An Arras Mystery

Today marks the centenary of the death of Private Harold William Baker, 20th Royal Fusiliers, one of the men commemorated on Carshalton war memorial and who I wrote about in my book. Harold lived locally and attended St. Olave’s school in Southwark between 1910 and 1915.

Carshalton war memorial

Harold was killed during the battalion’s attack south east of Heninel. The battalion war diary recorded: ‘Night march successfully carried out and arrived at place of assembly at 2.45am. Attacked enemy’s position…A, D and B Companies formed up and proceeded about 100 yards when heavy machine gun fire was opened from front and flanks. Progress then was slight and the attack was inclining too much to the right. The advance was stopped and C Company entered the trenches. The attack would have been successful but MG fire was too severe and the attack failed.’

The area in which the 20th Royal Fusiliers were in action on 16th April 1917

The Record of Olavian Fallen contained a comprehensive obituary for Harold:

Harold Baker

‘Harold William Baker excelled at cricket and rugby and was an NCO in the school cadet corps. He is mentioned frequently in the Olavian magazine between the years 1910 and 1915. In his spare time, not content with his strong religious beliefs, he had become an unofficial street preacher, taking the world of God into the slum areas – an often thankless task. His best school friend was Harold Grose, a fellow rugby player, with whom he enlisted in the Fusiliers. Grose, who survived the conflict, would retain affectionate memories of ‘the Preacher’. The Allied line gradually pushed seven miles south east of Arras with men from Northumberland capturing the high ground of Wancourt tower. The 15th April saw desperate German counter attacks almost all repulsed. Private Baker was involved in all of these infantry actions at the tender age of eighteen. On the 16th, he was advancing with his friend Jimmy Wilde, a Welsh school master, and their officer, Lieutenant CE Powell, when all three men were cut down in one sweep of an enemy machine gun from the high ground. The three men were buried alongside each other by an officer of the Kings (Liverpool) Regiment, who later found them, after their brigade had pushed the reinforcing troops forward. The clean white stones of these brave men sit in the sunshine at the Heninel-Croisilles Road Cemetery, on a road that crosses a plateau south west of Arras.’

As stated Harold is buried in Heninel-Croisilles Road Cemetery, Plot 2, Row E, Grave 41. However, now comes the mystery; the two men mentioned as being buried alongside Harold, are in fact not…

At first glance I thought that perhaps the obituary should not be read literally, and the two men were buried elsewhere in the same cemetery, but this is not the case. A search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database identifies ‘Jimmy’ Wilde as Lance Corporal Wenden Ray Wilde, commemorated on Arras Memorial. A quick internet search shows that he was Senior Mathematics Master at Carmarthen Grammar School, and is commemorated on the memorial there and the one in Carmarthen itself.

The only likely candidate for Lieutenant CE Powell is Second Lieutenant Eric Layton Powell, also listed on the Arras Memorial. His medal index card shows that his father lived in Brabourne, near Ashford in Kent, although he is not commemorated on the village memorial.

So the two soldiers in the account can be positively identified, but the mystery still remains as to what happened to their bodies. From the account it sounds as if the burials happened quite soon after the attack. Were they ever actually buried side-by-side with Harold Baker? Or were their bodies maybe disinterred by later shelling or the graves lost when the ground was re-captured by the Germans in April 1918? They could even be among the 104 unidentified graves within the cemetery. I suspect it is a mystery that will never be solved.

Posted in 1917, Arras, Carshalton, Centenary, CWGC, Remembrance, Research, WW1 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 1st Queen’s 1914 Star Medal Roll

It has been a while since I last posted on here but I’ve been trying to fit in my ongoing research into the 1st Battalion The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) when time allows. One project I recently completed was transcribing the 1914 star medal roll for the battalion. The roll lists all the men eligible for the 1914 star, or ‘Mons Star’; the criteria being that they had served in France or Belgium between 5th August and 22nd November 1914, the end of the First Battle of Ypres. The roll lists 1,635 other ranks and 65 officers, giving a total of 1,700 men who served with the battalion during this period. However in this post I want to focus on the fate of the original members of the battalion.

Extract from the 1st Queen’s 1914 Star medal roll. The National Archives: WO 329/2424. Crown copyright.

The battalion embarked from Southampton on 12th August aboard the SS Braemar Castle, and disembarked at Le Havre the following day. The medal roll records a total of 1,000 other ranks and 30 officers who disembarked at this time, slightly more than the prescribed War Establishment of 1,007 men; in fact the roll also does not quite tally with the numbers given in the regimental history, which records that 971 men and 27 officers embarked with the battalion.

The roll provides each individual’s regimental number, rank, name, date of disembarkation, and a remarks column. The remarks are broken down into three areas, as described in the roll:

(a) If non-effective:- cause, etc

(b) If transferred:- present regimental number, rank, and unit

(c) If forfeited:- cause

This leads to a number of descriptions in the remarks column such as discharged, dead, or prisoner of war. However many entries do not have any remarks recorded against them.

I cross-referenced the transcribed roll against other sources such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission list of casualties for the battalion and International Committee of the Red Cross prisoner of war records. This showed a number of men in the 1914 roll whose fate had not been recorded in the remarks. Once these had been taken into account the breakdown is as follows:

Remarks Other ranks Officers Total % of total
Dead* 322 12 334 32%
Deserted 24 24 2%
Discharged 116 1 117 11%
Prisoner of war 232 1 233 23%
Transferred 121 121 12%
No remark 185 5 190 18%
TOTAL 1,000 30 1,030

*This is an aggregated figure of those listed variously as: Dead, Died, Died of wounds, and Killed in action

Lieutenant Roland Henriques, killed 14th September 1914

So one third of the battalion’s original members were killed and nearly a quarter taken prisoner; in total accounting for over 50% of those men who landed in France on 13th August. The first casualty (wounded) in the battalion was Lieutenant Pain on the 26th August (13 days after landing), who was shot in the hand by a Frenchman who mistook him for a spy. The first death was Private James Ayres on 27th August; he is buried in St. Souplet British Cemetery. The first officer killed was Lieutenant Roland Henriques, who lost his life during the Battle of the Aisne along with 26 other men of the battalion.

Of those who transferred, many of these were to the Labour Corps or Army Service Corps, which might include a number of men who had been wounded and were no longer considered fit for the infantry. However a number of other regiments also feature, from the Cyclist Corps to the Norfolk Regiment, as well as a number of men who transferred to the Machine Gun Corps.

A perhaps surprising aspect of the figures provided by the medal roll is the number of deserters, accounting for 2% of the original battalion. Two men from the 1st Queen’s were ‘shot at dawn’ during the war, one in 1917 and one in 1918, but both were later recruits to the battalion. It would be interesting to try and establish when these 24 deserted and the reasons for their desertion.

The battalion’s first commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Warren, killed 17th September 1914

The number of other ranks who were wounded is not given in the roll, but the officers wounded are easily collated from the war diary. This shows that 11 of the 30 officers (37%) who disembarked with the battalion were wounded during the war. Add to that figure those who were killed or taken prisoner, and the number rises to 24, or 80% of the original leadership of the battalion. This includes the first commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Warren, who was killed by a sniper on 17th September 1914. Of the total number of 66 officers eligible for the 1914 star, two thirds became casualties or were taken prisoner during the war.

Of the 334 original men from the battalion who died, the years of death are as follows:

Year Number % of original battalion
1914 207 20%
1915 30 3%
1916 38 4%
1917 25 2%
1918 18 2%
Post-war 16 2%
TOTAL 334

For comparison, the total number of deaths in the battalion were:

Year Number % of total number of deaths
1914 335 21%
1915 209 13%
1916 310 20%
1917 331 21%
1918 347 22%
Post-war 29 2%
TOTAL 1561

As you would expect, the number of men killed from the original battalion decreased as the war progressed. The figures also show that the number of men killed in the battalion was fairly equally spread across each year of the war with the exception of 1915; the percentage is lower because the battalion spent much of the year being brought back up to strength and was only really in action during the Battle of Loos. It is also interesting to note that there were slightly more casualties in 1918 than 1914, when the battalion pretty much ceased to exist after the Battle of Gheluvelt on 31st October (see here – although the casualty figures at Gheluvelt will be the subject of a separate blog piece). Despite the similar casualty levels in other years, 1914 seems to feature more heavily in the battalion’s history and identity – perhaps because it did mark the end of the battalion in its original form.

When the battalion came out of action in November 1918 it was noted that there were only 17 men still with the battalion who had served continually with it for the duration of the war; one officer, four NCOs, and 12 other ranks. The medal roll shows us that one third of the battalion’s original members were killed, much higher than the overall casualty rate of c.13%. However that also means that two thirds of the original battalion made it home. The blank remarks and ‘discharged’ entries hide the true extent of the number of men who were wounded, and of course many may have been wounded and returned to the battalion. Nevertheless the 1914 star medal roll remains an invaluable research source which can shed light onto the impact of the war on the regular battalions.

The names of many of the original men from the battalion are listed on the Menin Gate

Posted in 1914, First Ypres, Projects, Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment, Research, Surrey Regiments, WW1, Ypres | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sutton’s Somme campaign casualties

In my last post I listed the 38 men from Sutton and the surrounding area who lost their lives on 1st July 1916. On Remembrance Day, as the centenary of the end of the Somme campaign approaches, I thought it would be appropriate to remember some of the other 137 locals who were killed from 2nd July – 18th November 1916.

The known number of Somme casualties (excluding 1st July) commemorated on the main local memorials are as follows:

July August September October November
Sutton 10 11 22 14 6
Carshalton 13 6 11 10 4
Wallington 5 4 3 11 1
Cheam 2 3 1

Sutton memorial

metcalfeLieutenant Wilfred Charles METCALFE, 9th East Surrey Regiment, 19/08/1916, age 20. Buried Abbeville Communal Cemetery.

Wilfred’s family lived in Worcester Road, Sutton. He attended Tonbridge School and was a member of the Officer Training Corps. When war broke out he volunteered, despite being underage (18), and was commissioned as an officer in the East Surreys after his parents consented to him serving overseas. He was shot whilst leading an attack near Guillemont on 16th August but died of his wounds during the casualty evacuation process.

tate-bg-v1Rifleman Bernard George TATE, 8th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 15/09/1916, age 23. Commemorated Thiepval memorial.

Bernard lived at 21 Cowper Avenue in Sutton, was a member of the local Scout troop, and played football for Carshalton Athletic. He was killed in action during an operation to capture Switch Trench, located south of Flers, supported by two tanks – the first time they had been used. The battalion had to advance over 1,000 yards taking another trench on the way. Although the attack was a success the enemy continued to harass the troops with sniper and machine gun fire and artillery barrages. Casualties in the battalion were 331, including ninety-eight missing.

maddock-ol-couttsSecond Lieutenant Owen Loftus MADDOCK, 9th London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles), 07/10/1916, age 19. Buried Guards’ Cemetery, Lesboeufs.

A resident of Egmont Road, Sutton. Owen attended Dulwich College and worked at Coutts bank before enlisting in 1915. The attack in which he was killed was the first time he had been in action.

Carshalton memorial

madder-2Second Lieutenant Robert MADDER, 3/5th Gloucestershire Regiment (attached MGC), 20/07/1916, age 28. Buried Bapaume Post Military Cemetery.

Robert was killed by shell fire as he left a German dugout near the Usna Redoubt, just off the Albert–La Boisselle road. His captain said, ‘I have lost an excellent officer, of a type that cannot be easily replaced, and as a man and a member of our mess we had a great affection for him.’ He is also commemorated in All Saints church, Carshalton.

currier-samuelPrivate Samuel Charles Currier, 9th East Surrey Regiment, 16/08/1916, age 38. Commemorated Thiepval memorial.

Samuel died of wounds received whilst attacking a German strongpoint south west of Guillemont. The battalion war diary records that ‘During the bombardment several of the 18 pounders fired short and caused casualties among our own attacking party in the trenches, during the whole of this bombardment the enemy’s machine guns were very active and never ceased firing…’ Samuel left a widow and three children.

wyatt-eRifleman Ernest WYATT, 11th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 03/09/1916, age 21. Commemorated Thiepval memorial.

Ernest had enlisted in September 1914 (possibly underage) with his cousin Thomas Wyatt – they have consecutive service numbers. He was killed during the fighting around Guillemont. Ernest lived in the Wrythe area of Carshalton and is commemorated on the ‘Willie Bird Cross’ in Carshalton All Saints graveyard.

cook-mpPrivate Maurice Percival COOK, 7th Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment, 01/10/1916, age 21. Commemorated Thiepval memorial.

Maurice had attended Sutton County School and had previously been wounded at Loos in September 1915. He was shot by a sniper whilst part of a bombing party attacking the Schwaben Redoubt.

carpenter-c-hPrivate Cecil Henry CARPENTER, 1st Honourable Artillery Company, 14/11/1916, age 23. Commemorated Thiepval memorial.

Cecil was Carshalton’s last casualty of the Somme campaign, killed during the attack on Beaucourt. One of the men from his battalion recalled ‘while digging in on the outskirts of Beaucourt, I saw No 4740 Pte. Carpenter C.H., enter a shell hole immediately in front of my position distance some ten yards away. During the day we were subject to heavy shelling and at about 4pm, a large shell exploded either in or very close to the shell hole which Pte. Carpenter had not been seen to leave. The force of the explosion blew me out of the back of the trench and covered me with earth. I feel quite convinced the Pte. Carpenter was in the shell hole at the time and must have been killed by the explosion.’

Wallington memorial

guthrieLieutenant Richard Hampden GUTHRIE, 27th Australian Imperial Force, 06/11/1916, age 26. Buried Dartmoor Cemetery.

A resident of Heathdene Road in Wallington, Richard emigrated to Australia in 1911, where he worked as a shipping clerk. He enlisted shortly after war broke out and served in Gallipoli before proceeding to France. He was wounded at Flers on 5 November 1916 and died the following day at a dressing station. Richard is also commemorated on a plaque at St Michael and All Angels Church in Wallington

Corporal Wilfred Charles DAWSON, 190th Brigade RFA, 26/09/1916, age 34. Buried Longueval Road Cemetery.

Wilfred was educated at Birmingham University and had previously been headmaster of a school in Shackleford, near Godalming. His battery of guns was located near Longueval and had begun bombarding the German lines around Gueudecourt on 24 September in preparation for the attack on the village. Four men from the battery were wounded on 26 September. Wilfred lies buried alongside another man from his battery who died the same day. He is also commemorated on the Birmingham University war memorial.

Cheam memorial

farmerLieutenant Charles George Edward FARMER, 7th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 18/08/1916. Commemorated Thiepval.

The Farmer family resided at Cheam Park House. Charles attended Eton school. On 18th August the 7th KRRC attacked Orchard Trench, north of Delville wood. The battalion came under heavy fire from a German strongpoint in the north east corner of the wood. Farmer was the battalion’s bombing officer and he and the bombers tried to suppress the German fire by throwing grenades. However he was soon killed.

img_6294Lieutenant Frederick George STRIBLING, 1st Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment), 08/07/1916, age 22. Buried Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension.

Frederick lived in St. James Road and later Grove Road. He was wounded at Shelter Wood, near Fricourt, and died the following day. He is commemorated on a plaque at St. Nicholas church, Sutton.

Sutton war memorial

Sutton war memorial

You can find out more about the men commemorated on Carshalton war memorial in my book: Their Name Liveth for Evermore: Carshalton’s First World War Roll of Honour

Mapping Carshalton’s casualties: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?hl=en_US&mid=1sdKQZcrAw6dbJgdLIeD4kMSqliA

Posted in 1916, Carshalton, Centenary, Remembrance, Somme, War memorials, WW1 | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sutton and the Somme, 1st July 1916

Like communities up and down the country, Sutton and the surrounding area were hugely impacted by the Battle of the Somme. Ten men from Sutton (representing 2% of the names on Sutton memorial) and 20 from Carshalton (8% of the names on Carshalton memorial) were killed on 1st July 1916 alone, or died of wounds received that day. Although there was not a local ‘pals’ battalion, the losses to individual units were still felt locally. For example, 12 of the 38 local men killed on 1st July were serving with the 7th Battalion of The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). Why so many were serving in that battalion is unclear; it had been formed in Guildford in 1914 as one of Kitchener’s ‘new army’ service battalions. Twelve local men were also killed serving with the Territorial battalions of the London Regiment, in action at Gommecourt at the north of the battle.

Brief details of the local men known to have been killed on 1st July 1916 are provided below:

Sutton war memorial

Lance Corporal Stanley Herbert BRAITHWAITE, 11th Royal Fusiliers, age 21. Son of Harry and Henrietta Braithwaite, of 139 Collingwood Road, Sutton.

Private Harold BRITTON-JONES, 2nd London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers). Harold is also commemorated on the memorial in St. Nicholas church, Sutton.

Private Walter CARR, 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 28

Coldwells, FBSecond Lieutenant Francis Baker COLDWELLS, 2nd Devonshire Regiment, age 24. The Coldwells family lived at Glenalmond, Egmont Road. Francis went to Whitgift School and then Wadham College, Oxford. He enlisted in September 1914 and went overseas in May 1916. Two of his brothers were also killed during the war and their names are also on Sutton memorial. ‘A fine scholar and modest man’.

DoreSecond Lieutenant Alfred Clarence DORE, 101st Machine Gun Corps, age 22. Son of Alfred George and Edith Dore, of ‘Thaxted’, Devonshire Avenue, Sutton.

 

 

Gaskins [TSG]Rifleman Robert William GASKINS, 16th London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), age 23. Also commemorated on Wallington and Belmont memorials.

 

 

Private Frank Reginald HOGG, 2nd London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), age 23. Son of Mrs. A.E. Hogg, of 33 Myrtle Road, Sutton.

Corporal Sidney PAYNE, 1st East Yorkshire Regiment. Husband of Frances Grover (formerly Payne), of 10, Ladywell Park, Lewisham.

Private Stanley ROSS, 16th Middlesex Regiment, age 21. Son of Richard Ross, of 3 Myrtle Road, Sutton.

Lance Corporal Frederick Thomas King WALTER, 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 28. Adopted son of Mr. and Mrs A.S. King, of Cavendish Cottage, Brighton Road, Sutton.

smap07

The British and German lines at Gommecourt, where many of the local men went into action with the 56th (London) Division

Carshalton war memorial

Private George Victor ALLEN, 1st Border Regiment, age 19. George was an errand boy and lived at 119 Avenue Villas.

Rifleman Reginald ASTILL, 9th London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles), age 21.

Lance Corporal Harty AYLING, 1st Border Regiment, age 23. Harty lived in Cowper Avenue then at 20 William Street, the Wrythe. A skin mill labourer and leather dresser, he married in 1912 and had three children, the youngest of whom was born just eleven days before he died. Also commemorated on Sutton memorial.

Private Arthur Sidney BAKER, 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 21. Son of William and Harriet Baker, of 19 St John’s Road, Carshalton.

Private Gilbert Alfred CHURCHER, 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 26. Lived at 31 Bernard Road, Wallington.

Private Sidney DUFF, 7th The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 35. Lived in West Street.

Evans, R 2Rifleman Reginald Ernest Kenneth EVANS, 12th London Regiment (The Rangers), age 23. Reginald was born in Carshalton and lived with his family in Rochester Road.

 

 

Private Claude Herbert Edwin GILBERT, 10th West Yorkshire Regt (Prince of Wales’s Own), age 26. Claude was born in Carshalton and was a painter.

Private Sidney Horace GODFREY, 1st Border Regiment, age 19. Born in Sutton, Sidney was a milkman who lived at 16 Station Road, Carshalton.

Rifleman Francis Wilton INGRAM, 5th London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), age 33. By 1914 he was living at Hellvellyn, Rotherfield Road, Carshalton.

Private Frederick Thomas Payne KING, 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 26. Son of James Henry King, of 5 St John’s Road, the Wrythe, Carshalton.

Private Thomas KIRBY, 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 34. Lived in St James Road, the Wrythe, Carshalton. Thomas also played football for Carshalton Athletic. [PIC]

Private Frank LONG, 8th East Surrey Regiment, age 35. Frank was born in Carshalton and lived at 25 Harold Road, Sutton. He was killed during his battalion’s attack at Carnoy, during which the men famously kicked footballs towards the German lines.

The 8th East Surreys advance

The 8th East Surreys advance

Private William John NORTH, 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 29. Son of the late William North and of Mary North of 50 West Street, Carshalton.

Corporal Sydney PAYNE, 1st East Yorkshire Regiment, age 21. Sydney was born in Sutton. In 1901 his family were living at 18 Sutton Grove, Sutton.

ShearmanPrivate Francis James SHEARMAN, 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 20. Francis lived with his family at ‘Tarrys’, Hill Road, Sutton and attended Sutton County School from 1909 to 1911. During his battalion’s attack he was shot above the leg. A shell then exploded near a shell hole in which he was taking cover, killing him. His name is also on the memorial at Sutton Grammar School.

Lance Serjeant Eustace STRACEY, 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 22. Born in Carshalton and lived in Mill House, Butter Hill.


Waind, A
Rifleman Arthur WAIND
, 16th London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), age 31. Son of the late Frederick Waind; husband of Edith M. Waind, of The Gables, New Earswick, York. By 1916 he was living at ‘Coniston’, 28 Avenue Road, Carshalton.

 

Warner, ASecond Lieutenant Archibald WARNER, 5th London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), age 32. Son of John Warner, of Waddon House, Croydon.

 

 

Wallington war memorial

Private Charles Frederick APPLEBY, 2nd Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 23. Son of Frederick and Clara Appleby, of 4 Farm Cottages, Beddington Lane, Beddington.

Private Ernest BARTHOLOMEW, 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment)

Clode-BakerLieutenant George Edmund CLODE BAKER, 5th London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), age 22. Son of George and Winifred Clode-Baker, of Holmfields, Reigate.

 

 

Rifleman Thomas HOOKE, 5th London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), age 20. Son of Thomas and Marion Hooke, of ‘Moy Mir’, 18 Carew Road, Wallington.

Second Lieutenant Percy Patrick KELLY, 8th East Surrey Regiment, age 27. Brother of Mr. H.M. Kelly, of London.

Le-Rossignol-QWR [TSG]Rifleman Leonard LE ROSSIGNOL, 16th London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), age 29. Son of Pauline E. Le Rossignol, of ‘Pendower’, Oxhey Drive, Northwood, Middlesex.

 

 

Private Walter Frederick MOODEY, 16th Middlesex Regiment, age 19. Son of Alice Harriet Moody, of Goat Road, Mitcham Junction.

Private William George SAW (died of wounds 3rd July), 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), age 22. Son of Albert and Maria Saw, of 3 Richmond Road, Beddington.

 The famous footage of the Hawthorn mine exploding at 7.20am on 1st July 1916 was filmed by one of the British Army’s official cinematographers, Geoffrey Malins, who was a Carshalton Beeches resident.

© IWM (Q 754)

The mine exploding at Hawthorn Ridge at 7.28am © IWM (Q 754)

Cheam war memorial

Rifleman Leonard William HODGSON, 2nd London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)

Sergeant Jonah TRIMMER, 2nd Royal Berkshire Regiment. He had previously been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) “For conspicuous gallantry and cool judgement in handling his machine gun. On one occasion, after a withdrawal from the enemy trenches, he succeeded in getting his gun out of action under circumstances of great difficulty.”

Whilst the country reeled from the sheer number of casualties incurred on 1st July 1916, it must be remembered that the campaign would continue for a further 140 days, until the deteriorating weather brought the campaign to a halt on 18th November. In total at least 175 men from Sutton, Carshalton, Wallington, Cheam, and Belmont lost their lives in the campaign. Carshalton war memorial has the names of 59 men who died in the campaign inscribed on its panels; those 141 days out of the war’s 1,560 accounting for nearly a quarter of the names on the memorial. It is likely that many more men from the area were wounded as well, many with permanent and visible reminders of the war.

Of the 175 local men who lost their lives during the campaign, the bodies of 91 were never found and they are commemorated among the 72,000 names on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

DSCF2299

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing

You can find out more about the men commemorated on Carshalton war memorial in my book: Their Name Liveth for Evermore: Carshalton’s First World War Roll of Honour

Mapping Carshalton’s casualties: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?hl=en_US&mid=1sdKQZcrAw6dbJgdLIeD4kMSqliA

Posted in 1916, Research, Somme, Surrey Regiments, War memorials, WW1 | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The story behind a lone headstone

To a passer-by, the headstone situated in the middle of the field might seem out of place, particularly if they are not aware of the history of the local area. But there are very few passers-by, for this is not your usual churchyard or Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery. There is no cross of sacrifice, no stone of remembrance, no visitors’ book; the headstone is in a field located down a track in a livery yard, largely hidden from public view.

The headstone just visible in the field

The headstone just visible in the field

The reason why the headstone is here? This area used to be in the grounds of what was Banstead Asylum, later Banstead Mental Hospital, and then simply Banstead Hospital until it was later demolished, or parts of it incorporated into the nearby prison. An inauspicious end for what was quite an imposing building.

Banstead Asylum

Banstead Asylum

The asylum was built in 1877 and at its peak catered for over 2,500 patients with various mental ailments. I cannot imagine that it was a particularly pleasant place to be, given society’s previous approaches to the treatment of these types of illnesses.

The headstone is that of Sapper Reginald Adolphus Moyse, 31227, Royal Engineers, who died on 28th April 1917 aged 37. He has no epitaph. (http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/401158/)

© Copyright The Saunterer

© Copyright The Saunterer

Reginald was born in 1879 in Maidenhead and worked as a ‘Composite Typefounder’ in the printing industry. He married Edith Maud Downs in 1905 and their first son, also named Reginald, was born in 1906. A second son, Arthur, was born in 1909, followed by Horace in 1910 and Cyril in 1912. When war broke out Reginald was 35 years old and the family was living in Herne Hill, south east London. He volunteered at the Royal Engineers’ depot at Chatham on 11th December 1914 and became a sapper, enlisting for the duration of the war.

After training at home Reginald landed in France on 22nd August 1915 and was posted to the 9th Field Company. It appears from his surviving pension record that he served with several different companies of the Royal Engineers and was in and out of hospital.

Reginald was sent back to England on 2nd July 1916. A report of a Medical Board dated 15th September 1916 described his character as ‘very good’, and gave the following details about his case:

“Originated June 25th 1916, France. March 1916 he stated that he had been concussed and buried at Vermelles, since that time he has been weak and nervous.”

In March 1916 Reginald had been serving with the 69th Field Company, part of the 12th (Eastern) Division. Vermelles was near the site of the infamous Hohenzollern Redoubt, and during this period there had been a great deal of mining and counter-mining in a period known as the ‘Battle of the Craters.’ On 2nd March the 12th Division detonated four mines under the German lines, and both sides fought ferociously for the craters over the course of the month. For example, the divisional history records

“On the 18th of March, at 5pm, the Germans opened a violent bombardment on the craters, blew some mines and attacked. Vermelles was heavily shelled, and in two hours some 2,000 shells fell in it and in its vicinity.”

Craters at the Hohenzollern Redoubt

Craters at the Hohenzollern Redoubt

It was likely to be during this period that Reginald had been buried. Whatever he had experienced, it had clearly affected him profoundly over the following months. The Medical Board report continued:

“On June 25th 1916 he is described as amicable, simple-minded, as having no sense of responsibility. Following his concussion at Vermelles he was in 13th General Hospital for one month…He is in a facile, euphoric state. Memory is fairly well preserved, but he has no realisation of the serious nature of his illness. His face is smoothed out and expressionless…His speech is sticking and slurring. His knee jerks are diminished, gait is staggering and he has tremor of tongue.”

The Medical Board judged him as being permanently incapacitated and he was discharged as ‘Medically Unfit’ on 6th October 1916, the reason ‘General paralysis of the insane’. By mid-February 1917 he had been admitted to Banstead Asylum; less than three months later he was dead.

The isolated grave is in stark contrast to the endless rows of headstones at cemeteries such as Tyne Cot and Lijssenthoek. Reginald does not lie alongside his friends and comrades, yet in some ways his solitude is almost as striking. However, faded remembrance crosses at the base of the headstone show that Reginald Moyse has at least not been forgotten.

As a postscript it should be noted that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website records 2,288 sites which contain a single casualty from the First World War. In this respect Reginald Moyse is by no means unique. However the majority of these graves (86%) are located within churchyards.

Posted in 1916, CWGC, Loos, Remembrance, Research, WW1 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

“The whole attack had been a most costly failure” – The 1st Queen’s 15th July 1916

The average shopper in Guildford may be forgiven for not paying a visit to the church of Holy Trinity at the top of the High Street. The attention of those who do venture down the path at the side of church will likely be drawn to a statue of a crusading angel, made more noticeable by the bright hue of the verdigris covering its surface.

The memorial at Holy Trinity church

The memorial at Holy Trinity church

The inscription on the front of the plinth reads:

‘In loving and grateful memory of Geoffrey Brooke Parnell, Major 1st Battn The Queen’s Regiment, and the officers and men of the battalion who fell at High Wood July 15th 1916 in the Battle of the Somme.’

The 1st Queen’s had suffered heavily at Gheluvelt on 31st October 1914 and had spent much of early 1915 being brought back up to fighting strength. Since then it had been stationed in the La Bassee sector. This was no ‘cushy’ posting, and the battalion was regularly engaged in trench raids, patrols, and mine warfare right up until it moved to the Somme on 9th July to relieve the 31st Division.

On 14th July a pre-dawn attack had proved successful, capturing Bazentin and advancing as far as High Wood, although the opportunity to capitalize on the gains and take the wood virtually unopposed had not been followed through. The 100th Brigade received orders to support the right flank of 21st Division in an attack on the German second line the following day. The Brigade’s objective was to capture the German ‘Switch Line’ that snaked north west from High Wood in front of the village of Martinpuich, with a secondary objective of taking Martinpuich itself.

Aerial photo of the area overlaid with a trench map showing the Switch line in red

Aerial photo of the area overlaid with a trench map showing the Switch line in red

Late on the 14th the 1st Queen’s moved into position along a sunken lane between Bazentin and the looming mass of High Wood. The 9th Highland Light Infantry on the battalion’s right was supposed to dig in along the boundary of High Wood to its north west corner as a jumping off position for the following day’s operations, but was unable to do so as the Germans still occupied much of the wood, contrary to reports being received from 7th Division to the right. Patrols sent out during the night by the 1st Queen’s reported that the Switch Line was occupied but not wired; this turned out to be inaccurate, as barbed wire up to 15 yards deep was encountered during the attack. It is likely that the patrols had in fact encountered a forward covering party of Germans thrown out in front of the actual Switch Line.

View towards High Wood along the lane where the 1st Queen's formed up

View towards High Wood along the lane where the 1st Queen’s formed up

On the day of the attack Major Parnell had assumed command of the battalion, as the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Crofts was acting as understudy to Brigadier-General Baird, 100th Brigade. The strength of the 1st Queen’s before the action on 15th July was 25 officers and 697 other ranks.

The positions of the battlaions of 100th Brigade before the attack

The positions of the battalions of 100th Brigade before the attack

The position the battalion was occupying was open, flat and practically devoid of cover. Before dawn on the 15th the battalion had to put out a defensive flank in an old German trench owing to the enfilade fire coming from High Wood. Early in the morning the battalion received confirmation of its orders. It was to advance north on a front of 500 yards towards the German line 900 yards away. Whilst getting into their positions the Germans opened a heavy enfilade fire, causing several casualties including Captain Gurrey, officer commanding C Company. A bombardment of the north west corner of High Wood was requested, but few shells landed there. A heavy mist had covered the shallow valley at dawn, obscuring High Wood and Martinpuich, but lifted just before the attack began. Brigadier-General Baird recognised that the success of the attack depended on High Wood being taken first, but his request to delay the advance until the wood had been cleared was over-ruled.

An aerial photo of High Wood and Martinpuich © IWM (Q 61359)

An aerial photo of High Wood and Martinpuich, August 1916 © IWM (Q 61359)

The 1st Queen’s war diary recounts the details of the attack:

“8.55am Front wave started and almost at once came under fire from both flanks and the front and second wave came under similar conditions and 2nd Lieutenant Richards and many men were hit. Line pushed on till within about 200 yards of the German trench when they came under very heavy fire and started to come back. At this stage while the men were being rallied Major Parnell came up on the left, with Capt & Adjt Carslake and in the most gallant way started to lead forward the attack, but was almost immediately hit and killed & Capt Carslake soon afterwards was wounded and 2nd Lieut Crichton killed.

The enemy’s wire had not been cut by the artillery and when about 100 yards from it the line halted in the long grass and started to dig in. Two platoons from the support company were now sent forward but did not reach the firing line apparently turning off to the left.

At 9.25 Capt Foster A Coy sent back a message that he had reached a point about 100 yards from enemy’s trench, that wire was not cut and HLI had not come up, but message did not reach the support line.

10.05 Lieut Thrupp on left sent back that he was held up by wire and asking for bombardment to be resumed and for reinforcements. Message got thro’ and bombardment started about 12 noon but all shells were short, some pitching behind our own line.

The positions at 12 noon

The positions at 12 noon

12.30 No reinforcements coming up officers remaining held a conference and decided to withdraw as there was considerable danger of their being cut off from the right. Retirement was carried out in small parties to original position on road. This position was heavily shelled during the remainder of afternoon and evening and during the night of 15th-16th. During the night strong patrols were sent out to get information and bring in the wounded.”

At 4am on the 16th the battalion was relieved by the 5th Scottish Rifles and retired to an area near Mametz Wood. The failure of the artillery to cut the wire and the inability to clear High Wood prior to the attack meant that the attack had been unsuccessful.

Casualties were recorded in the 1st Queen’s war diary as five officers and 28 other ranks killed, 11 officers and 207 other ranks wounded, and 52 other ranks missing; a total of 303, or 42% of the battalion’s strength. The war diary recorded that casualties amongst NCOs in particular was very heavy, with 20 Sergeants and 58 other NCOs being among the casualties. The CWGC database records 71 deaths on the 15th.

Officer casualties during the attack were 64%. The officer casualties were:

Killed

Geoffrey Brooke Parnell

Major Geoffrey Brooke Parnell

Major Geoffrey Brooke Parnell. Parnell was a pre-war Regular soldier, who had been overseas with the battalion since November 1914. He was also the cousin of Henry Bligh Fortescue Parnell, 5th Baron Congleton, who had served with the Grenadier Guards until he was killed in November 1914.

 

 

 

Captain Roland Percival Slatter (commanding B Company), aged 28, from New Malden. He had served in the army for 10 years and had been the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant in the 2nd Battalion prior to being commissioned.

Telegram sent to Roland Slatter's father, notifying him of his son's death

Telegram sent to Roland Slatter’s father, notifying him of his son’s death (reported incorrectly as occurring on 17th

July)
2nd Lt Arthur James Crichton, MC

2nd Lt Arthur James Crichton, MC

Second Lieutenant Arthur James Crichton, MC (battalion Lewis Gun officer), aged 19, from Hampstead. Private Burt, C Company, stated that “…he saw 2nd Lieutenant Crichton hit by a rifle bullet. Informant was wounded just before his Officer was hit, and lay in a shell hole for about four hours, and he says Lieut Crichton was quite close to him, in fact only about 30 yards away. Informant says he lay out in the open, but he saw him crawl a little way, and then he did not move again, and he thinks he must have died.”

 

2nd Lt John Hector Rouquette

2nd Lt John Hector Rouquette

Second Lieutenant John Hector Rouquette (A Company), aged 22, from Ashtead. He had attended Berkhamsted School before working for the Bank of Montreal in London. He was transferred to Canada in June 1914 but returned shortly after the outbreak of war to enlist. He had been with the battalion since February 1916 and was reportedly “killed instantly by enemy fire while leading his platoon forward.”

 

 

2nd Lt Gerard Rimington Bower

2nd Lt Gerard Rimington Bower

Second Lieutenant Gerard Rimington Bower (C Company), aged 19, from Farnborough in Kent.

 

 

 

 

Wounded – Captain Gurrey (commanding C Company); Second Lieutenant Richards (B Company); Second Lieutenant Burrell (C Company); Second Lieutenant Barland; Second Lieutenant Bottomley (B Company); Second Lieutenant Robinson (B Company); Second Lieutenant Farwell (D Company); Second Lieutenant Fairlie (C Company); Second Lieutenant Foley (D Company); Captain & Adjutant Carslake; Lieutenant Brown (Signalling Officer)

Other ranks who were killed included two brothers, Emile and Marcel Renaud, who were from Cranleigh and who were both Sergeants.

Private Harry Capon

Private Harry Capon

Private Harry Capon of Coldharbour was acting as a stretcher bearer during the attack. After dark he went out to find his Platoon Sergeant, who he had seen wounded in the morning; he did not return. His Captain wrote “He will be a great loss to the battalion, and his mother will, I hope, find consolation in the noble conduct of a true soldier, which her son has displayed.”

 

 

The other attacking battalions from the 100th Brigade had suffered even more than The Queen’s. 192 men from the 9th HLI were killed, commemorated by a cairn made up of 192 stones situated at the south east corner of High Wood. The support battalion (16th King’s Royal Rifles Corps) had 112 men killed, and the reserve battalion (2nd Worcestershire Regiment) 28. The actual number of casualties for the Brigade is likely to be even higher due to those who succumbed to their wounds in the following days; in the fighting from 15th-22nd July a total figure of over 1,600 casualties is recorded.

The 33rd Division’s History records that “…the whole attack had been a most costly failure. General Baird wrote of his Brigade that it had behaved with the greatest gallantry. The slopes lying to the west of Martinpuich and High Wood were a grim slaughter house. Dead, dying, and wounded lay thickly upon the blood-stained turf.”

The majority of those from 1st Queen’s battalion who were killed during the attack have no known grave and are commemorated on Thiepval memorial to the missing.

The battalion was back in action at High Wood on 21st July, although it would be mid-September before the Germans were finally driven out of the wood and the Switch Line was captured.

Geoffrey Parnell's headstone in Flatiron Copse Cemtery, Mametz. Photo courtesy of Mark Banning www.mgbtours.com

Geoffrey Parnell’s headstone in Flatiron Copse Cemtery, Mametz. Photo courtesy of Mark Banning http://www.mgbtours.com

Posted in 1916, Centenary, Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment, Research, Somme, Surrey Regiments, WW1 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mapping Carshalton’s First World War casualties

Recently I have been ‘mapping’ the men named on Carshalton war memorial to show where they lived in the area. My research into the men has really focused on them as individuals rather than looking at how the community was impacted, so my reasoning behind this was to try and produce a visual representation of how the war affected the local area. The information to do this has come from a variety of sources including Commonwealth War Graves Commission entries; census information (1911 and in some cases 1901); Surrey Recruitment Registers; local newspaper reports; and obituaries and rolls of honour.

There are some difficulties when trying to identify the correct address. Firstly, the address used might not be the last one at which the man lived, for example if using information from the 1911 census it is plausible that he may have moved before the war. In addition when using addresses given in Commonwealth War Graves Commission entries, these may not be the soldier’s address but rather that of his parents or relatives. However you can only use the information available, but it should be borne in mind that it will not be a 100% accurate representation.

Another issue is that it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact location of an address, such as if only a house name rather than a number is given, or where streets have been renamed or indeed no longer exist. So the pins have been positioned on the correct road where possible but might not reflect the true location.

Despite having been researching and writing about these men for the last six years, seeing this information visually has highlighted a few interesting aspects.

At first glance it may appear that there are noticeable gaps where roads do not have any casualties. However, Carshalton during the First World War was much smaller than it is now, and less built up. With a population of approximately 13,000 (compared to c.45,000 at the 2001 census), the footprint of the village was much smaller. For example, much of the land north of the Wrythe was undeveloped, as was the land north of Westmead Road.

The visual impact of the pins shows how the war affected different areas of Carshalton. For example, the area of Carshalton known as ‘the Wrythe’ was greatly affected, with 35 casualties from just four roads. The impact on these families and neighbours as they learned of the deaths of their loved ones can only be imagined.

Perhaps unsurprisingly there are few officers who lived in the working class areas. In general these men came from the south side of Carshalton and the Carshalton Beeches / Carshalton Hill area; the more affluent areas in the locality, with large family homes that housed the middle classes, and generally it was the sons of these families who became ‘temporary gentlemen’, in other words the junior officers. The more densely-packed working class areas such as the Wrythe and Mill Lane provided the ‘ordinary’ soldiers as well as a large proportion of the non-commissioned officers.

In Carshalton we are lucky that a comprehensive record of those who served survives, with a copy held in the Local Studies Centre in Sutton library. This lists 1,900 individuals who served, split by road. Mapping these names would be quite an undertaking to say the least, but would show exactly how the community responded to the war and was impacted by the departure of its men and boys.

Nevertheless, I hope that the map will be interesting to those who live in Carshalton and will help the community commemorate those who lost their lives in the war. If it helps personalise the names inscribed on the memorial, all the better.

The map can be viewed in Google Maps here:
https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zmj7H_gPyI3w.k4WaPX836U_0&usp=sharing

Posted in Carshalton, Research, Surrey Regiments, War memorials, WW1 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments