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Jim Hastings
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:poppy: Remembering today the thirteen men of 2nd Bn the Royal Sussex Regiment who gave their lives in the crossing of the Sambre Canal this day 95 years ago, just one week from the Armistice:

SD/438 Pte George Langley, a former farm labourer from Rotherfield who had been one of the first to join Lowther’s Southdowns Pals (B Coy, 11th Royal Sussex) in September 1914 and had been wounded in the head and arm as part of the carrying parties at the Battle of Boar’s Head on 30th June 1916. On recovery he joined 2nd Bn on 13th October 1916, to be wounded in the head again, by shellfire, at Ypres on 14th November 1917. He recovered at Etaples and returned to 2nd Sussex in Jan 1918, only to fall foul of RSM Rainsford on Guard mount!!

G/20076 L/Sjt. William Shufflebottom, a 32 year old former actor/singer from Bootle who had been in an entertainment act with his brother Fred in Manchester. William had been promoted from L/Cpl to Acting Corporal only on 21st September 1918, so his promotion up to L/Sjt by early November had been swift, and itself is indicative of the casualties suffered by 2nd Sussex during this September (24th particularly) and October 1918.

L/11534 Pte. William Smith MM (awarded Oct 1918; LG 14th May 1919) from Glasgow who had enlisted as a Regular with 2nd Sussex in, it is estimated, late 1916, having previously served with the Secunderabad Cavalry Field Ambulance (2nd Indian Cavalry Div)as an ASC Driver, with whom he went to France on 4th November 1914.

G/11965. Pte. George Victor Watling, from Kings Lynn and, formerly, in the millinery trade. He had enlisted in May 1916 and had just turned 21 prior to his death.

SD/2815 Pte. Jesse Weaver, another original member of Lowther’s Lambs (13th Royal Sussex) posted subsequently to 2nd Sussex. Jesse was born in Plumpton but lived and enlisted in Eastbourne, where he worked as a carman. Died of Wounds received during this action, aged 36.

G/11989 Pte. Ernest Weller, a former groom/servant at Stanhill, Charlwood from Dorking and aged 42 at time Killed in Action. Enlisted in May 1916.

G/34598 Pte. Norman Wrist, a 31 year old confectioner from Clapham

2nd Lt Ernest Stanley Loader, aged 26, formerly 1489 Acting Corporal Loader of the Royal Horse Guards who had landed in France on 4th March 1917 and was gazetted to the Royal Sussex as a 2nd /Lt on 26th July 1918. A former clerk from Brixton Hill.

G/23114 Ernest Humphreys, aged 20, from Hemel Hempstead, who enlisted in Watford

G/34600 James Thomas Holmes, born in Stepney and enlisted at Mill Hill, possibly the James Thomas Holmes born in 1885 in Mile End Old Town and a former bed-maker in Hackney

TF/202337 Pte Edwin Folds, only just aged 20, from Breachwood Green in Hertfordshire. Interestingly Edwin has a 4th (TF) Battalion army number. The 1/4th had come back from the Middle East in May 1918 and joined 34th Div in the June, so Edwin may have come from them after wounding or from 4th (Reserve) Bn in Tunbridge Wells in a draft. Why was he not renumbered on posting to 2nd Sussex? One for further research ...

G/34523 Pte. Allan Ernest Bird, who Died of Wounds this day in 1918, just turned 20 in the October, originally from Walton in Somerset his father Robert moved the family to farm in the Ilford area of Essex. Allan enlisted in Whitehall

L/8247 Cpl Arthur Henry Gausden, an Old Contemptible, a very interesting man who will be the subject of one of my next posts on this thread ...

Alongside these 13, the Bn War Diary records that 7 officer and 86 Other Ranks were wounded in this crossing of the Sambre Canal

All Remembered this day :poppy:

JH

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A/Lt. Colonel Dudley G Johnson VC DSO MC, who commanded the 2nd Sussex on secondment from the South Wales Borderers won his VC in this action, the citation reading:

"Lieutenant-Colonel Dudley Johnson D.S.O., M.C., South Wales Borderers, attached 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex, for most conspicuous bravery and leadership during the forcing of the Sambre Canal on November 4th, 1918. The 2nd Infantry Brigade, of which 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex formed part, was ordered to cross the lock south of Catellon. The position was strong and before the bridge could be thrown, a steep bank leading up to the lock and a waterway about 100 yards short of the canal had to be crossed. The assaulting platoons and bridging parties Royal Engineers, on their arrival at the waterway were thrown into confusion by a heavy barrage and machine gun fire and heavy casualties were caused. At this moment Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson arrived and realising the situation at once collected men to man the bridges and assist the Royal Engineers and personally led the assault. In spite of his efforts heavy fire again broke up the assaulting and bridging parties. Without any hesitation he again organised the platoons and bridging parties and led them at the lock, this time succeeding in effecting a crossing after which all went well. During all this time Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson was under heavy fire, which, though it nearly decimated the assaulting columns, left him untouched. His conduct was a fine example of great valour, coolness and intrepidity, which, added to his splendid leadership and offensive spirit that he had inspired in his Battalion, were entirely responsible for the successful crossing." London Gazette 6 Jan 1919

In 1919 he provided a series of photographs taken following the canal crossing for the Bn War Diary

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Apologies, have been unable to put Lt/Col Johnson's photos on, but for those with access to the 2nd Sussex WD or have an interest in this operation, well worth viewing, as there are 5 great photos

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L/7922 Cpl Ernest J Brown MM, DCM, Belgian Decoration Militaire was Lt/Col Johnson's runner.

Born in Fulham he joined the Royal Sussex in late 1904. Sadly, like many, his Service Docs do not survive, but from his MIC it indicates he joined 2nd Sussex in France and Flanders on 28th August 1914, so he may have been one of the 15 NCOs from 2nd Sussex sent to help Captain Sleeman with the formation of 7th Royal Sussex, who then asked to be returned to 2nd Sussex shortly afterwards (see Rutter's history of the 7th Sussex, page 1). Brown won the MM as a L/Cpl in October 1916, possibly for an action during the High Wood battles 2nd Sussex participated in during August and September. Cpl Brown was awarded the DCM for his actions on 4th November in December 1918 (2nd Sx War Diary) and the LG citation (5th April 1919) reads

" During the operation of forcing the passage of the canal South of Catillon on 4th November, 1918, the bridge carrying crews and storming party became disorganised [the bridges to cross the waterways before the canal were too short, the RE and Sussex men were held up and bunched, and the Germans began to shell them]. He helped to rally the men under heavy shell fire, and also helped to get the bridge laid. He has shown consistent gallantry"

In Jan 1919 Cpl Brown was awarded the Belgian Decoration Militaire

Cpl Brown remained with the Sussex after the war, being given the new number L/12178

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:poppy:L/8247 Cpl Arthur Henry Gausden

We are fortunate that Cpl Gausden's Service Docs survived. After serving in the Sussex RGA militia (joining aged 14 years 10 months) he joined the Royal Sussex in July 1905 for '9/3' and the 2nd Bn just after that Christmas. He transferred to 1st Bn in Oct 1907 and remained with them in Rawalpindi (as a Coy cook and a Bn scout, and with an interesting discipline sheet!) until going onto the Reserve in March 1913. We know he had grey eyes, brown hair, a tattoo of a lady's head on forearm and was 5'8". He had married Florence in Eastbourne in July 1913 and they had a son Frederick in 1914. He planned to join the Sussex County Constabulary. Gausden, an Eastbourne man born and bred, was mobilised on the 6th August and was back with 2nd Sussex when they deployed on the 12th. He was wounded in the legs on the Aisne (15th Sep 1914) and returned to the Bn in Feb 1915. He earned his first tape on the Somme in September 1916 having been wounded in the hand by a bayonet during the German counterattack at High Wood

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=188800&hl=

and Acting Corporal in May 1917. He was wounded in the back on 6th July 1917 during the preliminary bombardment made by MarineKorps Flandern (Operation Strandfest). He was made full Corporal in August 1918.

Although he probably knew the war was coming to an end (see Pte Grover post later in this thread), he would not have known that the war only had one week left to run when he was killed on the Sambre Canal this day 95 years ago :poppy:

It is also fortunate that his Service Documents survive because on SDGW he is listed as 'Gansden' and on CWGC he is listed as having been 35 years old, he was in fact 31 at the time of his death, having been born in late 1887.

RIP Cpl Gausden :poppy:

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G/17582 Pte Walter E 'Josh' Grover (ex- 3268 3rd Royal East Kent Yeomanry), who was drafted to 2nd Sussex in August 1916 gave an interview to the Imperial War Museum in the 1980s

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80010219

and took part in the crossing of the Sambre Canal and maintained that on Remembrance Day he always remembers most of all those comrades from 2nd Sussex who fell on the 4th November, when so many knew that the end of the war was nigh and wondered if they would live to see it.

He wrote a poem about those feelings and the attack on 4th November. I will transcribe it from the interview shortly, as it is so poignant

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Lest we forget :poppy:

Also remembering those of the 2/KRRC who also took part in the attack that day, God bless them all :poppy:

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The attack on the Sambre Canal

By G/17582 Pte Walter (‘Josh’) Ernest GROVER MM, Lewis Gunner, 2nd Bn. Royal Sussex Regiment (written in the 1980s, from IWM interview 10441 (1988)) http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80010219

The flickering beams of the dying embers,
The glowing tips of cigarettes,
The beating rain on helmets’ steel, and ground sheets glistening;
We await the morn.
For some will never see another.
The victims? Who can tell?
Come the dawn, we attack the Sambre Canal.
In silent groups we stand and ponder
Can our luck hold out much longer?
Is our name on shot or shell?
Shall we live to tell the tale, how we survived?
For me, the attack is number five*.

At battle station we're assembling
The first grey streaks of dawn appearing,
For 'Zero' hour is fast approaching
The rain and mist are fast clearing.
In true perspective we see and dread
The awesome task which lies ahead,
For we know well what lies behind the tree-lined banks of the Sambre Canal.

The barrage opens, screaming shells, machine-guns chattering,
Across the open ground we're streaming,
The awful truth before our eyes
The Reaper's busy with his scythe.
We reach the lock, but cannot cross,
The bridging boards were all too short.
Again we try! The boards renewed, now replaced by a gallant few
Who gave their lives and went through hell
That we might cross the Sambre Canal.

Now we're across; the strong point captured,
The crisis over, resistance ceases, the Reaper sheathes his scythe.
It is true, this eerie silence; are we still alive?
The day is drawing to its close and all objectives carried.
We rest and clean the 'Lewis Gun', but, had we known,
We wouldn't have troubled,
For a bullet meant for one of us
Was embedded in the barrel,**

We have survived; the war is over,
And we a tale can tell
How death, the Reaper, reaped his harvest
At the crossing of the Sambre Canal.

*’Josh’ Grover went ‘Over The Top’ in the attack on Wood Lane Trench, High Wood, 9th September 1916; again at High Wood, from Starfish Line to German positions before Prue Trench, 26th/27th September, (these two confirmed in his interview), and the other two times are believed to be during the ‘100 Days’, 18th September 1918 at Vandencourt and 24th September 1918 at Gricourt.

** True story, listen to interview part 5

Apologies, this poem has been copied from the IWM audio interview, so I am not sure if the stanza structure is as Josh intended, I have divided the poem up by ‘time’ incident.

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I'm sitting in Plumpton now and thinking about Pte Weaver who was born in this village, and his comrades. RIP.

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Afternoon Pat, I'm still looking into Weaver, as I believe, like George Langley, he was wounded at Boar's Head before being posted to 2nd Sussex

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G'day Jim a very emotional poem, makes you sit back and wonder at what they went through :poppy:

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Hi Keith,

Listening to Josh Grover in his IWM interview you can sense in his voice the trepidation of those who had survived to what was recognised as the last few days of the war and the fear that they would not see final victory at the eleventh hour. It was after listening to his interview for the third time (it is full of gems) that I decided to look into the fallen that day, and Cpl Gausden was the first I looked into. Wounded three times, probably took part in the battles of Aubers Ridge and Loos, in some capacity, only to fall in the last operation it would turn out 2nd Sussex would conduct. The WD for this period is very detailed, I think a reflection on Lt Col Johnson's leadership and control of the Bn, and it tells us that they were in Fighting Order with haversacks on back, groundsheets rolled up on top and leather jerkins on. It had rained on the advance to forming up and misty on the day, I can just imagine, especially as I look out of the window this wet day, them waiting for zero hour, cold, damp, drips falling from their steel helmets. There is even a sketch map of their deployment, and one day I'd like to walk it out on the ground. I think, like Josh, this Remembrance Day I will be thinking of the men on the Sambre Canal along with my fallen comrades.

Thanks again Keith, know 'your boys' of the 2nd KRRC suffered on the same ground

All the best

Jim

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:poppy: Remembering today the 5 men of 2nd Sussex who Died of Wounds this day 95 years ago, it cannot be determined as Service Docs have not survived, but it can be assumed that some if not all of them died from wounds suffered during the crossing made the day before

G/5900 Pte Thomas Charles Newsome, aged 36, an engine labourer from Sheffield, who had landed in F&F on 17th August 1915, in time for Loos

G/17193 Pte Arthur Baker, aged 21, of Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire

G/18329 L/Cpl William Johnstone, aged 26, of Ruthven, Forfar

G/34683 Pte George Edward Read, aged 33, a plumber from Woodford, Essex

TF/202343 Pte Herbert Roper, aged 22, a farm labourer from Downham, Norfolk, (who like Pte. Edwin Folds has a 4th (TF) Sussex number, or could be 4th (TF) Norfolks, intriguing ...)

RIP :poppy:

Jim

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I stand in some awe of your knowledge of our local regiment Jim - thanks!"Sussex By The Sea" will of course be played loud and proud at Lewes bonfire tonight; I always spare those "useful men" a thought whenever I hear it.

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There are reports of 2nd Sussex singing it as they climbed over the parapets at Richebourg on 9th May 1915 at the opening of the battle of Aubers Ridge, it could of course be a journalistic fabrication, but I'm not so sure, I believe they did. Many a Lewes man died with the Royal Sussex that day, both 2nd Bn and, especially 1/5th (Cinque Ports) Bn, who had a locally based Coy.

Enjoy tonight!!

Cheers, Jim

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I was up there on Sunday, the eve of the anniversary of the attack, on a pretty gloomy day. Part of the canal bank was lined with fishermen, presumably taking part in a contest and presumably unaware of what had happened there 95 years before.

cheers Martin B

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  • 2 years later...
Guest dtapiolas

Good evening Jim,

I have come across your messages regarding the Royal Sussex Regiment. My Great Uncle is the William Johnston (G/18329 L/Cpl William Johnstone, aged 26, of Ruthven, Forfar) that you mentioned in your posting on the 5th Nov 2013.

My Grandfather, William's brother emigrated to Australia after the war. I am taking my mother back to Scotland in August to visit her relatives (William's other great nieces and nephews). We are also going to visit William's grave in the British cemetery at Premont in Northern France. I have attached a photo of his grave.

I am trying to find any information about William but have come up blank. I would be very appreciative if you were able to point me to where I could find any further information. We do not even have a photo of William.

Thank you,

Regards,

Dianne Tapiolas

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Hi Diane, wonderful to hear from you and welcome to the forum, sadly I get on here much less than I'd like I'm afraid. I'm sorry to say I didn't find anything else out about William. I'd estimate he got to the 2nd Sussex after their High Wood battles in the September of 1916 at the earliest. You could try the Forfar newspaper archives (I'm assuming they exist in some form), you may be lucky to get a mention or even photo of William. If I do find anything, of course I'll be in touch pronto. All the best in your research (p.s. it is addictive!!)

All the best

Jim

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Dianne, as you're in Townsville, it may not be easy for you to access the Scottish newspaper archives, but perhaps you could make a start with "FortyTwa"?

These photos may be of some help (5th entry) http://scottishwargraves.phpbbweb.com/scottishwargraves-ftopic193.html

The family gravestone in Lintrathen Churchyard.

I note that it also refers to David, who died at Ayr, North Queensland, 1st Dec 1930 aged 30.

Is that something you were aware of?

The tombstone seems to contain a lot more family details but not easily visible from the photo although it looks as if one of his parents had died in April 1918 aged 61.....

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  • 2 years later...

Five years on, remembering these lads of the 2nd Royal Sussex, who fell today  a century ago  on the Sambre Canal.

The last major fighting of their battalion. 

never  forgotten

 

JH 

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Remembering :poppy:

 

Thanks Jim for bringing their names to our attention 100 years later.

 

Mandy

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