WW1 Remembered – Captain WG Flack M.C. & Bar

The WW1 memorial St Thomas's, Balham.

The WW1 memorial St Thomas’s, Balham.

I happened to be in the local Church this week, whilst looking at the WW1 War Memorial I wondered what I might be able to discover about any names listed. Capt. WG Flack M.C. & Bar seemed to be a good starting point, being an officer and with a gallantry medal (M.C. & Bar) I’m more likely to find records about him.

Wilfred George Flack was born in Garboldisham, Norfolk (England), in 1889 to George and Sarah Flack, his father was a farm labourer. At some point he moved to London and in 1911 was married to Annie Elizabeth Finerty, in the Parish of St. George Hanover Square, London.

Their first child Wilfred George was born the following year in the Parish of St. George Hanover Square.

By 1914 they had moved to Wandsworth, south London (presumably close to St Thomas’s Church, Balham), and had their second child, a daughter called Nora.

At some point in the next few years the family moved to Walthamstow. At time of his death Annie was living at 114 Diana Road, Walthamstow. A quiet suburban street of maisonette apartments in north east London, not at all dissimilar to the Telford Park area around St Thomas’s in Balham.

Captain Flack served with the 1st Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), he would win the Military Cross twice (hence & Bar). The Military Cross is the third level of military decoration (the Victoria Cross being the first)[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Cross.

“[Awarded for] an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land to all members, of any rank in Our Armed Forces”

The 1st Battalion was a regular army Battalion and the Royal Fusiliers did not have any Territorial Forces, so presumably Flack had volunteered and found his way into this regular army Battalion? Rather than being in one of the Battalions of the New Armies[2]http://www.1914-1918.net/royalfus.htm.

In June of 1916 the London Gazette announced he had been promoted to Lieutenant[3]https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30009/supplement/3297/data.pdf.

Military_Cross

The Military Cross

His citation, dated 4th of June 1917 described how he won his Military Medal.[4]https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30466/supplement/572/data.pdf.

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty whilst commanding his company in an attack. He attacked an enemy strong point with a handful of men, and captured it, knocking out a machine gun and killing a number of the enemy. Throughout the operation he displayed great gallantry and a total disregard of all danger”.

The 31st of July 1917 was the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres. It was raining that morning, the men of the 1st and 12th Battalions Royal Fusiliers stood on the firing step waiting for the order to advance. An hour earlier, in torrential rain, their compatriots of the 26th Battalion had failed in an attack on Battle Wood and 160 had been killed.

At Zero hour 1st Battalion, with acting Captain Flack (I think he was still actually a Lieutenant), went “over the top” following just behind a creeping artillery barrage, moments later the men of the 12th would follow in support. With few casualties they crossed the valley as the Germans withdrew until they reached the edge of Shrewsbury Wood. The regimental history simply explains Flacks actions.

“At this point the battalion were held up until Lieutenant Flack’s party rushed it. Flack knocked out the machine gun with a rifle grenade, and was subsequently awarded a bar to the M.C. for this service.”

[5]https://archive.org/stream/royalfusiliersin00onei/royalfusiliersin00onei_djvu.txt

Flack was injured four times in the attack and died on the 7th of September 1917 of his wounds, he was 28 years old. He is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery in France.

WG Flack's grave in France

WG Flack’s grave in France

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References   [ + ]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Cross
2. http://www.1914-1918.net/royalfus.htm
3. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30009/supplement/3297/data.pdf
4. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30466/supplement/572/data.pdf
5. https://archive.org/stream/royalfusiliersin00onei/royalfusiliersin00onei_djvu.txt