100 years ago the Battle of Loos which began on the 25th September 1915 saw another sad list of casualties from the zoo and botanic garden staff that we have been researching.
Many of them have no known grave and are listed on the panels of the Loos Memorial to the missing.
Over the next few weeks up until 14th October 1915 at Loos, around 2013 officers and 48,677 men became casualties (of which 800 officers and 15,000 men were killed). British casualties at Loos were about twice as high as German casualties.
The Battle of Loos was the largest British battle that took place in 1915 on the Western Front. The battle was an attempt by the Allies to break through German defences in Artois and Champagne.
The first day Sunday 25th September 1915 was when each of these men were killed.
In many places British artillery had failed to cut the German barbed wire in advance of the attack and many British troops were advancing over open fields, within range of German machine guns and artillery. The British were able to break through some weaker German defences and capture the town of Loos-en-Gohelle, mainly due to weight of numbers. Sadly British supply and communications problems and late arriving reserves meant that any breakthroughs could not be exploited on that vital first day.
Sunday the 25th was an especially bad day for the volunteers and army reservists on the staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh serving with the 5th Cameron Highlanders. Four of their number were lost on 25 September 1915. All four are remembered on the Loos Memorial, having no known grave.
Losses at Gallipoli to their RBGE colleagues in the 5th Royal Scots had also been steadily happening throughout 1915.
- Willam Frederick Bennett, 5th Cameron Highlanders, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – missing
- Alan Menzies, 5th Cameron Highlanders, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – killed
- John Stewart, 5th Cameron Highlanders, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – killed
- George Hugh Stuart, 5th Cameron Highlanders, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – killed
Leonie Paterson and RBGE team have been blog posting the stories behind the RBGE men on their memorial. The losses at Loos and what happened to the 5th Cameron Highlanders are covered here: http://stories.rbge.org.uk/archives/17293
About the four RBGE staff lost at Loos.
Lance Corporal S/10817 William Frederick Bennett of the 5th Cameron Highlanders, aged 26, is listed on panel 120A of the Loos Memorial having no known grave. CWGC list him as as the “Son of Anna Bennett, of 5, Holdings, Llanedarne, Cardiff, and the late William Bennett.” Bennett joined RBGE staff as Probationer in 1911, and enlisted in the 5th Cameron Highlanders on 29 August 1914 and served in Flanders for about five months before his death at Loos.
Private Allan Menzies, S/11385, died aged 21, serving with “B” Coy. 5th Bn. Cameroon Highlanders, also remembered on Panel 122, Loos Memorial. CWGC lists him as the “Son of James and Mrs. Menzies, of 117, Scott St., Perth. A Forester in the Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.” Menzies joined the garden staff as a Probationer in August 1913 and like Bennett joined the Cameron Highlanders on 29th August 1914. He served for four months in Flanders before his death at Loos.
There are two John Stewarts died on 25 September 1915 serving in the 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders, both on the Loos Memorial. Both deserve to be remembered but RBGE list the following as their man:
- Lance Corporal John Stewart, S/14592, died aged 25, 5th Cameron Highlanders. He is also remembered on Panel 120, Loos Memorial. CWGC lists him as the “Son of Mrs. Elizabeth Christina Stewart, of Carrick Place, Alloway, Ayr.”
Private George Hugh Stuart, S/14584, died aged 23 serving with 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders. He is remembered on Panel 123 A, Loos Memorial.
Belle Vue Zoo (Manchester) lost 33 year old private 22109 Frederick Lester Reid of the 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, formerly Private 16565 Manchester Regiment. He is also named on the Loos Memorial to the Missing, having no known grave.
Stockport born and raised, he left a widow and several children. CWGC lists him as the “Son of the late Peter and Mary Ann Reid; husband of Elizabeth Jessie Reid, of 256, Gorton Rd., Reddish, Stockport.”
There is more about his war service at http://www.loyalregiment.com/22109-pte-f-l-reid-l-n-lan-r/ and the http://www.stockport1914-1918.co.uk
Kew Gardens lost Rifleman Henry James Longhurst, R/7519, 2nd Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, who died aged 23 on 25th September 1915. He has no known grave and is listed on Panel 101 / 102, Loos Memorial.
Born on February 3 1892, Longhurst is noted in his Kew Guild Journal obituary 1915/16 as “the first of our young gardeners to give his life for his country in this war” alongside W.H. Morland, another early Kew casualty at Gallipoli, who was then employed at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. He entered Kew on July 1913. He enlisted on November 21, 1914 and was killed in action “somewhere in France“, as we now know during the Battle of Loos.
The Anglo-Irish landed estates of Ireland, soon to be rocked by civil war and the Easter Rising of 1916, were already experiencing the same unsettling situation as English estates with the heirs lost and dynasties ending.
Charles Annesley Acton, heir to Kilmacurragh estate and gardens (now Botanic Gardens of Ireland) Was also killed on 25 September 1915.
When Thomas Acton died on August 25th 1908, his 32 year-old nephew, Captain Charles Annesley Acton then succeeded to Kilmacurragh. Born in Peshwar, India in 1876, he was educated following family tradition at Rugby and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.
In 1896 he joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and served with the regiment in Malta, Crete, Hong Kong, India and Burma. Following his uncle’s death Charles resigned his commission and settled for a gentleman’s life on the family estate … He continued to develop the estate and arboretum …
With the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, Charles and many of the gardeners at Kilmacurragh headed for the battlefields on the French Front. On September 25th 1915, Charles Acton, while trying to assist a fellow soldier, was mortally wounded by an explosion at Loos. He was only 39.
Major Charles Annesley Acton, D Coy. 9th Bn Royal Welch Fusilers is also remembered on the Loos memorial, panel 50 to 52. CWGC lists him as “Of Kilmacurragh, Rathdrum. High Sheriff Co. Wicklow, 1913, and J.P. Served in Crete, 1898, and China Expedition, 1900. Second son of the late Col. Ball-Acton, C.B., and Mrs. Ball-Acton.”
You can read more of this story about how Kilmacurragh lost both Charles and another heir in WW1 along with most of the gardeners and declined until rescued as part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland at http://www.botanicgardens.ie/kilmac/kilmhist.htm
Later 1915 casualties
Later on in this month on 29 September 1915 London Zoo’s Sea lion keeper Henry Munro would be posted missing in Flanders, and eventually judged to have no known grave is now remembered on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial.
He was followed on 10th October 1915 by Kew Gardens pony boy private Frank Windebank and Sergeant H. J. Smith, both of the 7th East Surrey Regiment, killed on the same day and buried close to each other in Plot 1 of Vermelles British Cemetery. During the Battle of Loos, Vermelles Chateau was used as a dressing station and Plot I was completed first. Smith and fellow Kewite Frank Windebank are buried at Vermelles Cemetery a few graves apart with other 7th East Surreys.
We will post remembrance blog entries on the appropriate days.
All those who fought at the Battle of Loos, remembered.
Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.