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Remembered Today:

Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson V.C.


Andrew Marshall
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Hi all (especially Salient)

I am researching Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson V.C. for a forth coming commemoration and would appreciate any assistance with Regimental history or Divisional history. In particular I would like any mention of him in these books but also I am interested in 31st July 1917 when he won his V.C.

Battalion forming up positions, trench names or anything like this would be useful, here is what I have so far.

Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson V.C.

31st July 1917

Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson (February 18, 1896 - July 31, 1917), was 21 years old, and an Acting Captain in the 2nd Bn., The Northamptonshire Regiment when he won the Victoria Cross for the following action.

London Gazette No. 30272 dated 6th September, 1917

2nd Lt. (actg. Capt.) Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson, late North’n R.

For most conspicuous bravery, skilful leading, and determination in attack.

The tactical situation having developed contrary to expectation, it was not possible for his company to adhere to the original plan of deployment, and owing to the difficulties of the ground and to enemy wire, Capt. Colyer-Fergusson found himself with a Serjeant and five men only. He carried out the attack nevertheless, and succeeded in capturing the enemy trench and disposing of the garrison. His party was then threatened by a heavy counter-attack from the left front, but this attack he successfully resisted.

During this operation, assisted by his Orderly only, he attacked and captured an enemy machine gun and turned it on the assailants, many of whom were killed and a large number were driven into the hands of an adjoining British unit. Later, assisted only by his Serjeant, he again attacked and captured a second enemy machine gun, by which time he had been joined by other portions of his company, and was enabled to consolidate his position. The conduct of this officer throughout forms an amazing record of dash, gallantry and skill, for which no reward can be too great having regard to the importance of the position won.

This gallant officer was shortly afterwards killed by a sniper.

Colyer-Fergusson died of wounds received from the gun-shot.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Museum of The Northamptonshire Regiment (48th & 58th Foot), Northampton, England.

He was the third son of Mr Thomas Colyer Colyer-Fergusson of Ightham Mote and Wombwell Hall, Northfleet, formerly High Sheriff of Kent. His elder brother William Porteous Colyer-Fergusson was also in the Northamptonshire Regiment and was wounded on the 27th July 1917 but survived the war he was commissioned a Lieutenant on 26th October 1918 (L.G. 31197 page 2677 22nd February 1919) from the Special Reserve of officers, serving in the 3rd Bn. Northamptonshire Regt. The eldest brother Max Christian Hamilton Colyer-Fergusson served in the R.A.S.C., he survived the war and relinquished his commission as Captain 13th June 1919.

Born at 13, Lower Berkley Street, Portman Square, London his mother was Beatrice Stanley, daughter of the late Rt. Hon. Professor Max Muller. He was baptised at St Nicholas church Southfleet. Educated at Summer Fields, Oxford, and at Harrow, later Oriel College, Oxford.

Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson was the grandson of the late Sir James R. Fergusson, of Spitalhaugh, who lived at Hever Court near Gravesend, and who lost a son 2nd Lieutenant James Adam Hamilton Fergusson of the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry killed in action 20th September 1914 aged 22 years at the Battle of the Aisne. The name Riversdale, which Thomas bore is Irish, and came through his maternal grandmother, who was a daughter of Mr Riversdale Grenfell, of Maidenhead, who in turn had received it from his aunt Lady Riversdale. The name of Colyer came to the family through Sir James Fergusson’s first wife, Mary Ann Somes, elder daughter of Mr Thomas Colyer, of Wombwell Hall.

Sport and hunting was a favourite for the young Thomas and he was a keen follower of the West Kent Hounds

In September 1914 he joined the Public Schools Battalion, and on 20th February 1915 he was granted a temporary commission as a 2nd Lt. in the Northamptonshire Regiment and in December a permanent one. He was wounded at Contalmaison in July 1916 and appointed Acting Captain in January 1917.

2nd Batttalion Northamptonshire Regiment, 24th Brigade, 8th Division, II Corps, Second Army

The regiment was involved in the attack on July 31st, 1917 - The Battle of Pilckem Ridge. The regiment captured Bellewaarde Lake, with the aid of trench mortars firing thermite bombs. They then managed to take Bellewaarde Ridge.

His Commanding officer Colonel wrote to the family after his death:

“In this last attack I selected his company for the most difficult portion of trench within the battalion objective. He carried out his task most brilliantly. For the capture of a certain line of German trenches, his company had to follow our barrage through a very broken wood, which proved to be full of wire. He soon saw that it would be impossible to keep his whole company up with the barrage for the final assault, and if he failed to keep up with it he would probably fail to capture the trench, so he picked out ten or a dozen men and with them pushed on ahead, and without any further assistance captured his portion of the German trench. Almost as soon as he got in he perceived a company of Germans advancing against him in mass formation and a bare 100 yards away. He and his picked men knocked out 20 or 30 of them with rifle fire, and the remainder of them surrendered as the rest of his company came up. He came and reported to me in the same trench about half an hour later, when I got up to him. Five minutes later he was shot through the forehead by a German machine gun bullet. I think his death was more deeply felt in the regiment than any other I have known. To my mind he was the most promising officer under my command. I cannot hope ever to be able to replace him he, besides being a first rate officer, such a thorough sportsman and the cheeriest of companions.”

A staff officer from divisional headquarters writes:

“I can, however, tell you that he behaved with quite exceptional gallantry on July 31st, and set an example which everybody in the division is proud of. But not only did he display exceptional gallantry, but also sound military knowledge and tactical insight far beyond his years, and in so doing enabled us to secure all objectives which would have cost many lives but for his prompt and gallant action.”

A brother officer writes:

“There is, however a great comfort to me, and I know it will be to you, in the manner and circumstances of Riv’s death. He died in the best of spirits in the very moment of success, and a success which was rendered possible by his own brave action. No man could wish for a finer or more manly ending to this life. God grant, when my time comes, that I may meet it in like manner.”

So if you can add to this please feel free or if you could suggest other avenues for research I would be grateful.

Regards

Andrew

post-385-1145900098.jpg

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I have the Regimental History where he gets at least three mentions (per the Index, which is not complete, all during 1917)

A write-up on his V.C. in Northamptonshire and the Great War, plus a better picture than that above, plus a summary of actions around Ypres.

Don't have the Divisional History.

I've got his Times obituary somewhere as well. Do you need that? You've probably got most of that information.

Send me an e-mail, if you want these.

Steve.

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Hi, Andrew. I have the divisonal history - it's quite a bit to type up, and my wife has never shown me how to use the scanner, but I'm happy to photo copy and snail mail the relevant bit. If no-one else gets there first, PM me an address and I'll get it done. Cheers Steven

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Thanks to you both. I have answered your post off line and asked for the copies.

Does anyone know who the Colonel referred to who wrote a letter to his family after his death could be?

There was another brother, the eldest, who served and survived the war his name was Max Christian Hamilton Colyer-Fergusson and he was a Captain in the R.A.S.C. relinquishing his commission 13th June 1919.

Regards

Andrew

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C.O. on the 31st July was Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Galbraith Buckle, though he was wounded by a shell dropping into his headquarters on that date, and therefore may not have been available for letter writing...

Name: BUCKLE, CHRISTOPHER GALBRAITH

Initials: C G

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Regiment: Northamptonshire Regiment

Unit Text: 2nd Bn.

Age: 30

Date of Death: 27/05/1918

Awards: DSO, MC

Additional information: Son of Maj. Gen. Christopher Reginald Buckle, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O. (R.A.), and Mrs. Elizabeth B. Buckle, of "Beechwood," Iffley, Oxford; husband of R. E. Buckle, of Steelbacks, Overstrand, Cromer, Norfolk.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: II. A. 10.

Cemetery: LA VILLE-AUX-BOIS BRITISH CEMETERY

He's been mentioned (by me!) recently on the Forum.

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...topic=51007&hl=

Steve.

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His wooden grave marker cross is in the chapel at Ightham Mote. I don't have a picture unfortunately as the National Trust doesn't allow photos inside.

Charles

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C.O. on the 31st July was Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Galbraith Buckle, though he was wounded by a shell dropping into his headquarters on that date, and therefore may not have been available for letter writing...

Hi Steve

Thanks for that, unless there is another Colonel then this must be the man, 'cos when you read his letter he states that Captain Colyer-Fergusson reported to him and then was killed, so good job there.

The stuff you e mailed me keeps giving some crazy fatal error and crashing AOL for me, would you please send it again?

Regards

Andrew

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His wooden grave marker cross is in the chapel at Ightham Mote. I don't have a picture unfortunately as the National Trust doesn't allow photos inside.

Charles

Hi Charles

Thanks for that, I did know this but I had also forgotten the fact so thanks for reminding me. I have written to the Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust and will see if I can approach the National Trust to maybe get a photograph, they must make some exceptions to certain rules?

Regards

Andrew

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Now, does anyone have any idea of the wood that the 2nd Bn. would have advanced through that caused them so much trouble?

And what about a name for the Sergeant or any of the others involved in the action?

Regards

Andrew

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I thought abvout the sergeant-was recently at this well tended grave and took a photo I think-will post it when I get it developed

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The Sergeant was William G Boulding, his orderly was Private Basil Ellis.

Medal card of Boulding, William G

Corps Regiment No Rank

2nd Northumberland Regiment 7929 Serjeant

2nd Northumberland Regiment 7929 Serjeant

One of the many mis-transcribed 2nd Battalion men...

He would have enlisted early 1906 and was therefore probably a recalled Reservist.

He won the DCM for his part in the action.

DCM - LG 26-1-1918

7929 Sjt. (A./C.Q.M.S.) W. G. Boulding, North'n R. (Dartford).

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at a critical moment. When part of his company were delayed by wire entanglements he led six men round the obstacle and captured the objective on his own initiative. Before assistance could reach him a whole company of the enemy counter-attacked him across the open, whereupon he, with his small party, instantly attacked them, killing many and driving them back. Whilst doing so he came across an enemy machine gun position, which he at once attacked and took, killing the team. Throughout the operation he showed exceptional gallantry and initiative of a very high order.

http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/30346/supplements/10862

and

http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/30495/supplements/1292

Medal card of Ellis, Basil

Corps Regiment No Rank

Northamptonshire Regiment 7756 Private

He would have enlisted approx. August 1905 and again would likely have been a recalled Reservist.

Also DCM - LG 26-1-1918 (i.e. same Gazette as Boulding)

7756 Pte. B. Ellis, North'n R. (Brunstead).

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in carrying messages under heavy shell-fire. He was also one of a party of six who took a large section of. the enemy's trench by themselves, attacking and defeating a hostile counter-attack.of over 100 men, most of whom they killed and took prisoners, and finally destroying an enemy machinegun position which was supporting this counter-attack. He displayed the greatest courage, dash, and devotion to duty throughout this action.

http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/30346/supplements/10864

and

http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/30495/supplements/1302

The trench captured was Jacob Trench, and the wood seems to have beeen Chateau Wood.

See attached pages below regarding 31-7-1917.

Steve.

P.S. I have resent your info.

Edited by Stebie9173
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Page of the Regimental History referring to his V.C.

post-6536-1146004831.jpg

Final line there confirms Colonel Buckle as the Colonel in question.

Steve.

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And regarding his death ('scuse bad scanning)

post-6536-1146005051.jpg

Steve.

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.... will see if I can approach the National Trust to maybe get a photograph, they must make some exceptions to certain rules?

I should think that is the case - you would probably need an official looking letter from the NT and agreed date of visit in order to get round the formidable posse of elderly NT volunteers. Those ladies wont take any nonsense....

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William Boulding appears to have survived the war, but Captain Colyer-Fergusson's orderly, Basil Ellis, didn't make it:

Name: ELLIS

Initials: B H

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Private

Regiment: Northamptonshire Regiment

Unit Text: 2nd Bn.

Age: 30

Date of Death: 24/03/1918

Service No: 7756

Awards: DCM

Additional information: Husband of Georgianna Ellis, of West End Cottages, Stalham, Norwich.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: III. A. 2.

Cemetery: FOUQUESCOURT BRITISH CEMETERY

"A" and "B" Companies mounted a counter-attack in order to relieve pressure on 25th Brigade near Epenancourt on that day. Presumably, Private Ellis was still with "B" Company and was killed during this action.

His middle name was most probably Hannant, by the way: Basil Hannant Ellis, born late 1887 at Aldeby (registered Loddon), Norfolk, son of James and Mary Ellis, living in Stalham in 1901.

Steve.

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Thanks for all of that Steve, saved me the job of doing the look ups! Nice to see Boulding is another local man coming from Dartford which is just up the road, I might go to their library and see if I can find a photograph.

Regards

Andrew

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Here is an image of Colyer-Fergusson with his V.C. ribbon on, this is a drawing by C.W. Walton of 103 Shaftesbury Avenue

Regards

Andrew

post-385-1146085639.jpg

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Hi Jim

The more information the better is what I say! Thank you for the link. here is a trench map of Jacob Trench

Regards

Andrew

post-385-1146231236.jpg

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Hi Jim

Another map, shame about the size that can be posted. If you would like them in a larger size please e mail me and I'll send them over.

Regards

Andrew

post-385-1146244503.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi all

More requests on this thread that require answers please.

Does anyone know the German Regiments opposing the Northamptonshire Regiment on the 31st July and who would have been occupying Jacob Trench?

Colyer-Fergusson joined the 2nd Bn. his date of entry into a theatre of war is shown as 5th December 1915, where were the 2nd Bn. at this point?

He was wounded in the right arm on 7th July 1916 at Contalmaison, does anyone have any details about this?

He was passed fit for general service on 6th October 1916 by a medical board at Fort Pitt Military hospital when and where did he rejoin his battalion?

Appointed acting Captain in January 1917 any further details on this, exact date?

Most grateful for any help on this.

Regards

Andrew

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Tim,

1. Sorry. Don't know.

2. I don't have war diary copies for the 2nd Battalion, but from the History: "on about the 18th [of October the brigade] became part of 23rd Division, the 58th going into billets at Fort Romper, the remainder of the month being spent in and out of trenches at Armentieres." Nothing further is mentioned until Christmas Day 1915 when the bsattalion spent the day in billets at Jesus Farm in Divisional Reserve.

3. The History doesn't give much information, but says that Second Lt. Ferguson (sic) was wounded fairly early after their effective zero-hour at 8.12am before "B" company (presuming he was with "B" Company at that time as well as later) reached Peake Wood S.W. of Contalmaison. "B" Company's objective was Contalmaison square, though how much of Contalsmaison was left, let alone the square, I don't know. It makes no reference to the type and/or severity of 2/Lt Colyer-Fergusson's injury.

4. Don't have anything for this one either.

5. London Gazette 17-1-1917

North'n R.—

The undermentioned to be acting Capts.: —

8th Dec. 1916.

2nd Lt. T. R. Colyer-Fergusson.

http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/archiveVi...&selHonourType=

Steve.

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Hi Steve

Thanks again for your help, the L.G. date is appreciated as I had already searched for this quite a few times!

And for the details for the 7th July.

Regards

Andrew

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Pals sorry havent contributed but just back from 2 weeks hols. Have contacted Andrew seperately. detail here is absolutely great dont think I could have contributed any more except for any relevant extracts from the 8th Division history. most of my information relates tp late 1917-early 1918. Whilst Col Buckle was away they were commanded by Lt Col Stephen Latham KIA 24/4/18 as below. the adjutant was Capt H Essame who wrote several books on both WWs afterwards. In may Col Buckle was back but was killed when the 2nds were sent to"rest" on the Lys running full tilit into the next phase of the german offensive. Col Buckle and his hq staff were last seen fighting it out revolvers in hand but died to a man except for Essame who was still away recovering from wounds.

Would fully support a memorial or commemoration, do you have anything specific in mind. regards SG

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