John Kirby

G/3038, Private, 8th Battalion, East Kent Regiment.

Killed in Action on the 4th July 1916 aged 35.

The grave of Private John Kirby at Pond Farm Cemetery, Belgium.

John was the son of William & Mary Kirby, of Alleyns Road, Stevenage. His father was a Railway Signalman and his mother ran a local laundry. Before joining the Army John had worked as a Labourer and Carpenter but by 1911 was a Fruiterer by trade

He had been serving as a Battalion Drummer in France since 7th October 1915.  On the 4th July 1916 the Battalion were located at Cookers Farm near Ypres. A party of men were sent out on a reconnaissance patrol, led by Lieutenant Hall. The patrol was spotted by German sentries and attacked with Grenades. Two members of the patrol were killed in the attack, one of whom was John Kirby.

He is buried in the Pond Farm Cemetery, Heuvelland, Belgium. (Grave.A.20.)

Medal Entitlement: 1914/15 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal.

Leslie Frederick Laving

233304, Captain, 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles.

Died 19th September 1944 aged 31.

Leslie was the son of John & Ellen Laving and the husband of Janet Laving. (April –June 1941)

On the 19th September 1944 the Battalion were at Kolis where they involved in an assault crossing of the Escaut Canal. Leslie was second in command of “C” Company HQ. Initially, there had been some confusion over the arrival of boats for the assault, due mainly to the fact that they arrived in total darkness. Additionally, the Battalion had only been given a few hours notice about the attack and it was not possible to make full preparations, including a full recconisance of the area.

The assault got underway and, initially, seemed to have caught the emeny by surprise as there was little resistance. Soon, however, the German defenders began to put up a strong fight and it was during this action that Leslie Laving was killed.

He is buried in the Leopoldsburg War Cemetery, Belgium. (4.D.1.)  

Ralph William Lines

4981059, Corporal, 14th Battalion, Notts & Derbys Regiment (Sherwood Foresters).

Missing In Action on the 17th March 1944.

Ralph was a pupil at Alleynes grammar school, which he left early to help run his fathers ironmongers business in the High Street. The store had to be temporarily closed in 1940 when Ralph joined the army. He was one of four brothers in the services and he served in both the Middle East and Italy.

Many of his letters home reflected the discomforts a soldier suffered whilst serving in hostile conditions but they never failed to show how extremely proud he was of his Regiment.

On the 17th March 1944 Ralph was leading a patrol against German positions located in a “wadi” in Italy. Previous heavy artillery fire had not affected the German troops who were entrenched on the reverse slope of the wadi. The patrol was held up by small arms fire from the enemy positions and was eventually forced to pull back with four men wounded and two missing. It is believed that Ralph was wounded and left behind along with a comrade. Although it is not known with any certainty what happened to him it is believed he was killed by enemy troops.

He has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Cassino Memorial, Italy. (Panel 8.) 

William Oscar Littlewood

STK/1045, Private, “D” Company. 10th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers

Missing in Action on the 15th July 1916 aged 21.

Thiepval Memorial, Somme.

William was born in Hadley Wood, Hertfordshire, the son of Edward William & Priscilla Mary Littlewood. The family later moved to a house named Hadleycote in Stevenage, and William was sent to St Lawrence College, Ramsgate, to further his education.

William arrived in France with his Battalion on the 31st July 1915. He served for almost a year on the Western Front.

The Battalion were given orders to support an attack on the village of Pozieres and at 9am on the 15th July 1916 they set off from an area known as Sausage Valley. Prior to their assault there had been a very heavy artillery bombardment in an effort to clear the area of German troops. However, the Germans were very well dug in to their positions and the barrage had little effect on them. As the British troops approached they were met with very heavy machine gun fire and, despite some gallant efforts, they were eventually forced to call off their initial attack.

A Battalion HQ had been set up in a chalk pit on the road between Baliff Wood and Pozieries and it was here that the British commanders decided to attempt a further assault on the village. Initially, there would be a heavy artillery barrage to “soften up” the German defences then a rocket would be fired to signal the infantry assault. At 5pm the artillery barrage rained down on the tiny village causing complete devastation. However, the German troops again survived the assault in their fortified positions and were soon in place once the barrage had lifted. Unfortunately, the rocket flares had become damp and would not ignite and subsequently some of the British troops moved off whilst others remained in place, still awaiting the signal. This delay resulted in the attack becoming disjointed and the Germans brought devastating machine gun fire to bear on the assaulting troops, resulting in very heavy casualties. The attack failed and the men of the Battalion began to drift back to a position at Tara Usna hill but it was not until 2am on the 16th July that the last men reached this point.

William has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France. (Pier/Face 8C.)

Medal Entitlement: 1914/15 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal.

William Henry Arthur Lloyd

31869, Private, 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment

Died Of Wounds on the 16th November 1918 aged 21.

Private William Henry Arthur Lloyd

An only son, William lived at 136 High Street, Stevenage. After being initially rejected  for military service he was finally accepted as the need for men became more pressing.

He was wounded on the 10th April 1917 and spent six weeks in a French hospital. He was then transferred to a London Hospital where he spent 13 months and finally was transferred to a hospital in Cambridge where he spent a further five months. During his nineteen months of hospitalisation he underwent many operations and finally contracted Flu from the effects of which he eventually died.

He is buried in St.Nicholas churchyard, Stevenage.

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Sidney Henry Lowry

Captain, No.2 Company. 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment.

Captain Sidney Henry Lowry MC

Sidney Lowry was born in Stevenage on the 8th June 1888, the son of Henry Lowry. He was educated at Cambridge University and served in the Charterhouse Officer Training Corps as Private 946. On leaving university he commenced a career on the London Stock Exchange until the 5th August 1914 when Sidney joined the Territorial Army and prepared to do his duty as an officer and a gentleman, being commissioned on the 1st October 1914. He was posted to France on the 30th January 1915.

On the 4th June 1917, just four days before his 29th birthday Sidney was awarded the Military Cross.

On the 31st July 1917 the Battalion were in support of an attack on the Langemarck Line and at 03.45am the planned assault began, with Sidney in command of No.2 Company. It had three objectives to achieve known as Blue, Black & Green and units of the 116th Brigade easily captured the first two objectives, preparing the way for the forward companies of the Hertfordshire battalion, to take the third objective. At 05.00am they left their assembly positions to attack their objective, which lay over the crest of a ridge. As they made their way forward they came under heavy fire from both German machine guns and snipers but after eliminating a German strongpoint moved up towards St.Julian, which was only lightly held. The battalion crossed the Steenbeek with some difficulty and two of its supporting Tanks became bogged down in the mud.

Things then went from bad to worse. A pre-arranged artillery barrage never materialised due to the guns being unable to move forward over the muddy terrain and the German barbed wire defences, which were fifteen feet deep in some places, were found to still be intact. It was soon realised that ground could only be won by section " rushes" supported by the unit’s own fire. The Cheshire Regiment were on the right of the battalion but the Black Watch, who were due to cover the left flank, had been seriously delayed. This left the Hertfordshire’s seriously exposed and the Germans exploited this by bringing a hurricane of fire down upon the stricken troops. This was followed by a German counter-attack and by 10.30 am it was clear that the objective could not be achieved. Casualties were very heavy with 459 men being killed, missing or wounded.

Sidney’s body was never recovered and, as he has no known grave, his name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial ,Ypres, Belgium.

Medal Entitlement: Military Cross, 1914/15 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal

Sidney George Madgin

L/2214, Trooper, 9th Lancers.

Died Of Wounds on the 24th May 1915 aged 25.

Trooper Sidney George Madgin

Sidney was posted to France on the 3rd May 1915 and arrived at Wallon Capel, deep in the heart of the Ypres Salient, two days later. He was destined to become an immediate casualty of the war.

On the 24th May the Battalion were holding trenches in the area of Hooge. At 3am the Germans unleashed a Poison Gas attack on the British positions along the Menin Road which lasted for about an hour. German infantry then attacked the positions but, with the aid of reinforcements, this assault was eventually driven off. However, the Battalion had lost 1 Officer and 16 Other Ranks to the dreadful effects of gas poisoning, amongst these was Sidney Madgin, who held on to life for several hours before succumbing to one of the worst horrors of warfare on the Western Front.

He is buried at Hazebrouck Military Cemetery, France. (2.B.12.)

Medal Entitlement: 1914/15 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal.

Francis Arthur Males

54436, Private, 2/5th Battalion. Manchester Regiment.

Died on the 23rd June 1919 aged 20.

Private Francis Arthur Males.
(Photo Courtesy Of Stevenage Museum)

Francis was the son of Frederick & Emily Males of 50 Basils Road, Stevenage. The Battalion landed in France in February 1917 and he was taken prisoner by the Germans on the 23rd March 1918, during their Spring Offensive.

Although he survived the rigours of captivity he died on 23rd June 1919 as a result of his treatment whilst a prisoner.

Francis is buried in the St.Nicholas Churchyard, Stevenage.

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

(Photo Courtesy Of Stevenage Museum)