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Geoffrey Trevor-Roper

Private 57835 Geoffrey Trevor-Roper, 32nd (Service) Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)

 

Geoffrey Trevor-Roper

Geoffrey Trevor-Roper.

(de Ruvigny)

Geoffrey was born on 27 December 1885 in Mold, Flintshire. He was the second and youngest son of George Edward Trevor-Roper and his wife Harriette née Trevor-Roper of Rhual Isa, Mold. Despite being the second son he was actually his parents eleventh and youngest child having no fewer than nine elder sisters: Alice Marion (born 1868), Mabel (1871), Helen (1873), NoraH (1874), Winifred (1876), Violet (1878), Eveleen (1880), Florence (1881) and Gwendoline (1882). His elder brother was Charles Cadwaladr (1884).

 

His father, George, was a solicitor with a practice in Mold, close to his father’s estate of Plas Teg. George’s eldest brother Charles James Trevor-Roper inherited the estate and its Jacobean mansion. It was Plas Teg that led to the family’s adoption of their double-barrelled surname when Charles’ great-grandfather, Cadwaladr Blany Roper inherited it from his cousin the Dowager Lady Dacre he added her family name, Trevor, to his own.

 

In 1895 George died and Harriette moved the family from Wales to 17, The Crescent, Bedford, from  where Charles and Geoffery attended Bedford Modern School. In 1901 their uncle, Charles James Trevor-Roper, died without children and Charles inherited the Plas Teg estate and the family moved back to Wales for a while; Geoffrey moved school to Dinglewood in Colwyn Bay, where he represented the school at cricket.

 

Information regarding Geoffrey's career choices after school is not forthcoming, though he is to be found in 1913 living in a house his mother was renting in a house called Pevensey in Bycullah Road, Enfield. At this time he is recorded on the local electoral roll as renting a room in his mother's house. This may sound like a more formal approach to living at home, but was probably an artifice to satisfy the qualification requirements for entitlement to vote. His mother, of course, was not qualified as women had yet to get the vote in parliamentary elections.

 

To date no entry has been found for Geoffrey in the 1911 census, perhaps he was out of the country? His brother Charles was touring Australia that year with a touring theatre company, it is even possible that Geoffrey accompanied him on this adventure.

 

After war was declared Geoffrey soon enlisted, joining the Royal Fusiliers on 4 September 1914. He crossed to France in November 1915. Eight battalions onf the Fusiliers landed in France that month, the 17th to 24th (Service) Battalions, it is likely that Geoffrey was serving with one of these battalions at that stage; later he must have transferred to the 32nd (Service) Battalion, which was one of the four infantry battalions in the 124th Brigade, 41st Division. It is not known when Geoffrey joined this battalion. His change of battalion may indicate a period spent in hospital. Men were often sent to a new battalion when returning to the front after recovering from illness or wounds. What is clear is that he was with the 32nd in September 1917.

 

The battalion war diary includes a six page report (below) on the battalions activities from 17 - 23 September as they marched up to the front near Mount Sorrel and attacked German positions. The report is an interesting view of yet another disappointing attack among many in this series of battles, overall known as the Third Battle of Ypres or Passchendaele. The action that the 41st Division was involved with from 20-25 September was the Battle of the Menin Road.

 

The failure of such attacks to go to plan is clearly demonstrated in this extract from the war diay: The Battalion had captured the first two objectives (which had been assigned to the attacking Battalion in front of it) and was unfitted for any further effort beyond holding the ground gained. The majority of their officers (14 out of 18) were casualties and the 10th Queen's (the 'battalion in front') had 'ceased to be a fighting unit'. In the end of three days of action they wer

 

Geoffrey died in the first stage of the battle as the battalion moved forward and into the German lines, as reported in the local paper:

 

Newbury Weekly News, 18 October 1917 - Local War Notes

Pte Geoffrey Trevor-Roper, of the Royal Fusiliers, who was killed in action on September 20th, was the younger son of the late Mr G E Trevor-Roper, of Nold, and of Mrs G E Trevor-Roper, of Donnington-square, Newbury, his elder brother, Captain (temp Major) C C Trevor-Roper (Hants Regiment) of Glar-Teg, Flintshire, having died on August 3rd, of wounds received in action. The officer commanding Pte Trevor-Roper’s Company, writes:- “His death was that of a soldier, having been sniped in the head whilst attacking an enemy dug-out. He showed the greatest gallantry and daring, and reached almost the furthest point reached in the action of the early morning of September 20th. His death was instantaneous.”

 

There are several errors in the above report - notably the misspellings of Mold (Nold) and Plas Teg (Glar-Teg).


Charles' name on Newbury War Memorial

Geoffrey's name on Newbury War Memorial below that of his brother, Charles.

(centre column)

Locally Geoffrey is remembered on the Newbury Town War Memorial and the Speenhamland Shrine.  He is also remembered on memorials at  Bedford Modern School, Bedford and Mold War Memoral, Flintshire. They may well be more personal family memorials in the churches on the family's Welsh estate.

 

Geoffrey's brother Charles served in the Hampshire Regiment and also died in the 3rd Battle of Ypres a few weeks before Geoffrey – his promotion to Major was announced in the London Gazette a few weeks after his death.


The family left Newbury soon after the end of the war, Geoffrey's mother Harriette died in 1920.


The Trevor-Roper surname appears to be unique to this family, all six servicemen of this name, three from each world war, who are recorded in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour database are related.

 

 

Appendix: Report from War Diary WO 95/2544

 

Report
OPERATIONS, 20th to 23rd September, 1917.
32nd (S) Bn The ROYAL FUSILIERS

    1 Concentration

The Batttalion marched from TATINGHEM (St Omer area) to MURRUMBRIDGE CAMP, LA CLYTTE, in three consecutive days.
17th Moved to RIDGE WOOD
Night 18th/19th moved to MOUNT SORREL area, digging in about 500 yards W of CANADA STREET TUNNELS (Bde Hdqrs) – Battalion Hdqrs in TUNNELS.
At dusk on 18th evening enemy put creeping barrage, mostly 4.2 and 5.9 HE, across the area causing 20 casualties, including the Battn Signalling Officer (Wounded)

     

    2 Assembly

Night 19th/20th Battalion moved into Assemble Position in file along CLEMSONS LANCE to SHREWSBURY FOREST, its front resting on the road running North from just West of LOWER STAR POST, its right being immediately behind LOWER STAR POST and its left on the road 250 yards North of that point. Assembly completed 1 hour before zero with two casualties.

     

    3 Disposition

In support on the Right of the Brigade Sector, 50 yds in rear of the 10th “Queens” (the attacking Battalion of the Right Sector) whose waves were closed up so as to occupy 75 yds depth from front to rear of the Battalion.
The 17th KRRC, 39th Division, on the right, the 26th Royal Fusiliers, supporting the 21st KRRC, on the left.
Battalion dispose as follows:-
“A” Coy (right) and “B” Coy (left in front line with “D” Coy (right) and “C” Coy (left) in support.
All Coys with 2 plattons in front wave and 1 platoon on 2nd wave, each wave being a line of sections in file.
The whole Battalion closed up to a depth of 75 yards.

     

    4 The Advance

At Zero hour, 5.40am (Summer time), the Battalion advanced in close formation immediately behind the 10th “Queens”, thus escaping the enemy barrage which dropped a few minutes later well behind the Battalion – the assembly having been carried out without being observed by the enemy’s forward posts.
There was no obstacle to the advance in the first 200yds, but at about that point very heavy machine gun fire was opened from JAVA DRIVE on the left front from shell holes and from the trench opposite the centre, causing very heavy casualties amongst the 10th “Queens” and also amongst the Battalion.
The attack was definitely held up in the centre and the majority of the officers of the Battalion became casualties, including the Acting Adjutant and two of the Company Commanders, a third being hit but remaining at duty.
The 10th “Queens” ceased to be a fighting unit but “A” Company, under 2nd Lt CHRISTIE, pushed on to the right, and “B” Company, under the CSM, got forward on the left, moving out of the Battalion Sector.
This relieved the pressure on the centre and the whole line was enabled to progress, though the check had lost the Brigade the benefit of the barrage.
In spite of this there was no serious opposition encountered between the RED and the BLUE LINES, though the enemy Machine Gun Fire and sniping from the opposing ridge was heavy and accurate.
My 9am the BLUE LINE was captured but the units were extremely disorganised, and owing to the heavy casualties, which amounted to about 50% of the Battalion, it was found impossible, in face of the MG fire to organise a further advance.
The Battalion had captured the first two Objectives (which had been assigned to the attacking Battalion in front of it) and was unfitted for any further effort beyond holding the ground gained.
At about this period the 17th KRRC on the right were reinforced by a battalion of the Cheshire Regt and a portion of the latter, seeing how thin our line was, took up their position on the left of our right party.
A portion of the Left Company of the Battalion had moved so far across to that flank that they finally dug themselves in on the opposing slope about 200 yards beyond the BASSEVILLE BEEK, on the extreme left of the Bde Sector, together with a party of the 26th Fusiliers, while parties of the 21st KRRC and 18th KRRC were behind them West of the BASSEVILLE BEEK.
Thereafter the Machine Gun fire of the enemy, partly from the opposing slope and especially from the rather low ground opposite the Division on the right, became and remained, very serious, making movement, even by individuals very hazardous, and effectively preventing any movement by bodies of men.
The sniping too was very accurate.
At about 4pm and 6pm the enemy were reported to be massing opposite our front for a counter-attack, but our SOS Barrage was prompt and prevented any developments.
The Brigade was reinforced by the 123rd Brigade and orders were given for the 23rd Middlesex to assemble on the left of the BLUE LINE and attacked the GREEN LINE at 9.30am on  the 21st in a SSE direction.
Great difficulty was experienced in assembling on the somewhat vague line then being held in the face of continual Machine Gun fire and increased shell fire. The advance was begun, several dugouts were captured and cleared, but after about 300 yards the advance was definitely held up by Machine Gun fire from undamaged concrete dugouts and from trenches.
During the morning very effective Machine Gun fire was brought to bear on the opposing ridge from 8 Machine Guns posted just behind our RED LINE and also from rifles in the BLUE LINE, but by noon the attempt was abandoned and the BLUE LINE became again the ultimate line of the ground captured in these operations, and was held by mixed elements of the two Brigades.
The Battalion was relieved on the nights 22nd/23rd and 23rd/24th.

     

    5 Artillery

(a) Our Barrage         At Zero hour the barrage gave the impression of being some 350 yards away instead of 150 yards, and in fact the attacking troops being held up near the start, never got really under it. The distance of the smoke and dust cloud was undoubtedly due in part to the fact that nor HE was observable in the “A” Barrage, and this employment of a shrapnel “A” Barrage appeared to be ineffectual in keeping down the fire of the forward enemy Machine Guns.
(b) SOS Barrage        This was exceedingly prompt and effectual.
(c) Enemy Barrage   Started well behind our assembled troops and was only spasmodic during the whole of the 20th.
On the 20th night and during the whole of the following two days and nights it was very heavy on the area from the original Front Line back to the 18 pounder line, with occasional heavy bursts on the forward area.

     

    6 Trench Mortar Battery

Did not come into action, They might be very useful if brought up well after the advance when there would be a better chance of the teams with their ammunition, arriving more or less intact. They could be most usefully employed in barraging Strong Points against which it would be impossible to employ a fresh artillery barrage without a good many hours delay.

     

    7 Machine Guns

(a) Ours:      The Machine Gun Barrage fire was, of course, unobservable during the advance, but during the consolidation of the BLUE LINE it appears to have been a valuable addition to the Artillery Protective Barrage.
The Machine Gun allotted to Battalions reached a splendid position immediately behind the RED LINE and were extremely useful in harassing the enemy on the opposing ridge at a range of 950 yards. During the 21st they found many targets on that ridge and were of great assistance.
(b) Enemy:  His Machine Guns in the forward line, both in dugouts and in trenches, were unaffected by the shrapnel barrage and the morale of the teams was up to a high standard – they fought their guns until flanking parties had got well round their positions.
During the whole action enemy Machine Guns were very active from the opposing slopem and one gun firing from opposite the next sector on the right was able to sweep the whole of the Battalion position, including the low ground around the BASSEVILLE BEEK and the high ground about the RED LINE and behind, this gun was never put out of action.

     

    8 Sniping and Rifle Fire

(a) Ours:      Sniping poor, great lack of individual effort. Rifle fire was used by groups very largely, particularly after reaching the BLUE LINE. So much so that, while waiting for further supplies of SAA, the main party on the right was using enemy rifles and ammunition of which they had captured large quantities, and fires some thousands of rounds in assisting to cover the advances of the 123rd Brigade.
(b) Enemy:  Sniping good, continuous and very harassing. The individual courage and determination of the enemy when in a fairly good protected position, was very well exemplified by this.
Rifle fire of other description apparently nil.

 

9 Communications

(a) Telephonic:          The Brigade Forward Station at RP1 was never out of touch with the Bde Hdqrs for more than a few minutes.
The wires were cut by shell-fire a good many times, but the work done by the linesmen was prompt and courageous and deserves a special mention.
(b) A Power Buzzer was in action soon after the post was established and was a valuable auxiliary.
(c) Visual was used only on the extreme left of the Brigade Sector, where one of the main parties of the Battalion was. No signallers reached the right of the BLUE LINE.
(d) Runners. Most valuable and efficient. Continuous communication was maintained with all parties after the attainment of the 2nd Objective, and the work done by this branch of the Battalion was of outstanding merit.
(e) Wireless was not used.

     

    10 Supplies

SAA, rations and water were sent up by the Brigade, and most of them reached Battn Hdqrs and were distributed to parties in front. But the shelling of back areas was particularly heavy on the 21st and 22nd and the conducting of carrying parties presented very great difficulties.
The forward Battalion dumps were not used, partly owing the shortage of men available for sending back, and partly because as this Battalion had not been in the line before the 20th there were none who could be depended on to guide a party to the right spot. Shortage of men was a hampering factor on every occasion of any sort throughout the operations.

     

    11 Medical

The work of the RAMC bearers appeared to be very good in spite of the large number of cases to be dealt with. The evacuation of the wounded was made comparatively easy by the fact that about 70 per cent of the casualties must have occurred before reaching the RED LINE.
In the forward area great use was made of enemy prisoners as bearers, who, generally speaking, behaved very well in this respect.
I would suggest, however, that a practice be made, both by Battalions and the RAMC of carrying and erecting a number of small sign-posts to indicate the direction to and position of RAPs and Bearer Party Posts.

     

    12 Casualties

(a)

 

Officers

O Ranks

 

Killed

               -

             35

 

Died of Wounds

               -

               5

 

Wounded

            10

           224

 

Missing

              4

             29

 

 

            14

           296

 

Of the total sent up 77% officers became casualties and 60% other ranks.
*Of the 4 Officers “Missing” 1 was subsequently killed and the other 3 died of wounds. Of the 29 other ranks “Missing”, 6 have since been reported Killed in Action, and 1 Wounded, 2 of the Wounded have died.
(b) At least 70% of the total casualties occurred in the attack on the RED LINE and were caused by bullet wounds.

     

    13 Points suggested by the Operations.

(a) Barrage.                18 Pounder Shrapnel is ineffectual in dealing with MG Emplacements and has little moral effect.
It also produces very little “line” for the leading wave to follow. The impression produced on me personally at Zero hous was that, although I was ahead of my Battalion and within 70 yards of the leading waves of the front Battalion, the barrage was over 300 yards in front of me.
Suggested that the “A” Barrage should be entirely HE, and a good deal of shrapnel being used in the “B” Barrage to catch enemy retiring from forward posts across the open.
(b) Rifle Fire. Was good when carried out by parties under an officer or senior NCO, but individual effort is lacking men being too apt to lie in shell holes with their heads well down, not realizing that every British sniper will assist in Neutralizing enemy sniping.
(c) Grenades. Men have not learnt the value of this weapon against MG Emplacements and Strong Points; the want of realism in training is partly responsible.
(d) Leadership and Initiative. This is the pivot of the whole question of success in such operations. The importance of it has not been overlooked in training but it is clear that too much attention cannot be paid to it. The difficulty of the advance was enhanced enormously from the time when 14 out of 18 officers became casualties by the want of confidence of the NCOs in themselves and of the men in their NCOs.
(e) Minor Tactics. A great deal of training has been devoted to the principle of flank attacks on emplacements and strong points, and this was carried out in practice on several occasions with complete and immediate success; but time and lives are still being lost through it not being universally applied.
(f) The formation was too dense. It would appear impracticable to attempt, once the advance has begun and if any opposition is encountered, to open out two Battalions from a total depth of 150 yards or so to their proper depth and at the same time retain efficient organization and control.
R C Clark [signed]
10.10.1917                                                                                                 Lt Col comdg
32nd (S) Bn The Royal Fusiliers

 

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