Lance Corporal Richard BRAMWELL


Regiment/Service:
Lincolnshire Regiment
Unit:
2nd/5th Battalion
Service Number:
53049
Date of Death:
15 April 1918 - Killed in Action
Age:
18
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 3.

Personal History:
Richard was born in Burbage, Buxton, in the March quarter 1899, the son of James (Labourer, later - 1911 - Quarryman) and Jane (née Milner) Bramwell. The 1901 Census (RG 13/3271) shows Richard having six older siblings, Ellis, Annie M., James A., James, Jessie and Hilda May, and the family were living at Harpur Hill, Buxton.

In 1911 (Census RG 14/21239) they were at 52 Burlow Cottages, Harpur Hill, and 12 year old Richard was at School. It was reported that Richard was tall for the time, about 6 ft. [] and was a member of St James, Harpur Hill, Choir and a Boy Scout. He was working for Thomas Henry May (Surveyor and Valuer) of Haslin House, Harpur Hill, Buxton.


Military History:
According to the SDGW database, Richard enlisted at Buxton but unfortunately, his Service papers have been destroyed during a Second World War bombing raid. His Medal Index Card gives no indication he entered the War, which indicates it was after December 1915, as he was not eligible for the 1914-15 Star. However, bearing in mind his age, it is unlikely that Richard enlisted before early 1917.

Richard's 2/5th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, was formed in Grimsby on 6th February 1915 as a Second Line Battalion. In July 1915 it was attached to 177th Brigade, 59th (2nd North Midland) Division, and in April 1916 moved with Division to Ireland and took part in actions against the rebellion.

In January 1917 the 2/5th were posted to 'France' on 23rd February 1917. The Battalion saw its first real 'action' at Cologne Farm (the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line) on the 11th April 1917. 'C' Company (and some of 'B') were caught by a German ambush and lost heavily (250 casualties). They also suffered badly at Bullecourt during the first day of the Big German 1918 advance, 23rd March 1918, again with many casualties. Most likely Richard Bramwell would have been part of a draft to replace these casualties.

In April 1918 the Battalion were engaged in The Fourth Battle of Ypres (9th - 29th April), and more pertinently the Battle of Bailleul (13th - 15th April). The Battalion War Diary for the same period gives considerably more detail, with, perhaps, an indication of the enemy's state of mind in April 1918:

"14th (April) 2.00 a.m. Bn. marched to LOCRE (from MONT des CATS) where it temporarily located in huts at 4.50 a.m.
                  11.00 a.m. Bn. moved out along the LOCRE to DRANOUTRE road .. where it cleared the road and awaited orders. The C.O. and Coy. Cmdrs. went forward to reconnoitre the reserve line S. of DRANOUTRE.

LOCRE (M.29.C) Orders were received to relieve 88th Infy. Bde. in the line at REVELSBURG RIDGE. Coy. Cmdrs. went off at once to reconnoitre line and Bn. moved off about 10.30 p.m. The 88th Infy. Bde. had only occupied their position for about 14 hours and as this Bn. was relieving 3 Regiments, relief was not completed until 5.30 a.m.

15th. BAILLEUL: 
5.30 a.m.  Bn. took over as follows, having all four Coys holding line.   
4 advanced posts, 1 from each Coy. These posts were dug in on the forward slopes .... distributed at intevals of about 400 yds. They were each garrisoned by 1 platoon. Each Coy. held its part of the support line with 3 platoons. This line was dug in on the reverse slope of REVELSBURG RIDGE.
6.00 a.m.   Two hostile patrols about 20 strong advance against our pots. They were driven off leaving 3 prisoners in our hand and 17 dead and wounded in front of our post.
7.00 a.m.   A hostile patrol advanced against a M.G. post. They were counter attacked and driven off, leaving 12 prisoners in our hands. During the morning 8 deserters came over to our lines.
12.00 noon  For an account of the operations during the remainder of the day, see special appendix attached."

The "Appendix" referred to above revealed that after midday there was a heavy bombardment on the 2/5th Lincolns' position, which continued until 2.30 p.m. It then changed to a barrage "falling along our line and that of the units to our right and left". The Germans attacked 4th Lincolns at 2.45 p.m. By 3.40 p.m. the Germans attacked the 2/5th Lincs' right Company. The attack was driven off by Lewis and rifle fire. The Germans broke the line of the 4th Lincolns and got behind 2/5th close combat ensued and "The left Coy. (of 2/5th) was last seen in its original position, figthing at very close quarters with the enemy. The Lewis Guns of the company fired to the last as the enemy advancing in close formatons, at very short range".

According to the CWGC database, Richard was one of 73 men  of the 2/5th Battalion killed in action on the 15th April 1918. His burial site, if he had one, has been lost. He is now commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial along with 64 more of those casualties.

The War Diary tells us that the following day, April 16th, at 2.00 a.m., the Battalion withdrew to Locre and rested all day. The following morning, however, they amalgamated with the 4th Battalion, Lincolnshires, and at 8.30 a.m. moved back into the front line in preparation for a counter attack. On that day 2/Lt. John Fisher was killed and 2/Lt. Victor Wilder du Plergney died of wounds, along with 17 other ranks killed or wounded, before withdrawing again to Locre at 10.00 p.m.

After heavy casualties the 2/5th Lincs (what was left of them) were driven back North-East of Bailleul. In this action the CO was killed, Lieut Col Harold Bowyer Roffey, DSO, three other officers wounded or missing and 352 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.


Footnote:
In "The Battle for Flanders: German defeat on the Lys, 1918" Chris Baker wrote of the action:
"Not all of the newly arrived young men would live to tell the tale. No fewer than 352 men of the 2/5 Lincolnshire Regiment, hurriedly digging in as best they could on the forward slope from Mont de Lille to Feuter Farm would be killed, wounded or captured on this day. The battalion had relieved the shattered units of 88 Brigade only at 5.30am and set to digging a series of platoon posts, one every 400 yards, with more positions on the gentle reverse slope to their north. Behind them was the Bailleul--Neuve Eglise road running up and along the Ravelsberg Ridge.

Within half an hour of the Lincolns’ arrival, enemy patrols of X Reserve Corps began to probe their line and continued to do so for an hour, but all were driven off leaving casualties behind. The battalion also took in eight German deserters and they, along with the 4 Lincolns on their left around Breemeerschen and the battered Crucifix Corner, enjoyed the rest of a relatively quiet morning. At noon a heavy and sustained bombardment began and lasted for almost 3 hours, blasting apart and levelling the posts so recently dug. Around 2.45pm the bombardment became a barrage, behind which the German infantry struck, hard and fast. For a short while they were kept at arm’s length but inevitably broke into the British posts in places. Counter-attacks by the 4 Lincolns and B Company of the 9 Norfolks of 71 Brigade on the left drove the enemy back, only for further German attacks to break in again.

At 3.40pm an attack also developed on the right of the 2/5 Lincolns holding Mont De Lille. Around the same time enemy troops forced their way over the neck of the ridge at Lion Hill, breaking the line of the 4 Lincolns and getting behind the 2/5 Lincolns’ left rear. From this point reports lose coherence as close in-fighting developed and the line fragmented. Detachments of 2/5 Lincolns were reported as being seen fighting to the last ‘in a series of stands and retirements, in which hand-to-hand fighting was of frequent occurrence’, while under heavy and close-range machine-gun fire others fell back to the north-east of Bailleul. Battalion HQ was forced to withdraw in a northerly direction to the right of Keersebrom, where it linked up with two companies of the 9 Northumberland Fusiliers".


Sources:
· "A History of the 5th Battalion, the Lincolnshire Regiement" - Col. T. E. Sandall, C.M.G., T.D. (Oxford, 1923)
· I am grateful to Steve Bramley for supplying the War Diary information, via the Great War Forum.
· I am grateful to "The English Dog", via The Great War Forum", for the content of the 'Appendix'.
· I am grateful to Chris Baker for the quote from his book: "The Battle for Flanders: German defeat on the Lys, 1918"
                                                                                    

Link to CWGC Record
L/Cpl Bramwell's name on The Ploegsteert Memorial
The Ploegsteert Memorial
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