Remembrance – Ralph Pattison

Yesterday we remembered local Bourne man Lance-Corporal Ralph Pattison who was killed in action on this day, 3rd July 1916, serving with the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment at the Battle of the Somme.

Ralph was born in 1883 to Richard Newton Pattison a tailor for 40 years of Eastgate Bourne and his wife Fanny, nee Kettle.

Richard Newton Pattison was born in Redbourne, Lincolnshire in 1845 and although a master tailor has served 10 years with the 10th (North Lincoln) Regiment of Foot being discharged in August 1871, after seeing service across the world. including time in Yokohama, Japan.

Richard Pattison settled in Bourne after his discharge and married Fanny Kettle of Bourne in 1878. Fanny was born in Bourne in 1857 although currently her parents are not known to us.

A year later their first child, Richard Newton Pattison was born in Bourne and the couple went on to have 14 children including one set of twin girls. The children were:-

• Richard Newton Pattison, 1879, Bourne (Royal Flying
• John Pattison, 1880, Bourne
• Alice Annie Pattison, 1882, Derby
• Ralph Pattison, 1883, Bourne – (1st Lincs)
• Frank Pattison, 1884, Bourne – (Australian Colonial
• Stephen Pattison, 1886, Bourne – (farrier Sergeant)
• Fanny Pattison, 1888, Bourne
• Arthur Pattison, 1890, Bourne
• May Pattison, 1891, Bourne (Twin)
• Rosamond Pattison, 1891, Bourne (Twin)
• Harry Pattison, 1893, Bourne (Bugler 3/4th Lincs)
• Elizabeth Mary Pattison, 1895, Bourne
• Charlie Pattison, 1897, Bourne (Northants Field
• Emma Pattison, 1900, Bourne

In 1891 Ralph can be found living with his parents and siblings in Eastgate Bourne. At the time Richard was a Tailor being employed. John, Alice, Ralph and Frank were all listed as scholars with youngest son Stephen aged 4.

Ten years later the census of 1901 shows that the family now lived on Willoughby Road and by now Richard is a Master Tailor working at home on his own account. Robert (sic, Richard) was working as a journeyman tailor, Ralph now 17, was working as a Maltster’s Labourer and Frank as a wheelwright. Stephen, May, Rosamund, Harry, Charlie and 4 month old Emma was still in the household.

Ralph, married Florence Rimmington in 1904, she was born on 1st August 1884 in Grantham Lincolnshire.

By 1911, Ralph Pattison, now married to Florence, was living on Willoughby Road, Bourne with his wife and they had two children of their own,
• Florence Daisy (better known as Daisy) born in 1904 in
• Gladys May Pattison, born 1905 in Bourne, died 1906.

Ralph was by now working as a Horse Slaughterer, now doubt at the Slaughter House on the outskirts of Bourne at the end of Eastagte.

Before the war Ralph Pattison was also the Band Master of the Bourne Brass Band, and all six of the Pattison Boys that enlisted during the war were musicians.

Ralph enlisted into the Lincolnshire regiment in Bourne, just after 4th November 1914. His residence on enlistment or during the war changed to Pagnall, Newark, Nottinghamshire.
Ralph’s full service records cannot be found and it is assumed, that along with 60% of WW1 men’s service records, were destroyed in a London warehouse fire in the Blitz.

The following description of Ralph’s war story has been pieced together from other records and the Battalion diaries of the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment.

The 1st battalion embarked for France between the 11th and 16th August 1914, although at this time Ralph had not enlisted.
From his War Gratuity Payment (Made to his widow Florence after his death) we can calculate that he enlisted in the month following the 4th November 1914 and then following his basic training he was shipped to France to join the 1st Battalion in he field, 24th April 1915.
At this time the Battalion was based in Dickebusch, 3 miles South West of Ypres.

The Battalion Diary notes:
27th April 1915 – Quiet on our front all day. Artillery active on both sides until noon. Dickebusch again bombarded. 2nd Lt Brook who had returned from divisional rest camp was wounded. Lt Quartermaster F W Masters slightly wounded, The Sergeant Drummer Killed. A draft of 79 other ranks joined at Dickebusch in the evening. Owing to Dickebusch being shelled the transport was ordered to move to a place about 1 mile N.W of the village. Casualties 2 officers wounded, 1 other rank killed.

The 79 other ranks left Dickebusch and arrived at Rosenthal Chateau on the 28th April and were posted to companies on the 29th April.
That night B company relieved C Company in the fire trenches. This swapping of companies in the front line trenches would continue until the 26th May when the Battalion was finally relived by the 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers and were moved back to billets at Outerdom where they would rest for two days before dropping back to Vlamertinghe. Here they formed an overnight party of 600 to dig new trenches in the rear of the Royal Fusiliers. The rest of the month would be seen out based around the same area, still resting and with working parties being formed each night.

In June the Battalion formed part of the attack on Bellewaarde on the 16th June in which local men Edward Backlog and James Burt were killed and this would be Ralph’s first taste of a planned action and this was described in detail in the Battalion Diary. This description can be found on our posts of remembrance to Edward Backlog.

In a report dated the 21st August 1915, added to the War Office Casualty list, Ralph Pattison was listed as wounded although no further details have been found. It was usual for the reports to take up to 4 or in some cases 6 weeks to filter through the system and so the locations and exact date is also largely unknown.
In the days immediately before this report the Battalion had been moved from billets at Ouderdam to sanctuary wood and were involved in holding position around the Hooge area. There were only a couple of wounded casualties reported through the diary, although they had previously been in the trenches between the 3rd and the 14th August during which time they had reported between 3 and 14 wounded per day.

The Battalion remained in the area and were also involved in the second Attack of Bellewaarde in September.

As we do not know the nature of Ralph’s wounds or the period it took for him to re-join the Battalion we are not sure of his exact movements and so we can only take up the story of Ralph and the Battalion in June 1916.

On the 20th June 1916 the Battalion evacuated billets in Buire at 6-30am and marched via Meulte to the trenches of the left sector of the 62nd Brigade front, relieving the 10th Battalion Yorks and lancs Regiment. The relief was completed at about 12 noon. The trenches occupied extended from the left X26.b.5.2 to F.2.b.9.7 on the right (Roughly from Becourt to west of fricourt). The extent of the front was about 1400 yards and the distance t the enemy front line was about 300 yards on the left and 180 yards on the right. On their immediate left were the 12th Northumberland Fusiliers and right were the 10th Lincolns. A, B and D companies occupied the right, centre and left fire trenches C company and B.V.R.C (Bermuda Rifle Volunteer Corps) occupied the support trenches Mareschall Street and Bon Accord to the east of Becourt with the battalion HQ at Sausage Valley in dugouts.
They stayed in these trenches and were present to witness the opening of our Bombardment on the 24th June the precursor to the action that was to follow.

In the following days the bombardment would continue. On the fourth day of the bombardment, 27th June, it was noticed that the enemy’s retaliation was greatly reduced according to the description in the Battalion Diary. ‘His artillery retaliation was feeble and his machine guns and rifle fire was only heard at long intervals and was very ineffective. At 11:30am an opportunity of the wind being in our favour was taken, and gas was released from cylinders in our front line trenches. There was no response from the enemy either with artillery or rifle fire.
During the night our Lewis Guns continued to sweep the enemy front line and communication trenches to prevent repairs being carried out.
The early morning, 3am, of the 28th saw the Battalion being relieved on the fifth day of the Bombardment and being taken back to billets in Meaute and remaining on Divisional Reserve.
During this reserve period they received 79 other rank reinforcements on the 30th June.

The description of the commencement of the Battle of the Somme is told from the Battalion Diary.

1st July 1916
The first day of the attack launched by the British in conjunction with he French at the Battle of the Somme.
The 62nd infantry Brigade being in reserve to the 21st Division, the Battalion was ordered to carry S.A.A Mills Grenades and Stokes Mortar bombs to a dump immediately north of the Eastern end of Patch Alley on Sunken Road (X27.b.2.8)
At 8am billets at Meaute were evacuated and the Battalion proceeded as detailed to a position at Bon Accord Street and Mareschall Street where loads were picked up. Battalion Headquarters was established in Aberdeen Avenue. At 1-30pm carrying parties proceeded across the open to the first line captured German trenches and thence to the dump. Parties then returned to the first line captured position and the work of consolidation began in sector X20.d.7.2 on the left to X26d.7.8 on the right. Owing to the terrific effect of our artillery fire during the bombardment of this position, the task proved a very arduous one and was more difficult owing to the fact that the Battalion was subjected to heavy machine gun and artillery fire.
During the works of consolidation, Battalion Headquarters was moved to the captured front line at X26.d.7.9 (half way between Becourt and Lozenge Wood).
At 6pm we were ordered to reinforce the 64th Brigade and proceeded as follows:
B Company to Crucifix Trench (X27b to X28a) with D Company and B.V.R.C. on their right, A and C Companies in support at Sunken Road, the latter company joining up with the 34th Division on our left. Battalion Headquarters was established on the sunken Road at the Dingle (X27.b.2.8).
The position taken over did not appear to have been consolidated at all, thus necessitating working continuously until 3-0am on the Morning of the 3rd July.
The weather was fine and night quiet.
The total strength of the battalion including employ with transport on the morning of the 1st July stood as follows:-
Officers 40, Other Ranks 994

The following casualties were sustained-
Wounded Officers – Captain H Maistall, Lieutenant S A Kirk, 2/Lt E V Edwards, 2/Lt Jacques, 2/Lt G M Rowlands, 2/Lt J J Taylor, 2/Lt Catton, 2/Lt F H Robinson, P T Price. Other ranks killed 3, wounded 105, missing 2, Total all ranks 119.

2nd July 1916
The Battalion still held the position taken up in Crucifix trench and Sunken Road on the 1st.
During the day positions of the Battalion front were heavily shelled, particularly by 16cm Howitzers directed on the junction of C Company with 34th Division in front of Round Wood.
At 6pm orders were received to prepare to attack Birch Tree and Shelter Woods at a moments notice, but another later notice was received that the attack had been postponed.
The night of the 2nd.3rd was quiet and this opportunity was taken to bring in the wounded.
Patrols were sent out during the night and reported all quiet within the enemy’s lines on the front.
The weather was fine the whole day.
Casualties:- Officers Nil, Other ranks Killed 3, Wounded 11. Total all ranks 14.

3rd July 1916
At 5.30am orders were received that the Battalion would attack Birch tree and Shelter Woods. Details were given to companies as follows:-
The Battalion was to attack on a 2 company front and each company on a 2 platoon front. A company was to attack on the left from Birch Tree Wood to the re-entrant in the forward line of trees in Shelter Wood. B company was to attack on the right from A Company on their left to right hand corner of Shelter Wood, joining up at this point with 10th Yorkshire Regiment. C and D companies were to support A and B Companies respectively, BVRC to act as carrying party to the Battalion for SAA Bombs, rations and water.
The Objective was the trench running along the Northern Edge of Birch Tree and Shelter Woods as far as the light railway on the right. The Battalion was supported by the 12th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers with the 13th Bn N. Fus., in reserve.
The attack was preceded by at 20 minute bombardment by guns of all calibres, commencing at 8.40am.
At 8.58am the bombardment became intense and 5 stokes guns which were positioned in Crucifix trench opened rapid fire.
At 9am our leading platoons left the trench to rush the enemy, and on reaching the ridge in front of the wood, came under heavy machine gun fire from both flanks. A Company suffered heavily and their supports and C company were immediately rushed up. B Company on the right were more fortunate and reached the objective without serious loss. Their supports and D Company then reinforced and after disposing of the enemy in the trench immediately commenced the work of consolidation.
About the time when C company had reinforced A Company the commanding officer, Lieut Colonel D H F Grant DSO who had lead A Company was seriously wounded in the head. The command of the Battalion now devolved upon Captain T G Newbury. Both Flanks were strongly opposed by bombing parties and machine guns particularly on the left where one squad of the Battalion Bombers, in spite of enemy bombs and machine gun fire, succeeded in holding up a strong party of the enemy who were seriously troubling that flank, until reinforcements from the 12th N. Fus were able to get up and after very little further resistance. This party of the enemy was captured and made prisoners. The centre encountered little opposition until the objective was reached when it was discovered that the enemy who had taken refuge in dug-outs, were coming out in large numbers and endeavouring to surround us, Bombing parties were sent to deal with these and the enemy, who put up a stubborn resistance, suffered heavily. On the right the resistance was not so determined and a large number of prisoners was taken. At about 2.30pm, the wood was clear and the left flank secure, but the right flank, which was being protected by the 62nd Brigade machine gun company only, was not secured until 4.30pm. When we got in touch with the 10th Battalion Yorks Regiment who had come up and were digging themselves in to join up with the 17th Division on the right. The whole Birch Tree and Shelter Woods was now in our hands and from 5pm to 5.30pm the captured position was heavily bombarded by the enemy’s 15cm Howitzers.
After consolidating the position the Battalion was relieved by 12th N. Fus, withdrew to the Sunken Road (X27b-X27d) and formed a local reserve.
Lieut-Col R H G Wilson now assumed command of the Battalion. The Battalion claims to have captured during the days fighting, 700 prisoners of the 110th, 111th + 186th Regiments, the majority of which belonged to the 86th Regt, including the Battalion Commander and his staff.

The casualties sustained by the Battalion during the days fighting were:-
Killed- Lieut R F R Herapath, 2/Lt F Hilton, 2/lt F C Hills
Wounded- Lieut-Col D H F Grant DSO, Lieut G McI S Bruce, Lieut G H Hanning, 2/Lt J H P Barrett, 2/Lt G M Minnifie, 2/Lt W Godfrey-Payton.
Other Ranks,
Killed 34, wounded 191, missing 9.
Total all ranks 243.

4th July 1916
The Battalion withdrew from Sunken Road at about 3.0am, marched to Dernacourt and entrained at 9am. Proceeded by Train to Ailly-Sur-Somme arriving at the latter place at 1.15pm, detrained and Marched to Billets at Argoeuves.

Lance-Corporal Ralph Pattison was killed on the 3rd July 1916 during the action described in the Battalion Diary in the taking of Birch Tree and Shelter Woods.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
• In memory of Lance Corporal Ralph Pattison, 11946, 1st Bn., Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 3 July 1916 Age 32. Son of Mr. and Mrs. R. N. Pattison, of Bede House, Banks, Bourne, Lincs.; husband of Florence Reynalds (formerly Pattison), of Field Farm, Ragnall, Newark, Notts. Remembered with honour, Thiepval Memorial

Ralph left a widow, Florence and also 12 year old Daughter Florence Daisy Pattison who had been living on Spalding Road, Bourne during the war. Florence remarried one year later to Fred Reynalds a Farm Labourer.

The Pattison Family was featured in a newspaper article in 1916 in the Spalding guardian with a headline “The Most patriotic in the district” referring to the number of them serving during he war”.
Mr and Mrs R N Pattison, of Eastgate, had six of their sons in the Army, three of them serving in France. In addition another son had twice offered himself, but been rejected.
This is a record of which they may be justly proud. Undoubtedly the sons have inherited the military instincts of the Farther, for over half a century ago Mr Pattison Snr., joined the Army and has served in four quarters of the globe.

Their names from left were Richard Newton Pattison, o the Royal Flying Corps; Mr Pattison a tailor in Eastgate for 40 years and his wife; L-Corpl Ralph Pattison, Lincs Regiment; Farrier-Sgt Stephen Pattison; Frank Pattison, who joined the Colonial Force in Australia; Bugler Harry Pattison, of the 3/4th Lincs Regiment; Charlie Pattison, of the Northants Field Artillery. All men were musicians. (Photograph attached)

We will remember them…/ralph-p…/

Remembrance – George Sherwin

Today we remember Bourne man George Sherwin of the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment who was killed on the 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

George was born in 1891 in Bourne to Luke Woodstock Sherwin, a General Dealer and his wife Mary Jane, nee Brand.

Luke Woodstock Sherwin was born in Bourne in 1855 and was a Brewer (Later a General Dealer), Mary Jane Brand was born in Bourne in. 1857 and the couple were married in the Stamford District in 1877.
They settled in Bourne where all of their 10 children were born.
• John Sherwin, 1878, Bourne
• Florence Sherwin, 1879, Bourne
• Sarah Jane Sherwin, 1881, Bourne
• Elizabeth Sherwin, 1883, Bourne
• Albert Sherwin, 1885, Bourne
• Gertrude Sherwin, 1886, Bourne
• Fanny Sherwin, 1888, Bourne
• Luke Sherwin, 1889, Bourne
• George Sherwin, 1891, Bourne
• Alice Sherwin, 1892, Bourne

By 1891 Luke had changed occupation to a General Dealer and they were living on West Street, Bourne with the first 8 of their children.
10 years later the 1901 Census shows us Luke living on West Street next door to his brother George, also a general Dealer. The family is now complete and as well as Luke working as a general dealer, eldest son John was working as a Shop worker. An occupation that Younger son Luke would later go on to have with his own shop on West Street.

In 1911 we find the Luke and Jane Sherwin still on West street now married for 33 years although sadly we learn that three of the ten children have now passed away. As well as George being a general dealer, son John has joined him in that occupation. Son Luke is working as a hair dresser (Picture of Luke’s shop has been added to the photographs on this post) and George is working as a maltster . This is not unusual for Bourne’s young men especially as the Maltings were on the opposite side of West Street to where the family were living. Youngest Daughter Alice is the only other child living at home on the census night 1911.

George Sherwin filled out his attestation form and enlisted in the Army at Bourne on the 30h August 1914. On his attestation he declares that he has had previous military service with F Company 4th Lincolns (Disbanded).
He is given the Regimental number 11059 and posted to the 7th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment at the depot in Lincoln. After a coupe of days he is moved to Grantham and then on the 9th September posted to the 6th Battalion.

The 6th Lincolnshire was formed in the first week of the war and stationed themselves at Belton Park near Grantham, ready to receive recruits. By the end of the month they had formed 4 companies of new recruits from the men that answered Kitchener’s call. It was noted that the physical standard of troops for the 6th Battalion was high due to the high numbers of agricultural workers that joined the Battalion.

Grantham Journal Saturday 5th October 1914
HEARTY SEND OFF FOR RECRUITS -On Monday morning a company of fifteen left Bourne Station to join the Lincoln Regiment of Lord Kitchener’s Army. The company met at the recruiting station in West Street, and we escorted to the station by the Bourne Brass Band and a large number of the residents of the town. The names were:- Arthur Maxon, Fred W Savage, John Thos Baldock, Geo Sherwin, George Carver, Frank Baldock (married), H Cleary, W Herbert Bloodworth, Percy J Vickers, Walter Parker (married), Ernest Robinson, Harry Darnes (Bourne), Jos Smith, Walter Archer and Percy Cave (Witham-on-the Hill), the latter three being the result of a meeting at Witham-on-the-Hill on Sunday evening, addressed by Lord Kesteven and Lieut K. R. G. Fenwick and presided over by Col C Birch-Reynardson.

George trained with the 6th Battalion at Belton Camp until the 29th January 1915 when he received a posting to the 3rd Battalion in Grimsby. The third Battalion were a home service battalion and would be used to guard key infrastructure in the area such as docks and munitions factories. They were also used to train men who had joined the army as a career before they received their posting to either of the 1st or 2nd Battalions which were regular army battalions.

George would remain with the 3rd Battalion for about 6 weeks before receiving is orders to join the British Expeditionary Force in France and so George embarked for France on the 6th March 1915. Typically when arriving in France men would arrive at a base camp to be processed and then posted to their Battalion in the field. In George’s case he was posted to the 2nd Battalion on the 9th March 1915. It is assumed that he arrived with the Battalion around this time but as this could take many days we cannot be totally sure that he had joined them before their next action on the 10th March. The Battalion Diary makes no reference to receiving reinforcements at this time or any time in the months before or after.

In March the 2nd Battalion had just been moved from their previous sector into the area of Neuve-Chapelle in readiness for the planned attack on the German defences there. The plan was to take Neuve-Chapelle and then move on to Aubers Ridge.
The battalion Diary tells the story of what may have been George Sherwin’s first action of the war:-

10th March 1915 – Opposite Neuve-Chapelle
7.30am – Battalion remained in trenches during the night 9th-10th at 7.30 artillery bombardment started (about 300 guns). At 8.5 am guns lifted their sights and infantry attacked. The Colonel was with the assaulting companies.
The Battalion all rose simultaneously and rushed the first trench after cutting the barbed wire in an incredibly short time – losing about 20 men. The blocking parties then proceeded down the trenches clearing all before them with grenades –
Captain Peake did good work, he was soon afterwards shot in the head. The Battalion still moved on – the supports (A and B Companies) following up close in rear – some of A company supporting the firing line as soon as it got to the second German trench. Lt Col G B McAndrew was hills between the first and second German trench – his right leg was blown to pieces by one of our own shells – he died asking after his regiment, without any complaint of the pain he was suffering. The assault in companies then pressed on, being temporarily checked by a water obstacle at ’26’ (see map attached) – a plank was eventually discovered and the line took a position in front of this obstacle. They were then checked by the fire of their own guns and it was found necessary to retire 50 yards on account of this. It was at about this period that we were subjected to a severe fire from our left rear, which caused the greater part of our casualties. Lieut. Wylie was shot (mortally) at about this time. The line then retired again and took up a position behind the water obstacle where they entrenched themselves. The battalion was then sorted out into its proper sections – A and B Companies remind in the front trench while C and D companies were in rear in an old German trench which was being converted to face the other way. Later on in the day a and B companies were sent forward to help the Irish rifles who were previously passed through us. They help them in and trenching themselves in. During the night of the 10th-11th C and D companies were back in the fire trench behind the obstacle – A and B Companies in support German trench just in rear. The battalion was then commanded by Major J J Howley DSO. Captain E H Impey was adjutant, Captain E P Lloyd having been wounded in the hand.
During the small hours of the morning of the 11th, A and B cos had to move to be in close support of the Irish Rifles – at about 5 am we had orders to collect the battalion in some trenches near us on our left rear. To do this the headquarters of the battalion moved to a point ‘X’ just south of ’18’. At about 6 am a small H E Shell came through the parapet – making a direct hit on Major Howley – killing one of the other men and wounding two more. Major S Fitz G Cox then took command and the battalion was eventually collected in the old German trench just in rear. During the morning and operation order was received to the effect that the Irish Rifles and Rifle Brigade would attack at 10 am and that the Lincolnshire Regiment would support the Irish rifles – this order was afterwards postponed to 12:30 pm. At 10 am the battalion was subjected to a very heavy shelling which lasted till 12 o’clock. The shelling was very accurate, and they were big shells – so the moral of the regiment was very highly tried – especially after all it had already gone through. At 12:15 pm Major Gitz G Cox decided to anticipate an order which should been expected (our telephone wire had been blown away) and namely to move up to Neuve Chappelle into close support of the Irish Rifles. This was done. The battalion remained in Neuve Chappelle during the night of the 11th-12th.

12th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
On the morning of the 12th we moved back to our previous position into the old German trench. The battalion remained in their trenches all that day and night. It was between 12 and 1 am on the 13th that Captain C G V wellesley was killed – he had been ill and away from the regiment previous to this, and had only just rejoined 10 minutes before a shrapnel burst from the left – mortally wounded and him and about 10 others.

13th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Next morning we went into loose support of the Irish Rifles returning again to these trenches during the afternoon (?). On the morning of the 13th we believe the Irish rifles in trenches North East and East of Neuve Chapelle. During the night nothing unusual because we strengthened our defence and filled in the trench, which was full of half buried Germans.

14th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Enemy shelled Neuve Chappelle all day. During the night we were relieved by the Royal Berkshire and we intern relieves the door sits in adjoining trenches on our left.

15th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Spent in consolidating our position – add a detached fort of 40 men a machine gun and officer about 40 yards to our front, which wanted strengthening.

16th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Enemy shell headquarters trenches very severely – dropping 128 shelves within 50 minutes no damage done.

17th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Released by Irish Rifles – total casualties during action of Neuve Chapelle –
7 officers killed. 8 officers wounded – 298 men killed and wounded.
Went into trenches on Tilloy Road.

18th March 1915 – Neuve Chapelle
Provided working parties for burying dead and carrying materials etc.

19th March 1915
Moved to billets at Epinette.

George Sherwin certainly had a big introduction to trench warfare in his first tour of the trenches and the planned attack. As can be seen from the description over one quarter (1 in 4 men) became casualties in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, although it would take a second battle in May before both the objectives of taking Neuve Chapelle and Aubers Ridge would be realised.
The Battle of Aubers Ridge description for the 2nd Battalion, including George Sherwin, can be found on our posts regarding Charles Sharpe, Archer Cooke and Harry Briggs.

The Battalion remained in the same sector of the Western Front doing tours in and out of the trenches until in September 1915. On the 25th September they had their next major planned action with the assault on Bridoux.
Following this it was back to their normal tour routine until November when they started company training and over a period were moved back to la Belle Hotesse for Divisional training that was to go on throughout December 1915.

January was to see them back in the trenches near Fleurbaix in the same old sector they had left in November and back into the tour of trenches routine with usually 4 days in and the same out before repeating.
At the end of March the Battalion entrained for the Longveau and the Somme, then marching to Flesselles via Amiens.

In George’s Service Record there is a note that on 1st April 1916 he was awarded 7 days field punishment No.2 by his Commanding Officer for “making an improper remark to a Non-commissioned Officer”.

The Battalion eventually ended up near Albert, in Brigade reserve, on the 9th April, being brought back into the trenches on the 11th in support of the 2nd Berkshire at USNA Redoubt, before finally getting back into the fire trenches themselves near La Boiselle on the 13th April.
The usual trench routine they had previously been used to around Armentieres now resumed, only now it was Albert and the Somme rather than Sailly and Bois Grenier.

June, when not in the trenches, would see the Battalion start to undertake extra training or periods when they supplied working parties, one such party working on the railway extension at Dernacourt. This continued until the 24th June when the Battalion Diary notes ‘Bombardment Commences’, this of course being the Bombardment that was meant to destroy the enemy trenches in advance of the commencement of the planned attack (Battle of the Somme) that would follow the days of bombardment.

We take up George’s story and that of the Battalion via the Battalion Dairy on the 28th June after going back into trenches overnight.

28th June 1916 – In trenches
In trenches preparatory to assault – Operations postponed about 4pm – Move to billets at Millencourt. Bombardment continued – 1 killed, 2 wounded.

29th June 1916 – In Long Valley
Move to bivouacs in Long Valley “W” company to Bouzincourt defences – Bombardment continues.

30th June 1916 – To assembly trenches
Moved to assembly trenches – W company 8 platoons front line 1 platoon – Pendle Hill. X company 3 platoons front line 1 platoon – Longridge – Y company 3 platoons in front line 1 platoon Longridge. Z Company 2 platoons Pendle Hill 2 Platoons Longridge. Battalion Headquarters Waltney Tunnel.
Battalion in position about 2.30am July 1st.

1st July 1916 – In trenches opposite Ovillers
Everybody was in their position by 3:30 am and the wire along the home of our front reported cut by 2:30 am. 2/Lt Eld and a few men got wounded doing this and Lt Ross’ party had trouble owing to continual hostile machine-gun fire. Brigade line was checked at 5:30 am.
6.25am – the intensive bombardment commenced to which the enemy retaliated on our front line and assembly trenches with high explosive shrapnel.
7.25am – companies started to move forward from there are similar positions preparatory to the assault. The three assaulting companies getting their first two waves out into no mans land and the third and fourth waves are out at zero hour. These arrangements were carried out most excellently, no hitch occurring, but casualties were fairly heavy from machine-gun fire. The support company got into our frontline trench but suffered a lot of casualties from shellfire.
7.30am – as soon as the barrage lifted the whole assaulted. They were met with very severe rifle fire and in most cases add to advance in rushes and return the fire. This fire seem to come from the German second line and the machine-gun fire from the left. I’m reaching the German front line they found it strongly held and we met with showers of bombs, but after a very hard fight about 200 yards of German lines were taken about 7:50 am the extreme right failing to get in and also the extreme left where there appeared to be a gap of about 70 yards although units of platoons of the 70th brigade joined them. The support company by this time joined in. A few offices that were left gallantly lead the men over the German trench to attack the second line but owing to the rifle and machine-gun fire could not push on. Attempts were made to consolidate and make blocks but the trench was so badly knocked about that very little cover was obtainable. From the enfilade machine-gun fire and continual bombing attacks which were being made by the enemy the whole line, and one frontal attack from the second line which we repulsed.
9am – this isolated position became untenable, no supports being able to reach us owing to the intense rifle and machine-gun fire. I will left being driven back the reminder which by now only held about 100 yards had to withdraw. On reaching our own line all the men that could be collected were phoned up and tried to push on again but the heavy machine gun and rifle fire made the ground quite impassable.
1pm – orders were received from the Brigade to withdraw to Ribble and Melling streets and occupy the assembly dugouts there which was done.
12 midnight – we were relieved by this 6th West Kents and proceeded to Long valley.
Other Ranks, 26 killed, 303 wounded, 89 missing, 25 wounded and missing.

Private George Sherwin was originally posted as wounded and missing in this fateful day for the British Army. It would not be until 23rd April 1917 that he was “Accepted an official purposes as having died on or since 1st July 1916”


Grantham Journal 19th May 1917
LOCAL CASUALTIES – Corporal Jos. Brown, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Brown, of Eastgate, Bourne, is in hospital at Hampton Court, suffering from wounds in his back and right hand. He is one of six sons, five of whom are in the Army. Private. G. Sherwin, son of Mr. and Mrs. Luke Sherwin, Bourne, who some months ago was officially notified as wounded and missing, is now reported dead. The official notification of Private Sherwin’s death was received by his parents last week. A memorial service for Private Sherwin and Private W Needham was held on Sunday, at the Abbey Church. Official notification has this week been received the Corporal E. Robinson, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Robinson, Wood View, Bourne, has been killed in action. Corporal Robinson was attached to the Lincolns.

Mr Luke Sherwin eventually received The British and War Medals for his son and the returned confirmation of delivery slip was sighed for by Luke Sherwin on Nov 10th 1921.

Brother John Sherwin also Served in WW1 with the Army Service Corps in the remounts section, enlisting in June 1916 one month before his brothers’ death, being mobilised in May 1917 and embarking for France in that September.…/george-…/

Family Photos Courtesy of Philip Sherwin

Remembrance – William Swift

Today we remember 2nd Lieutenant William Swift who was killed in the action of the 1st July 1916, first day of the Battle of the Somme, serving with the 8th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment. William is remembered on both the Morton and also Bourne war memorials.

William was born in Morton in the late spring of 1889 to George Swift, a grocer and draper, and his wife Mary Ann, nee Wright. George was born in. Morton on 23rd May 1862 and Mary Ann was born on 30th January 1866 in Brentford, Middlesex.

The couple were married on the 17th January 1887 in All Saints Church, Walworth, London., immediately moving back to Morton to start their family having five children in total.
  Laura Agneta Swift, 1887, Morton
  William Swift, 1889, Morton
  Bertha Swift, 1890, Morton
  Percy Swift, 1893, Morton
  Ella Mercia Swift, 1898, Morton

In 1891 the young family were living in Morton where Henry Swift had his own grocer’s shop close to the church. At this time George, Mary Ann, Laura Agnetta, William and Bertha were living at the shop and they were joined by George’s Elderly Mother Caroline.

In another seven years time the family would have been complete, with youngest Son Percy and Daughter Ella being born. The family are still living at the shop in 1901 where George is still running his small business.

William would eventually leave Morton School and attend Bourne Council School where later he was to become a Pupil Teacher. He Matriculated at London University before moving back to the Peterborough Area to start his career at St Peter’s teacher training College. On Census Night of 1911 William was boarding at St Peter’s School at he age of 21. 

William furthered his career when he Entered St Catherine’s College, Cambridge to obtain his degree. Here he joined the Officer Training Corps but his undergraduate period was eventually broken by entering the Army.

We are currently unable to access any service records for William Swift, many of the men of the Great War unfortunately had their service records destroyed by a warehouse fire in London during the Blitz. William being an officer has a different record set that are held at the National Archives in London WO 339/40260 but these have not been digitised and it is not possible to currently view these due to the closure of the Archives to the public during the current pandemic. We will research these records and add to William’s story when this is possible. Officers were given a long service number that stayed with them throughout their career, unlike the other ranks of men who were given a number by their regiment or battalion that was the next available and thus there was no coordination between different regiments and duplicate number across different regiments was possible. Unfortunately without this number and his papers held at the National Archives it is tricky to piece together Williams exact movements.

The following information has been collated from various available sources including newspaper articles and the Battalion Diaries and the “History of the Lincolnshire Regiment” by C R Simpson.

We are not sure when William enlisted in the Army but we do know that he trained with the 3rd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment. The 3rd were a Home Service battalion and would traditionally be responsible to guarding essential infrastructure such as docks, munitions factories and other work necessary for the war effort. During the first phase of the war the Battalion would be responsible for training before the formation of the Army Training Reserve in 1916 once conscription was introduced.

Similarly we do not know exactly when William joined his Battalion, the 8th Lincolns.
The 8th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment was formed in 1914 and after training camps in England eventually was sent to France in September 1915. The medals roll shows that William entered foreign service in France on 8th April 1916 at this point joining the Battalion that were already in the field.

During his training with the 3rd Battalion he gained his commission and in May 1915 was granted leave, coming home to Morton visiting is recently retired father before returning to Grimsby.

Grantham Journal Saturday 15th May 1915
CONTRATULATIONS to Lieut. William Swift, who has recently obtained his commission in the 9th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment. Mr. Swift, who quite recently retired from business in Morton. Lieut Swift is a schoolmaster, and had been most successful in his profession at the time of entering the Army, being a student at Cambridge University and a member of the Officers’ Training Corps. This week, Mr Swift is home on leave for a few days, after which he departs to Grimsby to continue his training with the 3rd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment. Mr Percy Swift, brother, has also joined the forces, his choice being the 5th Leicesters.

Returning to Grimsby to continue his training, William was to marry May Butler in Grimsby district between September and December 1915. It is not known if, when he left for the front he following April, William was aware that May had fallen pregnant.

The medals roll shows that William entered service in France on 8th April 1916. This was the day that the Battalion marched to Buire, on the River Ancre, four miles south-west of Albert, whence it furnished large working parties.

On the 14th April the 8th battalion moved to support positions about Becordel-Becourt village where, till the 22nd, much work was done on the forward trenches. William eventually joined the Battalion in the field on the 19th April and was posted as a Platoon Commander.

The first Battalion relieved the 8th on the 22nd of May in the right sector opposite Fricourt. The 8th Battalion then moved to La Neuville, opposite Corbie, on the Ancre river.

The attack for the first battle of the Somme could be seen to have started on the 24th June when one thousand five hundred and thirteen artillery guns opened on the enemy trenches. Day after day the guns continued to pour thousands of shells into the enemy trenches until they resembled a rubbish heap; but below ground, the enemy troops sheltered in deep dugouts, were safe from even the enormous shells of our “heavies”. In no less than 40 places gas was discharged and every enemy observation balloon was destroyed. The enemy replied fitfully to the shelling as they only had two hundred and forty guns on the Somme front at this stage.

At the end of June, the 8th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment was detailed to support the 8th Somersets in the attack on the German positions planned for the 1st of July (the first day of the first battle of the Somme) and on the 30th of June moved to assembly trenches near Becordel-Becourt village.
The plan for the 8th Battalion Lincolnshire was to be the second wave of the attack with the York and Lancasters on their right and to filter through the new line once the Middlesex and Somersets had taken the first objective. Then one company of the 8th Battalion Lincolnshires was to advance immediately with the Somersets to clear the enemy front line trenches and fall in behind the remainder of the battalion as it advanced.

Throughout the night the guns bombarded the enemy lines in front of the zero time of 7.30am on the 1st ofJuly

At 7.25am the leading platoons of the advanced battalions carried out their plan and attempted to crawl towards their objective.

The Guns lifted at 7.30am and the enemy left their deep dugouts and placed machine guns to meet the advance with destructive force tearing gaps in the advancing battalions. The Middlesex and Somersets lost fifty percent of their men in the advance yet survivors reached the enemy trenches.

The 8th battalion Lincolnshires attacked with B and C companies; supported by A company with D company in the rear as a carrying party with picks and shovels, trench stores, ammunition and bombs. The leading platoons lost half of their number but the survivors reached the enemy front line and after being checked by machine gun fire the bombers got to work and knocked out the defences.
The survivors joined by successive platoons swarmed over the battered front line and crossing Empress trench and Empress Support reached the Sunken Road. The numbers of officers and men that got thus far we small in numbers because an enemy barrage was falling on no mans land and the supporting platoons suffered heavily.

The battalions bombed their way down the enemy communications trenches, Dart Lane, Brandy Trench and finally Lozenge Alley was reached. En-route every dug-out was bombed and the trenches themselves were battered beyond recognition being just a mass of craters.

One stokes gun remained with the Lincolnshires and gave valuable assistance until the officer in charge and his team were knocked out. A Lewis gun team arrived and gave great assistance to the advance.

Only two parties of the 8th battalion reached Lozenge Alley numbering about one hundred men and started the act of consolidation. Between 4 and 5pm orders arrived from Divisional HQ to consolidate the positions they held with the Lincolnshires holding part of the system from Dart Alley to and including Lozenge Alley. Throughout the night the 8th Lincolnshire successfully repulsed a bombing attack from the direction of Fricourt.

The right flank of the Lincolnshire area was attacked from Fricourt up Lonely Trench. Men were posted at the junction of Lonely Trench and Lozenge Alley and the enemy only once got in thanks to their rifle grenades but were soon turned out at a loss to the Lincolnshires of some men of Lozenge Alley and at least 20 in Lonely Trench. Two enemy drums were captured here and sent to the depot at Lincoln.

When Darkness fell on the night of the 1st July, although initial success had not been maintained, progress had been made at many points. Although Fricourt had not been taken it was now pressed on three sides with the 21st division holding the north which included the 1st and 8th Battalions of the Lincolnshire Regiment.
During the night the 8th Battalion had worked hard consolidating their positions from Dart Alley to Lozenge Wood and were protected from a counter attack by an artillery barrage.

Seven Lincoln Battalions in total were involved in the advance on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, known as the Battle of Albert, and the description of actions above was just one of many similar accounts that can be applied to all Battalions involved in this advance. It must be remembered that this day was followed by another 12 before the Battle of Albert was over.

8th Lincolnshire – 5 officers killed, 30 other ranks killed, 8 officers and 170 other ranks wounded, 34 other ranks missing. In total 13 officers and 235 other ranks.

Second Lieutenant William Swift was killed on the 1st July 1916 during the advance on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and less than 3 months after arriving in France. The CWGC officially states that he died between the 1st and 3rd of July, but he is mentioned amongst the dead in the Battalion diary for the 1st of July.

On the very same day that William lost his life in battle, a letter he had written to his old headmaster Mr J Palmer in Morton was published in the Grantham Journal, the readers not knowing his fate during that day.

LETTER FROM AN OLD MORTON BOY – The following extracts are taken from an interesting letter from Lieut. W. Swift, to Mr. J. W. Palmer:- “I have had a lot of moving about since coming here, a variety of billets, some good and extremely bad, and many curious situations, but we have to take the bad with the good and hope for butter times some day. I have slept in a wood, in an orchard, in a muddy trench, in a dirty bed in a French farmhouse, and occasionally have had the luxury of a decent feather bed in a respectable hotel. An extremely pleasing feature about this existence in the manner in which our splendid lads adapt themselves to their trying circumstances. Sometimes wet through, or covered with the mud from chalky trenches, and terribly hot with heavy roads on long marches. they still “carry on” with square chins. I feel quite proud to be amongst such a fine lot of felloes, both officers and men. You don’t realise what the British Army is like until you see it in this country. I have been in the trenches several times, once for a period of ten days. During this time we had several exciting hours, what with one thing and another. They shelled us with all kinds of stuff. sausages, canisters, and whizz-bangs, but our heavies always replied quickly with about three to the Huns’ one. The sausages you can see falling if your eyesight is good, but the whizz-bangs, as their name implies, come “some pace.” In one part of the line we could only get sufficient water up for drinking, so you can imagine how I gave my razor a rest, and the luxury of a bath after keeping clothes on so long. I often see Fisher Handford, and his officer tells me he is one of the best and cheeriest in his platoon. Certainly, Fisher is always smiling when I see him. I feel proud to think he is a Morton boy. You can tell his mother he is the picture of health. At present, I am billeted in a farmhouse. The French people. what few there are left round here, keep their gardens in beautiful order, and scrupulously clear. In this place, another officer and myself share a room, and we are absolutely overrun with rats. Last night, we made a couple of traps with our steel helmets. We propped them up with a sardine tin, and placed a tempting piece of cheese inside. We sincerely hoped for success, but our friend rat was too cute for us, eating the cheese without disturbing anything else. There is a decent artists from the music halls, who entertain us on returning from the line. It is a fine thing for keeping up the spirits and taking you mind from grenades &c. Boxing and football matches seem to catch on the best, but in these June days I often wish for a bit of cricket, though the ground, of course is unsuitable for that.”

Grantham Journal Saturday 29th July 1916
One of the old Council School boy, writing to Mr. J. J. Davies, says:- I have seen very close quarters many of the prisoners we have taken, and I am struck by the sullen, almost criminal type of face. One is not astonished at the cruelties of which we have heard. These hundreds of figures are clad in grey; dirty, miserable looking. I do not think any scenes of past history can rival the tragic and glorious episodes enacted here during the last three weeks. One sees the khaki-clad Briton going fearlessly, even brightly, into the fight, and one sees the wounded returning, who, whatever they suffer, are yet smiling and cheerful. What a splendid lesson. These scenes are beyond my powers of description. Your imagination must fill in the picture: who can fail to be profoundly impressed? It gives one food for thought. What a terrible lot the Germans will have to answer for. Still the “push” goes on. The opinion of all here is that the end, a glorious one for the Allies, is not many months distant. I am sorry to hear that Lieut. Swift has been killed: he has given life for others. No finer death can man die. Duty well done and death even on a battlefield has its glory.


On the 2nd November 1916, William’s daughter Megan Fricourt Swift was born at the Bargate Nursing Home. Mrs May Swift, the Mother was at the time living at ‘Laurels, Old- Clee Road, Cleethorpes.’

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Second Lieutenant W Swift, 8th Bn., Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 1 July 1916. Remembered with honour, Gordon Dump Cemetery, Ovillers La Boisselle.

William is also remembered on the War Memorials in his home village of Morton, also on Bourne Memorial where he finished his education and started his teaching career. He is also remembered on the memorial tablet dedicated to St Peter’s Training College in Peterborough Cathedral, and the memorial in Bourne Baptist Chapel.

Remembrance – Alfred Thompson

Our second remembrance of today is Alfred Thompson who was killed this day, 8th June 1917, serving with the 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, commemorated on the Bourne and Arras memorials. One of two 4th Battalion men from the Bourne area to fall on this day

Alfred Thompson was born late in 1897 in Little Horton, near Bradford, to George Thompson a railway worker and his wife Annie Susannah Osbourne, both born in Little Horton. George and Annie were married in 1891 in St Peter’s Bradford and were blessed with their first of three children in 1895.
• James Thompson, 1895, Little Horton
• Ellen Thompson, 1896, Little Horton
• Alfred Thompson, 1897, Little Horton

In 1901 the young family are living in Horton where George was working as a carter for the railway and Susannah (Annie Susannah) as a Worsted Spinner.

10 years later Annie (Annie Susannah), Ellen and Alfred can be found living with her parents in Darton Street Bradford. Annie and both children are working in a Worsted Spinning factory and Alfred was employed as a Doffer. A Doffer took the full bobbins off the spinning machines and replaced them with empty ones. George has not been found on the 1911 census to date although Annie lists that she has been married for 18 years and so it is to be assumed that George is still alive.

In September 1913 Annie Susannah, referred to variously as Annie or Susannah Hubbard in official records, remarried to Charles Hubbard in Deeping St Nicholas Fen and in 1919 was living in Tongue End near Bourne Lincolnshire.

As Alfred’s army records have not been found, assumed to have been destroyed in the London Blitz warehouse fire, we can only trace his movements through the surviving records and so some of the dates and information may be approximate.

Alfred enlisted into the 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment in Spalding around May or June 1915, although the exact date is unknown. The medal rolls show that he has three separate entries for Battalions served, first the 4th Lincs (3941), then the 5th Lincs (3941) and finally the 4th Lincs again (201275).

Alfred enlisted originally into the 4th Battalion and after training was posted to France to join his battalion on 10th December 1915. At that time the Battalion were in Thiennes and on the 22nd December 1915 an entry in the Battalion Diary reports that “106 Reinforcements arrived from the 3/4th Battalion at 2.30pm, kit inspection held on arrival”. This would be Alfred’s first meeting with his Battalion ion the field.

The prospect of a long winter in the trenches was dispelled during the month of January by orders to the 46th Division to embark for Egypt at an early date, and on the 7th January both the 1/4th and 1/5th Battalions left Marseilles in T.S.S. “ Anchises.”
The vessel reached Alexandria on the 13th January and they left by rail for El Shalufa, two miles south of the Bitter Lakes, where, after detraining, they crossed the Suez Canal by ferry, and bivouacked to the east of it.
By day the desert to the east was patrolled by Indian Lancers, but by night each battalion, in turn, furnished an outpost line round the camp. The days were very hot, and the nights cold; any wind that blew carried clouds of dust; nevertheless a fortnight passed very pleasantly.

This peaceful existence came to an end when the 46th Division received sudden orders to return to France, and on the 4th February the 4th Battalion embarked at Alexandria on the “ Minnewaska,” and the 5th on the “ Megantic,” disembarking in Marseilles on the 9th February 1916.
The evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula set free a large number of troops for service in Egypt and the 46th Division was in consequence ordered back to France.

The Battalion then spend time in Ailly Le Haute Clocher training until the end of February and then on to Doullens, it would not be until the 11th of March 1916 that the Battalion would be back in trenches since the 2nd December and Alfred’s first taste of the trenches. Later it in the month was a movement for the Battalion and into trenches around Fonquevillers for June.

Eventually they would be given orders for a Zero Time of 7-30am for a planned attack on the 1st July, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Their orders were to “take over a trench line south of the Gommecourt Road on the night of 27th/28th” This was to be their sector for the big push and they were to attack Gommecourt although the 4th battalion was not in the front wave.
The Battalion Diary does not give much detail for the Battle of the Somme and they remained in the trenches until the 8th July when they were relived and dropped back to Bienvillers to provide working parties.

Alfred’s next mention in any documents is on the 10th July 1916 when we find A Thompson of B Company 1/4th Lincs being admitted to the 2nd General Hospital at Le Havre with Suppuration of the Lymph Glands, axilla (Axillary Lymph Nodes). After two days in the General Hospital he was transferred to H.S. Carisbrook Castle and returned to England.

Usually after convalescence, if fully fighting fit, a man would be pushed back to the front but depending upon the level of fitness obtained it was possible that they were assigned to a Home Service Unit for duties such as defending ammunitions factories, military facilities or docks until the point when they were declared fit for a return to the Front.
It was very usual for a man to be sent back to France and then at the base camp be assigned or posted to a Battalion or Regiment that needed men as reinforcements the most urgently.

We have no records to say what happened in Alfred’s case although his medal roles show that he was posted to the 5th Battalion (still with regimental number 3941) and then back to the 4th Battalion (regimental number 201275) at some point in his war story. All we can say for certain is that when he was killed he was back with the 4th Battalion.

The following shows the movements of the 4th Battalion in the month before Arthur Thompson’s death and are taken from the 4th Battalion diaries. This is the most accurate way of seeing Arthur’s movements over the last days of his life.

May 28th 1917 – Bovigny Boyeffles
The 138th Brigade (Lincolns and Leicesters) was withdrawn from the line, the 4th Battalion Lincolns taking up billets at Bouvigny Boyeffles. There it was that the striking news reached them. The Battalion had been honoured by the command to take part in an extensive enterprise on a 2000 yards front North West., West and South West of Lens. The 138th Infantry Brigade being further represented by the 5th Leicesters. Our Battalion was thrilled with the news and one heard repeatedly the remark “Our first real chance since Hohenzollern”

29th May – June 3rd 1917 – Bouvigny Boyeffles
Training began in earnest. A replica to scale of the ground over which the attack would be launched was planned and laid out at Marqueffles Farm a mile or so South East of Bouvigny. From “assembly trenches” one’s eye ranged forward to persuasive notice boards announcing in bold letters “Railway Cutting” and “Bridge Destroyed”, on past crinoline wire entanglements to objective trenches, first and second line strongholds of the enemy, strangely quiescent, and labelled according to their map designations, Ahead, Agnes, Alcove, Archie, Alice, Amy, Admiral and Annie such were the communications and trenches guarding hill 65. These it was, the Battalion was to storm.
Daily to the practice ground went the Battalion joined by D Company (captain Wakeley) of the 4th Leicesters – our “Moppers-up” elect. The artillery and machine gun barrage to cover our advance and keep the impetuous in check was indicated by flagmen and thus the progress of the attacking waves was directed.
On six successive days the course was covered. Forward at Zero to the “Cutting”, half right form to face the objective trenches, B Company then edging away to the left, half D Company inclining to the right and joining up with C Company on that flank. “Moppers-up” in position behind the first wave – Gradually the movement attained a clock work precision and every man wac capable of pushing his path blindfold.
On the seventh day Dress rehersal. General Holland 1st Corps Commander, General W Thwaites 46th Division G.O.C, Colonel Thorpe Commanding 138th Infantry Brigade (Whose presence and responsibility for the tactical dispositions inspired the confidence of all ranks), and their staffs surveyed the final training bout. Fully equipped with arms, spades, picks, bombs, lights and flares the “Attack” began. The repeated “Toot toot” of a “claxton” from a contact plane aloft completed the programme. Flares were lighted to announce the progress of the advance.

4th June 1917
The higher commands were satisfied. It only remained to form up and receive the confident good wishes of the staff, and , with a full day’s rest on the morrow, all were ready and impatient for the real thing.

5th June 1917
A day of well-earned rest.

6th June 1917
On the morning of the June 6th the Commanding Officer announced to the Battalion, at a special parade, that plans had been altered and instead of the premeditated operation the attack was to be a series of destructive raids. The same evening the Battalion marched away from Bouvigny and billeted in the ruins of Cite Des Bureaux, Lievin.

7th June 1917 – Cite Des Bureaux, Lievin

8th June 1917 – Cite Des Riaumont
The 8th June arrived – a perfect summer day. The afternoon was spent in moving up to the cellars in Cite De Riaumont adjoining the assembly trenches. All Companies reached these without mishap except D Company which lost the services of 2nd Lieut E A Dennis (13 Platoon) wounded by one of the enemy’s shells that were already finding our starting zone.
Time crept on towards zero. “Sausages” enlivened the waiting period as they crashed on and around the ruins which sheltered us. Well before 8pm “C”, “D” and “B” Companies were in position in their respective assembly trenches. In some way the enemy seems to have known our timed movements and intentions. The intensity of the barrage to which the assembled troops was subjected was and experience no one on the spot is likely to forget.
“D” Company fared worst as, while the bombardment of their sector was accurate to a degree, on the flank sectors it was sufficiently plus to miss the assembled platoons.

At Zero – 3 Captain R D Ellis commanding D Company and Captain Wakeley O.C. 4th Leicesters “Mopping-Up” Company were caught by the same shell as they came into position in the rear trench. Both were killed outright.

At 8:30pm the synchronised signal to advance was given. C Company on the right got away without mishap, two platoons South of Cutting and one under 2nd Lieut A B Hardy, who was wounded almost immediately, to bring covering fire from the Cutting. D Company in the centre as soon as they “Jumped Off”, by ranks and increased intervals to lessen gaps, showed the effects of their experience in the assembly trenches. B Company on the left were a joy to behold as they went over the line.
The Cutting was reached.
D Company by this time reduced by half its number and B company, already caught by the enemy’s guns, scaled the further slope of the Cutting together and advanced to their objectives. Captain E.J.S. Maples commanding B Company was at this juncture struck in the forearm by an ugly piece of shell case but continued the advance with his men. Owing to the position of their line being oblique to the “A” Barrage and the stokes mortars which were to deal with this sector being put out of action, the enemy had time to man his trenches from his dug-outs. C Company with the platoon of the 5th Leicester’s on their right were completely held up. When the first waves of “D” & “B” Companies reached the first German trench his barrage was already on it, and a temporary check occurred until the reinforcing waves came up. Owing to this check we were unable to keep up with our barrage, and the enemy had lined his second trench before our arrival there. Hand to hand fighting ensued and after a further advance of D Company to the South and B Company to the East the odds became overwhelming. We fell back first to Ahead and then the Cutting. Meantime Sergeant Quinton E, with his platoon got further afield than the rest. It was during this stage of the fight that B Company lost 2nd Lieut R T Thomson and 2nd Lieut H C Chase, both of whom died gloriously, the former a result of a second wound and the latter from a shell burst. Sergeant E Quinton, B Company, and his platoon after several attempts to re-join their comrades, in which they repeatedly bumped up against strong parties of the enemy, finally succeeded in rushing an opposition post and fighting their way back to our line, after having been in the German lines for four hours; a triumph of leadership on the part of Sergeant E Quinton. The demolished bridge on the right flank was at once mamed, and under 2nd Liuet W F Maskell (D Company 14 Platoon) kept the enemy at respectful distance, sterling work being done by the Lewis gun. The front of the Cutting was lines by the remnant of B and D Companies under Captain E J S Maples and was held until orders for withdrawal to Assembly Trenches was received, A Company having manned our original line of posts. It was not till then that Captain E J S Maples withdrew from the fight and had his arm properly dressed, some 3 hours after he was wounded.

The greatest assistance had been rendered throughout by the 138th Machine Gun Company under Major A A Ellwood, a 4th Lincoln officer and particularly by a detachment of two of his guns under Lieut Stentiford, manned by 4th Lincolns.

The attack on the right hand had gone well, A Company 4th Leicesters having reached their objectives and sent back 27 prisoners.

9th June 1917 – Chateau (Leivin)
The day was spent reorganising Companies. Evacuation of wounded continues and by night search parties went out, discovering two more wounded men and a number of dead, who before had been reckoned as missing. On the night of the 9th we were relieved by the 5th Lincolns and moved to billets in Aix Noulette. Here we rested that night and also the following day.

10th June 1917 – Aix Noulette
In the afternoon we were honoured by a visit of the G.O.C the Battalion paraded in clean fatigue and were addressed by the General. He expressed himself well pleased with the excellent fighting qualities our men showed, and with the number of Boches they killed.

On the night of the 10th we moved into support in Lievin.

Private Alfred Thompson was killed in the actions that took place during the attack on the 8th June.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Private Alfred Thompson, 201275, 1st/4th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 8 June 1917 Age 19. Son of Mrs Susannah Hubbard (formerly Thompson) Tongue End, Spalding, Lincs. Remembered with honour, Arras Memorial.

We Will Remember Them…/alfred-…/

Remembrance – Ernest Codling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ernest’s photograph courtesy of Jonathan Smith

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