1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: John Roberts

Private 6856 John Roberts, 2nd Welsh, 3rd Brigade, 1st Division. Killed in Action 14 September 1914, Battle of the Aisne, aged 29.

Born Betws-yn-Rhos, enlisted Cardiff, lived Llanrwst. Husband of Kate Roberts, of 19, New St., Ebenezer, Caernarfon. No known grave, La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial, Marne, France. Not commemorated in the Abergele district. Caernarfon War Memorial.

John Roberts had already fought in The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, the Rearguard Affair of Etreux and The Battle of the Marne. He was now involved in The Battle of the Aisne. On 14 September 1914 the 2nd Welsh fought at Ch├ęzy sur Aisne. In that action Lance Corporal William Charles Fuller won the Regiment’s first Victoria Cross of the war when, under withering and sustained rifle and machine gun fire, he advanced one hundred yards to rescue Captain Mark Haggard who was mortally wounded; Captain Haggard’s dying words of encouragement to his men ‘Stick it The Welsh!’ are immortalized above the clock over the door of the main Barrack block at Maindy Barracks, Cardiff.

“To epitomize the day’s work the British divisions came piecemeal on to the battlefield to the support of the advanced guards already across the Aisne. They found the enemy not only in position, entrenched and supported by 8-inch howitzers, but in such force that so far from manifesting any intention of continuing his retreat, he made every effort to drive the British back over the river. Thus the 14th September passed in alternate attack and counterattack, and ended in no decisive result. It was the first day of that stabilization of the battle line that was to last so many weary months – the beginning, as it turned out, of trench warfare…..

Meantime the 3rd Infantry Brigade, which had been despatched by the divisional commander to reinforce the left of the 1st (Guards) Brigade, found itself about 10.30 A.M. upon the eastern flank of the [German] 25th Reserve Infantry Brigade which was pressing south-westward towards Vendresse, between Chivy and Troyon. Soon afterwards the fog lifted, and the 46th and 113th Batteries, unlimbering near Moussy, south-west of Vendresse, opened fire on this force with deadly effect. The advance of the Germans was checked, and the 2/Welch Regiment and 1 /South Wales Borderers delivered an attack upon them towards the northwest. The progress of the Borderers was much impeded by dense woods, but the Welch, having clear ground before them, pressed their assault with great determination and, carrying all before them, established themselves firmly on the south-eastern slopes of the Beaulne spur. It was now about 1 P.M. The Welch were in the position above described, and the South Wales Borderers in rear of them, between Chivy and Beaulne. They had done their work well ; but they had hardly completed it before the Germans launched a counter-attack….

The whole of the infantry of the 1st Division except the two companies in divisional reserve had been put into the fight. The situation remained practically unchanged for the next two hours, during which the Germans continued to make counterattacks at various points along the whole length of the line, attacks which grew weaker and weaker after each repulse, until by 3 P.M. they had practically died away….

The corps was successfully holding a line roughly facing north-west from the plateau of the Chemin des Dames opposite La Bovelle, through Troyon, Chivy and Beaulne, to La Cour de Soupir, and thence south-westward to the river; it had made appreciable headway and repulsed all counter-attacks with heavy loss to the enemy.”

Official History of the War. 1914 Vol I. Extracts taken from p.341-350.

Posted in WWI

1 thought on “1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: John Roberts

  1. Sulwen Roberts:

    Thank you very much for this – John Roberts (aka John Woodcock) was my new grandson’s great great great grandfather. He has been such a mystery to the family and only recently we connected that John Roberts is indeed John Woodcock.

    Diolch yn fawr

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