1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Frederick (Fred) Williams

Private 2697 Frederick (Fred) Williams. 1/5th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 158th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division. Killed in action, 10 August 1915, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, aged 21. No known grave. Commemorated panel 77 to 80, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. Also commemorated on the Abergele War Memorial and Abergele Town Memorial.

Son of William and Mary Williams, of 14, Bryntirion Terrace, Abergele. Born Wrexham, enlisted Flint, lived Abergele. A Grocer’s Assistant in 1911. Enlisted early January 1915 with Trevor Roberts (Glasfryn). Brother of George Trevor Williams (killed in action 27 May 1918).

At first, following the events of 10 August, what had happened to Fred was not clear (for background details to the events of 10 August 1915 see here). The confusion which followed may have stemmed in part from the fact that he was reported as wounded on the day of landing at Suvla Bay on 9 August by an Abergele comrade in the 1/5th Battalion, David Evan Parry [1], which was not really possible. However, at the time, Parry’s news matched what Fred’s family were told when the War Office sent a letter that stated that he had been hospitalised in Alexandria.

A short while later, in the third week of September, Fred’s status was corrected and he was officially listed as ‘missing’. Anxious to have news of her son’s condition, and confused by the mixed messages, Fred’s mother wrote several times to the hospital but without response.

Fearful of Fred’s silence as well as the hospital’s, she wrote again to the War Office. At the very end of October 1915 the War Office replied that Fred was now listed as ‘wounded and missing in action’ and not, as previously stated, in a hospital in Alexandria.

The strain on his parents must have been intolerable, and it is impossible to imagine their reaction to a house visit by Reverend Jenkins, the Vicar of Abergele, on 20 December 1915. The Reverend Jenkins had just received a letter from his nephew, Lieutenant David Lewis Jenkins, who was an Officer in Fred’s battalion. Lieutenant Jenkins [2] stated that there was no doubt that Fred had been killed. The Vicar took it upon himself to inform the family of this news.

What probably made things worse for them was the fact the War Office were sticking to their claim that Fred was ‘wounded and missing in action’. Most of the men who had gone missing on 10 August, such as Tom Furnish and Johnny Vaughan of Abergele, were declared dead eleven months later, but this was not the case with Fred. He was still officially listed as ‘wounded and missing in action’ as late as June 1918 and one can only assume that the authorities had some evidence that Fred may have been taken prisoner by the Turks. At the end of the war a number of men were repatriated having been Turkish prisoners of war. Fred was not among them. His Medal Index Card has the words ‘presumed dead 10/8/15’ written on it.

Williams, Fred (2)

[1] See Tom Furnish for biographical details of David Evan Parry.
[2] See John (Jack) Davies for further details of Lt. Jenkins.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Thomas William (Tom) Furnish

Private 2701 Thomas William (Tom) Furnish. 1/5th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 158th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division. Killed in action, 10 August 1915, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, aged 25. No known grave. Commemorated panel 77 to 80, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. Also commemorated on the Abergele War Memorial and Abergele Town Memorial.

Known as Tom he was the son of Thomas and Sarah Ann Furnish, of 8, New York Terrace, Abergele, and a nephew of Canon T. Jesse Jones, Gellygaer Rectory and formerly of Abergele. He was employed as the caretaker and Sexton of St. Michael’s Church, Abergele, and was also a jobbing Gardener. Born Llanddulas, enlisted Rhyl, January 1915, lived 8, New York Terrace, Abergele, with his parents. He had a younger brother, Ernest, who, in the language employed by the 1911 Census, was an ‘invalid’.

At first, following the events of 10 August, what had happened to Tom was not clear (for background details to the events of 10 August 1915 see here).  An Abergele comrade, David Evan Parry [1], wrote home in late August that he had not seen Tom since the assault but thought that he had been wounded. Tom was officially reported as thus in the third week of September 1915 but this was later corrected as missing in action. The confusion as to his welfare was commented upon by the Abergele & Pensarn Visitor in November 1915:

“Mr. Lewis Vaughan, Peel Street and Mr Thomas Furnish, New York Terrace, are still without news about their own sons – Privates John Vaughan and Tom Furnish – who are reported as missing since the beginning of August in the Dardanelles. Letters and parcels which these anxious parents have from time to time sent to their loved ones are being sent back stamped ‘missing’. A few days ago Mr. Furnish chanced upon a copy of a letter which a gentleman from the Midlands recently wrote to the press and the document gives good reason why relatives of missing men at the Dardanelles should cherish the hope that they are still living. ‘I think you will like to make the following news as widely known as possible, as there might be many in the town and country who, like myself, are anxious about relatives reported missing from the Gallipoli peninsula. A letter arrived in England last week from an Officer who was reported missing between 6th and 10th August and was a prisoner, in which he says, ‘Tell everyone who has friends missing to go on hoping and hoping because there are hundreds of prisoners in Turkey, and very few translators so, as letters must be censored before leaving the country, they pitch them into the Bosphorus instead’.’

As the months slipped by without further news any optimism that this story generated was to prove cruelly misplaced. In mid-July 1916, Tom’s father received a letter from Captain E. G. W. Vaughan on behalf of the army records office:

“It is my painful duty to inform you that no further news having been received relative to No. 2701 Pte. Thomas William Furnish, 1/5 Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who has been missing since 10th August 1915, the Army Council have been regretfully constrained to conclude that he is dead, and that his death took place on the 10th August. I am to express the sympathy of the Army Council with you in your loss.”

Tom Furnish

[1] David Evan Parry: Son of Edward and Margaret Parry, 21, Peel Street. Appeared to have three jobs: bus driver for the Harp Hotel, a shop assistant and a painter. 5′ 4″ tall. 2 July 1915 confined to barracks for 3 days for talking on parade by Lt. David Jenkins of Abergele. Taken ill in Gallipoli and hospitalised 23 September 1915 to 8 October 1915 with scabies. Evacuated to a hospital ship 27 December 1915 with frostbite and dysentry. 18 January 1916 contracted paratyphoid and to UK to a hospital in Warrington. Home in Abergele April 1916 following discharge from hospital and returned to the 1/5th RWF in Palestine. Wounded 3 April 1918 in the head, arm and hip by splinters from a shell but thankfully all the wounds were superficial. Demobilised 10 April 1919 with an address of 4, Mount Pleasant, Abergele.

 

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: John (Johnny) Vaughan

Private 2764 John (Johnny) Vaughan. 1/5th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 158th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division. Killed in action, 10 August 1915, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, aged 25. No known grave. Commemorated panel 77 to 80, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. Also commemorated on the Abergele War Memorial and Abergele Town Memorial.

Son of Lewis and Eliza Jane Vaughan, of 3, Peel St., Abergele. Eliza had died before 1911. Born Llanrwst, enlisted Flint in January 1915, lived Abergele. Worked as a quarry labourer and miner.

At first, following the events of 10 August, what had happened to Johnny was not clear. He was listed as missing in action and there was still no news in November 1916 (see Tom Furnish and the Abergele & Pensarn Visitor article quoted therein). Before the year was out Johnny’s father, who had been ill for some time, died. As the local newspaper commented, “latterly, the fact that his only son had been missing since August had weighed heavily upon him”. In the summer of 1916, with no further news of Johnny’s fate, he was declared to have been presumed killed in the 10 August 1915 assault.

John Vaughan

For background details to the events of 10 August 1915 see here.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: John J. Williams

Lance Corporal 2111 John J. Williams. 1/5th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 158th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division. Killed in action, 10 August 1915, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, aged 25. No known grave. Commemorated panel 77 to 80, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. Not commemorated in the Abergele district, but is commemorated on the Llysfaen War Memorial.

Born Llysfaen, lived Llanddulas. Son of Thomas Kyffin Williams, of 11, Pentregwyddel Terrace, Llanddulas; husband of Margaret Jane Williams. A member of Llanddulas Football Club. Enlisted in Llanddulas and was a pre-war member of the 5th Territorial Battalion.

News of John’s death in Gallipoli arrived home in the third week of September 1915. His family placed an ‘In Memoriam’ in the Abergele & Pensarn Visitor on the anniversary of his death for several years afterwards. In August 1917 it read, “Days of sadness still come over us, hidden tears often flow, for memory keeps our dear one to us although he died two years ago“.

For background details to the events of 10 August 1915 see here.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: John (Jack) Davies

Private 2648 John (Jack) Davies. 1/5th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 158th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division. Killed in action, 10 August 1915, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, aged 40. No known grave. Commemorated Panel 77 to 80, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. Also commemorated on the Abergele War Memorial, Abergele Town War Memorial and Old Colwyn War Memorial.

Husband of Maria Davies (formerly Hembry), of 4, Woodbine Cottages, Keynsham, Bristol. Oldest of the 14 children of Robert (Parish Clerk) and Anne Davies, of 15, Plasnewydd Buildings, Abergele. Born Abergele, enlisted Colwyn Bay. After marriage he lived at 34, Peel Street, Abergele, but was living at Ty Gobaith, Old Colwyn when the war began.

For background details to the events of 10 August 1915 see here.

The eldest son of Robert Davies, the town clerk, Jack Davies had been home on leave in early July 1915, shortly before sailing to the Dardanelles. He was to have a brief, upsetting and tragic experience of war. On 9 August 1915, Jack found a little time to write to his wife. It would be his last letter.

I have experienced a terrible time of it lately for we have been in the thick of the fighting and have lost a lot of brave fellows. Thank God I have come through it safely. This is indeed a dreadful place, and I should say that the Dardanelles is the worst place on earth. When we arrived on the battlefield they fairly mowed our men down. Pray for me, and God be with you till we meet again.”

On 10 August 1915, Jack was assigned to a small group tasked with collecting rations from the beach and delivering them back to the battalion in the lines. He did not return.

The news of his death came to Abergele on 16 September 1915, in a letter from Lieutenant David Lewis Jenkins [1], an Abergele man and officer in the 1/5th Battalion. Jack Davies left a widow and four children. His brother Albert [2], serving alongside him in the 1/5th Royal Welsh Fusiliers, in his first letter home following Jack’s death, made no reference to the event, which was thought to be strange at home. Nevertheless, an Abergele comrade, William Sturgess, wrote home saying, “how poor little Albert misses his brother Jack” [3].

Unlike many of his comrades of the 1/5th RWF who died in Gallipoli, Jack’s body was recovered and he was buried near the Anafarta Hills. The Gallipoli campaign ended in failure and withdrawal and today Jack’s body remains buried in unmarked ground somewhere in the southern end of the Suvla battlefield.

[1] Lieutenant Jenkins was himself killed 26 September 1917. He wrote several letters carrying the unfortunate news of the deaths of local men. For many families, this was the only news they were ever to get.
[2] Albert Davies, also killed 26 September 1917.
[3] William Sturgess of 58, Peel Street. A pre-war territorial, he fought through Gallipoli and was promoted Corporal in the field 26 August 1915 in the wake of casualties inflicted on the battalion. His seven years service expired in early 1916 and he was discharged home to Abergele 24 February 1916. He voluntarily re-enlisted in May 1916 into the Royal Field Artillery as Gunner 137182 and ended up with 38th (Welsh) Division, in France. He later transferred as Private L/13286 to the Royal Sussex Regiment and was wounded in October 1918. He was in hospital in Manchester when the war ended. The full letter from Corporal William Sturgess was reproduced in the Denbighshire Free Press, 20 November 1915, p.6.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Suvla Bay and Abergele’s darkest day of the war

On the night of 8/9 August 1915 the 1/5th Royal Welsh Fusiliers landed at Suvla Bay as part of the continuing operations at Gallipoli which had already claimed the lives of local men Harry Amos, Neville Lewis and George Hughes.

The 1/5th, being the local pre-war territorial unit, was popular with Abergele men and contained the greatest concentration of locals than any other unit in the army. The men from Abergele who landed with the battalion in Turkey were:

Five of them would be dead and many of them wounded within 48 hours of landing. 10 August 1915 was Abergele’s darkest day of the war by a long margin. Biographical details of the five men who fell on 10 August will follow, and can be followed through the links above.

This is not the place for a detailed account of the Suvla Bay invasion, but a brief outline to provide context may be useful. The original landings in the south of the Gallipoli peninsular had failed to achieve a breakthrough. Consequently a second beach landing further up the western coast was planned. Suvla Bay was chosen. The landing was to be disaster, hindered by confusion. The 1/5th (Flintshire) Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 158th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, were to have a horrific baptism of fire and accounts of their experiences are confused and variable to the extent that there remains to this day a number of significant unanswered questions. Some of these are pertinent to the fates of the five Abergele men, but are the subject of additional research.

The initial landing and fighting had already begun and when the 53rd (Welsh) Division and the 1/5th RWF began landing during darkness on the night of 8/9 August 1915 they were entering an existing battle. Immediately units of the Division were called upon and whatever plans existed were soon in shreds. The divisional history records that by evening of the first day, 9 August, “General Lindley found his division scattered in all directions….while the three Royal Welsh Fusilier battalions were bivouacked west of Lala Baba” [H.C. Dudley Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division, 1927].

Indeed that first full day was relatively relaxing for the 1/5th RWF, though no doubt the men were tense and nervous as heavy gunfire was constant and close. Many used the time to catch up on some sleep or write home, including Jack Davies of 15, Plasnewydd Buidings, Abergele. He wrote to his wife that:

“I have experienced a terrible time of it lately for we have been in the thick of the fighting and have lost a lot of brave fellows. Thank God I have come through it safely. This is indeed a dreadful place, and I should say that the Dardanelles is the worst place on earth. When we arrived on the battlefield they fairly mowed our men down. Pray for me, and God be with you till we meet again.”

Jack would die the next day.

At 3 a.m on 10 August reveille was sounded and the 1/5th were assembled on the beach. Orders were issued quickly: “it all sounded so simple and easy …. we were to cross the salt lake, move half right, support the attack of the 159th Brigade and pass through them and take the next ridge” [this and subsequent quotes from the divisional history].

It was not to prove simple and easy. The great salt lake, which was supposed to be dry, was not. The men’s feet sank in mud to above the ankles and progress was slow and tiring. And then the firing began. Exposed and slow moving, the RWF were presenting a perfect target as they stumbled out of the ‘lake’ and to the foot of a gentle rise of trees, hedges and scrub. The men fell to the ground, partly exhausted, but more practically to prevent a smaller target for the Turks: “we were soon split up and rather disorganised …. our original plan had evidently gone phut!“. The RWF were under heavy fire from a seemingly invisible enemy and had to move swiftly. Fifty yards ahead was a bank that offered some meagre protection. The men rose and charged towards it. “That 50 yards accounted for a good many“.

Three Abergele men, Tom Furnish, Johnny Vaughan and Fred Williams, and John Williams of Llanddulas, had fallen.

At this point the battle seemed to grind to a halt. Command and control had broken down and confusion had set in. A fire broke out in the scrub and a number of wounded men burned to death. An order to fix bayonets and charge the main ridge was received by some but not all. Some parties advanced further into the scrub and some did not. The 1/5th’s Colonel had been killed and Frank Borthwick of Abergele and Llanelian took command of the battalion. And then it fell quiet. No doubt shattered, both mentally and physically, the men needed rations. A party, including Abergele’s Jack Davies, was sent for them. He did not return.

Another assault on Turkish lines was ordered later that afternoon, but this too failed.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: George Hughes

Private 15439 George Hughes, 4th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, 88th Brigade, 29th Division. Killed in action (assumed), 6 August 1915, Gallipoli. No known grave. Commemorated Panel 104 to 113, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey, and also on the
Abergele War Memorial and Abergele Town Memorial.

Son of Harriet and the late George Hughes, of 10, Jenkin St. (formerly 4, Vale View Terrace), Abergele. Born Lichfield, Staffordshire, enlisted Worcester, lived Abergele. Brother of Tom Hughes, Canadian Army, who was killed 9 April 1917, and Robert E. Hughes who survived the war.

George enlisted into the 4th Worcesters on 13 September 1914 and went overseas with them in May 1915. His ultimate destination was Gallipoli, where he disembarked 24 July 1915. His last letter home was in the same month and he was last seen alive on 6 August. His death was not immediately known and in early September his Mother was informed that George was missing in action. When his brother, Tom, of the Canadian Army was killed 9 April 1917 , George was still listed as missing. The assumption of his death followed much later and the date decided upon was the last day he had been seen.

Hughes, George (2)

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Gordon Gray Hill

Private 67, Gordon Gray Hill, Singapore Volunteer Rifles, died (possibly from malaria), 16 July 1915. Plot 37. F. 13., Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore. Originally buried at Bididari Christian Cemetery, Singapore, under an earth mound. Not commemorated in the Abergele district.

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Born Didsbury, Manchester, 30 August 1888. Son of James and Christina Gray Hill, of Glandŵr, Pensarn, and later of Sherrards, Welwyn, Hertfordshire. Educated at Winchester College 1902-1907 and St. John’s College, Oxford.

Gordon’s father, James, was a Manchester Cotton Merchant who shipped goods from and between China, Japan and India. Gordon, after Oxford, had worked in his father’s offices for two years before moving to Singapore as part of the business. He was living and working in Singapore when war broke out.

On the outbreak of war he immediately volunteered in the Singapore Rifles. He took part in repressing a mutiny among native troops early in 1915 and was subsequently detailed to perform guard duties at various places round Singapore. While stationed at Labrador, on the western point of the city of Singapore, in early July 1915 he caught a severe chill.

An ‘In Memoriam’ carried by The Times on 16 July 1918 stated that he died “very suddenly, from heart failure, following pneumonia contracted while on active service…In life, loving much, he was much beloved, and in death deeply mourned”.

At the time of his death The Times carried a slightly different, cause of death: “in Singapore from acute malarial fever contracted while on active service…only and dearly loved son of Christina and James Gray Hill of Manchester and Glandwr, Abergele’.

His grave carries the epitaph, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee. In memory of the dearly loved only son of James and Christina Gray Hill of Sherrards, Welwyn, Hetrs.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: William Stewart Turner

Lieutenant William Stewart Turner, ‘D’ Company, 1/10th (Liverpool Scottish) Battalion, King’s (Liverpool Regiment), 9th Brigade, 3rd Division. Killed in action, 16 June 1915, aged 32, First Battle of Bellewaarde. No known grave. Commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. Not commemorated in the Abergele district. Commemorated on Garston Civic Memorial, Liverpool Cricket & Rugby Club War Memorial, SS Matthew & James’ Church War Memorial, Mossley Hill and Sefton Park Presbyterian Church War Memorial.

Brother of Second Lieutenant Frederick Harding Turner. Born 19 March 1883, the son of William Neil and Jessie Turner. William was a principal partner in the Liverpool printing firm of Turner & Dunnett of Fenwick Street. He owned a second home, Bronwendon, in Llanddulas for a number of years until shortly before the war (today this is the building to the right of the entrance to Bron-y-Wendon holiday park on Wern Road). Consequently his two sons, Frederick and William, spent some time in Llanddulas when not away at school and they became quite well known in the area.

Turner W S 3

William went to Greenbank school and, like his brother Frederick, he was a keen sportsman. After leaving Sedburgh school in 1901 he went straight into his father’s printing business rather than attend university. He was a good all-round cricketer and Rugby three-quarter back; he played both games regularly for Liverpool, and was Captain of the Liverpool Rugby team in the season 1909-10. He was a member also of the Lancashire County Cricket Club, the Birkenhead Park Football Club, the Old Sedberghians, and the Northern Nomads.

He enlisted into his brother’s territorial battalion in Liverpool, initially as Private 3475, aged 32, on 31 August 1914, and he received a commission as Second Lieutenant 17 November. His brother, Fred, wrote to him asking when he would be coming out to join him. Sadly, as William later wrote, “alas, it will not be on earth“. He was still in England when news of his brother’s death came through. He was present at his brother’s memorial service at Sefton Park Church and the following day, 20 January 1915, he set off from Blackpool with the first reinforcement draft for the 1/10th battalion. A mere thirteen days after the death of his younger brother, William Stewart Turner set foot in France, and made his way to the battalion.

The arrival of the reinforcements must have been a huge relief to the beleaguered 1/10th Battalion.

Owing to its reduced strength it was necessary to send practically the whole Battalion into the line to hold the front allotted to it by Brigade. Inter-company reliefs were carried out to avoid leaving the same men too long in the worst places but the strain on all was severe and it was with very genuine feelings of thankfulness that the first draft of four officers (2nd Lieuts. G. K. Cowan, L. G. Wall, W. Turner and C. Dunlop) and 302 other ranks was welcomed on 30 January. The draft was distributed amongst the companies, the men being allotted as far as possible to the companies of which they had been members at Tunbridge Wells, and they very quickly settled down to the routine of trench-warfare.” [A. M. McGilchrist, ‘The Liverpool Scottish, 1900-1919’]

As things transpired he was to literally fill his brother’s place. Frederick had been such a popular officer that when the men of his platoon heard that William was on the way they handed in a petition that he should command them. He was promoted to full Lieutenant in May 1915.

As a result of the Second Battle of Ypres, which had closed down on 25 May 1915, the German trenches between the Menin Road and the Ypres-Roulers railway formed a salient. Behind the salient lay the Bellewaarde Ridge. The ridge gave the Germans excellent observation over the new British lines.

Early in June it was decided to attack the salient, and, if possible, gain possession of the ridge; the attack was to be carried out by the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Division….There were three phases in the attack on Bellewaarde….in the third phase was the south-western corner of Bellewaarde Lake…As soon as the first objective had been gained the guns were to bombard the second objective…about the centre of this line lay Bellewaarde Farm. The 1st Lincolns and Liverpool Scottish (1/10th King’s Regiment), who during the first phase, were to move up to the front line vacated by the troops of the first phase,  were to capture the third objective.” [E. Wyrall, ‘History of the King’s Regiment (Liverpool) 1914-1919’]

In essence therefore, the 1/10th battalion, in conjunction with the 1st Lincolns, were to follow up the initial attacks and then pass through captured and held objectives to seize the objective line, behind an artillery barrage that would lift and move forward to target enemy positions and assist the attacking troops. Preparations were swiftly under way.

From the 10th to the 15th June the Batt’n was busily engaged in training for an operation to take place on the 16th, particular attention being given to bombing. On the evening of the 14th June Major A.S. Anderson proceeded to Railway Wood from which point the 9th Brigade were to attack on the morning of the 16th. He took with him 2 men per Company to act as markers and also 2 Cyclists. At 4 pm on the afternoon of the 15th the Battalion left the camping ground near Busseboom and proceeded via Ypres to Railway Wood.” [1/10th (Scottish) Battalion War Diary]

The 1/10th arrived at their attack positions during darkness and waited for the battle to begin. The Germans had however figured out that something was brewing and shortly after midnight began shelling British positions. There was little that William and the rest of his battalion could do other than sit it out and hope. A number of 1/10th became casualties. At 2.10 a.m. the British guns joined in. The King’s (Liverpool) Regiment’s historian graphically recorded the effects.

The opposing trenches were from 150 to 300 yards apart, and as the Divisional Artillery poured shell on to the German front line, clods of earth, heads and bodies of men shot up into the air, the guns were making excellent shooting. For two hours the bombardment went on, and then, precisely at 4.15 a.m., two companies of each of the attacking battalions left their trenches and moved as quickly as possible across No Mans Land.” [E. Wyrall, ‘History of the King’s Regiment (Liverpool) 1914-1919’]

During the darkness, despite the shelling, small British patrols had moved into No Man’s Land to clear ‘friendly’ barbed wire entanglements so that the attack would not be impeded. The British artillery fire also caused enough damage to the German wire that, as a result, the attack moved forward swiftly and the first German trench line was captured relatively easily.

There, amidst the debris, they found many dead and wounded Germans. Others, who had escaped wounds, held up their hands and surrendered, too demoralised and dazed to offer any resistance. Consolidation of the trenches was begun immediately.” [E. Wyrall, ‘History of the King’s Regiment (Liverpool) 1914-1919’]

It was now the turn of the 1/10th Liverpool and 1st Lincolns to move forward and beyond the captured German trenches towards the second line. All seemed to be going perfectly to plan, as the Liverpool Scottish and the Lincolns swiftly took possession of the second German trench line and immediately began moving towards the Germans third line. However, it was now that the clockwork precision began to falter.

Communications in the Great War, especially in these relatively early stages, were a major problem. Without radio communications, coordinating an attack with artillery support was monumentally difficult. Once a fire plan had been set it was very hard to alter it, and certainly not swiftly. However, in case it was needed on this occasion, the 1/10th had a set of red and yellow flags to plant in the ground to indicate progress. As good an idea as this was, it relied on artillery observers being able to see and interpret them and then pass accurate messages to the big guns. For whatever reason, the coloured flags proved inadequate and, as a result the British guns stuck to the prearranged fire plan. It was thus that the 1/10th began attacking into territory being bombarded by their own guns which were not getting the message to lift and move on. In addition, of course, German guns were pounding the area.

The whole area was also under very heavy shell-fire from the enemy’s artillery, bombing attacks and counter-attacks were everywhere going on and there was a great deal of hand-to-hand fighting in which both sides lost heavily.” [E. Wyrall, ‘History of the King’s Regiment (Liverpool) 1914-1919’]

The 1/10th had no option but to withdraw and fall back to the previously captured second line of German trenches at about 9.30 a.m. which they subsequently held until nightfall. Lieutenant Leslie Wall provided his own version of the day’s events.

Our artillery bombardment started at 2.10am and carried out the work of demolition so successfully that little difficulty was experienced in taking the first and second line trenches. Unfortunately however in continuing the advance we suffered many casualties as, owing to the difficulty experienced in observing signals, it was impossible to keep our shells ahead of the advancing infantry. Although the 3rd Line German Trenches were reached it was impossible to hold on to them and so the whole Brigade consolidated the 1st and part of the 2nd Line German trenches, manning them until 11.30 pm on the night of the 16th at which hour they were relieved by the 8th Brigade. The casualties amongst our Officers were particularly heavy and of the 24 Officers who went up only Lieutenant Wall, 2nd Lieutenant T.G. Roddick and Lieutenant Chavasse came back unscathed. The work of all ranks throughout the day calls forth the highest praise, our bombing parties doing particularly good work. The stretcher bearers throughout a most trying day did excellent work and showed great courage in attending to so many wounded under very heavy shell fire.” [1/10th (Scottish) Battalion War Diary]

Overall, in terms of its objectives, the attack had been successful. Two lines of German trenches had been gained, the salient reduced, and 1,000 yards gained. In other ways it had not been a success. A chance to take a third line had been lost due to communication problems (which would dog the armies of all sides for some time yet), and casualties had been high. The 1/10th alone had lost 21 Officers and 379 men killed, wounded or missing.

It is unclear in which phase of the attack William was killed. However, we know that he was in or around one of the captured German trenches in the vicinity of Bellewaarde Farm, and most likely the third German line, when a shell exploded very near to him and Sergeant John Blake Jones. Both were killed instantly. Neither of their bodies have a known grave, and William’s name is inscribed on the imposing Menin Gate memorial in Ypres, Belgium. Sergeant Jones had been a witness to Lieut. Fred Turner’s death six months earlier, and was the Sergeant he was talking with before being sniped.

At William’s memorial service at Sefton Park Church, the Rev. Alexander Connell said:

Lieut. Turner, with his quiet and modest ways, his unassuming but steadfast character, his filial devotion, his brotherly fidelity, his patient faithfulness to duty, and his unaffected sincerities, alike in time of peace and in the sterner tasks of war, might elude the casual eye at first through his very lack of pretension and the self-forgetfulness of his bearing and disposition. Yet this man played a hero’s part. He stepped without fuss, and at once, into his fallen brother’s place. He won the affection and confidence of his men. Some of them, who have also fallen, had sworn, as we know, that for his sake, as for his brother’s, if any hour of peril called them they should be found by his side, living or dead. I know of no greater tribute, I know of no more enduring monument to his name than this enthusiasm of loyalty and trust which he earned from men who knew him through some of the severest tests that can befall the fibre and the temper of a human soul.”  [I am very grateful to Joe Devereux for providing this quote, and for further information about W S Turner.]

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Neville Lewis

Private 2368 Neville Lewis, B Company, 1/5th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, 127th Brigade, 42nd (East Lancashire) Division. Killed in action 27 May 1915, aged 22. No known grave, Panel 158 to 170, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. Commemorated on Abergele War Memorial andAbergele Town Memorial.

Son of Edward and Elizabeth A. Lewis, of Strathmore, St. George’s Road, Abergele, and the proprietors of The Gwindy Hotel (the family was a well known local family and the ‘Lewis Bro’s’ tailors ghost sign can still be seen high on the wall of the building adjacent to Y Gwindy).  Born Hawarden, enlisted Wigan, early September 1914, lived Gwindy Hotel, Abergele. Initially served with 6th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, with a home address of the Gwindy Hotel. He landed in Gallipoli on 6 May 1915 and was killed exactly three weeks later. His younger brother, Henry John Bernard Lewis, also served.

Although Neville Lewis has no known grave, he was buried initially. Private Alf Austin of Pensarn, who also initially served in the 6th Manchester’s with Neville, wrote home in September 1915 that Neville’s grave had been found and that “the Abergele boys out there” planned to erect a suitable memorial. One can only assume that this was never done, or that subsequently the memorial marker was removed or lost following the evacuation from Gallipoli at the end of the year.

Lewis, Neville (9) resized