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After the Battle of Passchendaele, Flanders, November 1917, Canadian soldier.
After the Battle of Passchendaele, November 1917
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Chenevix Trench, Charles Reginald

Charles Reginald Chenevix Trench
Victory Medal
Victory Medal
British War Medal
British War Medal
Territorial Force War Medal
Territorial Force War Medal
Major Charles Reginald Chenevix Trench (Officer)
Killed in Action on Thursday 21st March 1918
German Spring Offensive, aged 30
Son of Rev. Francis & Isabella Clare Chenevix Trench
Father's occupation: Vicar
Born 5th March 1888 at Liverpool
3 sisters, 2 brothers, position in family: 3
Relatives: Wife - Clare Cecily Chenevix Trench, daughter Isabel
Senior School:Gore Court, Charterhouse, Merton College
Left school:1909
Age at leaving:21
Local address: Hurst House, Hurst
Pre-war occupation: Lawyer
Regiment:Sherwood Foresters
Battalion:2nd/5th Battalion.
Went overseas:Monday 26th February 1917
Died:Thursday 21st March 1918
Cause:Killed in Action
Action:German Spring Offensive
Battalion at:Noreuil
Commemorated:Memorial at Arras Memorial

Charles Reginald Chenevix Trench was born in Liverpool on 5th March 1888 to Reverend Francis and Isabella Clare Chenevix Trench. He was the third child and had two brothers and three sisters. The name 'Chenevix' derives from Reginald's great grandmother and was adopted by the family in 1873. Reginald's parents were second cousins and his paternal grandfather was the prominent Victorian Richard Chenevix Trench, who held the posts of Dean of Westminster and Archbishop of Dublin as well as being a poet and Privy Counsellor.

In 1891 Reginald was living with his parents and two younger sisters in The Vicarage, Green Lane, West Derby, Liverpool. On 5th May 1900 his father died at the early age of 49 and by 1901 the family had moved to Eliot Place, Lewisham. At this time Reginald was a boarder at Gore Court School in Tunstall, Kent. In the early 1900's Gore Court School was described as a fairly modern residence built in the Italian style, used as a private collegiate school and standing in a park of over 100 acres.

Reginald moved on to Charterhouse before studying at Merton College, Oxford where he graduated in 1909 with a Bachelor of Arts. Soon after leaving college he joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps, rising to the rank of Captain. He was working as an accounts clerk and boarding with the Marlow family at 23 Vincent Square in Westminster. At the outbreak of war the O.T.C. became a territorial unit whose role was to turn raw recruits from mixed backgrounds into commissioned officers. By the end of September 1914 the OTC had relocated to Berkhamsted where it established a camp on land donated by Lord Brownlow.

Reginald married Clare Cecily Howard on 28th January 1915 and their daughter Isabel Clare was born on 4th November 1915. Though Reginald was serving in Hertfordshire their family address in Army records was Hurst House, Hurst. This was the home of Reginald's Aunt, Blanche Mackey.

Reginald was a valued member of the O.T.C. but was keen to see front line action and so left after eighteen months to join the 2nd/5th Battalion of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment (Sherwood Foresters). Instead of going to France, the Sherwood Foresters were soon sent to Ireland to quell the Easter Rising. They were ill-prepared to fight a guerrilla war and suffered heavy casualties in overcoming the rebels. The Battalion remained in Ireland until January 1917, when they returned briefly to Hurdcott Camp in Wiltshire before embarking at Folkestone for Boulogne on 26th February 1917.

Within two months the Battalion saw action in an unsuccessful attack on the Hindenburg Line at Le Verguier. In August Reginald was promoted to Major and became second in command of the Battalion. Then in the autumn he took part in the Passchendaele offensive and subsequently fought at Cambrai. By March 1918 the Sherwood Foresters were manning the front line at Noreuil, twelve miles south east of Arras. This sector was at the northern extremity of the massive German Spring Offensive which commenced on 21st March 1918.

Soldiers all along the British front line were killed or injured by the earth shattering five hour artillery bombardment which preceded the attack, and many of those uninjured were left numb and frightened by the time the German advance started that morning. Reginald weathered the bombardment in the Battalion headquarters dug-out and when the shelling lifted at 10.40 a.m. he organised the defence of the second line trenches against the immediate German infantry attack. The Official History describes the start of the action as follows:

In the Battle Zone, where the fog had completely lifted, an attack on the defences covering Noreuil, held by the 2/5th Sherwood Foresters and a Royal Engineers detachment, began as early as 10.40 am, being preceded by a heavy barrage. Met by fire from the defences and the covering batteries, the enemy ceased his frontal attack to wait for the effects of the advance around both flanks of the position, that in the Hirondelle valley being already perceptible. To meet these turning movements, the right flank of the defence was thrown back, whilst, on the left, a line was manned along the road from Noreuil towards Longatte. The movement up the Hirondelle valley gained ground so rapidly, however, that the right flank of this position was soon driven in, Noreuil was captured, and the men still holding trenches in front of it were cut off.

The Battalion War Diary did not survive that German advance, but another account of the events commences:

In writing the account of the above action, difficulty is at once encountered, owing to the fact that all records including War Diary, Defence schemes, and Operation Orders were lost. Indeed the only information available is that afforded by messages sent to the Brigade HQs during the action, and the statements of the four men who were the only survivors.

Here are some extracts from the messages received by Brigade Headquarters during the day:

7.05am. In communication with both front battalions, who report shelling general, but not very heavy. All battalions are being gassed. Greater part of shelling going west of NOREUIL-LONGATTE Road. No sign of hostile attack as yet.
8.30am. Hostile shelling still heavy, but gassing has ceased. Casualties do not appear to be heavy, but this is uncertain.
9.45am. Heavy shelling of front line 2nd system, apparently from QUEANT and HENDECOURT.....
10.40am. Enemy barrage on PONTEFRACT and DEWSBURY trenches, and enemy advancing. Enemy also attacking near junction of ILKNEY SUPPORT and HALIFAX....enemy have penetrated DEWSBURY.....
12noon. Enemy have captured DEWSBURY and PONTEFRACT, and appear to be digging in....enemy moving in large numbers along ridge...

The Official War History continues:

At noon, the 2/5th Sherwood Foresters, reduced to 150 men, was still clinging on near the south-west corner of Noreuil, with its right flank thrown back fronting the Hirondelle valley, and its left flank on the Longatte road, facing north-east. It was well supported by batteries of 295th Brigade RFA, which however found difficulty in selecting targets, as British and German parties kept appearing alternately only some 300-400 yards apart. At this time the German infantry, although its detachments constantly advertised their position by means of white Very lights, had not effective help from the artillery, which put down a barrage on the western edge of Noreuil, some thousand yards in rear of the advanced troops. About 12.30 pm a message reached the Sherwood Foresters, stating that supports were being moved up to a trench 500 yards behind Noreuil, and a runner arriving from the rear at that moment reported that he had seen men in the trench. Lieut-Colonel HR Gadd thereupon decided to fall back on this support. It was just too late, the greater part of the survivors were surrounded from the north and cut off. Some held out until 3 pm but only a few managed to join the supporting force which had moved forward from behind Vraucourt about noon

Thirty-one officers and 624 other ranks were unaccounted for at the end of the day, including the Commanding Officer, with just four 'survivors' to answer the roll call. Some combatants made their way back later while others were wounded or taken prisoner. In all, four officers and 104 other ranks died on the day, and one of the officers was Major Charles Reginald Chenevix Trench.

He was wounded twice early on in the fighting but carried on leading his men until he received his final fatal wound. Reginald was carried on a stretcher back to the Battalion headquarters dug-out where he died. His actions on the day were worthy of a mention in Field Marshall Haig's despatch of April 7th, 1918, which commended Reginald's 'gallant and distinguished services in the field'.

Reginald was thirty years old when he died and had been in France for just over a year. He left a widow, Clare, and a two year old daughter, Isabel. Reginald's estate, valued at £962, was left to his wife. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.


Reginald Chenevix Trench on the Arras Memorial
Arras Memorial

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon