Fred Cross

york and lancaster regiment badgeSergeant, 7742, 13th (Service) Battalion (1st Barnsley) York and Lancaster Regiment, killed in action, 28th March, 1918, aged 30.

Born at Crowle in 1888, Fred was the fourth son and one of thirteen children of John William and Margaret Hannah Cross (nee Parkin). His father, recorded in the in 1891 census as being from Burton-upon-Stather and in 1901 from Crowle was a farm labourer, his mother was from Crowle,

The family moved to Doncaster in the late 1890’s and in 1901 his father was a carter for the Yorkshire Coal Company. In 1917 they had moved to Bradford, living at 32 Conduit Street, Manningham.

Fred was a brass moulder when he enlisted in the York and Lancaster Regiment at Doncaster in June 1904. According to the census returns and his birth registration Fred was born in late 1888. However when he attested for the army on 6th June 1904, (aged 15 and half) he said he was 18 years and 2 months old, making his date of birth May 1886?

Originally signing up for a period of twelve years, three years full-time service followed by nine years in the reserve, he extended this to seven years full-time in March 1907 and was with his regiment at camp during the 1911 census.

Appointed Lance Corporal on 7th January 1914, he was with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Pontefract Camp when war broke out in August. Transferred to the 2nd Battalion once they had returned from Ireland, he arrived in France with them on 9th September 1914.

On 1st November he was reposted back to the 3rd Battalion, now training new recruits near Sunderland before returning back to France with the 1st Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment in January 1915. A problem with synovitis in his knee meant a short period of convalescence back in England before he was back in France to with the 2nd Battalion in July 1915 where he was promoted to Corporal. A further promotion to Lance Sergeant followed in December 1915, becoming a full Sergeant on 17th April 1916.

Fred was wounded in action twice. On 30th May 1916, he suffered a gunshot wound to his head, which caused a compound fracture of his skull. Taken initially to the Highland Field Ambulance, from there he was moved to No.13 General Hospital to begin his recovery. On 3rd July he was well enough to return to England where he was taken to a convalescent hospital in Epsom until to 25th July 1916.

Leaving hospital he was transferred back to the 3rd Battalion in Sunderland. On 13th October he was transferred again, this time to 13th (Service) Battalion in France. Better known as the Barnsley Pals, they had been in France since March 1916, serving with 94th Brigade in 31st Division.

Fred had become Company Sergeant Major for the Barnsley Pals when he was wounded for a second time, receiving a shell wound in his calf in June 1917. Evacuated to an Auxillary Hospital at Goring, he was released on 17th July and returned for duties at Ripon Depot. In September 1917 he once again returned to 3rd Battalion at Sunderland before returning to France again, back with the 2nd Battalion on 30th January 1918. His final transfer came on 8th February when he was posted back to the Barnsley Pals, rejoining them on 11th February 1918, just prior to their transfer to 93rd Brigade, 31st Division.

On 21st March 1918, the German Seventeenth, Second and Eighteenth Armies were launched against the British lines on a 54-mile (86km) front from Arras to la Fère. In a bold attempt to punch through the lines and to drive the British armies north to the Channel, the Germans threw 500,000 troops against 160,000 men of the right wing of the British Third Army and the Fifth Army.

31st Division, comprising three brigades – the 92nd, 93rd and 4th Guards – had been deployed in the Third Army sector within 48 hours of the start of the offensive. Over 24th-26th March, the constant threat of the Division’s right wing being turned forced a series of withdrawals. Dawn on 27th March found 93rd Brigade on the left flank of 31st Division near Moyenneville, south of Arras.

28th March found the battle still raging in front of the division, which had now been engaged for four days without a break and had beaten off the attacks of five separate German divisions. Two attacks were made, the one upon the 93rd Brigade outside Moyenneville, the other upon the Guards. Each attack got into the line and each was pitchforked out again. So broken was the enemy that they were seen retiring in crowds towards the north-east under a canopy of shrapnel.

The 13th York and Lancaster Regiment lost over 400 men in the wonderfully steady and slight retirements in the area of Boyelles, Hamelincourt, and Moyenneville. Company Sergeant Fred Cross was one of them.

Fred is buried in Bienvillers Military Cemetery.