Hickingbotham, William. Died 10th Jun 1918

William jnr (Billy) was born on 18 November 1893[1] in Rugby, but was baptised on 21 January 1894 at Bulkington, Warwickshire.  He was the son of William Hickingbotham who had also been born in Bulkington in about 1868.  In 1894, William senior was a brakesman; in 1901, a Railway Foreman Shunter, and by 1911 was working in the L&NW rail traffic department.  His marriage with Hannah Jane Elizabeth, née Pegg, was registered in Nuneaton Q3, 1891.  She was also born in Bulkington, in about 1872.

The family had presumably moved to Rugby before the end of 1893, and in 1901 and 1911 the family lived at 33 Cambridge Street Rugby.  In 1911, William junior was 17, single and a boot making apprentice.  By then he had three younger sisters and two younger brothers.

William’s Medal Card shows that he was initially in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a Private, No.4584, but later transferred to the Royal Engineers as Pioneer, No.130551.  Thirteen pages of William’s Pension Records have survived.

William initially joined the 3/7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.  He was first attested on 16 November 1915 and ‘posted’ the same day.  He was discharged on 17 March 1916 and he re-enlisted that day in the Royal Engineers and was re-attested on 19 March 1916, at Clevedon, when he was 22 years and 4 months old.  He was 5 foot 8½ inches tall, a dark complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair.  His father William was listed at his next of kin.

His Service Record shows that he was on Home Service from 18 to 29 March 1916.  He was posted as a Pioneer on 30 March 1916, and then posted to the British Expeditionary Force from 30 March 1916 to 8 April 1918.

During this period of service, he was ‘Wounded’, this being listed in the Weekly Casualty List in August 1917.[2]  He recovered locally without being sent back to UK, and he was in action again some time in late March or early April 1918, probably during the German assault of Operation Michael, when he was gassed by Mustard Gas.

He was evacuated back to UK on 9 April 1918 and listed as back on Home Service from that date, and posted to the ‘Royal Engineers Spec. Bde. Dept.’.  He had medical examinations regarding his condition and future pension at St Luke’s War Hospital, Halifax, on 13 and 18 April 1918.  He had been ‘Gassed sev …’, and was ‘Permanently excluded from liability for medical re-examination under the Military Service (review of exemptions) Act 1917’.  He was suffering from ‘phthisis’ [pulmonary tuberculosis or a similar progressive wasting disease] and his medical record suggests that ‘Gassed by Mustard Gas, wd. probably be the cause’.  It was suggested that this was ‘70% due to service during the war with Germany’.  Sanatorium treatment was recommended.  At Chatham on 9 May 1918, he was formally ‘Discharged, no longer physically fit for war service’.  He had ‘v.good’ military character and was awarded a ‘v.satisfactory’ character.  He received the Silver War Badge No.361456, when he was invalided out, to show he was not avoiding war service. 

It is not known to which, if any, sanatorium he was sent, however, he died just a month after his discharge, aged 24, on 10 June 1918.  He was buried at Rugby in the Clifton Road Cemetery in plot: J479.  On his CWGC headstone his parents chose to have inscribed ‘In Loving Memory of Billy Eldest Son of Wm. & H.J.E. Hickingbotham – Till We Meet Again’.  The CWGC website confirms that he ‘Died of Wounds [Gas]’.       

    

William is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and was awarded the Victory and British medals.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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

[1]      Information from Military Service Record.

[2]      Weekly Casualty List (War Office & Air Ministry ), Tuesday, 21 August 1917.

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Lee, William Thomas. Died 5th Jun 1918

William was baptised on 15th Feb 1878 at St. Andrews Parish Church Rugby and was the 3rd child of John and Elizabeth Ann Lee nee Cooke. His father was a labourer in Drury Lane.

In 1881 William was age 3, living with parents John and Eliza Ann at 16 Cambridge Street Rugby and 3 siblings, Louisa (7),  Mary Jane (5) and Emma (1). The two lodgers these were his grandparents, Thomas Cooke (56) silk weaver born Coventry & Eliza Cooke (54) also born in Coventry.

By 1888 his parents had 8 children, 4 boys and 4 girls. and in 1891 William was aged 13, an errand boy living with parents at 14 Pennington Street Rugby. Three siblings, Emma (11), Richard (8) and Henry G (2)  were still at home plus lodger Elizabeth Edward (58), a widow and a tailoress, born Wolverton Bucks.

William’s father John Lee died at the end of 1892 in Rugby. He was aged 65.

Williams Short Service Attestation form tells us he joined up on 8th November 1899 and his regimental number was 7097 Royal Warwickshire Regiment 6th foot His age was given as was 19 years and 10 months although he was actually age 21. Why did he say he was younger? His occupation was a labourer. He was 5ft 4in tall, 115 lbs. His complexion was sallow and he had grey eyes and dark brown hair.

In 1901 his mother Elizabeth was living at 29 Gas Street Rugby and was a charwomen, living with her was her son Henry Lee aged 12 and 2 boarders George Lines (49) a groom domestic, born Lutterworth and Emvi Skeley (24), born Withybrook.

William served in South Africa from 28th Feb 1901 to 13th Oct 1902. He was awarded the South African Queen’s Medal with a clasp for the Transvaal. He then travelled to India with the RWR and was discharged as medically unfit on 6th Jun 1905.

His brother Henry Lee joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and in 1911 was age 22 and stationed at No.6 Regimental District of Whittington Barracks at Lichfield. We have been unable to find William in the 1911 census.

William must have been recalled to the RWR (Private, number 2386) soon after the war started as he arrived in France on 4th Jan 1915.This is confirmed by the fact that he received the 15 Star as well as the Victory and British Medals.

The 1st Bn, Royal Warwickshire Regiment fought in most of the major battles of WW1 and William was probably injured during the German Spring Offensive, Operation Michael.

William Thomas Lee died on 5th Jun 1918 and his age is given as 41, his death was at 21st Southern General Hospital Dudley Road in the All Saints District of Birmingham. He died of a Gun shot wound right ear and meningitis  the informant was M. Thomas, Matron of 21st Southern General Hospital Dudley Road and his death certificate gives his occupation as Number 2836 Private 1st Royal Warwick Regiment.

He is buried in Rugby Clifton Road Cemetery. The Graves Registration Report Form tells us he is buried in grave E47a.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Ingram, Leonard Walter. Died 29th May 1918

Leonard Walter INGRAM was born in Rugby, and registered there in Q3, 1898.  He was christened Leonard Walter Ingram on 9 October 1898 at St. Andrew’s church, Rugby.  He was the youngest of four sons of Joseph Ingram, who was born in Rugby in early 1859, and Mary Ann, née Pike, Ingram, who was born in Crick in about 1860.

Leonard’s parents were married at Crick on 16 June 1890, but soon afterwards were living at 10 Russell Street, Rugby and then by 1891, when his father was still a groom, the couple were living at 96 Cambridge Court, Rugby.

By 1901 the family had moved to 1 East Union Street, and Leonard’s father was working as a ‘general labourer’; there were now four boys aged between two to ten.

By 1911, Leonard was 13 and a ‘schoolboy’ and the family had moved again to live at 61 Victoria Avenue, New Bilton, Rugby.  His father gave no occupation, maybe he was not well, and indeed he died in Rugby, three years later, in late 1914, aged 54.  His mother was then a ‘laundress’ at the Workhouse.  His three elder brothers were respectively: a Labourer, a Chemist’s Porter and an Errand Boy for a Fruitier.

With only the minimum details on his Medal Card and no surviving Service Record, it is difficult to reconstruct Leonard’s service history.  At some date he enlisted as a Private, No. 266513, in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.  When he died he was with the 15th Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

His six figure service number is likely to have been issued later in the war, and he would not have been 18 and eligible for overseas service until 1916.  He did not win the 1914-1915 Star which again suggests that he did not go to France until after late 1915.

The 15th Battalion (2nd Birmingham) Royal Warwickshire Regiment had been formed in Birmingham by the Lord Mayor and a local Committee in September 1914.  The Battalion moved to Sutton Coalfield and then in June 1915 to Wensleydale to join the 95th Brigade of the 32nd Division and later moved to Salisbury Plain.

The 15th Battalion mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne on 21 November 1915 and on 14 January 1916 transferred to the 13th Brigade in the 5th Division.  In March 1916, quite possibly still before Leonard joined up, the Division took over a section of front line near Arras, between St Laurent Blangy and the southern edge of Vimy Ridge.  When the Somme offensive opened on 1 July 1916, the 5th Division was enjoying a period of rest and re-fit and was in GHQ Reserve.  However, this restful time was not destined to last and later in July 1916 they moved some 50 miles south to reinforce the Somme.

It is unlikely that Leonard had yet received sufficient training to have been involved in fighting on the Somme, but in October 1916 the Division had left the Somme and was holding a quieter line near Festubert and this may have been when newer recruits would have joined the 15th Battalion as reinforcements.  Whilst there was a constant threat from enemy artillery and sniper fire, in comparison with the Somme it was a relatively quiet period that lasted until March 1917.

In early April 1917 the Battalion moved to Arras for the various phases of the Battles of Arras, starting with the attack on Vimy Ridge from 9-12 April 1917; and then the three Battles of the Scarpe, 9-14 April; 23-24 April 1917; and 3-4 May 1917; and the subsidiary attack on La Coulotte on 23 April 1917, and then, on 8 May 1917, the 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment was ordered to attack the German-held village of Fresnoy [Fresnoy-en-Gohelle], about 8 miles north-east of Arras and west of Vimy.

The Battalion also took part in the Battle of Polygon Wood in September 1917; the Battle of Broodseinde (4 October); the Battle of Poelcappelle (9 October 1917); and the Second Battle of Passchendaele (July to November 1917).

In late November to early December 1917, the Battalion moved from France to Italy to strengthen the Italian Resistance.

Some four months later, the Battalion returned to France by train between 1 and 6 April 1918.  The Battalion War Diary[1] refers to the period in April which would be referred to later by the Company Captain.

From 7 to 10 April they were in Billets and ‘cleaning up’ and training, and then marched to Sus-St-Leger and ready to move at two hours notice.  They entrained for Monicourt, arriving mid-afternoon on 11 April.

Early morning on 12 April, they detrained at Thiennes and prepared to bivouack in Bois d’ Amont just south of the Nieppe Canal, however at midday they were ordered to ‘dump kit’ and prepare to attack Merville.  They moved to Le Foret and dug in and then advanced in mid-afternoon, and at 5.15pm ‘Touch joined with enemy at Le Corbie.’  At 5.45pm they attacked the enemy in the brickfields, which were cleared and held.  7 ‘Other Ranks’ (O.R.s) were killed and 84 wounded.

From midnight to noon on 13 April there was increasingly heavy enemy shelling.  Massed enemy attacks in the mid afternoon were beaten off by Lewis gun and Machine Gun fire.  Five O.R.s were killed and 35 wounded.

On the morning of 14 April there was more heavy shelling and another enemy attack was beaten off.  Later on 14 April, the Battalion was relieved by the 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers.  11 O.R.s had been killed and 57 wounded.

It was in this period when Leonard ‘… did most excellent work … by taking urgent messages to the Battalion Commander, running through an absolute hell to deliver them.  This he volunteered to do when I had lost my Company runners.  His deeds were of a gallantry I shall never forget.’[2]

The Battalion War Diary[3] shows that in May the Battalion was alternating between ‘the Front’ and periods ‘In Reserve’.

At the beginning of May, the 15th Battalion was ‘In Reserve’ working on the Reserve Trenches by day and wiring on the Support Line by night.  They relieved the 14th Bn. RWR in the front line from 3 to 9 May and carried out patrols, work on trenches and salvage and were then relieved by the 12th Bn. Gloucestershire Regiment.  The Battalion recieved a gas bombardment as it withdrew to Arcade camp.

They then were able to have baths and clean equipment, worked on the Divisional Lines, undertook training, and had a church parade on the Sunday.  Casualties in the period had been light with only occasional men wounded.  On 16 May they relieved the 1st Cheshire Regiment ‘in support’.  Whilst ‘in support’ the Battalion provided carrying parties and working parties on the support line until 23 May, when they relieved the 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers in the front line.

From 24 to 27 May the situation was quiet and patrols were sent out at night.  One O.R. was killed on 27 May, and on 28 May one O.R. was killed and one wounded.

A larger raid was carried out on the night 28/29 May, when two Machine Gun posts were attacked, the garrisons killed, the machine guns put out of action, and some prisoners taken.  The raid took only 20 minutes – and there were ‘eight slight casualties’.  The Battalion was relieved by the 1st Devon Regiment on 29 May, and the total day’s casualties were nine O.R.s wounded.  The Battalion retired to billets to rest and clean up at Thiennes, which was shelled in its turn on 31 May.

Assuming that Leonard was one of the O.R.s wounded when taking part in the raid on the night of 28/29 May, his wound was not so ‘slight’ and he subsequently died.  This was confirmed in a letter, published in the Rugby Advertiser, from …
‘… the Captain of the Company to which her son Leonard, who died from wounds on May 29th, belonged. … The writer says: “He was wounded on 29th by a machine gun bullet in the right side under the ribs. … Your son was a splendid fellow, the ‘life and soul’ of my Company, and was always cheerful and full of good humour under the most trying circumstances.  He was a very gallant soldier, and in heavy fighting we had here for the first three days – April 12, 13 & 14 [see summary edited from War Diary above] – he did most excellent work for me by taking urgent messages to the Battalion Commander, running through an absolute hell to deliver them.  This he volunteered to do when I had lost my Company runners.  His deeds were of a gallantry I shall never forget.”’[4]

Leonard died on 29 May, probably having been evacuated to the 54th Casualty Clearing Station at Aire, some way behind the lines, where he was later buried in the Aire Communal Cemetery in Grave Reference: II. K. 34.

Aire is a town about 14 Kms south-south-east of St. Omer.  From March 1915 to February 1918, Aire was a busy but peaceful centre used by Commonwealth forces as corps headquarters. … The burials in plots II, III and IV (rows A to F) relate to the fighting of 1918, when the 54th Casualty Clearing Station was at Aire –  the town was, for a while, within 13 kilometres of the German lines.

Leonard was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  There is no additional family inscription on Leonard’s gravestone, but his father had died in 1914 and by the date such matters were being decided in the 1920s, his mother may have been unwell as she died, at 64, in mid-1924.

Leonard is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate, and on the New Bilton War Memorial which is located by the chapel in the Croop Hill Cemetery, Addison Road; it bears the inscription ‘In the Great War these died for England 1914-1919’.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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

[1]      WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 5th Division, The National Archives Ref: Piece 1557: 13 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919).

[2]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 6 July 1918.

[3]      WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 5th Division, The National Archives Ref: Piece 1557: 13 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919).

[4]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 6 July 1918.

Reynolds, John Henry. Died 8th May 1918

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

Wilde, John. Died 15th Apr 1918

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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

 

[1]       WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 4th Division.

White, George Edgar S. Died 14th Apr 1918

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolton, Ralph James. Died 14th Apr 1918

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It seems that at some stage on 14 April 1918, during the German attacks, and the 14th Bn. RWR counter-attacks, Ralph Bolton was ‘killed in action’. His body was either not found, or not recovered, or not identified, and he and his colleagues are now remembered on Panels 2 and 3 of the Ploegsteert Memorial which stands in the Berks Cemetery Extension, and is located 12.5 kms south of Ieper [Ypres].

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

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

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

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

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

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on Ralph James BOLTON was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, February 2018.

[1]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/27th-nov-1915-lord-derbys-scheme/; and Rugby Advertiser, 27 November 1915.

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

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