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1st Cheshire Regiment August 1914


Orpheus
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I am currently researching a soldier of the 1st Cheshire Regiment who was captured at Audregnies on the 24th August 1914. His service papers survive and they state that he was wounded (GSW) on the 23rd August 1914.

I presume that the date is wrong but is it possible that he was wounded on patrol, sniper etc. On the 23rd August 1914?

Any help gracefully received.

Nick.

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Welcome to the forum. @Graham Chas an interest in the 1st Cheshires so might be able to help. 

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A name would also be useful, for those of us who live in (what used to be) Cheshire.

BillyH.

Edited by BillyH
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Hi Michelle,

Thank you for your reply. I joined the forum in 2019 but this is my first post.

Hi BillyH,

The soldier in question is 7688 Private Charles Stamp, of 'A' Company, 1st Cheshire Regiment.

Many thanks,

Nick.

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Sorry,  I cannot help with this man.

BillyH.

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15 hours ago, Orpheus said:

I am currently researching a soldier of the 1st Cheshire Regiment who was captured at Audregnies on the 24th August 1914. His service papers survive and they state that he was wounded (GSW) on the 23rd August 1914.

I presume that the date is wrong but is it possible that he was wounded on patrol, sniper etc. On the 23rd August 1914?

I assume you have already checked out the War Diary?

I don't know if the entry for the 23rd August 1914 in "THE DOINGS OF THE FIFTEENTH INFANTRY BRIGADE AUGUST 1914 TO MARCH 1915" by Edward, Lord Gleichen, (then the Brigade Commander) adds anything to your understanding of the events of the day.

Next morning I got orders to go with Lieut.-Col. Tulloch, the Divisional Commanding Royal Engineer, to select a defensive position and entrench it. We got into a car, and went buzzing about in front of Boussu and round to the right as far as Wasmes; but I never saw such a hopeless place. There was no field of fire anywhere except to the left, just where the railway crossed the Boussu road, where, strange to say, the country opened out on to a "glacis-like" slope of stubble. Going was bad, up broken little roads over ground composed of a
bewildering variety of slag-heaps 40 to 150 feet high, intersected with railway lines, mine heads, chimneys, industrial buildings, furnaces, and _usines_ of all sorts, and thickening into suburbs consisting of narrow winding little streets and grubby little workmen's houses. Here and there were open spaces and even green fields, but nowhere could a continuous field of fire be obtained. The only thing was to select various _points d'appui_ with some sort of command, and try and connect them up by patches of entrenchments; but even this was very difficult, as the line was so long and broken that no unity of command was possible, and the different patches were so separated and so uneven, some having to be in front of the general line and some in rear, that they often could not flank or even see each other.

At about midday several cyclists came riding back in a great hurry from the Canal, saying they had been attacked by a big force of cavalry and been badly cut up; that they had lost all their officers and 20 or 30 men killed, and the rest taken prisoners. This was hardly a good beginning, but it eventually turned out that the grand total losses were 1 officer (Corah of the Bedfords) slightly wounded, 2 men killed, and 3 missing.

Shortly after this the first German gun was heard--at 12.40 P.M. I timed it--and for the rest of the afternoon there was intermittent bombardment and numerous shell-bursts in the direction of the Canal, some of it our own Horse Artillery, but mostly German.

When we had roughly settled on our line, I shouted to a crowd of curious natives who had come out to watch us, and did not seem particularly friendly--as they were not at all sure that we were not Germans--to get all their friends together with pickaxes and shovels and start digging entrenchments where we showed them. It was Sunday afternoon, and all the miners were loafing about with nothing to do. The idea rapidly caught on, and soon they were hurrying off home for their tools, whilst we got hold of the best-dressed and most authoritative-looking men and showed them what we wanted done. It was scratch work, in more senses than one, as we had no time to lose and could not superintend, but had to tear from one point to another, raising men and showing them where the lines were to go, how deep the trenches were to be made, which way the earth was to be thrown, and all the rest of it.

On our way round we came also upon some batteries of field artillery, disconsolately wending their way through the narrow streets, and with their reconnoitring officers out in all directions looking for positions; but they found none, and the Artillery did but little in the way of shooting that night. With their present experience I expect they would have done a good deal more.

Then we tore back, and I got the battalions out, or rather two companies of each battalion, set them to work, and sent out their other two companies to support them. The Norfolks were on the left, at the station, and eastwards down the line. Then came the Cheshires, a bit thrown back, in beastly enclosed country for the most part. One of the big slag-heaps had seemed to offer a good command, but to our disgust it was so hot that we could hardly stand on it, so that had to be given up. Other heaps again seemed to give a good position, and
they were fairly cool; but when we scrambled up there was always something wrong--either there were more slag-heaps in front which blocked the view, or the heap ran to a point and there was not room for more than two men, or the slag-ridge faced the wrong way--it was a nightmare of a place.

Beyond the Cheshires came the Dorsets and Bedfords, pretty well together, and occupying some trenches on a high railway embankment, &c., but the position was not really satisfactory, and if attacked in force at night it would be very difficult to see or guard against the approach of the enemy. Nor, as I heard afterwards, had the inhabitants
dug the trenches anything like deep enough, so that they formed but poor protection against the rain of shells that began to pour on them at nightfall. (My highlight)

All pointed to an attack by the enemy during the night or next day, but even then we had not the smallest idea of the enormous forces arrayed against us. We were told at first that there was perhaps a corps in front of us, but as a matter of fact there were three, if not four corps.

Having distributed the battalions as ordered--I had no Brigade Reserve in hand, having to cover such a broad front (nearly three miles, when my normal front, according to the text-books, should have been about 1000 yards)--myself and Brigade Headquarters were left rather "by our lone."

As we were finishing dinner further orders arrived from the Division. Weatherby and I cantered down to the Divisional Staff to learn details, and we got them shortly, to the effect that the Cheshires and Norfolks were to be left under direct command of the Divisional Commander, whilst Brigade Headquarters was to be at Pâturages by sunrise on the morrow, and to hold that with our other two battalions on the right.

We "fell in" the Brigade Headquarters about midnight and, after some trouble in securing guides, moved off through a labyrinth of streets in the warm dark.
https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/22074

So units of the brigade came under artillery fire during that day. In my experience the term G.S.W is used interchangeably to cover both Gun Shot Wound and Shrapnel \ Shell Wound and what is available in a soldiers service record is seldom detailed enough to distinguish which is being referred to. As far as I'm aware it was solely the Bedfords that were involved in the fire-fight at the canal earlier in the day. There is a transcription of the 1st Bedfords diary here http://www.bedfordregiment.org.uk/1stbn/1stbtn1914diary.html

Hope some of that helps,
Peter

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Peter,

Thank you so much for your detailed reply. I am sorry that I have not responded to you sooner but I have been On holiday in Scotland.

I have had a look at the battalion war diary and also looked through 'The History of The Cheshire Regiment in the Great War ' by Arthur Crookenden but neither make mention of any casualties sustained on the 23rd August 1914. If there had been casualties then I am sure that it would have been recorded in both these sources. So it seems likely that Private Charles Stamp  must have been wounded on 24th August. I have had another look at his service papers and they state Gsw left forearm.

Once again, many thanks for your help.

Nick

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Hi @Orpheus \ Nick - envious of the holiday :-)

You could well be right but playing devils' advocate for a moment:-

  • In my experience the official histories tend to draw quite heavily on the battalion war diaries, supplemented in the best by personal diaries and a review by those who were present - with all the pluses \ minues of each source. So something stated or not stated in the official history should not be treated as supplemental primary source for the information - at best it the same information presented twice, at worst it the same mistake made twice. Who, for instance, does either source cite as the first combat casualty of the Battalion?
  • The War Diary was usually a joint production of the Adjutant and the Commanding Officer. Neither had perfect knowledge, nor would they know instantly of an individual casualty. By the time information reached them, (if indeed it was still the same individuals, O.C's and Adjutants can become casualties too!), it may have been simpler to lump it in with the 24th. My impression from Lord Gleichens' piece is that the situation was quite fluid, and that often parts of each Battalion were separated and not in direct contact or line of sight of each other.
  • War Diaries seldom cover a strict 24 hour calendar day - by the time the entry for the 23rd should have been written up undoutedly the Adjutant and O.C. had more pressing issues.
  • However the date for the wound, the place, ("Ardennes") and the type of wound, "bullet" seem to stem from a statement Charles made at South Ripon P.O.W. Reception camp on the 18th December 1918. The report is stamped "Wound accepted by War Office" - but that doesn't necessarily mean either date or specific type of wounding is accepted so long after the event. There is no contemporary source such as a O.C. Field Ambulance report which in turn leads on to -
  • By the description of the wounds you would normally have expected him to have been in the medical evacuation chain by the 24th - if he was wounded on the 23rd. Why would he still have been in an area where he could be captured - unless it was only a surface wound or bruising and he was able to remain at his post?
  • Unfortunately captured so early, the German reports received by the International Committee of the Red Cross are very, very basic, and are silent on whether he was captured wounded or not. https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/5031683/3/2/

So I suspect it's a case of a slight mis-remembering on the part of Charles and one which made no difference to his treatment both medically and administratively on repatriation, so no incentive to get it precisely right.

Cheers,
Peter

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Peter,

Many thanks for your reply.

I totally agree with your reasoning. Private Stamp having been a prisoner of war for so long just gave the wrong date for when he was wounded.

I am grateful to you for your help and advice and I will amend my write up for this soldier.

Best wishes,

Nick.

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The question in his service papers about his wounds is 

‘Do you claim that you were wounded immediately before, or at the time of, or after capture.  (Yes or No.).  Charles Stamp, answered Yes.  

early on in his service paper shows that he was missing and a Prisoner of War on the 24/08/1914. 

So if he was actually wounded on the 23rd and captured on the 24th, you would think he would have mentioned it and noted by the investigating officer 

so it’s clearly a mistake, you have been a POW for 4 years,  struggling to survive

I’ve studied the Cheshire’s on the 23rd August 1914 and I have not seen any accounts thats mentions any men being wounded on the 23rd

 

 

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Hi @thetrenchrat22

Hope you can tell from the above that I think it's just a case of mistaken memory, particularly given the place of capture "Ardennes" (most likely Audregnies).

However would be a bit of a clincher if there was a reference in any of the sources you have looked at which clearly states when the 1st Cheshires suffered their first combat casualties.

Cheers,
Peter

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The book 'The History of the Cheshire Regiment in the Great War' page 4 mentions the following:

'During the night, Lieutenant Matterson. (Scout Officer) and a Battalion Scout, crossed the Mons -Conde -Canal, gained touch with the enemy and brought back useful information.'

So during the night could mean late August 23rd or early August 24th?  The book does not mention about any casualties before the battle of Audregnies on the 24th.

As I mentioned earlier I am now convinced that he received his wound on August 24th.

Many thanks,

Nick.

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On 19/09/2021 at 10:32, PRC said:

Hi @thetrenchrat22

Hope you can tell from the above that I think it's just a case of mistaken memory, particularly given the place of capture "Ardennes" (most likely Audregnies).

However would be a bit of a clincher if there was a reference in any of the sources you have looked at which clearly states when the 1st Cheshires suffered their first combat casualties.

Cheers,
Peter

Peter, 

most of the sources I have read appeared in the regimental magazine ‘The Oak Tree’ in the 1920’s and 30’s 

it mentions on the 23rd August 1914, that they were digging trenches in the vicinity of Petit Wasmes but no mention of any casualties on the 23rd

 

 

the first casualties they received were on the 24th

 

 

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27 minutes ago, thetrenchrat22 said:

the first casualties they received were on the 24th

Thanks for confirming. In my experience some units war diaries \ regimental histories \ divisional histories specifically mention the first casualty incurred, while others either gloss over it or go for the first officer casualty, (no surprise there!). I would take it as another piece of evidence for his wounding as well as his capture occurring on the 24th - which I think is what we all believe to be the case.

Cheers,
Peter

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