1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Joseph Davies

Private 11069 Joseph Davies, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 22nd Brigade, 7th Division. Killed in action 16 May 1915, Battle of Festubert, aged 27. No known grave, Panel 13 and 14, Le Touret Memorial, Le Touret Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Commemorated on Abergele War Memorial, Abergele Town War Memorial and Rhyl War Memorial.

Son of Walter and Alice Davies, of 5, Rhuddlan Rd., Abergele. Born Llanrhaeadr, lived in Abergele, and enlisted in Rhyl. Joseph was a noted long distance runner having won many prizes in competitions before the war. The family had moved to Abergele c.1893. They had 14 children, of whom 11 were still living by 1911. From the 1911 Census they were (with ages of 1911): Walter (25), Joseph (23), Charles (21), John (19), Margaret Elizabeth (17), Eliza Emma (15), Sophia (11), Robert (9), William Edward (6), Ivor (3). The missing name is that of Isaac Morris Davies, a professional soldier who was serving in India in 1911, age unknown, and who lived at 33, Peel Street. Isaac and the 4 oldest boys, Walter, Joseph, Charles and John, all served. Charles and John would both become Prisoners of War, with John becoming famous for escaping from his German prison camp in December 1916 and making it home to a hero’s welcome (the subject of a future article).

Joseph had formerly served as a professional soldier and was called up from the reserve when war broke out. He arrived in France 11 December 1914 as a 1st Battalion reinforcement and was soon followed by three of his brothers, all of whom were serving by January 1915 when Joseph was reported to be temporarily ill in a hospital at Le Havre. Official notification of Joseph’s death was received by his father in the first week of June 1915.

The account below, of the events of the day that Joseph died at Festubert, is written by my friend the Reverend Clive Hughes and reproduced with his kind permission.

The unit mustered 25 Officers 806 men in the trenches that morning, Following a half-hour bombardment the unit attacked just after it ended at 3:16am, going over the top in successive order of the 4 companies, 2 waves of men per company. Their aim (within the larger battle) was to take 2 lines of enemy trenches then hold a defensive position. It met heavy shell and machine-gun fire even as it left the trenches and tried to cross No Mans Land. They got beyond the two enemy lines but came under fire from their left, and part of the battalion (A & part of B companies) was mixed up with the 2nd Scots Guards on that flank. The rear two companies (C & D) also suffered badly in crossing to the German lines. As some men pressed on further they were hit by “friendly” shellfire and halted.

By 1pm contact was made with the Royal Warwicks Regiment on the right and The Queen’s Regiment came up in support. The battalion found itself holding an exposed position facing an orchard, open to enemy sniping from front and rear. At 2pm the enemy began shelling the trench they were in, which offered little cover. Reinforcements from the 7th London regiment came up and attacked the orchard covered by fire from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (RWF), but had to fall back under machine-gun fire. The shelling meantime wrecked the trench and cut the RWF off from other units. Darkness was approaching as the RWF fell back to a line being held just in front of the former Second German Line; then were ordered to withdraw to trenches being held by The Queen’s, which they accomplished successfully.

The RWF claimed to have penetrated the enemy defences to a depth of 1200 yards. For this they paid a heavy price: Officers- 6 killed, 2 died of wounds, 9 wounded, 1 wounded & missing, 1 missing. Total 19 out of 25. Other Ranks- 118 Killed, 271 wounded, 164 missing (many of whom would prove to be dead), 6 wounded and missing. Total 559 out of 806. Some 110 bodies were collected and buried in the old No Mans Land on 18th May, in addition to various officers brought in the previous evening.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: William Henry Hartley Higgin

Private 9031 William Henry Hartley Higgin, 2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 19th Brigade, 6th Division. Died of natural causes 11 May 1915, aged 29. Screen Wall. O1. 203, Leicester (Welford Road) Cemetery, United Kingdom. Not commemorated in the Abergele district. Son of Henry and Elizabeth Higgin, of Hey Brook, Rochdale. Born Rochdale, enlisted Abergele, lived Prestatyn. An original member of the 2nd Battalion, William arrived in France on 1 September 1914. The nature of the illness that resulted in his death in May 1915 is unknown.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Francis Rubenstein Linekar

Rifleman 1914 Francis (Frank) Rubenstein Linekar, A Company, 1/6th Battalion (Rifles), King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, 15th Brigade, 5th Division. Killed in action 5 May 1915, aged 20. No known grave, Panel 4 and 6, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ypres, Belgium. Not commemorated in the Abergele district, but commemorated on the Abergele County School War Memorial, Colwyn Bay War Memorial and Hoylake and West Kirby Memorial.

Born Colwyn Bay. A former pupil at Abergele County School. Son of Lucy Mary Linekar, of Waverley House, Hoylake, Birkenhead, and the late Thomas J. Linekar (died 1918), of Bryn Deryn, Colwyn Bay and of Colwyn Bay Council. Enlistment address given as Hoylake, Cheshire. Enlisted Liverpool.

Francis Linekar, better known as Frank, was born in Colwyn Bay in 1895. His father, Thomas Joseph Linekar, was a Professor of Music and was providing his services as a Music teacher. His mother, Lucy, was also a teacher prior to marriage. Francis had one older brother, John Clarence Linekar, who also served before being discharged with a Silver War Badge. In 1901 the family were living at Sea Forth, Colwyn Bay. By 1911 the family had moved to Bryn Deryn, Queens Park, Colwyn Bay. Thomas was no longer teaching music and was employed as an accountant for the gas department of the Abergele Urban District Council. John had left home and Francis was aged 16 and attending Abergele County School.

Frank enlisted in Liverpool shortly after the outbreak of war into the 6th King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, known as the Rifles. He volunteered to serve overseas and therefore became part of the original 1/6th battalion that landed at Le Havre 25 February 1915.
Frank would probably have seen action at the Second Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Gravenstafel fought 22-23 April, and the Battle of St Julien fought between 24 April and 5 May 1915. It was here that Frank was probably killed.

A memorial plaque in Holy Trinity Church, Hoylake reads:
To the dear memory of Francis Lancelot Farnall and of his cousin and comrade Francis R Linekar who gave their lives for their country in the Great War. This window is dedicated by their parents.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: John Davies

Private 9094, John Davies, 2nd Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, 84th Brigade, 28th Division. Died of wounds 2 May 1915, Second Battle of Ypres, aged 24. Buried plot II. L. 6., Poperinghe Old Military Cemetery, Belgium. Commemorated on Abergele War Memorial, Abergele Town War Memorial, Rhyl War Memorial.

Son of John and Alice Davies, of 1, Fronhyfrd, Groes Lwyd, Abergele. Born at Rhyl, enlisted Chester. Brother of Allen Davies (killed in action 30 October 1914, though it may be recalled that when news arrived in Abergele of John’s death in May 1915 his younger brother Allen was still listed as missing – see below).

John Davies was a professional soldier, having enlisted in 1908. He arrived in France as an original member of the 2nd Cheshire’s on 16 January 1915. According to a casualty report he bled to death within ten minutes of his wounding, a detail that his father found by accident whilst looking at casualty lists printed in a newspaper.

 

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Harry Oswald Amos

Private 1056 Harry Oswald Amos, 11th Battalion (B Company) 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Australian Imperial Force. Died of wounds 26/04/1915 (though this officially, and incorrectly, recorded as 29/04/1915). Harry has no known grave (he was buried at sea) and he is commemorated on Panel 33, Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey. He is not commemorated in the Abergele district., but is commemorated on the Rhyl War Memorial.

Harry Amos was born in Rhyl, the son of Samuel John & Ann Amos of 7, Bath Street, Rhyl (7, Belle Vue Terrace, Rhyl, after the war) and he attended Abergele County School. He was living in Western Australia at the outbreak of war and he was possibly one of a number of local men who, together, set out to create a new life in Western Australia.

About four years ago a large party of Welsh Patagonians, natives of the Abergele district, were entertained by an Abergele resident, and accorded a public reception in that town on their visit thereto, en route for Western Australia, where they intended to found a new Welsh colony in the Moora District. This move from continent to continent was in the nature of an experiment. For forty years and over the Cymry have peopled the extensive territories of the Gaiman, and have become sick of the oppressive rule of the Argentinian authorities. It was, therefore, decided to seek a new home under British rule, and Western Australia was chosen for experimental purposes.

[Welsh Coast Pioneer, 29 October 1914. One of the leaders of the group was Tom Owen of Abergele. One of his sons joined the Australian Army and he was in Abergele in October 1916, on leave following a wounding. In total nine men from Abergele and the district served in Australian forces having settled there prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, and four of them would give their lives: Harry Oswald Amos died of wounds (26/04/1915), Edward (Ted) Davies, David Saxon Evans, Herbert Wynne Walton Evans (killed in action 16/07/1918), Albert Alex Gilchrist (died 08/05/1916), Edward Evans Parry, Richard William Rowlands, Ernest George Hewlett Stacey (died, 15/05/1916)]

Harry enlisted into the Australian Army on 14 September 1914 at Blackboy Hill, Western Australia, a military training camp used to train and house large numbers of Australian Imperial Force (AIF) troops. He was 24 years old, 5′ 8″ tall, weighing 9 and a 1/2 stones, with dark hair and blue eyes, a Methodist, unmarried and a Draper. He listed his mother, Anne, of Rhyl, as his next of kin.

By late 1914 the war on the Western Front had become a stalemate. Some Allied politicians and commanders were hopeful that the Russians on the Eastern Front could do more, thus attracting German soldiers from the Western Front and providing an opportunity for a breakthrough. However Russian efforts to date had been largely disastrous and its army was clearly under equipped. If Russia were to mount a successful series of offensives it would need supplies from their western allies, Britain and France. However overland trade routes were blocked leaving supply by sea as the only viable option. Numerous sea routes existed, but by far the best was the entrance to the Black Sea through the Dardanelles. This was controlled by the Ottoman Empire which the Allies had declared war against in November 1914. Therefore the straits had been closed and in November the Turks began to mine the waterway. It was then that Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, proposed a naval attack on the Dardanelles. Unwilling to redirect modern warships and the much feted ‘Dreadnoughts’ from the North Sea area, Churchill opted to use a large number of the more obsolete battleships that would be a match for anything the Turks could muster against them. The proposal was strengthened on 2 January 1915 when Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia appealed to Britain for assistance against the Ottomans, who were conducting an offensive in the Caucasus. In mid-February 1915 naval attacks on the Dardanelles began when a strong Anglo-French task force began bombarding Ottoman gun positions along the coast. By 25 February the outer forts had been destroyed and the entrance to the straits cleared of mines. However, the Turks had many mobile gun batteries which easily evaded the Allied bombardments and threatened the minesweepers sent in to clear the straits. On 18 March 1915, the main attack to force the straits was launched with a fleet of 18 battleships with numerous cruisers and destroyers. The French battleship Bouvet was sunk by a mine and two more French battleships were damaged. HMS Irresistible and HMS Inflexible were critically damaged by mines. HMS Ocean, sent to rescue the Irresistible, was also damaged, and both ships eventually sank. The attack had run into a recently laid belt of mines and failed. It was now accepted that a naval campaign alone could not force the straits. The land either side would need to be taken to clear it of enemy artillery and allow the minesweepers in. Thus, planning for a land campaign began.

The Gallipoli land campaign is too great a story to recount here. However, in short, Australian troops en-route to the Western Front were earmarked for the assault along with several British and French Divisions. Amongst the AIF forces was 1st Division and Harry Amos. Harry had left Australia aboard H.M.A.T Ascanius from Freemantle on 2 November 1914. His 1st Division had arrived in Egypt by February 1915 and in March Harry’s 3rd Brigade was stationed in Lemnos. On 1 April 1915 orders to prepare an amphibious assault on Gallipoli were received. Training for the attack began. 3rd Brigade, containing 11th Battalion and Harry Amos, would be in the spearhead.

The ANZAC’s (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) would land near Gaba Tepe on the Aegean coast, from where they could advance across the peninsula, cutting off the Ottoman troops, in what was a secondary attack to back up the main landings at Cape Helles. The small area in and around which they would land has became known as “Anzac Cove”. Following a postponement due to weather, the ANZAC’s came ashore on 25 April 1915.

Two Divisions of the ANZAC Corps landed over 1 kilometre north of their planned objective and in the darkness and confusion of the early morning faced rugged and difficult country. Units mixed up on their arrival rushed inland and became separated from the main force, which came under growing fire from the Turkish defenders. While Turkish reinforcements arrived, the Anzac position became increasingly precarious as the assaulting force failed to secure their initial objectives. Falling back on improvised and shallow entrenchments the Anzacs held on for a crucial first night. By that first evening 16,000 men had been landed; of those over 2,000 Australians had been killed or wounded.

[‘The Landing at Anzac Cove’, Australian War Memorial, www.awm.gov.au ]

Harry was one of the wounded. Immediately he was evacuated to one of the boats acting as floating hospitals, H.M.T.S City of Benares, where he was diagnosed by a Doctor of the 1st Field Ambulance as having “a penetrating wound to the abdomen“. There is some confusion as to exactly when he died. In light of the vicious and somewhat chaotic atmosphere of the landings, and the huge number of casualties, this is perhaps understandable. In his service records held at the Australian archives there are records that state that the date of death was unknown but placed it between 25 April and 1 May. In a later (and erroneous), letter to his mother, the Australian authorities stated 9 April, some two weeks before the ANZAC landings had taken place. A date of 29 April was eventually settled upon for official purposes, this being the day when he was buried at sea from on board H.M.T. Seang Choo. However, the single document to have survived from 1st Field Ambulance on board H.M.T.S City of Benares, states clearly that he died the next day, 26 April, at 1.30 p.m. One can only assume that his body was removed to H.M.T. Seang Choo at some later point, from which he was offered to the Mediterranean on 29 April, the date that became accepted as the date of death.

His personal possessions returned home to his mother in Rhyl in February 1916 amounted to nothing more than a purse containing 3 coins, his identity disc, an ash tray and some letters.

The Gallipoli campaign is deeply embedded in the Australian psyche. Each year commemorations of a nature similar to our Remembrance Day are held on 25 April: ANZAC Day. The campaign, which ultimately failed in its objective of opening the Dardanelles to allied shipping, was closed down in December 1915. By the end it had cost Australia 26,111 casualties, of whom 8,141 died.

Very many of Abergele’s territorial soldiers would also experience the Gallipoli campaign and it would provide the town and district with its darkest day of the war, 10th August 1915, and these events will be described in full in time for the centenary.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Frank Sydney Beckett

Private 2577 Frank Sydney Beckett, 2/8th Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire) Regiment, 2nd Notts. & Derby Brigade, 2nd North Midland Division. Died of pneumonia, 5 March 1915, aged 21.

Frank is buried in Plot I. 2. 75., St. George Churchyard. He is commemorated on Abergele Town War Memorial as S. Beckett (but not the Abergele War Memorial), St. George War Memorial (which spells his name incorrectly) and Bodelwyddan War Memorial.

Frank Sydney, more commonly known by his middle name, was the son of Sarah Ann and George Horner Beckett. George was head gardener at Kinmel Park and originated from Nottinghamshire. In 1912, at the age of 18 in 1912, Sydney moved from St. George to Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. He took up lodgings at 105, Union Street, Mansfield, and was employed as a railway clerk.

The 8th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters, based in Worksop, were a territorial battalion that, like all territorial battalions on the outbreak of war, began dividing into a 1/8th (first line) Battalion and a 2/8th (second line) Battalion. This was completed in Newark on 11 September 1914. The first line contained men who had volunteered to serve overseas if required whereas the second line were men that would serve as home defence forces. Sydney volunteered for the 1/8th in Mansfield on 21 September 1914. The 1/8th, following mobilisation, had moved to Harpenden for training and this is where where Sydney caught up with his new comrades. In November 1914 it moved to Braintree in Essex. By February 1915 the battalion was ready for overseas service and on 24 February 1915  the battalion began shipping out to France.

On that very day Sydney was posted away from the 1/8th Battalion to the 2/8th Battalion due to illness, though he would never complete the transfer. He had caught a chill following a night attack training exercise near Braintree a few days earlier. The chill had turned to pneumonia and he was hospitalised. He died in the 1st Eastern General Hospital at Cambridge at 2.15 p.m. on 5 March.

His body was returned home and the funeral took place at St. George on Monday 8 March 1915. He was accorded full military honours, with bearers supplied from the recently completed army training base known as Kinmel Camp. A 21 gun salute was fired in the air as the coffin was lowered.

The Beckett family grave in St. George. Frank Sydney is entitled to a war grave headstone from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission though this has never been supplied. If any descendants see this article and feel that the provision of a war grave headstone would be appropriate please make contact for details of how this can be achieved.
The Beckett family grave in St. George. Frank Sydney is entitled to a war grave headstone from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission though this has never been supplied. If any descendants see this article and feel that the provision of a war grave headstone would be appropriate please make contact for details of how this can be achieved.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Arthur Jones

Rifleman R/5810 Arthur Jones, 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 2nd Brigade, 1st Division. Killed in action, 12 January 1915, aged 33.

Arthur is commemorated on the Abergele War Memorial. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel 32 and 33, Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

He was the oldest son of the late Canon Thomas and Fanny Jones, of 14, Rhiw Bank Terrace, Colwyn Bay. Canon Thomas Jones had for many years prior to the war been rector of Abergele. Arthur was born in Ruabon, grew up in Abergele and enlisted in London. His youngest brother, Edgar Wilkinson Jones, was killed in 1917. His other brother, Frank Marsingale Jones was a Captain in the 9th Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was mentioned in dispatches June 1916. Frank died in Bedfordshire in 1957.

Arthur enlisted into the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in London on 13 October 1914. He was not new to the soldiers life, having served in South Africa (the Boer War) for over a year. For this he held the Queen’s South Africa Medal, with five clasps. At the time of his enlistment he was unmarried, 33 years old, 5′ 9″ tall with brown hair and worked as a Clerk. He gave his next of kin as his mother, Fanny, with an address, at that time, of ‘The Vicarage, Abergele‘.

He was at Winchester by 17 October 1914 and was posted to the 6th (Reserve) Battalion of the KRRC that was in training there. Given his experience in South Africa, his training was more of a refresher course and he was swiftly made available for overseas service. This came on 22 November 1914 when he was posted to the 2nd KRRC in France, disembarking there on 23 November 1914. 2nd KRRC had been part of the original BEF and had been involved in battle at Mons, Etreux, the Marne, the Aisne, Chivy and, most recently, the First Battle of Ypres. It was in desperate need of reinforcements.

Arthur was posted as ‘missing believed killed‘ 12 January 1915. His death on that date was accepted for official purposes on 28 March 1916, a move apparently prompted by a letter of enquiry written by Arthur’s mother on 1 March 1916. No further details as to what happened to Arthur on 12 January 1915 are available.

1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Frederick Harding Turner

Second Lieutenant Frederick Harding Turner, ‘D’ Company, 1/10th (Liverpool Scottish) Battalion, King’s (Liverpool Regiment), 9th Brigade, 3rd Division. Killed in action, 10 January 1915. Known as ‘Tanky’, he was the Captain of the Scotland Rugby Union team.

Frederick is not commemorated in the Abergele district despite his connections with Llanddulas. He was buried in a cemetery but the precise site was subsequently lost in the fighting and he is commemorated on Special Memorial 13, Kemmel Churchyard, Heuvelland, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Other memorials include: War Memorial for the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, St. Hildeburghs Church, Hoylake; Garston Civic Memorial; Liverpool Cricket & Rugby Club War Memorial; SS Matthew & James’ Church War Memorial, Mossley Hill; Sefton Park Presbyterian Church War Memorial.

Turner - KemmelFrederick Harding Turner was born on 29 May 1888 in Liverpool, the younger 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.

Frederick began his education at Greenbank school, Liverpool, where he began to learn to play Rugby, specialising as a flanker. From there he moved to Sedburgh School between 1902 and 1907. There he showed his athleticism in numerous sports and captained both the Rugby and Cricket teams. He also joined the Officer Training Cadets, was a prefect and won the Sixth Form prize. As he left for Oxford, his Master wrote of him, “I hardly remember such a combination of character, industry, and athletic distinction; when the three are in such a harmonious blend the type cannot be improved upon.

In 1907 he moved to Trinity College, Oxford, to study law, gaining a third class degree in 1910. The quality of his degree may have been affected by his passion for sport, especially Rugby. In 1907 he had played for the Officers of the Army v the Officers of the Royal Navy in February and December. He played for Oxford University against the 1908-1909 Australian touring side, and also captained the University team to a welcome win against their arch rivals Cambridge in 1910 . He also played cricket for Oxford as a bowler, averaging a wicket every 16 balls and a batting average of 10 as well as for Lancashire County Cricket Club second XI. In addition he was a keen golfer. Whilst at Oxford, Frederick became good friends with a fellow Rugby player, Ronald William Poulton-Palmer. The two played together in the 1909 Varsity match, when Poulton-Palmer scored five tries.

Frederick's side is Ronald Poulton-Palmer, Captain of England. Next to him on the other side is R. A. Lloyd, Captain of Ireland. Boasting three international Captains this team was quite formidable! In addition to Turner and Poulton-Palmer, Jackson, Ross and E. H. Cowan would also die in the war. Photograph reproduced from W. B. Croxford (Ed.), Rugby Union in Lancashire and Cheshire, Littlebury Bros, 1949.
The Oxford University Rugby team of 1909-10. Frederick is centre, with the ball. By Frederick’s side is Ronald Poulton-Palmer, Captain of England.

He left Oxford in 1910 with an endorsement from the President of the College, who wrote that, “Every undergraduate respected him, not only as an athlete, but as a thoroughly sensible and upright man, and all in authority knew him to be reliable in every way.”

He began working for his father’s printing company and played Rugby for Liverpool FC (Rugby Union) – known today as St. Helen’s Rugby Union Football Club. It was at this time that he probably took up temporary residence in Llanddulas. Known by now by his nickname of ‘Tanky’, due to his physical size and strength, he was called up for the Scotland international side, making his debut as a flanker in France on 2 January 1911. He became an ever present for that and the subsequent season playing against Wales, England, Ireland and France. His 5 conversions against France in 1912 was, at that time, a record equaling feat.

On 18 May 1912 Frederick was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1/10th (Scottish) territorial battalion of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment. This battalion was very much known as a ‘Rugby’ battalion. One of Frederick’s comrades was Lieutenant Percy Dale Kendall who had been captain of the England international side in 1903.

The 1912-13 international rugby season also saw him bestowed with the honour of becoming Captain of the Scotland international team, leading his country to a famous 8-3 victory over England at Inverleith in the Five Nations / Calcutta Cup game and also playing against the touring South Africans. In 1913 he played in three of Scotland’s four internationals as Captain. He then announced his semi-retirement from international Rugby to concentrate on Liverpool FC, but answered the call in 1914 to play in what turned out to be Scotland’s final international before the outbreak of war, scoring a conversion in a 16-15 points defeat to England at Inverleith. The England team was captained by his old friend from Oxford, Ronald Poulton-Palmer. Frederick, Poulton-Palmer and six members of that Scotland team were destined to lose their lives in the impending conflict. In total, Frederick had gained 15 Scotland caps, scoring two tries.

Frederick as Captain of Scotland against South Africa in 1912
Frederick as Captain of Scotland against South Africa in 1912

On the outbreak of war, Frederick volunteered for foreign service and was promoted to temporary Lieutenant on 25 September 1914. The 1/10th Liverpool (Scottish) battalion began arriving at Le Havre in November 1914, with Frederick disembarking on the 3rd. Whilst waiting for the battalion to be allotted to a Brigade, Frederick was involved in some ceremonial duties.

“Field Marshall Lord Roberts, who had been paying a visit to the Indian troops at the front, returned to Sir John French’s headquarters at St Omer suffering from a chill and died there of pneumonia on 14 November. On the 17th his body was to be taken to the Hotel de Ville for a short service and thence to the railway station to be removed to England for burial. The Liverpool Scottish had the honour of being detailed to line the Place Gambetta, in which the Hotel de Ville is, and also the street leading to it. One officer, Lieutenant F H Turner, and twenty picked men, were also detailed to take part in the procession, and a splendid looking lot they were, none of them under six feet in height.” ( A. M. McGilchrist, ‘The Liverpool Scottish, 1900-1919‘. N.B, according to his army records, Frederick was actually 5’ 11″ tall.)

Second Lieutenant Turner
Second Lieutenant Turner

The battalion was assigned to 9th Brigade, 3rd Division on 25 November 1914. They moved into the front line, near Kemmel, south-west of Ypres, on 27 November. Over the next few weeks they moved in and out of the waterlogged trenches. The winter was particularly harsh and the men must have been quite miserable. Many of the soldiers developed trench foot and other illnesses in the terrible conditions and by January of 1915 the battalion, which began with 829 men, numbered just 329, only 32 of whom had been killed in action. The battalion’s medical officer, Noel Chavasse , another friend of Frederick’s, was kept very busy. Noel had grown up in Liverpool, being the son of the Bishop, and was studying medicine at Oxford until 1909. He was also a keen Rugby player and, although not of the same standard as Frederick, it is easy to see how the two bonded. Noel Chavasse would go on to win two Victoria Crosses and the Military Cross and was the only man to be awarded two VC’s in the Great War, and one of only 3 to achieve that remarkable feat in history. He was badly wounded in 1917 whilst carrying out the feat that gained him the award of his second VC and he died of his injuries two days later.

It was during the harsh winter that Frederick saw his first opportunity to get more directly involved in the fighting frustratingly slip away.

On 14 December, the 8th Brigade carried out an attack with two battalions, Gordon Highlanders and Royal Scots, on the enemy’s position in the Petit Bois. They jumped off from the trenches held by the Liverpool Scottish and Northumberland Fusiliers, whose men were withdrawn to Kemmel except for covering parties. The Scottish left in the line one platoon each of the “X” and “Z” Companies, under Lieuts. F.H. Turner and A.A. Gemmell, and the machine-gun section under Lieut. E McKinnell. Owing to a misunderstanding, part of “X” Company’s platoon left the trenches with the remainder of the company, and Lieut. Turner, thinking it hardly worth while to keep such a small covering party as the few men who were left, asked the Royal Scots for permission to join them in the attack but this request was refused.

Frederick was clearly one of those young men with a desire to do more for the war effort and, despite the hardships and dangers, he was clearly enjoying it. It was during the dismal winter in the trenches that Frederick wrote to his brother stating;

It is a man’s life out here, it agrees with me splendidly. I have never felt fitter in my life. True, we have had some hardships and not a little discomfort, but it has been a picnic in comparison with what the regulars went through. They are a magnificent lot.

However, the opportunity to do more was not presenting itself. The 1/10th were in and out of the trenches carrying out routine tasks. Other than the occasional shelling and the ever present enemy snipers, the greatest threat to the men’s health was trench-foot. It was thus that, on 9 January 1915, the 1/10th battalion was in the trenches, still near Kemmel, for another routine day. During the night Frederick oversaw the laying of some new barbed wire entanglements in front of his men’s trenches. As dawn broke the following morning, a short distance away, having noticed some changes in front of the British position, a German sniper kept close watch.

After breakfast, Frederick made his way down the waterlogged trenches to inspect the work of the previous night.

On the way he looked up twice for a second, and each time he was shot at, but both shots missed. He then got to a place where the parapet was rather low, and was talking to a Sergeant when a bullet went between their heads. Lieut. Turner said, ‘By Jove, that has deafened my right ear’. The Sergeant remarked, ‘And my left one too, Sir’. Lieut. Turner then went a shade lower down, and had a look at the wire, and was shot clean through the middle of the forehead, the bullet coming out at the back of his head, killing him instantly.” [Account from a fellow Officer, produced in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-24. I have identified the Sergeant as John Blake Jones. Sergeant Jones would later be killed by the same shell that would kill Fred’s brother, William Stewart Turner, in June 1915.]

Stretcher bearers and medical assistance were immediately called for. Quickly on the scene was Noel Chavasse but there was nothing he could do.

We got him down to (name removed by censor) that night with great difficulty and buried him in the local churchyard in pouring rain. The grave, though baled out in the evening, was 18 inches deep in water. However it is quite the best cared for grave in the churchyard, and looks very pretty, with a nice cross put up by one of the other regiments in the brigade, and also a very nice wreath.” [Account from a fellow Officer, produced in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-24.]

It was Kemmel that the officer was referring to, and Frederick was buried in Kemmel churchyard. Unfortunately, this was later subject to heavy shelling and the exact grave site was lost. As his grave site is now unclear, a special memorial headstone has been erected.

His old friend Poulton-Palmer , Captain of the England Rugby team of 1914, and now of the 1/4th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment, when he heard the news of his friend’s death, wrote that:

I have played behind many packs of forwards, but never have I been so freed from anxiety as when those forwards were led by Fred Turner. His play, like his tackle, was hard and straight, and never have I seen him the slightest perturbed or excited and in this fact lay the secret of his great power of control….his face always showed his cheery satisfaction with the world at large. At any moment he would burst into that cheery and infectious laugh He was always ready to take his part in any harmless practical joking, on tour or elsewhere.

Frederick’s commanding officer, Colonel Davidson, wrote;

Fred was a gallant fellow, a universal favourite and the idol of the men under his command. His ever cheery manner and courageous bearing under all conditions endeared him to all his comrades. One of his fellow officers remarked to me that Fred Turner, above all men he had ever met, was one in whom it was impossible to find a fault, and I heartily endorse this opinion.

Another officer wrote to his bereaved parents that:

Others will tell you of his superlative qualities as a soldier. Never have I met a truer, straighter man than he, or one braver or more honest. He was a man all through – and he was such a dear good chap as a pal. We shall never forget him.” [Rugby Football Internationals: Roll of Honour]

That Frederick was loved by his platoon is clear from the fact that they would petition for his brother William to become their new Officer and also from the following account by one of his men;

His first thought was always of his men; when their spirits were inclined to droop he rallied them and joked with them, though he always took upon himself the most dangerous and disagreeable duties. A sniper who had tracked him along the trench picked him off.”

The preacher of a memorial sermon, Rev. Alexander Connell, delivered in Sefton Park Church on the 19th January, 1915, emphasised his unusual modesty, and the fact that he had been a faithful attendant and communicant at that church; even after a heavy day on a Saturday he would take a long journey to be in his place in church on Sunday morning. He commented on;

….Lieut. F. H. Turner’s deep character, which makes a man’s strength steadfast, protective, kindly. It was a life that shaped towards a settled usefulness and wise counsel in citizenship and the Church of Christ, a life on which many would have come to lean, a life that would have sheltered the weak, and been a staff to rest on by all who followed the chivalrous and righteous cause. His was a loyal soul – loyal to his home, his family, his club, his city, his country.

Buried in the same cemetery as Frederick is his good friend Percy Dale Kendall, a former England Rugby Captain. His special memorial stands right next to Frederick’s: Scotland and England Captain’s, side by side.

Turner Kemmel7 crop

***

[This account was originally written for publication elsewhere and I acknowledge the assistance of Joe Devereux, the expert on the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, Pierre Vandervelden in Belgium, St. Helens RUFC, and colleagues from the Great War Forum, notably Gareth Morgan, Andy Pay and a chap called Robert who visited Kemmel for me and whose surname, I regret to say, I never quite got! All images are reproduced with permission from copyright holders or are out of copyright.]

1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: David Davies

Private 5718 David Davies (known locally as Dai), A Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 22nd Brigade, 7th Division. Killed in action, 29 December 1914.

No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 5, Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium. Abergele War Memorial. Abergele Town War Memorial

David Davies was born in Abergele in September 1883, the son of Hugh and Annie Davies, of 1, Nelson Terrace (formerly of 3, Water Street). By 1901 he was working as a milkman and soon joined 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, a precursor to the Territorial Force. By 1905 he had moved to Conwy and a son, David, was born to him and his future wife in November 1905. He married Ethel Roseborough in Abergele on New Year’s Day 1906. At about this time he and Ethel moved to St. Asaph and three further children were born there: John Hugh in 1906, Phillip Henry in 1907, and Robert Evan in 1909. By February 1911 he was back in Abergele when a fifth child, Annie Matilda Mary, was born. Two further children were to follow, one of which was born in September 1914 (see below).

By August 1914, David was one month short of his 31st birthday, employed as a Labourer, and living with his wife and children at 34, Peel Street, Abergele. He was one of many local men to attend the first recruiting event to be held in Abergele, in the area in front of the town hall (where HSBC now is).

“Private David Davies was the first local man to respond to Lord Kitchener’s call for recruits. It will be recollected that at the recruiting meeting held in the Town Hall on Saturday, August 15th, Davies was the leader of about a dozen young men who mounted the platform at the close of a striking speech by Major Priddle.”

[Abergele & Pensarn Visitor, 2 January 1915. This story is also confirmed in the 3 September 1914 edition of the Welsh Coast Pioneer, however, David’s service record, which survives, records an attestation date of 24 August 1914.]

He travelled to Wrexham on 27 August 1914 for his army medical. He was recorded as being by 5′ 6″ tall, weighing 9 stone 4 pounds, with blue eyes and dark hair and with a scar above his right eye. The medical form also noted that he was a Wesleyan. He was declared to be fit and duly joined the 3rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, the regiment’s training battalion for new recruits: and reinforcements for the 1st Battalion were soon to be desperately needed.

Following the annihilation of the 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers at Zandvoorde on 30 October 1914 (see earlier posts on Isaac Jones and Allen Davies) , the remaining 80 or so men were combined with the remnants of 2nd Battalion of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, one of their sister battalions in 22nd Brigade, until such time as reinforcements could bring the battalion back to fighting strength. A draft of 109 men and one officer joined on 5 November but the battalion was not fully withdrawn from action until 9 November when they marched to Bailleul to be joined by more officers and 99 more men. The following day the battalion marched to billets in Merris and over the next two days more officers and 454 more men joined.

The battalion was now back to near full strength and the reorganisation of companies and commands began. The battalion then spent time in and out the trenches just south of a line between Bois-Grenier and Fleurbaix near Armentieres before returning to full combat strength with the arrival of one last draft of an officer and 96 men on 23 November. David Davies was with this final draft and he went immediately into the trenches. Another small draft arrived on 11 December, bringing with it another Abergele man, Joseph Davies.

The Bois-Grenier sector was much quieter than had been the case around Ypres in October, but nevertheless David’s initial experience of war was hardly gentle. Trench ‘attrition’, the daily grind of casualties to shell and sniper fire, was the routine in this sector, and in David’s first week 6 men were wounded, 1 was missing, 1 was killed and 2 more died of wounds. Despite brief periods in billets in reserve the battalion stayed in this sector throughout December, and hardly a day went by without one or two woundings and the occasional fatality.

In a letter home, written days before his death, David Davies had written, “Just a line. You know that I am quite well and have been in the trenches six days and nights. It was very wet, and we were up to our necks in clay, but we came out alright. I am still in the same spirit – as happy as a schoolboy, and as cheerful as the birds in May…I hope you are not fretting about me, as I am in grand health and in good condition. When I come home you will be surprised to see me drinking coffee, and that without sugar. You complain about foodstuffs being dear in Abergele. Sugar here is 1/8 a pound. We are getting plenty of tobacco and cigarettes in the trenches and out. So we are quite happy and comfortable.”

David would probably have written this letter on Christmas Day 1914, in billets at Rue de Bataille, as the battalion had been relieved from the trenches on Christmas Eve by the 1/8th Royal Scots. However, the rest period was short and on the night of 28 December the 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers relieved the 1/8th Royal Scots and went back into the line.

Nothing specific happened on the next day, the day that David died. The battalion was in the line and he became another victim of ‘trench attrition’. The battalion’s war diary records nothing more than the arrival of a new officer, a few reinforcements and “casualties other ranks, killed 2, wounded 3” .

On 2 January 1915, as yet still unaware of his death, David’s wife, Ethel, and parents proudly shared their recent communications with the Abergele & Pensarn Visitor. In a letter to his parents he had commented, “It is very wet out here and the trenches are very muddy. But things are not as bad as the papers at home make them.

Within a few days Ethel Davies received a devastating letter from David’s Platoon Commander, 2nd Lieutenant Trevor Reece, dated 30 December. He wrote, “I regret to have to inform you that your husband was killed at 3.30 yesterday afternoon whilst doing his duty as sentry. He was shot through the head. His death is a great loss to the company, as he always did his duty well and cheerfully. Please accept my deepest sympathy in your bereavement.”

On 9 January the Abergele & Pensarn Visitor commented, “The sad news caused widespread sorrow in the district and a large number of influential residents called to sympathise with his widow and the seven little orphans. An Abergele soldier who was within a few yards of Davies when he was shot wrote that he met his death by a shot from an aeroplane.”

The newspaper went on to print a poetic eulogy penned by Ben Cybi Williams, ending with the words, “And what of his children? Oh, God do thou grant that the seven shall not suffer, that the wife shall not want”.

As a single casualty in his own trench lines, David Davies would have been buried by his comrades. Unfortunately, in an area that was fought over repeatedly for almost the duration of the war, the grave was subsequently lost and today he is one of 11,360 names inscribed on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the missing.

The news of David’s death hit his older brother Hugh particularly hard. Hugh had always wanted to be a soldier. He had been a member of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the time of the Boer War but was turned down three times to go to South Africa due to a defect with his left eye. He tried to join the regular army again in 1903 but was once more refused. Immediately upon the news of his brother’s death he vowed to try again, and before the end of January 1915 he had volunteered and been accepted to join the Royal Engineers.

A year after David’s death his sister Mary placed an ‘In Memoriam’ in the local newspaper: “Far and oft my thoughts do wander to a grave so far away, where they laid my loving brother just a year ago today”.

David’s youngest son was born in September 1914. It is unlikely that he saw him more than once or twice – immediately after the birth or during a final leave before embarking in November 1914. In the patriotic spirit of the day his son was named William Kitchener Davies. William would follow in his father’s footsteps and one day enlist into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He was killed in Normandy, in the fight for Caen following D-Day on 21 July 1944, and is buried in Brouay Cemetery. Unlike his father, he is not commemorated on the Abergele War Memorial.

1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: Frederick Edwards

Private 12233 Frederick Edwards, 2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Died of natural causes, 14 December 1914.

Known simply as Fred, he was born in St. Asaph, enlisted in Rhyl and lived in St. George. He arrived in France at Le Havre on 24 November 1914 as a reinforcement for the 2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He was hospitalised at Le Havre almost immediately and before he could be sent to join up with his new battalion at the front he died on 14 December 1914.

Plot Div. 14. H. 1., Ste. Marie Cemetery, Le Havre, France. He is commemorated on the St. George War Memorial.