Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (The 2/4th Battalion)

Research and Resources around the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry during WWI

Archive for the category “Fromelles”


The Battle of Fromelles – Order of Battle for British and German forces.

The Battle of Fromelles – Order of Battle for British and German forces.

Extracted From The Regimental Chronicles of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

A and D Companies were selected for the attack, and at 2.15 a.m. the Engineer party had not been discovered. The companies were filing out to take up their positions ten minutes later, when the Engineer officer reported, and stated that he had no material at all. The C.O. just at that moment received an order from the Brigade Headquarters that unless everything was ready by 2.30 he was not to start, so the attack was cancelled.

The next few days were occupied in cleaning up and repairing the trenches. 2nd Lieut. Thorne, of the 6th Middlesex, who was attached to the Battalion, made two journeys into No Man’s Land during the day, and succeeded in bringing in wounded men on each occasion


3359 Bugler Thomas Simms

Hitler’s First War by Thomas Weber

A very well researched book, Hitler’s First War, provides readers insight into a large amount of original source material.

The 2/4th Ox and Bucks came across Hitler’s List Regiment (RIR 16) during the Battle of Fromelles, 19th July 1916, which is detailed on pages 146 – 148.

Sugar Loaf Salient

The remains of Sugar Loaf Salient and its concrete shelters. The photograph was taken two years after the battle of Fromelles, fought on 19 July 1916, which was the first major engagement in France in which the 5th Australian Division participated. After several hours of bitter and desperate fighting under disastrous conditions, the Australians were ordered to withdraw. Australian casualties totaled over five thousand. Note the debris visible across the landscape.

From: http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/E03964

Check out the great article: http://www.awm.gov.au/wartime/36/article.asp

Private George E. L. Tolley (1895–1916)

George E. L. TOLLEY (1895–1916)

“George E. L. Tolley was born in Barton in 1895, the son of Edward Tolley (born in Headington and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 23 October 1859) and Mary Jane White (born at the White Horse on the London Road and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 28 August 1861). His parents were married (probably in haste) at St Andrew’s Church, at the respective ages of 20 and 19, on 9 May 1880 and had the following children:

* Edward Albert (also known as Albert Edward) Tolley (privately baptised on 13 August 1880, died aged 2½, buried at St Andrew’s churchyard on 6 January 1883)
* Percival Charles Tolley (born in Old Headington 12 March 1883 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 29 April 1883)
* Sarah Maria Tolley (born in Old Headington on 4 May 1887 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 11 September 1887)
* Edith Tolley (born in Barton on 19 December 1890 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 11 May 1890)
* Thomas Tolley (born in Old Headington on 9 October 1892 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 27 November 1892)
* George E. L. Tolley (born in Barton on 23 August 1895 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 24 November 1895)
* Alice Tolley (born in Old Headington in c.1897)
* Edward Tolley (born in Old Headington on 14 January 1904 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 6 March 1904).

In the 1881 census the family can be seen living in Old Headington (probably in Old High Street, and Edward’s father is a brewer’s drayman (which may explain how he got to meet his wife, who was the daughter of Daniel White, landlord of the White Horse on the London Road) and his mother a dressmaker. They still had the same jobs in 1891, but were living in Church Lane.

By 1901 they had moved again, to one of the cottages between the Priory and the Black Boy in Old High Street: George’s father was now a mason’s labourer, and his mother still a dressmaker. George was a 5-year-old “scholar”: he would almost certainly have attended Old Headington Infant School, which had recently moved into an old building behind the present St Andrew’s School.

George’s father Edward died in Old Headington at the age of 46, and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 24 February 1906. The 1911 census shows George’s mother as a widow of 49, earning her living by dressmaking in Western (now Holyoake Road). George (15) was now a printer’s labourer, as was his brother Thomas (18).

Poppy In the First World War George Tolley served as a Private in the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Service No: 3022). He was aged only 20 when he was killed in action in France on 19 July 1916, and is buried in the Laventie Military Cemetery, La Gorgue ( II. D. 6). He is listed on the roll of honour of St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington.
After the War

Tolley’s mother died at 1 Holyoake Road and was buried in Headington Cemetery on 7 February 1927. Miss Tolley (presumably one of George’s sisters) was still living in that house in 1962.”

Initials: G E L
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Private
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry
Unit Text: 2nd/4th Bn.
Date of Death: 19/07/1916
Service No: 3022
Additional information: Son of Mrs. M. J. Tolley, of I, Western Rd., Headington, Oxon.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: II. D. 6.

Name: George Tolley
Residence: Oxford
Death Date: 19 Jul 1916
Enlistment Location: Headington Quarry, Oxon
Rank: Private
Regiment: Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Battalion: 2/4th Battalion.
Number: 3022
Type of Casualty: Killed in action

Corporal Reginald Harding

Initials: R
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Corporal
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry
Unit Text: 2nd/4th Bn.
Age: 18
Date of Death: 19/07/1916
Service No: 2191
Additional information: Son of Mrs. Louisa Harding, of 28, Rock Hill, Chipping Norton, Oxon.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: II. D. 7.

Name: Reginald Harding
Birth Place: Chipping Norton, Oxon
Residence: Chipping Norton
Death Date: 19 Jul 1916
Rank: Corporal
Regiment: Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Battalion: 2/4th Battalion.
Number: 2191
Type of Casualty: Killed in action
Theater of War: Aldershot

Private Sidney Butler

Initials: S
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Private
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry
Unit Text: 2nd/4th Bn.
Age: 19
Date of Death: 19/07/1916
Service No: 202028
Additional information: Son of Harry and Sarah Annie Butler, of Oxford Rd., Kidlington, Oxon.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 83 to 85.

Name: Sidney Butler
Birth Place: Kidlington, Oxon
Residence: Oxford
Death Date: 19 Jul 1916
Enlistment Location: Kidlington, Oxon
Rank: Private
Regiment: Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Battalion: 2/4th Battalion.
Number: 202028
Type of Casualty: Killed in action
Theater of War: Aldershot

Is Sidney related to the Butlers below?

Ernest James BUTLER (c.1895–1916)

Ernest James Butler was born in Oxford in c.1895, the son of James Butler (born in Kidlington in c.1872/3) and his wife Emily Jakeman Bryan (born in Headington on 11 October 1869 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 28 November 1869; she was the illegitimate daughter of Sarah Bryan, who obtained an order of affiliation against George Jakeman on 22 January 1870).

Ernest’s parents were married in Kidlington on 4 June 1892 and had three children:

* Percival Butler (born in Kidlington in the last quarter of 1893)
* Ernest James Butler (born in Oxford in the last quarter of 1895)
* Sidney Butler (born in Oxford in the first quarter of 1900).

Ernest’s father was a cattle man on a farm in Kidlington until at least 1901.

By 1911, Ernest’s father was employed as a builder’s carter, and the family was living at 73 St Mary’s Road in East Oxford. Ernest (15) was then working as a page boy in a refreshment department. At some point between 1911 and 1916 the family moved up to Headington, where they lived at 59 Windmill road in Quarry parish.

Poppy In the First World War Butler served as a Private in the 5th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment (Service No. 10868), and was killed in action in Mesopotamia (Iraq) at the age of 20 on 9 April 1916. He was buried in the Amara War Cemetery (XVI. K. 12). He is listed on the stone plaque in the porch of Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry, and the words: “And of Ernest James, son of the above killed in action in Mesopotamia April 9th 1916. Aged 20 years” were added to his parents’ gravestone.
After the War

Butler’s parents continued to live at 59 Windmill Road. His father James died there at the age of 53 and was buried at Holy Trinity churchyard on 26 March 1921.

In 1922 Ernest’s widowed mother Emily Butler opened a grocer’s shop in her house, which continued to be listed at 59 Windmill Road in Kelly’s Directory right up until 1954. She died aged 84 on 24 January that year, and was buried with her husband.

184 Infantry Brigade Report on Operations, 19th/20th July 1916

The following details are extracted from a great Web site: http://www.purley.eu/H142.htm. The site details the operations of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment, but within it is contained a wide range of information on the 184th Brigade and the Battalions that made up the Brigade.

“On the 19th July the Brigade (with 183rd Brigade on our right and the 15th Australian Brigade on our left) was ordered to attack, capture and hold with two battalions (2/1 Bucks and 2/4 Royal Berks) the German Front and Support Lines from N 14 a 60. 25 to N 8 d 95. 10. – Two Companies of the 2/4 Oxfords were placed at the disposal of the Brigadier to occupy our front Line in the event of all Companies in the Assaulting Battalions being absorbed in the same: the 2/5 Glosters and remaining two Companies of 2/4 Oxfords were in Divisional Reserve.

The following were also placed at the disposal of the Brigadier: 3rd Field Company R.E. and ‘B’ Company 1/5th Duke of Cornwall’s L.I (Pioneers)

By 9.0.a.m. the Brigade was disposed, in accordance with orders. (vide Sketch No.1).

2 Vickers Machine Guns were posted in the front Line in support of the attack, 4 Vickers Machine Guns were detailed to follow the Assaulting Companies on the positions being captured. 6 Vickers Guns were detailed for indirect fire from vicinity of JOCKS LODGE. Owing to the difficulty of coming within effective range, only one Stokes Mortar was detained to bombard the SUGAR LOAF, it was arranged for 4 Stokes Mortars to follow the Assaulting Companies.

The Assaulting Companies No. 1 & No. 2 were ordered to attack in 4 waves at 20 yards distance.

The 3rd Company was to follow as soon as the position was reported captured, carrying consolidating material. Each
consolidating Company had 4 R.E. and 4 Pioneers detailed to accompany same – An R.E. and a Pioneer officer were also
detailed to supervise work of consolidation.

A portion of Reserve Companies were ordered to carry across NO MAN’S LAND reserve bombs and S.A.A.

Arrangements were made for a party of 3rd Australian Mining Company, under Major Coulter, to blow up, by means of an
ammonal pipe, a continuation of the RHONDDA SAP, after this had been effected for the Pioneer Company attached to the Brigade to dig a communication trench between N 8.d. 25. 15 on the SUGAR LOAF to the RHONDDA SAP – parties working from both sides.

Diary of Events (11. a.m. to 6. p.m.)

11. a.m. Our Artillery opened fire

11.50.a.m. Reported that enemy had shelled our Left Sub-section heavily – some casualties.

12.55 p.m. Report received that enemy’s Artillery fire had diminished slightly – A few salvos on RUE DE TILLELOY

1.20. PM. Report received ROTTEN ROW Communication Trench heavily shelled by 77 mm.

2.10.p.m. Report received that our Support Trenches were heavily shelled with H.E.

2.30.p.m. Telephonic communication with Front Line temporarily severed

2.44.p.m. Enemy firing 103 c.m. on BOND ST Communication Trench

3.25.p.m. The whole sectional Front heavily shelled. Communication effected by Runners

4.24 p.m. Our C.T’s. heavily shelled -BOND ST Communication Trench & PICANTIN AVENUE especially

5.15.p.m.Damage to our Front Line Parapet very severe (numerous casualties)

5.30.p.m. Owing to heavy casualties in Assaulting Companies of both battalions I gave orders for 2 platoons from reserve
Companies to reinforce former – the consolidating companies to be left intact.

6.00.p.m. Communication by telephone with Front Line re-established by laying an additional line from Advanced Battalion H.Q.

Up to 5.30.pm.owing chiefly to the crowded condition of our Front Line Trenches, considerable casualties had taken place,
amounting to 100 killed and wounded in 2/Bucks and 40 killed and wounded in the 4/Royal Berks. This necessitated reorganisation of the Assaulting and consolidating Companies.

At 5.45 p.m. on the right 4/Royal Berks commenced to file out through 2 Sally Ports. On emerging from same they encountered severe Machine Gun Fire – numerous casualties ensued. A certain proportion of the Right Company got through the Sally Ports but only in scattered parties – some of whom are reported to have reached the German wire but, beingunsupported and under heavy machine gun fire and shrapnel fire, were compelled to fall back, they reported that the Germanwire at X 20, X 21 was uncut. A few men only of the left company, 4/Royal Berks got through the Sally Port under heavy Machine Gun fire but failed to advance any appreciable distance. Whilst directing these men from the parapet Lt. Col. J N Beer was killed. Several officers were killed and wounded in endeavouring to initiate an organised forward movement.

At 5.40.pm. the 2/Bucks commenced to file through the Sally Ports but, owing to severe Machine Gun fire directed at the latter,
Lt. Col Williams decided to utilise the Rhondda Sap. This was carried out and the 2 Assaulting Companies were successfully
deployed from head of same., they were however subjected to heavy Machine Gun and shrapnel fire and a certain number of
casualties occurred, whilst waves were getting into position.

At 6.0.p.m punctually the 2/Bucks advanced to the Assault, a withering Machine Gun fire was encountered which mowed down
a large proportion of men, especially with the Right Company. A portion of Capt. Church’s Company on the left pressed through the enemy’s wire on the N.E. face of the Sugar Loaf and fierce fighting was seen to take place on the parapet. A good proportion of this Company, ably led by Captain Church (who was killed just before the glacis (sic) to enemy’s breastworks) got into the Germans trenches. (This has been substantiated by reports from the Right Battalion of the 15thAustralian Brigade)

Owing to the 4/Royal Berks having been driven back on their Right and the same thing having occurred to the Right Battalion
of the 15th Australian Brigade on their left, this lack of support on their flanks seriously impaired what chances the 2/1st Bucks
had of capturing the SUGAR LOAF. The C.O. is of the opinion (with which I concur) that if 2 Reserve Companies had been available at this period fro throwing into the assault, a substantial lodgement would undoubtedly been effected in the SUGAR LOAF. 61 missing N.C.O’s and men in this Battalion testifies to the belief that a considerable proportion of the Left Company of this Battalion got into the German Trenches.

Owing to want of support and heavy casualties the 2/1st Bucks were compelled to effect a withdrawal In accordance with orders,
C.O.s, 2/4 R.Berks and 2/1st Bucks then reorganised their battalions with the view to launching a second attack.

During the enemy bombardment shells emitting a dense column of light green smoke were observable in the vicinity of the Red House (Regimental First Aid Post)

At 6.0.p.m the 1/8 Cornwall’s left the Assembly trenches and proceeded to the Rhondda Gap and started improving it.

184 Machine Gun Company – The Machine Gun company fired 30,000 rounds with indirect fire and supporting the Infantry
attack. 3 of their guns were put out of action by bullets. They endeavoured to silence the enemy’s guns.

184 Light Trench Mortars – The one gun in the Front Line at 4.30. pm. fired 30 rounds on the SUGAR LOAF obtaining direct
Communications were maintained throughout the Operations from Brigade and Battalion H.Q. From Battalion H.Q. to the Front
Line they were cut between 2 and 3.p.m. but were re-established by 6,0.p.m. Runners were employed and were most satisfactory.”

The Battle of Fromelles: 2/4th Oxfordshire and Other Battalions of the 184th Brigade

From G. K. Rose, The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

“This harassing warfare had a crisis in July. The operations of July 19, which were shared with the 61st Division by the 5th Australian holding trenches further north, were designed as a demonstration to assist our attack upon the Somme and to hold opposite to the XI Corps certain German reserves, which, it was feared, would entrain at Lille and be sent south. That object was achieved, but at the cost of severe casualties to the divisions engaged, which were launched in daylight after artillery preparation, which results proved to have been inadequate, against a trench-system strongly manned and garrisoned by very numerous machine- guns. The objectives assigned to the 61st Division were not captured, while the Australians further north, after entering the German trenches and taking prisoners, though they held on tenaciously under heavy counter-attacks, were eventually forced to withdraw. ‘ The staff work,’ said the farewell
message from the XI Corps to the 61st Division three months later, ‘ for these operations was excellent.’ Men and officers alike did their utmost to make the attack of July 19 a success, and it
behoves all to remember the sacrifice of those who fell with appropriate gratitude. It was probably the last occasion on which large parties of storming infantry were sent forward through ‘sally ports. The Battalion was in reserve for the attack. C Company, which formed a carrying party during the fighting, lost rather heavily, but the rest of the Battalion, though moved hither and thither under heavy shelling, suffered few casualties. When the
battle was over, companies relieved part of the line and held the trenches until normal conditions returned.”

2/4th Royal Berkshire War Diaries
Wednesday 19th July 1916, France, Laventie

Artillery preparation opened at 11am attack at 6pm 2/1 Bucks on our Left. Australian Division on Left of 2/1 Bucks. 183rd Bde on our Right and 182nd Bde on Right of 183rd Bde, 8th and 61st Divisional Artillery behind our lines.
Casualties Officers 3 Killed (Lt Col J H Beer, 2/Lieut G S Abbott and 2/Lieut F C D Williams) and 2 wounded (Major T Shields and 2/Lieut D R Gibson). Other ranks 35K, 115W and 8 Shell Shock. Bn relieved by 2/4 Oxford and Bucks LI at 1030pm. Marched back into billets at Rue De La Lys (G.27.c.2.2 1/2).

2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment

Story of the 2/5th Battalion the Gloucester Regiment 1914-1918
ed by A.F.Barnes
ISBN: 9781843427582
Format: 2003 N&M Press reprint (original pub 1930) 192pp with 39 b/w photos and 12 maps.

“Round about the middle of July ominous rumours got about of an impending attack by the 61st Division in cooperation with an Australian Division and movements became irregular. Small groups of Staff Officers and Commanding Officers could be seen, maps in hand, whispering together; large quantities of artillery began to assemble; trench mortars commenced to operate more frequently a “flying pig” memorable because another member of this porcine family had previously registered on this sector, dropped its message short and blown up two or three fire bays on its own side, made its appearance.

Australians loading a 9.45 inch mortar, “Flying Pig”, August 1916.

These omens materialized when on July 19th an attack was launched. The ostensible objective was the Aubers Ridge, some high ground opposite the British front from which the Germans could command a view of all the movements of their opponents. The real intention of the operation was to keep the German Divisions there so fully occupied that they would not be able to reinforce the troops on the Somme.

The Berks and the Bucks bore the brunt of the attack, while the Oxfords and Glosters were in support and reserve respectively. So far as the Aubers Ridge was concerned the attack failed dismally, but it probably had the effect of keeping the German Divisions there, at any rate, for the time being. The casualties of the 184th brigade were very heavy, the Bucks being especially hard hit. The lot that fell to the Glosters was the depressing task of bringing in and burying the dead. This operation took three or four days to complete and it is notable that the Germans allowed the stretcher-bearers and others to others to wander about No Man’s Land in broad daylight, picking up the dead and wounded without firing a shot.”

Battle of Fromelles, July 19-20 1916


The OBLI 2/4th played a minor role in the Battle of Fromelles, 19th July 1916

One of the most detailed resources freely available online is the Australian Official History of the First World War. Volume III – The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916 (12th edition, 1941) contains two chapters on Fromelles. http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/chapter.asp?volume=4

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