Leonard George Allen

55491, Private, 10th Battalion, The Welsh Regiment

Killed in Action on the 31st July 1917 aged 21

Private Leonard George Allen

Leonard was born on the 7th November 1895 the son of James & Mary Allen of 73 Walkern Road, Stevenage. After leaving school he worked as a Hairdressers Assistant and later lived at 105 High Street with his wife Constance, whom he had married in June 1917. His younger brother, Walter Cecil Allen, served with the Royal Artillery but did not see service overseas.

Leonard first enlisted in the Army as Private 52794 of the Somerset Light Infantry and after being transferred to the 10th Welsh Regiment was to eventually lose his life on the first day of a major British offensive, The Battle of Passchendaele. The offensive was launched on the 31st July 1917 and continued until the fall of Passchendaele village on 6th 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. 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.

On the 31st July 1917 his Battalion advanced at 03.50am and initially lost direction in the darkness. Despite this initial setback they managed to capture two German trenches. The heavy rain had created indescribable ground conditions and the going was extremely difficult for the troops. In addition, they came under very heavy artillery shelling from the Germans whilst attempting to bring rations up to the men of the Battalion. Further supplies had to be carried forward and at least ten men of the Battalion died under the weight of their load. It is not known at what point Leonard was killed but it was almost certainly under very trying conditions. Leonard is buried in the Welsh Cemetery (Caesars Nose), Boesinghe, Belgium. (1.B.14.)

A Memorial headstone in St Nicholas church is inscribed:

 “He marches away so bravely his young head proudly held. His footsteps never faltered his courage never failed. Then on the field of battle he calmly took his place.  He died for home and Britain and the honour of his race.”

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Thomas Allen

36231, Private, 6th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment. (Formerly 5950 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment)

Killed in Action on the 4th October 1916 aged 23

Private Thomas Allen

Thomas was the son of Joseph & Eliza Allen who lived at 7 Church Lane and was one of ten brothers and sisters. Before enlisting in the Army he worked at the Central Stores in the High Street as a Shop Assistant. At the time of his death, he had two brothers serving in the forces. Jesse, who was in the 3rd Bedfordshire Regiment, and George who was serving in the Royal Navy. His brother, Joseph, went missing on the 25th September 1915 whilst serving with the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in Belgium, and was never seen again. Like many local lads Tom Allen had originally joined the Territorial Army and served with the Hertfordshire Regiment but was later transferred to the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

On the 4th October 1916, as the Battle of the Somme drew to a close, his Battalion was held in reserve at Authuille Wood and consisted almost entirely of men who had recently joined, as the heavy and bitter fighting of the summer battles had cost the Battalion dearly. That morning the Germans attacked the British Trenches near a fortification known as the Schwaben Redoubt, close to the village of Thiepval. It was a fearsome assault with grenades and flamethrowers being heavily employed. Although there was very intense fighting as the British troops battled to regain their positions, which they managed to achieve, the Battalion suffered only two wounded men. Later in the day the area was very heavily shelled by German artillery and a letter from a friend states that Thomas was killed by shellfire whilst on sentry duty. If this is true, then it can be assumed that he was killed after the earlier action of the day. Thomas is buried in the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Somme, France. (3A.F.12.)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Frederick Ansell

2584, Sergeant, 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment

Missing In Action on the 18th May 1915 aged 27

Le Touret Memorial and Cemetery

Frederick was born on the 14th March 1887, the son of William and Emma Ansell, of 41 Alleyns Road, Stevenage. On the 3rd October 1904 Fred, now 17 years-old, gave up his job as a Baker and travelled to London where he joined the Royal Navy, serving in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. He served a number of ships including HMS Attentive, HMS Sapphire and HMS Hogue. The 1911 Census records Fred as being a member of the crew of HMS Juno, moored of off the coast at Margate, Kent. He remained in the service of the Royal Marines until his discharge on the 10th December 1912.

The training provided by the Royal Marines would have made Fred a suitable candidate for the Territorial Army and he soon joined the Hertfordshire Regiment.  He was first posted to France on the 6th November 1914 and served continually on the Western Front until his death.

On the 18th May 1915, No.1 Company of the 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment, supported an attack by the Irish Guards on a farm between Festubert and Richebourg L’Avoue known as Ferme Cour d'Avoué. They had only moved about 200 yards when they were held up by very heavy machine gun and rifle fire from a location known as Adalbert Alley. The battalion had to eventually relieve the Guards because they had suffered heavy losses and it is not known at what stage Frederick lost his life. A comrade wrote and told his parents that Fred's last words were, "a piece of dirt has hit me on the head".

It was reported at the time that he was buried between Richebourg and Festubert. However, his grave was lost due to the heavy fighting in the area and he now has no known grave. His name is recorded on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas De Calais, France. (Panel 47.)

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

James Fredrick Ansell

330303, Private, 15th Sherwood Foresters (Attached to the 105th Trench Mortar Battery).

Missing In Action on the 14th October 1918 aged 36.

Private James Frederick Ansell

James lived at Aston End with his brother, Walter, and Sister-In-Law, Rose. Prior to the Great War he was employed by the Hertfordshire County Council as a Roadman and was responsible for the upkeep of the Aston to Broadwater route.

He joined the Army in 1915 and was posted to France in 1917 as part of a Trench Mortar Battery.  Shortly after the commencement of a German attack on the 14th October 1918 a shell fell close to an ammunition cart that was being pulled by six men, including James. He was hit and mortally wounded and died shortly after.

James has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium. (Panel 99/102.) 

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Charles Anthony

5627, Sergeant, “C” Company, 2nd Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps

Died of Wounds on the 3rd April 1916 aged 29

Sergeant Charles Anthony

Charles was the son of Samuel & Emma Anthony of Back Lane, Stevenage. His mother died on the 7th January 1896 at the age of 41, as a result of giving birth to his younger brother, Frank. As a consequence, both he and Frank, along with their sister, Nellie, went to live with their older brother, Fred, in Alleynes Road, Stevenage.

Charles joined the Kings Royal Rifle Corps on the 23rd November 1903, and is described at the time of his initial enlistment as an 18 year-old man who was 5' 3"tall, with Grey eyes, Dark Brown hair and a number of distinctive tattoos. However, records show that Charles had lied about his age as he was actually only 16 years-old when he enlisted. He served with the Regiment until 1909 when he became a Reservist and immigrated to Canada, where he eventually settled in the town of Riondel. He was, for two years, employed at the Bluebell Mine in Riondel, and was captain of the Riondel football team for the season of 1914.

One of seven brothers to serve in the forces during the First World War of whom one other, Frank, was reported as Missing on the 19th January 1917. Charles was married on the 12th August 1914 in Kaslo, British Columbia, Canada, to Lucy Maria Gomsford and returned to England on the 8th September 1914. He re-joined his Regiment and was posted to France on the 2nd November 1914.

In a letter to a friend in Riondel dated 31st October 1915, Charles describes his involvement in the Battle of Loos;

 “I know you must have read of the great advance made by the French and us on Sept. 25. I want to tell you about the great battle as I went through it all up to Oct. 13. The Germans on all parts of their line were very strongly entrenched and their positions fortified, having held them for 10 months. We had the usual four days’ bombardment, with artillery of all calibres, and on the morning of Sept. 25 all were eagerly awaiting for the order to advance. At 6 o’clock in the morning the order came through and the way the boys climbed the parapets and advanced to what seemed certain death was something to talk of. Thinking over the thing now, when I am here billeted and away from the sound of the guns, I wonder how it was that the Germans gave way to us, and yet while I still wonder, I know. It was the determination of our men who were out to win no matter what the cost. I have since heard that my battalion, the 2nd K.R.R.’s, was the first to move in the big advance. We had about 600 yards to go before we came to the enemy’s barbed wire. Of this they had three lines. First a trip wire and two lines eight yards in depth and 15 yards apart. Our boys actually swung their rifles on their shoulders as if setting out on a route march and our officers well to the front heading their companies. Such spirit as this must surely win the war. All went well with us until we came to their first line of entanglement wire, which was only slightly damaged by our artillery, and it was while we were trying to force our way through this that the enemy discovered our move and opened a rapid fire with rifles, machine guns and hand grenades by the hundred. On right and left of us, of course, other battalions were advancing, but we did not know how they were faring. One does not know much about the other fellow in a big thing like this. The Germans were pouring a most terrible fire on us and we had the order to retire. We came back to where we started from had a rally and advanced again. We got up to the entanglement but could not make it under such a hail of bullets, and had to retire again. Once more, we rallied and advanced. By this time we were very much weakened, our losses were very heavy and we had again to retire, but at the fourth time up we managed to dislodge them, and after many hours of facing death and having trying times we captured their first and second lines of trenches and about 800 prisoners. Both our flanks had advanced and gained ground, capturing many prisoners. We formed up after this and skirmished across open country, taking up all the enemy’s positions, 3000 yards in depth on a five-mile front. This was the greatest victory for the allies since the war began. You can guess our losses were heavy after under a murderous fire for 10 hours. My battalion alone lost 650 rank and file and many officers. I think we lost more men than any other individual regiment, but all lost heavily. The price was dear, but we gained our objective. I had done some big fighting before this big move, being in the thickest of the scrap when the Kaiser was on his way to Calais (I don’t think), but this beat anything I had been in previously and I could go on indefinitely almost telling you of the days between Sept. 25 and Oct. 13. I am at present billeted here about 17 miles from the “Bocks” and we are having quite a good time. I have had two games of football since I came here. We won one and drew another. I was pleased to hear you again had a football team at Bluebell, and look forward to your next letter telling me of the game with Nelson. Both teams will have quite a different personnel to what they had when I was one of the boys.  I do look forward eagerly to the time when the war is over and I am back again among the old bunch. I have not seen anyone I knew in the pre-war days, although I have been trying ever since the Canadians came here. Give my kind regards to all the old bunch who may be back at Bluebell, also any of the Nelson and Trail boys whom you may run across. ”

On the 3rd April 1916 the Battalion were positioned at Les Brebis, about one mile south of Mazingarbe. At 7.17pm a mine was detonated in the Hulluch Sector and British transport began to move along the Loos Road. This resulted in German artillery fire being brought down in the area where the Battalion were situated and the Unit War Diary records one man being killed and three wounded. One of the wounded was Sergeant Charles Anthony who later died of his injuries. At the time of his death his wife, Lucy Maria Anthony, was living at Deans Haven, Riondel, British Columbia, and the following articles were returned to her; Knife, whistle, wallet, photo cards, identity disc, comb, gold ring, watch, & pouch.

He is buried in the Noeux-Les-Mines Communal Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France. (Grave Reference: I.T.1)

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

Frank Anthony

4740, Corporal, 12th Battalion, Rifle Brigade

Missing In Action on the 19th January 1917 aged 21

Corporal Frank Anthony

Frank was the son of Samuel & Emma Anthony of Back Lane, Stevenage. His mother died on the 7th January 1896, at the age of 41, as a result of giving birth to him. As a consequence, both he, his brother, Charles, and their sister, Nellie, went to live with their older brother, Fred, in Alleynes Road, Stevenage. He was one of seven brothers to serve in the forces during the First World War of whom one other, Charles, was died of wounds on the 3rd April 1916 whilst serving with the Kings Royal Rifle Corps in France.

Frank was posted to France on the 23rd November 1914 and served on the front line for over two years. Sadly, had he been posted to France a day earlier he would have been entitled to the 1914 Star but the cut-off date was the 22nd November 1914 so, unlike his brother, Frank received the 1915 Star.

On the 19th January 1917 his Battalion were in the front line at the village of Bouleau. They suffered from heavy shelling by German artillery as well as a number of British shells that had dropped short of their target. One of the British shells struck a dugout where Frank was sheltering and he was killed. A letter from his Company Commander stated, “I was much struck with his capabilities and his keenness on his work. A cross was put up at the spot where was killed the following evening by his Platoon Sergeant”.

Frank’s body was never recovered and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France. (Pier/Face 16B.)

Medal Entitlement: 1915 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal

George William Arbon

36306, Private, 10th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment. (Formerly 10816 Royal Welsh Fusiliers)

Missing In Action on the 24th March 1918 aged 26

The Arras Memorial

William lived at Primrose Hill, Stevenage. He enlisted in the Army in September 1911 at the age of 19 years and 2 months. Initially, he served in the 2nd Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers but was transferred to the Army Cyclist Corps as Private 1278 on the 8th January 1915.

He was admitted to hospital on the 26th August 1915 suffering with Diphtheria and whilst at No.7 General Hospital he contracted German Measles. Eventually, on the 2nd October 1915 he was shipped home on the S.S.Anglia to make a recovery in the UK. It was to be over a year before he was fit and well enough to return to duty and on the 23rd November 1916 William was transferred to the East Yorkshire Regiment. On the 11th December he was posted back to France and after arriving at No.37 Base Depot he was attached to the 10th Battalion, eventually joining them on the 17th December 1916.

William served with the Battalion throughout 1917 and the early part or 1918. On the 24th March 1918 the Battalion were located near the village of Ervillers. He was seen by his comrades to be hit by enemy fire but they were unable to maintain contact with him and his body was never recovered.

William has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Arras Memorial, Pas De Calais, France. (Bay 4.)

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

 

Frederick Edward Ashwood

102678, Airman 2nd Class, Royal Air Force

Died on the 26th November 1918 aged 17

The grave of AM2 Frederick Ashwood

Frederick was the only son of Thomas & Eliza Ashwood of 2 Stanmore Road. His father was a well-known Special Constable in the town. Frederick was employed, before joining the Royal Air Force, as an under groom to Professor Newel of Madeley, Cambridge and joined the Royal Flying Corps on the 7th November 1917. Official records show that his civilian occupation was described as Poultry Rearer.

He died from the effects of Influenza at Sandridge Hospital, near St. Albans, whilst still undergoing his training. As Frederick had not served overseas he was not entitled to any of the Great War campaign medals.

His grave can be found in the St.Nicholas Churchyard, Stevenage.

David Austin

34506, Sapper, 136th Army Troop Company, Royal Engineers

Died of Wounds on the 4th January 1916 aged 22

Sapper David Austin

David was born on the 20th April 1893, the son of Samuel & Elizabeth Austin of 10 Alleynes Road, Stevenage. He was employed in the family business of Austin & Son, Builders & Carpenters, for seven years before joining the Army and was a popular member of the Holy Trinity church choir. His younger brother, Thomas, was killed in action on the 8th September 1918 whilst serving in France with 9th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers.

David arrived on the Gallipolli front on the 24th November 1915 and only served on the peninsula for a number of weeks. It is not known how he was wounded but he died on the Hospital Ship, "Assaye" and his body was buried at sea.

David has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.(Panel 23/25.)

Medal Entitlement: 1915 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal

Thomas Stephenson Austin

GS/75261, Private, 9th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.  (Formerly 10/1869 21st Training Battalion. Royal Fusiliers)

Killed In Action on the 8th September 1918 aged 19

Private Thomas Stephenson Austin

Thomas was born on the 25th January 1899, the second son of Samuel & Elizabeth Austin of 10 Alleynes Road, Stevenage. Before joining the Army he was employed in the family business of Austin & Son, Builders & Carpenters. His elder brother, David, died of his wounds whilst serving in Gallipoli.

Thomas did not enter in service with the Army until 1918, arriving in France on the 18th February 1918 with the 17th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He received a wound to his legs on the 21st March 1918 and was evacuated to Warrington Hospital for treatment. After recovering from his wounds he returned to France on the 8th August 1918 and was attached to the 9th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. The Battalion was in action in a successful attack on Nurlu and pursued the enemy back to Sorel Wood. They were in action during the battles of the Hindenburg Line, including The Battle of Epehy. The dawn assault on the enemy trenches was made in the pouring rain and Thomas is reported to have been killed by machine gun fire after assisting in the taking of the last trench.

He is buried in the Epehy Wood Farm British Cemetery.

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal