Posts Tagged ‘Sergeant’

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: J. McT. Rennie
Born: October 1888
Date of Death: 23 July 1916
Age at death: 27
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 7th Battalion
Enlisted: 1914 in London
Rank: Sergeant
Decorations: British War Medal and Victory Medal
War (and theatre): WW1
Manner of Death: Killed in action
Family Details: Son of Alexander and Margaret Rennie, 65 Rawcliffe Road, Walton, Liverpool
Residence: Liverpool and Plaistow, London
Home Department: Board of Trade – Mercantile Marine Office Staff
Civilian Rank: Outdoor Officer, Victoria Docks, E
Cemetery or Memorial: Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 11A); Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London); Northcote Primary School in Walton, Liverpool; Panel 43 in the Hall of Remembrance, Liverpool Town Hall; War Memorial Bell at Memorial Community Church in Plaistow, East London



James McTaggart Rennie (Copyright: Galloway Gazette)

James McTaggart Rennie was born in the autumn of 1888 in the West Derby district of Lancashire. His father was Alexander Rennie, a harbour dock gatekeeper originally from Garlieston and his mother was Margaret Rennie (nee McTaggart) who was born in Gatehouse, Scotland.

In 1891, James is aged 3 and living at 67 Thomaston Street, Kirkdale staying with is mother and uncle and aunt. In 1901 he is recorded as aged 13 living with his parents at 13 Maria Road, Walton on the Hill. By 1911, aged 23, he had moved to West Ham in London and is recorded boarding at a house in 11 Ethel Road, Custom House, London whilst working for the Board of Trade.

Britain declared war on 4 August 1914 and James enlisted a month later in September 1914 with the 7th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. The 7th Battalion was one of General Kitchener’s volunteer service or pals battalions, which were formed following Parliament’s vote on 6 August to increase the size of the army from 450,000 men to 500,000 men. A few days later Kitchener issued an initial call to arms for 100,000 volunteers aged between 19 and 30, at least 1.6m (5’3”) tall and a chest size greater than 86cm (34 inches). Hundreds of thousands of men, like James, answered the call to enlist with around 30,000 enlisting every day by the end of August and 500,000 by mid-September.

The 7th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment trained in December 1914 in Whitchurch and then at Tidworth before travelling over to France on 17 July 1915. The Battalion saw action in the Battle of Loos (25 September – 8 October 1915) and then at the Battle of the Somme where they were involved with the attacks on High Wood (July to September 1916), Battle of Pozieres Ridge (23 July – 3 September 1916).

James was reported missing (and later declared dead) aged 27 on 23 July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. His service record has survived and from this and details from the 7th Battalion’s war diary, we can determine the last action he was involved with.

According to the “Tabernacle Messenger” – a local West Ham church magazine of the time, James was reported missing in the “Great Push” whilst working a machine gun. This short optimistic phrase stems from the words of British Army’s commander in chief, General Douglas Haig, to describe the objectives of the Somme offensive (or Battle of the Somme as it is commonly now referred to), which was launched on 1 July 1916. The aim the Somme offensive as envisaged in military planning terms was deceptively simple –  to divert German attention from Verdun, where the French army had suffered huge losses, with a large-scale British diversionary attack. Haig planned for an eight day preliminary bombardment of the German front line with aim of capturing the German positions and charging with cavalry to break the German line in two. General Haig wrote that he was convinced the offensive would win the war and said “I feel that every step in my plan has been taken with Divine help”.

As we now know with the benefit of historical hindsight, the “Great Push Forward” has been seen collectively as futile with an unimaginable number of deaths – not just on the first day when almost 20000 British men died and 40000 plus were wounded but over the next 141 days of fighting (until 23 November 1916) which resulted in 125,000 alllied casualties and over 400,000 wounded and even bigger German losses and all for a maximum advance of only seven miles at most.

When James McTaggart died, he would probably not have known the wider strategic failings of the allied commanders who were persuaded in the ultimate objectives of the offensive despite the mounting casualties. It is ironic that McTaggart died whilst operating a machine gun, which was then a modern weapon of war and which General Haig, thanks to his traditional military and aristocratic mindset, underestimated. It is alleged that Haig considered “the ability of bullets to stop horses was greatly exaggerated”.

Each British battalion on the Western Front in France had four Lewis Guns

A report of James McTaggart Rennie’s death can be found in a short newspaper snippet from the Galloway Gazette dated 21 July 1917 (and republished on 22 July 2017) which includes the photo of him included on this blog. This reads:

“GUNNER PRESUMED DEAD It is now presumed that Sergeant James Rennie, who had been reported missing on July 23, 1916, was killed on that date. Sergeant Rennie, who served in the Lewis Gun Section of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was 28-years-old and was the grandson of Captain William Rennie, Garlieston, and Mr James McTaggart, a joiner from Gatehouse. Prior to enlisting in the army, he worked in the Board of Trade offices in London. He joined up in September 1914, a month after war started.”

Read more at: https://www.gallowaygazette.co.uk/lifestyle/teenage-farm-hand-killed-at-the-front-serving-with-black-watch-1-4510382

I can barely imagine the grief of his mother, Margaret Rennie on receiving the fateful telegram announcing his death, especially since at the start of 1916,, Margaret Rennie also lost her brother and James’s uncle Private Robert McTaggart who died on 13 January 1916 of Tuberculosis (TB) at the City Hospital, Toxteth, Liverpool.

We don’t know too much more about James since he died unmarried with no descendants. However, we know from the “Tabernacle Messenger” that he was engaged prior to his death to a woman named Winnie Brown. He was also involved as secretary of the church choir. From these small aspects of his life, he comes across as a decent human being whose life was tragically cut short like so many other of his generation who volunteered.


War Memorial at Northcote Primary School, Liverpool


War Memorial Bells at Memorial Community Church, Plaistow, London

James’ name is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial in France, on the  war memorial at Northcote Primary School in Walton, Liverpool, on Panel 43 of the Liverpool Town Hall War Memorial (which includes a total of 13,000 men from Liverpool who died in WW1) on the Board of Trade WW1 War Memorial and also at the Memorial Community Church in Plaistow, East London where there is a chime of 10 bells inscribed with the names of 197 local men who died in the First World War . His uncle Robert McTaggart (referred to above) is remembered online by the Gatehouse Folk research project and on war memorials in Anwoth.

In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that was held in November 2018, the Board of Trade War Memorial Research group remembered James McTaggart Rennie’s story as part of the “More than just a name” exhibition, which included lovely artwork made by the pupils of Northcote School in Liverpool.



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