ALBERT GAUNT 

Rank: Private
Service Number: 49934.
Regiment: 11th Bn. Royal Defence Corps Died Monday 3rd March 1919 Age 46County Memorial Congleton
Commemorated\Buried ASTBURY (ST. MARY) CHURCHYARD
Grave\Panel Ref: New H. 8.
United Kingdom

Son of Mrs. Sarah Minshull, of 67, Astbury Street, Congleton, Cheshire, and 34, Astbury Street, Cheshire and husband of Mrs Hannah Gaunt, (nee Meakin), of 4, Davenport Street, Congleton, Cheshire, 8 Egerton Street, Congleton, Cheshire and 27, Astbury Street, Congleton, Cheshire. They were married in the Parish Church at Heaton Redditch, Lancashire on the 18th of May 1894. He had two sons, Leonard and Albert Gaunt. He had two sisters, Elizabeth and Frances Gaunt, and one-half sister Maria Minshull, along with three brothers, William, John and Henry Gaunt. Prior to the war, he was employed as a Slater's Labourer, and a Fustian Cutter. Pre-War he served as a Territorial in the 1/7th Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment after enlisting in 1913.

He joined the 3rd Battalion the Cheshire Regiment at Congleton on the 30th of August 1914 at the age of 41. On the 5th March 1915, he embarked from Southampton as part of the Expeditionary Force to France. He joined the 2nd Battalion on the 11th March 1915.

On the 22nd of April, the Germans launched the attack that would become officially known as the Second Battle of Ypres. By May, the situation had become critical for the allied armies. The Cheshire Regimental History notes that " behind our gassed and shattered lines, had the Germans only known, lay nothing to prevent them capturing the Channel Ports ". The section of the front line to be held by the 28th Division, which included the 2nd Battalion (one of the Regiment's two Regular Army Battalions), was about 1-5 Miles between Frezenberg and a position known as Mouse Trap Farm.

This was 3 miles to the north east of Ypres (now Leper). The Regimental History notes The line to be held was nothing more effective than narrow trenches three feet deep, hastily constructed, with little wire, no communication trenches and little or no overhead cover. It was not a line in which to meet a heavy attack, yet the Allied plan required it to be held Poison gas had been first used by the Germans on the 22nd of April. They again used gas in this attack. At that time, there was no practical defence against it. All that was done was to issue each Battalion with 200 cloth bands to be worn across the mouth (it should be noted that a Battalion at full strength would exceed 800). At dawn on the 8th of May, the German artillery opened fire from the north, north east and south east with explosives and gas shells. It continued until the trenches and troops were battered out of shape and sense. Then the German Infantry came on. They were met by the shell-shocked survivors with the greatest of bravery. For the next few hours, the British troops managed to hold of the attacks, but by 10:00 hours the Brigade to the right of the Cheshire's was finally forced to give way. This left the 2nd Battalion in a critical position as it meant the Germans could now work round their flank. Reinforcements from the two reserve companies were sent forward but were cut down by shell fire before they could reach the two companies in the front line. The Battalion's War Diary describes the situation at 13:00 hours, " The positions occupied by Battalion headquarters and No 1 and No 4 Companies were surrounded by the enemy and with very few exceptions the whole of the officers and other ranks were killed or taken prisoner". Only small groups managed to escape. The Diary records that, at this time, known casualties included 17 dead, 200 wounded and 190 missing. After the enemy attack, the Battalion's new front line was their original support trench, some 600 yards in the rear. The senior officer remaining was Second Lieutenant Roberts and the Cheshire's were therefore put under the command of the Colonel commanding the 1st Battalion, The Welsh Regiment, which was also in the trench. The Regimental History records that only 32 men drew rations in the evening. Over 400 were dead, missing or wounded. Amongst those seriously wounded was Private Albert Gaunt suffering bullet wounds to the chest and other injuries due to the explosion of a shell. He was taken to the No 2, Casualty Clearing Station and eventually back to England. While recuperating in England he was accused of desertion, but this was due to a misunderstanding as he was actually on Sick Leave. On the 8th of August 1917, he was transferred to the 11th Battalion of the Royal Defence Corp due to his injuries. He recovered from the bullet wounds but had problems with the injuries sustained by the shell explosion. He attended a medical assessment at the Medical Station, Irlam Road, Bootle, where the assessor wrote the following on Private Gaunt's Medical Report. The patient was blown up by a shell and then buried, several sandbags falling on top of him. He says he lost the use of both arms and also had 7 teeth knocked out. The right arm has recovered, but he has never been able to get the left arm away from his side. The explosion causing a fracture of the clavicle. The outcome being he was no longer fit for active service and therefore on the 6th of December 1917, he was discharged from the Army. Two other Congleton soldiers who were killed in action were Lance Corporal Allan Higgins and Private Frank Dean.


Cheshire County Memorial Project would like to thank John and Christopher Pullen for this information on Albert.

 

 

 

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