Arthur James Avis

G/14397, Private, 7th East Kent Regiment.

Killed In Action on the 17th December 1918 aged 18.

Arthur was the son of Alfred & Alice Avis of Coles Green, Benington.

On the 17th December 1918, a month after the armistice, the Battalion were located in the village of Malicourt. Arthur was a member of a working party involved in salvage work around the village, recovering munitions. One of the members of the working party dropped a 3” German Minenwerfer which exploded and instantly killed seven men and wounded a further twenty-five. Later that day, six of these wounded men died from their injuries.  The funerals of those who died took place at 2.15pm on the 18th December.

Arthur is buried in the Honnechy British Cemetery, France. (1. B. 4.)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Richard Avis

2560483, Trooper, 11th Battalion, The Hussars.

Died 5th November 1939 aged 32.

The grave of Trooper Richard Avis in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.

Richard was born on the 5th November 1907, the son of George William & Helen Avis.  He was the husband of Olive Avis.

A professional soldier, he enlisted in the Royal Tank Corps on the 14th February 1927 and had served his entire military career with the 11th Hussars. In 1928, the 11th Hussars became one of the first British cavalry units to mechanise. The regiment then deployed to Egypt and Palestine for much of the 1930's, manning the border with Italian Cyrenaica during the Abyssinian crisis and suppressing the Arab Revolt.

Richard died on his 32nd birthday whilst his Regiment was serving in Egypt.

He is buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt. (H.7.)

Headstone Inscription: “In Loving Memory Of A Dear Husband And Father. Brief Life Is Here Our Portion”

George William Barker

33005, Private, 6th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment

Died on the 27th November 1918 aged 23

Private George William Barker

George was the eldest son of George & Susan Barker who lived at 46 Haycroft Road. Before joining the Army he was employed as a Hairdresser by John Findley in Albert Street, Stevenage.

After being attested in December 1915, George joined up on 5th February 1916. Initially he served in the Bedfordshire Regiment but was later transferred to the Leicestershire Regiment. He was posted to France in 1917 and, after serving continuously at the front, took his first leave in January 1918. Following his return to his unit he was wounded in the wrist by a bullet and did not go back to the front line until the 9th November, just two days before the armistice. He became ill on his way, having contracted influenza. This soon developed into Pneumonia and, with no medication available at the time to fight the disease, he subsequently died.

He is buried in the Premont British Cemetery, France. (3.E.20.)

Headstone Inscription: "Blessed Are The Dead Who Die In The Lord"

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal.

William Henry Barker

235129, Private, 25th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers. (Formerly 4992 Hertfordshire Regiment )

Died on the 28th April 1917 aged 27

Private William Henry Barker

William was born in Finsbury Park, London and was the Nephew of Ann Deamer of Little Wymondley, Hertfordshire. He is known to have lived at 3 Church Lane, Stevenage, and before joining the Army was employed by Ben Moules of Redcoats Farm, and was a well-known chorister at the Little Wymondley church.

He was initially enlisted, like many men, into the Bedfordshire Regiment with the Service Number 7216, but was later transferred to the Hertfordshire Regiment where his Service Number changed to 7536. Whilst serving with this unit he was wounded in the leg. On making a recovery he re-joined the Hertfordshire’s but was transferred again, this time to the Northumberland Fusiliers, where he served with several Battalions of the Regiment. Eventually, he was posted to the 25th Battalion, known as the "Tyneside Irish".

On the 28th April 1917 the Battalion were positioned near Fampoux. The battalion were ordered to attack German positions in the area and at 4.25am the assault began. However, as the men advanced they were subjected to devastating machine gun and artillery fire and the assault ground to a halt. At 11.00am the German troops counter-attacked and the battalion were unable to attain their objective. The Commanding Officer blamed the loss of the British objective on poorly trained drafts recently received from England.

William is believed to be buried in the London Cemetery, Neuville-Vitasse, France, and his name is recorded on a screen wall referenced as Wancourt Road Cemetery. No.2 Memorial. Panel 1.. The panels bear the names of casualties whose unidentified graves lay in the cemetery having been re-buried there after their original graves were destroyed by shell fire.

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Eric Gordon Barwick

5990020, Lance Corporal, 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment.

Killed In Action on the 25th August 1944 aged 24.

The grave of Lance Corporal Eric Gordon Barwick in the Florence War Cemetery, Italy.

Eric was born at Rooks Nest cottages, Walkern, the son of William & Alice Barwick. He was later employed at Rooks Nest farm. He joined the Territorial Army in 1938 and was well known locally as both a church chorister and as keen member of the Boy Scout movement. Eric married Elizabeth Johnston at the beginning of 1940.

His Battalion were serving in Italy and Eric was part of No.2 Company which was sent forward to try and occupy the castle of Vincigliato, where the Germans had positioned themselves. Orders were issued that there was to be no battalion attack or reinforcements and if the castle was too strongly held the Company was to return to its former positions. They left at first light and arrived in the area of the castle at 08.00 am. As they approached the front of the castle it was found that the Germans had prepared for a assault by placing heavy machine guns in the moat and walls of the castle.

The Company began to reconnoitre the castle but this drew fire from the occupying Germans and it was soon determined that both Artillery and Royal Engineer assistance would be needed as the castle was too strongly held. Orders were given for the Company to withdraw but as they did so they were hit by a barrage of mortar fire which resulted in several casualties, including Eric Barwick.

At the time of his death he had a 14 month old daughter, Valerie, who he had never seen.

Eric is buried in Florence War Cemetery, Italy. (5.A.10)

Headstone Inscription: "We Loved You Dearly But Jesus Loved You Best. Your Loving Wife And Daughter Valerie, Mum, Dad, Sister And Brother"

Harold Bernard Batchelor

759009, Flight Sergeant (Air Gunner), 69 Squadron. Royal Air Force.

Missing In Action on the 24th November 1941 aged 32.

Flight Sergeant Harold Bernard Batchelor

Dick Batchelor, as he was known, spent a short time at Alleynes School after having moved to the town from Watford. He still managed, however, to make a considerable name for himself by becoming part of the school cricket and football teams. After leaving school he joined the St. Albans police force as a cadet but this was not for very long as he soon joined W. Saunders Motors in Hemel Hempstead. In July 1939 Dick joined the RAF and was posted to Cheltenham for aircrew training. He joined 69 Squadron as a Sergeant Observer flying Sunderland Flying Boats and in 1940 the Squadron was posted to Malta. On the 24th November 1941, whilst operating from Luqa airfield, Harold Batchelor was aboard a Martin Maryland, BJ427, which was performing a reconnaissance flight southeast of Messina. It is not apparent what happened to the aircraft but it failed to return from this operation and two subsequent searches failed to find any sign of it.

Crew of MARYLAND Mk1 BJ427

Number

Rank

Name

Age

967922

SGT

John Keogh HUTT

23

400061

SGT

David Alcorn McKELL RAAF

30

759009

SGT

Harold Bernard BATCHELOR

32

Harold has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Malta Memorial. (Panel 1 Column 1.)

John Fredrick Bates

1294682, Sergeant (Wireless Operator), 106 Squadron. Royal Air Force.

Killed In Action on the 26th June 1943 aged 22.

John Bates was the eldest son of Thomas and Florence Bates of " Regalwood" , Church Lane. He was educated at Stevenage Boys School and was later employed for four years at the Stevenage Printing Works.  John joined the RAF in January 1941 and after completing his training as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner was posted to 106 Squadron.

John was the Wireless Operator on a Lancaster Mk.1, W4256, which left Syerston airfield on the 26th June 1943 as part a force of 473 aircraft sent to attack the Synthetic Oil plants in Gelsenkirchen, by this time he had been on operational duties for over six months. This was the first raid on Gelsenkirchen since 1941 and the target was obscured by cloud. The Pathfinding Mosquitoes were unable to mark the target accurately as five of them found their " OBOE" equipment to be unserviceable. The raid was not a success and thirty aircraft were lost of which thirteen were Lancaster's, one being W4256. The aircraft had crashed at Hippolytushoef some 14 Kilometres East-South-East of Den Helder in Holland, probably as the result of a night-fighter attack.

John is buried with thirteen other Airmen, including his crewmates, in the Wieringen (Hippolytushoef) General Cemetery, Holland. It was not until November 1946 that the War Graves Unit in the care of the local residents discovered his grave.

Crew Of LANCASTER MK1 W4256 ZN-V

Number

Rank

Name

Age

1318824

SGT

Stephen George WHITE

20

1454684

P/O

Gerard William Board ENRIGHT

30

J/22535 25

F/O

James Edgar Donald CRAIGIE  RCAF

25

1447786

SGT

Eric Charles CROOK

21

1294682

SGT

John Frederick BATES

22

A/415456

F/SGT

Maxwell Birdwood WATT  RAAF

25

1531330

SGT

Edwin Thomas HARDING

20

John William Alfred Belchamber

TF/201121, Private, 4th Sussex Regiment.

Missing In Action on the 26th March 1917.

On the 26th March 1917 the Battalion were at Deir El Belah. They were given an order to move to positions near El Shelluf Ridge where they were to attack Turkish forces that were entrenched there. There was a heavy mist covering the desert which did not lift until 8.15am, allowing the assaulting troops to see the Turkish positions. The assault began at 1.00pm with a Turkish trench being quickly taken and the attacking troops began to move up a nearby ridge. However, Turkish fire was very heavy and the Battalion attempted to hold it’s position but this could not be maintained and they were forced back. Soon the Battalion was relieved and were able to re-organise themselves.

The action had resulted in the loss of  4 Officers and 83 Other Ranks either killed or missing, with many more wounded.

John has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Jerusalem Memorial, Israel.

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Charles Albert Bennett

106997, Gunner, 323rd Siege Battery. Royal Garrison Artillery.

Killed Accidentally on the 5th December 1917.

On the 5th December 1917 the Battery were in position near the village of Maroc and were firing on German artillery positions, with the aid of air observation. Charles Bennett was manning No.3 gun which was described as “practically new”. At 10.10am the gun suffered a “premature”, which is the detonation of an artillery shell whilst still in the breach. The resulting explosion killed Charles Bennett and wounded the remainder of the crew.

Those wounded were;

29701      Corporal  Harry Eaton

163421    Gunner    William W Adam

74931      Gunner    Norman Beswick

123001    Gunner    James W Burns

323068    Gunner    James D Whyte

Charles is buried in the Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension, Pas De Calais, France. (4. G. 1.)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Frederick Bentley

3399, Private, No.4 Company, 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment

Died of Wounds on the 9th September 1915 aged 23

Private Frederick Bentley buried at Chocques Military Cemetery, France.

Fred was the eldest son of local Bricklayer James Bentley and his wife, Amine of 35 Alleyns Road, Stevenage. After leaving school he followed in his father’s footsteps and took up the trade of bricklaying.

He enlisted in the Hertfordshire Regiment on the 15th October 1914 and, following his initial training, arrived in France on the 23rd January 1915. By the 8th February Frederick found himself in trouble and received four days field punishment for gross negligence when cleaning his rifle. Later, on the 25th May, he was deducted four day’s pay for not complying with an order. Two weeks later, on the 6th June 1915, he was wounded in the abdomen, probably as a result of shellfire. Official records show that he died at No.1 Casualty Clearing Station at Chocques on the 9th September 1915 and was buried the same day by the Reverend H.D. Allen.

Frederick is buried in the Chocques Military Cemetery, France. (Grave Reference: I.D.90.)

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