Lochnagar Labyrinth Panels 11-15

Pte. 1216 Charles R. Frankish

10th Lincolns (Grimsby Chums)

Pte. 1216 Charles R. Frankish 10th Lincolns (Grimsby Chums).

Each year, during the annual Lochnagar Remembrance Ceremony Roger Frankish, a stalwart Friend of Lochnagar has placed a wreath to his father who was wounded at the Crater on 1st July. Roger has written a superb book on the experiences of the men of his village, called ‘The Barnetby Boys’. Here is part of his father’s account.

“It seemed a long wait until 7.28am when the mine went up. I remember the ground shaking like a jelly. We had been told that the advance would be a walk-over, as the trenches had been destroyed and most of the troops killed but we knew this was not true, as several times before the attack we had shown our dummy troops over the parapet, (tunics filled with straw and wearing gas masks and tin hats). The reply was a terrific hail of machine-gun and rifle fire.

After two minutes we went over the top into the churned mud of no-man’s-land. The small arms and shell-fire was very heavy. I had not gone far when a bullet struck my equipment and spun me round like a top, but I was none the worse. It was very hard going as I was also carrying two trench mortar bombs in a sand-bag.

About half way to the German trenches I received a terrific blow on my left forearm. I collapsed into the nearest shell hole, my arm quite useless, apparently broken.
Eventually I made it to No. 102 Field Ambulance Station to enjoy the best sleep I had had for months.”

In those 500 yards (approx. 450 metres) of the attack, from a fighting strength of 840 men the Grimsby Chums suffered over 500 casualties, with 180 men killed.

A group of Grimsby Chums. © Roger Frankish.

The Sacrifice of All Nations

At the going down of the sun…1st July

The Great War was truly global in its reach, the complex alliances of nations and their empires fell into place in 1914. It was even predicted in 1906 that, “a war in Europe… must necessarily set the whole world ablaze”. This prophecy came true to many millions of men and women everywhere.

Men of every race, colour, creed and religion came from all the great cities and the smallest villages. They volunteered, were conscripted and sometimes, in the colonies even coerced, to join the great armies of Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas to serve, fight, suffer and die, often thousands of miles from home.

Women paid a heavy price too; the hardship brought by the loss of their menfolk, husbands, sons and brothers. Women served in their own right also; as nurses, factory workers and in jobs vacated everywhere by the men now gone to fight.

Armistice and peace in 1918 may have ended the fighting but it did not end the suffering – the loss and grief felt as a result of the many millions who had perished.

At Lochnagar, with our unique Wreath of Reconciliation, laid during the annual 1st July Remembrance Ceremony, we remember all the men and women who were denied their future, never achieving their potential, with their hopes and dreams unrealised.

As it states on the Wreath:

Lochnagar

In a spirit of
remembrance and reconciliation,
Let us now, in their honour
Go in Peace

The Wreath of Reconciliation – Centenary 2016

An account by Pte. Billy Disbrey

11th Suffolks (Cambridge Pals)

Herbert William Disbrey, 11th Suffolks (Cambridge Pals). Courtesy of Stuart Disbrey.

For many years, Les Disbrey, one of the founding members of the Friends of Lochnagar would lovingly lay a wreath to his ‘Uncle Billy’ who fell at the Crater on the 1st July. Here is Billy’s story – 15812 Pte. Herbert William Disbrey, 11th Bttn., The Suffolk Regt – the Cambridge Pals.

Amidst great enthusiasm, the young men of the small village of Barton in Cambridgeshire answered Kitchener’s call in 1914. One of them was a cheerful 22 year old farm labourer called Billy who found himself, on the morning of 1st July, in the trenches 1,000 yards (approx. 900 metres) in front of their objective, the formidable German strongpoint of Schwaben Höhe. As he waited for the whistles to blow, the huge Lochnagar mine, to their left, exploded.

Billy’s battalion set off following the Grimsby Chums. Both were untried in battle but they resolutely walked through the hailstorm of machine-gun fire that viciously swept back and forth along their ranks as, all around them they witnessed their lifelong friends cut down.

Miraculously about a dozen men even got as far as the relative shelter of their objective only to be engulfed by flame-throwers placed on the trench parapet.

By nightfall over half of the 11th Suffolks lay dead or wounded in no-man’s-land and the original Cambridge Pals were no more.

On that one, terrible day Barton alone lost two of its young men, among no less than ten who died in the war and who are honoured on the village war memorial.

Billy’s body was never recovered from the battlefield. He is commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’sThiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

15th and 16th Royal Scots

The Edinburgh City Battalions

In the early hours of 1st July, the 15th Royal Scots followed by their comrades from 16th Royal Scots, moved silently from their positions on the right flank, forward into no-man’s-land, in preparation for the coming assault.

Cpl. H. Beaumont, M.M., 1st Edinburgh City Battalion later recounted his memories of 0728hrs:

‘We were out in no-man’s-land, waiting. The whole world seemed to be moving; the earth moved sideways and back three times before the final explosion of the mine. I saw the debris rise hundreds of feet into the air and then it began to fall back with a noise rising above the bombardment. I thought “This is it”, and buried my head underneath my tin hat and arms, waiting for the first clout. However it missed me but caught some of the men on my left.’

The two Edinburgh City Battalions were to move up Sausage Valley towards the enemy strongholds. But try as they might, withering machine-gun and artillery fire forced them to veer further east up the exposed slope. As the terrible day progressed and the ferocious fighting continued, survivors from the assorted battalions found themselves in the enemy trenches. Surrounded on three sides, they made another assault back towards an objective Scot’s Redoubt, this time taking it. Later in the day, men moved forward again and gathered overlooking Contalmaison. Exhausted and so diminished in number they had, at such terrible cost, succeeded in taking one of their main objectives.

“T’isn’t worth it…”

Pte. Harry Patch
1898 – 2009

Harry Patch, 7th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Photo © Keith Collman – www.greatwarportraits.com

Pte. Harry Patch arrived in France and celebrated his 19th birthday in the trenches of Flanders. As part of a Lewis gun team, he was one of five men, who along with many thousands of others were sucked into that horror of mud, blood, and death – the Third Battle of Ypres, now better known as Passchendaele.

“If any man tells you he went into the front line and he wasn’t scared – he’s a liar.You were scared from the moment you got there.You never knew. I mean, in the trench you were all right. If you kept down, a sniper couldn’t get you. But you never knew if the artillery had a shell that burst above you and you caught the shrapnel. That was it.”

And it wasn’t long before Harry did catch some shrapnel; in late September coming back to camp from the trenches one night with his comrades, a German shell exploded nearby killing three and seriously wounding Harry. His war was over.

For eighty years, Harry kept his thoughts to himself, never speaking to anyone about what had happened to him all those years before. He was one hundred years old before he started to talk about life and death in the maelstrom of war.

“It wasn’t worth it. No war is worth it. No war is worth the loss of a couple of lives let alone thousands. T’isn’t worth it… the First World War, if you boil it down, what was it? Nothing but a family row. That’s what caused it. T’isn’t worth it.”

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