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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

53990 Pte Edmund Walter Betts 19th Btn Royal Welsh Fusiliers

Stephen Tipler

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I am part of the `Ryburgh Remembers` committee researching the WW1 names on our memorial. We have just discovered that the above soldier has been incorrectly named on the memorial and have had to start the research all over. We know he was killed on 23rd November 1917 whilst trying to take Bourlon Wood and that he had previously served as 51373 in the Welsh Regiment. We don`t have his MIC so don`t know exactly when he landed in France, we know the 19th Btn landed in early June 1916. So can anyone help to fill in the gaps please.


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Medal card only has BWM + VM so he didn't go overseas with the Welsh Regiment until 1916 earliest.

There doesn't seem to be any papers for him either.


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51373 Welsh Regt enlist looks like first quarter of 1916. RWF numbers a little more date non-sequential where I look,so you will need someone with a bit more knowledge of them to predict a date of Regiment change,which was probably due to wounds or sickness and returning to wherever needed the most. Possibly damaged during the Somme encounters and returned to RWF on regaining fitness. Medals issued by RWF but will have the original first Battalion of the Welsh shown on the original Medal Roll,J/2/102B19 relates to ledger WO329/1059 page 6125,if you are asking for a Look Up here it is always good to quote the file to save someone's time at Kew.

Edmund Walter was known as Walter and lived in Bournemouth as a lodger gardener in the 1911 Census,born in Gateley,Norfolk around 1895.

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Thank you again for all your time. Walter is a bit of a challenge as he seems to have moved around a lot for some reason or other, probably work and woman related! I am a long way from asking for a look up as i would like to compile as much info first to get a better picture of him.



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I hope this is of use. I have the honour of being the custodian of his medals and plaque.



Edmund Walter Betts, Pte 53990, 19th (Service) battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers; Bantams

Edmund Walter was born in 1886 in Norfolk. His father, William, was an agricultural labourer, who in 1891 living with his wife Fanny and five sons at 29 Gateley Common, Mitford. 10 years later Edmund Walter was living as a boarder in no 12, The Street, Matlask, where he worked as a domestic servant. In 1911 his occupation is listed as gardener.

He enlisted in Bournemouth, where he was living with his wife Elizabeth Mary Betts (Born Curry, their marriage took place on 2/9/1911 at Frenchay Church, Gloucester), at "Mayfield", Inverleigh Rd., West Southbourne. Elizabeth Mary was three years older, and in the 1901 census was working as a servant in Somersetshire. The couple had a daughter, Lilian W F Betts). Edmunds first enlistment and service in France in 1917 was with the Welsh Regiment, at the infantry base depot. He was then posted to the 15th RWF, for a while attached to the 124th Field Company, Royal Engineers (also in the the 38th Welsh Division). At some time he was transferred to the 19th Royal Welsh Fusiliers. On 23/11/1917 the battalion was in 40th (Bantam) Division, preparing to attack Bourlon Wood in the vicinity of Cambrai.

The task of clearing Bourlon Wood had been assigned to the 119th Brigade who attacked with two Battalions up front: the 19th Royal Welch Fusiliers and the 12th South Wales Borderers. They were accompanied by four tanks from D Battalion as those from G Battalion had been unable to refuel due to the congestion on the Bapaume Road.

The tank commanders had never seen Bourlon Wood before and it was the first time the infantry had worked with tanks. At 1010 hours the artillery begun bombarding the edge of the wood before lifting at regular intervals at 1030 hours as the tanks and infantry advanced.

In just over an hour the 19th RWF had managed to advance half way through the wood and were joined by the refuelled tanks from G Battalion. By early afternoon they were patrolling the north-eastern edge of the wood.

This is an extract from a report by major H F B Gough, commanding the 17th Welsh, in support of 19th RWF:

On the right rapid progress was made at first but at 12.45 p.m. a message was received from the 19th R. W. F. asking for reinforcements to be sent to the Eastern edge of the Wood. This request had been anticipated. One company having been ordered to make good the the N.E portion of the Wood as soon as it became known that the R. W. F. had passed beyond the N edge giving to the left of the line being driven back from the N. EAST portion of BOURLON VILLAGE the R. W. F. were forced to drop back to the N edge of the wood and being subjected to considerable enemy pressure were reinforced by 2 platoons of 'A' Coy. 17th Welsh.

An attempt was made to dig in along the N & NE edges of the wood, but heavy shell fire and M-gun fire forced the line to drop back to a position about 100 to 150 yards inside. This line was worked on during the night of 23rd/24th November.

Towards evening however the right centre had been driven back and a message was sent to o.c. 'A' Coy to throw his left back towards the track running diagonally through a F. 13.b and link up with the right of 'C' Coy. At midnight 23/24th November this function was effected and the line was continuous from F. 7.b.2.6 to F. 8.C..5.4 and thence by means of posts to the sunken road at F. 14.A..3.3 .

This operation was rendered the more difficult because by the time that the 17th Welsh and the 19th R. W. F. were very much mixed up and re-organisation was hampered by darkness.

In the attack, Edmund Walter Betts, aged 31, was among the killed. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial in Louverval.

A month earlier, his brother John , a territorial with former service in the Yeomanry, had been killed near Polygon Wood while serving with the 8th York and Lancaster Regiment. He has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

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Good job Lars ! I love it when such a thing occurs here from out of the blue !

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