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The forgotten heroes of Fromelles John Taylor has written his own tribute to them.

The not forgotten heroes of Fromelles

The recent story of the mass grave discovered on a First World War battlefield in France was news around the world.
Poignantly among the many
Australian and British dead are likely to be men from Bletchley, Old Bradwell, New Bradwell and many other communities as well as those from this district who emigrated to Australia but came back to fight for the Mother Country.

As a time of Empire, patriotism, and pride in doing one's duty, the 1914-18 First World War seems totally removed from modern times.

Yet, incredibly there are still one or two survivors who can recall the horror of the battlefields and the most poignant is surely The Somme?

With 60,000 British casualties on the first day, it became clear this was not going to be the big push.

And to divert German troops, on July 19, another attack was launched, at Fromelles - where a grave has been found containing the remains of 400 men.

This has special significance for this district since the troops involved were from the 2nd Bucks Battalion of the Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry and the Australian Force.

In fact, several local men, who had sought a new life on the other side of the world before the war, joined the Australian contingent on the outbreak of hostilities and when sent to the battlefields would often find themselves fighting alongside friends they had known in England!

One was E Timbs, of the 14th Australian Field Ambulance, who wrote to his parents in Church Street, Wolverton: "Fancy coming all the way from England to Australia and then to come from Australia to fight besides our own Bucks lads!"

Indeed, in emphasis of such a coincidence before moving to Australia he had met Ted Quinn coming out of the Wolverton Working Men's Club in Stratford Road.

Ted told him he was going to Australia and Mr Timbs, on arriving himself in Australia, on the first Friday night met Ted in Bourke Street, Melbourne!

Following the outbreak of war, Ted, whose mother lived in Young Street, Wolverton, joined the army as a private and during the Battle of Fromelles, in which his friend also fought, would be wounded in the left thigh and right arm and was eventually sent to Birmingham Hospital.

As for the battle: "On the morning of July 19, after a preparatory bombardment, the Australian Force with ' the 2nd Bucks Battalion attacked the German trenches south of Armentieres, the position being given by the Germans as Fromelles."

The Australians seized the German front line with the Bucks troops and passed beyond to further trenches and practically reached open country.

But on the right the troops had to cross a much wider stretch between the opposing trenches where the Germans held a strongly fortified position.

Despite the preliminary bombardment the Germans were ready and with machine guns managed to prevent any taking of their trenches.

They concentrated all manner of artillery on a portion of the captured stretch and also drained water into the trenches from the left flank.

The Australians were soon wading waist deep through muddy sludge. E Timbs said some of the wounded brought in were wet through.

Among many acts of bravery that day, and despite being wounded, 20-year-old Corporal Frank Gostelow, who was born in Wolverton, went out to bring in wounded comrades.

He himself was hit, and "how he came out of it alive was a miracle," said a comrade.

"Our lads were simply marvellous. They went in waves for the huns, each wave as one man, and as cool as on an ordinary field day, led by brave officers."

The bravery of Corporal Gostelow was recognised and apart from being promoted to sergeant and on leave at his parents' home in Cambridge Street, Wolverton, in September he received a parchment commending his bravery from the Major General commanding 61st (South Midland) Division.

Another brave Wolverton lad was also recognised for his heroism in rescuing the wounded and was awarded the Military Medal.

Formerly a member of the town band, he was Bugler Sanders, of the 2nd Bucks Battalion, whose parents lived in Victoria Street. He went out under heavy shell and machine gun fire to rescue injured comrades.

Lance Corporal Reg Franklow, whose parents lived in Cambridge Street was also awarded the Military Medal for working under heavy fire mending wires in a communication trench for six hours.

It was mainly due to his efforts that, with only minutes to go before the start of the attack, communication was established between the front line and battalion headquarters.

Of the officers on that day, Captain Liberty was wounded, and for five hours was dragged in from the German barbed wire by a brave sergeant.

Captain Buckmaster and Major H Barratt were hospitalised and lieutenants Atkinson,

Phipps, Hudson, Brewin and Chadwick fell leading their men. Lieutenant Douglas Chadwick was brought in badly wounded by Corporal Hayers, who went out under heavy shell fire to rescue those in need. He earned a Military Medal but sadly Lieutenant Chadwick died of wounds in hospital in France on July 20. Born in 1896, he was the only son of Major John and Mrs Chadwick and was educated at the St Martin's Grammar School, Bletchley and St Magdalene's College School, Brackley.

In early 1914 lie joined the Royal Bucks Hussars. He was mobilised on August 4, 1914. In October he received a commission in the Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry, of which his father was second in command, and was appointed machine gun officer before being promoted to lieutenant.

Many other local lads died in the battle of Fromelles, including Private Joe White, aged 19, of the Oxon & Bucks Light Infantry, of Gold Street, Hanslope. Also killed was Private Fred Willis, aged 23, of High Street, Hanslope.

Private Richard Guntrip, whose father was also in France, was killed aged just 18. His home was School Street, Stantonbury, and he was at Wolverton Works before joining up.

Originally born at Gayton, Northamptonshire, Private Benjamin Warr, whose parents lived at Windsor Street, was killed on July 18, aged 22. He enlisted at Aylesbury and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais.

Another killed in action on July 19 was Bletchley-born Lance Corporal Frank H Barden, the eldest son of Andrew Barden, of Napier Street.

Aged 25, he joined the Oxon & Bucks Light Infantry the previous November and at the time of enlisting was a member of the Liverpool City Police.

Of his death, the captain commanding his company would write to his father:

"It is with much regret that I write to inform you of the death of your son, Lance Corporal F Barden. Though he had only just joined my Company, he had already brought himself to my notice for the extremely efficient and reliable way in which he carried out his duties, and I had him marked down for early promotion.
"He was killed by a big shell and never knew what hit him. No words of mine can, I know, console you for his loss, but I knew you would how he died and how well he has behaved.
"He will be a loss not only to the company, but to the whole battalion...yours sincerely, J S Bonser (Capt)

That so many were killed was hardly surprising but under a tremendous bombardment the troops somehow held out until early the following morning when after 11 hours in the captured position they were ordered to retire.

As would be written: "All the Bucks men were quite untried previously and the manner in which they carried it through seems worthy of all the traditions Buckinghamshire in past campaigns

"It was a dogged fight for 11 hours."

Several Royal Engineers enjoy a quiet moment near the Fenny Stratford Town Hall, before being called for active service abroad.