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Clifford John Andrew

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Died : 9 May 1915

Clifford Andrew

Clifford Andrew

Clifford Andrew is one of three men commemorated on the war memorial to die in the same battle on the same day. They were all in the 5th (Cinque Ports) Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. Indeed they were all in the same company and the same platoon as each other. They were pals yet did not all enlist at the same place or time. Each biography will start with the same description of the Battle of Aubers Ridge, then give brief personal details.

 

The small town of Aubers sits on a low ridge not far from Armentières. It is only slightly higher than the ground in front of it. Height however is vital in battle and even more so in an entrenched situation. The side occupying the higher ground can look into his enemy’s positions and any attack on it has the disadvantage of fighting uphill. The Germans in this and most other cases occupied the high ground. The low ground around this area was only a few feet above sea level and very, very wet. The British trenches were water logged and it was necessary to build breastworks for even elementary protection. It was a most unpleasant place.

 

Several vicious battles were fought in the general area of Aubers early in 1915. They happened for two main reasons. First to stem the German advance and then to retaliate and wage a policy of offensive war. The Battle of Aubers Ridge had the additional objective of relieving the pressure against the Russian Front which had been growing since late 1914. By May 1915 the Germans were entrenched on the Western Front and major attacks were mainly by the allies.

 

At 05.00 on 9th May an artillery bombardment by 600 guns and howitzers attempted to rain destruction on the German positions for 40 minutes. The barrage was ineffective owing to a shortage of time and an inadequate supply of reliable shells. Leading companies of each British front line Battalion crawled out of their trenches at 05.30 just as our barrage intensified but they were met by heavy machine gun fire. It had been hoped to carry out this initial advance unmolested and no provision had been made for covering small-arms fire. Our men were cut down. When the artillery barrage lifted at 05.40 the main infantry assault began. It was decimated by accurate and intense rifle and machine gun fire. It had proved impossible to silence the German gun positions and our attack faltered. Few soldiers crossed No Man’s Land to reach the German front line. Most were killed or wounded at the onset.

 

The 1/5th Battalion was in the second line which attacked at 05.40. They were to follow up and merge with the leading battalions. The ‘C’ Company was on the left of the attack. As it began advancing across the open towards the front line trench, an officer and 30 men were killed or wounded. The remains of ‘C’ Company, having reached the front line trench, leapt over the parapet and advanced most gallantly to the support of the 2nd Sussex who were leading, but held up by the enemy fire. This came primarily from machine guns near to the ground in well concealed positions and firing through small loop holes in their parapets. The men out in front were being hit constantly either by bullets or the intense enemy artillery fire which had commenced. No further advance was possible and at 07.00 the order to retire was received. Captain Courthorpe, the Company Commander wrote to the Vicar of Wadhurst, ‘…my poor Company lost 4 officers and 102 N.C.O.’s and men out of 154 whom I took into action.’


Andrew's medals and plaque

 

Clifford Andrew's medals and memorial plaque

Among those killed in this battle was Private Clifford John Andrew (TF/2434). He was born of Constance Amelia (Consy) on 17th November 1894 at 4.30am at Plashett Park Farm. For nearly a year in 1903/04 he was taught at Ringmer School before both he and his brother Stuart received private education at home. This in turn was followed by a time at the [Old] Grammar School, Lewes. Their father, George was a farmer at Clayhill, where they subsequently lived; he was also Chairman of the Parish Council. Clifford enlisted at Hastings into the Territorial Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. George Stuart Buckingham Andrew (Stuart) who had joined the same battalion, was wounded at the very moment his brother was killed. He survived and was Commissioned into the 23rd Royal Fusiliers on 28th March 1917. Stuart was taken Prisoner of War on 25th March 1918 and not released until 18th December that year. Both brothers were prominent members of the Wesleyan Church in Lewes and a Memorial Service was held there in June 1915. Stuart Andrew was fortunately able to attend this despite his injuries. Clifford and Stuart had been keen sportsmen and played both football and cricket. Indeed the Ringmer Cricket Club Memorial plaque, which was unveiled on 23rd June 1919 and is in St. Mary’s Church, commemorates Clifford J. Andrew as being among those, ‘…three [who] fell fighting victoriously.’ He is in addition remembered on the Roll of Honour within the cricket club pavilion.

All three men of Ringmer killed at the Battle of Aubers Ridge were entitled to the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory Medals. They were all in Captain Courthorpe’s ill fated ‘C’ Company and all in the 11th Platoon. In common with most of the casualties from that action they have no known grave and they are each separately commemorated at Le Touret Memorial to the Missing in France. (For picture of Le Touret Memorial, see entry for George Waller.)

Adapted from Valiant Hearts of Ringmer by Geoff Bridger: Ammonite Press, 1993