Thursday, December 7, 2017

Pte E.C.Groves.

The Life of Edward Cyril Groves.
(1898 – 9/12/1917)

Edward Cyril Groves was my Great Uncle.  My Grandmother Doris was his younger sister.
He was born in 1898 in Lewisham.

1901  Son age 3 [Ernest C].
1911  Son age 13 at school [Cyril].
1913 age 15 he had probably left school and was working and joined the local Territorials [TF].
His record says he enlisted in Blackheath and was a resident of Lewisham.

He joined the 20th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Blackheath and Woolwich) T.F. in March/April 1913 with  regimental number No:1223.  His older brother Reg was already a member.  He would have signed up for 4 years [1913-1917].
Before the war the family lived at 25 Lethbridge Road, Lewisham, SE13. 
The HQ of the 20th was at Holly Hedge House just a few streets away.

20th London Regiment Badge.

In August 1913 he was at the 5th London Brigade TF camp in Arundel Park [see group photo] with Reg.  
Arundel training camp.  Summer 1913.

1914 after war was declared the Battalion was mobilized and trained locally until early in 1915 when it moved out of London to Surrey and was soon inspected by Lord Kitchener.

Lord Kitchener inspection
Lord Kitchener Inspects the 2nd London Division.  22 Jan 1915.
Lord Kitchener inspection
In thick snow on Epson Down
Kitchener arrived at 11:00, by which time some of the soldiers had passed out and were taken to the wartime hospital set up at the grandstand on the racecourse. One later died.The purpose of the inspection was to impress the French Minister Millerand but the official party stayed with the troops for only five minutes.
The reason given was the snow, but there may have been another motive.
The 20,000 soldiers on parade only had 100 rifles between them, which were displayed on the front row.
Kitchener knew this and, after walking quickly along the ranks, suggested to his ally that they should call it a day because of the worsening weather.

Training at Merstham, Surrey Feb 1915.  He is on the far right.

24 June 1916 he landed at Le Havre, France, as part of the 2/20th London which was in the 180th Brigade in the 60th [2/2nd London] Division.

60th Division Badge.
180th Brigade patch was a red triangle. 

He crossed the channel in the SS La Marguerite.

SS La Marguerite.

Reg had only gone to France 9 days earlier [15 June], as one of a draft of reinforcements for 1/20th in the 47th Division.  This must have been hard on the family.
5 July 1916 he signed his will as he was going on active service.  His name was Edward Cyril but he signed it Earnest Cyril.  His medal card also says Edward C.

The 60th Division served in France from June 1916 until Nov 1916, but was not involved in any major fighting (the 2/20th held the ‘P’ trench line in front of Vimy Ridge very close to the current Canadian Memorial park).  On 6 July they went into the front line for the first time.  By chance the next sector on the left of the 60th Division was held by the 47th Division, the 1/20th being the right hand battalion.  Two days later they marched off to the Somme.  
Due to the Somme offensive, the Vimy Ridge sector remained relatively quite, but there was plenty of patrolling and trench raiding to be done.

The trenches at Vimy Ridge today.

His records indicate he served with them for all that period.
During a rest period out of the line at the hut camp at Mont St Eloi, he may have seen the King. George V made a tour of the front [8 - 15 Aug] and visited Mont St Eloi on the 9th.  The battalion informally lined the road when he arrived and had a cricket match afterwards.

Troops line the road to see the King.

The 60th was then transferred to serve in Macedonia from Dec 1916 until June 1917.
They sailed from Marseilles to Salonica by the SS Ivernia 30 Nov 1916.

The Cunard Liner Ivernia.
She was later torpedoed and sunk by a U Boat, 11 Jan 1917, transporting 2,400 troops to Alexandria.

Camp site of the 2/20th.
Macedonia late 1916.
On their way to the front.

On 1 March 1917 a new TF numbering system was introduced and he was renumbered 630169 [so he was definatly in a theater of war before that as his medal card has both of his numbers on it].
During the time he spent in Macedonia, the battalion was digging miles of trenches and defensive positions to create a reserve line some way back from the front.  The greatest enemy at this time was the weather.
1-3 March 1917 The Great Blizzard.  Terrible weather in Macedonia.

The Great Blizzard.  March 1917.
Soon after this he was in hospital.

March 1917.  Breakfast in Macedonia.

6 March 1917 he was admitted to No:31 Casualty Clearing Station from 79th Field Ambulance.  
Rank of Private in B Company.  
Religion C of E.  
He was in Ward D2 with a not as yet diagnosed [condition of the feet].
The record says he was age 21 [wrong he was only 19], had been in the army 4 years [probably correct] and been in the field 8 months [about right].
7 March 1917 he left 31 CCS, and went to a base hospital ?
31 CCS was at Janes, not far from Sarigol in modern day Greece from Aug 1916 to Oct 1918.

10 June 1917. The 60th Division moved to Egypt, arriving at Alexandria 12-18 June 1917.  It joined XX Corps in the E.E.F. [Egyptian Expeditionary Force].
But I do not think Cyril went with them.  I think he was still ill.  His record states he was in Macedonia for an extra 5 months.

28 August 1917 his will is amended by medical staff in Floriana Hospital, Malta.  This was a converted barracks.  Today it is public works offices.  It is possible some military sick were moved to Malta from Macedonia.

Floriana Hospital – Malta.

From his medal roll
1223      1a [France]          24/6/16 – 29/11/16      agrees with 60th history
1223      2a [Macedonia]   30/11/16 – 17/11/17    5 months extra in Macedonia [28/8/17 Malta]
630169  4b [Egypt]           18/11/17 – 9/12/17      only 3 weeks

By the time he rejoined he had missed all the early battles of the campaign.

Third Battle of Gaza. 27 Oct - 7 Nov 1917.
Capture of Beersheba. 31 Oct 1917.
Capture of the Sheria Position. 6 Nov 1917. 

When he arrived in Egypt [18 Nov 1917], the battalion was at Gaza following the Turks how were in full retreat.
They counter attacked 29 Nov to try to retake the key position over looking Jerusalem, the Nebi Samwil Mosque.  A, B and C Companies held the Mosque and the summit of the hill, with D Company in support.  The Turks bombarded the position all morning and then attacked in force twice during the afternoon.  Both times they were driven off with high losses.
The 2/20th had at least 7 men KIA.  They were relieved by the 2/22nd the next day for a few days rest.

Nebi Samwil Mosque before the battle.

He was present for the Capture of Jerusalem. 7 - 9 Dec 1917.

The battle for Jerusalem.

Our oral family history states, that on hearing of his Mother and his Brother’s deaths, he went ‘over the top’ and ‘dun himself in’.
His mother died of cancer in late 1917 and his brother Reg was posted missing on the Somme on 1 Oct 1916 and would have been declared missing, assumed dead about a year later.
Possible result of shell shock as well ??
He was killed in action aged 19 on Sunday 9th December 1917. 
3 men were killed and 14 wounded in the B Company assault on that day.

CWGC record says.  Son of Mr. J. Groves, of 44, Mount St., Charlton, London.
He is buried at the Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel, in plot R22.  The cemetery is 4.5 km north of the walled city at the north end of the Mount of Olives. 
With the personal inscription “With deepest sympathy from his loving Father and family.”

He is also remembered on the church memorial at The Ascension Church, Dartmouth Row, Lewisham [as Cyril Groves].

His Service Record Documents.

His medal roll.

His medal index card.

List of his effects.

His will.

Church memorial. The Ascension Church, Dartmouth Row, Lewisham.

His original head stone.
The personal inscription at the bottom reads;
“With deepest sympathy
from his loving Father
and family.”

2014 – his new head stone.

Other Items.
Regimental history in which he is mentioned.

Lt Col William Warde-Aldam DSO.
CO 2/20th London.

Capt Maurice Lane MC MM.  
B Company Commander.

Poppies at the Tower of London 2014.

I applied for and had his name added to the Roll of Honour.  His and his brother Cyril's names were read out on November 8th 2014, by  Miss Diana Lees, Director of the Imperial War Museum.  The Last Post was sounded by WO2 [Band Srgt Maj] Ralph Brill, Scots Guards.
To see the video.

To see the full list.

They are numbers 52 and 54.

The Groves Family.


20th London Company locations
HQ, A, B, C and E Coys at Holly Hedge House, Blackheath,
D Coy at New Cross, [2 miles NW]
F and H Coys at Woolwich, [4 miles NE]
G Coy at Catford, [2 miles S] based at St Dunstan’s College

Salonika 1916-17.

The battle of Tumbitza Farm (17 November - 7 December)

The Salonika Force dug-in until the summer of 1916, by which time the international force had been reinforced and joined by Serbian, Russian and Italian units. The Bulgarian attempt at invasion of Greece in July was repulsed near Lake Doiran. At the beginning of Oct 1916, the British in co-operation with her allies on other parts of the front, began operations on the River Struma towards Serres. The campaign was successful with the capture of the Rupell Pass and advances to within a few miles of Serres.
The First Battle of Doiran (22 April - 8 May)
The Capture of Ferdie and Essex Trenches (near Bairakli Jum'a) (15 May)
The Capture of Bairakli and Kumli (16 May)

During 1917 there was comparatively little activity on the British part of the front in Macedonia, due in part to complex political changes in Greece throughout the year. The main fighting took place around Lake Doiran, where the line was adjusted several times by each side early in the year. In April 1917, the British attacked, gained a considerable amount of ground and resisted strong counter-attacks. In May, the Bulgarians attacked the British positions, but were firmly repulsed. The British action in May triggered a series of attacks elsewhere on the front by the other Allies, known as the Battle of Vardar.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hospital Photos.

Photos of my Granddad when he was recovering from his wound.
John seated far left.

John second from right

John on the left, seated on bed,

Monday, May 1, 2017

My Granddad returns to England 1st May 1917.

A cross channel Hospital Ship - the St David.

On the cross channel Hospital Ship going home, there was a real fear of submarine attack.  They had a drill in the event of an attack.  During the drill the Doctor said to Jack, ‘Could you walk to that door?’ Jack replied, ‘I would crawl if I had to’.
He returned to England on May 1st 1917 [22 days after he had been wounded] and was sent to a hospital in Plymouth (4th Southern T.F. General Hospital - 193 beds for Officers and 1,029 for OR’s).  Before the war this was the Salisbury Road School, it then became a Territorial Force Hospital.

Plymouth Hospital.

1/5/17 is recorded on his medal roll saying that was the date he left the war zone.
He did not go to any other theatre of war after that, all his service was done at ‘Home’.
He was transferred to the RDC at some time after it was formed in August 1917.  So between May 1917 and August, he was recovering from his wound and must have spent some time in the Labour Corps [or just have been assigned to it], in this country.

Salisbury Road Junior School in 2012. Opened in 1903.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

No:3 CCS and No:23 Ambulance Train

My Granddad was admitted to No: 3 Casualty Clearing Station on the day he was wounded [8/4/1917].
His wound was recorded as 'Wound type IX4'.  Gunshot wound of lower extremities, compound fracture of.
His notes say this made him eligible for a wound stripe to wear on his uniform.
There is also a note '500 units of anti-tetanus serum administered on 8/4/1917'.
He was then transferred on to No: 23 Ambulance Train on 11/4/1917.  This train would have taken him to one of the Base Hospitals at one of the channel ports.

No: 23 Ambulance Train.
3CCS was located at Aveluy just north of Albert [back down the road near where he joined the battery].  It had been there a month and was packing up ready to advance again with the army, to Grevillers just west of Bapaume.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Easter Sunday (8th April) 1917

Here for the following two weeks they were occupied in wire-cutting and bombardments on the Hindenburg line with 106 fuses. There is no specific entry on the 8 April concerning 140 SB just a general wire-cutting and bombardment continued. 
Tactical: Bombardment of the Hindenburg line 3-11 April. Casualties: (for the month) 8 Killed. 2 Officers and 26 OR’s wounded.

He was seriously wounded on Easter Sunday (8th April) 1917.  The battery he was with moved forward for a surprise attack at dawn.  They were having breakfast in the kitchen of an old farmhouse when a German spotter plane came over and saw them.  The Germans then shelled them first.  The farm suffered a direct hit and he was standing by a window and was blown out of it.  He was the only survivor of his party.  He had a piece of shrapnel go through the top of his right thigh and into his left. 
  He was seriously wounded and could not walk.  The piece of shrapnel was later removed and he kept it on his bedside table in hospital until someone pinched it. 

No:3 CCS records state. 12 casualties that day.  3 KIA, 5 DOW and 4 survived. 

The three killed were.   Corporal Edward Brittan (8028), from Wolverhampton, age 30,  Thomas Carter (70697), from London, age 30  and Walter Haylett (79091), also from London.   They are all buried together at the Achiet-le-Grand cemetery, 19km south of Arras [grave refs I C 6, 7 & 8].   

One report states.  Guns in action, 9 (for the whole group). 2 Gunners of 194 SB injured by shellfire’. [2 killed Martin & Kay].

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Howitzer Film

A short bit of film from Youtube of the type of howitzer used by 140 SB.

Note the number of gun crew involved [10 men].

Also note the roof tiles falling off the barn, due to the concussion, when the howitzer fires near the end of the film.

14 HAG actions April 1917.

April 4th.  34 SB, also at Morchies, had 7 men killed and 9 wounded.
April 6th.  1194 SB had 2 howitzers destroyed.
April 7th.  The whole of 14 HAG fired about 1,000 rounds on the Hindenburg Line. Wire cutting, grazing type shells, in preparation for the 5th Australian Divisions attack.

Locations of the 4 Siege Batteries in 14 HAG.