Webster, Arthur James. Died 29th Sep 1918

Arthur James WEBSTER’s birth was registered in the first quarter of 1899 in Rugby.  His mother was Amy Webster, who was born in Grandborough in about 1874.

In 1901, Arthur, aged two, was living at 67 Abbey Street, Rugby, with his mother, Amy Jane Webster, and his grandparents – Thomas Webster who was a ‘general labourer’ and born in Drayton, Northamptonshire in about 1840, and his wife Eliza, née Woodward, who was born in Flecknoe in about 1839.

In 1911, Arthur was 12, and he was still living with his grandparents in their six room house at 67 Abbey Street, Rugby.  His grandfather, now 71, was a ‘grave digger cemetery’.  His grandparents had been married for 41 years and had had three children, all still living.

Arthur’s mother, Amy had married in Rugby in later 1906 with William John Wilcox, who was born in Sambrook, Shropshire in 1876, and who had been a lodger in the Webster house in 1901 when working as an ‘Engine Cleaner’.  In 1911, they were living almost next door to her parents at 71 Abbey Street and her husband had been promoted to be a ‘Railway Engine Stoker’.  There was now also a young half-sister for Arthur, Eveline Mary Wilcox, aged one year.

Unfortunately no Service Record has survived for Arthur, and unless he joined up ‘under age’, he would not have been old enough to go overseas until some time in 1917, although he could have been under training in UK before then.  He joined up, and served, at least latterly, as a Rifleman, No: 47534 in the Rifle Brigade, although the CWGC notes that before he died, he had been posted to the 2nd/17th Battalion, the London Regiment.

The 2nd/17th (County of London) Battalion (Poplar and Stepney Rifles) was formed in London in August 1914.  By January 1915, it was in the 2nd/5th London Brigade in the 2nd/2nd London Division at Reigate.  This formation was later re-titled as the 180th Brigade in the 60th (2nd/2nd London) Division.  They moved to St Albans in March 1915, and then went on to Bishops Stortford in May 1915 and to Sutton Verny in January 1916.

On 23 June 1916 they landed at Le Havre, and in November 1916 they moved to Salonika.  On 2 July 1917 they withdrew to Egypt, arriving Alexandria on 5 July 1917.  On 27 May 1918 they left the Division and moved to France, arriving at Audruicq by 30 June 1918, and transferred to the 89th Brigade in the 30th Division.

The War Diary for the 2nd/ 17th London Regiment is included in the 89th Brigade papers in the 30th Division.[1]  A summary of their movements from July to September shows that … Having arrived at OUEST MONT, the Battalion was involved in training in July, but in the later part of the month occasional casualties were suffered when working within range of shellfire.  In August they moved to LE CARREAUX, and by the middle of the month were at BOESCHERE, and then at LOCRE at the end of the month.  At the start of September, the Battalion was in support, then in reserve at WORMLOW CAMPS, and then again in support.

3/9/18 –   ‘… took up a defensive line from DONEGAL FARM … Bivouac area shelled with H.E. & Gas during night.  Casualties 10 O.R. killed 1 O.R. wounded. …’

4/9/18  – ‘Battn engaged on salvage work & interior economy.’

5/9/18 –   ‘As for 4/9/18.  Further reinforcements sent to line in front of WULVERGHEM.  Preparations for attack on MESSINES RIDGE at dawn.’

It seems these were preparations for others as their Battalion withdrew to a bivouac area and were training and undertaking salvage work until …

8/9/18  – ‘… moved forward to take over line …’

9/9/18  – ‘3am – relief complete … fighting patrols out on each Coy front …’

There was continuing patrol activity until they were relieved …

14/9/18  –    ‘… Support position at LOCRE CHATEAU, … [and then] into Divisional Reserve at BOEDSCHEPE.’

From 16 to 24 September they were involved mainly in ‘Reorganisation and interior economy’ and ‘training & salvage work’.

25/9/18 – ‘Battn moved up to relief 2nd Sth Lancs,…’

26/9/18 – ‘Patrol activity during night.  Bn H.Q. shelled during evening.  Casualties NIL.’

27/9/18 – ‘Preparations for advance to be carried out on 28th inst.’

28/9/18   – 5.30am – ‘… Coys advanced under cover of artillery, T.M. & M.G. barrage against enemy strongpoints … inflicting severe losses upon the enemy capturing 13 Germans, 2 M.G. & much materal.’

– 6.30pm – ‘Under cover of further bombardment advance was continued towards MESSINES WYTSCHAETE RIDGE … Despite strong resistance … & the difficulties of the country … & the darkness of the night, the attackers advanced steadily finally gaining their objective … taking 1 prisoner & capturing 1 field gun, 2 M.G’s, 4 T.M. & great quantities of war material, before dawn.  Casualties: 7 O.R. killed, 2 Offs 41 O.R. wounded.’

29/9/18   – 8.30am – ‘Consolidation of objective.  2nd S Lancs passed through & advanced on YARES COMMINES CANAL.’

                  – 7.00pm – ‘Concentration of Battn about O27.  Casualties 6 OR killed, 5OR Wounded.’

In this advance against the Messines Ridge, over the two days 28 and 29 September, 13 ‘Other Ranks’ were killed.  Arthur’s death was recorded by the CWGC on 29 September 1918, during the ‘Consolidation of objective’.  He was 19 years old.  He was buried in the Dranoutre Military Cemetery in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, in grave reference: III. A. 2.  There was no family message added to the gravestone.

Eight other men from the 2nd/17th (County of London) Battalion, or who had been transferred to the Battalion from the Rifle Brigade, were amongst those killed in the advance and were buried alongside Arthur.  They are buried in graves III. A. 3 to 9 and 15.

Dranoutre Military Cemetery is located 11.5 kilometres south of Ieper [Ypres] town centre, on a road leading from the Dikkebusseweg.  Dranoutre (now Dranouter) was occupied by the 1st Cavalry Division on 14 October 1914.  It was captured by the Germans on 25 April 1918, in spite of the stubborn resistance of the 154th French Division, and it was recaptured by the 30th Division on 30 August 1918.  Dranoutre Churchyard was used for Commonwealth burials from October 1914 to July 1915 when the military cemetery was begun.  It was used by fighting units and field ambulances until March 1918 (Plots I and II), many of the burials being carried out by the 72nd Brigade (24th Division) in April-June 1916.  Plot III [with Arthur and his colleagues] was added in September and October 1918.[2]

In November 1918, the Rugby Advertiser reported, ‘The following Rugby men have been posted as missing:- … A. J. Webster, London Regiment, …’.[3]

Arthur is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates.  His medal card shows that he was awarded the Victory and British medals.



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This article on Arthur James WEBSTER was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, June 2018.

[1]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Various Infantry Brigades, 30th Division, Piece 2336: 89 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919). [p.142-166 in Ancestry.co.uk].

[2]      From: https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/52300/dranoutre-military-cemetery/.

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 9 November 1918.

Mann, Lander George. Died 19th Sep 1918

Lander George Mann was the 2nd of eight children born to George Mann, a blacksmith, and Elizabeth Ann (nee Raven) who married in 1897, in Southam. He was born in 1899 in Long Itchington, Warwickshire and was baptised at the local church on 10th Sep 1899.  In the 1911 census the Mann family lived in Elm Row, Stockton, Warwickshire.

Lander enlisted at Rugby into the 3rd Royal Warwick Regiment as a private, no: 41717. It is not known when he joined up but according to the Medal Rolls he served abroad with the Royal Warwicks from 4th to 18th August 1918, then the 2/4th London Regiment, Royal Fusiliers, service number 85158 until 11th September, before moving to the 2/2nd battalion.

By early September 1918 the British advance had reached The Hindenburg Line. After the losses of the previous few months, 180,000 in the last six weeks, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig was reluctant to order any offensives, but allow the men to rest. When he received news of the British Third Army’s success at the Battle of Havrincourt on 12th Sept, he changed his mind and approved the plan to clear German outpost positions on the high ground before the Hindenburg Line.

In order not to give warning of the attack, there was no preliminary bombardment and the guns would fire concentration shots at zero hour and then provide a creeping barrage to support the infantry. The attack started at 5.20 am on 18th September and comprised all three corps of the fourth army, with V Corps of the Third flank and the French First Army on the right.

The promised French assistance did not arrive, resulting in limited success for IX Corps on that flank. On the left flank, III Corps also found difficulty when attacking the fortifications erected at “the Knoll”, Quennemont and Guillemont farms, which were held determinedly by German troops, the village was however captured by the British 12th Eastern Division [7th Norfolk, 9th Essex and 1st Cambridge]. In the centre, General John Monash’s two Australian divisions achieved complete and dramatic success. The 1st Australian Division and the 4th Australian Division, had a strength of some 6,800 men and in the course of the day captured 4,243 prisoners, 76 guns, 300 machine-guns and thirty trench mortars. They took all their objectives and advanced to a distance of about 3 miles (4.8 km) on a 4 mile (6.4 km) front. The Australian casualties were 1,260 officers and men (265 killed, 1,057 wounded, 2 captured.)

The Battle of Epehy closed as an Allied victory, with 11,750 prisoners and 100 guns captured. Although not a total success, it signalled an unmistakable message that the Germans were weakening and it encouraged the Allies to take further action with haste (with the offensive continuing in the Battle of St. Quentin Canal), before the Germans could consolidate their positions.

It is not clear what part the 2nd battalion of the Royal Fusiliers took in the Battle of Epehy, but Lander George Mann died of wounds the following day, the 19th September and was buried in Epehy Wood Farm Cemetery, in plot number 1.G.19 a row away from Harold John Russell at 1.F.17 who had probably enrolled in Rugby on the same day

It was reported in an October 1918 edition of the Rugby Advertiser:
Stockton: Our Men – The sad news has reached the village that Lander Mann, formerly a choir boy in Stockton Church, has made the great sacrifice on the Western Front.  The family, who now live at Rugby, have many friends in the parish, the great sympathy is felt for Mr & Mrs Mann in their sorrow.  The lad was 19 years old.

Lander was awarded The Victory and British War Medals (ref: T P/104 B34 Page 4162)

The family were living at 22 Rowland Street, Rugby when the following words were engraved on his gravestone:
In the Midst of Life,
We are in Death



Lewis, Lewis. Died 8th Aug 1918

Lewis Lewis was born in Rugby in 1899, and his birth was registered in Q3 1899.  He was the third son and fourth child of Frederick Lewis, who was born in about 1868 in Leamington, Warwickshire, and his wife Maggie, née Clarke, Lewis, who was born in about 1870, in Walsall, Staffordshire.    

Lewis Lewis was baptised on 26 November 1899 at St. Matthew’s Church, Rugby.  His father was a Police Constable and the family were then living at 14 Plowman Street, Rugby.

In both 1901 and 1911, the family were still living at 14 Plowman Street, and Lewis’s father, Frederick, was still a Police Constable.  By 1911, Lewis was eleven years old, and there were now seven children in the family.  Lewis attended St. Matthew’s School, Rugby, and later worked at Rugby Post Office.

Unfortunately no Service Record has survived for Lewis, but he joined up in Rugby[1] in October 1917.[2]  His Medal Card shows that he served initially as a Private, No:376041, in the 8th Battalion of the London Regiment, and then as a Private, No:368091, in the 7th (City of London) Battalion of the London Regiment.

His transfer to the 7th Battalion would have occurred when there was a ‘conjunction’ in early 1918 of the 1st/7th and 2nd/7th Battalions of the London Regiment.  After early training the 1/7th had joined the 4th London Brigade in the 2nd London Division.  After the 2nd London Division was brought up to strength, it entrained for Southampton, disembarking at Le Havre on 18 March 1915.  The Battalion fought in many of the major actions of WWI, well before Lewis would have been involved.

There is no date on his Medal Card for when Lewis went to France, indicating that this was after the end of 1915, but it would probably have been well after this date and some time after he joined up.  He was unlikely to have been sufficiently trained – or indeed old enough assuming he had declared his correct age – to serve overseas until at least mid 1917.  Indeed the note of his death stated that he was drafted to France in April 1918.[3]

During 1918, by which date Lewis was probably with the Battalion in France, they fought at Villers Bretonneux (24 to 25 April 1918).  This was during the period of consolidation after the turning point of the German advance of ‘Operation Michael’.  August saw the start of what developed into an Allied offensive and advance, which became known as the ‘Hundred Days Offensive’,[4] and pushed back the German Armies along an extended front until the Armistice was declared.

The combined 7th Battalion seems to have moved from the 2nd Division and its War Diary is within the records of the 174th Brigade in the 58th Division at The National Archives[5] – and on-line.  The events recorded in the Diary for August and for the last few days before Lewis was killed are summarised below.

1 August – ROUND WOOD – Kit & clothing inspection.

2 August – Move by bus to HALLOY-LES-PERNOIS.  Battn. in billets 2.30pm.

3 August – HALLOY – Squad and Company drill, Lewis gun, signalling and stretcher team class.

4 August – Battn. standing by, 1½ hours notice to move – moved by bus and march route to BONNAY – in position 4.30am, 5-8-18.

5 August – BONNAY – Proceeded to relieve the 11th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, 18th Division in reserve.

6 August – In Line – In reserve.

7 – 10 August – see Narrative attached.

11 August – BRAY-CORBIE ROAD – Battalion in reserve near CEMETERY COPSE.

12 August – Battalion moved back to ROUND WOOD.

The ‘Narrative’ for the period 7-10 August comprised four typed pages detailing the action and the advance of nearly two miles in two days.  Extracts (below) provide details of the action on 8 August when Lewis was killed, and some of the locations given are shown on the map[6] below.

‘At 10.20 p.m. on the 7th. The Bn. moved forward from Valley in J.22.c. … along COOTAMUNDRA street and CRUMP lane to their assembly position in K.25.a. … Bn. H.Q. was at LONE TREE CEMETERY J.24.6.2. … There was little counter preparation by the enemy … Shortly before 4 a.m. on the 8th. A heavy mist fell and by zero hour (4.20 a.m.) it was impossible to see more than 20 to 25 yards.

The ultimate objective of the Bn, was the line K.27.d.9.4. – K27.b.9.7.  ‘A’ and ‘B’ Coys, passing round to the N side of MALARD Wood supported by ‘C’ Coy, and ‘D’ Coy, containing the N.W. side of the Wood … 173rd Inf. Bde. were to pass through one hour later and take a further line beyond of the SOMME RIVER. …

The barrage opened punctually at 4.20 a.m. and was very good, … owing to the mist it was impossible to observe the progress of the operation but batches of wounded and prisoners soon began to arrive and … progress was satisfactory, at any rate as far as MALARD Wood.

I found two Coy. of the 2/2nd London Regt … arranged … to … advance through MALARD Wood.  I got them the assistance of a Tank … and they advanced to the East side of the wood.’

It was at some time during this advance that Lewis Lewis was ‘Killed in Action’.

‘On the afternoon of the 9th. the troops of the 8th London Regt. with me were withdrawn as further operations were contemplated. … I had no precise instructions as to the operation but I understood the American Troops were to attack GRESSAIRE WOOD from my left flank at 5.30 p.m. … At 6.30 p.m., I and my Adjt. with H.Q. Lewis Guns moved forward and from K.27.b.9.6. I was able to observe British and American troops establishing posts on the ridge S.E. but fighting still appeared to be going on to my right in the lower ground and also in GRESSAIRE Wood.

On the night of the 10th … the Bn. Was relieved by American Troops and moved back to MALARD WOOD.’

Various general points and recommendations were made in the report, which are of interest.

‘(a) In both assaults numerous T.M.s, Heavy and light machine guns were captured and many prisoners.  In each case the severest fighting and the most prisoners were in the enemy’s front line. In the second assault 4 field guns and 3 5.9 howitzers were captured the latter in GRESSAIRE WOOD, … A wagon of signaling stores was also captured … The heavy mist undoubtedly helped in assaulting the enemy forward defense on the 8th. inst, that was largely responsible for the failure of the second phase.

(b) Communication was lacking to start with … By 4 p.m. the line was run out … and was maintained throughout.  Two lines were laid into the ravine …  but it was found impossible to maintain them owing to shell fire.  The wire for these lines was collected by my signalers on the ground as their own supply was inadequate.

(c) Medical Arrangements.  On the 9th. inst. the supply of stretchers was wholly inadequate and supplies demanded were very slow in arriving.  Many wounded lying out in front at no great distance from the R.A.P. [Regimental Aid Post] could have been collected much earlier, were it possible to supply R.A.M.C. Bearers on this work.  At present M.O.s are forbidden to use them forward of the R.A.P, even when things are quiet.

(d) H.Q. Lewis Guns proved extremely useful in furnishing an intact and fresh reserve to be brought forward after the objective had been taken.  I recommend that each Bn. be supplied with a light German machine gun for instructional purposes as a knowledge of their use would be very useful to assaulting troops.

(e) Supply Tanks fulfilled their role well.  I recommend that a Q.M.Sgt. travel with them to remain in charge of the dump when formed, and to ensure the supplies reaching the troops for whom they are intended.  The Bn. received some S.A.A. [Small Arms Ammunition] from ‘plane.

(f) Casualties were unfortunately heavy on both days amounting to 12 officers and about 300 other Ranks.’

Lewis Lewis was only one of that great number (300 ‘O.R.s’) killed or injured during the two days of this advance.  He was among those ‘Killed in Action’ on 8 August 1918 and was 18 years old.

Lewis Lewis was originally buried, together with another soldier, W.C. Newton, also from the London Regiment, in a single grave, with their two names on the cross, in a small cemetery nearer to where they fell.  The ‘Concentration Record’[7] showed that they were both named on a single cross on a joint grave located at map reference: ‘62d.NE.K.25.b.1.4.’  This is just south of the trench, which was the route to the concentration point for the attack by the 7th Bn. London Regiment on 8 August 1918.  It is about a mile north of the village of Sailly-Laurette – in Map Square 25 and is shown on the map above.

The list of smaller cemeteries and burial grounds that were concentrated to Heath Cemetery, Harbonniers after the war, included the …
‘… Sailly-Laurette Military Cemetery, 800 metres due North of Sailly-Laurette village – in Map Square 31.  Here were buried 38 soldiers from the United Kingdom mainly of the 58th (London) Division and two from Australia, who fell in August 1918’. 

However, the map reference given in the ‘Concentration Report’ would seem to refer to a location another 1000 yards or so north of this cemetery location, so it seems that it was a smaller cemetery which is not listed in the CWGC list.

When smaller burial grounds and battlefield graves were later ‘concentrated’ – bodies were exhumed, moved and reburied in larger cemeteries, which could be better maintained.  The two soldiers from the London Regiment were both reburied in separate graves – Lewis Lewis was reburied in grave reference: VIII. G. 17.,[8] – and W. C. Newton in grave ref: 8. J. 11., at the Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, Somme [Map ref: ‘62d.SE.Q.29.d.5.4.’], some 5 miles south-east of  Sailly-Laurette.

Heath Cemetery is situated on the south side of road from Amiens to St Quentin.  Harbonnieres was … regained by the Australian Corps on 8 August 1918.  Heath Cemetery, so called from the wide expanse of open country on which it stands, was made after the Armistice.  Graves were brought into it from the battlefields between Bray and Harbonnieres and from many other burial grounds in the area.[9] … the list includes: ‘… Sailly-Laurette Military Cemetery, 800 metres due north of Sailly-Laurette village.  Here were buried 38 soldiers from the United Kingdom mainly of the 58th (London) Division and two from Australia, who fell in August 1918, …’.

His family had the inscription ‘All that he Hoped for, All he had he Gave’, added to his gravestone.

The Rugby Advertiser reported his death in September.
Pte Lewis Lewis, City of London Regiment, son of ex-P.C Lewis, 35 King Edward Road, was killed in France on August 8th.  He was nearly 19 years of age, an old St Matthew’s boy, and an employee at Rugby Post Office.  He joined the Army in October, 1917, and was drafted to France in April.[10]

The Coventry Evening Telegraph published a note on 9 October 1918,
THE ROLL OF HONOUR. Coventry and District Casualties. To-day’s list of casualties includes the following : Killed.  London Regiment. – Lewis, 368091, L., Rugby; .[11]

His Medal Card and the Medal Roll showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate.

The Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects shows that Lewis’s outstanding pay of £6-16-11d, was paid to his father on 20 November 1918, and his War Gratuity of £3 on 28 November 1919.

The address for his parents given on the CWGC site suggests that by the early 1920s, Frederick and Maggie Lewis had moved to 35, King Edward Road, Rugby.




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This article on Lewis Lewis 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, May 2018.

[1]      Info from: UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919

[2]      Rugby Advertiser, 21 September 1918, and also, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/09/21/21st-sep-1918-suggested-memorial-to-rugby-men/.

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, 21 September 1918, and also, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/09/21/21st-sep-1918-suggested-memorial-to-rugby-men/.

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

[5]      The National Archives, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, London Regiment, 58th Division, Piece 3005/6, 1/7 Battalion London Regiment (1918 Feb – Nov).  See also on www.Ancestry.co.uk.

[6]      Adapted from https://maps.nls.uk/view/101465314.

[7]      Smaller burial grounds and battlefield graves were later ‘concentrated’ – the bodies were  exhumed, moved and reburied in larger cemeteries, which could be better maintained.

[8]      One of the Concentration Record Sheets states grave 18 not 17.

[9]      See list at https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/62000/heath-cemetery,-harbonnieres/.

[10]     Rugby Advertiser, 21 September 1918, and also, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/09/21/21st-sep-1918-suggested-memorial-to-rugby-men/.

[11]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Wednesday, 9 October 1918.

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.



– – – – – –


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.

4th Nov 1916. St Matthews Old Boy’s Story of High Wood


Rifleman R Coles, of the London Regiment (Post Office Rifles), in a letter to Mr R H Myers, headmaster of his old school, writes of his personal experiences of the fighting at High Wood :—

“ It was the first time the ‘ Tanks ‘ were used. I was never more surprised in my life than when I saw them coming down shell holes and over trenches, and rattling out their rations for the Huns. It was great and made one feel proud of England to think we had got something which the enemy had not. On this eventful morning we were all ‘ standing to,’ waiting for 6.00[?] to come, and on the minute the order was given, ‘0ver you go, lads,’ and we were soon over. We got through the wood all right, but at the edge the enemy gave up a very heavy curtain fire. It was awful, but we lost comparatively few, and on we went into the open. It was a grand sight to see all our boys advancing, just like one straight line, as far as you could see. Unfortunately, about 150 yards from the wood, I was shot right through the right foot and right wrist. For a few minutes I lay down, and then I got up to get my rifle and in doing so received another wound in my right thigh, so I had to get to a shell hole. After about four hours some of the boys carried me to one of the German trenches we had taken. I was all right there for a time till we had heavy shelling, and I got buried up to the ears—a sensation I never want again. When they dug me out I was a wreck, but some of my companions were dead when they got them out. It seemed impossible to get stretcher bearers, so I decided to try and crawl back, succeeded after over seven hours crawling. When I got to the dressing station it was 25 hours after being wounded ; but what a relief it was to get there and have my wounds attended to ! Then followed a weary journey on stretchers and motors and jolting on French hospital trains. I was glad to find myself at last at Bristol, and it does seem a treat to be back in dear Old England. Everyone in this hospital is so kind that it is just like being at home.”


Lieut O H Buckingham, of the Leicestershire Regt. who was, before the war, on the staff of the B T.H. has been mentioned in despatches by Sir Percy Lake. Lieut Buckingham served in France before leaving for Egypt and the Persian Gulf, and he served under Gen. Sir Percy Lake’s Tigris Force in the Kut Relief Expedition. On January 7th at the battle of Sheikh Sa’ad he was severely wounded and sent to India, whence he was invalided home in September.


P.C Victor Rollason, who at the outbreak of the war was a member of the local force, and was called up as belonging to the reserve of the East Lancashire Regt. has just been granted a commission in the 17th Manchester Regt.


The names of fourteen men of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment who, after being notified as missing, are now reported as being prisoners of war, are included in the latest casualty lists. The following Rugby men are included : W F College, H McDonald, A Walker, F Nicholls (King’s Own Lancs) ; previously reported killed.



News has been received at the B.T.H Works that Sergt M O’Brien, of the Oxford and Bucks L.I, was killed in action about the 15th October, Sergt M O’Brien, who enlisted at the commencement of the war, was formerly employed in the Foundry Department.



SERGT C DASHWOOD.—The friends of Charlie Dashwood will be pleased to hear that he has now been promoted to Sergeant. He enlisted in the R.F.A at the outbreak of war, but has since volunteered for one of the Trench Mortar Batteries, in which he has obtained rapid promotion. His father volunteered when the South African War was on, and lost his life there.


Field-Marshal Lord French is inspecting the five Warwickshire Battalions of Volunteers in Calthorp Park, Birmingham, on Sunday next. This is undoubtedly a historic event in the present Volunteer movement, and is in continuation of the numerous inspections which Lord French has been making for several weeks past. We understand the Rugby Corps, which forms the larger part of B Company of the 2nd Battalion is turning out in strength.


Military appeals chiefly occupied the attention of this Tribunal at the sitting at St Mary’s Hall, Coventry, on Wednesday evening, when there were present : Messrs M K Pridmore (chairman), W Johnson, jun, P G Loveitt, and K Rotherham ; Military representative, Mr M E T Wratislaw.

The Coventry Military representative mentioned the case of a farm servant named Buckingham, of Combe Fields, it having been suggested that he should be used as a substitute.—Mr Wratislaw thought the man might go into the employ of Mr Corbishly, of Brandon, and an order was made that the man might be so used, it being left with the Military to decide whether the place was suitable or not.

On behalf of Thos Arthur Stephenson, woollen and cotton rag merchant, Newbold Road, Rugby, whose case had been postponed for him to find work of national importance, Mr Harold Baden said the man was to present himself on the following day at the Daimler Works, Coventry—Adjourned for 14 days.

An appeal was made on behalf of Alfred William Elsley (35, married), 70 King Edward Road, Rugby, a manager of grocery stores in Sheep Street.—Mr Wratislaw said the man was in charge of a branch shop, and simply ordered his goods through the head office.—Given to December 31st, to carry him over Christmas time, with the intimation that he would have to be ready then.

Percy John Allen (30, married), boot maker, 131 Cambridge Street, who had been given to October 31, again appealed, mainly on the grounds of domestic hardship.—Mr Wratislaw did not think there was any hardship worse than in many other cases.—Appeal dismissed, the Military to allow 28 days.

Pleading that the man would be responsible to the landlord for the rent of the farm next March, and had a large amount of capital invested in stock, Mr Harold Eaden asked for conditional exemption for Fred Green (26, married), Castle Farm, Woolscott.—As he would not be called up till January 1st, the Tribunal unanimously agreed to dismiss the appeal.

Temporary exemptions granted to two members of Messrs Foster & Dicksee’s staff were appealed against by the Military. They concerned Herbert Watson, 20 Arnold Street, and James Henry Pennington, 54 Lawford Road, both of whom were married men and had been passed for service abroad. Mr Watson, who is acting secretary to the Company, put in a written appeal from the firm, stating that the business would be greatly dislocated by his loss as a cost clerk.—Mr Harold Baden represented Mr Pennington, who, he said had been with the firm 22 years, had two children, and heavy financial liabilities. He had also an appointment to present himself this week at H.M Factory at Queen’s Ferry, with respect to taking a post there.—The Chairman pointed out that Mr Watson was an attested man, and the Tribunal thought, therefore, that they must leave him. The Military appeal in this case was dismissed.—In the other case it was allowed.

In regard to Fredk Foster (26), coal carter, Barby, in the employ of the Rugby Coal and Coke Co, the amount of wages paid (25s weekly) evidently weighed with the Tribunal in their decision to uphold the Military appeal against a temporary exemption till November 15th.—Mr Wratislaw said another employee had left and gone to the Co-operative Society, where he received 30s weekly, and 2s war bonus.—Mr Brereton, who represented the Company, produced a copy of a futile advertisement for another man.—The Chairman : We are unanimous that a man earning 25s a week cannot be indispensable, and we allow the appeal. We give you 28 days.

Exception was also taken by the Military to the temporary exemption granted to Percy Leeson (25, single), 48 Chapel Street, Rugby, engaged chiefly in the delivery of parcels for Messrs Sutton & Co.—Mr Wratislaw said they sent as a substitute a reliable man on October 6th, and he was told they did not require him.—Mrs Lesson, mother of appellant, said she fully explained to the man who came the nature of the business, and he said he would not think of taking such a responsible post.—Mr Wratislaw : He came back to the recruiting officer and said you told him you didn’t require anyone.—The Military appeal was allowed, but 28 days was given, and Mr Wratislaw promised that the same substitute should be sent again, or they would try and find another.

Exemption to January 1st had been granted to Thos Wm Durham, carter and horsekeeper (30, married), 13 Campbell Street, New Bilton, on the ground that his occupation was principally that of carting flour from Rugby Station to bakers, and also the carting of hay, oats, etc, to the remount departments.-The Military had appealed, and Mr Wratislaw said almost next door was a carter named Lowe who had been sent into the army, and it was not fair that one should be taken and anotherbleft.—Mr Worthington said lest month Mr Durham carted 293 tons of flour, and the carting for the remounts was 24 tons a month.—On Mr Wratislaw offering to find a substitute, the case was adjourned for 14 days.

Thos Mm Alfred Arnold, firewood and hardware dealer, 54 Avenue Road, New Bilton, appealed, through Mr Harold Eaden, for the temporary exemption granted by the Local Tribunal to be confirmed, but that it might be varied so as not to be made final.—In this case a munition order, subject to the approval of the substitution officer at Rugby, was granted.

S Mackaness, Cestersover, appealed on behalf of his son, Chas Henry Mackaness (19, single), described as a shepherd, on a farm of 940 acres, of which 130 were arable. In reply to Mr Wratislaw, appellant said he had four sons, neither of whom was in the army.—The Chairman : You will get to the 1st of January. We shall dismiss the appeal.

ABSENTEE.—At the Rugby Police Court on Monday, before J. E. Cox, Esq, Ellis John Hewitt, of Dunchurch Road, Rugby, pleaded guilty to being an absentee from the R.W.R, and was remanded to await an escort.


DEAR SIR,-This Society is a company of ladies who make wind-proof waistcoat linings for our soldiers and sailors out of old gloves. Some friends in it have asked me to find out if Rugby will help them with old gloves of any kind of skin or fur ; woollen gloves are not used. Any such gloves, so long as there is a square inch of sound skin in them, will be gratefully received at 10 Moultrie Rood, or at Mr S Overs, 19 High Street, and will be sent to the Society and promptly used.—Yours faithfully, W H PAYNE-SMITH.


DYKE.—Killed in action in France, on October 12th, 1916, CORPL. OTHELLO DYKE, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the dearly beloved brother of Mona Barrett, of Bilton Grange, aged 34.

HOWES.—The beloved wife of Pte. J. C. Howes, died suddenly, October 20th, 1916, aged 26 years.


PARKER.—In loving memory of EDWARD JOSEPH, the beloved son of Mr. and Mrs. T. Parker, of Dunchurch, died of wounds received in action on November 3rd, 1914.
— Not forgotten by Father, Mother, Brothers, and Sisters.-“ At Rest.”

Brooke, William Alfred Cotterill. Died 14th June 1915

Brooke, W A C (1890 – 1915),

William Alfred Cotterill Brooke was born on 19th October 1890 at Hillmorton Road, Rugby, the third and youngest son of William Parker Brooke (1850-1910), a master at Rugby School, and his wife, Mary Ruth Brooke (1848–1930), daughter of the Reverend Charles Cotterill of Stoke-on-Trent.

William was educated at Rugby School, where his father had become housemaster of School Field in Barby Road, and at Kings College, Cambridge where he took his degree in 1912. He appeared to have a promising career before him in politics as he was a singularly forceful and brilliant speaker and prior to the war had already made his mark while speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party. On leaving the University he took up a business appointment in London.

At the outbreak of WW1, William Brooke obtained a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the 8th (City of London) Battalion (“Post Office Rifles”) of the London Regiment.In March 1915 he went to France where he died on 14th June. He was buried in the Fosse 7 Military Cemetery (Quality Street), Mazingarbe a village in the Department of the Pas-de-Calais, 10 kilometres south-east of Bethune. His grave is maintained by the Commonwealth War Grave Commission. In addition to being named on the Memorial Gates at Whitehall Road, he is also remembered by an inscription on his parents’ grave in Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.

Memorial to Alfred Brooke in Clifton Road Cemetery

Memorial to Alfred Brooke in Clifton Road Cemetery *

He was the only surviving son of Mrs Brooke, his brother Rupert having died a few weeks earlier.

*It has been noticed that the memorial in Clifton Road Cemetery is incorrect. It should read P O Rifles not Artists Rifles. The original memorial beneath is correct.