Army Boots

The Lenches WW1 Archive

This page will contain the archive of information, photos and stories that are gathered by the 14-18 Group.

Our thinking about the best way to store and display this information is in evolution, and we would suggest that you also refer to the other links in the WW1 section of The Lenches' website. Please check back regularly because we expect the content to grow significantly.

If you have any items related to WW1 or to the general time period, and ideally with either a modern or historic link to The Lenches, please get in touch. We would love to see your items and hear any stories you may know about them with a view to it enriching the archive.

DAVID AND JEAN LEE

Harvington resident David Lee’s uncle Christopher Yoeman, his mother's brother, served as a Private in the 10th Bn, Cheshire Regiment. Christopher died of his wounds at the age of 20 on the 18th April 1918. He was wounded in the jaw and was sent to a casualty clearing station, from where he sent a card home to notify his family that he was slightly injured.  It is likely that a modern soldier suffering from similar wounds would recover; however, his wounds probably became infected, and he died.  There were no antibiotics in 1918. David relates that it is believed the Germans may have dipped their bullets into excrement, which may explain why Christopher’s wound would have become infected so quickly.

David's wife Jean’s uncle Thomas Crumpton, who was born in King's Norton, WORCS, served as a Private in the Worcester Regiment, 49th Bn. Machine Gun Corps (Inf). Thomas died on the 14th April 1918, only four days before David's uncle Christopher.

ANN WILD

Rous Lench resident Ann Wilde’s father, Private Frederic Thomas Wilson, enlisted in the I/6th Battalion Manchester Regt (Territorial Force) on 26th January 1914. He spent the first months of the war in Alexandria and Cairo and saw no action.  Around May 1915, and somewhat to his relief, he was deployed to Gallipoli. There, he was soon sent to fight in the front line trenches, where he witnessed the death of many of his friends and arguably only survived himself due to a shrapnel wound for which he was sent to hospital. The trencher was used by Private Wilson at Gallipoli and is the one referred to in his article “A Boy at Gallipoli”. He used it to dig trenches and also to help protect himself from enemy fire and shrapnel. 

ARTHUR AND BARRY COTTRILL

Rous Lench residents Arthur and Barry Cottrill’s grandfather George Mills served in the Royal Field Artillery Worcestershire Regiment from the age of 18 when he joined on 11th August 1899. He went to South Africa that same year, where he saw action in 1903 and 1904 and also spent time in India from where Arthur believes the group picture of him and other uniformed troops was taken. 

George Mills was a time-expired man at the outbreak of WW1, but in October 1914, he joined his old regiment, relinquishing a promising business as a market gardener and carrier. He and his wife Rosetta lived with their three children, Reginald, Rosetta Miriam, and Erica, at Chafecote in Rous Lench. He went to France to fight in 1915, returning for a home visit in February 1916.

On 14 July 1917, George Mills was returning to the battery with the ration cart when a shell struck the road, inflicting injuries from which he died on the way to the hospital. He had attained the rank of Battery Quarter Master Sergeant.  Mrs Mills received a letter from Major Square, with whom George had served since the formation of the battery, expressing deepest regret at the death of her husband whose virtues he extolled, stating that he was “respected and liked by all ranks”.

George Mills widow Rosetta was left in difficult financial circumstances following the death of her husband and was forced to sell much of the land that her family had acquired in order to provide for herself and her children. Arthur Cottrill was raised by his grandmother and is able to attest to how hard she worked, but also to how much friends and neighbours from the village and surrounding areas helped by providing food and other needed items. Rosetta never remarried, and neither she nor anyone else ever discussed George and his experiences, thereby leaving virtually no surviving anecdotal stories about him. 

DAVE BURNS

Church Lench resident Dave Burns shared the following collection in regard to his grandfather George Armstrong Burns who served in WW1. George was Dave's father's father. 

George was born on 4 April 1886 in Co.Durham. He came from five generations of coal miners and became a coal miner himself, aged 12.

He married in 1907 and fathered eight children by the time he joined the Royal Navy Balloon Corps on 29 June 1917, where he was towed behind a destroyer in an observation balloon looking for U boats. He was transferred to the RAF on 31 March 1918 (he would have been one of the first serving RAF ranks as that was the date it was formed). 

He was transferred to the Royal Marine Labour Corps on 10 April 1919 and served in France until discharged on 29 November 1919, when the Corps was disbanded. He returned from France and fathered a further five children, one of whom was Dave's father.  

George was unusual in that he served in all three branches of the armed services between 1917 and 1919.  

About 10% of the total troops were used for the labour battalions carrying out essential tasks such as maintaining trains and roads, unloading and transporting supplies and ammunition. In most cases, they worked within range of enemy artillery. In addition, there were many imported labourers from China and India.

George was also a Pub Fighter when a younger man at home. In the North East, these were bare-knuckle fights for money between Pub Champions. Dave recalls the winner got five shillings. Having so many kids to provide for was an incentive, so sometimes, George fought two at a time. It seems he was pretty good at it. This was possibly the period's alternative to TV!

George Armstrong Burns died in 1958. 

FRAN HERDMAN

William Henry Clotheir was Rous Lench resident Fran Herdman’s great-uncle on her mother’s side.

He was a Bombardier in the Royal Artillery Garrison and was killed in action at the Battle of Ypres on 24th July 1917 and is buried in the military cemetery at Ypres.

He was born in 1886 in Whitstable, Kent. His father was a mariner, as were most of his family. William however, was destined for higher things, and he gained a place at King’s College Newcastle upon Tyne University in 1904-5. As a consequence, the whole family (he had 3 brothers and 1 sister) moved north to Whitley Bay so that William could study.

After graduating, he took up a position as a schoolteacher at the then brand new Rockcliffe Junior School in Whitley Bay. Fran’s mother, uncle, brother, sister and her also attended the same school later on, which is a nice link to their ancestor.

The 1911 census shows William as living at 18 Warkworth Avenue Whitley Bay which was actually next door to the family home, so it looks like there wasn't enough room and William, as the eldest and presumably the only one with a job, lodged next door.

Little else is known of William except that he became headteacher of Belford Presbyterian School in Belford Northumberland and married Annie Hope in 1914. He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1915, so they had a very short married life together and did not have any children. Annie went on to become headteacher at the same school following William’s death, and she died a widow in 1961.

A bombardier was a full commissioned rank junior to a corporal. The Royal Artillery Garrison was armed with heavy, large calibre guns and howitzers and was positioned behind the front line, so William must certainly have seen a lot of action. The Battle of Ypres took place between July and November 1917 for control of the ridge south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres. 

JUDE RANASINGHE

Lenches resident Jude Ranasinghe had two Great Uncle's who served in WW1: Harry Phillip Saffell and Frank Saffell. They were his Grandmother's brothers and were from Stratford in the East End of London.

Harry Phillip Saffell served as a Driver in B Battery 159th Brigade Royal Field Artillery and was killed in action at the age of 24 on 24th October 1917 in the battle of Ypres. He was an artilleryman and would have been quite familiar with the types of guns shown in the photos: an 18-pounder QF gun mark 1 and a 4.5-inch QF howitzer that could fire a 35-pound shell to 6,600 yards. 

Frank Saffell served as a signalman on the HMS Chester, which saw significant action in the Battle of Jutland Bank. He witnessed the death and severe wounding of many sailors standing near him on the ship but was one of the fortunate who survived that battle and the war. Britain's losses of men and ships in the Battle of Jutland were about twice that of the Germans; however, it put the German navy out of action for the rest of the war and contributed significantly to final victory. Frank worked as a postman after the war but again saw naval action as a merchant seaman in WW2, which he also survived.