Henry Williamson and the First World War

 

 

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208 Machine Gun Company

 

Photographs from Henry Williamson's archive

 

 

 

One of HW's photograph albums in the Literary Archive contains several photographs of the officers and men of 208 Machine Gun Company, taken while in France.

 

 

LL 1917 McClare  McConnell

Identified on the reverse by HW as McLane and McConnel

(2nd Lieut. A. P. McClane and 2nd Lieut. McConnel, or McConnell)

 

 

LL 1917 2Lt Horseley
Second Lieutenant William F. Horsley

 

 

LL 1917 2Lt CF Wright

Second Lieutenant C. F. Wright

On the reverse HW has written 'Bright of No. 7. It was a true story.'

 

 

Regarding HW's caption above, in 1957 he wrote, as a note added into his 1917 Army Correspondence Book in red ink: '. . . Wright, a farmer and stout fellow, whose manner was a bit gauche . . . was a good officer. This was after a newspaper scandal, in which Wright's farmer brothers, in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, tarred and feathered one of their wive's lovers, at night, and left him to die, for all they cared, in a field. I met 2/Lt Wright again in Norfolk in 1937, and I must say, he was a grim, rather abrupt little man.'

 

 

LL 208MGC Beaumont Hamel March1917

HW on the left with Lieutenant Tremlett, DSO, with the wreckage of a British plane at Beaumont Hamel

in March 1917. Note the thigh waders worn by HW, indicative of the atrocious conditions.

On Wednesday, 23 May 1917, HW wrote in his diary:

'Poor old Tremlett killed last night. Awarded the D.S.O. same morning.'

 

 

LL 208MGC Gomiecourt April1917

On the reverse HW has written: 'British plane crashed Gomiecourt April 1917. I am on left.'

The plane is a B.E.2c, identifiable both by its serial number and distinctive rudder. The B.E.2c was

a two-seat reconnaissance or artillery-observation biplane, with a maximum speed of 72 mph

at 10,000 ft. Obsolescent as a front-line aeroplane by this date, it would have been relatively easy

prey for German fighters, which were so superior at this period of the war that April 1917 became

known as Bloody April, due to the number of British planes that were shot down.

 

 

 

Officers and men of 208 Machine Gun Company; the guns are Vickers .303 inch machine guns, with a rate of fire of between 450 and 600 bullets a minute (for further information see the Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades' Association website):

 

 

LL 208MGCa

 

 

LL 208MGC April1917
On the left and right are Second Lieutenants McClane and McConnel; middle figure unknown

 

 

 

The following four photographs are on a single page in HW's album, titled '208 M.G. Coy. May '17 at ERVILLERS':

 

 

LL 208MGC Ervillers1 April1917

 

 

LL 208MGC Ervillers2 April1917

 

 

LL 208MGC Ervillers3 April1917

 

 

LL 208MGC Ervillers4 April1917

 

 

 

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Back to 'Henry Williamson and the London Rifle Brigade, 1914–1915'

 

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P Company, London Rifle Brigade

 

 

This is a nominal roll of the members of P Company, London Rifle Brigade, as at August 1914. Those belonging to the 1st Battalion who sailed to France on the SS Chyebassa on 4 November were all volunteers. There were 237 other ranks in the battalion who chose not to go, or were prevented from going, overseas at that time, for whatever reason. Henry Williamson would have known all these P Company men, whether they volunteered for overseas service or not, as he had joined the LRB on 22 January 1914. An example is HW's friend Harold Hose, who was discharged as medically unfit in September 1914. They had joined the LRB together: Hose's name appears just above HW's in the LRB Register, with the preceding number 9688.

 

HW portrayed his time in the LRB, lightly fictionalised, in two of his novels: How Dear is Life and A Fox Under My Cloak (vols 4 and 5 in his 15-volume novel sequence A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight). A number of P Company men are portrayed therein, either under their own names or fictional ones. Those identified are: Baldwin, Bell (fictionalised as 'Douglas'), Blunden (who wrote to HW in 1961, on reading one of these two books, 'I chuckled at finding myself in the “London Highlanders”'), Coulson (fictionalised as 'Church'), Elliott, Fursdon (fictionalised as 'Thorverton'), Kirk, and Martin. There is, however, a caveat. In dedicating A Fox Under My Cloak to Captain Douglas Bell, MC, HW warned:

 

Each of the characters in this novel had an existence in the 1914–18 war, though not all necessarily acted or played their parts in the times and places mentioned in the story.

 

 

*************************

 

 

The nominal roll is presented in the following order:

 

Name, Forename/s

Army Number/s Rank; War zone LRB ranks* Dates overseas; Details of military service & notes; (personal details)

 

(* 'LRB Ranks' is a term used to define those not officers; quite a number of LRB men were commissioned in the field and continued to serve without a break. The medal rolls record the last day of service of soldiers in the ranks. If commissioned they were moved to another medal roll with no information on it, so only their service as rankers is known. Oddly, the same rule applied if they were captured.)

 

Awards and being commissioned into the LRB are underlined. 

 

 

Glossary:

 

  Killed in the war
CCS Casualty Clearing Station
  Coy Company
DoW Died of wounds
ed educated
emp employer / employment
F/F France and Flanders (the war zone in which they served with the LRB)
  GSW Gun shot wound
  IWM Imperial War Museum
KIA Killed in action
  o/s overseas
occ occupation
Rfn

Rifleman

 

 

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  R  S  T  U  W


 

Adams, Edward Amery

6968/300007 Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒23.8.15; DCM for 2nd Ypres; Signalling Sergeant; (b.1878 Catford; emp: clerk, Sun Fire Assurance Co; enlisted 11.11.1897 ‘P’ Coy; lived Richmond; died 1952 Ashburton, Devon); DCM 2nd Ypres List 28‒22.5.15; citation reads:

 

For conspicuous zeal and devotion to duty in repairing telephone lines both by day and night under continual shell and rifle fire, it being largely due to his personal work and supervision that communication was maintained.

 

Aris, John Woodbridge 

 

lrb 190 aris

(Image courtesy of Robert Chester and Stanley Gardner)

 

9513 L/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒27.7.15; Commissioned ASC (Heavy Transport) 27.7.15; posted to 3/5 Bn. 22.2.18; France with 2/10 London R. 30.4.18‒8.8.18, wounded; (b.1893 Croydon; enlisted 17.2.1913 ‘P’ Coy; emp: Stock Exchange clerk; lived South Norwood; Brighton Marcher 18 April 1914; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; died 1977 Battle, Sussex)

 

Atkins, Harold Broadley

9567/300131 Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒1.7.16; KIA 1.7.16 age 27; commemorated Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 9 D; (b.1890; lived Stoke Newington; emp: Civil Service clerk; enlisted 19.6.13 ‘P’ Coy; Probate 9.7.17, Estate £80 19s 8d)

 

Baldwin, Norman Edward

 

lrb baldwin

(HU66185, IWM)

 

9701 Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒3.8.16; Commissioned LRB 3.8.16; posted ‘A’ Coy; KIA 8.10.16 Les Boeufs; commemorated Caterpillar Valley Cem. Longueval, Somme XX K5; (b.1893 Bromley; ed: Royal Masonic School, Bushey; lived Honor Oak Park, Forest Hill; occ: engineering clerk; enlisted 5.2.14 ‘P’ Coy; Probate 12.11.17, Estate £372 18s 6d)

 

Bartlett, Stanley

9558 Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒12.9.17; UK 17.12.14‒3.10.16; (enlisted originally 8999 ‘H’ Coy 10.6.09; re‒enlisted 8.5.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Dulwich)

 

Basting, Arthur Gresham

9627 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒27.11.15; Commissioned 13 Rifle Brigade 27.11.15; (b.1894 West Ham; enlisted 9.10.13 ‘P’ Coy; occ: boot maker; lived South Tottenham; died 1965 Redhill, Surrey)

 

Bell, Cedric Molesworth

 

lrb 032 CMBell

(Image courtesy of Jane Jones ww1photos.com)

 

9215 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒27.4.15; Wounded by shrapnel; to UK 8.12.14 to 28.3.15; wounded by shell fire 26.4.15; DoW 27.4.15 before reaching CCS; age 22; commemorated Bailleul Communal Cem. Ext. Nord I A 175; (b.23.5.1893 Haringey; ed: Owen’s School, Islington; father, Chief Accountant of the Royal Academy of Music and Sgt. Major 5 London Bde. RFA; enlisted 27.10.10 ‘P’ Coy; lived Haringey; emp: Thompson & Co (Shippers))

 

Bell, Douglas Herbert

8351 L/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒5.4.15; Commissioned 2 Cameron Highlanders 5.4.15; later RFC; MC; (b.1891 Hull, Yorkshire; ed: Colfe's Grammar School, Lewisham; enlisted 2.4.08 ‘P’ Coy; occ: bank clerk; lived Catford; author of the book A Soldier’s Diary of the Great War (published anonymously; with a lengthy Introduction by Henry Williamson), and several other books, including two on Sir Francis Drake; died 1964 Taunton, Devon)

 

Benns, Arthur Lionel

9148 L/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒12.5.15; Wounded 2nd Ypres; commissioned LRB 27.9.15; posted ‘C’ Coy 1/5 Bn. 5.3.16; KIA 1.7.16 Gommecourt; commemorated Thiepval Memorial Pier & Face 9D; (b. 1891 Greenwich; ed: Christ’s Hospital and Aske’s Schools; enlisted 28.4.10 ‘P’ Coy; occ: clerk with ship owners; lived Katherine’s Park, New Cross)

 

Billing, Edgar George

9559/300127 Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒19.5.19; Attached 8 MG Coy 20.1.16‒17.5.16; (b.1893 E Dulwich; occ: clerk, linoleum company; enlisted 6.5.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Dulwich; died 1965 Croydon, Surrey)

 

Birch, Alfred Victor

8646 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒18.1.16; Transferred 28 London R. No. 6470; commissioned 6 Gloucester R 5.6.16; later attached 13 Gloucester R; (b.1888 Edmonton; enlisted 7.11.12 ‘A’ Coy; lived Squirrels Heath; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; died 1965 Enfield)

 

Blomfield, Harold Herbert Erwood

9696 Rfn; Transferred ASC No. M/324085; served overseas with ASC; (b.1891 Islington; occ: insurance clerk; lived Stamford Hill; enlisted 29.1.14 ‘P’ Coy; died 1942 Surbiton, Surrey; Probate 11.9.42, Estate £2,307 1s 3d)

 

Blunden, Arthur Edmond

9800 L/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒10.5.15; Wounded 2nd Ypres 2.5.15; and lost arm 6.5.15; discharged under King’s Regulations 392 XVI 19.8.15, wounds; Silver War Badge No. 17190; (b.1888 Macclesfield, Cheshire; emp: insurance clerk, Gresham Life; enlisted 19.2.09 ‘P’ Coy. No. 8647; re‒enlisted 4.8.14 ‘P’ Coy; lived Leytonstone; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; died 1978)

 

Bowmer, William Reginald

9840/300206 Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒8.6.15; Transferred RAF and later commissioned RAF 3.1.17; (b.1890 Greenwich; enlisted 5.8.14 ‘P’ Coy; lived Purley; occ: engineers' clerk; died 1954 Devon)

 

Burrowes, Peter

9671 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒7.2.16; Wounded 2nd Ypres No. 2 Coy; commissioned 3/6 Essex R. 8.2.16; RFC; qualified as pilot 26.4.17; (b.1896 Edmonton; enlisted 11.2.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Hornsey; died 1971 Cuckfield, Sussex)

 

Carrette, Richard Henry

9673 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒28.12.14; Commissioned 2/1 Cambridge R. 14.5.15; (b.1896 Cork, Ireland; enlisted 11.12.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Walthamstow; died 1967 Surrey)

 

Chanter, Albert Leutchford

9748/300185 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒10.5.15; Wounded 2nd Ypres, May 1‒3; transferred HAC Depot; discharged under King’s Regulations 392 XVI 13.4.17, wounds, Silver War Badge No.157826; (b.1891 Camberwell; enlisted 1.5.14 ‘P’ Coy; emp: national telephone clerk; lived Victoria; died 1980 Weymouth)

 

Chappell, Herbert John ‘Jack’

9608 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒4.5.15; Commissioned 17 London R. 1.11.15; MC; (b.1896 Walthamstow; enlisted 25.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Walthamstow; first cousin of the Latham brothers, listed below); MC 2/Lt, London Gazette 18.3.18; for 14.9.17 east of Westhoek Ridge; citation reads:

 

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He made a very successful reconnaissance of an enemy strong point which enabled plans to be made for its capture. He led his platoon to the attack in a most skilful and courageous manner, captured the position without a single casualty, and held it until relieved under heavy shell fire.

 

LRB Record, April 1936; Old Members:

 

We offer our congratulations to Lieut.-Colonel H J Chappell MC, on being awarded the Territorial Decoration. Lieut.-Colonel Chappell went overseas with the 1st Battalion in 1914, at which time he was only seventeen. He was subsequently gazetted to the Tower Hamlets Rifles of which he is now commanding officer.

 

Chatterley, Ernest William

9691 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒2.10.16; Transferred Military Foot Police; commissioned MFP 2.10.16; served in Salonika; later RFC, Capt; (b.1895 Chelsea; occ: mercantile asst; enlisted 22.1.14 ‘P’ Coy; lived Deptford; died 1973 Easthampstead, Berks.)

 

Chilvers, Edward Harvey

9275 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 17.12.14‒30.3.16; Joined 1/5 Bn. 21.2.15; service file states 5.8.14‒21.10.14 1/5 Bn; posted 2/5 Bn. 15.12.14; discharged at end of Term of Engagement 11.4.16; British War Medal claimed by the Admiralty as No. L.Z. 4958; re-enlisted into RNVR; Royal Naval Division; first ship President II 17.7.16; last Treyantle 31.3.18; (b.1887 Clerkenwell; enlisted 6.4.11 ‘P’ Coy; ref. from Halfhide a ‘Chyebassa’ man, same firm; emp: buying room apprentice, Macky, Logan, Carswell & Co; died 1963 Invergordan, Scotland)

 

Clarke, Ernest Percy

9580 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒; Transferred Labour Corps; commissioned Labour Corps 12.10.17; (b.1891 Kensington; occ: clerk; enlisted 11.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived West Ealing, Middlesex; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927)

 

Clarke, William Bertram

9516/300115 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 25.1.17‒29.1.18; 2/5 Bn; posted 28 London R. F/F 30.1.18‒20.2.19; (b.1889 Wood Green; enlisted 27.2.13 ‘P’ Coy; occ: estate and auctioneers' clerk)

 

Coulson, Arthur Victor

9360 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒14.8.15; Commissioned 7 Middlesex R. 29.10.15; (b.1893 Forest Gate; occ: solicitors' clerk; enlisted 1.2.12 ‘P’ Coy; lived Leytonstone; died 1973 Southend on Sea, Essex)

 

Cross, Philip Frank

9584 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒28.8.15; Commissioned West Riding R. 28.8.15; later Royal West Kent R; (b.1896 Camberwell; enlisted 11.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Herne Hill)

 

Dean, Stanley J.

 

lrb 190 dean

(Image courtesy of Robert Chester and Stanley Gardner)

 

8910 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒2.1.17; Transferred 30 London R. No. 800600; (enlisted 23.3.09 ‘P’ Coy; lived Wealdstone)

 

Denton, Norman Croft

9534/300120 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒24.2.15; Commissioned 5 Rifle Brigade 12.5.15; (b.1894 Lewisham; occ: insurance clerk; lived Eltham, Kent; enlisted 27.3.13 ‘P’ Coy; political officer, Colonial Service Nigeria 1921‒1934; died 1975 North Walsham, Norfolk)

 

Diplock, Trevor Langham

8237/300022 CSM; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒28.3.18; POW, captured 28.3.18 Gavrelle; (b.1888 Clapham; enlisted 26.4.06 ‘P’ Coy; occ: shipping clerk; lived Dulwich; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert, 1927; died 1944 Wood Green) Medal rolls do not record period in captivity

 

Dixon, Charles William ‘Bill’

 

lrb bill dixon

(HU66185, IWM)

 

9727/300181 A/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒29.4.15; (b.1893 Stoke Newington; occ: clerk, petroleum company; enlisted 26.3.14 ‘P’ Coy; lived 145 Albion Road, Stoke Newington; one of three brothers who sailed on the Chyebassa)

 

Dixon, George

6544 L/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒7.4.16; Discharged end of term of engagement 20.4.16; discharged under King’s Regulations 392 XVI 20.4.16, over age, Silver War Badge No. 90180; (enlisted 1.2.1895 ‘P’ Coy; lived Finsbury Park)

 

Dixon, Harry Sydney ‘Squib’

 

lrb squib dixon

(HU66185, IWM)

 

9730 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒13.5.15; KIA 3.5.15 age 18; commemorated Menin Gate Panel 52 and 54; (b.1897 Stoke Newington; enlisted 26.3.14 ‘P’ Coy; lived 145 Albion Road with brothers Walter and Bill)

 

Dixon, Walter Howard

 

lrb walter dixon

(HU66185, IWM)

 

9467 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒10.5.15; DoW 10.5.15; Wimereux Comm. Cem; (b.1891 Stoke Newington; occ: merchants clerk; enlisted 14.11.12 ‘P’ Coy; lived 145 Albion Road; Probate 9.11.15, Estate £130 16s 8d)

 

Ellen, Arthur William ‘Gus’

 

lrb 450 ellen

(Image courtesy of Paul Staples)

 

7987/300013 CSM; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒27.3.18; Prisoner of war, captured 28.3.18 at Gavrelle, German Spring Offensive; discharged under King’s Regulations 392 XVI 13.2.19, sick; Silver War Badge No. 1999? age 33; (b.1885 Lambeth; enlisted 20.4.03 ‘P’ Coy; occ: tailor; lived Brixton; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; LT QM RAOC 1940; died 1941 Burton on Trent) Medal rolls do not record period in captivity

 

Ellen, Hubert F

9204 Rfn; Transferred RE; Gallipoli with 29 Division; France 1916; MM Sgt. 558235, 29 Div. Signals attached 29 Div. Artillery; Belgian Decoration Militaire and Croix de Guerre; (enlisted 15.9.10 ‘P’ Coy; lived Tufnell Park) MM for Ypres 17/20.10.17; short biography and citation for MM below are from 29 Divisional History; citation reads:

 

Flanders 1917. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. From the 17th to 20th October in the sector north-east of Ypres, this NCO as Sergeant in charge of the Signal Section, H.Q. 29th D.A., displayed the greatest gallantry and coolness in laying and repairing telephone lines continuously under heavy shell fire. On the 20th October, after his fellow linesman had been wounded, he worked on single-handed under heavy fire and was successful in maintaining communications throughout the day. (MM (immediate) 28.1.18)

 

1915–18. Sergeant Ellen has served continuously in the 29th Division since 1915, was in the original landing and in the subsequent operations at Gallipoli, and came to France with the Division in 1916. He has been in charge of the 29th D.A.H.Q. Signal Section since its formation in 1917 and has been in every action in which the D.A. has taken part, showing great gallantry on many occasions, notably in the battles in October, 1917, at Langemarck, and at Ploegsteert in September, 1918. His initiative at critical times and devotion to duty under the most trying conditions have contributed most materially to the successful maintenance of the artillery communications. (Belgian ‘Decoration‘ Militaire, 2nd Class, and Croix de Guerre 24.10.18)

 

Elliot, Christopher Jonathan

 

lrb 066 CJElliott

(Image courtesy of Jane Jones ww1photos.com)

 

9395 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒27.4.15; DoW 27.4.15, commemorated Vlamertinghe Mil. Cem. Ypres II B8; (b.1896: enlisted 5.5.12 ‘P’ Coy; lived S.W. London; emp: Gresham Life Assurance); Dulwich College Roll of Honour:

 

. . . volunteered with a comrade to carry a wounded man from the trench to the dressing station; both bearers were wounded by machine gun fire which had been turned on them, but they stuck to their job and reached their destination: the dressing station was afterwards shelled and he was killed. He had the reputation in his regiment of having great bodily strength, an iron constitution and the heart of a lion. A card of commendation was sent to him by the General Officer Commanding, intimating that he had distinguished himself by conspicuous bravery in the field – this was in respect of taking water to several wounded men who lay exposed in the open under fire.

 

Ellis, Horace Alexander

9655 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒13.2.15; To 3/5 Bn. 9.4.15; discharged under King’s Regulations 392 XVI 4.6.15, sick, age 21; Silver War Badge No. 265896; (b.1894 Kingston upon Thames, Surrey; emp: clerk, London & South Western Bank; enlisted 13.11.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Kingston upon Thames; died 1947)

 

Farrar, Walter Fleetwood

9692 Rfn; Not o/s in LRB ranks; Transferred 2/23 London R. Nos. 5198/702028; F/F 3.16; commissioned Tank Corps; Capt; (b.1895 Leytonstone; enlisted 22.1.14 ‘P’ Coy; lived Leytonstone; died 1974 Eastbourne, Sussex)

 

Feast, Arthur Cooper

 

lrb 462 feast

(Image courtesy of Chris Rippingale)

 

9114 Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒11.5.15; Commissioned LRB in the field 11.5.15; invalided 18.5.15; served 3/5 Bn; A/Capt 11.3.17; Lieut.1.7.17; (b.1881 South Norwood; ed: Merchant Taylors’ School; cadets 1895‒1899; ranks 1899‒1907, re‒enlisted 3.3.10 ‘P’ Coy; lived Purley; occ: auctioneer; rejoined post war OC ‘C’ Coy; later worked in Kenya; died 1948 Paddington)

 

LRB Record, Jan. 1925; Transfer to the Reserve:

 

Captain A C Feast, T.D.  The extracts from the London Gazette, notifying the transfer of Capt. A C Feast from the active list, is a cold statement of fact, merely intimating that the Officer commanding ‘C’ Company, has relinquished his active connection with the Regiment and transferred to the Regimental Reserve. To many thousands, however, who served with the LRB since the early part of 1900, it signifies the passing of a very real personality and a fine soldier – one of the best that even the LRB has produced.

 

Arthur Feast joined the Regiment from the Merchant Taylors’ School Cadets (then attached with other Cadet Units to the LRB) in 1899 serving until the 31st October 1907. He rejoined the Regiment on 3rd March 1910, and continued with unbroken service to date of the notice in the ‘Gazette’ which we mention. He was appointed L/Corporal in 1911, promoted Corporal in 1913, and Sergeant in 1914, which rank he held when he embarked with the 1st Battalion on board the ‘Chyebassa’ on the 4th Nov. 1914 en route for France. He returned from France with a commission in the Regiment after distinguishing himself in the fighting at the second Battle of Ypres, he being one of the stalwart band which went all through the battle and came out untouched.

 

He was awarded the Territorial Decoration in 1923. One who knew, and knows, Feast very well sends us this appreciation: ‒ ‘It was my very good fortune to join the LRB in the same year as and very soon after Arthur Feast. It was in the year 1900 during the South African War when there were hundreds of enlistments and the sources of the Regiment were taxed to the utmost to provide Instructors for the twenty or more Squads that were to be seen nightly in the Drill Hall. Feast was ‘passing out’ as I passed in and I remember mentally remarking I hoped he was as proficient as noisy, for he was then possessed, and ever remained so, of remarkable spirits. Shortly after he joined the M.G. Section commanded by then Lieut. C D Burnell. This Section contained many of the very particular ‘Regimental Stars’; Lloyd, Clement Hook, Fossey, Maltby, Beart, Denny and others among them. In Camp they were the life and soul of the training. I can still see Feast, Lloyd, Cyril Webb and Jim Hicks in a peculiar mixture of attire holding forth in the wet canteen, terrorising the Canteen Corporal who invariably had to seek the assistance of the ‘P’ Company Col‒Sergt. – the great Peter Warcup – before they could be prevailed upon to ‘go home quietly’. An advance party or a rear part if Feast were a member became a very real joy to every one but the Officer in charge. No man had more friends and once you had met him you would never let him slip from your memory. A fine soldier, and a real comrade we all wish him the best luck.’

 

Funnell, George Ferguson

 

lrb 190 funnell

(Image courtesy of Robert Chester and Stanley Gardner)

 

9442 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒6.5.15; Commissioned RNVR (Anson Bn. RND) 9.9.15; (b.1893 Dulwich; occ: bank clerk; enlisted 4.11.12 ‘P’ Coy; lived Thornton Heath; died 1935 Plymouth, Devon)

 

Furrell, Lincoln

 

lrb furrell

(HU66185, IWM)

 

9389 L/Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒27.4.15; KIA 27.4.15; age 27; commemorated Menin Gate Panel 52 and 54; (b.1888 Brockley, Kent; occ: insurance clerk; enlisted 12.4.12 ‘P’ Coy; lived Lewisham; Brighton Marcher 18 April 1914; Probate 23.6.15, Estate £116 3s 8d)

 

Fursdon, George Ellsworth Sydenham

1/5 Bn. to France 4.11.142.3.15, wounded Ploegsteert Wood; Lieut. 31.3.15; rejoined 1/5 Bn. France 17.7.15‒9.9.15, sick; transferred to TF Reserve 23.5.16; Asst. Recruiting Officer Plymouth 11.11.15‒5.6.16; Sub‒area Commander Exeter 6.6.16 to 31.10.17; Recruiting Staff Officer to Director of Recruiting Bristol 1.11.17‒31.12.18; (b.1893 Paddington; ed: Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge; Westminster School OTC, Sgt; Cambridge Univ. OTC, Sgt. 1912‒1914; 2/Lieut. LRB 20.9.14; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert, in 1927; died 1936 Bristol); LRB Record, June 1936:

 

We regret to record the death of George Ellsworth Sydenham Fursdon which took place on 28th April following an operation. He was educated at Westminster where he was a sergeant in the O.T.C. and at Trinity College Cambridge where he was again a sergeant in the O.T.C. He joined the Regiment as 2/Lieut. in September 1914 and went to France with the First Battalion. He returned home wounded on March 2nd 1915, was promoted Lieut. in the same month and rejoined in July. In September he came home sick and was transferred to the Reserve in May 1916. Subsequently he was Assistant Recruiting Officer at Plymouth from November 1915 to June 1916, Sub‒Area Commander at Exeter from June 1916 to October 1917, and Recruiting Staff Officer to the Director of Recruiting, Bristol from November 1917 to December 1918.

 

After the war he was the representative of a large firm of chocolate manufacturers, and had charge of the whole South Western Area. His age was forty‒three and he leaves a widow.

 

Gardner, Arthur Frank

 

lrb 087 gardner

(Image courtesy of Stanley Gardner)

 

9637/300150 L/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒20.2.19; (b.1896 Hackney; enlisted 16.10.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Palmers Green; died 1969 Enfield Borough)

 

Garrish, Cyril Thomas

9643 2/Lieut; Not o/s in LRB ranks; Commissioned 14 York & Lancaster R; (b.1894 Camberwell; lived S E Dulwich; occ: clerk, shipping company; enlisted 1.11.13 ‘P’ Coy.)

 

Gibson, Alexander Daly

9742 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒5.5.15; DoW 5.3.15; age 18; commemorated Boulogne Eastern Cem. Pas de Calais III C 77; (b.1896 Putney, Surrey; enlisted 16.4.14 ‘P’ Coy; emp: Sun Fire Assurance Co; lived Norbiton, Surrey)

 

Gordon, Albert

9435 Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒8.4.15; DCM, Mentioned in Despatches; commissioned LRB in the field 9.4.15 Transport Officer; (DCM as Transport Sergeant 2nd Ypres); A/Capt. 2.10.17; Lieut. 9.10.17; UK 17.10.17 for duty under Military Intelligence Directorate; rejoined 7.11.17 as QM; UK sick 1.5.18; France and posted 1/17 London R. 15.11.18; returned LRB 16.12.18‒14.4.19; demobilised 17.4.19; (ed: Brompton HG School; enlisted 17.10.12 ‘P’ Coy; lived Chelsea; in 1950 was a member of the Board of Directors of Parkinson & Cowan, Ltd. with the appointment of Group Administration Director; FCIS); DCM citation reads:

 

For consistent good work as Transport Sergeant, often under very difficult and dangerous circumstances.

 

Original recommendation in LRB Hons & Awards book – IWM:

 

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as Transport Sergeant during the Second Battle of Ypres.

 

Mentioned in Despatches citation reads:

 

Battalion Transport Officer. He has at all times proved himself most reliable and capable. During the Somme operations he never once failed the Battalion and always got his transport up with the rations and water under great difficulties and under trying circumstances.

 

Hands, Alfred Stanley

 

lrb 190 hands

(Image courtesy of Robert Chester and Stanley Gardner)

 

8921 Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒6.5.15; Commissioned 18 Middlesex R. 1.7.15; MC; Major; (b.1891 Stoke Newington; occ: sugar refinery clerk; enlisted 30.3.09 ‘P’ Coy; lived Westcliff on Sea, Essex; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; died 1968 Southend on Sea Essex); MC T/Capt Middx R; London Gazette 16.9.18; Meteren 16.4.18; citation reads:

 

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Under heavy machine gun fire at short range he organised a counter attack, and sent back a clear report of the situation. Throughout he set a fine example to his men.

 

Harding, Edward Boyer

 

lrb 084 harding left

(Image courtesy of Chris Rippingale)

 

9717/300175 A/Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒1.5.15; Wounded April 1915 2nd Ypres; served 3/5 Bn. rest of the war; (b.1896 Battersea; enlisted 26.2.14 ‘P’ Coy; lived Ealing Common; emp: Sun Fire Assurance; rejoined LRB Feb. 1920 and from 1921 Pte. Calcutta Horse; died 1990 Uckfield, Sussex); LRB Record, Oct. 1927; extract from a letter from Harding:

 

I had quite a shock on July 25 last, when my afternoon labours were disturbed by a peon with a card bearing the name ‘Mr. F G Hancocks’ with the magic letters ‘L.R.B.’ pencilled below. To celebrate the occasion we had a little dinner at Firpo’s Restaurant on 28th at which there were present in addition to Hanco and myself, E F Menzies, B C Owers, R T Smith and also an old member recently discoverer here, E F Smith, who served in ‘E’ Company from early 1910 to early 1914, Regt. No. 9108; on the outbreak of war he went to the Middlesex and got a commission and served in Egypt, Indian and Mespot. The only other known LRB man in Calcutta, Chadbourne was unfortunately unable to attend. We had another little dinner party on the following Tuesday at Chang Wa’s in Chinatown, starting with the famous crab and asparagus soup, and carrying on mainly with prawns and oddments. The visitor left on 7th with a somewhat hobnailed liver grumbling about lack of exercise, and will have reached home safely by the time you get this, we hope.

 

Harris, Leon W

9617/300147 A/Corp; Not o/s in LRB ranks; Discharged under King’s Regulations 392 XVI 6.7.18, sick; Silver War Badge No. B93584; (b.1896 Islington; occ: junior clerk, cabinet maker; lived Holloway; enlisted 2.10.13 ‘P’ Coy; died 1938 Bromley, Kent)

 

Harvey, George Kenneth Chetwynd

8348/300025 A/Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒18.5.17; Wounded 2nd Ypres, May 1‒3; UK 8.5.15‒13.1.17; wounded 18.5.17; DoW 13.6.17; Basford Hospital, Nottingham; commemorated Barking (Rippleside) Cem.D534; (b.1889 Gorleston, Suffolk; lived Ilford, Essex; enlisted 26.3.08 ‘P’ Coy; emp: widowed mother’s estate manager)

 

Hellyar, William Frank

9542 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒21.7.15; Commissioned ASC 21.7.15; later RFC (GL) 24 Wing; (b.1894 Wandsworth; enlisted 10.4.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Clapham Common; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; died 1970 Croydon)

 

Helsden, William George

9577/300133 A/L/Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒26.8.18; Attached 56 Div 10.10.16‒1.12.16; 176 Coy RE 16.12.17‒19.1.18; 513 Employment Coy 23.2.18‒2.4.18; (enlisted 11.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Walthamstow)

 

Hember, Hugh Victor

8838/300041 Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒1.7.16; KIA 1.7.16; age 27; commemorated Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 9 D; (b.1890 Islington; occ: wholesale warehouseman; enlisted 4.3.09 ‘P’ Coy; lived Tufnell Park; brother F S, No. 8837 joined same day but no service overseas with LRB; Probate 16.6.17, Estate £278 14s)

 

Henshaw, Stanley Thomas William, ‘Grannie’

 

lrb 450 henshaw

(Image courtesy of Paul Staples)

 

9807 A/CSM; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒29.9.15; Commissioned Class 2 Staff Lieut. 29.9.15; Railway Transport Engineer; (b.1876; originally enlisted 1.11.1895 No. 6605; re-enlisted 5.8.14 ‘P’ Coy; City Imperial Vols. South Africa 1901‒2; emp: Sun Fire Assurance Co; lived Bedford Park; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; died 1955 Lewes, Sussex)

 

Hinman, Charles Philip

9486 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒10.3.15; Commissioned 18 Middlesex R. 30.5.15; MC Major; Mentioned in Despatches London Gazette 24.5.18; (b.1891 Leytonstone; enlisted 16.1.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Croydon; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; died 1965 Gloucester)

 

Hobson, Frank Brittain

 

lrb 087 hobson

(Image courtesy of Stanley Gardner)

 

9705 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒20.11.15; Transferred 5 London Div Ammunition Column 9.5.16 No. 945263; (b.1896 Beverley, Yorks; enlisted 9.2.14 ‘P’ Coy; occ: clerk; lived Golders Green; post war Capt. III Field Brigade AFI Rangoon, Burma; died 1976 Yeovil, Somerset)

 

Hollis, Egerton Clark

 

lrb 088 Hollis

(Image courtesy of Stanley Gardner)

 

9799 Rfn.; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒5.5.15; Commissioned 20 London R. 7.9.15; Lieut; Capt; (b.1887 Greenwich; originally enlisted 7.11.10 ‘P’ Coy. No. 9225; lived Blackheath; occ: bank clerk; re-enlisted 4.8.14 ‘P’ Coy; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; died 1967 Eastbourne, Sussex)

 

Hose, Harold Victor

9688 Rfn; Discharged under para156 II TFR 2.9.14, medically unfit (b.1897 Camberwell; emp: clerk, Sun Fire Insurance Co; lived Catford; enlisted 8.1.14 ‘P’ Coy. with Henry Williamson, the author, a ‘Chybassa’ man; lived Hove, Sussex; died 1965 hospital Winchester, Hampshire;  Probate 26.1.66; Estate £9,094)

 

Hovenden, Albert

6737/300005 L/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒19.1.15; (b.1874; enlisted 19.3.1896 ‘P’ Coy; occ. warehouseman; lived Croydon; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; died 1945)

 

Hughes, Edward

 

lrb 450 hughes

(Image courtesy of Paul Staples)

 

7075 Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒7.4.16; Discharged end of term of engagement 20.4.16; discharged under King’s Regulations 392 XVI 20.4.16, over age; Silver War Badge No. 68094 (b.1872 Camberwell; enlisted 19.5.1898 ‘P’ Coy; East Dulwich)

 

James, Sidney Frank

9251 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒28.6.15; Commissioned 17 KRRC 28.6.15; (b.1892 Lambeth; occ: drapery warehouseman; enlisted 9.2.11 ‘P’ Coy; lived Thornton Heath, Surrey)

 

Johnston, Hugh Liddon, ‘Johnner’

 

lrb 388 Johnner

(Image courtesy of John Frank)

 

1/5 Bn. to France 4.11.14‒16.6.16, wounded; Adjt. 14.5.15‒6.4.16; Lieut. 30.6.15; T/Capt. 29.4.15; Capt. 1.6.16; to France and posted 6 London 24.6.18‒8.2.19; A/Major 26.10.18–9.7.19; Hons: MC; (b.1889 Headington, Buckinghamshire; ed: Radley and Magdalen College, Oxford; 2/Lieut LRB 26.8.14; lived Wheatley, Oxfordshire; father was Principal of Cudedon Theological College, Oxon; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert, in 1927); MC Lt. (T.Capt.) 3.6.16 Birthday Honours;

 

LRB Record, Oct. 1928, on his retirement as Chaplain:

 

Essentially a man of action, then as ever since, he always knew what wanted doing, and thanks to an excellent brand of self confidence, he generally got it done. And what did he do, (at Magdalen); Honour Mods; Greats; Soccer (was not Gerard Morrison the other College back?), O.T.C, cricket... Morrison joined the LRB while he was still at Magdalen; war and Johnner burst upon the Regiment together; and with the arrival of Trevelyan at Bisley the Magdelen contingent was raised to eight, Somers-Smith, MacGeagh and Cholmeley being with ‘Steinie’ already on the strength. Johnner was posted to ‘P’ Company under ’Smug’ and when the double company system was belatedly adopted he found himself under Burnell with Kirby and Large; there were indeed giants in those days. Johnner’s history in the first year of the war only differed from that of most officers, who by sheer determination, coupled with some good fortune, remained with the Regiment and survived, in that he soon became a man marked out for something important.

 

On 14 May, he succeeded Oppenheim as adjutant during 2nd Ypres; and, not without firmness and tact on his part, the 1st LRB came through the inertia of St. Omer, the reformation at Blendecques, the periods of boredom punctuated by moments of horror in and around the trenches of St. Eloi, the diversions and meanderings in the neighbourhood of Huppy, Magnicourt and St. Pol until on 6 May 1916 he handed over to Wallis the adjutancy of the finest battalion in the 56th Division. His MC commemorates this, and the Regimental History records ’Capt. Johnson was the first officer not a Regular to hold the appointment of Adjutant the 1st Battalion and as he had great power of organisation and capacity for hard work which he brought to bear on all the routine work in the Orderly Room, he proved as conspicuous a success there as he had been in the trenches.

 

Until he was wounded at Hebuterne on 16 June he commanded ‘C’ Coy., and it is no exaggeration to thank the bullet which sent him home for saving his life; for it is small odds that he would have fared better than his successor Bernard Harvey, who with more than four score of his Company perished on 1 July.’ ‘In the late summer Jonner joined the 3rd Battalion and ‘rendered invaluable help in all ways (says the History) so long as he stayed with the Battalion, and that was until June 1918 when he went to France again and was posted to the 6th Londons. What history he made with them cannot be told here, but he rejoined the 1st Battalion LRB in February 1919 and returned with the cadre to Bunhill Row on 31 May’.

 

Keeping, James Tempest

9845/300207 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒6.1.17; Commissioned 12 KRRC 29.5.17; MC; 2/Lieut; (b.1891 Stoke Newington; originally enlisted 23.2.09 ‘P’ Coy. No. 8717; re‒enlisted 5.8.14 ‘P’ Coy; occ: solicitor; lived Stoke Newington; died 1982 Bristol); MC T/2nd Lt att’d KRRC; London Gazette 19.11.17; E of Langemarck 23.9.17; citation reads:

 

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an attack. He was in charge of a mopping up party, but when the officer in command of an assaulting party was killed he took command on his own initiative and led the assaulting party successfully in the attack.

 

Kirk, William Hubert

9576 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒3.5.15; UK 19.12.14 to 28.3.15; KIA 3.5.15; commemorated Menin Gate Memorial; (b.1895 Stoke Newington; enlisted 11.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Stoke Newington)    

 

Klitz, Evelyn Anthony

9512 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒12.3.15; DoW 12.3.15; age 20; commemorated Wimereux Communal Cem. XII 3; (b.1894 Lymington, Hants; enlisted 17.2.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived S. Norwood; Brighton Marcher 18 April 1914)

 

Latham, Edward Bryan

9609 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒28.4.15; MM; 2nd Ypres 26.4.15; wounded 26.4.15; commissioned 17 London R. 8.9.15; later Indian Army; (b.1895 Walthamstow; enlisted 25.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Buckhurst Hill; emp: family timber business; brother of Russell; author of the book A Territorial Soldier’s War; died 1980 Plymouth, Devon); MM 26.4.15 2nd Ypres; London Gazette 27.10.16; citation reads:

 

Who, in order to save the life of a man whose leg had to be amputated, on April 26th, 1915, helped to carry him back during the heaviest shelling.

 

Latham, Russell

 

lrb latham iwm

(HU65428, IWM)

 

9610 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒19.7.15; Commissioned ASC 19.7.15; MC; Capt; (b.1897 Walthamstow; enlisted 25.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Buckhurst Hill; brother E B); MC T/Lt ASC; London Gazette 27.10.17; near Ypres 15.9.17; citation reads:

 

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when with a party conveying rations to a forward position. He succeeded in loading and unloading all the rations, working for five hours under heavy shell fire and while an ammunition dump thirty yards away from the ration dump was burning, causing frequent explosions. His cool behaviour was an excellent example to his men.

 

Littlewood, Harry

9579 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒13.3.15; Commissioned 8 Northampton R. 21.6.15; attached 7 Northampton R. and 2 Leics. R; (b.1895 Wandsworth; enlisted 11.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Upminster, Essex; died 1975 Brighton, Sussex)

 

Lloyd, Leonard

9585/300136 Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒1.7.16; KIA 1.7.16; commemorated Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 9 D; (b.1896 Lambeth; enlisted 28.3.13 ‘P’ Coy; occ: commercial clerk; lived West Dulwich)

 

Lydall, Robert Francis ‘Bobby’

 

lrb 100 lydall

(Image courtesy of Chris Rippingale)

 

9690 L/Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒22.1.16; Commissioned LRB 23.1.16; 1/5 Bn. to France 9.6.16‒7.7.16 wounded 1.7.16 shrapnel in back; Lieut. 24.7.17; joined 2/5 Bn. France 29.12.17‒29.1.18; posted 1/18 London R. 30.1.18‒24.3.18 wounded; 3/5 Bn. UK; Brigade Bombing Officer 1st London Reserve Brigade; (ed: Borough Polytechnic and South London College, Dulwich; enlisted 22.1.14 ‘P’ Coy; lived Dulwich; rejoined LRB post war; CSM ‘C’ Coy; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927‒ Guard of Honour; embodied CSM 1 LRB (7 Rifle Brigade) Sept. 1939, commissioned RE; Capt. 1940)

 

Martin, Kenneth Brandon

9452/300092 L/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒9.9.17; UK 4.2.15‒8.7.17; KIA 9.9.17; age 24; commemorated New Irish Farm Cem. Ypres XXIV E 4; (b.1892 Wandsworth; occ: clerk, Church of England Society for waifs and strays; lived Wandsworth Common; enlisted 7.11.12 ‘P’ Coy.)

 

Martinnant, Leslie William

9543 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒11.12.15; Sick 16.11.14‒24.11.14 in hospital; (so not entitled to Aug.‒Nov.1914 clasp); gassed 2nd Ypres; 14.5.15‒6.6.15 hospital; Cadet School 10.11.15; commissioned 2 Rifle Brigade 12.12.15; MC Birthday Hons. 4.6.17; A/Capt 2 RB; Capt 1.7.17; relinquished commission 13.2.19; post war to Royal Navy and promoted to Instructor Commander; Lieut. RN 21.9.22; (b.1894 Lewisham; occ: insurance clerk; enlisted 10.4.13P’ Coy; lived Wimbledon; died 1981 Kerrick, Cornwall)

 

McLoughlin, Marshall Neal

9583/300135 Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒28.1.19; MM; transport driver; attached 7 Vet. Hospital 29.9.17‒25.2.18; (b.1897 Andover, Hampshire; enlisted 4.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Russell Square; died 1943 Basingstoke, Hampshire); MM16.8.17 Polygon Wood; citation reads:

 

A transport driver. This rifleman was especially good when bringing rations up to the Battalion on the night August 15th‒16th, 1917. Under heavy shell‒fire he got his limber up, and, although he was hit, continued at his duty. It is due to his courage that rations were delivered to the Battalion in time to be issued before the attack.

 

Morgan, Edmund George Harder

9553/300125 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒30.6.16; Prisoner of War, 1.7.16 Gommecourt; (b.1895 Westminster; enlisted 1.5.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Balham; died 1978 Torbay, Devon) Medal rolls do not record period in captivity

 

Moseley, Edward

9207 Rfn; Not o/s in LRB ranks; Posted 2/5 Bn. 31.10.14; transferred 101 Provisional Bn. 19.6.15; discharged under King’s Regulations 392 XVI 7.4.16, sick; Silver War Badge No. 97390; (b.1891 Leyton; lived Palmers Green; occ: accountants' clerk; enlisted 22.9.10 ‘P’ Coy)

 

Newman, Charles

9232/300057 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 7.2.16‒11.11.18; 1/5 Bn; (enlisted 29.11.10 ‘P’ Coy)

 

Norris, William Wicks

9361 Rfn; Not o/s in LRB ranks; Discharged under paragraph 156 II TFR 7.9.14, medically unfit; Silver War Badge No. 95690; (b.1892 Islington; lived Kentish Town; occ: clerk to claims assessor; enlisted 25.1.12 ‘P’ Coy)

 

Ounsted, Laurence John

9524 L/Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒6.10.15; Commissioned 2/20 London R. 7.10.15; (b.1893 Southwark; enlisted 13.3.13 ‘P’ Coy; emp: clerk, Sun Fire Assurance Co; lived Peckham; died 1979 Oxford)

 

Paine, Herbert Thomas

9560 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒4.5.15; Sick or wounded 2nd Ypres 1‒3 May 1915, No. 2 Coy; transferred 2/1 Hertford R. 5.11.16 No. 270676; transferred to 1/8 (Cyclists) Bn. Essex R. 4.8.17; then 25 London (Cyclists) R. No. 742586 on 3.1.18; (b.1892 Thornton Heath; emp: estimating clerk, G B Moore & Co. Dalston; enlisted 8.5.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Dulwich; died 1959 Gosport, Hants.)

 

Paterson, Horace Gerald

9401/300084 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒29.12.17; (b.1890 Islington; enlisted 25.4.12 ‘P’ Coy; lived Highgate; occ: wine importers' clerk; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; died 1989 Haringey)

 

Perolz, Norman Montague

9575 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒26.1.15; Commissioned 9 Bedford R. 5.7.15; (b.1893 Islington; enlisted 11.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; occ: bank clerk; lived Hornsea; died 1990 Luton, Bedfordshire)

 

Piggott, Alexander John

9611 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.148.5.15; UK 9.12.14‒16.2.15; commissioned 10 East Surrey R. 25.8.15; later 23 London R; (b.1895 Kingston; enlisted 4.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Kingston upon Thames; died 1967 Surrey)

 

Piggott, Eric Bernard Lewis

9554 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒3.5.15; Sick or wounded 2nd Ypres 1‒3 May 1915, No. 2 Coy; commissioned 15 Northumberland Fusiliers 28.12.15; MC; (b.1895 Beckenham; enlisted 1.5.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Sutton Surrey; died 1974 Bridport, Dorset); MC London Gazette 16.9.18; Lieut. N’land Fus.; citation reads:

 

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty throughout more than a week’s fighting. This officer held an exposed position on a flank for two days with great determination. Later, he took command, and reorganised the company when its commander became a casualty, and led it in a counter attack, ejecting the enemy from our front posts, which they had entered. His courage and example kept his company together. Armentières; Croix de Poperinghe 9/17.4.18

 

Pothecary, Walter Frank

 

lrb 373 pothecary

(Image courtesy of Stanley Gardner)

 

9338 Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒16.4.15; DCM Feb. 1915; commissioned 3/5 Hampshire R. 16.4.15; (b.1882 Middle Wallop, Hampshire; enlisted 23.11.11 ‘P’ Coy; lived Wallington, Surrey; final stages of the Queen’s and King’s Prize 1913; LRB Record 1950: 'Major Walter Pothecary has recently retired from his position as Clerk to the Clothworkers’ Company, and has been elected a Warden of that Company. In WWII he commanded the Wallington Home Guard Company'; died 1958 Surrey); DCM citation reads:

 

For great gallantry and resource on several occasions in reconnoitring the enemy’s front near Le Gheer, and obtaining valuable information. On one occasion he crawled up to within ten yards of the German trench and investigated a supposed mine.

 

LRB Record, August 1923; Bt-Major W F Pothecary DCM.:

 

It is with very great regret that we have to chronicle the retirement of Major Pothecary from the active ranks of the LRB. His career in the Regiment has been second to none in its Estate and beneficial influence – most marked, perhaps on the Shooting side; and by his going we lose one to whom we could always look for the soundest of advice and one who, throughout his whole time in the Regiment, never for a moment lost the immense keenness which was his.

 

Major Pothecary joined the LRB in 1911 as a Rifleman. He was very quickly made Lance Corporal and Corporal, serving under Lt-Col. (then Captain) Burnell. His pre war service soon made him well known throughout the whole Battalion and, at the outbreak of War and the departure of the Battalion to Bisley for training, before proceeding overseas, it is safe to say that there was no more popular figure in the ranks than Sgt. Pothecary. Of his life in and around Ploegsteert Wood in the early days of the Battalion’s active experiences there are many tales which most adequately illustrate the man – and of these more anon – but is was by his utter and complete disregard of danger that most who knew him then will remember him. It was with perfect sincerity that he said, as he was leaving in the spring of 1915 to take up a commission in the Hampshire Regiment, ‘Well, I’ve had the best six months of my life!’ as those who heard him will testify.

 

When in the line at Plugstreet, ‘Walter’ as he was usually called, was to be found in the little cottage – or rather what once had been a cottage, on the left flank of the Battalion’s trench frontage. The revetting and sandbagging which his section carried out there was a revelation to the regular troops who lay next to us and even more of a revelation – in its example of what men really could be got to do – to their officers. He also had his own private barbed wire round the front side of this cottage – a fact which caused the member of the old Wiring Party, who happens to be writing this – to feel sorely aggrieved in that he apparently did not consider the protection afforded by the Party sufficient! Nothing was said, however, as the writer was far too frightened of Walter to do more than vociferously appreciate the skill with which the wiring had been carried out.

 

It was while occupying this part of the front that he shot a pheasant through the head with his rifle. Upon preparing to collect it from No-Man’s Land (where it had fallen) in broad daylight, he was, very naturally, advised to wait till dark. ‘Till dark!’ he replied ‘Even if someone else hasn’t pinched it by then, I shan’t be able to find it. I’m going to get it now.’ And he did! Again, it was only by physical force he was prevented from attempting to negotiate an unfordable sea of mud in full view of the enemy with a badly wounded man, who could not, and did not, live for more than an hour, on his back, in case there might be some remotest chance of saving his life. He would not have been able to do more than step into the mud and would there have been anchored, but that was, to him, quite a minor consideration.

 

The Commanding Officer, Lt-Col. A S Bates, tried very hard to keep him in the Regiment, but the Fates decide otherwise and he left – with a well merited D.C.M. – from Steenwerck to take up his commission. He was posted to Southampton where, again, his outstanding merits were quickly recognised and he was soon appointed Adjutant of his Battalion. Shortly after that, he was sent to Lyndhurst to supervise the digging of an extensive system of trenches for training purposes there, and it was then perhaps that his most important work of the war – and work that was destined to become of the greatest importance to the whole of the British Army – commenced. The system of trenches and training areas completed, ‘Walter’ founded and took over that great Bombing School which was to maintain the standard of knowledge both theoretical and practical, of this then new and important weapon and its tactical uses, at an unsurpassed level.

 

Under him the school was to grow apace. Its ramifications extended from Bombing pure and simple to the use of all kinds of trench weapons, mortars, gas bomb projectors, anti-gas devices, rifle grenades etc., etc. He never allowed himself to think that the first six months experience of warfare represented conditions for the rest of the War, but by frequent and periodical visits to the 1st Battalion LRB in France and Belgium he kept himself thoroughly abreast of all the myriad new methods of destruction which were so quickly evolved. On one of these visits he was badly gassed, to this day the effects thereof are, unhappily, still with him. It is not improbable that this result is in some measure due to the fact that, although incapacitated – or what would be incapacitated to anyone else – he absolutely refused to go sick.

 

There can be no doubt that at the end of the War he was one of the best known officers of the whole of the British Army. How many Officers and NCOs passed through his hands at Lyndhurst it would be unsafe to say, but there can be few whose duties brought them into touch with so many men as did Major Pothecary’s. One of these, a large and muscular officer from one of the Colonies found that Major Pothecary’s physical strength matched his moral force when he bet him he could not carry two full S.A.A. boxes one hundred yards in a certain time. They were carried there, but after thus winning the bet ‘Walter’ proceeded to carry them back without stopping.

 

Since the War, Major Pothecary has been one of the foremost in helping the reconstruction of the Regiment. His great organising ability which was markedly evident in the Lyndhurst Bombing School found its post bellum outlet in the reconstructed Regimental Shooting Committee, with the result that he very soon had the Regiment well on its way to re-affirming the exceedingly high promise given by its pre-war performances. ‘Primus in Urbe’ was never more our motto than on the ranges, and Major Pothecary saw to it, in a few short years, that we were once again in the front rank in this respect when in 1923 the LRB swept the Board at the T.A.R.A. meeting and Sgt. Ebbetts was returned as Champion Shot of the Territorial Army [Sgt. R F Ebbetts 6561268, original 2nd Battalion man; MM Gommecourt 1.7.16 with 1st Battalion].

 

Whatever tribute we may pay ‘Walter’ here, none could be more sincere or genuine, or more an appreciation of the work he has done, than an acknowledgement by his successor. We are glad to say that such an acknowledgement, in the form of a letter sent to us for publication, has been in our hands awaiting the appearance of this article for its incorporation therein; so we print it without further comment:‒

 

‘Being he who has stepped into the shoes so lately vacated by Major Pothecary in connection with the Shooting of the Regiment, I hope you will allow me to make public a tribute which I always felt was due to him – a fact of which I am doubly sure now that I am endeavouring to take the same size in shoes as he did. Personally I know very little of his pre war service – I only joined in 1914 May – although I am sure that it must be well worthy of mention. He was always keen on shooting and was I believe, his Company Shooting Secretary for some time. But, as regards his work as Shooting Secretary to the Regiment since the War, I feel that words can scarcely express the debt that the Regiment owes him. As his successor, I realise day by day, more and more, the sacrifices he must have made to carry out his work, and that, if any of the successes in Shooting for which we hope this year materialise, the Regiment will merely be picking the fruit from the trees which he, and Briggs, and Col. Bates planted, and so carefully tended. Clement Hall [another ‘Chyebassa’ man 9752 A/Sgt]

 

Such a man as this is remembered in many ways. Those with him in Ploegsteert will always see him as he appeared going up the line – or for that matter, when coming out of it. Laden, till his back was bent, with sacks and sandbags, which judging by the noise they made, contained only empty tins, he would stagger on until a halt was called, when he would promptly drop the lot. As it would take him very many minutes to collect them again when the column moved on, even in day time, the scenes of intense activity in his immediate neighbourhood when their re-assembling had to be done in the pouring rain of an exceedingly black night may best be imagined than described. The Hun must have heard ‘Walter’ being relieved for many miles. The fact he was a fanatical souvenir hunter may possibly give a clue to the contents of his burdens. He can always be recognised – as a fashion note might put it – by his attachment to the well-known haversack. Whenever possible he will carry any of these, and it is on rumour that he even appeared at a garden party wearing one. As however I have this only on the authority of one of his best friends in the Regiment the latter statement cannot be vouched for.

 

A man of generous impulses – never more generous where the Regiment, and especially the Shooting Committee, were concerned – slow to anger, quick to laughter; a man who had always an encouraging and never a disheartening effect on all around him; Major Pothecary goes from us as one whom we will hardly replace and as one whom we will ever honour. [Not attributed but probably written by John Stransom, the Editor of the LRB Record at this time, who was in charge of a wiring party during Ploegsteert days – for which he, Stransom, was awarded the DCM.]

 

Rainey, Clifford Harden

9801 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒13.5.15; Commissioned 9 East Kent R. 19.9.15; (b.1889 Sydenham, Kent; originally enlisted 19.2.09 ‘P’ Coy. No. 8645; occ: insurance clerk; lived Sydenham; re-enlisted 4.8.14 ‘P’ Coy)

 

Ramsay, Owen Gustave

9656 Rfn; Not o/s in LRB ranks; To 2/5 Bn. 31.10.14; transferred 101 Provisional Bn. 19.6.15; discharged 25.8.16, subject to provisions of the Military Service Act (section II) 1916; (b.1893 Camberwell; occ: artistic designer; lived E Dulwich; enlisted 13.11.13 ‘P’ Coy; died 1967 Lewisham Borough)

 

Richardson, Geoffrey Oliver

9582 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒2.8.15; Commissioned 4 Essex R. 11.8.15; posted 1/4 Essex R; KIA 26.3.17; 2/Lieut; commemorated Gaza War Cem. Palestine; (b.1896 Hackney; enlisted 4.9.13‘P’ Coy; lived Buckhurst Hill)

 

Ring, Melville John

 

lrb 450 ring

(Image courtesy of Paul Staples)

 

8223 Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒3.5.15; KIA 3.5.15; age 28; commemorated Menin Gate Memorial; (b.1886 Dulwich; enlisted 1.3.06 ‘P’ Coy; occ: commercial traveller, drapery; lived Woodside Park)

 

Robbins, Gilbert Arthur

9900/300223 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒1.7.16; KIA 1.7.16; age 25; commemorated Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 9 D; (b.1892 Chippenham Wiltshire; occ: insurance clerk; originally enlisted 15.2.09 ‘P’ Coy. No. 8508; address Threadneedle St; lived Camberwell; re-enlisted 6.8.14 ‘G’ Coy)

 

Rowland, R H

8345 Capt; Not o/s in LRB ranks; Commissioned 8 Royal W Surrey R; Mentioned in Despatches; (enlisted 14.3.08 ‘P’ Coy)

 

Sanders, Tom

9503 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒12.1.15; KIA 12.1.15; age 23; commemorated London Rifle Brigade Cem. Ploegsteert III A 5; (b.1893 Stoke Newington; enlisted 6.2.13 ‘P’ Coy; occ: office clerk; lived Palmers Green)

 

Sargeant, B F

9550 Rfn; Subscription register October 1914 only military ref; (enlisted 28.4.13 ‘P’ Coy)

 

Sharman, Charles Victor

9349 L/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒3.5.15; Commissioned 2/10 Middlesex R. 28.7.15; (b.1894 West Ham; enlisted 18.1.12 ‘P’ Coy; lived Leytonstone; occ: law clerk; died 1991 Redbridge Borough)

 

Sissons, Harry Keeble

9654/300158 A/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒14.2.19; (b.1894 St Pancras; enlisted 13.11.13 ‘P’ Coy; occ: clerk, artists colourman; died 1955 Colchester, Essex)

 

Skuse, Douglas Edward Harry

9700 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒5.2.15; Wounded 2nd Ypres, April 26‒May 1, No. 2 Coy; commissioned 8 Rifle Brigade 5.12.15; (b.1895 Paddington; occ: shipping agents' clerk; enlisted 25.2.14 ‘P’ Coy; lived Clapham)

 

Somers-Smith, John Robert, ‘Smug’

 

lrb somers smith

(Image courtesy of Chris Rippingale)

 

1/5 Bn. to France 4.11.14‒3.6.15, invalided; served with 3/5 Bn. June‒Oct. 1915; rejoined 1/5 Bn. 24 Oct 15; KIA 1.7.16 at Gommecourt; commemorated Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 9D; Hons: MC, Mentioned in Despatches; (b.1881; ed: Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford; 2/Lieut. 1908; Lieut. 1913; Capt. 9.6.14; Olympic and Stewards’ (record-rowing) 1908); MC London Gazette 14.1.16 New Years Hons; De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour:

 

Second son of Robert Vernon Somers-Smith and his wife Gertrude; born Hersham, Surrey 15.12.1887; at Eton Captain of boats, winner of many rowing trophies; 2/Lieut. 1906; Capt. 9.6.14; KIA in the enemy’s trenches at Gommecourt, senior LRB officer in the attack; Mentioned in Despatches in Field Marshal John French’s despatch 1.1.16, awarded MC 13.5.15 for services at the second battle of Ypres.

 

His Colonel wrote: ‘He was a perfect officer. Absolutely fearless, he was loved by his men who would have followed him anywhere.’ Lieut. Belcher V.C. late sergeant of his Company: ‘In my opinion he was the best Captain the LRB ever had, and all ‘B’ Coy. thought so too.’ A fellow officer also wrote: ‘I went through the second battle of Ypres practically hand in hand with him and knew what sort of man he was in the most appalling and terrible engagements – he was great.’

 

He married at St. Peter’s Church, Hersham 25 July 1914, Marjorie, one child Henry Cecil Willingdon, born 5 May 1915.

 

Stains, Cyril Robert

9541/300122 Rfn. F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒23.5.15; Shrapnel wounds legs & forearm 3.5.15 2nd Ypres; discharged under King’s Regulations 392 XVI 17.8.17, wounds; Silver War Badge No. 230330; (b.1895 Wimbledon; emp: insurance clerk, Gresham Life; enlisted 10.4.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Raynes Park, Surrey; died 1969 Eastbourne, Sussex)

 

Stannard, John Arnold

9642 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒13.5.15; Commissioned 5 Hampshire R. 4.9.16; MC; Lieut; attached 6 Hampshire R; DoW 23.4.18; commemorated Lapugnoy Mil. Cem; (enlisted 1.11.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Golders Green; emp: Sun Fire Assurance Co.); MC 2nd Lt Hamps R; London Gazette 19.11.17; north of Poelcappelle 4.10.17; citation reads:

 

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When the enemy counter attacked and forced back the troops on his flank, he rallied them, led them forward, and restored the position. It was largely due to his initiative and leading that the counter attack was beaten off.

 

Stoltenhoff, Arthur Maurice; changed name to Humby

9675 Rfn; Not o/s in LRB ranks; Transferred 2/23 London R. Nos. 5745/702512 Sgt; France 26.6.16‒3.12.16; Salonika 1.12.16‒17.6.17; Egypt 19.6.17‒21.12.17; commissioned Essex R att’d Beford R; commissioned IA (Res. Offs.) 24.9.18; (b.1886 West Ham; occ: radio engineer; lived Twickenham Park; enlisted 11.12.13 ‘P’ Coy; died 1981 Chesham Bois, Bucks; Probate 2.4.81, Estate £29,513)

 

Styles, George Edgar

1127 L/Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒9.12.14; GSW leg 4.12.14; discharged under King’s Regulations 392 XVI 8.7.16, wounds; Silver War Badge No. 97382; (b.1886 Brixton; occ: lace traveller; originally enlisted 11.2.09 ‘P’ Coy. No. 8464; lived Brixton; re-enlisted 13.10.14 2/5 Bn; died 1936 Southend on Sea, Essex)

 

Tonkin, Richard Bradley

9561/300128 L/Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒25.2.17; Commissioned 13 Essex R. 25.2.17; later MGC; (b.1893 Brixton; occ: insurance clerk; enlisted 8.5.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Streatham; died 1950 Folkestone, Kent)

 

Upton, R

8474 2/Lieut; Not o/s in LRB ranks; Commissioned 25 London R; Lieut. att’d 15 London R. overseas; (enlisted 11.2.09 ‘P’ Coy)

 

Ward, Francis

8469 Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒29.12.14; Commissioned Scots Guards 4.5.15; MC and Mentioned in Despatches and French Croix de Guerre; MC London Gazette 3.6.19; Mentioned in Despatches London Gazette 4.1.17; French Croix de Guerre London Gazette 14.7.17; (b.1890 Chelsea; enlisted 5.2.09 ‘P’ Coy; occ: journalist; lived Kensington; Brighton Marcher 18 April 1914)

 

Warwick, Walter George

 

lrb 157 warwick

(Image courtesy of David Bull)

 

8412 Sgt; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒27.12.15; Commissioned 3/18 London R. 28.12.15; (b.1889 Willesden; enlisted 8.1.09; ‘P’ Coy; lived Kilburn; emp: Sun Fire Assurance Co; married Marjorie M W Harris 1 June 1918; present at the unveiling of the London Rifle Brigade Memorial, London Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert 1927; died 1960 Reading, Berks)

 

Waters, Harold, ‘Spout’

9402/300085 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒29.12.18; (enlisted 25.4.12 ‘P’ Coy; lived Leytonstone, Essex)

 

Wayland, Stanley Henry

9403 Rfn; Not o/s in LRB ranks; To 2/5 Bn. 31.10.14; posted 101 Provisional Bn; posted 3/5 Bn. 28.3.16; transferred 23 London R. No. 5280; France 26.6.16‒3.12.16 A/Sgt; Salonika 14.12.16‒15.6.17; Egypt 18.6.17 No. 702098; wounded 28.3.18; DoW 29.3.18 age 26, EEF; commemorated Damascus Commonwealth War Cem. C 37; (b.1896 Hackney; occ: solicitors' clerk; lived Leytonstone; enlisted 25.4.12 ‘P’ Coy)

 

Wheatley, Richard George

 

lrb 373 wheatley

(Image courtesy of Stanley Gardner)

 

9586 L/Corp; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒5.5.15; Commissioned Royal West Sussex R. 22.9.15; later Tank Corps; (b.1890 Brondesbury; lived West Hampstead; enlisted 4.9.13 ‘P’ Coy; emigrated Canada post war, worked Canadian National Railways; died 1970 Hendon, Middlesex)

 

White, Edward George

9350 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒7.5.15; Wounded 3.4.15 shrapnel in thighs; discharged under King’s Regulations 392 XVI 24.9.16, wounds, Silver War Badge No. 15967; (b.1894 Plymouth; occ: merchants' clerk; enlisted 18.1.12 ‘P’ Coy; lived Leytonstone)

 

Williamson, Henry William

 

lrb jan15thumb

(Image courtesy of HW Literary Estate)

 

9689 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒26.1.15; Commissioned 10 Bedford R. 9.4.15; transferred MGC; Lieut. Oct. 1916; (b.1895 Brockley; ed: Colfes Grammar School; enlisted 8.1.14 ‘P’ Coy; lived Brockley; occ: clerk, Sun Fire Insurance Office; post war, very briefly reporter Weekly Despatch before becoming a writer. This is the author best known for his book Tarka the Otter 1927; and the fifteen-volume epic A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, five volumes of which cover the Great War.)

 

Willmott, Herbert Edwin

9065 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒6.5.15; Discharged end of term of engagement 1.12.15; (enlisted 21.10.09 ‘P‘ Coy; lived Beckenham)

 

Woollacott, Francis Hugh Claude

9508 Rfn; F/F LRB ranks 4.11.14‒20.7.15; Commissioned ASC 20.7.15; (b.1894 Balham; occ: insurance clerk; enlisted 13.2.13 ‘P’ Coy; lived Wandsworth Common; died 1965 Greenwich)

 

 

*************************

 

 

 

This comprehensive listing has been researched and compiled by Chris Rippingale, and we are grateful to him for allowing us to use it as a part of this website.

 

(List © Chris Rippingale 2016)

 

 

 

 

Back to 'Henry Williamson and the London Rifle Brigade, 1914–1915'

 

Back to 'Henry Williamson and the First World War'

 

 

 

           

 

 

Back to 'Henry Williamson and the First World War'

 

 

Henry Williamson and the London Rifle Brigade

1914–1915

 

an illustrated timeline

 

 

lrb jan15crop

9689 Private Henry William Williamson

London Rifle Brigade

 

 

P Company, London Rifle Brigade: A 1914 Roll Call

 

The 'Chyebassa' re-union dinners

 

 

Sources, without which this timeline could not have been compiled:

 

[Anon.] The History of the London Rifle Brigade, 1859-1919 (Constable, 1921) – referred to below as the 'Official history'

[A. S. Bates], Short History of the London Rifle Brigade (Privately printed, 1916)

K. W. Mitchinson, Gentlemen and Officers: The Impact and Experience of War on a Territorial Regiment (Imperial War Museum, 1995)

Anne Williamson, A Patriot's Progress: Henry Williamson and the First World War (Sutton Publishing, 1998); HW's letters home are given in the book in full; selected extracts are included below, with permission.

The Henry Williamson Literary Archive

 

Thanks to Christopher Rippingale for providing more detailed information about the LRB, P Company, and some of the photographs.

 

 

1914  
   
9 January HW enters in his diary: 'Territorial grant £4, Clayton (Tailor) 10/-.' Three days later he notes 'paid Tailor £2.' He later claims that he enlisted so that he could afford a new suit from the grant, and his diary entries seem to bear this out. However, two weeks' paid leave at the annual summer camp – in addition to his standard holiday entitlement – must also be a considerable attraction!
   
22 January

HW, aged 18 on 1 December 1913, enlists in the Territorial Force, the 5th Battalion City of London Regiment, London Rifle Brigade (LRB), enrolment No. 9689. He is expected to attend three drills a month, with obligatory attendance at the summer training camp. He joins P Company as a private.

 

The LRB's Members' Register open at the page showing his enrolment entry, sixth from bottom:

 

lrb register

(Image courtesy of Chris Rippingale)

 

On enrollment HW is given a copy of the current issue of the LRB; all that still exists is the cover:

 

lrb school1

 

lrb school2

   
August

The LRB's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Earl Cairns issues mobilisation orders:

 

lrb mobilisation1

 

lrb mobilisation2

(Images courtesy of Chris Rippingale)

 

 

The LRB's two-week summer camp on the coast at Eastbourne is cancelled following Germany's declaration of war. The men at first return to their homes, but after a few days it is decided to keep them together, first at the Central Foundation School, Merchant Taylors, and then at Charterhouse School (the schools being empty as it is the summer holidays).

   
15 August The battalion is asked if 'it would volunteer for foreign service, an idea which had been mooted before, but not so seriously. The Commanding Officer, Lord Cairns, addressed the LRB and put the facts before them, saying amongst other things that the regiment had always claimed to be one of the foremost in the force, and that now was the time to prove it. The matter required consideration on the part of many, for they were in receipt of good salaries, and had heavy responsibilities to bear, but the predominant idea in the mind of all was that, if the regiment were to be kept together and go out as the LRB, they were prepared to make the necessary sacrifices, and Lord Cairns was in a position at once to say that 75%, the minimum number acceptable, would accept the foreign service obligation. . . . The prevailing idea was, that all would be over by Christmas, and that the utmost use which would be made of the Territorials would be to give them duties on lines of communication.' (Official history)  HW is among those who volunteer, although technically under age (albeit by only one month): volunteers are supposed to have passed their nineteenth birthday.
   
20–22 August The 2nd London Brigade, consisting of the 5th (LRB), 6th, 7th, and 8th (Post Office Rifles) Battalions, leave London by 'March route', and proceed to Wimbledon Common. on 21 August the LRB is billeted at Hersham, near Walton-on-Thames, and the next day the Brigade reaches Bisley. 'The march down had been a sort of triumphal procession with the people coming out of houses cheering and offering refreshment, while the men were also in high spirits, but want of condition and hot weather combined made the casualties in the brigade very heavy, although they were not all due to exhaustion. The LRB dropped only one man, and he had a fit.' (Official history)
   
24 August

The LRB is camped at Bisley. HW writes to his mother on this day:

 

'We sleep 12 in a tent like sardines, and have an awful time all day marching in full kit, on Sat we marched 13 miles with full kit, 70lbs in the hot sun and dust, marching from 7.30–1.30. . . . I sometimes wish I hadn't joined. . . . It takes a lot to exhaust me, as it does father, but after a 20 mile (or 8 hour) march without food & full kit & rifle in the brazen sun, one flops down and gasps for water and breath. Marching here we (the LRB) passed literally hundreds of chaps, grown men and youths, lying still on the roadside, overcome with sunstroke and exhaustion.'

 

In a later, undated, letter he writes:

 

'We are now quite used to the hardships, and are enjoying ourselves. The Bishop of London [Chaplain of the LRB] goes back today; his sermons have been excellent. I will send you a little book he gave us. . . . What do you think of the position now? The germans appear to be holding good positions, and I think it will take a long time, and a great waste of men to dislodge them; even then they will retire to still better positions.'

 

The cover of the Bishop of London's booklet:

 

lrb sermon

(Image courtesy of Chris Rippingale)

   
5 September

HW writes home:

 

'Are we cold here? In the daytime it's as hot as Hades. We don't notice the heat though. In the night the mists creep up, and saturate everything. With one small blanket, and often sleeping on the ground miles from camp, often with no blanket in the sand, with only an overcoat (this is part of the training scheme) one gets cold as the north pole. I can tell you, you won't recognise me when I return. My hands are horny, I can march miles with full kit without any notice of the heat etc, and my face is dark mahogany. I am what is known as a hard-bitten, silent, cursing tommy! (French foreign legion kind).

 

The letter ends:

 

hdl sketch reverse

 

On the reverse of this page HW has drawn an amusing sketch:

 

lrb sketch

   
9/10 September The brigade marches to Reigate, and then East Grinstead, marching past King George V en route.
   
16 September The brigade continues on to Camp Hill, Crowborough, Sussex, where it camps out under canvas. 'The training at Crowborough was much the same as before, although the men had some exercise in digging, especially with the small entrenching tool which each man carried, as very little information was received from the front about the requirements for the new style of fighting, and there was no one to show how they should be met. . . . Leave was given very sparingly owing to fear of invasion, and most men got only a few hours at home before leaving for France. . . . New rifles were issued just before embarking, and every man fired a few rounds with them.' (Official history)
   
1 October

HW writes home:

 

'We were innoculated yesterday (Weds) at 5 o'clock, and at 7 I was in a low fever and headache, and couldn't keep from positively rattling with ague. My left arm (where the serum as injected) is practically paralysed, and it feels as if I had all the arm festered. Perhaps I shall be better by tomorrow; as it goes off soon. I am normal now (Thurs) except for arm and general weakness.'

   
8 October

HW writes home:

 

'Would you please send me my black dress-belt and sword scabbard they are in my second long drawer. Dont forget my lamp either as I need it badly. As we are getting the new short rifle soon, I expect it will be very soon when we go off, probably where the Scottish are.' [The London Scottish, another Territorial battalion, then in Paris.]

   
(?)14 October

HW sends this postcard, quickly produced by an enterprising photographer, to his sister Kathie:

 

hdl crowborough

 

hdl crowborough reverse

   
18 October

HW writes home:

 

'. . . we are under 3 hours notice to move off at any time . . . There is some talk of going away at dawn tomorrow. I believe we are to fill up the gaps in the Kings Royal Rifles, that were sadly decimated at the Battle of the Aisne. If that is so, then it is goodbye for most of the chaps for ever. So if you hear of our departure you musnt mind at all. . . . We have a German officer as an officer in the LRB, naturalized it is true, but nevertheless a German. Incidentally he spends two months every year in the Fatherland. I wonder? By the way, don't you think that the situation in France is serious? The Germans are very near our coasts now. The nights are very cold here. In fact, terribly bleak. But we now have three blankets, and sometimes 4, apiece.'

 

The German officer to whom HW refers is Lieutenant Paul Adolf Slessor, who is Intelligence Officer for battalion headquarters. After the war's end he acts as agent in the purchase of Talbot House (Toc H) in Poperinghe, and returns there after the town's liberation in 1944 to check its condition after another world war.

   

19 October –

22 November

The first Battle of Ypres is fought, with a crisis point on 30/31 October when the London Scottish become the first Territorial battalion to see action, losing 321 men.
   
Late October New kits are issued to the LRB and each man innoculated twice against typhoid (HW seems to have received this earler in the month), signs that a move is imminent; rumours give the destinations as France or India.
   
29 October

HW sends lettercard:

 

'Dear Mother, Come on Friday with Father – in time for tea (4pm) at the Camp here. The LRB is one of several regiments (Territor) for the Front in France. No leave will be obtained at all. Southampton probably on Sat. at noon. If Father & you dont come on Friday, the last chance will have departed. Bring some money for me, a brandy flask (small for pocket) Dont fail. Wire reply. Love HWW'

   
3 November Orders are received that the battalion is to embark the next day.
   
4 November

HW writes a hurried postcard home while on the train to Southampton docks:

 

lrb chichester1

 

lrb chichester2

 

850 men, including 30 officers, of the LRB embark on SS Chyebassa, formerly of the British India Steam Navigation Company, at Southampton. P Company is under the command of Captain J. R. Somers-Smith, the other officers being Second Lieutenant H. L. Johnston and Second Lieutenant G. E. S. Fursdon. 'Companies were allocated particular areas, "P" for example being crammed in a hold with rudder chains clanking below and horses stamping above. Once under way the men were allowed to move about the ship. The Chyebassa was one of fourteen transports being shepherded across by three destroyers on a calm sea . . .' (Mitchinson)

   

 

 

lrb chyebassa

SS Chyebassa

(Image courtesy of John Frank)

   
 
lrb chyebassa2

Men of the 1st Battalion, London Rifle Brigade, relax as the SS Chyebassa sails

for Le Havre, 4 November 1914. A previously unpublished photograph.

(Image courtesy of Paul Staples)

   
5 November The battalion disembarks at Le Havre in the early morning and 'had a trying march, ending with a long hill, to No. 1 Rest Camp, which was found full of old soldiers, many of whom were "swinging the lead" and telling most sanguinary stories. This formed a very bad start for raw troops, and, to make things worse, owing to the shortage of tents a large number of the men had to spend the night, which was a frosty one, in the open. Iron rations had been issued on board, which, after considerable doubt as their nature had been expressed, turned out to be the grocery portion only, and required, as was discovered later on, a tin of bully beef and six hard biscuits to be carried in addition.' (Official history) LRB 'Chyebassa' men will instigate an annual 'Chyebassa' re-union dinner, beginning in 1915, with rather better rations.
   
7 November The battalion arrives in St-Omer by train. Not expected, no arrangements have been made for them and they have to wait in the train for three hours before marching to 'some old artillery barracks . . . about as dismal and dirty as can be imagined.' (Bates)
   
8 November

They march 3½ miles south-west to Wisques, to a 'large unfurnished and unfinished convent . . . There was no water laid on, no light, no method of heating or of drying clothes, no furniture, and no possibility of supplementing rations. . . . Training, which consisted chiefly of trench digging and artillery formation, was carried out daily regardless of weather.' (Bates) HW noted against this paragraph in Bates's book, 'Wisques. First heard the guns here at night.'

 

HW writes home on 11 November:

 

'We are having a hard time but its use will be seen & appreciated when we take our turn in the trenches. . . . I have a fearful cough thro the rain & wind.'

 

'It rained continually during these November days and because greatcoats were considered bad for discipline the men spent days and nights in sodden clothing, sweating and freezing in turn. Although they were not complete novices at roughing it, by now the men found the conditions trying.' (Mitchinson)

 

lrb Wisques November 1914

 The practice trenches dug by P Company at Wisques, 9 November. Left to right: Sgts A. C.

Feast, E. Hughes, Col. Sgt D. B. Sceats, Sgts S. T. W. 'Grannie' Henshaw, M. J. Ring and

A. W. 'Gus' Allen.

A previously unpublished photograph.

(Image courtesy of Paul Staples)

   
16 November

The 'very tired and damp' battalion marches 17 miles to Hazebrouck. 'Although the road was principally uneven pavé and the men were not thoroughly accustomed to the weight of their packs, no one fell out: the exhaustion at the end was not entirely dissipated by the issue of a rum ration.' (Official history)

   
17 November The march continues to Bailleul where the battalion is billeted in a school.
   
19 November

The battalion advances to Romarin, a small village close to Ploegsteert, their march finishing in a snowstorm, where it is attached to the 11th Infantry Brigade, 4th Division, IIIrd Corps. Other regular units in the brigade are 1st Somerset Light Infantry, 1st East Lancashires, 1st Hampshire Regiment and 1st Rifle Brigade.

 

HW writes home on this day:

 

'All day & most of the night huge detonations shake the air around us, and the sounds are rather awe-inspiring at first. . . . We saw Taube aeroplanes being shelled by the British the other day, one was brought down, I believe. We also saw several ugly dirigibles, hovering over the battle, trying to get ranges etc. It is rather exciting out here.'

 

lrb 374 fun in the snow

Captioned in the privately owned album as 'A dummy gun in the winter firing line

with the L.R.B.' – the dummy gun being a tree trunk.

Left to right: J. T. Keeping, C. H. F. Castle, A. Pumphrey, J. A. Stannard and Carter

(Image courtesy of Robert Chester and Stanley Gardner)

   
20 November

Half companies are sent into the trenches where they are attached to the regulars for instruction. 'Gratitude was expressed that the LRB had come up to help the troops, who were tired out with their exertions during the first battle of Ypres which was just ending, and every possible help was given in teaching the duties required and how to make the best of the uncomfortable surroundings.' (Official history)

 

lrb 190 c company hq

C Company HQ in Ploegsteert Wood, November 1914.

Left to right: G. F. Funnell (standing), R. G. Wheatley, J. W. Aris, A. S. Hands and

S. J. Dean (all actually P Company men). A previously unpublished photograph.

(Image courtesy of Robert Chester and Stanley Gardner)

   
24 November The 8 companies of the LRB are combined to form 4 companies, to conform with regular army practice. P Company is joined with G, to form No. 3 Company, under the command of Captain and Hon. Major C. D. Burnell. 'From this date the battalion varied its turns in the trenches by finding working parties, mainly to convert "Bunhill Row", which was a ride [in Ploegsteert Wood] about half a mile behind the front line, into a line of defence, and to construct two corduroy paths through the wood, which was almost impassable without them owing to the mud.' (Official history)
   
 
lrb ploegsteert

Ploegsteert (Plugstreet to the troops) and its surrounds. Bunhill Row (so called because that is

the LRB's headquarters in London) is second row down, third from left, running north to south.

(Map taken from The History of the London Rifle Brigade, 1859-1919)

   
6 December

HW writes home:

 

'Quite well but rather seedy: just returned after 3 days in trenches [then crossed out but readable] – flooded out by rain. Rotten time this time: continually shelled and maxims and rifle fire.'

   
13 December

HW writes home:

 

'Last night we returned from the trenches (for the third time) and we thanked God that we had a decent place to go to. It has been awful in the trenches. For two days and nights we have been in nearly 36 inches of mud & water. Can you picture us, sleeping standing up, cold and wet half way up to our thighs, and covered in mud. As we crept into the trenches at dead of night over 1 foot of mud, the Germans sent up magnesium flare, and we had to crouch flat while scores of bullets spat amongst us. . . . When I returned my overcoat weighed 24 lbs! My feet are now twice their normal size, and I have such rheumatism in my right leg that it is agony to move. . . . I have a feeling that I will return safe. We all think the war will end soon, thank God when it does. The only danger in the trenches is the awful shells and snipers. . . . We have had about 30 casualties so far. I think, mainly snipers & shell fire which latter is hell. The destruction is awful here. Farmhouses and church shelled and burned, cows and sheep bayonetted, & shell holes everywhere.

   
17 December

HW writes to his father (most of his letters home are addressed to his mother):

 

'I am now resting from work in flooded muddy trenches (3 feet nearly of water) in a French cottage about [scored out but readable – '2 miles'] behind the British 'wall of steel'. After coming from the depths, my feet swelled to such and enormous size and were so numbed that I am now under the care of the Doctor. . . The trenches at present are in an awful condition, full of water, and awfully cold. Owing to the wet we cant light our usual coke fires, & therefore no cooking. We get into the trenches by communication trenches, but we have to creep up thro' mud & water to 50 yds exposed (we only go in at night). Generally we get in without any mishap. At intervals during the night the Germans send up brilliant white lights, to see if we are creeping up to attack. ['Intermittent' crossed out] A little rifle fire is kept up the whole time by the Germans. Their snipers in day time pick off a man now & then, as they are mostly crack shots. . . . I saw through a loop hole an Hun sniping, so a Corporal and I watched. I fixed my rifle on him & when the Corporal saw his head "up" I loosed off & we believe we got him for good. I hope so. We are all absolutely knocked up when we return [from the trenches]. Our rifles are a stick of mud & our coats are an awful weight – 20 lbs at least.'

 

The army-issue greatcoats prove unsuitable for the muddy conditions, and most soldiers, HW included, take to cutting off the long skirts to prevent the mud collecting there.

   
19 December

An attack is made by 11th Infantry Brigade  'with the object of rectifying its line, and keeping the enemy occupied'. The LRB is brigade reserve. The attack is not succesful owing to the mud which prevented men from getting forward, and disproportionate casualties. 'Late that evening, in pitch darkness and torrents of rain, the LRB was moved up to a line of breastworks in Hunter Avenue in case of a counter-attack, but fortunately this did not take place, as it would have been extremely difficult to deal with in the circumstances.' (Official history) A continuance of the attack by the LRB the next day is called off.

 

HW makes a recording in his later years for the Imperial War Museum, in which he describes his terror and that of his friend Baldwin 'with ashen face' as they waited in the trenches for the planned attack to begin, and that his abiding memory afterwards of the wounded being brought in was of one man singing 'Oh for the wings of a dove' as he was carried back through the wood.

   
23 December

Each company is attached to one of the regular battalions, No. 3 to the Hampshire Regiment. It is at this time that they occupy Hampshire T-trench – notoriously dangerous, as the German trenches curving round immediately to the north of its 'T' ending enfilade the trench, opening up its length to their snipers. At the 1926 'Chyebassa' reunion dinner G. E. S. Fursdon, in 1914 a second lieutenant in No. 3 Company and HW's platoon commander, sketched on HW's menu card the location of Hampshire T-trench (see The "Chyebassa" re-union dinners), which HW later fair copied:

 

chyebassa 1926 2c

 

(Fursdon's recollection matches well with Sketch Map No. 1 below from The History of the London Rifle Brigade, 1859-1919 – second square down and second from right.)

 

'The system was to have two companies in the line; one in support just behind; one resting in billets in Ploegsteert; and one washing in Armentières. An attack by the enemy would not have been easy to meet, as very little provision was made against it and there was no proper second line of defence, but fortunately all was quiet, because the Germans were as worn out as the British troops. . . . The LRB settled down extraordinarily quickly to their new life, so very different from anything that they had ever been accustomed to, one saving feature of which was that the food was excellent and abundant. The authorities provided goat-skin coats, worn with the hair outside, which were very warm but gave a most amusing appearance to the officers and men. . . . The Christmas mail of the battalion was enormous, almost as large as that of all the rest of the division. People at home were most kind in sending out not only food, but comforters, socks and other things likely to be of use, to such a generous extent that large gifts, which were much appreciated, were able to be made to the regular regiments who were not so well looked after. . . . Everyone received a card from their Majesties and an embossed tin box from Princess Mary containing a card, a pipe and tobacco or cigarettes, and many Christmas cards from the GOC and others were circulated.' (Official history)

   
25 December

The Christmas Truce takes place. For HW's description of this, and his involvement in it, see Henry Williamson and the Christmas Truce.

 

'The Germans were also determined to keep the Christmas season if they could, and their trenches on 24th December were outlined with fairy lights, while Christmas-trees were in evidence as well. As the weather was very frosty just then, the British troops arranged a truce with the Saxons who were opposite this portion of the line, in order that burying parties might carry out their very necessary duties, and this led to meetings in No Man's Land and an exchange of courtesies, which ignorance at that time of German methods and intentions in the matter of poison-gas and other horrors made possible. In some cases visits were said to have been made to the enemy's trenches by adventurous spirits, and there were rumours of a proposed football match, but the authorities frowned upon ideas of this sort and stopped them, quite rightly, because it would have been most unwise to allow the Germans to know how weakly the British trenches were held.' (Official history)

   
26 December

HW writes home:

 

'I am writing from the trenches. It is 11 o'clock in the morning. Beside me is a coke fire, opposite me a 'dug-out' (wet) with straw in it. The ground is sloppy in the actual trench, but frozen elsewhere. In my mouth is a pipe presented by Princess Mary. In the pipe is tobacco. Of course, you say. But wait. In the pipe is German tobacco. Ha Ha, you say, from a prisoner or found in a captured trench. Oh, dear, no! From a German soldier. Yes a live German soldier from his own trench. Yesterday the British & Germans met & shook hands in the Ground between the trenches, & exchanged souvenirs, & shook hands. Yes, all day Xmas day, & as I write. Marvellous, isn't it?'

   
31 December

'Not a shot was fired after Xmas Day until a message was received on New Year's Eve, that "The automatic pistol would recommence firing at midnight." It did, but the shots were purposely aimed high, and gossip said that the adjutant, who was going up through the wood, was very nearly hit.' (Official history)

 

Total LRB casualties for the month are 11 'other ranks' killed, 2 officers and 24 other ranks wounded.

 

 

 

lrb 373 fortified farm

Men of 3 Company, captioned: 'House Garrison group in no man's land'.

Left to right: F. B. Hobson, E. C. Hollis, A. F. Gardner, W. F. Pothecary,

R. G. Wheatley, unknown. A previously unpublished photograph.

(Image courtesy of Stanley Gardner)

   
   
1915  
   
4 January

All companies of the LRB are recalled to billets at the south end of the village of Ploegsteert, preparatory to the battalion taking over a piece of the line for itself on the 7th.

 

lrb 388 tubby vincent and johnner

'Tubby' Vincent and 'Johnner' Johnston in the reserve line, Ploegsteert Wood.

Vincent was Stanley Baldwin's private secretary. A previously unpublished photograph.

(Image courtesy of John Frank)


lrb 3company officers

Officers of No. 3 Company outside breastworks in Ploegsteert Wood – left to right,

Captain J. R. Somers-Smith (holding a copy of The Tatler), 2nd Lieutenant A. E. Sedgwick,

Lieutenant E. L. Large and 2nd Lieutenant H. L. Johnston. This previously unpublished

photograph was probably taken in late February/early March, as Sedgwick, a 'Chyebassa'

man, was commissioned in the field on 26 February.

(Image courtesy of Chris Rippingale)

   
7 January

The LRB take over the sector from the River Warnave to the Estaminet – square 28 at the lower right on the enlarged area of the sketch map below – with the East Lancashires on the left and the Monmouths, another Territorial battalion, on the right. This is Essex Trench, and is held by one company of the battalion, with the Support Company having the greater part of one platoon in London Farm (second square from left at bottom), a ruined farmhouse about 800 yards west of the front trench, a detachment in Mountain Gun Farm  (square 27) – so called because there had been an emplacement for such a gun in a haystack there – and another in the Red House (also square 27). The Reserve Company was billeted in the village and formed part of the Brigade Composite Reserve Battalion. The fourth company was in Armentières, resting and washing (details are taken from the official history). The companies rotate their duties over the coming days.

 

The Essex Trench 'was in shape rather like a lacrosse stick, lying with the handle to the south, and the strings to the west. Almost all the northern curved portion was flooded, and went right up to the Warnave River, quite a small stream in reality, which flowed from east to west or vice versa, according to the direction of the wind, a peculiarity which caused it to be named on one of the official maps, "the Warnave or McKenna River", after a well-known politician. The main Le Gheer–Le Touquet road ran some 50 yards behind, and parallel to, the trench. Company Head-quarters were in a trench alongside the road, and for some weeks the OC Company could not enter the front trench by day owing to the communication trench being entirely flooded and unsafe. The German trenches were about  100 yards away at the south end and 400 at the north, while all reliefs had to be carried out by night, and a tour lasted three days.' (Official history)

   
  lrb ploegsteert crop 
   
8 January

HW's postcard home reveals that he was been unwell for some time:

 

'Still a bit sick, but hope to be all right in a day or two. Awfully wet here; the trenches are often knee deep in water here, in spite of bailers & pumps.'

   
9 January

HW writes home:

 

'By the same post I am sending another [letter] of general interest. I see that my letter of Xmas day has appeared in the Daily Express [see Henry Williamson and the Christmas Truce]. Perhaps you would like to send it for the same paper but I think that the Daily Mail is a better paper. . . . About the waders, I think that they would be too fragile for trench work, but jack boots would be fine for the mud when doing fatigue work in the mud. Good stout boots up to knee (not rubber boots) and water-tight up to knee, would be the very thing. If you get them with lacings up the middle they will leak. I am sure that you could get them somewhere in London. The Germans have fine boots . . .'

 

The letter to which he refers is very likely this worn fragment of a newspaper cutting, which is in the Henry Williamson Literary Archive, although it is unattributed (perhaps because the beginning is missing), and the newspaper is unknown. The annotations are in HW's hand:

 

lrb hwarticle perhaps

   
10 January

HW writes to his father (he tends to write to his father about the strategy of the war):

 

'Now about the war here. We go up to the trenches as usual to relieve other Companies. We pump there as usual, we get wet, cold and miserable there as usual. We hold the same trenches as we held (i.e. the Allies) ten weeks ago. So do the Germans. Generally speaking the position has not changed here. We lose a small percentage of men owing to shell fire and sniping – so do our enemies. We see by this, that, if the war is to end by our military superiority over the Germans it is going to take a long time to drive them across Belgium, Our only hope is that, when the floods and ooze have subsided somewhat, we can, by superior numbers, drive their flanks right back and so force their whole line to withdraw. I see the French are doing splendidly in Alsace. I will, in another letter, sent simultaneously with this one, endeavout to tell you what this war looks like, and the battlefield to the observer. You might, if you think that its general interest warrants it, send it on to the Mail, as you did the other letter to the Express (rotten paper).

 

'I must close now. The paraffin in the peasants lamp here is costly, and I hear his sabots clopping as he comes to tell me that the straw is laid in his best room for us to repose. My muddy blanket is warm, and my fur coat looks inviting, so I must now go to bed. With a final drink of cafe, and a last cigarette, I close this letter.'

   
11 January

HW writes to his father, providing a vivid description of his present environment:

 

'I am writing this in the cottage of a peasant – our rest billets. It is a small cottage and occupied by a family whose house was burned and wrecked by the fighting here. The burned house in question lies about ten yards behind the German lines, & is the resort of their snipers, & they have two machine guns in there at night. However, this is by the way.

 

'As I write I can hear the sounds of rifle fire in front of me. There is a large field in front of the house – brown ploughed earth, pitted here and there with shell holes. In a corner of the field near the road are three mounds with simple white wooden crosses on them – three English soldiers graves – their last resting place. About half a mile in front, over the field, is a cluster of farm houses – all roofless, many burned, and all telling one tale, shelling. About three quarters of a mile in front of the farms – untenanted – is a large field and in the middle of the field a long line of earth thrown up, and about 100 yards in front of it, a parallel line. In the space between these lines of earth, one can see dead cows, huge shell craters, and, just in front of each line of mounds, a badly made (as an unknowing & unsuspicious observer would think) and untidy barbed-wire fence.

 

'Behind these mounds are deep ditches, all more or less half full of water and mud, and curiously made caves. One line of ditches is occupied by men in khaki, the other by men in grey. The same observer, if it were possible to stand in the space between the trenches, would not see a soul. The only sign of human life in all the vast wilderness and ruin would be the smoke from a wood fire here, and a sudden shot (sniping) there. That is all – in the actual trench. Very simple really, but awful to think of. The dead cows, the ruined crops, the shell wrecked houses, all tell their tale of misery and desolation.

 

'Let us go three miles or so behind the trenches & see the Field Artillery. We walk up to where we understand the battery to be, but see nothing. The guns are cunningly hidden and concealed from hostile airmen. Suddenly, pang-pang – followed by metallic screeches – we are shelling the enemy with light shells – shrapnel from field guns. In the house here, we hear the 'pang' just behind us, hear the screech of a shell, and look well over the ruined farms in the distance, and soon see a small white dot in the air appear – for all the world like a piece of cotton wool – the shrapnel has burst. The shelling of the enemy's trenches continues, but suddenly stops. Khaki clad figures round the hidden guns dive like magic into places of concealment. Why?

 

'In the air overhead is a speck – hardly moving. It looks for all the world like a kestrel hovering, but its wings are slightly curved. A minute passes, then 'pup' 'pup', little balls of white smoke appear all around it, scores of them. The Taube – for such it is – swings round and makes back towards the german lines – afraid. We hope he has not spotted our guns. If he has, we shall soon have shell upon shell over the house. The Germans will endeavour to silence the battery. After a bit the gunners come out, and 'carry on' with the shelling. We earnestly hope that it is effective, for the German snipers are rather deadly.

 

'If we go back eight or ten miles behind the trenches we will see the heavy artillery. The shells fired by these heavy howitzers are of the percussion variety and are mostly of high explosive, such as lyddite. Our observing aeroplanes, at the risk of their life, fly over the enemies country (that part of Belgium that they hold temporarily being deemed hostile) and, spotting something good to shell, a moving column of infantry, field guns, or heavy artillery batteries, or a farm full of troops, the direction, range etc., is dropped in a message bag, the artillerymen open fire, after locating the position on the map, and the aeroplane signals 'hit', 'miss', 'right', or the position of the shell.

 

'Yesterday we had five large shells at the church here again. Only one burst, but that shattered half the roof and many windows of houses near were blown in. The inhabitants panic for a minute, & then all is calm again. They are used to war.

 

'It is interesting to watch a duel of aeroplanes in the air. It generally ends in the Taube running away. I am sure that we have better air-services now than the Germans, and better artillery. We are eagerly waiting for the Russians, as we know that the whole issue depends on their offensive.'

   
17 January

HW is by now seriously ill with dysentery and trench foot, and invalided out of the front line. He writes a brief note to his mother:

 

'I write hurriedly to let you know that I am now on my way to base, where I shall be in hospital. I am suffering from a rather ['severe' crossed out] bad form of 'enteritis' accompanied by rotten pains in stomach & head & am very weak. I have been rotten for 3 weeks. There is no cause for any worry at all. I am very thin and pale but am not downcast. I am writing in the Red Cross train, which accounts for the uneven writing. The arrangements for 'malades' on it are ripping & the authorities are kindness itself. Will drop a card later.'

   
18 January

HW sends this card home:

 

lrb hospital

   
26 January and after HW is returned to England. He is taken on a stretcher to the train, supposedly for Birmingham; as the hospital there is full he ends up at Ancoats Military Hospital in Manchester. Following a check-up he moves to its associated convalescent home at nearby Alderley Edge, where he stays for about a month. At his subsequent Medical Board he is given three weeks' leave.
   
early March

HW returns home. His older sister Kathie, speaking in her old age over sixty years later, describes his return, still imprinted on her mind:

 

'He was a terrible sight; when he appeared at the bottom of Eastern Road we could hardly recognise him. He was very pale and thin. He looked lke a scarecrow; his uniform coat was torn and covered in mud. He had dysentery and red puffy swollen feet from being constantly wet and frozen.'

 

These two studio photographs are taken after his return, his greatcoat clearly showing where the skirt has been hacked off with his bayonet:

 

lrb hw march1lrb hw march2

   
9 April

HW is discharged from the LRB, having been gazetted to a commission (second lieutenant) in the 10th Service Battalion The Bedfordhire Regiment:

 

lrb discharge

   
12 April

HW's commission as a temporary second lieutenant:

   

beds commission

   
April                      

A delightfully informal photograph of the newly commissioned second lieutenant; it is inscribed on the back by his mother, 'Harry April 1915':

 

beds hw april15

   

 

 

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At a 'Chyebassa' Re-union Dinner, probably in 1960, HW asked A. E. Blunden – in 1914 a lance-corporal in P Company and HW's section leader – if he would write down his impressions of HW as a young private in the LRB. In response, in May 1961 Blunden sent the following assessment:

 

On the 4th November 1914, less than 3 months after the outbreak of the first world war, the London Rifle Brigade sailed for France, and amongst its numbers was a very young soldier, Henry Williamson, who was in my section. He was a tall, thin, rangy lad, not very tidy in his dress, as he had little use for “spit and polish”, even when the regiment was training in England.

 

He was a great talker, could give an opinion on every variety of topic that arose, from the cleaning of equipment to the strategy employed by the “Brass Hats”, and he always seemed very sure of the soundness of his views: but who isn’t at the age of 18!

 

He adapted himself easily to life in the trenches, was a good fighting soldier, did his duties as a matter of course, but otherwise seemed quite indifferent to his surroundings – the dirt, noise and cramped conditions, as well as the dangers around him – and went on talking in his spare time.

 

He nevertheless was an engaging companion and often his views were very entertaining.

 

I think his indifference to his surroundings was one of his chief characteristics, for it enabled him to concentrate on his thoughts and, when not on duty, he appeared to inhabit a world of his own. This I think was one of the factors in making “Tarka the Otter” such an outstanding success.

 

He certainly was an individualist, and whilst the memory of others, in those far off days, may fade, that of Henry Williamson never will for me.

 

                                                                                                   A. E. BLUNDEN

 

 

Arthur Edmond Blunden was seriously wounded at Second Ypres on 2 May 1915, an arm being amputated four days later. He was discharged from the Army the following August. He died in 1978 in his ninetieth year.

 

 

 

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P Company, London Rifle Brigade: A 1914 Roll Call

 

The 'Chyebassa' re-union dinners

 

 

Back to 'Henry Williamson and the First World War'

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Henry Williamson and the London Rifle Brigade, 1914–1915

 

P Company, London Rifle Brigade: A 1914 Roll Call

 

Henry Williamson and the First World War

 

 

The 'Chyebassa' re-union dinners

 

 

lrb chyebassa

SS Chyebassa

(Image courtesy of John Frank)

 

 

It became a tradition among the officers and men of the London Rifle Brigade who had sailed to war on the SS Chyebassa on 4 November 1914 to hold an annual celebratory dinner on or near to that date. The first was at Tadworth in 1915 with about 50 attending; the second at Blackdown in 1917 (about 140 attending), and the third at Holborn Restaurant in London in 1918 (about 300 present).

 

The fourth, on Wednesday, 5 November 1919 was a special one, held at the Guildhall to mark not only 'the Anniversary of the Regiment in France in 1914', but also 'to celebrate the Conclusion of Peace and the 60th Anniversary of our Foundation and to inaugurate the Reconstitution of the Regiment'. The front of the particular menu card illustrated below bears the signatures of some of the diners present, and include (ranks as at 1914): at the bottom, Brigadier-General Aylmer Hunter Weston ('Hunter-Bunter' to the troops), in 1914 commander of the 11th Infantry Brigade, to which the London Rifle Brigade was attached; top left, Major-General Julian Byng, in 1914 commander of the 3rd Cavalry Division at First Ypres; Captain A. S. Bates (commander of Q Company, and later No. 4 Company); and Captain C. D. Burnell (commander of G Company, and later No. 3 Company. P Company was represented by A. F. Gardner and H. L. 'Johnner' Johnston.

 

chyebassa1919 front

(Image courtesy of Chris Rippingale)

 

From 1922 the dinners were held annually, first at the Criterion Restaurant, then for several years at the Connaught Rooms, Kingsway, before using the LRB headquarters at Bunhill Row. During the Second World War they were held at three different locations in London, and then from 1947 going the the LRB's new headquarters in Sun Street, Finsbury.

 

K. W. Mitchinson, in his Gentlemen and Officers (Imperial War Museum, 1995) states: 'At the 1922 dinner, 29 of the 129 diners were still serving with the regiment, and the highest post-war attendance was achieved in 1931 when 171 Chyebassa men turned up. So important was the anniversary that Harding organised a Calcutta branch of the Chyebassa Club, and there were other offshoots in South Africa and New Zealand. This club remained exclusively for men who had sailed with the 1st Battalion in 1914 but, as early as 1924, John Stransom had suggested that membership should be opened to all former LRB men. His proposal elicited several hostile replies to the LRB Record, and a consensus finally emerged that the Chyebassa reunion should be retained, but that there should also be a full annual regimental dinner.' HW went to a number of Chyebassa dinners, the earliest probably that held in 1926. As the years passed so, inevitably, numbers dwindled, and eventually – probably in the mid to late 1960s – the Chyebassa Club was amalgamated with the 2nd and 3rd Battalion Clubs to form the LRB Veterans Association, to include also veterans from the Second World War. The Chyebassa link, with its smaller, more intimate gatherings, now lost, HW decided that he could not face the larger re-unions and stopped going.

 

It is not known how many 'Chyebassa' dinners HW attended, but in the Literary Archive are menu cards for five different occasions: those held on Thursday, 4 November 1926; Tuesday, 4 November 1947; Friday, 2 November 1962; Friday, 1 November 1963 and Friday, 6 November 1964 (which was held at The Grocers Company Hall in Princes Street). He went to at least one other, as A. E. Blunden, writing in May 1961, refers to 'the last Chyebassa dinner I was able to attend', where he promised HW to give him 'my impressions of you during the early days of World War 1'. (These impressions are quoted on the Henry Williamson and the London Rifle Brigade 1914–1915 web page.)

 

The menu cards are reproduced below. Two are from the 1926 reunion. The first is annotated in HW's hand and is signed on the inside back card cover by most of the P Company survivors who were present:

 

 

1926

 

chyebassa1926 1a

 

chyebassa1926 1b

 

chyebassa1926 1c

 

chyebassa1926 1d

 

The ink has faded on the above page; HW's note asterisked at the bottom reads: '* means originally private soldiers or N.C.Os. Rank in brackets means eventual rank in the New Army. Capital letters mean the original Company officers of L.R.B.'

 

chyebassa1926 1e

 

chyebassa1926 1f

 

The date noted down by HW at the dinner at the top of the back cover may refer to the intended date for the unveiling of the commemorative tablet in the London Rifle Brigade cemetery at Ploegsteert, although this actually took place on Sunday, 19 June 1927.

 

 

***************

 

 

During the dinner there was evidently discussion among the P Company men of their mutual experiences in the notorious Hampshire T-trench just before Christmas 1914, when snipers were an ever-present danger as the trench was enfiladed at the northern end by the German trench opposite, which curled round the 'T' end of the trench. (In the early part of A Fox Under My Cloak HW fictionalises these experiences, calling the trench the 'Diehard T-trench'.) G. E. S. Fursdon, in 1914 a second lieutenant in P Company and HW's platoon commander, drew a sketch of the positions in pencil on the front of another menu card. HW afterwards went over some of it in ink to emphasise the British lines.

 

chyebassa1926 2a

 

Using the same menu card, against some of the P Company names HW has written in pencil the identities that he used for individuals in A Fox Under My Cloak. These are very faint, but from the top they read (printed names first):

 

Bell, D. H. "L-cpl Douglas", then an arrow ('later') to Captain Bell's name under Programme of Music, against which HW has written 'Old Blue'

Blunden, A. E. – 'L-cpl Blunden'

Fursdon G. E. S. – 'Lieut Thorverton'

Henshaw, S. T. W. – 'Grannie Henshaw'

Hollis, E. C. – 'Hollis'

 

chyebassa1926 2b

 

 

Anne Williamson notes, in her book A Patriot's Progress: Henry Williamson and the First World War (Sutton, 1998) that HW wrote in his diary after the dinner:

 

'4 Nov. 1926 Attended the re-union dinner of the original L.R.B. survivors – "Chyebassa dinner", named after ship that took us from Southampton to Havre on 4/11/14. This is a copy of Lt. (now Capt.) Fursdon's map he sketched for me on one of the cards – map of Plug-street wood & trenches.'

 

[Here he drew a fair copy of Fursdon's map, which is shown on the Henry Williamson and the London Rifle Brigade 1914–1915 web page.] This is followed by notes on his comrades whom he now met for the first time since the war. These are notes which he obviously made with his writing in mind – he had already determined that he would write a second series as a follow-on from his Flax of Dream volumes, which would show the life of Willie's cousin Phillip and his involvement in the war. He could little know at that point how many years it would be before he would be able to begin, nor how the enterprise would grow at that time.

 

D.H. BELL – keen, dark, double-life. This man took G.E.W. [Henry's mother] round Crowboro' Camp in '14, & regretted he could not take her in the 'officers' mess, as he was not himself an officer! At dinner, 12 years after, he showed curious double strain . . . . Afterwards he went to Cameroons, became Capt., M.C., obviously he was a sahib officer; & yet also the old comrade, but they conflicted. . . .

 

HOLLIS – slow of speech, red face, just as in 1914! Same old Hollis! No thought, no change. John Bull. Solid, nice, kind, loves beer. Never hilarious; solid, old red-faced Hollis.

 

BLUNDEN – 'lance-corporal Blunden.' Slight impediment in speech, Small narrow face, dark close-set eyes; deliberate. Root of an oaktree. Arm off now . . . Never got angry with men; talks a sort of dialect; messenger at the Gresham before the war, wears a top hat; is now a messenger; just the same Blunden. . . . He was 25 in 1914; . . . He loved it when times were worst, was very happy in the line. The oak in its leafy glory, the last of English spirit; Blunden, small, narrow, almost insignificant, is of that oak; but a root of it, exposed. In fact a hero.

 

CHAPPELL BROS – Went to Public School – sons of a City tailor – sort of veneered but good boys. I did not like them; they did not like me. Perhaps it was because I was a filthy snob regarding Martin Sharman & Co. – the 'Leytonstone crowd'. Survival, this mood of mine, from the Sun Fire Office of 1914. A la J.V. Brett. Coulson was of their "tent", & I fought him in the moonlight before Xmas Eve, & was properly 'hided' by him.

 

DIPLOCK – cpl in 1914; became C.S.M. [Company Sergeant Major], taken prisoner in March 1918. Changed from a mild, pleasant little man, rather soft, to an iron-thewed man. He served longer with the LRB than anyone else. . . .

 

FURSDON – Platoon commander – Devonian. Confessed to me his worry in 1914 was lest he should do the wrong thing, and so lose his men – not his commission; but his men.

 

HENSHAW – Sergeant. 'Granny' Henshaw. Became R.T.O. [Railway Transport Officer] after May 1915. Rather got 'naggy' under the influence of flooded trenches. . . . Grannie Henniker (as I shall call him) had gone through the war, & never changed his outlook.

 

HINMAN – the handsome, rather self-confident person. . . . Centre of group – he'd been drinking & boasting of his 'rum-running' prowess. Hinman became Lt. Col. in war, gaining DSO & MC [in 1956 Williamson queried this as he could not find it in the LRB record]. His runner got it for him as much as anything. . . . An interesting character study; I must pursue him. . . . Scout in 1914, with bicycle. Big calves and body.

 

JOHNSTON – Company Commander in Oxford. No moustache now; brownish, big man, his eyes are wide open. Now a parson.

 

POTHECARY, Major D.C.M. – short, sturdy, popular, heavy-jawed, charming, happy. Best spirit and nice to all. Sahib. Sherborne School. Great contempt for Alec Waugh.

 

 

***************

 

 

1947

 

chyebassa1947 a

 

chyebassa1947 b

 

chyebassa1947 c

 

 

***************

 

 

1962

 

chyebassa1962 a

 

chyebassa1962 b

 

chyebassa1962 c

 

 

***************

 

 

1963

 

chyebassa1963 a

 

chyebassa1963 b

 

chyebassa1963 c

 

HW's musings during the evening, written on the back of the menu card, show that his mind was elsewhere. They read: 'And I see some of the old faces, and the death of those old places, but life is my vision, and the face of Kerstin. HW. 8.30 pm'. Kerstin was Kerstin Lewes, whom HW had met earlier that year, and whom he noted as 'the ¼ Swedish beauty'. They had met several times since, and HW, always ready to fall for beautiful young girls, believed her to be his next 'Barley-bright'.

 

 

***************

 

 

1964

 

chyebassa1964 a

 

chyebassa1964 b

 

chyebassa1964 c

 

 

*************************

 

 

Back to Henry Williamson and the London Rifle Brigade, 1914–1915

 

P Company, London Rifle Brigade: A 1914 Roll Call

 

Henry Williamson and the First World War

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rupert Bryers – killed in action 15 September 1916

 

Homage at his grave in Les Boeufs Cemetery, 20 April 2013

on a visit by HW Society members

 

 

Anne Williamson

 

 

bryers3

Copied from a very small photograph in HW's old

album and captioned by him: 'Rupert Bryers, 1912'

(and added later, incorrectly, ‘killed 1915’)

 

 

We know that Rupert attended Colfe’s School from 1906-1912 and was a close friend of young Henry – or Harry, as he was called at that time. Aged 16 when he left school in the summer of 1912, Rupert was a wee bit younger than Henry but in the same school year. Although he had already left school, Rupert is mentioned in HW’s 1913 ‘A Boy’s Nature Diary’ (published in The Lone Swallows, revised illustrated edition, 1933). It is evident from this that he had often been out with HW on birding expeditions. On Saturday, 22 February 1913 HW had written:

 

I felt very happy today, and thrilled with joy at the thought of all the happiness in store for me. . . . [A few lines further on he is looking at his egg collection and, in a passage rather reminiscent of ‘Alas poor Yorick’, goes on:] . . . I may in the future take up this wagtail’s egg. As I gaze on it with misty eyes, I am transported to a past incident. How well I remember getting it, sitting under the hay-shed of the Farm, eating our homely sandwiches. How Bryers watched the “dishwasher” [that’s a common country name for the wagtail – HW actually wrote ‘dishwatcher’ and then corrected it!] while the more impulsive and restless Williamson was swinging on the rustic swing put up for the farmhands’ daughters.

 

Rupert appears in the novels – Dandelion Days and A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight – unusually under his own name, evidence of the affection and esteem that HW had for him. In March 1913 HW, having a premonition that he would shortly die, made a Will, written out in the back of his 1913 Letts’ School Boy’s Diary:

 

Will & Testament

 

When I die, I, Henry William Williamson, request that my birds eggs be sent, with my diaries, to be sent to Rupert B. Bryers, of 32 Mount Road, Sunderland.

 

             Signed Henry William Williamson

                         March 26th 1913.

 

Witness to above [signature of] L. V. Hewitt.

 

But it was Rupert who was so shortly to die prematurely. Next to Rupert’s name and address also at the back of the diary HW has added:

 

Oh!! Oh!!

Those glorious days

To appear no more !!!!

Oh, what heart sorrows.

 

There is also a small and very faded photograph pasted into an old album [which heads this page], and I have a copy of that with me today which you can look at later. And when HW went down to live in Devon in March 1921, almost the first note he made, on 21 March, the first day of spring, in his ‘Richard Jefferies Journal’ is:

 

A strawmottled owl (short-eared) flapped in silence. “Ah” I thought, “I will come here later on and find his nest. Oh ecstasy, I have never found a marsh owl’s nest before. What will “Bony” at school and Rupert Bryers say. And then I remembered that I was twentyfive; and that dear tall old “Bony” was also grown up and that Rupert Bryers, the gentle eyed, fell in the second battle of Ypres somewhere up in the Death Salient . . .

 

What a very poignant entry that is.

 

Until recently I was puzzled by the fact that, apart from the mention in HW’s ‘Will’, there is in the Literary Archive a letter from Rupert to Henry, dated 16 April 1913, from an address in Sunderland. Why Sunderland? It seemed an insolvable puzzle. But in the autumn of 2011 this mystery was solved. Someone contacted us via the Society’s website mentioning Rupert. This was Tim Bryers – Rupert’s nephew (son of Rupert’s younger brother), and on further contact he has filled in some gaps. The easiest thing to do is to read you Tim’s letter to me.

 

28/9/2011

 

Dear Anne,

 

Many thanks for your letter which I was very glad to receive. I look forward to getting a print of the photo and a copy of the letter. Incidentally I have just read ‘The Beautiful Years’ and was astonished by the unique quality of HW’s writing, especially his descriptions of nature, originally written only just after WWI.

 

Rupert was the eldest of five. His parents were Thomas Bryers, a solicitor in Sunderland who died in an accident at Aysgarth Falls when he was only 35, and Augusta, née Hancock, a vicar’s daughter who wrote childrens’ books, poems and songs. My aunt Brenda, Rupert’s younger sister, received Royalties [for them] until the 1980s.

 

The 1911 census shows Rupert living with his Aunt Annie, née Bryers, in Lewisham. Annie, formerly a school mistress, was married to Edwin Dodd, member of the Leathersellers Guild in the City. He must have lived with them for some years as Colfe’s is, of course, a day school. His mother and the rest of the family lived in Sunderland. [So Rupert’s father had died and he was sent down to London to be educated.] . . .

 

Rupert left school in 1912 when he was sixteen and I think, having passed his railway exam (he was good with timetables) worked for the LNER. He is described as a clerk on his attestation form when he joined the army in 1915.

 

My aunt told me he already knew morse code and could speak French so it is possible that he may have spent some time in France between 1912 and 1914. He must have been a competent soldier as he had been promoted to lance corporal before he was killed on the Somme on 15th September 1916 in an attack by the Rifle Brigade on Fleur [sic – he means Flers]. This was the battle in which Anthony Eden the future Prime Minister took part and when tanks were used for the first time in any number. As you know, Rupert’s grave is at Lesboeufs.

 

Aunt Brenda, who I knew very well and stayed with a number of occasions when I was a boy, lived until 1998. Bridget and I are the daughter and son of Geoffrey Bryers, Rupert’s younger brother. I expect you knew some of this,

 

With best wishes

 

Tim

 

So that explains the mystery of ‘why Sunderland?’ and fills in the background.

 

You will probably recollect that there is just one letter from Rupert to Henry in the archive (printed in HWSJ 44, pp. 11-12). It would appear that Rupert typed it while on evening duty when he was, as we now know, a clerk in the LNER. He had learned typing and shorthand at school, as had HW, in the Commercial Class – or ‘Special Slackers’ as the class was called in the novels.

 

 

bryers letter1

 

 

bryers letter2

 

 

Notes on the letter:

 

HW recorded in his 1913 diary, entry for Friday, 14 March: ‘Heard that Yandall died last night at 6.30. My prayer for his recovery was then no use. . . .’ And on 17 March: ‘Gave Pool 11d. from boys for Yandall’s wreath.’

 

C.G.S. is Colfe’s Grammar School.

 

F.L. is Frank Lucas, their headmaster at Colfe's.

 

R.A.F.A. is R. A. FitzAucher – or R. A. Rappoport as he was before he changed his name: one of their masters at Colfe’s – see HWSJ 44, 2008, Anne Williamson, ‘Teeth of the Lion’, pp. 5-35, particularly pp. 26 and 29-33, and p. 56.]

 

One further word: when Dandelion Days was published in 1922, HW received a letter from their old school master, Mr FitzAucher (‘Old Rattlethrough’), in which he states:

 

. . . I am glad, in one or two places [in the novel] that Rupert Bryers speaks nicely of Rattlethrough, for I remember Bryers with much affection. I have never forgotten the little visit he paid me at the School before he went out to France, where so very shortly after he was killed. He was in the uniform of a Lance Corporal of the Rifle Brigade, & I have never forgotten the impression his sweet & beautiful & gentle & bright personality made on me on that occasion.

 

 

bryers1     bryers2

Rupert Bryers as a young boy; Lance-Corporal Bryers, The Rifle Brigade

(Photographs courtesy of Tim Bryers, Rupert's nephew – these are only two photographs of him that the family possessed)

 

 

bryers headstone

Rupert's headstone

He is buried in Guards Cemetery, Lesboeufs

 

 

 


 

 

(The homage has been slightly revised for this web page.)

 

 

 

Return to 'Henry Williamson and the First World War'

 

 

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