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'Telegrams took some time in those days. You can only imagine the tragic scene when the bad news finally arrived' Osman Poole, from Cardiff, died six days after his brother Gordon in 1916. Both died in two of the most murderous battles of the Great War. Here, Gordon's grandson Ken Poole, right, speaks about how the news affected his family.

A CARDIFF family who lost two brothers within days of each other in two of the most devastating battles of World War I have been paying their own tributes to their ancestors who paid the ultimate price for serving their country.

Gordon Poole, from Adamsdown, was 32 when he was killed on July 1, 1916 - the first day of the titanic Battle of the Somme. His body was never recovered. He was one of 57,000 allied troops killed or wounded on that fateful day. His name is now engraved on the Thiepval memorial.

Tragically, six days later his brother Osman, 38, a Cardiff docker, was killed in the carnage at Mametz Wood, also part of the Somme offensive. His body was recovered and is buried today at Flatiron cemetery in Mametz.

Hundreds of Welshmen died at Mametz, most of them volunteers, and thousands more were casualties.

At the time of the two deaths, Osman Poole's wife was christening James, one of his four children at their home in Splott, Cardiff, unaware that her husband and brother-in-law had both been killed in action.

Gordon Poole's grandson, Ken Poole, head of economic development at Cardiff council, said: "The deaths have obviously been a major talking point in our family for generations and now the 100th anniversary has come around we have been out to see some of the battle grounds. In 2016 we are planning a family visit to the site of Mametz Wood and the Somme to pay our respects to our family members who gave their lives for freedom."

Mr Poole said: "We are a typical Cardiff family, our ancestors having come to the city from the Black Country in the early 1900s when Cardiff was booming, working as house decorators initially but many family members found work in Cardiff docks.

"My grandfather married Mary Hurley, a member of the Irish community in Cardiff and settled in Adamsdown, my grandfather working for a builder's merchant but also being involved with the Territorial Army.

"Gordon signed up with the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry in 1914 and he was out there in France very early on in the war. And he had quite a war, being injured on three separate occasions before finally being killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It says something about the manner of his death that his body was never recovered.

"His brother Osman died six days later and his death was a particularly tragic one, coming at Mametz Wood where by now Osman was signed up with the 16th Battalion the Welsh Regiment, known as the Cardiff City Battalion.

"Many of these lads were volunteers but at Mametz Wood they came up against crack German troops from the Bavarian divisions who used machine guns with devastating effects to mow down the advancing Welsh troops. It was said to have been like cutting corn.

"It was said the Welsh battalion 'marched professionally' onwards towards the German lines in the woods in the false belief that a terrific artillery barrage would have wiped out most of the German forces but the enemy soldiers had been well dug in and were back in position and ready to fire as the Welsh troops, largely inexperienced, came marching towards them. They didn't have a chance.

"A lot of the Cardiff boys would have known each other and some were Welsh rugby internationals.

"Back home in Cardiff, Osman's son was being christened by his wife Annie who had no idea her husband had been killed or that his brother, her brother-in-law Gordon, had also died in the fighting. Telegrams took some time in those days and you can only imagine the tragic scene when the bad news did finally arrive."

Gordon, had also died in the fighting. Telegrams took some time in those days and you can only imagine the tragic scene when the bad news did finally arrive."

The "Cardiff City Battalion" came about after Lloyd George delivered a stirring speech on September 19, 1914, at the Queen's Hall, London, calling for the formation of a separate Welsh Army and three weeks later, the War Office agreed that a National Executive Committee (NEC) should be responsible for the organisation of the Welsh Army Corps.

The "Cardiff City Battalion" came about after Lloyd George delivered a stirring speech on September 19, 1914, at the Queen's Hall, London, calling for the formation of a separate Welsh Army and three weeks later, the War Office agreed that a National Executive Committee (NEC) should be responsible for the organisation of the Welsh Army Corps.

Just over a month later the NEC tasked the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Alderman J T Richards, to raise a complete battalion from the area and he gave his enthusiastic support to it. On November 23, 1914, the recruiting campaign in Cardiff was opened in earnest with the then Captain Frank Gaskell, recovering from wounds at his home in Llanishen, being placed in command.

Just over a month later the NEC tasked the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Alderman J T Richards, to raise a complete battalion from the area and he gave his enthusiastic support to it. On November 23, 1914, the recruiting campaign in Cardiff was opened in earnest with the then Captain Frank Gaskell, recovering from wounds at his home in Llanishen, being placed in command.

Known as the "Cardiff City Battalion", the newly formed 16th (Service) Battalion, Welsh Regiment had strong connections with Cardiff Rugby Club and a number of internationals from the club joined up, including Lieutenant H Bert Winfield and Lieutenant JM Clem Lewis. Former club vice-captain, Major Fred Smith, a policeman, was second-in-command of the battalion and became its commanding officer after Colonel Gaskell's death in 1916.

"Gaskell died on May 15 that year when a sniper's bullet hit his ammunition pouch causing it to explode.

Smith had plenty of experience, having served in the Anglo-Boer War as a member of the Fourth Glamorgan Company of the Imperial Yeomanry.

The battalion sailed to France on the SS Margarette, a paddle steamer with one private saying of the voyage: "It was a very rough night with nine out of 10 ill".

In France, the battalion's first bitter fighting but in grenade throwing practice when Private Oakley Jenkins of Tonyrefail was killed and several colleagues were injured in an accident.

Not all of the Cardiff City Battalion were from the Cardiff area. Albert Evans, of Briton Ferry, who was interviewed years after World War I, said of the effectiveness of the German trenches at Mametz Wood: "Our trenches barely covered us. The German trenches were brand new, no wonder they gave us such a slaughtering. They were about 13ft down and so wide you could have got a motor car through there."

Of the killing at Mametz, he said: "I remember the boys dropping, dropping....pals going." The attack on Mametz on July 7 which claimed the life of Osman Poole has been described as a "disastrous, chaotic and badly commanded affair".

Caught by frontal and enfilade machine gun fire, the Cardiff battalion only got to within 200 yards of the wood.

Although costly, the attack had not been altogether futile as within five days of fighting the battalion and other units succeeded in clearing the Germans from the greater part of the wood, an achievement for which they won little praise.

NEIGHBOURS KILLED ON GREAT WAR BATTLEFIELD Our website, WalesOnline, features a great new tool which enables you to find family members or people who lived in your street who died in World War I. Today, reporter Jessica Flynn has searched for fallen servicemen who lived in Whitchurch Road, Cardiff. Here is who she found...

Robert Earl |Son of Robert and Margaret Earl, of 298 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff.

Rank: Gunner Regiment: Royal Field Artillery Age: 19 Date of Death: October 12, 1917 Buried at: Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery | Lewis John Charles Hollott |Son Of Mr L J M. Hollott, of 168 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff.

Rank: Private Regiment: Worcestershire Regiment Age: 20 Date of Death: December 4, 1916 Buried At: Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt Edgar Edwards |Son of Charles and Martha Edwards, of 252 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff.

Rank: Private Regiment: Devonshire Regiment Age: 19 Date of Death: September 30, 1915 Buried At: Loos Memorial Evan Pryse Jones |Son of the late Thomas and Charlotte Jones; husband of Alice Jones (nee Martin), of 324 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff. Born at Cardiff. Rank: Second Engineer Regiment: Mercantile Marine Age: 33 Date of Death: August 18, 1917 Buried At: Tower Hill Memorial | Augustus Albert Winter |Husband of Leah Winter, of 30 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff.

Rank: Air Mechanic 3rd Class Regiment: Royal Air Force Date of Death: April 12, 1918 Buried At: Aldershot Military Cemetery Thomas Lewis Rees |Son of Lewis and Elizabeth Rees, of 284 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff.

Rank: Private Regiment: Royal Munster Fusiliers Age: 21 Date of Death: August 9, 1915 Buried At: Hill 10 Cemetery

TOMORROW: THE CARDIFF NURSE WHO TREATED THE INJURED AND HER FASCINATING BOOK
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Aug 5, 2014
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