Holywell-cum-Needingworth
and World War I

1914-1918

Holywell-cum-Needingworth and WW1

xx

and there is lots more for us to find out!

The Lockup

The War Memorial contains the names of men who died during the conflict(s)
The WW1 Roll of Honour for the village can be found near the lockup and war memorial

It has a list of everyone who served in the war, with their rank and regiment

Roll of Honour on the Website

"To Remember Them…" was prepared in 1984 by Brian Thompson,
and transcribed into its present format by Peter Cooper.

It is dedicated to the memory of the men from the village who died during the Great War, in the Service of their country.

It describes the careers, and what we know of their war experiences, of each of the men who died.

You can download it from the website.

(If you know anything about Brian Thompson then please do let me know, as I would like to thank him for all his work and ask his permission to publish.)

Holywell-cum-Needingworth and WW1

xx

and there is lots more for us to find out!

Hunts Post 22nd May 1915
Needingworth Man Killed

Needingworth has learned with regret of the loss of Private Joseph Mansfield. He was a reservist in the 1st Bedfords at the outbreak of the war, and was one of the first Needingworth men to go to France. From then up to the time of his death, about the 28th April, numerous letters have been received by different villagers from him. He had come unscathed through the many stiff fights of the Bedfords, and had begun to look forward to returning in the near future.

Being of a happy disposition, he was much liked by all with whom he came in contact, and up to last season regularly played in the village football team.

Private Mansfield is the first Needingworth man to fall.

More

Joseph Mansfield

Joseph was born on 28th November 1888 in Needingworth and his mother was Elizabeth Mansfield. He had an older sister Elizabeth, and a younger brother John. His mother then married George Seekings and he was the half-brother of Mary and George Seekings. In the 1901 census he is a Plough Boy, but in the 1911 census he is a soldier in the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment and is in Bermuda.

His Battalion was part of the British Expeditionary Force, the Old Contemptibles, and embarked for France on 16th August 1914. They were heavily engaged at Mons and the First Battle of Ypres.

 At the time of Joseph’s death on 19th April 1915 the Bedfords were in the line at Hill 60, which the Allies captured on 17th April. During this attack the Bedfords were deployed on each flank of the attacking troops with the order to remain in line and provide the heaviest possible rifle fire in aid of these troops.

The attack commenced as mines were exploded under the hill, which was the signal for the artillery to begin their bombardment. April 19th found the Bedfords on Hill 60 itself, relieving the West Ridings with difficulty.

More

Joseph Mansfield

The Battalion Diary says – “No one appears to know where the next post on the right or left was … and the enemy kept making small bombing attacks all along the line. After struggling through the craters, over dead and wounded men, and along old pieces of trench we eventually managed to relieve the West Ridings. Then began some hard work; to make more or less a continuous line of fire trenches, and to dig a communication trench from the top of the hill to our old front line. Before we could do this we had to get away a large number of wounded men who were scattered about everywhere. Each man worked hard all night. The bombardment never ceased and about 5am increased in intensity, and the German Infantry made a powerful attack. After a hard struggle and some fierce hand to hand fighting, in which the bayonet was freely used, the attack was repulsed. Both sides suffered heavily”

PoppyAt 7am on the 20th April the Bedfords were relieved on Hill 60 by the East Surreys, and retired to their old trenches at the bottom of the hill, where they were continually bombarded and received more casualties. For Joseph Mansfield this no longer mattered as he was already dead on Hill 60 – the first son of Needingworth to die in the Great War.

British War Medal and Victory MedalHe is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium. He received the 1914/15 Star Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

Hunts Post 25th June 1915
Death from Gas Poisoning

We regret to announce that a second Needingworth man has been killed in action in France, in the person of Private H Attwood, of the 3rd Royal Fusiliers.

The sad news reached his friends on Thursday morning, the first information being the usual War Office announcement stating that Pte H Attwood fell in action on May 24th. Since the letter came to hand, a second one has been received from a friend of Attwood in the same regiment, stating he is believed to have died from gas poisoning, but expressing a slight hope that he may have been taken prisoner, though he is afraid the chance is small.

On the sad news becoming generally known, a gloom seemed to pass over the whole village, both Attwood and his friend being very highly respected throughout the village.

More

Harry Attwood

[Harry] had until quite recently lived with his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. W Attwood, of Church Street, who are old inhabitants of the village. He had, however left the village some two or three months before the outbreak of war, with his employer, the late rector, going to Burnham-on-Crouch, from which place he enlisted soon after the outbreak of war, crossing to France some four months later.

Many letters have been received by his numerous friends, in one of which he described carrying his officer from the firing-line to a field ambulance, after staying beside him in the open for some hours, waiting for the rain of shrapnel to cease, and expecting every moment to be his last. In another letter he gave a very good description of the “ghastly gas business” and in his last letter to his mother he asked her to cheer up as he would soon be home and meant to win the Victoria Cross.

PoppyAttwood, like Mansfield – the first Needingworth man to fall, had always interested himself in the sports of the village, and like him was of a very genial and merry disposition. He was a general favourite with all who had the pleasure of playing with him.

During the last day or two a letter of sympathy has been received from his late employer, in which he made mention of his sterling qualities and expressed his heartfelt sympathy with his parents and friends.

William Martin Turner

D02781s

William was the only one on the War Memorial to be buried in England. His grave stands in Holywell churchyard towards the western boundary and is in remarkable condition. William’s mother, and brother, Charles, accompanied his body back to the village where it was to be buried with full military honours.

He was baptised on the 30th January 1898, son of Charles and Susan Ann Turner, at the age of 19 the youngest from the village to die and the only one to die in England. His brother Charles was enlisted in the Hunts Cyclists Battalion.

William was a private in the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, East Kent Regiment (The Buffs). Throughout the war this battalion was based in Dover. Its task was to train and prepare recruits for transfer to the fighting units of the Buffs.

Ernest Seekings was number 21061 in the Buffs and he and William joined the Army together. They did their training together and it is likely that they would both have fought in the 7th Buffs, as Ernest did. However William was to die before completing his training.

PoppySome 2 months after enlisting William died in the Military Hospital, Dover of an illness contracted whilst in the Army. In a sad war with millions of casualties this must have been a particularly poignant death. A fit young man he willingly left his home to fight in the service of his country and was struck down by illness before reaching the devastation and danger of war.

Harold Ernest Prior Gaunt

Harold and Cyril Gaunt lived in Silver Lane with their parents, William and Lizzie (nee Prior), who was his second wife. They also had another brother, who may have been in the Non-Combatant Corps.

Harold was a private in the 5th (Service) Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Before joining that regiment he had been enlisted as a private in the Huntingdon Cyclists Battalion. This local cyclist battalion never fought overseas as a battalion but remained home based. However, many of its members transferred to fighting units in various roles including infantry, cyclist scouts and stretcher bearers.

The 5th Battalion Ox and Bucks moved to the Western Front on 20th May 1915 and remained there until its return to England in June 1918.

On Easter Monday, April 9th, 1917 it was snowing heavily as the infantry left their trenches at the start line. The enemy had retired from their lightly held front line towards the heavily defended Hindenburg Line. The first phase of the Battles of Arras had begun.

PoppyThe 5th Ox and Bucks were to make an attack on the Harp, which is an area adjacent to Tillois laying only just behind the German front line. This was one of the many strong points to be taken on the first day. The line was eventually pushed past Tillois to just in front of Chapel Hill with the help of limited tank support. During this attack Harold Gaunt was severely wounded and died later that day of his wounds. Although the first day’s attack was successful in terms of prisoners and ground taken, more especially north of the Hindenburg Line and the River Scarpe where most of the Vimy Ridge was now in allied hands, the Allies became bogged down by the 14th April when the first of the Battles of Arras (the First Scarpe) ended.

More

Cyril Prior Gaunt

Cyril Gaunt was to die exactly 2 weeks after Harold, a terrible blow in such a short space of time to one family.

Cyril was a private in the 1st Battalion the Bedfordshire Regiment, the same battalion as the first man from the village to die in the war, Joseph Mansfield.

At the time of Harold Gaunt’s death, on 9th April 1917, Cyril’s battalion was in reserve north of Arras, opposite Vimy Ridge which was to be taken by the Canadians on that day. During the next few days the 1st Bedfords remained in the rear under training, preparing for their role in the battle and road making, which was an essential task when advances were being made.

Finally, after a full day of road making ending at 6pm on the 17th April, they relieved the 1st Norfolks and a detachment of the 43rd Canadian Battalion in the front line on Vimy Ridge. The relief was complete by 2.30am on the 18th.

They then had to dig in by connecting up the shell holes on a line some 200 to 500 yards from the enemy. On the 19th they were relieved by the 1st Cheshires and the 16th Royal Warwickshires, but not before having 5 killed and 11 wounded.

This was the quiet period before the second phase of the Battles of Arras due to begin on 23rd April.

More

Cyril Prior Gaunt

During the second phase of the Battles of Arras the Bedfords were to be a part of the main assault. On the 22nd they took their place in the front line opposite La Coulotte, a little north of Givenchy-en-Gohelle, The assault began on the 23rd April with their aim to be the capture of La Coulotte. At the end of that day the battalion casualty list read as follows:

PoppyCyril was one of the “other ranks” killed.

The 1st Bedfords were relieved later on the day of the attack to retire for “cleaning up and refitting”, as the battalion diary describes it. By the 27th they had marched to Gouy Servins and had beaten the 1st Devons at football by 2 goals to one. The Battle of Arras had once again ground to a halt.

More

A gravestone in the Meeting Lane cemetery.
In Loving Memory
Of

William Gaunt
Who fell asleep July 30th 1929
Aged 80 years
Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of his saints.

Also Lizzie Gaunt
Beloved wife of the above
Who fell asleep August 28th 1940
Aged 81 years

Also of two sons

Harold Prior Gaunt
Killed in action April 9th 1917
Aged 22 years

Cyril Prior Gaunt
Killed in action April 23rd 1917
Aged 20 years

Walter Percival Gaunt
Departed this life July 12th 1933
Aged 37 years

Sidney Gaunt
Died December 9th 1899
Aged 1 year

xx

Not a single shaft can hit
If the God of love sees fit

More

Harold and Cyril had an older half brother called Charles William, known as ‘Billy’, or ‘Willy’, who kept a shop in Church Street. He had two daughters, Hilda (b.1907) and Kathleen (b.1910).

William Walton

In 1911, William lived with his widower father, John who was a farm labourer, a brother George, also a labourer, along with a Mr and Miss Hayes. Mr Hayes was a grave-digger and listed as a nephew of John, though he was only 3 years younger. Grace Hayes was listed as niece aged 26, the same age as William, whose job before the war was a bricklayer.

William was a private in the 5th (Pioneer) Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment (who served in France and Belgium from 30th May 1915 onwards) but had previously served in the Bedfordshire Regiment.

The role of the Pioneer Battalions was to assist the Royal Engineers to build roads, bridges, trench systems and to modify captured enemy trenches to face in the right direction. They also often had the unenviable task of making graveyards and burying the dead that could be found.

Throughout, the Pioneers maintained their other role of infantrymen often fighting in the pure infantry role. A pioneer company could be attached to an infantry battalion in the line and regularly found itself staying in the front line when the infantry were relieved, due to a shortage of pioneers.

More

William Walton

The 5th Northamptons fought at Loos, the Somme, Arras, Cambrai and in the retreats and advances of 1918. On the day Herbert Seekings died, 3rd July 1918, on the Bouzincourt Spur the 5th Northamptons were still in support of the 6th Queens and also of the Buffs (William Turner’s and Ernest Seekings’ Regiment).

By the day of William Walton’s death, 19th September 1918, the British had advanced 25 miles or so from the start line of August 8th. The 5th Northamptons were acting in both the infantry and pioneer roles in an attack on enemy trenches to the east of Epehy.

‘A’ and ‘C’ companies were in the assault and ‘D’ company moved up once the objectives had been taken. They were to join together in consolidating the posts in the new front line and building communication trenches between the old and new lines. When the work was done ‘D’ company returned to billets, the rest of the battalion remained in the front line. The battalion had 128 casualties that day, mainly in the assault forces which probably numbered only around 400.

PoppyWilliam Walton died with 2 more months of savage fighting to pass before the armistice, our last fatality of the Great War.

Holywell-cum-Needingworth and WW1

xx

and there is lots more for us to find out!

Using the Timeline

The timeline shows some of the key events of the 1914-19 war. It also shows when among these events our men died (marked by red dots).

To use it you:

See for yourself

Finding these stories

Starting at the Roll of Honour you can:-

From a WW1 story you can click a button to:-

Links from the Roll of Honour

For most people you can hover your mouse to see a little more detail.

For everyone you can click on the name to go to the details screen for that person.

For those who died, and a few others, if you click on “Further details” you are taken to a new page with more details.

See for yourself

Let us Remember Them All

Poppy

Harry Attwood Harry Charles Cooper Harold James Dodson
Frederick Easton Alistair Hay Fraser Cyril Prior Gaunt
Harold Ernest Prior Gaunt Henry Charles Walter Hoskyns Joseph Mansfield
Fred Metcalfe Ernest Seekings Herbert Seekings
William Martin Turner William Walton Sydney Wilmer
(On a roll elsewhere)
Linton Wilfrid Lantaff Joseph William Lister Richard John Lister

xx

xx

xx