Reginald Stanley SPENCER
Rank: Private
Number: 391085
Unit: 1/9th Battalion London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles)
Date of Death: 14 April 1917
Age: 25
Cemetery: Arras Memoril, Pas de Calais, France

The Spencers originated from Hebden Bridge, where Joseph Spencer had been in business as a tailor and outfitter. When the Census was taken in 1901, he, his wife Emily and their five children were living at "Brentwood" on Birchcliffe Road. Eight year old Reginald was the fourth of the children. It is not known when they moved to the Stockport area but, by 1914, they were living at "Endsleigh" in Bramhall. It's understood that Reginald had moved away and was living at Grove Park -  a suburb of what is now the London Borough of Lewisham. He enlisted nearby into the local Territorial Battalion and was given the service number of 3743. This confirms that he was overseas on active service prior to 1917 as, at the beginning of that year, Territorial soldiers were renumbered with six-digit numbers as Reginald's above.

The British offensive, later designated as the Battle of Arras, had opened on 9 April 1917 and the Battalion had been heavily involved.  The pressure on the Germans was maintained over the following days and, on the evening of the 13th, orders were issued for the Battalion to take part in another assault at dawn the next day. The Battalion History records "It was a decidedly sleepy set of officers that sat and listened to the CO as he read out the orders for the attack.....For the last six days, few of them had enjoyed more than a couple of hours sleep a day and the effect showed itself in every face in the small circle as we alternately nodded and jerked ourselves into wakefulness."

The Battalion would lead the attack on the left with the Queen's Westminster Rifles (the 1/16th Battalion) to their right. The objectives were enemy positions south of the village of Cherisy towards a small wood near Fontaine-les-Croisilles. "Promptly at 3am, the barrage opened. The men were as splendid as ever. In spite of the fatigue, they had experienced, nearly everyone went over with a laugh and a joke."

The German artillery quickly opened up on them as they crossed No Man's Land, followed almost immediately by enfilade fire from a previously unknown trench, hidden from view. "Thus we had machine guns and rifles pumping lead into our ranks from both front and rear, with heavy guns to complete what they left undone. About 20 of each of the leading companies succeeded in reaching a point some sixty yards short of the first objective and there, taking cover behind a shallow bank, they returned the enemy's fire as fast as they were able. For a quarter of an hour, there was a desperate short range rifle duel between the remnants of "A" and "B" Companies and the German infantry in front. Then the guns gradually ceased fire and the battle fizzled out, leaving  a small body of men isolated in front of the enemy's position, unable to move either backward of forward, as for anyone to stand or even show any part of his body drew an instant hail of bullets."

The attack had been a major failure. There was nothing to be done but for those still alive to wait until darkness fell and try to crawl back to the British line. 11 officers and 350 other ranks had become casualties - dead, wounded or missing. Reginald's body was never found and identified.

© 2006. Design and Layout are the property of Ihelm Enterprises Limited and cannot be reproduced without express permission.
Enter Search Phrase Here:(search may take up to 30 seconds) 
Close Search Window