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26th Jun, 2022

Redditch soldiers were still fighting on the Western Front less than 20 days before the Armistice

Ross Crawford 28th Oct, 2018

LESS than 20 days before the Armistice and soldiers from Redditch were still fighting and dying on the Western Front.

Among them were Robert Shrimpton, who was killed on October 23, 1918, and Tom Harrison who died in captivity on October 24.

Details of their wartime careers are scarce, but both were married men with children and relatively senior in years for frontline soldiers – Robert was 40 at the time of his death and Tom 42.

Tom was was born in Webheath in 1876, the youngest child of George and Annie Harrison.

Both his parents worked in local industries – George was a fish hook filer and Annie a needle picker and the family lived at 7 Herbert Street.

Aged 16 Tom started as a tin plate worker and in 1898 he married his mother’s namesake, Annie, the couple moving into 24 Unicorn Hill where they had three children.

He enlisted in the Army in Hertford and was posted to the 1st Battalion the Lincolnshire Regiment where he rose to the rank of Lance Corporal.

The 1st Lincs were involved in a series of battles in the 100 days big push across northern France, fighting at Epehy and The Battle of the Canal du Nord.

It’s not known when Tom was captured, but as an example of what his unit went through, on September 29, 1918 the 1st attacked at 3.30am at Gonnelieu near Gouzeaucourt south east of Cambrai.

They advanced behind what was described as a ‘very bad’ creeping barrage which failed to take out the German machineguns.

Their only support tank was knocked out and they suffered appalling casualties – more than 250 men killed, wounded or missing.

One soldier from the 1st Lincs who was captured was a Captain Boxer who was hit in the hip and soon afterwards through the chest.

When he recovered consciousness he was among Germans who dressed his wounds, “and he was treated with great kindness and consideration,” says the regimental war diary.

“He remained with them throughout the whole of the 29th and the night of the 29th/30th. When the Germans retired he was left in a dug-out with coffee and food, and a notice at the entrance that a wounded British officer was inside. He was picked up by a battalion of the Cheshire Regiment on the 30th.”

It is likely that Tom Harrison was also wounded and captured but he unfortunately died of his injuries.

He is buried in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Hamburg, Germany, and is remembered today on the Redditch War Memorial and on the War Memorial at the Bridge Church, St Luke’s.

Robert Shrimpton was born in 1878, the son of John and Isabella Amelia Shrimpton who worked in the needle making business set up by John’s father Thomas.

The family lived at 47 Evesham Street and later 140 Mount Pleasant.

By the time he was 13 Robert was working as an errand boy and then as a builder’s carter.

Both his parents died not long after the turn of the century by which time the family had moved to Aston in Birmingham.

Robert married his sweetheart Blanche and the couple ran a tobacconists, raising two children, Clifford and Irene.

During the war Robert served as a sapper in the 98th Field Company of the Royal Engineers – the key part of the Army that built the trenches and fortifications for frontline soldiers, laid railway tracks and built gun emplacements.

By October 1918, working in conditions exposed to enemy fire, they were also vital in making sure the advance could continue without hold-ups.

Robert was killed in action on October 23 and is buried in the Vendegies-au-Bois Churchyard west of Cambrai and is remembered today on the Bridge Church War Memorial, formerly St Luke’s.

With thanks to:

Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes

The History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914-1918 – https://archive.org/stream/TheHistoryOfTheLincolnshireRegiment1914-1918/

https://www.ww1cemeteries.com/

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