The Roberts brothers – killed on the same day

Royal Munster Fusiliers

Image via Wikipedia

The fantstic work of Chris Baker on the Long Long Trail website has identified 274 instances of brothers who were killed on the same day in the Grear War. And one pair of brothers came from Portsmouth.

Charles James and Goerge Ernest Roberts were both Corporal Signallers serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers. Regular Soldiers, they were sent to France on the outbreak of war. They were at garrisoned at Aldershot, and were part of the Guards Brigade in the 1st Division. The Battalion had been in Ireland on garrison duty until 1912. They landed at Le Havre via Southampton on 14 August, and went straight up to the Front.

After the Battle of Le Cateau the British Army retreated. Along with the 15th Hussars the 2nd Munsters fought a stiff rearguard action at Etreux. A single Battalion were facing an entire German Army Corps. In a Rorkes Drift style action the Battalion suffered severe casualties, where they were surrounded and virtually destroyed. The survivors left the front line and became divisional troops.

Charles and George Roberts were both killed on the same day – 27 August 1914 – and are buried in the same grave at Etreux British Cemetery in France.

It was not common – but not unusual – for young British men to join an Irish Regiment. My research suggests that of young men joining the infantry in peacetime, around 50% joined the Hampshire Regiment, and around 50% joined other Regiments. Although the local country Regiment was natually the most obvious choice, perhaps family connections persuaded the Roberts to join the Munsters?

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9 Comments

Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, western front, World War One

9 responses to “The Roberts brothers – killed on the same day

  1. johncerickson

    So, were there any Coldstream Guard brothers killed on the same day? I’m embarrased to say my Coldstream Guards knowledge of WW1 is rather sparse.

  2. James Daly

    The saddest story about identical twins I have ever read is that of Claude and John Gronert at Arnhem. Identical twins serving with the 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, they were both shot together in the same incident and are buried next to each other in Oosterbeek.

  3. x

    Could this be a “serving with” situation. Am I right in thinking later in the war men were just placed with regiments that needed personnel?

    • James Daly

      The Regimental thing is an interesting issue. From what I can gather many pre-war Regulars served with whichever Regiment they fancied – it was simply a case of travelling to the Regiment’s depot. Portsmouth was also a major Garrison town in 1914, and many men might have joined units serving there, or came to Portsmouth having joined their local Regiment.

      From 1914-16 most men joining up were channelled straight into their local Regiment, but as the war drew on, losses mounted and the urgency became more acute men were sent wherever they were most needed. This was a conscious decision, as the losses of the Pals Battalions on the Somme had had a marked impact on their home towns. Spreading men around also spread around the losses.

  4. x

    I forgot about the Pals battalions. To be honest my knowledge of the ground war in WW1 is poor.

    • James Daly

      Mine had always been very basic too until I began this project. to be honest apart from a dabble in Napoleonic, my main area has always been WW2. But looking at WW1 has taught me a lot – warfare between 1914 and 1945 – what changed, and what stayed the same, and why? There is a very strong argument for seeing the two wars as part of a broader European/world crisis, with a lengthy ‘eye of the storm’ in the middle.

  5. John Baxter

    My two great uncles, Arnold, late 20′s, and Clive Baxter, 19, died whilst serving with the 1st Battalion, the Coldstream Guards in the notorious Brickstacks area near Cuinchy. The brothers have no known grave, and are commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing. A third brother, Maurice, was to survive the war. However, he was serving near Loos in October 1915 in the same Battalion as his brother-in-law Thomas Lawrence Barton, who was killed whilst on patrol. Maurice went out into no man’s land to bring back as much of his personal effects as he could and was to write the entry in the Marquis of Ruvigny’s records. The fourth brother Osmund was severely wounded and was to die as a result of these wounds in 1923. All served in the Coldstream Guards.

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