Cope, Percy Leslie. Died 21st Jun 1917

Percy Leslie COPE, was born in Molesey, Surrey in 1894. He was baptised on 2 December 1894 at St. Mary’s church, East Molesey, Surrey.   His father, John Cope, was an ‘Iron Moulder’ who had been born in Basingstoke, as had Percy’s mother, Harriet Elizabeth, née Fisher, Cope, and Percy’s two oldest brothers.

The family later moved to East Molesey where Percy and his two other brothers were born. However, by 1901, when his youngest brother was two years old, the family had moved to New Bilton, Rugby, living at 14 Victoria Avenue. John Cope and his eldest son were both working as foundry ‘moulders’.

By 1911, the family were at 8 Victoria Avenue, New Bilton, Rugby. The eldest son was no longer at home, but Percy was now a ‘trimmer’ and his father and his two other elder brothers were ‘moulders’, and all four were employed in an iron foundry.

Percy enlisted in Rugby, as a Gunner, No.125, later renumbered as No.840038, in ‘D’ Battery of the 63rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (RFA). His exact enlistment date is unknown, but it was probably in 1914, as he went to France on 31 March 1915, thus becoming entitled to the 1915 Star.

In general the Territorial Force (TF) artillery units were under command of the TF Divisions. The 63rd Brigade was formed as part of the First New Army, K1. It originally comprised Nos. 199, 200 and 201 Batteries RFA and the Brigade Ammunition Column and was under the command of the 12th (Eastern) Division. There were various reorganisations[1] which typically affected D Battery.

One reorganisation was on 25 May 1916, when D Battery left to join 65 Brigade which was also under command of 12th (Eastern) Division, and was replaced by B (Howitzer) Battery from 65 Brigade RFA.   It was then renamed as the new D (Howitzer) Battery.

It may have been that this provided the opportunity for Percy to take leave as in Q2, 1916 he must have been in Rugby, when his marriage to Violet Beatrice Edmans was registered. She had been born in about 1896 in Hackney, London. Percy’s military records note that their son, Leslie F Cope, was born on 24 September 1916. This would suggest that he was also in Rugby in about December 1915.   With no surviving Service Records it is not possible to establish if and why this was the case, two leaves in a short period seem unlikely, but perhaps he had been wounded.

There were further reorganisations on 30 August 1916 and 7 January 1917, although the Brigade remained with 12th (Eastern) Division throughout the war. In 1917, the Division took part in the offensive at Arras, and moved to the front in that sector on 14 January. It did not leave other than for periods of rest until towards the end of 1917. Thus Percy would have spent his final months in the Arras area. When the Division was relieved on 16 May and moved to the area of Le Cauroy, it had suffered a total of 141 officers and 3380 other ranks casualties since 25 April 1917. Between 17 May and 19 October 1917, the Division held positions east of Monchy le Preux, mounting several raids and small scale attacks and beating off some made against them, notably in the area of Hook Trench – Pick Avenue – Tites Copse.[2]

Whilst his Medal Card noted that Percy was ‘K in A’ – ‘Killed in Action’ – on 21 June 1917, he may have died of wounds. His place of death is recorded[3] as ‘37th Field Ambulance’, which suggests that he may have been wounded at an earlier date and have been evacuated to the nearby 37th Field Ambulance.

The 37th Field Ambulance was attached to the 12th (Eastern) Division from February 1917, and was based approximately 8 miles from Arras.

The Battalion diary does not record men killed, merely their main duties and targets, and 21 June 1917 does not include any unusual activity. However, a few days before at 12.30pm on 17 June 1917 there was a ‘Very heavy hostile barrage on our trenches’.[4] He may have been wounded in that incident – although analysis of the fatalities from the Brigade in June, when their Field Ambulance was using the Bunyans Cemetery at Tilloy-les Mofflaines suggests that there were casualties from various batteries of the 63rd Brigade buried there on 14 June, 18 June [3No], and Percy on 21 June 1917.

He was buried in Grave Reference: E. 3. in Bunyans Cemetery, Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines. This is a very small cemetery in the Pas de Calais area with only 54 identified casualties. It is 4 kilometres south-east of Arras on the main road to Cambrai. The village of Tilloy-les-Mofflaines was captured on 9 April 1917 by the 3rd Division, which was followed up by the 37th. Bunyans Cemetery (the origin of the name is not known) was begun by infantry units (Row A) after the advance in April 1917 and Rows B to E were made between April and 4 July 1917 by the 62nd and 63rd Brigades, Royal Field Artillery.

A death announcement appeared in the Rugby Advertiser.[5]

COPE. – In loving memory of Gunner Percy Leslie Cope, who was killed in action in France on June 21st, 1917, aged, 22. Not dead but sleepeth.
Somewhere there is a nameless grave,
Where sleeps our loved one among the brave;
One of the rank and file – he heard the call,
And for the land he loved he gave his all.
– From his Wife and Son, 82 Lawford Road, New Bilton, Rugby.

Percy was awarded the Victory and British medals and also received the 1915 Star. He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and also on the New Bilton War Memorial which is by the chapel in Croop Hill Cemetery, Addison Road, Rugby.

Percy’s widow, Violet, was later recorded by the CWGC as living at 82 Lawford Road, New Bilton, Rugby. The Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects recorded that she was paid various sums outstanding: £10-14-5d on 28 January 1918 and £21-8-8d on 18 April 1918.   After Violet remarried with Henry Belcher, in Rugby – this marriage being registered in Q2 1919 – it was thus as Violet Belcher that she was paid Percy’s War Gratuity of £13-12-0d on 19 December 1919.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on Percy Leslie COPE 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, June 2017.

 

[1]       The Long Long Trail, http://www.1914-1918.net/rfa_units_63.html.

[2]       Information from: http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/12th-eastern-division/.

[3]       The Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects

[4]       War Diary, The National Archives, Ref: WO 95/1838, 63 Brigade Royal Field Artillery, 1915 Jan. – 1919 Apr.

[5]       Rugby Advertiser, 28 July 1917.

Handyside, John Robert. Died 19th May 1917

John Robert HANDYSIDE was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1886, the son of John and Jane Handyside.   He was baptised on 15 September 1886 at St Anne’s, Newcastle on Tyne.

In 1901, John’s father was a ‘Blacksmith’s Labourer’ and the family lived at 15 Rippenden Street, Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne. John was then 14 years old and had five younger siblings.

In 1911, John, now 25 and still single, was a labourer in an engineering works and still at home with the family. A family of eight in a three roomed house would have been somewhat crowded.

Sometime between 1911 and 1914 John moved to Rugby to work ‘… at Messrs Willans & Robinson’s, and lodged at the house of Mrs Hayward, 43 Lodge Road, Rugby’.[1]

‘His enlistment was reported in the September 1914, ‘Supplementary List, No. 3.’ from Willans & Robinson Ltd.[2] By January 1916, ‘The employees from Messrs Willans and Robinson’s with the colours consist of 15 officers (including one staff-captain) and 233 men, 248 in all.   Of these, two officers and ten men have already been killed, …’[3]

A later report confirmed that John ‘… enlisted as a gunner on September 3rd, 1914, and has now been promoted to the rank of Corporal.’[4] He enlisted initially as No. 11029 with ‘D’ Battery, 71st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. 71st Brigade was part of the New Army K2 and its service is summarised below.[5]

‘LXXI Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, made up of 223, 224 and 225 Batteries RFA and the Brigade Ammunition Column served with 15th (Scottish) Division. 15th (Scottish) Division was formed in September 1914, as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army. 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. 71 Brigade proceeded to France in the second week of July 1915. They were in action in the Battle of Loos in 1915.

In spring 1916, they were involved in the German gas attacks near Hulluch and the defence of the Kink position. On the 22nd May 1916 the Brigade Ammunition Column merged with other columns of the divisional artillery to form the 15th Divisional Ammunition Column. On the 7th of June 1916 D Battery exchanged with C Battery, 73 (Howitzer) Brigade of the same division, each adopting the others name. 71 Brigade were in action during the Battles of the Somme, including the Battle of Pozieres, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette and the capture of Martinpuich, The Battle of Le Transloy and the attacks on the Butte de Warlencourt.   The brigade was reorganised in early December 1916. C Battery was split between A and B Battery to bring them up to six guns each. B Battery, 73 (Howitzer) Brigade joined and was renamed C Battery, 71 Brigade. On the 22nd of January 1917 a section of two howitzers from 532 (Howitzer) Battery, 72 Brigade joined to make D (Howitzer) Battery up to six guns.

In 1917 they were in action in the First and Second Battle of the Scarpe, including the capture of Guemappe during the Arras Offensive. They then moved north to Flanders and were in action during the Battle of Pilckem and the Battle of Langemark.’

One of John’s three Medal Cards shows that he went to France on 8 July 1915, which agrees with the above 71st Brigade history.

During his earlier period in France, a later report mentioned,
‘Bombardier Handyside had been previously brought to notice for coolness and bravery on the 25th September near Loos, when he repeatedly volunteered to repair wires under very heavy fire, although he was suffering from the effect of gas fumes at the time.’[6]

This may have been the occasion when, as a Corporal, another Medal Card noted that he was ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’.[7]

Sometime before the end of November, whilst he was an Acting Bombardier and still in ‘D’ Battery, 71st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and there were several [similar] reports.

‘ANOTHER RUGBY MAN AWARDED THE D.C.M.
‘Amongst those who have recently been awarded the D.C.M is Bombardier J R Handyside, D Battery, 71st Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He received the distinction for conspicuous gallantry from the 26th September to the 14th October, 1915, during which time his battery was in the open and constantly under a very heavy fire. He frequently volunteered to mend telephone wires under heavy fire, thereby successfully maintaining communications.’[8]

‘11029 Bombardier J. R. Handyside, ‘D’ Battery, 71st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. For conspicuous gallantry from the 26th September to the 14th October, 1915, during which time his battery was in the open and constantly under a very heavy fire. He frequently volunteered to mend telephone wires under heavy fire, thereby successfully maintaining communications. Bombardier Handyside had been previously brought to notice for coolness and bravery on the 25th September near Loos, when he repeatedly volunteered to repair wires under very heavy fire, although he was suffering from the effect of gas fumes at the time.[9]

In addition, he was also awarded the Medaille Militaire,[10] and was subsequently promoted to Sergeant and it might have been during the reorganisation of the 71st Brigade in early December 1916, that he was promoted to Sergeant and transferred to ‘C’ Battery, 70th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.

70th Brigade was also part of the New Army K2, and also in the 15th Division, indeed the 70th, 71st and 72nd Brigades were largely working together and in May 1917, were generally in the Feuchy to Tilloy areas to the East of Arras. This was during the aftermath of the Battle of Arras which had been in progress from 9 April to 16 May 1917, with the 70th Brigade in the Tilloy area.

‘C/70 came up into the line’ on 15 May and the 16, 17 and 18 May were ‘quiet all day’ with an attack at 8.20pm on the 18 May which did not gain its objective. On 19 May, the War Diary recorded,
‘Quiet day.   Preparation for attack. A/70 came into the line for the attack.   Attack by the XVII corps.[11] Our batteries assisted by shelling the enemy’s defenses on the Brigade front.’

Some time during this ‘Quiet day …’, 19 May 1917, John Handyside was ‘Killed in Action’.

John was buried in the Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery, Arras in Grave: V. F. 13.   There was no additional inscription on his headstone.

The Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery is the main CWGC cemetery in the western part of the town of Arras. The Commonwealth section of the cemetery was begun in March 1916, behind the French military cemetery established earlier. It continued to be used by field ambulances and fighting units until November 1918.

John R HANDYSIDE was awarded the Victory and British Medals and the 1915 Star. He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and in St. Philip’s Church, Wood Street, Rugby.
‘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.’[12]

His mother as Sole Legatee received John’s outstanding pay of £41-0-11d on 11 September 1917; then a further £1-2-0 on 13 October 1917; and a War Gratuity of £15-10-0 on 24 October 1919. She received a further Gratuity for his D.C.M. of £20-0-0d on 28 September 1921.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

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

[1]       Rugby Advertiser, 4 December 1915; as reported in Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com, 4 December 1915.

[2]       Rugby Advertiser, 5 September 1914; as reported in Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com, 5 September 1914.

[3]       Rugby Advertiser, 1 January 1916; as reported in Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com, 1 January 2017.

[4]       Rugby Advertiser, 4 December 1915; as reported in Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com, 4 December 1915.

[5]         http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/fartillery.php?pid=9943.

[6]       Rugby Advertiser, 4 December 1915; as reported in Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com, 4 December 1915.

[7]       The Medal Card mentions ‘London Gazette, 1/1/16 p.19 [or 9]’ although this has not been found.

[8]       Rugby Advertiser, 4 December 1915; as reported in Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com, 4 December 1915.

[9]       The London Gazette, 26 November 1915, Supplement: 29384, Page: 11896; also The Edinburgh Gazette, 1 December 1915, Issue: 12878, Page: 1822; also Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 1 January 1916.

[10]     Rugby Advertiser, 4 December 1915; as reported in Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com, 4 December 1915; also Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 1 January 1916.

.

[11]     In April 1917, XVII Corps attacked east of Arras near the River Scarpe, but was bogged down in rain and snow.

[12]     From a report of the unveiling, Rugby Advertiser, 12 November 1920, see http://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/rugby-st-philips-church. It is not known if the Memorial in St Philip’s Church still exists.

Turner, Arthur James. Died 19th Sep 1916

Arthur James Turner was born in 1874 and baptised in Ditchingham in Norfolk on 27th September 1874. His parents were James and Hannah (nee Dodman) who had married in 1868. Hannah died and was buried in Hedenham, Norfolk on 22nd October 1880. She was aged 34 and left a husband and five children. Arthur James was aged only six.

Times must have been hard for the family. James was an agricultural labourer and in 1883 was summoned to the Petty Sessions in Loddon by the School Attendance Officer, for neglecting to send two children to school. He was fined 2s 6d in each case. Perhaps they were need to work in the fields.

We have been unable to find the family in the 1891 census. Arthur James would have been sixteen by this time. Around March 1894 he joined the army. He sent time in India with the Royal Field Artillery and was drafted to England to train recruits during the Boer War. In 1902 he married Lizzie Gertrude Stanley. Their first child, Cyril Arthur Stanley Turner was born in Ireland in 1903 and Leslie Alan followed in 1905 and Vera Evelyn in 1907. The family were living at Bulford Camp, in Wiltshire at the time. Their fourth child, Urban H Turner was born in Rugby in 1912.

Arthur James had been was appointed Battery Sergeant-Major and Instructor in Gunnery to the Rugby Howitzer Battery in March 1910.

According to the report in the Rugby Advertiser 7th Oct 1916

“After the general mobilisation in August 1914, Sergt-Major Turner was appointed to the Divisional Ammunition Column. He finished his term of 22 years in March last, but signed on again for the period of the war, and was transferred to another Division.”

At his death he served in “B” Bty, 95th Bde, Royal Field Artillery (No 3291)

He “was killed in action on September 19th. Mrs Turner has not received official news of her husband’s death, but the Chaplain of the Division to which he was attached has written saying that her husband’s battery had been in action where the fighting was hottest, and he was one of the brave men who had given their lives for his King and country. The Chaplain added that he had read the Burial Service over his grave, near the Battery position. B.S.M. Turner who was 42 years of age, had served 22 years in the R.F.A.

He is buried at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, west of Longueval, where many of the dead from the Battle of the Somme were buried.

He is also remembered on the Croop Hill War Memorial in Rugby. His widow lived at 64 Victoria Avenue, New Bilton. She died in 1947, aged 76.

 

Goodman, Fred. Died 3rd Aug 1916

Fred Goodman was born in 1896 and baptised that year on 23 Aug at Hillmorton Parish Church. His father was Henry Goodman, a railway servant and Janet nee Franklin. Janet was  born in Shenley, Bucks and they married in Hillmorton on 16 Dec 1886. At the time they lived in Lower Street Hillmorton, but by 1901 they had moved to 5 East Street, Rugby.

In 1911 Fred was 14 years old and working as an Office Boy at B.T.H. His father was still working on the railway, a Fire-dropper for L&NW Railway. Fred was the youngest of four children, two brothers Walter and Lewis and a sister, Nellie. Walter was away in 1911, serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in India (He was to die in the first month of the war, Goodman, Walter George. Died 27 Aug 1914.) The rest of the family were at 12 Bridge St, Rugby.

Fred enlisted with the 78th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, number 11032. He arrived in France on 12th July 1915. The Brigade was concentrated near St Omer, then moved to the Southern Ypres salient. In early July 1916 they moved south to the Somme during the Battle of Albert.

Fred Goodman died of wounds on 3rd August 1916. He was buried at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery. Dernancourt was a village, close to Albert, the location of the XV Corps Main Dressing Station.

According to the In Memoriam notice put in the Rugby Advertiser by his parents in August 1921, Fred died on his 20th birthday.

He is also remembered on the B.T.H. Memorial.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Jesson, Robert Weston. Died 20th Jan 1916

Robert Weston JESSON D.C.M. – d. 20 January 1916

 

Robert Weston JESSON was born about 1895, the son of James and Sarah Jane Barratt Jesson of Spring House, East Langton, Market Harborough, Leicestershire. In 1911, James Jesson, who was born in Gumby, in about 1859, was a butcher and grazier. There were then six children at home in East Langton: Thomas Jesson, 27, ‘working on the land’; Mary Elizabeth Jesson, 21; William Hedley Jesson, 20, ‘assistant butcher’; Alfred Neal Jesson, 18; Robert Weston Jesson, 16, still at school; and Margaret Ellen Jesson, 15. The eldest brother James J B Jesson, who should by now have been 28, has not been found in the 1911 census, and an elder sister, Evelin J Jesson, now 25, had married Adam Reid in 1908.

At some date between leaving school after 1911, and 1913, Robert stared work at BTH, and before the war he was working in the BTH Wiring Department and joined the territorial ‘Rugby Battery’ at Rugby on 19 June 1913, when he reached the age of 18 years.

He became Gunner, No.251, 5th Warwick ‘Rugby’ Battery, which was part of the 4th South Midland Brigade, Royal Field Artillery [RFA].

When formed in 1908, the Rugby Battery had a temporary headquarters at Messrs Willans and Robinson’s Engineering Works in Newbold Road, Rugby.   The Battery went on annual training in the summers. In 1910 a new headquarters was opened at 72 Victoria Avenue, Rugby, known locally as the Rowland Street Drill Hall.

‘The 4th South Midland Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery was composed of the 4th Warwickshire Howitzer Battery (based in Coventry), the 5th Warwickshire Howitzer Battery (based in Rugby) and its ammunition column. The men and horses of the 4th South Midland Brigade, from Rugby and Coventry, … trained together in the Territorial Force prior to 1914 and after the outbreak of war in August 1914 they served together until their Brigade was dispersed in … 1916.’[1]

Jesson, R W, Rugby, Warwickshire, Photo in Church Langton Church, Leicestershire 6 crop

Robert Jesson’s military records survived the WWII fire, as part of the ‘burnt records’, and his brief military career can be followed in some detail and can be correlated with the movements of the Brigade which are also recorded on-line and provide some guidance as to where Robert would have been serving at any time.[2]

His Service Record showed that he attended the 1913 fortnight’s Annual Training Camp on Salisbury Plain, probably at Rolleston Camp, from 3 to 17 August 1913, which included field manoeuvres.

Robert was promoted to Bombardier [equivalent of Corporal] on 15 July 1914, just before going to the Annual Training Summer Camp at Lydd, Norfolk on 2 August 1914, however, they returned to Rugby, on 4 August, after being in camp for only 2 days.

Robert would become ‘One of Lord Kitchener’s first hundred thousand’.[3] On 6 August 1914, the Brigade went to Swindon to join the 1st South Midland Division (infantry); and then moved, on 24 August 1914, by road from Swindon to Great Baddow, Essex, where they stayed till 30 March 1915. During this period, on 14 October 1914, they were inspected by King George V at Hylands Park, Chelmsford, and during January 1915 went to Salisbury Plain for training with infantry, returning to Great Baddow in February.

On 30 March 1915, the Brigade, and Robert, embarked at Southampton for Le Havre, France, and travelled by train to Abbeville, and then to Steenwerck, near Bailleul, reaching Menegatte on 3 April and marching to Nieppe.

On 5 April 1915 they went into action for the first time at Petit Point, near Ploegsteert. They served in the Ploegsteert area; then on 18 April 1915 at La Menegatte; and by 15 May 1915 back at Ploegsteert.

During this period at Ploegsteert, Robert, who had already been a Bombardier in the Territorials, was promoted to acting Corporal on 18 May 1915, to replace ‘Bromwich’ who was admitted to hospital. He was confirmed in the rank on the same day.

On 26 June 1915 they came out of action and moved to Ferfay, near Lilliers, 25 miles south west of Ploegstreert, and then moved in stages toward the Somme area: 27 June 1915 at Bailleul; 28 June 1915, Vieux Berquin; 29 June, Robecq; 30 June, Ferfay; 20 July 1915, Thievres; 22 July 1915, Authie. This was a distance of some 80 miles. The Division took over a sector of the line from the French, and by 27 July were at Hebuterne, just north of Beaumont-Hamel and some 10 miles north of Albert, where they remained until the Somme offensive later that year on 1 July 1916.

On 5 August 1915, Robert was ‘Granted Class II Proficiency Pay, A.F.O. 1614 A to Home Paymaster. Then, ‘In the field’ he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal [DSM] vide Supplement to “London Gazette” of 11/1/16.’ That publication stated:

‘AWARDED THE DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL

‘251 Corporal R. W. Jesson, l/4th South Midland (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.’[4]

His ‘Military History Sheet’ stated that this was ‘… for conspicuous gallantry and good work, often under heavy fire’.

The award of the DCM to men of the ‘Warwickshire Regiment’ was included in the Coventry paper four days later, ‘Lce.-Corpl. R W Jesson 1/4th South Midland (Howitzer) Battery.’[5] It was also noted in the Western Daily Press: ‘2511 Corporal R. W. Jesson, 1/4th South Midland (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, T.F. – ‘For conspicuous gallantry and good work, in laying and maintaining telephone wires, often under heavy fire’; and also in the Cheltenham Chronicle.[6]

A later letter from Major Cecil P Nickalls, Major O.C. 5th Warwickshire Howitzer Battery, R.F.A on 20 January 1916 stated that ‘… He was in charge of the telephone system of the Battery. This duty called for much very hard work; he was always ready at any hour of the day or night to go out cheerfully at great personal risk to attend to any defect or breakage of the telephone wires, and his fearless devotion to duty set a grand example to all ranks.’[7]

Although the other South Midland Brigades had received the new 18-pounder guns to replace the 15-pounders, which were retired after the Boer war and given to the Territorials in 1906, the new Howitzers for 4th South Midland did not arrive till 6 January 1916 when they were issued with 4.5 inch Howitzers.

It was soon after receiving the new guns at Hebuterne, and the day after being presented with his DSM, that Robert Jesson was ‘Killed in Action’ on 20 January 1916.

‘… Corporal R W Jesson, was killed by a stray bullet, at 7 a.m. today. He was shot through the temple on his way back from Roll Call to his billet – his death was instantaneous. … Your son, whom I had the honour of congratulating only yesterday on parade before the officers, N.C.O.s and men, on gaining the Distinguished Conduct Medal, was universally loved and respected not only in his own Battery, but throughout the Brigade.’[8]

There was also an entry in Colonel West’s diary which noted that on ‘… Thurs 20th. Corporal Jesson shot in the head while walking in the village and buried.’[9]

The next week, another soldier from the battery, Gunner Thomas Spicer, was killed also when off-duty and his billet area was shelled. The Chaplain writing to his parents remarked how he ‘… lies next to a comrade from his own Brigade, Corporal Jesson who was killed last week.   It is a pretty little cemetery, in an orchard, just as carefully and reverently looked after as a churchyard in England.’[10]

No doubt because of the wider recruiting area of the south Midland Brigade, his death was also listed in more distant papers, including the Evening Dispatch and the Gloucester Journal.[11]

He had served for 2 years and 216 days, when he was ‘Killed in Action’. His Record confirmed that he was buried in Hebuterne Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France, and the CWGC confirmed his burial in Plot I. N. 19.

Jesson, R W, Rugby, Warwickshire, Grave in Hebuterne Military Cemetery crop

Hebuterne Military Cemetery was begun by the 48th (South Midland) Division in August 1915, and used by fighting units and Field Ambulances (particularly those of the 56th (London) Division) until the spring of 1917; it was reopened in 1918. The conditions of burial explain the irregularity of the rows. There are now over 750, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. The village gave its name to a severe action fought by the French on the 10-13 June 1915, in the “Second Battle of Artois”. It was taken over by British troops from the French in the same summer, and it remained subject to shell fire during the Battles of the Somme.[12]

As well as the Distinguished Conduct Medal, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star and the British War and Victory Medals.

Jesson, R W, Rugby, Warwickshire, Memorial in Church Langton Church, Leicestershire 3 crop

Robert Jesson is remembered in his home church at East Langton; on the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914 – 1918; on the BTH War Memorial;[13] as well as on the Rugby Memorial Gates.

Robert Jesson had been a chorister and ‘… learned bell ringing at his native village of East Langton, and took the greatest interest in the art. On going to Rugby he joined the Parish Church company, and rang his first peal (on the tenor) on November 24th 1913 – a peal of Stedman Triples in celebration of Mr. James George’s 60th birthday. On the Sunday after the announcement of his death had been received, the bells of Langton Parish Church were rung, muffled, to his memory’.[14]

The Rugby Advertiser likewise reported that he ‘… had been a member of the St. Andrew’s Association of Change Ringers, and before the evening service at the Parish Church … his fellow members rang half-muffled peals.’[15]

It is the intention of the present ‘Rugby Ringers’ at St. Andrews, to commemorate their predecessor.   A ‘Full three hour Peal’ of those same ‘Stedman Triples’ was rung on Sunday, 17 January, at about 5.00p.m., and a ‘Quarter Peal’ on Wednesday, 20 January at 7.30p.m., on the 100th anniversary of his death.  The Ringers noted that ‘… doubtless some beer will be drunk afterwards’.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

= = = =

 

This article was 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, January 2016.

[1]       https://sites.google.com/site/4thsouthmidlandbrigade/Home/dates-and-places-served-1

[2]       https://sites.google.com/site/4thsouthmidlandbrigade/Home/dates-and-places-served-1

[3]       From his Memorial in East Langton church (see above), with many thanks to Alan Regin.

[4]       The London Gazette, 11 January 1916, Supplement 29438, Page 603.

[5]       Coventry Evening Telegraph, Friday, 14 January 1916; also Gloucestershire Chronicle, Saturday, 15 January 1916; and Cheltenham Chronicle, Saturday, 22 January 1916.

[6]       Western Daily Press, Monday, 13 March 1916.

[7]       Letter, Major Cecil P Nickalls to Mr Jesson, 20 January 1916, Rugby Advertiser.

[8]       Letter, Major Cecil P Nickalls to Mr Jesson, Rugby Advertiser, 20 January 1916,.

[9]       Frank West, Diary, 1915-1916. He was in command of the 4th South Midland (Howitzer) Brigade.

[10]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Monday, 7 February 1916.

[11]     Evening Despatch, Friday, 28 January 1916; Gloucester Journal, Saturday, 12 February 1916.

[12]     http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/33301/HEBUTERNE%20MILITARY%20CEMETERY

[13]     Taken from the list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled, published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921.

[14]     The Ringing World, 17 March 1916.

[15]     Rugby Advertiser, 20 January 1916.

4th Dec 1915. Interesting Letter from an Old Murrayian

INTERESTING LETTER FROM AN OLD MURRAYIAN.

AN INSPIRING PICTURE FOR SLACKERS.

The following letter has been received by a young lady in Rugby, whose brother, an Old Murrayian, is at the front :—

“ I am in a dug-out about 15 feet under the ground, and the only illumination available is a novel one. It is a piece of rag dipped in vaseline ; but tomorrow our fresh supply of candles arrive, so I shall look forward to a ‘ bright ‘ future. I will try and describe to you what my vision of the scenery is like. To do that I shall have to gain a point of prominence ; but there are plenty of them here—namely, brickstacks—as at present my home is in the trenches which are situated in the brickfields. This district has figured in General French’s despatches a good many times, and has been the scene of some severe fighting. Evidence of this is still scattered around. It is noted for being a hot quarter, and it lives up to its name. The first thing you notice is the maze of trenches as far as the eye can reach. Some of them were demolished, and others intact, having stood the brunt of it all. The intervening ground between the firing lines, called “ No Man’s Land,” is completely ploughed up by the enormous number of shells that have burst there. One would think it impossible to get through the barbed wire entanglements. Certainly now they are intact, but you should see them after the high explosive shells have played their part and blown them to bits, and the case is altered. The chasm that one can just discern is a blown-up mine crater, and whichever side holds these craters, makes strong efforts to retain them. This is where bomb throwers shine, as parties are organised at night to try and capture them. It is very dangerous work, as there is generally a maxim gun in the crater. In the distance one can see ruined chateaux and buildings, which have tasted the power of a “ Jack Johnson,” also the coal mines (called ‘ Fosses ‘ here), which mark the vicinity of some desperate fighting. These brickstacks are the delight of the sniper, as concealment is so easy, and such a commanding view can be obtained of the surrounding country. Eleven are in our possession, and two are in the hands of the Huns, so we have a great advantage over them. The stacks, being so conspicuous, get their full share of shells, and one is very lucky if, when looking from them, he does not get a greeting of shrapnel. This is the place where Mick O’Leary won his V.C, when the Guards captured the trenches from the Huns. There are plenty of graves which contain dead Germans ; also broken rifles and equipment which once belonged to them lying about. It gets very cold at night, but we have plenty of clothes. We had a bit of sun this morning. It was the signal for the aeroplanes to make their appearance, and what a reception they had from the anti-aircraft guns. We have had a good bombardment, and I think the Huns sent over everything that Krupps manufacture. . . .“ As we pass down the road to —-, we pass several graveyards, with hundreds of wooden crosses. What an inspiring picture to place before the slackers at home. One lives and learns, and I would not exchange positions with anyone in England at the present moment. With all the hardships, everything is so jolly, and when the war is over I hope to be able to take you all for a nice trip round here and act as your guide, because I pride myself upon knowing a little bit of France now from Ypres to Arras.”

In another letter to his old schoolmaster, Mr W T Coles Hodges, F.E.I.S, the same writer, after describing the scenery near where he is stationed, says:—

“ The intervening ground between the firing trenches, called ‘ No Man’s Land,’ is dotted with dead bodies, and here friend and foe lie side by side. The rain makes everything so miserable and muddy, and it is a picture to see the men come out of the trenches, covered with mud, and knowing what it is to be strangers to a wash for a couple of days ; but still one can always bet upon having an accompaniment on the mouth organ to march with.” The writer describes the cemeteries on the La Basse-Bethune Road, and says: “ Each contains many trim little crosses, and in some cases evergreens and flowers have been planted among the graves by comrades who cherish the memory of a chum so much. Large crosses are generally erected when a considerable body of men belonging to the regiment get killed. For instance, there is one here which has the following inscription : ‘ To a platoon of Guards,’and as a platoon is from 50 to 60 strong, this goes to show what severe fighting has taken place in this vicinity. Sometimes I come across an old school chum, and then the conversation generally drifts to what is a memory to me, and a very pleasant one at that—our schooldays at Murray Road School.

NARROW ESCAPE OF AN OLD MURRAYIAN.

Pte Horace Anderson, of the 2nd Warwicks, son of Mr W Anderson, 102 Winfield Street, Rugby, is in hospital at Torquay with a shattered thumb and slight wound in the side. He was also gassed, and for a time he was in a critical condition. His mother has been to Torquay to see him, and he gave her a Testament which he was carrying in his breast pocket at the time he was acting as bomb carrier at the battle of Loos. A bullet had struck the Testament, smashing away a portion of one corner, but the missile was evidently diverted by contact with the book, otherwise it would have passed through, or dangerously near, his heart. His cap also had a bullet-hole, which entered just over the right temple, passed along the side, and out at the back, so that he evidently had two very narrow escapes from direct rifle fire ; and after being gassed he was lying in the trenches for come hours.

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

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.

A LUCKY BATTALION.

Driver Philip Strongitharm, of the 25th Battalion R.F.A. has this week been on leave to his home at 8 Fasy Lane, New Bilton. after about 16 months at the front. The battalion to which he belongs has seen a lot of fighting, having been at the war since August last year, but they have come through so far with comparatively few casualties amongst the men. The loss of horses has been rather serious, and in the engagement at Ypres, when taking part in the withdrawing of guns from an untenable position, Driver Strongitharm had three horses shot under him in quick succession. He has had a number of hairbreadth escapes, but has not sustained the slightest injury, and appears none the worse for his spell of active service. Like so many others who have had personal knowledge of the actual fighting in France, he believes that the German resistance is weakening and that circumstances will in time compel them to evacuate Belgium, though they have got such a firm footing in the country that it will not be an easy matter now to expel them.

TEN DAYS’ LEAVE.

Sapper T Lord, of the Royal Engineers, whose home is at 28 Bennett Street, came to Rugby on Tuesday for 10 days’ leave, after being for a while at Leicester Hospital. He was wounded in the thigh, and retains the bullet as a souvenir. He has also undergone an operation for varicose veins, so may not be fit for work in the trenches for some time. When he leaves Rugby next week he has to report himself at Newark.

Sapper T Lord was attached to the 15th Scottish (New Army) Division, which played such a distinguished part in the advance at Loos, and when Lieut Johnson of that company gained the Victoria Cross for rallying the Scottish detachment at a critical moment at Hill 70. Most of the other officers in his company were either killed or wounded. On the Thursday following the advance, Sapper Lord, with a party of ten men, under Corporal Overill, of the B.T.H, were burying the dead between the old lines, when the enemy threw over a couple of shrapnel shells, a bullet from one of which wounded Sapper Lord in the thigh. Corporal Overill also sustained a slight scalp wound. While Sapper Lord was on a hospital barge on the canal at Bethune, a German aeroplane bombed the railway station, and during the unwelcome visitor’s stay our informant says he spent the most uncomfortable minutes of any he experienced in France, Sapper Lord was conveyed to England in the Hospital ship Anglia, which has since been sunk in the channel, and is full of praise for the excellent treatment which the wounded receive from the R A.M.C, the Red Cross, and Hospital workers generally.

ANOTHER RUGBY MAN AWARDED THE D.C.M.

Amongst those who have recently been awarded the D.C.M is Bombardier J R Handyside, D Battery, 71st Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He received the distinction for conspicuous gallantry from the 26th September to the 14th October, 1915, during which time his battery was in the open and constantly under a very heavy fire. He frequently volunteered to mend telephone wires under heavy fire, thereby successfully maintaining communications. Bombardier Handyside had been previously brought to notice for coolness and bravery on the 25th September near Loos, when he repeatedly volunteered to repair wires under very heavy fire, although he was suffering from the effect of gas fumes at the time.

Bombr Handyside hails from Newcastle, but when war broke out he was working at Messrs Willans & Robinson’s, and lodged at the house of Mrs Hayward, 43 Lodge Road. Rugby. He enlisted as a gunner on September 3rd, 1914, and has now been promoted to the rank of Corporal. In addition to the D.C.M he has been awarded the French Medal Militaire.

RUGBY MAGISTERIAL,

SATURDAY.—Before T Hunter, Esq.

AN ABSENTEE.—James Crosier, 27 Newbold Road, Rugby, of the 3rd Lancashire Fusiliers, pleaded guilty to being an absentee from his regiment.—Supt Clarke stated that he had received a communication from the commanding officer of the Battalion, asking him to arrest defendant.—Remanded to await the arrival of an escort.

COVENTRY MUNITIONS TRIBUNAL

MONDAY.

LOST IN A FIELD.—Walter Crofts, a Rugby crane driver, explained that during a night walk he got lost in a field, encountered some barbed wire, and tore his hand. This was in answer to a summons by Willans and Robinson, Ltd., Rugby, alleging that he absented himself without leave.

“ Were you practising for the front ?” asked the Chairman, “ No, I was walking with my brother,” he replied. He explained other losses of time by stating that he attended a wedding on one occasion, and at another time he had his jaw fractured by a man in the shop. The Chairman said defendant seemed to find a good deal of trouble, and should be a little more careful at week-ends. He would be fined 15s.

A WORKER’S PROTEST.—That he refused to do work he was engaged upon, and stood by his bench for four and a half hours, were the complaints against Leonard J Hopkins, 99 Victoria Street, New Bilton, by the B.T.H, Coventry. His reply was that he went to enlist, and after that was put on assembling instead of his proper job as a driller. He could not earn a living, and stood idle as a protest. He was fined 2s 6d.

CHURCH LAWFORD.

THE WHITE FEATHER.—Some little stir has been caused during the last week in this village. It would seem that quite recently a young man residing in the village was the recipient of a white feather, which came to him through the post, and of course made him very angry. Being a Territorial, he at once wrote a long letter to his commanding officer expressing his willingness and readiness to fight for his country, etc, and also accusing a tradesman’s wife (whose son has been in the trenches for twelve months) in the village of sending the obnoxious article and of insulting him in various ways. As a result of this letter, the lady in question has had a visit from the local police officer on the subject, and as she and her family are, absolutely and entirely innocent of the charges made against them, they in their turn are highly indignant, and are making inquiries which may possibly result in an action for slander.

BOOKS & PERIODICALS WANTED FOR SOLDIERS & SAILORS.

SINGLE COPIES GRATEFULLY ACCEPTED AT THE POST OFFICE.

As is now generally known, there has been for some months past a scheme in operation under which magazines and books which have been given by the public for the use of soldiers and sailors, have been forwarded by the Post Office to the men free of charge.

The scheme so far has proved a great success, but with the growth of the Army the demand for literature has increased, and the Agencies recognized by the War Office and Admiralty for the distribution of literature have to face a demand to satisfy which a supply of over 100,000 items every week is required from the Post Office.

At present only about half that amount is being sent, owing to a recent falling off in the supplies handed in by the public.

It is possible that it is not known to everyone who may have books or magazines for which they have no further use that by merely handing them in loose at any Post Office, they will be at once forwarded to the distributing centre in London.

This is a good work in which almost everyone can participate with the pleasant thought that, at little or no cost or trouble, every article so given will afford much pleasure to many of the soldiers and sailors who are sacrificing so much for the nation and the common cause.

It is difficult, of course, to make this fact fully known, so that anyone will be doing a good service by merely talking about the matter to their friends.

Throughout the Rugby district during the Christmas season there will no doubt be a very large number of magazines and light literature purchased, to be lightly thrown aside when read. These are the books the soldiers and sailors are eager to get, to help them to lighten the monotonous periods of their present kind of life, so that it is earnestly hoped every person who becomes acquainted with this scheme will do all he or she can to assist.

If you have only one book or magazine you can spare, hand it in at any Post Office in the town or country district just as it is. The Post Office will tie the articles in bundles and despatch them without delay.

WHAT AN ENEMY NEWSPAPER THE SAYS OF US.

“ We see that the Englishman—unlike the good business man he is so persistently deemed—upon noting that his Eastern ally is being slowly but surely driven back, will, instead of making the best of it, do his utmost to settle down for a three year war, or four year war, working with bull dog tenacity to crush his enemy in the end. When the end will be is no concern, of his. He began the business. He will see it through. In this strange phase of the English character there is enormous strength. We may be sure that if all the belligerents are beaten into insensibility, he will still hammer away with bleeding fists, tired and exhausted. England, in her persistence, will never stop, even if she knows that the longer the war lasts the more she will bleed—even if she knows that all possible gains at the finish will not make good half of what she has lost. . . .

“ Those Germans who look forward to an early peace in this world with longing hearts must turn their eyes on England hopelessly, for as long as the sun of peace is not rising in the isles to the west of us, there is no hope of peace. And England, secure in her citadel, behind the bulwark of her fleet, can go on and on and on.”— AZ EST, (Budapest) “ Sphere.”

GRAMOPHONE NOT GONE ASTRAY.

In the Advertiser of November 20 we inserted a paragraph under the heading “ Gramophone Gone Astray,” asking for the name and address of the person who left a letter at our Office purporting to be sent from the boys at the front with reference to a gramophone which had been sent out to them. There was no response to that invitation, but Miss M Evans, of James Street, Rugby, who collected subscriptions and sent out an instrument of this kind about a month ago has received a letter from a member of E Company, stating that it came duly to hand. It sustained some damage in transit, but was put in order again, and has since been used by each platoon of C Company (in which E Company is now merged) in turn, when off duty, and, he adds, “ I can assure you many happy hours have already been passed away with it.” Each platoon can use it as often as possible, but those in the firing line do not have it, because that is impossible.

RUGBY TOWN V.A.D. AUXILIARY WAR HOSPITAL.

The Hospital is now almost completely furnished and is expected to be opened on Wednesday, the 8th December.

Billingham, Walter Arthur. Died 21st Oct 1915

Walter Arthur Billingham birth was registered in 1895 at Towcester. His parents were Alfred Billingham (a flour miller) born in (Nether?) Heyford, Northamptonshire and Emma (nee Harrison) Billingham born in Northampton, Northamptonshire.

His parent’s marriage on 01 December 1889 was registered in Northampton, Northamptonshire. Walter was one of six children but only five survived according to the 1911 census. He was the eldest son living at home, 2 Pynus Cottages, Blisworth, aged 15, working as a gardener with his brother Frederick aged 12 and his sister Elsie aged 6 both at school and his sister Lily aged 3. His elder brother, Alfred J, aged 21, is not present but was recorded on the 1901 census when the family were living at 13 Chapel Lane, Blisworth in Northamptonshire.

(The name Pynus Cottages came from a nearby field named “Pyesnest”.)

Walter Arthur enlisted in Rugby in Warwickshire as a Gunner joining the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery.

The local newspaper recorded the following:-“BTH Employee Dies of Wounds

News has been received in Rugby of the death from wounds received in the Dardanelles, on October 27th, of Gunner W Bellingham, R.F.A. who at the time he enlisted was employed in the winding department at the B.T.H. Works.”

Walter Arthur Billingham’s British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Card states that the theatre of war (3) entered, was Egypt and the qualifying date was 14/07/1915. He joined the Royal Field Artillery as Gunner Billingham, and regimental number 10351. He was awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal and 15 Star. On his death he was recorded as 10351, B Bty., 59th Bde., Royal Field Artillery.

He died at Suvla Bay, of his wounds.

Walter Arthur Billingham is remembered with honour at Hill 10 Cemetery, Suvla.

HILL 10 CEMETRY, SUVLA.

Country:-Turkey (including Gallipoli)

Identified Casualties:-549

Location Information

The Anzac and Suvla cemeteries are first signposted from the left hand junction of the Eceabat- Bigali Road. From this junction, travel into the main Anzac area.

Located South West of Azmak and North of the Salt Lake, the cemetery will be found on the left, 21.5 kms from the junction.

Historical Information

The eight month campaign in Gallipoli was fought by Commonwealth and French forces in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war, to relieve the deadlock of the Western Front in France and Belgium, and to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea.

The Allies landed on the peninsula on 25-26 April 1915; the 29th Division at Cape Helles in the south and the Australian and New Zealand Corps north of Gaba Tepe on the west coast, an area soon known as Anzac. On 6 August, further troops were put ashore at Suvla, just north of Anzac, and the climax of the campaign came in early August when simultaneous assaults were launched on all three fronts.

The aim of the Suvla force had been to quickly secure the sparsely held high ground surrounding the bay and salt lake, but confused landings and indecision caused fatal delays allowing the Turks to reinforce and only a few of the objectives were taken with difficulty.

Hill 10, a low isolated mound to the north of the salt lake, was taken by the 9th Lancashire Fusiliers and the 11th Manchesters on the early morning of 7 August 1915. The cemetery was made after the Armistice by the concentration of graves from isolated sites and from the 88th Dressing Station, 89th Dressing Station, Kangaroo Beach, ‘B’ Beach, 26th Casualty Clearing Station and Park Lane

There are now 699 servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 150 of the burials are unidentified but special memorials commemorate a number of casualties known or believed to be buried among them.

This summary was prepared for the Rugby Family History Group by Janine Fearn in October 2015. Many thanks are due to, Christine Hancock, for managing the project, and for producing the “Rugby Remembers” blog and also to those members of the group who provided data from the local papers.

Research achieved from using the Ancestry and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web sites.