Bicknell, Albert Victor. Died 21st Mar 1918

Albert Victor Bicknell was born in late 1887 to Arthur Bicknell and his wife Sarah Ann née Wright.

Arthur and Sarah were both born in about 1852 in Warwickshire in Bulkington and Barnacle respectively, and their marriage was registered at Foleshill in the last quarter of 1873. In 1881 Arthur was a coal miner and the family including Elizabeth Wright, Arthur’s mother-in-law, was living in Bulkington.

The family then, and certainly later, were much involved with brass bands, and indeed there was a Bicknell Brass Band,[1] founded by Albert’s grandfather, George Bicknell, which would by 1901 become the Bulkington Brass Band.[2]

There were four children: Thomas E was born about 1875 in Barnacle, Warwickshire; Amy was born in 1877; Clara A in 1878; and Albert Victor in 1887. Before early 1891, indeed probably before 1887, the family had moved to live at 60 Oxford Street, Rugby. Albert was baptised on 10 November 1887 at St. Andrew’s church, Rugby; Arthur was now a labourer, and in 1891, Arthur’s mother-in-law who had been with them in Bulkington, was still living with them, as well as some lodgers. They were still in Oxford Street in 1901, when Albert was three years old and his grandmother was 90; the house was now numbered 123, which may represent the Post Office renumbering rather than any change of residence.

Albert’s marriage with Sarah Ellen Beer was registered in Rugby in the second quarter of 1907. She was about a year younger than Albert and had been born in about 1888/89 in New Bilton.

The family had moved to Coventry before 1911, and Albert was a ‘General Labourer, Engineer Machine Works’ and they were then living at 74 Thomas Street. Albert and Sarah already had two children: Elsie, 1908-1954; and [Kathleen] Olive, 1910-1972. George Thomas Arthur, 1912-1965, was born the next year. After a five year gap, some whilst Albert was in France, the youngest child, Frances Lillian, 1917-1991, was born. Her father probably never saw her.

Very soon after war was declared, Albert enlisted in Birmingham as No.8031 in the 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. A family photograph showed him looking very young and ‘pink cheeked’. His number suggests that he enlisted in early September 1914, when the 10th (Service) Battalion was raised at Warwick as part of the second of Kitchener’s new armies.

The battalion was assigned to the 57th Brigade in the 19th Division training on Salisbury Plain. In December 1914 the Battalion was in billets for the winter and in March 1915 concentrated with its division around Tidworth. Whilst some records suggest that the Battalion embarked for France and Flanders on 17 May 1915, other records have the division landed in France on 17 July 1915. Albert’s medal card recorded that he went to France on 18 July 1915, which would support the later date.

During the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the Battalion was in the operational area between 1 July and 7 August and between 7 October and until the end of that battle on 18 November 1916.

Family recollections are indeed that he served in the first battle of the Somme in 1916. It would also appear that he had leave in UK – or perhaps he had been wounded – sometime at the end of that year or early in 1917, after the Somme.

A portrait photograph (copyright restricted by owner) can be seen on the Ancestry website.[3] It was said to have been taken ‘after the battle’ in 1916, presumably in the UK.   This tends to be confirmed by the birth of his fourth child the next year on 26 September 1917.

He was promoted to Lance Corporal at some date, possibly after he returned to France.

The history of 19th (Western) Division[4] shows that it was involved in 1917 in the following actions:

The Battle of Messines
The Third Battles of Ypres
  – The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge
  – The Battle of Polygon Wood
– The Battle of Broodseinde
– The Battle of Poelcapelle
– First Battle of Passchendaele
– The Second Battle of Passchendaele

The following year, on 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army, and the right wing of the British Third Army. The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

The formation for the British order of battle for that period which was also known as the Battle of St Quentin (21-23 March 1918), included 10th Warwickshires which were near St. Quentin with the 19th (Western) Division and the 57th Brigade in the Third Army (under Byng). The Battalion was in action east of Beaumetz facing Doignies.[5]

Because of the intensity of the battle, and as the Germans were moving forward, many of those killed could not be identified. Albert was killed on the first day of the action on 21 March 1918.

The Battalion War Diary for 21 March 1918 includes the following.

– 5am – The Battn. was in rest camp in BARASTRE when the alarm was given by intense artillery fire; orders were given to stand to arms and extra S.A.A., bombs, rifle grenades, rations etc were issued; the Battn was ready to move by 5-45.am. Breakfasts were then served.

– 11.50am – Orders to move to assembly positions were received … The following officers were present … B Coy: A/Capt. H. A. Hewett, in Command. 2nd. Lt. E. T. Wilson[6]

– 3.20am – The Battn. was ordered to move into position for a Brigade counter-attack on DOIGNIES; for this Battn. was in Brigade Reserve …

– 6.40pm – The remainder of the Brigade … launched counter-attack.

– 7.45pm – The line dug roughly followed the 120 contour …

Some three days later the War Diary quoted,

‘Casualties were:- … Other Ranks: killed – 33; Wounded – 191; Missing – 83.’

Albert was one of those killed during the actions on that initial day of the German attack. His body was found and identified and was buried initially in Barastre Communal Cemetery (Extension), row G, E, 5. The cemetery was probably then behind German lines and contained 284 German graves, 46 French, and the graves of 39 from the United Kingdom, four from New Zealand and one from Australia.

Some time after Albert’s death, the allies held the advance which had badly weakened the Germans and their supply lines, and they fought back. The 10th Battalion ended the war in the same formations on 11 November 1918, well to the east, just west of Bavay, France.

The British graves at Barastre were later concentrated [moved] some 10km north to the H.A.C. Cemetery, Ecoust-St Mein. Ecoust-St.Mein is a village between Arras, Cambrai and Bapaume. H.A.C. Cemetery is about 800 metres south of the village on the west side of the D956 road to Beugenatre. Albert was reburied in Plot VIII. C. 26. On the Burial Return[7] his name was spelled ‘Bricknell’, (it was correct on the Barastre Cemetery list) and identification was confirmed by his ‘service dress, G S buttons, boots, cross’. The name was correct on the official memorial stone,5 however, there was no additional wording requested by the family, and no family details appear in the Graves Register.

His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal, and the 1914-15 Star.

After the war, Sarah E Bicknell remarried with Robert W Knight; the marriage was registered at Rugby [6d, 1457] in the fourth quarter of 1921.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, January 2015, and updated December 2017 and March 2018.

 

Thanks to Angela Pain who visited the RFHG stand on a Heritage Day, 2014, and provided background information and put the author in contact with her cousin Clive Rodgers who has provided information and images which were posted on the Ancestry website.   In due course, it is intended that an updated – and corrected – version of this biography will be provided by Clive Rodgers, which will hopefully include the presently withheld images.

[1]       The Bicknell Band was founded by George Bicknell and initially only included Bicknell family members from the Bulkington area, Warwickshire. In the 20th Century, the name changed to the Bulkington Silver Band. The last conductor who was a member of the Bicknell family was in charge in the 1970s.

[2]       A photograph can be seen at http://trees.ancestry.co.uk/tree/55005900/person/13871891414/media/8e425e94-3f51-4111-a6a2-6a49c64de6c2?pg=32768&pgpl=pid.

[3]         http://trees.ancestry.co.uk/tree/55005900/person/13871891865.

[4]       Information from ‘The Long Long Trail’.

[5]       Copyright withheld for the present by the family.

[6]       See Rugby Remembers, 23 March 1918.

[7]       Burial Return, 10 February 1926, CWGC. The returns are lists of individuals who have been exhumed from their original burial location and reburied in a particular cemetery. They provide basic details of the individual, but may include information as to their original burial location and occasionally some details of how they were identified. These additional details would have been omitted if the individual was reburied in the same cemetery or identified using normal methods, for example, via a service tag.

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Wood, Arthur William. Died 10th Jun 1917

Arthur was the son of Joseph Wood and Annie Hill who were married in Rugby in 1889. Joseph came from Ashton in Makerfield, Lancashire, and Annie from Harpenden, Hertfordshire. Joseph was an engine driver and had been in Rugby since at least 1869, at Union Street in 1871 and 1881 and 31 Charlotte Street in 1891.

Arthur was born at 31 Charlotte Street in 1896 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 19 March.   Annie was Joseph’s second wife; his first wife Jemima Shaw born Braunston Northants, whom he married at Rugby in 1869, died aged 42 in 1887 in Rugby. They had a number of children. In 1901 Joseph was still living in Charlotte Street with his second wife and their three young children Adelina, Dora and Arthur as well as son Ernest from his first marriage. By 1911 Joseph had moved to 153 Grosvenor Road, Annie had died (in 1903), Dora was no longer at home, and there was another child Marjorie born in 1901 as well as Ernest, now a labourer aged 23.

Arthur enlisted in 1915 as Private 11083 in the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and was sent to France in May of that year. He was transferred to the 33rd Company Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) as Private 19891.

He was invalided home in December, 1916, suffering from septic poisoning, caused by a shrapnel wound, and he returned to France in April. He was killed in action in France in 1917. He has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres.

He was awarded the Victory and British War medals and the 1915 Star. His effects, £20 plus a war gratuity of £13 were sent to his sole legatee his half brother George Wood, an engine fitter, who took out letters of Administration in Birmingham in October 1917.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Wallace, Herbert. Died 8th Jun 1917

Herbert Wallace’s was born in Blakesley, Northamptonshire in late 1891 and baptised there on 27 December 1891.

Earlier in 1891, the family in Blakesley comprised: his father, William, a ‘Stud Groom’; mother Elizabeth; older siblings: Joseph aged 8; sister, Ethel aged 7; and brothers John, Walter and Edward, aged 5, 3, and 1.

By 1901 the family had moved to 83 Sholebrook, Wittlebury Park, near Towcester. Herbert’s father was still a stud groom. Herbert was now aged 9 and there were more children and six siblings at home, Edward, Flora, Frank, Fred, Rose and Nelly. Then in 1903, his father died, the death being registered in Towcester.   Herbert’s widowed mother remained with the younger children at 52 Whittlebury, Towcester.   At some later date his widowed mother moved to Rugby, probably to join her children.

In 1911, Herbert was 19 and a grocer’s assistant, lodging with the Hussey family at 2 Devon Cottage, Watford Road, Radlett, Hertfordshire.

He may well have moved to the Rugby area before the war to join his two brothers who were already working in Rugby in 1911, as he enlisted in nearby Coventry into the Machine Gun Corps [MGC] as Gunner, No.38424.   The MGC had been formed in October 1915.

It is not known when Herbert joined up, but he probably didn’t go to France until 1916, as he didn’t receive the 1914-1915 Star, and he would have to be trained.

He later transferred to the ‘Heavy Section’ as Private/Gunner, No.206183. The Heavy Section was formed in March 1916, becoming the ‘Heavy Branch’ in November 1916. Men of this branch crewed the first tanks in action at Flers, during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916.[1]

He was still in the ‘Heavy Branch’ in June 1917, as it was not until July 1917, that the ‘Heavy Branch’ separated from the MGC to become the Tank Corps, later to be called the Royal Tank Regiment. The later ‘Soldiers that died in the Great War’ record states ‘Royal Tank Corps’ and his Medal Card stated ‘Tank Corps’.

The Tank Corps was formed from the Heavy Branch MGC on 27 July 1917 and the Battalions adopted numbering rather than letter designations (although tank names followed the same lettering: for example, 7th Battalion tanks were all named with a letter G, like Grouse, Grumble, etc.) Each Tank Battalion had a complement of 32 officers and 374 men. Originally formed as Companies of the Heavy Section MGC, designated A, B, C and D, each Company consisted of 4 Sections of 3 tanks of each type (male and female Mk.1s). Companies also had another machine in reserve. In November 1916 the Companies were expanded to Battalions, carrying the same letter designations. A Battalion consisted of 3 Companies. Three mobile workshops provided the engineering back-up to service the tanks. An expansion programme was ordered by GHQ, to build a force of 14 additional Battalions.

As Herbert was in “A” Battalion, this would have become the 1st Battalion – possibly after his death.

… some [tanks] played a part at the Battle of Arras in April and May 1917. … The next step saw an upgrade in the production of the Mark IV. It carried more armour and had an external fuel tank. Mechanically, it was similar to the Mark II. These tanks weighed 28 tons. The Mark IV first saw service at The Battle of Messines in June 1917.[2]

The Battle of Messines took place from 7 to 14 June 1917, just south of Ypres. Seventy-two of the new Mark IV tanks had arrived in May and were hidden south-west of Ypres, and took part in various parts of the battle.

Sadly, the tanks deployment in the Third Battle of Ypres (July-November 1917) proved to be another slog through deep mud. The area became a tank graveyard as machine after machine ditched in deep trenches and shell holes, sank, stuck and was shelled. Morale in the Tank Corps was low and confidence of the rest of the army destroyed.[3]

Herbert was recorded by the CWGC as a ‘Gunner, “A” Bn Machine Gun Corps (Heavy Branch)’, but there seem to be two possible dates of death. The grave registration form gave his earlier MGC number and 7 June 1917 as his date of death, rather than his later Heavy Branch number and the later 8 June 1917 date of death given in the later CWGC record and on his headstone.   Herbert was Killed in Action on either 7 or 8 June 1917, it is assumed during one of the number of separate actions tank actions in the Battle of Messines.

His body was recovered and he was buried in Grave Reference: III. C. I5. in the Dickebusch New Military Cemetery Extension. The New Military Cemetery was begun in February 1915 and was used until May 1917 by fighting units and field ambulances, with a few further burials taking place in March and April 1918. The Extension was used from May 1917 to January 1918. The cemetery is a few miles south-west of Ypres, and a similar distance north-west of Messines.

At the date that the CWGC listed the memorial details, Herbert was described as ‘Son of Elizabeth Wallace, of 21, St. John St., Rugby and the late William Wallace’. At some date before 1911, Edward’s brothers, John, b.c.1886; and Frank, b.c.1896, had moved to Rugby to work as a ‘grocer’s assistant, and a ‘gas engineer apprentice’ respectively, and in 1911 were in lodgings at 74 Railway Terrace. It seems likely that their widowed mother, later also moved to Rugby to join them, and submitted Herbert’s name to be remembered on the Memorial Gate. Whether Herbert ever lived in Rugby is uncertain, but he joined up in nearby Coventry, and so he probably visited or even lived for a while, with his brothers, and later his mother. As he is also on the St. Philip’s memorial, perhaps he joined the family in Rugby for a time.

His mother was his sole legatee, and received £5-9-11d on 1 October 1917 and £3-10-0d on 16 October 1919.

Herbert Wallace was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

As well as being remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate, Herbert is commemorated at St. Philip’s Church, Wood Street, Rugby.

Herbert’s brother, Edward, also died in WWI, on 15 July 1916, whilst serving with the 1st Welsh Fusiliers during the Battle of the Somme.   He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial and his biography is here.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on Herbert Wallace was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, June 2016.

 

[1]       In July 1917, the Heavy Branch separated from the MGC to become the Tank Corps, later the Royal Tank Regiment.

[2]         http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/tank-corps-in-the-first-world-war/

[3]         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Messines_(1917); from: Edmonds, J. E., 1991, [1948], Military Operations France and Belgium, 1917: 7 June – 10 November: Messines and Third Ypres (Passchendaele). History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence, p.33, London, HMSO, ISBN: 0-89839-166-0.