Herbert John Allsopp, maternal relative: The Battle of the Selle, Oct 1918

Herbert John Allsopp, was born on the 5 July 1898 at 118 Dumfries St, Treorchy, Glamorgan, Wales and was killed in action during The Battle of the Selle on 20th October 1918. He was just 19 years of age.

Herbert John was related to me via my maternal grandmothers family, the Sheward's and he was the nephew of the husband of the 2nd great-niece of the wife of the 2nd great-uncle of the wife of my 1st cousin twice removed. The actual lineage is:

  • Herbert John Allsopp (1898 - 1918) - nephew of husband of 2nd great-niece of wife of 2nd great-uncle of wife of 1st cousin 2x removed
  • Mary (Marrie) Jennie Blythe (1875 - 1952) - mother of Herbert John Alsopp
  • Benjamin Blythe (1840 - 1929) - father of Mary (Marrie) Jennie Blythe
  • Benjamin Blythe (1872 - 1929) - son of Benjamin Blythe (senior)
  • Frances Charity Rayner (1880 - 1960) - wife of Benjamin Blythe (junior)
  • Fanny Batchelor (1851 - ) - mother of Frances Charity Rayner
  • John Batchelor (1794 - 1880) - father of Fanny Batchelor
  • James Batchelor (1775 - 1855) - father of John Batchelor
  • James Batchelor (1741 - 1811) - father of James Batchelor
  • Anne Batchelor (1796 - ) - daughter of James Batchelor
  • William Kenward (1795 - ) - husband of Anne Batchelor
  • Louisa Kenward - mother of William Kenward
  • William Kenward (1795 - 1870) - son of Louisa Kenward
  • John Kenward (1827 - 1901) - son of William Kenward
  • John Hutchings Kenward (1851 - 1946) - son of John Kenward
  • Kate Emily Pricilla Kenward (1879 - 1969) - daughter of John Hutchings Kenward
  • Albert Edward Sheward (1872 - 1945) - husband of Kate Emily Pricilla Kenward
  • Henry James Sheward (1842 - 1906) - father of Albert Edward Sheward
  • Richard Sheward (1817 - 1870) - father of Henry James Sheward
  • Herbert Sheward (1843 - 1906) - son of Richard Sheward
  • Mary Louisa Sheward (1880 - 1967) - daughter of Herbert Sheward (my maternal grandmother)
  • Alice May Priday (1917 - 2009) - daughter of Mary Louisa Sheward (my mother)
  • William G Hyde - son of Alice May Priday - me

His Family

Rose & Crown, Rangeworthy, South GloucestershireHerbert John Allsopp's father was Frederick (Fred) Peter Alsop (the name probably got corupted via officialdom because the recorder - at the time of Census - was writing what was heard rather than what was shown on earlier records).

Frederick (Fred) Peter Alsop, was born during October 1866 in Rangeworthy, Gloucestershire, England. Rangeworthy is a small hamlet on the outskirts of Yate, South Gloucestershire, which itself is just north west of Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire. Even today it is a small mostly a farming community, although the maps do show a disusded colliery on the southern edge of Rangeworthy.

Census records from 1871 show that Fred Alsop's father was an Agricultuaral Labourer, probably living in a tied cottage belonging to the farm rented and operated by George Roach, who is described as a farmer of 12 acres of Independent Chapelency land.

Please see HERE for an explanation of the Tied Cottage.

Frederick (Fred) Peter was married to Mary (Marrie) Jennie Blythe during April 1893 at Barton Regis, Gloucestershire (near Eastville in Bristol).

By 1901, Frederick (Fred) Peter was working as a Collery Banksman, possibly at the Colliery in Rangeworthy (shown as disused on curent maps). The Banksman was the man at the surface who was in charge of the pit bank. He was responsible for the loading and unloading the cage and signalling to the engineman responsible for winding the cage.

Frederick (Fred) Peter Alsop's father was Thomas Alsop, born during 1823 at Thornbury, Gloucestershire. Thornbury is another small place, not too far from Rangewothy in a westerly direction, close to the Severn Estuary and Oldbury (in more recent times the site of a Nuclear power station).

Thomas Alsop was married to Caroline Louisa (Laura) Maggs and the marriage took place at the church of St James the Less, Iron Acton, near Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire on 2 February 1853. Thomas was 30 years old and Caroline was 22.

Caroline Louisa (Laura) Maggs was born in Tilshead, Wiltshire, a small village close to the geographical centre of Salisbury Plain and a long way (for those times) from Thornbury & Rangeworthy.

The 1851 Census shows that George Paul Maggs (Caroline's father) was an Agricultural Labourer at the farm operated by George Iles in Rangeworthy. George Iles farm was of 170 acres and he was employing 9 labourers.

Thomas Alsop & Caroline had 4 children:

  • Martha Elizabeth Alsop - 1858-1931
  • Elizabeth Emma Alsop - 1858-1930
  • Henry Alsop - 1861-1934
  • Frederick (Fred) Peter Alsop - 1866-1957

It appears that Martha & Elizabeth were twins.

Caroline died first, in October 1870 at 20 Caroline Buildings, Bath, Somerset and it is believed she was buried locally on 12 December 1870.

Thomas Alsop died on 8 April 1892 at Rodney Terrace, Barton Regis, Gloucestershire. Barton Regis was close to Eastville, which in turn is part of the City of Bristol. All were in South Gloucestershire at that time.

It would appear that Thomas fell on hard times after his wife died and that is why he left Rangeworthy and moved to Barton Regis (because it had a Workshouse). At that time if you didn't go to the Workhouse you got no (very little) charity to help support you if you were out of work, homeless. I am guessing but Thomas was an Agricultural Labourer & he and his family would have been living in a Tied Cottage, tied to his agricultural job. With arrangements to make & a family to sort out I expect he lost his job & home - an unfortunate & common problem when a spouse died at that time.

To read about the history of Poor Law Unions & Workhouses, please click HERE.

His Military Service

Swansea Pals Memtz WoodHerbert Jon Allsopp was called up on the 15 July 1916 and joined the   14th (Swansea) Battalion of the Welsh Regiment as a Pivate and was given regimental number 74076.

The 14th (Swansea) Service Battalion, Welsh Regiment was raised Swansea in October 1914 by the Mayor & Corporation & Swansea Football & Cricket Club and were one of "Pals" Regiments (Regiments made up of people who knew each other, often working in the same place or industry). When raised, the Swansea Pals Regiment was made up of men from Swansea, Neath & Port Talbot and consisted of 1,200 men.

On 10 July 1916, 700 members of the 14th Battalion, Welsh Regiment (which had been been absorbed by 114th Brigade, 38th (Welsh) Division) were in action during the attack on Mametz Wood on The Somne where they suffered severe casualties - 100 died and there were 300 casualties.

A memorial overlooks Mametz Wood today, featuring a sculpture of a Red Dragon, in rememberance of all the Welsh solldiers who died trying to take that objective in 1916 (over 4,000).

By 1916 Conscription had been introduced to enable the Army to replace the vast amount of dead & casualties inflicted upon it in the first 2 years of the war.

When Herbert was called up it would have been as a replacement and after intial training in England would have been shipped to France to join his Regiments, which spent a year out of the front line requipping & training following its mauling at Mametz Wood on The Somme.

1917

Herbert's unit was in action twice during 1917 at The Battle of Pilkem & The Battle of Langemark, both of which were parts of the Third Battle of Ypres.

The Battle of Pilckem Ridge between 31 July & 2 August 1917, was the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres - which later became known as Passchendaele.

The battle began at 3.50am on 31 July 1917, when 2,000 Allied guns opened fire on German lines and 14 British and two French divisions attacked along 15 miles of the front.

The most significant success was achieved in the north, particularly across Pilckem Ridge. Welsh and Irish troops played an important role, and among their dead were two highly regarded poets: Ellis Evans (better known by his bardic name Hedd Wyn) and Francis Ledwidge. French troops fought alongside British forces, regaining Bixschoote from German control. The British Army captured St Julien, Frezenberg, Bellewaarde Ridge, Hooge, and Sanctuary Wood.

On the afternoon of 31 July, rain began to fall on the battlefield. Over the following days the shell-damaged ground became a quagmire, severely hampering the advancing troops, and making the movement of artillery, casualties and supplies very difficult.

After three days, the Allied advance was half of what had been planned. The British Army had suffered some 27,000 casualties wounded, killed and missing. Most have no known grave. The names of some 4,500 servicemen who died on 31 July 1917 are recorded on the menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

The Battle of Langemark: On August 16, 1917, British troops capture the village of Langemarck, to the west of Passchendaele, from the Germans following four days of fierce fighting.

Though a German counterattack recovered much of the ground gained at Langemarck, British forces retained the initiative in the region, aided by the use of tanks and by a diversionary attack by the French at Verdun, where more than 5,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner. By the end of September, the British were able to establish control over the ridge of land to the east of Ypres, and Haig pushed his commanders in the region to continue the attacks towards the Passchendaele ridge. As the offensive stretched into October, Allied troops reached near-exhaustion as the Germans reinforced their positions in the region with reserve troops released from the Eastern Front.

After Canadian and British troops finally captured Passchendaele on November 6, 1917, Haig called off the offensive, claiming victory for his men. In sum, a total of some 310,000 British casualties, as opposed to 260,000 on the German side, and a failure to create any substantial breakthrough on the Western Front, made the Third Battle of Ypres one of the most costly and controversial offensives of World War I.

After The Battle of Langemark, herbert's unitalong with the rest of the Battalions that survived Passchendaele returned to the holding areas behind the front line to rest, requip and retrain and await their next orders.

1918

38th (Welsh) Division was next in action at The Battle of Albert & then at The (Second) Battle of the Bapaume, two battles which formed phases of the 1918 First Battles of the Somme.

The Battle of Albert, 21 to 23 August 1918 was the third battle by that name fought during WW1. This third battle was smaller than the previous two but was very signifcant to the outcome of the war. The attacks developed into an advance, which pushed the German 2nd Army back along a 50-mile front line. On 22 August, the 18th (Eastern) Division took Albert, with the British and Americans advancing on Arras.

The (Second) Battle of Bapaume, for the French village took place between 21 August and 3 September 1918. It was a continuation of the Battle of Albert and is also referred to as the second phase of that battle. The British and Dominion attack was part of what was later known as the Allies' Hundred Days Offensive. The Battle was carried out over a period of two weeks and involved the divisions of IV Corps; the British 5th, 37th, 42nd, and the 63rd Divisions along with the New Zealand Division. On 29 August, elements of the New Zealand Division, after heavy fighting in the days prior, occupied Bapaume as the defending Germans withdrew. It then pushed onto the Bancourt Ridge, to the east of Bapaume.

Following The (Second) Battle of Bapaume, Herbert and his unit moved onto the The Battle of Havrincourt, The Battle of Epehy, The Battle of Beaurevoir and The Battle of Cambrai, in which the Division captured Villers-Outreaux. These were all phases of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line.

The Battle of Havrincourt: Three divisions of the Third Army attacked the village of Havrincourt - the 62nd Division, New Zealand Division and 37th Division. Defending Havrincourt were four German divisions, from the 3rd and 10th Corps. In the normal course of events, the 62nd Division would not have been there but they had been given the Havrincourt sector out of respect for their performance there in 1917, the 62nd [West Riding] Division took Havrincourt and the 37th took Trescourt. 

Despite their numerical superiority and strong fortifications within the town, the Germans were unable to hold their position and by the day's end Havricourt had been captured.

Herbert and his unit were then moved on to The Battle of Epehy, which took place on 18 September 1918.

The Battle of Epehy: On 18 September at 5.20 am, the attack opened and the troops advanced. The promised French assistance did not arrive, resulting in limited success for IX Corps on that flank. On the left flank, III Corps (in which the 38th Welsh fought) also found difficulty when attacking the fortifications erected at "the Knoll", Quennemont and Guillemont farms, which were held determinedly by German troops, the village was however captured by the British 12th Eastern Division (7th Norfolk, 9th Essex and 1st Cambridge).

The attack closed as an Allied victory, with 11,750 prisoners and 100 guns captured.

Next up for the 38th Welsh was The Battle of Beaurevoir.

On 2 October the British 46th and 32nd Division supported by the Australian 2nd Division planned to capture the Beaurevoir Line (the 3rd line of defenses of the Hindenburg Line), the village of Beaurevoir and the heights overlooking the Beaurevoir Line. While the attack succeeded in widening the breach in the Beaurevoir Line, it was unable to seize the high ground further on. However, by 2 October, the attack had resulted in a 10.5 mile breach in the Hindenburg Line. By any measure, and especially by World War I standards, it was a stunning and swift victory.

Moving on from The Battle of Beaurevoir, the 38th Welsh were next in action at The Battle of Cambrai, which took place in and around the French city of Cambrai, between 8 and 10 October 1918.

The battle incorporated many of the newer tactics of 1918, in particular tanks. The attack was an overwhelming success with light casualties in an extremely short amount of time.

There were three German lines, spanning some 7,000 yd; held by the 20th Landwehr and the 54th Reserve divisions, supported by no more than 150 guns. The weak defense was due to the Allied general offensive across the Western Front, and specifically in this sector, the rapid approach of the Canadian Corps (supported by the 38th Welsh) who had overwhelmed much stronger defenses in the previous days. The German defenders were unprepared for the bombardment by 324 tanks, closely supported by infantry and aircraft.

On 8 October, the 2nd Canadian Division entered Cambrai and encountered sporadic and light resistance. However, they rapidly pressed northward, leaving the "mopping up" of the town to the 3rd Canadian Division following close behind. When the 3rd entered the town on 10 October, they found it deserted. Fewer than 20 casualties had been taken.

After the Battle of Cambrai, the allies advanced almost 2 miles and liberated the French towns of Naves and Thun-Saint-Martin. Although the capture of Cambrai was achieved significantly quicker than expected and with moderately low casualties, German resistance northeast of the town stiffened. By 11 October, the Fourth Army had closed up on the retreating Germans near Le Cateau, with the Germans taking up a new position, immediately to the east of the Selle River.

His Death

Herbert John Allsopp was killed in action during The Battle of the Selle on 20th October 1918.

The Battle of the Selel commenced after a six-day halt for preparations and artillery bombardments.

Fourth Army troops attacked at 5.20 a.m. on Thursday 17 October. Infantry and tanks, preceded by a creeping barrage, moved forward on a 10 miles front south of Le Cateau. The centre and left of the Fourth Army forced crossings of the river, despite unexpectedly strong German resistance and much uncut barbed wire. Fighting was particularly fierce along the line of the Le Cateau–Wassigny railway. The right of the attack, across the upland watershed of the Selle, made most progress and by nightfall the German defences had been broken and Le Cateau captured. Fighting continued from 18–19 October, by which time Fourth Army, much assisted by the French First Army on its right, advanced over 5 miles, harrying the Germans back towards the Sambre–Oise Canal.

The British Third (in which the 38th Welsh fought) and First Armies, north of the Fourth Army, maintained the offensive pressure the following day. In a surprise joint night attack in the early morning of 20 October, Third Army formations secured the high ground east of the Selle, during this offensive Herbert was killed.

Following a two-day pause, to bring up heavy artillery, the attack was renewed on 23 October with a major combined assault by Fourth, Third and First Armies; the fighting, which continued into the next day, resulted in further advances. At this stage, the German Army was retreating at a forced but controlled pace. On 24 October, the German Army counterattacked at the Canal de la Dérivation but were repulsed and pushed back by the Belgian Army.

Montay Neuvilly Road Cemetery MontayHis Burial

Private 74076 Herbert John Allsopp is buried at the Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetry, Montay, France.

Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetry

Montay is a village on the northern outskirts of Le Cateau. The Cemetery is one kilometre north of the village on the eastern side of the road to Solesmes.

This cemetery was made by the 23rd Brigade, Royal Garrison Artillery, on 26 and 27 October 1918. It contained originally 111 graves, mainly of officers and men of the 38th (Welsh) and 33rd Divisions, and the 6th Dorsets, but after the Armistice it was increased when graves were brought in from the battlefields west, north and east of Montay, and from certain small cemeteries, including:

  • Hecq British Cemetry, on the Western edge of the village of Hecq, which contained the graves of 25 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in October and November 1918.
  • Montay-Amerval Road Cemetery, Montay, made by the 38th (Welsh) Division at the beginning of November 1918, which contained the graves of 31 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell on the 23rd-30th October.
  • Neuvilly Ravine Cemeteries No.1 and No.2, both made the 17th Division. No.1 was in the ravine which runs South-West from Western edge of Neuvilly, and contained the graves of 21 soldiers from United Kingdom and one from Canada who fell on the 10th-12th October 1918. No.2 was a little East of the ravine, and contained the graves of 21 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell on the 27th October.
  • River Cemetery, Neuvilly, on the banks of the Selle, near the road to Briastre. It was made by the 6th Dorsets, and contained the graves 18 of their men who fell on the 11th October 1918.
  • Neuvilly Bitish Cemetery (No.1), a little South-East of the village, made by the 17th Division which contained the graves of 22 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell on the 12th October 1918.
  • Connaught Cemetery, Le Cateau, on the Le Cateau-Troisvilles road, contained the graves of 23 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in October 1918. Twenty of them belonged to the 5th Connaught Rangers.

There are now 470 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War in this cemetery. 61 of the burials are unidentified but there is a special memorial to one casualty believed to be buried among them. All fell in the period October or November 1918. There is also a plot of 27 German graves within the cemetery.

The cemetery was designed by Charles Holden.