Minchin, George Victor. Died 4th Sep 1918

This biography of George Victor Michin should have been published in September 2018.  However, some confusion with an older George Minchin, also in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, who was killed on 3 September 1916, meant that the main CWGC search listing gave George Victor Minchin the same date of death in 1916, when he would have been only 16!  However, the background documents on the CWGC site, and later announcements in the local press, confirmed George Victor’s date of death as 3 or more probably 4 September 1918.

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George Victor MINCHIN was born in Aston, Birmingham in about 1900.  His birth was registered in Q1, 1900 in Aston.  

He was the youngest son of Henry John Minchin [b.c.1862 in Bristol] and Mary Ann, née Allen, Minchin [b.c.1861, also in Bristol].  They had married on 10 September 1883, at St Paul’s church, Portland Square, Bristol.

In 1891, the family were still in Bristol, living at 3 Campbell Street, Bristol.  They now had three sons of 6, 4 and 2 years old.  Henry Minchin was a ‘tailor’.

In 1901, the family had moved to 5 Beatrice Terrace in Bristol.  Henry Minchin was now a ‘tailor journeyman’, and there were three more children: two girls and, the youngest by some years, a boy, George Victor Minchin, who was one year old.  However, it seems that the family may have been in the process of moving, following Henry’s period as a ‘Journeyman’, as George, who was born a year or so earlier, was registered not in Bristol but in Aston, Birmingham.

However, by 1911, the family was living in Birmingham, at 186 Nechells Park Road.  George was at school.  When he left school, and before the war and being old enough to join up, George worked for a period as a waiter in a Harrogate Hotel.[1]

At some date after 1911, the family had moved to Rugby – indeed George joined up there[2] in early 1917 – and in 1918, the family were at 10 Market Street, Rugby.  They were still there in 1939.

A later report[3] stated that George joined the army in January 1917, and his CWGC record and Medal Card shows that he served, at least latterly, as a Private, No.36285 with the 2nd/6th Battalion (Bn.) of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (R.W.R.).  The date when George went to France is not given on his Medal Card, but his date of birth and the fact that he did not receive the 1915 Star, supports a date of enlistment in January 1917.

The 2nd/6th Bn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment was formed in Coventry in October 1914 as a second line battalion and later went to Chelmsford with a role in Home Defence.  It became part of the 2nd/1st Warwickshire Brigade, in the 2nd/1st South Midland Division and in February/March 1916 moved to Salisbury Plain for final training.  In August 1915 they joined the 182nd Brigade in the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division.[4]  The division moved to France, arriving from 21 to 28 May 1916 for service on the Western Front.  There are some references to them becoming part of the 143rd Brigade in the 48th Division,[5] but this doesn’t appear to be supported by the Brigade numbering in the War Diary.

During 1916 the 2nd/6th Bn. R.W.R.’s first action was the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916, a diversionary attack in support of the Somme Offensive.  The attack was badly handled and casualties were heavy.  The 61st Division was so badly mauled that it was not used offensively again in 1916.  George would not have arrived in France until a year or so later, and probably not before mid 1917.

The following précis of actions based on the War Diary[6] of the 2nd/6th Battalion showed that later in 1917 …
… the 2nd/6th Battalion, was involved in the Operations on the Ancre, 11-15 January 1917; the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, 14 March-5 April 1917; the Battle of Langemarck, 16-18 August 1917; the Battle of Cambrai: German counter-attacks, 1-3 December 1917.  Due to the manpower shortage being suffered by the BEF, on 20 February 1918, the 2nd/6th Bn. received men from the disbanded 2nd/5th Royal Warwicks.

On the day before the German Spring Offensive, Operation Michael[7] on 21 March 1918, the 61st Division was just north of St Quentin when 2nd/6th Royal Warwicks was ordered to raid the enemy line at Cepy Farm and they obtained prisoners from three regiments and two separate divisions, indicating that the German lines were packed ready for an attack early the following morning.  Unfortunately, this information was not widely disseminated before the Battle of St Quentin began.

The front held by 61st Division opposite St Quentin was one of the few sectors where the attackers were delayed.  Strongpoints held out for most of the day and the Battle Zone was successfully held by 2nd/6th R.W.R.s and four other battalions.  Unfortunately, the neighbouring battalions were driven back and the 2nd/6th Bn. was ordered to retire.  It was then involved in the defence of the Somme Crossings on 24-25 March.  The Division was relieved on 27 March and taken north to make a counter-attack the following day at Lamotte near Villers-Bretonneux.  This attack was shot down yards from the objective and the exhausted remnants were finally pulled out of the line on 30 March.

During the rest of Spring 1918 the battalion was involved in the Battle of the Lys; the Battle of Estaires on 11 April, when the 61st Division arrived just in time to prevent the destruction of the 51st (Highland) Division; the Battle of Hazebrouck, 12-15 April; and the Battle of Béthune, 18 April.

The 2nd/6th Bn. R.W.R. War Diary[8] for this period can be found with the War Diaries of the 61st Division.  In August 1918, the Allies began the ‘Hundred Days’ Offensive’, which led to the Germans retreating or being driven back from all of the ground taken in the ‘Spring Offensive’; the collapse of the Hindenburg Line; and led to the Armistice in November 1918.

Whilst this was a successful offensive, much fighting was involved and many casualties occurred.   The 61st Division was committed to ‘minor’ operations during the pursuit to the Haute Deule Canal.  The activities of the Battalion in this offensive in late August and early September 1918 are recorded in the War Diary and can provide information as to George’s likely whereabouts and the occasion when he was killed.

There were indications of an enemy withdrawal in late August and orders were drawn up for an attack under cover of a ‘rolling barrage’.  On 1 September the Battalion were holding an ‘outpost line’ with the enemy on the east bank of the canalised river La Lys, known to the allies as ‘Canal River’.  In addition to the Daily Reports, there is a lengthy Appendix recording in detail an attack in the period 3-6 September 1918.

On the night of 2/3 September the Battalion relieved the 2nd/5th Gloucesters, taking up a position on left bank of the River Lys and River Still Becque.  The enemy held the east bank and all the main bridges had been destroyed.  A footbridge was found to the right and crossed in early afternoon on the 3 September, but casualties were taken.  On 4 September Companies advanced on the road west of Fleurbaix.  ‘Considerable opposition was met from M.G.s and snipers, and in addition, the road was shelled and the party came under T.M. fire.’  Elsewhere Companies worked around the village of Bac St Maur – they also were later held up by enemy fire.  At 7pm an explosion set off by a time fuse, indicated that the enemy was withdrawing – and a very heavy enemy barrage onto the position followed.  However, by the next day the Battalion held the village of Bac St Maur.

Sometime on 3 or 4 September, and maybe overnight – as records give both dates, George Victor Minchin was ‘Killed in Action’, aged 18.  The earlier ‘Grave Registration Report’ gave 4 September, and the later printed summary, 3 September – although the other three members of the Warwickshires who were also killed on the same day and buried adjacent to George remained listed as killed on the 4 September.  The record of UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, also stated 4 September 1918, however, the Rugby Advertiser notices gave 3 September 1918 – such is the confusion of war in an ongoing battle.

Despite the undoubted confusion, George’s body was recovered and he was buried some five miles west of Fleurbaix where they had been in action, in plot: 3. G. 8. in the Anzac Cemetery, Sailly-Sur-La-Lys.  Later when his CWGC gravestone was placed, his parents had the inscription added, ‘He Died that we might Live’.

Anzac Cemetery, Sailly-Sur-La-Lys is on the north-west side of the road between Armentieres and Bethune.  Sailly Church was burnt during the fighting in October 1914, when French cavalry and British and German infantry fought on the Lys, but from the winter of 1914-1915 to the spring of 1918, the village was comparatively untouched.  It was captured by the Germans on 9 April 1918, and it remained in their hands until the beginning of September.

Anzac Cemetery was begun by Australian units in July 1916, immediately before the Attack at Fromelles, and it contains the graves of many Australian soldiers who died in that engagement.  It continued in use as a front-line cemetery until April 1918 and was used by German troops for the burial of Commonwealth soldiers during the following summer.  Anzac Cemetery contains 320 Commonwealth burials of the First World War. … The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.

The Rugby Advertiser reported his death on 12 October,
Mr H Minchin, 10 Market Street, has received news that his son, George Victor, a private in the R.W.R, was killed in action on September 3rd.   Pte Minchin, who was nearly 19 years of age, joined the Army in January last, previous to which he was employed as a waiter at a Harrogate Hotel.[9]

There was an ‘In Memoriam’ published in the same issue,
MINCHIN. – GEORGE VICTOR, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Minchin, 10 Market Street, Rugby. Killed in action September 3, 1918, somewhere in France; aged 18 years and 9 months.

He was also included in the casualty list in the Coventry Evening Telegraph a few days later,
THE ROLL OF HONOUR.  Coventry and District Casualties.  The following are included in the latest casualty lists: Killed. … R.W.R. Minchin, 36285, G., Rugby, R.W.R.; …[10]

 

George was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM 

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This article on George Victor MINCHIN 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, October  2018.

[1]      Rugby Advertiser, 12 October 1918.

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

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, 12 October 1918.

[4]      Greater detail can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6th_Battalion,_Royal_Warwickshire_Regiment, from which this summary was prepared.

[5]      As noted above, whilst reported to be in the 48th Division, the War Diary continued to be kept, and later filed, under the 61st Division.

[6]      The National Archives, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 61st Division, Piece 3056/2: 2/6 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1915 Sep – 1919 Feb); also available on www.ancestry.co.uk.

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

[8]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, TNA ref: 61st Division, Piece 3056/2: 2/6 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, (1915 Sep – 1919 Feb).

[9]      Rugby Advertiser, 12 October 1918.

[10]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Tuesday, 15 October 1918.

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Walker, Joseph Evan. Died 30th Mar 1918

Omitted from publication on 30th Mar 2018.

Joseph Evan Walker was born in 1888 in Burton on Trent, Staffs. His parents were Thomas and Emily Augusta (nee Poynton). They had been married in Emily’s home town of Ashby de la Zouch on 12th March 1872.

In 1891 the family were living at 169 Shebnall Street, Horninglow, Burton. Thomas was a painter and two year old Joseph was the youngest of four children. They were still there in 1901 and Joseph remained the youngest in the family.

In 1909 Joseph married Lillie Redfern and in 1911 was head of the household at 237 Goodman Street, Burton on Trent. They had a son Joseph Reginald aged 1y 7m. Joseph’s mother had died and Thomas was living with his son. At the age of 64, he was a fishmonger, while Joseph had taken on the job of painter.

Thomas died the following year and Joseph and his family must have moved shortly afterwards, as a daughter Margery was born in Rugby in early 1913. Beatrice arrived in 1915 and Clifford registered in the first quarter of 1917. Joseph was now living at 41 Pinfold Street and was a fruiterer and fishmonger.

As a married man with young children Joseph might have expected to avoid service during the war, however in January 1916 the Military Service Act was passed. At first only single men were liable to be called up, but in June that year it was extended to married men as well. Joseph appealed against the decision and in July the following was reported in the Rugby Advertiser of 29th July 1916:

FRUITERER’S APPEAL UPHELD.
Joseph Evan Walker, fruiterer and fishmonger, 41 Pinfold Street, New Bilton, who was represented by Mr Eaden, appealed against the decision of the Rural District Council Tribunal, who had dismissed
his appeal.—After the facts had been stated, it was decided to give exemption till December 1st.

Presumably this was to allow the safe birth of Clifford who arrived on the 30th November 1916. Sometime after this Walter Evan Walker joined the 2nd/7th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as private 23770.

Four RWR Battalions – the 2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th Battalions – landed in France as part of the 182nd (2nd Warwickshire) Brigade in the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division in May 1916 for service on the Western Front, and their stories are broadly similar, and several other Rugby men served and were killed in action with these Battalions.

2nd/7th Battalion RWR was formed in Coventry in October 1914 as a second line Battalion. It became part of the 2nd Warwickshire Brigade, 2nd South Midland Division, and then in August 1915 it was re-designated as part of the 182nd Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division.   The Battalion landed in France on 21 May 1916.[2].[3] Whether George was with them is unknown. If he was with them, he could have been engaged in various actions on the Western Front including: the Attack at Fromelles in 1916; and during 1917, the Operations on the Ancre; the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line; the Battle of Langemarck toward the end of the Third Battle the Ypres, and then after being in reserve for the Battle of Cambrai, the Battalion was used to reinforce the units under counter-attack in the area of La Vacquerie at the end of November 1917.

The Battalion War Diary[4] gives details of the Battalion’s activities throughout the war, but the following information has been abstracted for the period before Joseph’s death.

In early December 1917, the Battalion was in the Welsh Ridge sector, near the Hindenburg line. To start the New Year, the Battalion was in training. The Battalion moved to Savy, then toward the end of the month it was at Holnon Wood, and then moved back to Berthecourt. The Battalion strength was 29 Officers and 388 Other Ranks.

During February 1918, the Battalion was in support and then relieved the 2nd/6th RWR on 3 February, who relieved them in turn on 6 February. On 14 March the 2nd/8th RWR were transferred to the Battalion, with 8 Officers and 256 Other Ranks. In March the Battalion continued turn and turn about in Holnon Wood, improving the line and with training in the days between 14 and 20 March.

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.

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

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

On marching out on 21 March, the Battalion had comprised 21 Officers and 556 Other Ranks. In the period to the end of March, there were 30 Officer casualties (some additional officers had joined in the period) and 488 Other Ranks casualties.

On the 28th March 1918 the Battalion moved into billets at MARCELCAVE to prepare for an attack on LAMOTTE. During the day ground was gained and held but due to both flanks being unprotected they “withdrew to a position more in line with other Units” Casualities 2 officers, 80 other ranks.

After a cold wet night:

29th March 18
Disposition of Battalions slightly improved. Enemy activity slight, little sign of his moving forward to MARCELCAVE
A light Tank gun used from village and a few M.G.
A wet night.

30th March 1918
6 a.m.   Heavy artillery fire along the — valley and our trenches rather knocked about.
Capt. Manuel and Lieut. Forrer – wounded.

7 a.m.   Apparent complete retirement of Division on our right.

7.45 a.m. Units on our right retiring and Battalion commencing to withdraw without any apparent orders. The retirement was checked at about 500 yards in rear and almost the whole of the Battalion re-assembled and a temporary line established at V.1.C.4.2 – V.1.b.2.2 which brought the Battalion in alignment with 183rd Infantry Brigade.

11 a.m.   It was found possible to re-establish the Battalion in their old position. The casualties during the withdrawal had been slight.
Lieut. Strawson – wounded slightly

12 noon.   An advance by the enemy on our right and withdrawal by units on our right, which again, without reason, brought the Battalion out of their trenches. This was immediately checked and they returned to their position.
A squadron of Yeomanry put into the line on right of Battalion during the night.
Lieuts Lunt and Grieve, wounded during the night.
A cold wet cheerless night, relief expected, No rations
Approximate Casualties Officers. 4  O.R. 56

31st March 1918
2 a.m.   Orders for relief by 135th Battn. A.I.F received.
No relief took place, the arrangements having been bungled somewhere.
At dawn the O.C. 135th. Bn. A.I.F. reported regarding relief, but owing to the exposed positions the Battn. Held, it was impossible to effect this during daylight.

8 p.m. Battalion relieved by 135th Bn. A.I.F and marched to GENTELLES to billets.
A cheerless day, Battalion tired out.
30 stragglers rejoined.

It was somewhere in this muddle that Joseph Evan Walker died. Probably one of the 56 casualties on 30th March 1918.

His body was never found or identified and he is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial.

Pozieres is a village 6 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert. The Memorial encloses Pozieres British Cemetery which is a little south-west of the village on the north side of the main road, D929, from Albert to Pozieres. The Pozieres Memorial relates to the period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields, and the months that followed before the Advance to Victory, which began on 8 August 1918. The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918.

The announcement of his death was made in the Rugby Advertiser of 4th May 1918:

News been received by Mrs Joseph E Walker, 41 Pinfold Street, New Bilton, that her husband, a lance corporal in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was killed action on March 30th. Lance-Corpl Walker, who was 29 years of age and joined the Army in January, 1916, formerly carried on business as a greengrocer in Bridget Street.

Joseph was awarded the British and Victory medals.

In mid 1919 Millie Walker remarried, to Joseph H Daniels. Mr Daniels can be found in the 1911 census at 35 Caldecott Street with his wife Elizabeth and 7 children. Elizabeth had died in 1914.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Martin, John Joseph. Died 25th Jun 1918

John Joseph MARTIN’s birth was registered in Q3, 1890 in RugbyHe was the son of John Joseph Martin, who was born in about 1851 in Ireland, and Ellen, née Oldham, Martin, who was born in Long Lawford, in about 1860.  Their marriage was registered in Q4, 1888, in Rugby.

In 1891, the family was living at 18 Chapel Street, Rugby.  John’s father was a ‘groom, domestic servant’.  There were two children at that date – John, who was ‘10 months’ old, and had an elder brother George who was ‘23 months’ old.  The apparent reason for this ‘precision’ can be found in the biography of their younger brother, Lawrence Alfred Martin, who died on 12 September 1916.

It seems they returned to Ireland between about 1896 and 1899, as three of the children were born there in that period, however, by 1901, the family had moved back to Rugby to live at 39 School Street, Hillmorton.  John’s father was a ‘groom at a livery stable’.

By 1911, John, the eldest son, was 20, and already ‘In the army’ – his name had been crossed out by the enumerator as he wasn’t with the family that night!  He was enumerated at the Aliwal Military Barracks, South Tidworth, Hampshire, and was in the 18th Queen Mary’s Own (QMO) Hussars.

Meanwhile in 1911, the rest of the family were now living at 12, Jubilee Street, New Bilton, Rugby.  Also at home that night were John’s younger siblings: Lawrence Martin, 16, who was working in the lamp department at BTH, but who would later join up; Mary Ellen Martin, 14, a tailoress; and Christina A Martin, 12; and Wilfred E V Martin, 8, who were both still at school.  Their father, now 60, was a ‘Groom’, and he and his wife had been married for 23 years and had had seven children of whom five were still living.  They would live in Rugby for the rest of their lives.  John’s father died there aged 78, in about mid 1932; and his mother died there, aged 79, in about early 1939.

Unfortunately no Service Records have survived for John, but it seems that he joined up in Rugby, prior to 1911, and he served as either No: 5275, (on later CWGC records), or more probably as No: 5276 (as recorded on most earlier CWGC records; soldiers who died in the War; and his Medal Card) in the 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own Royal) Hussars in the Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line.  At some date he was promoted Sergeant.

The Regiment was based at Potchefstroom in South Africa at the start of the war, so John may have gone out to serve with them after being enumerated at Tidworth in 1911.  They returned to the UK and joined up with the 6th Cavalry Brigade in the 3rd Cavalry Division at Ludgershall, then on 8 October 1914 landed at Ostende as part of the British Expeditionary Force for service on the Western Front.  Soon afterwards, on 20 November 1914, in Belgium, they transferred to the 8th Cavalry Brigade in same Division, in order to bring that Brigade up to strength.

John’s Medal Card states that he went to France, on 6 October 1914, which fits with him serving in the 10th Hussars and going to France with them in 1914 – and he thus became eligible for the 1914 Star – and he would have then been involved in the various actions of the 8th Cavalry Brigade.

The 8th Cavalry Brigade served with the 3rd Cavalry Division on the Western Front until March 1918.  It joined the division too late to take part in any of the 1914 actions, but in 1915 the Division saw action in the Second Battle of Ypres (Battle of Frezenberg Ridge, 11-13 May) and the Battle of Loos (26-28 September).  1916 saw no notable actions, but in 1917 the Division took part in the Battle of Arras (First Battle of the Scarpe, 9-12 April).  At other times, the brigade formed a dismounted unit and served in the trenches (as a regiment under the command of the brigadier).

In March 1918, the Indian Cavalry elements were sent to Egypt.  The British and Canadian units remained in France and most were transferred to the 3rd Cavalry Division causing it to be extensively reorganized.  The yeomanry regiments were concentrated in the 8th Cavalry Brigade which left the 3rd Cavalry Division on the 12/14 March 1918 and transferred to the 6th Cavalry Brigade in same Division.

Whilst it was fairly quiet at the start of 1918, John would have continued to be involved in the daily routine of a Cavalry Regiment.  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.

The War Diary of the 10th Hussars whilst serving with the 6th Cavalry Brigade is available and a summary of activities in the four months before John’s death is summarised below.[1]

At start of March 1918, they were at Tertry where on 9 March one of the huts was bombed, six were killed, 35 wounded, six of whom died in hospital.  On 13 March they moved to the Devise area, and from 18-20 March they found working parties and then on 21 March ‘Heavy enemy bombardment of the whole front line opposite started about 4.30am.  The Regiment was ordered to stand to, and moved out at 5pm and marched to Beaumont near Ham, where the Brigade bivouacked in a field.  The dismounted Brigade was ordered to be formed next morning.’  On 22 March ‘The dismounted Brigade left by bus early in the morning …’.

They moved to Pontoise and then Carlepont and later to Choisy where a bomb injured an officer on 28 March.  On 30 March they were at Airion and moved to Sains-en-Amienois and the next day – 31 March – to bivouacs at Racineuse Farm.  Another group had gone to Lagny and then on to Elincourt and Chevincourt in period 26 to 29 March, sustaining one killed, 15 wounded and four missing.  A third group was in Naureuil on 23 March, and then dug in at Abbecourt and later went to Les Bruyers.

On 1 April the Brigade moved to Gentelles Wood.  On 2 April they moved on to Fouilloy.  Then on 4 April they came under heavy fire at Bois de Hamel and lost about 50 horses.  They were shelled again on 5 April at Blagney-Tronville.  On 6 April they moved to Camon where they ‘reorganised’ on 7 April.   On 11 April they marched to Buire-au-Bois and then on 12 April to Hestrus and later to billets at Aumerval.  From 14-30 April, they stood to and saddled up each day and were ready at short notice.

May started in the same way until on 5 May they moved to Rougefay and the next day to Villers l’ Hopital and then to Contay where they stood to until 16 May.  On 17 May they moved to camp at Belloy-sur-Somme.  They were then cleaning and training until the end of the month when they moved to Behencourt, and bivouacked half a mile south west of the chateau.

The Brigade stood to each day until 14 June when they were relieved by the 7th Cavalry Brigade and moved back to Belloy-sur-Somme.  From 15 to 24 June there was training and a ‘scheme’ was carried out on 22 June, however, ‘owing to the large numbers of cases of influenza in the Brigade, it was decided to move the Brigade to another area.’  On 25 June the Brigade moved to the Soues area, and then billeted at Reincourt until the end of July.

It seems there was constant movement in response to the German advances, the Cavalry effectively being in place as a readily moved ‘backstop’.  They moved, sometimes on a daily basis, from some 30kms south of Arras, to an area, similarly distant, to the west and south-west of the town.  There was no obvious major enemy action in the period prior to John’s death, when he might have been wounded, however, the mention of the ‘large number of cases of influenza’ may suggest that John was affected badly and for that reason was evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station.

Whether wounded in routine sniping or shelling, or suffering from influenza, John was evacuated for some considerable distance behind the lines, assuming that he was taken to the 21st Casualty Clearing Station at Wavens – some 50kms west of Arras – next to where he was later buried.

John Martin died, aged 28, on 25 June 1918.  He was buried in the Wavans British Cemetery in Grave Ref: B. 3.  This is a very small cemetery with only 44 graves and was made by the nearby 21st Casualty Clearing Station in May-September 1918.  The cemetery contains 43 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and one German war grave.  The flying ace Major J T B McCudden, VC, DSO and Bar, MC and Bar, MM, who died of wounds on 9 July 1918, some two weeks after John Martin, is buried in the same row as John Martin in Grave 10.

Later, when a gravestone replaced the temporary cross, probably in the 1920s, no additional family message was engraved upon it.  His parents were still at 12, Jubilee Street, New Bilton, Rugby.

John Joseph Martin is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and also on the New Bilton War Memorial, by the chapel in Croop Hill Cemetery, Addison Road, which states ‘In the Great War these died for England 1914-1919’.  The family were Roman Catholic and John – and his brother, Lawrence – are remembered at St. Marie’s Church, Rugby, ‘To the Memory of the Men of this Congregation who Fell in the Great War 1914-1918 …’.

His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914 Star.

His mother received his outstanding pay of £13-15-2d on 13 March 1919 and his War Gratuity of £25-10s on 2 January 1920.

John Martin’s younger brother, Lawrence [or Lawrence] Alfred Martin, also served and was killed in action with the 6th Battalion, the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.  He died on 12 September 1916.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on John Joseph MARTIN 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]      WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-20, Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line, 3rd Cavalry Div., 6th Cavalry Brig., 10th Prince of Wales Hussars, March 1918 – March 1919, TNA ref: WO 95/1153.

[2]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2016/09/12/martin-lawrence-alfred-died-12th-sep-1916/.

 

Colston, Ernest Henry. Died 20th Jun 1918

Ernest Henry COLSTON’s birth was registered in Q3, 1899 in RugbyHe was baptised on 9 August 1899 at St. Matthew’s Church, Rugby.  He was the eldest son of Henry Colston, who was born in about 1867 in Rugby, and Emily Flora, née Wheeler, Colston, who was born in Yelvertoft in about 1874.  When Ernest was baptised, his father was working as a ‘builder’s machinist’.

In 1901, his father was still a ‘machinist (woodworker)’, and the family were living at 30 Stephen Street, Rugby.  Ernest had now ‘arrived’ and was one year old.  In 1911, when Ernest was 11, his parents had been married for 12 years, and were still living in Stephen Street, but now at number 27, which may have been a renumbering by the Post Office, rather than a change of home.  Ernest now had a younger brother, Dennis William Colston, who was born on 10 September 1903, and was now seven.  Their father was still in the same type of job and was a ‘wood work machinist’ for an ‘electrical engineer’.

Unfortunately no Service Records have survived for Ernest, but it seems that he joined up in Rugby, initially as Private, No: 40386, in the Somerset Light Infantry.  He later served as a Private, No: 48555, latterly in ‘A’ Company, 5th Battalion, Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire) Regiment, more usually known as the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

The 5th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment was formed as part of the First New Army (K1) in Reading on 25 August 1914 and joined the 35th Brigade of the 12th Division and then moved to Shorncliffe.  In January 1915 the Battalion moved to Folkestone and then, on 1 March 1915, to Malplaquet Barracks at Aldershot.  On 31 May 1915 they mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne and then engaged in various actions on the Western Front including: During …

1915: the Battle of Loos.

1916: the Battle of Albert; the Battle of Pozieres; and the Battle of Le Transloy.

1917: the First Battle of the Scarpe; the Battle of Arleux; the Third Battle of the Scarpe; and the Cambrai operations.

1918: on 6 February 1918, they transferred to the 36th Brigade,[1] but were still in the 12th Division and continued to fight on the Western Front in the Battle of Bapaume; the First Battle of Arras; the Battle of Amiens; the Battle of Albert; the Battle of Epehy; and then took part in the Final Advance in Artois.

There is no date when Ernest 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.

Whilst it was fairly quiet at the start of 1918, Ernest 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.

The Battalion War Diary until January 1918 is filed under the 35th Brigade,[2] and then from February onwards it is filed under 36th Brigade.[3]  A summary of the Battalion’s movements and actions during Ernest’s last few months is given below.

In late December 1917 the Battalion was training in the Merville area, and on 21 January 1918 relieved the 7th Bn. Royal Sussex Regiment and then on 29 January they were relieved by the 7th Norfolks, and soon after transferred to the 36th Brigade.

In February they were variously at Rouge de Bout and Fleurbaix, where the trenches were ‘very quiet’.  On about 10 March they were relieved and were at Nouveau Mond and Rely from 22 to 25 March.  Then on 24 March they marched to Burbure and went into billets in Warloy.  On 24 March they marched overnight carrying Lewis guns and ammunition and on 26 March they were constructing defences east and south of Martinsaut.  On 27 March an attack was in progress – Germans were seen advancing and rapid fire was opened – several Germans were seen to drop.  There were later a number of casualties.  The enemy was now at Aveluy.  On 28 March an attack was repulsed and the Battalion was relieved on 30 March by the 23rd London Regiment.

On 1 April the Battalion was working at Worloy under the Royal Engineers at night.  Then from 2 to 7 April they relieved the 7th Border Regiment in front of Albert.  During the earlier period they sustained 12 officer and 243 Other Rank (OR) casualties – killed, wounded or missing.  8 April was a ‘quiet day’.  Then on 9/10 April they relieved the 9th Essex in the Corps Line and on 11 April were relieved by the 15th Welsh and went back to billets in Worloy – marching via Contay to Mirvaux – and were accommodated under canvas for training.

On 23 April they returned to the front line in the Beaumont Hamel sector until the end of the month when a strong enemy attack was repulsed.

In May they were in the front line until 13 May, then went to Acheux and provided working parties and practised for a raid.  This took place on 24 May and resulted in 4 officers wounded, 12 ORs killed, 2 died of wounds, 73 wounded, and 19 missing.  21 prisoners and six machine guns were taken.  On 25 May they proceeded by bus to Beauquesne – and further training.

In early June the Battalion was training and in reserve.  On 16 June they were again at Beauquesne, and had a Church Parade, and prepared for the line.  On 17 June the Battalion started to march to the front line at 9.30a.m.  They were east of Harponville until 10p.m. when they marched to take over Front Line System Left Sector in Bouzencourt Section.   ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies were in the Front Line.  ‘All line in bad shape and very muddy and wet.  Trenches badly undercut.’

On 19 June a ‘Chinese Bombardment’[4] on the left led to ‘… heavy retaliation on our trenches … we suffered casualties’.  On that day 1 OR was killed and 7 wounded, and then on 20 June 5 ORs were killed and 7 wounded.

On 20 June, still in the Bouzincourt Sector, work continued on trenches and many trench shelters began.  It seems that ‘A’ Company had still been in the front line as on 21 June ‘Work continued. … ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies relieved by ‘C’ and ‘D’ Compaanies in front line.’

Ernest Henry Colston was killed in action on 20 June 1918, presumably in a continuation of the ‘retaliation on our trenches’ noted above.  He was 19, and killed with several other members of his Battalion who are now buried besides him.

He was buried in the Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension in grave reference: IV. B. 12. 

Bouzincourt is a village 3 kilometres north-west of Albert on the road to Doullens (D938).  The Communal Cemetery is on the northern side of the village.  It is some five kms. south-west of the Theipval Memorial.

Bouzincourt was used as a field ambulance station from 1916 to February 1917.  It was in German hands for a few days in the spring of 1918.  Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery was used for burials in 1916 and again from April to June 1918.  The adjoining Cemetery Extension was begun in May 1916 and used until February 1917.  The extension was reopened from the end of March 1918 until the following September and used largely by the 38th (Welsh) Division.

Later, when a permanent gravestone replaced the temporary cross, probably in the 1920s, it included his family’s message, “Greater Love hath no man that he gave his Life for his Friends”. 

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

His mother, as his sole legatee, received his monies owing of £3-17-1d on 21 October 1918, and his War Gratuity of £3 on 5 December 1919.  His parents lived latterly at 82 York Street, Rugby.  His father died in 1940 and his mother in 1947.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on Ernest Henry COLSTON 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]      This does mean the Battalion War Diary has to be found in two separate files under the two Brigades.

[2]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Various Infantry Brigades, 12th Division, TNA ref: Piece 1850: 35 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919).

[3]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Various Infantry Brigades, 12th Division, TNA ref: Piece 1856: 36 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919).

[4]      A ‘Chinese Attack’ was the term given to a faked attack upon enemy trenches.  A preliminary artillery bombardment would be carried out.  This normally meant that an infantry assault was probable once the bombardment lifted.  However in a ‘Chinese Attack’ no infantry attack followed the lifting of the bombardment; and after allowing time for enemy to return to their trenches, the bombardment would recommence, the intention being to catch large numbers of men while they were in the open.  Chinese Attacks were also used to test reactions to a more seriously intended raid.  Ref: http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/chineseattack.htm.

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

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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.

Hickingbotham, William. Died 10th Jun 1918

William jnr (Billy) was born on 18 November 1893[1] in Rugby, but was baptised on 21 January 1894 at Bulkington, Warwickshire.  He was the son of William Hickingbotham who had also been born in Bulkington in about 1868.  In 1894, William senior was a brakesman; in 1901, a Railway Foreman Shunter, and by 1911 was working in the L&NW rail traffic department.  His marriage with Hannah Jane Elizabeth, née Pegg, was registered in Nuneaton Q3, 1891.  She was also born in Bulkington, in about 1872.

The family had presumably moved to Rugby before the end of 1893, and in 1901 and 1911 the family lived at 33 Cambridge Street Rugby.  In 1911, William junior was 17, single and a boot making apprentice.  By then he had three younger sisters and two younger brothers.

William’s Medal Card shows that he was initially in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a Private, No.4584, but later transferred to the Royal Engineers as Pioneer, No.130551.  Thirteen pages of William’s Pension Records have survived.

William initially joined the 3/7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.  He was first attested on 16 November 1915 and ‘posted’ the same day.  He was discharged on 17 March 1916 and he re-enlisted that day in the Royal Engineers and was re-attested on 19 March 1916, at Clevedon, when he was 22 years and 4 months old.  He was 5 foot 8½ inches tall, a dark complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair.  His father William was listed at his next of kin.

His Service Record shows that he was on Home Service from 18 to 29 March 1916.  He was posted as a Pioneer on 30 March 1916, and then posted to the British Expeditionary Force from 30 March 1916 to 8 April 1918.

During this period of service, he was ‘Wounded’, this being listed in the Weekly Casualty List in August 1917.[2]  He recovered locally without being sent back to UK, and he was in action again some time in late March or early April 1918, probably during the German assault of Operation Michael, when he was gassed by Mustard Gas.

He was evacuated back to UK on 9 April 1918 and listed as back on Home Service from that date, and posted to the ‘Royal Engineers Spec. Bde. Dept.’.  He had medical examinations regarding his condition and future pension at St Luke’s War Hospital, Halifax, on 13 and 18 April 1918.  He had been ‘Gassed sev …’, and was ‘Permanently excluded from liability for medical re-examination under the Military Service (review of exemptions) Act 1917’.  He was suffering from ‘phthisis’ [pulmonary tuberculosis or a similar progressive wasting disease] and his medical record suggests that ‘Gassed by Mustard Gas, wd. probably be the cause’.  It was suggested that this was ‘70% due to service during the war with Germany’.  Sanatorium treatment was recommended.  At Chatham on 9 May 1918, he was formally ‘Discharged, no longer physically fit for war service’.  He had ‘v.good’ military character and was awarded a ‘v.satisfactory’ character.  He received the Silver War Badge No.361456, when he was invalided out, to show he was not avoiding war service. 

It is not known to which, if any, sanatorium he was sent, however, he died just a month after his discharge, aged 24, on 10 June 1918.  He was buried at Rugby in the Clifton Road Cemetery in plot: J479.  On his CWGC headstone his parents chose to have inscribed ‘In Loving Memory of Billy Eldest Son of Wm. & H.J.E. Hickingbotham – Till We Meet Again’.  The CWGC website confirms that he ‘Died of Wounds [Gas]’.       

    

William is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and was awarded the Victory and British medals.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on William Hickingbotham 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, December 2017.

[1]      Information from Military Service Record.

[2]      Weekly Casualty List (War Office & Air Ministry ), Tuesday, 21 August 1917.

Lee, William Thomas. Died 5th Jun 1918

William was baptised on 15th Feb 1878 at St. Andrews Parish Church Rugby and was the 3rd child of John and Elizabeth Ann Lee nee Cooke. His father was a labourer in Drury Lane.

In 1881 William was age 3, living with parents John and Eliza Ann at 16 Cambridge Street Rugby and 3 siblings, Louisa (7),  Mary Jane (5) and Emma (1). The two lodgers these were his grandparents, Thomas Cooke (56) silk weaver born Coventry & Eliza Cooke (54) also born in Coventry.

By 1888 his parents had 8 children, 4 boys and 4 girls. and in 1891 William was aged 13, an errand boy living with parents at 14 Pennington Street Rugby. Three siblings, Emma (11), Richard (8) and Henry G (2)  were still at home plus lodger Elizabeth Edward (58), a widow and a tailoress, born Wolverton Bucks.

William’s father John Lee died at the end of 1892 in Rugby. He was aged 65.

Williams Short Service Attestation form tells us he joined up on 8th November 1899 and his regimental number was 7097 Royal Warwickshire Regiment 6th foot His age was given as was 19 years and 10 months although he was actually age 21. Why did he say he was younger? His occupation was a labourer. He was 5ft 4in tall, 115 lbs. His complexion was sallow and he had grey eyes and dark brown hair.

In 1901 his mother Elizabeth was living at 29 Gas Street Rugby and was a charwomen, living with her was her son Henry Lee aged 12 and 2 boarders George Lines (49) a groom domestic, born Lutterworth and Emvi Skeley (24), born Withybrook.

William served in South Africa from 28th Feb 1901 to 13th Oct 1902. He was awarded the South African Queen’s Medal with a clasp for the Transvaal. He then travelled to India with the RWR and was discharged as medically unfit on 6th Jun 1905.

His brother Henry Lee joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and in 1911 was age 22 and stationed at No.6 Regimental District of Whittington Barracks at Lichfield. We have been unable to find William in the 1911 census.

William must have been recalled to the RWR (Private, number 2386) soon after the war started as he arrived in France on 4th Jan 1915.This is confirmed by the fact that he received the 15 Star as well as the Victory and British Medals.

The 1st Bn, Royal Warwickshire Regiment fought in most of the major battles of WW1 and William was probably injured during the German Spring Offensive, Operation Michael.

William Thomas Lee died on 5th Jun 1918 and his age is given as 41, his death was at 21st Southern General Hospital Dudley Road in the All Saints District of Birmingham. He died of a Gun shot wound right ear and meningitis  the informant was M. Thomas, Matron of 21st Southern General Hospital Dudley Road and his death certificate gives his occupation as Number 2836 Private 1st Royal Warwick Regiment.

He is buried in Rugby Clifton Road Cemetery. The Graves Registration Report Form tells us he is buried in grave E47a.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM