The Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War
The War Memorial in Glapthorne, Northamptonshire
Glapthorne is a village two miles north of Oundle, which in turn is on the A605 that runs between Peterborough and the A14 dual carriageway. The Memorial is situated in the church grounds but there is no memorial inside the church to view.
This normal looking memorial holds several moving stories within its wording and is well worth further inspection. The memorial itself reads:
'In memory of the men of Glapthorne who gave their lives for ENGLAND 1914-1918. Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. St. John XV.'
The inscriptions on the base of the Memorial
By far the saddest story on this memorial relates to the Ingram family of Glapthorne. The two Ingram men were brothers and CSM Maxwell Elderkin, D.C.M, M.M. was their half brother, making the war an incredibly sad affair for Frederick and Emma Ingram, their parents. To make matters worse, Emma - having lost her first husband and three sons - also lost her second husband in September 1921 aged just 53. She survived until 1936 and thankfully did not live to see the Second World War.
Cyril and Henry Kirby were cousins, as were Arthur and John Underwood. I have been unable to trace Millin Underwood, but in such a small community the odds are that he was a brother to one of the other Underwood men who fell in the war.
Company Sergeant Major L/8667 Maxwell ELDERKIN, D.C.M., M.M.
1st Battalion, the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment
Maxwell was born in South Kensington, London around 1887 but by 1890 his mother and brother Ernest lived in Glapthorne. The 1901 census shows his mother and step father were Emma Elizabeth and Frederick Ingram and they lived with their two half brothers and two half sisters in Upper Street, Glapthorne.
By the time war broke out Maxwell was an "Old Contemptible" Army regular who was married to Ellen Elderkin and lived at Abinger Cottages, New Cross Road, Stoughton in Guildford. During his service in the Great War, Maxwell won a Military Medal as well as the vaunted Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry.
Maxwell's Military Medal was gazetted on page 38 of Issue 29608 of the London Gazette 2nd June 1916. Although the citations have been destroyed it is likely that he won it in the preceding two months, although I am unable to confirm this.
His Distinguished Conduct Medal was probably won during the Arras battles of April 1917. The citation is shown on page 40 of issue 30204 of the London Gazette dated 24th July 1917 and reads:
"8667 C.S.M. M. Elderkin, R.W. Surr. R. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He continually organised bombing attacks and throughout was instrumental in repelling hostile counter-attacks."
John Hamblin has been kind enough to forward me a very detailed account of the action mentioning Sergeant Major Elderkin, which is shown below and taken from the Divisional History. For him to have been included by name he must have been recognised as one of the more important men in the Battalion as being mentioned in this way is unusual.
"An attack was planned for the 23rd of April. In this attack the 98th Brigade to the north was ordered to force it's way south down the Hindenburg Line, chiefly with bombs and make a junction with the 100th Brigade in the Sesee valley; the 100th Brigade delivering a frontal attack upon the Hindenburg Line. The attack was particularly difficult to carry out. The Hindenburg Line consisted of a highly fortified front and second line, with concrete machine gun emplacements, some of them with two storeys, about every fifty yards along it. Both lines were defended in front by strands of the thickest wire to a depth of about 20 yards and were connected by the most complete system of tunnels and dug outs that has ever been seen in the history of warfare".
An officer then serving with the 1st Queens wrote:-
"Sunday April 22nd. The battalion moved off to a position of assembly in quarries half a mile north east of Croissilles, east of the Sensee River. They are to advance across 800 yards of open in the dark and attack the Hindenburg Line on a front of about 400 yards to the south of the Sensee River and to hold the line until the 98th Brigade, who are attacking down the Hindenburg Line from the north, have joined up; their right flank is to be protected by two tanks. A mad scheme in my opinion as if the 98th don't join up, they will be left in the middle of the German line with both flanks in the air and it will be impossible to get up reinforcements or ammunition until dark. In addition the advance to within 200 yards of the enemy in the dark is a most difficult and dangerous operation; the wire in front of the enemy is very strong, in three lines radiating from a centre, and only gaps have been cut by artillery. Two companies of the KRRC are following the battalion with bombs, ammunition etc.
The battalion passed through Hamlincourt about 7.30pm on the 22nd and picked up extra ammunition and bombs near Judas Farm and reached the place of assembly about 11.30pm; here 20 entrenching tools per company were distributed and hot cocoa was served out, and at 3.30 am on the 23rd the Queens moved on from the quarry to the position of deployment, deploying on a front of 300 yards on tapes previously laid down, 150 yards each side of the Croisilles-Fontaine Road.
The first 2 waves were composed of D Company, Captain Brodhurst-Hill on the right of the road, and A Company (2nd Lt Carpenter) on the left with "mopping up" platoons of B and C companies forming a third line to the first wave. The 3rd and 4th waves moving at 50 yards intervals were made up of C and B Companies on right and left under Captain Ball and 2nd Lt Holliday; the 2 companies of the KRRC attached comprised the 5th and 6th waves.
The advance from the position of deployment was over 1,000 yards of open country, along the valley of the Sensee River, which was only a trickle running in a water course giving only a certain amount of cover, but commanded generally from the high ground on either side. The front German trench was protected by at least two rows of barbed wire radiating from where the trench crossed the road, with more thick wire between the 1st and 2nd lines. The German front line trench was much knocked about, and for the most part not more than four feet deep. It was enfiladed from the north.
At 20 minutes before zero hour, the force was to advance to the line of a sunken road, crossing the Croisilles-Fontaine Road, which had been picqueted during the night by the 2nd Worcesters, and was to lie down there and wait for the barrage to fall; this was to dwell for 8 minutes on the front line and for 10 minutes on the 2nd line and then to continue behind the 2nd line until 90 minutes after zero, by which time it was expected that the 98th Brigade would have joined up. D and A Companies of the Queens were to cross the German first line and occupy and consolidate the second line. C Company was to make blocks on the right of the first line and form a defensive flank along a communication trench; B was to do the same on the left along the Sensee River. The KRRC companies were to form a central dump of bombs etc. and occupy and consolidate the German first line; the two tanks were to follow on the right of the attack and work down the enemy's line towards the river.
The Queens advanced at 4.15am and moved in good order to the sunken road and there lay down to wait for zero - fixed for 4.45am - without detection by the enemy, and then when the attack began, they worked up to within 50 yards of the barrage, entering the front trench with few casualties; this was found to contain only a few of the enemy who were quickly disposed of. The leading then went forward to the German 2nd line, but were now held up by very strong uncut wire, and the barrage on lifting was taken too far back and rested beyond, instead of on, the German 2nd line and the Germans were consequently able to man their parapet. Only a small party of A Company had managed to reach the second line and the remainder of the attackers took cover in the many shell holes between the 2 lines.
The 2 tanks which should have arrived by this time and given material assistance at a critical moment, never turned up, having broken down before zero.
Telephonic communications with battalion headquarters was established and maintained until 5.30am and communication was only possible with runners.
In the German first line on the right of the road two strong points were captured and bombing parties pushed 100 yards forward until held up by a third strong point and a double block was made here and established; this was maintained until 11am when the Germans made a determined attack with rifle grenades and bombs., but they were driven back by parties under Company Sergeant Major Elderkin. On the left a block was at first made at the river, but on the "box barrage" lifting the enemy attacked; he was however repulsed by the use of rifle grenades and a party under Corporal Spooner, following him up for 150 yards, captured a concrete blockhouse and a machine gun; on the enemy counter-attacking this was destroyed by a bomb and a block was then made 50 yards from the blockhouse and held until the end. The first line very soon became completely filled with wounded men, and it became increasingly difficult to pass bombs to the 5 different points where bombing was incessant
At 5.08am 2nd Lt Holliday reported the first line taken, but the second strongly held by Germans, while the tanks had not arrived. At 5.25am 5 prisoners of the German 99th regiment were passed back.
At 7.10am 2nd Lt Carpenter arrived at battalion headquarters wounded and reporting that the front line companies were running out of bombs; this was later confirmed by a message from Capt Godfrey, timed at 6.45am, reporting the shortage of bombs and Lewis Gun ammunition, and saying that the situation was critical. During the next few hours parties from the KRRC carried up nearly 1,500 bombs. Then at 10.10am Capt Godfrey was able to send a better report - that the advance of the 98th Brigade had relieved the pressure, and although the casualties were heavy the men were cheery and confident, - but bombs, more bombs were wanted. 2 hours later came news that the enemy were pressing the defence with repeated bombing attacks, while the supply of bombs were again running low, and now at 1.20pm the last lot of 800 bombs was sent up, but before the carrying party had reached the front line the enemy had started strong bombing attacks from 5 different positions and 25 minutes later the Germans, having massed on the right, rushed the blocks under a barrage of aerial torpedoes and rifle grenades, the defenders supply of bombs having given out. The enemy pressure on the right flank now forced a retirement here, causing the cutting off of the men in the centre communication trench.
Many casualties occurred during this retirement, but the men rallied at the battalion headquarters, which was heavily shelled, and further losses incurred. Then at last, at 8pm, orders were received to fall back to the railway cutting near Judas Trench
Casualties were 13 officers killed, wounded or missing out of the 14 who began the attack, losses among the other ranks were 26 killed 101 wounded and 308 missing. 7 of the officers were reported as German prisoners of war."
Having survived three and a half years of the most dreadful war in history, winning two gallantry medals in the process, as well as promotion to Company Sergeant Major in one of the original 1st Division units who had served throughout the entire war, Maxwell Elderkin was finally killed in action on the 12th April 1918, aged 30 during the Battle of Hazebrouck.
He has no known grave but is remembered on panels 1 & 2 of the Ploegsteert Memorial to the missing.
Both of his half brothers (Alfred and Frederick - see below) also fell in the war, making their family the hardest hit in the village. Alfred was killed within a month or two of arriving in France in 1915 and Frederick lost his life a few months before Maxwell.
Sergeant C/6721 Joseph HOSTEAD
18th Battalion, the Kings Royal Rifle Corps Joseph was born in Glapthorne around 1886, the son of John and Kitty Hostead. In 1901 he lived in Lower Street, Glapthorne along with 3 of his siblings where he was employed as an Agricultural labourer. By the time war broke out Joseph was married to Violet Constance Hostead and lived at 42 Kingswood Road in Goodmayes, Essex and went to East Ham in London to enlist. Having survived the Somme battles of 1916, he was killed in action on the 16th June 1917, aged 29 during the Battle of Messines 1917. Joseph has no known grave but is remembered on Panels 51 & 53 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial to the missing.
Private 3/10096 Alfred Victor INGRAM
1st Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment
Alfred was born in 1897 in Glapthorne, the son of Frederick and Emma Elizabeth Ingram. Emma had been married before and had two sons (Maxwell Elderkin, DCM, MM being one of them - see above) and by 1901 Alfred also had another brother and sister. The family lived in Upper Street. Alfred was one of the first men to enlist when war broke out, having served as a Reservist in the 3rd Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment before 1914.
He would have been in France a matter of months when he died of wounds received whilst in the trenches around Bethune, at CCS No.1 on the 3rd July 1915. He was just aged 18. He is buried in grave I.D.23 at the Chocques Military Cemetery in France.
Alfred was the first of three brothers to fall with his two older brothers (Maxwell Elderkin and Frederick Ingram - above and below respectively) being killed in 1917 and 1918.
Lance Sergeant G/4539 Frederick Stafford INGRAM
11th Battalion, the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) regiment
Frederick was born in Glapthorne in 1890 and was the second of three brothers to be killed in the war (see Maxwell Elderkin and Alfred Ingram).
When war broke out he enlisted immediately from Oundle and was posted to his older brothers Regiment, although in a different battalion. Having survived the massive Western Front battles of 1915, 1916 and 1917, he was killed in action on the 20th December 1917 whilst holding the line at the River Piave in Italy, although the memorial says March 1917.
Frederick was 27 years old. Buried in grave 17, plot 6, row B at the Tezze British Cemetery, Italy
Frederick and Emma Ingram's grave in the churchyard
Private 23942 Claud JACKSON
1st Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment
Claud was born in Manea in Cambridgeshire and lived in Glapthorne at the time he enlisted at Thrapston in Northamptonshire He was killed in action on the 20th August 1916 during the infamous Somme offensives of 1916, although the memorial says he fell in July 1916. Claud is remembered on Special Memorial A.14 at the Bazentin-Le-Petit Communal Cemetery Extension in France.
Private G/6059 Cyril Foers KIRBY
2nd Battalion, the Royal Sussex Regiment
Cyril was born in Glapthorne around 1884, the son of Alfred William and Mary Ann Kirby. By 1901, he lived in Lower Street in the house next to the church along with 2 siblings and his Aunt. He enlisted from Peterborough in 1914 and survived on the Western Front for around seven months before being killed in action on the 2nd March 1916, aged 31, whilst holding the line in the Loos sector. The Battalion war diary records that on the 1st they were "at Loos, opposite Harrison's Crater; the Germans sent over lots of trench mortars etc., 1 OR killed and 8 wounded. Similar activity on the 2nd, but with no casualties."
Cyril is buried in grave I.B.5 at the Dud Corner Cemetery in Loos.
Rifleman 44654 Henry Augustus KIRBY
16th Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifle Regiment
Henry was born in 1878 at Glapthorn, the son of Henry and Caroline Kirby, who had moved to Uffington in Lincolnshire by the end of the war. He was educated at Oundle school and lived in Glapthorne when he enlisted into the London Regiment at Peterborough as Private 3550. Henry was Cyril Kirby's cousin (see above). According to SDGW, Henry was killed in action on the 3rd August 1917, although the memorial says June 1917 and the CWGC registers records his death on the 18th June. He was 39 years old and fell at the Third Battle of Ypres, 1917.
Henry has no known grave but is remembered on Panel 40 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial to the missing.
Gunner 110582 Edward Henry MASON
B Battery, 250th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery
Edward was born in Luddington, Northamptonshire but was married to Clara Mason and lived in Glapthorn at the time he enlisted into the army at Northampton He was killed in action on the 27th May 1918, aged 45 during the opening day of the surprise German attack that developed into the Battle of the Aisne, 1918. Clara had died before Edward's death and he was the son of Mrs. Mary Jane Mason.
Edward is buried in grave I.F.37 at the Jonchery-Sur-Vesle British Cemetery on the Marne in France.
Private 18456 Henry PICK
7th Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment
Henry was born in Glapthorne around 1888 to James and Emma Pick. By 1901 he lived with his parents and 4 siblings at the Post Office in Glapthorne and was an agricultural labourer. By 1914 Henry was married to Beartrice Alice Pick and although they lived in Glapthorne, he went to Market Harborough to enlist in September or October 1914 and arrived on the Western Front in August 1915.
Henry died of wounds on the 12th October 1916, aged 29, having been wounded whilst holding the line around Loos. He is buried in grave I.E.16 at the Barlin Communal cemetery, near Bethune.
Private 24420 Harry SPEECHLEY
11th Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment
Harry was born in Glapthorne, the son of James and Frances Speechley. In 1901 he was living in Upper Street along with his brother and two sisters. When war broke out in 1914 Harry enlisted into the army from Oundle. He was killed in action on the 28th April 1917, although the memorial states May 1917, at the Battle of Arleux during the Arras offensives of 1917.
He was 23 years old. Harry has no known grave but is remembered on Bay 4 of the Arras memorial to the missing.
Private 43499 Arthur UNDERWOOD
1st Battalion, the Essex Regiment
Arthur was born in Glapthorne in 1889, the son of Daniel and Elizabeth (formerly Palmer) Underwood. By 1901 they live several doors away from his cousin John (see below) and next door to his mother's family, the Palmer's. Arthur had four brothers and sisters and was living in Glapthorne when he enlisted into the army at Northampton. He was initially posted as Private 23145 in the Northamptonshire Regiment but later transferred into the Essex Regiment. Arthur was killed in action a few months after his cousin (below) on the 12th October 1916 in France, aged 26 during the 1916 Somme offensives.
He is buried in grave IX.G.19 of the Bancourt British cemetery, near Bapaume.
Lance Corporal 13612 John Arthur UNDERWOOD
9th Battallion, the Leicestershire Regiment
John was born in 1888, the son of James and Mary (formerly Asham) Underwood, of Lower Street, Glapthorne. In 1901 he lived with his parents and four siblings a few doors away from his cousin Arthur (above) and was an agricultural labourer. John was living at Glapthorne when he enlisted but signed up to the army from Worksop in Nottinghamshire. He was killed in action on the 14th July 1916, in France, aged 28 during the 1916 Somme offensives, just like his cousin who would follow three months later.
John has no known grave but is remembered on the pier and face 2C and 3A of the Thiepval Memorial to the missing.
I am unable to trace any record of this man, whether through census records or army records.
Not on the memorial:
Private 15056 Frederick William MEAD
2nd Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment
Frederick was born in Glapthorne and enlisted into the army from Northampton. He was only in France for a few months when he was killed in action on the 9th May 1915 during the Battle of Aubers Ridge. The 2nd Battalion were in the first waves who were blasted by artillery and rifle fire as they attacked over the narrow 100 yard stretch of no-man's land. They suffered one of the highest battalion casualty figures, with almost 450 of the Battalion becoming killed or wounded that day. The 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, who advanced alongside Frederick's unit suffered the highest casualty rate, losing over 650 men in their assault.
Frederick is one of the many men lost in that battle who has no known rave but he is remembered on Panel 7 of the Ploegsteert Memorial to the missing.
Site built by and © Steven Fuller, 2003 to 2014