Sumthin' dun't look right 'ere

"HIDDEN HISTORIES"
The truths & the tragedies behind the headstones


"The Row of Five 19th Batt. Royal Welch Fusiliers, 12th May 1918"

The Row of Five 19th Batt. Royal Welch Fusiliers at Englebelmer Communal Cemetery Extension
Graves C.19 to C.23 inclusive, left to right: Ptes. A.J. Edwards, D.H. John, J.J. Edwards, R. Morris & T.E. Farren

35053 Pte. Alfred John Edwards, 19th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers 12/5/18
55563 Pte. David Howell John, 19th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers 12/5/18 (note the spelling "WELSH" twice on the headstone).
61254 Pte. James Joseph Edwards, 19th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers 12/5/18
73783 Pte. Reginald Morris,19th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers 12/5/18
29443 Pte. Thomas Edward Farren, 19th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers 12/5/18


In February 1918, due to heavy losses & a shortage of new drafts, the British Army were forced to reduce their Brigades from their usual establishment of four Battalions per Brigade to three. A total of 115 Battalions were disbanded & their personnel either amalgamated into new Battalions, sent to reinforce the remaining/existing Battalions, or posted to the Reserve/Entrenching Battalions. The 19th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers was one of those disbanded, their personnel being despatched to the 8th Entrenching Battalion.

As the reader will detect, there is an automatic confusion caused by the date of death given for these five men of the 19th Batt. R.W. Fusiliers, as their Battalion had been disbanded for nearly three months when they died (12th May 1918).

At first glance, one might be forgiven for thinking that a single tragedy had befallen these five men of the 19th Battalion R.W. Fusiliers on the 12th of May 1918, most visitors to the Cemetery not being equipped with a list of the 115 Battalions disbanded in February 1918. However, as it is historical fact that the 19th Battalion R.W. Fusiliers ceased to exist after February 1918, it becomes obvious that there is something wrong with the unit designation given these men in the Commission's Register & on their Headstones. (Note: is was still possible for the title "19th Batt. R.W. Fus." to be attributed to men after February 1918 under certain circumstances: (1) If a man was taken POW whilst serving with that unit up to Feb.1918 & later died. (2) If a man was wounded/sick whilst serving with that unit up to Feb.1918, evacuated to hospital or the UK & later died. (3) If suffixed with details of attachment to the actual unit they were serving with when killed).

 

THE EVIDENCE: PTEs A.J. EDWARDS & D.H. JOHN

During our research into casualties of the Royal Naval Division, it became apparent that many Army reinforcements were attached to Battalions of the R.N.D. in early March 1918. Most remained "attached" for only a few months, but some stayed with the R.N.D. until the war's end (or until their deaths). The Commission correctly records the attachment of many Army soldiers to the R.N.D., the following few being the most relevant to this case:-

28947 Pte. John Davies, 19th Battn. R.W. Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn., R.N.D, DOW 20/5/18: Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt.
45677 Pte. George Yarwood, 19th Battn. R.W. Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn., R.N.D, DOW 22/08/18: Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt.
29445 Pte. Edward Draper, 19th Battn. R.W. Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn., R.N.D, KIA 25/8/18: Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont.
54335 Pte. Edgar Moore, 19th Battn. R.W. Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn., R.N.D., KIA 25/8/18: Vis-En-Artois Memorial.
21934 Pte. Arthur Hinksman, 19th Battn. R.W. Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn., R.N.D., DOW 5/9/18: Ste Marie Cemetery, Le Havre.
28854 L/Cpl. John Roberts Jones, 19th Battn. R.W. Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn., R.N.D., KIA 28/9/18: Vis-En-Artois Memorial.


Based upon these known details, we surmised that the "Row of Five Fusiliers" were likely serving with the Hawke Battalion when they died. Investigations in the Hawke Battn. war diary record two O.R.s killed 11/5/18 by the collapse of the Brigade Gas Guard Shelter & three O.R.s killed by enemy shelling of working parties on their way to the front line in the evening of the 12/5/18. There were no other deaths in the Hawke Battn. 11-12th May 1918, so these five had to be the men in question. Further investigations revealed the following:-

That 35053 Pte. Alfred John Edwards & 55563 Pte. David Howell John were both killed by the collapse of the Gas Guard dug-out (note their graves are closer together than the other three). Service papers were found in WO/363 for Pte. Edwards which contained full descriptions of the accident as follows:-

Statement by 203287 Pte. J. Leigh 19th RWF attd. Hawke Bn.: "At about 3.45am on 12/5/18, I was on duty as Gas Guard at HQ 189th Inf. Bde. & patrolling the Shelters occupied by HQ details. As I was returning to the Shelter in which LS Hylton & Ptes. John & Edwards were sleeping, I heard the LS cry out. I hastened to the Shelter & found that the roof has collapsed & had buried the occupants. I summoned assistance from the nearest men & we pulled the sandbags at the side out & released LS Hylton. We then proceeded to dig out Ptes. John & Edwards. After about half an hours work we extricated Pte. John, who was unconscious & had a wound at the back of his head. An Ambulance man attended to him while we endeavoured to reach Pte. Edwards. About 5 minutes later Pte. Edwards was also extricated & was also attended to. The accident appeared to have been caused by a large supporting beam snapping in two."

Statement by BZ/5136 LS P. Todd RNVR Drake Bn.: "I am attd. to HQ 189th Bde. as Brigade Gas NCO & was occupying a Shelter near to that in which LS Hylton & Ptes. John & Edwards were sleeping. At about 3.50am 12/5/18, I was awakened by Pte. Leigh who told me that the Gas Guard's Shelter had collapsed & had buried the occupants. Various men had already commenced to dig out the buried men, when I appeared on the spot & I got further men including the two ambulance runners, who gave Medical Assistance as the two men were extricated. Everything possible was done, assistance also being fetched from the A.D.S. LS Hylton was taken to the Ambulance with an injured leg. He was at one end of the Shelter & escaped the full weight of earth, supports etc., which fell on the two men."

Statement by Deal/3456/S Pte. W. Lewis RM, 149th Field Ambulance attd. HQ 189 Inf. Bde.: "I am attd. to HQ 189th Inf. Bde, as a runner. At about 3.50am on 12/5/18 I was awakened by LS Todd who told me that the Gas Guard's Shelter had collapsed & had buried the occupants. I went with Deal/3835/S Pte. T. Dewell RM, 149th Fld. Ambce., who is also a runner here, to the Shelter, & gave medical assistance to Ptes. John & Edwards as they were extricated. Pte. John was the first man to be dug out & was unconscious & not breathing. He had a wound a the back of his head & was also bleeding from the nostrils. I cleared his mouth & nostrils & then applied artificial respiration but without success. I continued my efforts until Pte. Edwards was brought out &, as there was no sign of life & no signs of the treatment having effect, I proceeded to attend to Pte. Edwards. He was also unconscious & after cleansing his mouth & nostrils, I again commenced artificial respiration, at the same time sending Pte. Dewell, who had been assisting me, to the A.D.S. for a doctor. I continued working on Pte Edwards until a doctor arrived. When the doctor came he examined both men & found life extinct."

It is clear from these precise statements, that the Hawke Battn. War Diary was mistaken in reporting the Gas Guard casualties as killed on the 11th of May. It is thought that as the accident occurred in the early hours (3.45am) of the 12th, that the Adjutant mistakenly attributed it to the night of the 11th.

The correct unit designation for A.J. Edwards & D.H. John should be: 19th Battn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn. (detached to 189th Brigade HQ as Gas Guard); a minor addition to the Commission's Register details would address this problem & do justice to their memory.
The full cause of their deaths we record as:- Accidentally killed by the collapse of the 189th Infantry Brigade HQ Gas Guard Shelter (was asleep in the Shelter & suffocated following burial under earth, timber supports etc.).

 

THE EVIDENCE: PTEs J.J. EDWARDS, R. MORRIS & T.E. FARREN

Service papers are missing from WO/363 for 61254 Pte. James Joseph Edwards. However, his entry on the medal roll WO/329/1063 page 7579 reads "attached Hawke Bn."

Similarly, service papers are missing from WO/363 for 73783 Pte. Reginald Morris, but his entry on the medal roll WO/329/1067 page 8576 reads "attached Hawke Bn."

Luckily, service papers were found in WO/363/F131 for 29443 Pte. Thomas Edward Farren, which showed an entry on his "Casualty Form Active Service afb.103" which reads:- "OC Hawke Bn. reports KIA 12/5/18"

We believe this evidence is sufficient to show that these three men were those referred to in the Hawke Battn. War Diary as killed by enemy shelling of working parties on their way to the front line. Again, it would be a minor addition to the Commission's records to recognise their correct unit designation & bring them into line with their comrades who are correctly listed as "19th Battn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn."



Similar cases discovered of Army men attached to the R.N.D.

The study of the Battalions disbanded in February 1918 provides a wealth of problems, where men are recorded by the Commission under their former unit & not the actual unit they were serving with (on ration strength/physically present with) when they died. For reasons of space, we must limit overselves to show & detail only those who were attached to R.N.D. units.

More 19th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn.

73766 Pte. Albert John Lewis, 19th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn. DOW 8/9/18.
Buried in Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Tréport.
Medal Roll WO/329 reads: "attached Hawke Bn."

45723 Pte. James Thomas Male, 19th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn. KIA 27/5/18.
Buried in Englebelmer Communal Cemetery Extension in Grave C.7 next to 203111 Pte. G.E. Ridge, 19th RWF attd. Hawke Bn. KIA 25/5/18 (C.8) & R/1507 AB Few RNVR, Hawke Bn. KIA 25/5/18 (C.9).
Service papers WO/363/M/915 show "Hawke Bn. KIA 27/5/18."

73772 Pte. William Charles Melvin, 19th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn. DOW 24/8/18.
Buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.
Medal Roll WO/329/1067 reads "attached Hawke Bn.

203111 Pte. Griffith Ellis Ridge, 19th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn. KIA 25/5/18.
Buried in Englebelmer Communal Cemetery Extension in Grave C.8 between 45723 Pte. Male, 19th RWF attd. Hawke Bn. KIA 25/5/18 (C.7) & R/1507 AB Few RNVR, Hawke Bn. KIA 25/5/18 (C.9).
Service papers WO/363/977 show "attached Hawke Bn."

73676 Pte. Harold Wheatcroft, 19th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hawke Bn. KIA 25/8/18.
Buried in Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont.

 

10th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hood Battn.

25406 Pte. William Lewis, 10th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hood Battn., R.N.D. KIA 25/5/18.
Buried in Hamel Military Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel.
In this man's case the "Red Cross List of Wounded & Missing soldiers published 1/12/18 shows Pte. Lewis as "Hood Bn.
"

15597 Pte. Benjamin Lloyd, 10th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hood Bn. DOW 11/6/18.
Buried at S
t Sever Cemetery, Rouen.
His medal roll entry WO/329/1044 reads "attached Hood Bn."

235729 A/L/Cpl. Ernest McLea, 10th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hood Bn. KIA 13/04/18.
Service papers WO/363/M606 state "attached Hood Bn." (letter from mother, afb.103 & official note).
Buried in Grave 1.H.32 in Aveluy Wood (Lancashire Dump) Cemetery, Mesnil-Martinsart, next to 60215 Pte. Fred Rowlands, 10th RWF attd. Hood Bn. KIA 13/4/18 (Grave 1.H.31).

60215 Pte. Fred Rowlands, 10th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers attached Hood Bn. KIA 13/04/18.
Buried in Grave 1.H.31 in Aveluy Wood (Lancashire Dump) Cemetery, Mesnil-Martinsart, next to 235729 L/Cpl. Ernest McLea, 10th RWF attd. Hood Bn. KIA 13/4/18 (Grave 1.H.32).

 

17th Bn. Welsh Regt. attached Hood Bn.

35084 Pte. William John Moses, 17th Bn. Welsh Regt. attached Hood Bn. DOW 25/5/18.
Buried in
Varennes Military Cemetery.
Medal roll entry WO/329/1320 reads: "15th W.R., 17th W.R., 9th Entrenching Bn., attached Hood Bn."

202931 Pte. John Pugh, 17th Bn. Welsh Regt. attached Hood Bn. KIA 15/5/18.
Buried in Varennes Military Cemetery. Served as Pughe.
Medal Roll enry WO/329/1320 reads: "17th W.R., 9th Entrenching Bn., attd. Hood Bn.

47501 Pte. Henry Samuel, 17th Bn. Welsh Regt. attached Hood Bn. DOW 9/4/18.
Buried in Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension No.1.
Medal Roll entry
WO/329/1325 reads: "17th W.R. & 9th Entrenching Bn.


14th Bn. Welsh Regt. attached Hood Bn.

63259 Pte. Charles Seabourne, 14th Bn. Welsh Regt. attached Hood Bn. DOW in 149th (RN) Field Ambulance 30/09/18 (GSW R.thigh, compound fracture).
Buried in Hermies Hill British Cemetery.
WO/363/S713 service papers & MH/106/265 149th (RN) Field Ambulance Admission Book read: "14th Welsh Regt. attached Hood Bn."

 

17th Bn. Welsh Regt. attached Drake Bn.

63459 Pte. Frederick Cridge, 17th Bn. Welsh Regt. attached Drake Bn. DOW in 107th Field Ambulance 31/5/18 (GSW Thigh same date). WO/363 service papers read: "Posted to 7th Entrenching Bn. 16/2/18, attached Drake Bn. 6/4/18-31/5/18 wounded, to 149th RN Field Ambulance.
Buried in Varennes Military Cemetery.

25950 Pte. Harry Davies, 17th Bn. Welsh Regt. attached Drake Bn. KIA 12/5/18.
Buried in Mesnil Communal Cemetery Extension.
Buried III.E.19 (adjacent to other Drake Bn. casualties).

46368 Pte. Alfred Merritt, 17th Bn. Welsh Regt. attached Drake Bn. DOW 9/4/18.
Buried in Gezaincourt Communal Cemetery Extension.
Medal Roll entry WO/329/1324 reads "17th W.R. & 9th Entrenching Bn."