15th Aug 1919. “The Warwickshire Lads.” The Infantry.


Under this heading we have endeavoured to get together a complete and authoritative account of the doings of Rugby men on the various war fronts from 1914 to 1918. Owing to the regulations of the Defence of the Realm Act all references to these matters by the Press were, of course, strictly prohibited during hostilities. But, although many of the events now related will seem to be already relegated to the “ long ago,” it is only just that there should be on record some recital of the losses and successes of the local units. As we are anxious to make our narrative as comprehensive and complete as possible, we shall be glad if any of our readers would amplify our articles or rectify any omissions that may inadvertently occur.

The Rugby men, composing the old E Company, of the 7th Royal Warwickshire Regiment, had an honourable and valiant record of stern work in France and Italy. Although before going overseas they were merged into a double company, the Rugby contingent retained their individuality all through, despite the inevitable change that followed gradually in course of time upon casualties and transfers. They left England with the battalion on March 22nd, 1915, landing at Le Harve. They eventually entrained to Cassel, where they were billeted at farmhouses. After a stay of some 26 days, they matched to Bailleul, and thence to Armentieres, in the vicinity of which they made their initial entry into the trenches with the Durham Light Infantry. Three casualties occurred here among the local men-but there were none killed. They subsequently returned to Bailleul, proceeding from there to Neuve Eglise, where they took over the trenches at a point below the Messines Ridge. The Company put in a lot of work here, and it was during their stay at this point that the Hill 60 fight took place, when the German armies used gas for the first time. The effects of the gas reached the local men, causing their eyes to smart, but did no actual harm. However, casualties were happening daily and many Rugby heroes were laid to rest at a little graveyard near by. The next move was to Hebuterne to take over some trenches from the French. It was an unpleasant spot. It had only recently been captured from the enemy and

PARTIALLY BURIED BODIES were visible on every side. A few weeks later the Company were sent to a point north of the line, again superseding some French troops. The trenches here were in a much better condition than those just vacated. They commenced from a somewhat ruined village, and were complete with communication trenches. Having these facilities, and thus being able to work from the village, the Company were able to remain in the line for a longer period. The Company were in this sector during the Christmas of 1915 until the early part of July, 1916, when the Somme offensive opened. The local men put in some strenuous work on this occasion. They were on the left flank supporting the main portion of the attacking division and were using smoke screens on an extensive scale. Some heavy losses were suffered here by the Brigade. Two battalions went to the assistance of the attacking division and were badly cut up. A few days later they journeyed to a point near Albert. Here it was that the testing time for the Rugby men may be said to have commenced. They were continuously in action and had their first experience of going over the top. The first trench actually captured by the battalion had to be given up soon afterwards owing to its open exposure to machine-gun fire. They had some gruelling fighting here for several months. They were moving steadily southward along the line during this time, until they eventually took over a sector from the French opposite Peronne. The Germans subsequently commenced a retirement in these regions, and the battalion fought them back to the Hindenburg line. This was the first experience of

OPEN WARFARE to many of the men, and afforded some interest, with the cavalry with them. It came as something of a relief moreover, despite the digging-in operations necessitated. Hereabouts the division were sent to Ypres, and suffered some severe losses. Throughout their stay in France, the battalion took a worthy share in all the operations they were engaged in, having some very hard fighting indeed, and never being more than a few days away from the trenches at a time, with the exception of one six weeks’ divisional rest. In the summer of 1917 the battalion were sent to Italy, where they assisted to drive back the Austrian offensive. They succeeded in capturing many guns, and finally occupied some parts of Austria. The battalion are now in Egypt-but the majority of those who survived the early days have once more returned  to their peaceful avocations in the knowledge of having played a noble part in the defence of the Empire.

Of the individual achievements a volume could be written. Every man who played a part in those stern days has performed a worthy service, and earned an immortal name for the “glorious 7th.” They were fortunate in having good leaders all through. Captain Greg and Captain Mason took the company across the water, but the force of circumstances brought continuous changes in the command. Happy memories are held of Captain Payton, of Warwick, an officer loved by all under his direction. He was mortally wounded by shell fire near Mouquet Farm, a piece of shrapnel penetrating the lungs. Captain Caley was another popular and fearless officer, who met his death in the fighting around Passchendale. The battalion also possessed some splendid warrant and non-commissioned officers, of whom mention should be made of Company-Sergt.-Major Bryant, who was killed upon his initial entry into the line, and Company-Sergt.-Major A. C. Tomlinson, who was with the company until the time they reached the Hindenburg line. C.S.M. Tomlinson has now discarded the khaki and is back at Rugby again.


An interesting record of life and impressions of the local men in France has been preserved by Arm. Staff-Sergt F. H. Dodson, who was with the company during the early part of their active service career. Staff-Sergt. Dodson has compiled a diary of his experiences, from letters sent home from time to time, and although mention of strictly military matters was at that time taboo, his notes provide entertaining reading of how life and customs across the water appeared to the Rugby contingent. We have selected some extracts from his diary and have pleasure in publishing them.

Staff-Sergt. Hodson first describes the embarkation of the company from Southampton on the evening in March, 1915, “ When off the Isle of Wight,” he writes, “ all lights were turned out. I lay on the bed soon after seven and did not notice the ship start, but woke up once in the night and heard the waves swishing by the portholes. I did not notice we had arrived in France until the boat gave a slight bump at the quay about 1.30 a.m. We did not disembark until after 6 a.m. ; then we had a long and trying march through Le Havre to the heights above to a camp. It was uphill the whole way. At the camp we only stayed one night under canvas, one blanket per man. It was a busy place. . .  Early in the morning we had orders to move, and marched down the hill again to the station and entrained, but before doing so bought about a yard of bread for sixpence for consumption in the train. We travelled in box wagons ; our’s was made for 26, but had 32 in, with the result that some had to stand during the trip, while the remainder lay down. . . . When marching through the town, the boys as usual ‘ chipped ‘ the passers-by, especially the girls, but this soon fell flat, because they took no notice of the remarks, not knowing English. . . . We had 25 hours in these trucks with two halts of half-an-hour each, one at Abbeville, where coffee was served out, and the next stop about 6 a.m., when we had hot tea. At the former place we picked up a corporal from Birmingham, who had fallen out of a previous train, luckily without hurting himself. He stayed with us three days until we could locate his regiment. When we detrained, it was raining and very uncomfortable, as it was rather warm also and we had a ten mile march in front of us to our appointed village billet. This march was very uninteresting, with the exception of some shrines by the wayside, which were new to us, and the large number of windmills to be seen. Some of these were very funny, the main body of the mill being very old, with one to three small rooms stuck on at absurd angles as an afterthought.

We arrived at the village Winezele about half-past five, and were able to get billeted before dark. Here we stayed three days. This village was remarkable owing to the fact that there were more estaminets (public-houses) than private houses, there being as many as six next door to each other. . .  Most of the customs at this place seem to be years behind the times. For instance. the butcher drove a pig up the street, and when in front of his shop, hit it on the head with a mallet. While it was stunned, he stuck it, and finished the business on the road without further ado. We also had our first lesson here in French, and were told that the further we went it would become more difficult ! On the first morning we had our first sight of an aeroplane being shelled, and incidentally heard the big guns for the first time. Of course, they were several miles away. On Sunday we marched to Bailleul, sixteen miles, and most of the way over the cobbles. These were awful to march on. When a couple of miles from Bailleul we passed a lonely grave by the roadside, and further on and nearer the town a larger number with inscriptions to the N.C.O.’s and men of the Warwicks. It made our fellows think that they were quite amongst it. We stayed at Bailleul until Thursday noon, but nothing happened of any account, and very little of interest until Thursday night, when a Taube came over and dropped two bombs. I was billeted with the Stationmaster, and lived just opposite the station. One of the bombs was aimed at the gas work, and one at the Station, but both missed their mark. The former dropped in the field just beyond and the explosion shook our house from top to bottom, and of course startled the inhabitants. My landlady rapped at the door and shouted, “ Monsieur ! Zeppelin ! Zeppelin ! You no comprie!” and she got quite frantic because I would not get up. It was at this town, a fairly large one, that we began to notice the

For instance, the street we were in was nearly three-quarters of a mile long, straight, but uphill. Water is laid on, but not to the houses, only a standpipe at intervals. The women and the servants of the bigger house have a yoke and carry two pails for their water. All the slops are emptied in the gutter until by the time the bottom of the street is reached it is quite a miniature stream. . .  The streets luckily are paved with sets, and are not noticed until you get out of the town. Here our people are treating the ditches with chemicals. At this town I saw more motor traction than I had ever seen before. . .  The local traction is very crude-three-wheeled carts, wagons with half bodies pulled by horses or cows, and the smaller by dogs. . . Well, we moved out of Bailleul on Thursday to Armentieres, an eight mile march over cobbles the whole of the way, and were billeted in a huge school, evidently a kind of grammar school, complete with a chapel and entertainment room with stage and scenery. The chapel was the most gorgeous I have ever seen. A shell had been through the roof on the opposite side of the square, . . . there was not a whole pane of glass in the place except the chapel. We remarked that although every room had been partly wrecked, the chapel was not touched. It does seem odd. but the crucifixes out here somehow or other just get missed.

It was here where the 7th had their first experience of the trenches, and incidentally their first casualties, but not serious. . .  In the town many people lived in the cellars, owing to the shells and bombs dropping on the place. Over the cellar gratings they had bags of earth to prevent stray shrapnel bullets penetrating. In fact we had not been in the town an hour before a Taube came over and dropped a bomb in a square, killing a civilian and injuring several Territorials. Taking things all round, however, the inhabitants take things as they come, and don’t worry about shells or anything else. For instance, on Easter Monday I wanted a bit of turning done and found a small machine-shop attached to a house, but nobody was at home. The next-door neighbour was surprised that we wanted work done. “ Easter Monday, Monsieur gone for holiday ” “and within the range of shell fire ! They had already had two shells through the place. ” what indifference ! We left on Tuesday and marched back to Bailleul.

(This diary will be continued next week).


GILLINGS.-In loving memory of THOMAS GILLINGS, of Dunchurch, who died on July 19, 1918, aged 82. Also of WALTER EDWARD, son of the above, who died in France from wounds on July 18, 1917, aged 23.-From Mother and Family.

GILLINGS.-In fond remembrance of WALTER, who died of wounds in France on August 18, 1917. R.I.P.-Not forgotten by Annie and Mr. & Mrs. Fox.

LEACH.-In loving memory of our dear son, PERCY JOHN LEACH, who died on August 6th, 1915.
“ For honour, liberty, and truth
He sacrificed his glorious youth.
He died, if it were death, to give his life,
That all his friends might live.”
-From his loving Father and Mother, Brothers and Sisters.

BOLTON.-In sad but loving birthday remembrance of RALPH JAMES BOLTON, 14th R.W.R., reported missing April 14, 1918, now officially reported died on that date or since.
“No one knows the parting,
Or what the parting cost :
But God in His tender mercy
Has gained what I have lost.”
-Sadly missed by Addie and all at 2 Dovey Street, Princes Park, Liverpool.

COX.-In loving memory of our dear brother, PTE. FREDERICK FRANCIS COX, who lost his life through shell shock on August 16, 1917, in France ; aged 24 years.
“ We often pause to think, dear brother,
And wonder how you died.
With no one near who loved you, dear,
Before you closed your eyes.
You nobly did your duty,
And like a hero fell ;
Could we have held your drooping head,
Or heard your last farewell.”
– Sadly missed from home. From his loving Father, Brothers, and Sisters.

REEVE.-In loving memory of Lance-Corpl. FRANK BASHAM REEVE, beloved son of Mrs. Reeve, 168 Murray Road, missing since March 21, 1918, now presumed to have been killed on that date, aged 30 years.

SPARKES.-In loving memory of my dear husband, FREDERICK WILLIAM SPARKES, killed in action in France on August 11, 1918.- “ If love could save thou had’st not died.”-From his loving Wife and Children.

8th Aug 1919. “The Warwickshire Lads” What Rugby Units did in the Great War.




Under this heading we have endeavoured to get together a complete and authoritative account of the doings of Rugby men on the various war fronts from 1914 to 1918. Owing to the regulations of the Defence of the Realm Act all references to these matters by the Press were, of course, strictly prohibited during hostilities. But, although many of the events now related will seem to be already relegated to the “ long ago ” it is only just that there should be on record some recital of the losses and successes of the local units. As we are anxious to make our narrative as comprehensive and complete as possible, we shall be glad if any of our readers would amplify our articles or rectify any omissions that may inadvertently occur.

Few towns of the same size have greater reason to be proud of the exploits of their citizens in the great war than Rugby. This has been repeated so often by speakers at various meetings for war objects held in the town that it almost passes for a truism, but it is an indisputable fact that in all spheres, whether it be in the matter of fighting men, munition workers, or war loan investors, the Rugby people have played their part in the great a struggle manfully and well.

Men from Rugby have fought on every front and in every regiment of our grand old Army ; but the thoughts of the townspeople were, quite naturally, chiefly centred upon the four units with which the name of Rugby has been so intimately associated, Viz. : E Company, 7th R.W.R., the Warwickshire Yeomanry, the Howitzer Battery, and the 220th Army Troop Company.

During the war it was impossible, owing to the strict censorship, for the doings of particular units to be published to the world ; but now that the fighting has ceased, and the iron hand of the censor has been removed, it may be of interest to our readers if we briefly trace the histories of the four Rugby units from the fateful 4th of August, 1914, to the never-to-be-forgotten 11th of November, 1918, which saw the final humiliation of the powerful Central Empires.


To begin with the Yeomanry. Few mounted regiments have covered themselves with greater glory during the war than the gallant Warwickshires, and it is a source of pride to feel that Rugby men have been associated with all their exploits.

At the outbreak of war the Rugby Troop (under S.Q.M.S. J. Tait) of C Squadron consisted of about 20 men recruited from the town and surrounding villages. Immediately on mobilisation they proceeded to Livermere Park, Norfolk, where the first three months’ training took place. From there they proceeded to Newbury Racecourse, after which they were transferred to Donnington, near Norwich. In April they embarked at Southampton for overseas service. The horses were despatched first on the Wayfarer, which, it will be remembered, was torpedoed by a German U- boat near the Scilly Isles. As the result of this disaster, the regiment suffered its first casualties, five men being drowned, including a member of the Rugby Troop, Corpl. Powell, son of the late Rector of Swinford. The embarkation of the regiment was delayed several days owing to this sinking ; but the journey, when it was commenced, was completed in safety, and Alexandria was reached on April 20th. In Egypt the regiment underwent a course of intensive training in open cavalry work until the end of July, when they were dismounted, turned into infantry, and fitted out with packs. They left Alexandria about August 12th, and landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on the morning of the 19th. Two days afterwards—in the afternoon—they went into action, and first came under shell fire when they made an advance across the Plains to Chocolate Hill. Here about 30 per cent, of the regiment became casualties, many falling with dysentery, pneumonia, &c.

They withdrew from the Peninsula on the last day of October, and proceeded to Mudros, where they remained until the end of November. On reaching Alexandria they went into camp at Mena, near Cairo, leaving there on Boxing Day, 1915, for the camp at Salich. Here a composite regiment was made up of the 5th Mounted Division, which consisted of the Warwick, Worcester, and Gloucester Yeomanries, for service on the Western Frontier, where they saw a lot of fighting against various Arab tribes. They afterwards took part in the push across the Sinai Peninsula, starting from Kantara on the Suez Canal, and fighting in every action till the fall of Jerusalem on December 9,1917. They then returned for a rest with the intention of recuperating preparatory to further fighting in Palestine, but orders were received that they were to dismounted and formed into a machine gun squadron. They were taken to Sidi Bishr, near Alexandria, and were then fully equipped for France. On the way the transport, the Leasowe Castle, was torpedoed, and Lieut-Col. Cheap and the Adjutant, Capt. Drake, together with a number of men, were drowned.


After the unfortunate experience on the “ Leasowe Castle,” the regiment (now amalgamated with the Notts Hussars Yeomanry and known as the 100th Warwick and S.N. Yeomanry, Batt. M.G.C.) returned to Sidi Bishr Camp, Alexandria, to be re-equipped and await another boat. It was three weeks before the next convoy was ready to start, the battalion in the meantime putting in most of their time in learning the working of the Vickers machine gun, which they were soon to use with telling effect on the Germans in France. However, by the middle of June everything was ready, and the battalion for the last time marched to the docks. Strange to say, it was the same convoy with the exception of the “ Leasowe Castle,” which was to transport the troops, it having made the return journey without further mishap. The “ Caledonian ” filled the gap made by the “ Leasowe Castle,” and this was the boat allocated to the 100th M.G.C. The destination of the convoy was to be Taranti, on the Italian coast, instead of Marseilles, and it was expected that the journey would occupy three days. The convoy of six boats steamed out of Alexandria soon after mid-day on the 18th of June with a strong escort of Japanese destroyers, and the Warwickshire lads once more said “ Good bye ” to Egypt and the many and varied experiences which they had gone through since landing there in April, 1915. Their work in the East was finished, and they were called on to take a hand in the final struggle on the main front. It was therefore with mixed feelings of sorrow and gladness that they watched the coastline of Egypt slipping gradually from their view, sorrow for the comrades they had left behind, their horses which they would never ride again, and at not being able to be in at the death and successful conclusion of the Palestine Expedition, they being one of the first regiments ordered to that Front at the commencement of operations. Gladness, too, that they had been one of the regiments chosen from amongst the various yeomanry units to fight in France, and that they were journeying nearer to “ England, home, and beauty ” after neatly 3½ years in the East, with a prospect of getting their long delayed leave.


Luck was with them, and the journey was uneventful until the coastline of Italy was sighted, when several heavy explosions were heard. One or two of the escort were seen to leave their places and make out to sea. More explosions followed, the results of depth charges dropped by our destroyers. It was eventually announced that another attempt had been made to torpedo the convoy, but happily the escort had been too smart for them. Taranti was reached in safety about noon on the 21st June, and the next day the railway journey across Italy and France was commenced. Cattle trucks, each carrying thirty men. were used. The journey proved an experience in itself, and under better travelling conditions would have been a pleasant holiday ; but crowded trucks, Army food, and limited recreation more than counter-balanced the splendid scenery and enthusiastic reception accorded the troops. After exactly seven days’ travelling the destination, Etaples, on the French coast, was reached. At that time Etaples was a big detail camp, and Comiers close by was a training centre for machine gun troops. There were also several hospitals in the vicinity. The place had been visited by enemy aeroplanes on several occasions, and had suffered many casualties by bombs, the hospital being hit and much loss of life occasioned. When the 100th Batt. M.G.C. had put up their tents and settled down for the night, weary after their long journey in the train, and prepared for a good night’s sleep, they were not a little annoyed when Fritz came over about midnight and bombed the whole place for over two hours. Unfortunately there were no shelters, and the only thing the battalion could do was to lie in their tents and stick it. A similar thing happened three nights in succession, and although none of the 100th Battalion were hit, it was felt that this luck could not hold, and they were accordingly moved into a little wood about half-way between Etaples and Comiers. Here a six weeks’ course on the machine gun was commenced, at the end of which time it was considered the battalion would be fit to take their place in the line. Here, also, the long-delayed and much-looked for Blighty leave was commenced.


There was much talk as to whether the 100th Batt. M.G.C. would be a mobile or foot unit, and at one time it seemed certain that they would become a Motor Machine Gun Corps until the last moment, but motor-cars were not available, and the battalion became an Infantry Machine Gun Corps attached to the 4th Army (under Sir H. Rawlinson), operating on the Somme Front. The Allied big-push had just commenced when the 100th finished training Their training completed, and they being pronounced fit to take the line, they were moved by rail towards the end of August to the small village of Warloe, not far from Albert, the latter place having just been taken from the Germans. Here all the packs and unnecessary luggage was left, and the place became the rear base for the battalion. The first action in which the battalion took part on French soil was at Combles early in September, when two companies were attached to the 12th & 18th Divisions respectively for barrage purposes. Here too, the Battalion had its first casualties. Ephy Forest was the scene of the next action, and it was here that some of the heaviest fighting on this front took place, the nature of the country bring such as to make it an admirable line of defence for the Germans. The battalion was deputed to assist the divisions forming the 3rd Corps by putting up barrages preparatory to the attacks in conjunction with the Artillery, and were complimented on their excellent work on more than one occasion. They suffered their heaviest casualties whilst in this area, but their strength was continually augmented by drafts of M.G.C men from the base. The drafts of Yeomanry had automatically ceased when the battalion was formed, so that the percentage of Yeomanry to M.G.C. men in the battalion was constantly on the decline ; whilst fighting around the sector was still going on ; the battalion was withdrawn, and sent to help the 9th Corps in the St. Quentin sector, and were able to help the infantry to cross the Canal du Nord.


As soon as all objectives had been gained here the battalion was returned to the 3rd Corps, and took part in the fighting round Le Catelet. About this time the Germans were being pushed back on all fronts, and the Hindenburg line was fast crumbling. The battalion was constantly engaged right up to Le Cateau, where the last big stand was made by the Germans in this sector. Very severe indeed was the fighting round about Le Cateau, and fresh laurels had been gained by the battalion before the enemy were ejected from the town. After this the battalion was withdrawn for a rest and billeted in Le Cateau. But it was not for long—long rests were not known in those days—and they were soon on the track of Jerry again. After a short tussle Landrecies, the next big town, and the last but one of any importance, was captured. The pace was getting hot, and it was all the troops could do to keep up with the enemy, who relied on his machine guns to hold the attackers up. It was quite a common occurrence for the cavalry at this time to go out for miles, and when they returned report that they had not come in touch with the enemy. Avernes was the last place of siege on French soil, which the battalion helped to take, and when the fighting ceased on November 11, 1918, the battalion was only a few miles from the Belgian border.

The casualties had been pretty severe, and many of the old boys who had arrived right through the Gallipoli and Egyptian fighting were killed or wounded during the three mouths’ fighting the battalion had taken part in since they arrived in France. Many, also, had obtained commissions, so that by the time the fighting ceased the actual number of yeomen who had been right through with the regiment from the time it left England in April, 1918, was probably not more than 30. After the Armistice the battalion was included in the troops for the Army of Occupation of the Rhine, and had actually tackled a good part of the journey to Germany when the order was cancelled, and the battalion remained in Belgium until demobilisation commenced.

The Warwickshire Yeomanry have had the unique experience of fighting as infantry, cavalry, and machine gunners during their term of active service, and in all three roles have shown their fighting qualities, which are typical of our race.

The best work the Regiment did as Yeomanry was the capture of 14 field guns at Huj. This was purely cavalry work, and the gallant charge of the Yeomanry while the guns were fixing with the sights set at zero will be always remembered as among the most thrilling and daring deeds of the great war.


Further details are to hand in regard to Corpl. Frederick Albert Bosworth, who, as announced in our last issue, was recently killed in action while serving with the R.F.A. in the North Russian Expeditionary Force. Corpl. Bosworth was a member of the Rugby Howitzer Battery at the time the war broke out, his home address being 86 Bath Street. He remained with the local battery during its service in France until he was severely wounded in August, 1917. For his services over there he was awarded the Military Medal, and later a bar. and also the Medaille Militaire. Although week from his wounds and suffering from the effects of gas, Corpl. Bosworth was quite ready to “ carry on ” in North Russia when the call came for help.

It is quite evident from letters received from his officers that Corpl. Bosworth did justice to his own reputation and to the good name of the battery. The deceased corporal was at one time employed as an apprentice at Messrs. Willans and Robinson’s works, and was familiarly known to his many friends as “ Sammy.”

The commanding officer of the battery writes to the family as follows :—
“VI. Brigade R.F.A.,
North Russian Exp. Force.
DEAR MR. BOSWORTH,— I am most fearfully sorry for you all in having lost your son. He was shot and never recovered consciousness, dying almost at once, so he can’t have suffered any pain. He was the man in the whole of my Brigade that I would have wished most to bring home safe, when we finally get out of this country. He was the best signaller I’d got, and as fine a soldier as there is in the Brigade, which is full of good men. He was popular both with officers and men, and everybody grieves and sympathises with you. I was at his funeral. He was buried with full military honours in a very pretty little village cemetery at a place called Limbushi, and I am trying to get a photograph of the church for you. With my deepest sympathy, yours sincerely, C. T. LAWRENCE, Lt. Colonel R.F.A.”

DEATH OF MR. ALBERT WHITEHEAD.—We regret to record the death of Albert (Bert) Whitehead, which took place at Colchester after a severe illness from a painful internal complaint. The deceased was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Whitehead, of this village. He answered Lord Kitchener’s call, enlisting in the early part of the war in the Coldstream Guards, with whom he served at the Battle of Loos. He afterwards contracted trench fever, and was invalided to England. Prior to enlistment, deceased was engaged with his father in the budding trade. He was a general favourite in the village, having been an active member of the cricket, football, and rifle clubs. He was in his 25th year.

OUTING OF OLD VOLUNTEERS.—On Wednesday a party of “ old crocks,” who served in the Rugby Volunteer Company years ago, made their annual pilgrimage to Stoneleigh Deer Park, and spent a very pleasant re-union on the old camping ground. The weather was delightful, and the beauty of the mediaeval surroundings was never more striking.

WITH regard to a dance held at the Green Man Hotel paddock on July 12th, the following is a balance-sheet. The dance was in aid of the St. Dunstan’s Hostel for Blinded Soldiers and Sailors. The receipts were £10 2s. 8d., expenses 4s. 6d., leaving a total profit of £9 18s. 2d. This has been handed to the fund, and the committee wish to thank the members of the Dunchurch Brass Band, who so kindly gave their services free.


The discharged and demobilised sailors, soldiers, and airmen of Newbold held a very successful ex-service men’s day on Bank Holiday. The arrangements included a dinner, tea, cricket match—Ex-Service Men v. Others—sports, and dancing during the evening. An excellent three-course dinner was served by Mr. John I. Gamble, of the Barley Mow, in a marquee erected in a paddock, kindly lent for the occasion by Mr. J. Parris Cox, some 300 sitting down to the meal.

After “ The King ” and a silent toast to “ Absent Comrades,” the Vicar (Rev. J. B. Hewitt) expressed the great pleasure it gave all of them in attending and helping to make the day a success. They were very pleased indeed to have the de mobilised men back with them, but he rather thought that, instead of the men doing the work in entertaining them, it should have been the other way about—they should have been waiting upon their returned soldiers. However, he congratulated those concerned on the admirable arrangements made and the splendid manner in which these were being carried out. He wished the movement every success.

Mr. F. Healey responded, and thanked the Vicar and friends present for the kind and sympathetic encouragement given the demobilised men in their little effort. He extended a hearty welcome to everyone. The idea of holding a festive day of their own originated amongst a few venturesome spirits in the village, and was only made possible by the hearty cooperation and generous response of their numerous friends. When he told them that the whole of the vegetables had not only been given (some 250lbs. each of potatoes and vegetables), but had also been cooked, and the meat cooked as well, by people in the village they would realise to some small extent what support had been accorded them voluntarily. He also sincerely thanked everyone who had contributed towards sending Christmas presents to their fighting men during the past five years—he assured them that this had been much appreciated.

After dinner the cricket match was played on the old recreation field (by kind permission of Mr. W. P. Day), and resulted in a victory for the “ Others,” the scores being—E-Service Men, 37 ; the Others, 89 for 5 wickets (Rev. J. B. Hewitt, 32. not out). A return was then made to the marquee, where some 350 sat down to tea.

Afterwards an adjournment was made to the recreation ground near the schools, where dancing took place until the proceedings were interrupted by the rain.

During the day the Rugby Steam Shed Band gave an excellent programme of music.

Those who assisted were :—Waitresses, Mesdames E. Clarke, Harris, Wray, Stanton, W. Allen, A. Allen, Read, W. Hipwell, W. Gamble, Smith, Robinson, Clewlow, Crowdy, Misses Gamble and V. Hipwell ; carvers, Messrs. J. Martin, J. Vears, F. Gamble, F. Jefferson, S. Sutton, Brett, and others. Vegetables were given by Messrs. Gill, Knowles, T. Smith, C. Heath, Wilson, Newman, J. Harratt, Stone, H. Clarke, Curtis, Long, C. Harris, P. Gamble, F. Gamble, W. Gamble, and A. Thompson. The following ladies are to be congratulated on their splendid cooking :—The hostess, Mrs. J. T. Gamble ; Mesdames Prestidge, H. Clarke, Howes, J. Harris, Timms, J. Cave, W. Gamble, F. Gamble, Robinson, Reynolds, Newman, Clewlow, W. Hipwell, and others.

The demobilised men who carried out the arrangements were Messrs. S. Smith (chairman), Gil1, Knowles, O. Wilson, F. Harris, W. Coles, W. Gamble, J. Growdy, F. Jefferson, with C. T. Dadley treasurer and F. Healey secretary.

The expenses amounted to some £70, and after paying these a slight balance remains. A balance sheet will be issued in due course.



SIR,—As a visitor to your interesting old town during the recent peace celebrations, I am writing to congratulate you on the splendid way everything was carried out.
I was particularly pleased with the procession on Peace Day, one item of which, a lady representing peace, specially took my fancy. I was rather surprised, however, on receiving your valuable paper this week, to learn that this lady did not receive a prize.—Yours, etc.,


SIR,—I was both surprised and amazed at the letters of “ M. E. Harding ” and “ A Churchman .” on the above subject in your issue of July 25th. It is indeed most painful to read of members of the Church of England expressing their “ deep regret ” at a proposal to erect what is, after all, merely a “ blest memorial to our dying Lord.”

“ M. E. Harding ” evidently labouring under a very wrong impression when stating “ we worship not a dead Christ of the Cross.” Of course we do not. Whoever suggested worshipping the crucifix ? I was under the impression that it was to be set up as a memorial to those who had fallen in war. If so, then the word “ worship ” has nothing whatever to do with it, and “ M. E. Harding’s ” argument is plainly “ off the map.”

“ A Churchman ” also displays lamentable lack of understanding in saying : “ It is illegal and is breaking the Second Commandment.” If the crucifix is to be condemned on those grounds, then all the thousands of monuments, statues, and images of kings and queens and famous men and women that adorn the length and breadth of the country are also “ illegal ” and wrong, for remember the words of the commandment : “. . . nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above or in the earth beneath. . . .” One can see in a moment that such a construction of the meaning of the commandment is ridiculous. Why was the Commandment written in the very first place ? Because the Children of Israel made images of other gods and worshipped them, thus forsaking the true and only God. Is the crucifix an image of a false god ? Do we worship the crucifix itself ? How can it possibly make us forsake the true and only God ? How could God possibly be “ Jealous,” as the Commandment tells us, of honour paid to His Son ? Rather are our hearts filled with an overwhelming sense of love and devotion as we gaze upon the symbol of our Faith and think how wonderful and amazing God’s love for us must be that he should “ give His only begotten Son to suffer and to die.”

Surely a beautiful representation of the greatest sacrifice ever made is the best possible memorial we could have ? Nothing more expressive of calm dignity and peace could be erected.

In conclusion, I would point out that on St. Swithin’s Day, the Bishop of London solemnly dedicated a crucifix in the churchyard of St. Peter’s, Fulham.—Yours, etc.,


The County Roads and Bridges Committee [Warwickshire County Council] reported having before them the draft conveyance from the Duke of Buccleuch to the Council of the lands forming part of the site of the Dunchurch Avenue. It recites the gift by the Duke to the Council of half the nett proceed a of sale of the trees, and in consideration of the conveyance of the land to them the Council covenant with his Grace that they will within fifteen months from the date of the deed replant the avenue, and afterwards maintain it. The committee learn that the draft has been approved by the Dunchurch Avenue Committee, and that that committee are prepared to replant the avenue ; and it was recommended that the draft be approved on behalf of the Council, which was done. Provision is to be made in the next pay order for a sum not exceeding £25,000 for the purposes of the Small Holdings and Allotments Acts, and the committee was empowered to expend any sum therefrom needed for acquiring and adapting land for small holdings.


AVIS.—In proud and honoured memory of Lance-Corpl. MARK AVIS, 5th Oxford and Buck L.I., killed in action on august 6, 1915. —“ Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for others,”—From his loving Sisters and Brothers all.

BARNWELL.—In loving memory of Pte. FRED BARNWELL, R.M.L.T., who died in Colchester Heart Hospital on August 2, 1918, aged 31 years.—From his sorrowing Mother, Brother and Sisters, and Lizzie.

DANIELS.—In ever-loving memory of our dear son, Corpl. LEONARD GORDON DANIELS, Grenadier Guards, who died from wounds in Belgium, August 4, 1917.
“ Splendid you passed,
The great surrender made,
Into the light that nevermore shall fade.”
—From his loving Mother, Father & Brothers.

DUNKLEY.—In ever-loving memory of our two dear boys, PERCY & HARRY DUNKLEY, who were killed in France on July 25 and July 30, 1916.
“ Days of sadness still come o’er us,
tears in silence often flow,
Thinking of the days we lost you ;
Just three years ago.
Too far away thy graves to me,
But not too far to think of thee.
—From his loving Mother & Father & Sister.

ELLIOTT.—In ever loving memory of our darling boy, PERCY GEORGE ELLIOTT, who fell in action “ somewhere in France,” August 9, 1918.
“ We little thought his time so short
When home on leave he came ;
Out to the front he bravely went,
Never to return again.
We often sit in silence,
No eye may see up weep ;
But deep within our aching hearts
His memory we’ll ever keep.”
—Never forgotten by his sorrowing Mother, Father, and Brother.

LEWIS.—In loving memory of LEWIS LEWIS killed in action on August 8, 1918, aged 18.—From his loving Father, Mother, Sisters and Brothers, 35 King Edward Road.

MATTHEWS.—In loving memory of WALTER JAMES MATTHEWS, Long Lawford, who was killed in action in France on August 6, 1918.
“ Sleep on, beloved, and take thy rest ;
We loved you well, but God loved best.”
—From his loving Mother, Father, Brothers and Sisters.


The 1918 Spring Offensive – Operation Michael

The 1918 Spring Offensive was a series of German attacks on the Western Front beginning on 21 March 1918. It was a period when Rugby suffered some 40 men ‘killed in action’ or who ‘died of wounds’ in the France and Flanders sector.

Following the Russian Revolution and the Russian Capitulation, the Germans had nearly 50 Divisions of troops available from the fighting on the Russian Front. Although short of supplies, the Germans’ only chance of victory was to use these additional forces to defeat the Allies before the men and resources of the United States could be fully deployed, following the US entry into the war in April the previous year [1917].

There were four German offensives planned – Michael, Georgette, Gneisenau and Blücher-Yorck.   Operation Michael was the initial main attack on the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army. This started on 21 March 1918. It was intended to break through the Allied lines between the British and French armies and outflank the British forces before driving them to the Channel.   The Germans expected that the French would then seek an armistice. The other offensives were subsidiary and designed as diversions.

The Allies had concentrated their main forces to defend the approaches to the Channel Ports and the strategic city of Amiens. They had left the more ‘worthless’ and devastated ground in the Somme area more lightly defended.

The First Battles of the Somme in the defence against Operation Michael can be divided as below, however the nature of these many defensive actions in so many places makes it difficult to apportion Rugby’s many casualties to any particular Action without further detailed study:[1]

Battle of St. Quentin, 21–23 March

Actions at the Somme crossings, 24–25 March

First Battle of Bapaume, 24–25 March

Battle of Rosières, 26–27 March

First Battle of Arras, 28 March

Battle of the Avre, 4 April 1918

Battle of the Ancre, 5 April 1918

To enable their initial breakthrough, the German artillery developed an effective and economical phased creeping barrage scheme: first, a brief bombardment on command and communications; then, destruction of artillery; and lastly an attack on 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. It was claimed to be the biggest barrage of the entire war – over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.[2]

The German army had concentrated its best and most experienced troops into specially trained self-supporting ‘storm-trooper’ units, to infiltrate and bypass the Allied front line units, leaving any strong points to be ‘mopped-up’ later. Whilst this gave the German army an initial advantage in the attack, many of these specialist formations suffered very heavy casualties and the quality of the remaining units, without their more experienced men, proved to be less effective. The Germans failed exploit their gains and the following German infantry, attacking in large waves, also suffered heavy casualties.

During this period, the allies were moving back, fighting rearguard actions at a very heavy cost in casualties. There were very poor trench-lines in the areas recently handed over to the British by the French – indeed, in some cases, the expected trench lines were merely marked by the removal of the turf! Defence had depended on strong-points and when these were by-passed and later surrounded, the men fought to the last of their ammunition and were then killed or captured as they tried to fight back through the Germans to their own lines. A large number were forced to surrender and were taken prisoners.

In the critical period from 21 March to end April 1918, some 27 men from Rugby were killed in action or died from wounds in France and Belgium: 12 in March and 15 in April. They were from a wide range of units, as all available men were thrown into the many desperate defensive actions.

Because the Germans were moving forward, there were many casualties whose bodies were not recovered or identified and these men are now remembered on Memorials to the Missing. Large numbers were also taken prisoner and their fate was not always known until after the war.

However, the German army had also suffered heavy casualties, and these were of their specialist and experienced troops. Also, because of their rapid initial progress, the Germans were unable to move supplies and reinforcements forward fast enough to maintain their advance and the offensives petered out. By late April 1918, the danger of a German breakthrough had passed and they were left holding ground on the old Somme battlefields which was now of dubious value and which would prove impossible to hold with their depleted units.

After the situation stabilised somewhat in May 1918, five more men from Rugby were lost during the month, and another eight in June, two of them from the newly renamed Royal Air Force, as the German advance faltered and counter-attacks to stabilise the line were carried out. A number died of wounds which meant that they were at least recovered to a first aid process, rather than being completely lost.

In August 1918, the Allies began a counter-offensive with the support of great numbers of American troops and started using new artillery techniques and more effective operational methods. This ‘Hundred Days’ Offensive’ resulted in the Germans retreating or being driven from all of the ground taken in the Spring Offensive, the collapse of the Hindenburg Line and the capitulation of the German Empire in November.

[1]    Information edited from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_Offensive. – For a more detailed description, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Michael#St._Quentin. For further information see, Muirland, Jerry, Retreat and Rearguard Somme 1918 – the Fifth Army Retreat, Pen & Sword Books, ISBN: 978 1 78159 2670, 2014.

[2]       Other references say 3,500,000 shells.

Rugby Men in the Third Battle of Ypres

The Ypres Salient – a bulge in the front line, in front of and to the east of the Belgian town of Ypres, was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge.

The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.

There was then little significant activity on this front until 1917, when an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. This became known as the Third Battle of Ypres.

An initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge, on the right flank of the British forces, was a complete success. [The Battle of Messines, 7-14 June 1917]   The offensive at Messines forced the Germans to move reserves to Flanders from the Arras and Aisne fronts, which relieved pressure on the French, and deprived the German 4th Army of the high ground south of Ypres. This was a necessary precursor to a planned British advance to the Passchendaele Ridge which was intended to allow a ‘break-out’ and the capture the Belgian coast up to the Dutch frontier.

There was also a later successful French operation just north of Poelcapelle in the Houthulst Forest, on the left flank of the British forces.

The main assault north-eastward, the Third Battle of Ypres, was launched on 31 July 1917, and became a struggle against determined opposition, with progressively worsening weather.

The ground had been severely damaged by shelling and rapidly deteriorated in the rains, which began again on 3 October, turning some areas into a swamp. The campaign finally closed in November with the capture of Passchendaele on 6 November.[1]

Third Battle of Ypres was not a single action, but comprised 8 separate phases:

Battle of Pilckem Ridge (31 July – 2 August 1917)

Battle of Langemarck, 1917 (16 – 18 August 1917)

Battle of the Menin Road Ridge (20 – 25 September 1917)

Battle of Polygon Wood (26 September – 3 October 1917)

Battle of Broodseinde (4 October 1917)

Battle of Poelcapelle (9 October 1917)

First Battle of Passchendaele (12 October 1917)

Second Battle of Passchendaele (26 October – 10 November 1917)

The actions from September to the beginning of October were comparatively successful, but the later actions from Poelcapelle onwards were not. The final capture of Passchendaele, which was declared to have been the objective, provided a political justification to end this phase of the campaign.

In the period 30 July to 10 November 1917, some 22 Rugby infantrymen were killed in action; as well as a member of the infantry machine gun corps; six artillery men and two members of the Royal Engineers. A member of the Royal Flying Corps also lost his life on 12 October 1917. Elsewhere, Rugby lost three men killed in the Egypt/Palestine theatre.

J S Watts of the 10th Bn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment was killed on 30 July just before the Battle of Pilckem Ridge (31 July – 2 August 1917), whilst Sergeant G E Reynolds of the 2nd Bn. Rifle Brigade and Acting Bombardier A J Wingell of the 23rd Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery, were killed on the opening day of that action.   Sergeant Reynolds’ brother was killed less than two weeks later.

Five men were killed in the run up to the next main action, which illustrates the fact that soldiers were being killed day by day, on patrols, and by ‘routine’ shelling of their positions and sniper fire, as well as in the major assaults of the named battles.   They were: Lance Corporal L G Daniels of the 4th Bn. Grenadier Guards on 4 August; and G Hanwell, 1st Bn. Worcestershires and T H Reynolds of the 15th Bn. Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 12 August. Reynold’s brother was killed just two weeks before. An Engineer Officer, Lieutenant A C Boyce of the 397th Field Company Royal Engineers was killed on 10 August and an artilleryman, Sergeant A Deakin, of the Royal Field Artillery, on 14 August.

Lance Corporal F E Boyes of the 6th Bn. Oxford and Bucks was killed on the first day of the Battle of Langemarck, (16 – 18 August 1917) and then a further four of Rugby’s men were killed in later August and early September: W E Summerfield of the 1st/6th Bn. Royal Warwicks on 20 August; Lance Corporal Warden F H B of ‘C’ Compay 1st/7th Bn. Royal Warwicks on 27 August; and G Ruddle of the 2nd/6th Bn. Royal Warwicks on 3 September.   These three were all serving in the 143rd Brigade of the 48th Division. Gunner C H Meadows of ‘D’ Battery, Royal Field Artillery, was killed on 4 September.

Four men were killed during the period of the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge (20 – 25 September 1917): J C Smith of the 11th Bn. King’s Royal Rifle Corps, on the opening day; Lance Corporal A G Stay, of the 122nd Company Machine Gun Corps (infantry) on 21 September; a Sapper, G J Worster, of the 94th Field Company on 22 September; and E G Bradshaw of the 2nd/6th Bn. Royal Warwicks on 24 September.

The Battle of Polygon Wood (26 September – 3 October 1917) seems not to have claimed any of Rugby’s infantrymen, but two artillerymen, L S Lennon and W S Saville, who were both Gunners in the 2/A Battery of the Honourable Artillery Company were both killed on 29 September.

Then on 5 October, the day following the start of the action of the Battle of Broodseinde (4 October 1917), J Lindley of the 15th Bn. of the Royal Warwicks was killed.

The Battle of Poelcapelle on 9 October 1917, claimed three more Rugby men: I H Allen 16th Bn. Royal Warwicks; H T E Amos and C B Jones, both of the 1st/6th Bn. Gloucestershires. Company Sergeant Major G H Hayes of the 1st/7th Bn. Royal Warwicks was killed on the following day. These last three were all in the 144th Brigade of the 48th Division.

2nd Lieutenant K H Willard of the 45th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps was killed on the first day of The First Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917. There were no Rugby infantry losses on that first day, but four men were killed on the following days: a Sapper, A E S Meddows, of the 5th HQ Signal Company, attached to the 34th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, on 14 October, and infantrymen, H M Cowley, of the 10th Bn. Royal Warwickshires and Lance Corporal R W Dugdale of the 20th Bn. The Kings (Liverpool Regiment) on 19 October and Lieutenant S G Wolfe of the 18th Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers on 22 October.

The Second Battle of Passchendaele (26 October – 10 November 1917) claimed two Rugby men on its opening day: A Collins of the 15th Bn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment and H C Williams of the 1st Bn., Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment).

B E[or C] Lane of the Rifle Brigade who had been wounded at the time of the Battle of Arras and discharged on 25 April, died in Rugby, just after this period on 9 November 1917.

Biographies of the soldiers listed above, giving fuller details of their families, and military service where known, will be published on this site on the centenaries of their deaths.


– – – – –


This article on Rugby Men in the Third Battle of Ypres 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, June 2017.

[1]         http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/85900/TYNE%20COT%20MEMORIAL

Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme   —   1 July – 18 November 1916

The Battle of the Somme, or the Somme Offensive, was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British and French empires against the German empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the River Somme in France. It was one of the largest battles of World War I, in which more than 1,000,000 men were killed or wounded, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.[1]

The Somme offensive comprised several separate phases or battles, and the reader is referred to the excellent descriptions of these given under the Somme heading on the Commonweath War Graves Commission [CWGC] website.[2]

The phases were:

Battle of Albert, 1-13 July 1916

Battle of Bazentin Ridge, 14-17 July

Battle of Delville Wood, 15 July-3 September

Battle of Pozieres Ridge, 23 July-3 September

Battle of Guillemont, 3-6 September

Battle of Ginchy, 9 September 1916

Battle of Flers-Courcelette, 15-22 September

Battle of Morval, 25-28 September

Battle of Thiepval Ridge, 26-28 September

Battle of Le Transloy, 1-18 October

Battle of Ancre Heights, 1 October – 11 November

Battle of the Ancre, 13-18 November 1916

Whilst the Somme is rightly remembered for its enormous casualties, especially on the first day, the losses were of those battalions first committed.   In this respect, the men from Rugby were comparatively fortunate. Some 51 men died in the Somme area and ten more of wounds, from units involved in the battle, in the period between 1 July to 18 November and then up to the end of December 1916. These Rugby losses were spread among some 42 separate Battalions or equivalent groups.   Naturally, the heaviest Rugby losses were in the Regiments that had more commonly recruited Rugby men: the Warwickshire Regiment, especially the 1/6th Bn. [3 Dead], 1/7th Bn. [4 dead], 8th Bn. [3 dead] and 14th Bn. [3 dead]; and the Oxford & Bucks: the 6th Bn. [3 dead] – where there had already been heavy losses of Rugby men in the 5th Bn. of the Ox. & Bucks. on ‘Rugby’s worst day’ on 25 September 1915, in actions which related to the opening of the Battle of Loos.

Whereas 13 Rugby men were lost on 25 September 1915, only ten were lost on 1 July 1916, during the opening of the Battle of the Somme. However, as noted above further casualties continued in the Somme area, as well as the deaths of another eight Rugby men in other operations from Belgium to Greece and Salonica.

It must be remembered that in this analysis, ‘Rugby men’ are those on the Rugby Memorial Gates – men from the Rugby area died on the same days in the same battalions, but were listed on other memorials, for example those in Brownsover, Hillmorton and New Bilton, and other surrounding villages.

In total, in this period, some 32 Rugby men who are remembered on the Memorial Gates, but have no known graves, are also remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.   The Thiepval Memorial is the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world and bears the names of more than 72,000 men who died on the Somme and have no known grave. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, it is also commemorates the alliance between the British Empire and France. Beside the memorial is a cemetery with equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves, brought together from all over the battlefield.

A further 19 Rugby men, who fought in the Somme area in this period have known named graves in the Somme area. Some 11 Rugby men who probably fought in the Somme area, sustained wounds and were evacuated to dressing stations and hospitals, but died of their wounds. In most cases their names were thus known and they are now buried in cemeteries adjacent to the medical establishments where they died.

However, there was action away from the Somme and in the same period Rugby men died in the Ypres and Arras areas, and elsewhere overseas in Greece and Egypt.

In total some 74 Rugby men who are commemorated on the Gates died in the period, and in addition others are remembered on the village memorials that are now encompassed in the Rugby Borough.

The ‘Rugby men’ will all be dealt with in individual biographies, although in some cases it may be difficult to establish where they served, especially if they were wounded, evacuated and then died at a dressing station or hospital, sometime some distance behind lines, or in even back in UK, with their families taking their sons’ bodies home for burial.

The details and family histories of all the Rugby Memorial Gate casualties, from the Somme and all other areas, will be given on the 100th anniversary of the day on which they died on this site.


= = = =


This article on the Battle of the Somme was 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, June 2016.

[1]       Edited from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Somme

[2]         http://www.cwgc.org/the-somme.aspx


22nd Jan 1916. Local Soldier’s Experiences at the Dardanelles



Corpl H Berwick, of the King’s Own Royal Lancashire Regiment, has forwarded us his diary from the Europa Hospital, Gibraltar, recording his experiences with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He is a native of Rugby, and has served seventeen years in the Army, during which time he has seen service in India and Burmah. He was present at the retreat from Mons, and the battles of the Aisne and Marne, and has since seen fighting in the Gallipoli Peninsula. He states that he kept the diary on small scraps of paper, and he has often had to write it under very heavy shell fire. On one occasion, while he was marching with his battalion to relieve some troops, he remembered, after they had covered several miles, that he had left his diary in his dug-out. Although it was raining very hard, he went back for the papers, which he rescued just in time, as his dug-out was flooded.

The first part of the diary is confined to incidents occurring on the outward journey, and the latter part to the return from the Peninsula to Gibraltar. The middle portion deals with incidents in the fighting on the Peninsula, and a few interesting extracts are appended :—

The writer states that early in October they landed at Suvla Bay, and adds: “ From what I saw of it, it must have been a very hot place where they made their landing.” On the following day he was posted to a company in the first line trenches. On one occasion a party of men were ordered to dig a well within the range of the Turks’ guns, and when they had taken their coats off for this operation the enemy opened a heavy fire on them. It was like hell for an hour, the troops rushing about to find cover, as there was none near the well; and as a result 12 men were killed and 19 wounded.

Turkish Attacks Repulsed.

“ On November 6th, at 9.20 p.m, the Turks made a very stubborn attack on our first line; they came three times, and on the third occasion they gained part of our trench ; at 3 a.m we counter attacked and retook the lost trench, with heavy casualties, and rain and hail stopped further heavy fighting. On the 7th they made an early morning attack under the star shells, but they did not get much further than our wire entanglements; our machine guns mowed the wire down as well as the Turks. On the 10th they made another stubborn attack on our trenches, and they were very plucky, as we out-numbered them by five to one. But still on they came, and we had orders not to fire until they were on the wire; then the Captain said “ Fire like hell !” and we did. They went down like skittles; we had about 16 machine guns in nice positions, and all through the day they were doing nothing but sniping. On the 11th the Turks attacked in large numbers, but our heavy naval guns surprised them, and very few of them got away.

“ On the 13th November, as I was passing through a traverse to get into a communication trench, I felt a nasty sting in the left hip. I did not attach much importance to it till the next morning, when I found I could hardly walk. I then discovered a large bruise on my hip, and found that a piece of a Turkish 11-inch shell had penetrated my haversack, gone through a pack of cards and a comb, eventually stopping at a large nickle spoon, which was badly bent. These I shall always keep as curios. I had a few narrow squeaks at Mons and on the Aisne, but not to compare with this incident.

“ On November 26th we had a large mail from home, with hundreds of parcels. When they were served out there was one for nearly every man. That was a glorious day, and the troops laid in their dug-outs all day, blowing big clouds of smoke from the Woodbines they had received from home.

A Hospital Shelled.

“ On the 27th a Battalion order was issued that all men who had only been inoculated once were to parade at the hospital. I was inoculated for the second time just before I left the boat, so I was lucky, because, although the Turks had never been known to fire on hospitals, as soon as these men were lined up outside they sent over eight shells from two guns about 900 yards away. These fell right in the centre of the group, and legs and arms were flying in all directions. You could not recognise some of the men. We buried seventeen of them that night, and there were also twelve severely wounded.”

The writer describes a combined bombardment by the British artillery and the ships off the coast, and says: “ It was like a living hell. You could not hear yourself speak, and after they had had an hour of it, it was some time before we could hear what one another wad talking about. It seemed as if the drums of our ears had gone. But it was a fine sight; the sky was lit up beautifully, and I think it accounted for a few. In the morning, on December 2nd, the Turks made an attack upon our left section of trenches, but, thanks to our machine guns, they were mown down like grass.”

“ Some ” Storm.

A terrible storm occurred on the 3rd December, and the writer says : “ After about two hours we were all standing in about three feet of water, with everything we possessed drifting down the trenches, just like a strong tide. Some of the boys lost their rifles, and at about 12, midnight, the parapets of almost every regiment caved in, and then there was nothing for it but to get out of the trenches and walk upon the top to keep oneself warm ; we had to chance whether the Turks fired or not. When it got a little light we could see that the Turks were doing exactly the same as we were. They must have been worse off than we were, as their position was in the centre of a very large hill, and we could plainly see that their trenches were overflowing, and that the water was running into our trenches. They did not fire on us, and some of our commanders gave the order to us not to fire upon them unless they fired upon us. Both parties were in this position for about five hours.” He adds that shortly afterwards it commenced to freeze very hard, and many of the men, who were suffering with frost-bite, were ordered to the field hospitals. He himself was taken on a stretcher to the hospital, suffering from rheumatic fever. On the way to the hospital they passed many men who had died from exposure.

Second Battle of Bellewaarde Farm. 25th Sep 1915

The second Battle of Bellewaarde[1] Farm

The 5th (Service) Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry had been formed at Oxford in August 1914 as part of Kitchener’s new army and was placed under the orders of the 42nd Brigade in the 14th (Light) Division. On 21 May 1915 they landed in Boulogne.

A few days later, some four months before the Battle of Bellewaarde Farm, on 24/25 May 1915, a final scene of the Second Battle of Ypres had been played out in what later became known as the First Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge. Further actions in the area included an attempt to take Bellewaarde Farm on 16 June 1915, and then later, the Battle of Hooge Crater, which centred on the ruins of the Hooge Chateau and Stables on 30 July 1915, in which eight Rugby men in various Rifle Regiments were killed [see previous post]. A subsequent attack by 6th Division on 9 August 1915 regained all of the ground lost, including the ruins of the Hooge Chateau Stables.

The various locations in the Hooge/Bellewaarde area are shown on the trench map.[2]

Bellewaarde Farm - Hooge map

Meanwhile, after various training and providing working parties in the Ypres area, the 5th Ox. and Bucks. went into the trenches for familiarization in June 1915, and thereafter in June and into July were in trenches in the Ypres area as well as providing working parties when not in the front line. There was a steady number of casualties and in June and July some 49 officers and men had been killed and 276 wounded.

On the 1 August 1915, the Battalion, forming part of the 42nd Infantry Brigade of the 14th (Light) Division, was still in the neighbourhood of Ypres, holding trenches near the Menin Road. They alternated in the line with the 5th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.

The Battle of Loos would take place mainly from 25-30 September 1915, but extended to 14 October, and the second Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge, or of Bellewaarde Farm, on 25 September 1915, was a disastrous diversionary attack launched to distract German attention from the Battle of Loos.

A detailed report of the action, including War Diaries of the 5th Battalion, the orders for the action and individual officers’ reports and sketch maps of the area can be found on the Web,[3] and a brief summary and extracts are given below.

The 42nd Infantry Brigade was tasked with seizing Bellewaarde Farm. The 5th Bn. Ox. and Bucks. were in the centre, with the 5th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) on their right and the 9th Rifle Brigade to their left.

Before the action on 17 September, all the officers and N.C.O.s visited the ‘spit-locked’[4] plan of the German trenches around Bellewaarde Farm, laid down (life-size) from aeroplane photographs.

On 19 September the whole Battalion had hot baths and change of shirts in Poperinghe, followed by Church Parade at 11.30 a.m. Companies practised the attack on skeleton trenches in the afternoon.   Forty men of the Battalion were allowed to go each night to the 6th Division ‘Fancies’, and forty to the Cinema in Poperinghe.

After a further three days training and familiarization, the Battalion proceeded to the trenches on 23 September. Two Companies went by train, leaving Poperinghe at 6p.m. They then left the Menin Gate at 7.40p.m., with 5 minutes’ interval between Companies, and proceeded, via Menin Road and Cambridge Road, to occupy their trenches.

On 24 September, ‘… heavy bombardment by our guns of all sorts continued throughout the day, … One H.E. shell pitched in one of D Company’s dug-outs, killing 1 man and wounding 6 men. Our own 6-inch Battery put about a dozen shells or more into H.17, H.16, and H.16.S. Four were dropped in the H.Q. dug-out of the 5th K.S.L.I. Three guns appeared to fire correctly, but the fourth gun was persistently short. Result: about 21 of our men were killed and wounded, and about 15 of the 5th K.S.L.I., and some damage was done to the trenches. The Forward Observation Officer of the Battery was killed.’

During a preliminary bombardment at 3.50a.m., the troops moved from their assembly trenches and at 4.19a.m. a mine was exploded, with the assault launched at 4.20a.m., and the barrage lifting for a minute to mid-way between the German lines, and then at 4.21a.m. lifting for two minutes onto the second German line, and then on to the third line.

Meanwhile the men were ready to ‘… sweep forward to the German 2nd line …’, with platoons ‘… to arrange to enter Bellewaarde from the south, and arrange fire to keep down machine guns if necessary’. Various ‘bombing parties’ and ‘blocking parties’ were deployed to protect the attack.

It seems that some objectives were reached, but men on the left were severely dealt with by enemy artillery, and whilst the Ox. and Bucks. met up with the Shropshires, they later had to withdraw when the Germans counter-attached.

On 26 September. ‘… Only about 180 N.C.O.s and men, the C.O., and the Adjutant came back out of the trenches, and went by train to Poperinghe, thence marching to the camp we had last been in near La Lovie Chateau. We have now to face the ordeal of starting again from where we were a year ago, …’. The Battalion returned to a ‘Camp near Poperinge’ by 1 October, when the War Diary noted that 46 other ranks were killed, six died of wounds, 249 were wounded and 136 were missing. Two days later a draft of 200 NCOs and men, a ‘… very good looking lot of men’ arrived from 9th Bn. to provide replacements.

The eight Rugby men, from the 5th Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, who were killed in action in the attack on Bellewaarde Farm were:   BARBER, F., 11043, L/Corpl; BARNETT, S. G., 10554, L/Corpl; BATES, A., 10174, Private; GOFFIN, W. F., 11080, Private; HINKS, J. V., 10546, Private; PAGE, W., 11075, Private; STENT, P. V., 10555, Corporal; and SUMMERS, F. J., 11077, Private. POWELL, Horace, Y/531, who was listed as a Rifleman, but was actually a Corporal in the 9th Bn. Kings Royal Rifle Corps, who were in action on the left flank of the 5th Bn. Ox. and Bucks was also killed in that action, as was another local man in the 5th Ox. & Bucks., CASHMORE, Alfred Charles, who is remembered on the Hillmorton War Memorial.


This article on the Second Battle for Bellevaarde Farm was 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, September 2015.


[1]       The name may vary depending on British, Flemish and French spellings, and indeed, misspellings!

[2]       Sourced with thanks from exhibition by the Cotesbach Educational Trust.

[3]       http://www.lightbobs.com/5-oxf–bucks-li-1915-1916.html.

[4]       1834, J. S. Macaulay, Field Fortif., iii. 49, ‘Having set up the profiles, trace with a pick-axe (termed ‘spit-locking’) the escarp and counterscarp lines’; 1892, G. Philips, Text Bk. Fortif., (ed. 5), 153, ‘Cutting a groove along the surface of the ground with the point of a pick (spit-locking)’.

The Battle of Loos. 25 Sep – 14 Oct 1915

The Battle of Loos was the largest British battle that took place in 1915 on the Western Front during World War I. It was the first time the British used poison gas and the first mass engagement of New Army units. The British battle was part of the attempt by the Allies to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne and restore a war of movement. Despite improved methods, more ammunition and better equipment, the Franco-British attacks were contained by the German armies, except for local losses of ground. British casualties at Loos were about twice as high as German casualties.[1]

Five men from Rugby are remembered on the Loos Memorial, which surrounds the Dud Corner cemetery, Loos and are assumed to have died in action at Loos.

On the first day of the battle, three Rugby men were killed in action.   TURNER, J. L., 11090, Private; and WOODHOUSE, P., 11091, Private, both in 2nd Bn. Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry; and BROWN, P. E., 8533, Private in the 2nd Bn. Leicestershire Regiment.

On the second day, a further two Rugby men were killed. FRANKTON, W. F., 21537, a Private in the 3rd Bn. Grenadier Guards; and BUSH, J. W., 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

There were probably other Rugby casualties later in the action, such as RUSSELL            , P. E., Gunner in the RFA, ‘D’ Bty, 71st Bde., who died on 3 October and was buried plot H183, in Dud Corner Cemetery.

On the first day, the artillery failed to cut the German wire and in advancing over open fields, within range of German machine guns and artillery, British losses were devastating. The British were though able to break through and capture the town of Loos-en-Gohelle, due to numerical superiority. Supply and communications problems, combined with the late arrival of reserves, meant that the breakthrough could not be exploited.

The following day, the Germans had recovered and improved their defensive positions and British attempts to continue the advance with the reserves were repulsed, and suffered 8,000 casualties out of 10,000 men in four hours.   A lull fell on 28 September, with the British having retreated to their starting positions, having lost over 20,000 casualties, including three major-generals.

‘The real tragedy … was its nearness to complete success. … There seemed to be nothing ahead of us, but an unoccupied and incomplete trench system.   … All that we needed was more artillery ammunition to blast those clearly-located machine-guns, plus some fresh infantry to take over from the weary and depleted “Jocks.” But, alas, neither ammunition nor reinforcements were immediately available, and the great opportunity passed.   – Richard Hilton’

On 8 October, the Germans attempted to recapture lost ground by attacking around Loos and on the left flank. The German attack was repulsed. The British made a final attack on 13 October, which failed due to a lack of hand grenades.

Robert Graves described the battle and succeeding days in his war memoir Goodbye to All That.

For a detailed report on the battle of Loos, go to: http://www.1914-1918.net/bat13.htm



This article was 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, September 2015.

[1]       This summary largely edited from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Loos

Rugby’s Worst Day – Preview

25 September 1915 was a notorious day, with thirteen men from Rugby ‘Killed in Action’, in the course of several separate military actions. On that day, in the course of several separate military actions which all related to the opening of the Battle of Loos, the losses of Rugby soldiers was even greater than would be Rugby’s loss during the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July the next year.

On 25 September, Rugby lost three men in the Battle of Loos [see tomorrow’ post]:- two men, TURNER, J. L., 11090; and WOODHOUSE, P., 11091; were both Privates in the 2nd Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, who must, from their numbers, have joined up together and probably died together; and one, BROWN, P. E., 8533, was a Private in the 2nd Bn. Leicestershire Regiment. These three are remembered on the Loos Memorial.

Another Rugby man was lost in possibly unrelated action: SNUTCH, H. J. D., S/1580, a Rifleman in the 12th Bn. of the Rifle Brigade, remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

However, the greatest loss on that day was the loss of eight Rugby men, from the 5th Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, in the action to capture Bellewaarde Farm. These men were: BARBER, F., 11043, L/Corpl; BARNETT, S. G., 10554, L/Corpl; BATES, A., 10174, Private; GOFFIN, W. F., 11080, Private; HINKS, J. V., 10546, Private; PAGE, W., 11075, Private; STENT, P. V., 10555, Corporal; and SUMMERS, F. J., 11077, Private; and also one man POWELL, Horace, Y/531, who was listed as a Rifleman, but was actually a Corporal in the 9th Bn. Kings Royal Rifle Corps, who were in action on the left flank of the 5th Bn. Ox. and Bucks.

The similarities of several of the 5th Ox. & Bucks. numbers suggested that several of the Rugby men had enlisted together. Details of the actions at Loos and at Bellewaarde Farm are summarised tomorrow, as are details of the families and lives of all these thirteen soldiers.




30th Jul 1915. Battle of Hooge Crater


In spring 1915, the Army was suffering a shortage of heavy artillery and machine guns and general orders limited operations to small aggressive threats which will not require much ammunition or many troops.

On 2 June 1915, a German bombardment followed by an infantry, led to the loss of the ruins of the Hooge Chateau and Stables, then on 19 July, a large mine, the first using the explosive ‘Ammatol’, was exploded under the German trench positions at Hooge, and the crater was occupied by 4th Middlesex whilst artillery quelled German attempts to recover the crater.

In the Hooge Crater action that was to follow on 30 July 1915, eight men from Rugby were ‘Killed in Action’ in the defence and counter attacks. Their biographies are given in more detail on this ‘Rugby Remembers’ site, but all were in various battalions of the Rifle Brigade or the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, which although having similar names, and in this case the same Battalion numbers and histories, were separate Regiments.

In the 41st Brigade, two of the Rugby men who died that day were in the 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade: Lance Corporal George Edwin COLEY, S/1275; and Rifleman Frederick PEE, S/2152.

Three and most likely four were in the 7th Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps: Rifleman, John Henry PRESTON, R/78; Rifleman Herbert SMITH, R/1621; and Lance-corporal, Albert Edward WATTS, R/160; together with Rifleman William TOMLINSON, R/79, who having the next number after John Preston, was probably also in the 7th Battalion and had joined up at the same time.

One other Rugby man was in the 8th Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps: Rifleman James Henry SIMS a.k.a. JENKINS, A/3456. The 7th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade was also in the 41st Brigade.

In the 42nd Brigade, Sergeant Charles ROBERTS, R/1243 from Rugby was killed in action that day serving in the 9th Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps. The 9th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade was also in the 42nd Brigade.

The 7th, 8th, and 9th Battalions of the Rifle Brigade were formed from volunteers at Winchester on 21 August 1914 as part of K1 [Kitchener’s New Army, K1 Army Group] and all came under command of 41st Brigade [and 42nd for the 9th Battalion] in 14th (Light) Division. They moved to Aldershot, going on to Elstead, Grayshott and Petworth respectively in November before returning to Aldershot in February [9th with 42nd Brigade] and March 1915. They arrived in France, landing at Boulogne in May 1915.

There is a similar history for the 7th, 8th, and 9th Battalions of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. They were also formed from volunteers in Winchester as part of K1, on 19 and 21 August [and on an unspecified date for the 9th].   They also came under command of 41st Brigade [and 42nd for the 9th Battalion] in 14th (Light) Division. They moved to Aldershot, with the 7th and 8th going to Grayshott in November and in February 1915 to Bordon and then returned to Aldershot in March 1915.   The 9th went to Petworth in November with 42nd Brigade and in February 1915 returned to Aldershot. The three Battalions also landed in Boulogne, France in May 1915 (on the 19th, unspecified and 20th respectively).

Initially without equipment or arms of any kind, the new recruits in the 41st Division were judged to be ready by May 1915, and landed in Boulogne, although their move to the fighting front was delayed by lack of rifle and artillery ammunition.

The first significant action for the 41st Division was in the Hooge area and the 41st Brigade of 14th Division took over in the sector a week before the end of July 1915. The 8th Rifle Brigade held the Hooge Crater lip, with the 7th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps was to their right.

On that fateful day, 30 July 1915, the Germans launched an attack to recover the Hooge Crater. The attack began at 03.15am using flamethrowers with ‘jets of flame streaming from the German parapets rather like water might come from a large hose’.   This was the first use of these terrifying ‘fire weapons’ against the British. The Germans achieved complete surprise, and caused much confusion and panic amongst the British defenders. The British front line was evacuated. The 42nd Brigade on the left was not attacked at that time.[1]

At 11.30am, a counterattack by both the 41st and 42nd Brigades was ordered after a short artillery bombardment. The 41st Division attack failed, although the 9th KRRC of the 42nd recovered some of the lost lines. The 43rd Brigade relieved the 41st during the later afternoon. Another flamethrower attack that night was repulsed, and further efforts on 31 July came to nothing.

A subsequent attack by 6th Division on 9 August 1915 regained all of the ground lost, including the ruins of the Hooge Chateau Stables.

The 14th Division lost almost 2,500 men at Hooge on 30 July 1915.



This article on the Hooge Crater action was 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, July 2015.


[1]       Information and illustration from: http://www.ramsdale.org/hooge.htm.