Spicer, Robert

Name of Researcher / Enw’r ymchwylydd: Pat Satchell

Name of Memorial / Enw’r gofeb: Bodelwyddan

Name / Enw: Spicer, Robert

Regiment/Catrawd: 1st Bn., Royal Welsh Fusiliers

Service Rank and Number / Rheng gwasanaeth a rhif: Private, 11394

Military Cemetery/Memorial / Fynwent milwrol: Le Touret Memorial

Ref No Grave or Memorial / Rhif cyfeirnod bedd: Panel 13 and 14

Country of Cemetery or Memorial / Gwlad y fynwent neu gofeb: France

Medals Awarded / Medalau a ddyfarnwyd: The Victory Medal, The British War Medal, The 1914 Star Medal.

Date and Circumstances of Death / Dyddiad ac amgylchiadau marwolaeth:

Killed in action on 16th May 1915 aged 22yrs

The 1901 census tells us that the Spicer family were living at 4 Mill Street, St Asaph. The household consisted of Head, Frank Spicer 42 (born in Wolverhampton) who was a Coachman. His wife Sarah Ann 30 (born in Staffordshire). Robert Aston 7), Alice May 5, John 3 and Frederick William 3 months old, all born in St Asaph in Flintshire.

Ten years on, the 1911 census finds the family at Bryn Celyn Lodge, St Asaph. It appears that the family has had a change of circumstances as the Head of the household is Sarah Ann Spicer, 40 years of age, Widow. She is a Launderess by trade. John, 13, William F,10 and Margaret Naomie, 6 are all at school. There is no sign of  Robert Aston and I have been unsuccessful in tracing him on the 1911 Welsh or U.K. census.

The England & Wales Death Index 1837-1915 tells us that Frank Spicer died in 1909 at 50 years of age.

We next find that Robert Aston has joined The Royal Welsh Fusiliers. His Flintshire Roll of Honour card in the Archives Office in Hawarden, states that he served for 1 year 2months. Next of kin is listed  Bryn Celyn Lodge, Glascoed, St. Asaph.

On www.ancestry.co.uk under the heading, Soldiers who Died in the Great War 1914-1919 we learn that Robert  Aston enlisted in Rhyl. He was “Killed in Action” in France. He had served in France / Flanders and was 22 years of age when he died.

Robert Astons’s W.W.1 Medal Card states that he was awarded, The Victory Medal, The British War Medal and The 1914 Star Medal. It also gives the entry date to the first Theatre of War as 2/11/1914.  Fact sheet The Royal Welch Fusiliers in the Great War (1914-18)  advises us that the 1st Bn., fought in the 1st Battle at Ypres (19 Oct-22 Nov 1914) and during that time Robert contracted Pleurisy and was admitted to hospital. He rejoined his Bn. on 18/02/1915.

The 1st Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers fought in The Battle of Festubert 15th to 25th May 1915, it was during this battle that Robert was killed in action age 22 years.

Newspaper article from The Denbighshire Free Press dated 26th June 1915. 

The Royal Welsh Fusiliers War Diaries for 1st Battalion show that on the morning of 16th May 1915 the strength of the Battallion in trenches was 25 Officers including M.O. Other ranks 80

In the evening of 16th May the diaries show Officers killed -6   Died of wounds-2   Wounded -9  Wounded or missing-2  Casualties other ranks – killed -118  wounded-271  missing-164  wounded or missing- Total 559.

Robert Spicer is also commemorated on the Bodelwyddan War Memorial. http://www.flintshirewarmemorials.com/memorials/bodelwyddan-memorial/bodelwyddan-soldiers/robert-spicer/

Robert and his brother John were members of All Saint’s Church, Sinan, in the Parish of Cefn.

All Saint’s Church, Sinan was opened in 1873 and was built for an original cost of £215.

Robert Aston Spicer is commemorated on Panel 13 and 14 of  The Le Touret Cemetery, he has no known grave.

The Le Touret Memorial from CWGC Website

The Le Touret Memorial commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who were killed in this sector of the Western Front from the beginning of October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September 1915 and who have no known grave. The Memorial takes the form of a loggia surrounding an open rectangular court. The names of those commemorated are listed on panels set into the walls of the court and the gallery, arranged by regiment, rank and alphabetically by surname within the rank. The memorial was designed by John Reginald Truelove, who had served as an officer with the London Regiment during the war, and unveiled by the British ambassador to France, Lord Tyrrell, on 22 March 1930.

Almost all of the men commemorated on the Memorial served with regular or territorial regiments from across the United Kingdom and were killed in actions that took place along a section of the front line that stretched from Estaires in the north to Grenay in the south. This part of the Western Front was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the first year of the war, including the battles of La Bassée (10 October – 2 November 1914), Neuve Chapelle (10 – 12 March 1915), Aubers Ridge (9 – 10 May 1915), and Festubert (15 – 25 May 1915). Soldiers serving with Indian and Canadian units who were killed in this sector in 1914 and ’15 whose remains were never identified are commemorated on the Neuve Chapelle and Vimy memorials, while those who fell during the northern pincer attack at the Battle of Aubers Ridge are commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

The British Expeditionary Force in French Flanders, 1914 – 1915

In October 1914, II Corps of the British Expeditionary Force moved north from Picardy and took up positions in French Flanders where they were immediately engaged in the series of attacks and counter attacks that would become known as the ‘race to the sea’. Over the course of the next year most of the British activity in this sector focused on attempting to dislodge the German forces from their advantageous position on the Aubers Ridge and capture the city of Lille, a major industrial and transport centre which the Germans had occupied early in the war. The ridge is a slight incline in an otherwise extremely flat landscape from which the Germans were able to observe and bombard the British lines. Following the British capture of the village of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915, the Germans greatly strengthened their defences along the ridge, reinforcing their positions with thick barbed wire entanglements, concrete blockhouses and machine gun emplacements. These extra defences frustrated British attempts to break through enemy lines and led to very heavy casualties at the battles of Aubers Ridge and Festubert in May 1915.