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  Albert Walter Victor Lawrence 

Private G/1278

1st Bn The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment
Killed in Action, 25/09/1915, aged 19, at the Battle of Loos

No Known Grave, but Remembered on :
Ewhurst War Memorial,  Memorial Plaque and Book of Remembrance
The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment Roll of Honour, Holy Trinity Church, Guildford
Loos Memorial, Dud Corner Cemetery, France


The Loos Memorial to the Missing, Dud Corner Cemetery
 

 

ALBERT WALTER VICTOR LAWRENCE, known as Victor, was born in Ewhurst in 1896, and christened on 6th September 1896 at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Ewhurst (1). His parents were William Francis (a gardener) & Harriett Elizabeth Lawrence, and in 1901, when Victor was 4, they lived at Heathside Cottage together with Victor's elder sister, Ellen Elizabeth (b1894).

Victor enlisted in the army at Stoughton Barracks in Guildford, the depot of the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment on 1st September 1914, at the age of 19, for a period of 3 years service (2,3). The G prefix to his service number indicates that he had enlisted in the New Armies, the units created as a result of the recruitment drive by Lord Kitchener in 1914 for volunteers.

He transferred overseas to France on active service, arriving on 17th December 1914 and joining the 1st Battalion Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment as a replacement for the losses sustained in the first few months of the conflict.

ACTIVE SERVICE IN FRANCE

The 1st Bn Queen’s had arrived in France from its home base of Bordon Camp on 12th August 1914, 27 officers and 971 other ranks strong. It remained on the Western Front throughout the First World War. In December 1914 a mere 83 officers and men who had originally arrived in France in August remained with the battalion. On the 21st or 24th December Victor joined them at Hasebrouck in Belgium,  where the battalion was slowly being rebuilt. Rejoining the battalion following his recovery from a wound sustained at Ypres was Captain Raymond Heath, who, having commanded 'D' Company, was later to transfer to the 2nd Bn Queen's. Also from Ewhurst and serving in this battalion with Victor at this time were Joseph Parsons, Victor Baker, Thomas William Denyer, Frank Sellings, Albert Killickand Second Lieutenant RC Joynson-Hicks .

By the start of 1915 the 1st Queen's were able to muster two of the normal four companies, 27 officers and 418 other ranks. Many of the men arriving to increase the strength of the battalion had previously been wounded, and of one draft it was deemed that 70 per cent were unfit for service, and returned to England.

In January Victor and the battalion moved to Béthune and then into the front line near Givenchy. The waterlogged and treacherous part of the line near Givenchy Redoubt was to be his first experience of the living conditions under enemy fire. May 1915 brought the battles of Neuve Chapelle and Festubert, the latter of which the battalion, still under-strength, acted as a reserve, and it was not until June that it reached its full compliment of men.

On the 25th July 1915 the 1st Bn Queen's joined the 5th Brigade of the 2nd Division, and preparations began for action on the Loos plain in late September.

On 25th September 1915, the battalion was destined to form part of the first wave in action on the first day of the Battle of Loos. Their frontage was to be to the north of the Lens/ La Bassee Canal, in front of the village of Givenchy.   The Battalion War Diary details how in the lead up to the attack, the battalion had moved, on 22nd September, from billets near Essars to a section of trench referred to as B2 in front of Givenchy. They relieved the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry and remained in the line until 5pm the following day, when the Highlanders once again took the line and the Queen's retired to Le Quesnoy to prepare for the forthcoming attack. This short period had cost the battalion 2 men killed and 6 wounded.

Just 24 hours later, at 5pm on 24th, the battalion had reoccupied a reduced frontage in the B2 sector in readiness for the attack and also received a draft of 40 men. One can only imagine the thoughts of these young replacements as they joined their new battalion from England on the eve of a full scale attack.

THE BATTLE OF LOOS, 25TH SEPTEMBER 1915

The morning of 25th September 1915 dawned with light and variable winds, which hampered the deployment of gas by the British forces to the south of the Queen's (its first offensive use by British forces) and the smoke screen that the Queen's were planning to advance behind.

The Battalion War Diary reports:

"Our leading line advanced at 6.30am and reached the German 3rd line without great opposition. The attack was evidently a complete surprise. The battalion advanced on a frontage of two platoons, D Company (Maj Bunbury) on the right and B Company (Capt Brooke) on the left. The advance was necessarily slow to keep behind the smoke, B & D Companies reached the German line and gained touch with 2/ Oxford Light Infantry and the 2/Highland light Infantry on the left and right respectively.

The support company (C Company) under Capt Weeding held our front line trenches and, at about 8.15am two platoons of this company reinforced B & D Companies taking up a supply of bombs with them. Lt E D Drew commanded this party. The enemy developed a strong bombing attack on both flanks of the regiment, and our men were unable to reply effectively owing to a lack of bombs.

At about 9.45am the two and a half companies were obliged to fall back into our own lines, under very heavy machine gun fire from our right flank.

Casualties: Lts A W A Bradshaw (KIA), C D M Fowler (KIA), M I  B Howell (KIA), F G Plant (MIA, later confirmed KIA), Maj J K N Bunbury(WIA & MIA), Capt C B Brooke (WIA & MIA), Lts E D Drew (WIA), H P Foster (WIA), 2nd Lt RC Joynson-Hicks (WIA).

Other Ranks: 19 Killed in Action, 21 Missing believed Killed, 138 Wounded in Action, 80 Missing in Action or Wounded and Missing in Action, 7 Suffering from Gas, 1 Died of Wounds, Total 266

The remainder of the day was spent regaining the line and in collecting the wounded, burying dead etc."

At 3.30pm the following day the battalion was relieved by the Highland Light Infantry and retired to billets in Le Preol.

An article in the Surrey Advertiser on 2nd October 1915 reported that:

"Although the parents have received no official information from the War Office, news from other sources points to the sad conclusion that the following have also fallen: J Parsons, 1st Queen's, son of Mr J. Parsons, of Canfold Copse; Victor Lawrence, 1st Queen's, son of Mr William Lawrence, Heath House, Ewhurst. The following are also unofficially reported wounded; Victor Baker, of the Queen's, who was a butchers assistant in Ewhurst; Frank Selling, of the Queen's, son of Mr and Mrs B Sellings, The Bungalow; W Thompson, 8th Queen's, son of Mr and Mrs Thompson, Ewhurst Green; and Harvey Field, son of Mr. Edward Field, of Winterfold Farm."

Surrey Advertiser 2/10/15

 


Victor Lawrence, remembered on the Loos Memorial.

Victor's grave is unknown, probably due to his body not being recovered from the German second line when the battalion was forced to withdraw. He is remembered on the Loos Memorial, at Dud Corner Cemetery near Loos-en-Gohele, which commemorates over 20,000 officers and men who fell in the area from the River Lys to the old southern boundary of the First Army, east and west of Grenay (5). His name appears with those of Ewhurst men Private Joseph Parsons  who fell whilst in action with 1st Bn The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment on the first day of the Battle of Loos, 25th September 1915 and Private Frederick Killick, also of 1st Bn Queens, who was killed in action on 3rd July 1916 in the same area as the men advanced from on the first day of the Battle of Loos.

Victor was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

 

 

90th Anniversary of the Battle of Loos

Follow this Link to details about First World War Medals
 

Notes:
(1) Ewhurst Church Register, Surrey History Centre
(2) According to Soldiers Died in the Great War, Victor  enlisted in Ewhurst, and was a resident of Harlow, in Essex.
(3) Queen's (RWSR) Enlistment Book, Surrey History Centre
 

Other sources:

  • Book of Remembrance

  • Soldiers Died in the Great War

  • 1901 Census

  • History of the Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) by Col H C Wylly C.B.
     

 

 

Andrew Bailey, Ewhurst, Surrey
andy@ewhurstfallen.co.uk
Copyright©2005