Private Herbert Coleman, Service Number 5248

Private Herbert Coleman, Service Number 5248

Killed in action 1 July 1916

Bert Coleman enlisted in the 14th (Scottish Rifles) Battalion, London Regiment on Thursday October 7th 1915 or the next day. David Cyril Duncan, 5242 enlisted with them on the 6th, Arthur George Gibbs, 5244, on the 7th. Enough of Arthur Gibbs: service records have survived to show he went to France on 07/02/1916 and there joined the 14th Battalion 24/02/1916. David Duncan’s Medal Roll Index Card shows he arrived in France the same date. So it is very likely Bert Coleman was with them.

The 14th Battalion was a Territorial Force battalion, originally intended for home defence. Bert and the others must have signed up for service abroad with them. In fact the 14th Battalion went to France in 1914 and has the distinction of being the first Territorial Force battalion to see action against the Germans – on 31/10/14.

On 01/07/1916 the 14th Battalion were involved in the attack on Gommecourt.

Soldiers who Died in the Great War says his residence (when he enlisted) was Leicester. This fits with the 1911 census, where he is listed as Bertie Coleman, born Sawston, working as Grocer’s Clerk, living with his brother George Stephen Coleman, who was Station Master at “Glen Magna”, also known as Great Glen, about 7 miles SE of Leicester. CWGC shows Bertie listed on the Thiepval Memorial (for the missing of the Somme).

In 1901 census he is listed as Bertie Coleman, grandson age 14, Leather Dresser, living with John and Sarah Coleman in London Road, Sawston. John Coleman was born in Bury St Edmunds, which helps when searching earlier censuses for this family. In the 1891 census Bertie was also living with John and Sarah Coleman, but is listed as “Bertie Kefford”, grandson. The actual record looks like his surname begins with ‘K’, but in fact his name in the Free BMD birth index for Q3 1886, Linton Registration District (which covers Sawston) is “Bertie Coleman Refford”. This surname is a mystery. I’ve not found a Coleman – Refford marriage. My best guess is that one of John and Sarah Coleman’s sons fathered Bertie with a girl named Refford. They were not, and did not, marry. As she was unmarried, the child took her surname, but the Coleman family took the care of the child – as also suggested by the inclusion of “Coleman” in his name. The 1881 census shows George Coleman, Bertie’s “brother”, living with his parents, John and Sarah.

Bertie Coleman’s service records have not survived. His Medal Roll Index Card is available. It indicates that no-one claimed his medals.