- Coldstream Guards during the Great War -
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- 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards
- 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards
- 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards
- 4th Battalion, Coldstream Guards
12th Aug 1914 On the Move
25th Aug 1914 Street Fighting
25th Aug 1914 Fierce Fighting
29th Aug 1914 Straight for the Front
9th Sep 1914 Prisoners Taken
17th Sep 1914 In Action
18th Sep 1914 Artillery In Action
21st Sep 1914 Coldstream Guards Charge
28th Sep 1914 Brave rescue
4th Oct 1914 1st Coldstreams in action 1st Battalion, Coldstream guards were involved in a bayonet charge at Aisne near Vendresse on October 4th 1914.
4th Oct 1914 The Story of a Waterbottle
23rd Oct 1914 2nd Coldstreams near Ypres 2nd Coldstream Guards were at Zonnebeke.
2nd Nov 1914 A Brutal Lot
2nd Nov 1914 Attack Made
7th Nov 1914 Tragic Letters Forwarded
7th Nov 1914 Nursed by a Duchess
12th Nov 1914 A Rough Time
23rd Nov 1914 The Bravest Men in the World
25th Dec 1914 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards War Diary Very cold and freezing hard, snipers cause a few casualties, otherwise quiet. Defence arranged, 2 companies in trenches, 1 coy in support, 1 coy in billet, relief taking place nightly.
31st Dec 1914 In Action
20th Jan 1915 Reliefs
21st Jan 1915 Flowing with Water
23rd Jan 1915 On the Move
23rd Jan 1915 Truce Controversy
24th Jan 1915 Under Shellfire
25th Jan 1915 German Attack
25th Jan 1915 In Action
25th Jan 1915 Artillery In Action
28th Jan 1915 Reports of Explosion
30th Jan 1915 Reliefs
31st Jan 1915 Snipers at the Keep
1st Feb 1915 Counter Attack
6th February 1915 1st Bn Herts in action in Pont Fixe road The Bn paraded at 5.20am and moved to trenches in Pont Fixe road. No.4 Company in support trenches.
Later No.3 Company went up under orders of Officer Commanding Irish Guards and later still No.2 Coy went up under orders of Officer Commanding 3rd Bn Coldstream Guards. Heavy bombardment 2-2.15pm. At 2.15pm parties of 3rd Bn Coldstream Guards and Irish Guards assaulted Brickstacks and took the same. The Bn returned to billets in the evening - one man killed.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
6th Feb 1915 Attack Made
7th February 1915 Another 1st Bn Herts fatality at Cuinchy Two Companies under Captain Jones reported to O.C. 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards at 6.30am at Cuinchy. No.2 Coy sent 2 platoons to Fire Trench.
1 man killed in No.1 Company in support. Lieut. J. Pawle dangerously wounded.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
6th April 1915 1st Bn Herts take over from Coldstream Guards Bn took over trenches at Givenchy from the 3rd Bn Coldstream Guards. Nos. 1&3 Coys in front line, Nos. 2&4 Coys in second line.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
8th April 1915 1st Bn Herts moves into billets at Le Quesnoy Btn was relieved by 3rd Bn Coldstream Guards and went into billets at Le Quesnoy.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
10th April 1915 1st Bn Herts back at Givenchy The Bn again took over B1 Givenchy from the 3rd Bn Coldstream Guards.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
17th April 1915 Daily Battery Activity 6th London Brigade RFA 15th Battery, 6th London Brigade Royal Field Artillery registered on forward German trench near Railway. Range 3350 yards. 16th Battery opened fire - twelve rounds - on road junction about Chapelle St Roche (A.4.c.1.4). 16th Battery, at request of OC. 3rd Coldstream Guards fired twelve rounds on German second trench (A.9.c.7.7.). Range 4175 yards.War Diaries
17th April 1915 1st Bn Herts into billets at Le Quesnoy Relieved by the 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards and went into billets at Le Quesnoy.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
19th April 1915 1st Bn Herts at Givenchy Took over trenches at Windy Corner, Givenchy from 3rd Bn Coldstream Guards. 2 Companies in trenches, 2 in support.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
24th April 1915 In Action
25th Apr 1915 Underground Rescue
27th April 1915 1st Bn Herts relieved by the 2nd Coldstream Guards Bn relieved by the 2nd Coldstream Guards at B1.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
1st May 1915 1st Bn Herts back at Le Quesnoy The Bn was relieved by the 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards and went into billets at Le Quesnoy.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
3rd May 1915 1st Bn Herts relieved by Coldstream Guards Bn relieved the 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards at B1.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
12th May 1915 Leeds guardsman duel with German officer
19th May 1915 Heavy casualties for 1st Bn Herts Consolidated position during the day, were heavily shelled and also when we were relieved during the night by the 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards.
The Bn returned to billets at Le Touret, all back about 12.30am (20th). During the 18th and 19th the Bn had the following casualties; Lieut. Davis H.G.J., Lieut. Palmer V.H., 2/Lieuts. Christie, Oldham and Loyd wounded. 17 NCOs and men killed, 91 NCOs and men wounded.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
27th Jun 1915 On the March
13th July 1915 1st Bn Herts relieved in A2 sector The Brigade frontage was shortened, the 4th Brigade holding from Canal to La Bassie road.
Battalion was relieved in A2 sector by the Royal Munster Fusiliers and 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards. No.4 Coy relieved 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards in Cuinchy Support Point and No.2 Coy relieved 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards at Cambrin Support Point and Braddells Point.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
30th July 1915 1st Bn Herts relieved by the 3rd Bn Coldstream Guards The Battalion was relieved by the 3rd Bn Coldstream Guards and marched back to billets at Le Quesnoy.War Diary of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment
6th Aug 1915 Reliefs Completed
14th Aug 1915 A Warm Shop
16th Aug 1915 Cutting the Corn
2nd Sep 1915 Policeman's Lucky Escape
14th Sep 1915 No Life at All
25th Sep 1915 2nd Coldstreams Attack
28th Sep 1915 In Action
30th Sep 1915 Reliefs Completed
8th Oct 1915 Sucessful Counter Attack
8th October 1915 Enemy Attack
15th Oct 1915 In the Trenches
16th Oct 1915 In the Trenches
23rd Oct 1915 3rd Coldstreams in the Trenches
1st Nov 1915 The Name of the Guards
13th Nov 1915 Recent Fighting the Worst
6th Dec 1915 In the Trenches
17th Dec 1915 Night Sports
17th Dec 1915 Fatigue Party
25th Dec 1915 Relief Completed
30th Dec 1915 Sentry Killed
18th Mar 1916 Escape from Germany
15th Sep 1916 Tanks in Action
16th Sep 1916 Attack Made
13th Nov 1916 In the Trenches
10th Mar 1917 Pioneers at Work
25th Oct 1917 In the Wood
11th Nov 1917 On the March
12th Nov 1917 On the March
13th Nov 1917 On the March
17th Nov 1917 On the March
18th Nov 1917 On the March
19th Nov 1917 On the March
24th Nov 1917 In Action
30th Nov 1917 Enemy Advance
1st Dec 1917 In Action
If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.
Want to know more about Coldstream Guards?
There are:21633 pages and articles tagged Coldstream Guards available in our Library
Those known to have served with
during the Great War 1914-1918.
- Abraham Albert. L/Sgt. 3rd Btn.
- Adamson John Edward. 3rd Btn. (d.2nd Feb 1915)
- Askew W. J.. L/Sgt. 2nd Btn.
- Bailey Charles William. Pte. 2nd Battalion (d.26th Oct 1914)
- Balderstone Henry. Gdmn. 3rd Btn. (d.17th Aug 1915)
- Balderstone Henry. Pte. 2nd Btn. (d.17th Aug 1915)
- Bale R.W..
- Barker Noah. Pte. 3rd Battalion (d.11th Nov 1914)
- Bentinck Henry Duncan. Mjr. (d.2nd Oct 1916)
- Bolch Samuel Walter. Pte. 1st Btn. (d.15th Sep 1916)
- Brabazon Ernest William. Capt. 4th Bn (d.17th June 1915)
- Brown Dennis. Pte. 4th Btn.
- Burrows Alexander. Pte. 2nd Btn. (d.18th March 1915)
- Busley Sydney Ernest Victor. Pte. 2nd Bn. (d.16th Sept 1916)
- Calvert Robert William. 1st Btn (d.29th Oct 1914)
- Campbell Allan William George. Lt. (d.20th Sep 1914)
- Clifford Frederick. Pte. 1st Btn.
- Cook Fred. Pte. 1st Battalion (d.19th Sep 1914)
- Cooper Harold. Pte. 2nd Battalion (d.16th Sept 1916)
- Cox William Ewart. Pte.
- Crathorn William Oliver. L/Cpl. 4th Battalion (d.15th Sep 1916)
- Daley William. Pte. 3rd Btn. (d.5th April 1915)
- Dunleavy Bernard. L/Sgt. 4th Btn. (d.25th Sep 1918)
- Dymott Alfred James. L/Cpl. 2nd Btn. (d.24th March 1918)
- Edwards George. Sgt. 1st Battalion
- Edwards George. Sjt. 1st Btn.
- Evans Arnold. Pte. 4th Btn.
- Evans Arnold. Pte. 3rd Btn.
- Evans William Ernest. Sgt. 1st Btn. (d.16th Oct 1917)
- Evans William Ernest. Sgt. 1st Btn. (d.16th Oct 1917)
- Fitzsimmons Joseph. Cpl. 2nd Btn.
- Flint Harry. L/Cpl. 2nd Btn. (d.16th September 1916)
- France William Henry. Pte. 1st Battalion (d.29th Oct 1914)
- Galpin Randolph. Pte. 2nd Btn. (d.16th September 1916)
- Gamble James Kenneth. Sgt. 3rd Btn.
- Gammon William Stanley Argyle. Pte. 4th Btn. (d.15th Sep 1915)
- Graves-Sawle Richard Charles. Lt. 2nd Btn. (d.2nd Nov 1914)
- Green James. Pte. 3rd Btn. (d.15th Sep 1916)
- Green John Albert. 3rd Btn.
- Greenslade Ernest. Sgt. 2nd Btn.
- Heaton John Thomas. Pte. 1st Btn. (d.16th Aug 1915)
- Hiscox Arthur. Pte. 1st Btn. (d.29th Oct 1914)
- Holt Frederick William. Pte. 3rd Btn. (d.15th September 1916)
- Hopper Walter. Pte. 1st Battalion (d.October 1914)
- Irving Ernest. CSM. 2nd Battalion (d.27th Sep 1918)
- Jackson Jack. Pte. 3rd Battalion
- Jennings Martin. Pte. 4th Battalion (d.29th Oct 1914)
- Johnson Thomas. Pte. 3rd Btn. (d.13th April 1918)
- Killeen James. Pte. 2nd Btn. (d.15th September 1914)
- Lawrence Frederick William. Pte. 3rd Btn.
- Lisher Reginald. Pte. 1st Btn., 3 Coy. (d.14th Sep 1914)
- Livingstone Joseph. Pte. 1st Btn (d.19th Sep 1914)
- Lockwood Mark. Pte. 3rd Btn. (d.9th Sep 1914)
- Lockwood Richard William Mark. 2nd Lt. 2nd Btn. (d.14th Sep 1914)
- Lowe Bernard Richard. Pte 3rd Btn. (d.15th Sep 1916)
- Mace Samuel Charles. Pte 2nd Btn (d.2nd Aug 1917)
- Marchant Ernest William. Pte. 1st Battalion
- Marker Raymond John. Lt.Col. (d.13th Nov 1914)
- Mason Henry. Pte. 3rd Btn. (d.17th Jan 1918)
- McCann Joseph. Pte. 2nd Battalion (d.20th Sep 1914)
- McGraa William. Pte. 1st Btn. (d.8th December 1914)
- Monck Charles Henry Stanley. Capt. 3rd Btn., 3rd Coy. (d.21st Oct 1914)
- Newbould William. Pte. (d.28th Mar 1918)
- Painter Charles Richard. Pte.
- Parkes William Charles. Pte. 2nd Btn (d.7th May 1918)
- Parsons Archibald Thomas. Pte. 2nd Btn. (d.9th Oct 1917)
- Phillips H. T.W.. Pte. 1st Btn. (d.30th May 1916)
- Phipps Frank Herbert. L/Cpl 3rd Battalion (d.13 April 1918)
- Prout Richard William Henry. Pte. 2nd Btn. (d.21st Sep 1916 )
- Pryce Richard James. Pte. 3rd Btn. (d.13th April 1918)
- Rice Alfred Thomas. Pte. 1st Btn. (d.18th Jun 1916)
- Rochelle Thomas. Gdsmn. 2nd Btn.
- Rochelle Thomas. Pte. 2nd Btn.
- Simon Harry. Pte. 1st Btn. 4 Coy. (d.1st Aug 1917)
- Stocker Frank. L/Sgt. 1st Battalion (d.27th October 1918)
- Surtees William. Pte. 2nd Battalion (d.19th Sep 1914)
- Swan James. Pte.
- Talbot Thomas Alfred. CQMS. 3rd Battalion
- Tappin Cecil George. Pte. 3rd Btn. (d.15th September 1916)
- Trull William. Pte. 3rd Btn. (d.17th Oct 1917)
- Trull William. Pte. 3rd Battalion (d.31st Jul 1917)
- Tweed Edward Thomas. Pte. 2nd Battalion (d.16th Feb 1915)
- Watson Joseph. Pte. 13th Coy. 1st Btn
- Wells William James. Pte. 1st Btn.
- Whitham Thomas. Pte. 1st Btn.
- Wootton Alfred. Pte. (d.1st Oct 1914)
- Wyatt George. L/Sgt.
- Wyer Herbert. L/Sgt. 3rd Battalion (d.2nd November 1914)
- Young Thomas Lees. Private 2nd Battalion (d.16th Sep 1916)
All names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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Pte. William Stanley Argyle Gammon 4th Btn. Coldstream Guards (d.15th Sep 1915)William Gammon was killed in action on the 15th of September 1915, aged 21, he was the son of William and Eva L. Gammon, of 90 Divinity Rd., Oxford.s flynn
Pte. Alexander Burrows 2nd Btn. Coldstream Guards (d.18th March 1915)Sandy Burrows was killed in action on the 18th of March 1915, aged 33. Buried in Bethune Town Cemetery, France, he was the son of the late Richard and Margaret Burrows, of Burnley, husband of M. E. Burrows, of 22 Prestwich St., Burnley, Lancs. Prior to enlisting he was the licensee of the Cross Gates Inn, Finsley Gate, Burnley. The Inn did not survive the war, it was closed in 1915 and compensation paid for the licence. The building remained empty until demolished in 1953.s flynn
Pte. Harry Simon 1st Btn. 4 Coy. Coldstream Guards (d.1st Aug 1917)Harry Simon served with 1st Bn. Coldstream Guards and lost his life on the 1st of August 1917. Aged 22, he was the son of Henry and Ada Simon of 6, West Park Terrace, Healey, Batley, Yorks.Marcus Simon
Pte. Frederick William Lawrence 3rd Btn. Coldstream GuardsFrederick Lawrence is my grandad. He did not speak of WW1 except to answer my question upon returning from a holiday in Spain in 1965, "Have you ever been abroad Grandad?", to which he replied "Only once and I didn't much care for it!" He became a mounted policeman in Liverpool and died in 1978 at the age of 83.Alan J. Lawrence
Pte. Reginald Lisher 1st Btn., 3 Coy. Coldstream Guards (d.14th Sep 1914)Reginald Lisher was killed in action on the Marne on 14th September 1914, aged 18. He was the son of James and Ellen Lisher of Ivy Cottage, Lancing. Reginald was born in Lancing and enlisted in Brighton. He is commemorated on the La Ferte-Sous-Joarre Memorial.
He was my first cousin once removed (my grandfather's nephew). His story is told on a website written by a local historian who has researched all the men from Lancing who served and died in WW1.Mary Connaughton
L/Sgt. Frank Stocker 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards (d.27th October 1918)My great uncle, Frank Stocker, was taken POW, reported missing on 12th of May 1918 & confirmed POW in Germany on 17th of October 1918. He died in the Gembloux Communal Hospital on 27th October 1918, his death certificate does not state cause of death. I should love to know more of his story during the war.Ann Reid
Pte. William Ewart Cox Coldstream GuardsWilliam Cox was my maternal grandfather. He was born on 6th of October 1891 at Thame, Oxon. He returned from WW1 and served as a Police Officer with the Oxfordshire Constabulary. He died on in 1957. I have no knowledge or information concerning his service time during WW1.
Pte. Richard William Henry Prout 2nd Btn. Coldstream Guards (d.21st Sep 1916 )Harry Prout is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of The Somme.Joanne Knight
Pte. James Killeen 2nd Btn. Coldstream Guards (d.15th September 1914)When tracing my family history, I located this man, James Killeen, who was my great uncle. He died, aged 28 years, on 15th September 1914 during the Retreat from Mons whilst serving as a private with the Coldstream Guards. There's an old photograph somewhere in our family of a soldier in a red tunic. I have just a poor photograph of that photograph, and understand no one knew who he was. The configuration of the buttons on the tunic seems to indicate Coldstream Guards.
His age, home, city, address, date of death and marital status all matches. He was apparently married to a lady named Jane, but they had no children. I have no idea what happened to her, she's not known in our family, so far as I know.
James is buried in a church cemetery in the village of Soupir, in France, and I'll make sure I visit next year to pay my respects, take a photo and leave a tribute. I am left with an infinitely sad feeling that he's somehow managed to come home into our family memory after all these years. I am immensely grateful for his sacrifice, courage and our freedom. James won't be forgotten again, and I will research more and make sure of that. We will certainly remember James, and if I can locate the photograph I will try to upload.Dennis Killeen
Sgt. Ernest Greenslade 2nd Btn. Coldstream GuardsErnest Greenslade enlisted in July 1907 and retired on 17th July 1914 as a Lance Sergent. He was remobilised in August 1914 at the start of WWI and promoted to the rank of Sergent in the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards.
Ernest served in the 2nd Battalion (4th Brigade) around the Ypres Salient in Belgium, Gheluvelt, Nonne Bosschen, Neuve Chapelle, Aubers and Festubert in 1915 as well as at Loos, Mount Sorrel. He also fought with the 1st Guards Brigade, Guards Division in the Battle of the Somme.
Sgt Greenslade was wounded on 19th November 1914 during the 1st Battle of Ypres (Flanders) defending Klein Zillebeke: he suffered a gunshot wound to his left forearm. He was wounded again on 15th September 1916 on the first day of the third phase of the Battle of the Somme (historically the first day that large numbers of tanks were used).
His medals include: 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, Silver War Badge and King's Certificate.
Ernest had two daughters, Marjorie and Cissie, but both died during the war, aged two and one. He was discharged in August 1917 as no longer fit for war service.Graham
Pte Bernard Richard Lowe 3rd Btn. Coldstream Guards (d.15th Sep 1916)I am told that my Great Grandfather Bernard Lowe's army records state that he died in Mons on 15th Sept 1916 but Mons was occupied by the Germans on that date. I have been to Mons today and verified that fact. Yesterday I went to Albert on the Somme where on the 15th September 1916 there was a big offensive at Ginchy, apparently involving The Guards. I have seen Bernard's name on the monument at Thiepval. I have his picture in uniform.
Editor's Note: Bernard's battalion fought at Mons in 1914, perhaps someone has confused this with his death during the Battle of the Somme?Gilly Appleton
Pte. Thomas Johnson 3rd Btn. Coldstream Guards (d.13th April 1918)Thomas Johnson was born in Black Bourton, Clanfield, Oxfordshire in 1893. He was the son of Thomas and Ester. In 1915 he worked as a railway porter for the London and South Western Railway at Templecombe. He was 6 foot 1 1/2 according to records.
He married Violet Kate Burrows on 17th March 1917. She was originally from Gloucestershire but they met in Black Bourton when she worked as a domestic servant.
Five days after their marriage Thomas was released for military service from the railway. On 25th December 1917 their son Thomas Henry was born. On 13th April 1918 Thomas was listed as missing presumed killed in action. His name is on the Victory Arch at Waterloo Station.R. Bullock
L/Cpl. Alfred James Dymott 2nd Btn. Coldstream Guards (d.24th March 1918)Alfred James Dymott was born in 1895 in Plumstead, South East London. He was the youngest of five brothers born to Henry and Eliza Dymott (nee Whiskin), and he was known as James or Jim, rather than Alfred. His brother and my grandfather, Arthur, lived at 101 Conway Road from 1914 until Arthur died in 1972. In 1911 James is recorded on the census as being employed as a 'house painters boy'.
He joined up in the autumn of 1914 disembarking at Le Havre on 17th March 1915. He was promoted to Lance Corporal and died on 24th March 1918 whilst serving in a new support line at Boiry St. Martin, Ficheux. He was killed outright, along with three comrades, during a withdrawal of the battalion to a new support line near Boiry-St.-Martin during the German Spring Offensive. Another 13 being wounded on that particular day. He is buried at Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux. His headstone reads: Gone from us but not forgotten never shall thy memory fade. He was 22 years old.Jacqueline Taylor
Pte. Samuel Walter Bolch 1st Btn. Coldstream Guards (d.15th Sep 1916)Samuel Bolch served with the 1st Btn. Coldstream Guards.Niel Howrd
Pte Samuel Charles Mace 2nd Btn Coldstream Guards (d.2nd Aug 1917)Samuel Mace was born 20th Dec 1888 in Leicester and joined the Coldstream Guards on the 7th May 1906 in that city. His trade before entering the army was a moulder. His education within the Army took place at the Duke of York's Royal Military School; Royal Hibernian Military School; Industrial School under Home Office or Local Government Board. He obtained a Certificate of Education 2nd Class on 6 July 1906 and also passed swimming in 1906 and passed Ambulance Class at Aldershot on 19th March 1907. He married Mabel Cove on 25th December 1911 and they had three children - Eileen, Samuel Alan (known as Alan) and Joan born in 1916 the day after Samuel returned to the front.
His military history sheet shows that he served at home from 7th May 1906 until 25th August 1914. From 26th August 1914 until 14th December 1914 he was with the Expeditionary Forces Overseas. Between 15th December 1914 and 8th August 1916 he was serving at home. From the 9th August 1916 until 2nd August 1917 he was with the Expeditionary Forces Overseas. His wounds were: Shell wound shoulder - Routed 6.11.14 and a Gun shot wound to the head at Bolsinghe.
He died on 2nd August 1917 from this second wound in No. 46 Casualty Clearing Station, France and Mabel was notified on the 8th August (the day before Joan's first birthday). He is buried at Mendinghem British Cemetery 4 1/2 miles NW of Poperinghe - Mabel was notified of his burial place on 19th November 1917. His total years of service was 11 years 88 days.
Mabel received 26/3d a week War Widow's Pension from 11th Feb. 1918. Sam's Service Record doesn't indicate whether there was any backdated pension to August 1917. Mabel received Sam's posthumous campaign medals in 1922 - a 1914 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
Pte. Richard James Pryce 3rd Btn. Coldstream Guards (d.13th April 1918)My great uncle Richard Pryce was the only boy of a family of eight children. I visited his grave in May 1915 at beautiful kept cemetery in Vieux-Berquin in France.Joan Pritchard
Pte. Ernest William Marchant 1st Battalion Coldstream GuardsRecently a small parcel arrived in the post from England. In it was a box, well made of thick cardboard with metal reinforcement at its edges. It is a spectacle container designed to be sent, as is, through the post. On the top are Grandpas address and the senders details: F.I. Tovey, Optician, New Bond Street, Bath. It cost threepence to send and is postmarked 15th November 1920. Within the box are several things, the most important being a small army-issue notebook. It is a diary written by my grandfather during the Great War of 1914-1918 and covers the period September 1917 to just after hostilities ceased. There are daily entries and, jotted on the last few pages, some little bits of soldiers philosophy written in the style of those times.
He enlisted on February 23rd, 1915; a married man aged 36 and five months, a master mason and father of five small children. I assume enlisted means what it says on his attestation form for it seems improbable that conscription could have gathered him up so early in the war. However, the squire held a majority in the Coldstream Guards and had a company raised almost exclusively of men from the parish, so peer pressure probably accompanied the general euphoria of the day. That grandpa was military-minded is undoubted - his army papers show him as serving in the militia, 1st Volunteer Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment so I think the chance to go to war might well have been impossible to deny. His motives could have been patriotism, adventure or escape. Most likely it was a combination, or rationalisation, of all three.
The Guards being what they are, it would have taken most of the year to turn him into a proficient soldier despite his service in the reserve, for this was well before the tragedy of Haigs half-trained boys. The Coldstreamers were proud and a man had to prove himself before he was shown the enemy.
I look across the lush green lawn at the toddlers, screaming and dancing with delight as they push one another under the sprinkler then throw themselves, chubby arms linked, into the paddling pool. For today, Armistice Day, is seasonably warm. The barbie is nearly ready and I must feed my grandchildren and their parents.
Life at the front was the usual mixture of boredom, discomfort and terror. Of plum-and-apple [jam]; Pass the grease [margarine]; Stand to! then, all too often, Over the top!
Whatever it was really like he endured; fighting in the mud, on the firing step or crouched fearfully in a funkhole as enemy howitzers blasted his trench. He was in the front line for somewhat over six months. It probably felt like a lifetime.
- Life is a duty - bear it
- Life is a burden - bear it
- Life is a burden - wear it
Bond St, Rotten Row, St Julien, Metigny, Morlancourt were his battlegrounds, and Mealthe, Flers, Lavantic and Mailly.
A true countryman, he would have been comforted by the copses and undergrowth, before they were bombarded into water-filled craters, that formed the woods known as Magnet, Trony, Deville Pozieres and, with grim irony, Sanctuary. Side by side with his mates he defended trenches at Martinpuick, Coulitte, Les Boeufs and what he records as Ypres St Jean. In the front line they learned the hard way to be philosophical about their predicament
- My belongings leave to my next of kin
- My purse is empty - theres nothing in
- My rifle, uniform, pack and kit
- I leave to the next poor devil itll fit
- But if this war I manage to clear
- Ill keep them all for a souvenir.
On rare occasions he was plucked from the front line and sent home to England to freshen up. No showers, no change of clothes. My grandmother would scrub him clean in the big tin bath in front of the fire then wash and press his uniform. The days off were a nicely calculated minimum to get him ready to return to battle.
- Life is a game of cricket
- Mans the player, tall and stout
- Standing to defend his wicket
- Lest misfortune bowl him out.
For Grandpa it was a minenwerfer shell, surely with each of their names upon it, that entombed his whole Section. His comrades were all killed, I hope instantaneously. It took two days to find Grandpa and dig him out of the collapsed trench.
A few years back, my Uncle Basil, at 78, made the journey to Australia to visit us. He told me that Leslie, his eldest brother and my father, was alone in the cottage in 1916 when the postman - their uncle - toiled up the steep incline of Staples Hill to deliver a War Office telegram. My whole remembrance of Dad clicked into a different perspective when Basil recalled that ten year old Les kept the dreaded Missing in Action to himself. The first my grandmother knew was when, three days later, a telegram of reassurance arrived to say her husband had been found alive. The diary merely records that he was clouted out. This was at Le Transloy, on the banks of a gentle if muddy stream called The Somme. The official record is equally succinct: GSW Legs 20/11/16, in the Field. To the War Office, GSW [gun shot wounds] obviously covered a multitude of injuries.
November 1916 marked the end of the first great Somme battle, where nearly a million men were lost for an advance or retreat of a derisory few muddy yards. Grandpa had served the whole of the campaign
As a Blighty his wound was effective; for nine months he stayed in bed in a military hospital in the north of England. He lost no limb but, just as he had carved many a headstone before the war and many a trench on the Somme, so did France gouge his whole being.
From then, he says, 'it was all downhill.'
The garden is quiet now; the littlies have gone to bed, their parents are off to a party and grandpa is babysitting. On the patio I lean back in the old cane chair and think. So much about war. Yet my father was just too old for 39-45. As a Nasho I missed Korea by one training course. Vietnam was not applicable in UK. Perhaps young people will start to judge for themselves when the recruiting sergeants start to sing their siren song. Perhaps the future for my grandchildren is looking better and better. Its certainly more secure than in the past, when people really did believe their leaders were, by definition, right.
He was eventually transferred to Windsor Castle on light duties. These comprised duty as usual (unspecified in the diary), haircut parades, blanket-shaking, coal-carrying, Church Parade on Sunday and, every fortnight, a visit to the MO for TMB. It seems this was a medical board to determine his progress, and thus his fitness to return to the front.
In the event, he remained B3 for eighteen months, enveloped in a tedium of convalescence.
- Mans ingress - naked and bare be
- Mans progress - trouble and care
- Mans egress the Devil know where.
The post, which was the only method of long distance communication available to private soldiers, provided some respite. Every day he wrote to my grandmother and every day he received a letter by return, sometimes folded within his local newspaper. On occasion the children, Marjorie, Les, Bill, Reg or Basil, would add a word or two or even send a card to the father they were beginning to forget.
Grandpa inevitably posted his letters at the Main Gate of the barracks. Then, if the evening were fine, he would continue his walk to Oakley Green to call in at the Nags Head.
The monotony was interspersed by occasional weekend visits home, each journey recorded in meticulous detail: left Windsor 2.40 p.m.; Paddington 4 p.m.; arrived Freshford 7.17 via Trowbridge. The children of course were all there, so seven in the tiny thatched cottage must have been a bit of a squeeze. I can just remember visiting my grandmother some thirty years on and recall in detail the tiny kitchen in which she cooked on a Primus stove making, endlessly it seemed, jams, cakes and pies, and the cramped surroundings where on four needles she knitted socks, always grey. The weekend, therefore, would be taken up in strolls. By our standards they were all prodigious walkers, simply through necessity - cars or even horses were not for the working class. Around Freshford the Avon valley is extremely steep and destinations along level roads are very few.
Nevertheless, the diary records double three-mile trips to Westwood on Sundays for morning and evening chapel service. I think my Grandmother, the believer in the family, went to witness her unfailing gratitude. Grandpa, I suspect, just went.
There were walks to Iford with six year old Basil to stand on the little stone bridge that was adorned with the statue of Britannia (Boer War?) then perhaps another precipitous mile down to Avoncliffe where as a stonemason Grandpa had worked for Mr Jordan. He even made the six mile hike to Bradford-on-Avon to buy a new watch to replace that broken by a billiard ball in the Windsor Barracks YMCA. Then, when the children were bedded down, there would be a short stroll with Agnes before turning in. But, come Monday morning, it was always back to barracks, the journey recorded, train time by train time.
If anything these weekends heightened his fear of being sent back to the Western Front. From Windsor Castle he was allowed home reasonably often but never is there any indication that the War Office was about to give him his freedom. In England the philosophy that God was on the side of the big battalions died hard. Get them well, get them back! was the cry. It doesn't go unrecorded in the diary: Last night all men recalled off leave. Confined to barracks. Got the wind up.
He sees drafts of B1 men leaving for France at midnight and towards the end the diary entry is a stark regraded B2. Obviously there was nothing more to say. The constant and near tangible spectre of trenches, rats, lice, mud and the Hun bombardment hovered above him.
- The fortunes of war
- Be you ever so bold
- Is a mound of earth
- Or a stripe of gold
It didnt happen, though. Time and time again he was passed fit only for light duties and remained on the roster at Windsor Castle. Presented arms to the Royal family. Opened the gate for Prince of Wales. King arrived castle by motor.
All this is noted, as is knocked out Bandsman Blake (but no explanation). More often now, Roll on or Roll on my three appears at the end of each days entry. The Hun, he says, is still on the run stuff to give them! He can sense the end of things - in a barracks the right information has a way of trickling through.
On October 13, 1918: The Huns shouting Kamerad. But on the first day of November yet another huge draft of men leaves for France. Then, suddenly it seems, its all over: 8/11 Hun peace envoys over lines. 10/11 Hohenzolleren abdicates.
The next day: ARMISTICE DAY - war over, town [Windsor] beflagged. Then, at the end of the page three years nine months service today. But they still wouldnt let him go home. I dont know how my grandmother coped. Perhaps her gratitude to her God for her husbands survival overcame all hardship. He was kept on duty at the Castle throughout that Christmas:
Xmas Eve, Roll on. Napoo...
Indeed, il ny en plus.
At last, in February 1919, he was demobilised via the Dispersal Centre at Fovant, near Portsmouth. Here, apart from the administration of his release, they gave him very little - a suit, five pounds [$10] and a rail ticket home. He arrived in Freshford at 10.30 p.m. (train times diligently recorded, as usual) and for the next few days was able to record tres bon times as he enjoyed his furlough.
But all too soon it was back to Avoncliffe to work as a mason for ninepence an hour: went fairly well, very cold, hands not used to mallet and chisels. Then after work and at the weekends there was the cottage to whitewash, the garden to re-establish and a family to be cared for in a land fit for heroes.
- What is life?
- A little gush
- A little rush
- A little hush
Perhaps the light duties, standing guard at Windsor Castle, were easier for a man to take than what he perceived to be his future at home. Perhaps the mateship of the battalion and the sense of away-ness from the need to assume total responsibility for his growing family, in the most honourable manner of course, made life in uniform again appear more attractive.
I have been unable to discover any subsequent diary - he probably couldnt see any point in continuing to record his what, mundane? lifestyle - and the saddest part of the notebook comes at the very end, just over five months after peace broke out.
He has received one pound, seventeen shillings and sixpence (less than $5) for 55 hours work as a stonemason. In what little spare time available to him he has had to augment this paltry sum by looking after the schoolmasters garden. Ding-dong existence no change same old routine miss the Old Brigade.
Slipped between the pages of the diary there are three snapshots. First is dated December 1915, when he became a trained Coldstreamer. It is a studio portrait, and he poses self-consciously. He is in full uniform, puttees, cheese-cutter cap and swagger stick. He looks very confident and his waxed moustache adds an air of arrogance.
The second tells me he must have recovered, to the extent possible, from his terrible injuries, for this photo sees him in uniform once more. But it is not the dashing, tailored, tight-fitting guardsmans outfit that he now wears. No; although its again a suit of khaki, the baggy trousers and a shapeless blouse signal the army surplus garb that in 1939 was handed out, with scant resort to measurement, to ex-soldiers. The Local Defence Volunteers they were called, a name as dull as its uniform. Churchill hated LDV so gave it some oomph as the much more newsworthy Home Guard. Its fame now rests with the TV program Dads Army, which depends for its humour on laughing at the antics of the old-timers. I note, though, that in this picture Grandpa is shouldering a Lee Enfield .303, the rifle that had been his friend. Nevertheless, he looks as if hes well aware of the difference in his appearance.
The third picture has Grandpa in civvies. Here he once again stands straight and severe as befits a guardsman but now he is wearing a countrymans baggy tweeds and flat cap. Five years old in my new sailor suit, I am sitting on the carrier of his sit-up-and-beg bicycle. It is Easter 1940. He died at end of that the year, of cancer. With what we know now its not inconceivable that the seeds of his death were sown on the battlefields of France. Im sure, though, that he would have considered that notion in some way insulting to his dead comrades.
At the bottom of the spectacle box, tucked beneath the notebook and wrapped in ancient tissue paper, are his three service and campaign medals, one of them engraved: The Great War For Civilisation 1914-1919. These gewgaws were dismissed with contempt as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred by millions of unemployed veterans in the immediate postwar years, when the struggle for survival was almost as desperate as any spell in the front line.
At the end of the diary, written on the inside cover in a very continental hand perhaps in an estaminet quite late at night by who I like to imagine was a compassionate and pretty mademoiselle is Le Bon Temps Viendra. Alas, for Grandpa it was a brave but hollow hope.
Vale, 15544 Private Ernest William Marchant, Coldstream Guards, shelled in the front line at the very end of the disaster known as the First Somme campaign and buried beneath stinking mud, thence to return home to pain, hardship and poverty.
But Im sure he would deride all that. After all, he would have said, in just twenty weeks a million soldiers from both sides died in that battle - and I didnt.Roger Marchant
Pte. James Green 3rd Btn. Coldstream Guards (d.15th Sep 1916)James Green was the son of Thomas and Emma Green and was born in Great Bardfield, Essex. He was the husband of Florence, with whom he lived in Leyton, Essex. He died during the Battle of the Somme and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France. He served with the 3rd battalion, Coldstream Guards.Ruth Walker
Pte. Fred Cook 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards (d.19th Sep 1914)Fred Cook joined up at Burnley, on the 21st of November 1910, age 20 years 9 months. He was born in New Mills, Derbyshire and the family moved to Sabden. His father Samuel Cook was calico printing foreman in the cotton mill. His father moved to Brazil to find work when the factory burned down.
Fred was at the Guards Depot at Caterham and was mobilised in London on 7th of August 1914, he was posted to France on the same date. He died of wounds on 19th of September 1914. He was buried in Troyon Churchyard, the grave marked with a wooden cross. His remains were later removed to the Vendresse British Cemetery nearby. His father was advised in Brazil of his death.T. Neil Cook
Pte. William McGraa 1st Btn. Coldstream Guards (d.8th December 1914)Private McGraa was a prisoner in Gustrow POW Camp. He died on 8th December 1914 as a result of punishment he received. He is buried in Hamburg Cemetery, grave III.B.10.
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