Minchin, George Victor. Died 4th Sep 1918

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

– – – – –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM 

– – – – – –

 

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

[1]      Rugby Advertiser, 12 October 1918.

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

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, 12 October 1918.

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

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

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

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

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

[9]      Rugby Advertiser, 12 October 1918.

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

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Walker, Joseph Evan. Died 30th Mar 1918

Omitted from publication on 30th Mar 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After a cold wet night:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph was awarded the British and Victory medals.

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

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Houghton, William Thomas. Died 4th Oct 1917

Omitted from publication on 4th Oct 2017.

William Thomas Houghton was born in the second quarter of 1885 to Joseph and Annie Houghton.  He was baptised at St. Matthews Church, Rugby on the 30th January 1887. His father, Joseph, was a shoemaker and had married Annie Francis the 17th January 1870 at St. Marks Church, Bilton.

In 1871 William’s parents had been living at New Bilton in Lawford Road, Rugby with their eldest daughter Annie Elizabeth, who was born in 1870.  In 1881 Joseph and Annie are with their children, with the exception of Annie Elizabeth, at Back Lane, Bilton, Rugby.  By the time of 1891 census Thomas has been born and is with his parents, his brothers and sisters, Harry, Mary, Emily and Frederick; and they now are at 23 Russell Street, Rugby.  William’s eldest sister, Annie Elizabeth, is not at home.  Harry is working as a Railway Clerk, Mary is a Stay Maker, Emily is a General Domestic, and Frederick is an Errand Boy and William who is only 6 years old at this time.   By the time of the 1901 census, William is working as a servant (Page Domestic) at 4, Hillmorton Road, Rugby.  His parents have only their granddaughter, Lilly Hipwell 7 years old; living with them at 84 Rowland Street, Rugby.  Joseph is still working as a shoemaker.

William’s father died in 1905 and was buried at St Marks Bilton, 22nd March 1905.  At the time of Joseph’s death they were living in Avenue Road, New Bilton, Rugby.

William Thomas married Laura Martha Brown in 1909.  On the 1911 census they are residing in Kilsby, Northamptonshire and William is a Grocery Manager for the Rugby Cooperative Society.  William had also worked at Hillmorton and Bilton as well as Kilsby for the Rugby Co-operative Society.  His daughter, Phyllis, was born in 1912.

William enlisted at Rugby in 1916 and joined the 7th Bn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment on November 1916, no. 202847 and had been in France nine months prior to his death in 1917 and would have been involved in the fighting around Ypres.

The Battles of Ypres took place between 31st July to 10 November 1917 and it was during one of these in October 1917 that William would have sustained a wound to the neck.  He was then taken to one of the 5 Casualty Clearing Stations at Proven, Belgium.  He passed away in the operating theatre on 4th October 1917 at the age of 31 years.  His widow, Laura received news of his death from the Chaplain of the Clearing Station.  He is buried in Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium, Grave/Memorial V11. B. 29.

According to the records of Soldiers Effects, ( this is money that was owed to William at the time of his death), Laura was sent 11s 1p on the 12th January 1918 and a further 16s 9p on the 23rd March 1918.

Local War Notes   Rugby Advertiser, October 13th 1917
PTE. W. HOUGHTON KILLED
In a letter received this week Mrs Houghton, the Chaplain of a clearing station in France communicates the sad information that her husband, Pte. W. Houghton, Machine Gun Corps, died on October 4th.  When brought in he was suffering from a wound in the neck.  He was in no pain, and quite conscious and cheerful; and in the ordinary way of things it did not appear to be a severe wound.  Unfortunately he died on the operating theatre after an operation had been performed.  Pte. Houghton was 31 years of age, and was the youngest son of the late Mr. Houghton and Mrs Houghton, Queen Street Rugby.  For many years he had been employed by the Rugby Co-operative Society, and was manager successively of the branches at Kilsby, Hillmorton and Bilton.  He joined the Warwickshire Regiment on November 7, 1916 and had been in France nine months.  He leaves a widow and one child, now residing at Eastleigh, Southampton.

Rugby Advertiser   November 10th 1917

DEATHS

HOUGHTON: –   In loving memory of my dear husband, Pte. W. T. HOUGHTON  1/7th R. W. Regiment. Who was killed in action on October 4th, 1917, somewhere in France, aged 32 yrs
“Sleep on loved one in your far off grave;
A grave I may never see as long as life and memory last
We shall always remember thee.”
From his sorrowing Wife and Child

HOUGHTON: –   In loving memory of Pte. W. T. Houghton, 1/7th R. W. Regiment, who was killed in action on October 4 1917.  From his sorrowing Mother, Brothers and Sisters.
“Not dead to those that knew him,
Not lost, but gone before;
He lives with us in memory,
And will for evermore.”

Rugby Advertiser   October 5th 1918

IN MEMORIAM

HOUGHTON:-   In everloving memory of my dear husband, Pte. W. T. HOUGHTON,
1/7 R. W. R., who was killed in action on October4, 1917.
“There is a link death cannot sever
Love and remembrance last forever”
Never forgotten by his loving Wife and Child

HOUGHTON:-  In loving memory of our dear one, Pte. W. T. HOUGHTON, 1/7 R. W. R., killed in action somewhere in France, on October 4, 1917.
“We pictured your safe returning.
 And longed to clasp your hand,
But God postponed that meeting
Till we meet in that Better Land”
From his loving Mother, Brothers and Sisters

Rugby Advertiser   October 3rd 1919

IN MEMORIAM

HOUGHTON:-  In everloving memory of my dear husband Pte. W. T. Houghton, 1/7 R. W. Regt.  who died of wounds October 4th 1917
“Some day our eyes shall see
The face we loved so well
Some day we’ll clasp our hands in his
Never to say farewell”
Always remembered by his loving Wife and Child

HOUGHTON:-  In loving memory of brother Will, who fell at Ypres, October 4th 1917
He answered duty’s call and gave his life for one and all BRO.
F. Houghton, late 6th Batt. Oxon and Bucks.

Rugby Advertiser  October  3rd 1920

IN MEMORIAM

HOUGHTON:-  In loving memory of my dear husband Pte. William Thomas HOUGHTON. Who died of wounds October 4th 1917.
“Christ will link the broken chain
Closer when we meet again”
Never forgotten – by his loving Wife and Child

Rugby Advertiser  October 7th  1921

IN MEMORIAM
In loving memory of my dear husband, Pte.  W. T. HOUGHTON , who died of wounds October 4th 1917
“Not dead to those that loved him
Not lost but gone before
He lives with us in memory
And will for evermore,”
From his loving Wife and Child.

It appears that William’s widow, Laura, died in 1922 aged 36, perhaps of a broken heart. Their daughter, Phyllis, who would have been only ten, was probably taken in by her uncle George Brown and his wife. She is living with them in 1939 at 1 Bennfield Road, Rugby. She married a John Reading in 1947.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Brown, Frederick Louis. Died 1st Jul 1916    

We have now discovered that Frederick Louis Brown is not the F L Brown listed on the war memorial. See Frank Lincoln Brown, who died 3rd May 1917

———————————————-

Frederick Louis Brown was somewhat of an enigma.  Recorded on the Rugby Memorial Gate, and remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, he joined the 1/6th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was promoted to Sergeant, won the Military Medal, and was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

However, there is no record of him being in Rugby, and with no age at death, it is impossible to be absolutely certain of which of many Frederick Browns he might possibly be.

There was however a Frederick Louis Brown on the Birmingham ‘Roll of Honour’ and also a Frederick L M Brown born in Birmingham in late 1891, and living in Birmingham and aged 9 in 1901.  His family lived at 37 Portland Road, Edgbaston and his father was an agent in the cycle trade.  In 1911 he was aged 19, single and a ‘General Engineer Learning’.  With that background and trade, it is possible that he may have worked later at one of the Rugby engineering works, although he is not on any works memorial.

Assuming the CWGC record is correct Frederick Louis Brown joined the 1st/6th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, attained the rank of Sergeant, and was probably re-numbered as No:240069.  He also won the Military Medal, presumably in 1916 as the medal was not established until 25 March 1916.

After much searching two Medal Cards were found for Frederick Browns: the first had an early number 1379.  With that low number it is likely that Frederick enlisted very early during the war.  Soldiers’ records found with the numbers between 2199 and 3420 enlisted in November and December 1914 – his lower number suggests that he enlisted very soon after war was declared.

His early enlistment probably gave time for his promotion, and the 1915 Star Medal Roll confirms that Frederick was a Sergeant ‘on disembarkation’ on 22 March 1915.

The 1st/6th Battalion was formed in August 1914 in Thorp Street, Birmingham, and was part of the Warwickshire Brigade, South Midland Division.  It landed at Le Havre on 22 March 1915 and on 13 May 1915, became part of the 143rd Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division.  The Division was involved in the Serre Sector of the Somme from 1st-12th July 1916.

Frederick Brown went into the French theatre of war on 22 March 1915, so he was with the main brigade landing at Le Havre.  On 1 July 1916, the …

‘… 1/6th Battalion and the 143rd Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division was attached to the 11th Brigade (4th Division) followed the 1/8th Royal Warwickshires into attack on the Quadrilateral (1/7) – to the left machine gun fire swept advance and, according to the Battalion historian, reduced it to a strength of 2 weak platoons.  Passed through objective and consolidated ground beyond.  Withdrew to Mailly-Maillet during night and from there to Couin.’

The 1/8th Battalion which they followed are recorded as follows – they had 563 casualties …

‘… 1/8th Battalion …  moved forward from Mailly-Maillet (1/7).  Attached to 4th Division for attack at Redan Ridge.  Right of assault took The Quadrilateral, passed through and gained support trench beyond.  On left, German front line entered under heavy fire from Serre.  No further progress made.  Withdrew to Mailly-Maillet.’

Frederick was ‘Killed in Action’ sometime during 1 July 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  His body was not found or identified and he is remembered on Pier and Face 9A, 9B and 1 B. of the Thiepval Memorial.

He was awarded the Military Medal for ‘bravery in battle on land’, and his first Medal Card recorded that he was awarded the 1915 Star.  His second Medal Card which has the later 240069 Number, shows that he was also awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

As mentioned he was also listed on the ‘Birmingham Roll of Honour, 1914-1918’, although his rank of Sergeant does not appear to be acknowledged.  He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates – but sadly little is known of the Rugby connection of this brave soldier.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

 

Coleman, Duncan Reginald. Died 11th Nov 1918

Duncan Reginald COLEMAN was born in Wardington, Oxfordshire on 27 August 1894, and baptised there on 2 December 1894.  He was the second son of George Henry Coleman [a plasterer, b.c.1856 in Warmington, Warwickshire] and Emily, née Treadwell, Coleman [b.c.1864 in Wardington, Oxfordshire].

In 1901 the family were living at the ‘Red Lion Beer House’, in Wardington, probably following in part the family trade – as George Henry’s father had been an innkeeper in Milcomb.  George Henry was however still working as a ‘plasterer’.

At some date before 1911, the family moved to Rugby and in 1911 were living at 102 Lawford Road, which seems to have been later defined as 102 Dunsmore Terrace, Lawford Road, Rugby.  George Henry was now 55 and his wife Emily was 45.  They had had nine children, but one had died and it seems that one had already left home.  However, seven children were still living at home: Muriel Blanche Coleman was 24; Mary Olive Coleman, 21; Albert Victor Coleman, 18; Duncan Reginald Coleman, was now 16 and already working as a moulder in an Iron Foundry; Ida Cerise Coleman was 12; Stanley Winston Coleman, 11; and Lena Emily Coleman, was 8.

A somewhat complicated set of Service Records survives for Reginald, as it seems he had a number of postings and was also wounded.  Together with various other surviving documents it is possible to provide an outline of his military career.

In summary he was:                                                                                        Days
Home              17 – 4 – 16 to 15 – 7 – 16                         90
BEF France     16 – 7 – 16 to 10 – 5 – 17                      299
Home              11 – 5 – 17 to 22 – 12 – 17                    226
BEF France     23 – 12 – 17 to 11 – 11 – 18                  324
Total    2 years 209 days

He was living at 102 Lawford Road, Rugby, when he first signed up at Warwick[1] for General Service, posted to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and then posted on 18 April 1916 as a Private, No.18102 in the 11th Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR).  He was 21 years and 7 months (or 210 days!) old, 5ft 6¼ inches tall, single and working as a ‘moulder’.

He was transferred as a Private to the ‘Expeditionary Force France’ on 16 July 1916 and embarked for France on 19 July 1916.  On 24 July 1916 he was posted to 11th Bn. RWR, ‘In the Field’.

He was wounded in action with a ‘GSW chest sev’ [Gun Shot Wound to the Chest Severe] on 23 April 1917, and on 3 May 1917 he was ‘adm 4 Gen H’ [Admitted to 4th General Hospital] at ‘Dannes Camier’.[2]  He was then transferred to England on the ‘HS [Hospital Ship] Cambria’ two days later on 11 May 1917, being transferred to the Home Depot that day.

He was admitted to the Eastern General Hospital, Edmonton for 21 days from 11 May to 1 June 1917 and this was extended for a further 10 days from 1 June to 11 June 1917 for the same ‘GSW Chest’ at the Edmonton Military Hospital – probably the same hospital, but with different stamps!!  After these periods, he was pronounced ‘Cured – No FB prelit? or disability – furlough thence CD’ [probably ‘Command Depot’].

On 22 October 1917, he was posted to the Essex Regiment, and on 28 October 1917, he was re-posted as a Private, No.45263 to the 17th Battalion, Essex Regiment at Dover.  On 22 December 1917 he went overseas again from Weybourne, by way of Folkestone on 23 December, arriving in Boulogne to join the BEF on the 24 December 1917.  On the same day he was transferred ‘in the field’ to the Royal Engineers, as a Pioneer, No.358639 and on 27 February 1918 to the Royal Engineers, No.4 Foreway Company, ‘at RE Rates’ from 28 February 1918.

Later that year, on 19 September 1918, he was ‘temporarily and compulsorily’ transferred to the Railways sub-unit in the Transportation Branch RE and from 20 September became a Pioneer with the 234th Light Railway Field Company and allotted a new regimental number: WR/358639.  The letters ‘WR’ stood for ‘Waterway and Railways’.  The 234th (Forward) Company was formed in France and operated there.

The formation of the RE Light Railway Companies in early 1917 was an innovation that was one of the factors that transformed the operational abilities of the army.  Goods and men could now make the last leg of the journey to the front by light rail.  Until that time, ammunition supply in particular had been subject to delays and required vast numbers of men and horses, and the light railways helped overcome both problems.  Traffic and wear on the roads and tracks leading up to the front was eased, and fewer men were required to repair them. … The Company consisted of approximately 200 men, … Drivers, Brakesmen, Guards, Wagon Repairers, Repair Shop Engineers, Traffic Controllers and Storesmen.   There were few officers among this number … The job … was to run the trains, with the tracks being laid by RE Railway Construction Companies – often with the assistance of whatever Labour Corps Company or ‘resting’ infantry were at hand.[3]

At some stage, presumably in early November, he became unwell and was transferred to No. 29 Casualty Clearing Station, which was then stationed at Delsaux Farm.  It was from there that his death was reported, ‘Died – Influenza – 11.11.1918’.  He died of Pneumonia on ‘Armistice Day’, 11 November 1918, aged 25, at ‘29 CCS’.  A confirmatory report in his Service Record, from the Captain RAMC, Medical Specialist, 29 CC Station, read,
358639 Pnr Colemen DR, 234 Light Forward Railway Co. RE
The a/m man died from Influenza followed by Broncho-Pneumonia & heart failure.
The disease was brought about by exposure whilst on military service in France.

Duncan was first buried in the Beugny Military Cemetery No.18, which had been made by the Germans after their Operation Michael[4] advances in March 1918 near the village crossroads.

Later, the German graves were removed, and in 1920, the British burials were exhumed and reburied at the Delsaux Farm Cemetery, adjacent to the Casualty Clearing Station.  Duncan was reburied  in grave reference: III. A. 17.  His gravestone bears the family message ‘Greater Love Hath No Man’.

A draft and copy of a letter sent to Duncan’s father is with his Service Record.

Royal Engineers, Record Office, Chatham  –  16 June 1920

Sir, 

I beg to inform you that in accordance with the agreement with the French and Belgian Governments to remove all scattered graves, small cemeteries containing less than 40 graves and certain other cemeteries which were situated in places unsuitable for permanent retention, it has been found necessary to exhume bodies buried in certain areas and re-inter them, therefore the body of your late son, No. WR/284262, Pioneer, D. R. Colemen, R. E., has been removed and re-buried in DELSAUX FARM BRITIH CEMETERY, 3 ¾ miles E. of BAPAUME.

The necessity for removal is much regretted but was unavoidable for reasons stated above.

The removal has been undertaken with every measure of care and reverence and special arrangements have been made for the appropriate religious services to be held.

I am, Yours faithfully,          for Colonel i/c R. E. Records.

The cemetery is near the village of Beugny, in Pas de Calais, France, some 19 kilometres south-west of Cambrai.

Delsaux Farm was a point on the German defensive system known as the Beugny-Ytres line, which was reached by Commonwealth troops on 18 March 1917, and passed on the following day. The farm was lost on 23 March 1918 after the gallant defence of Beugny by the 9th Welsh Regiment and their withdrawal, but it was retaken by the 5th Division on 2 September 1918, and on the next day the same division occupied Beugny village.  After their advance in March 1918, the Germans made a cemetery (Beugny Military Cemetery No.18) at the cross-roads, and in it buried 103 Commonwealth and 82 German dead.  The site was extended in October-November 1918 by the 29th and 46th Casualty Clearing Stations, which came to Delsaux Farm and made the present cemetery.  A little later, the German graves of March 1918 were removed and the 103 Commonwealth dead reburied in Plot I, Row J, Plot II, Row A, and Plot III, Rows B, C and D.  The rest of the cemetery was made when graves were later brought in from the battlefield. … The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.[5]

Duncan Reginald COLEMAN was awarded the British War and Victory Medals.  He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and on his CWGC gravestone at Delsaux Farm Cemetery, Beugby. 

Duncan’s outstanding pay of £24-3-8d was paid to his ‘Fa[ther] & Sole Leg[atee] George H’ on 12 April 1919, and note stated that this was ‘Including War Grant £14-10-0’.  On 17 April 1919 his property was returned to the family: ‘Letters; Shaving brush; Badge; Photos; Wallet’.

His elder brother Albert Victor Coleman, signed up on 12 December 1915, and also served initially in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as No.3098, and later in the Royal Berkshire Regiment as No.44920.  He survived the war.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Duncan Reginald COLEMAN 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, October 2018.

 

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

[2]      The No 4 General Hospital was at St Nazaire in September 1914; at Versailles from September 1914 to January 1916; at Camiers, when Duncan Coleman was admitted, from January 1916 to April 1919; and at Dunkerque from April 1919 to November 1919.

[3]      https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-corps-of-royal-engineers-in-the-first-world-war/light-railway-operating-companies-of-the-royal-engineers/.

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

[5]      Edited from: https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/23600/delsaux-farm-cemetery,-beugny/.

Gibbs, Bertie. Died 5th Nov 1918

Bertie GIBBS was born in Wandsworth, London, in 1895 and his birth was registered in Wandsworth in Q4, 1895.  He was baptised on 6 November 1895 at St Stephen’s church, Clapham Park, Lambeth.  He was the son of William Henry Gibbs, b.c.1870, in Lambeth, and Alice née Tuck, Gibbs, b.c.1871, in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.  Their marriage was registered in Q2, 1892 in Wandsworth.

In November 1893, when Bertie’s elder brother was baptised at St Stephen’s, Wandsworth, they were living at  5 Elizabeth Place, and his father was a ‘Retort Setter’.  1895 the family were still at 5 Elizabeth Place, Clapham, but in 1891, when Bertie was 5, the family was living at 5 Shuckfords Buildings, Great Yarmouth.  His father was still a ‘retort setter, gas works’.  Bertie had an elder brother, William Henry, 7, and sister, Rose May, 6; and a younger brother, Sydney George, 4.

In 1911, when Bertie was 15, the family was living at 45 Tyrolean Square, Great Yarmouth.  Bertie was working as a ‘factory hand’, and now he had another brother, Alfred, who was 7 years old.  His father was not at home on census night, and no further trace of him has been found.

At some date after 1911, Bertie moved to Rugby, and Rugby was recorded as his place of residence when he ‘signed up’.[1]  It seems that he worked before the war in the Rugby Steam Shed, as a ‘B. Gibbs’ is listed on their memorial.[2]

Bertie joined up in Coventry,[3] and his Medal Card showed that he served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (R.War.R) as a Private with, at least latterly, the Regimental Number: 42579.  The CWGC confirmed that he finished his service with that number in the 1st/8th Territorial Battalion (Bn.) R.War.R.  There was no date on his Medal Card for when he went to France, and he did not receive the 1914-18 Star, suggesting that he went to France after the end of 1915, possibly some time after he had joined up.

The 1st/8th Bn. R.War.R had mobilised for war and landed at Havre on 22 March 1915 and became part of the 143rd Brigade of the 48th Division and was engaged in many actions on the Western Front.  In later 1917 they were moved to Italy, and remained there in 1918, until they left the Division on 11 September 1918 and moved to back to France, to join the 75th Brigade of the 25th Division.

The 1st/8th Bn. R.War.R. War Diary[4] for their time with 25th Division gives an outline of their actions in the last month or so of Bertie’s life, when they were back in France, and during the Pursuit to and Battle of the Selle (17–25 October 1918), and its immediate aftermath, which were all part of the final ‘Hundred Days Offensive’ of World War I.

8 Oct – The success of the operations of this day brought the battalion into action at SONIA farm, where it held a gap between the 30th American Div. and our 7th Brigade. … moved up to the forming up positions between SERAIN and PREMONT.

9 Oct – Zero was at 5.20 … the battalion advanced and took its objectives beyond MARETZ …

10 Oct – Starting from a point N of HONNECHY …the battalion advanced after heavy fighting to the outskirts of LE CATEAU. … The Americans … had been held up … the positions taken were consolidated and held.

11 Oct – … the battalion marched out to HONNECHY … this was … the heaviest and most continuous fighting which the battalion had met and the battalion came out with fresh laurels added to its reputation. …

12 Oct – The battalion marched to SERAIN to rest.

13-15 Oct – Sunday … services … reorganisation and re-equipment … and training …

16 Oct – … in reserve …for attack … on R. SELLE … moved to HONNECHY.

17-18 Oct – HONNECHY – supporting Gloucesters and Worcesters …

19 Oct – … C&D Coys moved with Worcesters to attack BAZUEL which was taken and held. …

20 Oct – … battalion relieved and marched out to ST BEN[I]N . …

21 Oct – Here the unit rested and reorganised.

22 Oct – … the battalion … moved up to its forming up position along the railway …

23 Oct – POMMEREUIL – The attack commenced at 01.20 hours. … to be used to help mop up POMMEREUIL … owing to heavy fog the attacking units of the first wave became rather mixed up … but on Capt W Mortemons M.C. who was commanding the battalion … going out and taking command … and organising attacks on enemy M.G. nests which had been missed …the situation rapidly cleared and all objectives were gained.

It is known that Bertie was wounded, and it might have been some days before his date of death.  He might have been wounded in this same action at Pommereuil, when a fellow Rugby 1st/8th Bn. soldier, Frank John Garrett,[5] who had only joined the Battalion on 8 October, was ‘killed in action’ on 23 October.

He may, of course, have been wounded later, in early November, and the further actions described in the War Diary are summarised below.  The Battalion carried on training until the end of the month and then,

31 Oct – The Battalion relieved the 11th Sherwood Foresters …

1 Nov – LE FAUX – the Battalion was holding the left sector …

2 Nov – Dispositions remained unchanged, the day was quiet …

3 Nov – Owing to the rainy weather the forward Companies were relieved …

4 Nov – LANDRECIES – At 00.15 the Battalion attacked and after a very severe fight secured its objective which was the line of the River SAMBE at LANDRECIES …

5 Nov – MAROILLES – the Battalion received orders to continue the advance … moved along the LANDRECIES – MAROILLES road … and advanced without opposition … Companies were billeted in houses along the LANDRECIES – MAROILLES road, and rested there the day.

6 Nov – No change, O.O.21., ordering the Battalion to continue the advance received.

7 Nov – … orders to resume the advance … the advance continued from the eastern outskirts of MARBAIX, to the village of ST. HILAIRE SUR HELPE where the vanguard was engaged by strong M.G. nests.  The mainguard was not involved … and on relief, marched out to billets in MARBAIX.

The Casualties in this period of action were 1 officer and 27 OR killed, 2 officers and 106 OR wounded.

It seems more likely that Bertie was wounded in the ‘very severe fight’ against LANDRECIES on 4 November, or possibly during the advance toward MAROILLES on the day of his death, Tuesday, 5 November 1918.

He would have been carried back to a Regimental Aid Post, which was typically within a few hundred yards of the front line, and then on to an Advanced Dressing station [ADS].  As he was doubtless a more serious casualty, he would have been moved next to a Field Ambulance, a mobile front-line medical unit, before he was transferred on to a Casualty Clearing Station [CCS].[6]

The time this would have taken makes it more likely that he was wounded on 4 November, becoming one of the 106 O.R.s wounded in early November.  In Bertie’s case it is likely that he was transferred to one of the Casualty Clearing Stations at Bohain, some 15 miles to the south-west, through which area the Battalion had passed on their advance on 6 October.  Whether he survived that final journey to the CCS is unknown, but he died from his wounds on 5 November 1918.

The CCSs used the neighbouring Premont British Cemetery, some two miles to the north-west of Bohain.  Bertie Gibbs was buried there in grave ref: II. D. 22.

Premont is a village in Aisne, some 19.5 kilometres south-east of Cambrai.  Premont village was captured by the 30th American Division on 8 October 1918.  Premont British Cemetery was made and used by four Casualty Clearing Stations (the 20th, 50th, 55th and 61st), which came to Bohain in October 1918, and it was closed in the following December.

No family inscription was added to his memorial by his family, and there is no next of kin or family name in the CWGC record.  It may be that it was his mother, Alice Gibbs, who died in Yarmouth in Q2, 1915, aged 45 [Yarmouth  4b, 38].  His father, as mentioned, has not been found.  His siblings appear to have remained in Yarmouth, or returned to London, and may well have lost touch.

Bertie Gibb’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  He is also remembered on the Rugby War Memorial Gates in Whitehall Road, and on the Rugby Steam Shed Memorial.

The ‘100 Days’ Advance to Victory’ continued and only six days after Bertie’s death, the War came to an end.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Bertie GIBBS was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, August 2018.

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

[2]      Rugby Loco Steam Shed Memorial.  This is a bronze tablet bearing the names of the dead, mounted on white marble, superimposed on black slate.  On either side of the tablet is hung a framed illuminated roll of honour, containing the names of members of the department who served in the forces during the war.   (From a report of the unveiling – Rugby Advertiser, 11 March 1921.)

[3]      Also shown in: UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919

[4]      TNA, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 25th Division, Piece 2251/4: 8 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1918 Sep – 1919 Feb).

[5]      See ‘Rugby Remembers’ for Frank John GARRETT, died 23 October 1918.

[6]      Outline from http://www.qaranc.co.uk/Chain-Evacuation-Wounded-Soldiers-First-World-War.php which provides greater detail of the WWI chain of medical evacuation.

Palmer, Henry Joseph. Died 24th Oct 1918

Henry Joseph PALMER was born on 22 December 1898 in Bicester, Oxfordshire and registered there in Q1, 1899.  He was baptised at Bicester parish church on 30 April 1899, when the family were living at St John Street, Bicester.  He was the son of James Arthur Palmer, (b.c.1866 in Hethe, near Bicester – d.c.1932 in Rugby), and his wife, Sarah Elizabeth, née Edridge, Palmer (b.c.1867, in Bicester – d.c.1943 in Rugby).

By 1901, Henry was 2, and not long after he was born  the family had moved to Rugby and were now living at 35 Victoria Avenue, Bilton.  His father was a ‘moulder’s labourer’.

In 1911, when Henry, now known as ‘Harry’, was 12, the family was living at 32 Worcester Street, Rugby.  His father was now a ‘machine moulder’.  All six of the Palmer children were at home that night, as well as a four year old niece and a border.

Unfortunately no Service Record has survived for Henry, and the only information is from his Medal Card and a listing in ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’.[1]

Henry joined up in Leamington Spa,[2] and his Medal Card showed that he served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (R.War.R) as a private with, latterly, the Regimental Number: 42159.  The CWGC confirms that he finished his service with this number in the 2nd/6th Battalion (Bn.).  There was no date when he went to France on his Medal Card, and he did not receive the 1914-18 Star, suggesting he went to France after the end of 1915, possibly some time after he had joined up and when he had reached the required age at about the end on 1916.

The 2nd/6th Battalion of the R.War.R. had formed in Birmingham in October 1914,[3] and when the 1st South Midland Division went to France, the 2nd took its place at Chelmsford with role in Home Defence.  The strength of the unit fluctuated as they were drawn upon for drafts for the 1st-Line battalions.  In August 1915 the division was numbered as the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division and the brigade became the 182nd (2nd Warwickshire) Brigade.  In February and March 1916 they moved to Salisbury Plain for final training.  The division moved to France, arriving by 28 May 1916.

The 2nd/6th Bn’s first action was the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916, a diversionary attack in support of the Somme Offensive.  The attack was badly handled and casualties were heavy.  The 61st Division was so badly mauled that it was not used offensively again in 1916.  Thereafter, the battalion was involved in the Operations on the Ancre, 11-15 January 1917; the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, 14 March-5 April 1917; the Battle of Langemarck, 16-18 August 1917; the Battle of Cambrai: German counter-attacks, 1-3 December 1917.  Due to the manpower shortage being suffered by the BEF, on 20 February 1918, the 2nd/6th Bn. received men from the disbanded 2nd/5th Royal Warwicks.

On the day before the German Spring Offensive, Operation Michael[4], the 61st Division was just north of St Quentin when 2nd/6th Royal Warwicks was ordered to raid the enemy line Cepy Farm and obtained prisoners from three regiments and two separate divisions, indicating that the German lines were packed ready for an attack early the following morning, 21 March.  Unfortunately, this information was not widely disseminated before the Battle of St Quentin began.

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

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

In the ‘Hundred Days Offensive’, the 61st Division was committed to minor operations during the pursuit to the Haute Deule Canal.  On 1 October, 182nd Bde, including the 2nd/6th Royal Warwicks and the 184th Bde attacked behind a deep barrage against little resistance and then followed the German rearguards over broken ground well beyond the original objectives.

The Battalion then went into reserve until the Battle of the Selle on 24 October, when it was ordered to cross the Ecaillon stream.  2nd/6th and 2nd/7th Royal Warwicks got into trouble here, because there was uncut barbed wire on both sides of the stream that had been missed by the barrage.  Only a few men were able to struggle across and maintain themselves against counter-attacks for the rest of the day.

In this period, the three British Armies were able to continue their advance, taking nearly 20,000 prisoners in one week.  During the night of 23/24 October, the 61st Division relieved 19th Division east of Haussy to continue the advance across the River Écaillon the following day.

The Battalion War Diary[5] for this period can be found with the Diaries of the 61st Division.  The activities of the Battalion in October 1918 can perhaps best provide information as to Henry’s likely whereabouts and the occasion when he was wounded, leading to his death.

On 2 October the 182nd Infantry Brigade was relieved by the 178th Infantry Brigade, and went into billets at TREIZENNES, for re-equiping and training.  The Battalion moved by train to billets at GEZAINCOURT.  After two days rest and training the Battalion moved by rail and route march into reserve S.W. of MOEUVRES.  On 10 October they moved by route march to ANNEUX.  Apart from finding a working party, they were training until 18 October when they marched to billets S.W. of CAMBRAI, and the next day marched to RIEUX for further training until 22 October when they moved to MONTRECOURT WOOD prior to relieving the 9th Welch just west of VENGEGIES, on 23 October.

24 October – 04.00 – Under cover of artillery barrage, the village of VENDEGIES was attacked and the river ECAILLON crossed, but the Battalion had to withdraw West of the river, owing to strong enemy resistance.  Fighting continued through the day, and at about 18.00 hours the enemy withdrew.  The village was occupied immediately.  Casualties sustained 5 Officers, 182 O.R.

Henry was most likely one of those 182 O.R. casualties, assuming he was wounded in the attacks on 24 October 1918.  He was probably carried back about 10 miles to one of the Casualty Clearing Stations established in the rear, at Awoingt, near Cambrai, where he died of his wounds on the same day, Thursday, 24 October 1918.  He was 19 years old.

He was buried in the Awoingt British Cemetery, which was adjacent to the Casualty Clearing Stations, in grave reference: I. C. 18.

Awoingt is a village some 3 Kms east-south-east of Cambrai, in Nord, France.  Awoingt British Cemetery was begun in the latter half of October 1918 and used until the middle of December; the village had been captured on 9/10 October.  By 28 October, the 38th, 45th and 59th Casualty Clearing Stations were posted in the neighbourhood, and the great majority of the burials were made from those hospitals.[6]

An inscription was added to his memorial by the family, ‘We Miss Him Most Who Loved Him Best God Grant To Him Eternal Rest’, and his father’s name was given as ‘Mr J A Palmer, 32 Worcester Street, Rugby.’

Henry Joseph Palmer’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  His name also appears on the War Memorial Gates, Whitehall Road, Rugby and he is also remembered on a family grave ref: M101, in the Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.

Two days after Henry’s death, on 26 October, Erich Ludendorff, First Quartermaster General of the German army, resigned under pressure from Kaiser Wilhelm II.  The 100 days’ advance continued and only two weeks after Henry’s death, the War came to an end.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Henry Joseph PALMER was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, August 2018.

[1]      UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, from www.Ancestry.co.uk.

[2]      UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, from www.Ancestry.co.uk.

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

[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, TNA ref: 61st Division, Piece 3056/2: 2/6 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, (1915 Sep – 1919 Feb).

[6]      Edited from https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/59900/awoingt-british-cemetery/.