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Leonard Thomas Pyefinch, 1st Battalion East Kent Buffs


judithp

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I have established that my 3xgreat uncle, Leonard Pyefinch, was killed on the second day of the 1st Battle of Ypres, 20.10.14. As he has no grave, I do not know exactly where he was when he was killed. His name appears on the Ploegsteert Memorial. Does anyone have any clues that would help me please?

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Hello Judith,

Welcome to the GWF.

Your GGG Uncle Leonard`s Regiment, which was part of the 16th Brigade, 6th Division, fought at the battle of the Aisne (Sept 1914) and Armentieres (Oct 1914) during the early months of the Great War. If you click on the tab THE LONG, LONG TRAIL, at the top of this page, you`ll find lots of information on where The Buffs fought and information on how to research your uncles military history.

The National Archive website has a copy of The Buffs War Diary (Ref WO 95/1608/1) which you can download for £3.50 (ish!). Although this probably will not mention your uncle by name it will give you info into what the 1st Battalion, East Kent Regiment were doing during October 1914.

L T Pyefinch, Pte. 7861. East Kent Regiment.

Entered in to the Theatre of War. 7/9/1914

Entitled to the Victory and British medals.

There is a separate Medal Index Card for Leonards 14 Star.

L T Pyfinch. Pte. L/7861. East Kent Regiment.

Entitled to the 1914 Star Medal and Clasp.

All the best. Joe.

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Thanks Joe. That's very helpful. I am going to go up to London for a couple of days, and cram as much research in as possible. I will certainly look at the War Diaries. I also have another problem, which is going to be more difficult to solve.

Are you sitting comfortably?

When I was 14 years old, the family went back to Prestatyn Holiday Camp for a holiday. The army had requisitioned the brand new holiday camp at the beginning of the war and my father was posted there. When my grandfather's house was bomb damaged, my pregnant mother went up to Prestatyn, and that is where I was born. During our holiday, my parents took me back to the house I was born in next to the holiday camp (I was the first baby to be christened in the camp church), and I met the midwife who had delivered me. We said we were going to France for a holiday, and she asked us to look for her son's grave as she did not know where he was buried when he died in WW1. Unfortunately I cannot remember his first name, but her name was Catherine Law. We searched every military cemetery we could find, but to no avail.

Now, to get to the question! Do you know whether the details of next of kin were kept by regiments/war office/pensions departments etc? If so, I could start the search from there. I know it's a long shot, but you never know! Thanks Judith

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judithp,

Leonard Pyefinch is also commemorated on the war memorial at St Mildred's Church in Lee, South East London. The attached picture was published in the local paper after his death.

Regards,

Kev Loughnane

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Judithp,

The capttion accompanying the photgraph in the Lewisham Borough News (4th Feb 1916) read:

"Private L. Pyefinch, East Kent Regiment, was an "old boy" of the Baring-road School, Lee, an employee of Messrs Scudamore and Sons, builders, and a member of the Workingmen's Club at Lee-green. Called up as a reservist at the beginning of the war, he was reported as missing as long ago as October 20 1914. His wife, who lives at 65 Brightfield-road, Lee, has now received an official intimation that he was killed in action on that date. The late private and his wife formerly lived in Ronver-road."

I hope that this is of interest to you.

Regards,

Kev Loughnane

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Kev - Thank you so much for this information. This is the first picture I have ever seen of him. I know he had a great grandaughter called Hazel J Day, and I would love to contact her ifI can find her. I was also hoping to go over to Ypres in October this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death. My grandmother (his niece) called her two sons after him - Frank Thomas and Leonard William.

Judy

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Judy,

I'm glad that you have finally seen a picture of your 3x great uncle - but am sorry that it is not a better quality. The Lewisham Borough News is held on microform at the Lewisham Local History and Archives and I'm afraid that I cannot get a better scan.

Good luck in your attempt to contact his great grandaughter - a lot of searching I expect?

Regards,

Kev Loughnane

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Hello Judy,

Here is some more detail for you about the Buffs' actions around the 20th October, 1914. It is from, "The Historical Records of The Buffs, East Kent Regiment, 1914-19", By Colonel R. S. H. Moody:

"Early in October it appeared to Sir John French that it was advisable to withdraw the Army from the Aisne and strongly reinforce the forces in the north with a view to outflanking the enemy and so making him withdraw from his position... [However] French’s attempt at outflanking was rendered abortive by the German capture of Antwerp, and so the war developed into a fierce struggle for the coast, which may be said to have commenced on the 11th October and continued till 7th November; the enemy’s idea being to seize Calais and the channel ports and so make up for their failure to capture Paris.

This struggle is sometimes called the Battle of Flanders, but in reality included several fights, the chief of these being collectively described as the Battles of Ypres, 1914. Of course, the great move from the Aisne to the neighbourhood of St. Omer and Hazebrouck took time, and it was not till the 19th October that the move was completed. General Foch, whose headquarters at Doullens, at this time commanded all French troops north of Noyon and our Commander-in-chief had arranged with him a general wheel of troops to the right, on order to menace the German flank; this arrangement was made before the fall of Antwerp. It brought the British 7th Division to Ypres; caused heavy fighting for the 3rd Division about Givenchy, which lasted for weeks; moved the 4th Division to the north and the 6th to the south of the town of Armentiers, and was the immediate cause of the flight which followed at Radinghem.

Antwerp fell on the 9th October, and this event released 90,000 enemy troops, and the Germans also at this time brought four fresh Army Corps from their Eastern or Russian front, and so the British Army and that part of the French one which was in its neighbourhood were facing greatly superior numbers. As far as the Buffs were concerned they were relieved in their trenches on the Aisne by French troops on the 12th of the month, marched to Bazoches with the rest of the 16th Brigade and there entrained for Cassel, which they reached on the 13th. The relief of the trenches at Vailly was carried out successfully, but not altogether without difficulty. The enemy seemed to have an idea of what was going on and fired a number of flares, and a searchlight was also seen. The wheels of the transport were, however, covered with straw, as was the floor of the pontoon bridge over the river, in order to deaden noise. The French took up their position very quietly and very quickly, and the battalion re-crossed the Aisne at 2.15 a.m., the last of the brigade marching by Rouge Croix and Oultersteene.

The 16th Brigade was directed to Bois Grenier on the 17th as reserve to the division. The 17th was also sent here and the 18th to Armentieres, about four miles to the north. During the morning, however, as hostile firing was heard and observed, certain alterations were made by the 6th Division by order of superior authority, and it took up and constructed a defensive position along a new line: the 17th Brigade on the left, 18th in the centre and the 16th on the right from Croix Marechal to Rouge de Bout- French cavalry being on the right again.

On the 18th October the 17th and 18th Brigades advanced to ascertain what the enemy was doing about Perenchies, le Paradis and La Vallee, and to discover his strength, and in connection with this movement the 16th Brigade was ordered to send one battalion towards La Vallee and Bacquart. The Buffs were selected and the York and Lancasters were sent to Bridoux to cover their right flank. At 10.30 on this Sunday morning the Buffs debouched from Grand Flamengrie Farm with orders to seize the line of the Hameau de Bas-La Vallee road, but not to get seriously involved. B, C and D companies deployed, with A in reserve.

IV. BATTLE OF ARMENTIERES: ACTION AT RADINGHEM

Before reaching the above line the battalion got orders to take the village of Radinghem.

Just beyond this village is a fairly high ridge or plateau on which stands the Chateau de Flanders, and there is a wood on the edge of the plateau screening the house from the village, the distance between this wood and the south end of the village being about three hundred yards.

Brevet Colonel Julian Hasler was in command of the forward or firing line which advanced through Radinghem, seized the ridge and, pushing on, took the Chateau where severe hand-to-hand fighting occurred. But soon considerable German reinforcements coming up, the Buffs had to abandon the Chateau itself, though they still clung to the edge of the wood.

During the attack Company Sergeant-Major Brady, with nineteen men of C Company, on surmounting a piece of rising ground, suddenly found himself about two hundred yards from a German battalion in close order. Each Buff had three hundred rounds of ammunition, and one of the most beautiful displays of rapid firing ever made was the result: that particular German battalion was very quickly “put out of action,” as they say on filed days. The successful attack on the Chateau de Flanders was immensely helped by major Bayley’s company of the York and Lancaster Regiment, which had worked its way round to take the enemy in flank; so that when the these men approached, the enemy had hastily to withdraw. Without a doubt the Buffs owe very much to this gallant company.

At 6.10 p.m. the situation was looking serious, but after a German counter-attack had been repulsed things became better. Then orders came to hand over Radinghem to some French cavalry and to withdraw. When the Frenchmen arrived, however, they were found to be only 130 strong, so the Buffs and York and Lancaster consolidated themselves on the south edge of the village and settled in for the night. The artillery, a mixed brigade under Lt.-Colonel Humphrey, had most nobly supported the infantry during the day. Later on, when the Regiment had more experience, they found that the devotion to duty shown by the Gunners at Radinghem was quite a normal state of things with that arm, and was so looked for as a matter of course that notice was hardly ever taken of their excellent work, but in this, almost their first battle of the war, praise of the Gunners was in every man’s mouth.

On the 19th touch was obtained with the 19th Brigade at the railway crossing east of Bas Champs. At 3 p.m. the 16th Brigade was ordered to withdraw to Bois Grenier and to leave one battalion only at Radinghem. The consequence of this was of course that, the York and Lancaster being withdrawn, the Buffs were left alone to occupy the lines which last night had been constructed for both Regiments.

The morning of the 20th opened with a very heavy artillery fire from the enemy’s guns of large callibre, and then the German infantry pressed very heavily. About 2 p.m. Colonel Hasler was badly wounded, and command of the front line devolved on Major McDouall. At 3 p.m. the artillery reported that the Germans were advancing along the two roads from Le Maisnil leading to Radinghem. This meant that the Buffs would probably be surrounded, as touch with the 18th Brigade and French Cavalry had failed, and indeed it was ultimately found that these troops had been driven back. At 3.35 and again at 4 o’clock McDouall reported that the situation was very serious, but that he was holding on; that the machine guns were knocked out, the trench on his left hitherto held by C Company had been captured and that he was “in a tight corner.” He received orders to retire company by company, and replied that it was very difficult, but that “We will do the best we can.” At 4.50 came a message from brigade to hold on at all costs and promising the support of two companies of the York and Lancaster. The Headquarter party of the battalion manned a barricade in the village to be held, unaware that both flanks were exposed. A staff officer of the division, however, shortly arrived who was acquainted with the situation, and he directed the retirement of the Buffs, which was carried out without trouble, as the enemy was not enterprising and appeared to have had enough of the battalion. At 1 a.m. on the 21st the rear guard cleared the village, and that morning Grand Flamengrie Farm was reached and again billets resumed.

In this action the Buffs lost Lieuts. J. D. Philips, R. McDougall, M. Noott and R.S. Glyn killed, and Colonel J. Hasler and Lieuts. G. F. Hamilton, C.C. Stanfiled and Orwan wounded. Of the rank and file 17 were reported killed and 62 missing, but these were undoubtedly all or nearly all killed; 57 were wounded. The regiment earned great praise for the stand it made at Radinghem..."

(I think there are about 53 men listed as killed on the 20th-21st on the CWGC).

Hope that helps,

Chris


Also from the History.

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Thank you very much Chris. It has really been a sobering insight into what happened to Leonard. The coverage on TV recently of film shot at the time brings home just how awful it all was.

Are you really in Tokyo?

judy

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Glad it helped.

Yep, I am in Tokyo. All very nice, but it's a bit hard when it comes to researching!

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  • 5 months later...

Just a quick update. Out of the blue I received an e-mail from a neighbour of Leonard's grand-daughter, and I have since spoken to her on the phone. Isn't the Internet wonderful!!!????

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  • 5 weeks later...

Evening Judith.

Some information for you.

Pt Leonard Thomas Pyefinch is my Great Grandad, who I have been researching for a little while for my Mum Joy - sister to Hazel Day.

Your GGG Uncle had a son who was 6months old when he died - my Grandad who was named after his Dad - Lenoard.

I only found this site by accident - have told my mum and she never knew we had more family!

All the information above is correct - re 20th October 1914 he was KIA at the fight in Radinghem, just before the Buffs got pushed back.

This all started when my mum told me of my Great Grandad and how her dad (his son)was very closed about his father (obviously not knowing him)and had never seen a picture of him.

Thank you for helping me with this and to this site.

Im looking to go out to the Memorial on the 20th via Radinghem.

Please contact me if you would like any other information.

Many thanks...

Paul..

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Paul. Hope everything is OK. Haven't heard back from my messages. I went to the Tower of London last Wednesday, and it was worth every minute. Did you get there?

I have sent a family tree to Hazel, and will give her a ring to make sure she understands it.

Regards

Judith

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P.S. I don't know if you followed the previous messages sent to me, but somebody told me that Leonard was entitled to the following medals:



L T Pyefinch, Pte. 7861. East Kent Regiment.


Entered in to the Theatre of War. 7/9/1914


Entitled to the Victory and British medals.



There is a separate Medal Index Card for Leonards 14 Star.


L T Pyfinch. Pte. L/7861. East Kent Regiment.


Entitled to the 1914 Star Medal and Clasp.



Do you know if Ethel ever got them?



Judith

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  • 8 years later...

Hi Judith.

I believe Leonard to have been my Great Great uncle. 

I recently visited Belguim on a motorcycle trip. 
I was able to visit and pay my respects at the memorial outside Ypres. I felt completed to do some more research and found your topic here. 

It was a very moving experience and I felt a deep gratitude to those that gave everything for us. 
 

hope you are well,

Best regards, Lee

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  • Admin

Welcome to the forum Lee. @judithp hasn’t visited the forum for a while, but my tag may alert her to your post.

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Hi Lee.  I only found out about Leonard Pyefinch after my grandmother and mother had passed away.  I started doing the family history and eventually found that his name was in the Menin Gate.  I traced his daughter Hazel to Paignton and visited her twice before she passed away.  I am still in touch with her daughter and planned to go down to see her but Covid struck so had to cancel.  I have a picture of him which appeared in the local press when he was killed.  If you would like to contact me direct my e-mail address is (removed by moderator)

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  • Admin

Welcome back Judith. I’ve removed your email address from your post, it’s never a great idea to put personal information on a public forum. @Lee PFcan contact you via private messages on the forum, or vice versa.

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Hi

Just in case you haven't seen it, the ICRC files hold an enquiry card for Leonard, although the service number is incorrect, I am pretty sure its your Leonard, given the address and date of wounding and missing (Courtesy of ICRC):-

file front side

https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/223279/3/2/

It may be of interest to you as it ties Leonard back to B Company, which may add some context when reading the war diary.

Hope this helps

Kind Regards

Derek

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  • 2 weeks later...

Can't remember whether I said thank you for this!  I had not seen it before.  His son, also Leonard Pyefinch, was only about 4 months old when his father went to war, I believe.  I did meet his granddaughter before she died though.  nay great uncle.Leonard would have bee

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