Many thanks, Dave. I knew that you had such a Day but did not know when it was.
In respect, I will hold a thought for 1215758, Corporal Frederick William Bann, 108th Infantry Regiment, United States Army, killed in action 29 September 1918, aged 18. He is buried at the Somme American Cemetery, Bony, France.
This is his story, which was first researched by John Eaton for his booklet about the men commemorated on the war memorial at Hazel Grove (now in the Borough of Stockport, northwest England). Eaton had not found any record of him in documents then available but, some eight years later when I undertook my own research into the borough’s war dead, the internet confirmed he had served with American forces.
He was born in the December quarter of 1899, the son of local butcher, Fred Bann and his wife Margaret. When the 1901 Census was taken, the family was living at 281 Buxton Road, Heaviley. Frederick’s grandmother, Harriett Bann was also living with them.
Fred and Margaret had married in a civil ceremony a year or so before and they would have another child, Ruth, in 1902. In his book, Mr Eaton mentions an extract from a local history book which records a Fred Bann as being a member, in 1910, of a local cricket team, comprised of butchers. It notes that Fred later went abroad and, indeed, it was in that year.
For the purposes of my research, on-line records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Australian and Canadian national archives were examined to try to identify Frederick, but without success. Enquiries in New Zealand also proved fruitless. However, an internet search of American military websites provided several references to Frederick and, with the help of fellow enthusiasts from the Great War Forum, his story can now be told.
The family had immigrated to America and took up residence at 146 Center Street in the village of East Aurora on the shore of Lake Cayuga in northern New York State. Frederick enlisted into the US Army on 31 March 1917, at Buffalo, joining Company L of the 108th Regiment which came from the State. He was 17½.
Whilst still in training, Frederick was promoted to Private 1st Class on 26 July and to Corporal a month later. However, on 9 November, he was demoted back to Private. Presumably this was a punishment for a disciplinary offence, but the details are not known.
The Regiment arrived in France in May 1918 and it would be early July before they were ready to take over a section of the front line west of Ypres. They suffered their first fatalities on the 23rd.
During the night of 27/28 September, Frederick and his comrades moved into trenches near the village of Hargicourt in preparation for an attack on the German defensive positions known as the Hindenberg Line. It would their first time in a major action. Throughout the day, their positions came under machine gun and artillery fire and casualties were suffered…
An account of the attack, by J F Oakleaf, published in the early 1920s records “ Reports show that every unit went “Over the Top” in perfect order, and at the start, maintained an interval from 20 to 50 paces between waves, for quite some distance. As the first wave reached the area swept by our barrage, visibility became poor, due to unfavorable atmospheric conditions and our smoke screen to cover our advance. It was difficult to see more than a few yards because a heavy fog hung close to the ground. Advance was then made by compass reading and as orderly as possible under an enemy counter barrage, the first wave suffered many casualties during the initial advance.”
“The advance was then continued with little resistance until the remaining troops arrived at the first wire entanglements of the HINDENBURG LINE. At this point they met the full resistance of a fortified position such as the world had never known. However by desperate fighting and on account of the fact that our tremendous barrage had opened devious ways through acres of barbed wire, portions of our 2nd Battalion were able to establish themselves in the Main HINDENBURG System. The position was held against severe counter attacks and enfilading artillery and machine gun fire from the direction of BONY”.
The Americans were later relieved from these positions by Australian troops. The Regiment had suffered 154 fatal casualties and many more wounded. Almost certainly, Frederick was originally buried at St Emilie, near to where he was killed. After the War, a new American Cemetery was created at Bony and all the nation’s dead from the Somme were re-interred there.
When the US census was taken in 1920, Fred, Margaret and Ruth were still living in rented accommodation in East Aurora. Fred had changed career when he moved to America and worked as the editor of a local magazine and, later, writing advertisements for a newspaper.