Nine local men lost their lives on the first day of the German Spring Offensive (Operation Michael), which saw British troops subjected to one of the longest artillery bombardments of the war. Lasting for five hours from 4:20am, the barrage of over one million artillery shells smashed vital communication lines, and was followed by waves of elite German troops coming over No Man’s Land, which was shrouded in thick fog. The Germans made swift and significant gains, with the British suffering some 50,000 casualties. British troops were ordered to withdraw, giving up much of the Somme region. However, it was not a decisive defeat, and the British were able to establish new lines of defence, whilst the rapid advance caused German supply lines to become overextended. Continue reading “21st March 1918”
Second Lieutenant John Drummond Wyatt-Smith, 28th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, died in a flying accident in northern Italy, just a few days after joining the squadron. His plane stalled on take off, nose dived and then crashed to earth. Known as Jack, he was 19 years old, and was the second of two brothers to die on active service. His older brother, Hugh, died of appendicitis on 17th February 1916 after falling ill whilst on embarkation leave.
Lieutenant Colin Sutherland Lynden-Bell, 99th Deccan Infantry, was accidentally killed on 21st February 1918 whist on active service in Nusayrayah, Mesopotamia. He was the second and only surviving son of parents Colonel Edward Horace Lynden Lynden-Bell (1858-1922) and Mary Haigh Lynden-Bell (née Guyon) who had married in December 1891 in Dover. Both parents came from families with a long tradition of military service. Colonel Lynden-Bell was a surgeon in the Royal Medical Corps, whilst his two brothers, Charles Perceval (1862-1934) and Arthur Lynden (1867-1943) were also career officers in the Army. His father, Major-General Thomas Lynden Lynden-Bell, served in the Army for 43 years. Mary’s father was Major-General Gardiner Frederick Guyon.
Second Lieutenant Robert Dyott Willmot, 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, was killed in action on 17th February 1918, dying at St. Julien Dressing Station Cemetery at Langemark-Poelkapelle, West Flanders. He was the second of the two sons of parents, George Dyott Willmot and Nellie Pratchett Willmot (formerly Heatley) to be killed in the war. His elder brother, John Dyott Willmot, had been killed on 3rd July 1915.
30-year-old Richard Lander Sale died of wounds on 15th January 1918, whilst serving as a Lieutenant with the Royal Horse Guards. He was born in Atherstone, Warwickshire in 1887 and was the second of the four sons of parents, Alfred (a solicitor) and Annie Gertrude (née Cheshire) who had married in Witherley, Leicestershire in August 1885.
Five local men were killed in action on 20th September 1917. This was the first day of the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, which lasted until 25th September and marked a change in British infantry tactics.
Although previous attacks had penetrated the lightly-defended German front lines, exhausted troops then came under sustained counter-attack and failed to penetrate the second line. The new strategy was designed to attack a small part of the front line, first with heavy bombardment, and then by troops in strength under a creeping barrage 1000 yards deep, protecting the advancing infantry. Once through the lines and having reached their objectives, troops were then to stop and dig in. A second wave of infantry could then pass through to attack the next objective.
Local men who lost their lives in this action were:
- Private Richard Sydney Greaves, 6th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment
- Private Thomas Henry Lloyd, 10th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment
- Sergeant Septimus Price, 6th Battalion, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry
- Corporal Percy John Shirley, 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Sergeant Harry Taylor, 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Private Thomas Duffin, 1st/5th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died on 24th August 1917, aged 38. He was born in Packwood in 1879 and was the third of the eight children born to parents Thomas, an agricultural labourer, and Jane (née Kirby) who had married at Packwood in 1873 when Thomas (senior), a widower, was aged 48 and Jane was 19.
On 3rd August 1917, Second Lieutenant Roger Paul Hepburn M.C. died in Ypres at Casualty Clearing Station, no 10, of wounds received in action serving with the Royal Engineers (30th Signal Company, attached. 21st Infantry Brigade). He was 24 years old, and had enlisted in the Army on the day war broke out, driving through the night with two friends on their motorcycles, who offered themselves as despatch riders for service with the expeditionary force. The group didn’t ask permission to go, simply leaving a note to say they had gone. Roger served for eight months at the front in this capacity, before being commissioned with the Royal Engineers and returning to the Front in November 1915 after training as a signaller. His two friends – T. Daish and J. N. Perks – both survived the war.
The local connection is that Roger was educated at Packwood Haugh School, in the Solihull rural district, between 1905-1911, when he joined Rugby School before studying natural sciences at Magdalen College, Cambridge, and taking his degree in June 1914. Whilst at Cambridge, he was also a member of the Officer Training Corps (OTC).
Three local men are known to have lost their lives on 24th June 1917 whilst on active service: Second Lieutenant Rupert Edward Everitt, 299th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery; Private William James Leake, 1st/7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment; and Gunner Henry Smith, 207th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery.