Private Frederick William BRAIN

Northamptonshire Regiment
6th Battalion
(Formerly: 1st Battalion)
Service Number:
Date of Death:
2 August 1916 - Died of wounds 
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
VI. G. 4..

Personal History:
Frederick was born in the September quarter 1886 at Earl's Barton, Northamptonshire, the son of William H. (Gardener) and Sarah Brain. He had an elder brother, John H., and two younger sisters, Ellen E. and Linda G. (1891 Census RG 12/1209 and 1901 Census RG 13/1438).
In 1901 the family were living at Northampton Road, Earl's Barton, and Frederick was working in the Boot and Shoes industry. Ten years later (1911 Census RG 14/26291) Frederick had moved to 9 Bensons Square, Northumberland Street, Huddersfield, working as a "Breaksman".

At the same address lived Blanche Dixon and her 8 year old daughter. Rosie (enumerated as "Married 9 years" - though obviously not to Frederick).  The couple married in the December quarter 1914 and continued to live at 27 Northumberland Street, Huddersfield. Frederick's association with Buxton has, however, not yet been established.

Military History:
Frederick enlisted in Northampton and from his Regimental Service Number his date of enlistment would have been about April 1903. Enlistment terms were usually 3 years on Active Service plus 9 years on Reserve, so Frederick was a Reservist soldier at the outbreak of the War and would have been re-called to his Battalion immediately War was declared.

His Medal Index Card shows he was posted to France on the 27th August 1914, when in the 1st Battalion. Unfortunately, his Service Records have not survived. His Medal Index Card indicates he was in the 1st Battalion, whilst his CWGC records him in the 6th Battalion.

The 6th (Service) Battalion was only formed at Northampton in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's Second New Army (K2) and attached as Army Troops to 18th (Eastern) Division. They moved to Colchester in November 1914, transferring to 54th Brigade in same Division. They moved again to Salisbury Plain in May 1915 and did not land in France until 26th July 1915.

The1st Battalion was in Blackdown near Aldershot, under the command of 2nd Brigade in 1st Division, at the outbreak of the War and on the 13th August 1914 landed at Le Havre, Frederick following two weeks later. In 1914 the Division was in action during The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat; The Battle of the Marne; The Battle of the Aisne including participation in the Actions on the Aisne heights and the Action of Chivy and the First Battle of Ypres.

Frederick was wounded with a bullet in the jaw, and he was reported as admitted to Second Southern General Hospital, Bristol on 26th October 1914 ('The Times' of 30th November 1914), so was presumably wounded a few days before at Ypres. His 1st Battalion had 52 men killed in action between the 20th - 25th October.

At some stage after his recovery Frederick re-enlisted in the 6th Battalion. 'The Northampton Independent' (26th September 1916) wrote that "Although he was a timed expired soldier ..... (he) ... felt the call of patriotism so strongly he re-enlisted as soon as he was entitled to after his discharge and went back for the third and last time to France."

The 6th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment were part of 54th Brigade, 18th Division and fought from the 1st Day of the Somme, in support, reinforcing the 11th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers and 7th Bedfordshire Regiment in Pommiers Redoubt, and suffering 160 casualties. By the 13th July, the day Frederick suffered the wounds from which he died, his Battalion moved from Bois-des-Tailles to Maricourt, from where it launched an assault on Trones Wood the following day:

"On the 14th July 1916, the 6th Northamptonshire Regiment assaulted the German held Trones Wood that lay between Montauban and Guillemont on the right flank of the British advance. Attacks over the previous days had failed to take the wood although a small party of the 7th Royal West Kent Regiment of 53rd Brigade held the southern edge. The wood was believed to be in British hands until the very last moment before the battle. Emergency measures were taken to re-capture it again, so that the right flank of the assault on Bazentin Ridge would not be open to enfilade fire.

Advancing at 4am across 1,000 yards of open, shell-cratered ground whilst the Germans laid artillery bombardment and in the face of heavy machine gun fire, the battalion reached the southwestern edge of Trones Wood with heavy losses, including many of the officers. The battalion pressed on into the wood and took the wood from the Germans in close quarters fighting. A sweep led by Colonel Maxwell of the 12th Middlesex later consolidated the gains of the Northamptonshires."

Casualties were worse after a neighbouring Battalion mistook the 6th for the enemy and fired on them. The wood was a mess of fallen trees, barbed wire and trenches, and for much of it was on fire. After hand-to-hand fighting the British took the Wood by 10.00 a.m. The German shelled the Wood incessantly for two days, during which time the 6th Battalion had to hold its position until relieved.

In reporting his death 'The Northampton Independent' (26th September 1916) said he ".. was wounded on July 13th in the neck, arm, side  and leg.", i.e. the day before the attack described above, and was evacuated to Hospital in Abbeville. One man of the Battalion was killed in action on the 13th, however, 96 men of Frederick's 6th Battalion were killed in action or died of wounds on the 14th July 1916, with a further 12 dying of wounds up to the date he died. The War Diary listed just 32 killed, 204 wounded and 35 missing. All but 11 have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Frederick is buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery, and No. 3 British Red Cross Society,
No.5 and No.2 Stationary Hospitals were stationed in Abbeville from October 1914.

· I am grateful to 'Stebie', via the GWF for the War Diary extract
· The Buxton Advertiser, 19 August 1916
·  I am grateful to Margaret Dufay for the photo of Frederick's grave
· 'The Northampton Independent', 26 September 1916
· "British Battalions on the Somme" - Ray Westlake [ISBN-10: 0850523745] p. 203

Commemorated on:
Link to CWGC Record
Abbeville Cemetery c. 1919
Abbeville Cemetery c. 1919
Pt Frederick W. Brain
Frederick Brain's grave