The war memorial at Rivenhall, Essex has a number of Essex Regiment names on it, as would be expected. My visit was due to Captain JHV Willmott MC being one of them. My research in the 2 Battalion Essex Regiment has drawn me to the story of him, and his brother, and their service with the 2 Essex. JHV Willmott was killed on 28 March 1918 during the stand of the 2 Essex against the "Kaiser Offensive" near Arras. His brother Basil was captured on the same day.
The research into the war experience of 2 Battalion Essex Regiment has been continuing, but now the field trips have started. This photo was taken in the area occupied by battalion headquarters during the action at Le Cateau on 26 August 1914. The battalion advanced away from the camera, towards (and onto) the high ground in the background.
The road that can be seen in the photo is paved, was marked on contemporary maps and was pretty much the right axis of the battalion's advance.
As members of the Kitchener's New Army, the 11th battalion Essex Regiment went into action on 25th September 1915 at the British Army's attack around the French village of Loos.
The war diary makes interesting reading, challenging a number of preconceptions about the methods used by the army of the day.
"At 9 am the CO called the officers of the Batn together have them an outline of the operations. They were told that an enemy position if found too strong was to be left- as the object was to push on as quickly as possible."
On its advance the battalion stopped to collect haversack rations and to fill their waterbottles. A contrast to the experience of other units.
Having crossed the old British front line the battalion paused to check position and direct, then advanced past a "solitary tree" in platoons.
On reaching the Lone Tree they came under rifle and shell fire when they "halted and lay down for about 3 hours". The casualties were listed as Lt Clifford and one man wounded.
By 2am on the 26th the battalion was in the German second line trench.
Elsewhere on this blog I have looked at the "local" nature of the 10th Bn Essex Regiment. My interests have broadened over the last few years, leading me to start a study of the 2 Bn as well.
This regular army battalion went overseas on 22 August 1914 and remained on the western front throughout. The 1914 Star medal roll provides a snapshot of the battalion in the early years of the war, listing 990 "other ranks" who landed on 22 August 1914 with the battalion. Study of these 990 men has proved quite distracting, but the following figures were the original findings taken from the medal roll:
Killed in action 179
Died of wounds 90
Prisoner of war 45
As this roll was compiled in 1918 the information isn't complete and subsequent research has (and continues) to update these figures.
1.30am to 2.30am Our guns heavily bombarded the German trenches on our left. German Artillery replied but very few shells fell in this sub-sector, only three German batteries appeared to fire. Enemy employed searchlights on A1, A2 and Z2 during the Bombardment. One searchlight is said to have been put out of action by our own supporting Battery. Object of Bombardment, A Raiding Party to go out from A2 (7th Bedfordshire Regt 54th IB)
Enemy very active for remainder of night with MGs.
Day all quiet. A few Rifle grenades were fired by the Enemy during the afternoon, into the "Square" and A16/1 these are the first grenades that have fallen in Z2.
Enemy's MGs were very active during the night.
enemy employed 3 searchlights to try to locate a French aeroplane that was flying over Z sector during the night.
Our patrols out all night, reported presence of large Enemy's patrol.
Enemy's patrol fired on with Lewis Gun and dispersed.
War diary list gives the following casualty for this day:
All quiet during the day. Enemy fired about 15 How shells into Maricourt Valley (south of the village) searching for our Artillery. Our Artillery registered on the German front & second line in the afternoon.
Everything very quiet during the evening, practically no firing on the part of the enemy until 11.50pm when there was considerable rifle fire. owing to our guns fired rapidly onto A1 & A2 subsectors. Wiring had to be suspended and patrols withdrawn to our own wire.
Enemy's 4.2 Hows fired 8 rounds into the base of AP1, slight damage done to trench.
One STOKES Gun belonging to 53/2 TM took up it's position at the junction og ORCHARD AVENUE and Trench A16/3.
Enemy's MGs and Rifle fire active during the night.
Officers of the 2nd Bedfordshire Regt came and visited these trenches prior to the 89th IB relieving the 53rd IB in Z1 and Z2.
1.5am to 2am Transport heard at Montauban.
3.10am Train heard leaving Montauban through BRIQUETTERIE.
Patrols 2Lt Wearne and 4 men reconnoitered the sap 30 yards to west Briquetterie Road, about 10 y infront of the Enemy's trench there is a trench 10y long by 5 ft deep. Sounds of iron stakes being driven in, half left from this trench.
We had wiring party out infront of A16/4. 40y Barbed and French wire put up.