Frederick Hill

fred hill in army uniformPrivate, 11088, 6th (Service) Battalion, King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry), killed in action, 15th September 1916, aged 19.

Born at Crowle on 13th March 1897, Fred was the second son and one of ten children of Frederick and Isabell Hilll (nee Skidmore). His father from West Ham, London, was a portable engine driver and his mother was from Crowle. The family lived in Eastoft Road.

Fred attended Crowle Council School and he was one of four former schoolfriends who died in the War, along with Harry Eyre, Arthur Oxenforth and Percy Walton, to be awarded good attendance medals from the school in 1906. He was also connected with the Wesleyan Sunday School for many years.

Fred was a regular soldier when war broke out having enlisted in the King’s Own Light Infantry at Pontefract in early 1914. He was posted to France on the 11th November 1914, presumably with 2nd King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, as they were the only KOYLI battalion in France at this time.

Wounded shortly after arriving on the front line, Fred returned home to rest and recuperate. Following his recovery he went back out to France again, joining the 6th (Service) Battalion KOYLI in time for the Battle of the Somme. The 6th KOYLI did not participate in the early exchanges of the Somme but were called into action in September 1916 for its third phase, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

The task allocated to the 6th KOYLI at Flers was to clear the enemy out of a pocket east of Delville Wood prior to the main attack. They were given three Mark I tanks to support them in this and set off into action at 5.20am on the 15th September. Two of the tanks broke down before the attack began but tank D1 lead the way into action. As it reached the edge of Delville Wood, where it joined Hop Alley (the trenches in this area were all named after drinks!), it fired its 6lb guns into the wood, a signal at which two companies of the 6th KOYLI joined in the attack.

The tank then turned north at the junction with Beer Trench and followed Ale Alley, clearing the remaining German defenders. Unfortunately D1 then advanced too quickly to the north and strayed into the British artillery barrage, where a ‘friendly’ shell put it out of action! Loosing the protection of the tank, the men came under heavy machine gun fire from their flank, sustaining heavy casualties. The remainder however kept going and cleared the trench with trench bombs and bayonets. By 6.30am the action was over and the rest of the brigade advanced.

Although in the context of the Somme the battle at Delville Wood is regarded as a success, it was not achieved without casualties. 63 men died that morning, among them Fred Hill. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

A memorial service for Fred was held at the Methodist Chapel in October 1916 and he is also commemorated on the plaque to former members of the congregation and Sunday School in the Chapel.