Monday, December 24, 2007

The Story of Frederick Edwards

Frederick Edward Edwards was labourer in Quorn where his father George and mother Caroline lived. Fred enlisted when he was almost 22 years old on 31 may 1915 and was allotted to the 4th reinforcements for 27 battalion.

Fred, like a number of other soldiers from Quorn, must have been a handful for his unit leaders. Twice while at Mitcham, before leaving for overseas, Fred was in trouble for being absent without leave. Once for a day and once for two days, both occasions in August. He forfeited 5 days pay for each occurrence. However by November Fred was in Heliopolis where he was absent from parade one evening. He hadn’t scarpered as he was found on the base 6 hours after the parade. He was confined to camp for 3 days this time.

In December of 1915 Fred was taken on strength by 27 Battalion at Mudros. The Battalion had just come out of Gallipoli in the evacuation. In January Fred disembarked in Alexandria and his path echoes that of other 27 Battalion members from Quorn such as Alfred Easther.

On the 27 March Fred disembarked in Marseilles and a fortnight later he took the evening off while in Morbecque. For this and making a false statement to the Piquet Officer he was ordered to forfeit 1 days pay and had to perform 7 days field punishment number 2.

Like many other soldiers there are few records of his actual action in France until on 4 August in the same action as Alfred Easther was wounded Fred was also wounded. However in Fred’s case it was in the abdomen.

Fred was taken to the Casualty Clearing Station/No 13 Field Ambulance and about 5 days after receiving his wound he was admitted to Special Hospital Warlay. By the 21st of the month he was admitted to No 1 Canadian General Hospital and a week later was aboard the “HS Brighton” and bound for England. His condition was deteriorating and he was admitted to the Norfolk War Hospital and noted as seriously ill. On the 8th September 1916 Fred died of peritonitis caused by his wound.

Fred was buried in the Norwich Cemetery but was reinterred during 1920 to another site in the same cemetery.

The following is an extract from the 27 Battalion War Diary describing the action in which Fred and Alfred Easther were both fatally wounded.
Abbreviations and formatting have been copied as closely as practical to the original.

Night Aug 4/5
Attacked position on left BAPAUME at 9pm
Attacked and captured two lines of trenches and strong point at windmill. Narrative attached.

Operations, Aug 4-6 1916
In accordance with instructions the 27 Bn moved off from LA BOISELLE for the position of assembly on the afternoon of Aug 4.
The first platoon moved at about 5.30 pm.
The arrangements were for A & B Coys to occupy the jumping off trenches on front of Tramline and to form the first and second waves of the assault with OG1 as objective.
D & C Coys were to form third and fourth waves in Tramline trench, with special carrying parties following as a fifth wave.
Companies moved so that they would be composed of right and left companies respectively: of these formed the first wave & the second wave. The third & fourth waves were composed of as third wave, and as 4th wave
The fifth wave of 16 men per company carrying tools and material.
A & B companies advanced & assaulted OG1. Both waves easily reaching this objective.
D coy followed as far as OG1 but C Coy appears to have lost direction; 7 eventually mixed with 25 & 26 bns on the left and 18th on the right.
A, B & D Coys worked hard on consolidation of OG1 throughout the night.
Capt Devonshire reports that about 4.30am on the 5th the enemy launched a counter attack against OG1 but were repulsed by vickers mg, Lewis gun & rifle fire.
The casualties to the enemy in this attack are estimated to be 100 including 2 officers. The remainder surrendered.
Patrols were then sent out to the windmill and OG2. OG2 was then occupied. A company of 28 Bn was sent to assist the garrison.
Lewis gun positions were selected in advance of OG2.
During the day the position was heavily shelled, and enfilade fire was bought to bear from the direction of THIEPVAL.

During afternoon of Aug 5, instructions were recieved to hand over OG1 & OG2 to 48 Bn

J S Malpas Capt
for/CO 27 Bn AIF
Casualties, summarised from the diary
Officers - 1 killed, 2 missing, 7 wounded
Other Ranks - 40 killed, 67 missing, 89 wounded

Major Cunningham was one of the two officers listed as missing. He was the CO and Captain Malpas was the senior officer remaining after the attack.

James Stanley Malpas enlisted as a Lieutenant in March 1915, later being promoted to Captain on the Gallipoli peninsular. In November of 1916 he would suffer gunshot wounds to the left and right arms and be repatriated back to Australia to be discharged in the first half of 1917. He was awarded the Military Cross for his service.

Trevor Russell Cunningham enlisted during May 1915 as a captain, also being promoted in the field at Gallipoli. He was reported as missing on the same day as Fred was wounded. “Missing” was revised to KIA at the end of September. Major Cunningham’s remains were recovered by the War Graves Commission in 1936 from a previously unidentified soldiers grave. He was reinterred at London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval. His identification was by his identity disc and a personalised cuff link which were both returned to his family.

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