Private Frederick Charles BALMER


Regiment/Service:
Duke of Cambridge's Own
(Middlesex Regiment)
Unit:
2nd Battalion
Service Number:
6029
Date of Death:
23 October 1916 - Died of wounds
Age:
22
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
I. P. 26.

Personal History:
Frederick was born on the 26th June 1894 at 105 Park Street, Nottingham, the eldest son of Anthony William (Gardner) and Mary Anne (née Lightfoot) Balmer.  He had a younger brother, William Arthur, and in 1901 was living at Brown Edge Lane, Buxton. (1901 Census: RG 13/3269)
Ten years later (1911 Census RG 14/21234) another brother had been born, Percy Edward, and the family had moved to 2 Wainwright's Cottages, Buxton. Frederick was working as a "General Labourer".

Military History:
Frederick enlisted into the 2nd Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment, in Buxton and his Medal Index Card shows that he was posted to France on the 11th March 1915. Unfortunately, his Service Papers have not survived the ravages of Second World War bombing. However, Pt. Tom Mosley of Buxton, with a similar Service Number as Frederick, enlisted into the 2/8th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, on the 14th November 1914 and was posted to France on the same day as Frederick, so it is fair to say that Frederick would have enlisted at about the same time as Tom. 

In August 1914 the 2nd Battalion was at Malta and returned to England in September and moved to Hursley Park, attached to 23rd Brigade in 8th Division. It landed at Le Havre on the 7th November 1914, so Frederik must have joined as a reinforcement after training.

During 1915 Frederick's 8th Division took part in The Battle of Neuve Chapelle, (10th March - 22nd April) and The Battle of Aubers Ridge, (9th - 10th May) and in 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, The Battle of Albert, (1st - 13th July 1916).

During The Battle of Ancre Heights, which began on the 1st October, the 2nd Middlesex returned to the Somme area and an attacked planned to be launched on the 23rd October against the salient, west of Le Transloy, formed by the Eclipse and Zenith Trenches.

On the 20th October 1916 the Battalion paraded at Meaulte and marched to encamp at Trones Wood where they remained until 4.00 p.m. on the 22nd when they took up position in Spectrum Trench. The disposition was 'A' Company on the left and 'B' Company on the right of the front line, 'C' Company on the left and 'D' Company on the right of the support trench. Zero hour was set for 2.30 p.m. the following afternoon.

The War Diary described the events of the 23rd October as following a creeping barrage:

"The Battalion attacked in the order mentioned above. The attack was entirely successful except that the left flank of the Battn. was left exposed (owing to failure in the next Bde.) and a new line was established about 200 yds behind the old hostile front line. The Brigadier complimented the Battn. on its success. Casualties:- Officers killed: 2/Lieut F. O. Kemp; 2/Lieut L. W. Smith; 2/Lieut G. Hall. …………. Other ranks killed 62; wounded 117; missing 47. Total: 226.

The S.D.G.W. database also lists Lieut Frederick Arthur Joseph ODDIE killed in action on the 23rd but he was attached to the 2nd Battallion, Berkshire Regiment at the time.

The Battalion history expands a little on the action of the morning, explaining that from the 21st the German trenches had been subjected to a heavy barrage and from 2.30 the Battalion attacked, with the 2nd Scottish Rifles on their right, supported by a creeping barrage.

Initially checked by machine-gun fire, they took their first objective. "…… the Middlesex, advancing with great steadiness, carried the German front line, inflicting heavy casualties in a stiff hand-to-hand fight. By 3.45 p.m. the 2nd Scottish and Middlesex were reported on the line of their second objective. ………….. On the Middlesex front, Zenith Trench had been cleared and captured and a new line established 200 yards behind the old hostile front line." The entry in De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour for 2nd Lt. Frederick Owen Kemp [see above] says that he "... was leading his platoon against the German trenches, when within about 20 yards he was hit by a machine-gun only surviving a few minutes ..."

The Battalion consolidated its position over the next few days, before being withdrawn ".. tired and worn out .." to a camp at Montauban on the 27th.

Frederick was one of 3 Officers and 78 men of the 2nd Battalion who were killed in action or died of wounds on 23rd October 1916.  In September 1916, the 34th and 2/2nd London Casualty Clearing Stations were established in Meaulte, a village just south of Albert, known to the troops as Grove Town, to deal with casualties from the Somme battlefields. Frederick is buried in the nearby Cemetery, so again it is safe to assume - even without his Service Papers - that he died in one of these Stations.

[Another Buxton man, Private Henry (Harry) WILTON, of the 2nd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters, died a week earlier and is buried close  by Frederick in Grave I. N. 5.]

Sources:
· "Die-Hards in the Great War (Middlesex Regiment)" -  Everard Wyrall (ISBN: 9781843423737)
· I am grateful to Colin Taylor for the information from the War Diary and History
· De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, Vol. 2, p. 190


Link to CWGC Record
Private Frederick Balmer's grave
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