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finding Great Grandad

Guest amberleaf

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Guest amberleaf
:wacko: wondered if anyone could help me please tracing my Grt Grandads whereabouts during the Grt War. CPL william Hunter 28064 6th Battalion Northamptonshire regiment DOW 21/03/17 would love to know when and where he enlisted,where he would have been when he died. Have found him on the CWGC list, just confused and don't know where to go from here. unfortunately have no existing photos of him, so any help and advice would be gratefully appreciated. thank you in advance.
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Soldiers Died Great War records:

Name: HUNTER, William

Rank: Cpl

Number: 28064

Regiment etc: Northamptonshire Regiment

Battalion: 6th Battalion

Enlisted: Northampton

Died Date: 21 March 17

Died How: Of wounds

Theatre of war: France & Flanders


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Welcome to the forum from a one time resident of Npton.

Have you looked in the parent Long Long Trail site - see link at top left of the page?

From 'British Regiments 1914-1918' by Brig James:

6th (Service) Battalion formed at Northampton Sept 1914, K2 [i.e. Kitchener's second wave of recruitment]. Army troops attached to 18th Div at Colchester. Nov 1914 to 54th Brigade, 18th Div. May 1915 to Salisbury Plain. 26.7.15 landed in France. 11.11.18 [still in] 54th Bde, 18th Div. France near Le Cateau.


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:wacko: wondered if anyone could help me please tracing my Grt Grandads whereabouts during the Grt War. CPL william Hunter 28064 6th Battalion Northamptonshire regiment DOW 21/03/17 would love to know when and where he enlisted,where he would have been when he died. Have found him on the CWGC list, just confused and don't know where to go from here. unfortunately have no existing photos of him, so any help and advice would be gratefully appreciated. thank you in advance.

Try the ww1 Servicemens records on ancestry.com ~ there are several w. hunters listed, I cant look for you as my subscription has run out and i dont intend re joining until they finish the job... only up to surname 'N' so far !!!. but could be worth a months fee for you~ or maybe someone on the forum could help with this !!!! worth an ask!!


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Hello, Autumnleaf.

Welcome to the Forum.

I'm afraid I can find much specific to William Hunter in my bits and pieces, but I hope I can help. I can't find a Service Record online either, which is a problem.

I'll try and answer your question in two parts. First to discuss what facts we can garner about William, and then to make some supposition...

His medal roll entry shows that he served with the 6th Battalion for the whole of his time in France and Flanders.


The following extract is from the Battalion History and shows what the 6th Northamptons were doing around the time of William's death. The overall setting of the weeks leading up to William's death were part of a short window of change in the stereotypical trench warfare of the Great War. Following the battle of the Somme during the second half of 1916, the Germans had lost a fairly large area of ground (tactically if not strategically), some of it important high ground, with their front line having become twisted into a less defensible shape, and reasoned that by withdrawing to a prepared deep concrete strengthened line a few miles back from the old front line, they could meet the British on their own terms again. This they did in early 1917 falling back in February 1917 to the Siegfriedstellung - known to the British as the Hindenburg Line. So in early March 1917, the British found themselves pressing forward across the abandoned area between the old front line and the Hindenburg Line. The 6th Northamptons were part of the force moving forward through abandoned and booby-trapped villages to locate the new German line. This was a short return to "open warfare", and they were even supported by cavalry...

Anyway, the extract, below:

"On the 17th (of March 1917) one of the many patrols who were active at that time reported that the enemy had withdrawn from the Bihucourt line. On receipt of this information, the Bedfordshire and Middlesex Regiments went forward; the former occupied the village of Achiet-le-Grand, while the latter took over Bihucourt. The Division on our left taking over Achiet-le-Petit.

Some time before dawn on the 18th it was found that the enemy had made a further withdrawal from the position he held North-east of Bihucourt and Achiet-le-Grand. On receipt of this information, it was decided to pass an advanced guard through our outpost line at Bihucourt. At 8.0 a.m. this advanced guard commanded by Lieutenant Colonel R. Turner, D.S.O., Commanding Officer of the Sixth, passed through our outpost line, having as its objective the village of Ervilliers. Cavalry patrols went on ahead, followed by a line of Infantry scouts, then two Companies of the Sixth Battalion with two troops of Cavalry and a section of Field Guns, with the rest of the formation following in column of fours. The Bapaume-Arras Road was soon reached and occupied without opposition, but although the advance guard reached Ervilliers, the Cavalry failed to make contact with the enemy until the high ground on the way to St Leger was reached. Lieutenant Colonel Turner then decided to call it a day, and an outpost line on the Ervilliers-Behagnies road was taken over for the night.

On the morning of the 19th the pursuit continued, the Sixth moving forward with a squadron of Cavalry (including the Indian Cavalry section of the Lucknow Cavalry Brigade), and a company of cyclists, to occupy St Leger. This they accomplished late in the afternoon. That night orders were given for the advance guard to attempt next morning to occupy Croisilles. At 7.30 a.m. on the 20th both the Lucknow Brigade and the Corps Cavalry having arrived, the Sixth made a reconnaissance in force, with the Cavalry on both flanks. The four Companies of the Battalion moved forward in line, A-B-C-D from right to left. Owing to heavy shelling and machine gun fire, A Company soon found themselves bogged down in a wood at the North-East corner of St Leger, and suffered heavy casualties. B Company worked up the valley that ran from St Leger to Croisilles, dislodged an advanced post of the Germans, and in spite of very heavy shelling, made considerable progress.

C and D Companies got well away, but after proceeding some 500 yards under terrific machine gun fire and heavy shelling, they too were held up on the northern slope of the valley. By 10.30 a.m. it was seen that Croisilles was too strongly held to make any further appreciable advance, and so orders were given to withdraw to our original outpost positions. By 12.30 p.m. in perfect order, this was accomplished, save for some 40 men of D Company who were in a fold of ground not visible to the enemy. These later returned around 4.30 p.m. in small parties without casualties but for the wounded, who had been left behind. However, all's well that ends well, and these were later recovered by the 8th Devonshire Regiment who relieved the Battalion that evening.

On the 21st via the duck-board track from Miraumont, the Sixth moved into billets at Warwick Huts. Next day the 22nd found them on the march to Warloy, executing a march past the Corps Commander at Senlis, en route. On the 23rd they marched to Villers Bocage and on the 24th took part in the Army experiment of shifting a division in lorries, the Sixth being transported in this new manner from Villers Bocage to Dury. On the 25th the battalion attended Church Parade, to be followed later by a Companies Inspection by the Commanding Officer."

As you can see, the 6th Northamptons were in heavy action on the 20th March 1917, but not actually in action on the 21st. This leaves us three options for William's death of wounds.

1. William was wounded before the battle on the 20th and died of wounds at a Field Ambulance or Casualty Clearing Station behind the lines. This is the least likely option in my opinion, for a couple of reasons - William has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras memorial. The only way that this could have happened with this option is if his grave was destroyed by fighting later in the war. Not impossible, but not the most likely option. Also Williams name appears in a list of killed, wounded and "died of wounds" in the Times of 21-4-1917 - comprising of men from the 6th Battalion who were casualties from the fighting at Croisilles. His inclusion on this list suggests (though not conclusively) that he was wounded and died in a fairly short timespan.

2. William was wounded on the 21st by artillery fire whilst in rear trenches at Miraumont, and died of his wounds later in the day. Again, this scenario doesn't really explain the commemoration on the Arras Memorial, except as above.

3. William was wounded on the 20th and died on the 20th, but his death was not recorded until the battalion came out of the lines on the 21st March 1917. This sort of thing actually happened quite a lot. Note the section highlighted above in purple. If he was part of the group of men of "D" Company that were stuck on the battlefield, and was wounded and alive for a while with his comrades, but then died before the wounded could be rescued, then his death would be recorded as "died of wounds".

Anyway, a bit of speculation in that part, but more to follow!


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The speculative bit:

I don't think I am being too speculative on his date of transfer into the Regular battalions of the Northamptonshire Regiment and his transfer to France.

There is a group of men with very similar numbers to William Hunter that seem to have transferred to the 6th Battalion at the same time. These men had the following in common:

- They were transferred from Territorial Battalions of the Northamptonshire Regiment.*

- They were issued numbers in the 28060's and 28070's.*

- They embarked to France via Folkestone & Boulogne on 2th December 1916.

- They officially transferred to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment on 6th December 1916.

- They first spent a few days in France at No. 17 Infantry Base Depot.

- On 11th December 1916 the men transferred to the 6th Battalion and joined them straight away.

On weight of evidence I would be 95% confident to say that William Hunter was part of this group of men. His number woiuld certainly have been issued with this group, but he may have gone overseas later. However, these men seem to have been specifically transferred to go overseas, and there is in any case a very small window between this time and his death for his story to be different.

* In 1916 the Territorial Army and the Regular Army were two seperate "Corps" of the Army. Very little movement occurred between the two corps until 1916, and when they did transfer, the transfer always triggered a number change. Since only numbers that men had when they served first overseas are recorded on the Medal Rolls and Medal Index Cards, William and his comrades received a new number at the point of their transfer between Corps.

The more speculative part of the story is "when and where did he serve before he went to France?"

There are several options depending on which battalion he served with. At the start of the war, the Northamptonshire Regiment had one territorial battalion - the 4th battalion, that was split up into 3 battalions. A further territorial battalion, the 9th, was added in 1915.

- 1/4th Battalion - Not an option! This part of the 4th Battalion was on active service in Egypt since July 1915.

- 2/4th Battalion - This was a home service battalion. Men were posted here for home service only.

- 3/4th Battalion - A training battalion in the Uk based at Halton Park, Bucks. Some of the men of William's group were drawn from this battalion.

- 62nd Provisonal Battalion - A training battalion in the UK based at Cley next the Sea on the North Norfolk coast. Again, some of the men of William's group were drawn from this battalion.

Looking at those men that did transfer with William gives us some likely options.

- 28067 Wilfred Barrett and 28073 Henry Gough - These men volunteered in December 1915 and then went home until called up back to the Army. They were then recalled in February 1916 and given numbers 5347 and 5363 respectively. At that point they were posted to the 3/4th battalion until transferred to the 3rd Battalion and embarking to France in December 1916.

(The above two men were both volunteers - under the Derby Scheme where men volunteered during November/December 1915 and were then called up, these two men being aclled up very early - they were single, young men in their twenties. Had William "attested" in late 1915, he would have probably been called up around April/May 1916 being a married man in his 30s, and possibly later depending on his job).

- 28062 Alfred Ernest Hawkins and 28063 Thomas Samuel Howlett - These men volunteered in 1914 and served with the 62nd Provisional Battalion on the Norfolk Coast until transferring to the 3rd battalion at the same time as the men above.

(These two men were also volunteers, but had volunteered for home service only, and volunteered for foreign service in 1916).

Of course, William could have followed a different route to the Front whilst in the UK, but the above are at least two options...

Another man transferred from the 62nd Provisional Battalion to the 3/4th in September 1916, so it could even be a combination of the two!

Anyway, I hope there is some food for thought in my ramblings!


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His medal index card is not on Ancestry though it is on the National Archives site and can be downloaded for £2.00.

I could not find his service record on Ancestry.


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Guest amberleaf
:D Thank you all so much for your guidance and information, i really am eternally grateful.i am fascinated by how much knowledge you all have on said subject, and thank you for sharing it with me.
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