THE FALLEN OF SWALCLIFFE

FIRST WORLD WAR

LIEUTENANT KENNETH BUIST 

He was the son of Colonel Frederick Braid Buist, retired of the Army Service Corps and Marion Buist of Swalcliffe Lea, having been born in Blackheath, Kent in October 1894. He was educated at Cheltenham College and then attended the Royal Army College at Sandhurst. He was gazetted as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Highlanders, The Black Watch, in September 1913. He was posted they to India to join the 2nd Battalion, The Black Watch. The Battalion was transferred to France on 15th October 1914. He was transferred to the 1st Battalion, The Black Watch and promoted Lieutenant in December 1914 and joined B Company.

At 0845 on 25th January the Battalion were ordered to proceed to the village of Cuinchy, north of Arras, to help fight off a German attack. Lieutenant Buist was leading the most forward platoon of his company to recover some trenches from the Germans.  He had passed the trench when he was hit by a burst of machine gun fire from a railway embankment and killed instantly.  The following account came from an officer of the Cameroon Highlanders who was sheltering in a shell damaged trench:

“About noon  Lieutenant Buist came struggling along the trench in which I was, followed by 28 of his men. His platoon took some time to come up. Owing to the state of the trench, and I had five or six minutes conversation with him. We discussed the position, and the way things were going, and he told me he was going to charge with his men from our trench to the line held by the enemy (about 120 yards) as soon as his men were ready. He said that his platoon would draw the fire from the Germans while his Battalion, which was temporarily checked on the right, rushed the trenches. The rifle fire was very hot at the time, and it looked like certain death for anyone to attempt that charge; but Lieutenant Buist, though recognising the danger, did not hesitate, he shook hands with me and scrambled out of the trench followed by his men. From all along the line the enemy seemed to bring their fire on that Black Watch platoon as it rushed over the muddy ground. I saw Lieutenant Buist  fall, and not one of his men got as far as he did owing to the terrible fire that was brought to bear on them.”

Lieutenant Kenneth Buist was aged 20 and is buried in Cuinchy Communal Cemetery.

PRIVATE PERCY GEORGE 

He was born in Swalcliffe in 1892, the son of Ellen George, a single woman. She married David Freshwater in Ewelme in 1895 and moved to Twickenham, leaving her son in the care of his grandparents, Thomas and Sarah George of Park Lane. Percy moved  to Chingford Essex, where he lived with his uncle and worked as a railway clerk.

He enlisted into the Honourable Artillery Company in February 1916 and was sent to France with the 1st/1st Infantry Battalion on 3rd October 1916. They saw action as part of the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division at the Battle of the Ancre in November 1916, a phase of the Somme Offensive. They remained in the Ancre area and in January 1917 he was wounded in action and invalided home to England. On 15th September 1918 he returned to the Western Front and served in GHQ Division until Armistice. He was taken ill and developed pneumonia, dying in a General Hospital in Étaples on 17th November 1918. He was aged 27 and is buried in Étaples Military Cemetery.

PRIVATE CHARLES EDWARD LINES

He was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Lines having been born in Sibford Gower in January 1889 before moving to The Green, Swalcliffe, where he worked as a farm labourer for Mr Taylor at Grange Farm.

He joined the 4th Territorial Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry  in Banbury in October 1906.  However he brought himself out on the payment of £2 in May 1907. He then re-joined the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry as a full time soldier in Oxford in October 1910.

He  joined the 1st Battalion in Mesopotamia on 24th February 1915. Under command of 17th Indian Brigade of 6th (Poona) Division The battalion took part in the march towards Kut-al-Amara with the intention of capturing it from the Ottomans. The battle for Kut began on 26 September and raged for a number of days until the Ottomans went into retreat and Kut was captured on 28th September 1915. The battalion then took part in the Battle of Ctesiphon in the effort to capture the capital, Baghdad, which ended in the 6th Poona Division being defeated by the Ottoman forces. 635 officers and men of the battalion fought in the battle of Ctesiphon and 304 became casualties. The Division subsequently retreated to Kut, reaching it on 3rd December 1915, where it was besieged by the Ottomans, beginning on 7th December, with a garrison of 10,000 Britons and Indians. The Ottomans launched numerous attempts to take Kut, all of which were repulsed by the defenders, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. The British tried desperately to relieve Kut, but failed, suffering heavy losses. By 26th April 1916 supplies had dwindled significantly and many of the garrison's defenders were suffering from sickness. The garrison negotiated a cease-fire, allowing the sick and wounded to be transferred to the relieving forces and on 29th April the British-Indian force of 8,000 surrendered to the Turks. Only 71 of all ranks of the 1st Ox and Bucks who had been taken prisoner returned home.

Private Lines died, probably from disease as a prisoner of the Turks on 26th July 1916. He was aged 27 and is buried in Basra War Cemetery.

LANCE CORPORAL ALBERT WILLIAM SCRIMSHAW

He was the son of John and Hannah Scrimshaw of Eastwell, Melton Mowbray. He went into domestic service working as a butler at Malwood Minstead in the New Forest. He married Annie Wass in Belper, Derbyshire in November 1913. He was living in Swacliffe with his wife when he enlisted into the 4th Reserve Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in late 1914. He was transferred to the 1st/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion and landed in France with them on 15th May 1915,  as part of 145th Brigade in 48th (South Midland) Division. On 1st July 1916 they saw action in the Battle of Albert, the opening phase of the Somme Offensive. They went on to fight at Bazentin Ridge, Pozires Ridge and Ancre in that campaign. In 1917 they occupied Peronne as the Germans made their strategic retreat to the Hindenburg Line. In August 1917 they fought in the Battle of Langemarck, part of the Third Battle of Ypres. On 29th September 1917 during the Battle of Polygon Wood, another phase of the Third Battle of Ypres, he was shot in the head and died of his wounds on 1st October 1917 in a Casualty Clearing Station in Mendinghem. He was aged 32 and is buried in Memdingham Military Cemetery.


GUARDSMAN PERCY REGINALD STRATFORD

He was born in June 1897, the son of George and Mary Ann Stratford of Swalcliffe, and had worked as a farm labourer.

He enlisted into the Grenadier Guards in Banbury in October 1916 and joined the 2nd Battalion in France after training. They had faced the German Spring Offensive from March 21st 1918, when the German Army, buoyed with men released from the Eastern Front, attacked across the old Somme battlefields in an attempt to win the war before the arrival of the Americans. The 2nd Battalion, The Grenadier Guards moved up to the town Boiry St Martin, 7 miles south of Arras on 23rd March 1918. They held the line here coming under heavy artillery fire and constant assaults on their positions, until relieved on 30th March. Guardsman Stratford  was wounded in action during this time and evacuated to the 4th General Hospital in Etaples. He died of his wounds on 3rd April 1918. He was aged 20 and is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.

 

SECOND WORLD WAR

LANCE CORPORAL LESLIE JOHN BARBER  

He was born in 1916,  the son of Archie John and Ada Agnes Barber of Park Lane,  Swalcliffe. He enlisted into the Gloucestershire Regiment at the outbreak of war and was posted to the 1st Battalion based in Rangoon, Burma. In March 1942, the 1st Battalion provided the rearguard for the British retreat from Rangoon during the Japanese conquest of Burma. It saw its first significant action of the war on 7th and 8th March at the Taukkyan Roadblock, and for the rest of the month operated independently to cover the retreat, fighting battles at Letpadan on 17th March and Paungde on 27 March 1942. Lance Corporal Barber was reported missing after this action and later reported as being killed in action on 3rd April 1942. He was aged 25 and is commemorated on the Rangoon Memorial, having no known grave.