Jones, Frederick James. Died 25th Apr 1918

Frederick James Jones was born in Rugby in late 1877. His father, Frederick Jones, was a journeyman printer, who had been born in Maidstone, Kent. His mother Louisa Maria Cleaver was born in Ealing, London according to some census entries. But in 1911 it states that she was born in Bilton, Rugby. Frederick and Louisa were married in Norwich in 1876.

In 1881 they were living at 27 Arnold Street, Rugby. By 1891 they had moved to 13 Russell Street and Frederick (senr) was working as a printer’s machinist. They now had a second child, Herbert John born in 1881. Frederick James, aged 15 was an apprentice compositor, working with his father for the Rugby Advertiser. He was to work there for over 26 years.

On 22nd May 1899, Frederick James Jones married Emily Jane Houghton at St Andrews Parish Church and in 1901 they were living at 26 Dale Street, with daughter Emily Ivy. They had two more children, Leslie Frederick in 1909 and Muriel in 1913.

Frederick enlisted under Lord Derby’s scheme on 10th Dec 1915 and was called up a year later in December 1916. He was aged 38 and was a compositor and machineman. He had been vice-president of the Rugby branch of the Typographical Society for two years.

He joined the Kings Royal Rifle Corps as Rifleman no. 49966. The 9th Battalion, K.R.R.C. took part in the Battles of the Scarpe the Battle of Langemark and the First and Second Battles of Passchendaele in 1917.

On the 2nd Feb 1918 they were transferred to the 43rd Brigade. They returned to the Somme and were in action during the Battle of St Quentin and the Battle of the Avre, suffering very heavy casualties with almost 6,000 men of the Division killed or injured. The Division was withdrawn from the front line and were engaged building a new defence line to the rear. On the 27th of April, the 9th K.R.R.C was reduced to a cadre and on the 16th of June they transferred to the 34th Division. They were disbanded on the 3rd of August 1918.

Frederick James Jones must have died in this confused period when the German advance was halted and Operation Michael came to an end.

His death is given as 25th April 1918 and his name is listed on the Pozieres Memorial.

Pozieres is a village 6 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert and the Memorial relates to the period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields, and the months that followed before the Advance to Victory, which began on 8 August 1918. The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918. The Corps and Regiments most largely represented are The Rifle Brigade with over 600 names… Frederick J Jones is listed on panels 61-64.

Frederick’s wife died on 16th Nov 1918, aged 41.

An announcement in the Rugby Advertiser in November 1921 reads:
In ever-loving memory of our dear Father and Mother, Frederick Jones, who was killed in action April 25th, 1918 and Emily Jane, died November 16th, 1918.
In Life were parted,
In Death united.
– With fond remembrance from Ivy, Leslie and Muriel.
 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

 

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Packwood, William Henry. Died 12th Apr 1918

William Harry PACKWOOD was born in 1897, in Rugby. His birth was registered in Q3, 1897, in Rugby and he was baptised, on 3 December 1897, at St Matthew’s, Rugby, when his father was a ‘Post Office Clerk’.

He was the son of Charles John Packwood, born in about 1859 [-1933] in Rugby, and Alice Ruth née Davies Packwood who was born in about 1862 [-34] in Shrewsbury. They were married on 17 January 1882 at St. Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury.

For the 1901 census, the family were living at 10 St. Matthew’s Street, Rugby. William Harry was aged three, then the second youngest child of nine siblings, all born in Rugby. His father was now a ‘Chief Clerk, Post Office’.

In 1911, the family were still in the same house, which had 12 rooms, which were probably needed as there were now two more children. William’s father was now a ‘Post Office Superintendant – Civil Service’. William was 13 years old and still at school. He would attend Lawrence Sheriff School.

It is uncertain exactly when William joined up, but a report in the Rugby Advertiser in December 1915, noted.

‘The third son (William Harry) of Mr Chas Packwood, of, Warwick Street, Rugby, has joined the 2nd Battalion of the Honourable Artillery Company (Infantry). Mr Packwood now has three sons serving with the Colours.’[1]

This enabled the correct William Harry Packwood’s Medal Card to be located, which shows him initially as a Private in the Honourable Artillery Company (infantry), Number: 5777, and later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Territorial Force).

His Medal Card also gave two dates when he went to France: 3 October 1916 and 6 December 1917. The former is probably when he went with his HAC Battalion.

2nd Battalion of the Honourable Artillery Company (Infantry) was raised at Finsbury on 2 September 1914. It moved to Belhus Park, going on in November to Blackheath, in February 1915 to the Tower of London, in August to Richmond Park, in November to Wimbledon, in January 1916 to Orpington, in July to Tadworth (Surrey), and it returned to the Tower in September 1916. On 3 October 1916, the Battalion landed at Le Havre and was placed under command of 22nd Brigade in the 7th Division. After William had left it later went to Italy.

William thus went to France with his Battalion on 3 October 1916 and by 12 October they were in trenches and being ‘mortared’. Later in December they were in trenches at Beaumont Hamel where some trenches were ‘obliterated’. During the earlier part of 1917 the Battalion was much involved with training – however in April 1917 William was granted leave prior to training for a commission. A further news report in April 1917, gave information on his progress,

A SON OF MR C J PACKWOOD RECEIVES A COMMISSION.
W H Packwood, fourth son of Mr C J Packwood, of St Matthew’s Street, Rugby, has been granted a month’s leave. Since September he had been out in France with a trench mortar battery of the H.A.C, and has had varied experiences. On the recommendation of his Captain – although still under twenty years of age – he has been offered a Commission, and after his furlough will go into training for his new duties as an officer.[2]

In October 1917, a further report advised,
‘Cadet W H Packwood, H.A.C (Infantry), son of Mr J C Packwood, has been given a commission and posted to the 6th Royal Warwicks.’[3]

His Officer’s Military Service Record[4] is held at The National Archives, but has not been consulted at present, as a sufficient outline of his military career is available from the local paper.

There were two 6th Battalions – 1st/6th and 2nd/6th – however as the 1st/6th were in Italy, it seems he must have been commissioned into the ‘2nd/6th Battalion (Territorial)’ of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR).

2nd/6th Battalion RWR was formed in Coventry in October 1914 as a second line Battalion. It became part of the 2nd Warwickshire Brigade, 2nd South Midland Division and then in August 1915 it was re-designated as part of the 182nd Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. The Battalion had landed in France on 21 May 1916, but William would have joined the Battalion later, going to France for a second time on 6 December 1917, and missing the disastrous attack at Fromelles in 1916 and the various actions of 1917.[5].[6]

The Battalion War Diary[7] gives brief details of the Battalion’s activities throughout the war, but the following information has been abstracted for the period before William’s death.

During February 1918, the Battalion was much involved in improving defences and burying signal cables and the like. During the first week in March, the Battalion was in the front line near St. Quentin. They were then relieved and after a week’s training, returned to relieve the 2nd/8th Worcesters, west of Holnon in the Battle Zone. The Battalion then comprised 21 Officers and 700 Other Ranks.

On the night of 20/21 March, two companies raided the enemy trenches at Cepy Farm and took 12 [or 15] prisoners and a machine gun. The prisoners were from ‘… three different infantry divisions on a front usually held by one regiment, lending little doubt to the certainty that the offensive was imminent.’[8] They lost one killed and four wounded.

The anticipated attack by the Germans, Operation Michael, was launched on 21 March 1918, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army. The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then 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, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

William and the 2nd/6th Battalion were bombarded on 21 March from 4.45am to 11.30am, and then over the next two days were subject to various attacks, and because of the overwhelming strength of the attacks, were then ordered to retire to preserve the line and were almost surrounded.

Thus commenced the Battle of St Quentin and the Actions at the Somme Crossings. The 61st (2nd South Midland) Division was holding the forward zone of defences in the area northwest of Saint Quentin in the area of Ham and lost many men as it fought a chaotic, but ultimately successful, withdrawal back over the Somme crossings over the next ten days.

In the initial clash, the South Midland Division faced three enemy Divisions and only began to retire on the afternoon of 22 March, when ordered to do so, in consequence of the enemy’s progress at other parts of the line.

From 21 to 26 March, even the ‘surplus’ 2nd/6th personnel were brought into action and a separate ‘diary’ was kept for them.   Meanwhile, from 22 to 23 March, the Battalion withdrew westward, through Fayett, Attilly, Matigney, Vyennes, to Breuil and Billancourt. By 24 March, the Battalion was only about 140 strong and at Buverchy, where it occupied the west bank of the Canal du Nord.

The Battalion, or what remained of it, continued a fighting withdrawal from 25 March to 3 April towards the outskirts of Amiens. By the time the Battalion was relieved, after fighting back to Amiens in the First Battles of the Somme 1918, the Division had been involved in continuous action since August 1917 and was exhausted.

The Battalion casualties from 21 March to 5 April 1918 were some 16 Officers and 450 Other Ranks. The remnants of the exhausted Battalion – and the 61st Division – were transferred from the XVIII Corps on 10 April 1918. Lt. General Ivor Maxey wrote a message of congratulations to the 61st Division, which had ‘… established for itself a high reputation for its fighting qualities and its gallant spirit …’.

The Battalion were moved north to what had been a quieter part of the line near Bethune. They were entrained at Rue St Roch, Amiens and taken north to Berguette, and then on to Le Cornet Malo to join 153rd Brigade. However, rather than having some rest, the Battalion had to prepare immediately for a counter attack, as the Germans had just launched the second phase of their offensive on 9 April 1918. The Division became involved and many more casualties were incurred.

The actions until 12 April were reported in a separate appendix of the Battalion War Diary, but only the reports for ?10 and 11 and 12 April survive. A trench map with the War Diary shows the 2nd/6th Battalion was in positions just south of Merville. It concludes by stating that ‘The casualties of the Battalion between 10th and 14th April inclusive were 9 Officers and 133 Other Ranks’.

Another Rugby man in the 2nd/6th Battalion was killed on the 11 April (see Sidney George HALL)  and at some stage on 12 April 1918, during this second major German attack, on this ‘quieter part of the line’, William Harry Packwood was ‘shot through the head’ and ‘killed in action’.

SECOND-LIEUT W H PACKWOOD. Second-Lieut W H Packwood, R.W.R, third son of Mr & Mrs C J Packwood, of St Matthew Street, Rugby, who, as we reported last week, was posted missing on April 14th, has been reported killed in action April 12th. A brother officer, writing to the bereaved parents, says: “He died with his face to the enemy, rallying the men during a counter-attack by the Germans. It may be a little comfort to you to know that he died instantly, shot through the head, and we managed to bury him and erect a little cross to his memory. His pleasant disposition and resolute courage will always in our minds and with you, whose loss must be so much keener, we grieve at his death.” The gallant young officer was 20 years of age, and was educated at the Lower School.[9]

Sadly, the ‘… little cross to his memory …’ was lost and his body was never found again or else not identified. He is remembered on Panel 2 or 3 [Stone 2K] of the Ploegsteert Memorial which stands in the Berks Cemetery Extension, which is located 12.5 kms south of Ieper [Ypres].

The Ploegsteert Memorial commemorates more than 11,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in this sector during the First World War and have no known grave. The memorial serves the area from the line Caestre-Dranoutre-Warneton to the north, to Haverskerque-Estaires-Fournes to the south, including the towns of Hazebrouck, Merville, Bailleul and Armentieres, the Forest of Nieppe, and Ploegsteert Wood. The original intention had been to erect the memorial in Lille. Most of those commemorated by the memorial did not die in major offensives, such as those which took place around Ypres to the north, or Loos to the south. Most were killed in the course of the day-to-day trench warfare which characterised this part of the line, or in small scale set engagements, usually carried out in support of the major attacks taking place elsewhere.

William Harry PACKWOOD is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; and on the WWI Lawrence Sheriff School Plaque,[10] which reads,
‘In Commemoration of our Brother Laurentians who Fell in The Great War, 1914-1918, Orando Laborando.’

His Medal Card and the Medal Roll showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

William’s parents appear to have left Rugby after the War. In the CWGC records, William is noted as the son of Charles John and Alice Ruth Packwood, of ‘Minsterley,’ 15, St. Ledgers Road., Bournemouth. By 1922, his father’s address on William’s Medal Card, was Cheapside, Langport, Somerset.

Four of the five Packwood sons were involved in the First World War and their progress was reported by the Rugby Advertiser,[11] as it reproduced information from their letters home.

Charles William Packwood, the eldest son, joined the Rugby Howitzer Battery in September 1914; he was wounded in August 1916 and again in August 1917 when he had ‘… been wounded in the chest in two places during the recent fighting’.   The second son, Walter Davies Packwood, volunteered for the Canadian contingent, and joined the Balcartier Camp at Quebec; in October 1914, he had arrived with the force at Plymouth, and was in training at Salisbury Plain. In March 1917, John Norman Packwood was joining up and entering the wireless department of the Royal Naval Reserve. Their cousin, Herbert M Packwood, who had worked at Willans and & Robinson, had also joined up in September 1914, probably also in the Rugby Howitzer Battery as he had a similar number and went to France on the same day as his cousin, Charles William Packwood.

These other three brothers and their cousin survived the war. The fifth brother, Noel, the youngest, was too young to enlist.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on William Harry PACKWOOD 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 2018.

[1]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/4th-dec-1915-interesting-letter-from-an-old-murrayian/; and see also, Rugby Advertiser, 4 December 1915.

[2]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/14th-apr-1917-baptist-local-preacher-killed/; and Rugby Advertiser, 14 April 1917.

[3]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/27th-oct-1917-ladies-war-services/; and Rugby Advertiser, 27 October 1917.

[4]       2/Lieutenant William Harry PACKWOOD, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, TNA file ref: WO 374/51812.

[5]         http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/61st-2nd-south-midland-division/

[6]       Based on: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/316/royal-warwickshire-regiment/.

[7]       WWI War Diaries, 1914-1920, 2/6 Bn., Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 61st Division,

[8]       Murland, Jerry, Retreat and Rearguard Somme 1918, the Fifth Army Retreat, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-78159-267-0.

[9]       Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 4 May 1918.

[10]     Information from https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/lawrence-sheriff-school-plaques.

[11]     Details are available from the author, or search https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/ for ‘Packwood’.

Hall, Sidney George. Died 11th Apr 1918

Sidney George HALL was born in 1896 in Rugby and his birth was registered in the 3rd quarter. He was the son of George Hall, born in about 1873 in Wibtoft, Leicestershire, and his wife, Jane née Street, who was born in about 1870, in Daventry, Northamptonshire. The 1911 census stated that they had been married for 15 years, although it seems they were married a little earlier in Q2, 1893 in Daventry.

For the 1901 census, the family were living at 116 Cambridge Street, Rugby. George was a ‘Steam Wood Sawyer’ and they had a lodger, who was a bricklayer.

By 1911, the family had moved to 31 Alexandra Road, Rugby. Sidney’s father was still a ‘sawyer’.  Sidney was now 14 and working in an ‘office’. Possibly he was already working for Messrs. Wratislaw & Thompson, the Rugby solicitors; before the war he was employed as a clerk by them.

No Military Service Record exists for Sidney, but at some date, he joined up as a Private, No: 266586 in the 2nd/6th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.   This was probably after 1915, as he wouldn’t have reached the required age – unless he lied, as some did – and also, there is no qualification date for when he went to France on his Medal Card.   In any case the 2nd/6th Battalion did not go to France until 21 May 1916. At some later date he was promoted to Lance Corporal.

2nd/6th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR) was formed in Coventry in October 1914 as a second line Battalion. It became part of the 2nd Warwickshire Brigade, 2nd South Midland Division and then in August 1915 it was re-designated as part of the 182nd Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. As mentioned, the Battalion landed in France on 21 May 1916 and concentrated in the area Merville – Gonnehem – Busnes – Thiennes.

The Battalion, as part of the Division was involved in the disastrous attack at Fromelles on 19 July 1916. In 1917 they were part of the Operations on the Ancre; the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line; the Battle of Langemarck, which was part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres; and the German counter attacks after the Battle of Cambrai.[1].[2]

The Battalion War Diary[3] gives brief details of the Battalion’s activities throughout the war, but the following information has been abstracted for the period before Sidney’s death.

During February 1918, the Battalion was much involved in improving defences and burying signal cables and the like. During the first week in March, the Battalion was in the front line near St. Quentin. They were then relieved and after a week’s training, returned to relieve the 2nd/8th Worcesters, west of Holnon in the Battle Zone. The Battalion then comprised 21 Officers and 700 Other Ranks.

On the night of 20/21 March, two companies raided the enemy trenches at Cepy Farm and took 12 [or 15] prisoners and a machine gun. The prisoners were from ‘… three different infantry divisions on a front usually held by one regiment, lending little doubt to the certainty that the offensive was imminent.’[4] They lost one killed and four wounded.

The anticipated attack by the Germans, Operation Michael, was launched on 21 March 1918, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army. The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then 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, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

Sidney and the 2nd/6th Battalion were bombarded on 21 March from 4.45am to 11.30am, and then over the next two days were subject to various attacks, and were then ordered to retire to preserve the line and were almost surrounded.

Thus commenced the Battle of St Quentin and the Actions at the Somme Crossings. The 61st (2nd South Midland) Division was holding the forward zone of defences in the area northwest of Saint Quentin in the area of Ham and lost many men as it fought a chaotic, but ultimately successful, withdrawal back over the Somme crossings over the next ten days.

In the initial clash, the South Midland Division faced three enemy Divisions and only began to retire on the afternoon of 22 March, when ordered to do so, in consequence of the enemy’s progress at other parts of the line.

As Sidney was also involved in Clerical work, it may be that he was not generally involved in the frontline fighting, however, from 21 to 26 March, the ‘surplus’ 2nd/6th personnel, which probably involved clerical and catering staff, were also in action and a separate ‘diary’ was kept for them.

Meanwhile, from 22 to 23 March, the Battalion withdrew westward, through Fayett, Attilly, Matigney, Vyennes, to Breuil and Billancourt. By 24 March, the Battalion was only about 140 strong and then at Buverchy, occupied the west bank of the Canal du Nord. The Battalion, or what remained of it, continued a fighting withdrawal from 25 March to 3 April towards the outskirts of Amiens.

By the time the Battalion was relieved, after fighting all the way back to Amiens in the First Battles of the Somme 1918, the Division had been involved in continuous action since August 1917 and was exhausted.

The Battalion casualties from 21 March to 5 April 1918 were some 16 Officers and 450 Other Ranks. The remnants of the exhausted Battalion – and the 61st Division – were transferred from the XVIII Corps on 10 April 1918. Lt. General Ivor Maxey wrote a message of congratulations to the 61st Division, which had ‘… established for itself a high reputation for its fighting qualities and its gallant spirit …’.

The Battalion were moved north to what had been a quieter part of the line near Bethune. They were entrained at Rue St Roch, Amiens and taken north to Berguette, and then on to Le Cornet Malo to join 153rd Brigade. However, rather than having some rest, the Battalion had to prepare immediately for a counter attack, as the Germans had just launched the second phase of their offensive on 9 April 1918. The Division became involved and many more casualties were incurred.

The actions until 12 April were reported in a separate appendix of the Battalion War Diary, but only the reports for ?10, and 11 and 12 April survive. A trench map with the War Diary showed the 2nd/6th Battalion positions just south of Merville. It concludes by stating that ‘The casualties of the Battalion between 10th and 14th April inclusive were 9 Officers and 133 Other Ranks.

It seems that Sidney ‘… proceeded to the line the previous day [10 April] to assist the Commanding Officer with the clerical work. He was writing in a room in a farm house, which was suddenly attacked and Lance-Corpl Hall was killed on the spot.’[5] Thus on 11 April 1918, during this second major German attack, on the ‘quieter part of the line’, Sidney George Hall was ‘killed in action’. His body was recovered, but whether he was buried initially in one of the other local cemeteries is uncertain, as the graves brought in from other small nearby cemeteries, such as that used by the 2nd/7th RWR,[6] do not appear to be separately identified in CWGC documentation.

The Rugby Advertiser reported,

LANCE-CORPL. SIDNEY HALL KILLED. Mr & Mrs J Hall, of 31 Alexandra Road, Rugby, have received intimation that their only son, Lance-Corpl Sidney Hall, Royal Warwicks, was killed on April 12th. He proceeded to the line the previous day to assist the Commanding Officer with the clerical work. He was writing in a room in a farm house, which was suddenly attacked and Lance-Corpl Hall was killed on the spot. He was before enlistment employed as a clerk by Messrs Wratislow & Thompson.  Whilst in England he rose to be sergeant-in-charge of Brigade headquarters – a most responsible position for one so young, he then being only about 20 years of age. He took a keen interest in the work at St Andrew’s Mission Church, at which a memorial service was held on Sunday evening.[7]

Sidney George Hall is now buried in the St. Venant-Robecq Road British Cemetery, Robecq, in grave ref: III. C. 11., some five miles from Merville.

St. Venant is a small town in the Department of the Pas-de-Calais about 15 kilometres north-west of Bethune. For much of the First World War, the villages of St. Venant and Robecq remained practically undamaged, but in April 1918, during the Battle of the Lys, the German line was established within 2 kilometres of the road that joins them. The cemetery was begun around 12 April and used as a front line cemetery until the end of July. At the Armistice it contained 47 burials, but was then greatly enlarged when graves were brought in from the battlefields south of St. Venant and from other cemeteries in the vicinity. The most important of these cemeteries were La Haye British Cemetery at St. Venant (65 graves), used by the 2nd/7th Royal Warwicks and 2nd/8th Worcesters between April and August 1918, and Carvin British Cemetery, Mont-Bernenchon (54 graves), used by fighting units and field ambulances during the same period.

Later, when the permanent gravestones replaced the temporary cross, no family message was requested.

Sidney George HALL is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; and also on a family grave, ref: C175, in the Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.

Sidney’s Medal Card shows that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Another Rugby man in the 2nd/6th Battalion, one of Sidney’s officers, William Harry PACKWOOD, was killed the next day, 12 April.

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Sidney George HALL 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 2018.

[1]         http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/61st-2nd-south-midland-division/

[2]       Based on: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/316/royal-warwickshire-regiment/.

[3]       WWI War Diaries, 1914-1920, 2/6 Bn., Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 61st Division,

[4]       Murland, Jerry, Retreat and Rearguard Somme 1918, the Fifth Army Retreat, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-78159-267-0.

[5]       Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 4 May 1918.

[6]       The 2nd/7th RWR were operating with the 2nd/6th RWR, and thus on 13 April 1918 the 2nd/6th RWR was combined for some days with the 24th Entrenching Battalion as a composite Battalion and then relieved the 2nd/7th RWR.

[7]       Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 4 May 1918.

Linnell, William Henry. Died 8th Apr 1918

William Henry LINNELL’s birth was registered in Q2, 1880 in Rugby. He was christened on 5 May 1880 at Holy Trinity church, Rugby. He was the son of William Henry Linnell, who was born in about 1850 in Rugby, and Emily Mary, née Moulds, Linnell, who was born in about 1853 in Exeter, Devon. Their marriage was registered in Q3, 1877, in Nuneaton.

In 1891, the family were living at 1 Railway Terrace and William’s father was a builder. William Henry (the younger), was 11 and had one older and two younger sisters. They also had a servant.

At some later date William attended Lawrence Sheriff School, but by 1901, the family were living in 1 & 2 Railway Terrace, and William (senior) was a ‘Builder and Contractor’ and William junior was working as a ‘Builder’s Manager’, presumably with his father.

His father would become the owner of one of the larger of Rugby’s building companies, and also became a member of the town council and chairman of Rugby UDC from 1907 – 1909.

A photograph, said to be of William Henry Linnell (junior) was posted on-line.[1]

William (junior) married Margaret Elizabeth née Childs, at some date after the third calling of banns on 21 May 1905 – they were both from the Parish of St. Andrew’s, Rugby. The marriage was registered in Q2, 1905 in Rugby.

In early 1911 William’s mother died and on the night of the 1911 census, his widowed father was visiting his married daughter, Amy Boot, William’s sister, in Llandudno cum Eglwys-Rhos, Wales. William’s father lived until late 1928 when he died in Rugby, aged 78.

There is no obvious census return for William junior or his wife in 1911.

In October 1916, he was still working with his father and was mentioned in an article in the Rugby Advertiser.[2]

RUGBY FIRM COMMENDED.
Mr W H Linnell appeared in support of a claim for the exemption of Horace Walter Gilbert (23, single), electrician and wireman, 56 New Street, New Bilton. – He pointed out that the man had only been passed for “ Labour at home.” Before the war they employed about 85 men, and now there were only about 20. This was the only man left in the electrical department, which would have to be closed down if he went. – The Military had appealed against the temporary exemption granted to Mr Linnell, jun, and the Tribunal was informed that he was going into the Army in the following week. – The Chairman: I take it you agree to the Military appeal being upheld? – Mr Linnell: That it so. – The Chairman: We will give this man to January 1st, as the other has gone. They have done very well, I think.

Unfortunately no Service Record exists for William, but it seems that after joining up, in Rugby, in later October 1916, he served – at least latterly – as a Private No: 87659, in the 11th (Service) Battalion (Pioneers) in the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment.

The 11th Battalion had been formed in Seaforth, Liverpool in August 1914 as part of the First New Army (K1), and joined the Army Troops in the 14th Division and became a Pioneer Battalion on 11 January 1915 and on 30 May 1915 mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne, where they were engaged in various actions on the Western Front.

There is no date when William went to France, but it would probably be some time after he joined up and he was unlikely to have been sufficiently trained until sometime in 1917.

During 1917, the 11th Battalion was in action during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, the First and Third Battle of the Scarpe, the Battle of Langemark, and the First and Second Battles of Passchendaele.

It was fairly quiet at the start of 1918. William would have continued to be involved in the routine of trench warfare, and for a while the front continued comparatively quiet, indeed the 11th suffered no casualties in March prior to the 21 March.

However, an attack by the Germans was anticipated and on 21 March 1918, they launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army. The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then 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, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

This first action on 21 March 1918 was known by the Allies as the Battle of St Quentin. On the first three days, when the 11th Battalion was at Clastres, significant numbers of ‘other ranks’ of the Battalion were killed and wounded. It is the wounded that may have included William. On 21 March, 65 Other Ranks [ORs] were wounded; on 22 March, 5 ORs were wounded, and on 23 March, 44 ORs were wounded.

The Battalion would also be in action in a later phase, during the Battle of the Avre, just prior to William’s death. On 4 April 11 ORs were wounded and on 5 April, one OR was wounded. Overall losses from Operation Michael were so severe that by 27 April 1918 the Division had suffered such severe casualties that it was reduced to cadre at Molingham and then moved back to England.

It was reported that William ‘Died of Wounds’.[3]   He would have been evacuated to a Battalion Aid Post, ‘Field Ambulance’ or Advanced Dressing Station, then back to a Casualty Clearing Station, before being transported back to one of the Base Hospitals – in William’s case in Rouen. As this was some 200 kms. behind the lines, it would have taken some time, and thus it is more likely that he was one of those injured in the initial German assault between 21 and 23 March 1918.

During the First World War, camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen. Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for practically the whole of the war. They included eight general, five stationary, one British Red Cross and one labour hospital, and a convalescent depot.

Sadly William died and like the great majority of those who died in the Rouen Hospitals was taken to the Rouen city cemetery of St. Sever. He was buried in the St Sever Cemetery Extension in grave reference: P. IX. C. 3B.

St Sever Cemetery and St. Sever Cemetery Extension are located within a large communal cemetery situated on the eastern edge of the southern Rouen suburbs of Le Grand Quevilly and Le Petit Quevilly. The extension had been started in September 1916.

Later, when a permanent gravestone replaced the temporary cross, it included his family’s message, ‘Castissimus Homo Atque Integerrimus “Beati Mundo Corde”.’ – ‘A pure and upright man – “Blessed are the Peacemakers”.’   He was aged 38.

William Henry LINNELL is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; and on the WWI Lawrence Sheriff School Plaque,[4] which reads,
‘In Commemoration of our Brother Laurentians who Fell in The Great War, 1914-1918, Orando Laborando.’

His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Having been helping run the family building business, he was subject to Probate which took place on 26 June 1918. He was described as a ‘‘Sapper’, His Majesty’s Army’ – which may have described his work in a ‘Pioneer’ Battalion, but which rank was more usually accorded to men in the Royal Engineers. Probate at the London Registry was granted to his widow, Margaret Elizabeth Linnell, with his effects valued at £2539-16-0d. His widow was living at 41 Clifton Road Rugby.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on William Henry LINNELL 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 2018.

[1]       Jennifer Maltman shared this photograph on www.ancestry.co.uk on 2 November 2016.

[2]       https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/14th-oct-1916-horses-for-the-army/ – also in Rugby Advertiser, 14 October 1916.

 

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

[4]       Information from https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/lawrence-sheriff-school-plaques.

Sharman, Percy John. Died 1st Apr 1918

Percy John SHARMAN was born in Rugby in about 1892. He was the son of Sherwin Sharman, who was born in Kings Cross, London in about 1870 and worked as a joiner, and Florence Annie Landon née Branston, Sharman, who was born in Napton on the Hill, Warwickshire, in late 1869 and later lived at Marton. They were married at some date after their last banns were called on 14 June 1891 at Frankton, Warwickshire.

In 1901 the family were living at 25 Queen Street Rugby, and they were still living there in 1911. Percy was then 19 and an ‘Iron Moulder (learner)’  living with his family.   His younger brother, Albert Sidney Sharman, who was 18, was a ‘machine hand’ and would later join up as No.19849 in the Gloucestershire Regiment. There are surviving Pension Records for Sidney, who joined up aged 22 years and six months on 12 May 1915, joined the BEF, wounded in the hand, and survived the war, serving until 1919.

There are no surviving military Service Records for Percy. He joined up as No.S/1289, Rifleman P. J. Sharman in the 11th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. He would later be promoted to Lance-Corporal. His Medal Card shows that he went to France on 21 July 1915

The 11th (Service) Battalion of the Rifle Brigade was formed at Winchester in September 1914 as part of K2 and came under command of the 59th Brigade in the 20th (Light) Division. They moved to Blackdown, going on in February 1915 to Witley and then in April to Hamilton Camp (Stonehenge). On 21 July 1915 the Battalion landed at Boulogne which is also the date given on Percy’s Medal Card for his arrival in France – so he landed in France with his battalion.

In 1916 he is recorded as a rifleman in the 11th Battalion Roll Book of NCOs and Men, and the Battalion was engaged in various actions on the Western front: the Battle of Guillemont in 1916 and the attacks on Steenbeek, and on Rue Des Vignes in 1917.

On 20 November 1917, after the actions earlier in the Battle of 3rd Ypres, the 11th Battalion were part of the British Third Army which launched an attack towards Cambrai. The method of assault was new, with no preliminary artillery bombardment.   Instead, a large number of tanks were used in significant force. However, having started well, with large gains of ground being made, the German reserves brought the advance to a halt. Ten days later, a German counter-attack regained much of the ground.

On 5 February 1918, the 11th were reinforced by some of the men from the 10th Battalion which had been disbanded near La Clytte. The 11th Battalion was then heavily involved with various actions, in particular, the various defences against Operation Michael.

In the spring of 1918, a German attack had long been predicted and it was finally delivered in the early hours of 21 March 1918. It came after an intense artillery bombardment and the strength of the infantry attack was overwhelming. Within hours, the British Army was undertaking a desperate fighting retreat along a wide front. .[1]

The 20th (Light) Division, which included the 11th Battalion was heavily engaged in the Battle of St Quentin, which was the start of the German assault, Operation Michael. The Germans launched a major offensive 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 actions of Operation Michael have already been described in some detail.

There is a slight uncertainty as to the actual date of Percy’s death, so it may be that in addition to the Battle of St Quentin, he may have been involved in the subsequent actions at the Somme crossings and the Battle of Rosieres.   Possibly he was wounded and captured and died in German hands.

His exact date of death may have been ‘presumed’. His Medal Card notes ‘Acc as Dead’ i.e. Accepted as Dead. An earlier record on one of the CWGC documents suggests that his date of death was 20 March 1918. It was later recorded by the CWGC as being 1 April 1918. Percy was 26 years old.

By 1 April 1918, the 11th Battalion was pulling out of the front line having suffered very heavy casualties in the various rearguard actions. Percy was not listed as killed or wounded on the extensive lists enclosed with the Battalion War Diary, although the lists may not be complete. He may have been missing or wounded and buried by the Germans. The date of death may signify the date that the 11th pulled back.

Percy was originally buried with [at least] seven others at Map Reference (M.R.): 66D C23c 9-2. These soldiers were later ‘concentrated’ [disinterred, moved and reburied] in September 1919 from that smaller ‘cemetery’ to the Pargny British Cemetery, Somme, France, at M.R. 66D C16c 2-2. Percy’s body was identified by his identity disc/s and he was reburied at Pargny in grave ref: II. E. 17. No additional inscription was added to his memorial by the family.

Pargny is a village about 15 kilometres south of Peronne, which is between Amiens and Saint-Quentin. The British Cemetery is one kilometre south of the village.   The Cemetery was made after the Armistice, by concentrations from the surrounding battlefields and from the Pargny German Cemetery, which was a little way North-East of Pargny Church, and contained the graves of 32 soldiers from the United Kingdom. The majority of the burials in this cemetery are those of officers and men of the 61st (South Midland) and 8th Divisions [and in Percy’s case, the 20th Division], whose resistance at the Somme crossings on 24 March 1918, materially helped to delay the German advance.

Percy John SHARMAN was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and the 1915 Star. He is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby and on his family’s grave at Plot H171, at the Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Percy John SHARMAN 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, January 2018.

[1]       http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/76794-27th-batt-manchester-regiment/, by ‘John_Hartley’.

Keats, Bernard. Died 26th Mar 1918.

Bernard KEATES – or KEATS on the Rugby Memorial Gates – was born in Willenhall on 25 December 1898, registered as KEATES in Birmingham in Q1, 1899 and baptised as KEATS, on 26 January 1899 at St George’s, Birmingham, when his family were living at 8/4 St. George’s Street.

Both spellings of the surname seem to have been used indiscriminately, the family and enumerators adding the ‘E’, the military generally omitting it!

He was the third son of James Keates [b.c.1863 in Willenhall – a labourer] and Sarah, née Agus, Keates, [b.c.1873, also in Willenhall], whose marriage was registered in Wolverhampton in Q4, 1892.

The three eldest boys, Bernard and his two elder brothers, had been born in Staffordshire, but before 1901, the Keates family had moved to live in Rugby and was lodging at 28 Gas Street, Rugby. Bernard’s father was a ‘labourer carter’.

By 1911, the family had moved again and was living at 55 Pinfold Street, New Bilton, Rugby. His mother, now 38, was recorded as the ‘Head’ of the family – but was still enumerated as married, which she had been for 18 years, with five children, all still living – the three older boys, and now two girls, aged 8 and 4, who had been born in Rugby after the move from Staffordshire. Bernard was aged 11 and still at school. Their house had six rooms and they had two boarders. It is not known where Bernard’s father was as he seems to be missing from the Census.

There are very few on-line records of Bernard’s military career and no Service Records for him have survived. It seems that he enlisted in Warwick as a Private, No.35506 in the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire) Regiment. The absence of a date that he entered a ‘theatre of war’ on his Medal Card, suggests that this was after the end of 1915. A commentary on the war service of the 1st Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment gives an indication of where Bernard Keates may have served.[1]

In August 1914 the 1st Battalion were based at Tidworth … On mobilization the 1st Battalion left for France on the 13 August, taking part in the battle of Mons 10 days later and followed by the retreat from Mons. The ‘retreat ‘was a fighting withdrawal with a number of significant actions fought along that route. The battalion remained intact and ended the retreat on the outskirts of Paris. Once the line stabilized the battalion took part in the First Battle of Ypres, and Neuve Chapelle by which time they had lost 26 officers and 1000 men, the equivalent of a whole battalion. This was followed by trench duty at Hooge and then Kemmel where they remained for the remainder of the year.

[In 1915 -] The 1st Battalion spent the first few months on the Messines Ridge engaged in Trench warfare until March 1915. In March they took part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, followed by several more months in Trenches in the Dickebusch area. In June they took part in two attacks on the German Trench system round Hooge Chateau, where the fighting was most severe. The next few months were spent in the trenches near Ypres, Hooge, alternating with rest periods in the ramparts at Ypres, itself under shell fire. In September they took part in a Major battle at Loos. In October together with the rest of their Brigade they were transferred to a New Army Formation, the 25th Division to provide experience. They spent the remainder of the year in the trenches at Ploegsteert Wood. Christmas dinner was not eaten until the 1 January 1916.

It seems more likely that Bernard might have joined his Battalion in France in 1916.

At the start of 1916 the 1st Battalion were in reserve at Papot. They remained here for three months when they went south spending three weeks near St Pol. After relieving the French at Vimy Ridge they spent two months engaged in trench warfare near La Targette. Unspectacular work but it still resulted in 82 casualties. In July the Battalion moved towards the Somme area. They did not take part in the attack on 1 July but did go into action at Thiepval on 4 July. On the 22 July together with the 3rd Worcestershire Regiment, they assaulted and captured the Lepzig Salient, including the Hindenburg trench.   They withstood a number of counter attacks by the Prussian Guards all of which were beaten off. Other attacks followed together with more time spent in the trenches. In October they moved north and took up a position in the Ploegstreert where they were at the end of the year.

[1917 – ] The 1st Battalion started the year in the area of Ploegsteert, being relieved mid January for a fortnights hard training. In February they carried out a daring daylight raid in conjunction with the 10th Cheshire’s. The raiders won six Military Medals. In late February they were relieved by New Zealand units, spending the next seven weeks training. This was required due the reorganization of all battalions whereby each platoon became self sufficient in terms of weapon capabilities. The Army was starting to move towards mobile tactics. In April they took over some trenches from the Australians near Plogsteert. They went in and out of the lines until 7 June when the battalion took part in the attack on Messines Ridge. Two days later after hard fighting they had taken 148 prisoners and 7 machine guns,   but they had sustained 170 casualties.   One of the officers being awarded the Military Cross in this action was Captain R Hayward (later to win the Victoria Cross). This was a significant action because in taking this high ground it improved the situation in the Ypres salient, which had been overlooked by the Germans for most of the war. In July they moved to Ypres and had their first taste of mustard gas. At the end of July they took part in the attack on Westhoek Ridge remaining in the area under heavy shell fire until 5 August. After a short rest they returned to the Ridge to support other units under pressure from the Germans. On 10 September they moved south to join the First Army moving into the Givenchy Sector, near Bethune where they took up a position in October remaining for two months. At the beginning of December they were transferred once again, this time to the Third Army, to the Laqnicourt Sector near Bapaume. They were at this location at the end of 1917.

[1918 – ] The 1st Battalion started the year in the Laqnicourt sector, North East of Bapaume remaining there for two months.

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.

On 21 March 1918 they [the 1st Battalion] were in reserve at Achiet-Le-Grand when the German Army launched a major offensive. The battalion were in contact with the enemy for the next six days during which Captain Hayward MC won the Victoria Cross. By the end of this period the battalion was reduced to Company strength.[2]

It would appear that Bernard was wounded – presumably in that period when the Battalion lost so many men, between 21 and 25 March 1918 and was taken prisoner, and then died of his wounds, probably at a prisoner of war camp on 26 March 1918, although his date of death was also recorded as 24 March 1918 on some of the earlier records. He was buried in a German Cemetery, adjacent to the German prisoner of war camp, at the east end of the village of Oisy-le-Verger. This cemetery originally contained the graves of 24 prisoners of war from the United Kingdom, six from Italy and three from Russia, and 247 German soldiers. It was and about 5 miles north-west of Cambrai.

After the war, the British soldiers buried at Oisy-le-Verger were ‘Concentrated’ [exhumed, moved and reburied]. Bernard Keats’ ‘body naked’ was identified by a standard cross, and the German burial list and plan. There were no effects. Bernard was reburied in the Ontario Cemetery at Sains-les-Marquion in Grave ref: II. E. 15.   There was no personal message from his family on the memorial stone – it is possible that they could not be traced.

Sains-les-Marquion is about 2 kilometres south of Marquion, which is on the Arras to Cambrai road, some 14 kilometres from Cambrai. Ontario Cemetery is 1 kilometre due south of the village. The cemetery was made at the end of September and the beginning of October 1918, after the capture of Sains-les-Marquion (on the 27th) by the Canadian Division. It contained, in its original form, the graves of 144 soldiers from Canada and ten soldiers (or sailors of the Royal Naval Division) from the United Kingdom … It was enlarged after the Armistice by the concentration of graves, partly from the battlefields, but mainly from the many neighbouring German cemeteries, including … Oisy-Le-Verger German Cemetery, …

Bernard’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate, and as KEATES, B., on the New Bilton War Memorial by the chapel in Croop Hill Cemetery, Addison Road, Rugby.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Bernard KEATES 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 2018. It is dedicated also to the memory of Graham Gare who had chosen to undertake the research on this soldier before his untimely death.

[1]         http://www.thewardrobe.org.uk/research/history-of-regiments/the-duke-of-edinburghs-wiltshire-regiment-1881-1920-the-wiltshire-regiment-duke-of-edinburghs-1920-1959. Further details may be found in the Battalion War Diary, The National Archives, Piece 2243/3: 25th Division, 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment (1915 Nov – 1918 Jun), also available at www.ancestry.co.uk

.

 

[2]         http://www.thewardrobe.org.uk/research/history-of-regiments/the-duke-of-edinburghs-wiltshire-regiment-1881-1920-the-wiltshire-regiment-duke-of-edinburghs-1920-1959. Further details may be found in the Battalion War Diary, The National Archives, Piece 2243/3: 25th Division, 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment (1915 Nov – 1918 Jun), also available at www.ancestry.co.uk.

Wilson, Edwin Thomas. Died 23rd Mar 1918

Edwin Thomas WILSON’s birth was registered in Rugby in Q3, 1894 and he was baptised on 29 July 1894 at Bilton, Warwickshire, England, when his family were living in Victoria Street, New Bilton.

He was the eighth child of Ellis Wilson [b.c.1851 in Hillmorton – an upholsterer] and Sarah Jane, née Rotton, Wilson, [b.c.1860 in Birmingham], whose marriage was registered in Birmingham in Q4, 1876.

The three eldest children had been born in West Bromwich in about 1877, 1879 and 1883, and then the next two in Tipton in 1884 and 1886. Before 1887 when their next child was born, they had moved to Rugby, and for the 1891 census they were living at 11 Bridget Street, Rugby.

By 1901 the family had moved to live at 103 Victoria Street, Rugby, where Edwin’s father, Ellis was an ‘upholsterer and general dealer’. His father’s death was registered in Rugby in Q2, 1909 – he was 58.

By 1911, the family had moved again and was living at 65 Campbell Street, New Bilton, Rugby.   Edwin was a ‘Winder (Apprentice)’ presumably at (BTH) in Rugby as he was subsequently employed just before the war in the BTH Winding Department.

There are very few on-line records of Edwin’s military career and he changed Regiments as his career progressed. If a more detailed history is required his file is available at the National Archives.[1]

It seems that he enlisted early from BTH, and was probably one of the three ‘Wilsons’ who are listed in the Rugby Advertiser on 5 and 26 September 1914.

B.T.H. Company to the Rescue. – From the Works. This is an additional list of men who have left to join the Colours from August 27th up to and including September 2nd: … Wilson … Wilson[2]

Recruiting at Rugby slows – Latest B.T.H. Recruits. – Since our last list of recruits from the B.T.H Works was compiled the following have enlisted: Works: …, Wilson, …[3]

Edwin’s Medal Card shows that he was initially a private No.21111 in the ‘Hussars of Line’, and then an Acting Corporal, No.G3/10243 in the East Surrey Regiment. It seems that this was for a fairly short time, as he was chosen for a commission, and two identical notices appeared in the Local War Notes in the Rugby Advertiser on 23 October 1915 and 22 July 1916.

Mr B Whitbread, only son of Mr Charles Whitbread, and Mr Eddy Wilson, youngest son of Mrs E Wilson, have been gazetted to commissions in the 12th Reserve R.W.R.[4]

Mr B Whitbread, only son of Mr Charles Whitbread, and Mr Eddy Wilson, youngest son of Mrs E Wilson, have been gazetted to commissions in the 12th Reserve R.W.R..[5]

The first notice agrees broadly with his Medal Card which noted that he was appointed to a Temporary Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 20 October 1915; the second may have appeared when the two new officers went overseas in 1916. Indeed 2nd Lt. Basil Whitbread’s Medal Card does have a date when he went to France – 4 March 1916. However it seems that he was serving with a different Battalion, the 14th, when he was killed in action on 22 July 1916, during the battle of the Somme.

The 12th (Reserve) Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment was formed in Parkhurst (Isle of Wight) in October 1914 as a Service battalion, part of K4, and in November 1914, came under command of 97th Brigade, original 32nd Division. However, on 10 April 1915 it became a Reserve battalion and in September 1916, it absorbed into the Training Reserve Battalions in 8th Reserve Brigade.[6]

At some date Edwin transferred from the 12th Reserve Battalion into the 10th Battalion – quite possibly when he went to France.

The 10th (Service) Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment 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.   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.

In early May 1917, the Local War Notes reported –

Second-Lieut E Wilson, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, son of Mrs Wilson, of Bridget Street, is in hospital at Rouen suffering from a broken leg.[7]

This was at about the time of the Battle of Arras but of course may have been due to a fall rather than enemy action!

The history of 19th (Western) Division[8] shows that it was involved in 1917 in the following actions:

The Battle of Messines [7-14 June 1917]
The Third Battles of Ypres [from July 1917]
– 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 the 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.

The Battalion Diary[9] devotes several pages to the actions from the opening of the German assault on 21 March, until Edwin’s death on 23 March 1918.   some extracts are given below.

21.3.18 – 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 … …

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 …

22.3.18 – 8.50am – Ground close in front and behind line held by battalion was heavily shelled.

1.15pm – Shelling as at 9am … road by Bn. Hd. Qrs. was heavily shelled.

2.35pm – Bn. observers … reported that enemy were attacking …

23.3.18 – 2am – Orders received … our left must swing forward and establish two posts, … to block the S. Eastern exits from BRAUMETZ; the two left platoons of B Coy. were ordered to do this. … the Battn. was to hold its position to the last, and was not to reinforce the troops in the 3rd system or to counter-attack should the enemy succeed in breaking into the 3rd. system.

      7.30am – Batts. observers reported enemy massing W of DOIGNIES.

      8(?)am – An artillery officer reported … shortly coming into action … About 1½ hours later this officer again reported … that the guns were withdrawing.; the O.C. 10/RWarR protested … the artillery assistance was required and that the battalions had no intention of evacuating their positions. Apparently these guns fired very little if at all.

9.20am – D. Coy reported enemy cavalry on high ground …

9.25am – Battery … withdrew.

9.55am – 800 – 950 Germans debouched from S.E. of BESIMETZ. …

10.50am – … C Coy reported situation desperate on our left flank owing to withdrawal of all troops.

12.30am – VELU WOOD was occupied by the enemy.

12.30pm-1.30pm – Battn. was driven back to the road running E & W through J.26. where another stand was made…

3pm – The Battn. and machine gunners were ordered … to withdraw to Embankment … and then round the E & S sides of BERTINCOURT. … subsequently orders were received … to march to BAUCOURT, which was reached about 7pm.

Casualties were:- OFFICERS KILLED: 2nd Lt R H Burningham and 2nd. Lt. E. T. Wilson, 23-318 …Officers wounded – 9; Wounded and Missing – 2; Missing believed prisoner – 1. Other Ranks: killed – 33; Wounded – 191; Missing – 83.

Edwin, as noted, was killed in action on the third day of the battle on 23 March 1918, aged 23. Because of the intensity of the battle, with the Germans moving forward in strength, and in the confusion of the retreat and rearguard action, the bodies of many of those killed were never found or identified.

Edwin Thomas Wilson is remembered on Bay 3 of the Arras Memorial which is located at the entrance to the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery in France. The memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period … [and in Edwin’s case, sadly was] the German attack in the spring of 1918.

Edwin’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, and on the BTH List of ‘Men who Served’, and the list of ‘Men who Gave their Lives’ as inscribed on the BTH War Memorial.

After Edwin’s death, on 24 March 1918 the 10th Battalion RWarR was again manning a line somewhat further to the rear. The Battalion was involved in the Battle of Bapaume, the Battle of Messines, the Battle of Bailleul, the First Battle of Kemmel Ridge, the Battle of the Aisne, the Battle of the Selle, the Battle of the Sambre and the passage of the Grand Honelle. During these the allies finally held the German advance which had badly weakened German numbers and lost them many of their more experienced troops. The German advance had also overextended their supply lines, and from August 1918 the Allies were able to regroup and fight back. The 10th Battalion ended the war on 11 November 1918, in the same formations, just west of Bavay, France.

In 1922, his mother, Mrs. S J Wilson was recorded on his Medal Card as living at 41 Bridget Street, Rugby.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Edwin Thomas WILSON 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 2018.

[1]       2nd Lieutenant Edwin Thomas WILSON, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, TNA file ref: WO 339/45499.

[2]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5th-sep-1914-rugbys-magnificent-response/.

[3]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/26th-sep-1914-recruiting-at-rugby-slows/.

[4]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/23rd-oct-1915-local-territorials-do-good-work/.

[5]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/whitbread-basil-died-22nd-jul-1916/.

[6]         http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/royal-warwickshire-regiment/.

[7]       12th May 1917. Rugby Advertiser, 13 May 1917, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/12th-may-1917-food-economy-campaign/.

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

[9]       War Diary, TNA Ref: Piece 2085/3: 10 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1915 Jul – 1919 Mar), pp.506-513 of 517. Also available on Ancestry.co.uk.