Warwickshire and West Midland Page
Colonel Bob Carruthers OBE TD
On the 24th of August 2017,
Blyth Town Council kindly hosted a Memorial Service to honour Royal Warwickshire soldiers who died in a tragic accident in Blyth on the 24th of August 1917.
A number of Warwickshire Fusiliers travelled up to Northumberland, and we were warmly welcomed by The Fusilier Northumberland Association and 5 RRF. A great Regimental Family day.
I gave the following address at the Service.
The two English Regiments returning from Dutch service in 1694 entered the English Army as the 5th and 6th of Foot. The 5th became The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers ,the 6th The Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
In 1881 we became the Royal Warwickshire Regiment being disbanded in 1968 to form 2nd Bn. Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Two of our greatest soldiers were Montgomery and Slim.
In WW1 we raised 31 Bns - - some 47,570 men, of which 11,500 did not return. One of the Bns was the 3rd/5th Bn who merged with the 3rd/6th Bn to become the 5th Reserve Btn, a Home Service Bn.
On the morning of Friday 24th August 1917, Lt Col Chatterley and over 600 of his men from the 5th Reserve Bn the Royal Warwickshire Regiment set off on a route march from their camp to the nearby town of Blythe. It was a hot day and they halted at the beach to bathe and cool off. As the men were hot and sweaty in their serge uniforms many stripped off into the inviting water. None were aware that the tide was ebbing and that there were deep channels cut into the sand by the currents. There was also a strong westerly wind and a strong sea running, the tide here runs south to north and pushes out to sea. Coming from mainly Birmingham most of them had never seen the sea.
Within minutes some of the men were in difficulty and began swimming franticly against the strong currents but making no headway. Those who were considered strong swimmers went immediately to help their comrades and these men were also in a short time in difficulties. Some 15 were battling hopelessly against the currents.
2nd Lt. Brown quickly organised his men into lines and joining hands they waded out to rescue the now drowning soldiers. They managed to get 7 men out of the water. The undercurrent was so strong that it was almost impossible to even wade and try to reach any other of his men. 2nd Lt. Brown was swept off his feet and carried away by the swirling water. The Chaplain tried desperately to save him but in vain and found himself in severe difficulties. He was dragged from the sea utterly exhausted. There were no boats immediately available either in the bay or on the shore. Sadly, later boats did appear but they were too late to save the 9 men.
2nd Lt.'s attempts to save his men and his inability to retain his grip was probably explained by the fact that he was seriously wounded on the first day of the Somme, resulting in limited movement of his right arm.
Most of the bodies were returned to their relatives in the Midlands and the body of 2nd Lt. Brown, which was recovered from the sea several days later, is buried in Halton Churchyard.
At the coroner's inquest, it was noted that the commanding officer had asked a 15 year old fisher boy about the state of the sea before the bathing parade was formed. The lad told him the tide was at an ebb. The CO took this to mean that the sea was at its lowest and calmest. It was of course at its most dangerous. One elderly fisherman, seeing the men get ready to take the plunge remarked to his colleagues that they would never get out alive.
The inquest uncovered the total lack of sea swimming experience amongst the men from landlocked Birmingham. The Coroner asked Private James " Can you tell me anything about it?"
James - "I only went out about 30 yards and it took me all my time to get back"
Coroner - "why?"
James - "Because of the waves. I have not been used to the sea"
Coroner - "Ever been in the sea before?"
James - "Never."
Coroner - "? Never"
James - " Friday last was my first view of the sea"
Coroner - " Can you swim?"
James - "Yes - in the baths"
Some 40 members of the Fusilier Association attended their AGM last Saturday, held in Alderson House Warwick, as the attendance this year was far to large to fit into AHQ. Major John Turquand TD was appointed as the Deputy Chairman, Major Bill Edmonds MBE, Treasurer, and Major John Lam, Secretary.
6th FOOT DINNER CLUB
The Regimental Dinner Club of The Royal Warwickshire
Regiment (VIth Foot) was established in 1876 when the first dinner was
held at the "Ship and Turtle" in Leadenhall Street, London in
June of that year and the dinner has taken place annually, except when
wars have intervened.
The Fusiliers Warwickshire Officers Dinner Club
The Club dines once a year at Bramcote Barracks ,near Nuneaton,
usually on the first Friday in March. Accommodation is normally available.
Annual Church Parade
The Association gathers every year in Warwick, on the second Sunday in October, for a social, Church Service, and a Parade through the town. Contact for information, email@example.com