Inspired by interviews and notes by a member of the 2nd City Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, this site portrays the particular group of volunteer soldiers, from enlistment to their service in the Battle of the Somme. In memory of the contributor of the journal, Private Allan Arthur Bell 8055 and the Pals that served with him. Copyright Bell Family. All rights reserved. Please see acknowledgments and feel free to comment in the Guest Book or individual Posts.
An 18 pounder gun, its crew stripped to the waist in the sunshine, putting over curtain fire from the Carnoy Valley near Montauban 30 July 1916 IWM Q4066
I found this photo on the IWM Site. 18 Pound Artillery had an effective range of three miles and a well trained crew could fire thirty rounds per minute. Guns at Carnoy Valley were within range of Guillemont and no other assaults were taking place in the area on 30th July. Therefore, it is likely these men were assisting 90th Brigade in their attack on Guillemont.
The photograph shows men in the heat of the day and it is assumed this would have been around midday, or later. As such, the support to the infantry had to be necessarily limited to the Western side of Guillemont village. The 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers had advanced to the centre of Guillemont, alongside the 18th Manchesters. Communication with Brigade HQ in Trones Wood and 16th / 17th Manchesters to the east of the village had been broken by the German bombardment and machine guns – limiting the prospects of British bombardment without hitting their own troops. For more details see Guillemont | 17th Manchester Regiment on the Somme
The Manchester Regiment Group’s albums on Flickr project for collating grave photographs continues to produce fresh information and background on the men who fought in the 17th Manchesters. Robert Ramsey helps illustrate the men who joined in the Battalion during mid July 1916 as drafts to replace extensive losses from Montauban and Trones Wood. The date on the Grave inscription is inaccurate as confirmed by this research:-
Robert attested 10379 in the Royal Fusiliers on 5/12/1914, as part of Lord Kitchener’s recruitment drive. He had been a Labourer, resident at 119 Marks Road, Romford with his wife Daisy and daughters Dorothy & Florrie. His Mother, Elizabeth and Father, William lived at 50 Willow Street, Romford. The couple had seven other children.
Following basic training with 7th Battalion at Hounslow, Robert went on to serve in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He arrived (probably Galipoli) with 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers on 10/5/1915. He returned Home wounded on 5/12/1915; and following treatment in the York Military Hospital, Robert spent Christmas at home with his family on furlough from 21 to 30/12/1915. On 9/2/1916, Robert returned to hostilities with 8th Battalion in France. He received a Gun Shot Wound in the arm on 11/4/1916 and returned Home on Hospital Ship St David, arriving 4/5/1916 and received treatment in Huddersfield War Hospital. There was a Court Martial – sleeping on duty – at this stage and Robert’s sentence was commuted and he was required to return France with 5th Battalion, where he arrived posted to 32nd Battalion on 28/6/ 1916. Having arrived at Infantry Brigade Depot, Etaples the next day, he was then attached to the 17th Manchesters as part of a draft of 438 troops who arrived on 12/7/1916. In common with many of the July draft, he was then transferred to the Battalion – 43365 – on 1/9/1916.
Evidence of other men who were attached to the 17th Manchesters*1 indicates Robert will have taken part in the assaults at Guillemont (30/7/1916) and Flers where he will have joined the assault on 12/10/1916 and was wounded again on 14/10/1916.
After recovery in France, Robert was then wounded, serving with D Company at Neuville-Vitasse, as the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line. The Medical Records suggest Robert was wounded at Neuville Vitesse on 5/4/1917, but the War Diary reports the Battalion at Blairville on this date. Robert was hospitilised in Wimereux before evacuation to Britain on Hospital Ship Princess Elizabeth, arriving 12/4/1917 when he was admitted to the Norwich & Norfolk Military Hospital with Gun Shot Wounded and internal haemorrhage.
After treatment for 5 days, Robert succumbed to his wounds during an operation on 18th April 1917. He is buried in Romford Cemetery.
After Robert’s death, Daisy remarried and she went to live with her daughters at 14 McAlpine Street, Anderston, Glasgow.
Many men from Royal Berkshire Regiment were attached to the 17th Manchesters in mid July 1916 and went on to fight at Guillemont on 30/7/1916. This research has led to the identification of CHRISTIAN GRAYSMITH who died in the assault posted as 32nd Royal Fusiliers, but recorded by CWGC as attached to 17th Battalion. 19 year old tea packet from Blackfriars, Christian was originally buried on the battlefield close the railway line leading east from Trones Wood, before his remains were relocated to Serre Road in the 1920s. His Medal Roll confirms arrival in France on 28/6/1916 in the same group of reinforcements as Robert Ramsey. The Roll also confirms attachment to Manchesters.
DoB 26/2/1988. Marriage to Daisy Catherine Box 5/6/1910. Daughters Dorothy Violet (DoB 12/7/1911) & Florence Esther (DoB 24/7/1913)
1. Service Record
3. Medal Roll
5. 17th Battalion War Diary.
The original headstone that was replaced by the featured image in 2016.
This site was always intended to place a context to the places, events and particularly people referred to in Private Arthur Bell’s journal and his interview with Martin MIddlebrook. The necessity to consider obituaries for the men that died contrasts with the more positive aspects of addressing the Honours awarded to men of the Battalion. These Honours were awarded to a number of men referred to in Arthur’s journal, including Military Crosses to Lieutenants Alan Holt and Robert Mansergh.
It is not appropriate for the grandson of one of the men at the Somme to consider specific Awards that could / should have been made. However, two men stand out from Arthur’s journal as being individuals he held in high esteem for bravery. Having recently obtained photographs of these men, we can now place a face to the names. Only Victoria Crosses were awarded posthumously. We will never know how the following Pals would have been recognised if they hadn’t lost their lives so soon after their deeds.
Sgt and A/CSM Joseph McMenemy
CSM Joseph McMenemy KiA 30.7.16 “
Acting CSM Joseph McMenemy
Arthur recognised the bravery, leadership and humour of Joseph McMenemy at Montauban “Yer wanna be more careful” said newly promoted ex-Sergt. McM (McMenemy); he had been a heroic figure in the advance on the first. “Only another rush or two” he called as we lay, much cut up, just outside the perimeter at Montauban.”
Lt Ralph Miller Courtesy his niece Sue Butcher
2nd Lieutenant Ralph Marillier Miller
Ralph Miller led Arthur Bell in the rescue of a wounded Sergeant Major near Trones Wood. Arthur recounted his deep respect for the young subaltern “Brave Jockey! Not many days after that [Trones Wood rescue] came the report that he had got a gas shell ‘all to himself’ – killed of course. Would he have been one of Shakespeare’s ‘Even in the cannon’s mouth men’?”
Both men died in the Guillemont assault and have no know grave. They are commemorated at Thiepval.
We can see the wood is to the side of the bombardment which is described as British and the photo was taken in August 1916. Trones Wood together with the area west and immediately south of it was held by the British by August. It follows the observer must be south east and the British shells must be falling east of the wood.
The wood appears quite close and a little downhill from the observer, which suggests the German soldier may have been near Maltz Horn Farm. Should this be the case, the trench would be Maltz Horn trench. This area was taken by British forces in early August. I still can’t work out why the bombardment would appear to have been falling so close to the wood.
I am planning a trip in July and will try to take a contemporary photo of the same view. If any posters have other ideas, please leave a comment