The Freeman Family and The Somme

The Freeman Family and The Somme

William, Charles and James Freeman were serving with the 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, when the Battle on the Somme commenced on the 1st of July 1916.  The Battalion were held in support of the King’s Liverpool Regiment. They advanced towards Maricourt and assisted in the capture of 300 German Prisoners. The next day they consolidated German trenches at Maricourt and helped repel 4 German counter attacks. 

At 1.30am, on the 11th of July 1916, in front of Trones Wood, the Battalion formed up in lines, five paces apart with 150 yards between platoons.  At 3.27am they advanced into the woods. German machine guns and artillery opened fire on them. Visibility was very poor through the undergrowth. They slowly advanced through the wood using bomb and bayonet, the wood was taken. The battalion successfully repelled 2 counter attacks before being forced back to the southern part of the woods.

During this battle, Lance Corporal 19196 William Freeman was sadly killed, and he is remembered with honour on the Thiepval Memorial as well as the memorial in Ampthill Park. He was amongst 244 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment who were either killed or missing after the taking of Trones Wood. The following soldiers, who trained at the Ampthill Training Depot, also lost their lives:

  • Lance Corporal 18774 Sidney Sargent, from Turvey, Beds.
  • Pte 17976 Sydney Gurney, from Tingrith, Nr Woburn, Beds.
  • Pte 19020 Robert Jones, from Dane Street, Bedford.
  • Pte 18908 Percy William Sanders, from Queens Park, Bedford.
  • Pte 18616 Sidney James Sinfield, from Stagsden, Beds.
  • Pte 22135 Percy Pope, from Sapwell Lane, St Albans, Herts.
  • Pte 18012 Arthur William Bland, from St Albans, Herts.
  • Pte 18589 J Belsham, from Huntingdon.
  • Pte 19050 Frederick William Brown, from Langford, Beds.
  • Pte Walter Deamer, from Redbourne, Herts.
  • Pte 18183 Arthur William Dellar from Biggleswade, Beds.
  • Pte 18908 Percy William Sanders, from Queens Park, Bedford.
  • Pte 18720 Thomas Worboy, from Gt Wymondley, Beds.
  • Lance Corporal 18693 TP Lloyd, from Watford, died from wounds received during the battle.  
Image for The Freeman Family and The Somme William Freeman's entry in the Wounded Returns. (The Bedford Estates Archive)

Captain Frank Sloan MC, one of the training staff at the Ampthill Training Depot, was also posted to the 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment.  He was present at the battle for Trones Wood and later wrote to the Duke of Bedford describing aspects of the battle.

‘We had a terrific struggle in the Bois de Trones. I saw no mention of it in the papers. One reads glowing accounts of the 7th Royal West Kents in the wood. Our battalion reached the north end of the wood three days before at a time when there wasn’t a British position or a British soldier in the wood. 1100yds long our battalion attacked the wood alone on the morning of the 10th in four waves and we held it until we were relieved 48 hours after. We suffered heavily, 376 men and 5 officers. We were the first to get to a 9.2 howitzer gun in the north of the wood and the name of the regiment is carved on it, we may get it for the town.”

 

Pippa Gardner

Woburn Abbey Marketing Executive