Alfred Pollard VC

Alfred Pollard

Today marks the centenary of the action for which Second Lieutenant Alfred Oliver Pollard was awarded the highest decoration for gallantry, the Victoria Cross. During this centenary of the First World War a commemorative paving slab is being laid in the recipients’ home towns. Pollard was born in Melbourne Road, Wallington, and also lived at ‘Tidbury’, 2 Belmont Road, but the slab is being installed outside Wallington library.

Before the war Pollard worked as a clerk, however as soon as war broke out he joined the 1st Battalion of the Honourable Artillery Company as a Private, disembarking in France just one month later.

Pollard was not one to shy away from danger; not only was he awarded the Victoria Cross, but also the Military Cross and bar, and the Distinguished Conduct Medal – a rare combination. The citations give an insight into his courage under fire. He was awarded the DCM for an action that occurred in September 1915:

‘For conspicuous gallantry on the 30th September, 1915, at Sanctuary Wood, during the bombing fight. Although severely wounded, Serjeant Pollard continued to throw bombs, at the same time issuing orders to and encouraging his men. By his example and gallant conduct he renewed confidence among the bombers at a time when they were shaken, owing, to the enemy being in superior numbers and throwing many more bombs than were available on our side. He did not give up until he fell, severely wounded for the second time.’

James Frank Pollard’s name on Wallington war memorial

On recovering from his wounds Pollard returned to France in May 1916 with a commission. Finding that the wound he had received to his arm impacted his shooting and bomb throwing (for which he had a penchant), he trained himself to use his left hand. In September 1916 his elder brother James was killed at Ginchy whilst serving with the 1st Grenadier Guards; an event that had a big impact on Alfred and made him even more determined to kill more Germans.

Wallington war memorial

Alfred’s Military Cross was awarded for his actions at Grandcourt, on the Somme, on 7th-8th February 1917:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He led a patrol and carried out a dangerous reconnaissance. Later, he assumed command of a company and repulsed two strong enemy counter-attacks.’

The bar to his MC quickly followed during the Battle of Arras for what The Times called ‘…an audacious reconnaissance of the Oppy-Gavrelle line.’ Pollard’s battalion was part of 63rd Division, which was in reserve at the start of the Battle of Arras. However on 17th April the division was sent forward to relieve the 34th Division, and the 1st HAC advanced to occupy positions close to the German line between Gavrelle and Oppy. Pollard led a patrol towards Gavrelle to reconnoitre the German line. On finding a dugout occupied by Germans the patrol retired, but on regrouping Pollard discovered one man was missing. He and another man went back to try and find him, but were discovered by German sentries and had to quickly withdraw through the German trenches.

The German line of defence between Oppy and Gavrelle

The citation for the bar to his Military Cross reads:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He carried out a dangerous reconnaissance of the enemy’s front line under very heavy fire, and obtained most valuable information. He set a splendid example of courage and determination.’

The German line was successfully taken and held in the face of a fierce counter attack on 24th April. On 29th April the battalion was ordered to attack a strongpoint in the German lines. The position was taken and Pollard advanced further along the trench with a handful of men. The Germans started bombing down the trench but Pollard met them head on and then defended against a counter attack.

The approximate location of the German strongpoint

‘For most conspicuous bravery and determination. The troops of various units on the left of this Officer’s battalion had become disorganised owing to the heavy casualties from shell fire; and a subsequent determined enemy attack with very strong forces caused further confusion and retirement, closely pressed by hostile forces.

2nd Lt. Pollard at once realised the seriousness of the situation, and dashed up to stop the retirement. With only four men he started a counter-attack with bombs, and pressed it home till he had broken the enemy attack, regained all that had been lost and much ground in addition.

The enemy retired in disorder, sustaining many casualties. By his force of will, dash and splendid example, coupled with an utter contempt of danger, this Officer, who has already won the D.C.M. and M.C., infused courage into every man who saw him.’

Alfred Pollard being presented with his Victoria Cross

Pollard was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 21st July 1917. It is currently held by the Honourable Artillery Company in London.

Alfred Pollard in later life (c) National Portrait Gallery, London

After the war Pollard published his memoir ‘Fire Eater: The Memoirs of a VC.’ (for a great review see Christian Parkinson‘s blog here). This autobiography is particularly frank about how he enjoyed the war and wanted to kill as many Germans as possible. Pollard went on to write over 50 fiction books and died in 1960.

Buy ‘Fire Eater’ from Amazon here:
Fire-Eater The Memoirs of a V. C.

Posted in 1917, Arras, Centenary, Gallantry, Wallington, War memorials, WW1 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘A mad scheme in my opinion’: The 1st Queen’s attack on the Hindenburg Line 23/04/1917

The 1st Battalion of The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) did not participate in the opening phase of the Battle of Arras from 9th April, but on 15th April as part of the ‘fresh’ 33rd Division, moved into support north of Croisilles. The battalion, in 100th Brigade, faced the German line at Croisilles; the 19th Brigade and 98th Brigade were to the left on higher ground, holding the portions of the Hindenburg Line that had already been captured. Three days later Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Markham Crofts returned to command the battalion; he had led the battalion previously but had been wounded near Delville Wood during the Somme campaign.

The battalion was to take part in the attack on the Hindenburg Line on 23rd April, the start of the Second Battle of the Scarpe. The 98th Brigade to the north was to force its way south down the German trenches to link up with 100th Brigade, which would be carrying out a frontal attack to capture the first and second lines of the Hindenburg Line. The right flank of 100th Brigade was to be protected by two tanks. The 1st Queen’s and 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps were to spearhead the attack, with the 2nd Worcestershires in reserve. To try and maintain the element of surprise the attack would be launched before dawn.

An aerial view of the area of operations (outlined in red) © IWM Q17253.

However not everyone was convinced by the plan. One officer of the 1st Queen’s who did not participate in the attack wrote: ‘A mad scheme in my opinion, as if the 98th don’t join up, they will be left in the middle of the German line with both flanks in the air, and it will be impossible to get up reinforcements or ammunition till dark. In addition the advance to within 200 yards of the enemy in the dark is a most difficult and dangerous operation; the wire in front of the enemy is very strong, in three lines radiating from a centre, and only gaps have been cut by the artillery.’ On the 20th several officers reconnoitred the Hindenburg Line from the vicinity of Croisilles, and the following day was spent practising for the attack.

On the night of 22nd April the battalion assembled north east of Croisilles. Battalion HQ was established at point A on the map. At 3am the men marched to their deployment position (point B). At 4.15am the battalion advanced and moved to a sunken road that bisected the Croisilles-Fontaine road (point C) and lay down to await zero – fixed for 4.45am – without being detected by the enemy.

The area of the 1st Queen’s attack

The country here is very open; although the Sensee River runs through the area, it is only a trickle running along a watercourse, giving a certain amount of cover but commanded generally from the high ground of the Sensee Valley which was held by the Germans. The German front line was protected by at least two rows of barbed wire twenty yards thick, with more thick wire between the first and second line. Concrete machine gun emplacements were regularly placed along the line, with dugouts and tunnels connecting the positions.

During the attack the battalion was under the command of Captain Frederick Godfrey, who had joined the regiment as a Private in 1897 and worked his way up the ranks. D Company formed the first wave under Captain Brodhurst-Hill to the right of the main road; A Company under Second Lieutenant Carpenter the second wave to the left of the road; and B (Second Lieutenant Holliday) and C (Captain Ball) companies forming a third wave. Two companies of the 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps followed behind at a distance of 100 yards carrying extra ammunition and bombs.

Map of the objective showing the German line

The attack started punctually at 4.45am and worked up to within 50 yards of the barrage, entering the front trench with few casualties. The Brigade account of the action records that ‘A few Germans were found dead in the front line, a few more offered some resistance and were bayoneted and some half a dozen surrendered…’.

To the right of the road two strongpoints were captured and bombing parties pushed on until they were held up by another strong point. A double block was made and post established in the communication trench. On the left of the road a block was first made at the Sensee River, but when the box barrage lifted the enemy attacked. They were repulsed with rifle grenades and a party under Corporal Spooner followed them and captured a concrete blockhouse and machine gun. A block was then made 50 yards from the blockhouse.

The leading companies pushed forward towards the German second line but were held up by very strong wire; despite over 62,000 rounds of artillery ammunition being fired from 21st April on the area of the 33rd Division’s operations, the wire between the two lines remained uncut and impenetrable. The artillery barrage then lifted back beyond the second line, allowing the Germans to man their parapets. Only a small party of A Company reached the second line; the rest of the battalion were either still in the first line or had taken cover in shell holes between the two lines. A headquarters was established in a dugout in one of the communication trenches to the right of the road (point E). The first line itself was by now blocked with wounded; the battalion’s Medical Officer, Captain Herman Dresing, would be awarded the Military Cross ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. After being shelled out of his dressing station, he took up another position, and continued throughout the day, and performed operations under heavy shell fire, which was causing continual casualties around him.’

The attack was already starting to falter. The two tanks which should have arrived to protect the right flank never showed up, having broken down before zero. In addition, the 33rd Divisional History records that as daylight came, ‘it was seen that the Sensee Valley was completely commanded by machine gun nests and pill-boxes both north and south of the River.’

By 6.45am the supply of grenades began to run out, and over the next few hours the two reserve companies of the 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps took up nearly 1,500 bombs. However the Germans kept up incessant attacks of their own. At 10.10am Captain Godfrey reported that advance of 98th Brigade had relieved the pressure and although casualties were heavy the men were ‘cheery and confident’.

The blocks to the right of the road were maintained until 11am when the Germans made a determined attack but were driven back by parties under Company Sergeant Major Elderkin; he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions, the citation reading ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He continually organised bombing attacks and throughout was instrumental in repelling hostile counter-attacks’.

Lance Corporal Ware, awarded the Military Medal for his part in the attack

At 12.20pm Captain Godfrey reported that the enemy were again pressing forward with repeated bombing attacks and the supply of bombs was getting low. Lance Corporal Ware from Reigate was awarded the Military Medal for volunteering to get more mills bombs. At 1.20pm the last carrying party of men of the Worcesters tried to take up an additional 800 bombs, but before they reached the line the enemy commenced a strong bombing attack from five different points. At 1.22pm three flares were seen from approximately point D on the map, believed to mark the furthest advance of the battalion to the right of the road.

With the British supply of bombs exhausted, at 1.45pm the Germans massed on the right flank and rushed the blocks. The pressure forced a retirement and the men in the centre communication trench were cut off.

Godfrey later recalled that ‘This fighting went on until about 2pm when affairs took a decided turn and it was evident that pressure was increasing and that the enemy was making a decided effort to eject us. What happened on our right is not quite clear but I think that although counter measures were in hand on all sides, the right had to bear the brunt of a very determined counter attack, about this time a verbal report reached me that the troops on our right were falling back and leaving the trenches. Events must have happened very quickly for in a short time the party at battalion headquarters found themselves isolated and their retreat cut off. With the enemy closing in on all sides, the trench we occupied holding quite a number of wounded, casualties increasing, about 2.30pm resistance ceased and we were disarmed.’

The Germans had broken through the block in the first line to the right of the road (point F), effectively cutting off the men in the communication trench and headquarters dugout, and placing themselves in a position to enfilade the men in the first line to the left of the road. Unfortunately Godfrey had just called a conference of the company commanders in the headquarters dugout, and eight officers were taken prisoner. Captains Godfrey, Ball, and Brodhurst-Hill, and Second Lieutenants Botton, Holliday (wounded), Walker, Jacob (wounded), and Thompson (wounded). In fact Second Lieutenant Lacey was the only officer who participated in the attack who got back unwounded from the German line.

Those men who could retire were not out of danger, for ‘As the men came back, the well posted enemy machine guns, picked them off like rabbits, and scarcely a man returned unwounded, whilst many were shot down in their tracks.’ This account from the 33rd Divisional History states that only 43 men from the battalion could be mustered after the attack.

Second Lieutenant Norman Fowler

In addition to the eight officers who had been taken prisoner, Second Lieutenants Millard, Fowler, and Burghope were killed, and Second Lieutenants Carpenter and Bower wounded. According to the battalion war diary of the other ranks 26 were killed, 101 wounded, and 308 missing; the war diary therefore puts the total number of casualties at 448.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database records 123 deaths in the battalion for 23rd April and the following few days. One hundred and fourteen (93%) have no known grave and are commemorated on the Arras memorial. The total number of men taken prisoner is difficult to ascertain, but is estimated at between 40 and 100 men. At least seven of those taken prisoner that day died whilst incarcerated and are buried in Germany. The 16th KRRC also suffered heavily, with 270 casualties.

Private William Dulake, killed during the attack

The attack had failed for a number of reasons: the failure of 98th Brigade to effectively link up from the north; the minimal effect of the artillery bombardment on the German wire; the barrage lifting beyond the German second line; the breakdown of the two tanks due to support the right flank; and the difficulties experienced in communication and resupplying the attacking parties with bombs. The battalion had yet again been thrown into the thick of the action and had again suffered considerably despite fighting tenaciously for nearly ten hours. The loss of so many officers was a particular blow, but the battalion would once again reconstitute itself and would be back in action in the same area less than a month later, when the German line was finally taken on 22nd May.

Posted in 1917, Arras, Centenary, CWGC, Gallantry, Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment, Remembrance, Research, Surrey Regiments, WW1 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

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%

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 , , , , , , , | 1 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:

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.


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.


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:

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. (

© 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 , , , , | 4 Comments