PAILTON is a large village about 6 miles North West of Rugby in Warwickshire. The memorial consists of a stone pyramid topped obelisk surrounded by iron railings at the junction of the B4027 Coventry and Lutterworth Roads with the B4112 Rugby Road some 200 yards North of St Denys' Church where there is on the wall of the Church a plaque commemorating those who served in the Great War including those who died.
Pailton War Memorial 1922
Pailton War Memorial 2007
Those who laid down their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1918 and who are recorded on the War Memorial in Pailton.
CHARLES EDWARD CLARKE Private No 20233 2nd Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (formerly no 4447 Royal Warwickshire Regiment). Died 20th August 1917 Nigrita, Greece and is buried in Struma Military Cemetery in the village of Kalokastron which is 65 kilometres North-East of Thessalonika, in Greece. This cemetery records 947 Commonwealth and 15 other nationalities killed in the Great War.
Charles Clarke was the son of Mr and Mrs. Joseph Clarke of Pailton, brother of Rifleman James Clarke 2nd Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps. who was killed at Loos in 1915. Charles Clarke was born in Pailton and enlisted at Rugby, Warwickshire in the early part of September 1914. He was employed by London and North Western Railway Co. when war broke out and after enlisting in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment was transferred to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. He went to France with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on the 6th May 1915. The two brothers were amongst the first to enlist. Mr and Mrs Clarke lost 2 of their 3 sons and Mrs Clarke also lost a brother in action.
The 2nd Battalion had landed at Havre on the 21st December 1914 as part of 82nd Brigade, served in France and Flanders until late 1915 when the Battalion embarked at Marseilles for Salonika arriving there on the 13th October 1915. Salonika was a strategically important Greek port on the Aegean coast of Macedonia, part of the Ottoman Empire until the1st Balkan War of 1912 and still the subject of Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian ambitions in 1914-1915. From the outbreak of the war in 1914 Britain was unsure as to what extent military involvement in the Balkans would be advisable but Britain would have to take into account the view of her partners, France in particular and Russia. Having beaten off two invasions by Austro-Hungarian forces in 1914 the Serbian Army was exhausted and Britain and France appreciated that a third Austro-Hungarian attack, supported by German forces and possibly those of Bulgaria would finish the Serbs. By mid September 1915 it was apparent that Bulgaria was moving into the arms of the Central Powers, Germany and Austro-Hungary, and it appeared that the only way to prevent Bulgarian intervention against Serbia would be a show of force namely the landing of Anglo-French forces in the Balkans. The port of Salonika in neutral Greece was the only place offering a large deep water harbour with access to the Mediterranean. The plan of action agreed was an initial landing by the 10th (Irish) Division and the French 156th Division, both withdrawn from Gallipoli, the British hoping that the landing of this force alone would deter Bulgaria from joining the war against Serbia whilst the French hoped to use the Force in support of the Serbian Army. The position of Greece itself was uncertain; King Constantine was married to the Kaiser’s sister and favoured the German cause whilst the Prime Minister favoured the Allies and authorised the Salonika landing which began in October 1915. By mid October 1915 three French infantry battalions supported by artillery were across the Serbian frontier around Strumica and Ghevgeli and the first clash took place later that month but in the face of powerful Bulgarian forces, the French could hope to achieve little more than keeping a line of retreat open for their ally Serbia. British forces were politically constrained and could only move to the Greek-Serbia frontier and encamp in support of the French but this was not acceptable to the Greek government who wanted the British to cross into Serbia or otherwise remain at Salonika. Eventually the British government allowed the British commander of the British Salonika Force (BSF) to cross into Serbia if assistance was requested by the French. Advance elements of the British force were north west of Lake Doiran by the end of October with the French being well to the north contemplating an operation against Veles with the Serbs attempting to recapture Skopje. By the end of November the British position was on a line running from Kosturino to Lake Doiran but this was the beginning of the Serbian winter and at the beginning of December 1915 the Bulgarian Army began an advance at Kosturino which drove both the British and the French back onto Salonika. Between December 1915 and July 1916 an entrenched line of defence some 20 miles away from Salonika itself was constructed the Serbian Army having retreated into Albania and then moved by sea to Corfu. At the end of April 1916 the BSF was granted permission to advance up to but not across the Serbo-Greek border. Eventually it was agreed that the British would operate in a different area than the French, namely from the mouth of the River Struma up the Struma valley to Lake Butkova and then west towards Yanesh. In the summer of 1916 Rumania joined the Allies and at the same time large numbers of the Serbian Army began to arrive and so the BSF was required to extend its line westward to cover the Serbo-Greek frontier between Lake Doiran and the River Vardar. The main objective turned out to be the capture of the Serbian town of Monastir which would give the Allies a path into Serbia from where the strong Bulgarian defences in the Vardar valley could be turned. The British task was to exert pressure on the Bulgarians in the Struma valley and around Doiran to prevent the transfer of Bulgarian troops west of the River Vardar to oppose the main assault. The Allied autumn offensive captured over 400 square miles of territory but Monastir was still within range of Bulgarian artillery. In the Spring of 1917 the main assault was envisaged to be by the Serbian forces from the Moglena mountains wheeling east to hit the rear of the Bulgarian forces on the River Vardar, the British contribution eventually being agreed to be an attack at Doiran which guarded the approach to the Kosturino Pass. But the area could be described as a defender’s dream being hills, ridges, steep valleys and ravines. From late December 1915 German and Bulgarian engineers laboured hard to enhance the natural strength of the position with trench lines being constructed. The plan was to send infantry from the British 22nd and 26th Divisions part of XII Corps to attack these positions. The April and May 1917 attacks failed to make any significant impression on the Bulgarian position but succeeded in its primary objective of preventing enemy forces moving west of the Vardar. XVI Corps had begun fighting a very different war in the Struma Valley which comprised a series of limited actions from the end of September 1916. The valley floor extends between 5 to 14 miles, the river itself forming a natural barrier between opposing forces. In 1916 the British defences were concentrated around crossing points on the river such as bridges, fords and ferries and included a number of outposts and bridgeheads on the eastern bank, established from October 1916, with frequent patrols sent across the Struma to prevent Bulgarian incursions. Forward positions were abandoned during the summer malarial season in 1917 and 1918, the vast expanse of the valley floor becoming No Man’s Land patrolled by yeomanry, cyclists and ‘flying columns’ of infantry. The final successful offensive by Allied forces based in Salonika was launched in September 1918 and by the Armistice had reached the Danube. The withdrawal of German forces to the Western Front in early 1918 had left only 200,000 Bulgarian troops to hold the line. The offensive opened on the 15th September 1918 with an advance up the Vardar River along a 25 kilometre front. Retreat turned into rout after 25th September, Strumica falling on the 26th, and the French entering Skopje on the 29th, Bulgaria surrendered on the 30th September 1918 with the British moving east towards Constantinople.
The Battalion spent the last months in 1915 road making and then building entrenchments which continued in 1916, with a spell as town guard in Salonika before actions in the northern reaches of the river Struma attacking Bulgarian held villages below Seres. “Casualties in action were never large in the Battalion on the Struma, but we learned that the real enemy against whom we had to fight were the mosquitoes and malarial fever.” In the Spring of 1917 the river flooded. As part of 82nd Brigade, itself part of 27th Division, the Battalion at this period was watching and patrolling the River Struma, being opposed by the 2nd Bulgarian Army. On the 10th June 1917 Brigade issued orders that the troops should withdraw to the right bank of the River Struma, holding the line of the river with small posts and bridge-heads and keeping the bulk of the troops in the hills behind. In the summer heat the valley of the Struma swarmed with mosquitoes spreading disease and sickness among the troops. The 82nd Brigade was to hold the new line from Ahinos to Komarjan Bridge. A new camp was established SSW of Nigoslav to which all material from the front line was taken and the trenches filled in. Although the troops were withdrawn from the Struma Valley to the hills above, the Bulgarian Army was not to be allowed to reoccupy the villages and plains evacuated by the 27th Division and frequent excursions across the river with the object of turning the enemy out were made. One such excursion took place on the night of the 6th/7th July when two companies of the Battalion crossed the river. The July diary shows daily admissions to hospital of sick officers and men, but August showed a distinct improvement in the health of the Battalion. At the end of August the trench strength of the Battalion was 20 officers and 700 other ranks. September saw a return to active patrol work. The Regimental Roll of Honour differentiates between those killed in action, died of wounds and other deaths. In the whole campaign British (including Indian) losses were 3,875 Other Ranks killed or died of wounds, 3,668 died of disease - there were 162,517 hospital admissions from malaria alone with 787 deaths. Private Clarke had been engaged on transport duties for some months. He in fact died of heart failure. He was found dead in his tent an hour after he had been seen in his usual health.
Charles Clarke’s platoon officer wrote that he was “one of the most popular men in the Battalion and liked by everyone.”
He was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1915 Star.
The Struma River flows through Bulgaria southward to the Greek frontier, then south-east into the Aegean Sea. From the Allied base at Salonika, a road ran north-east across the river to Seres, and it was this road that the right wing of the Allied army used for the movements of troops and supplies to the Struma front during the Salonica Campaign. In the autumn of 1916, the 40th Casualty Clearing Station was established not far from the road near the 71 kilometre stone and the cemetery made for it was originally called Kilo 71 Military Cemetery. The original plot, Plot 1, was set too close to a ravine and the graves in it were moved after the Armistice to the present plots VIII and IX. The remainder of the cemetery consists of graves brought in from the battlefields, from the churchyards at Homondos, Haznatar and Kalendra, and from small front line cemeteries established by field ambulances or fighting units. The Cemetery contains 947 Commonwealth burials of the First World War. Private Clarke is buried in Plot II.
JAMES CLARKE Rifleman No Y/1081 2nd Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Killed in action 25th September 1915 and commemorated on the Loos Memorial, Dud Corner Cemetery, Loos-en-Gohelle. The Loos Memorial commemorates over 20,000 officers and men who fell in the area from the River Lys to the old southern boundary of the First Army, east and west of Grenay, and who have no known grave. It covers the period from the first day of the Battle of Loos to the date of the Armistice.
James Clarke was one of three sons of Mr and Mrs Joseph Clarke of Pailton. He had been in the employment of Willans & Robinson Ltd.(Engineers), Victoria Works, Newbold Road Rugby before the War. He enlisted in Rugby, in the early part of September 1914 and is believed to have joined the Corps on the 12th September 1914. After training at Sheerness the Corps was sent to the Front in May 1915. James Clarke was well known in the Pailton district where his modest and unassuming disposition made him a general favourite, as it did also in his corps both with officers and men. His brother Private Charles Edward Clarke joined the Warwickshire Regiment about the same time but was transferred later to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.
At the outbreak of the War the Battalion was part of 2nd Brigade 1st Division and landed at Havre on 13th August 1914. The Battalion was involved in the Retreat from Mons, the Advance from the River Marne and the Advance to the Aisne and then the First Battle of Ypres in 1914.
Rifleman Clarke went to France to join the Battalion on the 8th March 1915 and was with them in the Battle of Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915, the Battalion being in support. Its task was to follow up the advance of the 1st Northamtonshires and secure the right flank of the 2nd Brigade by capturing a stretch of German trenches which ran towards La Quinque Rue, the road running North East out of Festubert about 400 yards behind the German front line trenches. some men from the 1st Northamptonshires did manage to find a gap in the German wire but neer returned. The leading companies of the 1nd Battalion were cut down by machine-gunfire as they crossed the parapet of the British front line and got into No Man's Land where they remained pinned down by the enemy guns.
In June 1915 the British Army extended its line to the south, to include the area from the La Bassee Canal to Loos. The French Commander in Chief General Joffre proposed attacks in the Autumn of 1915 in the Champagne area with 14 divisions and required the British to attack near the mining village of Loos. The area was entirely unsuitable for an assault the sector being flat and with little cover dominated by slag heaps from the coal mines which gave the Germans observation over the area and strong points from which they could sweep the area with machine-gun fire but several pressing reasons compelled the British to agree to the attack. The Germans had launched a massive offensive on the Eastern Front and the Russian ally had lost 750,000 men, the Italians who had come into the war on the side of the Allies in May 1915 had been hard hit on their front, and the Gallipoli campaign had proved to be a failure. The date for the offensive was finally agreed as the 25th September 1915 after an artillery bombardment for four days, the British Commander Sir John French electing to make up for his deficiency in guns by the use of poisonous gas and smoke. On the southern sector of the British sector two Divisions, the 47th and 15th (Scottish) were employed whilst to the north of the 15th Division was the 1st Division whose northern boundary was the Vermelles-Hulluch road and north of that road were the 7th, 9th (Scottish) and 2nd Divisions. The Second Brigade was on the right of the First Division and was to attack in a south-easterly direction.
At 0550 on the 25th September the gas was released but the wind had veered to the south and the British gas cloud drifted right onto the jumping-off trenches in which the first-line companies of the Battalion and the 1st Loyal North Lancashires were awaiting the word to advance. The gas was soon turned off but not before about 200 men from each battalion had been put out of action. Consequently when the advance began the second-line companies had to pass through those in the first line. This was not till a few minutes after zero hour as although the wind had changed and the British gas had been turned on again time had to be given for it to reach the German line. As the line advanced it was badly enfiladed by machine-guns dug in in front of the German line which had not been dealt with by the bombardment; then when the troops reached the enemy’s wire it was found to be intact and although heroic attempts were made to cut it, the attacking battalions in the end had to fall back to the jumping-off trenches. Whilst the 1st Brigade overran the German front and intermediate lines it was stopped by a strong and intact belt of wire which covered the German second line. Another attempt was made by fresh battalions of the 2nd Brigade and the remnants of the 1st Loyal North Lancashire whilst the 2nd Battalion of the K.R.R.C. who had suffered the most were left to reorganise in the front-line trenches. The losses of the 2nd Battalion on the 25th September were over 500 of all ranks of whom Rifleman Clarke was one. On the 26th September 1915 a Rifleman Payne of the same Battalion was acting as a stretcher-bearer and found Rifleman James Clarke’s body, he had been shot through the chest, and was in a group of nine who had been killed by machine-gun fire. His body was recovered and he was buried near Le Rutoire Farm Vermelles. This was about 1000 yards behind, and to the west, of the Front Line on 25th September and Vermelles is about 1 mile west of Le Rutoire. It is likely that any grave marker was destroyed in later fighting and Rifleman Clarke may well be one of the Unknown buried in Vermelles British Cemetery.
He was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1915 Star.
FRANK DAVENPORT Lance Corporal No 2055 9th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Killed in action 25th January 1917 in Mesopotamia and commemorated on the Basra Memorial, Iraq. The Memorial is within Basra War Cemetery which is north west of Basra a town on the west bank of the Shatt-al-Arab 60 miles from its mouth in the Persian Gulf. The Memorial commemorates more than 40,000 British, Indian and West African dead who died in the operations in Mesopotamia from the Autumn of 1914 to the end of August 1921.
Born and residing in Pailton, Warwickshire, Frank Davenport was the son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Davenport and brother of Thomas Docker Davenport who was killed in 1914. In 1901 Thomas Davenport was residing at 45 Lutterworth Road, Pailton aged 52 with his wife Eliza 55, Frank aged 11 and Agnes 8. (Thomas Docker Davenport would have been 22 and away from home).
The Allied expedition to Mesopotamia was mounted to protect the oil resources in south-west Persia. Oil had been found at Ahwaz and a pipeline had been laid from Ahwaz to the island of Abadan where storage tanks and a distillery were built. By 1914 it had become a major source of oil and the possibility of a war with Turkey posed a clear threat. Advance troops of the Indian Expeditionary Force landed in Mesopotamia on the 6th November 1914. The area around Basra was quickly cleared Basra itself being occupied by the British on the 22nd November 1914 and Ahwaz secured in April 1915. On the 11th May 1915 a reconnaissance in force up the Tigris River was ordered and as the Turks withdrew Al Amarah was seized in June 1915 and then Kut-al-Amara in September 1915 but the advance was halted at Ctesiphon south of Baghdad by Turkish reinforcements and the British had little option other than to retreat to Kut to await support, reaching that City in December 1915. Relief failed and the city was surrendered to the Turks on the 29th April 1916. The promising campaign had ended in disaster and lowered the Allies standing throughout the Middle East. In 1916 no operations on a large scale were undertaken following the fall of Kut.
The 9th Battalion Royal Warwickshire disembarked at Basra on the 28th February 1916 and participated in one of the attempts to relieve the British forces besieged in Kut. After the surrender at Kut the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir William Robertson, was emphatically in favour of a defensive strategy in Mesopotamia. inclining to adopt a withdrawal to Amara as the best method of safeguarding the oilfields and of commanding the two river arteries of the Tigris and the Euphrates; however, Sir Stanley Maude who had succeeded to the command in Mesopotamia, supported by the Commander in Chief in India, maintained that an advanced position at Kut was both militarily secure and politically wise. The position of the Turkish Army holding Kut-al-Amara was somewhat unusual, forces being disposed on both banks of the River Tigris. On the left or northern bank the enemy were holding the strong position of Sannaiyat some 15 miles north-east of Kut whilst on the right or southern bank the enemy forces had been withdrawn several miles to an entrenched position close to Kut itself. The plan was to strike at the Turkish right flank, to envelop and crush the enemy forces south of the Tigris and then to cross the river and cut off the rest of the enemy’s forces from their base.
On the 1st December 1916 the Royal Warwickshires started to march back to Sheikh Saad which is some 30 miles East of Kut, where they crossed the Tigris and so came to the front line on the south bank. The first stage of the operation was the envelopment of the enemy’s right flank which commenced in the middle of December 1916. Southwards from Kut-al-Amara runs a deep water-course the Shatt-al-Hai and the Turkish right flank had been strongly entrenched at the junction of Shatt-al-Hai with the Tigris forming a salient about a mile in depth the apex of the salient being on the watercourse of the Hai. The result of the mid December attack was to seize and hold a position some 500 yards from the Turkish trenches and in preparation for an attack on the Hai salient a system of trenches was prepared and by the 21st January 1917 the new trenches were within 300 yards of the enemy’s front line. At 0930 on the 25th January 1917 the British artillery opened a sudden intense bombardment against the enemy’s second line defence, then shortened their range to hit their front line after which the attacking battalions, the 9th Worcesters and 7th North Staffordshires, advanced. The enemy’s front line was won but there was an awkward trench-junction which exposed the North Staffordshires to attack and this developed at about midday with Turkish bombers attacking assisted by a trench-howitzer whose fire was devastating so that that Battalion had to retire, carrying with them the left flank of “B” Company of the Worcesters. The Battalion Reserve of the Worcesters was ordered forward and this enabled the trench to be reoccupied but the 9th Royal Warwickshire had been ordered forward from Brigade reserve. They were gallantly led by their CO Lieutenant Colonel Edward Elers Delavel Henderson in person, who had been shot in the arm just before, jumping on to the parapet and shouting to his men to follow, advancing and cheering them on under most intense fire. He was shot down but rose and again led in the most gallant manner till the Warwickshire were within 100 yards of the Turks. The Battalion raced in with fixed bayonets, effectively pushing through the retiring troops and, followed immediately by them, regained the whole of the first objective re-establishing the position from end to end. Colonel Henderson was again twice wounded and as he lay out in the open Captain R E Phillips who had already shown great courage in the attack went out under very heavy fire and with the help of a comrade succeeded in bringing him back to die in the British trenches. At the trench junction the Warwickshire advance was stayed. Then for a while the Turkish counter attacks died down. The guns of both sides kept up an intense fire, and the losses of the Turks in the crowded salient must have been heavy. Once more the destructive trench howitzer came into action from the river bank and the Turkish bombers attacked the trench-junction from all sides. The 9th Warwickshire withstood the attack as bravely as the 7th North Staffordshire had done; but once more the combination of fire from all sides shattered the defence. Step by step the Royal Warwickshires were driven back and a similar attack near the river wore down the resistance of the 9th Worcestershire. At length about 1515 ammunition began to give out. The remnant of the Royal Warwickshire fell back from the left flank of the trench and retired across the open. As they retired the leaderless platoons of the 9th Worcestershire fell back in line with them until they reached the British front line and filed into and occupied the trench preparing this for defence. The artillery of both sides pounded the opposing trench lines savagely for another hour, then the firing died down and on the front west of the Hai the battle ceased. Darkness fell and fresh troops of the 14th Division took over the battered trenches. The 9th Warwickshire lost as well as Colonel Henderson 4 officers killed, 7 wounded (1 mortally) and of other ranks 52 were killed, 118 wounded and 11 missing. Of the 9th Worcestershire 12 officers and 327 N.C.Os and men had been killed or wounded but the sacrifice had achieved its purpose, the bulk of the Turkish reserves had been used up in the effort to force back the 39th Brigade and the attack the next day of the 38th Brigade against the eastern flank of the Hai Salient was swiftly successful. Colonel Henderson was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, the citation reading, “For most conspicuous bravery, leadership and personal example when in command of his battalion. Lt.Col.Henderson brought his battalion up to our two front-line trenches, which were under intense fire, and his battalion had suffered casualties when the enemy made a heavy counter-attack, and succeeded in penetrating our line in several places, the situation becoming critical. Although shot through the arm, Lt. Col.Henderson jumped on to the parapet and advanced alone some distance in front of his battalion, cheering them on under the most intense fire over 500 yards of open ground. Again wounded, he nevertheless continued to lead his men on in the most gallant manner, finally capturing the position by a bayonet charge. He was again twice wounded, and died when he was eventually brought in.”
Lance Corporal Davenport had previously served with the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire having enlisted at Coventry in 1912 and at the outbreak of the war was with that Battalion in Malta. On the 6th October 1914 the 2nd Battalion landed at Zeebrugge and Frank Davenport landed with his Battalion participating in the fighting in the area of Polygon Wood in the Salient in October 1914 but by January 1915 Lance Corporal Davenport was on sick leave in Pailton, at the time when his brother Thomas’ death was being reported, he having contracted malarial fever and been invalided to a London Hospital but was expressing the hope shortly to be at the Front again. He apparently remained on sick leave until May 1915. He was sent to the 9th Battalion which was then at Aldershot but left for Egypt landing at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli on the 4th August 1915. The biggest scourge on the Gallipoli peninsular was dysentery and Lance Corporal Davenport was affected. He had come out of the fighting unscathed including the attack on 10th August 1915 on Koja Chemen Tepe where the Battalion lost 44 other ranks killed in action, 147 wounded and 117 missing but contracted dysentery and was evacuated by Hospital ship to Egypt where he was in hospital in Cairo in October 1915. In the early part of 1916 he wrote to his father from Alexandria that he was about to undergo an operation. Most of the Allied troops were evacuated from Gallipoli by the 20th December 1915 but the Battalion remained on the Peninsula until the 8th January 1916 until going via Lemnos to Egypt. The Battalion embarked at Port Said on the 16th February 1916 landing at Basra on the 28th February 1916.
He was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1914 Star he having sered in France and Belgium between the 5th August and midnight on the22nd - 23rd November 1914.
THOMAS DOCKER DAVENPORT Rifleman No 5/391 1st Battalion the Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own). Killed in action 10th November 1914 aged 35 years. He is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial. The Memorial stands in Berks Cemetery Extension, Belgium which is located 12.5 kilometres south of Ypres town centre on the N365 leading to Ploegsteert village and then Armentieres and commemorates 11,447 officers and men who fell in the Great War and whose graves are not known. It serves the area from the line Caestre-Dranoutre-Warneton, on the north to the line Haverskerque-Estaires-Fournes on the south in which the best known features are the towns of Hazebrouck, Merville, Bailleul and Armentieres, the Forest of Nieppe and Ploegsteert Wood and covers the period from the arrival of III Corps in this area in 1914 to the date of the armistice with Germany.
Born and residing in Pailton, Warwickshire, he enlisted at Coventry and was the son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Davenport and brother of Frank Davenport, killed in 1917.
Thomas Davenport had previously served in South Africa for which he held 2 medals. Upon declaration of war in 1914 he volunteered for service and joined the 5th Reserve Battalion of the Rifle Brigade and having expressed his willingness to go to the Front was drafted into his old Battalion, the 1st Battalion the Rifle Brigade, and was among the first of the troops to go out to the Front, landing at Havre with his Battalion.
By the 17th August 1914 the British Expeditionary Force was concentrating in the area between Maubeuge and Le Cateau, North West France. The Battalion landed at Havre on the 23rd August 1914 as part of 11th Brigade, 4th Division, by which date the B.E.F. was falling back from Mons, the beginning of the retirement eventually ending across the Marne River to a position some 15 miles East of Paris. The 4th Division arrived in the Le Cateau area on the 24th August, the 1st Battalion joining the Division south of Solesmes,about 12 miles East of Cambrai and about 4 miles North of Le Cateau. The Battalion on the 26th August was in action near Caudry in the Battle of Le Cateau. Then began in earnest the retreat crossing the Rivers Aisne and Marne until on the 5th September 1914 the Battalion held an outpost line at Ozoir-la-Ferriere East of Paris. Early on the 6th September the Battalion, expecting to continue the retreat, was ordered to advance, by the 9th September they were through La Ferte-sous-Joarre, crossing the Marne near Chateau-Thierry, reaching the River Aisne. On the night of the 12th/13th September the German First and Second Armies ended their retreat and dug in along the high ground above the River Aisne. In the early hours of the 13th September the 11th Brigade had crossed the Aisne at Venizel east of Soissons and forming up on the flat ground beyond the river took the German outposts on the heights beyond the river forcing the Germans back to their main position some considerable distance to the rear. The Battle of the Aisne which began in earnest on the 14th September was fought with great severity on the British right and centre but less so on the left, the Battalion entrenching the position it had reached near Ste. Marguerite.
From the German viewpoint this was an ideal defensive position, high ground north of the River. The Allies were faced with crossing the River itself to be confronted with German guns in commanding positions on the opposite bank. Units of the BEF and French 5th Army forced their way across the river on the 13th and 14th September with the German artillery including 8 inch howitzers having been brought south from completing the reduction of the fortress of Maubeuge on the 8th September halting any possibility of a breakthrough and both the Allies and the Germans began to entrench and extend operations northward by seeking to recover a war of movement by striking around the open flank of the other. At the end of September Sir John French suggested to General Joseph Joffre the French Commander in Chief that the British Expeditionary Force should resume its designated pre-war position, on the extreme left flank of the French armies and on the night of 1/2 October 1914 the BEF began to move north leaving the Aisne in great secrecy with the enemy unaware that they had gone.
The Battalion, with the rest of 11th Brigade, by the 12th October 1914 was at St. Omer moving up on the 14th October to Fletre (north west of Meteren on the Bailleul road) and being engaged in a number of minor operations in the area of Armentieres until the 22nd October was despatched northward to Ploegsteert but after its departure orders were received to take over the line of the 12th Brigade and so the Battalion diverted back to Le Bizet and at 6.30 p.m. companies from the Battalion were sent out to take over the trenches held by the 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers and the 1st Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) from the River Lys at Frelinghien to the cross-roads south of Le Gheer. The line ran through the village of Le Touquet partly held by the British and partly by the enemy, with German snipers in houses sometimes only 25 yards from houses held by the British. In this period the Germans were engaging in holding attacks the objective being to prevent the transfer of British troops to the north with the main German attack being in the Ypres sector. The line at Le Touquet was over 1300 hundreds in length and the Battalion strength was less than 600. Communication across the River Lys was virtually impossible and it was an anxious time for the 4th Division with no reserves whatever. The Battalion improvised a local reserve by bringing up the transport drivers and holding them in readiness every night. There was in this period house – to – house fighting and on the 8th November Acting Corporal F C Spain won the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the citation reading “For gallant conduct at Le Touquet, in remaining standing in a very exposed position under heavy fire, watching and reporting the enemy’s movements, which could not be otherwise ascertained.” In fact he stood on top of a wall until most of it had been blown away by shell-fire. The enemy made a number of attacks and at 0715 on the 30th October in particular made an effort with lines of skirmishers which were engaged with gunfire, they then attempted to collect in an area of dead ground some 300 yards from the British front line but accurate shooting by the British artillery prevented any forward movement. German artillery was also active and in one period that day 195 shells fell near the machine-gunners. That night Captain Otho Claude Skipwith Gillliat was killed in action and is buried in Le Touquet Railway Crossing Cemetery. Seven other ranks were also killed that day. In the rather isolated posts the Riflemen remained until the 10th November 1914 on relief by the 1st Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment). On the 20th November 1914 the Battalion took over the trenches along the eastern side of Ploegsteert Wood which it continued to hold until March 1915. In the period holding the line between the 22nd October and 10th November 1914 the Battalion lost a total of 54 other ranks killed in action including Rifleman Thomas Davenport with a further 91 wounded. He was the only member of the Battalion killed on the 10th November but the previous day the Battalion has sustained 5 casualties, Frederick Crack, Horace Dearden, Harry Peck and James Sullivan, like Thomas Davenport, being commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial with only Acting Sergeant Frank Price having a known grave, being buried in Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres.
Just before Christmas his parents sent a hamper containing useful articles and good things for Christmas. The hamper arrived at its destination in due course and the reply that came back was a notification that Rifleman Davenport had been killed in action on the 10th November 1914. A Letter from the Quartermaster dated the 30th December 1914 written in the field stated that he died almost immediately after being hit and they were sorry to lose him for he was a fine soldier. His comrades had erected a nice cross over his grave suitably inscribed (but this was plainly lost in subsequent fighting).
His Medal Index Card only records the award of the Victory and British War Medals but he was almost certainly awarded the 1914 Star he having served in France and Belgium between the 5th August and midnight on the 22nd - 23rd November 1914.
ALFRED HILL Private No 24543 1st/5th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Killed in action 4th October 1917 aged 33. Private Hill is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing which forms the north-east boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium. This memorial commemorates almost 35,000 soldiers who have no known grave and who died from August 1917 to the end of the war - a continuation of the names inscribed on the Menin Gate in Ypres. There are 33,750 from the United Kingdom and one from Newfoundland. The New Zealand memorial to the Missing is within this Memorial Wall and there are 1,176 names. All Australian, Canadian, Indian or South African missing are recorded on the Menin Gate.
Alfred Hill was the son of Joseph and Mary Hill of Pailton; born and residing Pailton, he enlisted at Monks Kirby. Before joining up he worked for Mrs Elizabeth Harrison of Pailton Fields ever since leaving Pailton Church School at 14. Mrs Harrison’s husband Joshua Clarke Harrison had died in a riding accident in 1889. Private Hill joined up in March 1917. In 1901 Joseph Hill was living at 27 Lutterworth Road, Pailton aged 58, ( a well sinker), with his wife Mary 55, Charles 22 (a bricklayer), Alfred 17( under waggoner on a farm) and Daisy 15. Joseph died on the 22nd January 1926 and his wife Mary on the 14th February 1927 and their headstone in Monks Kirby Churchyard also commemorates Alfred.
The Battalion was a Territorial Battalion and on 4th August 1914 mobilised in Birmingham landing at Havre on the 22nd March 1915 and on the 13th May 1915 became part of 143rd Brigade (with the 1/6th, 1/7th and 1/8th Battalions of the Warwickshire Regiment) part of 48th (South Midlands) Division.. After training in the area of Bailleul and a period in the trenches in that district the Brigade moved south to the Somme taking part in the Battle of the Somme remaining there until December 1916 then participating in the pursuit of the Germans to the Hindenburg line in 1917 until the Brigade transferred north to the Ypres Salient arriving at a Brigade camp south of Poperinghe on the 20th July 1917 to participate in the Third Battle of Ypres.
The Third Battle of Ypres was the major British offensive in Flanders launched on 31 July 1917 and continued until November. The ultimate aim was the destruction of German submarine bases on the Belgian coast but encouraged by the success on the 7th June 1917 when the 2nd Army smashed the ‘impregnable’ German defences along the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge General Sir Douglas Haig believed that the German Army was close to collapse and prepared for a conventional breakthrough attempt. The Battle was not designed merely to rob the Germans of command of the high ground surrounding the salient by capturing the immediate ridges, and Passchendaele Ridge and Klerken Ridge beyond that, but to thrust north-east to Roulers and Thourout and then swing due north towards the Belgian coast.
After a 10 day preliminary bombardment a total of 12 divisions attacked on 31 July 1917 along an 11 mile front east of Ypres. However the Germans had had time to prepare a defence in depth and held off the main British advance around Menin Road and restricted attackers to small gains around Pilkem Ridge. Attempts to renew the offensive over the following days were hampered by pouring rain turning the Flanders lowlands into a muddy swamp so no major attacks could be made until 16th August when the Battle of Langemarck produced minor gains for the British coupled with heavy casualties. A series of small-scale advances began on the 20th September with an attack along a narrow front, the Battle of the Menin Road Bridge, and two further attacks on 26 September (Polygon Wood) and 4th October (Broodseinde) established British possession of the ridge east of Ypres. These costly gains although coupled with heavy casualties led the British High Command to believe that the German defence was almost exhausted and despite worsening rain decided to continue attacks towards Passchendaele. Attacks on 9th October (Poelcapele) and 12 October (First Passchendaele) made little progress towards the Ridge as the attackers floundered in the mud. Haig persisted with three more assaults in late October on the Ridge and the operation was finally called off when Passchendaele village was seized by Canadian and British infantry on 6th November 1917.
At the opening of the Battle of Langemarck the 143rd Brigade was initially in divisional reserve but later took over the front line the 1/5th Battalion taking part in attacks on the block house Hillock Farm and then on the 22nd August 1917 enemy strong points at St Julien culminating in the attack on the 22nd August when the Battalion succeeded in capturing the gun pits East of St Julien and West of the Langemarck-Zonnebeke road which subsequently fell to a counter attack which exercise was repeated the next day. Finally on the 27th August Springfield Farm pillbox some 800 yards North East of St Julien was secured by the Brigade when the Brigade was relieved and retired to Poperinghe. The Brigade was not in The Salient again until the attack against the Broodseinde Ridge on October 4th 1917. On the 2nd October 1917 the Battalion moved to Reigersburg Camp. The Operation Order for an attack on the morning of 4th October by 143rd Brigade was received. The start line was about 1 mile East of St Julien. The 5th was to be on the right, the 6th in the centre and the 7th on the left, with the 8th in Reserve. The right boundary was Clifton House/Albatross Farm, the left 250 yards North of Stroppe Farm/Winchester Farm. On the 1st October the Commanding Officer, 2nd in command, and signal officer of the Battalion went up to reconnoitre, the next day 1 officer and 2 NCOs per Company went up to reconnoitre the forming up position and the Signal and Intelligence Officer laid tapes. On the 3rd October these officers and NCOs stayed in the front line all day taking compass bearings etc. Forming-up tapes were laid out and the Battalion was in position by 2330 with only 1 casualty. On the 4th October 1917 the Battalion was formed up on a frontage of about 800 yards. The enemy opened a heavy fire along the forming up lines at 0540 and B Company suffered 7 OR casualties and 1 officer casualty before zero, at 0600. The Battalion was confronted by a “lunar landscape of shell-craters, one touching another filled with water or with sludgy clay that could almost wrench the boots off your feet. To keep direction or to maintain the formations we had practised in battle-drill were equally impossible, as the sections straggled round the rims of the shell- holes.” The Right (A) Company, No 1 platoon got to Vale House (German pillbox) with only a few casualties and consolidated flanks. No 2 passed through No 1 and had severe fighting around Winzig, a nest of dugouts, took 20 German prisoners and consolidated. Nos 3 and 4 came through Nos. 1 and 2 but the New Zealand 1st Auckland Battalion to the right of the Brigade lost direction and pushed the Warwickshire over to the left. No 3 platoon got onto the high ground and consolidated with 1/6th on the left and the New Zealanders on the right, the platoon having about 10 men remaining; no 4 platoon, after casualties from machine gun fire on the left, dug in. About 0650 heavy shelling of Vale House commenced almost wiping out No1 platoon and all of the forward HQ were also killed or wounded having just moved up to that point. The Left (B) Company leading platoons commenced moving forward but at once heavy machine gun fire was opened from the front, in all about 5 machine guns and many snipers. These places were eventually cleared up but the Company was only about 30 strong. A Lieutenant and 10 men worked across and consolidated there. The remainder of the Company consolidated in the positions they had taken. The Right Support (C) Company moved up at 0620 and some of the leading men became somewhat involved in the fighting round Winzig. Pressure from the New Zealanders on the right pushed the Company over. A 2nd Lieutenant with No 9 platoon got forward and consolidated just in the rear of the New Zealanders. Numbers 10 and 11 lost direction but control was established about 0915 and the platoons were sent off in the direction of their objectives. Platoons crossed the Stroombeek, which through constant artillery fire and bad weather had lost all semblance of a running stream. The channel was marked by broad quagmires that were pockmarked by deep shell holes full of mud and water although at one point a rough path of planks across the marshy Stroombeek helped “B” Company in crossing to climb up a gentle rise to the enemy positions. These platoons working to the left consolidated behind the New Zealanders. Finally the Left Support (D) Company moved up also at 0620 and soon lost all its officers and 3 platoon Sergeants from shell fire and snipers who still held out. The remains of 2 platoons dug in close to the 2 machine guns of A section, the other 2 platoons were in shell holes. About 0930 CSM Scott was ordered to dig in along the line of the Stroombeek. About 100 prisoners, wounded and unwounded, were taken by the Battalion. During the day Lieutenant Charles Carrington was ordered to withdraw and form a support company about Albatross Farm (a captured German pillbox the St Julien side of the Stroombeek). Also in the afternoon the New Zealanders moved to the right leaving about 30 men of that Battalion in the area of Wellington Farm (another pillbox across the Stroombeek). This thinning out was very necessary as there were too many men in the area and it was being heavily shelled. At 1645 3 companies of the 1/5th Gloucesters (145th Brigade)(Divisional Reserve but under command of 143rd Brigade for this operation) advanced to advance the British line. By dusk 1700 all first-line and most second-line objectives for the Battalion Vale House, Winzig and Albatross Farm were gained when a heavy storm and darkness halted operations. On the 5th October the area around Winzig – Vale House and the valley of the Stroombeek was heavily shelled. At dusk New Zealanders who had come across into the area of 143rd Brigade were relieved and on the 6th October A Company 1/4th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry (145th Brigade) relieved companies in the front line. “ B” and “C” went back to the line Clifton House/Stroppe Farm, “A” and “D” to the line Albatross Farm. On the 7th October heavy enemy shelling began about 1615 all along the valley of the Stroombeek and about 100 yards to the NE of the stream, also in the area Vale House, Winzig and the high ground of the Langemarck line.The Battalion was finally relieved at 0200 on the 8th October by 1/4th Royal Berkshire (145th Brigade) going back to Poperinghe. The Battalion had taken all its objectives, 150 prisoners, an anti-tank gun, and several machine-guns. Casualties in the Battalion were 3 officers killed in action, 1 died of wounds, 55 others ranks killed (of whom Private Hill was one) and 6 died of wounds. The four Warwickshire Regiment battalions lost 12 officers killed and 15 wounded whilst 1 was missing; in other ranks the total was 765.
His platoon officer wrote to his parents that “he fought magnificently and died a hero’s death. He would be very much missed by his Company.” He was 33 years of age and had been discharged from hospital a few days before he was killed.
He was awarded the Victory and BritishWar Medals.
PERCY WALTER FREDERICK INGRAM No 4449 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Killed in action 21st March 1916 aged 20 and buried Point 110 New Military Cemetery, Fricourt, Somme. Headstone bears inscription “His name shall live for evermore.” The cemetery is 3 miles E of Albert, S of Fricourt village and E of a rough track to Bray and records 64 UK burials.
Percy Ingram was the only son of Walter and Edith Ingram of Withybrook, Coventry; born and residing in Withybrook, he enlisted at Rugby, Warwickshire, in it is believed September 1914. He is also commemorated on the Withybrook memorial.
At the outbreak of the War the Battalion came from Malta landing in England on the 19th September 1914 and becoming part of 22nd Brigade 7th Division which landed at Zeebrugge on the 6th October 1914. It was intended the Division in the first instance would cover the retreat of the Belgian Army and the Naval Brigade from Antwerp but was soon occupying a line to the east of Ypres the transfer of the main British force from the Aisne still being in process, and the Battalion remained engaged in the First Battle of Ypres until 7th November 1914. In 1915 the Battalion was in Divisional Reserve during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle , took part in the Battles of Festubert and then Loos in September. Private Ingram joined the 2nd Battalion, landing in France on the 27th May 1915.
In mid 1915 the expanding British Expeditionary Force began to take over the northern sector of the Somme trenches from the French. In January 1916 the Battalion was in billets at Camps en Amiens marching to new billets first at Fourdrinoy at the end of the month and then moved to Vaux and then at the beginning of February to Ponts Noyelles and from the 4th to the 9th February 1916 was in billets at Morlancourt 4 miles South of Albert.
On the 10th February 1916 the Battalion took over trenches in D1 Sector (South of Fricourt) relieving 24th Manchesters, with 1st Staffords to their right and 8th Devons to the left. From these trenches there was a fine view of Fricourt “the city of the dead!” “In the centre stood the white ruin of the church, still higher than the houses around it, though a stubby stump compared to what it must have been before thousands of shells reduced it to its present state. All around were houses: roofless, wall-less skeletons all of them, save in a few cases, where a red roof still remained, or a house seemed by some magic to be still untouched. On the extreme right was Rose Cottage, a well-known artillery mark; just to its left were some large park-gates, with stone pillars, leading into Fricourt Wood; just inside the wood was a small cottage – a lodge. The extreme northern part of the village was invisible, as the ground fell away north of the church.” The Battalion remained there until the 14th February being relieved by 20th Manchesters and proceeded to positions in support, Companies going to Citadel (a large bivouac area for units out of the line), 71 North (dugouts in a bank that sloped up very steeply from the road thus protecting the dug-outs along it from anything but shell-fire of very high trajectory) and 71 South Dugouts with one Company going back to billets in Morlancourt. The whole Battalion was relieved on the 18th February by 20th Manchesters going back to billets in Morlancourt until the 25th when they returned to D1 sector trenches remaining there until the 2nd March, going back to billets at Morlancourt from the 3rd to the 8th March 1916. On this date they returned to the trenches relieving 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers in C1 sector, with the 24th Manchester on their left and 2nd Queens on the right. These again were trenches South of Fricourt. They remained there until 14th March being relieved by 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers and went back to Morlancourt where a draft of 65 Other Ranks joined for duty. The Battalion remained in Morlancourt until the 19th March 1916 on the 20th proceeding to trenches relieving 1 Royal Welch Fusiliers in C1 sector. This again was the British Front Line in front of Fricourt, trenches named Rue Albert with a junction at Trafalgar Square with Old Kent Road and the strongpoint Maple Redoubt. In case of an enemy attack piercing the British front line, the company in Maple Redoubt was to hold out at all costs to the last man. There was a dug-out provisioned with bully-beef and water (in empty petrol cans) ready for this emergency. The 110 metre height line ran from the point of the Cemetery West and then North crossing Old Kent Road and Rue Albert through an area of mine craters to the German front line trench Bois Francais. There were 19 officers and 558 Other Ranks in the trenches, 24th Manchester to the left and 1st South Staffords to the right. 2 Other Ranks killed on the 20th. The Battalion remained in the trenches on the 21st March, 1 Other Rank being killed in action (Private Ingram who was shot by a sniper). Seven other ranks were wounded and the Battalion was relieved on 26th March by 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers, then went back to billets in Morlancourt. In the spell from 20th to 26th March 1916 the Battalion lost 5 other ranks killed and 9 wounded.
Percy Ingram was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1915 Star.
EDWARD PHILLIPS JACKSON 2nd/Lieutenant 3rd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment attached 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers. Killed in action 9th May 1915 aged 21. Commemorated on Le Touret Memorial, Le Touret Military Cemetery, Le Touret ,Pas de Calais ,France. Over 13,000 names are listed on the Memorial of men who fell in the area before 25th September 1915 and who have no known grave.
Edward Jackson was the second son of the Reverend William Edward Jackson and Mary Louisa Jackson late of Loughton Rectory Bucks. In April 1915 it is noted that the Reverend W E Jackson M.A., who had been since 1893 the Vicar of Monks Kirby with Withybrook and Copston was leaving Warwickshire in June for Loughton near Bletchley as he had had an accident at some time in the past and was moving to a smaller parish. He was late a scholar of Trinity College Cambridge and both his then and his future living were in the gift of the College. Whilst the Vicar of Monks Kirby, the Reverend and Mrs Jackson lived in Pailton; in 1901 William Jackson aged 49, C of E Clergyman, was living at 28 Lutterworth Road Pailton with his wife Mary 40 and Margaret 9, Edward 7, Mary 5, Winifred 11 months, an Assistant Governor, Marjorie Hibley an adopted child and Ellen Smith 45 servant. They remained in Pailton until 1915 when the Reverend Jackson was succeeded by the Reverend Arthur Worsley Smyth who was in Pailton in 1916 and then moved to the Vicarage in Millers Lane Monks Kirby in 1917.
At the outbreak of War on the 4th August 1914 the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion was at Warwick but then moved to Portsmouth then the Isle of Wight. The 3rd Battalion and the permanent staff of the Depot were almost one unit. Their task was to receive and process the recalled Regular Army Reservists and the Special Reservists. As units they took no part in the war.
Second Lieutenant Edward Jackson landed in France on the 24th November 1914 and on the 29th December 1914 2nd Lieutenant Jackson with a 2nd Lieutenant from the Lincolnshire Regiment and a Lieutenant and a Captain from the South Wales Borderers with 98 men had arrived when the South Wales Borderers was at Bethune at rest having in December in the area of Festubert lost 3 officers and 128 men killed and missing, 6 officers and 110 men wounded. Edward Jackson had landed in France on the 24th November 1914. By May 1915 a renewed British offensive against Aubers Ridge east of Bethune in Northern France was proposed as a counterpart to a renewed French attack in Artois where General Joffre the French Commander in Chief was determined to make amends for the costly failure of an attempt to capture Vimy Ridge during the winter. The area chosen for the British attack was not promising. The ground in front of the ridge was flat, exposing advancing infantry to uninterrupted fire. The area had a high watertable, which made digging a trench more than two feet deep impossible (the Germans had created breastworks along their line, well supplied with fire points and supported by extensive communication trenches in the drier rear areas). German machine-guns in this sector were for the most part protected by bunkers which could only be destroyed by a direct hit. British guns were few in numbers and the shortage of shells was reaching crisis point. The British attack was nevertheless scheduled for 9th May 1915. The attack was preceded by a necessarily short but heavy artillery bombardment of some 30 minutes. At 0530 the British infantry moved forward. At the same time the French 9th Army moved forward on a 10 kilometre front between Lens (S of the Ridge) and Arras. The British plan involved a main attack by the 1st and Meerut Divisions on a 2000 yard frontage from a point NE of Festubert to a point south of Neuve Chapelle coupled with an attack by the 8th Division astride the Sailly Fromelles road 3 miles NE of Neuve Chapelle. The Battalion was in 3rd Brigade 1st Division and the Brigade was using the Royal Munster Fusiliers and the Welsh Regiment as attacking battalions with the Borderers and Gloucestershire Regiment in support occupying the third and fourth row of breastworks that had been constructed behind the Rue du Bois as assembly positions. Their construction though essential to provide shelter for the reserves within a short distance of the front, can hardly have escaped the notice of the Germans and prevented their being caught unawares. When the assaulting battalions went over the top at 0540 after an all too short and ineffective artillery bombardment the German rifles, machine-guns and artillery were ready to receive them. So deadly was the fire which met the advancing infantry that only very few reached the German wire to find it most inadequately cut, whilst the bombardment had left the parapets but little damaged. Only a handful forced their way through the wire into the trenches only to be overwhelmed. Most of the attackers were either shot down or forced to halt and seek what poor cover No Man’s Land provided. A fresh bombardment was followed by an equally unsuccessful attempt by the support companies of the attacking battalions which merely swelled the casualty lists. Meanwhile the Borderers had moved forward into the vacated front breastworks being heavily shelled in doing so and having many casualties. Arrived at the front breastworks the battalion found itself in for a long wait under a steady artillery fire, the German guns lifting off No Man’s Land where the survivors of the assault were now lying out pinned to the ground by the machine-guns turned onto the British trenches and did their best to impede the preparations to renew the attack. Despite the disastrous experience of the first attacks the Command had decided on a fresh effort. The reports which had gone back had not adequately emphasized the completeness of the failure and it was hoped that another bombardment might be more effective against the wire and the machine-guns. Accordingly orders were issued for the Borderers and the Gloucestershire to relieve the remnants of the Munsters and the Welch, themselves being replaced by other Battalions from Brigade reserve. Carried out in broad daylight these movements could not escape the watchful Germans and drew down heavy shelling on breastworks and communication trenches. This and congestion in the trenches delayed the reliefs and the fresh assault had more than once to be postponed being finally fixed for 1600. Well before this A and B Companies had taken up their position in the front line, with C and D in second line and machine gun detachments on the flanks of companies. A Company worked out by a sap into an advanced trench so as to be nearer the enemy’s line. They were heavily fired on for the British bombardment seemed to have no effect on the machine guns and even failed to prevent German rifleman manning their parapet though at last the wire seemed to be fairly well cut and the parapet showed more signs of damage. A Company got their machine gun into position in this trench and did something to keep down the defenders fire but when the assaulting lines sprang to their feet and started to rush across No Man’s Lane they met a fire as fierce and deadly as had greeted their predecessors ten hours earlier. Well led by their officers A and B pushed on, men falling at every step. Before half the distance had been covered nearly all the officers and over half of the men who had crossed the parapet had been hit, whilst the remainder only escaped by taking what cover they could find. Even now the Divisional Commander wanted to try yet another ten minutes’ bombardment and then to put in the rest of the battalions who had replaced the original attackers. However the two Brigadiers realizing how little this last bombardment had done reported that it would be useless to renew the attack and accordingly the guns opened fire again to allow the survivors of the assaulting battalions to withdraw to the British lines. Many got back, others had to remain out until darkness afforded cover for their return. Some gallant work was now done in rescuing wounded and eventually about midnight the Battalion received orders to withdraw and marched back to Hingette. Owing to the failure of the attack and the severity of the gunfire it was not until nightfall that Lieutenant Jackson’s fate was ascertained. Lieutenant Jackson was one of 10 officers and 224 men of the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers who were killed in action on 9th May 1915.
“A young man of great promise and very highly spoken of by his brother officers. When War broke out he was studying law for which he displayed great aptitude. He was keenly interested in the Territorial movement and was a member of the College Training Corps at Cambridge. His college authorities as well as his military authorities spoke in the highest terms of his work. All will regret that a young life of such promise should be cut off just after having attained his majority. He was a cricketer and a Rugby footballer.”
Edward Jackson was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1915 Star, these being sent to his father at Loughton Rectory after the War.
ERNEST GEORGE MAKEPEACE Lance Corporal No 4749 10th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Died of disease 4th May 1916 aged 19 and is buried in Aire Communal Cemetery, Aire, Pas de Calais, France, which is North of the town on the road to St Omer. Aire Communal Cemetery records 865 UK, 15 Canadian, 6 Australian, 3 Indian, 3 British West Indies, 1 New Zealand., 1 Guernsey, 4 French and 26 German burials. From March 1915 to February 1918 Aire was Corps Headquarters.
Ernest Makepeace was the son of William and Sarah Ann Makepeace of Pailton, near Rugby. In 1901 William was living at 40 Lutterworth Road Pailton, described as a wagonner on a farm, aged 34, with his wife Sarah aged 30, William 5, Ernest 3, Hayward 2 and Ada aged 11 months. He was born at Kirby, Warwickshire and enlisted at Rugby, Warwickshire.
This Service Battalion formed at Warwick in September 1914 and as part of 57th Brigade 19th Division landed in France on the 18th July 1915. Ernest Makepeace landed in France with his Battalion They served in the trenches near La Bassee in August 1915 and then in the period October to December 1915 held trenches at Richebourg l’Avouue’ on relief going into billets at Richebourg St Vaast. From 29th March 1916 to 1st April 1916 the Battalion was in trenches at Chapigny then went to billets at La Gorgue in Divisional Reserve. On the 7th April the Battalion moved to billets at Pont due Hem as Brigade Reserve until the 10th April relieving the 10th Worcesters in Chapigny Trenches (area of Neuve Chapelle) the front line being shelled on the 12th in the area of Chapigny Farm. On the 15th the Battalion was relieved again by 10th Worcesters and went into billets at Pont due Hem, then on the 21st April was in a Training Area near Witternesse. On the 25th the Battalion supplied a working party of 2 officers and 250 men to work under the Royal Engineers. On the 28th April 1916 the Battalion was at Enquinegatte and practised defending the village from an attack from the west, then on the 29th April moved to Crecques to join the Brigade for night training operations. At the end of operations they were sent to Crecques for baths. On the 1st and 2nd May the Battalion returned to Witternesse to the Training Area, then on the 3rd there were Parades with 2 Companies using the Rifle Range. On the 4th May 1916 the Battalion was again in the Training Area for Divisional Training and then on the 7th May 1916 went to Aire Station and the Battalion entrained, going south to Longeau and on the 8th May marched through Amiens to Vignacourt billets, on the 1st June to St Riquer and then on the 15th June were in Albert. On the 1st July 1916 the Battalion was holding the Intermediate Line North of Albert, the opening of the Battle of the Somme.
Lance Corporal Makepeace died of fever at the Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Aire on the 4th May 1916. He was only 19 at the date of his death and was one of the first and probably the youngest in Pailton to answer his country’s call. By September 1914 Ernest Makepeace and his brothers Hayward and William Makepeace had all joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Ernest Makepeace received his promotion to Lance Corporal at Christmas 1915 and paid a visit to Pailton about a month before his death. His quiet and unassuming manner gained the respect of his fellow villagers as well as of the officers and men of his regiment. He was working for Willans & Robinson Engineers in Rugby when war broke out and had previously been with Mr John Harrison of Pailton. Private William Makepeace of the same regiment went to see his brother a couple of days before the latter’s death but found him already unconscious. Mr and Mrs Makepeace left for France on hearing of their son’s illness but on reaching London they were informed he had died.
He was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1915 Star.
ANTHONY GEORGE ATTWOOD MORRIS Lieutenant 1st Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) killed in action 13th October 1914 aged 27 years. He is buried in an isolated grave 550 metres south-west of Meteren Church, Meteren being about 3 kilometres east of Bailleul, Northern France.
Anthony Morris was the son of Mr and Mrs F A Morris of Pailton House, Pailton. He was born on the 19th May 1887 and educated at Winchester. He joined the militia before taking a commission in the 1st Royal Lancaster Regiment in 1907. He was promoted Lieutenant in April 1911 and was serving with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at the Lancaster depot when war broke out. He volunteered for the Front, joining the 1st Battalion on 17th September 1914 when the Battalion had crossed the Aisne River and was about 4 miles East of Soissons. Mr F. A. Morris was a partner in Morris and Shaw who owned Birch Coppice colliery in North Warwickshire and purchased Pailton House in 1900. Pailton House had been built in the 1820s for the Reverend Robert Beresford Podmore Vicar of Monks Kirby with Withybrook from 1786 until 1838, his widow Sarah Podmore continuing to occupy the house until her death in 1850. At the outbreak of the war Mrs Morris converted Pailton House into a Red Cross Military Hospital, Mrs Morris becoming the Commandant and the Hospital being staffed by local VAD nurses. Lieutenant Morris was one of two sons; in 1914 the other son Jack Morris was a Lieutenant Commander on H.M.S. Cochrane, who survived the War and at the Armistice had achieved the rank of Commander.
The Battalion landed at Boulogne on the 23rd August 1914 part of 12th Brigade 4th Division. The Battalion participated in the retreat from Mons, the Battle of the Marne and the advance to the River Aisne. It was here that the German armies, in retreat from the River Marne turned to face their pursuers. It was an ideal defensive position, high ground north of the River. The Allies were faced with crossing the River itself to be confronted with German guns in commanding positions on the opposite bank. Units of the BEF and French 5th Army forced their way across the river on the 12th September but there was no possibility of a breakthrough and both the Allies and the Germans began to extend operations northward by seeking to recover a war of movement by striking around the open flank of the other. At the end of September Sir John French suggested to General Joseph Joffre the French Commander in Chief that the British Expeditionary Force should resume its designated pre-war position, on the extreme left flank of the French armies and on the night of 1/2 October 1914 the BEF began to move north leaving the Aisne in great secrecy with the enemy unaware that they had gone.
On the 10th October 1914, III Corps began arriving in the North in the neighbourhood of St Omer from the Aisne but whilst by the evening of the 11th October although all the 6th Division had arrived, part of the 4th Division was still on the way. The Corps was ordered to advance to and concentrate at Hazebrouck 13 miles East of St Omer with the infantry being carried by motor buses to be provided by the French but there were delays and the move was not completed before dark on the 12thOctober; the 12th Brigade which arrived last of the division was railed right up to Hazebrouck. The Operation Order issued on the 12th October expressed the intention to advance passing the British Army north of Lille (that is going North of the City of Lille) and driving the enemy before it. The immediate objective of III Corps was the line Armentieres – Wytschaete. British cavalry pushing forward on the 12th October had found the enemy established on the Mont des Cats (hills NE of Hazebrouck overlooking the surrounding country with spurs running southward, a succession of low ridges favourable for defence across the line of III Corps advance) and at Fletre on the high road from Cassel to Bailleul. By dusk on the 12th the hill had been captured by dismounted cavalry supported by a battery of the Royal Horse Artillery. Major- General W P Pulteney commanding III Corps had issued orders for the two Divisions, 4th and 6th, to advance eastwards towards Bailleul on the 13th October 1914. When the advanced guard of the 6th Division reached its objective 5 miles beyond Hazebrouck the Germans were found entrenched across the route of III Corps on the far side of a small stream called the Meteren Becque. Their position was on the long ridge which runs down from the main hills and on which is situated Meteren, which was a well built village with a prominent churchtower surrounded by cultivated fields. At 0900 the Flying Corps reported 2 batteries of artillery and a body of infantry moving westward from Bailleul towards Meteren and it was judged necessary although the advanced guard of the 4th Division was making good progress at Fletre about 2 miles west of Meteren to halt and arrange a general combined attack of the whole of III Corps on a 5 mile front extending from La Couronne (5 miles SW of Bailleul) to Fontaine Houck, (1 mile North of Meteren) the first formal British attack of the war. This was set in motion at 1400 on a wet and very misty day in country much enclosed with hopfields that prevented the artillery rendering much assistance.
“We found ourselves in a slightly undulating country much cut up by hedges, wet ditches, gardens and hop fields, in which the poles and wire made progress difficult. The paved road (now the D933) ran straight as an arrow from Caestre to Fletre and then to Meteren and Bailleul and was obviously impossible to use if the enemy held these places.” There were 3 Brigades of the Royal Field Artillery supporting the 6th Division but nothing was known of the enemy positions in detail and the gunners could give support only on opportunity targets. So although the enemy had many machine-guns the fighting had to be done mainly by the infantry and this was a slow process. The 12th Brigade was to attack the position from Meteren itself to a point ½ a mile NE of Meteren. The Battalion was moving East along the general line of the Hazebrouck – Meteren road being on the extreme right of 4th Division with the 2nd Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers on their left when contact was made with the enemy in the early afternoon. This was in open country a mile short of the village when the King’s Own came under fire and the Companies ran forward to take cover at the farm crossing their line of advance. Lieutenant Morris commanded the Machine-Gun Section and was following “B” Company but took his section to cover the right flank but they were seen from the church tower at Meteren from which the Germans had a splendid outlook over the British advance. Lieutenant Morris took up a position behind a “scanty hedge where he and his team were later found in a tidy row of eight, all dead and their gun out of action.” The Leading Company of the Battalion reached the outskirts of Meteren at about 1400 under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire from the enemy “who had an excellent field of fire” subsequently the German trenches being found to be exceedingly well sited, close in front of houses, walls and hedges against which the heads of the defenders were not visible. The Battalion was shelled at close range about 1600 but the trenches were held. The German defenders got clear away. It was reported that the line Bailleul – St Jans Cappel, on the next ridge across the route of III Corps was strongly held but only at about 1730 was air reconnaissance possible because of heavy mist and rain when it was established that the Germans had withdrawn from the neighbourhood of Meteren and had even evacuated Bailleul and retired beyond the Lys River. In addition to Lieutenant Morris, 2nd/Lieutenant A Waterhouse (buried in Meteren British Cemetery) and 44 other ranks were killed, 2 officers and 32 other ranks wounded and missing, 15 other ranks missing.
Anthony Morris and his men were buried in Meteren Churchyard but after the war when the others were reburied in Meteren Military Cemetery his parents decided to take his body home for burial. In fact they reached Calais before hearing that this was not permitted. They returned and buried their son temporarily with his men while they bought two hectares of land encompassing the spot where he was killed. An open sided building of brick with a tiled roof and a large clock which had come from the stables at Pailton House was constructed and Lieutenant Morris was moved there to his final resting place.
His Medal Index Card cannot be traced but he would have been awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1914 Star he having served in France and Belgium between the 5th August and midnight on the 22nd - 23rd November 1914.
TOM MORTON Bombardier No 27384 17th Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery. Died at Sea 19th October 1915 and is commemorated on the Helles Memorial which stands at Cape Helles at the south-west tip of the Gallipoli Peninsular. It is an obelisk 100 feet high and serves as a sea-mark for shipping. It commemorates 20,839 who died in the Gallipoli Peninsula Campaign from 25th April 1915 until the last British and Imperial troops were withdrawn in January 1916 and have no known grave or who died or were buried at sea in Gallipoli waters.
Tom Morton was the son of William and Sarah Morton of Pailton, Rugby. In 1901 William and Sarah Morton were living at 79 Rugby Road, Pailton, William being described as a Carrier, with their children Ada 15, Tom 11, another daughter aged 9, and sons John 8, Albert 6, Frank 3 and Fred aged 12 months. John left for the Front late in 1915 to serve with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Frank (who reached the rank of Lance Corporal) and Fred also served in the Army.
On the 2nd September 1907 Tom Morton enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery in Coventry aged 19 years 6 months and giving his occupation as Farm Labourer. He was to serve 8 years with the colours and then 4 years in the reserve. After initial training he was posted to Malta on the 13th February 1908 and whilst in Malta fractured the base of his skull in a fall which was subject to a Court of Inquiry in May 1911. On the 2nd October 1912 he was in Sierra Leone embarking for the United Kingdom on the 1st October 1913. He served on the Home Front from 5th August 1914 until 4th November 1914 joining the British Expeditionary Force in France on the 5th November 1914.
Gunner Morton served initially with the 8th Division’s Divisional Ammunition Column. Elements of the 8th Division landed at Le Havre on the 6th November 1914 and the Divisional Artillery arrived in the Divisional area between La Bassee and Armentieres on the 15th November 1914. Each Division was provided with an ammunition column and all were formed for the first time in 1914. The column consisted of 15 officers, 563 men, 723 horses and 113 vehicles. They had to carry ammunition for the cavalry and infantry as well as for the guns. Few of the men had met or trained before and many were unfamiliar with horses. Whilst serving in France with the 8th DAC on the 11th February 1915 Gunner Morton was sentenced to 42 days Field Punishment No 1 by a Field General Court Martial for drunkenness. On the 28th February 1915 he was posted to the 5th Trench Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. The 8th Division participated in the major offensives at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 and Fromelles on the 9th May 1915 but thereafter was responsible for an area in the neighbourhood of Petillon and Rouges Bancs. This would be some 8 miles north east of Bethune and west of Fromelles itself. On the 11th June 1915 Gunner Morton was wounded, sustaining a gun shot wound to the chest and back, probably in this part of the Western Front, and on the 18th June 1915 was admitted to No 11 General Hospital in Boulogne. This Hospital was established in Boulogne on the 15th October 1914 and remained there until the 8th April 1916. Bombardier Morton was then transferred on the 21st June 1915 by the Hospital Ship St David to England and then to Colchester Military Hospital in Essex. He had received a couple of fragments of metal in his body however his pipe, which was broken into 4 pieces, probably saved him from more serious injury. Despite an operation it was not possible to extract all of the pieces. He was discharged from hospital and was convalescing in Pailton in August 1915 but was very keen to return to “the fighting line.”
He remained on the Home Front until 14th October 1915 then on the 15th October 1915 left No 2 Depot Royal Garrison Artillery for posting to 17 Siege Battery RGA Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. The 17th Siege Battery RGA (Four 6 inch howitzers) had arrived at Anzac on the north-west of the Gallipoli Peninsula on the 15th/16th September 1915 to be deployed at Taylor’s Hollow covering the Lone Pine area, Chunuk Bair, Hill 60 and “W” hills in the Sulva bridgehead. The battery was constantly in action after it arrived and soon gained a reputation for great accuracy. Bombardier Morton was in charge of a heavy gun and its crew aboard HMT Huntsgreen en route to Gallipoli and had been in indifferent health for some little time but declined to put himself on the sick list. He died from pleurisy/pneumonia aboard HMT Huntsgreen and was buried at sea. He had been promoted from Gunner since the outbreak of the War.
He was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1914 Star.
ERNEST PAYNE Lance Corporal No 10122 11th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Killed in action 15th July 1916 aged 31 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France which commemorates 72,100 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who have no known grave who fell in the Somme sector in the period between the arrival of British units in 1915 and the retirement of the Germans in 1917 but the vast majority are of the July to November 1916 battle.
Ernest Payne was the son of Joseph Payne of Pailton, Rugby and husband of S.F. Payne of Brinklow, Rugby. He was born at Pailton, and enlisted at Rugby probably late in 1914. In 1901 Joseph Payne, 43, Waggoner on a farm, was living at 92 Coventry Road Pailton with his wife Emma, 49, and children Frank 10, Edith 10 and May 9. (Ernest would have been 16 and working away from home or not present on the actual census day). Frank Payne also served in the War.
This Service Battalion was formed at Warwick in October 1914 and then as part of 112th Brigade 37th Division landed in France on 30th July 1915. Ernest Payne landed with his Battalion. The Battalion went first to the Hazebrouck/St Omer moving south on the 28th August 1915 to Hebuterne, in the Somme area and served in the trenches at Hannescamps (to the north of Gommecourt) from September 1915 to June 1916.
The Somme Offensive was the main Allied attack on the Western Front in 1916. Planned in late 1915 as a joint Franco-British operation it was concerned with territorial gain but also aimed at the destruction of German manpower reserves. French troops were expected to bear the main burden of the operation but the German Army’s assault on Verdun in 1916 turned the Somme operation into a large-scale British attack. After a preliminary bombardment which was expected to completely destroy German forward defences the plan called on the first day for the penetration of the German front line from Serre in the north to Maricourt in the south. In the second phase it was planned to take the high ground between Bapaume and Guinchy, followed by a breakthrough towards Arras and a general advance in the direction of Cambrai. Instead on the 1st July 1916 the attacking troops were cut down, with insignificant gains by the French and the British right wing units near Montauban being off-set by total failure to the north. The attacks nonetheless continued in a series of limited and costly advances until in mid July the German second line was finally broken around Bazentin Ridge. On the 20th July a new offensive was launched by the Australians on the ridge at Pozieres and the French well to the south in the region of Foucaucourt but the front remained substantially unaltered throughout August. In September a renewed British attack, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, was launched using tanks for the first time but only a small gain was achieved. Renewed attacks in September, the Battles of Morval and Thiepval, continued in October with a pattern of limited Allied advances whenever the weather allowed. British offensives beyond the Flers-Courcelette line, the Battles of Transloy Ridges and the Ancre Heights, were matched by French attacks in the south and the BEF made one last effort on the far east of the salient from 13 November 1916 the Battle of the Ancre (or Beaumont Hamel) before snow caused the final suspension of the operation.
On the 1st July 1916 at Hannescamps the 37th Division’s role was to provide a defensive flank and fire smoke bombs along the front of 46th Division’s attack at Gommecourt. The Battalion was in billets from the 2nd July until on the 7th July the Battalion was in the Reserve trenches in the Tara-Usna line and then on the 8th July two Companies went to Heligoland trenches before at 12 noon the whole of the Battalion went to forward positions in trenches along the Contalmaison and La Boiselle road where it remained until 11 July when relieved and went back to Tara-Usna ridge. On the 12th July heavy artillery shells were falling all day and a shell hit “C” Company Field Kitchen killing 3 of its cooks and a pioneer. The Battalion moved from bivouacs to trenches nearby for the night.
On the 13th July they moved to support trenches relieving 8th East Lancashire Regiment who moved to the front line. There was intense artillery action all day on the 14th July then at 0300 on the 15th July an operations order was received that 112th Brigade would attack Pozieres at 0920. 8th East Lancashire Regiment was to clear that part of the village South of the Albert – Pozieres road, the 6th Bedfordshire Regiment the area North of that road, the 11th Royal Warwicks was to take up tools and assist the two Battalions to consolidate ground gained, the 10th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was to carry up bombs stores etc. Distance to the objective in view of the enemy was about 1100 yards. Pozieres was reported thinly held with no wire to contend with. The Battalion was in support advancing east of Contalmaison Wood behind the 8th East Lancashire and 6th Bedfordshire. Around Contalmaison Wood heavy machine-gun fire swept the leading wave of the East Lancashire who were forced to dig in near the chalk pit. The 6th Bedfordshire‘s assault was also held up by machine-gun fire and the leading waves were forced to retire. The Warwickshire Battalion advanced according to orders but was held up by enemy machine-guns which were in great force, and also found that wire on the front to be attacked was not cut. The Brigade found itself immobilised in front of the village and with its units more or less intermixed. Battalion HQ was caught by enemy Artillery barrage and machine-gun fire when issuing from the trenches and was obliged to shelter in a shell hole moving subsequently to a trench off the Contalmaison – Pozieres road. “B” “C” and “D” Companies had made or found the best cover available and remained in action but were unable to advance. “A” Company was ensconced in shell holes. Artillery again bombarded the village and the Infantry’s second assault was timed for 1800. An intense bombardment failed to put out the hostile machine-guns and the assault was met with such a fierce fire that it collapsed although the British infantry did not give way but held their ground with great tenacity. An attempt by the enemy to advance against the flank of “A” Company was caught by the Lewis gun of that Company and crushed. Under cover of night the Battalion was relieved by 10th Loyal North Lancashire and returned to support trenches. Out of 8 Company officers, 5 were lost and 270 other ranks out of 580 a 48% loss. Lance Corporal Payne was one of these. On the 16th July the Battalion was relieved by 11th Northumberland Fusiliers and went back to billets in Albert.
He was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1915 Star.
ALFRED PEAKE Corporal No L/5520 1st Battalion The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). Killed in action 11th February 1915 aged 34. Commemorated Ploegsteert Memorial. The Memorial stands in Berks Cemetery Extension, Belgium which is located 12.5 kilometres south of Ypres town centre on the N365 leading to Ploegsteert village and then Armentieres and commemorates 11,447 officers and men who fell in the Great War and whose graves are not known. It serves the area from the line Caestre-Dranoutre-Warneton, on the north to the line Haverskerque-Estaires-Fournes on the south in which the best known features are the towns of Hazebrouck, Merville, Bailleul and Armentieres, the Forest of Nieppe and Ploegsteert Wood and covers the period from the arrival of III Corps in this area in 1914 to the date of the armistice with Germany.
He was the son of Alfred and Mary Peake of Pailton, Rugby although he was born in Bow, Middlesex. He enlisted in London whilst residing in Battersea, Surrey.
At the outbreak of War in August 1914 the Battalion was at Fermoy in Ireland but arrived in Cambridge on the 19th August and then on the 7th September1914 embarked for France landing at St Nazaire at the mouth of the Loire River on the 9th September and then by Train and on foot arrived on the 21st September 1914 to participate in the Battle of the Aisne. Alfred Peake had landed in France with his Battalion. On the 13th October the battalion entrained for Cassel in Belgium and took over Divisional Reserve positions at Bois Grenier. On the 18th October the Battalion was ordered to advance to establish what the Germans intentions were capturing the village of Radinghem and the Chateau de Flandes. From then until the 25th October the Battalion was engaged with the enemy until retirement to prepared trenches and a period of comparative quiet in November and December 1914 and January and February 1915 although there were often around 2 killed and 5 wounded each day. During the winter the wet weather, followed by frosts, caused the sides of the trenches to fall in and the low-lying nature of the country made it impossible to drain them properly; so it was decided as a temporary measure to abandon the ditches themselves and build and man breastworks in lieu .These were generally placed just in rear of the old works so that the latter could be reoccupied when the weather improved. During this long, dull and dreary period of trench warfare Corporal Peake was shot through the head and killed instantaneously.
Corporal Peake had been in the Army 17 years and had served in Burma and India. He had already had one or two narrow escapes. A short time before his death a shell which failed to explode dropped at his feet and smothered him in mud. In a letter home just before his death he had expressed a wish rather to be shot in action than be captured or seriously wounded. He was well spoken of by his officers. His father Alfred Peake had served in the Wiltshire Regiment as a Sergeant-Master Tailor and offered his services when war was declared but was disqualified by age. He had established his own Tailor’s business in Coventry Road Pailton about 1909 and remained there until his retirement in 1930. Corporal Peake’s brothers had all served in the Army, the eldest having served 12 years in the Grenadier Guards then by February 1915 becoming a Police Officer; the third son was a Bandmaster with the Royal Irish Regiment and the youngest, Private Daniel Peake, had formerly served with the Grenadiers, then worked at BTH in Rugby and joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment at the outbreak of War. In February 1915 two sons were at the Front but in May 1915 Daniel was paying a visit to his father having been badly gassed at the front. He can only have been a member of the 1st Battalion which was involved in the Second Battle of Ypres; the 1st Warwickshire were involved in an attack on the 25th April 1915 in support of a Canadian unit which had been overwhelmed by the enemy gas used by the Germans near St Julian for the first time.
Corporal Alfred Peake was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1914 Star.
GEORGE JOHN PLANT Lance Corporal 20724 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. Military Medal. Died of Wounds 27th August 1918 aged 25 and buried in St Hilaire Cemetery Extension, Frevent, Pas de Calais, France. Frevent was a place of importance on the Line of Communication and this cemetery was used from March to August 1918. It records 266 UK., 24 Canadian, 9 Australian, 3 New Zealand and 2 British West Indian.
George Plant was the son of Daniel Lewis Plant and Anne Plant of Burton- on- Trent, and the husband of Margery Ellen Plant of Pailton, Rugby. He was born at Harborough Main, Warwick and enlisted at Warwick
The Battalion landed at Havre on the 14th August 1914, remaining on the Western Front throughout the War. The Guards Division was formed in France in August 1915 by concentrating the 8 Guards battalions already in France (including the 2nd Coldstreams) and bringing out from the UK 4 more including the recently formed Welsh Guards plus a Pioneer battalion (4th Coldstream). On the 20th August 1915 the Battalion was transferred to 1st Guards Brigade.
On the 21st March 1918 the German Army launched a massive offensive on the Western Front in a last desperate attempt to score a decisive victory. The results were spectacular. They advanced up to 40 miles, further by far than the British and French had managed in their offensives on the Somme, the Aisne and at Ypres. The British Fifth Army was crushed, and the Allies suffered 212,000 casualties. The French suffered a humiliating defeat at Chemin des Dames and plans were made for the evacuation of Paris. The British were seriously concerned that the French might sue for peace and were uncertain whether they could continue the struggle, and plans were drawn up for the evacuation of the British Army from France if Dunkirk, Calais or Boulogne fell. The German line before the offensive was about 20 miles East of Noyon, on the western edge of St Quentin, 15 miles East of Peronne, 20miles East of Bapaume, 7 miles East of Arras, 5 miles East of Armentieres, 25 miles East of Bailleul and 12 miles East of Ypres. Then the offensive gradually lost momentum, the French counterattacked in July, the British in August and the Germans finally lost the initiative. After the offensive the German Army had reached positions some 15 miles West of Noyon, 45 miles West of St. Quentin, 20 miles West of Peronne, 12 miles West of Bapaume, still 7 miles East of Arras, 28 miles West of Armentieres, 8 miles West of Bailleul and 4 miles East of Ypres.
The Counter-Attack in Champagne by mainly the French Army was from 20th July to 2nd August 1918.
On the 8th August 1918 the Allied forces launched the surprise attack that heralded the end of the First World War. With skill and daring 21 Divisions breached the German lines, supported by 500 tanks (the largest number to have been seen in any one battle of the war) and 1000 aircraft. In their wake they left 50,000 dead or wounded German soldiers along a stretch of 11 miles. On this “black day” for the Germans the Allied forces began to see a glimmer of hope and the dawn of victory that was to come only 100 days later with the Armistice on 11 November 1918. The Advance to Victory can be divided into 7 phases, The Advance in Picardy 8th August-3rd September, The Advance in Flanders 18th August-6th September, The Breaking of the Hindenburg Line 26th August-12th October,The Pursuit to the Selle 9th-12th October,The Final Advance – Flanders 28th September-11thNovember, The Final Advance – Artois 2nd October-11th November and The Final Advance – Picardy 17th October – 11th November 1918.
The Guards Division, with the 59th and 2nd Divisions formed VI Corps part of the Third Army and the opening of the offensive on the Front of the Third Army began on the 21st August 1918 but the 1st Guards Brigade did not become involved until the evening of the 25th August when the Brigade relieved the 3rd Guards Brigade, and the Battalion took over the front line trenches at St Leger about 3 miles North of Bapaume. In the evening of the 26th August orders were issued from divisional headquarters for the attack to be renewed the following morning, the objectives being the high ground north and south of Longatte and Ecoust, but the advance was not to be pressed if the enemy’s resistance proved obstinate. The 62nd Division was to advance on the right and the 56th Division on the left of the1st Guards Brigade, zero hour being 0700 and the line from which the attack was to be launched ran from Camouflage Copse to the Crucifix and then bent north-eastward through St Leger Wood at the northern extremity of which the line of the 56th Division began. At 0500 the 1st Guards Brigade HQ was informed that the attack by the 56th Division was being postponed to 0930 as it was thought, having captured some prisoners on the 56th Division Front, the Germans may have established the exact time of the attack but it was impossible for the Brigade to change the time of their planned attack as the attacking battalions were in their starting positions and it was impossible to get in touch with them all quickly enough to prevent some of them at any rate from advancing at the original time. On the right the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards were to attack, the Coldstreams on the left with the 1st Battalion Irish Guards in reserve. The Coldstreams had No 4 Company in front, No 2 and No 3 in left and right support and No 1 in reserve. As soon as the British field gun barrage came down at 0700 the leading company advanced, followed by the supports at 200 yards distance and by the reserve company 400 yards in rear of the supports. The enemy was expecting the attack and immediately opened upon the men a very heavy fire. The postponement of the attack by the 56th Division enabled the Germans in the village of Croiselles, which commanded the left and centre of the advance, to concentrate on the Coldstreams. In a short time the right was held up, by machine-gun fire from Banks trench which appeared to have been little damaged by the British shell fire; the centre got somewhat further forward, gaining the crest line beyond St Leger reserve trench when it was also checked; the extreme left made most progress and captured many prisoners on the sunken roads running south from Croiselles. Bunhill trench was gained and consolidated under heavy fire which came from Croiselles, east of that village and also from Bunhill reserve trench. One company of the Coldstreams reached the final objective, but without sufficient support and being counter-attacked on its exposed flank had to withdraw. The situation could not be restored by companies in support or reserve who were soon absorbed into the fighting line while the Germans, moving up machine-guns under cover of their trenches, swept the ground and brought the attack to a standstill. Withdrawal from this untenable position was safely accomplished, but not before severe losses were inflicted on the enemy both in prisoners taken and men killed. A heavy bombardment was maintained upon the British line throughout the morning and the position was becoming critical as some of the Coldstream groups were taken in the flank by hostile fire. Two platoons of No 2 Company were reduced to 18 men; another of No 1 Company was enfiladed from both flanks; most of the officers were casualties and the whole Battalion now barely mustered 140 all ranks. In these circumstances the left and centre were withdrawn to St Leger reserve, which was close to and joined Banks Trench, and which was then occupied by a company of the Irish Guards, though still partly held by the enemy. For the rest of the morning the British heavy guns put down a concentration on the sunken roads and did great execution among the enemy. Owing to the heavy casualties suffered by the Coldstreams, two companies of the Irish Guards were ordered up to make good the line of St Leger reserve, reinforcing the British right group and protecting that flank. The 2nd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards on the right of the Coldstreams had an equally heavy task to perform and also found themselves engaged in very severe fighting. However the check which the Brigade sustained during the day did not last very long and the determined resistance of a few brave Germans armed with machine-guns and concealed under cover was overcome in the evening. At 1900 an intense barrage was put down on the hostile position for ten minutes and the moment it lifted the Irish Guards and the Coldstreams on the right rushed in and immediately captured it. The garrison, consisting of one German officer and 93 other ranks, surrendered with their machine-guns. During the night and the next day, the 28th, the enemy retired pursued for nearly a mile by the Brigade who then halted and consolidated the positions gained. The losses in the Battalion were 3 officers killed in action, 7 officers wounded and 111 other ranks killed in action, 189 wounded. It was in this action that Lance Corporal Plant was wounded and subsequently died.
In addition to the Military Medal, Lance Corporal Plant was awarded the Victory and British War Medals.
George Plant is also commemorated on the Memorials at Easenhall and Monks Kirby.
FRED THORNTON Private No 28006 10th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Died of Wounds 30th October 1918 and is buried in Delsaux Farm Cemetery, Beugny, Pas de Calais, France which records 482 UK, 6 New Zealand, 3 Canadian, 2 Australian, and 2 British West Indian burials. The village is about 4 miles East of Bapaume. 29 Casualty Clearing Station was here from 5th October 1918 to 14th February 1919 and 46 Casualty Clearing Station from 7th October 1918 to 18th November 1918.
He was born at Pailton, Warwickshire in 1891 and enlisted at Coventry. In 1901 he was living at Coventry Road, Pailton, with his Grandparents William Thornton (60) and his wife Jemina (54) and their children Edward (27) and John (25) (Farm Workers) and Annie (18), all born in Monks Kirby.
The Battalion formed at Warwick in September 1914 and landed in France on the 17th July 1915 as part of 57th Brigade, 19th Division.
Private Thornton’s Battalion was involved in the German Spring Offensive and the Allied Advance to Victory, 1918, for a summary of which please see the entry for Lance Corporal George Plant.
In 1918 the 19th Division was part of Third Army and between the 20th and 24th October 1918 the last phase of the Battle of the Selle took place. Although General Sir Julian Byng’s Third Army had some posts east of the Selle River, up to 20th October most of it was still on the west bank. Facing Third Army troops on a ridge just east of the River Selle were six divisions of the German 17th Army with another three in reserve. The Germans had established wire entanglements along the greater part of their front and showed no sign of retreating unless compelled to do so. On the 17th October General Byng issued orders for a major attack intended to get the Third Army across the Selle in strength and to drive the Germans off the ridge on the far side. Every effort was made to achieve surprise, the XVII, VI, IV and V Corps in the Army being given freedom to organise wire cutting fire as they thought necessary but there was to be no preliminary bombardment. Zero hour was to be 0200 on 20th October and all four of Third Army’s corps, then advanced under cover of heavy barrages arranged to suit local conditions. All four crossed the river without difficulty. By dusk the Third Army had taken most of its objectives and occupied the high ground east of the River Selle. Operations paused for two days while artillery was brought up. Then on the 23rd and 24th October the Third and Fourth Armies mounted concerted attacks. On the night of the 17th/18th October 1918 the Battalion relieved the 1st North Staffordshire Regiment in the front line in the Montrecourt area. This was west of the Selle River and mainly in the village of St Aubert. During the night Montrecourt Wood and battery positions on the West slope of the ridge were subjected to heavy bombardment with Gas and enemy artillery was very active on the low ground between the ridges. Communication with Companies was very difficult because of thick ground mist, telephone wires were continually cut by artillery fire, visual signalling was impossible because of mist and runners experienced great difficulty in finding their way over ground both new to them and devoid of any landmarks. Up to 1200 on the 18th the Battalion had lost 3 other ranks killed in action and 10 wounded. Hostile artillery continued throughout the day and gas was noticeable in all low ground between the ridges. On the night of the 18th/19th October the Battalion was relieved by 2nd Wiltshire/9th Royal Welsh Fusiliers and returned to billets at St Aubert. On the 19th October Operation Orders for attack on the morning of the 20th October were received. The 19th Division was to attack and capture high ground East of the River Selle. 57th Brigade allotted the village of Haussy and that part of the high ground East of the River Selle from Maison Blanche to P22 Central. There were two phases (a) to bridge the River Selle and capture of the line of the railway and high ground and the village of Haussey; (b) to capture the ridge from Maison Blanche to Maison Bleue. Provision was made for the River Selle to be crossed by means of bridges to be erected by 82nd Field Coy Royal Engineers which they were able to do without interruption as the enemy had withdrawn his outposts. The Battalion left St Aubert at 2100 and marched to the assembly positions arriving at 2300 when patrols were pushed forward across the River to ascertain whether the enemy were holding the north-western portion of the village of Haussy. On establishing that the enemy was not in occupation the opportunity was taken of getting the whole Battalion across the River before any of the bridges could be destroyed by German counter-barrage. Steps were taken to ensure that the Battalion was in positions that would not be affected by the British barrage at zero, 0200. The Battalion was in position by 0045 and at 0100 the Battalion moved to the attack the two assaulting Companies pushing straight through the village to the first objective, while Support and Reserve Companies set about mopping up that portion of the village of Haussy within the Battalion boundary. The First objective was gained without encountering the enemy. A halt was made on the first objective until zero plus 70, during which time the support and reserve Companies had moved up to the first objective ready to continue in the advance. During this halt a number of casualties were incurred through British artillery falling short. A number of French civilians were found in cellars in the village all of whom were sent under escort to the Divisional Collecting Station. From the First objective the attack proceeded to the Second, where a slight change to a more northerly direction was carried out. From the First objective onwards it was dangerous to keep too close up to the British barrage on account of the number of shells falling short. On the left of the Second objective stout resistance was put up by an enemy machine-gun crew. On the left of the final objective a pocket of about 30 of the enemy held out for some time until 3 were killed and 19 taken prisoner. On gaining the final objective Rifle Grenade Signals were fired but whilst waiting for the protective barrage in front of this objective to cease a party of about 10 of the enemy were seen to leave their shelters in the bank and run away; they were fired on and 3 were killed. Another party of about 200 were seen withdrawing across the open. The bridge across the River D’Harpies was blown at 0600 when suitable sites for defence were selected and consolidation commenced. Patrols were pushed forward to the River D’Harpies and posts to command the crossing of the river established. Heavy transport could be heard withdrawing through Vendegies but no fire could be brought to bear as communication with the Artillery was not established at that time. The enemy’s resistance on the whole was very slight and isolated posts were all that the Battalion had to contend with. 1 officer, 35 other ranks and 5 machine-guns were captured. Casualties to 1200 on the 20th October were 4 officers wounded, 49 other ranks wounded, 2 sick, 6 missing and 3 killed. The enemy counter-barrage in reply to the British attack was weak and scattered and did not appear to fall on any definite line. The enemy artillery was very quiet up to 1200 but towards evening his shelling commenced and was chiefly directed onto the ridges, especially Maison Bleue and the cross roads. On the 21st October hostile artillery was very active on the forward area, the ridges receiving special attention and all low ground between the ridges was searched for batteries with Gas being used occasionally.
In the morning of the 22nd October Battalion Headquarters moved forward. During the night inter-company reliefs took place. Hostile activity was the same as on the previous day. Up to this period the weather was too misty to allow aerial work but in the morning it cleared sufficiently to allow of some reconnaissance work being undertaken by both sides. Total casualties at this point were 2 officers killed, 6 wounded and 13 other ranks killed, 66 wounded, 11 missing and 9 sick. “Stand To” strength consisted of 14 officers and 380 Other Ranks. At 1400 on the 23rd October orders were received to send forward a Company to gain a line conforming with the success gained by the 8th Gloucesters on the right of the Battalion who were then on the southern outskirts of St Martin. An artillery barrage to cover the attack was ordered for 1430 but it was impossible to get orders to the Company and to have the men assembled in time for them to start with the barrage. By the time the Company started the barrage was practically over but the attack was carried out without effective artillery support and the Company gained the Les Forrieres-Vendegies Road and captured 1 officer and 55 other rank prisoners. At 1600 verbal orders were again received to send forward another Company to gain the northern portion of the same road. An Artillery barrage was ordered for 1640, which again did not allow sufficient time to have the orders communicated and the Company in a position from which to start the attack. The left support Company being the easiest to collect were detailed for the task and succeeded in gaining the Vendegies-St Martin road at 1730 without artillery support. Contact was gained with units on right and left. At 0010 on the 24th October these Companies were relieved by the 11th Suffolk Regiment on the Vendegies-St Martin Road. The Battalion was then withdrawn and marched to Avesnes arriving at 0630 and then on the 26th moved back to Cauroir, both east of Cambrai and well behind the front line. Total casualties at the close of operations were 2 Officers killed, 7 wounded and 19 other killed, 85 wounded, 11 missing, 22 sick. It was in these operations that Private Thornton was wounded, dying later from his wounds.
He was awarded the Victory and the British War Medals.
Those who laid down their lives in the Second World War 1939 – 1945 and who are recorded on the War Memorial in Pailton.
WILLIAM GEORGE EDWARD SKEET Private No. 5380925 8th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Died 21st May 1940. Buried Chercq Churchyard. Chercq is a village 2 kilometres south east of Tournai in Belgium.
William Skeet, usually known as Mick, was born on the 16th January 1914. His parents were William and May Skeet of Bates’ Yard, Coventry Road, Pailton and he had two sisters Christina Grace Clarke, who lives (2008) in Sidney Road, Rugby and Beatrice May Hawke (deceased). He was in the Regular Army serving for 3 years in the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and then in the Reserve before being called up (when he was working in Shrewsbury) at the outbreak of the War joining the 8th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
The 8th Battalion was a Territorial Battalion part of the 143rd Brigade and the Brigade was part of the 48th (South Midland) Division. The Battalion landed at Le Havre on the 11th January 1940 as part of the British Expeditionary Force under the command of General the Viscount Gort. The BEF was to man a 17 mile front along the River Dyle from Wavre to Louvain (East of Brussels) with the 48th Division being in support to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions. With the German invasion of Belgium the Battalions in 143rd Brigade moved into Belgium to safeguard the routes by which the forward troops were to advance to the Dyle River. The 8th Battalion crossed into Belgium on the 10th May 1940 passing through Tournai and was to be responsible for the route from Tournai through Renaix and Grammont to beyond Ninove. The Battalion remained in the Tournai area for several days. On the 16th May 1940 Lord Gort was ordered to conform to a French withdrawal in the Northern sector to bring the Allies back to the line of the River Escaut (well to the West of Brussels and running through Tournai) by dawn on the 19th May. The 8th Battalion had moved forward from Tournai but on the 18th May the Battalion was ordered back crossing the Dendre River to organise a defensive position behind the Dendre River and then in the early hours of the 19th May was directed to Calonne (a village some 2 miles south east of Tournai and about a mile south of Chercq) where they were initially instructed to rest for 12 hours but there was then a report that German tanks had been seen near the Tournai – Leuze road.
On the Battalion front the houses came down to the banks of the canalized River Escaut and the Battalion was responsible for about 1 mile of the river frontage. Bridges across the river had been blown and on the 20th May a bombardment by the Germans began, who had by that stage closed up to the River and all three forward Companies of the Battalion were subject to Mortar and shell and machine-gun fire and sniping. During the night of May 20th/21st the right hand section of C Company heard a good deal of enemy movement and some splashing in the water and it became evident that some Germans were installed on the Company’s right but on the left more intense pressure showed itself. Towards daybreak the enemy put up Verey lights and their fire ceased apparently as a signal to clear the area and then B Company and the cement works were heavily mortared and shelled. Enemy infantry on the heels of this bombardment tried to get across the river. But some B company posts were still holding on, among the shattered buildings, and they held back the enemy by rifle fire. Some Germans did manage to cross on the Battalion’s left only to be wiped out by the Royal Scots. When these attempts came to nothing the Germans resorted once more to pounding the Battalion area with high-explosive. The cement works and most of the other buildings along the river received hit after hit until they started to collapse and became untenable. The forward companies were gradually forced back from the Escaut – which was now also being shelled by British artillery apparently under the impression that the Germans were complete masters of the situation. Many casualties were incurred by the Battalion and in the confusion Germans crossed the river, all lines were smashed and no contact could be made with Battalion HQ. Companies had to act on their own initiative with most officers being killed or wounded and many Company HQs were completely wrecked. At Battalion HQ the CO Lieutenant Colonel Baker having made a reconnaissance in his own car and despite being badly shot up determined on a counter-attack and with a carrier on either flank a force of some 50 men from HQ was assembled and set off for the ridge between Calonne and Warnaffles Farm but came under accurate artillery fire and following an advance on the farmhouse were pinned down by shell and machine-gun fire and only 2 survived. By the evening of the May 21st the Battalion was in a very serious shape. The CO and many HQ personnel were missing later confirmed as dead. Against overwhelming odds the Battalion’s attempt to stem the German advance had failed. Private Skeet was one of those killed on the 21st May. The remnants of the Battalion were withdrawn south-west to Merlin the ruins of Calonne being hemmed in by large numbers of the enemy. On the 22nd May the BEF was ordered to withdraw some miles West of the Escaut and by the 30th May the Battalion was on the perimeter of the Dunkirk salient at Moeres. Ships, the beaches and the harbour were being attacked and the remnants of the Battalion, 8 officers and 134 men, were taken off on the Maid of Orleans landing at Dover on the 1st June 1940.