Posts Tagged ‘Ministry of Labour’

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: A. Hertz
Born: 5 September 1895
Date of Death: 3 July 1917
Age at death: 21
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: London Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 1st/15th Battalion (Civil Service Rifles)
Enlisted: February 1915 in London
Rank: Sergeant (Service no. 531269)
Decorations: Victory Medal and British War Medal
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Killed in action
Family Details: Son of Isaac and Annie Hertz of 1 Cranley Buildings, Holborn, London
Residence: 40 Wenlake Buildings, Old Street, London
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Central Office)
Civilian Rank: Assistant Clerk (Abstractor)
Cemetery or Memorial: Menin Gate (Panel 54); Civil Service Rifles Memorial, Somerset House, London; Memorial to Staff of the Ministry of Labour (located in Caxton House, Tothill Street, London); and the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London); British Jewry Book of Honour


“LET THOSE WHO COME AFTER SEE TO IT THAT HIS NAME BE NOT FORGOTTEN” (Memorial Scroll in memory of Abraham Hertz) 

The Board of Trade War Memorial contains men of all faiths and from diverse social backgrounds. A handful of the men were of Jewish descent and one of those was Abraham Hertz, who was born on 5 September 1895 in Whitechapel, London.


British Jewry Book of Honour (first published in 1922 (Araham Hertz is one of approximately 50,000 men named in the book)

The contribution of the Jewish community to the First World War effort in the UK, until recent years has not been widely known or studied. This is changing thanks to the “We Were There Too” community research project and other insights (for instance in a 2014 exhibition For King and Country? held at the Jewish Museum, Camden). The experience of the war from a Jewish perspective mirrored that amongst the wider British population but was also in many ways very different, especially due to changing attitudes to “aliens” and outsiders. For instance at the start of WW1, there was a level of anti-German feeling which resulted in London East End Jewish shops with German sounding names being attacked and Yiddish speakers confronted. Within days of the declaration of war, the Aliens Restriction Act was passed by Parliament on 5 August 1914 which impacted on all foreign nationals.

Forty to fifty thousand British Jews served in Britain’s armed forces in the First World War. Thousands more were also involved in war work and support roles behind the front line and on the Home Front. Per capita, more British Jews were involved in the war effort than the wider population. When the call came, the Jewish community stood up to be counted. Abraham was one of those.

The Board of Trade War Memorial Research Group is very fortunate to be in contact with one of the relatives of Abraham Hertz, his great nephew, David Hertz. The following biography is mainly based on information pulled together by David, with much thanks.


Abraham Hertz (copyright: David Hertz) 

“Abraham’s parents were Isaac Hertz (1869 – 1939)  and Annie Fanny Sophia Sharp (1876 – 1936). He was the eldest of their seven children. Like many other people of Jewish origin living in London’s East End, his father worked in the tailoring business as a tiemaker (cutter). An insight into the tiemaking business in Spitalfields can be found in an article about ‘Drakes of London, Tiemakers‘.  Abraham was named after his grandfather, who was originally from Amsterdam in Holland and who had emigrated to London with his whole family in 1852, moving to 2 Artillery Passage in Spitalfields, London.

We can trace the younger Abraham’s story through historical records. For instance, in both the 1901 and 1911 censuses, Abraham is recorded as living at the family home at 2 Artillery Passage, Spitalfields with his parents and his younger siblings.

We also know thanks to surviving school admission records that Abraham started primary school aged 3 on 3 July 1899 at Gravel Lane School. From 1907 to 1911, he attended the University College School, Hampstead, an independent school which was originally founded in 1830. The school relocated to its current located in Hampstead in 1907. There is a possibility that Abraham might have been present when the school’s new purpose-built buildings were opened by King Edward VII and the Archbishop of Canterbury on 27 July 1907. The school was highly prestigious and was in the tradition of other schools, colleges and educational institutions which were open to those from diverse religious beliefs. It would however have been a very different environment from the East End of London and also a great foundation and experience for Abraham, who was clearly talented and who the family were keen to support in succeeding in life.

After leaving school, he left to work at the Board of Trade, Labour Department. The London Gazette (dated October 1911) records his appointment as a Temporary Boy Clerk.and then in May 1913 his promotion to Assistant Clerk (Abstractor).

He enlisted in February 1915 and joined the 1st/15th Battalion of the London Regiment (also known as the “Civil Service Rifles”).

He was promoted to Sergeant Instructor, specialising in musketry.

He was posted to serve in France in February 1917. The regiment’s first major military engagement was at the Battle of Messines in June 1917. This action is described in “The History of the Prince of Wales Own Service Rifles” (pages 140 – 144).

After Messines, the Division spent 12 days resting and recuperating in Ebblinghem near St Omer. On 28 June 1917 the men marched back to the front line, staying overnight at Meteren and Voormezeele on their way.

At the beginning of July 1917, according to the Battalion War Diary, the men were at Spoilbank in Oak trench which had been captured during the attack on 7 June. The regimental history describes this period as “three very unlucky days”.

The Civil Service Rifles history states, “The weather was bad, the trenches were in a perfectly rotten state of repair and the men had no protection against persistent shelling……Three unlucky days were spent here, during which time the losses from shell fire amounted to about forty all ranks……”. These events are also described in Jill Knight’s book, “The Civil Service Rifles in the Great War“. (The late  and much missed, Jill Knight, was the founder of the Board of Trade War Memorial Research Group).


Civil Service Rifles War Diary – includes reference to the casualties in month of July 1917 (including Abraham Hertz) 

Abraham was one of eight other casualties on 3 July 1917. He died aged only 21 years old.


Menin Gate, Ypres, France

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (panel 54). This memorial, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, records the names of more than 54,000 soldiers who like Abraham died before 16 August 1917 and have no known grave. He is also commemorated on the scroll stored within the Civil Service Rifles Memorial located at Somerset House, London (which was the Civil Service Rifles regimental parade and drill ground). Additionally he is named on two Civil Service War Memorials – the memorial to staff of the Ministry of Labour (located at Caxton House, Tothill Street, London) and the Board of Trade War Memorial (located at 3 Whitehall Place, London). He is also named in the Roll of Honour and War List 1914-1918 of University College School, Hampstead (on page 48a along with a photograph) and in the British Jewry Roll of Honour. Sadly the University College School war memorial was destroyed in a fire so no longer survives.”

In 2018, the Board of Trade War Memorial Research Group were delighted and fortunate to meet Abraham Hertz’s relatives. Together we collectively continue to remember his sacrifice. Abraham’s story is one of integration and he is a symbol of how war impacts on all communities and individuals in all their diversity.

Remembrance cuts across all faiths, beliefs and origins. It is not about jingoism or blind patriotism. It is a time for quiet reflection, the giving of thanks and an open-ended invitation to reflect, pray, meditate, and contemplate.


“Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten” – Memorial Scroll in honour of Sergeant Abraham Hertz (copyright: David Hertz)


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Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: F. I. Coburn
Born: 14 October 1890
Date of Death: 4 October 1917
Age at death: 26
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Royal Army Service Corps and Norfolk Yeomanry Army Service Corps
Unit, Ship, etc: Supply company
Enlisted: 1914
Rank: Lieutenant
Decorations:  Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1914-1915 Star and Mentioned in Dispatches – London Gazette – 21 December 1917
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Died on Active Service
Family Details: Son of Isaac William and Emily Osborn Coburn, Grosvenor House, Grosvenor Road, Great Yarmouth
Residence: Grosvenor House, Grosvenor Road, Great Yarmouth
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (London and South East Division)
Civilian Rank: Labour Exchange Clerk
Cemetery or Memorial: Ste Marie Cemetery, Le Havre (Div.62, I.1.11); Great Yarmouth WW1 War Memorial; Ministry of Labour War Memorial (located at Caxton House, Tothill Street, London) and the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London)


Frederick Isaac Coburn was born on 14 October 1890 in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. His parents were Isaac William Coburn (1850 – 1921) and Emily Osborn Coburn (1856 – 1940).

He is recorded as living at 4 Gordon Terrace, Great Yarmouth in the 1891, 1901 and 1911 census. In 1901, Frederick is aged just 5 months old and he is living with his parents and an older sister, Emily Elizabeth Coburn, aged 6. His father is listed as a carpenter.

Unfortunately we don’t know anything about his schooling or other family background. We do know from one of the Yarmouth newspapers in 1910 that he was Secretary of the local YMCA gymnasium, so he must have been a fit and energetic young man. We also know that by 1911, Frederick is a young man of 20, working as a surveyors clerk. He subsequently worked as a Labour Exchange Clerk in the Board of Trade’s Labour Exchanges and Unemployment Insurance Branch.

According to his medal index card Frederick served initially as a Private in the Royal Field Artillery and then as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Norfolk Yeomanry Army Service Corps (ASC). The index card also lists him as serving as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Service Corps attached to the Deputy Assistant Director Labour. This army unit was responsible for provisions and supply chains. The Supplement to the London Gazette published on 14 July 1915 records his appointment to the rank of (Temporary) Second Lieutenant.


Sketch of No 2 General Hospital, Le Havre by VAD nurse Molly Evans (Copyright: Morgan Fourman)

Frederick sadly died of appendicitis, a painful abdominal condition caused by either an infection or blockage of the appendix and fatal if not treated quickly. Despite receiving medical attention he died, aged only 26, at the No 2 General Base Hospital, Le Havre in France whilst serving on active service on 4 October 1917 and left a will and probate (dated 12 January 1917) with his personal effects amounting to £179 3s 9d.

Like other Base Hospitals, the one in Le Havre was further back from the main frontline of the trenches and near the coast (for ease of evacuation, if necessary, for longer term treatment in the UK) in a grand seaside palais.  Quite a lot of information is known about the hospital because it is one of the few medical bases where the admission and discharge registers have survived.

Frederick was posthumously awarded the standard service medals – the Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1914-1915 Star. This set of campaign medals were popularly called the Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. He was also posthumously Mentioned In Dispatches alongside other servicemen from the Army Service Corps in a special Supplement to the London Gazette of 21 December 1917. This supplement followed on from Douglas Haig’s dispatch of 7 November which submit names deserving special mention. The full text of the mention is as follows:

War Office,
11th December, 1917.
The following Despatch has been received by the Secretary of State for War from Field Marshal
Sir Douglas Haig, K.T., G.C.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.I.E., Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France:—
General Headquarters,
7th November, 1917.
SIR, I have the honour to submit a list* of names of those officers, ladies, non-commissioned officers and men serving, or who have served, under my command during the period February 26th to midnight, September 20/21st, 1917, whose distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty I consider deserving of special mention.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,
The British Armies in France 

Being Mentioned in Dispatches was a service recognition whereby individual servicemen were named in an official written report by a senior officer or commander-in-chief. In acknowledgement, Frederick, in common with other servicemen serving in the British Armed Forces,  would have his name mentioned in the London Gazette and the individual (or posthumously his relatives) would receive a certificate and be entitled to war an oak leaf device on the appropriate campaign medal or on directly on the coat. A full list of all WW1 despatches is published on the London Gazette website.

Frederick is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery (CWGC) at Ste. Marie Cemetery, Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, France (Div 62, Plot 1, Row I, Grave 11). He is also remembered amongst a total of 1,472 men named on the Great Yarmouth WW1 War Memorial, located in St George’s Park in his hometown. This memorial was originally unveiled on 7 January 1922 by the Bishop of Norwich after over £4000 was raised by a local public campaign. He is also remembered on both the Ministry of Labour and Board of Trade War Memorials.


Maybe Frederick I Coburn is amongst this photo of men serving in the Norfolk Yeomanry ASC pictured resting after a meal (Source: Ebay seller Bugeye40)

Sadly Frederick’s family line seems to have died out since his sister died without descendants. It has therefore not yet been possible to identify a photo of Frederick, but maybe a photo will emerge of him in the future and maybe he is one of the young unidentified men included in a group photo of the Norfolk Yeomanry ASC, a unit in which Frederick previously served. Who knows?

(According to information from Ebay the card was sent by someone called Albert to his aunt, a Mrs R Wilkin of Felboys Hall, Felboys, Cromer, Norfolk and was posted from Woodbridge on 31 Oct (year unknown)).

Photo or no photo, I hope that in his final days and hours, Frederick would have received comfort from the nurses stationed at the No 2 General Base Hospital. Rest in peace, Frederick.


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Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: W. Robinson
Born: About 1889
Date of Death: 29 September 1918
Age at death: 29
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own)
Unit, Ship, etc: 15th (or 5th) Battalion, attached 16th Battalion Tank Corps
Enlisted: October 1914
Rank: Second Lieutenant
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Killed in action
Family Details: Son of William and Lucy Ann Robinson of Haworth, Yorkshire
Residence: 19 Victoria Avenue, Mytholmes, Haworth, Yorkshire
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Yorkshire and East Midlands Division)
Civilian Rank:
Cemetery or Memorial: Unicorn Cemetery, Vend’huile, France (IV.C.22); Haworth War Memorial; Ministry of Labour War Memorial (located at Caxton House, Tothill Street, London) and the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London)



Walter Robinson (Copyright: Keighley News)

When I first started working on researching the Board of Trade War Memorial men, I wasn’t at all sure what to find. Only a very small handful of the men had either photos or an extensive background history published on our group’s original website. I wanted to go beyond the original research and locate more details about those who weren’t as lucky with any remembered stories about them. One of the names that caught my eye was that of Walter Robinson for whom we had no census or even birth details recorded.

All I knew was a small amount of information recorded from the index of All UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919  – these details comprised the facts that Walter served as a Second Lieutenant in the 15th (or 5th Battalion) attached to 16th Battalion Tank Corps of the West Yorkshire Regiment. I also knew he was killed in action on 29 September 1918 and is buried in Unicorn Cemetery, Vend’huile (IV.C.22). I also knew that he worked for the Board of Trade Labour Department in the Yorkshire and East Midlands Division).

Not much to go on given no relatives were listed and his name is fairly common. How then to locate more details about Walter Robinson?

I searched on a few internet forums including the Great War Forum and from here managed to identify that there was a Walter Robinson who served in the Tank Corps who was remembered on a War Memorial in Keighley. From here I contacted volunteer researchers for the Men of Worth project to pass on the details I knew and to confirm if my hunch was right and if ‘my’ Walter came from Haworth.

With this lucky break I now knew Walter was born in about 1892 in Denholme, Yorkshire and I managed to locate him recorded in the censuses of 1891, 1901 and 1911.

In 1891 he is living with his parents – William Robinson and Lucy Ann Robinson and one of seven brothers and sisters in Thornton, Yorkshire. In 1901 the family were living at 5 Back Minnie Street, Haworth. I then found him again listed aged 22 in the 1911 census living at 19 Victoria Avenue, Mytholmes, Haworth, Yorkshire. He is living with some of his other siblings and is working as a railway clerk. Another useful source are probate records and luck was at hand again as Walter Robinson has a probate recording him still at the same Victoria Avenue address. His probate dated 28 May 1919 lists Emily Robinson (spinster) and effects of £389 14s 3d.

Looking again at the Keighley War Memorial it is clear that there is another Robinson named. Further research revealed that one of Walter’s brothers, Clifford Robinson (born in 1897) also died in World War one (he died two years earlier on 16 September 1916 due to an exploding shell). He has no known grave and is named on the Thiepval Memorial.

A further insight of Walter’s life and character came from a brief article in the Keighley Gazette  dated 12 October 1918 published at the time of his death. This reports:

“Second Lieutenant Walter Robinson, of 19, Victoria Avenue, Mytholmes, Haworth, was killed in action on September 29. He joined the forces in October, 1914, before which he was engaged at the Labour Exchange at Doncaster. He went to France with the Green Howards, and soon reached the rank of sergeant. He came home last year to take up a commission, and was gazetted to the West Yorkshire Regiment. Shortly after his return to France he became acting captain. In the early part of this year he volunteered for the Tank Corps, and took up training for the purpose in Dorset. He again went to France in August last, but had only held his new post a month when he was killed. He was a clever and intelligent young officer of considerable promise, and much regret is felt in Haworth at his death. This is especially so at the West Lane Baptist Church and Sunday School, with which he and his family have been actively connected for many years.”

What’s more this article had the added bonus of containing a picture! Thanks to the efforts of Andy Wade and other researchers with a similar interest, finding his photo kickstarted a target of trying to locate as many photos of the 305 Board of Trade men as possible.


Map of the Somme Offensive (August – November 1918)

But to return to Walter’s story. As mentioned in the brief extract from the Keighley News, we know that Walter Robinson was a talented young man. Before the war, he worked his way up from manual work as a woollen doffer (ie someone who removes bobbins or doffs from spinning frames) at a mill to becoming a railway clerk and then to finding employment in one of the Board of Trade’s new Labour Exchanges. As referenced in the Keighley News article, this ambition and leadership ability, also prompted him to rise through the army ranks and seek new opportunities. He initially joined the Yorkshire Regiment (commonly referred to as the Green Howards) before rising to the commissioned officer ranks and posted to the West Yorkshire Regiment as acting Captain (with up to around 200 men under his command). He promptly volunteered for the 16th Battalion Tank Corps and returned in August 1918 to the front line only a month before his death. He died on 29 September 1918 in the first 90 minutes of the Battle of the St Quentin Canal, which was an important battle for a vital supply route of the Riqueval Bridge. The battle which ultimately lasted until 10 October 1918 involved British, Australian, American and French forces whose objective was to break one of the most heavily defended sections of the Hindenburg Line. The battle ultimately resulted in victory for the allies and set the road for the Armistice on 11 November 1918.

During the first day of action in the battle, the British were trying to take a ridge near to Quennemont Farm. However the British Mark V tanks faced heavy artillery fire, anti-tank rifles and mines. (Source: https://www.keighleynews.co.uk/news/16293348.metal-coffin-for-haworth-man-walter/). For instance, four heavy tanks and five medium tanks were destroyed in just 15 minutes by the German field guns.battle-of-st-quentin-canal-prisoners-bringing-in-wounded-and-mark-v-tanks-advancing-near-bellicourt-29-september-1918-iwm

According to the website, “The Long, Long Trail“, the idea of some type of armoured vehicle or “land battleship” was only initially suggested in the British army in the autumn of 1914, by a Lieutenant-Colonel E.D. Swinton, which were followed by the first experimental machines and their first use on the battlefield of the Somme at Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916. The Tank Corps was formed as a separate British army unit a year later on 28 July 1917, in acknowledgement of the specific requirements for tanks in terms of logistics, transport, maintenance and reconnaissance. The Tanks Corps was seen as something of an elite force, so Walter Robinson’s choice to join the unit was a good career move.  The early tanks were however slow and hard to manoeuvre and were open to attack by heavy artillery, machine gun fire and explosives    By 1918, when the Mark V design of British tank was produced and deployed on the battlefields,  the tank was more developed but still not a war winning machine and the Germans had found ways to attack and destroy tanks.

According to the 16th Battalion War Diary for the time, the morning of 29 September 1918 was fine but there was dense fog, making it extremely difficult to see the progress of the battle. The tanks were immediately heavily attacked. Ultimately all tanks were were put out of action and almost 66% of the battalion were lost with 2 officers killed (including Walter Robinson), 16 wounded and 1 missing. Additionally 21 were killed, 31 wounded and 16 were reported missing. (Read more about the capture of the St Quentin Canal on The History Press website).

Walter Robinson is buried in France at the Unicorn Cemetery, Vend’huile (IV.C.22) although his name is wrongly recorded as William Robinson by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Back in England he is remembered in his home town on the Haworth War Memorial as well as in London on the memorials to civil servants on the Ministry of Labour and Board of Trade War Memorials.


Researching Walter Robinson has been very rewarding. From little more than a name to go on, I have been able to put a face and flesh to his bones. Walter’s life and sacrifice has become very real to me.

In the words of the Tank Corps motto, “Through mud and blood to the green fields beyond”, I hope that both Walter Robinson and the many thousands of men and officers of the Tank Corps of WW1 are now at rest and at peace.



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