Regiment: 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Service No.: G/1139
Date and place of birth: 3rd qtr 1885 at Pound Common, Woolbeding, Sussex
Date and place of death: 25 September 1915 (aged 30) at Loos-en-Gohelle, France
Frederick Boniface was one of two men from Trotton killed in the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915.
Frederick Arthur Boniface was born at Pound Common, near Woolbeding in the autumn of 1885, the first child of George Boniface (1857–1937) and his wife, Charlotte née Edwards (born 1863). George, an agricultural labourer, came from Iping and married Charlotte (from Graffham) in the summer of 1884. Their first child Frederick was born the following year. A daughter, Florence Lily, was born in 1889.
By the time of the 1901 census, the family had moved to Dumpford Road, Trotton with both George and Frederick being employed as carters on a local farm. Lily died in 1904 and in 1911 the family were still living in Dumpford.
Frederick enlisted in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment at Chichester in August 1914 and, after his training, he was sent to France on 26 January 1915. The battalion’s first significant engagement in 1915 was in the failed assault on Aubers Ridge in May.
Death and commemoration
On 25 September 1915, the battalion took part in the Battle of Loos, an attempt to break through the German lines north of Lens. This battle was the first major British offensive of the Great War, and the first time the British had used gas. 2nd Royal Sussex were part of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, and their Brigade HQ was in the nearby Le Rutoire Farm. On 25 September 1915 they were attacking the German lines north of Loos. Zero hour was 06:30am, and casualties were heavy: particularly amongst the officers.
The official history of the regiment describes one phase of the battle:
One line of men dwindled in number under the fierce enemy rifle and shell fire until only two or three were left and they, sensibly, flung themselves on the ground. Looking back, these men could see their next line advancing. This line, too, was shot to pieces and its three survivors also stopped and hugged the ground. Then a third line was seen advancing but so concentrated was the German fire that every man in that line was killed or wounded.
During this attack, Sgt. Harry Wells of the 2nd Battalion earned the Victoria Cross posthumously for his bravery in leading his men into the attack.
Frederick Boniface was one of 14 officers and 171 men of the 2nd Battalion who were killed on 25 September 1915. His body was never recovered and is one of over 20,000 men commemorated on the Loos Memorial at “Dud Corner” on the battlefield. He is also commemorated on the Trotton war memorial. Also killed on the same day was Thomas Putman from Trotton.
In December 2008, Frederick Boniface’s 1914-15 Star was part of a lot auctioned by Dix Noonan Webb. The lot (6 items in all) was sold for £130.