The Tebbutt Family at War: Louis and his three sons, Oswold, Roger and Charles.
Born in Bluntisham, Hunts, Louis was the son of a bank manager and farmer named Charles Tebbutt. He attended school at Hitchin where he excelled at German, by the time he left he was fluent and soon applied to study overseas. He was accepted into the Technische Hochshule at Darmstadt just south of Frankfurt where he studied for several years, after which he remained in Germany and quickly found work.
By the summer of 1887 Louis was living in Saxony but returned to Cambridge where he married his fiancée Edith Neville Goodman. After permanently moving back to Britain he found work with the East Anglian Cement Company, a company for which he later became the managing director. Louis and Edith settled in Cambridge and had five children (three sons and two daughters), the youngest of which was born in 1899.
In May 1890 Louis started his long association with the Cambridgeshire Regiment when he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in their forebears, the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Suffolk Regiment. He was soon promoted to Lieutenant and within two years was made Captain. The newly promoted Captain Tebbutt was posted to H (Ely) Company where he was to prove a popular officer and he continued to serve there as the Company Commander till 1903.
Promoted to Major in August 1903 Louis initially served as the Officer Commanding of the Fenland Companies (E – H Coys) before transferring over to OC of the HQ Companies (A – D Coys) at Cambridge. In 1905, while under pressure from his role at the cement works, Louis suffered a stroke, but soon returned to both work and his duties with the Battalion. He kept his commission after the Volunteers changed over to the Territorial Force in 1908 and by 1911 his long, dedicated service was recognised with the promotion to Lt-Col and the position of Commanding Officer.
When war broke out in August 1914 Lt-Col Tebbutt had the distinction of being the first of the Battalion’s wartime Commanding Officers, unfortunately it was not to last long. A month after the outbreak of the War Louis was found to be unfit for overseas service due to his earlier stroke and was offered command of the newly formed Reserve Battalion. The pressures since mobilisation and the blow of losing his beloved battalion proved too much for the 52-year-old and in mid-September he was diagnosed as suffering from nervous prostrations and overstrain.
Shortly after recovering Louis received the devastating news of the loss of his eldest son, Oswold, who was killed in action while serving with the 1/1st Cambs in March 1915. Just weeks after hearing of this terrible news Lt-Col Tebbutt tried repeatedly to get declared as medically fit for overseas service, even applying for any available commission in Kitchener’s New Army. After over two years of trying he finally got his wish and arrived in France on July 20th 1917 as an Area Commandant.
While his role as a Commandant in rear echelon areas should have kept Louis well away from the front line he was caught up in the fighting in the chaotic retreat during the German Spring Offensive in March 1918. He was evacuated back to the UK suffering from shell shock. After recovering he returned to France and took up his Area Commandant duties at Amiens, where, in late August, he received the devastating news of the loss of his second son, Roger.
Lt-Col Tebbutt remained overseas after the Armistice, serving in Cologne as Commandant until July 1919 when he returned home. He finally resigned his commission due to his age in May 1921 after 31 years service. Tragedy once again struck the Tebbutt family in 1925 when the youngest and only surviving son, Charles, drowned in an ice skating accident. Charles, like his brothers, had served with the 1/1st Cambs in France and Flanders.
Louis busied himself in his retirement with a wide variety of public duties including serving as a Justice of the Peace, a position his father had previously held. He remained closely connected to the Cambridgeshire Regiment after it was reformed as part of the Territorial Army, regularly attending the regimental functions and reunions. He died in Cambridge on February 14th 1947.
In July 2016, during our two-day event at Ely Museum, thanks to the support of Major Mike Jarvis, we were able to display the medals of Lt Col Louis Tebbutt and place them alongside those of Lt Col Archer and Lt Col Copeman. This was the first time that the medals of the first three wartime commanding officers of the Cambs had been together since the Second World War. Also on display at the event were the medal sets and memorial plaques to Oswold and Roger Tebbutt.
It was an honour to be able to display these important medals and inform people of the service and sacrifice of the Tebbutt family. Sadly, since the event these medals have now gone into storage with a national museum. It is our sincere hope that they will one day be back on public display in Cambridgeshire.
Surprisingly Charles’ medals were not with those of his family and their whereabouts remain a mystery.
This site went live on the 14th February 2015 to mark 100 years since the 1/1st Cambs went off to war.
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM
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