22 January 2017

An Arras casualty: S/20896 Rfm Herbert Charles Hines, 1st Rifle Brigade

Here's a nice little group which is my latest acquisition, courtesy of The London Medal Company. These have been on the market before, and were certainly sold at auction in 2005. Nevertheless, with the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Arras just around the corner, I thought it would be fitting to add this Arras casualty group to my collection.

S/20896 Rfm Herbert Charles Hines of the 1st Rifle Brigade was killed in action on the opening day of the Battle of Arras on the 9th April 1917.  He was born in New Cross, South London in 1883, his birth registered at Greenwich in the fourth quarter of that year. He was the son of William Hines, a bricklayer by trade, and his wife Emily, and they baptised him on the 5th December 1883 at Christchurch, East Greenwich (image below, courtesy of the LMA via Ancestry).

On the 1891 census the family was living at 6 Glenville Grove, Greenwich and comprised William and Emily and their six children, Herbert, aged seven, being the second eldest. His place of birth is recorded here as Deptford.

By the time the 1901 census was taken, Herbert was working as a sculleryman at Greenwich Naval College and, ten years on, aged 27, he was living alone at 14 Goodwood Road, New Cross, and working as a pastry cook. The following year he married Eliza Gibson (born 2nd January 1882)  in Greenwich and the year after that, on the 2nd August 1913, their daughter Lilian Agnes F Hines was born, her birth registered in Lewisham district in the third quarter of that year.

No service record survives for Herbert but his regimental number suggests that he joined the Rifle Brigade on the 6th June 1916. Other men with numbers in this range are mostly Derby Scheme men who had attested in November or December 1915 and were now being called up. As a married man, born in 1883, Herbert would have been placed into Group 38, and groups 33 to 41 began to be called up at the end of May 1916. The extract below shows other men with regimental numbers close to Herbert's, the date they attested, the Derby Scheme Group they belonged to (if they had attested under the Derby Scheme) and the date on which they were mobilised. Six of the nine men in this small sample were Derby Scheme men:

Unfortunately there is no pattern of service beyond early September 1916. The majority of these men - and presumably Herbert too - joined the regiment at Winchester on the 7th June and were posted to the 15th Battalion on the 10th June. From there, it was a transfer to the 20th Training Reserve Battalion for many, and then transfer again for many of the men. Three of the men listed above were transferred to the King's Royal Rifle Corps whilst others found themselves with the Northamptonshire Regiment and The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Herbert remained with the Rifle Brigade though. He was drafted to the 1st Rifle Brigade, probably via an Infantry Base Depot in Etaples or Havre and thus found himself serving with a regular battalion which had been in France since the 23rd August 1914 but which would have completely changed in complexion, many of the original members of that battalion having become casualties long ago. The battalion formed part of the 11th Brigade in the 4th Division.

The battalion war diary entry for the 9th April 1917 reads:

"Bn taking part in 3rd Army operations left the camp at 6.15am being engaged in the final objective of this day... Casualties: Capt Jackson and 2nd Lt Schiff killed; Capt Cavendish, 2nd Lts Day, Wellerd and Bridgman wounded. Other ranks, 20 killed , 71 wounded, 32 missing (16 subsequently being found holding shell hole posts)."

Herbert's name initially appeared on a Rifle Brigade list dated 29th April 1917 which appears to record him as being wounded, although note the speech marks around the letter W.

Soldiers Died in The Great War records that Herbert was killed in action and his widow would later receive a gratuity of £3 in addition to the princely sum of £3, three shillings and sixpence owing to him at the time of his death.

Eliza would have been sent Herbert's medals and memorial plaque, and it was presumably she who arranged for them to be framed together with a tiny portrait photo of him.  Eliza Hines never remarried and died in 1962 having been a widow for thirty-five years. Lilian Hines, who barely knew her father, married Victor C Benfield in 1946. The couple had one daughter, Margaret A Benfield, born in 1947. Lilian Benfield died at Hove in Sussex in 1989. 

Herbert Hines has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. He may be remembered by family members. He is now remembered by me. RIP.

The final image on this blog post is from series WO 363 and is Crown Copyright of The National Archives.

I research soldiers!