Little, Douglas Lavington. Died 21st Jun 1918

Douglas Lavington LITTLE was born on 1 October 1898 in Finchley, Middlesex, and his birth was registered in Q4, 1898 in Barnet, Middlesex.   He was baptised on 25 December 1898 at All Saints, Headley, Surrey.  He was the eldest of two sons of William Gibson Little, who was born in about 1862 [-1931] in Islington, and Laura Lavington, née Oakley, Little, who was born in about 1876 [-1934] in Walthamstow.

They probably moved sometime after Douglas’s birth, as his younger brother was born three years later in Sanderstead, Surrey, where the family had moved before 1901, to live at Surprise View, Glossop Road, Sanderstead.  His father was then enumerated as an ‘Accountant’.

At some later date, probably some time before 1911, the family moved to Rugby – Douglas’s father had moved to take a job in Rugby and it may have been attractive because of the educational opportunities for the two boys.  Douglas attended Lawrence Sheriff School and then Rugby School.[1]

In 1911, Douglas was 12, and was living with his parents at 23 Paradise Street Rugby.  His father, now 49, was an accountant for an ‘electrical manufacturer’.  His parents had now been married for 13 years and had had two children both of whom were still living.

For a time after leaving school and before he was old enough to ‘join up’, Douglas worked in the BTH Electrical Laboratory.

There is a file for Douglas L Little at The National Archives.[2]  It has not been consulted at this time, so may include dates when he joined up and whether he had to serve – however briefly – in the army, before joining the Royal Flying Corps (RFC).  It does record that he was in the RFC before it became the RAF on 1 April 1918.  A later inquest report (see below) stated that ‘… he entered the R.A.F. as a cadet in September, 1917, and received his commission last February …’.  He would have been about 18 when he joined up.  He had ‘graduated’ – presumably he had gained his ‘flying licence’ – on 14 June 1918 – he died just a week later.

The RAF Museum holds an extensive set of record cards relating to deaths, injuries and illness suffered by Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force personnel.  Douglas’s Record Cards survive among this collection of Casualty Cards,[3] and also provide some details of his brief career.

Douglas ‘Lovington’ Little had attained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force.  He had trained at the No.1 Training Depot Station (RAF) which was based at Wittering (also known as RFC Stamford) after the end July 1917.[4]

Douglas had ‘graduated’ on 14 June 1918 and was being ‘employed’ as a pilot delivering an Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 aircraft,[5] serial no.C8617, with a Beardmore 160 hp aircraft engine, when at 5.30 pm on 21 June 1918, the machine spun into ground from 500 ft, and he was killed.

The Midland Aircraft Recovery Group reported that ‘FK8 C8617, of 1 Training Depot Station spun into the ground near South Kilworth.’[6]

His father was notified at his address at 30 Vicarage Road, Rugby.

An inquest was held and reported upon in several local newspapers.[7]

A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned at an inquest Tuesday on Second-Lieutenant Douglas Lavington Little, R.A.F., son of Mr. and Mrs. W. G. Little, 30, Vicarage Road, Rugby, who was killed in a flying accident near the town during the week-end.  It was stated that Lieut. Little and three other airmen were flying from one aerodrome to another in the Eastern Counties, and when near Rugby they lost their bearings.  Two of the officers came down to ascertain where they were, and Lieut. Little and the other one continued to circle round in the air.  Suddenly, for no accountable reason, Lieut. Little’s machine commenced to spin, and as there was not sufficient depth for the pilot to right it, it crashed to earth.  Lieut. Little was killed instantly.  He was 19 years of age, and was educated at Rugby School, he entered the R.A.F. as a cadet in September, 1917, and received his commission last February.

A notice was posted in the Rugby Advertiser on 29 June 1918.

‘In loving memory of Douglas Lavington Little, Second-Lieut., R.A.F.. killed in a flying accident, on June 21, 1918 : eldest son of William Gibson and Laura Lavington Little : aged 19 years.’[8]

Douglas Lavington Little died aged 19, on 21 June 1918 and his death was registered in Q2, 1918 at Lutterworth, this presumably being the nearest Register Office to South Kilworth, Leicestershire – the crash site was recorded as ‘near Rugby’.  He was buried in the Clifton Road Cemetery in Grave Ref:K472.

Douglas Lavington LITTLE is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; on the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914 – 1918; on the BTH War Memorial;[9] in the Rugby School Memorial Chapel;[10] and no doubt in one of the volumes of the Memorials of Rugbeians who Fell in the Great War; and on the WWI Lawrence Sheriff School Plaque,[11] which reads,
‘In Commemoration of our Brother Laurentians who Fell in The Great War, 1914-1918, Orando Laborando.’   

RAF accounts are less easily interpreted than Army accounts, but it seems that Douglas’s executors received his outstanding pay of £12-8s on 20 November 1919 and then a payment from his Cox & Co officer’s account of 18s in December 1919.

It seems that Douglas’s parents lived in Rugby for the rest of their lives.  His father died in Rugby aged 69, in 1931; his mother’s death was registered in Staines, aged 57, in 1934 – she was recorded as being 58 on her gravestone.  They are both buried with their son in Clifton Road Cemetery.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on Douglas Lavington LITTLE 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, February 2018.

[1]      From a reference in the later inquest report, and listed on Rugby School Memorial.

[2]      2/Lieutenant Douglas Lavington LITTLE, Royal Flying Corps, TNA Reference: WO 339/125676.

[3]      http://www.rafmuseumstoryvault.org.uk/archive/little-d.l.-douglas-lovington.

[4]      ‘john-g’ suggests at http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/171495-rfc-abbreviations/, that ‘No 1 Training Depot Station, which formed nucleus flights on 20 July 1917 …’ – the flights went to Wittering on 30 and 31 July 1917.  See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Wittering, ‘The station’s training role expanded when it became the Royal Flying Corps’s No.1 Training Depot Station in 1917’.

[5]      The Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 was a British two-seat general-purpose biplane built by Armstrong Whitworth.

[6]      http://www.aviationarchaeology.org.uk/marg/crashes1918.htm.

[7]      Coventry Evening Telegraph, Wednesday, 26 June 1918; also Birmingham Daily Post, Wednesday, 26 June 1918; also a slightly shorter version in the Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser, Saturday, 29 June 1918.

[8]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 29 June 1918.

[9]      This is from a list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled.  It is taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921 and given at https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-war-memorial.

[10]     War Memorials on-line: https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/136533, reference WMO136533.

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

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Bland, Reginald George. Died 4th Jun 1918

Reginald George Bland’s birth was registered in Q4, 1899, in Rugby (6d, 592).  He was the son of William Bland, b.1864 in Knighton, and Ellen, née Cross, Bland, b.1871, in Southam, who were married in Stockton on 7 September 1893.

The family lived at 1 Pinders Lane, Rugby, where William senior was a Cab Driver.  For the 1901 census, still at the same address in Pinders Lane, Reginald was the youngest of four children: Rosetta J Bland, 5; William A Bland, 4; Charles H Bland, 2; and Reginald Bland, 1, and his father was a ‘cabman and groom’.  By 1911, with his father still a cab driver, there were now four more children.  Charles was 12 and still at school, and then or later attended the Elborow school,[1] as did his elder brother Charles H Bland.[2]

It seems that Reginald later worked at B.T.H., as he appears on their War Memorial.  At some date, probably in later 1917, Reginald George Bland enlisted in Rugby[3] as Private, No. 62584, and was at least latterly in the 16th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers.

The 16th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers (the 2nd Salford Pals Battalion) was raised on 5 (or 15) November 1914 in Salford, by Mr Montague Barlow MP and the Salford Brigade Committee.  They began training near home and on the 28 December 1914 they moved to Conway for training. They became part of the 96th Brigade, 32nd Division and moved in May 1915 to concentrate in Shropshire at Prees Heath.  The camp was found to be too wet for training and the Division moved on 21 June 1915 to Catterick in North Yorkshire, using the firing ranges at Strenshall.  In August 1915 they moved for final training and firing practice at Codford on Salisbury Plain.  The Battalion went to France, landing at Boulogne on 22 November 1915.  Their first taste of action was at Thiepval Ridge on the Somme on the 1 July 1916, the battle resulted in the Salford Pals being almost wiped out.  The battalion was reinforced and saw action throughout the war.

Reginald’s Medal Card gives no date when he either joined up or when he went to France – it was presumably after training in UK, and when he was 18 years old in later 1917 – unless he had given a false age!  He was probably part of one of the reinforcements and but was probably not involved in 1917 when the Battalion was involved in Operations on the Ancre and later in the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line in early 1917.  In 1918, by which date Reginald may have been in France, the Battalion was in action on the Somme and later in the Battles of the Hindenburg Line and the Final Advance in Picardy

The Battalion War Diary is located within the 96th Infantry Brigade Documents.[4]

In April 1918, the Battalion was located about 5 miles south of Arras.  After training in early May, on 11 May, ‘The Battalion relieved the 17th R.F.s. and proceeded into the line at BOIXLEUX AU MONT, one wounded.’  They were there until 20 May when they were relieved by the 2nd Manchesters and went into reserve at BLAIREVILLE, with one wounded.

Whilst in Reserve they had one killed and 17 wounded and they then went back into the trenches on 25 May, after relieving the 15th Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers, when three more men were killed and 19 wounded.  They were relieved in turn by the 2nd Manchesters on 31 May, by which date, another man had been killed and 11 more wounded.

At the start of June 1918, the Battalion were back at Blaireville in reserve, and suffered no casualties for three days.  However, on 4 June 1918, ‘The Battalion relieves the 15th LANS. FUS. ‘C’ & ‘D’ Coys. in Line.’.  Whilst taking over in the trenches that day they suffered ‘4 killed and 7 wounded’.

Reginald was one of those who were ‘Killed in Action’ on 4 June 1918, presumably when in, or taking over, the front line trenches at BOIXLEUX AU MONT.  He was only 19 years old.

He was originally buried in a small cemetery, the Blairville Orchard Cemetery [Map Ref: 51c.X.4.d.2.9.] in Plot 2, Row B, Grave 9., presumably just behind the lines and indeed where they had been when in reserve.

In 1923, this small cemetery was ‘cleared’ and the bodies were ‘concentrated’, i.e. exhumed and moved to a larger cemetery where the graves could be properly tended.  He was recovered and  reburied by ‘Local Labour under the supervision of Mr. R. Stiles, ARO’.  His identification was confirmed by the original Cross at the smaller cemetery and by his clothing.  He was reburied in Plot: VIII. M. 22., in the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez.  His family did not request any personal inscription on his gravestone.

The Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery is situated between two war cemeteries, one French and the other German, south of the town of Souchez in France.  Cabaret Rouge was a small café, its brick building with red tiles was distinctive in the village where most of the houses were thatched.  It stood less than a mile south of Souchez and was destroyed by heavy shelling in May 1915.

Commonwealth soldiers began burying their fallen comrades there in March 1916.  The cemetery was used mostly by the 47th (London) Division and the Canadian Corps until August 1917 and by different fighting units until September 1918.  It was greatly enlarged in the years after the war when as many as 7,000 graves were concentrated here [including as noted above, that of Reginald George Bland in 1923] from more than 100 other cemeteries in the area.  For much of the twentieth century, Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery served as one of a small number of ‘open cemeteries’ at which the remains of fallen servicemen newly discovered in the region were buried.  The Canadian ‘unknown soldier’ was selected from those in this cemetery, and many Canadians from the Battles at Vimy Ridge were buried here.

Later in June, the Rugby Advertiser recorded,
‘Mr and Mrs Bland have received news from the War Office that their son private R G Bland of the Lancashire Fusiliers was killed in action on June 4th.  Also a letter from the Chaplain to say he had buried him in one of the Military cemeteries and the Battalion had erected a cross to his memory.  He was 18 years of age and an Elborow old boy.’[5]

Rugby Directories for 1919 list William Bland a labourer of 1 Pinders Lane.  In the 1922 directory Mrs Bland is listed at the same address, William having died about March 1920 aged 56.

Reginald George Bland was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and on the BTH War Memorial.[6]

Two of Reginald’s brothers also served

His eldest brother, William Arthur Bland was recorded as working at BTH, and then serving.  He enlisted under Lord Derby’s scheme, ‘Enlistments at Rugby under Lord Derby’s Scheme in December 1915.  ‘The following additional men have enlisted at Rugby under the Group System in connection with Lord Derby’s Recruiting Scheme.  Single Men.  Bland, Wm Arthur, 1 Pinders Lane, Rugby.’[7]  He survived the War and later married and was working as a Crane Driver in 1939.

His elder brother Charles H Bland served and was ‘Killed in Action’ on 1 July 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme,[8] – see here.  His death was later recorded in the Rugby Advertiser in September.[9]

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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Some information for this article on Reginald George Bland was initially provided for this Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by Peter Davies, and further details were added as they became ‘findable’ by searching on-line by John P H Frearson.  The article is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, May 2018.

[1]      Rugby Advertiser, 22 June 1918.

[2]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 23 September 1916, and see also .

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

[4]      The National Archives, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Various Infantry Brigades, 32nd Division, Piece 2397: 96 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919) – also available on www.Ancestry.co.uk.

[5]      Rugby Advertiser, 22 June 1918.

[6]      The list of names on the BTH War Memorial is taken from the list in the Rugby Advertiser dated 4 November 1921.

[7]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/4th-dec1915-lord-derbys-scheme-part-2/.; also in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 December 1915.

[8]      Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/bland-charles-henry-died-1st-jul-1916/ .

[9]      Rugby Advertiser, 23 September 1916.

Blundy, Albert Neate. Died 28th Apr 1918

Albert Neate BLUNDY was born on 29 June 1893 in Burbage, Wiltshire. He was baptised on 6 August 1893 at Burbage, Wiltshire. He was the son of William Blundy (1856-1936) and Martha née Neate, Blundy (1858-1913) who married in Marlborough in 1882.

In 1891, Albert’s father, Edward, was a ‘general haulier’ and the family were living at 23 Stables, Burbage. They then had four children. By 1901, when Albert was eight, the family had moved to live at the White Hart Inn, Stoke at St Mary Bourne, Hampshire, where Albert’s father was the publican.

Before 1911, the family moved to Rugby. In 1911, Albert’s parents had been married 28 years, and had had eight children, of whom seven were still living. Albert was 17 and a ‘machinist’ at BTH; his eldest brother was a ‘fitter’ there, and a younger brother of 14, was already working there as a ‘clerk’. They were living in a six room house at 172 Oxford Street, Rugby.

Just before the war Albert was working in the BTH Generator Department, and in an item ‘Rugby’s Magnificent Response’, in the Rugby Advertiser on 5 September 1914,[1] ‘Blundy’ is listed as joining ‘From the Works’ at BTH.

Albert joined up as No. 10852 in the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Ox. & Bucks.). His record in the ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ states that he enlisted at Rugby, and his ‘Medal Roll’ indicates that he was initially in the 5th Battalion, and that he was later in the 2nd Battalion.

He went to France on 20 May 1915, and so became eligible for the 1914-1915 Star. This was the date that the 5th Battalion went to France, so Albert would have gone to France with his Battalion. In the absence of any Service Record for Albert, the date that he transferred to the 2nd Battalion is unknown, so the actions in which he was involved must be assumed. However, like all infantry soldiers, Albert would have experienced alternate service in and out of the front line, and occasions of desperate fighting.

5th (Service) Battalion, Oxford & Bucks. Light Infantry was formed at Oxford in August 1914 as part of the First New Army (K1) and then moved to Aldershot to join the 42nd Brigade of the 14th Division and then moved to Cranleigh, Guildford. In February 1915, it moved to Salamanca Barracks, Aldershot.   On 21 May 1915 it mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne and engaged in various actions on the Western Front.   In 1915 it fought in the Action at Hooge, and experienced the first flamethrower attack by the Germans, and then the Second Attack on Bellewaarde.

In August 1915 the Rugby Advertiser advised that Albert had been wounded.
The old scholars of St Matthew’s, Boys’ School have suffered badly in recent engagements. Corporal G S Rowbottom, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, who, as recorded on page 2 of this issue, succumbed to wounds last week, making the sixth old St Matthew’s boy to give his life in his country’s service. Lce-Corpl A Ashworth, Pte A Blundy, and Pte R J Skinner, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, and Sapper E R Ladbrooke, of the Royal Engineers, have been wounded.[2]

In 1916, the 5th Battalion – and indeed also the 2nd Battalion – fought in the Battle of Delville Wood, and the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. At some date Albert was transferred to the 2nd Battalion and possibly this was when he was promoted to Lance Corporal.  However both the 5th and the 2nd Battalions were involved in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, and the Battles of the Scarpe in 1917.

The 2nd Oxford & Bucks L.I. had returned home from India in 1903. When World War I started the Battalion was stationed at Albuhera barracks, Aldershot, and was part of the 5th Brigade of the 2nd Division. As a regular Battalion it mobilised for war early, on 14 August 1914, and landed at Boulogne and was engaged in many actions on the Western Front.

If Albert had been transferred to the 2nd Bn. in say 1917, a summary of the campaigns in which he may have been involved is described below.

‘The New Year of 1917 brought with it a period of severe weather conditions on the Somme plain which led to an unofficial truce between the two sides. In March 1917, the Germans began the withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line (14 March – 5 April) and at the end of March the 2nd Ox and Bucks moved from the Somme to the back areas of Arras. The 2nd Ox and Bucks and other battalions of the regiment saw much involvement in the Arras Offensive … The 2nd Ox and Bucks took part in the battle of Arras from 11 April and had a leading role in the battle of Arleux on 28-29 April: during the battle the battalion protected the right flank of the Canadian 1st Division which was critical to the capture of the village of Arleux and sustained more than 200 casualties.’[3]

1918 started fairly quietly.

In January 1918, the 2nd Ox and Bucks marched to Beaulencourt, later that month they moved to Havrincourt Wood and then on 9 February to Metz-en-Couture. The 2nd Ox and Bucks were at Vallulart Camp, Ytres, when on 21 March 1918 the Germans launched the last-gasp Spring Offensive (Operation Michael).[4]

This 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.

The 2nd Ox and Bucks were due to go into the corps reserve when the enemy began the Spring offensive with a colossal bombardment of Allied positions. The Spring offensive led to the furthest advance by either side since 1914. On 22 March 1918 the 2nd Ox and Bucks were in position around the village of Bertincourt. The 2nd Ox and Bucks and other battalions of the regiment sustained heavy casualties as part of the defence of the Somme during the Battle of St. Quentin (21–23 March), the First Battle of Bapaume (24–25 March) and in subsequent battles that saw the Germans achieve significant gains. The 2nd Ox and Bucks were forced back across the old Somme battlefield to the 1916 line on the Ancre. The battalion remained in the Ancre area from 29 March 1918 to 3 April 1918. After the enemy Spring offensive … lost its momentum, the Germans launched Operation Georgette in April which the Ox and Bucks defended against in the Battle of the Lys and subsequent actions.[5]

There was a general fighting withdrawal following the German attacks. The Diary of the 5th Brigade ‘… is necessarily incomplete owing to the documents required for it being lost or destroyed during the retirement between 21st and 28th.’[6]

The Chronicles of the 2nd Ox & Bucks noted some of the events in the following period.[7]

16 April – the Regiment relieved the 2nd H.L.I, in the right sub-section of the Brigade front; H.Q. at Boiry St. Martin.   Two men wounded.

17 April – A Company was on the right front; D on the left front (railway inclusive); C in support; B in reserve. Casualties :- 1 man killed, 1 died of wounds, 2 men wounded, and 2 missing.

19 April – Inter-company reliefs carried out.

20 April – 1 man wounded.

22 April – After a quiet 6 days’ tour the Regiment was relieved …

25 April – the Regiment relieved the 2nd H.L.I. in the left sub-section of the Brigade front, without incident; H.Q. at Boisleux-au-Mont; … A continuous front line, and fairly good trenches.

28 April – Inter-company reliefs carried out.

As can be seen, in the period prior to 28 April, the Battalion section was relatively quiet, and there are no more obvious actions when Albert may have been wounded. It is not entirely clear whether Albert was killed or wounded. His Medal Card notes that he ‘Died’ rather than ‘KinA’ or ‘DofW’. This implies that

‘… some time had passed between … being wounded and dying – the next-of-kin were informed that he had ‘died’, rather than ‘died of wounds’.   Exactly how much time had to pass before this distinction was made is not clear.’[8]

It is thus possible that Albert was wounded at an earlier date, and had reached a medical aid post before he died on 28 April 1918. The battalion was in action near Boisleux-au-Mont which is some eight kilometres south of Arras. It seems likely that he was wounded and that he was evacuated to an Advanced Dressing Station, possibly the one at Blairville.

On the 27th March a corps main dressing station was formed at Bac du Sud on the site of No. 43 C.C.S., with advanced dressing stations at Wailly, Blairville, and Monchy-au-Bois.[9]

Blairville is some six kilometres to the west, and this is probably where Albert died and was first buried, in Plot 1, Row B, in the nearby Blairville Orchard British Cemetery.

This small cemetery was not preserved and in 1923, the soldiers buried there were ‘concentrated’ [exhumed, identified, moved and reburied] some 25 km north at the Cabaret-Rouge Cemetery. His body was identified by a ‘cross, numerals, Lance Corporal’s stripes’. Effects, forwarded to base were ‘9 coins and Disc’. The ‘removals were undertaken by local labour …’.

He is now buried in Plot: VIII. R. 38. in the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, which is just south of the town of Souchez, some four kilometres south west of Lens.

‘Caberet Rouge’ was a small, red-bricked, red-tiled café that stood close to this site in the early days of the First World War. The café was destroyed by shellfire in March 1915, but it gave its unusual name to this sector and to a communication trench that led troops up the front-line. Commonwealth soldiers began burying their fallen comrades here in March 1916. The cemetery was used mostly by the 47th (London) Division and the Canadian Corps until August 1917 and by different fighting units until September 1918. It was greatly enlarged in the years after the war when as many as 7,000 graves were concentrated here from more than 100 other cemeteries in the area.

Albert was awarded the Victory and British medals, and also the 1914-1915 Star. It seems that nobody had applied for his medals as the ‘O i/c records, Warwick, requests auth. re disposal of medals of dec’d men of Ox & B L I – 13.9.20.’.

Ernest is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and also on the list of BTH Employees Who Served in the War 1914 – 1918,[10] and on the BTH War Memorial.[11]

Albert died one year to the day, after a fellow Rugby member of his Battalion died – Ernest Edward Welch is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate.[12]

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Albert Blundy 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, February 2017.

[1]       Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5th-sep-1914-rugbys-magnificent-response/, and Rugby Advertiser, 5 September 1914

[2]       Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/21st-aug-1915-gas-boiling-oil-tar/, and Rugby Advertiser, 21 August 1915.

[3]       https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfordshire_and_Buckinghamshire_Light_Infantry

[4]         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfordshire_and_Buckinghamshire_Light_Infantry.

[5]         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfordshire_and_Buckinghamshire_Light_Infantry.

[6]   WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920,Various Infantry Brigades, 2nd Division.

[7]     Based on Extracts from the Regimental Chronicles of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, see: http://www.lightbobs.com/1918-april—august.html.

[8]         http://www.epitaphsofthegreatwar.com/killed-in-action/.

[9]         https://archive.org/stream/medicalservicesg03macp/medicalservicesg03macp_djvu.txt.

[10]         https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-employees-who-served-war-1914-1918-d.

[11]     This is a list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled. It is taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921. See: https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-war-memorial.

[12]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/welch-ernest-edward-died-28th-apr-1917/.

Donnovan, Joseph. Died 26th Apr 1918

Joseph Donnovan was born in 1887 at Hillmorton. He was one of 8 children of Thomas (a Bricklayer Labourer) and Hariet Donnovan who lived in Lower Street Hillmorton.

At age 13 he was a Yardman on a Farm in Hillmorton.

He then worked in the Carpenter’s Shop at the BTH Rugby. He married Nellie Bignell in Rugby in 1913 and their daughter Eva M Donnovan was born at the end of the year and they lived at 19 Bath Street, Rugby.

He was a Private – number 204087 in the Gloucester Regiment and served in France and Flanders 12th (Service) (Bristol) Battalion.

He was killed on 26 April 1918. His grave is at Comines-Waneton, Hainaut, Belgium.

In the 1921 Rugby Advertiser:
In Loving Memory of Pte J Donovan who was killed in France on 26 April 1918. Gone but not forgotten From his loving wife and daughter.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Elson, Alfred William. Died 6th Apr 1918

Alfred William ELSON was born on 23 February 1890 in Rugby, and baptised on 13 April 1890, at St. Andrew’s church, Rugby. He was the son of John Elson and Elizabeth née Clarke Elson whose births were both registered in early 1859 in Rugby. The couple had married at St. Andrew’s church, Rugby, on 22 May 1879 when John was 19 and a labourer living at 34 Queen Street, Rugby, his father a bricklayer; and Elizabeth was 17, living at 19 Gas Street, Rugby; her father a labourer.

At the date of Alfred’s baptism the family were living at 56 Cambridge Street, Rugby and Alfred’s father was still a labourer but by 1891 with the family still living at the same address, John Elson was now a ‘coal carter’. In 1891, Alfred had three elder siblings.

By 1901 the family had moved to 184 Lawford Road, Bilton, and Alfred now had an additional three younger siblings. John Elson was now a ‘plasterer’s labourer’ and his two eldest sons were hairdressers. Alfred was eleven and presumably still at school. John Elson died aged only 42 later in 1901.

By 1911, Alfred’s widowed mother was living at 39 Pinfold Street, Rugby. At this date six of her seven children were still alive, but she was living with two of her younger sons, one of whom, Ernest Thomas Elson, also served in WWI and it was possibly him who was listed, and if him, in error, as E. Elson, on the Rugby Memorial Gate – the story of the various E. Elsons was told in Rugby Remembers on 9 April 2017.[1]

In 1911 Alfred was working in London as a ‘Plasterer Builders’ and lodging – although enumerated as ‘Head’ – at 12 College Street, York Road, Lambeth S E. He was still ‘Single’. It may be that he had been following his father’s later trade of plastering.   However, he was to return to Rugby to work with BTH in their Winding Department.

Alfred married with Gertrude Ethel née Davies in 1914 and the marriage was registered in Q3 1914 in Rugby. Gertrude’s family lived in Coventry.

Alfred W Elson enlisted in Rugby. He may be the ‘Elson’ from the BTH works who was listed in the Rugby Advertiser’s article ‘Rugby’s Magnificent Response’ in September 1914.[2]

He was recruited initially as Private No: 11877 in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He went to France on 2 June 1915. He was later transferred and became Private No: 16413 in the 1st Battalion, the Hampshire Regiment. It is uncertain whether this occurred before or after he went to France. Certainly he was in action later with the 1st Hampshires and the Battalion War Diary can provide some information on the actions immediately prior to his death and suggest when he may have been wounded.

After June 1915, the 1st Battalion, the Hampshire Regiment were still in the 11th Brigade of the 4th Division. It cannot be known in how many of their actions Alfred was involved, he would though have been in similar action if he was still in the ‘Ox and Bucks’. In 1916, he could have fought in the Battle of Albert, and the Battle of Le Transloy, and then during 1917, the First and Third Battles of the Scarpe, the Battle of Polygon Wood, the Battle of Broodseinde, the Battle of Poelcapelle, and the First Battle of Passchendaele.

The front was quieter in early 1918 and for the first three weeks of March 1918, the War Diary of the 1st Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment notes that the Battalion was out of the line and involved in training and similar activities at Fosseux and then Warlus, moving to Arras on 19 March. It relieved the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards north of the Arras-Fampoux Road, on 20 March 1918.

Whilst the front had been comparatively quiet, an attack was anticipated and 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. However, the focus of the first attacks, the Battle of St. Quentin, from 21 to 23 March, was some 40 miles south of Arras and the 1st Hampshires, and the attacks were directed from St. Quentin towards Amiens.

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.

The 1st Hampshires although nearer to Arras, also experienced shelling on 21 March from 5am to 8am which was supporting the attacks to the south.   At 11pm the Battalion moved troops forward with only one man wounded. This section remained fairly quiet over the next two or so days, but enemy movements were seen. On 25 March the area was shelled and an attack was expected. In the event the 26 March was fairly quiet, but on 27 March there was further shelling and a raid on the trenches which was repulsed.

On 28 March – ‘The enemy attacked our position…’. Two officers and 33 Other Ranks were killed; one officer and 74 other ranks were wounded; three officers and seven other ranks were wounded and missing; 76 other ranks were missing; two officers and two other ranks were missing, believed killed; and one man died of wounds. This action would be known as the Battle of Arras 1918. On 29 and 30 March the Battalion went out of the front line into the Brigade reserve, and on 31 March had a ‘quiet day’.

The first few days in April were again fairly quiet for the Battalion and although there was some shelling on 5 April, no casualties were mentioned in the Diary

Alfred was wounded, although it is not possible to know exactly when or where. However, he would have been passed down an extended chain of evacuation over a distance of some 60 miles, from the Arras area to Etaples. This would typically have included various treatment as he was carried in turn to the Regimental Aid Post; an Advanced Dressing Station; the Field Ambulance; a Casualty Clearing Station; and then finally to a Stationary or General Hospital in the Base Area, in Alfred’s case around Etaples, before he died of his wounds on the 6 April 1918.

It seems most likely that he had been wounded in the extensive shelling during the Battle of Arras on 28 March 1918, when some 74 other ranks were wounded.

Alfred was buried in the nearby Etaples Military Cemetery which was used by the hospitals in the area. His body was buried in grave ref: XXXII, B, 10. Later, when a permanent gravestone replaced the temporary cross, his family’s message, ‘Gone from our Home but not from our Heart One of God’s Best,’ would be carved upon it.

The Etaples Military Cemetery is the largest CWGC cemetery in France, located on the former site of a large military hospital complex at Etaples, a town about 27 kilometres south of Boulogne. The Military Cemetery is to the north of the town. The nearby hospitals, which included eleven general, one stationary, four Red Cross hospitals and a convalescent depot, could deal with 22,000 wounded or sick.

Alfred’s death, aged 28, was announced in the Coventry Herald,[3] together with a very poor quality photograph which shows him earlier in the war wearing the cap badge of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

PRIVATE A. W. ELSON has been killed in action. He married the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. Davies, of 14, Stoney Stanton Road, Coventry.

Alfred William ELSON is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; on the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914 – 1918; on the BTH War Memorial;[4] and on the New Bilton War Memorial, by the chapel in Croop Hill Cemetery, Addison Road.

His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, and also the 1915 Star.

Alfred’s widow Gertrude received his back pay of £16-16-2d on 15 July 1918 and his Gratuity of £17 on 2 January 1920. Her address latterly was 14 Stoney Stanton Road, Coventry, she had returned to live with her parents.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Alfred William ELSON 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/2017/04/09/elson-ernest-thomas-died-9th-apr-1917/.

[2]       See: https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5th-sep-1914-rugbys-magnificent-response/ and Rugby Advertiser, 5 September 1914.

[3]       Coventry Herald, Saturday, 27 April 1918.

[4]       This is from a list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled.   It is taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921 and given at https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-war-memorial.

Burton, Alfred Joseph. Died 5th Apr 1918

Alfred Joseph BURTON was born in about 1887 in Bilton, Rugby. He was the son of Charles Burton, born in about 1849 in Bilton, and Elizabeth, née Samuels, Burton, who was born in about 1850 in Church Lawford.

For the 1891 census, the family were living in a cottage in Bilton and there were seven children in the house: Alfred was three, the second youngest child and the youngest son. Father, Charles Burton was a tailor. In 1901 the family was still living in Old Bilton in South View Cottage. At some later date Alfred had attended Lawrence Sheriff School.

In 1911, Alfred was a ‘visitor’ at 30 Lombard Street, West Bromwich. He was possibly visiting a friend, Charles Askew, who was a ‘stationer’s assistant’ of the same age and also from Bilton, and who was a ‘boarder’ in the house. Alfred was then 23 and working as an ‘Engineer’s Clerk … Electrical Engineers’, presumably he was working at BTH as he appeared on their War Memorial.

Although a Service Record exists for Alfred, it was probably among the ‘burnt records’ and the pages are somewhat damaged and not easily interpreted.   They also provide some contradictions!

The attestation papers suggest that Alfred might have joined up initially as No: 7414, R.A.M.C., but it may well be that an earlier document was reused!

He was attested at Rugby on 19 November 1915, when he was working as an ‘Order Clerk’, and was aged 28 years and 5 months. He was 5 foot 4 inches tall, a Wesleyan, and his father was given as his next of kin.

When he was attested it was initially into a ‘home’ [i.e. UK based] posting on 19 November 1915 for one day and from 20 November 1915 to 20 September 1916, he was in the ‘Army Reserve’, apparently as Private, No: 534011 in the 15th Battalion, the London Regiment. This continued as a ‘home’ posting. The 3rd/15th Battalion was formed in early 1915 and moved to Richmond Park. Then in January 1916 the Battalion went to Winchester and on 8 April 1916 it was renamed the 15th Reserve Battalion and moved to Wimbledon in December 1917.

Men from the 15th would later be used to reinforce the Regiment’s other Battalions. On 21 September 1916 he was ‘mobilised’, and examined at Warwick, and posted the following day and then he spent a 178 further days at ‘home’ in UK until 17 March 1917.

Alfred was posted to France with the British Expeditionary Force from 18 March 1917 when he embarked at Southampton and arrived in Havre the next day.   Then on 11 April 1917 he seems to have been posted to the 1st/12th London Regiment which at that date was part of the 168th Brigade in the 56th (London) Division. Then on 31 January 1918 the 1st/12th Battalion transferred to the 175th Brigade in 58th (2/1st London) Division, absorbed the disbanded 2nd/12th Battalion of the London Regiment and was renamed the 12th Battalion.

As part of this on-going reorganisation, Alfred’s record suggests that at about this date, on 29 or 30 January 1918, he was transferred as Private, No: 718039, into the 1st/23rd Battalion of the London Regiment.

The 1st/23rd had become part of 6th London Brigade, 2nd London Division. On 16 March 1915 the Battalion had landed at Le Havre, and on 11 May 1915, it became part of the 142nd Brigade in 47th (2nd London) Division. In the reorganisation, on 1 February 1918, the 1st/23rd transferred to the 140th Brigade, although they were still in the 47th Division.

Now in the 1st/23rd Battalion, Alfred would have continued to be involved in the routine of trench warfare, and for a while the front continued comparatively quiet. 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.

The 1st/23rd Battalion had been out of the front line as Operation Michael started, however, they would soon become involved and in early April 1918 the were ‘in trenches’ and on 5 April 1918, they were shelled and soon under fierce attack as the Battalion War Diary noted:

1 APRIL – Battn. in trenches.

4 APRIL – pm – Battn. relieved 22nd Battn. C & D front line, A & B support.

5 APRIL – 5 a.m – Enemy started to shell our front line until 8.30 a.m. when he advanced in small groups against C Coy. (2/Lt W. G. Irwin) but were repulsed by L.G. fire. At 9.20 a.m. A Coy. went forward to reinforce C Coy. At 9.25 a.m. S.O.S. went up along entire Battn. front. At 10.30 a.m. C Coy’s right flank was forced back – left flank was in the WOOD. D Coy, on left of front line attacked by overwhelming numbers and surrounded. Survivors state that the Coy. met the enemy with rifles and Lewis guns but were unable to prevent him getting in their rear. Lieut. H.S. EWEN, M.C., 2/Lt G.H. GRISP and 2/Lt W.J. KEMP Missing; 2/Lt C.J. STRICKLAND killed in action.
At 11.30 a.m. enemy had penetrated between our front Companies. Owing to heavy M.G. fire from left rear, A & C Coys. were forced back to communication trench running from WOOD to Battn. H.Q. and established communication with 24th Bn. London Regt. on left along the edge of the WOOD. (11.40 a.m.)

12.30 p.m. – Major R.H.TOLERTON, M.C. (temporarily commanding Battn.) went to MARTINSART to arrange counter-attack with 22nd Bn. About 12.40 p.m. A & C Coys, suffered heavy casualties from enfilade M.G. fire from direction of W.10. central.

4.15 p.m. – Two Coys. 22nd Battn. attacked AVELUY WOOD to re-establish original line. The Battn. covered the attack with rifle and L.G. fire. Owing to heavy M.G. fire from edge of WOOD and absence of artillery support, the counter-attack failed. Major TOLERTON wounded in head. Capt. COOK, 22nd Bn., assumed command of troops of 22nd and 23rd Battns., who fell back on line of C.T. and bank,

11 p.m. – Battn. strength – 5 Officers, 160 O.R.

6 APRIL – Battn. heavily shelled all day. About 6.30 p.m. small parties of the enemy left the WOOD opposite our Right Coy. and ran in S. direction. They were caught in our L.G. fire.

7 APRIL – 2.45 a.m. – Relief of Battn. by 17th Royal Scots completed. Battn. returned to billets at WARLOY.

At some stage on 5 April 1918, Alfred Joseph Burton was ‘killed in action’.   He may have been buried in a temporary, but marked grave. It is more likely that he was buried later in a temporary German cemetery, or possibly his body was with others but still out on the battlefield.

The Grave Registration report supports this suggestion as his was one of the bodies subject to ‘exhumation’ although there is no ‘Concentration’ report. Both of his regimental numbers and his two battalions are noted in the Burial Report. He was reburied in the Martinsart British Cemetery, Somme, France, in grave reference: I. D. 42.

Although Martinsart British Cemetery was begun at the end of June 1916, it was not used again as a front-line cemetery until September 1918, well after Alfred’s death, when bodies were brought in from the battlefields for burial. After the Armistice, the cemetery was enlarged when more graves were brought in from the area north, east and south of the village.   This would tend to confirm the note about ‘exhumation’. So Alfred was probably buried originally near to where he was killed.

Martinsart is a small village 4 kilometres north of Albert, which was close to the Allied front line … from March to August 1918. The cemetery is unusual in that the graves are marked by stones made from red Corsehill or Locharbriggs sandstone, rather than the more usual Portland stone.

Later, when the permanent gravestone replaced the temporary cross, it included his family’s message, ‘He Gave His All For Us’.

His mother was sent his effects – ‘letters, photos, wallet, YMCA card & certificate, and 2 badges’ – on 24 September 1918. An identity disc was also returned to her later on 23 June 1919.

Alfred Joseph BURTON is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; the Memorial in the churchyard of St Marks Church, Bilton, ‘In The Great War these died for England 1914-1919’; on the list of BTH Employees who Served in the War 1914 – 1918; on the BTH War Memorial;[1] and on the WWI Lawrence Sheriff School Plaque,[2] 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.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Alfred Joseph BURTON 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]       This is from a list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled.   It is taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921 and given at https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-war-memorial.

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

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.