Private Robert BALL


Regiment/Service:
Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)
Unit:
1/6th Battalion
Service Number:
2140
Date of Death:
6 June 1915 - Killed in Action
Age:
24
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
D. 29.

Personal History:
Robert was born in the September quarter 1891 at Alma Terrace,  Fairfield, Buxton. Third son of Phillip (Mason's labourer) and Sarah Ball. In 1901 (Census RG 13/3269) they were living at Under 1 Rutland Terrace, Fairfield, Buxton. Robert had three older brothers, Benjamin, Joseph and Phillip, and two younger brothers, Thomas and Alfred.

In 1911 the family had moved to 11 Stone Bench Lane, Fairfield, Buxton (Census RG 14/21233) and Robert was working as a "General Labourer". At the time of his enlistment he gave his occupation as 'Fireman' with the London North Western Railway Company and his address as 11 Bench Road, Fairfield. He was 5' 2" (1.59 m) tall.

Military History:
Robert enlisted in the 6th Battalion, Territorial Force, in Buxton, before the War began, on the 6th March 1914, joining "C" Company, under Capt. E. H. Heathcote. His initial engagement was for 4 years, later extended "For the duration". On Sunday, 26th July 1914 the Battalion went into camp at Hunmanby on the Yorkshire coast, for its annual training, War was already imminent, with Austria having declared War on Serbia just the day before.

A week later on Sunday, 2nd August, the History (see below) records that it "... was naturally a day of very real suspense and uncertainty." The following day orders were received from the War Office that training was suspended and all units were to return to their local bases. At 7.00 p.m. on the day the German Army crossed into Belgium - 4th August 1914 - the order was received to "Mobilise". On the outbreak of War Robert, in keeping with all Territorial Force soldiers, was given the option of volunteering for service overseas. The 6th Battalion's percentage of volunteers was 98%.

On the second day of mobilisation the men of the 6th Battalion from Bakewell, Staveley, Clay Cross and Wirksworth, plus the Buxton half of "C" company, including Robert, marched into Chesterfield, to be billeted at the Drill Hall and Chesterfield Central Schools. The Battalion Colours were lodged in St Mary's Church (The Crooked Spire) prior to its departure from Chesterfield. On the 10th August the Battalion marched out of Chesterfield, headed by Lieutenant-Colonel J.M. Clayton, bound for Derby, before moving by train to Luton and then on to Harpenden. The Battalion went on in November 1914 to Braintree, forming part of Notts. & Derby Brigade in the North Midland Division.

Robert's Medal Index Card and Service Papers give the date of his entry into France as the 25th February 1915. Soon after midnight on the 24th he left Braintree, with his Company, by train and sailed from Southampton on the 25th, 'A' and 'B' Companies on HMT Maidan, and Robert's 'C' Company on the King Edward. They landed at Le Havre about 4.00 a.m. on the 26th. The total strength of the Battalion was 28 Officers and 520 other ranks.

The following day the Battalion marched to the Gare Maritime and from there by train to Cassel and on the 28th marched to billets in Terdeghem. On the 4th March, along with other Battalions, they were inspected by General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, Commander of the 2nd Army, before travelling by bus to Bailleul, taking over billets at Oostroove Farm, near Ploegsteert, and attached to 11th Brigade.

The Battalion suffered its first casualty on the 8th March when another Buxton man, L/Cpl. 1478 Allen REDFERN was killed.

During the second half of March the Battalion was based at Neuf Becquin, but on 1st April marched, with the 46th Division, to Locre to occupy trenches around Kemmel. On the 5th May the Battalion suffered its first major loss when 1 Officer and 8 other ranks were killed by shellfire. Casualties at that time were recorded as 17 Officers and men had been killed and 43 wounded in April, and 18 killed and 69 wounded in May.

Robert was to survive just 98 days in France before he was killed in action on the 6th June 1915. In all he had served 1 year 93 days with the Colours. He was the only one of his Battalion killed that day and one of just 5 in the week either side. The most likely cause would be shell or sniper fire. His personal effects of a testament, photos, letters and prayer book were returned to his mother, Sarah, on the 30th September 1915.

Sources:
· "Chesterfield Sherwoods on the Somme" - 1/6th (Territorial) Battalion, Nottingham and Derbyshire Regiment (Sherwood Foresters)
· "Men of the High Peak: A History of the 1/6th Battalion the Sherwood Foresters 1914-18" - Capt. W D Jamieson (ISBN-10: 0952964864)
    Miliquest  Publications (1 Oct 2004)
· "British Battalions on the Western Front, January to June 1915" - Ray Westlake [ISBN-10: 0850527686] p. 157

Link to CWGC Record
Private Robert Ball's grave
Private Robert Ball
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