Wright, Frederick. Died 25th Dec 1918

Frederick ‘Fred’ Wright was born on 17 April 1998 in Rugby[1] and his birth was registered in Q2, 1898.  He was the son of John William Wright (b.c.1861, in Ossett, Yorkshire) and Harriett, née Smith, Wright, (b.c.1859 in Northampton). 

In 1901, Fred’s father, John William Wright, was 40 and a ‘steam engine maker’, his wife Harriett was 42, and the family were living at 42 Worcester Street, Rugby.  There were four children at home – Fannie Wright, 17; Sidney Wright, 11; Ethel Wright, 8; and the youngest boy, Frederick Wright, who was two years old.

Before 1911, the family moved to a nine room house at 32 Lawford Road, New Bilton, Rugby.  John William Wright was now an ‘electrical engineer’.  In 1911, Fred’s parents had been married for 28 years, and had had five children of whom four were still living.

For some reason, perhaps because he was a ‘stenographer’ in the BTH Contracts Department, their 21 year old lodger, Arol Deakin, filled in and signed their 1911 census return.  Later that year he married Fred’s sister, Dinah Ethel Wright [Rugby, Q3, 1911, 6d, 1078].  They had a daughter, Eileen in 1913, and a son, John Arol in about early 1916.  Arol Deakin joined up in the Royal Field Artillery and became a Sergeant but died of wounds on 16 August 1917.  He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate -.[2]

According to a later report in the Rugby Advertiser, Fred Wright …
… was formerly a sailor, and visited the Dardanelles a number of times.  He was afterwards employed at the B.T.H., subsequently joining the army.’[3] 

His service with BTH is confirmed in their memorial publications and also, assuming this is the correct Wright, in a list published in September 1914 in the Rugby Advertiser,
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: – … Wright, …’.[4]

This suggests that he must have gone to sea in the period between early 1911 and later 1914, when he was between 13 and 16 years old, which would be very young even for a boy sailor, although ‘one in three Royal Navy heroes of World War One were underage, …’.  He still had some time working at BTH, before joining up, and it may be that confusion with another older Fred Wright who was in the Navy on HMS Fox in 1911 may have occurred.

Albert joined up as a Private No.115498 in the Machine Gun Corps (MGC).  As the MGC was not formed until October 1915, and in the absence of any Service Record, it is not known if he joined an Infantry Regiment earlier for his initial training.  His Medal Card has no mention of an earlier unit and it is quite possible that he did not join up and did not go to France until at least the end of 1915 or during 1916, as he was not eligible for the 1914-1915 Star – and indeed he had not reached the necessary age of 18 years until April 1916.

The CWGC record suggests that he was a member of 50th Bn. Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), however, when he was taken prisoner, his PoW record stated he was in the 206th Bn. Machine Gun Corps (Infantry).[5]

In the absence of any Service Record for Fred, the date of any transfer from the 50th to the 206th Bn. of the Machine Gun corps is unknown.  However, the information on these Battalions is as follows:

50th MG Company: Moved to France and joined 17th Division, 17 February 1916 at Reninghelst. Moved into No 17 Bn, MGC, on 24 February 1918.

206th MG Company: Formed at Grantham, 24 October 1916.  Joined 58th Division in France on 24 March 1917.  Moved into No 58 Bn, MGC on 2 March 1918.

The Battalion Diaries are available, and it seems possible that Fred moved during the reorganisation of the MGC in early 1918.  Hence his main records have him still in 50th MG Company, whilst he knew he was in 206th Company – which had become the ‘A’ Company of the 58th Bn. which was in the line at Quessy, some 14 kms south of St. Quentin.

1918 had started fairly quietly, however, the anticipated attack by the Germans, Operation Michael, was launched on 21 March 1918, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army.  The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then the front-line infantry.  The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war.  Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

Prior to March 1918, the history of 206th Co is described in the Summary War Diary.[6]

20/21 March 1918, 58th Divisional Sector astride the River Oise, [adjacent to the French 6th Army to the south].  22 and 23 March – ‘A’ & ‘D’ companies in action with 173rd Infantry Brigade. 

After March 1918, the War Diary, of the 58th Bn.[7] includes some six pages covering the period from 20 – 24 March 1918, from which the activities of ‘A’ Company have been abstracted.

21st – Enemy attacked on a wide front … owing to the existing dispositions … ‘A’ M.G. Coy … became heavily engaged … 10am – O.C. ‘A’ Company sent 3 reserve guns … to a position E of Quessy … with object of preventing the enemy from advancing on to Fargniers. (3000 rounds were fired on this task).  11.0am – O.C. ‘A’ Company received information … that 2nd Lieut T Owen … had been taken prisoner, the enemy enveloping these two guns in the mist – but that one of the guns had been got away … heavy fire was opened which held the enemy off for two hours, inflicting very heavy casualties.  12 noon – two machine guns on the canal bank S.E. of Fargniers and others E. of Fargniers and Quessy were engaging hostile infantry at close range.  1pm – a Corporal in charge of one of the foremost guns arrived at ‘A’ Co H.Q. and reported his gun had held out until 12.15pm, when it was eventually put out of action by hostile M.G. fire.  The enemy are stated to have suffered very heavy casualties from this gun, which was eventually surrounded.  7.30pm – O.C. ‘A’ Company ordered … to withdraw all guns from the battle zone and to hold the W. bank of the Crozart Canal at all costs throughout the night of 21st/22nd

This was done with 8 guns that remained of the 19 guns originally under ‘A’ Coy.  Night 21/22 – ‘A’ Coy with 8 guns holding Canal as above.

The dispositions remained as above through the morning of 22nd inst.  About 2.30 pm the enemy renewed his attack and succeeded in crossing the Crozart Canal. … Here 6 of the 8 guns of ‘A’ Company holding the Canal came into action – the teams firing their guns until the ammunition was exhausted or the guns were put out of action by the hostile shelling – this about 3.30pm  (one of these 6 guns was got away after using all the ammunition).

After all the guns of ‘A’ company … were out of action (3.30pm) … about 30 Machine Gunners held out in Tergnier, preventing the enemy getting into the southern part of the town, until 7.0pm when O.C. ‘A’ Company was ordered to withdraw all remaining guns and men of his Company to the Green Line and finally about 10pm to withdraw to Ognes … three guns of the original 19 still remained.

Meanwhile, four guns of ‘D’ Company were holding out in Viry-Noureuil to the south-west of the ‘A’ Company positions.

The summary of casualties, for the period 21 – 24 March 1918, stated that on 21 March, 26 Other Ranks were missing; on 22 March, 17 Other Ranks were missing; and on 24 March, 44 Other Ranks were missing.

It seems that Fred was one of those 17 ‘missing’ Other Ranks on 22 March, as according to Red Cross Prisoner of War (PoW) records, Fred was taken prisoner at Quessy on 22 March 1918.  This was the second day of Operation Michael, and he was ‘Unverwundat’, that is ‘unwounded’.

Fred was taken to a PoW camp, probably in Germany – and probably had to work and would have received a very poor diet – the blockade on Germany meant even German civilians were on a meagre diet.  Many prisoners died, many later from the Spanish Flu, and Fred was no exception.  He survived the war, but is recorded as dying on Christmas Day 1918.  He is likely to have been buried initially in a camp cemetery adjacent to the German PoW camp where he had been confined, and he had probably remained at the camp being treated after the Armistice.

Later, after the war these many smaller cemeteries in Germany were ‘concentrated’, and Fred’s body was moved to the newly created Berlin South-Western Cemetery, at Stahnsdorf, where he was reburied in grave ref: VII. G. 1.

The village of Stahnsdorf is some 22kms south west of Berlin and about 14kms east of Potsdam.  In 1922-1923 it was decided that the graves of Commonwealth servicemen who had died all over Germany should be brought together into four permanent cemeteries.  Berlin South-Western was one of those chosen and in 1924-1925, graves were brought into the cemetery from 146 burial grounds in eastern Germany.  Many, if not most of these, were from Prisoners of War Cemeteries.

Fred was awarded the Victory and British medals.  Fred is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate; the New Bilton War Memorial by the chapel in Croop Hill Cemetery, Addison Road; on the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914 – 1918;[8] and on the BTH War Memorial.[9]

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Frederick Wright 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]      Information from: International Committee of the Red Cross (CH), https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/.

[2]      Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/deakin-arol-died-16th-aug-1917/.

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 11 May 1918.

[4]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5th-sep-1914-rugbys-magnificent-response/, and also the Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 5 September 1914.  But at least four Wrights from BTH served in WWI.

[5]      Information from: International Committee of the Red Cross (CH), https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/.

[6]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), Machine Gun Corps, 58th Division, Piece 2996/10: 206 Machine Gun Company (1917 Mar – 1918 Feb).

[7]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), Machine Gun Corps, 58th Division Piece 2996/11: 58 Battalion Machine Gun Corps (1918 Mar – 1919 Apr).

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

[9]      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.

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Chater, Arthur Edward Ernest. Died 8th Oct 1918

Arthur was born on October 27th 1898 and baptised at St. Matthews Church Rugby, on November 22nd 1903.

His parents were Charles Chater and Sarah Jane (nee Batchelor) who were married 18th June 1893, at St. Matthews.

By 1901 the family had moved from Victoria Street, Bilton to 45 Pennington Street, Rugby and around 1913 the family moved to 7 Plowman Street Rugby . Charles Chater worked at the Gas Works.

Arthur was the third of six children and in 1911 was at school age 12

Unfortunately, no Service Records have survived for Arthur. He served with the Machine Gun Corps (private no. 160209) His Medal Card shows he was awarded the Victory and British Medals

He was buried at Anneux British Cemetery, Nord , France Memorial reference 111 C31

The words “BELOVED IN LIFE” were added to his gravestone by his family.

Anneux, Havrincourt and Graincourt were captured by the 62nd (West Riding) Division on 20 and 21 November 1917. Anneux remained in Allied hands until the following 6 December. It was recaptured on 27 September 1918, by the 57th (West Lancashire) and 63rd (Royal Naval) Divisions, acting with the 52nd (Lowland) and the 1st and 4th Canadian Divisions. These six divisions, with the New Zealand Division (which carried on the advance in October 1918), are most largely represented in the cemetery. The original cemetery was made by the 57th Division Burial Officer and by various units in October 1918. At the Armistice it contained 131 graves but was then greatly increased when graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields and small cemeteries in the area.

Arthur’s death was 2 weeks before his 20th birthday. He was the second son of Charles and Sarah to be killed after Thomas in Iraq in January 1917.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Sedgley, Frank Wilfred. Died 25th Sep 1918

Frank Wilfred SEDGLEY was initially impossible to find – except in some military records.  However, a mistranscribed, Frank Sidgeley, was found with his grandparents, Charles, a ‘threshing machine proprietor’ and his wife, Harriet, in Shawell in 1891.  A better lead[1] was a family memorial in the Clifton Road Cemetery which allowed him, and his family, to be identified.

Frank Wilfred Sedgley was the eldest son of John Charles Sedgley b.c.1860 in Shawell, and his wife Clara, née Goodwin, Sedgley, b.c.1850 in Deenethorpe, Northamptonshire.  Their marriage in Shawell was registered in Q2 1881 in Lutterworth, and Frank’s birth in Shawell was registered in Q2, 1882, also in Lutterworth.

The family moved from Shawell to Rugby sometime between 1885 and 1887, and by 1891, they were living, at 11 Dale Street, Rugby.  John Charles Sedgley was a carpenter.  There were five other children at home: Maud Sedgley, aged 6, had been born in Shawell.  The younger children, Ada M Sedgley, 4; Annie Sedgley, 3; George Charles Sedgley, 2; and Florence C Sedgley, 1, were all born in Rugby.  As noted above, Frank was with his grandparents in Shawell on that census night.

In 1896, John Charles Sedgley was listed as a Carpenter in the Midland Times & Rugby Gazette.  He was still at 11 Dale Street.

By 1901, the family had moved to 7 Princes Street, Rugby.  Frank was now a ‘Carpenter’s Apprentice’, presumably working with his ‘Carpenter’ father.  All six children were still living at home.  Frank’s eldest sister was working as a ‘Corset Maker’.

John Charles Sedgley, Frank’s father, died aged only 46 years, on 18 September 1905.

Frank married, after banns, some four years later on 12 April 1909, at New Bilton Parish Church, with Ada Elizabeth Stevenson.  He was 27 and a ‘carpenter’; she was 20 and had been born in New Bilton.  Her father was a labourer.  They both gave their address as 200 Lawford Road, New Bilton.

Later that year, they had a son, George, who was born on 2 October 1909, and who was baptised as ‘Cyril Charles George Sedgley’ on 3 November 1909 at St Matthew’s church, Rugby.  They were then living at 44 Pennington Street, Rugby.

In 1911, Clara, Frank’s widowed mother was still living at 7 Princes Street, with her four youngest children, now aged 26 to 21.  Frank and his wife, Ada, had moved to live in New Street, New Bilton.  Frank was now working as a labourer for the council and their son was one year old.  They had a ‘bill poster’ as a border, and it seems they were also sharing their four room house with an ‘Artist’, Timothy Bourne Whitby and his wife.

According to the ‘UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919’, Frank signed up in Coventry and the ‘UK, WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920’ stated that he was initially a Private, No.267927, in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and was later posted as a Private, No.152327, in the Machine Gun Company (M.G.C.), (Infantry).  The CWGC records state that he was in the 25th Battalion of the M.G.C.

The Machine Gun Corps was created so as to form a single specialist Machine Gun Company per infantry brigade, by withdrawing the guns and gun teams from the battalions.  They would be replaced at battalion level by the light Lewis machine guns and thus the firepower of each brigade would be substantially increased.  The Machine Gun Corps was created by Royal Warrant on 14 October 1915 followed by an Army Order on 22 October 1915.  The companies formed in each brigade would transfer to the new Corps. … The pace of reorganisation depended largely on the rate of supply of the Lewis guns but it was completed before the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Machine Gun Battalions – as opposed to Companies – were formed in the Divisions in the early months of 1918, by bringing together the four MGC Companies into a single command structure.  The Battalions took the number of their Division.  In March 1918, the 7th, 74th, 75th, and 195th Machine Gun Companies joined the 25th Division to form the 25th MG Battalion as 25th Divisional troops.  In 1918, they were in action on the Somme; the Battle of the Lys; the Battle of the Aisne, the Battles of the Hindenburg Line and the Final Advance in Picardy.

Although 1918 had started fairly quietly, the anticipated attack by the Germans, Operation Michael, was launched on 21 March 1918, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army.  The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then the front-line infantry.  The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war.  Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

The 25th Division was unlucky during the 1918 German Spring Offensives, being attacked three times.  It was on the northern flank defences during Operation Michael in March 1918 and was moved north to refit.  There it lost more men in the Battle of the Lys attacks in April.  Moved south to another quiet area, it was attacked for a third time in the Third Battle of the Aisne.  After suffering severe casualties in June 1918, it underwent a major refit and reorganisation, with infantry from divisions then serving in Italy.  The reformed division moved back to France in September 1918.

Whilst the 25th Division underwent its refit, after the successive attacks of the ‘Spring Offensive’, from 23 July 1918 the 25th Battalion M.G.C. was transferred from the 25th Division to the 59th Division for three months, until it returned to the 25th Division on 19 October 1918 when the Division returned to France.

There was considerable movement in this period and no doubt casualties would have occurred from enemy shelling in back areas and from sniping as they approached the Front.  The Battalion Diary[2] provides details of locations and operations whilst they were with the 59th Division.  The 25th Battalion M.G.C. were in CREQUY from 1-17 July; they moved to BOIS DES DAMES from 18-23 July and then to MAGNICOURT on the 24 July and successively to SAULTY, and into the line in the BOYELLES-MERCATEL Section.  They remained in MERCATEL from 1-24 August and then via LIETTRES to the LESTREM Sector from 27 August to 6 September, when they moved to the LAVENTIE Sector from 7 September to the end of that month.

Frank Sedgely would thus still have been with the 59th Division when he was wounded,[3] and this would have been at some unknown date before his death on 25 September.

The Battalion Diary[4] also provides details of the daily events immediately prior to Frank’s death, when the Battalion was at LAVANIE.

‘23/9/18 – Intermittent shelling throughout the day.  A few bombs were dropped by enemy aeroplanes during the night on back areas.  ‘B’  Company carried out the usual harassing fire  …

‘24/9/18 – Hostile artillery were rather more active.  Several battery positions & roads were shelled during the day.  Harassing fire was carried out by ‘B’ Company on …. & roads and vicinity. …

‘25/9/18 – throughout the day enemy artillery was active …’

There are no casualty reports in this War Diary, and it seems that Frank was an isolated casualty – or indeed may have been wounded some days before his death – as there seem to be no other 25th Battalion casualties on 24 or 25 September 1918.  He was probably evacuated to a Field Ambulance, which had returned to an earlier location near the Pont-Du-Hem Military Cemetery, after the area was recovered in mid-September during the ‘100 Days Advance’ to Victory.  The CWGC site does not include any Concentration Report, so it is likely that Frank was buried in the cemetery soon after his death.

Frank Wilfred Sedgely was buried some 3km south-east from Lavantie, in grave reference: I. F. 8., in the Pont-Du-Hem Military Cemetery, La Gorgue, Nord, France.  No additional family message was added to his memorial stone.

Pont-du-Hem is a hamlet situated on the main road from La Bassee to Estaires.  It is about 10km north-east of Béthune and the same distance west of Loos.  Pont-du-Hem was in German hands from mid-April to mid-September 1918, during the ‘Operation Michael’ offensive.  The Cemetery was begun, in an apple-orchard, in July 1915, and used until April 1918, by fighting units and Field Ambulances; these original burials are in Plots I, II and III, and Rows A and B of Plot IV.  …  After the Armistice, … British graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields and from many smaller burial grounds, some of which are listed on the CWGC site.[5]

Frank was awarded the Victory and British medals – although it seems that his medals may not have found his family or may have been ‘returned’ as sometimes happened, perhaps his family did not want to be reminded of their loss.

Frank is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate; and on a family grave, No. H233, at the Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.  As noted above, his father, John Charles Sedgley, died young on 18 September 1905, aged only 46 years, and his mother, Clara, outlived her husband by some 34 years, dying on 23 September 1939 aged 89.  Frank’s sister, Annie Sedgley, is also remembered at Clifton Road – she predeceased Frank by some five months and died on 22 May 1918, aged 30 years.

Frank’s younger brother, George Charles Sedgley, also enlisted but survived the war.  His records, although possibly somewhat confused, still exist, but have not been analysed in detail at present.  He was a Private, No:26355 in the Royal Berkshire Regiment and seems later to have been in the Devon Regiment and the Labour Corps.  He joined up on 5 February 1916 and went to France on 14 June 1916.  He was injured on 2 December 1918.  He left France on 13 January 1919, and demobilised in UK on 11 February 1919.

Frank and Ada’s son, George (above), was baptised as Cyril Charles George Sedgley, but was also known as ‘George C C Sedgley’.  He married Violet Neal in 1930 in Rugby and they had a son Roger.  In 1939, George was living in Southam and working as a ‘Skilled Worksman Post Office Engineering Dept, Cable Joiner Electrician’.  From 2003-2005, named as Mr. Cyril C Sedgley, he was living at Flat 2, Dickinson Court, Barby Road, and he died as Cyril Charles G Sedgley, aged 96 in November 2005.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Frank Wilfred SEDGLEY 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, May 2017.

[1]      With many thanks to Christine Hancock who was able to provide the transcription.

[2]      TNA, UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Machine Gun Corps, 59th Division, Piece: 3017/10: 25 Battalion, Machine Gun Corps (1918 Jul – Sep). Also available as 59 Div. Troops, 25 Bn, Machine Gun Corps 1918 July-Sept at http://www.nmarchive.com/search-the-war-diaries/.

[3]      Information that he ‘Died of Wounds’ is given in UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919.

[4]      TNA, UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Machine Gun Corps, 59th Division, Piece: 3017/10: 25 Battalion, Machine Gun Corps (1918 Jul – Sep). Also available as 59 Div. Troops, 25 Bn, Machine Gun Corps 1918 July-Sept at http://www.nmarchive.com/search-the-war-diaries/.

[5]      https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/66000/pont-du-hem-military-cemetery,-la-gorgue/.

Souster, Albert George. Died 29th Aug 1918

Albert George SOUSTER, generally known as Bert Souster, was born on 24 May 1898 in Rugby.   He was the eldest son of George Thomas Souster, b.c.1875, in Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire and Florence Jessie, née Adie, Souster, b.c. 1874, in Tamworth, Staffordshire.  They married in 1898 in Tamworth.

In 1901 the family were living at 71 Cambridge Street, Rugby; Albert’s father was 26 and a Railway Parcel Porter; his mother was 27.  Albert was 2 years old.

By 1911 the family had moved next door to 73 Cambridge Street, Rugby.[1]  George was 12 and now had two brothers: Allan Thomas who was 9 and Stanley who was 6.  Their father was now a Ticket Collector.

Albert attended Murray School and later became a Railway Clerk, latterly L& N.-W Railway Goods office at Coventry Station.  He was also a teacher in the Primitive Methodist Sunday School.[2]

Unfortunately no Service Record has survived for Albert, but it seems that he enlisted in Rugby, in March 1917, initially as a Private, No: 212797, in the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery.  There is no date on Albert’s Medal Card for when he went to France, but as noted in a later obituary, it was at the start of 1918.

At some date he transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, and then, or later, into the ‘Heavy Branch’, the ‘disguised’ name for the new Tank Corps.  His Medal Card has him latterly as a Private, No: 109743 in the 12th Battalion, the Tank Corps.

It appears that men with Tank Corps numbers in the range ‘109000 to 109999’ were mostly transfers in from Royal Field Artillery.[3]  That would have been the case for Albert.

The Tank Corps were at first considered artillery, and crews received artillery pay.  At that time the six tank companies were grouped as the Heavy Section of the Machine Gun Corps (MGC).  In November 1916 the eight companies then in existence were each expanded to form battalions (still identified by the letters A to H) and designated the Heavy Branch MGC; another seven battalions, I to O, were formed by January 1918, when all the battalion were changed to numbered units.  On 28 July 1917, the Heavy Branch was separated from the rest of the Corps by Royal Warrant and given official status as the Tank Corps.  The formation of new battalions continued and, by December 1918, 26 had been created though only 25 battalions were equipped with tanks, as the 17th had converted to armoured cars in April 1918.[4]

There does not appear to be a readily accessible War Diary for the ‘L’ or 12th Battalion of the Tank Corps, but some information on organisation in early 1918 has been found.[5]

‘Early in January 1918 orders were, however, received that in place of remaining assembled at one spot the Tank Corps was to form a defensive cordon stretching from about Roisle to a little south of Bethune – a frontage of some sixty miles.  In February this line was taken up, tank units being distributed as follows: … 1st Tank Brigade, which latterly had its H.Q in Bois d’Olhain.  The Brigade included: 7th Bn. at Boyelles ; 11th Bn. at Bois des Alleux; and 12th Bn. at Bois de Verdrel.

The 1st Brigade were thus in position on a line between Bethune and south of Saint Quentin, some 10 miles to the west of Cambrai, with Albert, assuming that he arrived with the 12th Bn. soon after the date he went to France, near the 1st Brigade H.Q. about five miles south of Bethune.

He may well have been involved in some of the initial holding actions after the German offensive ‘Operation Michael’,[6] in later March 1918; and certainly later, in the actions following the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918, which was the first day of the Allied offensive, which led to the successful ‘100 Days Offensive to Victory’.

Tanks were used to assist many of the offensive actions, and there were daily losses in the various Battalions of the Tank Corps – some no doubt due to the shelling of the rear lines, as well as when tanks were in action.  Indeed on the very day that Albert was killed, one of the Tank Corps’ Victoria Crosses was won, at Fremicourt, about six kms. south, on 29 August 1918, when serving in a ‘Whippet’ light tank, in 3rd (Light) Tank Bn. Tank Corps,

‘ … Lieutenant Cecil Sewell dismounted to save the crew of another tank, was killed in the process and awarded the Victoria Cross.’

Albert George Souster was in the 12th not the 3rd, but was also ‘Killed in Action’ on 29 August, ‘by a shell’.  Another soldier in his 12th Bn. also died that day and can probably help locate the battalion.  Although later re-buried in the Mory Abbey Military Cemetery, Mory, Private William Gordon was originally buried at Map Reference: 57c B 8a 8.5.[7]  This is about 1500yards to the north-east of Ervillers, which is about 25 miles west of Cambrai, and is likely to be where the 15th Bn. was in action or more probably leaguered and waiting to go into action.  Also originally found buried a few hundred yards to the east of William Gordon, at M.Ref: 57c B 8b 5.2., were two members of the Grenadier Guards, a member of the 1st Bn. Kings Royal Rifles and Captain L A Wilkins of the 2nd/4th Yorks and Lancs.  They were also recovered from the battlefield to be buried in the Mory Abbey Military Cemetery, and their Battalions were in action in the few days before Albert’s death during the attacks around Ervillers.

Soon the advance moved forward, the 12th Bn Tank Corps came into action on 2 September 1918 and incurred the loss of 13 men killed near Mory.  Most were recovered to be buried in the nearby Mory Abbey Military Cemetery.  However, three were later recovered from the battlefield, and provide an indication of where the 12th Bn. were then in action – they were recovered at Map References that can also be found a little to the south on the Trench Map:[8] – Knowles at M.Ref: 57c H 3a 4.8; Sliddard at M.Ref: 57c B 28c 2.1.; and Mitchell at M.Ref: 57c B 26 c 1.5.

Albert was ‘killed instantaneously by a shell’ in action on 29 August 1918 – he was only 20.  Until a War Diary can be consulted, it seems likely that his was a random death during counter-shelling.  His body was either not found, or no longer able to be found, or not identified and he is commemorated on Panel 11, of the Vis-en-Artois Memorial, in Pas de Calais, France.

Vis-en-Artois and Haucourt are villages on the road from Arras to Cambrai, about 10 kilometres south-east of Arras.  The Vis-en-Artois Memorial is the back drop to the Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery, which is west of Haucourt.

The Memorial bears the names of over 9,000 men who fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and who have no known grave.  They belonged to the forces of Great Britain and Ireland and South Africa; the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand forces being commemorated on other memorials to the missing.  The Memorial consists of a screen wall in three parts.  The middle part of the screen wall is concave and carries stone panels on which names are carved.  It is 26 feet high flanked by pylons 70 feet high.  The Stone of Remembrance stands exactly between the pylons and behind it, in the middle of the screen, is a group in relief representing St George and the Dragon.  The flanking parts of the screen wall are also curved and carry stone panels carved with names.  Each of them forms the back of a roofed colonnade; and at the far end of each is a small building.  The memorial was designed by J.R. Truelove, with sculpture by Ernest Gillick.  It was unveiled by the Rt. Hon. Thomas Shaw on 4 August 1930.[9]

Albert’s 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 Rugby Advertiser posted a notice of Albert’s death on 7 September 1918
On Tuesday Mr George Souster, ticket collector, 73 Cambridge Street, received the news that his son, Gunner Albert George Souster, of the Tanks Battalion, had been killed by a shell on August 29th. Gunner Souster, who was 20 years of age, enlisted in the R.F.A in March, 1917, and was subsequently transferred to the Tank Battalion and drafted to France in January last.  Before joining up he was a clerk in the L& N.-W Railway Goods office at Coventry.  He was a teacher in the Primitive Methodist Sunday School.[10]

The same edition included a family Death notice – with a slightly earlier date of death.
SOUSTER. – Killed in action on August 28th, Gunner ALBERT GEORGE SPOUSTER, Tank Battalion, son of Mr. George Souster, 73 Cambridge Street, Rugby, aged 20 years.

The Coventry Evening Telegraph also published a brief obituary on 7 September 1918.
Albert George Souster, Tank Corps, who before joining was employed as a clerk at Coventry railway station, has fallen in action, having been killed instantaneously by a shell.  Son of Ticket-examiner George Souster of Rugby, he joined up in March last year in the R.F.A., and proceeded France at the beginning this year.  He was aged 20.[11]

His death was not officially reported in the Weekly Casualty List until early-October,
‘PART VII  – W.O.’s., N.C.O.’s and Men, (Cont.) – Killed (Cont). … Tank Corps … Souster, 109743, A.G. (Rugby).[12]

This was followed by publication in ‘The Roll of Honour’ in the Coventry Evening Telegraph on 7 October 1918,
‘THE ROLL OF HONOUR.  Coventry and District Casualties.  Today’s list of casualties include the following: Killed. … Tank Corps, Souster, 109743, A.G. Rugby.’[13]

Between 21 August 1918 and the Armistice on 11 November 1918, some 2,400 men and officers of the Tank Corps became casualties.

A later family remembrance in the Rugby Advertiser stated,
SOUSTER – In ever loving memory of our dear son, Gunner A G Souster (Bert), killed in France, Aug. 29th. 1918.  “Ever in our thoughts”.  From his sorrowing Mother, Father, and Brothers.’

When the Rugby Memorial Gates were dedicated in 1922, ‘Souster A G’ was among those listed in the Rugby Advertiser as being included on the Memorial Gates.[14]

Soon afterwards, on Empire Day in May 1922, Albert Souster was remembered at Murray School,

‘EMPIRE DAY.  CELEBRATIONS AT RUGBY SCHOOLS. MURRAY SCHOOL
The celebrations were commenced with a service, at which “The Supreme Sacrifice.” “O God, our Help in Ages Past,” and other national songs were sung to the accompaniment of the school orchestra.  After the play interval the hoys formed up in the ground and, headed by the school troop of Boy Scouts under the command of Scoutmaster Rowbottom, marched past the flag at the salute.  Earlier in the morning a beautiful wreath was placed under the Old Boys’ Memorial in memory of A. G. Souster, whose birthday coincided with Empire Day.  A holiday was given in the afternoon.[15]

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Albert George SOUSTER was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by Anne Rogers and John P H Frearson and is © Anne Rogers, John P H Frearson and the RFHG, April and August 2018.

[1]      The street had not been renumbered, as the Bayfords at 69, and the Clarks at 79, were still at the same addresses.

[2]      Rugby Advertiser, 7 September 1918.

[3]      Howard Williamson’s notes, taken from http://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-tank-corps-enlistments-1916-1919.html.

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

[5]      Fuller, J.F.C., Tanks in the Great War, 1920.

[6]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/the-1918-spring-offensive-operation-michael/.

[7]      See trench map at https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=15&lat=50.1725&lon=2.8365&layers=101465149&b=1

[8]      See trench map at https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=15&lat=50.1453&lon=2.8452&layers=101465149&b=1

[9]      https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/79200/vis-en-artois-memorial/.

[10]     Rugby Advertiser, 7 September 1918 also https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/09/07/7th-sep-1918-grand-fete-at-clifton-manor/.

[11]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Saturday, 7 September 1918, and Coventry Herald, Saturday, 14 September 1918.

[12]     Weekly Casualty List (War Office & Air Ministry ), Tuesday, 8 October 1918.

[13]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Monday, 7 October 1918.

[14]     Rugby Advertiser, Friday, 10 March 1922.

[15]     Rugby Advertiser, Friday, 26 May 1922.

George, Hubert Trehearne. Died 19th Jun 1918

Hubert Trehearne GEORGE’s birth was registered in Q2, 1898 in Southwell, Nottinghamshire.  He was the son of Walter George, who was born in about 1853 in Worcester, and Harriett, née Blissett, George, who was also born in Worcester, in about 1855.  Their marriage was registered in Q2, 1876, in Martley, Worcestershire.

In 1881, his father had been a ‘Schoolmaster, Wesleyan’ and the family were living in Moor Lane, Southwell.  In 1891, the family were still living in Moor Lane, and Herbert’s father was an ‘Elementary Schoolmaster’.  There were three children at that date: William B George, 14; Walter H George, 12; and Nellie E George, 6.

By 1901, his father had become the Headmaster of an Elementary School, and the family had moved to live in Park Street, Southwell.  Hubert had now ‘arrived’ and was three years old.  In 1911, Hubert was 13, and his parents were still living in Park Street.  Hubert, being much younger, was the only child still at home and his father, now 58, was still teaching as a ‘Head, Elementary School, County Council’.  His parents had now been married for 34 years and had four children who were all still living.

At some later date between 1911 and the war, it seems that the family moved to Rugby, possibly because of the educational opportunities for their son, and Hubert attended Lawrence Sheriff School.  They lived there for the rest of their lives.  His mother died in Rugby, aged 76, in about early 1930, his father died there aged 88, some ten years later in late 1940.

Unfortunately no Service Records have survived for Hubert, but it seems that he joined up in Rugby, and he served – at least initially – as a Private, No:PS/11642, in the Royal Fusiliers, later he would be posted to become No:104281, in the 1st Section of the 8th Bn. Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) (MGC).  At some date he was promoted Lance Corporal.

There is no date when Hubert went to France, but it would probably be some time after he joined up and he was unlikely to have been sufficiently trained – or indeed old enough to serve overseas – until sometime in 1917.

The 8th Battalion of the MGC was formed on 20 January 1918 from 23rd, 24th, 25th and 218th Machine Gun Companies and was part of the 8th Division.

Whilst it was fairly quiet at the start of 1918, Hubert would have continued to be involved in the routine of trench warfare, and the front was comparatively quiet prior to 21 March.

However, an attack by the Germans had been anticipated and on 21 March 1918, they launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army.  The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then the front-line infantry.  The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war.  Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

This first action on 21 March 1918 was known by the Allies as the Battle of St Quentin, and the 8th Battalion was engaged in the Battle of St Quentin (XIX Corps/5 Army) from 23 March 1918; and then the actions on the Somme Crossings, 24-25 March 1918; the Battle of Rosières, 26-27 March 1918; the actions at Villers Bretonneux (III Corps/4th Army), 24/25 April 1918; and then later in Battle of the Aisne (IX Corps/6 French Army & 5 French Army), 27 May to 6 June 1918.[1]

In the absence of an immediately accessible War Diary, various memoranda have been found on-line relating to members of the 8th Battalion MGC, and these have been collated to establish the locations and activities of the Battalion.  There is some overlap and ‘conflict’, but these give an impression.  It is known that Herbert was captured, but it is not known where or when.

Although not subjected to the initial thrust of the offensive, the 8th Division fought a series of costly actions during the remainder of the month.  Between 24-25 April, the Division was involved in a desperate defence of the Villers-Bretonneux sector to the east of Amiens that would result in catastrophic casualties.  At the end of the month, orders were issued for the 8th Division to proceed to a training area near Abbeville.  This was cancelled, although some movement had already commenced.

30 April – the Transport Section of the 8th Battalion MGC mobilized.  Travelling eastwards, the night was spent at Soues to the west of Amiens.

1 May – the battalion transport set forth once again and proceeded to Pont-de-Metz to the south-west the town.  The Base Depot of the M.G.C. was located at Camiers.  At 9.30 a.m., the 8th Battalion, M.G.C. embussed at a road junction located at Les Croisettes, north of Huppy, and proceeded by lorry to the west of Amiens where they debussed at Ferrieres.  The battalion then proceeded by route march to Pont-de-Metz.

2 May, 8th Battalion, M.G.C. Headquarters with “A” and “B” Companies entrained at Saleux.  After a lengthy journey travelling south for much of the day, they then detrained at Fere (Fere-en-Tardenois) and marched to Mont-St.-Martin located to the south-west of Fismes on the banks of the River Vesle.

3 May – the 8th were located at Saleux to the south-west of Amiens.  The 25th Infantry Brigade were located at Huppy, to the south of Abbeville and further to the south, the 8th Battalion, MGC were in or near the village of Doudelainville.  “C” Company entrained at Saleux arriving in the late evening at Mont-St.-Martin followed by “D” Company who arrived at the latter place early on the morning of 4 May.  The division had by now received orders to move south to positions north of Reims and to occupy the front line near the River Aisne.

The 8th Division were now placed in Corps Reserve with Headquarters located at Chery-Chartreuve to the south of Mont-St.-Martin.  In the days that followed, the battalion spent their time in training and the cleaning of equipment

11 May – the infantry of the 8th Division to move into the line between the River Aisne at Berry-au-Bac and the Bois de la Casemate on relief of a French division.  The 8th Battalion M.G.C. followed suit at 7 a.m. in the morning marching via Fismes to Bourgogne Camp located to the west of Ventelay.

12 May – the front line was reconnoitred by the officers whilst the battalion spent the day preparing for occupation of positions in the front line.

13/14 May – night – the first units of the 8th Battalion M.G.C. began to move into the front line area when “B” Company moved into the right sub-sector of the divisional front with 16 guns, Company Headquarters being located at P.C. Dunkerque.  “C” Company also proceeded to occupy front line positions in the left sub-sector of the divisional front with 10 guns, Company Headquarters being located at Tuilerie on the southern outskirts of la Ville-aux-Bois.

14 May – night – “A” Company moved into the line with 16 guns and took over positions on the entire brigade front with Company Headquarters being located at P.C. Verdun.  The dispositions of the battalion are now described in the War Diary on this date as:  “The whole of “A” & “B” Coys together with 10 guns of “C” Coy are in the line.  “D” Coy together with 6 guns of “C” Coy in Divisnl. Res. at Bourgogne Camp.  The Bn. H.Q. & transport lines are also at Bourgogne Camp.”  It was declared that all three Infantry Brigades and the 8th Battalion M.G.C. of the 8th Division had completed the relief of outgoing French units in that salient, this relief having commenced on 12 May.

27 May 1918 – at the start of the Battle of the Aisne, the 8th Battalion MGC were at a place called Beri-au-Bac  which is right on the river.  Many were killed during the initial barrage.  It is known that some men were taken prisoner, including the CSM of A Company who was taken POW at Berry au Bac on 27 May and held at Langansalza POW camp until January 1919.

It seems quite likely that Herbert was perhaps wounded but also taken prisoner in that action, however, it could have been earlier.  The CWGC advised that he died whilst a Prisoner of War.  He may have been wounded.  The ICRC Historical Archives do not have a record card for him, however, these PoW records do have details of an enquiry from his father ‘Mr Walter George. (fath) 2 High. Str. Rugby.’[2]  The last news from his son had been dated 20 March 1918, and Herbert’s father’s enquiry was dated 24 May 1918.

It is thus possible that he was captured any time after later March 1918.  Prisoner of War camps provided a harsh environment, with fitter men being sent to work in local industry, or digging trenches, burying the dead and moving munitions.  Many of these were worked and starved to death, quite literally, as they received insufficient food – the German troops and civilians by this date were also receiving insufficient food because of the British blockade of German ports.  He may of course have been wounded and died whilst undergoing treatment, or become ill and died.

Herbert George died aged 20, on 19 June 1918.  He was originally buried in the Valenciennes Communal Cemetery German Extension in Grave Ref:1221 – this was some distance north-east of where he had been in action, and it seems likely that he was held in a PoW camp in this area or was being treated there, prior to being moved to Germany.  Valenciennes is some 25km north-east of Cambrai.

After the War the graves in the German Cemetery were ‘concentrated’ (exhumed, identified as necessary, and moved for reburial).  He was reburied in the Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery in grave reference: IV. F. 21.

Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery is situated on the north-east side of Valenciennes.  In November and December 1918, the 2nd, 57th, 4th Canadian and 32nd Casualty Clearing Stations were posted at Valenciennes and the last of them did not leave until October 1919.  The Communal Cemetery of St. Roch was used by the Germans in August and September 1914 and an extension was then made on the south-east side.

The Commonwealth plots were made adjoining the German: I and II contain the graves of October 1918 to December 1919; III, IV, V and part of VI contain the graves of 348 soldiers buried originally in the German Extension and 226 whose bodies were brought from other cemeteries or from the battlefields.

The German Extension has since been removed and the Commonwealth plots are within the enlarged Communal Cemetery.

Later, when a permanent gravestone replaced the temporary cross, probably in the 1920s, it included his family’s message, “Happy with the Saviour”.  It seems that his parents had moved from 2 High Street, and were, by then, living at 9 Elborow Street, Rugby.

Hubert Treharne George is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; and on the WWI Lawrence Sheriff School Plaque,[3] 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 Herbert Trehearne GEORGE 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]      http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/64070-8th-bn-machine-gun-corps-infantry/; note by ‘Koyli’, 24 November 2006, quoting information from: Sacker, Graham, The Suicide Club.

 

[2] https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Search, 1914-1918, Prisoners Of The First World War, ICRC Historical Archives,

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

Hoare, James. Died 27th May 1918

James Hoare was born in the first quarter of 1887 in the civil parish of Monks Coppenhall, Crewe, Cheshire (Registration district Nantwich).

The 1891 census RG12/2851 page 25 records his father as George age 36, a Coach Man Domestic, born in Newport Pagnall, Bucks and his mother as Caroline age 42 from Wharton, Cheshire.  His uncle Joseph Hoare age 24, a Crane Driver, was living with them.

He had siblings Bertha age 11, Alfred age 9 and Louisa age 7.  He may also have had another brother Walter born 1885 who died age 3 in 1889.

At the 1901 census RG13/3358 page 37 he is 14 and still living in Monks Coppenhall. His father had become a Barman.

By 1911 he had moved to Rugby and was boarding in the home of John and Alice Law at 10, Grosvenor Road. He was age 24 and employed as a Shop Assistant with the Co-operative Society.

He initially appears to have enlisted in Coventry with R. Warwicks Regt with number 4478 but is later listed as Private James Hoare with the 271st infantry battalion of the Machine Gun Corps with number 43375.

He drowned at sea on Monday 27th May 1918 when the troop ship H.T. “Leasowe Castle” was torpedoed on the starboard side by German submarine UB51 with the loss of 83 or 93 lives.

HMS Leasowe Castle Troop Transport Ship

Some 2800 men survived the sinking by taking to the liferafts/boats.  The ship was hit at 0130 when she was travelling in a convoy 104 miles north-west of Alexandria and sank suddenly within 90 minutes when a bulkhead collapsed in the aft part of the ship gave way. Most of the men still on board were carried down with ship and not a single body was picked up. The dead included the ship’s captain and the officers organising the evacuation.

His death, along with eight other privates in the MGC who died on the “Leasowe Castle,” is recorded on stone No.14.A of the CWGC Chatby memorial at Alexandria, Eygpt. He is also recorded on Rugby’s War Memorial

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Stay, Arthur George. Died 21st Sep 1917

Arthur George STAY was born in Rugby in late 1883 or early 1884, his birth being registered there in the 4th Quarter of 1883.

He was the eldest of three sons of Stephen Stay [born in Longham; whose birth was registered in Q1, 1853 at Wimborne 5a, 284], and his wife, Mary Ann, née Hartnell [b.c.1854, Trull, Taunton]. They had married at Trull, Taunton on 27 December 1882. His father was a ‘plasterer’ and before 1883 they had moved to, and were living in Queen Street, Rugby.

Arthur was baptised on 20 April 1884 in Bilton, Rugby. His two younger brothers, Walter Edward [b. 10 June 1885], and Alfred William were both baptised later on 31 October 1886 at St Matthew’s church, Rugby.

In 1871, Arthur’s father, Stephen Stay, was a plasterer’s apprentice, aged 17, and lodging and working with another plasterer in Ringwood. He was later known for a period as Frederick.   This caused considerable confusion when researching the family, however, he when he later remarried – once again as Stephen Stay – he stated that his father had also been Stephen Stay, a joiner, which probably explains why he was known as Frederick in his younger days.

In 1891, Arthur George was 7 and his father was now enumerated as ‘Frederick’ Stay. His two younger brothers, Walter E, and Alfred W, were aged 5 and 4 respectively.   They were living at 25 Queen Street, Rugby.

In 1901, both Arthur and his brother Alfred were at home with their mother. Their father was presumably away working, and seems to have missed being enumerated. Arthur was now 17 and an ‘Apprentice Plasterer’ and the family were living at 61 Claremont Road, Rugby. His brother Walter was following the family trade as a 15 year old plaster’s apprentice, and was boarding in Newmarket.

Sadly, in later 1904, Arthur’s mother, Mary Annie Stay, died in Rugby aged 51. Some three years later, on 28 September 1907, his widower father remarried, now again as Stephen Stay, a ‘Master Plasterer’, with a widow, Kate, née Taylor, Mills at the Parish Chapel, in St Pancras, London.

Arthur married on 6 June 1906 at Tempsford in Bedfordshire with Emily Scrivener; who had been born in Felmersham, Bedfordshire in about 1884.   They had three children, a son, Harold George Stay in late 1907 who was registered in Rugby; then a daughter, Bessie Eileen Stay who was born in 1909, and registered in Lutterworth; and then another son, Frederick John Stay, born on 21 September 1910 in Rugby. It seems that his wife later had returned to her home area and was living at Roxton, and that village is given as Arthur widow’s address on some documents.

For the 1911 census, Arthur’s father Stephan Stay, now 58, was with his second wife, Kate who was 41. They were living at 99 Grosvenor Road, Rugby; he was still a plasterer. His wife filled out the census return, which probably explains why she has entered his place of birth as ‘Old Eastbourne’ rather than the similarly sounding ‘[Old] Wimborne’.   Nellie Taylor who was a visitor, was possibly his wife’s, sister.

In 1911, Arthur was away from home, still working as a ‘Plasterer’ and in lodging with another plasterer at 37 Claremont Road, Romford, Essex. He was no doubt working on a contract in that area. His wife, Emily, and their three children, were at their home at 45 Lodge Road, Rugby. His brother, Walter, now 25, was working in Camberwell.

Arthur’s youngest brother Alfred also became a Plasterer and by 1911 had just married Nellie Ruth née Mill from Epsom and was living at The Firs, Welton.   They married on 1 August 1910, at West Fordington, Dorset, so maybe there was still a family connection to his father’s birth county.

With the outbreak of World War I, Arthur first joined up in Lambeth, London, originally as a Private, No.6341, in the ‘London Regiment’, although in which of its many Battalions is unknown.

He would later transfer, or be posted, to the 122nd Machine Gun Company as No.65340, and would later be promoted to Lance Corporal. He does not appear to have been awarded the 1915 Star, so it seems that he did not go to France until 1916, which would suggest he was with the 122nd MG Company when they first went to France.

The 122nd MG Company became part of the 122nd Brigade, 41st Division in May 1916. The Company War Diary[1] noted that the 122nd arrived at Le Havre at 5a.m. on 17 May 1916. They left for Rouen and arrived at Steenweerk by rail on 21 May. They undertook familiarisation training over the next few days. On 27 May they moved to Le Romarin, and then on 28 May to Ploegsteert.

July started quietly except for two NCOs being sent for Court Marshal for being drunk on duty!! The Acting Battery Sergeant Major was paraded and publicly reduced to the ranks – the other NCO was found not guilty.

They were later in action at the Battle of Flers-Coucelette [15-22 September 1916] and the Battle of Transloy Ridge [October 1916], these being the last two actions on the Somme. In 1917 they fought during the Battle of Messines; the Battle of Pilkem Ridge; the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge.[2]

The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, was part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres, and the 122nd Machine Gun Company’s War Diary gave some information on the actions in the month of September, before and after Arthur’s death.   It shows something of the training, constant movement and the fierce battle actions that the men endured:

1 to 6 September – the Company was training at Barringhem. Then until 13 September, one Section went to help make ready barrage preparations and various C.O.’s conferences were held whilst various further training took place.

14 September – ‘Company moved into billets at Le Nieppe.’

15 September – ‘Company moved into billets at La Rounlushille.’

16 September – ‘Company moved into camp at Shippewa Camp.   2 Section relieved 2 guns 194 Coy and 2 guns 116 Coy in the Line.’

17 September – ‘No 3 Section rejoined the Company …’.

18 September – ‘Nos 3 & 4 Sections reported at 4pm to the 11th R W Kents at Ridge Wood and Larch Wood. Company Headquarters moved into Hedge St. Tunnels. …’.

19 September – ‘… Sections … moved up to assembly positions in Bodmin Copse. Assembly complete by 12 mid-night.’

20 September – ‘3.40am, attack delivered on Tower Hamlets Ridge. All sections arrived at final positions with only 4 casualties. 12 noon R W Ks unable to hold on in Green Line owing to their right flank being exposed, withdrew and Srg O’Connor, commanding No 4 Section (2/Lt Wearne having been wounded) brought forward the two rear guns to cover the gap.   He remained in this exposed position till 6.0pm when he withdrew to the same line as the R.W.Ks.

21 September – ‘4.15 am – German counter attack delivered on right and left of Menin Road. The sub-section No.3 was wiped out & both guns destroyed and all of No.4 Section with the exception of 6 men became casualties through the heavy bombardment which preceded this counter-attack. Counter-attack was beaten off. 2/Lt Hale inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. 2/Lt Cantnell wounded. Reinforcements from reserve sub-section sent up to No.4. 7.0pm – Second counter-attack attempted, which never materialised.’

22 September – ‘Situation normal. 122 Inf. Bde. relieved out of the line by 116 Bde.’

23 September – ‘Situation normal. Relief expected but did not turn up.’

24 September – ‘Relieving Company arrived but owing to heavy shelling, no relief was possible till 6.30 am. Relief complete by 9.0am Company proceeded to Jackson’s Dump where limbers were waiting for the guns & then to Ridge Wood. Casualties in the line, 3 Officers + 52 ORs. 2.0pm Left Ridge Wood by bus for Eecre.   Transport followed from Millekreose and arrived in camp 8.30pm.’

It is not known exactly where and when on 21 September 1917 that Arthur was ‘Killed in Action’, but it must be assumed that he was probably in either in No.3 sub-section that was ‘wiped out’ or in No.4 Section, where all but six men were casualties.

His body was either never found, or was not identified. He is remembered on one of the Panels 154 to 159 and 163A of the Tyne Cot Memorial. The Tyne Cot Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Whereas those who died before 16 August 1917 are remembered on the Menin Gate, the United Kingdom servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot.

Arthur George Stay was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby, and remembered on a family grave in the Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.

Probate was granted to his widow, Emily Stay, at London, Arthur was then recorded as ‘of Roxton, Bedfordshire’, his wife’s home village. His effects totalled £579-0-1d.

The Register of Effects[3] confirms his rank, number and date of death. His back pay owing of £2-5-1d was paid to his widow on 30 January 1918, and his War Gratuity of £4-10-0d was paid to her on 3 December 1919.

Both of Arthur’s brothers joined up, and both survived the War.

Arthur’s younger brother, Walter Edward Stay, joined up on 19 November 1914 at Gosport Regimental as No.53445 in the Royal Garrison Artillery [RGA] and had served in the 19th Siege Battery, RGA, and became an Acting Corporal.   He went to France on 25 June 1915 and served with some distinction and was awarded both the DCM [Distinguished Service Medal] on 1 January 1918 and the Belgian ‘Croix de Guerre’. His DCM was presented by Major General Franks on 6 October 1918.   He survived the war and his marriage to Elsie Agnes Francis (b.22 July 1892 in Shaftesbury St James, Dorset, but who had been resident in Bilton, Rugby in 1901 and 1911) was registered in Q3 1919 in West Ham, Essex. He died aged 84 in 1969 in the Salisbury area; his wife died at about the same date.

Arthur’s youngest brother, Alfred, joined up on 10 December 1915 into the Gloucester Regiment, and was later in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a Private, No.39776 and was discharged on 27 November 1918.

Arthur’s father, ‘Stephen, otherwise Fred’ Stay of 18 Murray Road, Rugby, died on 19 May 1933, with probate, giving both first names as alternates, in London to the value of £932-19-1d, granted to his two surviving sons: Walter Edward Stay, still a plasterer, and Alfred William Stay, now an Inspector.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Arthur George STAY 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, July 2017.

[1]       The National Archives, UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Various Infantry Brigades, 41st Division, Piece 2635: 122 Infantry Brigade – 122 Machine Gun Company (1916 – 1919).

[2]       Information from: http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/mgcompany.php?pid=10712.

[3]       UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929.