On this day……. 100 years ago; 04/08/1914

Remembered today:
CH.8671 Private G. Davies Royal Marine Light Infantry
A Chatham Division Royal Marine, he is buried in Middlesex at St.Pancras cemetery.
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1914 star; a first.

Tonight I got to hold something that I will always remember, a 1914 star trio, now, not unusual, or rare you might say, this man had no gallantry awards or particularly unusual service, in no far off places, to all intents and purposes it is a normal, run of the mill (not to denigrate his service in any way….) ww1; 1914 star trio…. However, this group had one distinguishing characteristic, not that you’d know it, unless you were told.

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The interesting, and 100% unique piece about this medal group is that, this 1914 star, was the very first star to be awarded…… yes the very first to be awarded!  To hold in your hand the first of anything is amazing, and this was no different.

IMAG2154_1

Trooper Reeves, shown here, just shortly after receiving his medal, and the caption states this was the very first award of the 1914 star.  Now, Trooper Reeves, your immortality is assured.  Maybe at some point I can find out some more about him, but for now I am content in the knowledge that I have held something, so rare and unusual that very few others will ever have the chance to.  I have also had the chance to share something so rare with my followers.

With thanks to the London Medal Company; for supplying the information on this fabulously rare trio…… http://www.london-medals.co.uk/

The last casualties of the Great War for Civilisation……….

On the 11th of November, 861 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed. Now most of us will never have heard of any of the men killed on this day, but I would like to bring just two of their names to your attention. The first is a man called George Ellison and the second: George Laurence Price. Why? Because on the 11th November 1918, just half an hour before the Armistice came into effect, Private Ellison was killed, making him officially the last British Soldier to be killed in the Great War for Civilisation; 1914-1918. The Second man; George Laurence Price, was killed at 10.58, 2 minutes before the war ceased, became the last Commonwealth soldier killed in the Great War.

George_E_Ellison

Private George Ellison; 5th Royal Irish Lancers.

Ellison was born and lived at 49, Edmund Street, Bank, Leeds, he was the Son of James W. and Mary Ellison. Early in his life, he joined the army as a regular soldier, but had left by 1912 when he got married to Hannah Maria Burgan and had become a coal miner. Sometime just before the outbreak of war he was recalled to the army, joining the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, serving in the army at the start of the war. He fought at the Battle of Mons in 1914, and several other battles including the Battle of Ypres, Battle of Armentières, Battle of La Basee, Battle of Lens, Battle of Loos, and Battle of Cambrai on the Western Front. He was killed an hour and a half before the armistice, on a patrol on the outskirts of Mons, Belgium.

George_lawrence_price

Private George Price; 28th ‘Northwest’ Battalion Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment)

He was born in Falmouth, Nova Scotia, on December 15, 1892, and raised on Church Street, in what is now Port Williams, Nova Scotia. He lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, when he was conscripted on October 15, 1917. He served with “A” Company of the 28th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. On November 11, Pte Price was part of an advance to take the small village of Havré. After a crossing of the Canal du Centre into the town of Ville-sur-Haine under German machine gun fire, Price and his patrol moved toward a row of houses intent on pursuing the machine gunner who had harassed their crossing of the canal. The patrol had entered the house from which they had thought the shooting had come, but found the Germans had exited through the back door as they entered the front. They then pursued into the house next door and again found it empty. George Price was fatally shot in the region of his heart by a German sniper as he stepped out of the house into the street, against contrary advice from a house occupant, at 10:58 a.m., November 11, 1918. He died just 2 minutes before the armistice ceasefire, that ended the war, came into effect at 11 a.m

Now there are other soldiers I should name here as well:

USA: Pvt Henry Gunther of Baltimore, MD, Company A, 313th Infantry, 79th Division of the US Army: Died 10.59 11/11/1918 Officially, Gunter was the last man to die in World War One. His unit had been ordered to advance and take a German machine gun post. It is said that even the Germans – who knew that they were literally minutes away from a ceasefire – tried to stop the Americans attacking. But when it became obvious that this had failed, they fired on their attackers and Gunter was killed. His divisional record stated:

“Almost as he fell, the gunfire died away and an appalling silence prevailed.”

FRANCE: Augustin Trebuchon from the 415th Infantry Regiment. He was a runner and was in the process of taking a message to his colleagues at the front informing them of the ceasefire. He was hit by a single shot and killed at 10.50. In total, 75 French soldiers were killed on November 11th but their graves state November 10th. Two theories have been forwarded for this discrepancy. The first is that by stating that they died on November 10th before the war had ended, there could be no question about their family’s entitlement to a war pension. The other theory, is that the French government wanted to avoid any form of embarrassment or political scandal should it ever become known that so many died on the last day of the war. [http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/november_11_1918.htm]

Augustin Trébuchon was born at Montchabrier (near Le Malzieu-Ville in the Lozère) on 30 May 1878, with four younger brothers and sisters. His mother died when he was young and his father nine years later. He had been in the army since the war began in 1914. He was a communal shepherd and played accordion at village marriages before volunteering for the army on 4 August 1914. He joined the 415th Infantry Regiment as a messenger. He had already served in the second battle of the Marne and at Verdun, Artois and the Somme before arriving in the Ardennes at the end of the war. He had twice been wounded, including badly in his left arm by an exploding shell.  Upon his promotion to the rank of Soldat de Première Classe (Private First Class) in September 1918 it was said that he was “a good soldier having always achieved his duty, of remarkable calm, setting the best example to his young comrades.”

Trébuchon, as a messenger, knew an agreement had been signed before the rest of his unit. At Vrigne-sur-Meuse, in the Ardennes, the 163rd Infantry Division was ordered to attack an élite German unit, the Hannetons.  General Henri Gouraud told his men to cross the Meuse and to attack “as fast as possible, by whatever means and regardless of cost”.  It has been speculated that the attack was to end any possible hesitations by German negotiators at Compiègne, that Maréchal Foch believed the Germans were reluctant to sign and so ordered Général Philippe Pétain to press on across the Meuse.

Trébuchon was halfway between Sedan and Charleville-Mézières. Rain was falling and the Meuse was flooding. Its width was put at 70m. The temperature was well below freezing. Warfare had destroyed bridges across the river and sappers worked by night and in fog to build a plank footbridge across a lock. There had been no reconnaissance of the other bank because bad weather had kept the spotter plane on the ground. Around 700 men crossed the river a little after 8am, taking a telephone wire with them. Some fell in the river and the first deaths were by drowning.

The fog cleared at 10.30am and the French could see the Germans installed a little higher than them, a few hundred metres away. The French were spread over three kilometres between the Meuse and a railway line. The Germans opened fire with machine guns. The French sent up a spotter plane now that the fog had lifted and the artillery on the other bank could open fire without fear of killing their own side. Darkness fell again at 6pm and the battle continued until news of the armistice arrived.

The last of the 91 French soldiers to die was Trébuchon, “with a red hole in his right side”, probably a figure of speech as this expression comes from Arthur Rimbaud’s very famous poem “Le Dormeur du Val” (The Sleeper in the Valley). He was 40. He fell near the railway line with his message still in his hand. It read “Rassemblement à 11h 30 pour le ravitaillement – “Muster at 11.30 for food.” The armistice followed and the French withdrew without honouring their dead.

GERMANY: Lieutenant Tomas: After 11:00, he approached some American soldiers to let them know that, since the war was over, he and his men were vacating a house and it would be available. Unfortunately, no one had informed the Americans of the Armistice and they shot him.

From Pupil to the Western Front: Alfred Victor Hedges MC; Part Two

Continuing Alfred’s story from last time, he had just started to dig in after the battle.  We carry on in Alfred’s own words from his autobiography….

“Some of us were positioned in a quarry up in the front.  This was a blessing as we were sheltered from direct shell fire.  A friends and I excavated a sort of cave from the loose rock in which we sheltered, but had to be careful not to touch the roof as it was very loose.  However, I and another friend called Taylor (he was an old friend from Burnley – We joined up together), were told to go forward and make contact with an advanced observation post.  As we prepared to leave the shelter of the quarry – the valley was being heavily shelled – a badly wounded artillery officer staggered in.  He was obviously dying, and as there were no doctors or medical orderlies in the area, we asked him if we could do anything.  His answer was, “No, except for a cup of water, if you can spare it” I remember wondering if I should die with similar dignity.”

With some research I believe the artillery officer to be:

Lieutenant Thomas William Osgood, Royal Field Artillery as he is the only one that corresponds to the area, the burial and he is buried in the Quarry cemetery.

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/245491/OSGOOD,%20THOMAS%20WILLIAM

“Taylor and I went forward into what was practically “no man’s land” This was not being shelled and was quite quiet, though the ground was so thickly covered with British and German dead that we had to pick our way very carefully….. Taylor, however, bent down, staring into the face of a dead man, and seemed obsessed.  I told him to stop it, or he was likely to go the same way, – we tended to be a bit superstitious.  He was blown to pieces the next day…”

Taylor has to have been: 5738 Private William Taylor Knapton, A Coy, 20th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. Son of Arthur and Lucy Taylor, of 65, Glen Eldon Rd., St. Anne’S-on-Sea, Lancs. He was aged just 21….

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/815324/TAYLOR,%20WILLIAM%20KNAPTON

“We completed our mission and returned to the quarry, where I was peeved to find that pieces of the cave roof had fallen in.  I thought the friend who I shared it with had been meddling with it.  He lay there, covered with his macintosh sheet.  I thought he was asleep and felt like wakening him up with a kick.  I was glad I didn’t, as he was dead.  A shell had been deflected by a tree and had exploded in the cave mouth.  I should have been killed if I hadn’t sent out to contact our outpost.”

The most likely soldier to have been the sleeping man was: PS/7375 Private Frank James Peck, No. 1 Coy. 13th Bn. Royal Fusiliers

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/272148/PECK,%20FRANK%20JAMES

“……The next day….. while it was still quite dark, we attacked High Wood, which was strongly held by the enemy.  After bitter fighting the wood was cleared of the enemy, and those of us that were left took what cover we could in shell holes etc. awaiting a counter-attack.  ….  There was very heavy shelling by the Germans and the British, who obviously thought the German attack had succeeded.  I was in a narrow shell hole with another man, who had a very painful wound, and it took me all my time and effort to stop him getting out onto the surface, which was swept by shell and machine gun fire and German grenades. I administered all my private stock of morphine without effect.  Then I heard terrible screaming from the signalling sergeant who had come out to try to signal back to stop our artillery firing on us.  Close by was a big shell hole lined by about ten of our men.  I got out of cover and wnet across to ask if one of them would help me to get the wounded sergeant under cover.  The answer was, “Sorry old chap, but they’re all dead, except me, and I can’t move from the waste downwards.” I started off to do what I could, but had only gone a few steps when there was a terrific explosion and I was thrown forward onto my face.  My first thought was that I had been cut in two.  Then I realised this couldn’t be so, as I was still alive.  I put my right hand round behind me and my thumb went into a sticky mess.  I thought if I lay there I would die from loss of blood or stiffen out.  So I staggered up, and as I seemed to be the only one alive there, I dragged myself into the next area held by a Scots battallion.  There were only two of them left in that area, and they were getting out.  Before they left I persuaded one of them to pour the contents of a phial of iodine into the wound.  That probably saved my life, as the German grenades were throwing soil over us…. Eventually I came across a group of wounded men.  We were told that all the doctors and ambulance men were casualties and we could either stop there under shellfire or or try to make our own way back.  Everyone got up and moved off quickly, far too quickly for me and I was soon left alone.  A German machine gunner opened up on me and one of his bullets entered my breast pocket cutting a scar across my chest and coming out of the other pocket.  I dropped into a shell hole hoping he would think he had killed me…… I shall never forget High Wood.  Our casualties were nine out of every ten.”

We shall continue with Alfreds story of his wartime service next time…..

 

Deutsche Soldaten: Part 2

Oberfeldwebel (Sergeant Major ) Josef Schwabenburger

2./GR 467 (2nd Battalion 467th Grenadier Regiment).

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Josef was born March 6th 1920 in Linz, Austria.  He was awarded his Knights Cross of the Iron Cross for actions on the 10th of September 1943 whilst serving with the 2./GR 467. He was also awarded the “German Cross in Gold”; for actions on January the 13th 1943.  Both these actions presumably were against the Russian Army, as he is buried in what is now Belarus, as it was then: Krasniza/Vitebsk Oblast, Soviet Union. From what I can gather, in September 1943, the 267 infanterie division; 467 Grenadier Regiment, was involved in heavy fighting around Brjansk, the town was taken from the Red Army in a very bloody series of engagements, and was retaken by the Red army on the 17th September.  Other than this very little is known about Josef other than where he is buried at; Schatkowo (Belarus):

http://www.volksbund.de/kriegsgraeberstaetten.html?fhnr=acb1d18e5448022fe5e3fc784975dca8http://www.volksbund.de/fileadmin/pdf/177559414ac32807f68a0e52cf082007d7ad.pdfhttp://www.ww2awards.com/person/18376

A quick one for those searching for War dead from Britain or Germany in both wars….

Hi,

Found this today while researching the “Deutsche Soldaten” article and figured I would let everyone else know the handy links I have 🙂

For German soldiers:

http://www.volksbund.de/

For British soldiers:

http://www.cwgc.org

These links are really great, and I hope they are helpful for you all.