Edward George Roberts was born in Flint on 17th January, 1898 and was baptised on 7th February, 1898 in St Mary’s Parish Church. He was the third of 10 children to William Roberts and Harriet Ann. He was a brother to Private William Evan Roberts who also died in the war and has his own page here.
William (Billy) was born in Flint and Ann in Coedpoeth but it is not known when and where they married. They lived at 64, Mount Street before settling at 8, Coleshill Street and William was a labourer at the Bettisfield Colliery, Bagillt.
Edwards father and three brothers all joined the Army; Billy enlisted in 1914 and served with the Royal Engineers, Thomas James enlisted in 1915 with the 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, Joseph Leslie enlisted in 1916 with the 1st Seaforth Highlanders and William Evan with the 9th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was killed in action in 1916 and is written about elsewhere in this book.
Billy wrote five letters home in 1915 and all were published in the County Herald.
ANOTHER FLINT SOLDIER IN THE BATTLES IN FLANDERS
(County Herald 19th February, 1915)
Sapper William Roberts, whose wife and family reside in Coleshill Street, Flint, and who is a member of the Royal Engineers Corps at the Front, writing states that a few days ago they were engaged in big battles, one on Sunday, one on Monday, and the other on Wednesday. Whilst they were employed in laying down barbed wire entanglements they became hemmed in between two firing lines. The two artilleries were firing over them, and he thought at one time “it was all over with us.” He was very sorry to hear about the death in the Field of Lieut B G N Watkin (see page ..). He enquired in what part of France the Lieut met with his fatal injuries. There were three battles in Flanders and they were “hot ones.” He thought perhaps the Lieutenant had been in one of them. There had been several small fights, but in the early part of this month there was a sharp and disastrous engagement for the Germans. The Germans were landing some thousands of men at a station when the Allies artillery “let go and cut three batteries up to pieces.” He was also sorry to hear that Pte J Kitchen, of Hill Street, had been injured at the Front. Roberts states that he thought that “it was all up with his regiment” on the Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday previously mentioned, “but thank God He spared us all, and I hope He will always guard us. But, I think He did on those nights.” Roberts also states the men were, he believed, receiving permission to visit their homes, and he was looking forward to the journey home for a few days’ rest.
GERMAN BODIES PACKED THREE FEET HIGH
(County Herald 5th March, 1915)
Writing on the 17th February to those at home Sapper William Roberts, of the Engineers, and whose family reside in Coleshill Street, Flint, states that the troops were expecting a big battle on the following day. At one place where a battle had taken place the Allied Troops had killed 2,000 Germans and captured 200 Germans. The dead bodies were piled three feet high on each other. There ought to have been double the quantity dead and captured, as the Germans were a dirty lot. In the letter he enclosed an illustrated view of a scene in Flanders where British soldiers are seen strewing bricks along a rain-sodden road in order to get the Transports moving; and he states that the view is of a place some few miles from Le Bassee.- On 24th February, writing again a letter which was to hand on the 1st March, he said he was longing to see the members of his family, but he should like to see all the Germans down. There was a tale told of an Indian Ghurka soldier and a Frenchman. The Indian was on his way home when he met the French soldier to whom he said he felt a little hungry, asking at the same time for a little food. The Frenchman looked at the Gurka and said, “What have you got in your haversack?” The Ghurka looked astonished and replied, “You don’t want me to give you the only souvenir I have got.” When the contents of the haversack were disclosed the Ghurka had got a German’s head, which he said he was taking home for a keepsake.
A FLINT SOLDIER AND FOUR DAYS’ BOMBARDMENT
NEWS OF THE RECENT HEAVY BATTLE
(County Herald 26th March, 1915)
Sapper William Roberts, of Coleshill Street, Flint, and who is at the Front, writing under date 14th March to members of his family, states that he is in good health. They had had a very rough time and he thought it was “all up” with them, for he had seen a sight which he hoped he would never see again. The bombardment lasted from the 10th to the 14th, and the shells “were coming like rain,” blowing the trenches away; but the British gained about five miles. After the charge the British got about 10,000 prisoners, and thousands of Germans were killed. The British also lost a lot of men; “it was pitiful to hear them cry, but it took us all our time for us to look after ourselves. The French are having a bombardment today, the 14th, so there will be another slaughter. I think myself we will succeed against the Germans, who look a bad class of men. One of our men spotted an officer in the trench after the trench had been taken. The officer was being taken a prisoner when he drew his revolver, but our soldier bayoneted him. I hope the French will do the same as we have done, then we will keep advancing along in Belgium.”
In a letter two days later Sapper Roberts says there has never been such a battle in the world when the bombardment took place. One would think that “hell was open.” He refers to the capture of many German prisoners, and said that one of them could speak English. He said he had been a barman in London, and he said the Germans were sure to win. He stated that when the British were taking him along with many others, as a prisoner. Roberts states that he was anxious to capture one of the Germans wearing the Iron Cross.
ANOTHER FLINT SOLDIER RETURNS THANKS
(County Herald 16th April, 1915)
The gifts which were sent from scholars of the Flint Council School to the soldiers at the Front are being sincerely acknowledged. One of the gifts was accompanied by the following letter:- “Flint Council School, 5th March, 1915. Dear Soldier Friends, – At the request of my teacher I have knitted this pair of socks. I hope they will fit you and comfort you during your many hours of trial in the trenches, and I sincerely hope God will spare your life and that you will return safely home to your parents or family. I must say we are very grateful to our brave soldiers for answering so nobly to the call of duty to defend our home and country. With very best wishes, I remain, sincerely yours, Gwen Jones, Oakenholt, near Flint, N Wales.”
The present and letter fortunately were handed to a Flint soldier in the person of Sapper William Roberts, whose wife and family reside at 8, Coleshill Street. Sapper Roberts has written home and forwarded the letter which he received from little Miss Gwen Jones. He states he is quite well and he hopes his letter will find all at home well. He received a parcel on 27th March; and also thanks Miss Gwen Jones for the knitted pair of socks and things which he hoped he would have the pleasure of wearing. He also thanked Miss Watkin, one of the teachers at the school, for having been so kind to him. He did not like to say much respecting the loss of her brother on the battlefield. He was only two miles from where his remains were lying, but he intended visiting the graveside if he were spared. He urges in his letter that his thanks should be personally conveyed to Miss Watkin, of Raven Square, for her kindness, and to all who were concerned in sending out the gifts which he received.
“SHELLS CAME FASTER THAN EVER”
(County Herald 8th October, 1915)
Sapper William Roberts, of the Royal Engineers, and who is in France, writing to his home in Coleshill Street, Flint, says: “I have just come through the hottest engagement I have ever been in since I have been in this country.” He mentioned that the men left early on the Saturday morning for the reserve trenches. Our guns have been shelling the German trenches about a week. The Engineers blew up a few of the German trenches and a mine, and they must have done enormous damage, for the earth trembled about a mile and half away. There was afterwards a terrible bombardment, and one would think it was not possible for anything to live in those trenches. It lasted for about an hour, and then there was a general advance. The German artillery had begun to counter attack, and the shells were bursting all round, and they had to step over the dead in the trench. When they were further along the shells came faster than ever, and the Germans sent over the gas. He thought he could taste it when he was writing, and that was on Thursday last week. Their Commanding Officer, who was a good and daring man, was shot; and they were all sorry. The Germans were even firing at the “shovels of earth” as the Engineers were beginning to work in the trenches.
HOME FROM THE FRONT
(County Herald 17th December, 1915)
On Sunday, there arrived at their homes in Flint, Sapper William Roberts, of 8, Coleshill Street; and Private James Singleton, of Corporation Street. Roberts is with the Royal Engineers, and Singleton with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, in France. Both have witnessed some of the very stirring times, and they return to their respective Battalions at the Front.
Billy was demobbed in 1919 and was awarded the Mons Star.
Edward George enlisted in Flint on 16th August, 1914. Flint’s Roll of Honour, published in the Flintshire Observer on 23rd September, 1915, stated that Edward was serving with the 12th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and the inscription inside his New Testament, that all military personnel were given, Edward wrote that he was with the 8th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers (see photo). He probably did serve with those battalions, however, two official sources i.e. ‘The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ and the ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ confirm he was serving with the 9th Battalion at the time of his death. His medal card stated that he was at some time a Lance Corporal, so some misdemeanour must have caused him to be demoted.
His regiment was posted to the Balkans, landing there on 25th October, 1915, and were eventually posted to France where he died of wounds on 31st January, 1918. He was buried in Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt, Somme, France (Plot IX, Row E, Grave 23).
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal and is remembered on two war memorials – Flint Town (as George Ed Roberts) and St Mary’s Parish Church, Flint. He is also commemorated on the North Wales Heroes’ Memorial Arch, Bangor.
DEATH OF ANOTHER FLINT SOLDIER
(County Herald 15th February, 1918)
Information has been received of the death of Private George Roberts, the third son of Sapper William Roberts, and Mrs Roberts of 8, Coleshill Street, Flint. Deceased, who was, 20 years of age, was a member of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and he joined the Army as early as the 16th August 1914, which was a few days after the war commenced. Prior to that he was in the employ of the Holywell Company Mercerisers, Flint, and he enlisted for a period of seven years. An officer of the Battalion forwarded a letter to the youth’s parents, in which he stated he regretted the death of Roberts, who had been his servant. Whilst they and others were in a hut resting for the night there was an explosion of an enemy bomb, whereupon Roberts was discovered to have sustained very serious injuries, from the effects of which he died in a clearing station hospital. The officer pays a noble tribute to the memory of Roberts, whom he states he always found straightforward, reliable and honest, and a clean and smart soldier respected by all his comrades. This is the second son Sapper Roberts has lost in the war, and the sympathies of friends are extended to the bereaved parents. Pte William E Roberts was killed 18 months ago; and Sapper Roberts, who was on leave from the Front, left home to return to the Front the night that his son George was killed. There is another son, Private Joseph Roberts.
Billy died on 18th March, 1946 and was buried in the Northop Road cemetery with his daughter, Elizabeth, who died in August 1913, aged 3, and his son, Rupert, who was “killed” in September, 1927, aged 19.
Obituary: The death took place last week at his home on Saturday of Mr William Roberts, 8, Coleshill Street, Flint, at the age of 75. Mr Roberts had been in ill health for a number of years. He was a native of Flint. During the first world war he saw service in France where he met his two sons who were afterwards killed in action. He was employed by the Flint Corporation as a park attendant before his retirement.
Harriet Ann died on 16th July, 1954 and was buried with her husband.
Obituary: At the age of 80, the death occurred on Friday of Mrs Harriet Ann Roberts, of 8, Coleshill Street, Flint. Mrs Roberts, who had been in failing health for twelve months, was the widow of the late Mr William Roberts, who died in 1946. She was a native of Coedpoeth, Wrexham, and came to Flint 64 years ago. She was a member of the Church of England. Mrs Roberts is survived by two sons, four daughters, thirteen grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.