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

 

To try and sort out whether the Captain was from the 6th or 8th Battalion I was checking all the men of both battalions that had known burial locations from the action in March 1918.

 

In that topic I had already noted the following in Post #7:

Quote

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.

 

There is a good chance they did not lose his remains!

 

I was working my way through the men of the 6th and 8th Leicestershire Regiment, where I found a group of them in the Unicorn Cemetery, Vendhuile. There were four (4) men of the 6th Battalion that were all recovered at 62c.E.12.d.4.8, which places them just south of Epehy, directly north of Ste. Emilie, where we would have expected to find them (see map Peronne 62c). These are the men:

 

DUNKLEY R H   23-03-18 L/Cpl. 6th Bn. '204105' IV. G. 10.
MAY H C   22-03-18 CSM 6th Bn. '12813' III. G. 14.
ROBERTS J L M C 21-03-18 Lieutenant 1st/2nd Bn. attd. "C" Coy. 6th Bn.   III. G. 20.
SMITH S S   24-03-18 Private 6th Bn. '41407' III. G. 19.

 

Here is the first of the COG-BR documents that shows Lieutenant Roberts, along with Company Serjeant Major May and Private Smith. Maybe these are all Leicestershire men, but that is another case for another day.

 

doc2543294.JPG

 

Now take a look at the second of the COG-BR documents to find the fourth man, Private Dunkley in grave 4.G.10. Take a very close look at the man in the grave beside him in 4.G.9 - an Unknown Lieutenant Colonel. My immediate reaction was:

 

"That has to be "Lieutenant Colonel William Norman Stewart of the 6th Battalion was shot and killed by a sniper the same day as Captain McLay. "

 

doc2543292.JPG

 

Now it gets really interesting and I think someone made a terrible mistake! They did not leave the Lieutenant Colonel as an UNKNOWN. They turned him into Lieutenant Colonel Hindle of the 4th Bn. ,The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, killed in action on 30 November 1917. I looked him up and he was really 1st/4th Battalion, so that is a CWGC error as well (Google Lt. Col. Hindle). There is a regimental history, which I have yet to download and read, but will do soon (see this link).

 

So where was Lt. Col. Hindle when he was killed on 30 November 1917? The war diary of the 1st/4th Battalion provides that answer (page 376 of 637), they were at Vaucellette Camp, which is marked on the maps as Vaucellette Farm, which can be found to the southwest of Villers-Guislain, on the west side of the road to Peiziere and Epehy (TMC 57c.X.13.c.4.5 [Bapaume] 57c). Epehy is about 2,500 yards southwest of where Lieutenant Colonel Hindle was killed and the remains were found a further 1,600 yards to the southwest, for an approximate separation distance of 3,100 yards.

 

I mentioned the Serjeant above, that was on the same COG-BR as May, Smith and Roberts. Turns out I could not leave this for another day, as on checking if there were any others of the 1st/4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, I see they turned the unknown Serjeant into Serjeant J. Heaps. Those are the only two men of that regiment named as being in the Unicorn Cemetery.

 

The death of Lt. Col. Hindle is recorded in the war diary (page 377 of 637). The general idea of the two pages of the war diary are that the Lancashire HQ was on the east side of Vaucellette Farm, when they opened up on the advancing Germans along a line from Chapel Crossing (X.7.c) to the Beet Factory (X.14.a). Orders came down from the 166th Infantry Brigade to clear the enemy from Villers Guislain (57c.X.9), which is to the northeast of the camp. Lt. Col. Hindle was leading the men, moving in the opposite direction from where the remains were found. They were advancing fine until they were 200 yards from the crest of Villers Hill, when their ammunition ran short. Fresh enemy came over the hill and shot Lt. Col. Hindle. The rest of the battalion withdrew to Vaucellette Farm. It is reported later that the casualties were Lt. Col. Hill and 2nd Lieutenant J. H. Livesey, also lost and on the Cambrai Memorial. Captain R. N. L. Buckmaster was MIA and he too is on the Cambrai Memorial. If the CWGC is correct, which I question, then they only recovered 1 of the 3 officers of the regiment killed on 30 November 1917.

 

So, now we take a look at the Exhumation Report for the man they say is Lt. Col. Hindle, exhumed 18 January 1920. There was a cross on the grave, but he was not named. There were no other identification marks. It was reported he had brown hair and above medium height. They carefully note that:

Quote

The above named officer was originally exhumed at map reference 62c.E.12.c.7.4, together with a number of other ranks of the 5th Battn. Leicestershire Regt., Killed in Action morning of 23/3/1918.

Note they have it wrong with the 5th Bn., it was the 6th.

 

I am not sure why they did not realize that there was a Lieutenant Colonel missing that belonged with that group of Leicestershire men - Lt. Col. Stewart? What made them decide that it was Lt. Col. Hindle that was lost 3,100 yards to the northeast of where the remains were recovered?

 

Lieutenant Colonel Stewart should have been at the exact location where the remains were recovered. Someone made a big mistake!

 

doc2055857.JPG

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Fortunately the war diary was transcribed back in 1921, for inclusion in the history, so it can be reproduced here without infringing on Ance$try.

 

 hnw613e1m29fj736g.jpg

 

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5gzgfll4mbmbflr6g.jpg

 

glx8va6nlvsuya36g.jpg

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There was a map as well: Map No. 5 The Vaucellette Farm Area Nov., 30th 1917

 

848w7ryom96801r6g.jpg

 

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My general location map of where the two Lt. Cols were located versus the remains:

 

292zibmc4auq3yw6g.jpg

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Laughton,

As ever, a detailed piece of research and deduction on your behalf.  I hope the case can be made to CWGC for a re-appraisal of the remains as those of Stewart.

 

Clive

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@voltaire60

 

Mike:

 

Would the Officer's Files tell us anything about the physical characteristics of these two Lieutenant Colonels?

 

Maybe one was 5'4" with no hair and the other was 5'1" with brown hair?

  1. Stewart: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C1125284
     
  2. Hindle: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C703737

If they were Canadian I could download them for free and know in 2 seconds. I can't even pay to download them from the UK.

 

They are not going to want to change a 100 year old headstone for a Lieutenant Colonel, so we need an "ace up our sleeve"!

 

Maybe they still have family in the UK that has pictures or other details? Had to be someone's grandfather - or at 40+ more likley a great-grandfather.

 

Richard

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thetrenchrat22

Richard 

 

another excellent piece of research again. 

 

Going through it, it does raise the question why the IWGC at that time think that it was Hindle and not Stewart.  

 

But i  dont think, we would get an answer.  

 

The officer’s files do need to be looked at, for hair colour and they may contain information about the burial. 

 

I think in this case, it should go to the CWGC and see what they say. 

 

Alan

Edited by thetrenchrat22
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Good find!

 

The photo caption:

Quote

Officers of the 4th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. L-R:

Captain J L Brindle, died 13/03/1918 aged 23,

Captain C G R Hibbert (Old Salopian), killed 16/06/1915 aged 27;

Lt-Col Ralph Hindle, killed 30/11/17 aged 35;

Captain J L Whitfield, killed 23/06/1915 aged 33;

Captain E M Rennard, killed 08/08/1916 aged 21.

 

Certainly Bindle is not as short as Whitfield and Rennard but would you class him as "medium tall" as reported in the exhumation document?

 

Lt. Col. Hindle and Serjeant Heaps are the only two (2) men of the regiment that died on the battlefield and are reported recovered after the war. Of the 27 men lost in the last week of November / first week of December 1917, most (22) are listed on the Cambrai memorial. The remaining three (3) appear to have died at medical facilities, as they don't correspond to exhumation (CWGC Link). I think we will find them in a group in one of the cemeteries, concentrated after the Armistice from the battlefield.

 

This would be the logical location: https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/24100/villers-hill-british-cemetery,-villers-guislain/ 

The COG-BR files for that cemetery are here: http://www.mediafire.com/folder/l1n0cvmwjnb5p/Villers_Hill_British_Cemetery

 

There are a large number of exhumations from the area where the deaths occured in 57c.X.12, 13 and 14. A large number of them are in sector 57c.X.13 where Vaucellette Farm was located. I noted in particular that there is an Unknown LNLR Officer in 4.E.3, exhumed from  57c.X.11.b.3.3, so that could be Lt. COl. Hindle, Captain Buckmaster or Second Lieutenant Livesay. The battalion is not specified, so that is a hypothetical comment. We know the 1st/5th were there as well, as Pte. Unsworth is buried in 5.E.4, exhumed from 57c.X.16.a.4.2. There were a number of others in the same location, unidentified (COG-BR 2630868). There are a lot of potential British Unknown Cases in that cemetery, I had only checked it previously for Canadians.

 

However, we do know that it often depended upon what cemetery was "open" and "accepting concentrations" at the time the work was undertaken.

 

15 December 2017: Here is the COG-BR 2630866 for the Unknown LNLR Officer at 57c.X.11.b.3.3:

doc2630866.JPG

 

The best map reference is [Bertincourt] 57c.SE which shows the location where the remains were recovered on the north side of Honnecourt Wood. This is past the location where it is believed Lieutenant Colonel Hindle paid the ultimate sacrifice, as the war diary reports that to be 200 yards from the crest of the hill. Were the remains recovered and buried by the Germans? Is the * on the COG-BR above associated with the LNLR Officer in 4.E.3 or the Australian Lieutenant in 4.E.4? I had assumed previously it was the Australian, but then note the + on each side of the LNLR Officer. On further investigation it does appear to be the Australian as there is a cemetery at 57c.X.3.c.1.7.

 

g2cdcgqezwbwpzd6g.jpg

Edited by laughton
added the COG-BR and map reference
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20 hours ago, laughton said:

@voltaire60

 

Mike:

 

Would the Officer's Files tell us anything about the physical characteristics of these two Lieutenant Colonels?

 

Maybe one was 5'4" with no hair and the other was 5'1" with brown hair?

  1. Stewart: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C1125284
     
  2. Hindle: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C703737

If they were Canadian I could download them for free and know in 2 seconds. I can't even pay to download them from the UK.

 

They are not going to want to change a 100 year old headstone for a Lieutenant Colonel, so we need an "ace up our sleeve"!

 

Maybe they still have family in the UK that has pictures or other details? Had to be someone's grandfather - or at 40+ more likley a great-grandfather.

 

Richard

 

   I will take a look on my next visit. Officer files are not good on physical characteristics, unless there is a medical form with commission application- but this is unlikely for men who had got up to Lt Col. Lets hope we can all be pleasantly surprised.

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The issue of the UNKNOWN SERJEANT that was shown on the first of the COG-BR documents above will have some impact on this case. He was found at the same location as the Lieutenant Colonel 62c.E.12.d.4.8 and they subsequently changed him to a "Believed to Be" Serjeant J. Heaps #200057 of the 1st/4th Bn., Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

 

There is nothing on the COG-BR to give any indication as to why they believe that to be Serjeant Heaps, other than reference to a UNIFORM, however at that time he was still UNKNOWN. There are three (3) candidates from the Leicestershire Regiment (6th & 7th Bns.) that are more likely, as at least 2 of them were in that location (CWGC Link). Serjeant Heaps was not, he was further north with the misnamed Lieutenant Colonel.

 

My concern would be that the CWGC might say that since they found a Serjeant of the same regiment as the Lieutenant Colonel, obviously the GRU had some information about their affiliation. If he had been identified by a regimental badge, button or disc then I would say the case for both the Serjeant and the Lieutenant Colonel is a nullity.

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I was giving some thought to what the MOD-JCCC has recently requested for the approval of the two airmen - Clark & Noon. If they took the same approach with this case, that would men proving that it was not one of the other 460 Lieutenant Colonels (CWGC Link) killed in France.

 

Most certainly we can eliminate those with known graves but as there is no date, nationality, regiment, etc., it is a big issue. It might be incredibly obvious to us, but that is not taken as fact.

 

They did not have to do that when the GRU identified him as Lieutenant Colonel Hindle.

Edited by laughton
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  • 3 weeks later...

I looked in detail at the Serjeants in this case to see if that would assist the case with the Lieutenant Colonel. It would appear that it has to be a 6th Battalion Searjent, but there are two (2) missing. The other is 7th Battalion.

 

CROSS

Serjeant 36380

GEORGE

Friday, March 22, 1918

POZIERES MEMORIAL

VIEW RECORD
6th Bn. Leicestershire Regiment

BOLLANDS

Serjeant 11933

WILLIAM

Friday, March 22, 1918

POZIERES MEMORIAL

VIEW RECORD

6th Bn. Leicestershire Regiment

ALLEN

Serjeant 18319

ROLAND

Friday, March 22, 1918

POZIERES MEMORIAL

VIEW RECORD

7th Bn. Leicestershire Regiment

 

I am confident that we can also report this as an ERROR IN IDENTIFICATION. Because there are two (2) of the 6th Battalion missing, we can not say which one is in this grave. However it is not Serjeant Heaps.

 

Our case will be stronger if we identify both Serjeants and we owe it to the families to correct these errors.

 

2nd Lieutenant John Kipling often reminds me that we should spend as much time correcting obvious errors as we do finding the unknown.

 

The importance of the Serjeant in this case is that the GRU or IWGC was not 100% sure who it was so they made it a "Believed to Be". If they had positive identification, then they would have provided that information. That would have meant that the Lieutenant Colonel identification was also possible.

 

Why they decided that this was Serjeant Heaps is an interesting question. There were 24 men lost that day (30 November 1917) from the 1st/4th Battalion (CWGC Link). Of those 21 are on the Cambrai Memorial. In addition to Serjeant Heaps, Privates Crook and Etherington were given "known" graves. The CWGC information for these two men make it clear that they died of wounds, thus they were in known graves. The only Serjeant lost did not die of wounds, thus he should be on the Cambrai Memorial with his pals. If there had been more than one Serjeant lost, they would not have made Heaps the "Believed to Be Serjeant".GRRF was prepared.

 

The question will be whether the CWGC will acknowledge that an error was made in September-November 1923 when the GRRF was prepared. I do not yet have a date for when the COG-BR was filed by Jones of the 3rd GRU.

 

Ask yourself, how they found a Serjeant and a Lieutenant Colonel and lost the other 21 men killed on that date? They didn't, they were more than 3,000 yards northeast of the area.

Edited by laughton
fixed typo
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I am going to start to assemble this case into a report and see how it goes. The war diary was identified in the case for the Captain:

 

Quote

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

 

I believe that the man is Lieutenant Colonel William Norman Stewart. He was killed at about 8:40 am on 22 March 1918 (war diary page 82 of 159).

Edited by laughton
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  • 2 weeks later...

Just adding a note here that while working on the Leicestershire Captain case I was checking the 110th Brigade War Diary, where there is mention of the death of Lieutenant Colonel Stewart (page 429 of 760). I note now also the CWGC has "North Somerset Yeomanry, attd. 6th Bn. Leicestershire Regiment. They report his death as 22 March 1918. The war diary notes that he was killed just prior to the withdrawal, so that is just prior to 10 am.  Maybe a narrative in the appendices? Says to be included with April war diary but I don't see it.

 

The 6th Battalion war diary reports his death at about 8:40 am (page 82 of 159).

 

Edited by laughton
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Thanks to @Neil Mackenzie for highlighting remains from this area in Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery (in this topic post). Yes, there are many that can be found in Sectors W and X in the appropriate lower quadrants north of Pieziere near the Beet Factory 57c.X.14. That Lieutenant Colonel must be somewhere!

 

COG-BR 2004917

COG-BR 2004918 - one of which is a Serjeant - at 57c.W.18.c.3.3 which is west of Vaucelette Farm

COG-BR 2004922

COG-BR 2004942 - those are 57c.X.19 and we want 57c.X.15

 

Nothing showed up that was a positive lead but I appreciate the tip to look into this cemetery for that time and place.

Edited by laughton
correct number on COG-BR and added links
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Another logical location is Villers Hill British Cemetery. Here we do find some in the correct area:

 

COG-BR 2630824 - 57c.X.7 and 57c.X.8 are the two sectors just north of Vaucellette Farm and the Beet Factory

COG-BR 2630835 - X.13 and X.14 so they were definitely looking in this area

COG-BR 2630841 - X.9 northeast of the Beet Factory and includes Villers-Guislain, same for COG-BR 2630845, COG-BR 2630890

COG-BR 2630857 - a group in 57c.X.13 at Vaucellette Farm

COG-BR 2630866 - a PRIME CANDIDATE an Officer of the Loyal North Lancs. the Regiment for the missing Lieutenant-Colonel Hindle found at 57c.X.11.b.3.3

 

UPDATE 11 January 2019

Although COG-BR 2630866 has a promising location, that dies out quickly when you check the other Officers of the Regiment lost the same day:

  • Lt. Col (1)
  • Captains (2)
    •  Ward
    •  Buckmaster
  • Lieutenants (0)
  • Second Lieutenants (8)
    • Fraser
    • Hall
    • Rankin
    • Scroggie
    • Smith
    • Chamberlain
    • Leigh
    • Livesay

doc2630866.JPG

 

The only KNOWN man of that regiment in the cemetery is Pte. Unsworth KIA the same day 30 November 1917 but 1st/5th not 1st/4th who was found at 57c.X.16.a.4.2 so a bit southwest of where the officer was located, marked as a "Believed to Be".

 

There are also a number of the men of the 6th Leicestershire Regiment in this cemetery, most from September-October 1918, so they returned to the area after their retreat of March 1918. Pay back time?

 

There is a Captain of the Essex Regiment, who has not been identified on COG-BR 2630894. Found at 57c.X.25.a.1.0 - sounds familiar, no others KNOWN in the cemetery.

 

UPDATE 11 January 2019

 

Correct - it sounded familiar because he already has his own topic - see here.

 

The conclusion at that time was to put him on "hold":

Quote

Sadly, a lot of effort has gone into this case but there is nothing substantive, at this time, to go forward with a report to the CWGC. Perhaps something will turn up in the future.

 

doc2630894.JPG

 

Also a Captain of the Northumberland Fusilier Regiment on COG-BR 2630909.

 

UPDATE 11 January 2019

 

The NF Captain also has his own topic, which is also linked to other NF Officers.

 

Quote

These two are linked investigations as Northumberland Fusilier Officers. If the Unknown Captain is Lockie, then the Unknown Officer is a one of five (5) Second Lieutenants and the case for the Unknown Officer cannot be resolved:

  1. Captain
  2. Officers

 

doc2630909.JPG

 

For my later interest, there a few lads of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Canadians) located here, dating to their attack on Gauche Woods, to the west of Villers-Guislain.

Edited by laughton
added updates 11 January 2019 so they stay with post
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  • 1 month later...

Coming back to this in possible preparation of a report to the CWGC. I need something solid, as the CWGC is not going to want to change a Lieutenant Colonel. Was there something about him, and the Serjeant, that tied them to the 1st/4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment? Each one was identified by "uniform", no mention of "numerals" or anything that would lead them to say the LNLR. The best would be to find some evidence that he was "buried where he fell" or "to aid post where he died". So far nothing.

 

I will start with the Divisional War Diary and then maybe this will lead to a Field Ambulance or something with more details. They would not just leave a Lieutenant Colonel on the battlefield - or would they?

 

The 164th Brigade report (war diary page 131 of 685) for 30 November 1917:

Quote

At 7:45 a.m. verbal orders were received that the enemy were attacking the 166th Infantry Brigade on the left of the Divisional Front and the Division on our left and had broken through, the Brigade being ordered to proceed at once to St. Emilie.

1/4th N. Lan. R. had spent the night at VAUCELETTE FARM in reserve to the 116th Inf. Bde. and when the Germans had broken through the front line this battalion advanced towards them, breaking their attach and causing them numerous casualties; Lieut. Colonel R. Hindle, D.S.O. being unfortunately killed in the advance leading his battalion. 1/4th eventually took up their position in the trenches in front of Vaucelette Farm.

By 10:30 a.m. all units had reported at St. Emilie.

 

The death of Lieutenant Colonel Hindle is mentioned again on 1 December 1917 (war diary page 209 of 685) along with 2/Lieutenant J. H. Livesey - listed on the Cambrai Memorial. Captain R. N. L. Buckmaster is wounded and missing - later dead as on the Cambrai Memorial. The 1/4th had moved to Hamel 62c.J.18 just northwest of Tincourt.

 

No mention of the funeral for the Lieutenant Colonel. I can't imagine they just left him on the battlefield?

 

At the end of the day. 30 November 1917, the battalion returned to Vaucellette Farm 57c.X.13.c. That would be the logical place to have taken the Lieutenant Colonel for burial, if he was not buried where he fell. The map that accompanies the war diary and regimental history show the site of the Proposed Battalion Memorial in that sector, more or less at 57c.X.13.c,7.2. Is that where they buried Lieutenant Colonel Hindle? If they were going to put a MEMORIAL there they would not have taken him 3,000 yards south to where the CWGC reports his remains were exhumed as the UNKNOWN Lieutenant Colonel.

 

It would appear that this memorial may have been built as it is referenced again on page 132 of the battalion history. The following page notes that many of the graves were marked and identified but many were not. See the details below. This led me to a trench map coordinate, also revealing a nearby CWGC Cemetery - Domino British Cemetery, Epehy. There we find a reference to the memorial as well:

Quote

The village of Epehy was captured at the beginning of April, 1917; lost on the 22nd March, 1918; and retaken (in the Battle of Epehy) on the following 18th September by the 12th (Eastern) Division. Domino British Cemetery was made by the 33rd Division Burial Officer at the beginning of October, 1918, and named by him from the divisional sign. One grave (in Plot I, Row C,) was brought in after the Armistice. There are now over 50, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, a small number are unidentified. The cemetery covers an area of 255 square metres and is enclosed by a low rubble wall. Four hundred and fifty metres North-East of the cemetery is Vaucelette Farm, where a Memorial has been erected to commemorate the services of the 1st/4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

 

  • All the burials in Domino appear to be from the fall of 1918.
  • I have yet to find a picture of the memorial.

sqk7g9j9axmzs8l6g.jpg

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Notice what is says in the last paragraph above:

Quote

The graves which can be identified have been marked with the Divisional Cocarde, a representation (about 6 inches in diameter) in colour, on enamelled iron of the 55th Division badge.

 

That means that there must have been a number of graves in the area that were marked. If we can locate those we might find the logical place for the regimental burial ground. One has to assume that those were on crosses at grave sites prior to any concentration of those graves. I doubt they were left on after a standard CWGC cross headstone was put in place. There is some confusion here, as the image on the Long, Long, Trail (here) shows the memorial is at Givenchy? Are there actually two memorials?

 

In looking at the CWGC records (20 November 1917 - 20 December 1917) I see that three (3) men of the regiment, specifically the 1st/4th, are on the Thiepval Memorial not the Cambrai Memorial (CWGC Link). I wonder why? If their death was after 20 November 1917 then they should be on the Cambrai Memorial. There are 108 men listed on the Cambrai Memorial.

 

Unfortunately the records do lend any assistance to the locations where the men were initially buried. The only two that have COG-BR documents with battlefield burials are the Lieutenant Colonel and Serjeant that are the subject of this particular case. The others were buried at a number of cemeteries, many of which appear to be associated with medical facilities. One (1) other (Private R. A. Eckton) was buried by the Germans at St. Souplet 57b.Q.33.c.5.4.  He would not have had a divisional cocarde.

 

The book is clear that "many graves have been marked and identified". Where are they and what happened to them? Was this just a reference to those near Vaucellette Farm or was it a reference to all the graves in Belgium and France?

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I have sent a message to Paul McCormick to see if he has any additional information on this case. @LoyalRegiment

He has a great website here: https://www.loyalregiment.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/loyalregiment

 

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  • 3 months later...

Richard,

First of all apologies for any errors of protocol, this is my first post

 

An excellent bit of research by your goodself, I wish i had come across it earlier. I have been researching Norman Stewarts lack of known burial in parallel to you but with far less progress. I, too, am convinced that the unknown Lt Col who was buried to the south of Epehy is Norman Stewart.

 

My grandfather (JH Harratt) was a 2nd Lt in Lt Col Stewart's 6th Battalion and I have taken a particular interest in events at Epehy - he was wounded on the morning of the 22nd March and that ended his war. Although he lost all his kit I have the few papers and maps that he had with him when evacuated plus a letter written to him in hospital listing the fate of his brother officers, k w and m. Unfortunately it does not go into specific detail. 

 

I have a copy of "36 Months with The Tigers" by David Kelly MC, Intelligence Officer for the 110th Brigade, on p99 he refers to Col Stewart's death.

Kelly had visited the Batt HQ in the Yellow Line (to the rear of Epehy) at about 11pm on the 21st and found the dugout full of wounded. He left about midnight and Col Stewart "was shot down by a sniper in front of his headquarters a few hours later".

I have also read another account where the author recalls seeing Lt Col Stewart's body, on the morning of the 22nd, laid out under a ground sheet next to his headquarters, I will try and track that down again.

If that were the case then it is inconceivable that his body was "lost". It would have been left behind, along with theother dead and  non-walking wounded, when the remnants of the battalion retired north through Epehy to Peiziere and then west to Saulcourt. There would have been no time to carry out any burials.

 

The 6th Battalion were holding the posts at the southern end of Epehy and the Yellow Line and came under enfilade fire from the south when the enemy broke through the adjoining 16th Div. This accounts for the heavy casualties incurred by the 6th Btn even though they were not holding the front line proper. It also accounts for the comparatively large number of 6th Btn burials just outside the village, alongside the Epehy - St Emilie road. This is as close to the Yellow Line as practicable, i.e. away from the village and any defences intended to be re-used - the Germans would not have transported the bodies for miles when there was a suitable location close by.

 

All very circumstantial unfortunately - I am sure if the CWGC was approaching this afresh then they would come to the right conclusion but, as others have commented, trying to change a view formed in 1922 is going to be nigh impossible. It is definitely worth a go though.

Let me know if I can be of any assistance - happy to go down to the National Archives at Kew if that will assist.

Regards

John Storey

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Welcome aboard John! What a great way to start, with some really good information on a case. Is it coincidental that this all comes together on the 101st anniversary of their death?

 

I have this case marked to go to a report to the CWGC. You will see him on my BLOG LIST under "To be Submitted / Incorrect Identifications". The major reason it has not gone forward is that I do not yet have the "Officers' Files" for Hindle and Stewart, so if you can fetch those from Kew, that would be great! I also believe we need to compare these to the two Captains, particularly Archibald McLay, as he was killed the same day at Stewart.

 

We have had good success in the past with the Officers' Files, as many contain extracts of letters and reports of other men in the unit about the location or placement of the remains. It is just as important to prove that is NOT Lt. Col. Hindle as it is to prove that it is Lt. Col. Stewart.

 

Please also keep watch for anything you see about the Memorial that was to be built in that area for the Regiment and the graves that were to be marked with the "Divisional Cocarde".

 

All the best from Canada,

Richard

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  • 1 month later...

@tigerjohn I have not heard back on this matter, so I went to see if I could find the book referenced in John's post. I could not BUT I did find a more recent version of the TIGERS HISTORY by Matthew Richardson: THE TIGERS

 

There are references to what happened on pages 219 and 220. It tells us the 8th Battalion HQ was at Fisher's Keep, which can be found at 62c.F.1.a.1.7. Interesting that page also has a photo of the grave site of the missing Captain, one candidate being Spencer-Smith (see the other topic), noted as bing the adjutant to Lieutenant Colonel Utterson (captured: ICRC1 and ICRC2). Also noted is that Tierens, medical officer of the 6th Battalion had an aid post at the south end of the village. Kelly, the Intelligence Officer left with Tierens to find the 6th Bn HQ, ending up at Lieutenant Colonel Stewart's dug out (no location given). Page 220 reports (refers to reference 13) that Stewart was shot down by a sniper in front of his HQ a few hours later.

 

There are copies of the maps and letters that John's grandfather carried with him. Not all pages are shown in the Google Books.

 

John notes above that Stewart's body was laid out on the ground under a ground sheet the following morning, in front of the HQ. No details in the battalion war diary.

 

Try the Brigade War Diary for March 1918 (starts here). Unfortunately there were no additional details that helped pinpoint the locations.

 

Red (Reserve) Line: immediately east of Epehy

Brown Line: east of Ste. Emilie - Capron Copse - Saulcourt

Assumed Battle Stations as of the 15th of the month

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It appears that the answer lies in the war diary of the 8th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment for March 1918 (page 175 of 195). The 8th was relieving the 6th and then it would reverse and the 6th would relieve the 8th. So what we are dealing with is the battalion HQ at Fisher's Keep whenever they are on the line and the other HQ is when they are in brigade reserve. WHen in reserve they always refer to being in Epehy. They were in defense of Epehy, 2 companies billeted in the town, 1 company along the rail line east of the village for the defence of the Red Line, and 1 company at Saulcourt for counter attack purposes.

 

On the 14th (war diary page 176 of 195) they changed the Support Battalions with another company sent to Saulcourt, two companies left in Epehy and the HQ moved to Saulcourt. THe second company at Saulcourt was for the defence of the Yellow Line, 1,000 yards west of Epehy. Here it reports that the Battalion HQ moved to a mined dugout in the Epehy- Villers Faucon Road. That would place them in 62c.E.12 (b or c) or 62c.E.18.a.

 

... to be continued

 

The war diary details the events of the 21st but tells little of the positions. On the night of the 21st/22nd (war diary page 180 of 195) tells us that small parties of the enemy had reached the Epehy- Ste. Emilie Road and that a small party of about 20 had been seen near the Advanced Dressing Station (ADS) in the SW edge of Epehy. As the enemy advanced, they moved the Battalion HQ from Fisher's Keep. They started to evacuate the Red Line, as the enemy closed in from 3 sides. They refer to the defences of Saulcourt as the Brown Line.

 

The casualties are mentioned in the report of 31 March 1918, including Captain Spencer-Smith (see other topic) who was believed to be a POW (war diary page 184 of 195).

 

Sadly, this still does not give us the detailed trench map coordinates for the other Battalion HQ that were not at Fisher's Keep. The inferences are there that the location was in the dugout that would have been in 62c.E.12, probably with the Advanced Dressing Station. A report from the Field Ambulance might tell us more?

 

continuing ...

 

I have the Kindle version of "The Tigers" now so I can see what else it reveals. There may be more information in the war diaries of the Royal Engineers, as they were building concrete emplacements, blockhouses and observation posts within Epehy village. But how do I find which group of Royal Engineers were responsible for that work? Ah ha - the LLT actually tells which RE units were assigned to the 21st Division, learn something new every day here. Leaving out the ones that had left by March 1918 we have: (also links to the 21st Division website with additional information that these are all under WO 95/2144; also I see they are linked by division on Ance$try))

 

  • 97th Field Company - for March 1918 (war diary page 141 of 234)
    • on the 19th working on brigade HQ dugout at 57c.W.21.c.1.4
    • others, perhaps their own for sections at 57c.W.20.b.6.3 and 57c.W.15.a.5.4, so these are north of Epehy, not on map 62c
    • No. 4 Section on 21st at Sunken Road near Brigade HQ 57c.W.21.c.1.4
    • that night one Coy went to hold a trench at 62c.E.11.c, near the 6th Leicesters
  • 98th Field Company - for March 1918 (war diary page 105 of 187)
    • working on digging and wiring the Brown and Yellow lines in early March
    • on the 21st they are at Saulcourt 62c.E.14.b.7.2 and also working in 62c.E.13.d.4.6
  • 126th Field Company - for March 1918 (war diary page 110 of 156)
    • No. 3 Section working in 62C.e.12 CENTRAL early in the month
    • building visual station at Fisher's Keep and concrete OP at 57c.X.25.c.0.8
    • on 21st during attack send to 62c.E.12 central to dig trench and for a flank for O.C. 6th Liecesters
    • Lieutenant Colonel Stewart reported killed at this time - holding slope of Sunken Road
    • took up position on Brown Line at 62c.E.11.central

 

That also tells me I should check the 63rd, 64th and 65th Field Ambulance (WO 95/2147) for Captain Tainter (check name).

 

  • 63rd Field Ambulance - for March 1918 (war diary page 211 of 280)
    • on the 16th sent staff to reinforce ADS at 6th Leicesters
    • no trench map coordinates provided for their locations during the German Offensive
    • on 22nd they report they have become the ADS for the Division, noted location was Peronne (that would be 62c.I.27)
  • 64th Field Ambulance - for March 1918 (war diary page 439 of 610)
    • appear to be at Maricourt during the period of the big push 62c.A.16
  • 65th Field Ambulance - for March 1918 (war diary page 215 of 289)
    • on the 8th there was a RAP (Regimental Aid Post) at 62c.E.11 central
    • on 21st in 62c.E.12 central and to evacuate the Leicesters from 62c.E.11 central
Edited by laughton
continuing as noted .....
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I found an excellent recap of the situation in Jerry Murland's 2014 book "Retreat and Rearguard - Somme 1918, the Fifth Army Retreat". Chapter 7 deals with Ronssoy and Epehy, so this should also assist with the case of Captain Crofton, which has been "on hold" for some time (this topic) and the Leicester Captain with the MC (this topic). The text tells us that the 6th Connaught Rangers (Crofton's unit) had been in the Reserve Trenches at Villers-Faucon when ordered forward to Ronssoy. It appears that Crofton had withdrawn to the Sunken Road that forms the western edge of Ronssoy Wood when he was killed. That would place him in sector 62c.F.14.d or 62c.F.21.a.

 

Something new to be checked, as the text refers to 28 year old Lieutenant Colonel John Scott (2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment), who had moved his men into Rose Trench. That location we can find in 62c.F.10.c on the northeast edge of Lempire, which itself is on the northeast boundary of Ronssoy. Scott was killed and is reported buried in Unicorn Cemetery, recovered at 62c.F.15.b.8.4 (COG-BR 2543299). That places him in Lempire West. The concentration report tells us he was identified as a Royal Dublin Fusilier, along with Captain Cunningham, who was 2nd Bn RDF, and the two are buried in adjoining graves.

 

Apparently the German Command had identified Epehy as a potential trouble spot, as they reported on the remarkable 4 square kilometers of trench systems, machine gun nests and concrete dugouts. These are the ones described in the previous post, constructed by the Royal Engineers. The 110th Infantry (Leicester) Brigade held the sector "from the southern extremity of Epehy along the railway cutting to the slopes below Vaucelette Farm". To the south of Vaucelette Farm the trench maps clearly show Linnet Valley and Thrush Valley leading from Villers Hill to the northeast entrance of Peiziere, the twinned village with Epehy. The sketch of the fortress posts at Epehy shows the location of Fishers Keep, which we know to have been the Battalion HQ of the 8th Leicesters when on the line. The other six identified "posts" are McPhee, Morgan, McLean, Tottenham, Cullen and Roberts. Was one of those, perhaps the most southern "Roberts Post" the concrete dugout where Lieutenant Colonel Stewart was shot and killed? The trench maps (4A March 1918 wo297_1441 & wo297_1578) show others, so that opens other alternatives: (added: approximate locations, north to south; officers in attendance)

  • McPhee Post 57c.W.30.b.4.6
  • Proctor Post 57c.X.25.c.2.8
  • Morgan Post 57c.W.30.d.8.8
  • Tottenham Post 57c.W.30.c.8.6 - Captain Borthwick; Lieutenant Scarfe returned here later (captured)
  • McLean Post 57c.W.30.d.3.4
  • Fishers Keep 62c.F.1.a.1.7 - Lieutenant Colonel Utterson 8th Leicesters (captured)
  • Weedon Post 62c.F.1.a.7.8
  • Cullen Post 62c.F.1.b.3.3 - A & C 6th Leicesters, Captain McLay (killed) & Lieutenant Lane-Roberts (captured)
  • Roberts Post 62c.F.1.d.5.8
  • Cropper Post 62c.F.1.d.4.5
  • Sharp Post 62c.F.1.c.9.0

These are all to the northeast of sector 62c.F.12 (the adjoining southwest sector) where the remains were recovered and I do not see any specific "posts" note for that area. The main posts would have been defended by the 7th (Peizieres) and 8th Leicesters (Epehy), with two battalions of the 6th Leicesters in reserve in Saulcourt 62c.F.10.c due west of F.12. The 8th Leicesters are reported in Fisher Keep under Lieutenant Colonel Utterson. The other 2 companies (A & C) of the 6th Leicesters were within these posts with the 8th. The 6th Leicesters HQ are reported as being at Cullen Post.

 

The two reserve companies of the 6th Leicesters were brought from reserve positions at Saulcourt to the southern edge of Epehy as the Germans began to advance on Epehy. This places Lieutenant Colonel William Stewart with one of the reserve companies, as he is reported there as "his men moved into position".

 

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".

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