Sunday, 30 November 2014

4722 Colour Sergeant Robert Wilson DCM, 1st Manchester Regt

Sixty-nine British Army officers and men lost their lives on this day, one hundred years ago; a relatively low casualty day by the standards of the Western Front.

4722 Colour Sergeant Robert Wilson DCM, was one of two Manchester Regiment casualties on the 30th November 1914. He died of wounds that he had sustained in the actions at Neuve Chapelle three days earlier, actions for which he would be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Robert Wilson, like the majority of the BEF fighting overseas at this time, was a career soldier; a man who had joined the Manchester Regiment in October 1895, seen fighting in the Boer War and was already in possession of a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal when Britain went to war in August 1914.

In 1995, Robert's medals were sold at auction for £1550 by Dix Noonan Webb, considerably more than the estimated £800-£1000. The catalogue entry for this group, courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb, reads:

"A fine 1914 DCM group of seven awarded to Colour Sergeant Robert Wilson, 1st Battalion, Manchester Regiment, for gallantry in action near Neuve Chapelle during which he was wounded and later died. "Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.V.R. (4722 C.S. Mjr, 1/Manch R); Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 4 clasps, Cape Colony, Defence of Ladysmith, Orange Free State, Transvaal (4722 Pte. Manch R); King’s South Africa, 2 clasps (Pte); 1914 Mons Star Trio (4722 C. Sjt., 1/Manch R); Army Long Service and Good Conduct, GVR (4722 C.Sjt., Manch.Regt.) together with Bronze Memorial Plaque... "

The battalion war diary for the 27th November states: "On the conclusion of the artillery bombardment at 11.30 pm, Captain Creagh sent out two parties of ten men each from No III Coy to reconnoitre the enemy’s sniping ditch to his right front about 60 yards distant. These were fired on from the enemy’s trenches but they advanced and found about 60 yards of trench unheld. They were then bombed and C.S. Wilson and 2 men were wounded. These parties returned carrying their wounded and had no more casualties."

Colour Sergeant Wilson, a native of Ardwick, Manchester, is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France. He was 37 years old, the son of the late Thomas and Elizabeth Wilson and the husband of Nellie Wilson, of 22 Whittaker Lane, Heaton Park, Manchester. He also had a young daughter.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

9923 Pte Henry Crouch, 2nd East Lancashire Regiment

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 122 UK servicemen died one hundred years ago today on the 23rd November 1914. Henry Crouch was one such casualty, dying of wounds on this day.

Henry was born in Peesmarsh, Rye, East Sussex and enlisted with the East Lancashire Regiment at Canterbury in December 1908. Oddly, I can find no reference to his 1914 Star. His medal index card shows entitlement to the British War and Victory Medal but of course, he would have been entitled to the 1914 Star (and clasp) and probably arrived overseas with the battalion on the 7th November 1914.

The battalion had been in South Africa when war was declared and had only arrived back in England at the end of October. The war diary makes no mention of significant action in November and so Henry was possibly fatally wounded either during a relief, during one of those sporadic and desultory bombardments of British lines, or as a result of sniping; it's impossible to say.

Henry is buried in Estaires Communal Cemetery and Extension along with a number of other regular soldiers who were killed in action or died of wounds in November and December 1914.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

32825 Pte Owen Needham, 6th Leicestershire Regiment

32825 Pte Owen Needham of the 6th Leicestershire Regiment died of wounds on the 28th or 29th April 1917. He was 19 years old.

The 1911 census shows Owen as a 13-year-old living at Charnwood Road, Shepshed with his parents and seven siblings. No service record survives for him but his regimental number dates to late October 1916. He was probably conscripted as an eighteen-year-old, arriving in France in 1917.

Soldiers Died in the Great War notes that he enlisted at Leicester and died of wounds on the 29th April, whilst the Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives his date of death as the 28th April. After the war, his parents paid for an inscription to be added to his headstone in Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux: ETERNAL REST / GIVE UNTO HIM O LORD.  They also paid for the same inscription to be added to his brother Frank's headstone. Frank Needham was killed in action serving with the Machine Gun Corps on the 5th October 1918.

I met Owen and Frank's brother Ernest Needham whilst I was a student at Loughborough University in the 1980s and have published a brief profile of him on my World War 1 Veterans' blog.

Owen and Frank Needham are both remembered on the at memorial at Shepshed.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

Shepshed war memorial image courtesy Leicestershire County Council.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A day after the fighting stopped...

... men were still dying.

On the 12th November 1918, according to Soldiers Died in the Great War, 188 British Army officers and men gave their lives for King and Country. Seventy-six of these men died as a result of wounds received in action and one of those men was 15/477 Sergeant Reginald William Horton of the 15th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment.

Reginald was an original member of the 1st Leeds Pals who had joined up in the first flush of patriotic fervour in September 1914. Now, with the end of war less than a day old, he had died of wounds.

Reginald was born in Leicester and enlisted, of course, in Leeds. He was a casualty on 1st July 1916 and was admitted to a Field Ambulance the following day with a shrapnel wound to his right arm. He must have recovered from this wound and been returned to his battalion. As no service record survives, it is difficult to ascertain exactly what happened, but as he is buried in Berlin South-West Cemetery I assumed he must have been wounded, captured and subsequently died of wounds, just as his erstwhile comrades in the prison camp would have been celebrating the end of war and their impending liberty.

Fortunately some PoW records do survive with the International Red Cross and from these we can see that Reginald was wounded at Oppy, Arras on the 3rd May 1917, receiving a bullet wound to his left side and back. He spent time at Limburg PoW camp (from 11th August 1917), Hameln (from 27th August) Dulmen (from 11th September), and finally Doeberitz (from 24th November 1917). The summary card of his incarceration also notes that he was serving with C Company of the 15th West Yorks.

No age or next of kin details for Reginald appear on his entry in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's register but I think he is the same Reginald W Horton who appears on the 1911 census, along with his 22-year-old sister Constance, as the 15-year-old nephew of Harriet Seddon, a widowed headmistress living at Bettesworth House, Upper Poppleton, Yorkshire. This would mean that Reginald was probably only eighteen, or at best nineteen, when he joined the Leeds pals in September 1914.

I could not find Reginald's name listed in the Leeds Book of Remembrance, presumably because he was not originally a Leeds man, even though he joined the 1st City Battalion. Nevertheless, I am proud to remember him here.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

The Cross of Sacrifice image is taken from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's page dedicated to Berlin South-West Cemetery.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

8518 Pte William Warren, 1st Bn, King's (Liverpool Regiment)

285 British Army officers and men died on this day, 4th November 1914, and amongst this number were 14 men of The King's (Liverpool Regiment). 8518 Private William Warren was killed in action whilst serving with the 1st Battalion. He was a Warrington man, born and bred, and, judging by his regimental number, enlisted there around August 1903. Assuming that he did not extend his period of colour service, he would have been a reservist in August 1914, recalled to the colours. He arrived overseas on the 12th August 1914.

The War Diary in WO 95/1359 has this to say for the day that William and 13 of his colleagues died:

In his book, British Battalions in France and Belgium 1914, Ray Westlake sums up the period thus: "Held positions under severe shell-fire and several infantry attacks".
William has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

Monday, 3 November 2014

6490 Bandsman Albert Joseph Perris, 2nd Bn, Highland Light Infantry

Soldiers Died in The Great War notes that 315 British Army officers and men died on this day, 3rd November, in 1914. Eight of these men were serving with the Highland Light Infantry and the longest serving of these men was 6490 Bandsman Albert J Perris who was killed in action whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion.

Albert was born in Limerick on the 22nd December 1881. His name appears in the GRO regimental indices and in fact there are two entries, one noting Royal Engineers and the other noting Army Service Corps, Commissariat and Transport Corps. A check through pension records in WO 97 reveals that his father was Barnstaple-born James Perris who enlisted with the Army Service Corps in February 1890 aged 42 years and 11 months, having previously served for 22 years with the 45th Regiment of Foot and with the Royal Engineers. He had first enlisted in April 1864 at the age of 18. James Perris had married Mary Ann Ahern at Limerick in 1879 and the couple went on to have seven children: Mary Rose Perris (born Limerick, 1880), Albert Joseph, Maud Elizabeth (born Gibraltar, 1883), Walter Francis Perris (born Gibraltar 1884), [unclear, crossed out, but possibly Anna Rosa Perris] (born Gibraltar, 1885), William Valentine Perris (born Woolwich, 1887) and Robert John Perris (born Woolwich, 1891).

Albert enlisted in London in September 1897 and although no service record survives for him, he is named in the Highland Light Infantry Chronicle. The dates below refer in each case to the date that the particular volume of the HLI Chronicle was published.

October 1909: Re-engages to complete 21 years with the colours
January 1915: Appears in a list of NCOs and men killed or died of wounds
Jul-Oct 1915: Name appears in a list of unclaimed soldiers' balances. Amount unclaimed: £19 9s 8d.
October 1916: Name appears in a list of unclaimed soldiers' balances as above.

Albert's name also appears in De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour and in the eight-volume, Ireland's Memorial Records. He has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 38 of the Menin Gate.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.
Medal index card courtesy of Ancestry.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

5875 Pte Josiah Hall, 1st Bn, Lincolnshire Regiment

According to Soldiers Died in The Great War, 746 British Army officers and men lost their lives on this day, 1st November, in 1914. The 1st Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment suffered particularly heavy losses on this day, taking part in a counter-attack on Wystschaete and coming under "murderous fire". The battalion war diary records that seven officers and 293 other ranks were killed, wounded or reported missing.

5875 Pte Josiah Hall was one of the men killed. He was born in Eastville, Boston in 1882 and was living in Pudsey, Leeds when he enlisted (although his place of enlistment is recorded as Louth). His regimental number dates to 1901 which suggests that he was probably a Section D Reservist when Britain went to war in August 1914. His medal index card indicates that he did not sail with the Battalion in August but arrived in France on the 13th September.

Both Soldiers Died in the Great War and The Commonwealth War Graves Commission record this man as Joshua Hall. However, his medal index card, birth index entry and census returns record his name as Josiah Hall. He appears on the 1891 census as an eight-year-old living with his parents and three siblings at 17 Priory Road, Louth (pictured above). His father was George Hall, a 41 year old labourer, married to Eliza Hall (aged 47). Josiah was the eldest of four children, followed by Sarah (aged seven), Harry (aged five), and Arthur (aged three).  On the 1911 census he is probably the same Josiah Hall (aged 27) recorded with the 1st Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment in Aden. He has the trade of "carpenter" entered against his name.

Josiah has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

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