“THE WARWICKSHIRE LADS.”
WHAT RUGBY UNITS DID IN THE GREAT WAR.
WITH THE YEOMANRY IN EGYPT, GALLIPOLI, PALESTINE AND FRANCE.
Under this heading we have endeavoured to get together a complete and authoritative account of the doings of Rugby men on the various war fronts from 1914 to 1918. Owing to the regulations of the Defence of the Realm Act all references to these matters by the Press were, of course, strictly prohibited during hostilities. But, although many of the events now related will seem to be already relegated to the “ long ago ” it is only just that there should be on record some recital of the losses and successes of the local units. As we are anxious to make our narrative as comprehensive and complete as possible, we shall be glad if any of our readers would amplify our articles or rectify any omissions that may inadvertently occur.
Few towns of the same size have greater reason to be proud of the exploits of their citizens in the great war than Rugby. This has been repeated so often by speakers at various meetings for war objects held in the town that it almost passes for a truism, but it is an indisputable fact that in all spheres, whether it be in the matter of fighting men, munition workers, or war loan investors, the Rugby people have played their part in the great a struggle manfully and well.
Men from Rugby have fought on every front and in every regiment of our grand old Army ; but the thoughts of the townspeople were, quite naturally, chiefly centred upon the four units with which the name of Rugby has been so intimately associated, Viz. : E Company, 7th R.W.R., the Warwickshire Yeomanry, the Howitzer Battery, and the 220th Army Troop Company.
During the war it was impossible, owing to the strict censorship, for the doings of particular units to be published to the world ; but now that the fighting has ceased, and the iron hand of the censor has been removed, it may be of interest to our readers if we briefly trace the histories of the four Rugby units from the fateful 4th of August, 1914, to the never-to-be-forgotten 11th of November, 1918, which saw the final humiliation of the powerful Central Empires.
THE WARWICKSHIRE YEOMANRY.
To begin with the Yeomanry. Few mounted regiments have covered themselves with greater glory during the war than the gallant Warwickshires, and it is a source of pride to feel that Rugby men have been associated with all their exploits.
At the outbreak of war the Rugby Troop (under S.Q.M.S. J. Tait) of C Squadron consisted of about 20 men recruited from the town and surrounding villages. Immediately on mobilisation they proceeded to Livermere Park, Norfolk, where the first three months’ training took place. From there they proceeded to Newbury Racecourse, after which they were transferred to Donnington, near Norwich. In April they embarked at Southampton for overseas service. The horses were despatched first on the Wayfarer, which, it will be remembered, was torpedoed by a German U- boat near the Scilly Isles. As the result of this disaster, the regiment suffered its first casualties, five men being drowned, including a member of the Rugby Troop, Corpl. Powell, son of the late Rector of Swinford. The embarkation of the regiment was delayed several days owing to this sinking ; but the journey, when it was commenced, was completed in safety, and Alexandria was reached on April 20th. In Egypt the regiment underwent a course of intensive training in open cavalry work until the end of July, when they were dismounted, turned into infantry, and fitted out with packs. They left Alexandria about August 12th, and landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on the morning of the 19th. Two days afterwards—in the afternoon—they went into action, and first came under shell fire when they made an advance across the Plains to Chocolate Hill. Here about 30 per cent, of the regiment became casualties, many falling with dysentery, pneumonia, &c.
They withdrew from the Peninsula on the last day of October, and proceeded to Mudros, where they remained until the end of November. On reaching Alexandria they went into camp at Mena, near Cairo, leaving there on Boxing Day, 1915, for the camp at Salich. Here a composite regiment was made up of the 5th Mounted Division, which consisted of the Warwick, Worcester, and Gloucester Yeomanries, for service on the Western Frontier, where they saw a lot of fighting against various Arab tribes. They afterwards took part in the push across the Sinai Peninsula, starting from Kantara on the Suez Canal, and fighting in every action till the fall of Jerusalem on December 9,1917. They then returned for a rest with the intention of recuperating preparatory to further fighting in Palestine, but orders were received that they were to dismounted and formed into a machine gun squadron. They were taken to Sidi Bishr, near Alexandria, and were then fully equipped for France. On the way the transport, the Leasowe Castle, was torpedoed, and Lieut-Col. Cheap and the Adjutant, Capt. Drake, together with a number of men, were drowned.
ON THE WESTERN FRONT.
After the unfortunate experience on the “ Leasowe Castle,” the regiment (now amalgamated with the Notts Hussars Yeomanry and known as the 100th Warwick and S.N. Yeomanry, Batt. M.G.C.) returned to Sidi Bishr Camp, Alexandria, to be re-equipped and await another boat. It was three weeks before the next convoy was ready to start, the battalion in the meantime putting in most of their time in learning the working of the Vickers machine gun, which they were soon to use with telling effect on the Germans in France. However, by the middle of June everything was ready, and the battalion for the last time marched to the docks. Strange to say, it was the same convoy with the exception of the “ Leasowe Castle,” which was to transport the troops, it having made the return journey without further mishap. The “ Caledonian ” filled the gap made by the “ Leasowe Castle,” and this was the boat allocated to the 100th M.G.C. The destination of the convoy was to be Taranti, on the Italian coast, instead of Marseilles, and it was expected that the journey would occupy three days. The convoy of six boats steamed out of Alexandria soon after mid-day on the 18th of June with a strong escort of Japanese destroyers, and the Warwickshire lads once more said “ Good bye ” to Egypt and the many and varied experiences which they had gone through since landing there in April, 1915. Their work in the East was finished, and they were called on to take a hand in the final struggle on the main front. It was therefore with mixed feelings of sorrow and gladness that they watched the coastline of Egypt slipping gradually from their view, sorrow for the comrades they had left behind, their horses which they would never ride again, and at not being able to be in at the death and successful conclusion of the Palestine Expedition, they being one of the first regiments ordered to that Front at the commencement of operations. Gladness, too, that they had been one of the regiments chosen from amongst the various yeomanry units to fight in France, and that they were journeying nearer to “ England, home, and beauty ” after neatly 3½ years in the East, with a prospect of getting their long delayed leave.
RAILWAY JOURNEY ACROSS ITALY.
Luck was with them, and the journey was uneventful until the coastline of Italy was sighted, when several heavy explosions were heard. One or two of the escort were seen to leave their places and make out to sea. More explosions followed, the results of depth charges dropped by our destroyers. It was eventually announced that another attempt had been made to torpedo the convoy, but happily the escort had been too smart for them. Taranti was reached in safety about noon on the 21st June, and the next day the railway journey across Italy and France was commenced. Cattle trucks, each carrying thirty men. were used. The journey proved an experience in itself, and under better travelling conditions would have been a pleasant holiday ; but crowded trucks, Army food, and limited recreation more than counter-balanced the splendid scenery and enthusiastic reception accorded the troops. After exactly seven days’ travelling the destination, Etaples, on the French coast, was reached. At that time Etaples was a big detail camp, and Comiers close by was a training centre for machine gun troops. There were also several hospitals in the vicinity. The place had been visited by enemy aeroplanes on several occasions, and had suffered many casualties by bombs, the hospital being hit and much loss of life occasioned. When the 100th Batt. M.G.C. had put up their tents and settled down for the night, weary after their long journey in the train, and prepared for a good night’s sleep, they were not a little annoyed when Fritz came over about midnight and bombed the whole place for over two hours. Unfortunately there were no shelters, and the only thing the battalion could do was to lie in their tents and stick it. A similar thing happened three nights in succession, and although none of the 100th Battalion were hit, it was felt that this luck could not hold, and they were accordingly moved into a little wood about half-way between Etaples and Comiers. Here a six weeks’ course on the machine gun was commenced, at the end of which time it was considered the battalion would be fit to take their place in the line. Here, also, the long-delayed and much-looked for Blighty leave was commenced.
HELPING IN THE LAST BIG PUSH.
There was much talk as to whether the 100th Batt. M.G.C. would be a mobile or foot unit, and at one time it seemed certain that they would become a Motor Machine Gun Corps until the last moment, but motor-cars were not available, and the battalion became an Infantry Machine Gun Corps attached to the 4th Army (under Sir H. Rawlinson), operating on the Somme Front. The Allied big-push had just commenced when the 100th finished training Their training completed, and they being pronounced fit to take the line, they were moved by rail towards the end of August to the small village of Warloe, not far from Albert, the latter place having just been taken from the Germans. Here all the packs and unnecessary luggage was left, and the place became the rear base for the battalion. The first action in which the battalion took part on French soil was at Combles early in September, when two companies were attached to the 12th & 18th Divisions respectively for barrage purposes. Here too, the Battalion had its first casualties. Ephy Forest was the scene of the next action, and it was here that some of the heaviest fighting on this front took place, the nature of the country bring such as to make it an admirable line of defence for the Germans. The battalion was deputed to assist the divisions forming the 3rd Corps by putting up barrages preparatory to the attacks in conjunction with the Artillery, and were complimented on their excellent work on more than one occasion. They suffered their heaviest casualties whilst in this area, but their strength was continually augmented by drafts of M.G.C men from the base. The drafts of Yeomanry had automatically ceased when the battalion was formed, so that the percentage of Yeomanry to M.G.C. men in the battalion was constantly on the decline ; whilst fighting around the sector was still going on ; the battalion was withdrawn, and sent to help the 9th Corps in the St. Quentin sector, and were able to help the infantry to cross the Canal du Nord.
As soon as all objectives had been gained here the battalion was returned to the 3rd Corps, and took part in the fighting round Le Catelet. About this time the Germans were being pushed back on all fronts, and the Hindenburg line was fast crumbling. The battalion was constantly engaged right up to Le Cateau, where the last big stand was made by the Germans in this sector. Very severe indeed was the fighting round about Le Cateau, and fresh laurels had been gained by the battalion before the enemy were ejected from the town. After this the battalion was withdrawn for a rest and billeted in Le Cateau. But it was not for long—long rests were not known in those days—and they were soon on the track of Jerry again. After a short tussle Landrecies, the next big town, and the last but one of any importance, was captured. The pace was getting hot, and it was all the troops could do to keep up with the enemy, who relied on his machine guns to hold the attackers up. It was quite a common occurrence for the cavalry at this time to go out for miles, and when they returned report that they had not come in touch with the enemy. Avernes was the last place of siege on French soil, which the battalion helped to take, and when the fighting ceased on November 11, 1918, the battalion was only a few miles from the Belgian border.
The casualties had been pretty severe, and many of the old boys who had arrived right through the Gallipoli and Egyptian fighting were killed or wounded during the three mouths’ fighting the battalion had taken part in since they arrived in France. Many, also, had obtained commissions, so that by the time the fighting ceased the actual number of yeomen who had been right through with the regiment from the time it left England in April, 1918, was probably not more than 30. After the Armistice the battalion was included in the troops for the Army of Occupation of the Rhine, and had actually tackled a good part of the journey to Germany when the order was cancelled, and the battalion remained in Belgium until demobilisation commenced.
The Warwickshire Yeomanry have had the unique experience of fighting as infantry, cavalry, and machine gunners during their term of active service, and in all three roles have shown their fighting qualities, which are typical of our race.
The best work the Regiment did as Yeomanry was the capture of 14 field guns at Huj. This was purely cavalry work, and the gallant charge of the Yeomanry while the guns were fixing with the sights set at zero will be always remembered as among the most thrilling and daring deeds of the great war.
POPULAR RUGBY N.C.O.’s DEATH.
CORPORAL BOSWORTH KILLED IN RUSSIA.
Further details are to hand in regard to Corpl. Frederick Albert Bosworth, who, as announced in our last issue, was recently killed in action while serving with the R.F.A. in the North Russian Expeditionary Force. Corpl. Bosworth was a member of the Rugby Howitzer Battery at the time the war broke out, his home address being 86 Bath Street. He remained with the local battery during its service in France until he was severely wounded in August, 1917. For his services over there he was awarded the Military Medal, and later a bar. and also the Medaille Militaire. Although week from his wounds and suffering from the effects of gas, Corpl. Bosworth was quite ready to “ carry on ” in North Russia when the call came for help.
It is quite evident from letters received from his officers that Corpl. Bosworth did justice to his own reputation and to the good name of the battery. The deceased corporal was at one time employed as an apprentice at Messrs. Willans and Robinson’s works, and was familiarly known to his many friends as “ Sammy.”
THE COLONEL’S SYMPATHY.
The commanding officer of the battery writes to the family as follows :—
“VI. Brigade R.F.A.,
North Russian Exp. Force.
DEAR MR. BOSWORTH,— I am most fearfully sorry for you all in having lost your son. He was shot and never recovered consciousness, dying almost at once, so he can’t have suffered any pain. He was the man in the whole of my Brigade that I would have wished most to bring home safe, when we finally get out of this country. He was the best signaller I’d got, and as fine a soldier as there is in the Brigade, which is full of good men. He was popular both with officers and men, and everybody grieves and sympathises with you. I was at his funeral. He was buried with full military honours in a very pretty little village cemetery at a place called Limbushi, and I am trying to get a photograph of the church for you. With my deepest sympathy, yours sincerely, C. T. LAWRENCE, Lt. Colonel R.F.A.”
DEATH OF MR. ALBERT WHITEHEAD.—We regret to record the death of Albert (Bert) Whitehead, which took place at Colchester after a severe illness from a painful internal complaint. The deceased was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Whitehead, of this village. He answered Lord Kitchener’s call, enlisting in the early part of the war in the Coldstream Guards, with whom he served at the Battle of Loos. He afterwards contracted trench fever, and was invalided to England. Prior to enlistment, deceased was engaged with his father in the budding trade. He was a general favourite in the village, having been an active member of the cricket, football, and rifle clubs. He was in his 25th year.
OUTING OF OLD VOLUNTEERS.—On Wednesday a party of “ old crocks,” who served in the Rugby Volunteer Company years ago, made their annual pilgrimage to Stoneleigh Deer Park, and spent a very pleasant re-union on the old camping ground. The weather was delightful, and the beauty of the mediaeval surroundings was never more striking.
WITH regard to a dance held at the Green Man Hotel paddock on July 12th, the following is a balance-sheet. The dance was in aid of the St. Dunstan’s Hostel for Blinded Soldiers and Sailors. The receipts were £10 2s. 8d., expenses 4s. 6d., leaving a total profit of £9 18s. 2d. This has been handed to the fund, and the committee wish to thank the members of the Dunchurch Brass Band, who so kindly gave their services free.
EX-SERVICE MEN’S DAY.
NOVEL BANK HOLIDAY FETE AT NEWBOLD.
The discharged and demobilised sailors, soldiers, and airmen of Newbold held a very successful ex-service men’s day on Bank Holiday. The arrangements included a dinner, tea, cricket match—Ex-Service Men v. Others—sports, and dancing during the evening. An excellent three-course dinner was served by Mr. John I. Gamble, of the Barley Mow, in a marquee erected in a paddock, kindly lent for the occasion by Mr. J. Parris Cox, some 300 sitting down to the meal.
After “ The King ” and a silent toast to “ Absent Comrades,” the Vicar (Rev. J. B. Hewitt) expressed the great pleasure it gave all of them in attending and helping to make the day a success. They were very pleased indeed to have the de mobilised men back with them, but he rather thought that, instead of the men doing the work in entertaining them, it should have been the other way about—they should have been waiting upon their returned soldiers. However, he congratulated those concerned on the admirable arrangements made and the splendid manner in which these were being carried out. He wished the movement every success.
Mr. F. Healey responded, and thanked the Vicar and friends present for the kind and sympathetic encouragement given the demobilised men in their little effort. He extended a hearty welcome to everyone. The idea of holding a festive day of their own originated amongst a few venturesome spirits in the village, and was only made possible by the hearty cooperation and generous response of their numerous friends. When he told them that the whole of the vegetables had not only been given (some 250lbs. each of potatoes and vegetables), but had also been cooked, and the meat cooked as well, by people in the village they would realise to some small extent what support had been accorded them voluntarily. He also sincerely thanked everyone who had contributed towards sending Christmas presents to their fighting men during the past five years—he assured them that this had been much appreciated.
After dinner the cricket match was played on the old recreation field (by kind permission of Mr. W. P. Day), and resulted in a victory for the “ Others,” the scores being—E-Service Men, 37 ; the Others, 89 for 5 wickets (Rev. J. B. Hewitt, 32. not out). A return was then made to the marquee, where some 350 sat down to tea.
Afterwards an adjournment was made to the recreation ground near the schools, where dancing took place until the proceedings were interrupted by the rain.
During the day the Rugby Steam Shed Band gave an excellent programme of music.
Those who assisted were :—Waitresses, Mesdames E. Clarke, Harris, Wray, Stanton, W. Allen, A. Allen, Read, W. Hipwell, W. Gamble, Smith, Robinson, Clewlow, Crowdy, Misses Gamble and V. Hipwell ; carvers, Messrs. J. Martin, J. Vears, F. Gamble, F. Jefferson, S. Sutton, Brett, and others. Vegetables were given by Messrs. Gill, Knowles, T. Smith, C. Heath, Wilson, Newman, J. Harratt, Stone, H. Clarke, Curtis, Long, C. Harris, P. Gamble, F. Gamble, W. Gamble, and A. Thompson. The following ladies are to be congratulated on their splendid cooking :—The hostess, Mrs. J. T. Gamble ; Mesdames Prestidge, H. Clarke, Howes, J. Harris, Timms, J. Cave, W. Gamble, F. Gamble, Robinson, Reynolds, Newman, Clewlow, W. Hipwell, and others.
The demobilised men who carried out the arrangements were Messrs. S. Smith (chairman), Gil1, Knowles, O. Wilson, F. Harris, W. Coles, W. Gamble, J. Growdy, F. Jefferson, with C. T. Dadley treasurer and F. Healey secretary.
The expenses amounted to some £70, and after paying these a slight balance remains. A balance sheet will be issued in due course.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
AS OTHERS SEE US.
VISITOR’S DELIGHT IN THE PEACE PROCESSION.
SIR,—As a visitor to your interesting old town during the recent peace celebrations, I am writing to congratulate you on the splendid way everything was carried out.
I was particularly pleased with the procession on Peace Day, one item of which, a lady representing peace, specially took my fancy. I was rather surprised, however, on receiving your valuable paper this week, to learn that this lady did not receive a prize.—Yours, etc.,
THE CRUCIFIX AS A WAR MEMORIAL.
A REPLY TO RECENT LETTERS.
SIR,—I was both surprised and amazed at the letters of “ M. E. Harding ” and “ A Churchman .” on the above subject in your issue of July 25th. It is indeed most painful to read of members of the Church of England expressing their “ deep regret ” at a proposal to erect what is, after all, merely a “ blest memorial to our dying Lord.”
“ M. E. Harding ” evidently labouring under a very wrong impression when stating “ we worship not a dead Christ of the Cross.” Of course we do not. Whoever suggested worshipping the crucifix ? I was under the impression that it was to be set up as a memorial to those who had fallen in war. If so, then the word “ worship ” has nothing whatever to do with it, and “ M. E. Harding’s ” argument is plainly “ off the map.”
“ A Churchman ” also displays lamentable lack of understanding in saying : “ It is illegal and is breaking the Second Commandment.” If the crucifix is to be condemned on those grounds, then all the thousands of monuments, statues, and images of kings and queens and famous men and women that adorn the length and breadth of the country are also “ illegal ” and wrong, for remember the words of the commandment : “. . . nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above or in the earth beneath. . . .” One can see in a moment that such a construction of the meaning of the commandment is ridiculous. Why was the Commandment written in the very first place ? Because the Children of Israel made images of other gods and worshipped them, thus forsaking the true and only God. Is the crucifix an image of a false god ? Do we worship the crucifix itself ? How can it possibly make us forsake the true and only God ? How could God possibly be “ Jealous,” as the Commandment tells us, of honour paid to His Son ? Rather are our hearts filled with an overwhelming sense of love and devotion as we gaze upon the symbol of our Faith and think how wonderful and amazing God’s love for us must be that he should “ give His only begotten Son to suffer and to die.”
Surely a beautiful representation of the greatest sacrifice ever made is the best possible memorial we could have ? Nothing more expressive of calm dignity and peace could be erected.
In conclusion, I would point out that on St. Swithin’s Day, the Bishop of London solemnly dedicated a crucifix in the churchyard of St. Peter’s, Fulham.—Yours, etc.,
NOT ASHAMED OF CHRIST CRUCIFIED.
The County Roads and Bridges Committee [Warwickshire County Council] reported having before them the draft conveyance from the Duke of Buccleuch to the Council of the lands forming part of the site of the Dunchurch Avenue. It recites the gift by the Duke to the Council of half the nett proceed a of sale of the trees, and in consideration of the conveyance of the land to them the Council covenant with his Grace that they will within fifteen months from the date of the deed replant the avenue, and afterwards maintain it. The committee learn that the draft has been approved by the Dunchurch Avenue Committee, and that that committee are prepared to replant the avenue ; and it was recommended that the draft be approved on behalf of the Council, which was done. Provision is to be made in the next pay order for a sum not exceeding £25,000 for the purposes of the Small Holdings and Allotments Acts, and the committee was empowered to expend any sum therefrom needed for acquiring and adapting land for small holdings.
AVIS.—In proud and honoured memory of Lance-Corpl. MARK AVIS, 5th Oxford and Buck L.I., killed in action on august 6, 1915. —“ Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for others,”—From his loving Sisters and Brothers all.
BARNWELL.—In loving memory of Pte. FRED BARNWELL, R.M.L.T., who died in Colchester Heart Hospital on August 2, 1918, aged 31 years.—From his sorrowing Mother, Brother and Sisters, and Lizzie.
DANIELS.—In ever-loving memory of our dear son, Corpl. LEONARD GORDON DANIELS, Grenadier Guards, who died from wounds in Belgium, August 4, 1917.
“ Splendid you passed,
The great surrender made,
Into the light that nevermore shall fade.”
—From his loving Mother, Father & Brothers.
DUNKLEY.—In ever-loving memory of our two dear boys, PERCY & HARRY DUNKLEY, who were killed in France on July 25 and July 30, 1916.
“ Days of sadness still come o’er us,
tears in silence often flow,
Thinking of the days we lost you ;
Just three years ago.
Too far away thy graves to me,
But not too far to think of thee.
—From his loving Mother & Father & Sister.
ELLIOTT.—In ever loving memory of our darling boy, PERCY GEORGE ELLIOTT, who fell in action “ somewhere in France,” August 9, 1918.
“ We little thought his time so short
When home on leave he came ;
Out to the front he bravely went,
Never to return again.
We often sit in silence,
No eye may see up weep ;
But deep within our aching hearts
His memory we’ll ever keep.”
—Never forgotten by his sorrowing Mother, Father, and Brother.
LEWIS.—In loving memory of LEWIS LEWIS killed in action on August 8, 1918, aged 18.—From his loving Father, Mother, Sisters and Brothers, 35 King Edward Road.
MATTHEWS.—In loving memory of WALTER JAMES MATTHEWS, Long Lawford, who was killed in action in France on August 6, 1918.
“ Sleep on, beloved, and take thy rest ;
We loved you well, but God loved best.”
—From his loving Mother, Father, Brothers and Sisters.