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laughton

Strand Military Cemetery: Case #1 - Captain (Officer) Wiltshire Regiment

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laughton

This is a child topic off this cemetery topic:

https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/267674-strand-military-cemetery/

 

On 26/11/2018 at 12:01, laughton said:

*** ALERT: The Captain of the Wiltshire Regiment in 7.A.6 was not identified in 1931 (SPEC-EXH 2154610; GRRF 2154884; COG-BR 2154611), but clearly Captain Arthur Curgeneven Magor is the only one on the Menin Gate Memorial for 17 October 1914. They suggested the 18th or 19th - close enough!

  • The records are clear that a company of the Wiltshire Regiment was sent to occupy Becelaire on 16 October 1914 28.J.18, so they passed in the immediate area where the remains of the Officer were recovered at 28.J.11 in an isolated grave.
  • There is a reference to a "Special Note" on the exhumation report, which could be the gold dental plates that were submitted? Where is the covering letter?

 

In general, due to the location of this cemetery you need to look at UNKNOWN casualties that are listed on both the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial and the Ploegsteert Memorial. In the case, the location of the remains at 28.J.11 tells us the recovery was outside the area used for the Ploegsteert Memorial. Not all CWGC entries are correct, so it is always safer to check. In this case, there was only one officer of the regiment on the Ploegsteert Memorial, that being Major Gerald Dick Brown 14 April 1918. Although a man of the 1st Bn Wiltshire Regiment, he was Commanding 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers at the time of his death. We know the Officer we are looking for was lost in October 1914 so Brown is not a consideration.

 

The sheets record that the rank identification of "Captain" was questioned (marked ?) on the Special Exhumation Report and so we need to look at any officers of the regiment at that time. That leaves us with the following short list for all of October 1914, all with the 2nd Battalion at the time:

 

surname forename death rank Bn
CARTER CLEARY GEORGE MOLYNEUX 23/10/1914 Captain 2nd Bn.
MAGOR ARTHUR CURGENVEN 17/10/1914 Captain 3rd Bn. attd. 2nd Bn.
FOWLE MICHAEL RANDOLPH 24/10/1914 Lieutenant 2nd Bn.
SPENCER EDWARD 24/10/1914 Lieutenant 2nd Bn.
BURGES ERIC LAWRENCE ARTHUR HART 23/10/1914 Second Lieutenant 3rd Bn. attd. 2nd Bn.
CAMPBELL WILLIAM PERCY 24/10/1914 Second Lieutenant

3rd Bn. attd. 2nd Bn.

 

Chris's site tells us we are talking about the The Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment) so 21st Brigade of the 7th Division.

 

It would certainly appear that the most logical candidate was Captain Magor, as he is the only one lost on the 17th, the best match to the cross that said (also marked ?) 18th or 19th October 1914. See also the note on the COG-BR "Special reference should be made to note on special exhumation report in respect to the Officer buried in Plot 7 Row A Grave 6". I do not see any such note, so it may have been a general reference to all of the notes on the exhumation report. Here are the documents (click on either to see in full scale):

 

GRRF 2154884

doc2154884.JPG

HD-SCHD 1862251

doc1862251.JPG

 

COG-BR 2154611

doc2154611.JPG

SPEC-EXH 2154610

doc2154610.JPG

 

The details are in the records (war diary page 279 of 526). A pleasant surprise, it is nicely typed - the part called "Lieutenant Colonel Forbes Diary" . The death of Captain Magor is reported to have occured on the night of 16 October 1914, perhaps recorded as 17 October 1914 as it occured after midnight.On the 16th they had been deployed at Clapham Junction 28.J.13..d.9.8 from which the 2nd Wiltshire, on the left, proceeded through dense forest to Reutel 28.J.11.c.5.3. That would suggest the dense forest for Polygon Wood. The remains were recovered from an isolated grave exactly where it is reported where the battalion was located at Reutel.

 

The regular part tells us that on the 16th they moved through Hooge 28.I.18.d heading east to clear out the woods towards Becelaere 28.J.18.d (war diary page 266 of 526). In that version we are told that Captain Magor was killed in the trenches at about 1 am on 17 October 1914, shortly after the firing line had open fire. It reports a few shots were returned, one of which must have caught Captain Magor.

 

The next officer casualties on our list above are noted to have occured on 23 October 1914 (Captain Carter and Second Lieutenant Burges). The Forbes diary reports that Second Lieutenant Campbell and the remainder had disappeared on the 23rd as well (war diary page 295 of 526). Captain Carter is reported killed on the 22nd with Second Lieutenant Burges (war diary page 292 of 526). The trenches are "sited on a north and south line some 200 to 300 yards from the eastern edge of the plateau" (war diary page 289 of 526). They had advanced on Terhand  28.K.15.c on the 20th (war diary page 286 of 526), which was reported to be heavily occupied by the Germans. Lieutenant Spencer, in the list above, is reported killed at this time and location, after advancing 300 yards to the top of a rise on the approach to Terhand (war diary page 287 of 526). That puts Spencer's death on the 20th not the 24th. At that time they were ordered to withdraw and occupy their old trenches at Reutel.

 

The analysis to date tells us that we can now eliminate Lieutenant Spencer from the list of candidates, as he was out of the area where the remains were recovered. I will have to check the details again for any reference to the precise location of the others. The confusion with the dates and the movement of the men west to east to west is making this difficult. Perhaps it is time to check the Brigade War Diary?

Edited by laughton
1. changed last paragraph to deal with confusion 2. added headstone schedule 3. date typo

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laughton

Checking on the precise location of all of the men on each day, somewhat confusing as they are going forward and backward. thus not based on the time/date. One of the problems of trench warfare versus the 1918 open warfare. It would appear they were newcomers to the battlefield as they left in two groups from Southampton on 5 October 1914. This is all new to me, as the Canadians did not arrive until late December 1914 (the PPCLI serving attached to the British) and the 1st Contingent or regular troops in February 1915. (note: the TMC are my addition and town name spelling has been corrected)

 

October 1914 (starting page 264 of 526)

  • lander ad Zeebrugge on the 7th and marched to Bruges on the 8th, then 25 kilos to Klemskerke
  • on to Ostend on the 9th and by train to Roulers on the 13th
  • joined the Division on the 14th and took flank guard, so they are now in action
  • marched to Hooge on the 16th clearing the wooded area between Hooge 28.I.18 and Becelaere
  • they fired on a German patrol on the 17th and the return fire killed Captain Magor in the trenches
  • on the 18th they advanced through Becelaere 28.J.18 to Terhand 28.K.15 where they received shrapnel fire and then entrenched for the night
  • planning an attack on Menin (my note: 28.R.14 is a long way away!)
  • the 21st Brigade saw no action, only the 22nd, and the 21st returned to the original trenches west of Becelaere as a reaguard to the Division
  • on the 20th the battalion came into action during a reconnaissance between Becelaere and Terhand
  • Lieutenant Spencer was killed and 18 others killed or wounded (note the CWGC reports his death as 24 October 1914 - burial unknown , so that needs to be corrected)
    • my note: check more on that later as COG-BR 2153077 has some of those men in a trench grave at Reuters German Military Cemetery 
  • they returned from that action once again to their original trenches where they faced heavy artillery fire in the 21st
  • the unit appears to remain in the trenches on the 22nd and 23rd
  • the enemy attacked on the 24th just before daybreak and again 2 hours later, this time breaking through the line causing heavy casualties
    • my note: there is no mention of the other Officer casualties

Now looking at the Forbes Diary again, I see it was written while Lt. Col. Forbes was a POW (the end says at CREFELD in December 1914 and typed at Scheveningen Holland 2 September 1918). That may explain why there is some variation in the location and dates, in addition to those attributed to dates of the early morning being references as the night before or the early morning.

  • the battalion proceeded through the dense forest to Reutel on the 16th and general fire killed Captain Magor, so we have a one day variation in the date of death
  • there is agreement that the battalion was a Terhand on the 18th
  • the 2nd Wiltshire provided protection for the retirement on the 22nd Brigade on the 19th, when all returned to the original trenches
  • there is agreement again on the movement to Terhand on the 20th, at which time Lieutenant Spencer was killed (noted above, the CWGC reports his death on the 24th)
  • thereafter the remainder of the battalion withdrew to the trenches at Reutel
  • Lieutenant Grimston was killed on the afternoon of the 21st, which agrees with the CWGC record
    • my note: his remains were recovered in 1920 at 28.J.11.b.5.5 just northwest of Reutel (COG-BR 2126422)
  • on the 22nd Captain Carter was killed by an artillery shell, along with Second Lieutenant Burgess
    • my note: this may be the end of the case as here they would be in the same trenches where Captain Magor was killed
    • Private Pike was killed at this time as well so the CWGC record is wrong, as they record Pike killed on the 20th
    • Private Freegard is also reported killed by the CWGR record has him on the Tyne Cot Memorial for 8 May 1918? - that is a big time difference!
  • the trenches were heavily shelled again on the 23rd, at which time Private Deadman was killed (suffocated), a day earlier than the CWGC record
    • the same fate appears to have been in store for Lieutenant Campbell whose trench was also unstable and never recovered after he disappeared that day
    • his CWGC record is therefore wrong as well
  • Lieutenant Fowle along with Lieutenant Campbell is reported killed on the 24th, both killed by the same shell, so finally some agreement on the dates

 

Putting this all together makes it clear that it is impossible to separate the Officers, other than Lieutenant Spencer. We should watch for him in a concentration document where he is not in the same location of the others. This could only go forward if the date of the 18th/19th on the Special Exhumation report was taken as the gospel. If we stuck with the CWGC reports that might be arguable, as only Lieutenant Spencer is close to that date but we know he was in a different location. Lieutenant Grimson puts the "nail in the coffin" showing that he was exhumed very close to the location of the unknown officers remains.

 

Captain Carter and Captain Magor appear to have been killed in the same trenches, only separable by the date. If Captain Carter had been in a different location, the an argument for date + location could be made. Too flimsy in my mind to take it further, but something else may turn up!

 

It was a good experience, always learning more .....

 

Case closed for now!

Edited by laughton

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Old Forge

Having suspected for a while that the 2 Wilts 'contact' on the night 15/16 October 1914 was 'blue on blue', I've finally turfed up some evidence. Colonel Forbes's account of this incident throws up a bit of confusion. He says D Coy were on the left of the Battalion's line (getting up towards Noordemdhoek/Noord Westhoek). Colonel Forbes says that Corporal Perry came in from his Piquet and reported Germans massing 400 yards in front of the Battalion's right. He then says that No 15 Platoon opened fire (and the fire 'soon became general'). No 15 Platoon (D Coy) would be firing across the battalion's front in order to hit anyone 400 yards in front of the Battalion's right. Having visited the area a few times to try and work out exactly where 2 Wilts dug in, it was an extended line and firing from left to right of the line at night would be risky. I've always thought there was scope for confusion and as there is no mention of any German casualties or confirmation of Corporal Perry's claim, my gut feeling was that this was a possible friendly fire incident.

 

The apparent proof comes from the 1 South Staffs WD (WO 95/1664/2), which I read for the first time yesterday - "This night [15/16th Oct] there was a continuous rifle fire the whole night. The Wiltshire Regiment, who were on our right, were the cause of this fusillade and by some unforeseen error, Captain Magor of C Company was shot dead by his own men." South Staffs were on the right of 22 Brigade's section of the line, 2 Wilts were on the left of 21 Brigade's section. The grid reference for the exhumation suggests the body was buried by the hamlet extending along the north and east axes from the crossroads at Reutel. It's behind where I think the original reserve trenches were and where I suspect the SAA and other consumables were held for onward distribution to the companies in the firing line. It's also likely the RAP was there, although this isn't referenced in the 'official' WD or in the account by Colonel Forbes.

 

This doesn't help you to ID the body I'm afraid, but I hope it helps a little with the context. 

 

   

Edited by Old Forge

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laughton
50 minutes ago, Old Forge said:

This doesn't help you to ID the body I'm afraid, but I hope it helps a little with the context. 

 

Most certainly it does! It might suggest that if they killed their own Captain that they might spend a little more time finding him a proper burial location and making the appropriate records. I will need to go back and look at the circumstances of the death of each Captain. It is far less likely that Carter would have the "special burial" if he was hit by an artillery shell.

 

The death of Captain A. C. Magor is reported during the "fire event" (war diary page 284 of 526). The death of Captain Carter is reported killed when a "high explosive" shell landed in the 'D' Company trench (war diary page 292 of 526). 2nd Lt Burgess and Private Pike were also killed and both are missing. They do report that the men did work hard repairing the trenches and digging out buried comrades. No mention of the recovery of the Captain. He may have literally disappeared.

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Old Forge

I'm glad it's of interest. I suspect they had time to bury him properly, in and amongst the Division's muddled attempts to advance on Menin. The real German offensive didn't kick in until 20th October. Captain Magor was a South Africa veteran. It seems such a waste for an experienced officer to be killed 'in error' before the real fighting began. Good luck with your researches! 

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Ski

Thought it may be of interest to see Magor's description from his papers. It gives his height as 5'6" and so not far off the 5'4 1/2" listed for the exhumed officer.

Lee

 

GBM_WO76_51_0_0065.jpg

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Old Forge

Thanks Ski - it gives a sort of gut feeling that this should be (and probably is) Captain Magor.

 

Richard

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