Albert John Priday, maternal relative: Pond Farm, Passchendaele August 1917

Albert John Priday was the second son of Thomas & Eliza Ann Priday to die in WW1.

Albert was born during May 1884 in Wheatenhurst, Gloucestershire, England and he was my cousin, 3 times removed. The actual lineage is as follows:

  • Albert John Priday (1884 - 1917) - my 1st cousin 3x removed
  • Thomas Priday (1842 - 1917) - father of Albert John Priday
  • Nathaniel Priday (1794 - 1870) - father of Thomas Priday
  • Nathaniel Priday (1830 - 1900) - son of Nathaniel Priday
  • Joseph Priday (1853 - 1933) - son of Nathaniel Priday
  • Joseph Priday (1888 - 1954) - son of Joseph Priday - my maternal grandfather
  • Alice May Priday (1917 - 2009) - daughter of Joseph Priday - my mother
  • William G Hyde - me

His Family

Albert John Priday's father, Thomas Priday (1842-1917) was born in Hardwicke, Gloucestershire & died in the city of Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England. Thomas was an Agricultural labourer and his mother was a Poultry dealer - he worked on the family lands for much of his life.

Thomas married Eliza Ann Knight (1851-1915) born in Quedgeley, Gloucestershire & died in the city of Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England at St John The Baptist church, Gloucester (city), Gloucestershire on 31st May 1868, Eliza Ann was just 16 years old. Eliza had already given birth to their child before the wedding took place, so its probable a shotgun was involved.

Thomas & Eliza Ann set up home initially with Thomas's mother Hester and Eliza was described as a Dressmaker. However, by the 1881 Census they had moved to 3 Victoria Cottages, Elmore Lane, Hempstead, Gloucester. Thomas was by now a Brick Yard labourer and they had a growing family that eventually would include:

  • Tom Nathaniel Priday (1867–1947) - born before wedlock
  • Joseph William Priday (1871–1936)  
  • Charles Knight Priday (1873–1947)
  • Ellen Emily Priday (1876–1911)
  • Harry Priday (1878–1953)
  • William Henry Priday (1879–)  
  • John Priday (1880–1953)
  • Joseph William Priday (1880–1914)
  • Olive Blanche Priday (1882–)
  • Albert John Priday (1884–1917)
  • Margaret Susan Priday (1884–1964)
  • Alfred Priday (1885–1916) - also died in WW1
  • Mary Elisabeth Priday [Miney] (1887–)
  • Raymond Priday (1889–1974)
  • Arthur Priday (1890–)
  • Annie [Nancy] Priday (1891–1983)
  • Arthur Priday (1892–)

Albert John was a farm labourer & gardener, he married Ethel May Ridler (1893-1971) in the city of Gloucester in July 1910. Albert & Ethel May moved in with Ethel's parents at Peacock Cottage, Down Hatherley, Gloucestershire and Ethel gave birth to their son, Harold Desmond Priday (1912–1995).

His Regiment

Albert enlisted in the Army in 1914 joiningthe Territoral Force 2nd/4th Battalion of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry as a private with service number 33086.

2/4th Battalion
Formed at Oxford in September 1914 as a second line unit.
January 1915 - moved to Northampton and attached to 184th Brigade in 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. Moved to Writtle (Essex) and quickly on to Broomfield (Essex) in April 1915.
January 1916 - moved to Parkhouse Camp, Salisbury Plain.
24 May 1916 - landed in France.
March 1919 - sailed for Egypt and was still there by the end of that year.

The Territorial Force was originally intended for home defence, a duty for which its pre-war formations soon ceased to be available.

The following gives an insight into a Tommy's lot during 1916-7 and is taken from The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by G. K. Rose.

Once in France, the 61st Division, to which the 2nd/4th Battalion belonged, concentrated in the Merville area. The usual period of 'instruction' followed. The 2/4th Oxfords went to the Fauquissart sector, east of Laventie. Soon the 61st relieved the Welsh Division, to which it had been temporarily apprenticed, and settled down to hold the line.

After fighting in the Battle of the Somme and spending some 3 months in the front line trenches during the winter of 1916/7 the Battalion was pulled back  to Framerville, where Quartermaster's Stores and Transport rejoined. And then on March 16, 1917, the Germans left their front line and scuttled back behind the Somme.

The news of this threw everything into a miniature ferment. The Berks stopped practising a raid which they were to do on the Brigade's return to the old trenches. The General rode off apace. After orders and counter-orders the 2/4th marched dramatically to a map reference near Lihons and commenced pulling logs out of old French dug-outs.

To the 2/4th Battalion fell the task of roadmaking in No-Man's-Land. This proved quite interesting work. Except where shells had fallen on them or trenches been dug through, the roads, when once the mud had been removed, were found virtually intact. Soon G.S. wagons and limbers and 18-pounders were passing forward. The war was on the move.

To explore the former German trenches was a pleasing novelty. The front line was deep and fairly dry. Elbow marks at every 50 yards or so and bombs with caps screwed off vouched for the situation of old sentry posts. Communication trenches were derelict, nor did proper support nor second lines exist. The enemy's defence had been the merest shell.

The Battalion moved to Chaulnes on March 22. March 23 was spent in road mending between Vermandovillers and Chaulnes.

At 3 a.m. on April 1 C and D Companies were ordered forward to support the Bucks in an attack on the line of single railway which runs northwards from Vermand. The attack gained the ridge east of the railway and no support by us was wanted. Ten prisoners were captured by the Bucks, whose only casualties resulted from our own shells dropping short and an unfortunate mistake of some other troops, who lost direction and, pressing forward, encountered men of their own side. Towards evening the General ordered D Company forward to occupy Montolu Wood. The journey was made at dusk through a blinding storm of hail and rain.

At midnight, April 3/4, the Battalion relieved the Bucks. B, C, and D Companies shared the new outpost line. Headquarters and A Company went to Soyécourt.

In the early morning of April 4 the 59th Division, which was operating on the Battalion's left, attacked Le Vergier. Fighting continued till noon, but the village was not taken. The 59th lost heavily.

For April 6 - Good Friday, 1917 - an attack on a large scale had been arranged. The 59th Division on our left, the Gloucesters and the 182nd Brigade on our right, shared in the operations. The line was to be advanced a mile on both sides of the Omignon. The Battalion's objective was a line of trenches recently dug by the enemy and running between Le Vergier and the river. To capture them Brown's company, which hitherto had stayed in reserve at Soyécourt in tolerable accommodation, was selected. B and D Companies were ordered to keep close behind A to support the attack, while C remained to garrison the outpost line.

Zero was midnight, but before that snow and sleet were falling heavily. It proved the dirtiest night imaginable. Companies moved in columns across the 1,000 yards of open fields between their old positions and the objective, against which our artillery kept up as severe a fire as possible. That fire was less effective than was hoped. In its advance A Company lost men from our own shells, of which nearly all were seen to be falling very short. The German wire, still the great argument to face in an attack, was found uncut. Although at first inclined to surrender, the enemy soon saw the failure of our men to find a gap. Machine-guns were manned, which swept the ground with a fierce enfilade fire. The line was rallied, and a renewed attempt made to storm the trenches. In vain. No troops will stand against machine-gun fire in the open when no object can be achieved. It was idle to repeat the attack or send fresh companies to share the forlorn enterprise. Before dawn our troops were in their old positions.

At 3 p.m. on April 8 a curious noise was heard in the air. A German aeroplane had attacked the kite balloon, which hung, suspended by its gas, above the château park. A French machine, not a moment too soon for the balloon's safety, had swooped and shot the attacker to the ground. All the Battalion was out staring up at the balloon rotating on its wire, and the portions of the German 'plane, which amid smoke were fluttering to earth. A rush, as always, commenced towards the scene. The aeroplane, brought down from a height, was half embedded in the mud. It was an Albatross, painted all colours, and possessed two machine-guns and several sorts of ammunition for use against balloons.

The 61st Division was relieved on April 11 and moved back to the Nesle area. The 2/4th Oxfords marched to Hombleux, a village where the enemy had left the church and a few houses standing.

Leaping forward a bit brings us to August 1917 and the Third Battle of Ypres or Passchendaele.

On August 18, starting at 4 a.m., the Battalion marched to Goldfish Château, close to Ypres, and the Transport to a disused brickfield west of Vlamertinghe. We lived in bivouacs and tents and were much vexed by German aeroplanes, and to a less degree by German shells. On August 20, while companies were making ready for the line, an air fight happened just above our camp. Its sequel was alarming. A German aeroplane fell worsted in the fight, and dived to ground, a roaring mass of fire, not forty yards from our nearest tents. By a freak of chance the machine fell in a hole made by a German shell. The usual rush was made towards the scene—by those, that is, not already sufficiently close for their curiosity. A crowd, which to some extent disorganised our preparations for the line, collected round the spot and watched the R.F.C. extract the pilot and parts of the machine, which was deeply embedded in the hole. For hours the wreckage remained the centre of attraction to many visitors. The General hailed the burnt relics, not inappropriately, as a lucky omen.

During the night of August 20/21 the Battalion relieved a portion of the front eastward of Wieltje. Three companies were placed in trenches bearing the name of 'Capricorn,' but B was further back. During the night a serious misfortune befell the latter. Three 5.9s fell actually in the trench and caused thirty-five casualties, including all the sergeants of the company. On the eve of an attack such an occurrence was calculated to affect the morale of any troops. That the company afterwards did well was specially creditable in view of this demoralising prelude.

On the following night (22 August) Companies assembled for the attack. Neither the starting place nor the objectives for this are easily described by reference to surrounding villages. The nearest was St. Julien. The operation orders for the attack of August 22 assigned as objective to the Oxfords a road running across the Hanebeck and referred to as the Winnipeg-Kansas Cross Road. The 48th Division on the left and the 15th on the right were to co-operate with the 184th Brigade in the attack.

pond farm albert pridayShortly before 5 the bombardment started. In the advance behind the creeping barrage put down by our guns, of which an enormous concentration was present on the front, C, D and A Companies (from right to left) provided the first waves, while B Company followed to support the flanks. The Berks came afterwards as 'moppers up.' Half-an-hour after the advance started D, B and A Companies were digging-in 150 yards west of the Winnipeg-Kansas Cross Road. The losses of these companies in going over had not been heavy, but, as so often happens, casualties occurred directly the objective had been duly reached. In the case of C Company, on the right, but little progress had been made. Pond Farm, a concrete stronghold, to capture which a few nights previously an unsuccessful sally had been made, had proved too serious an obstacle. Not till the following night was it reduced, and during the whole of August 22 it remained a troublesome feature in the situation. Before the line reached could be consolidated or they could act to defeat the enemy's tactics, our men found themselves the victims of sniping and machine-gun fire from Schuler Farm, which was not taken and to which parties of reinforcements to the enemy now came. More dangerous still was an old gun-pit which lay behind the left flank. The capture of this had been assigned to the 48th Division, but as a measure of abundant caution Colonel Wetherall had detailed a special Berks platoon to tackle it. This platoon, assisted by some Oxfords on the scene, captured the gun-pit and nearly seventy prisoners, but failed to garrison it. A party of the enemy found their way back and were soon firing into our men from behind.

During the early stages of consolidation, when personal example and direction were required, John Stockton, Scott, and Gascoyne were all killed by snipers or machine-gun fire. Scott had been hit already in the advance and behaved finely in refusing aid until he had despatched a message to Headquarters. While he was doing so three or four bullets struck him simultaneously and he died.

Throughout the 22nd no actual counter-attack nor organised bombardment by the enemy took place, but much sniping and machine-gun fire continued, making it almost impossible to move about. Our loss in Lewis-gunners was particularly heavy. Callender, the acting company commander of A Company, had been killed before the attack commenced, and Sergeant-Major Cairns was now the mainstay of that company, whose men were thoroughly mixed up with B. Upon the left the 48th Division had failed to reach Winnipeg, with the result that this flank of A and B Companies was quite in the air. On the Battalion's right the failure of C Company, in which Brucker had been wounded, to pass Pond Farm left the flank of D Company exposed and unsupported. But the position won was kept. Ground to which the advance had been carried with cost would not be lightly given up. Some of our men had to remain in shell-holes unsupported and shot at from several directions for over fifty hours. During the night of August 23/24 the Battalion was relieved, when those whom death in battle had not claimed nor wounds despatched to hospital marched back through Ypres to the old camp at Goldfish Château.

It was during this attack on Pond Farm that Albert John Priday was Killed in action. 

Cemetery

hwt-pic2Members of the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry are recorded on Panels 96 - 98 at Tyne Cot Memorial and Alfred John Priday is amongst them.

The Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery, which is located to the north east of the Belgium town of Ypres.

The names of those from United Kingdom units are inscribed on Panels arranged by Regiment under their respective Ranks.

The names of those from New Zealand units are inscribed on panels within the New Zealand Memorial Apse located at the centre of the Memorial.

The Tyne Cot Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.

The Tyne Cot Memorial now bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker with sculpture by Joseph Armitage and F.V. Blundstone, was unveiled by Sir Gilbert Dyett on 20 June 1927.

The memorial forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery, which was established around a captured German blockhouse or pill-box used as an advanced dressing station. The original battlefield cemetery of 343 graves was greatly enlarged after the Armistice when remains were brought in from the battlefields of Passchendaele and Langemarck, and from a few small burial grounds. It is now the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world in terms of burials. At the suggestion of King George V, who visited the cemetery in 1922, the Cross of Sacrifice was placed on the original large pill-box. There are three other pill-boxes in the cemetery.

There are now 11,956 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Tyne Cot Cemetery, 8,369 of these are unidentified.