AS war raged on the Western Front 100 years ago this week, soldiers from Redditch were fighting – and dying – in other theatres of the First World War.
One such man was Frank Redding who took part in the heroic attack by the 1/7th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment that saved the British on the opening day of the Battle of Piave in northern Italy.
They were fighting the Austrians whose artillery opened fire at 3am on the morning of June 15, 1918.
The attack that followed smashed a hole in the British line.
A counterattack failed and it fell on the 1/7th Worcs, with little in the way of reserves behind them, to plug the gap and halt the assault.
The battalion was called up, organised, and at 7.30pm they met the assault head on as the Austrians poured through a dense forest.
With artillery support impossible because of the trees, what followed was hours of crackling deadly rifle and machinegun fire.
The Divisional History reads: “Various officers in the frontline declared afterwards that for sheer intensity of fire they had never seen anything to this small arms action duel during the war.”
The Worcs aimed low, the Austrians high, and by the time the battle was over the ground was thick with hundreds of the enemy they’d killed.
The Worcs lost 91 men – more than a quarter of their strength – among whom was Private Frank Redding.
Frank had been born in 1896 in Astwood Bank to Henry and Emily Redding, one of their six children.
The family lived in Butler Street in Astwood Bank and by the 1911 census, aged just 15, Frank was working as a litho stone preparer in the printing industry.
He was 22 years old when he died.
He lies buried in the Magnaboschi British Cemetery in Italy and is remembered today on the Astwood Bank War Memorial, and on the Astwood Bank Baptist Church memorial which is now now in Cookhill Baptist Church.
Meanwhile on the Western Front, another soldier remembered in Redditch was killed on June 17.
George Barton had been born in St Paul’s in Birmingham in 1881.
Hid father, also George, was a labourer and by the time he was 15, young George was working as an errand boy.
He married Charlotte and at some time moved to Redditch, the couple living at 67 Arrow Road.
George enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in Redditch, later transferring to the 61st Battalion, The Machine Gun Corps.
It isn’t known where he died, but he was killed in action, aged 31, and is buried at St Venant-Robecq Road British Cemetery, Robecq, in France, and is remembered today on the St George’s Church War Memorial.
With thanks to:
Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes
The War Diary of the Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War