Charles Priday: The defence of Givenchy, 20-21 December 1914

Charles Priday was born in Hempstead, Gloucestershire, England during October 1893 and was Killed in action during the defence of Givenchy. Givenchy-en-Gohelle is a large farming village situated 6 miles north of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.

Charles Priday was one of my second cousins, twice removed and directly related to my mother. The actual lineage is:

  • Charles C Priday (1893 - 1914) - is your nephew of 2nd cousin 2x removed
  • Thomas (Tom) Nathaniel Priday (1869 - 1947) - father of Charles C Priday
  • Thomas Priday (1842 - 1917) - father of Thomas (Tom) Nathaniel Priday
  • Albert John Priday (1884 - 1917) - son of Thomas Priday
  • William Henry Priday (1853 - 1915) - father of Albert John Priday
  • William Priday (1825 - 1879) - father of William Henry Priday
  • Hester Esther Hill (1802 - 1879) - mother of William Priday
  • Nathaniel Priday (1830 - 1900) - son of Hester Esther Hill
  • Joseph Priday (1853 - 1933) - son of Nathaniel Priday
  • Joseph Priday (1888 - 1954) - son of Joseph Priday
  • Alice May Priday (1917 - 2009) - daughter of Joseph Priday - my mother
  • William G Hyde - me

His Family

14 granvillest gloucesterCharles Priday's father was Thomas (Tom) Nathaniel Priday who was born during June 1869 in Quedgeley, Gloucester, England & died on the 18th September 1947 at 14 Granville St, Gloucester, Gloucestershire. He had a number of jobs throughout his life - Dock Porter at Gloucester Docks, Fish Hawker (street seller) and General labourer.

Thomas (Tom) Nathaniel married Harriet Capper in 1888. Harriet was born during July 1872 in Sandhurst, Gloucestershire, England & died on the 26th May 1957 at The Royal Hospital, Great Western Road, Gloucester, Gloucestershire. They were married at Barton St. Mary in the city Gloucester during July 1888 and set up home at 3 Severndale Cottages, Quedgeley, Gloucestershire, England. Thomas was at that time a Dock Porter at Gloucester inland docks.

Thomas & Harriet had 7 children:

  • Thomas Priday (1889–1932)
  • Harriet Louisa Priday (1891–1969)
  • Charles Priday (1893–1914)
  • William J Gibson (1894–?)
  • Eliza (Corrie) Corona M Priday (1902–?)
  • John Priday (1902–1972)
  • May Priday (1903–?)

By the time Charles was 17, the family had moved to 14 Granville Street, Gloucester, Gloucestershire and Charles was a general labourer at Parker & Co Timber Merchants where he stayed until he joined the British Army in 1914.

The picture features modern, Google Street's view of 14 Granville St, Gloucester.

His Regiment

Charles chose to enlist in the regular Army before WW1. The precise date is currently unknown, however new recruits usually got at least 12 months initial training and his regiment was not sent overseas until November 1914. Therefore I am guessing he enlisted around March - June 1913 when he was 20 years of age.

Regular army recruits (pre WW1) were able to choose their regiment and he chose the local county regiment, trhe Gloucesters and was allocated to 1st Battalion as a Private with Regimental Number 1688.

bordon barracks 1910The principles and details of training were laid down in the Field Service Regulations and in army publications such as "Infantry Training 1914". Training for ordinary tommies began with basic training for physical fitness, drill, march discipline, essential field craft, and so on. Later, as the soldier specialised (in the infantry, for example, as a rifleman, machine gunner, rifle grenadier, signaller or bomber) he would receive courses of instruction relevant to his role. Especially as he was approaching being warned for the active fronts, he would receive basic training in first aid, gas defence, wiring and other aspects. This training continued when he was on active service.

During 1914 the 1st Battalion Gloucester Regiment were at Bordon Training Camp, on the A3 trunk road between Liss and Liphook in Hampshire and next door to Longmoor Camp, where the Royal Engineers had their railway training establishment. The 1st Battalion The Gloucester Regiment formed part of 3rd Brigade in 1st Division whilst at Bordon.

The picture shows Bordon Barracks during the visit of King George V in 1910.

Off to War

The 3rd Breigade, 1st Division went off to war almost as soon as war was declared in August (war started on 4th) and the Division landed at Le Havre, France on 13 August 1914. However, the 1st Battalion, Glocester Regiment did not join them until 11 November 1914.

The 1st Division took part in the following battles during 1914:

  • The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, including the Rearguard Affair of Etreux
  • The Battle of the Marne
  • The Battle of the Aisne including participation in the Actions on the Aisne heights and the Action of Chivy
  • First Battle of Ypres
  • Winter 1914 - 15 Operations inc. the Defence of Givenchy

The defence of Givenchy, 20-21 December 1914

Late on the night of 17 December 1914, Sir John French responded to pressure from his French allies to continue to harass the enemy and issued orders for II, III, IV and Indian Corps to attack vigorously all along their fronts the next day. This was despite the certain knowledge that similar attacks that had taken place a few days earlier had been repulsed with severe casualties. There was to be no change in approach. Frontal assaults by infantry would take place after a short bombardment - which the infantry already knew did insufficient damage to the enemy wire, trenches and machine gun posts. GHQ orders were imprecise in terms of stating the objective of theses attacks: they would only "demonstrate and seize any favourable opportunity which may offer to capture any enemy's trenches on their front". Artillery ammunition supplies were short, and no more than 40 rounds per gun would be fired; less for the heavier calibres - and most of that would be shrapnel, which was of little value for destroying wire or smashing strong points.

From dawn on 20 December, in torrential rain and cold, the enemy artillery subjected the front trenches of Indian Corps to a deluge of high explosive shells, which was also supplemented by trench mortars firing from the German lines. They blew 10 small mines under the British lines at Givenchy about 9.00am, and followed this by a strong infantry attack. The mines killed or buried many men. The enemy infantry penetrated 300 yards into the Sirhind Brigade lines near Festubert, where hand to hand fighting took place. It appeared as though Givenchy, would have to be evacuated if the garrison (the 1st Manchesters) was not to be surrounded. A German report later showed that 19 British officers and 815 other ranks were taken prisoner.

During the afternoon of the 20 December, I Corps sent 1st (Guards) and 3rd Brigades to the assistance of the hard-pressed Indian Corps. 2nd Brigade arrived by bus later in the day. Delayed by dark, water-logged ground and machine-gun fire, they eventually relieved the Manchesters in Givenchy and the remnants of Sirhind Brigade at Festubert. GHQ ordered Haig's I Corps to relieve the shattered Indian Corps, which took place by 22 December. The 1st Division suffered 1,682 casualties in the operations to relieve the Indian Corps. Many of these, and many of the Indian Corps, were victims of exposure and frostbite as they held on without cover in freezing rain and flooded trenches for two or three days.

Chrales Priday was one of the soldiers of 3rd Brigade who was Killed in action on 21 December 1914 during the relief of the Manchesters.

His Burial

Charles Priday is commemorated on Panel 17 of the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Le Touret Memorial is located at the east end of Le Touret Military Cemetery, on the south side of the Bethune-Armentieres main road. The Memorial takes the form of a loggia surrounding an open rectangular court. The court is enclosed by three solid walls and on the eastern side by a colonnade. East of the colonnade is a wall and the colonnade and wall are prolonged northwards (to the road) and southwards, forming a long gallery. Small pavilions mark the ends of the gallery and the western corners of the court.

charlespridayThe Le Touret Memorial commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who were killed in this sector of the Western Front from the beginning of October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September 1915 and who have no known grave. The Memorial takes the form of a loggia surrounding an open rectangular court. The names of those commemorated are listed on panels set into the walls of the court and the gallery, arranged by regiment, rank and alphabetically by surname within the rank. The memorial was designed by John Reginald Truelove, who had served as an officer with the London Regiment during the war, and unveiled by the British ambassador to France, Lord Tyrrell, on 22 March 1930.

Almost all of the men commemorated on the Memorial served with regular or territorial regiments from across the United Kingdom and were killed in actions that took place along a section of the front line that stretched from Estaires in the north to Grenay in the south. This part of the Western Front was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the first year of the war, including the battles of La Bassée (10 October – 2 November 1914), Neuve Chapelle (10 – 12 March 1915), Aubers Ridge (9 – 10 May 1915), and Festubert (15 – 25 May 1915).

The men of the Indian Corps began burying their fallen comrades at this site in November 1914 and the cemetery was used continually by field ambulances and fighting units until the German spring offensive began in March 1918. Richebourg L’Avoue was overrun by the German forces in April 1918, but the cemetery was used again in September and October after this territory was recaptured by the Allies. Today over 900 Commonwealth servicemen who were killed during the First World War are buried here.