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24/2116 Sergeant Cecil Ernest Webb  - New Zealand Rifle Brigade

Cecil Ernest Webb was born in Wellington on the 14th August 1888 the eldest son of Richard Attew and Mary
(nee Llewellyn ) Webb.[i]

Cecil had one older sister, Edith Llewellyn and five younger siblings.

Cecil was living with his parents at 1 Sutherland Street, Melrose, Wellington when he enlisted on the 16th November 1915, in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). Cecil’s military papers note that he was a single man working as a clerk in the Mines Department of the New Zealand Government.[ii]

Cecil entered camp as 24/2116 Private Cecil Ernest Webb, F Company, 10th Reinforcements. During training Private Webb was promoted to Corporal and was also attached to the 4th Reinforcements, New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB).

Corporal Webb departed New Zealand on the New Zealand Rifle on 5th March 1916 for Egypt arriving on the 13th April 1916 before being shipped to France where he arrived in 26th April 1916. The normal practice was that NCO’s from reinforcements lost their temporary ranks on arrival. Lance Corporal Webb was assigned to C Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd NZRB. The New Zealand Division were operating in a quiet sector, Armentieres, training for the type of warfare employed on the Western Front.

It is possible that during the time in Armentieres that Lance Corporal Webb was able to meet with his younger brother 8/809 Private Arthur Llewellyn Webb, 1st Otago Battalion.

On the 15th September 1916 the New Zealand Division went ‘over the top’ at the Battle of the Somme. At zero hour,
6.20 a.m., the allies opened an intense barrage on the German trenches. After six minutes this barrage began to creep forward at a rate of 50 yards per minute towards the Switch Trenches which were the first objective. The 2nd Auckland and 2nd Otago’s were the first to leave the front lines. Ten minutes after zero the C Company and B Company
of the 4th Battalion 3rd NZRB moved into the attack.[iii] 

Lance Corporal Cecil Webb was wounded in the first day of battle and was evacuated from the field, with wounds to his
hip, leg and back, to a casualty clearing station and then to the 1st South African Stationary Hospital at Rouen where he
was stabilised and then evacuated to the No 1 New Zealand General Hospital, Broackenhurst.

At Brockenhurst Lance Corporal Webb would have seen his sister Edith Llewellyn Webb. Edith a trained maternity nurse[iii] had made her way to England and potential was working as a nurse or ambulance driver at Brockenhurst. Edith in 1918 married[iv]  3/2033 Private Ian Buchanan MacDonald, New Zealand Medical Corp[v] .

While at Brockenhurst Edith and Cecil would have been informed that their younger brother Private Arthur Llewelly Webb had died of wounds on the 27th August 1916 during the later stages of the New Zealand Division’s engagement on the Somme.

Lance Corporal Webb left Brockenhurst on the 16th October 1916 moving to a convalescent hospital at Codford where he remained until the 15th January 1917 when he was fit again for active service.

Lance Corporal Webb at Sling Camp he was placed first into a Reserve unit and then into the 9th (Wellington East Coast Rifles), 3rd Battalion, Wellington Infantry.  

On the 28th May 1917 Lance Corporal Webb returned to France he remained with the 9th Company to February 1918. Lance Corporal Webb was promoted to Corporal on the 5th October 1917 and then to Sergeant on the 16th December 1917.[vi]

On the 17th March 1918 Sergeant Webb was transferred to the No3 Entrenching Battalion and remained with the unit until the 13th August 1918 when he was transferred to D Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd NZRB.

The NZ Rifle Brigades were moving up to take part in the Second Battle of Bapaume. The aim was to capture the area with it’s important road network and continue pressure on German Forces
in the area. The first attempt to encircle Bapaume was stopped by
the weather conditions and stiff German defence. The second attempt on the 26th August 1918 attack by the NZ Rifle Brigade was hampered by the lack of artillery barrage and without armoured support. Despite heavy machine gun fire the Battalions all made
their initial objectives but were held up by the strongly defended villages St Aubin and Beugnatre to the northeast of Bapuame. The attack petered out and the Battalions consolidated their
positions.[vii]


NZ Battalion moving through recapture Bapaume Sept 1918



It was during this action that 24/2116 Sergeant Cecil Ernest Webb was killed, he was
buried on the battlefield and then reburied in the Vaulx Hill Cemetery with 56 other
members of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade who were also killed on the 26th August
1918.


24/2116 Sergeant Cecil Ernest Webb - Vauxl Cemetery, France 



Sergeant Cecil Ernest Webb and his younger brother Private Arthur Llewelly Webb
are remembered on bell No 35 ‘Rongomai in the carillon at the National War
Memorial, Wellington. The bell was donated by the Webb family.

In 1921 the Webb Memorial Cup was donated to Plimmerton School, it is attributed
to the memory of Sergeant Webb but possibly it was for Private Webb. Private Webb
was a trainee teacher who enlisted as an 18 year old, was a veteran of Gallipoli, and
died just 20 at the Battle of the Somme.

References:
Official History of the Otago Regiment, NZEF in the Great War 1914 – 1918
Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 8/809 Private Arthur Llewelyn Webb
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 24/2116 Sergeant Cecil Ernest Webb
NZ BDM online
Paperspast online

Photos
NZ Battalion moving through recaptured Bapaume Sept 1918 - RSA Collection
24/2116 Sergeant Cecil Ernest Webb, Vaulx Cemetery: NZ Wargraves Project
Fight at the Quarry outside Bapaume: George Edmund Butler - Archway Actives New Zealand. 

 [i] NZ BDM
[ii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 24/2116 Sergeant Cecil Ernest Webb
[iii] Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade
[iv] Personal Notes from London, 13 June 1918, Evening Post.
[v] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 3/2033 Private Ian Buchanan MacDonald
[vi] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 24/2116
[vii] Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade

  

  
Fight at the Quarry outide Bapaume 1918