Today we remember Bourne man George Sherwin of the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment who was killed on the 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
George was born in 1891 in Bourne to Luke Woodstock Sherwin, a General Dealer and his wife Mary Jane, nee Brand.
Luke Woodstock Sherwin was born in Bourne in 1855 and was a Brewer (Later a General Dealer), Mary Jane Brand was born in Bourne in. 1857 and the couple were married in the Stamford District in 1877.
They settled in Bourne where all of their 10 children were born.
• John Sherwin, 1878, Bourne
• Florence Sherwin, 1879, Bourne
• Sarah Jane Sherwin, 1881, Bourne
• Elizabeth Sherwin, 1883, Bourne
• Albert Sherwin, 1885, Bourne
• Gertrude Sherwin, 1886, Bourne
• Fanny Sherwin, 1888, Bourne
• Luke Sherwin, 1889, Bourne
• George Sherwin, 1891, Bourne
• Alice Sherwin, 1892, Bourne
By 1891 Luke had changed occupation to a General Dealer and they were living on West Street, Bourne with the first 8 of their children.
10 years later the 1901 Census shows us Luke living on West Street next door to his brother George, also a general Dealer. The family is now complete and as well as Luke working as a general dealer, eldest son John was working as a Shop worker. An occupation that Younger son Luke would later go on to have with his own shop on West Street.
In 1911 we find the Luke and Jane Sherwin still on West street now married for 33 years although sadly we learn that three of the ten children have now passed away. As well as George being a general dealer, son John has joined him in that occupation. Son Luke is working as a hair dresser (Picture of Luke’s shop has been added to the photographs on this post) and George is working as a maltster . This is not unusual for Bourne’s young men especially as the Maltings were on the opposite side of West Street to where the family were living. Youngest Daughter Alice is the only other child living at home on the census night 1911.
George Sherwin filled out his attestation form and enlisted in the Army at Bourne on the 30h August 1914. On his attestation he declares that he has had previous military service with F Company 4th Lincolns (Disbanded).
He is given the Regimental number 11059 and posted to the 7th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment at the depot in Lincoln. After a coupe of days he is moved to Grantham and then on the 9th September posted to the 6th Battalion.
The 6th Lincolnshire was formed in the first week of the war and stationed themselves at Belton Park near Grantham, ready to receive recruits. By the end of the month they had formed 4 companies of new recruits from the men that answered Kitchener’s call. It was noted that the physical standard of troops for the 6th Battalion was high due to the high numbers of agricultural workers that joined the Battalion.
Grantham Journal Saturday 5th October 1914
HEARTY SEND OFF FOR RECRUITS -On Monday morning a company of fifteen left Bourne Station to join the Lincoln Regiment of Lord Kitchener’s Army. The company met at the recruiting station in West Street, and we escorted to the station by the Bourne Brass Band and a large number of the residents of the town. The names were:- Arthur Maxon, Fred W Savage, John Thos Baldock, Geo Sherwin, George Carver, Frank Baldock (married), H Cleary, W Herbert Bloodworth, Percy J Vickers, Walter Parker (married), Ernest Robinson, Harry Darnes (Bourne), Jos Smith, Walter Archer and Percy Cave (Witham-on-the Hill), the latter three being the result of a meeting at Witham-on-the-Hill on Sunday evening, addressed by Lord Kesteven and Lieut K. R. G. Fenwick and presided over by Col C Birch-Reynardson.
George trained with the 6th Battalion at Belton Camp until the 29th January 1915 when he received a posting to the 3rd Battalion in Grimsby. The third Battalion were a home service battalion and would be used to guard key infrastructure in the area such as docks and munitions factories. They were also used to train men who had joined the army as a career before they received their posting to either of the 1st or 2nd Battalions which were regular army battalions.
George would remain with the 3rd Battalion for about 6 weeks before receiving is orders to join the British Expeditionary Force in France and so George embarked for France on the 6th March 1915. Typically when arriving in France men would arrive at a base camp to be processed and then posted to their Battalion in the field. In George’s case he was posted to the 2nd Battalion on the 9th March 1915. It is assumed that he arrived with the Battalion around this time but as this could take many days we cannot be totally sure that he had joined them before their next action on the 10th March. The Battalion Diary makes no reference to receiving reinforcements at this time or any time in the months before or after.
In March the 2nd Battalion had just been moved from their previous sector into the area of Neuve-Chapelle in readiness for the planned attack on the German defences there. The plan was to take Neuve-Chapelle and then move on to Aubers Ridge.
The battalion Diary tells the story of what may have been George Sherwin’s first action of the war:-
10th March 1915 – Opposite Neuve-Chapelle
7.30am – Battalion remained in trenches during the night 9th-10th at 7.30 artillery bombardment started (about 300 guns). At 8.5 am guns lifted their sights and infantry attacked. The Colonel was with the assaulting companies.
The Battalion all rose simultaneously and rushed the first trench after cutting the barbed wire in an incredibly short time – losing about 20 men. The blocking parties then proceeded down the trenches clearing all before them with grenades –
Captain Peake did good work, he was soon afterwards shot in the head. The Battalion still moved on – the supports (A and B Companies) following up close in rear – some of A company supporting the firing line as soon as it got to the second German trench. Lt Col G B McAndrew was hills between the first and second German trench – his right leg was blown to pieces by one of our own shells – he died asking after his regiment, without any complaint of the pain he was suffering. The assault in companies then pressed on, being temporarily checked by a water obstacle at ’26’ (see map attached) – a plank was eventually discovered and the line took a position in front of this obstacle. They were then checked by the fire of their own guns and it was found necessary to retire 50 yards on account of this. It was at about this period that we were subjected to a severe fire from our left rear, which caused the greater part of our casualties. Lieut. Wylie was shot (mortally) at about this time. The line then retired again and took up a position behind the water obstacle where they entrenched themselves. The battalion was then sorted out into its proper sections – A and B Companies remind in the front trench while C and D companies were in rear in an old German trench which was being converted to face the other way. Later on in the day a and B companies were sent forward to help the Irish rifles who were previously passed through us. They help them in and trenching themselves in. During the night of the 10th-11th C and D companies were back in the fire trench behind the obstacle – A and B Companies in support German trench just in rear. The battalion was then commanded by Major J J Howley DSO. Captain E H Impey was adjutant, Captain E P Lloyd having been wounded in the hand.
During the small hours of the morning of the 11th, A and B cos had to move to be in close support of the Irish Rifles – at about 5 am we had orders to collect the battalion in some trenches near us on our left rear. To do this the headquarters of the battalion moved to a point ‘X’ just south of ’18’. At about 6 am a small H E Shell came through the parapet – making a direct hit on Major Howley – killing one of the other men and wounding two more. Major S Fitz G Cox then took command and the battalion was eventually collected in the old German trench just in rear. During the morning and operation order was received to the effect that the Irish Rifles and Rifle Brigade would attack at 10 am and that the Lincolnshire Regiment would support the Irish rifles – this order was afterwards postponed to 12:30 pm. At 10 am the battalion was subjected to a very heavy shelling which lasted till 12 o’clock. The shelling was very accurate, and they were big shells – so the moral of the regiment was very highly tried – especially after all it had already gone through. At 12:15 pm Major Gitz G Cox decided to anticipate an order which should been expected (our telephone wire had been blown away) and namely to move up to Neuve Chappelle into close support of the Irish Rifles. This was done. The battalion remained in Neuve Chappelle during the night of the 11th-12th.
12th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
On the morning of the 12th we moved back to our previous position into the old German trench. The battalion remained in their trenches all that day and night. It was between 12 and 1 am on the 13th that Captain C G V wellesley was killed – he had been ill and away from the regiment previous to this, and had only just rejoined 10 minutes before a shrapnel burst from the left – mortally wounded and him and about 10 others.
13th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Next morning we went into loose support of the Irish Rifles returning again to these trenches during the afternoon (?). On the morning of the 13th we believe the Irish rifles in trenches North East and East of Neuve Chapelle. During the night nothing unusual because we strengthened our defence and filled in the trench, which was full of half buried Germans.
14th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Enemy shelled Neuve Chappelle all day. During the night we were relieved by the Royal Berkshire and we intern relieves the door sits in adjoining trenches on our left.
15th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Spent in consolidating our position – add a detached fort of 40 men a machine gun and officer about 40 yards to our front, which wanted strengthening.
16th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Enemy shell headquarters trenches very severely – dropping 128 shelves within 50 minutes no damage done.
17th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Released by Irish Rifles – total casualties during action of Neuve Chapelle –
7 officers killed. 8 officers wounded – 298 men killed and wounded.
Went into trenches on Tilloy Road.
18th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Provided working parties for burying dead and carrying materials etc.
19th March 1915
Moved to billets at Epinette.
George Sherwin certainly had a big introduction to trench warfare in his first tour of the trenches and the planned attack. As can be seen from the description over one quarter (1 in 4 men) became casualties in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, although it would take a second battle in May before both the objectives of taking Neuve Chapelle and Aubers Ridge would be realised.
The Battle of Aubers Ridge description for the 2nd Battalion, including George Sherwin, can be found on our posts regarding Charles Sharpe, Archer Cooke and Harry Briggs.
The Battalion remained in the same sector of the Western Front doing tours in and out of the trenches until in September 1915. On the 25th September they had their next major planned action with the assault on Bridoux.
Following this it was back to their normal tour routine until November when they started company training and over a period were moved back to la Belle Hotesse for Divisional training that was to go on throughout December 1915.
January was to see them back in the trenches near Fleurbaix in the same old sector they had left in November and back into the tour of trenches routine with usually 4 days in and the same out before repeating.
At the end of March the Battalion entrained for the Longveau and the Somme, then marching to Flesselles via Amiens.
In George’s Service Record there is a note that on 1st April 1916 he was awarded 7 days field punishment No.2 by his Commanding Officer for “making an improper remark to a Non-commissioned Officer”.
The Battalion eventually ended up near Albert, in Brigade reserve, on the 9th April, being brought back into the trenches on the 11th in support of the 2nd Berkshire at USNA Redoubt, before finally getting back into the fire trenches themselves near La Boiselle on the 13th April.
The usual trench routine they had previously been used to around Armentieres now resumed, only now it was Albert and the Somme rather than Sailly and Bois Grenier.
June, when not in the trenches, would see the Battalion start to undertake extra training or periods when they supplied working parties, one such party working on the railway extension at Dernacourt. This continued until the 24th June when the Battalion Diary notes ‘Bombardment Commences’, this of course being the Bombardment that was meant to destroy the enemy trenches in advance of the commencement of the planned attack (Battle of the Somme) that would follow the days of bombardment.
We take up George’s story and that of the Battalion via the Battalion Dairy on the 28th June after going back into trenches overnight.
28th June 1916 – In trenches
In trenches preparatory to assault – Operations postponed about 4pm – Move to billets at Millencourt. Bombardment continued – 1 killed, 2 wounded.
29th June 1916 – In Long Valley
Move to bivouacs in Long Valley “W” company to Bouzincourt defences – Bombardment continues.
30th June 1916 – To assembly trenches
Moved to assembly trenches – W company 8 platoons front line 1 platoon – Pendle Hill. X company 3 platoons front line 1 platoon – Longridge – Y company 3 platoons in front line 1 platoon Longridge. Z Company 2 platoons Pendle Hill 2 Platoons Longridge. Battalion Headquarters Waltney Tunnel.
Battalion in position about 2.30am July 1st.
1st July 1916 – In trenches opposite Ovillers
Everybody was in their position by 3:30 am and the wire along the home of our front reported cut by 2:30 am. 2/Lt Eld and a few men got wounded doing this and Lt Ross’ party had trouble owing to continual hostile machine-gun fire. Brigade line was checked at 5:30 am.
6.25am – the intensive bombardment commenced to which the enemy retaliated on our front line and assembly trenches with high explosive shrapnel.
7.25am – companies started to move forward from there are similar positions preparatory to the assault. The three assaulting companies getting their first two waves out into no mans land and the third and fourth waves are out at zero hour. These arrangements were carried out most excellently, no hitch occurring, but casualties were fairly heavy from machine-gun fire. The support company got into our frontline trench but suffered a lot of casualties from shellfire.
7.30am – as soon as the barrage lifted the whole assaulted. They were met with very severe rifle fire and in most cases add to advance in rushes and return the fire. This fire seem to come from the German second line and the machine-gun fire from the left. I’m reaching the German front line they found it strongly held and we met with showers of bombs, but after a very hard fight about 200 yards of German lines were taken about 7:50 am the extreme right failing to get in and also the extreme left where there appeared to be a gap of about 70 yards although units of platoons of the 70th brigade joined them. The support company by this time joined in. A few offices that were left gallantly lead the men over the German trench to attack the second line but owing to the rifle and machine-gun fire could not push on. Attempts were made to consolidate and make blocks but the trench was so badly knocked about that very little cover was obtainable. From the enfilade machine-gun fire and continual bombing attacks which were being made by the enemy the whole line, and one frontal attack from the second line which we repulsed.
9am – this isolated position became untenable, no supports being able to reach us owing to the intense rifle and machine-gun fire. I will left being driven back the reminder which by now only held about 100 yards had to withdraw. On reaching our own line all the men that could be collected were phoned up and tried to push on again but the heavy machine gun and rifle fire made the ground quite impassable.
1pm – orders were received from the Brigade to withdraw to Ribble and Melling streets and occupy the assembly dugouts there which was done.
12 midnight – we were relieved by this 6th West Kents and proceeded to Long valley.
Other Ranks, 26 killed, 303 wounded, 89 missing, 25 wounded and missing.
Private George Sherwin was originally posted as wounded and missing in this fateful day for the British Army. It would not be until 23rd April 1917 that he was “Accepted an official purposes as having died on or since 1st July 1916”
Grantham Journal 19th May 1917
LOCAL CASUALTIES – Corporal Jos. Brown, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Brown, of Eastgate, Bourne, is in hospital at Hampton Court, suffering from wounds in his back and right hand. He is one of six sons, five of whom are in the Army. Private. G. Sherwin, son of Mr. and Mrs. Luke Sherwin, Bourne, who some months ago was officially notified as wounded and missing, is now reported dead. The official notification of Private Sherwin’s death was received by his parents last week. A memorial service for Private Sherwin and Private W Needham was held on Sunday, at the Abbey Church. Official notification has this week been received the Corporal E. Robinson, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Robinson, Wood View, Bourne, has been killed in action. Corporal Robinson was attached to the Lincolns.
Mr Luke Sherwin eventually received The British and War Medals for his son and the returned confirmation of delivery slip was sighed for by Luke Sherwin on Nov 10th 1921.
Brother John Sherwin also Served in WW1 with the Army Service Corps in the remounts section, enlisting in June 1916 one month before his brothers’ death, being mobilised in May 1917 and embarking for France in that September.
Family Photos Courtesy of Philip Sherwin