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Remembered Today:

Pte.J.W.Jeffs 1st Border Reg.


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Five years ago my friend Richard and I decided to take our families to stay at a

rather pleasent little guest house we had discovered on one of our many trips to

the Somme ,the location was Aunchonvillers and it was a massive coincidence when an uncle of my wife rang the night before we set off to say that her great grandfather was buried near by .When we arrived we set about the search thinking

Serre Rd no 2 with over 7,000 burials would probably be the local cemetary to

begin looking,but no,we were staying only a few metres from the commual cem.

so there we began the hunt and surprise surprise in the middle of the 15 burials was Grandad,Pte ,Jw Jeffs 1st Border Reg. he and 13 others died 6th April 1916 !

In research of the story Richard and I went to the pulic rec. office to read the

Battalion diary ,only sketchy details were obtained,I contacted Mr.Eastwood of the

Border Reg. museum who was very helpful with the known service record details he had, but nothing specific for 6th April . Paul Reeds battleground series book

mentioning Oceanvillers says a Hurricane bombardment onto Tipperrary Avenue

communication trench accounted for the Borders which tallied with the P.R.O. diary info, I would like to find out where Reed got his info.(he did not answer a letter) and are there any books that are pre 1st July for the Somme which could help.

Footnote -as I remember the Battalion mentions 14 casualties on that date the 14th

man is in Englebelmer cem (there were also many South Wales Borderers lost in the same incident and buried in Mesnil Ridge ). J.W. was

a regular ,twice wounded while with the 2nd Borders before joining the 1sts on

their arrival in France from Gallipopli only 5 days before his death,the night before

the tragedy (according to the diary) a Lietenant Crossland failed to return from a night patrol,attached from the Durham light infantry, he was captured and became a prisoner, interned in Holland until being repatriated in 1918 Martyn

Edited by martyn newell
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Paul Reeds battleground series book

mentioning Oceanvillers says a Hurricane bombardment onto Tipperrary Avenue

communication trench accounted for the Borders which tallied with the P.R.O. diary info, I would like to find out where Reed got his info

Martyn

Can't help you with the substance of your query, however Paul is a member of this forum & a regular contributor. Why don't you pop him off a Private Message or email from here.................Just click on the member icon at the top of page & do a search for him. :D

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  • 10 months later...
Alastair Fraser

Dear Martyn

I noticed your post of March last year whilst doing a search for something completely different. As you don't seem to have got any response I thought you might be interested in some details of the incident in question. The Borders men were killed by a German bombardment associated with a very well executed trench raid conducted by II/119 RIR on the positions just east of what is now Newfoundland Park. 29th Division had only been in the line a couple of days, a fact well known to the Germans who had had the raid under consideration for quite some time. The entire divisional artillery assets of 26 Reserve Division seem to have been used as well as their mortars. The artillery cut off most of the major communication trenches whilst the TMs blew away the British wire. The raiding party were assembled by the field bank that still survives at the eastern side of Newfoundland Park. They made their way through the gap and lifted about 18 or 19 members of 2nd South Wales Borderers from their front line. A group of raiders was met by a couple of 2/SWB officers and a party of men from the second line and a grenade fight ensued but the raiders got away into no-man's-land with their prisoners. A British barrage hit them as they made their escape and four of the raiders were killed and blown into the British wire where they were recovered the next night. A captured British soldier who had a broken leg was dropped in the confusion and was allowed by the Germans to crawl back across no-man's land to his own lines when daylight came. Interestingly the 29th Division history attributes the raid to "A Bosche travelling circus" whereas it is quite clear that it was devised and conducted by officers and men of 119 RIR who had been in the area since October 1914. No stormtroops magic here! Just a meticulously planned raid using sudden, overwhelming violence and conducted by well trained and motivated troops.

I would be very interested to find out more on this raid from any South Wales Borderers specialists, particularly the names of the prisoners taken or any eye witness accounts. The prisoner aspect has eluded me for some time. 2/SWB lost some 30 men most of whom are buried in Mesnil Ridge Cemetery which seems to have been closed shortly afterwards.

As to the Border men they suffered some casualties in the front line but I suspect that some may have been caught in Second Avenue, maybe on something like a ration party and being killed so close were buried in the civilian cemetery, rather than being taken to the military cemetery on the other side of Auchonvillers as most casualties were.

Hope this is of some help to you

Regards

Alastair Fraser

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Ralph J. Whitehead

I too would like to know more about this raid. Any information from either side would be greatly appreciated.

I looked through the list of fatal casualties to the 119th RIR and only came across one for this date:

Bommas, Oskar Vizefeldwebel, Offiz. Aspir. 119 Res. 4 6/6/1916 Beaumont

He is in the I Battalion (4th Coy). I am going to see if I can locate the Verlustliste for this period and see what else it holds. The men reported killed could have been pioneers. Until we look further there is no way of knowing.

Ralph

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Alastair Fraser

Dear Martyn

I foget to mention in my previous post that Crossland was captured by the Germans, having got lost in no-man's-land. The patrol was attacked by a group of men from 119 RIR. He was wounded by a grenade splinter in the arm and incapacitated. He spent the rest of the war in a POW camp and was repatriated in December 1918 if I remember correctly.

I do a talk on tactical intelligence in this area - trench raids, signals intercepts so if you ask your local WFA branch to book me you can learn more about this and other raids. I suspect that we may have met at Auchonvillers actually. Did you give me a photo of Private Jeffs? I am part of the No-man's-land team that has been excavating Avril's back garden.

P.S. Ralph - we can talk about this raid next week when I see you.

Regards

Alastair

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  • 15 years later...
martyn newell
On 29/01/2005 at 15:02, Ralph J. Whitehead said:

I too would like to know more about this raid. Any information from either side would be greatly appreciated.

I looked through the list of fatal casualties to the 119th RIR and only came across one for this date:

Bommas, Oskar Vizefeldwebel, Offiz. Aspir. 119 Res. 4 6/6/1916 Beaumont

He is in the I Battalion (4th Coy). I am going to see if I can locate the Verlustliste for this period and see what else it holds. The men reported killed could have been pioneers. Until we look further there is no way of knowing.

Ralph

Hi Ralph, I've been away from the Forum a long time, how are you doing, and how is your research going these days?

I decided to pick up the story of Private 7340 James Jeffs once again, he was killed on 6th April 1916 on the Somme but from October 1914 while in the 2nd Batt Border Reg he was in the thick of it near Ypres at Kruisiek Hill, later he helped clear the bodies from No Mans land at Christmas, suffered with trench foot in January 1915 before being wounded at Neuve Chapelle (gun shot left arm) he met his fate within weeks of returning to action with the 1st Borders near Anchonvillers as you no doubt remember

Very best Regards Martyn

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Ralph J. Whitehead

Hello Martyn, It is always good to hear from an old friend. I am doing well, retired since the end of 2019. Research has gone well and currently I have 3 books in print and a fourth awaiting publication. I had forgotten about this thread and the events of April 1916. Since that time I have accessed the complete records of RIR 119 as well as numerous other German units. I believe that I have a good deal of information on this raid and will see what I can locate in my office. It is rather a mess and my attempts to organize it have not been too good. Still, I believe I have accounts, maps, bombardment details, etc. if you are still interested in these or you have not already found them. 

 

Your post also brought another old friend into the light again, Alastair Fraser. It has been some time since I have talked with him.

 

I hope you are well and glad to see you back on the forum. 

 

Warmest regards,

Ralph

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martyn newell

Thank you for your quick Ralph, to say I'm impressed by your work and dedication is an under statement. My copy of The Other side of the Wire Vol 1 was number 14 and it still takes pride of place on the book shelf, and now my interest is re kindled it's right back on the bed side table once again.  I am so glad you are keeping well Ralph, and how ever long we leave it we will never be too old to say Hi

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