The Rushden Museum 2018 exhibition, which will open on 5 May 2018, will be our last one covering WWI.  We are hoping to show the effect the war had on the town with the death of over 420 men, and to create an impact by displaying the details of all of them.  The population of Rushden in 1911 was 13,354 so to lose that many men must have been devastating.  We will use the war diaries to give accounts of some of the battles and also to demonstrate the conditions the men had to endure. 

The War Diaries are fascinating documents and extracts from those relating to when Rushden men were killed are available at the museum. This is a ‘work in progress’ so not all are transcribed at the moment.  Some are very detailed and descriptive; others are quite brief, depending on the writer, who was usually the Adjutant.

L/Corpl. Harry Knight, L/3629, of the 12th Lancers, who was killed on the 28 August 1914, was the first Rushden man to die.  He was the son of Harry and Phoebe Knight who, at that time, lived in Cromwell Road, Rushden.   L/Corpl. Knight is commemorated in the Chauny Communal Cemetery British Extension, and also in Rushden cemetery.  More details about him can be found on the Rushden Heritage web site.

L/Corpl. Harry Knight L/3629

The gravestone in Chauny Communal Cemetery British Extension

On the 16 August 1914 the 12th Lancers were at Norwich.  They travelled by train to Southampton and embarked on the S.S. African Prince, with one squadron 20th Hussars, and B and A squadrons on the S.S. Manchester Importer.  The Manchester Importer sailed at 9pm, the African Prince at 3:30am the next morning.  They arrived at Havre on the 17 August 1914 and after resting the next day they left Havre by train on the 19 August 1914, reaching Hautmont at 10pm on the same day.

Over the next few days the squadron moved to Laon Bernot, arriving about midnight on the 27 August 1914.  They encountered the enemy several times on the way and by the time they arrived at Laon Bernot one man had been killed, four were wounded and twelve missing.

Below is an extract from the War Diary of the 12th Lancers, giving an account of the battle on the 28 August 1914. A more detailed account of the battle can be seen in the museum.

28 August 1914

Map LAON BERNOT

Paraded at 3.00 a.m. and marched with all speed to point 127 W of THENELLES. About 9.00 a.m. the Regiment was sent to reconnoitre to the W in the direction of NEUVILLE and MESNIL-ST-LAURENT.  Finding no traces of the enemy we were ordered to retire to MOY on the OISE, off-saddle and graze.  At 4.30 p.m. hearing shots to the north, the C.O. ordered the Regiment to saddle up and mount, and the Regiment came into action on the ridge W of ALAINCOURT.  “C” Squadron came into action dismounted leaving their horses under cover, and engaged a squadron of the enemy with dismounted fire at about 1000 yards.  B & C Squadrons were ordered to attack on the right flank, and holding the enemy with dismounted fire, covered the advance of C Squadron who were ordered to mount, and take up another position closer to the enemy.  On getting close the C.O. observed that the moment was opportune for a charge and charging the dismounted German Dragoons, killed the lot with the exception of 4 prisoners.  The Machine Gun under Lieut W. R. STYLES and J Battery RHA kept the enemy’s main body back behind a wood about 800 yards in rear of their advanced squadron with well-directed fire.  The Regiment accounted for 70 and the total losses inflicted on the enemy were estimated at about 200.  The Regiment then retired to AUTREVILLE via LA FERE, FERGNIERE and CHAUNY to billet.

Casualties:-  Captain J. C. MICHELL and 4 Men

Wounded:- Lieut Colonel F. WORMALD and 5 Men

Horses:- 16.

The Enemy’s Regiment appears to have been the 2nd (Queen Victoria’s Own) Dragoons.  The German Commander was the COUNT von FURSTENBERG

B Squadron were despatched at 7.00 a.m. to take up a position of observation at FRIERES and MENNESIS. C Squadron sent 2 troops to guard the bridges over canal between CHAUNY and VIRY.  12 noon.  The Brigade moved out.  C. Squadron was recalled and marched to FARGNIERS, where they halted all day, returning to billet at AUTREVILLE about 7 p.m.  Major EUSTACE CRAWLEY took over command of the Regiment, Colonel F. WORMALD being wounded in the previous day’s fight. 

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