Richard Ernest Bolton, Private, 12 Section, C Company, 13th. Battalion, Tank Corps, 8 August 1918

Richard Ernest Bolton

Private R E BOLTON
304410, 13th Bn., Tank Corps
who died
on 08 August 1918
Remembered with honour
HEATH CEMETERY, HARBONNIERES

Richard Ernest Bolton, photo taken 1916/17. He is wearing a lapel badge of his Regiment, 8th. Liverpool Irish

RICHARD ERNEST BOLTON

Private 304410 13th Bn., Tank Corps
who died on Thursday, 08/08/1918 .

HEATH CEMETERY, Ref: I. E. 2., HARBONNIERES, Somme, France

 Borough of Lancaster Civic Reception H M Forces Report Form shows:

Richard Ernest Bolton. Resided at 80 Pinfold Lane, Skerton, [Lancaster]. A married man. Pte. 304410. Tank Corps. He served for 6 months at home, and 4 years abroad. Killed in Action France 1918.

ST JOSEPH’S SKERTON http://www.lancasterwarmemorials.org.uk/memorials/stjoseph.htm

Richard Ernest Bolton. Private. 304410. Tank Corps.
Born Caton, Lancs., and enlisted in Lancaster
Died 08/08/18. Killed in Action. France & Flanders.

Supp. Notes: Formerly 3833 King’s Liverpool Regt.

Source: Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919

Bolton, Richard Ernest Gunner Tank Corps, killed in action, 8 August, 1918, age 23, wife resident at 80, Pinfold lane, Skerton, educated at Skerton Council school, employed as an attendant at the County Asylum, six brothers in law are serving.

Source Lancaster Guardian date 31, August, 1918 page 3, no photo Code ? 263, 

Richard enlisted early in the war (or even before), sadly there are no surviving records.  All we know is that he joined the 8th. Liverpool Irish Battalion of the Kings Liverpool Regiment.  Quite why he ended up in strongly Irish Battalion is not clear.  We do know that he worked as an attendant in the County Asylum, Moor Hospital in Lancaster prior to enlisting. His Regimental Number was 3833.

Sadly his Service Records did not survive the Blitz of 1940 when as much as 50% of World War 1 records were destroyed in the bombing.  So very little is known of his time in the Liverpool Irish.  What is known comes from the Regimental History:

1/8th (Irish) Battalion, King’s (Liverpool) Regiment.

They were formed in August 1914 and became part of the Liverpool Brigade, West Lancashire Division.

In February 1915, they were transferred to the North Lancashire Brigade, which moved to Highland Division and was retitled as 3rd Highland Brigade.

The brigade landed in France during May 1915 (he joined his Battalion, in France in August 1915) and was renamed as 154th Brigade, 51st (Highland) Division and the battalion transferred in January 1916 to 165th Brigade, 55th (West Lancashire) Division.

A raiding party of the 1/8th (Irish) King’s Liverpool Regiment, 55th Division, at Wailly, France. Photograph taken the morning after a night raid durnig the 17/18th April 1916. © IWM (Q 510)

After seeing action in 1916 and 1917 at the Somme, Ypres and Cambrai, the battalion, after absorbing 2/18th Bttn, was transferred in January 1918 to 171st Brigade, 57th (2nd West Lancashire) Division.

He got home leave in 1916 and married my Maternal Great Aunt, Jane Helme in Lancaster.

Aunty Jannie, 1983

It is not known when he transferred to the Tank Corps but major drafts joined 13th. Battalion after the heavy losses in March / April 1918. The Tank Corps finding themselves overrun and thus useless in Tanks (at that time) deployed as Lewis Gun Teams, they suffered horrific levels of casualties and many have no known grave.

He joined 13th. Battalion, The Tank Corps as Private with a new Regimental Number: 304410 and was trained as a gunner.

Tanks were first used at the Battle of Flers–Courcelette in September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme in the First World War. They were at first considered artillery, and crews received artillery pay. At that time the six tank companies were grouped as the Heavy Section of the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). In November 1916 the eight companies then in existence were each expanded to form battalions (still identified by the letters A to H) and designated the Heavy Branch MGC; another seven battalions, I to O, were formed by January 1918, when all the battalions were changed to numbered units. On 28 July 1917, the Heavy Branch was separated from the rest of the Corps by Royal Warrant and given official status as the Tank Corps.

He was posted to 12 Section, C Company as a Gunner.  This was Commanded by Captain Fletcher.

13 Battalion, C Company with 5th Australian Division, Aus Corp, 4th Army had 12 tanks in action on 8th August 1918.

9 Section – Capt Walker

9382, “Mabel” f           2Lt. Gill RH

9055,               m         2Lt. Litchfield H

9097                m         2Lt. Bennett A

10 Section

9388                            2Lt. Ribchester WA

9188                            2Lt. Evans GA

9135                            2Lt. Passells WE

11 Section

9449                            2Lt. Innes A

9014                            2Lt. Seddon J

9050                            2Lt. Milliken J

12 Section – Captain Fletcher

9082                            2Lt. Fennimore

9443                            2Lt. Dower T

9131                            2Lt. Rogers NI

The Battalion History provided a detailed account of the build up and actions in the Battle of Amiens which started on 8th. August 1918, most Tanks had names, by 1918 it was normal that the Tank names began with identifying letter of Battalion, so 13th. Battalion would have had names beginning with M.  It is a great and detailed history but, as ever, misses the Private soldier, all other Regimental War Diaries and Histories are the same.

The National Archives’ reference WO-95-115-2_01.jpg

As far as we can be certain, Richard was a gunner in Tank number 9443, a MK V, Female this was commanded by 2Lt. T Dower MC.

A MK V Female of 10th. Battalion. Sadly no images exist of Tank 9443. Credit: http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww1/gb/tank_MkV.php

Male Tanks were armed with 6 Pounder guns and machine guns.

Female tanks were only armed with machine guns.

From the History:

  The Scheme. – “B” and “C” Companies of the 13th Battalion were to work in the northern sector of the Australian front.  Here the 3rd Australian Division was entrusted with the capture of the first objective at an average depth of 4000 yards, the 4th Australian Division being ordered to pass through them in the second phase.  The general scheme of the opening assault was on lines already made familiar on a smaller scale at Hamel.  Tanks catching up their Infantry were to follow an artillery barrage organised in depth, but moving at a faster rate than that employed in July; the rates of advance for each 100 yards being, on the start line three minutes, then two minutes to 200 yards, three minutes for the next 800 yards, then one minute up to the protective barrage 400 yards beyond the first objective.  Smoke was only to be used in the first short-standing barrage and in the protective barrage.  In the second phase no barrage was to be employed, but guns moving forward would engage known battery positions, the R.A.F. would drop smoke bombs to screen villages held by the enemy.  As before, air protection was arranged for Tanks moving up to the start line and when about to attack.

Starting Points. – “B” and “C” Companies left their assembly point at Hamelet on the night of the 7th August, and were all in position on their start line by midnight, except two Tanks of “B” Company which were delayed by mechanical troubles and were brought up in time for the attack by the Company Engineer.  “C” Company on the left lay on the north side of Hamel village, while “B” Company on the right had two sections on either side of Vaire Wood, thus they occupied as start points positions which they had won by their former success.  Here Tanks were filled up with petrol and tapes were laid to the Infantry start lines.  Colonel Lyon had established his advanced Headquarters behind Vaire Wood before the start; this was moved up behind the advance, and opened later in Cerisy Valley after its capture.  Company Commanders had their Headquarters, “B” with the 9th, and “C” with the 11th Australian Brigade.

Conditions. – The ground was drying up after several days of rain and was in fine condition for Tank operations.  On the morning of the action a dense mist prevailed, making objects invisible at a distance of ten yards.  This started to lift about 6.30 a.m., and from 7.30 a.m. visibility rapidly improved.  All Tanks started, and at Zero, 4.20 a.m., with one appalling crash the barrage fell.  The most pronounced factor in this first phase of the attack was the mist.  Compasses had been issued to the Tanks of the 13th Battalion, but no fittings for installing them had arrived in time.  In some cases improvised fittings had been devised, in others Tank Commanders preferred to leave their Tanks and use their own prismatics to maintain direction.

The First Phase. – In these ways the Tanks not only held their own course but also guided their Infantry to their objective.  A number of Tanks were ditched from not being able to see the ground in front of them; as against this disadvantage the moral effect upon the enemy of Tanks emerging upon them from the mist was enormous, and the first objective was won with comparative ease.  The Tanks, having established their Infantry, rallied back to the Cerisy Valley behind them.  Several incidents of interest had occurred in this period.  One Tank was disabled near Accroche Wood by running over a land mine, the first experience in this Battalion of this form of anti-Tank defence.  One Tank was of service in keeping touch between two companies of Infantry, who had become widely separated, until the gap in the line could be closed.  A large number of machine guns had been run over and knocked out, and prisoners surrendered freely.  One officer in need of labour to dig out his ditched Tank collected a gang of Saxons for this purpose and kept them working until the Tank was free; an intelligent prisoner pointed out a supply of German shovels for the purpose.

Second Phase. – The second phase of the attack, which started four hours after Zero, was very different from the first.  The mist which had hampered but concealed our approach had now given place to brilliant sunshine.  The enemy had ample warning of the battle and had time to dispose his stout-hearted artillery and machine gunners to meet the advance. In these conditions his resistance stiffened.  “B” and “C” Companies having been in the first wave of the early attack were now given a different role.  One section of “C” Company, three tanks under Capt. Fletcher, was specially detailed for mopping up the villages of Cerisy and Morcourt on the River Edge, in conjunction with Tanks of the 8th Battalion.  All the remainder were to form a supporting wave to the 8th Battalion, who took up the advance from this point, “A” Company with the 2nd Battalion working on their right.  The objective for this stage was roughly the old Amiens defence line, which lay on the high ground east of Morcourt Gully.  It may be added that though this was regarded as the final objective, a further advance to an outpost line was intended, the Infantry machine gunners for this purpose being brought up according to plan in Mark V Star Tanks, the Trojan horses of the Corps.  In practice these gunners became seasick and preferred to march outside.  Further, the heavy Tanks having broken the resistance, the Whippets, Armoured Cars, and Cavalry were to dash through and exploit the opening.  It does not concern this record to follow the fortunes of these other arms, but each played its part with vigour and contributed to a vast general success.

The other Two Companies. – Further north the other Companies of the 13th were meanwhile advancing over ground of undulating character; the method of attack was adapted to suit the ground.  Leaving the Infantry established on a crest, Tanks would go forward across the valley, maintaining fire on isolated-machine gun posts, and gain positions on the forward crest.  In all cases this induced the enemy to give themselves up and enabled the Infantry to advance to the next crest.  On the right of this sector “B” Company, who from the casualties in the first wave were soon fighting in the front line, quickly placed their Infantry in their final objective north of the main road.  “C” Company on the left had more trouble; a field gun placed on the high ground across the river near Chipilly was in position to enfilade the advance, and knocked out three tanks soon after passing the first Infantry objective.  This for some time caused a withdrawal by the Infantry.  By noon, however, the remaining tanks had placed their Infantry in the required positions, and all active opposition had ceased.  Throughout the operation there was abundant evidence of the hasty retreat of the enemy.  In the gully south-east of Maucourt a transport park complete with wagons and harness was left behind, and at the southern end of the same gully a field canteen was found well stocked with light wines and German beer.

Captain Fletcher took his section [possibly 9443, 9131, 9082] to help mop up Cerisy and Morcourt villages on the river edge.  9443 and 9082 were both knocked out soon after crossing the red Line; 2Lt.’s Dower and Fennimore were both wounded.  These tanks were probably two of the three that were knocked out by a field gun firing from Chipilly north of the river.

Many thanks to: https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home/narratives/1918/100days/amiens/13battalion8august1918/13-battalion-c-company-8-august-1918

Richard was killed when his Tank was knocked out, almost certainly in this action. 9443 is ringed furthest East, 9092 is ringed to the west. The guns would have been firing from the ridge North of them.

08 Aug 18 – 13th Btn, C coy, 2Lt Dower T – Attacked. KO just after crossing Red Line. W25

His Tank commander 2Lt. T Dower was wounded and taken prisoner:

He was one of only 5 killed, that day, in his Battalion, sadly the Regimental History has his name, incorrectly spelt.  Oddly the War Diary, which is far more official and included sets of orders, Intelligence reports etc., does not seemed to have survived.

He was, initially, buried near the village of Harbonnieres.

Cpl Rooms, survived the War, he was listed Missing in Action (MIA), was not captured and served with 13th. Battalion (after recovering from his injuries) to the end of the the war.

At a later date this and many other small war graves where exhumed and concentrated at Heath Military Cemetery.

The 8th. of August was the beginning of the 100 days that led to the defeat of the German Army in the field and to the Armistice that ended the Great War.

Richard would have been awarded the 1915 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

 

And his family would, in due course have received the “Dead Mans Penny”

 

Many thanks to:

https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home/narratives/1918/100days/amiens/13battalion8august1918/13-battalion-c-company-8-august-1918