Thiepval Memorial

Military Monday – John Robert Arthur Steel (1886-1916)

John Robert Arthur Steel is the husband of my 3rd cousin 2x removed, Elsie Dodgson.

Elsie was born in 1888 to parents Charles Henry Dodgson and Charlotte Mary Stark. Our common ancestors are John Dawson and Ann Watson, my 4x great grandparents.

Elsie married John Robert Arthur Steel sometime in the September quarter of 1914 in Leeds, West Yorkshire. They had one child – Constance, born on 1 February 1916.

John Robert Arthur Steel had been born towards the end of 1886 in Hunslet, Leeds.

When war broke out he enlisted for service with the Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire) Regiment and was assigned to the 15th Battalion with a service number of 15/1181.

John was killed in action on 1 July 1916 – only five months after the birth of his daughter. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France – the largest Commonwealth Memorial to the missing in the world.

The following information is taken from the Commonwealth war Graves Commission (CWGC) website.

The memorial commemorates more than 72,000 men of British and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave, the majority of whom died during the Somme offensive of 1916.

On the high ground overlooking the Somme River in France, where some of the heaviest fighting of the First World War took place, stands the Thiepval Memorial. Towering over 45 metres in height, it dominates the landscape for miles around.

On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, 13 divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance.

Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July.

Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

Following lengthy negotiations about the site, construction at Thiepval began in 1928 and was finished in 1932. Foundations were dug to a depth of 30 feet, uncovering wartime tunnels and unexploded ordnance.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916.

The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.
Notable commemorations include cricketer Kenneth Hutchings, writer Hector Hugh Munro, also known as Saki and Cedric Dickens, grandson of novelist Charles Dickens. There are also seven holders of the Victoria Cross.

On 1 August 1932, Prince Edward, Prince of Wales unveiled the memorial. Albert Lebrun, President of France and Sir Edwin Lutyens, the memorial’s architect, attended the ceremony which was in English and French.

Each year on 1 July a ceremony is held at the memorial to mark the first day of the Battle of the Somme. On 1 July 2016, to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, thousands of people attended a special ceremony including members of the British Royal family, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and French President François Hollande.

Behind the memorial is the Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery. The cemetery contains the graves of 300 Commonwealth servicemen and 300 French servicemen. The majority of these men died during the Battle of the Somme, but some also fell in the battles near Loos and Le Quesnel.

Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval Memorial

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Military Monday – Howard Westwood (1896-1916)

Howard Westwood is my wife’s 2nd cousin 1x removed. His parents are Edwin Westwood and Mary Ann Harris. Their common ancestors are William Skelding and Catherine Taylor, my wife’s 2x great grandparents.

Howard was born in 1896 in Lye, Worcestershire – his birth is registered in the June quarter of that year.

Sometime after the outbreak of WW1 Howard signed up for service with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was assigned to the 11th Battalion – his service number was 27765.

The 11th Battalion landed in France in July 1915.

Howard was killed in action on 15 November 1916.

I have found the War Diaries for the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and can see what the Regiment were doing at the time Howard was killed.

Orders were received from the 99th Brigade that Munich Trench would be attacked at 9am on 15 November 1916. The attack would be carried out by the 8th East Lancs and 10th Loyal North Lancs Regiments, supported by the 11th Royal Warwickshire’s. The trench was found to be very strongly held and the attack was held up.

Royal Warwickshire War Diaries.png

I am assuming that Howard was killed during this attack.

Munich Trench was a German trench near Beaumont-Hamel in France and was eventually captured on 11 January 1917.

Howard is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval Memorial

Military Monday – David Musgrove Bratherton (1894-1916)

Military Monday is a daily blogging prompt used by many genealogy bloggers to help them post content on their sites.

We all have ancestors who have served in the military. Military Monday is a place to post their images, stories and records of their service in various branches of the military.

David Musgrove Bratherton is my 2nd cousin 2x removed. His parents are William Robert Bratherton and Rachel Musgrove. Our common ancestors are William Musgrove and Harriot Francis, my 3x great grandparents.

David was born in Lancaster, Lancashire in 1894 – his birth is registered in the September quarter. He was the only son of William and Rachel.

In the 1901 and 1911 census returns the family are living at Park Road, Lancaster. In 1911 David’s occupation is given as “cotton weaver”.

Unfortunately I can’t find any remaining service records for David either on Ancestry or Find My Past.

I do know that David was a Private in the Royal Fusiliers, 8th Battalion. His service number was 1917.

Looking at the information available at http://www.1914-1918.net it seems as though the 8th Battalion were under the command of 36th Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division. They landed in France in May 1915 and disbanded in France on 6 February 1918.

I know that David was killed in action on 7 July 1916. It is possible that David was killed during The Battle of Albert – one of the many Battles of the Somme in 1916. Below is an extract from http://www.1914-1918.net about the 12th (Eastern) Division battles during WW1.

The Battles of the Somme 1916

The Battle of Albert

By 18 June 1916 the Division was based at Flesselles. It immediately carried out a training exercise to practice a planned attack to capture Martinpuich. This action never materialised. The Division moved up to Baizieux on 30 June and reached Hencourt and Millencourt by 10am on 1 July, in reserve to the British infantry attack that had begun earlier that morning. It moved to relieve 8th Division, which had suffered a severe repulse at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, during the night of 1-2 July.

Ordered to continue the attack on Ovillers, 35th and 37th Brigades went in at 3.15am on 2 July (just before this, Divisional HQ received information that a British attack on their left, by X Corps against Thiepval, was cancelled). Unlike the troops of 8th Division who had to cross a wide no man’s land in the bright morning sun, the 12th Division attack, at night, adopted sensible tactics of advancing across no man’s land while the artillery bombarded the enemy and rushed the last few yards when it lifted. The first wave of the attack met with mixed success: for example the 9th Essex came under heavy shellfire before it had reached even the British front line; it was difficult to keep direction in the deep shell holes; yet the 5th Berkshire and 7th Suffolk crossed, finding the enemy wire was well cut, and took at least two lines of German trenches before becoming bogged in intense bombing fights in the trenches. 6th Queen’s were held up by wire and machine gun fire from Mash Valley. Heavy fire from the Leipzig salient – where X Corps would have been attacking – halted supporting units in no man’s land, and the attack failed to achieve its objective.

On 7 July 36th Brigade, with 74th Brigade attached to the Division for the purpose, attacked again and in spite of heavy casualties from German artillery and machine guns in Mash Valley, succeeded in holding the first and second lines that they captured on the spur on which Ovillers stands. By the time the Division was withdrawn to the area on Contay on 9 July, 189 officers and 4576 men had become casualties.

David is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France. The following information is taken from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.


The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932 (originally scheduled for 16 May but due to the death of French President Doumer the ceremony was postponed until August).


Thiepval Memorial

Military Monday – Albert Espley (1896-1916)

Albert Espley is my wife’s 2nd cousin 2x removed. His parents are Enoch Espley and Ann Lymer. My wife and Albert’s common ancestors are James Espley and Martha Silvester, my wife’s 3x great grandparents.

Albert was born in 1896 in Hanley, Staffordshire and his birth is registered in Q2.

I haven’t been able to find any service records for Albert on http://www.ancestry.co.uk or http://www.findmypast.co.uk. However there is some information on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website – http://www.cwgc.org and on http://www.forces-war-records.co.uk.

I know that Albert was a Private in the 4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. His service number was 19584.

The 4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards was formed on 14 July 1915 and mobilised for war on 19 August 1915.

Albert was killed in action on 25 September 1916. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.

The following information is taken from the CWGC website.

On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.



In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.



The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.



The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932 (originally scheduled for 16 May but due to the death of French President Doumer the ceremony was postponed until August).



The dead of other Commonwealth countries, who died on the Somme and have no known graves, are commemorated on national memorials elsewhere.

Thiepval Memorial

Military Monday – John Ainsworth (1892-1916)

John Ainsworth is my 2nd cousin 2x removed. His parents are Ralph Ainsworth and Margaret Ann Louisa Birkett. Our common ancestors are John Carradice and Ann Ridley, my 3x great grandparents.

John was born in Kendal, Westmorland in 1892 and his birth is registered in Q1.

On the 27 May 1915 John signed up for military service at Carlisle – he was 23 years and 4 months. He was enlisted in The Border Regiment. His military number was 21851.

John was posted to France on 17 December 1915.

As far as I can tell John was fighting with the 2nd battalion Border Regiment when he was killed in action on 14 July 1916.

I can’t find any accurate information about the circumstances of his death. However the Battle of Bazentin Ridge began on 14 July 1916 so it is possible he was killed during that battle.

http://www.firstworldwar.com/battles/bazentin.htm

John is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.

Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval Memorial