Saturday, July 01, 2006

G/2521 Private Frederick Samuel Cottingham, 8th Royal Sussex Regt

G/2521 Private Frederick Samuel Cottingham was the son of William and Esther Cottingham of South Common, Chailey. He was born at Chailey in 1891 and when the 1901 census was taken, was living at Chailey with his family. The household comprised William Cottingham, head of the household, aged 53 and working as a tile maker, his 46 year old wife Esther Cottingham and their five children: James [Louis] Cottingham, aged 16, a brickyard labourer, William Cottingham, aged 13, a brickyard labourer, his twin brother George Cottingham, aged 13, working as a carter boy on farm, Frederick [Samuel] Cottingham, aged nine, and finally Alfred Cottingham aged six. The 1891 census also shows a daughter, Edith Cottingham aged five in 1891 but I could find no record of her on the census taken ten years later.

Frederick enlisted at Chichester, probably in September 1914, and was posted to the 8th Royal Sussex Regiment. This was a New Army battalion which was formed at Chichester in September 1914 and shortly thereafter moved to Colchester as part of the 54th Brigade in the 18th (Eastern) Division. On the 4th February 1915 the 8th Royal Sussex became a pioneer battalion and in May 1915 transferred to Salisbury Plain.

The Long Long Trail website gives this information on pioneer battalions:

An early solution to the vast demand for labour was to create in each infantry Division a battalion that would be trained and capable of fighting as infantry, but that would normally be engaged on labouring work. They were given the name of Pioneers. They differed from normal infantry in that they would be composed of a mixture of men who were experienced with picks and shovels (i.e. miners, road men, etc) and some who had skilled trades (smiths, carpenters, joiners, bricklayers, masons, tinsmiths, engine drivers and fitters). A Pioneer battalion would also carry a range of technical stores that infantry would not. This type of battalion came into being with an Army Order in December 1914.

At the end of July 1915 the battalion landed at Boulogne. This ties in with Frederick’s medal index card which gives his date of entry into France as 24th July 1915. He features in the October 1914 issue of the Chailey Parish Magazine as serving his King and Country and in October 1915, this information is updated to note his battalion and the fact that he is now in France. The following month, the information was further amended to note “8th Royal Sussex Pioneers.”

Private Cottingham was killed in action on 1st July 1916 aged 25. He was one of 871 Other Rank fatalities sustained by the 18th Division that day but one of only 12 suffered by the 8th Royal Sussex which, as a pioneer battalion, was not involved in the advance across No-Man’s Land. In total, the 18th Division suffered 3,707 casualties but, on the single worst day in history for the British Army, took all of its objectives. Chailey Parish Magazine recorded his death the following month, wrongly noting however that he had been killed on 30th July.

On Friday 14th July, under the headline, CHAILEY – LOCAL CASUALTIES, The East Sussex News reported news of his death: Private F Cottingham of the Royal Sussex Regiment, whose home is at The Brickyard, South Common, has been killed in action in France. Cottingham is the ninth Chailey man who has died for King and Country.

After the war, Frederick Cottingham’s body could not be found and he is commemorated on pier and face 7C of the Thiepval Memorial in France. The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s Debt of Honour Register records the additional information that he was the son of the late Mr and Mrs W Cottingham of The Potteries, South Common, Chailey.

Chailey resident, Reg Philpott remembers that Frederick Cottingham’s son Ron was brought up by his grandmother. All of the Cottingham brothers, (with the exception of George who was medically unfit), served during the First World War. Frederick was the only casualty. The brothers were also distantly related to Thomas Charles Cottingham.

Medal index card courtesy of Ancestry.

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