The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British and French empires against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the River Somme in France. The battle was one of the largest of World War I, in which more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. You can read more about the Somme battle online.
Thomas Richard Cripps died Monday 3rd July 1916, the third day of the Somme, while serving with the 9th Battalion, Essex Regiment. His name is on the memorial at Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France, Pier and Face 10D
There are more stories to tell about our military ancestors and this one takes us to our family back in England. The first I knew about Great Grandfather’s brother Tom was from a photo I had been given by dear Aunty Maggie Woodcock (Cripps), Pop Cripps’ sister, when GG was on leave in England during WWI.
While serving in the war, GG wrote letters home to his family here in Western Australia and one of those letters was published in The Geraldton Guardian, Dec 2, 1916, the local newspaper. This letter reads:-
SOLDIERS’ LETTERS. –
Private C. T. Cripps, writing from Belgium on October 5, to his wife, Mrs C. T. Cripps, of Northampton, says : I received your very welcome letter of August 6th, and was pleased to hear that all were A1 at home. I also received several birthday cards from relations, and a cake from Sarah, and all my comrades say they never tasted a better cake in their lives. I received a letter from G. Cripps, and he tells me that he has got a commission, and is going to Egypt. That was good news, and I also got bad news in the same letter, that my brother Tom’s son was killed in France. Poor boy! I was in hopes of meeting him some day and bringing him to Australia with me if we got through all right. I feel very sorry for Tom and his family, they will feel the loss very much. Well, the winter is coming in now, and we are getting plenty of rain and cold, and next month I expect we will have snow, but never mind, we are beating the Germans, and I expect the war will be over by next summer, but we never know what might happen by that time. I had a very close call the other day. A piece of shell, 3in long and 2in wide fell at my feet and buried itself in the ground 6in deep. I believe God was watching over me that day, because two seconds before I was standing on that very spot where that piece of shell fell, so you see God is good. I will now say good night my dear wife and children.
It was from this letter that I learnt about Tom’s son, Thomas Richard Cripps who was born July 16, 1896 to Thomas Cripps and Emily Lucy Reeve. A search on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site revealed his death date along with the regiment he served in, so I hired a Military Researcher who obtained War Diaries of the 9th Battalion and the battle of July 3rd, 1916.
“The 9th Bn Essex Regiment was part of 35th Brigade of the 12th Division for the whole war and from 2-8 July 1916 they fought at the Battle of Albert, which was one of the battles of the Somme. On 3 July they attacked Ovillers. One company of the 9th lost its way in the attack and drifted off towards La Boisselle where it took 220 prisoners! 103 men from the 9th Battalion died on this day, and the division lost 2400 men in total, in what turned out to be a total failure.”
What a waste, all in the name of war!
In 2007, out of the blue, I received an email from Margaret Lawrence, grand niece of Thomas Richard. Her granddaughter was doing a family history project for her school on relatives who were in the war and they came upon my message in a family history forum looking for information about Thomas Richard. From then on I was able to piece together more of GG Charles youngest brother. They had the same photo of the two of them together and all they knew was that he was a relative who owned a sheep station in Australia. Were they surprised when I was able to fill them in on their Aussie family.
Not long after I received an email from Margaret’s cousin, Judy Stevens, who is also descended from Thomas Cripps. They were able to identify some of the photos that I had in my collection, 3 of those are on this post and all were of their grand uncle Thomas Richard Cripps. May he R.I.P.
An excellent book on the Battle of the Somme is Somme Mud by E.P.F.Lynch.