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WW1 Centenary
Private Edwin Edwards 201980 9th Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Edwin was born in early 1898, the son of John Hughes Edwards and his second wife Margaret Edwards (née Parry - died 1906). He had an older half brother from his father’s first marriage, a step brother from his mother’s first marriage and an older and younger sister. His father had several listed occupations as coachman, farmer and in the 1911 census “of independent means” then married to Adeline, (née Salmon) his third wife for 4 years. [Picture] - Edwin pictured here with his family Elements of the family lived in Gwernymyndd, Tafarn-y-Gelyn and latterly Plas Newydd on Rectory Lane (as well as a “visitor” Charles Bratt a 28 year old, single motor mechanic from Peover) Edwin enlisted in Birkenhead in the reserve 4th T.A. Battalion Cheshire Regiment later to become attached to the 9th (Service) battalion 58th Brigade, 19th (Western) Division probably in late 1916 whilst living in Birkenhead. The battalion had been involved early in the battle of the Somme suffering over 300 casualties in 4 days, initially attacking at night near La Boiselle without reconnaissance, where “every shell hole held a dead or wounded man”. May 1917 saw the battalion at Ypres in Belgium in preparation for the battle of Messines, possibly the scene of the greatest British victory of the war. On June 7th at 3.10am following an unnecessary preparatory bombardment by 2,300 heavy guns, 19 huge underground mines, over a million pounds (almost 500 tonnes) were exploded under the Messines Ridge instantly vaporising as many as 10,000 German defenders. Over 8,000 metres of tunnels had been dug over an 18 month period in preparation, and the resultant consecutive explosions over 30 seconds, heard as far away as Dublin - the largest ever man made explosion to that date. During the successful attack behind a creeping barrage, with tanks and gas the 9th battalion suffered 158 casualties of the 17,000 in total - the first ever battle where attacking casualties were fewer than defending (25,000+) [It was later in the battle that 2nd Lieutenant Hugh Colvin of the 9th was to win a Victoria Cross - his citation reads “For conspicuous bravery in attack. When all other officers of his company and all but one of the leading company had become casualties, he assumed command of both companies, and led them with great dash and success. During the same attack he attacked several dug-outs, one of which contained a machine gun. This he captured, and in all took about fifty prisoners single handed”] In March 1918, the battalion was stationed again near Bapaume on the Somme (where they ended 1916). An attack was expected the next day (21st) “according to statements of captured enemy officers and men”. The 522 Ordinary Ranks of the battalion were ordered to stand-to at 5.35am and later began the retreat: a brief counter attack was made at 7pm at Doignies, before retreating north westward again at 11pm, harassed throughout the day by large numbers of low flying enemy aircraft. The next 4 days saw a confusing series of withdrawals and counter attacks as the losses mounted, but severe casualties also caused to the enemy who were “seen to fall in large numbers” On the evening of the 25th the battalion with stragglers attempted to organise a single line defence in old trenches west of Bapaume, hardly completed, and with great difficulty in the dark, when further orders were received to retire further to Grevillers, completed by daylight, and immediately attacked by machine gun and then a full frontal assault, forcing a further retreat. The official history states “German infantrymen on coming under close range rifle fire had “gone to earth” and shown a disposition to return whence they came. The German O.C. evidently recalled them all and paraded his battalion in mass in full view of the 9th, but out of rifle range. Through glasses he and his officers could be seen riding round the battalion presumably giving them the length of his tongue. To their chagrin, our people could not get in touch with the artillery” The battalion finally went into, theoretical, reserve midday on the 26th, after 5 days of near continuous movement and action, at Fonquevillers (“Funky Villas”) to be relieved by the 4th Australian Division. A further move was made to Sailly-au-bois that evening and billets occupied by 9pm and “cookers and water carts ordered”, their first meal for 2 days at 6am, interrupted less than 3 hours later by a further attack. A defence line was formed east of Souastre “by all troops available” to cover the retreat of the transports, and it was very likely that Edwin was killed in the subsequent attack, although his body was never found, one of 23 killed in action that morning, and 3 dying of wounds (no officers), aged just 20. Edwin is commemorated on the Arras Memorial - the third largest in France with almost 35,000 names of the missing. He is also commemorated on his parents’ grave in Llanferres Churchyard with the poignant wording “missing in France” He was postumately awarded the British War medal and the Victory medal. Article by Noel Headley of Llanferres. You can contact Noel via the  contact page
Edwin pictured with his father and step-mother
Edwin Edwards pictured with his family
General Herbert Plumer, a meticulous planner, in charge of the 2nd Army at the Battle of Messines Ridge - a prelude to the Battle of Passchendaele. 22 mine shafts were dug under German positions and packed with ammonal (essentially fertilizer) He is said to have remarked on the eve of the battle “Gentlemen, we may not make history tomorrow, but we will certainly change geography”. 3 mines were unused, one was discovered by the Germans, one exploded in 1955 during an electrical storm (casualties - one cow) and the exact position of the final mine (50,000lb) is still disturbingly unknown!
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