L/Corporal Austin Frank Broughton

Austin Frank Broughton, born 1896 in Gloucester, the second son of the late William C and his wife Elizabeth E Broughton (Parrott), was killed in action at Bellewaarde near Ypres on the 16th June 1915.                            [View Broughton Family]

The 1911 Census records Austin and his family living at 9 Rosebury Avenue, Gloucester. Austin is recorded as a Grocer's

Shop Worker, which would not have paid much money. His father, William, an Insurance Agent, had died in 1905, so the income he, his elder brother and sister, Florence could bring in would help their mother's income from working at home to bring up the family of six children. Austin's brother, William had joined the 3rd Battalion Rifle Brigade in early 1909 and clearly enjoyed the life of a soldier in this rather elite group, and encouraged Austin to do the same. His mother, Elizabeth agreed. Even though she had reservations, to him joining as this would lead to extra income for the family and clearly a life that Austin would enjoy.

In April 1913, and just after his 17th birthday, Austin made the decision to join the army. The reason he joined the Northumberland Fusiliers and not the Rifle Brigade is unknown, but he probably took a walk to the local Post Office and started the process off. Some members of the family feel that it was against his mother's wishes as he was so young but, he would have had his elder brother's approval and as he was now head of the house he swayed the opinion. Austin would not have to wait long for his rail warrant and received the date he should present himself at the barracks. He made his way to Gloucester L.M.S. railway station to catch the train and the start of his long journey to Fenham Barracks, Newcastle for his attestation.

Once at Fenham Barracks all of his attestation and administration would be carried out, plus he would have been kited out and placed in the recruitís wing where he was given a duplicate set of personal records which would travel with him after his basic training. Austin would then have been placed in a squad of new recruits and basic training would commence, the most important would be the Musketry Course.

Upon completion of his basic training Austin would then join his battalion. The 1st Battalion were in India and had been there for some time, so we can assume that Austin, along with others who had completed training, would have waited for the return of the battalion.

In October 1913 the battalion, in Sabathu, India, was relieved by the 2nd battalion and returned to England.

First Notes for the 1st Battalion that appear in the regimental journal are from Cambridge Barracks, Portsmouth on the 24th October 1913.

The 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers received orders to mobilize at 6 p.m. 4th August and disembarked Harve 14th August 1914. Austin did not enter the theatre of war until 27th December 1914. No reason can be found for a four month gap between the Battalion leaving for France and Austin joining them, it has been mentioned that maybe he needed to complete some sort of training, but, I doubt this as he would have spent his time, since joining in 1913, getting as much training as he would need. Austin probably joined his battalion as part of a draft of 50 on 6th January 1915.

On afternoon of 15th June at 05:00 p.m., the troops left their bivouacs and marched the eight miles to the front at Bellewaarde. The men were well aware of what was to come due to the rumours that had been circulating for the last few days and were filled with fear and excitement, for many, this was to be their baptism of fire.

The Northumberland Fusiliers marched in to Ypres via the Lille Gate, then east to exit Ypres through the Menin Gate at 08:30 p.m., from then on it was a march to the assembly trenches at Railway Wood alongside the Ypres, Roulers Railway. The time was now 10:30 p.m.

The Germans could hear something going on as they were not that far away and started taking pot shots at the British soldiers and then fired a few shells at them as well, just for good measure. Although the enemy knew something was happening, they didnít think it was too much of a problem and it all quietened down. ĎWí Company was on the right of the battalion, the furthest south east of Railway Wood.

In the morning at 02:50 a.m., the British started shelling and apart from some short breaks, this continued until 04:15 a.m. Officers then blew their whistles and Austin leaped from his trench. Austin faced machine-gun fire and bullets from rifles, but the enemy gave very little resistance.

The start of the attack is the last known facts of Austinís short life.

Austin was recorded by C.W.G.C as Private, however, the battalion recorded all casualties in the battalion diary. The document was hand written and records him as Lance Corporal of  ĎWí company, wounded along with many other Lance Corporals who were casualties. This was apparently quite common as the British army did not use this rank officially. It could be that another soldier saw him wounded and reported what he saw, or he was brought in, but was removed to a dressing station and he and the men taking him were killed, possibly by shell, as he could not be found. We will unfortunately never know.

Austinís mother, Elizabeth took the news understandably badly, for many years she could be heard pacing her bedroom floor crying for her lost son and blaming herself for allowing him to join the army in 1913.

Initially the family knew that Austin had died at Ypres on the 16th June 1915 and that his body could not be found, but that was all, how could they know anything else. Not long after they received a letter from William, Austinís brother, stating that he was at the same battle and saw Austin go over the top and as soon as he did he was hit with a bullet which killed him outright. The letter may have given some comfort, at least he didnít suffer.

William, however could not have seen his brother go over the top, although the 3rd Rifle Brigade were reasonably close they were about 28 km south west of Bellewaarde at Armentieres in trenches on that day. I can only guess that William wanted his mother to believe the story of a swift death as opposed to the horrors of a long painful passing.

Martin Clift