Our Life on Denbury Farm Blog 2nd August 2017

August 2, 2017 in new_blog by MrFarmer


Watching the memorials to those who lost their lives at the Battle of Passchendaele made me remember a Great Uncle who died in the 1st world war, a Charles Smith. 

Some years ago a tattered old case was passed down to me. When I first glanced the contents of the case I found it contained many items, letters, photographs, old insurance documents, invoices, birth and death certificates and other interesting items collected by another Great Uncle Walter. The most important being a letter from the Red Cross dated the 23rd of February 1918 to my Great Grandmother on the death of her son Charles Smith in a battle in Northern France.  Many mothers would have received a letter of this type on the death of there sons. What a terribly sad day it would have been for them. With the letter about Charlie there was a letter about the action. The Passchendaele memorial made me realise that no one in our family had ever visited Charlie’s Grave and he had died a 100 year ago this year.  I started a search on the internet and will continue but as of yet I have not found any grave that I could visit and can only think that he is buried in an unknown grave.

The letter from the Enquiry Department of The British Red Cross reads. 

Dear Madam,  We much regret to say that not withstanding constant and careful enquiries we have not been able to hear anything of your Son except a sad report from a Sgt. Wright, now a prisoner  in Germany that he saw him instantly killed on April the 14th 1917 and have had to come to the conclusion that he must have lost his life at the time when he went missing. We have questioned all the men of his unit whom we have been able to see, both in English Hospitals and bases abroad and none have been able to throw any light on his casualty. We have however been able to collect some details of the action,  and we  enclose a copy of there fearing that in spite of all our efforts we shall not be able to help any further in this matter, we do indeed watch all the prison lists that come in from Germany but we cannot hope to find there any names of missing so long ago. We offer our sincere sympathy to the family and friends. Signed on behalf of the Earl of Lucan.

Action report. 1st Essex April 13th 14th 1917

Our report shows that in the middle of April 1917 the 1st Essex where in action near Arras, one sold in B company says we were attacking the village of Monchy-le-Preux S.E of Arras in the early morning of April the 14th. Some of us were told to hold the front German line , while the rest of the Battalion advance, there was not much fighting and the Germans cut off the rest of the Battalion. We had to retire owing to our being outnumbered and held the line 200 yards in the rear.

We are told that the time of the start  was 5. am and that the attack was made on the hill that was reached. Other accounts carry on the story.  The fighting got severe and we reach our objective under heavy fire. The Battalion retired about noon and it was quite impossible for the wounded to be brought in. The ground was lost in the German counter attack. Casualties seem to have occurred in our front line trench even before the Battalion went over the top, and in the course of the engagement our losses were heavy.