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laughton

Epehy Wood Farm Cemetery, Epehy: Case #1 Leicesters Captain with a Military Cross

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laughton

This is an investigation case related to the main cemetery post here:

https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/264948-epehy-wood-farm-cemetery-epehy/

 

From that topic:

Quote

COG-BR 1998601 probably identified already (nope) as it is a Leicesters Captain with a Military Cross in grave 6.F.2 from 62c.E.5.d.6.6

  • not on list of 32 from the Leicestershire Regiment (CWGC Link), December 1917 and March 1918
  • not named on GRRF 1998497
  • two (2) missing in March 1918 (CWGC Link) on Pozieres Memorial (both M.C.) and two (2) on Arras Memorial, no idea why yet but no M.C.

 

Same brigade and division which may make it impossible to separate the two men: (LLT Link)

 

SPENCER-SMITH

Captain

HENRY

Thursday, March 21, 1918

POZIERES MEMORIAL

VIEW RECORD

110th Brigade, 21st Division

8th (Service) Bn., Leicestershire Regiment

McLAY

Captain

ARCHIBALD

Thursday, March 21, 1918

POZIERES MEMORIAL

VIEW RECORD

110th Brigade, 21st Division

6th (Service) Bn., Leicestershire Regiment

Edited by laughton
Arras Memorial link was incorrect - fixed

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laughton

6th (Service) Battalion 21 March 1918 war diary (page 81 of 159) - battalion in support, blood on that page!, no casualty details.

 

8th (Service) Battalion 21 March 1918 war diary (page 177 of 195) appears to tell the story from the 17th through to the 21st of March in the front lines, no details of casualties. (Correction - see Alan's post that follows, he found them in the war diary at the end of the month!)

 

I will check for any detailed reports in appendicies.

 

The remains were found to the west of Epehy 62c.E.5, either a burial ground or behind the front lines (McMaster [Peronne] 62c). Serjeant Moore #11692 and Private Hunt #21685 wwere found in the same location (same COG-BR) and they were both 8th Battalion.

 

That would suggest Captain Spencer-Smith but it is still early in the game!

Edited by laughton
fixing posts

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laughton

No appendices to the 6th Battalion war diary but an interesting letter (nicely typed) from the Intelligence Officer of the 8th Battalion in their war diary (page 185 of 195) entitled " The Fog".They were in the trenches on the right of "Fourteen Willows" Road. No other appendices.

 

Nothing on the Trench Map DVD or Rat's Alley but Google tells us of this reference (link) for the 4th (Queen's Own) Hussars who were in support at Epehy. It could be that the "sunken lane" is what is clearly seen going through sector 62c.E.5.d, where the remains were recovered. Only a supposition at this time!

 

Looks like Pigeon Ravine is to the north west at 57c.X.21, which would be correct as Peiziere is at 57c.W.30, which they refer to as "behind this" (the trench and ravine). These are the sectors immediately north of Epehy, clearly shown on this McMaster Composite "St. Emilie 57c.SE, 57b.SW, 62c.NE and 62b.NW (parts of)".

 

That gives further support to a Captain of the 8th Battalion who was in that exact area. The problem is, we don't know if the 6th was in that same area as well.

 

Edited by laughton

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thetrenchrat22

Richard,  

 

popped into  to my local library tonight on the way home, as they have the world edition of ancestry 

 

Had a quick look at the War diary for the 8th, it mentioned that  Captain Spencer-Smith believed P OW 22nd March 1918. 

 

It had MC after his name and therefore if Captain McLay had his MC gazzetted after his death. 

 

Then possible the unknown Captain could be Spencer-Smith

 

alan

 

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laughton

Archibald McLay was gazetted in July 1917 for his services:

 

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30188/supplement/7238

 

Henry Spencer-Smith was a New Year's Day M.C.:

 

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30450/supplement/46

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laughton
23 hours ago, thetrenchrat22 said:

Had a quick look at the War diary for the 8th, it mentioned that  Captain Spencer-Smith believed P OW 22nd March 1918. 

 

Good eyes! I had not read that far and not the easiest diary to read but there it is, war diary (page 184 of 195).

 

He has a file at the ICRC but no PA records so never found as a POW:

C_G1_E_15_01_0079_0721_0.JPG

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laughton

Lieutenant Colonel William Norman Stewart of the 6th Battalion was shot and killed by a sniper the same day as Captain McLay. Odd that they lost his remains, given that rank, but he is on the Pozieres Memorial (CWGC Link). He is listed there as "North Somerset Yeomanry attd. 6th Bn. Leicestershire Regiment". I was hoping for a COG-BR but no luck, they lost him.  (now covered here: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/265061-the-wrong-lieutenant-colonel-hindle-or-stewart/)

 

 

I checked out a large number of the recovery areas for men of the 6th and 8th battalions and it is clear that the 8th battalion men were recovered in 62c.E5 and E.6 and the 6th battalion men were in the two sectors to the south in 62c.E.11 and E.12, with some further south in E.16. I would have to take all the detailed coordinates and mark them on a trench map. I doubt that the CWGC would take that as evidence, but if I were Captain Spencer-Smith's family, I would be visiting that grave.

 

We know it is one of the two, so another case to share a grave.

 

 

 

Edited by laughton
link to case for Lt. Col.

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laughton

I found a reference to Captain McLay in Jerry Murland's book "Retreat and Rearguard- Somme 1918: The Fifth Army Retreat". I came across that while checking on Lieutenant Colonel Stewart of 110 Brigade. I matched that with what I could of the trench map coordinates (TMC) on wo297_1578. Looks like this text will help a lot with the many missing that are being researched in this area. including Captain Crofton (6th Connaught Rangers), a Canadian, that started my hunt of this area.

 

The text reports that the 7th and 8th Battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment garrisoned Epehy (62c.F.1.a/c - [Peronne] 62c) and Peizieres (57c.W.30.d - [Bapaume] 57c), the sector just north of Epehy. The 7th Battalion was at Peizieres, so that means the 8th Battalion was in Epehy. There is really no separation between the two communities. Two companies of the 6th Battalion were in reserve at Saulcourt (62c.E.9.d) to the southwest of Epehy. Those two companies (must be B & D) were later called upon to stabilize the situation when the Germans began their advance on St. Emilie. There they formed a defensive flank on the southern edge of Epehy.

 

Here we find that Captain McLay and Lieutenant Lane-Roberts (later captured and POW) were in command of A and C Companies of the 6th Leicesters in Epehy. It does not say "respectively" but that could be assumed. The HQ was a Cullen Post (TMC 62c.F1.b.3.2)  behind the cemetery on the Rue Louis Goerges. The book also tells us that by nightfall the 6th Leicesters survivors were along the north eastern edge of the village and the 8th had withdrawn to Prince Reserve Trench (runs through 62c.F.1.b to the east of Cullen Post). It is further reported that Lt. Col. Stewart was shot down in front of his headquarters some time around 2 am. Later it says that Stewart was killed  just prior to the withdrawal northwest to Capron Copse (TMC 62c.E.17).

 

Captain McLay (6th (Service) Bn., Leicestershire Regiment) is reported killed during the rearguard action in Epehy. That night they were reported to be "somewhere in the fields behind Epehy", which should place them in 62c.E.6 or further west in 62c.E.5, where the remains were recovered. We know that the 8th Battalion was to the east in Prince Reserve Trench, which thus reverses the Candidate Captains from my previous posts, suggesting that only Captain McLay was in the area where the remains were recovered. The early thought was based on the finding of other men of the 8th Battalion in the same area where the remains were found. This might be a "burial area" and not "battlefield burials where they fell". It was not one of the smaller cemeteries referenced by the CWGC as the Captains went into Plot 6 and neither of the smaller cemeteries were in sector 62c.F.5 where the remains were recovered.

 

Quote

Plots III-VI were made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields surrounding Epehy and the following smaller cemeteries:

 

At some point, I believe on the 22nd, both the 6th and 8th Battalions were in the area south of Epehy to stall the German advance toward St. Emilie, withdrawing to the northwest to Capron Copse near the Epehy Saulcourt Road.

 

I should mention that I was not able to find any mention of Captain Henry Spencer-Smith in the Murland text. As such, we do not know where and when he disappeared. As only the 6th Battalion was ever reported in the area to the west of Epehy, it would appear that the focus has shifted towards the remains being those of Captain McLay.

 

It would appear that I can not move forward on this until I map the battlefield burial locations of all the known men of the 6th and 8th Battalions.

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laughton

In the area around Epehy, it would appear to me that the men of the 8th Battalion were buried in the north sector in 62c.E.5 and E.6 and the men of the 6th Battalion were buried in the south sector of 62c.E.11, E.12 and E.13

 

surname initials death rank unit # cemetery / memorial grave Recovered TMC
UNKNOWN     CAPTAIN ?   EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY   62c.E.5.d.6.6
SINFIELD J 23-03-18 Corporal 8th Bn. '25698' BRONFAY FARM MILITARY CEMETERY, BRAY-SUR-SOMME II. E. 45. unknown
ASTON E 22-03-18 L/Cpl. 8th Bn. '12313' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY VI. I. 4. 62c.E.6.c.1.3
HUNT F 22-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '21685' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY VI. I. 13. 62c.E.5.d.6.6
MOORE F 22-03-18 Serjeant 8th Bn. '11692' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY VI. I. 16. 62c.E.5.d.6.6
RICKHUSS J 22-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '17960' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY VI. F. 12. 62c.E.5.d.6.4
ALLEN D H 21-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '10667' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY IV. F. 14. 62c.E.11.a.0.8
CLAYFORD E 21-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '41321' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY IV. F. 11. 62c.E.11.a.0.8
DAWSON J H 23-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '21868' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY IV. F. 12. 62c.E.11.a.0.8
FIELDING L A 22-03-18 L/Cpl. 6th Bn. '25784' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY (from Epehy New Cemetery) III. H. 1. 62c.F.7.a.4.8
FAGG A 05-03-18 Private 6th Bn. 18806' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY (from Epehy New Cemetery) III. H. 8. 62c.F.7.a.4.8
HOWE H H 21-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '25066' HEM FARM MILITARY CEMETERY, HEM-MONACU I. B. 17. 62c.B.22.d.8.9
HEMMINGS A C 23-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '242223' HONNECHY BRITISH CEMETERY (from Villers Outreach CCExt) II. D. 12. 57b.T.14.b.9.1
DENNIES T K 25-03-18 Serjeant 6th Bn. '16224' HONNECHY BRITISH CEMETERY (from Clary German Cemetery) II. C. 21. 57b.O.17.b.3.3
HUSBAND E F 25-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '36522' HONNECHY BRITISH CEMETERY (from Villers Outreach CCExt) II. D. 13. 57b.T.14.b.9.1
SWANWICK H T 26-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '23553' LA NEUVILLE BRITISH CEMETERY, CORBIE II. G. 6. unknown
BROWN A S 25-03-18 L/Cpl. 8th Bn. '40916' LE CATEAU MILITARY CEMETERY (formerly German military hospital) V. B. 12. unknown
CHADWICK T 22-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '45487' LE CATEAU MILITARY CEMETERY (formerly German military hospital) V. B. 3. unknown
KISBY E 29-03-18 Private 8th Bn '24118' LE CATEAU MILITARY CEMETERY (formerly German military hospital) V. A. 11. unknown
MERRICK D 30-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '31558' LE CATEAU MILITARY CEMETERY (formerly German military hospital) I. A. 18. unknown
SMITH W G 22-03-18 Lieutenant attd. 8th Bn.   LE CATEAU MILITARY CEMETERY (formerly German military hospital) III. E. 1. unknown
HERBERT E 31-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '33117' LE CATEAU MILITARY CEMETERY (formerly German military hospital) I. A. 10. unknown
HACKETT P 20-03-18 Private 1st/6th Bn. ?? '21120' LONGUENESSE (ST. OMER) SOUVENIR CEMETERY IV. F. 73. unknown
BOOTH J 22-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '23914' PERONNE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION III. P. 6. 62c.C.12.d.4.6
BOTT H J 23-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '24122' PERONNE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION (from Peronne German) III. G. 26. 62c.I.4.c.8.6
EMMOTT J 23-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '41332' PERONNE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION III. D. 36. 62c.D.19.d.2.7
FARROW J H C 23-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '41335' PERONNE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION V. I. 18. 62c.E.14.d.2.6
ROUSE H 24-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '38021' PERONNE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION III. N. 17. 62c.D.19.d.2.7
WHEATLEY A 23-03-18 Serjeant 8th Bn. '14887' RIBEMONT COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, SOMME IV. A. 2. 62d.N.21.c.8.9
BENTLEY G 26-03-18 CQMS 6th Bn. '16762' RIBEMONT COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, SOMME II. D. 7. 62d.D.30.c.7.2
BROOKS J W 26-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '10205' RIBEMONT COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, SOMME II. D. 8. 62d.D.30.c.7.2
DEWING J W 28-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '20278' RIBEMONT COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, SOMME II. E. 5. 62d.D.27.a.2.2
HENSON T 22-03-18 L/Cpl. 6th Bn. '32804' RIBEMONT COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, SOMME II. E. 6. 62d.D.27.c.3.4
RADFORD T 28-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '21936' RIBEMONT COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, SOMME II. E. 4. 62d.D.27.a.2.2
PEACOCK J W 22-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '41369' ROISEL COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION (buired by British POW) III. E. 24. 62c.K.5.c.5.3
PADGETT H 22-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '16964' ROYE NEW BRITISH CEMETERY Mem. 101. unknown
COLCLOUGH J 22-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '41318' ROYE NEW BRITISH CEMETERY Mem. 61. unknown
MARTIN F 22-03-18 Corporal 6th Bn. '13142' ROYE NEW BRITISH CEMETERY Mem. 102. unknown
WINTER W H 22-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '37890' ROYE NEW BRITISH CEMETERY I. E. 19. unknown
CLARKE E H 21-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '23537' SAULCOURT CHURCHYARD EXTENSION, GUYENCOURT-SAULCOURT Sp. Mem. A. 3. unknown
GEEN R J 22-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '235171' SAULCOURT CHURCHYARD EXTENSION (buried by Germans) D. 3. unknown
GUESS A 22-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '11621' SAULCOURT CHURCHYARD EXTENSION (buried by Germans) C. 13/14. unknown
LAWSON A J 22-03-18 Captain 8th Bn.   SAULCOURT CHURCHYARD EXTENSION (buried by Germans) D. 11. unknown
WILLIAMS A E 22-03-18 L/Cpl. 8th Bn. '40405' SAULCOURT CHURCHYARD EXTENSION (buried by Germans) C. 1/2. unknown
ELLIS J C 21-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '14580' SAULCOURT CHURCHYARD EXTENSION (buried by Germans) D. 1. unknown
FOWKES P B 26-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '242291' ST. PIERRE CEMETERY, AMIENS (medical) IX. E. 4. unknown
ALLEN G 28-03-18 Corporal 8th Bn. '21559' ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN (medical) P. VII. J. 8B. unknown
FOULDS J 27-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '45537' ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN (medical) P. VII. D. 2A. unknown
HOWARD G A 22-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '46296' STE. EMILIE VALLEY CEMETERY, VILLERS-FAUCON IV. E. 3. 62c.E.13.a.2.4
MARSDEN A 22-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '41359' STE. EMILIE VALLEY CEMETERY, VILLERS-FAUCON IV. E. 8. 62c.E.13.a.2.4
DUNKLEY R H 23-03-18 L/Cpl. 6th Bn. '204105' UNICORN CEMETERY, VENDHUILE IV. G. 10. 62c.E.12.d.4.8
MAY H C 22-03-18 CSM 6th Bn. '12813' UNICORN CEMETERY, VENDHUILE III. G. 14. 62c.E.12.d.4.8
ROBERTS J L 21-03-18 Lieutenant attd. 6th Bn.   UNICORN CEMETERY, VENDHUILE III. G. 20. 62c.E.12.d.4.8
SMITH S S 24-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '41407' UNICORN CEMETERY, VENDHUILE III. G. 19. 62c.E.12.d.4.8
BRADLEY H 22-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '40958' VILLERS-FAUCON COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION III. B. 18. unknown
SIMONS J 26-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '32593' VILLERS-FAUCON COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION III. C. 29. unknown
Edited by laughton

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laughton

@voltaire60

 

Still not at the point that this case can be resolved. Mike is going to check the Officer files for the Lieutenant Colonels, so perhaps I could also bother him to check these two Captains. Lieutenant Lane-Roberts was captured and held as a POW and it is possible that he was able to report on the demise of Captain McLay.

 

Does anyone know if the UKNA has any plans (alone or with Ance$try) to digitize the Officer Files?

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voltaire60
2 hours ago, laughton said:

@voltaire60

 

Still not at the point that this case can be resolved. Mike is going to check the Officer files for the Lieutenant Colonels, so perhaps I could also bother him to check these two Captains. Lieutenant Lane-Roberts was captured and held as a POW and it is possible that he was able to report on the demise of Captain McLay.

 

Does anyone know if the UKNA has any plans (alone or with Ance$try) to digitize the Officer Files?

 

2 captains as well. Not a problem- sometime next week

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laughton

... and if you think appropriate, Lt. Lane-Roberts, as perhaps he has a report on the death?

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laughton

In the separate case of the Lieutenant Colonel (this topic) the exhumation company refers to the 62c.E.12 area as a burial area for the 6th Battalion (although it is typed as 5th). You can see that on the bottom of the document:

 

.doc2055857.JPG

 

I also checked the 1918 Captains to make sure none were on a Special Memorial - there were not.

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laughton

Continuing analysis, looking at the finer details, leads me to believe that we have adequate information to conclude that the remains of the Leicestershire Regiment with the Military Cross was Captain Henry Spencer-Smith of the 8th Battalion.

 

For the record, here are the COG-BR sheets that show that all the men of the 8th Battalion with known burial locations were found in E.5 and E.6:

  • COG-BR 1998598 
    • ASTON, E 22-03-18 L/Cpl.8th Bn.'12313' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY VI. I. 4. 62c.E.6.c.1.3
  • COG-BR 1998601 
    • HUNT, F 22-03-18 Private 8th Bn. '21685' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY VI. I. 13. 62c.E.5.d.6.6

    • MOORE, F 22-03-18 Serjeant 8th Bn. '11692' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY VI. I. 16. 62c.E.5.d.6.6

    • SAME SHEET AS THE UNKNOWN CAPTAIN AT THE SAME LOCATION

  • COG-BR 1998603

    • RICKHUSS, J 22-03-18 Private 8th Bn.' 17960' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY VI. F. 12. 62c.E.5.d.6.4

Taking a fresh look at the 8th Battalion War Diary for 22 March 1918, I see that the 8th Battalion HG was moved from FISHERS KEEP at 62c.F.1.a, which is adjacent to 62c.E.6.b on the northwest edge of Epehy. The diary also notes that this information was communicated to the 4 companies holding the RED LINE and to the 2 companies of the 6th BATTALION defending the village. The enemy was entering Epehy from the southeast moving northwest, so they would be pushing the 8th Battalion back in that direction. The defensive position was formed along the EPEHY-SAULCOURT ROAD, which in that area ran through 62c.E.6.a and 62c.E.6.c and then into 62c.E.5.d. It is there that the remains of the CAPTAIN were recovered. It was there that they linked up with the 7th Battalion holding PEIZIERE 57c.W.30.d, to the northwest. Two (2) companies of the 6th Battalion was holding the YELLOW LINE (the other 2 were in the village earlier). The enemy then (11 am) moved into the dead ground to the west of Epehy (that would be 623c.E.6 b&d). After this the battalion moved to the southwest in the direction of Saulcourt, taking us out of the area of interest where the remains of the Captain were recovered.

 

Switching over to the 6th Battalion war diary, we find that on the 21st that A & D Coys were sent to garrison posts in Epehy and that B & C Coys were coming forward from SAULCOURT (so heading northeast to Epehy). At 8:40 am on 22 March 1918 Lt.-Col. Stewart was shot and instantly killed by a sniper (see this topic). If we have that analysis correct, the Lt-Col. was at 62c.E.12.d.4.8, to the southwest of Epehy where all the other remains of the 6th Battalion were recovered. After 11 am the 6th Battalion came into touch with the 8th Battalion, as they were pushed back to the Epehy-Saulcourt Road (that could be 62c.E5.d and 62c.E.11.a). The location of the remains of the men of the 6th Battalion tells us they were primarily in the area of 62c.E.11.a. At this point it is reported that the 6th Battalion was going southwest towards Longavesnes 62c.E.25, while the 8th Battalion was withdrawing to the NORTH of the Epehy-Saulcourt Road. The 6th Battalion came under heavy fire at CAPRON COPSE, which places them at 62c.E.17.A&b. This is just northwest of Villers-Faucon. The 6th Battalion was now leaving the area where the remains of interest were recovered.

 

For the record, here are the COG-BR sheets that show that all the men of the 6th Battalion with known burial locations were found in E.11. E.12 and E.13:

  • COG-BR 1998595

    • ALLEN, D H 21-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '10667' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY IV. F. 14. 62c.E.11.a.0.8

    • CLAYFORD, E 21-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '41321' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY IV. F. 11. 62c.E.11.a.0.8

    • DAWSON, J H23-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '21868' EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY IV. F. 12. 62c.E.11.a.0.8

  • COG-BR 2044516

    • HOWARD, G A 22-03-18 Private 6th Bn.' 46296' STE. EMILIE VALLEY CEMETERY, VILLERS-FAUCON IV. E. 3. 62c.E.13.a.2.4

    • MARSDEN, A 22-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '41359' STE. EMILIE VALLEY CEMETERY, VILLERS-FAUCON IV. E. 8. 62c.E.13.a.2.4

  • COG-BR 2543292

    • DUNKLEY, R H 23-03-18 L/Cpl. 6th Bn. '204105' UNICORN CEMETERY, VENDHUILE IV. G. 10. 62c.E.12.d.4.8

  • COG-BR 2543294

    • MAY, H C 22-03-18 CSM 6th Bn. '12813' UNICORN CEMETERY, VENDHUILE III. G. 14. 62c.E.12.d.4.8

    • ROBERTS, J L 21-03-18 Lieutenant attd. 6th Bn. UNICORN CEMETERY, VENDHUILE III. G. 20. 62c.E.12.d.4.8

    • SMITH, S S 24-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '41407' UNICORN CEMETERY, VENDHUILE III. G. 19. 62c.E.12.d.4.8

I should go back to the cemeteries where men were recovered in the area of the 6th Battalion and look for any OFFICERS that are listed. We might find the other Captain Archibald McLay.

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laughton
Quote

I should go back to the cemeteries where men were recovered in the area of the 6th Battalion and look for any OFFICERS that are listed. We might find the other Captain Archibald McLay.

 

STE. EMILIE VALLEY CEMETERY, VILLERS-FAUCON (there are a number of other good leads in this cemetery)

  • 4.A.5 Unknown British Officer at 62c.E.18, close to CAPRON COPSE where the 6th Bn was held up by heavy enemy fire
  • 3.D.16 Unknown British Officer at 62c.E.15.c.3.8, which appears to be on the road from Villers-Faucon to Lieramont
  • 3.D.11 Unknown British Officer at 62c.F.13.a.3.5, southeast of Epehy heading towards Ronssoy Woods - so not our man

UNICORN CEMETERY, VENDHUILE

  • nothing with an Officer in E,12 or E.13
Edited by laughton

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laughton

Now taking a look at the war diary for the 7th Battalion to see if they have any additional information, such as maps (states at page 123 of 318). They were on the north side of Epehy at Peiziere, which is more or less an extension of Epehy into map 57c. The war diary tells us that the enemy were moving down from Vaucelette Farm 57c.X.13.c (page 124 of 318). The enemy are coming down and crossing SQUASH, PLANE and FIR trenches, so into 57cX.19 and 57c.X.25. They are also noted to be approaching from the south of Epehy. At 10 am on  the 22nd new was received that the enemy had captured St. Emilie and the southern end of Epehy and the 8th Battalion had been ordered to form a defensive on the Epehy-Saulcourt Road (that would be in 62c.E.6.c). They retreated, facing MG fire from both the northeast and southeast, causing many casualties.

 

In Appendix A we start to get more information on the lines as there is a reference (message from OAK to PINE) to the YELLOW LINE at 62c.E.5.a.7.3 to 62c.E.5.c.6.5, which is the area where we find our UNKNOWN CAPTAIN (war diary page 146 of 318). I recall now that in one of the other topics there is a map of the red, brown, yellow and green lines.

 

There is no mention of the 6th Battalion being in the area to the immediate west of Epehy where the remains were found.

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laughton

Checking on what is available in the 110th Infantry Brigade war diary for March 1918 (start at page 423 of 760). There is some good detail in here of what happened on the morning of 21 March 1918 (page 427 of 760).

 

Paraphrased:

 

The enemy bombardment of the Brigade front started at 4:30 am on a 6,000 yard front. No enemy infantry appeared until 10:30 am, at which time the enemy penetrated the brigade support line at several places, gaining entrance to Peiziere. The 7th Battalion, along with two tanks counter attacked, keeping the Reserve (Red) Line intact. The next attack was at 3 pm and the 6th Battalion was ordered to form a defensive flank pivoting on the south side of Epehy, supported by 3 Vicker's machine guns. two Field Companies of Royal Engineers one company of 1st East Yorks. The reserve line remained intact, however the enemy had penetrated as far as the Epehy - Ste. Emilie Road, with small portions north of the road.

 

Another advance commenced on 22 March 1918, with a barrage at 6:45 am and a strong attack at 8:15 am on the south end of Epehy with a flanking attack on the Epehy - Ste. Emilie Road. The southern posts of Epehy were captured. The 6th and 8th battalions withdrew in a northwest direction to the Saulcourt - Epehy Road. Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart of the 6th Battalion was killed at this point [My note: (see this topic on that issue), so we know they were at 62c.E.12.d.4.8]. The withdrawal was complete by 10 am and the 7th Battalion was holding the Reserve (Red) Line and the Peiziere village defences. At 11 am the 21st Division withdrew to the Brown Line. Lieutenant-Colonel Utterson of the 8th Battalion and most of the Epehy Garrison were reported missing (bottom of page 429 of 760), believing that they had been completely surrounded. [My Note: this suggests that there was no word of the 8th Battalion Officer Casualties until 22 March 1918, which agrees with the 8th Battalion war diary, rather than the CWGC date of Captain Spenser-Smith on the 21st].

 

When you put his all together you have:

  • 7th Battalion north of Epehy holding Peiziere (57c.W.30)
  • 6th Battalion within and to the south of Epehy (62c.E.6 & E.12)
  • 8th Battalion between 6th and 7th Battalions (62c.F.1 and into 62c.E.6) - HQ was at Fishers Keep
Edited by laughton
corrected

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Neil Mackenzie

Probably just creating confusion rather than aiding but I did some research on 2/Lt Arthur Lord a few years ago.

 

He was originally buried at W.23.d.9.2 before being moved to Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery (grave VI.G.4). Although CWGC lists him in 7th Bn other documentation (including 6th Bn War Diary) has him in 6th Bn and the letter to his wife was written by Captain Ernest Gaul of the Lincolnshire Regt who was attached to 6th Bn.

 

According to the same Concentration report there were two other men buried at that location with Arthur but they are shown as UBS so that does not help. The report also mentions a Private P. Tuchy of 6th Bn who was initially buried at W.20.d.9.3 - this is Private P. Tuohy who is now also buried in Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery (grave V.G.20).

 

Lord's initial burial location is by the side of the road (D58) coming NW out of Peizieres - i.e. north of Epehy. Tuohy's location is some way west of Lord's, indeed it is west of Heudecourt, but still north of Epehy.

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laughton

Interesting that the brigade was in the same general area into September 1918 (death on 18th). That means Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery is a good place to check for others that were lost in the November-December 1917 and March 1918 periods (including Lt-Col. Hindle). The CWGC database is full of errors, so you should report your case. Appears he came up from the a Corporal #4910 in the 6th Dragoon Guards.

 

I hit another error just this morning, checking to make sure there were not other Captains that the CWGC might flag. There was another (Frederic Scott May 1918) listed as 9th Battalion, which Chris has noted disbanded February 1918 (LLT link). He has the Military Cross but in May  1918 would not have been in the area, as listed on the Soissons Memorial (The Soissons Memorial commemorates almost 4,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom forces who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne in 1918 and who have no known grave.)

 

I probably should check this list to make sure none of these Captains had an M C that was not recorded by the CWGC. Need to find the easiest way to do that.

 

surname forename honours death unit memorial
ASTLE ALBERT GEORGE   03-05-17 8th Bn. ARRAS MEMORIAL
COX FREDERICK PERCY   03-05-17 3rd Bn. attd. 9th Bn. ARRAS MEMORIAL
HARBOTTLE JOHN   21-03-18 1st Bn. ARRAS MEMORIAL
OLIVER FREDERICK RUDDALL   03-05-17 8th Bn. ARRAS MEMORIAL
SPENCER JOHN CLIVE   21-03-18 11th Bn. ARRAS MEMORIAL
CORAH LESLIE   13-10-15 4th Bn. LOOS MEMORIAL
FAIRE REGINALD ALFRED   14-10-15 4th Bn LOOS MEMORIAL
MARRIOTT NORMAN CLARKE   17-08-17 5th Bn. LOOS MEMORIAL
RAWDON-HASTINGS PAULYN CHARLES JAMES REGINALD   13-10-15 "A" Coy. 5th Bn. LOOS MEMORIAL
McLAY ARCHIBALD M C 21-03-18 6th Bn. POZIERES MEMORIAL
SPENCER-SMITH HENRY M C 21-03-18 8th Bn. POZIERES MEMORIAL
CARNLEY RONALD   27-05-18 5th Bn. SOISSONS MEMORIAL
SCOTT FREDERIC M C 27-05-18 9th Bn. SOISSONS MEMORIAL
ALLBERRY CECIL CHARLES   25-09-16 10th Bn. THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
BROWN DAVID WESTCOTT   14-07-16 6th Bn. THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
EMMET FREDERIC HERBERT   14-07-16 9th Bn. THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
GIFFORD NORGA ERNEST   14-07-16 7th Bn. THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
GILLETT GEORGE MAURICE GERALD   26-09-16 6th Bn. THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
WETENHALL WILLIAM THORNTON   17-07-16 6th Bn. THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

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laughton

This is text I prepared for the report on the other candidates:

 

Quote

6.    The Possible Candidates List constructed from the CWGC database shows there were 45 Captains of the Leicestershire Regiment lost in France in the Great War, of which nineteen (19) have no known grave (Attachment #6). Of these, only three (3) are reported to have a Military Cross, two (2) of which are on the Pozieres Memorial (applicable) and one (1) is on the Soissons Memorial (not applicable). Two (2) of the five (5) Captains on the Arras Memorial were killed in action during the March 1918 period of interest, neither of which had a Military Cross nor were in the area of Epéhy at the time. The 1st Battalion (Captain Harbottle) was near Lagnicourt 57c.C.23, northeast of Bapaume (war diary page 86 of 796) and the 11th Battalion (Captain Spence – Midland Pioneers), was in the same general area near Fremicourt (war diary page 614 of 672) at Vaux and Maricourt Woods 57c.C.27 and 57c.I.4.

A review of the CWGC database reveals additional support for the differentiation of the burial sites for the men of the 6th and 8th Battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment. There are four (4) known in Epéhy Wood Farm Cemetery who were found in this general area (Allen, Clayford, and Dawson 62c.E.11.a.0.8; Fielding 62c.F.7.a.4.8). At the St. Emilie Valley Cemetery, two (2) more are found from this area (Howard and Marsden 62c.E.13.a.2.4).

Men of the 6th Battalion buried in the Unicorn British Cemetery were also found in this area (May, Dunkley, Smith and Roberts 62c.E.12.d.4.8). It was here that the remains of the Unknown Lieutenant Colonel were recovered, who we believe was incorrectly identified as Lieutenant Colonel Hindle of the 1st/4rh Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, rather than Lieutenant Colonel William Norman Stewart of the 6th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment (see CWGC Identification Case # ____). That file contains important information relative to this case, as the Special Exhumation Report (SPEC-EXH 2055857) states: (Note that where it says “5th” it should have been typed “6th” – there was no 5th Battalion in that area).

  •  “The above name officer was originally exhumed at map reference 62c.E.12.c.7.4., together with a number of other ranks of the 5th (sic) Battn Leicestershire Regt, killed in action morning of 23/3/1918”.
     

 

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laughton

A nice little map that was on Wikipedia (not under copyright):  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Michael

 

Somme-1918_battlefield_copy.jpg

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laughton

There is information on this case in Richardson's book on the Tigers, referenced in the topic on the Wrong Lieutenant Colonel (this post): 

 

TIGERS HISTORY by Matthew Richardson: THE TIGERS

 

There is a photo of the grave and what I believe is a comment by Richard Lane:

 

Quote

The grave of an unknown Captain, Leicestershire Regiment, in Epehy Wood cemetery. There is a strong possibility that this is the grave of Capt. Henry Spencer Smith, 8th Battalion, the only full Captain killed in this area on 21 March. Richard Lane

 

I am not yet sure what he meant by "full Captain" or from where that information was derived. I assume for the moment it implies that Captain McLay of the 6th Battalion was an "Acting" or "Temporary" Captain. Perhaps that will be revealed in the Officers' files.

 

This is the part of the story where were once again find Lieutenant Kelly, 100th Brigade Information Officer, on his search for the three battalions (6th, 7th and 8th Leicesters). In Murland's 2014 text we have similar wording:

 

Quote

At this point in the text we find the reference to Lieutenant Kelly (110th Brigade I.O.) and Tierens (M.O. 6th Leicesters) left from Fishers Keep to locate the 6th Leicesters "who were somewhere in the fields behind Epehy". "Retreat and Rearguard - Somme 1918, the Fifth Army Retreat"

 

There he reports that Kelly arrived at Fisher Keep 62c.F.1.a.1.7 where we know that Lieutenant Colonel Utterson 8th Leicesters was later captured. Captain Spencer-Smith is Utterson's Adjutant. Kelly reports that Spencer-Smith was killed shortly after he left. The remains of the Unknown Captain were found at 62c.E.5.d.6.6. As our summary table previously noted, other men of the 8th Battalion were recovered at that location, but none from the 6th Battalion. That location is about 1,700 yards southwest of Fishers Keep, perhaps the 8th Battalion burial ground. Were the men of the 8th Battalion in that area long enough after Utterson's capture to bury these men, or was it the Germans?

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laughton

This may be where the comment comes from that McLay was not a "full Captain" as here he is a Second Lieutenant acting as a Captain:

 

image.png.ead937f78a2b6879c4e78758ba1eb14f.png

 

That was in July 1917, so what happened after that date? I could not find anything in the London Gazette about him being a CAPTAIN after that date. That does not mean it does not exist, I just did not find the information.

 

It is quite common for the CWGC to show the highest rank of an Officer in the database, so is it possible that he was not a Captain at the time? Another case of the "Kipling Effect"?

 

There is no mention of the death of a Captain McLay in the war diary of the 6th Leicesters on 21 March 1918 (war diary page 81 of 159).

 

Ah! but he is mentioned on the same page as the Captain in charge of the POSTS and DEFENSE of Epehy with A & D Coys on 18 March 1918. That enforces his position as a candidate, not only as a Captain but an Officer in Epehy at the time of his reported death.

 

Captain McLay was 6th Battalion, so he would have been expected to be recovered in the battalion burial site in 62c.E.12 not in the 8th Battalion burial site in 62c.E.5. The remains of the Captain with the M.C. were recovered at 62c.E.5.d.6.6.

 

From the Lieutenant Colonel draft report: (this link)

Quote

A number of men of both the 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment were lost in the area of Epéhy during the great German advance of March 21, 1918 (Operation Michael). In general terms, the men of the 8th Battalion were recovered during post war exhumations in the sectors 62c.E.5 and 62c.E.6. The men of the 6th Battalion were recovered from battalion burial grounds to the south in sectors 62c.E.11 and 62c.E.12.

 

 

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laughton

From Jerry Murland's text "Retreat and Rearguard- Somme 1918, The Fifth Army Retreat":

Quote

Page 213:

 

As  for A and C Companies of 6/Leicesters, which were deployed in Epehy, they were under the command of 31-year-old Captain Archibald McLay and Lieutenant Ellis Lane-Roberts  with headquarters at Cullen Post, an observation point directly behind the cemetery, on the Rue Louis Georges.

 

Page 217: (this appears to be quoted from David Kelly - reference is "39 Months with the Tigers")

 

Rearguards fought obstinately in Epehy to cover the retreat; Captain McLay of the 6th Battalion, one of our best company commanders, was killed there, and I heard the streets were full of German dead.

 

We know from the placement of the posts in the Lieutenant Colonel topic that Cullen post was at 62c.F.1.b.3.3.

 

NOTE: A little confusion with the references from "Kelly" as there is David Kelly the author of the book and then there is Lieutenant Kelly the Intelligence Officer of the 110th Brigade. @tigerjohn referred to that book in a related post and there it appears it is the same person?

 

 

Edited by laughton
typo

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laughton

I see now once I went direct to Naval & Military Press (book link) that this is a reprint of the original book, so yes it was written by Captain David Victor Kelly.

 

Quote

 

2001. SB. N & M reprint (original pub 1930). xiv + 160pp with frontispiece (cartoon), seven contemporary aerial photos and 10 maps photos

 

This is the story of the 110th Infantry Brigade, the ‘Leicester’ Brigade, which consisted of the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th (Service) Battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment, all formed in August/September 1914 (my own father enlisted in the 7th Battalion on 1 September 1914). They were brought together as a brigade in April 1915, in 37th Division, and arrived in France in July that year. A year later the brigade was transferred to the 21st Division in exchange for the 63rd Brigade and it remained in that division for the rest of the war. The author, who went on to make a distinguished career in the Diplomatic Corps culminating in a knighthood, was commissioned into the 6th Leicesters but shortly after arriving in France he was transferred to brigade HQ where he served on till the armistice. This, then, is the war from the point of view of a staff officer at a brigade HQ and all the more interesting for it. As may be expected from a future diplomat, the story is extremely well told and vividly describes the events he experienced – and it was far from a picnic at brigade HQ. Last year an excellent history of the four battalions in the brigade was published – The Tigers by Matthew Richardson – and 39 Months completes the story. This book is highly recommended, especially, of course, for those who may already have The Tigers on their shelves.

 

 

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