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  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone marking his grave at Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension Somme, France. Courtesy of Murray Biddle
Person Details
15 Mar 1888
He was the son of William C Carter a bank clerk.
Educated Nottingham High School. Member Nottingham Union Rowing Club
03 Jul 1916
21279 - CWGC Website
Second Lieutenant
11th Bn Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
SF record: enlisted in the 20th London Regiment (1778 Private), transferred Royal West Kent Regiment (Private 530423). He had only joined the 11th Sherwoods on 12th June 1916 and he was mortally wounded in their ill-fated attack at Ovillers on the first day of the Somme, the bloodiest day in British Army History. He died on 3rd July and was buried in Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension (grave ref Plot 1. Row B. Grave 22). The 11th Sherwoods were one of the early Kitchener New Army battalions. They were part of 70th Infantry Brigade, the 23rd Division, though during the Somme they had been transferred as a brigade to 8th Division for a period. The 70th Brigade was formed in September 1914 and initially assembled on Frensham Common. It was a brigade of men from Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. The 11th Sherwoods were originally formed on 17th September 1914 at Derby and were first commanded by a Colonel Hawkes (an old Indian Army officer) who supervised there training until June 1915 when he was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel H F Watson, CMG, DSO, who took the battalion to France. The battalion was recruited from the miners of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and some of the original officers came from theological college. It entrained for Farnham on 19th September and then marched the 4 miles to Frensham Camp. Initially, there were lots of problems for these new army battalions, including poor accommodation, scanty equipment etc. All bathing was initially done in Frensham Pond and “Lyons” did the catering. For many of the pitmen the rural setting and healthy fresh air was a nice change and had the effect of making the men healthier. The weather became worse by mid-October with heavy rain that turned the ground into a quagmire. The tents had no floor boards, so they must have been pretty unpleasant. Rheumatism and flu were a problem. The men’s spirits remained high, however, despite the fact that they had to remain in these conditions until the end of November. The initial training was supervised by an old “Forester” RSM. The men only got rifles in November. The men would go for a run or a march first thing, then later would perform squad and foot drill. Once rifles arrived first rudiments of handling arms were taught and exercises in musketry practised. On 2nd December the battalion moved to winter quarters at Aldershot were they shared cramped quarters with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI). More exercises were engaged in, particularly at platoon level where competitions were instituted. Increasingly long route marches with kit were undertaken and the whole brigade was inspected by Lord Kitchener in December in terrible weather. Many men had leave for Christmas 1914 and those that were left were treated to an excellent dinner in their barracks. Post the festive season the whole division moved in mid February to Folkstone, marching there over several days. They were billeted at Sandgate, which proved to be a good place but the companies were scattered. The battalion HQ was right on the front at Sandgate and divisional exercises were undertaken on the Downs. It is worth noting that Captain Leggett was in charge of ‘B’ Company during this period. He was a former teacher of the High School who had long supervised the School OTC and joined up on the outbreak of war. He is listed on the Roll of Honour and commemorated on the War memorial, though he died after the end of the war in 1920 and is not listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. An entry in the High School magazine for December 1915 indicates that he had a bad fall from his horse and sustained concussion of the brain and was thus disappointed again in going to the front. By this stage he had been promoted Major. He is certainly not on the list of officers who eventually go with the battalion to the front and his subsequent military career is, as yet, unknown. In May the battalion moved to Maidstone for two weeks where working parties were engaged in the digging of the outer defences of London, presumably in case of German invasion. In June they moved to Borden and rumours were rife about going to France. Here they practised more musketry and got their quota of machine guns. They were also inspected at Hankley Common by the King, along with the other battalions of their division on 18th August 1915. A lot of the time was spent in battalion sport, particularly football, and no. 1 platoon won both the battalion and brigade competition. By now the battalion had its new commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Watson, who arrived in June, and it was ordered to France on 20th August 1915. The battalion entrained at Liphook. It is worth noting that ‘C’ Company included Second Lieutenant S B Melville, ON 1908-13, who was to be killed in action on 23rd January 1916 and two H C Watts, at least one of whom was an ON and brother of R W A Watts who was killed in action in 1916. One was a captain, the other a second lieutenant. 27th August 1915 the battalion sailed from Folkestone and landed in Boulogne. They first camped close by and then marched by stages to Outtersteen and took over a section of frontline trenches. On 12th September they took over trenches at Chappelle d’Armentieres. They were not, however, involved at Loos. Their first experiences of warfare were, fortunately for them, fairly light. From 24th November 1915 they were billeted at Steinbecque in tents and shelters. The officers were billeted in local farm houses. They spent the Christmas period in and out of the line, but Christmas Day itself in billets. The battalion band was re-formed and all men were given a Christmas gift sent out by the City and County of Nottingham and special arrangements were made for puddings, tobacco, apples and beers to be provided. The battalion only returned to the line ten days after New Year. The battalion had a concert in the local village school on Christmas Eve. On New Year’s Eve the Brigadier-General, H Gordon and his Brigade-Major dined with the officers of the 11th and the band played, with all singing “Auld Lang Syne”. The battalion also drilled during this period and practised gas routines. On 3rd January a football match was held against 6th Sherwoods, with the 11th winning 7-0. On 6th January the 11th football team played 8th Sherwoods, with 11th losing 2-1. The four territorial battalions of the Sherwoods were all billeted in and around Isberges, so there was an opportunity for many to meet old acquaintances. Following this relatively relaxed period, the battalion were rotated in and out of the line. Places such as Weathercock House, Spy Farm, the Neul Berguin sector and the Rue de Quesney became very familiar (these were soldiers landmarks in the front line). In later January the snow fell heavily and there was intermittent frost and snow throughout February. On 23rd January Second Lieutenant S B Melville (ON 1908-13) was killed while in charge of a working party in the Rue de Quesne sector. He is buried at the Rue de Bois Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix, France. He was from Stapleford and his father was a Secretary at a local colliery. He was 19 and had been a decent sportsman at school. Raids were also carried out by the battalion on this sector. During the late winter and early spring new drafts of officers had arrived, including Edward H Brittain, a former Uppingham School pupil and brother of Vera Brittain, famous author of “Testament of Youth”. He was to win the Military Cross on 1st July 1916 and later die in 1918 in Italy with 11th Sherwood Foresters. Question marks have more recently emerged about his death which may well have been a deliberate fulfilment of a death wish as he faced an inquiry, and possible court martial and disgrace, over his alleged homosexual relations with men from the lesser ranks. An extract of one of Edward’s first letters from the front to his sister is included here which well describes the conditions and the routines of holding a sector of trench during the winter (see extract). In the spring the battalion moved to the Somme area. They left on 26th March, entrained and then marched through Amiens and moved on to Albert. They eventually occupied a line of trenches near Authuille Wood. The “Hanging Virgin” of Albert was on the sky line (the precariously toppled golden statue on the tower of Albert Cathedral). Legend had it that when it fell the war would end. It was on the Somme that the battalion was to suffer its most severe losses of the war. June was a month of ‘unceasing work’ for all. There were lots of tasks to perform and lots of practice attacks. Night also saw its fair share of fatigues. Second Lieutenant S C Carter arrived on 12th June to bolster the complement of officers prior to the attack. The guns opened up on 23rd June early, crashing constantly. During the first days of the bombardment the battalion took up the Bozancourt defences, close to Thiepval. In front of them was Mouquet Farm and to the right was Ovillers, ‘a mass of flame’. The objective of the battalion’s attack was to try and take part of the high ridge from Thiepval to Combles. The 8th Division was to assault the German trenches at Ovillers. On their right and left were 34th and 32nd Division respectively. The 70th Brigade were to advance across Nab Valley, later designated Blighty Valley. It was their task to push on past the village and up as far as Mouquet Farm. The 11th Sherwoods were given the task of supporting the attack. Two battalions would be leading the attack in 70th brigade, the 8th Yorks and Lancs and the 8th KOYLI, with one in support, 9th Yorks and Lancs, and 11th Sherwoods in reserve. The reserve battalion was only to move forward after the others. The battalion were to assemble in a network of trenches behind their battalion sector, trenches nicknamed “Lower Horwich Street”, “Glasgow Road”, Quarry Post” and “Bamber Bridge Street”. The attack had been longed practised in the weeks preceding 1st July 1916. The ‘A’ Company officers included Second Lieutenant E H Brittain, ‘D’ Company’s included Second Lieutenant S C Carter and ‘B’ Company was led by Captain H C Watts (ON). From the trenches at Bozancourt on the night 27th June the battalion took up its final assembly position in “Glasgow Street” trench. The weather was bad at this period with heavy rain for 24 hours, making the movement of men and guns difficult. The order then came that the offensive was to be postponed 48 hours to allow for more artillery preparation, so the battalion had to wait in its assembly position. During the night of 30th June the officers were to be seen moving around the men, apparently, as they all waited for the dawn and the attack to begin. The red flares of German SOS were to be seen all night in the sky as the bombardment continued. 1ST JULY 1916, THE ATTACK AT OVILLERS As dawn broke the enemy began to counter British artillery fire with artillery fire of its own. It was a beautiful morning and the attack began at 7.30 am as planned with the first wave of 8th Yorks and Lancs going forward. The machine guns started straightaway and continued all day. At 7.45 a message was received that the German front line had been taken and the 11th Sherwood Foresters battalion moved into the British front line by companies along the pre-arranged routes, under ‘a fairly heavy shrapnel fire’. “When we moved up for our attack we found that many of these [trenches] had been hit by German shells, killing or wounding the men inside. That place was full of dead men, torn off limbs and badly wounded who begged for help, but we dared not stop. The communication trench almost ran with blood that morning. While we were waiting in our front line to go over, a Geramn machine gun was spraying the top of the trench, flicking up dirt from the parapet.” (Private F W A Turner, 11th Sherwoods, from Bilsthorpe, Nottinghamshire). The persistent noise of machine guns, plus numbers of casualties crowding into the line made it clear to the soldiers of 11th that the attack was not going well. 8th Yorks and Lancs suffered 635 casualties on 1st July 1916, 8th KOYLI 573. “We were met with a hellish machine gun fire. They were dropping all round me, but I came through all right.” (Private Walter Dilkes, attacking Ovillers Spur) It had been arranged that the first wave of the left centre company, D Company, was to file out of a sap (a shallow trench that ran out under the wire into No Man’s Land) and occupy a bank about 70 yards in front of the British front line. This was very difficult as ‘the sap was thronged with wounded and congestion grew minute by minute’. Eventually the men emerged and were almost at once mown down by a heavy machine gun fire from a point away to the left of the enemy’s front line. Clearly, this position had not been taken or had been re-occupied by the Germans. The first wave of the Foresters was cut down by the machine gun fire:- “Nearly all our officers were either killed or wounded before they had gone far. But we did not funk it, we kept going on until there was hardly anyone left. I never saw a man waver and chums were being shot down at our side, it was awful.’ (Private Percy Williams) The second wave, led by Major Bernal, GH, DSO, moved into support but were also caught ‘in the inferno’. ‘one wave melted into another and the whole gave out against that never ceasing stream from the point away to the left’. This fire from the left probably came from the German defenders on the Thiepval Ridge who had beaten off the attack of 32nd Division and could then pour fire down onto the exposed flank of 70th Brigade and 11th Sherwoods. “At Nine o’clock our time had come. At last the words came – “Sherwoods Over!” We were soon over, but not a man of my platoon got over 60 yards. Nothing could live in it. We were enfiladed by machine gun fire on both sides, also on our front.” (Private Frank Carroll from Hucknall, wounded on 1st July) According to survivors accounts the Germans shot the wounded, “I could hear the crack, crack of the explosive bullets as they were picking off our wounded as they tried to crawl back to our lines.” (Private Frank Carroll) Attempts were made, wherever men remained, to crawl forward using whatever cover was available. By this stage the battalion was scattered and leaderless, so Colonel Watson took his HQ staff forward. Watson walked diagonally across the front collecting men as he went to try to give fresh impetus to the advance. However, this advance was cut down once again. Watson himself was shot through the chest and all his HQ officers were wounded. Captain Hudson (later VC, won in 1918 with the 11th Sherwoods in Italy, DSO and bar and MC), in charge of ‘C’ Company made a gallant, but abortive attempt to reach the German trenches by means of a sunken road on the right flank, running towards the German lines on the top of “The Nab”. He rallied 50 men from various units. His own Company had been ‘annihilated’. His attack faltered 80 yards from the German line at the brow of a hill when there was no more cover to be had. Fire from both front and flank was too heavy to move forward. Colonel Watson survived his wound and in early August 1916 wrote a letter detailing the events of the day. His letter states that the battalion and its brigade had to capture a position to the fourth German line of trenches close to the village of Ovillers. The area was around Authuille Wood and towards Farm du Mouquet. The initial attack by 8th KOYLI and the 8th Yorks and Lancs was across a 1000 yards frontage. He then re-iterates much of what has already been recorded. The first wave made it to the German first line under heavy fire, some even made it to the second line. By 9.45 it was clear that the Germans had returned to their first line so the second wave was ordered to take it and consolidate it. They tried, but, because of the very heavy machine gun fire from both flanks and in front, ‘hardly a man reached the trench’. ‘D Company [the Company of Second Lieutenant S C Carter] on the left suffered very heavily, as a large number of the men advanced from a sap which was marked down by the machine guns. The men never faltered, but the machine gun fire was too intense and very few survived the first few hours.’ (Lieutenant-Colonel Watson) The German machine gun emplacements and dugouts had not been destroyed by the British artillery fire. Watson himself had been wounded 100 yards from the German line at about 10.30 am, by which time the Brigade’s advance was at a standstill. He was carried back by 3 privates of ‘D’ Company about 11 pm. They had returned from the German trenches. The Brigade had suffered very heavily and it was relieved from the trenches that night. The Colonel was unsure of the overall casualties but mentioned some by name, including ‘Second Lieutenant Carter died of wounds…’ He estimated that 500 men out of 600 who went over the parapet were casualties. ‘The names of Major Bernal, Captain Hudson and Lieutenants Brittain [Vera Brittain’s brother, wounded and awarded the MC for his actions on 1st July] and Carter (died of wounds) were noted for good work’. The strength of the battalion on entering the trenches on 26th June had been 27 officers and 710 men. At the end of 1st July the number of officers had been reduced to 6 and the men to 202. This doesn’t tell the whole story as a number of the officers and men hadn’t gone over the top as they had been detailed to stay in reserve. Final casualties for 1st July killed, wounded and missing were 518 out of around 600 attacking. Fryer’s final take on 1st July was:- “Yet, after this day, it is felt that things will never be quite the same again; many of those who shared the first days of stirring enthusiasm are dead and the wounds of many others will prevent them taking up service any more. It is the end of the old order, and as this vanishes yielding to the new, much vanishes with it.’ Following the attack during the rest of 1st July survivors made their way in gradually. Some were caught in No Man’s Land:- “Our Battalion got cut up very badly. As soon as we got on top of the parapet they began to drop like rabbits; we were caught by crossfire from machine guns. There would be ten times as many wounded as killed. I had to bandage myself up as best I could and then creep back to the dressing station. We crept past many who were dead or dying. When we got to the dressing station we were taken away by the Red cross ambulance. I can tell you it was awful and I never witnessed anything like it before.” (Private A Reynolds, from Clowne). Carter must have either made it back to his own trenches from the battlefield or been recovered during the night of 1st July. He died, presumably, in a casualty clearing station. Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension was used after May 1916 for officers who had died of wounds in the two Casualty Clearing Stations close by. Corbie is close to the great British railway hub of Amiens.
Remembered on


  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone marking his grave at Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension Somme, France. Courtesy of Murray Biddle
    Sydney Chatterton Carter - Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone marking his grave at Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension Somme, France. Courtesy of Murray Biddle