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Sunday, 11 November 2012


Over the past year I have gone from thinking that none of my family served in either of the World Wars (because no one had ever told me they had) to knowing that several fought in both as well as in the Boer War. So today, I remember 3 men who died in the Great War:

My great grandmother's cousin Sgt William Harry Sansum, 20th Battalion
born 25 September 1874
killed in action 19 August 1916 at Ypres, Belgium.

My great, great uncle Corporal William Henry James Josey Clanfield, Reserve Mechanical Transport Convoy
born 3 March 1873
died 29 October 1918 at Rouen, France.

My great, great uncle Albert Lay
born July 1883
Killed in action 29 April 1917 at the Battle of Arras, France. Below is how that day of the battle was described in the History of the 2nd Division, Berkshire Regiment:

"The Berkshires at once established blocks and flank defences and snipers were pushed forward into Oppy
Wood where they also established themselves. Here three enemy machine guns were captured and used with
considerable effect upon the retiring Germans. A number of the enemy's troops were also captured, some of whom pretended to be dead until tiurned over in order to be searched. Thes prisoners were immediately evacuated. Thus far the Berkshires held all they had so gallantly won. The right flank of the battalion was heavily counterattacked. Nothing daunted however, the enemy with great courage came on again and again, his troops being decimated by the splendid marksmanship of the Berkshires. Between 5 and 9.30 am he launched five separate attacks against the battalion. Four were repulsed but during the fifth the supply of grenades gave out and, almost exhausted and much reduced in numbers, the Berkshires were forced to give ground. And then as the men filtered back through the battered trenches they came suddenly upon a store of German bombs. Arming themselves with these they again faced the enemy and, attacking him furiously, won back all the ground they had lost.
Once more the enemy launched a heavy counter-attack against the right front and centre of the now very thin line of Berkshires. But ever as they came on the enemy's troops were shot down by rifle and Lewis gun fire. and this attack also was bloodily repulsed. Fresh enemy attacks continued to develop until at last
reduced to less than half their original strength and scattered over a front of about 500 yards the gallant
Berkshires were compelled to withdraw to the line of the sunken road running south west from the west corner of Oppy Wood.
The left company (C) holding its objectives north of the sunken road, now numbered only 35 other ranks, moved north along the trench taking with them their wounded and three captured machine guns until they joined hands with the 5th Infantry Brigade about B.12, d.0.4 Here the survivors of the company remained.
The remainder of the Berkshires their left flank in the air and all their bombs expended, retired to the old British line and. there maintained their ground. No wonder the Brigadier of 99th Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General R O Kellett) said in his report to Divisional Headquarters "During this severe fighting the action of the 1st Royal Berks was beyond all praise ... towards the end practically all the Lewis gunners were killed or wounded." During the day's fighting the Berks had captured about 70 prisoners and 3 machine guns and had killed large numbers of the enemy."

Out of 200 Berkshire soldiers that staged the attack, 151 were killed.

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