Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

20th Machine Gun Company - First Day of First Scarpe (Arras)


Recommended Posts

I'm working on the death of 45902, Pte. Alfred Corbett, 20th Machine Gun Company (formerly 25286, Royal Berkshire Regt) who died of wounds on Easter Monday, 9th April, 1917, and is buried in Roclincourt Military Cemetery. His grave is immediately surrounded by those of highlanders from units of Fergusson's XVII Corps who attacked at Roclincourt, to the right of the Canadians on Vimy Ridge, and who died on that same day. I've visited his grave more than once and last year began to try to follow on the ground, and to photograph, the course of the attack in which I believe that he was mortally wounded (ploughed fields which, after rain, were still, almost a century later, throwing up huge amounts of military debris - unexploded shells included!). However, if I'm right, 20th Machine Gun Company was in the 'Immortal' 7th Division, who didn't go into action at Arras until May, at Bullecourt. Where am I going wrong or, if I'm not, can anyone tell me whether gunners from the M.G.C. might have been attached to completely different units for special occasions such as the opening assaults of the Battle of Arras? Any help very gratefully received - and I don't mind being told I've made some crass blunder. It happens all the time!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


The war diary for 20th Company MGC has them training near Ablainzevile - no casualties mentioned - I can't imagine why an MG company would lend soldiers to another company not only in a different division but a different army. I'd suggest that it may be an error - 28 or 26 can look similar to 20 in typescript. 26th and 28th Companies of the MGC were nearer that area with 9th (Scottish) Division. I'd try and check their war diaries - I sadly don't have access to either.

Kind regards


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry to keep you waiting, Graeme - You'll see why.

Hi, both and many, many thanks for the prompt response. Apologies, but it turns out (again) that I’m living proof that jumping the gun’s a daft idea.

My belief that Alfred was in 20th Machine Gun Company came from his C.W.G.C. record (the other obvious databases [‘Soldiers Died’, Medal Index, etc.] don’t specify the Company) – and for once the C.W.G.C. have got it wrong!

In the past I’ve tried, without success, to get Alfred’s service record and assumed that it had been destroyed with all the others in the Arnside St. bombing in 1940. However, my searches were flawed because I’d been looking for an Alfred Corbett from Worcestershire and he’d moved to Bristol before the war. Yesterday, with more information, I tried again and, bingo, ‘Ancestry’ came up trumps. Thanks to his Statement of Service and Casualty Form (Active Service) I now know that Alfred wasn’t in 20th M.G.Coy at all - he was in 95th!

Using that, I find that the company, with the rest of 5th British Division, was attached to the Canadians on the extreme right of Vimy Ridge and a Canadian research site (The Matrix Project; C.E.F. Study Group) , amazingly, has provided the exact circumstances and location of Alfred’s death – via extracts from the 95th M.G. Coy’s war diary:

9th April

Location: Sheet 51B, A22.c.5/6 (by chance I have this trench map because it’s the same one that covers the area where I thought Alfred was killed, near Roclincourt).

6.55 a.m.: Our 7 machine guns opened fire and continued until 9.57 a.m……………….

7.15 a.m.: An H.E. shell pitched in trench and severely wounded two O.R.s - one of whom has subsequently died. These casualties were quickly removed by stretcher bearers of 51st Division operating on our immediate right.”

It seems reasonable to assume that the casualty who died was Alfred and that his being removed by 51st H.D. stretcher-bearers explains why the neighbouring graves to his are those of 3 x 1st/4th Seaforths, 2 x 1st/4th Gordons (154th Bde; all died on the 9th) and 1 x 1st/5th Seaforth (152nd Bde; died on the 10th).

Isn’t all that just typical of such research; or is it just me? You muck about for ages, either down a wrong track or without any success; then, out of the blue, you strike gold. It's because I've been beavering away at all that lot for the last couple of days that I hadn't replied when you were up and at it at 7 o'clock this morning. Sorry.

Now I must try to find the rest of the 95th M.G.Coy’s war diary from August, 1916, when Alfred joined it.

Thanks again, chaps. Sorry to have wasted your time but hope you find my little tale of some interest. Best wishes, Eric

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Eric

I was not trying to be 'funny' per se, but, being up early, I used the search facility to see my past threads etc.

The last 4 people I had replied to attempting to assist them had not replied, however I could see, from their details, that they had ALL visited the Forum AFTER i had replied to them and felt they must have seen my replies.

Got a bit shirty, hence the 'hello ??' on each.

Certainly not a waste of time and no apologies needed on that score, we have all been there, I know I have !!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

No worries, Graeme. You'll have seen exactly why I was so absorbed in what I was doing. It's been one of those all-too-rare occasions when a sudden and unexpected breakthrough leads to wonderful results. Apart from that, I hope I never fail to respond to help - I need such a lot! It sometimes takes a while though because I tend to be doing so many things at once - my life's a (usually contented) shambles. Thanks again. E.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...