge 30,000 strong. On October 22nd when near Ypres volunteers were called for to man trenches, while the main part of the Army consolidated its position. It was stated that it would be a forlorn hope, but Pte Beard was one of 250 volunteers who entered a trench, which they were told to hold at all costs. The fighting was most desperate, the English force being hopelessly outnumbered in both men and guns. Finally, after hours of desperate fighting, when 17 men were left alive out of the 250, they were forced to surrender, and the whole of the rest of the Division were either killed or taken prisoners. But they had succeeded in holding the line until reinforcements arrived.

The Germans stripped all their clothes off them, with the exception of their boots, trousers and shirts, and they were then put into closed cattle wagons, from which they could only obtain a view of the country through the ventilators. Sixty men were packed in each truck, which had not been cleaned since the animals last occupied them, and they were despatched to Gottengen. During the journey, which lasted three days and three nights, neither food nor drink was given to them. When the train stopped at stations the doors were opened so as to exhibit the prisoners to the German people, who spat on them and reviled them. On their arrival at Gottengen they were given some coffee without sugar or milk, but no food. They were also provided with rugs to cover them at night, but as they had nothing but their shirt and trousers, they were glad to use them as cloaks during the daytime until their friends in England could send them a supply of clothing. There were no facilities for bathing in the camps, but they were given a hand bowl and towels. No soap was supplied, there being an absolute dearth of fats in the country. For months they had no change of underclothing, with the result that they became dirty and verminous. They were not allowed to shave, and were also forbidden to smoke.

Pte Beard complains bitterly of the bullying ways of the German. “Son of a pig” was the usual salutation, and he has been beaten in a disgraceful manner with rifles, &c, when he refused to work for them. The camps were very closely guarded, a live wire running round them, but the prisoners used to be sent out in small working parties, and were compelled to labour long hours for very little money. Pte Beard tried to escape on seven different occasions, and managed to reach the Dutch frontier three times. But he never had the luck to get past the triple line sentries by which it was guarded.

Whilst he was at work in one of the factories he became on friendly terms with a young German woman, and he bribed her with gifts of soap and food out of his parcels from England to obtain civilian clothes, maps, compass, &c. He had passed an examination in steering his way by means of maps and a compass, and so he found no difficulty in making his way to the frontier. He lived on what he could carry with him and anything he could pick up in the fields, &c. During one of these journeys he had a very narrow escape of losing his life. Accompanied by an Irish soldier, he came across a large building, in part of which they found some trusses of hay, on which they slept. They were wakened by feeling the hay being mowed, and Pte Beard had the narrowest escape from having a pitchfork driven into his stomach. They jumped up, and found themselves confronted by a lot of lunatics. They had unwittingly found their way into a lunatic asylum! Pte Beard told his companion to bolt, which he did, and the lunatics then performed a dance around him, shouting out in German : “English war prisoners.” Taking advantage of their turning their heads to speak to some attendants who arrived on the scene, he made a dash for safety, and rejoined his comrade outside. Each time that he escaped he was given 14 days’ “strong arrest.” He was put in a small cell about 5ft. square, which was totally devoid of light, and for three days he was fed on bread and water. On the fourth day the cover was taken off the skylight, and light was admitted to the cell for 12 hours. On that day he received two helpings of very poor soup. He also had a rug to cover him at night. This was done every fourth day. The rest of the time he spent in total darkness, and slept on a wooden bed without covering. During the whole period he was never allowed to leave the cell.

Pte Beard consistently refused to work for them for any length of time owing to the long hours and brutal treatment, and was, therefore, continually in trouble with the authorities. The longest period he ever passed at work was on a farm, where he remained four months. The farms are built on the French model, the house and barns being joined together, with the usual muck-heap outside the house. During the time he was there he had his meals with the family, but the fare was very meagre. For breakfast they had coffee without sugar or milk, and an egg or something in that line. For dinner they had bacon or some kind of sausage, the latter being supplied in on extraordinary number of varieties—in fact, he says he could fill a book about the number he has seen. They had potatoes also, but he never saw anything in the shape of a pudding, nor did he see a piece of butcher’s meat during the whole time he was in Germany. For tea they had a sort of “mash up” of what was left from dinner, and they did not have supper. Unsweetened coffee was supplied at every meal, but the only tea he had to drink was that sent to him from England.

Whenever England was spoken of the Germans always said that she was beaten, but he and his companion had every confidence that Mr Lloyd George would pull them through. Although he was comparatively comfortable on the farm, Pte Beard got tired of the farmer’s incessant grumbling, for he said, no matter how much work they did, the Germans were never satisfied, although they worked 12 hours a day for the magnificent wage of 3d per day.

On another occasion he was sent to work in a foundry, and here he also worked 12 hours a day for 2d a day and very poor fare. There were some German women in the factory, for the German Government forced every woman to work, and he met with girls who had never previously done a day’s work in their lives. The foremen in the factory bullied the girls as badly as they did the prisoners; indeed, so far as his experience went, the Germans looked on women as their chattels and slaves, and treated them accordingly. Pte Beard spent three periods in hospitals, but they were totally devoid of all medical comforts, and the wadding and bandages were made of paper. Still, to give the devil his due, the Germans acted on two or three occasions in a totally different manner to what would have been expected. While in the Army Pte Beard had become an expert boxer, and one day he became so enraged at the abuse he was receiving from one of the German guards that he struck him a violent blow in the mouth, knocking two teeth down his throat. One would naturally assume that Pte Beard would have been immediately shot, but instead he was sentenced to two years’ and two months’ imprisonment, He appealed against this, and the sentence was reduced to one year and one month, and on a further appeal he was acquitted altogether. The prosecutor then appealed against this, but the acquittal was upheld, the court holding that he had received sufficient provocation, but he was considered to have been guilty of contempt of court owing to some remarks he had made, and was sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment.

He calculates that out of his four years’ captivity he has spent 17 months in prison for refusing to work, &c. After he had been in Germany some time he acquired a knowledge of many words, and, thinking he would like to learn the language he applied, through the commandant of the camp, to Berlin for test books, which, strange to say, were supplied, and he became so proficient in the language that he was able to translate the German newspapers for the benefit of his companions. But since things had been going so badly with the Germans, he had not been able to procure any papers. Ha also learned French from a French prisoner, to whom he taught English in return. By bribing the guards, they also managed to get hold of the English “Times” fairly regularly, so that they knew exactly how things were going. He considered the railways far inferior to the English, there being four classes, the last two being totally devoid of cushions. The country is also wonderfully like England, and when he walked through towns like Munster or Minden he could have imagined he was in Birmingham or Leicester had it not been for the language.

Pte Beard earnestly desires to thank the Rugby Prisoners of War Committee for their regular supply of parcels, without which he would certainly have starved. So excellent were the arrangements made that he never missed a single one, and even when he was in prison they were kept for him until he came out. He also wishes to thank many kind friends for things they have sent him. He regularly received a supply of beautiful bread, which was sent from Copenhagen through the International Red Cross Society. When the armistice was signed the prisoners were packed into trains and sent into Holland, where they received every attention, and Pte Beard now appears in the best of health and none the worse for his trying experiences. On his return journey through Germany they were much better treated by the people, who all seemed very pleased to think the War was over, and not at all cast down at their humiliating defeat. Naturally Pte Beard’s feelings towards the Germans are the reverse of friendly, and he complains bitterly of the luxurious way in which the German prisoners are treated in this country.

ANOTHER SAD STORY.

Corpl F T Evans, Rifle Brigade, son of Mr W Evens, James Street, who was captured by the Germans near Cambrai on November 30,1917, has returned home this week, after undergoing most harrowing experiences at the hands of the Germans. He was badly wounded in the left thigh by an explosive bullet during the Battle of Cambrai. and owing to the retirement of the British he had to crawl as best he could to the German dressing station. He arrived there at five o’clock in the afternoon, and his wound was not attended to until seven hours afterwards. In the meantime he suffered considerably at the hands of his captors. Several of the soldiers deliberately kicked him, and others propped him up against a tree and knocked him down until he fell senseless. After his wound had been dressed he was placed with others in a barn and given a slice of dry German bread and a cup of cold coffee. He asked for a blanket to cover over his wounded thigh, but this was refused, and he accordingly had to make shift with some straw. He was subsequently removed to a hospital, where he was operated upon for two hours without an anaesthetic, the doctor and “sisters” informing him that if he cried out they would hurt him the more. After the operation he asked for something to drink and was served with a glass of water. Although he was captured on November 30th, Corpl Evans was not allowed the luxury of a wash until Christmas Day. After referring to the scanty and nauseating rations supplied by the Germans, Corpl Evans remarked to a representative of the Rugby Advertiser : “ You can tell the people of Rugby that had it not been for the food parcels they sent to Germany none of us would ever have returned to Old England.

LADY DOCTOR’S WONDERFUL WAR RECORD.
FRENCH DECORATIONS FOR DR FRANCES IVENS.

Rugby, through the medium of Dr Frances Ivens, finds itself in intimate association with the first hospital in France conducted entirely by women. Dr Ivens is the third daughter of the late Mr Wm Ivens, of Harborough Parva, and at the outbreak of war had a large practice in Liverpool. This she gave up almost immediately after the opening of hostilities. The Scottish branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies conceived a scheme for supplying and maintaining two complete hospital units of 100 beds each to be officered entirely by medical women. A committee was appointed for the working out of this scheme, the moving spirit of which was Dr Elsie Inglis, of Edinburgh. The first unit parted for France early in December, 1914, and the second sailed for Serbia a little later the same month. Long before 1915 had elapsed the original modest proposition which had represented 200 beds had developed, and included two hospitals stationed, in France and three in Serbia, aggregating over 1,000 beds. After much consideration, the Abbaye de Royaumont was accepted as the centre of the work of the French unit. The personnel consisted of seven women doctors, ten fully trained nurses, eight orderlies, three chauffeuses, all under the direction of a head surgeon, Dr Frances Ivens.

The work and the responsibility of such a position in those early days of the German onward rush, when all hospitals were crowded and their staffs terribly overworked, can well be imagined ; and M Antonio de Navarro (husband of the celebrated actress Mary Anderson), in giving an account of the hospital in a book recently published, thus refers to Dr Iven’s labours on behalf of the suffering Poilu :—“ Here should be recorded the Head Surgeon’s devotion to her—at times superhuman work and her never-failing in times of unexpected complications. One could not but feel that any vacillation, lack of courage, or initiative on her part might have affected at critical moments the security of the institution itself. Happily she issued from them all with invariable composure. It should be [photograph] added that the unsparing co-operation of her assistants—surgeons and doctors alike—has been a notable feature in the unimpeachable success of the medical staff at Royaumont.” During the first two years of the hospital’s existence 2,508 patients were received and 2,872 operations performed.

A letter from one of the staff indicates the strain of the work : “ Day and night our chauffouses were on the road conveying the wounded men from the military evacuating station. Day and night out band of surgeons and nurses worked under the unwearing example of our chief, Dr Frances Ivens. During the first week in July three hours’ consecutive sleep was an inconceivable luxury, yet no one regarded her share in such work at such a time as other than a privilege. Certain it is that only by such assiduous labour were saved the lives and limbs of many of these gas-infected men, Twelve hours of waiting whilst the staff slept would have many a life and limb amongst the hundreds of soldiers entrusted to our care.”

The Scottish women wore uniforms of a soft-grey material with tartan facings, the orderlies were clad in blue cotton caps and frocks, the busy nurses with their flowing white veils flitting and out the sunlit avenues of the gardens, all combined to create of picture of singular charm and animation.

An amusing story is told of an Algerian tirailleur, a sulky young man. His long musical name was shortened to “ Sala.” On one occasion he was found at the head of the cold staircase on a chilly February afternoon, his dressing gown tightly wrapped round his naked legs. From this position of vantage he refused to move. The head surgeon was summoned to cope with the situation. Sala stood against the wall surrounded by six nurses and orderlies gloomily resisting all attempts to take him back to his bed in the ward. To the head surgeon he excitedly explained, half in Arabic, half in French, that the patient in the neighbouring bed had called him a pig, and he would not return to his accustomed place near such a contemptible Frenchman. With sympathetic agreement, Miss Ivens tactfully promised to remove the offender to a remote corner, and with the further inducement of a stick of chocolate, Sala eventually allowed himself to be coaxed back to the warm bed which he had quited half-an-hour before. His devoted Algerian servant followed him to the new position, and from afar they both ignored with oriental dignity the teasing French lad whose jests had occasioned the feud. Later on Sala was removed to a ward on another floor ; but even when out of night of his enemy he had not forgot their quarrel. One night soon after he was caught with a knife, which he confided was to be employed on his former neighbour as soon as he could steal an opportunity to reach his ward. But the opportunity never came. The doctor finally decided that he was “ well enough ” to proceed to his depot.

These incidents selected from many serve to show the splendid work this lady has accomplished since 1914. Little wonder that her services have been fully recognised by the French Government. Early in the war a gold medal was conferred by the French authorities, President Poincaré personally decorated her with the Legion of Honour, in August, 1917, and this year Dr Iven’s services were again noted by the presentation of the Croix de Guerre for performing operations by candlelight when under bombardment at the advanced hospital at Villers-Cotterets.

IN MEMORIAM.

BATCHELOR.—In loving memory of Pte. THOMAS BATCHELOR of the 5th Royal Berks., who died of wounds in Germany on December 25, 1917.
“ The hardest part is yet to come
When other lads return,
And we miss among the cheering crowd
The face of him we love.”
—Sadly missed by his loving Children, Mother, Father, Sisters and Brothers.

GULLIVER.—In loving memory of our two dear boys—ARTHUR, killed in action Oct 6th, 1917, aged 21 years ; and HARRY, died of wounds in France Dec 25th, 1917, aged 28 years—beloved sons of Mr and Mrs Gulliver, Broadwell. “ Their duty nobly done.”—Father, Mother, Sisters.

SHEASBY.—In ever-loving memory of our dear son and brother, Pte. H. J. SHEASBY, M.G.C. Co., killed in action on December 30, 1917, aged 19. “ Sleep on, dear one, in a soldier’s grave, out in that foreign land. We often sit and look at your photo in the frame, and often picture your smiling face ; and better tears then flow to think that we have lost you, dear ; it is just a year ago.”—From his sorrowing Father and Mother, Brothers and Sisters.

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Wright, Frederick. Died 25th Dec 1918

Frederick ‘Fred’ Wright was born on 17 April 1998 in Rugby[1] and his birth was registered in Q2, 1898.  He was the son of John William Wright (b.c.1861, in Ossett, Yorkshire) and Harriett, née Smith, Wright, (b.c.1859 in Northampton). 

In 1901, Fred’s father, John William Wright, was 40 and a ‘steam engine maker’, his wife Harriett was 42, and the family were living at 42 Worcester Street, Rugby.  There were four children at home – Fannie Wright, 17; Sidney Wright, 11; Ethel Wright, 8; and the youngest boy, Frederick Wright, who was two years old.

Before 1911, the family moved to a nine room house at 32 Lawford Road, New Bilton, Rugby.  John William Wright was now an ‘electrical engineer’.  In 1911, Fred’s parents had been married for 28 years, and had had five children of whom four were still living.

For some reason, perhaps because he was a ‘stenographer’ in the BTH Contracts Department, their 21 year old lodger, Arol Deakin, filled in and signed their 1911 census return.  Later that year he married Fred’s sister, Dinah Ethel Wright [Rugby, Q3, 1911, 6d, 1078].  They had a daughter, Eileen in 1913, and a son, John Arol in about early 1916.  Arol Deakin joined up in the Royal Field Artillery and became a Sergeant but died of wounds on 16 August 1917.  He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate -.[2]

According to a later report in the Rugby Advertiser, Fred Wright …
… was formerly a sailor, and visited the Dardanelles a number of times.  He was afterwards employed at the B.T.H., subsequently joining the army.’[3] 

His service with BTH is confirmed in their memorial publications and also, assuming this is the correct Wright, in a list published in September 1914 in the Rugby Advertiser,
FROM THE WORKS – This is an additional list of men who have left to join the Colours from August 27th up to and including September 2nd: – … Wright, …’.[4]

This suggests that he must have gone to sea in the period between early 1911 and later 1914, when he was between 13 and 16 years old, which would be very young even for a boy sailor, although ‘one in three Royal Navy heroes of World War One were underage, …’.  He still had some time working at BTH, before joining up, and it may be that confusion with another older Fred Wright who was in the Navy on HMS Fox in 1911 may have occurred.

Albert joined up as a Private No.115498 in the Machine Gun Corps (MGC).  As the MGC was not formed until October 1915, and in the absence of any Service Record, it is not known if he joined an Infantry Regiment earlier for his initial training.  His Medal Card has no mention of an earlier unit and it is quite possible that he did not join up and did not go to France until at least the end of 1915 or during 1916, as he was not eligible for the 1914-1915 Star – and indeed he had not reached the necessary age of 18 years until April 1916.

The CWGC record suggests that he was a member of 50th Bn. Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), however, when he was taken prisoner, his PoW record stated he was in the 206th Bn. Machine Gun Corps (Infantry).[5]

In the absence of any Service Record for Fred, the date of any transfer from the 50th to the 206th Bn. of the Machine Gun corps is unknown.  However, the information on these Battalions is as follows:

50th MG Company: Moved to France and joined 17th Division, 17 February 1916 at Reninghelst. Moved into No 17 Bn, MGC, on 24 February 1918.

206th MG Company: Formed at Grantham, 24 October 1916.  Joined 58th Division in France on 24 March 1917.  Moved into No 58 Bn, MGC on 2 March 1918.

The Battalion Diaries are available, and it seems possible that Fred moved during the reorganisation of the MGC in early 1918.  Hence his main records have him still in 50th MG Company, whilst he knew he was in 206th Company – which had become the ‘A’ Company of the 58th Bn. which was in the line at Quessy, some 14 kms south of St. Quentin.

1918 had started fairly quietly, however, 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.

Prior to March 1918, the history of 206th Co is described in the Summary War Diary.[6]

20/21 March 1918, 58th Divisional Sector astride the River Oise, [adjacent to the French 6th Army to the south].  22 and 23 March – ‘A’ & ‘D’ companies in action with 173rd Infantry Brigade. 

After March 1918, the War Diary, of the 58th Bn.[7] includes some six pages covering the period from 20 – 24 March 1918, from which the activities of ‘A’ Company have been abstracted.

21st – Enemy attacked on a wide front … owing to the existing dispositions … ‘A’ M.G. Coy … became heavily engaged … 10am – O.C. ‘A’ Company sent 3 reserve guns … to a position E of Quessy … with object of preventing the enemy from advancing on to Fargniers. (3000 rounds were fired on this task).  11.0am – O.C. ‘A’ Company received information … that 2nd Lieut T Owen … had been taken prisoner, the enemy enveloping these two guns in the mist – but that one of the guns had been got away … heavy fire was opened which held the enemy off for two hours, inflicting very heavy casualties.  12 noon – two machine guns on the canal bank S.E. of Fargniers and others E. of Fargniers and Quessy were engaging hostile infantry at close range.  1pm – a Corporal in charge of one of the foremost guns arrived at ‘A’ Co H.Q. and reported his gun had held out until 12.15pm, when it was eventually put out of action by hostile M.G. fire.  The enemy are stated to have suffered very heavy casualties from this gun, which was eventually surrounded.  7.30pm – O.C. ‘A’ Company ordered … to withdraw all guns from the battle zone and to hold the W. bank of the Crozart Canal at all costs throughout the night of 21st/22nd

This was done with 8 guns that remained of the 19 guns originally under ‘A’ Coy.  Night 21/22 – ‘A’ Coy with 8 guns holding Canal as above.

The dispositions remained as above through the morning of 22nd inst.  About 2.30 pm the enemy renewed his attack and succeeded in crossing the Crozart Canal. … Here 6 of the 8 guns of ‘A’ Company holding the Canal came into action – the teams firing their guns until the ammunition was exhausted or the guns were put out of action by the hostile shelling – this about 3.30pm  (one of these 6 guns was got away after using all the ammunition).

After all the guns of ‘A’ company … were out of action (3.30pm) … about 30 Machine Gunners held out in Tergnier, preventing the enemy getting into the southern part of the town, until 7.0pm when O.C. ‘A’ Company was ordered to withdraw all remaining guns and men of his Company to the Green Line and finally about 10pm to withdraw to Ognes … three guns of the original 19 still remained.

Meanwhile, four guns of ‘D’ Company were holding out in Viry-Noureuil to the south-west of the ‘A’ Company positions.

The summary of casualties, for the period 21 – 24 March 1918, stated that on 21 March, 26 Other Ranks were missing; on 22 March, 17 Other Ranks were missing; and on 24 March, 44 Other Ranks were missing.

It seems that Fred was one of those 17 ‘missing’ Other Ranks on 22 March, as according to Red Cross Prisoner of War (PoW) records, Fred was taken prisoner at Quessy on 22 March 1918.  This was the second day of Operation Michael, and he was ‘Unverwundat’, that is ‘unwounded’.

Fred was taken to a PoW camp, probably in Germany – and probably had to work and would have received a very poor diet – the blockade on Germany meant even German civilians were on a meagre diet.  Many prisoners died, many later from the Spanish Flu, and Fred was no exception.  He survived the war, but is recorded as dying on Christmas Day 1918.  He is likely to have been buried initially in a camp cemetery adjacent to the German PoW camp where he had been confined, and he had probably remained at the camp being treated after the Armistice.

Later, after the war these many smaller cemeteries in Germany were ‘concentrated’, and Fred’s body was moved to the newly created Berlin South-Western Cemetery, at Stahnsdorf, where he was reburied in grave ref: VII. G. 1.

The village of Stahnsdorf is some 22kms south west of Berlin and about 14kms east of Potsdam.  In 1922-1923 it was decided that the graves of Commonwealth servicemen who had died all over Germany should be brought together into four permanent cemeteries.  Berlin South-Western was one of those chosen and in 1924-1925, graves were brought into the cemetery from 146 burial grounds in eastern Germany.  Many, if not most of these, were from Prisoners of War Cemeteries.

Fred was awarded the Victory and British medals.  Fred is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate; the New Bilton War Memorial by the chapel in Croop Hill Cemetery, Addison Road; on the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914 – 1918;[8] and on the BTH War Memorial.[9]

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Frederick Wright 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]      Information from: International Committee of the Red Cross (CH), https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/.

[2]      Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/deakin-arol-died-16th-aug-1917/.

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 11 May 1918.

[4]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5th-sep-1914-rugbys-magnificent-response/, and also the Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 5 September 1914.  But at least four Wrights from BTH served in WWI.

[5]      Information from: International Committee of the Red Cross (CH), https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/.

[6]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), Machine Gun Corps, 58th Division, Piece 2996/10: 206 Machine Gun Company (1917 Mar – 1918 Feb).

[7]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), Machine Gun Corps, 58th Division Piece 2996/11: 58 Battalion Machine Gun Corps (1918 Mar – 1919 Apr).

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

[9]      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.

21st Dec 1918. Polling for the New Parliament

POLLING FOR THE NEW PARLIAMENT.
QUIET DAY THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY.

Voting for the election of a new Parliament took place throughout the United Kingdom on Saturday last, and, considering the important issues at stake, was singularly devoid of excitement or incident. Polling took place for the election of 584 Members of Parliament. The votes will be counted on Saturday, December 28th, and the results will be announced the same day. The new House of Commons will consist of 707 Members, or 37 more than the old. As 107 Members were returned unopposed on December 4th, and two have since been elected for Oxford University there remain 14 seats to be filled. Thirteen of these are university seats, for which the poll opened on Monday and the 14th is the Kennington Division, in which, because of the death of a candidate after nomination, the poll had to be postponed.

THE FINAL MEETINGS.
On Friday evening last week three mass meetings were held in Rugby (Co-operative Hall, Eastlands School, and the Church House) in support of the candidature of Major J L Baird. All of the meetings were well attended, and the utmost enthusiasm prevailed, especially at the Co-operative Hall, where the large audience cheered again and again as the telling points in favour of the Coalition were driven home by the speakers, viz, Major J L Baird, Sir Ernest Pollock, K.C, M.P, Earl of Denbigh, Rev Ronald Irwin, D.S.O, M.C, &c.

Mr Maclagan addressed meetings at the Eastlands School.

A QUIET DAY IN THE RUGBY DIVISION.
Polling took place on Saturday last, when, for the first time in the history of the Country, all the elections were held on the same day. In the reports from nil quarters reference is made to the apathy of the electors, and this state of affairs was faithfully reflected in Rugby.

In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that never in the memory of the oldest elector has polling day passed off so quietly and uneventfully. None but the really ardent partisans appeared to take any real interest in the contest, and but for the unusual number of motor-cars dashing about—and the number of these was remarkably small compared with past occasions—a visitor to the town would scarcely have realised a Parliamentary election was in progress. The poll in the town was very light one; but the ladies, who were able to vote for the first time at a Parliamentary election, turned up in much larger numbers than did the men. Many married couples walked to the polling stations together and one enthusiastic lady was overheard to remark to her husband on emerging from the booth, “Now you don’t know who I have voted for.” The polling stations were open from 7 a.m to 9 p.m, but at no time was there any real rush of voters. Visits to a number of the stations in the centre of the town at all hours of the day revealed very little activity, and there was an utter absence of the outbursts of party enthusiasm which have characterised elections in the past.

Reports from the country districts indicate that the polling was somewhat heavier than in the town.

The election will remain open until December 28th to enable soldiers to register their votes, and for that reason it is impossible to forecast the result. As usually happens, both parties claim to have secured a majority ; but the general opinion seemed to be that Major Baird has retained the seat.

Major Baird toured the Division in his car, and everywhere he was enthusiastically received. Mr Maclagan also visited most of the polling stations during the day.

Forty-six special constables, in addition to the Regular Force, were on duty throughout the day at the various polling stations in the Division.

The votes of the absent electors engaged on military or naval service in England, France, Belgium, and with the Army of Occupation in Germany, whose ballot papers are received by the Returning Officer before December 28th, will have to be added to those recorded on Saturday. In the Rugby Division there absent voters number no fewer than 5,754. As the votes are received they are sorted into their proper divisions, and are then placed in large boxes. The papers will be opened in the presence of the candidates with one representative if they choose, and they will then be thoroughly mixed with the votes recorded at home as the latter are removed from the boxes. All papers received on Saturday morning before the counting begins will be included.

In all cases where a ballot paper has been sent to an absent voter no second paper can be issued, even though the soldier or sailor is on leave, or has been discharged. The Record Office for the particular unit to which the men belonged will return the papers to them at their then present addresses, so that all they need do is to fill up the papers according to the instructions and post them or deliver them in the proper envelopes to the Returning Officer. No doubt at the present time a number of soldiers and sailors on leave have not yet received their ballot papers, but the assumption is that the papers will follow them, and it is partly to ensure that they shall reach the men that the time for counting has been extended.

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

The latest casualty lists contain the names of the following Rugby men killed :— Pte W Williams, King’s Liverpool Regt, Sergt J Carter, R.W.R ; wounded, Pte L C Bovell, R.W.R.

Pte A Woodward, Devonshire Regt, son of Mr T Woodward, 39 Stephen Street, was killed in action on October 28th. He was an old St Matthew’s boy, and before enlisting he was employed by Messrs Parnell & Son.

Amongst the latest returned prisoners from Germany were Act Corpl J N Atkinson, M.G.C, and Acting Sergt R E Lewin, R.W.R, both of Rugby.

MR J E SMITH, hon sec of the B.T.H employees’ Christmas party to wounded soldiers and released prisoners of war, writes—“ In your report of Rugby Food Control meeting of last week that the B.T.H Company were entertaining the wounded soldiers and released prisoners of war on Saturday, December 28th, I should be pleased if you would correct that error, as it is the B.T.H employees who will entertain them,”

ABSENTEES.—At Rugby Police Court on Saturday, before Mr J J McKinnell, Pte Edwin Jones, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, and Rifleman John Donnelly, Royal Irish Rifles, were charged with being absentees from the 1st Southern General Hospital, Edgbaston, Birmingham. The men, who admitted the offence, and were arrested by P.S Tromans, were remanded to await an escort.

HILLMORTON.
Mrs Fenwick’s Red Cross working party, which has done such excellent work during the war, has this year sent in to B.R.C.S in London 94 shirts and 30 pairs of socks. Mrs Rich organised and arranged, with the help of Mr Warren and a small committee, the “ Our Day ” collections, the result being most gratifying. The collection realised £20 2s 1d, the whist drive £10 0s 4d, and the schoolchildren collected the splendid amount of £1 11s 11½.

HARBOROUGH MAGNA.
TO PROVIDE a Christmas present for each of the 45 soldiers from Harborough Magna a house-to-house collection was made by Mr H Neal and Mr E Gamble. Upwards of £19 was raised by this means, and a draw brought in £13 16s, making a total of £32 19s. This enabled the secretary, Miss F Craven, to send 14s 3d to each soldier.

WOLSTON.
WAR MEMORIAL.—A parish meeting was convened by the Vicar, the Rev J O Gooch, at Messrs Bluemel’s dining room, on Tuesday evening. Mr W Snell, chairman of the Wolston Parish Council, was voted to the chair. A suggestion from the Rev J O Gooch to the effect that the south transept chapel at St Margaret’s Church should be repaired and re-furnished and made a war memorial chapel was well received. The undertaking would cost about £350 to £400. The Vicar’s suggestion was approved. One gentleman thought a clock tower in Wolston village would be more suitable, but his proposal found no seconder. The Vicar undertook to find out the feeling of the Nonconformists and other residents who were absent.

RUGBY URBAN DISTRICT COUNCIL. . . .

R.W.R V.C.
A postcard was read from Mr G W Blythe, secretary of the Vickers’ Testimonial Fund, announcing that Lance-Corpl Vickers, V.C, R.W.R, would visit Rugby the following day (Wednesday), and would be pleased to meet the Chairman of the Council.—It was decided that owing to the shortness of the notice, nothing could be done in the way of a civic or public welcome, but the Chairman agreed, on behalf of the town, to interview the gallant soldier.

It was also announced that a motor lorry, with two captured German guns, which were touring the county for the inspection of the inhabitants, would arrive at Rugby at about 3 p.m on Friday, and would remain in the town until the following day.

RUGBY’S WAR TROPHY.
With reference to the captured German gun, which has been allotted to Rugby, the Chairman mentioned that on November 5th he received a letter from Major J L Baird to the effect that, seeing a row of German guns in the Mall, it occurred to him that some of them would look very well at Rugby. He accordingly approached the Under-Secretary for War on the matter, and was advised by him to apply to the O.C of the R.W.R for some guns captured by that regiment. He had done this, and he hoped his action would meet with the approval of the Council. Major Baird added that he could not say what views the R.W.R had on the subject, but he felt that Rugby should have some guns, preferably some captured by the R.W.R.—The Chairman said as the outcome of this letter he also wrote to the O.C at Warwick, and the result was that they were allotted the gun which they received last week. He believed it was the biggest of the guns which came into Warwickshire.

EXHIBITION OF WAR TROPHIES.
SIR,—The Committee of the Public library have arranged to hold an exhibition of war trophies in the Museum from January 8th to 11th next, when it is hoped that an interesting and comprehensive collection will be on view. A number of exhibits will be lent by the Imperial War Museum Committee, and I venture to appeal through your columns to any local residents who have souvenirs or curios connected with the great War to place them at our disposal during the exhibition. I shall be grateful to any who can help in this way if they will kindly notify the Curator of the Museum, Mr R Fenley, Public Library, St Matthew’s Street, as soon as possible, in order that final arrangements may be made for the exhibition. Admission to the exhibition will be free, but all visitors will be invited to make a contribution to the funds of the Disabled Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Association.—Yours, &c,
R H MYERS, Chairman,
Rugby Public Library and Museum.

COUPONS FOR CHRISTMAS RATIONS.
TO BE USED IN ADVANCE.

In view of the fact that many shops throughout England and Wales may be closed during the greater part of Christmas week, the Food Controller has decided, except in the case of meat, that the coupons numbered 8 in the current ration book shall be available for use throughout England and Wales during the week beginning December 15th, as well as in the normal period of their currency (i.e, the week beginning December 22nd). This arrangement does not apply to Scotland.

During the period December 16th to January 4th catering establishments exempted from keeping a register of consumption will be permitted to serve meat meals at a price not exceeding 2s (exclusive of the usual charge for beverages). The maximum price for any meal at which meat is not served will remain at 1s 4d.

BORN IN THE TRAIN.—On Sunday night a middle-aged woman, accompanied by a female friend, was travelling on the L & N-W railway from Easton to attend a funeral in Wales. When the train was a few miles south of Rugby number of passengers was suddenly increased by one, a fine young gentleman making his appearance in the world about a fortnight before he was expected. The mother and child were taken out of the train, placed in the waiting room, and Dr Hoskyn was sent for. After resting a few hours the mother and son were sent back to London, the former having so far recovered as to wish to walk to the train, which of course, she was not allowed to do.

DEATHS.

IZZARD.—In loving memory of Pte. THOMAS IZZARD, R.M.L.I, who died December 12, 1918, aged 29 years of pneumonia, at Hasler Hospital, Portsmouth, son of the late Thomas and E. Izzard, late of Brickhill Cottages, Cawston.—“ In the midst of life we are in death,”—Deeply mourned by his sorrowing Mother, Sister and Brother.

Manning, Criss. Died 21st Dec 1914

Omitted from publication on 21st Dec 2014. Published today 104 years after his death

Francis Cris Manning was born in Brington, Northamptonshire in 1883 and baptised there on the 6th May. His parents were George and Selina (nee Tarrey) who had married at Selina’s home parish church of nearby Harlestone on 11th November 1875. George was a labourer in Great Brington – agricultural in 1881, general in 1891 when Francis was aged eight. He then had two brothers Edward aged twelve and Lewis four.

George Manning died later that year at the age of 41 and Selina two years later in 1893 at 48. We have been unable to find Francis Criss in 1901 but information from a family tree on Ancestry shows that he enlisted in the Northamptonshire Regiment in 1899 and served in South Africa. He left in 1908, signing up with the reserves. This is confirmed by his army number of 5992 which was issued in 1899. It also explains the early date of his death in December 1914. Only regular troops and reserves would be fighting at this point.

By 1911 he was lodging with the Cross family at 38 Lower Harlestone. He was working as a wood man on estate and entered under the full name of Francis Christopher Manning.

At the time the war started, he was working for the L & N-W Railway in the Rugby Carriage works. this seems to be his only connection with Rugby.

The 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment was stationed at Blackdown, Aldershot on 4th Aug 1914 as part of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division. They were mobilised on the 13th and landed at Havre and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including in 1914;
The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, The Battle of the Marne, The Battle of the Aisne, First Battle of Ypres.

The first few months of the Northants Reg. War Diaries were lost on 17th November during the First Battle of Ypres. The Diary starts again on the 21st December.

Nov 26th 1914 to Dec 20th 1914: The Battalion was resting at Hazebrouck.

Dec 21st 1914: The Battalion left Hazebrouck at 7 AM in motors. Arrived at Zellobes close to Vielle Chapelle at 12 Noon. After refilling with rations & Ammunition, the Battalion was ordered to move to Le Touret. Arrived here sometime about 4 PM. Orders were received that the Battalion in Conjunction with 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regt. Was to make a night attack to recover trenches about ½ mile East of Rue de L’Epinelte & ½ mile South of Rue de Bois. Which had been lost the previous night. The Two Battalions moved to the attack about 7 PM. The Battalion had Two Companies in the front line & Two in support.
1st Northamptonshire R. was on the North 1st L. N. L. on South by 10 PM. The position in front of us had been retaken with slight loss. Most of our Casualties Coming from Artillery fire. Total Casualties killed & wounded. Three Officers – about 60 men.
According to previous orders when the position had been retaken the Battalion was to withdraw & the line to be held by the 1st L. N. L. Regt. We had however to leave One Company D in the line. The rest of the Battalion withdrew back about ½ mile to billets reaching them about 7 AM on Dec 22nd.

It would have been in this “slight loss” that Criss Manning died. His body was not recovered or identified and he is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial.

The Le Touret Memorial commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who were killed in this sector of the Western Front from the beginning of October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September 1915 and who have no known grave. The Memorial takes the form of a loggia surrounding an open rectangular court. The names of those commemorated are listed on panels set into the walls of the court and the gallery, arranged by regiment, rank and alphabetically by surname within the rank. The memorial was designed by John Reginald Truelove, who had served as an officer with the London Regiment during the war, and unveiled by the British ambassador to France, Lord Tyrrell, on 22 March 1930. Almost all of the men commemorated on the Memorial served with regular or territorial regiments from across the United Kingdom and were killed in actions that took place along a section of the front line that stretched from Estaires in the north to Grenay in the south. This part of the Western Front was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the first year of the war.

The only mention of his death in the Rugby press was as one of the railway men who had died.

On the 17th April 1915, the Rugby Advertiser reported:
CASUALTIES AMONG L & N-W RAILWAYMEN.—According to the April number of the “ L & N-W Railway Gazette,” there were 1,058 casualties reported among L & N-W Railway men with the Forces between February 19th and March 15th. The list includes the following :—Killed: H R Barwick, East Anglian Engineers (Wolverton). Died from wounds: T C Tooth, Bucks Territorials (Wolverton); C Manning, Northamptonshire Regiment (Rugby).

And on the 25th September, 1915:
TO COMMEMORATE FALLEN HEROES.
During the service the daily portion from “ The Happy Warrior ” was read by Mr Frank Ward, and the following names of men on the Rugby Railway Mission Roll of Honour, and of local railway men who have fallen in the war were read out:—…C Manning, carriage department

On the L & N-W Roll of Honour, Criss is remembered as C. Manning, Carriage cleaner, Rugby.

He is listed on the Great Brington War Memorial (as Francis C Manning) and the Harlestone War Memorial (as Christopher Manning) On the Rugby Memorial Gates he is C Manning.

He was awarded, under the name of Cross Manning, the British and Victory medals as well as the 1914 star.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Brown, Frank Lincoln. Died 3rd May 1917

We recently published the biography of Frederick Louis Brown as the most likely candidate for the F L Brown on the Rugby Memorial Gates. We have now discovered that the man listed should be Frank Lincoln Brown, who was born and lived in Rugby.

——————————————

Frank Lincoln Brown was born in Rugby in 1894, the youngest son of Edward, and Sarah Emily (nee Barge). Edward was an assurance agent born in Priors Marston and Sarah was from Wales. They married in Rugby in 1889.

In 1891 they lived at 2 Princess Street and in 1901, when Frank was aged 6, at 3 Newbold Road.

By 1911 Frank was aged 16 he was working as a machinist in a meter factory. The family lived at 33 Stephen Street, Rugby.

Towards the start of the war, Frank Lincoln Brown enlisted at Rugby and joined the 5th Bn. Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry (No. 10444)

He served in France and Flanders from the 20th May 1915. On the 3rd May 1917 the 14th Division, which contained the 5th Ox & Bucks, formed the left flank of the great British offensive at Vis-En-Artois. The attack took place over a twelve-mile front east of Arras with the Ox & Bucks attacking the enemy position at Hillside Work.

The attack commenced at 3.45am in the face of very heavy machine gun and rifle fire. The 5th Ox & Bucks were temporarily held up by an undiscovered enemy trench, which although they were eventually able to capture, they did so with heavy casualties. This obliged them to cease any further advance. At 11am the Germans launched determined counter attack ultimately driving the British back to their original positions.

The action cost the Ox & Bucks 19 men killed, 113 missing and 153 wounded.

Frank was killed in this action, almost two years after arriving in the trenches, on the 3rd May 1917, aged 23, he has no known grave and is today remembered on the Arras Memorial.

There was an announcement in the June 1917 issue of The Pioneer, the Baptist Church magazine that he had been missing for nearly a month. Frank Brown is listed on the Memorial Plaque in Rugby Baptist Church, which reads:

This tablet and the organ in the Church are erected to the memory of those members of this Church who laid down their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1918, whose names are given herewith also as an act of thanksgiving for the safe return of the many others from this Church who served in the war.

On waters deep in the treacherous
On rock bound heights and burning
They poured the offering of their blood
They kept the honour of the land.
A.W. Leeson      

Corporal Frank Lincoln Brown was entitled to the 1914/15 Star, BWM and the Victory Medal.

Sarah Emily Brown died in 1921, she was joined by her husband Edward in 1935.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

 

With thanks to Kevin Pargeter, who brought this man to our notice and provided the information.

Minchin, George Victor. Died 4th Sep 1918

This biography of George Victor Michin should have been published in September 2018.  However, some confusion with an older George Minchin, also in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, who was killed on 3 September 1916, meant that the main CWGC search listing gave George Victor Minchin the same date of death in 1916, when he would have been only 16!  However, the background documents on the CWGC site, and later announcements in the local press, confirmed George Victor’s date of death as 3 or more probably 4 September 1918.

– – – – –

George Victor MINCHIN was born in Aston, Birmingham in about 1900.  His birth was registered in Q1, 1900 in Aston.  

He was the youngest son of Henry John Minchin [b.c.1862 in Bristol] and Mary Ann, née Allen, Minchin [b.c.1861, also in Bristol].  They had married on 10 September 1883, at St Paul’s church, Portland Square, Bristol.

In 1891, the family were still in Bristol, living at 3 Campbell Street, Bristol.  They now had three sons of 6, 4 and 2 years old.  Henry Minchin was a ‘tailor’.

In 1901, the family had moved to 5 Beatrice Terrace in Bristol.  Henry Minchin was now a ‘tailor journeyman’, and there were three more children: two girls and, the youngest by some years, a boy, George Victor Minchin, who was one year old.  However, it seems that the family may have been in the process of moving, following Henry’s period as a ‘Journeyman’, as George, who was born a year or so earlier, was registered not in Bristol but in Aston, Birmingham.

However, by 1911, the family was living in Birmingham, at 186 Nechells Park Road.  George was at school.  When he left school, and before the war and being old enough to join up, George worked for a period as a waiter in a Harrogate Hotel.[1]

At some date after 1911, the family had moved to Rugby – indeed George joined up there[2] in early 1917 – and in 1918, the family were at 10 Market Street, Rugby.  They were still there in 1939.

A later report[3] stated that George joined the army in January 1917, and his CWGC record and Medal Card shows that he served, at least latterly, as a Private, No.36285 with the 2nd/6th Battalion (Bn.) of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (R.W.R.).  The date when George went to France is not given on his Medal Card, but his date of birth and the fact that he did not receive the 1915 Star, supports a date of enlistment in January 1917.

The 2nd/6th Bn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment was formed in Coventry in October 1914 as a second line battalion and later went to Chelmsford with a role in Home Defence.  It became part of the 2nd/1st Warwickshire Brigade, in the 2nd/1st South Midland Division and in February/March 1916 moved to Salisbury Plain for final training.  In August 1915 they joined the 182nd Brigade in the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division.[4]  The division moved to France, arriving from 21 to 28 May 1916 for service on the Western Front.  There are some references to them becoming part of the 143rd Brigade in the 48th Division,[5] but this doesn’t appear to be supported by the Brigade numbering in the War Diary.

During 1916 the 2nd/6th Bn. R.W.R.’s first action was the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916, a diversionary attack in support of the Somme Offensive.  The attack was badly handled and casualties were heavy.  The 61st Division was so badly mauled that it was not used offensively again in 1916.  George would not have arrived in France until a year or so later, and probably not before mid 1917.

The following précis of actions based on the War Diary[6] of the 2nd/6th Battalion showed that later in 1917 …
… the 2nd/6th Battalion, was involved in the Operations on the Ancre, 11-15 January 1917; the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, 14 March-5 April 1917; the Battle of Langemarck, 16-18 August 1917; the Battle of Cambrai: German counter-attacks, 1-3 December 1917.  Due to the manpower shortage being suffered by the BEF, on 20 February 1918, the 2nd/6th Bn. received men from the disbanded 2nd/5th Royal Warwicks.

On the day before the German Spring Offensive, Operation Michael[7] on 21 March 1918, the 61st Division was just north of St Quentin when 2nd/6th Royal Warwicks was ordered to raid the enemy line at Cepy Farm and they obtained prisoners from three regiments and two separate divisions, indicating that the German lines were packed ready for an attack early the following morning.  Unfortunately, this information was not widely disseminated before the Battle of St Quentin began.

The front held by 61st Division opposite St Quentin was one of the few sectors where the attackers were delayed.  Strongpoints held out for most of the day and the Battle Zone was successfully held by 2nd/6th R.W.R.s and four other battalions.  Unfortunately, the neighbouring battalions were driven back and the 2nd/6th Bn. was ordered to retire.  It was then involved in the defence of the Somme Crossings on 24-25 March.  The Division was relieved on 27 March and taken north to make a counter-attack the following day at Lamotte near Villers-Bretonneux.  This attack was shot down yards from the objective and the exhausted remnants were finally pulled out of the line on 30 March.

During the rest of Spring 1918 the battalion was involved in the Battle of the Lys; the Battle of Estaires on 11 April, when the 61st Division arrived just in time to prevent the destruction of the 51st (Highland) Division; the Battle of Hazebrouck, 12-15 April; and the Battle of Béthune, 18 April.

The 2nd/6th Bn. R.W.R. War Diary[8] for this period can be found with the War Diaries of the 61st Division.  In August 1918, the Allies began the ‘Hundred Days’ Offensive’, which led to the Germans retreating or being driven back from all of the ground taken in the ‘Spring Offensive’; the collapse of the Hindenburg Line; and led to the Armistice in November 1918.

Whilst this was a successful offensive, much fighting was involved and many casualties occurred.   The 61st Division was committed to ‘minor’ operations during the pursuit to the Haute Deule Canal.  The activities of the Battalion in this offensive in late August and early September 1918 are recorded in the War Diary and can provide information as to George’s likely whereabouts and the occasion when he was killed.

There were indications of an enemy withdrawal in late August and orders were drawn up for an attack under cover of a ‘rolling barrage’.  On 1 September the Battalion were holding an ‘outpost line’ with the enemy on the east bank of the canalised river La Lys, known to the allies as ‘Canal River’.  In addition to the Daily Reports, there is a lengthy Appendix recording in detail an attack in the period 3-6 September 1918.

On the night of 2/3 September the Battalion relieved the 2nd/5th Gloucesters, taking up a position on left bank of the River Lys and River Still Becque.  The enemy held the east bank and all the main bridges had been destroyed.  A footbridge was found to the right and crossed in early afternoon on the 3 September, but casualties were taken.  On 4 September Companies advanced on the road west of Fleurbaix.  ‘Considerable opposition was met from M.G.s and snipers, and in addition, the road was shelled and the party came under T.M. fire.’  Elsewhere Companies worked around the village of Bac St Maur – they also were later held up by enemy fire.  At 7pm an explosion set off by a time fuse, indicated that the enemy was withdrawing – and a very heavy enemy barrage onto the position followed.  However, by the next day the Battalion held the village of Bac St Maur.

Sometime on 3 or 4 September, and maybe overnight – as records give both dates, George Victor Minchin was ‘Killed in Action’, aged 18.  The earlier ‘Grave Registration Report’ gave 4 September, and the later printed summary, 3 September – although the other three members of the Warwickshires who were also killed on the same day and buried adjacent to George remained listed as killed on the 4 September.  The record of UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, also stated 4 September 1918, however, the Rugby Advertiser notices gave 3 September 1918 – such is the confusion of war in an ongoing battle.

Despite the undoubted confusion, George’s body was recovered and he was buried some five miles west of Fleurbaix where they had been in action, in plot: 3. G. 8. in the Anzac Cemetery, Sailly-Sur-La-Lys.  Later when his CWGC gravestone was placed, his parents had the inscription added, ‘He Died that we might Live’.

Anzac Cemetery, Sailly-Sur-La-Lys is on the north-west side of the road between Armentieres and Bethune.  Sailly Church was burnt during the fighting in October 1914, when French cavalry and British and German infantry fought on the Lys, but from the winter of 1914-1915 to the spring of 1918, the village was comparatively untouched.  It was captured by the Germans on 9 April 1918, and it remained in their hands until the beginning of September.

Anzac Cemetery was begun by Australian units in July 1916, immediately before the Attack at Fromelles, and it contains the graves of many Australian soldiers who died in that engagement.  It continued in use as a front-line cemetery until April 1918 and was used by German troops for the burial of Commonwealth soldiers during the following summer.  Anzac Cemetery contains 320 Commonwealth burials of the First World War. … The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.

The Rugby Advertiser reported his death on 12 October,
Mr H Minchin, 10 Market Street, has received news that his son, George Victor, a private in the R.W.R, was killed in action on September 3rd.   Pte Minchin, who was nearly 19 years of age, joined the Army in January last, previous to which he was employed as a waiter at a Harrogate Hotel.[9]

There was an ‘In Memoriam’ published in the same issue,
MINCHIN. – GEORGE VICTOR, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Minchin, 10 Market Street, Rugby. Killed in action September 3, 1918, somewhere in France; aged 18 years and 9 months.

He was also included in the casualty list in the Coventry Evening Telegraph a few days later,
THE ROLL OF HONOUR.  Coventry and District Casualties.  The following are included in the latest casualty lists: Killed. … R.W.R. Minchin, 36285, G., Rugby, R.W.R.; …[10]

 

George was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM 

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This article on George Victor MINCHIN 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, October  2018.

[1]      Rugby Advertiser, 12 October 1918.

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

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, 12 October 1918.

[4]      Greater detail can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6th_Battalion,_Royal_Warwickshire_Regiment, from which this summary was prepared.

[5]      As noted above, whilst reported to be in the 48th Division, the War Diary continued to be kept, and later filed, under the 61st Division.

[6]      The National Archives, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 61st Division, Piece 3056/2: 2/6 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1915 Sep – 1919 Feb); also available on www.ancestry.co.uk.

[7]      See: https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/the-1918-spring-offensive-operation-michael/.

[8]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, TNA ref: 61st Division, Piece 3056/2: 2/6 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, (1915 Sep – 1919 Feb).

[9]      Rugby Advertiser, 12 October 1918.

[10]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Tuesday, 15 October 1918.

Thompson, Arthur. Died 25th Feb 1917

The A Thompson on the Rugby Memorial Gates was originally identified as being Arthur Thompson listed on the Willans and Robinson Drawing Office Plaque, who enlisted at the start of the war. However without more information, we were unable to research him and record him on the centenary of his death. We have now been contacted by his grandson, who has provided us with enough information to publish this biography on the anniversary of his marriage in 1916.

Arthur Thompson was born on 25th May 1889 at Margetts Road, Kempston, Bedfordshire. His father was Charles Thompson, a maltster and his mother was Amy (nee Slater). Arthur was the sixth child. By 1901 three more children had arrived. (They had eleven children altogether but two had died by 1911) The family were now living at 24 Howard Avenue, Bedford. Charles was now listed as a grocer, but his eldest son, also Charles (25) was a maltster.

By 1911 several of the children had left home, including Arthur. Charles was still working as a grocer, at the same address, 24 Howard Avenue. (According to Google Street View, the property is still a grocer’s shop.) We have not been able to find Arthur in the 1911 census, but he was probably already living in Rugby.

On 5th September 1914, he was listed in the Rugby Advertiser as having signed up with other members of staff from Willans and Robinson.

WILLANS & ROBINSON, LIMITED.
SUPPLEMENTARY LIST, No. 3.
Staff :  A Thompson, W R Gamble, C Haines, T Campbell, G F Lewis, P W Clark, J Hughes, C H Waugh, H M Packwood, H R Ainsley, J R Hayward, L G Higgs, A Gibson, A L Jenkins, J Miller, and J Pethybridge.

Arthur joined the Royal Engineers, as corporal, number 42242, and arrived in France with 70th Field Coy. on 30th May 1915.

He would have taken part in the Battle of Loos in October 1915. With no surviving service record it is impossible to track his movements, but in June 1916 he was home on leave, or perhaps had been injured. It is not known if he had returned to France in time for the Battle of the Somme. The 70th Field Coy took part in the Battles of:
Albert 1 – 13 Jul 1916,
Poziers Ridge 23 Jul – 7 Aug 1916,
and The Transloy Ridges 1 Oct – 11 Nov 1916

It is known that on the 18 Dec 1916 he was back in Rugby to marry Lilian Walton at Rugby Congregational Church. It is said that Lilian was a tracer in a drawing office. Presumably Arthur had met her at Willans and Robinson. The Walton family came from Crick, but at the time of the marriage she was living at 24 Benn Street, Rugby.

Arthur Thompson at the front, dated 18 Feb 1917

Serjeant Arthur Thompson was Killed in Action on 25th February 1917, near Arras in France. There is no report of any deaths on that day in the war diaries, but the family was told that the artillery was firing over their heads during an advance and a shell fell short and killed him.

He is buried in the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras.

He is remembered on the Willans and Robinson Drawing Office plaque, as well as the Rugby Memorial Gates. He is also remembered on the Bedford, All Saints memorial.

He was awarded the British and Victory medals as well as the 15 Star.

Arthur and Lilian’s son, Aubrey Arthur Thompson was born on 4th March 1917, one week after his father’s death. Lilian later remarried and moved away from the area.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Note: We wish to thank Clive Thompson, grandson of Arthur, for  the use of family photographs in this biography.