Diary London Regiment-20-2 for 11September 1916

The War Diary of the London Regiment 2nd/20th Battalion for 11 September 1916 gives details of the raid that caused the death of Alfred Norman Stevens, Percy Cutler, William Fordyce, George Hutchison and Albert Mears.

Janet and Peter Groves write:

""For many years we had been told of the death of our great uncle, Alfred Norman Stevens during World War 1. Even though visited by a fellow soldier afterwards, his parents kept the details to themselves and the exact circumstances remained a mystery. All that was known was that he died in 1916 on the 11 September during a raid - supposedly shot in the head - and that he is remembered on the Thiepval memorial.

During our research into his death, it became apparent from the War Diaries of the 2nd/20th London Regiment that 5 men died on 11 September 1916.

The diary of that day reads:
3.30am - We carried out a successful raid on enemy front line N. of DURRAND (a crater) on a frontage of 100 yds. 4 prisoners captured belonging to (the German) 122nd Reg together with considerable amount of booty. Enemy shell fell into P78, killing 2 men.' (Believed to be George Johnston of the RAMC and Percy Cutler - both buried at the Ecoivres Military Cemetery).

However after the raid it is realised that 6 enemy prisoners were originally taken, not the 4 as above.

The debrief document summarises as:
3.10am Start of the raid
3.40am Most of the men are accounted for
4.20am The headcount of returning men reveals that 3 men from the raid are missing.
8.15am - they are still missing.

The evidence is that of the 6 prisoners originally taken, 2 have escaped. They and their captors were last seen coming over the parapet of the enemy trenches. It is assumed that somehow in the process the 2 excapees have killed their captors (ie the 3 missing men) as they returned through No Mans Land and so it proves - the missing men do not return.

Commonwealth War Graves name the 5 men of the 2nd/20 Battalion killed on the 11th September 1916 and they include Alfred Norman Stevens.

The graves of George Johnston (see G.Hutchison above) and Percy Cutler to be found at Ecoivres military cemetery as they were the two victims of the shell in P78 in the trenches and therefore recoverable and identifiable. However the instructions (of which we have copies) issued to each of the raiding party were aimed at secrecy as follows:

'It is imperative that all ranks are instructed that, if captured by the enemy, the only information he will give is rank and name. They should be told that it must be regarded as a rigid point of honour that no other information whatever must be divulged.'

As a result of this casualties from the rading party were unidentifiable and so appear on memorials only - Albert Mears on the Arras Memorial whereas William J. Fordyce and Alfred (Alf) Norman Stevens are remembered at Thiepval amongst the other casualties without a grave."

The War Diaries of the 2nd/20th Bn London Regiment and Commonwealth War Graves.

Contributed By:
Janet & Peter Groves

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License