How I finally learned the fate
IN March 2017 the Bugle featured an article based on information that I had gathered regarding my great uncle’s service and death in World War I.
Two of his pals from the No.1 Gun Crew were also killed in the same incident on June 16, 1915, and I decided to try and find out a little about them also. They were all members of the 111th Battery, Royal Field Artillery.
I was fortunate to obtain a copy of the War Diary of the 24th Brigade of the British Army, of which the 111th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, in which they served, was a part.
It went into some detail about events on the morning that they were killed. My great uncle Bill (William Frederick Edwards) was the sergeant in charge of what the diary refers to as “number 1 gun.” While providing artillery support for an infantry attack on Bellewarde Farm, near Ypres in Belgium, his gun received a direct hit by a 5.9” shell, killing Bill and gun crew member Gunner Green. Acting Bombardier Woods was to die of his wounds the next day.
Gunner Birch was wounded but may have survived the war as I haven’t been able to find any record of him. Bill was from Blackheath near Rowley Regis, could the other men also have been Black Country men?
A little delving into the records on several websites soon revealed that Green was a Wolverhampton man and was recorded on the Find My Past website as Frederick William, Service No. 75745 of Wolverhampton, killed in action 16th June 1915. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission confirmed that he was with the 111th Battery.
I visited Wolverhampton Archives and found that Green and a Bombardier Wood S. RFA. were recorded in the publication “Borough of Wolverhampton - The Great War 1914-1918 - Roll of Remembrance.”
While at the archives I looked through copies of the Express & Star from that period and in a copy dated June 21, 1915, was an article relating to Frederick Green, almost identical to the one which had been printed regarding my great uncle in the County Express. It also carried a photo of Fred Green, and contained a report by his Commanding Officer, a Major Worthall.
The piece reports that Gunner F. W. Green was 20 years of age and lived at 37 Francis Street Wolverhampton. Before joining up in February 1914 he had been employed at Norton’s Mill. A look at the 1911 census shows Fred as a 16 year old boy, living with his parents Albert and Annie, and his siblings Jessie, Ernest, Sidney and Kathleen at 110 Oak Street, Wolverhampton.
He was an errand boy for a fruiterer and his father was a millwright at a flour mill.(possibly Norton’s Mill?) The report went on to say that he and his sergeant (my great uncle) had the “honour of being the first men of their battery to lay down their lives for their country,” and that both men had been buried alongside each other, their graves being suitably marked and recorded.
I have a letter which was sent to my great uncle’s parents from the Royal Field Artillery stating that he had been buried in the “cemetery at Vlamertinghe.” However, the records must have been lost as neither Fred Green or my great uncle have marked graves there now, and both are commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial. But the story doesn’t end there. Finding out about Woods was to prove a challenge and lead to the discovery of a 100 year old error in the military records.
Acting Bdr Woods was recorded in the War Diary as “Died of wounds 16th June 1915.” Hoping to find out more about him I searched the CWGC website, and their records revealed that a Wood S, service No. 58647 of the 111th Battery, had died on the 16th May 1915, and had been buried at the Vlamertinghe cemetery! But that was a month earlier than the Woods in the War Diary. Perhaps it was a different soldier?
Looking back through the diary to May 16 didn’t show a great deal of activity on that day, and no casualties recorded! Could the date have been
The official record of Samuel Wood’s death
Press report of the death of Fred Green
Grave of an unknown solider at Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery
Green F. W., as recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial