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.

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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

Covington, Reginald Frederick. Died 22nd May 1918

Reginald Frederick COVINGTON was born in Northampton in about 1894, and his birth was registered in Q1, 1894He was the son of George Frederick Covington, born in about 1861 in Northampton, and Kate, née Westley, Covington, who was born in about 1867 in Sherrington, Buckinghamshire.  They had married on 25 December 1890 at St Michael and All Angels church, Northampton.

It seems that the family moved from Northampton to Wellingborough between 1897 and 1901, when the family was living at 9 Oxford Street, Wellingborough.  Reginald’s father was a ‘fruitier’.  The family then moved to Rugby

Before 1911 they moved again, to Rugby, and Reginald attended school at St. Matthew’s. He had been a holder of the Robertson Cup for the best all-round athlete in the school.[1] When Reginald was 17, the family were living in a six room house at 28 North Street, Rugby.  He had two younger sisters.  His father was a ‘Fruitierer & Confectioner’, and he was working as a ‘Compositor’ – later he would work for the family business and managed his father’s branch shop in Lawford Road.

It is uncertain when he joined up, although an obituary stated that he ‘… joined the army … in the early days of the War.’[2]  He joined up as a Gunner, No.1160, in the Royal Field Artillery – Territorial Force, and at a later date, but prior to September/October 1917, he was renumbered as No:840787.

It seems that he did not go to France until at least late 1915, as he did not receive the 1914-1915 Star, but he was certainly in France prior to September/October 1917, as he was wounded and/or gassed as mentioned in two local papers.

In September 1917, the ‘Local War Notes’ reported
Bombardier Reg Covington, R.F.A, son of Mr Richard[3] Covington, has been gassed during the recent fighting.[4]

It was probably the same occurrence that was reported in October 1917, in the Coventry Evening Telegraph,
Roll of Honour, Coventry and District Casualties.
Wounded … Covington, 840787, Gnr. R., Rugby, R.F.A.[5]

An official Casualty List in October also listed him a ‘Wounded’ under the Royal Field Artillery listing.[6]

It seems that he was sent back to England for treatment, but returned to France in about early 1918.  The CWGC record states that he was latterly in the ‘D’ Battery of the 275th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.

The 275th (1/1st West Lancashire) Brigade RFA Territorial Force was based at Windsor Barracks, Spekeland Street, Liverpool.  The Brigade came under the orders of the West Lancashire Division.  The divisional artillery crossed to France, landing at Le Havre on 1 October 1915.

The West Lancashire Division, now titled the 55th (West Lancashire) Division, was ordered to re-form in France and the artillery rejoined it at Hallencourt between 2 and 4 January 1916.  A new “D” Battery was formed for the Brigade on 7 May 1916.  There were later various reorganisations as the batteries were switched around.

In 1918, the 55th Division relieved the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division in the front line at Givenchy and Festubert on 15 February.  Here, it faced numerous strong enemy attacks in March 1918.

Whilst the front had been comparatively quiet, an attack was anticipated and on 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army.  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.

Early April was comparatively quieter, but it was a lull before a storm, with the Division involved in the Battle of Estaires (9-11 April) including the Defence of Givenchy (9-17 April) and the Battle of Hazebrouck (12-15 April), the latter two being phases of the Battles of the Lys.

The Defence of Givenchy was to become the single most famous action fought by the Division.  ‘It was afterwards publicly stated by an officer of the German General Staff that the stand made by the Division on April 9th and the days which followed marked the final ruination of the supreme German effort of 1918’, says the Divisional history.

The 275th RFA Brigade Diary gives information on their various actions in April and May, but there do not seem to be any specific large scale actions at and just before Reginald died of his wounds.

The 275th Artillery Group was in the line in early April and on 9 April, the ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ Batteries of the 275th were moved back section by section.  On 10 April there was considerable hostile bombardment which included about 10% of gas shells of various types.  In spite of attacks, it seems the German advances on Givenchy and Festubert were driven back and indeed some 700 prisoners were taken.  On 25/26 April, the 164th Infantry Brigade attacked Givenchy to re-establish the old line.  The 275th put down smoke and shrapnel to cover one of the flanks.  The 55th Division were congratulated on their fine work during this battle.

There is less information recorded for May, and Reg was probably wounded, possibly by German counter-battery shelling, sometime in April or May.  If earlier, he might have been expected to have been evacuated further to a base hospital, so it was probably about mid-May.

Reginald’s Medal Card states that he ‘Died of Wounds’ on 22 May 1918 and the Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects stated that he died at the ‘2/1 Wessex Field Ambulance’,[7] France.  Their movements may provide some further information on Reginald’s location.

The 2/1st Wessex Field Ambulance, was largely a Devonshire unit but was attached to the 55th West Lancashire Division from January 1916 to November 1918.  In April 1918 they were in the area La Basse/Givenchy and near Bethune on 9 April 1918, and had an Advanced Dressing Station just behind Givenchy during the German attacks of April 1918.

The RAMC War Diary for the 55th Division provides details of the movement orders for the 2/1st Wessex Field ambulance, and during the month they were moved to some ten different locations in response to the German assaults.

During May the 2/1st Wessex Field Ambulance quartered around Drouvin, and it seems likely that Reginald died of his wounds at the Field Ambulance there on 22 May 1918 and was buried in the nearby Houchin British CemeteryHis body was buried in grave ref: I. B. 18.   Later, when a permanent gravestone replaced the temporary cross, his family’s message, ‘Though Far Away to Memory Ever Dear’ would be inscribed upon it.

Houchin is a village situated between Barlin and Bethune, about 5 kilometres south of Bethune. Houchin British Cemetery was opened in March 1918 when the 6th Casualty Clearing Station came to Houchin.  From April to September the German advance made Houchin unsafe for hospitals, and the cemetery was used by the 55th (West Lancashire) Division.

In June 1918, the Rugby Advertiser reported,
Gunner Reginald Covington.  Mr G F Covington, of North Street, has received news that his only son, Gunner Reg Covington, R.F.A. died of wounds received in action on May 22nd.  He was 23 years of age, and joined the army – prior to which he managed his father’s branch shop in Lawford Road – in the early days of the War.  Towards the end of last year he was badly gassed, but he returned to France a few months ago.  An old St. Matthew’s boy, he was at one time the holder of the Robertson Cup for the best all-round athlete in the school.[8]

The Coventry Evening Telegraph also reported his death in June 1918,
Roll of Honour, Coventry and District Casualties Died of Wounds
… Covington, 840787, Gnr. R., Rugby, R.F.A [9]

An official Casualty List in July also confirmed that he ‘Died of Wounds’ under the Royal Field Artillery listing.[10]

Reginald Frederick COVINGTON is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates.  His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

His mother, Kate, as sole Legatee, received his back-pay of £6-7-1d on 28 August 1918, and his War Gratuity of £13-10s on 9 December 1919.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on Reginald Frederick COVINGTON 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]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 1 June 1918.

[2]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 1 June 1918.

[3]      This would seem to be in error, there are no other Reg Covingtons with a father Richard.

[4]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/29th-sep-1917-blackberry-picking/, and Rugby Advertiser, 29 September 1917.

[5]      Coventry Evening Telegraph, Friday, 19 October 1917.

[6]      Weekly Casualty List (War Office & Air Ministry), Tuesday, 23 October 1917.

[7]      2/1 Wessex Field Ambulance, a file is available at TNA ref: WO 95/2919/1, 1916 Jan. – 1919 Apr., and various information can be found on Google.

[8]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 1 June 1918.

[9]      Coventry Evening Telegraph, Thursday, 27 June 1918.

[10]     Weekly Casualty List (War Office & Air Ministry), Tuesday, 2 July 1918.

Reynolds, John Henry. Died 8th May 1918

John Henry Reynolds was born in Rugby in 1882 and baptised at St Matthews Church on 1st August the same year. His parents were William Albion Reynolds and Sarah Jane (nee French).

In 1891 John Henry was age 8 and living with parents and 3 siblings, at 3 Orton Court off Dunchurch Road Rugby. His father William age 35 was a labourer with the Board of Health. By 1901 the family was living at 26 West Leys, but John Henry was not with them. We have not been able to find his location.

On 8th February 1903 John Henry Reynolds, labourer, age 20 married Ann Norman, age 22 at St. Matthews Church, Rugby, and in 1911 he was a labourer with a coal merchants, living at 9 Little Elborow Street, Rugby with his wife Ann and son John, aged 3. A second son was born in 1912 but died the following year.

On 8th December 1915 enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment Reserve (number 19747). He was mobilised on 10th June 1916 and landed in France on 10th Oct 1916 with the 1st Bn R.W.R. A week later he joined the 2nd/7th Bn and was given the number 20309. He was 5ft 5½in tall, and aged 33yrs 4mths.

On 1st Mar 1917 he was allocated a new (and final) number 268059.

During 1917 he would have taken part in the Operations on the Ancre, The German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The Battle of Langemarck and The German counter attacks.

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.

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

The Battalion was moved north to a quieter part of the line near Bethune.  On 10 March 1918 the Battalion went to St Roche via Amiens, and then entrained for Berguette which was further north and where they arrived at 10.30pm.  They became involved in the Battle of Estaires, and then on 11 March, they took up positions to the rear of the Robecq-Calonne Road, and were involved in the Battle of Hazebrouck (12–15 April), when their positions south of Merville were captured.

On 12 March the enemy were active and by 10.30am all that remained of the 2nd/6th RWR were withdrawn though the line to a support line.  On 13 April, the British artillery was more effective and the line was being held, with troops back in the old line and reoccupying houses.  That night they were relieved by the 2nd/6th RWR and returned to Hamet Billet for breakfast.

Several other Rugby men in the 2nd/6th and 2nd/7th Battalion RWR were killed in the period from 11 to 14 April, during this second major German attack, on this ‘quieter part of the line’

On 14 April 1918, during this second major German attack, on the ‘quieter part of the line’, John Henry Reynolds was ‘wounded in action’ with GSW (gunshot wound) to Knee.  [For more information see the biography of George Edgar White who died on the same day]

He was evacuated from the front line and by 30th April he had returned to England. He was sent to Mill Road Hospital, Liverpool, by which time he was also suffering from Gastritis. He died there at 12.45 am on 8th May 1918.

He is buried in Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby. The inscription provided by his family reads
“JESU LOVER OF MY SOUL, LET ME TO THY BOSOM FLY”

John Henry Reynolds was awarded the British Way and Victory medals and his widow was awarded a pension of 20/5 per week.

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Blundy, Albert Neate. Died 28th Apr 1918

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1918 started fairly quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 April – Inter-company reliefs carried out.

20 April – 1 man wounded.

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

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

28 April – Inter-company reliefs carried out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on Albert Blundy was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, February 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jones, Frederick James. Died 25th Apr 1918

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

 

Wilde, John. Died 15th Apr 1918

John WILDE was born in about 1882, in Marylebone, Middlesex.   He was baptised on 19 March 1882, at Lisson Grove, Westminster, where his parents were living at 21 Boston Street.

His parents were John Wilde senior, born in about 1852 in Fearnall Heath, Worcestershire, and Esther Wilde who was born in about 1849 in Lewisham, Kent. They married in about 1875. In 1882 John senior was a ‘coachman’.

For the 1891 census, the family were living in Harlow, Essex.   John junior was nine, with an elder and also a baby brother. His father was a ‘Coachman Domestic Serv’, which had been altered to ‘Groom’. No 1901 census returns have been found for the family, but at some date before 1908, John junior had come to Rugby.

In 1908 John Wilde married in Rugby with Dora Lily Armishaw – she was born in Walsall in about 1886; the marriage was registered in Q2, 1908.   Their son, Herbert Arthur WILDE (1910–1998), was born on 8 March 1910 in Rugby.

By 1911, John’s parents were living back in John senior’s home village at Ellerslie Villa, Fearnall Heath, Worcester and his father was now a ‘Retired Groom Domestic’, however, before then, John had moved to Rugby and in 1911, John Wilde, his wife and young son were living in a four room house at 5 Earl Street, Rugby. John was now 29 and a carpenter. Their daughter, Dora Margaret WILDE (1912–2002), was born in Rugby the next year, on 9 August 1912.

John enlisted in Rugby, probably in later 1915 or after, as there is no date of ‘entry to theatre’ on his Medal Card, and he was not eligible for the 1915 Star. He joined up as a Private, No: 20976. His Medal Roll indicates that he first served with the 14th Battalion (Bn.) Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR) and then the 11th Bn. RWR.   However he was latterly in “C” Company, 1st Bn. RWR.

It is not known when he was transferred between these Battalions.   However, the 11th Bn. was disbanded on 7 February 1918 at Wardrecques, France, well before he was killed, and the 14th Bn. spent the winter of 1917-1918 in Italy, coming back into action near Merville and the 1st Bn. RWR’s position in April 1918.

John’s experiences, though not known in detail, would have been similar to those of countless thousands of British and Empire soldiers.

His final unit, the 1st Battalion had started the war stationed at Shorncliffe as part of the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division.   On 22 August 1914 they mobilised for war and landed in France and the Division engaged in many actions on the Western Front. Assuming John did not join them in france until at least 1916, he might have taken part with them in the Battle of Albert and the Battle of Le Transloy, and then during 1917: the First and Third Battles of the Scarpe, the Battle of Polygon Wood, the Battle of Broodseinde, the Battle of Poelcapelle, and the First Battle of Passchendaele.

However, on 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army. The 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.

After the initial defence and heavy losses, some of the units, including some RWR Battalions, were transferred north to what was expected to be a quieter part of the line – but proved to be the location of further attacks – and fresher units, such as the 1st Bn. RWR, were brought in to reinforce the area of the first attacks.

John was probably involved in the First Battle of Arras in later March 1918 and then in part of the Battle of Hazebrouck (12–15 April), where the 1st Bn. RWR were on the defensive line south of Merville. The fighting was very hard, but it was the start of the turning point. As more French reinforcements arrived later in April, and with the Germans also suffering many casualties, especially among their key assault troops, and as their supply lines lengthened, the attacks toward Hazebrouck failed. Their second attack, ‘Operation Georgette’, could not achieve its objectives.

The War Diary of the 1st Bn. RWR provides details of the various actions.[1]

From 8 February they were in camp at Arras – and remained there until 20 March when they moved to Gordon Camp. On the key date, 21 March 1918, it was foggy and there was artillery activity from both sides. An order to go into the line on 22 March was cancelled, but by 24 March the Battalion was on the Army Line from Railway Triangle to Cambria Road. On 25 March, ‘C’ Company moved from the Army Line to relieve the Seaforth Highlanders in Lancer Lane.

In April they were again in the trenches, and on the 5 April were relieved and returned to Blangy. On 9 April they were in the RAF Hangers at Arras St Pol Road and on 10 April moved to Agnes le Duisans until 11 April. On 12 April they moved off in Lorries to Lillers, and the Battalion was ordered to hold an outpost line west of the La Bassee Canal, south of Robecq.   ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies were billeted in Ecleme. On 13 April, whilst at Ecleme, they relieved the 1st Gordon Highlanders. The HQ was at Hinges and ‘D’, ‘C’ and ‘B’ companies were in the front line. ‘Enemy artillery very active in afternoon but quietens down at night.’ On 14 April – ‘In the early hours of the morning a patrol of ‘C’ Coy capture 2 enemy machine guns & 1 prisoner & later on in the morning an Artillery officer accompanied by a signaller are observed close to our posts. The later is killed & the Officer is made prisoner. A 3rd Machine Gun is captured.’ After some allied shelling, the hamlet of Riez ou Vinage was captured by 11th Brigade on the left, but only one of the three patrols that night made progress.

On 15 April there was considerable action and the description of the various assaults takes up two pages of the War Diary. The 1st Bn. RWR and the 2nd Duke of Wellington’s Regiment attacked Pacaut Wood. Unfortunately a pontoon bridge was hit by a shell and there was strong opposition.   The Engineers attempted to repair the bridge under heavy fire. There were heavy casualties – whilst the Battalion had 39 Officers and 921 Other Ranks on 15 April, by 16 April they had been reduced to 32 officers and only 696 Other Ranks – although most of the losses, some 208, were wounded, and only six were noted as killed, with some missing.

On 15 April the Battalion, as part of the 4th Division were transferred from the XXVIIth Corps. A message of congratulations was received from the GOC XXVIIth Corps ‘… You made a great name for yourselves, there is no Division I would sooner have with me …’

It seems that at some stage during the intensive actions on 15 April 1918, John Wilde was ‘killed in action’. His body was either not found, or not recovered, or not identified, and he and his other ‘missing’ colleagues are now remembered on Panels 2 and 3 of the Ploegsteert Memorial which stands in the Berks Cemetery Extension, and is located 12.5 kms south of Ieper [Ypres].

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

That John WILDE served with the 1st Bn. RWR, just south of Merville, is confirmed by his listing on the Ploegsteert Memorial. He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates.

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

Probate was granted on 4 March 1919 in London, ‘Private, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died 15 April 1918 in France. Administration with Will to Dora Lily Wilde, widow; Effects £250 8s 11d’.

His widow and sole legatee, Dora Lily Wilde, received his outstanding pay of £7-14-5d on 9 April 1919, and then his War Gratuity of £8-10s on 29 November 1919.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on John WILDE 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), 1914-1920, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 4th Division.