Researched and written by Anne Wright
Pte F G Stovold
2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment
Killed in action, 2.9.1918
Albert George Stovold and Alice Jane Tanner were married on 15 March 1890 at St James’ Church, Weybridge where Albert had been baptised on 9 April 1855. He was born in Elsted and his wife in Hersham. They had four children: Louisa Helen, Frederick George, Albert Edward and William Henry. Their second child was born on 26 January 1894 at Hersham and was also baptised at St James’ Church. The family settled in Weybridge and their first home was East View in New Road to be followed by 1, Eton Villas in Elmgrove Road where they lived in 1911. By this year Frederick, a former pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street), was earning his living as a butcher.
He enlisted in Weybridge, when is not known, but as he was not awarded the 1914-15 Star campaign medal he was not in combat against the Germans before 31 December 1915. Frederick was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment and he was most likely to have been with them by the time they fought in the Battle of the Somme, 1916. On 22 June his battalion was told that they would go into the front line when the offensive was launched on 1 July. They were to attack the Beaumont Hamel-Serre positions. Zero hour was at 7.30 am; the battalion made their initial advance at 8.36am. Frederick’s unit got to about fifty yards from the German second line, when they tried to consolidate their position but came under heavy machine gun fire from Serre on the left flank and Beaumont-Hamel on the right. At 4pm they were forced to retire to the German front line. They were relieved at 1am the next morning. Their casualties amounted to 22 officers and 400 other ranks. If this had been Frederick’s first offensive it had been a baptism of fire.
On 27 July they moved north to Elverdinghe, north west of Ypres but at the beginning of October they were back in France at La Neuville (23 km due east of Armentieres). Christmas Day was spent in camp near Combles (13 km south of Baupaume) with festivities postponed until they were further behind the line. Frederick’s probable second experience of a major assault was the Arras Offensive of April, 1917. His battalion was in training at Monchy-Breton (part of the district of Arras) for the first week of April. They were in the front line by 10am on 9 April. The attack made in the afternoon by Frederick’s battalion involved them advancing with fixed bayonets; by 3.40pm they had reached the German fourth system and taken 150 prisoners. They lost 11other ranks killed, 63 wounded and 4 missing. The battalion was in the front line again on 1 May and attacked on 3 May, once again they paid a heavy price: A and C companies were almost wiped out and B company which was in support encountered heavy machine gun fire, this resulted in 5 other ranks being killed, 96 wounded and 106 reported missing.
In March 1918 Frederick’s battalion was still in the Arras sector and in the front line when they were engulfed by the German Spring Offensive. They expected to be attacked on 26 March but it did not happen until two days later when they came under an intense bombardment from 3am onwards. By 7.40am the Germans had broken through on both flanks and advanced. In the ensuing mayhem the battalion lost 13 officers killed, wounded or missing, 15 other ranks killed, 49 wounded and 342 missing. On 1 April at Haute Avesnes they formed a composite company and were attached to the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers. Frederick and his comrades were in the front line in the Arras sector on 1 September, now in the last one hundred days of the war, when they launched a successful attack on enemy trenches. They had assembled in depth at 4am and there was some confusion because of other troops in the same trenches. Despite the success of the operation 20 were killed and 50 wounded. Frederick was one of the 20 fatalities.
He is one of 9,000 men who died between 8 August and the Armistice in the advance through Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos who have no known grave and are commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial (Panel 7) located 10 km south-east of Arras. Frederick’s parents remained in Weybridge; his mother died in 1938 and his father in 1946. Albert Stovold still lived in Elmgrove Road at the time of his death with his daughter Louisa who died, unmarried, in 1964.
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1837, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.ancestry.co.uk
Voller of Heath End Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk