Arthur and Elizabeth Rice, of Belper, had 12 children.  The oldest of the four boys all fought in WW1.

The family saying (somewhat unfairly in reality) was those who volunteered, survived, (John & Herbert) those who where conscripted, didn’t (Cecil and William).

John (“Jack”) Rice –  Private 5637 (later Private.12778) Royal Sussex Reg. – Somme survivor

Born on Sunday 2nd October 1892, John was the fourth child of Arthur and Elizabeth. John started his working career as a shopkeeper’s assistant/grocer, believed to be with his uncle, Freeman Rice, who owned a Grocers shop in Killis Lane, Kilbourn.  On Tuesday 20th April 1915 John enlisted with the Royal Sussex,  in the 3rd (reserve) Regiment. One year later John arrives in France , and along with 42 other men is assigned to  the 7th Battalion, serving in “C” Company .

By Wednesday the 5th July 1916 John  finds himself in at the ALBERT-BOUZINCOURT  line  in the intermediate trenches.  At 6pm the 7th Royal Sussex rendezvous at OVILLIERS POST.  A,B,&D companies are posted to other areas, while “C” company remain at OVILLERS POST with the 8th Royal Fusillers and the 36th Trench Mortar Battery.

Thursday 6th July, 11.15am. After Battalion parades, 7th Royal Sussex are back in the Intermediate trenches. (“A” Coy, front line, “B” coy, BORDER ST, SFT line, “C” & “D” Coy’s with Headquarters at HODDER ST.) 7pm. Commanding Officer gave orders for the attack on OVILLERS at 8.30am tomorrow. Objective  – to advance to East of village of Ovillers.  Advanced on SUNKEN ROAD.  8th Royal Fusillers on Right flank, 9th Royal Fusiliers on Left.

Friday 7th July, in trenches West of  Ovillers.  8.28am. First line “A” coy crawl out of trenches . 8.30am, entire battalion advances.  The 8th Royal Fusiliers on the right received heavy barage of machine gun fire. The 7th Royal Sussex also received share of this fire and were heavily shrapnelled by “whizz bang” guns and “Jack Johnsons”.  On reaching the German line the7th Royal Sussex received enfilade machine gun fire and found Germans decamping or in deep dugouts. Only 20 men of the 7th Royal Sussex and 9th Royal Fusillers reached the 3rd objective. 8.50 am 50 men reached the 2nd objective (German support line)  and 120 men of all companies reached the 1st objective (German fire line)

The Battalion casualties for the 7th & 8th July consisted of 20 officers and 508 other ranks. John was one of these men. On 8th July 1916 he was admitted  to number 34 Casualty Clearing Station in Daours  with “ a gunshot wound to right knee and left ankle”. He recovered and continued to serve, it is believed, with  the 9th Btn.  until the  7th October 1917, when he was  discharged due to “sickness”.

 After this time things become unclear.  Shortly after discharge, we find John in Malta, marrying a Maltese nurse,  Vincenza  “Jessie” Amaira , and working as an engineer’s fitter. John continued living in Malta, until after Jessie was killed in an air-raid in 1942.

John returned to the Belper and lived  in Belper with his youngest brother, Wilfred, for a while. Unfortunately some argument between Wilfred, Herbert and John ensued and John walked out and was not seen again. Later research has found John stayed in Belper in various lodgings, the last of those being in Short Row, ironically close to other members of his family.

Like many of his time, John didn’t talk about the war. In the words of his youngest brother, “He didn’t do much, he was only a batman, he didn’t fight”

John died on Thursday the 28th February 1974, two weeks after his brother, Herbert, and he is buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Belper Cemetery.



Cecil (“See-Cil”) Rice  -  Private 34016 3rd Battalion Sherwood Foresters / Private 239572 472 Agricultural Coy. Labour Corps

Born 1894, Cecil was the 5th child and 2nd son.  Cecil worked as a Brickyard Labourer before being called up on Friday 10th December 1915.

Cecils details are as supplied on the Belper in Wartime website.


Hebert (“Herb”) Rice  -  Private. 5628 (later 632669) 2/20th London Regiment

Born on Friday 6th August 1886, Herbert was the 3rd son.  Brother and close friend to John, he also worked as a shop assistant / grocer before enlisting with the 2/20th London Regiment around the same time as john enlisted, April 1915.

Herbert spent the longest time in service of all the Rice brothers.  He survived and suffered no injuries.

The 2/20th London Bn. formed September 1914. It became part of the 180th brigade, 60th Division, formed in Jan 1915.(Herberts Regimental numbers suggest he enrolled quite early.)

The Division was drafted out to France around May 1916 and stayed until November 1916. The battalion were involved in extending and repairing trenches at Vimy Ridge They did not see any major action, but many minor skirmishes and the loss of some men.

From France they moved on to Macedonia where they fought in the First and Second Battle of Dojran (April 24/25 and May 8/9 1917).

After this, they moved up to Palestine, and whilst on route, this is where Herbert takes the Field Cookery course and becomes regimental cook. (Ismailia, Egypt 2 November 1917)

On arrival in Palestine, the Division was involved in the following:

Third Battle of Gaza. 27 Oct-7 Nov 1917.

Capture of Beersheba. 31 Oct 1917.

Capture of the Sheria Position. 6 Nov 1917.

Capture of Jersusalem. 7-9 Dec 1917.

Defence of Jerusalem. 26-30 Dec 1917.

Capture of Jerico. 19-21 Feb 1918.

First Trans-Jordan raid. 21 Mar-2 Apr 1918.

Second Trans-Jordan raid. 30 Apr-4 May 1918.

In May 1918, the 2/20th were transferred briefly to the 66th Division, serving in France and Flanders, until 19 July 1918 and then transferred again to the 62 Division, where they were involved in :

Second Battle of Bapaume. 31 Aug-3 Sep 1918.

Battle of Havrincourt. 12 Sep 1918.

Battle of the Canal du Nord. 27 Sep-1 Oct 1918, including the capture of Bourlon Wood.

Battle of the Selle. 17-25 Oct 1918.

Battle of the Sambre. 4 Nov 1918, including the passage of the Sambre-Oise canal and the capture of Le Quesnoy.

Occupation of the Rhineland (1918–19). 62nd Division was among those selected for the British Army of Occupation, and set out from Maubeuge on 16 November, led by the 2/20th Bn, marching through liberated Belgian villages until they crossed the frontier at Sinzenich, near Cologne on 24 December. The battalion was billeted at Sinzenich through the winter as part of the Army of Occupation. In March 1919 it moved to Düren to staff a demobilisation centre in the German barracks there.

Herbert was Demobbed in 1919.


William (“Willie”) Rice - Private 39986 7th Leicestershire Regiment

(most details already documented on Belper website)

William was the youngest of the serving brothers and 4th son to Arthur and Elizabeth. Born 1899, William worked as a “brickyard labourer“ with brother Cecil, before being conscripted on 3rd March 1917 at the age of 18. He served with the 7th Leicestershire Regiment in France until being discharged through “sickness” on the 9th May 1918. Family stories tell of William suffering from the effects of mustard gas until his death in 1920.

Williams story is the vaguest of all the 4 serving Rice brothers. Little detail exists of his service and few family members know of his story. Even the one surviving picture of William seems to be to be that of his brother, Cecil.

The information was supplied by their great nephew Tim Whieldon.

The Rice Family Story

© Belper in Wartime