Private 203397 Frank Wootton

Wootton Frank 96 387x600

Killed in Action on Wednesday, 14th March 1917, age 20.
Buried in Grave B. 9. at Rossignol Wood Cemetery, Hebuterne, Pas De Calais, France.

1st/5th Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 137th Brigade of 46th Division.

Son of George & Priscilla Wootton.
Born: Bilston, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, 5th March 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library, and St. Matthew's memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/590577/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Frank Wootton registered September quarter 1896 in Dudley.

1901 Census
Bloomfield Terrace, Tipton, Staffs.
George Wootton (31, Grate Fitter, born West Bromwich), his wife Priscilla (30, born Langley), and their 4 children: George Ernest (10, born Sedgley), Clara Maud (6, born Coseley), Frank (4, born Langley), and John William (1, born Tipton).

1911 Census
74 Hurst Lane, Tipton, Staffs.
George Wootton (41, Range Fitter, born West Bromwich), his wife Priscilla (40, born Langley), and their 8 of their 9 surviving children of 9: George Ernest (20, Range Fitter, born Woodsetton), Frank (14, Yeast Merchant's Assistant, born Coseley), John William (11, School, born Tipton), Ethel May (9, School, born Tipton), James Christopher (8, School, born Tipton), Jack (6, School, born Tipton), Gilbert (2, born Tipton), and Arthur Clifford (4 months, born Tipton).

Personal Data

There is confusion about Frank Wootton's army number. His Medal Index Card says initially he was initially 2353 in the 1/6th South Staffs, suggesting he was a pre-war Territorial soldier, then re-numbered to 20094. After the Territorial Forces re-numbering in 1917, his Medal Index Card and 'Soldier's Died in the Great War' show his number as 203387. The CWGC however shows his number as 203397.

Action resulting in his death

The 1/5th South Staffs marched nearly five miles from Souastre to their starting lines at Biez Wood for a night attack on the German lines near Bucquoy on 13th/14th March 1917. They arrived at Biez Wood only one hour before the attack and, although exhausted, immediately formed up for the attack which commenced at 1am.

Almost immediately they were hit by machine gun fire that caused numerous casualties. The German wire was, by and large, uncut by the preliminary barrage and any gaps that were found caused a bunching up of troops who were immediately cut down. The battalion retired at 6.30am to a trench system between Biez Wood and Square Wood with 160 casualties for no gain.

John Shipton, John Nicklin and Frank Wootton, all men of Tipton, were killed in this attack and lie almost side by side in Rossignol Wood Cemetery, near Hebuterne. Rossignol Wood Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery is unique in my experience, as there are more German graves than British.

If you require further detail.....

The War Diary, in part, records,
"13/14 March 1917 - The battalion paraded at Souastre at 6pm and proceeded to Fonquevillers reaching Rossignol Wood at about 10pm. The south east corner of Biez Wood was reached about 12 midnight. The barrage was put on the front line German trench. At 1am the battalion advanced to the attack in waves.

The Radfehrer Graben proved to be a bad obstacle. All lines reached the German wire, and there were practically no casualties. The barrage was very satisfactory - there were no shorts and it was effective. At this point the whole was checked by German wire. At no point was it possible to penetrate to the German positions without cutting. Behind Radfehrer Graben the wire was swept by cross fire from machine guns. A large number of casualties were caused by officers and NCOs looking for gaps in this area. These machine guns were reported firing from behind the parades from the flanks, men having to bunch to get through the gaps in the outer wire, or gaps cut in the second belt. One gap in the third belt of wire, which runs up to the German parapet, was gut by one of our Lewis guns. Another Lewis guns got onto the German parapet and engaged 2 machine guns firing from our right flank somewhere in Radfehrer Graben behind the front line. One gun was silenced entirely and another temporarily ceased fire.

Small parties of men succeeded in obtaining a foothold in the German trench, but this took some considerable time owing to lack of touch being kept, they were forced back by advancing Germans and lack of support.

I can give no information regarding the second line, although the Company Commander is known to have advanced in that direction but no one came back.

The centre company found 1st and 2nd belts of wire fairly well cut. Second Lieutenant Frost and about 30 men gained a foothold in German trench. All the officers (except Second Lieutenant Frost) and 13 NCOs were knocked out by bomb and machine gun fire. Second Lieutenant Frost reorganised the company in a sunken road and remained at this point for about 2 hours when recalled by men at daybreak.

The left company advanced on its objective. No gaps were found but a bulk of the company got into the trench without opposition. They were recalled by me at dawn..

14 March 1917 - The battalion was relieved by the 1/6th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment and proceeded to billets in Souastre."

Newspaper Cuttings

Birmingham Daily Post 14th April 1917
The following casualties amongst warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men are reported under various dates:
SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGIMENT.- Wootton, 203397, F., (Tipton).