The Army

Christopher Bushell photo 2 

On 8 May 1912 he was commissioned as a Special Reserve Officer (Second Lieutenant) in the 1st Battalion The Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment and on 4 August 1914 he went to France with the original British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

In August/September 1914.  Christopher Bushell was in the Retreat from Mons, the long withdrawal to the River Marne by the BEF and the French Fifth Army on the Western Front after their defeat by the German armies at the Battle of Charleroi (21 August) and the Battle of Mons (23 August).

Shortly afterwards Christopher was in action at the First Battle of the Aisne (12 – 15 September 1914) where, on 14 September, he was severely wounded.

The First Battle of the Aisne

In dense fog on the night of 13 September, most of the BEF crossed the Aisne on pontoons or partially demolished bridges, landing at Bourg-et-Comin and at Venizel. At Chivres-Val east of Venizel, there was an escarpment the Germans had selected as their strongest position. The French 5th Army crossed the Aisne at Berry-au-Bac and captured the eastern tip of Chemin des Dames, a steep ridge. Contact was established along the entire front. East of Chemin des Dames, the French 4th, 5th and 9th armies made only negligible progress beyond the positions reached on 13 September. Under the thick cover of the foggy night, the BEF advanced up the narrow paths to the plateau but when the mist evaporated under a bright morning sun, they were mercilessly raked by fire from the flank. Those caught in the valley without the fog’s protective shroud fared no better.

It soon became clear that neither side could budge the other and since neither chose to retreat, the impasse hardened into a stalemate that would lock the antagonists into a relatively narrow strip for the next four years. On 14 September, Sir John French ordered the entire BEF to entrench, but few entrenching tools were available. Soldiers scouted nearby farms and villages for pickaxes, spades and other implements. Without training for stationary warfare, the troops merely dug shallow pits in the soil. These were at first intended only to afford cover against enemy observation and shell fire. Soon the trenches were deepened to about seven feet. Other protective measures included camouflage and holes cut into trench walls then braced with timber.

Trench warfare was also new for the Germans, whose training and equipment were designed for a mobile war to be won in six weeks, but they quickly adapted their weapons to the new situation. Siege howitzers now lobbed massive shells into the Allied trenches. Skilful use of trench mortars and hand and rifle grenades enabled the Germans to inflict great losses upon Allied troops, who had neither been trained nor equipped with these weapons. Searchlights, flares and periscopes were also part of the German equipment intended for other purposes, but put to use in the trenches.

[Adapted from ]

Birkenhead Advertiser - Saturday, 3rd October, 1914

Birkenhead Advertiser – Saturday, 3rd October, 1914


Back in Britain, recuperating, Christopher married Rachel Edith Florence Lambert at the parish church of Saints Gregory & Martin, Wye, Kent, on 24 August 1915. Rachel was the oldest daughter of the Reverend Edgar and Nora Lambert; in 1901 Edgar (42, born Hull) was the vicar at a church in Toxteth Park, Liverpool and Rachel (9) was recorded as having been born in Sunderland. In 1911 Nora and Rachel (19), together with three of Rachel’s young siblings (all born in Liverpool) were recorded as living at Aber Uchaf, Abersoch, Pwllheli.
Canon Lambert was not with his family on census night but is recorded as visiting a Frank Bright Summers in Alton, Hampshire.

Return to France
Following recovery from his injuries Christopher Bushell returned to France in November 1915 and, until June 1916, he was the aide-de-camp (ADC) to the General Officer Commanding (GOC) the 33rd Division, then under the command of Major-General Herman Landon. ADCs were the personal assistant or adjutant to senior commanding officers and, as such, had significant authority. Towards the end of his service as ADC Christopher’s first, and only, child was born on 15 June 1916 and baptised as Elizabeth Hope Bushell at Wye.

Christopher Bushell DSOBy July 1916, at the commencement of the Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November 1916) Christopher had become Staff Captain of the 100th Brigade within the 33rd Christopher Bushell DSODivision. The 100th Brigade contained, with others, Christopher’s own regiment, the 1st Battalion The Queen’s Royal (West Surrey). In December 1916 Christopher was placed in temporary command of 7th (Service) Battalion; this had been formed at Guildford in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army and was under the command of the 55th Brigade, 18 (Eastern) Division. Christopher progressed to be the company commander, the second-in-command and finally the temporary lieutenant colonel – the commanding officer – of the battalion. In both January 1917 and November 1917 Christopher was Mentioned in Despatches (although the details of his actions are unknown) and on 1st January 1918 he was awarded the DSO for ‘distinguished service in the field’.


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