23 August 2009

18354 L/Cpl W Boulton

Simon contacted me about his GtGrandfather, Lance Corporal 18354 William Boulton, who lived with his wife Annie at 31, Breer St in Fulham, but enlisted at Canning Town. Simon only had the one photo, until William was spotted in one of the others which are coming to light

We dont know too much about William, other than that he was 40 when he was killed on the infamous 28 April 1917, during the Battle of Arras, in the fighting for the town of Oppy and Oppy Wood. The 13th Essex attacked alongside 17th Middx (Footballers) but found that the Germans had 'got in behind them' with terrible consequences. This engagement caused the largest loss of life to the Hammers Battalion overnight.

18589 Pte Asser

A bit of a mystery, is George Asser. All we know is that he was 40 years old and lived with his wife Matilda in Bromley (by Bow).

His GtGrandson Rob contacted me looking for any details, and it has stumped us all, which is a shame!

George is remembered on the memorial at Arras, as he died on 18th March 1916. However, the West Ham Battalion weren't in action at this time. They were marching to the town of Bruay on 18th March.

George's name wasn't recorded in the War Diary, which is very unusual for the Battalion in 1916. Also unusual is the fact that there are three whole days missing from the War Diary, the 14th, 15th and 16th: a period during which the Battalion were in the trenches at Calonne. Very strange. Rob ordered the Death Certificate but this only tells us 'missing presumed dead'.

Two days after George's death, leave for the Hammers battalion commenced, their first since hitting French soil.

17574 Pte Ayers

Stephen Ayers contacted me regarding his Grandfather Hubert Ayers who lived at 84 South Esk Road, Forest Gate. With his wife Alice Emily, Hubert ran a small coffee house in the local area.

He was Killed In Action at Delville Wood on July 30th, 1916. I cannot tell the full circumstances, as due to the nature of the attacks and counter-attacks over those few days the War Diary is a bit sketchy to say the least. This included intense and accurate artillery barrages which smashed the trenches and even at one point hit the HQ dugout and buried Lt-Col Papillon and the other officers alive.

A large group of skilled German snipers went hunting in the morning and were 'driven off' by 40 of the West Ham men, while several German infantry assaults were repulsed hand to hand in the evening.

It's always great to make contact with relatives of the Men, and Stephen is one of the many who will be attending the Memorial unveiling at the Boleyn Ground, 11am on November 7th to lay a wreath in memory of his GtGrandfather.

2 August 2009

West Ham Lane in France

Here's an enlargement from a June 1916 trench map of the Lens sector.

The 13th Essex were first located in this area from about the end of February 1916.

My GtGrandad was killed in this sector at the end of April 1916.

West Ham Lane now lies beneath the motorways surrounding the town of Grenay

Many thanks to Sgt Tony Kitchen for working out the Trench map overlay!