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A medal to a Londoner with no known grave

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This BWM has the name of Frederick Percy Spencer impressed to the rim. He was a bookkeeper who grew up in Dennets Rd., New Cross, in SE London and after volunteering on 11.9.14, become a member of the 16th Public Schools Battalion, Middlesex Regt. He left for France on 7th January 1916.

Before going to the front, poor old Frederick had spent some time in clink. He received 42 days for going AWOL and forging a medical certificate as well as another 14 days for improper conduct on fatigue and disobeying an order.

His BWM and VM were signed for by Miss Francis Letitia Hedges of 4 Overcliff Rd., Lewisham, she also received any personal belongings. His girlfriend back home?

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Unlike the previous rainy days which caused a delay in the start of the 'big push', the first day in July 1916 was sunny with an expected 22?C. A nice day for it you could say.

At 7.20am a mine containing 40,000 lbs of explosive was blown under the German line at Hawthorn Redoubt (just in front of Beaumont Hamel, which by now was in ruins after a week of bombardment), the occupants were men of the 9th Coy. RIR 119 from W?rttemberg, commanded by Oberst Freiherr von Ziegesar. RIR 119 had already lost almost 100 OR and 3 officers during the 7 day preliminary bombardment.

This photo shows the mine explosion which was actually filmed.

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Amongst the infantry of the British 29th Division waiting to attack, was Frederick Percy Spencer.

They waited until 7.30 before going over the top to take what was now Hawthorn Redoubt crater from the dead and demoralised enemy. Although the crater was 50-60 metres in diameter and 15 metres deep, not all were dead and the blowing of the mine no doubt alerted the survivors to the pending attack. The few men from RIR 119 not gasping for air while trapped deep underground in their dugouts, had enough time to prepare themselves.

The remnants of this W?rttemberg unit greeted the attacking infantry with racing machine gun fire, who, in full view, were now searching desperately for cover in the long grass. The firing of red flares into the air gave the signal for the German artillery to open up a curtain fire.

Frederick Percy Spencer was by now well out of the support trench in front of Auchonvillers, and if not already dead in no man?s land, was still moving towards the German guns. He was never seen again.

The British infantry still pressed on, those who managed to get close enough to the lip of the crater were met with grenades being thrown by what were now, very angry Germans I would think; the British attacking Hawthorn Redoubt could not overrun the stern opposition and therefore, after suffering heavy casualties retreated back to their original position.

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RIR 119 had 292 casualties, of them, 101 were dead including 8 officers.

A trench map from June 1916 showing the front lines.

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According to the 16th Public Schools battalion diary, the men were back in their own frontline trench by 10.30am. Casualties noted at that time were:

Killed ? officers 3 / OR 19

Wounded ? officers 13 / OR 306

Missing believed killed ? officers 6 / OR 37

Missing ? officers 5 / OR 138

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The British and Commonwealth casualties for 1.7.16 amounted to 57,470. 19,240 were dead or died later from their wounds. German casualties were around 10,000 to 12,000 killed and wounded, this includes the 7 day bombardment leading up to the attack.

At 10.30pm the day before the attack, 22 officers and 689 ORs of the 16th arrived in Auchonvillers where they bivvied before getting ready to go over the top the next morning.

On the 1st July the 16th Middlesex had over 500 casualties, 155 Men and 6 officers were killed that day, and many like Frederick were from SE London.

Peckham, Battersea, Vauxhall, Walworth, Brockley, Greenwich, Charlton, Lambeth and Camberwell.

Frederick Percy Spencer has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval memorial to the missing, his is just one of the 72,100 names.

Hawthorn Redoubt wasn?t taken until November 1916.

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Sir Douglas Haig had said ?the machine gun is a much overrated weapon.? I wonder when/if he changed his mind and what brought him to that conclusion.

A big thanks to Kevin who retrieved FP Spencer?s service record and battalion diary from the PRO and of course the Reichsarchiv, Somme Nord, Teil I. A book everyone should have.

I think I need to take another trip to the Somme very soon.

For me, the Evening News from 5.8.16 says it all about the Great Push of summer 1916.

Edited by Tony

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bloody nice!!

Can I use it for the site?

Feel free Chris. I'm going to walk the few hundreds yards Fred walked and take some pics too. I also have photo copy of the diary for June and July.


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Presentation is well done ! :beer:

One cannot help but sorry for the guy, and his girl.

Pals Battalions :speechless1: what a disaster. Go to war with your mates, and almost everybody dies ! I can see their logic, but they didn't think it through.

Edited by David S

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Hey Tony,

Nice medal to a Somme casualty and Lewisham man, but what makes it special is the research you have done on it - super job! Have you visited his 'Girlfriend's house, is it still standing? I can go and take a snap of the place if you like...



Edited by deptfordboy

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Thanks everyone.

Gilbert, I only know that 92 - 108 Dennets Rd. are missing (a block of flats stands in their place), probably through bomb damage as the rest of the street is still there. I don't know about his girlfriend's place though and wonder how long she kept his medals and plaque, wished I had the whole group and a photo of him.


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I went to the Somme the other weekend and took some photos of F P Spencer's battlefield.

Looking towards the crater roughly from British lines. The clump trees are growing from inside the crater.

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Hallo Tony :cheers:

Great thread, :jumping: just think of Private Frederick Percy Spencer,

he is gone, but he is no longer forgotten with your great research.

Now there is a tangible link, to show he exsisted, and he made the ultimate sacrifice,

may he and his comrades and all those listed as Missing in the Great War on both sides,

Rest In Peace.

Kevin in Deva. :beer:

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Partial List of fallen soldiers of the RIR 119 at the Somme 1916 (more to follow)

Name: Rank: Regiment: Company: Date and Place of Birth: Date and Place of Death:

Allmendiger, Erhard Landsturmmann 119 Res. 1 7/14/1879 Ulm 6/26/1916 Near Beaumont

Busch, Gottlob Landwehrmann 119 Res. 1 8/18/1886 Allmersbach 6/26/1916 Near Grandcourt

Dietrich, Gotthilf Reservist 119 Res. 1 5/10/1888 Renningen 6/26/1916 Beaumont

Friessling, Josef Landwehrmann 119 Res. 1 10/13/1891 Neckergerach 6/26/1916 Velu

Dobler, Petrus Unteroffizier 119 Res. 2 4/19/1885 Kaufbeuren 6/26/1916 Beaumont

Glocker, Franz Wehrmann 119 Res. 2 1/30/1885 Bockighofen 6/27/1916 Beaumont

Bauer, Wilhelm Musketier 119 Res. 3 9/6/1895 Stuttgart-Heslach 6/27/1916 Near Beaumont

Eichenbrenner, August Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 3 3/16/1887 Aldingen 7/1/1916 Near Beaumont

Glauner, Matth?us Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 3 2/24/1882 Altheim 7/1/1916 Near Grandcourt

Gl?ck, Wilhelm Landsturmmann 119 Res. 3 1/10/1890 Rielingshausen 7/1/1916 Near Grandcourt

Greiner, Gottlob Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 3 3/20/1886 Thomashardt 7/1/1916 Near Beaumont

Haist, Wilhelm Gefreiter der Landwehr 119 Res. 3 1/1/1882 Stuttgart 7/1/1916 Near Grandcourt

Blankenhorn, Albert Wehrmann 119 Res. 4 11/5/1883 Stuttgart 7/1/1916 Near Beaumont

Bretzler, Wilhelm Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 4 7/31/1889 Unterbr?den 7/1/1916 Near Beaumont

Brumm, Georg Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 4 1/5/1886 Rossfeld 7/1/1916 Near Beaumont

G?tsch, Gustav Gefreiter 119 Res. 4 11/26/1882 Stuttgart 7/1/1916 Miraumont

Aronsohn, Viktor Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 5 9/9/1891 Colmar 7/1/1916 War Hospital at Caudry

Golz, Paul Kriegsfreiwilliger/Off. Asp. 119 Res. 5 10/27/1892 Stuttgart 7/1/1916 Near Beaucourt

Grieb, Heinrich Unteroffizier 119 Res. 5 10/11/1878 Stuttgart 7/13/1916 Velu

Haller, Friedrich Musketier 119 Res. 5 6/13/1895 Grunbach 7/15/1916 Near Beaucourt

Aldinger, Hermann Recruit 119 Res. 6 10/15/1893 Stuttgart 7/16/1916 Reserve Hospital Sankt

Arnold, Jakob Wehrmann 119 Res. 6 8/8/1886 Maichingen 7/16/1916 Hospital 3 in Cambrai

Bodemer, Karl Landsturm Recruit 119 Res. 6 2/2/1887 Fellbach 7/20/1916 Near Beaumont

Fiderer, Paul Gefreiter der Landwehr 119 Res. 6 4/10/1881 Brettach 8/1/1916 Near Beaumont

Frey, Bernhard Gefreiter der Landwehr II 119 Res. 6 12/2/1877 Sch?negr?nd 8/23/1916 Velu

Gerlach, Hermann Unteroffizier Der Landwehr 119 Res. 6 2/20/1882 Stuttgart 8/25/1916 Feste Staufen by Grandcourt

Gerlach, Hermann Unteroffizier der Landwehr 119 Res. 6 2/20/1882 Stuttgart 8/28/1916 Feste Staufen by Grandcourt

Ackermann, Friedrich Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 7 1/20/1884 Ingersheim 9/2/1916 Staufen Sector by Grandcourt

B?umler, Johannes Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 7 10/5/1891 Brackel 9/3/1916 Missing by Grandcourt

D?bele, Wilhelm Wehrmann 119 Res. 7 2/13/1884 Stuttgart 9/3/1916 Beaumont

Feil, Otto Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 7 1/18/1887 Ebnat 9/3/1916 Near Beaumont

Gold, Michael Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 7 7/30/1886 Bartolom? 9/3/1916 Near Grandcourt

G?thle, Ernst Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 7 9/1/1891 Ebersbach 9/3/1916 Potsdam

Burrer, Wilhelm Kriegsfreiwilliger 119 Res. 8 9/3/1916 Near Beaumont

Anstelt, Richard Unteroffizer der Res. 119 Res. 9 8/12/1890 Stuttgart 9/3/1916 Near Beaumont

Ballier, Gotthilf Landsturmann 119 Res. 9 5/2/1878 Markgr?ningen 9/3/1916 Near Beaumont

Dongus, Georg Wehrmann 119 Res. 9 12/3/1880 Deckenpfronn 9/3/1916 Near Beaumont

Engstler, Albert Kriegsfreiwilliger 119 Res. 9 5/12/1896 Stuttgart 9/5/1916 Le Cateau

Friedrich, Bernhard Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 9 12/28/1886 B?hmenkirch 9/6/1916 Velu

Gehring, Bernhard Unteroffizier Der Landwehr 119 Res. 9 6/23/1883 Haagen 9/24/1916 Near Beaumont

Gehring, Friedrich Unteroffizier der Landwehr 119 Res. 9 6/23/1883 Haagen 9/29/1916 Near Beaumont

Alber, Hugo Unteroffizier/Officer Aspirant 119 Res. 10 5/9/1889 Stuttgart 9/29/1916 War Hospital, Detachment 6,

Baumann, Friedrich Ersatz Reservist 119 Res. 10 3/25/1889 Sattweiler 9/29/1916 Near Thiepval

Brischle, Pius Gefreiter 119 Res. 10 2/18/1889 Weier, Baden 9/29/1916 Near Thiepval

Brose, Emil Unteroffizier Der Landwehr 119 Res. 10 6/23/1881 Stuttgart-Botnang 9/29/1916 Near Beaumont

Borst, Wilhelm Gefreiter der Landwehr 119 Res. 11 8/1/1881 Essingen 9/29/1916 Between Miraumont and Grandcourt

Egner, Rudolf Kriegsfreiwilliger 119 Res. 11 12/8/1895 Stuttgart-Gaisburg 9/29/1916 Near Beaumont

Engelhardt, Johannes Gefreiter der Landwehr 119 Res. 11 2/11/1883 G?ttingen 9/30/1916 Fremicourt

Engerer, Georg Unteroffizier der Reserve 119 Res. 11 10/18/1889 Ansbach 9/30/1916 Near Beaumont

Gottlieb, Friedrich Unteroffizier der Reserve 119 Res. 11 5/15/1888 Langenselbold 9/30/1916 Near Beaumont

Gschendtner, Hermann Unteroffizier/Officer Aspirant 119 Res. 11 1/16/1895 Hohenstadt 9/30/1916 Near Beaumont

H?ge, Adolf Vizefeldwebel der Landwehr 119 Res. 11 11/2/1879 Unterurbach 9/30/1916 Near Beaumont

Frech, Paul Leutnant der Reserve 119 Res. 12 10/8/1891 Brittheim 10/3/1916 Pronville

Frech, Wilhelm Landsturmmann 119 Res. 12 3/31/1879 Stuttgart-Degerloch 10/3/1916 Near Beaumont

H?gele, Johann Landsturmmann 119 Res. 12 9/15/1878 Weiher 10/4/1916 Near Beaumont

Bosinger, Gustav Leutnant der Reserve 119 Res. 1 M.G. Co. 4/15/1893 Stuttgart 10/4/1916 In the Field Hospital, Cambrai

Graf, Friedrich Sch?tze 119 Res. 1 M.G. Co. 8/28/1896 Oberndorf 10/18/1916 Miraumont

Regards, Hardy

Edited by Naxos

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Well done, Tony! :beer:

It is amazing and inspiring how research can breathe history and life into a dead chunk of metal and cloth.

Thanks for posting this.

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Thanks again for your comments, it's much appreciated.

Hardy, thank you for taking the time to post the names of some of the fallen from RIR 119.

Eric, no plans at the moment unless I can fit Verdun in, if Chris brings his trip forward a bit or delays by a week.

Here's Frederick's name on the memorial at Thiepval and a view from the memorial looking in the general direction of Hawthorn Ridge (although it could also be more to the left).


Edited by Tony

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