Reynolds, George Ellis. Died 31st Jul 1917

George Ellis Reynolds –
By kind permission of Claire Heckley

George Ellis Reynolds was born in Pinders Lane, Rugby on 20 July 1894, and baptised at St Andrews Church on 22 September. In 1901 he was the youngest child aged seven living at 61 James Street, Rugby with his parents Thomas and Mary Ann Reynolds (nee Wells) and siblings Thomas (22), Alice (17), Kate (16), Rose (14), Georgina (13), Louisa (9) and Annie (10). His father Thomas was an engine driver (stationery).

In 1911 George was 17, an upholsterer, living at 100 Oxford Street with his parents and sisters Kate, Annie and Louisa.

The Rugby Advertiser of 18 August 1917 notes that he enlisted in September 1914 and that previously he worked as an upholsterer for Sam Robbins Ltd. He was an Old Murrayan and a keen footballer, playing for both Rugby and Northampton.

George joined the 2nd Rifle Brigade as no Z/2327, and had risen to the rank of Sergeant by the time of his death on 31 July 1917 during the third battle of Ypres. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres and recorded by the Army and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission simply as George.

He is mentioned on his parent’s grave in Clifton Road Cemetery as well as on the Rugby Memorial Gates. He was killed twelve days before his elder brother Thomas Henry Reynolds (qv).

He was awarded the British Empire and Victory medals and the 1915 Star – he had been posted to France on 16 March 1915 where his Battalion was heavily involved in the attack on Fromelles in May during the Battle of Aubers Ridge.



Izzard, Edgar. Died 13th May 1915

Edgar Izzard’s birth was registered in the third quarter of 1895 in Rugby. He was baptised on 5 January 1896 at St Mark’s Church, Bilton.

In 1901 he was aged 6 and the family was living at 43 Bridget Street.   His father William was born in 1852 and was a Stationery Engine Driver. His mother Harriett (née Duckett) was born in 1857. His siblings were Ethel aged 21, Amy aged 16, Horace aged 12 and Dennis aged 1.

In 1911, Edgar now a painter aged 16, was still living with the family at 43 Bridget Road Rugby. His father was an “Engineer, Grinding Cement”.   His sisters Ethel 31 and brothers Horace 21 and Dennis 11 were also living at home. His sister Amy had married in 1905.

Sadly Edgar’s father William died in the third quarter of 1913 aged 61.

Edgar joined the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own) as Private Z/758. On his Medal card, the date of disembarkation to war in France, was stated as 11 January 1915. During his short service he was awarded the Victory, British and 1915 Star Medals.

It is known that the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Brigade was involved in the Battle of Auber’s Ridge on 9 May 1915 and it is likely that he was wounded on that day and subsequently died on 13 May. He is remembered on the Ypres Menin Gate, panel 46, 48 and 50 (see below), as were other Rugby men who served with the Rifle Brigade at Auber’s Ridge.

Izzard pic 1

Edgar is remembered on the Grave Registration Document of the Commonwealth War Graves:

Izzard pic 2

The UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects found on shows that in 1919/20 his mother was awarded £3 as a war gratuity.




Upperton, Joseph Henry. Died 9th May 1915

Joseph Henry Upperton was the third child of 11 children, born in 1884 in the St Pancras area of London to Samuel and Sophie Upperton. Samuel was a Draper’s Porter.

In the 1901 census the family lived at 60 Pancras Square.

Joseph married Grace Elizabeth Anderson in the fourth quarter of 1906 in St Pancras, London. His wife was born in Rugby.

In the 1911 census Joseph was 27 years old and living at 10 Holmes Road, Kentish Town, London. He was a porter working for a ladies underclothing manufacturer. He and Grace had a daughter also named Grace.

Joseph joined the Rifle Brigade (date unknown) and was killed in action on 9 May 1915 at the Battle of Aubers Ridge, aged 31. His service number was Z/260. His Commonwealth War Grave record states he was in the 2nd Battalion of the Rifles.

He is remembered on Panel 10 of the Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton
Hainaut, Belgium.

Upperton memorial

Joseph’s medal card shows award of the Victory, British and Star medals, and that he landed in France on 16 March 1915.

Upperton medal card



Reynolds, Frank. Died 9th May 1915

Frank Reynolds’ birth was registered in the third quarter of 1893 in Rugby, when his family were living in Campbell Street, Rugby. His father was Tom Reynolds, a well-known local builder who in 1908 then carried out his business from 18 Dunchurch Road, Rugby.[1] His mother was Tom’s first wife, Emma Julia (née Burnham), who died in 1899. His father then married Maria (née Bagnall) in 1900.   Sadly Maria also died, in March 1915, just before Frank left for the front in April 1915.

In the 1901 the family was still living in Campbell Street, Rugby and comprised father Tom aged 37, his wife Maria aged 27, sons John H G aged 9, Frank aged 7, and Herbert aged 4.

In 1911 Frank was a footman at Michell House, one of the Boarding Houses for Rugby School, at 3 Barby Road and at the outbreak of War, Frank, though still a footman, was now employed by Mrs Cross of Cottesbrooke Grange, Northamptonshire.

Cottesbrooke Grange



Frank Reynolds joined the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment and according to his medal card went to France as Private No.16483 on 22 April 1915. He probably formed part of the reinforcements after the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915.

Frank’s two brothers also joined up and an article and photograph (below) of the three boys in uniform with their father appeared in the Rugby Advertiser just after Frank had been reported missing and a colleague stated therein that he was ‘… killed … and that his body was afterwards missing’.[2]

Reynolds pic2

The 2nd Northants were in the 24th Brigade in the northern pincer of the attack at Aubers Ridge, on 9 May 1915. The Diary of the 2nd Northants records difficulties with communication and the conditions … ‘Several attempts were made to get in touch with the front line, but communication was impossible and the view was much restricted by the trees in front.’[3] Several Northants men were awarded the DCM that day and the citations give some idea of the extreme conditions, ‘… the intervening ground was so swept by machine gun fire that the companies could not be supported.’[4] ‘… one portion of a trench was being vacated owing to intense artillery fire.’[5]

A fuller report is available on the action at Aubers Ridge on 9 May, where several other Rugby men in the Rifle Brigade died.   There were more than 11,000 British casualties, most within yards of the front-line. It was one of the highest casualty rates of the war. The battle was a disaster for the British, no ground was won and no tactical advantage gained.

Reynolds pic3

Frank’s body was not recovered and his death, on 9 May 1915, is remembered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium. Frank Reynolds was awarded the Victory, British and Star Medals.

Frank’s brothers also joined up. John was a Corporal in the 2nd Grenadier Guards and Herbert, also a Corporal, in The Rifle Brigade. All three were killed in action. Frank on 9 May 1915, Herbert on 5 September 1916 and John on 20 November 1916.

Their father, Tom Reynolds, died in 1936 aged 75 years, his three sons Private Frank Reynolds, Corporal Herbert Reynolds and Corporal John H C Reynolds, and his second wife Maria (née Bagnall) are remembered on a grave in Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.

Reynolds pic4

On 22 March 1922 Rugby War Memorial Gates were unveiled, dedicated and formally opened. Tom Reynolds, the father of three deceased Rugby soldiers, was asked to open the Rugby Memorial Gates.

A report on the opening is reproduced below:

Rugby War Memorial Gates

The Gates were unveiled on Sunday 12th March 1922, which fortunately, in view of the fact that this was a completely outdoor event, was a sunny day. The unveiling was carried out by Field Marshal Earl French of Ypres, assisted by Mr & Mrs Hardman, who had lost three sons in the war. The ceremony attracted thousands of the general public, while the inner area was reserved for subscribers and families of the fallen.

The Gates were then dedicated by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, Dr A A David, a former Headmaster of Rugby School. Mr Tom  Reynolds, a local builder who had also lost three sons in the war, formally opened the Gates with a large key presented by Foster & Dicksee, a local firm of building contractors. He was allowed to keep this key as a souvenir.

After Mr Reynolds had walked through the gates, those assembled sang “O God our help in ages past”, and the ceremony concluded with the laying of wreaths.[6]

A further article recently appeared in the Rugby Advertiser requesting information about the whereabouts of the key. [7]




[1]       Edinburgh Gazette, May 1908.

[2]       Rugby Advertiser, from

[3]       War Diary, 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment.

[4]       Walker, R. W., and Chris Buckland, compilers. Citations of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1914–1920, Naval and Military Press, 2007

[5]       Northampton Mercury, Friday, 6 August 1915.


[7]       Rugby Advertiser, 11 November 2011.


Keen, Arthur William. Died 9th May 1915

Arthur William Keen was born in 1896 in Rugby and baptised in St Andrews Church on 17th July. His parents were George Keen and Ellen (nee Powers). George was a Carpenter living at 19 Cross Street.

In 1901 the family were at 12 Winfield Street. By the 1911 census Arthur was aged 14 and a Stewards Assistant in a Club. He lived with his family at 23 Cambridge Street. When the war started he was apprenticed to Mr Bodycote as a carpenter.

Arthur Keen joined the Rifle Brigade in September 1914 and was reported missing after heavy fighting on 9th May 1915 at the Battle of Aubers Ridge.

By 9th May 1915 his parents had been told that he had been wounded and a comrade had written to say that he was missing. In September the Rugby Advertiser announced that he was still missing, but it was not until April 1916 that Arthur William Keen was officially declared killed in action.

He was aged 19. His service number was 450. His Commonwealth War Grave record states he was in the 2nd Battalion of the Rifles.

He is remembered on Panel 10 of the Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton
Hainaut, Belgium.



Humphries, Frederick William Hayes. Died 9th May 1915

Frederick William Hayes Humphries was baptised at St Andrews Church, Rugby on 15 Sep 1893. His parents Samuel George Humphries and Phoebe Ann (nee Giffin) had married in the same church on 2 Apr 1893, exactly one year after the banns were read.

In 1901 the family were living at 6 Gas Street, Rugby, close to Phoebe’s parents at number 8. Samuel’s occupation was “packer in stay factory” and Frederick, age 7 had a younger brother, Jack aged 6. Ten years later they were at the same address and Samuel was a “corset overlooker” and Frederick was a lamp maker at BTH.

Rugby Advertiser 12 Jun 1915

Rugby Advertiser 12 Jun 1915

Frederick was in the 2nd Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifles. The 2nd Battalion was part of the 2nd Brigade, in the 1st Division, and landed in Le Havre on 11 January 1915. He was killed in the Battle of Aubers Ridge on 9th May 1915.

At the Battle the regiment was in support of the southern pincer and suffered heavy machine gun fire which cut the men down even as they left their trenches. There were further artillery barrages, but despite repeated efforts no effective gains were made.

He is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Panel 10. He was aged 21.




Hardman, Walter. Died 9th May 1915

Walter Hardman’s birth was registered in the second quarter of 1895 in Rugby. He was baptised in May 1895 at Bilton. His parents were James Hardman and Elizabeth née Giles and they were married in Rugby in the fourth quarter of 1890.

In 1901, Walter was 5 and the family lived in Overslade. And father James was a Domestic Groom.

In 1911 James and Elizabeth Hardman had 7 children, Walter being the third child. The family lived in 36 Union Street Rugby. Walter was an Engineers Machinist.

Walter Hardman joined the Rifle Brigade (date unknown). His service number was Z/455. He arrived in France on 26 Jan 1915 and he was killed in action on 9 May 1915 at the Battle of Aubers Ridge, aged 20. His Commonwealth War Grave record states he was in the 1st Battalion of the Rifles but the only military record found, showing award of the Victory medal, states he was in the 2nd Battalion of the Rifles.

He is remembered on Panel 46-48 and 50 of the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial.

Menin Gate inscription of Walter Hardman

Menin Gate inscription of Walter Hardman (

Walter was the first of three sons of James and Elizabeth Hardman who died in WW1.




The Battle of Aubers Ridge – Many Rugby Men killed. 9th May 1915


A number of men who lived or had relatives in Rugby served in the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. They were in action in the Battle of Aubers Ridge, near Lille, in north-east France on 9 May 1915, as were some other Rugby men in other units.

Badge of Rifle Brigade

Badge of Rifle Brigade

Arthur Keen, Frederick Humphries and Joseph Henry Upperton were all killed with the 2nd Battalion Rifles in the 25th Brigade attack on 9 May 1915, in the action in the northern pincer attack.[1]   Leslie Wood was with them but taken as a prisoner of war and interned in Friedrichsfeld PoW Camp.[2]

Walter Hardman was also killed that day after having, it seems, been transferred from the 1st Battalion; he was listed with the 2nd Battalion in the Rifle Brigade Medal Lists. Edgar Izzard, who was also in the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade and died three days later on 13 May 1915, seems not to have been so transferred.

Two other Rugby men were also killed on 9 May.   Frank Reynolds was serving with the 2nd Northants in the 24th Brigade in the northern pincer attack, and James Henry Altree was with the 2nd Battalion, Kings Royal Rifles, which was in the immediate reserve with the 2nd Brigade as part of the southern pincer attack.

The 2nd Battalion, the Rifle Brigade

The 2nd Battalion, the Rifle Brigade was at Kuldana in India when war broke out in August 1914. They returned to Britain, embarking from Bombay on the 20th of September, arriving at Liverpool on the 22nd of October. They joined 25th Brigade, 8th Division at Hursley Park, Winchester and proceeded to France landing at Le Havre on the 6th of November 1914. They were in action at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the Battle of Aubers and the action of Bois Grenier.[3]

Some background is provided by Victoria Burbage:[4]

By May 1915, the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade had been in France for six months. They had already suffered heavy casualties in March during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, but nothing would have prepared them for what they were about to experience at Rouges Bancs. Unlike the pre-war regular soldiers who formed the backbone of this battalion, many of these men had enlisted at the outbreak of war and had travelled out from England, joining the Battalion in mid-March as reinforcements for the losses suffered at Neuve Chapelle. … The Battalion’s casualties that day were the worst that it was to experience for any single action throughout the whole of the Great War. Fifteen officers and two hundred and forty-eight men were killed. Of this number, only two officers and fourteen men have known graves, the rest being listed on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing. Of the hundreds of wounded men, many would die from their wounds over the days and weeks to come.

The Battle of Aubers Ridge

The Aubers Ridge area had been attacked in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle two months earlier. The battle marked the second use of specialist Royal Engineers tunnelling companies, who tunnelled under no man’s land and planted mines under the German defences to be blown at zero hour.[5]

The following information on the battle of Aubers has been edited from the excellent account in The Long, Long Trail – The British Army of 1914-1918 – for family historians.[6]

As Germany continued their offensive against Russia in the winter of 1914-15, they hoped that a defeat of Russia would allow them to deploy all their forces on the Western Front, in the meantime they moved troops from the west to the east.

The French hoped to take advantage by planning three attacks to disable the German ability to defend the ground that they had gained in 1914.   These would be at Artois (near Arras), Rheims and Verdun.

Aubers 2

A lack of men and munitions meant that the attacks could not be undertaken simultaneously.

The Artois attack in the north was given priority.   The British commanded by General Haig were asked to assist in the north of the Artois area, by an attack a day after the main French attack. However, poor weather led to a postponement for two days when the British would attack with the French on 9 May 1915.

The British attack to the north of Artois was to be a pincer movement to the north and south of Neuve Chapelle.

Aubers 3

The 8th Division, including the 2nd Rifles as part of the 25th Infantry Brigade, formed the Northern Pincer moving SE towards Rouges Bancs, then spreading to capture the line between Fromelles and La Cliqueterie.

The British were constrained by severe ammunition and gun shortages and the infantry attacked after a very short 40 minute bombardment which started at 5.00am on 9 May. At 5.30am the lead battalions attacked. By 5.40am the 24th Brigade troops were under heavy enemy fire although some got through a gap blown by the field guns, and into the German front trench.

The attack of 25th Brigade, which included the 2nd Rifles, was more successful: the wire on the left was well-cut and the infantry crossed the almost-undamaged breastworks and into the German fire trenches. They moved onto the first objective (a bend in the Fromelles Road) and the Rifle Brigade bombers occupied the enemy trenches. On the blowing of the two mines at 5.40am, the lead companies occupied these craters, and moved forward and formed a defensive flank.

However, by 6.10am there was intense fire across No Man’s Land and movement became impossible.   The following support battalion lost many men. Some retired, having apparently mis-heard a shouted order. German prisoners, making their way to the British lines, were mistaken for a counterattack and there was considerable confusion.

A renewed attack at 1.30pm was shelled in the assembly areas with heavy casualties and did not take place. Despite advice that progress was impossible, Haig ordered further attacks, including a bayonet attack at 8pm.   However, chaos in the trenches and on the roads meant this attack also could not take place.

At 2.30am the next morning, the surviving men of the Rifle Brigade were withdrawn as it had not been possible to reinforce them.

A further attack in the morning could not take place as there was insufficient artillery ammunition.   The 4.7-inch ammunition was defective and the fuses on the heavy rounds did not burst when hitting the wet ground.

The southern pincer attack had similar difficulties. The 2nd Brigade which included the 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Company in immediate support was among those suffering from the heavy machine-gun fire which cut down the attackers even as they left their trenches. There were further artillery barrages, but despite repeated efforts, no effective gains were made.

The French attack to the south was more successful. It overran the German trenches on a four mile front and pushed more than two miles onto Vimy Ridge. Unfortunately the reserves were too far away to exploit the success, and allowed a German recovery. Intense fighting continued for a week: the French captured Carency and Ablain St Nazaire, but not as intended the crest of the Vimy Ridge.

There were more than 11,000 British casualties on 9 May 1915, most within yards of the front-line. This was one of the highest casualty rates of the war. In the 8th Division, there were 4,682 casualties of which 192 were officers.   The worst infantry casualties were those of the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade which lost 654 men, of whom 21 were officers.

The battle was a disaster for the British. No ground was won and no tactical advantage gained. It is doubtful whether it had any positive effect on assisting the main French attack.[7] In summary there was no intelligence about the strengthened German positions; there was no surprise; the bombardment was wholly insufficient and the enemy guns were not suppressed; the behind lines organisation did not allow movement of reinforcements and casualties; the British artillery and ammunition were in poor condition: the first through over-use, the second through faulty manufacture; with poor communications the positions of troops were unknown and support artillery fire was impossible.

Haig’s conclusions were:[8]

  1. The defences in our front are so carefully and so strongly made, and mutual support with machine-guns is so complete, that in order to demolish them a long methodical bombardment will be necessary by heavy artillery (guns and howitzers) before Infantry are sent forward to attack.
  2. To destroy enemy’s ‘material’, 60-pounder guns will be tried, as well as the 15-inch, 9.2-inch and 6-inch siege howitzers. Accurate observations of each shot will be arranged so as to make sure of flattening out the enemy’s ‘strong points’ of support, before the Infantry is launched.

A German Priest who was serving in the German Army said,

After two hours fighting, the enemy was beaten back. You can scarcely have an idea of the work this represented.   How these Englishmen had in twelve hours dug themselves in! The hundred fellows who were in our trenches had brought with them an enormous quantity of ammunition, a machine gun and one that they had captured from us … Almost every single man had to be put out of action with hand-grenades. They were heroes all and true to the end, until death … men of the ‘active English Rifles Brigade’ …


[1]       See separate accounts of the lives of the various men mentioned.


[3]       Edited from:

[4]       From; Victoria Burbidge, in an address at a Memorial Service on 9 May 2008.

[5]       Edmonds, J. E., Military Operations France and Belgium, 1915: Battles of Aubers Ridge, Festubert, and Loos. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents By Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence II, (1st ed.), London, Macmillan, 1928, pp.6-8 and p.31.

[6]       Edited from:

[7]; from Edmonds, J. E., Military Operations France and Belgium, 1915: Battles of Aubers Ridge, Festubert, and Loos. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents By Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence II, (1st ed.), London, Macmillan, 1928, pp.37-41.

[8]       Haig, Private papers, 11 May 1915.