For the next few days I am in France with my parents and we retracing the steps of my Grandfather in the First World War. He volunteered for the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry late in 1915, aged 19. After a short training period on Salisbury plane he was deployed to France and Flanders. Yesterday we went to Vimy Ridge where the Second Battalion were based in May/June 1916 in preparation for joining the Somme battle just to the south. Today we are heading from Arras to Albert, as indeed my Grandfather did, although we will be in a car rather than marching! We will be stopping off at the places along what was the front line where the Battalion saw action and where there are now military cemeteries and memorials. My grandfather made it home after deployments in Dublin and North Russia where he was wounded in the leg and discharged on 31st March 1921.
Yesterday we found the inscription for my cousin (2C2R) Rowland George Spurrett (better known as George) on the memorial at Arras. The Arras cemetery contains 2,650 graves and an impressive memorial to another 35,000 service men who died in two years in this sector but have no known grave. All we know of Rowland George is the War Graves Commission report that states:
George was killed on the 25th March 1915. The Fusiliers had been fighting for four days and nights with no sleep and little food – the company was reduced to 26 men and two officers who were exhausted owing to hunger and prolonged lack of sleep. As they were falling back they receive orders to turn around and re-take a village held by a strong detachment of Germans. There is no record of the outcome of this.