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Bugbrooke and the Great War - Page 4. February 1915 - April 1915

Page 1 - Overview, Info & Articles Page 2 - August, September 1914 Page 3- October 1914 - January 1915
Page 4- February 1915 - May 1915 Page 5 - June - September 1915 Page 6   October15 - January 1916
Page 7 February 1916 - May 1916 Page 8 June 1916 - Sept 1916 Page 9 October 16 - January 1917
Page 10 February - May 1917 Page 11 June - September 1917 Page 12-Oct 1917-Dec 1917
Page 13 February - May 1918 Page 14 June - Septemberr 1918 Page 15 -Oct 1917-Dec 1918

Bugbrooke in the Great War.  Events 100 years ago February to April 1915

100 years ago, WW1 had been going for 6 months.  The school letters which have featured so prominently in these articles, continued to be written until well after the end of the war, no doubt providing a very valuable insight into the life of the village and the men from Bugbrooke who were away fighting. Unfortunately, the source we have been using only has letters until the end of 1914. After that they are lost, and our narrative has to carry on without this valuable historical resource.  Should anyone out there know of any later volumes of these letters, please let us know.

By this time 100 years ago, at the start of March 1915, we believe around 40 men and women, who either had been born or lived in Bugbrooke,  had volunteered and were fighting in WW1.

The letters, which can be read in full on the website under ‘site index’, contain several extracts from letters to the school from Bugbrooke man Thomas King, a signalman on board HMS Britannia.  In January 1915, he was writing to the ‘Northampton Independent’, a very popular illustrated newspaper at that time.   He writes of looking forward to the newspaper’s arrival.  How he is very grateful for the cigarettes sent him by the Cigarette fund in Northampton. His letter was full of bravado, as to how superior our navy was, and how efficient his ship.  However it was around this time, presumably just after the letter, that the ship ran aground in the Firth of Forth at Inchkeith, and sustained considerable damage to the ship’s bottom. It was refloated after 36 hours and was repaired at Devonport.

 Harry Hope, our other navy sailor on HMS Queen Mary, had already seen action at the battle of Hegioland, but now the ship was under refit, and he was presumably having some leave.

March 1915 was a terrible month and the start of a terrible period for the Northamptonshire Regiment.  In March the Northampton Independent was full of the terrible news from the front where the 2nd Battalion (the Steelbacks) had been engaged in the battle of Neuve Chappelle.  No other regiment lost more men, and fought more bravely it reported. Out of a battalion strength of 1100, only 100 men were on parade the next day, the others dead, missing or wounded.  One of these wounded was Bugbrooke’s Eric Poole.  Eric was wounded by a bullet to the head at Neuve Chappelle and was in England recovering from that and shock for some time.

 Most of those engaged in the fight, were professional soldiers and sailors, who had joined the Regiment before the war.  The volunteers who joined up after the start of the war from September onwards, were completing their training in England, and would soon be fighting. No doubt these volunteers, made replacements for the soldiers lost at Neuve Chappelle, and who bore the brunt of the losses two months later when half of the total regiment was killed at Aubers Ridge.

Charles King, a farmer from Littliff Farm, joined the 2nd Battalion in late 1914, and appears to have survived both battles. James Barnes, who had been an apprentice baker from Ace Lane before joining up, also fought at Neuve Chappelle, with the 11th Hussars.  He survived, and fought on until May before falling at Ypres.

Northampton although suffering terrible losses to its serving men, was booming.  During the war Northampton produced 2 million pairs of boots for the army.  Factories were full of orders, with plenty of work for anyone available.  Shops also benefited.  There were so many troops stationed in the town that an additional £20,000 per week was circulating.

The war was attracting all kinds and ages of recruits.  Whilst there were several underage soldiers from Bugbrooke, such as George Bass, who was only 16 when he was accepted into the Army Service Corps in 1914, there were others who were much older.

Harry Marshall was from Yorkshire and in 1915, was  55 years old.  He had been in and out of the army since 1877, serving in England and Egypt.  He had married a Bugbrooke girl Mary Allen, fathered 12 children, all born in Bugbrooke, and by 1911 was working in a lift factory in Northampton.  At the start of the war, he immediately volunteered aged 54, and became attached to the Military Police. He was discharged on February 15th 1915, and a week later joined the Royal Defence Corps  employed guarding prisoners of war.  He stayed with these until disbanded in 1919, and had risen to the rank of acting Sergeant.  He would have been almost 60 years of age at this time.

Harry could very well have been employed as a guard at the Eastcote Prisoner of War Camp, which was getting set up at this time 100 years ago.  But that is for another article.

Geoff Cooke for the 100 Years Project



From the Northampton Independent 1915











Bugbrooke and the Great War – April / May 1915

Continuing our series looking at the events of one hundred years ago, we move on to April and May 1915. A number of local men enlisted around this time and joined the Royal Engineers as sappers (the RE equivalent of a private). Some of these had been employed on the railways before the war and amongst these were Percy George HOWARD and his brother Stephen HOWARD and brothers Andrew EALES and (George) Frank EALES. Other men who had previously been farm workers also joined the Royal Engineers including Fred Lowe SAUNDERS, Oliver MEAD and Herbert William ROBINS.

Harry EALES (not the same family as Andrew and Frank) was a Brick Layer before the war and also ended up as a sapper in the Royal Engineers, whilst Ernest William BARNES – a baker’s boy in 1911 – joined up on the 11th May and was soon at a field bakery in France.

Ernest William BARNES enlisted on the 11th May 1915 and was sent to Aldershot for training before transferring to France in November. Some men had a lengthy time of training in the UK but some were quickly embarking for France. In May 1915 both Percy George HOWARD and Harry EALES embarked shortly after enlisting.

With so many Bugbrooke men in the Royal Engineers it is perhaps not surprising that they occasionally met up. Around August 1916, Fred SAUNDERS, Herbert ROBINS, Oliver MEAD and Albert EALES were working on the Kantara to Romani railway in Egypt and met Philip CAMPION who recorded it in his diary [see Bugbrooke Link website].

James Frederick FLEMING had joined the Royal Engineers way back in 1899 and had served eight years before transferring to the reserves and finally released in 1911. In 1909 he married Bugbrooke girl Ethel GARDNER and they had two daughters. Despite this he volunteered again on the 1st March 1915 and was quickly promoted to Lance Corporal, 2nd Corporal and then Corporal in the space of a few weeks. Sadly his wife died on the 22nd June at the age of 30. Further tragedy struck at the end of the year when James was killed in an accident whilst preparing explosives for an imminent raid.

The 2nd Battle of Ypres

Both sides tried to break the stalemate using scientific and technological advances. On 22 April 1915, at the Second Battle of Ypres, the Germans (violating the Hague Convention) used chlorine gas for the first time on the Western Front. Several types of gas soon became widely used by both sides, and though it never proved a decisive, battle-winning weapon, poison gas became one of the most-feared and best-remembered horrors of the war. The battle was fought from 22 April – 25 May 1915 for control of the strategic Flemish town of Ypres in western Belgium, following the First Battle of Ypres the previous autumn.

Bugbrooke born Private James BARNES of the 11th (Prince Albert's Own) Hussars had fought in the Battles of the Marne, The Aisne, La Basee and Neuve Chapelle before Ypres. He was remembered and well thought of back in Bugbrooke and had written so many letters back to the village from the front. It was at Ypres that he was killed in action on the 24th May aged around 30. His death was recorded in the School Log Book and he is commemorated on Panel 5 of the Menin Gate in Ypres.

 Back in Bugbrooke a measles epidemic resulted in the school being closed on 21st April 1915 until 31st May.

The Battle of Aubers Ridge – 9 May 1915

Aubers Ridge, in north eastern France, was actually quite low, but it had a good view over the surrounding flat countryside and was therefore of tactical importance to the German forces that occupied it.  It is also of local historical significance because the two pre-war regular battalions of our county regiment were deeply involved in the failed attempt to capture it.

The Ridge was an objective in the Ypres salient during a renewed British offensive.  The Ridge was to be taken in a pincer movement, with four Divisions to the south and three to the north.  This was one action in what was to be called the Second Battle of Artois, itself within the protracted Second Battle of Ypres.

Heavy artillery bombardment of the German positions began at 5.00am on 9 May, followed by the assaulting troops going ‘over the top’ from 5.30am.  In 1 Division to the south, 2 Brigade was leading the attack on its section of the Ridge, with 1st Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment (about 890 strong), in the forefront.  At the same time, to the north, in 8 Division, 24 Brigade was similarly leading the attack, with 2nd Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment (at 887 all ranks), in front.

Although both battalions did actually get a few men into the German trenches, the losses were such that the advance was halted at 6.00am.  The situation in the south became so bad during the day that 1 Division was relieved at 5.00pm.  In the north the few British troops on the Ridge returned to the original British lines during the evening and overnight.  The attack on Aubers Ridge was abandoned soon after midday on 10 May.

Losses were high in both Northampton battalions, generally from the enemy’s concentrated machine-gun fire.  The 1st Battalion suffered 560 casualties, including the loss of 17 officers, (the highest battalion loss in the Division, which lost 3,968 men altogether, including 160 officers).  The 2nd Battalion suffered 426 casualties, including 12 officers (from a divisional loss of 4,682, including 192 officers).  It reportedly took three days to clear all the wounded.

Three Bugbrooke men were involved, with one a fatal casualty.  Privates Mark CLARKE, with the 1st Battalion, and Charles Abner KING, with the 2nd Battalion, would both have taken part in this battle.  Herbert Edmund FARMER, a Private in the 2nd Battalion, received a bullet wound and was evacuated to England, eventually succumbing to the effects of his wound on 29 May in Hospital at Cambridge.  His family had moved to Weedon by this time and they arranged his burial there, with his name later included on the local war memorial.

Private Fred WOODING and Sergeant Eric William POOLE had both been wounded earlier while serving with the 1st Battalion, in October 1914 and March 1915 respectively, and had not returned to France.

The Battle was a disaster, with no ground taken despite the sacrifices made.  The offensive was revived from 15 May in what became the unsuccessful Battle of Festubert, without involvement of either regular Northampton battalion.


Many of soldiers fought in the bloody trenches in France and Belgium but others went further afield to Turkey, the Balkans, Egypt and Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), India, Africa  and later on even further away.

Because of the deadlock in the trenches of France and Belgium, a plan was made to try to take advantage of the perceived weakness of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey (on the side of Germany and the Austria-Hungarian Empire) and force a way from the Mediterranean, through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea to Russia (on the side of UK and France). It was thought that this would divert some of the German troops and relieve the pressure on the Western Front.

The plan started with a naval attack on the Turkish shore defences in the middle of February 1915. After initial successes things started to horribly wrong. The Turkish strength and determination had been underestimated and mines and torpedoes caused heavy losses and damage to the allied vessels. The original intension of forcing through with the ships as far as Constantinople (now Istanbul) was abandoned and in April troops began to be landed to fight to take the peninsular. The battle for Gallipoli is often associated with the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) but they only made up a small part of the army consisting of British, Indian, Gurkha, French African and others.

Amongst the Bugbrooke men at Gallipoli were Edwin BARR, Wallace NIGHTINGALE and Philip CAMPION. Philip had quite a journey to get to Gallipoli. After a lengthy period of cavalry training, he travelled from Norwich to Avonmouth docks near to Bristol. Philip was assigned to the liner “Wayfarer” along with the horses and they proceeded out into the Severn Estuary. Heading for the Bay of Biscay the ship was torpedoed. Fortunately other ships were close by and he and many other men were rescued and returned to England. Shortly afterwards he departed on another ship, the “Lake Manitoba” from Devonport. This time they sailed without incident across the Bay of Biscay, past Gibraltar, Malta and finally to port in Alexandria, Egypt. It was about this time that the “Lusitania” was sunk by a German U-boat. From Egypt he travelled across to Turkey and the landings at Gallipoli. His memories of the war can be found on the Bugbrooke LINK website http://www.bugbrookelink.co.uk .

From the disasters of the naval engagement things continued to get worse and the Turks, helped by the difficult terrain, proved to be a formidable force. The objectives of the battle were never achieved and by the end of the year the allied forced left Gallipoli. The evacuation was the one thing that went successfully. The futile campaign had resulted in the deaths of 25,000 British, 10,000 French, 7,300 Australians, 2,400 New Zealanders and 1,700 Indians.

Dave Marshall for the 100 Years Project