by Nick Cooper © 2004-2009
Ivo G T AUSTIN [Commonwealth War Graves Commission record]
Born in Battersea in November or December 1888, the husband of Gertrude Eva Austin (nee McKie) and living at 36 Byrne Road, Balham [SW12] when he enlisted at Wandsworth on 3 December 1915 (aged 27 years & 11 months) in the London Regiment, although he was placed in the Reserve, rather than being mobilised immediately. He was a junior assistant with the Committee, although on his attestation papers his stated "trade or calling" was recorded as "public officer."
On 6 March 1916 he was posted to the 2/15th (County of London) Battalion Territorial Force (Prince of Wales's Own Civil Service Rifles) of the Regiment. The 2/15th was a second-line unit based in the UK, in which recruits - who continued to live at their own homes - attended daily training, before joining a first-line unit and going abroad. Accordingly, Ivo was transferred to the 1/15th (County of London) Battalion TF (Prince of Wales's Own Civil Service Rifles) when he left for France on 5 July, but was then moved into the 2/24th (County of London) Battalion TF (The Queen's) on 31 July, not long after the unit had arrived on the continent, having previously been stationed in Ireland.
On 26 November, almost five months after he arrived in France, Ivo's wife gave birth to a daughter, Iris Evelyn Austin. As he never again returned to the UK, he could only have seen his child through photographs. The Austins had married on 19 September 1914, and so had just under two years together.
From November 1916 the 60th (2/2nd London) Division - of which the 2/24th Battalion was a part - began its move to Salonika, Greece, via Marseilles and Malta, a transfer that was complete by Christmas Day. Ivo's records notes him transferring to the British Salonika Force on 3 December.
Between June and July 1917 the 60th Division moved to Egypt to take part in the campaign in Palestine, and Ivo's records state he became part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Fore on 16 June. In mid-1918 the 60th was reformed as a Division of the Indian Army, with many of the Battalions being transferred to the 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division - at which time it had been reduced to the status of a training cadre - on the Western Front. Although this process began on the 26 May, Ivo's records have him en route to France between the 4 and 14 of July.
On 11 September 1918 the Battalion was transferred to the 58th (2/1st London) Division in readiness to take part in the Battle of Epehy (18 September 1918 - see also under Hedges below), and what is known as the "Final Advance on Artois" between 2 October and the end of the War on 11 November. Ivo, however was killed in action [see Note 1A] just a month earlier, on the 10 October, aged 30.
He is buried at Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension, Pas de Calais, France.
William Robert HEDGES [CWGC record]
William Hedges was born on 11 March 1897, the son of William Robert (Snr) and Emily Ester Hedges, and educated at the Lavender Hill School, Battersea. He was living at his parents house at 12 Marjorie Grove, Clapham (SW11) when he enlisted at 59 Buckingham Gate (SW1) in the 3/14th Battalion, the London Regiment (London Scottish) on 12 April 1915. His stated "trade or calling" was "clerk," and at his medical his age was recorded as 19 years and one month, when he was actually only a year younger than that. At the time, 19 was the minimum age for military service abroad, and so volunteers often lied about how old they were.
On 7 October 1915 Hedges was transferred to the 1/14th Battalion, and arrived in France two days later. He was promoted to (unpaid) Lance-Corporal on 18 May 1916. On 1 July the Battalion was involved with the Attack on the Gommecourt Salient, which was the opening phase of the ill-fated Battle of the Somme. On that first day, William received a gunshot wound to his right leg, and was evacuated back to the UK, arriving on 7 July.
In May 1917 he applied for training as an officer cadet, and was accepted and transferred on 9 June, at which stage the truth about his age must have become apparent, as his records include a copy of his birth certificate and his correct date of birth is referred to. After being commissioned as a Second-Lieutenant, he was posted to the Tank Corps on 30 November, and landed at Boulogne, France, on 1 April 1918, joining "C" Company of the Corps' 2nd Battalion a week later.
He was subsequently awarded the Military Cross for gallantry on 8-9 August 1918. The citation from the 1 February 1919 edition of The London Gazette reads:
[see also Note 2A]
On 18 September "C" Company was involved in an an advance on the fortified enemy-held area known as the "Quadrilateral," 7km North-West of St Quentin, the southern-most part of a large-scale attack on the enemy lines. At the northern edge of this advance, the 58th Division - amongst them Ivo Austin - were to move on Epehy. There was only 1,500 metres - less than a mile - between the two men:
The 2nd Tank Corps' War Diary records:
A subsequent unconfirmed report stated that William's body was found on 24/09, "by a man of the Essex Regiment," but this presumably came to nothing, as his body was not recovered and identified for burial. He was officially declared "missing, presumed killed," on 3 April 1919, and is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. The Memorial records the names of 9,820 servicemen from Great Britain, Ireland, and South Africa, who fell during the advance in Picardy and Artois between 8 August and 11 November 1918, and have no known grave, although it is actually over 50km north of the battlefield where William died. The Battalion lost four other men the same day, two being commemorated on the Memorial, while one is buried at Chapelle British Cemetery just outside Holnon, and the other at Unicorn Cemetery, Vendhulle, 16km to the north.
Harold Palmer MOSS [CWGC record]
Harold Moss was born in Barking, the son of Thomas M. and Caroline Elizabeth Moss (nee Palmer), and educated at the Raines Foundation School, Whitechapel. He was living in Romford when he enlisted at St Paul's Churchyard in the Essex Regiment. He was later transferred to the 1st Battalion, the London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), and died of wounds on 6 August 1917, aged 19. However, between 2 July and 12 August, the Battalion was in training at various locations behind the lines, with no casualties noted in the War Diary during the whole six week period. The same was true for the beginning of June up to the 9th, and from the 20th to the end of the month, barring the death of one officer from shell-fire.
On 10 June the Battalion moved the 4km from Gouves, to Wancourt, south-east of Arras, arriving there on the 11th. On each day between the 12 and 18 June the Battalion provided working parties that would have been repairing trenches, renewing barbed wire, etc. in the line, but there were no major offensive actions by either side. One man was wounded on the 14th, and one killed and another wounded on the 16th. On the same day the Battalion moved back to the reserve lines, suffering one killed and two wounded. It is possible that Harold was one of the four wounded, given that he is buried at Wimereux Communal Cemetery, which is 5km north of Boulogne. The latter was the main port used by British forces, and the military hospitals clustered around it and Wimereux were the final link in the chain of medical evacuation before casualties were repatriated to the UK. It was common practice to hold the seriously wounded until they were judged stable enough to survive the journey by sea, so consequently the many who deteriorated and died were buried locally. [see Note 3A] It is therefore quite feasible that Harold could have been wounded between the 14 and 19 June, was evacuated to a hospital in the Wimereux area, but was not judged well enough to be moved further, and subsequently died there on the 8 August.
An alternative explanation may be found in the connection between his battalion of the London Regiment and the Royal Fusiliers proper. Men from the 1st Londons were often transferred to the 1st Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers to make up the strength of the latter, and it may very well be that this is what happened in Harold's case. Weight is added to this possibility by the fact that while - as established - the 1st Londons' War Diary notes no fatalities at all for July and the first week of August 1917, the post-War Roll of Honour lists 15 killed in action and seven died of wounds during the same period. Furthermore, of those killed, eleven are commemorated on the Men Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, with the remaining four buried in cemeteries in the vicinity of the town, some 15km north of where the 1st Londons were based at the time.
During the first half of July 1917, the 1st Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers were in training at Henneveux, 4km east of Boulogne, and receiving reinforcements of officers and men on an almost daily basis. From the 19th to the 23rd the Battalion marched the 60km to Steenvoorde, on the French/Belgian border, 5km from Ypres. On the 28th they moved to the the "Hedge Street Tunnels" in the front line in preparation for an attack on the last day of the month that would form the start of what became known as the Battle of Pilckem. The Battalion War Diary recorded:
All ranks had a hot meal before starting to form up, and haversack ration was issued biscuits and chocolate on the night of 30/31st July.
However, the attack quickly became bogged down, and the Battalion began to suffer mounting casualties from enemy strong points and machine gun positions to their front and right, although some elements managed to advance some 800 metres before retiring to consolidate a new line approximately 500 metres from the previous British front line:
The 1st Royal Fusiliers' War Diary states final casualties as 47 killed, 77 missing, 138 wounded and evacuated for treatment, and nine slightly wounded remaining on duty. The vast majority of those counted as "missing," however, will have been unrecovered fatalities, taking the death toll closer to a hundred. The post-War Roll of Honour lists 79 men of the 1st Royal Fusiliers killed in action that day, which when coupled with the known 1st London KIAs approximates the likely number of fatalities for the attack.
William NEIGHBOUR [CWGC record]
William Neighbour was born in Chelsea, and was a junior assistant with the ICCL. It was noted in the Committee's 25 November 1915 minutes that he, "has been acting as head of a special section of the Register Department for considerable time," [MH 65/14, 1915, page 171] and that in light of this his salary was raised from £104 per annum to a new scale of £130, rising by £10 annual increments to £150. He enlisted at Chiswick in the Royal Fusiliers - although in all probability this would have been under the Derby Scheme prior to this promotion, rather than subsequent to it - and he was later transferred to 21st Company, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry).
In early April 1917, the 21st Company was based at Bellacourt, 2.5km south-west of Arras, providing support to front-line infantry units in the area, but on the 7th they moved up to Agny on the outskirts of Arras to take part in what would become known as the "The First Battle of the Scarpe," part of the Arras Offensive of 9 April - 15 May 1917.
At 11:38 on the morning of the 9th, as the three infantry battalions advanced, each one was supported by four machine gun teams from the 21st Company:
The gun teams supporting the 2nd Battalion, the Wiltshire Regiment reached their first objective - a sunken road - with one man killed, with three more lost while advancing on the second objective. By this stage all the 2nd Wiltshire's officers had been killed or wounded, and the infantry were pinned down by enemy machine gun fire. Meanwhile two gun teams made good use of cover to move up, and were able to suppress the enemy fire while the infantry withdrew to the sunken road, but while one team then managed to retreat safely, the other lost two men and their machine gun. At 01:00 (10/04) the 2nd Wiltshire's and the gun teams were relieved.
As part of the same attack, another four gun teams advanced with the 19th Battalion, the Manchester Regiment as they advanced at 11:45 towards the Beaurains/Mercatel road, roughly half way between the British lines and Neuville-Vitasse. This first objective was secured by 13:00 with no loss to the machine gun teams, but seven men were wounded by enemy machine gun fire as they moved on at 14:30 towards the Neuville-Vitasse/Henin road, where they set up a defensive position. At 05:00 (10/04) the officer commanding's runner - a Private Pauley - was killed by an enemy sniper.
The four gun teams supported the 18th Battalion, the King's Liverpool Regiment also managed to reach their first objective - another sunken road - unscathed, but at this point the infantry was held up, and one team lost three men as they tried to reach a large shell-hole. The survivors retreated to the sunken road, but another team lost two men killed while they secured a position in a second shell-hole, before withdrawing to the sunken road after nightfall.
In all, the 21st Company lost eight men killed, only three of whom - including William Neighbour - have known graves, in Neuville-Vitasse Road Cemetery, Neuville-Vitasse, Pas-de-Calais, France. The other five - including Private Robert John Pauley - are commemorated on the Arras Memorial. [see Note 4A]
Sydney CLARK [CWGC record]
Doctor Sydney Clark was married and lived at 630 Fulham Road [SW6]. On 23 September 1914 he was granted a temporary commission as a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps for the duration of the War, and posted to the 5th London Field Ambulance (FA) on 13 November. He was noted as having been absented from the Committee's panel of general practitioners in the minutes of 17 December [MH 65/13]. The 5th London FA was a Territorial Force unit, part of the 47th Division, and arrived in France before the end of the year.
From 8-10 September 1916 the 5th London FA moved to Fricourt, France, 5km south-west of the Belgian border, as part of preparations for a forthcoming attack on the 15th of the month. The Field Ambulance established its headquarters at Fricourt, took over Advanced Dressing Stations (ADSs) at the areas known "Bottom Wood" and "Flat Iron Copse" 5km from the front line, two Field Ambulance Posts closer still at "Elgin Avenue" and "High Valley," and provided stretcher bearers for the Regimental Aid Posts for the infantry units which would be involved in the attack. Over the next few days these positions were improved, and the unit reinforced with officers and men from other Field Ambulances, specifically the 4th and 6th London FAs. For the operation on the 15th, the "zone of evacuation" for casualties was divided thus:
On the day of the attack, the Field Ambulance's War Diary notes:
The next day approximately 2,000 casualties passed through Fricourt, and 450 via the Bottom Wood ADS; "Everyone worked very hard & very willingly." On the 17th, the Field Ambulance moved its headquarters to Bottom Wood as the flow of casualties decreased, and on the 20th they moved back to bivouacs at Millencourt, west of Albert. After a week's rest, the Field Ambulance returned to Bottom Wood, and again took over responsibility for Flat Iron Copse ADS, and the "Elgin Avenue" and "High Alley" posts, as well as two more at "Cough Drop" and "Black Watch Trench."
On 2 October, Dr Clark was killed in action, most likely as a result of enemy artillery fire, and in all probability at one of the Advanced Dressing Stations. [see Note 5A] The ICCL Minutes for 23 November 1916 recorded:
Dr Clark is buried at Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Mametz, half a kilometre from Bottom Wood.
"Killed in action" (KIA): An immediate (or near-immediate) death from war-related causes, i.e. gunshot wounds, explosives, gas poisoning, etc.
2A. Other known gallantry awards to ICCL staff are a Distinguished Conduct Medal to minor assistant Corporal G E Cox, London Regiment; and a Military Cross to junior assistant Lieutenant (later Captain) William Rogers Fanner, Lancashire Fusiliers, whose citation from the 17/07/17 edition of The London Gazette reads:
3A. Early in the War the Army Graves Registration Department (AGRD) established the policy that all Commonwealth War Dead would either be buried or - if their body was not recovered - commemorated as close as possible to where they died, and after the War this principle was enshrined in the Royal Charter of the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission, which superseded the AGRD with responsibility for all branches of the armed forces. As a result, only a very small number of deceased (almost exclusively officers) were repatriated for burial in the UK before this practice was adopted. Even now, when the bodies of previously "missing" soldiers are recovered from the former battlefields, they are interred in the nearest "open" War Cemetery. The same rule applied - and still applies - to Second World War casualties, but not subsequent conflicts.
2nd Battalion, the Wiltshire Regiment = 5 officers, 123 other ranks
5A. The War Diary for the the 5th London Field Ambulance covering April 1915 to May 1919 is complete, save - unusually - for the pages and appendices relating to the first half of October 1916, thus it is not possible to be absolutely certain as to the circumstances of Dr Clark's death. The War Diary for the Assistant Director Medical Services (ADMS) of the 47th Division curiously records for the day in question: "Cough Drop dressing station was accidentally burnt out last night. CAPT. S. CLARKE (sic) 5TH LOND AMB killed in action today." [WO 95/2714] However, it seems unlikely that these two events were linked, as otherwise Clark would not have been classed as KIA (see Note 1A above).
ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS HELD AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES, KEW, SURREY: