William Charles Clark

41742, Private, 8th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment

Missing In Action on the 10th September 1917 aged 19

Private William Charles Clark

William was the son of Percy John & Emma Clark of 55 Walkern Road, Stevenage.  His older brother, Percy George, served with No.4 Company of the Hertfordshire Regiment.

He was to lose his life during The Third Battle of Ypres, commonly referred to as the Battle of  Passchendaele. The offensive was launched on 31st July 1917 and continued until the fall of Passchendaele village on the 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. The area had seen the heaviest rains 30 years and this, combined with the intensive shelling, had turned the ground into a hellish morass. William’s Battalion was involved in a heavy period of fighting in the Hollebeke sector and, following an action in Rossignol Wood, had moved to a Reserve area near Berthen.

It is believed that William lost his life when the area was shelled by German artillery.

He has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium. (Reference: Panel 35/37.)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Arthur George Clements

7036, Private, 1/4 West Riding Regiment, (Formerley 4454 Hertfordshire Regiment).

Missing In Action on the 23rd September 1916 aged 18.

The Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

Arthur was the eldest son of Noah & Alice Mary Clements of Froghall Lane, Walkern.

He joined the Hertfordshire Regiment on the 9th January 1915 when he was aged 17 and served in the UK until the 30th August 1916 when he was posted to France.

The young inexperienced soldier was transfered to the 1st/4th West Riding Regiment on the 10th September 1916 after the Battalion suffered very heavy casualties during an attack on the Schwaben Redoubt on the 2nd September. Arthur arrived at the Battalion on the 12th September and on the 23rd, at the height of the Somme Offensive, the Battalion were in positions in the Leipzieg Salient where they were preparing to be relieved by the 5th West Riding Regiment. Here the trenches were described as being in a very bad state, owing to wet conditions and unburied dead bodies. The Battalion were detailed to move to Leavilliers by bus and it is not known at what point Arthur Clements was killed but it is possible that his loss was as a result of artillery fire.

Arthur has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France. Pier/Face 6A.)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

 

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.