How I fi­nally learned the fate

Black Country Bugle - - YOUR LETTERS - By PETER CHILTON

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.

Archives

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

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