Wednesday, July 06, 2016

7480 Private Reginald Pimble, 1st Gloucestershire Regt

Reginald Pimble was a convalescent patient at Hickwells after being wounded at The First Battle of Ypres in November 1914.  His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

A trouble’s a ton
A trouble’s an ounce
A trouble is what you make it
It isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts
But just - how did you take it

7480 Pte R Pimble
1st Batt Gloucestershire Regt

Stopped two bullets at Ypres Nov 7th 1914

He shares this page with Private W Brown of the 1/9th Middlesex Regiment, Private 41441 Thomas George Clarke of the Norfolk Regiment and 3655 Private Martin Donnelly of the 1st East Surrey Regiment.

Reginald was born in Ross Workhouse, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire on 22nd May 1888.  He was the son of Ann Pymble (born c1862) and is probably the same three year old Reginald Pimble who appears on the 1891 census as a three year old “nurse child” living at 42 Suffolk Street, Gloucester.  The household in 1901 comprised George Phelps (head, married, aged 35, a grocer), his wife Isabella (aged 31), Albert Rea (brother-in-law, single, aged 25, working as a dock labourer), Sarah Rea (mother-in-law, married, aged 58), Reginald, and Mary Roach (visitor, single, aged 20).  Reginald’s place of birth is recorded as “not known”.

I have been unable to locate him on the 1901 census but his entry on the silver war badge roll at The National Archives in London states that he enlisted in the army on 12th March 1904.  He would have been two months short of his sixteenth birthday at the time and would have enlisted for boys’ service.  His reckonable service would have counted from his eighteenth birthday – 22nd May 1906.

On 19th April 1909 he married Florence Helen Limbrick in Gloucester and their first child – Ivy Annie Pimble –was born in Gloucester in August 1910.  A son, George Henry Pimble followed three years later in September 1913.

By the time war was declared on Germany in August 1914, Reginald was on the army reserve and was recalled to the colours on 5th August.  He arrived in France in late August 1914 and served with the 1st Gloucestershire Regiment until wounded at Ypres on 7th November.  The following information regarding the 1st Gloucestershire Regiment in its early days on The Western Front, is adapted from Part 6 of my Chailey narrative, The Hospital Way:

Although Reg Pimble arrived in France on the 27th of August, only two weeks after the battalion had disembarked at Havre, it had been an eventful fortnight.  Arriving at Haulchin, some ten kilometres south east of Mons on the 23rd, the 1st Gloucesters had Stood-To all day on the northern edges of the village only to receive orders at 7am the following morning to retire.  They had then commenced the 200 mile march to the Marne and it was at Rozoy, on 5th September that Pimble, amongst a draft of 100 men, joined his footsore colleagues.  This was the first reinforcement that the battalion had received since leaving England and with it came an inadequate supply of shirts, socks and boots which was nevertheless gratefully received by a number of the men, the condition of whose boots had reduced them to marching in bare feet.

Now though, they were in Flanders, rushed up to prevent the Kaiser’s armies from breaking through at Ypres.  On the 23rd October they’d successfully repelled determined German attacks north of Langemarck and re-claimed trenches recently taken by the enemy.  Terrible casualties had been inflicted on the advancing Germans, but the 1st Division, to which the 1st Gloucesters belonged, had also suffered heavily.  By the time it was relieved on the morning of the 25th, the Division had suffered fourteen hundred casualties over the previous few days’ fighting.

Four days’ later, they were back in the thick of it, thrown into the Battle of Gheluvelt and suffering further casualties.  Even when they had withdrawn to Inverness Copse on the 1st of November the men from the Cotswolds had been shelled mercilessly and suffered a further seventy five casualties during the relief.  The battalion was now reduced to just 240 other ranks and they badly needed a rest.

Reg Pimble in fancy dress, seated second from left

The next few days however, were hardly what they had in mind.  On November 2nd there were further casualties: three officers and fifty eight other ranks; some of these caused by ‘friendly fire’ from the British artillery which was unaware, during the ebb and flow of battle that the ground they were shelling was back in Allied hands.  On the 3rd November, 200 reinforcements arrived.  “These numbers,” recorded the author of the 1st Gloucesters’ battalion diary later, “were particularly welcome after the previous week’s casualties and greatly helped to put fresh life into the Regiment.”  On 5th November however, having been rushed back into the line and ordered to hold it for twenty four hours at all costs, the battalion had suffered a further forty one casualties from artillery fire which completely destroyed many of the trenches and buried a number of the men.

The 6th was spent re-organising the battalion, a task completed only just in time for there was a fresh emergency south at Zillebeke.  The Germans had pushed back the French troops holding that part of the line and were threatening to break through.  Leaving at four in the afternoon, the Gloucesters had arrived at their new positions north of the village of Zwartelen in darkness and amid much confusion.  The frontage the battalion occupied was lengthy, too large really for an already depleted battalion which nevertheless did its best by dividing the line up roughly into sectors and posting batches of men to them.  What few officers remained were distributed amongst the scattered outposts as effectively as their limited numbers allowed.

“7th November,” says The Official History, “was misty and marked the definite commencement of winter weather: mud henceforth seriously interfered with operations and cold at night made sleeping in the open difficult, if not impossible.”  Certainly, there had been little sleep for Reg Pimble and his pals on the eastern edges of Zwartelen and in the woods further to the north.  Now as the morning advanced, the order to assist the neighbouring 22nd Brigade in a counter attack on the left had been cancelled because it was just too foggy to see where they were firing.  The 22nd Brigade however, had pushed ahead and secured its objectives, reporting back that the trenches opposite the Gloucesters were empty.   Orders were issued for an immediate advance and for the enemy trenches to be seized; the rest of the 3rd Brigade would provide support.

The battalion pushed forward in two lines but no sooner had they emerged from Zwartelen than they were met with intense rifle and machine gun fire from German troops still holding on to some of the houses in the village.  “The whole advance,” continues the battalion diarist, “had been far too hurried and no definite orders had ever been given.  Officers and men were much too exhausted to do more than clear a few of the houses.  Most of the men had to lie down in the open all day and only a few could get back to the trenches they had dug the night before.”  At roll call that night, only three officers and 213 men answered their names.  Private 7480 Pimble, R was not one of them; shot twice, he’d received his Blighty wound and would not return to Flanders.

Although he does not state as much in Nurse Oliver's album, Reg Pimble’s wounds were severe, as reported in the Gloucester Journal of 28th November 1914.

He was discharged from the army on 7th July 1915 as no longer physically fit for war service and in due course he would receive his silver war badge (number 98887) and later his 1914 Star and British War and Victory Medals. A number of photographs of him appear in Edith Oliver's album and Frances Blencowe's album, including the one of him playing billiards (below) at Hickwells in early 1915.

Three more children were born to Reginald and Florence Pimble: Bertha Pimble in March 1916, Kathleen I Pimble in September 1918 and Violet Christine Pimble in June 1922.  At one time the family lived at 6 St Paul's Street, Gloucester and in civilian life Reginald was associated with Iron Acton and was a Gloucestershire County Council Workman.

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