2nd Lieutenant Stanley Ferns JEFFCOAT


Regiment/Service:
Royal Fusiliers
(City of London Regiment)
Unit:
22nd Battalion
Service Number:
n/a
Date of Death:
29 April 1917 - Died of wounds
(Battalion War Diary states 30th)
Age:
30
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Number:
II. B. 17.  
Awards:
Recommended for the Victoria Cross
A posthumous Mentioned in Despatches


Personal History:
Stanley was born Stretford, Lancashire, in the December quarter 1884, the son of John Joseph (salesman) and Alice Jeffcoat. In 1891 they lived at 33 Urmston Lane, Stretford (Census RG 12/3159). Stanley had a younger sister, Dorothy Salt. By 1901 (Census RG 13/3664) the family had moved to Urmston, Lancashire, to 297 Stretford Road, and Stanley was noted as an "Estate Agent's apprentice".

The 1911 Census (RG 14/21235) shows the family having moved again, this time to 'Hillside', 47 Brown Edge, Fairfield, Buxton. Stanley is now described as "Surveyor and Estate Agent".

In 1915 Stanley married Ada Burton, their marriage being registered in Pewsey, Wiltshire. On the 14th June 1916 their son, Stanley, was born. They were living at Wasdale, Great Longstone, Derbyshire. [Stanley became an architect and lived to be 95, dying in 2011.]

Military History:
Stanley had initially joined the 24th (Service) Battalion (2nd Sportsman's), which had been formed in London on the 20th November 1914. In June 1915 the Battalion was attached to 99th Brigade, 33rd Division, and landed at Boulogne in November 1915. Stanley's Medal Index Card gives this as the 15th. On the 13th December 1915 it transferred to 5th Brigade in 2nd Division.

Stanley was Commissioned on 24th January 1917 and on the 3rd April 1917 joined 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, (known as the Kensingtons from being raised by the Mayor of Kensington). Less than four week's later, on the 26th April, the Battalion joined the frontline trenches opposite Oppy Wood, but withdrew to the Reserve the following night. On the night of the 28/29th the Battalion moved to battle positions and shortly after went in action.

Stanley led 'B' Company and his actions that night were reported by Lt. Col. Randle Barnett Barker, Officer Commanding, [see Footnote below] as follows:

"2/Lt JEFFCOAT and Acting Sergeant Major HOGAN managed to find a gap on the extreme right. They, with a platoon jumped into the German line and captured it with a few prisoners. 2/Lt JEFFCOAT bombed down to the right to try and get in touch with the 63rd Division. A/C. S.M. HOGAN bombed up to the left to try and get in touch with my D Coy.

The fighting was very desperate and 2/Lt JEFFCOAT informed me that no quarter was asked or given and many Germans were killed. He succeeded in bombing down to within a point 100 yards of the railway (vis: 400 yards outside Divisional area). There, he obtained touch with the BEDFORD REGT. A/C S.M. HOGAN meanwhile worked up about 100 yards to the left. There he established a block.

Word was brought to him that 2/Lt JEFFCOAT was in trouble, dealing with a heavy counter attack , so he went down to assist him. On his return to the left, he found it had also been heavily counter attacked and driven in. All the bombs having been exhausted, the survivors, about 15 in number had retired to the O.B.L. He at once went after them and organised them for an immediate counter attack. He also wrote me a message describing the situation. 2/Lt JEFFCOAT, finding his rear (left) unprotected, placed a stop, and sent a message to me, giving me the situation."  and later:

"AT ABOUT 10.25 a.m. the O.C. BEDFORDS arrived at my Bn. H.Q.s. and gave me the situation on the left. This coincided exactly with 2/Lt JEFFCOAT’s report. He agreed to work everything in conjunction with me and we worked most harmoniously together.

..... our barrage of 6 mins did not allow sufficient time for men to advance over 150 yards and get through two belts of wire. The barrage had lifted before our men reached the second belt. 21. I wish to place on record the splendid gallantry of 2/Lt JEFFCOAT (mortally wounded. It was entirely owing to the excellent report he sent (to) me on the situation that I was able to push up the 23rd R FUS and so capture practically the whole of the objective given me."

"The Royal Fusiliers in the Great War" by H. C. O'Neill, gives the following account of the action:
"Oppy - The attack was continued on April 29th, and four battalions of the Royal Fusiliers made another attempt to conquer the Oppy defences. The Canadians took Arleux on the left and the 24th Battalion formed the left of the attack on Oppy Wood. They went forward at 4 a.m., and A and B Companies reached their objective, the sunken road between Arleux and Oppy, capturing 64 prisoners, only to find that the right battalions had not reached their positions in the wood. Their right flank was therefore in the air. A furious bombing attack took place on the left flank, and such were the losses that it was decided to swing the right flank back to Oppy Trench, west of the sunken road and gradually retire along it. This was successfully accomplished. C and D Companies were sent that night to relieve the 2nd Highland Light Infantry, immediately north of Oppy Wood, who had suffered very terribly from the fire from Oppy Wood. The 17th Battalion, who had been supporting the 24th during the day with B Company, finding their right in the air, formed a defensive flank. The line along this front was, in fact, pitted with gaps. Farther south the 22nd Battalion advanced in perfect order, but were held up against dense wire, and when this was partly cut came under heavy machine-gun fire.

On the right B Company found the wire still unpenetrable [sic] and Second Lieutenant J. Steele had a whole platoon shot down. At this juncture Second Lieutenant S. F. Jeffcoat, a newly-joined officer, found a gap, and with a handful of men jumped into the trench and throughout the morning was engaged bombing up it to the right. At every traverse the Germans resisted, but Jeffcoat, assisted by a few men of the 63rd Division, cleared a considerable length of the trench by sheer personal courage and leadership. He was mortally wounded, and was recommended for the V.C. C.S.M. Roger also ably assisted. The whole objective of the battalion was taken chiefly owing to Jeffcoat's fine work, and the 23rd Battalion reinforced on the final line.

The 7th Battalion on the right had gallantly fought to the sunken road just north of the railway. Repeated bombing attacks on the left flank were beaten off, and a strong post was established near the ruined cottage, south of Oppy and 300 yards north of the railway. At one time the Bedfords, whom the 7th Battalion were supporting, were in touch with men of the 22nd Battalion. But for the most part the battalions engaged this day fought small engagements under peril of envelopment from both flanks; and in the final result the general position was little changed. Three days later a company 100 strong of the 22nd attacked north of Oppy as part of a composite battalion, but with little success."

Reporting in May 1917, "The Buxton Advertiser" wrote:

"Amongst the names inscribed on the long list of heroes in this terrible war, we must not forget to add that of Stanley F. Jeffcoat, Second-Lieutenant, 22nd Batt. Royal Fusiliers, who was killed on April 30th at the Battle for the Oppy line in France. When nearly all the Officers if his regiment were either killed or wounded, he gathered together and led the remaining men who, under his leadership, stormed and took a German trench, clearing it for a distance of half-a-mile and re-establishing communications with headquarters, which enable the Colonel to reinforcements, and to take a second German trench.

Unfortunately, Second Lieut. Jeffcoat was fatally wounded; but his valour and personal inspiration saved the situation and led to an undoubted advance by his regiment.

In speaking to him during the last few minutes of his life, the Officer commanding thanked him, in the name of his Regiment, for all he had done, and said his deeds of gallantry deserved the V.C., and he trusted his actions would be rewarded. Unfortunately, his wounds caused his death on the field of battle; but we trust his young wife and son may receive all honour due to him.

Second Lieutenant Jeffcoat lived for many years in Buxton. He was an intrepid Alpine climber, and a member of the Rucksack Club, and leaves many friends to mourn his loss."

For his actions that night Stanley was recommended for the Victoria Cross, but  was awarded a posthumous Mentioned in Despatches instead, [London Gazette, 18th December 1917]. He was one of the 51 Officers and men of his 22nd Battalion killed on the 29th April 1917. Perhaps because he died of wounds he is one of only six with a known grave. The other 45 are commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

Before the War Stanley was a member of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club and is remembered with 19
more members who fell in the Great War on the Great Gable War Memorial, Lake District, which was
unveiled in 1924. The Great Gable was purchased for the National Trust in memory of the group's fallen
members.



                                                            

Footnote:
· Lt. Col. Barnett Barker fell in action at Guendecourt during the second
  Battle of the Somme on the 24th March 1918, when he was commanding
  99th Infantry Brigade. He is buried in Albert Communal Cemetery Extension.

Sources:
· "The Royal Fusiliers in the Great War" - H. C. O'Neill (1922), pp.169 & 170.
·  I am grateful to Steven Eeles for the extract from the book
·  "The Kensington Battalion" - G.I.S. Inglis, ISBN 1848842473
·  "Hard as Nails" - Michael Foley, ISBN 978-1-86227-406-8
· "The Buxton Advertiser" - 12 May 1917


Commemorated on:

Link to CWGC Record
2/Lt Jeffcoat's grave at Roclincourt
2/Lt Stanley Ferns Jeffcoat
Remembering on Great Gable
The Great Gable Memorial
Fell and Rock Climbing Club - Great Gable and Fells Memorial

poppy
... about the unveiling of the Great Gable Memorial