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Alfred William Spicksley


6312 Sgt

2nd Battalion Border Regiment, 20th Infantry Brigade, 7th Division

Age: 31

Date of Death: 26.10.14

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 36

Family history: Son of James Spicksley, of New Barnet, Herts and husband of Jeanie Hall Spicksley, of Braeport, Dunblane, Perthshire. They had two children Margaret, born on 20 June 1914 and George adopted on 7 June 1909. The pension records show that Jeanie was living with her mother at North Broomage Crescent, Larbert before she moved to Dunblane after the war.

A regular, he had seen service in the Boer War and in India. As part of the 7th Division, the battalion went to Belgium in August 1914 landing at Zeebrugge as part of British force sent to defend the fortress at Antwerp. Retreating from Antwerp with the Belgian Army, the 7th Division formed part of the BEF in front of Ypres in October 1914.

The action leading to his death

The 7th Division were holding a line some two miles in length from Zandvoorde east to Gheluvelt and then onto Reutel to Zonnebeke. On the 18 October the 20th Brigade, which included the 2nd Border Regiment, was holding the line on the right of the Division at Zandvoorde and Kruiseik having retired from the advanced position around the hamlet of America. The Brigade had the Borders and the Grenadiers in the line with the Scots Guards and Gordon Highlanders in reserve.

(Linesman Map showing 7th Division line October 1914)

At this point the British had reached the full extent of their advance. Sir John French, Commander in chief of the BEF in 1914, had rather optimistically persisted with the view that the advance could continue despite the reports from his highly efficient Intelligence Service that reported that the Germans were massing in unexpected strength.

On the 20 October the 7th Division received orders to push out strong reconnaissance to the East towards Menin. The reconnaissance undertaken in strength by 20th Brigade advanced towards Gheluwe and little resistance was encountered with the exception of shell fire from Wervicq. With pressure mounting on 22nd Brigades front the 20th Brigade was ordered to retire and the Germans did not pursue them. While the 7th Division had held its own the 20 October marked a turning point with the beginning of the German heavy counter-attacks. Both the Grenadiers who were East of Kruiseik and the Border Regiment who were on their right reported that the enemy were advancing and were within 800 yards of them. At this point the Divisions line was now more of a salient which was exposed to both frontal and enfilade fire.

On the 25 October the Germans, in front of ‘B’ company trenches, raised a white flag and Major W L Allan left the British trench to go over to them however, they shot him down. The 26 October saw the Germans mount an attack on the British lines around Kruiseik opening their attack with a heavy artillery barrage that blew in the British trenches burying many men, although some were dug out others suffocated. Both ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies of the Borders had been attacked from 9am and the Germans had got in behind their trenches and only some 70 survivors managed to get away. The enemy was held by the battalion HQ, battalion scouts and the machine gun section.

The Borders casualties were 5 officers killed, two wounded and three missing. Other ranks were 25 killed, 65 wounded and 174 missing.

Medals Awarded

1914 Star with Clasp, British War Medal, Victory Medal

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