16 May 2010

LISHER Reginald


Private 10243, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards
Killed in Action on Monday 14th September 1914

Commemorated: La Ferté-sous-Jouarre Memorial, Seine et Marne

Reginald Lisher was baptised on January 5th 1896 at the parish church of St. James the Less, North Lancing, the second son of James and Ellen Lisher. At the time of the 1911 census the family were living at Mafeking, Penhill Road, Lancing, and James and Reginald, together with elder brother, Lennox, worked as gardeners.

Reginald Lisher enlisted into the Coldstream Guards at Brighton on 19th July 1913, giving his age incorrectly as 18 years and 8 months, and his occupation as garden labourer. Five days later his childhood friend, Victor Grover, also enlisted, and the two boys later went together to the 1st Battalion. A year later they were among the first British troops to enter France shortly after the outbreak of war - two very young 'Old Contemptibles.' The battalion left Aldershot for Southampton on August 13th 1914 on board the Dunvegan Castle, arriving in Havre the following day. After a short period of rest they spent much of the next four weeks marching, retreating, marching and advancing, until on September 14th they were engaged in heavy action at the Battle of the Aisne. This action resulted in 11 officers and 342 other ranks becoming casualties, with more than half of the other ranks dead or missing, among them Reginald Lisher.

Some of these soldiers have graves in the local area, many at Vendresse and Chauny, but the majority have no known grave and are commemorated on the Memorial at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. At first, the only reference I could find in the local papers about Reg Lisher was a brief sentence in the Sussex Daily News of 27th November 1914:

LANCING CASUALTIES - Sapper Chas. Morley, Royal Engineers, 3 Bessborough Terrace, has been home, having sustained a flesh wound in a thigh at the Aisne River, but has gone back to Chatham again, recovered. Private Reginald Lisher, Coldstream Guards, whose home is at South Street, is missing.

But searching newspapers for a later period, I came across this item in the Worthing Gazette of the 17th December 1919, which solves not only the puzzle of how Reginald Lisher died, but also explains what may have happened to many other Coldstream Guards on that day.

The village of Cerny was one of the objectives of the battalion that day, and an officer's account of the action is contained within the battalion war diary held at The National Archives [WO95/1263]:

The other portion of the Bn. numbering about 150 composed of Nos. 2 and 4 Coys. under Lt. Col. Ponsonby became divided from the remainder at the factory, which was originally occupied by the M. Gun section of the R. Sussex. When the Chimney fell this party pushed forward under very severe shell fire to a sunken road running N. into CERNY which was found to be unoccupied. Major Grant was ordered to go round E. side of the village, while Col. Ponsonby pushed through with the remainder, but touch was never regained, Major Grant eventually rejoining Maj. Hamilton's party (6 p.m.). When Col. Ponsonby's party reached the N. edge of the village, 3 Coys. of German Infantry were seen on the ridge half a mile N.E. of village and other Germans on the ridge N.W. of village. Col. Ponsonby and his party pushed on and 6 M. Gun limbers were surprised, the horses of 4 which were shot. They afterwards pushed on into a small plantation (shown on the sketch map of Capt. Warde Aldam's) which was reached about 10.15 p.m., where the Col. was wounded, the party then remained hidden till midnight when they rejoined ...

Another report states simply that the battalion had reached and taken Cerny-en-Laonnois, from which a retirement was ordered after dusk. Left behind at the time of that retirement were many dead and wounded including Reginald Lisher. It will never be known whether he was taken prisoner while still alive, or whether the Germans simply buried the British dead that they found. In Cerny today there is a German cemetery where fifty-nine burials took place in 1914, and it is probably here that Reg Lisher's body was buried, maybe alongside his comrades. After the war the British bodies were recovered from this and many other cemeteries and battlefield sites, and re-interred at Vendresse British Cemetery, this being the most likely last resting place for Reginald Lisher.

Parents James and Ellen Lisher are buried together in the churchyard extension at St. James the Less, North Lancing, the inscription reading:

In loving memory of my dear husband James Lisher
Who passed away 15th January 1932 aged 76
Also of Reginald, his son, killed in action in France September 1914 aged 18 years

Also Ellen, wife and mother of the above, died 5th March 1934 aged 73

Peace, perfect peace

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