Harry Gordon Garrod

265126, Sergeant, 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment.

Missing In Action on the 31st July 1917 aged 23.

Sergeant Harry Garrod

Harry was born in Halstead, Suffolk, the son of Jethro & Sarah Garrod. The family later moved to Southsea Road, Stevenage, where both father and his sons worked in the Educational Supplies Association factory.

He initially served in the Hertfordshire Regiment as Private 1773, and arrived in France on the 6th November 1914. He served continuously with his Regiment and was to lose his life on the first day of a major British offensive, The Third Battle of Ypres, more commonly referred to as the Battle of  Passchendaele. The offensive was launched on 31 July 1917 and continued until the fall of Passchendaele village on 6 November.  Although it resulted in gains for the Allies it was by no means the breakthrough General Haig intended, and such gains as were made came at great cost in human terms.

The village of St. Juliaan lies on the Steenbeek, one of the small streams that drains the fields in this area. On the 18th July 1917 a heavy preliminary artillery bombardment began which lasted for the ten days prior to the launch of the attack. The bombardment was made by 3,000 guns which expended four and a quarter million shells into the surrounding ground.  Given such an onslaught the German Fourth Army fully expected the attack and the element of surprise was entirely lost. Added to this was the fact that the area was suffering the heaviest rains it had seen for 30 years and this, combined with the shelling, turned the ground into a hellish morass.

The Battalion were in support of an attack on the Langemarck Line and at 03.45am the planned assault began. 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 first two objectives, which they took successfully.

The men of the Battalion then ate breakfast and at 10.00am were ordered to attack their final 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 was now in 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. In addition, 100% of the Officers had become casualties and the Battalion was now being led by NCO's, including Sergeant Harry Garrod.

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, and the remnants of the Battalion withdrew to their previous positions.. Casualties were very heavy with 459 men being killed, missing or wounded.

Harry as no known grave and his name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium.

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

Walter Gates

122721, Driver, 66th Divisional Ammunition Column, Royal Field Artillery.

Died on the 8th October 1918 aged 21.

Walter was the youngest son of James & Eliza Gates of Park Farm, Aston. He had been married to Elsie Bryant for two years at the time of his death and the couple lived at 52 Alleynes Road, Stevenage. He had formerly been employed as a gardener at Shephall Bury gardens.

Walter died of pneumonia at a French hospital on 8th October 1918, possibly as a result of contracting influenza. His name is recorded on both the Stevenage and Aston War Memorials.

He is buried in the Doingt Communal Cemetery Extension, France. (3.A.25.) 

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal.

George Henry Gaylor GM

166510, Lieutenant, 11th Bomb Disposal Company. Royal Engineers.

Killed on the 7th August 1946 aged 30.

Lieutenant George Henry Gayler GM

George was born in Stevenage and educated at the Letchmore Road School. After leaving school he was employed at ESA in Stevenage for four years in the firms paint-dipping workshop. When he reached 18 years of age he decided to join the Army and entered his fathers old corps, the Royal Engineers. George served in Malta for four years and left the Army just before the outbreak of war. As a reserve he was re-called to the service when the war began and again served with the Royal Engineers.

He was employed on bomb disposal work and was eventually commissioned as a Lieutenant. It appears that he also helped to train saboteurs and covert operatives at the Commando training school at Tatlers Farm near Stevenage. George then married a girl named Ruth and they had two children, Anthony & Janet.  He was awarded the George Medal for Bomb Disposal underwater in the wreckage of the Railway Bridge across the Albert Canal at Hasselt, Belgium between the 6th-8th November 1944. He acted as the company diver and the official citation reads as follows;

London Gazette 29.4.1945 Lieutenant George Henry Gaylor, Corps of Royal Engineers (166510) 
'For conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner.'

'On the 6th November, 1944, at Hasselt, reconstruction of the demolished railway bridge was stopped owing to the presence of an unexploded bomb under 30 ft. of water in the Albert Canal. Lieutenant Gaylor went down and located the bomb half buried in the mud underneath torn railway lines, steel girders and wreckage. To do so he had to squeeze himself between damaged girders at the risk of tearing his diving suit or fouling the air or lifeline and so being trapped. In spite of Nil visibility he identified the tail fuze by touch, found it was in a dangerous condition, and since technical equipment could not be used water, he unscrewed the fuze by hand. Due to mud and the damaged condition of the nose, Lieutenant Gaylor was unable to ascertain whether the bomb had a nose fuze, but, acting on the assumption that it had, he again went down and guided the bomb through the wreckage, inch by inch, as it was hauled out, knowing that any movement of the bomb might set if off. Lieutenant Gaylor's brave conduct enabled work to be resumed on the vital railway and canal communications.'

Corporal John Christie Fordyce.

After the war had ended George remained in the Army and was employed on the dangerous work of clearing British mines and bombs from the coastline. On the 7th August 1946 he was off duty when some mines were detected at Rattery Head, a beach north of Aberdeen. He volunteered to go out to the site with two young recruits, Corporal John Christie Fordyce, a 24 year-old Scotsman who had only been married for  13 days, and Sapper Albert Hurley, a 19 year-old Cornishman, who had only been with the company for three weeks. During the process of defusing the mines one of them exploded and killed all three members of the team.

His body was transferred to London and he lays buried in the Abney Park cemetery, Stoke Newington, London.

George Gray

265923, Sergeant, 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment.

Missing in Action on the 30th March 1918 aged 26.

Sergeant George Gray

George was the son of Harry & Ann Gray of Hellards Road, Stevenage.

He initially served as Private 3265 and was posted to France on the 21st January 1915 where served continually with the Battalion and took part in the Battles of Festubert and Loos.

On the 21st March 1918 the Germans began a major offensive against the British Armies in the Somme sector, the attack fell on the British line between Arras and St.Quentin. The Hertfordshire Regiment were being held in reserve near Gurlu Wood. The Battalion moved forward to positions near Villers Faucon to support the troops of the 16th Division who were retreating under the ferocity of the enemy attack. There was much confused fighting during the retreat and many casualties were suffered.

By the 27th March the Brigades of the 39th Division had lost contact with their Headquarters, which was practically surrounded. Casualties had continued to mount and by this time there were just four officers remaining to command the troops. On the morning of the 28th March the 39th Division began to withdraw but found that German troops were in their line of retreat. The 166th Brigade, including the remnants of the 1st Hertfordshire Battalion, attacked the village of Wiencourt in an effort to force their way through. The men advanced with great determination but the assault soon fizzled out due to the sheer lack of troops and no proper supporting fire from artillery. By the evening the men of the Battalion, reported to still be in good spirits, had reached a position near the River Luce. The withdrawal continued throughout the 29th with the Battalion assembling in a wood about a mile north-west of Aubercourt. The following day the confused fighting continued resulting in further casualties, including George Gray. The men of the 1st Hertfordshire’s had withdrawn a distance of 30 miles, as the crow flies. They had marched many more than this and had been fighting almost continuously all the way.

George has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France.

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

William Rudge Green

358084, Gunner, 62nd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery (TF).

Died Of Wounds on the 14th October 1917 aged 36.

Grave of Gunner William Rudge Green at Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium.

William was the son of George & Emma Green of 17 North Road.

He died on the 14th October 1917 from the effects of Gas Poisoning and is buried in the Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium. (9.I.6.)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Harry Hastings Grigg

Captain, 1/3rd Battalion. Gurkha Rifles. Attached to 2/3rd Gurkha Rifles.

Killed In Action on the 16th May 1915 aged 35.

Captain Harry Hastings Grigg

Harry was born in Sutspur, India, on the 29th October 1880 the son of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Evans Grigg and his wife Josephine. He was educated at Bedford Grammar School.

His father was a professional soldier and Harry quickly followed in his footsteps. He was first commissioned on the 29th January 1902 and was transferred to the Indian Army in December 1905 and had attained the rank of Captain by 29th January 1911.

He was killed during the Battle of Neuve Chappelle on the 16th May 1915.

After being mentioned in Sir John French's despatch on the 31st May 1915 it is believed that Harry had been recommended for a Military Cross, but the award was never confirmed.

Harry is buried in St.Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L'Avoue, France.

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

George Haggar

19448, Private, 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.

Missing In Action on the 27th July 1916 aged 20.

Private George Haggar

George was the son of Charles & Hannah Haggar of Wallington, Baldock.

He was posted to France on the 3rd November 1915 and was killed in the attack on Longueval during the Battle of the Somme. The battalion suffered heavy casualties from gas shelling during the advance to the forward positions and again at the assembly line. There was considerable action in the area and a German artillery barrage brought down a “hurricane” of fire on the men of “B” & “D” Companies, who each lost over 50% of their men.

George has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Theipval Memorial, France. (Pier/Face 2C.)

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

Cecil Gordon Hawkes

42544, Private, 11th Battalion. Essex Regiment.

Killed In Action on the 21st April 1918 aged 22.

Private Cecil Hawkes

Cecil was born on the 9th February 1896, the son of George & Rosanna Hawkes of 15 Homlesdale Terrace, Stevenage.

He was performing one of the most dangerous front line tasks, that of company runner. This involved the carrying of messages to and from forward positions, often across open ground, in order to keep commanders updated on the current state of any action.

His Battalion were in position at Zillebeke Lake in the Ypres sector, which was part of the Dolls House line. The Germans attacked the sector with a barrage of gas shells which resulted in 10 casualties, one of whom died. This was Cecil Hawkes.

He is buried in the Ramparts Cemetery, Lille Gate, Ypres, Belgium.

Headstone Inscription: "Gone But Not Forgotten"

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal.

 

 

The grave of Private Cecil Gordon Hawkes in the Ramparts Cemetery, Lille Gate, Ypres, Belgium.

 

Edward Victor Hemmings

14804334, Private, 2nd Battalion, Ox & Bucks Light Infantry (Airborne).

Killed on the 1st May 1945 aged 18.

Edward was the son of Albert & Bertha Hemmings of 29 Whitesmead Road. After leaving school he was employed at G W Kings in the town. On the 20th July 1944 he joined the army and was initially in the Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment but later transferred to the 2 Ox & Bucks Light Infantry, part of the Airborne forces. It was not until February 1945 that Edward was posted overseas with the Battalion and was involved in the allied advance into Germany.

On the day of his death the Unit War Diary records that the Battalion was located in the area around Norstorf in Germany and spent most of the day rounding up Prisoners Of War from the farms and woods in the locality. There appears to be no official record of Edward’s death and, initially, it appears that the circumstances were unknown. Unofficial reports, however, claim that whilst examining captured enemy arms he accidentally shot himself with a Luger pistol.

Edward is buried in the British War Cemetery in Berlin. (10.J.7)

Robert Hemmings

5223, Private, 59th Company, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry). (Formerly 22307 Bedfordshire Regiment)

Died Of Wounds on the 7th July 1916 aged 24.

Robert was the son of Charles & Mary Hemmings and the husband of Clara Hemmings (nee Carpenter). He lived with his wife and two children in Mulberry Cottage, Knebworth. After he was seriously wounded his wife visited him in hospital in Bolougne. He was later transferred to a hospital in Leicester where he died from the effects of his wounds.

Robert is buried in the Welford Road Cemetery, Leicester. (O1.290.)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal