The grandeur and sense of permanence of the Great War Memorials to the Missing create indelible memories and inspires numerous visitors. The Memorials are thankfully here to stay yet the inscribed names are not always static.
Research on 17th Manchesters has led to numerous tangents and a few blind alleys. Current reviews of men attached to the Battalion at Guillemont of 30 July 1916 provided a wider raft of amendments for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) database. This includes twenty two new commemorations being made on the Thiepval Memorial, relocated from the Menin Gate, Arras, Loos or Ploegsteert Memorials. We also have a group of other relocations of commemoration.
Field Marshall Lord Plumer inaugurated the Menin Gate in 1927 and in respect of the men with no know grave he spoke “He is not missing; he is here”. The spirit of the statement remains strong when I see the inscription of Private Arthur Bell on the Menin Gate. It remains satisfying that the reality of the relevant commemoration is now more accurate for a group of missing soldiers.
More than 800 men joined 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment in mid-July 1916. Similar large reinforcements arrived with many front line Battalions, reinstating the establishment of units that had had faced extensive casualties in the opening engagements of the Battle of the Somme. Drafts arriving from the Manchester Regiment were too small to fulfil the establishment of the battalions and the pressing need for men led to groups of men being attached to 17th Manchesters from other Regiments, principally from newly arrived troops and veterans who had recovered from wounds posted to the Infantry Brigade Depots.
Private G/15767 Christian Graysmith (served as Smith) was attached to 17th Manchesters from 32nd (East Ham) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). He was originally buried 100 yards east of Trones Wood, on the line of the Battalion’s advance to Guillemont. Private Graysmith’s burial was relocated to Serre Road in 1927 and the attachment to 17th Manchesters was noted on the records. His remains were identified from his discs, cap badge, shoulder titles and Pay Book. These possessions and a locket were sent to his parents at Blackfriars in London. The Graysmith family took the opportunity to arrange an inscription on their son’s headstone “We Forget You Not”.
It is anticipated 19 year old Private Graysmith was a recent arrival in France. Analysis of service records identifies more than thirty men were attached to 17th Manchesters from the Royal Fusiliers on 11/12 July 1916. These drafts were a mixture of veterans from the Royal Fusiliers and New Army arrivals from the City of London Regiment, often Derby Scheme men; all seemingly posted to 32nd Royal Fusiliers for pay purposes.
Sergeant 1937 Thomas Hartland’s Medal Roll shows previous service with 8th (Service) Battalion Royal Fusiliers, one of Kitchener’s first New Army Battalions. 8th Battalion was formed in Hounslow on 21 August 1914 and trained in Colchester and Aldershot. Thomas Hartland had grown up in Staffordshire and in 1911 he had been an invoice clerk for a woollen merchant. He enlisted in Stoke-on-Trent, even though there were more local regiments recruiting in the area.
Thomas was a corporal when he disembarked in France with 8th Royal Fusiliers on 31 May 1915. They were involved in the Battle of Loos in September 1915 and also served in the line at Givenchy. On 1 February 1916 8th Royal Fusiliers returned to the front line in the Loos sector and the Battalion made an assault on mine craters near Vermelles on 2 March 1916. There were 247 other ranks casualties, killed, wounded or missing. Thomas Hartland was evacuated to England on 5 March 1916 and it is likely he was included in the wounded list for Vermelles.
Thomas Hartland was a sergeant when he returned to France on 28 June 1916. In common with Christian Graysmith he was posted to 32nd Royal Fusiliers. It is assumed Sergeant Hartland was initially held at 41st Infantry Brigade Depot. He must have been a welcome addition when the Royal Fusiliers draft arrived with 17th Manchesters on attachment 11/12 July – anecdotally more appreciated than the inexperienced new arrivals and those from the south of England.
17th Battalion Manchester Regiment was part of 90th Brigade’s unsuccessful assault on Guillemont on 30 July 1916. Sergeant Hartland and Private Graysmith are both recorded as killed in action. The Medal Roll for the two men also identify the attachment to 17th Manchesters (Sgt Hartland has a transcription error as 7th Battalion, which was in Egypt).
It is only Christian Graysmith that has the attachment noted on CWGC Roll. The records had not been so accurate for Thomas Hartland, as the attachment to 17th Manchesters was not included and he was commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium. Sergeant Hartland’s inscription was made here because 32nd Royal Fusiliers was serving in the Ploegsteert sector on the day he died.
If the attachment was not known to Thomas Hartland’s parents, it would have erroneously natural to assume he fell serving with the Royal Fusiliers and 32nd Battalion in Belgium. The notation of the attachment has now been made by CWGC and this helps identify Sergeant Hartland’s actual service and provides some indication of the circumstances of his death. The improvement is even greater as his commemoration has now been moved to an Addenda Panel at Thiepval Memorial – as the memorial to the missing on the Somme.
The relocation of Sergeant Thomas Hartland’s commemoration to Thiepval has been replicated with changes for another twenty men who died on 30 July 1916:-
The 18 men attached to the Manchesters or Liverpools were primarily identified with Service Records, Soldier’s Effects and Medal Rolls. This evidence was supported by other men being attached from the respective regiments / battalions and referenced against these War Diary entries.
Thomas Hartland’s attachment was noted from his medal roll, then supported by a large group of other men attached from 32nd Royal Fusiliers and this War Diary shows now casualties in the period.
The primary source data has not been found for many casualties that may justify relocation to Thiepval. For example, two 16th Sherwood Foresters’ inscriptions will remain on the Loos Memorial because we have nothing that specifies their attachment to 16th Manchesters. Both men were posted missing presumed dead, consistent with their presence in the fighting at Guillemont, rather than serving with their Sherwood Foresters Battalion in billets near Gorre. The concern would be that these two men may possibly have been attached to another unit and the cases haven’t yet been submitted to CWGC for review.
Similar circumstances apply to three remaining commemorations of men from 1st Battalion Border Regiment on the Menin Gate, who may have been serving with 16th Manchesters. Equally, four 16th Lancashire Fusiliers commemorations will remain at Loos, even though these men were probably at Guillemont. They may have been serving with 17th Liverpools, but there is a distinct possibility they were part of the large Lancashire Fusiliers draft to 18th Manchesters.
It is interesting to note Manchester Regiment men being attached to other Regiments in the same period of the Battle of the Somme. Private 24453 Albert Holt of 12th Manchesters was attached to 8th Borders when was killed in action on 29 July 1916. CWGC are reviewing the case for the relocation of Private Holt’s commemoration from the Arras Memorial to Thiepval.
The wider scale of attachments is also confirmed by records for a group of men from 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment to 8th East Surreys – as identified by Paul Read @sommecourt. 12 men from this draft died near Ploegsteert in the period from 5-8 August 1916. Their attachment hadn’t been noted and the men with no known grave were commemorated at Thiepval. When the work with CWGC is complete, these names will be relocated to the Ploegsteert Memorial.
As a conclusion for the early findings of the current research one commemoration will be moved from Ploegsteert to the Thiepval Memorial and three men’s names will make the return journey to Ploegsteert. There will be a net increase of 19 commemorations at Thiepval and two additional inscriptions at Ploegsteert. Next time I find myself at Thiepval and the other Memorials to the Missing it will be interesting to see the revisions to the panels.
There were numerous other men killed on 30 July 1916 which have the appropriate commemoration but no recognition of attachment. Almost 150 cases were put forward to CWGC and the men attached to 90th Brigade will form a future avenue for research.