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PRIVATE,  277302
30th NOVEMBER 1917, AGED 38

Photo with kind permission of Pierre Vandervelden

FREDERICK ARTHUR HOWICK was born in Wisborough Green in 1879, the son of John and Eliza Howick and brother of George Howick (born Wisborough Green 1874), William John Howick (born Wisborough Green 1876) Ernest Harry Howick (born Rudgwick 1888)*, Minnie Winifred M Howick (born Rudgwick 1890)*, Sidney James Howick (born Rudgwick 1892)* and Charles Howick (born Rudgwick 1894)*.

In 1891 and 1901 the family were living in Warhams Farm, and by 1911 Frederick was living with his widowed father and brother Sydney in The Haven, near Billingshurst, and working as a farm labourer. (Warhams Farm was occupies by the Mariner family in 1911, whose son, Pte Luke Mariner, died as a result of the war in 1918)

Frederick enlisted in August 1914 and joined the 10th Battalion Hampshire Regiment (10/Hants) serving as Private 9865. 10/Hants was a 'New Army' battalion, formed at Winchester out of the men who answered the call of Lord Kitchener for volunteers to enlist in the British Army shortly after the conflict began. Frederick's personal service records appear to have been destroyed during the Second World War, however remaining documents indicated that he enlisted around 21st August 1914.


10/Hants was an element of 27th Brigade, 10th Division. On 27 June 1915, the Division received orders to prepare for service at Gallipoli. The battalion embarked at Liverpool on 7th July. By the end of the month they had joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, the 10th Division assembling on the island of Lemnos. On 6-7th August 1915 the Division landed at Suvla Bay, less 29th Brigade which went to Anzac Cove. The main body made an attack on Chocolate Hill 7/8th August. Frederick's medal record card indicates that he arrived in the Gallipoli theatre on 24th July 1915, presumable this was the date that he disembarked at Lemnos.

On 29th September 1915 the 10th Division withdrew from Gallipoli and moved to Mudros, before departing for Salonika, landing there 5-10th October. On the 7th and 8th December 1915 the division took part in the action at Kosturino, in the retreat from Serbia. Brigades of the Division were in action at the Karajakois (30th September to 2nd October 1915) and Yenikoi (3-4th October 1915).


It is likely that Frederick was wounded or became ill at some time during this period and returned to the United Kingdom. On recovery towards the end of 1916, it appears he was posted to the 2/6th Battalion Essex Regiment, and became Private 277302. Following this Frederick was posted to the British Expeditionary Force in France, where he was assigned to the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment (1/Essex).

On the 20th November 1917 the Commonwealth forces launched an attack in the vicinity of Cambrai. Previous actions had been preceded by an artillery barrage and the 'registering' of guns onto the enemy's known defensive positions. For this attack a new approach was conceived in the hope of winning the initiative of surprise. Troops were moved into position with great efforts taken to conceal their approach to the area and guns were laid without being registered by firing. There was no pre-emptive barrage and a large number of tanks were concentrated in great secrecy with the objective of crushing the enemy wire & quelling strongpoints in the forthcoming attack.

At 6.10am on the morning of 20th November over 1000 guns and howizters opened fire on the German defenses of the Hindenburg Line. Ten minutes later the coordinated advance of 476 tanks and six infantry divisions began. The action was a total success.

Cambrai Battle 1917

As an element of 88th Brigade, 29th Division, Frederick and the men of 1/Essex had moved south to Cambrai after their involvement in the Third Battle of Ypres, from which they were withdrawn in the second week of October 1917. Positioned around Gouzeaucourt, they were part of the support division on the first day of the Cambrai battle, and advanced at 1015am. In the first wave, 20th Division were to have penetrated the Hindenburg Line and moved on towards the Canal de St.Quentin between the villages of Marcoing and Masnieres. Following in the second wave, the 29th Division's task was to push through them and secure a bridgehead on the north side of the canal.

The 88th Brigade advanced northwards up the La Vacquerie valley, led by the 1/Essex behind four tanks. One of the tanks eventually broke down and the other three were knocked out by field guns south of the canal on Welsh Ridge. Nevertheless the 1/Essex pushed on, capturing a battery of German guns and taking 70 prisoners.

The plan was for 1/Essex cross the canal at Masnieres, clear the village on the north side, and establish a bridgehead. Before they arrived at the canal a 20th Division tank had already attempted to cross the canal using the road bridge which had partially collapsed under the weight of it, and the tank was wedged between the two ends. The bridge was known thereafter as "tank bridge".

Collapsed Bridge at Masnieres

The battalion endeavoured to cross the canal at Masnieres unsuccessfully for the remainder of the day under heavy rifle and machine gun fire. Other units to their left managed to cross the canal between Masnieres and Marcoing and moved long the railway embankment on the German side. Elements of 1/Essex eventually managed to cross by the same route in the early hours of the following day. The battalion defended the canal around Masnieres the following night and on the 22nd were relieved and moved to billets in Marcoing, where they remained until the 26th.

Area between Gouzeaucourt, Masnieres and Marcoing

On the sixth day of the battle the 1/Essex moved back into the trenches to the north west of Marcoing, were they remained until 8.30pm on the 28th when they were again relieved and returned to billets in Marcoing. They were still in the village when, at 7am on the 30th November 1917 the Germans launched a counter attack with a barrage of shellfire. The German troops advanced at 8.30am. To the left of 29th Division the 20th Division was driven back by 10am. The 1/Essex were ordered to assemble to the south of Marcoing Copse. The Germans were attacking west from Les Rues Vertes and 1/Essex attacked towards a sunken road to the south east of Marcoing Copse, where they halted the German advance. From this position the battalion created a defensive line eastwards to join the Newfoundland Regiment who had established a line of defense facing south east. The day ended with 29th Division holding the ground in the proximity of Marcoing and Masnieres, which they continued to hold over the next few days.

British trench map of the Marcoing - Masnieres area, 1/Essex assembly point south of Marcoing Copse and German advance from Les Rues Vertes towards the sunken road.

The Battalion's War Diary states that on the 30th November the battalion lost 1 officer and 14 men killed, 4 officers and 60 men wounded and 31 men missing. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register records that 25 men from 1/Essex died on the 30th. It is indicative of the confusion of a counter attack that 23 of the men, including Frederick Howick, have no known grave and are commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial at Louverval.

* Family Notes
Charles (Charlie) Howick served as Driver 50653 in the 211 Field Company, Royal Engineers, and survived the war.
Ernest Harry Howick served as Private G/6785 in The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), and survived the war.
Sidney James Howick served as Private 34281 in the 2/5th Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, and survived the war.
Minnie Winifred Howick married William Maurice Tickner from The Haven in 1910. William served as Pioneer WR41675 in the Royal Engineers and survived the war (see Absent Voters List)