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The Daniel brothers


London Rifle Brigade




lrb daniel bros
(Photograph courtesy of Tom Daniel)



This studio portrait would have taken in August 1914, shortly after enrolling. Left to right: Alfred Austen, Harold Henry and Herbert William.


The Daniel brothers were the sons of Herbert and Clara Matilda Daniel, of 21 Vanbrugh Hill, Blackheath. Their low enrolment numbers are due to the London Rifle Brigade's numbering system, which went from 1 (in 1859) to 9999 (Henry Williamson's enrolment number was 9689); and then started again from 1.




lrb daniel alfred austen     

Alfred Austen Daniel


Private, No. 35, H Company, London Rifle Brigade, 5th Battalion, City of London Regiment.








De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour: A biographical record of all members of His Majesty's naval and military forces who have fallen in the war* gives this biography:



lrb daniel alfred austen2



Alfred Austen is buried in London Rifle Brigade Cemetery near Ploegsteert in Belgium (his grave is III A 3). Probate was granted on 15 May 1915, his effects being valued at £307 18s 3d. He is remembered on the war memorial at Haberdashers’ Aske’s school, New Cross. The photograph below of his grave was taken in 1915 by his brother (probably Dan, as Herbert preferred to be known); it is more than likely that the two surviving brothers helped to make the cross and its inscription.



lrb daniel aa grave







lrb daniel harold cropped     

Harold Henry Daniel


Private, No. 28, G Company, London Rifle Brigade, 5th Battalion, City of London Regiment.









Harold was born in 1896, the youngest of the three brothers. He went to school at Christ's Hospital in Horsham, unlike his two brothers, who both attended Haberdashers’ Aske’s. He enrolled in the LRB with his brothers on 6 August 1914 and placed in G Company, despite being underage. He served with the battalion until he was sent back to England in 1915, as it was discovered that he was too young. He thought that he had been ratted on by his brother Dan to keep him safe. Subsequently it has been discovered it was a policy decision to send all identified underage troops back until they were old enough to enlist. He was given a white feather in the Strand. He eventually joined 13 (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (with his brother Dan), and was wounded on the Somme.


After the war Harold worked with the Westminster Bank, and was Manager of their Wimbledon branch before taking early retirement to nurse his wife. Always a kind man, he was a very devout Christian who converted to Catholicism. He apparently was responsible for raising the funds for the building of St Anne's Catholic Church Hall in Banstead, and was friend and advisor to many, as also shown by the comments in the book signed by customers of his bank on his retirement. He never mentioned his experiences in the First World War, but often suffered from pain in his leg, the result of the injuries he had sustained during the Somme offensive in 1916. Harold died at Folkestone, Kent, in 1958.






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Herbert William Daniel


Private, No. 19, G Company, London Rifle Brigade, 5th Battalion, City of London Regiment.









Herbert, the eldest of the three, was born on 7 March 1893. Disliking the diminutive Bert, he always preferred to be called Dan. A bank clerk, he enrolled in the LRB with his brothers on 6 August 1914 and, like Harold, placed in G Company. He spent the first winter in the trenches as a corporal, and witnessed the Christmas Truce. He was in the line for the first German gas attacks of 1915. He was seriously wounded during this period and his younger brother Alfred Austen killed. Dan and his brother Harold were commissioned in 13 (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. In October 1917 Dan was wounded again, and awarded the Military Cross. The citation reads:


For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was responsible for getting up ammunition and supplies to the front line and carried out his duties under very heavy shell fire. When a dump was heavily shelled, and many casualties were caused, he was responsible by his coolness and example, for getting all the supplies forward to the troops in the line.


Place and dates: East of Ypres, 27 September to 7 October 1917.


(In 2015 the Daniel family visited Flanders for the 100th anniversary of Alfred Austen's death, and also visited the site of this action. The original orders for the brigade and battalion dictated that one officer and a number of men were to be detached to bring up ammunition and supplies to the battalion once they reached their first objectives. These orders also revealed the exact locations of the dump that was shelled and the battalion headquarters to which the supplies had to be taken. The family was therefore able to retrace the exact steps that Dan would have taken. He was more proud of this medal than the subsequent bar to his MC, so the citation seems to have been a bit of an understatement!)


Dan was later again wounded. In 1918, by then an acting captain, he was awarded a bar to his MC, the citation reading:


For conspicuous gallantry during the operations on October 8th, 1918, at Hurtebise Farm. The advance of his company was held up by heavy rifle and machine gun fire, the officers and N.C.O.s in the leading wave having been killed or wounded, and the front line somewhat shaken. He at once took over the leading wave, reorganised and led it forward to its final objective. Unaided by the artillery fire he advanced 800 yards and captured Hurtebise Farm with some hundred prisoners and ten machine guns. Throughout the operation he showed marked courage and able leadership.


(In 2015 Dan's grandson Tom visited Hurtebise Farm, and was able, following the original orders recovered from Imperial War Museum archives and a trench map of the area from that time, to walk the route of the attack. He was welcomed by the farmer, who showed him the German blockhouse that had held up the attack before it was overrun. He also told Tom that it had been visited a few years earlier by the descendants of another man in the attack, who turned out to be the Company Sergeant Major of the company that Dan was leading; in that same action CSM Edmonds, MM and Bar, was awarded a bar to his Distinguished Conduct Medal. A hundred years later their two families are now in contact . . .


This photograph of Dan was taken in late 1918, so at about the time of this action:



lrb daniel bert small



Dan was then wounded a third time, and mentioned in Dispatches. By the time of the Armistice Dan was again with the 13th Battalion as a company commander, with the rank of Captain.


After demobilization Dan returned to work in the City, but in 1920 rejoined the Royal Fusiliers as a regular officer, joining the 1st Battalion, then in Killarney, Ireland (at the time of the Irish Troubles), and later going to India with the battalion advance party. Apart from one tour at the regimental depot at Hounslow in the late 1920s Dan stayed with the 1st Battalion in India until posted to the 2nd Battalion at Pembroke Dock in 1935. When that battalion went to France in 1939 he was second in command, until becoming seriously ill early in 1940 and being invalided home. A partial recovery led to his appointment as second in command of the 8th Battalion.


Unfortunately Dan again became ill and was employed in administrative posts for the remainder of the war. In 1945 and 1946 he ran a rehabilitation centre for officers near Edinburgh, and many young officers expressed their gratitude then for his understanding, advice and practical assistance. He retired from active service in 1947, but became heavily involved with the Home Guard between 1949 and 1952, when he commanded a home guard battalion of the Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment. He became seriously ill again as a result of his wartime injuries, but made an almost complete recovery to live in full retirement thereafter.


At the time of his death in 1985 Dan was thought to be the last surviving Royal Fusiliers officer to hold the Mons Star, therefore being entitled to be called an 'Old Contemptible'. He married Moira and had three children:  Patricia, Constance (Blue) and John, who in his turn became a Fusilier. In due course John's son (and Dan's grandson), named after Austen, continued the family tradition and was also for a while a Rifleman, having been commissioned into the Royal Green Jackets.







Pilgrimage to London Rifle Brigade positions in and around Ploegsteert Wood


February 2015; and Afterword




Tom Daniel


Alfred Austen died before he married or could have children. For the 100th anniversary of his untimely death a party of the children and grandchildren of his brothers and sisters returned to Ypres and Ploegsteert to commemorate him. The party included another generation of three Daniel brothers and their children. Research made it possible to visit the precise LRB positions of the Christmas Truce and the line of trench that Austen’s company held when he was shot and received his fatal wound. As they walked the route from the trenches, through the dressing station to the LRB cemetery, a good many family memories were shared – including that of Dan having been called to be with Austen as he lay wounded and dying.  


Whilst there will be exceptions, it was British Army policy for other ranks to join different regiments once they were commissioned in order to free them from the complications of leading men with whom they had recently shared the same rank. Austen’s brothers were sent to join the Royal Fusiliers. They appear a number of times in Guy Chapman’s excellent history A Passionate Prodigality (1933). Interestingly, Chapman starts a chapter with a quote from The Pilgrim’s Progress – coincidental or otherwise to HW’s The Patriot’s Progress.  For Christmas Day 1917 Harold (by now the Signals Officer, and nicknamed Dozy) must have been party to the fact that a listening set was being used in their line to hear the Germans talk of the Spring Offensive – what a different atmosphere from Christmas 1914. Towards the end of the war Chapman (by then Adjutant) writes that 'since March 1st [1918] we had lost over 40 officers and well over a thousand men'. By October he states that 'P.E. is gone, so are both the Daniels, Dozy and Danny, all wounded. We are now only a shredded rag.'  Dan (Danny) was patched up and back with the battalion when, after the Armistice, Chapman writes: 'an influenza epidemic fell upon us'. 


Dan, Austen and Harold were in the trenches in November 1914 and, despite being wounded several times between them, as well as gassed, the surviving brothers were still fighting on the Western Front at the end of 1918. What is amazing is that they were not only infantry, but infantry officers (with the low survival rates often quoted); apart from their short commissioning course, they had stayed fighting at the Front when jobs back at the depot or on the staff might have been open to them. Their descendants have often wondered whether they were fighting so long and hard for their fallen brother Austen . . .


On Sunday, 25 January, the family that Austen had never met gathered in the London Rifle Brigade Cemetery in Ploegsteert Wood; the London Rifle Brigade collect was read, a service held and a bugler sounded either side of a 3-minute silence over Austen Daniel’s grave, where he still lies amongst his LRB family and brothers in arms . . .


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 

At the going down of the sun and in the morning 

We will remember them.







(Our thanks to Tom Daniel, Dan's grandson, for his invaluable help in compiling this page.)






*Melville Amadeus Henry Douglas Heddle de La Caillemotte de Massue de Ruvignés, 9th Marquis of Ruvigny and 15th of Raineval (25 April 1868–6 October 1921) was a British genealogist and author, who was twice president of the Legitimist Jacobite League of Great Britain and Ireland. His Roll of Honour lists the biographies of over 26,000 casualties of the Great War. Casualties include men (both officers and other ranks) from the British Army, Navy, and Air Force. Seven thousand of the biographies include photographs. This Roll of Honour was originally compiled in 5 volumes; the amount of information available for each entry varies according to sources used. At the very least, the man’s regiment, and place and date of death are generally provided. However, if the family of a casualty provided further background and additional details, then this information is included in the biography as well, sometimes resulting in very detailed biographies. While the date range of the collection covers from the beginning of the war to well after its end in 1918, the majority of the entries are of casualties who died in the earlier years.




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