1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Richard Maurice Evans

[My sincere apologies to the memory of Maurice that I neglected to post this in time for the centenary of his sacrifice. He is not forgotten.]

Private 15089 Richard Maurice Evans, ‘A’ Company, 10th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 76th Brigade, 3rd Division. Killed in action, 9 December 1915, aged 28. No known grave, but known to have been buried and is commemorated on a Special Memorial in Hedge Row Trench Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium. Not commemorated in the Abergele district.

Known as Maurice. Born Holloway, London, the son of Richard and Anne Elizabeth Evans, of 3, Narrow St., Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire, but lived at Mountain View, Llanddulas. Enlisted Colwyn Bay in 1914. Gave his residence at that time as Liverpool. Brother of Lance Corporal D. R. Evans of Towyn and Lieutenant J. T. Evans of Pensarn.

Richard Evans senior, formerly a councillor in Montgomeryshire, had moved to Abergele shortly before the outbreak of war. One of his sons, Maurice, had emigrated to Canada c.1911-1912 but returned to join the army shortly after war was declared, enlisting into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in Colwyn Bay. His brothers, Lance Corporal D. R. Evans, of a territorial battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and Second Lieutenant John Thomas Evans, later of the Machine Gun Section, 9th South Wales Borderers, were also early entrants into the war. D. R. Evans was wounded in Gallipoli in the summer of 1915. John Thomas Evans initially joined the 16th Royal Scots but received his officer’s commission in May 1915 and joined the South Wales Borderers. Both returned home from the war.

Maurice was posted to the 10th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers (10th RWF) which was set up in Wrexham 16 October 1914. It began training its new, enthusiastic recruits at Codford in Wiltshire before shortly moving to Bournemouth. In April 1915 the battalion moved to Romsey and finally, in June 1915, to Aldershot.

Maurice went to France with the battalion 27 September 1915, landing at Boulogne. From there the battalion moved to Belgium and was transferred, with the whole of 76th Brigade, to 3rd Division 10 October 1915. Five days later the battalion moved into the trenches for the first time near Ypres, suffering its first fatality as Private Lawrence Eede was shot through the head by a German sniper. Over the next four days, six more men were hit and wounded by snipers and five by shrapnel, one of whom subsequently died. For many of the citizen soldiers of the 10th RWF, like Maurice Evans, these few days must have provided them with a stark reality of what they had signed up for.

Withdrawn to billets at Eecke for the next few weeks, the battalion was selected to send a detail to Reninghelst to be inspected by the King’s of both Britain and Belgium and the French President on 27 October 1915. But for one man the combined pressures of life at the front and the prospect of an imminent return to the front line must have become too much. On 3 November Colour Sergeant Major Fisher broke up a fracas in which 28 year old Private Charles William Knight “….was firing his rifle indiscriminately inside a billet, and who had already killed a comrade and wounded another” . Found guilty of the murder of 22 year old Private Alfred Edwards of Ruabon, Private Knight was executed by firing squad on 15 November.

The battalion returned to the trenches south of Ypres 21 November 1915 and trench attrition set in once more. A combination of snipers and occasional shelling killed 3 men, wounded 7 and another died of his wounds. That German snipers were active was recorded in the war diary of 27 November: “Two Germans, one of whom had just shot Pte. Owens, were killed by one of our snipers and a sentry respectively”. Nevertheless, the next day Private Thomas Lynch was shot in the head by a sniper and Private Michael Murphy was wounded when shot in the shoulder before the battalion was withdrawn to Dickebusch for rest.

The next tour of the trenches, in the same vicinity as previously, began 4 December. For Maurice, it would be his last time at the front. Unfortunately, the battalion war diary, which up until this point had assiduously recorded casualties, did not note Maurice’s death on 9 December. Whether it was from a sniper or shelling is therefore unclear, but it would most likely have been by one of those causes.

The first news at home of Maurice’s death (whom his parents had not seen for three years since before his emigration) came in a letter from his CO as transcribed below.

“It is with the deepest regret that I have to inform you of the loss of your son, Corporal Maurice Evans. He was killed in action today whilst doing his duty and had a quite painless death at 3 p.m. All his comrades regret his loss very much, and offer you their deepest sympathy. Your son always did his duty well and cheerfully, and I always felt him to be one of my most reliable N.C.O’s. Once more offering you my heartfelt sympathy, believe me to be yours sincerely,
R. A. Adamson,
Capt. O.C., ‘A’ Company”

Although known to have been buried in Hedge Row Trench Cemetery, Ypres, the cemetery suffered very severely from shell fire, and after the Armistice the positions of the individual graves could not be found or reconstructed, thus the precise location of his grave was lost and he is recorded on a special memorial.

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