PRIVATE JOHN WILLIAM GIBBS

John Gibbs, known as Jack, was born in Broughton in June 1891 to Charles and Annie Gibbs. In 1911 he was living in Upper Tadmarton with his parents and sisters Elsie, Gladys and Ethel and brothers Ernest and Frank, pictured below in the 1900s.

Jack had been working as a shepherd, below, when on 8th August 1915 he travelled to Oxford with his younger brother Frank to enlist into the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

 

After training he was sent to Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq,  as part of reinforcements for the 1st Battalion.

 

The 1st Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckingham Light Infantry, as part of the 6th Poona Division, had moved from India to Mesopotamia in November 1914 as part of a force to protect oli refineries from the Turks. The battalion took part in the march towards Kut-al-Amara with the intention of capturing it from the Ottomans. The battle for Kut began on 26th September and raged for a number of days until the Ottomans went into retreat and Kut was captured on 28th September 1915. The battalion then took part in the Battle of Ctesiphon in the effort to capture the capital, Baghdad, which ended in the 6th Poona Division being defeated by the Ottoman forces. The Division subsequently retreated to Kut, reaching it on 3rd December 1915, where it was besieged by the Ottomans, beginning on 7th December, with a garrison of 10,000 Britons and Indians.

The reinforcements including Private John Gibbs, were formed into a provisional 1st Battalion under the 28th Indian Brigade. They were heavily involved in attempts to relieve the 6th (Poona) Division besieged at Kut, including the Action of Shaikh Saad between 6th and 8th January 1916, the Action of the Wadi on 13th January, the First action on the Hanna on 21st January and the First, Second and Third attacks on Sannaiyat between 6th and 22nd April 1916. The efforts were all in vain as the Garrison surrendered to the Turks on 29th April 1916.

Private Gibbs succumbed to dysentery after these engagements and was evacuated on His Majesties Hospital Ship Syria, below, bound for Bombay.

 Jack Gibbs died from dysentery on the 20th June 1916 aged 25. He was buried at sea and is commemorated on the Basra Memorial, for soldiers with no known grave, in modern day Iraq.

 

 

PRIVATE GEORGE GREEN

George Green was born in 1897 in Milton, one of 10 children to John and Mary Green. By 1911 the family were living in Upper Tadmarton where his father worked as a labourer. His older brother Walter served in the Royal Garrison Artillery and was seriously wounded at Passchendaele. 

He joined the 4th Territorial Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in September 1914, enlisting in Oxford, trained as a bugler. They were embodied as the 1st/4th Battalion for overseas service and landed at Boulogne on 30th March 1915 under the orders of 145th Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division. They saw action at the Battle of Albert on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Somme Offensive. They then  fought in The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, another phase of the Offensive, in which the Division captured Ovillers, a night attack between 14th and 17th July.  

 

They next took part in The Battle of Pozieres Ridge, a subsidiary attack of the Somme Offensive, launched on 23rd July 1916, on the Albert-Bapaume road. 

The battle saw the  British and the Australians  fight hard for an area that comprised a first rate observation post over the surrounding countryside, as well as the additional benefit of offering an alternative approach to the rear of the Thiepval defences. On 22nd July the Battalion moved from their camp near Ovillers into front line trenches west of Pozieres in preparation for a night attack on German positions west of Pozieres. Going over the top at 0030 on 23rd they managed to clear the Germans from the trenches after a hard struggle and occupied the positions, fighting off two counter-attacks.

Private George Green was killed in action during the attack. He was aged 19 and is buried in Pozieres British Cemetery.

 


 

PRIVATE HARRY WALTER HATFIELD

Harry Hatfield was born in 1898 in Marston St Lawrence, to parents Harry, and Charlotte. He had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. In 1911 they were living in Lower Tadmarton where his father was a labourer. Two of his brothers served in the war, James with the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars, whilst Gilbert served with the King's Royal Rifle Corps and was seriously injured at the Battle of Thiepval.

 

He enlisted into the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars in 1915 as a Private, being transferred to the 6th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry and arriving in France with them on 22nd July 1915. As part of the 20th (Light) Division they saw action in the Battles of the Somme, firstly taking part in the Battle of Delville Wood between 15th July and 3rd September 1916 followed by The Battle of Guillemont, The Battle of Flers-Courcelette and The Battle of Morval. He was slightly injured at the village of Ginchy during the Battle of  Le Transloy on 7th October 1916.

In early spring, 1917 the Battalion cautiously pursued the Germans as they withdrew from the Somme area to strong defensive positions on the Hindenburg Line near Arras, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. They then went to fight in the The Battle of Langemarck between 16th and 18th August 1917, The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge between 20th and 25th September and The Battle of Polygon Wood between 26th September and 3rd October, all phases of the Third Battles of Ypres. In 1918 they battled against the German Spring Offensive. Bouyed by troops released from the Eastern Front after the surrender of Russia, the Germans attacked in large numbers across the old Somme battlefields in an attempt to win the war before the Americans arrived in numbers. From 21st March 1918 they fought in the Battle of St Quentin and the Battle  of Rosieres where the German advance was eventually halted. The Battalion suffered heavy casualties and was sent to rest and reform south west of Amiens. They returned to the front in August 1918 taking part in the Final Advance in Picardy, part of the 100 Days Offensive that led to the German surrender.

After the Armistice he  transferred to 1/7th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment based in Egypt. Here he contracted smallpox and died in the General Field Hospital in Cairo, Egypt on 2nd June 1919. He was aged 21 and is buried in the British War Memorial Cemetery in Cairo.

TROOPER RICHARD JOSEPH HOWKINS

Richard Howkins was born in 1898 in Lower Tadmarton to parents Thomas and Sophia Howkins. He had three elder brothers Ernest, George and John all of whom served their country. By 1911 the family had moved to Upper Tadmarton, Ernest and George had left home and Richard, at the age of 13 was working as a farm labourer. 

He enlisted in the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars in Oxford. As part of the 4th Cavalry Brigade in the 2nd Cavalry Division they took part in the Battle of Amiens between 8th and 12th August 1918. The battle was the first action in the 100 Days Offensive, Allied forces advanced over 7 miles on the first day, one of the greatest advances of the war. The division  made a cavalry charge to capture and hold a ridge near the village of Royes. The Oxford Hussars were the leading Regiment on the right of the attack and made good progress until stopped by concentrated machine gun fire. Trooper Howkins was wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans. He died of his wounds in captivity at Ludwigsburg prisoner of war camp on 22nd August 1918 aged 20. He was originally buried there, being re-interred in 1924 at the Commonwealth cemetery at Niederzwehren near the German city of Kassel.

 

2nd LIEUTENANT FRANCIS EDMUND LANGTON RIDDLE

Francis Riddle was born on the 10th June 1893 at Tadmarton Rectory the second son of the Reverend Arthur Riddle and his wife Edith. Francis Riddle was born on the 10th June 1893 at Tadmarton Rectory the second son of the Reverend Arthur Riddle and his wife Edith. He had an elder brother Arthur a younger brother Gerald and a younger sister Annie. He attended Bloxham School between 1903 and 1911 and was a first rate athlete winning the school sports competition in 1910 and 1911, and a member of the Officer Training Corps, below. His two brothers Arthur and Gerald both served with the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in the war.

He was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the special reserve of officers Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on 1st October 1913 and commissioned into 2nd Battalion on the 1st September 1914. He served as an assistant recruiting officer at Cowley Barracks for two months before embarking for France on the 25th November 1914.  Apart from a period of leave in March 1915 he was in and out of the trenches continuously that winter, serving in A Company.

On the 16th May 1915 he was called in as a replacement officer during the Battle of Festubert, arriving at 0800. The Battle of Festubert was an action in the Artois region of France by the British First Army under General Sir Douglas Haig between 15th May and 25th May 1915. It was part of a larger French offensive to secure the town of Arras. The attack was made against a German salient between Neuve Chapelle and the village of Festubert. The battle was preceded by a 60 hour bombardment by 433 artillery pieces which fired over 100,000 shells.

However the bombardment failed to significantly damage the German defences partly as there were no high explosives available and many shells were duds. At 2330 on the night of the 15th May the front line platoons left their trenches and attacked German positions across no-mans land. The initial advance was completed to the Rue du Bois with fairly light casualties and the troops occupied the German front line trenches and dug in. After this German resistance stiffened with accurate machine gun and artillery fire. The 2nd Battalion Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry were sent in to support at this time, going into action against heavily defended German lines at about 0845 on the 16th May 1915. Francis Riddle was reported as being killed almost immediately at Richebourg l' Avoue. He was buried near breastworks north of the Rue du Bois, but his body was never recovered from that spot. The village of Festubert was eventually captured on 25th May, only just over half a mile of territory gained at cost of 16,000 casualties.

2nd Lieutenant Francis Riddle was aged 25 and is commemorated on Le Touret Memorial in the Pas-de-Calais region for soldiers with no known grave. There is also a stained glass window in St. Nicholas Church Tadmarton, installed by his father in his memory. His commanding officer wrote; 

 

"He gave his life fighting for his King and Country, and helping to add to the reputation of the regiment with all his might. They for their part have lost a brave, cheery gentleman and one who, from my experience when he was under my command,  found no duty too much for him and whose one idea was to help" 

 

A fellow subaltern wrote; 

 

"He will be missed by his company and men more than I can say, who always relied on him and looked up to him in an emergency" 

 

PRIVATE CHARLES SMITH

 

Charles Smith was born in Tadmarton in January 1888 to parents John and Harriet Smith and had 3 brothers and 3 sisters. He was working as a farm labourer when he enlisted into the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry shortly after the outbreak of war in 1914.

After training he was posted to the 5th Battalion, the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, one of Kitchener’s New Armies, part of the 14th (Light) Division, in France on 7th July 1915. The Battalion at this time were based in Ypres area and on 30th July were holding positions in Railway Wood near Hooge and coming under heavy artillery fire when the Germans launched an attack to capture the area. The attack was the first use of flame throwers by the Germans. The Battalion remained in the area and on 25th September 1915 were tasked along with the rest of the Division with a diversionary attack on Bellewaarde Farm. This was to draw German troops away from the assault on Loos beginning the same day. The attack started with an artillery bombardment at 0350, however one gun was firing persistently short and put 14 shells into the Battalion’s own trenches, killing 21 men and wounding 14 others. The right column of the Battalion achieved their objectives relatively easily but the left column, of which Private Smith was a part, was practically destroyed by shelling and machine gun fire. A counter attack by the Germans quickly pushed the British troops back to their starting positions. The 5th Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry suffered 53 killed, 215 missing believed killed and 185 wounded, more than half the Battalion’s compliment.

Private Charles Smith was one of the missing, he was aged 26. His body was never recovered from the battlefield, he is commemorated on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial  for soldiers with no known grave.

 

There are two brothers with a connection to Tadmarton who are not on the village war memorial:

HARRY SUMMERS was serving as a Private with the 4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action on the 26th March 1917 during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. He was aged 29 and is buried in Roisel Communal Cemetery Extension, near Peronne.

WALTER SUMMERS was serving as a Private in 2nd/7th Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment when he was killed in action in the 24th March 1918 at the Somme Crossings during the German Spring Offensive. He was aged 24 and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial for those with no known grave.

The brothers were the sons of Frederick and Caroline Summers, and were born and raised in Adderbury. At the time of enlistment Walter was living In Birmingham, whilst Harry was still in Adderbury. By the time they died Caroline Summers had been widowed and was living at 6, Council Houses in Tadmarton. They are both commemorated on the Adderbury war memorial. 

 

 


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