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The Duke of Cornwalls War diary

Brummiebell

master brummie
Hello everyone

My great uncle Walter Holtom was in the Duke of Cornwall's 1st Battalion aged 19 and lost his life in the battle of High Wood, we believe, on 23rd July 1916.
I am writing a family history novel about the lives of Walter and his family and in order to get as accurate as possible have been looking at war diaries to see where his battalion were and were engaged in when he died. Only problem is that I am a total newbie as far as war history is concerned and haven't a clue about battalions and divisions. However I have been directed towards the diaries of the 5th division who were at a place called caterpillar valley in a sunken road trying to take High wood. Only thing is they don't seem to make any mention of the Duke of Cornwall's never mind the 1st Battalion of them and I am getting worried that I am looking at the wrong division.

Please can someone tell me how divisions work and if the 5th contains the D of C, or if there is a better source for me to understand his last days and how he died. I also am concerned as the log says there was no action on the 23rd or 24th and this is his date of death on his army records. Maybee he died as a result of injuries sustained previously? I just want to do him justice and worry that I have got it wrong. Can one of you whom I am sure knows who knows more than me put me right.

Although I have his army no I have never been able to find any actual service records but his name is on the Thiepval memorial and the older members of the family were sure he died at high wood. Any advice very welcome but I have drawn a complete blank on army records on many sites but am sure he was D of E from pictures medal cards and newspaper articales, however wonder why as he was from Birmingham any ideas why? Please help I just want to preserve this brave young man's story

Many thanks Maria
 

maypolebaz

master brummie
Hallo Maria,

I realise it won't help with your immediate research but my great uncle was also in 1 DCLI but he died of wounds in April 1915. He died of wounds received in fighting at Hill 60, (1Officer, 11 Other ranks killed, 35 wounded), 17-22nd April, aged 24.

Perhaps you'll find a bit of the Battalion's history useful.
 

pjmburns

master brummie
There is a record on Ancestry but it is written as Walter Holton and the date of the death is 23rd July 1916. He was a Lance Corporal. Do you have access to Ancestry? He is listed in the personal effects file - Mother Rebecca. There are also links to the War Diaries and Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry seems to have reference to 1st, 6th Divisions but it also links to "Various including 5th". If you aren't on Ancestry let me know and I will try a further search for you.

Addition:he seems to be listed on lots of sites a Holton.

Janice
 

bewdley

master brummie
here is a page from the war diaries dated 20 - 23 July 1916 found on Ancestry - hope it helps

43112_1577_0-00139.jpg
 

pjmburns

master brummie
Here is the effects page.

Holtom effects.jpg

With regard to service records I am sure you know a lot of WW1 records were destroyed in WW2.
Janice
 

Brummiebell

master brummie
Hi Maypolebaz

Thank you for that, maybe they were together at Hill 60. Do you know where that is and any idea how your uncle came to be in DCLI? Where did you your information from by the way, was it in his records or was that from the battalion diaries? 24 years old, awful isn't it, they had no chance to have a life. I didn't even know I had a great uncle Walter until a family member found his picture in a draw, and no one knew who he was. I had to ID him from his cap badge and census records, such a sacrifice and we didn't even know his name.
 

Brummiebell

master brummie
Oh wow
Haven't seen anything for him on ancestry, that is definitely him, his mother was Rebecca and they often wrote the name wrongly, that is the first time I've ever seen an effects list. I assumed as he was classified as missing no effects were found, perhaps this was money owed to him or he left it behind in the trenches. Looks like I am going to have to try looking in diaries for the 6th. I was with Ancestry until recently but I've never found anything for Walter other than a medal card. do you know anything about what the info means,it looks as if it says pronounced dead. I thought his body was never found. Thank you so much this is great, anything else you find would be wonderful, I never got anywhere on ancestry searches for him. many thanks Maria
 

Brummiebell

master brummie
Hi Bewdley,
thank you so much for that. So, if I am reading that right the 1st DCLI became the 95th brigade with the 5th division and so I am looking at the correct diary. Also may explain why I could find no mention of them. I think it mentions an attack at 3am but lists it as 22nd and I wasn't looking at 95th. any idea why they changed their name ? Going to take a look at the diary again now looking for 95th. By the way that website is brilliant thank you so much this really helps
 

Brummiebell

master brummie
Dear janice
Thank you, so so much that is super and will be such a help, how very sad though, so few affects to show for his nineteen years Why didn't I find this when I was on Ancestry? You are so kind and very clever thank you
 

Steve R

master brummie
Lance Corporal 23821 Walter Holton was a member of the 1st Battalion. This Battalion were originally part of the 14th Brigade in 5th Division and landed at Le Havre 15 August 1914. On the 12 January 1916 they transferred to 95th Brigade in same Division (see long long trial website). Ancestry shows him as Killed in Action on the 23rd as opposed to Dying of wounds from earlier fighting and the date of his death being some time after he was wounded.

I have only just returned from the Somme including High Wood, Delville Wood and visited Caterpillar Cemetery all of which are easily within a mile of one another. Next time I am over there I am happy to get a picture of his name on the memorial if you wish one. I have just done one this week for another member which is a shame had I known sooner I could have done it at the same time.

Steve R
 

Brummiebell

master brummie
Hello Steve.
Thank you so much for that, I think I agree, it is far more likely that he was killed in action as his family placed adverts in the Birmingham Gazette up to a month later searching for him as missing in action. Surely if he had died in a hospital they would have known for sure what had happened to him. At least I know now that I have the correct divishion and that there was fighting on the 23rd.

Thank you for the offer of the photo I would love it, one day I would love to go myself but I have four children at the moment so it is not going to happen anytime soon. It you do go again I would love a photo. Thank you for your kindness best wishes Maria
 

pjmburns

master brummie
Hi Maria.

I assume that "presumed dead" implies he was not present when the division re-grouped. If there is only a name on the memorial then I would guess his body was not found. I would think that is why it says "killed in action". The diary page a little after the one posted in #5 shows 329 soldiers were missing in the skirmishes over the month of July from that unit. (500 casualties in all). It only names the officers - understandably with so many deaths).
I would think they had to declare "pronounced dead" to be able to release effects - sad but understandable.
Not sure when you stopped being on Ancestry but effects and diaries only came on earlier this year.

Janice
 

Brummiebell

master brummie
Hi Janice
Of course, Presumed dead, I thought it said pronounced!!! I am really so thick.Do you think the first line refers to money in his pack which he had left behind, and the second perhaps pay owned? maybe the figures refer to pounds shillings and pence? Best wishes Maria
 

bewdley

master brummie
Maria here is a copy of the full page, showing the headings, which make the payments clearer. It also names some of those who perished alongside Walter on the 23 July from the DCLI. Such an awful ending to so many young lives; bless them all.

Walter Holton's effects.jpg
 

Brummiebell

master brummie
Dear Bewdley
That is wonderful of you to send me as some of those poor soldiers would have signed up with Walter,I would have thought, as they have consecutive numbers. I have often wondered if he was in some kind of Pals regiment or just joined up with his friends. When his brother William went to visit him during his basic training he tried to get him into his regiment so he could keep an eye on him but Walter refused as he wanted to stay with his friends. Apparently they were called the young soldier regiment. Next time I join ancestry I will attempt to see if I can find out where some of them lived on the 1911 census or worked to see if they were a group of friends as we have suspected. How very sad this document is, not much to show for their young years and for so many to have died on just one day. What a terrible tragedy. Thank you so much
 

Steve R

master brummie
Hello Maria
I will see what I can do re the picture. There is a book called 'The hell they call High Wood' think it was by Terry Norman. I do not have a copy any longer but well worth a read as it details the fighting around that area at the end of July. This area was savagely fought over for several days with numerous battalion thrown in to the battle. Earlier this week I was in the field on the edge of High wood. There were several buttons in the soil along with a coin, uniform buckle and metal shards from artillery shells. This is such a peaceful area of natural beauty now and many I have taken there have difficulty comprehending the scale of sacrifice.

Steve R
 

maypolebaz

master brummie
At present I'm ploughing through the War Diaries of 10th Battalion R Warwicks. The entries were made in pencil so can be hard to read but it's still well worth the effort.
Although 10 Bn seem to have avoided the terrible casualties some regiments suffered, it's clear they had a dreadful time.
Even so, there are lighter moments. There's an entry for early 1916 recording a 2nd Lieutenant who was posted out to be appointed "Officer in Charge of the Divisional Gum Boot Stores". That's one way to get rid of a useless officer !
I hope to read through the diaries of 1DCLI next.
 

Steve R

master brummie
506.jpg

Thought I would add a picture I took of the Theipval memorial last October. This is a Memorial to the Missing soldiers of the Somme, written on its walls (peers) are the names of more than 72,000 Soldiers of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the first World War who have no known grave. Having researched on the net apparently 90+% died between July and November 1916, that shows the scale of the fighting and the failures of the battles. This Is evidenced due to the fact that if a battle was successful, then ground would be taken and the dead recovered and identified in most cases, not the case when the fields are ploughed by artillery shells for days on end.

Steve R
 

Astoness

TRUE BRUMMIE MODERATOR
Staff member
what a magnificent memorial it is steve and thank you again for taking the time on your trip the other week to send me a photo of my harry froggetts name up there....now i know for sure that along with so many others he will never be forgotton...

lyn
 
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