Remembrance – Ernest Codling

Today we remember Bourne man Ernest Codling who was killed in action on this day, 8th June 1917, serving with the 6th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment during the second day of the Battle of Messines Ridge.

Ernest Codling was born on the 28th August 1896 at 51 King Street Lincoln to John Codling, a railway porter from Lincoln and his wife Mary Elizabeth Cobb. John and Mary were married in Lincoln in 1892.

John and Mary had 8 children in total, unfortunately they had lost 3 of them before 1911.

  • Albert Codling, 1893, Lincoln
  • Gertrude Mary Codling, 1894, Lincoln
  • Ernest Codling, 1896, Lincoln
  • John William Codling, 1906, Lincoln
  • Doris May Codling, 1910, Lincoln

The three children they lost were between census returns and so their names are not currently known.

In 1901 John, Mary and their three children were living at 37 Queen Street Lincoln. The next year Ernest started St Peter at Gowts infants school on the 11th June 1902 where he remained until 22nd August 1905. The National Schools admission register indicates that when leaving St Peter at Gowts Ernest went on to attend the newly re-organised St Andrews school in St Andrews Street Lincoln.

By 1911 Ernest had moved from home and was living with his uncle, William Marshall Codling, at Watering Dyke Farm, Grange-de-Lings near Nettleham, Lincoln. Here he worked as a farm servant and the census lists his job as “odd duties”.

Ernest later moved back to live with his parents at 1 Naan Cottages, Grey Street, Lincoln and started working as a warehouseman.

During the war years the family moved to Bourne and settled there. Whilst in Bourne the family received the sad new that Ernest’s oldest brother, Albert, who had joined the Lincolnshire Regiment before the war, had been killed in May 1915 in the area around Ypres.

Ernest enlisted into the army at Lincoln on the 8th December 1914.

Ernest’s full service records, like that of 60% of the men from WW1 cannot be found. It is likely that they are part of the records destroyed in a London warehouse fire during the Blitz. The following story of Ernest’s war has been pieced together with as much accuracy as possible for other surviving records.

The medal rolls also show that Ernest has three separate regimental numbers tied into different Battalions of the Lincolnshire regiment. It is likely that on enlistment he was assigned to the 4th Battalion (3442) to start training. The associated medal card shows that he was not eligible for the 1914/15 Star and certainly no 1914/15 star medal roll has been found which would support this fact. You would assume that he did not serve abroad before the end of 1915 however other documents may dispute this fact. Until recent documents were found with regards to a wounded list it was always thought that Ernest did not serve abroad until 1916.

The 4th Battalion had been mobilised for war and landed at Harvre on the 1st March 1915 as part of the 138th Brigade of the 46th Division. There is no documentary evidence to say that Ernest was amongst this first mobilisation and if he had started training immediately on enlistment it could be possible but without the proof we will not describe the exact movements of the 4th Battalion at this point.

Albert Codling, Ernest’s brother was also serving with the 4th Battalion and certainly was part of the first mobilisation in March 1915. Albert had been killed on the 13th May in fighting around Lindenhoek and it is possible that Ernest was already in the Battalion fighting at the same time.

During 1915 the Battalion would also be involved in the first liquid fire attack at Hooge.

We next find that on the Army’s Casualty List issued by the war office on the 28th October 1915, Private Ernest Codling 3442, 4th Battalion, serving in France and Flanders was listed as “Wounded”. In our experience these lists could be as much as 4 weeks and in extreme cases 6 weeks behind real life and therefore the exact date of being wounded and the nature of this remains unknown for now.

During September the Battalion had been at Bellewarde just outside Ypres but during the first week of October they were moved to Busnettes, North-West of Bethune where they underwent training. On the 8th the officers were taken to Vermelles where they inspected the trenches and got a first look at the Hohenzollern Redoubt. The rest of the men would see a model of the Redout 2 days later as part of their training.

On the 13th October the Hohenzollern Redoubt was taken, the 4th Lincs in support of the 5th Lincs and 4th Leics but at great cost to the Battalion with 10 officers and 385 other ranks falling as casualties.

It is not known if it was this action where Ernest was wounded or if it was during the time in late September near Ypres.

After a man had recovered from his injuries, if bad enough he would be sent back for convalescence rather than his old Battalion until a time when he was classed as medically fit re-join a Battalion. In many cases the attrition rate and the rate of replacements was so great that it was most likely that they would be placed into a Battalion that was in most need of experienced men. This may be the trigger for Ernest being posted to the 5th Battalion Lincolnshire regiment (20047) or his later posting to the 6th Battalion (40635), in both cases we have no documentary proof of the dates.

There are similar 200xx regimental numbering ranges being used by men joining the Supernumery Companies of the 5th Lincs around September 1915 (reserve companies on home service), and so we suspect that Ernest Joined a company of the 5th Lincs when he was fit enough and this may have been at one of the base camps or back in England. It is possible that he was then posted to the 6th Battalion when he regained A1 fitness. This is a possibility based on other records for men around a similar time but without any documentary proof plus we have no further wounded lists that support a second injury or posting to the 6th battalion.

We do know that when he was killed, Ernest Codling was with the 6th Battalion and so we can only look at his movements during his last month. Unfortunately, the diaries for the 6th Battalion from this period are largely unreadable and so a ful transcription may take a long while and a lot of patience.

The following extract is from “The History of the 6th Service Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment” by Colonel F.G. Spring, and is the best source of information for this period (May 1917). For clarity the 6th Battalion were Part of the 33rd Infantry Brigade of the 11th Division, 2nd Army.  

“The maintenance of pressure on the Arras front, which kept the enemy constantly on the alert, enabled final preparations to be made for the opening of the Flanders offensive, which was to begin with the Battle of Messines.

The actual front selected for this operation extended between nine and ten miles from a point opposite St. Yves to Mount Sorrel. The objective of the attack was a group of hills known as the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge, which lies about midway between Armentières and Ypres. Messines itself is situated on the southern spur of the ridge which commands a wide view of the valley of the Lys and enfiladed the British lines to the south. North-west of Messines, Wytschaete, situated at the point of the salient and on the highest part of the ridge, commanded a view of almost the entire town of Ypres and all the old British positions in the Ypres Salient.

A special feature in the operations due to take place on the 7th of June was one original in warfare – the explosion of nineteen deep mines at the moment of assault. No such mining feat had ever before been attempted. In the construction of these mines, eight thousand yards of gallery had been driven and over one million pounds of explosives used.

Nine divisions were to take part in the actual assault, and three were in support, among which was the 11th Division who latter lay opposite Wytschaete, and in rear of the 16th Division at the centre of the attack.

Having left Albert (Somme) on the night of 17th/18th of May, the 6th Lincolns detrained at Caëstre and marched to Le Thieushouck where they were billeted. The first three days at Le Thieushouck were spent in interior economy and company training, although the training was greatly restricted by the highly cultivated state of the surrounding ground. On May 22nd the Division was informed that it was to take part in the coming operations, and two days later the Battalion marched to a training area situated on the frontier between France and Belgium, about six miles in rear of the Wytschaete sector. The following two weeks there were spent in training for the attack.

The 11th Division received orders to pass through the 16th Division when the latter had captured its objective. The role of the 33rd Brigade was to pass through and capture a trench system three miles east of Wytschaete.

At midday on the 6th of June orders were received to attack the following morning. Preparations were quickly made and at 11.30 p.m. the Lincolnshire marched to Butterfly Farm, two miles from the front line, to await final orders.

As dawn was breaking on the 7th, there was a sudden rumbling of the earth, huge flames shot up, clouds of smoke, dust and debris, a rocking of the ground – as the nineteen mines “went up.” Before one was able to regain one’s normal faculties, there was another deafening crash as the barrage roared out from a thousand guns. The 6th Lincolns had taken up a position among the “Heavies” and were almost stunned by the ear-splitting din of the monsters as they roared and poured a hail of big shells upon the wretched Germans.

The 6th Lincolns waited in suspense for the first results of the attack. The barrage still continued but at about 9 a.m., word was received that the 16th Division had taken their first two objectives and were pushing on to the third.

At about 11 a.m., orders were received to advance to the Vierstraat Switch, a trench running parallel to, and about a thousand yards behind, the British line.

At about midday the battalion reached its destination and the men had dinner, while Lieut.-Colonel Gater went to Brigade Headquarters for further orders.

Just after 2 p.m., he returned with the information that at 3 p.m., another barrage would fall under cover of which the battalion was to attack the third objective.

The forming-up place was to be two miles away on the further slope of the Wytschaete Ridge but the intervening ground was badly cut up by shell-holes, broken trenches and communication trenches full of troops and wounded men. The battalion, being scattered over a thousand yards of trench, had to be got together, and so as not to be late, Battalion Headquarters and ‘D’ Company started off and arrived at the forming-up line just as the barrage opened. The other companies had not yet come up, so Lieut.-Colonel Gater decided to push on with ‘D’ Company for fear of losing the barrage. ‘D’ Company shook out into artillery formation and advanced. Australian troops were on the right and portions of the 6th Border Regiment on the left, with the 7th South Staffords and 9th Sherwood Foresters in support and reserve respectively.

The enemy’s artillery opened fire as soon as our barrage fell but his barrage was weak and ill-directed, and many of his guns were effectively smothered by our fire. ‘D’ Company extended into line in two waves after passing through the first line of posts held by the 16th Division. Very little opposition was encountered: the enemy either ran or surrendered until the objective was nearly reached. Here the Germans attempted a counter-attack but with the assistance of tanks it was broken up, and by 5 p.m. the objective had been gained. Casualties during the attack had been extraordinarily light, ‘D’ Company losing only two or three men. The heaviest losses were in Battalion Headquarters: Lieutenant F.C. Thorn and Regimental-Sergeant-Major Smith and twenty Other Ranks being wounded.

The senior Company Commander, Captain Howis, brought up the remaining three companies with very few casualties. The appearance of these companies, comparatively fresh and intact, was of enormous value in consolidating the position. As dusk was falling the German guns began to shell the position heavily. Captain Sutherland was wounded in the face, and a platoon of ‘C’ Company, holding a strong point, was entirely wiped out (with the exception of and Lieutenant Read, who was badly wounded).

Early next morning on the 8th, another counter-attack developed which at one time looked serious until A Company, with Lewis gun and rifle-fire, succeeded in breaking it up. Second Lieutenant Rowlands was wounded and ‘A’ Company had altogether about a dozen casualties. One N.C.O. – Sergeant Biggadike – was conspicuous for his bravery; he died very gallantly, successfully maintaining his post which the enemy attempted to rush.

Lieut.-Colonel G.H. Gater was wounded in the face when leading ‘D’ Company to the attack but with great self-sacrifice remained at duty until his battalion went out of the line.

There was another counter-attack on the evening of the 9th, accompanied by heavy shell-fire, during which, to everyone’s regret, the Battalion Medical Officer, Captain Frere, was killed, and many other casualties were suffered.

On the night of the 10th/11th of June, the 6th Lincolns were relieved by the 34th Brigade and moved back to camp near Kemmel. The total casualties of the Battalion during the Battle of Messines 1917 were six officers and one hundred and sixty Other Ranks.

The Battalion remained in camp until the 18th of June, engaged in salvage work, and then began to march back in easy stages to Ganspette”.

Ernest Codling was killed in action on the 8th June whilst taking part in the planned offensive described above.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Private E Codling, 40635, 6th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 8 June 1917
Remembered with honour, Messines Ridge British Cemetery.

Ernest is buried in Messines Ridge cemetery no more than 4 miles from Lindenhoek Chalet where his brother Albert is buried, having been killed on the 13th May 1915 in operations with the 4th Battalion.

Ernest’s photograph courtesy of Jonathan Smith

Remembrance – John Anthony Nowers

Today we remember John Anthony Nowers, of the 26th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, who died this day June 7th 1917 and commemorated on the Billingborough War Memorial. #OTD

John Nowers was born on 6th May 1889 in Market Harborough, Leicestershire to Ernest Henry Trevor Nowers, an assistant bank manager born in Teyham, Kent and his wife Minnie Elizabeth Terry, born in Lydd, Kent, who were married in 1888 in Romney Marsh.

The couple first moved to Market Harborough, Leicestershire and then by 1891 into Northampton before settling in Empringham Road Stamford by 1901 expanding their family to 4 children.

John Anthony Nowers, 1889, Market Harborough
William Arthur Nowers, 1890, Northampton
Dorothy Mary Nowers, 1893, Northampton
Geoffrey Pickering Nowers, 1904, Northampton

John was educated at Stamford Grammar School.
By 1911 the family had moved again and now were living in Tinwell House, Tinwell, near Stamford. John Anthony Nowers is now working as a bank clerk for Messrs Barclays Bank and his father is working as an assistant bank manager.

Ernest Knowers is also reported as the Reverend Ernest henry Trevor Nowers on some documents, although we have not personally researched this.

John enlisted in Lincoln on 6th September 1915 and joined the 26th battalion Royal Fusiliers (London Regiment).
After training John was finally posted with his battalion to France on 6th May 1916 to serve with the Expeditionary Force.

The following shows John’s movements through a potted history of the his time with the battalion and excerpts from the Battalion diary. These show his first month abroad leading up to the Battalion’s first action; The battle at Fleurs in which John witnessed the first use of tanks in a battle and he received a recommendation; and movements in the month leading up to his death.

4th may 1916 – Aldershot
3am – Battalion entrained (Three separate parties) from Farnborough for Southampton. Embarked on SS Mona-Queen and arrived at Harvre 5/5/16. Transports came over on S.S. Bellerophon.

5th May 1916 – Harvre
7.30am – Battalion marched to No1 Rest Camp, Harvre and rested.

6th May 1916 – Harvre
7.30am – Battalion entrained in two parties at the Gare des Marchandises, Harvre at Point 1 & 3

7th May 1917 – Steenbecque
9am – Detrained at Steenbecque and marched to Staple and were billeted in the vicinity.

8th may 1917 – Staple
Battalion rested at Staple

9th may 1917 – Staple
Battalion marches from Staple to new billets in the vicinity of Outtersteene

10th may 1917 – Outtersteene
7am – 1st Party of Officers and men proceeded to trenches for instruction and were attached to 5th Camerons

23rd May 1916 – Outtersteene
7am – Party of Officers and 1 section of NCOs and men per platoon of A & B Companies proceeded to trenches for instruction and were attached to the 5th Cameron Highlanders.

25th May 1916 – Outtersteene
7am – Party of Officers and 1 section of NCOs and men per platoon of C & D Companies proceeded to trenches for instruction and were attached to 5th Cameron Highlanders.

30th May 1916 – Outtersteene
5.30pm – Battalion marched from Outtersteene to new billets at The Piggerieswhere they arrived on the morning of the 31st instant, after spending the night at La Creche.

1st June 1916 – The Piggeries
In Brigade reserve at the Piggeries Ploegsteert. The day was quiet and there is nothing to record. We suffered our first casualties on active service having 2 men killed and 10 wounded on working parties.

2nd June to 4th June 1916 – The Piggeries
Remained in reserve at the Piggeries. Things were generally quiet and there is nothing to report. One of the wounded men reported above died in hospital at Bailleul.

5th June 1916 – In The Line
6am – The Battalion for the first time occupied the trenches relieving the 18th King’s Royal Rifle Corps in the line and taking over Tp 124 125 126 127. The day was very quiet. There was a little artillery on enemy’s part and enemy snipers were troublesome. There was a good deal of movement in rear and men were putting up wires along Messines Gappard Road.

June – September 1916
This was the first action seen by the new Battalion and they remained in the Ploegsteert area until the 23rd of August 1916 when they entrained at Bailleul for Pont Remys on the Somme, a journey that took 10 hours. Once there they were marched to their billets at Vauchelles de Quesnoy near Abbeville. They remained here in training until the 7th September when they entrained for Mericourt. The next few days saw the Battalion move to Becordel, close to the trenches at Fricourt.

14th September 1916 – Near Fricourt (Battle of Fleurs)
5.15pm – At this hour the Battalion left the camp at Becordel and marched up to the line. The journey was very tiring owing to continual stoppages on the road on account of heavy traffic. At about 9pm we arrived at the brigade dump, east of Montauban where after having received stores, ammunition etc we proceeded via Flare Lane up to our part of the assembly in front of Delville Wood, the Companies taking up their positions for the attack which was timed to commence at 6.20am. The Battalion arrived and took up their positions about 10 minutes only before the attack commenced. They had been on the march from 5.15pm the previous evening and went into attack on the morning of the 15th without a rest or sleep.

15th September 1916
6.20am – The order of battle of our own Brigade (The 124th Infantry Brigade) was as follows, Front line 21st Kings Royal Rifle Corps and 10th Queens West Surrey Regiment. The 26th battalion Royal Fusiliers were in support of the 21st KRRC and the 32nd Royal Fusiliers in support of the 10th Queens. Map Reference, French Map. France. Sheet 57c S.W. Edition 3A.
6.20am – The 21st K.R.R.C were in position for attack on Switch Trench supported by 26th R.F. (Two Companies in Edge Trench and two Companies in Green Trench). Attack commenced at 6.20am.
6.30am – The Battalion were within 80 yards of the 1st objective (Switch Trench) and found that 1st waves were advancing through our own barrage in a half right direction, the left flank being about 300 yards East of Fleurs village. The position of our left flank should have been on Fleurs Road. A halt was ordered and the mistake was as far as possible rectified.
6.50am – The left sector of 1st Objective was taken with very little opposition. Our barrage advanced and infantry followed and took up position in front of 2nd objective – Fleurs Trench. At this point men from various Battalions struggled back through our barrage on the right – 2nd Lieut Gauthern (26th R.F) did excellent work in bringing men out of the barrage at great personal risk.
7.45am – Our barrage lifted from 2nd objective and the infantry moved forward and took the trench. Casualties were suffered here from hostile rifle and machine gun fire. A number of prisoners were taken. Our D Company took something like 150 prisoners. The 2nd objective Fleurs Trench had been severely damaged by our artillery fire.
The infantry remained in this trench until the 122nd Infantry Brigade on our left commenced to clear the village of Fleurs. In the attack on the first objectives the infantry was assisted by Tanks of the Heavy Machine Gun Company but by the time the 2nd Objective was taken there was only 1 tank in our sector which had not been put out of action. This tank was sent forward along the right of the Fleurs village to assist the 122nd Brigade and to cover their right flank. A small party under 2nd Lieut Wood followed the tank to keep in touch with the troops clearing the village. The battalion was reorganised as our barrage moved forward and advanced in two waves.
10.15am – The tank moved forward in front of our waves to the 3rd objective – Hogs Head and Flea Trench. Our first wave was advancing, but when about 200 yards from the Hogshead Lt Col Oakley, of the 10th Queens ordered a withdrawal to Fleurs Trench, the reason being that the troops that had taken the village of Fleurs had lost all their officers and had retired. We proceeded to consolidate Fleurs trench.
3pm – An advance was ordered and under heavy machine gun and rifle fire they occupied the line of the 3rd objective. Shortly afterwards the line again moved forward on the signal of Lieut Colonel, the Earl of Faversham, commanding the 21st K.R.R.C. We advanced toward Gird Trench under heavy and increasing fire, but at a point about 150 yards away from our objective, when our left flank was held up by a part of the enemy who had advanced in front of their trench and lay concealed in a corn field.
5pm – An order was passed down to retire. We could not find out where this order originated and movement backwards was as far as possible prevented but men on our right flank commenced to double back and the right flank was quickly broken. The enemy immediately opened heavy artillery fire along the whole front and we were forced to withdraw to an old trench, situated about N32.a.1.5 which we found occupied by 20 or 30 men and 2 Vickers guns. We could not find anybody on either flank with whom to get into touch and therefore the men were ordered to “Stand to” until dusk. At dusk we retired to a new line which was being consolidated between the 2nd and 3rd objectives. We remained here and proceeded with consolidation.
11pm – The Brigade was relieved by the 123rd Brigade and proceeded into the support line, with the exception of a section under captain Etchells, which was in front of the line and was unable to reach the remainder of the Battalion.

16th September 1916
The Battalion remained in the support line and were subject to heavy artillery fire throughout the whole day. We were not called upon during the day by the Brigade in front. Captain Etchells and his Company were relieved on Saturday evening and in view of the heavy fighting they had done they were ordered to remain at the Brigade Dump during Saturday night and on Sunday Morning they were ordered to proceed back to the transport lines. The rest of the Battalion remained in support during Sunday and although subject to heavy artillery fire suffered no casualties.

18th September 1916
During the early hours of the morning we were relieved by the North Lancashire Regiment and the Battalion proceeded back to the transport lines and after a march and rest returned to camp at E9.
Our casualties during the action were as follows:- Officers, Lieutentants M.J. Shaw, A.S. Wright (Killed): Lieutenants G.M. Starelock, G.K.S.???wood (Died of wounds): Lieutenants Sir W.A. Blount, Bart and Y.K. Patterson, R.LW Francis and C.T. Wells (Wounded). Other ranks 33 (Killed), 58 (Missing) and 140 Wounded.
Prisoners taken by the Battalion – 2 Officers, 158 Other ranks.

As part of the above described Battle of Fleurs, John Nowers in the afternoon and evening of the 15th, remained alone with two badly wounded officers and afterwards insisted in carrying them back, for which he received a Gallantry card and was recommended for the D.C.M.

The Battalion stayed in the Somme area and on the 16th October they were moved behind the lines to Airaines receiving reinforcements and continuing training. Two days later they were moved to Belgium to camps on the south west of Ypres.

The Battalion spent the rest of the year in and out of trenches around the Ypres and Kemmel areas.

On the 4th January 1917 John Nowers of A Company 26th (Bankers) Battalion Royal Fusiliers was admitted into the 139th Field Ambulance with an abscess on his left wrist. Two days later on the 6th January we was transferred to the 41st Divisional Rest Station.

The cycle of front line and training continued into 1917 and by April the Battalion can be found in trenches around St Eloi, south of Ypres before moving back to the training area in May.

1st June 1917 – Arnecke
After spending the night in billets at Arnecke the Battalion entrained at Arnecke station at 9:05am and detrained at Poperinghe station about 11:25am and proceeded to the camp at Micmac North taking over from 20th battalion Durham Light Infantry.

2nd – 5th June 1917 – Micmac Camp North
There is nothing of importance to record during this period. The Battalion furnished a large number of working parties for the front line system of trenches preparing for the offensive operations. Casualties 1 other rank killed.

5th June 1917 – Micmac Camp (east)
6am – At this hour in accordance with March Table, Battalion Headquarters B and D Companies moved from Micmac Camp East up into the trenches. B Company occupied front line trenches O.2.5 O.2.6 and O.2.7 with two platoons and had two platoons in the support line within the same limits. D Company occupied the reserve line, crater Lane to Bus House Road (Exclusive) and Vormezelle sector from junction with Middlesex Lane to Vormezelle St Eloi Road.
Battalion headquarters were in dug outs in Convent Lane. The remaining two Companies moved from Micmac Camp East to Micmac Camp South.
The day passed uneventfully in the line. There was heavy artillery fire on both sides, but there is nothing of importance to record. Patrols were sent out by B company at night. They found the enemy were thoroughly cut and no obstacle. Owing to a bright moon one of the patrols which got almost up to the enemy parapet was bombed and the officer was slightly wounded.
11pm – At this hour A & C companies left Micmac Camp East and proceeded to occupy GHQ 2nd line which they did at 1:30am on the 6th June in accordance with March table.

6th June 1917 – in the line
The whole battalion was disposed in the line in accordance with march table. The artillery duel continued throughout the day otherwise there is nothing of importance to record.
Orders for moving into assembly positions were issued and no indication as to zero hour was received.

7th June 1917 – in the line
The day of the attack on the 2nd Army front from Observatory Wood to St Yves.
According to orders issued the Battalion was supposed to be in its assembly positions 2 hours before zero, 1:10am, but owing to considerable traffic in the communications trenches and on account of the traffic it was not until
2:35am that the Battalion was finally ready and the Companies all out in their groups of waves between our own trench and the support line. Although a bit tired the men were in splendid spirits. They had been trained up to the minute. Every officer and man knew exactly what was the objective was and were ready to gain it. After 6 long weary winter months of waiting in the St Eloi Sector, overlooked by the enemy, every movement and turn observed, all ranks were assembled with one thought – To get the Bosche out of it –
All had complete confidence in our supporting artillery.
2:50am – At this hour the enemy having spotted the Battalions assembling in No Man’s Land began to send up the “stand to” signal (A rocket, bursting into golden red stars) and his artillery opened a barrage. Luckily however his artillery barrage was weak and it did not disorganise or worry the assembled men.
3:10am – Promptly to the second our artillery opened and our line of waves was went forward. About 5 seconds after zero the St Eloi mine went up with a huge blaze and a rocking of the ground. This seemed to startle the men for they seemed to turn left handed. Fortunately, this check was only momentary and the men soon settled down and were over the top and following the 32nd Royal Fusiliers who were in front in good order. The enemy defence barrage came down on No Man’s Land about 4 minutes after zero but it only caught our rear wave and caused little damage. The attack went off exactly as per schedule. The 32nd Royal Fusiliers took the enemy front trenches and at zero plus 35 minutes this Battalion were ready to advance on their objective Dammstrasse. This consisted of a sunken road which was strongly fortified and which was supposed to be a bit of a stumbling block. The ground had been thoroughly prepared by our artillery who maintained a heavy pounding barrage on the objective. The cooperation between the infantry and the artillery was excellent. The advance behind the creeping barrage was orderly and the men kept their distance and direction admirably.
4.11am – Prompt to time the barrage lifted off the Dammstrasse and our men rushed in and captured it with very little resistance and before large numbers of the enemy who had been sheltering in strong concrete dug outs were able to come out and fight. A large number of prisoners estimated between 300 and 400 were taken by the Battalion. Those of the enemy who did not choose to evacuate their strongholds were bombed out of it. The enemy, with the exception of one machine gun crew who was soon knocked out, showed no inclination to fight. He was beaten and demoralised by the intensity of our artillery fire and the suddenness of the attack.
According to orders a line was immediately dug about 50 to 100 yards in front of the Dammstrasse (Blue Line) as close up to our protection barrage as possible and the work of consolidation was carried on with all possible speed. Enemy artillery fire was ineffective.
According to plan the 3 remaining Battalions of the Brigade came up behind us and formed up ready to advance on to the Black Line which they did. All objectives to this Brigade were taken to the scheduled time and were held.
3pm – Exactly 12 hours after zero at 3.10pm the 24th Durhams who had come up across the ground in a magnificent way and went through and carried on the advance and by about 5pm news was received that all objectives had been taken. Meanwhile large numbers of prisoners kept streaming back.
Casualties:
Officers, Wounded 5
Other Ranks, Killed 25, Wounded 161, missing 7.

8th June 1917 – In the Line
2am – At about this hour orders were received for the relief of the Battalion by the 23rd Middlesex Regiment and
the 20th Durham Light Infantry. This was carried out and completed by 3:30am and the Battalion was withdrawn to G.H.Q 2nd Line near Ridge Wood.
During the day the Divisional Commander inspected the men and heartily congratulated them on their splendid achievement.
7:30pm – The Battalion moved from GHQ 2nd Line to bivouacs in Elzenhalle where they spent the night. There is nothing important to record.

During the attack of the 7th June as part of the Battle for Messines Ridge, Acting Corporal John Anthony Nowers was wounded in the feet and whilst awaiting his turn for help was killed by a shell burst.

Grantham Journal Saturday 30 June 1916
BILLINGBOROUGH
KILLED IN ACTION – Mrs Nowers of the Old Hall, received an official notification of Sunday that her son, Corporal J. A. Nowers (Royal Fusiliers) was killed in action on June 7th. The deepest sympathy is extended to the family.

UK De Ruvigny”s Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919
NOWERS, JOHN ANTHONY, Corpl, No. 19415, 26th (Service) Battn. The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regt). eldest s. of the late Ernest Henry Trevor Nowers of Stamford, co. Lincoln, by his wife Minnie Elizabeth, daughter. of Matthew Terry of Lydd, co. Kent; b Market Harborough , co. Leicester, 6 May 1889; educ. Stamford Grammar School; was employed by Messrs. Barclay & co., Bankers; enlisted 6 Sept 1915; served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from 6 May 1916; took park in the Battle of Fleurs 15 Sept., on which afternoon and evening he remained alone with two badly wounded officers and for which he received a Gallantry card and was recommended for the D.C.M.; took park in the operations of Messines, where he was killed in action 7 June 1917; was wounded in the feet and awaiting his turn for help when he was killed by a shell. Buried initially at St Eloi in an unmarked grave, John was later reburied in Voormezeele after the Armistice.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Corporal John Anthony Nowers, 19425, 26th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers who died on 7 June 1917 Age 28
Son of the late Mr E. H. R. Nowers and of Mrs M. E. Nowers of The Gables, Stamford Remembered with honour, Voormezeele Enclosure No 3

John is also remembered on the memorials of Billingborough, Stamford St Mary’s, Tinwell and Stamford Grammar School.

https://southlincolnshirewarmemorials.org.uk/…/john-an…/

Remembrance – Ernest Wyles

Today we remember Bourne man Ernest Wyles who was killed in action on the 27th May 1918 serving with the 25th Machine Gun Corps.

Ernest was born in 1890 in Market Deeping to Edward Wyles a gamekeeper born in Market Deeping in 1848 and his wife Emily Bellairs born in Market Deeping in 1849.

The couple were married in Market Deeping on the 8th January 1866 and stayed in Market deeping all their lives having 15 children there. They declared that one child had died before 1911 when they filled out the census.

  • Arthur Wyles, 1866, Market Deeping
  • Edward Wyles, 1867, Market Deeping
  • John William Wyles, 1868, Market Deeping
  • Walter Wyles, 1870, Market Deeping
  • Annie Wyles, 1872, Market Deeping
  • Frederick Wyles, 1875, Market Deeping
  • Emily Wyles, 1878, Market Deeping
  • Albert Wyles, 1880, Market Deeping
  • Levinia Wyles, 1882, Market Deeping
  • George Wyles, 1884, Market Deeping
  • Walter Wyles, 1885, Market Deeping
  • Harvey Wyles, 1887, Market Deeping
  • Percy Charles Wyles, 1888, Market Deeping
  • Ernest Wyles, 1890, Market Deeping

In 1891 Ernest is living with his parents in Towngate, Market Deeping, Edward employed as a Gamekeeper.  Ten years later in 1901 nothing much had changed, they were still in Towngate, and Edward was employed as a gamekeeper although by now only Percy, an agricultural labourer and Ernest, a scholar, were still living at home.

By 1911 They had moved to Uffington with both Percy and Ernest still living at home. Now though Edward is working as a County Council Roadman, Percy is working as a Brewer’s Drayman and Ernest, now 21, worked as a carter in a brickyards.

Ernest was married in 1915 to Ivy Ophelia Parker, a dressmaker, who was living in Eastgate Bourne. She was born in Bourne on the 6th October 1894, the Daughter of George Henry Parker and Mary Jane Philips.

In 1919 Ivy was living at 10 Clarence Terrace, Austerby, Bourne according to Army Pension Records, other records show that she also lived at The Mason’s Arms on South Street in Bourne after this.

Around July 1916 Ernest enlisted in the army. Conscription had come in in January 1916 for all single men of age 18 to 40 to serve their country. This had changed in  May 1916 to include Married men thus making Ernest eligible for conscription.

Ernest’s service records, like 60% of all WW1 soldiers were subject to a fire in the storage warehouse in London during the Blitz. That leaves us trying to piece together his story of the war from various remaining records and therefore exact dates are largely not known.

Ernest on enlistment and training had been posted to the 7th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment with a regimental number of 25075. After training he would have joined his Battalion in France. They had been out in Gallipoli in 1915 followed by Egypt defending the Suez Canal before being posted to France in July 1916.

We would expect Ernest to join his regiment around November of 1916. As we do not know the exact date we cannot really tell when and where he fought.

The Battalion had been involved in the Battle of Thiepval Ridge at the end of September and then had been moved into the Ancre sector of the Somme by January 1917.

1917 had the Battalion in the Somme initially and then moved out to Belgium in readiness for the battle of Messines Ridge.

On the war office daily list of the 27th August 1917 Private Ernest Wyles 25075 of the South Staffordshire Regiment was listed as wounded. These lists could be 4 to 6 weeks behind the actual dates and therefor there is no actual date or location that he was wounded in the records. At the end of July and the beginning of August the Battalion were in trenches around Hulluch, to the North of Loos.

After leaving the trenches around Merthyr Sap and Bacon Sap on 6th August the Battalion went into Divisional Reserve for one week of training. During August the Battalion lost few men as casualties and the Diary even lists any Privates that were wounded and so we have to assume that as Ernest was not mentioned he was wounded during their last tour in the trenches around Essex Trench at the end of July.

Ernest Wyles was posted to the Machine Gun Corps, the date cannot be seen from any records but in many cases once a wounded soldier had convalesced and then was posted medically fit for action they would be posted to a battalion that was in need of replacements.

We are not sure of the details of his wound, convalescent period, if he re-joined the South Staffs or when he was posted to the Machine Gun Corp, then we have to look at the Diaries for the Machine Gun Corps in Ernest’s last days in May 1918 and their action around the 27th Just south of The Aisne.

9th May 1918 – Herzeele
Battalion entrained at Heidebeke for move to IX Corps (6th French spring? Area), HQ and A+B Companies left at 7.45pm, C+D Companies at 10.45pm. At 10.40pm just prior to the departure o the train, enemy aeroplane dropped 6 small bombs on the metals close to the train. No damage was done. 

10th May 1918
On Train

11th May 1918 – Fismes
Arrived Fismes in the morning. Marched to Cohan to billets. 

12th May 1918 – Cohan
Cleaning up. Services held in the morning. Weather fine and hot. 

13th May 1918 to 22nd May 1918
Training – Training programme was attached to the diary (Appendix no 4). Hot and sunny weather.
52 other ranks reported for duty on 20th May.

23rd May 1918 – Hourges
Lt Col W.T.Raikes to Paris for 4 days leave. Battalion marched to billets at Hourges. 

24th to 26th May
Training – Training program was attached to the diary (Appendix no 5).

27th  to 31st May 1918
Operations, see attached story. 

“Story of operations from May 27th 1918 to June 1st 1918, 25th battalion Machine Gun Corps.

On the night of the 26th of May 1918 the battalion was ordered to proceed to the forward area from billets in Hourges. Companies as under were allotted to brigades and proceeded from camp independently to the following areas:-

A company under Major S.L.Courtauld M.C. to 7 Brigade Guyencourt (Right)
B Company under Major D Campbell to 74th Brigade, Muscourt (Left)
C Company under Capt T.C.B. Udall to 75th Brigade, Ventelay (Centre)
D Company under Major G McCree to reserve in Romain 

The companies arrived after the preliminary bombardment had commenced and the 3 first arrived reconnoitred positions in their respective areas, the 2nd positions (Line of the Maizy Cormicy Road).

The enemy was engaged at about 8.30am by Bouffinereux-Roucy-Concevreux + Maizy. 4 Guns of B company under 2nd Lieutenant W.L. Johnstone did great execution at the bridges at this later place, but were forced to give way and fall back on Muscourt about noon.

Two sections of the Reserve Company were ordered to reinforce 75 and 74 Brigades respectively, and later the remaining two sections were sent to the 74 Brigade where situation on the left flank appeared to be serious.

In the late afternoon of 27th a strong enemy attack was completely wiped out at point blank range on the Muscourt – Romain road by the concentrated fire of 7 machine guns. On the night however the enemy working well through the woods E & W of Guyencourt cut off or destroyed by close range sniping a number of A + C Companies guns. Good work appears to have been done in the attacks, but owing to the infantry retirement, the guns were left entirely isolated and unsupported and the enemy were thus enabled to attack from all sides. Capt T.C.B. Udall who had made his HQ in Roucy, was surrounded and possibly a prisoner.

About midnight 27th the enemy were reported in Courlandon and Ventelay and it was considered unpracticable to hold the salient north of Romain. A retirement was therefore ordered to the high ground N of Montigny. In all 11 Guns were still working under orders of the Battalion H.Q, though it is kown that several others had attached themselves to infantry units in the neighbourhood of Bouvancourt.

By the end of the report on the 31st May the line had been pushed back daily and the Battalion reported the following casualties.

Killed, 5 officers and 10 other ranks
Wounded, 10 officers  and 120 other ranks
Missing, 5 officers and 108 other ranks. 

Private Ernest Wyles was reported to have died and was most likely one of the missing men killed in the action of the 27th May 1918 described in the Battalion diary.

On the 19th December Ivy Wyles was awarded Ernest’s pension and war gratuity and one year later his War Gratuity payment. Ernest’s medal card suggests that as of the 6th March 1923 his British War Medal and Victory Medal were still “Undisposed of” which meant never sent or claimed up to this date.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Private Ernest Wyles, 136409, 25th Bn., Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) who died on 27 May 1918 Age 23. Husband of Ivy Opthelia Wyles, of 15, Mason Arms, South St., Bourne, Lincs. Remembered with honour, Soissons Memorial

Ernest is also remembered on the Roll of Honour in Bourn Abbey Church and listed on the Bourne War Memorial.

https://southlincolnshirewarmemorials.org.uk/our-villages/bourne/ernest-wyles/

 We will remember them

Remembrance – Bertie Kettle

This week we remember Bourne man Private Bertie Kettle who died in Leicester Royal Infirmary on 26th May 1919 of Septic Pneumonia. He was a recently ex serviceman who had been serving with the 11th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment.

Bertie Kettle was born between January and March 1894 in Bourne to John Kettle a Fellmonger’s Labourer born in Morton Lincolnshire in 1855 and his wife Elizabeth Holmes, born in 1863 also in Morton.

John was first marred to Rachel Pocock in 1974 and they had lived in Eastgate Bourne but unfortunately Rachel died in 1883 leaving the widow John with four children to bring up.
John and Elizabeth were married in 1884 and this was registered in the Sleaford District. They lived in Bourne where all of their 9 children were born.

• John Robert Kettle, 1875, Bourne (Half brother)
• Emma Kettle, 1877, Gosberton (Half sister)
• Rose Alice Kettle, 1879, Bourne (Half sister)
• Jessie Kettle, 1881, Bourne (Half sister)
• Sarah Elizabeth Kettle, 1885, Bourne
• Mabel Kettle, 1887, Bourne
• John Kettle, 1888, Bourne
• Gertrude Kettle, 1890, Bourne
• Bertie Kettle, 1894, Bourne
• Florence Evelyn Kettle, 1896, Bourne
• Lily Kettle, 1897, Bourne
• Harry Sidney Kettle, 1900, Bourne
• Emily Kettle, 1902, Bourne

In 1901 Bertie was living with his parents in Victoria Place in Bourne. John was working as a fellmonger’s labourer (most likely working in the Tannery for T.W. Mays). Elizabeth and six of their children were in the four room house.
Moving on 10 years and the family are to be found on the 1911 census now in a five room house just around the corner in Eastgate. John is still working as a fellmonger and also now eldest son John and also Bertie are doing the same work., sister Gertie was working at a Pea factory. In 1911 the Eastgate area of Bourne was a hive of activity.

Bertie’s war records have not been found and you would have to assume, like 60% of the WW1 service records, were destroyed in a London warehouse fire in the Blitz.
Unfortunately this leaves us with trying to tell his story through other available records. The fact that he died in 1919 immediately means that records like Soldier’s Died in the Great War do not list Bertie.

On enlistment he was posted to the 11th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment and given the regimental number of 22575. The exact date of enlistment is unknown and as his medal rolls show that he never served with any other battalion, we can say that he would not have most likely joined around the end of October or the beginning of November 1915. This conclusion is made by comparing the enlistment dates of men of the Leicestershire Regiment that had a similar regimental number.

The 11th Battalion were a service battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment. The Battalion was Formed at Leicester in October 1915 by the Mayor and a local committee.
In March 1916 they landed in France and less than one month later, 1st April, came under orders of 6th Division as a Pioneer Battalion. A pioneer battalion could be involved in building or repairing bridges, roads and other similar projects but were a fighting infantry unit and although not normally in the first wave when the Army went over the top would sometimes be called upon to be in the following waves.

As Bertie was awarded the Victory Medal, this meant that he must have served in a theatre of war and so this would suggest that he was mobilised for war and served in France with the Battalion, again the exact dates are unknown. If Bertie had joined around November 1915, it would be most likely that he was one of the men that embarked for France with the 11th Battalion in March 1916. By March he would have a few months basic training before embarking.

The Battalion saw action in the war on the Somme at Fleurs-Courcelette at what was the first use of Tanks in action by the British Army.
In 1917 the 11th Leicesters were in action at Hill 70 in Lens during April and then in November at the Battle of Cambrai and Bourlon Wood.
1918 had them starting on the Somme during March at St Quentin and then in the Lys sector around Bailleul and Kemmel holding off the German Spring offensive. For the 100 days offensive they served in September in St Quentin followed by Cambrai and finally the Battle of the Selle on the 20th October.
They ended the war in divisional reserve at Bohain-en-Vermandois on the 11th November.

After the armistice the Battalion were involved in the march to the Rhine and the occupation of the Rhineland. They had Christmas dinner 1918 on the Rhine and shortly afterwards in 1919 they received orders that in March 1919 the 6th Division will cease to exist. Divisional units such as the Pioneers were posted into the new Midland Division.
Records of other 11th Battalion men would indicate that some of the men and quite possibly Bertie were demobilised in April 1918 at Catterick.

How much of this Battalion’s story is shared with Bertie is unknown. There are no wounded records, mentions in the Times’ Casualty Lists or Silver War Badge records to suggest that his war ended any earlier than March 1919.

Bertie was living with his sister, Rose Neale, at 9 Scott Street, Leicester and was unemployed in May 1919 when he was taken ill and admitted to Leicester Royal Infirmary. He was diagnosed with Quinsy (abscess near the tonsils) which 5 days later developed into Septicaemia and then after another 2 days he died of Septic Pneumonia, aged 25 years.

Bertie’s death certificate states that he was unemployed and an ex soldier with the 11th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment.

Bertie Kettle is buried in Welford Road Cemetery in Leicester and is commemorated on the War Memorial in Bourne, Lincolnshire and also on he memorial in St Michael’s Church, Scott Street, Leicester.

Remembrance – Albert Codling

Today we remember Bourne and Lincoln man, Lance-Corporal Albert Codling, who was killed in action on 13th May 1915 serving with the 1/4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment.

Albert Codling was born on 15th December 1892 at 51 King Street Lincoln to John Codling, a railway porter from Lincoln and his wife Mary Elizabeth Cobb.

John and Mary were married in Lincoln in 1892 having 8 children born there:-
-Albert Codling, 1893, Lincoln
-Gertrude Mary Codling, 1894, Lincoln
-Ernest Codling, 1896, Lincoln
-Frank Codling, 1899, Lincoln (Died 1901)
-Elsie Codling, 1901, Lincoln (Died 1904)
-Edith Codling, 1904, Lincoln (Died 1905)
-John William Codling, 1906, Lincoln
-Doris May Codling, 1910, Lincoln

In 1901 John, Mary and their three children were living at 37 Queen Street Lincoln. 10 years later the family had moved and were now living at 1 Naam Cottages, Grey Street, Lincoln, as found on the 1911 census. John is still working as a railway porter and now the 18 year old Albert is working in a cake mill making cattle cake.

Albert had a change of career and started to work for the Midland Railway as a drayman.

In May 1912 Albert enlisted in Lincoln with the Lincolnshire Regiment, given the regimental number 1608 and posted to the 4th Battalion, a territorial battalion.

Unfortunately Albert’s full service records are not to be found, most likely destroyed during the warehouse fire in London in the Blitz that destroyed 60% of all WW1 service records. The following story tracks Albert’s life in the army from other available sources. We have also added some background information about the 4th Battalion that covers the period between his enlistment and the Battalion embarking for France.

The following information is taken from the History of The Lincolnshire Regiment by C R Simpson.

“At the outbreak of war the Lincolnshire Regiment was made up of 5 Battalions. The 1st and 2nd were the regular battalions, the 3rd Battalion was a militia battalion and the 4th and 5th Battalions were the territorial battalions.
The 4th Battalion was based at the Drill Hall in Lincoln whilst the 5th was based in the north of the county.
On the 25th of July, 1914, the 4th battalion (Lieut.-Colonel J.W. Jessop) and 5th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel T.E. Sandall) were assembled at Bridlington for their usual annual
“Territorial Battalion” training, but on the 2nd of August, received orders to return to their Headquarters on the 3rd. By the afternoon of the 4th both battalions had returned to their respective Headquarters and been dismissed with orders to hold themselves in readiness to assemble at their Drill Halls on receipt of the hourly expected orders to mobilise. These came during the evening. The 5th, the first day of mobilisation, was one of great excitement and activity. At that early period only five Territorial battalions had signed the General Service obligation “ to serve overseas if required in time of national danger,” but on the declaration of war it was not long before the majority of Territorial units throughout the country volunteered for service overseas whenever they were required.

The first duties which fell to the lot of the Lincolnshire Territorials were to guard Grimsby Docks and Harbour, to protect the electric power station, wireless station at Weelsby and the construction of defences at the mouth of the Humber.

On the 10th of August, both battalions reported mobilisation complete and the following day they entrained for Belper, the War Station of the Lincolnshire and Leicestershire Brigade. For the next few days training consisted chiefly of route marching with full equipment. On the 15th, however, a move was made to Luton, which for several months was the home of the North Midland Division, the Lincolnshire being billeted in the town.

On the 15th of September, 1914, the Government called on the Territorials to volunteer for foreign service, and practically all battalions throughout the country answered the call, though for various reasons not all ranks could undertake overseas obligations: Units of which not less than sixty per cent. volunteered were designated “General Service”, and were ordered to recruit up to establishment and twenty-five per cent beyond it. As soon as units had obtained a sufficiently high percentage of volunteers for service overseas, a second unit of similar strength was formed : the latter were termed “ Second Line ” units; Later, “ Third Line ” units were formed. The original Territorial battalions then became known as the First Line units. Thus the original 4th and 5th Lincolnshire territorial Battalions became the 1/4th and 1/5th Battalions.”

The 1/4th and 1/5th Lincolnshire were eventually posted to the 138th (Lincoln and Leicester) Brigade, 46th (North Midlands) Division, and went to France with that formation in February 1915.

Part of the Battalion arrived in Havre on the 1st March, the other half embarking embarked on the Duchess of Argyll on the 2nd March. By the 3rd March the 2nd half of Battalion had arrived and billeted at Shed No6 at Pondicherry.
The Battalion formed again and after entraining at Harve in the evening arrived at Arneke at 2.30pm on the 4th March and marched 4 miles into Zuytpeene, about 10 miles from the Belgian border. They stayed here until the 9th March when they moved to Strazeele and then on to Sailly-sur-la-Lys.

On the 12th and 13th the Battalion were ordered to Stand To both days for a 2 hour notice of movement due to operational orders but nothing prevailed and they stayed in Sailly until the 16th. Upon leaving Sailly they were moved to Le Kirlem where they were trained in the attack and defence of trenches until the 26th both as brigade and also divisional training.
Finally after 26 days abroad the Battalion were moved to billets at the Brewery in Ploegsteert on the 27th march.

They were now attached to the Somerset Light Infantry for instruction in trench duties and 280 men of all ranks were employed during the day working for the Royal Engineers and another 80 men of ll ranks at night. One company in turn was placed in the trenches for 24 hours. This routine went on until the last day of the month with similar number of men assigned to digging by day (220), other duties by night (80) and with anywhere between one platoon and one company spending a day in the trenches.

It was Back to Le Kirlam for their four days away from the trenches and then on to Bailleul where officers joined the 5th Leicesters in the trenches. It would be another three days, 9th April, before the full Battalion was once again required for front line duty. Now based in Dranoutre they Battalion experienced their first full tour in the trenches and after 3 quiet days were subject to enemy shelling on the 13th April. The enemy shelled Frenchmens and Pond Farms and the Battalion reported their first casualties, Lieut Staniland and 3 privates killed and 6 wounded at Pond Farm. Later that night they were relieved by the 5th Leicesters and went back to billets 3/4 mile north of Dranoutre.

Their next tour started on the 18th when after a delay of one day, when they were ordered to stand to because of operations against hill 60, it was back to the same trenches with companies taking over Cookers, Cobb and packhorse Farms. This tour ended on the night of the 22nd but this time instead of returning to billets they were stood to at Lindenhoek waiting until he next day as 14 officers and 400 men of the Royal Irish Rifles were in their Billets. This last tour was deemed by the Battalion Adjutant as fairly quiet with only the loss of Lt W.B. Hirst despite being shelled by H.E. on their last day in the trench. They moved onto their billets the next day (24th April) and immediately C Company were on fatigue laying cable between Regentst and Picadillly. After only one day in the Billets the Battalion was back in the trenches until the month end. The Battalion Diary once again notes it as a quiet time with one visit in their trenches by the Officer Commanding North Midlands Division (46th Div).

For May and Albert’s last days we refer to the Battalion Diaries to tell the story.

May 1st 1915
Battalion in Huts at Locre. Interior Economy.

May 2nd 1915
In huts at Locre. A+D Companies on digging fatigue all night

May 3rd 1915
In huts at Locre. Interior Economy

May 4th 1915
Battalion relieved 5th Leicesters in evening. Relief completed 11:30pm

May 5th 1915
In the trenches. Bn HQ Cob Farm. Quiet Day

May 6th 1915
In the trenches. Quiet Day. Weather Hot

May 7th 1915
In the trenches. All night whole of front was wired completed 2:45am

May 8th 1915
In the trenches. Quiet day. Fire at R.E. Farm
Relieved by 5th Leicesters at midnight.

May 9th 1915
In huts at Locre. Lt Hall and Lt Fox reported from 2/4th Lincs Regt
Church Parade at 6pm

May 10th 1915
Left Locre at 7.45pm and relieved 5th Bn Sherwood Foresters at Lindenhoek at midnight. Bn HQ Lindenhoek Chalet.
Trenches occupied as follows F4 F6 – C Coy, F5-A Coy, G1,2+6 D Coy, S.P3-A Coy. In reserve-D Coy.

May 11th 1915
In the trenches. Quiet day.

May 12th 1915
In the trenches. Quiet day.

May 13th 1915
In the trenches. Enemy shelled our front line during afternoon + early evening. At 7pm they fired trench mortars (7) against G1+2 salient. They then directed machine gun fire at the breach made in the trench + shelled remainder of line. Under cover of this they sent across a party estimated at 20 men with bombs + explosive cylinders, 4 of which were afterwards found at the bottom of mine. The Battalion stood to all night + 5th Leicesters reinforced us with 1 Coy. 1 German (9th Bavarian Regiment) was left dead in G1. Nothing further took place.

The Battalion stayed in the trenches until the 16th when they were relieved by the 5th Leicesters.
On the 17th the Battalion diary notes that whilst they were in huts at Locre they observed a Zeppelin heading S.E at 5am and commented that it was most likely the one that dropped bombs on Ramsgate.

Lance Corporal Albert Codling was killed in action on the 13th May 1915 as part of the action described in the Battalion Diary. He was buried in Lindenhoek Chalet Military Cemetery.

During the war years the family moved to Bourne and settled there. Whilst living at 3 Woodview Bourne the family received the sad new that Albert had been killed in May 1915 in the area around Ypres.

The Soldier’s Died in the Great War shows that Albert Codling died on the 16th October 1915 but that this date was amended in pen over the typing in the original ledger.

The Imperial War Graves report into Lindenhoek Chalet Military Cemetery shows that a cross was originally placed on the grave Plot 1 Row C Grave 14 (ledger ref:1037/2A) and they noted the name as Private A Cooling on the typed ledger and this was engraved on the original headstone. The original typed date of death was 13th May 1915, although this was later crossed out with 16th October written in, once again to be changed back to 13th May 1915 later.
A note on this ledger changes Albert’s entry to Lance Corporal A Codling. A footnote to the page reads “Amendment received from Records and transmitted to DDW with request to have the headstone amended. See A/11/60. -2.3.58”

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Lance Corporal A Codling, 1608, 1st/4th Bn., Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 13 May 1915. Son of Mr. J. Codling, of 3, Wood View, Bourne, Lincs. Remembered with honour, Lindenhoek Chalet Military Cemetery.
Albert is also remembered on the Bourne War Memorial, the Lincoln War Memorial and also the Lincoln Railway war memorial.

Albert’s brother Ernest also enlisted on the 8th December 1914. Initially he served with the 4th and then 5th and 6th Lincolnshire Battalions. Ernest was posted abroad in 1916 and was killed in action serving with the 6th Battalion on 8th June 1917 on the Messines Ridge. He is buried at the Messines Ridge British Cemetery no more than 4 miles from his brother.

When the Lincoln war memorial questionnaire was sent out to ascertain the names of the fallen, this was filled in for both Albert and Ernest and returned by Gertrude Codling (their sister) of Turks Head Cottage, Cecil Street, Lincoln. The original returns are held at the Lincolnshire Archives.

Albert’s photograph © Jonathan Smith

Remembrance – Cecil Hornsey

Plymouth Naval Memorial

Today we remembered Bourne man, Cecil Armstrong Hornsey who accidently died on this day, 13th may 1915, serving on H. M. Destroyer Brisk with the Royal Navy in Scapa Flow.

Cecil was born on 6th February 1893 in Hastings, Sussex to John Hornsey, a druggist and chemist born in Portobello Scotland in 1866 and his wife Agnes Sophia Smith born in Bury St Edmunds Suffolk in 1872.

The couple were married on the 22nd August 1891 in Great Dunmow Essex, at the church of St Mary the Virgin. Afterwards they moved to Hastings where the first of their three children, Cecil was born 18 months later.
– Cecil Armstrong Hornsey, 1893, Hastings
– Winifred Mary Hornsey, 1895, Bourne
– Dorothy Lillian Hornsey, 1899, Bourne

By 1895 the family were living in Bourne and the 1901 census shows that they were living at 59 Woodview. John was working as a chemist (Drug) on his own account and Agnes as a school teacher.

10 years later in 1901, Agnes has yet be found on the census and the family are living in various places.
John Hornsey is living with his sisters at 47 St Mary’s Terrace in Hastings and working as a chemist. The two girls are living as boarders with William Dingley and his family in Meadowgate Bourne, Winifred working as a dressmaker’s apprentice and Dorothy is still at school. William Dingley was a postman and by 1918 Winifred is listed in appointments to the British Postal Service and working for the service in London.

At the age of 16 Cecil joined the Royal Navy on 24th September 1909. His occupation at the time was given as a Chemist’s apprentice. He Joined as a Boy 2nd Class – “a boy aged 15 to 17 rated as such on entry to a training ship of the Royal Navy. Such entry was conditional on a boy’s adequate physical height, weight and medical fitness and evidence of being of ‘good character'”.
His enlistment paper tells us that he was 5’6″ tall with auburn hair, blue eyes and fair complexion.

He was first posted to H.M.S. Ganges, a name given to one of the off-shore ships which was part of the Royal Naval Training Establishment, at Shotley near Ipswich, Suffolk. The ship now known as Ganges was originally designated as H.M.S. Caroline and moved to Shotley when no longer useful as a fighting vessel. Shotley at the time was going through expansion and they had just installed three radio masts as part of the newly formed Signal School.
On 5th May 1910 Cecil became a Boy 1st Class. To classify as a boy 1st Class Cecil would have needed to have served as 2nd Class for 9-18 months, shown sufficient proficiency in seamanship and accumulated at least one good conduct badge. The requirements varied between training ships and his rate of pay would have been increased. This was a rating for boys ages 16-18.
Cecil remained at HMS Ganges for only another 9 days before getting his first posting at Sea.

The first sea posting for Cecil Hornsey was on the 17th May 1910 to H.M.S. Levithan, a Drake Class armoured cruiser. H.M.S. Levithan had previously been placed on reserve but was recommissioned in 1909 for service with the 4th Cruiser Squadron which was in service with the British 1st Fleet. Cecil served for 4 months getting his first taste of the sea.
After his 4 months had elapsed he was next posted to HMS Vivid I, which was a designator of one of the buildings of the shore based training school at Devonport. Here young men were trained in Seamanship, Signalling and Telegraphy and Cecil spent 2 weeks here getting extra training before his next posting.

That next posting was H.M.S. Defence on the 1st October 1910.

H.M.S. Defence was a Minotaur-class armoured cruiser built for the Royal Navy in 1907, the last armoured cruiser built for the Royal Navy. Following naval reorganisation in 1909 HMS Defence was reassigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron part of the 1st Division of the Home Fleet.
Cecil served on H.M.S. Defence as a Boy 1st Class until on his 18th Birthday, a Boy no longer, he was promoted to an Ordinary Seaman – “a seaman with between one and two years’ experience at sea, who showed enough seamanship to be so rated by their captain”.

Cecil Hornsey was officially engaged by the Navy on 6th February 1911, his 18th Birthday, for a period of 12 years. One week after gaining his promotion he was posted back to H.M.S. Vivid at Devonport for further training.

By the time of the 1911 Census, 2nd April, Cecil can be found as one of the 1265 men and petty officers living at the naval barracks in Devonport, Plymouth. At that time Devonport had 5 men’s blocks and was capable of accommodating 4465 men. The barracks was under the command of Commodore Rosslyn Erskine Wemyss.

After 11 weeks training at H.M.S. Vivid, Cecil was then ready for his next sea based posting, his next ship being H.M.S. Fox.

H.M.S Fox was a second class protected cruiser of the Astraea-class of the Royal Navy. Commissioned in 1896, H.M.S. Fox represented an improvement on previous types in this class, 1,000 tons displacement larger with better seaworthiness due to improved hull design. It also had somewhat increased firepower and superior arrangement of guns. H.M.S. Fox had been assigned to the East India Fleet from 1908. Cecil was with the ship for 2 months before moving on to another East India based ship, H.M.S. Highflyer.

HMS Highflyer was the lead ship of the Highflyer-class protected cruisers built for the Royal Navy in the 1890s. She spent her early career as flagship for the East Indies and North America and West Indies Stations. She was reduced to reserve in 1908 before again becoming the flagship in the East Indies in 1911.

Cecil was posted to H.M.S Highflyer for 18 months starting on 20th July 1911 although during his time with the ship he spent 10 days in he cells between the 29th May and the 9th June 1912 which did not count as military service days.

The next posting Cecil Hornsey had was with H.M.S. Philomel again serving with the East India Station. This posting started on the 14th September 1912 and within 3 month Cecil received his next promotion to Able Seaman – “a seaman with more than two years’ experience at sea and considered “well acquainted with his duty”.
H.M.S. Philomel was a 1890s commissioned Pearl-class cruiser and Cecil’s time with her was her final time in the Royal Navy. Cecil’s posting ended on the 22nd October 1913 and he ended back on the records of H.M.S. Vivid. H.M.S. Philomel was taken to Singapore where she was recommissioned before being loaned to the Royal New Zealand Navy .

Cecil Hornsey was then listed as being posted to H.M.S. Vivid I between 23rd October 1913 and 4th May 1914 and then posted to H.M.S. Brisk on 5th May 1914 which was to be his last posting.

H.M.S. Brisk was a ‘H’ Class destroyer launched in 1910. She had two 4″ Guns, Two 12 pounders and two 21″ torpedo tubes and was attached to the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla. In July 1914 the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla were part of the first fleet serving under H.M.S Active as the Flotilla Cruiser and H.M.S. Blake as the Depot ship.

The flotilla was variously attached to the 1st Fleet, Home and Atlantic Fleets, Home Fleet before finally in April 1915 becoming directly in command of the Grand Fleet.
The flotilla in May 1915 was:
Flotilla Cruiser: H.M.S. Active
Flotilla Leader: H.M.S Broke
Depot Ship: H.M.S Blake
Destroyers: H.M.S. Acorn, Alarm, Brisk, Cameleon, Comet, Fury, Hope, Larne, Lyra, Martin, Minstrel, Nemesis, Nereide, Nymphe, Redpole, Rifleman, Ruby, Sheldrake and Staunch.

On the 13th may 1915 Able Seaman Cecil Armstrong Hornsey died from accidental drowning.

The ledger from H.M.S. Blake reads for 1915:
6185, Hornsey, C A, Age 21, Able Seamen, “Brisk”, May 13th, Location Scapa Flow, Drowning – Knocked overboard by recoil of gun.

It would appear that during a firing of one of H.M.S Brisk’s 4″ guns Cecil Hornsey was knocked overboard and drowned. The body was never recovered.
The Royal Navy noted that they had notified Cecil’s Aunt Lily, St Margaret’s Terrace, West Hill, Hastings of his death.

• Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
• In memory of Able Seaman Cecil Armstrong Hornsey, J/6554, H.M.S “Brisk”, Royal Navy who died on 13 May 1915 Age 22
• Son of John and Agnes Sophia Hornsey, of 56, St. Mary’s Terrace, West Hill, Hastings. Awarded Naval General Service Medal (Persian Gulf)
• Remembered with honour, Plymouth Naval Memorial

John and Agnes were listed living at 56 St Mary’s Terrace, West Hill, Hastings by the CWGC, although on Cecil’s pension record his father John’s address is given as Carrington Military Hospital, Nottinghamshire.

Rest in Peace.

Pictures, Plymouth Naval Memorial, HMS Ganges (Shotley) c1910, HMS Leviathan, HMS Brisk

https://southlincolnshirewarmemorials.org.uk/…/cecil-h…/

HMS Brisk

Remembrance – Gunner Robert William Day

Today we remember Robert William Day of Thurlby who died of wounds on the 11th May 1918 whilst serving with the 149th Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

Robert was born late in 1884 in Bainton Lincolnshire to Robert William Day, a Farm Labourer born in Godmanchester and his wife Elizabeth Holiday born in 1861 in Thurlby near Bourne.

The couple were married in 1882 in the Peterborough District and only had the one child, Robert.
In 1891 the Couple were living in Uffington, Lincolnshire where Robert was working as a miller’s labourer.
We next find Robert with his parents on the 1901 census in Battersea, London. Father Robert is working as a general labourer and young Robert is now 15 and working as a Warehouse Porter.
Another 10 years on and Robert Snr and Elizabeth are living in her home village of Thurlby, Robert working as a Farm labourer. Robert Jnr is no longer at home.

Robert William Day Jnr., in the meantime is found getting Married in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1909. He married Elizabeth Mary Rochester in the summer and their Daughter Elizabeth Ann Rochester Day was born on 23rd November 1909.
The 1911 census is very interesting as we can find Elizabeth Day in Belford, Northumberland, working as a general domestic servant. She has entered herself on the census as single with no children and we know at the same time Daughter Elizabeth Ann is living with her Grandparents John and Elizabeth Rochester.
Robert Day cannot be found on any 1911 census return and we suspect has most likely joined the Army.

Robert first served abroad in September 1914, usually this means that he was either already serving at the outbreak of war or on Army reserve and immediately re-joined.

Unfortunately no records appear to still exist and like 60% of all WW1 full service records, probably destroyed in a warehouse fire in the Blitz. All we can say is that he initially served with the 12th Brigade RFA, possibly his old Brigade and first war posting. He also know that he was serving with the 149th Brigade when he was wounded in the field and later died of wounds.

The 12th Brigade formed part of Britain’s pre war regular army and comprised the 43rd, 86th and 87th Howitzer Batteries.

On august 5th the Brigade was mobilised and moved to Queenstown (Cork, Ireland). They embarked on the Cymric on the 15th August and proceeded to Liverpool. The 6th Division concentrated around Cambridge between the 19th and the 31st August. On the 7th September the 12th Brigade proceeded to Southampton and on the 8th embarked on ship with the rest of the division.

After arriving in St Nazaire on the 10th they disembarked and stayed in camp there until the 12th.
Over the next week they were moved around by train and eventually on the 16th arrived at Serches (S.E. of Soissons). Coming under orders of the 5th division , after dark they came into action near Le Pavillon Farm. The 43rd and 86th Batteries set up north of the farm and 87th in the rear of Les Carrierres. The guns were entrenched in the night.
On the 17th September they were ordered to shell Chivres village (N.E of Soissons) and the vicinity, setting the village on fire. On the 19th they registered the enemy’s trenches near Y of Vregny. At the time it would look they were using the names on the maps to pinpoint their position. The Brigade diary notes that this registering of trenches was done with the help of Aircraft.
The actions above would have been Robert’s first actions of the war.

After the 18th May 1915, the 86th Battery was transferred and a year later on the 12th May 1916 the Brigade was broken up.

The 149th was a new army Brigade and joined the 30th Division on the 13th August 1915 at Grantham. This was made up of 4 batteries and over time these Batteries moved around and so it is impossible with the information we have about Robert to even try and work out when and where he joined the 149th. If there is anyone who has researched batteries that could have moved from the 12th to the 149th please do get in touch.

We can say for certain that he was with the 149th when he was wounded and so we look to the Brigade Diary around that time to tell Robert’s story. By now a Brigade was made up of 4 batteries A,B,C,D. and at the end of April the 149th had been in the Ypres Salient.

28th April 1918- H21.b.2.3
Quieter day – enemy shelled A battery position, causing a few casualties, during the night 28/29 a prisoner captured near Voormezeele warned us that the Bosch intended to make further attack on Ypres on the following day – every precaution was taken but no attack developed.
Orders received to take over the line from 51st Brigade RFA on the night – but these were afterwards cancelled.

29th April 1918
Enemy further attempted to force positions on our right but were unsuccessful. A concentration of the enemy round Voormezeele was spotted by 1 F.O.O. and completely dispersed by our guns. Harassing fire carried out during the night.

30th Aril 1918
Quiet day – very little shelling by the enemy he was reported to be moving up his guns. Two or three very successful shots on enemy movement under direct observation were carried out. To trench mortar batteries were effectively silenced by our howitzer battery.

May 1918
In action south of Ypres Cover in front from south of the Zillebeke lake to Lock 8 on Canal.

5th may 1918
Moved to cover Ridge Wood to the Voormezeele front, changing positions with 245 brigade RFA (49 DA).

8th May 1918
French operation in neighbourhood of Locre 4am. Bangs put down to assist.
Enemy attack, bombardment beginning 3 am gas shell and all calibres. Battery positions heavily gas shelled 3 am to 2 pm afternoon. Enemy advance on La Clytte to Voormezeele front but situation ?? Late.
Brigade relieved by 156 Brigade RFA after delay through attack.
Marched to Staple area same evening (20 mile)

9th May 1918
In action again relieving 64th Brigade RFA on front Meteren and W adjoining French

10th May 1918
All Quiet

11th May 1918
Batteries shelled in the morning. Some casualties.

It was on the 11th May 1918 that Gunner Robert William Day died of wounds. He is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery. At the time Boulogne would have been one of the ports used to evacuate the badly wounded back to England.
Normally after getting injured a man would be cleared through a casualty clearing station or field hospital and placed on an ambulance train taking them back to hospitals away from the line, such as Boulogne, Etaples, Le treport. Here they would continue to be treated until they could be evacuated back to England and further hospitalisation and hopefully convalescence.
The train would take several hours maybe even half a day and so it is unlikely that Robert was one of the casualties of the shelling on the 11th, but more likely was one of the casualties 8th from the bombardment and gas shelling, those wounds being fatal and then passing away at hospital or I transit through the Boulogne hospital system.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Gunner Robert William Day, 21714, 149th Bde., Royal Field Artillery who died on 11 May 1918 Age 32. Son of Robert William and Elizabeth Day, of Thurlby, Bourne, Lincs.
Remembered with honour, Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.

Robert is also remembered on the Roll of Honour in St Firmin’s Church, Thurlby.

Robert’s effects were left jointly to his Mother and Father, Elizabeth and Robert W Day. This was the same with the War Gratuity. The Gratuity paid was £22/-/- which confirms that Robert most likely re-joined the Army on the outbreak of war but does not allow us to calculate an exact date.

Unusually his wife Elizabeth did not receive anything although she was the recipient of his pension. Robert’s pension card is very interesting as it tells us that Elizabeth Mary Day, his wife, was serving with the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, W.A.A.C., initially at the MTC Depot Army Service Corps in Plumstead, then 36 Camp, Ripon.
From other records we can see that she also served in Gateshead and finally at the Officers Command Depot in Scarborough, each time as a waitress. She served between September 1917 eventually leaving on compassionate grounds on 22nd November 1918.
On none of her records is Robert mentioned, although he would be away serving when the WAAC started and she can only be found on his pension records.
What the relationship was between Robert and Elizabeth was we will probably never know. On the day that he died she was in hospital and then spent the next 12 days on sick leave. The reason for the compassionate leave in November is also unknown.

The Commonwealth War Graves report into headstones for Boulogne Eastern Cemetery shows that his father, R.W.Day Esq., Thurlby, Lincolnshire, had the extra inscription added on the engraving of the stone, “Not dead but gone before”.

We will remember them.

The find about Robert’s wife is a piece of research carried out today and goes to prove that it dos not matter how much time you spend researching someone, something new will eventually come along and so our men’s stories will never be completely told.

https://southlincolnshirewarmemorials.org.uk/…/robert-…/

Remembrance – Harry Briggs

Today we remember Thurlby Man, Harry Briggs, who was killed in action on 9th May 1915 whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment at Aubers Ridge.

Harry was born in Gainsborough in october 1880 to Henry Simpson Briggs, born 1854 in Lincoln, and his Wife Sarah Priestley, born in Lincoln in 1857.

The couple were married in the Lincoln area in 1874 and their first child was born in 1875.
Lilian Briggs, 1875, Lincoln
Florence Briggs, 1878, Lincoln
Annie Briggs, 1879, Lincoln
Harry Briggs, 1880, Gainsborough.

The family lived in Lincoln where Henry worked as a boot repairer. Eventually they moved to Gainsborough where Sarah died in 1880 possibly in childbirth or shortly after.

In 1881 on census night, April 3rd, Harry was living with his siblings and widowed father on Church Street Gainsborough. Elizabeth Rowe, a 34 year old house keeper born in Thurlby was also in the house and listed as a servant. Unusually Elizabeth was listed above the children and immediately after the head of the house, Henry. It is usual for any servants to be listed after the family on census returns.

Henry was remarried in 1881, in Gainsborough, to Elizabeth Rowe, who already had a son James Henry, born in 1873, although they had no other children together.
By 1891 the family were living at 4 North Row, St George Hanover Square, London where Henry was working as a coffee House Keeper. The four children are all living with them, including Harry’s Step brother James.

The family then moved back to Elizabeth’s own village of Thurlby near Bourne, where in 1898 Elizabeth died. On the 1901 census Henry is now living alone on The Green in Thurlby.

In 1901 Harry cannot be found on any census return but by that time he had joined the Army and would have been serving in South Africa.

Henry, Harry’s Father, was married a third time to Lucy Gillham in 1902 the marriage being registered in the Bourne district.

Harry was already serving with the 4th Essex Regiment as well as working as a Barman when he, at the age of 18 years and 0 months, signed up for 12 years service on the 14th March 1898. This means he lied about his age as he would turn 18 in that October.
At that time the 12 years was made up of 7 years in regular service plus an extra 5 years in Army Reserve. The very same day he passed his, medical and was fit for service.

He was then posted as a regular to the Essex Regiment with a regimental number of 5081. This posting was on the 8th June 1898.
On the 15th August 1898 Harry was reported absent and then returned to duty on the 24th August 1898.

During the next 2 years. Harry’s pay records show that he was serving at home and this changed on 29th March 1900 when his records were changed to show overseas pay. This was because the 1st Battalion was sent out to South Africa where he stayed in South Africa until 14th August 1902.
The pay records fit with some of the Essex Regiment history as 1st and 2nd battalions served in the Second Boer War Notably, the regiment participated in the Relief of Kimberley and the Battle of Paardeberg. The four Volunteer Battalions contributed two Special Service Companies to assist the 1st Battalion and were also awarded the battle honour South Africa 1900–02.

The next posting in Harry’s records was on the 16th August 1902 when his battalion arrived in India. After the Boer War ended the 1st Battalion were transferred to Bangalore as part of the Madras Command. The strength of the Battalion that left Natal for India on the SS Ionian in August were 966 Officers and men.
There is a note in Harry medical records that just states Bangalore 6th September 1902, there are no notes or reason for this entry.
Harry undertook education whilst serving with the Battalion and on the 22nd December 1903 he passed his Certificate of Education 3rd Class.

Whilst serving with the 1st battalion Essex Regiment in India on the 18th March 1904 Harry was appointed Lance Corporal. The next month, on 7th April 1904 after 6 years service, Harry was found fit to be able to extend his service to 8 years.
It was a good start to the year and on the 20th June 1904 he went on to attain his Certificate of Education 2nd Class.

Training was very much a part of Army life and on the 16th September 1904 Harry passed his Mounted Infantry Certificate (Typically a 3 to 6 week course) although within days, Harry fell ill. On the 20th September 1904 Harry was admitted to hospital, possibly with a type of fever and remained there for 44 days, being discharged on the 2nd November.

Harry, now a long serving soldier was then awarded two Good Conduct Badges on 2nd June 1905. Later in the same year he had by then completed his 8 years service and on the 24th October 1905 Harry’s records note that “Extended service to complete 12 years with the colours”, thus his Army engagement was extended.
The next month, on the 28th November 1905, Harry was once again admitted to hospital this time with Malarial Fever and stayed there for 10 days, being discharged on the 7th December 1905.

The next entry for Harry in his medical sheet is on the 17th November 1906 when he is admitted to hospital for Impetigo that was said to have originated by a bite from an insect. On this occasion he stayed in hospital for 11 days and was discharged on the 27th November 1906.

Within a couple of weeks the Battalion received their next posting and on the 13th December 1906 their time in India ended and they were moved to Burma for a further 2 years.

Whilst in Mandalay, Harry’s records show a further 4 hospital stays, the first time 5 days for S.C. Fever (Nov 1907).
It would appear that training in other skills were on he agenda in Burma as whilst here in October 1907 he attended classes and was awarded certificates in both Butchery and Victualling on the 27th of that month.

Harry’s next hospital stay was 18 days for inflammation of the gums which resulted in the extraction of teeth to make way for dentures (Mar 1908). Plus a further 5 days in April 1908, and finally 29 days starting on 31st May 1908 for inflammation. Of Conn: Tissue.
During this time of ill health during 1908 Harry was promoted to Corporal on 13th April.

12th December 1908 saw the 1st battalion Essex Regiment being moved back to India.

Harry is re-engaged by the Army on 24th March 1909 when his extended service ran out and he passed a further medical examination. The note in his service record states that:
” Re-engaged for such a term as shall complete 21 years with the colours”
The last entry for the 1st Battalion is that on 13th August 1910 Harry ceases to draw service pay.
Harry is then posted to the 2nd Battalion on the 17th December 1910 and remains there until the 7th January 1911.
Officially his records show that his service overseas in India finished on the 6th January 1911. The records from the 7th January 1911 show that is service is now home service which at the time could have also include service in Ireland.

On the 1st July 1911 Harry is reverted “at his own request” to Private. The same day he is posted to the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment by the authority of 2nd Bn Ireland (A reference to 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment).
Harry is issued with a new regimental number 9181.
At the time the number range for the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment is consistent with 9181 being issued around July 1911.

On the pay book Harry’s home service only lasted until the 27th December 1911 when Harry and the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment were moved out to Gibraltar.

The next note in Harry’s medial file is that he was revaccinated whilst in Gibraltar on the 23rd March 1913.

On 7th January 1914, the 2nd battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel George Bunbury McAndrew, were posted to Bermuda and stationed at Prospect Camp, in Devonshire Parish, on the outskirts of the City of Hamilton (the colonial capital).
When war was declared on the 4th of August, the battalion was under orders to return to Britain. The Governor of Bermuda, Lieutenant-General Sir George Bullock, was temporarily abroad and Lieutenant-Colonel McAndrew filled his place, overseeing the placement of the colony onto a war footing.

The Battalion left Bermuda and headed for Canada as the first part of their leg home on 13th September 1914 heading to Halifax Nova Scotia on the SS Canada before embarking for Devonport on the 3rd October 1914.

Arriving back home on the 20th October the Battalion was moved to Hursley Park, Winchester to join the 25th Brigade, 8th Division. There they prepared for war and some men were given 48 hours leave before they were mobilised on the 5th November.
During this time Harry’s records show that he was deprived of 8 days pay for absence on 26th October 1914.

At 12 Noon on the 5th November the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment marched out of camp to join the British Expeditionary Force, arriving at Southampton at 5pm, they immediately embarked on SS Cestrian and sailed to France.
On arriving at Havre on the 6th November they marched to a reserve camp just outside of the city, three days later entraining for their eventual destination of Champiny, 10km South West of Armentieres. Here the Battalion entered trenches on the 14th November to see their first action of the Great War.

Private Harry Briggs was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 14th December 1914.

The Battalion remained in the Armentieres area until in March 1915 being moved up to be part of the Battle for Neuve-Chapelle which took place between the 10th and 13th March. During this battle the Battalion saw an artillery bombardment using 300 guns for over one hour and then the battalion were part of the main attack. During the 7 days before being relieved the battle has cost the Battalion 7 officers killed, 8 wounded, 298 men killed and wounded.

Harry Briggs was promoted to Acting Corporal on 23rd March 1915.

The Battalion remained in this sector, in and out of trenches for the rest of March 1915, providing working parties and burying the dead before moving back to billets at Bac St Maur by the end of the month. This was similar in April, some training was carried out in the second week when the Battalion were out of the trenches and in Divisional Reserve. They were given training, which included wire cutting and specific training for blocking party use.

On the 17th April the Battalion were addressed by the Commander in Chief on the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle and then they carried out practice attacks in readiness for the next planned attack. The rest of the month they went back to the usual pattern of three days in the trenches and then three days out in support. Eventually they found themselves moved into the Laventie section by the end of the month.
Another tour of the trenches was carried out at the beginning of May and on the 7th they received orders for an attack on Fromelles, which was to be carried out early on the 9th. At 11pm on the night of the 8th the Battalion left the Billets and marched down to the assembly trenches.

The northern part of the assault would involve the 25th infantry Brigade of the 8th division, which included the second Lincolnshire battalion’s four companies. By 2 am, the 25th Brigade was lined up in assembly trenches opposite a section of enemy line. At 5 am the artillery guns open fire, pounding German defences and blowing wire entanglements apart. The guns ceased at 5:40 am and two companies of the second Lincolns advanced towards the village of Rouge Bancs, close behind the Royal Irish rifles and the 2nd Rifle Brigade. German artillery opened fire on the advancing troops, and they were subjected to a storm of machine gun and rifle fire from both flanks. The two leading formations suffered heavy losses.
We can see in great details the actions of this day and the following extract has been taken from the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment for May 1915.

5th May 1915
2 pm –
Battalion moved into close billets south east of Sailly.

6th-7th May 1915
Orders for attack on Fromelles received and issued to companies.

8th May 1915
11pm –
Battalion left billets and marched down to assembly trenches near Rue Petillon where it formed up ready for attack on the following morning. The battalion was on the left flank of the second line. W and X companies in front with Y and Z immediately behind.

9th May 1915
5am –
Artillery began bombardment of enemies trenches and on lifting at 5:40 am the 1st Royal Irish Rifles in the front line commenced the attack with the battalion following close behind. The enemy at once opened a heavy artillery and rifle fire. The leading companies of the battalion were able to advance as far as the trenches immediately in front of our own fire parapet and there found further advance impossible, heavy flanking fire from rifles and machine guns being brought to bear on them. Before this position was reached 2/Lieut Ayres (3rd Dorsetshire regiment and Lieut Nisbet were killed and Lieuts Nind and Clifford, wounded.
The 1st Royal Irish Rifles who preceded the battalion were also unable to reach the German trench.
The two companies of the battalion in the second line had by this time reached our own parapet and as a further advance from this point was impossible the GOC 25th infantry Brigade issued orders for these two companies to endeavour to work down for sap leading towards the main crater on the left and after gaining possession of the German trench to work Westwood and join up with the left of the 2nd Rifle Brigade.
At this moment the Brigadier was killed and the command of the Brigade devolved on Major S. Fiby G. Cox, Major H.E.R Boxer assuming command of the battalion. Capt B. J. Thruston was sent forward with the left party.
He sent on first a blocking and bombing party under 2/Lieut E.O. Black who succeeded in gaining the German trench and clearing 300 to the west but running out of bombs could advance no further. The remainder of the party followed close behind, but came under an extremely heavy fire from the right and left front especially the latter. Capt Thruston seeing this gave instructions for the bombing party of the Scottish rifles to go forward and clear the trench to the east of the mine crater. This they did.
9am –
While this was going on men were being sent across to occupy and put in a state of defence the trenches so cleared. Heavy casualties were suffered and only a small proportion of the men reach their objective. Capt Thruston having located to machine guns which were firing from beyond the crater and causing many casualties, collected five machine guns and very quickly silenced them.
10.30am –
Capt Thruston reported that he was in possession of the German trench to the west of the mind crater and was awaiting further orders. Considerable difficulty was experienced in communicating with this party owing to the ground between the opposing trenches being swept by enfilade machine-gun fire from hostile trenches further north east which had not been touched by our guns.
4pm –
An order eventually reached Captain Thruston directing him to bring his party back.
8pm –
As this was impossible during daylight he waited until 8 pm at which hour he was attacked on both flanks and rear, the enemy bombing and rushing in from the crater on the left first. Sing the situation and having no machine gun war bonds and being so hard pressed Captain Thruston gave the order for the party to get back to their own parapet, which they did. On the way back second lieutenant Black became missing.
11pm –
Orders were received for the battalion to proceed to billets. The party under Captain French (formally Major boxer) with Drew to our own parapet under cover of darkness, having been throughout the day severely subjected to shell and rifle fire.

10th May – Bac St Maur
2am –
Battalion reached billets just south of back St Maur.

By 3am on the 10th May all surviving Allied troops had been withdrawn from the German lines. It would take three days for all of the wounded men to be moved from the battlefield to field hospitals. The Battalion Diary notes, that in the attack, from the other ranks alone , 28 killed or died of wounds, 172 wounded, 77 missing, this was in addition to the officers that were named in the diary.
Not only was Harry Briggs killed in this attack but also the Battalion lost Baston man Private Archer Cook.
It was for his actions during this attack that Corporal Charles Sharpe of Bourne was awarded the Victoria Cross, being in the lead of the bombing party that took the 300 yards of enemy trench mentioned in the diary, that being after all of his party had become casualties, missing or killed.

More than 11,000 British casualties were sustained on 9th May 1915, the vast majority within yards of their own front line. If you look at length of the front for the attack this was one of the highest loss rates of any attack of the war.

The British Commander in Chief Sir John French had complained about the shortage of artillery shells to Colonel Tim Repington, the military correspondent for the Times newspaper. An article published on the 14 May in the Times placed the failure of the attack on the government. “British soldiers died in vain on the Aubers Ridge…because more shells were needed.” The story resulted in a political crisis, the Shell Scandal, which contributed to the Liberals being forced to accept a coalition government on the 25 May 1915. The Shell Scandal also brought about the creation of the Ministry of Munitions headed by David Lloyd George.

Grantham Journal Saturday 22nd May 1915
THURLBY
FOUR MORE THURLBY MEN have enlisted this week, vis Messrs. Cole, C Brown, G Healey, and E Foyster, thus bringing the total number of recruits to 36
ANOTHER VICTIM OF THE WAR – On Monday Mr. H. Briggs received from the War Office the news that his son, Corpl. H. Briggs, of the 2nd Lincolns, had been killed in action in France. This is the first casualty amongst the village men.

The following is correspondence between the Army and Harry’s father after his death:-

In September1915, The war Office made a request that Harry’s Effects then held by the Infantry Records office in Litchfield return any articles of personal property they held for 9181 Acting Corporal Harry Briggs, 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, be despatched to Mr H.S. Briggs, Thurlby, Bourne, Lincolnshire.
This was completed on the 16th September and a Watch, Disc, Purse and a German Coin were posted to Harry’s Father along with a form to sign for receipt and a stamped addressed envelope for its return.
Henry Briggs signed this on the 18th September and on the form wrote the following note:
I do not know if he deposited any thing with you at the records office but he led me to understand that his medals were in your charge and I should be pleased if you will forward them to me at your convenience.

In September 1915 the Infantry Office at Litchfield sent the medals that Harry had been entitled to for his pre-war service to his father. These medals were:
South Africa Medal, Queens 5 Clasp
South Africa Medal, King’s 2 Clasp

In 1919 the Army once again sent correspondence to Mr H S Briggs of Thurlby Bourne Lincs, requesting that he fill out the form stating the deceased soldier’s next of Kin. The response was:-
Father: Harry Simpson Briggs, Thurlby, Bourne, Lincs
Sisters:
Lilian Weaver age 42 address not known
Annie Graves age 38 address unknown
Florence Wade, age 40, High Street, Thurlby

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Corporal Harry Briggs, 9181, 2nd Bn., Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 9 May 1915 Age 34. Son of Henry Simpson Briggs, of Thurlby, Bourne, Lincs; husband of the late Sarah Briggs. Remembered with honour, Ploegsteert Memorial

Harry is also remembered on the Roll of Honour. In St Firmin’s Church, Thurlby.

Acknowledgements to Thurlby Village Web Site for the use of Harry’s Photograph.

Remembrance – Arthur Edwin Clarke

Today we remember local man Arthur Clarke of Bourne, who died of wounds on the 9th May 1915, serving with the 2nd Bn East Surrey Regiment.

Arthur was born in 1893 in Drakelow near Burton-on-Trent, Derbyshire, to Joseph Clark, a shepherd born 1861 in Mickleover and his wife Hannah Hall, born 1868 in Coton Park.

The couple were married in 1887 in Stapenhall and had 4 children all born in Derbyshire,
Joseph Edward Clarke, 1889, Stapenhill
William Clarke, 1892, Stapenhill
Arthur Edwin Clarke, 1893, Drakelow
Sarah Clarke, 1896, Drakelow

Hannah passed away in 1898 leaving Joseph looking after the 4 children.

In 1901 Arthur is living with his father at 7 Robinsons Road, Newhall, Derbyshire. Joseph was working as a pipe yard worker (earth).

Arthur left home and can be found 10 years later working as a Horseman on a farm in Yaxley near Peterborough and living with Leonard Slate and his wife Martha.
At this time his father Joseph had gone back to working as a shepherd and looks to have remarried, to his former Housekeeper Harriet. They were living with his Daughter Sarah in Warmington near Oundle. Although it is possible that they did not get married until 1930 in Bourne as this is the only marriage certificate on record for the couple.

Both Arthur Edwin Clarke and his brother Joseph Edward Clarke joined the Army. Joseph served in the Leicestershire Regiment as a lance corporal and was killed in action on 24th November 1914.

After the end of the war father Joseph can be found living in Bourne. The CWGC records state Son of “Joseph and Hannah Clarke of 23 Eastgate” but we believe this is a mistake and he is living at this address with Harriet.

Arthur’s full army service cannot be found and it is most likely it, along with 60% of all WW1 service records, was part of the records destroyed in the warehouse fire in London caused by the Blitz.

In this case it is difficult to track Arthur’s exact movements in the Army but using other records it is possible to put together some basic information and then follow his final movements through the Battalion Diary.

The regimental number given to Arthur on enlistment is 3100, this does not help work out when he enlisted because this number, when referenced to the 2nd East Surrey Regiment would indicate an enlistment date of 1890 which was before Arthur was born, indication that maybe he enlisted with a different regiment.

The soldier’s effects form shows that Arthur’s father Joseph received £3/-/- war gratuity which is a standard minimum sum. The payment of the minimum sum means that it is not possible to calculate an enlistment date from this record.

All we can really say is that he enlisted into possibly the East Surrey Regiment and definitely in Peterborough.
This is not so strange as prior to the 1881 reformation of the British army regiments, the 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment had been the 31st (The Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot, so it may be likely that they still had a recruiting presence in the area or the recruiting officer favoured his old regiment.
We believe that this enlistment was on the outbreak of war in August as hospital documents from March 1915 would indicate that he had been serving for 6 months.

The 2nd Battalion East Surrey Regiment had previously arrived in Harve, France on the 19th January 1915. Up to the time of reorganising for the war the Battalion had been stationed in Chaubattia India, only arriving in Devonport on the 23rd December. The Battalion saw its first action around Ypres where they sustained their first casualty of the war on the 4th February.

Arthur was posted to join them, arriving in France on the 23rd February 1915 according to the medal roles. The reason for his delay was not known although it is still possible that this was because he was still training and was then assigned to the Battalion.
He would have arrived in the Ypres area to join the Battalion, who had been moved just south to Kemmel. They were in trenches until he 26th February when they were relived and moved to billets in Locre.

The Battalion Diary reports that on the 1st March 1915 they received a draft of three officers and three hundred and thirty men and Three days later 46 sick and wounded men from base also returned to the Battalion. Then on the 4th March two companies of the Battalion took up a line in trenches between Lindenhoek and Scotch Farm which would have been Arthur’s first taste of front line duty. The next day the two remaining companies took over the line relieving the first two. In these two days the Battalion suffered two killed and one wounded. This exchange of companies went on and during this time the Battalion Headquarters moved from Lindenhoek to Scotch Farm and then a second move of 200 yards West to Pond farm.

On the 12th March the Battalion was ordered to attack Spanbroek Molen in the early hours but heavy mist postponed this to 4.10pm and then E1 trench was heavily bombarded by our own artillery. It was fair to say that the attack was unsuccessful.
This tour of the trenches was meant to have ended on the 14th March however an enemy attack at St Eloi occurred and all planned reliefs were cancelled. Arthur and the Battalion eventually were relieved on the 16th and made it back to Billets at Locre at 11.30pm after 13 days in the trenches.

The next day the diary reports the losses for that tour:-
Officers: 7 killed, 3 wounded.
Other ranks: 42 killed, 84 wounded, 7 missing.
Draft of 117 men arrived.

Arthur had only been with the Battalion in the field for three weeks when he fell ill on the 20th March in Locre. He was admitted from a sick convoy into the 4th Stationary Hospital at St Omer on the 21st March. After initial treatment for diarrhoea, he was transferred to Ambulance train no 9, according to the hospital register. This ambulance train arrived in St Omer at 3.45pm on the 25th March and was loaded with evacuation cases. The train then proceeded to Boulogne, where it unloaded some of the cases before heading off to Le Treport with the remaining cases.
Any other hospital documents have yet to be found and so we are not sure if Arthur was an evacuation case or if the ended up in hospital at Boulogne or more likely at Le Treport.

Eventually Arthur must have re-joined his Battalion, although as the date is not known we will then look at Arthur’s movements through the Battalion diaries for the week leading up to his death.

3rd May 1915 –
85th Brigade withdrawn from Trenches on new line through Frazenberg being taken up. Brigade operation order no 30 attached. Battalion Headquarters and A company left Verlorenhoek at 8pm and reached bivouac S.E. of Brielen at 10.30pm. B and C companies arrived about 2am and D company about 4am. Casualties 4 wounded. Draft 77 men arrived

4th May 1915 –
At 10am Battalion left for billets one mile East of Poperinghe.

5th May 1915 – Poperinghe
Battalion in billets. Inspected by Divisional Commander Maj Gen E.S. Bulfin C.V.O. C.B.

6th May 1915 – Poperinghe
Battalion in billets. Inspected by Corps Commander Lieut Gen Sir H Plummer K.C.B

7th May 1915 – Poperinghe
Battalion in billets. 2nd Lieut F Watson reported his arrival. Battalion standing to owing to enemy’s activity on 28th Divisional Front.

8th May 1915 – Poperinghe – Potijze – Verlorenhoek
Battalion left at 11am and prceeded to Headquarters 83rd Brigade East of Ypres and received orders to move astride the Ypres-Zonnebeke road and retake the 83rd Brigade trenches at Frazenberg moving on left of York and Lancaster Regiment with one company South and three companies North of the road. The Battalion moved forward through the G H Q line East of Potijze and deployed after passing through gap in entanglement in front line.
At 4pm Battalion advanced. On reaching road running South East from Weltje machine gun fire from farm on left front caused many casualties. The enemy shelling was also severe.
A Company south of the road advanced and reinforced East Yorkshires in trench West of Verlorenhoek but could not advance further. The companies on the north of the road advanced and were held up by the enemy entrenched on line running N and S through Verlorenhoek.
At 7.15pm information was received that Warwicks and Dublins were deploying for attack and should advance about 7.30pm.
About 8.30pm Warwicks advanced but did not go beyond line held by Battalion.

9th May 1915 – Verlorenhoek
A further advance by whole line was arranged for 12.45am. All arrangements were made for this and 5/Kings Own advanced to Verlorenhoek but retired on heavy rifle and machine gun fire being opened. As no movement appeared to be taking place on our left no advance was made and it was eventually reported that the advance had been cancelled and that Battalion would hold the line they were then holding. On proceeding to Brigade Office this was confirmed.
The Battalion remained on the same line throughout ninth May although heavily bombarded during the afternoon.
Casualties during the 8th to noon 9th,
Killed: 2nd Lieut Hon R.H.P. Howard, 2nd Lieut Watson and 12 other ranks.
Wounded: Capt R.E. North, Capt M.J.A Jourdier Lieut C.S. Lonegran and 2nd Lieut F.C Walliker and 89 other ranks.
Missing 71
During the night A Company moved to North of road.

10th May 1915 – Verlorenhoek
Quiet Day.
Casualties to noon 10th
Killed: Capt H de B Riordan and 17 other ranks
Wounded: 2nd Lieut H Lonegran and 40 other ranks
Missing 44 other ranks.
During the night Battalion took up line S of road on left of 85th Brigade which reached from railway to Ypres-Zonnebeke road. Our line taken by 83rd Brigade.

It was during the 9th May that Private Arthur Clarke was reported as having died of wounds. The exact point time and date of his wound will probably never be known but is most likely to have been on the afternoon of the 8th when the Battalion were trying to make an advance.

The Casualty list of the 24th July 1915 lists Arthur as being wounded or missing as reported from Base on the 9th July. We are aware that sometimes these reports took some time to compile and that it is typical to appear on reports 6 weeks after the death.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Private Arthur Edwin Clarke, 3100, 2nd Bn., East Surrey Regiment who died on 9 May 1915 Age 21. Son of Joseph and Hannah Clarke, of 23, Eastgate, Bourne, Lincs. Remembered with honour, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

Arthur Clarke is also remembered on the Bourne, Roll of Honour in Bourne Abbey Church and the Bourne War Memorial in the Memorial Gardens.

https://southlincolnshirewarmemorials.org.uk/…/arthur-…/

Remembrance – Archer Cooke

Archer Cooke

Today we remembered local Baston, Lincolnshire man, Archer Cooke who was killed in action on the 9th May 1915, serving with the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment.

Archer “Archie” Cooke was born in the winter of 1889 to Alfred Cooke, a Groom and agricultural labourer born in Baston in 1848, and his wife Mary Adelaide Hill, Born in Baston in 1853.

The couple were married in Baston on the 25th November 1872. The couple remained in Baston where they had 15 children, Mary’s first son being born in 1871:-
• Randolph Hildebrand Hill, 1871, Baston (Half brother)
• Alfred William Cooke (aka William) 1873, Baston
• George Cooke, 1876, Baston
• Charles Cooke, 1877, Baston
• Joseph Ernest Cooke, 1879, Baston
• Arthur Cooke, 1882, Baston
• Matthew Cooke, 1884, Baston
• Alfred Cooke, 1885, Baston
• Elizabeth Skeath Cooke, 1886, Baston
• Christopher Cooke, 1888, Baston
• Archer Cooke, 1889, Baston
• Percy Cooke, 1892, Baston
• Hilda Cooke, 1893, Baston
• There were 3 more children whose names are unknown but are mentioned in the not survived column on the 1911 census.

In 1891 the 2 year old Archer is living with his parents in Main Street, Baston. By 1901 he is living with his father, a Garthman on a farm, his mother not being present on census night.
By 1911 Archer has already joined the Army and is serving with the 1st battalion Lincolnshire Regiment in Aden. He is listed on he 1911 Census in barracks, the location just being listed as Military, Overseas, Arabia, Cyprus, Gibraltar.
The family are still living in Baston and the census tells us hat Alfred and Mary have been married for 38 years and have had 16 children in total. Alfred now working as a warehouseman.

The Birth registers and 1891 census show that Archer’s full name was Archer Cooke although on the 1901 census returns and on all military documents he is Archie Cooke.

There are some parts of his Full Military Service records surviving but they are part of the Burnt Records that partially survived the warehouse fire in London in the Blitz that destroyed 60% of all WW1 records. The burnt records re a part that survived but the pages have some fire damage and hence some of the information is unclear or partially destroyed.

Archer attested to the Lincolnshire Regiment on 31st December 1907 and after passing his medical on 1st January 1908 was pronounced fit to serve. He had signed up for a 12 year period, that being 7 years active service and then 5 years on Military reserve.
On his enlistment form he declared that he was 18 years and 1 month old and also that he was serving with the 3rd Lincolnshire Regiment and previously served in the 2nd Militia. At the time his occupation was a farm servant. He was then enlisted and assigned the regimental number of 8318.

He was allotted to the 1st battalion on the 24th January 1908 and then sent to Portsmouth to serve.

Archer finds himself being posted to the 1st Battalion on the 7th February 1911 and by the 25th February he is with the Battalion in Aden.

A year on and on the 2nd January 1912 Archer is posted to the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment and within days is posted out to Gibraltar on the 13th January.

On 7th January 1914, the 2nd battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel George Bunbury McAndrew, were posted to Bermuda and stationed at Prospect Camp, in Devonshire Parish, on the outskirts of the City of Hamilton (the colonial capital).
When war was declared on the 4th of August, the battalion was under orders to return to Britain. The Governor of Bermuda, Lieutenant-General Sir George Bullock, was temporarily abroad and Lieutenant-Colonel McAndrew filled his place, overseeing the placement of the colony onto a war footing.

The Battalion left Bermuda and headed for Canada as the first part of their leg home on 13th September 1914 heading to Halifax Nova Scotia on the SS Canada before embarking for Devonport on the 3rd October 1914.

Arriving back home on the 20th October the Battalion was moved to Hursley Park, Winchester to join the 25th Brigade, 8th Division. There they prepared for war and some men were given 48 hours leave before they were mobilised on the 5th November.

At 12 Noon on the 5th November the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment marched out of camp to join the British Expeditionary Force, arriving at Southampton at 5pm, they immediately embarked on SS Cestrian and sailed to France.
On arriving at Havre on the 6th November they marched to a reserve camp just outside of the city, three days later entraining for their eventual destination of Champiny, 10km South West of Armentieres. Here the Battalion entered trenches on the 14th November to see their first action of the Great War.

On the 29th December 1914 Archer is appointed as acting Corporal, in the field.

The Battalion remained in the Armentieres area until in March 1915 being moved up to be part of the Battle for Neuve-Chapelle which took place between the 10th and 13th March.
On the eve of the Battle of Neuve-Chappelle, the 10th March 1915, Archer was promoted to a full Corporal in the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment.
During this battle the battalion saw an artillery bombardment using 300 guns for over one hour and then the battalion were part of the main attack. During the 7 days before being relieved the battle has cost the Battalion 7 officers killed, 8 wounded, 298 men killed and wounded.

The Battalion remained in this sector, in and out of trenches for the rest of March 1915, providing working parties and burying the dead before moving back to billets at Bac St Maur by the end of the month. This was similar in April, some training was carried out in the second week when the Battalion were out of the trenches and in Divisional Reserve. They were given training, which included wire cutting and specific training for blocking party use.

On the 17th April the Battalion were addressed by the Commander in Chief on the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle and then they carried out practice attacks in readiness for the next planned attack. The rest of the month they went back to the usual pattern of three days in the trenches and then three days out in support.
On 26th April 1915, Archer is admitted in to the 25th Field Ambulance for “alleged Fits”, 3 days later on the 29th April he is discharged and returns to his Battalion who at this time are in the Levantie Section of the Line near Fromelles.

Another tour of the trenches was carried out at the beginning of May and on the 7th they received orders for an attack on Fromelles, which was to be carried out early on the 9th. At 11pm on the night of the 8th the Battalion left the Billets and marched down to the assembly trenches.

The northern part of the assault would involve the 25th infantry Brigade of the 8th division, which included the second Lincolnshire battalion’s four companies. By 2 am, the 25th Brigade was lined up in assembly trenches opposite a section of enemy line. At 5 am the artillery guns open fire, pounding German defences and blowing wire entanglements apart. The guns ceased at 5:40 am and two companies of the second Lincolns advanced towards the village of Rouge Bancs, close behind the Royal Irish rifles and the 2nd Rifle Brigade. German artillery opened fire on the advancing troops, and they were subjected to a storm of machine gun and rifle fire from both flanks. The two leading formations suffered heavy losses.
We can see in great details the actions of this day and the following extract has been taken from the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment for May 1915.

5th May 1915
2 pm –
Battalion moved into close billets south east of Sailly.

6th-7th May 1915
Orders for attack on Fromelles received and issued to companies.

8th May 1915
11pm –
Battalion left billets and marched down to assembly trenches near Rue Petillon where it formed up ready for attack on the following morning. The battalion was on the left flank of the second line. W and X companies in front with Y and Z immediately behind.

9th May 1915
5am –
Artillery began bombardment of enemies trenches and on lifting at 5:40 am the 1st Royal Irish Rifles in the front line commenced the attack with the battalion following close behind. The enemy at once opened a heavy artillery and rifle fire. The leading companies of the battalion were able to advance as far as the trenches immediately in front of our own fire parapet and there found further advance impossible, heavy flanking fire from rifles and machine guns being brought to bear on them. Before this position was reached 2/Lieut Ayres (3rd Dorsetshire regiment and Lieut Nisbet were killed and Lieuts Nind and Clifford, wounded.
The 1st Royal Irish Rifles who preceded the battalion were also unable to reach the German trench.
The two companies of the battalion in the second line had by this time reached our own parapet and as a further advance from this point was impossible the GOC 25th infantry Brigade issued orders for these two companies to endeavour to work down for sap leading towards the main crater on the left and after gaining possession of the German trench to work Westwood and join up with the left of the 2nd Rifle Brigade.
At this moment the Brigadier was killed and the command of the Brigade devolved on Major S. Fiby G. Cox, Major H.E.R Boxer assuming command of the battalion. Capt B. J. Thruston was sent forward with the left party.
He sent on first a blocking and bombing party under 2/Lieut E.O. Black who succeeded in gaining the German trench and clearing 300 to the west but running out of bombs could advance no further. The remainder of the party followed close behind, but came under an extremely heavy fire from the right and left front especially the latter. Capt Thruston seeing this gave instructions for the bombing party of the Scottish rifles to go forward and clear the trench to the east of the mine crater. This they did.
9am –
While this was going on men were being sent across to occupy and put in a state of defence the trenches so cleared. Heavy casualties were suffered and only a small proportion of the men reach their objective. Capt Thruston having located to machine guns which were firing from beyond the crater and causing many casualties, collected five machine guns and very quickly silenced them.
10.30am –
Capt Thruston reported that he was in possession of the German trench to the west of the mind crater and was awaiting further orders. Considerable difficulty was experienced in communicating with this party owing to the ground between the opposing trenches being swept by enfilade machine-gun fire from hostile trenches further north east which had not been touched by our guns.
4pm –
An order eventually reached Captain Thruston directing him to bring his party back.
8pm –
As this was impossible during daylight he waited until 8 pm at which hour he was attacked on both flanks and rear, the enemy bombing and rushing in from the crater on the left first. Sing the situation and having no machine gun war bonds and being so hard pressed Captain Thruston gave the order for the party to get back to their own parapet, which they did. On the way back second lieutenant Black became missing.
11pm –
Orders were received for the battalion to proceed to billets. The party under Captain French (formally Major boxer) with Drew to our own parapet under cover of darkness, having been throughout the day severely subjected to shell and rifle fire.

10th May – Bac St Maur
2am –
Battalion reached billets just south of back St Maur.

By 3am on the 10th May all surviving Allied troops had been withdrawn from the German lines. It would take three days for all of the wounded men to be moved from the battlefield to field hospitals. The Battalion Diary notes, that in the attack, from the other ranks alone , 28 killed or died of wounds, 172 wounded, 77 missing, this was in addition to the officers that were named in the diary.

Archer Cooke was a casualty of this battle, like so many others killed in action on the 9th May 1915. Undoubtably Arher would have known Harry Briggs of Thurlby, who like him had served with the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment as a career soldier and was also killed in action on the 9th May 1915.
It was for his actions during this very same attack that Corporal Charles Sharpe of Bourne was awarded the Victoria Cross, being in the lead of the bombing party that took the 300 yards of enemy trench mentioned in the diary, that being after all of his party had become casualties, missing or killed.

More than 11,000 British casualties were sustained on 9th May 1915, the vast majority within yards of their own front line. If you look at length of the front for the attack this was one of the highest loss rates of any attack of the war.

The British Commander in Chief Sir John French had complained about the shortage of artillery shells to Colonel Tim Repington, the military correspondent for the Times newspaper. An article published on the 14 May in the Times placed the failure of the attack on the government. “British soldiers died in vain on the Aubers Ridge…because more shells were needed.” The story resulted in a political crisis, the Shell Scandal, which contributed to the Liberals being forced to accept a coalition government on the 25 May 1915. The Shell Scandal also brought about the creation of the Ministry of Munitions headed by David Lloyd George.

Lincolnshire Free Press – 21st May 1915
BASTON
Much sympathy has been shown to Mr and Mrs a Cooke and family on the loss of their son, Corporal A Cooke, of the 2nd Lincolns, who was killed in action in the recent severe fighting. Lance-Corp F.J. Dann of the same regiment, conveyed the sad tidings to Mr and Mrs Cooke in a letter received from him last Friday, in which he stated:- “I am very sorry to have to tell you that your beloved son fell in our last engagement on Sunday the ninth inst., about 10 am, being shot through the head. He died instantly. I am sure everyone in the company are in morning with you as he was so well liked and respected by all who knew him.” A memorial service to him and another Baston lad, Sydney Cole, of the 2nd Northamptons, killed at Neuve-Chappelle, was held in the church on Sunday evening, at which there was a large congregation. The vicar spoke very consolingly to the mourners, and a muffled peal was wrung on the church bells, the school flag was half mastered, both lads being former scholars. Another son of Mr and Mrs Cooke, who was wounded in the retreat from Mons, has recently been promoted to the rank of Sergeant-Major in the Kings own Royal Lancashires. In the same engagement mentioned above another Baston lad, Lance Corporal W Featherstone, Second Lincolns, was wounded in the hand, though, fortunately, not very seriously. In addition to the two killed this is the third wounded young man from Baston, one case necessitating amputation of right leg.

Grantham Journal Saturday 12th June 1915
LINCOLNSHIRE REGIMENT CASUALTIES
The following casualties in the Expeditionary Force are reported from the Base under the dates given:-
May 21 – Killed – 2nd Battalion, Cooke 8318 Corpl. A.

We can see from a War Office form of the 14th September 1915, regarding posting of articles of property, the form has Mrs Mary Adelaide Cooke of Thetford Lane Baston struck through and a new address of Mr A Cooke, Cemetery Avenue Baston added. This looks like it was an amended instruction of the 11th August 1910.

On the 16th September Infantry Records at Litchfield sent Archer’s personal belongings (Effects) to his father and this was the sum total of one identity disc. The form was signed by Alfred Cooke and duly returned.

In November 1915 Mrs Mary Cooke of Cemetery Lane, Baston writes to the Infantry Records office stating that he would have had several things in his possession and could they give her any information of his small book as it might be of some interest to her.

In 1919 the Infantry Records office in Litchfield wrote to Mr Alfred Cook of Cemetery Lane Baston explaining that they wished to ‘dispose’ of the plaque and scroll in accordance with his Majesty’s wishes and that he would need to fill out a next of Kin form to progress these instructions. The form was duly signed by Alfred Cooke and he lists Archers’ family as, 10 brothers which he lists by initial and surname only, all living in Baston and one sister E Pask aged 30 also living in Baston. This he duly signed on the 31st May 1919.

On the 14th August 1919 a request was sent from the war office to the Infantry Records Office in Litchfield stating that any articles of personal property of Archer’s that were in their possession should be sent to Mr Alfred Cooke at Cemetery Avenue Baston.

The scroll and Plaque were then sent and a form acknowledging their receipt was sent back to the records signed by Alfred Cooke on the 29th November 1919.

In February 1922 Alfred Cooke received a further parcel for the Army and this time it contains The British War and Victory Medals of Corporal Cooke A, 8318, Lincolnshire Regiment. Albert signs the returns receipt slip on. 22nd February 1922, 7 years after his son’s death.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Corporal Archie Cooke, 8318, 2nd Bn., Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 9 May 1915, Remembered with honour, Ploegsteert Memorial.

Archer Cooke is also remembered on the Roll of Honour in St John the Baptist Church, Baston.

https://southlincolnshirewarmemorials.org.uk/…/archer-…/

Acknowledgements to Baston Church and Diane for the photograph of Archer Cooke.