Thursday 19 May 2016

Killed Examining Barbed Wire

Reginald Cumberland Green [X550/1/82]

Friday 19th May 1916: We have heard today of the death of Lieutenant Reginald Cumberland Green, youngest son of Luton brewer J W Green. From all classes in the town the deepest sympathy has been aroused by the sad event and, while the sorrow and pain of the loss can only be known and experienced by those who have lost their loved one, the sympathy expressed on all hands cannot fail to be a solace and to some small extent an alleviation of the poignancy of the grief occasioned by the blow.

The sympathy of the townspeople has not stood alone, for from the Colonel and Company Commander of the late lieutenant’s battalion sympathetic and sterling appreciations were received. The Colonel(1) writes: “It grieves me most intensely to have to write and confirm the bad news which has doubtless been communicated to you by the War Office regarding your son Rex. He took his risks with the best and was always so cheery and a general favourite; besides, he was doing uncommonly well as a soldier. I shall miss personally a really useful and hard-working officer and a personal friend and all the officers a very popular comrade and friend. Allow me to send you my sincerest condolences from myself and from all the officers of the battalion. He died as a gallant Englishman, doing his duty. When he was shot he was examining a wire entanglement and was hit in the thigh. One would think, and I hoped when I heard of it, that it was a slight enough wound, but apparently some blood vessel was cut and he had bled most copiously, dying just as they got him to the field ambulance, within two hours of being wounded. I saw him at 4 am on his way down. He seemed to be in a certain amount of pain but we hoped for the best and wished him luck and tried to cheer him up. You will think I am making a number of matter of fact statements, but my heart is very sore at losing him from our family and in having to write and give you all this information. Please accept my most sincere condolences”.

The letter from Lieutenant Green’s Company commander was as follows: “He was shot through the right thigh about 2.30 this (Thursday) morning while out in front of our trenches looking at the wire and died almost as soon as he reached the field ambulance. I went to him directly I heard that he was hit. He had been bandaged by our stretcher bearers and they had for the time being stopped the bleeding. Rex said: “I’m all right but I feel awful”. I don’t think he was in much pain, but he felt weak from loss of blood. I cannot speak too highly of his good qualities as an officer. He was my right hand in the company – brave, gentle and ready for everything. He was also a universal favourite with the men. We loved him and our hearts go out to his mother and you in your terrible loss. We do not realise it yet and it seems as if Rex might come in now, keeping us all cheery by some remark. He will be buried tomorrow along with the other brave fellows whom we have lost here in the Military Cemetery(2)”.

The loyalty and self-sacrifice of the family of Mr and Mrs J W Green has, since the outbreak of war, found full scope and expression in ready active service and also in attending those who have suffered in the stern experiences of the battle zone. Major Sidney and Major Harold Green have for many years taken a great interest in military matters and displayed much energy in furthering the successful development of the Volunteer and Territorial movements. Mrs Green is the Commandant of the VAD Hospital at Wardown(3), a work in which she is actively assisted by her daughters, while her son in law Lieutenant Tabor is also on war service and some months ago was wounded in France(4). Major Sidney Green is at the moment on active service with the Bedfordshire Yeomanry having been in France for some months past with the Regiment.

The late Lieutenant Green, previous to the outbreak of war, had had no military experience and in deed he had displayed no bent for taking a pronounced part in Army work. The call of the country, however, came to him as it has come to so many and he was not slow to respond. On the declaration of hostilities he at once took steps to obtain a commission, joining the 3rd Bedfords at Landguard near Felixstowe in which Regiment his brother Harold was serving. Here, under Lord Ampthill’s command, he remained in training until drafted out to France in October of last year. In December he joined up with the 1st Battalion of the Regiment at the Front. For some weeks past the late lieutenant had been in temporary command of a company, and although his temporary captaincy had not been gazetted there is little doubt that, had his life been spared, his promotion would have quickly followed.

Lieutenant Reginald Green, who had attained the age of 31, was a young man of great charm of manner, and was a favourite of all with whom he came in contact. Educated at Bedford Grammar School, he proceeded in due course to Exeter College, Oxford, where he took his BA degree. He then became a law student in the chambers of Mr George Elliott, KC (a very old friend of his father’s) in the Temple. About four years ago he was called to the Bar. It was not, however, his settled intention to practise as a barrister, although on one occasion at Luton County Court, he appeared in wig and gown before His Honour Judge Wheeler. When the war broke out he was looking forward to an active commercial career, being just about to enter the business of Messrs J W Green Limited.

Major Harold Green, who has seen strenuous service with the Bedfordshires, was filling the important position of Camp Commandant at the time he was invalided home with pneumonia. He is now practically well again and is due to return to duty early next month. His presence at home during their heavy trial has been a great comfort to the bereaved parents.

Source: X550/2/5; Luton News 25th May 1916

(1) Lieutenant-Colonel C C Onslow
(2) He is now in Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras
(3) The Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital was at the building which is now Wardown Park Museum
(4) Like his brother-in-law he was in the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, later transferring to the 7th Battalion. 

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