Abbott, Walter John. Died 1st Jan 1919

Walter John Abbott, the son of Caroline and William Abbott was born in 1880 in Rugby.  He was baptised at Newbold on Avon on 14 March 1880.  His 4 older brothers were born in Rhyl, North Wales.  By the time Walter was one year old his mother (born Newbold on Avon) was a widow and the Inn Keeper of the Globe Inn, 53 Railway Terrace, Rugby. She married Thomas Middleton in 1883 who became the Hotel Keeper and they had several more children.

In 1901 Walter John Abbott was a servant Grocer’s Assistant in Pershore, Worcestershire. In 1911 Walter Middleton was living in Louth, Lincolnshire with his wife Kate Isabel, born in Burton on Trent and two children Cynthia and Edward. He was a grocer’s traveller.

Walter John Abbott served as a gunner (No. 152488) in “D” Battery, 199th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, under the name of Middleton and was buried at Tournai Communal Cemetery Allied Extension.

Rugby Advertiser of 10 January 1919 states:
ABBOTT in loving memory of Gunner Walter John Abbott, fifth son of Mr and Mrs Middleton of Watford (late of Rugby) who died in France on 5 January 1919 from injuries received in a train accident while coming home on leave after four years service aged 38 years.  “Thy will be done”.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Advertisements

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.

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 

– – – – – –

 

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.

Walker, Joseph Evan. Died 30th Mar 1918

Omitted from publication on 30th Mar 2018.

Joseph Evan Walker was born in 1888 in Burton on Trent, Staffs. His parents were Thomas and Emily Augusta (nee Poynton). They had been married in Emily’s home town of Ashby de la Zouch on 12th March 1872.

In 1891 the family were living at 169 Shebnall Street, Horninglow, Burton. Thomas was a painter and two year old Joseph was the youngest of four children. They were still there in 1901 and Joseph remained the youngest in the family.

In 1909 Joseph married Lillie Redfern and in 1911 was head of the household at 237 Goodman Street, Burton on Trent. They had a son Joseph Reginald aged 1y 7m. Joseph’s mother had died and Thomas was living with his son. At the age of 64, he was a fishmonger, while Joseph had taken on the job of painter.

Thomas died the following year and Joseph and his family must have moved shortly afterwards, as a daughter Margery was born in Rugby in early 1913. Beatrice arrived in 1915 and Clifford registered in the first quarter of 1917. Joseph was now living at 41 Pinfold Street and was a fruiterer and fishmonger.

As a married man with young children Joseph might have expected to avoid service during the war, however in January 1916 the Military Service Act was passed. At first only single men were liable to be called up, but in June that year it was extended to married men as well. Joseph appealed against the decision and in July the following was reported in the Rugby Advertiser of 29th July 1916:

FRUITERER’S APPEAL UPHELD.
Joseph Evan Walker, fruiterer and fishmonger, 41 Pinfold Street, New Bilton, who was represented by Mr Eaden, appealed against the decision of the Rural District Council Tribunal, who had dismissed
his appeal.—After the facts had been stated, it was decided to give exemption till December 1st.

Presumably this was to allow the safe birth of Clifford who arrived on the 30th November 1916. Sometime after this Walter Evan Walker joined the 2nd/7th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as private 23770.

Four RWR Battalions – the 2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th Battalions – landed in France as part of the 182nd (2nd Warwickshire) Brigade in the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division in May 1916 for service on the Western Front, and their stories are broadly similar, and several other Rugby men served and were killed in action with these Battalions.

2nd/7th Battalion RWR was formed in Coventry in October 1914 as a second line Battalion. It became part of the 2nd Warwickshire Brigade, 2nd South Midland Division, and then in August 1915 it was re-designated as part of the 182nd Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division.   The Battalion landed in France on 21 May 1916.[2].[3] Whether George was with them is unknown. If he was with them, he could have been engaged in various actions on the Western Front including: the Attack at Fromelles in 1916; and during 1917, the Operations on the Ancre; the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line; the Battle of Langemarck toward the end of the Third Battle the Ypres, and then after being in reserve for the Battle of Cambrai, the Battalion was used to reinforce the units under counter-attack in the area of La Vacquerie at the end of November 1917.

The Battalion War Diary[4] gives details of the Battalion’s activities throughout the war, but the following information has been abstracted for the period before Joseph’s death.

In early December 1917, the Battalion was in the Welsh Ridge sector, near the Hindenburg line. To start the New Year, the Battalion was in training. The Battalion moved to Savy, then toward the end of the month it was at Holnon Wood, and then moved back to Berthecourt. The Battalion strength was 29 Officers and 388 Other Ranks.

During February 1918, the Battalion was in support and then relieved the 2nd/6th RWR on 3 February, who relieved them in turn on 6 February. On 14 March the 2nd/8th RWR were transferred to the Battalion, with 8 Officers and 256 Other Ranks. In March the Battalion continued turn and turn about in Holnon Wood, improving the line and with training in the days between 14 and 20 March.

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.

Thus commenced the Battle of St Quentin and the Actions at the Somme Crossings. The 61st (2nd South Midland) Division was holding the forward zone of defences in the area northwest of Saint Quentin in the area of Ham and lost many men as it fought a chaotic, but ultimately successful, withdrawal back over the Somme crossings over the next ten days.

In the initial clash, the South Midland Division faced three enemy Divisions and only began to retire on the afternoon of 22 March, when ordered to do so, in consequence of the enemy’s progress in other parts of the line.

On marching out on 21 March, the Battalion had comprised 21 Officers and 556 Other Ranks. In the period to the end of March, there were 30 Officer casualties (some additional officers had joined in the period) and 488 Other Ranks casualties.

On the 28th March 1918 the Battalion moved into billets at MARCELCAVE to prepare for an attack on LAMOTTE. During the day ground was gained and held but due to both flanks being unprotected they “withdrew to a position more in line with other Units” Casualities 2 officers, 80 other ranks.

After a cold wet night:

29th March 18
Disposition of Battalions slightly improved. Enemy activity slight, little sign of his moving forward to MARCELCAVE
A light Tank gun used from village and a few M.G.
A wet night.

30th March 1918
6 a.m.   Heavy artillery fire along the — valley and our trenches rather knocked about.
Capt. Manuel and Lieut. Forrer – wounded.

7 a.m.   Apparent complete retirement of Division on our right.

7.45 a.m. Units on our right retiring and Battalion commencing to withdraw without any apparent orders. The retirement was checked at about 500 yards in rear and almost the whole of the Battalion re-assembled and a temporary line established at V.1.C.4.2 – V.1.b.2.2 which brought the Battalion in alignment with 183rd Infantry Brigade.

11 a.m.   It was found possible to re-establish the Battalion in their old position. The casualties during the withdrawal had been slight.
Lieut. Strawson – wounded slightly

12 noon.   An advance by the enemy on our right and withdrawal by units on our right, which again, without reason, brought the Battalion out of their trenches. This was immediately checked and they returned to their position.
A squadron of Yeomanry put into the line on right of Battalion during the night.
Lieuts Lunt and Grieve, wounded during the night.
A cold wet cheerless night, relief expected, No rations
Approximate Casualties Officers. 4  O.R. 56

31st March 1918
2 a.m.   Orders for relief by 135th Battn. A.I.F received.
No relief took place, the arrangements having been bungled somewhere.
At dawn the O.C. 135th. Bn. A.I.F. reported regarding relief, but owing to the exposed positions the Battn. Held, it was impossible to effect this during daylight.

8 p.m. Battalion relieved by 135th Bn. A.I.F and marched to GENTELLES to billets.
A cheerless day, Battalion tired out.
30 stragglers rejoined.

It was somewhere in this muddle that Joseph Evan Walker died. Probably one of the 56 casualties on 30th March 1918.

His body was never found or identified and he is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial.

Pozieres is a village 6 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert. The Memorial encloses Pozieres British Cemetery which is a little south-west of the village on the north side of the main road, D929, from Albert to Pozieres. The Pozieres Memorial relates to the period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields, and the months that followed before the Advance to Victory, which began on 8 August 1918. The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918.

The announcement of his death was made in the Rugby Advertiser of 4th May 1918:

News been received by Mrs Joseph E Walker, 41 Pinfold Street, New Bilton, that her husband, a lance corporal in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was killed action on March 30th. Lance-Corpl Walker, who was 29 years of age and joined the Army in January, 1916, formerly carried on business as a greengrocer in Bridget Street.

Joseph was awarded the British and Victory medals.

In mid 1919 Millie Walker remarried, to Joseph H Daniels. Mr Daniels can be found in the 1911 census at 35 Caldecott Street with his wife Elizabeth and 7 children. Elizabeth had died in 1914.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM