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Herbert George Rosier

Private M2/10043 Herbert George Rosier, Army Service Corps (Motor Transport)


Ashley Villas

Herbert Rosier.

(Leo Macham)

Herbert was born in Hungerford in 1881, the third and youngest son of Francis Rosier and his wife Sarah, née Dodson. Francis was a bricklayer whose work took the family from place to place, as shown by the birthplaces of the children: Arthur Edwin (born Kingston-upon-Thames, 1875), Francis Charles (Sandhurst, 1877), Annie Louise (Hampstead Norris, 1879). Before they settled for an extended period in Francis’ hometown, Hungerford, where Herbert, Florence Ada (1883), and Alice Emma (1888) were all born.


Herbert followed his father’s trade and was, by 1901, working away from home and boarding with a family in Ogbourne St George. Later that year the family moved to 1 Ashley Villas (now 15 Stanley Road), Newbury. By the time of the 1911 census the family unit had diminished to two, Herbert, aged 29, was back home with his mother; his father was away from home, working in Puddletown, Dorset.


Herbert’s siblings had married and set up their own homes and it was not long before Herbert did the same. On 26 November 1911 he married Miriam Green at the Primitive Methodist Church in Bartholomew Street, Newbury. They set up home at 71 Northbrook Street, almost certainly in rooms above or behind Green’s confectionary shop. On 25 February 1913 their daughter Joan Annie was born. Herbert also changed his work, leaving the rigours of bricklaying behind and taking on a new job, as a ‘motor driver’.  In 1911 this was an unusual occupation; motor vehicles were still a rarity on British roads.


ACR poster

Perhaps Herbert responded to a poster like this? The pay was good and you'd be driving Generals around (or so it seems).


Herbert volunteered for the army in 1915, enlisting into the Army Service on 25th May. As an experienced driver he was an obvious choice for their Motor Transport division. After a relatively short period of training he found himself boarding the SS St Petersburg , bound for France, on 1 October 1915, landing in Rouen the following day. He was attached to 587 MT Company, 2nd Army’s auxiliary MT company.  For the next 18 months he worked behind the lines, a vital part of the immense logistics operation necessary to keep the huge number of troops in the field. He did get a chance to see his family when he had ten days leave in December 1916. In January 1918 he was transferred to No 10 GHQ Reserve MT Company, 1st Army. This might seem to be a prestigious group, ferrying the GHQ around, but the role was far more mundane, to supply transport as and where necessary, supplementing the specialist companies attached to specific units.


In March 1918 the Germans launched a massive offensive against the British 3rd and 5th Armies on the Somme; the 1st Army (including Herbert) were miles to the north, covering the front around the Franco-Belgian border. But the scale of the losses, especially in 3rd Army, would have caused immense logistics issues all along the front. Everyone involved would have been incredibly busy.


On 28 May Herbert was in the cab of a lorry transporting men from 122 Labour Company; it appears that he was not behind the wheel and that his fellow driver, H Pym (M2/148236), was driving. As he approached a level crossing they saw the gates were open and, assuming this indicated it was safe to do so they proceeded to cross the line. As the lorry crossed the tracks it was struck by a train.


The Army investigated the incident, first to determine whether it was by accident or intent (standard process for all accidents, to ensure that ‘accidents’ were not self-inflicted injuries with the aim of avoiding the front. In this case Herbert was exonerated of any blame – which was put upon ‘whoever left the gate open’. It was hard to find out exactly what had happened - the section of the official form that called for witness statements  was filled in with the following: As far as I have been able to ascertain the lorry was crossing  a railway at about 5am when it was run into by a railway train. All the witnesses were either killed or admitted to hospital.


A report on the incident was issued:


This morning at about 6am RW5 supply train for Mont St Eloi collided at LC96 between Aubigny and Mt St Eloi with lorry WD16704 containing men of 122 Labour Coy. The lorry was carried 150yards from point of collision.
At 6.10am Major Hamilton, RAMC,42 CCS, and I proceeded to scene of accident to clear the wounded and debris which had held up RW5.
At 7.50 the train was able to proceed.
No 57 CCS received 1 officer and 18 ORs, two of whom were dead on arrival. No 42 CCS received 4 ORs.
My inquiry did not result in establishing the responsibility for the accident.
Lorry driver and engine driver state that level crossing gates were open.
Gate keeper states that the driver of another lorry opened the gates and crossed leaving the gates open behind him.
Gate-keeper rushed from his garden to close the gates but arrived too late to prevent the collision.
The locomotive No is ROD1894; driver’s name 20710 W S Bush, ROD RE. Lorry driver’s name is 148235, Pte H Pym of 10th GHQ Park.


Ashley Villas

The Rosier's home (Ashley Villas) today.

No 1 is the one to the right (15 Stanley Road).


The news reached Newbury and was reported in the local paper:


Newbury Weekly News, 11 April 1918 – Local War Notes
A distressing fatality has befallen Driver Herbert G Rosier, ASC, No 10, GHQ. Reserve MT Coy. It appears that whilst engaged on March 28 in usual work of driving a lorry in France, a level crossing lay in the line of route, and it was whilst passing over the metals that his lorry was struck by an engine, and in the impact he was killed, his dead body being found among the debris. Full particulars are not yet to hand; these, when received, may show what appears to be somewhat inscrutable, that an experienced driver – so well spoken of by his Captain, who in a letter to Mrs Rosier, stated that he was capable of taking his lorry anywhere – should have met with his untimely death under such circumstances. Deceased was 37 years of age.

A few more details followed a couple of weeks later:


Newbury Weekly News, 25 April 1918 – Local War Notes
With reference to the lamented death of Driver Hebert Rosier, of Newbury, which was the result of a railway accident in France, further information to hand tells of the railway gates having been left open, presumably showing that the way was clear for traffic; the engine must therefore have dashed upon him before he was aware, and from which he was unable to escape. The death occurred the same day as the accident, but in the hospital to which the body was removed.

Herbert's name on Newbury War Memorial

Herbert's name on Newbury War Memorial (upper left)

Herbert was buried in grave III. C. 48 in the Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension. Back home his name is remembered on the Newbury Town War Memorial and on his parents’ grave in Newtown Road Cemetery.


In October 1919 Herbert’s wife Miriam sailed for Canada where she gave a forwarding address in Winnipeg.  However, she did return to England, dying in Southampton in 1961.

Herbert’s sister Alice married Albert Victor Griffin in 1910, his brother Hedley Sanders Griffin is another of the names remembered on the Newbury War Memorial.


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 Died this day:
28 November 1917
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