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James Frudd

James Frudd Gunner James Frudd, 286997, Royal Garrison Artillery, 2nd Company, East Riding Brigade

James Frudd was born in Ossett in 1868 and baptised on the 6th July 1868 at South Ossett Primitive Methodist Church. He was the third child and second son of Thornhill-born Alfred Frudd and his wife, Flockton-born Rachel (nee Child) who married in 1861.

The couple had nine children: seven boys and two girls, all born between 1862 and 1880. Originally from Thornhill, where their first two children were born, Alfred, a coal miner, and Rachel moved to Ossett in the late 1860s and were living at Low Common when James was born in 1868.

In 1881, Alfred and Rachel Frudd now with seven children were living on Manor Road, Ossett. Alfred was a check-weighman at a colliery and James was already working as a coal miner at the age of 12 years. On the 21st September 1889, James Frudd, a coal miner, married Eliza Ann Jackson and by 1891 they were living at South Parade, Ossett with two children: George, born 1890 and Percy, born 1891. Sadly George died in 1892, aged only 2 years. On the 7th February 1893, a girl, Ada Frudd, was born to James and Rachel.

By 1901, the Frudd family had moved to George Street, Healey Road, Ossett. James, aged 32, was working as a deputy in a coal mine. By 1911, the Frudds had moved back to South Parade, Ossett where James was working as a coal hewer in the local pit. His son Percy was doing the same work, whilst Ada was a woollen weaver.

At the age of 47 years James Frudd enlisted in October 1915 and joined the Royal Engineers as a Sapper with service number 132812. On the 31st October 1915, he embarked for France, and was employed on tunnelling duties on the Western Front, but was discharged as medically unfit on the 21st January 1916. On the 9th April 1918 James, aged 50, re-enlisted and joined the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner with service number 286997. He was 5’ 3½” tall with a 38” chest measurement, weighed 132 lbs, with grey eyes, grey hair, a fresh complexion and good physical development. He was declared fit for Home Service.

On the 1st June 1918, James Frudd was posted to No.4 Depot, R.G.A., No 2 Company, East Riding Nos 5 & 6, Yorks Fire Command, Hull as a gunner. On the 14th July 1918, at 1 a.m., Gunner James Frudd died at Kilnsea Military Hospital suffering with double pneumonia. His wife, Eliza Ann Frudd was notified by telegram later the same day. His 50th birthday was only weeks before his death.

On the 23rd December 1918, James’ widow and children were awarded a pension of 15/- per week. In May 1919, his widow, Eliza Ann Frudd of 67, South Parade, Ossett was required to make the usual army return, detailing the deceased’s close relations. In addition to herself and their children the return indicates that James' parents were dead. James had brothers William (aged 58, living in Morley); Lister (aged 49, living in Barrow on Furness); Herman aged 44 and Arthur aged 38, both in new Zealand with his sister Edna, aged 51. Walter Frudd, aged 47, was living in Bradford and his other sister, Emma Harrison, was living at Healey, Ossett.

The war on the Western Front was bogged down into siege conditions by November 1914. Both sides faced the need to break through the enemy's defensive entrenched positions. It was not long before an ancient art was remembered and used most effectively: mining under the enemy lines, placing explosives and blowing them up. In some areas, both sides mined and counter-mined intensively. For the infantry above ground, the wait for underground explosions was nerve-wracking indeed; for the men underground, hard toil often came accompanied by sudden death.

A decision was taken in February 1915 to form eight Tunnelling Companies, made up of men drawn from the ranks, mixed with drafts of men specially recruited for this kind of work. This has been described as the quickest intentional act in the war: men who were working underground as civilians in the UK on the 17th February 1915, were underground at Givenchy only four days later, such was the urgency of needing countermeasures against the aggressive German actions. Another twelve Companies were eventually formed in 1915, and one further one in 1916. All of these units were engaged on underground work including the digging of subways, cable trenches, saps, chambers (for such things as signals and medical services), as well as offensive or defensive mining. A Mine Rescue School was formed in Armentieres in 1915.

Having been employed as a miner at Old Roundwood Collieries in Ossett, and already in his middle forties when he joined up, the army presumably decided that Sapper James Frudd needed no extra training, since he was sent to the front very soon after enlisting to carry on with the kind of work that he was familiar with at Ossett.

The mining companies sought ways to not only drive mines for destroying enemy positions, but developed measures of detection of the enemy mine systems. When detected, an enemy mine would be immediately destroyed by the explosion of a camouflet, often at the cost of severe damage to ones own system. There were many underground encounters, as a tunnelling team, breaking into an enemy position, met the enemy underground. Sometimes these encounters included fighting in the tunnels and chambers.

The blowing of mines below enemy front line positions became a regular feature of local actions. Infantry tactics developed that would enable the rushing and capture of the crater formed by the explosions. The craters were often themselves a dominant ground feature, as the lip of earth thrown up was usually higher than the ground in the area, giving possible observation over the enemy. Crater fighting became a highly dangerous and unpleasant feature of many actions in 1915 and early 1916.

Mining in support of larger infantry offensives was also adopted, with increasing numbers of mines of increasing size being used in the first minutes of the major British attacks at Aubers Ridge (May 1915), Loos (September 1915) and the Somme (July 1916). Gradually, the British tunnellers gained ascendancy.1

The Royal Garrison Artillery manned the coastal defence batteries of the UK and Empire and after rejoining the army two days after his 50th birthday, Gunner James Frudd was based on the east coast of Yorkshire, in the Hull area with the 2nd Company of the East Riding Brigade.

The two WW1 Humber Forts: Haile Sand Fort and Bull Sand Fort were built to defend the River Humber from possible invasion and German naval attack during WWI. Construction began in 1915 and such were the logistics and complexities involved they were not finished until 1919. Bull Sand Fort had four 6 inch guns mounted on it and a huge net ran across the Humber from one fort to the other. This was to protect, in theory at least, against German submarines. In addition, the forts could accommodate 200 soldiers. The cost of building the two Humber forts was £1million in 1915, back then a huge sum of money. Haile Sand fort, built in the middle of the Humber, had mile long elevated roadway from the south bank of the river at Humberston for access, but this was not built until 1939.

In addition, the Godwin Coastal Battery was built in 1914 at Kilnsea in honour of Major General Godwin, to strengthen the outer defences of the Humber and house two Mk. IV guns on Mk. V mountings. The Battery was protected by a sea wall 300yds long around the site to protect from the advancing sea. Behind this two 9.2” BL guns were mounted in circular concrete pits about 100yds apart. Between the guns were the underground magazine, crew shelters and workshops, the magazine roof being 5ft thick. On the right and left of the battery were two battery observation posts, one housing a range finder; both had defensive blockhouses built into their base. The barracks were substantially constructed of brick and concrete, and included a guard house, officers’ quarters and a hospital.

The defensive measures taken to protect the battery included a 6ft wall enclosing the landward perimeter while the seaward side was surrounded by a network of fire trenches and a 20ft ditch filled with barbed wire. Further protection was given by a large concrete blockhouse situated on the beach and a redoubt ('Murrays Post') on the rising ground to the north-west. Another feature was the terminus of the Spurn Point railway.

Remains of the Godwin Coastal Battery, Kilnsea

Above: The remains of the Godwin Coastal battery at Kilnsea on the east coast of Yorkshire, possibly where Gunner James Frudd served in 1918

The "Ossett Observer" 1 had this obituary for Gunner James Frudd, who may have been the oldest soldier from Ossett to die in WW1:

"Gunner James Frudd (50), Royal Field Artillery, of South-parade, Ossett, had died while engaged in home defence duty. Well known in the borough, in civilian life he was employed at the Old Roundwood Collieries, where he had worked for many years. In October, 1915, he enlisted as a sapper in the Royal Engineers and within a few weeks was engaged on tunnelling operations for mines on the Flanders front. Shortly afterwards he was invalided out of the army and resumed his ordinary employment. Attaining his fiftieth birthday, he rejoined the army two days later, this time being attached to the R.F.A. as a gunner. A few weeks ago while on coastal duty, he contracted influenza, and pneumonia developed, from which he died. He was interred at the South Ossett Wesleyan Burial Ground."

Gunner James Frudd was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals and the 1914/15 Star.

Private James Frudd, died from pneumonia on the 14th July 1918, aged 50 years, the husband of Eliza Ann Frudd, of 67, South Parade, Ossett. He is remembered by special memorial at the Ossett (St. John's Methodist) Cemetery,2 South Parade, Ossett.


1. The Tunnelling Companies, Royal Engineers

2. "Ossett Observer", 10th August 1918

3. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site