A LITTLE BIT OF RESEARCH
A friend whose interest in World War 1 was stimulated by her Grandfather being in 171 Tunnelling Company wrote to me recently with the news she had found reference to some relatives she knew nothing about. One was a Company Sergeant Major with the Kings Royal Rifle Corps and the question she asked was could I add to what she already knew about him. I have to say that Ancestry made the task very interesting. Not only were the Census, Marriage and Death records on line, but a very comprehensive Service Record, his Pension Record, and the Register of Soldiers Effects were also available.
C S M ROBERT KIDD M.M. 8TH KINGS ROYAL RIFLE CORPS
To try and understand the story of Robert Kidd a look at his family history is relevant. In the 1881 Census Robert was six and living in the family home in Selby Yorkshire. His father was a bricklayer and he was one of four children. By 1891 there were seven children at home, and Robert was working in a glassworks. There was a nine year old sister, Ann Lazenby Kidd, aged nine.
Records indicate Robert married Clara Nicholls at Whitewood Mere, All Saints Church, Yorkshire in June 1897. The 1901 Census indicates Robert and Clara were living in Castleford and had a two year old daughter also called Ann Lazenby Kidd. This use of a family name is very common and extremely useful to researchers.
We will return to the family history but Robert Kidd’s Service Record indicates that in July 1905 Robert joined the Army, Royal Engineers/W. Yorkshire Regiment, and remained in the Army until 1910. He served in India and whilst in Poona he qualified as a cook and he eventually became the Regimental Cook. From October 1906 he had the rank of Lance Corporal.
His Pension Records indicate that on 26th October 1910 he married Eliza Annis Booth in Hythe Kent and his address was given as 12 Church Hill, Hythe Kent. The first of his three children from this marriage was born in September 1912.
On the outbreak of war he was recalled to the army and joined the newly formed 8th Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, at Winchester. In May 1915 the Battalion landed in Boulogne. After a short time at Etaples the Battalion was on the Ypres Salient, and by then Robert was a Sergeant. The 8th K.R.R.C was part of the 41st Brigade, 14th Light Division. The latter consisted of, 7th Rifle Brigade, 8th Rifle Brigade and 8th Kings Royal Rifle Corps. In February 1916 Robert Kidd had been promoted to C.S.M. W.O Class 2.
By July 1916 they were on the Somme. There they took part in actions at Delville Wood and Flers-Courcelette and it was probably at one of these actions he was awarded the Military Medal. The citation appeared in the London Gazette on 16TH November 1916, which I have been unable to trace.
The Battalion was at Arras and at Passchendaele, but Robert Kidd was posted as missing in action on the first day of the German Spring Offensive, March 21st 1918. The three Divisions, the 14th Light, the 36th Ulster and the 18th Eastern at the Southern end of the front suffered heavy casualties. There were 370 killed from the 14th Light and 2,238 men were taken prisoner including Lt-Col R H Brown.
For those familiar with the day’s events many of the issues will be familiar. The Division had not long been taken over by Major-General Sir Victor Couper and had only moved from the Ypres Salient in January 1918. Just one week prior to the battle, when most believed an attack was imminent, Major General Couper was in dispute with Major General Nugent of the Ulster Division positioned to their left. Nugent complained that the 14th had too much of its strength in the ‘front line’, he complained to General Gough, who told them to sort it out themselves. Only slight alterations were made.
The British plan was to have a lightly defended ‘front line’, and a ‘forward zone’ of some heavily defended positions. Behind these was the main barbed wire and behind the wire the ‘Battle Zone’ with the most heavily defended positions. There was meant to be a further line of defence but that was largely incomplete.
The Battalions were thinly spread along the line, and the trenches had only been taken over from the French eight weeks earlier. In some Battalions there were new men with the reorganisation that had taken place in January. In the 14th Division most casualties appeared to have occurred in the ‘Forward Zone’. It is difficult therefore to have an accurate picture of what happened to the 8th K.R.R.C as none of the men in the ‘front line’ survived the 21st March battle and there are few written records.
We can get some idea from the account of Corporal Ted Gale, 7thBattalion, The Rifle Brigade. ‘They’d been bombarding all night long and the fog was so bad we couldn’t see the sentry standing next to us in the trench’. They were later called up from the dugout by the Captain, ‘and the Jerries were all around us’. They had broken through in the early morning to the right and left, and this was a ‘mopping up party’.
The positions of the 14th Division fell very quickly, events which were entirely foreseeable. The Ulster Division blamed them for exposing their flank, but they did little better against a frontal attack. Both were weak and war weary Divisions, with extended fronts to defend and too little time to prepare.
Major-General Couper was sent home on the second day of the battle, allegedly’ suffering from want of sleep and rest’ but was, in reality, sacked. His successor Major-General Greenly, did little better, he was to return to England on health grounds on 1st April.
C.S.M. Robert Kidd is one of the many lost during the German Spring Offensive who has no known grave and is one of 14,000 commemorated on the wall of the war cemetery in Pozieres.
Robert Kidd was meant to be presented with his Military Medal whilst on leave in 1917, but it never happened. Mrs Eliza Kidd was, at her request, presented with the medal at a Church Parade at Winchester Barracks on 15th February 1920. His other medals were posted to her. The pension records show that her children, Robert Alexander, Jenny Gwendoline and Bernard Frederick Kidd received a pension of 34/7 per week from 2nd December 1918. Mrs Kidd also received any other monies.
There is another letter in his Service Record, dated 5th October 1925, from his daughter from his first marriage, a Mrs A Scott, 23 Westfield Road, Cutsyke, Castleford. She had sent a copy of her parent’s Marriage Certificate and her Birth Certificate. She wrote ‘I have not yet received anything although he had told me personally that there was something for me’. The Army claimed to have no knowledge of this marriage, and consequently Mrs Eliza Kidd and her children received everything. Mrs Scott’s mother, Clara Kidd, appears to have died in 1901. There is no record of who took responsibility for Ann Kidd after her father joined the Army, although her letter indicates she was still in touch with her father. There is also no indication as to whether Mrs Eliza Kidd and her children in Hythe knew anything about Ann Lazenby Kidd or Roberts’s first marriage.
“The Kaisers Battle” by Martin Middlebrook
“To the Last Man: Spring 1918” by Lyn Macdonald