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Remembered Today:

Herbert Cawthra, 4th Batt Cameron Highlanders


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I am carrying out a Genealogical One-Name Study of the Cawthras worldwide and have been researching their invovment in the Great War for the last few months. Previous postings on this site on other Cawthras have resulted in very helpful information and guidance so here goes with another one.

Herbert Cawthra is buried in the CWG Cemetery at Caterpillar Valley and we visited the grave a few days ago. We noted that it was alongside that of a number of New Zealanders including the grave referred to in the CWGC website where the remains were exhumed and reinterred at the tomb of the unknown warrior in New Zealand. The location of Herbert Cawthra's grave made us wonder if it was one that had been relocated from the McCormick's Post Cemetery at Flers, as referred to on the CWGC Website commentary on Caterpillar Valley. Since returning home I have had another look at the CWGC Website and by clicking on Histories I found a very interesting description of the Battle of the Somme. Herbert died on 3rd September. The narrative on the Somme Battle indicates that the battle of Guillemont took place between 3rd and 5th of September 1916. This village is very close to Caterpillar Valley and I think it possible that he was killed on the first day of this action - the narrative records that "The main assault on Guillemont itself was made by 20th (Light) Division, two battalions of which crept forward before zero hour and took the Germans by surprise. At noon the main line, including a brigade of the 16th (Irish) Division, advanced and after much difficult fighting (especially near the quarry and station) Guillemont was secured and progress made several hundred yards eastwards. Although 5th Division failed to take the Farm, units did break into the German second line position."

I am wondering if anyone has ready access to the diaries of the Cameron Highlanders that might provide information of when and in what circumstances he was killed or wounded or alternatively if anyone can guide me on how to find the relevant diaries. The Diaries of the Northumberland Fusiliers published on the Long, Long Trail have provided valuable information on the death of Herbert Cawthery in 1914 and I am hoping that I might be able to obtain a similar insight on this Herbert. I am in touch with his grandson's who, prompted by my research into the Cawthras, have also recently visited his grave and I know that they are keen to learn more about him.

Thank you in anticipation,

David Cawthra

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Hello David,

The CWGC states that Herbert was in the 4th Cameron Highlanders. As you'll be aware, the 1/4th was absorbed into the 1st Bn on 19th March 1916. As part of the 1st Division, the 1st Camerons were not involved at the Battle of Guillemont. However, the 1st Division was heavily engaged at the Battle of Pozières, from 23rd July-3rd Sept 1916 - see 1916 battles.

You will also have noted the inconsistency regarding Herbert's regimental number(s). His MIC states #3723, while the CWGC records #200755. Since the territorial renumbering came into practice on 1st March 1917, it is likely that Herbert was still on the list of the missing and as part of the battalion's 'active' nominal roll was renumbered accordingly.


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1st Camerons 1st, 2nd & 3rd Sept 1917


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Herbert appears in SDGW as Pte 200775 Herbert Cowthra 1st CH, born, enlisted and a resident of Bradford, Yorkshire. He was reported KiA on the 3rd September 1916. The following is an extract taken from Westlake's 'Battalions on the Somme'

Relieved by 8th Royal Berkshire and to Mametz Wood (29/8). To positions near Fricourt and Lozenge Woods (31/8), trenches south-east of High Wood (2/9). Attacked Wood Lane from Worcester Trench (3/9) - after early gains later forced to retire from strong counter attacks. Casualties - over 240.



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Thank you to all three of the respondents who have provided exactly the kind of information that I was hoping to obtain.

I now have reliable information on where and how Herbert was killed. The point made by Stuart about the Regimental Numbers is interesting - if the supposition that Herbert was missing right up to the time that the renumbering took place rather than a known fatal casualty at the time or shortly thereafter is correct it seems surprising that it would then be possible to be in a position to provide a named grave for him. I realise however that the great order that appears in the post war created cemetery disguises the inevitable disorder at the time of battle.

Many thanks - I am most grateful and greatly impressed with the knowledge and speed of response and I hope that my continued search for information on the 90 or so Cawthras who served in WW1 will not prove to be an abuse of your kindness and time in proving me with information.

David Cawthra

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