WW1 FEATURE The soldiers behind the names on the war memorial
Ransome Coote Green, born in the summer of 1893 near Grimsby, Lincolnshire, was the second son of Edward Coote Green – the marble and stone mason who was to build Haverhill’s War Memorial.
Ransome, though, wasn’t to follow in the family business which his grandfather started at Haverhill in about 1865.
Instead, in 1911, aged 18, he was employed by Grimsby Education Authority as a student teacher and it was likely that this was when he became friends with another young man, Leslie Cummins.
Leslie was born in the spring of 1892 in Grimsby. His father, draper George Valentine Cummins, and mother Mary, née Sanderson, had four other children, Leslie being the eldest son. The children were educated locally.
On October 1, 1909, at the age of 17, Leslie began work as a laboratory assistant at the Municipal College, Grimsby, earning an annual salary of £20. In 1912, Leslie and Ransome moved to Haverhill to take up teaching positions at the Haverhill Board School on September 23.
Leslie soon integrated well into the community, playing football for the Rovers and attending the Old Independent Church.
In August, 1914, posters appeared across Grimsby appealing to men to bear arms in a new Lincolnshire battalion. Lord Kitchener was calling on more men to join the Army, offering new “pals” battalions across the country, where recruits could serve alongside their friends.
Ransome and Leslie may have may have heard about the new “pals’ battalion” from their families, or they may have been in Grimsby themselves during the summer break. Whichever it was, on September 7, 1914, the two young teachers left Haverhill Board School, travelled back to Grimsby and volunteered for the newly-formed “Grimsby Chums” Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment.
Both enlisted as privates, but each was soon promoted to sergeant and subsequently gained commissions. Leslie was made 2nd Lieutenant in January, 1915, as published in the London Gazette.
The Battalion trained at Brocklesby camp, near Grimsby, until June, 1915, and the next few months were spent at Perham Down, Salisbury Plain and Warminster, before sailing to France on January 5, 1916. They arrived at Armentières before moving to the Somme to prepare for the great offensive that was to be the “Chums” first taste of battle.
On July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the Grimsby Chums, including Lt Ransome Coote Green and 2nd Lt Leslie Cummins, were in the first wave attacking the fortified village of La Boisselle, just south of the Albert-Bapaume road. To aid the attack, a massive mine, known as the Lochnagar mine, was detonated beneath the German trenches at 7.28am, two minutes before Zero Hour.
At 7.30 am, the Chums rushed forward. Leslie, leading A-Company platoon, shouted: “Over the top and good luck to you all”.
Moments later he paused to drag a wounded comrade to cover in a shell hole. As he straightened up from his labours he was killed instantly, shot through the heart by machine gun fire. He was 24.
Ransome Coote Green said of Leslie: “He was one of the best and finest friends that one could have.” Leslie is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, in the Old Independent Church and on Haverhill War Memorial.
Ransome Coote Green was himself badly wounded. The Echo of July 8, 1916, reported that the family received the news by way of telegram.
It read: “Regret to inform you that Lt R C Green, Lincolnshire Regiment, was admitted 4th July, to 7th Stationary Hospital, Boulogne, with gunshot wound right knee, serious.” He survived and ended the war as a Major. In 1918 he was to hear of the death of his brother, Frank.
In total the Grimsby Chums suffered 502 casualties on July 1, 1916; 15 officers and 487 other ranks. Of those who came back, only two of officers and about 100 other ranks were not wounded.
Leslie was the first of 20 brave Haverhill men to die in the Battle of the Somme and Albert Heckford was the last, on the final day. The battle was one of the largest of the First World War, in which more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest in human history. The other 19 men remembered on the war memorial are:
HARRY KING 8 July
OCTAVIOUS ELLES 14 July
CONRAD BACON 9 August
PEM MILLS 17 August
JACK WEBB 3 September A
LBERT BACKLER 10 September
FRANK BROWN 16 September
HUBERT BROWN 16 September
ALBERT JENNINGS 16 September
FRED G ROBSON 16 September
IVOR S JONES 21 September
WILLIAM ASHPLANT 22 September
WILLIAM SARGEANT 6 October
JAMES MAYES 7 October
TED KIDDY 14 October
MAJOR FARRANT 9 November
ABNER BACKLER 13 November
FREDERICK R WEBB 13 November
ALBERT HECKFORD 18 November
If you are related to or know about any of these men or the others named on the War Memorial and perhaps with some family information that you would be willing to share with us, then do please get in touch. We wish their life stories, as well as their names to be remembered in perpetuity.