Clements, Eustace Edwin. Died 12th Nov 1918

Eustace Edward CLEMENTS was the son of Charles Edwin, [b.c. 19 April 1866 in Wing, Buckinghamshire] and Mary Ellen, née Lee, Clements [b.c. 1865 in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire], who were married on 28 December 1891 at Saint Andrew’s church, Rugby.

Mary Ellen and her parents – Frederick, who was born in Hillmorton, and Jane Lee – had lived in Rugby at least from 1864 when Mary’s sister, Minnie, was born there and in 1871 and 1881, when they were living at 768 Old Station, Rugby.  In 1881, Mary Ellen was 21.

Mary Ellen returned to Rugby to have her first child, Eustace, whose birth was registered, as Eustace Edwin Clements, in Q1, 1893 in Rugby [Rugby, 6d, 577].  Eustace was baptised in Rugby at St Andrew’s church on 12 March 1893.  His military Service Record though, would later give his birth place as Northampton – his early home – and his second name as Edward – and indeed on one record his religion as Roman Catholic!

In 1901, the family were still living in Roade St. Mary, Buckinghamshire, with their children: Eustace E Clements, 8; Dorothy Clements, 6; Freddy Clements, 3; and Oscar Clements, 2.   In 1919 Sidney and Edwin Clements would be given as the names of his surviving brothers.

Before 1911, the family had moved back to Rugby and in 1911 were living at 33 Winfield Street, Clifton Road, Rugby.  Charles was working as a Railway Signal Fitter for the LNWR.  Eustace, now aged 18 was working, as an ‘engine fitter apprentice’, also with the LNWR.  His younger brother, Frederick, was 13 and still at school,

Eustace Clements. photo by permission of David Boult

There are two sets of surviving Service Records for Eustace – or Eustace Edward or Edward as he was known to the military.  One set of records of five pages, and one set of 23 pages, with some duplications.  There is also a Medal Card and his CWGC entry.  Unfortunately the Service Records are of very poor legibility in many cases, and parts are missing as they were probably recovered from the ‘burnt records’.

Eustace volunteered early for war service and was attested in Rugby on 31 August 1914.  When he enlisted he was 21 years and 232 days old.  He was 5 foot 11½ inches tall; weighed 160 lbs; had grey eyes and light brown hair, and his religion was Church of England.  He was certified ‘Fit for service in the Royal Garrison Artillery, RFA’.  He became a Gunner, No.1679, in the Royal Field Artillery.  His previous trade was listed as ‘fitter’.

From 31 August 1914 to 12 September 1917 one set of records suggest he was on a ‘Home’ posting – which would seem to be in conflict with other records, and omits one of his postings in France!

He was initially in 51st (R) Battery, R. F. A. and had various postings before the end of December 1914 and would later be promoted to Corporal.  On 1 September 1914 he was at Hilsea,[1] then on 9 September 1914 he was posted to ?13 Reserve Brigade, and on 15 December he was at Frome and on 17 December 1914 with ?/111 Battery.

His military career was not faultless.  On 29 March 1915 he was ‘absent without leave from 10pm 29/3/15 until 2pm 30/3/15, 16 hours’ and was admonished and forfeited one day’s pay.  Then at Winchester on 20 May 1915 he was ‘Absent from town piquet’ and was confined to barracks for two days.  On 10 September 1915 at Lille Barracks,[2] he was ‘Absent from base [or ‘leave’?] 12 noon to 4.30 pm, 4½ hrs.’ for which he received 7 days field punishment No 2.

On 28 May 1915 it seems he was posted to the B/113th Brigade, and was vaccinated in July 1915.  Although an alternative record stated that he went to France on 25 September 1915 after ‘home service’ of 1 year and 25 days, however, there is again confusion as Eustace’s Medal Card stated that he went to France on 20 September 1915.  He would, in either case, have been entitled to the 1914-1915 Star.

He served in France until 10 June 1917 [one record stated 1916!] as on 7 June 1917 he was wounded and was evacuated first to 20th General Hospital, Dannes Camiers, and then ‘Home’ by ship on 11 June 1917 and admitted to the Horton War Hospital with ‘Gun S W right forefinger crushed, contusions of leg’.  He was discharged on 17 July 1917, however another report notes ‘Finger healed but distal joint stiff.  Has [morn]ing massage.  Sent to Command Depot’.

Indeed, he was posted to the Command Depot at Rippon on 28 July 1917 and then posted to 56th Reserve Brigade on 31 August 1917 until 12 September 1917.   He was then posted back to France on 13 September 1917 and seems to have been moved to A/307 Brigade from Base on 26 September 1917, and then to A/306 Brigade F. A. on 8 November 1917.

On 12 December 1917 he was wounded again, presumably comparatively slightly as he was discharged on 17 December 1917.

On 9 May 1918 he was wounded yet again and apparently suffered a ‘… Shell wound severe …’ and was evacuated back to England on 10 May 1918.  On arrival ‘Home’ on 11 May 1918, he was initially admitted to Southwark Military Hospital, London S.E.[3] being treated for ‘… ? gas shell poisoning?’ until 16 July 1918, when he was sent to the Convalescence Hospital,  Eastbourne, until 10 August 1918.

On 19 August 1918 he was posted to 60th Reserve Battery, R.F.A. and granted ‘Leave with free warrant’.  Presumably he was now no longer fit for front line service as on 17 October 1918 he had a ‘compulsory transfer into the Labour Corps as Private, No.669461 at Sutton’.  This suggests that he had been medically rated below the ‘A1’ condition needed for front line service.

Being less than fully fit for service, it was perhaps not surprising that he was taken ill again, struck down by the flu epidemic was sweeping the world.  He died, aged 25, in the Horton War Hospital, Epsom, on 12 November 1918, from ‘Acute Bronchio-Pneumonia & Influenza’.

The second page of a telegram on 13 November 1918 confirms ‘F C Labour Corps 1 acute Lobar pneumonia 2 influenza Warspital Epsom’.  Only the name ‘Clements’ can be read on the first page.

After a funeral in Rugby, he was buried in Rugby’s Clifton cemetery in plot, J192, with a CWGC headstone as Gunner Eustace Edwin Clements, Royal Field Artillery,[4] Service Number, 1679.  The CWGC has him as aged 24.

His headstone also remembers his brother Frederick Clements who most probably died in a Prisoner of War camp near to Berlin.  His family’s chosen inscription on Eustace’s headstone reads: ‘Also in Memory of 307487 Corporal F. Clements Royal Warwickshire Regt. 24.10.18.’

Three items were published in the Rugby Advertiser on 23 November,[5] a report on his death and funeral; the family’s announcement of his death; and their ‘Acknowledgement’ and thanks to friends.

Mr C E and Mrs Clements, 33 Winfield Street, have lost their son, Gunner E E Clements, R.F.A. from pneumonia, under sad circumstances, after seeing a lot of service in France.  He worked as a fitter in the L & N-W Railway Sheds, and when war broke out he answered the first call, and joined Kichener’s Army  in August, 1914.  He served three years in France, and was twice badly wounded.  During the big German offensive in May this year he was gassed.  On recovering he returned to his regiment, when he was called out of the ranks and told that he would have his discharge in two days’ time after good service.  On the following day he was struck down with influenza, which developed into pneumonia, to which he succumbed on the 14th inst.  The funeral took place at rugby Cemetery on Saturday last.  He was borne to the grave by six of his former workmates, and a large number of flowers testified to the esteem in which he was held

CLEMENTS. – On the 12th inst., at Horton War Hospital, Epsom, Eustace Edwin, the dearly beloved eldest son of C. E. & M. E. Clements, Gunner, R.F.A., of “flu” and pneumonia; aged 25 years. – Deeply mourned.’

MR & MRS CLEMENTS & FAMILY wish to thank all kind Friends and Neighbours for sympathy shown to them in their bereavement; also for all floral tributes sent.

Eustace is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and also on the Rugby Loco Steam Shed Memorial,[6]

In July 1919 his father filled in the declaration of next of kin, and on 19 September 1919 Eustace’s effects were sent from Nottingham to his father’s solicitors in Rugby.  They included,
‘Correspondence, Wallet, Photos, Badge, Holdall, 3 Razors In Cases, 2 Toothbrushes, 2 Shaving Brushes, Button Stick, Housewife, Meal Cards, Letters, Shaving Soap, Pencil, Disc, Bag, ?Piece Bread Pouch, Cig Papers, Watch Strap, Tin Tablets, 2 Button Brushes, 3 Handkerchiefs, Metal Pins, Hairbrush, Mirror, Wound Stripe, 4 Blue Chevrons, 2 Pocket Books.’

The family were then living at 33 Winfield Street, Rugby.  It seems that his mother received a separation allowance of 5 shillings per week.

Eustace was awarded the Victory and British medals and the 1914-1915 Star which were sent to his father in 1922.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Eustace Edwin Clements 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, November 2017.

[1]      Hilsea Lines includes 18th- and 19th-century fortifications built to protect the northern approach to Portsea.

[2]      The Lille Barracks were one of the six barracks in the Aldershot Marlborough Lines which were built in about 1890; the Lille barracks were demolished in 1958.

[3]      St Saviour’s Infirmary in East Dulwich Grove … was built in 1887 by the Guardians of the Poor of the parish of St Saviour’s, Southwark.  The Royal Army Medical Corps took over control of the infirmary in East Dulwich Grove on 11 November 1915, which at the insistence of the guardians was named Southwark Military Hospital.  The hospital was fully equipped for 800 patients … the existing Medical Superintendent Dr A  Bruce was appointed the rank of Major and served as its Officer in charge for most of the three and half years the hospital was used by the military. … Altogether 12,522 wounded and sick servicemen were cared for at Southwark Military Hospital of whom [only] 119 died; a very small percentage of those admitted and a tribute to the skill of the doctors, surgeons and nurses.  See http://www.dulwichsociety.com/2010-summer/532-southwark-military-hospital.

[4]      Whilst Eustace had later been in the Labour Corps, this Corps always suffered from its treatment as something of a second class organization, and the men who died are typically commemorated under their original Regiment, with the Labour Corps being secondary.

[5]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 23 November 1918.

[6]      From a report of the unveiling, Rugby Advertiser, 11 March 1921; see also https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/rugby-loco-steam-shed-memorial.

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Coleman, Duncan Reginald. Died 11th Nov 1918

Duncan Reginald COLEMAN was born in Wardington, Oxfordshire on 27 August 1894, and baptised there on 2 December 1894.  He was the second son of George Henry Coleman [a plasterer, b.c.1856 in Warmington, Warwickshire] and Emily, née Treadwell, Coleman [b.c.1864 in Wardington, Oxfordshire].

In 1901 the family were living at the ‘Red Lion Beer House’, in Wardington, probably following in part the family trade – as George Henry’s father had been an innkeeper in Milcomb.  George Henry was however still working as a ‘plasterer’.

At some date before 1911, the family moved to Rugby and in 1911 were living at 102 Lawford Road, which seems to have been later defined as 102 Dunsmore Terrace, Lawford Road, Rugby.  George Henry was now 55 and his wife Emily was 45.  They had had nine children, but one had died and it seems that one had already left home.  However, seven children were still living at home: Muriel Blanche Coleman was 24; Mary Olive Coleman, 21; Albert Victor Coleman, 18; Duncan Reginald Coleman, was now 16 and already working as a moulder in an Iron Foundry; Ida Cerise Coleman was 12; Stanley Winston Coleman, 11; and Lena Emily Coleman, was 8.

A somewhat complicated set of Service Records survives for Reginald, as it seems he had a number of postings and was also wounded.  Together with various other surviving documents it is possible to provide an outline of his military career.

In summary he was:                                                                                        Days
Home              17 – 4 – 16 to 15 – 7 – 16                         90
BEF France     16 – 7 – 16 to 10 – 5 – 17                      299
Home              11 – 5 – 17 to 22 – 12 – 17                    226
BEF France     23 – 12 – 17 to 11 – 11 – 18                  324
Total    2 years 209 days

He was living at 102 Lawford Road, Rugby, when he first signed up at Warwick[1] for General Service, posted to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and then posted on 18 April 1916 as a Private, No.18102 in the 11th Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR).  He was 21 years and 7 months (or 210 days!) old, 5ft 6¼ inches tall, single and working as a ‘moulder’.

He was transferred as a Private to the ‘Expeditionary Force France’ on 16 July 1916 and embarked for France on 19 July 1916.  On 24 July 1916 he was posted to 11th Bn. RWR, ‘In the Field’.

He was wounded in action with a ‘GSW chest sev’ [Gun Shot Wound to the Chest Severe] on 23 April 1917, and on 3 May 1917 he was ‘adm 4 Gen H’ [Admitted to 4th General Hospital] at ‘Dannes Camier’.[2]  He was then transferred to England on the ‘HS [Hospital Ship] Cambria’ two days later on 11 May 1917, being transferred to the Home Depot that day.

He was admitted to the Eastern General Hospital, Edmonton for 21 days from 11 May to 1 June 1917 and this was extended for a further 10 days from 1 June to 11 June 1917 for the same ‘GSW Chest’ at the Edmonton Military Hospital – probably the same hospital, but with different stamps!!  After these periods, he was pronounced ‘Cured – No FB prelit? or disability – furlough thence CD’ [probably ‘Command Depot’].

On 22 October 1917, he was posted to the Essex Regiment, and on 28 October 1917, he was re-posted as a Private, No.45263 to the 17th Battalion, Essex Regiment at Dover.  On 22 December 1917 he went overseas again from Weybourne, by way of Folkestone on 23 December, arriving in Boulogne to join the BEF on the 24 December 1917.  On the same day he was transferred ‘in the field’ to the Royal Engineers, as a Pioneer, No.358639 and on 27 February 1918 to the Royal Engineers, No.4 Foreway Company, ‘at RE Rates’ from 28 February 1918.

Later that year, on 19 September 1918, he was ‘temporarily and compulsorily’ transferred to the Railways sub-unit in the Transportation Branch RE and from 20 September became a Pioneer with the 234th Light Railway Field Company and allotted a new regimental number: WR/358639.  The letters ‘WR’ stood for ‘Waterway and Railways’.  The 234th (Forward) Company was formed in France and operated there.

The formation of the RE Light Railway Companies in early 1917 was an innovation that was one of the factors that transformed the operational abilities of the army.  Goods and men could now make the last leg of the journey to the front by light rail.  Until that time, ammunition supply in particular had been subject to delays and required vast numbers of men and horses, and the light railways helped overcome both problems.  Traffic and wear on the roads and tracks leading up to the front was eased, and fewer men were required to repair them. … The Company consisted of approximately 200 men, … Drivers, Brakesmen, Guards, Wagon Repairers, Repair Shop Engineers, Traffic Controllers and Storesmen.   There were few officers among this number … The job … was to run the trains, with the tracks being laid by RE Railway Construction Companies – often with the assistance of whatever Labour Corps Company or ‘resting’ infantry were at hand.[3]

At some stage, presumably in early November, he became unwell and was transferred to No. 29 Casualty Clearing Station, which was then stationed at Delsaux Farm.  It was from there that his death was reported, ‘Died – Influenza – 11.11.1918’.  He died of Pneumonia on ‘Armistice Day’, 11 November 1918, aged 25, at ‘29 CCS’.  A confirmatory report in his Service Record, from the Captain RAMC, Medical Specialist, 29 CC Station, read,
358639 Pnr Colemen DR, 234 Light Forward Railway Co. RE
The a/m man died from Influenza followed by Broncho-Pneumonia & heart failure.
The disease was brought about by exposure whilst on military service in France.

Duncan was first buried in the Beugny Military Cemetery No.18, which had been made by the Germans after their Operation Michael[4] advances in March 1918 near the village crossroads.

Later, the German graves were removed, and in 1920, the British burials were exhumed and reburied at the Delsaux Farm Cemetery, adjacent to the Casualty Clearing Station.  Duncan was reburied  in grave reference: III. A. 17.  His gravestone bears the family message ‘Greater Love Hath No Man’.

A draft and copy of a letter sent to Duncan’s father is with his Service Record.

Royal Engineers, Record Office, Chatham  –  16 June 1920

Sir, 

I beg to inform you that in accordance with the agreement with the French and Belgian Governments to remove all scattered graves, small cemeteries containing less than 40 graves and certain other cemeteries which were situated in places unsuitable for permanent retention, it has been found necessary to exhume bodies buried in certain areas and re-inter them, therefore the body of your late son, No. WR/284262, Pioneer, D. R. Colemen, R. E., has been removed and re-buried in DELSAUX FARM BRITIH CEMETERY, 3 ¾ miles E. of BAPAUME.

The necessity for removal is much regretted but was unavoidable for reasons stated above.

The removal has been undertaken with every measure of care and reverence and special arrangements have been made for the appropriate religious services to be held.

I am, Yours faithfully,          for Colonel i/c R. E. Records.

The cemetery is near the village of Beugny, in Pas de Calais, France, some 19 kilometres south-west of Cambrai.

Delsaux Farm was a point on the German defensive system known as the Beugny-Ytres line, which was reached by Commonwealth troops on 18 March 1917, and passed on the following day. The farm was lost on 23 March 1918 after the gallant defence of Beugny by the 9th Welsh Regiment and their withdrawal, but it was retaken by the 5th Division on 2 September 1918, and on the next day the same division occupied Beugny village.  After their advance in March 1918, the Germans made a cemetery (Beugny Military Cemetery No.18) at the cross-roads, and in it buried 103 Commonwealth and 82 German dead.  The site was extended in October-November 1918 by the 29th and 46th Casualty Clearing Stations, which came to Delsaux Farm and made the present cemetery.  A little later, the German graves of March 1918 were removed and the 103 Commonwealth dead reburied in Plot I, Row J, Plot II, Row A, and Plot III, Rows B, C and D.  The rest of the cemetery was made when graves were later brought in from the battlefield. … The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.[5]

Duncan Reginald COLEMAN was awarded the British War and Victory Medals.  He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and on his CWGC gravestone at Delsaux Farm Cemetery, Beugby. 

Duncan’s outstanding pay of £24-3-8d was paid to his ‘Fa[ther] & Sole Leg[atee] George H’ on 12 April 1919, and note stated that this was ‘Including War Grant £14-10-0’.  On 17 April 1919 his property was returned to the family: ‘Letters; Shaving brush; Badge; Photos; Wallet’.

His elder brother Albert Victor Coleman, signed up on 12 December 1915, and also served initially in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as No.3098, and later in the Royal Berkshire Regiment as No.44920.  He survived the war.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Duncan Reginald COLEMAN was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, October 2018.

 

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

[2]      The No 4 General Hospital was at St Nazaire in September 1914; at Versailles from September 1914 to January 1916; at Camiers, when Duncan Coleman was admitted, from January 1916 to April 1919; and at Dunkerque from April 1919 to November 1919.

[3]      https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-corps-of-royal-engineers-in-the-first-world-war/light-railway-operating-companies-of-the-royal-engineers/.

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

[5]      Edited from: https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/23600/delsaux-farm-cemetery,-beugny/.

Laughton, David. Died 10th Nov 1918

David LAUGHTON was born in Rugby on 10 – or possibly 11 – October 1890He was the third child and second son of George Varnsvay Laughton (b.c. Q3, 1859 in Lutterworth) and Eliza Ellen, née Allen, Laughton (b.c.1863 in Attleborough, near Minestay, Warwickshire), who were married on 25 December 1885 at St. Andrew’s church, Rugby when George was living at 25 Cambridge Street, Rugby.

In 1887 when their daughter Emily was baptised the Laughton family had moved to 130 Cambridge Street, Rugby.  George was a ‘painter’.  For the 1891 census, David had ‘arrived’ and was 5 months old, the youngest of three children all born in Rugby, and the family was now living at 2 James Street.  His father was a ‘Painter L&NW Wagon Depot’.

It seems that the family then moved for some six years to Earlestown, Lancashire, where a son, Joseph Edward was born in about 1892, and a daughter Lilian May in 1896.  They moved back to Rugby before the birth of their son, George in about 1900.  In 1901, they were living at 25 Abbey Street, Rugby, and David’s father was still a ‘Railway Wagon Painter’.

By 1911, the growing family had moved to a six room house at 147 Oxford Street, Rugby.  David’s parents had been married for 25 years and they had had eight children, of whom seven were still living.  They had entered Evelyn, b.c.1898, with status ‘dead’ on the census and then realised their error and deleted her – they would not realise how useful such ‘errors’ would be to future research.

Also entered at the end of the list of children was a William Allen Laughton, born in Attleborough in about 1882, it would seem that this was Eliza’s son, from before her marriage, who had probably been adopted into the family, although no definite trace of him has yet been found, in earlier censuses, either as an Allen or a Laughton.

In 1911, David Laughton was now 21, single and working as a ‘Clerk (Engineer’s)’ at Willans and Robinson.  He may have been involved in ‘War Work’ and thus did not join up early in the war.

He married Barbara S Mochril in Rugby in Q3, 1918, and her later address was also given as 147 Oxford Street, Rugby, the Laughton family home.

It would appear from his Royal Navy Record card that soon after his marriage, he joined the Navy as No: M/34139 in the Portsmouth Division on 15 October 1918, for the ‘period of hostilities’.

When he joined he was 5ft 5inches tall, with a 32 inch chest, dark blond hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion.  His Record for his very short period of service stated that he had a ‘VG’ [very good] character and a ‘Sat’ [Satisfactory] ability.

He served on Victory I, as a ‘Writer 3rd Class’.[1]  He was probably still working as a Clerk in a ‘Pay Office’ in Portsmouth,

It seems likely that ‘Victory I’ was a base depot at Portsmouth, probably used as an accounts office dealing with pay.  It does not seem to be listed in WWI, but was at Goodings near Newbury as an Accounting Base from September 1940 in WWII.  The 1866 Naval Discipline Act stated ‘Ships of War’ in its text, and to ensure that that Act could be applied to Shore Bases, they had to have a named parent ship.  Hence Victory for the shore base at Portsmouth.[2]

Sadly, only some three weeks after he had enlisted and the day before the war ended, he died of Pneumonia in Haslar Naval Hospital.

His ‘Cause of Death’ was given as code ‘3’, and elsewhere as ‘Died from Disease’.[3]  Another record is more specific, and states that he died from ‘Bronchial phneumonia’ – quite possibly as a result of the ‘Flu’ that was sweeping the world.

He was buried in the Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, Gosport, Hampshire, in grave ref: 37 11.  The cemetery is also known as Clayhall Royal Naval Cemetery.

‘During both wars, Gosport was a significant sea port and Naval depot, with many government factories and installations based there, as well as the Haslar Naval Hospital.  …  Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, which was attached to the Naval Hospital of 2,000 beds, contains 772 First World War graves, 2 of which are unidentified.  Most are scattered throughout the cemetery, …’[4]

David Laughton’s CWGC memorial headstone has no additional family inscription.  He is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby.

His widow, Barbara, married again.  Her marriage with William C Keep was registered in Edmonton,  Middlesex  in Q1, 1923.  David’s mother died in Rugby aged 69 in 1934; his father, also in Rugby, in 1952

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on David LAUGHTON 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, September 2018.

[1]      In WWI, a 1st Class Writer was classed Petty Officer, 2nd Class Writer a Leading Rate and 3rd Class an Able Rate.

[2]      Edited from: http://www.gwpda.org/naval/rnshore.htm.

[3]      UK, Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919.

[4]      Edited from: https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/2044620/haslar-royal-naval-cemetery/.

Greatrex, Arthur. Died 10th Nov 1918

Arthur GREATREX was born in Coventry in 1893 and his birth was registered in Q1, 1893 in Coventry.  He was the second son of John Greatrex (b.c.1850 in Coventry) and Harriett Hannah, née Mayo, Greatrex, (b.c.1845 in Coventry), who were married on 25 December 1875 at St. Michael’s church, Coventry when both were living in Smithford Street.  They were both able to sign their names.

In 1881 Arthur’s father was a ‘cabman’ and the family lived at 8 Garden Row, Coventry.  There were then two young daughters, Amy, 5, and Maggie, 2.  In 1891 the family was still at 8 Garden Row, and Arthur’s father was still a ‘cabman’, his wife was a ‘waitress’ and Amy, now 15, was a ‘general domestic servant’ but still living at home, where there was now also an eight year old son, John Greatrex.

In 1901, they were still in Coventry, but now living in both 7 & 8 Garden Row. John Greatrex [sen] was now a ‘stableman and groom’; John [jun] was now 19 and a ‘postman’, having been made an ‘Assistant R. Postman – Coventry to Little Heath’ in 1899, and then been appointed ‘Postman’ in March 1901 in Coventry.[1]  There was also now another son, Arthur Greatrex, the main subject of this biography, who was eight years old.

The next year, in 1902, Arthur’s mother, Harriet, died aged 56.  Arthur’s father died in 1909, before the next census.

By 1911, John Greatrex had moved to 44 Victoria Avenue, New Bilton, Rugby, and had been married for eight years to Minnie Lona and they already had four children, all born in New Bilton.  He was now a ‘wireman’.

It is not known whether Arthur might have moved to Rugby at a similar date to his brother, but he could not be found in the 1911 census.  He had travelled to North America.  He arrived back in Liverpool on the Empress of Britain, Canadian Pacific Line, from St John, New Brunswick, Canada, on 18 January 1913.  He was then 20 and described as a ‘constructor’.

For some time, possibly both before and certainly after his visit to North America and before the war, Arthur worked in the Wiring Department at BTH.  Whilst his name does not appear among the early lists of men who enlisted from the BTH, the records show that he enlisted in Rugby,[2]  initially as a Private, No: 10578, into the 7th Battalion, the South Staffordshire Regiment.

7th (Service) Battalion, the South Staffordshire Regiment, was formed at Lichfield in August 1914 as part of K1 and became part of 33rd Brigade in 11th (Northern) Division.  It moved to camp at Grantham in mid-September 1914, and then moved to Frensham in April 1915.  They sailed from Liverpool in early July 1915 for Gallipoli, landing at Cape Helles and remaining there 23-28 July 1915.  First were casualties sustained in the “Horseshoe” facing Achi Baba.  They were withdrawn to Imbros and rejoined rest of division for landing at Suvla Bay on 7 August 1915.  They were evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915, and moved to Egypt via Imbros.  They were then moved to France in July 1916.

The War Diary of the 7th South Staffs in France from July 1916 to 1919 can be consulted,[3] but whilst the history of the Battalion is known, it is not known exactly when Arthur joined them.  It was probably in 1914 which would have allowed time for a period of training, as his Medal Card showed that he went to Gallipoli with the Battalion, departing to that ‘Theatre of War first served in – 2(B) Balkans’ on 2 July 1915.  As noted they were then moved to France in July 1916.

However, it seems that Arthur returned to UK at some date in 1917, and took the opportunity to marry with Alice Parnham in Grantham, their marriage being registered during Q3, 1917 (Grantham 7a, 947), when he was about 24.  As noted, the 7th South Staffordshires had been stationed in Grantham between September 1914 and April 1915, and that is probably when Arthur and Alice met – she was some 10 years older than him.

His address was later recorded as Grantham,[4] and indeed he had ‘moved in’ with his wife at her family home, although it is unlikely that he was there for long.  She was an only child, born on 1 June 1883 in Grantham, and in 1891 she was living with her parents – her father was a joiner – at 32 Sydney Street, Grantham.  Her father died before 1901, when her mother was in receipt of Parish Relief, and she and her mother were still at the same address in 1911, indeed she lived with her until her mother’s death aged 73, in June 1928.

Arthur must have been in UK in mid to later 1917, for his marriage, and then also around March 1918, when his wife became pregnant.  It seems to have been a long home posting, but two leaves in short succession seems unlikely, perhaps he was wounded and returned to UK to recover and convalesce and they took the opportunity to get married.

Arthur later served abroad again as a Private, No: 47679, with the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment.  Again, the date of this transfer in not known, but if he had been recovering in UK, that might have been the opportunity to post an experienced soldier.  He would thus have only experienced the actions from later 1917 that are outlined below.

The 10th Battalion of the Essex Regiment were formed at Warley in September 1914 as part of K2 and came under orders of 53rd Brigade in 18th (Eastern) Division.  They moved to Shorncliffe and then to Colchester, going on to Codford St Mary in March or May 1915.  On 26 July 1915, they mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including:-

1916 – The Battle of Albert; the Battle of Bazentin Ridge; the Battle of Delville Wood; the Battle of Thiepval Ridge; the Battle of the Ancre Heights; and the Battle of the Ancre.

1917 – The Operations on the Ancre; the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line; the Third Battle of the Scarpe; the Battle of Pilkem Ridge; the Battle of Langemarck; the First Battle of Passchendaele; and the Second Battle of Passchendaele.

1918 – The Battle of St Quentin; the Battle of the Avre; the actions of Villers-Brettoneux; the Battle of Amiens; the Battle of Albert; the Second Battle of Bapaume; the Battle of Epehy; the Battle of the St Quentin Canal; the Battle of the Selle and the Battle of the Sambre.  They ended the war at Le Cateau, France.

The detail of all these actions would be far too extensive for this summary, indeed the Narrative on the near final attack near LE CATEAU on 23 October, which were appended to the Battalion War Diary,[5] took up two typed pages alone.

It was assumed that in this major attack on LE CATEAU or some similar action, Arthur was wounded, as recorded by the CWGC.  His chain of evacuation might have included a Regimental Aid Post, in or close behind the front line, and then a Field Ambulance, a mobile medical unit, and then a Dressing Station, where a casualty would receive further treatment and be prepared to be evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station, and then on to a Base Hospital, which in Arthur’s case, was the No.1 English General Hospital on the French coast at Etretat, a small seaside town about 26 kilometres north of Le Havre.

However, a note on his entry on the Medal Roll of the Essex Regiment of those to be awarded the 1914-1915 Star, had an added note ‘Died Lobar Pneumonia[6] 10.11.18’.

Whether he ‘Died of Wounds’ or of ‘Lobar Pneumonia’, or possibly a combination of both, he died at 8.45 pm on 10 November 1918, the day before the end of the War, in the No.1 English General Hospital, as shown on an official copy extract – in French – of the entry in the Register of Deaths of the ‘Commune d’Etretat’.[7]

He was buried in the neighbouring Etretat Churchyard Extension in grave ref: III. E. 3.

In December 1914, No.1 General Hospital was established in Etretat and it remained there until December 1918.  In July 1917, it was taken over by No.2 (Presbyterian USA) Base Hospital Unit, but it continued to operate as a British hospital.  The first seven burials took place among the French civil graves but in February 1915, two plots were set aside for Commonwealth burials in the churchyard.  These were filled by December 1916 and from then until December 1918, the extension was used.  Etretat Churchyard contains 264 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and one German grave.  Etretat Churchyard Extension contains 282 First World War burials and four from the Second World War.  There are also 12 German graves in the extension.  The extension was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

His CWGC memorial headstone has the additional family inscription from his wife, ‘Until the Day Breaks and the Shadows Flee Away’.

Arthur Greatrex’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal and that he also won the 1914-1915 Star. 

He is commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby; on the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914 – 1918; and also on the BTH War Memorial.[8]  He does not appear to be commemorated in Grantham.

His back pay of £14-16-10d was paid to his widow and sole legatee, Alice, on 14 February 1919, and a further 2/3d on 19 May 1919.  His War Gratuity of £19-10s was paid to her on 6 December 1919.

His residence at his time of death was recorded as Grantham; and that of his widow was noted as 32, Sydney Street, Grantham, and it seems that they had briefly set up home in her family home, where she continued to live.  In 1939 she was recorded as a widow, undertaking ‘Unpaid domestic duties’.  Also in the house in 1939 was Martha Alice Greatrex, born on 3 December 1918, who had worked as a ‘Cashier, Book-keeper, Grocery, retail trade, telephonist Grantham …’.  She would later marry Leonard Chambers on 18 October 1944.  It would seem that Arthur and Alice had a daughter.  She was born less than a month after her father died – a father that she never met.   Arthur’s widow, Alice’s death, aged 94, was registered in Grantham in Q1, 1978.  Their daughter, Martha, died in August 2001 in Bourne, Lincolnshire.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Arthur GREATREX 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, September 2018.

[1]      British Postal Museum and Archive; Series: POST 58; Reference Number: 95, and Reference Number: 97.

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

[3]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, South Staffordshire Regiment, 11th Division,  Piece 1816/1-4: 7 Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment (1916 Jul – 1919 May).

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

[5]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Essex Regiment, 18th Division, Piece 2038/1-5: 53 Infantry Brigade: 10 Battalion Essex Regiment (1915 Jul – 1919 Apr).

[6]      Lobar pneumonia is a form of pneumonia that affects a large and continuous area of the lobe of a lung.  It is one of the two anatomic classifications of pneumonia (the other being bronchopneumonia).  Lobar pneumonia usually has an acute progression.  It seems this was often the main cause of death in case of deaths in young men in the 1918 influenza epidemic.

[7]      The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; General Register Office: Miscellaneous Foreign Death Returns; Class: RG 35; Piece: 45.

[8]      This is from 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 and given at https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-war-memorial.

Gibbs, Bertie. Died 5th Nov 1918

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Oct – The battalion marched to SERAIN to rest.

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

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

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

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

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

21 Oct – Here the unit rested and reorganised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Varnish, Arthur Thomas. Died 4th Nov 1918

Arthur Thomas VARNISH was born in Aston, Birmingham, in 1896 and his birth was registered in Q3, 1896 in Aston.  He was the eldest and only son, of Arthur James Varnish (b.c.1870 in Malvern, Worcestershire) and Emma, née Warden, Varnish, (b.c.1874 in Coventry), who were married on 21 August 1895 at St. Thomas’s church, Coventry,

In 1881 Arthur’s grandfather was a joiner and lived at the ‘British Workman’ – possibly a Temperance Inn in Malvern.  However, before 1882 they had moved to Leamington, and then before 1886 to Rugby, and in 1891 and 1901 the family were living at 49 James Street, Rugby.

Arthur’s parents were married in Coventry in 1895 and their first two children, Arthur and Nellie were born in Birmingham in 1896 and about 1900.  By 1901, now with the two young children, they had moved to live at 20 Ashley Terrace, Potter Newton, Yorkshire and Arthur’s father, was a ‘Cycle enameller and liner’.  They soon moved back south and Winifred was born in Coventry in about 1903, and Beatrice in Rugby in 1905.

By 1911, when Arthur was 14, and still at school, the family seem to have become more established in Rugby and they were living at the Peacock Inn, 33 Newbold Road, Rugby, and his father was now a ‘Licensed Victualler and Innkeeper’.  Arthur’s uncle, his father’s younger brother, Oscar William Varnish, a ‘toolmaker’, who had been born in Rugby in about 1884, was also there, at least on census night, confirming the earlier family connection with the town.  

Before the war Arthur became an apprentice at BTH, and worked in the BTH Pattern Shop.  He enlisted early from BTH, in late August 1914, when he was still under his apprenticeship, which was not due to expire until 23 September 1917, but he had a ‘permit to go’.  His name is among the many who enlisted from the BTH,

Rugby’s Magnificent Response ‘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 :- … Varnish, …’.[1]

Arthur’s Service Record survives in the Pension Records.  Arthur had a dark complexion, dark hair and blue eyes.  He was 5ft 6¼ inches tall and weighed 150 lbs.  His religion was Church of England.

He enlisted in Rugby[2] on 31 August 1914, when he was 18 years and 78 days old, as Rifleman No:A/3655, in the 7th Battalion, the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC).

7th (Service) Battalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps was formed at Winchester on 19 August 1914 as part of K1 and came under orders of 41st Brigade in 14th (Light) Division.  It moved to Aldershot, going on to Grayshott in November and in February 1915 went to Bordon.  It then returned to Aldershot in March 1915 and then on 19 May 1915 the battalion landed at Boulogne.

Arthur thus first entered service at Winchester, being posted on 3 August 1914, to ‘D’ Company of the 7th Battalion (Bn.) of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps which was then being formed.  Initially without equipment or arms of any kind, the recruits were judged to be ready by May 1915, although their move to the fighting front was delayed by lack of rifle and artillery ammunition.  Arthur had served 261 days on Home Service up to 18 May 1915 before going to France.

Arthur’s Medal Card, and his Service Record, shows that he went to France with his Battalion on 19 May 1915, and he thus earned the 1914-15 Star.  He would be on the Western Front for 255 days.

Soon after arrival the 14th (Light) Division, which included the 7th KRRC had the misfortune to be in action at Hooge[3] on 30 July 1915, where they were the first troops to be attacked by German flamethrowers.  During that action, at least four members of the 7th KRRC from Rugby were killed,[4] as well as several Rugby men who were serving in other Battalions.  It was one of the worst day’s loss of Rugby’s men in WWI.

Later in 1915, the Battalion was in action in the Second Attack on Bellewaarde Farm[5] on 25 September 1915, ‘Rugby’s Worst Day’,[6] when eight Rugby men, from the 5th Battalion, the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry were killed, and later during 1916, the 7th Battalion would be in action at the Battle of Delville Wood, and the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

However, Arthur was not in France for much of 1916, and the Battalion War Diary[7] can be consulted for the conditions experienced by him in late 1915 and early 1916 before he was hospitalised.

1st to 4.12.15 – A HUTS, Vlanertingh – Battalion resting.  A great deal of rain …

5th – Trenches shelled intermittently from 8am to 4pm. … part of trench being completely blown in … owing to the continual wet the trenches are in a worse state than ever … 2 OR Killed, 5 wounded.

8th – Very heavy bombardment on sector … relieved in evening by 8th RB … 10 OR Killed & 23 Wounded.

9th to 12th – A. Camp, W of Poperinge – Bn. in huts at A Camp – Very wet and muddy.

14th – Heavy shelling … 8 OR killed, 14 OR wounded.

15th – … our heavy batteries bombarded enemy … heavy retaliation … 2 OR killed, 11 OR wounded.

16th – Continuous bombardment by enemy … 2 OR killed, 11 OR wounded.  On night of 16th relieved by Bedford Rgt … moved by train from Asylum to B huts, W of Poperinge.’

The month continued in a similar manner with ORs killed and wounded on most days.

‘December 1915 – Average weekly strength was 867 Other Ranks [OR].  During the month there were admitted to Hospital – 1 Officer and 124 OR.   Discharged from Hospital – 38 ORs.  Sick evacuated from Divisional Area – 1 Officer and 67 ORs.  The majority of cases evacuated were men suffering from “Trench Feet”.’

In January a similar pattern followed with a few days in the trenches, and then a few days back in huts or tents at camp.

‘Jan 8th – Glympse Cottage Trenches – … taking over … from 7th RB and … 8th RB. … 3 OR wounded.

9th   – 1 OR killed, 1 OR wounded.

10th – 8 OR wounded.

11th – 1 OR wounded, 1 OR killed.

12th – 1 OR wounded.

13th – Relieved by 8 RB … into huts and tents in No 1 Camp 3 miles NE of Poperinge – on the whole a good camp …

16th – Bn. relieved 8th RB in trenches … 1 OR killed, 5 OR wounded.

17th – 10 OR killed, 2 OR wounded.

26th – … 1 OR wounded.

27th – 10 OR killed, 2 OR wounded.

28th – 1 OR wounded’

‘January 1916 – Average weekly strength was Officers – 25, Other Ranks – 939.  During the month there were admitted to Hospital – 59 ORs.  Discharged from Hospital – 16 ORs.  Evacuated from Divisional Area – 25 ORs.’

Arthur Varnish would have been among those evacuated from the Divisional Area, probably in about mid-January.  He was seemingly suffering from the combined effects of a shell explosion, possibly a gas shell; burial by the explosion; bronchitis from being stood up to his waist in water in a trench; and the cold wet conditions.  He would probably have been passed to a Regimental Aid Post or Dressing Station, and was then was in a Base Hospital at Etaples.  He was sent back to UK on 28 January 1916.

The seriousness of his condition can be judged by his length of stay in the Wharncliffe War Hospital, Sheffield.  He was there from 29 January until 9 March 1916 with ‘Neurothoxia.[8]   It was reported that the –
‘Condition followed effects of burial due to shell explosion – is improved and would be fit for light duties at Command Depot.’

Then three weeks later he was readmitted to the Winchester Hospital for seven days from 29 March with ‘Bronchitis – mild’.  He was discharged on 3 April 1916 and then posted to the 5th Bn.[9] – a depot and training unit – on 26 May.

After some three months, on 25 July 1916, he was discharged as unfit for service under ‘Clause 392, XVI[10] – No longer physically fit for war service’, with a ‘very good’ character, and received a pension of 6/3d per week from 21 July 1916.  He had served for ‘1 year and 330 days’.  After his discharge he was awarded a Silver War Badge, No: 96716, to show that he had served and was not avoiding war service.

Arthur still had to appear at Medical Boards to determine his degree of disability and pension status.  His medical records in September 1916 stated,
Cause of Discharge: Med unfit, Chronic Bronchitis.  Origin – Dec 1915 – La Bride – States he was up to his waist in the water of trench & then he reported sick.  Sent to hospital at Etaples.  Has rales[11] all over chest & tubulus breathing.[12]  Chronic cough & short of breath on (slight) exertion.  Partly due to Active Service (Exposure).  Permanently prevents ¼.  20.9.16.  Re-examine in 4 months.’

He was subject to further medical boards on 21 March 1917 and 19 September 1917 and it appears that his condition continued – ‘Prevents 25% at present.’  At that date he was no longer at a Rugby address but was living ‘c/o Mrs Austin, 101 Pevensey Road, Eastbourne’.  Perhaps it was considered that the sea air would be advantageous to his condition.

There is a further note ‘For Interim Award pending receipt of Medical Report applied for 28.8.18, A47 sent 26.10.18’ and two days later ‘Sending receipt of Medical Report 28.10.18.  Expires 10.12.18.’  A ‘Report of Med. Bd. 31.10.18. Prevents 30%.’.

However, soon after that last medical assessment, he died, on 4 November 1918, at Eastbourne, Sussex, presumably from further complications – although he could also have been a victim of the ‘Flu’ that swept the world at the end of  and after WWI.  His death certificate would no doubt clarify this.  His body was returned to his family in Rugby and buried in the Rugby (Clifton Road) Cemetery in Plot: J180.  As he had served in the War and died as a result of War Service, he has a CWGC memorial headstone, however no additional family inscription was engraved on it.

The Rugby Advertiser reported his death,
VARNISH – On November 4th, at Eastbourne, ARTHUR THOMAS, beloved son of Mr. & Mrs. Varnish, aged 22 years.[13]

Arthur James Varnish’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal and that he also won the 1914-1915 Star.

He is commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby; on the CWGC headstone on his grave in the Rugby (Clifton Road) Cemetery; on the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914 – 1918; and also on the BTH War Memorial.[14]

On 17 August 1920, his father was sent his £8-10s War Gratuity.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Arthur James VARNISH 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, September 2018.

[1]      Rugby Advertiser, 5 September 1914, and https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5th-sep-1914-rugbys-magnificent-response/.

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

[3]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/30th-jul-1915-battle-of-hooge-crater/.

[4]      Riflemen, John Henry PRESTON, R/78; William TOMLINSON, R/79; and Herbert SMITH, R/1621; and Lance-corporal, Albert Edward WATTS, R/160.  See ‘Rugby Remembers’ for 30 July 1915 for their biographies.

[5]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/second-battle-of-bellewaarde-farm-25th-sep-1915/.

[6]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/09/24/rugbys-worst-day-preview/.

[7]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, King´s Royal Rifle Corps, 14th Division, Piece 1896/3: 7 Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps (1915 May – 1918 Jan).

[8]      Assuming this is the correct interpretation of the doctor’s writing – this can be an effect from military gasses, and it seems quite likely that the shell that buried Arthur was a gas shell.

[9]      A depot/training unit, which moved on mobilisation to Sheerness and remained in that area throughout the war.  It was part of the Thames & Medway Garrison.

[10]     Paragraph 392 of King’s Regulations 1912 – In WW1, King’s Regulations for the Army set out the official causes of discharge, in sub-paragraphs from (i) to (xxvii), omitting (xvii).  In 1919 a new cause was introduced – (xxviii) – ‘On demobilization’.

[11]     Rales are abnormal lung sounds characterized by discontinuous clicking or rattling sounds.

[12]     Tubular Breathing is a symptomatic sound, when listening to the chest, of ‘bronchial breathing’ and is abnormal.

[13]     Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 16 November 1918.

[14]     This is from 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 and given at https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-war-memorial.

Browne, Roland Wilson. Died 4th Nov 1918

Roland Wilson Browne was born in Leicester in 1895 and registered as Roland Wilson Brown – without the ‘e’ – in the second quarter of 1895 [Leicester, 7a, 244].

His parents were John William Brown[e], a bookseller, born in Hartlepool in about 1865 and Emily Jane née Wheatley, born in Saltburn in about 1866.  Their marriage was registered in King’s Norton, Birmingham, in the fourth quarter of 1888.  In 1891 they were living in Stockton [on Tees].  Their first son, Archibald Ellmer Browne, was born back in his mother’s home town of Saltburn in about 1892.  It seems the family then moved to Leicester, where Roland was born in 1895, and then on to Rugby, where Basil Cleveland Browne was born in about May 1900, being 11 months old for the 1901 census when the family were living at 31 Abbey Street.  A sister, Hilda Emily Browne was born in about 1903.

By 1911 the family were living at 1 Charlotte Street, Rugby.  The eldest brother, Archibald, was a Clerk in 1911 – the two youngest were still at school – and he remained in Rugby.  Archibald’s marriage with Alice R Duffin was registered in Rugby in the second quarter of 1921.  They had a daughter, Kathleen in later 1924 or early 1925.  He died on 20 September 1964.

In 1911, Roland was a 15 year old ‘Apprentice in Drawing Office’.  He would work in the BTH drawing office until he joined up probably in 1918.  Whilst Roland was working at BTH he had a ‘girlfriend’ Rose Whittaker.  She had an autograph book[1] which contained contributions from her friends and work colleagues: Roland made several contributions which showed his drafting skills: the examples below date from 10 June 1913 and 1914.

It seems likely that Roland did not enlist until later in the war – possibly because his work at BTH would have been considered war related and his skills as a draftsman were necessary for that.

His Medal Card only mentions him being in the Manchester Regiment and that he was entitled to the Victory and the British War Medals only: this also suggested a later date of enlistment.  The UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, records stated that Roland Wilson Browne enlisted at Rugby as No.49342, in the Leicestershire Regiment.

Other surviving Service Records for the Leicestershire Regiment suggest that Roland may have enlisted as late as May 1918, probably into the 3rd Battalion.  His number 49342 falls between those for Mee: No.48354, and Armiso: No.49963, both of whom enlisted at Leicester on 22 May 1918 into the 3rd Battalion of the Leicesters.  This seems to have been a training Battalion, and it was probably why he was later transferred into the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment with the new Regimental Number 76326.  The allocation of these numbers cannot yet be precisely dated but the 75743 and 75985 were allocated at Warrington and Accrington on 29 May and 17 June 1918, so he probably did his basic training and was then posted to an active unit.  This would not be incompatible with a contingent of reinforcements which was posted to France and/or Flanders and arrived in the line in August 1918, as suggested by the 2nd Battalion’s War Diaries below.

On the 6 February 1918, the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment had transferred to 96th Brigade, in the 32nd Division.  In 1918 they were in action on the Somme; in the Battles of the Hindenburg Line and in the Final Advance in Picardy.[2]  The abstracts from the War Diaries below provide some background.[3]

August:  Inspection by the King on the 6th and then moved on to Broves.  9th: moved up the action to near Beaucourt, supported the LFs and attacked Parvillers and Damery Woods, gained three miles and stayed there until the 11th.  18th: moved to Harbonniere, brought up to strength by draft of 300 men,[4] relieve an Australian battalion in the front line.  19th: repulsed a German attack after heavy hand to hand fighting, 17 KIA, 27 wounded and 27 missing.  21st: divisional raids on the German lines took 36 German officers and 1,195 ORs, the German retreat was now in full flow.  The batt was heavily engaged around Vermandovilles, Abincourt and Cizancourt

Quote from the brigade order of the 27th: ‘The work of the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment today is beyond praise.  I am proud to have such a battalion in my brigade, and I thank all ranks for their splendid behaviour today.  May good fortune attend them tomorrow.’  However … 16 men KIA, 43 wounded, 2 missing; 30th: moved to Berny for R & R

September 6th: moved to La Neuville.  28th: moved to Vendrelles, crossing the San Quentin canal on the 29th.  30th: moved to Magny-La-Fosse incurring 20 casualties.

October 1st: The batt attacked the enemy system (Hindenberg line) with ‘complete success’ at 4pm with 4 tanks, broke through the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme line after hand to hand fighting, capturing 210 prisoners.  There were then subjected to repeated counter attacks during the night but the 2nd Manchesters successfully maintained their position with the assistance of a company of the 15th Lancs Fusiliers (another local pals battalion).

3rd: withdrawn to Lehancourt with nearly a hundred casuaties.  5th: moved to Handcourt, later to Bohain. 30th: moved to Oise Canal for the attack there, patrolling no mans land prior to the battle.

November 4th: The battalion attacked on the left flank of the brigade meeting intense shell and machine gun fire across the canal north of Ors.  Lt Kirke paddled across the canal on a raft and engaged the enemy with a Lewis gun, (he did not survive but was awarded a posthumous VC) but a bridge was erected and 2 of his platoons crossed but were held by enemy fire and the bridge destroyed.  The remaining troops were sent to another crossing which had been secured by the 1st Dorsetshires.  They attacked the Germans at La Motte farm and achieved their objectives.  The attack continued unabated.

The war came to an end on the 11th November but the part the 2nd Battalion played came to an end on the 6th it went into billets at Sambreton where it learnt about the armistice.

The village of Ors is to the east of Cambrai between Le Cateau and Landrecies.   It was in German hands for much of the First World War but was cleared by the 6th Division on 1 November 1918.  The 2nd Manchester Battalion were part of the 17th Brigade within the Division and, as noted above, the further actions to cross the Oise Canal followed on 4 November.  More details of the action on 4 November 1918 are given below, as the 2nd Battalion included among its officers, the poet, Wilfred Owen.[5]

 

on 4th November 1918 at 5.50 a.m., Wilfred Owen and his ‘D’ Company of the 2nd Bn. Manchester Regiment, lined the bank ready to attempt a crossing of the canal and then to attack the Germans holding the opposite bank (attacking left to right on the photograph – above).  Their objective was in the region of La Motte farm.  The Manchesters’ ‘C’ Company was in position to Owen’s right hand as he faced the far bank and next to them and holding the canal bank and the village of Ors with its canal lock and broken bridge, was the 1st Bn. Dorsetshire Regiment.

… the 206th and 218th Field Companies of the Royal Engineers together with men from the Division’s Pioneer battalion, … was to construct rafts, pontoons and bridges … so that the attackers could first negotiate the wide and deep ditches beside the canal and then get across the canal itself to form a bridgehead on the far bank.

… the Manchesters and the Lancashire Fusiliers north of the [Ors] lock were taking heavy casualties and … their attempts to cross the canal there were not going to succeed.  Orders were given for both these battalions to make their way through Ors village and then to cross the canal by the floating bridge set up by the 206th Field Company R.E. just south of the lock.  By 8.30a.m. they were on the other side of the canal and in action.[6]

It was during these attacks, and the failed attempts to cross the canal north of Ors on 4 November 1918 that Private Roland Browne, aged 23, and Lieutenant Wilfred Owen M.C., aged 25, were both killed in action.

They are both buried in the Ors Communal Cemetery (above): Roland in Grave: A.11., and Wilfred in Grave: A.3.  The village Communal Cemetery is north-west of the village and over sixty WWI casualties are commemorated there.  The great majority were killed in action on 4 November 1918 and were men from the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment or the Lancashire Fusiliers.

There is another cemetery, the Ors British Cemetery, about a kilometre north-east of the village.  It was begun in November 1918 and the number of Highland Light Infantry and Royal Engineers graves result from their efforts to cross the canal near the cemetery on 4 November 1918 and the preparatory work on 3 November 1918.

Today there is a Wilfred Owen Centre[7] in Ors run by the Wilfred Owen France Association – sadly Roland Wilson Browne is not so well remembered.  Perhaps this project will help us to remember him, if only by this coincidental association.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on Roland Browne 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, May 2015.

Thanks to Wendy Farthing at the Rugby Art Gallery and Museum for alerting the author to the illustrations from Rose Whittaker’s autograph album and giving permission for their use.

 

[1]      It was displayed at Rugby Museum in September 2014, in a temporary exhibition relating to the 1914-1918 war.

[2]      http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/manchesterregiment2-gw.php#sthash.yNOgyZE5.dpuf.

[3]      http://www.themanchesters.org/2nd%20batt.htm.

[4]      This may have been when Roland Browne joined the Manchesters on active service.

[5]      Wilfred Owen M.C. was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Owen, of “Mahim”, Monkmoor Road, Shrewsbury and a native of Oswestry.  He enlisted in The Artists’ Rifles in October 1915 and was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment in June 1916.  He had already distinguished himself in September 1918 by his courage on the Beaurevoir-Fonsommes line.  Although the CWGC states that he was in the 5th Battalion, it seems that he was in action with the 2nd Battalion.  Seven days after his death, the Armistice was signed, and on that very day Wilfred’s parents received the fateful telegram.  Owen was a poet of repute, although during his lifetime only a few of his poems appeared in print.  The Atheneum of December 1919, nominated Owen’s work Strange Meeting as the finest of the war.

[6]      http://www.wilfredowen.org.uk/virtual-tour/ors

[7]      Details at http://www.wilfredowen.fr/english/.