Friday, 30 May 2014

Sunday, 25 May 2014


1 RWF at St Venant, France, 1940
The battalion was ordered to capture four bridges. St Venant was taken on the 25th and because of the enemy strength this was where the battalion was forced to concentrate, without adequate anti-tank weapons. On the 27th it was attacked by German tanks and the bridge captured. Engineers had left it unattended. The Commanding Officer was killed as he crossed the bridge. Only five officers and 263 men returned to the UK.

The remarkable sequence of the attached photos show the SS Germania Regiment (Part of the infamous Totenkopf Division) attacked at St Floris and the following day at Robecq against the 3rd Panzer Division. The Germans advanced on the town with their armor, their transport crossing the canal close to the present RWF Memorial, a Panzer MkII in the town Square at the end of the battle, RWF and DCLI PoWs and Casualties most of them would spend the war in a PoW Camp. The final colour photo of the RWF Memorial.

Friday, 23 May 2014


New Colours presented to 1 RWF by HM The Queen, 1996
The Queen presented new Colours to the 1st Battalion at Beachley Barracks, Chepstow. The parade included detachments from 3 RWF, the Cadet battalions and the Comrades. The Queen was received in the Sergeants’ Mess and later had lunch with the officers and their guests.

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Friday, 16 May 2014

16th MAY1915 – ON THIS DAY IN ROYAL WELCH HISTORY CSM F Barter won VC, 1915 At Festubert, France

CSM F Barter won VC, 1915
At Festubert, France, CSM Barter, with eight men, seized and held 500 yards of trench and captured over 100 prisoners. ‘He acted with the utmost speed and with confident leadership, the men following him, catching some of his reckless enthusiasm as he bombed his way along the trench ... He forced 3 officers and 102 men to surrender to his swift and fearless attack, and also found and cut no less than eleven mine leads ...’. He was awarded a VC.
CSM (later Capt.) Frederick Barter, V.C., M.C.
Frederick Barter was born at 60 Daniel Street in Cathays, Cardiff, on17 January, 1891, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Barter. Educated at the Crwys Road Board School, Cardiff he joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 4 December, 1908, as No. 3908 and later transferred to the Special Reserve of the RWF. Some of the occupations held by Frederick were with the Cardiff Wagon works as a Collier and as a Porter with the Great Western Railway. Prior to the outbreak of World War One he was working as a stove repairer for the Cardiff Gaslight and Coke Company, and when war was declared he soon found himself once more with the colours, this time as a Special Reservist with the first Battalion RWF.
Barter's military service record in the Great War and after ran as follows:
He was a Company Sergeant Major in 1914 and served in France 1914-15. He became a 2nd Lieutenant on 26th August 1915. between 10 May 1916 and 29 December 1916 he was at the Western Command Bombing School as a Temporary Lieutenant. and after this was in France between December 1916 and February 1917. He was then transferred to the Indian Army in March 1917 and served with the Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles, North-West Frontier Province, at Kohat as a Brigade Bombing Officer. He was then in Palestine with the 2/3rd QAOGR wth the rank of acting Captain. On 16 May 1918 he relinquished his current commission in favour of a permanent Captaincy with the Indian Army but was invalided back to Britain with fever in 1919 and subsequently retired with the rank of Captain in 1922. During the Second World War Barter served as a Major in command of the 4/7th Company of the 4th Middlesex Home Guard.
His Victoria Cross was awarded after, on 16 May, 1915, for an act of bravery at Festubert, in France. His VC citation in the London Gazette read as follows: "For most conspicuous bravery and marked ability at Festubert on 16th May, 1915. When in the first line of German trenches, company sergeant Major Barter called for volunteers to enable him to extend our line and with eight men who responded he attacked the German position with bombs, capturing 3 German officers and 102 men along with 500 yards of their trenches. He subsequently found and and cut eleven of the enemy's mine leads, situated about 20 yards apart."
Capt. Barter was decorated at Buckingham Palace by King George V on 12 July, 1915.
For his Military Cross, the citation in the London Gazette of 26 July 1918 reads:
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when ordered to make a flank attack.He led his two platoons up a precipitous hill, and turned the enemy's flank. Then, placing one platoon with two Lewis guns to command the enemy's line of retreat, he gallantly led an attack with the other platoon from the rear and flank, killing or capturing practically the whole garrison."
Curiously, at El Kefr, Palestine, for a herioc act of gallantry on 10 April, 1918, Rifleman Karanbahadur Rana was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving Barter's life.
He was married on 13 May1925 to a divorcee, Catherine Mary Theresa Mclaren (nee Wright) of the Heathfield Hotel, Waldron, who died in 1944. They had no children. In 1928 he joined the AEC as a labour manager located at Southall, Middlesex, after trying several business ventures. Barter died at St. Annes Nursing Home, Canford Cliffe, Poole, Dorset, on 15 May 1953 and was cremated at Bournemouth Crematorium.
In his honour, two places at Wrexham bear his name. One is known as Barter Road and the other at Hightown, Wrexham, is called Barter Court.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


Amphibious landings in Norway, 1940

In April 1940 Independent Companies were formed from TA volunteers. No 2 Company was formed from men of 53rd (Welsh) Division, including 72 from the RWF in 158 Brigade. Volunteers from 8th, 9th and 10th Bns raised a platoon for No 9 Company. On 14 May they landed south of Narvik and engaged in heavy skirmishing with the Germans until the end of the month when they returned to Scotland. Many of those involved were incorporated into No 1 Commando. For full details of this expedition see - The Life and Campaigns of General Hughie Stockwell: From Norway, Through Burma, to Suez. 

By Lt Gen Jonathon Riley.

Thursday, 8 May 2014


VE Day, 1945

The official date for victory in Europe although the unconditional surrender had been signed by the Germans four days earlier. The 4th and 6th Battalions were in the Hamburg area and the 7th in the Netherlands. The route taken by the 53rd (Welsh) Division units is shown on the attached map. 6 RWF received the honour of marching in the Victory Parade in Paris. The war against Japan in the Far East would continue until August. 

The war worldwide cost the lives of 1,201 Royal Welchmen.

Private Albert Hill VC, 10th Battalion, The Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

The 10th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers were part of 76th Brigade, 3rd Division, and arrived on the Somme in early July 1916. They took part in the fighting at Delville Wood on 20th July 1916 when the battalion encountered heavy machine gun fire while moving up to Buchanan Street. Casualties in this action were 228 officers and men.

Private Albert Hill VC

"For most conspicuous bravery. When his battalion had deployed under very heavy fire for an attack on the enemy in a wood, he dashed forward, when the order to charge was given and meeting two of the enemy suddenly, bayoneted them both. He was sent later by his platoon sergeant to get in touch with the company and, finding himself cut off and almost surrounded by some twenty of the enemy, he attacked them with bombs, killing and wounding many and scattering the remainder. He then joined a sergeant of his company and helped him fight the way back to the lines. When he got back, hearing that his company officer and a scout were lying out wounded, he went out and assisted to bring in the wounded officer, two other men brought in the scout. Finally, he himself captured and brought in as prisoners, two of the enemy. His conduct throughout was magnificent."

The Memorial dates from May 2001, when it was unveiled by the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Comrades Association.

The memorial is located in Delville Wood; at the main entrance walk to the back of the museum, and take the ride to your right. The memorial is straight ahead.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014


The loss of the Commerce on Lake Erie, Canada, 1850
The Reserve Battalion, which was in Canada, was crossing Lake Erie in the steamer Commerce when it was involved in a collision with another vessel. It resulted in the death of the assistant surgeon, three sergeants, two corporals, nineteen privates and eight wives. The officers’ mess silver was also lost with the regimental baggage. Some silver was recovered at the time and some much later.

Below is an extract from The maritime history of the Great Lakes

Propeller [sic] COMMERCE, was run into by the Steamer DESPATCH off Grand River, Canada. COMMERCE reported a total loss. 38 lives lost. May 7, 1850.
Casualty List for 1850
Erik Hyle's private papers

. . . . .

Steamer DESPATCH, ran into the Propeller [sic] COMMERCE off Grand River, Canada. COMMERCE reported a total loss. 38 lives lost. May 7, 1850.
Casualty List for 1850
Erik Hyle's private papers

. . . . .

The steamers DESPATCH and COMMERCE came into collision last night, near Port Maitland, on the Canada side of Lake Erie, in consequence of which the COMMERCE was sunk. She had on board one hundred and fifty British soldiers, belonging to the 23d regiment. One officer and twenty-four soldiers were drowned, and thirteen women and children, making thirty-eight in all. She sank in eight fathoms of water. The COMMERCE was owned by Messrs. McPherson & Crane, Kingston. The DESPATCH Kingston. The DESPATCH was somewhat injured, but succeeded in reaching this port, where she will be hauled out for reapirs. It is said she mistook the COMMERCE for a vessel.
Daily Queen City, Buffalo
Wednesday, May 8, 1850

. . . . .

The stm. DESPATCH, a Canadian boat, that plies between this and Canadian ports on Lake Erie, arrived here yesterday noon with her bow much broken in as to require the application of sail cloth to keep her from taking water while under way. Upon inquiry we learn that she came in collision with the stm. COMMERCE, also a Canadian craft on Monday night while near Port Maitland. The COMMERCE sunk in 8 fathoms of water within a few minutes, involving a dreadful loss of life. She had on board 150 soldiers belonging to the 23d. Regiment of H.B.M. troops, besides other passengers. The surgeon, Dr. Grantham, 24 soldiers, and 13 women and children, making in all 38 persons, were drowned. No good reason is assigned for this dreadful accident, and if both boats carried proper lights, none can be offered. It should be investigated by the proper authorities. The COMMERCE was owned at Kingston. The Second engineer of the boat was among the lost.
Buffalo Morning Express
May 8, 1850 2-2

. . . . .

Register Number 20.
Description: Steamboat
Where she belongs: Kingston
Tonnage: 236
Present master: Cochran
When built: 1848
Where built: Portsmouth
Builders name & date of certificate: John Quain, August 21, 1848
Description of vessel:

Length: . . . . . . . . . 134 feet & 1/10th.
Breadth . . . . . . . . . 23 feet & 8/10ths.
Depth of hold . . . . . . 9 feet & 2/10ths.

Masts: one
Stern: Round
Build: Carvel
Rigged: Not
Bowsprit: None
Figure-head: None
Decks: One; no quarter galleries.
Engine-room: Length 52 feet & 5/10ths. Ninety tons.

Suscribing owners: - John & David McPherson sole owners.

Shipping Register of the Port of Kingston

. . . . .

Steamer COMMERCE, built Portsmouth, Ont. 1848, rebuilt as REINDEER 1851 at Montreal. Wrecked Lake Michigan 1857 (information conflicting).
Preliminary List of Canadian Merchant
Steamships, (coastal & Inland) 1809 - 1930

. . . . .

Steamer REINDEER, 160 tons, built at Portsmouth in 1848. Owned by Holcomb & Co. Home port, Montreal. Class A 1*. Rebuilt Montreal 1851. Present master, McGrath. Value 6,000 Pound.
Register of British Shipping
Inland Waters, 1854

NOTE. - The COMMERCE was a side-wheel steamer, not a propeller (see launch of COMMERCE)

. . . . .

Awful Disasters
We have never before been called on to record so awful destruction of human life on the western waters, as since the opening of navigation, the current season. The disasters to steamboats already number four, of which two have been by explosions of boilers- the TROY on Niagara river and the ANTHONY WAYNE on Lake Erie- one by fire the BELLE OF THE WEST the Ohio river, and one by collision, the DISPATCH and COMMERCE on Lake Erie, The loss of life by these four calamities as near as can be ascertained, will not fall short of Two Hundred and Fifty!. Two hundred and fifty human beings sent into eternity in this brief space of time by steamboat accidents! Were they accidents beyond the power of man to foresee or provide against? If so, what perils encompass the traveler at every step of his journey, in these days of improvement and science! If not what a responsibility rests on law-makers and the owners and managers of these public conveyances! But the subject will cease to be one of public discussion or occasion of remark by the time the details of the calamities have reached the extreme of the Union. Buffalo Courier
Schenectady Reflector
May 17, 1850

A Military Tragedy on Lake Erie
Toward midnight of May 6, 1850, the steamer COMMERCE put out from the harbor of Port Maitland on the north shore of Lake Erie and soon after was in collision with the inbound steamer DESPATCH The COMMERCE sank in forty feet of water and forty one lives were lost. The weather was clear, both vessels were displaying their lights and no entirely satisfactory explanation has ever been given for the accident.
The Great Lakes have had numerous tragedies of this character, many of them indeed with much greater loss of life, but this accident had particular pathos in that the men, women and children who were lost were, with two exceptions, far from their own homes across the ocean. Aboard the COMMERCE was a detachment of the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers, one of England's historic regiments, en route from Montreal to London in Upper Canada (Ontario), some of the men being accompanied by their wives and children. The regimental party numbered more than one hundred and fifty in all and of these thirty nine were drowned. The soldiers were nearing their destination, for had nothing intervened they would have arrived at Port Stanley, farther west on Lake Erie, on the following day and would then have been moved inland thirty miles to the town where they were to form a part of the garrison.
Details of the tragedy, as reported in the newspapers of the time, are meager and confusing. The Toronto
Globe had a brief account of the collision in its issue of May 9:
We were informed by telegraph on Tuesday evening of the loss of the steamboat COMMERCE owned by McPherson, Crane & Co., on her voyage, with troops, from Montreal to Port Stanley.
She came into collision, near Port Maitland, with the steamer DESPATCH, shortly after twelve o'clock on Monday night, and sank in eight fathoms water. She had on board 150 men of the 23rd Regiment, and we deeply grieve to say that thirty eight persons met a watery grave. Of these, one was an officer, 22 privates and 13 women and children connected with the Regiment; of the remaining two, one belonged to the steamer, and the other was a lad of 14 years of age, the son of a gentleman residing in Montreal. As to who was to blame in the matter, we have as yet no information.
The Hamilton Spectator added a few further details. It gave the names of the two civilians who were lost, a young lad named Rodgers, son of a commissariat officer at Montreal, and William Colburn, second engineer of the COMMERCE. They, it was stated, had climbed into the rigging at the time of the collision and were entangled there when the vessel sank. An official military report which was later sent to the War Office in London listed as lost one officer, Assistant Surgeon Douglas Grantham, five non commissioned officers, a drummer, nineteen privates, eight women and five children.
All accounts agree that the conduct of the soldiers at the time of the accident was in line with the best traditions of the British army. There was no confusion. Captain Phillott, who was in charge of the detachment, came on deck with a cloak over his night apparel and gave the necessary orders. But so rapidly did the vessel sink that loss of life was inevitable. Happily, a small government steamer, the Minos, was nearby and the skill with which it was handled by its chief officer was later the subject of official commendation by the authorities at London. The gratitude of the survivors was shown in the following document, preserved with other records of the disaster in the Public Archives at Ottawa:
We the undersigned, Officers of the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers, who were wrecked on Lake Erie on the night of the 6th of May, 1850, whilst proceeding in the steamer COMMERCE, with a Detachment of the Regiment from Montreal to Port Stanley, feel it incumbent on us to record our strong sense of the very kind and humane conduct of Mr. Henry Hatch, Gunner in charge of H.M. Ship Minos, on that melancholy occasion. Mr. Hatch not only found shelter for the Survivors, amounting to 115 Individuals, on board his Ship, but for three days procured for both Officers and men every comfort in his power, thereby materially benefiting the service by preserving the health of the soldiers, when wet, cold, and nearly naked.
His subsequent exertions for more than two months to recover and inter the bodies of 34 of the drowned, have been marked by the most untiring Energy and Zeal, and we trust that it will not be considered improper if we respectfully recommend such meritorious conduct to the favorable consideration of the Lieutenant General Commanding, with the view of his bringing it under the notice of the Lords of the Admiralty.
This document was signed by Captain Frederick Phillott, Lieutenant H. O. R. Chamberlain and Lieutenant F. P. R. Delme Radcliffe.
Charges of carelessness on the part of the officers of one or both vessels were made freely at the time of the accident and an inquiry conducted by local magistrates a few days later gave such support to these allegations that both captains were placed under bail to appear at the next assizes at Niagara "for the killing of the 41 individuals that perished with the COMMERCE." The Niagara Mail of October 2 contained a brief report of the court proceedings. In his address to the Grand Jury Justice McLean drew attention to the charges arising out of the sinking of the COMMERCE and charged the members of the jury that should it appear that the accident was the result of carelessness and neglect they would necessarily be obliged to find a bill for manslaughter or even for murder "because persons navigating the waters of our Lakes were responsible to the law for any loss of the lives of their passengers when the prevention of such loss was under their own control." 1
The sequel may be best told in the report of the Assizes appearing in the Hamilton Spectator:
The case of the Captains of the DESPATCH and COMMERCE, which created so painful an interest last summer, in consequence of the loss of the latter vessel and a large number of her passengers, did not go to trial. The Grand Jury, after a patient and strict examination, threw out the bill against Capt. Cochrane of the COMMERCE and exonerated that gentleman from all blame. A true bill was found against Capt. McSwain of the DESPATCH, who entered into recognizances in the sum of ú500, for his appearance; but when the case was called on the Captain was nowhere to be found, and it was understood that he had left the country. The witnesses, many of whom had traveled a long distance, and lost a great deal of time and money in furthering the ends of justice, were permitted to return to their homes. 2
The survivors of the wrecked COMMERCE were brought to Port Stanley on the steamer CATHCART and arrived in the town of London on May 10, their uniforms dirty and unkempt and all of them without any of their personal belongings. It was the second time that citizens of London had welcomed men of the 23rd, for a detachment of the regiment had been part of the London garrison between 1843 and 1845. On this second occasion the 23rd remained until 1852. The regiment was popular and long remembered by the citizens. Its commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Crutchley, was married on October 16, 1851, to Eliza Bayfield Harris, daughter of one of the leading citizens of the town.
Soon after the regiment left London it was sent to the Crimea and there, at the battle of the Alma, young Lieutenant Radcliffe, already mentioned, fell while leading his men to the attack on a Russian battery. He had moved forward with his men coolly amid a shower of grape and shell but was shot through the heart when but thirty yards from the goal. Lord Hardinge, in testimony to the bravery of this young officer, presented his younger brother with a commission without purchase. The battle of the Alma sadly decimated the officers of the 23rd.3

1 Copied in the Toronto Globe, October 5, 1850.
2 Copied in The Church (Toronto), October 17, 1850.
3 There are several references to young Radcliffe in the manuscript diary of Charlotte
The wrecked COMMERCE was subsequently raised, the little steamer Experiment being utilized in the operation. Chains were placed under the COMMERCE and attached to beams which rested on two pontoons. By means of jacks set on their decks the wreck was raised off the bottom and then towed toward shore until it grounded. The jacks were then again set to work and in this manner the vessel was towed into Port Maitland. The body of a woman was found in the hull when it was examined. After emergency repairs had been made the COMMERCE was taken to St. Catharines and rebuilt in the Shickluna yards, being renamed the Reindeer. 4
Gunner Henry Hatch of the steamer MINOS, who remained at Port Maitland for the purpose of recovering such bodies as washed ashore, among them twenty five of the military party, arranged for their interment in the cemetery at Port Maitland, and subsequently a monument was erected over the common grave. The inscription reads:
The Officers, Non commissioned Officers and Privates of the Reserve Battalion 23 Royal Welch Fusiliers have Erected this Stone to mark the Spot where lie the Remains of Assistant Surgeon Grantham and Twenty Four Men Women and Children of that Regiment who Perished near this Shore by the Sinking of the Steamer COMMERCE on the Night of the 6 of May 1850 whilst on their Route from Montreal to London, C.W.
Harris, a sister of Eliza Bayfield Harris already mentioned. On May 10, 1850, she writes: "The shipwrecked part of the 23rd arrived. Major Chester, Captain Phillott and Mr. Radcliffe called . . . They scarcely knew me, I am so much changed. We were mutually glad to see each other." An entry of New Year's Day, 1851, recalls the Victorian manners of the time: "We went to church. Talked to Captain Phillott in the vestry room. We did not receive visitors but a good many left their cards. Amelia read Shakespeare to us in the evening before we dressed to receive our visitors. They all came. Captain Crutchley, Eliza, Helen and Capt. Bell played whist; Amelia and Mr. Jervoise played backgammon and Mr. Radcliffe and I played chess. They left at half past twelve. It was very pleasant."
4 See H. B. Stringer, Early steam boating at Port Dover. Simcoe Reformer January 15, 1914.
Inland Seas
October 1945 p. 37-40

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Sunday, 4 May 2014

Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum safeguards valuable First World War memories

The Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum in Caernarfon is playing an important role in safeguarding valuable memories and history from the First World War as we mark the centenary of the conflict, First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones said.

The First Minister visited the museum, which is housed in two of Caernarfon Castle’s towers,  to view their existing display on the First World War and to hear about their plans for events and further exhibitions that will take place during the period of the commemoration.  
The museum is currently seeking photographs of soldiers who died so they can be displayed at the Museum.  Over 10,000 members of the RWF died in the conflict.   The existing exhibition at the Museum also highlights the number of writers who were in the RWF during the war, including Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Hedd Wyn.
The First Minister said:
“No part of Wales was untouched by the First World War and as we commemorate the centenary, the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum is playing a key role in preserving the memories and history of that time.  Its aspiration to collect photographs of all the members of the battalion who fell is a huge task but one which will help to connect us with our lost generation.
“The museum programme of events is part of a range of activities and events taking place across Wales.  Cadw recently announced a new scheme to safeguard our war memorials in Wales, and I would encourage local communities to apply for the grants available to assist with the conservation of these important monuments to the fallen of Wales.
“The First World War changed the course of history and the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum is ensuring that future generations realise the impact this event had across the country.”
Lieutenant General Jonathon Riley said:
“The First Minister has given a clear lead in highlighting the importance of the Great War centenary to the enrichment of Welsh life and culture.  We are always delighted to welcome him to our resources in Caernarfon Castle, Wrexham and Bodelwyddan -  and never more so than at this time. We are committed to doing whatever we can to contribute to the events of the next four years, with our friends and partners.”
Shirley Williams the Museum’s Education Officer said:
"We have recently launched a project where we are collecting the photographs and biographical details of fallen soldiers of the RWF. Our eventual aim is to display the information of each man on the centenary of their deaths.
“Our project has already drawn the interest of the local community and people further afield who have enthusiastically contributed around 1,000 photographs to our collection so far.  Our project is on-going and we continue to appeal for materials from the public and hope for some volunteers who would be willing to scan old newspapers and archived collections."
The Royal Welch Fusiliers is Wales’ oldest infantry regiment, with 300 years of service.  North Wales is its traditional home but recruits have come from all over the UK and Ireland.


1 RWF made assault on Kukis Piquet, Kohima, Burma, 1944

During the battle for Kohima 1 RWF was ordered to capture Kukis Piquet. Despite heavy losses two platoons got on to the Piquet but, exposed to fire from all sides, were forced to withdraw. Another platoon bypassed the position. It was joined by a second and although they held on for over a day they were eventually forced to withdraw. The battalion had suffered almost 200 casualties. The enemy evacuated the Piquet a few days later.

For a day by day account of the Kohima Battle see Al Poole's excellent account unfolding on the Royal Welch Forum page.