Remembrance – John Francis Cragg

Yesterday we remembered Threekingham man 2nd Lieutenant John Francis Cragg who was killed in action on this day 1st July 1916 on the first day of the Battle of the Somme near Fricourt, serving with the 8th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment.

John Francis, also known as Francis, was born on the 21st of June 1888 in Threekingham to Captain William Alfred Cragg OL JP, 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, and his wife Adelaide Alexandra Cragg (nee Gilliat) of the Hall, Folkingham Road, Threekingham, Lincolnshire.

William Cragg was born in 1st November 1859 in Spanby, Lincolnshire and Adelaide was born on 4th June 1864 in either Adelaide or Sydney, Australia. The couple were married in the Battle district of Kent in 1882.

The couple travelled around before settling in Threekingham Lincolnshire as can be seen in the places of birth of their 6 children:

• William Gilliat Cragg, 1883, Moretonhampstead (DSO, Major, 6th Bn Loyal North Lancs)
• John Richard Cragg, 1884, Newton Abbot
• Edward Cragg, 1886, Folkingham (Captain, 23rd Royal Fusiliers, Spotsman’s Battalion)
• John Francis Cragg, 1888, Threekingham (2/Lieut 8th Lincs)
• Mary Adelaide Cragg, 1889, Folkingham
• Noel Henry Cragg, 1892, Threekingham (Royal Navy)

In 1891 The family were living at Loudon House in Threekingham, although on census night only the children were at home being cared for by the servants. Captain William Cragg was visiting Theophiopolus Willing the rector of North Hill, Cornwall. Mother Adelaide has not been found on census night.

John Francis Cragg attended Lancing College near Shoreham, Sussex, from May 1900 in the Seconds House.

Moving on to the census of 1901 and once again on census night Captain William Cragg JP was not home and was a visitor of the Half Moon Hotel in Sheepwash, Devon. Adelaide and the rest of the family are in Threekingham although the address is now given as ‘The Hall’. This included John who we assume was home from school at this time.

John continued at Lancing until July 1906 and was a member of the Officer Training Corps and in his final year was a member of the Shooting VIII. On leaving school Francis became a motor engineer.

In 1911 once again father William Cragg is missing from home, Adelaide is in Churchgate Spalding, a visitor in house of Catherine Hilliam a widow and her 2 daughters. Catherine was living on own means and one daughter was an artist.

By the outbreak of war John was working as Works Manager for The Lincoln Printing Works and was living at 8 North Parade.

We have not been able to research John Francis Cragg through his Service Records as being an officer the collection of records are held at the National Archives which is currently closed due to Coronavirus. These records have never been digitised and therefore are currently unavailable, WO 339/5166.

The following has been pieced together for available records, Battalion Diaries and other sources to best tell the story of John Cragg’s war and some of the dates and locations may not be exact.

John enlisted at Lincoln and was placed into the 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment on 29th June 1914, receiving the regimental Number of 2184. He was promoted to Corporal on the 29th August 1914 and as a member of the Territorial Force he had to sign a document to agree to overseas service, which he did on the 29th August.

On the 26th December 1914 John received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and was posted to the 8th Battalion on the 30th December, going on to serve as a Machine Gun Officer.

The 8th Battalion had been formed in September 1914 and concentrated around Halton Park near Tring. For the winter of 1914 they moved into billets in Leighton Buzzard and more arduous training began.

During the spring of 1915 the Battalion moved to Halton Park Camp, Wendover, and miniature rifle practice. With the completion of the firing of the Musketry Course and a review by Lord Kitchener, the Battalion moved with the division by road to Witley Camp. This move occurred in August 1915 in sweltering heat and gave the Battalion an indication of the strenuous days ahead.

En route to Whitley Camp, Surrey, the Battalion had the honour of marching past His Majesty the King and Lord Kitchener. Final training was completed at Whitley Camp.

The Battalion Diary gives us the story of the Battalion heading abroad and their first overseas action.

10th September 1915 – Whitley Camp
7.10pm. Battalion under the command of Lieu Col H E Walter, left camp at 6pm and entrained at Milford Station, journeyed via Folkestone to Boulogne; in rest camp for 1 day. 28 Officers + 2 Personnel, 993 other ranks.

11th September 1915 – Boulogne
7pm. Entrained at Pont des Briques St, for Watten; Billetsat Bayenghem Les Eperlecques

13th September 1915 – Bayenghem
Captains Preston, Harrison and Lieutenants Parker, Brown and Rowcroft spent 24 hours in the trenches of the 2nd Corps. The first two machine gun sections under Lieutenant R G Cordiner were attached to 63rd Brigade Headquarters Machine Gun Detachment.

14th September 1915
2nd Lieutenant Cragg and Sergeants Cumminns and Wood attended a four day course of instruction at Machine Gun School at Wisques.
During the stay at Bayenghem, the Battalion participated in Brigade and Divisional exercises and were also practiced in bombing and in the use of the new pattern respirator.

20th September 1915 – Racquinghem
7pm Battalion left Bayenghem and bivouacked one night at Racquinghem.
This would be the day that Francis’ brother Noel Cragg lost his life serving with HMS Victory (Naval Siege Guns) at Nieuport, although this information would not reach the family for a few days.

21st September 1915 – Norrent
8.45pm Battalion left Racquinghem and billeted at Norrent.

22nd September 1915 – Cauchy-a-la-Tour
6.30pm Battalion left Norrent and billeted at Cauchy-a-la-Tour. Battalion addressed by Brigadier general A Nickalls commanding 63rd Infantry Brigade.

24th September 1915 – Fours-a-Chaux
7.30pm Battalion left Cauchy-a-la-Tour and bivouacked at Fours-a-Chaux, 1 1/2 miles from Noeux-Les-Mines.

25th September 1915
10.30am Battalion with the 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry was warned for the firing line.
2.30pm Vermelles reached; under artillery fire:
7.10pm Battalion m oved into position forming part of the relieving force to the 15th Div: 24th Division was on our left and the 8th Somerset Light Infantry on our right.

On the night of the 25th September our Battalion left the road leading to Loos and formed lines of platoons in fours. After a short advance we halted for three hours. We then advanced in Echelon formation over the trenches. After advancing for about three hours in short stages we halted for a short time and then moved in the direction of Hill 70.
We dug ourselves in during the night, it was now daybreak.
Major Storer came to us and said “All is well” the advance will commence at 11am. In the meantime we were under heavy shell and rifle fire. We then advanced meeting great numbers of the enemy a short retirement took place the Battalion making a newline of men composed of various units, about 400 in rear of our first position.
We again advanced under the command of the nearest officer. By this time a great number of our officers had become casualties.
The men continued to fight with the units to which they had become attached.
On the 27th the Regiment was relieved by a units of Guards.

28th September 1915- Vermelles
Owing to casualties in officers Captain H Pattinson became acting Commander for the Battalion; acting 2nd in Command Captain J T Preston; acting Adjutant Lieutenant F Brown.
Battalion left Vermelles and proceeded by road and rail to Linghem.

29th September 1915 – Linghem
Strength, 6 officers + 2 Personnel, Other Ranks 522.

John Cragg wrote of it after the battle:-
“As we got to the crest line, now free from obstruction, we could see the countryside slightly, and what a sight met our eyes! Right ahead of us was Loos in flames, this was the glare that puzzled us; the twin towers of the big mine standing out like great oil towers on a burning oil field. To the right and left were the horrors of war. Close by a German, badly wounded, called for “wasser”. I stopped and gave him some, but it would not be long before he joined his comrades. In the communication trench on our left more dead by the score….
The following day, the 26th of September, the battalion was engaged in heavy fighting at Hill 70 some of which was hand to hand. During the fighting they lost their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Harold Ernest Walter, an event witnessed by Cragg:-
“He stood not knowing what fear was in the midst of a hot fire at close range, forty yards off, calling on us to charge. Just as he led us he fell.”

John Cragg was wounded in the left leg by shrapnel from a high explosive shell later in the fighting. The 8th Lincolns had suffered casualties of 22 officers and 471 other ranks killed wounded or missing.

John would have been treated at an aid post and then taken back to a dressing station or Casualty Clearing Station and from there, back to a Base Hospital. On the 1st of October 1915 he was evacuated from Calais on board a ship of the Brighton Steamship Company and landed at Dover later the same day. He was transferred to 2A Military hospital in Millbank and would stay there for 15 days.

His parents received the following telegram dated the 2nd of October 1915:-
“2nd Lt J.F. Cragg Lincolnshire Regt. was wounded Sept 25/27. Further news will be telegraphed when received”.
They received a further telegram dated the 8th of October 1915:-
“Lieut. J.F. Cragg Lincoln Regt admitted Lady Evelyn Mason’s Hospital 16 Bruton Street W. Oct 1st suffering from gunshot wound left leg”.

On the 13th of October 1915 a Medical Board was convened at Caxton Hall in London where he was granted six weeks sick leave.

Grantham Journal Saturday 16th October 1915
LETTER FROM THE KING – It having come to the knowledge of the King that Captain W. A. Cragg, of Threekingham House, had four sons serving their country, his Majesty caused the following letter to be sent conveying his appreciation:- “Privy Purse Office, Buckingham Palace, S.W., 2nd October, 1915.
Sir,- I am commanded by the King to convey to you an expression of his Majesty’s appreciation of the patriotic spirit which has prompted your four sons to give their service to the Army and Navy. The King was much gratified to hear of the manner in which they have so readily responded to the call of their Sovereign and their country, and I am to express to you and to them his Majesty’s congratulations on having contributed in so full a measure to the great cause for which all people of the British Empire are so bravely fighting. I have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant, F. M. POMSONBY, keeper of the , Privy Purse.” It is only a week or two since the sad news arrived that one of these sons – Lieut. Noel H. Cragg, R.N. had been killed in action, while another Lieut. J. F. Cragg, of the 8th Lincolns, has been wounded while taking park in the recent advance on the Western front, and is now in a London hospital. Now comes the news that a third son, Capt. W. G. Cragg (Loyal Lancashire Fusiliers), has been accidentally wounded at the Dardanelles

Grantham Journal Saturday 23rd October 1915
LIEUT. J. F. CRAGG, 8th Lincolns, who was wounded in the leg in the recent fighting in France, has been home this week, after being in hospital in London. He brought news of several Billingborough boys who are in his regiment, and reported them to be all right when he left.


Later that month John Cragg applied for a transfer to the newly formed Machine Gun Corps citing his service as Battalion Machine Gun Officer and asking the reader to note that he possessed a 1st Class Certificate in the use of the Vickers Light Automatic Machine Gun from Hythe. He went on :-
” Also I am thoroughly conversant with the Lewis Gun, going through private instruction at Hythe, a course at Longmoor and Wisques and having these guns under my chaps in the Lincolns. I have also lectured on both these guns to senior officers. I am also acquainted with the Rexa having had instruction on this gun at Hythe.”

On the 30th of November 1915 a Medical Board sat at the 4th Northern General Hospital which noted that:- “wound healed–can walk with help and quite slowly—still loss of superficial sensation in foot”. He was granted a further two months sick leave.

On the 4th of January 1916 a Medical Board sat at the 4th Northern General Hospital which noted that “power of left ankle is fully restored as is sensation in sole of foot” and concluded that John Cragg was “fit for general war service”. The following day he reported for duty with the 9th (Reserve) Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment at Brocton Camp near Cannock Chase in Staffordshire.

John was sent back out to France to join the 8th Battalion who were fighting around Armentiers. On the 13th April they became the support Battalion moving to Houplines and relieved the 15th Durhams. It was noted in the Battalion Diary that on this day 2nd Lieutenants Cragg and Rowcroft rejoined the Battalion.

At 3am on the 20th of February the battalion relieved the 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry in the trenches at the Epinette Road. On the 23rd of February 1916 the enemy began a heavy and prolonged bombardment of the Lincolnshire positions which killed two men and wounded seven others. During that night and into the next day the British artillery retaliated and, later that day, John Cragg was evacuated by a Field Ambulance suffering the Battalion Diary describing him as sick although a local newspaper report states that he was blown out of a trench.

Captain and Mrs Cragg received the following telegram date the 2nd of March 1916:-
“2/Lt J.F. Cragg 8th Lincolns admitted 7 Stationary Hospital Boulogne 1st March sick case not then diagnosed but condition satisfactory. Will send any further reports”.

They received a further telegram dated the 26th of March 1916:-
“2/Lt. J.F. Cragg 8th Lincolnshire Regt. transferred to convalescence home after treatment for shell shock”.

They received a further telegram dated the 20th of April 1916:-
“2/Lt J.F. Cragg Lincolnshire Regt. now reported discharged to duty April 7”.
On the Battalion strength report of 16th April, 2nd Lt J F Cragg is listed a Platoon Commander and also Company Machine Gun Officer.

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. The 1st 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 1916 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 defenses.
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.

Casualties were:-
4 officers killed, 1 missing and seven wounded. Other ranks 30 killed, 34 missing and 171 wounded.

2nd Lieutenant John Francis Cragg was killed in action on the 1st July 1916, the first day of the battle of the Somme in the action previously described.

His parents received the following telegram dated the 9th of July 1916:-
“Deeply regret to inform you that 2nd Lieut. J.F. Cragg 8 Lincoln Regt. was killed in action 2 July (sic). The Army Council express their sympathy”.

His Commanding Officer, Colonel Johnson wrote:-
“His Company was the first to go over, and the leading one of this Battalion, and all the officers were hit. He was very keen, and I much regret his loss.”

His Major wrote:-
“I am sure no braver fellow ever stepped in this battalion.”

Grantham Journal Saturday 22nd July 1916
CAPTAIN AND MRS. W. A. CRAGG, of Threekingham House, have suffered another heavy blow by the death of their third son, Lieut. John Francis Cragg, of the Lincolns, and the deepest sympathy is extended to them. The following letter has been received from the Officer Commanding:- “Dear Captain Cragg, – I am very sorry to inform you that your son went into action with us on July 1st and was killed. His Company was the leading one of his Battalion to go over, and all his officers were hit. He was very keen, and I much regret his loss. Lieut. Cragg was wounded in the leg in the Battle of Loos, on September 25th, 1915, but he made a good recovery, and afterwards came home on leave. In January, he was blown out of a trench, and suffered from shell shock. Captain and Mrs. Cragg had four officer sons in the Army, and this is the second to fall, the other being Lieut. Noel Henry Cragg, killed in action at Nieuport on September 15th, 1915. This gallant young officer was mentioned in a despatch from Field Marshal Sir John French for gallantry and distinguished service in the field, and Captain Cragg subsequently received a communication in which the following passage occurred: “I beg to express to you the King’s high appreciation of your son’s services, and to add that his Majesty trusts their public acknowledgment may be some consolation in your bereavement.”


Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Second Lieutenant John Francis Cragg, 8th Bn., Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 1 July 1916 Age 28. Son of Capt. and Mrs. W. A. Cragg, of Threekingham, Lincs. Previously wounded Sept., 1915. Remembered with honour, Thiepval Memorial.

John Cragg is also remembered, along with his brother Noel, on the Roll of Honour in St Peter’s Church, Threekingham, Lincolnshire.…/john-fr…/

Remembrance – Albert Codling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 3rd 1915
In huts at Locre. Interior Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 11th 1915
In the trenches. Quiet day.

May 12th 1915
In the trenches. Quiet day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albert’s photograph © Jonathan Smith

Remembrance – Archer Cooke

Archer Cooke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27th September 1915

Monday 27th September 1915


Today we learn of the sad death of Frederick North of Bourne who died today serving his country with the 7th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment around Loos in France.

He will be missed by all in the town, his sacrifice will not be forgotten.

7th August 1915

Saturday 7th August 1915


Today we learn of the sad death of Tom Hutchins of Haconby who died today serving his country with the 6th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment in Gallipoli.

He will be missed by all in the village, his sacrifice will not be forgotten.