Rifleman, Royal Irish Rifles, 12 Bn.
Service no. 43355
Died 15 August 1917, aged 18
Remembered at Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Chris Burge writes:
erick Albert Marsh was baptised on 26 February 1899 at St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, where his parents, Frederick Edwin Marsh, a railway goods shunter, and Frances Ellen Banks, had married just over a year earlier. By the time of the 1901 census, Frederick’s younger sister Ellen Frances was five months old and the family of four had moved to 8 Gaskell Street, off Union Road, in Stockwell. Engine driver William Meads’ family of eight lived at the same address.
The 1911 census shows Frederick and Ellen Marsh had three children: Frederick Albert, 12, Ellen Francis, 10 and John Edwin, six. The family lived in five rooms at 37 Priory Grove. A family of four occupied two other rooms at the same address. Frederick’s father described his occupation as railway servant.
Frederick Snr had been employed by the London & South Western Railway since 1888, working as a shunter at Nine Elms. He was promoted yard foreman by 1907 and by 1912 his weekly wages were 38 shillings. The railways would be vital to the war effort and employees of the L&SWR were issued with a special war service badge.
If Frederick and Ellen thought their son Frederick was too young to fight in this war, they were mistaken. With or without their consent, in the first week of June 1915, aged just 16, he volunteered at 9 Tufton Street, the administrative headquarters of the 2nd London Regiment. New recruits joined the 4th/2nd Battalion, the training reserve. Frederick was now private 4616 Marsh.
Some underage recruits were weeded out before transfer to the 1st/2nd, or reported underage on landing in France, but Frederick seems to have remained in the Regiment, in England, until November 1916, when he was part of a large transfer of men to the 12th Irish Rifles and renumbered rifleman 43355 Marsh. A draft of around a hundred men sailed from Southampton to Le Havre on 11 November 1916, joining the 12th Royal Irish Rifles at the front near Messines two weeks later. After months of trench-holding, Frederick was with the 12th Royal Irish Rifles during the attack at Messines in early June and at Ypres in July and August, when heavy rain and constant shelling turned the battlefield into a hideous morass. On 15 August the battalion was readying for a 4.45am zero-hour attack the following day. Frederick was killed when their position was shelled.
Frederick’s parents were still at 37 Priory Grove when his father died in 1934. His mother passed away in 1949, aged 77.