Lieut. (Captain) Henry Cohu RANDALL (Machine Gun Officer)
Captured: 24 August 1914 Repatriated: 4 October 1918
Personal: Henry was born in St Peter Port, Guernsey on 2nd December 1887. He was the son of Robert Henry (Brewer, Wine and Spirit Merchant) and Eliza Mary (née Cohu) Randall and had 5 older siblings, Edith Eleanor, Robert William (see Footnote below), Charles Russell Jekyll, Marie Louise Mansell and Elize Orange, and a younger sister, Irene Elfreda.
In 1891 the family was living at Vauxlaurens House, St Julian’s Avenue, St Peter Port, Guernsey. (Census RG 12/4701).
Ten years later (1901 Census RG 13/5320) shows the family at the same address, although father, Robert Henry, had died the previous November at Charing Cross Hospital, London, and son, Robert William, was in charge of the family business.
Robert Henry is pictured left – uniform unknown – possibly the Royal Guernsey Militia. Mother, Eliza Mary, died on 2nd April 1901, just after the Census was taken.
The same Census shows that 13 year old Henry was boarding at Elizabeth College, Grange Road, St Peter Port (RG 13/5320), from where he went on to Sandhurst. Ten years later he was serving in Ireland with his Regiment and was enumerated there.
Henry sailed, with his Regiment, to France in August 1914 and was captured at the Battle of Audregnies on the 24th. He spent the rest of the War as a prisoner in Germany. After the War he returned to the Regiment until on 12th October 1934 he retired as Major on full pay, but was re-employed as Hon Lt. Colonel on 1st February 1944.
He cannot be found on the 1939 Register, nor have any further details of his life, however he became of the Belfast Branch of the Old Contemptibles Association, who recorded his death as 8th January 1969. Probate Records show that he died at ‘Gorteen’, Shimna Park, Newcastle, Co. Down. His estate was valued at £24,283 (equivalent to about £520,000 today – 2023).
Military History: Henry enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment direct from Sandhurst Military Academy.
On 19th September 1908 “The undermentioned Gentleman Cadets from the Royal Military College to be Second Lieutenants” – “The Cheshire Regiment: Henry Cohn Randall in succession to Lieutenant H.S. Hodgkin, promoted“. (London Gazette, September 18, 1908, page 6762) [See also photo at top of page]
However, the London Gazette, September 25, 1908, page 6940) corrected the spelling of Henry’s 2nd forename to Cohu, not Cohn as first reported.
Henry was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st September 1911 and to Captain on 5th December, even though he was already a prisoner-of-war.
The 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, was in Londonderry at the outbreak of the Great War, facing in fact the prospect of civil war in Ireland. 15 Brigade was entirely occupied with this problem when, on the 4th August to everyone’s surprise, orders were received to mobilise for war in Europe.
Most of these Officers, including Henry, sailed to Le Havre, France on 14th August and marched to meet the enemy.
On the morning of 23rd August 1914, the British Expeditionary Force met and engaged the enemy at Mons and the following day was undertaking a fighting retreat against a force of four German regiments.
The 15th Brigade, consisting of 1st Norfolk, 1st Bedford, 1st Cheshire, and 1st Dorset, were ordered to prepare a position in rear and in reserve around Dour. But on the morning of the 24th the order came to send them into action to hold up the enemy advance whilst the remainder of 5th Division withdrew. Both Battalions, 1/Norfolk and 1/Cheshire, marched from Dour to Audregnies and at about 11.00 a.m.
As part of the Headquarters group of the Battalion, Henry was most likely stationed in the farmhouse (pictured right) on the Audregnies – Élouges sunken road, which was taken over as Battalion HQ.
These two machine-gun sections, under the command of Lt. Harry Randall, were put into action from a position near the Head Quarters cottage, between ‘A’ Company on his right and ‘B’ Company on the left.
They created carnage in the ranks of two German columns which were advancing in close order from Quiévrain and the Bois de Deduit. (Source: ‘Ever Glorious‘, Bernard Rigby, Chapter 35)
In an account written by Lt. C.A.K. Matterson after the War, he said: “We were probably opposed by a Division! And this in a position which all the time must have been a hopeless one. We may have gained the time required, but the regiment had been sacrificed. The M. G. (Machine Guns) under Lt. Randall was reported to have done good work, notably Sgt Burrows, Res Taylor, Spenney(?)”
[Those others named were Sgt. 6967 T. Burrows (‘C’ Coy.) and Pte. 7207 J. Taylor, A.R. (‘B’ Coy.) There is no “Spenney” on the role; of the 6 “Spencers“, two are Reservists – Pte. 7558 W. Spencer, A.R. (‘A’ Coy.) and Pte. 7025 B. Spencer, A.R. (‘C’ Coy.). All were captured and taken prisoner.]
Lt. Col. Boger wrote of him ‘Lt. H.C. Randall fought the machine guns with skill and contempt of danger under heavy fire’. After his return to England Henry went on to help Crookenden in preparing the Roll of Honour in “The Cheshire Regiment in the Great War“.
Sometime during the day, however, Henry was captured and he spent the rest of the War as a prisoner in Germany. A little is known of his various camps: from 3rd September to 24th November 1914 he was at Torgau and according to ‘O’Rorke on their arrival at Torgau on 4th September 1914: ‘an energetic subaltern of the Cheshire Regiment, H.C. Randall by name, postponed his own meal in order to cater for our wants’. [Source: ‘In the Hands of the Enemy; Being the Experiences of a Prisoner of War‘, by
On 24th November 1914 Henry and other Officers moved out to Burg and on 6th January 1915 he was at Magdeburg.
On 29th December 1917 Henry arrived in Holland as an internee along with Lt. Col. D.C. Boger, Captains A.J.L. Dyer, W.L.E.R. Dugmore, Lieutenants W.G. Elliot, G.S. Jacobs, R.H. Bolton and I Fairweather, and Major B.H. Chetwynd-Stapylton
On 13th -14th June 1918 Henry (and his sister), were ‘At home’ at Sheveningham in Holland with other Cheshire Officers and wives at ‘The Blighty Hut’, including Lt. Col. Boger, Major and Mrs B.H. Chetwynd-Stapylton, Captains A.J.L. Dyer, W.L.E.R. Dugmore, and B.E. Massy, Lt. G.S. Jacobs and Lt. and Mrs C.A.K. Matterson. (Source: Oak Tree Magazine)
Henry finally arrived back in England on 4th October 1918. Between 22nd November 1918 and 31st March 1922 he was attached to a Staff post in Hull and Southampton and remained in the Army until on 12th October 1934 Henry retired as Major on full pay, but was re-employed as Hon Lt. Colonel on 1st February 1944.
Henry was one of the 40+ former comrades and serving soldiers who attended the 50th Anniversary Reunion at Audregnies in 1964.
Although identified as a “Sergeant-Major” Henry was photographed for the local press in Mons alongside a Vickers machine gun “… which remained buried on the battlefield during all the hostilities.”
(This gun is now an exhibit in the Mons Memorial Museum – right)
Henry died at ‘Gorteen’, Shimna Park, Newcastle, Co. Down, Ireland, on 8th January 1969.
When the Royal Guernsey Militia was reconstituted in 1922, Henry’s brother, Robert William Randall was made Honorary Lieutenant Colonel.
A family history website states that he was: “Aide de Camp to the Monarch” between 1928 and 1953, attending the Coronation of George VI in Westminster Abbey in May 1937.