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

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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.

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White, George Edgar S. Died 14th Apr 1918

George Edgar S WHITE was born in early 1891, in Leicester. He was the son of George White, born in about b.1862, in Leicester, and his wife, Mary Ann, probably née Burbidge, who was born in about 1867 in Birmingham. It was probably their marriage which was registered in Leicester in Q2, 1877.

In 1891, George was three months old. The family was living at 22 Birstall Street, Leicester and his father was a ‘Greengrocer / Beer Retailer’. It is assumed that the indented ‘Elastic Foreman’ on his wife’s line, may also refer to him, and that he did some sort of factory work, whilst his wife ran the shop. George had an elder brother, Harold J, who was two.

In 1901, the family were living at the Willow Tree Tavern, 91 Willow Street, in north-west Leicester. George was aged ten; his elder brother Harold was twelve, and they had a two year old sister, Elizabeth Elsie. The children were all born in Leicester. George’s father was a ‘Licensed Victualler’ and presumably running the pub.

Sometime before 1911, the family moved to Rugby. In 1911, they were living in a five roomed house at 20 Paradise Street, Rugby. George’s father was 49, an employer and a ‘Fruitier’. His wife, now 44, helped in the business, although that had been deleted. There had had seven children, but only three were still living – George who was now 20 years old was a ‘Fruiterer Shop Assistant’ – no doubt helping his father, and his sister, Elizabeth Elsie, aged twelve was at school. His elder brother was now married and still living in Leicester.

George’s Medal Card states that he was a Private, Number: 22140 in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. There is no date of Entry to France so it was probably later than 1915. The CWGC site[1] provides very little detail on George’s military career or family, other than that he was in the 2nd/7th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire regiment (RWR).

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 George’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.

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’ [see: Sidney George Hall and William Harry Packwood  and Robert Victor Wilson ].

On 14 April 1918, during this second major German attack, on the ‘quieter part of the line’, George was ‘killed in action’. His body was recovered, but whether he was buried initially in one of the other local cemeteries is uncertain, as some graves were brought in from other small nearby cemeteries, such as the La Haye British Cemetery at St. Venant which was used by the 2nd/7th RWR,[5] and do not appear to be separately identified in CWGC documentation.

George Edgar White is now buried in the St. Venant-Robecq Road British Cemetery, Robecq, in grave ref: II. B. 3., this is some five miles back from the Merville area where the Battalion was in action, turn and turn about with the 2nd/6th Battalion RWR.

St. Venant is a small town in the Department of the Pas-de-Calais about 15 kilometres north-west of Bethune. For much of the First World War, the villages of St. Venant and Robecq remained practically undamaged, but in April 1918, during the Battle of the Lys, the German line was established within 2 kilometres of the road that joins them. The cemetery was begun around 12 April and used as a front line cemetery until the end of July. At the Armistice it contained 47 burials, but was then greatly enlarged when graves were brought in from the battlefields south of St. Venant and from other cemeteries in the vicinity. The most important of these cemeteries were La Haye British Cemetery at St. Venant (65 graves), used by the 2nd/7th Royal Warwicks and 2nd/8th Worcesters between April and August 1918, and Carvin British Cemetery, Mont-Bernenchon (54 graves), used by fighting units and field ambulances during the same period.

When his temporary wooden cross was replaced by a gravestone, there was no family request for an inscription.

George Edgar S WHITE is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates. His Medal Card shows that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on George Edgar WHITE was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, January 2018.

[1]       Military career from CWGC, https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/54980/wilson,-robert-victor/.

[2]         http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/61st-2nd-south-midland-division/.

[3]       Based on: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/316/royal-warwickshire-regiment/.

[4]       WWI War Diaries, 1914-1920, 2/7 Bn., Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 61st Division,

[5]       The 2nd/7th RWR were operating with the 2nd/6th RWR, and thus on 13 April 1918 the 2nd/6th RWR was combined for some days with the 24th Entrenching Battalion as a composite Battalion and then relieved the 2nd/7th RWR.

Bolton, Ralph James. Died 14th Apr 1918

Ralph James BOLTON was born in about 1896, in Warrington, Lancashire. His birth was registered in Q3, 1896, in Warrington.

He was the son of Ralph Townsend Bolton, born in about 1866 in Billinge, Lancashire, and Elizabeth, née Brown, Bolton who was born in about 1864 in Bewdley, Worcestershire. They were married on 7 February 1887 at St. George’s Church, in Wigan.

For the 1901 census, the family were living at 11 Miller Street, Warrington. Ralph junior was four. His father was a ‘Railway Inspector’.

In 1911, the family were living in a six room house at 52 St Mary Street, Latchford, Warrington, and Ralph’s father had progressed to become a London & North Western Railways Station-master. Ralph junior was 14 and an L&NW Porter, and had a younger brother and sister who were still at school. His parents had been married 24 years, had had six children and four of them were still living.

It seems that the family – or at least Ralph junior, later moved to Rugby – probably due to career progression on the railway. He was living at 31 King Edward Road, Rugby.

Ralph enlisted in Rugby, and he joined up under Lord Derby’s Scheme in later November 1915.

LORD DERBY’S RECRUITING SCHEME. LOCAL ENLISTMENTS UNDER THE GROUP SYSTEM. The following have enlisted at the Rugby Drill Hall under the Group system.

SINGLE MEN. … Bolton, Ralph James, 31 King Edward Road, Rugby.[1]

He joined up as a Private, No. 25269  in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The Medal Roll notes that he was first in the 10th Battalion (Bn.) and then in the 14th Bn. of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR).   When he moved from one to the other is uncertain but he retained the same number.

The activities of both Battalions have been examined, and no obvious reason for the transfer is noted, however, whilst the 10th Bn. RWR remained in France, the 14th RWR were sent from France to Italy in late November to early December 1917 to strengthen the Italian Resistance. The 14th Battalion returned to France in early April 1918. The 10th RWR was less active in April 1918, whilst the 14th RWR was in action by mid-April 1918, and it is more likely that Ralph had been transferred earlier and was killed soon after the 14th Bn. RWR returned to France.

If Ralph had joined the 10th (Service) Battalion at the end of 1915, he would have first undergone training and is unlikely to have gone to France until mid 1916, after the initial Battles of the Somme. It must be assumed that he was engaged in the later parts of that battle, either with the 10th Bn. or the 14th Bn.. The 14th Bn. RWR had been transferred to the 13th Brigade, 5th Division at the end of December 1915.

Both Battalions were involved in the attacks on High Wood from July 1916.   Similarly in 1917, both Battalions were fighting in the Battle of Polygon Wood, the Battle of Broodseinde, the Battle of Poelcapelle, and the Second Battle of Passchendaele, as well as separately in other actions.

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

Later, between 29 November and 6 December 1917, the 14th Bn. RWR was moved to Italy to strengthen the Italian resistance against the Germans.   It seems quite possible that Ralph was moved to the 14th Bn. at that time, to ensure the Battalion was fully manned for that more distant campaign.

On 1 April 1918, the 14th Battalion started to return to France. There does not appear to be a Battalion War Diary for April 1918, and it is quite likely that it was destroyed during the subsequent battle. The Brigade War Diary[2] gives a summary of the Battalion’s activities in the period, and the following information has been abstracted for the period before Ralph’s death.

On 1 April 1918, two halves of the 14th RWR entrained at Villafranch at 3.27am and 8.27am respectively. By 7 April, the 14th Bn. had reached Bonnierres, and after some confusion as to billets – another Division had to be moved out! – the 14th Bn. then occupied Beaudricourt on 10 April. On 11 April, the 14th Bn. started to entrain at Mondicourt for Thiennes and there they billeted near the station. In the morning of 12 April, the Division were tasked to attack and retake Merville – where the other Battalions of the RWR had incurred such heavy losses in the initial stages of Operation Michael

The 15th Bn. RWR was the advance guard on the route Tannay to Croix-Marraisse to Merville and up to the Lys Canal. Then on 12 April 1918, the 14th Bn. RWR joined them to hold the left of the line. During the mid-afternoon on 13 April, the enemy were reported advancing down the Merville-La Motte road and the Merville – La Sarte road. The 14th Bn. RWR was attacked in the late afternoon in front of Les Lauriers.

On 14 April 1918, the 14th Bn. RWR reported sniping and machine gun attacks from an occupied house, and a bombing attack was organised and the house was recaptured and ‘… many of the enemy killed, but our casualties rather heavy …’.

It seems that at some stage on 14 April 1918, during the German attacks, and the 14th Bn. RWR counter-attacks, Ralph Bolton was ‘killed in action’. His body was either not found, or not recovered, or not identified, and he and his 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.

Ralph’s service with the 14th Bn. RWR, near Merville, is confirmed by his presence on the Ploegsteert Memorial. Had he still been with the 10th Bn. RWR, he would have been fighting further north, just south of Ypres, and had he been killed and missing in that sector in 1918, he would have been commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. 

Ralph James BOLTON is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; and on the Memorial at St. Philip’s Church, Wood Street, Rugby.[3]

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

Ralph’s parents lived latterly at 77 King Edward Road, Rugby. His father, Ralph Townsend Bolton, died in Rugby in 1924; his mother, Elizabeth in 1953, aged 87.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on Ralph James BOLTON 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]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/27th-nov-1915-lord-derbys-scheme/; and Rugby Advertiser, 27 November 1915.

[2]       WWI War Diaries, 5th Division, Piece 1551/1-7: 13 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters (1918 Apr – 1919 May).

[3]       The Rugby Family History Group website – https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/rugby-st-philips-church – notes: ‘It is not known if the Memorial in St. Philip’s Church still exists. Details of the board have been found in a report of the unveiling in the Rugby Advertiser of 12 November 1920. The memorial takes the form of a stone tablet framed in light oak, and bears the figures of our Lord, St John, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.   It is in the south chancel of the church, and by its side, as a part of the memorial, is another picture of the entombment of our Lord. The Tablet bears the following inscription:- “Like as Christ was raised from the dead even so should we also walk in the newness of life”.’

Wilson, Robert Victor. Died 13th Apr 1918

Robert Victor WILSON was born in 1897, in Stockton on Tees. His birth was registered there in Q4, 1897.

He was the son of John George Wilson, born in about 1868 in Stockton on Tees, and Frances Mary, née Kenyon, Wilson who was born in about 1872 in Sunderland. Their marriage was registered in Stockton on Tees in Q3, 1896.

In 1901, the family were living at 74 ?Iilery Road, Stockton on Tees. Robert was aged three, and had a one year old sister, Doris Mary, who died aged four in mid 1904. Robert’s father was now an ‘… Engineering Draftsman’.

Before 1911, the family moved to Rugby and in 1911, they were living in a six roomed house at 52 York Street, Rugby. Robert’s father was still an ‘Engineering Draftsman’. There had been four children, but only two were still living – Robert who was now 13 years old and still at school and a sister, Elsie Marie, aged four. On census night Robert’s widowed maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Kenyon, was visiting them. Robert attended Lawrence Sheriff School and indeed was a scholar of the Lower School of Lawrence Sheriff, Rugby, and later became an Assistant Scoutmaster of the School Troop.[1]

The CWGC site[2] provides an unusual amount of detail on Robert’s military career, and states that Robert joined up with the HAC in May 1916, and his Medal Card confirms that he was initially a Private, Number: 7691, in the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), and the Rugby Advertiser reported this in June 1916, soon after he became 18.

R V Wilson (Old Laurentian), son of Mr J G Wilson, York Street, Rugby, has joined the H.A.C. Infantry Division. The Old Laurentians have supplied a great many members to this distinguished Company.[3]

Assuming this was the 2nd Battalion of the Honourable Artillery Company (Infantry,) it was raised at Finsbury on 2 September 1914. It moved to Belhus Park, going on in November to Blackheath, in February 1915 to the Tower of London, in August to Richmond Park, in November to Wimbledon, in January 1916 to Orpington, in July to Tadworth (Surrey), and it returned to the Tower in September 1916. On 3 October 1916, the Battalion landed at Le Havre and was placed under command of 22nd Brigade in the 7th Division.   The CWGC site states that Robert went to France to join his Battalion in December 1916.

Later in December 1916, the Battalion was in trenches at Beaumont Hamel where some trenches were ‘obliterated’. During the earlier part of 1917 the Battalion was much involved with training – however, the CWGC advised that in February 1917, Robert returned to UK to train for his commission. He was later gazetted in June 1917, and joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 26 June 1917, when they were on the Isle of Wight, as also noted on his Medal Card, and as later reported in the Rugby Advertiser in July 1917.

R V Wilson (Old Laurentian), late H.A.C, son of Mr J G Wilson, York Street, has been gazetted Second-Lieutenant, and has received a commission in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Parkhurst, Isle of Wight.[4]

Although apparently then appointed to the ‘1st/2nd Battalion’, such a unit does not seem to exist, and this may have been an administrative device. It seems that Robert was initially with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion or the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion, which were both stationed at Warwick at the outbreak of war and then were at Portsmouth in August 1914 and on the Isle of Wight until November 1917.[5] These Battalions probably served as training and reinforcement Battalions.

Robert was then attached to the 2nd/7th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR). 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 in March/April 1918 with these Battalions.

Robert’s Officer’s Military Service Record file[6] is held at The National Archives, but has not been consulted at present, as a sufficient outline of his military career is available from the CWGC and the local paper. The CWGC notes that Robert returned to France in August 1917.

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.[7].[8] Robert joined the Battalion later, going to France for a second time in August 1917.   He could have arrived in time to take part in the Battle of Langemarck (16-18 August 1917) toward the end of the Third Battles of 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[9] gives details of the Battalion’s activities throughout the war, but the following information has been abstracted for the period before Robert’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, but on 1 January, ‘2/Lt Wilson – to hospital – sick’.

The battalion moved to Savy, then toward the end of the month the Battalion was at Holnon Wood, and then at Berthavcourt. The Battalion strength was then 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 from 14 to 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 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 now comprised 21 Officers and 556 Other Ranks. Robert Wilson seems to have still been away – and would have missed the initial heavy fighting. 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 were moved north to what had been 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. On 11 March, they took up positions to the rear of the Robecq-Calonne Road.

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.   The ‘estimated casualties’ included ‘… 2/Lt R.V. Wilson wounded;…’. On 13 April, the British artillery was more effective and the line was being held, with troops back in the old line and reoccupying captured houses. That night they were relieved by the 2nd/6th RWR and returned to Hamet Billet for breakfast.

The Battalion Diary for 14 April recorded ‘…2/Lt R.V. Wilson died of wounds 13/4/18; …’.

Several other Rugby men in the 2nd/6th and 2nd/7th Battalion RWR were killed from 11 to 14 April, during this second major German attack, on this ‘quieter part of the line’, [see: Sidney George Hall and William Harry Packwood]

Robert was probably evacuated to the Battalion Aid Post or an Advanced Dressing Station and then to a Casualty Clearing Station, probably the 18th at Lapugnoy, or possibly the 23rd at Lozinghem, which were both some 20kms south-west of their front line positions. He died there – or en route – of his wounds and was buried in the nearby Lapugnoy Military Cemetery, in Grave Ref: VI. D. 10A.

Lapugnoy is a village 6 kilometres west of Bethune. The first burials were made in Plot I of the cemetery in September 1915, but it was most heavily used during the Battle of Arras, which began in April 1917. The dead were brought to the cemetery from casualty clearing stations, chiefly the 18th and the 23rd at Lapugnoy and Lozinghem, but between May and August 1918 the cemetery was used by fighting units.

When his temporary wooden cross was replaced by a gravestone, his family requested the inscription, ‘Late Member of H.A.C – He Died that We Might Live’.

Robert Victor WILSON is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; and on the WWI Lawrence Sheriff School Plaque,[10] which reads,

In Commemoration of our Brother Laurentians who Fell in The Great War, 1914-1918, Orando Laborando.’

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

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Robert Victor WILSON was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, January 2018.

[1]       School information from CWGC, https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/54980/wilson,-robert-victor/.

[2]       Military career from CWGC, https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/54980/wilson,-robert-victor/.

[3]       Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 17 June 1916. William Harry PACKWOOD, later in the 2nd/6th RWR, who died the day before Robert Wilson on 12 April 1918, had also served in the HAC before he was commissioned.

[4]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/28th-jul-1917-rugby-school-farming-squads/; and see also, Rugby Advertiser, 28 July 1917.

[5]         https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/316/royal-warwickshire-regiment/.

[6]       Lieutenant Robert Victor WILSON, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, TNA file ref: WO 339/96716.

[7]         http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/61st-2nd-south-midland-division/.

[8]       Based on: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/316/royal-warwickshire-regiment/.

[9]       WWI War Diaries, 1914-1920, 2/7 Bn., Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 61st Division,

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

Barnwell, George Woodruffe. Died 13th Apr 1918

George Woodruffe Barnwell was born on 14 May 1884 at Rugby. He was the son of Thomas Barnwell, a Railway Traffic Foreman and his second wife Sarah (née Woodruffe). They lived at a new house at 47 Grosvenor Road, Rugby which his father had bought in May 1899 for £300. Before that they lived in Wood Street, Rugby.

Educated at the Wesleyan School, George entered the Estate Office of the L & N-W Railway as a boy, and later became a collector at Rugby Railway Station.

George married Alice Mary Bullard on 3 June 1914 and they had Joyce Mary on 2 May 1915 at Rugby. They lived at 97 Grosvenor Road, Rugby.

George Barnwell on leave 1917

When he joined the Army on 28 December 1916, he was 5’10” tall, weighed 157 lbs, with a 38″ chest and had a history of Rheumatic Fever. He joined the Inns of Court O.T.C number 10404. in January, 1917, and was afterwards posted to the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry as Second Lieutenant attd 1/4 Bn., going to France in October 1917.

George died on 13 April 1918 during the German Spring Offensive, possibly lost in the Battle of Hazebrouck, as he has no known grave. He is Remembered with Honour on the Tyne He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Packwood, William Henry. Died 12th Apr 1918

William Harry PACKWOOD was born in 1897, in Rugby. His birth was registered in Q3, 1897, in Rugby and he was baptised, on 3 December 1897, at St Matthew’s, Rugby, when his father was a ‘Post Office Clerk’.

He was the son of Charles John Packwood, born in about 1859 [-1933] in Rugby, and Alice Ruth née Davies Packwood who was born in about 1862 [-34] in Shrewsbury. They were married on 17 January 1882 at St. Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury.

For the 1901 census, the family were living at 10 St. Matthew’s Street, Rugby. William Harry was aged three, then the second youngest child of nine siblings, all born in Rugby. His father was now a ‘Chief Clerk, Post Office’.

In 1911, the family were still in the same house, which had 12 rooms, which were probably needed as there were now two more children. William’s father was now a ‘Post Office Superintendant – Civil Service’. William was 13 years old and still at school. He would attend Lawrence Sheriff School.

It is uncertain exactly when William joined up, but a report in the Rugby Advertiser in December 1915, noted.

‘The third son (William Harry) of Mr Chas Packwood, of, Warwick Street, Rugby, has joined the 2nd Battalion of the Honourable Artillery Company (Infantry). Mr Packwood now has three sons serving with the Colours.’[1]

This enabled the correct William Harry Packwood’s Medal Card to be located, which shows him initially as a Private in the Honourable Artillery Company (infantry), Number: 5777, and later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Territorial Force).

His Medal Card also gave two dates when he went to France: 3 October 1916 and 6 December 1917. The former is probably when he went with his HAC Battalion.

2nd Battalion of the Honourable Artillery Company (Infantry) was raised at Finsbury on 2 September 1914. It moved to Belhus Park, going on in November to Blackheath, in February 1915 to the Tower of London, in August to Richmond Park, in November to Wimbledon, in January 1916 to Orpington, in July to Tadworth (Surrey), and it returned to the Tower in September 1916. On 3 October 1916, the Battalion landed at Le Havre and was placed under command of 22nd Brigade in the 7th Division. After William had left it later went to Italy.

William thus went to France with his Battalion on 3 October 1916 and by 12 October they were in trenches and being ‘mortared’. Later in December they were in trenches at Beaumont Hamel where some trenches were ‘obliterated’. During the earlier part of 1917 the Battalion was much involved with training – however in April 1917 William was granted leave prior to training for a commission. A further news report in April 1917, gave information on his progress,

A SON OF MR C J PACKWOOD RECEIVES A COMMISSION.
W H Packwood, fourth son of Mr C J Packwood, of St Matthew’s Street, Rugby, has been granted a month’s leave. Since September he had been out in France with a trench mortar battery of the H.A.C, and has had varied experiences. On the recommendation of his Captain – although still under twenty years of age – he has been offered a Commission, and after his furlough will go into training for his new duties as an officer.[2]

In October 1917, a further report advised,
‘Cadet W H Packwood, H.A.C (Infantry), son of Mr J C Packwood, has been given a commission and posted to the 6th Royal Warwicks.’[3]

His Officer’s Military Service Record[4] is held at The National Archives, but has not been consulted at present, as a sufficient outline of his military career is available from the local paper.

There were two 6th Battalions – 1st/6th and 2nd/6th – however as the 1st/6th were in Italy, it seems he must have been commissioned into the ‘2nd/6th Battalion (Territorial)’ of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR).

2nd/6th 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 had landed in France on 21 May 1916, but William would have joined the Battalion later, going to France for a second time on 6 December 1917, and missing the disastrous attack at Fromelles in 1916 and the various actions of 1917.[5].[6]

The Battalion War Diary[7] gives brief details of the Battalion’s activities throughout the war, but the following information has been abstracted for the period before William’s death.

During February 1918, the Battalion was much involved in improving defences and burying signal cables and the like. During the first week in March, the Battalion was in the front line near St. Quentin. They were then relieved and after a week’s training, returned to relieve the 2nd/8th Worcesters, west of Holnon in the Battle Zone. The Battalion then comprised 21 Officers and 700 Other Ranks.

On the night of 20/21 March, two companies raided the enemy trenches at Cepy Farm and took 12 [or 15] prisoners and a machine gun. The prisoners were from ‘… three different infantry divisions on a front usually held by one regiment, lending little doubt to the certainty that the offensive was imminent.’[8] They lost one killed and four wounded.

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.

William and the 2nd/6th Battalion were bombarded on 21 March from 4.45am to 11.30am, and then over the next two days were subject to various attacks, and because of the overwhelming strength of the attacks, were then ordered to retire to preserve the line and were almost surrounded.

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 at other parts of the line.

From 21 to 26 March, even the ‘surplus’ 2nd/6th personnel were brought into action and a separate ‘diary’ was kept for them.   Meanwhile, from 22 to 23 March, the Battalion withdrew westward, through Fayett, Attilly, Matigney, Vyennes, to Breuil and Billancourt. By 24 March, the Battalion was only about 140 strong and at Buverchy, where it occupied the west bank of the Canal du Nord.

The Battalion, or what remained of it, continued a fighting withdrawal from 25 March to 3 April towards the outskirts of Amiens. By the time the Battalion was relieved, after fighting back to Amiens in the First Battles of the Somme 1918, the Division had been involved in continuous action since August 1917 and was exhausted.

The Battalion casualties from 21 March to 5 April 1918 were some 16 Officers and 450 Other Ranks. 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 were moved north to what had been a quieter part of the line near Bethune. They were entrained at Rue St Roch, Amiens and taken north to Berguette, and then on to Le Cornet Malo to join 153rd Brigade. However, rather than having some rest, the Battalion had to prepare immediately for a counter attack, as the Germans had just launched the second phase of their offensive on 9 April 1918. The Division became involved and many more casualties were incurred.

The actions until 12 April were reported in a separate appendix of the Battalion War Diary, but only the reports for ?10 and 11 and 12 April survive. A trench map with the War Diary shows the 2nd/6th Battalion was in positions just south of Merville. It concludes by stating that ‘The casualties of the Battalion between 10th and 14th April inclusive were 9 Officers and 133 Other Ranks’.

Another Rugby man in the 2nd/6th Battalion was killed on the 11 April (see Sidney George HALL)  and at some stage on 12 April 1918, during this second major German attack, on this ‘quieter part of the line’, William Harry Packwood was ‘shot through the head’ and ‘killed in action’.

SECOND-LIEUT W H PACKWOOD. Second-Lieut W H Packwood, R.W.R, third son of Mr & Mrs C J Packwood, of St Matthew Street, Rugby, who, as we reported last week, was posted missing on April 14th, has been reported killed in action April 12th. A brother officer, writing to the bereaved parents, says: “He died with his face to the enemy, rallying the men during a counter-attack by the Germans. It may be a little comfort to you to know that he died instantly, shot through the head, and we managed to bury him and erect a little cross to his memory. His pleasant disposition and resolute courage will always in our minds and with you, whose loss must be so much keener, we grieve at his death.” The gallant young officer was 20 years of age, and was educated at the Lower School.[9]

Sadly, the ‘… little cross to his memory …’ was lost and his body was never found again or else not identified. He is remembered on Panel 2 or 3 [Stone 2K] of the Ploegsteert Memorial which stands in the Berks Cemetery Extension, which 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.

William Harry PACKWOOD is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; and on the WWI Lawrence Sheriff School Plaque,[10] which reads,
‘In Commemoration of our Brother Laurentians who Fell in The Great War, 1914-1918, Orando Laborando.’

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

William’s parents appear to have left Rugby after the War. In the CWGC records, William is noted as the son of Charles John and Alice Ruth Packwood, of ‘Minsterley,’ 15, St. Ledgers Road., Bournemouth. By 1922, his father’s address on William’s Medal Card, was Cheapside, Langport, Somerset.

Four of the five Packwood sons were involved in the First World War and their progress was reported by the Rugby Advertiser,[11] as it reproduced information from their letters home.

Charles William Packwood, the eldest son, joined the Rugby Howitzer Battery in September 1914; he was wounded in August 1916 and again in August 1917 when he had ‘… been wounded in the chest in two places during the recent fighting’.   The second son, Walter Davies Packwood, volunteered for the Canadian contingent, and joined the Balcartier Camp at Quebec; in October 1914, he had arrived with the force at Plymouth, and was in training at Salisbury Plain. In March 1917, John Norman Packwood was joining up and entering the wireless department of the Royal Naval Reserve. Their cousin, Herbert M Packwood, who had worked at Willans and & Robinson, had also joined up in September 1914, probably also in the Rugby Howitzer Battery as he had a similar number and went to France on the same day as his cousin, Charles William Packwood.

These other three brothers and their cousin survived the war. The fifth brother, Noel, the youngest, was too young to enlist.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on William Harry PACKWOOD was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, January 2018.

[1]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/4th-dec-1915-interesting-letter-from-an-old-murrayian/; and see also, Rugby Advertiser, 4 December 1915.

[2]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/14th-apr-1917-baptist-local-preacher-killed/; and Rugby Advertiser, 14 April 1917.

[3]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/27th-oct-1917-ladies-war-services/; and Rugby Advertiser, 27 October 1917.

[4]       2/Lieutenant William Harry PACKWOOD, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, TNA file ref: WO 374/51812.

[5]         http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/61st-2nd-south-midland-division/

[6]       Based on: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/316/royal-warwickshire-regiment/.

[7]       WWI War Diaries, 1914-1920, 2/6 Bn., Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 61st Division,

[8]       Murland, Jerry, Retreat and Rearguard Somme 1918, the Fifth Army Retreat, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-78159-267-0.

[9]       Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 4 May 1918.

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

[11]     Details are available from the author, or search https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/ for ‘Packwood’.

Hall, Sidney George. Died 11th Apr 1918

Sidney George HALL was born in 1896 in Rugby and his birth was registered in the 3rd quarter. He was the son of George Hall, born in about 1873 in Wibtoft, Leicestershire, and his wife, Jane née Street, who was born in about 1870, in Daventry, Northamptonshire. The 1911 census stated that they had been married for 15 years, although it seems they were married a little earlier in Q2, 1893 in Daventry.

For the 1901 census, the family were living at 116 Cambridge Street, Rugby. George was a ‘Steam Wood Sawyer’ and they had a lodger, who was a bricklayer.

By 1911, the family had moved to 31 Alexandra Road, Rugby. Sidney’s father was still a ‘sawyer’.  Sidney was now 14 and working in an ‘office’. Possibly he was already working for Messrs. Wratislaw & Thompson, the Rugby solicitors; before the war he was employed as a clerk by them.

No Military Service Record exists for Sidney, but at some date, he joined up as a Private, No: 266586 in the 2nd/6th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.   This was probably after 1915, as he wouldn’t have reached the required age – unless he lied, as some did – and also, there is no qualification date for when he went to France on his Medal Card.   In any case the 2nd/6th Battalion did not go to France until 21 May 1916. At some later date he was promoted to Lance Corporal.

2nd/6th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (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. As mentioned, the Battalion landed in France on 21 May 1916 and concentrated in the area Merville – Gonnehem – Busnes – Thiennes.

The Battalion, as part of the Division was involved in the disastrous attack at Fromelles on 19 July 1916. In 1917 they were part of the Operations on the Ancre; the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line; the Battle of Langemarck, which was part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres; and the German counter attacks after the Battle of Cambrai.[1].[2]

The Battalion War Diary[3] gives brief details of the Battalion’s activities throughout the war, but the following information has been abstracted for the period before Sidney’s death.

During February 1918, the Battalion was much involved in improving defences and burying signal cables and the like. During the first week in March, the Battalion was in the front line near St. Quentin. They were then relieved and after a week’s training, returned to relieve the 2nd/8th Worcesters, west of Holnon in the Battle Zone. The Battalion then comprised 21 Officers and 700 Other Ranks.

On the night of 20/21 March, two companies raided the enemy trenches at Cepy Farm and took 12 [or 15] prisoners and a machine gun. The prisoners were from ‘… three different infantry divisions on a front usually held by one regiment, lending little doubt to the certainty that the offensive was imminent.’[4] They lost one killed and four wounded.

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.

Sidney and the 2nd/6th Battalion were bombarded on 21 March from 4.45am to 11.30am, and then over the next two days were subject to various attacks, and were then ordered to retire to preserve the line and were almost surrounded.

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 at other parts of the line.

As Sidney was also involved in Clerical work, it may be that he was not generally involved in the frontline fighting, however, from 21 to 26 March, the ‘surplus’ 2nd/6th personnel, which probably involved clerical and catering staff, were also in action and a separate ‘diary’ was kept for them.

Meanwhile, from 22 to 23 March, the Battalion withdrew westward, through Fayett, Attilly, Matigney, Vyennes, to Breuil and Billancourt. By 24 March, the Battalion was only about 140 strong and then at Buverchy, occupied the west bank of the Canal du Nord. The Battalion, or what remained of it, continued a fighting withdrawal from 25 March to 3 April towards the outskirts of Amiens.

By the time the Battalion was relieved, after fighting all the way back to Amiens in the First Battles of the Somme 1918, the Division had been involved in continuous action since August 1917 and was exhausted.

The Battalion casualties from 21 March to 5 April 1918 were some 16 Officers and 450 Other Ranks. 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 were moved north to what had been a quieter part of the line near Bethune. They were entrained at Rue St Roch, Amiens and taken north to Berguette, and then on to Le Cornet Malo to join 153rd Brigade. However, rather than having some rest, the Battalion had to prepare immediately for a counter attack, as the Germans had just launched the second phase of their offensive on 9 April 1918. The Division became involved and many more casualties were incurred.

The actions until 12 April were reported in a separate appendix of the Battalion War Diary, but only the reports for ?10, and 11 and 12 April survive. A trench map with the War Diary showed the 2nd/6th Battalion positions just south of Merville. It concludes by stating that ‘The casualties of the Battalion between 10th and 14th April inclusive were 9 Officers and 133 Other Ranks.

It seems that Sidney ‘… proceeded to the line the previous day [10 April] to assist the Commanding Officer with the clerical work. He was writing in a room in a farm house, which was suddenly attacked and Lance-Corpl Hall was killed on the spot.’[5] Thus on 11 April 1918, during this second major German attack, on the ‘quieter part of the line’, Sidney George Hall was ‘killed in action’. His body was recovered, but whether he was buried initially in one of the other local cemeteries is uncertain, as the graves brought in from other small nearby cemeteries, such as that used by the 2nd/7th RWR,[6] do not appear to be separately identified in CWGC documentation.

The Rugby Advertiser reported,

LANCE-CORPL. SIDNEY HALL KILLED. Mr & Mrs J Hall, of 31 Alexandra Road, Rugby, have received intimation that their only son, Lance-Corpl Sidney Hall, Royal Warwicks, was killed on April 12th. He proceeded to the line the previous day to assist the Commanding Officer with the clerical work. He was writing in a room in a farm house, which was suddenly attacked and Lance-Corpl Hall was killed on the spot. He was before enlistment employed as a clerk by Messrs Wratislow & Thompson.  Whilst in England he rose to be sergeant-in-charge of Brigade headquarters – a most responsible position for one so young, he then being only about 20 years of age. He took a keen interest in the work at St Andrew’s Mission Church, at which a memorial service was held on Sunday evening.[7]

Sidney George Hall is now buried in the St. Venant-Robecq Road British Cemetery, Robecq, in grave ref: III. C. 11., some five miles from Merville.

St. Venant is a small town in the Department of the Pas-de-Calais about 15 kilometres north-west of Bethune. For much of the First World War, the villages of St. Venant and Robecq remained practically undamaged, but in April 1918, during the Battle of the Lys, the German line was established within 2 kilometres of the road that joins them. The cemetery was begun around 12 April and used as a front line cemetery until the end of July. At the Armistice it contained 47 burials, but was then greatly enlarged when graves were brought in from the battlefields south of St. Venant and from other cemeteries in the vicinity. The most important of these cemeteries were La Haye British Cemetery at St. Venant (65 graves), used by the 2nd/7th Royal Warwicks and 2nd/8th Worcesters between April and August 1918, and Carvin British Cemetery, Mont-Bernenchon (54 graves), used by fighting units and field ambulances during the same period.

Later, when the permanent gravestones replaced the temporary cross, no family message was requested.

Sidney George HALL is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; and also on a family grave, ref: C175, in the Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.

Sidney’s Medal Card shows that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Another Rugby man in the 2nd/6th Battalion, one of Sidney’s officers, William Harry PACKWOOD, was killed the next day, 12 April.

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Sidney George HALL was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, January 2018.

[1]         http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/61st-2nd-south-midland-division/

[2]       Based on: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/316/royal-warwickshire-regiment/.

[3]       WWI War Diaries, 1914-1920, 2/6 Bn., Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 61st Division,

[4]       Murland, Jerry, Retreat and Rearguard Somme 1918, the Fifth Army Retreat, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-78159-267-0.

[5]       Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 4 May 1918.

[6]       The 2nd/7th RWR were operating with the 2nd/6th RWR, and thus on 13 April 1918 the 2nd/6th RWR was combined for some days with the 24th Entrenching Battalion as a composite Battalion and then relieved the 2nd/7th RWR.

[7]       Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 4 May 1918.