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Remembered Today:

Captured 27 May nr. Rouen - possibly West Yorkshire


Katy G
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I realise it's some years since this thread was started, however I've recently had access to my great grandmother's papers, and she had typed up part of a war diary written by a relative (possibly from West Yorkshire). It would appear that he, and others from his company, was captured on May 27th 1918 in woods near Rouen. Does anyone know which company this might have been? Annoyingly, my gt grandmother didn't mention this person by name, and I can't see any info regarding who he served with. He ended up in Hirson on 30 May. He was in Lamsdorf Nov-Dec, then Warnemunde from 21 - 26 Dec. Sailed to Copenhagen on 27th, then arrived in Leith on 2 Jan 1919. He then travelled by train to Ripon.

Any further info would be much appreciated! (I realise this is 'needle in a haystack' stuff...)

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Katy,

Welcome to the Forum.

To get any useful response, you will have to provide a lot more info!

—-name ( first, middle, last)

—- date and place of birth

——military unit in which he served

—-regimental number ( found on rim of medals, if available).

Regards,

JMB

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Being captured in woods near Rouen sounds a bit odd, are you certain it says Rouen?

Given its status as a base area to have the enemy nearby would be quite a noteworthy event. They would have been planning an evacuation and relocation of the base long before any enemy troops were nearby in woods.

TEW 

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JMB - thank you. Unfortunately, I don’t have that information. If I did, I would have provided it. I did say it was a ‘needle in a haystack’ scenario! I’m going by notes typed up between the war years. The only personal info I have is the soldier’s DOB, 18/11/1895. And that’s only because he mentions his birthday and age in his diary. If anything else comes to light I will provide it. 
 

I really just want to get some background on which company he may have been in, then I can perhaps narrow things down from there.

Kind regards

Katy G

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TEW - I only have the notes which were typed up sometime between the wars. It does quite clearly state ‘I and the rest of the company were captured in a wood at Rouen at 4pm. First camp at Amifontaine. No food’. That was the diary entry for 27 May 1918. 
 

Thank you 

Katy G

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3 hours ago, Katy G said:

It does quite clearly state ‘I and the rest of the company were captured in a wood at Rouen at 4pm.

It's more likely to be Reims -

i.e. Third Battle of the Aisne German surprise attack as an element of the Spring Offensive to capture the ridge at Chemin des Dames commenced on the 27 May 1918.  The Germans smashed through the Allied lines and captured or killed hundreds of Allied soldiers.

see Long Long Tail (LLThttps://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/battles/battles-of-the-western-front-in-france-and-flanders/the-battle-of-the-aisne-1918/

As has been pointed out, and reading of the original Rouen thread shows, Rouen was a Base Depot behind the Allied  lines.  Perhaps a mistranscription(?).

I'd suggest a tedious trawl through the diaries of the Yorkshire Regiments in the 8th Division as a starting point.  Then the 21st and work through the list. The 25th Division was all but destroyed in the Battle.  If you follow the links on the LLT  to the Divisions engaged on the 27 May scroll down to the Order of Battle pick out the Yorkshire Battalions attached to each Brigade in each Division (what makes you think it was the West Yorkshire regiment?).  It might get you close. 

There are specialists on Yorkshire Regiments but they are unlikely to be interested by tagging on to an old thread concerning the Base Depot therefore I have split this into a new thread.

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The 'first camp' at Amifontaine is near Reims and Hirson is not that far to the north.

The original diary entry may have said Rouen, wouldn't be the first soldier to muddle up place names.

Or the diary was more of a later memoir written later by which time memories had faded?

TEW

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Near Rouen is quite out of the question, on the 27th May German soldiers were still something like 250 Kms away from Rouen.

Charlie

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Here is a possibility: 27 May 18 was Battle of Bois Des Buttes. That is near ROUCY. The 2nd West Yorkshires were in the front line when the attack commenced and suffered terribly, behind them were the 2nd Middlesex, then 2nd Devons. Perhaps your man was in 2nd West Yorkshires.

Acknown

AdditionThe 2nd West Yorkshire War Diary records that the battalion arrived at ROUCY on 11 May before deploying forward. At 7.00 hours on 27 May, the battalion withdrew under intense enemy pressure and joined the remnants of 23 Brigade at ROUCY HILL. Later that day, it withdrew further to VENTELAY. The WD reports that 514 ORs were missing after the battle. I suspect that many were taken prisoner.

Acknown

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Katy G - can you give us your great grandmother's surnames before and after marriage? That would at least open two possible lines of investigation.

Acknown

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2 hours ago, Acknown said:

AdditionThe 2nd West Yorkshire War Diary records that the battalion arrived at ROUCY on 11 May before deploying forward. At 7.00 hours on 27 May, the battalion withdrew under intense enemy pressure and joined the remnants of 23 Brigade at ROUCY HILL. Later that day, it withdrew further to VENTELAY. The WD reports that 514 ORs were missing after the battle. I suspect that many were taken prisoner.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website lists just 21 deaths of the 2nd Battalion on the 27th May 1918 so sounds like many were indeed taken prisoner.

All bar one have no known grave, being remembered on the Soissons Memorial.

The one with a known grave is now interred at Sissonne, but he was moved there in 1921 - from the German Cemetery at Amifontaine ! https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/3071177/

If you visit the CWGC webpage for Private 270061 A. Mettrick, 2nd Battalion, and scroll down you will find a contemporary document attached - a Concentration Report. This is a page from a larger report detailing the clearing of the Cemetery and shows that in the original nearby graves was a man of the 2nd Middlesex and one of the 8th MGC who was ex 2nd West Yorkshire - so possibly the MGC Battalion attached to the same Division.

1435983833_doc2618823PrivateAMettrickConcentrationReportsourcedCWGC.JPG.8c7525a1b6783612dfc998e1ce53746a.JPG

Image courtesy the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The CWGC webpage for Sissonne British Cemetery records this under the history of the Cemetery:-

The British Cemetery was made after the Armistice by the concentration of graves from the nearby Chemin-des-Dames battlefield and from the following smaller burial grounds and German military cemeteries:-

AGUILCOURT OLD COMMUNAL CEMETERY, AMIFONTAINE, ARDON, ASFELD-LA-VILLE, DIZY-LE-GROS, LA MALMAISON, LAPPION, MENNEVILLE, MONTAIGU, MONTCORNET, MORLOT and VESLUD GERMAN CEMETERIES; ATHIES-SOUS-LAON and ROUCY FRENCH MILITARY CEMETERIES, CHAMBRY and NEUFCHATEL COMMUNAL CEMETERY GERMAN EXTENSIONS; and TROYON CHURCHYARD (Aisne).

There are now 291 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-18 war commemorated in this site. Of these, 127 are unidentified and special memorials are erected to four United Kingdom soldiers, buried in LA MALMAISON GERMAN CEMETERY and CHATEAU-PORCIEN COMMUNAL CEMETERY, whose graves could not be found. A few of those buried here fell in 1914, but the great majority in 1918.
https://www.cwgc.org/visit-us/find-cemeteries-memorials/cemetery-details/2095903/sissonne-british-cemetery/

It is likely that both the men who were subsequently found to have died and those taken prisoner were originally recorded as missing, and so a good chance they will appear together under that category in a Casualty List. (Caveat - with big losses it wasn't unknown for them to appear in the official casualty lists in dribs and drabs.

The only appearance in the Casualty List for Mettrick that I could readily find was wounded on a list that was published in July 1917. But out of the first five names alphabetically that were recorded on CWGC as having died on that day - 62270 Bamford, 60863 Barker, 60829 Breary, 55129 Brook and 24080 Brown all appear on page 22 of the Weekly Casualty List dated 16th July 1918 as part of a very long list of West Yorkshire Regiment missing. (It continues onto page 23 along with men of the Battalion who were serving with a Trench Mortar Battery).

This is a link to a free source for that list - the easiest way to read them is to download either the whole list or just the pages you are interested in, as on the webpage itself the reproduction is far from ideal. https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/194161149

Note it can't be guaranteed that they were all serving with the 2nd Battalion, only that its almost certainly limited to the France & Flanders Theatre of War. The place name shown beside each name is that of the next of kin. If there is no known next of kin then it will be place of enlistment.

Those names that didn't die on the day can then be checked off against their entries on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). An additional benefit of this is that it's likely to be one of the few sources that will list Company and sometimes even Platoon details. You are unlikely to find that even in surviving service records, and of the 21 dead on the CWGC site, only one, Private 59315 Peter Rooney, adds that he was with "C" Company. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/1759971/

The ICRC website can be found here:- https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/

It's not the most intuitive to use, and it may help to know that it is also indexed on the FindMyPast website.

As an example, the first name on that list of missing West Yorkshire Regiment men is 19989 M. Abbey. His Medal Index card shows him as Martin Abbey. His ICRC records card showing him with A Company, can be found here https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/2703029/3/2/

On the webpage you will see there is a search box. If you put the reference number from the card - in this case PA37010 - into the search box it will take you to the report received at Geneva from the German authorities on the 26th September 1918. Among the names listed there is:-

841619955_C_G1_E_04_01_0186_0012MartinAbbeyICRCPA37010crop.jpg.dee52f061d2db044ef694548b57f15c8.jpg

Image courtesy the International Committee of the Red Cross.

This is the sort of information you are likely to find for each man. Where captured, whether unwounded (Unverwundet) or the nature of their injuries, where they had arrived from, place and date of birth, place of residence or name and address of next of kin.

Hope that helps, and that the 2nd West Yorkshires isn't a red herring :)

Cheers,
Peter

Edited by PRC
Typos
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The 2nd West Yorkshire WD records:

  • Officers: KIA - 2, WIA - 7 (including gassed), Missing - 14 (some only temporarily, includes attached).
  • ORs: KIA - 3, WIA - 16, Gassed - 4, DOW - 3, Missing - 515 (includes wounded and missing).

Acknown

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Thanks, all, for taking time to respond. I appreciate it. I did wonder if it was more likely part of the Battle of the Aisnes, as that’s all that came up when I googled the date. But then on looking at the map, I realised that Rouen was not in that area. So perhaps it is a transcription error. Frustratingly, I don’t have the original diary. And the typed transcript is among papers held by Edinburgh Central Library, which I only got to view last week. I took some photos so I could read over them at home. 
 

The reason I thought it may be a Yorkshire Regt is because that’s where my great grandmother was from, and she said it was a relative. A long shot, I know! I like a good mystery…:D
 

Regards

Katy G

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Wow, there are some very helpful suggestions there, thank you all! As ‘Roucy’ and ‘Rouen’ sound similar, it may well be that there was a mix-up with the names. Also, the Battle at Bois Des Buttes sounds likely, esp as they were captured in a wood. I’ll look into that, and the West York’s diaries. My grandmother’s surnames were Wood and Vyner. Wood is very prevalent In Yorkshire so it’s not so helpful…and Vyner also crops up in the area. Worth a shot, though! 
 

Many thanks 

Katy G

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19 hours ago, Katy G said:

 arrived in Leith on 2 Jan 1919. He then travelled by train to Ripon.

Any further info would be much appreciated! (I realise this is 'needle in a haystack' stuff...)

You could work your way through the war office lists, but it will certainly be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack
https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/144481815

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Afterthought: You said he ended up in Ripon. Do you recall if this was to the camp there or was it home?

Acknown

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It might be helpful if you told us a bit more about your g-grandmother.  Did she have siblings? Where in Yorkshire? Cousins?

It's a lot easier to find a relative born in 1895 before we even begin to look at random soldiers.

There is no-one named  Vyner in the Red Cross records but 68 men named Wood in the West Yorkshires alone

 

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I can't find any Vyner POWs in the ICRC records, but after a quick look through the West Yorkshire Woods, there are at least four candidates (all 2nd Battalion, captured near B Des B on 27 May 18):

  • 39514 Pte Frank Wood. Born 31 May 89. Lived Buston Hill, Leeds.
  • 203948 Pte James Wood. Born in Bradford 10 Jul 89. NOK Mrs W Wood, 26 Birk Street, Leeds.
  • 43394 Pte John Wood. Born 20 Apr 94 in Wold Newton. 12 Mason Street, Leeds.
  • 266048 Pte Walter Wood. Born in Leeds 03 Apr 89. NOK Mrs W Wood, 36 Croydon Place, Holbeck, Leeds.

Do any of those ring a bell?

You can search through the list yourself here: https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Search#/3/2/224/5683249/British and Commonwealth/Military/wood

Acknown

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2 hours ago, Katy G said:

The reason I thought it may be a Yorkshire Regt is because that’s where my great grandmother was from, and she said it was a relative.

By that stage of the war men were sent wherever they were needed. Sometimes after recovering from a wounding \ ill-health or accidental injury that could just be another Battalion of the same regiment. But all too often from mid-1916 onwards men who trained with a home-service Battalion of one Regiment could on arrival as a draft in France find themselves posted to any Battalion of any Regiment that was short. So we could even be looking at a man who was captured serving with the 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment or the 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment for example.

So:-

  • Are there any names mentioned in the diary of men serving in the same unit?
  • Have you done a family tree to work out potential males who this might have been?
  • If you've done the tree, have you tried looking for any surviving 1918 Absent Voters Lists for the area they might have regarded as their normal place of residence for your main suspects?

I know it probably seems like death by 20 questions but it helps us to help you if we know what angles have already been tried and what the results were.

Cheers,
Peter

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Realizing that this is a nugatory exercise, I have had a look at Devon and Middlesex Woods, but no one matches. Of course, we may not be looking for a Wood, he might not have been in the infantry at all, he may have been in the nearby 24th Brigade or even the 50th Division. But it kept me busy for a while.

Acknown

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There's another topic regarding men being captured in various woods near Roucy circa 27th May 1918.

TEW

 

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20 hours ago, Acknown said:

Realizing that this is a nugatory exercise, I have had a look at Devon and Middlesex Woods, but no one matches. Of course, we may not be looking for a Wood, he might not have been in the infantry at all, he may have been in the nearby 24th Brigade or even the 50th Division. But it kept me busy for a while.

Acknown

Yes, I’ve been down a similar rabbit hole over the last couple of days! I’ve contacted another family member to see if they have come across any info on this chap, just waiting on a response. I’m also looking into other connections to the Wood family to see if another name crops up. 
 

Again, I appreciate all efforts to pinpoint my mystery man! 
 

Katy G

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19 hours ago, TEW said:

There's another topic regarding men being captured in various woods near Roucy circa 27th May 1918.

TEW

 

Wow, there’s so much info in that thread, it’s mind-boggling! So many poignant stories, too. Thanks for alerting me to this, it’s given me a few more pointers and I’m building up a comprehensive picture of events on 27 May 1918. Up until now, my main interest has been in the Somme, as my mother’s maternal grandfather was killed on the first day of the battle. I visited the area with my husband a few years ago and it was incredibly moving to be there. 
 

I shall continue digging…thanks again.

Katy G

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On 18/03/2022 at 17:23, Acknown said:

I can't find any Vyner POWs in the ICRC records, but after a quick look through the West Yorkshire Woods, there are at least four candidates (all 2nd Battalion, captured near B Des B on 27 May 18):

  • 39514 Pte Frank Wood. Born 31 May 89. Lived Buston Hill, Leeds.
  • 203948 Pte James Wood. Born in Bradford 10 Jul 89. NOK Mrs W Wood, 26 Birk Street, Leeds.
  • 43394 Pte John Wood. Born 20 Apr 94 in Wold Newton. 12 Mason Street, Leeds.
  • 266048 Pte Walter Wood. Born in Leeds 03 Apr 89. NOK Mrs W Wood, 36 Croydon Place, Holbeck, Leeds.

Do any of those ring a bell?

You can search through the list yourself here: https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Search#/3/2/224/5683249/British and Commonwealth/Military/wood

Acknown

Acknown, thank you for that, I've looked at the DOBs and they don't match what I have. But it's all useful, anyway! I'm working my way through the list you mentioned...also trying other avenues to find out possible names. Appreciate you taking time to do that.

Katy G

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Katy,

The post I linked to refers to another post which has even more, 19 pages in this one!

It lists the four divisions involved which would give you quite a few battalions to work through.

TEW

 

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