First World War Project
Albert Henry LUCKHURST (of Oare)
Private, Service Number 75897
General labourer, John Luckhurst and Laura (née Attaway) raised two children, Florence and Albert in 24 Upper Brents, Faversham, before appearing in 1911 as a labourer living at "The Marsh Powder Works, Luddenham". For a period, Albert's mother found herself in the Faversham Union Workhouse with her brother, three sisters and her mother, Emma. The Powder Works in the marshlands between Luddenham and Faversham was a major employer in the district and the workers were drawn quite widely from nearby towns, villages and hamlets. Before enlisting, Albert had also worked there.
Albert's parents and grandparents raised their families mostly in the area of Boughton-under-Blean and Upper Brents, Preston near Faversham. The proximity of Oare to the Powder Works found in the marshlands, explains how Albert came to be remembered in Oare. So far as we can tell, there is no close family tie with Edward George Luckhurst, casualty from Teynham.
In the absence of military records to describe Albert, we benefit from a newspaper roll of honour item. At the time of Albert's death, his widowed father was living at 64, Upper Brents, Preston, Faversham, Kent.
|Faversham and North East Kent News of 20th September 1919|
|"ROLL OF HONOUR. PRIVATE A H LUCKHURST, ROYAL FUSILIERS. Private Albert Henry Luckhurst, 2/2 London Royal Fusiliers (only son of Mr John Luckhurst, of the Marsh Gunpowder Works), who was reported missing on 8th August 1918, is now assumed to have died on or about that date, no tiding having since been received of him. An official intimation to this effect has been received by his father. At the time he was reported missing it was learned unofficially, through comrades, that he was seriously wounded and taken prisoner, and that he was taken to a village which at the time was being shelled by the Allied forces. Private Luckhurst, who had been employed at the Powder Works from the time he left school, joined up in February, 1917, when he was not quite 18 years of age. He was drafted to France in March, 1918, so that he had been at the front only about five months when he was taken prisoner."|
Albert was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals. His effects included £13 17s 8d and a War Gratuity of £8 that went to his father, John, who was by that time a widower. [See Appendix 2]
Thomas was posted overseas into 2/2nd Battalion London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), two years after the Battalion had returned from India to land in Marseilles in March 1916.
Following the introduction of conscription (1st September 1916), the system of training and posting to County Regiments was replaced by centralised "Training Reserve" (T.R.) units from which soldiers would be allocated to a Regiment in greatest need rather than by County allegiance. After May 1917, further changes were made in handling recruitment and training re-established in some measure a local geographic alignment. So, between these two dates, there was quite likely to be a dislocation between the place of recruitment and the final Regimental posting.
Thomas enlisted in February 1917, "Formerly Tr/10/2841, 21st T.R." The 21st Training Reserve was based around Shoreham, Sussex, as part of the new 5th Reserve Brigade. The 5th Reserve Brigade absorbed the recruit training reserves of: 11th (Reserve) Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment; 16th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers; 10th (Reserve), the Royal Sussex Regiment; 14th (Reserve) Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment; 9th Queen's (Royal West Surrey), 9th Queen's Own (Royal West Kent) and 15th Middlesex Regiment.
We know that Albert was posted a year later in March 1918, only to be killed five months later on 8th August. So, we pick up War Diary entries from March. This was the month that saw the opening of the German Spring Offensive (21st March) when the Allies needed every able-bodied man to help absorb the impact of the storm unleashed on their heads. Having survived the onslaught, through to the stage of holding the German forces at bay, Albert lost his life on the first day of the 100-day Offensive that finally led to the conclusion of the War.
With Albert arriving in France during March, it is likely he either experienced the catastrophic opening of the German Spring Offensive or was one of the many who were hurried out to make up the massive losses experienced by this Battalion by just 10.15 a.m. on 21st March 1918 – a baptism of fire if ever there was one. Perhaps Albert was spared this initial numbing loss, in which case he was probably in the large draft of men who arrived between 26th and 28th March. The Battalion War Diary reveals what Albert had to adapt to so quickly:-
"15th/16th March: Night March: FORWARD ZONE opposite LA FÈRE: Relieved 3rd LONDON REGIMENT in FORWARD ZONE. Company localities as in tour of February 22nd to March 5th: RIGHT Battalion, LEFT Brigade in DIVISIONAL Front of 3 Brigades.
15th/16th to 21st March: NORTHERN Battalion Boundary, TRAVECY; SOUTHERN Battalion Boundary OISE CANAL.
Battalion Trench Strength: 22 Officers, 585 Other Ranks.
21st March: FORWARD ZONE Opposite LA FÈRE. First day of German Spring Offensive 1918, whose left flank broke the junction of the 173rd and the 175th Brigades.
3.40 a.m.: Situation reported quiet, with a ground mist.
6.30 a.m.: All KEEPS reported heavily shelled. All communications cut. TRAVECY reported gassed. No gas on Battalion Head-Quarters.
7.30 a.m.: BRICKSTACK LOCALITY reported captured, and enemy in C.T. between "B" Company and B.H.Q. in MAIN KEEP. Patrols pushed out to left flank.
8.0 a.m.: MAIN KEEP holding out. No further news of "A" Company in TRAVENCY. Mist reduced visibility to 10 yards.
9.30 a.m.: Enemy holding old B.H.Q in QUARRY in rear of battle H.Q. in MAIN KEEP. JAPY and BRICKSTACK LOCALITIES. Enemy appeared lost in small parties. Battalion casualties very heavy.
10.0 a.m.: Captain J.R. HOUGHTON and part of "C" Company and B.H.Q. Company ordered to defend right flank in rear of JAPY LOCALITY.
10.15 a.m.: Captain G.C. Seers (Adjutant) and 40 O.R. constituted the remnants of battalion. C.S.M. H.M.BOAG and these men withdrew to defend BATTLE ZONE on line of CROZAT CANAL in conjunction with 2/4th Battalion London Regiment. All communications had already been cut in this Zone (copies of messages attached).
22nd March: 3 a.m. to 10 a.m.: TERGNIER & BUTTES-DE-ROUY: Ordered to withdraw to TERGNIER [1 mile West of CANAL. Slept here till 6.0 am and at 6.30 a.m. took up a defensive position on the heights of the BUTTES-DE-ROUY.
10.0 a.m.: VIRY-NOUREUIL & OGNES: Withdrew to VIRY-NOUREUIL, whence they proceeded with Brigade School to OGNES [ ¾ mile West of CHAUNY], and billeted there the night.
23rd March: CHAUNY: Proceeded from OGNES to report to MAJOR GROVER in CHAUNY, where they occupied a line East of the town. In touch on both flanks with GENERAL CAREY's Force, CAVALRY and ENGINEERS.
24th March: CHAUNY: Enemy launched fresh attacks from the North-East, preceded by heavy M.G. barrage from 6 a.m. onwards. Light M.G.'s assisted advance of infantry by taking up positions in front of them, and covering their advance. Attack beaten off.
Noon: ABBECOURT, QUIERZY, BESMÉ: Ordered to withdraw to ABBÉCOURT [2½ miles S.W. of CHAUNY and N. of the OISE.
25th March: Defence of bridge-head at QUIERZY.
26th March: Marched to Besmé [6 miles S.S.W. of CHAUNY] to billets.
26th to 28th March: BESMÉ: FUSILIER BATTALION formed.
H.Q. personnel:- C.O. LT. COL. W.R.H. DANN, D.S.O. [2/4th Battalion, LONDON REGIMENT]
Second in Command: MAJOR J.A. MILLER, D.S.O. [2/2nd Battalion, LONDON REGIMENT]
Adjutant: LIEUT. F.W. WALKER, D.S.O. [2/4th Battalion, LONDON REGIMENT]
Assistant Adjutant: CAPT. G.C. SEERS, M.C. [2/2nd Battalion, LONDON REGIMENT]
Quarter-Master: CAPT. CRAGG. [2/4th Battalion, LONDON REGIMENT]
Draft of 114 O.R. reinforced the battalion.
Night of 28th to 31st March: FUSILIER BATTALION relieved 18th ENTRENCHING BATTALION in positions EAST of MANICAMP SECTOR [1½ miles S. of ABBÉCOURT, and S. of OISE.]
Estimated casualties from March 20th noon till March 28th noon:- 21 Officers and 650 O.R.
On 2nd April, the Fusilier Battalion was relieved by the 246th French Infantry Regiment and removed from the Sector.
In April, the Fusiliers route-marched to BLÉRANCOURT, AMBLÉNY (6 miles West of SOISSONS), ANDIGNICOURT (billeted in caves), DOMMIERS, LONGPORT and finally entrained for LONGEAU [3 miles East of AMIENS].
There followed a period of defensive counter-attacks against German attacks around a copse N. of GENTELLES WOOD.
Drafts replenished their numbers (10th April) to Trench Strength: 20 Officers, 734 O.R.
At the close of April, the Battalion embussed to NEUILLY-L'HOPITAL for training and reinforcements.
Between 22nd and 29th May, the Battalion was back in the Front Line, relieving 12th Battalion LONDON REGIMENT opposite ALBERT. They then went into Reserve in June before themselves being relieved and able to enter bivouacs in woodland WEST of WARLOY. Then, from MIRVAUX and FERRIERES they embussed for MOLLIENS AU BOIS there to take over from 6th Battalion London Regiment at LAVIEVILLE, ALBERT SECTOR to 6th July.
Albert's Battalion were "in Line" between 9th and 18th July, suffering light casualties of 3 men; no prisoners taken. Relieved by the 6th Battalion, London Regiment, Albert and his comrades moved to ROUND WOOD (1 mile East of BEHENCOURT).
Circumstances of the death of Albert Henry Luckhurst
The War Diary for July/August 1918 shows a glimpse into the immediate days leading up to the part played by Albert and his comrades.
We again pick up the War Diary entries to begin the story of the Allied 100-day offensive, the launch of which cost Albert his life:-
21st July: ROUND WOOD: Relieved 8th Battalion, London Regiment, in support to Right Brigade.
22nd July: Relieved by 6th Battalion, London Regiment and on completion of relief proceeded to ST. LAWRENCE VALLEY.
27th/28th July: ST.LAWRENCE VALLEY: Relieved 31st Battalion, Australian Infantry Force in left sector Right Brigade with Battalion H.Q. in BUIRE SUR ANCRE.
Trench Strength: Officers 22, Other Ranks 505.
1st August: VILLE-SUR L'ANCRE & BUIRE-SUR L'ANCRE: Battalion holding line in ALBERT sector, astride the river ANCRE, opposite DERNANCOURT, in trench systems east of BUIRE- SUR L'ANCRE, and around VILLE-SUR L'ANCRE. Headquarters in BUIRE-SUR-L'ANCRE. LEFT sub-sector of RIGHT Brigade, in RIGHT Divisional sector of the Corps Front.
Strength of Battalion in line: Officers 20, O.R. 627.
2nd August: VILLE-SUR L'ANCRE: GERMAN evacuation of sector south of ALBERT reported. Battalion advanced beyond original GERMAN line extending from DERNANCOURT southward to MORLANCOURT. Headquarters advanced to VILLE-SUR-L'ANCRE.
3rd August: Battalion relieved by 9th ESSEX REGIMENT (12th Division) and withdrew from line, embussed and proceeded to ST.LEGER-LES-DOMART.
4th August: ST.LEGER-LES-DOMART: Battalion ordered forward, and proceeded by bus to LAHOUSSOYE.
5th August: LAHOUSSOYE: Battalion bivouaced in BOIS ESCARDONNEUSE.
6th August: SAILLY-LE-SEC: Battalion assembled in a valley running north of SAILLY-LE-SEC, as Brigade Reserve.
7th/8th Night: Battalion moved forward and reinforced remnants of 3rd an 2/4th Battalions in positions along the eastern edge of MALARD WOOD.
8th August: CHIPILLY RIDGE: 7.30 p.m.: Battalion advanced and attacked enemy positions on the RIDGE of MALARD WOOD. Attack unsuccessful and battalion withdrew.
[Note: the newspaper "Roll of Honour" piece - 20th September 1919 - speculated from reports that Albert was injured and captured before dying under fire of our own forces. This places Albert on CHIPILLY RIDGE or nearby]
9th August: 5.45 p.m.: Battalion again attacked and reached all objectives, driving enemy from positions in LES CELESTINS WOOD, and capturing CHIPILLY RIDGE, north of CHIPILLY.
10th August: Battalion held captured positions until relieved.
Casualties: Officer 12, O.R. 272.
11th August: Battalion relieved by 18th LONDON REGIMENT (47th Division), and withdrew to Reserve position in COPSE in valley one-mile south of HEILLY.
The Vis en Artois Memorial is dedicated to more than 9,000 men killed from 8th August 1918, the day Albert was killed, through to the Armistice. On the day Albert died, the Memorial records: 215 deaths; 39 described as "Royal Fusiliers" (dominated by the 9th Battalion); 29 described as "London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)"; and 17 were described as "2/2nd Battalion". Albert Luckhurst is recorded by the CWGC as "Royal Fusiliers, attached to 2/2nd Battalion".
Albert Henry Luckhurst was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals. [See Appendix 1]