Trooper 2074 Fredrick John North
Frederick North was the son of Alfred John North, of 4 Atherton Crescent, Salisbury Road, Hungerford. He was born in Hungerford and enlisted at Reading. At the time of his enlistment he was shown as living at Eddington. He died on Saturday, 11th December 1915, age 18 in Egypt in an action against Arabs. A family recollection is that his effects including a wallet with a sabre cut through it were returned to the family on Christmas day. He was originally buried at Mersa Matruh with his comrades but later reinterred in Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War memorial Cemetery, Egypt.
- The cap badge of the Berkshire Yeomanry
- Trooper North on horseback in Egypt just before the action.
- The original plaque listing the fallen at Mersa Matruh, Egypt.
- Trooper North's CWGC headstone at the Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War memorial Cemetery, Egypt
- A general view of the CWGC cemetery at the Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War memorial Cemetery, Egypt which contains trooper North's grave.
The Berkshire Yeomanry went to Gallipoli on the 18th August 1915 leaving a significant rear party in Egypt. Trooper North was part of that rear party. Any thoughts of having a quiet time were dashed when the Berkshire Squadron was grouped with other yeomanry regiments to form the 2nd Composite Regiment of Cavalry (Western Frontier Force). There is no war diary for this unit so we must rely on reports from the local newspaper who printed letters from soldiers from that unit.
Overall Military Situation:
After 11 am the advance guard of the Buckinghamshire Squadron under Captain Cheape having crossed the Wadi Raml exposed their right flank and came under disarray fire from the direction of the Wadi Mejwa. The Commanding Officer of the 2nd Composite Yeomanry Regiment sent Major Foster's Berkshire Squadron (including trooper North) to the left front and Major Reeves Dorsetshire Squadron to the right to bring the Senussi under fire while the remainder of the column continued on the road.
As the squadrons were deploying into position Major Foster suddenly ordered his Berkshire Squadron to charge the unseen shooters targeting his men, the Squadron quickly advanced into the attack forming into line as they charged across the flat ground all the time coming under unexpected heavy fire from an unknown position, killing Squadron Sergeant Major William Cox.
The Senussi position was soon found as the Squadron stumbled into Wadi Mejwa thought to contain some of the Senussi only to find it held over 300 tribesmen. The Berkshire Squadron now trapped were forced to fight for their lives as the Senussi were not prepared to take prisoners.
Seeing the situation Major Wigan commit more of his column to help by attacking the flanks of the Senussi supported by the armoured cars and the guns, soon the Senussi seeing their flank being turned broke and ran onto the high ground of Gebel Medwa and into the many wadis to west to continue the skirmish and where the yeomanry became engaged with the Senussi in a running fight which developed back to the Wadi Senab.
Berkshire Yeomanry Soldiers reports about this action:
Corporal Thornton from Wantage wrote: 'We had a three day march on bully and biscuits and had to drink salt water. After spending two nights in one place we moved off again on December 10th on a five day march to see if the natives would surrender. After travelling twelve 13 miles we sighted the enemy, and galloped about 1½ miles. The bullets came flying past and the order was given to retire to a deep gully. Climbing out again was very difficult, as it was about 50 yards deep. When we got to the top we charged and as soon as they started we came under a hail of bullets on all sides. We got to within about 10 yards of the enemy, who were in another gully and would not move. I moved to the right and 'Got mine' [At this point he was wounded in the leg]
Trooper Green from Blewbury said: 'We have been tracking along the coast of Egypt towards Africa for four days, and have now reached Matruh. This is the last Egyptian town on the coast, but is really only like a village. I received the apples when I reached here, they were very good. We have been called out here because the Bedouin Arabs have been kicking up trouble. We have not seen any, but hope to come up with them soon. We start on another five days trip tomorrow, so do not expect a letter for a bit. We are right on the desert, and have to travel along the coast from well to well. We get some tobacco issued sometimes, but never any cigarettes. Glad to hear the slackers are moving'
Major Foster wrote: As will be seen, the Berks Yeomanry fought most heroically, and as the result of dismounted fighting carried out almost entirely by about 50 men and an armoured car, the enemy suffered a heavy reverse.
Captain Slaughter wrote: Most of the casualties were in the Berkshire squadron commanded by Major Foster. They fought most gallantly and we deeply regret their loss. They are all buried at Mersa Matruh (on the coast about 150 miles west of Alexandria) and a suitable marble memorial is being subscribed for by the regiment.
Major Cheape (Bucks Hussars) wrote: Speaking to Bond (of the Berkshire Yeomanry)....'He told me we had done well and should be proud of my boys. While I was keeping the enemy down the Berks Squadron charged. They did it like heroes and galloped into the gorge that was supposed only to hold twenty Arabs, but in reality there were about 300 of them. It was a near thing for them. My fire as not strong enough, so we called up an armoured car and that saved us all. The Bucks came up, but they were too late. It was a very exiting time. Empty saddles came streaming up. I saw red and got to faster work.
[The situation described was very similar when the 21st Lancers with Winston Churchill present was part of the cavalry charge at Omdurman in the Sudan in 1898 when they attacked what they thought was a small force only to be confronted by a very much larger formation]
Point of Interest:
Trooper North's younger brother 'Sonar' North later joined the Army serving in the 5th (Service) Battalion on the Royal Berkshire Regiment on the Western Front where he saw front line action. After the war he re-joined as a regular soldier serving in India. He lived for many years and was the last surviving member of his battalion. 'Sonar' North's son John North also joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment many years later serving during the EOKA campaign in Cyprus.