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20th May, 2022

Redditch remembers: Three lost in Cambrai offensive

Ross Crawford 26th Nov, 2017

THE Battle of Cambrai was an attempt by the British to break through the Germany’s Hindenburg Line defences using new infantry and artillery tactics supported by more than 300 tanks.

It began at 6.10am on November 20, 1917, and the opening day was to claim the lives of two Redditch men. A third was to die at Passchenchaele the same day.

Initially the attack went well with advances of up to five miles, covering more ground in six hours than in three months at Passchendaele.

However the hoped-for breakthrough did not occur and the subsequent campaign was to see the Germans launch their strongest counterattack since 1914.

George Percy Carter was born in 1898 in Redditch. His father died early in his life and by the time he was five his mum Alice had re-married to a John Day.

Together with John’s daughter Nellie they lived at 161 Holly Cottages off Beoley Road, John working as a gas stoker, Alice as a reducer and Nellie as a cardboard box maker.

George was recruited into the 4th Battalion the Worcestershires which on November 4 was part of the second line of attack.

Ordered to advance, they marched over captured trenches until reaching the village of Masnieres where they came under enemy fire.

It is not known how George died but casualties for the 4th from November 20-23 were 11 killed, 39 wounded, and 14 missing.

He is remembered today on the St George’s War Memorial.

Albert Shakespeare was in the Tank Corps on that fateful day and died when an enemy shell hit the tank he was in.

His death was described as instantaneous.

Tanks in those days were infernal machines for crews: noisy, hot, filled with fumes and lumbering targets which all too frequently broke down.

Albert had been born in 1896, the youngest of George and Harriet Shakespeare’s eight children.

His father was a needle filer and the family lived at 24 Archer Road. In the 1911 census Albert is listed as working in a warehouse for H Terry & Sons.

His is remembered today on the Cambrai Memorial, south west of the city at Louverval, and on the St Stephen’s War Memorial.

Victor Horton served with the 1st Battalion the Worcestershires and was killed in a bombardment the day after his unit had taken over the front line at what had once been the village of Passchendaele.

He’d been born in 1894 and was brought up by his mum, Sarah Ann Horton, a char lady, after his father died early in his life.

Mother and son lived at 57 and then 69 Beoley Road, and by the time he was 17 young Victor was working as a fishing rod maker at Milward and Sons at Washford Mills.

He is remembered today on the St George’s War Memorial and on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.

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