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  • keithmroberts

    How NOT to use blogs

    By keithmroberts

    This area is not for queries but for ongoing blogs. if you want to ask for help, please go to the appropriate sub-forum in the main part of the GWF. You have been asked to make your first post in a specified location. Once you have done that, your query can be raised in the various sections of the forum. If you previously posted a request for help or information in this area, it is likely to be deleted at some point in the next few weeks or months. So if you have a reply, please make a note o

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    The WAAC formed in March 1917 and became QMAAC in April 1918.

    In 1953 Ethel St John Clarke wrote to the Editor of The Age:

    Sir, – It is of interest at this time to recall the former leadership given by Queen Mary to women’s pioneer work in the Army.
    During World War 1, when the national danger became grave, the War Office called for women to enrol for the auxiliary Army Services. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was accordingly formed. These “strange new women in khaki” excited comment, and were greeted by malicious rumors and often insulted in the streets of London.
    Queen Mary, having confidence in women’s power and willingness to help, no matter what the danger, inquired into the rumors. All were proved groundless.
    Queen Mary then became commander in chief of the corps, which became known as Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps. How proudly we put up our new badges surmounted by the Royal Crown.
    Respect now took the place of gibes, and help was generously offered to those administering this strange, and oftimes difficult, pioneer army of women.
    The corps prospered and grew in strength, with the result that 50,000 men were freed for service in the front line in France.
    When the war clouds were again gathering in 1937, Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, who served with distinction in Q.M.A.A.C., sought and obtained permission to train a band of women as officers.
    Consequently, when war was declared in 1939, the Auxiliary Territorial Service (A.T.S.) was formed at once, with a full strength of officers.
    Now the A.T.S. has been disbanded and replaced by the permanent Women’s Army, with its officers’ training school at Aldershot and its representative among Queen Elizabeth’s aides de camp.
    Queen Mary had the gratification of knowing that her confidence in a woman’s army was justified beyond the dreams of many.
    Yours, etc., ETHEL S. ST. JOHN CLARKE (Ex Unit Administrator, Q.M.A.A.C., Hawthorn).


    Excerpts from “THE WAACS” – HOW THEY ARE TRAINED (The Age, 3/12/1917):

    “ “The Waacs,” stand in a class by themselves. Their organisation is on strictly military lines. They have military uniforms, they live in “barracks,” and they are drilled and disciplined by their own officers. They are liable to be moved from place to place at a moment’s notice to meet the exigencies of the military machine, and are required to obey orders, under the usual pains and penalties attending to military disobedience.”
    “A typical “barracks” in England contains 600 to 1000 girls, with a middle-aged woman in charge as “administrator.” There is an orderly room, which is on much the same lines as any other military orderly room. The work of instructing and drilling the girls proceeds from week to week, and as drafts are sent to their stations in England, France or elsewhere, others arrive from head quarters. The sleeping quarters are ordinary barrack like rooms, each equipped with four iron army bedsteads. The frills and decorations associated with femininity are almost entirely absent, and everything has an austere, business-like, and almost war-like, appearance. A visitor to one of these “Waac” barracks quotes a “private” as saying, “We have to get used to doing without the beautiful things of this world, the same as the soldiers. We never know where we will be sent next, and as we are allowed to carry only a suit case it would not do to have any appurtenances.”

    “No barracks would be complete without a “mess.” Here the girls take their meals at long trestle tables, and are waited on by “orderlies.”
    “Then there is a barrack “square,” where the raw recruit is turned out a trained “Waac” soldier. The women and girls are not trained in these barracks for their different army vocations. They have all had special experience previously, and the training is therefore merely of a general physical and disciplinary character. After the preliminary training at the barracks they are sent to a military base, camp, hospital or elsewhere to do such work as they are fitted to do, subject to a not very rigorous military discipline. This work covers the whole range of occupations with which women have associated themselves in civil life, such as all classes of clerical work, the operating of sewing and other machines, tailoring, domestic work, checkers, packers, and storewomen, mechanics, motor drivers, etc.”


    Excerpts from letters and later writings of Nora Dickson, giving more idea of some of the workings of the W.A.A.C.:

    “The London depot, where approved recruits reported, was near Marble Arch, Hyde Park. Connaught Club, previous to being commandeered by the War Office, was a big residential for men. There one received one’s uniform and was taught drill, to form fours, form two deep, very necessary to know when being moved in groups from one centre to another.”
    Army forms required the names of at least two local residents who would answer confidentially questions about the applicant’s personal character and qualifications.
    “You could choose to join as a mobile or immobile (living at home) member, to serve in Britain only, or to serve anywhere either on home service or overseas. But all service was required for the duration of the war and six months after armistice.
    One could enrol in any definite category – clerical, transport, mechanical, household, telegraph, postal, or miscellaneous. The miscellaneous section included workers of every trade – tinsmiths, chainmakers, welders, tailors, carpenters, shoemakers. All were required to sign willingness to obey orders from superior officers.”

    “Each day drafts, now looking smart in their neat, well-pocketed khaki one-piece uniform, escorted by an officer, moved off to various camps throughout Great Britain. Later, similar depots were established at Edinburgh, Dublin, and Bristol.
    For those offering for service overseas, a depot, to which all recruits were sent direct, was placed at Hastings, but this was later replaced to Folkestone, opposite Boulogne.”

    “I have been sent down to Folkestone to take over the drilling for a few weeks. We have taken over the most gorgeous hotel here [Hotel Metropole]. It has 600 bedrooms, a huge ballroom, billiard-rooms and dining halls (seating 1000). Eventually we will have 1000 girls here; it is to be our overseas hostel. We expect 600 girls in on Tuesday, so am pretty busy arranging the drill halls.”

    “At the overseas depot at Folkstone there were four company commanders working under a head unit administrator. Each commander had to see that her recruits were trained in squad drill, were inoculated and vaccinated by the resident women doctors, and were supplied with necessary uniform and equipment.
    The catering was in the hands of a household administrator, generally a certificated domestic science graduate. A quarter-mistress attended to clothing, equipment, and transport. In this depot the daily average accommodation was nearly 1000 women.”
    “…….. drafts of about 80 moving off to France daily to units to where their services were requisitioned.”

    “Besides cooks and clerks we sent France bakers, motor drivers, cyclists (motor), storehouse-women, packers, telephonists, telegraphists, postwomen sorters, printers, tailors, shoemakers, acetylene welders, electricians, fitters, instrument repairers, tinsmiths, painters, carpenters, and later gardeners for the graves.”

    “At the bases in France all the baking was done by our Corps, and even the loading of the bread into the railway trucks backed into the bakehouses was done by the women – their uniform for working being khaki drill, short jackets, and trousers.”

    “At the establishment of a training centre for cooks and officers at Plumstead Heath, near London, I was posted there as Administrator.
    We trained nearly 20,000 cooks, waitresses, and officers. Cooks recruited from all types of homes were taught how to cook in holes in the ground, in the open air, in Aldershot ovens, and on girdles, for travelling troops; in big camp kitchens, with stoves of all kinds, in small and large messes.
    The training was done by Domestic Science teachers enrolled as officers.
    About 100 trained cooks and waitresses were dispersed each week to camps, the training covering about four weeks.”

    Officer training: “Our daily training followed these lines. Early morning squad drill was taught to enable officers to move squads in orderly and quick manner from one centre to another.
    Each officer had to pass a test in giving necessary orders.
    Morning and afternoon was taken up with lectures given by Guardsmen officers on W.A.A.C. regulations, the use of regular army forms used for requisitioning cash, stores, transport, on the method of making returns of pay sheets, on 28-day diet sheets, on answering correspondence, and ensuring full equipment and food to all members under the care of an administrator.
    At night we had lectures from the W.A.A.C. officers in the hostel on household matters.
    Those passing tests, after 14 days, were sent in pairs to depot camps for practical training. There we actually worked as officers in orderly rooms, learning army routine, the use of daily orders, which detailed the movement of troops and officers, thus altering the daily requisitioning of food and cash requirements.”


    Australian Women who served in the WAAC / QMAAC:

    *BAGE, Ethel Mary – Worker 34635 [Born 20/8/1884 St Kilda, Vic]
    *BIRT, "Jean" Jane Sarah McDonald – Unit Administrator [Born 9/2/1872 Wentworth, NSW]
    BOURNE, Eleanor Elizabeth – Doctor [Born 4/12/1878 Sth Brisbane, Qld]
    CHAPPLE, Phoebe (MM) – Doctor [Born 31/3/1879 Adelaide, SA]
    *CLARKE, Ethel Stowe St John – Administrator [Born 7/10/1880 Richmond, Vic]
    DAVID, Mary Edgeworth – Motor Driver [Born 4/5/1888 Ashfield, NSW]
    *DICKSON, Honorah Laing (Nora) – Assistant Administrator [Born 26/9/1886 Balmain, NSW]
    FLETCHER, Edith Grace – Unit Administrator [Born 20/7/1878 Sydney, NSW. Sister of N.K. Fletcher, BRC]
    GRYLLS, Florence May – Assistant Administrator [Born 20/6/1885 Durham Lead, Vic]
    HAMILTON, Margaret Daisy Inglis – Worker 782 [Born 1893 Mildura, Vic]
    JAMES, Elizabeth Britomarte (OBE) – Administrator [Born 1/6/1867 Durham Lead, Vic]
    LLOYD-KIRK, Winifred May – Worker 3909 [Born 29/11/1894 Brunswick, Vic]
    LOWRY, Lillian Clara Emily Childs (Mrs) – Assistant Administrator [Born 27/7/1884 Qld]
    MacGREGOR, Mary – Forewoman Cook [Born 25/11/1879 Vic]

    *BALCOMBE, Netta (Mrs) – Assistant Administrator [Married 19/7/1910 Qld] DOBSON, Clara (Mrs Hurren) – Forewoman 23719 [Came to Australia in 1912]
    McDONALD, Jean Kerr – enrolled 19/7/1918 as a Forewoman Postal Sorter, but was discharged by request of AIF HQ to perform similar service with them [Born 4/10/1886 Parkville, Vic. Sister of I K McDonald, AANS]
    NEALE, Clara (MBE) – Unit Administrator
    RILEY, Margaret – N.C.O. [Born 1890 England – came to Australia 1895]


    Born in Australia – but emigrated to UK as children:
    CAMPBELL, Morag MacNaish – Forewoman Clerk 46175 [Born 26/2/1888 Sydney, NSW]
    DAKIN, Marie Evelyn – Worker 4455 [Born 14/11/1892 Balmain, NSW]
    HARRISS, Annie – Worker 2019 [Born 14/3/1896] KING, Gwladys – Clerk 464 [Born 17/11/1897 Townsville, Qld] – living UK by 1911
    ROSS, Clementine – Cook 32696 [Born 14/9/1989 Brisbane, Qld]
    ROWE, Matilda Annie – Clerk 39324 [Born 15/5/1891 Leith, Tas]
    SEWELL, Barbara – Hostel Forewoman 49120 [Born 18/12/1897 Armidale, NSW]

    Raised in South Africa:
    HARRIS, Annie Lavina (Mrs) – Cook 39164 [Born 1/9/1895 Launceston, Tas]


    British WAACs who came to Australia after the war (Immigration Scheme):

    #BOGLE, Mary Alice – Worker 36354 (Waitress)
    [AWM have her British War Medal (also received Victory Medal)]
    Born 8/10/1882 Brunswick, London. Served in a Theatre of War 7/5/1918 to 20/10/1919 (France)
    Came to Australia on the Themistocles, embarking 2/7/1920 (no relatives in Australia)

    #DAVISON, Beatrice – Worker 860 (Clerk)
    [AWM hold her paybook - attached Clerical Dept, 3rd Echelon GHQ, Rouen, France]
    The Mail (Adelaide, SA), Sat 20 Feb 1937 (p.18):
    A Woman Behind the Lines

    #GAUNT, Emmy – Worker 776
    AWM hold her medals – with short Bio:
    Born c1889. Served in a Theatre of War 1/6/1917 to 19/12/1919 (France). Came to Aus (Sydney) on the Berrima departing UK 28/12/1922, (33yr old Typist) [7 Christ Church Rd, Upper Armley, Leeds] Hon Sec of the Overseas Women's Ex-Service Legion (Qld) 1939. Stenographer Townsville 1943

    #HURMAN, Mina (Nina) May – Worker 14079
    AWM have her Medals
    Born Jun Qtr 1891 Totnes, Devon, England - daughter of Thomas Smerdon and Charity Florence. Served in a Theatre of War 17/12/1917 to 5/12/1919. Came to Aus on the Bendigo, departing UK 14/5/1925 (34yr old Companion). [Whittington Crt, Andoversford, Glos] Governess, Moonee Ponds 1931. Married Alfred E PARKER 1936 Perth. Died 15/10/1951, age 60 Peppermint Grove, WA - crem Karrakatta Cem.

    LAMMING, Alice M (Mrs Harold)
    Alice Jeffcott, 34 yr old Domestic, came to Australia (Adelaide) on the Hobsons Bay, departing UK 28/2/1922
    Alice Maude Jeffcott married Harold Frederick Lamming 3/11/1931 SA

    WHITEHEAD, Annie – Cook
    A 31 yr old Domestic, Annie Whitehead, came to Australia (Sydney) on the Themistocles, departing UK 2/7/1920 [same ship as WAAC Immigrant Mary Bogle]


    War Brides of Australian Soldiers:

    ANDREWS, Letitia (Mrs J.F., nee ALLISON) – Worker 23390
    Came to Australia 5/1/1920 with her husband James Frederick ANDREWS (AIF)

    ARCHER, Morice (Mrs W, nee OGDEN) – Worker 36968
    Came to Australia 6/9/1919 with her husband William ARCHER (AIF)

    ARMSTRONG, Esther Sarah Mary (Mrs J.W., nee WARREN)
    Came to Australia post war, wife of James William ARMSTRONG (AIF)

    BASTIN, Kate (Mrs J.H.N., nee ROSS)
    Came to Australia 22/9/1919 with her husband John Harold Noden BASTIN (AIF)

    ELMS, Isabella (Mrs E.R.V., nee HARDING) – Worker 1822
    Came to Australia 6/9/1919 with her husband Eric Raymor Vivian ELMS (AIF)

    FROST, Mary Young (Mrs W.A.H., nee SMITH)
    Came to Australia 23/12/1919 with her husband Walter Arthur Henry FROST (AIF)

    *HOLLIS, Annie Elizabeth (Mrs H.W., nee MULLIGAN)
    Came to Australia 9/12/1919 with her husband Herbert William HOLLIS (AIF)

    HODGSON, Isabella (Mrs B.L.R., nee LUCAS) – Waitress (3AAH, Dartford)
    Came to Australia post war, wife of Baden Leslie Richard HODGSON (AIF)

    KEMP, Agnes Josephine (Mrs C.M., nee FLEMING) – Clerk 42695
    Came to Australia 16/6/1919 with her husband Clement Morton KEMP (AIF)

    McKENZIE, Beatrice Mary (Mrs H., nee TREMBETH) – Clerk 6064
    Came to Australia 8/8/1919 with her husband Hugh McKENZIE (AIF)

    McLOUGHLIN, Lilian (Mrs T.J., nee THOMAS) – (3AAH, Dartford)
    Came to Australia 18/12/1919 with her husband Thomas John

    ROGERSON, Ethel (Mrs S.J., nee BOYINGTON) – 19142
    Came to Australia 23/12/1919 with her husband Sterling John

    WHALE, Ruth Ella (Mrs L.G., nee THRASTHER)
    Came to Australia post war, wife of Leslie George (AIF)


    Note: The above was originally posted some years ago on the "Discovering Anzacs" website: https://www.naa.gov.au/help-your-research/discovering-anzacs - but owing to it being decommissioned I have copied it here for those who are interested in these ladies.  It also contained links to the "Discovering Anzacs" profiles of the five Australian ladies with an asterisk next to their name, which I can provide on request.

    Heather (Frev) Ford


  2. Frederick Henry Clark was born in 1881 in Lismore, New South Wales to James Clark [1851-1929] and Emma Edwards [1858-1919]; Frederick was the fourth eldest child out of 13 children! Of those 13, 7 were males and able to serve and of which all but 2 did - out of those 5, 1 was killed and a handful who were able served in the Boer War. It does appear that Frederick served in the Second Boer War, evidenced by pictures of him, but I have been unable to find a definite record of his actual service - but it is likely that he was either of the following;

    No.18 Cpl Frederick Henry Clarke of ‘C’ Company, New South Wales Bushmen under Captain K.M Wray.

    No.3281 Tpr Frederick Henry Clark of the 3rd New South Wales Bushmen

    Frederick was most probably 3281 Clark of the 3rd NSW Bushmen as the men from that particular contingent were awarded the Kings South Africa Medal as well as the Queens South Africa Medal, which Frederick bears in the Second World War - the former [C Coy NSW] only bore the Queens South Africa Medal. Either way, Clark was with the Lismore Rifles during the period of 1902-1913, as well as joining the local Rifle Club and Volunteer Corps for a short spell. As 1906 came along, so did his marriage to Amy Australia Zions in Sydney. Their first child was Amy Clark who was born and died in 1908; Harold Frederick Clark followed after Amy in August 1910, then Raymond Norman Arthur in April 1913. \By the time of Raymond’s birth in 1913, Clark was working as a builder. At the outbreak of the First World War, his brother Edward immediately enlisted. As time went on, his brother Charles would enlist in early 1915. Frederick was Mayor of Randwick in New South Wales and held a recruitment meeting in Randwick in March 1916, and leading by example he resigned as Mayorimage.png.1adef5e39bfae7725bf78defded60c29.png and enlisted himself!

    Records state he enlisted on March 20th, 1916 at the Showgrounds in Sydney, New South Wales [No.5334]. Having prior Boer War and Militia experience he was immediately sought out for promotion as an Acting Sergeant with the 13th Reinforcements for the 17th Battalion; he was later allotted to the 14th Reinforcements on May 1st. After another 3 months of training, Clark embarked with his draft on the A18 Wiltshire from Sydney on August 22nd, 1916. He disembarked in Plymouth on October 13th. That same day, Clark and his draft were marched into No.3 Command Depot on October 13th, then on November 5th his draft was sent to No.5 Training Battalion where his temporary rank of Sergeant was revoked. This demotion from T/Sgt to Private was short-lived as he was sent on an Infantry Course at Tidworth on November 20th where he was appointed to Temporary Corporal. On January 24th, 1917 Clark was promoted to substantive Corporal. He was with No.5 Training Battalion for a good portion of 1917 and only by July 23rd was he proceeding overseas to France. The following day, he was in Havre. By August 1st, he was with the 17th Battalion in France. On September 25th, Clark was appointed Sergeant after Sergeant Riddington was wounded on September 20th. On October 3rd, Frederick’s brother Lieutenant Edward Clark[e] of the 3rd Battalion was Killed in Action; Edward had served in the Boer War [lied about his age] and served as a police officer in-between the wars and was among the first to enlist in August 1914. On October 8th late at night, Clarke’s Battalion moved to a place called Poelcappelle near Broodseinde Ridge; all companies were on standby at 4:30am. At 5:20am, the barrage opened up on No-Mans land and the Companies followed behind. Captain MacKenzie and Captain Allen were wounded almost instantly and a subaltern was killed. As the Battalion reached a place called ‘Defy Crossing’ the companies on the left flank were taken by surprise and fired upon, but somehow the members from the two companies captured an odd 50 German Prisoners.


    Defy Crossing

    Despite this, the attack pushed on and after capturing Decline Copse, it was realized that British troops on the far left flank were yet to be seen. It was soon decided to hold Decline Copse, utilizing the 5 captured German machine guns. It is worth noting that most or indeed all officers of the battalion had become casualties, and they were all effectively under the command of a Sergeant Raitt who would be promoted to Company Sergeant Major the following day for his actions. image.png.e89d6f70df155f4ff44d011a58d2d011.pngAfter 4 hours, the 17th withdrew to Defy Crossing where they came into contact with the British troops on the left flank. Shortly afterwards, the 6th Brigade on the 17th Battalion’s right withdrew from their position and advanced the path that the 17th Battalion had cleared, only to be stopped by enemy fire. At 3am on October 10th, the 45th Battalion relieved the 17th after 22 hours in action. An entry on Clark’s record on October 9th shows that he was diagnosed with Shell-shock, an issue that was rather ignored by the public during that time period but in recent times has been recognized as post-traumatic stress disorder. It is unknown to what lengths his shell-shock was but it is known that a shell exploded and buried him and another landed dangerously near him killing others. Either way, he was reverted to Corporal and evacuated to blighty on October 27th. 3 days later, Clark was admitted to the 3rd General Hospital at Oxford whilst still listed as a Sergeant. After quite the spell in England, Clark embarked on March 30th, bound for Australia. On April 15th, 1918 Clark arrived back in Australia, away from the horrors in France. Exactly a month later on May 15th, Sergeant Frederick Henry Clark was discharged at 2nd M.D after 2 years of service.


    Frederick Clark embarked from Sydney on March 18th, 1919 on the Osterley [Orient Line ship] and arrived at his destination on April 30th; England. By the time he had arrived in England, Frederick stated that he was an architect but by 1925 he was in Battersea, Surrey as a Contractor and Timber Merchant. On April 14th, 1926 Frederick left Southampton on the Majestic, bound for New York; he lists his occupation as an Architect. On arrival to New York, he traveled to San Francisco then onto Suva, Fiji then onto Sydney on the AMS Sonoma. In 1931, his wife Amy gave a decree of ‘judicial separation’. In 1934, Frederick was living in Woolwich at the Falconwood Hotel with his son Raymond. On November 6th, 1935 Frederick left Southampton bound for New York. Records state that from New York, he intended to move to Australia but this does not appear to be so as he seems to have had a ‘defacto relationship’ with Florence Alice Henderson [1902-1982] and was back in the Falconwood Hotel in Woolwich by 1936. By 1939, he was in Kent, away from Woolwich. 

    Falconwood Hotel, the property that Clark owned.

    In the wake of the breaking of the Maginot Line, it was recognized that the Germans may possibly push the British out of France and thereafter invade England. The Allies were losing their foothold in Europe and had a portion of its army and allies in the Middle East. Any sort of home defense was in disarray - that is, ill-equipped and no proper chain of command. On May 14th, 1940 the Secretary of State for War Anthony Eden, a decorated veteran of the First World War made a speech over the wireless, he said the following;
    ‘Since the war began, the Government have received countless inquiries from all over the Kingdom from men of all ages who are for one reason or another not at present engaged in military service, and who wish to do something for the defence of their country. Well, now is your opportunity. We want large numbers of such men in Great Britain, who are British subjects, between the ages of seventeen and sixty-five, to come forward now and offer their services in order to make assurance doubly sure. The name of the new Force which is now to be raised will be 'The Local Defence Volunteers'. This name describes its duties in three words. It must be understood that this is, so to speak, a spare-time job, so there will be no need for any volunteer to abandon his present occupation. When on duty you will form part of the armed forces, and your period of service will be for the duration of the war. You will not be paid, but you will receive uniform and will be armed. You will be entrusted with certain vital duties for which reasonable fitness and a knowledge of firearms is necessary. These duties will not require you to live away from your homes.’

    The Real Dad's Army - WW2 Home Guard | Imperial War Museums
    Local Defence Volunteers; later Home Guard

    I am unsure when Clark [pictured] joined the Local Defence Volunteers [rather, LDV] as accurate records were not kept. Either way, by August 1940 the LDV was the Home Guard [changed July 22nd] and he was a member of the Addington Home Guard of the 4th ‘Chislehurst’ Battalion. It is generally thought that the Home Guard saw little to no action, as we know, the Germans never invaded nor sent any raiding parties - however, the 4th Battalion would see action! On August 18th, 1940, a platoon of 20 men under Captain Clark and his 2iC Lieutenant Miller [another First World War veteran] from the 4th Battalion sighted a low flying Dornier 17 bomber during a bombing raid on Biggin Hill flying at tree-top height. Lieutenant Miller recalled the following; “I gave the order to fire. We pumped 180 rounds towards the belly of the bomber. When it came down and the crew stepped out alive, they looked rather arrogant.” The question of who shot down the bomber has been an interesting but rather obvious question to answer. The pilot of the Dornier recalled he was under fire from defenses on the ground and a spitfire on his 6 o’clock; it is also stated in other accounts that ‘ack-ack’ guns were firing at the aircraft aswell. Either way, the hail of bullets from every direction led to the left wing catching fire, forcing the Dornier to make a hurried, yet adequate landing. In Captain Clarke’s own words from a British Pathe newsreel - ‘I am very proud.. to be the commander of this battalion, being the first of the Home Guard, to bring down an enemy machine in the defense of England'

    Captain Clark, 1940

    By 1944, it is assumed he was discharged from the Home Guard as he was appointed a Member of the British Empire whilst he was living at ‘Beechwood’ on Yester Road, Chislehurst for ‘his part in a scheme for providing part-time war-work in private houses’. An entry reads "Mr. Clark came to England from Australia 25 years ago, and served in the Boer war and Great War. He was captain of Sidcup Golf Club for some time. and is a member of Chislehurst Golf Club”. By 1945, Clark was a member of the British Legion - Australia’s equivalent to the Returned & Services League. In 1949, Clark was back in the land of the Kangaroo in Narrabeen in New South Wales, living with his ‘defacto wife’ Florence Henderson. However, by August 1950 Clark was working as an Architect at the RAF Club, Pall Mall in London. On October 6th, 1950 Clark was a First Class Passenger aboard the RMS Orcades bound for Sydney. He returned back to England shortly thereafter but was leaving England once more aboard the Strathnaver bound for Sydney once again on July 2nd, 1953. He was listed as Lieutenant Colonel F.H Clark. In 1954, he was a Company Director living at 25 Holbrook Avenue at Milson’s Point, North Sydney. His son, Raymond, a Royal Naval Volunteer Lieutenant during the war died in Woolwich on February 6th, 1956 aged 43. In 1958, Clark was at Kensett Avenue, Leura, New South Wales working as a Director for a Company. On April 15th, 1959 in Leura, Frederick Henry Clark MBE died at the age of 77.



    Frederick Clark was filmed in 1940 for a British Pathe Newsreel concerning the Dornier his unit had shot down by small-arms fire. He is shown wearing a DCM, QSA, KSA and the First World War Pair. He was listed as ‘Captain F.H Clark MBE, DCM’ by 1945. There is no evidence that he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal throughout his service.


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    Around six million men served in the British Army during the First World War. Over 800,000 lost their lives. The wounded, blinded, crippled and insane numbered over two million. Geoffrey Caiger-Watson, my daughter-in-law’s grandfather, was a twenty-year-old second lieutenant when he transferred to the First Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 25th October 1916. Andy Symington, my grandfather, was a twenty-four-year-old private who had survived four months on the Somme and had effectively seen it through to its stalemate conclusion. That they served in the same battalion defies probability. They fought together for two months until Geoffrey returned to England at the end of that year on sick leave. During these closing weeks of 1916, the First Battalion headcount was so depleted, they must have known each other. From then, the fates of these two warriors overlapped and intertwined. Geoffrey returned to the First Battalion on May 17th, 1917, too late to re-unite him with Andy who was on the Casualty List at the end of March, prior to his discharge in August. It is unlikely they ever met after that. Yet, over a century later, their lineages would converge in a miracle called Findlay.   

    Andy’s great grandson, Ronan James Ferguson, had married Geoffrey’s granddaughter, Stephanie, on Friday 13th July 2018, the Cupidian destination of a chance meeting on a train. Their first born, Findlay, was not a man to be rushed and duly entered the world on March 7th, 2022. In some celestial Elysium, a dashing lieutenant and a seasoned fighter would have been high fiveing! Wait, no…I see it clearer now…they are charging their glasses! They are toasting the Miracle of Life, uniquely dependent on them BOTH surviving the trenches. Had either of them succumbed, Findlay would not be. No matter how challenged your beliefs, there are occasions in life when one can sense the Hand of God.

    For now, let us turn our attention to Findlay’s maternal great grandfather. Geoffrey Caiger- Watson was a remarkable man. Absolutely remarkable. He was born in Brighton on May 13, 1896. After studying art and figure drawing at the Brighton School of Arts in 1912-13, he joined the Inland Revenue as a clerk. At the outbreak of war, he enrolled in the Sussex Yeomanry (a territorial unit) but was quickly identified and sent to the Inns of Court OTC (Officer Training Corps) for officer training. Hardly surprising, as Geoffrey had come from a family with a military tradition. His older brother, Aubrey, was a lieutenant (and eventually captain) in Russell’s Infantry, an Indian regiment where he spent six years before demobilisation in 1920. His grandfather, James Caiger- Watson, was born in 1828 in Athlone. As Athlone was a garrison town for the British army since its construction in 1691, it is highly likely that his father (Geoffrey’s great grandfather) was stationed there in the same Custume Barracks where almost one hundred years later, Captain Andy Symington would march into in 1922 on the creation of the Irish Free State.

     Geoffrey’s officer training saw him spend two months in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire with other potential officers where they would dig trenches on the Common (some of which are still visible to this day.) Geoffrey was one of the first of almost 12,000 recruits to pass through the Berkhamsted process: by 1918, over 2,000 were dead and almost half suffered serious wounds. Confirmed as a second lieutenant in late September 1915, which earned him a posting to France in early July 1916, he transferred to my grandfather’s First Battalion in late October. He joined a threadbare battalion, which had incurred brutal losses earlier that month.

    On the 12th, High Command ordered them over the top in a typically ill-considered assault on enemy strongholds between Le Transloy and Les Boeufs. Lacking any coherent planning, the operation was a monument to incompetence and cover up. Brigadier General A R Burrowes, who gave the order to attack, noted in his diary that there had been “considerable work in removing the wounded left from previous fighting”. He confirmed the arrangements were finally in place at 4am on the morning of the attack. No consideration was given to whether the men were ready for battle. The Regimental Diary also reveals that the attack order was only issued at 9.30pm. After a fine dinner, a good claret and a few whiskies, perchance? One can only conclude, in the light of what followed, that this was a rushed and reckless operation. At 2.05pm, the Faughs left the trenches simultaneously as the artillery launched a creeping barrage, both following the plan of High Command. The undisputed fact is that the infantrymen were decimated by their own shells. Added to that, the machine guns in the German front lines, which were supposed to have been taken out by an earlier bombardment, remained unscathed and ruthlessly operational.

    The results were devastating. One week earlier, battalion strength was recorded at 24 officers and 825 other ranks. On October 13th, only 5 officers and 209 other ranks remained. Of the four companies, “A” company had no officers and only 39 other ranks. That was all that was left. Yet Andy Symington still stood! Somehow, he had survived. This was the beleaguered crew that Geoffrey joined as they billeted in Corbie in the pouring rain of a miserable late October day. The mood will have been indescribably heavy, like the bedraggled in a waiting room for Hell.

    The cover up in the Battalion’s diary defies belief. The official line blamed the men! At 2.5pm, they had left the trenches “in great style”. Such was their enthusiasm to engage that they caught up with the creeping barrage, which inflicted losses!! This forced them to pause, and, in that delay, the Germans returned to their trenches with their machine guns. Three hundred and eighty-five casualties, but no fault of the generals.

    Fortunately for Geoffrey and Andy, November was a quiet month, spent mainly in training. It teemed with rain and turned cold towards the end of the month, a harbinger of the hard winter that followed. The Battle of the Somme was over. News coverage had moved on to the death of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary. Sept 25,1915

    We have referred elsewhere to the story of Andy lying injured in No-Mans-Land and owing his life to the order of a wounded officer that his stretcher bearers also pick up Symington–“he’s a good ‘un.” There is material to suggest that the officer was none other than Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Caiger- Watson!    

    Consider the evidence:

    1.     Both were in that wretched half mile of trench at the time in question;

    2.     Geoffrey suffered gunshot wounds around Dec 12th, which resulted in him being invalided to England for almost three months- confirmed by hospital records;

    3.        Battalion records show a total presence of six officers and 243 other ranks;

    4.     Geoffrey was one of six officers, but the fact that he was wounded (not killed or unharmed) reduces the subset further …to a subset of one??

    While it may not pass the legal test of reasonable doubt, I find it incredulous that what started out as a relationship between two men in an army of 6 million, has boiled down to two men in less than one handful. I again sense the Hand of God and return my thoughts to the miracle that is Findlay.

    Geoffrey returned to the Faughs on May 17, 1917, remaining with the battalion until the 9th of June 1918 when he took a post in the nascent Royal Air Force. Before he left, however, he won the Military Cross for gallantry in February 1918. Employed as an intelligence officer, his job was to report to High Command on the state and deployment of our troops. In the chaos of battle with communication lines destroyed, the only way to understand what was going on was to visit the remote trenches and look for yourself! This “intelligence gathering” was a highly precarious occupation. One could easily be shot by your own side or leap into a trench that had fallen to the Germans. As customary, the London Gazette published his citation for the Military Cross. It read:
    “2nd Lieut Geoffrey Caiger-Watson, R.Ir.Fus
    For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as an intelligence officer during operations. He carried out his duties with great success under the most difficult conditions. On one occasion, he went over the top under heavy machine gun fire to get into touch with isolated positions. His accurate reports and untiring energy were of the greatest value to the battalion.”

    On joining the Royal Air Force, Geoffrey undertook a series of training courses over a three-month period. He studied Aeronautics at Reading; Aerial Gunnery at Hythe and New Romney before graduating from Wireless and Observation school in Uxbridge and Winchester. Qualified as a RAF Observer (for the uninitiated, the observer is the guy in the back seat behind the pilot), his new role returned him to France in late September 1918, in the dying embers of the war. Seeing things out quietly was never in his script and at the very end of the war, he was involved in an incident caused by an error of judgement borne of inexperience. The incident almost cost him his life and killed his 18-year-old pilot.

    I am indebted to Monsieur Jacques de Ceuninck, a Belgian national, for providing me with the details and materials on the case we are about to relate. Mr de Ceuninck’s father-in-law was a seven-year-old boy who had a ringside seat as the action unfolded. It was about 10.30am on November 9th, 1918. World War One would end within two days.

    Geoffrey was flying in an RE8, a single-engine, two-seater plane with a top speed of 150 kmh. Developed for the Royal Flying Corps in 1916, this represented cutting-edge technology and offered considerable versatility: if the rear machine gun was removed, two 50kg bombs could be loaded in its place! His pilot was John George Leckenby, by all accounts a highly talented 18-year-old who had just come through aeronautic school “with flying colours”. Born in Hull but resident in Norwich, he was tipped to have a very bright future. The duties of an observer doubled up to include rear machine gunner and so it was that our crew decided to engage with a party of six German hussars on horseback, near the village of Escanaffles, northeast of Celles. Leckenby flew low over the farm of the Depoorter family to commence the engagement, allowing Geoffrey to fire a noisy opening salvo, etched forever in the memory of the seven-year-old witness. As they wheeled to re-engage, a wing clipped a tree, causing the plane to crash and burst into flames in a field across the road from the farmhouse. John Leckenby was killed instantly. A bright future snuffed like a candle. Geoffrey suffered a fractured skull, broken leg and was badly burned. He owed his life to a local couple, Michel and Lequenne Tonneau who bravely pulled him from the burning wreckage, despite the flames and the roar of exploding machine gun cartridges. Fortunately, the Hussars continued on their way without a backward glance. Sadly, they would all die the following day in another machine gun attack. The RE8 was completely destroyed in the inferno.

    There were no hospitals, doctors, nor medicine, so the Depoorter family could only take Geoffrey in and make him as comfortable as possible. Marie Depoorter, the 16-year-old daughter, gave a statement in which she recalled how handsome the injured airman was, with shining dark hair and white teeth. They found his wallet amid the strewn debris, which showed that he was due to be married. (In fact, Geoffrey had married Phyllis Rebecca Peters earlier that year while recuperating in Brighton). The Depoorter family gave Leckenby as decent a burial as they could, using a plank and draping the body in a tarpaulin. The family then cared for Geoffrey for two days until the British army came and picked him up, taking him back to their field hospital for much needed medication and treatment. John Leckenby’s body was exhumed the following year and re-buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in the cemetery at Escanaffles. By the thinnest of margins, Caiger-Watson lived, and Leckenby died, thanks to the bravery of the Tonneaux.

    Geoffrey was repatriated to England on December 7th, where he spent eighteen months recovering from his injuries. His spirit was indomitable and after a brief period in the Records Office at York (long enough to learn that such work was not for him), this adrenaline junkie joined the West African Frontier Force and so began a lifelong love affair with Africa. That period of his life is outside our scope, though worthy of a book and indeed a film on its own merits. Highlights include becoming fluent in Hausa (one of the major Nigerian languages) and several other African languages; marrying a Nigerian princess and receiving the OBE for services to Anglo- Nigerian relations in the New Years Honours List of 1978. At the outbreak of World War 2, aged forty-three, he signed up again and was posted as adjutant to the infantry training centre of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The training role was too sedentary for his metabolism and before the end of 1940, he had returned to Africa where he served as a captain in the Nigeria regiment. By any standards, in any era of history, Geoffrey Caiger- Watson was a remarkable human being, a force of nature. He died in Australia in 1983.

  3. The Draft

    This is the story of a group of seventy men who fought as Infantry in France during the First World War. Their experience is not exceptional, rather their journey echoes one that most young men had with the Infantry from 1916 onwards. They arrived together in France in early October 1916 as draft replacements, as most men after 1915 did, into a battle proven and bruised Infantry Battalion.  My great uncle was amongst them. At wars end some twenty-five months later less than a handful would remain. This is their story.   

    Most of the men came from the towns North of Manchester: Radcliffe, Oldham, Blackpool, Accrington, Burnley and such.  A number came from further afield such as Durham, Birmingham, Stoke, Cardiff or the suburbs of Manchester itself. In the main they were Lancashire men. They were labourers, farmers, mill workers, printers, miners, clerks, butchers, a school teacher and a solitary glass polisher.

    There is no comprehensive history for these men.  I have used their medal roll to identify and confirm them as a group.  Surviving service records, unit war diaries, pension cards, newspaper archives, casualty reports and wider research has been undertaken. There are still gaps. I have attempted to be factual with very little conjecture.   

    Their shared experience began with Infantry training at Press Health in Shropshire. This was initially with the 21st Reserve Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. Their journeys to basic training were mixed with many men being conscripted in May and June of 1916 and being sent the 21st directly.

    Many others had volunteered in December 1915 under the Derby Scheme and were mobilised at Preston in May 1916 into the Royal Field Artillery (RFA). A handful of North East England men were equally in the RFA but found their unit transferred to Preston alongside the others and into the 8th Reserve Battery, 2a Reserve Brigade. Other men found themselves conscripted into the RFA briefly. After a month or so the RFA men were sent en-masse on the 17th of June to the Lancashire Fusiliers for Infantry training, at the time the Army needed more infantrymen than gunners so there was little choice or science involved.

    For a few men their journey was different.  One man was a territorial solider who ended his period of engagement  but then was fairly rapidly returned to the colours via conscription. Other men had volunteered but in the end were conscripted straight into the 21st.   

    They were not necessarily all together or in the same training platoons at Press Heath but they would have been going through training at the same time.  When they arrived in Shropshire the battles of 1914 and 1915 were long past.  The original regular army was largely gone, the originals very few and the impact of the Battles of the Somme from July 1916 would be being realised whilst they sweated through their four months of Infantry training.

    A further re-organisation occurred on the 1st of September towards the end of their course when the Army re-organised all the Infantry training units. The bespoke regimental system was deemed too inefficient and more generic Training Reserve Battalions (TRBs) would now be formed.  Our men joined the 72nd TRB.  It’s likely they didn’t notice any difference.

    Pte Tom Cunliffe 27561 from Blackburn almost didn’t get accepted at all as he was just 5ft tall.  The Lancashire Fusiliers didn’t want him, but the Army insisted, and he stayed. Pte Robert Collier 27562 from Stockport kept going absent without leave with punishments of increasingly severity.  He was absent for 24 days over five occasions.  Why he kept receiving leave as he never seemed keen to come back on time remains unknown. Both would be dead in less than a year.

    On Friday 6th October 1916, training done, they left for France. On the Saturday they arrived at No 30 Infantry Base Depot (IBD) at Etaples.  This was the wrong Depot for men joining the Lancashire Fusiliers but the recent reorganisations in the Army meant the rules were changing.  At some point back in the UK  it had been decided that these men were needed in the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment and as such they would go to 30 IBD for kitting and preparation and not 23 IBD, the Lancashire Fusilier Depot.  For the first time these 70 men all certainly came together. This decision lasted all of a week before it was again decided that another Lancashire Regiment was in need; the 8th Battalion the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (KORLR) it was to be.  They were renumbered and sent to join their new regiment on the 14th of October, just another replacement Draft.   

    The 8th

    The 8th Battalion was formed in Lancaster in October 1914 and after training landed in France on the 26th and 27th of September 1915 with 859 officers and men. They formed one of the four infantry battalions in 76 Brigade which was under the command of firstly the 25th Division and from October 1915 the 3rd Division.  They were in the front lines from the start with regular low-level casualties between large offensive or defensive operations.  Their first significant losses occurred on the 2nd and 3rd of March 1916 at Loos. The Battalion had a strength of 814 on the 2nd of March before the battle; casualties by the 3rd were 57 killed, 66 missing believed killed and 216 wounded - 41% casualties.  They remained in action with replacements periodically posted-in.  A further action on the 4th April resulting in 20 killed and 45 wounded. The Battalion remained busy until July. The next offensive at the Somme on 18th July resulted in 37 killed, 263 wounded and 53 missing.  The 16th to 18th of August saw further heavy casualties of 35 killed, 82 missing and 154 wounded.  So set the scene for the arrival of our Draft.

    The Battalion was recovering out of the line in billets at a place called Bertrancourt as part of the Divisional Reserve in October. From the 16th they began providing working parties to the front line and the war for the 70 began.

    On the 13th of November they faced their first significant engagement - one of the last Somme battles at Serre.  A frontal assault involving all four Rifle Companies with C Company in reserve.  C Company later advanced alongside B and D whilst A Company consolidated a captured trench.  The attack was only partially successful. Of the Draft Pte Percy Godson 27573 from Stockport and Pte Thomas Metcalf 27600 from Sunderland were killed with 14 others wounded. The wounds received, that were recorded, were gunshot wounds to arms, legs, chests and heads.

    Of those wounded Pte Joseph Jeffers 27595 from Manchester and Pte George Robinson 27620 from Blackpool, would be discharged from the Army a few months later as too badly wounded to remain.  Pte John Horrocks 27577 from Bury, Pte Joseph Henderson 27584 from Middlesborough and Pte Gerald Miller 27601 from Fence Houses near Sunderland were sent to the UK for recovery before being medically downgrading and transferred to the Labour Corps. Pte Wilfred Davies 27565 from Ebbw Vale was sent to the UK to recover from his injured hand, which he did.  He returned to France in 1917 and was killed with the 1st Battalion in November 1917.

    Pte James Musk 27605 from Rawntenstall, with shrapnel wounds to his hand and knee also went back to the UK before later being sent to the 13th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment in late 1918.  He would go on to serve in Northern Russia in 1919 and win the Military Medal.  The seven other men it seems were able to return to the Battalion after recovering from their wounds. The Draft of 70 was down to 61.

    Although they didn’t know it at the time this was the last large battle they would face until the Spring of 1917.  The Winter was spent between the front line, support trenches and periods of training. Casualties still occurred:   

    Pte Frank Evans 27567 from Stoke was wounded in the neck on the 25th October 1916.  He returned to the Battalion in November but was eventually sent back to the UK sick in January.  He later joined the 1/4 Battalion, returned to France and was taken prisoner in July 1917 thus spending the rest of the war as a POW.  Pte Albert Cowin 27563 from Bigrigg Cumbria was killed likely by an artillery shell on the 20th December, dying three days later.

    Pte Thomas Pomfret 27613 was Court Martialled in February for at least one self-inflicted wound. He was sent to hospital with a gunshot wound to the hand.  The punishment for such an offence was death, but throughout the war this was never carried out. Many men who were found guilty of the same offence were sent to prison. This soldier was fortunate as he left the Battalion and later in 1917 was posted into the Labour Corps.

    1917 Arras

    In March the Battalion began its move from Wanquetin to the Leincourt and Arras areas. This was to prepare for the upcoming series of Allied Spring offensives. From the 6th of April they spent the nights in the cellars of Arras as the British bombardment and German counter fire crossed overhead.  By the 8th they were starting to take casualties as they moved into the forward trenches.  The Battalion went into action on the 9th moving forward from their positions and remaining in heavy action until the 12th.  Over the four days the Battalion suffered 43 killed, 28 missing and 172 wounded.  Amongst those killed were Pte Aloysius Laithwaite 27598 from Wigan, Pte Arthur Ashbridge 27553 from Blackpool and Pte Frank Nicholson 27609 from Aston. Pte James Hudson 27579 from Tottington was shot in the leg and sent back to the UK.  He recovered and came back to France with the 1/4 Battalion, he would be killed in action with them on 20th September 1917.

    Pte John Green 27574 from Oldham was shot in the thigh on 11th of April, he was sent back to the UK before serving with the RAMC for a period, he was laterally medically discharged from the Army.  He was the odd soldier out in the Draft of 70 in that he had previous military experience as he was a Territorial Force (TF) soldier who served in the 1/10th Manchester Regt. Discharged at the end of his TF service he was then conscripted back into initially the RFA before finding his way to the 8th.

    On the night of the 25th/ 26th the enemy counter attacked following a bombardment of the Battalions trenches near Monchy le Preux. The attack was repulsed with close quarters fighting.  Pte James Felstead 27572 from Melton Mowberry, Pte John Henry Royle 27615 from Manchester and Pte Robert Collier 27562 from Stockport  were killed and Pte Frank Pulbrook 27614 from Manchester was wounded, dying the next day. Pte Percy Broderick 27556 from Accrington was also wounded in both legs being sent back to the UK.  He was discharged as too badly wounded to serve in September 1917.  Pte James Hunter 27578 from Accrington was also likely wounded in this engagement, he was blown out of a trench, buried in a dugout and latterly shot in the leg.  He was sent back to the UK and discharged from the Army that September.

    Withdrawn from the front line on the 1st of May but not before Pte Norman Armstrong 27552 from Durham was killed on the 30th of April and Pte Nolan Ratcliffe 27619 from Middleton was shot in the leg on the 7th of May.  He was evacuated to the UK and soon after medically discharged from the Army.

    The Battalion rested for a week before moving back into the front line trenches on the 10th of May. Pte Lincoln Moore 27603 from Birmingham  left on the 6th of May with bad trench foot, he lost two toes, was sent back to the UK and eventually served in the Labour Corps after being medically downgraded.

    Pte Fred Armytage 27554 from Manchester was killed on the 10th as the Battalion moved back into the front line.  On the 12th three of the four Rifle Companies attacked Devils Trench. There were heavy casualties and the survivors had to wait until dark to return to their own trenches, Pte Tom Hadfield 27576 from Shaw and Pte Tom Cunliffe 27561 were killed. Pte Nathan Heaton 27583 from Middletown was wounded in the arm.  He returned to the UK where his arm was amputated, he was then discharged from the Army. 

    After 4 days overall casualties were 26 killed, 58 wounded and 12 missing, the Battalion was taken out of the lines on the 15th of May to rest.

    The Battalion recovered, trained and re-equipped in Arras until the 12th of June before again moving up to the front lines.

    After four days in the front line the enemy attacked after a heavy bombardment.  These attacks continued for two days up until the 18th. Pte Henry Cowell 27564 from Blackburn was killed on the 16th.  He had recently returned to duty after being wounded on 30th April. Pte Henry Hampson 27587 from Birmingham was wounded and sent to the UK, he later served with the 1/5 KORL Battalion.  L/Cpl Rupert Bevington 27560 from Leigh was also likely wounded as he was sent back to the UK on the 16th.  He later joined the 1st Bn in Salonica.  He died of phenomena when he returned finally to the UK.   Pte Henry Ingleson 27589 from Clethorpes was sent home on the 26th suffering from gas poisoning.  This probably occurred a few weeks previously during a short enemy gas attack. He was discharged as medically unfit from the Army after returning to his shipbuilding civilian role.   

    The Battalion came out of the line on the 20th of June and recovered until the 10th of July. The rest of July and August was spent in rotation between front line and support areas, there was very little action.  The only soldier to win the Military Medal whilst serving with this group of men left the Battalion on the 20th of August, Pte Christopher Kenyon 27597,  a school teacher from Accrington.  He won the award in the May 1917 fighting at Arras.  He left the Battalion for officer training and subsequent Commissioning, joining the 3rd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant. He survived the war. 

    September started with a period of training; range work, fighting and attack skills and physical training.  This included practising attacks at Company and Battalion level. On the 26th of September the attack for which they had been training took place.  The Battalion attacked Polygon Wood.  With the Gordan Highlanders on the left and the Australians on the right they attacked at 0550. The attacks were successful after over a day of heavy fighting and shelling, including gas.  They came out of the line on the 29th. Casualties in the Draft were L/Cpl George Moss 27604 from Formby and Pte William Mathison 27599 from Hull killed, Pte Fred Watson 27621 from Levin was shot in the head and died on the 29th. Pte Joseph Railton 27618 from Liverpool  was wounded in the arm and sent back to the UK.  He would later return to France with the 3rd Battalion being wounded again in November 1918.

    Over the period its known other men were wounded and left the Battalion. Formal casualty lists were temporarily not published for the early summer of 1917 so a full picture of casualties cannot easily be reconstructed.  However, it is known the following men left the Battalion, in the main because they were wounded in the Arras fighting:    

    Pte Herbert Moyers 27608 from St.Helens was wounded early in April he returned to the UK and eventually joined the Machine Gun Corps and returned to France.   

    Pte Albert Maden 27606 from Rochdale was wounded in the neck and medically discharged from the Army in September.

    Pte Herbert Harrison 27585 from Burnley was badly wounded in the leg he was medically discharged from the Army in November.   

    Pte Albert Evans 27568 from Middletown was medically discharged from the Army in November.   

    Pte Thomas Fisher 27569 was medically downgraded, joining the Labour Corps in December.

    Pte Evan John Rowlands 27616 from Penygraig was evacuated sick with a kidney condition he was also medically discharged from the Army in September.   

    Finally, Pte Ernest Ratcliff 27617 from Sudley was medically discharged from the Army in December

    So ended an intense period of fighting for the 8th Battalion. Whilst they remained in or near the front lines until the end of 1917 and continued to take casualties, they were much less than those suffered during the spring/summer period.

    The Draft of 70 men had had a brutal 11 months. There was at best 24 of them left, almost certainly less, my great uncle was still among them. The others had either been killed, wounded or categorised sick enough to be evacuated.


    Christmas and on into 1918

    The Battalion spent Christmas Day 1917 in the trenches, they were shelled throughout.  On 30th December another member of our draft left: Pte Frank Hargreaves 27582 from Middletown . He had been wounded in the head and arm in December 1916 and again in the legs during the Arras fighting.  A bad case of Tonsilitis saw him evacuated to the UK. He later joined the 1st Battalion and returned to France being captured during the German Spring Offensive in April 1918. He died as a POW in October 1918.        

    The Winter remained quiet, both because of the weather and the need for both sides to reconstitute and recover from the fighting of 1917.  Pte Ernest Jay 27592 from Littleborough was found unfit for further Infantry service and transferred to the Labour Corps in early January 1918.

    By February the Army had been forced to re-organise its Infantry units to bolster unit manpower. The result being Brigades would now contain three and not four Infantry Battalions.  For 76 Brigade this meant the 10th Royal Welsh Fusiliers were disbanded and the men sent elsewhere from the 2nd of February.  Alongside the 8th KORL the 2nd Battalion the Suffolk’s and 1st Gordan Highlanders remained.  In return the Battalion received 227 experienced reinforcements from the disbanding 11th Battalion of the KORL.  England was running out of men. 

    The Battalion remained in and out of the front lines and Pte Frederick Butterworth 27557 from Shaw was wounded and evacuated in February being medically discharged from the Army in September. There were now 21 men of the Draft left at best.

    German Spring Offensive

    From the 12th of March there was a growing awareness of an impending German attack - extra rations and great vigilance exercised. Artillery was fired on enemy rear positions to disrupt any German build ups.  Nervousness continued and the Battalion was in Brigade support from the 18th.  On the 21st of March at 0500 the Germans opened a heavy barrage on Wincourt and the British support areas.  Shells of all calibres including gas. From 10am the enemy attacked on a Divisional wide front. The Battalion was in close support throughout the 22nd and a withdrawal took place on the 23rd to straighten the line after retreats elsewhere. By now the Battalion was in the front line and the Germans advanced on their positions at 0800 following a barrage.  Fighting was severe with the Germans taking heavy casualties. The fighting and casualties remained heavy with the Germans continuing their assault,  the Battalion eventually moving back to Neuville Vitasse as best they could, at one point withdrawing in sixes over open ground and creating numerous blocks whilst under substantial German infantry attacks.  The Battalion were eventually relieved overnight on the 29th by the Canadians.

    The Battalion reported 490 casualties. likely well over half their strength.  At least 80 of those were killed and a large number taken prisoner. The dead also included their Commanding Officer. Pte James Hutton 27586 from Tottington and Pte Thomas Jennings 27593 from Manchester were among those taken prisoner. Sgt Arthur Jones 27594 from Manchester was wounded. As was Pte Tom Allen 27555 from Ramsbottom , he had been shot in the arm in Nov 1916 and this time was shot in the leg and shoulder.     

    L/Cpl John Houghton 27581 from St.Anne’s was also captured in April although not with the 8th.  At some point, probably following wounding in 1917 he moved to the 1st Battalion and was captured with them.

    Early April saw the Battalion attempting to recover. Fifty six new men arrived on the 3rd, another 193 on the 6th, 40 more on the 7th. The chaos meant the Battalion would for a short time come under the command of the 8th Brigade.  On the 12th they deployed to ad-hoc defences as part of the Avelette bridgehead.  Again, fighting was desperate and a further 155 men were reported killed, wounded or missing.  The rest of the month was mostly in the support trenches.  On the 27th they again went into the front line and on the 30th of April Pte Walter Perry 27612 from Preston  was killed.

    May continued in the front lines or support trenches. Casualties continued to occur at low levels with draft replacements arriving; 125 on the 18th for example.  The Division suffered 1000 casualties from mustard gas on the 21st, the 8th Battalion was lucky and got away without any gas casualties.

    June and July followed a similar pattern to May.  A mix of trenches and Brigade support.  A large trench raid on enemy positions on the 2nd June brough back prisoners but cost 1 dead and 8 wounded. A similar raid on the 10th of July saw Sgt White who led the attack later die of wounds.  Later in July the Battalion was put in Divisional reserve which allowed for proper rest, training, showers, rifle ranges and attack practice.  Enemy artillery hit their bivouacs on the night of the 16th of July killing 2 and injuring 9, even in the rear areas there was danger.  They returned to the line on the 24th of July for a four-day spell before more time in reserve into August. On the 21st of August the Battalion was in the front lines and carried out an attack with a follow up attack on the 23rd.  34 men killed and 109 wounded. The wounded included Pte Robert Patterson 27611 from Cardiff. Both these attacked proved successful.   

    The full story of some men in the Draft is unclear especially as to when they left the Battalion as they now appear elsewhere:

    Pte George Molyneux 27602  from Bolton was wounded on the 25th July 1918 with the 9th Battalion in Salonica.  At some point he left the 8th Battalion for sickness or wounding and was posted to fight in Greece.

    Pte John Devane 27566 now appears with him being with the 1st Cheshire Regiment.  We know he was at some point wounded with the 8th Battalion and after recovery joined this unit.  When he left the 8th is unknown but he was fighting with the Cheshire’s from 26 August.   

    Pte Arthur Broadbent 27559 was also transferred to the Cheshire Regiment in August after recovering from a gunshot wound with the 8th.  He was back in France with the Cheshire’s in October.


    100 Day Offensive - end game

    There were now 11 men of the Draft left at best – my great uncle was still with them.  The 100 Day Allied Offensive had begun on the 8th of August and some of the heaviest offensive fighting now lay ahead.

    Pte Bernard Fahy 27571 from Heywood was wounded on the 30th of August during an attack.  He was wounded in the foot.  This was the third and final time he would be wounded and he was sent back to the UK for good.  He had previously been wounded  in the arm in Nov 1916 and then in the thigh in April 1917.  Each time he had returned to the 8th after recovering from his wounds.

    Pte Thomas Grime 27575 from Accrington is now found to be with the Labour Corps. He was wounded by a grenade in January 1917 but he was also the oldest man being aged 40. Pte Ernest Howarth 27580 from Bury is also now with the Labour Corps, he was shot in the arm in November 1916.  They both likely left the Battalion some time ago but dates cannot be established.  

    From September the Battalion was increasingly active with offensive patrols mixed with intense training whilst in reserve. On the 27th an attack near Flesquieres took place.  The Battalion went in at 0500 with all Rifle Companies attacking. The Battalion took over 800 prisoners in a successful advance, partially due to the bravery of L/Sergeant Tom Neely MM, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.  64 other men were casualties, one of these was Pte Thomas Jennings 27591 from Manchester.  He had been wounded on the 9th of April 1917 during the Arras fighting but had returned to the Battalion after recovery. Seven left. 

    The next attack was planned for the 1st of October at Rumilly. The Battalion moved into position overnight from the 30th September. It was a cold very wet and dark night. After a 45-minute barrage the Battalion attacked at 0645.  All objectives had been taken by 0915. That evening the Battalion were relieved and they returned to their lines. The Battalion suffered 134 casualties at least 28 being killed, L/Sergeant Tom Neely VC MM was one of those who lost his life.  From the Draft, Cpl Harry Burgess 27558 from Radcliffe was wounded, probably by a german artillery round, he died of wounds 10 days later. He had previously been wounded when the bivouacs were  shelled on the 16th of July. 

    With the weather remaining wet and cold a further successful attack occurred on the 9th near Masnieres and again on the 23rd near Romieres.  The 23rd saw 17 killed and 110 wounded.  Amongst the dead was Pte Fred Oldham 27610 from Ardwick.  He had previously been shot in the arm during the Battle of the Serre on 13 Nov 1916.

    This was the final engagement for the 8th Battalion the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Evidence suggests five men remained.

    L/Cpl Edward Farrelly 27570 was wounded at the Somme Battle of the Serre, 13 Nov 1916 and again during attack on Polygon Wood on 26 Sept 1917.  L/Cpl Charles Johnston 27590 was also wounded following the attack on Polygon Wood.  It’s not known if these men returned to the Battalion following their wounding.

    That leaves three men.  Pte Edgar Mason 27607 who was wounded in 1916, Pte Frank Kelly 27596 and Pte Edward Hitchen 27588.  These three men were there at the end when at 1100 on morning of the 11th November the Battalion band played in the town square at La Longueville.   

    Of the 70 men, 25 died. All the rest bar three are confirmed as being wounded at least once or removed from the Battalion as being too sick to continue.



    Cpl Harry Burgess 

    Footnote: The three men reported as being present at the end  are accounted as such because of an absence of information rather than an abundance. They were not killed, didn’t receive a pension, did not change units after their transfer into the  8th KORL Battalion at the Depot and were not listed as wounded, or at least I could find no records of such. There is very little on them apart from medal roll and medal index card.  I know Pte Hitchen survived and came from Burnley but that is it. I have named the home town of all the men where I have been able to discover it.  I have also used their KORL service number for each man.  They all had at least four service numbers and many had more than that. 

  4. DMcNay
    Latest Entry

    This might be a question that someone reading this might think of.

    "Why not check the banks archives? Surely they have some info."

    Well...yes and no. There is an archive (in fact they gave me the original lists of names), BUT...all staff records are kept locked to the public for 100 years due to sensitive information.

    I'm reluctant to query this and try and get access as they've been very patient and helpful with me so far and I don't want to overdo the amount of pestering done.

    I do know that they can give me information: they told me the years of employment for a man who died in WW2 who had worked for the Union Bank but wasn't on the plaque (left the banks employment before commencement of hostilities, so that explained that) but I don;t think they'd appreciate me emailing them a big list of names and saying "find them for me".

    However, I do need to make enquiries with them in case there were staff magazines or some such information which is a little more freely available.

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    This is my first attempt at Blogging so forgive me if it's rubbish.

    I have been researching the Great War for many years, and have visited many battlefields, but Saturday just gone prooved something of a turning point in visits.

    My Great Uncle Lance Corporal William Thompson was a Lance Corporal in the 9th Lancers and died of wounds in November 1914 at the age of 28. For some time I have wanted to visit the site of the charge of the 9th Lancers at Audregnies, where the charge to the sugar factory came to an abrupt halt courtesy of a barbed wire fence.

    After many months of research and consulting maps, PRO checks etc, I headed off to Mons early on Saturday morning. A beautiful sunny day certainly helped matters and I arrived in mid morning. Having checked the map, I could see where I wanted to go, and duly set off along what looked to be a good road. Zut Alors! Not 50 yards down the road, the tarmac vanished, to be replaced by potholes and rubble. Fearing for my tyres I abandoned the car and set off on foot. Arriving at a cross roads I turned right and headed into what I am certain was the 15 foot deep road, mentionned in the records, as being where the C troop formed up. With some difficulty I scrambled up the bank, and discovered that Belgian stinging nettles hurt just as much as British ones. Finally making it to the top of the bank, I was somewhat peeved to find that I had managed to leave my camera and binoculars at the bottom of the bank! 5 minutes, some swearing and three patches of stinging nettles later I was back on top of the bank, looking like a rotund and slightly balding meercat.

    The view was stunning. Flat rolling leek fields stretching across to buildings some 600-700 meters distant, sent shudders down my spine. One could quite clearly see how even the slightest rise in the ground afforded a magnificent view. At the mid point of the gentle slope I could see two wooded mounds, which I deduced to be the remains of the 2 slag heaps the survivors of the charge hid behind, and in the far distance I could see what must have been the sugar factory.

    I set off up the track, trying to avoid permenantly crippling myself by going over on the rubble. It was hot and dusty, but I was rewarded by banks of wild flowers, butterflies and the scent of lavender. I stopped level with the slag heaps and watched, wondering, had Uncle Will been there? I arrived at the top of the track and stopped opposite the old building that had been the sugar factory. It has now been changed into a farm and modern house, but the original building can quite clearly be seen. Looking back down the gently rolling fields, the madness of it all came home to me. How did anyone stand a chance? A young puss cat from the farm yard wandered over and sat in the road a few feet from me, and yawned. He rolled over in the road and let me scratch his tummy, and it was then that it hit me. This small cat, a living creature, lying in the road where probably so many of the horses and friends of the Great Uncle may well have lain. We haven't learnt, we are still making the same mistakes and will continue to do so.

    I probably haven't expressed this well, but it was one of the most moving experiences of my life and I found myself, although I wasn't aware this had happened, wiping tears away. This was not just any battle field, this was my family battlefield, where my family had fought.

    May you rest in peace Will, you died in my eyes at least, a hero.

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