The Lost Patrol

Grimsby Chums discovered on the Arras Battlefield - June 2001


The remains of 20 British First World War soldiers discovered near Arras, Northern France. Archaelogists unearthed the corpses, which were lying arm in arm, at a construction site for a BMW factory. The men, who were killed on the 9th April 1917 were from the 10th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment, known as the "Grimsby Chums". Picture courtesy of The Independent 20th June 2001.

The Grimsby Pals, who were part of 101 Brigade, 34th Division had followed the Cambs Suffolks into the battle on the 9th April 1917. The two Battalions invariably fought together. Indeed on the 1st day of the Battle of the Somme, the Cambs Suffolks had followed the Grimsby Pals into battle - Both Battalions suffering horrendous caualties.

Follow this link to read about the action on the 9th April, 1917.  

25 men of the Cambs Suffolks died during the first assault at Arras. Of these, 22 men were killed on the 9th April and 8have no known grave:

Checksfield C H from Rushden

Clark A from Northampton

Downing F from Newmarket*

Hopkin O from Impington* (See Below)

Peacock V P from Landbeach*

Pottrell L from Coton*

Wightman S from Skegness

Winters R from Wisbech

All of these men are commemorated on the Arras memorial.

*Men who had answered Kitchener's call in 1914 and who had survived the Somme Battle whilst serving with the Cambs Suffolks.

The man on the cover of the above magazine is Oliver Hopkin from Impington. Son of Mr and Mrs Harry Hopkin of New Road, Impington. Oliver, who was the oldest of four children was born on 26th November 1897. At the time of his enlistment, Oliver's father was a farm foreman for Chivers & Son. Oliver had joined up around about his 17th birthday. The Cambridge Chronicle of Friday, 27 November 1914 reported that during the week 114 men had enlisted in the Cambridge Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment.  Oliver was one of them. His sister had said that most of his friends had joined up at the same time.

Oliver wrote home regularly and in his penultimate letter to his mother, written in early 1917, he made reference to the impending battle at Arras:

"Well I must tell you that he (the enemy) will thin us out a lot again soon as the land gets dry for if we don't push him a long way back this time we shall never win for we seem to have enough guns to blow him off the face of the earth and troops as well. I shall think myself lucky if I come out of this alright for we all think it will be worser than the first of July last year and that was bad enough ... we are going to the trenches in a few days time".

In his last letter home, on the 6th April 1917, Oliver said:

"My dear mother, father, sister and brother ... we are having just the sort of weather as you are at home and it is very bad for us to. It has made the trenches in a very bad state up to our knees in mud and our clothes will never come clean again and we have to take our shirts off every day and do a little piece of shepherding the lice up for we cannot keep the damn things clear from them. Well I must tell you that we will be in up in the thick of it again soon before you get this letter but I don't think we shall get such a cutting up as we did at Albert last year so keep your eye on the paper. I hope please god I ccome through alright this time I will let you know soon."

Oliver was killed before this letter reached his mother. She in turn wrote, one week after her son had been reported missing:

"... we have not heard anything from you for a long time and we see from the papers that there has been a big push".

Sgt W. Gilmore, commander of the 101st Bn, Trench Mortar Battery  wrote a letter that wass forwarded to Oliver's parents a few days later:

"These photos and pocket wallet was found by one of my men during the recent operation in a dug-out. The men think they belong to the dead corporal who was in the dug-out. The wallet was on a table ..."

Oliver's body was subsequently lost and he has no known grave. Maybe, one day his body will be found or maybe he already lies in an unspecified CWGC grave under the words "known unto god".

My thanks to Dr A J peacock for this material.

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