Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
Stanley Monkton Cleaver (of Lynsted)
d. 3rd May 1917. Aged 21 years.
7th (Service) Battalion
The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
Formerly Private, 2076, 2/1st the Royal East Kent Yeomanry
(The Duke of Connaught’s Own) (Mounted Rifles)
Remembered with Honour
Arras Memorial, Faubourg-D'Amiens Cemetery
Died of Wounds
Stanley was born in Marden in 1895 and was christened there on 13 October 1895. The third of the four children of farm bailiff Robert and his wife Edith Mary (née Locks), his two older siblings were William Robert (who also served in WW1 in the Army Service Corps, Motor Transport) and Marjorie Edith, the latter of whom appears to have lived with her Aunt and Uncle, and a younger brother, Roy Barling.
By the early 1900s the family had moved to Shoesmith Farm, Frant. In 1904 they moved further afield to Rose Cottage on Darland Farm in Pear Tree Lane, Gillingham. Stanley and older brother William were enrolled in Luton (Chatham) Council School on 24 October 1904. By 1911 the family had moved to 8 Lynsted Lane, Lynsted. Stanley, then aged 15, was recorded as lodging at Ivy Cottage, Groombridge Place near Tunbridge Wells with the family of the coachman. Stanley was employed as a "houseboy domestic". Some time after the 1911 census, Stanley joined the family in Lynsted Lane and took up employment as a baker for the Sittingbourne Co-operative Society.
On the 28 September 1914, in Sittingbourne, Stanley enlisted into the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles for the duration of the war at age 19 years 2 months. His enlistment was reported in the South Eastern Gazette on 3 October 1914:
ROYAL EAST KENT MOUNTED RIFLES.
About three weeks ago the authorities decided to form a Reserve Regiment of the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles. The old regiment, having been embodied at the outbreak of the European War, is now rapidly becoming fit to undertake foreign service, for which it will no doubt be detailed. Mr. Alured Faunce de Laune, of Sharsted, Sittingbourne, made himself responsible for raising a squadron of the Reserve Regiment, and at once commenced active recruiting. On September 19th, 41 recruits joined the new regiment, and on the following Monday Mr. De Laune himself was commissioned and appointed to a command in the regiment. Since then the recruiting has been in the hands of the Hon. Secretary of the Local Recruiting Sub-Committee, and on Monday last 39 more young men presented themselves for examination at the Drill Hall, Sittingbourne, when an officer of the regiment was present. Of these 39 no less than 33 were accepted after the medical examination, and two others joined other branches of the service. Only four failed to pass the medical tests. Most of these young men joined the regiment at Strode Park, Herne, the same evening.
Below will be found the names of those who have already joined the regiment from this district:
Bapchild:- A.T. Gammon, C.C. Neeves, G.A. Wiles, and C.N. Yates.
Bobbing, Borden, and Key Street:- B. Dutnall, A E Hollis, H. Luckhurst, G.T. Payne, A.E. Pearson, and H.M. Tyman.
Greenstreet, Lynsted, and Teynham:- C. Barton, S.G. Clarke, H.S. Clarke, S. Cleaver, T. Holden, J.F. Laker, T.A. Ottaway, J. Ray, H.J. Read, G.L. Sattin, and H. Wildish.
Lower Halstow – Jack Beswick
Newington: S. Clout.
Sittingbourne: E. Back, A. Bolton, E. Bourne, LF Bowes, W. Burley, A. Castle, J. Chapel, H. Ealden,, W.L. Foord, HH Martin, D.R. Mears, B. Mills, H. Mills, W. Moore, C. Mountain, J. Pittock, F. Rose, H. Shipp, H. Stedman, and H. Williams.
Recruiting is still proceeding and suitable young men are asked to give in their names to Mr.F.J. Parrett at 17 High street, Sittingbourne, and arrangements will be made for their enlistment providing they pass the medical examination. Already several names have been put down to form the third batch.
Stanley remained close to home during his first few months of service, receiving his typhoid inoculations in March 1915. On 28 May 1915, at an army medical in Maresfield, Sussex, he was assessed as suitable for overseas service. A bout of tonsillitis and laryngitis saw Stanley being hospitalised for 4 days in Canterbury in January 1916.
Stanley was re-examined on 12 September 1916, and again found fit for foreign service. On 21 September 1916 he sailed for France and on 22 September arrived at the 38 Infantry Base Depot, Étaples, where he was transferred into the 4th (Territorial Force) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). It is recorded that on transfer he retained his Yeomanry rate of pay, presumably a higher rate.
On 6 November 1916, Stanley was posted to the 7th (Service) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) and joined his new Battalion along with 39 others at Warloy on 11 November. The next few days were spent in preparation for a move to Albert in readiness for moving into the trenches for what was to become known as the Battle of the Ancre. The River Ancre is a tributary of the River Somme and was the scene of the final large British battle attack in the Battle of the Somme. This battle had started with a seven-day preliminary bombardment, which was twice as heavy as that preceding the start of the first Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1917.
On the morning of the 17 November, Stanley’s Battalion received orders that would take him into the trenches for the first time. The early hours of the last day of the Battle of the Somme (18 November) were bitterly cold and the first winter snow began to fall on saturated and muddy ground. Stanley and his comrades took up attack positions with the aim of capturing Desiré Trench.
The following report, written just hours after the events of 18 and 19 November by Major Mitford Montefiore Brice, illustrates the situation Stanley faced:
"At 6.10am our shrapnel barrage opened and the waves began to move forward, touch between the left of the 7th Royal West Kent Regiment (RWKR) and right of the 7th Buffs being excellent. A number of our shells on the immediate right of the 7th Buffs were short and the officer and platoon sergeant, right platoon, were wounded. The Officer continued to advance till wounded later.
At 6.12am the enemy barrage commenced on Regina Trench, being extremely accurate near the Advanced Headquarters dugout and at 6.14am some hostile rifle fire commenced.
The barrage on Regina Trench continued, being extremely heavy near its junction with Sixteen Street, and by 6.45am had become intense. No news had been received from the assaulting companies, although special runners had been detailed in both companies to return immediately on reaching objective. At 7.20am therefore two runners were sent forward from Advanced Headquarters. Both these men were killed by snipers. The barrage in Regina Trench had now slackened, but at 7.15am a good deal of machine gun fire could be heard, but it seemed to be well to the left flank.
Nothing could be observed from Regina Trench of the assaulting companies. The ground fell away hiding the objective and the day had become misty. About 7.30am a slightly wounded man came in. He belonged to the left assaulting company, and stated that all was going well when he was hit, and that the enemy trench was quite close and that he could see it. A few more wounded men came in, but they had been hit on the way forward and could give no information. I therefore sent forward two more runners, ordering them to move more to my left and avoid Sixteen Street and Point "66". One was wounded and the other never returned. Later I sent three more men extending them along my front. One of these men returned but could give no information of any value. The other two men were never seen again.
The Officer in Command (OC) 7th RWKR and myself now received a message from Brigade Headquarters that the situation on the front of the left Company 7th RWKR and on the front of the 7th Buffs and the 7th Queens must be cleared up.
2/Lieut G J Howcroft, my Bombing Officer, had twice volunteered to try and get forward, and I sent for him, told him the situation and that he was to try and get forward as far as he could. He was shot at almost as soon as he left Regina Trench and after being twice missed was shot in the body.
In view of the number of runners who had been hit or who had not returned it seemed impossible to get forward by direct means. It appeared likely - at that time - that the enemy had snipers in shell holes, who in the darkness of the morning when the attack started might have escaped notice of the assaulting troops, and also escaped the barrage. [There had been reports that when the troops went forward in the dark, many had lost track of each other as they could see no further than 3 yards.] Anyone moving along shallow portions of Regina Trench was also sniped at.
A message was received from the OC 7th Queens that a wounded sergeant reported he had seen flanks of 7th Queens and 7th Buffs and that they were in touch and were consolidating.
Wounded men began coming in, but none could give any clear account of the situation, except that the enemy rifle fire and machine gun fire was heavy. A runner of the OC of A Company 7th Buffs, right assaulting company, came in badly wounded in two places. He reported that his Company Commander had sent him forward when the first wave were waiting for the barrage to lift from the objective. He saw that the trench was full of Germans and the fire was heavy. He was immediately badly wounded. He had gradually crawled back to Regina Trench.
It was arranged that two platoons from 7th Queens and 7th Buffs should move forward and clear the ground between Regina and Desiré Trenches, and gain touch with the assaulting companies. Meanwhile the OC of the 7th RWKR had ordered a Company to gradually work to its left along Desiré Trench from that part which had been captured in the morning by his right company.
About 4.15pm 2 platoons of D Company moved forward from Hessian Trench. It was growing dark and misty and the movement did not draw a great deal of fire, though about 6 men were soon shot by snipers. Both platoons on approaching Desiré Trench were heavily fired on and bombs were thrown at them. The platoon Commander acted most gallantly and tried again and again to get information, but without success. They eventually withdrew to Regina Trench.
Meanwhile an Officers’ patrol was sent forward to try and get in touch with the left of the Buffs and the right of the Queens. The patrol was heavily fired on, and after several attempts withdrew, but losing its way did not reach Regina Trench till early in the morning of 19 November.
At 8pm I received orders to report to Brigade Headquarters at Mouquet Farm to report the situation. On return I reached Battalion Headquarters in Hessian Trench about 2pm, 19 November.
The night passed fairly quietly but there were several heavy bursts of fire in Regina and Hessian Trenches.
In compliance with orders received from Brigadier that Desiré Trench must be taken by us on 19th inst, I sent for OC C and D Companies and gave the detailed orders being received from Brigade."
The report concluded with the following points:
There was only one unwounded survivor of A Coy. All officers of A and B Companies were dead, wounded or missing.
An officer and several men of A Coy and 2 men of 7th RWKR, all badly wounded, where found in dugouts in Desiré Trench. All hit in front of the objective and the Germans brought them in late afternoon, tended their wounds and treated them well. The Germans left them at dawn. Other wounded men were also found who had been pulled to safety by the Germans.
The shrapnel barrage was inefficient and short resulting in the wounding of a platoon commander and his sergeant.
D Coy suffered 30% casualties from rifle fire.
Our aircraft, prior to attack, reported no sign of the enemy in Grandcourt or Desiré Trench, but post battle intelligence summary concludes there were three German companies present.
The men going "over the top" had been told to expect little opposition.
The battle was a relative success, but at a heavy cost. Stanley’s battalion’s casualty list recorded 3 officers killed, 4 wounded, 1 missing, and 23 other ranks killed, 76 wounded and 124 missing.
On 21 November Stanley and his comrades were exhausted and weak in numbers. They were relieved by the Royal Berkshire Regiment and fell back to Ollivers. Over the next few days they were moved back, firstly on buses but then by marching, through Hartonville, Candas and Neuilly L’Hopital. In the run-up to Christmas they undertook much cleaning of weapons, bayonet training and foot inspections. Christmas and Boxing Days were given as holiday. A brief respite from much hard work and dealing with the harsh winter conditions. On 28 December they "rapid route-marched" to Hautevillers.
On 14 January 1917, the Battalion was brought back up to strength with the arrival of 7 new 2nd Lieutenants and a draft of 315 other ranks. The aim over the winter period was to be spent in preparation for a spring offensive. However the battalion was back in the trenches at Boom Ravine on 23 February, this time more successfully, falling back on 21 March.
Special training continued until 20 April when route-marching to Neuville Vitasse where, on 28 April, they went into reserve trenches south of Arras and close to Chérisy. Here they bivouacked until 30 April.
On 1 May Stanley began his final action at the Third Battle of the Scarpe. The regimental war diary details his final days:
|Place||Summary events and Information|
|May 1st 1917
|Bivouacs in trenches at N.14.C. (N.E. of NEUVILLE VITASSE). [Map ÉTERPIGNY 1/20,000]
8.30 p.m.: 7th Buffs relieved 7th Queens in Front and Support Positions (Right).
Infantry Brigade Sector as follows:-
2 Platoons "A" Company 7th Buffs relieved 2 Platoons "A" Company 7th Queens on right of front line.
2 Platoons "B" Company 7th Buffs relieved 2 Platoons "C" Company 7th Queens on left of front line.
Front Line extended from O.25.d.7.3 in touch with 54th Infantry Brigade on right, to O.26.c.0.8. in touch with 8th East Surrey Regiment on left.
2 Platoons "A" Company 7th Buffs relieved 2 Platoons "A" Company 7th Queens on right of support line.
1 Platoon "B" Company 7th Buffs relieved 1 Platoon "B" Company 7th Queens in Strong Point in rear of Support Line.
"C" and "D" Companies 7th Buffs relieved 2 Companies 7th Royal West Kent Regiment in Southern Portion of trenches in N.30.b.
Battalion Headquarters moved to QUARRY N.30.b.
|May 2nd||1.5 a.m.: The Relief was complete at 1.5 a.m.
|May 3rd|| Companies commenced to take up their Battle Positions as follows:-
1. "A" and "B" Companies – Assaulting Companies. In 3 waves – 1st 2 waves in front trench.
3rd wave with 3 Platoons 7th Royal West Kent Regiment (detailed as dug-out clearing parties) in shell holes between front and support trench.
(NOTE – 1 Platoon, 7th R.W. Kent Regiment, was allotted to right Assaulting Company and 2 Platoons 7th R.W. Kent Regiment to left Assaulting Company).
2. "C" Company – Supporting Company. In support trench.
3. "D" Company – Battalion Reserve. In shell holes in rear of Support Trench.
4. Battalion Report Centre was at Gun Pits O.25.d.6.5.
The two leading waves commenced to assemble in front of the first trench at 3.15 a.m. This was done quietly and well in spite of darkness. The moon having set and all were in position by 3.35 a.m. being in touch with 12th Middlesex Regiment in the right and 8th East Surrey Regiment on the left.
At that time it was impossible owning to the darkness to see the lines of men until within 2 or 3 yards of them.
At ZERO hour (3.45 a.m.) it was still just as dark and it was not until the Eastern edge of CHERISY was reached that it was possible to see at all distinctly. The barrage did not start well, several batteries appearing to start prematurely, and it did not immediately become intense. The enemy opened fairly heavy rifle and machine gun fire at once but all Companies of the Battalion were clear of our front line before the enemy barrage commenced. When it started it was not at first very heavy but increased to some intensity on the valley in rear of our front line, and on areas further back. Owing to the darkness, sections, platoons, and Companies soon got intermingled. Before the enemy’s front trench was reached, the left of the 12 Middlesex Regiment came across the front of the right Company of the 7th Buffs, but the Company Commander of that Company managed to get the left shoulders of these men up.
Right Company Headquarter passed into CHERISY through the plantation at about O.32.b.0.8, and was at that time in touch with portions of the 12th Middlesex Regiment and also in reaching the main street of CHERISY running N.N.E. & S.S.W. The O.C. right Company 7th Buffs, finding the party of 12th Middlesex Regiment on his right thought they were not in touch with the remainder of their Battalion, moved out of the village in a half-right direction, and on reaching the bed of the SENSEE River, found that the right of the 7th Buffs. It became apparent, however, that the enemy still held a portion of the trench opposite the extreme left of the 12th Middlesex Regiment’s frontage. So a front stop was established and efforts made to progress through the trench. The first attempt was repulsed by Machine Gun fire down the trench which was perfectly straight. Two Lewis Gun detachments were wiped out in this way. The trench was deep and narrow, and bombing was consequently difficult. As no impression could be made and the Battalion on the right did not advance, a Stokes Gun was sent up to this Company about 6.40 a.m., and finally ground was gained as far as the Sunken Road about O.32.a.1.9.
It had become apparent from reports received that the progress made by 8th East Surrey Regiment and the left of the 7th Buffs was satisfactory and that they were on the "Blue Line".
About 6.30 a.m. the enemy brought a machine gun into "no man’s land" and in rear of the right of "D" Company 7th Buffs. This gun also brought fire to bear on the crest close to the Battalion Report Centre, so all spare signallers and orderlies were placed in shell holes in the vicinity to watch the flanks.
Between 7.15 a.m. and 7.30 a.m., 3 reports were received from the Assaulting Companies. Captain BLACK, commanding right assaulting Company reported that his right was absolutely in the air, but that he was forming a defensive flank. Also that the enemy was shelling the Southern outskirts of CHERISY. This message was timed 6.25 a.m. Lieut. WOTTON, Commanding Supporting Company, reported that at 6.30 a.m. he was at O.33.b.5.9. and was consolidating. That he was in touch on his right with elements of "A" and "B" Companies, 7th Buffs, and with 8th East Surrey Regiment on his left. He could find no other officers of the Buffs.
2nd Lieut DUNGEY, Commanding Left Assaulting Company reported that at 6.15 a.m. he was on railway beyond SENSEE River at O.33.a.5.1. that he had only 12 men with him and that the remainder had gone too much to the left. That he was in trench with 8th East Surrey Regiment on his left and with a Platoon of "A" Company on his right. He was held up by a machine gun at O.33.b.6.3. but had a Stokes Gun dealing with this gun. A second report from Lieut. WOOTON timed 7.0 a.m. stated that he was on 1st Objective and that he was in touch with 8th East Surrey Regiment. The enemy appeared to be forming up for a counter attack on his front and left. This information was sent on to the Brigade in a message timed 7.40 a.m. Before this the O.C. 7th Royal West Kent Regiment arrived in our front line.
At 8.35 a.m. a report was sent to the Brigade giving the situation as follows:-
Left of 7th Buffs in touch with 8th East Surrey Regiment on "blue line". Line of 7th Buffs runs along SENSEE River to S.E. edge of CHERISY village. Position of right difficult owing to reported counter-attack, result of which has not come in. Reserve Company still in CABLE TRENCH with bombstop about O.26.c.2.1., beyond which point to its right trench is held by enemy. Captain LONGBOURNE is now in our original front line with 2 Companies 7th Queens. 7th R.W.Kent (less 2 Platoons and H.Q.) have moved forward. Assaulting Battalions on right of 7th Buffs have not moved forward yet from original front line.
At 9.0 a.m. the following report was sent to the Brigade and repeated to O.C. 7th Queens. Captain BLACK, O.C. Right Company 7th Buffs reports that right of Buffs still in the air and protected only by very weak posts and open to attack from CHERISY Lane and Strong Point at O.33.a.10.05. Original advance reached point O.33.a.10.05 but owing to no troops being up on right, the ground was lost.
About 9.30 a.m., an officer sent from Battalion Headquarters to find out the situation on 54th Infantry Brigade Front found a fresh attack in progress.
No success was achieved and the right flank of 55th Infantry Brigade was thus not relieved.
At 9.40 a.m. a message was received from O.C. 7th Queens stating the Brigadier directed 1 Company 7th Queens to move forward and take the place of 1 Company 7th Buffs in CABLE TRENCH, latter Company to move forward to support remainder of 7th Buffs. This message directed Captain LONGBOURNE to move forward "A" Company 7th Queens for this purpose. It was thereupon decided to move this Company forward by the left of the Brigade front and gradually withdraw "D" Company, 7th Buffs, and send them forward. The commencement of this operation was delayed by the fact that "A" Company 7th Queens was on the right of the Line and had consequently a long distance to go in moving to the left. Movement was very difficult near the top of the ridge where this Company was, owing to machine gun fire. At about this time a message was received from the 55th Infantry Brigade as follows:- Time 9.35 a.m. Situation of 54th Infantry Brigade still obscure; they have not reached the "Blue Line". 7th Buffs must form a defensive flank facing right. Almost simultaneously with this, a message was received directing 7th Buffs and 8th East Surrey Regiment to advance to the "RED LINE" and 7th R.W. Kent Regiment to consolidate the "BLUE LINE".
About 11.0 a.m. reports were received that a general retirement was taking place, and it soon became apparent that the whole line was coming back. The enemy established an intense bombardment of our front line system and of the valley in rear and his machine gun fire was heavy. CABLE TRENCH was by this time full of men in addition to "D" Company 7th Buffs, but owing to the fact that the enemy and our troops were hopelessly intermingled, it was impossible to fire on the enemy except on occasions. Those men who passed through CABLE Trench on the way back were rallied by a number of officers in our front and support line, and those who passed through these trenches were rallied in the valley, and came forward to the trenches again. In half an hour the trenches were strongly held, and the situation well in hand. As regards the evacuation of CABLE Trench, Lieut. FINE, Commanding "D" Company, 7th Buffs, states the retirement commenced on the left and became general until his Company alone remained. Finding himself isolated he withdrew slowly in extended order to our original line. The enemy shell fire continued very heavy well into the afternoon but otherwise the situation became normal.
About 2.0 p.m. Battalion were reorganised as much as possible.
3.0 p.m. By this time the enemy shell fire had died down completely, except for a few rounds directed on the QUARRY in N.30.b.
At 5.35 p.m. order were received that the 7th Queens would attack, with a barrage, and capture CABLE Trench, then FONTAINE Trench and the Southern portion of the village. ZERO Hour was given as 6.15 p.m. and heavy shelling was to start at 5.30 and continue to 6.0 p.m. The 7th Queens formed up in our front line, the 7th Buffs in Support trench, from which they were to advance into the front line trench as soon as the Queens attacked. During those preparations no preparatory shelling took place, and at 6.15 p.m. no barrage opened. The 7th Queens, therefore, did not leave their trenches. 6.10 p.m.:
At 6.10 p.m. a message arrived from Brigade stating that ZERO HOUR was postponed 1 hour i.e. 7.15 p.m.
At 7.15 p.m. the 7th Queens attacked under cover of poor barrage; the 7th Buffs immediately occupied the front line as arranged. Owing to heavy Machine Gun and Rifle Fire, the attack did not succeed, and by dark the 7th Queens were back in our lines. The 7th Buffs manned the front line during the night 3/4.
|May 4th||The night passed quietly, as also the next day.|
The 7th Buffs had suffered a casualty list of 2 officers killed, 6 wounded and 4 missing; 25 other ranks killed, 169 wounded and 174 missing.
Stanley was posted as "wounded and missing" on 3 May 1917. On 26 October 1917 he was confirmed as having "died of wounds" on 3 May. This would infer that he received some medical attention, probably in the field, but could not be evacuated.
It was eventually recorded that on the day Stanley died, a further 122 men of 7th (Service) lost their lives on 3 May 1917. This included MacDonald Dixon who we commemorate next. Of the 123 men lost only 3 have known graves. The others are all listed together on Bay 2 of the Arras Memorial. Stanley is commemorated on the Lynsted Memorial plaque as still being a member of the Royal East Kent Yeomanry.
Stanley was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medals.
Stanley’s younger brother Roy, would join the Royal Air Force in 1931 and serve in WW2, rising to the rank of Wing Commander.
Thursday 3 May 1917 saw the heaviest casualties for Lynsted when 5 men were lost at the Third Battle of the Scarpe.
The stories of these 5 men follow similar paths. Amos Brown and Reginald Weaver both served in 6th (Service) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). Stanley Cleaver and MacDonald Dixon served in both the Royal East Kent Yeomanry (The Duke of Connaught’s Own) (Mounted Rifles) and 7th (Service) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). William Gambrill served in both Royal East Kent Yeomanry (The Duke of Connaught’s Own) (Mounted Rifles) and the Household Battalion, Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line, alongside Henry Carrier who was lost 8 days later on on 11 May 1917.
Three more men were lost that day from the Creekside Cluster. Harry Filmer, lost from Newnham, served in the 1st (Service) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). William Henry Laker, lost from Teynham, served alongside Stanley Cleaver and MacDonald Dixon serving in 7th (Service) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). George Potts, also lost from Teynham, served alongside Amos Brown and Reginald Weaver, 6th (Service) Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).
Six of these eight men fell without a known grave and are recorded in Bay 2 of the Arras Memorial alongside 242 other men from The Buffs who perished that day. They are Amos John Brown, Stanley Monkton Cleaver, MacDonald Dixon, William Henry Laker, George Potts and Reginald Douglas Weaver.