Holmes, Bertie. Died 20th Nov 1917

Bertie Holmes was born in Leicester in 1894 and baptised on 3rd June at St Lukes, Leicester, to William and Sarah Ann (nee Facer).

In 1901 he was living at 18 Union St., Rugby with his parents and 2 siblings. William was a bricklayer’s labourer.

By 1911 Bertie was with his with his mother at 26 New St., New Bilton. His profession was given as “Bore-maker Cylinder” and he was aged 16. Sarah Ann, a char woman, is listed as married, although William is not with the family. Perhaps he had died, as in early 1912 she married George Etherington.

Bert must have signed up at the start of the war, joining the 1st battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (service no. 1664) a letter written to the Rugby Advertiser on 24 July 1915 states that he had been in France from November 1914:

A REQUEST FOR RAZORS.
Pte H Holmes, 1664 B Company, 1st Royal Warwicks, serving with the British Expeditionary Force, whose home is at 47 Wood Street, Rugby, has written us stating that there are twelve or more men in the regiment to his knowledge without razors, and if any of our readers have old razors that will shave the men referred to would be glad of them. We understand that all men have razors served out to them as part of their equipment, but apparently the men Pte Holmes refers to have lost theirs. Our correspondent informs us that he went out to France on November 11th last year, and has been in hospital twice. He adds:” We are out of the trenches now for a longer rest. Our regiment took part in that affair on July 6th. We were called up on the night we were going to be relieved, but had to stop owing to the Germans keeping on counter-attacking. The Old Warwicks helped to hold them back well.”

 

Another report on 18th September 1915 records a letter sent to his old schoolmaster at Murray School:
“I have been in hospital myself with gas poison, but it was not very serious. The first time they gassed us was about the 27th of April, and we lost a terrible number of men. The time I got the gas was last Whit-Monday morning (it was not so bad that time). The gas seems to take all the use out of your body, make your eyes smart and run, and your throat sore. It is rotten stuff. We had only got respirators then, but now we have got gas helmets, which are very good, as no gas can get through for two hours. So now we are prepared for it, but on the first occasion we had nothing at all for it. The next time we stepped into the mud again was on the 8th of July, when the Rifle Brigade took the trenches alongside of the Yser Canal. The order came up for us to reinforce the Lancashires because the Germans continued to make counter-attacks. On the 10th they made seven attacks, but they were no good, because a German officer and 26 men were made prisoners, and he said they were all that were left of 600. I have met both lots of Rugby Territorials. We have had the Infantry on the left of us in the trenches, where we are now, and we have had the Battery firing on the trenches in front of us.”

He would have fought in most of the battles on the western front and was awarded the DCM with the following citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Acting as a company runner for two years, he has been in the majority of the actions in which the battalion has taken part. He has always proved himself most reliable, and on many occasions has taken messages through very heavy fire, displaying singular devotion to duty.

He died in the aftermath of Passchendaele. His death is “officially accepted to be” on 20th November 1917.

His name is listed on the Arras Memorial.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

 

Wolfe, Sidney George. Died 22nd Oct 1917

Sidney George WOLFE was born in Rugby on 14 February 1890.  He was the son of George James Wolfe, an Engine Fireman, who was born in Shakerstone, Staffordshire, in about 1869, and Julie Mary (née Wing) Wolfe, who was born in Stretton-on-Dunsmore in the same year and whose marriage was registered in Rugby in 1889.

Sidney’s birth was registered in the first quarter of 1890 and he was baptised on 28 March 1890 at St Andrew’s church, Rugby.

In 1891 the family was living at 854 Old Station Square,[1] Rugby and they had a lodger, Walter Wing, an engine cleaner, who was Julie’s younger brother.

In 1901 the family had moved, or had possibly been renumbered, and was living at 809 Old Station Square, Rugby.  George J Wolfe was still a Loco Fireman, and that night they were putting up a two year old nephew, Raymond Wing.

In September 1902 at a Church Army tea and presentation, the young Sidney Wolfe gave a recitation which was encored,[2] then in July 1903 at the Cycling Club fete and sports, Sidney appeared in fancy dress as a footman.[3]  At the Elborow School concert and prize-giving in November 1903, Sidney obtained a ‘Drawing Certificate’ and also gave a recitation ‘The Amateur Photographer’ with E White.[4]

Sidney was ‘… successively a pupil, student teacher, and assistant master at Elborow School’, Rugby and was a ‘well-known Rugby, Coventry, and Midland Counties footballer … and was selected to play for the Midland Counties against the South Africans’.[5]

One source mentioned that he attended Saltley College – this was St Peter’s College, a teacher training establishment located in Saltley, Birmingham.  His name does indeed appear on their War Memorial.[6]

Between 1901 and 1911, Sidney’s parents moved to Coventry, and then in the third quarter of 1914, Sidney married Nellie May Smith, a blacksmith’s daughter, at Warwick.  She had been born on 12 May 1889 and baptised at St Paul’s Warwick on 2 March 1890.

It may be that Sidney and his wife also moved to Coventry before the war, as their two children were both born in Coventry: Roland Vernon, on 1 May 1916, and registered in Q2 1916 [6d, 1445], and Iris Madge, on 1 November 1917, and registered in Q4 1917 [6d, 1111].

It seems that he had moved on from Rugby to teach at Bablake School, Coventry as there is a large wooden memorial board in the school hall, dedicated to the 700 former pupils who served, and the 96 who died in the war.  The latter list of names includes Lieutenant Sidney George Wolfe.[7]

It is uncertain exactly when Sidney ‘joined up’, but he was initially in the South Midlands Divisional Cycling Company (Army Cyclist Corps).  All of the ‘new army’ divisions raised under Lord Kitchener’s instructions in 1914 included a cyclist company.  The primary roles of the cyclists were in reconnaissance and communications.  They were armed as infantry and could provide mobile firepower.  The units which went overseas during WW1 continued in these roles, but also carried out trench-holding duties and manual work.[8]

2nd Lt. S G Wolfe, Apr 1916

Sidney is pictured (left) in his uniform with the cap badge featuring the sphinx and ‘Egypt’ on the livesofthefirstworldwar.org website.[9]

Sidney’s Medal Roll Card shows that he went to France on 31 March 1915 and it was probably in France that he was promoted to Sergeant.  He seems to have proved to be a capable leader and ‘… after eighteen months service in the trenches …’,[10] he was commissioned on 30 April 1916 and transferred to the 18th Battalion of the Royal Lancashire Fusiliers as a Lieutenant.

The 18th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Lancashire Fusiliers (2nd South-East Lancashire) was originally a ‘Bantam’ Battalion, with men who did not reach the normal height requirements.  The Battalion joined the 104th Brigade of the 35th Division and went to France, landing at Le Havre on 29 January 1916.

Sidney would have joined the Battalion at some date after the end of April, when the 18th Battalion was at Croix Barbee, relieving the 17th Battalion.

In May 1916 when he had ‘… only been with his new unit a week when he was caught by a German machine gun while he was helping to repair barbed wire entanglements in front of the firing line.  … He received two wounds in the neck and one in the face.’[11]

The Rugby Advertiser reported that he had been wounded,

WELL-KNOWN FOOTBALLER WOUNDED
Lieut S G Wolfe, of the Lancashire Fusiliers, the well-known Rugby, Coventry, and Midland Counties footballer, has been wounded at the front.  Lieut Wolfe gained a commission after eighteen months’ service in the trenches, and he had only been with his new unit a week when he was caught by a German machine gun while he was helping to repair barbed wire entanglements in front of the firing line.  The nature of his injuries are not known locally except that he received two wounds in the neck and one in the face.  Lieut Wolfe was successively a pupil, student teacher, and assistant master at Elborow School, and was selected to play for the Midland Counties against the South Africans.[12]

However, no mention has been found in the Battalion War Diary either of him joining the Battalion or being wounded.

The Battalion does not seem to have been involved with the initial actions on the Somme, but in mid-July they were in Trones Wood and Maltz Horn Farm trench in the Somme area.  By September 1916 they had moved to the Arras area and were there or in nearby trenches until the end of 1916.  In June 1917 the Battalion was at Villers-Guislain near Cambrai.  At the beginning of October 1917 the Battalion were training at Avesnes-le-Compte, and in the middle of the month moved to Proven and then Boisinghe.  On 20 October the Battalion prepared for an attack and bivouacked between Broombeek and Steenbeek, and on 21 October they prepared for the attack and moved off at 10.20pm.

The attack on 22 October 1917 is described in four pages of the Battalion Diary.  The Battalion formed up at 2.30am, and zero hour was at 5.35am and they moved forward close to the barrage, which was ragged and too slow and caused several casualties.  They encountered heavy machine gun fire, and later in the afternoon had to repulse a German counter attack which was done successfully.

That day, three officers were killed, including Lt. S G Wolfe, and 27 Other Ranks (ORs); one officer and 42 ORs were wounded and missing; and seven officers and 174 ORs were wounded.

‘He was leading a company into action and was unfortunately killed during the advance.  He had scarcely advanced more than 75 yards when an enemy shell fell close and he was killed instantaneously.’[13]

Lieutenant Sidney George WOLFE, 18th Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers, was killed in action on 22 October 1917.[14]

His body was either not recovered or not identified.  Sidney is remembered on one of the Panels 54 to 60 and 163A of the Tyne Cot Memorial.  The Tyne Cot Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient.  Whereas those who died before 16 August 1917 are remembered on the Menin Gate, the United Kingdom servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot.

The birth of his daughter was recorded in the same column of the newspaper[15] as notice of his death.

BIRTHS, MARRIAGES, AND DEATHS. 

BIRTH.  Wolfe. – On November 1st, at Earlsdon to the wife of the late Lieut. S. G. Wolfe, a daughter.

DEATHS. Wolfe. – Killed in Action. Oct. 22nd, Lieut. S. G. Wolfe, of the Lancashire Fusiliers, aged 27 years.  Leaves a wife and two children.

The dates of his two children’s births would suggest, naturally, that he must have been in UK in Coventry some nine months earlier than both occasions – in say August 1915 which was after he had gone to France and in February 1917 by which date he should have recovered from his wounds and have been back in France.  It would seem that as an officer he was able to get UK leave.

As well as at Tyne Cot, Sidney is commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby, and he is also remembered on the St Peter’s College, Coventry Memorial Tablet,[16]  and also on the Bablake School Memorial in Coundon Road, Coventry.

He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal and also the 1915 Star.  His Medal Card and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records, confirm that he was ‘Killed in Action’ on 22 October 1917.  His widow is recorded as Mrs S G Wolfe, who at that later date, lived at 55 Berkeley Road Earlsdon, Coventry.  In the local newspaper on 1 November 1917 she and his parents placed an advertisement.[17]

THANKS – Mr and Mrs Wolfe and daughter, 45, Berkeley Road, Earlsdon, wish to thank all friends for their kind expressions of sympathy in their sad loss.

An ‘In Memoriam’ was published on the anniversary of his death.

WOLFE. – Killed in action in France on October 22, 1917, S. G. WOLFE (Lieut.), dearly beloved eldest grandson of Mr. & Mrs. W. Wolfe, 127 Newbold Road.
“Not dead to us, we love him still ;
Not lost, but gone before.
He lives with us in memory still,
And will for evermore.”
– From Grandma, Grandpap, Aunts and Uncles.[18]

His formal address when probate was awarded on 15 January 1918 at Birmingham was 157 Westwood Road, Coventry and probate awarded to his widow, Nellie Maud Wolfe, was in the sum of £101-10-6d.

 

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

——————————–

This article on Sidney George WOLFE was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by Anne Rogers and John P H Frearson and is © Anne Rogers, John P H Frearson and the RFHG, October 2017.

Information about Elborow School Career is © Howard Trillo

 

[1]      Industrial Housing in Rugby – L.N.W.R. Railways – To operate and maintain a railway requires people to work at places spread all along the line, often far from existing settlements. At places where stations are built accommodation for many staff are needed from opening day.  People had to live within walking distance of work, and it was useful to the railway to be able to get hold of staff if something unexpected happened.  By providing houses for their staff, the railway solved all these problems and the London and Birmingham Railway built several hundred houses along the line for the opening.  The houses were each given a number and the earliest in Rugby were in the 700’s.  They were all near the new station in Newbold Road, on the west side both north and south of the railway.

[2]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 13 September 1902.

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 4 July 1903.

[4]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 28 November 1903.

[5]      Rugby Advertiser, 27 May 1916.

[6]      http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/names/listing/52012?page=7, St Peters College Memorial Tablet No 2, War Memorials reference: 52012, http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/names/listing/52012?page=7.

[7]      http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/54635-2000-files-in-passchendaele-archives/, from ‘tharkin56’, 22 August 2007.

[8]      Chris Baker, at https://www.thegazette.co.uk/all-notices/content/100720.

[9]      https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/4842770 – connected by George Coppock.

[10]     In fact he had only been in France for eleven months, so this may be his length of service, suggesting that he joined up in September 1914.

[11]     Rugby Advertiser, 27 May 1916.

[12]     Rugby Advertiser, 27 May 1916.

[13]     https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/4842770.

[14]     Global, Find A Grave Index for Non-Burials, Burials at Sea, and other Select Burial Locations.

[15]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Friday, 2 November 1917.

[16]     Following the closure of the college, the two WWI memorial tablets have been moved from St Peter’s College to St Saviour’s Church, St Saviour’s Road, Saltley, Birmingham  B8 1HW.

[17]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Thursday, 1 November 1917.

[18]     Rugby Advertiser, 19 October 1918.