Sergeant 15891 Fredrick Rolfe
2nd Battalion (Princess Charlotte of Wales's) Royal Berkshire Regiment
Sergeant Rolfe was born in Inkpen, Berkshire and enlisted into the Royal Berkshire Regiment in Newbury. His place of residence at the time of his enlistment was Hungerford. It is believed he as living in Hungerford in 1911 together with his wife Mary. They had a family of three boys and one girl.
He went to France on the 30th September 1915. He was killed in action on Saturday the 1st July 1916 (The first day of the battle of the Somme) when the battalion attacked Ovillers. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing, Somme, France. [In the military cemetery at Ovillers there are two unidentified Royal Berkshire Sergeants. Descendants of his family believed that he is one of the two.]
- Regimental Badge of the Royal Berkshires
- Sergeant Rolfe
The War Diary for the 1st July 1916 reads:
Attack on Ovillers. The Battalion took up its assembly position in accordance with Brigade Operation Order No. 100. The 2nd BN Lincolnshire Regiment was on the left and the 2BN Devonshire Regiment on right.
Our own wire was not sufficiently cut and parties were immediately sent out by Companies to clear it. At 6.25am the intensive bombardment began as scheduled. At about 7.15am the enemy opened rifle and machine gun fire on our line; this fire was probably drawn by the 2nd Devon Regiment which at about this time attempted to line up in front of their parapet. At 7.20am Companies began filing down trenches and getting ready for the assault.
At 7.30am the three assaulting Companies advanced to attack the German line. They were met by intense rifle and machine gun fire which prevented any of the waves reaching the enemy lines. A little group on the left of the Battalion succeeded in getting in, but were eventually bombed out.
At about 7.45am the Commanding Officer (Lt Col A.M. Holdsworth) and Second in Command (Major G.H. Sawyer DSO) were wounded in the sap on the left of our front, the Commanding Officer handed over Command of the Battalion to 2nd Lieut C. Mollet (Acting Adjutant) by this time the parapet was swept by rifle and machine gun fire which prevented any exit from our trenches. The enemy replied to our intensive bombardment by barraging the front line from about 6.35am onwards. No message was received from other Battalions in immediate vicinity.
At about 11am the order came from Brigade Headquarters to "stand by" and await further orders.
About 200 men of the Battalion were collected on the right of the front line and in the assembly trenches off Ulverston Street.
At about 12.30pm news was received that the Brigade would be relieved.
At about 3pm Major Hon R. Brand, 2nd Rifle Brigade arranged to take over all the front line and with the sanction of the Brigade the Battalion was withdrawn to Ribble Street.
On relief by the 37th Infantry Brigade, the Battalion marched back to bivouac in Long Valley.
Two Lewis Guns were damaged; Steel Helmets proved invaluable and in numberless cases saved men's lives.
The following casualties occurred amongst Officers:
Killed in Action:
- Lieut A.J.G. Goodall
- 2nd Lieut S.S. Schneider
Died of Wounds:
- Lt Col A.M. Holdsworth
- Major G.H. Sawyer DSO.
- Captain B. Haye
- Captain J.A. Cahill
- Lieu W.C. Adams
- 2nd Lieut W.S. Mackay
- 2nd Lieut J.V.R. Owen
- 2nd Lieut R.G. Green
- 2nd Lieut W. Gale
- Captain H.T. Rowley
- Captain R.C. Lewis
- Lieutenant B.S. Robinson
- Lieutenant O.G. Payne
- 2nd Lieut H. Godfrey
- 2nd Lieut B.H. Belcher
- 2nd Lieut P.G. Shirreff
- 2nd Lieut M.I. Heming
- 2nd Lieut S.H. Bedford
- 33 Killed
- 3 Died of Wounds
- 260 Wounded
- 118 Missing
[Note – most of the 'missing' were in fact killed (a lot of those listed as wounded later died). Sergeant Rolfe was one of these men.]