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'The Rimes Cup' Albert Sidney Rimes

Each year riders from the Peterborough Cycling Club compete in a 22 mile time trial road race, one of the toughest and most sought after events they hold. They have been riding this race or versions of it, since 1922 and the winner holds the trophy for a year. The origins of the event can be found in Fletton.

The trophy was presented to the club by Mr Walter Rimes in memory of his son, Albert Sidney, who for many years before World War 1 had been an exceptionally well known and respected local racing cyclist. He was killed in the war, and this is his story.

The Sydney Rimes Cup

Albert Sidney Rimes was born in 1892 in Churwell, Yorkshire, to Walter and Sarah Ethel Rimes, nee Hall. Albert was Walter and Sarah’s first son. Although Walter had two sons: James Edward and Walter Arthur, from a previous marriage to Alice Mary Quincey, who died at the age of 25 in 1887. Walter and Sarah were married on 11th September 1892 in the parish church of St. Peters, Morley, York. Walter was a railway signalman and Sarah was recorded in the 1891 census as being his housekeeper. Sarah’s birthplace was the same as Walter’s, Farcet, so it would seem likely that they already knew each other before Walter moved away with his employment on the railways. Their marriage would be a long one and Albert would become one of 13 children.

L-R back row: Ethel, Arthur, Sidney, Ted, George, Archie, Kate

L-R front row: Frank, Charles, Dick, Walter, Sarah, Elsie, Ann, Nel

Albert, at 18, was an apprentice linotype operator (typeface setter) at the Peterborough Standard and a private in the Northamptonshire Battery, Royal Field Artillery. He had signed for 4 years home service in February 1911.

By 1914, the war having started in August, Albert was still an apprentice and on 24 October 1914, he signed his short service attestation to commit to three years’ service, or the wars duration. He signed on one month later than his younger brother, Thomas Archie.

Such was the euphoria at the thought of service 2,675,149 men such as Albert volunteered in the UK. To encourage this euphoria, the war office allowed the creation of pals battalions, allowing groups of men who enlisted together to serve together.

There were many types of pals battalions, based on geographical area, schools, work, or sport. It is almost certain, given his cycling skills, that Albert would have chosen a quasi pals battalion being raised by his county regiment, the 7th (service) Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, The ‘Mobbs Own’. He was joined here by his brother.

Albert leaving from Peterborough train station - 2nd on left from the front (Great Northern Hotel in the background)

The Mobbs Own was the plan of Edgar Mobbs, a Northampton Saints and England rugby player. His idea was to create a battalion of sportsmen, based on Northampton Saints but welcoming other sportsmen. His plan was on hold for a while as until October 1914 he was too old to volunteer, however at that point the battalion was formed and Albert and Thomas joined. Albert with his brother, were posted to ‘C’ Company, one of four rifle companies and his rather basic training began.

His first RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major) was a 55 year old portly veteran with a squint. The RSM’s first duty was to install army discipline into men like Albert. Difficult when the only uniforms were blue and ex Post Office, and sticks were used as rifles. The RSM regularly shouted at the men on parade, but because of the squint, nobody knew who was at fault.

The Battalion moved from Northampton to the South Downs and into billets in Southwick between November 1914 and April 1915. In June 1915 they moved to Woking. Albert’s training lasted six months. On 1st September 1915, he and the 7th arrived in France. They were New Army replacements, after the destruction of the Regular Army in 1914, and the Territorial Reserves in May 1915. Immediately after landing, Albert marched to the front to take part in the Battle of Loos.

This battle was the first major offensive by the British in the war. The aim was to be a war winner. It was termed ‘The Big Push’. It was an abject failure. Albert and the battalion were ordered to take over a trench won at great cost by the Highland Light Infantry. The Germans counter attacked on the 21st September 1915. In bitter fighting the battalion lost a quarter of its strength, and the trench. Of the 250 men wounded, one was Albert, another was Thomas. Albert sustained a bullet wound to his back and was evacuated, eventually to England. Thomas, after recovering, transferred to the Royal Engineers.

Albert returned, after months in hospital, to his battalion in March 1916. In June 1916, preparations were made for another offensive, the infamous Somme. The aim of this battle was to break through to open ground, cause huge attrition of German numbers and relieve the French at Verdun. Albert didn’t take part on the first day of the attack, the blackest day in the British Army’s history, but his battalion did attack on the 15th July 1916 at Guillemont. The casualty list was one third of nominal strength, including Albert. They achieved no gains. Albert had again been shot, this time through the wrist. The Somme battles continued to November 1916 at a cost of around 450,000 British casualties and a maximum of seven miles of gains.

Albert returned to his battalion in December 1916. In 1917 the major battle that Albert was part of was the Battle of Arras, specifically Vimy ridge. This ridge dominated both sides of the lines, to hold it meant that you could observe the enemy, but he couldn’t see you. Attacks had been tried six times previously, the closest to success being the Moroccans, but on 9th April 1917 the Canadian Corps stormed the ridge with Albert and his battalion in support. In addition to this support, the battalion took part in three separate attacks, Albert survived.

For the rest of 1917, Albert and his battalion were on line duty, approximately 10 days per month. Each 10 days there would be an average of 20 casualties; this was, in military terms, called ‘wastage’. Effectively, it was, on long term soldiers like Albert, a death sentence as the law of averages could not be avoided. But Albert survived 1917. Edgar Mobbs, the Battalion’s founder, did not.

On 21st March 1918, the Germans opened Operation Michel. This was an attack on the British to drive them from the war. The German’s hope was that with superiority in numbers following their victory in Russia, and before the newly engaged Americans arrived, and with the French in deep trouble following their mutinies, they could drive a wedge through the British Army. This would force the British to the Channel coast and out of the war.

It was, initially, a huge success, the British were driven back nearly fifty miles. In the small railway station at Churchy, on the 25th March, near the town of Nestle, Albert and a group of his battalion were surprised by German soldiers during a counter attack. As they dived for cover in a nearby trench, Bill Poole, one of Albert’s friends from civilian life, was shot in the legs. Albert jumped from the trench to rescue him, but was shot at close range in the head. He died instantly.

Bill Poole was presumably 17551 Corporal William Poole of 295 Lincoln Road, Peterborough. He was in ‘C’ Company, was taken prisoner, but died in Germany on 31st July 1918.

The German attack stalled at Amiens. By August 1918 the British and Dominion forces regrouped, attacked and within a hundred days the war was won.

Albert had served at the front for three and a half years. He had been badly wounded twice. By March 1918 he was one of the few originals of the Battalion left, he was a veteran. Yet he still left the safety of his trench to bring back a wounded friend, he died in an act of heroism.

He is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial to the Fallen. Although Albert has no marked grave, it is believed that he lies in one of the two graves marked ‘Men from the 7th battalion Northamptonshire Regt killed 25th March 1918’ in the Pargny War Cemetery, near Nesle, France. He is remembered in St Margaret’s, our Church. He is also remembered by those cyclists, who still, 100 years later, compete for a Trophy in memory of his name, his service.

This blog was written by Derek Smith and Sadie McMullon

Photographs and Family Contribution made by Phil Bradley and James Knighton

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