14546 Private Frederick William Purton, 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment,
(147225) 5th Mortar Battalion, Special Brigade, Royal Engineers
Born 1895 in Little Gaddesden
Died 25th April 1916 in Audruicq, France – as the result of an accident
Frederick William Purton was the fourth of the six children of Heber Purton and Elizabeth, née Purton (sic), of 5 Hudnall. His siblings were: Ellen Elizabeth Purton, b. 1888; Edwin Arthur Purton, b. 6th December 1889; Reginald Purton, b. 12th November 1892; Daisy Agnes Purton, b. 25th September 1897 and Elizabeth Purton, b. July 1900.
Frederick Purton was admitted to Little Gaddesden School on 18th April 1898, an Infant aged less than 4 years.
Frederick hoped to leave school in 1908. In June that year he, Albert Barlow, Arthur Maunders and Arthur Whitman sat their Standard 5 Labour Exam. If they passed, they could leave school and go out to work before the age of 14. Albert Barlow and Arthur Whitman passed but Frederick and Arthur Maunders did not. The School Log Book entry for 5th January 1909 notes that Frederick had broken his collar bone badly while tobogganing on Hudnall Common. On 29th March 1909 he left school from Standard 7, aged over 14 years.
In the 1911 Census, Frederick was a 16 year old Dairy Lad on a farm, living at home with his parents and siblings Edwin, Reginald, Daisy and Elizabeth.
Military Service 6
Frederick enlisted at Hertford. He served first as a Private in 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, with which he arrived in France on 31st July 1915. He was later transferred to 5th (Mortar) Battalion, Special Brigade, Royal Engineers, in which he was serving as a Pioneer at the time of his death.
Frederick died from accidental injuries – burns and shock – following an explosion at the ammunition depot at Audruicq, France. He was recorded “dead on admission” to No 35 Lahore British General Hospital at Calais.
The Long, Long Trail quotes from the 25th April 1916 entry in the war diary of the army’s Director of Ordnance Services:
…Two tents had been pitched in the Trench Munition Area for the removal of the charges from 4-inch mortar bombs and substituting in them ophorite [a different form of explosive]. This work had been arranged by GHQ with the Director of Artillery and two experts were sent over from England to supervise the work.
So far as can be ascertained at present it is believed that the ignition of the ingredients was spontaneous. The fire from the tent in which the explosion first occurred communicated to the second tent and the contents of both tents were destroyed – somewhere about 200 rounds [of mortar bombs] altogether.
Four or six men have been killed and about 40 wounded. The casualties occurred amongst Army Service Corps Labour Corps and men from the Royal Engineers Special Brigade who were doing the work.
Frederick, aged 21, and the 11 other men killed in the explosion at Audruicq were subsequently buried in Calais Southern Cemetery – https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/471326/purton,-frederick-william/
His CWGC headstone (Plot C, Row 3, Grave 14) shows the badge of the Royal Engineers beneath which is the inscription:
F. W. Purton
25th April 1916
We will remember them 6
Frederick Purton is commemorated on the War Memorials on the village green and in St Peter & St Paul’s Church Little Gaddesden. He is also named on the Rolls of Honour in the church, together with his older brothers Edwin and Reginald and his cousin Ernest Purton, who all survived the war, as did Edwin’s brother-in-law George Liberty. Frederick’s cousin Bertie Purton, who also survived, has been added to the 2018 Revised Roll. Frederick was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal.
He is commemorated on the grave of his sister Ellen Elizabeth (Nellie) Purton, who was buried 20th October 1937 in the old churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden.
The grave is half way along the Northern edge of the old churchyard. The inscription reads:
In loving memory of
Ellen Elizabeth “Nellie” Purton
who departed this life
16th October 1937 aged 49 years
Thy will be done
also of Frederick William Purton
Bedfordshire Regt. died of wounds
in France 26th April 1916
4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
8. https://www.findmypast.co.uk Wo 363 – First World War Service Records ‘Burnt Documents’, Purton 14546 R.E., No 35 Lahore Brit. Gen. Hospl. Roll of men suffering from injuries caused by an explosion at Audruicq 25/04/16. The ‘burnt documents’ were First World War documents that survived a fire in a War Office store caused by an incendiary bomb in September 1940. Charred and water-damaged, they were unfit for consultation until microfilmed in a large programme started in 1996. See https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14567.
Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson