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Army lorries in Church Square, Tring.
Sent from 63 Akeman St. on 5 Jul 1915, this postcard  carries the massage that “I'm the one next to the butcher’s boy. . . . extra good billet, Will.”



Private, 7th Bn. Norfolk Regiment.  Enlisted at Watford.  Service no. 41094
Born in Tring.  Son of Corporal A. E. Cutler A.S.C. of 46 King-street, Tring.
Killed in action on the 22nd August 1918.
Buried in Meaulte Military Cemetery, France, grave ref. B. 40.

Ernest Cutler joined the Army in February 1917.  He was attached to the Bedfordshire Regiment and went to France at the beginning of 1918.  Subsequently, he transferred to the Norfolk Regiment.  As a lad, he was a keen member of the YMCA and took part in their gymnastic displays.

Tring Y.M.C.A. gymnastics display team.

The 7th (Service) [Note] Battalion, Norfolk Regiment was raised in August 1914 from men volunteering for Kitchener’s New Armies. [Note]  The Battalion landed at Boulogne as part of the 35th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division [Note] in May 1915 for service on the Western Front. [Note]

In 1918, the Battalion was engaged in the Battles of the Somme (not to be confused with the infamous battle fought in 1916).  Two Battles of the Somme were fought in 1918, the Second (21st August–2nd September) being part of a series of successful counter-offensives in response to the German Spring Offensive. [Note]  The most significant feature of the two was that while the first battle halted what had begun as an overwhelming German advance, the second revered the tide, forming the central part of the Allies’ advance that ended with the Armistice of the 11th November.

On the 22nd August, the British Third and Fourth Armies commenced offensive operations on the same ground over which the 1916 Battle of the Somme was fought.  The first of this series of offensives was the Battle of Albert (21st–23rd August) – the third battle by that name fought during World War I.  The 12th (Eastern) Division attacked on the 22nd August, pushing right across the wilderness of the old Somme battlefield, capturing Meaulte, Mametz, Carnoy, Hardecourt and Faviere Wood, which was reached after a week’s continuous fighting.   Judging from the date of his death and the location of the 7th Battalion, it is likely that Private Cutler was killed in this action.

On the 19th August, the 7th Norfolks were at Ville-sur-Ancre, a commune in the Somme department, Picardy region, of northern France, some 10 miles from Amiens.  This from the Battalion War Diary:



19th Aug: a quiet day, the Battalion resting and bathing in the Ancre.

20th Aug: the Battalion rested as much as possible.

21st Aug: the Battalion on the lft and the 1/1 Cambs on the right relieved the 9th Essex Regt. in the line tonight.  ‘C’ is left front Coy, ‘D’ right front Coy, ‘A’ Support Coy.  The Battalion moved off in this order at 10pm.  Batt HQ is at the old Right Coy. HQ dugout.  Our wire is being cut and a tape laid ready for an attack to be made in the morning.

22nd Aug: Companies moved into assemble position early this morning the outposts being withdrawn. The enemy is evidently expecting as attack as his harassing fire including gas has been considerable. Lewis gun
[Note] fire has been kelp up to allow the approach of tanks being unheard.
The 35th Inf. Bde. is to attack at 4.50 am with the 36th Inf. Bde. on our left and the 47th Division on our right.  The 1st objective is to be taken by ourselves with the 1/1 Cambs on our right.  The 9th Essex and 6th Buff (attached to 35th Bde.) are to take the second objective.  ‘A’ Coy is to take the trench in E29C while ‘C’ and ‘D’ Coys will push on to our final objective.  They will then move forward after the Essex and Buffs and consolidate the second objective.
The attack was successfully launched, assisted by an intense barrage,
[Note] but the tanks were late going over.  O.C. ‘A’ Coy. having taken the trench at E29C and believing there to be some limitation [???] in front moved his company forward.  The position remained obscure for some considerable time, but it appeared that our objective had been taken, but the Essex and Cambs had not entirely taken theirs.  Some confusion existed and the Commanding Officer reconnoitred the position and was successful in reorganising the Battalion on its correct line.  The Corps [Note] Cavalry pushed forward but were unable to make much headway and eventually withdrew at about 9am. Battalion HQ then moved forward to K6a.  Lieut. Peyton has been killed and 2/Lts. King, Cuthbertson, Palmer, Irwell [???], and Prattley wounded.  C. Sgt [???] Jackson has been badly wounded and about 100 OR casualties.
R.E.s and a Company of Northants Pioneers
have moved up to assist in consolidation and R.E.s are also attached for testing safety of dugouts.
We are in touch with unit on our left, but apparently the 47th Division were not entirely successful and our right flank is rather uncertain.

23rd Aug: the enemy has counterattacked the Division on our right and two battalions appears to have fallen back.  It has therefore been necessary to form a defensive flank.  This has been done by the Buffs holding the Brigade front facing North and the Essex and ourselves forming a line facing East.  The Australians have counterattacked on our right and partly restored the situation. We have advanced our line facing East.

British Cavalry passing the remains of Albert Cathedral, after the 2nd Battle of the Somme,
22nd August 1918.

From the Bucks Herald, 12th October 1918:

“ROLL OF HONOUR.− Pte. Ernest Cutler (Norfolk Regt.) was reported killed in France on Aug. 22, his parents, Corpl. A. E. Cutler, A.S.C. [Army Service Corps] and Mrs Cutler, 46, King-street, being officially notified of the fact last week.  Pte. Cutler joined the Army in February of last year, on attaining the age of 18 years.  He went to France at the beginning of the present year, and had taken part in much heavy fighting.  He was well-known in Tring and highly esteemed.  He was a member of the Y.M.C.A. gymnastic team, and took part in many of the displays given by them.  He was employed at the Empire Cinema as assistant operator. Much sympathy is felt for Corpl. and Mrs Cutler in the loss of this their only son.”

Meaulte Military Cemetery.

Meaulte was held by Commonwealth forces (and inhabited by three quarters of its civilian population) from 1915 to 26th March 1918, when it was evacuated after a rearguard fight by the 9th (Scottish) Division.  It was recaptured by the 12th (Eastern) Division and tanks on 22nd August 1918.

The military cemetery, where Private Cutler is buried, was begun in December 1915 and used until February 1917.  Further burials were made after the recapture of the village and after the Armistice when graves, mainly of 1918, were brought in from the neighbouring battlefields and other burial grounds.



Private, 6th Bedfordshire Regiment, service no. 12254.
Son of Mrs. Elizabeth Davey, a widow residing at Council-cottages, Brook-street.
Died of wounds (sustained on the 15th July 1916, Battle of Poizeres) in London on 16th March 1917.
Buried in Tring Cemetery, grave ref F.30.

In August 1914, the 6th Bn. of the Bedfordshire Regiment was raised for the duration of the war as part of Lord Kitchener’s first appeal for 100,000 men to fight for their country.  In 1916 they were engaged in The Battles of The Somme, [Note] specifically at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge (where they lost heavily during their 15th July assault against Pozières), the Battle of Pozières Ridge in August and at The Battle of the Ancre in November.

Pozières was a small, straggling village on the main Albert-Bapaume road.  It is situated on high ground that gives the occupier observation southwards along the road towards Ovillers, La Boisselle, Albert and beyond; to the east across to High Wood, Delville Wood and beyond; and westwards to Thiepval.  Possession of Pozières was key to making possible any further advances towards Bapaume, [Note] the capture of the Thiepval ridge and the breaking of resistance at High and Delville Woods.


Survivors of the 9th Scottish Division returning from the fight for Longueval and Delville Wood.  The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, 14th July 1916.

Much fighting was to take place around Pozières.  On the 14th July, the British attacked the German Second Line between the notorious Delville Wood and Bazentin le Petit Wood.  Following a day of heavy fighting the offensive was renewed on the following day.  Along the main battle lines, infamous places like High Wood, Delville Wood, Trônes Wood and Longeuval saw ferocious fighting, with the 112th Brigade (including the 6th Bedfordshires) being engaged in a flank assault in support of the main battle.  By the end of the day’s fighting, the casualty list was extremely long, the 6th Bedfordshire alone having lost 330 officers and men.

It seems likely that Private Davey sustained his ultimately fatal injuries during the 15th July assault on Pozières.  The fighting around Pozières continued into early September.  It was costly, but ended with the British in possession of the plateau north and east of the village in a position to menace the German bastion of Thiepval from the rear.  The Australian official historian Charles Bean wrote that Pozières ridge “is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth.”  This from the 6th Bedfordshire Regiment War Diary:

15th Jul 1916: Attack on POZIERES by 112th Bde. from trenches S. of CONTALMAISON.  Bde. held up by hostile machine guns, established itself about 100 yds from the lisiere [on the ‘edge’ of something]
& dug in.  Casualties: 3 Offs Killed, 32 O.R. Killed, 25 Missing, 9 Offrs. Wounded, 174 O.R. Wounded.

Formerly employed on the Tring Park estate as a gardener, Private Davey enlisted at Bedford on the 20th August 1914, aged 20.  From the Bucks Herald, 29th July 1916.

WOUNDED.− It was reported in the town on Wednesday that Lieut C J Hartert of the Machine Gun Section had been wounded.  Lieut Hartert is the only son of Mr E Hartert, curator of Lord Rothschild’s Zoological Museum, and at the commencement of the war took a commission in the East Yorks Regiment.   Several local names appear in the recent casualty list of the wounded and slightly wounded.  Private E Gates, Bucks and Oxford Light Infantry, brother of Drummer Gates, whose death we announced last week, is reported slightly wounded.  Private Arthur Davey’s (Bedfordshire) name is among the list of wounded.”

According to Army records, Private Davey received a gunshot wound to the spine on the 15th July 1916, resulting in paraplegia.  A medical board later judged him permanently unfit for both War and Home Service.  From the Bucks Herald, 17th March 1917:

DEATH OF PTE. H. A. DAVEY.− With profound regret the residents of Tring have heard the announcement of the death in hospital of Pte. Henry A. Davey, Bedfordshire Regiment, son of Mrs. Elizabeth Davey, a widow residing at Council-cottages, Brook-street.  The deepest sympathy is felt for the bereaved mother, which is the deeper because this is the second son that has fallen in the war, an older one, William, being killed in the Battle of the Somme [Note] on July 11 last year.  Arthur Davey was one of the first to answer his country’s call, and joined the Bedfords a few days after the commencement of the war.  He proceeded to France and took part in the battle of Poizeres, on July 16, when he was severely wounded, a bullet passing almost through his body, fracturing several ribs and seriously injuring vital organs, the result being almost entire paralysis of the body and lower limbs.  Brought to England, he lay for eight months in King George’s Hospital, Waterloo, and succumbed to his terrible injuries on Saturday last, March 10.

As a lad he was an enthusiastic member of the Church Lads’ Brigade, and for five and a half years he was in the employ of the Rev. H. Francis (vicar), later being employed on the Tring Park Estate.  He was held in the highest esteem and respect by all with whom he came in contact.  As a member of the local bell-ringers he rendered good service, and his comrades showed their sympathy by ringing a muffled peal on the Church bells after the funeral, which took place on Thursday afternoon, the hospital authorities having sent the body home for interment in his native town.”

From the Parish Magazine, April 1917:

Arthur Henry Davey was one of the first to get into Khaki, and do his bit for King and Country.  There is nothing surprising in this, for, since leaving school, he has been a keen member of our Church Lads Brigade.  In each of the three occasions when the cup was brought to Tring he was one of the victorious company.  At the Brigade Annual Display, he was always prominent in the Drill Squad.

In the 6th Bn. of the Bedfordshire Regt, he was a drummer and a very smart soldier.  Very early in the big push on the Somme,
he was terribly wounded, and brought to England.  He was a patient in King Georges Hospital in Waterloo Road for some eight months.  It was found impossible to remove a piece of shrapnel from his spine and he became hopelessly paralysed.  He died peacefully on 16th March 1917.  General Bush, readily granted a Military funeral and Colonel Orlebar, in command of the Bedfords at Halton Camp, gave instructions for a guard of honour, a Bugler and firing party from the Bedfords to attend a muffled peal was rung by his old comrades of the belfry, when his body was borne into the church.”

Tring Cemetery, where Private Davey is buried, is managed by Dacorum Borough Council.  It was opened in 1894 on land donated by Lord Rothschild.  The Cemetery holds a number of war graves from both world wards, and also one from the recent Afghanistan conflict.



Private, 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment.  Enlisted at Bedford.  Service no. 7288.
Son of Mrs. Elizabeth Davey, a widow residing at Council-cottages, Brook-street.
Killed in action at the Somme on the 11th July 1916 aged 32.
Buried in Quarry Cemetery, Montauban, France, grave ref. I. G. 4.

William Davey was born in Tring on 10th May 1884.  He married Elizabeth Dealey at Tring Parish Church on the 23rd June 1909, their ages being 24 and 22 years respectively.  Both were then living at 34 Frogmore Street.  The 1911 Census records William, a labourer, living at 3 Alma Place, Frogmore Street, with his wife Elizabeth and their three children.  Earlier in his life Davey had served with the Army in India.  In August 1914 he left with the B.E.F [Note] for France.  He was later invalided home, but soon after recovery returned to France.

During 1916, the 2nd Bn. Bedfordshires were engaged in several phases of The Battle of the Somme,  [Note] namely the Battle of Albert (including the opening day – 1st July – when their division broke the German lines), the assault on Trônes Wood (8th-14th July) and the Battle of Delville Wood (15th July–3rd September), as well as the Battle of Le Transloy (1st–18th October).

Private William Davey was wounded on the 11th July during one of the series of actions at Trônes Wood.  It appears that he was making his way back to a dressing station when he was killed by shellfire.

Trônes Wood

The Capture of Trônes Wood was an action fought during the Battle of the Somme.  The Wood lay on the northern slope of Montauban ridge, between Bernafay Wood and Guillemont.  The British attacks were part of preliminary operations to reach ground from which to begin the second general attack (14th July) of the Battle of the Somme against the German second position from Longueval to Bazentin le Petit.  The Wood’s dense undergrowth retarded movement and made it difficult to keep direction.  During the battle the trees brought down by shell-fire became entangled with barbed-wire and strewn with German and British dead.  The German defenders fought according to a policy of unyielding defence and immediate counter-attack to regain lost ground.

The following extract if from the War Diary [Note] of the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment on the day of Private Davey’s death (11th July, 1916):

10 July: Battalion in Z.1 trenches. Captain H. A. W. Pearce sprained his ankle and had to go back to the Transport Lines.  Lieut H. A. Chamen then took over command of ‘B’ Company.  At 5 p.m. Orders were received that the Battalion were to attack TRONES WOOD at 3.27 a.m. on 11th July and if possible entrench the Eastern side of the wood.  The information handed over by the 90th Brigade was that the wood was only lightly held by the enemy.  Two Battalions had each previously made two separate attacks on the wood, but had suffered severely and had been unable to establish a footing in the wood.  On the night of 10th July the Battalion occupied our old Front Line Trenches of Z.1 Subsector and at 11 p.m. moved up the BRIQUETERIE ROAD to the SUNKEN ROAD just East of the BRIQUETERIE, which was the position of deployment for the attack.

11 July: Trones Wood. The Battalion were in position by 1.30 a.m. formed up in lines of 1/2 Companies with an interval of five paces between the men, and a distance of 150 yards between platoons, in the following order: – ‘A’ Company commanded by Captain C. G. Tyler, ‘B’ Company commanded by Lieutenant Chamen, ‘C’ Company commanded by Captain L. F. Beal, ‘D’ Company commanded by Captain R. O. Wynne.  Orders had been received that the Battalion was to enter the wood at 3.27 a.m., so the leading line commenced to advance at 3.10 a.m. towards the South eastern edge of TRONES WOOD.  It being almost dark, the advance was not observed until the leading line was 400 yards from the wood, when enemy Machine Guns opened fire from Points Z and R marked on Sketch (Appendix ‘B’).  The enemy quickly got their artillery to work and the Battalion suffered many casualties entering the WOOD, but by 3.45 a.m. the whole Battalion had gained the inside of the WOOD, but owing to Machine Gun and shell fire, had entered rather too much at the SOUTHERN END.  Owing to the denseness of the undergrowth, it was not possible to see more than 4 yards in front of you, so the Companies had great difficulty in keeping touch.  Lieut. R. B. Gibson was killed entering the wood and 2nd Lieut. F. E. Plummer wounded and it was found that the WOOD was strongly held and full of Trenches and Dug-outs.

After much fighting inside the wood, part of ‘A’ & ‘B’ Companies, reached the S.E. edge of the wood and dug themselves in as shown on Sketch (Appendix ‘B’).  ‘C’ and part of ‘D’ Company dug in along the S.W. edge of the Wood.  At 4.20 a.m. 11th July Captain L. F. Beal with about 27 men of ‘D’ Company and 13 men under Lieut H. A. Chamen of ‘B’ Company reached the N.E. edge of the Wood and commenced to dig in.  As no British Troops were holding the Northern end of the wood, this party became isolated and the enemy were seen advancing from the direction of LONGUEVAL.  Captain Beal finding himself isolated and nearly surrounded withdrew into LONGUEVAL ALLEY about 9 a.m.  After several messages had been sent to Capt Beal, without success, due to the enemy’s barrage, [
Note] a message eventually got to him with orders to bring his party back via BERNAFAY WOOD and join up with Capt. Wynne (‘C’ Company) which was entrenched in the S.E. corner of the WOOD.  This was done at 5 p.m. 11th July.

Great difficulty was experienced organising in the wood owing to heavy casualties and the denseness of the undergrowth but the Battalion managed to hold its own, and by 7 p.m. on evening of July 11th ‘A’ & ‘B’ Companies and ‘C’ and 1/2 ‘D’ Companys had dug themselves in on the S.E. side and S.W. side of the wood (all Companies much reduced by Casualties).

Whilst the men were digging in, strong patrols worked the interior of the wood collecting stragglers and bombing the enemy in their Trenches and Dug-outs, and accounted for a great number.  ‘A’ & ‘B’ Companies were leading Companies in the Advance at 3.10 a.m. and were particularly unfortunate in losing many N.C.O’s on entering the wood, including the C.S.M. of ‘A’ Company (C.S.M. GALE). 2nd Lieut. F. E. Plummer was wounded just outside the wood.  Both Companies much reduced by Casualties, worked their way across to the S.E. corner of the Wood and commenced to dig in.

At about 6 a.m. 11th July Captain C. G. Tyler discovered he was too far SOUTH of his allotted position, so they moved up the Wood further North.  At 8 a.m. 11th July 2nd Lieut L. H. Fox left the patrol and went on ahead, but did not return, it is presumed he was taken prisoner.  At 11.30 a.m. 11th July Captain C. G. Tyler, 2nd Lieut L. H. Walker and 2nd Lieut. D. P. Cross and a strong patrol of about 40 men endeavoured to work their way Northwards up the Eastern edge of the wood, but they encountered strong opposition from a ‘Strong Point’ marked ‘P’ on (Appendix ‘B’) where the GUILLEMONT Road enters the wood.  Captain C. G. Tyler was severely wounded and ordered the party to withdraw to their Trench which they did.  Captain C. G. Tyler could unfortunately not be brought in.  This trench was held against several counter attacks, but at 10 p.m., the enemy surrounded and bombed the trench from three sides, so 2nd Lieut L. H. Walker who was in command ordered the remainder of ‘A’ & ‘B’ Company to withdraw by Southern end of TRONES WOOD and make their way back to the BRIQUETERIE along the Sunken Road.  This was done successfully the party rejoining Headquarters at about 11 p.m., 11th July.

‘C’ Company under Captain R. O. Wynne were the last Company to cross during the advance.  They were to entrench on the Western Side of the Wood, just North and South of the Tram Line running through the wood.  The Company entered the wood by TRONES ALLEY and established itself there, one platoon working up towards the tramline.  This Platoon was held up by the enemy near Point ‘H’ as shown on Map (Appendix ‘B’) and forced to withdraw.  Three more attempts were made during the morning, but without success, so Capt. Wynne decided to entrench where he was.  He endeavoured to get touch will all Companies on the Eastern edge of the wood but could only get touch with ‘A’ Company.

Other patrols got held up by a ‘Strong Point’ at ‘K’ as shown on Sketch.  At about 6 p.m. 11th July Capt. L.F. Beal with his party of ‘B’ & ‘D’ Companies joined ‘C’ Company.  At about 6.30 p.m., one Company of the 19th Bn. Kings Liverpool Regiment arrived to clear the southern part of the Wood, but they lost touch and got badly handled by the Strong Points at ‘K’ and ‘P’.  At about 10 p.m. ‘A’ & ‘B’ Coys were forced to withdraw, but ‘C’ & ‘D’ Coys held Utah against all Counter Attacks.  Lieutenant J. W. Hurrell admitted to Hospital sick.

12th July: Lieutenant W. White and 2nd Lieut L. A. L. Fink joined Battalion from Reserve of Officers at Transport Lines.  Lieutenant W. White takes over command of ‘A’ Company.  At about 1 a.m. 2 Companies of the 17th Bn. Kings Liverpool Regiment were ordered to occupy the Southern edge of wood and join up with ‘C’ & ‘D’ Coys.  This was successfully done and the Southern part of the wood was successfully held until relieved by the 7th Bn. ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT (55th Brigade) on the morning on the 13th at about 1 a.m. in spite of many hostile bombing attacks.

The casualties for this engagement were: – Lieutenant R. B. Gibson Killed.  Captain C. G. Tyler Wounded and Missing.  2nd Lieut L. H. Fox Missing.  2nd Lieut. F. E. Plummer Wounded.  2nd Lieut. H. J. BRICKNELL Wounded.  239 OTHER RANKS.”

From the Bucks Herald, 19th August 1916:

Private William Davey of the Bedfordshires, was a married man with a young family, and was serving ‘somewhere in France.’  His friends received an official intimation that he was wounded on July 11, and further particulars were promised later.  No further official news has come to hand, but another Tring man belonging to the same regiment writing to his friends, refers to Davey’s casualty, and adds that as he was being removed to the dressing station, Davey was struck by a shell and killed.  As nothing has been heard from Private Davey for six weeks, his family naturally fear the worst, especially as he was a most regular correspondent.  A younger brother, Arthur Davey, is also serving with the Bedfordshires, and was badly wounded on the same day as William.  Though the two brothers have been near each other in France for some time, they have never met out there.  Whenever the one’s company was in the trenches, the other’s was resting.”

Montauban village was taken by the 30th and 18th Divisions on 1st July 1916 and it remained in Commonwealth hands until the end of March 1918.  It was retaken on 25th August 1918 by the 7th Buffs and the 11th Royal Fusiliers of the 18th Division.

Quarry Cemetery was begun as an advanced dressing station in July 1916, and used until February 1917.  The Germans buried a few of their dead in Plot V in April and May 1918.  At the Armistice it consisted of 152 graves in the present Plots V and VI.  It was then increased when graves (almost all of July-December 1916) were brought in from the battlefields surrounding Montauban and small burial grounds.



Captain, 5th Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment.
Son of Arthur Henry and Elizabeth Annie of ‘Thornhill’, 12 Boxwell Road, Berkhamsted.
Accidentally killed on 13th February 1918 aged 20.
Buried in Fins New British Cemetery, France, grave ref. IV. B. 10.

From page 289 of The History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914-18 by Major-General C. R. Simpson C.B.:

On the 31st [March 1917] the Croisilles-Henin road was finally cleared of the enemy.  This was not done without some difficulty, for, though on the left the line of the road was gained without opposition, on the right the enemy sniped for a considerable time and then attempted to drive the Lincolnshire out by a bombing attack.  This attack met with a certain measure of local success till it was checked chiefly owing to the gallantry of Lieutenant Dawe.  This officer, though wounded in the wrist, remained for two and a half hours at the forward post, and by the energetic use of his Lewis gun [Note]
drove off the Germans, who had a machine-gun with them.  The 1st Lincolnshire had two officers and fourteen other ranks wounded in this affair.

From the Bucks Herald, 2nd June 1917:

“MILITARY CROSS. − Second Lieut. Sidney Charles Dawe, Lincs. Regiment, son of Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Dawe, High-street, has been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in action.  General Haig, [Note] in his dispatches, states of this young officer: ‘He led his platoon in the most gallant manner, and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. Later, although wounded, he remained at his post until the position was consolidated.’

Lieut. Sidney Dawe is the youngest of three sons serving, all of whom hold commissions.  He is only 19 years of age, and obtained his commission from the Officer Training Corps, Berkhamsted School, where he received his education at St John’s House.  A number of congratulatory letters have been received by Mr. and Mrs. Dawe, among them being one from Mr. H. B. Herbert, one of the masters at the school, expressing the pride felt by the ‘old boys.’  Lieut. Dawe was wounded in the left wrist, and is at present in hospital in England making a good recovery.”

From the Parish Magazine, March 1918:

“Captain Sydney Charles Dawe M.C., 5th BN Lincolnshire Regt, was accidentally killed on 13th February in France. He joined the Artists Rifles in May of 1915, when he was 17 years of age.  He was commissioned into the Lincolnshire Reg as a 2nd Lieut in the 1st Bn in October 1915.  He went to France in November, but returned for further training in November 1916.  He returned to the front.  He was wounded in the left wrist in April of 1917 and was awarded the Military Cross for Gallantry during this action.  The citation reads:

‘He led his platoon in the most gallant manner, and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. Later, although wounded, he remained at his post until the position was consolidated.’

His Colonel writing to his parents said:

‘I have only recently known your son, but in that short time, I have formed a high opinion of his abilities, his reputation in the battalion, as an Officer, stood high, and I was told that the Award of his Military Cross was one of the finest ever won in the Battalion.  I think you will understand what that means.  Your son was very popular with everyone, and was a most capable officer, extremely gallant, and absolutely, dependable.  Personally, I know that I have lost one of my best company commanders, and, on behalf of myself and the whole battalion, I want you to accept this expression of our deepest regret.  You have the consolation of knowing in what regard he was held by his brother officers, how well he did his duty, and how splendidly he maintained the traditions of the regiment.  We buried him, this afternoon with full military honours in a cemetery about three miles from here.  All officers and men of the battalion, who were not on duty, attended the funeral.’”

The circumstances of Captain Dawe’s accidental death are referred to on page 289 of The History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914-18 by Major-General C. R. Simpson C.B.:

“Only one officer casualty is recorded for the month: Captain S. C. Dawe was found dead on the rifle range on the 14th.  It was presumed he met his death by accident.”


Fins and Sorel were occupied at the beginning of April 1917, in the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line.  They were lost on the 23rd March 1918, after a stubborn defence of Sorel by the 6th K.O.S.B. and the staff of the South African Brigade; and they were regained in the following September.

The first British burials at Fins were carried out in the Churchyard and the Churchyard Extension, and the New British Cemetery was not begun until July 1917.  It was used by fighting units (especially the 40th, 61st (South Midland) and 9th (Scottish) Divisions) and Field Ambulances until March, 1918, when it comprised about 590 graves in Plots I to IV.  It was then used by the Germans, who added 255 burials, including 26 British, in Plots IV, V, and VI.  In September and October 1918, about 73 British soldiers were buried by the 33rd and other Divisions, partly in Plots I and II, but mainly in Plots V and VI.  Lastly, Plots VII and VIII were made, and other Plots completed, by the concentration of 591 graves after Armistice from the surrounding battlefields and from other smaller cemeteries.



Rifleman, 12th Bn. King’s Royal Rifle Corps, formerly with the Cambridge Regiment.
Enlisted at Watford, service no. A/200570.
Married man living in Duckmore Lane, Tring.
Killed in action on the 23rd September 1917.
No known grave.  Commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium,
panels 115 to 119 and 162A and 163A.

The 12th (Service) Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, was raised at Winchester on the 21st of September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army.  During 1917, the battalion were in action in ‘The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line’, The Battle of Langemarck, The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, The Battle of Polygon Wood and The Cambrai Operations.

In the absence of specific information on his fate, one is left to conjecture using Rifleman Dell’s date of death and battalion details.  On this basis it appears likely that he was killed during the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, part of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), which took place between the  20th and 25th September, 1917.

During the pause in British and French general attacks between late August and the 20th September, the British changed some infantry tactics, adopting the leap-frog method of advance, where waves of infantry stopped once they reached their objective and consolidated the ground − the “bite and hold” strategy − while other waves passed through the objective to attack the next one, and the earlier waves became the tactical reserve. [Note]

In early September, optimism among German commanders that the British offensive in Flanders had run out of steam caused them to transfer resources elsewhere.  Drier weather and extensive road repairs made it much easier for the British to move supplies forward from the original front line. Visibility increased except for frequent ground fog around dawn, which helped conceal British infantry during the attack, before clearing to expose German troop movements to British observation and attack.

Battle of Menin Road − part of the Third Battle of Ypres − wounded at the roadside.

Having hit small sectors of the German front line with heavy bombardment, the British attacked in strength, stopping their advance and consolidating once they had penetrated beyond the German front line.  The outcome was that the infantry succeeded in capturing most of their objectives and then holding them against German counter-attacks, inflicting many casualties on the local defenders and divisions sent to reinforce them.  Given the right preparation, the Battle of Menin Road proved the value of bite and hold tactics.

During this action, the 12th King’s Royal Rifle Corps was engaged in the attack on Eagle Trench, a strongly fortified position near Langemarck held by the Germans.  The task of driving them out initially fell to the 11th Rifle Brigade, 12th Rifle Brigade, and 6th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. 
The 12th Rifles and the Light Infantry took Eagle Farm and moved on to seize the southern end of Eagle Trench, the 11th Rifles losing two-thirds of their men before securing a section of the trench.  For three days Eagle Trench was divided between the Germans and the British.  On the 23rd September the 10th Rifle Brigade and 12th King’s Royal Rifle Corps assaulted the German section capturing the remainder of the trench.  This from the Battalion War Diary:

From the Bucks Herald, 20th October 1917:

ROLL OF HONOUR.− We have this week to announce with deep regret the loss of . . . . Rifleman Dell, King’s Royal Rifles, of Duckmore-lane, who was killed on Sept. 23, leaves a wife and four young children.  Before enlisting he was employed at the Home Farm, Tring Park.”

Unattributed and undated information, perhaps from the Tring Church Magazine:

William Clement Dell 12th Bn. K.R.R.C. was killed in action in France, 23rd September 1917.  He enlisted in June of 1916 and went to France in September of that year.  A friend, writing to his wife, says, ‘He was killed instantly by a Shell burst.  His body was buried behind the line.’  It would appear that the position of the grave was lost, and he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.”

Commemorative plaques on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.

The name “Tyne Cot” is said to come from the Northumberland Fusiliers seeing a resemblance between the many German concrete pill boxes on this site and typical Tyneside workers’ cottages (Tyne cots).  The stone wall surrounding the cemetery makes-up the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.  Upon completion of the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing in Ypres, its builders discovered it was not large enough to contain all the names as originally planned, so they selected an arbitrary cut-off date of the 15th August 1917 and the names of the U.K. missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial instead.



Enlisted at Harrow.  Private, 3rd Bn. Middlesex Regiment.  Service no. G/7623.
Born in Tring.  Son of Frederick and Elizabeth Dunton, 17 Henry Street, Tring.
Killed in action on 30th September 1915 aged 19.
No known grave.  Commemorated on Loos Memorial, France, panel 99 to 101.

The 3rd Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) was in Cawnpore, India, when war broke out in August 1914.  As soon as a territorial unit arrived to take over the garrison they returned to England, arriving in December and joining the 85th Brigade in the 28th Division, who were assembling near Winchester.  They then proceeded to France, landing at Le Havre on the 19th of January 1915.  The Division concentrated in the area between Bailleul and Hazebrouck, being joined by additional Territorial units.

British soldiers in the trenches, Battle of Loos, September 1915.
Steel helmets were not introduced into the British Army until April 1916.

Between the 29th September and 1st October 1915 the 3rd Middlesex were in action at the Battle of Loos.  The biggest British attack of 1915, it took place between the 25th September and the 13th October and was the first mass engagement of Kitchener’s New Army units. [Note]  It attempted to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne and restore a war of movement, but despite improved methods, more ammunition and better equipment, the attacks were almost entirely contained with British casualties being about twice as high as those of the Germans.  Summing up the first day’s action in a letter to  Lord Stamfordham (King George V’s private secretary), the IV Corps [Note] commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Rawlinson, reported progress thus:

Some of the divisions did actually reach the enemy’s trenches, for their bodies can now be seen on the barbed wire.”

In the first four hours of the battle the twelve attacking battalions suffered 8,000 casualties out of 10,000 men.

During the battle, the 3rd Middlesex was involved in heavy fighting at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, a defensive strongpoint of the German 6th Army.  When  relieved on the 1st October the Battalion had lost 6 officers killed, 2 wounded and 24 other ranks killed, 189 wounded and 88 missing.  It must be assumed that Private Dunton was among the fatalities.  This from the Bucks Herald, 21st October 1916:

“Our Roll Of Honour.  Stanley Dunton who joined the 9th Middlesex at the commencement of the war and was transferred to the 3rd Middlesex, has been missing since 30th September 1915 and the War Office now definitely report him as dead.  He was 19 years of age and had been in France about five months.  He was at one time a choirboy at the Parish Church and a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade.”

From the Parish Magazine, November 1916:

“Stanley Dunton has been missing since September 30th 1915 and nothing has been heard of him since. He is now supposed by the War Office to have been killed about that date.  Early in the war he heard the call of King and Country and joined the 9th Middlesex, being later transferred to the 3rd Btn. Middx.  It does not seem long ago that he was singing as a boy in our Parish Church choir, and taking part in the musical drills at the Church Lads’ Brigade winter Entertainments.  May he rest in peace.”

The Loos Memorial is formed by the side and rear walls of the Dud Corner Cemetery located in the Pas-de-Calais.  The memorial lists the names of 20,610 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave who were killed in the area during and after the Battle of Loos.


Staff Sergeant, 7th Field Ambulance Australian Army Medical Corps. service no. 3623.
Died of wounds on 8th October 1917.
Buried in Poperinge New Military Cemetery, Belgium, grave ref. II. J. 21.

The first Tasmanian contingent of troops prepare for the departure of
HMAT A2 Geelong, 20th October 1914.

The Geelong − the ship in which Staff Sergeant Eggleton left Australia for the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign − was owned originally by the Blue Anchor Line, then after 1910 by P&O.  During World War I it was leased to the Australian Government to transport the Australian Imperial Force to the Middle East and to Europe.  As a troopship she was designated HMAT A2 Geelong.  On her second outbound trooping voyage, the Geelong left Adelaide on 31st May 1915 with 1,264 soldiers of the 27th Infantry Battalion and the 7th Field Ambulance unit on board.

A Field Ambulance was a mobile front line medical unit manned by troops of, in this case, the Australian Army Medical Corps.  Most Field Ambulances came under the command of a Division, and each had special responsibility for the care of casualties of one of the Division’s Brigades.  The theoretical capacity of a Field Ambulance was 150 casualties, but in battle many often needed to deal with far greater numbers.  The 7th Australian Field Ambulance − to which Staff Sergeant Eggleton was attached − formed part of the Australian 2nd Division.  The Division fought at Gallipoli during the latter stages of the campaign following which it was posted to the Western Front [Note] in France where it was the last Australian division to see combat.

Wounded soldiers on their way to an aid-post during the 2nd Battle of Passchendaele.

There are no details of the action in which Staff Sergeant Eggleton was killed, but conjecture suggests it was during the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) in which Australian involvement is well chronicled.  During Third Ypres, the Australian 2nd Division sustained casualties at the Battle of Menin Road (20th-25th September), the Battle of Polygon Wood (26th-28th September), the Battle of Broodseinde (4th October), the Battle of Poelcapelle (9th October), and the Second Battle of Passchendaele (26th October–10th November).

Staff Sergeant Eggleton’s death is recorded in the 7th Field Ambulance War Diary, which merely states that on the 8th October “S/Sgt. Eggleton died of wounds. 3 ORs wounded” (it also records that from the 3rd to the 5th October 4 ORs were wounded).  It states that he died at Waratah Rest Station, but gives no indication of how he received his wounds.  However, another member of the Australian forces, Lance Corporal William Dalton Lycett of the 4th Field Ambulance, kept a personal diary that has survived.  He too was at Waratah on the 8th October 1917, and this is what he records in his diary:

“Monday 8th October, 1917.

Fritz put over few shells not far from here during night.  Up at 7 a.m. and at work as usual.  Looked like nice day at first, but turned out rotten, rained hard.  Fritz put some heavy shells near here during day, some fell in Waratah hospital camp killing and wounding patients, a doctor killed also.  After tea wrote a letter home and did some odd jobs, raining very hard tonight.  Fritz balloon brought down today.  In bed 9 p.m.”

In the absence of firmer evidence it would appear that Staff Sergeant Eggleton was killed as a result of German shelling.  This from the Bucks Herald, 27th October 1917:

ROLL OF HONOUR.− We regret to hear that news has been received of the death from wounds of Sgt.-Maj. Stanley Eggleton, of the Australian Medical Corps. Before proceeding to Australia in 1912, Eggleton was employed at the establishment of Mr. E. K. Fulks, draper and outfitter, and resided with his parents at Crouch’s Farm” [Crouchs Farm is the present day Miswell Farm].

From the Parish Magazine, November 1917:

Stanley Eggleton S/Sgt Australian RAMC died o wounds, which he received, whilst caring for the wounded, on October 8th 1917.  As a youngster, he sang in the choir at St Martha’s and for over five years was a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade.  He was confirmed at Wiggington in the spring of 1905 and made his first communion at our parish church on Easter Day of the same year.  He has been a faithful communicant in different parts of the world.  For some time he was a member of the amen court guild at St Pauls Cathedral and a server at the Altar of the church in the parish where he was living.

Owing to lung trouble, he emigrated to Australia, and found his health once again in the Southern Hemisphere.  Early in the war, he heard the call to service.  He was in one of the early Anzac Soldiers who landed in Egypt and afterwards moved to Gallipoli.  One of his Australian chums, in writing to his mother says ‘what a terrible gap his death has made in our ranks, he was always so cheerful and bright, he had a smile for everyone.’

Mr Howard Williams, his former employer in London, writes of him ‘he will leave a choice possession in the hearts of all his friends here, and we shall think of him as a bright happy fellow, a general favourite, who feared God and was always true and loyal.  No hero ever left a fairer, clearer record behind him than your Boy.  R.I.P.’

A further letter received by the family from his medical unit, says:

‘He had the longest service of any of the sergeants in the field ambulance and yet he was the best loved and respected of all.  He knew his men, and those who worked under him would testify to his marked ability and to the fact that it was indeed a pleasure to work for him.  The patient never forgot his kindly manner and cheerful disposition.  He had an amazing memory for dates and places, he never forgot a face.  He extolled an atmosphere of brightness and humour, during the many hours of irksome tasks undertaken by all in our unit.  We assure you that he will be greatly missed, and it was with heavy hears that we stood at his graveside while Chaplain Muschamp C.E. committed his body to the grave.  We are erecting a cross truly sacred to the memory of Stanley Eggleton.’”


The town of Poperinghe (now Poperinge) was of great importance during the First World War because, although occasionally bombed or bombarded at long range, it was the nearest place to Ypres, which was considerable in size and reasonably safe.  It was at first a centre for Casualty Clearing Stations, but by 1916 it became necessary to move these units further back and field ambulances took their places.

The earliest Commonwealth graves in the town are in the communal cemetery.  The Old Military Cemetery was made in the course of the First Battle of Ypres and was closed, so far as Commonwealth burials are concerned, at the beginning of May 1915.  The New Military Cemetery was established in June 1915.



Sergeant, 64th Machine Gun Corps, service no. 8764.
Son of Thomas and Mary Fenemore.  Born at New Mill, Tring.
Enlisted at Watford, formerly with the Bedfordshire Regiment.
Killed in action on 15th July 1916, aged 22.
Buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, France, grave ref. X. F. 34.

John Fenemore was the third eldest of Thomas Fenemore’s five children (there was also an adopted daughter).  The 1911 Census lists his father’s occupation as “Tree falling [sic] on estate,” and that of John, then aged 16, as “Cowman on farm.”  At the time the family lived at 11 Langdon Street, Tring.  John’s mother is not listed as an occupant at the address, although his father describes his own status as “married.”  Thomas’s eldest daughter Elizabeth (aged 21) gives her occupation of “house keeping.”

The Machine Gun Corps (MGC) [Note] of the British Army, to which Sergeant Fenemore was attached, was formed in October 1915 in response to the need for more effective use of machine guns on the Western Front. [Note]  After its formation at Grantham, the 64th Machine Gun Company moved to France and, on the 4th March 1916, joined the 64th Brigade in the 21st Division at Armentieres.

A Lewis gunner [Note].

The 21st Division had been established in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Third New Army. [Note]  Initially, it concentrated in the Tring area, spending some time in camp at Halton Park before winter necessitated a move into billets in Tring and the local area before returning to Halton Park in May 1915.  In September, the Division moved to France.  Soon after landing, lengthy forced marches brought the Division into the reserve for the British assault at Loos, before it was sent into action on 26th September to suffer over 3,800 casualties for very little gain.

A Vickers machine gun crew.

The British Army Vickers water-cooled .303 machine gun typically required a six to eight-man team to operate: one fired, one fed the ammunition, the rest helped to carry the weapon, its ammunition and spare parts. Its rate of fire was 450 to 500 rounds/min and its effective range 2,187 yds.  The gun remained in service with the British Army until 1968.

During the Battles of The Somme, [Note] the 21st was in action in (among other battles) the Battle of Bazentin Ridge (14th–17th July); judging from its dates and that of his death, this was possibly the action in which Sergeant Fenemore was killed.

The objectives of this British attack were the villages of Bazentin le Petit, Bazentin le Grand and Longueval.  At 3:25 a.m., after an intense five-minute artillery bombardment, four divisions attacked on a front of 6,000 yd.  Field artillery [Note] fired a creeping barrage [Note] which the attacking waves followed close behind in no man’s land, leaving them only a short distance to cross when the barrage lifted from the German front trench.  The German defenders, surprised by the shortness of the bombardment and proximity of the attacking waves, gave way and leading British battalions quickly reached the front line, pressing on beyond.  Most of the attack’s objectives were captured putting the German defence south of the Albert–Bapaume under great strain, but the attack was not followed up due to British communication failures, casualties and disorganisation.  In the action, 21st Division suffered 2,894 casualties.

From the Bucks Herald, 19th August 1916:

“Sergeant John Fenemore, of the Machine Gun Corps, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Fenemore, of Gamnel-terrace, is reported to have been killed in action on July 15.  No particulars are jet to hand.

Fenemore joined the East Surrey Regiment at the outbreak of was, and rapidly rose to the rank of sergeant.  He was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, and sent to the Hythe School of Musketry for a course of instruction.  He passed through the course with distinction, and was sent to Grantham as musketry instructor.  In February last he was drafted to France.  ‘Jack’ Fenemore was a bright boy, and is well remembered in Tring; he was long a keen and enthusiastic member of the Church Lads’ Brigade.”

The Military Medal.

From the Parish Magazine September 1916:

Sergeant John Fenemore joined the East Surrey Regiment at the commence of the war, and from the first, as he said, felt the benefit of his training in the Church Lads’ Brigade, for he rapidly rose to the rank of Sergeant.  He was keen to join the machine gunners and was passed in training with distinction and became a musketry instructor at Gratham.  In the February of 1916, he as posted to France.  It was on the 14th/15th July that he was killed having previously been in action earlier in July at the commencement of the Somme offensive.

In a letter to his parents a friend of John Fennimore wrote: ‘it was the second time in the great push.  His death was instantaneous, Jack was awarded the Military Medal for very good work at this time.  How nice it would have been for him to have received the honour personally.  He has been with me ever since we joined the machine gun corps and I will miss him as will all his comrades in the Corps.  He was a thoroughly reliable officer and a great influence to those of our unit.’”

The ground of Caterpillar Valley Cemetery was captured, after very fierce fighting, in the latter part of July 1916. It was lost in the German advance of March 1918 and recovered by the 38th (Welsh) Division on 28th August 1918, when a little cemetery was made containing 25 graves of the 38th Division and the 6th Dragoon Guards.  After the Armistice, this cemetery was hugely increased when the graves of more than 5,500 officers and men were brought in from other small cemeteries, and the battlefields of the Somme.  The great majority of these soldiers died in the autumn of 1916 and almost all the rest in August or September 1918.



Private, 5th Bn. Canadian Infantry, service no. 1018606.
Son of Henry and Alice of Pendley Lodge.
Badly gassed in France, November 1917.  Died on 12th October 1918, aged 29.
Buried in Bramshott (St Mary) Churchyard, Hampshire, grave ref. III. C. 12.

The 5th Battalion was authorized on 10th August 1914 and embarked for the U.K. on 29th September 1915.  It entered the theatre of operations in France on 14th February 1915, where it fought as part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division, in France and Flanders until the end of the war.

Extracted from the Report on operations of the 5th Canadian Infantry Bn., from the 4th to the 12th November, 1917:

On account of the miry conditions of the ground the work of evacuating wounded was very slow and even the numerous large parties were unable to clear them all until 48 hours after the attack had been launched.  The Regimental Aid Posts in pill boxes were heavily shelled . . . .

Each man carried 48 hours rations besides his Iron Rations and one trench cooker.  Two filled bottles of water.  100 tins of water were brought up on pack mules to WATERLOO FARM and then distributed evenly to the companies . . . . The 48 hours rations which the men carried became sodden and unfit to east owing to mud and rain, while a lot was lost by being buried as the bag containing them, if laid on the soft mud, would often sink out of sight . . . .

Troops wearing small box respirators, Ypres, 1917.

The enemy used quite a number of gas shells around Meetcherie, and one Company, in whose area the worst concentration was, suffered a number of casualties even though wearing their Small Box Respirator,
[Note] probably owing to the fact that they had become wet by the rain and mud or were buried in the mud.  There were also a large number of irritated skins and infected sores.”

Ref. the War Diary of the 5th Canadian Infantry Bn., 1914-1919.

Soldiers blinded by gas at a first-aid post near Béthune, 10th April 1918.

The War Diary [Note] extract refers to gas arriving in artillery shells, which might account for Private Fenner’s gassing at this time.

Delivery of poison gas in artillery shells overcame many of the risks of dealing with gas in cylinders.  Gas shells were independent of the wind and increased the effective range of gas, making anywhere within reach of the guns vulnerable.  Gas shells could be delivered without warning, especially the clear, nearly odourless phosgene — there are numerous accounts of gas shells landing with a ‘plop’, rather than exploding, being initially dismissed as dud high explosive or shrapnel shells.  This gave the gas time to work before the soldiers were realised its presence and took precautions.

The main flaw associated with delivering gas via artillery was the difficulty of achieving a killing concentration.  Each shell had a small gas payload and an area would have to be subjected to a saturation bombardment to produce a cloud to match cylinder delivery.  Mustard gas, however, did not need to form a concentrated cloud and hence artillery was the ideal vehicle for delivery of this battlefield pollutant.

From the Bucks Herald, 19th October 1918:

ROLL OF HONOUR.− It is our sad duty to chronicle the death of the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fenner, of Pendley Lodge, who died in Bramshott Hospital on October 12 from pneumonia following an attack of influenza.

Pte. Lawrence Henry Fenner, who was 29 years of age, emigrated to Canada some ten years ago. Early in 1916 he joined the Saskatchewan Regiment, and after training proceeded to France, where in the great battle of Passchendaele in November last year he was badly gassed. He was sent to England, where for a long time he suffered from the effects of the gas. Being attached to the Bramshot Depot (Canadian) for orderly room duties, he there earned the highest esteem of all, both officers and men. Seized with illness he was taken to hospital, and passed away on Saturday, his father and mother being with him. He was buried on Monday in the Canadian section of the Bramshott Churchyard with full military honours, the mourners including his father and mother, Miss Moore (aunt), and Miss Jacklin (Tring). There were a number of beautiful floral tributes, including a wreath from Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Williams. The expressions of sympathy with the bereaved parents have been very numerous.”

Unattributed extract, possibly from the Tring Church Magazine:

Laurence Henry Fenner, 5th Bn Canadian Infantry popularly known as the fighting fifth, died from pneumonia following influenza at the Canadian Hospital at Bramshott.  He left England to settle in Canada some eleven years ago.  He joined the Canadian forces at the end of 1915.  His regiment arrived in England in May of 1917, and crossed to France the following month.  His battalion was involved in the fighting on the Ypres Salient at Passchendaele in November 1917.

Private Fenner was badly gassed during this action and was evacuated to England.  He never fully recovered his health and could have been returned to Canada for discharge.  He, however, asked to remain in England and was employed in the orderly room at the Canadian depot at Bramshott.  He was buried with full military honours in Bramshott Churchyard, in a section reserved for Canadian soldiers.”

Judging by the date of Private Fenner’s death and its primary cause, it is likely that he fell victim to the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic (January 1918–December 1920), his body already being debilitated by the effects of gassing. [Note]  It is estimated that Spanish flu resulted in between 50 and 100 million deaths, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.

From the autumn of 1915 to October 1919, a Canadian Training Centre was placed in the open country on both sides of the Portsmouth road, between the turnings to Grayshott and to Bramshott.  The soldiers who died in No. 12 Canadian General Hospital, which served the camp, were buried in Bramshott Churchyard or, in the case of the Roman Catholic soldiers, in the Churchyard of St. Joseph’s Church, at the West end of Grayshott.



Second Lieutenant, 5th Bedfordshire Regiment, attached to 6th Bn.
Son of Mary and the late Herbert Foskett of Western Road, Tring.
Enlisted September 1914.  Killed in action on the 28th April 1917, aged 24.
No known grave.  Commemorated on the Arras Memorial, France, Bay 5.

Lieut. Foskett enlisted in September 1914, becoming Private 2810 in the Hertfordshire Regiment.  Following training, in April 1915 he joined the 1st/1st Hertfordshires on the Western Front [Note] and by the time the Territorial soldiers [Note] were renumbered early in 1917, he was serving as Acting Sergeant 265678.  After being commissioned Second Lieut. on 24th January 1917, he trained with the 5th Battalion.  However, he arrived in France with the 6th Bedfords on 16th April 1917 together with three other officers, all of whom were killed or wounded within twelve days.

The 6th Bn. Bedfordshire Regiment served entirely on the Western Front until disbanded in May 1918.  During its service in France and Flanders, it formed one of the four battalions of the 112th Brigade, part of the 37th Division.  During the war, the 37th Division suffered some 30,000 casualties, of which the 6th Bedfords lost over 650 killed in action, with over 2,700 more of their number being wounded.

During April 1917, the 6th Bedfords were engaged in the Battles of Arras, specifically at the First and Second Battles of the Scarpe, and the Battle of Arleux.  Later that year they were engaged in the Battles of Ypres (also referred to as the Third Battle of Ypres, or Passchendaele), namely in the Battles of the Menin Road, of Polygon Wood, of Broodseinde and of Poelcapelle.  In the 38 days of fighting around Arras, some 300,000 servicemen on both sides were wounded, missing or killed.  The British Army suffered an average of 4,000 wounded and killed every day, the highest average daily casualty rate of any British offensive on the Western Front.

British troops moving to the front near Arras, 29th April 1917.

The principal objective of what has been named the Battle of Arleux was the need to sustain a supporting action tying down German reserves to assist the French offensive against the plateau north of the Aisne.  At 04:25 on 28th April, British and Canadian troops launched the main attack on a front of about 8 miles north of Monchy-le-Preux.  The battle continued for most of 28th and 29th April, with the Germans delivering determined counter-attacks.  The British positions at Gavrelle were attacked seven times with strong forces and on each occasion the German thrust was repulsed with great loss by the 63rd Division.  The village of Arleux-en-Gohelle was captured by the 1st Canadian Division after hand-to-hand fighting and the 2nd Division made further progress in the neighbourhood of Oppy, Greenland Hill (37th Division) and between Monchy-le-Preux and the Scarpe (12th Division).

On the 28th April, during the Battle of Arleux, the 6th Bedfords attacked Greenland Hill for the second time in a few days.  Only 58 men survived the carnage of this attack, Lieut. Foskett being among the long list of killed, wounded or missing.  The following is extracted from the 6th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment War Diary for April 1917:

2 Apr: Estree-Wamin.  In billets.  In training.  Bde. Efficiency competition won by the Battn.

5 Apr: Hauteville.  Marched to HAUTEVILLE.

7 Apr: Wanquetin.  Marched to WANQUETIN.

8 Apr: Warlus.  Marched to WARLUS.

9 Apr: Feuchy.  Marched to ARRAS & drew Lighting Equipment.  Advanced to road running N–S thro’ FEUCHY CHAPELLE & dug in.

[The Battle of Arras - The First Battle of the Scarpe]

10 Apr: La Bergere.  Captured LA FOLIE FERME & LA BERGERE in conjunction with attack of 111th Bde. on MONCHY-LE-PREUX.  Lt. Shaw killed.  Battn entrenched on line LA BERGERE cross-roads–GUEMAPPE.  Lts. Iredale, Hedges, Pattison, Davidson, Foreman wounded.

11 Apr: La Bergere.  Remained in the above line.  Lt. Thompson killed.  Relieved at night by 12th Divn.

12 Apr: Wanquetin.  Marched to wet trenches in TILLOY.  Several men suffered from exposure.  After daylight marched to ARRAS, thence by busses to WANQUETIN.

14 Apr: Givenchy-le-Noble.  Marched to GIVENCHY-LE-NOBLE to billets.

16 Apr: Lts. Rose, Love, Foskett & Nokes arrived.

17 Apr: Lewis Gun
[Note] carts [Note] finally given up.

19 Apr: Lattre-Saint-Quentin.  Marched to LATTRE-ST-QUENTIN.

21 Apr: St-Nicholas.  Marched to St NICHOLAS & bivouaced.

23 Apr: Roeux-Gavrelle Road.  Assembled in EFFIE TRENCH for attack on GREENLAND HILL position.  At 4.25 am Battn was ordered to support the 63rd Bde. & finally dug in E of road between ROEUX & GAVRELLE.

[The Battle of Arras - the Second Battle of the Scarpe]

24 Apr: Capts. Blake & Williams, Lts. Wilkins, Stables, Parsons, Nokes wounded.  Lt. Colchester killed.

25 Apr: Battn remained in trench it had dug.

26 Apr: Battn remained in trench it had dug.

27 Apr: Battn remained in trench it had dug.

[The Battle of Arras - The Battle of Arleux]

28 Apr: Berlencourt.  Battn assembled for attack (at dawn) on GREENLAND HILL.  Objective almost gained.  Parties dug in where they could.  Suffered from enfilade fire
[Note] from CHEMICAL WORKS where 34th Div were held up.  Lt. Love & a party missing after relief by 26th Bde.  Marched to ARRAS after relief & proceeded by busses to BERLENCOURT.  Only 58 men actually came out of the attack.  Lts. Rose & Foskett killed.  Lts. Nathan & Smith wounded.  Capt. Williams again wounded.

From the Bucks Herald, 12th May 1917:

“Death of Lieut. Foskett.− News was received on Sunday morning that yet another brave resident of the town had fallen in action at the Front, and the deepest sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs Herbert Foskett in their terrible loss.  One of the first to answer his country’s call, Lieut. H E Foskett joined the Herts. Regiment in September 1914, and it was not long before he went with it to the Front.  He was wounded in the battle of Festbert, and was brought to England where he made a fair recovery, and was sent to Halton Camp.  Here his abilities soon gained him promotion, and for some time he carried out duties on the Headquarters’ Staff at East Camp, in which capacity he won the esteem and respect of all, officers and men alike.  Quite a gloom pervaded the camp on Sunday when the sad news became known.  Staff-Sergt. Foskett was recommended for a commission early in the year, and this he accepted and on April 7th preceded to France to join the Bedfordshire Regiment.  On Sunday morning his parents received a notification that their son was killed in action on April 28th.

Lieut. Foskett was the only son of Mr and Mrs Herbert Foskett, of High Street: he was 24 years of age, and, before joining up, he occupied an important position in the District Superintendent’s staff at Euston.  Expressions of sympathy have reached the parents from all quarters, his former Commanding Officer being one of the first to send a note of condolence.”

From the Parish Magazine:

“Second Lieutenant Herbert Edward Foskett joined the Hertfordshire Regt in September 1914, and soon afterwards went to the front.  He was wounded at the Battle of Festubert and was returned to England after he recovered from his wounds.  He was posted to Halton Camp, where he soon gained promotion and was for a considerable time on the headquarters staff at East Camp.  Early in the year Staff Sergeant Foskett was recommended for a commission and at the beginning of April left England for France with a large draft of other officers.  He had barely been at the front three weeks when news was received that he had been killed.  His Commanding Colonel at Halton Camp wrote to his mother:

‘He was a son of whom you might well be proud he was in every respect a most promising and reliable officer.’  Another officer wrote: ‘He was such a good and able officer in every way and I am sure he would have done extremely well had he been spared.’  Lieutenant Foskett’s Lance Corporal supplied the following particulars of his death:

‘On the night before the advance Mr Foskett came round

‘Cheer up lads’ he said, ‘we go over in the morning.’

Just before dawn we moved in to our jumping off trench.  Mr Foskett came along and said:

‘Now lads you cannot lose your direction, as soon as the barrage starts follow me and advance full in the face of the rising sun.’

We did and I think we lost hardly a man, and then we started to dig in.  I had hardly got down above a foot when something hit me in the back.  I went down like a log.  Mr Foskett said:

‘All right lad, wait a minute, I will get a stretcher bearer.’

They came and dressed my wounds and put me in a shell hole.  After that everything went black. When I came to it was dark so I decided to get back.  I started crawling and I remembered his words ‘Advance into the sun,’ so I thought if I crawled back towards the moon, I should strike our people.  I crawled for it seemed hours and heard voices but they were Germans.  I thought oh, here is a nice predicament to be in No. 10572, you had best nip back, so I went back.  I dropped into a half dug trench and someone lay there.  I saw that he was dead, but could not recognise who he was.  As he lay between Fritz’s line and ours I thought it best to search him.  I took his papers and then when I saw his field glasses I thought he must be an officer.  As well as I could I slung him over and covered him as best I could and put a rifle to mark the grave.  I then crawled away into another trench.  When it got lighter I looked at the pocket diary and discovered it belonged to Mr Foskett.  I could not do more, because I was between the two lines and being sniped at by fritz and our own men.  With the help of Mr Foskett’s glasses I found out which way our lines were and decided to crawl back there when it got dark.  When it was dark I tied a piece of paper to the rifle marking the grave on which I had written the words 2nd / LT H. Foskett. 6th Bedfords 4 company.  If this was found he would in all probability get a cross put up there, but more than that I cannot say.

Although I only knew him for such a short time, he was an exceptionally good officer, who was respected and liked by all in his company.  Please accept my deepest sympathy.’”

The Arras Memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7th August 1918 (the eve of the Advance to Victory) and have no known grave.  The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and the German attack in the spring of 1918.



Private, 6th Bn. Bedfordshire Regiment, service no. 33276.
Born in Tring.  Husband of Alice Maud of 45 King Street.
Enlisted at Bedford.  Killed in action by a shell on 6th August 1917 aged 30.
Buried in Derry House Cemetery, Belgium, grave ref. I. D. 2.

The 6th Bn. Bedfordshire Regiment was formed at Bedford in August 1914 as part of Lord Kitchener’s first volunteer Army (a.k.a. the New Army) of 100,000 men, a force raised specifically for the duration of the war.  The 6th Bn. was at first attached to the 9th (Scottish) Division at Aldershot whilst training, but when the 37th Division was formed in March 1915 (2nd Army) the 6th Bedfords joined them as part of the 112th Brigade. [Note]

37th Division Memorial, Monchy-le-Preux, Pas-de-Calais.
The Great War cost 37th Division 29,969 men killed, wounded or missing.

The battalion landed at Havre in July 1915.  They appear to have first engaged in action during 1916 in the Battles of The Somme [Note] followed, in 1917, by the battles of Arras and Third Ypres (a.k.a. Passchendaele).

The Third Battle of Ypres (31st July-10th November) began with encouraging gains but soon became bogged down by prolonged wet weather.  By August the offensive was clearly failing in its objectives and had descended into attritional fighting at enormous cost in casualties to both sides.  The British eventually reached Passchendaele Ridge, while the objective of diverting German forces from the French further south (while they recovered from the Nivelle Offensive in April) also succeeded, but the objective of breaking through to capture the German U-boat pens at Zeebrugge and Ostend on the Belgian coast did not.

It is difficult to pin down the action in which Private Foster was killed.  Although the 6th Bn. was engaged in the Third Battle of Ypres, the major actions in August in which they took part came after Private Foster’s death.  The 6th Bn. War Diary [Note] for the period of his death gives no clue:

2nd August 1917 − Battalion moved to camp on Kemmel Hill relieving 8th Lincoln Regt.

3th-4th August 1917 − Battalion in camp at Kemmel.  Weather still very bad indeed.  Large working parties in the front line.

5th August 1917 − Major F. G. Mackenzie to hospital sick. Capt. A. T. Hitch took over the duties of 2nd in command.  2/Lt C.E.Kirk
[Charles Edmund Kirk]
& 4 other ranks killed, & 4 other ranks wounded on a working party.

6th August 1917 − Battalion moved to support area at Rossignol Wood.

. . . . so one must conclude that he was killed in the intermittent shelling to which British front line trenches were subjected.

From the Bucks Herald, 1st September 1917:

Frank Foster, of the Bedfordshire Regiment, son of Mr. William Foster of New Mill, is reported killed.  He was a married man, and previous to joining was in the employ of Messrs. John Gower and Son, contractors.”

Wytschaete (now Wijtschate) was taken by the Germans early in November 1914.  It was recovered by commonwealth forces during the Battle of Messines on 7th June 1917 but fell into German hands once more on 16th April 1918.  The village was recovered for the last time on 28th September 1918.  Derry House Cemetery was named after a farm which had been nicknamed “Derry House” by soldiers of the Royal Irish Rifles.  It was begun among the ruins of the farm in June 1917 by a field ambulance unit of the 11th division (32nd brigade) it was used as a front line cemetery until December 1917 and again in October 1918 by the 2nd Bn. London Scottish.   The cemetery contains 163 First World War burials and the remains of a concrete command post built by engineers of the 37th Division in July 1917.



Private, 1st Cambridgeshire Regiment, formerly with the Northants Regiment.  Service no. 201746.
Born in Eaton Bray, Beds.  Son of Mrs. Frederick Fountain of 14 Charles Street, Tring.
Husband of Mrs. Sarah Eliza Fountain of 44 Charles Street, Tring.
Enlisted at Bedford.  Killed in action on 28th August 1918 aged 29.
Buried in Peronne Road Cemetery, France, grave ref. IV. F. 26.

Sidney married Sarah Eliza Poulton at Tring Parish Church on the 27th May 1911.  He was then living at 2 West Passage, his wife at 2 Stratton Place, and both were 22 years of age.

Sidney Fountain in happy times.

Private Fountain enlisted in the Northampton Regiment in August, 1916.  He went to France in June of the following year, where he was transferred to the 1st Cambridgeshire Regiment.  He was killed in action on the 28th August 1918.  On the basis of his date of death and the location of the 1st Cambs. at the time, it is likely that he was killed in the fighting around Bapaume. [Note]

The 1st Bn. Cambridgeshire Regiment was raised in August 1914.  They proceeded to France on the 15th of February 1915, landing at Le Havre where they joined 82nd Brigade, 27th Division, with whom they saw action at St Eloi and The Second Battle of Ypres.

On the 29th of February 1916, they joined the 118th Brigade, 39th Division.  They saw action in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, [Note] the Third Battles of Ypres in 1917, and on the Somme and at the Battles of the Lys in 1918 (where 39th Division suffered heavily).  On the 9th of May 1918 the 1st Cambs transferred to 35th Brigade, 12th Division, and absorbed more than 400 men from 7th Suffolk Regiment to bring them back to full strength.  In the battles of the Hundred Days Offensive, [Note] they saw heavy fighting at Bapume, Amiens and Nurlu.

By early 1918 the Germans had realised that their remaining chance of victory was to defeat the Allies before the overwhelming resources of the United States could be fully deployed.  With the additional troops freed (nearly 50 divisions) following the Russian surrender in the East they mounted a series of attacks along the Western Front [Note] that became known as the “Spring Offensive” (a.k.a. the “Ludendorff Offensive”).  The Offensive began on the 21st March and quickly achieved deep advances into Allied held territory.  However, due to its rapidity, the Germans were unable to move supplies and reinforcements to the front quickly enough to sustain the fast-moving stormtroopers leading the Offensive, and it ran out of steam.  By late April the danger of a complete German breakthrough had passed.

In July the Allies struck back, landing a series of blows at the Second Battle of the Marne (18th July-9th August) and the Battle of Amiens (8th-11th August).  On the 21st August, the British Third Army broke through the German line north of Amiens and drove toward Bapaume, where heavy fighting took place between the 21st August and the 3rd September. [Note] This British and Dominion attack formed part of the Allies’ Hundred Days Offensive.

On the 22nd August the Cambridgeshire Regiment were ordered to attack the area around Bapaume.  The attack began badly owing to lack of promised tank support, while enemy machine gun positions and accurate artillery fire caused many casualties among the assaulting companies (losses for the day were 37 men killed and around 100 wounded).  The fighting around Bapaume continued, the offensive slowly grinding down the German positions.  In torrential rain the assault continued on the German lines and the Cambs held their positions from fierce counter-attacks.  By early September, the British First, Third and Fourth armies had pushed the German forces on the Somme back to the Hindenburg Line – the point from where they had launched their Spring Offensive.

Sidney’s descendants have retained the letter sent by his Company Commander to Sarah telling of her husband’s death (alas, part is illegible):

31st August 1918

”Dear Mrs. Fountain.
I regret that I have to inform you of the death in action of your husband on the evening of the 27th inst.  The Company went forward again that day and occupied a position and we were getting dug in when we were shelled fairly heavily.  Your husband’s platoon were just behind mine when several shells fell almost on top of us in front and behind our trenches.  Your husband was on duty with his section and his sergeant and three of his pals ###### by the same shell that killed your husband.  He suffered no pain at all and was buried on the spot – which we may be able to tell you of when the heat of battle passes further away.

Believe me when I say that we all regret his loss.  I cannot say that I knew him personally, for all the Company officers have been casualties and I have only recently joined here.  As a married man I can deeply sympathise with you.  All the future will seem dark now that your husband is gone from you.  I trust you will be given the strength to bear up in this great loss and feel some comfort in that he met his death fighting bravely for the cause of Right.

His Battalion has done great things and each man of it has great reason to be proud of it.  We are out resting and making efforts at reorganisation: it is now that we miss our old tried and trusted soldiers.

Let me assure you of the heartfelt sympathy of all his comrades with you in your bereavement: we do miss our pals when they’re taken - and so swiftly removed from our midst.”

Believe me, Yours sincerely
F. E. Bauyard, (????) Lieut.
B Coy 1st Cambridge

Private Sidney Fountain.

From the Bucks Herald, 7th September 1918:

“PRIVATE SIDNEY FOUNTAIN: on Tuesday evening Mrs. Fountain of Charles-street, Tring, received a communication from the officer commanding, that her husband, Pte. Sidney Fountain, Cambs. Regiment, had been killed in action in France on August 27 last. Much sympathy is felt for the bereaved wife, who is left with two little children. Before joining the Army some two years ago Fountain was employed as carman by the Tring Co-operative Society, and had been in France nearly the whole of that period. He was 30 years of age, and was held in high esteem by his employers.”

The following letter was written on Y.M.C.A. stationery, year not stated:

“Jan. 7th.

Dear Dad & Mother. Just a few lines hoping to find you quite well as I am myself.  I received the parcel alright & was very pleased with it.  Pleased to find you enjoyed yourself at Xmas.  I spent my Xmas night and boxing day in the trenches, but we are right back now
[presumably out of the lines].  We had out New Years super last night.  Plenty to eat and drink & with your parcel I had quite a good time.  Pleased to hear Jack is coming home.  Hope he is quite well.  I should like to be at home to see him but I hope we shall some day.  We live in hopes.  I hope to have my next Xmas feed at home.  I don’t think much to France, just about like being round Swan Bottom so you can guess it is lively.  Tell Dad to remember me at the Castle.  They dish the beer out in pails out here.  I have got 2 more parcels to come Sarah tells me so I shall be alright.  They are a long time coming sometimes.  I received yours on the 6th.  I think this is about all this time.  Wishing you a happy new year.  Hoping to see you all again some day.  From Sid.”

Private Fountain is buried in Peronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt.  Maricourt was, at the beginning of the Battles of the Somme 1916, [Note] the point of junction of the British and French forces, and within a very short distance of the front line; it was lost in the German advance of March 1918, and recaptured at the end of the following August.

The Cemetery − originally known as Maricourt Military Cemetery No.3 − was begun by fighting units and Field Ambulances in the Battles of the Somme 1916 and used until August 1917; a few graves were added later in the War, and at the Armistice it consisted of 175 graves which now form almost the whole of Plot I.  It was completed after the Armistice by the concentration of graves from the battlefields in the immediate neighbourhood and from certain smaller burial grounds.



Private, 6th East Yorkshire Regiment, service no. 9521.
Born in Tring.
Enlisted at Berkhamsted.  Killed in action on the 17th July (???) 1917.
Buried in No Man’s Cot Cemetery, Belgium, grave ref. B 24.

Other than this brief obituary from the Parish Magazine, nothing is known about:

Arthur Frederick French, Private East Yorks Regt, was killed by a shell ‘somewhere in France’ on September 17th, 1917.  He was buried behind the lines.  He joined the Army as far back as 1910 and was in India for four years.  At the outbreak of war he was sent to Egypt and fought in Gallipoli.  He finally went to France in May 1915.”

Private Arthur French appears to have had an eventful military career.  Other than his pre-war service referred to, the 6th Bn. East Yorkshire Regiment saw service at Gallipoli (Suvla Bay) and in Egypt before being transferred to Egypt (Suez canal defences) before landing in France (Marseilles) in July 1916.  The Battalion then took part in many of the major battles in France and Flanders, finally being near Havay in Belgium at the Armistice.

A pioneer battalion laying a temporary road.

In December 1914 the 6th East Yorks became the “Pioneer” Battalion to the 11th Division.  Such battalions were intended to meet the vast demand for labour within fighting units, each infantry Division being assigned a pioneer battalion that would be trained and capable of fighting as infantry, but would normally be engaged in labouring work.  Pioneers differed from normal infantry in that they were composed of men who were experienced with picks and shovels (i.e. miners, road men, etc) and some who had skilled trades (smiths, carpenters, joiners, bricklayers, masons, tinsmiths, engine drivers and fitters), and each would carry a range of technical stores not carried by the infantry.

There is some conflict on the date of Private French’s death.  The cemetery records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission − besides entering his initial as ‘P’ rather than ‘A. F.’ − give a date of death of the 7th July 1917.  Their burial record form (below) states date of death as the 8th August, whilst the Tring Parish Magazine reports the 17th September, presumably using a notification sent by the Battalion.


However, the battalion was not involved in any significant battles on each of those three dates.  As regards to his initials, I have taken the Christian names published in the Buck Herald on the 5th of April 1919, when the names to be entered on the War Memorial were listed together with the notice “that the Vicar would be glad, therefore, to be informed as soon as possible of any mistakes or omissions that have been noticed.”

The No Man’s Cot cemetery is located at the village of Boesinghe to the North-East of Ypres, Belgium.  For most of the First World War, the east side of Boesinghe (now Boezinge) faced the German front line.  The cemetery was used from the end of July 1917 to March 1918.



Rifleman, 8th Post Office Rifles, London Regiment, service no. 371624.
Second eldest of the four sons of Frederick and Emma Gates of 27 High Street, Tring.
Enlisted in London.  Died of wounds at Delville Wood on the 26th July 1918, aged 27.
Buried in Delville Wood Cemetery, France, grave ref. XXVII. R. 5.

Frank Gates is listed in the 1911 Census, aged 20, and living with his parents Frederick (aged 53, hay and straw binder) and Emma (aged 53) at 12 Akeman Street.  He was employed as a draper’s assistant.  At the same address where his brothers Walter (aged 22, journeyman baker), Arthur (aged 17, hairdresser’s assistant) and Herbert James (aged 15, grocer’s apprentice).  Walter and Herbert also enlisted in the army and lost their lives during the war.

Recruitment to the 8th Battalion City of London Regiment, as they were officially known, was almost exclusively from men of the British Post Office.  After months of training at home, the battalion left for France in March 1915, the 1/8th forming part of the 47th Division; its second line counterpart, the 2/8th, which formed part of the 58th Division, arrived in France in January 1917.  In February 1918, the reduction in the number of battalions in a brigade from 12 to 9 resulted in both battalions amalgamating to form the 8th Battalion of the 174th Brigade in the 58th Division. [Note]

Delville Wood, where Rifleman gates was wounded, was a tract of woodland some 1 kilometre square, the western edge of which touched the village of Longueval in the Somme.  On the 14th July 1916 the greater part of Longueval village was taken by the 9th (Scottish) Division.  Then, on the 15th, the South African Brigade of that Division captured most of Delville Wood − at great cost.  By the 25th August the Wood had finally been cleared of German resistance and it was then held until the 24th March 1918 when, following the launch of the German Spring Offensive, [Note] the 47th Division received orders to retire with the rest of V Corps after German troops broke through the junction of V Corps and VII Corps.  The Wood was recaptured by the Allies at the end of August 1918.

From the Parish Magazine, 1919:

Frank John Gates, who has been missing for some time, is now reported to have died whilst a prisoner of war at Limburg in Germany on the 26th July 1918.  His death it is said was due to the result of wounds received in action.

It was in June of 1915 that he joined the Army and was attached to the Post Office London Rifles.  For sometime he was a gymnasium instructor in England, but went to France in January of last year.  He was formerly a member of our Church Lads’ Brigade and favourite with those that knew him.  May god accept the sacrifice which he has made.  R.I.P.”

Judging from the Parish Magazine notice and the date of the Germans’ recapture of Delville Wood (March 1918) during their Spring Offensive, it appears likely that Rifleman Gates received the wounds from which he eventually died during that action.

DELVILLE WOOD CEMETERY was made after the Armistice, when graves were brought in from a few small cemeteries and isolated sites, and from the battlefields.  Almost all of the burials date from July, August and September 1916.  There are now 5,523 burials and commemorations of the First World War in this cemetery; 3,593 of the burials are unidentified, but there are special memorials to 27 casualties known or believed to be buried among them.  Other special memorials record the names of three soldiers buried in Courcelette Communal Cemetery German Extension, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.



Lance Corporal, 2nd Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry, service number 266022.
Youngest of the four sons of Frederick and Emma Gates of 27 High Street, Tring.
Enlisted at Aylesbury.  Killed in action in France on the 2nd November 1918 aged 22.
Buried in Maresches Communal Cemetery, France, grave ref. South-East end.

Herbert Gates is listed in the 1911 Census – aged 15 and employed as a grocer’s apprentice – living with his parents Frederick (aged 53, hay and straw binder) and Emma (aged 53) at 12 Akeman Street.  Living at the same address where his brothers Walter (aged 22, journeyman baker), Frank (aged 20, draper’s assistant) and Arthur (aged 17, hairdresser’s assistant).  Walter and Frank also enlisted in the army, both losing their lives during the war.

The 2/4th battalion of the Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry was formed at Oxford in September 1914 as a second line unit.  In January 1915 it moved to Northampton where it attached to 184th Brigade in 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. [Note] In May 1916 the battalion landed at Havre, and from there on engaged in various actions on the Western Front. [Note]  During the war, 5,878 officers and men of the various battalions of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry lost their lives.

Lance Corporal Gates was killed in action during The Hundred Days Offensive. [Note]  Beginning with the Battle of Amiens on the 8th August, the Allies launched a series of offensives which pushed the Germans out of France, forcing them to retreat beyond the Hindenburg Line. [Note]  This was followed by the Armistice on the 11th November 1918, which ended the war.

At the Armistice, the 2nd Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry was at St. Pol, near Maresches.  Judging from the date of Lance Corporal Gates’ death (2nd November) and his burial at Maresches, it appears likely that he was killed during the fighting – indeed, the battalion’s last action of the war – that Captain G. K. Rose M.C. describes in The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (1920):

“The Battalion joined the XVII Corps half way through October, 1918, and was soon put into important fighting.  The enemy, who had lost Lille, Douai, and St. Quentin early in the month, was now in full retreat between Verdun and the sea.  To preserve his centre from being pierced and his flanks rolled up, rear-guards eastward of Cambrai were offering the maximum resistance.  Most villages, though they passed into our hands nearly intact and in some cases full of civilians, had to be fought for.  The German machine-gunners rarely belied their character of fighting to the end.  In an attack on October 24 from Haussy, the Battalion, advancing rapidly in artillery formation, captured the high ground east of Bermerain; and the next day B and D Companies (the latter now commanded by Cupper) again attacked, and captured the railway south-east of Sepmeries.  For these operations the weather was fine, the ground dry, and the leadership excellent.  A period followed in reserve at Vendegies and afterwards at Bermerain [about 3 kms S.E. of Maresches, where Gates is buried]
, villages which were liberally bombarded by the German long-range guns. Moving up again on November 2, the Battalion made its last attack of the war.  A fine success resulted.  The objectives — St. Hubert and the ridge east of it — were captured, together with 700 prisoners, 40 machine-guns, and 4 tanks, recently used by the enemy in a counter-attack.  The fruits of this victory were well deserved by the Battalion, the more because so often in the course of the war it had been set to fight against odds in secondary operations.  It was a good wind-up.”

This from the Bucks Herald, 16th November 1918:

“We regret to have to chronicle several deaths of soldiers, and that grief has been brought to several homes in the town in these days of rejoicing at the practical termination of the Great war. − Lance Corpl. Herbert James Gates, 2/4 O. and B. L.I., was one of four sons of Mr. and Mrs. Gates, High-street, who have several in the war and it is regrettable that two have been killed and one is missing.  Lance Corpl. Gates was the youngest son, and had served for two years.  News was received at the end of last week that he had been instantaneously killed by a shell.”

The following is from the Parish Magazine:

“Herbert James Gates, L/CPL Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, was killed in action on November 2nd. He joined up in March of 1915 and was later sent to France.  His Lieutenant, writing to his parents, says:

‘It is with great regret that I have to inform you of the death of your son who was killed in action by a shell on November 2nd after a successful attack on some German positions during the early hours of the morning.  Our company had reached our objectives and had taken several hundred prisoners, when the Germans started shelling us, one of the shells killing your son.  All the men, including your son, behaved most gallantly during the attack.  Not only in action, but out of the line, your son proved himself to be a good and smart soldier and did his work willingly.  He was quiet and un-assuming and was well liked by his comrades in the company.  He did his work out here as a Lewis gunner,
[Note] and I know he did his best.  Infantry soldiers work is a hard and trying one, and I think no praise is too great for them.’

This is the second
son Mr and Mrs Gates has lost.  Another has been lost since August.“

Lance Corporal Gate is buried in the 4th war grave from the left.

Maresches is a small village some 4½ miles south-south-east of Valenciennes.  There are 9 U.K. First World War burials in the cemetery.



Private, 7th East Kent Regiment, service no. G/2204.
Born in Aston Clinton.  Son of Frederick and Emma of 27 High Street, Tring.
Enlisted in London.  Died of wounds in France on the 12th July 1916 aged 27.
Buried in St Sever Cemetery, France, grave ref. A.28.4.

On the 5th August 1914, the Minister for War, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, issued orders for the expansion of the army. “Your King and Country need you: a call to arms” was published on the 11th August 1914.  The poster explained the new terms of service and called for the first 100,000 men to enlist, a figure that was achieved within two weeks.  Six new Divisions were created from units formed of these volunteers, which were collectively called Kitchener’s Army, or K1. [Note] Two weeks later Kitchener asked for another 100,000 men to volunteer, from which were formed a further six Divisions referred to as K2.


The 7th (Service) [Note] Battalion of the East Kent Regiment was formed at Canterbury in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army, K2.  It then moved to Purfleet where it joined the 55th Brigade of the 18th Division. [Note] Following training, in July 1915 the battalion mobilised for war, landing at Boulogne. Thereafter it engaged in many major actions on the Western Front:

1916: The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, The Battle of Delville Wood, The Battle of Thiepval Ridge, The Battle of the Ancre Heights, The Battle of the Ancre.

1917: Operations on the Ancre, The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The Third Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of Pilkem Ridge, The Battle of Langemarck, First and Secong Battles of Passchendaele.

1918: The Battle of St Quentin, The Battle of the Avre, The actions of Villers-Brettoneux, The Battle of Amiens, The Battle of Albert, The Second Battle of Bapaume, [Note] The Battle of Epehy, The Battle of the St Quentin Canal, The Battle of the Selle, The Battle of the Sambre, ending the war at Pommereuil east of Le Cateau, France.

Walter Gates is listed in the 1911 Census aged 22 and employed as a journeyman baker.  He was then living with his parents Frederick (aged 53, hay and straw binder) and Emma (aged 53) at 12 Akeman Street.  At the same address where his brothers Frank (aged 20, draper’s assistant), Arthur (aged 17, hairdresser’s assistant) and Herbert (aged 15, grocer’s apprentice).  Frank and Herbert also enlisted in the army, both losing their lives during the war (in Herbert’s case a few days short of the Armistice) – see previous two entries.

The Battle of Albert (1st–13th July 1916), comprised the first two weeks of Anglo-French offensive operations in the Battle of the Somme, [Note] and both the 6th and 7th battalions of the East Kent Regiment took Part.  Although the loss of some 60,000 British casualties on the first day of the Somme was not repeated, the British did lose a further 25,000 men in the fighting from 2nd–13th July.  Judging from the date of Private Gates’ death and the location of his battalion at the time, it is likely that he was wounded during the Battle of Albert – from the correspondence below it is clear that he was wounded on or before the 5th July.  This from the Bucks Herald 15th July 1916:

“TRING MAN WOUNDED. – On Wednesday in last week Mr. and Mrs. Gates (High-street) received a telegram informing them that their son, Drummer T. Walter Gates, East Kent (Buffs) Regiment, was wounded on July 1st.  Later a kind and sympathetic letter came from the Matron at the Base Hospital saying that Drummer gates was severely wounded, and she could hold out little hopes of his recovery.  On Sunday morning his parents were greatly cheered by the receipt of a letter from the Chaplain, who said he saw their son on the 5th.  He had been wounded in the arm by a shell, so was unable to write, but was cheerful and doing as well as could be expected.  His brother went over to France at the beginning of the week, and found Drummer Gates getting on well and quite cheerful, though he had lost his left arm and three fingers off his right hand, and had been badly wounded in the side and the back of the neck.  Walter Gates, who before enlistment worked for Mr. Waldock, is well-known in the town, and greatly liked for his courteous and cheerful bearing.”

This from the Parish Magazine for August 1916:

“Drummer Walter Thomas Gates 7th East Kents, The Buffs, who was severely wounded very near the place where Lieut. Brown was killed.  He was well enough to be moved to the 6th General Hospital in France, and great hopes were, at one time, entertained of his ultimate recovery. Suddenly, however he became rapidly worse and on July 12th passed away.  The matron writes: ‘As bravely as he lived.’  The chaplain was with him shortly before he died and ministered to him.  He was buried in the beautiful cemetery at St Sever outside Rowen.  A number of letters of condolence were received by the parents.  Among these his mates wrote: ‘Walter was such a good fellow, a real good friend and comrade, I shall never have a better friend.’  Another writes: ‘He was a jolly good Christian lad and helped me a lot.  He went into action on the 1st of July and I can tell you we got it pretty hot, but during the morning I had to go on a message to Battalion Headquarters and previous to his, had an experience which had rather unnerved me and I was feeling pretty bad.  Whilst on this message, I came across Wally and he was as cool and calm as anything and he cheered me up no end.  We gained our objective alright and dug ourselves in and then settled down to hold it.  At midnight Wally came again and talked with me for about an hour.  Then I had to go on an errand and when I came back he had gone.  He must have gone straight from where I was and been hit, for I never saw him again.’  From what his parents heard afterwards he had volunteered to go with an important message, in place of another man who was suffering from sore feet.  It was while he was delivering this message that he received his terrible wounds.

The chaplain wrote: ‘Truly he died in a great cause, and he did the best a man can do.’”

During the First World War, Commonwealth camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen.  A base supply depot and the 3rd Echelon of General Headquarters were also established in the city.  Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for practically the whole of the war.  They included eight general, five stationary, one British Red Cross, one labour hospital, and No. 2 Convalescent Depot.  A number of the dead from these hospitals were buried in other cemeteries, but the great majority were taken to the city cemetery of St. Sever, and in September 1916 it was found necessary to bbuild an extension.

St. Sever Cemetery contains 3,082 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.



Private, 4th Bedfordshire Regiment, service no. 18621.
Son of John (deceased) and Martha Gregory of 48 Wingrave Road, Tring (1911 Census).
Enlisted at Bedford.  Killed in action on the 13th November 1916, aged 29.
No known grave.  Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France, pier and face 2 C.

The 1911 Census lists Frederick living at 48 Wingrave Road, Tring, with his mother Martha, aged 62, and his brother James, a general labourer aged 28.  Frederick, then aged 27, married Elizabeth née Barlow (aged 20, of Wigginton) at Tring Parish Church on the 28th January 1915.  The wedding certificate gives Frederick’s occupation as Private, 4th Bedfordshire Regiment, and that of his father (deceased) as labourer.  At the time of his death Frederick and Elizabeth had a 1-year old son, their home being at New Mill, Tring.

The 1911 Census lists Elizabeth (aged 15) living at Fox Road, Wigginton, with her father Joseph (aged 42, Domestic Gardener), mother Emily (aged 40), two brothers (Joseph, 12, and Ernest 6) and two sisters (Rose, 9, and Beatrice, 4).  The family appear to have originated in West Ilsley, Berkshire, Elizabeth being born at Littleworth.

The 4th (Special Reserve) [Note]  Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, was based at Bedford when war broke out on the 4th August 1914, following which the battalion was moved to Felixstowe to provide home defence around Harwich.  However, following the disaster on the Somme (July 1916), [Note] together with the equivalent units from other regiments the battalion mobilised and sent to the Western Front. [Note]  It landed in France on the 25th July 1916, where it joined the 190th Brigade of the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division, in which it remained throughout hostilities.  Although the 4th Battalion’s front line service during the war was relatively short, 855 of its officers and men were killed in action with a further 3,600 being wounded.

According to its War Diary [Note] for the 13th November 1916, the 4th Battalion was engaged in the Battle of Ancre.  This action commenced on the 13th of November (the date of Private Gregory’s death) and continued until the 18th.

The Battle of Ancre was the final large British attack during the Battle of the Somme.  Its objectives – the capture of Beaumont Hamel and Serre – were intended to go some way to redeeming the disaster of the first day of the Somme (1st July), at the same time taking ground on which the British would gain a tactical advantage.  The attack was the largest in the British sector since September.  It commenced with a 7-day bombardment – twice as heavy as that of the 1st July – following which British forces captured Beaumont Hamel, St. Pierre Divion and Beaucourt.  The Germans were taken by surprise and were well beaten, with four of their divisions having to be relieved due to the number of casualties they suffered.  Over 7,000 German troops were taken prisoner.

Between the 13th and the 15th November, the 63rd Division, in which Private Gregory served, lost approximately 3,500 casualties.

Battle of the Ancre.  An Army Chaplain helping along a wounded German prisoner
taken on the 13th of November 1916.

This from the 4th Battalion War Diary:

Operations on the North Bank of the ANCRE - Nov 13th 1916.  The Battalion advanced with the remainder of the Brigade at 6.45 am and sustained heavy casualties among Officers and NCOs in and near the enemy front line from a strongpoint established between enemy front line and second line which had been passed over by the leading Brigades.  Battalion advanced to enemy second line and from there parties pushed forward to Station Road and beyond.

Casualties: Officers Killed: Captain F. G. C. Ashmead-Bartlett, Lieut. B. L. S. Frere, Lieut. R. H. Boys, Lieut. W. A. Turnbull, 2nd Lieut. J. Brodie, 2nd Lieut. H. B. Hudson, 2nd Lieut. S. H. Agate, 2nd Lieut. T. H. Hill. Died of Wounds: 2nd Lieut. L. S. Wilkinson. Wounded: 2nd Lieut. A. R. Fraser, 2nd Lieut. L. BROOKS, 2nd Lieut. W. R. Bridges, 2nd Lieut. R. J. Thomas, Lieut. G. Arthur RAMC.  Other Ranks Killed: 48, Died of Wounds 9, Wounded 108, Missing 16.

In the evening all available men were withdrawn and taken down to HAMEL, refitted and moved into position in Station Road, close to BEAUCOURT Road.”

This from the Parish Magazine for December 1916:

“Just as we go to press comes the news that Frederick John Gregory, Bedfordshire Regiment, was killed on November 14th as he left the trenches.

He joined the Army two years ago and has been at the front for the past six months.  He is another of our Church Lads Brigade boys to lay down his life in this war.  The writer of this letter which brought news of his death says: ‘He died a hero and never at any time feared the result.’   May God receive him.”

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
British was graves on the left, French on the right.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave.  Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916.  The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.

The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932.



Lance Corporal, 55th Company Machine Gun Corps, service no. 4176.
Born in Chorleywood. Son of Charles and the late Mary Gristwood.
Enlisted at Watford, formerly with the Bedfordshire Regiment.
Killed in action on the 3rd May 1917, aged 21.
No known grave.  Commemorated on Arras Memorial, France, Bay 10.

Leonard Gristwood enlisted in the Bedfordshire Regiment at Watford, date unknown, but at some stage in his military career was transferred to the 55th Machine Gun Corps, [Note] a Company that on the 13th of February 1916 became part of the 18th (Eastern) Division.

During 1916 the 55th Company Machine Gun Corps was in action (on The Somme [Note]) in The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, The Battle of Delville Wood, The Battle of Thiepval Ridge, The Battle of the Ancre Heights and The Battle of the Ancre.  In the following year they were in action in the Operations on the Ancre, The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line [Note] and in The Third Battle of the Scarpe, before moving to Flanders.  In these latter actions the 18th (Eastern) Division formed part of VII Corps, 3rd Army, [Note] under Lieut. General Allenby. [Note]

The battles around Arras in April and May 1917 (the first, second and third Battles of the Scarpe, the Battle for Vimy Ridge, and the first and second Battles of Bullecourt) were fought in order to support the French offensive at the Aisne River further south.  The battles were generally successful in reaching their immediate and small-scale objectives, although Bullecourt was a costly failure while the Third Battle of the Scarpe has been considered a day on which many who witnessed it considered it to be the blackest of the war.


Lewis machine gunners [Note] during the Battle of Arras, 1917.

The Scarpe is a river in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France and is a left tributary of the Scheldt. During the First World War the river and its valley were important battlegrounds.  Roeux in the Scarpe Valley (4½ miles east of Arras) was one of the fortified villages that formed part of the German defences behind their front line.  The ground before Roeux posed many difficulties for the British, two of which were the Arras-Douai railway line, which ran north-east to south-west in cutting and on embankment, and the River Scarpe with its surrounding marshland.

Despite earlier attacks being only partly successful, the 3rd May attack in the Scarpe (the Third Battle) began as planned.  The 18th (Eastern) Division mounted an attack on Chérisy, a small village about six miles south-east of Arras.  The attack started at 3.45am in pitch darkness, which caused a great confusion due to it being impossible to distinguish between friend and foe, which became mixed.  The attack proved an unmitigated disaster for the British Army, which suffered nearly 6,000 men killed for little material gain.  In the Official History, Military Operations France and Belgium 1917, Captain Cyril Falls explained why the attack on the VII Corps front failed:

“The confusion caused by the darkness; the speed with which the German artillery opened fire; the manner in which it concentrated upon the British infantry, almost neglecting the artillery; the intensity of its fire, the heaviest that many an experienced soldier had ever witnessed, seemingly unchecked by British counter-battery fire and lasting almost without slackening for fifteen hours; the readiness with which the German infantry yielded to the first assault and the energy of its counter-attack; and, it must be added, the bewilderment of the British infantry on finding itself in the open and its inability to withstand any resolute counter-attack.”

This paragraph illustrates starkly the nature of the fighting in which Lance Corporal Gristwood probably lost his life – nightmarish, terrifying and bloody.  This from the Parish Magazine:

“Leonard Gristwood, a Corporal in the Machine Gun Corps was reported as missing on May 3rd, is now thought to have been killed on this day.

His Officer has written to his friends saying ‘Corporal Gristwood was always regarded as one of our best and smartest soldiers.  He was ever brave in the face of danger and in every way a reliable and cheerful soldier in every kind of hardship.  A lad to be proud of.  We, his comrades, deplore his loss and tender our sincere sympathy.  He will be sadly missed.’”

Mary Ann Pickthorn married Charles Gristwood on the 30th January 1888.  Their son Leonard was baptised at Chorleywood in 1895, although the 1901 Census records Leonard’s year of birth as 1896.  It also records that he was domiciled at Little Tring with his maternal grandparents, William Pickthorn (aged 60, agricultural labourer), grandmother Elizabeth (aged 62) and May Lilian Gristwood (aged 12), described as a grand child and presumably Leonard’s sister.  Ten years later Leonard (but not his sister) remained with his grand parents.  The Census of that year describes him as a “boarder” and gives his occupation as “farm labourer, feeds cattle” (his grand father’s occupation is given as “farm labourer, horseman”).

The Arras Memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and the 7th August 1918 (the eve of the Advance to Victory), and have no known grave.  The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and the German attack in the spring of 1918.  Canadian and Australian servicemen killed in these operations are commemorated by memorials at Vimy and Villers-Bretonneux.

The Arras Memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, with sculpture by Sir William Reid Dick.  It was unveiled by Lord Trenchard, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, on the 31st July 1932.



Private, 11th Royal Sussex Regiment, service no. G/18702.
Enlisted at Watford.  Killed in action on the 28th February 1918, aged 19.
Son of Mr. B. and Mrs. S. A. Gunn of New Road, New Mill, Tring.
Buried in Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery, France, grave ref. II.E.5.


The 11th (Service) Battalion (1st South Downs) was formed at Bexhill on the 7th September 1914.  In October 1915 it was placed under the command of 116th Brigade in 39th Division, and in March of the following year landed at Le Havre, together with the 12th and 13th battalions.

All three battalions took part in the Battle of the Boar’s Head [Note] in June 1916.  After a bombardment of the German trenches the 12th and 13th Battalions went over the top (most for the first time) and, under heavy fire, attacked the enemy trenches, bombing and bayoneting their way in.  The 11th Battalion supplied carrying parties. [Note] They succeeded in taking the German front line trench, holding it for some four hours, and even briefly took the second line trench for about half an hour, beating off repeated counterattacks, and only withdrew from the shortage of ammunition and mounting casualties.

During 1917, the Battalion took part in the Third Battle of Ypres (generally known as Passchendaele), during which it was engaged in the battles of Pilckem Ridge (31st July–2nd August), Langemarck (16th-18th August), Menin Road (20th-25th September), Polygon Wood (26th–27th September), and 2nd Passchendaele (26th October–10th November).

At the time of Private Gunn’s death on the 28th February 1918, the Battalion does not appear to have been involved in any significant action.  They were at Revlon Farm at Allaines in the Somme, in the Picardy region of Northern France.  This from the 11th Battalion War Diary [Note] for the 28th February 1918:

Weather changeable – Enemy aircraft fairly active – Shelling by our and enemy artillery – Capt. P. F. Drew M.C. proceeded on leave – Lieut. R. G. K. Limbery-Buse proceeded to U.K. for 6 months rest.  Casualties 2 O.R.s killed 2 O.R.s wounded.  2nd Lieut. Haddon was wounded by a fragment of our A.A. shells.”

War diaries generally name officer casualties individually, while giving totals for “other ranks”.  Presumably Private Gunn was one of the “2 O.R.s” killed on that day.  This from the Bucks Herald, 19th March 1918:

ROLL OF HONOUR. – News has been received of the death in action of Pte. George Gunn, Royal Sussex Regiment, son of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Gunn, New Mill, with whom the deepest sympathy is felt in their bereavement.  A letter from the Captain of his Company informs the parents at Pte. Gunn was killed in action on Feb. 28, in the front line, with a carrying party.  He was hit by a shell and killed instantaneously, and was buried in a little cemetery behind the line.  Over the grave a cross will be erected.  The Company Commander tendered the sympathies of the officers and men to the bereaved parents. Pte.  Gunn was 19 years of age, and joined the Army in February of last year on attaining 18 years of age.  He proceeded overseas about the middle of last month, and was only some 10 days in France when he made the great sacrifice.  Before joining up he was employed at Apsley Paper Mills, where he was held in high esteem.”

From the Parish Magazine, April 1918:

George Gunn, was a Private in 11th Bn. Royal Sussex Regiment. His  Captain writes, ‘Killed in action, to our great regret, on February 28th 1918.  He was employed in the front line trench as part of a carrying party.  He was killed by a shell burst and died instantaneously.  He was buried this morning in a little cemetery near here.  I am having a cross erected to mark his grave.  I write on behalf of the commanding officer, the officers and men of the battalion, to offer you our sympathy in your great loss.’”

Gouzeaucourt village was captured by the 8th Division on the night of 12-13 April 1917. It was lost on 30 November 1917 in the German counterattack at the end of the Battle of Cambrai, and recaptured the same day by the 1st Irish Guards. It was lost again on 22 March 1918, attacked by the 38th (Welsh) Division on the following 18 September, and finally retaken by the 21st Division on 8 October.

The cemetery now contains 1,295 burials and commemorations of the First World War. 381 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 34 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Another special memorial records the name of a soldier buried in Gouzeaucourt Communal Cemetery in May 1917 whose grave was destroyed by shell fire.



Private, 1st Hertfordshire Regiment, service no. 4719.
Born in Tring.  Son of James and Ellen of 38 Albert Street, Tring.
Killed in action in France on the 21st September 1916, aged 19.
Buried in Knightsbridge Cemetery, Mesnil-Martinsart, France, grave ref. E. 45.

When war broke out in August 1914, the Regular Army was called upon to form the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) [Note] along with a small number of Territorial units [Note]  including the 1st Herts.  It was the only one of the four Hertfordshire Regiment battalions to serve abroad, the others fulfilling recruit training and home-defence functions.

A photograph taken at Halton Park showing signallers of 1st Bn. Hertfordshire Regiment,
part of the Battalion Headquarters, possibly taken around January 1916.
Private Halsey is known to be in the picture, but the narrative doesn’t identify him.
He was a corporal at the time, and there are two soldiers of that rank in the picture.

On the 6th November the 1st Herts landed in France, serving in the trenches during the closing stages of the First Battle of Ypres.  In February 1916 the battalion became part of the 118th Brigade in the 39th Division, [Note] and as such was involved later in the year in the Battle of the Somme (1st July–18th November). [Note]  Judging from the date of Private Halsey’s death and the involvement of his battalion, it appears reasonable to assume that he was killed during that Offensive, although the Battalion War Diary entry for the 21st September 1916 (the day of his death) makes no mention of any casualties or the shellfire incident referred to in the press clipping below.

Soldiers of the 1st Herts Territorial Regiment at a pre-war training camp.

From the Bucks Herald, 7th October 1916:

PRIVATE ARCHIE HALSEY: not yet 20, a lad of attractive disposition and sterling character, Archie Halsey has willingly and cheerfully laid down his life at the call of duty.  A son of Mr. and Mrs. James Halsey, Archie was a choirboy at the Parish Church, and one of the first to join the local troop of Boy Scouts, of which he remained an enthusiastic member until he joined His Majesty’s Forces.  A quiet, unassuming lad who, when once he saw his duty clear, performed it cheerfully and unflinchingly. Archie Halsey was looked up to as being absolutely trustworthy, not only in Scout circles, but beyond.  Now the promising young life is ended, and for his bereaved parents and friends the greatest sympathy is felt.  This has found expression in numberless letters which have been received from the members of the Company with which Archie served, and from others.

As far as can be gathered from the letters to hand, Archie was one of the party who were left as caretakers of a trench on September 21, and was in a dugout with several other men, when a shell dropped in the doorway, a piece of it going through his heart.  Death was instantaneous.  He was buried in a little cemetery behind the lines where many another heroes rests.

Archie Halsey joined the Herts Territorials early in 1915, and was for about five months in training at Halton Park.  He was at first in the Signal Section, and was promoted corporal, but on going to France he reverted to the ranks.  He seems to have been regarded with great respect and affection by his comrades.”

From the Tring Parish Magazine November 1916:

Archibald Halsey one of the first members of our troop of boy scouts and has been the first to give his life for his country.  We shall miss him, the quiet, consistent patrol leader of the ‘wolves’, who led his patrol to the first place in the yearly competition.  He also led the Ambulance Squad in the Tempest Hicks Cup competition, two and a half hears ago.  Every scout in the troop respected him.  All of his examiners commended him, when he won his badges.  The ‘gone home’ sign has been set to his track here and he is called to higher service beyond.  The first promise of the scout is: To do his duty to god and king.  Archie was trying to keep that promise when the shell burst in the dugout on September 20th, somewhere in France.”

In the 1901 Census, Archie, then aged 4 years, was living at 10, Langdon Street, Tring, with his father James (aged 31, Estate Carpenter), mother Ellen (aged 30), brother Hubert (aged 8) and sister Ella (aged 6). By 1911 the family had moved to 38 Albert St, Tring. Brother Hubert was by then employed as a carpenter, and Archibald had been joined by two more brothers, Arnold (aged 6) and Kenneth (aged 2).

It is known that Archie was active in the Boy Scout movement, two scraps of information about which survive:

July 8th 1911: the King and the Scouts.  Two scouts from the First Tring Troop (St Peter and St Paul) took part in the review of scouts by the King at Windsor Park on Tuesday.  They were Patrol Leader A. Halsey and Corpl C. Woodley.

June 1st 1912: Boy Scouts. 1st Tring Group (SS Peter and Paul). An exam for the ambulance badge was conducted by Dr J. C. Baker of Aylesbury during the first week in May.  The following scouts were awarded badges: Patrol leaders: A. Halsey: W. Batchelor: G. Ayres.”

Knightsbridge Cemetery, which is named after a communication trench, was begun at the outset of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.  It was used by units fighting on that front until the German withdrawal in February 1917 and was used again by fighting units from the end of March to July 1918, when the German advance brought the front line back to the Ancre.  The cemetery contains 548 First World War burials, 141 of them unidentified.



Private, 2nd Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry, service no. 3281.
Son of Robert and Alice of 21 Park Road, Tring.
Enlisted at Aylesbury.  Killed in action, 26th August 1916, aged 18.
Buried in Laventie Military Cemetery, France, grave ref. II. F. 7.

Originally the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry, the regiment’s title was changed to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (commonly shortened to the ‘Ox and Bucks’)  in 1908 as part of the Haldane Reforms.  During the war, the regiment raised 12 battalions (making 17 in all), six of which fought on the Western Front. [Note]

The 2nd Bn Ox and Bucks went to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force [Note] (5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division, I Corps) [Note] in 1914.  Throughout the Great War the battalion played an active role on the Western Front, [Note] participating in many of the bloody campaigns that typically resulted in heavy casualties for little strategic gain, among which was the infamous Battle of Delville Wood (15th July–3rd September 1916), a series of actions that took place during the Somme offensive. [Note]

Ration party of the 2nd Bn. Ox and Bucks L. I. in a front line trench at Cuinchy, March 1915.

Unfortunately the Battalion War Diary [Note] is one of the very sketchy examples of the type, and other than mentioning the loss of some 3 O.R.s on the 26th August 1916, gives no details or hint of the circumstances in which their deaths occurred. On that day, the 2nd Ox & Bucks L. I. was in the trenches at Bus-lès-Artois in the Somme, some 30 miles northeast of Amiens:

25th Aug: 2/Lt. A. S. Holiday joined and posted to A Coy.  2/Lt. H. Davis joined & posted to C Coy.

26th Aug: 2/Lt V. E. Fanning
[killed at the Battle of Ancre, 14th Nov.] joined and posted to B Coy.  Casualties 3 killed C Coy.

27th Aug: 2/Lt. E. H. Vigan
rejoined and posted to D Coy.

28th Aug: Quiet Day.

From the Bucks Herald, 9th September 1916:

“PRIVATE GEORGE HANCE: another young life with all its promise and possibilities has been willingly sacrificed in the country’s cause. Private George Hance, second son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hance, of Park-road, Tring, then about 17 years old joined the colours at the end of 1914, enlisting in the 1st Bucks Territorials. Later he was drafted into the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.  He went to France and took part in the ‘big push,’ being wounded in the right arm on July 21.  He was soon back in the fighting, and on the night of August 26 was killed at his post of duty as sentry.

George Hance, back row second from left.

The sad news was conveyed to his parents in letters from the Captain of his Company, and from the Rev. J. R. Foster, Chaplain to the Brigade.  The commanding officer said that Private Hance was shot through the head by a machine gun, and died in a few minutes.

Though he had not been in the Company long, he had shown himself, in the opinion of his officer, a man to be relied on.  The Chaplain in a sympathetic letter, informed the parents that their son was buried two miles behind the trenches, and that an officer and some men of the Company attended the funeral service.

George Hance on the left.

On Sunday at High-street Church, the Rev. Charles Pearce, C.F., referred in sympathetic terms to the death of George Hance, who was a scholar in the Sunday School. Mr. Clement played the ‘Dead March’ at the close of the service.”

George Hances great nephew contacted me to say:

Like a lot of young men of the time, he joined up under age.  Most of his relatives who I spoke to were born after long after his death, so never knew him.  My grandfather never mentioned him that I can remember.  The one story that I was told concerning him, for what its worth, is that on the day he died, his mother swore she heard him calling to her in the middle of the night and made her husband go and unlock the door and check if he was there.  They wouldn
t have found out what had happened for a day or two after that, I guess.

George is buried in the same cemetery as Harry Prentice.  Both were 18 years of age.

In the latter half of June 1916, men of the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division began burying their fallen comrades at this site, which became the Laventie Military Cemetery.  Over 80 members of the Division who were killed or mortally wounded during the Battle of Fromelles (19th July 1916) were laid to rest here, and the cemetery was used by British units holding this part of the line throughout 1916 and 1917.  There are now almost 550 war casualties buried or commemorated here.



Corporal, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, service no. 11268.
Born in Tamworth.  Son of Samuel of Woodbrook Cottage, Forest Road, Loughborough
and the late Susan Lavinia.
Enlisted at Stafford.  Killed in action on the 8th October 1915, aged 20.
Buried in Quarry Cemetery, France, grave ref. A.1.

The Coldstream Guards is the oldest regiment in continuous active service in the Regular Army.  Its origin lies in the English Civil War when Oliver Cromwell gave Colonel George Monck permission to form his own regiment as part of the New Model Army.  Monck took men from the regiments of George Fenwick and Sir Arthur Haselrig, five companies each, and on the 23rd August 1650 formed Monck’s Regiment of Foot.  Less than two weeks later this force took part in the Battle of Dunbar, at which the Roundheads defeated the forces of Charles Stuart.  In 1670 the regiment adopted the name The Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards.  This was changed to The 2nd Foot Guards in 1782 and to The Coldstream Guards in 1855.

In August 1914 the three Coldstream Battalions deployed to France, where they saw action at Mons, the Marne, and the Aisne before being committed to the defence of Ypres where the 1st Battalion was almost annihilated at the Battle of Gheluvelt (31st October 1914).  For the remainder of the war the Regiment maintained four Battalions on active service on the Western Front, [Note] where they fought in the major battles of Loos (1915), the Somme (1916) [Note], Passchendaele and Cambrai (1917), Arras and in the Great Advance (1918). [Note]

In September 1915 the French and British armies launched a major offensive on the Western Front, intending to break through enemy lines and strike a decisive blow against the German army.  While French forces attacked in Champagne and Artois, the British First Army attacked along a ten-kilometre front between Loos and La Bassée.  This was the British army’s largest effort of the war so far, with 75,000 men involved on the first day alone.  It became known at the time as “the Big Push”.

The Battle of Loos (25th September–8th October, 1915), as it has since been named, rather than being a big push was a big disaster.  The casualties – including some 8,500 dead – on the 25th September were the worst yet suffered by the British army in a single day.  In total, the battle resulted in casualties of over 50,000, of whom some 16,000 lost their lives.  Sir John French, [Note] Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, [Note] was recalled shortly after to be replaced by Sir Douglas Haig. [Note]

The 1st Bn. Coldstream Guards (2nd Guards Brigade), [Note] in which Corporal Hardy served, was involved in the fighting.  The following extract from The Guards Magazine, Journal of the Household Division (edition Summer 2017) recalls one heroic episode during the German counterattack on the 8th October:

The Battle of Loos is one of those First World War battles that seems to exemplify all the worst aspects of that terrible war.  Much was expected of this offensive, ‘The Big Push’ as it was named at the time, but it was to be a costly and futile endeavour that later provided a touchstone for many of the harshest judgements of the war.  The tragedy was that the Allies were still struggling to come to terms with this new kind of warfare.  They had yet to grasp the basic mechanics of attacking strong fixed defences, and yet ‘attack’ seemed the only option . . . .

. . . . Sometime around 4pm on 8th October, the Germans launched an attack along 2nd Guards Brigade’s
[including 1st Bn. Coldstream Guards] front-line, with most of the attack concentrating just south of the Hohenzollern Redoubt. [Note] Two companies of the 3rd Grenadiers were attacked along a communication trench running east and west of their positions, and soon they had exhausted their supply of bombs.  The turning point of the engagement came with the action of Lance Sergeant Oliver Brooks, [3rd Battn.]
Coldstream Guards, who organised a bombing party and proceeded to drive the Germans back, bombing them out of their trenches.  By 7pm the line had been recovered and the Grenadiers were able to consolidate their positions.  For this brave action, Sergeant Brooks was later awarded the Victoria Cross.”

At noon on the 8th October, the German guns commenced a bombardment along the entire front between Lens and the La Bassée Canal.  It lasted until 4pm and it is likely that Corporal Hardy was killed in the shelling.  This from the Bucks Herald, 30th October 1915:

News has been received of the death of Leslie George Hardy, Coldstream Guards, son of Mr. S. Hardy, secretary of the Tring Co-operative Society.

Corporal hardy, when war broke out, was working as an electrical engineer, but as once enlisted in the Coldstream Guards, and, after about two months’ training, was sent to France, where he has been, except for a short leave a few weeks ago, ever since.  He was all through the stiff struggle for the Brick Kiln, and the recent heavy fighting around Loos.  He was apparently killed instantaneously by shrapnel in one of the reserve trenches, and buried the same day.  His friends all speak of him as a particularly bright and good soldier.”

From the Parish Magazine November 1915:

News has been received of the death of Leslie George Hardy, Coldstream Guards. Corporal Hardy, when ware broke out, was working as an electrical engineer. He at once enlisted in the Coldstream Guards, after about two months training, was sent to France, where he was been except for a short spell of leave a few weeks ago.

He took part in the stiff struggle for ‘The Brick Kiln’ in the recent heavy fighting around Loos.

He was apparently killed instantaneously by Shrapnel whilst in the reserve trenches and was buried the same day.  His friends speak of him as a particularly bright and good soldier.

May he rest in peace.

Note: Leslie George Hardy was employed by The Rothschild Estate at the
generating station at the Silk Mill, Brook Street, Tring.”

In the 1911 Census, George Hardy was listed living at 109 Corporation Street, Stafford, with his father Samuel (aged 54) and sister Laura (aged 23, School Teacher).

Some 500 metres to the east of Quarry Cemetery was the formidable German strongpoint
known as the Hohenzollern Redoubt. [Note]

Quarry Cemetery was begun at an advanced dressing station in July 1916, and used until February 1917.  The Germans buried a few of their dead in Plot V in April and May 1918.  At the Armistice it consisted of 152 graves in the present Plots V and VI.  It was then increased when graves (almost all of July-December 1916) were brought in from the battlefields surrounding Montauban and small burial grounds.  The cemetery now contains 740 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War.  157 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to seven casualties known or believed to be buried among them.



Private, 1st Bedfordshire Regiment, service no. 14280.
Born in Tring.  Son of Eli and Elizabeth Harrowell of 17 Langdon Street, Tring.
Formerly employed as a clerk with the London and North Western Railway.
Enlisted at Hertford.  Killed in action on the 19th April 1915, aged 19.
No known grave.  Commemorated on Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial,
Belgium, panel 31 and 33.

The original soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment were amongst the ‘Old Contemptibles’ [Note], the title proudly adopted by the men of the original British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) [Note] who saw active service before 22nd November 1914.  On mobilisation the 1st Battalion formed part of 15th Infantry Brigade in the 5th Division.


Private Charles Harrowell, 1st Bedfordshire Regiment.

Private Harrowell is believed to have been killed during an action south of Ypres, now known as the Battle of Hill 60 (17th April–7th May 1915), which was fought to regain a prominent piece of high ground that had been captured by the Germans during the First Battle of Ypres.  In the first British operation of its kind the Royal Engineers employed experienced miners from Northumberland and Wales to dig tunnels under Hill 60 in which were laid explosive charges.

The British attack began on the 17th April when the first pair of mines were blown and the rest followed ten seconds later – débris from the explosions was flung almost 300 feet into the air and scattered for 300 yards in all directions.  The hill was captured quickly, most of the German platoon holding their front line having been killed and the survivors overwhelmed – the British suffered only seven casualties. However, it was then found that the salient that had been created made the occupation of Hill 60 very costly.  In attacks in early May – which included the use of gas shells – the Germans recovered the ground, which they then held until the Battle of Messines in 1917 (when the British detonated a much larger mine beneath it).

Artist’s impression of the British defending Hill 60 (helmets came in April 1916).

This extract is from the 1st Bedfordshire Regiment War Diary [Note] for April 1915:

[The Battle of Hill 60]

17 Apr: Headquarters 13th Inf. Bde arrived & took over command of sector.  R. W. Kent Regt. & K. O. S. B. arrived & went into dugouts & part of front trench.  2 companies of Bedfords withdrawn into support to make room for 13th Bde.  7 pm. precisely, 6 mines under Hill 60 exploded in 3 groups of two each.
[Note]  Heavy Artillery bombardment commenced, & Hill 60 rushed by British (R.W.K)

18 Apr: Enemy counterattacked during early morning.  Casualties considerable.  2 Companies Bedfords recalled in afternoon & counter attack on Hill 60 (part of which had been lost by 13th Bde) commenced at 6 pm.  Line re-established on Hill 60.  G.O.C. 13th Bde. handed over immediate control of sector to Lt. Colonel Griffith D.S.O. (Bedf. Regt.) & withdrew with staff to point about a mile in rear.

[Private Harrowell killed this day]

19 Apr: Front line occupied in early morning by Bedfords & 1/East Surrey Regt.  Work carried out under difficulties to consolidate position on Hill 60.  Considerable shelling and bombing by enemy.”

20 Apr: Enemy counter attacked: tremendous bombardment carried out against Hill 60, & our trenches & supports. Enemy’s heavy guns enfiladed
[Note] position, other guns firing from various directions: bombardment all night.

21 Apr: Reningelst
[approx 6 miles south-west of Ypres]
. Bombardment & counter attacks continued during early morning & position critical at times.  Casualties very heavy. Enemy’s machine guns partially enfiladed reverse of Hill 60, trench mortar bombarded it, & field guns were brought up to within about 30 yards & fired point blank at parapet, blowing it to pieces & mangling the defenders.  Our artillery unable to compete with enemy’s heavy guns, or to locate small guns which were too close to Hill 60 to be easily shelled.  Casualties of Bedfords 4 officers killed, 8 wounded.  Other ranks over four hundred.  Cameron Highlanders & 1 Devons arrived during morning & relieved E.Surreys & Bedfords who went into reserve at RENINGHELST for sleep & rest.

Lieut. John Boyer Webb and 2nd/Lieut. William Bernard Knight of the 4th Battn. Prince Of Wales (attached to the Bedfords) were two of those killed, as were Act/Capt. Charles Sidney Kirch and 2nd/Lieut. Esmond Lawrence Kellie.  Major Walter Allason was also wounded.  Almost 100 Other Ranks were also killed between the 18th and 21st April, with several hundred more wounded.  This from the Bucks Herald 8th May 1915:

“Another Tring lad has given his life for King and country.  Private Charles Harrowell, son of Mr. Eli Harrowell, of Langdon-street, Tring, was drafted into the 1st Bedfordshire Regiment, and went out with the Expeditionary Force in February this year.  He was in the fighting at La Bassee, where he had a narrow escape.  He was buried in the earth by the explosion of a German shell, and had his to coat blown to pieces.  He, however, escaped uninjured.  On April 19th he was killed in action, most probably in one of the historic battles which ranged round Hill 60, though the official intimation of his death which his parents have received gives no information on this point.  Private Harrowell was only 19, and before joining the Army was engaged as a relief clerk on the L. and N.-W. Railway, where his prospects of promotion were excellent.  A bright, cheerful young fellow, he was extremely popular with all who knew him. Great sympathy is felt for his parents.  His mother is prostrated by the sad news.”

The 1911 Census lists Charles living at 17 Langdon Street with his parents, Eli (aged 48, a bricklayer) and Elizabeth (aged 48), and his siblings, Ellen (aged 22), Elizabeth (aged 13) and Frank (aged 11).  Other siblings that appear on the 1901 census are George (born 1882), James (born 1885) and Annie (born 1891).  James, by them a married man, was killed in action on the 22nd October 1917 (see next entry).

The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields.  It commemorates casualties from the forces of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and United Kingdom who died in the Salient.  In the case of United Kingdom casualties, only those prior the 16th August 1917 (with some exceptions).  United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war.

The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men whose graves are not known, among which is that of Private Charles Harrowell.  The memorial, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick, was unveiled by Lord Plumer on the 24th July 1927.



Rifleman, 9th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, service no. R/24249.
Enlisted at Watford.  Killed in action on the 22nd October 1917 aged 32.
Born in Tring.  Son of Eli and Elizabeth Harrowell of 17 Langdon Street, Tring.
Husband of Caroline of 40 Wingrave Road, New Mill, Tring.
No known grave.  Commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium,
panels 115 to 119 and 162A and 163A.

For more than 200 years the KRRC served throughout the British Empire.  During the First World War the regiment raised 22 battalions and saw action on the Western Front, [Note]  in Macedonia and in Italy – 12,840 men on its strength were killed and it won 60 battle honours including 7 Victoria Crosses.

The 9th (Service) Battalion was formed at Winchester in August 1914 as part of K1 [Note] coming under the 42nd Brigade in the 14th (Light) Division. [Note]

On the 20th May 1915 the battalion landed at Boulogne.  It then took part in various actions on the Western Front including, during 1915, The Action of Hooge and The Second Attack on Bellewaarde; during 1916, The Battle of Delville Wood and The Battle of Flers-Courcelette; during 1917, The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The First and Third Battles of the Scarpe, The Battle of Langemark and The First and Second Battles of Passchendaele; and, in 1918, The Battle of St Quentin and The Battle of the Avre.

The day following 1st Passchendaele.

In 1917, the 14th (Light) Division – to which Lance-Corpl. Harrowell’s battalion was attached – formed part of X Corps, 2nd Army.  In June, X Corps took part in the Battle of Messines and then in the 3rd Battle of Ypres, which included 1st Passchendaele (12th October 1917) and 2nd Passchendaele (26th October-10th November).  The capture of the Passchendaele Ridge took over 8 weeks to achieve at the immense cost to both sides of between 200,000 and 400,000 casualties (military historians continue to debate the exact figures).  The great tragedy for the British and Imperial forces who fought for the few miles from Ypres to the Passchendaele Ridge, is that five months later almost all of the ground gained at such terrible cost was recaptured by the German Army during its April 1918 offensive.

Judging by the date of his death and the known involvement of the 14th (Light) Division at that time, it seems likely that Lance-Corpl. Harrowell was killed in fighting or in artillery barrage that took place between the two main battles of Passchendaele.  This from the Bucks Herald, 10th November 1917:

“ROLL OF HONOUR. – We regret to announce that Mr. Charles Harrowell, of Langdon-street, has been notified by the War Office that his son, Lance-Corpl. James Harrowell, of the King’s Royal Rifles, was killed in action on October 22.  An old Volunteer and later a Territorial, Lance Corpl. Harrowell did some years’ service, and only retired a few months prior to the war on taking up a partnership with his brother at Chesham, where they carried on an improving business as builders and contractors.  The deceased was called up in May, 1916, and nine weeks later went to France, where he saw service until he met his death last month.

He was formerly a foreman bricklayer in the employ of Mr. Jesse Mead, of Chesham, and was an active member of the Chesham Trade and Labour Council.  The news of his death has been received with profound regret by his many friends, and the deepest sympathy is felt with his wife and parents, especially as this is the second loss sustained by the family, his brother Charles Harrowell, Bedford Regiment, having been killed at Hill 60 in April, 1916 [1915].  Lance-Corpl. Harrowell was 33 [32]
years of age, and married Miss Johnson, of New Mill.”

From the Parish Magazine:

“Husband of Caroline Harrowell of Tring, Herts.

James Harrowell, Lance Corporal, 9th Bn. K.R.R.C. was killed in France on October 22nd.  He was for many years a member of the Old Volunteer Corps, and afterwards in the Hertfordshire Territorial Regiment leaving with the rank of Lance Corporal at the end of his engagement.  He often won cups for shooting, and twice held the bugle, presented to the best shot in the Corps.  The National Rifle Association also awarded their badge for Skilled Shooting.

He joined the Army, finally in May 1916, and was sent to France in August 1916 and never returned to this country.  Those who knew him best, speak of him in the highest terms.  His Lieutenant writing to his wife, says: ‘Your husband was in my platoon and throughout my acquaintance with him, I had a fine sense of his many and excellent qualities, both as a soldier and as a man.  He was most deservedly popular with all his comrades and I feel the platoon has sustained an irreparable loss through his decease.  I trust it will be of some consolation in your grief, to think he died as every Englishman is proud to do, in these days of trial.’”

In 1939, James’ widow Caroline (born 1882) was living with her unmarried sister Emily (born 1884) at 40 Wingrave Road, Tring.  She died in 1974.

The Tyne Cot Memorial, on which Lance-Corpl. Harrowell is commemorated, is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders that cover the area known as the Ypres Salient.

The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force [Note] succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge.  The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres.  This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.

There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south.  The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a doggèd struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather.  The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele.

The Tyne Cot Memorial now bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known.  A further 11,961 Commonwealth servicemen are buried or commemorated in Tyne Cot Cemetery, 8,373 of whom are unidentified.



Men of the 8th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, going up to the line near Frezenberg
during the Battle of Broodseinde, 1917.
Photo by Ernest Brooks.


Lieutenant (Temp), 8th East Yorkshire Regiment.
Born in Tring, educated at Berkhamsted School and Oxford.
Son of Dr. Ernst and Claudia Hartert of ‘Bellevue’, Park Road, Tring.
Killed in action on the 28th October 1916, aged 22.
 Buried in Courcelles-Au-Bois Communal Cemetery Extension, France, grave ref. A12.


Buck Herald 24th June 1916.

Charles’ father Ernst Hartert, together with Karl Jordan, were employed by Lord Rothschild as joint Curators of the Tring Natural History Museum. Both, German by birth, were criticised by certain elements of the town’s people of Tring due, no doubt, to the great number of British losses sustained in the war.  There was even resentment felt again Lord Rothschild, a great local benefactor during his lifetime (see Bucks herald article).  Although there was opposition to the addition of Joachim Charles Hartert to the roll of honour and the war memorial, this was overcome, but Charles’ the full name does not appear on his grave stone, the roll of honour book and the war memorial.  It does appear in Commonwealth war Grave Commission records.

The 8th (Service) Battalion [Note] was formed at Beverley on the 22nd September 1914 as part of K3, [Note] 62nd Brigade in the 21st Division [Note]), initially being based at Tring (Halton Park [Note]).   In September 1915 the battalion mobilised for war.  Having landed at Boulogne, it was soon engaged on the Western Front [Note] including the main action of the dreadful Battle of Loos.  In November 1915 the battalion transferred to the 8th Brigade in the 3rd Division.  The 3rd Division was among the first British formations to move to France as part of the original British Expeditionary Force [Note] and one of the first into action.  It remained on the Western Front throughout the war taking part in most of the major actions including, during 1916, The Actions of the Bluff and St Eloi Craters, The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Bazentin, The Battle of Delville Wood and The Battle of the Ancre.

Lieut. Hartert was killed by artillery fire on the 28th October 1916, his battalion then being engaged in the Battle of the Somme. [Note]  Although it isn’t clear on which part of the battlefield he lost his life, it was probably in the vicinity of the River Ancre (also suggested by the cemetery history below).  The following extract is from the War Diary, the 8th Battalion being in the trenches of the SERRE Sector:

Joachim Charles Hartert (1893-1916)


SERRE Sector

18th Oct to 31st Oct: Provided usual working & carrying parties to trenches. On the 20th a practice attack was again carried out over specially marked area, as a unit of the Brigade. On the 23rd the practice attack was again carried out by the Division. On the 27th. ‘A’, ‘B’ & ‘C’ Coys proceed to the trenches in the SERRE Sector.  ‘B Coy. was attached to the 1st Gordon Highlanders & ‘A’ & ‘C’ Companies were attached to the 1st Battn. Northumberland Fusiliers of the 76th Brigade – During a tour lasting 48 hours, casualties numbering 2 officers & 8 other ranks were sustained. In the 2 Officer Casualties (Captain C. P. Taylor & Lieut. J. C. Hartert, killed in action, 28/10/16) the Battalion lost two of its original Officers.

29th Oct: H.Q. & ‘D’ Company, left Billets at BUS-LES-ARTOIS & proceeded to COURCELLES-AU-BOIS to Billets in Barns and Houses.  Here they were joined by ‘A’, ‘B’ & ‘C’ Coys. who were relieved from the line.


30th Oct: Usual working parties. A raid which had been organised on the enemy trenches, & which was intended to take place this night, was canelled owing to inclement weather & the sticky state of the ground.

31st Oct: Working parties. Raiding Party again proceeded to trenches and the raid was carried out. No prisoners were taken and we suffered casualties of 1 officer and 10 O. Ranks (Wounded).”

From the Bucks Herald, 11th November 1916:

Lieut. J. C. Hartert: In Monday’s Roll of Honour appeared the official announcement that Lieut. J Charles Hartert, East Yorkshire Regiment, had been killed.  The sad news had reached Tring on the previously Wednesday night.  Lieut Hartert was the only child of Dr E. Hartert, curator of Lord Rothschild’s Zoological Museum.  He was educated at Berkhamsted School, and is well remembered in cricketing circles here as a keen and competent exponent of the national game.  He was frequently seen in the Tring Park Ground, where he not only played for his school, but also assisted the local club, of which he was a member.  A young man of modest bearing and amiable disposition, and a keen sportsman, he is very kindly remembered by all with whom he came in contact.

He gained a commission, and was posted to the East Yorks. in the early days of the war.  At the time the 21st Division, of which his regiment was a unit, was training in the district.  He went out to France with the Division, and only a few weeks ago he was home on leave.  Now he has made the supreme sacrifice.”


From an unknown source:

Charles Joachim Hartert Killed Oct 28th 1916.

‘Soldiering together’, writes one of his brother officers, ‘I got to know him extremely well.  He was always so keen and hard working.  He was a most excellent billeting officer.’

‘He was the only officer on July 14th,’ says his CO, ‘to get into the German trenches, and it was mainly through the gallant way he held on and fought his way along the trenches that we were enabled to win through.  I forwarded his name for an honour for this, and I hope it will materialise, but there are so many recommended, and the rewards are few.  His captain was killed by the same shell,’ says Col. Way.

‘I have lost one of our oldest, and best officers and one of my best friends.  He was with the battalion in all its many engagements from Loos onwards and has always distinguished himself by his coolness and courage’ is the testimony of Capt. Ball.

‘I cannot tell you how greatly your son is missed here’ says his chaplain.  ‘I always felt he had an excellent fund of cheerfulness, when things were most trying (and we had been through so much), and I know too, he valued the deeper sources of hope. R.I.P.’”


From the Wadham College Gazette, 1916.

Killed in action on October 28, Joachim Charles Hartert, Lt. East Yorkshire Regt.  Commoner of the College 1912-4.

J. C. Hartert came up from Berkhamsted to Wadham in 1912, and played for the College both at Association and at Cricket.  He was also a keen member of the O.T.C.  He was a German by birth, and combined the thoroughness and industry of our enemies with the vigour and energy of his adopted country.  He took a commission immediately the war broke out, and had been at the front for more than a year, having been slightly wounded last July.  He was a man of real character and was considered one of the best officers in his battalion.”

Letter from Dr. Ernest Hartert to a Mr. Wells.

The Courcelles-Au-Bois Communal Cemetery Extension was opened in October 1916 and used by field ambulances and fighting units until March 1917, when the German Army withdrew from the Ancre.  It was used again in April 1918 during the German attack on Amiens.  The village was in German hands for some months, but was retaken in August 1918.  There are now 115 First World War burials in the extension, including three brought in from the communal cemetery in 1934.  As with several other cemeteries on the Somme, the headstones are made from red sandstone.



Private, 87th Canadian Infantry Battalion, service no. 189993.
Killed in action on the 5th November 1918.
Buried in Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery, France, grave ref. III. A. 24.

During the early years of the 20th Century there being little work, Lord Rothschild (Nathan Mayer Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild) helped finance the emigration to Canada of a number of young men from the town.  It is likely that Sidney Haystaff was among them.  When war broke out, some joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and returned to Europe to engage in some of the bloodiest conflicts on the Western Front, [Note] among which the Battle of Vimy Ridge (9th-12th April 1917) is the best known of those in which Canadian forces played the leading role.

The 87th (Canadian Grenadier Guards) Battalion was a unit of the CEF.  Based in Montreal, Quebec, the unit began recruiting in September 1915 in Montreal, in the surrounding locality and in mining districts elsewhere in the province.  After sailing to England in April 1916, the battalion was stationed there until August when it crossed to France, and for the duration of the war served in the 11th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Infantry Division. [Note] The Division fought in many of the major actions of the war, including, during 1918, The Battle of Amiens and actions around Damery, The Battle of Drocourt-Queant (a phase of the Second Battles of Arras), The Battle of the Canal du Nord and the capture of Bourlon Wood (a phase of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line), The Battle of Valenciennes and the capture of Mont Houy, and The Battle of the Sambre and the passage of the (river) Grand Honelle, a sub-tributary of the River Scheldt in the vicinity of Valenciennes.

Canadian troops shelter in a ditch on the Arras-Cambrai road, 1st September 1918.

Private Haystaff was killed in action on the 5th November, less than a week before the Armistice.  This period of the war (17th October–11th November 1918) marked the final advance [Note] of the Allies in Picardy and was the hardest-fought of the final offensive actions.  The 1st, 3rd and 4th Armies – which included the 87th Canadian Infantry Battalion – exploited their success in breaking through the Hindenburg Line [Note] by pushing on across the rivers Selle and Sambre, recapturing Valenciennes and finally liberating Mons, where it had all begun for the BEF [Note] some four years earlier.

On the 5th November 1918 the 87th Canadian Infantry was at Estreux, some 2 miles to the East of Valenciennes (the latter being the last French city held by the Germans – it was captured by British and Canadian forces on the 2nd November).  The following extract is from the Battalion War Diary, [Note]  from which it must be assumed that Private Haystaff is among the “8 O.R. killed” during the tour, as recorded in the entry for the 6th November:


Nov. 5th: A conference of Company Commanders was held at 0100 hours and Operation Order No. 146 was issued at 0300 hours.  The Battn. attacked with two companies of the 75th Battn. at 0530 hours and by 0600 hours the Village of Rombies was reported cleared and Lieut. A. J. Nicholson, Signalling Officer, was ordered to take Report Centre forward and reconnoitre a Battn. H.Q.  At 0900 hours Battn. H.Q. were established at Rombies.

The enemy shelled Rombies fairly heavily during the day.  The Adjutant visited the Maire
[Mayor] and ascertained that there were 530 inhabitants.  The Germans had taken away all the live stock and most of the possessions, though they had bread and potatoes and were not starving.

The Battn. was held up in front of Marchipoint
[about 2 miles north-east of Estreux] all day receiving fire from both its flanks and its front, but the situation cleared towards evening and Marchipoint was occupied about 1800 hours.  Five persons belonging to the 187th KIR [???] were taken.

Just before this orders had been received stating that the 102nd Battn. would continue the operation through us in the morning and during the evening arrangements were made with Major Ryan, who was commanding the 102nd Battn. for the relief.


Nov. 6th: Operations were continued during the night and ‘C’ Coy. established posts in the hamlet of MAISON ROUGE, having several encounters with the enemy, who were there in some strength.  Lieut. W. H. Seath
[???] established a post at MAISON ROUGE about 0100 hours.  He then took a patrol towards his right to join up with ‘A’ Coy.  A party of enemy estimated at 30 strong came into the road [???] between him and his post. After a quick reconnaissance he rushed the party, cutting his way through and rejoining his post, which in the meantime had beaten off an attack.  He dispersed the enemy and inflicted casualties.

The 102nd Battn. went through the 87th Battn. at 0530 hours and we were withdrawn to billets in ROMBIES.  On the arrival of the 5th Brigade in the afternoon, the Battalion moved back, marching through VALENCIENNES to billets in BEUVRAGES, which we reached about 1930 hours.

Report on the operations by Major W. M. Kirckpatrick M.C., who commanded the Battn. during the operations, is attached hereto as an appendix.

The following casualties were suffered during the tour: Lieuts. W. J. Kavanagh, gassed; J. D. Cutting, wounded; A. Sutherland, wounded; J. L. Bishop, wounded; H. F. Fogg, wounded; J. Baird, wounded. 8 O.R. killed, 26 O.R. wounded.

Material captured, 5 machine guns, 1 anti-tank rifle.  Prisoners captured, 7.”

From the Parish Magazine:

Sidney Haystaff 87th Bn. Canadian Grenadier Guards was killed in action on November 5th.  Sidney had made his home in Canada for the last fifteen years, he returned to fight for his country in February of 1918.  He was a member of our church lads’ brigade in Mr Boswell’s days.  He was a very vigorous member for he took part in most of the famous displays of these historic times and no doubt found that soldiering came somewhat easier through the discipline he learn in our club rooms as a boy.  He sang in the choir at ‘the Little Church’, St Marthas.”

Valenciennes remained in German hands from the early days of the First World War until 1st-2nd November 1918, when it was entered and cleared by the Canadian Corps; 5,000 civilians were found in the town.

Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery now contains 885 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War, 37 of the burials being unidentified. Special memorials commemorate 19 casualties who died as prisoners of war, of whom nine are buried here (Plot IV, Row A.) and ten at Le Quesnoy Communal Cemetery Extension, none of whom could be individually identified; all are therefore commemorated at both sites.  Other special memorials record the names of seven soldiers buried in other cemeteries whose graves could not be found.

The cemetery also contains 34 burials from the Second World War, all but one of them airmen.




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