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Frederick Eddison Eastwood

Fred E. EastwoodPrivate Frederick E. Eastwood, 240715, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment), 2nd/5th Battalion

Frederick Eddison Eastwood was born in Ossett in summer 1895, the youngest son of Frederick and his wife Emma (nee Armitage ) who married in October 1884. Frederick junior was baptised at St Luke’s Church Middlestown on the 16th June 1895, when his father was described as a cloth fuller of Ossett. The couple had nine children from their marriage, but one child had died before April 1911. The couple were living in Ossett in 1891 and Frederick senior, who was born in Ossett, was landlord of the Globe Inn on Bank Street, a position he occupied between July 1888 and 1895.

The family left Ossett about 1895. By 1901, the family had settled at Sackville Street, Ravensthorpe and they were still living there in 1911. Frederick's father had returned to his trade as a fuller and Frederick junior was following the same trade. At some stage Frederick moved with his parents and siblings to 28 Duke Street, Ravensthorpe and this was the family’s address after WW1. All five of his brothers joined the army. Fred attended St. Saviour’s Boys School in Ravensthorpe and before the War he was a choirboy at St. Saviour’s Parish Church. Both he and his brother Harry were also members of the Ravensthorpe Cycling Club and in 1915 Fred was one of the vice presidents of the club. Until joining up, Fred worked as a cloth finisher at Wormald and Walker’s Mill.

Frederick Eddison Eastwood’s army service record has not survived, but it is known that he enlisted at Mirfield on Monday, 9th November 1914, probably the same day as his brother, Harry (regimental service number 240719). Like his brother he joined the 2/5th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment with regimental service number 240715. He embarked for France, with his brother Harry, as part of the Territorial 62nd Division, in early January 1917.

On the 20th January 1917 the "Dewsbury News" made brief mention of Fred Eastwood, when lists of men who had received parcels was published. In acknowledging his parcel Fred added “We are moving from here today. I think they must have been saving us to give the Germans the knock out blow, and I hope we bring it to an end as I am getting tired of it.”

Fred Eastwood was killed in action in what was to be the last attack in the Third Battle of the Scarpe on the 3rd May 1917, more commonly known as the second Battle of Bullecourt. This date was the first time that the 2/5th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment had gone "over the top" and three other Ravensthorpe men from the 2/5th Battalion were killed alongside Fred Eastwood.

Since mid April artillery had shelled Bullecourt and Fred’s 62nd Division, 186th Brigade, were to assist in the capture of the town and the village of Hendecourt. The 186th led the assault with the 2/5 Duke’s on the right and the 2/6th Duke’s on the left and these lead battalions were backed by the Duke’s 2/7th and 2/4th. At dusk on the 2nd May tapes were laid to guide the attacking troops who were ready by 3:30 a.m. Zero hour was 3:45 a.m. when the British Artillery opened the action with immediate response from the enemy suggesting they had been aware of the attack plans.

The British Infantry followed their creeping barrage and enemy shelling and a machine gun barrage continued. The barrages by both sides caused visibility problems due to dry weather and the British troops lost their direction such that what had appeared initially to be a successful attack in the early morning turned into a failure and withdrawal by 9 a.m. By 1 p.m. the 186th Brigade War Diary acknowledged “Attack unsuccessful, our troops having been unable to consolidate even in the enemy’s first line on account of heavy machine gun fire.”

In spite of heavy enfilade machine gun fire, the 2/5th Duke of Wellington’s had managed to establish a forward hold for several hours, but the troops were bombed out when they retired to shell holes. Even then small parties managed to hold out until after dusk and some were able to return. Not all however were so fortunate. The 2/5th Battalion casualties for the 3rd May 1917 were recorded as nine officers killed or missing and five wounded. Other ranks suffered two men killed; 123 missing and 275 wounded, including Private Fred Eastwood.

In his book, "A Village Goes to War" 1, David Tattersfield records:

"It was left to Harry to break the news to their parents that Fred had not returned from the attack. He wrote on 3rd May to say that Fred was missing and wounded after the shell hole in which Fred and three others were sheltering received a direct hit from another shell. Two of the soldiers were killed outright and Fred and another were wounded. Harry went on to say that he had heard that Fred had been taken prisoner.

Two days later Harry wrote again, although having received little further information, he said he understood that none of the men who were with Fred had got back (whether he meant those that were with Fred in the shell hole or those that were with Fred during the advance is unclear). A discrepancy now crept into the story; Harry quoted from a Platoon Sergeant who had said that "Fred was wounded in the trench which the Boches made too hot for our lads to hold, since then the trench has been recaptured.” Harry therefore speculated (possibly to try and comfort his parents) that Fred had been taken prisoner."

Fred Eastwood was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals but not the 1914/15 Star, indicating that he did not serve overseas before 31st December 1915. Frederick’s parents’ address by the end of the war was 28 Duke Street Ravensthorpe.

He is remembered in this 2014 biography and Roll of Honour because the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and/or the U.K. Soldiers who Died in the Great War 1914-1918 listing records him as born or residing in Ossett.

Frederick Eddison Eastwood is also remembered on the Ravensthorpe Parish Church Memorial.

2nd Battle of Bullecourt

Above: Map showing the position of Private Fred Eastwood's 2nd/5th Duke of Wellington Regiment as part of 186th Brigade in the 62nd Division on the 3rd May 1917 during the second Battle of Bullecourt.

Private Frederick Eastwood, son of Frederick and Emma Eastwood, of 28, Duke St., Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury, Yorkshire died aged 20 years on the 3rd May 1917 and is remembered on Bay 6 of the Arras Memorial,2 Pas de Calais, France. The Arras Memorial is in the Faubourg-d'Amiens Cemetery, which is in the Boulevard du General de Gaulle in the western part of the town of Arras. The cemetery is near the Citadel, approximately 2 kms due west of the railway station.

The French handed over Arras to Commonwealth forces in the spring of 1916 and the system of tunnels upon which the town is built were used and developed in preparation for the major offensive planned for April 1917.

The Commonwealth section of the Faubourg D'Amiens Cemetery was begun in March 1916, behind the French military cemetery established earlier. It continued to be used by field ambulances and fighting units until November 1918. The cemetery was enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields and from two smaller cemeteries in the vicinity.

The cemetery contains over 2,650 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 10 of which are unidentified. The graves in the French military cemetery were removed after the war to other burial grounds and the land they had occupied was used for the construction of the Arras Memorial and Arras Flying Services Memorial.

The adjacent Arras Memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and the German attack in the spring of 1918. Canadian and Australian servicemen killed in these operations are commemorated by memorials at Vimy and Villers-Bretonneux. A separate memorial remembers those killed in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.

References:

1. "A Village Goes to War", A history of the Men of Ravensthorpe who fell in the Great War by David Tattersfield  ISBN 0 9534689 3 3

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site