BRITTON Frederick Maxwell 1893 – 1977

Frederick Maxwell BRITTON MM & Bar 

Family Details:

Frederick Maxwell Britton was born 6 January 1893, the son of William Henry and Elizabeth Ann Britton.  There were at least 7 children, all born at Evenwood, County Durham:[1]

  • Elizabeth bc.1889
  • Frederick born 6 January 1893
  • Edgar bc.1895
  • Annie bc.1898
  • Dora and Nora bc.1902
  • Mary bc.1905

William worked as a “colliery fireman” and the family lived at Swans Row, Evenwood.[2]  By 1911, they lived at Farncombe Terrace, Evenwood, William was recorded as an “engineman, colliery”, 18 years old Frederick was a “dilly minder” and 16 years old Edgar worked as a “pony driver”.[3]

Military Service: [4]

Frederick Maxwell Britton was a member of the Territorial Force, 6th [Reserve] Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, regimental number 2677.  He agreed to serve overseas [5] and following the army reorganisation in 1917, his regimental number was given as 250249.[6]  Details of his military service are available from various sources and are provided below:


October 9: Embodied and posted to 6th DLI [Reserve].  He undertook a medical examination at Barnard Castle when aged 21 years old.  He stood 5’4½”, good physical development and considered fit for military service.[7]

October 26: appointed Lance Corporal [temporary paid].


June 27: posted 1/6 DLI and embarked for France.[8]

September 11: promoted to Corporal.


August 15: acting Lance Sergeant [paid]. [9]

November 6: Sergeant.

December 9: awarded Military Medal.


January 19: rejoined unit. [from hospital?]

March 15: suffered with scabies.

April 21: to unit.

From 12 December 1917 to 3 January 1918 appointed acting Company Sergeant Major [a/CSM].


January 3: reverted to Sergeant.

May 27: reported missing in France.


July 11: acknowledged receipt of the Bar to Military Medal.[10]

Sergt. F.M. Britton was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory medals, the Military Medal and Bar.


The Battle of the Somme July – November 1916

1 – 18 October 1916:  The Battle of Le Transloy:  Sergeant F.M. Britton’s awards of the Military Medal occurred as a result of their actions during operations associated with the Battle of Le Transloy, part of the Battle of the Somme.  It commenced 1 October 1916.  The village of Eaucourt L’Abbaye was captured and the attack is notable for the action of Lieutenant-Colonel R.B. Bradford who was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1916 December 11: The Illustrated Gazette reported that a supplement to the “London Gazette” contained details of a list of awards to local non-commissioned officers and men in Northern units, Northumberland Fusiliers and Durham Light Infantry.  Among the list of 78 DLI men were 2677 Sergt. F.M. Britton and 3803 Pte. O. Rushford. [11]  Oliver Rushford lived at Windmill, a hamlet to the north of Cockfield and west of Toft Hill within the Parish of Evenwood and Barony.

The German Offensive, March – July 1918

21 March 1918:  the German Offensive was launched.  There were 5 phases: [12]

  • 21 March – 5 April: Operation Michael, against the British, the Battle of Picardy (otherwise known as the First Battle of the Somme 1918)
  • 9 – 11 April: Operation Georgette, against the British, the Battle of Lys sector near Armentieres
  • 27 April: Operation Blucher-Yorck, against the French sector along Chemin des Dames, the Third Battle of Aisne
  • 9 June: Operation Gneisenau, against the French sector between Noyan and Montdider, the Battle of the Matz
  • 15 – 17 July: Operation Marne-Rheims, the final phase known as the Second Battle of the Marne.

The Third Battle of the Aisne: 27 May – 6 June 1918:  The German attack was launched by 4,000 guns across a 40km front against 4 Divisions of the IX Corps.  There was a heavy concentration of British troops in the front line trenches and casualties from this bombardment were severe.  In fact, the IX Corps was virtually wiped out.  The bombardment was accompanied by a gas attack after which 17 German infantry divisions advanced through the gaps in the line.  Rapid progress was made and the Germans broke though the reserve troops (8 Allied Divisions – 4 British and 4 French) between Soissons and Rheims.  By the end of the first day, the Germans had passed the Aisne and reached the river Vesle gaining 15km of territory.  3 June, they had come within 90km of Paris and captured 50,000 Allied soldiers and 800 guns.  French casualties were heavy, with 98,000 losses.  The British suffered 29,000 casualties.  6 June, the German advance had run out of steam.[13]

May and June 1918: 6/DLI in action: [14] The first week of April saw the 6/DLI involved in action in what was to become known as the Battle of Lys before it was relieved and sent to join the French troops in the line at Chemin des Dames in the area of Soissons, thought to be a quieter area.  In early May, an epidemic of influenza visited the training camp at Arcis before the battalion marched to billets at Glennes, a small village near Aisne.  The 6th moved up the line to relieve the 73rd French Infantry in the woods east of the Craonne Plateau.  All was quiet until the evening of 26 May when the message was received that an enemy bombardment was to take place the next morning. Then “all hell let loose”!  Between 27 and 31 May 1918, 6/DLI lost 3 officers and 82 other ranks, killed in action or died of wounds, many remain where they fell, their bodies not found, one of whom is Pte. O. Rushford: [15]

“It may be mentioned that that the total casualties in the battalion during the months of March, April and May had been 60 officers and over 1,200 other ranks.” [16]

27 May:  Sergt. F.M. Britton was reported “Missing”.  He was taken as a POW.  It is assumed that the Bar to his MM was awarded as a result of his actions during May 1918.

November 11: It is presumed that he was released shortly after the Armistice.

December 8: posted as sergeant at Durham depot.


Early weeks: It is presumed that he was disembodied [the term used for Territorial soldiers, demobilised for others].  He worked as a coal miner and they were given priority to resuming their previous peace time occupation.

Post War Details

1919 February 14: Evenwood Parish Magazine reported that the Evenwood and Ramshaw Hero Fund Committee presented 5 men with gold wristlet watches.  The men were Sergt. Fred. Britton MM and Bar DLI, Sergt. J. Nutter MM RAMC, Pte. W. Hutchinson MM DLI, Corpl. Fred Dunn MM DLI and Pte J. Jackson MM Coldstream Guards.

1923: Frederick M. Britton married Sarah E. Stephenson.[17]

1923 November 14: daughter Margaret was born.

1939: Frederick, Sarah [born 26 January 1894], their daughter Margaret and John Allison [born 6 September 1924] are recorded as living at 3 Bleak Terrace, Cockfield, County Durham. Frederick was described as a “colliery hewer”.[18]

1943: photo shows the Cockfield Home Guard with a chalkboard proclaiming, Winners Batt. Tactical Battlecraft Competition 1943. The squad included F.M. Britton.

1977 [Q3]: Fred Britton died aged 84.


1943 COCKFIELD HOME GUARD Fred Britton seated 5th left


[1] 1901 & 1911 census, 1939 Register

[2] 1901 census

[3] 1911 census

[4] Statement of the Services & Casualty Form-Active Service

[5] Army Form E.624

[6] Medal Roll Index Card

[7] Army Form B.178

[8] Medal Roll Index Card

[9] Casualty Form – Active Service

[10] letter

[11] Illustrated Gazette 11 December 1916

[12] Hart p.426 & timeline


[14] The Story of the 6th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry – France April 1915 – November 1918” July 1919 edited by Capt. R.B. Ainsworth MC

[15] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[16] Ainsworth

[17] England & Wales Marriage Index

[18] 1939 Register – another person lived there but details are unknown.  Is John Allison his son?