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Remembered Today:

Officer POWs on First Day of The Somme


jmaitri
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Not long back I obtained a trio & plaque to a Captain from the London Regiment who was wounded and taken as a POW on 1/7/16. He died in captivity on 3/7/16 (the Germans returned his body for burial).

His story got me wondering about how many other officers were captured on 1/7/16.

If anyone has numbers, I'd be grateful to know!

Thanks,

Jay

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Middlebrook "First Day On The Somme", Chapter 15, "The Cost", page 263. (Middlebrook states he took the figures from the Official History and they took some poor chap about six months to work out!):

Officers 12

ORs 573

The Cox & Co register of officer prisoners lists the following London Regt officer POWs on 01/07/16 in the "Western Theatre":

Lt A G Blunn, 4th Bn

Capt A T B De Colagan, 5th Bn

2/Lt C P Fleetwood, 9th Bn

2/Lt R Bennett, 9th Bn

2/Lt W G Parker, 12th Bn

2/Lt PR Pike, 13th Bn

Capt G E Cockerill, 16th Bn (your man, I believe?)

Lt D F Upton, 16th Bn

(which doesn't seem to leave much for other regiments!)

(from http://www.btinternet.com/~prosearch/index.html)

"One of the "strangest" lists which I have come across in this category is in the diary of a Division who are on the Somme during the 1916 battles - they captured a hapless German Infantryman who was out in no-man's-land during the night, his officer having sent him over to pin a list of British prisoners on the barbed wire infront of the British trenches !

The list is three pages long and neatly typed, the page headings in German but the rest in English. This list gives, in the main, the men's names, numbers, ranks, Battalion, and Company, and highlights those who were wounded when taken prisoner (very efficient, "very German" !). The Battalions mentioned are the 5th and 7th Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regt), Queen Victoria's Rifles and the London Rifle Brigade (9th & 5th Battalions the London Regiment, respectively), the 5th Cheshires, and the 6th North Staffordshires. Officers are listed for the Sherwood Foresters, North Staffs, London Regt., and Royal Field Artillery. All the men are noted as captured on July 1st 1916, the first day of the Battle of The Somme."

Using the above as a guide to further check Cox & Co we have the following:

Lt M S Fryar, 5th Bn Sherwood Foresters

Lieut J M McBain, 7th Bn Sherwood Foresters

2/Lt P B Ross, 5th Bn, North Staffs

I can't see anybody listed from the Royal Field Artillery (or RGA), but one from them would make the 12. (Cox's isn't exhaustive).

Bob.

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Hi Bob,

Thank you very much for the information--most appreciated!

Yes, my fellow is Capt. G.E. Cockerill of the Queen's Westminster Rifles.

At first I was surprised to see so many POWs from the London Division, but the numbers make sense in light of the objectives the 168th & 169th Brigades (of the 56th London Division) had on 1/7/16. They attacked S & SE of Gommecourt up through the Quadrilateral & Nameless Farm and were to link up with elements of the 46th Division roughly NE of Gommecourt. Since the 46th Division attacks were largely not successful, the Londoners were pushed back from the objectives they gained to their jumping off points at considerable cost (the 56th Division had 4,314 casualties).

I recall reading that story of the German with the list of names--but I couldn't recall the source(s) in which I read it. Memory is one of the 1st, so the say, things to go . . . :D

Again, many thanks for the information Bob!

Cheers,

Jay

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So the challenge now is to find the RFA chap!

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Hummm since all the POWs on that list took part in the attack on Gommecourt, what do you think the odds are that the RFA chap was also captured there as well?

If I were to lay a bet on it, I'd bet that he was a forward observer attached to one of the units with either the 46th or 56th Divisions.

I know a chap who's a keen Artillery researcher (some of the information he pulls up is amazing). I'll put this question to him and see what he comes up with!

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  • 8 months later...
So the challenge now is to find the RFA chap!

McBain was actually the RFA man:

2nd Lt John Mortimer McBain, 231st Brigade RFA, died of wounds on 9th July 1916 in German hands. Aged 20 he was the son of John McBain, C.A., and Mrs. E. McBain, of 12, Rubislaw Den North, Aberdeen. He is buried in Vaulx Hill Cemetery, grave I. C. 11.

He was a FOO who went forward with one of the Sherwood battalions. Two other FOOs were reported missing and two were wounded. The two missing were both dead.

I can't find a record of a 2/Lt P B Ross, 5th Bn, North Staffs being a casualty.

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"One of the "strangest" lists which I have come across in this category is in the diary of a Division who are on the Somme during the 1916 battles - they captured a hapless German Infantryman who was out in no-man's-land during the night, his officer having sent him over to pin a list of British prisoners on the barbed wire infront of the British trenches !

The list is three pages long and neatly typed, the page headings in German but the rest in English. This list gives, in the main, the men's names, numbers, ranks, Battalion, and Company, and highlights those who were wounded when taken prisoner (very efficient, "very German" !). The Battalions mentioned are the 5th and 7th Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regt), Queen Victoria's Rifles and the London Rifle Brigade (9th & 5th Battalions the London Regiment, respectively), the 5th Cheshires, and the 6th North Staffordshires. Officers are listed for the Sherwood Foresters, North Staffs, London Regt., and Royal Field Artillery. All the men are noted as captured on July 1st 1916, the first day of the Battle of The Somme."

Bob.

It is quite remarkable that the Germans went to the trouble and danger of preparing the list immediately and risked a man to attempt to get the list back to the English immediately. I think in the normal course of things such information got back to the other side after many months, probably through a neutral country and the Red Cross, and meanwhile the family probably thought that their soldier was dead.

I assume that the Germans thought that it was safer to try to sneak the list over than risk him coming over with a white flag and perhaps get shot in the process. I assume, after the soldier never came back (it might have been assumed that he had been killed) that that was the last time that such a humanitarian guesture was attempted. As it is said: "No good deed goes unpunished."

Bob Lembke

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The other, or additional, version of this story is that the Germans dropped a list of PoWs taken at Gommecourt from an aircraft and the British then reciprocated by the same means.

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