Milestone Tour was a great success. Travelling back from the Somme,
whilst other tour members had lunch in the magnificent square in Arras,
the tour guide, my father and I travelled deep into the Arras battlefield
to find the small Heninel Communal Extension Cemetery containing the
graves of soldiers killed in the fighting between April and July 1917.
Seeing this cemetery deep in the peaceful French countryside made it
hard to imagine the hardships of the trenches. The mud, lice, and constant
bombardment of the front line must have been so close to what was now
the peaceful resting place for Frank and his pals from the Yorkshire
Regiment. There are 140 gravestones all in military rows, laid out in
the style of an English churchyard as Lutyens had insisted. (See
Figure 2) Each gravestone was identical save for the name, age,
Regiment and in some cases family inscriptions.
the rows of gravestones I could not help but be emotional. It was very
thought provoking. So many people of my age who have relatives who had
fought, and in many instances died, in the Great War would like to find
out about their lives and war experiences. It was certainly true for
me! I now wanted to know more about this distant relative Frank Maltby
who went to war caught up in patriotic fervour and died on 19th
July 1917 a few weeks after his 21st birthday - a life that ended so
young before any fulfilment of hopes and dreams.
1987 became 2007 when, having retired, I now had the time to commit
myself to some real researches into Frank Maltby’s war. I began
in September 2007 with another trip to the Arras area and the Heninel
Communal Extension Cemetery to visit the grave of private 242470 Frank
Herbert Maltby of the 5th Batallian Yorkshire Regiment. (See
followed this up in 2008 with basic researches armed with the advice
gained from the PRO guide Army Service Records of the First World
War by William Spencer.
internet search of the WO363/364 Army service records drew a blank and
even a visit to the National Archives in Kew and a morning of eye wearying
searches through the micro film copies of these service records resulted
in nothing. This confirmed what I had been told which is that it is
difficult to find any of these WO 363 files as 75% of them were destroyed
in 1940 by a German bomb. The internet did prove useful in confirming
name, rank, number, battalion and Regiment from the Commonwealth
War Graves Commission website and Soldiers Died in the Great
addition, the searches of the National Archives at Kew did bring success
in terms of finding Frank’s Medal Index card WO/372 which
showed that Frank was entitled to receive the Victory and British war
medals in 1920 even though he died in 1917. (See Figure
4) This medal index card does not say that he was actually in
the Cambridgeshire Regiment, however it does show that he had two Regimental
numbers. The first number – 5211 - was very obviously early in
the war and appeared at first glance to refer to his time in the Cambridgeshires.
The second number 242470 seemed to refer to his transfer to the Yorkshire
Regiment. I wanted to confirm these assumptions by later correspondence
with Edward Nicholl, Bill Danby and Cliff Brown from their extensive
knowledge of the Regimental histories and numbering systems. (see
below) The Regimental numbering system is also clearly explained
in Simon Fowler’s Tracing Your First World War Ancestors.
other useful evidence found in the archives at Kew was the Medal Roll
WO/329/952/ page 322 for the 5th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment,
but again it makes no reference to the Cambridgeshire Regiment. (see
by the end of 2008 I had made some progress since first viewing the
data on Frank’s headstone. I am sure that this reflects the experiences
of many people looking for evidence of distant relatives. With the loss
of the WO 363/364 records the search for other ranks with no conspicuous
valour awards is extremely frustrating and it is probable that many
people give up at this point.
was not going to do that. I had found out that Frank Maltby was in the
5th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment so I had to contact someone
with information about the Yorkshire Regiment. I used the internet and
found the Yorkshire Regiment WW1 Remembrance site produced by Edward
Nicholl. This confirmed Frank’s details from his records but
again no mention of whether he was in another Regiment before the Yorkshires.
However it did report that some 70% of the Regiment came from outside
its traditional recruitment area. Edward Nicholl had details of the
28 men from the Yorkshires who were all buried in the same cemetery
as Frank showing that three of them had come from the Cambridge area
next step was to go back to the internet to find information about the
Cambridgeshire Regiment. I found this from the Regimental website and
some correspondence with a very helpful and knowledgeable man, Cliff
Brown who just happens to be the chairman of the Cambridgeshire branch
of the WFA. His records told me that Frank probably enlisted in late
1915 and went into the Cambridgeshire home service battalion. A large
group of Cambridge men were sent to France on 30th August
1916 and posted to the 4th and 5th Battalions
of the Yorkshire Regiment that was probably severely undermanned by
its recent losses somewhere on the Western Front. At last I had found
a real link with the Cambridgeshire Regiment! Furthermore, Cliff Brown
referred to newspaper articles published in Cambridge in August 1917
that reported Frank’s death on 19th July 1917. He had
been killed along with others in the same trench, by a shell, a very
common occurrence. These articles are held in the Cambridge Central
Library and so I contacted Sue Slack, senior library assistant at Milton
Road library Cambridge, who informed me that I could purchase photocopies.
These articles and the photographs captured the mood of the period in
1917 when local newspapers reported with pride the loss of their sons
with LOCAL ROLLS of HONOUR.
now I had a photograph of my great uncle and knew more family details.
(See Figure 6) He was the son of Mr. and Mrs.
Samuel Maltby of Norfolk Street, Cambridge. His father had been a robe
maker to the aristocracy and Frank had worked for the Central Meat Co.
in Burleigh Street, Cambridge where he had been highly regarded. He
had joined up as early as November 1914, not 1915 as I had previously
thought, into the 2/1 battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment only transferring
to the Yorkshire Regiment when he was sent to France in August 1916.
article from the CAMBRIDGE CHRONICLE 01/08/1917, finishes with a tribute
from his company officer
my next question was why Frank, who had joined up as early as November
1914, did not see active service until August 1916? What did he do for
twenty-two months when the typical period of UK based training was one
month? I contacted Cliff Brown through the Roll of Honour website to
see if he had any records that might provide an explanation.
appears that in November 1914, Frank joined the 2/1 Battalion Cambridgeshire
Regiment which was a training unit formed in September 1914. In 1915
this unit was being prepared for the Gallipoli campaign. The campaign
developed into a military disaster and with the need to supply troops
to the western front the 2/1 Bn became a reinforcement supply unit.
Thus, Frank spent most of his army service in various training camps
up and down the UK.
the 2/1 Bn was part of the 69th Division but then the battalion
was sent to the 54th Division. That Division went to Gallipoli
in April 1915 although the 2/1 Bn Cambridgeshires was spared this, going
instead to Norwich and Peterborough before rejoining the 69th
Division around Thetford in June 1915. The 69th was earmarked
for overseas service but yet again the 2/1 Bn missed out on this and
after various other reorganisations the 2/1 Bn ended up in Harrogate
in June 1916.
was ironic that only two months later Frank and a lot of others from
the 2/1 Bn. were posted to France and they found themselves drafted
into the Yorkshire Regiment. This was the point in the history of the
British army when the Pals’ battalions had been devastated by
the slaughter of the trench war fare on the Western Front. The 5th
Battalion Yorkshires were recruited mainly from the Scarborough area
and the 4th Battalion from the Middlesborough region. Both
needed fresh fighters and it was the Cambridgeshires who provided that
in August 1916.
7 - FRANK HERBERT MALTBY in the uniform of the
CAMBRIDGESHIRE REGIMENT NOVEMBER 1914
Brown was also able to clear up the confusion of the two Regimental
service numbers on his Medal record card. The first number 5211 was
the one given to him when he first joined the Yorkshire Regiment in
August 1916. Then in April 1917 the army changed to a six figure system
for the territorials hence 242470 became his service number. Unfortunately
there appears to be no records of his Cambridgeshire service number
although Cliff Brown’s records show that it was likely to be in
the high 2000’s as he joined up in November 1914.
website of the 1/4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment by Bill
Danby has proved invaluable in giving me information about the movements
of the 5th Yorks during 1916 and 1917. This is because both
the 4th and the 5th Battalions were in the 150th
Brigade and part of the 50th Division (Northumbria). It told
me that the 4th and 5th battalions Yorkshire Regiment
had been fighting in the Kemmel area of the Ypres salient until late
July 1916 when they were transferred to the Somme area to prepare for
I had been able to trace the first part of Frank Maltby’s war
story. I know when he joined up and when he went to France. I know that
he spent almost two years in the 2/1 Cambridgeshire Regiment being trained
but never going overseas with them. Then in August 1916 he and many
men from Cambridge were shipped to France to fill the gaps in the 4th
and 5th Battalions of the Yorkshires - the Green Howards-in
preparation for another offensive on the Somme.
did these men from East Anglia feel as they joined a battle-hardened
group from the North Riding? Did they resent having to leave the Cambridgeshires?
How well prepared were they for the battle that kicked off in September
1916? Whilst Frank had been training for 22 months did it truly prepare
him for the sights of the Somme with its fields and woods laid bare
by the constant bombardments of the shells and the frightening sounds
of the battle?
active service on the Western Front lasted from 30/08/1916 to 19/07/1917
during which time he took part in the September Somme offensive with
the first tank attacks before transferring to the Arras area to take
part in the most bloody battle of the whole war measured in terms of
daily casualty rates. As the article of 8th August 1917 in the Cambridge
Chronicle says; "He
went to the front in August (1916) and had seen some of the most desperate
fighting in the recent big battles. About a week before his death he
spent his 21st birthday in the trenches "
am continuing my researches into my Great uncle’s war and will
follow his involvement in the 1916 and 1917 campaigns. This will be
achieved by using the war diaries of the 5th battalion Yorkshires
as well as other sources and visits to the battlefield sites in the
Spring and Summer of 2009.
HORLEY SURREY JANUARY 2009
MEMORIAM’ card issued by Mr and Mrs Samuel Maltby of 41 Norfolk
street Cambridge following the death of their son Frank Herbert
Maltby in July 1917.
of Heninel Communal Extension Cemetery September 2007
of the author and his father at the grave of Frank Maltby in Heninel
Communal Cemetery extension October 1987
Index Card WO 372 for Frank Maltby
322 from the Medal Roll WO 329 /952 for 5th Battalion
of Frank Maltby - Cambridge Independent Press 17 August 1917
of Frank Maltby - Cambridge Chronicle 8 August 1917