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Scots Guards in 1914


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#1 Old Cove

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 01:48 PM

I am researching Private William Barker of the Scots Guards, service no 5448. He was killed in action on 18 December 1914. The CWGC database says that he was with F Company of the 2nd Battalion, but in the 1911 census he was in the 1st Battalion. His Medal Index Card says he landed in France on 2 September 1914 which seems to be between the dates that the 1st and 2nd battalions landed in France. His service number suggests he enlisted in about 1904 so my speculation is that he was in the Reserve when war was declared, was immediately recalled and given some training (?) before joining 1st Battalion with the BEF. And then sometime later he was transferred to 2nd Battalion. Can anyone tell me if that is a likely scenario to explain the above facts? Presumably in the absence of a service record there is no way of telling when he transferred from one battalion to the other?

Also could someone explain F Company to a beginner please. I understood that battalions normally had 4 companies, A to D, but Guards regiments used numbers 1 to 4. So does F have any particular meaning or significance? Any help or steer appreciated.

#2 connaughtranger

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 03:36 PM

In 1914 the 1st Scots Guards had 4 companies: B, C, RF (Right Flank) & LF (Left Flank). The 2nd Scots Guards also had 4 companies: F, G, RF & LF. Lettering or numbering for companies varied; W, X, Y & Z were used by some battalions
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#3 GrahamC

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 03:42 PM

His service number suggests he enlisted in about 1904 so my speculation is that he was in the Reserve when war was declared, was immediately recalled and given some training (?) before joining 1st Battalion with the BEF. And then sometime later he was transferred to 2nd Battalion.


I think you are right in your assumption that he was a Reservist. Having joined in 1904 it's likely he did 3 years active + 9 years on Reserve, so was recalled on the outbreak of War.

My grandad served with the 2/Cheshires from 1903, but they were in India at the outbreak so he re-joined the 1st Battalion and went to France in August 1914 with that Bn.

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#4 Colin W Taylor

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 10:52 PM

Old Cove

Of a sample of 180 odd Scots Guardsmen casualties of the Second Battalion (studied with reference to a battle in 1915) - about a dozen had dates of arrival in theatre being in August or Sept suggesting they had been posted to the 1st Battalion first. Possibly they were transferred to make up casualties or recovered from minor wounds or ailments and were posted to the most needy battalion. The best way of finding out the answer as to whether he was a reservist or why he was transferred is to get in touch with the Scots Guards Museum in Birdcage Walk and look up his service records.

Have you read Capt Loder's report in the war diary for 18th December 1914? You can also download a copy of a personal account that briefly describes the attack. Please message me if you are interested.

Kind regards

Colin

#5 Old Cove

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 10:56 AM

In 1914 the 1st Scots Guards had 4 companies: B, C, RF (Right Flank) & LF (Left Flank). The 2nd Scots Guards also had 4 companies: F, G, RF & LF. Lettering or numbering for companies varied; W, X, Y & Z were used by some battalions
Martin

Thanks for that Martin. I'm getting there slowly!

Regards
Roger

#6 Old Cove

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 11:20 AM

Old Cove

Have you read Capt Loder's report in the war diary for 18th December 1914? You can also download a copy of a personal account that briefly describes the attack. Please message me if you are interested.

Kind regards

Colin


Colin

Than you for your response and I am certainly interested in the download you mentioned. I just tried to message you but the system wouldn't let me. Full inbox? (I haven't tried to send messages before but I THINK I was doing it right!)

Regards
Roger

#7 Bardess

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 11:58 AM

Hi Roger. You don't say if you've had a look at the war diary for that period. A report for the 18th is below:

18.12.14 Report by Captain LODER:

On Friday Dec 18th I was ordered by Captain PAYNTER to lead an attack on the German trenches with 2 Coys of the 2nd Bn Scots Guards. The RIGHT of the attack to rest on the FROMELLES – SAILLY Road, the LEFT of our line approximately 400 yards E of this point where the border Regt joined our lines in No 2 subsection.

This Regt was to carry on from this point. I was ordered to meet Captain ASKEW and arrange details with him at 3:45pm. The attack was timed for 6pm. It was arranged that at 6pm the men should be posted over the parapet and to crawl out under the wire fence and lie down. When this was done I was to blow my whistle and the line was then to move forward together and walk as far as they could until the Germans opened fire and then rush the front line trenches. Having reached the trench I was to try and hold it, if occupied, and if unoccupied to push on to the second line. The men carried spades and sandbags. F Coy Captain Sir F FITZWYGRAM, LF Captain H TAYLOR. At about three minutes to 6pm the men were hoisted over the parapet and lay down. I blew my whistle as loud as I could but, owing to the noise of our gun fire, it appears that it was not generally heard. F coy being on the RIGHT and LF on the LEFT we began to move forward. After advancing about 60 yards I could see that in several places the line was not being maintained; some men moving forward faster than others. I could see this by the flash from the guns. I collected the men nearest to me and I found myself practically on the parapet before the Germans opened fire.

There was no wire entanglement at this point. We bayoneted and killed all the Germans we could see in the trench and then jumped down into it. There was a certain amount of shouting and confusion. I could not see far to my RIGHT or LEFT or tell what was happening on either flank. The position of the trench in which I found myself was not traversed for a distance of at least 25 yards. I ordered the men to make firing positions in the rear face of the trench. This was not easily done owing to the depth of the trench. I also told off some men to watch the flanks and, if the enemy appeared, to make traverses. I remained in the trench some time, about one hour, and then thought I had better try and see what had happened at other places in the line. I got out of the trench, which I left in charge of Lieut SAUMAREZ, and told him to hang on. I found it impossible to get any information but could see a good many dead bodies lying close to the German parapet.

I decided to come back to report to Captain PAYNTER and explain what the situation was and suggest that, if the trench was to be held, reinforcements would have to be sent up. This he reported to the Brigadier as it then became apparent that the attack of the border Regt had failed and also that 2 Coys RIGHT had only succeeded in getting into the trench in a few places he was ordered not to send forward the remaining two Coys which were in reserve. I was then ordered to organise a digging party to sap to the German trench. This was attempted but, owing to a continuous German fire, it soon became clear that the distance, 180 yards, was too much. About 3am Lieut WARNER and a party of 10 men were led forward by Corporal JONES to the section of the German trench which was still in tact. He reached it alright and found Lieut SAUMAREZ wounded [in the hand and that a stretcher was sent out and, with great difficulty, Lieut SAUMAREZ was removed]. Lieut WARNER was ordered to withdraw. Just before dawn he accomplished this without loss. Shortly after the attack was launched Lieut OTTLEY and a party from G Coy were sent up to reinforce Lieut HANBURY TRACY. While at the head of his men he was mortally wounded before reaching the German trench and the rest of the party don't appear to have been able to reach the trench. Corporal MITCHELL, with great courage, brought back Lieut OTTLEY [Lieut OTTLEY was awarded a DSO].

During this attack the Germans don't appear to have used any bombs or hand grenades. The crossfire from well placed German Machine guns played a big part and this accounts for our very heavy casualties amounting to nearly 50%, about 180 men being killed or wounded. Among the officers:

Killed: Captain H TAYLOR, LF Coy; Lieut Hon HANBURY TRACY F Coy
Missing: Lieut NUGENT LF Coy [believed to have been killed]
Wounded: Lieut SAUMAREZ LF Coy; Captain Sir F FITZWYGRAM F Coy
Died of wounds: 2/Lieut OTTLEY G Coy

Captain LODER was the only officer who returned unwounded. Pte CLARKSON has an Iron Cross which he found on a dead German officer.


#8 Old Cove

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 12:28 PM

Hi Roger. You don't say if you've had a look at the war diary for that period. A report for the 18th is below:


Diane,
You have just saved me a lot of typing! I had just downloaded the diary from TNA when I saw your reply.

Many thanks
Roger

#9 Bardess

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 01:42 PM

PM sent

#10 Colin W Taylor

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 06:01 PM

Roger

The book you can download is a series of letters written by Capt Hulse (2SG) prior to his death in 1915. He mentions the raid and various officers but not much on other ranks.

http://www.archive.o...tenfr00hulsrich

Diane, many thanks, you saved me some emailing/transcription.

I hope this helps.

Kind Regards

Colin

#11 Old Cove

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Posted 24 December 2011 - 08:07 AM

Colin. Diane,

Thank you very much for your help. I think I now have a very good understanding of how Private Barker died, and where he died (I found a map of the trench lines in 1915 and I think they were the same in December 1914?) and why he has no known grave - he was probably one of those buried in no-mans land during the Christmas truce. I am less clear about WHY he died. This attack seems to have been conceived very hastily, was limited in scale (just the Scots Guards battalion and the border battalion?) and made without the reserves that would have been needed to hold the trench(es) should they be taken, so presumably breaking through the German positions or even holding a section of their trenches was not the real objective?

Best wishes for a happy Christmas
Roger

#12 Bardess

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Posted 24 December 2011 - 08:57 AM

It should read border Regiment

Just noticed that my previous post has mysteriously vanished. In it I was wondering why border, even though I typed it with a capital B, came out as border. Frustrating to say the least


Have been informed by Keith:

"The problem is that the word "border" is an html command, and the software is unforgiving about it. it is also impossible to search on the border Regiment, an issue that I have taken up with Invision, without success. We just have to live with it I'm afraid.
"

#13 mikebabes15

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 01:28 PM

Hi Roger. You don't say if you've had a look at the war diary for that period. A report for the 18th is below:

18.12.14 Report by Captain LODER:

On Friday Dec 18th I was ordered by Captain PAYNTER to lead an attack on the German trenches with 2 Coys of the 2nd Bn Scots Guards. The RIGHT of the attack to rest on the FROMELLES SAILLY Road, the LEFT of our line approximately 400 yards E of this point where the border Regt joined our lines in No 2 subsection.

This Regt was to carry on from this point. I was ordered to meet Captain ASKEW and arrange details with him at 3:45pm. The attack was timed for 6pm. It was arranged that at 6pm the men should be posted over the parapet and to crawl out under the wire fence and lie down. When this was done I was to blow my whistle and the line was then to move forward together and walk as far as they could until the Germans opened fire and then rush the front line trenches. Having reached the trench I was to try and hold it, if occupied, and if unoccupied to push on to the second line. The men carried spades and sandbags. F Coy Captain Sir F FITZWYGRAM, LF Captain H TAYLOR. At about three minutes to 6pm the men were hoisted over the parapet and lay down. I blew my whistle as loud as I could but, owing to the noise of our gun fire, it appears that it was not generally heard. F coy being on the RIGHT and LF on the LEFT we began to move forward. After advancing about 60 yards I could see that in several places the line was not being maintained; some men moving forward faster than others. I could see this by the flash from the guns. I collected the men nearest to me and I found myself practically on the parapet before the Germans opened fire.

There was no wire entanglement at this point. We bayoneted and killed all the Germans we could see in the trench and then jumped down into it. There was a certain amount of shouting and confusion. I could not see far to my RIGHT or LEFT or tell what was happening on either flank. The position of the trench in which I found myself was not traversed for a distance of at least 25 yards. I ordered the men to make firing positions in the rear face of the trench. This was not easily done owing to the depth of the trench. I also told off some men to watch the flanks and, if the enemy appeared, to make traverses. I remained in the trench some time, about one hour, and then thought I had better try and see what had happened at other places in the line. I got out of the trench, which I left in charge of Lieut SAUMAREZ, and told him to hang on. I found it impossible to get any information but could see a good many dead bodies lying close to the German parapet.

I decided to come back to report to Captain PAYNTER and explain what the situation was and suggest that, if the trench was to be held, reinforcements would have to be sent up. This he reported to the Brigadier as it then became apparent that the attack of the border Regt had failed and also that 2 Coys RIGHT had only succeeded in getting into the trench in a few places he was ordered not to send forward the remaining two Coys which were in reserve. I was then ordered to organise a digging party to sap to the German trench. This was attempted but, owing to a continuous German fire, it soon became clear that the distance, 180 yards, was too much. About 3am Lieut WARNER and a party of 10 men were led forward by Corporal JONES to the section of the German trench which was still in tact. He reached it alright and found Lieut SAUMAREZ wounded [in the hand and that a stretcher was sent out and, with great difficulty, Lieut SAUMAREZ was removed]. Lieut WARNER was ordered to withdraw. Just before dawn he accomplished this without loss. Shortly after the attack was launched Lieut OTTLEY and a party from G Coy were sent up to reinforce Lieut HANBURY TRACY. While at the head of his men he was mortally wounded before reaching the German trench and the rest of the party don't appear to have been able to reach the trench. Corporal MITCHELL, with great courage, brought back Lieut OTTLEY [Lieut OTTLEY was awarded a DSO].

During this attack the Germans don't appear to have used any bombs or hand grenades. The crossfire from well placed German Machine guns played a big part and this accounts for our very heavy casualties amounting to nearly 50%, about 180 men being killed or wounded. Among the officers:

Killed: Captain H TAYLOR, LF Coy; Lieut Hon HANBURY TRACY F Coy
Missing: Lieut NUGENT LF Coy [believed to have been killed]
Wounded: Lieut SAUMAREZ LF Coy; Captain Sir F FITZWYGRAM F Coy
Died of wounds: 2/Lieut OTTLEY G Coy

Captain LODER was the only officer who returned unwounded. Pte CLARKSON has an Iron Cross which he found on a dead German officer.

Hello, can anyone please tell me exactly where this action took place? Am I right in understanding it was near La Boutillerie, D175, South West of Bois-Grenier? I have a friend who is researching her great grandfather William Neilson who died on 18 Dec 1914 in this action. I have read various stories regarding what happened on this day and I am trying to locate the exact location and more details of what happened. Thanks Mike.

#14 poilu

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 04:10 PM

Bonjour Roger,

 

I am new to this site and, like you, am researching the same William Barker of Farnborough - this year being the centenary of his death. Do you have any further information that might be of interest to me. I am his grandson and intend to visit his memorial at Ploegsteert in April. 

 

Thanks,

Nigel



#15 ridgus

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 05:56 PM

Colin. Diane,

Thank you very much for your help. I think I now have a very good understanding of how Private Barker died, and where he died (I found a map of the trench lines in 1915 and I think they were the same in December 1914?) and why he has no known grave - he was probably one of those buried in no-mans land during the Christmas truce. I am less clear about WHY he died. This attack seems to have been conceived very hastily, was limited in scale (just the Scots Guards battalion and the border battalion?) and made without the reserves that would have been needed to hold the trench(es) should they be taken, so presumably breaking through the German positions or even holding a section of their trenches was not the real objective?

Best wishes for a happy Christmas
Roger


Roger

It's only anecdotal but in a BBC programme on the Christmas Truce it said that Taylor was Hulse's friend and he ensured he was buried in the mass burial on that day. This would suggest (no more than that) that others buried were from that same raid including perhaps Private Barker.

On your last point I know that Malcolm Brown in his book on the Christmas Truce spent some time talking about the trench raids that preceded Christmas in this part of the line. From memory (and I read it a good while ago) he suggested the raids were simply to maintain ascendancy over no man's land. My copy is at school but I'm in tomorrow so will try and get chapter and verse.

David

#16 ridgus

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Posted 03 January 2014 - 10:00 PM

Roger
It's only anecdotal but in a BBC programme on the Christmas Truce it said that Taylor was Hulse's friend and he ensured he was buried in the mass burial on that day. This would suggest (no more than that) that others buried were from that same raid including perhaps Private Barker.
On your last point I know that Malcolm Brown in his book on the Christmas Truce spent some time talking about the trench raids that preceded Christmas in this part of the line. From memory (and I read it a good while ago) he suggested the raids were simply to maintain ascendancy over no man's land. My copy is at school but I'm in tomorrow so will try and get chapter and verse.
David


Had a read of the Brown book this morning and it paints a fairly bleak picture. The raids were as a result of strong pressure applied to Sir John a French by generals Foch and Joffre to launch supportive action for 'certain aggressive schemes devised by the French - schemes which in the end virtually came to nothing'. So the raids were nothing more than a diversionary tactic. Brown says that French yielded with great reluctance to the allied pressure. However he does not escape censure as it was said that he 'could have scarcely produced a more uninspiring plan.' Small isolated, sporadic attacks that created a pattern of useless and wasteful onslaughts over a period of days. A report of one of the raids tells of the bizarre sight of a flock of dead sheep in no-mans land killed by the bombardment.

The raid by the Royal Scots was watched from a distance by French accompanied by Smith Dorrien and the Prince of Wales. It was described by another witness as an unsupported assault following an ineffective bombardment. 'The attack naturally failed. We had about 400 casualties. It is most depressing.'

'Nuff said

David

#17 Old Cove

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 11:17 AM

Bonjour Roger,

 

I am new to this site and, like you, am researching the same William Barker of Farnborough - this year being the centenary of his death. Do you have any further information that might be of interest to me. I am his grandson and intend to visit his memorial at Ploegsteert in April. 

 

Thanks,

Nigel

Bonjour Nigel,

 

I would be happy to send you what I have (but don't get too excited - it isn't all that much!).  Can you give me your email address (you can use the Personal Message facility to provide that if you like).

 

Regards

Roger



#18 Old Cove

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 11:21 AM

Hi David,

 

Thanks for your comments from the Brown book.  It was indeed most depressing.

 

Regards

Roger