The dwindling men of the ‘Original Deployment’ of the 2/6th Battalion during 1917-18

The 178th Brigade of the 59th Division landed at Boulogne at the end of February 1917. This closely coincided with the Territorial Force renumbering that occurred in March 1917 and before the 2/6th Battn (59th Division) was engaged in any major operations on the Western Front.

By the time the 59th Division were engaged during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line at the end of April 1917, all the men that were serving with the 2/6th Battn at that time had been renumbered with a 6-digit (24****) service number.


We can identify these men as the ‘Original 1917 Deployment’ of the 2/6th Battalion.


Therefore, by studying the service numbers of the 2/6th Battn men who were killed in action during the 11 months between April 1917 and April 1918 it is possible to see how the composition of the ‘Original 1917 Deployment’ was slowly diluted due to the ever increasing numbers of casualties (killed, wounded and missing) and subsequent reinforcements.

My first thoughts…….to be revised……

By mid-April 1918, and at the time of the last action of the 2/6th Battn (before being reduced to Cadre in May 1918), less that 1 in 5 men still serving were from the Original 1917 Deployment.

Charles Norman Commins from Lincoln

Charles was killed in action during a raid on Hunters Post in the last months of the Great War, and thanks to his great nephew Chris, we can now put a face to Charles and tell a little more about his short life and the sweetheart that he left at home.

Charles was born in Lincoln in July 1895 and in the 1911 Census was living with his family at 117 Winn Street. He was from a large family and an errand boy for a local doctor.


Service with the Sherwood Foresters

It’s not clear when Charles enlisted, and into which Regiment; interestingly, his two elder brothers both enlisted into the Lincolnshire Regiment and have very close regimental numbers.

Charles was certainly with the 1/7th Battalion at the end of 1916 (December) when the Territorial Force Renumbering was being planned and the Territorial Battalions of the Sherwood Foresters used a five digit (2****) regimental numbering system to renumber men being moved between battalions or being posted from other Regiments at the 14th Infantry Base Depot . Charles duly received a 7th Battalion 6-digit number in March 1917 (269262).

Charles most likely served with the Robin Hoods from December 1916 until the Battalion was reduced to Cadre in late January 1918.

Note the Service Record of 20070/269288 Alfred Harold Gregory, who has similar Regimental Numbers to Charles, was used to infer his service.


Attack on Hunter and Scott Post

During early September 1918 the 1/6th Battalion made several attacks on the German strong points known as Hunter and Scott Post – see here for details. It was during this attack that Charles was killed in action or mortally wounded.

Chris has told me that there is a family legend that Charles died carrying a wounded man back to his own trenches. That he was hit and fell and that the wounded man asked Charles whether he was OK, he said he was ok and could carry on. He picked the man up again but was hit a second time, this time he told wounded man he would have to make his own way back and died.


 

An obituary was posted in a local paper by his fiancée “Vera L” who must have also sent the post card to the family.

William Lyons from Buxton – ‘the man that got lost’

The War Diary entry for the 31st July 1918 simple records……

“One man missing from X.8.c.80.20. Thought to have been lost in the early morning”

Through sheer luck I can now report that this man was 2943/240815 Pte Willliam Lyons from Tideswall.


William was born in 1871 in Burbage and in the 1911 Census he is recorded as a general labourer in the lime industry lodging with the Belfield family at 30 Lime Terrace, Burbage in Buxton.

William enlisted into the 2/6th Sherwood Foresters in October 1914 and following basic training he arrived in France on the 25th June 1915 with the ‘1st Reserve’ Reinforcement.

William served with “A” Company was was wounded by shell fire in Ypres on 4th July 1915 – see here.

“On the Saturday night we went up to the lines on fatigue, and travelled up a long way in motor lorries; it was quite an exciting journey for us after we left the lorries to march through Ypres, especially as for many of us it was the first experience of the war. Fritz was sending over a few gas shells and we were all sneezing and rubbing our eyes. We drew spades and set off after a short rest, landed at the work, finished off fairly quickly and started for home – home consisting of bivvies made from water-proof sheets, and some of us hadn’t even got those. We had a pretty rough journey coming through Ypres, had just downed tools and started the march towards the houses, when Fritz began shelling; of course he managed to get a lucky shot right in the middle of us, killing and wounding about half the party, many of whom had not yet even seen the trenches”.

[Battalion History]

The casualties numbered thirty-two; nine men were killed or died of their wounds and another 23 were wounded.


Following his return to the 1/6th Battalion he was reported missing and recorded on a Red Cross Enquiry List dated 1.10.1918 as missing on 31.7.1918.

William was repatriated on the 3rd December 1918 and he was finally disembodied on 27th March 1919.

He died in July 1940 in Pontefract aged 69.

William Bryan Davies (1881-1916)

William Bryan was the eldest child of Thomas William and Mary Bryan Davies of Welshpool in Montgomeryshire.


William was Commissioned into the Sherwood Foresters in January 1916 and joined the 1/6th Battalion in France on the 18th July of that same year. He was posted to the 139th Trench Mortar Battery on the 1st August along with 4 Officers and 12 other ranks of the 1/6th Battalion.


Sometime in early September William was referred to the ‘Officers Hospital’ at Lucheux. This facility was provided by the 37th Casualty Clearing Station and catered for ‘Sick Officers’.

During the afternoon of the 17th September William died “the result of a revolver bullet wound of the head, self inflicted, in our opinion during a state of temporary insanity”.

The proceeding investigation the Court of Enquiry heard witness statements from two Officers.

“I last saw the deceased at 12 noon today, he was then apparently in the best of spirits. he was absent from lunch and as he had not appeared by 3 o’clock and was due to return to duty I instituted a search party”

[Lt AF Grattan Guiness RAMC]

“For the last seven days I shared a bedroom with Lt Davies at the Officers Hospital Lucheux; he appeared quite normal all the time but rather quiet. We were both to return to duty today. His kit was packed up on his bed but he did not come to lunch and when the car arrived for us he was not to be found”

[Lt Frank E Rowe, 1/5th South Staffs R]


William was buried in Avesnes-le-Comte Communal Cemetery Extension in France.


His younger brother Idwal also served in France with the 1/6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters from February 1915 until he was wounded and returned to England in June 1915.

George Henry Raynor and the 19th (Reserve) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters

An interesting (and rare) find on Ancestry yesterday; the Attestation of George Henry Raynor from Nottingham into the 19th Battalion Sherwood Foresters.

This short-lived Battalion was formed at Brocklesby in August 1915 from depot companies of the 15th, 16th and 17th Bns. Moved to Ripon in November 1915 and on to Harrogate in July 1916; then to Durham in July 1916. It was finally absorbed in the Training Reserve Battalions of 19th Reserve Brigade at Newcastle on 1 September 1916.

See Long Long Trail.

George originally attested in December 1915, most likely as part of the ‘Derby Scheme’. He was mobilised on the 15th April 1916 and on the following day was posted to the 19th Sherwood Foresters at that time stationed at Ripon. Following basic Infantry train George was transferred to the 17th Battalion and embarked for France on the 31st July 1916.

He was later attached to the 117th Machine Gun Company (39th Division) where he contracted bronchitis and returned to England on the Hospital Ship “Dieppe”.

After his convalescence George returned to France and served with the 2/7th Battalion Durham Light Infantry and 33rd Battalion London Regiment (Rifle Brigade) before being demobilised in February 1919.

1199 Acting Sergeant John William Burton, Signal Section, 1/5th Battalion

Many thanks to Martha Gratton who very kindly sent me pictures of her Great Grandfather John William Burton.

Men of the 1/5th Battalion entraining for Luton from Friar Gair Station in Derby on the 16th August 1914. The arrow indicates John Burton and on the back is written “Signallers 1/5th Sherwood Foresters”. Also identified on the back are Signalling Officer Captain Reginald J Case and Signalling Sergeant H Bonnell. 

To be continued………

The 2/6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment)…..my new project

Over the last few years I have concentrated on telling the story (the best that I can) of the men that served with the 1/6th Battalion.

In the process I have somewhat neglected the men that served with the 2/6th Battalion, and of course their story is just as important.

Fortunately, over the years I have collected post cards and other ephemera that are related to the 2/6th – the ‘Green Triangle’ – so I have now decided that the time is right to tell their story; either on-line or by print.

Interestingly, the 2/6th Battalion were engaged in a limited number of historically important actions; these being:-

  • The 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin
  • The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line on 27th April 1917
  • The Battle of Passchendale on 26th-29th September 1917
  • The Battle of Cambria on the 1st-2nd December 1917
  • The ‘Kaiserchlacht’ Spring offensive on 21st March 1918
  • The defence of Kemmel on 14th-18th April 1918

In those later five engagements the 2/6th suffered horrendous casualties and the Battalion was reinforced on many occasions; however, in the end the ‘2/6th’ were reduced to Cadre on the 7th May 1918.

The 2/6th Sherwood Foresters at Buxton in 1914

The reunion of the 2/6th Sherwood Foresters at Bakewell in 1935

265626 L/Cpl Joseph Poole and his sister Jess

Dear Joe

Wears [sic] having a lively time but showery. though we had always managed to be in doors during the showers.

With Love

Jess

[Posted from Sheffield 16 Aug 1917]


265626 Pte Joseph Cole served with “B” Company the 2/7th Battalion Sherwood Foresters during WW1and was in the front line trenches on 21st March 1918 at the start of the German Spring Offensive.


Like many of the men of the 178th Brigade George was reported as missing.

Joseph was made a Prisoner of War and would be later repatriated.

42144 Sergeant George Richard Carter……a thread

George enlisted into the Sherwood Foresters in 1916 and was posted to the Depot of the 4th (Reserve) Battalion. Following training he was posted to the 9th Battalion on the 14th August 1917 and proceeded to France. On arrival at the 14th Infantry Base Depot he was transferred to the 2/7th and joined the Battalion in the field on 14th September 1917 and posted to A Company.

By November 1917 George had been promoted to Sergeant, but had also contracted ‘trench foot’ and was returned to the 16 General Hospital in England. On his return to France on 8th March 1918 he returned to the 2/7th Battalion.

George and his comrades were in the front line trenches at dawn on 21st March when the Germans commenced their Spring Offensive.

Like many of the men of the 178th Brigade George was reported as missing.

In the Summer of 1918 Nellie Carter submitted a request to the Red Cross (presumably via the War Office) if there was any information on her missing husband. She was later to hear the terrible news that George had been killed on the 21st March 1918.

His body was never recovered and he is now Commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

On this day 23rd November 1914

2900 Colour Serjeant Frederick Bull dies aged 42.

Son of Thomas and Elizabeth Bull, of Kirk Langley, Derby; husband of Elizabeth Bull, of The Hall Flats, Ashbourne.

Frederick was a postman and enlisted into the 6th (Reserve) Battalion on the 15th October 1914. Promoted to Colour Sergeant on the 4th November, but discharged on the 10th November 1914.

Frederick had initially enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters (Derbyshire Regt) on the 15th May 1891 aged 19 and had served:-

  • At home 5/91 – 12/92
  • India 12/92 – 2/99 (Tirah Expedition and wounded in 12/97)
  • Home 2/99 – 11/99
  • Malta 11/99 – 5/02
  • Home 5/02 – 5/12
  • Discharged on termination of 2nd period of engagement 14th May 1912