William James Grimwood
Service Number: 8168
Date of Birth: 1885
Regiment: 1st Bedfordshire Regiment
Date of Death: 13 October 1914
Age at death: 29
Cemetery / Memorial: Le Touret Memorial
Grave / Reference: Panel 10.F.
Relatives: Son of Harry and Mrs Mary Mann.
Address: 35 Angel Street, Hadleigh.
ONE OF THE FIRST TO FALL - Private William Grimwood's battalion, the 1st Bedfordshire Regiment were part of the 15th Brigade, 5th Division, II Corps. They immediately deployed to France with the British Expeditionary Force on the outbreak of war and took part in all the initial engagements.
Going by his regimental number 8168, Pte William Grimwood joined the Bedford regiment in early 1905 (Number 8193 was issued on 27 Jan 1905). The 1st battalion left India in 1907 arriving in England, via Aden, the following year. In 1911 they and William were at Aldershot and in 1913 they were posted to Mullingar in Ireland. At the out break of war they sailed from Belfast to La Havre landing in France on the 14 August 1914. They were part of 15th Brigade in the 5th Division. They fought at Le Cateau, on the Marne and Aisne and were involved in the 1st Battle of Ypres. On the 12th Oct 1914 they had arrived in the La Bassee area and were about to take part in the battle of that name. They occupied the village of Givency against light opposition. However, the next day the Germans strongly countered attacked and after heavy fighting the Bedfords were forced to retire to just outside the village. Their losses were 7 officers and 140 men. The 1st Devons who had recently joined the 5th Division fought on their right flank throughout the battle.
Deploying with the BEF in August 1914 would make William entitled to the 1914 Star, sometimes known as the ‘Mons’ Star. This was proudly worn by the survivors of the BEF who also dubbed themselves the ‘Old Contemptibles’ a name that they were supposedly first called by the Kaiser who labelled the stubborn force that stood in his way as that “contemptible little Army”.
The British Expeditionary Force in French Flanders, 1914 - 1915
In October 1914, II Corps of the British Expeditionary Force moved north from Picardy and took up positions in French Flanders where they were immediately engaged in the series of attacks and counter attacks that would become known as the ‘race to the sea’. Over the course of the next year most of the British activity in this sector focused on attempting to dislodge the German forces from their advantageous position on the Aubers Ridge and capture the city of Lille, a major industrial and transport centre which the Germans had occupied early in the war. The ridge is a slight incline in an otherwise extremely flat landscape from which the Germans were able to observe and bombard the British lines. Following the British capture of the village of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915, the Germans greatly strengthened their defences along the ridge, reinforcing their positions with thick barbed wire entanglements, concrete blockhouses and machine gun emplacements. These extra defences frustrated British attempts to break through enemy lines and led to very heavy casualties at the battles of Aubers Ridge and Festubert in May 1915.
The Le Touret Memorial
The 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). Soldiers serving with Indian and Canadian units who were killed in this sector in 1914 and ’15 whose remains were never identified are commemorated on the Neuve Chapelle and Vimy memorials, while those who fell during the northern pincer attack at the Battle of Aubers Ridge are commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.
Le Touret Military Cemetery
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.