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 For those of us who are too young to really know the intimate feelings of the years 1914 and onwards, it is very hard to imagine a country fired by a real sense of 'national pride'; the drive that made men keen to enlist, irrespective of age; the shame of nothing worse than being branded a 'coward'; a sense of urgency, common purpose, and goals to be achieved which affected every single person in the land. The Great War. No room for fear and intrepidation! Sheer determination, guts, and anticipation ruled those days and months and years - and as experiences unfurled and news of events were realised, it only served to fire the depths of feeling that ran throughout the country, and to fire a sublime wish by those too young, to 'come of age' as quickly as possible.

We will never know how our young fighters really felt as they prepared to leave, or as they dug the trenches, or as they first handled their weapons, or as they fired at the enemy, or as they witnessed their friends falling, or as they themselves lay wounded and dying. The following accounts can only present the merest of senses of what it may have been like for them as individuals in their own particular 'battle'.

Surname

Rank

Service

Date of Death

Age

Regiment

COLENSO J
COLENSO C H
COLENSO J
COLENSO T
COLENSO F
COLENSO G T
COLENSO E
COLENSO N R

Private
Private
Private
Private
Private
Private
Petty Officer
Private

19502
24435
34566
200469
203360
20783
224170
6/4222

Wednesday 2 June 1915
Monday 23 April 1917
Monday 22 October 1917
Thursday 1 November 1917
Thursday 28 March 1918
Saturday 6 April 1918
Friday 19 July 1918
Friday 19 July 1918

21
23
27
27
19
20
31
30

Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
Lancashire Fusiliers
Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
East Lancashire Regiment
King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regt.)
Royal Navy
N.Z. Training Unit

 

The Western Front was not a fixed line at any time during the War. It was a descriptive phrase to represent any battle or exchange of fire between Germany and Britain or other allied forces, which took place on what is now French or Belgian soil, as opposed to the other battles between Germany and Russia in Eastern Europe. The countryside surrounding the town of Ypres became the setting for some of the most ferocious scenes during different stages of the four years of hostilities. Trench warfare was the background to the battles that took place but not being a natural part of the landscape, they had to be dug!

Heavy rain often made much of the ground too soft for digging trenches and so other suitable positions had to be found to create a trenched line of defence. Digging a hole at least seven feet deep and for several hundred yards in different directions, with some reinforcements for the sides, and making makeshift ladders, and filling who knows how many sandbags which all have to be carried and placed, as well as coping with yards and yards of barbed wire to strategically place above ground in front of the trench was no mean feat for either side. Having done all of that the day to day conditions that had to be endured in the trenches were horrific with or without hostile attacks.

Water logged - so much of the time walking or rather sliding about in squelchy mud, while trying to be as quiet as possible, especially at night when sounds travel so much further. Rats - of an excessively large kind, feeding on bodies and various waste, were frequent visitors, if not fellow trench mates. If killed they would decompose and stink the place out so the lesser of the evils was to let them run free. Lice - they lived mostly in the seams of the uniforms causing a severe and constant itching but which could never be got rid of. At times the soldiers would run the flame of a lighted candle along the seams to hear the eggs cracking and to try and stop the severity of the infestation if only a little, but invariably it was a fruitless exercise.

Sometimes there might be breakfast to start the day, depending on the previous night's activities, and sometimes there might be a tablespoon of rum at night, to warm the insides from the cold night air, and maybe to help 'stun the lice'. If the men ate or drank, other necessities naturally followed. Where could a soldier urinate (or other) if on watch - only where he stood at worst, and at best in designated areas which were still 'close by' in the trench still. No room or time for much privacy here! Is it any wonder men 'lost it'? And what did they get for their temporary madness? The privilege of being shot for 'desertion' by members of a different battalion. If it was not bad enough shooting and killing the enemy, how would anyone feel shooting their own? (Apparently it was the one thing that a soldier could refuse to do without recourse, but I am not convinced that it was widely publicised as such.)

As the situation dragged on without signs of much advancement, there was an idea that perhaps those chaps who had been at the Front for several weeks might be afforded some leave. Let's face it, even when not under attack, there was precious little time for relaxing, as such, in the front line. A watch lasted for two hours roughly, and then four hours 'break', where there would be briefings, updates on positions, maybe eat, new orders, and moving of equipment. At night, time would be spent repairing trench damage, filling sandbags, devising ways of collecting water to boil for washing, maybe even having a 'cuppa', with care not to allow the steam to rise which would give away the position to the enemy and invite a grenade attack, checking that the barbed wire was still in place, burying the dead, and if very fortunate a snatch of sleep - lice permitting, before it was time to go back on watch.

However, allowing soldiers to go on leave brought its own problems. Some chose not to go home, but to do some sightseeing in Paris. Unfortunately, there were those who brought back just a few more souveniers than they bargained for. In that unpleasant condition, soldiers were not able to be sent to the 'Front Line', but had to remain behind in safe territory to be treated with ever increasing numbers of other soldiers. The situation became so bad that officers warned soldiers that in future letters would be sent home to inform parents/wives of their condition. Interestingly enough, the treatment for the condition had been developed by a German.

Anyone feel like they want to go home just reading this? I know I would have wanted to! I can also understand why survivors would 'never talk about the war much' according to their families. To have spent a part of your life living in those conditions - only fellow land servicemen would understand. Definitely a case of 'would have to have been there'. And all totally apart from the horrors of seeing mates severely wounded. I have been looking at the book 'Forgotten Voices of The Great War' by Max Arthur, (published 2002) who has captured reminiscences from survivors from all sides and about different stages of the war. There are several thought provoking moments but one that has stayed with me is from Sergeant Jack Dorgan of the 7th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers who described a shell attack on 26th April 1915. Two of his comrades had been caught in the explosion. They had both had their legs blown off. One of them, Private Bob Young, was very conscious. Jack asked if there was anything he could do. 'Straighten my legs Jack ............ and get my wife's photograph ............'. There were no legs to straighten but Jack touched the bone he could see, and then got the photograph for Bob to hold, and that was how Bob died. I dare say all of the survivors had several of their own memories that were equally mind churning. None of which could be a response to 'how was the war for you then _____?

 
 

  

 

 

Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry badge

Jack Colenso (2 6 1915)

Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry

********

Stephen Colenso
1827 - 1890
********

Elizabeth Ann Eddy
1826 - 1911
********

********

Mary

********

Stephen Thomas Colenso
1856- 1917
********

Elizabeth Emily Sophie Dunstan
1857- 1916
********

Stephen William Henry 1886 - 1948

Tommy 1890 - 1917

Evelyne 1897

Elizabeth Mary Ellen 1889

Jack 1893 - 1915

********

 

Nelson Reginald Colenso

New Zealand

The Training Unit in New Zealand was renowned for being tough. Unfortunately Nelson was unable to bear the pressure and commited suicide.

********

John Colenso
1798 - 1874
********

Honor Treloar
1805 - 1888
********

Thomas Moyle
1826 - 1871
********

Mary Jane Kemp
1827 -
********

James Colenso
1849-1916
********

Elizabeth Jane Moyle
1849-1913
********

Lester 1874 -

Lottie 1879 - 1880

Leopold 1884 - 1911

Ivy Mary 1890 - 1971

Walter 1876 - 1954

Arnold 1880 - 1933

Nelson Reginald 1885 - 1916

Alfred James Stanley 1897 -

Maud 1877 - 1971

Edgar 1882 - 1964

Herbert 1886 - 1939

*****

********

Headstone of Nelson Reginald Colenso
Photograph used with permission
courtesy of Adele Pentony-Graham
in association with
Auckland War Memorial Museum

 

Charles Herbert Colenso (23 4 1917)

1st Batallion, Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry

The 5th Division of the 1st Battalion of Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry played a role in the capture of Oppy Wood north of Gavrelle.
The main offensive took place on 23rd April 1917 and was part of a series of complicated objectives and targets that were dependent on other missions being successful. This did not always work out. From what I can gather, the force in and around Oppy Wood were all but wiped out quite quickly. I can only assume that Charles was part of this section. More detailed account.

********

Richard Trannack Hitchens Colenso
1829 - 1878
********

Mary Rowe
1827 - 1875
********

********

********

Richard Colenso
1852- 1926
********

Emma Richards
1852
- 1931
********

Emma Jane 1875 - 1876

Robert Samuel 1881 - 1882

Lillian 1887 - 1907

Herbert Charles 1894 - 1917

Mary Ellen 1876 -

Robert Samuel 1882 - 1946

Emma Jane 1887 - 1888

*****

Richard 1879 - 1951

William John 1885 - 1966

Selina 1888

*****

********

 

James Colenso (22 10 1917) 3rd battle of Ypres

17th Batallion, Lancashire Fusiliers

Franco-British advance on 2.5-mile front between Poelcapelle (Ypres) and Houthulst Forest, southern end of Forest captured, 200 prisoners.

**************

John Colenso
1824 - 1854
********

Eliza Williams
1827 - 1854
********

********

********

Henry Colenso
1851 - 1928
********

Elizabeth Jane Goldsworthy Dower
1862 - 1933
********

Arthur 1883 - 1968 (USA)

Henry 1885 - 1886

James 1890 - 1917

Fred 1898 - 1918

Eliza 1884 -

Maud 1886 - 1916 (USA)

John William 1892 - 1893

Ernest 1902 - 1986

Harry 1885 - 1886

Harry 1888 - 1970 (USA)

John William 1894 - 1956

*****

**************

Henry was a survivor of the London 1854 cholera outbreak which claimed the lives of his whole family except for his sister Sarah.
How hard it must have been for him and Elizabeth to watch as their sons went off to fight, especially as three of their children had been lost in infancy, daughter Maud had been lost after emigrating to America and son Harry having emigrated to America as well. (Arthur emigrated after his parents had died.)

 

Tommy Colenso (1 11 1917) 3rd battle of Gaza

1st/4th Batallion Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry

Third Battle of Gaza, begun on 27 October, ended with the capture of the ruined and deserted city on 7 November.

 

********

Stephen Colenso
1827 - 1890
********

Elizabeth Ann Eddy
1826 - 1911
********

********

Mary

********

Stephen Thomas Colenso
1856- 1917
********

Elizabeth Emily Sophie Dunstan
1857- 1916
********

Stephen William Henry 1886 - 1948

Tommy 1890 - 1917

Evelyne 1897

Elizabeth Mary Ellen 1889

Jack 1893 - 1915

********

 

Fred Colenso (28 3 1918)

1st/5th Batallion East Lancashire Regiment

By 24 March 1918 the Germans had advanced 14 miles reaping the benefit from the troops released from the Russian Front joining the attack on the Western Front. The German plan was to mount successive blows at different parts of the front with a main thrust on 28 March on an attack near Arras with the intent of driving the forces all the way back to the Channel at Boulogne.

**************

John Colenso
1824 - 1854
********

Eliza Williams
1827 - 1854
********

********

********

Henry Colenso
1851 - 1928
********

Elizabeth Jane Goldsworthy Dower
1862 - 1933
********

Arthur 1883 - 1968 (USA)

Henry 1885 - 1886

James 1890 - 1917

Fred 1898 - 1918

Eliza 1884 -

Maud 1886 - 1916 (USA)

John William 1892 - 1893

Ernest 1902 - 1986

Harry 1885 - 1886

Harry 1888 - 1970 (USA)

John William 1894 - 1956

*****

**************

 


George Thomas Colenso (6 April 1918)

King's Own Royal Lancaster Regt
3rd Battalion

********

Richard Trannack Hitchens Colenso
1829 - 1878
********

Mary Rowe
1827 - 1875
********

**********

*********

George Colenso
1868
- 1934
********

Katherine Jane Kneale
1858- 1931
********

Nellie 1893

Fanny Matilda 1895

George Thomas 1898 - 1918

Robert Edward 1900 - 1977

********

 

Ernest Colenso

Royal Navy

********

Michael Colenso
1788 - 1873
********

Sarah Nance
1800 - 1879
********

William Skewes

********

* Susan Oats
1820
********

Thomas Colenso
1842 -1904
********

Grace Skewes
1847
-1926
********
* - *

Bessie 1865 -

William 1871 -

Maud 1879 -(USA?)

Ernest 1887 - 1918

Edith 1868 - 1879

Clara 1874 - *

Bertie 1883 - 1884

Beatrice Maud 1889

Clara 1870 - 1870

Thomas Henry 1877 - (Can)

Bertie 1885 - 1920 (USA)

*****

********

 Anyone know what a WWI Battleship looked like? Me neither! There happened to be this photograph of HMS Birmingham (WWI) on the Royal Navy site (which I thought was about as appropriate as any as I live in Birmingham UK).
For more information from the Royal Navy site just click on the image which I have linked to their photo gallery.

 

The role of the Navy in WWI was of paramount importance if Britain was to have any success.

  • Keeping the enemy ships at bay in the North Sea and defending the Channel at both ends.
  • Transporting both men and much needed supplies to France as well as other areas of conflict in the East Mediterranean.
  • Contributing to the Land Fighting Forces.

 

  

 

 

 

Surname

Rank

Service

Date of Death

Age

Regiment

COLENSO R J

Corporal

NX55834

Monday 9 February 1942

22

Australian Infantry

COLENSO W E

Lance Corporal

NX55833

Wednesday 11 February 1942

30

Australian Infantry

COLENSO E

Sapper

2013542

Thursday 5 July 1945

25

Royal Engineers

Australian Commonwealth Military Forces Badge

William Edward Colenso (11 Feb 1942)
Raymond Joseph Colenso (9 Feb 1942)

2/18th Battalion Australian Imperial Force
Fall of Singapore

********

William R Colenso
1861 - 1939
********

Helena

********

********

********

William Edward Colenso
1887-1959
********

Winifred Mary Maloney
1888-1947
********

William Edward 1911 - 1942

Edward Thomas 1915 - 1988

Raymond Joseph 1920 - 1942

Dorothy Mary1929 - 1959

Francis Leslie 1912 - 2001

Winifred Helena 1917 - 1993

Leslie John 1925 - 2005

*****

 

The 2/18 Battalion Australian Imperial Force was formed in 1940.
All the new recruits had about 6 months intensive training before being granted their last home leave in January 1941.
Among them were the four brothers William Edward Colenso, Francis Leslie Colenso, Edward Thomas Colenso and Raymond Joseph Colenso.

Together with two other batallions, they boarded the Queen Mary in Sydney harbour. The Queen Mary had been converted for a new life in the war. They set sail on the morning of 4th February 1941 for an unknown destination, but thoughts were leaning towards the Middle East. Sailing south they met up with other converted civilian ships full of troops namely Aquitania, New Amsterdam and Mauretania. Finally after 12 days of uncertainty at sea, the Queen Mary was ordered to break away from the 'convoy' and sailed north to meet up with its escort, the British destroyer Durban. This action alone made it clear to all those aboard that their destination was in fact Singapore.

Photograph of William E and Winifred M Colenso with 4 soldier sons
Photograph used with permission courtesy of William Ronald Colenso
son of William Edward Colenso

 

Malay Peninsular

On the 7th February 1942 the Japanese started their assault of Singapore landing on the islet of Puala Ubin from where they were able to concentrate heavy fire on Changi. To the north-west the Australian forces were bombarded. On 8th February the Japanese invaded from the north-west and therefore several operations were devised in conjunction with other units, to slow the Japanese advance. Much of this involved hand-to-hand fighting.

Just past midnight on the morning of 9th February 1942, flares were observed signalling that the first Japanese troops had landed on the island.
It must have been during an ensuing encounter that Raymond Joseph Colenso lost his life.

By the morning of 10th February the Japanese had secured a foot hold on Singapore Island and were ready to move on to their next objective, Tengah Airfield. As the battle for the airfield took place a second offensive started with the pounding of the coast from the mouth of the Kranji to the Singapore causeway. From Tengah Airfield the Japanese headed south and on 10th February 1942 Bukit Timah came under attack eventually falling on the 11th.
Somewhere in all this mayhem William Edward Colenso also lost his life, but as his body was never found he remains missing presumed dead.

The commanding officer, Col. A.L. Varley, M.C., who had been with 2/18th Batallion since embarkation in Sydney, was promoted to Brigadier and commanded 22 Australian Infantry Brigade on 12 Febuary 1942. During the fighting the Battalion casualties were heavy, with roughly half being lost in action. The Allied Forces were forced to retreat into Singapore City where they were unmercilessly bombarded by the Japanese. On 15th February the Japanese converged on the city. The Allies stubbornly defending but finding themselves more and more at the mercy of their enemy. Eventually the order was given for the Allied Forces to surrender, an unconditional surrender. At 6:10pm 15th February 1942 at the foot of Burkit Timah Hill, General Percival signed the surrender.

The remaining men of 2/18th, along with many other Australian, British and Indian troops became prisoners of war from that day including the two remaining brothers Francis Leslie Colenso and Edward Thomas Colenso who spent the next three and a half years in Singapore’s Changi POW Camp

 

Emlyn Colenso (5 7 1945)

Royal Engineers

********

Joseph Colenso
1852 - 1917
********

Elizabeth (Davies)
1852 - 1929
********

********

********

Owen Colenso
1887-1958
********

Sarah Ann Morris
1891 - 1943
********

David George 1912 - 1968

Richard Owen 1918 - 1973

Edward Morris 1924 - 1996

Dilwyn Howard 1932 -

Catherine 1913 -

Emlyn 1920 - 1945

Brinley 1926 - 1988

Mary 1933 - 1933

Elizabeth Looes 1916

Haydn 1921 - 1921

Olwen Annabell 1929 -

Eira 1936 -

********

The Rangoon Memorial
which bears Emlyn's name, stands in Taukkyan War Cemetery,
and also bears the names of some 27,000 men who died
during the campaigns in Burma and who have no known grave.

****

Owen Colenso served in France in WWI. He used the place where he was posted as a second name for his daughter Elizabeth.
Joseph is my gg Grandfather, Owen is my gg Uncle and Emlyn and siblings my 1C2R. My father can remember seeing his 'Uncle Owen' on the occasions when he visited his grandfather George Colenso who owned and ran a Billiard Hall in Aberbargoed. until 1963.

In the course of my research I had hoped to find out the exact meaning of the word 'sapper'. In terms of the Royal Engineers I have only discovered that during the war, in a known 'mined' or 'booby-trapped' area it would have been a sapper leading the way through! The Royal Engineers are the longest serving 'body' under the crown, with a history that goes back to William the Conqueror. It is this branch of the army that deals with anything military that needs building or solving. Temporary bridges that can be transported and utilised at speed for crossing rivers to sustain an advance and the formation of bomb disposal units, much needed in WWII and since, are but two examples of the resulting roles of this vital section of the armed forces.

 
 

 

  

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