GASKIN F.

FRED GASKIN (1895 – 1916)

19771 Private F. Gaskin, 7th Battalion, Alexandra, Princes of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment was killed in action 1 July 1916 and is buried at Fricourt British Cemetery, Somme, France. [1]  He was 21 years old and is commemorated on the Etherley War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, St. Cuthbert’s Church, Etherley.

Family Details

Fred was born January 1895 [2] at Etherley, the son of John and Isabella Gaskin.  There were at least 5 children:

  • Alfred Ernest born c.1894 at Toft Hill
  • Fred born c.1895 at Etherley
  • Emily Jane born c.1899 at Etherley
  • Herbert born c.1900 at Etherley
  • John Thomas born c.1903 at Etherley [3]

In 1901, the family lived at Phoenix Row [4] but by 1911 they lived at Toft Hill.  John and Alfred were coal miners and 16-year old Fred was a labourer. [5]

Service Record

21 January 1915: Fred Gaskin enlisted at Darlington and was allocated the regimental number 19771.  He was posted to the 7/Yorkshire Regiment, commonly called the Green Howards.[6]

The 7th (Service) Battalion of the Green Howards was raised at Richmond during the early days of the war.  It was posted to the 50th Brigade, 17th (Northern) Division of the Second New Army.  The 50th Brigade was composed of:

  • 10th, West Yorkshire Regiment
  • 7th, East Yorkshire Regiment
  • 7th, the Green Howards
  • 7th York and Lancaster Regiment which was replaced by the 6th, Dorsetshire Regiment.

13 July 1915: 7th Battalion sailed from Folkstone to France with a strength of 30 officers and 937 other ranks.

2/3 August: Voormezeele: relieved 1st Wiltshire Regiment in the trenches.

17th Division had taken over the St. Eloi sector and remained there until October, doing tours of 8 days in the line and 8 days at Reninghelst.

5 August: a draft of 70 non-commissioned officers and men came out from England bringing the strength up to 26 officers and 961 other ranks.

12 August 1915: Private F. Gaskin entered France.[7]

9 – 14 August: 7/Green Howards in the front line involved for the first time in an offensive operation i.e providing fire on the enemy as a diversion to the British attack at Hooge.  In retaliation, the communication trenches and roads were heavily shelled.  The rest of the year was spent in the Ypres area then in March 1916, the Division took over the Lys sector ending 12 May.  Training for the great Somme offensive then took place.

13 June 1916: trenches south of Fricourt, 7/Green Howards relieved a battalion from the 7th Division.

27 June: moved up to trenches in front of Fricourt:

  • “A” Company in the front line trenches on the right
  • “B” Company in support trenches in “Kingston Avenue”
  • “C” Company in the front line trenches on the left
  • “D” Company forming the battalion reserve at Bonte Redoubt

Heavy rain so the attack on Fricourt was postponed for 48 hours.

30 June: heavy enemy shelling of the cemetery held by “A” Company and the front line generally

30 June/1 July: British bombardment of the German line.

7.30am: the great moment came and the assault began BUT

“A” Company had left its trenches at 8.20 – a message was received that many were lying dead and wounded in No-Man’s Land and they were being heavily fired upon by machine-guns and snipers.  Owing to the action of “A” Company, the fire of British gunners was considerably reduced since they were aware that many were lying in No-Man’s Land and in close proximity to the German wire.  As a result, the wire was practically intact in front of the cemetery.

2.30pm: “D” “B” and “C” Companies went over the top in succession from the right.  The assault came under enfilade fire from both flanks.  Officers and men of the 3 attacking companies were mown down – 13 officers and over 300 other ranks became casualties in about 3 minutes.

6.16pm: the 6th Dorsetshire Regiment relieved the 7/Green Howards and the battalion fell back and the wounded were brought in but the dead lay thick on the ground.

The casualties were very heavy:

  • “A” Company had only 32 unwounded survivors out of 140
  • “B” Company lost 70 out of 160
  • “C” Company had 92 casualties out of 177 non-commissioned officers and men
  • “D” Company, of which only 3 of its 4 platoons took part, lost 61 out of 130.

Total casualties are given as 5 officers killed; 10 wounded; 336 non-commissioned officers and men were killed, wounded or missing.

2 July: on the morning 51st Brigade was able to occupy the village of Fricourt without opposition, the enemy having evacuated the trenches during the night.  7/Green Howards had gone back to Heilly where they were joined by a draft of 46 other ranks. [8]

Later research records that between 1 and 4 July 1916, 3 officers and 111 other ranks serving with the 7/Green Howards were killed in action or died of wounds including Private F. Gaskin, killed in action.  Of this number almost 50%, 53 of the 111 came from County Durham, many from the Sunderland area.  Another local man to be killed in action that day was 18866 Private Thomas Watson, born at Cockfield but lived at 16 Toadpool, West Auckland.[9]  28 year old Private T. Watson is buried at grave reference A.27 next to Private F. Gaskin.[10]  It seems highly likely that Privates Fred Gaskin and Thomas Watson were known to each other.

Private Fred Gaskin was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals. [11]

Burial

Private F. Gaskin is buried at grave reference A.26, Fricourt British Cemetery.  There are 133 burials.

Commemorations

Private F. Gaskin is commemorated on the Etherley War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, St. Cuthbert’s Church, Etherley.

REFERENCES

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] Browne family tree (ancestry)

[3] 1911 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] Yorkshire Regiment Enlistment Record Book 1914-1916

[7] Medal Roll card index

[8] “The Green Howards in the Great War” Colonel H.C. Wylly 1926 p.212 – 222

[9] Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War & CWGC

[10] CWGC

[11] Medal Roll card index

 

Photographs:

GASKIN F. press photo

GASKIN F.
press photo

GASKIN F. Headstone

GASKIN F.
Headstone

YORKSHIRE REGIMENT MEMORIAL FRICOURT CEMETERY

YORKSHIRE REGIMENT
MEMORIAL
FRICOURT CEMETERY

GASKIN F. Inscription Yorkshire Regiment Memorial

GASKIN F.
Inscription
Yorkshire Regiment
Memorial

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