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for the GWF team
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James Campbell Honeyman, from Leven in Fife, enlisted into the Black Watch on the 11th of November, 1903 at the age of 18. By the time the war broke out he was a Sergeant and stationed in India with the 2nd battalion.
He lost his life on the 8th of October 1915, leaving behind his wife Catherine Ann and their three children who were living in Glasgow. Tragically Catherine Ann was to die the next year, her brother John McDonald and wife Kate took in her orphaned children.
Sunday Post 29th November 1914
My Adventures in the Firing Line
Big Surprise for Men on Indian Transports
Says Highlander in Remarkable Diary of the War
“It was a wonderful sight to see those Indian transports on the ocean – 52 in all, including the naval escort – and likewise a remarkable manifestation of Britain's command of the sea.”
So writes Pioneer-Sergeant J.C. Honeyman, of the 2nd Black Watch, one of the wounded soldiers in Dundee Eastern Hospital. Sergeant Honeyman is a native of Leven, and for eight years had been with his regiment in India ere going to the front.
His diary of the war, written in the trenches, with shells and bombs bursting all around, is a document of considerable interest, and the following extracts which we have been permitted to make form a thrilling narrative of recent fighting, and furnish many interesting sidelights on matters which do not readily come to the ears of the public.
Sergeant Honeyman's voyage from India lasted twenty-six days. The men on two of the transports, he writes, got a big surprise, for when they were several days out these ships left the others to proceed apparently to German East Africa. Of course no on knew where we were going except some of the head ones.
The voyage to Marseilles was a fairly pleasant one. While in this beautiful French city one of our men died in hospital, so my company had to parade to the funeral. The French women came up to the graveside and placed about twenty wreaths theron. The service was a very solemn one, and the French women wept as they heard the pipers play “”Lochaber No More”.
Within Sound of the Guns
When we first came within sound of the guns we were at a village called Robeck, billeted in a school. We could hear the cannonading going on around Lille, and we saw lots of aeroplanes flying about. There is a scarcity of people about here; everybody seems to have shifted down the country.
About eleven o'clock in the night of the 28th October we received orders that we were to move off the next morning early. At about 5.30 am we moved off from Robeck, and marched along the canal to Bethune, and then from Bethune to Gorre, where a big battle was raging. The shells were bursting over our heads. I never heard the like before.
In the evening we moved off to the trenches, a distance of three miles. Everyone was excited at the idea of getting to the trenches. We were to relieve the West Ridings, who had been in the trenches for fifteen days, and wanted a rest badly. We had to wait until it was dark, for we had some open ground to go over, and to make things worse the ran was coming down very heavily.
As soon as we got into the village the Germans seemed to know that we were sending more troops to the trenches, for they started to fire on u, and our troops, who were covering our advance, and our artillery were firing for all they were worth. We managed to get into the trenches about 11 pm, and we found we had only three men wounded. It was bad luck for them, for they had never fired a shot nor even seen a German before they were carried off the field.
While the battle was raging our troops took things quite easily. You would think it was a sham fight to see them.
In the Wake of the Vandals
The headquarters of the signallers and pioneers is a village called Le Pont de Pier, just 700 yards behind the firing line, and I may say we are being shelled. The houses are all in ruins. We are staying in a shop. There are big gardens here with all kinds of vegetables growing, and we are taking them to make our dinner. When the inhabitants come back to their village after the war they will weep when they see their homes ruined and all their belongings destroyed. The Germans had this village destroyed when they took it, but our troops have driven them back, and we are occupying the houses and shops that are left.
My pioneers have a very dangerous job to do here. We have to carry the ammunition to the firing line whenever it gets dark, but the moon is shining now, and last night we had a terrible time, the enemy opening a tremendous fire upon us. One may be walking on the road here when he may get shot down, for the Germans have sharp-shooters up all the trees.
The Ghurkas lost heavily to-day. The enemy got through the French lines, and the Ghurkas and the Sikhs rushed at them with their knives and cut them down, preventing the French trenches being taken, but they lost nearly 200 men. It was pitiful to see them running about with their knives in their hands wanting to get at the enemy.
The Chief War Lord at the Front
The Kaiser is coming out to-day (2d Nov.) to encourage his army, so we shall see what improvements he will make. The Germans seem to be retiring a bit, but we can't tell whether they have many casualties or not, and we still hold our own trenches.
The German guns are doing little or no damage. We are still bust entrenching around this village. The snipers are a bit of a nuisance. They are all around the place, and it is difficult to locate them. They tie themselves up in trees for fear of falling when they go to sleep, but where they get their supplies from we cannot find out.
We were sent along to reinforce the 58th Rifles, and arrived at a village called Festubert. It was a shameful sight. Every house was in ruins, a bug church had been burned down, and the goods from all kinds of shops were scattered all over the place. Our companies moved off to the trenches, where a big battle was raging, but the Pioneers were left behind with the reserve ammunition and rations.
Our troops have been some six days in the trenches, and never have had much of a rest. The enemy are throwing grenades, a very dangerous bomb, and our lads had no chance with them. They burst in the trenches and cause some damage, but I believe we are getting the same kind of bombs sent to us, so we can play the Germans at their own game.
A Gallant Charge
This is an awful time to be so long in the trenches, unable to get out and have a stand up fight. The Leicesters have captured three machine guns to-day. Captain Forrester left here at midnight with 20 men to charge a small advanced trench of the Germans. They crawled on their stomachs to within five yards of the Germans' trench and made a charge. Captain Forrester was shot straight away, but his wound is not too bad, and he will be back in two months' time. The sergeant also got a slight wound, but the remainder of the bayonet charge, and they lost nearly 20 men in the rush to get out.
On the morning of 10th November I was sent out to make a small hut for our C.O. And adjutant, as we were to retire from the front trenches, which were nothing but a death-trap for our troops, for the German bombs come right into the trenches, and sometimes do a lot of damage.
Our adjutant was wounded to-night by jumping into a trench on to the top of a bayonet, but it was a clean wound. This is a very unfortunate, as he is the fourth captain we have lost by wounds, and they are not likely to join again for a month or two.
When I completed my work on the hut I returned to the village of Festubert, where with other Pioneers I arranged to sen..... , out to the troops. This work was being carried out about 4 pm in the afternoon (11th November), when I looked up the street and saw two of my pioneers being led down covered with blood.
Havoc Wrought by Shells
They had been filling water cans at the well when a shell came over and burst right above them, I ran up the street to assist one of them, and led him into the house where we could get him dressed. I handed him over to the doctor who happened to be there at the time, and I walked out again to continue the filling of the bottles. I heard a horrible noise just behind me, and then I felt a terrible pain in my right leg.
I looked round, and what met my eyes was awful to describe. Eight or nine men were lying all over the place, but my own leg was paining me so much that I could hardly tell what was happening. I hopped into the house again and emerged from it on a stretcher. Of our staff one man was killed and six wounded with that same shell.
Sergeant Honeyman from the base hospitals was sent to Boulogne, where he chafed exceedingly at the thought that he was so near Scotland, and yet could not cross the water like the other wounded lads who were leaving every other day. “I never felt so home-sick in all my eight years in India.” he confesses. “I suppose it was because I was so far away and I knew that I could not get home easily.” But everything comes to him who waits, and it was joyful day in the gallant sergeant's experience when he went aboard the hospital ship bound for “the old countree.”
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When the Great War began, radio was not used for civilian broadcasts, film reels were silent, and sound recording devices were too cumbersome to take into the field. As far as I have been able to find out, only one audio recording from the battlefield was ever made: “Gas Shell Bombardment” by William Gaisberg in 1918.
However, the authenticity of the Gaisberg recording has been debated for decades. It is now thought to be the result of careful engineering rather than a spontaneous moment of action in the trenches. (Nevertheless, at least one veteran of the war found it highly convincing.) Of course, other sound recordings from the era do exist. They allow us to experience war-adjacent events such as military funerals, speeches, as well as popular songs of the day. Phonographic re-enactments of battles, which had debuted at the end of the nineteenth century, gained more popularity during the Great War; a German account of the battle of Liège in 1915, complete with trumpets, drums, marching, and narration, can be heard here (scroll about halfway down the page; the rest of the article is well worth reading too).
There is another, perhaps counterintuitive, source for the sounds of the battlefield: letters. Writing home to their families, German soldiers attempted to render the war with as much detail and realism as possible. So doing, they recreated on paper the sounds of machine guns, rifle shots, artillery shells, explosions, and sea battles. For the most part, these men were not professional journalists or writers. Some of them veered into purple prose; others had a lighter touch. Yet no matter their authorial prowess, their letters, drawn here from German newspapers as well as the 1937 book Der Deutsche Soldat: Briefe aus dem Weltkrieg, provide a unique glimpse into the soundscape of the war.
While soldiers frequently mentioned the chaos of battle, this disarray and disorientation did not necessarily result in cacophony. In fact, they often compared the sounds of battle to music. “A hellish concert of artillery began. It was a crackling, howling, and roaring whose equal I have never heard in larger skirmishes and battles,” wrote one soldier. According to Paul Oskar Höcker, who later published a book about his wartime experiences, “It is an evil music…We hear it whistling close to our ears, banging on our helmets.” At the same time, however, it lacked the coordination of real music. “The concert sounds like war drums and kettle drums without rhythm or beat,” wrote Albert Sagewitz.
A soldier at Ypres in 1915 made war sound like a symphony. “Then another shot is fired, as if hesitating, and then a rattle breaks out, a gruesome drumming, and singing and rustling fill the air. … There, a new beat in the music of death: the cold, brutal tack-tack-tack of the machine gun.” It was “a hellish music,” agreed another. “One’s nerves begin to rebel…” A soldier at Dixmuiden described walking over corpses and wounded— “and among all this misery, the sharp, whip-like cracking of the guns, the singing and whistling of the bullets.”
“The bullets sang eerily in the night,” he continued. The precise melody of that song, as it were, depended on who transcribed it. To that soldier at Dixmuiden, it sounded like “Päng — päng — päng!” To a one-year army volunteer at Fromelles, it was more of a “Pjjt, pjjt” but he was so tired that “exhaustion allowed us no fear.” Others thought that gunfire sounded like “pitsch — pitsch — pitsch!” A soldier from Görlitz described it as “simm-simm” and added that the sound “no longer excites us; it only gets dangerous when the shrapnel and shells are howling.”
These simulacra of gunfire can sound almost like child’s play. “All of a sudden: paff, paff — piu, piu — rurr — piuuuh! These were the first greetings of the French infantry,” wrote a soldier from the trenches. In the late 1920s, Bernhard von Fumetti used much of the same aural vocabulary in his wartime history of the Fusilier Regiment №80. In the regiment’s first battle of the war, they were surrounded by “whistles and hisses, bangs and cracks, piu-piu — clack-clack, in front of us, from all sides, and from the trees.”
French machine guns, according to one soldier, went “bätsch — bätsch — bätsch. Those broken things fire quite slowly; when ours started up batsch-batsch-batsch without stopping, we heard not a peep from the other side.” More commonly, however, machine guns made a tack-tack-tack sound. A soldier at Hartmannweilerkopf in the Vosges wrote, “Our machine guns began firing at once, their frantic tack-tack mingling with the crack of our mines and mortars.” Sometimes the sharpness of the tack was softened to dack: “Even when our shells exploded directly in front of and in the enemy trenches, the dack, dack, dack of the French machine guns could be heard like a mockery.”
In the movie "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930), one can recognise many of the sounds described by soldiers in their letters.
The firing of heavy shots made a deeper, more sustained sound than a machine gun. “It’s like a factory here,” wrote a soldier, “in which the Kaiserglocken (cannon) rings constantly late into the night: ‘wumm, wumm, wumm!’” (The parenthetical reference appears in the original text. The Kaiserglocken was at that time the largest bell of Cologne cathedral.) At least one sailor heard the same sound at sea. “Now we see the bright gray wall of the ship’s side there — schsch — wumps; the shot has been fired.”
Once launched on their trajectory, artillery shells whined or wailed before they fell. “Sssss,” “sssssst” and “piiih” all resulted in a “bumm.” As one letter-writer put it: “Piiih — bumm — krach — the shells! …It’s a wonder that one doesn’t go crazy. …Don’t laugh; you have no idea what we endure here!” Other letters seem more blasé. “We let the shells rush over our heads. Hey, what ‘lovely’ music it is. Blummsss — si — su — — krach. A huge cloud of dust in the distance.”
Besides “bumm” and “krach,” things also exploded with a “bautz” or “bauz.” A particularly violent or unexpected explosion might occasion extra descriptive terms. A Pomeranian medic and his team had driven “about 7 kilometers in a rain of bullets and upon entering a ravine in the woods, bautz, bums, a shell hits the car, the driver is dead.” A German submarine captain reported similar sounds at sea. First came the rumble of the Russian guns: “Rum. Rums, one heard from shore…I gave the command to dive, schschschscht…bautz, there it was, two 40-meter-high columns of water, 50 meters next to the submarine.”
Heavy artillery drew comparisons to thunder both on land and at sea. “At 3.58 in the morning, two ‘packages’…exploded 500 meters behind us, rolling like thunder— ‘ramm, ramm.’ We call the large projectiles of heavy artillery ‘packages,’” explained the same soldier who had compared cannon fire to the Kaiserglocken. A sailor heading homewards after a night battle “stood on deck for a long time, staring into the spray from the propeller, dreaming of the stars. When I went on watch after a few hours, the sky was cloudy again, the night sultry — cannon shots thundered in the distance.” A soldier fighting in the Forest of Argonne also drew comparisons to a storm. “The muffled thunder of heavy artillery rolls in the distance. An eerily beautiful picture, but one that requires a great deal of self-control, courage and energy from those involved.” A teacher from Nassau in central Germany seemed to find it less taxing: “The hissing, whistling, crashing and thundering of the artillery…no longer bother us.” And watching recruits shoot captured Russian artillery and machine guns on the Eastern Front, another soldier observed that “one is already accustomed…to the constant Bum-viu-u-u-u-krach rrrrr, as well as the zooming of airplanes, both friend and foe, overhead.”
When those planes opened fire, their guns exploded with noise. “Bub, bub, bub; what’s that?” wrote Albert Sagewitz. “Then it’s next to us: rat, rat, rat. An enemy plane. The fog is thick; it’s hardly visible. Yet its machine gun with its bub, bub, bub still sounds above us.” The German machine guns answered soon enough: “tak, tak, tak.”
Sometimes these renderings of different sounds were not associated with any particular weapon. Instead soldiers combined all of them to create a general impression of the war. Paul Oskar Höcker depicted a battle near Lille thusly: “Sst — sst — — tuhiet — — — bumm, bauz, tscha . . . tacktacktacktack.” Others deployed these words in short bursts. “Hui! — Hui! — Hui!” wrote an officer about a forest battle in Belgium. “Branches crack…and between the trees, shrapnel sings its eerie song.” Later, as he and his men advanced further into the woods, “there is singing about our ears, first quiet, then ever louder — ssss — siih — — pitsch!” Some writers used these onomatopoeias to break up the flow of their greater narrative, the staccato interpolations echoing the chaos on the battlefield. A soldier from the 81st Infantry Regiment gave this account of his very first battle, at Bertrix in 1914: “‘Onwards, hurrah!’ — Bumm…! The shock waves toss someone against a tree. I’m on the ground. ‘Hurrah! Get up, go on!’ — Bumm. This time I’m hit.” A few minutes later, “Bumm, bumm! Klaaatsch!…Shell after shell falls left and right, before and behind me…Ssssss — aha. Machine gun fire whizzes overhead.”
Because of the constant noise during battle, silence in this context took on a new significance. It often contained an element of anticipation, such as in this description by Fritz Frasch in a letter from the Eastern Front in 1916: “Grenades hiss over the dugout. A terrible crash. — The volley was too far…Quiet again! But it’s just the calm before the storm!” Also on the Western Front, soldiers came to associate silence with an impending attack. “Now and then a stray bullet whistles over our heads, but otherwise there is silence, an almost eerie calm. In such dead silence, something is usually wrong over there with the enemy, and we are already prepared for unpleasant things.” Among those ‘unpleasant things’ were artillery shells. “You can hear them arriving from afar like an evil songbird, closer and closer,” recounted one soldier. They remained audible only until a certain point. “In the vicinity of the listener it goes quiet [and] everyone asks himself: where will it end up?” Earlier in the war, Paul Schwarzenberg drew an even more explicit connection between silence and death. After an artillery shell exploded in a forest clearing, he described the scene: “horribly mangled human bodies, illuminated by pale moonlight — and above all the uncanny calm, the rigidity of death.”
Music often accompanied soldiers into battle; fighting in silence could unnerve them. Without the accompaniment of drums, trumpets, and war cries, the battlefield became an uncanny and sinister place. “My hair still stands on end remembering the horrors of this night skirmish,” wrote a soldier on the Western Front. “No loud ‘Hurrah,’ no noisy drum rolls, no encouraging trumpet calls — we fought in silence everywhere. It was as if a ghostly battle had begun; men of flesh and blood do not fight like this.” His fear was not inexplicable or even irrational: to make no noise and to hear nothing were two hallmarks of the dead. Indeed, in German as in English, the link between silence and death manifests itself in the expressions “Todesstille” and “Grabesstille” — “deathly silence” and "as still as the grave."
A soldier’s family and friends came to fear a different kind of silence: the lack of correspondence, especially after a battle in which the soldier had been known to participate. August Kern’s family believed that he was dead after the Japanese defeated the Germans at Tsingtau. No letters arrived to suggest otherwise — until Christmas, when they suddenly received a postcard from their son, who was in good health at a POW camp in Japan. If such good news failed to materialise, families sometimes placed newspaper ads seeking information about a soldier’s fate. Emil Rennert was “wounded in Magneville Forest on 8 or 9 September, and since then nothing has been heard from him.” Rudolf Immel went missing a day later “on the Marne Canal, and since then no news is to be had.” As their families had likely suspected, this silence was indicative of their deaths.
The noise of war finally ceased on 11 November 1918. Using seismic wave data from a “sound ranging” unit that was originally used to track the location of enemy artillery, the Imperial War Museum and sound production company Coda Coda reconstructed the moment that the armistice took effect. At last, “krach” and “bumm” and “piu” all came to an end, and the ensuing silence no longer meant impending death, but life.
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Tilloy British Cemetery, Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines. Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines was taken by Commonwealth troops on 9 April 1917, but it was partly in German hands again from March to August 1918. The cemetery was begun in April 1917 by fighting units and burial officers, and Rows A to H in Plot I largely represent burials from the battlefield. The remaining graves in Plot I, and others in the first three rows of Plot II, represent later fighting in 1917 and the first three months of 1918, and the clearing of the village in August 1918. These 390 original burials were increased after the Armistice when graves were brought in from a wide area east of Arras and from smaller burial grounds. The cemetery now contains 1,642 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the Great War, 611 of the burials are unidentified, but there are special memorials to 14 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials commemorate 11 men of the 6th Bn. K.O.S.B., buried in Tees Trench Cemetery No.2, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
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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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Continuing the diary of Corporal John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps.
Came into hospital with “special” flu a week ago, 23rd. Damnable. If this is typical of hospitals out here, Florence Nightingale never finished her job. I have seen disinfectant once. I have had my medicine half the times ordered. I have slept on the floor all the time in verminous and dirty blankets. There is no ventilation at night & it stinks. People play horribly on pianos outside your door. The latrine arrangements are foul & frightfully inadequate & there is no water at night to wet your parched tongue. Can’t think of any more horrors at the moment. And yet I am feeling better. God knows why!
Left hospital, God be thanked. When shall I get free of vermin!
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I have put together a digital talk for the Petersfield Museum to mark 100 years since the death of Lt-Col Gerard Leachman on August 12th.
Available free on YouTube for one night only, but you will need to register via the museum website. Lots of photographs and maybe some controversial viewpoints. 😀
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Any one seen a library card for CEF troops WWI that reads University of Vimy Ridge ~ somewhere in France this was used to educate Canadian Troops while engaged in combat.
This is most interesting however there is simply no data that I have seen ~ although these library cards did exist
More info is required on this unknown subject
Le Treport Miscellaneous depots and camps
No 3 General Hospital (opened Dec 1914).
No 16 General Hospital (opened Feb 1915).
No 2 Canadian General Hospital (opened Feb 1915).
No 3 Convalescent Depot (opened June 1915).
No 16 General Hospital (Isolation Division) (opened Dec 1915).
No 7 Canadian Hospital (opened 1916).
No 47 British General Hospital (opened 1916).
No 10 BRC Hospital
VAD Camp (opened May 1917)
RE Workshops & Stores (Mar 1915).
Horse Rest Camp (EU) (opened Mar 1917).
Horse Rest Camp (MERS) (opened 1917).
Tanks Camp (opened Sep 1917)
POW Camp (Pont et Marais) (opened 1917).
Army Ordnance Camp (Mers) (opened Oct 1917).
Rifle Range (opened 1918).
Chinese Labour Camp (Mers) (opened Jan 1918).
Chinese Labour Camp (Criel) (opened Jan 1918).
PoW Compound, Isolation Hospital (opened 1918).
PoW Compound (Le Treport) (opened 1918).
No 2 E F Canteens
No 2 YMCA Recreation Huts
No 1 YMCA Cinema
No 1 Canadian RCS Recreation Hut
No 1 Salvation Army Hut
No 1 BRCS Recreation Hut
No 1 Church Army Hut
No 1 RC Church Hut
No 4 Base Supply Depot (MT)
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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
Looking for a reference book on Australian nurses in WW1? I recommend this book
'More than Bombs and Bandages - Australian Army nurses at work in World War I' (Big Sky, Newport NSW, 2011).
A review from a Queensland RN, Rev’d Dr Barbara Oudt:
What I enjoyed most about Dr Kirsty Harris’s book is her ability to reflect those nurses voices in a way that was so real – one could be there, the settings were so well understood from her research and the language kind of made a time warp in the reading. Very satisfying. As you know I have that Peter Rees book, but I could not get into it after reading the historical one. It was like comparing a great documentary to Face Book trivia!!!
Available from all good book shops, online via the publisher at http://www.bigskypublishing.com.au/…/more-than-bombs-and-b…/, (at a very reasonable price for a hard back) or read or order for your local library.
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In December 1918 the Class Z system was introduced by the army. This system, which released huge numbers of men very quickly, created a reserve of soldiers who would be recalled quickly to the army if the armistice was to break down.
Many of the men who were discharged to the Class Z reserve had claims to pensions for disability - presumably an assessment was made that this disability would not prevent the man being useful to the army again in future.
The Class Z system lead to a new pension numbering format being used for these cases.
The reference under the Class Z system was in the format of Z / Corps or Regiment / Sequential Number of claim from Corps or Regiment / Surname Split.
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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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During the night of 30/31 July 1919, a relief column of 3rd Guides Infantry marched the 20+ miles from Parachinar to Sadda. Nearly 300 men strong, the column was based on B and D companies of 3rd Guides, supported by guns from 28th Mountain Battery and 40 additional mounted infantry from the Kurram Militia. The column was commanded by OC B Company Capt John Henry Jameson DSO.
The column reached Sadda on the morning of 31 July and, supported by machine guns from 22 Battery, went into action at around midday. Picquets were established on the high ground, the engine from the crashed Bristol Fighter was salvaged and the body of Lance Daffadar Miru Mian was recovered.
By the evening, reports indicated that the tribesmen were dispersing.
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A few have asked to be kept informed as to the publication of my diary, so here you are. It is available from Amazon as an ebook as well as in paperback format. It can be bought from Waterstones in Newcastle upon Tyne, Morpeth and Hexham, also at Cogito Books in Hexham or direct from email@example.com for £6.99 + p&p. It is available in the Newcastle City Library, The Newcastle University Library, and the Lit & Phil Library in Newcastle. So far it is being read in the US, Germany, Australia, Spain, and France. It has yet to have any major review, but all individual reviews by private individuals are very positive indeed. Many thanks for any interest shown to date and in the future.
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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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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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Obituary for my Grand Father Company Sergeant Major Fred Seaman No.5572, Of The 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards
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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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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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.
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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