Private Lionel Frederick Job Hunt, Military Medal, d. 10th September 1917, age 19.
Lionel was born in Bull Dog Hill, Tockenham towards the end of 1897, the eldest of seven children. His parents were Albert Hunt and Clara, nee White. His brothers and sisters were John, Eva, Albert, James, William, and Arthur. The youngest, Arthur was born in 1913 and later married Rose Irene Howard, sister of Francis George Howard, who had been garden boy at Stonedge, 137 High Street. Lionel’s father Albert was a machine sawyer at the saw mills. In 1911 Lionel was aged 13, and working as a general farm labourer.
By 1914 they had moved into town and were living at 5 Sparrow Lane, which was owned by Twine Brothers. The family remained at 5 Sparrow Lane until at least 1939. The cottage was demolished many years ago.
It seems possible that 16 year old Lionel ran away to join up as neither section of the unit he joined came from Wiltshire. Lionel’s grave registration report gives his parents’ address as 5 Spring Street, Wootton Bassett, which does not exist, so perhaps Lionel had given a false address when he enlisted under age.
Lionel enlisted in London and joined the 1st Base Remount Depot of the Army Service Corps Transport Special Reserve (R/TS/3489). The service was responsible for providing thousands of horses and mules to all the other army units. They recruited young men from age 17 to be drivers, saddlers, farriers, or butchers or bakers in the supply section.
The 1st Base Depot had the capacity for 2,600 horses. It comprised A Section, which had been based at York, and B, which was from Waterford in Ireland. The 1st Base Depot landed at Le Havre on 21 August 1914, a day after Lionel’s recorded date of entry into the theatre of war, still only 16 years old. They moved quickly to Saint-Nazaire, then Nantes, eventually settling in Rouen where they remained for the rest of the war.
Perhaps Lionel’s age was discovered and he was shipped back to England. He may have been transferred to the tender mercies of a training unit, or perhaps he waited to re-enlist when he was old enough. Certainly the next service record I can find for him shows him as a Private in the 3rd Northumberland Fusiliers, which was a training reserve battalion, and which remained in the North of England throughout the war. It is not clear what brought Lionel to this battalion.
Lionel was later transferred to the 21st (Service) Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers (31893), (formerly the 2nd Tyneside Scottish). The 21st Battalion was formed at Newcastle and was largely a Pals battalion, a battalion formed from a close knit regional or trade group, where most of the men had a great deal in common. In late August 1915 they moved to Salisbury Plain to begin final training, and it is possible that this is where Lionel joined them. They arrived in France in January 1916, and moved to the Somme, where they suffered the worst losses of any brigade on 1 July 1916, the first day of the battle. The 21st Northumberlands went on to fight in the first and second Battles of the Scarpe, and in the Battle of Arleux, during the Arras Offensive of 1917.
In July 1917 Lionel was gazetted for the Military Medal (MM), possibly for his actions at Arras, but I have not been able to find a citation or a reference in the War Diary. The entry in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 28th July 1917 reads simply:
His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the Field to the undermentioned Non-Commissioned Officers and Men: 31893 Pte. L. Hunt, North’d Fus-.
In August the 21st Battalion were involved in the fighting at Hargicourt. They were involved in an attack on Farm Trench from 9th-11th September 1917, just north of St Quentin, and east of Villeret, France. The War Diary provides the details of the actions on the 10th September:
D Company on the left was relieved by the 23rd Northumberland Fusiliers and came into the Sunken Road near Zulu Copse. This left us with C Company only in the front line. They were reinforced by an Officer and 25 men from A Company and special stores were hurried up to them by a party of 40 men.
At 3-6am, after a barrage of Stokes mortars and rifle grenades, put down by us on the enemy’s trench just south of our block, a bombing attack was made by C Company southwards down Farm Trench. In spite of heavy casualties sustained by the three bombing parties making the attack, we were able to gain our objective and link up with the 22nd Northumberland Fusiliers left flank. With the assistance of [tw]o companies of the 23rd Northumberland Fusiliers on our left, we were able to hold and consolidate the newly captured portion of the trench.
There are further details in the supplementary narrative report for that day.
2am – The enemy up to this hour had been comparatively quiet, but a heavy barrage was opened at 2am directed chiefly on the tracks leading from the “Egg” up to the front line, and also on the valley east of Villeret. All was quiet again at 2.40am.
10.45am – Orders were received to withdraw the left company, D Company, on relief by 23rd Northumberland Fusiliers. This company on relief assembled in the Sunken Road near Zulu Copse. Owing to an error, the right company, C Company, was also relieved by the 23rd Northumberland Fusiliers, but returned and took over their portion of the line again.
10pm – A party of 1 officer and 25 men from A Company, who were in Battalion Reserve, was sent up to strengthen the garrison of the trenches held by C Company, and a carrying party of 40 men was also sent to carry up special stores.
Total casualties from the 8th to 11th September 1917 were listed together and include 16 unnamed Other Ranks. Lionel’s body was never found. It is possible that he was among the unidentified British soldiers buried at nearby Hargicourt Cemetery.
On November 6th 1917 Lionel was listed as missing in the War Office Casualty Lists. Eventually it was confirmed that Lionel had been killed in action on 10th September 1917, age 19.
Lionel is remembered on the Wootton Bassett Memorial plaque. A note on the medal roll shows that by 23rd March 1922 his medals had not been claimed. (The reason for this may be that he had two medal cards). His mother Clara was his legatee.
In addition to his Military Medal, Lionel was awarded the 1914 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the Territorial Service Medal (TS).
Lionel is also commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 10 B 11 B and 12 B.