First World War Project

Frank BUTLER (of Newnham)

b. Q4, 1884
d. 5th May 1918. Aged 34

Corporal, Service Number 72588
18th Battalion, 18th Division
Machine Gun Corps
[previously 1831, Kent Cyclist Battalion & 15565, East Kent Regiment]

Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel
Plot 4, Row J, Grave 8
Died of Wounds

Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel

Frank Butler is remembered in Newnham as his place of birth and the place where both his sons were born - Dennis Robert (1907) and Noel William (1909). Although the records (1901) show his father living at Stuppington Cottages, which fall in neighbouring, Norton. Any confusion may arise from the fact that Stuppington Farm also sits at the boundary with Newnham Parish while Stuppington Cottages (today) fall just inside Doddington Parish! His widow, Emily Sarah (née Croucher), was born in Lenham Heath Road, Lenham. By 1911, Frank is listed as a domestic groom and gardener, living at Firtree Cottages, Pedding, Wingham, Canterbury. Frank and Emily married in 1904.

After WW1, Emily removed to Nursery Cottages, Brogdale Road, Faversham.

Frank was one of eight children raised by John and Annie Butler. His elder siblings were Henry/Harry, James and Frederick; his younger siblings were Ellen, Albert, Charles (died in infancy) and George. When Ellen married William John Stay, she took her widowed father into her new home - still at Stuppington Farm, Newnham.

Faversham and North East Kent News of 1st June 1918

"MISSING MEN. Another local man of whom tidings are wanted is Corpl F Butler, Machine Gun Corps, who belongs to Newnham, where he was formerly in the employ of Mr. A. Faunce de Laune, at Sharsted Court. He has been missing since the commencement of the German offensive on March 21st. He joined the Kent Cyclists in July, 1916, and became Sergeant but had to give up his stripes on going to France. Later, however, he got to Corporal's rank again."

The available records show Frank Butler died of wounds. His place of burial in Germany tells us that he was initially recovered by German forces as a prisoner of war. He survived as a prisoner until he succumbed at the POW camp at Germersheim (Palatinate). During 1918 in particular, the Palatinate POWs were also dying from malnutrition under the extreme circumstances experienced by the whole German population - fighting and civilian. One account mentions that the Black Market in Germany was also struggling with the lack of tradeable food. Frank's body was one of only 26 that were "concentrated" from Germersheim (Gemeinde), Grave 3720; his body was transported 300 kilometres northwards to his final resting place in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Niederzwehren, Kassel.

Frank's widow was able to add to her husband's headstone the inscription: "IN EVER LOVING MEMORY, SLEEP ON BELOVED AND TAKE THEY REST UNTIL THE DAY BREAKS".

Circumstances of the death of Frank Butler

If the newspaper reports guide us, Frank was taken prisoner at the opening of the German Spring Offensive. The War Diaries reveal that there was at least one M.G.C. team lost without being able to report back to H.Q. See map below and para 19 of the Report - Battalion H.Q. Strong point?

We pick up Frank's story with the Official Report on MGC during the opening two days of the German Spring Offensive on 21st/22nd March 1918 during which Frank was taken prisoner. This Report also sheds light on the death of Herbert David Gambell, M.M., who was assumed killed on 21st March. Both Frank (from 18th MGC that became "B" Company in the new formation) and Herbert (from the 16th MGC that became "A" Company in the new formation) found themselves fighting in the 6th M.G.C. having been transferred from other Machine Gun Companies.

The War Diary spells out the change:-

"1st March: FAVREUIL: On March 1st the four Machine Gun Companies in the 6th Division, namely 16th, 18th, 71st, 192nd Companies were amalgamated together to form No.6 Battalion Machine Gun Corps. Companies were renamed "A", "B", "C" & "D". "A" Company had 16 guns in the line, "B" and "D" 12 each, and "C" 8. For details of gun position see map. Battalion H.Q. at No.5 Camp, FAVREUL. Battalion H.Q., details of companies left behind and transport lines were situated at No.5 Camp, FAVREUIL. This camp was taken over in very bad condition.
The situation along the whole divisional front was very quiet. None of the guns fired during the day or night. Weather cold with a little snow. Casualties Nil.
6th Battalion M.G.C. Operation Order issued. [Appendix 3]"

The remainder of March was quiet (one O.R. injured) until the German Spring Offensive. The 6th Battalion Machine Gun Company Report on the events of 21st/22nd March suggest candidate teams from which Frank may have been captured - although the team in Paragraph 19 looks a strong candidate, south of Lagnicourt as the German forces broke over the Allied positions (with appalling casualties on both sides). We have transcribed the text below, highlighting the teams from "B" Company where mentioned specifically that had losses without further information. It is sobering that 60 guns from the original 64 were lost or destroyed.

in the fighting on March 21st & 22nd 1918

[Reference Map: Sheet 57c.]

1. At 2 a.m. on the morning of March 21st 1918 a message was received that the Germans were going to attack at dawn. This message was sent round to all guns by Orderlies.
The disposition of guns on the morning of March 21st was as follows:-
14 Guns in isolated positions away from trenches forming bands of fire across the front of the second line and especially in front of selected strong points. These were numbered from the right. Behind these, at distances ranging from 500 to 800 yards were 7 four-gun batteries numbered A, B, B2, C, D, E, F.
These batteries and the guns in front of them had two tasks – firstly, to put down a barrage in front of 'No Mans' Land' on the S.O.S. going up. Secondly, to engage the enemy by direct fire should he break through the front line.
Behind the batteries at distances varying from 500 to 700 yards were 5 pairs of guns in strong points known as-
Battalion Headquarters (2 guns) Brigade Headquarters (2 guns) Company Headquarters (4 guns) and Dunelm strong points (2 guns)(1 of these pairs belonged to the 25th Battalion M.G.C.) and one 4 gun battery known as 'J'.
Behind these again, about 800 yards back, were 8 more guns in pairs in the Corps Line, numbered S-Z.
This gives a total of 64 guns in the line distributed over a depth of about 2,000 yards.
Two guns were in reserve at the Left Brigade Headquarters at VAULX.
All four Companies were thus in the Line. The Companies were –
"A" Company (Late 16th) under Captain W.W. HAMMOND. On the Left.
"B" Company (Late 18th) under Captain J.W. FINDLAY. Strong points.
"C" Company (Late 71st) under Captain J.R. MOORE (M.C.) Right.
"D" Company (Late 192nd) under Captain R.A. LUMB. Centre.

2. At 4.50 a.m. the enemy opened a very heavy bombardment with a large proportion of gas shell. The bombardment lasted until about 8 a.m. when it slackened off. During all this time gas masks had to be worn. Within the first half hour all telephone wires to batteries and Companies were cut. All arrangements about S.O.S. were useless as no S.O.S. signals went up – in fact a quantity of ammunition was wasted by firing on S.O.S. lines when the enemy was not attacking.
At about 10 a.m. the enemy attacked.
The following account gives the history of each gun or battery starting from the right. Each line of guns is dealt with in turn. In a number of cases no account can be given as no survivors have returned and nothing is known about the guns.

3. No.1 Gun at J.3.a.1.4. under Corporal FORMAN "C" Company.
At about 6 a.m. fire was opened on S.O.S. Lines and was continued slowly using altogether 16 belts, which were refilled as soon as empty with the assistance of a party from 51st Division. At about 10.30 a.m. the enemy appeared in mass coming up the valley to the left front. Fifteen belts were fired at these at a range of about 800 yards. During this time 51st Division on the right retired and the enemy, though not coming on straight in front, were getting round the left flank. The gun was therefore withdrawn into the 2nd line – a short distance behind. The gun was got into action here and fired three belts at good targets. By this time the enemy were bombing down the trench towards the gun. All the belts were empty so Lt. Curtis ordered the gun to withdraw and take up a position in the Corps Line, which it did – near the Crucifix at MORCHIES.

4. No.2. Gun under L.C DRAKE at D.26.5.2. "C" Company.
L/Cpl DRAKE was hit at the beginning of the bombardment. The gun opened fire on its S.O.S. lines at 5.30 a.m. At about 10.20 a.m. the gun was blown up by a shell and the survivors of the team withdrew to 'J' Battery.

5. No.3 Gun at J.1.a.9.8. under L.C HOLMAN "C" Company.
The gun was destroyed by a shell at about 6.30 a.m. A fresh gun was fetched up from 'J' Battery. This gun fired slowly on S.O.S. lines until 10.15 a.m. when it was destroyed – just before the attack started. 3 of the team got back.

6. No.4 Gun at D.26.d.2.8. under Corporal SMITH "C" Company.
A few belts were fired on the S.O.S. line. This gun was under heavy M.G. fire, and all the team but one (Private HOULDEN) were hit in turn when they tried to fire the gun. Corporal SMITH, who was wounded in the head went back to Company Headquarters for orders leaving Private HOULDEN with the gun. He eventually got this gun away and took it back to 'J' Battery. No information can be obtained about what shooting this gun had before being withdrawn.

7. No.5 Gun at D.19.c.9.4 "D" Company & No.6 Gun at D.19.c.7.3. 'D' Company under Lieut LAND
No.8 Gun at C.18.c.5.8. "D" Company & No.9 Gun at C.18.c.5.8. 'D' Company under Lieut HOCKADAY.

No survivors have returned from any of the above four guns. And no news has been heard of them except that a gun was heard firing in the neighbourhood of SKIPTON RESERVE for a long time after the attack started.

8. No.10 Gun at C.17.d.0.7. 'A' Company.
Before the attack a second gun from "B" Company was sent up to this position. Both guns were heavily shelled. There are no survivors from one gun and nothing is known about it. The other gun fired 8 belts on S.O.S. lines. When the enemy advanced this gun had some very fine shooting at the enemy crossing the open. It fired 16 belts causing heavy casualties, until the gun was put out of action.
The two surviving men of the team joined another gun in rear.

9. No. 11 Gun at C.11.d.1.3.
No news is obtainable regarding this gun.

10. No.12 Gun at C.11.c.8.6.
This gun fired slowly on S.O.S. line. When the mist lifted the enemy was observed advancing along the road just north of the HIRONDELLE River in parties of from 30 to 50. Fire was brought to bear on the road, heavy casualties inflicted and the enemy's advance at that spot stopped. Soon afterwards, however, the enemy worked across the back of the gun position and the gun was withdrawn, and later reinforced guns in the rear.

11. No.13 Gun at C.11.b.1.3.
Nothing is known of this gun.

12. After passing the front screen of guns the enemy next came to the line of the 4 gun batteries, which were in isolated positions away from the trenches. Starting again from the right was:–
"A" Battery at D.25.d.4.7. under Lt. VAN SOMEREN "C" Company.
This battery had no casualties during the preliminary bombardment. It fired no S.O.S. At about 10.30 a.m. the enemy was seen advancing in rather thick formation getting through the wire at LEOPARD SUPPORT about 1500 yards away. All four guns fired on him and he retired. He again advanced, but went back again when fired on. This continued until about noon. During this time an aeroplane came down low and fired at the battery but caused no casualties. At about 2 p.m. one gun was knocked out. Corporal TIDDEMAN and Private PERKINS volunteered to go back to "J" Battery and get a new gun – with which they returned about 50 minutes later. Considering the heavy shelling which was taking place at the time, this was a very fine performance and great credit is due to the N.C.O. and man concerned.
At about 2 p.m. transport was seen on the LAGNICOURT SPUR and 3 belts fired at it. Owing to smoke etc. results could not be clearly seen. From about 2.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. the situation was quieter.
At 4 p.m. two guns were knocked out and Corporal TIDDEMAN wounded. Shortly after the enemy left LEOPOLD SUPPORT and advanced over the open in mass. The two remaining guns opened fire, doing great damage. He was driven back several times. During this firing an aeroplane again came over and fired at the Battery but caused no casualties. Another gun was then knocked out and Private PERKINS killed. At about 6.30 p.m. Lieutenant Van SOMEREN sent his runner, Private Painter, with a message to Company H.Q. asking for orders. On the way down TRAVEL trench Private PAINTER on rounding a traverse met the enemy advancing up it. He was fired on but got away and on his way back saw Colonel BOYLE to who he gave his message. Colonel BOYLE said that nothing could be done except fight it out and that they must hang on until 7.30 and then if possible get away. But before 7.30 the enemy were leaving the sunken road 100 yards in front of the gun. Lieut. Van SOMERNE determined to use up all his ammunition at them before leaving and having done so got out of the emplacement gave an order for the tripod to be smashed and the men to get back with the gun to the Corps Line. While giving this order he was hit. One gun and a few of the team got safely back to the Corps line. The coolness and entire disregard for danger displayed by Lieut. Van SOMEREN during the whole of this day are spoken of in the highest terms by the men who have returned from his Battery.

13. "D" Battery at D.25.a.6.2. "C" Company.
No one has returned from "D" Battery and there is now news of what happened to it. Just before the survivors of "A" Battery left they heard the noise of bombing which they thought was near "B" Battery.

14. "C" Battery at C.30.a.1.8. "D" Company under Lieutenant FERGUSEN.
One gun was knocked out in the first ten minutes of the bombardment. There was a great deal of gas in this area and though the guns were covered as well as possible with gas blankets it was thought advisable to keep them firing slowly; this they did on their S.O.S. Lines. At about 8 a.m. the situation was quieter so a volunteer was asked for to go for a stretcher to remove two wounded. Private SPEED at once volunteered. All through this day this man did splendid work and was of immense value. He removed wounded under heavy shell fire and obtained valuable information. At about 10.30 a.m. the enemy opened an intense creeping barrage. Thinking this was probably to cover the assault all three guns fired rapid on S.O.S. lines for a short time. As the barrage then ceased the guns stopped firing. A few minutes later a message was received from the Brigadier not to fire anymore on S.O.S. lines but to reserve ammunition for direct fire. At about midday some enemy suddenly appeared between the batteries and LAGNICOURT (about 100 yards). Expecting a rush all clamps were loosened and guns opened fire. At the same moment some of our own infantry appeared. The sight of these and our machine gun fire were too much for the enemy who bolted back into LAGNICOURT, but not before a number had been hit. One gun was then sent off to the Left under Sergeant MOORHOUSE, as there was some dead ground there. Almost at the same time the enemy was seen coming over the Ridge north of the VAULX-LAGNICOURT Road in hordes. One belt per gun was fired at these, but as it was very long range Lieut. Ferguson decided to reserve his ammunition for closer range, especially as the battery on the left seemed to be getting them at close range and doing enormous execution, though by sheer weight of numbers the enemy continued to advance and finally appeared to rush the battery. (This probably refers to No.10 gun and "E" Battery). After passing these the enemy worked round towards the left rear of "C" Battery. The infantry threw back a defensive flank on the line LAFNICOURT-MORCHIES and Lieut. FERGUSON was hit.

15. "D" Battery at C.23.c.7.9. "D" Company under Lieut. C.H. GORING
This battery had no casualties during the preliminary bombardment except two slightly gassed, who however, remained at duty. Fired about 2 belts per gun on S.O.S. lines. At about 10.30 a.m. the enemy appeared on the high ground by CORNHILL about 1500 yards range. 5 or 6 belts per gun were fired at these. At about 12 noon a few enemy appeared on the VAULX-LAGNICOURT Road. One gun was sufficient to account for these. A few minutes later the enemy appeared fairly thickly by DUNELM Avenue. At the same time two guns were knocked out by shell fire. Lieut. GORING in charge of the Battery then went back to Company Headquarters just behind to report loss of guns and to find out the situation.
He returned up a trench running close behind his battery about 10 minutes later and found the enemy closing in on both sides and only one gun firing. He tried to get this gun back into the trench but was unable to do so owing to the wire. Soon afterwards the enemy swept right over the battery position.

16. "E" Battery at C.17.c.4.0 under Lieut. H.C. EVES, M.C.
One gun was destroyed during the bombardment but no other casualties were caused. The other guns fired a bit on S.O.S. lines. At 10.30 the mist lifted and the enemy were observed on the Ridge in front. As the Battery was badly situated for direct fire Lieut EVES moved the guns forward into LAGNICOURT TRENCH. Soon after this the enemy advanced towards the battery in mass. Enormous execution was done by the guns which continued to fire until the enemy was within 40 yards. The enemy had, however, effected an entry into the trench further north and were working down the trench firing in the backs of the gun teams, and put one gun team out of action with bombs. The supply of bombs being exhausted it was impossible to remain in position any longer. A dash was therefore made across the open to DUNELM AVENUE but they were bombed out and the survivors made their way back to the Corps Line where they joined another section of guns.

17. "F2" Battery at C.17.a.0.4.
Eight belts were fired at the enemy advancing up the HIRONDELLE VALLEY – many good targets being obtained. Three guns were very soon knocked out by artillery and the Officer wounded. Soon afterwards the enemy began working round the left flank and the remaining gun was withdrawn to a position in the rear where it got some good targets. Later, as the enemy were working around the flank again this gun was withdrawn to the Corps Line. The enemy next came on to the line of strong points. On the right was "J" Battery. This battery was not actually in a strong point, but being in the same line did much the same work.

Machine Gun Map 5th May 1918

18. "J" Battery at J.1.a.6.7. "B" Company under Lieut. DODD.
At about 7.30 a.m. Lieut. DODD was wounded and Sergeant TUGBY took Command of the battery. At about 8 a.m. one gun was sent up to replace one knocked out in no. 3 position. At about 11.15 one gun from No.4 position came back with Lieut. CURTIS who assumed Command of the battery. At about midday hostile artillery was seen coming into action in 'No man's land'. Eight belts were fired at them but no observation was obtained. About 2 p.m. one gun was fetched by "A" Battery; another eventually came back. At about 4 p.m. a message was received that the infantry was going to try to hold on to the second line until dark and then withdraw. At 6 p.m. the enemy was seen advancing about 300 yards away. Fire was opened on them and they stopped but eventually came on again. During this time the infantry were retiring past the battery covered by its fire and eventually the battery was left entirely unsupported. By then the enemy had got up to the wire 100 yards in front of the battery position. It was therefore decided to retire. First, 3 guns went back to the Corps line covered by one which remained in position. This gun then retired covered by a few men with rifles. Up to this point the battery had 6 casualties. All four guns got safely back to the Corps line and were mounted again by 7 p.m.

19. Battalion Headquarters Strong Point at C.30.a.5.8. "B" Company.
None of the teams of these guns returned and nothing is known of what happened to them.

20. Brigade Headquarters Strong Point at C.29.a.5.2. under Lieut. REDGRAVE "B" Company.
At about 10 a.m. the enemy appeared on the high ground north of the VAULX-LAGNICOURT Road 14 or 15 belts were fired at them. At 10.30 a.m. Transport was seen bringing troops up to 'No man's land'. This was engaged. About 12.30 p.m. 15 belts were fired at parties of the enemy entering LAGNICOURT. At 1.30 p.m. Lieut. REDGRAVE took one gun more to the right to cover the right hand valley. Corporal BURTON was left in charge of the other gun. At 1.45 p.m. the right hand gun was forced to retire and about 15 minutes later the enemy bombed up to the sunken road.
This necessitated the withdrawal of the left gun. The spare numbers with rifles covered the withdrawal of this gun which reached the Corps Line safely. But soon after arriving there it was destroyed by shell fire. The right hand gun with Lieut REDGRAVE does not appear to have reached the Corps Line. Lieut. REDGRAVE himself is missing.

21. Company Headquarters Strong Point at C.22.d. "B" Company under Lieut. NEWBERY.
At about 11 a.m. fire was opened on the enemy coming over the Ridge south of LAGNICOURT. Three times he was driven back but got over the fourth time. He must have suffered heavily during his three unsuccessful attempts. About noon he attempted to come out of LAGNICOURT down the cutting of the Light Railway. One gun could fire straight down this cutting. The gun remained silent until the whole cutting was packed with the enemy and fire was then opened with the result that practically the whole were wiped out. But in spite of the fate of the first party the enemy continued to make use of the cutting with the result that equally good targets were obtained several times more during the next hour. His casualties at this spot alone must have been enormous. At about 12.45 p.m. the enemy came over the Ridge south east of LAGNICOURT in mass and both buns got well into him. By this time all the left gun team had been knocked out and Captain LUMB fired the gun with Sergeant RICHARDSON as his No.2. At 1.30 .m. the enemy appeared in mass on the crest 50 yards in front of the guns. Each gun fired 6 belts into him. The enemy was then bombing up the sunken Road on each side and Captain LUMB gave the order for the guns to get back to the Corps line. But it was found impossible to get the guns away. The teams made a dash for it. Lieut. NEWBERY was hit before going 5 yards – the remainder got safely back to the Corps Line.

22. DUNELM Strong Points at C.22.d.2.2. "B" Company.
About 10.45 a.m. the enemy was seen advancing along the Ridge towards the guns. Four belts were fired at them and no more came on. At 12.30 p.m. the enemy got into the sunken road and the guns withdrew a short distance and took up a new position. From here they got some shooting at parties of the enemy coming along the LAGNICOURT-VAULX Road firing altogether 5 belts at them. The guns held on here until about 1.45 p.m. when they were again forced to retire to the Corps Line where they took up a position on the South side of the Road. Just before retiring one gun was temporarily put out of action owing to the barrel bulging through lack of water. Three men were wounded during the retirement. By this time all guns which had survived were in the Corps Lien. On the Right in front of MORCHIES were the four guns from "J" Battery. These fired at intervals during the night at the enemy coming up to the wire. Next morning 22nd the enemy bombarded heavily at 4.30 a.m. and again from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. From 9 a.m. from 12 noon he made several attempts to enter the MORCHIES COPSE but was prevented from doing so by these guns which had some good targets. At about 4 p.m. the enemy had succeeded in getting round the left of MORCHIES and Lieut. CURTIS sent two guns about 500 yards to the left as the enemy were bombing up the trench. The team of one gun was knocked out at once; the other gun got ten minutes rapid fire at good targets and was then knocked out. One of the Right guns was destroyed by shell fire the other went on firing until it had no ammunition left. The enemy were then bombing down a trench on each side of it so Lieut. CURTIS gave the order to retire. In doing so the team was knocked out and gun lost.

23. S & T Guns at I.5.b.5.8. "D" Company.
One gun was destroyed during the first hour of the bombardment. During the afternoon the enemy appeared singly on the Ridge on the Left. The team sniped them with rifles. At about 3 p.m. the enemy appeared in the left rear of the gun which withdrew to some fallen trees behind MORCHIES Crucifix from which position it got some good shooting at parties of 20's and 30's at 700 yards range firing 3 belts. Our Infantry then counter attacked on our Left and the gun was put back in the Corps Line about 6 p.m. when it was joined by another gun from "B" Company. The night passed quietly. The following morning – 22nd was very foggy. From 6 a.m. onwards both guns fired slowly traversing along the wire as the enemy was heard digging in close in front. At about 10 a.m. the mist cleared away and nearly 100 Germans were seen dead on or just in front of the 2nd row of wire. During the day the team got some sniping at single Germans. In the evening 20 Germans advanced up the valley towards the guns. One gun waited until these got within close range and then wiped them all out. The other gun was in the meantime firing more to the right. About a quarter of an hour later the enemy got into the trench on the Left and started bombing down and at the same time one gun was knocked out The enemy was now quite close and Captain LUMB who had arrived and taken charge hurled a bomb into the middle of the enemy and ordered the teams to get back to the sunken road behind. While retiring both Captain LUMB and Sergeant SMITH were wounded in the shoulder.

24. U & V Guns at I.4.b.1.8. under Lieut CHECKLEY.
One man was hit during the bombardment. About midday the enemy were seen advancing towards LAGNICOURT but range was considered too great for effective fire, so fire was withheld till he reached the high ground by the Company Headquarters Strong Point. Both guns then opened fire doing a lot of damage and stopping the advance. Later the guns were spotted by a hostile Machine Gun which opened fire on them. But both guns replied and the hostile Machine Gun fired no more. Soon afterwards a Field Gun Battery just behind received orders to retire. Its retirement was covered by these two guns.

25. W, X, Y & Z Guns, at C.27.b.2.6. and C.20.d.5.6 under 2/Lieut ROBERTSON.
The enemy was first observed at about 2 p.m. on the Ridge between the guns and NOREUIL. Fire was brought to bear on them by the two Left guns and good results obtained. The enemy was next observed coming up the valley from LAGNICOURT and offered a splendid target. This advance was entirely checked and heavy casualties caused. The night passed uneventfully. At 10 a.m. next morning the enemy obtained a footing in the trench on the right and the guns were mounted on the parados and assisted in repeatedly repelling the enemy. At about 2.30 p.m. the Infantry decided to evacuate a trench and their retirement was covered by the guns. The guns then retired to the sunken road at VAULX. One of these was hit and destroyed by a shell. Further orders were then received to retire back to the Army Line. Guns took up positions there and remained until relieved by the 41st Machine Gun Battalion at 2.30 a.m. on the 23rd. The two guns in reserve under Lieut. COX did nothing on the first day. Lieut. COX was wounded and Sergeant DAY took charge of the Gun. The guns were mounted above the Brigade Headquarters at VAULX.
About 10 a.m. on the 23rd some 6 horse teams (probably guns) were seen on the Ridge north of LAGNICOURT. Five belts were fired at these with apparently good results. Between 11 a.m. and 12 noon Infantry were seen coming over the same Ridge. About 8 belts were fired at them. About 12 noon the guns were moved further to the Right. About 2.30 p.m. a Captain of the Leicestershire Regiment ordered the guns to fire into VAULX WOOD as the enemy were in it. He observed for the guns and said they had driven the enemy out of the wood. At 3.30 p.m. some mounted troops were seen on the high ground north of LAGNICOURT and seven belts were fired at them. The Officer of the Leicestershire Regiment observed and said the results were good. At 4 p.m. orders were received to retire. The retirement of the Infantry was covered by one gun under Sergeant DAY who displayed great gallantry moving his gun about from place to place wherever the enemy were attacking most heavily. On one occasion he took a gun out in front of the Infantry and by so doing allowed the infantry to get safely away. It was afterwards discovered that his thumb was blown off and that he was firing the gun without it. He finally fainted for loss of blood. The other gun was retiring into VAULX when Corporal HURRELL in charge of it saw 1 officer and about 20 men coming down the sunken road towards Brigade Headquarters. The gun was mounted in the road and opened fire on this party at 200 yards range and wiped out the whole lot. As the Infantry had the all retired and all ammunition had been used up the guns retired back to the Army Line where they remained until relieved at about 7 p.m. At 6 p.m. on the 21st 12 new guns were indented for. These arrived at 11.30 p.m. and after being prepared and belts filled, four were sent up to the Army Line and 8 on the line FREMICOURT-BEUNATRY-MORY. These guns were taken over by the 41st Machine Gun Battalion on the evening of the 22nd up to which time they had had no shooting. The casualties of the Battalion during the two day's fighting were as follows:-

  Officers Other Ranks

60 guns out of 64 in the Line were lost or destroyed."

Frank Butler was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals. [See Appendix 1]

Family of William Frank Butler

The family tree for William Butler of Newnham

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