The Manchester Regiment Forum

The Great War => 1914 - 1918 => Topic started by: Jamieguest on April 09, 2017, 02:14:23 PM

Title: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 09, 2017, 02:14:23 PM
Hello everyone.   I have just found this forum and am not sure which area to post this in.  My late Father's first cousin was the above named Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts who grew up in Poulton Le Fylde.  I suppose that makes him my uncle.  He enlisted in the 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment in 1914 and was commissioned.  He was killed during the battle of Arras on 23rd April 1917 and is buried at Wancourt Cemetery near Arras. I have visited the grave twice but am planning to visit it on the centenary of his death to lay some red roses in his memory.  I was wondering if any other commemorations are due to take place that day at Wancourt.  If there was going to be any sort of organised memorial event I would be interested in being part of it.

My father gave me some memorabilia that he inherited when his aunt and uncle died which include a condolence card produced by his parents and the letter of condolence from the battalion commander.   There was also a large collection of letters from the front that my father placed in the Liddle Collection that is now at Leeds University.   I would be interested in hearing from anyone else who has researched the events at Wancourt that day or who is planning to be there on the 23rd.  I know that I have left this a bit late.

Jamie Guest   I have attached a photo of the cemetery and one of my uncle's grave. The 3rd photo is looking in the direction of where the action took place that he was killed in.

Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Tim Bell on April 09, 2017, 06:23:41 PM
Please have a look at http://www.themanchesters.org/Arras%20and%20Ypres.htm (http://www.themanchesters.org/Arras%20and%20Ypres.htm) Lt Potts was attended by the RSM when he was wounded. RSM Coates was awarded MC for this action.
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 09, 2017, 07:12:28 PM
Thanks very much for that Tim, it's good to see that.  I can't lay my hands on the letter of condolence at the moment but from what I remember it mentioned that Geoffrey Potts had been out trying to rescue other casualties when he was hit.   When I find it would you be interested in seeing the text or a copy of it.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Tim Bell on April 09, 2017, 07:32:32 PM
Always interested to see original material
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: susanjane on April 09, 2017, 09:51:49 PM

Hi Jamie,

If you are still over there then April 25th is Anzac Day and there will be a big parade at the Menin Gate with personnel from NZ and Australia etc.
We happened to go to Ypres that day a few years back and were moved and impressed. Now we have an Australian grandson born that day whilst we were attending the parade in Sydney. So we always remember everyone.

We took our grandchildren to the Arras Military cemetery nearly 3 years ago which had a big effect on them.
We also took them to the museum at Agincourt which commemorates that other war 600 years ago.Also very memorable.

Have a good trip
Sue
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 09, 2017, 10:00:48 PM
Thanks for that Sue, unfortunately we are on a tight timescale and are back in the UK on the evening of the 23rd but will be at the Menin gate the evening of the 22nd.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 12, 2017, 10:03:07 AM
Further to my posts above I've now had chance to visit Leeds University Library and view the papers that are deposited there. They are held in their special collections department ref LIDDLE/WW1/GS/1287.  The Library were very helpful and allowed me to view the items at short notice but normally ask for 2 clear days.

The file contains mainly letters that Geoffrey wrote to his sisters Dorothy, Jessie and Barbara.  I knew these three as the Poulton aunts who lived in 2 adjoining houses at Poulton-le-Fylde when I was growing up.   It was Dorothy who collected the letters and passed them on to my father.   There are also some official papers including his Commission Certificate, a memorial card, his medals and cap badge.   The letters give detailed accounts of his life on the Western Front from 1915 to 1917.  For a year of that time he was Battalion Quartermaster.   There is also the handwritten letter of condolence from a Lt.Col Whitehead, which I have transcribed. The incident where he was sheltered by RSM Coates (mentioned in the war diary) is explained.   I have attached a pdf of my transcription of the letter along with some notes.   In the fullness of time I will try and return and transcribe more of the letters.   

if anyone can tell me the initials/name of Col Whitehead I would be grateful as I can't decipher his initials.   I hope that this is of interest.  I intend to be at the cemetery at Wancourt at about 9.30am on the 23rd of April to lay  a small wreath of red roses and to play the Last Post and Reveille.   It appears from the war diary that the Battalion suffered about 300 casualties on the morning of the 23rd April. 

Jamie.
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Tim Bell on April 12, 2017, 12:25:34 PM
Great Work Jamie,
It was Acting Lt Col John James Whitehead.  Mentioned in Despatches 25/5/1917 - probably connected with 23/4/1917 events.  Also DSO for the assault.
I'll enjoy digesting your notes.
Tim
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 12, 2017, 02:05:43 PM
Thanks very much for that Tim.  I can amend the letter transcript now.   I've been able to go a bit further with my research and have downloaded the relevant trench maps from the national library of Scotland site which has given me a lot more info.  Once I can work out the grid reference I should be able to locate the original grave site.   I've also found that Geoffrey is mentioned on the Manchester University war memorial.  With nearly 50% casualties in the battalion that day, 360 out of 650 there may well be several other graves from people from the battalion at Wancourt.

Thanks again.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Tim Bell on April 12, 2017, 02:24:45 PM
Also mentioned on Manchester, Reform Club, King Street Memorial http://www.mlfhs.org.uk/data/war_memorials_images.php?memorial=213 (http://www.mlfhs.org.uk/data/war_memorials_images.php?memorial=213)

If you're stuck with the maps, let us know. McMaster University also do maps for that Grid and I note CWGC concentration records have a slightly differnet Ref to Lt Col Whitehead. Still in the middle of the same field though.

 I think a visit to the Battlefield, orginal grave and last resting place sounds like a wonderfyl trip for you.

If you're ever passing Kew take photo ID and have a look at this http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C1069330?descriptiontype=Full&ref=WO+339/15403 (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C1069330?descriptiontype=Full&ref=WO+339/15403)

Cheers
Tim
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 12, 2017, 03:49:19 PM
Thanks very much for that Tim,  I am looking forward to the trip and  will post some pictures when I get back.  I've found the square on the map but can't work out the final part of the reference which is D5.5.  I presume there is a standard grid within each square similar to an OS reference along the lines of row D column 5.5 or something like that.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Tim Bell on April 12, 2017, 03:57:38 PM
Square 29 is split into 4 quarters with A-B at the top and C - D at the bottom. So you look at the bottom right sub-square. 5.5 is right in the middle.
5 points along and 5 points up. Have a look at CWGC too as that shows a different point. I think Lt Col Whitehead would be more accurate, as I've seen many errors on Concentration sheets and he was probably present.
Tim
Sorry I had to correct the Square number
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 12, 2017, 04:23:59 PM
Thanks for that Tim.  In square 29 that puts in in the right place about half a mile from the cemetery.   Your help is much appreciated.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Tim Bell on April 13, 2017, 02:19:52 PM
Battalion HQ was in 29.d.5.5
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 13, 2017, 04:42:19 PM
That makes sense it's the same grid reference as the initial grave site and he was near to the HQ when he was hit so I expect they had a small cemetery near to the HQ.   

Do you by any chance have a decent image of the cap badge please.   My camera battery had run down when I went to the archives and I would like to put an image of the cap badge on the wreath.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 15, 2017, 07:31:34 AM
I hope someone can answer another quick query.  Was the cap badge the same for all the battalions.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: themonsstar on April 20, 2017, 11:39:14 AM
Hi Jamie

No some of the Battalions did wear the Fleur-de-lis cap badge , I suppose you could say unofficial ( 7th,11th Batt's ) do show up wearing the cap badge in postcards
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 24, 2017, 01:16:07 PM
Thank you very much for that information.   I visited the grave yesterday and also walked the battlefield and visited several other small cemeteries where the battalion fought that day.   I found several Manchester regiment graves and will post some photos of the area in due course when I've sorted them out.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 25, 2017, 10:46:23 PM
On a bright and sunny morning two days ago, the 23rd April 2017, I visited Geoffrey's grave at Wancourt cemetery and laid some red roses there. It was good to meet other people who were visiting the graves of their relatives who served with the Manchesters. After that my friend and I walked along towards Heninel and a passing Frenchman pointed out the extension to their village cemetery that houses some Manchester Graves.   We then walked up to Cherisy Road East Cemetery from where we were able to pinpoint the area where Battalion HQ had been that morning and where the Battlefield Grave was that Geoffrey was first buried in.  We then walked back to Wancourt and collected the car, passing a pile of munitions at the side of the track. After that we  drove round the same area and photographed the ground over which the 17th had advanced.  Finally after seeing several other small cemeteries we went to see the Hindenberg Line pillboxes a little to the south west.  The walk around the battlefield gave us an appreciation of the objectives that the 17th had taken that day and for which they paid such a heavy price.  The area was very peaceful and it was hard to imagine what it was like a century earlier.

The pictures are as follows:-
1 - The grave with my home made memorial.
2.- A close up.
3.  A view towards the area above Heninel where he was killed.
4. A view of Heninel village from Wancourt cemetery.
More to follow on the next reply.
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 25, 2017, 10:52:27 PM
Some more photos from the Heninel area on 23-4-17
5-Some of the 'iron Harvest' still being uncovered to this day.  One fool was daft enough to pick one up and take it away in his car.
6-The graves of three men from the 17th Manchesters
7- The cemetery that they are in above Heninel
8- Looking from the cemetery towards where Battalion HQ was that morning.

More to follow.
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 25, 2017, 10:57:30 PM
9- The lovely little chapel just below the cemetery.
10-Another Manchester Grave in Cherisy Road Cemetery with two occupants.
11- Looking from Cherisy Road along the ridge. The Initial Battlefield Grave was just before where the wood is on the horizon and I believe that Battalion HQ was there as well.
12-looking along Cherisy Road towards the main objective, the further ridge that overlooks Cherisy.
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 25, 2017, 11:01:21 PM
13 is another view of the area over which the Battalion advanced
14 is a view of the old bunkers from the Hindenberg Line probably captured on the 12th of April.

I hope that these are of interest.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: charlie on April 26, 2017, 08:21:31 AM
Thanks for sharing Jamie.

Charlie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 26, 2017, 09:08:23 AM
Thanks Charlie, I'm glad to be able to do it.  I plan to go back to the collection of letters that are at Leeds University and transcribe them. They describe Geoffrey's time in France throughout the Somme campaign, up to his death, much of the time he was battalion quartermaster.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: timberman on April 26, 2017, 09:14:28 PM
Thanks Jamie some very good photos.

First time I've seen two different Regiments on the same headstone.

Timberman
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 26, 2017, 10:28:39 PM
There were several in that cemetery which I think may have been a battlefield cemetery.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: PhilipG on April 28, 2017, 07:37:40 AM
Jamie,

Firstly, great photographs. Secondly, I wonder, please, if you would refer to the photograph of the bunker which you describe as "old bunkers from the Hindenburg Line".

Would I be correct to say that in the valley shown in the top right hand corner of the picture is the location of Heninel- Croisilles Road CWGC cemetery?   If so, that would be the site of part of Tunnel Trench where Siegfried Sassoon was wounded.  PhilipG.
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 28, 2017, 09:01:11 AM
PhillipG

The photo is taken looking North West across the valley that Heninel lies in.   The Heninel-Croisilles Cemetery was about quarter of a mile behind me. The road is parallel to the road that the cemetery is on but wasn't named.  There are about 5 bunkers in all in the fields and I have some more photos if you are interested.   the cemetery is visible across the fields.

The potential link to Sassoon is interesting.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: PhilipG on April 28, 2017, 03:30:34 PM
Jamie,
 Thank you.  It must be 20 years ago since I visited that area, so it is pleasing to learn from where your photograph was taken.  With reference to Tunnel Trench.  This was some two miles in length and was built/bored with the help of Russian POW's.  The entrance in the German lines was off the D9 just southwest of Fontaine - les - Croisilles.

On the 16th April 1917, Sassoon took 25 R.Welch Fus. bombers into Tunnel Trench, but was hit in the shoulder by a sniper.  He then walked to Heninel and thence to Boyelles in search of medical help.  The rest is history. PhilipG.
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 29, 2017, 12:09:33 AM
Hi Philip

Thanks for that.  It does look as if the surviving blockhouses were part of that system.  The one I photographed was at approx. N35.a.8.8 on sheet 51 SW of the trench maps.   I'll have to get myself a copy of Sassoon's book.   It's interesting that Sassoon was in the area where the 17th Manchesters fought as Wilfred Owen was attached to the 2nd Manchesters I believe.

It's fascinating the avenues that this research is taking me down.

Jamie
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: PhilipG on April 29, 2017, 11:31:01 AM
Jamie,

As you will know, on the afternoon of the 1st July 1916 the 20th Manchesters went on the attack on the Bois Francais (Fricourt) front.    Sassoon's battalion, the 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers was in support - Sassoon called them the "Flintshire Fusiliers".    As regards Sassoon, he was left out of the battle, but was able to watch the fighting (and later comment upon it) from a high piece of ground overlooking the battlefield.

His eye-witness account of the Manchesters' attack is very interesting and mentions the sad death of Colonel Lewis the Manchesters' CO.  PhilipG.
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: PhilipG on April 29, 2017, 12:19:01 PM
Pte. T. Sandham Manchester Regt & Pte. P.Carter Green Howards both died 23rd April 1917.

I refer to the photograph of the headstone relating to the above named soldiers.

Comment was made in respect of some single headstones carrying details of two casualties.   I first saw this practice some years ago at Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt - L'Abbe.  For an explanation of this method of commemoration, may I recommend a visit to the CWGC web site relating to this cemetery in respect of multiple burials and the need to carve regimental badges on the cloister wall?   PhilipG.
Title: Re: Lt Geoffrey Fildes Potts 17th Batallion kia 23-4-1917
Post by: Jamieguest on April 29, 2017, 01:22:08 PM
Phillip.

Thanks for all the information Phillip.  Most of it is new to me as I've only started researching the Manchesters in the last few weeks, though I have known about Geoffrey Fildes' involvement for several years.   I knew nothing about Sassoon's service but obviously was aware of him and Owen.    The whole Arras campaign seems to be very little known and I've got a book about it on my Fathers day present list.   I'll have a look at the CWGC site about the multiple graves.

Thanks again.

Jamie