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I came across a series of postings by Pete Hill posted way back in June 2009 outlining Notable Persons who served in WW1. A fascinating piece of research and I became interested in those who served as Gunners.
Having enjoyed the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, read Dennis Wheatley's books, and admired the illustrations of Winnie the Pooh drawn by Ernest Sheppard, it was pleasing to find they all served as Gunners. I have admired the exploits of George Mallory and his attempts on Everest, and find he was also a Gunner. An interest in the Titanic, visiting London, Belfast and New York, resulted in seeing an iconic photo of a young newspaper seller in London reporting the sinking of the Titanic. The boy was Ned Parffett who would go on to win the Military Medal and loose his life serving with the Royal Field Artillery.
So which notable persons served as Gunners during the First World War ?
Notable Persons who served as a Gunner in WW1
Here are those identified to date: 12 January 2021
Allan Brooke DSO - [WW2 CIGS / Military advisor to Churchill]
Edmund Herring DSO MC - [WW2 General]
Andrew McNaughton DSO - [WW2 General]
Keith Park MC* DFC - [WW2 General]
Cambpell Christie MC - [WW2 General & Agatha Christie's Brother in Law]
Colin Gubbins MC - [WW2 General and founder of SOE]
Gwilym Lloyd George - [WW1 Prime Minister Lloyd George son]
Norman Manley MM - [First Prime minister of Jamaica]
George Mallory - [Everest Explorer]
Ernest Sheppard MC - [Illustrator of Winnie the Pooh]
Dennis Wheatley - [Author]
Ralph Vaughan Williams - [Composer]
Wyndham Lewis - [Artist]
Colin Gill - [Artist]
Gilbert Ledward - [Sculptor]
Leon Underwood - [Sculptor / Artist]
Bud Flanagan - [Entertainer] served as Robert Weintrop
Henry Hall - [Band Leader]
Maurice Bowra - [Academic / Literary Critic]
Lionel Robbins - [Economist]
Lawrence Bragg MC - [Physicist]
Ned Parfett - [Newsboy announcing sinking of Titanic]
Tom Barry - [Guerrilla leader during Irish Civil War]
Basil Catterns - [Chief Cashier Bank of England 1929 - 1934]
- Allan Brooke DSO*
Chief of Imperial General Staff 1941-46 and the top military advisor to Churchill.
During WW1, Brooke served on the Western Front as a Colonel in the Royal Field Artillery and awarded the a DSO and a Bar
Alan Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke - Wikipedia
Edmund Herring DSO MC
Commander of the 6th Australian Division during the campaigns against the Italians and Germans in North Africa and Greece 1940-41 and he later commanded Australian Forces during the Battle for Kokoda, New Guinea Campaign.
During WW1, Herring served with the Royal Field Artillery in Mesopotamia and awarded the Military Cross
Edmund Herring - Wikipedia
- Andrew McNaughton DSO
Commander of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. Involved with the planning and staging of the Dieppe Raid in 1942, he received much of the criticism and blame for its disastrous outcome.
During WW1, McNaughton served with the Canadian Artillery and would ultimately command the Canadian Corps Artillery. He was awarded a DSO
Andrew McNaughton - Wikipedia
- Keith Park MC* DFC
Air Vice-Marshall Sir Keith Park (New Zealand) - Commander of RAF Fighter Command's No 11 Group, the most heavily engaged Group during the Battle of Britain July-October 1940 and later commanded the air defences on Malta.
During WW1, Park commanded a New Zealand Artillery Battery in Gallipoli and transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where he served with distinction. He was awarded the Military Cross and Bar and the Distinguished Flying Cross
- Campbell Christie MC
Thanks to rflory
Campbell Christie was the brother in law of author Agatha Christie. A career soldier commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery in December 1913, he would rise to the rank of Major General commanding Anti-Aircraft Defences, Malta during WW2. After retirement he and his wife, Dorothy, wrote plays for the London stage including Grand National Night and Carrington, VC
During WW1, he deployed to France in February 1915 with 10 Siege Battery RGA , served in Salonika with 5 Mountain Battery RGA, attained the rank of acting Major and was awarded the Military Cross.
- Colin Gubbins
Thanks to voltaire60
Major General Colin Gubbins was an exponent of irregular warfare who founded the Home Defence Auxiliaries and was Director of SOE during World War Two. He developed his interest in guerrilla warfare ass a result of serving as an intelligence officer during the Anglo-Irish War. He commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery as a Regular Officer in September 1914.
During WW1, he served with 126 Battery RFA, was wounded, awarded the MC and attained the rank of acting Major. He would also serve in the North Russia Campaign in 1919 as an ADC.
- Gwilym Lloyd George
Welsh politician and cabinet minister. The younger son of David Lloyd George, he served as Home Secretary from 1954 to 1957.
Served in House of Lords 1957 to 1967 as 1st Viscount Tenby
During WW1, Lloyd-George transferred from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers to serve in the Royal Garrison Artillery on the Western Front
Gwilym Lloyd George - Wikipedia
- Norman Manley MM
First Prime Minister of the newly independent Jamaica from 1959-62
During WW1, Manley served with the Royal Field Artillery on the Western front and awarded the Military Medal
- George Mallory
Mountaineer who made three attempts to climb Mount Everest in the early 1920s.During the 1924 Expedition , Mallory and his climbing partner Sandy Irvine disappeared on the northeast ridge of Everest. It is not known for certain if the pair reached the summit of Everest.
During WW1, Mallory commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery and served on the Western Front.
George Mallory's brother Trafford Leigh Mallory became C in C of Fighter Command during World War Two.
George Mallory - Wikipedia
- Ernest Sheppard MC
Artist and Book Illustrator, best-known for his illustrations for the original editions of Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows.
During WW1, Shepard commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery serving on the Western Front and awarded the Military Cross
E. H. Shepard - Wikipedia
- Dennis Wheatley
Popular author of adventure, thriller and occult/horror novels, who wrote over 75 books between 1933 and 1980.
During WW1, Wheatley commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery, served on the Western Front and was invalided out of the Army
Dennis Wheatley - Wikipedia
- Ralph Vaughan Williams
Composer of symphonies, opera & chamber music, choral pieces & hymns from the early 1900s through to the 1950s.
During WW1, Williams enlisted as a soldier in the RAMC, transferring to the Royal Garrison Artillery on commissioning, and served on the Western Front
- Wyndham Lewis
Painter, Novelist, Critic & Writer
During WW1, Lewis was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery serving on the Western Front
Wyndham Lewis - Wikipedia
- Colin Gill
Colin Unwin Gill was an English artist who painted murals and portraits and is notable for the work he produced as a war artist.
During WW1, Colin Gill commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery serving in 17th Heavy Battery. His artistic talents would be used when he was seconded to the Royal Engineers as a camouflage officer. In March 1918 he was invalided with gas poisoning in March 1918.
- Leon Underwood
Leon Underwood was a British sculptor, print maker and painter.
During WW1, he enlisted as a trooper in the Royal Horse Guards before commissioning into 2nd London Brigade RFA in June 1915. In May 1916 he was seconded to Special Works Park Royal Engineers to create battlefield observation posts disguised as trees
- Gilbert Ledward
Gilbert Ledward was a sculptor who would contributed to many post war memorials.
During WW1, he commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery in December 1916 serving in Italy and being Mentioned In Despatches. In April 1918 he was seconded to the Ministry of Information as a war artist.
- Bud Flanagan (served as Robert Weintrop)
Thanks to voltaire60
Bud Flanagan was a popular British music hall entertainer and comedian. His real name was Reuben Weintrop, and at 14 he had left home to travel the world. At the beginning of the First World War he was in the USA and returned home to enlist in the Royal Field Artillery under the name Robert Weintrop. During the war he met Chesney Allen with whom he would form a double act post war. Weintrop adopted the name Flanagan reputedly the name of a disliked Sergeant-Major he served with.
During WW1, he served on the Western Front as a Driver in a Divisional Ammunition Column arriving in Theatre May 1916 serving till the end of the war.
- Henry Hall
Thanks to voltaire60
Henry Hall was an English band leader over a period of 40 years regularly performing on BBC Radio.
During WW1, he was called up to serve with the Royal Field Artillery in December 1916. After basic training at Woolwich and Brighton, he transferred the Royal Garrison Artillery. He served at Number 1Cadet Training School RGA playing in concert parties.
- Maurice Bowra
Thanks to voltaire60
Maurice Bowra was an English classical scholar, literary critic and academic, being a warden at Oxford University 1938 to 1970.
During WW1, he was commissioned from an Officer Cadet Unit into the Royal Field Artillery July 1017 serving on the Western Front
- Ned Parfett MM
Newsboy & subject of a very famous, iconic photograph holding the headline banner announcing the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912
During WW1, Parfett enlisted into the Royal Field Artillery serving on the Western Front and awarded the Military Medal. Ned Parfett was killed by an enemy shell on 29th October 1918 and is buried in the British War Cemetery at Verchain - Maugre in France.
Edward John “Ned” Parfett (1896-1918) - Find A Grave MemorialGUNNER EDWARD JOHN PARFETTService Number: 128981Regiment & Unit/Ship
Royal Field Artillery
126th Bty. 29th Bde.Date of Death
Died 29 October 1918
Age 22 years oldBuried or commemorated at
Sister Cawood has for four years faced the perils of the deep and the dangers of field hospitals near to the firing-line, and has shown by her gallantry, heroism and self-sacrifice that she is worthy of the great honor and distinction which I am proud to know has been conferred upon her. We diggers all say, “God bless her and all the other brave Australian sisters who gave up everything to assist us when we badly required help.” We won’t forget them.
[Michael Adams, 1919 – late Pte 1129, 20th Bn, AIF]
The great honour and distinction that Michael Adams was referring to was the Military Medal awarded to Dorothy Cawood in 1917. He personally would never forget her, as it was she who nursed him back to health in 1915, and he clung to the belief that it was solely due to her untiring efforts that he had survived.
Dorothy had trained in general nursing at the Coast Hospital in Sydney from 1909, and together with colleague Clarice Dickson passed her exam for membership of the Australasian Trained Nurses’ Association in December 1912. Both ladies were still nursing at the Coast Hospital when they enlisted for war service in 1914. Having been accepted for overseas service with the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), they embarked in Sydney and sailed for Egypt on the 28th of November 1914 on the hospital ship Kyarra, as Staff Nurses with the 2nd Australian General Hospital (2AGH).
The Kyarra arrived at Alexandria on the 14th of January 1915, and the following morning Dorothy and Clarice were among a party of Doctors and Nurses who took a day trip to the Mena House Hospital in Cairo, arriving just before lunch. In the afternoon Major (Dr) Reginald Millard, also a former Coast Hospital colleague, who was temporarily in charge at Mena, took them for a ‘walk round the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid ending at the First Field Ambulance for afternoon tea’.
The party having returned to the Kyarra, it was some days later during the 19th and 20th that the entire personnel of the 2nd AGH and all their equipment arrived at Mena House to take over the hospital. Before finally handing over and leaving to return to the 1st Field Ambulance on the 26th, Major Millard received a wire requesting 10 nursing Sisters be sent the following day to join the Stationary Hospital at Ismailia. Dorothy and Clarice were delighted to be among those selected, and had a most interesting time nursing the English wounded, while coming under fire during the attack on the Canal. The campaign over and all their patients moved to Cairo, they returned to Mena House on the 27th of February. [Note: Bessie Pocock was also among the 10]
Following the commencement of the Gallipoli Campaign in April the 2nd AGH also took over the Ghezireh Palace hotel in Cairo, leaving Mena as an auxiliary hospital until finally abandoning it on the 7th of June 1915. [Note: Mena House was reopened again in July as a Convalescent Hospital]
While still at Ghezireh Dorothy and Clarice received a couple of visits from Major Millard during August.
Then at the end of August, the entire nursing staff of the hospital ship Assaye, under Matron Bessie Pocock, was sent ashore and replaced, and once again Dorothy and Clarice found themselves among the 9 new nurses selected to join the ship. They embarked at Alexandria on the 3rd of September, and the Assaye set sail for Mudros, (Lemnos Island) on the afternoon of the 5th. On the 8th they were taking on sick and wounded from Imbros Island and that night Matron Pocock noted in her diary: “Everybody worked well & happy all together such a difference from the last lot of nurses’ we had.”
Following the disembarkation of their patients at Alexandria, they experienced some rough weather on the return to Mudros, and on their arrival on the 17th of September Dorothy was one of 2 nurses feeling a little under the weather. As they had no patients and not a lot to do, they were sent to bed for the day, and Dorothy had recovered by the following day.
Having survived the torpedoing of the Southland on the 2nd of the month on the voyage to Gallipoli, Major Millard was encamped at Anzac on the 21st when a messenger arrived from Suvla, where the Assaye was taking on patients. He had with him 2 sacks of red cross goods that Matron Pocock, Dorothy and Clarice had put together for Major Millard to distribute amongst the men, which he carried out the following day throughout the Dressing Stations.
The Assaye was stationed off Anzac on the 3rd of October when they sent another sack of goods ashore.
One of the soldiers taken on board from Anzac on the evening of the 6th of October was the previously mentioned Private Michael Adams of the 20th Battalion. He was a Scot who had emigrated to Australia and was living with his family in Granville, NSW, before enlisting. Suffering from shock and a shrapnel wound to the head, he awoke the following morning to a cheery “How are you this morning?” After establishing that the nurse who was removing his bandages was not only also from the Sydney area, but from a neighbouring suburb to his home, he asked her name. Recognising the name Cawood as his daughter’s teacher’s name, it was soon realised that Nessie’s teacher was none other than Dorothy’s sister Muriel.
No doubt the two of them had plenty to talk about over the following weeks as the Assaye slowly made its way to England, and while under Dorothy’s care and attention Pte Adams’ health and strength gradually improved. Invalided home early in 1916, one of the first things Pte Adams did was visit Dorothy’s family, and her father was overjoyed to meet a ‘Digger’ whom his daughter had nursed at Gallipoli. John Cawood ‘was one of the pioneers of the Australian citizen forces and the two soldiers yarned for hours.’
Arriving at Southampton on the 20th of October, the nurses had shore leave while the ship went into dry dock for repairs, and it wasn’t until the 9th of November that they departed once more. Experiencing bad weather as they crossed out, everybody was sick for the first 4 days. Stopping first at Malta where they picked up 59 Canadian Sisters, they disembarked them at Salonika before returning to Mudros, and then onto Cape Helles on the 24th of November.
Having completed their year of service both Dorothy and Clarice received their promotion from Staff Nurses to Sisters on the 1st of December 1915.
After a few more trips between Gallipoli, Malta and Egypt in the December, they arrived back in Alexandria for the final time on the 7th of January 1916. Waiting it out in the harbour, it wasn’t until the 18th that orders came through advising that the ship was going to Bombay without any nurses. Leaving the ship on the morning of the 20th, Dorothy, Clarice and Matron Pocock returned to the 2nd AGH at the Ghezireh Hospital in Cairo.
Matron Pocock noted in her diary: “Everybody very sorry to say ‘Goodbye’ to us, they say, all said we had worked hard and peacefully and were a great help. Want all back again if ever ship is refitted up for British soldiers.”
She also wrote home in regard to her nurses: “They were awfully nice girls and worked hard, devoted to their patients. No one on board ship ever went to bed or off duty till every man had been washed, fed, and his dressings all done; no one felt for themselves until everything was done;….”
In February, Bessie Pocock was serving back at Mena House, when Dorothy and Clarice visited her on the 19th, staying for afternoon tea and dinner. Dorothy visited again on the 29th and they went for a camel ride around the pyramids and had their photo taken.
Leaving Egypt on the 26th of March 1916 the staff of the 2nd AGH sailed on the Braemar Castle to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France. Arriving at Marseilles on the 1st of April, the nursing staff disembarked on the 5th and caught a train to the Moussot Hospital, where they remained for some time before heading further north in small groups.
Dorothy and Clarice proceeded to Boulogne on 17th of June, arriving for duty at the 8th Stationary Hospital, Wimereux on the 22nd. The pair were finally separated when on the 11th of July Dorothy and a few other nurses were transferred to the Australian Voluntary Hospital. However, on arrival it was discovered that they weren’t actually needed and they returned to the 2nd AGH the following day, which by this stage had established their hospital at Boulogne. Clarice didn’t return to the 2nd AGH until the 1st of October, and only 2 weeks later she was transferred to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station (ACCS) at Trois Arbres.
Following 2 weeks of UK Leave from the 13th to the 29th of December 1916, Dorothy was reunited with Clarice on the 31st when she too was attached to the 2nd ACCS, where once again they were serving under Bessie Pocock. In the new year Clarice had a lucky escape when on the 21st of January 1917 her dress caught on fire while standing with her back to an open fireplace. Apart from the damage to her dress, initial shock and a scorched hand while trying to extinguish it, she was okay. However, it was only a few days later that she was transferred to A.I.F. Headquarters in London, and the two friends would follow separate paths for the next 2 years.
On her arrival Dorothy had been put on duty in ward A1, and it was noted that on the 17th of February she had finished her period of night duty. Some enjoyment was had on the 6th March when together with a couple of the other nurses she attended a concert at one of the nearby Clearing Stations.
The 2nd ACCS consisted of both huts and tents, but even those nurses lucky enough to be accommodated in huts still suffered from the bitterly cold winter, with no insulation and fuel hard to come by. Duckboards ran throughout the complex saving them from tramping through mud, but they still had to contend with wind, rain and snow as they went on and off duty.
Being so close to the front line they were subjected to the terrific din of intense bombardments that lit up the countryside for miles around, and night alarms for bomb and gas attacks often had them scrambling from their beds for the safety of the dugouts. An Observation balloon situated nearby attracted constant attention from enemy aircraft, and the fallout from the British anti-aircraft fire often dropped within the grounds, occasionally penetrating their huts.
Bessie Pocock had been relieved by Ethel Davidson in April, and she in turn had been relieved by Louisa Stobo as Sister-in-charge on the 12th of July. On the 17th Sister Stobo noted that there were 10 Sisters besides herself at the hospital, and it was only 5 days later that 4 of those nurses would become the first members of the AANS to be awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. One of those nurses of course being Dorothy. Of the other 3, Mary Derrer had joined the Unit with Dorothy, Clare Deacon early in June, and Alice Ross-King had only arrived on the 17th.
It was the night of the 22nd of July 1917 when the hospital was hit by an enemy air raid.
Lieutenant Colonel J Ramsay Webb noted in his report:
“On the 22nd inst at about 10.25 pm an enemy aeroplane flying low over the Station dropped two bombs.
The first fell at the rear of ward C.5 blowing a hole in the ground about 15ft in diameter and 6ft deep in the centre. Ward C.5 was made up of 4 small hospital marquees arranged in a square. Of these one was completely destroyed and the three others rendered unfit for service. Some equipment was destroyed. The mortuary also was wrecked, the roof and two sides being blown out.
Two patients and two orderlies were killed and many of the men in the ward were wounded.
The second bomb dropped outside the southern boundary of the Camp near the Cemetery.
The total casualties were 4 killed and 15 wounded – 1 seriously.”
Refusing to seek shelter during the raid, Dorothy and her 3 nursing colleagues remained on duty together with some of the other medical staff and worked through the dark and destruction to calm the patients and attend to those newly wounded.
The following month each of them received a letter of congratulations from Lieutenant-General William Birdwood and Miss Maud McCarthy, Matron-in-Chief of the B.E.F., the latter including a piece of ribbon for the Military Medal.
At the end of July Dorothy was transferred to the 38th Stationary Hospital (SH) at Calais, and reported for duty on the 1st of August. Upon leaving the 2nd ACCS, Ethel Davidson had been sent as Matron to this hospital, which was still being established when Dorothy arrived. Although still under construction they had taken on patients, and both patients and staff were accommodated in tents while huts were being erected. Unfortunately, problems with the water-tightness of the huts was endless, and they were only just beginning to become operational in the second half of October, when it was decided at the end of that month to close the hospital site down.
Dorothy had been on leave for the first two weeks of October, and when the hospital was closed many of the other nurses were sent on leave, while Dorothy reported for temporary duty at the 6th General Hospital on the 7th of November. On this date she also received a “Mention in Despatches” (MID) in Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatches, for distinguished and gallant service in the field between the period 26/2/1917 to 26/9/1917.
On the 11th of November 1917 the Matron-in-Chief (BEF) was notified that the 38th Stationary Hospital (together with the 11th General Hospital) was to proceed to Italy. With Ethel Davidson in charge of 27 nurses, including as many of the original staff as possible, they were to establish a hospital of 400 beds. Together with as many of the nurses that could be gathered at such short notice, Dorothy was collected at the Nurses Home in Abbeville on the 15th and transported by the 21st Ambulance Train to their destination. On arrival in Genoa they were billeted in a hotel, from where they travelled by ambulance to and from the hospital which was established in one of the cities large schools; reporting for duty on the 19th of that month.
On the last day of January 1918, Dorothy was admitted to the 11th General Hospital with Tonsilitis, and Ethel Davidson wrote the following letter to her mother:
“Dear Mrs Cawood, – You may have received a notification from the Defence Department that your daughter, Dorothy, is sick in hospital; so I am writing to tell you not to worry – it’s nothing serious – just tonsillitis. I hope to have her back on duty long before this letter reaches you. I want to take this opportunity, Mrs Cawood, of congratulating you upon having such a good daughter as Dorothy. She is a most excellent nurse – one of the very best Australia has sent out. When I told my O.C. that I had sent Dorothy to the Sisters’ hospital, he said, ‘I’m sorry; I like that little girl. She does her work well, and gives no trouble to anyone.’ I will take care of her for you, and not let her work too hard. Kindest regards. Yours sincerely, ETHEL S. DAVIDSON, Matron, A.A.N.S., 38 Stationary Hospital.”
Two weeks later on the 13th of February Dorothy was discharged back to duty and continued her service in Italy with the 38th Stationary Hospital until early the following year. During this time she was granted UK Leave from the 11th of August to the 13th of September, as well as 10 days in Rome from the 14th to the 24th of December 1918.
With the war over, Dorothy and her nursing colleagues were eventually returned to the UK, arriving at Southampton on the 22nd of January 1919, and Dorothy was attached to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford the following day. From there she was transferred to the 2nd Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Southall on the 8th of February, where once again she caught up with her old friend Clarice Dickson. During her time in England Dorothy was presented with her Military Medal by his Majesty the King at Buckingham Palace.
The first of the two friends to be repatriated, Dorothy began her journey home on the HT Soudan, embarking at Devonport on the 12th of May and arriving in Sydney on the 3rd of July. Returning home to Parramatta by train it was noted in the local paper that:
Mayor Simpson welcomed Sister Cawood as she came out of the southern portal of the station, with her father and mother and other members and friends of the family. They were given the attendance informally of a guard of honour of returned soldiers and others of the military, the officials of the welcome-home committee …, a number of the splendid, hard-working V.A.D. girls (in uniform), and ladies of the Red Cross and War Chest and other patriotic societies. After the Mayor had briefly and appropriately expressed the town’s heartfelt gratification at seeing back again with them Sister Cawood, the brave little lady (apparently the most retiring of all the personalities for many yards around) got into Mr Muston’s gaily-decorated cars with penons gaily streaming from them in the breeze; and the gay cortege was whirled through the town and round the park. At the gate of the neat cottage in Hunter street, at which the cars at last pulled up, Sister Cawood was given an enthusiastic and hearty welcome by a large number of relatives and friends, who assembled to meet her at the residence of her parents, Mr and Mrs John Cawood, Hunter-street. “Genugen” was prettily and profusely decorated with a liberal supply of flags, and across the verandah was displayed in large letters the words “Welcome home.”
She received her official discharge on the 1st of September 1919.
Dorothy Gwendolen, also known as Dora, had been born on the 9th of December 1884 in Parramatta, NSW. She was the second youngest of the 8 children of John CAWOOD and Sarah Travis GARNET, who had married in Parramatta in 1874. The family were living in Sorrell Street at the time of her birth, and she was baptized later that month in the local Anglican Church of St John. Educated at Granville North Public School, Dorothy was amongst those receiving the highest marks in her class in 1899; and winning first prize, a silver medal, in Cookery in 1900.
Her father John, a Carpenter by trade, died at the family home “Genugen,” 39 Hunter Street, Parramatta on the 27/6/1928, aged 78, and her mother Sarah also died at their home in Hunter Street on the 27/8/1944.
Following the war, Dorothy continued to nurse and was appointed Sub-Matron of the Liverpool State Hospital and Asylum from the 1/11/1922 to the 3/9/1925, at which time she took over as Matron of the David Berry Hospital, Berry, following the resignation of Matron Williams. She remained Matron of the David Berry Hospital until her retirement in 1944.
Following her retirement she returned to the family home in Hunter Street, where she remained for the rest of her life. Dorothy died on the 16th of February 1962 at a private hospital, aged 78, and was privately cremated and interred in the Rookwood General Cemetery 3 days later.
100 YEARS AGO TODAY: The March to the Rhine - Day 21.
King George V and General William Birdwood visit the graves of several notable soldiers including, the temporary grave of Prince Maurice of Battenburg, the King's one-time equerry Major Lord Charles Mercer-Nairne, Brigadier General Francis Aylmer Maxwell VC, CSI, DSO & Bar, and Major the Hon. William George Sidney Cadogan, the equerry to the Prince of Wales. Presentation of baton of the Marshal of France to Philippe Petain at Metz, 8 December 1918. Marshal Petain, Marshal Joseph Joffre, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, General Maxime Weygand (France), Field Marshal Douglas Haig (Britain), General John Pershing (USA), General Cyriaque Gillain (Belgium), General Alberico Albricci (Italy) and General Józef Haller (Poland) awaiting the arrival of French President Raymond Poincare.
General Staff - 1st Canadian Division, C.E.F.
13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada)
14th Battalion (The Royal Montreal Regiment)
15th Battlion (48th Highlanders of Canada), 3rd Inf. Bde, C.E.F.
16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish), 3rd Inf. Bde, C.E.F.
5th Canadian Divisional Artillery, C.E.F.
14th Brigade C.F.A., C.E.F.
61st Field Battery, C.F.A., 5th C.D.A., C.E.F.
Lt Abner Virtue - 6st Fld Bty
60th Field Battery, C.F.A., 5th C.D.A., C.E.F.
Outside Recht, Photo: Edward Walshe
Recht, Photo: Edward Walshe
Marcard, Photo: Edward Walshe
Railway Bridge Bonn and Kirke, Photo: Edward Walshe
Dedenburg & Bonn Railway Bridge, Photo: Edward Walshe
Outside Amel, Photo: Edward Walshe
Amel, Photo: Edward Walshe
Moderscheid, Photo: Edward Walshe
Outside Moderscheid, Photo: Edward Walshe
Bullingen, Photo: Edward Walshe
Outside Bullingen, Photo: Edward Walshe
Outside Wirtzfeld, Photo: Edward Walshe
Wirtzfeld, Photo: Edward Walshe
Outside Krinkelt, Photo: Edward Walshe
Krinkelt, Photo: Edward Walshe
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These are the categories that I have on my computer in bookmarks. I will update this page on a regular basis, particularly during the early phase of the "sorting into categories".
These are ONLY for the British cases here on the GWF. They do not include any of the cases on the CEFSG (here).
I was initially posting this information for the benefit of GWF PALS that wanted to investigate the case further and possibly take it to the reporting stage. I was not familiar enough with the Regiments and did not have access to the UK War Diaries, so I could not finish the case. With the assistance of the Long, Long Trail and now with Ance$try Worldwide, I am able to proceed. There are a number of these cases still listed in the final category below ("Other Cases Posted") and I am now in the process of working through these to move them to the other categories. Many may end up in the "Abandon or Hold" category, which I have now split. If you have looked at a report and believe it is in the wrong category, let me know.
Changes to this blog include:
- 23 November 2019 the details of acceptance or rejection during the Approvals Process have now been added, which are generally emails from the CWGC. Any team response or report updates are then uploaded to the site. This information, on how the process works, may be of benefit to other researchers.
- 12 February 2019 the topic lists that have multiple nationalities have been sorted and classified as to their nationality
- 25 January 2018 addition for "Short Listed Candidates". Those are the cases where is there is more than one person that fits the characteristics for the grave but the list is very short. The reason for this category is for FAMILY who may be researching an UNKNOWN, so they now know it may be their relative in that grave - but it is not a positive identification. This category has also been used where one or more of the candidates has been identified elsewhere, thus shortening the list.
- 5 July 2018 addition of "CWGC Reports to be Submitted / Possibly Incorrect Identifications". It appears that the named person is "clearly" (not a minor question) in that grave. This has not been applied yet to cases where a recent submission (post 2000) may have misidentified an UNKNOWN (i.e. Kipling Case).
- 8 July 2018 added "A member is looking for this soldier".
- 22 July 2018 added "The Approvals Process", in concert with the 1st "Phase I" Approval.
- 27 October 2018 added "Abandon or Hold / Accounted for by Special Memorial(s)" - men are listed missing but may be on a Special Memorial within a cemetery
The cases are now also posted to TWITTER as:
As always, I appreciate the assistance of any member who wishes to participate in these investigations. If a draft report is prepared, any member is welcome to review the document and provide comments, corrections or criticisms. If the report goes to the Submission Stage, any member that participated in the process can have their name added to the report. For that I need your Real Name, Affiliation (can be as simple as "Private Researcher") and your email address (so the CWGC can contact you directly if they wish).
A list of both the Canadian and Commonwealth reports that I have submitted can be found here, with download links:
Main Page: http://laughton.ca/publications/unknown-project/
- Canadian Reports: http://cefresearch.ca/unknown-reports/
- Commonwealth Reports: http://laughton.ca/publications/unknown-project/commonwealth-unknowns/
The difference between the Canadian and Commonwealth reports is that initially the Canadian reports were submitted to the CWGC Canadian Agency in Ottawa for review first. If acceptable to Ottawa, they then were forwarded to the Maidenhead CWGC Office. This process was modified in January 2019 so that now all cases go directly to the CWGC Maidenhead.
As cases move through the process, their place on the list below is modified. A topic might go from "New Cases" to "Reports Submitted" and then up to the "Approvals Process". There it might stay for a considerable length of time, before being marked as "Approved" or "Rejected". Once in that part of the process, additional information is added, such as a direct link to the report or review documents received from the approvals authorities (including rejections). Under the new process, a "Commonwealth Case" must make it through all three (3) phases of the approvals process. There is no information at present to indicate a "Canadian Case" would move through the process in the UK or if it would then be sent back to Ottawa.
The Approvals Process:
Phase 4 - Approved for Rededication Service
12 June 2020 - Formal Adjudication from the Ministry of Defence - CASE ACCEPTED (based on appeal by others)
13 April 2020 - Submitted further evidence on the case of Serjeant P. H. Williams of 54 Squadron (also reported in "Officers Clothing")
19 December 2018 - CWGC Identification Case 86-2 - APPEAL REJECTED (original reports by Tom Tulloch-Marshall and John Hartley)
Report: Corporal BFG Jeffs RFC Douchy-Les-Ayette British Cemetery Plot 3 Row D Grave 7
Rejection Details: CWGC Email of 19 December 2018
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/241174-unknown-rfc-corporal-b-f-g-jeffs-11th-sqd/
10 September 2019 bumped up to JCCC for the final decision - Approved 6 January 2020 - rededication week of 28 September 2020
19 October 2018 - CWGC Identification Case 352 - Captain Vivian Hastings Clay
Report: Captain Clay Warlencourt British Cemetery Plot 6 Row F Grave 34 (28 December 2016)
Phased Approval: MOD SO2 Email 10 September 2019; Final Approval 6 January 2020
- 12 June 2020 - Formal Adjudication from the Ministry of Defence - CASE ACCEPTED (based on appeal by others)
Phase 3 - Reviewed by Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre:
2 October 2018 - CWGC Identification 292 - 2nd Lieutenants (2) Clark and Noon
Report: 2nd Lieutenants (2) Clark and Noon Tyne Cot British Cemetery Plot 59 Row D Grave 46 & 47 (27 August 2016 Amended 7 October 2018)
AHB Request: MOD SO2 EMAIL 2 October 2018
Response: Team Email and Amended Data 7 October 2018
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/242835-2nd-lts-e-v-clark-g-noon-rfc-found/
- 2 October 2018 - CWGC Identification 292 - 2nd Lieutenants (2) Clark and Noon
Phase 2 - Reviewed by Services Authorities (National Army Museum or Air Historical Branch):
Phase 1 - Approved by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (HQ Maidenhead):
21 September 2018 - CWGC Identification Case 365 - Lieutenant Alfred Eaves
Report: Lieutenant Eaves Warlencourt British Cemetery Plot 5 Row K Grave 20 (19 January 2017)
Phased Approval: CWGC Email 21 September 2018
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/245104-lieutenant-the-queens-royal-west-surrey-regiment/
12 February 2019 - CWGC Identification Case 380 - Second Lieutenant Alick Guyer Aylmer (20 April 1917) @thetrenchrat22
Report: 2nd Lieutenant Alick Aylmore Assevillers New British Cemetery Plot 9 Row D Grave 6
Phased Approval: CWGC Email 12 February 2019
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/249166-assevillers-new-british-cemetery/
- 21 September 2018 - CWGC Identification Case 365 - Lieutenant Alfred Eaves
Phase 1 - Rejected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (HQ Maidenhead)
22 November 2019 - CWGC Identification CASE 353 - Captain Fitzherbert & Lieutenant Battersby
Report: Captain Fitzherbert and Lieutenant Battersby Messines Ridge British Cemetery Plot 4 Row E Graves 38 & 39
Rejection Details: CWGC Email of 22 November 2019
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/245856-lt-p-w-battersby-capt-w-w-fitzherbert-rfc-messines-ridge-british-cemetery-4e38-39/
- 22 November 2019 - CWGC Identification CASE 353 - Captain Fitzherbert & Lieutenant Battersby
Significant Correction Reports - Only CWGC Approval is required
Approved 28 March 2019: Correction Report - Private William Henry Hart
Report: Private Henry William Hart #2691: 23 August 1918, 7th Battalion Australian Infantry
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/266046-correction-report-7th-bn-aif-on-menin-gate-memorial-instead-of-villers-bretonneux-memorial/
- Approved 28 March 2019: Correction Report - Private William Henry Hart
- Phase 4 - Approved for Rededication Service
Submitted to CWGC but not yet reviewed: (you can download PDF versions from my web site here)
https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/280412-marfaux-british-cemetery-case-1-new-zealand-cyclist-mclaughlin/ - NZ cyclist with dentures
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/280327-dormans-french-national-cemetery-case-1-unknown-aviators-b15-and-b16/ - Richard & Trevor Team
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/279263-jonchery-sur-vesle-british-cemetery-case-3 -lieutenant-aviator-at courthiézy/ - Richard & Trevor Team
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/279745-guards-cemetery-windy-corner-case-1-buried-by-germans-13-4-18-wood/ - Serjeant Wood
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/278469-zantvoorde-british-cemetery-case-5-company-serjeant-major-queens-own-royal-west-kent-regiment/ - CSM Traill
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/278418-unknown-canadian-soldier/ @Chesterboy - Higgins
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/262657-peronne-road-cemetery-case-1-csm-durham-light-infantry/ - CSM Thomas Blanchard
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/273969-lance-corporal-james-ohare-30257-25th-northumberland-fusiliers/ - Lance Corporal O'Hare
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/274606-rmli-hawke-bn-in-adanac-military-cemetery/ - Lieutenant Wainwright, Hawke Bn. (*see)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/261820-csm-royal-marine-light-infantry-serre-road-no-2/ - 19 August 2019
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/264973-epehy-wood-farm-cemetery-epehy-case-1-leicesters-captain-with-a-military-cross/ - (Spencer-Smith)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/268716-spoilbank-cemetery-case-2-negro-corporal/ - based on lead from @Becstar
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/264975-epehy-wood-farm-cemetery-epehy-case-2-lieutenant-royal-dublin-fusiliers/ (report by @dickaren - Heenan)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/254412-unknown-2nd-lt-e-c-northamptonshire-regiment-ovillers-11z1/ - (Cole)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/255493-captain-the-loyal-north-lancashire-regiment/ - (Harris)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/242217-unknown-sgt-major-recorded-royal-horse-guards/ - (Eales)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/255849-royal-welsh-fusilier-2nd-lt-8-may-1916/ - (Taggart & Osborne-Jones)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/274949-rmli-queens-cemetery-bucuoy/ - Private Hilton (RMLI) in Queens (*see)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/274606-rmli-hawke-bn-in-adanac-military-cemetery/ - Privates Dickinson (RMLI) in Adanac (*see)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/265061-the-wrong-lieutenant-colonel-hindle-or-stewart/ - the Serjeant is probably wrong as well
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/262911-zantvoorde-british-cemetery-case-1-pte-harry-lewis-8th-bn-royal-highlanders-black-watch/ - (not Lewis)
- Corrections Only
- Unknowns Identified
Draft Reports Posted for Review and Comment
Unknowns Identified (please post a request to comment on the topic if you have the time and interest to review a draft report)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/254911-unknown-officer-connaught-rangers-villers-faucon-ccext-3c14/ - (Crofton) - now marked to abandon 28 April 2019
- none at present
- Unknowns Identified (please post a request to comment on the topic if you have the time and interest to review a draft report)
To be Submitted:
Unknowns Identified (all checked to make sure NO CANDIDATES are listed on a SPECIAL MEMORIAL, 27-10-2018)
(now ranking these on secondary review to guess at success rate)
- Unknowns Identified (all checked to make sure NO CANDIDATES are listed on a SPECIAL MEMORIAL, 27-10-2018)
Possible CWGC Reports:
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/265656-heath-cemetery-harbonnieres-case-2-rfc-captain-and-serjeant/ - downgraded as missing absoluite proof @Cheshire22
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/263274-gordon-dump-cemetery-case-1-unknown-2nd-lt-4th-middlesex-regiment/ - was 2nd Lt. Paterson with 4th Bn.?
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/262411-templeux-le-guerard-british-cemetery-case-1-south-irish-horse/ - need confirmation of date of death
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/254224-unknown-rsm-the-queens-royal-west-surrey-regiment/ - could we sell this to the CWGC?
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/236950-unknown-captain-royal-irish-rifles-arras-road-cemetery-2m14/ - check the topic to see if anyone reporting this 15 Dec 2018
- New Zealand @jacksdad
Short Listed Candidates
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/277473-canadian-cemetery-no-2-case-1-rmli-company-sergeant-major/ - 2 RMLI CSMs now share a grave
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/265637-heath-cemetery-harbonnieres-case-1-london-regiment-serjeants/ - now share a grave
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/268636-spoilbank-cemetery-case-1-captain-leinster-regiment/ - based on lead from @Becstar now share a grave
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/270767-st-souplet-british-cemetery-case-1-unknown-captain-krrc/ - share a grave
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/268352-unknown-hli-corporal-arras-road-british-cemetery-2a3/ - share a grave
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/268329-unknown-middlesex-officer-arras-road-british-cemetery-3n8/ - has both 20th and 21st Officers in the precise area, closed
Abandon or Hold:
- Accounted for by Special Memorial (added 27-10-2018 - check all cases)
Hold for the Moment
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/271342-lance-corporal-alexander-peter-10726-scots-guards/ - very obvious! now questions 17 Nov 2019
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/263672-caterpillar-valley-cemetery-case-2-unknown-glasgow-highlander/ (possible 2 or 3 identifications!)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/255692-lt-2nd-lt-kings-royal-rifle-corps-found-together/ - active again April-May 2020
- These two are linked investigations as Northumberland Fusilier Officers. If the Unknown Captain is Lockie, then the Unknown Officer is a one of five (5) Second Lieutenants and the case for the Unknown Officer cannot be resolved:
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/276348-strand-military-cemetery-case-1-captain-officer-wiltshire-regiment/ - can't separate the Captains
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/263640-caterpillar-valley-cemetery-case-1-corporal-2nd-bn-leinster-regiment/ (location close but not absolute - had been high ranked!)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/264174-unknown-csm-royal-irish-regiment-la-laiterie-military-cemetery/ (only missing CSM not in that area of Kemmel)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/263022-zantvoorde-british-cemetery-case-4-captain-gordon-highlanders-1914/ - no Captains missing
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/262995-zantvoorde-british-cemetery-case-3-two-aviators-with-plane-serial-number/ - with Trevor Henshaw
- Casualty Already Identified:
Report Being Prepared by Others:
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/279780-guards-cemetery-windy-corner-case-2-worcestershire-regiment-5702/ (Alan @thetrenchrat22)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/276082-romeries-communal-cemetery-extension-case-2-british-airman-23-october-1918/ (Trevor @fetubi)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/264975-epehy-wood-farm-cemetery-epehy-case-2-lieutenant-royal-dublin-fusiliers/ (Richard @dickaren)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/247283-b20-duhallow-ads-cemetery-2-sets-of-airmen/ (Luc @LDT006)
Report Submitted by Others:
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/274060-rifleman-partiman-sunwar-1451/ @Dogflud
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/254937-icrc-records-of-british-dead/ (for case relating to Lt. H. R. Smith but there are other here - Ecoust M.C.)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/262964-zantvoorde-british-cemetery-case-2-captain-royal-berkshire-regiment-1914/ (questionable at this point)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/256961-lieutenant-royal-munster-fusiliers/ (reported approved by MOD - see this post on Lt. Gilbert Donnelly @Dr.Dan)
- Strong Leads Posted By Others via GWF Messenger:
New Cases Posted (to be sorted):
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/279790-sucrerie-military-cemetery-case-1-private-john-finlay-3751/ - John Finlay, have pinged @Becstar
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/279126-northumberland-fusiliers-may-1918-2nd-lt-collins-2nd-lt-davies-2nd-lt-jennings/ - Davies & Collins (case 2)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/277473-canadian-cemetery-no-2-case-1-rmli-company-sergeant-major/ - linked case to CSM Rogers
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/277325-messines-ridge-british-cemetery-case-2-unknown-aviators-haller-foster/ @LDT006 Luc's case
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/277323-messines-ridge-british-cemetery-case-1-unknown-new-zealand-officer/ - one of two Auckland Lieutenants
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/276930-unknowns-battle-of-messines-7-june-1917/ - 2 possible men for identification
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/274208-2nd-bn-scots-guards-lance-corporals-cabaret-rouge-british-cemetery/ - Mel's number case
Interesting Puzzle Cases
- Two Lieutenants from the Royal Irish Regiment in October 1914 but three (3) sets of remains recovered: (duplicate topics - my mistake)
- A Member is Looking For This Soldier
Corporal Martin Carroll #55818, Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Plot 6 Row D Grave 3
2nd Division, 4th Infantry Brigade, 19th Infantry Battalion
CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
Killed in Action of 8 August 1918
Reported Found 29 May 2015
Rededication Service 1 December 2016
Hartley slipped out of the saddle and walked around the side of the stationary vehicle.
"Having a spot of trouble?" he asked.
"Damn!" cursed the VAD, as her head struck the underside of the bonnet.
She appraised the dapper young officer who had startled her.
"Oh sorry," she said. "Forgive the language, you just took me by surprise there."
Hartley apologised and joined her by the engine compartment.
"Can’t say I know much about these things," said Hartley. "I say, aren’t you a little bit out of bounds? I would not have expected to find one you gals around here."
The girl used a rag to clean oil from her delicate hands.
"You’d be surprised what we do Mr. … sorry I didn’t catch your name?"
"My apologies. Hartley’s the name. Mudshires. And you are?" he countered.
"Alexandra Ford, but I’ve been called Sandy from the year dot. I was taking some goodies up to the Salvation Army stalls, bit of a favour for an old friend who runs the show in this area," she explained.
Hartley raised his eyebrows.
"How very good of you. Most admirable," he said. "Well, we can’t have you stuck out here. Have another look at your engine and if you can’t get this charabanc going, I’ll ride over to Pop and return with a rescue party! Can’t have a damsel in distress, y’know."
Sandy Ford smiled politely and bent again towards the engine casing.
Hartley moved behind her.
"I wonder if you would hold this flashlight for me," she asked.
"Oh I don’t think you’ll need that where you are going," he snarled, pulling back her blonde hair and exposing her throat to the cold steel of the razor.
The girl’s blood mingled with the oil and grime of the engine. It would not make a good lubricant.
As Hartley’s fist closed in the VAD’s hair, Lonnie Lonergan leapt to his feet.
Willie McCallion tackled him and the two men fell to the ground.
"She’s already a goner Lonnie," hissed McCallion through gritted teeth. "Now take a f..king picture of that animal while he’s at the scene. We’ve got the arrogant pig if you can work that camera!"
For a second, Lonergan stared aghast at the hatred on the face of his mate, then he focused the camera and snapped Hartley as he retrieved some souvenirs for his new collection from the still twitching body of the murdered girl.
Bertrancourt Military Cemetery. Bertrancourt is a village in the Department of the Somme. The cemetery was used by field ambulances in 1916 and 1917 and again by corps and divisional burial parties in the critical months of June, July and August 1918, when German advances brought the front line to within 8 kilometres of Bertrancourt. There are 419 burials of soldiers of the Great War who fell in the fighting in the Somme sector. Of these, 388 were British, 2 Canadian, 26 New Zealand, and 3 German. Many of the graves are of Yorkshire or Lancashire regiments. The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.
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Relieved by K.R.R’s and marched back to 49th Division Camp at Vlmertinghe arriving about 12.30am 1-1-16 absolutely knocked up, so we saw in the new year marching along a Belgium road in a pretty exhausted condition, but we managed to welcome it with a song or two nevertheless.
**********End this diary/blog where it began.....20 blog pages ago....marching along a Belgium road pretty exhausted but welcoming the new year with a song of two***************
Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather....
If anyone wants a word version of this diary just let me know and I will email it. It is also available at the Imperial War Museum IWM -ref: 82/11/1
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It's been a long time since my last post in this blog, so here is one interesting article.
The Romanian 2nd Army's success at Marasti forced the Central Powers to revise their plans. The offensive planned in the Namoloasa area was abandoned and the bulk of the forces were moved in the Focsani area. The new offensive was going to be launched west of the Siret River, on the Focsani – Marasesti – Adjud direction, with the German 9th Army (general Johannes von Eben) and on the Oituz Valley with the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army (Archduke Joseph). The objective was to encircle and destroy the 2nd Army.
On the other side, the Romanian General Headquarters decided to cancel its attack in the Namoloasa area. The Russian 4th Army had to be pulled out from the front in southern Moldavia and moved north, where it could threaten the flank of the Austro-German forces advancing in Galicia. The Romanian 1st Army was going to replace the Russian troops departing the area.
For the offensive, the German 9th Army was strengthened with units brought from the French (the Alpine Corps, which arrived on 6 August) or Italian fronts. General von Eben decided to deliver the main blow with the German 1st Corps (6 divisions), while to its left the German 18th Reserve Corps (3 divisions) had to pin down the Entente troops opposite it. The right wing of the 9th Army was manned by the Ramnic Group (2 divisions). The reserve was made up of one German and one Austro-Hungarian divisions and the Alpine Corps, which arrived in the area during the first day of the battle. The German forces in the attack sector were 102 infantry battalions, 10 cavalry squadrons, 24 pioneer companies, 2 armored cars, 1,135 machine-guns, 356 mortars, 223 field guns and 122 heavy guns and howitzers.
Opposite the German 1st Corps was the Russian 4th Army, which had in contact with the enemy only two corps: on the right the 8th (3 divisions) and on the left the 7th (2 divisions). The reserve was made up of one infantry and one cavalry divisions. These totaled 84 infantry battalions, 52 cavalry squadrons, 280 field guns and 36 heavy guns. The bulk of the Romanian 1st Army was at Tecuci and was getting to cross the Siret River and replace the Russians.
The German 9th Army's offensive was preceded by a powerful artillery preparation, which began at 0430 hours on 6 August 1917. At 0730 hours the 1st Corps (general Kurt von Morgen) started the attack, with the 12th Bavarian, 76th and 89th Infantry Divisions in the first line and with another two divisions in the second echelon. The front defended by the Russian 13th and 34th Infantry Divisions was broken and 10 km breach was created. The Russians started a disorderly retreat east of the Siret River. At the request of the Russian command, general Constantin Christescu, CO of the 1st Army, ordered maj. general Eremia Grigorescu, CO of the Romanian 6th Corps, to intervene west of the Siret with the 5th Infantry Division and with the 9th Infantry Division to defend the river's eastern bank. The 32nd Dorobanti Regiment Mircea and the 8th Dorobanti Regiment Buzau counterattacked and stopped the Central Powers offensive on the line Moara Alba – Doaga – Furceni.
Seeing that the chances to force the crossing over the river are minimal, in the morning of 7 August, the German command redirected the offensive to the north, with four divisions. The effort was concentrated against the Romanian 5th Infantry Division, but the assault was repulsed. However, a bulge was created at the junction with the Russian troops, but the situation was saved by the counterattack of two battalions from the division's reserve. At noon, after a short artillery preparation, the enemy renewed the attack enjoying a 3 to 1 numerical superiority. The 3rd Vanatori Regiment held out in the Doaga village against an entire German division. The same thing happened in the sector of the 32nd Dorobanti Regiment Mircea. The soldiers in this unit made several bayonet charges only in their shirts, because of the suffocating heat, managing to push back the Germans to their positions. In the evening, the 1st Corps attacked and broke through the front of the Russian division on the right flank of the Romanian 5th Division. Threatened with the encirclement, the 32nd Regiment retreated to the Cosmesti Bridge. To fill the gap created, the Romanian 9th Infantry Division was introduced west of the Siret River. It was continuously attacked. In the evening of 7 August, under the cover of darkness, a German group approached and assaulted the 9th Division's flank, engaging into hand-to-hand fights. The Romanians abandoned Doaga and retreated to the outskirts of the Prisaca Forest, where a new defensive line was established. That day the 5th Division lost 44 officers and 1,770 soldiers (dead, wounded and missing). The front moved back 2-3 km.
On 8 August, general von Eben changed the attack sector to the west, on the front held by Russian units. In the evening, during the second assault, they were forced to retreat. A Russian regiment was almost completely destroyed. The Romanian front was bombarded and the attack on the 5th and 9th Infantry Divisions resumed the following day. On 9 August 1917, the German effort was increased. The assault started at 1900 hours, after a powerful artillery preparation, which caused many casualties to the 9th Division. Its troops were only able to dig foxholes, because the ground was very dry and hard to dig. The Germans again took heavy casualties because of the Romanian and Russian artillery situated on the eastern bank of the Siret River, which was firing directing into the attackers' flank. However, the first line of the Romanian defense was pierced in several spots, but reserves intervened and repulsed them after some very violent fighting. The 34th Regiment, which faced the 12th Bavarian Division, held out against three consecutive assaults. Only the 2nd Battalion, under the command of Major Gheorghe Mihail, the future Chief of the General Staff in 1940 and 1944, remained in the first line. It counterattacked and captured 62 prisoners and two machine-guns. The unit's battle flag was decorated later with Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class. The same award was bestowed upon the regiment's CO, colonel Virgiliu Dumbrava, as well the 2nd Battalion's CO. But the casualties were heavy: 35 officers and 1,551 soldiers. The 36th Regiment lost 36 officers and 954 soldiers. Also, the 7th and 32nd Dorobanti Regiments suffered many casualties. During the night, at 0200 hours, another assault took place and the Germans managed to push back for several hundred meters the 9th Division and the right wing of the 5th Division. The neighboring Russian division was also forced to retreat, but the Russian 4th Army counterattacked and captured 2,500 prisoners and recovered the lost ground.
The last failures had weakened the German 9th Army. Thus, general von Eben strengthened the 1st Corps with a new division and the 18th Reserve Corps with the Alpine Corps.
On 10 August, it was the Entente's turn to attack. General Christescu and general Ragoza, the CO of the Russian 4th Army, decided to strike each with a corps of two divisions the bulge in the German line. During the morning, the 9th Army attacked the Russian sector, but gained little ground. At 1700 hours, the allied infantry started the assault, after a long artillery preparation. The 9th Infantry Division took the first German trenches, but because of the losses it had to abandon them. Reinforced with a regiment form the Romanian 13th Infantry Division, it resumed the attack, but again without success. The 5th Infantry Division and a regiment of the 14th Infantry Division managed to get inside the German positions, but could keep them. The 8th Dorobanti and 3rd Vanatori Regiments managed to enter the Doaga village, but were repulsed. The situation was similar in the sector of the Russian 4th Army. However the offensive had reduced the combat potential of the German 76th, 89th and 115th Infantry Divisions, which had suffered the brunt of the assault. These were already exhausted after several days of failed attacks. The report of general von Eben to the Army Group CO, marshal von Mackensen, mentions the fact that the 216th Infantry Division had suffered many casualties because of the flank bombardment of the Romanian artillery yon the eastern bank of the Siret.
For the following day, general Christescu imposed a limited objective to the 6th Corps: the Doaga – Susita Valley. The Russian 4th Army had decided to remain on the defensive. The Germans attacked in its sector at 1600 hours, after a three hour artillery preparation, and again forced the Russian troops to retreat. At 1630 hours, the Romanian 9th Infantry Division began the assault without knowing the situation in the neighboring sector. After the Russian retreat the flank was exposed. The division's CO sent a battalion to extend the line. The Germans were advancing on Marasesti and the situation became extremely dangerous for the Entente.
The 9th Vanatori Regiment, which was in the division's reserve, was quickly brought in and set up positions in the factory north of the town. It managed to stop the German troops that were threatening to encircle the 9th Infantry Division. For this action, lt. col. Gheorghe Rasoviceanu, the regiment's CO, was awarded the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class. A regiment of the 13th Infantry Division, from the 6th Crops' reserve, established the link with the Russians. The 5th Infantry Division attacked in the Doaga area, but the 7th and 8th Dorobanti Regiments failed to enter the village. The same day, maj. general Eremia Grigorescu was named at the command of the 1st Army.
Noticing that the troops of the German 1st Corps were exhausted, general von Eben decided to assign the main strike to the 18th Reserve Corps of maj. gen. Kurt von Wenniger, which had suffered fewer losses and was less tired. Thus, on 12 August, the 9th German Army attacked with small forces the 5th Infantry Division, in order to pin it down, and concentrated its forces against the Russian 4th Army, taking Panciu. Following this failure, general Ragoza wanted to retreat the Russian-Romanian front north of Marasesti., but abandoned the idea at maj. gen. Eremia Grigorescu's pleas. Lt. gen. Constantin Prezan, the Chief of the General Staff, decided to replace the Russian 7th Corps with the Romanian 5th Corps (10th and 13th Infantry Divisions) and to put the Russian 8th Corps under the command of the Romanian 1st Army. The staff of the Russian 4th Army was retreated to Bacau from where it was reassigned to another front.
On 13 August, the 18th Reserve Corps attacked the Russian troops north of Panciu, but failed to make any breakthrough. The following day, general von Eben ordered the 1st Corps to eliminate the Romanian bulge in the area of the Prisaca Forest and take the bridge over the Siret River at Cozmesti. In the same time, the 18th Reserve Corps had to attack on the Zabraut Valley. After powerful artillery preparation commenced the assault on the Russian 8th Corps' positions. Brig. gen. Henri Cihoski, CO of the 10th Infantry Division, sent the 10th Vanatori Regiment as help. It surprised the Alpine Corps and caused it important casualties, some in vicious hand-to-hand combat.
The vanatori managed to take Hill 334, but were forced to retreat following a powerful artillery bombardment. The 38th Infantry Regiment Neagoe Basarab also intervened and its CO, col. Gheorghe Cornescu, received the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class for the counterattack that stopped the German offensive, which threatened to penetrate in the Susita Valley, behind the Romanian 2nd Army. The Russian 8th Corps was forced to pull back north of Iresti and Straoani.
The 5th Infantry Division, at the other end of the front, had been reduced to one third of its initial size during the last days of fighting. The positions in the Prisaca Forest were heavily bombarded by German artillery. At 1700 hours the assault began with two divisions and forced the Romanian troops to retreat. The division's reserves, as well as a regiment form the 14th Infantry Division, in the army's reserve, intervened and stopped the German advance north of the Prisaca Forest. The bridge at Cozmesti was blown up, as the Romanian engineers had built another two to the north. The exhausted 5th Infantry Division was pulled out of the first line.
On 15 August, the 18th Reserve Corps continued the offensive and managed to create a breach at the junction between the 10th Infantry Division and the Russian division to its right. The 10th Vanatori Regiment, supported by 10 Romanian and 3 Russian batteries, counterattacked and reestablished the situation. However, with its left wing, the 18th Corps took Muncel, forcing theRussians to pull back. Thus the link between the two Romanian armies was threatened. The 2ndArmy attacked with the "Colonel Alexiu" Detachment made up of 2 vanatori battalions, 2 infantry battalions and 3 artillery batteries, which, together with a Russian cavalry division, retook control of the village. The following day, the Germans occupiued half of Muncel, but were again forced to retreat after the assault of col. Alexandru Alexiu's men.
The days of 17 and 18 August were calm. The losses suffered by both sides, forced the commanders to reorganize their units. Maj. gen. Eremia Grigorescu replaced the 14th Infantry Division, which was deployed east of the Siret River, with the 1st and 6th Rosiori Brigades and the hard pressed 5th Infantry Division with the 2nd Cavalry Division. The latter and the two brigades formed the Cavalry Corps. The 14th Infantry Division was moved on the northern bank of the Siret River in the Cozmestii de Vale area. Also, the army's heavy artillery was redeployed so that it could better cover the sector of the 5th Corps (10th, 13th and 9th Infantry Divisions). The 1st Army's reserve was made up of the 15th Infantry Division and of the 5th Infantry Division, under reorganization. On the other side, at the intervention of marshal von Mackensen, general von Eben grouped 7 infantry divisions under the command of the German 1st Corps and subordinated almost all the heavy artillery of the 9th Army to it. These forces totalized 55 battalions and 95 batteries.
On 19 August, the Germans resumed the offensive, attacking with the 1st Corps towards Marasesti and with 18th Reserve Corps on the Panciu-Muncel direction. The main effort was concentrated in the sector between Marasesti and the Razoare Forest, defended by the Romanian 9th and 13th Infantry Divisions, the latter being assaulted by three enemy divisions. The artillery preparation started at 0630 hours in the area of the trenches of the 47/72nd, 51/52nd and 50/64th Infantry Regiments, from the first line of the 13th Infantry Division, and at the western outskirts of Marasesti, where the 9th Vanatori Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division was located. It lasted for two hours and was the most violent artillery bombardment of the entire battle. At 0900 hours the first assaults small scale began and were easily repulsed. After 1100 hours a very powerful attack started. The main blow was delivered north of the Razoare Forest, at the junction of the 13th and 10th Infantry Divisions. The 10th Infantry Division was attacked by the 13th Austro-Hungarian Division, which failed to breakthrough the Romanian lines.
The 13th Infantry Division, commanded by brig. gen. Ioan Popescu, was the Romanian unit that saw the most action that day. It occupied a front 6 km wide, with the 47/72nd Infantry Regiment at the south-western edge of the Razoare Forest, the 50/64th Infantry Regiment in the Negroponte Vineyards and the 51/52nd Infantry Regiment in the middle. The reserve was made up of one battalion of the 50/64th Regiment and the 48/49th Regiment. 15 Romanian and 15 Russian batteries provided artillery support.
The attack started at 0900 hours. In the sector of the 47/72nd Infantry Regiment, the German assaults failed one after another. The 1st Battalion was situated on the left wing, south of the Razoare Forest. It was attacked by the 28th Bavarian Infantry Regiment (from the 12th Bavarian Division) and by units of the German 89th and 115th Divisions. The 2nd Battalion, on the right wing, was assaulted by the Austro-Hungarian 13th Infantry Division. The 3rd Battalion was kept in reserve. The regiment's CO, lt. col. Radu Rosetti, the former chief of the Operations Bureau of the General Staff in 1916, was wounded at a leg during the fighting. At the center, the 51/52nd Regiment was situated in an open position ands was also powerfully attacked. It had to pull back. The Germans tried to use the momentum and infiltrate behind the positions of the two regiments on the flanks of the Romanian 13th Infantry Division. The 3rd Battalion/47/72nd Infantry Regiment, under the command of maj. Draganescu counterattacked and stopped their advance. The reserves of the 51/52nd Regiment joined the fight directed by the unit's CO, lt. col. Ioan Cristofor, buying time for the reinforcements sent by the division to arrive. The 1st Machine-gun Company commanded by cpt. Grigore Ignat, stubbornly held its position, being almost totally destroyed. Its CO was posthumously awarded the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class. However, the Germans advanced towards Hill 100, behind which the allied artillery was situated. The 50/64th Regiment had to pull back its right wing, because of the enemy advance in the sector of the 51/52nd Regiment. Lt. col. Diamandi Genuneanu, the 50/64th Regiment's CO, organized the defense south of Hill 100 and managed to hold out against two Bavarian regiments for two hours.
General Popescu organized the counterattack against the German forces closing in on Hill 100. The 2 battalions in reserve, together with the 3rd Battalion/47/72nd Regiment and other units attacked from several different directions the German 115th Infantry Division, which had infiltrated between the Razoare Forest and the Negroponte Vineyards. The artillery of the 10th Infantry Division also intervened in the fighting at that moment, at the orders of the army's CO. The 1st Battalion/50/64th Regiment, commanded by cpt. Nicolae Miclescu, emerged from the Negroponte Vineyards and surprised the German infantry in the area and pushed it back to towards the Razoare Forest. Cpt. Miclescu was wounded during the action. He was later awarded the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class. The 3rd Battalion/47/72nd Infantry Regiment and the 2nd Battalion/48/49th Infantry Regiment joined the battle. The resistance at the edge of the Razoare Forest was broken following a violent bayonet charge. The Germans started a disorderly retreat. The entire 47/72nd Infantry Regiment started a counterattack, followed soon by the 39th Infantry Regiment (from 10th Infantry Division). The German troops retreated towards the Susita Valley, dragging along the units of the Austro-Hungarian 13th Division. The Romanians captured the first line of the enemy positions, but the advanced was stopped by maj. general Eremia Grigorescu, because von Eben had already started to deploy his reserves.
The 10th Division and, especially, the 13th Division had achieved a great victory. The commanders of the two divisions, as well as the commanders of the 47/72nd, 50/64th and 51/52nd Regiments were awarded the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class. Another 7 officers received this high distinction for the fighting on 19 August. The 39th Infantry Regiment Petru Rares captured 376 POWs and 7 machine-guns and advanced 500 m on a 4 km wide front. The 47/72nd Infantry Regiment took 209 POWs and 4 machine-guns. But the losses were high. The same regiment lost 880 men (99 killed, 300 wounded and 481 missing). The regiment's flag, as well as those of the other hard pressed units on 19 August were also decorated with the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class.
The same day, the Germans attacked the sector of the 9th Infantry Division, situated south of the 13th Division. It had been reduced to 4,500 men in the previous days of hard fighting. In the first line were the 9th Vanatori Regiment on the right wing and the 40th Infantry Regiment Calugareni on the left wing. After a powerful artillery preparation, two German infantry divisions started their attack. Following some heavy fighting in the ruins of the factory north of Marasesti, the 9th Vanatori Regiment was forced to fall back towards the city. The 40th Infantry Regiment also abandoned its first positions. The 9th Division reformed the front on the line south Negroponte Vineyards – Marasesti Railroad Station – south Marasesti, which it held against the enemy assaults, with the help of the artillery of the 14th Infantry Division from the eastern bank of the Siret River, firing directly in the German flank.
Because of the failure of its army to take the objectives on 19 August, general von Eben decided that the continuation of the offensive was no longer possible. A week of pause followed, which both sides used for reorganizing. The 9th Army again changed the attack sector. The 18th Reserve Corps was strengthened with 3 divisions and the entire heavy artillery at the army's disposal. The Romanian 1st Army received the 11th Infantry Divison. Maj. general Eremia Grigorescu redeployed his forces. Thus, the Russian 8th Corps formed the army's right wing in the Muncelul area. It had two divisions in the first line and another two reforming in the back. The Romanian 5th Corps (10th and 15th Infantry Divisions) held the front all the way to Marasesti Railroad Station, where it linked up with the 3rd Corps (14th Infantry Division), situated between Marasesti and the Siret River. East of the river was the Cavalry Corps (1st and 6th Rosiori Brigades, 2nd Cavalry Division and one brigade of the 5th Infantry Division). The army's reserve was made up of the 9th, 11th and 13th Infantry Divisions and the other brigade of the 5th Division.
The offensive of the 18th Corps started in the sector of the Russian 8th Corps on 28 August. At 0900 hours the German troops infiltrated between the two Russian divisions and forced them to retreat. Two regiments of the Romanian 3rd Infantry Division from the 2nd Army intervened and managed to stop the German advance together with the Russian reserves. The following day, general Grigorescu prepared an attack in the Muncelul area, aimed at eliminating the bulge created by the Germans. He put at the disposal of the Russian 8th Corps another Russian division, as well as the Romanian 9th Infantry Division, a regiment from the 13th and another from the 15th Division. The two regiments from the 2nd Army were also supposed to participate in this action.
The assault started at 0800 hours, from the north and west, but found the Germans ready for an attack of their own and it was repulsed. The second one, around 1700 hours, was also repulsed. The Germans forced the right wing of the Russian 124th Division to pull back. Two battalions from the 2nd Army intervened and managed to stop the enemy advance during the night. The 11th and 13th Infantry Divisions were brought behind the threatened areas. The 5th Division crossed to on the western bank of the Siret River. On 30 August, the German 18th Reserve Corps resumed the attack and its troops managed to get between the 18th Dorobanti Regiment Gorj and the 2nd Vanatori Regiment of the 2nd Army. The 34th Infantry Regiment Constanta, belonging to the 9th Division from the 1st Army, counterattacked and plucked in the breach.
The Russian 8th Corps was strengthened with the 13th Infantry Division on 31 August, when, because of the weather, there was no fighting. General Eremia Grigorescu subordinated the 9th Infantry Division and a Russian division to the CO of the 13th Division, brig. general Ioan Popescu. This group attacked on 1 September. The artillery preparation started at 0600 hours, with all the artillery available to the group, as well as with the artillery of the other two Russian divisions and the army's heavy artillery. After one hour, the 9th and 13th Divisions attacked from the west and the 3rd Infantry Division (belonging to the 2nd Army), commanded by brig. general Alexandru Margineanu, from the north. After some heavy fighting, the 13th Division advanced up t o200 m of Muncelul. The 18th Corps counterattacked in the sector of the 3rd Infantry Division, but was repulsed. The following day, the same 3rd Division suffered the brunt of the 9th Army's strike. The main objective was the Porcului Hill, defended by the 30th Dorobanti Regiment Muscel. It lost the positions, but they were retaken following the counterattack of the division's reserves and of a Russian regiment. It was the last major operation of the German 9th Army in the Marasesti sector.
The offensive of the 1st Army in the Muncelul area was resumed on 3 September. The 11th Infantry Division was subordinated to the General Popescu Group, entering the first line beside the 9th and 13th Divisions. The Russian division and the regiments of the 2nd Army formed the reserve. The plan was to attack frontally with the 9th Division and a brigade of the 11th, while the 13th Division and the other brigade of the 11th Division were going to attack the Muncelul village, threatening the enemy flank. The artillery preparation started at 0630 hours and at 0800 hours the 13th Infantry Division started the assault, but could not make any progress. The same happened in the sector of the 9th Division. A second artillery preparation, which lasted for an hour and a half, and some violent hand-to-hand fighting were necessary for the 13th Infantry Division to occupy the eastern edge of the Muncelul village. But the Romanian losses that day were heavy: about 2,700 men.
This was the last day of the battle of Marasesti, both sides deciding to adopt a defensive attitude on the entire front. The Romanian 1st Army had lost 610 officers and 26,800 NCOs and soldiers, while the German 9th Army had lost about 47,000. Forty Mihai Viteazul Orders 3rd class were awarded for deeds accomplished during the fighting around Marasesti. Maj. general Eremia Grigorescu received the Mihai Viteazul 2nd class. Also, the flags of no less than 9 regiments were decorated with the Mihai Viteazul 3rd class. The fighting continued with little intensity the following days, with local attacks and counterattacks. In one of these clashes, on the Secuiului Hill on 5 September, the volunteer Ecaterina Teodoroiu was killed by machine-gun fire, while leading her platoon. On the other side, on 8 September, maj. general Kurt von Wenniger, CO of the German 18th Reserve Corps, was killed by an artillery shell in the Muncelul area.
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A unique A-Z revealing how hundreds of members of one Devon family fought and died at war has just been completed.
It gives a detailed insight into more than 350 men and women of the Roberts family who served in the two world wars and the Second Boer War.
They are all connected to me – either as direct ancestors or through marriage to members of my family.
Fifteen years ago, I only knew of one ancestor who had gone to war – my grandfather George Burnett Roberts.
As a boy, I was given a picture of him – taken just after he had enlisted in the Army Service Corps – and a dozen brass buttons from his uniform.
A chance discovery revealed that he was one of a record 30 grandsons of Witheridge farm worker John Roberts who served in the Great War.
John’s remarkable story – told in two editions of the book History Maker – provided the inspiration for this new research project.
The Great War Forum has played a key role in turning the A-Z into reality.
Many 'mystery soldiers' have been identified - and their war service revealed - thanks to help from members of this brilliant forum.
The A-Z shows how 75 members of my family lost their lives – 50 in the First World War, 24 in the Second World War and one in the Second Boer War.
Of those who died, the vast majority were killed in infantry attacks on the front line or died from wounds sustained in action.
One soldier lost his life as a prisoner of war. Three succumbed to sickness. Six died at sea – in warship and submarine attacks. One was killed in a flying accident.
Five – including a mother and her two daughters – were killed in Blitz and ‘Doodlebug’ attacks on London and Portsmouth.
The youngest who went to war was Frederick ‘Fred’ Facey, who was just 14 when he served as a bugler in South Africa.
Many who fought and died served in the New Zealand, Australian, Canadian and United States Army and Navy.
Of the women who went to war, many served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and Auxiliary Territorial Service. One was attached to a secret operations unit at Westward Ho!
The stories of the many who did not make it home – and of those who survived, some with horrific injuries – are highlighted in a series of special features.
· How five members of the Roberts family fought together on a remote battlefield on the darkest day in the history of the 16th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment
· How a young soldier died in the worst maritime disaster in British History
· The men decorated for their extraordinary courage in the First and Second World Wars
· The eight men held as prisoners of war in Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan
· How a soldier turned out to be alive and well when his ‘death’ in the Great War was announced in his local newspaper
The A-Z is now available on a special custom-made USB flash drive. Any proceeds from sales will go to hospice charities.
The picture shows 24 members of the Roberts family who fought in - and in many cases - died in the two world wars.
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The transition from CEF Sergeant to civilian father of two boys was at first fairly smooth. Three years of soldiering had accustomed John to broken sleep, so rocking fretful babies back to sleep was easier for him than many other a new father. And it was some months before he ceased to look at Marie as she slept beside him and wonder in awe at how they had come together at last.
Very different he thought from the few British and Canadian soldiers he met who had married in France. Apart from a few men from Quebec regiments, they were still struggling with the language - and most of the locals had difficulty with the French-Canadian dialect and pronunciation.
Still, John was relieved when his mother asked if he could return to Canada for a week to tie up the loose ends of his father's estate, and sell the family home. Marie was included in Madame's offer, but now pregnant again she decided to stay behind.
Toronto had changed, John decided. Everything seemed to be moving much faster, and the ever-intrusive American culture delivered from radio, magazines and newspapers made John long for the pre-war days.
He visited his Captain, now back to civilian life, but still serving in the Militia, which had changed greatly since before the War. The old numbers and the scarlet uniforms had vanished.
John was relieved to return to France.
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Rifleman S/26148 Thomas Edwin Capers 8th Rifle Brigade, DOW 13/04/1917 VII. F. 9. WARLINCOURT HALTE BRITISH CEMETERY, SAULTY
courtesy of Jim Smithson, Dec. 2010
Thomas Edwin Capers was born and brought up in Ibstock, he was 26 and single at the outbreak of the Great War. Thomas was the youngest of three brothers and had two sisters, all born in Ibstock to parents Thomas and Sarah where the family had lived since about 1880. All the males of the family had worked either in the Ibstock Colliery or brick works.
Thomas Capers papers have not survived, in fact the papers of men in the number block S/26000 to S/26200 are few and far between. But combining what information there is with their medal index cards gives some idea of Thomas Capers' dates of joining, etc. Many of the men in this block first joined the KRRC before being transferred to the Rifle Brigade while still in the UK. These men are in alphabetic order through this small number range. Scattered amongst them are others who were first posted to the 5th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade and were then posted to either the 8th or 9th Battalion after completion of basic training and on arrival in France. All of them appear to have attested under the Derby Scheme in late November or Early December 1915, and were not called up until May and June of 1916. Thomas Capers does not fit into the alphabetical grouping of ex. KRRC men, and so it is likely he was first posted to the Rifle Brigade's 5th Battalion before being sent to France around October 1916, where he would have joined the 8th Battalion.
Easter Day in 1917 fell on the 8th of April. The 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade was in the Arras sector. Two celebrations of Holy Communion took place in the cellar of battalion HQ and they had moved to the Christchurch caves by nightfall. The following day the 1917 Arras offensive was launched, and the battalion had left the caves at 9am and initially moved to the reserve line. With many German prisoner coming back from the front and large numbers of British Cavalry moving forward news came that the first and second Brigade objects have been taken. There is some snow overnight, and on the 10th April 1917 the 8th Battalion moves forward several miles South East of Arras and by 4.30pm receives orders to “clear up the situation in the direction of Wancourt and the high ground south west of the village”. The Battalion advances in a heavy snow storm coming under a light barrage and machine gun fire. As the snow stopped, leading companies found themselves in an exposed position and suffered casualties from machine gun fire coming from the direction of Wancourt and Hill 90.
The attack on Wancourt is pressed home on the 11th April, with the 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade in support of the 7th KRRC. But they are caught in machine gun cross fire, the 7th KRRC suffer badly, and the 8th RB suffer one officer wounded and 20 OR casualties. They are relieved from their forward position by the 7th RB that night, during another heavy fall of snow.
In the early hours of 12th April “B” coy. patrols get as far as Wancourt and Marliere. Easterly patrols establish that the enemy holds Guemappe in strength. While “C” coy. captures a 77mm field gun in the vicinity of Marliere. At 11am orders are received to attack the high ground South East of Wancourt, with the 8th KRRC on the right crossing the Conjeul river to the south of Wancourt, and the 8th RB on the left crossing the river to the north of Wancourt. But this would have meant passing in front of the enemy at Guemappe for about a mile. By 2.30pm the orders for the attack had changed. Both 8th KRRC and 8th RB were to cross the river to the south of Wancourt. The assault was to take place at 5.30pm, but by 5pm only three companies had managed to cross the river after wading through very deep and sticky mud. An alert enemy put down a heavy barrage on the Conjeul valley from Wancourt to Heninel, and before the attack even started the whole area was subjected to heavy machine gun fire. Advance was impossible and the attack was abandoned. The 8th RB was relieved that night and by the 13th April had returned to billets in Arras. The total casualties for these few days are: 5 Officers wounded; 25 other ranks killed, 5 other ranks missing and 68 other ranks wounded.
courtesy of Jim Smithson, Dec. 2010
Private 26148 Thomas Edwin Capers is one of those wounded during these few days, he is evacuted as far as a CCS at Warlincourt, but dies of his wounds on the 13th April 1917. In fact, the Battalion seems to have lost track of him at one point, as his name appears on the Battalion's casualty figures as being KIA on the 12th April.
Having completed my transcription and posts on the 801st MT Coy, I am now looking at the units they supported, particularly the Yeomanry, in this case the Surrey Yeomanry and the Derbyshire Yeomanry. I have acquired copies of their regimental history books, read the Surrey one and I have started a new thread 'Yeomanry in Salonika' on the 'Salonika and Balkans' sub forum, if anyone is interested.
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Command on the Western Front: A reminder for me to re-read the 27th - 29th Sept 1918 attack around St Quentin Canal. Consider Prior & Wilson's comments in view of Terraine's argument that Haig improved. Also in view of my own concensus that Rawlinson generally learnt from his mistakes.
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Robert Romanis was stationed near Ypres in Belgium when the Kaiser Slacht started but his Division, the 35th received orders on the 22nd of March to reinforce the British line south near the Somme. The Division was taken the 100 miles or south to Heilly station on trains. Each of the 9 battalions on a separate train. The trains consisted of 1 carriage for the officers, 17 flat wagons for carts and stores and 40 covered wagons which would either contain Soldiers or Horses. The 12th Highland Light Infantry (HLI) Roberts Battalion left Proven at around 9pm on train No. 7 and arrived at their destination at about 1 pm the next day. A 16 hour trip. They were then bussed 10 miles or so to Bray sur Somme where they marched to the village of Maricourt arriving in the early morning of the 25th and took up position along the D197 north from Maricourt as far as a Brickworks near Bernafay Wood (the brickworks is gone but it’s location is marked by patch of rough ground alongside the road which can be seen on google maps). The Germans attacked from the east at 7:45am on the 25th and at multiple times during the day using artillery, rifle and machine gun fire. The attacks finally ceased at 8pm but the 12th HLI had suffered a number of casualties including Robert. His body was never identified and he is remembered on the Poziere memorial but at the Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemetery in Maricourt there are over 150 graves of unknown soldiers – one of these may well be the grave of Robert Romanis
Robert Hope served in the Highland Light Infantry as well as Robert Romanis but he was in the 2nd Battalion which was part of the 2nd Division and stationed further North near Baupame. He started the battle in reserve but by the 22nd of March was in the front line just to the south of where Gordon Tait and George Frier were serving. His unit then began a long retreat to maintain the British line. On the night of the 24th they were allowed 2 hours sleep in the village of Ligny Thilloy. They continued to retreat the next day over the old Somme battlefield, the shell holes covered in long grass did not make for easy going. During the retreat they formed the rearguard and came under enemy fire just North of Le Sars and it likely that this is where Robert was killed, his unit then continued their retreat. He left a wife in Edinburgh who was paid a war gratuity of £8 10shillings
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Recent EntriesLatest Entry
I have finally written up the story for my 3 x great grand father John Edwin Barnes, thanks again for everyone's help on here that have helped make this possible, cheers everyone.
One of my “Heroes” and Favourite Ancestors the fourth in my series of blogs about my 8 great-grandparents The Life and Times of John Edwin Barnes
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MIKAN 3329308: Amiens Front - Ecourt St. Quentin, Apr. & May 1919.
Église St.Léger, dating from the twelfth century, Saudemont, 19th April 2018 at 8:49 AM.
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IWM 319: PONT REMY SPORTS [MAIN TITLE]
Click here for the video.
The competition between Army Forestry Companies from Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand at the Forestry Camp at Pont-Remy, France, 15th September 1918.
The soldiers watch several forms of contest. A pillow fight between two men sitting astride a log suspended over water. A tree-stump felling contest, in which the four representatives each have to cut down a stump about three metres high. A similar competition to cut through a short log lying on the ground, won by the Australian whose fellows rush forward to cheer him. He poses in his shirt, shorts and bush hat with his axe beside the trunk. A third contest, including New Zealand Maoris, in chopping down medium-sized trees. Finally a 'log rolling' contest for men keeping balance standing on a log on the river, which they cross by rolling the log forward.
whole: Number Of Items/reels/tapes 1
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Our Growing Departments
With our ever-increasing beds, all the departments in the hospital increase accordingly. In the early days we had R.A.M.C.T. men entirely in the offices, stores, post office, etc. Now nearly all – or at least the greater proportion – of the men have disappeared. Some have gone abroad with the R.A.M.C., others have transferred to fighting units, and many are on hospital ships. Then the problem was, who was to replace them?
I remember, a very long time ago, one of the heads of the Red Cross Society coming down and discussing with us how women could be employed. Gradually a scheme evolved, and the first military hospital to try it was the 3rd London.
The lady orderlies came, were approved of, and proved the greatest help to us; gradually, lady clerks, typists, postwomen, enquiry department, linen storekeepers, steward store assistants, telephone operators, cooks and charladies became installed; and today the ever green picture, “Can Women do our Work?” is answered, I think, by everyone concerned – Yes.
From a Matron’s point of view I looked on the influx of women with a sinking heart. I already had over 300 women for whom I was responsible; and when the War Office decided that all women employed in a military hospital should come directly under the Matron I nearly wept – and felt certainly that it was more than one could bear. Now when I look back over all those changes I still marvel how it was done. But the fact remains today that we have somewhere about 500 women employed in the different departments of the hospital; and, apart from this making my office work very heavy, I do not feel the responsibility any greater. This in itself, I think, speaks volumes for the loyal help we get.
The different departments all run smoothly. The Quartermaster’s office has two lady clerks, the C.O. has one, the Matron one, the Registrar’s office has many. I shall never forget poor Captain Gosse’s face when he first heard that ladies were going to be admitted into his office. He looked hopeless. And until the day he went away he always referred to them as “the little bits of fluff in my office.”
Two ladies are responsible for the card index where, within a few minutes, you can look up any patient who has ever been in the hospital. Another does the typing, another helps with the discharges. Three ladies answer all enquiries in the front hall, and seem to me to spend half their time directing people to the D corridor. I often hear, “Yes; left, right, left, right, then you had better enquire again”; and I wonder whether the visitor ever finds his way to D at all.
We have two ladies on the telephone and four in the post office. The postal arrangements are to my mind perfect, and hardly ever is there complaint of letters going astray of being misdirected, which is wonderful, considering the thousands of letters and parcels that pass through this office. Then in the pay office we have a lady clerk. Next along the passage is the massage room. I see that a very excellent article has already been sent about this department, so there is no need for me to say anything. I hope, however, it won’t be long before Miss Layton and her helpers will get their new room.
Then we come to the stores. All clean linen is given out by ladies who work under the supervision of the Quartermaster, much of the work is now done by ladies, who all come under what we call the General Duty Section. The kitchens too, now have many women replacing men. In the general kitchen we still have the staff-sergeant cook, who is responsible, but in the sick officers’ kitchen there is a V.A.D. cook, and also in the orderlies’ kitchen.
The scrubbers are also a great feature – and it is astonishing how easily they lose themselves in this huge place and what a lot of finding they require sometimes!
I feel that this article sounds rather like an essay on “Women’s Rights.” I am not a suffragette, and no one will welcome men back to their old jobs more than I shall, but I do feel that women have shown how much they can help, in this war, as well as men. And I know they will continue as long as they are needed. When we are not needed, then we shall just let the men have their own back again, and look after us as they used to – and it will be very pleasant to be looked after again, I think!
Edith Holden, Matron.
Well, about three weeks later than expected, the proof copy of the book dropped through the letter box this morning (slightly untrue that. It's so damn big it was left in the porch, but never mind). It's a strange feeling to have something you have worked on for six years resting in one's hands. Lump in the throat time. From my days in the music business I have plenty of albums on which I played and co-wrote songs but this book means more to me than they do - this is, after all, all my own work.
Anyway, I have placed an order for an initial print run (in the tens not the hundreds!) and now hope that I might come close to breaking even on the project.
Seeing this project come to fruition has helped me make a decision about doing another one. I have already started work: the list of files at the National Archives, Liddle Collection and IWM is already complete and visits are being planned. Several battalion histories and other relevant books have been located. A Roll of Honour of the men who died is complete apart from the CWGC details. Bloody hell, the first 2,500 words have even been written. This time, though, I am going to try to work to a more precise timetable and have set myself a deadline of next May (which is a bit optimistic as this is one one sixth of the time 'Pro Patria Mori' took!). And the subject? Well, it only seems fair to complete the 'other half' of the Gommecourt attack. So, '"A Lack of Offensive Spirit" - The 46th (North Midland) Division at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916' will be the next off the production line. And disproving Gen Snow's disgraceful slander of the men of the North Midlands will be high on the agenda!
Off to work we go...
Web site: http://www.gommecourt.co.uk
'Pro Patria Mori: the 56th (1st London) Division at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916' available from May '06
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The following extract is taken from “MI 7b, the discovery of a lost propaganda archive from the Great War”.
A Trench Raid
At last, after what seemed years of waiting, the long-expected signal came, and we filed into the sap, and then crawled cautiously across No Man’s Land to the shelter of some friendly shell-craters about forty yards from the Boche wire. The signal for the final rush was to be an intensive bombardment on the flanks of the position we were to attack.
We did not have to wait long. Punctual to the second, the artillery strafe commenced and simultaneously a blinding sheet of flame and an earth-shaking roar told us that H.E. had completed the work of our wire cutters in blasting a gap in the entanglements. The next few minutes were crowded in the extreme. The whole party made a dash for the opening in the wire, scrambled over the parapet, and, as had been arranged, divided their forces, and bombed their way, right and left, down the trench. A sentry, who had been posted quite close to the point of entry, had been blown backwards off his perch by the force of the explosion, and was no longer in a condition to dispute our passage. The only real resistance we encountered was on the right where a machine gun team hurriedly dismounted their gun from its emplacement, and directed a stream of bullets down the trench in the hope of catching the attackers unawares when they rounded the traverse. But the Bombing Sergeant, crawling along the parapet, dropped a couple of Mill’s Bombs in the middle of the party, and then jumped down afterwards lest there should be any mistake. So it was that a battered machine-gun, plus a pair of stout Bavarians, very much the worse for wear, were shortly being passed to the rear.
Naturally the time is limited on a raid, and it is prudent to get back to the shelter of your own trenches before the enemy has time to recover from his surprise, and starts to retaliate. But before we turned back we lighted the fuse of an “infernal machine” which had been part of the R.E.’s contribution to the night’s entertainment, and placed it in an unobtrusive position at the foot of the traverse, with the object of discouraging any Huns from annoying us in our retirement. We returned to the original starting point to find the “moppers-up” had lured several unwilling captives from their under-ground funk-holes, and had already started to shepherd them across No Man’s Land on the first stage of their journey to England. As we picked our way through the shell-holes on our way home, our machine-guns were sweeping the Boche parapet on our right and left to restrain any vulgar curiosity on their part as to the fate of their brethren. The last of the excursionists dropped over our friendly parapet just as two infernal machines, in quick succession, rent the night with the roar of their explosion, and a salvo of “woolly bears”, the first fruits of retaliation, burst high up in the air over the ground we had just vacated.
The article, “A Trench Raid” was written by Lt J.P. Lloyd of the Welch Regiment in September 1917, and is one of 150 or so articles and stories he wrote. His work is the sole surviving archive of military propaganda from a secret outfit designated MI 7b. All the official documents of MI 7b were thought to have been destroyed at the war’s end.
Lt James Price Lloyd was my paternal great uncle and as a Second-lieutenant, he had been shot and wounded in the first Battle of the Somme in the fighting at Mametz on Friday, the 7th July 1916. Whilst recuperating, he responded to a War Office trawl for officers to write articles about the war. His work was accepted and on 7th July 1917, a year to the day since he had been wounded, he reported for duty with MI 7b.
He thought he was joining a unit set up to counter Hun propaganda, but that was just a cover story. Although he didn’t know it at the time, he was joining a strategic propaganda offensive aimed directly at the Home Front, and the home fronts of the Empire, her dominions and colonies. Allied nations too were targeted, as were neutral nations who needed to be swayed towards our cause.
MI 7b (1) had been set up in response to the perceived threat that support for the war was waning, that revolution was in the air, that there was discontent in the factories, and saboteurs active amongst us! In the autumn of 1916, through to the dread dark days of early 1917, disaster loomed. The nation, traumatised by the horrendous losses on the Somme front, faced insurrection in Ireland, revolution abroad, and was in danger of losing the battle at sea. The fear of losing the war and the prospect of famine brought home the reality of a modern, total war. To have any hope of preparing the nation not only to accept the huge losses that the strategy of attrition would inevitably demand, but also to sustain their faith that the cause was just and noble, and the sacrifice necessary, there had to be a counter-balance to the Roll of Honour.
The authorities recognised that they had to seize the agenda, set the tone, improve and sustain morale. To that end, the War Office trawled for officers with some time on their hands to write about the war, especially the human interest side. Capt Alec Dawson (Border Regt) fielded their submissions and set up what became MI 7b (1).
It attracted some of the finest literary talent of the day, many of whom were serving in the Army and had connections to the popular newspapers and magazines of the time. Similarly illustrators and artists were recruited and so it was that MI 7b (1) was able to produce high-grade propaganda material in both graphic and text media from the outset. Given its connections and the newspapers’ insatiable appetite for war news, MI 7b (1) became a major source of news that was then reported by the press all over the English speaking world.
From August 1917, Lt James Lloyd wrote first-hand accounts of battles and daily life in the trenches, and Captain Bruce Bairnsfather provided cartoons and illustrations that gave the imagination a visual hook. It is clear that their work was integrated as a result of a clearly developed editorial strategy. Bairnsfather’s cartoon character “Old Bill” and his “Fragments from France” were a national sensation – Old Bill became the archetypal “Old Contemptible” and a much loved figure world wide. Lloyd’s retrospectives on fighting in France, along with Bairnsfather’s illustrations, allowed those on the world’s home fronts to identify with the men at war, and get that much closer to what they thought the war may be really like.
Lloyd had much to learn about writing propaganda as many of his drafts were too close to reality to have been passed fit for publication. Some of the most poignant and moving accounts he wrote, never made it beyond the manuscript. These “rejected” articles contain much that would otherwise remain hidden. In my view, these articles are that much more interesting and shed a truer and brighter light on events that went unreported.
As the propaganda agenda moved on, Lloyd was tasked with producing “Tales of the VC”, and so that his reports on the fighting in France weren’t stale, he was sent back to the Western Front to observe first hand. It is clear that Lloyd wasn’t the only MI 7b officer to undertake such travels, as A A Milne, too, undertook secret work in France at some time during 1918. Officers from MI 7b travelled the Western Front extensively witnessing, as opposed to taking a further active part in, the battles and major campaigns of the war from early 1917 onwards. Those accounts were their main source of war news reporting and were then distributed for publication around the globe. There are examples of newspapers carrying 2 or 3 articles sourced from MI 7b on a single page.
With War Office support, what had started out as a “one man and his dog” operation in early 1916, became a highly successful broadcast medium with global reach within 18 months or so, producing an estimate of 7,500 articles for syndication world wide. Had the “Green Book” – the secret valedictory house journal of MI 7b (1) - not been discovered by chance, those writing for MI 7b (1) would have remained incognito, and its secret work only imagined, as so little of its official archive is known to exist. A A Milne is now the best known member of MI 7b, and the current media interest in his role risks eclipsing the wider story. Milne was not the only surprise to be found on the inside cover of the Green Book, posted elsewhere on this forum. The list of members and their literary achievements is truly astonishing.
The 150 remaining articles in the archive are of a high literary standard and the articles and stories each stand on their own merit. They would be interesting enough on their own, but in the context of their being examples of a secret campaign, they are an invaluable source. Written by someone who had served and been wounded in the front line trenches, Lloyd’s stories provide a fascinating glimpse into the realities of the fighting, and of life in France. His published work for MI 7b (1) is extensive, and I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me find examples. However, not everything was published, and the unpublished drafts provide tantalising glimpses into the realities as perceived at the time and written in the lingua franca of that era with its richness of slang, its wry observations on the detail of daily trench life.
It is also fascinating to view the propaganda production process in action; from idea to pencil draft, to manuscript and green-ink correction and censorship, to the typing pool and beyond to the higher echelons of the War Office food chain where it may be “Passed for publication.” Then, the article is there on the page of a Tasmanian journal, sitting alongside other articles from MI 7b. Each of the articles are under the name of the serving officer who wrote them giving no indication that they are the principal parts of a highly secret and sophisticated propaganda offensive.
If the newspaper articles indicate the scale and reach of the operation, the discovery of the Green Book indicates the calibre of its operatives and like the Rosetta stone, unlocks some of the mystery.
Why were so many talented and intelligent men willing to write propaganda in support for a war that each of them knew would result in further widespread slaughter? I believe that that they knew it to be their duty. They were recruited ostensibly to take part in a counter-propaganda offensive, and although that may have been plausible for a while, it is clear from what is written in the Green Book, that by the war’s end, some of these were men who felt that their integrity had been compromised.
If all their work was meant for publication, what was the secret? The real secret of MI 7b (1) was that the Crown and Parliament had a very great need for it, far greater than history may yet have acknowledged.
Why was it disbanded so quickly? The rapid disbandment of MI 7b did not affect its role and function, for that carried on. I think that Lords Northcliffe and Beaverbrook recognised that MI 7b (1) was a first class news agency with global reach, in effect, the information superhighway of its day. They took control of its infrastructure to further their newspaper interests, and MI 7b’s role and function morphed via the Ministry of Information through to the BBC.
From Adelphi House to Bush House!
With its records destroyed, and all its members bound by the Official Secrets Act, the story of MI 7b (1) might have remained an interesting, but obscure, footnote in history. With any luck, this discovery may yet inform our thinking about the First World War, and play a significant role in our understanding of the true nature of the conflict and the context in which it was reported.
“Tales of the VC”, 96 of the 150 or so articles can be found on:
 21 September 1917
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A medal recently came into my hands with an intensely human story behind it that I feel compelled to share. It is just one of the 6.5 million British War Medals that were produced at the end of the Great War of 1914-19, and is therefore nothing special in itself. As with so many of these, it’s true value can only be found by discovering the story that lies behind it.
As always, my start point came from the meagre details that the mint had punched into its rim, telling me that the medal was issued to recognise the service of “950. PTE. A. COOK. NOTTS & DERBY”. The actual Medal Rolls proved to be much more informative, revealing to me that he had in fact served with their 1st/8th battalion. Alfred Cook was therefore a member of the newly formed Territorial Force which had emerged from the reorganisation of the old volunteers units that came about with the implementation of the Haldane Reforms in 1907.
Born at Sutton-in-Ashfield (near Mansfield), in November of 1891, he was the fifth surviving child in a family of six. His older siblings were Annie Elizabeth, Hannah, John William and Harold, whilst Robert, the final addition to the family, had been born when Alfred was two. It is however the special relationship which seems to have existed between Alfred and Harold that will occupy much of our story. He was just a year older than Alfred, and they seem to have been very close.
So far as is known, Harold was the first member of the family to join the Territorial Force, which he must have done around the year 1909. In those days Sutton-in-Ashfield had its own Company of what was then simply known as the 8th Battalion. Still organised on the old “8 Company system” until after war was declared, their unit had several bases scattered around north Nottinghamshire. There was “A” Company at Retford, “B” at Newark, “C” at Sutton-in-Ashfield, “D” at Mansfield, “E” at Carlton, “F” at Arnold, “G” at Worksop and “H” at Southwell. It would seem that Harold enjoyed the experience enough for some of his enthusiasm to rub off onto Alfred, who followed in his footsteps and joined in his own right on 22nd August 1910. The battalion had actually returned from their annual summer camp earlier in that same month, and perhaps the tales of Harold’s 2 week adventure had been a major factor in influencing Alfred to sign up himself.
The boys were however growing up in other ways too, and it was not long before Harold had both found himself a bride and started a family of his own. This young couple would go on to have 3 children before the war, who they named as Lilian, Alice and, perhaps significantly, Alfred. It is easy to see that, with a young wife and growing family, Harold may have begun to find his commitment to the Territorial Force a little irksome and, despite their training being part-time, it would certainly have eaten into the time that couple had for each other. Whatever the reasons that lay behind it, we do know that Harold did not extend his contract with the unit, and handed back his uniform when his 4 years were up.
The two brothers would still have had lots of time together with “C” Company before then, and doubtless went on several annual camps in each others company. If Alfred at all missed his brothers’ presence in the unit, perhaps he consoled himself with the thought that his own contract would terminate at the end of August in 1914. Unfortunately however, by that date the Kaiser already had other plans for both of them.
The 4th August 1914 actually found Alfred at summer camp with the entire Territorial Brigade of the Sherwood Foresters, where the outbreak of the European war apparently took very few of their number by surprise. In fact, it is recorded that the men were so gripped by “war fever” that it rendered any prospect of them following their planned training schedule completely impossible. Once the formal declaration of war became known to them, their summer camp at Hunmanby near the Yorkshire coast was broken up and the men were sent home. Alfred would doubtless have been exceptionally eager to talk things over with Harold as soon as he arrived back at the family home in Park Street.
Things then began to move very quickly, and as early as Friday 7th August, the entire battalion had been mobilised and concentrated at Newark, where their men were briefly billeted in the local schools. With their strength recorded at 29 officers and 852 other ranks, a Church Parade and official send-off was held for them in the market square on Monday 10th before they marched off to their designated war station.
Harold also acted quickly, and signed a new attestation document with his old unit on August 9th. It would appear that, despite his family commitments, he may have been determined to take part in what he perhaps thought promised to be a great adventure. It is also possible however that he was equally motivated by wanting to try to look after his younger brother.
Alfred’s destiny actually became sealed on 3rd September, when he signed Army Form E624 and volunteered for overseas service. As with many other battalions of the Territorial Force, the issue of overseas service had not been given much emphasis in the 8th before the war, though 80% of their men readily accepted the commitment shortly after they had been mobilised. The brothers would almost certainly have discussed this issue, and we know that Harold also stepped forward to join the majority.
Part of the first full Division of the Territorial Force to be sent to France, the brothers landed at Le Harvre in early March of 1915. After moving up country towards the front line they engaged in an intensive training programme that culminated in them being sent into the trenches near Messines at the end of that month under the watchful eye of seasoned regulars. Despite the deep seated and widespread suspicions held about the Territorial Force amongst many of the full time professionals of the regular army, who frequently disparaged them as “Saturday night soldiers”, the 8th were judged to have performed well. So well in fact that, from the beginning of April, the battalion were detailed to take over a stretch of the front at Kemmel in there own right.
Up to this point the 8th had been lucky. Whilst 3 of their number had been wounded, their familiarisation had taken place in a quiet sector where they had not yet been exposed to the full grim reality of the war. All this began to change with the death of 18 year old Jack Hyde on Tuesday 6th April. Originating from Arnold but serving in “A” Company, he was shot through the head by a sniper and buried at the nearby Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery. In fact, as the days passed, and their casualties grew in number, Rows D and E in this cemetery began to assume the appearance of a plot reserved purely for the men of the 8th battalion. By Monday the 14th June, and after several tours in the trenches, it had already become the final resting place for no fewer than 43 of them.
Tuesday the 15th should have brought relief for the battalion, who were due to be replaced by anther unit thereby affording the 8th an opportunity to spend some time in one of the safer rear areas. It was reported as a quiet day until 21:00 hrs when, quite suddenly, with the unexpected detonation of three huge German mines, all hell broke loose. These acted as a signal that started a hail of artillery shells, trench mortars, rifle grenades and machine gun fire that then swept across the British trenches for over an hour. The enemy infantry proceeded to use this covering fire to advance into one of the mine craters that had been created within feet of where Alfred Cook had been standing, though they were swiftly driven out of this new position at the point of the bayonet. Major John Becher (a native of Southwell) was then able to supervise the reconstruction and reorganisation of the British defences, the coolness and efficiency with which he completed the task contributing towards him becoming the first man of the battalion to receive the DSO. By 23:00 hrs the situation had stabilised enough for the battalion to carry on with its planned relief but, by that time, both Alfred and another man from “C” Company, Oliver Bryan, were missing.
When greeted by this news, it would appear that Harold became beside himself. Joining forces with two of Oliver Bryan’s brothers, who were also serving with the battalion at that time, the three of them together swiftly sought and received permission from one of their officers to go back and search for their missing kinsmen.
In the darkness however they soon found that they were unable to conduct a proper search and, being in close proximity to the enemy, were at last reluctantly forced to abandon the enterprise. A court of enquiry later came to the conclusion that both Alfred and Oliver must have been buried under the front wall of their trench at the very start of the attack, when the German mines had been detonated. Neither of them were ever seen again and, having no known graves, they later became the first 2 soldiers from the 8th battalion to be remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing.
The story however does not end on that particular date, there being an equally sad postscript. Harold would lose his own life just 4 months later, during the same action which also saw Major Becher become fatally wounded. In a cruel twist of fate for the Becher family, two of his brothers-in-law, who were also serving as officers with the 8th battalion, were also killed on that same date. Becher eventually lost his own struggle for life at one of the base hospitals on the 1st January 1916, eleven weeks after he had been injured. The remaining Bryan brothers fared better, Charles went on to both win the MM and be promoted to the rank of Corporal, before being invalided out due to sickness in August of 1917. Stanley Bryan however was perhaps the most fortunate of them all, he was the only one of the 5 brothers that went on to serve until the end of the war, and was finally demobilised from the Labour Corps at the end of February in 1919.
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I have decided to begin blogging on my research which I started a couple of years ago. The journey has been interesting and taken many twists and turns and I would like to keep a record of what have done and what I intend to do.
In order to do this I must first back-track to the very beginning...
My mother in 2007 and at that time in her 69th year and in seemingly good health asked me to find out 'what happened to your granddad in the First World War', my granddad being her father. My responses were:
We already know what happened, he was a 6th Seaforth Highlander, under-age, reported and made to be a stretcher bearer, was wounded and captured as a POW. He also joined up as a runaway about two weeks after the war started.
And, as she insisted she wanted to know how he was captured, where he had been as a soldier and POW - I don't have time to find this stuff out right now.
I had asked tons of questions as a child and got the answers. I didn't think there would be anything more to find out. However, she didn't let it drop and in 2009 I began to do some searches on the internet based on what she (and my grandma previously) had told me. 'He was captured at Arras in 1917'. I couldn't really make sense of the information I found and the truth was, I still didn't really have time - always too busy.
In 2010 my mother died unexpectedly from an undiagnosed heart condition/disease and in amongst all of the grief and torment, I also felt I had let her down. For I had loved and worshipped my granddad while he was alive because to me he had always been a hero and yet as a grown-up, I no longer had time for him or my mother who wanted to know what her father really did.
After the funeral a cousin asked me to take her to another kirk so we could visit her mother's grave too and on that visit she told me she knew where our old family graves were and would show me. As it turned out she couldn't find them and so some weeks later, I returned to look alone. I had almost given up after quite a while of looking and started to walk away. On reaching the gates, I checked my watch and decided to allow another 15 minutes but doubted I would be successful. Some of the grave stones were completely illegible due to the erosion. I only went another row down when I found two of them, side by side.
My attention was caught by an inscription on the grave of my great, great grandparents 'and also their grandson William Proctor Duncan who was killed at Beaumont Hamel November 13, 1916 aged 31. Buried in Maillet Wood cemetery...' I asked myself several questions. Who was he? How had I not heard of him? How did he tie into granddad and the war? He must have been highly thought of but now forgotten. He needed, like granddad, to be remembered once again.
That was the start of the journey in the summer of 2010 when I began some serious ancestry research on my granddad's side of the family and in particular, the enigmatic William Proctor Duncan.
Six weeks after my mother died, my father died. He had emigrated to Cape Town in the late 1980s and had remarried my step-mother died ten months after him. Because of the distance and circumstances of funerals taking place immediately, I could not attend either. Instead in the spring of 2011, I found myself on a train to London having taken 3 days unpaid leave from work, to collect the belongings of my father that were being brought back from South Africa after the death of my step-mother, by her granddaughter whom I had never met.
I had managed to accumulate quite a lot of information on my great, great grandparents, their ten children and their grandsons William and George (my granddad). The day before leaving for London, I did something quite strange, I typed the words William Proctor Duncan into the Google search engine, not really expecting anything at all. What a shock I got. I found he was being discussed on something called The Great War Forum...
There was a conversation on the Forum and as I recall, it was entitled A Service Number on a Spoon.
It appeared that a spoon had been found by an amateur archaeologist near what had been the sight of a CCS at Poperinghe. It had been engraved with the letters SEA. and a number 3936. The feeling was that the letters denoted a Seaforth and the number was a service number. They had identified that William Proctor Duncan, a Seaforth, had that service number. However, it appeared from the conversation, he was not the only Seaforth with that number.
I must admit, I was very shocked that a relative of mine was being discussed on the Internet. When the initial shock subsided it was also quite exciting that having found out nothing about my granddad, here I might be able to find out more about the war service of his little known cousin. I checked what I had found out about him again. Just to make sure there was no mistake and they were actually discussing the right man.
So far, I had found him on two census aged 5 and 15 at the home of his grandparents at the Tugnet, Spey Bay. He had been born in Corstophine, Edinburgh the illegitimate son of the eldest child and daughter of the 10 Duncan children, according to his birth certificate. She was at lodgings and gave her usual address as Tugnet. She had been a servant in Fochabers but how she had ended up in Edinburgh, I didn't know at that time. I thought that his name, William Proctor Duncan was a nod to who his real father might be, a clue to be followed later.
The CWGC had yielded more information and his service number. It was definitely him. I needed to make contact...
Well dear reader,
As you can tell from the entry dates of this blog i have not been very good at keeping things up to date.
Anyroadup........Just returned from a four day stay at Chavasse House with six other like minded chaps. Left home at around midnight on Monday 17th and had a nice quiet mini bus (Ford Toureno) ride down to the Chunnel.
As you can imagine we arrived nice and early so instead of the 08:20 crossing we got onto a much earlier departure, thus giving us even more time in France.
Once across (under) the channel it was full steam ahead to Vimy Ridge, a place I had not been to before. Impressive monument and with one of our party having a relative named on the walls we spent a fair amount of time there. We also took the underground tunnel tour which was most informative and gave us all an insight into the underground conflict.
As we had to wait until about 1500 hrs to get into Chavasse we indulged in our first taste of French food......Yes it was into Alberts Maccy D's for a Grande Mac and Frites, then a wizz down the road to the Super U supermache for supplies (read beer & BBQ meats)
Up to Chavasse and bag a bedroom........Now, knowing what a bunch of snorers we had I managed to sort the larger of the ground floor double bedrooms to myself. Made up the bed, put on the kettle and made a brew. It was then time for the BBQ to get fired up and a few bottles of beer to get quaffed. Off to bed at about midnight. Day one over.
Day two..........Up at about at just after 07:30, breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage and baguette...(The bread van arrives at Chavasse at about 0800) Out and about by 10:00 and off to Thiepval and Ulster Tower......Did a quick look at the cemeteries ext to Ulster Tower and booked a tour of the woods with the new 'tenants' Don & Maureen (who we named Rapunzel, cos she loved living in the tower)
We met Don for the walk and were joined by a coupe of other guys, one wearing sunnies and a baseball cap and the other a quite tall guy, they were clearly together but I took no particular notice of either.
Anyway after a fantastic tour by Don (I have done similar with Teddy, but this was even better) one of our group said "That's Alexi Sayle in the baseball cap" Well courage was drawn and an approach made. Guess what Mr Sayle was very good had his picture took with our group and chewed the fat back at the Tower. Funny but 'Rapunzel' was serving behind the counter and never even knew he had been a visitor.
A quick tramp to the Popes nose observation point, a field walk that gave up a live 303 round (left where it was) then back on the bus to travel the short distance to Pozieres and the tank memorial and the windmill site. By now we had also visited a fair few cemeteries along the way and it was almost 17:00 hrs so a blast back to Chavasse for scoff and an evening of shooting the sh*te in the Rum Ration bar. at about 00:30 it was the end of day two.....
Day three....Up again at 0730 quick 3 S routine and breaky was a repeat of day two.....Out again by 10:00 and off to visit Sunken Lane, Hawthorn Crater and Redan Ridge number 1 cemetery where 'we' had a local boy buried. I always find sunken lane such an atmospheric place, quite spooky to be where those lads were asking "are we in the right place?" Up to Hawthorn Crater and a couple of lads go down inside to have a loser look while I did a bit of a field walk. (nowt found) We then went up to Redan Ridge and traced cemetery number 1, where a local lad (from Swindon Nr Dudley) is laid to rest. Private 689 Sidney Henry Garston was in the Royal Fusiliers and died on 14th November 1916 aged 23. He has a grave in Swindon that states he died at Beaumont Hammel.
From there it was a trip to see the Sheffield Pals memorial and Railway cutting cemetery etc. As we were then moving back past Ulster Tower one of our party uttered the fateful words "I wonder what Iain Mchenry is doing now" The van driver then uttered the fateful phrase " Goodness me (or similar) there he is in the front of that coach" The coach came to a halt at the Tower and we were duly re-united with Iain who's services we had hired some years before when we were on the Salient. So it was time for a brew and sarny at the Tower and a rejoining with Don, Rapunzel and Iain. To close the day we drove to Peronne and visited the museum. From there we re-stocked on essentials and returned to the Rum Ration and another BBQ......We adjourned back into Chavasse House at about 23:30 and just had to drink the rest of the beer/wine as we couldn't bring it back home.. So a late night was had, got to bed at about 0100 ...End of day three.....
Day four....Up again at 0730 (bit knackered) the 3S's and brekky, packed up and left the house at 10:00 for a quick trip to Corcelette (sp?) where the guy who had a relative remembered at Vimy also had a relly remembered here. Then we went off to Delville Wood and made a trip around the South African memorial. Fantastic place.
Back on the minibus and off to Lochnagar crater and a drive past the site of the dig at La Boiselle then back towards the Chunnel...Got there early and again took advantage of an early crossing. Back in Blighty at 15:30 but due to crashes/roadworks or whatever the problem was we didn't get back 'home' till 2200. Grrrrrrrr....
Well that's the trip for another year, so where next for 2013?
It's been an interest of mine, when time allows, to research the men listed upon the 1914 and 1914-15 star medal roll for the Black Watch.
Here i will share the statistical breakdown of these results, so far. These will be updated as more research is done.
The 1st, 2nd and 5th battalions of the Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) reached France and Belgium in the qualifying period for the awarding of the 1914 Star, between 5th August and midnight on the 22nd of November 1914.
Composition of the men.
90% of the other ranks, with known places of birth, were Scottish born. English born men made up almost 7% of the remainder, with a sprinkling of Irish, welsh and dominion born men making up the rest.
The average age of a soldier that died was 24. The youngest being two 16 year olds and the oldest a 48 year old.
Previous war service.
About 400 men of the regular battalions have service numbers that indicate they may have served in the 2nd Boer War, that's 14% of the other ranks listed in the 1914 star roll. A handful of the territorials had been in South Africa also as regulars with the Black Watch, other regiments or with the local volunteer units that volunteered to go.
Of the officers of the regular battalions, 28 saw active service in South Africa. Therefore over 3,500 of the Black Watch soldiers who qualified for the 1914 Star had no experience of soldiering in wartime.
Black Watch 1914 Stars awarded (1st, 2nd & 5th Bns) - 3699
Deceased - 1321 (35%)
The territorials were used as lines of communication troops when they arrived in late Autumn, so they did not have the same experience of open warfare the regulars had in 1914.
So taking only the two regular battalions as a whole, the 1914 casualties present a slightly different overall picture of a 40% fatality rate.
The initial cohort of the 1st battalion: 33 officers and 1,153 other ranks (slightly different numbers are given by other sources, but these are the star roll numbers) arrived on the continent on the 13th of August, 1914.
The 1st battalion were never at Mons. The first time they engaged the Germans, aside form the odd Uhlan scout and being lightly shelled on their march, was on the 8th of September at the Marne. This is where the battalion suffered its first fatal casualties.
The most recently enlisted soldier to go with this first contingent, whose date of enlistment is known, joined on the 27th of June, 1914, only 6 weeks before departure.
There were 4 large reinforcement drafts made up almost exclusively of reservists and special reservists consisting of 32 further officers and 722 other ranks.
1st Btn 1914 Star - 1939 awarded – 777 dead - 40%
Officers – 65
Deceased – 31 (48%)
Year - deaths - % of total dead
1914 – 22 (71%)
1915 – 5 (16%)
1916 – 2 (7%)
1917 – 0
1918 – 1 (3%)
1919 – 0
1920 – 0
1921 – 1 (3%)
Other Ranks - 1874
Deceased – 746 (40%)
Year - deaths - % of dead
1914 – 352 - (47%)
1915 – 246 - (33%)
1916 – 70 - (9%)
1917 – 30 - (4%)
1918 – 42 - (6%)
1919 – 5 - (0.6%)
1920 – 1 - (0.1%)
The 2nd Btn arrived from India, landing at Boulogne, on the 12th of October, 1914. Almost all depot reinforcements were fed into the 1st battalion, only a few, other than those who arrived from India, are on the roll.
The 2nd btn missed out on the open warfare of 1914, but once in the line at the end of October, they did suffer considerable casualties throughout November and December, the flooded shallow trenches providing little protection.
2nd Btn 1914 Star - 944 awarded – 379 dead - 40%
Officers - 21
Deceased – 13 (62%)
Year - deaths - % of dead
1914 – 1 (7%)
1915 – 7 (54%)
1916 – 4 (32%)
1917 – 1 (7%)
Other Ranks - 923
Deceased – 366 (40%)
Year - deaths - % of dead
1914 – 57 - (15%)
1915 – 182 - (50%)
1916 – 84 - (23%)
1917 – 18 - (5%)
1918 – 20 - (5%)
1919 – 5 - (1%)
1920 - 4 - (1%)
The Territorials of the 5th (Angus & Dundee) Black Watch left for France on the 1st of November 1914, landing at Le Havre in the early hours of the 2nd.
It wasn't until the 17th they were engaged in trench digging work, about a mile behind the firing line. In letters home they complained of the lack of excitement of the work!
The first casualties occurred in early December, by which time they were engaged in night time trench digging parties, under Royal Engineer instruction, at the front.
5th Btn 1914 Star – 816 awarded – 166 dead (20%)
Officers - 29
Deceased – 3 (10%)
1915 - 1 - (33%)
1916 - 2 - (66%)
other ranks. - 787
Deceased – 163 (21%)
1914 - 5 - (3%)
1915 - 61 - (37%)
1916 - 46 - (28%)
1917 - 28 - (17%)
1918 - 25 - (15%)
1919 - 1 - (1%)
1914-15 Star (other ranks only)
The numbers (so far) show that for 7,000 entries - Dead = 2,787 - 39.8%
It's interesting to see the lethality of service throughout the war for 1914-15 star men is the same as that of the 1914 star men (the 5th btn aside). This however may be a skewed figure, as many slightly wounded, but medically downgraded men, would be transferred to support arms such as the Labour Corps or Army Service Corps and be listed upon their 1914-15 star medal roll, these have yet to be included.
Approximately 11,500 men may be listed in the 1914-15 star roll for the Black Watch. This will include those who initially served abroad with the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, (4th/5th), 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 13th and 14th Battalions. Unfortunately does not include an unknown number who initially served with the regiment before transferring out, who are now subsequently listed upon their later regiments roll.
* 4 men who went abroad in 1914, qualifying for the 1914-15, but not the 1914 star, died before the end of 1914.
* There are two men, in different battalions, with the same name, rank, army number and embarkation date.
While Perth and Perthshire are the historical home of the regiment, there's no doubt Dundee was the beating heart of the Black Watch. Men born or residing in the city make up by far the largest contingent, across all regular and service battalions.
(Once all the 1914-15 star roll is transcribed and researched, with as many as possible of the transferred out men on other regiments rolls added, then more statistics can be looked at. I may add more analysis on the 1914 star men at a later date also)