Frederick Charles Clements

Frederick Charles Clements was my first cousin four times removed.  We are both descended from Michael Ing and Mary Ann Macey who were his maternal grandparents, and my fourth great grandparents. Michael Ing was born in 1826 in Boughton-Under-Blean, Kent.  His trade was a brick maker.  In 1850, he married Mary Ann Macey, the daughter of another brick maker, a very common trade in Kent during the 19th century. Michael and Mary Ann were 25 and 20 respectively when they married.  Together they had eight children:  I am descended from their oldest child, Eliza Frances.  Eliza’s younger sister, Sarah Ann, worked as a domestic servant on a large farm in as a very young woman, but in 1876, at the age of 22, she married Arthur Clements, an omnibus driver from Herne, Kent.  Arthur and Sarah started their family soon after starting with their daughter Elizabeth Jane, born in 1878; Frederick Charles, born in 1880; and Thomas     Albert, born in 1885.  Later, Arthur and Sarah also adopted a young girl, Phoebe Ing, who must have been a relation of Sarah’s.

By the time he was 20, Frederick was working in the brickfields with his father. In 1911, all the Clements siblings, Elizabeth, age 33, Frederick, age of 31, and Thomas, age 26, were all still living with their parents and their adopted sister. In 1914, the war would disrupt this family unit with Frederick attesting to the South Staffordshire Regiment on September 4, 1914, mere weeks after Britain formally declared war.  Frederick’s records are quite difficult to read, but it seems he was initially with the 1/5 battalion, then transferred to the 3/5 battalion.  It seems likely that it was with the 1/5 battalion in the 46th Division that he spent his recorded time on the Western Front throughout 1915. This would have included time in the final stages of the Battle of Loos in October of 1915.  In the beginning of December of 1915 it appears that the battalion was sent to Egypt, but Frederick was not among those who went as he was then transferred to a reserve battalion stationed in England.

Loos2

British Troops at the Battle of Loos, Autumn 1915.

Frederick’s brother, Thomas, was sent to the eastern theatre, and as we will learn next week, this was a sad turn of events for the Clements family.

Many years after the war, in 1933, Frederick married Esther Annie Rosina Larkman who was over 30 years his junior.  The two lived out their lives in Kent, and Frederick lived well past his 80th year.

 

Ezekiel Gill

Ezekiel Gill, with his brothers David and William, formed a trio of Gill brothers that were in the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium. The second son of David and Louisa Gill, he was born on the 27th of December, 1894, just over 123 years ago, in the post-Christmas and pre-New Year’s period, just as we are in right now. In the 1911 census he is listed as still living with his parents, and working as a bottle packer at a glassworks.

On August 3, 1913, at the age of 18, he married Rosa Charlotte Kitchener, and very soon afterwards, they were expecting their first child. Their son, Ezekiel, was born in the spring of 1914, but sadly did not see his first birthday, passing away in early 1915.

Ezekiel’s military service record was destroyed among the other “burnt” service files, so we are left to piece together his service from other sources. Family documents shared with me by a Great Grand niece of Ezekiel suggest that he, like his brother David, first joined the Royal Field Artillery. At the very least, the family is fairly certain that he was present at the Battle of Loos in the fall of 1915, as his second child, David, born in December 1915 was given the middle name “Loos” presumably after this battle.

At some point after the fall of 1915, Ezekiel was transferred to the 1st Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment in the 1st Division.  His service between late 1915 and the fall of 1918 cannot be ascertained through the military record, although he must have had some time on leave as his wife, Rosa, was again expecting a child that fall.

In September of 1918, the Battles of the Hindenburg Line began in which the allied forces worked to break the defensive position the German forces had held since 1916. On the 28th of September, the men of the 1st Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment had baths in the morning, and by 5pm they had been ordered to move to the front to relieve the 2nd Infantry Brigade. The next morning marked the beginning of the Battle of the St. Quentin Canal.  The 1st Battalion was ordered to take and hold three strategic objectives, some of which were heavily defended by machine guns. The artillery was supporting them, but bad misty weather, heavy hostile shelling, and a great deal of noise made it difficult for officers on the ground to discern whether their artillery support was even there.

By midday, conditions improved, and the 1st began a creeping barrage toward their three objectives.  This was a gruelling series of hours with heavy artillery creating a screen allowing infantry to slowly advance 50 metres at a time. By dark, their targets had been captured, but at a toll of 55 casualties, including 8 men killed.  Among them was Ezekiel Gill.  He was 23 years old.

Ezekiel’s daughter, Rosa Louisa Gill, was born just over three weeks later.

Ezekiel is buried in Vadencourt British Cemetery in Maissemy, France.  I am honoured to share the CWGC commemorative certificate for my cousin here.

 

David Gill

It is only fitting to begin this series with someone who is actually named “David.”  David Gill was born in 1893 to David Gill (Sr.) and Louisa George in the urban district of Edmonton (now part of Greater London in the north-east borough of Enfield). I’ve often found it interesting that my home town, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is named after this region, and that so many of my ancestors, particularly on my maternal Grandmother’s side, hail from this region.

Gill Brothers

Assumed to be David Gill and one of his brothers (either Ezekiel or William). c.1917.  Based on the lanyard on the seated soldier’s uniform common in RFA uniforms, it is likely this is David. 

David Gill and I are both descendants of John Gill (1816-1891) and Elizabeth Munns (1816-1896).  John and Elizabeth were my 5th great grandparents, and they were David’s Great Grandparents, making David my 2nd cousin 4 times removed.  Although Elizabeth died when David was 3 years old, it is unlikely that they met, as Elizabeth and John both died in a particularly Dickensian manner while inmates at different institutions: John at the Caxton and Arrington Union Workhouse, and Elizabeth at the Fulbourn Lunatic Asylum, both in Cambridgeshire.  What brought them to these places at the end of their lives is hard to say though the records I have found, except to say that, as early as 1871, Elizabeth was living with her son Jack (David’s Grandfather) and his family in Orwell, Cambridgeshire, but that by the 1881 census, she was no longer living there.

In the 1891 census, David Sr. is listed as still living with his family and working as a “labourer” which, of course, could mean any number of things.  By the following year, he had relocated to Edmonton and had married Louisa George, daughter of an agricultural labourer from Edmonton.  David Sr. and Louisa had 13 children of whom I could find record, and of these children, their three eldest boys all served in the war.

David was the oldest of these 13 children. In the 1911 census, when he was 18 years old, he was listed as a blacksmith’s labourer at the gas works in Edmonton. David was 21 years old in the summer of 1914 when Britain gave Germany an ultimatum to get out of Belgium by midnight on August 3.  When Germany did not comply, Britain declared war on August 4.

David signed his attestation papers on September 2, 1914.

DG Attestation

Portion of David Gill’s attestation papers. British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1918. 

He joined the Royal Field Artillery in the 106th brigade of the 24th division of the British Expeditionary Force as a blacksmith with the rank “Driver”–a specialist in horses who would drive and care for the animals pulling the heavy equipment to the regiment’s appointed locations.

David is an interesting case, as his service in Belgium and France was one of the longest-running of all the men I will profile over this next year, and both his service record and the war diaries for his unit are rich with information.  After joining up only days after war was declared and training in Britain for nearly a year, David and the 106th embarked from Southampton for France on August 29, 1915.

The brigade was initially comprised of four batteries with each armed with four 18-pounder field guns.  As an example, “A” battery was comprised of four officers, 130 non-commissioned officers and men and 126 horses. After landing in Le Havre, France the 106th travelled by train northward toward Beaurainville.  The war diary from the 106th for this period describes some disarray with the horse lines; in fact calling them “rather frightful” after all the rain that had recently fell, and there was mention of the horses nearly stampeding due to wasps. As new arrivals in France, and with so many horses to manage, one can imagine Dvr. Gill and his compatriots being very busy.  They did not get to rest for long, as by September 10 they were on the move north-east, arriving in Vermelles by September 17.  And so, 20 days after leaving England, the 106th found themselves in their first significant battle–The Battle of Loos–the first major British offensive of the war.

The 106th bombarded the German lines consistently for four days from September 20 to 24 in an attempt to cut communications and weaken their machine gun defences.  In all reality, it was difficult to see how successful this bombardment was, as chalk dust from the terrain and  then torrential rain made visibility difficult. The attack began on the morning of September 25.  For the first time, the British army used poison gas, releasing a cloud at 5:50 am, gambling on the wind to carry the gas to the German lines.  The infantry were scheduled to attack 40 minutes later.  The 106th diary recorded that “the infantry assaulted and were successful though the extent of the success cannot be reckoned at present.”  In reality, the wind had not been strong enough to carry the gas to its target, and in some cases was sitting stagnant in the positions where the British were to launch their attack. The infantry of the 24th Division was already exhausted after several days of marching to their positions, and by September 28 were all but shattered after three days of very little gain. At this point the 24th was pulled from the fray to regroup.  There were more than 50,000 British casualties (7,766 killed) in this battle. The estimates of German casualties vary, but seem to have been much lower–approximately 25,000–less than half of the British numbers.

This was the first month of 45 months that David Gill spent in active service in France and Belgium.  Though he had some leave time interspersed in that time, and two stays in hospital, once for pyrexia (fever) in 1916, and another time for scabies (number 6 on the top 20 medical ailments for soldiers in the great war) in 1917.

The 24th Division took part in many other significant battles in the war including the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917 and the Battle of St. Quentin in 1918. After armistice, David was in France for another seven months as the 106th helped local farmers in Belgium by lending them the horses that had pulled the guns, and by working to sell the livestock rather than return it to England.  The 24th Division even held a football competition in January 1919–one of many activities to help cope with the frustrations of demobilization.  On June 13, 1919, David sailed for England, and his unit was dispersed on June 17.

David married Gertrude Watson on February 29, 1920 when he was 27 years old.  They had two children, Gertrude Louisa Rose born in 1921, and David (Sonny) Gill born in 1923.  David died in 1967 in Enfield, Greater London, at the age of 74.

I would like to thank David’s Great-Granddaughter for her help and enthusiasm in sharing David’s story.

David Gill

David Gill later in life

Gertrude Watson 3

Gertrude Gill (nee Watson) c. 1920s