Clements, Eustace Edwin. Died 12th Nov 1918

Eustace Edward CLEMENTS was the son of Charles Edwin, [b.c. 19 April 1866 in Wing, Buckinghamshire] and Mary Ellen, née Lee, Clements [b.c. 1865 in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire], who were married on 28 December 1891 at Saint Andrew’s church, Rugby.

Mary Ellen and her parents – Frederick, who was born in Hillmorton, and Jane Lee – had lived in Rugby at least from 1864 when Mary’s sister, Minnie, was born there and in 1871 and 1881, when they were living at 768 Old Station, Rugby.  In 1881, Mary Ellen was 21.

Mary Ellen returned to Rugby to have her first child, Eustace, whose birth was registered, as Eustace Edwin Clements, in Q1, 1893 in Rugby [Rugby, 6d, 577].  Eustace was baptised in Rugby at St Andrew’s church on 12 March 1893.  His military Service Record though, would later give his birth place as Northampton – his early home – and his second name as Edward – and indeed on one record his religion as Roman Catholic!

In 1901, the family were still living in Roade St. Mary, Buckinghamshire, with their children: Eustace E Clements, 8; Dorothy Clements, 6; Freddy Clements, 3; and Oscar Clements, 2.   In 1919 Sidney and Edwin Clements would be given as the names of his surviving brothers.

Before 1911, the family had moved back to Rugby and in 1911 were living at 33 Winfield Street, Clifton Road, Rugby.  Charles was working as a Railway Signal Fitter for the LNWR.  Eustace, now aged 18 was working, as an ‘engine fitter apprentice’, also with the LNWR.  His younger brother, Frederick, was 13 and still at school,

Eustace Clements. photo by permission of David Boult

There are two sets of surviving Service Records for Eustace – or Eustace Edward or Edward as he was known to the military.  One set of records of five pages, and one set of 23 pages, with some duplications.  There is also a Medal Card and his CWGC entry.  Unfortunately the Service Records are of very poor legibility in many cases, and parts are missing as they were probably recovered from the ‘burnt records’.

Eustace volunteered early for war service and was attested in Rugby on 31 August 1914.  When he enlisted he was 21 years and 232 days old.  He was 5 foot 11½ inches tall; weighed 160 lbs; had grey eyes and light brown hair, and his religion was Church of England.  He was certified ‘Fit for service in the Royal Garrison Artillery, RFA’.  He became a Gunner, No.1679, in the Royal Field Artillery.  His previous trade was listed as ‘fitter’.

From 31 August 1914 to 12 September 1917 one set of records suggest he was on a ‘Home’ posting – which would seem to be in conflict with other records, and omits one of his postings in France!

He was initially in 51st (R) Battery, R. F. A. and had various postings before the end of December 1914 and would later be promoted to Corporal.  On 1 September 1914 he was at Hilsea,[1] then on 9 September 1914 he was posted to ?13 Reserve Brigade, and on 15 December he was at Frome and on 17 December 1914 with ?/111 Battery.

His military career was not faultless.  On 29 March 1915 he was ‘absent without leave from 10pm 29/3/15 until 2pm 30/3/15, 16 hours’ and was admonished and forfeited one day’s pay.  Then at Winchester on 20 May 1915 he was ‘Absent from town piquet’ and was confined to barracks for two days.  On 10 September 1915 at Lille Barracks,[2] he was ‘Absent from base [or ‘leave’?] 12 noon to 4.30 pm, 4½ hrs.’ for which he received 7 days field punishment No 2.

On 28 May 1915 it seems he was posted to the B/113th Brigade, and was vaccinated in July 1915.  Although an alternative record stated that he went to France on 25 September 1915 after ‘home service’ of 1 year and 25 days, however, there is again confusion as Eustace’s Medal Card stated that he went to France on 20 September 1915.  He would, in either case, have been entitled to the 1914-1915 Star.

He served in France until 10 June 1917 [one record stated 1916!] as on 7 June 1917 he was wounded and was evacuated first to 20th General Hospital, Dannes Camiers, and then ‘Home’ by ship on 11 June 1917 and admitted to the Horton War Hospital with ‘Gun S W right forefinger crushed, contusions of leg’.  He was discharged on 17 July 1917, however another report notes ‘Finger healed but distal joint stiff.  Has [morn]ing massage.  Sent to Command Depot’.

Indeed, he was posted to the Command Depot at Rippon on 28 July 1917 and then posted to 56th Reserve Brigade on 31 August 1917 until 12 September 1917.   He was then posted back to France on 13 September 1917 and seems to have been moved to A/307 Brigade from Base on 26 September 1917, and then to A/306 Brigade F. A. on 8 November 1917.

On 12 December 1917 he was wounded again, presumably comparatively slightly as he was discharged on 17 December 1917.

On 9 May 1918 he was wounded yet again and apparently suffered a ‘… Shell wound severe …’ and was evacuated back to England on 10 May 1918.  On arrival ‘Home’ on 11 May 1918, he was initially admitted to Southwark Military Hospital, London S.E.[3] being treated for ‘… ? gas shell poisoning?’ until 16 July 1918, when he was sent to the Convalescence Hospital,  Eastbourne, until 10 August 1918.

On 19 August 1918 he was posted to 60th Reserve Battery, R.F.A. and granted ‘Leave with free warrant’.  Presumably he was now no longer fit for front line service as on 17 October 1918 he had a ‘compulsory transfer into the Labour Corps as Private, No.669461 at Sutton’.  This suggests that he had been medically rated below the ‘A1’ condition needed for front line service.

Being less than fully fit for service, it was perhaps not surprising that he was taken ill again, struck down by the flu epidemic was sweeping the world.  He died, aged 25, in the Horton War Hospital, Epsom, on 12 November 1918, from ‘Acute Bronchio-Pneumonia & Influenza’.

The second page of a telegram on 13 November 1918 confirms ‘F C Labour Corps 1 acute Lobar pneumonia 2 influenza Warspital Epsom’.  Only the name ‘Clements’ can be read on the first page.

After a funeral in Rugby, he was buried in Rugby’s Clifton cemetery in plot, J192, with a CWGC headstone as Gunner Eustace Edwin Clements, Royal Field Artillery,[4] Service Number, 1679.  The CWGC has him as aged 24.

His headstone also remembers his brother Frederick Clements who most probably died in a Prisoner of War camp near to Berlin.  His family’s chosen inscription on Eustace’s headstone reads: ‘Also in Memory of 307487 Corporal F. Clements Royal Warwickshire Regt. 24.10.18.’

Three items were published in the Rugby Advertiser on 23 November,[5] a report on his death and funeral; the family’s announcement of his death; and their ‘Acknowledgement’ and thanks to friends.

Mr C E and Mrs Clements, 33 Winfield Street, have lost their son, Gunner E E Clements, R.F.A. from pneumonia, under sad circumstances, after seeing a lot of service in France.  He worked as a fitter in the L & N-W Railway Sheds, and when war broke out he answered the first call, and joined Kichener’s Army  in August, 1914.  He served three years in France, and was twice badly wounded.  During the big German offensive in May this year he was gassed.  On recovering he returned to his regiment, when he was called out of the ranks and told that he would have his discharge in two days’ time after good service.  On the following day he was struck down with influenza, which developed into pneumonia, to which he succumbed on the 14th inst.  The funeral took place at rugby Cemetery on Saturday last.  He was borne to the grave by six of his former workmates, and a large number of flowers testified to the esteem in which he was held

CLEMENTS. – On the 12th inst., at Horton War Hospital, Epsom, Eustace Edwin, the dearly beloved eldest son of C. E. & M. E. Clements, Gunner, R.F.A., of “flu” and pneumonia; aged 25 years. – Deeply mourned.’

MR & MRS CLEMENTS & FAMILY wish to thank all kind Friends and Neighbours for sympathy shown to them in their bereavement; also for all floral tributes sent.

Eustace is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and also on the Rugby Loco Steam Shed Memorial,[6]

In July 1919 his father filled in the declaration of next of kin, and on 19 September 1919 Eustace’s effects were sent from Nottingham to his father’s solicitors in Rugby.  They included,
‘Correspondence, Wallet, Photos, Badge, Holdall, 3 Razors In Cases, 2 Toothbrushes, 2 Shaving Brushes, Button Stick, Housewife, Meal Cards, Letters, Shaving Soap, Pencil, Disc, Bag, ?Piece Bread Pouch, Cig Papers, Watch Strap, Tin Tablets, 2 Button Brushes, 3 Handkerchiefs, Metal Pins, Hairbrush, Mirror, Wound Stripe, 4 Blue Chevrons, 2 Pocket Books.’

The family were then living at 33 Winfield Street, Rugby.  It seems that his mother received a separation allowance of 5 shillings per week.

Eustace was awarded the Victory and British medals and the 1914-1915 Star which were sent to his father in 1922.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on Eustace Edwin Clements 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, November 2017.

[1]      Hilsea Lines includes 18th- and 19th-century fortifications built to protect the northern approach to Portsea.

[2]      The Lille Barracks were one of the six barracks in the Aldershot Marlborough Lines which were built in about 1890; the Lille barracks were demolished in 1958.

[3]      St Saviour’s Infirmary in East Dulwich Grove … was built in 1887 by the Guardians of the Poor of the parish of St Saviour’s, Southwark.  The Royal Army Medical Corps took over control of the infirmary in East Dulwich Grove on 11 November 1915, which at the insistence of the guardians was named Southwark Military Hospital.  The hospital was fully equipped for 800 patients … the existing Medical Superintendent Dr A  Bruce was appointed the rank of Major and served as its Officer in charge for most of the three and half years the hospital was used by the military. … Altogether 12,522 wounded and sick servicemen were cared for at Southwark Military Hospital of whom [only] 119 died; a very small percentage of those admitted and a tribute to the skill of the doctors, surgeons and nurses.  See http://www.dulwichsociety.com/2010-summer/532-southwark-military-hospital.

[4]      Whilst Eustace had later been in the Labour Corps, this Corps always suffered from its treatment as something of a second class organization, and the men who died are typically commemorated under their original Regiment, with the Labour Corps being secondary.

[5]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 23 November 1918.

[6]      From a report of the unveiling, Rugby Advertiser, 11 March 1921; see also https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/rugby-loco-steam-shed-memorial.

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Collins, Samuel Charles. Died 24th Oct 1918

Samuel Charles COLLINS was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire in about 1895 and his birth was registered there with those names in Q4, 1895.  He was the eldest son of George Thomas Collins (b.c.1874 in Stapleford, Nottingham) and Louisa Annie, née Annis, Collins (b.c.1875 in Titchmarsh, Northampton).  Their marriage was registered in Q2, 1895, in Basford, Nottinghamshire.

From the birth records of their other children it seems that the family moved to Long Eaton, Derbyshire before 1898; then to Radford, Nottingham by 1900; and before 1904 to Rugby.  Indeed, Charles, as he was more commonly known, would have six younger brothers by 1911, and two siblings had died before that date.

In 1901, the family was still living in Nottingham at 49 Salisbury Street.  Charles’s father was a ‘cycle fitter’.  It is likely that his father was one of many workers who came to work in Rugby at the expanding British Thompson Houston works in the years immediately before the war.  By 1911, the family was living at 26 Abbey Street, Rugby and Charles was 16 and an ‘Apprentice Engineering’, probably at the B.T.H. works as he was working for them before the war.  His father had moved from the mechanisms of bicycles to become a ‘Fitter Electrical Engineering’, most likely also for B.T.H..

It is not known exactly when Charles joined up, however it must have been fairly early in the war, as his Medal Card states that he went to France on 31 March 1915, and thus qualified for the 1914-15 Star.  He was known to the army as Charles Collins.  The card shows that he was in a Territorial battery of the Royal Field Artillery and he initially had the number 99.  His entry on the Medal Roll states ‘RFA.T.99.Gnr.’.

This early form of number, suggested that he was already a member of the local 1st/1st Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery (Territorial Forces).    Another Rugby casualty, Thomas J Smith,[1] who also worked at B.T.H. was in this unit and also joined up early.  He was a Corporal, No.187 – also a very early number.  Thomas Smith was wounded and died of his wounds on 21 March 1918.

Charles Collins was confirmed as a member of the 4th South Midland (Howitzer), 243 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, 5th Rugby Battery, by a list in the papers of Frank West,[2] which included,

Collins, S. C., 99, Gnr, “K” [killed]’ and also included his details from the CWGC site

From the same papers, the 5th Battery, 243, Transfer List, May 1916’ listed: ‘99  Gnr Collins, C.’, as one of the men and officers from the 5th Rugby Battery of the South Midland 243 Brigade who were transferred to become the ‘D’ Howitzer battery of 241 Brigade in May 1916.[3]

It seems that in the 1916 reorganisations of the Royal Field Artillery, Charles Collins was transferred, at least latterly, into the ‘D’ Battery, 161st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, as a Gunner, No: 840100.[4]  As this Brigade’s Division did not go to France until early 1916, Charles who was already in France, probably joined them to provide more experienced men, and it was perhaps in the 1916 reorganisations, that he was promoted to Lance Bombardier.

A note on the renumbering gives some confirmatory information.

These “long” [six figure] numbers came into use on 1 January 1917, even though the men on active service to whom they were allocated were by that time in other Brigades. … Sampling the medal cards shows that some of the men with lower service numbers on this list who usually have short service numbers too, went out to France when the 4th South Midland Brigade was first sent overseas, arriving in France, 31 March 1915.  … All men who served overseas before the end of 1915 received the 1915 Star and the qualifying date is often marked on their medal cards.

This date 31 March 1915, agrees with the date of entry to France on Charles’s Medal Card – and confirms that he was originally with the 4th South Midland (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.

In May 1916, before the Battle of the Somme, the Brigades in the British Artillery were renumbered. The 4th South Midland became 243 Brigade, but its men were scattered, and that is presumably when Charles was posted to the 161st (Yorkshire) Brigade in the 32nd Division.

The ‘CLXI’ or 161st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, was initially in the 31st Division from its formation in April-May 1915 and designated the ‘Yorkshire’.  It was not until August that the Division moved for final training and firing practice at Codford on Salisbury Plain.  They left this Division on 2 December 1915, and joined 32nd Division in the New Year 1916.[5]

In November 1915, the 32nd Division had received a warning order to prepare to sail for France.  However, unless Charles had leave or returned to UK for any reason, he would have joined them at some later date in France.

The 32nd Division remained on the Western Front for the rest of the war and took part in the following engagements:[6]

1916 – Battles of the Somme 1916: the Battle of Albert (1-13 July 1916); the Battle of Bazentin; the Battle of the Ancre.  In 1917 – Operations on the Ancre; the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line.  1918 – The First Battle of Arras, a phase of the First Battles of the Somme 1918; the Battle of Amiens; the Battle of Albert and the Battle of Bapaume, both were phases of the Second Battles of the Somme 1918; the Battle of the St Quentin Canal and the Battle of Beaurevoir, both being phases of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line; and after Charles’s death, the Battle of the Sambre, including the passage of the Oise-Sambre Canal, a phase of the Final Advance in Picardy.

These many battles would have involved considerable movement of the artillery brigades, and many of the places where the 161st Brigade was in action can be found listed in the Brigade War Diary.[7]  They have also been abstracted and can be found in a posting on the Great War Forum.[8]

The activities of the 161st Brigade in the last month of Charles’s life have been examined, and it is uncertain when he may have been wounded.  During October they were some 10 km. north-east of Saint Quentin and some 20 km. south-east of Cambrai, providing artillery support for ongoing attacks eastwards towards Joncourt, Ramicourt, Brancourt-le-Grand, and Beauregard.

The Diary does not provide daily casualty numbers, but summarises them for the month.  In October 1918, 52 men were wounded, eight being from Charles’s ‘D’ Howitzer Battery.

It is not known whether Charles was one of the eight wounded that month, or whether he had been wounded earlier.  He was certainly evacuated a considerable distance, some 200 kms, presumably to one of the military hospitals at Le Treport on the coast just north of Dieppe as he died from his wounds, on the 24 October 1918, either at Le Treport, or on his way to a hospital there.

He was buried in Plot ref: VII. J. 3A. at the Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport, and was identified in the CWGC records as ‘Samuel Charles Collins’.  The family message on the gravestone reads ‘A NOBLE SON’.

Le Treport is a small seaport 25 kilometres north-east of Dieppe, France.  During the First World War, it  was an important hospital centre and by July 1916, the town contained three general hospitals (the 3rd, 16th and 2nd Canadian), No.3 Convalescent Depot and Lady Murray’s B.R.C.S. Hospital.  The 7th Canadian, 47th and 16th USA General Hospitals arrived later, but all of the hospitals had closed by March 1919.  As the original military cemetery at Le Treport filled, it became necessary to use the new site at Mont Huon.  There are now 2,128 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in the cemetery and also more than 200 German war graves.  The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

There were no obvious death notices or obituaries in the Rugby Advertiser, however, his death was noted in the Birmingham Daily Post.

R.F.A. – Collins, 840100, Lce.-bdr. C. (Rugby).[9]

As Charles Collins, he was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and also the 1914-15 Star.   He is also remembered as C S COLLINS on the Rugby Memorial Gates and also as C S Collins on both the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914-1918; and also on the BTH War Memorial.[10] 

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on Samuel Charles COLLINS 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, May 2018.

[1]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/smith-thomas-j-l-died-21st-mar-1918/.

[2]      https://sites.google.com/site/4thsouthmidlandbrigade/Home/5th-battery-list-1918.

[3]      From an Appendix to the War Diary of 241 Brigade Royal Field Artillery for May 1916, WO 95/2749.

[4]      His number, starting 840***, is compatible with the renumbering of members of the 4th South Midland Brigade. … In 1917 service numbers beginning 840*** were allocated to men who trained in it, just as they were to those already serving at the front.  When posted to the front most of the later recruits with 840*** numbers served with other artillery units.

[5]      Mostly from: https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-royal-artillery-in-the-first-world-war/royal-field-artillery-brigades/.

[6]      Information from: http://glesgakeelie.proboards.com/thread/2215/32nd-division.

[7]      The War Diary is at TNA ref: WO95/2380 and runs from January 1916 to October 1919.  Ref: UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery, 32nd Division, Piece 2380/4: 161 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, (1916 Jan – 1919 Oct).

[8]      A note by ‘Scott’ at https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/131297-32nd-division-161st-yorkshire-brigade-a-battery/, 23 October 2009.

[9]      Birmingham Daily Post, Saturday, 7 December 1918.

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

Lines, Frederick John. Died 6th Oct 1918

Frederick John LINES was born in Rugby in 1897 and his birth was registered there in Q4, 1897He was the second son and third child of Henry Lines, b.c.1860, in Rugby, and Sarah, née Moreley, Lines, b.c.1857 in Draycott, Warwickshire.  They were married on 6 August 1877 in the parish church, Bishop Ryder, Birmingham.

In 1901, the family was living at 17 Spring Street, Rugby.  Frederick was three year old and had two elder siblings: a sister, Edith aged 8; and a brother, William, aged 7.  Frederick’s father was a baker.  In the 1911 census, the family were still in the same five-roomed house at 17 Spring Street, Rugby.  Frederick’s father was still a baker, and another baker was lodging at the house.  Frederick went to Murray School, and before the war, he was working for Mr C B Jones, a hairdresser in Murray Road, who also served in the war and was killed in action on 9 October 1917.[1]

Frederick joined up in Birmingham,[2] in August, 1916, and served as a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery.  He was, at least latterly, Gunner, No. 159945, in the 124th Brigade H.Q.  This Brigade was in the 37th Division.

The 124th Brigade RFA was a War Raised Unit of the K4 formed in 1914/15.  It originally consisted of ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ Batteries, each with 4 x 18 Pounders.  It joined the 37th Division in April 1915 and went to France with the 37th at the end of July of that year.  Over the course of the war there were some major changes in the organization of artillery units within the Divisions, Corps and Armies.  On 4 August 1916, ‘A’ battery of the 126th [4.5 inch Howitzer] Bde. was transferred to become the ‘D’ howitzer battery of the 124th Bde.  Then on 31 August 1916, ‘C’ Battery of the 124th Bde. was broken up to give ‘A’ and ‘B’ batteries six guns each and a further 2-gun section from ‘C’ Battery of the 126th Bde. was transferred to bring ‘D’ Howitzer Battery of 124th Bde. up to 6 guns.  After 31 August 1916 the 124th Bde. consisted of three 6-gun batteries of 18-pounders (‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’) and a battery of 4.5 in Howitzers (‘D’ battery).[3]

The 37th Division took little part in the fighting begun by the German Spring Offensive, ‘Operation Michael’,[4] in March 1918, but did take part in the first counter-offensive, the April 1918 Battle of the Ancre, which included the world’s first tank versus tank combat at Villers-Bretonneux.  At this time the division was under the command of Third Army’s IV Corps, and remained part of this formation for the rest of the war.  The division took part in the Hundred Days Offensive, fighting in the Battle of Amiens, the 1918 Second Battle of the Somme, the Battle of the Hindenburg Line, and after Frederick’s death, the Battle of the Selle and the Battle of the Sambre.

On 6 October 1918, the War Diary of the 13th Fusiliers,[5] a component of the 37th Division related that the Battalion was at Banteux about 7 miles south-west of Cambrai, and advancing eastwards.  They would have been taking part in the Battle of the Hindenburg Line, which was fought between 2 September and 12 October 1918.  The Divisional Artillery would have been following up and be some way behind the line of advance, but it seems likely that Frederick was wounded in or around the Gouzeaucourt area, south-west of Cambrai.

By using the 124th Brigade Royal Field Artillery’s War Diary,[6] for the period before Frederick’s death, it is possible to speculate as to when he was wounded.

Whilst generally only monthly casualty figures are given, during September 1918, 124th Brigade Royal Field Artillery lost three Officers wounded, and seven Other Ranks killed and 32 wounded.  Most of these were incurred when the infantry had entered Marcoing, some four miles south-west of Cambrai, on 28 September when,

… the enemy having evidently decided to withdraw and hold the line of the St. Quentin canal.  The 124th Bde. RFA moved up … but the enemy had already withdrawn out of range of the batteries. … the batteries moved forward again … From dusk onwards, the enemy artillery and bombing aeroplanes were extremely active, Battery and Wagon Lines were subjected to heavy fire.  ‘C’ Battery suffered heavily from bombing, losing one Officer … wounded, 3 Other Ranks killed and 23 wounded, and 50 horses killed and wounded.

By the end of the month, the infantry were attempting to cross the St. Quentin Canal.  During October 1918, the Brigade lost eight Officers wounded, and ten Other Ranks killed and 42 wounded.  On the night of 1-2 October and 3 October, the War Diary related,

‘Hostile fire continued to be heavy throughout the day and the night. … Enemy artillery continued very active on both Battery and Wagon Line areas.’

There are no entries between 3 and 8 October, suggesting a pause in activity, with presumably lesser casualties.

Frederick Lines was probably among those wounded in late September or early October.  The wounded would have been evacuated, first to an Aid Post or a Field Ambulance, and then to a Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), which would treat a man sufficiently for his return to duty or to enable him to be evacuated to a Base Hospital.

When considering when Frederick was wounded, one must consider that it would have taken some time to reach the CCS, so he was probably wounded a few, or several, days before he died.  He was most likely wounded either in the bombing on 28 September, or by the hostile artillery on night 1-2 to 3 October 1918.

Frederick died of his wounds, aged 20, probably at a CCS at Grevillers – or on his way there.  He was therefore buried in the nearby Grevillers British Cemetery, in Plot ref: XVI. C. 11.

Grevillers is a village in the Department of the Pas de Calais, 3 kilometres west of Bapaume.  The village of Grevillers was occupied by Commonwealth troops on 14 March 1917 and in April and May, the 3rd, 29th and 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Stations were posted nearby.  They began the cemetery and continued to use it until March 1918, when Grevillers was lost to the German during their great advance.  On the following 24 August, the New Zealand Division recaptured Grevillers and in September, the 34th, 49th and 56th [Known as South Midland CCS] Casualty Clearing Stations came to the village and used the cemetery again.  After the Armistice, 200 graves were brought in from the battlefields to the south of the village, … The cemetery and memorial were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.[7]

When a permanent gravestone replaced the temporary cross, a personal family message was added which read ‘The Lord Gave & The Lord Taketh Away’.

Frederick’s death was recorded in the Rugby Advertiser in November 1918.
 Gunner F J Lines, youngest son of Mrs Lines and the late Mr Lines, 17 Spring Street, died of wounds on October 6th.  He was an old Murrayian, 20 years of age, and before joining the army in August, 1916, was employed the late Mr C B Jones,[8] hairdresser, Murray Road, who has also been killed in action.[9]

Frederick John LINES is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, and his Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Frederick John LINES 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, August 2018.

[1]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/jones-charles-bradlaugh-died-9th-oct-1917/.

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

[3]      The source is not entirely clear, but it is assumed that ‘D’ battery became the new ‘C’ battery and gained two more 18 pounders from another elsewhere.

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

[5]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), 37th Division, Piece 2538/3: 13 Battalion Royal Fusiliers (1918 Feb – 1919 Feb).

[6]      The National Archives, WO 95 – War Office: First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries, WO 95 – 37 Division, WO 95/2521 – Divisional Troops. Ref: WO 95/2521/4, 124 Brigade Royal Field Artillery, 1915 July – 1919 Mar.  See also: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7354060.

[7]      Extracted from: https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/29602/grevillers-british-cemetery/.

[8]      C B Jones subsequently worked for BTH, see: https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/jones-charles-bradlaugh-died-9th-oct-1917/.

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

Tilley, Horace Alfred. Died 27th Sep 1918

Horace Alfred TILLEY was born in Beckenham in 1898.  He was the elder son and second child of Alfred ?Horatio Tilley, b.c.1870, in Greenwich, and Mary, née Rickards, Tilley, also born in Greenwich in about 1876.  Their marriage was registered in Lewisham in Q4, 1895.  Horace’s birth was registered in Q2, 1898, in Bromley, Kent.

The family had moved to Beckenham, Kent, where their four eldest children were born and then to Weybridge, Surrey, where three younger children were born.

In 1901, the family was sharing a house at 28 Cherry Lane, Beckenham.  Alfred was a domestic gardener.

Before 1911, the family had moved near to Rugby.  In 1911, Alfred, was a ‘head gardener’ and he and Mary had been married 15 years – and all six of their children were still living.  The family were living in Newton Road, Clifton upon Dunsmore, near Rugby.  Horace was 13, so he would be only 16 when war broke out and whenever he ‘joined-up’, it would another two years before he was old enough to serve abroad.

Before the war, Horace worked in the Controller’s Department at the B.T.H.

In November 1915, Horace was mentioned as a ‘Single Man’, who had signed up under Lord Derby’s Scheme.

The Recruiting Position.  Clear Definition by Lord Derby.  Lord Derby’s Recruiting Scheme.  Local Enlistments under the Group System.  … The following have enlisted at the Rugby Drill Hall under the Group System. … Tilley, Horace, Church Street, Clifton.’[1]

The CWGC site gives the Service Number: 212890 for an H. Tilley who was killed on 27 September 1918.  However, the Medal Card relating to this number is for a ‘George H. Tilley’ of the Royal Field Artillery.  There are no death records from the RFA relating to a George Tilley, and it must be assumed that this was a clerical error.

He was, at least latterly, in the “D” Battery, 52nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, as a Gunner, No: 212890, Royal Field Artillery.

The four – L to LIII (Howitzer) Brigades of the Royal Field Artillery (9th Divisional Artillery) – were formed as part of the raising of the First New Army, K1.  They are also sometimes shown as 50 to 53 (Howitzer) Brigades RFA.

LII [or 52nd Brigade] was originally comprised of numbers 166, 167 and 168 Batteries RFA and the Brigade Ammunition Column.  It was placed under command of the 9th (Scottish) Division and went to France with it in May 1915.  In February 1915 the three six-gun batteries were reorganised to become four four-gun batteries and were titled as A, B, C and D.

On 21 February 1916 D Battery left to join 53 Brigade of the same Division, … The Brigade left 9th (Scottish) Division on 8 January 1917 to become an Army Field Artillery Brigade.

Various other re-organisations occurred, and it has not been possible to find all the areas where this Artillery Brigade was in action in late September 1918 – although a War Diary for a transport section is available from the TNA.[2]

Thus the details of Horace’s death are unknown.  He was buried in Plot ref: II. C. 16 in the Dominion Cemetery, Hendecourt-Les-Cagnicourt.  There was no age or personal family message on the gravestone.

Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt is 16 kilometres south-east of Arras … The Cemetery is 2.5 kilometres north-east of Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt, in fields reached by a track signposted off the road between Hendecourt and the Arras to Cambrai road.  Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt was captured by the 57th (West Lancashire) and 52nd (Lowland) Division on the night of the 1-2 September 1918. Dominion Cemetery was made by Canadian units in September 1918, after the storming by the Canadian Corps of the Drocourt-Queant Line; … There are now over 200, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site.

Driver A Hodgeson from the same company, who was originally listed as killed on the same day, was later recorded as killed in action two days earlier on 25 September, and was buried next to Horace Tilley.

His death was recorded in the Rugby Advertiser and also in the Birmingham Daily Post.

TILLEY – Killed-in-action in France on September 27th, 1918, Gunner HORACE A. TILLEY, R.F.A., aged 20, elder son of Mr. & Mrs. A. H. Tilley, 46 Railway Terrace, Rugby.[3]

Gunner Horace Tilley, Royal Artillery, son of Mr. A. H. Tilley, 46, Railway Terrace, Rugby, was formerly employed in the Controller’s Department at the B.T.H.[4]

Horace Tilley is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and on the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914-1918; although for some reason he does not appear on the BTH War Memorial.[5]  He is also listed on the memorial at St Mary the Virgin Church, Clifton-upon-Dunsmore, where a commemorative window has a plaque which reads

‘To the Glory of God and in honoured memory of Clifton Men who fell in the Great War, 1914-1918 … This window was given by the Parishioners.’

His Medal Card [under the incorrect name George] showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. 

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Horace TILLEY 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, May 2018.

[1]      Rugby Advertiser, 27 November 1915.

[2]      Army Troops, 52 Army Field Artillery Brigade, 1917 Jan – 1919 Jan, Catalogue reference: WO 95/203/4.  With thanks for location information provided by: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/261539-army-field-artillery-brigade-52-brigade-rfa/.

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 12 October 1918.

[4]      Birmingham Daily Post, Monday, 14 October 1918.

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

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

– – – – – –

 

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.

Chant, George Frederick. Died 23rd Mar 1918

George Frederick CHANT was born on 28 January 1880, in Enfield, Middlesex, the son of Anthony Chant, a coachman from Yeovil, Somerset, and Ellen, née VALE, Chant who was born in Westminster. George was baptised on 20 June 1880 at the Enfield Jesus Chapel, Enfield, when the family was living in Turkey Street.

In 1891 the family were living in ‘the cottage’ in Enfield, apparently not far from the ‘Spotted Cow’ beer house. The family seems to have remained in Middlesex, but George was elsewhere and has not been found in the 1901 or the 1911 censuses.

However, it seems that he was one of the many workers who came to work in Rugby at the expanding British Thompson Houston (BTH) works in the years before the war. Thomas moved to Rugby and went to work in the BTH Stores. He married with Alice E. Welch, the marriage being registered in Rugby in Q2, 1915.   They later lived at 43 Union Street, Rugby.

At some date, possibly somewhat later in the war, he joined up in Rugby as a Driver, No.88840 in the Royal Field Artillery. There is no surviving Service Record, so the details of his service are unknown – and being in the Artillery it is less easy to plot his progress. His Medal Card shows him in the Royal Field Artillery but there is no qualification date for when he went abroad, so it was probably in 1916 or even later. In March 1918, he was serving with the Royal Field Artillery, at the Headquarters, 4 Corps.

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.

Whilst the first bombardment of artillery positions was on 21 March, artillery attacks continued and George Frederick CHANT was ‘killed in action’ on the third day of the battle on 23 March 1918, aged 23. Because of the intensity of the battle, with the Germans moving forward in strength, and in the confusion of the retreat and rearguard action, the bodies of many of those killed were never found or identified.

George Frederick CHANT is remembered on Bay 4 of the Arras Memorial which is located at the entrance to the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery in France.   The memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. [One of the] … most conspicuous events of this period … was the German attack in the spring of 1918.

His death was reported in the Coventry Evening Telegraph,[1]

THE ROLL OF HONOUR. Coventry and District Casualties.

The following Coventry and district casualties are notified in the latest lists:
Killed. … Chant, 88840, Dvr. T. (Rugby), R.F.A. …

George Frederick CHANT is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, and his name appears also appears as ‘CHANT G F’ on the list of ‘BTH Employees Who Served in the War 1914 – 1918’; and as ‘CHANT George F’ on the list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled in 1921.[2]

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

The Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 showed that his back pay of £1-16-2d was paid to his widow ‘Alice E’ on 25 June 1918, and then his War Gratuity of £17, in two payments: £5-13-4d on 27 November 1919 and £11-6-8d on 25 February 1920.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on George Frederick CHANT 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]       Coventry Evening Telegraph, Thursday, 16 May 1918.   The death in action of Lce.-Bdr. F. Ward, No.11115, (Rugby), who was also in the R.F.A., was notified in the same edition – he is not on the Rugby Memorial Gate.

[2]       Taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921.

Smith, Thomas J L. Died 21st Mar 1918

Thomas J L SMITH, having such a common surname, and probably having moved from some distance to work at British Thompson Houston (BTH) in Rugby, has not been specifically identified, although some parts of his life and his military career can be followed briefly in the records.

Before the war Thomas was working in the BTH Drawing Office, and this is later confirmed as his name appears as ‘SMITH T J L’ on the list of ‘BTH Employees Who Served in the War 1914 – 1918’; and as ‘SMITH Thomas J L’ on the list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled in 1921.[1]

A search for births found nothing definitive, however a search for a marriage produced a registration in Rugby in Q3, 1914 [6d, 1583] between Thomas J L SMITH and a Nellie M DAVIS.

Further searches for Thomas – and indeed Nellie, with her almost equally common surname – in Rugby proved fruitless and it is likely that he was one of many workers who came to work in Rugby at the expanding British Thompson Houston works in the years immediately before the war.

Thomas joined up early, and indeed, the various dates could suggest that he may have already been a member of the territorial force. On his Medal Card he is listed as Thomas J Smith, a Corporal, No.187, – a very early number – in the 1st/1st Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery (Territorial Forces). At a later date it seems he was transferred to the ‘Som Royal Horse Artillery’ – probably the Somerset Royal Horse Artillery – as No.618345 – a much later style number.

The Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery was a Territorial Force Royal Horse Artillery battery that was formed in Warwickshire in 1908. On the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, many territorial members volunteered for overseas service and the unit was split into 1st Line (liable for overseas service) and 2nd Line (home service for those unable or unwilling to serve overseas) units.

The 1st Line battery was embodied with the 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade on 4 August 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War. Initially, the brigade moved to Diss, Norfolk and joined the 1st Mounted Division. Later in August, a concentration of mounted brigades was ordered to take place around the Churn area of Berkshire and the brigade moved to the racecourse at Newbury.

At the end of October 1914, the Warwickshire Battery departed for France, landing at Le Havre on 1 November. The Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery was the first Territorial Force artillery unit to go overseas on active service, spending the whole of the First World War on the Western Front, mostly with 1st Cavalry Division and 29th Division.

The ‘qualifying date’ i.e. the embarkation date on Thomas’s Medal Card, is 31 October 1914, thus it seems that he was indeed with the battery when it went to France on 1 November 1914. He would thus have also qualified for the 1914 Star.

It is uncertain what Thomas’s movements were thereafter. The activities of the 1st/1st Warwickshire RHA are well documented, however, Thomas’s Medal Card also includes the ‘Som Royal Horse Artillery’ – and a later service number: 618345 – and although also well documented they fought in different actions.   However, still with this same later number, Thomas is recorded by CWGC as being in “A” Bty. 298th Bde., Royal Field Artillery. When and why he might have transferred between these various batteries is uncertain – and no Service Record survives to record his movements.

Suffice to say he remained on the Western Front and at some date before late 1917 he had been promoted to Corporal and in later 1917, he won the Military Medal for bravery in the field.

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Military Medal for bravery in the Field to the under mentioned Non-commissioned Officers and Men:-
… 618345 Cpl. T. J. Smith, R.F.A. (Rugby).[2]
… 618345 Cpl. T. J. Smith, R.F.A. (Rugby).[3]

Rather than outlining his possible movements and actions in three different Batteries, until any further information appears, one must assume that he was involved in a great many actions, and being in the artillery was less likely to be killed than as a front-line infantryman. As mentioned the CWGC indicates that in March 1918 he was with “A” Bty. 298th Bde. Royal Field Artillery.

On 4 April 1917, 298th (N. Midland) Bde, RFA (TF) was re-designated as 298th Army Brigade, RFA.[4]

During 1918, 298th Brigade, RFA was an Army Brigade, RFA and from 28 February 1918 to 30 March 1918 it was supporting the 14th (Light) Division of III Corps.[5]

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.   It was possibly during this initial shelling of the British artillery positions early on 21 March 1918 that Thomas was killed.

The Brigade War Diary indicates that on 21 March 1918 the Brigade was in positions in the Montescourt area. Early that morning it was ordered to fire on a line between Sabliere Farm – Manufacture Farm. The Brigade Wagon Lines were heavily shelled with 40 horses, one officer and four men killed and six wounded.[6]

It is possible that Thomas was killed, or indeed wounded, later dying, on that occasion during the shelling in advance of the opening of Operation Michael.   The 61st (South Midland) Casualty Clearing Station which was stationed at Ham from January – March 1918,[7] started to receive casualties at 5.00a.m. on 21t March 1918.[8]

Thomas could have been one of the early casualties, and was either already dead on arrival or died soon afterwards and he was buried adjacent to the Casualty Clearing Station. There appears to be some confusion in the description on the CWGC site [unless there really was a pre-existing German cemetery on the site] however, it seems that the CCS were burying their dead, including Thomas, in what would later become the Muille-Villette German Cemetery, after the area was over-run.

The British soldiers buried in what became a largely German Cemetery at Muille-Villette were ‘concentrated’ [exhumed, moved and reburied] in 1919. The Ham British Cemetery was constructed next to and just behind the Muille-Villette German Cemetery, and the British graves were regrouped in this new cemetery, which explains the same map reference being used.

Thomas’s body could be identified as he was originally buried under ‘Foot Board: E55’ at ‘MR: 66D Q 2a 1-4’ from ‘Official Identity’. He was reburied in Plot ref: I. E. 21 at the new Ham British Cemetery. There was no age or personal family message on the gravestone.

Ham is a small town about 20 kilometres south west of St. Quentin … The British Cemetery is in the village of Muille-Villette. In January, February and March 1918, the 61st (South Midland) Casualty Clearing Station was posted at Ham, but on 23 March the Germans, in their advance towards Amiens, crossed the Somme at Ham, and the town remained in German hands until the French First Army re-entered it on 6 September 1918. Ham British Cemetery was begun in January-March 1918 as an extension of Muille-Villette German Cemetery,[9] made by the Casualty Clearing Station.

In 1919 the British graves in the earlier and German cemetery were reburied in the new British Cemetery, together with those ‘concentrated’ from two other German cemeteries, and communal cemeteries and churchyards.

His death was recorded in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, but seems to have been missed by the Rugby Advertiser.

‘The Roll of Honour, Warwickshire Casualties. Rugby Men in Casualty Lists. Three employees of B.T.H. to make the supreme sacrifice are: Corpl. T. J. Smith, R.F.A., Sapper E. Wagstaffe, R.E., and Pte. Alfred William Elson, Hampshire Regt., …’.[10]

Thomas J L Smith is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates as well as on the BTH Memorial to those who fell, as noted above. His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, the 1914 Star and the Military Medal for ‘bravery in battle on land’.

On the back of his medal card is written, ‘N M Smith applies for her late husband’s medals 7.11.20’, which also confirms his marriage with Nelly M Davis.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Thomas J L Smith 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]       Taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921.

[2]       Supplement, The London Gazette, 12 December 1917, p.13021.

[3]       Supplement, The Edinburgh Gazette, 13 December 1917, p.2569.

[4]       The brigade’s war diary for the period January 1916 to February 1916 can be found at The National Archives under WO95/3016. Its war diary from March 1917 to February 1918 can be find under WO95/456. Information from Dick Flory at http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/168241-a298th-north-midlands-brigade-rfa/.

[5]       Information from ‘quigs1969’ at http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=694165.0; and from Dick Flory at http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/192545-298-brigade-rfa/.

[6]       Information from ‘quigs1969’ at http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=694165.0; and from Dick Flory at http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/192545-298-brigade-rfa/.

[7]       However the 61st CCS Diary states that the CCS at Ham and their patients were evacuated by 23 March and the area was captured by the Germans.   One reference [http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk] suggests the CCS were also in Ham from March – April 1918, and then were at Vignacourt, although the War Diary suggests they had withdrawn.

[8]       WWI War Diaries, 1914-1920, Royal Army Medical Corps, 61st Division, from www.ancestry.co.uk, p.290-291.

[9]       See comment in text above as to the sequence.

[10]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Saturday, 20 April 1918.