My very first RDF officer's find and research. So high level scouting was great suprise and helped with the research a lot!Henry Murray “Chippi” Letchworth, M.A.
(6th February 1889 - December 1964)
Captain, Commander of “Y” Company
1st Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Henry Murray Letchworth was born in 6th February 1889 at Exton which is small village in Hampshire, England, he had a twin brother Arthur Gordon Letchworth and older brother George Howard Letchworth.
His twin brother Arthur served with the Royal Munster Fusiliers and after the war worked as a clerk with the Health Ministry (he died in 1933).
In his early years Henry lived with his aunt at Newlyn, Adelaide Road, Kingston, Surbiton where he was recorded in the 1891 and 1901 census.
In his teenage years Henry entered the Haileybury and Imperial Service College, which is known as a prestigious British independent school, near Hertford (32 km from central London).
1907 he matriculated to the Oriel College, Oxford, where he studied Theology, Henry was also member of the Officer Training Corps which he left in October 1910.
In 22nd July 1911 he got a 3rd class Honors Degree, 4 years later, on the 3rd April 1915 he achieved a Master’s Degree.
At the same Henry started working as an Assistant Master on the Beechmont Preparatory School, Sevenoaks and he lived at 3 Ethelbert Road, Canterbury, Kent.
When the Great War broke out, Henry responded to the King’s call and put his application forward on the 22nd March 1915 to become an officer in the British Army, his candidature was accepted and he was appointed a commission in the Special Reserve of Officers with the 4th Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
On the 20th of December 1915 the London Gazette supplement confirmed that 2nd Lieutenant Henry M. Letchworth has attested to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
During his time in Ireland, he was stationed with the 4th battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers in Templemore Barracks.
Ironically Henry got his first combat experience here, when the 4th Battalion was sent to Dublin during the Easter Rising 24–30 April 1916 where they also suffered casualties, a detachment of 4th Battalion is also reported as being in Dublin Castle.
In July 1916, 2nd Lieutenant Letchworth was attached to the 8th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, at this time this unit fought on the Western Front as a part of 48th Brigade of the 16th (Irish) Division. Their hardest challenge took place on the fields of France and Belgium – the 1916 Somme offensive.
Henry was sent back to England on the 7th of September 1916 from Le Havre on the HMMS Panama and he arrived back to Southampton on the 14th September 1916. Due to his health condition, the medical board of the 2nd Southern General Hospital in Bristol granted him a leave from 18th September to 17th October.
Henry joined the 4th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers again on the 26th October 1916, at this time they were based in Mullingar.
The following year on the 1st of July 1917 Henry was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (25.10.1917 London Gazette).
At this time, he was attached to the 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, which arrived back from their service in the Balkans the previous year. Most likely this move took place during the reorganisations in October 1917, when the battalion was transferred to the 48th Brigade 16th (Irish) Division or earlier. Unfortunately it is impossible to trace that transfer.
Henry must have proved himself as a valuable front line officer as from the 15th of February 1918 Henry was appointed to the rank of Acting Captain (19.04.1918 London Gazette), but things took a very different turn on the 21st March 1918.
The previous year the German High Command had decided to make a decisive attack in the west in the following spring and their target was the British Army in the Somme area. The Germans plan was to destroy British units before American forces could build up their strength. The New offensive was called the "Kaiserschlacht" (Kaiser's Battle) or known now as the “Spring Offensive”.
The Germans planned to use their new tactics, which they practised on the Russian front – intense artillery barrage against key points such as machine-gun posts, headquarters, railways, telephone lines, etc. Attacks would be carried out by small well trained groups - stormtroopers, whose main aim was to move forward through gaps in the front and try to surround the main frontline troops.
The attack started with the artillery bombardment at 4.40 am on 21 March. The bombardment targeted an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.
In the end, over 320 soldiers from Royal Dublin Fusiliers were killed in this battle and many of them were taken prisoners. I have the privilege to have a copy of Acting Captain Henry Murray Letchworth’s own report of what happened on that day. He was 1st Battalion, Y Company commander at this time. He wrote the following statement on the 16th of January 1919:I was in command of Y Company, which had 2 platoons in the front line and 2 in support at C.H.Q. At 4.30 am 21.3.18 the enemy started a very heavy barrage of gas and H.E. which continued until 10.30 am. Platoon commanders got fair cover for their platoons, but we lost around ¼ of our strength during the bombardment. At 7 am I visited the platoons, the fog was then very thick and continued so all the morning. All communications with B.H.Q. except by runners, was broken.
Enemy first attacked about 10.30 am and got into the front line, but we drove them out again with the aid of one of the reserve platoons by 11.30. Informed B.H.Q. 11.40 and got a reply to hold on. Had conference with O.C. X a Z coys about noon. At 12.30 pm saw the enemy in trenches on our sight, and at 1 pm they were firing from LEMPIRE. Suffered very heavy casualties from their machine gun fire. A second attack started at 2 pm., in which remains of coy were driven back around C.H.Q. all platoon commanders were casualties. Only 30 men were left. Sent off last a message to B.H.Q. at 2.30 pm, after that time the enemy were in our rear, and our own guns were firing on us. The Enemy’s third attack took place about 3.45 pm. I was captured with Capt.J.Kee (X Coy, which was on my left) who was very badly wounded in the thigh, at about 4.15 pm.
Captain Letchworth became one of the 4 officers and 290 men missing after the attacks. He was captured near Epehy and Lempire.
The Book “Bluecaps” also indicates what he said in his last message which he sent off at 2.30pm to the Battalion Headquarters: Reports from the wounded made it clear that the men in the front line were very hard pressed, but at the same moment a very noble message came from Acting Capt Letchworth, commanding Y Coy that "he was surrounded but would hold on to the end”.
Regarding the moment when he was captured, I was able to find out who was the wounded Captain, sadly this man never made it back to Ireland:
William Kee, Acting Captain, MC, from Meenagrove, Co.Donegal. Officially he served in the 7th Battalion but after commission in 1915 rose the ranks to be Acting Captain and was attached to the 1st Battalion. He was brave man indeed, Mentioned in Despatches twice and Military Cross ( bar posthumously 16th September 1918) for his valour in Somme, he died three days later in Germans hands on the 24th March 1918.
Captain Letchworth had the fortune (good or bad is a matter of opinion in those “days of death”) to be taken prisoner of war by the German forces and he was first sent to Karlsruhe officers prison camp (Karlsruhe¬Offiziere Camp) in Baden.
Officers were held in camps reserved only for them. There were living conditions less harsh then the regular soldier’s camps. They had beds, separate rooms for their meals and they were able to be involved in study or sport.
After his capture, his next of kin address to the Germans was recorded as; Reverend Canon. H.H. Letchworth, 3 Ethelberth Road, Canterbury.
Also during his time as a POW, he became a life-long friend with the Lieutenant John Herbert Brereton Sewell from 5th Manchester Regiment, who introduced few years later to him new passion of his life – Scouting.
In late 1918 the war finally ended. One clause of the 11th November 1918 Armistice dealt with the matter of prisoner-of-war repatriation: “The immediate repatriation without reciprocity, according to detailed conditions which shall be fixed.” Overall, these prisoners were speedily repatriated.
Henry was released from the prison camp on the 19th of November 1918 and he arrived back to England on the 29th of November 1918. At this time he gave his own address as 62 Old Dover Road, Canterbury, Kent.
He relinquished his rank Acting Captain on the 19th of March 1919 and left army service with the 4th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers on the 23rd of August 1920.
After the war Henry returned back to teaching and he became Co-Principal at Chafyn Grove School, Salisbury from 1920 onwards.
During these years, he coached the school rugby team and produced the annual school play. In school his nickname was Slush (what he did not like).
Four years after he was liberated from the Prisoner of War camp, he met his friend again with whom he was a POW with – John H.B. Sewell was invited to join the staff of Chafyn Grove School. Henry himself, had never been a Scout, but he and his twin brother had in their youth frequently been on camping holidays together. Sewell, who was already District Commissioner for Stockport, quickly enthused him with the ideals and challenge of the movement.
John H.B. Sewell remained at the school until 1931 from then onwards Letchworth was in full time charge of the 16th Salisbury (Chafyn Grove School) Scout Group.
At the annual Scout Camp, he was known as Chippi - this name he didn’t mind and which probably dated back to the war.
When the Second World War broke out he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on the 25th of November 1942 (Extract from London Gazette 11.06.1943). On 25th of May 1944 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (Extract from War Office Orders 21.09.1944).
He served with the Army Cadet Force, (personal number P275884/1) and rose to the rank of Major when he was appointed as an Officer to the 7th Cadet Battalion, Wiltshire A.C.7.
Henry resigned on 30th April 1945 from that position and on the 29th of May he relinquished his commission.
His main passion all of his life had been teaching and Scouting, after he joined the Scouts Organisation in 1923, he remained active with them for forty years.
His great capability in Training Scouters was soon recognised and in 1928 he became Assistant County Commissioner (Training), and was subsequently active in arranging courses for Scouters. In addition he took on the job of D.C. South Wilts in 1938, remaining there for ten years. He carried much of the burden of maintaining Scouting in the County as well as District during the 1939-1945.
On returning from his County position in 1954 he became a Deputy Camp Chief attached to Gilwell Park, a rare distinction.
Papers indicate that he lived at this time at 12 Bourne Avenue, Salisbury. It is an old Victorian house and nowadays it is a nursing home.
Further details about him show that he did a bit travelling after the war with the Scouting. In the summer of 1955 he went to New York on SS Queen Elizabeth and arrived back in September from Canada on SS Saxonia. He visited the 8th World Scouts Jamboree at Niagra-on-Lake, Canada during 18-28 August.
Henry Murray Letchworth died on December 1964 after a short illness. He was 75 years of age. His death is registered England & Wales, Death Index 1916-2005 role as October-December 1964, Salisbury district, Wiltshire (Volume 7c, page 531).
For his service during First World War as a Royal Dublin Fusiliers officer, Captain Henry Murray Letchworth was award the Victory Medal and British War Medal (he applied for his medals on the 3rd of April 1921), however in regards his World War Two medal entitlement at this point it is impossible to confirm if he did receive any awards (Defence Medal and/or War Medal)
For his devotion and hard work for Scouting Organisation, “Chippi” received during the Second World War the highest award presented by The Scout Association “for services of the most exceptional character” – The Silver Wolf Award. This award in 1922 was an award for Adult volunteers for Services to Scouting and awarded only by the Chief Scout of the World.
(1) Officer’s service papers from MOD
(2) British Army 1914-1918 Service Medal Index Card
(3) The Long, Long Trail – The British Army of 1914-1918 – for family historianshttp://www.1914-1918.net/
(4) Family Tree, Genealogy and Census Records - Ancestry.co.ukhttp://www.ancestry.co.uk/
(5) Royal Dublin Fusiliers – a forgotten regimenthttp://www.dublin-fusiliers.com/
(6) Ireland Unknown Soldiers, The 16th (Irish) Division in the Great War
by Terence Denman
(7) 16th (Irish) Division – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/16th_(Irish
(8) Neill’s “Blue Caps”
By Colonel H C Wylly
(9) A Forlorn Hope: The Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the Kaiser's Battle March 1918
By Sean Connolly
(10) World War I prisoners of war in Germany – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_ ... in_Germany
(11)Scouting in South Wiltshire 1908-1968. issued by Salisbury & South Wiltshire District Scout Council.
(12) Silver Wolf Award – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_Wolf_Award
(13) The Scouter, 1954, June