Frederick Wroot

fred wrootLance Corporal, 10072, 1st Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, died of wounds 23rd April 1915, aged 22

Born at Eastoft in 1893, the brother of Arthur and Dan, Fred was the third son and one of ten children of Frederick and Alice Mary Wroot (nee Holmes). His father was from Eastoft and mother from Belton. When Fred was born the family ran a grocery shop in Eastoft, High Street. They moved to Crowle around 1895 and in 1901 lived in North Street where Frederick Snr was a farmer and cattle dealer.

In 1911 Fred was working as a domestic servant on a farm at Armthorpe. The following year he followed his elder brother Arthur into the army, joining his brother’s regiment the York & Lancaster’s (whilst his brother was still awol from it) at Doncaster on 15th February 1912.

Later that year Fred was posted to the 2nd York & Lancaster’s in Limerick, Ireland where on 23rd March 1913 he was confined to barracks eight days for being drunk in town. The episode had little effect on his military career as soon afterwards he was promoted to Lance Corporal and when assessed for his service in September 1913 he was described as ‘a very good Lance Corporal, hard working, clean, intelligent and sober’.

In December 1913 Fred was posted to join his brother Arthur with the 1st York & Lancaster’s in India. Stationed initially at Jubliapore, they were at Poona in February 1914 when Fred was hospitalised for eight days with ‘flu like symptoms’, most probably malaria. The Battalion were still in India when war was declared and unlike Arthur who returned home with an early draft for the Western Front in November 1914, Fred returned with the main body of the regiment arriving in Britain on 23rd December 1914. After a short period of leave prior they landed at Le Harve on 17th January 1915.

On 22nd April 1915 the 1st York & Lancaster’s were in reserve near Ypres, when the German Army launched the offence now known as the Battle of Gravenstael Ridge, the opening action of the Second Battle of Ypres. The attack began with the setting off of a huge cloud of poison gas across the Allied trenches, followed up with a large scale infantry attack. Weakened and confused by the gas, the French troops in those trenches were unable to put up any resistance and were routed by the Germans’. By midnight they had gained a significant amount of ground and were able to shell Ypres itself.

Fred and his colleagues of the 1st York & Lancaster’s were hurriedly moved forward during the night to defend the area lost by the French in readiness for a counter attack the next day. The area they were sent to Zouave Farm, north west of Wiltje, was not terribly favourable for the attackers as the ground sloped upwards to the German troops stationed above them on Mauser Ridge. At 5.10pm the signal came to begin the attack and Fred and his colleagues climbed out of the trenches, straight into a hail of bullets and mortar shells. Colonel HC Wylly records in his History of the Regiment the men ‘pushing on by rushes, what remained of the companies passed the stream and moved on up the slope, losing officers and men at every yard of the way’. The survivors withdrew back after dark to count their losses, 463 men, killed, wounded or missing. Among whom was Fred Wroot.

The news of what had happened to Fred reached his parents in a letter sent to his mother by Pte Robert Dale, another Crowle soldier from the 1st York & Lancaster’s. Pte Dale had seen Fred lying on the battlefield seriously wounded during the attack having his leg blown off. It was not until 12th August 1915 that she heard officially from the War Office.

The indications are that Fred was buried in a battlefield grave in the area where he fell, the site of which is now lost. He is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.