George Henry Clements

12067, Private, " A" Company. 9th Essex Regiment.

Killed In Action on the 29th August 1915 aged 23.

Private George Henry Clements

George was the son of David Clements of Stevenage Lane, Walkern.

A former Under-Gamekeeper, he joined the Army at Saffron Walden on the 24th August 1914. He was posted to France, with the Battalion, on the 30th May 1915. They arrived at Boulogne on the 1st June 1915 and moved to billets at Audenthun. After going through a period of preparation for life in the trenches the Battalion moved to Ploegstreert Wood on the 15th June.

It was on this day, as the Battalion took up positions at La Plus Douve Farm, that it suffered its first casualties when two men from "A" Company, who would have been known to George,  were killed after a high explosive shell struck the top of the trench they were in, killing Private George Cox and Private Frederick Augustine Byrne.

The Battalion remained in the Ploegstreert Wood vicinity for the next two months, with a daily record of casualties being listed in the unit war diary. On the 30th August 1915, George is listed as the the only casualty, believed to have been shot by a sniper.

He is buried in the Gunners Farm Military Cemetery, Comines-Warneton, Belgium. (Grave B.4.)

 

Headstone Inscription: "Rest in Peace"

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

 

The grave of Private George Henry Clements in the Gunners Farm Military Cemetery, Comines-Warneton, Belgium.

George Henry Clements in civilian dress. (Tom McCall via Herts at War)

 

 

 

Theodore Augustus Collins

7182, Bandsman, 1st Battalion, Cameron Highlanders.

Died of Wounds on the 7th November 1914 aged 21.

The grave of Bandsman Theodore Augustus Collins in the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France.

Theodore Collins was born in Benington, Hertfordshire, the son of William and Mary Augusta Collins. He joined the Army at a young age and trained as a Musician. As a professional soldier he was sent to Belgium at the outbreak of the Great War as part of the original British Expeditionary Force.

His Battalion arrived in France on the 14th August 1914, just 10 days after the outbreak of the Great War. As part of the 1st Division, Theodore would have taken part in the Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, including the rearguard action of Etreux, The Battle of the Marne,the Battle of the Aisne, including participation in the actions on the Aisne heights and the action of Chivy, and The First Battle of Ypres.

On the 1st November 1914 the Battalion were moved into a position between Zonnebeke Wood and Veldhoek near Ypres. Over the following week their positions were heavily shelled and the Battalion suffered a large number of casualties. On the 5th November, two shells fell into their positions and 10 men were killed and a further 10 wounded, one of which is believed to have been Theodore Collins. He was taken to a General Hospital in Boulogne where he died from the effects of his injuries.

He is buried in the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France. (III. B. 43.)

The Benington war memorial incorrectly records him as A.T. COLLINS.

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

 

Frederick Collins

17725, Private, 6th Bedfordshire Regiment.

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

Frederick was the son of Rose Colllins of Burrs Green, Benington.

Thiepval Memorial, Somme.

He was killed in an attack on the village of Pozieres during the Battle of the Somme. The attack was headed by the 8th East Lancashire Regiment and supported by the both the 6th Bedfordshire's and the 11th Warwickshire Regiment. Initially, the advance went unopposed but as the two forward battalions went over the crest of the Chalk Pitt they were held up by heavy and accurate machine gun fire. The Bedford’s were forced to dig in about 100 yards from Liniere. Later, it was found that their attack had failed and they had suffered some 244 casualties with 3 Officers and 32 O/R's killed and a further 25 O/R's Missing, including

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

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

John William Collins

33644, Private, 9th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment

Missing in Action on the 5th August 1917 aged 22

Private John William Collins

John was born on the 19th June 1895 the son of John & Annie Collins of 48 Alleynes Road, Stevenage. After leaving school he worked for seven years as a Milkman for Francis Franklin of Rooks Nest Farm, Stevenage, and later lived with his wife, Daisy, & child at 29 Alleynes Road.

He was to lose his life during a major British offensive, the Third Battle of Ypres, commonly known as the Battle of Passchendaele. On the 2nd August 1917 the Battalion left its billets at Dickebusch Camp and moved to positions in a location known as the Old French trench. By then it had been raining for three days and conditions were very bad with troops’ waist deep in water and liquid mud. In addition, the German artillery added to the misery by intensely shelling the area, causing a considerable number of casualties. On the 5th August John Collins was among a group of 30 men who were in several forward listening posts. They were attacked by a German raiding party which consisted of about 25-30 heavily armed men. A Lewis gun was used in an attempt to drive off the raiders but this was dropped and became jammed by thick mud. Eventually, the men in three of the posts withdrew through Jordan Trench to a position known as Alarm Weg. A total of fourteen men had been left behind either killed or wounded, including John Collins.

His body was never recovered and he has no known grave and, as such, his name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium. (Panel 34.)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Cecil Henry Cooper

S/4310, Private, 13th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade

Died on the 25th January 1917 aged 23

Cecil was the son of Edward & Eliza Cooper of 24 Hellards Road, Stevenage. Before joining the Army he worked as a local Blacksmith.

He arrived in France on the 25th July 1915 and served continually on the Western Front for 18 Months. On the 25th January 1917, whilst returning from France for his first leave, he suddenly collapsed at Victoria station in London. He was taken to the 2nd London General Hospital where the nursing staff found a letter in his pocket addressed to his mother. She was sent for and managed to reach her son, who had remained in a semi-conscious state, before he sadly died having suffered heart failure.

Cecil was buried in the St.Nicholas Churchyard, Stevenage, with the proceedings being administered by the Reverend John Robins. A compliment of troops stationed in the town fired three salutes and a trumpeter played the Last Post.

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Herbert Charles Cooper

2620, Private, " C" Company. 9th East Surrey Regiment.

Killed In Action on the 2nd November 1915 aged 18

Herbert was the son of local chimney sweep William Cooper and his wife Susanah.

He enlisted in 1914 and was posted to the Western Front on the 5th October 1915. He had only been in France for five weeks when he was shot by a sniper whilst replacing sandbags on a parapet in front of a support trench.

Herbert is buried in the Spoilbank Cemetery, Belgium.

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

Cecil James Cordell

265841, Private, No.4 Company. 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment.

Missing In Action on the 31st July 1917 aged 24.

The Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium.

Cecil was the son of John Cordell of Bridge Foot Farm, Walkern and was to lose his life on the first day of a major British offensive, The Third Ypres, or 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 Hanebeek, 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 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 or wounded.

Cecil has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium. (Panel 54 and 56).

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

Edwin Robert Couldrey

830703, Lance Bombardier, No. 8 Commando & Royal Artillery

Missing In Action on the 18th August 1942 aged 27.

Ted was born into a soldiering family in 1916 the youngest son of Catherine Couldrey of Hellards Road. His father had died from his wounds whilst in action during the First World War. Ted was educated at the Stevenage Boys School and later worked at the ESA factory. He joined a local unit of the Territorial Army and later went on to serve with the Royal Artillery as a regular soldier and saw active service in both the North West Frontier of India and in the Middle East. He was preparing to join the South African Police Force when the war broke out and returned to England where he was stationed at Folkestone. Ted was one of the first to volunteer for the Commandos and, after training, was sent to Burma in 1941. In a last letter home he described how he was “going native”, an expression used to explain that he was about to embark on a jungle patrol.

He is believed to have been involved in an operation known as Mission 204. This was a top-secret mission to train Chinese guerrillas to fight the Japanese. The small team of men were located in the mountains with the Chinese guerrillas until September 1942, when the project was abandoned. The troops suffered from malaria, dysentery and typhus which may have been the cause of his death

He has No Known Grave and his name is recorded on the Rangoon Memorial, Burma. (Face 2)

Edward John Croft

219160, Master-At-Arms, HMS Victory, Royal Navy

Died on the 30th March 1919 aged 33

Master at Arms Edward John Croft

Edward was born on the 5th September 1886, the son of Arthur William & Laura Croft of the High Street, Stevenage. He entered the Royal Navy as a Boy seaman in the Signals branch in 1904. By 1906 he had become a leading seaman and later in 1908-9 took part in the suppression of the Armenian massacres and the Messina earthquake rescues. In 1911 he was promoted to Petty Officer. He was selected for duty on HMS Renown and served on her between 7th September 1905 to 31st May 1906 where he was the personal Signal of the Prince & Princess of Wales, later to become King Edward & Queen Mary. In 1913 Edward transferred to the Naval Police and later served on HMS Invincible. He served in the super dreadnought HMS Agincourt from the outbreak of war until April 1915 after which he was posted to the light cruiser HMS Caroline as acting Master at Arms.

Whilst serving with this cruiser he took part in several actions and was involved in the Battle of Jutland during which he suffered shell shock and was sent to Haslar Hospital for recovery. In January 1917 he was posted to the shore offices of the Dover Submarine Flotilla and whilst there a bomb fell, during an enemy air raid, quite close to him causing a reoccurrence of the shell shock. He returned to Haslar hospital and gradually developed Locomotor Ataxia, which is described as an inability to precisely control one's own bodily movements. People afflicted with this disease may have developed it as a result of contracting tertiary syphilis. The chilling effects of this condition and its connection to venereal disease are vividly dramatized in the story "Love O' Women" by Rudyard Kipling. The condition eventually led to Edward’s death in March 1919.

He is buried in the Royal Naval Cemetery, Eastney, Southsea. (Grave Reference: H.10.24)

Stanley Crosse

14839952, Private, 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment.

Died on the 26th April 1946 aged 19.

Stanley was the son of Jesse & Ruth Crosse. His father was the Farm Manager to the Keysall family of Trotts Hill Farm.

Young Stanley was educated at Letchmore Road Boys School and at the age of 14, became a Porter on the LNER Line at Stevenage. He later worked for Ibcol before joining the Army.

After carrying out his initial training at 53 PTW in Bury St Edmunds he spent some time with the 8th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment before being posted to India with Beds & Herts Regiment.

Whilst in India he contracted Typhoid Fever and died at the Dehra Dun Military Hospital.

He is buried in the Delhi War Cemetery, India. (3.H.4.)