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|EXITMaurice Godfrey Wells|
Maurice Godfrey WellsBorn January to March 1898 - Killed in Action 26th March 1918
Maurice Godfrey Wells was the youngest son of Alfred and Annie Wells of Lawnside, Hills Road, Buckhurst Hill. Maurice had older siblings - Maud, Muriel, Alfred and Eva. His grandfather had been a master builder and his father Alfred was a Company secretary in the shipping business Maurice attended Bancrofts between1910 and 1914. He was bright and throughout enjoyed the benfits of a day-boy scholarship.
Maurice was of an age whereby he was still at Bancrofts when war broke out. german had been introduced into the language curriculum around the time Maurice began at Bancrofts. At one and the same time the school recognised the burgeoning influence of an expanding Germany as well as doubtless capitalising on those German-speakers on the staff - Herr Guthlech and Herr Brinkmann. Maurice, like the Wood boys before him excelled in languages.
When war was declared however, he, amongst a number of others, doubtless felt the frustration of youth held back from joining the slightly older boys at the front. The wars dragging on ensured he would not miss his chance. Following officer training on the 12th November 1917 he was gazetted as Secoond Lieutenant in C battery of the 211th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. The 211th was a prewar territorial unit, and by 1918 was manned by a mixture of experienced artillery men and the newly enlisted like Maurice. His gunners and the riders for the limber and horses were for the most part significantly older than Maurice. In his company we know they were men drawn from places like Dundee, Gateshead, Rotherham and Stockport. Many of them had been out at the front for the best part of three years.
Despite his youth - his two pips and his training required Maurice to be a figure of authoriity and composure for the men around him. On 21st March 1918 the Germans Operation Michale Spring offensive saw units of two British armies thrown into retreat. For the artillery this presented a particualr challenge with the difficulties of moving the much treasured guns away from the advancing troops. Within hours of its start the front line had been pierced and iinfantry, artillery and others were thrown into a desperate retreat until firmer defences could be found.
The 211th had been a little way back from the front line and with a semblance of order had managed to retreat in those first few days of the offensive. By the 27th March they found themselves in hastily prepared positions in the vicinity of Bucquoy - a farming village some twelve miles south of Arras. The troops holding the front line at this point reported their suspicions that the morning was to see a massive assault upon their lines. calling up for artillery support Maurice’s brigade began to bombard the opposing lines. The barrage was answered by a heavy bombardment of the brigade’s gun emplacements and the infantry trenches in front of them. This was followed up as expected by a mass infantry assault between 11.00am and 2.30pm.
The intial attack was staved off but the shelling and the infantry charges resumed the following morning. Already a number of Maurice’s gunners had been killed or where wounded evacuated.. The British front line became progressively more ragged in its opposition and by lunchtime a large party of German stromtroopers had broken through and attacked the ‘C’ Company positions with grenades and at bayonet point. It was in this fight that Maurice was killed. He lies today with several of his men in BIENVILLERS MILITARY CENETERY.
The cemetery had originally been used in the 1916-17 battles of the Somme. In the March of 1918 it was reopened to accommodate the many fallen from the Operation Michael offensive.