The Tragedy of War

My research into the men named on Carshalton war memorial uncovered some sad stories, but one particularly tragic one in my eyes is that of Frederick Baldwin.

Frederick was born in Carshalton and lived with his parents on Stanley Road. In 1911 he was working as a trainee carpenter, and later became an architect’s draughtsman. After war broke out he enlisted on 24th October 1914 with his friend George Harrison, and was posted to the 8th Battalion of The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), one of the Kitchener battalions.

Frederick Baldwin

The battalion was part of the 24th Division and landed in France on 31st August 1915. They had been hurriedly rushed to the front for the Loos offensive but did not get there in time for the first day’s attack on 25th September. They were held in reserve, being sent in the following day to attack the German lines near Hulluch; it was their first, and for many their last, action.

The war diary for the 8th Battalion The Queen’s records that:

The battalion advanced under heavy machine gun and shrapnel fire in lines of platoons in extended order. As the advance continued over the Lens-La Bassee road, the machine gun fire from the flanks was very heavy. On reaching the enemy trenches it was found to be protected by barbed wire, which had not been cut and it being impossible to get through it, the brigade retired. There appeared to be no panic and the men walked back still under machine gun and shrapnel fire.

This brief description of events belies the chaos and carnage the battalion must have faced – 11 officers and 409 other ranks were casualties, including other men from Carshalton.

After the attack at Loos Frederick was reported missing; in fact he had received a gunshot wound to the chest and was taken prisoner. Initially sent to a prisoner of war camp at Limburg, at the end of May 1916 he was sent to Chateau d’Oex, a small mountain town in Switzerland, under a scheme to repatriate British and German soldiers too seriously wounded to return to fighting. Fred stayed with Samuel and Elise Etter, a couple who operated a ‘Pension’ and who took in a number of British soldiers during the war. He formed an attachment to their daughter Mariette, and in August 1917 their engagement was announced. Sadly the marriage never took place; Fred was repatriated on 11th September 1917 and discharged from the army in November.

Having survived being wounded and his time as a prisoner, unfortunately, weakened by his war experience, Frederick died in the influenza pandemic of 1918. His 14 year old sister had died two days previously from the same cause.

Frederick’s grave in Carshalton

Frederick is buried in Carshalton All Saints churchyard and commemorated on Carshalton war memorial and the memorial chapel in in St. Barnabas church.

This entry was posted in 1915, Carshalton, CWGC, Loos, Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment, Remembrance, Research, Surrey Regiments, War memorials, WW1. Bookmark the permalink.

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