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  John Frederick Scammell 

Private G/15754

7th Bn The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment
Killed in Action 18/11/1916, aged 34

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
Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, the Somme, France


The Thiepval Memorial, the Somme, France

 

 

JOHN FREDERICK SCAMMELL was born in Southampton, Hampshire in 1882, the son of John F and Catherine A Scammell (1). In 1891 the family were living with John's grandmother in Romsey, Hampshire, where John senior was a baker.

In 1911 John was living in Gadbridge Lane, Ewhurst (2) and in the 1914 Electoral Roll he was noted as living in Ewhurst Green. In both of these mentions John is referred to as Frederick John Scammell.

John enlisted in the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment at their depot at Stoughton Barracks, in Guildford. He became Private G/15754, of the 7th Battalion Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment (the prefix of G to his service number denoted that John was a member of the New Armies). 

The 7th Battalion was a newly formed K2 battalion with created in Guildford in September 1914.  On 11th August 1914 Earl Kitchener, the Minister for War, asked for 100,000 volunteers. This number was raised in two weeks and the battalions they formed where allocated the reference K1. On 28th August 1914 the situation in France lead to Kitchener's call for a second 100,000 volunteers, referred to as the K2 battalions. 7th Bn Queen's became part of 55th Brigade of the 18th (Eastern) Division on 11th September 1914, part of Lord Kitchener's Second New Army.  The Division landed at Boulogne in July 1915, however John's medal record card indicates that he was not awarded the 1914 or 1915 Star, and therefore he must have arrived in France after the end of 1915.

Other Ewhurst men serving with the battalion with John in 1916 were Sergeant James Dedman and Private Charles Tudor.

 

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME, 1916

On 1st July 1916 the British Army opened its new offensive in the area to the north of the River Somme. On the first day of the battle, John and the other members of 7th Bn Queen's attacked as part of 55th Brigade to the right of the line of the 18th Division. 7th Queen's advanced on the left of the brigade, with 8th Bn East Surrey Regiment to their right, 7th Bn The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) in support and 7th Bn Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) in reserve. The first wave left their trenches at 7.30am and advanced towards their objective, a German trench line 200 yards to the north of the Montauban - Mametz Road and the western end of the village of Montauban. The Queen's objective represented a frontage of 409 yards. In spite of several set backs, the 55th Brigade achieved its objectives by 1.30pm, and the 7th Bn Queen's first major action had cost them 7 officers and 174 other ranks killed in action, 9 officers and 284 other ranks wounded whilst a further 58 men were missing in action. The battalion held the line until 3rd July, when they moved back to Bronfay Wood.

TRďNES WOOD, JULY 1916

On 12th July 55th Brigade was once again moved into the front line near Tr˘nes Wood, and were detailed to capture the wood on the 13th. Having had their numbers reduced from 300 strong to 280 in the afternoon by German shelling, the Queen's were to attack Tr˘nes Wood at 7pm. Their attack was repulsed by heavy machine gun fire and fire from unsuppressed German 150 and 105mm howitzers and 77mm guns. The battalion could not close within 100 yards of the wood, and withdrew under the cover of darkness. The battalion had lost a further 4 officers and 22 other ranks killed in action, 7 officers and 150 men wounded, and 2 officers and 44 men missing. The battalion was withdrawn from the line for re-enforcement (315 men arriving in mid July).

Following a spell of training on a 'quiet' area of the front near Armentieres, the battalion returned to the Somme battle on September 8th. The task ahead of them was the capture of the high ground to the south of the River Ancre. On the 26th September they stood in readiness as their sister brigades of the 18th Div attacked at Thiepval, who suffered heavy casualties, the result of which was the 7th Queen's being attached to the 53rd Brigade. On the 28th September, the battalion took part in an attack on the German Schwaben Redoubt in which caused the loss of 1 officer and 45 men killed in action, 10 officers and 252 men wounded, and 87 men missing. The battalion was withdrawn to the Albert area, where it remained into November, and received re-enforcements.

THE ANCRE HEIGHTS, DECEMBER 1916

The weather was becoming to wet for the undertaking of major operations, and on the 18th December 55th Brigade was tasked to take part in an attack on the high ground to the south of the River Ancre. The plan was for the 55th Brigade to advance on the German front line, Desire Trench, from the recently consolidated British front line, Regina Trench. To the brigade's left advanced the 19th Division, and to their left the men of 4th Canadian Division. On the evening of 17th the first snow fell, and with zero hour at 6.10 am the men advanced into sleet and low visibility towards objectives covered in snow.


The attack of the 7th Bn Queen's against Desire Trench on 18th December 1916, the
village of Grandcourt and the River Ancre Valley is off map to the north.

The men were advancing slightly downhill towards the village of Grandcourt, along the axis of several valleys and spurs. In 7th Queens, 'C' and 'D' companies were detailed to attack to the west of Stump Road, 'C' to the right, 'D' to the left. A further 20 men from 'B' company were attached to 'D' for the purpose of clearing dug outs in Stump Road. 'A' and 'B' companies remained in Zollern and Hessian Trenches. As the attack proceeded, the elements of 19th Division to the battalion's left were drawn away to the left and into the Ancre Valley, losing contact with the Queen's. Contact was lost with the assaulting companies, and at 4.15 pm another company was sent forwards in an attempt to contact the missing men, but only managed to get to 100 yards of Desire Trench before being driven back by fire from Stump Road. Though the night parties in no mans land only encountered the casualties of 'C' and 'D' companies.

The few survivors were able to disclose that the first 200 yards of the assault had been relatively unopposed. 100 yards from Desire Trench, 'D' company, on the left, became inclined to the left, partially crossing Stump Road. At this point the advance was subjected to heavy machine gun & rifle fire from the flanks, and also from their rear from Stump Road. One survivor stated that it was "all over in 10 minutes".  Due to the nature of the action the proportion of men missing to those killed or wounded was high, 10 men were confirmed killed, 2 officers and 73 men wounded, and 5 officers and 173 other ranks, including Private John Frederick Scammell, were missing in action.


The advance of the 7th Bn Queens viewed from the German front line at Desire Trench's intersection with Stump Road.
Stump Road Cemetery is to the left of picture, Grandcourt Road Cemetery is in the field to the right of picture (out of shot)

Of these men, many were subsequently interred on the battlefield at Stump Road Cemetery (56 men of the 7th Queen's) and Grancourt Road Cemetery (8 men of the 7th Queens). John Scammell's body was not identified, and as such he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.


Pte John Frederick Scammell, remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, Somme

Private John Frederick Scammell was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

 

 

Follow this Link to details about First World War Medals
 

 

Notes:
(1) 1881, 1891 Census
(2) Elliott's Cranleigh Directory & Almanac 1911

 

Other sources:

  • Book of Remembrance

  • Soldiers Died in the Great War

  • 1901 Census

  • History of the Queen's Royal (West Surrey) Regiment in the Great War, Col H C Wylly, C.B.
     

 

 

Andrew Bailey, Ewhurst, Surrey
andy@ewhurstfallen.co.uk
Copyrightę2005