11401 PTE. R. AUSTIN. E.LANCS.R
(I am grateful to Janet Davis for helping to piece together Richard Austin’s – very complicated – family background).
There is a record of a Richard Austin in the 1911 Census, where he appears as a 20-year old farm labourer, working on Withnell’s dairy farm at Brinscall. He was born in Bamber Bridge in 1891. In the Register of Soldiers’ Effects, we know that his effects went to his uncle, John Cooper. From this we may infer that his parents were dead by 1920, or perhaps had emigrated, or perhaps the family was somehow otherwise estranged. From SDGW we know that he was born in Bamber Bridge and enlisted at Blackburn. From Janet’s detective work it appears Richard’s father was Robert Austin (b. 1855 in Bamber Bridge), a cotton spinner. But in the earlier Census his surname has been recorded as Houston (or Hauston). He was married to Elizabeth Adcroft (surname also variously recorded as Atcroft or Hatcroft, b. 1855 in Bamber Bridge). Richard was their only child, as Elizabeth died the year after Richard was born. We have found no record of Robert’s death, but by 1901, Richard was living with an uncle and aunt in Blackburn – John Cooper (b. 1849 in Blackburn, a railway porter), and his wife Alice Ann (née Hatcroft), Elizabeth’s sister. Alice Ann died in 1910, leaving John Cooper as Richard’s closest relative.
We’re back on firmer ground with Richard’s military career. He enlisted probably in late 1914 or early 1915, in the East Lancashire Regiment, first in 3rd (Reserve) Battalion before being posted to 6th (Service) Battalion. 6 E Lancs was in the same (38th) Brigade as 6 L.N.LAN.R. and also 6Bn King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) so all three Battalions moved and fought together in 13th (Western) Division. 13th Division left for Gallipoli in June 1915 and landed on the peninsula a month later. Richard was among reinforcements who arrived on 25 October 1915, about the time the decision was being made to abandon the campaign and withdraw the troops, but it would be an enormous and dangerous task to evacuate 80,000 men, with all their equipment and stores, from open beaches, under attack from an active and enterprising enemy. However, the Battalion did manage to withdraw and in mid-December sailed for Moudros on the Greek island of Lemnos. Around this time, British forces near Baghdad, in Mesopotamia, had come under severe attack and it had been decided that reinforcements, including 6Bn, would need to be sent. A month later they transferred to Egypt where they were re-equipped for their new theatre of war. They left Port Said on 14 February, arriving at Basra on 5 March, where they transferred to river boats and proceeded up the River Tigris to Sheikh Saad where by 1 April they formed part of a British Army of 30,000 men and 127 guns whose objective was to relieve the British and Indian troops besieged by the Turks in the city of Kut-al-Amara. The British had some initial success in an attack from 6-9 April, but at great cost. Richard was reported missing, presumed dead, some days later on 18 April 1916. He was 26 years old.
Ultimately, the attempt to relieve Kut was a failure; the city surrendered on 28 April, after 24,000 men had been killed, wounded or taken prisoner in trying to bring it aid. The loss of Kut has been described as "the most abject capitulation in Britain’s military history." The army commanders were replaced, the army reorganised and re-trained and a new campaign was launched, eventually leading to the capture of Baghdad on 11 March 1917.
His effects of £3 12s 11d and a War Gratuity of £7 10s were paid to his uncle, John Cooper.
Service No: 11401
Date of Death: 18/04/1916
Regiment/Service: East Lancashire Regiment, 6th Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 19.
Memorial: BASRA MEMORIAL