Son of Joseph and Sarah Brown of Victoria Street,
Wetherby; husband of Eliza Brown of 7, Exchange Street, Hunslet, Leeds.
Charley Brown was born at Wetherby in 1885, the son of Joseph, occupation, a Horse Breaker/Groom, and Sarah Brown.
The 1901 Census details record that at this juncture, Charley had found employment as an Errand Boy (Post), his father's
occupation now being described as that of a Domestic Groom.
Moving to the City of Leeds at some point between the years 1901-1905, Charley entered a union of marriage in the
latter year with one Florence Mary Savage, the couple eventually setting up their marital home at Number 7, Exchange Street,
off Wilson Street, Hunslet. The couple would be blessed with the birth of two children, Edna May in May 1910 and Florence
Ursula in May 1914 respectively. (Authors note: The area of Hunslet that contained Exchange Street has now long since vanished
in the slum clearances of the City. The position of the street however now equates to an area off Low Road and Church Street
close to the modern day Penny Hill Shopping Centre).
enlisted into the British Army in late August or in the early days of September 1914 at Leeds. It was estimated that over
100 recruits per day were enlisting in Leeds as a consequence of the first proclamation of Kitchener's 'Call to Arms,'
a request for 100,000 men to join the Colours issued on the 11th August but this number was increasing rapidly. Such was the
influx of men willing to enlist, the Recruiting Depot located in Hanover Square was proving to be far from adequate for the
purpose, so to expedite the recruitment process, a 'new' Recruiting Depot was opened on the 3rd September at the Tramway
Depot located in Swinegate. Attesting for military service and after undergoing a preliminary medical examination, Charley
Brown was now deemed to have enlisted. Assigned the serial number 12765, he would ultimately be posted to the 10th (Service)
Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment.
After a dramatic
response to the first 'Call to Arms,' a second proclamation was made on the 28th August requesting a further 100,000
men to join the Colours. Once again men flocked to their local recruitment offices across the country but amongst the patriotic
crowds of men now joining the 'New Armies,' there was an emphasis placed on the recruitment of those who had previous
military service such as non-commissioned officers and drill instructors to train these new units. This shortfall of trained
military personnel would prove to be problematic across the whole formation of the Kitchener's 'New Armies' but
still men continued to enlist.
The Leeds Mercury
reported on the 11th September that the Prime Minister, in a statement made to the House of Commons, declared that the
number of recruits enlisting into the army since war had been declared now numbered about 439,000 men, exclusive of those
in the Territorial Force. In Leeds, the number of men who passed through the Swinegate Depot the day previously now brought
the City of Leeds contribution to Lord Kitchener's 'Army' up to about 5,000 men. In addition, Leeds had also commenced
to raise its own "Pals" Battalion, the Leeds City Battalion, recruitment moving apace at both the Town Hall and
the Hanover Square Recruitment Office to find 1,200 men, this being completed and exceeded by the 8th September.
After the first 'Call to Arms,' Army Order 324 was issued on the
21st August, this authorising the creation of six new divisions comprising purely of the Kitchener's Volunteers. Designated
K1, and with each battalion designated as a 'Service' Battalion, i.e. formed for the duration of the war,
these six divisions comprised of the 9th (Scottish) Division, 10th (Irish) Division, 11th (Northern) Division, 12th (Eastern)
Division, 13th (Western) Division and the 14th (Light) Division. Similarly, the second 'Call to Arms' resulted in
the issuing of Army Order 382 on the 11th September authorising another six new divisions. Designated K2, these six
divisions comprised of the 15th (Scottish) Division, 16th (Irish) Division, 17th (Northern) Division, 18th (Eastern) Division,
19th (Western Division) and the 20th (Light) Division. In addition to K1 & K2, Army Order 388 was issued
on the 13th September authorising the formation of another six divisions. Designated K3, these divisions were not
issued titles and were more diverse in composition but it is now that we will turn our attentions to the 10th (Service) Battalion,
West Yorkshire Regiment, contained in the 17th (Northern) Division.
17th (Northern) Division
The 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment was formed at York on the 3rd September 1914 as part of K2
of the New Armies. The battalion was contained in the 50th Infantry Brigade that also consisted of the following units:-
7th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment
7th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green
6th (Service) Battalion, Dorset Regiment
Recruits for the 10th West Yorkshire's were
drawn not only from Yorkshire but from the numerous counties of both England and Wales and from a variety of trades and professions.
Men such as Thomas George Burtoft, a Miner and a native of Usworth, County Durham. Robert Porter, a Rubber Worker from Aston,
Birmingham, born at Meerut, India, and Wilfred Ball, a native of Newport, Monmouthshire and an adopted child who had in fact
enlisted aged 16 years at Bath.
On the 6th September
1914, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Walker was appointed to command the fledgling battalion. A Scotsman by birth, Walker had already
witnessed a varied and illustrious military career. Serving in Afghanistan and west Africa with the 14th Foot, Second Battalion,
West Yorkshire Regiment, he retired from the service in 1899 upon attaining the rank of Major. Serving in various capacities
at home, he was then appointed to command the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment with which he served
in South Africa. Appointed Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, it was no doubt due to his experience, that he was recalled to
command a battalion of the New Army.
On the 24th
September 1914 (London Gazette dated the 22nd), Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Tom Reay C.B. was appointed the rank of Temporary
Brigadier-General and placed in command of the 50th Infantry Brigade. Commissioned into the 63rd Foot Regiment in 1875, Reay
would initially serve as a Probationer on the Indian Staff Corps and in 1882 serve as a Captain in the Manchester Regiment
in the Anglo-Egyptian War. Posted to the 1st Battalion of the Regiment as Adjutant in 1884, he would eventually rise to the
rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1899 and command the 2nd Battalion, Manchesters throughout the course of the Boer War. Upon
completion of his service, Reay would be placed on 'half pay' on the 6th October 1903 and serve on the Commands and
Staff until February 1911 whereupon he was officially placed on Retired Pay in March of the following year.
On the 18th September (London Gazette dated 6th October 1914), Major-General
Walter Rupert Kenyon-Slaney C.B. was appointed to command the 17th (Northern) Division. Joining the 4th Battalion, Rifle Brigade
(Prince Consort's Own) in 1869 as an Ensign by purchase, Slaney was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1871 after conducting
service in both India and Aden. Rising to the rank of Captain and promoted to Adjutant in 1881, this appointment expired in
1886 whereupon he was seconded for service as an Adjutant of Auxiliary Forces. Attaining the rank of Major after service in
Egypt, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1897 before being placed on 'half pay' in 1901. Serving
on the Staff in South Africa as a Special Service Officer and then a Lieutenant-Colonel and Brevet Colonel (Local Brigadier-General
commanding the Middelburg District, Transvaal), it was in 1907 that Kenyon- Slaney was awarded the C.B. and promoted to the
rank of Major-General in the following year. Confirmed in the rank of a Brigade Commander in 1909, in September 1913 and after
a colourful military career spent on many continents, Slaney was then placed on retired pay.
Training: The Camp
With the respective battalions of the division concentrating at their Home Stations, it soon became apparent for
the need to find more suitable areas for the men of the New Armies to commence their training. In early September 1914 and
to this end, the units that comprised the 17th (Northern) Division had received orders to move southwards to Dorset. Arriving
at Wareham, the allocated camp being located at Worgret to the west of the town, the camp consisted of tented accommodation
but few in number for the substantial amounts of men arriving in the town. Initially men were billeted in various local establishments
such as church and chapel schools as at the camp there was very little else in the shape of beds, tables and established cooking
facilities. Luxuries afforded to the men such as tobacco and a decent cooked meal were non existent, one soldier of the 7th
(Service) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment reporting that "Last night our tea consisted of hard biscuits
and jam, and sweet tea with no milk in it." Privations even extended to the lack of blankets as well as the essential
necessities of life such as boots and clothing. Local organisations however provided many comforts for the men, the people
of Bournemouth for example collecting camp blankets, wool shirts, books and periodicals which were delivered to the camps
located at Wareham and Wool. A large tent was also established by the Y.M.C.A. by the Finchley Association under the control
of the Secretary, Mr. T.D. Johnston, the latter having previously administered the St. Albans establishment for the London
Despite woeful organisation on the
part of the military, the camp slowly began to establish itself. Discipline in the initial stages of training had proved to
be rather problematic but this was more due to the transition being made from civilian to soldier. Order had to be created
and to this end, those with previous military service came to the fore in the form of both officers and N.C.O.'s. The
7th (Service) Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, 51st Infantry Brigade of the 17th Division had one particular distinguished
veteran amongst their number, one Lance-Sergeant George Henry Wetherall. Enlisting into the Special Reserve on the 9th September
1914 aged 69 years, this veteran had originally served in the Militia and had volunteered his services as a Drill Instructor
with the 7th Battalion located at Wool. Assigned a squad and noted as "exceptionally smart," George would
be discharged after completing one years service with the Colours in February 1916, an incredible man no doubt who, like old
soldiers do, 'faded away' in 1918.
was an absence of uniformity amongst the men as uniforms were virtually non-existent. Parades were conducted with the men
dressed in a variety of clothing and as regards rifle training, a few 'Drill Purpose' rifles had been acquired but
not sufficient in number. Uniforms of a sort however did begin to arrive in October but these were an eclectic mix comprising
of old pe-war regular and militia uniforms, the men truly resembling soldiers of "Fred Karno's Army" no doubt
much to everyone's amusement. Route marches and various drills were now introduced to the training programme as their
development from civilian to soldier progressed apace. A fascinating insight into life in the camp is provided by Private
Ernest George Hopkinson, 13692, 10th West Yorkshire's and a native of Westfield Terrace, Mytholmroyd. Serving previously
with the Todmorden Volunteer Corps and completing his terms of enlistment, Ernest enlisted at Halifax on the 7th September
1914. Writing to his brother, William, who would also serve in the war with the Royal Engineers, the letter was published
in the Todmorden and District News dated the 16th October 1914, a lengthy extract of which is as follows:-
"From Monday morning to Saturday they had to turn out of bed at
5-30 in the morning, wash in cold water in buckets outside, clean out tents, shake their blankets, of which they had at least
two each, and put them out into the open air and sun until afternoon. The tents had to be swept out and all the bits of paper
picked up and burnt with the other rubbish. This has to be followed by dressing for the first parade at 7 o'clock, which
continues for an hour. The parade consists of Swedish drill, arm swinging, body bending, hopping, jumping, running, leap frog,
and other forms of exercises, which makes them have good appetites for their breakfast, which is served at eight o'clock.
The meal consists of bread and cheese, jam, marmalade, boiled ham and tea. Of course those things were not all served at one
meal, but alternated. The next parade was with the rifles and drill for army training, of which their is plenty; this occupied
from nine until 12.30. Dinner consists of stewed meat, mixed with all kinds of vegetables, boiled in egg-shaped buckets, one
being sufficient for two tents, containing 28 men. Each battalion has its own cook house and there are about 1,200 men in
a battalion. About 700 troops belonging to different regiments are in camp. The next drill extends from 2 until 5 o'clock
and is for rifle training, company and battalion drills. Tea consists of jam, cheese and bread, and once they had salmon.
The margarine is eaten to the accompaniment of all kinds of language known, but he would not say any more about the delicious
substance. After tea they were "on their own" until nine o'clock and they spent the time walking into the village
and getting a little supper, and he was sure the shopkeepers and others were making fortunes, as they had not had such a busy
time in all their lives. All lights have to be out in camp 10-15, but most of the men are in bed by nine o'clock. During
the night search-lights played all around the camp and sea, but they could not tell where the lights came from, but they are
a few miles away. It has been lovely during the moonlight nights; it was so bright that they could see to read the newspaper.
They had route marches varying from eight to seventeen miles a day. After the long walks they had no drill, but feet inspections
and lectures, two or three of the latter being given each week on discipline etc. The people in the district appear to be
easy going and do not appear to do much work. The chief occupation is farming, fruit and vegetable growing. Fruit was very
cheap, and blackberries most plentiful, and the people did not know what to do with them. They had lots of pets in camp, of
which the men were very fond. He wished they could see the men washing their towels, shirts, socks etc., and ends up by declaring
that they will be "full-blown washerwomen" some day.
Writing later on behalf of himself and Harold Barker (Authors note, 13693), he says the Young Men's
Christian Association is doing a very good work among the troops. They have erected a large marquee for the comfort and pleasure
of the troops in the evenings. There is singing and games, accommodation for writing, and various kinds of amusements, which
all go to make the evenings happy for those who attend. On Saturday evening they had a concert given by ladies and gentlemen
from Bournemouth, who willingly gave their services for the good of the troops. There were present the Brigadier-General,
and several other officers, and the General said he hoped to see them all march to Berlin, to which there were loud cries
of "hear, hear." The officer promised to purchase footballs in order that the company matches might take place for
a cup which he would present. Lots of generous people visit the camp and send various gifts, consisting of overcoats, socks,
shirts, towels, cigarettes and other articles. The trees and plants, said the writer, were in full bloom, but he supposed
all the leaves would have fallen at Mytholmroyd. In the early hours of the day it was very cold, and the mist from the sea
was heavy, but the men soon got warmed up with exercise. After the mist had cleared away the sun came out in all its glory
and the heat was almost unbearable; indeed, at times numbers of men had to be carried away. The letter concludes with a wish
to be remembered to all at Mytholmroyd Church Institute."
Autumn & Winter 1914: Industrial Disputes, Rain & Vaccination
Towards the end of the month of September, a suitable number of tents had
arrived to establish the camp as a more 'permanent' facility. This was all well and fine as the month had been one
of glorious weather but as autumn approached, there was a pressing need to turn the camp into one consisting of hutted accommodation.
In October, men who had been exposed to the vagaries of a wet autumn now began to fall ill and to compound matters further,
a workers dispute over the erection of huts arose. Carpenters engaged in construction and employed as 'day workers'
were alarmed at the fact that those assigned 'piece work' were able to work more hours during the day. After consultation,
delegates of those employed on a daily rate approached the contractor for an extra penny an hour, double pay also being a
requisite if required to work on a Sunday. The number of hours to be worked was also discussed with the contractor, and, if
terms were not met, it was suggested that they performed a strike action which was ultimately initiated. After prolonged discussion,
the matter was only resolved by the intervention of Lord Kitchener himself by adopting a rather 'tactical' approach.
Kitchener intimated that he fully recognised that there were others such as munitions workers who were doing their duty for
the King, this tactful statement eventually led to more productive dialogue and the dispute was settled between the strikers
and the contractors.
Discipline however was still
proving to be problematic. A soldier of the 6th Dorsets appeared before Mr Stephen White Bennett at the Police Court, Wareham,
on the 14th October charged with attempting to steal money from a till at the Lord Nelson Public House, North Bridge, Wareham.
After formal evidence was taken, on the following day the soldier was bound over. Appearing before Mr Bennett on the same
day was a Private of the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment. The charges laid before the Court were that between the 1st -
9th October, the accused was charged with "feloniously stealing certain post letters, the property of the officer
commanding the Regiment." Lieutenant and Quarter-master Green (Authors note: John James Green), gave evidence that
the prisoner was employed as a regimental postman and included in his duties was to fetch the mail from the Post Office at
Wareham and carry them back to camp. Suspected of theft, the Quarter-master ordered the Private to be searched and upon doing
so, in his pockets were found to be letters addressed to the men of the 10th West Yorkshire's. The letters had been opened
and the accused handed over to the civil authorities. It transpired that he had been witnessed opening letters in his tent,
a bundle of nine letters being found on his person. His duties involved the sorting of the letters upon which he would hand
them over to a Corporal of the various companies for distribution. The Private denied the charges and was subsequently placed
on remand for a period of three months whereupon in January 1915, the prisoner was sentenced to three months hard labour.
It was not just military personnel that transgressed the rule of law. A
young lady of just nineteen years was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment at Shepton Mallet Jail for having solicited from soldiers
in the town of Wareham. Having a previous record for similar offences, her 'activities' were witnessed by a constable
on plain clothes duty and she was subsequently arrested.
At the beginning of the month of November, the weather began to take a turn for the worse with the men still occupying
tented accommodation. The battalion had also been vacinated, possibly against T.B. by the camp Medical Officer, Lieutenant
Douglas William Hunter M.B., so as one can imagine, they possibly felt slightly unwell and in low spirits not only due to
the weather but also of the effects of the inoculation. An extract of a further letter from Private Ernest Hopkinson of Mytholmroyd
to his brother published in the Todmorden & District News dated the 13th November describes the chaos that ensued due
to the adverse weather conditions but the letter also contained a rather poignant statement as regards the character of the
men in general:-
"Writing to his brother
says they were having some awful weather. For the last ten or twelve days they had nothing but rain or fog, which came over
the hill from the channel, "and it did not half come down either." Trenches had to be dug around the tents, but
these were quickly filled up. Some of the tents had been blown down and the fellows washed out. To make things more exciting
all had been vacinated and they had to fight all those difficulties with one arm. They were like a lot of wounded soldiers.
Some of the fellows' arms were the size of two and very stiff. The war cry at present was "Mind my arm." It
was quite amusing to see them, some with their arm in a sling and others with them strung down and as stiff as a poker, while
others could not get their arms into the sleeves of their coat. They had only light duty to do. Many had lost nights of sleep,
but after all they would be "all there" if they were needed for anything more exciting than the life of training.
There were men from all stations of life, but they were all on a level when in the ranks, and he was sure that after what
they had heard of the cruelty of the enemy every man of them would sacrifice his little bit in order to adjust matters."
There was a transition during the month at
last to hutted accommodation for some, various Mess Halls for both officers and men now being established on a more permanent
basis at the camp but there was however a question of the water supply. A special meeting of Wareham Town Council in Committee,
was held on the 14th November in response to a letter being received from the War Office to address the situation. The exact
details of the request by the military powers is unknown, possibly a matter of water extraction, but a resolution was arrived
and as a consequence duly agreed and carried. This was indeed timely as on the day previously, a detachment of the Army Service
Corps numbering about 350 men under the command of Captain William M.C. de Quesne Caillard had arrived at the camp, this detachment
forming the nucleus of the 17th Divisional Train, A.S.C.
A Musical Interlude: The "Blue Knuts."
On Tuesday the 1st December, a concert was held in order to assist the work of Dr. Banardo's Homes. The Western
Gazette published on the following Friday recorded the event held at Wareham:-
"On Tuesday evening the Oddfellows' Hall was crowded at a concert given by officers of the West Yorkshire
and Dorset Regiments now in camp. The hall is in use every night as a club for non-commissioned officers who gave it up that
evening to the "Blue Knuts," in order to assist the work of Dr. Barnardo's Homes. When the curtain drew up the
four "Knuts," clad in blue pyjamas, were seen comfortably seated in armchairs, from which they lazily emerged, advanced
to the footlights, and began to sing to the accompaniment of a piano played by another of the company. The officers thus disguised
were Capain Gartside, and Messrs. Stammers, Cutler, Aspinwall and Dutson (sic), assisted behind the scenes by Mr.
Burgess. The songs and dialogues showed much talent, both in music and acting, Captain Gartside especially proving himself
to be an actor of versatile gifts. The programme included the grave and gay judiciously mingled. Amogst many good pieces the
old man's song, "Memory, oh! memory" was the best. At the request of Mrs. Courtenay, president of the Wareham
Habitation of the Young Helpers' Leaugue of Dr. Barnardo's Homes, Canon Blackett, in the interval, made a brief and
earnest appeal for support to the Homes, which have already supplied 400 old "Barnardo boys" to the Canadian contingent
for the war, besides recruits and buglers to Kitchener's Army, and more than 200 trained boys to the Navy. Some of these
last have already been engaged in active service, and several have given up their lives for the defence of our shores. The
concert resulted in a sum of £8 being added to the income of the Homes."
(Authors Note: The Cast of this evening of fund raising and jovial entertainment consisted of Captain (Temporary)
Lionel Gartside and Temporary Second-Lieutenants Seymour Bernard Egerton Cutler, Guy Aspinwall and Sidney Robert Stammers,
all 10th West Yorkshire Regiment, and Temporary Second-Lieutenant Courtenay Duttson, 6th Dorsets).
The month of December witnessed the delivery and distribution of a large quantity of Old Pattern Lee-Enfield Rifles.
With a substantial supply of ammunition available a programme of musketry was initiated under the command of Major Sir Charles
Roderick Hunter, Bart., Musketry Staff Officer, 17th Division. A rifle range had been constructed on Hyde Heath near Bovington
but as Christmas approached, the men's thoughts turned to home and the possibility of some leave. The prolific letter
writing Ernest Hopkinson writing home to his parents stated that he believed that they would be at home either at Christmas
or in the New Year. An extract of two letters published in the Todmorden & District News dated the 4th of December recorded:-
"It would feel a treat to be in the old
village again. They were having some frosty weather and it felt nice to wash in ice-cold water first thing in the morning.
They were still under canvas, but as he had nine blankets and a warm overcoat to wrap himself at nights he did not feel much
of the cold. He had been transferred to the military police force for the camp. His duty was to keep all suspicious people
out of the camp and prevent their own fellows from leaving camp before five o'clock. They had to see that all lights were
out at 10-15 and take the fellows who made any bother prisoners. One man had been confined to camp for six weeks for striking
a sergeant, and had to report himself every half-hour. He was in the pink of health and getting fat, especially with being
a "bobby." In another letter he tenders his greatest thanks to all who contributed to the excellent parcel of comforts.
He had a few pairs of socks on hand, so he passed them on to those who were less fortunate than himself."
For one soldier of the 7th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, there
was to be no festive celebrations but unfortunately an untimely death. Private James Palmer, 11240, had enlisted at Middlesbrough
in late August 1914. A married man of South Bank and employed at a Steel Works, the outbreak of the war empowered James to
escape the vagaries of his work and join Kitchener's Army. James would die of causes not known at present on the 22nd
of December 1915 and was subsequently laid to rest in Wareham Cemetery on the 29th of the month, the Reverend Thomas George
Brierley Kay officiating, Chaplain to the Forces. (Authors note: Believed to be James Oscar Palmer, husband of Ethel Palmer.
Ethel would remarry in June 1918 to one John Henry McSorley).
Information as to how the 10th West Yorkshire's spent their Christmas at Wareham is scarce, but for some, the
lucky few, there was no doubt leave granted to return home to their loved ones. The Leeds press records that various 'comfort
funds' were sending out numerous parcels to the battalions of the Regiment both at home and abroad however the History
of the Green Howards In The Great War by H.C. Wylly records that the men of the 7th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment,
had to partake of their Christmas repast, "with the floor for a table and a folded blanket for a tablecloth."
The New Year
Training continued as per programme but it was in January 1915 that there
was to be a change in command of the 17th (Northern) Division, Major-General Thomas David Pilcher C.B. now assuming command
due to resignation of Colonel Kenyon-Slaney. Pilcher had also experienced a colourful military career. Educated at Harrow,
Pilcher received a commission as a Second-Lieutenant into the Dublin City Militia Artillery in August 1878 (Authors note:
London Gazette dated 27th September 1878, Hart's Army List of 1896 however states June 1879). Transferring to the 22nd
Regiment of Foot in July 1879, shortly after his appointment Pilcher transferred once again to the 5th Regiment of Foot, later
designated the 5th (Northumberland Fusiliers) in 1881. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in that year, in February 1886 the
rank of Captain was attained whereupon in November 1895 he was granted the rank of Deputy-Assistant Adjutant-General, Dublin,
(Army List 1896). Granted the rank of Major in November 1897, Pilcher was then promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel
and placed in the command of the recently formed 1st Battalion, West African Frontier Force serving on the Niger between 1897
-1898. Promoted to the rank of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in July 1899 and assuming a position as Second-in-Command of the
2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment in that year, the full rank of Colonel was granted in October 1900 after the termination
of the services of Lieutenant-Colonel Wentworth Odiarne Cavenagh. Employed on 'Special Service' and serving in the
South African War in command of the 3rd Mounted Infantry Regiment, Pilcher would witness numerous important engagements including
the Relief of Kimberley in February 1900. In April of the following year he was made an Aides-de-Camp (Extra) to the King
with the Brevet rank of Colonel and awarded the C.B. (Authors note: Awarded for services in South Africa up to the 29th November
1900). Upon his return to England, Pilcher assumed command of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Army Corps at Aldershot
and was promoted to the rank of Temporary Brigadier-General in April 1904. Promoted to the rank of Major-General
in 1907, his tenure of this appointment ceased in this year that is until he was appointed a Brigade Commander in India in
December of that year. Finally, Pilcher was appointed to command the Burma Division in 1913 and made Colonel of the Bedfordshire
Regiment in April 1914. A published author, his private life was somewhat turbulent leading to two marriages however his pre-war
military concepts advocated the use of the machine-gun in heavier numbers, much against military doctrines of the time.
January had also witnessed the formation of a Divisional Pioneer Battalion, the 7th (Service) Battalion, York &
Lancaster Regiment being selected for this purpose, Officer Commanding, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Nicholl Byass. As
the war had progressed, it was soon recognised that there was a specific need for an organised labour force contained within
a division to carry out field engineering tasks such as the construction of trenches etc. and to assist in the duties performed
by the Field Companies of the Royal Engineers attached to the division. Before the formation of the Pioneers, it was often
the case that infantry at 'rest' were seconded to perform these duties, a far from ideal scenario. The 7th Yorks &
Lancs were a suitable choice for conversion to this role, the men of the battalion comprising of a vast majority of miners
from South Yorkshire, men such as Private Aaron Priest, a native of Wombwell, enlisted in August 1914 aged 21 years, Private
Thomas Froggatt of Rawmarsh, also enlisted in August 1914 aged 22, and Private Herbert Blower of Grimethorpe, Barnsley, who
had enlisted in September 1914 aged 29 years. Froggatt would succumb to wounds received during the closing stages of the Somme
offensive in 1916, Priest would be killed in action at Arras in April 1917 whilst Blower would die of the effects of gas poisoning
at a Casualty Clearing Station near Arras in the same month.
On the 12th of January, Second-Lieutenant Arthur Douglas Richardson of Kirklevington Grange, Kirklevington, Yorkshire,
died aged 28 years. A Sergeant in the Officer Training Corps at Rossall School, Fleetwood, Lancashire, Arthur originally enlisted
into the ranks of the Royal Fusiliers (Public Schools) Battalion on the outbreak of the war. Commissioned as a Second-Lieutenant
on the 2nd November 1914 and posted to the West Yorkshire Regiment, Arthur contracted enteric fever (typhoid) and died at
home at Kirklevington Grange. One of five sons who served their country before and during the war, one would be killed in
action, another in a submarine accident in 1912, of the remaining two brothers, they would both die as a direct result of
war service. (Yorkshire Evening Post dated 11th April, 1919).
still continued with drill, route marches and tactical schemes being initiated, a limited number of service rifles was issued
in addition to the new 1914 leather type infantry equipment. Command of the 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
had also now changed, Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Kirwan Umfreville D.S.O. now assuming command (London Gazette appointment
30th March) vice Colonel Henry Walker who was placed on the Reserve of Officers.
Umfreville, a native of Kent, had already had a distinguished military career. Educated at Brighton College, he was
commissioned into the 3rd Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) on the 9th of April 1892 as a Second-Lieutenant.
Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on the 5th of December 1894, he was subsequently posted to the 1st Battalion, Duke of Wellington's
(West Riding Regiment) on the 7th of December 1895 and the rank of Second-Lieutenant on augmentation. Posted overseas to Malta
in 1896, Harry acquired the rank of Lieutenant in February 1897 and returned to the United Kingdom in the following year.
Serving in the South African War with and witnessing numerous engagements including service with Hunter's Mounted Troops,
Lieutenant Umfreville was mentioned in Despatches twice and received the Queen's South African Medal (Four Clasps). Promoted
to the rank of Captain on the 1st of February 1902 and transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment, he was subsequently
seconded for service on the Staff (India) on the 15th of April 1904 and became a Superintendent of Gymnasia at Poona. Remaining
in this capacity until 1908, Supernumerary Captain Umfreville was eventually placed on the Reserve of Officers in 1911. Rejoining
the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment) upon the outbreak of the war, he joined the battalion in
the field at Missy-sur-Aisne on the 16th September 1914 whilst they were engaged in the Battle of the Aisne. (Authors note:
Embarked however on the 8th of September 1914). Wounded on the 11th November 1914 near the Ypres-Menin Road and evacuated
to England, Captain Umfreville was awarded the D.S.O., London Gazette dated the 18th of February 1915.
In the camp, there was however unfortunately still instances of theft, one
man from the 6th Dorsets who could not be identified, selling provisions destined for the Officers Mess to a Potato Merchant
from Wareham, this 'peculation' it soon became apparent, being prevalent in all of the camps. The month of March would
also witness yet another unfortunate death of a man belonging to the Division, one Provost Sergeant Charles Ernest Stevens,
3/9231, of the 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, who died on the 7th of the month. Originally a resident
of Leeds, the Leeds Mercury dated Friday, 12th March 1915, recorded the following:-
"The funeral took place at Wareham Parish Church, Dorset, with full military honours, on Wednesday, of the
late Sergt. C.E. Stevens, of the 10th (Service) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. The scene was a very impressive one. The
drums and fifes of the battalion and the regimental band of the 6th Battalion Dorsets played en route to the church. The deceased
sergeant was an old pensioner having served twenty-one years with the Oxfordshires, now the Oxford and Bucks. Light Infantry.
Before the war broke out he was employed as a postman at Wakefield, having been transferred from Leeds to Morley and from
there to Wakefield. The late sergeant's parents live in St. Jame's-square (sic) and a married sister in the Stoney
Rock district. Up to the time of his death, which took place on Sunday, he was Provost Sergeant of the battalion."
At Number 18, Saint James Square and at Stoney Rock in Burmantofts, news
of the death of a son and brother was received with a heavy heart. After 18 years service with the Colours with both the 1st
and 2nd Battalions of the Oxford and Bucks in far flung continents of the world, Charles had died aged just 44 years.
There was still instances of ill discipline amongst the ranks. One soldier it was reported in the Lichfield Mercury
had deserted the 10th West Yorkshire's at Wareham in March but had been apprehended. It was no wonder however that discipline
was hard to maintain as the soldiers in training at Wareham were still very much reliant on the generosity of various public
bodies. One request to the Voluntary Aid Detachment Headquarters located at Hull from the 7th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire
Regiment at Wareham stated that they required "1000 pairs of socks, 200 shirts, 200 pants and 50 Cardigan jackets."
There is no doubt that this 'reliance' on the generosity of the public must have had a certain effect on morale. In
some circles this may have been viewed by the men as a rather 'unmindful' attitude adopted by the War Office to attend
to the men's needs. Suffice to say, the needs of those fighting at the front were of paramount importance but this indifferent
approach to the men who had volunteered for the New Armies, specifically the 10th West Yorkshire's, must have been a bitter
pill for those who had enlisted at Leeds. News in the form of letters and the local press must have reached Wareham that on
the 28th April, the Leeds "Pals" were to march to Ripon from their camp at Colsterdale and receive a civic 'welcome'
complete with bunting, the Leeds Mercury reporting "that they had had a rough time during the winter."
Had not the men of the 17th (Northern) Division? A 'poem' of sorts appeared in the Harrogate Herald dated the 16th
June 1915 and summed up the mood of those men who had volunteered to join the 50th Infantry Brigade. Entitled "THE
FORGOTTEN BRIGADE" (A Tragedy), the 'poem' is lengthy but the Author will include some verses that are particularly
relevant to these men of Kitchener's Army:-
hist'ry of war is full of brave acts, Of men who have shone in retreats and attacks, We all know the story, that never
can fade, Of the gallant charge of the "Light Brigade." And with pride we remember the glorious day, When we held
fifty thousand Germans at bay, But the grandest stand a brigade ever made, Was the long weary stand of the "Forgotten
This famous Brigade was
composed of the best, "The Dorsets," "Yorks-Lancs.," the Yorks. East and West." If the Huns only
saw them - my word; it would scare 'em; But alas! this Brigade was forgotten, at Wareham. They joined in their youth and
trained night and day, But now some are dead, and some old and grey, Some are still training and some in graves laid, Out
of Wareham "None" came of the "Forgotten Brigade."
May: The Arrival Of A New Commander Of The 50th Infantry Brigade
The month of May would commence with a change in command of the 50th Infantry
Brigade when Temporary Brigadier-General Frederick Lionel Banon took command vice Colonel Charles Tom Reay C.B. who was placed
on Retired Pay. Born at York in 1862, Banon was the son of Richard George Davys Banon, a Staff Surgeon Major in the Army,
formerly of the 87th Foot. Commissioned on the 9th September 1882 from the Royal Military College and granted the rank of
Lieutenant, Banon would be posted to the 2nd Battalion, King's (Shropshire Light Infantry) on augmentation. Transferred
to the 1st Battalion of the Regiment on the 24th October 1883, Banon would witness service with the battalion in the Expedition
to the Soudan (Sudan) in 1885 and was awarded the Egypt Medal and Clasp in addition to the Khedive's Star.
Upon his return to the United Kingdom, Banon was seconded for service with
the Army Service Corps on the 2nd of July 1889 and took up a posting at Dublin. Promoted to the rank of Captain on the 1st
of January 1890, Supernumerary, Shropshire Light Infantry, Banon subsequently entered the Staff College, Sandhurst in 1897,
passing in December 1898. Promoted to the rank of Major, K.S.L.I. on the 11th of August 1900, he was posted as an Assistant
to the Military Governor of Johannesburg (Colonel Colin John Mackenzie) and graded as a Deputy-Assistant Adjutant-General
(London Gazette appointment dated the 6th of June 1900). Serving in the South African War from November 1899, in addition
to his duties as Assistant to the Military Governor, he temporarily commanded Columns and was also in command of the 17th
Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry. Witnessing various actions between 1900-1902, he was Mentioned in Despatches and awarded The
Queen's South Africa Medal (Four Clasps) and the King's South Africa Medal (Two Clasps) respectively.
Upon returning home, Banon relinquished command of the 17th Battalion, Imperial
Yeomanry however on the 29th of August 1902, he was appointed the Deputy-Assistant Quartermaster-General, Dublin District,
on the 11th of November. On the 11th of November 1903, Major Banon retained his rank but was posted to the 3rd Army Corps,
vacating this position on the 4th of December 1905 (London Gazette dated the 5th of January 1906). Taking up a position as
a Deputy Assistant Adjutant General at the Staff College, Sandhurst, General Staff Officer, 2nd Grade and also and promoted
to the rank of Brevet Colonel on the 23rd of December 1905, Banon acquired 1st Grade status on the 1st of January 1909 (London
Gazette dated the 5th of January 1909). Promoted to the rank of Colonel on the 9th of November 1909 and placed on the Half-pay
List in December 1909, Banon was appointed Assistant Adjutant-General at the War Office on the 14th of July 1910 (London Gazette
dated the 22nd of July).
After completion of his
period of service on the Staff, Banon was once again placed on the Half-pay List on the 7th of March 1915 but was promoted
to the rank of Temporary Brigadier-General vice Colonel Reay C.B. on the 6th May 1915 as previously stated. There is no doubting
the experience that Banon possessed both in organisational skills and courage on the field of battle. These attributes would
stand him and the men of the 50th Infantry Brigade in good stead in the trying months to follow.
During the last quarter, orders were issued to strike camp at a moments notice.
On the 27th and after feverish activity to assemble equipment stores etc., the division was ordered to proceed by route of
march to various camps and billets located in the area of Winchester. The History Of The 17th (Northern) Division by A.
Hilliard Atteridge records that the columns of infantry set forth on the afternoon of the 27th before bivouacking on
the first leg of their journey at Cranford Park near Wimbourne. On the second day of their route march, Somerley Park on the
borders of Hampshire and Dorset was reached and on the third day, the men marched through the New Forest to Lyndhurst whereupon
on Tuesday, 1st June (Atteridge states Sunday), the division were distributed in camps and billets to the south and west of
The infantry now resumed their training,
the latter now including visits to Fovant Camp on Salisbury Plain where musketry courses were conducted on the ranges. The
infantry of the division was also to be joined in the early days of the month of June by their respective Divisional Artillery,
the 78th, 79th and 80th Brigades, R.F.A., in addition to the 81st Brigade (Howitzers), their commanders being Lieutenant-Colonels
Edward Henry Willis, Harrison, George Ambrose Cardew and Reginald Stanley Hardman.
It was in June however that General Pilcher received the news that the 17th (Northern) Division were to be earmarked
for home defence duties along with one other division of K2 establishment. It must have proved to be a bitter blow
but with the threat of enemy invasion likely, it was no doubt deemed a necessary course of action. No sooner had the division
concentrated however and were preparing to move to a designated defence centre in either the Midlands or one of the eastern
counties of England, the War Office rescinded the order on the 5th July with immediate effect. The 17th (Northern) Division
were now with immediate effect, ordered to proceed on overseas service and as a consequence of these orders, all mounted units
with transport and horses of dismounted units, were to proceed from Winchester to Southampton and embark for Le Havre between
the 12th July - 15th July. In addition to these units, a party of 3 officers and 108 Other Ranks drawn from each infantry
battalion were also to embark, the respective infantry battalions of each brigade however were to be transported by train
to Folkestone whereupon they would embark for Boulogne. (Source: Atteridge. Authors note: Transport will have consisted of
Machine Gun Section, Regimental Transport etc.).
Embarkation For The Western Front
Embarkation details for the 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment unfortunately do not exist or have
not survived however we can glean some information as to the rather complex programme of embarkation from the other constituent
units of the 50th Infantry Brigade and the division as a whole. For example on the 12th of July, the advance party of the
6th (Service) Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment numbering 3 officers and 96 Rank and File and all their transport, embarked
at Southampton for Le Havre on the S.S. City of Dunkirk, commandeered as a troop ship from the Ellerman City Line.
On the following day, the infantry embarked at Folkestone on the S.S. Saint Cecilia bound for Boulogne. Also on the
13th July, the 7th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, embarked at Folkestone on the T.S.S. Queen, formerly
owned by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway however there is no mention of any advance party being formed in the pages
of the War Diary.
As regards Charley Brown's
date of landing at Boulogne, an examination of his Medal Index Card (M.I.C.) indicates his entry into the theatre of operations
as the 13th July 1915. There is however, a variation in disembarkation dates; George Falls, 12762, 12th July, Frederick Fletcher,
12768, 13th July but the dates of disembarkation becomes more apparent in the officers of the battalion. Second-in-Command
Temporary Major Joseph Ernest Crabtree (12th July), Captain Lionel Gartside (11th July), Captain/Adjutant, John Humphrey Berkley
(13th July) and Quartermaster John James Green (13th July). It is difficult to exactly determine which officers comprised
the advanced party, and this in itself, warrants further research.
Western Front: The March To The Front
The 50th Infantry Brigade, 17th (Northern) Division, now began to assemble and concentrate at Boulogne. It is of
interest to note that the respective War Diaries of the 7th Yorkshire's, 7th East Yorkshire's and the 6th Dorset's
record that at first they moved into billets located at Ostrohove Camp on high ground to the east of the town, the War Diary
of the 10th West Yorkshire's however does not record their intial place of encampment. At 3.30 p.m. on the afternoon of
the 14th, the West Yorkshire's entrained at Pont-de-Briques to the south-east of Boulogne and proceeding by rail, the
battalion arrived at Lumbres, south-west of Saint Omer, at 10 p.m. Upon detrainment, the battalion then proceeded by route
of march southwards towards the hamlet of Ouve-Wirquin which was reached at 4 a.m. on the morning of the 15th. The 50th Infantry
Brigade now remained in billets both in Lumbres and hamlets to the south of the latter for a period of two days. Even though
the brigade had only just detrained in France, there even at this early stage been lessons to be learned as regards the formation
of advance parties to organise suitable accommodation prior to the arrival of their respective battalions. Upon marching to
Remilly-Wirquin, the 7th Yorkshire's found much to their dismay that billets had not been allocated to Signallers, Transport,
the Machine Gun Section and other Headquarters details but at least it was dry and fine and the men were not exposed to the
vagaries of inclement summer weather.
period of rest, the brigade now marched to Arques, the 10th West Yorkshire's departing Ouve-Wirquin at 7.30 a.m on the
morning of the 18th and arriving at the town at noon whereupon they proceeded to billet. For the Dorset's, the route to
Arques had proved to be problematic from the outset, other troops frequently crossing the route of march with no apparent
regulation in the flow of traffic. On the following day, the West Yorkshire's resumed their march at 8.45 a.m., the ultimate
destination of the battalion in brigade being Steenvoorde located to the south-west of Poperinghe (Poperinge). Although there
are no details of the route of march recorded in the War Diary, the latter of the East Yorkshire's records that this battalion
proceeded via Fort Rouge (east of Arques and west of Renescure) and in a north-westerly direction to Oxelaere just to the
south of Cassel. At Oxelaere there was a halt in the timetable for the duration of half an hour but this was extended by a
further thirty minutes in order to pick up all stragglers of all regiments of the brigade. This was due, the diary of the
East Yorkshire's noted, "reason assumed to be the unnecessary amount of water consumed." The march
was trying indeed and due to the cobbled roads and also the topography of the route of march, the latter being directed to
avoid the higher ground around the Cassel area and in particular the Mont Cassel on which the town was situated. Despite this,
it was an uphill march in hot and sultry conditions, the 6th Dorset's recording that five men were ambulance cases and
that seventeen rank and file fell out of the line. Steenvoorde was reached by the West Yorkshire's at 3.30 p.m. on the
afternoon of the 19th whereupon the men proceeded to billet, however, the latter were found to be scattered and poor.
With artillery fire being heard intermittently in the distance, on the following
morning the 50th Infantry Brigade were inspected by General Sir Herbert Plumer K.C.B., G.O.C., Second Army. No doubt pleased
as he often was to have Yorkshire battalion's under his command, the men set about drill and various inspections, the
War Diary of the 7th Yorkshire Regiment also recording that there were experiments conducted with gas and smoke helmets, vital
protection against the enemy's use of chemical agents. Orders were now issued for the brigade to move by road to La Clytte
(Klijte), south-west of Ypres and into the area of operations of Fifth Corps, Second Army, the corps being under the command
of Temporary Lieutenant-General Sir Edmund Allenby K.C.B. Once again, the War Diary of the 10th West Yorkshire's furnishes
no details as regards the route of march but that of the 7th East Yorkshire's records that the brigade marched through
the night in driving rain and once again under trying conditions. The brigade proceeded westwards via the impressive Mont
des Cats and Mont Noir onwards through Westoutre (Westouter) before La Clytte was reached by the 10th West Yorkshire's
at 3 a.m. on the morning of the 23rd. The diary of the 6th Dorset's records that during the march, the men's waterproof
groundsheets were utilised as capes, this proving to be an effective method of at least keeping the men dry to a certain extent.
Upon arrival at La Clytte, the camp consisted of hutted accommodation that was woefully inadequate. To emphasise
the dangers presented by the Ypres Salient, during the morning two German aircraft, Taube monoplanes, flew low over
the camp but fortunately there was no incident. At 8 a.m. on the morning of the 24th and following procedures of the other
units of the brigade, some who had moved into trenches in the Kemmel Sector, "A" Company and two machine guns of
the 10th West Yorkshire's left La Clytte for a period of trench familiarisation with the 1/6th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters
(Notts. & Derby) Regiment, 139th Infantry Brigade, 46th (North Midland) Division in the trenches at Sanctuary Wood. Following
this detachment, at 8 p.m. two platoons of "B" Company also entered the line referred to as the "J"
Trenches in respect of the designated map square. Familiarisation duties continued on the following day when at 8 p.m.
the two remaining platoons of "B" also entered the line, the two platoons of the latter that had gone in the day
before returning at 11 p.m. On the 26th, 9 and 10 platoons moved into the "J" Trenches (no company designation)
at 8 p.m. whilst platoons 5 and 6 returned at 11 p.m., presumably the two platoons of "B" Company that had entered
the line the day previously. Number 5 Platoon however had suffered one casualty one Private Hall, 18027, being severely wounded
and subsequently evacuated. At 11 p.m. on the night of the 27th, numbers 9 and 10 platoons returned followed by "A"
Company and the two attached machine guns at 2 a.m. on the morning of the 28th, later that evening at 8 p.m., 11 and 12 platoons
also moved forward to the "J" Trenches (no company designation). Although evacuated, Private Arthur William
Hall, a married man with a large family of Girlington, Bradford, succumbed to his wounds at the 85th (3rd London) Field Ambulance
of the 28th Division aged 33 years, the first man of the battalion to fall in action.
|Part Of Sheet 28, Hooge, Second Edition, Sheet 5, Trenches Corrected To 23/12/15
There were many complaints made about the leather equipment issued
but as regards operational needs, working parties were furnished under rather poor guidance of the Royal Engineers. It was
found that these working parties consisted of more men than was actually required and were ill informed, the latter specifically
regarding rear or front areas of the sector that were deemed to be particularly dangerous. The death of one man on the 30th
of July, Private Forester Bennett, 15121, a native of Derbyshire, was directly attributed to this lack of intelligence sharing.
Upon the battalion being 'bloodied,' the latter in brigade moved
back to La Clytte whereupon a programme of training was initiated in the use of bombs, signalling and stretcher bearer duties,
utilising the skills of other battalions in the sector who were at 'rest.'
Orders were now issued for the 17th (Northern) Division to take over the St. Eloi Sector
however these orders were rescinded as regards the 50th Brigade who were now ordered to commence a relief of the 7th Infantry
Brigade of the 3rd Division. As regards the 10th West Yorkshire's, after a preliminary tour of the trenches in the sector
to be occupied, the battalion commenced a relief of the 1/1st Honourable Artillery Company early on the evening of the 2nd
of August, this relief being completed at 2 a.m. on the morning of the 3rd of August without incident. Now occupying the Centre
Sub-Sector, both the 52nd and the 50th Infantry Brigades of the 17th (Northern) Division now held a frontage of the line
running northwards from Vierstraat - St. Eloi - Oosthoek. The 10th West Yorkshire's were disposed in the line and in reserve
positions as follows:- "B" Company, Q2 Sector, "C" Company, Q3 Sector, "A"
& "D" Companies, Scottish Wood.
some hour during the early morning, the trenches occupied by the 10th West Yorkshire's were subjected to rifle or sniper
fire. Second-Lieutenant (Temporary Lieutenant) Philip Howe, a native of Sheffield, was hit by a rifle bullet in the chest
that exited his back. Although seriously wounded and the first officer casualty to be suffered by the battalion, he would
return to his unit in April 1916. (Source: Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 12th of August 1915 and the 11th July 1916 respectively).
The enemy however were now about to detonate
a mine in the sector and as a prelude to this explosion he opened an artillery barrage on the Q2 Sector at 10.45
a.m. His batteries were subsequently engaged whereupon his firing subsided but it was "C" Company of the
7th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, who suffered the full ferocity of this "hate." Captain Loftus Edward Percival
Jones was killed along with three O/R's, seventeen men also being wounded.
|German Trench System (Corrected To 7/9/15)
|Extract Of Sheet 28, Voormezeele, 2nd Army Sheet 6.
The enemy mine was duly detonated at 11.10 a.m. resulting in the
destruction of a considerable portion of the British parapet and the wounding of Lieutenant James Francis Maidlow and 4 Other
Ranks. Two Germans were also killed however it is not clear as to the circumstances surrounding their deaths. As a result
of the explosion, a German tunic was blown into the British trenches "which furnished a much-needed indentification."
(Source: Wyrall's History). In order to repair the shattered line, 250 sandbags to the Q2 Sector were requested
immediately and by 1 p.m., all of the Divisional Pioneers, the 7th (Service) Battalion, Yorks. & Lancs., were engaged
by 50th Brigade Headquarters on the task of repairing the line. (Authors note: The 50th Infantry Brigade War Diary T.N.A.
WO95/1998/1 records the 'coat' as belonging to a soldier of the 242nd Bavarian Regiment, this in itself causes some
confusion. It is well documented by various sources that both the II Bavarian Corps and the 3rd Bavarian Infantry Division
were in occupancy of the sector for a considerable length of time however I, the, Author, can only find one reference that
relates to the 242nd Reserve Infantry Regiment and this unit was Saxon by origin. This Regiment however did occupy the Wytschaete
- St. Eloi Sector in June 1915 as part of the 53rd Reserve Division before moving to the Verlorenhoek Sector in mid July.
I can only surmise that the 'coat' in question, was a relic of their occupation at this period and either misidentified
by fair means or foul, one can only speculate. Source: Histories Of Two Hundred And Fifty-One Divisions Of The German
Army Which Participated In The War (1914 - 1918). Washington Government Printing Office 1920).
On the night of the 8th/9th of August, two brigades of the 6th Division made
preparations for an attack at Hooge. The objective of this action was to regain the position lost in July and capture the
high ground north of a mine crater blown by the British on the 19th of July and to consolidate a line from west of the latter
to a position east of the Stables. With "Zero" hour fixed for 3.15 a.m. early on the morning of the 9th,
the 17th Division were to co-operate in the attack by performing fire demonstrations augmented by artillery barrages. To this
end, it was at 2.30 a.m. that the battalions of the 50th Brigade fired five rapid rounds at the German trenches with the intention
of bringing him out of the trenches and to subsequently man his line, so being caught in the artillery barrage. The attack
was well planned and well executed, the line being advanced a considerable distance towards the east. During the course of
the 8th/9th, the 50th Brigade suffered three men wounded, one man succumbing to wounds.
Rotating in the line in conjunction with the 51st Infantry Brigade of the
17th (Northern) Division, Q3 Sector near Voormezeele was taken over by the 7th (Service) Battalion, Border Regiment,
in the early hours of the 13th/14th of August. The tour in the line of the West Yorkshire's had been characterised by
the frequent shelling of the trenches by both artillery and trench mortars and the construction by the battalion of a tunnel
connecting to a listening post under the parapet of a trench in Q2 Sector. A watchful eye at all times had also been
kept on the wind speed on a daily basis so as to pre-empt a possible gas discharge from the German lines. The only major action
conducted by the 17th Division during this period was co-operation with attacks made by both the 3rd and 6th Divisions in
offensive operations at Hooge on the 9th of August, this co-operation comprising of artillery bombardments and fire demonstrations
along the length of the divisional frontage. Casualties during the tour were negligible despite the attentions of the enemy
however on the 13th, Private Fred Godfrey, 15693, was hit by a sniper in the Q2 Sector and unfortunately died of
wounds received. Aged 31 years, unmarried, and a native of Sturton-le-Steeple, Nottinghamshire, Fred was shot in the temple
and died on his removal to hospital. Captain Henderson (Temporary Captain William Lewis Henderson) in a letter to his relatives
remarked that "he was full of promise as a soldier, and everybody respected him." (Source:- Sheffield Daily
Telegraph, August 28th, 1915). Buried in Voormezeele Enclosure No.3., Fred is also commemorated on the Sturton-le-Steeple
Upon the eventual
completion of the relief, the West Yorkshire's proceeded by route of march to La Clytte which was reached at 2.30 a.m.
early on the morning of the 15th of August. During the following days, Charley and the men of his battalion set about the
task of refitting and the making up of deficiencies in kit. A programme of training was initiated consisting of bombing and
physical drills, sniper training no doubt due to their experiences in the line, and route marches. With working parties being
formed for labour with the Royal Engineers, orders were issued to the battalion to proceed to Reninghelst on the but these
were duly cancelled at 9 a.m. on the morning of the 20th. As the days progressed in training and providing working parties
for the R.E., it was on the 26th of August that Officers Commanding Companies left for the "P" Trenches no
doubt to reconnoitre this part of the line as a precursor to the commencement of a relief in the line. The 10th West Yorks
now moved forward by platoons to commence a relief of the 7th Borders, 51st Brigade, in the "P" Trenches and
sectors 05 & S8, this relief being completed without incident to both battalions on the night of the
26th/27th. It is of interest to note that the War Diary of the 10th West Yorkshire's records that Battalion Headquarters
was established at Wiltshire Farm, the latter located to the west of Voormezeele and to the east of the Etang de
Dickebusch. The diary alludes to the state and conditions of the location of the H.Q. by simply recording the statement...."damnable
place," one can only imagine the scene.
The trenches inherited from the Border's were recorded as being generally in a good state but one trench in particular,
P3, was noted to be badly sited and very isolated with it's right extent "in the air." The
trenches also afforded little protection against ever vigilant snipers and it was on the 27th that Lance-Corporal Henry Mainwaring,
12942, of "A" Company was unfortunately killed aged 24 years. A married man of Hillsborough, Sheffield, Henry is
now buried in Ridge Wood Military Cemetery.
the men became accustomed to their new surroundings, quite worrying was the discovery of a Sap driven forward from the German
line right up to the parapet of the trench located in P3. As suspicions of the siting of this trench were confirmed,
this enemy Sap was blocked up, no doubt in the form of a trench block comprising of either sandbags or barbed wire.
The "damnable" location and construction of Battalion
Headquarters was also improved with new roofs being added and two more dug-outs constructed. On the whole though, the 27th
of August remained mostly quiet but at about 11.30 a.m., the Bois Confluent located to the south-west of St. Eloi
was shelled, two casualties to men of "B" Company being sustained during some point in the day. At 6.30 p.m., Colonel
Walker visited the trenches however there is no record of his observations or comments. German tunnellers were once again
active when on the 28th they detonated a small mine opposite Q1 whereupon the crater was occupied by the enemy.
As work continued on the improvement of the Battalion Headquarters, Temporary Second-Lieutenant Paine rejoined the battalion
on the 29th. (Authors note: Gifford Ingle Paine, possibly the officer detached along with 30 Other Ranks for guard duties
at the Divisional Headquarters located at Reninghelst on the 19th).
In the trenches held by the 7th Yorkshire's, a tragic accident occured when Corporal Thomas Smith, 12439, of
"B" Company, was accidentally shot by one of his comrades. A native of Lily Street, Sunderland and a married man,
the exact circumstances surrounding his death are unknown. Thomas, aged 29 years, now lies in Voormezeele Enclosure No.3.
(Source: Shields Daily News dated the 18th of September 1915).
As the line remained strangely quiet, it was observed that two flags, one Bavarian and one German that had been erected
in the German lines, had disappeared. It was surmised that this possibly indicated an imminent relief of the enemy unit opposite
on the night of the 29th/30th. (Authors note: Apparently one or more Bavarian standards or flags were erected along the line.
One of these was 'liberated' by Sergeant John Rigby, 5234, and Private Joseph Routledge, 5513, of the 10th Lancashire
Fusiliers. The War Diary records they "crawled through long grass & captured a "Bavarian" flag, made
out of coarse material of blue + white, which for some days had been exhibited in front of our lines."
On the 30th, Brigadier Banon accompanied by the Deputy Adjutant General of
Fifth Corps visited the trenches. They proceeded on their 'tour' un-escorted and this, recorded by the Battalion Adjutant
Captain John Humphry (Humphrey) Berkley, "aroused some suspicion." It was also rumoured that the battalion
were to expect another visitor in the form of the G.O.C. 17th (Northern) Division but once again in the words of the Adjutant,
this was recorded as a "wash out."
With enemy snipers proving to be an ever present danger, a sniping post was started to the rear of P4. It
is of interest to note that the 10th West York's War Diary now records the following, "allen starting defensive
mining scheme in P4's." There is no record of this scheme recorded in the pages of the Brigade War Diary but
it is of interest to note that amongst the officers serving with the West Yorkshire's was one Temporary Lieutenant Percival
Knight Allen, a mine engineer in South Africa before the commencement of the war.
At the location of the crater formed by the explosion of the enemy mine opposite Q1, the latter had set
about expanding this position despite being harrased by both artillery, infantry and trench mortar fire. British Tunnellers
were however active for some length of time in the St. Eloi Sector and on the 30th of August, 172nd Tunnelling Company reported
that they had heard enemy activity near the face of their "B 1" Gallery. Preparing a Camouflet charge
of 100 lbs., this was subsequently detonated at 10 p.m. on the 30th. In addition to this, during the early hours of the 31st,
"C" Mine was charged with 500 lbs. of explosive 140 feet from the shaft, this charge being blown at 4.30
a.m. early on the morning of the 31st. So successful was the amount of charge laid, the force of the explosion blew in the
'old' crater lips with minimal damage to the mine. As a direct result of their efforts, the enemy Sap approaching
the main gallery was subsequently blocked. The day however would witness the wounding of two men from the West Yorkshire's
and the deaths of two men, one from the 6th Dorsets and one man from the the 7th Yorks & Lancs., Lance-Sergeant Leslie
Shoobert, and Acting Corporal Irwin Day of "C" Company respectively. Irwin, it was recorded in the pages of the
Battalion War Diary, was killed by a "bullet in head," a shocking reminder of the numerous enemy snipers
that abounded in this Sector.
I will close
the month of August with another letter wrote by Private Ernest Hopkinson to his mother and the family home at Mytholmroyd.
Published in the The Todmorden and District News dated the 20th of August 1915, Ernest describes his experiences at the front
and of a once palatial residence that he and the men of the battalion billeted in:-
"Private Ernest Hopkinson, writing to his mother, Mrs. Hopkinson,
Westfield Villas, Mytholmroyd, says they had been in the trenches for four days, and were resting a few miles away for a few
days. They had rather an exciting time in going to their billets. The artillery were rather busy sending shells in the air,
but nobody was any the worse for them. The sky was lit up by the flashes from the guns, but they arrived safely before dawn.
They went through - and there was not a building but was badly shattered, and the place was completely deserted. In some rows
they could see where houses had been blown clean away from the other. In another letter he says they had had a rather a quieter
time during the past few days, as the Huns got a few good "pills" at the beginning of the week and had not recovered
from them yet. He was in a large house not far from the firing line the other night which must have belonged to a very rich
party. It was surrounded by extensive grounds, in which were all kinds of things. There were orchards, vineries, etc., and
all kinds of fruit, but they were all neglected and broken down. The greenhouses and everything were in ruins but the plants
in many cases were not damaged. They visited the house and had a good look round, and they found the whole inside in ruins
and deserted. The roofs and walls had been blown in by shells, and underneath the debris were the contents of the place. The
house must have been visited and the things taken out for the use of the troops. In the dug-out there were chairs, tables,
stools and other useful articles, but of course, they had been damaged in some way or other. The house must have been a lovely
place. There were pictures painted on the walls and ceilings and all kinds of artistic work in the place. One could not imagine
the horror and plight the inmates would be in. They may have fled, or may be buried beneath the ruins. The only signs of life
were from a cat and its kittens nestled under a broken bedstead. If the war should finish to-day, it would take years to repair
the damage done. There was not a house near the firing line but was damaged, and in some of the villages there was not a house
or building standing. There were plenty of things that they could not realise unless they saw them".
As offensive preparations
were being made further to the south that would ultimately lead to the "Battle of Loos," on the 1st of the month,
a dull and wet day, the 10th West Yorkshire's woke to a quiet morning but during the afternoon enemy artillery bombarded
the Bois Confluent south-west of St. Eloi with 77 mm Field Guns. It was at 8.30 p.m. though that evening that the
enemy 'sprang' a mine about 35 yards in front and to the right of Q 1 Trench. With no damage being caused
to the British parapet in this Sector, the War Diary of the 172nd T.C. records that this mine had in point of fact been blown
30 yards in front of Q 1 "A" close to the site of "B" Shaft and had destroyed 20 feet
of the "B 1" Gallery burying one man. (Authors note:- Presumably rescued). Aerial reconnaissance taken
some days previously had revealed that the enemy had been working or making works in the craters located in the vicinity of
St. Eloi and The Mound to the south-east in front of Q 1 and R 3. As a consequence of the enemy
activity in these areas, they were subsequently engaged by artillery at intervals during the course of the night. Casualties
to the 50th brigade during the course of the day numbered one man of the 7th East Yorkshire's wounded, whilst the 7th
Yorkshire's suffered six men wounded, and one Other Rank killed, Private Joseph Storey, of Middlefield Row, Washington
Station, County Durham, aged 22 years.
|Extract Of Sketch Map
|78th Brigade, R.F.A., WO95/1991/3/1, 2nd Lt. Eric Andrew Simson
It was during heavy rain on the night of the 3rd/4th of September
that the 10th West Yorkshire's were relieved by the 7th (Service) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment (Divisional Pioneers)
in the "P" Trenches. In turn, the 7th Yorkshire's were also relieved by the 7th (Service) Battalion,
Lincolnshire Regiment of the 51st Brigade, the West Yorkshire's upon relief proceeding to Rosenhill Camp, Reninghelst,
minus "C" Company who remained in Scottish Wood.
With the battalion and the brigade now at 'rest,' the men no doubt set about cleaning their equipment after
spending a miserable tour in the trenches. Now placed in V Corps Reserve, on the 9th, the brigade was subsequently designated
as 17th Divisional Reserve and it was during the 8th of the month that the 10th West Yorkshire's were inspected by the
G.O.C., Second Army, Temporary General Sir Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer K.C.B. That same evening, "A" Company relieved
"C" Company in Scottish Wood, the latter upon relief proceeding to Rosenhill Camp. "A"
Company followed on the 9th when they moved to Q 3 and on the night of the 11th/12th, all four companies, after completing
a relief of the 7th Yorks.& Lancs., were positioned near or in the line; "C" and "D" Companies in
the Firing Line, "B" Company in Support, whilst "A" Company remained in their original position
at Q 3. The 7th Yorkshire's had also moved into the line after a relief of the 7th Lincoln's in the "T"
Sector Trenches, all battalions setting to work on the trenches that in the most part were flooded or in need of repair
due to the ongoing wet weather. On the night of the 12th/13th, the 6th Dorset's relieved the 8th South Staffordshire's
of the 51st Brigade at St. Eloi and fortuitously in the days that followed, there was a marked improvement of the weather
enabling work on the trenches in this Sector of the line to progress rapidly. (Authors note:- Of the 7th (Service) Battalion,
East Yorkshire Regiment, 50th Brigade, up to this date they had held the line continuously from midnight on the 27th of August).
In the days that followed,
the Rifle Grenade appeared to be the weapon of choice for both combatants as heated duels were exchanged on a number of occasions.
It was on the 14th that one such exchange took place involving the 7th East Yorkshire's but it was noted that the supply
of Rifle Grenades issued to the battalion to reply with good effect was woefully inadequate. As a consequence, three men were
unfortunately killed and a further thirteen wounded, one man being killed by a rifle bullet. (Authors note:- Revised casualties
as regards the Commonwealth War Graves indicates two men killed on the 14th/15th September). The activities of the enemy the
day previously however displayed their 'underhand' attempts to kill or maim their foes across No Man's Land when
a red, white and black 'Flag' appeared between the lines. No doubt curious and with thoughts for a 'trophy,'
Temporary Lieutenant Randal William Shuckburgh Croft accompanied by Lance-Corporal Anthony Grieves, 12638, and Lance-Corporal
Stewart, both of "C" Company, set out across No Man's Land to claim their 'prize'. (Authors note:- Possibly
Corporal Thomas Stewart, 15706). It was found that the 'Flag' was attached by wires to several bombs and upon cutting
the wires attached to the staff, it was brought into the lines. It was found however that there was still a bomb attached
but due to the latter having a bullet hole in its casing, it was deemed to be harmless. On closer examination by Lance-Corporal
Grieves, the bomb detonated in his hands, killing him either instantaneously or mortally wounding him.
Routine reliefs continued by the West Yorkshire's when on the 15th, "B"
Company moved to Scottish Wood after having been relieved in the Support Line by "B" Company of the 10th
(Service) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, of 52nd Brigade. In addition to this movement, "A" Company proceeded
from Q 3 to the Convent located north of the Church at Voormezeele. On the following day, Battalion Headquarters
was shelled by 77 mm guns at about 6 p.m. in addition to Ridge Wood, the Brigade War Diary recording that the battalion
had suffered two men wounded during the course of the day. Although the front line was reportedly "quiet," on
the following day P 46 located to the south-west of St. Eloi was shelled by small calibre high explosive shell, retaliatory
fire by British artillery being brought to bear on Piccadilly Farm north-east of the Bois Quarante. The
enemy commenced fire once again on this position at 5.30 p.m. when about ten trench mortars were fired followed by another
three at 8 p.m. No damage was recorded to the trench system and to quieten the situation down somewhat, the battalion sent
over eight rifle grenades that appeared to cause the enemy to cease further 'interest'. The Battalion War Diary records
no casualties on this date however an analysis of the Commonwealth War Graves database reveals that one man, Lance-Corporal
Harold Clarke, 11574, a native of Parkgate, Rotherham, was unfortunately killed aged 24 years. Before the war, Harold
was employed as an Attendant at the South Yorkshire Asylum, Wadsley, his home address being recorded as Number 42, Albert
Road, Parkgate. Killed whilst on sentry duty, Harold had only been drafted to the battalion about a month previously, possibly
numbering amongst the draft received on the 6th of August. Captain William Lewis Henderson in an article published in the
Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated the 2nd of October 1915 described Harold as a "willing, cheerful and reliable soldier".
Buried in Ridge Wood Military Cemetery, his epitaph reads, "He Gave His All For All".
It was whilst continuing to occupy the line that during the following day
there appeared to be a lull in the activities of the enemy as regards his artillery bombardments however the Brigade Diary
notes that the enemy fired armour piercing shells on a 'new' road constructed by the Royal Engineers on the north-west
side of Scottish Wood. An artillery bombardment was however opened on a large length of the German lines provoking
a response from the latter who bombarded Ridge Wood and the vicinity of Gordon Farm located to the rear
of the wood. Casualties are not recorded in the Battalion War Diary but on this date, Private Thomas Jackson, 16045, aged
35 years, was recorded as killed in action. A native of Sunderland and a married man, Thomas would leave behind four children
and a widow to mourn his death.
the night of the 20th/21st, the 6th Dorset's were relieved in the line by the 8th South Staffordshire's of the 51st
Brigade, this relief commencing at 8 p.m. on the evening of the 20th. With the 10th West Yorkshire's and the 7th East
Yorkshire's remaining in the line, the day was described as "quiet" however at 8 p.m. on the evening
of the 21st, an enemy machine gun began to open fire from the direction of The Mound, firing on the P Sector,
but no casualties were sustained. This period of relative inactivity continued until the 23rd when the British artillery shelled
the German Support Line but even this provocation failed to provoke a response. To this end, a more ingenious method of duping
the enemy was devised that involved the taking of straw into the trench system that was to be subsequently lit in an attempt
to initiate some reaction. As artillery commenced a more vigorous bombardment of the enemy line, rapid fire was opened at
4.30 a.m. early on the morning of the 25th but this 'ingenious scheme' did not come to fruition as it was determined
that the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. Devised to simulate a cloud of the enemy responded anyhow without provocation
and at 10 a.m. he commenced to shell the P 1 Sector south-east of the Bois Confluent but no damage or casualties
An inter-company relief took
place on the 26th when "A" Company relieved "D" Company and "B" Company relieved "C".
Upon completion of this, "C" Company moved to Scottish Wood and "D" Company proceeded to Voormezeele
respectively, these moves being completed without incident. Towards the close of the month, the sector once again remained
relatively quiet apart from occasional shelling and machine gun activity from the direction of The Mound. It appeared,
or so the Brigade War Diary noted, that there had been a change of troops in the enemy line, these being less enterprising
than the previous occupants however on the last day of the month, the sector held by the 7th East Yorkshire's near Square
Wood came under specific attention. It was at 6 p.m. on the evening of the 30th that shelling commenced followed by the
firing of a series of red light signals, this being the prelude to a heavy bombardment by trench mortars. Under this maelstrom
of fire, front, support and communication trenches were blown in under a calculated and precise bombardment but the men remained
steadfast and unshaken but this attack, although not followed by enemy infantry, resulted in the wounding of twelve men, three
who would unfortunately succumb to wounds received.
Remaining in the line, on the first day of the month a new location was established
for Battalion Headquarters at Dead Dog Farm, north of the Bois Carre. On the 2nd, a Warning Order was received
by the 50th Infantry Brigade stating that they were to be relieved in the line, this, subsequently be carried out on the following
day by units of the 43rd Infantry Brigade, 14th (Light) Division. As the 10th West Yorkshire's awaited this relief, P
46 was heavily shelled by 77 mm field guns ("Whizz Bangs") at 5.15 p.m., about 120 shells being fired into
this sector of the line. Although the Battalion War Diary records that no casualties were sustained, an analysis of the Commonwealth
War Graves Database reveals that one man was in fact killed, Private Rufus Lightowler Brook, 15322. A native of Low Moor,
Bradford, prior to the war Rufus was employed as a Forge Hand at an Iron Works, the family residence being located in King
Street. Enlisting in September 1914, it seems most likely that he was killed at some point during the enemy barrage. Buried
in Voormezeele Enclosure No. 3, Rufus is also commemorated on the Low Moor War Memorial and also on a War Memorial/Plaque
located in St. Mark's Church, now a private residence.
It was on the night of the 4th/5th of October that the battalion were relieved by the 6th Battalion, King's
Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Under the command of Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Raymond Edward Boulton, arrangements were
made for the battalion to meet guides to escort them into the line at H.29.d., just to the south of Vijverhoek. The
relief, in relation to the 10th West Yorkshire's was carried out as follows:- "A" Company (K.O.Y.L.I.) relieved
"A" Company of the West Yorkshires whilst "C" Company (K.O.Y.L.I.) relieved "B" Company of the
West Yorkshire's respectively. The relief though was not without incident as when the battalion reached Dickebusch they
found themselves in "an awful muddle and block" no doubt referring to traffic congestion. Luckily,
this was not spotted by enemy artillery observers and the battalion proceeded by route of march to Rozenhill Camp, south-east
of Reninghelst, the brigade being billeted in this general area.
It was on the 5th that the Battalion Adjutant, Captain John Humphrey Berkley, and one officer per company proceeded
to Steenvoorde to arrange billets. At 6 p.m., the battalion set out and marched via Poperinghe and Abeele to Steenvoorde arriving
at the latter at 11 p.m. whereupon the units that comprised the brigade billeted in farms in the area. (Authors note:- The
7th East Yorkshire's had a much more luxurious journey having been transported direct from the trenches in motor buses).
|Steenvoorde, Grand Place
|Courtesy Of The Geneanet Community
With Divisional Headquarters established at the La Marie, Steenvoorde,
the 50th Infantry Brigade Headquarters were established at Eecke, south of Steenvoorde respectively. Billets for the 10th
West Yorkshire's were scattered however, these being located in farms in an area both to the west and north-west of the
town. A programme of training was now initiated including amongst other disciplines, signalling, bombing and the training
of machine gun sections as well as attack practices. A brigade field day was also carried out in addition to a brigade route
march, each company of the West Yorkshire's performing performing route marches on a daily basis. Ernest Hopkinson put
pen to paper once again describing his experiences of this area to a friend, the subsequent article being published in the
Todmorden and District News dated the 29th of October 1915:-
"Pte. E. Hopkinson, Mytholmroyd, writing to a friend, says he is in a good state of health. They were a
good way back from the firing line for a rest from the trenches. They had been there more than a fortnight and the weather
was keeping fine. It was more a change than a rest. They had their physical drills, route marches etc., in order to keep them
fit. They were billeted in barns just outside a little French town, and had plenty of straw to sleep upon. It felt a treat
to get a full night's sleep without being disturbed. In the trenches they got an hour's sleep when they could, therefore
it was practically day and night work. They had been in the trenches 24 days, so it would be imagined how it felt to take
off their boots, to change their clothes and have a good bath. They had service every Sunday morning when not in the trenches.
Things had been rather more active and lively since he last wrote, but the results would be seen in the papers. He thought
the great Hun would learn shortly that their "little contemptible army" was too big for his methods of war. He had
just returned from a stroll in the village. It was a very nice place and much cleaner than the places in Belgium, and the
people were very civil. In Belgium the Huns had been active and the people had either fled or been killed, and their homes
were in rack and ruin. A few were still left. They lived very near the war area, and were engaged with their crops in the
fields. In most places the crops were rotting away and would never be got, as there was not sufficient labour".
This daily routine was carried
out until the 20th of October when orders were issued by Fifth Corps for the 51st Infantry Brigade to move during the course
of the afternoon to map reference G.11. that equates to a position to the west of Brandhoek. Further Operation Orders
both at Corps and Divisional level were also issued during the course of the day and as a consequence it was on the following
day that the 50th Brigade also moved to new billets to the west of Brandhoek. The Battalion War Diary records that the West
Yorkshire's on this date moved into a camp located on the Ouderdom - Vlamertinghe Road however a specific map reference
is unfortunately lacking. In relation to the other units that comprised the brigade, the 7th East Yorkshire's took over
what was described as a 'canvas camp' from the 1st Gordon Highlanders of the 3rd Division, the 7th Yorkshire's
moved to 'hutments' two miles east of Poperinghe whilst the 6th Dorset's who had been on a working party near
Hooge proceeded to Ypres Asylum minus one party who had returned to their camp at Busseboom.
It was on the 22nd that the 10th West Yorkshire's moved to Ypres whereupon
they took up billets in the seventeenth century Ramparts that surround the town. This movement was however only performed
by two and a half companies, "D" and the remaining half company staying in camp. As a 'welcome' to their
new surroundings, the Ramparts were heavily shelled during the course of the day but fortunately no casualties were sustained.
Orders were now received for the 50th Brigade to take over the line in the Hooge Sector from the 9th Brigade, 3rd Division,
and duly both the 7th Yorkshire's and the 6th Dorset's, minus a company each who would remain at Kruisstraat Dug-Outs,
moved to the trenches relieving the 1st Lincoln's and the 4th Royal Fusiliers respectively. With Brigade Headquarters
established at the north-west corner of Zillebeke Lake, the West Yorkshire's and the East Yorkshire's remained
in support, the former less one company in the Ramparts between the Lille Gate and Sally Port,
the latter, in Rest Billets along with "D" Company and the half company of the West Yorkshire's at Busseboom.
(Authors note: The Sally Port in question is that located just north of the Lille Gate, i.e., between the
latter and the Menin Gate).
Due to the horendous condition of the trenches in the Hooge Sector, working parties were furnished by the West Yorkshire's
every night. Departing the relative safety of the Ramparts, the men marched up into the sector, possibly via the
Menin Road, to perform their duties in repairing and reconstructing the trench system that had suffered under both British
and enemy artillery fire. With some trenches destroyed completely, the Support and Reserve Lines required particular attention
and needed to be reconstructed altogether. North of the Menin Road, the trenches varied in distance from the enemy line to
a width of eighty or twenty yards, the large mine crater blown on the 14th of June 1915 (sic) when the 3rd Division attacked
was noted in the Brigade War Diary as containing hundreds of bodies and constantly under shell fire. (Authors note:- This
mine was in fact detonated by the 175th Tunnelling Company on the 19th of July). As the line continued to the south of the
Menin Road, there was a 'gap' of 200 yards between trenches C.1 and C.3, the intervening trench
C.2 respectively not being reconstructed due to the constant attentions of enemy artillery. Further to the south
and behind the firing line, Zouave Wood was recorded by the Brigade War Diary as "a mass of debris and broken
trees". With the British line subjected to enfilade fire on all positions both north and south of the Menin Road,
there was to the north also the threat of the line being subjected to severe artillery fire.
It was on the evening of the 26th that it was the turn of the West Yorkshire's
to move into the line. Relieving the 6th Dorset's, Guides from the latter met both "A" and "B" Companies
of the incoming battalion at The Culvert, west of Hooge, whilst "D" Company were met at the Dump located
near the Moated Grange, north of Zillebeke Lake and proceeded to Headquarters. Of "C" Company,
they were to be positioned at Kruisstraat, presumably in Kruisstraat Dug-Outs. (Authors note:- Regarding "D"
Company, it is unclear to which actual Headquarters they proceeded to, Battalion Headquarters being established at Halfway
House, south of Birr Crossroads on the Menin Road, or Brigade Headquarters at the north-west corner of Zillebeke
Lake. Due to them being met by Guides at the Dump, I can only presume that they were stationed at Brigade Headquarters).
Although the Dorset's were relieved from the trenches, it must be noted that they would leave in position at Hooge their
Bombers and Machine Gun Sections, the date for their relief by the equivalent sections of the West Yorkshire's being detailed
for the night of the 28th/29th. During their tour of the line, the Dorset's had gleaned valuable intelligence of the German
line after a series of patrols conducted by Acting Sergeant Edwin John Marsh, 6457, a native of Sturminster Marshall, Wimbourne,
Dorset, and a member of the Battalion Bombers. Exploring the enemy line opposite C.4, C.5, C.6 and C.7, a
report and sketch map were forwarded to Fifth Corps noting key positions. The following map indicates however the line occupied
by the Dorset's prior to their relief by the West Yorkshire's. (Source:-Battalion War Diary, T.N.A. WO95/2000/1).
Trenches held by the battalion are denoted in 'red'.
|Sketch Map Dated 31st October 1915.
Sergeant Marsh on a number of patrols noted key features in the
enemy line. Opposite the position known as the Fish Hook, the enemy were in the process of building an advanced Bomb
Fort, connected to their firing line by a sap and a tunnel under their parapet. In their line in the C.5 Sector,
they had constructed a machine gun position with guns facing both right and left along the length of the line, in addition
to these, Marsh surmised that due to the sounds of construction work, they were possibly putting a position in place for another
gun to fire to their rear. On the extreme left of their line opposite C.4 Sector, another Bomb Fort had
been constructed with a possible telephonic centre either contained in it or in the vicinity and on the right astride the
Menin Road opposite the C.3 Sector, was yet another Bomb Fort. Regarding barbed wire defences, in some places
Marsh noted that it was "old and rusty," few stakes were used and in some parts coils of French Wire,
possibly a term for cheval de frise were placed inside the barbed wire defences. These defences also consisted
of a double line of wire, the majority as a whole being tied to a trip wire running along the whole length of their line.
Marsh also noted that the line appeared to be very strongly held, the Germans, it was noted in their trenches, talking and
laughing all the way along the line. This comprehensive piece of intelligence was recognised both at divisional and higher
levels of command, Sergeant Marsh being noted as deserving of an award for his endeavours. Unfortunately before an award could
be cited, Sergeant Edwin John Marsh was killed on the 30th of October leaving behind a widow and four children to mourn his
death. Denied a known grave, Edwin is now commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.
On their first full day in the trenches, the West Yorkshire's also noted
the state of the defences. Parapets were low and woefully inadequate and the communication trenches were virtually non existent
in most places. With snipers becoming more active, it was on the 27th that the battalion suffered four casualties due to their
activities. Three men are recorded as being killed on the 28th by the Commonwealth War Graves Database, Lance-Sergeant Robert
Porter, 13603, Lance-Corporal Henry Starr, 12693, and Private Robert Holmes King, 11628, respectively. Robert Porter aged
22 years was a native of Aston, Birmingham, and had been born at Meerut, India. A resident of Church Road, prior to the war
he was employed as a Rubber Worker. Originally buried in an unmarked grave close to the site of The Culvert, his
body was identified by a damaged identity disc and a numeral. Exhumed, Robert now lies in Tyne Cot Cemetery, remembered at
the time in numerous newspaper obituaries by his mother, sister and sweetheart "Jessie". Henry Starr, aged 26, was
a married man and a native of Beeston, Nottinghamshire. "Harry" was employed as a Lace Threader prior to the war,
his family and widowed mother residing in premises located in Gladstone Street, Beeston. Married in 1913 to one Elizabeth
Clark, his brother William would also be killed in action in October 1917 whilst serving with the Sherwood Foresters. Denied
a known grave, "Harry" is also commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial. Of Robert Holmes King, we can glean more
information from the Yorkshire Evening Post dated the 6th of November 1915. Aged 24 years, prior to the war he was employed
by the North Eastern Railway on the Station Staff at Headingley, Leeds. A 'popular' member of the St. Michael's
Cricket Club, he enlisted immediately after the outbreak of hostilities. Married in June 1915 shortly before proceeding overseas,
Robert fell victim to a sniper when he was shot through the head and never regained consciousness. In a letter to his wife,
his officer stated that he was a "most efficient soldier, untiring and uncomplaining". Residing in Winfield
Mount, Blackman Lane, Robert is now commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial and in addition to this he is also commemorated
on the Headingley War Memorial, Leeds.
In the closing days of the month, the line held by the West Yorkshire's was subjected to some instances of heavy
shell fire but fortunately no casualties were sustained. The chief enemy at this time was the weather which had now turned
to continuous rain with strong breezes from the south-west, a particular heavy downpour on the 29th destroying the labours
of the men as they attempted to repair the trenches. For Charley and the men of the battalion there was however to be a short
respite from the deprivations of life in the trenches but before a relief was commenced, one further man was to be killed.
The new month dawned the
same as the previous month had closed with heavy rain at times and with pratically no shelling by both the British and German
artilleries. It was on the 1st of November that Lieutenant Charles Guy Weston, formerly of Wetherby and an officer in the
7th Yorkshire's was killed but the 10th West Yorkshire's also lost one man on this date, Private Thomas George Burtoft,
16062. Thomas, a married man of South Shields, had enlisted at West Hartlepool in September 1914. Prior to the war he was
employed as a Coal Miner (Stone Man) i.e. involved in the removal of rock as opposed to coal, most likely at Usworth Colliery
circa 1911. No doubt due to his skills for work underground, Thomas was attached to the 50th Brigade Mining Section that had
been formed on the 12th of August. Placed under the command of Captain Percival Knight Allen of the 10th West Yorkshire's,
upon formation the Section comprised of 1 Subaltern and 52 Rank and File. The exact circumstances surrounding the death of
Thomas are unknown but an analysis of the Commonwealth War Graves Database reveals that he was originally buried in a mass
grave located near Gordon House, south of the infamous Hellfire Corner. Aged 26 years, Thomas is now recorded
by a Special Memorial located in Birr Cross Roads Cemetery as "Known To Be Buried In This Cemetery". In
addition to this, Thomas is also commemorated on the Tyne Dock War Memorial albeit with the incorrect inscription of the surname
on the night of the 2nd/3rd that the West Yorkshire's were relieved by the 6th Dorset's. Upon their relief, they then
proceeded to a Rest Camp however the exact location is not recorded in the Battalion War Diary. An analysis of the War Diary
of the Dorset's now about to enter the line however records that the latter vacated a camp located to the west of Busseboom.
I can only presume that as the West Yorkshire's rotated from front line to rest, this was the camp in question. After
spending several days at rest, orders were then issued for the battalion to proceed to the Ramparts on the evening
of the 7th. For once the town of Ypres lay strangely unmolested by enemy artillery fire as did the Hooge Sector to the west
but during the course of the morning in the latter, a systematic bombardment by both the 80th, 81st Brigades (Divisional Artillery),
2nd Group Heavy Artillery Reserve and artillery of the 6th Division had wreaked havoc on the enemy trench system east of C.1
and on the Redoubt. (Authors note:- Exact location unknown). During the evening of the 8th that was for once
devoid of rainfall, the West Yorkshire's moved back up into the line, both "C" and "D" Companies occupying
the Left Section of the firing line whilst "B" Company took up station at Headquarters. Of "A"
Company, they remained at Kruisstraat respectively. Early on the morning of the 9th, 5th Corps were informed by Divisional
Headquarters that the 28th Brigade, 9th (Scottish) Division, were to take over trenches from the 12th Manchester's, 52nd
Brigade, 17th (Northern) Division, this relief eventually being completed at 11 p.m. During the course of a fine morning,
the West Yorkshire's occupying C.4 and C.6 were subjected to the attentions of German 77 mm field guns
and as heavy rain began to fall during the course of the night, the Dump located near the Moated Grange was
also shelled. The Battalion War Diary records that there were no casualties but on this day at some point, two men were killed,
Privates James Patterson, 18559, and John Pearson, 19173.
John Pearson, of Castleford, Yorkshire, aged 23 years. The Yorkshire Evening Post dated the 19th of November 1915
records the following details as regards his civilian life and his role in the battalion despite some inaccuracies rectified
by the Author. Residing at Number 8, Back Bank Street, prior to the war he was employed at Messrs. Lumb and Company's
Glass Works, Castleford, as a " Glass Hand" (Glass Bottles). Enlisting at Castleford in September 1914, John was
posted overseas with the battalion in July and was subsequently trained as a Battalion Bomber. His younger brother Edwin also
enlisted but unfortunately the family received the news in August that he had died from a gunshot wound to the head whilst
serving with the 2nd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment. Commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, John and his brother are
also remembered in their home town on a Memorial Tablet located at the Royal British Legion Building.
James Patterson, aged 20 years and a native of Birmingham. The Birmingham
Daily Post dated the 16th of November 1915 records that prior to the war, James had been employed by Messrs. Webb at their
Crescent Works located in Hockley, Birmingham. A Brass Foundry manufacturing a variety of Plumbers' ware, his home address
was recorded before enlistment as Number 3, Heaton Street, Hockley. Soldiers Died In The Great War reveals that James
had previously enlisted into the 11th (Service) Battalion, Rifle Brigade, an analysis of surviving service documents of men
who served with this battalion indicating that he enlisted at Birmingham in September 1914. Issued the serial number B1740,
the reasons for his transfer to the West Yorkshire Regiment are unknown but he may have possibly been discharged due to medical
reasons and re-enlisted at a later date. Embarking with the battalion in July 1915, James was also killed in action and denied
a known burial, he too is commemorated on the Menin Gate.
During the course of the evening of the 9th, further reliefs took place whereupon the 10th Sherwood Foresters of
the 51st Brigade, 17th (Northern) Division, relieved the 7th Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps, 41st Brigade, 14th (Light)
Division, in the Ramparts at Ypres. The Brigade War Diary records that on this date, the West Yorkshire's suffered
one man wounded and one man killed, the latter being Lance-Corporal Harry Burdett, 12988. Harry, a native of the Woodhouse
district of Leeds prior to the war was employed as a Bricklayer. Married in 1913 and residing in premises located in Holborn
Terrace, Woodhouse Street, Harry is now commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial. Tragedy would also strike the Burdett family
once again in 1916 when Sam, Harry's brother, died of wounds to the chest and abdomen in January at the 2nd Casualty Clearing
Station located at Bailleul.
If the conditions experienced by the units in the line proved to be most trying, it must have been of some consolation
that the enemy opposite were also exposed to the vagaries of the weather. Across from sectors C.4 and C.5, there
appeared to be much 'splashing' and planks were observed being passed along their trenches opposite C 3. Reports
received at Brigade Headquarters stated that his trenches on the left of C 1 were damaged but it was in one sector
that half of "B" Company of the West Yorkshire's had to be moved due to them being up to their waists with water.
Upon the relief of the 52nd Brigade by the 27th Brigade, 9th (Scottish) Division, the former proceeding to rest whereupon
the 51st Brigade completed a relief of the 6th Division. Both brigades of the 17th Division were now ordered to take "special
precautions against attack" and although the enemy remained relatively inactive in the confines of his trench system,
during the course of the 11th heavy artillery fire was brought to bear on the British front line, support and communication
trenches. In addition to these positions, batteries and Battalion Headquarters to the rear were also shelled, Ypres town itself
being shelled by heavy artillery with direct hits being observed on St. Martin's Cathedral. In both C 6 and C
7, the West Yorkshire's were subjected to fire by "Minenwerfer" (trench mortars) and although
no casualties were sustained, one man was buried and the Fish Hook position entirely cut off.
Before a relief could be conducted by the 6th Dorset's, during the course
of the morning of the 12th the battalion were heavily shelled resulting in the wounding of three men. With Guides meeting
the incoming companies for the front line at the Culvert at 7 p.m., it was in foul weather that the West Yorkshire's
proceeded by route of march to Ypres and the Ramparts. The battalion were required however to furnish working
parties and in the following days these parties numbering 400 men augmented the work conducted by the R.E. Field
Companies and the Divisional Pioneers. Although the division had by now received a large number of Gumboots to protect
them from the water and mud, problems still existed with Trench Foot. To this end, both legs and feet were to be
rubbed with a protective oil, instructions for the use of being delegated to N.C.O.'s via classes of instruction who once
proficient, would then instruct the men. Under the supervision of the M.O., Temporary Captain Douglas William Hunter who had
joined the 10th West Yorkshire's from the 53rd Field Ambulance on the 6th of November, this important task was immediately
undertaken. (Authors note:- Hunter replacing Lieutenant Louis Emile Belcourt who was subsequently posted to the 7th Border's,
51st Brigade. Source:- T.N.A. WO95/1989/1).
|The Ramparts, Ypres. Author, July 2019
Of these Working Parties, some men of the 10th West Yorkshire's
were attached to the 175th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Conducting mining activities at both Armagh Wood and
Hill 60, it was on the 14th of November that the kitchen utilised by the men located at Maple Copse was
hit by the first shell of an enemy artillery bombardment. The War Diary of the 175th T.C. (T.N.A. WO95/404/5) records the
kitchen in MAPLE COPSE hit by first shell of bombardment. 4 men killed, 1 D. of W. and 12 wounded, one of whom D. of W. on
Thomas Clinton, 11584, and one Other Rank of the West Yorkshire's were wounded. Evacuated to the nearest A.D.S. (Advanced
Dressing Station) located at Maple Copse, Thomas unfortunately succumbed to wounds received on the 14th of November
at this medical facility administered by the 9th (Scottish) Division. A native of Trysull, Staffordshire, at some point after
the year of 1911, he had moved to the north of England and taken up residence at Aberford, Yorkshire. Marrying one Sarah Ann
Allen, the marriage being registered at Tadcaster in 1915, the couple set up their marital home on the estate at Becca Hall.
(Authors note:- Pension Records denote this address, Thomas no doubt in the employ of Mr. Frederick James Lund). Enlisting
at York, Thomas was buried in Maple Copse Cemetery but in continuous actions in this sector, his grave along with numerous
others was unfortunately 'lost'. As a consequence, he is now commemorated by a 'special memorial' bearing
the inscription "Known To Be Buried In This Cemetery". In addition to his place of burial, Thomas is also
commemorated on the Wombourne War Memorial, Wolverhampton, and on the War Memorial located at Aberford.
Another man who was wounded, although I believe under different circumstances,
was one Private William Rose, 12952. Aged 25 years and a married man of Sheffield, he was evacuated to the 17th Casualty Clearing
Station located at Remy Sidings (Lijssenthoek). Succumbing to "Gun Shot Wounds, Head," at 10.35 p.m. on
the 15th of November, he was buried on the following day in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. (Source:- War Diary 17th C.C.S.
the 52nd Brigade and placed in Divisional Reserve on the 16th, it was during the evening of the latter that the West Yorkshire's
proceeded to a Rest Camp, York Huts, located south-west of Brandhoek, described by the Battalion War Diary as"very
muddy and dirty and with "2 coys in tents, accomodation generally most inadequate". To compound matters
further for the men of the battalion, once again daily fatigues numbering between 300 to 50 men were organised as the weather
began to turn colder with intermittent bouts of rainfall. Although no casualties were suffered during this period, for some
of the wounded or sick of the battalion supposedly being evacuated to the safety of England, a tragic affair occured on the
17th of November. As the H.M.H.S. "Anglia" approached Dover, on board the ship was Lieutenant Charles Harry
Taylor and Lance-Sergeant Richard Wright Miller, 10869. Shortly after noon, the "Anglia" hit a mine laid
by the SM UC-5 and sank in just twenty minutes. With many wounded or sick men lying beneath the decks and despite
heroic attempts to rescue both the crew and the patients, many were trapped and unfortunately drowned. As to the number of
those lost, accounts vary but they were in excess of 150 with over 300 lives being saved. For Miller and Taylor, there was
to be no rescue and both are now commemorated on the Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton.
Lance-Sergeant Miller aged 26 years was a native of Aspatria, Cumberland.
Married in 1910 at Newcastle, before the war he was employed as a "Putter" working underground. (Authors note:-
Driving a pony hauling trucks laden with coal). Enlisting at Newcastle, he would leave behind a widow and three children to
mourn his death. The Wigton Advertiser dated the 25th of December 1915 published the following article:-
"The wife of Sergeant Richard Wright Miller has received official
news that he was drowned on the hospital ship Anglia, which was mined on November 17. Sergeant Miller, who was 27 (sic)
years of age, was being invalided home. He was the sixth son of Mr. Richard Miller, general dealer, Lawson Street, Aspatria.
At the age of 16 he migrated to New York State, where he spent four years in the American Artillery. Returning to England
at the age of 20, he married and settled down at Newcastle, where his wife and three children now live. Sergeant Miller was
a coal miner. He enlisted in the 10th West Yorkshires, and rapidly gained promotion. Being of a cheerful disposition he was
well liked and much sympathy is felt for his aged parents, who have three other sons serving with the colours, two in training
in England and the other is in Egypt. Whilst at home Sergeant Miller was a regular attender at the Primitive Methodist Sunday
School, and on Sunday morning a memorial service was conducted in the Primitive Methodist Church by the Pastor, the Rev. H.
Advertiser dated the 11th of December 1915 published an article as regards the death of Lieutenant (sic) Taylor. Born in 1885,
"Harry" was commissioned as a Temporary Second-Lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment on the 19th of March 1915.
(London Gazette dated the 23rd of March 1915). Posted overseas with the battalion in July 1915, he was then I presume evacuated
sick as there is no evidence of him being wounded. The article reads:-
"Lieut. Harry Taylor, West Yorks Regiment, one of the four officers reported dead or missing as the result
of the sinking of the hospital ship Anglia, was a native of Wolverhampton. The son of the late George F. Taylor and Mrs. Taylor,
of 2, Drummond-street, he first held a position under the Wolverhampton Education Authority, retaining it until January, 1905,
when he left to take up an appointment at Chelmsford under the Education Committee of the Essex County Council. Leaving Chelmsford
in June, 1913, he entered the accountant's department of the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Co., Ltd., at Ebbw Vale. His
elder brother, Frederick, has a position in the sheet mills department under the same company".
The West Yorkshire's duly returned to the trenches on the evening of
the 24th completing a relief of the 9th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's, 52nd Brigade. During this relief, "A"
and "B" Companies proceeded to the front line trenches whilst "C" Company remained with Headquarters and
"D" Company were sent to Kruistraat respectively. Upon the Duke's being relieved, the 10th West Yorks
reported on the following day that they had inherited a trench system "in a very bad state". To be fair
to the 'Duke's,' they had attempted to repair the trenches but due to the ongoing weather conditions, progress
had been nigh on impossible. They had however performed a number of patrols that had gleaned valuable information as to the
state of the German trenches and had captured one prisoner on the 22nd. It was known that this sector was held by regiments
from Wurttemberg but it was now believed that a relief had taken place due to a number of movements being observed in the
enemy trenches. With the weather now turning to a hard frost, it is at this juncture that we will now follow the West Yorkshire's
during this tenure of the Left Sector at Hooge.
The Battalion War Diary recorded that on the 26th of November there was a heavy frost resulting in the collapse of
part of the trench system located in C.7. Opposite the trenches held by the West Yorkshire's, the situation remained
'quiet' apart from occasional sniping eminating from the C.4 Sector to their right. Bombardments
by trench mortars on the German lines were however conducted during the course of the day but during the early evening the
enemy replied by firing a machine gun down the length of the Menin Road. Observation Posts were also established in the Crater
as well as a new O.P. constructed close to the Menin Road and due opposite the Stables. As regards casualties, non
were suffered by the battalion but on the following day, one man, Private Charles Harold Jennings, 15203, of "A"
Company, died at the Number 10 Casualty Clearing Station located at Lijssenthoek.
Charles illustrates perfectly the problems in researching individuals through
source material largely available. A native of Hammersmith, London, prior to the war Charles was employed as an Auctioneer's
Clerk at an Estate Agents and was residing with his widowed mother at Number 6, Beavor Lane. Enlisting at Hounslow, the origins
of his wounding date from the 25th when he and two other men were injured, Private Sidney Mail, 12153, "A" Company
and Lance-Corporal Henry Mallett Short, 19827, "B" Company respectively. (Source:- MH106/66). Soldiers Died
In The Great War records that Charles "Died of Wounds" however an analysis of pension records states
that he died of dysentery aged 27 years, clearly an error in transcription as the record also states whilst serving with the
M.E.F. (Mediterranean Expeditionary Force). Having checked that personal circumstances matched i.e. census and birth
records, it is now clear that Charles received wounds by a "Bullet Head & Neck" whereupon he
first received medical treatment at the 51st Field Ambulance. Evacuated to the 10th Casualty Clearing Station, he succumbed
to his wounds on the 27th and is now buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. In addition to his place of burial, Charles
is also commemorated on a Memorial Tablet/Board located in St. Peters Church, Black Lion Lane, Hammersmith).
Despite the attentions of trench mortars, the enemy remained relatively quiet
with apparently no patrols being sent out at night. Now that the weather had turned frosty, work on the trench system proved
to be more difficult than ever with trenches and parapets falling in despite working parties numbering between 300 - 400 men
every night attempting to repair them. The conditions were so bad that some sections of the trenches had to be evacuated altogether
and diversions constructed in the numerous communication trenches leading into the sector and the line. Although there was
little activity, there were periods of desultory shell fire primarily from artillery, to this end, one man of the West Yorkshire's
was wounded on the 27th, Lance-Corporal John Edward Locker, 15715.
Born at Whitby, North Yorkshire, in 1887, by the year of 1901, John had married and was residing in the Southwick
district of Sunderland. Employed as a Shipyard Labourer, at the recording of the next census in 1911, the family now with
two children born in 1902 and 1905 had relocated to Haswell Plough, County Durham, residing at Number 7, Second Cross Row.
Now describing his employment as that of a Coal Miner (Filler), two further children would be born in the years of 1912 and
1914 respectively. Enlisting at West Hartlepool in September 1914, John received Gun Shot Wounds Thigh on the 27th
and initially received medical treatment at the 51st Field Ambulance before being evacuated to the 10th Casualty Clearing
Station located at Lijssenthoek. (Source:- MH106/068). Succumbing to his wounds on the following day, John is now buried in
Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. In addition to his place of burial, he is also commemorated on the Haswell War Memorial located
in the Churchyard of St. Paul's Church.
On the evening of the 28th/29th, the West Yorkshire's were relieved by the 6th Dorset's. Following the usual
procedures, Platoon Guides of the West Yorkshire's rendezvoused with the Platoons of the Dorset's who were to take
over the line north of the Menin Road at Outpost Farm, to the east of Birr Crossroads. With the relief passing
without incident, the West Yorkshire's proceeded by route of march to the Asylum, west of Ypres, where the battalion
were met by five motor buses, the Battalion War Diary recording laconically, "for the first time since Batt joined
the BEF". This 'tour' in the line had, by all battalions of the 17th Division, indeed proved to be most
trying. The motor buses provided to transport the men to the rear was not preferential treatment but had in fact become a
standard procedure due to the numbers of men suffering from Trench Foot. As regards the treatment of this condition,
in some respects the 10th West Yorkshire's had been used as a 'test experiment' when on the 24th of November,
instructions were issued to the 51st Field Ambulance to issue 1000 Calcium Lactate tablets to the battalion, in addition to
a supply of 2000 already issued. The benefits of taking this supplement are now widely known but in the context of Trench
foot, the latter was issued by the A.D.M.S. Headquarters 17th (Northern) Division "with a view to testing the
efficiency or otherwise of same as a preventative of frostbite + Trenchfeet". (Source:- WO95/1989/3).
With the 50th Brigade now placed in Divisional Reserve, the West Yorkshire's
proceeded once again in to the Rest Camp located at York Huts, the 'camp' being found to be knee deep in
mud and described as being in a filthy state. With one company in tents, Battalion Transport and Quartermaster Stores had
to find accommodation a distance of one mile away in the vicinity of Busseboom and in addition to the discomfort felt by all
due to the conditions they now found themselves in, parties for daily fatigues numbering 200 - 50 men were also furnished.
Back in England, the Derby
Scheme i.e. voluntary enlistment had commenced in October, the last date for those wishing to register for military service
being designated as the 15th of December. Private Hopkinson had his own thoughts on those remaining at home and in a short
article published in the Todmorden and District News dated the 3rd of November 1915, his tone is quite apparent:-
"Private Ernest Hopkinson, writing to his parents, Mr. and Mrs.
Hopkinson, Westfield Terrace, Mytholmroyd, says that he is still in the best of health, although the weather had been very
keen and frosty. They were in the trenches for a few days. He supposed there would be a large number enlisting under the new
scheme. It would be brightening up some of the slackers. Had some of his old pals come out of their shells yet? What a rude
awakening it would give some of them. It would do some of them good to have a turn out there and see for themselves what it
really was like. He did not think they realised the situation. They were not overjoyed with their hardships, but someone had
to do it, so why not those yet at home"?
Remaining in Divisional Reserve until the night of the 9th/10th of December, the 50th Brigade now commenced a relief
of the 52nd Brigade, the 10th West Yorkshire's relieving the 9th West Riding's in the Left Sector, Hooge,
this relief being completed at 10 p.m. on the night of the 10th. The enemy had remained relatively 'passive' during
the previous days of the month as they too it appeared were also suffering from the effects of waterlogged trenches. One point
of interest noted in the 50th Brigade War Diary was that opposite C.3, the enemy had been placing blue coloured sandbags
on his parapet, a possible indication that he may have been conducting mining operations in this part of the line. With both
"C" and "D" Companies in the line and with "A" and "B" Companies in Support and Reserve
respectively, it was during the course of the following day that the battalion suffered their first casualty when Private
Edgar Winson, 11024, was unfortunately killed.
Aged 26 years, Edgar was born at Spurn Head, East Yorkshire, in 1889. The son of a Lifeboat Coxwain and Fisherman,
his father would later become a Lighthouse Keeper, the family residence eventually being established in the village of Paull.
By the year of 1911, Edgar was residing as a Boarder at premises located in Fleet Street, Stepney Lane, Hull, his occupation
recorded in the census of that year as a Butcher. Married in 1913 to one Lavinia Rose Pickard, the marriage was blessed by
the birth of one child, Muriel, in 1914. Enlisting at Hull in September 1914, Edgar was unfortunately hit in the head by an
enemy sniper and died shortly afterwards. The Hull Daily Mail dated the 23rd of December 1915 published the following article:-
"Private Edgar Winson,
of the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment, killed in action in France on December 11th. He was shot through the head by a German
sniper, and never regained consciousness. He leaves a widow and one child. Writing to his widow, his platoon commander, after
expressing sympathy at his death says, :-
is sorry to have lost him. He was not only an excellent soldier, but always popular both with officers and men of his company.
I am glad to be able to say his death was almost painless, and I can assure you that you have our sincerest sympathy in your
doubt evacuated to the nearest Field Ambulance, Edgar's grave was unfortunately lost and as a consequence he is now commemorated
on the Menin Gate. In addition to this commemoration, he is also remembered on the Dansom Lane Street Shrine, Hull, the Wilmington
Parish Roll of Honour and on two War Memorials located in the village of Paull, Holderness.
It was on the 12th of December that the Battalion War Diary recorded
that there was "violent Shelling" of the ground between Battalion Headquarters, the Menin Road and the
Zillebeke Road however it appears that the enemy artillery did not fire on the front and support lines. This was possibly
due to the fact that Screens had been constructed and erected at various locations south of the Menin Road to lure
the German artillery into firing behind the line. Effective as it was, this 'strategy' no doubt caused consternation
to those occupying positions to the rear.
the following day, both field and heavy artillery commenced a bombardment of selected positions in the enemy's trench
system at 2.30 p.m. His trenches in front of Bellewaarde Farm and on either side of the Roulers Railway near
Railway Wood came in for particular attention, large sections of the German parapet being destroyed that created
large gaps in his defences. The enemy's reply came in a heavy bombardment of Y Wood in addition to heavy shelling
on Cambridge Road and the Roulers Railway that resulted in the wounding of Second-Lieutenant George Herbert
Bacon and three Other Ranks.
Herbert Bacon, a native of Sheffield, aged 26 years. Educated at Jesus College, Oxford, George had received a commision as
a Temporary Second-Lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment on the 25th of January 1915. Receiving medical treatment at the
51st Field Ambulance, George had suffered Gun Shot Wounds, Shoulder, and was subsequently evacuated to a Casualty
Clearing Station, I surmise this establishment being either the 10th or 17th located at Lijssenthoek. Evacuated to England,
an analysis of further surviving medical records reveal that he then developed "psoriasis debility after influenza"
whilst a patient at the Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital, Millbank, London, and was eventually discharged from
this establishment on the 11th of January 1916. (Source:- T.N.A. MH106/1673). Returning to the battalion in 1916, he would
be wounded at Fricourt, Somme, on the 8th/9th of July and evacuated to England once again. Promoted to the rank of Temporary
Lieutenant in July 1917, he would continue to serve at the Command Depot and in the following year would be employed by the
Ministry of Labour. Due to his wounds, he would relinquish his commission in April 1919.
Of the three Other Ranks wounded, it is possible in this case to trace two
of their number, Private Wilfred Boulton Atha, 11990, and Lance-Corporal Charles William Kirby, 11646. Wilfred Atha of Headingley,
Leeds, had enlisted in September 1914. Receiving a Bullet Wound Elbow, he would be discharged from military service
in July 1916. Charles Kirby, a native of Norton, near Malton, had enlisted at York in August 1914. Receiving a Bullet
Wound Forearm, he would serve at home with the 13th Battalion before being posted overseas once again and be wounded
in July 1916 whilst serving with the 11th Battalion of the Regiment. Returning to the 10th Battalion in January 1917, he would
be wounded in the thigh in the following month and would be eventually discharged in September 1917.
As the 14th of December dawned fine and cold, it was after noon that the
enemy artillery opened up once again on both the left and right sectors of the line. In addition to the bombardment on these
areas, communication trenches were also targeted to the rear of the right sector as well as Ypres town itself being subjected
to fire by 11 inch guns. Retaliatory fire was therefore brought to bear by both field and heavy artillery and the situation
stabilised somewhat by mid afternoon but it was obviously apparent that the enemy had excellent observation, his most effective
fire eminating from the direction of Hill 60 to the south. Relieved by the 6th Dorset's, the latter was completed
at about 7.45 p.m. and as they departed the line for the relative secure of the Ramparts, the area was heavily shelled
by 77 mm field guns from the Breastwork (a defensive position located near Gordon House), Halfway House
and the Zonnebeke Road but no casualties were sustained.
(Authors note:- Before the relief of the battalion, fundamental changes had occurred in the command of the battalion.
Battalion, Brigade and Divisional War Diaries however do not record for some reason this change in command but it was on the
13th of December that Major Roderick Mackenzie Edwards replaced Colonel Umfreville as Commanding Officer of the 10th (Service)
Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment. The History Of The 50th Infantry Brigade 1914 - 1919 (Authors Copy presented to Second-Lieutenant
Andrew James Dando, 6th Dorset's) records this transition as taking place on the 18th/19th November 1915. An analysis
however of The Army List dated April 1916 and corrected to the 31st of March 1916 records that Edwards had assumed
command on the 13th instant, this being confirmed by the London Gazette dated the 26th of February 1916).
It was most fortunate that the battalion had exited the line as just at about
the time the relief had been completed, the enemy blew a large mine in the Railway Wood Sector forming a crater that
was oval in shape and which measured 90 x 70. One man, Sapper George Auty Chatt, 102449, of the 177th Tunnelling Company who
had been listening for enemy activity in the British mine workings, was unfortunately killed. Entombed, his body still lies
in the maze of tunnels beneath the Flanders soil and he is now commemorated on the R.E. Grave Memorial located at Railway
Wood, erected to commemorate twelve men including Sapper Chatt who fell between November 1915 and August 1917.
|R.E. Grave, Railway Wood. Author, November 2019
Returning to the Ramparts, there was a chance for Charley
and the men to clean kit, get warm and write letters home. There was though the furnishing of the ever present working parties,
450 men being sent up the line at night to work on the Breastwork and front line positions in addition to the battalion
providing carrying parties. The Battalion War Diary records no information as to this period however the Brigade Diary notes
that on the night of the 16th, officers and men of both the 7th Yorkshire's and the 10th West Yorkshire's "carried
out a close reconnaissance of the enemy's wire opposite our line - Opposite our trenches B 8, C 1, C 2, C 3 (South of
Menin Road) the enemy's wire is strong and wide. Opposite HOOGE it is generally in good condition and fairly thick".
The War Diary of the 7th Yorkshire's provides more details:-
"German wire along our front thoroughly reconnoitered by Mr RG de Quetteville (Temporary Lieutenant
Robert George de Quetteville) & Mr H.K.C. Hare. (Temporary Second-Lieutenant Hugh Kenneth Christian Hare). It
was found to be extremely strong & practically impenetrable. Some trip wires were found. The C.O. (Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel
Ronald D'Arcy Fife) sniped from a point in the Appendix (Map Reference J.13.c., C 1 Sector) opposite
the German redoubt, & accounted for 2 or 3 Germans".
The battalion remained in the Ramparts until the 19th whereupon they proceeded by route of march, in companies,
to York Camp (York Huts) near Busseboom and placed in Divisional Reserve. Once again and no doubt due to the availabilty
of space, both Transport and Quartermaster Stores had to be billeted over a mile away, "very inconvenient" as
recorded in the pages of the War Diary noted. Along the front line, the enemy was reported as being quiet despite the weather
being fine. With his artillery relatively inactive, this aroused suspicion and these suspicions were confirmed when early
on the morning of the 19th of December on the fronts held by the 49th (West Riding) Division and the 6th Division at the Canal
Bank and between the Wieltje Salient and the Roulers Railway respectively, when gas was discharged.
It was at about 4.50
a.m. that on the front held by the 49th Division, a shout was heard by sentries in the line near Turco Farm which
was subsequently followed by the launching of coloured rockets all along the length of the German front line. Then, an ominous
hissing sound was heard and a white vapour materialised that soon enveloped the trenches held by the 1/5th West Yorkshire's
assisted by a north-easterly wind. In the sector held by the 6th Division, the 14th Durham Light Infantry, 18th Brigade, holding
the left flank, the gas was reported to have been detected in their trenches at 5.30 a.m. and on their right, this was also
reported by the 2nd D.L.I. just five minutes later. Along the length of this divisional sector, gas was reported as being
released at various times followed by a heavy bombardment at about 5.50 a.m.
With men in both sectors responding quickly to the gas and donning their gas helmets, to the north in the 49th Division
sector only small parties of enemy infantry were seen to advance but these were met with machine gun and rifle fire. The German
'attack' is probably, at least north of Hooge, is best summarised by the War Diary, General Staff, 6th Division. (T.N.A.
WO95/1581/2), an extract of which follows:-
"The Germans reported to have left their trenches were probably patrols sent forward to ascertain the effects
of the gas. No attack appears to have been intended, but the hostile trenches were manned probably with a view to taking full
advantage of a successful effect from the gas.
1. It is doubtful whether their wire was prepared, and they did not cut ours deliberately with gun-fire. If they
intended to attack they must have relied solely on the effect of the gas. Possibly the heavy rifle fire from our trenches
& the F.A. barrage was too much for them.
2. A sudden change in the wind (which veered much to the north) may have caused them to cancel their orders for
an attack, whilst they were unable to cancel orders for the gas. Gas was apparently let out from the left of the 49th Div
at their junction with the French up to the WIELTJE salient in our line, a front of about 2 3/4 miles apparently from gas
batteries about 200 yards apart & the whole lasting about 30 - 40 minutes".
With the 50th Infantry Brigade of the 17th (Northern) Division in Divisional
Reserve, in the front line the 51st Brigade held the left sector of the line north of Hooge, whilst the 52nd Brigade manned
the right sector respectively. At 17th Division Headquarters located at Reninghelst, it was at about 5.30 a.m. that the distinct
sound of a heavy barrage could be heard. A report was then received fifteen minutes later from 51st Brigade stating that a
gas attack was now in progress to the north of their positions, the gas even been detected shortly afterwards at Divisional
At this juncture, we will now explore
the events of the 19th of December in relation to the 51st Brigade whose units were disposed as follows; Left Battalion, the
8th South Stafford's, Railway Wood, 7th Lincoln's, Right Battalion, 7th Borders (Ramparts) and the
10th Sherwood Foresters in their Rest Camp located north-east of Ouderdom. The 51st Brigade War Diary records the
events which are brief in detail but it states that it was at about 5.15 a.m. that "the enemy liberated clouds of
gas from their trenches opposite the corps on our left". An analysis of the 8th South Staffordshire's
War Diary indicates that they were first made aware by the brigade that a gas attack was unfolding at 5 a.m. Although chronology
is no doubt incorrect, it appears that the companies holding the front line were unaffected by the gas but at about 5.45 a.m.
all communication was lost due to wires being cut as German artillery intensified their bombardment on all sectors and Ypres
To their right, the 7th Lincoln's
suddenly heard bursts of rapid fire to the north of their sector followed by further busts of fire to their south. Just five
minutes later, both British and German artillery fire erupted but the line held by the Lincoln's remained unmolested,
the enemy concentrating his main barrages on specific points to the rear. Although no gas was detected, such was the noise
of artillery shells as they passed in both directions, it was impossible to hear conversation as this cacophony of sound was
added to by the fire of British heavy artillery on the German trench system.
The German bombardment was now supplemented by the use of gas shells. At 5.30 a.m., the 7th Borderers located in
the Ramparts at Ypres felt the full effects of the initial chemical discharge. For over a period of two and a half
hours, the men of the battalion endured the gas, protected as they were by the rudimentary Gas Helmet. With the town
of Ypres now being heavily bombarded by gas shells, after a period of one and a half hours, the air was deemed to be 'breathable'
and the men removed their Helmets although a heavy barrage continued on the town until about 7.30 a.m.
In Brigade Reserve, the Commanding Officer of the 10th Sherwood Foresters,
Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Edward Banbury, in camp north-east of Ouderdom, was awakened by the sound of heavy artillery fire.
Immediatley the battalion was ordered to "Stand To" and then proceeded towards the sound of gun fire towards the
east. Arriving in the town of Ypres, now deluged with gas, all companies reached their destination and allocated positions
by 8.40 a.m. Such was the concentration of chemical agents, the battalion were "compelled" to wear their
Smoke Helmets, Headquarters and two companies taking up station in the Ramparts whilst one company was sent
forward to reference X1A, the remaining company taking up position in the Horn Cellars (sic), east of the
Ypres moat. (Authors note:- The cellars under the Horne Works, due east of St. Jacques Church). The battalion
suffice to say remained in a state of readiness for the remainder of the day until marching back to their camp that same evening.
It is now that we turn our
attentions to that of the 52nd Brigade and the right sector of the line. The brigade was disposed as follows; 9th Northumberland
Fusiliers (less one company at Kruisstraat) left sector, 10th Lancashire Fusilier, right sector, 9th West Ridings, Ramparts,
and 12th Manchester's (two companies, machine gun section and bombers at Kruisstraat).
In the firing line, the 9th N.F. experienced no effects of the gas discharge
however Gas Helmets were worn and no casualties reported. To their right, the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers reported
rapid rifle and machine gun fire north of the Menin Road at 5.30 a.m. As enemy artillery fire now began to fall in the sector,
to the right of the Fusiliers, the 10th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the 9th (Scottish) Division in positions at Sanctuary
Wood were subjected rifle fire on their front. With all communication lost to the artillery batteries due to lines being
cut, some heavy artillery did however manage to respond but unfortunately some rounds fell short killing three men and wounding
In virtually all the accounts
of the actions of the 19th of December, it was the shelling to the rear that proved to most problematic. For the 9th West
Riding's in the Ramparts, it would be the gas that would initially cause concern.
Shortly after a working party had returned, it was at about 5 a.m. that the
sound of a very heavy bombardment was discerned and the smell of gas detected. As the bombardment appeared to continue in
intensity, the Battalion Guard gave warning and the men donned their Smoke Helmets waiting for orders. Despatching
an officer to 52nd Brigade Headquarters, the men were then issued 270 rounds of ammunition per man whilst a party detailed
to carry bombs proceeded to the stores and awaited orders. It was at about 6.10 a.m. that the Brigadier-General of the 52nd
Brigade, Temporary Brigadier-General Herbert Conyers Surtees, C.B., M.V.O., D.S.O., issued orders by telephone at 6.10 a.m.
for the 9th West Riding's to move forward to the line. Upon receipt of this order at 6.35 a.m., the Officer Commanding
the battalion, Major Cyril Darcy Vivien Cary-Barnard, ordered two companies forward, accompanied by the Battalion Grenade
Platoon to positions R S.1 & R S.2 (one company), and R S.3 & R S.4 (one company). (Authors note:-
These locations equating to positions around Zouave Wood and to the west of the latter through map reference I.17.
It was in effect a defensive line, established as a Divisional Defence Scheme should the enemy breakthrough
the line. A series of Redoubts, these were mutually supported by positions at both Yeomanry Post and R
7, the latter located just to the south of Zouave Wood). The remaining two companies of the battalion
were then ordered to occupy positions at Zillebeke Switch accompanied by two guns of the Machine Gun Section, the
remaining two guns of the latter being placed under the command of the O.C., Northumberland Fusiliers, Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel
Herbert Bryan C.M.G.
|View Towards Hooge, Author, October 2019
|R S.1 & R S.2 Located Right To Left, Halfway Across The Green Field. The Defensive Line.
It was at 6 a.m. that the first two companies accompanied by the
Battalion Grenade Platoon moved off along the Ramparts. Upon exiting the Menin Gate, this party now proceeded
along the Menin Road to a trench connecting Union Street with the Menin Road. Under the
command of Temporary Captain George Edward Wannell, these two companies had moved forward at some speed escaping the effects
of the gas in the streets of Ypres. Despite suffering some casualties due to shell fire, they now had to move off the Menin
Road due to it becoming daylight, progress now being slowed as the men made their way through waterlogged trenches to
R.S.5 which was reached at 8 a.m. en route for the Reserve Line. The delay was however anticipated by Brigade
Headquarters and as a consequence, "C" and "D" Companies of the 7th Yorks. & Lancs. under the commands
of Temporary Captains Ernest Edwin Bonner and Frederick William Leicester Hulk respectively were ordered forward from their
positions at Zillebeke Lake to occupy both R.S.3 and R.S.4 until the arrival of the first party
of West Riding's. Upon the latters arrival, Captain Bonner "skillfully" led the party forward, passing
Halfway House at about 8 a.m. and it is a credit to his great skill that Wannell's party suffered minimal losses.
The second party, under the command of Major Cary-Barnard
and accompanied by his Adjutant, Temporary Captain Alfred Eric Miller, now readied themselves to move out of Ypres via the
Sally Port and await orders. One company, under the command of Captain Malcolm Robertson who were billeted in the
Rue de Lille, had no doubt the furthest distance to travel to exit the Sally Port. Upon making their way
through the streets, this company suffered considerably due to the effects of gas and shell fire but as they made their way
forward, their exit from the town now came under ever increasing fire. Major Cary-Barnard was subsequently hit sustaining
wounds to his left buttock/thigh, whilst his Adjutant, Captain Miller, was also wounded in the leg, both officers then receiving
initial medical treatment at the 51st Field Ambulance located at Brandhoek. (Source:- MH 106/118 & T.N.A. WO95/1996/1
respectively). Both officers were then evacuated to the 10th Casualty Clearing Station before finally being evacuated to England.
For Lieutenant William Inchley of "A" Company, there was to be only one fate, death by shell fire as he exited the
town. The Grantham Journal dated the 22nd of January 1916 published the following article surrounding his death and William's
accomplishments in civilian life, an extract of which follows as regards letters received from fellow officers by his grieving
and Adjutant S. Danby states that Lieut. Inchley was killed on December 19th, whilst moving out with his men through a gas
attack. "They had just got away into the open," he says "where both the gas and the shelling were very bad,
when he was killed by a shell which burst very close to him. He was killed instantly, and the Medical Officer was absolutely
certain he could not possibly have felt any pain, nor would he know about it." Captain Danby added, on behalf of himself
and all the officers, that deceased died doing his duty very gallantly, and everyone admired him for what he was - a brave
and honest gentleman. At the time he was leading his men he was doing magnificently, and nobody could have done better. Captain
Malcolm Robertson, after narrating how Lieut. Inchley was killed, assured the widow that the whole Battalion was full of sorrow
in her bereavement, and could only hope that the knowledge that her husband did his duty calmly and bravely to the end would
bring her some comfort. His loss to the Battalion was greatly felt, for his value had just become known. Another officer explains
that Lieut. Inchley was in command of "A" Company when he met with his death, and was actually leading them to the
trenches. He was buried at Ypres, near the prison. At the outbreak of war Lieut. Inchley was a lecturer of engineering at
the Nottingham University College. He was the author of several important technical works on Engineering and Combustion, which
gained for him some great prominence in his profession. In 1913, he was given a commission in the Reserve of Officers, and
for active service was posted to the Duke of Wellington's Regiment. Prior to his death he had been gassed and invalided
fire intensified, the men of this second party moved forward over the open whereupon Temporary Lieutenant Geoffrey Hawkes
received wounds to his leg and knee and was subsequently evacuated via the 51st Field Ambulance to the 10th Casualty Clearing
Station. (Source:- MH 106/118). Using the high ground as cover, the party proceeded forward to the Zillebeke Switch,
Captain Robertson reporting to Brigade Headquarters upon their arrival. His orders were now to dispatch about 100 hundred
men to Captain Wannell who was now in command of the battalion and holding positions in R.S.3 and R.S.4.
With this detachment of men arriving at about noon, they subsequently reported to Captain Wannell but there were still men
of the battalion dispersed either on their way to the front line trenches or in Ypres itself. These men were then gathered
together and taken up the line to be placed in a position 200 yards to the rear, Wannell being informed of their arrival and
dispositions. Water and preserved rations were then issued and sent up to the men in the support positions whilst a Signal
Station was established at the Moated Grange north of Zillebeke Lake.
With lines 'cut' by enemy artillery fire, Linesmen of the 17th Division
Signal Company worked feverishly to repair communications. Runners from front and reserve line positions also worked efficiently,
Sapper Robert Peters, 96626, for example, receiving a well earned Distinguished Conduct Medal for his efforts in connecting
and repairing lines to the artillery. The Divisional Artillery, whose rapid response greatly reduced the threat of an advance
by enemy infantry, also suffered. One battery, A/78 of the 78th Brigade, had all its emplacements knocked out and
it was reported that in their positions in the Left Group, a vast quantity of gas and shells of other calibres were
fired into the sector. For the parents of Gunner Charles Henry Willis, a native of Grangetown, killed whilst serving with
"C" Battery of the 79th Brigade, this was the second tragedy to strike the family in a matter of months. In August,
his brother John David Willis had been killed in the Dardanelles whilst serving with the Yorkshire Regiment aged just 19 years.
John is buried in Lala Baba Cemetery close to where he fell but unfortunately Charles, aged 23 years, was denied a known grave
and is therefore now commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.
Although there appeared to be a slackening in the rate of the enemy's artillery fire between the hours of 10
a.m. - 3 p.m., after the latter hour all routes from both the front and to the rear including Ypres itself were subjected
to a consistent and heavy bombardment. In addition to all calibres of artillery, the enemy it was also noted fired two kinds
of gas shell, one lachrymatory (Tear Gas), the second, similar to 'cylinder gas' i.e. phosgene. Training had however
proved vital and due to the men donning their Smoke Helmets quickly, casualties due to the effects of poisoning by
a chemical agent were minimal. Goggles issued, it was noted however, afforded little protection but the wearing of the Smoke
Helmet imbued a sense of protection to the men. In the front line positions, casualties to both the South Staffs and
the Lincoln's of 51st Brigade numbered 39 officers and O/R's either killed or wounded, the 7th Border's, one company
in support, 6, wounded or suffering from shell shock, whilst the 10th Sherwood Foresters suffered 1 O/R killed and 11 wounded.
(Authors note:- The unfortunate soldier killed was one Private William Headford Glossop, 17146, a native of Ambergate, Derbyshire,
and I feel I 'owe it' to "Willie" to tell his 'story'). The Derbyshire Advertiser
dated the 8th of January 1916 published a detailed account of the circumstances surrounding his death, an extract of which
A. Walters, (Arthur Walters, 14282) on behalf of the section M.G.C., also addressed a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Glossop,
in which he said:- "We are all cut up about it. He was such a nice lad, and had only come into my section a week ago.
I will tell you just what happened. Well, on the morning of the 19th December we were called upon to stand to. Then we had
to march off towards the trenches. The Huns were using gas, and we had been expecting an attack. Both sides were bombarding
very fiercley, he (the Huns) using gas shells. We managed to get right through Ypres, and nearly to the place where we had
to reach, when a shell dropped amongst us and wounded two. One was your son. Secondly, he was gassed. When the gas shell dropped
we all dropped flat. When we got up, your son rose too, but with him being nearest to the shell he was gassed, and died shortly
"Everyone he knew
him beg of you to accept their sympathy, for he was liked by everyone, but we know that will not bring him back. We received
the parcel sent by you. . . I am a lad that lives at Pentrich, and will pay you a visit when I come home".
In addition Sergeant Walters' letter, another was
also sent by his best "Pal," Private Lawrence George Cowlishaw, 17145, and Temporary Lieutenant Tyrell Morville
Willcox. Walters' and Willcox would both survive the conflict but unfortunately "Laurie" Cowlishaw,
a native of Almond Street, Derby, would fall in action on the Somme on the 7th of July 1916 near Mametz Wood. Aged
23 years and the only son of George and Edna Cowlishaw, Lawrence is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme. As regards
his "Pal" Private William Glossop, he was originally buried in the Menin Road North Military Cemetery but
upon exhumation in 1919, his body was re-buried in the Menin Road South Military Cemetery upon concentration into this cemetery.
Casualties to the front line
units of the 52nd Brigade holding the right sector of the line were as follows; Northumberland Fusiliers, two casualties wounded,
Lancashire Fusiliers, one man killed, Lance-Corporal Robert Robinson of "C" Company, aged 27 years, shot by an alert
German sniper. As regards the Manchester's, their Battalion War Diary does not record a roll of casualties however an
analysis of the Commonwealth War Graves Database and Soldiers Died In The Great War Database reveals that on the
19th, four men were killed, all of these men subsequently commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial. The 52nd Brigade War Diary
provides yet more details as regards casualties to the latter battalion, a further eight men were wounded, and six men gassed.
(Authors note:- Recorded as per twenty-four hours at noon on the 19th of December). Of the West Riding's, the vast majority
of their casualties were suffered upon attempting to exit the town of Ypres. The 52nd Brigade War Diary records their losses
as follows, once again corrected to noon on the 19th; ten killed, eighty-four wounded, nine missing (expected to be found)
and one man gassed. Revised figures for casualties sustained on the 19th now conclude that one officer and fourteen Other
Ranks were killed or died of wounds. Many of the wounded were subsequently evacuated to the 10th Casualty Clearing Station
located at Lijssenthoek and it was here that Lance-Corporal Walter Scott, 13467, of "A" Company and a native of
Otley, succumbed to wounds received to his head by a bursting shell on the 22nd of December. (Source:- Leeds Mercury dated
the 1st of January 1916). Aged 28 years, Walter now lies in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, one of five men killed or died
of wounds during the month of December who served with the 9th Battalion.
|Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
|Author, October 2019
At this juncture we will return to the Divisional Pioneers, the
7th Yorks and Lancs, whose "C" and "D" Companies were already holding positions in the line. The two remaining
companies, "A" and "B" respectively, had been ordered at about 6.25 a.m. to prepare to move from their
positions at Belgian Chateau, west of Kruisstraat, to the Ramparts. At 7.45 a.m., these orders were however
rescinded and orders subsequently issued by the 52nd Brigade Headquarters for the men to "stand fast ".
The movement of these two companies to the Ramparts did not commence until 5.45 p.m., followed by Headquarters and
half of "B" Company, about 270 in number, who were in camp north of Dickebusch, this party arriving at Ypres at
8 p.m. This movement to Ypres had however been made without a full assessment of the situation, Temporary Lieutenant William
Douglas Gillies reporting back to the Officer Commanding, Temporary Major William McGee Armstrong, that "there was
no room in the Ramparts". As a consequence, both "A" and "B" Companies were forced to take cover
as best they could near the Lille Gate, Major Armstrong and Headquarters establishing a position in Ypres itself
near the Covent on the Rue du Temple (I.7.d.6.6.).
The situation was confused to say the least, compounded as it was by the methods of communication still available.
The Battalion Adjutant, Temporary Captain Wilfred Trevor Leigh Becker, was now sent back to Belgian Chateau at 9
p.m. in an attempt to contact the division for clarification of orders. Forty minutes later, Becker received a wire, repeated
by "C" Company from the division timed 7.45 p.m. It appears that the latter were under the apprehension that if
the parties of the battalion had not already started to move towards Ypres, they were to remain where they were and be prepared
to occupy the Canal Bank in the event of an attack by the enemy. Suffice to say, Becker replied and stated the exact
position of the parties at Ypres as of 9.45 p.m.; "there is no more room in the RAMPARTS. Shall we return to BELGIAN
CHATEAU". Finally at 10.30 p.m., the division confirmed their orders, the message sent fifteen minutes earlier;
"Yes.aaa. Please return to BELGIAN CHATEAU aaa. Much regret inconvenience caused". Carrying these vital
orders, the Adjutant arrived at Ypres at 10.55 p.m. whereupon the men were gathered together, arriving back at the Chateau
to the two companies of the Yorks and Lancs, "C" and "D" Companies respectively, their orders were to
dig-in at RS 3. & RS 4. and "hold trench at all costs". Command devolving on Captain Bonner
as instructed by the G.O.C. 52nd Brigade, further orders it was stated would be issued by the C.O. 9th Northumberland Fusiliers,
Colonel Bryan. It was at 6.10 a.m. that the distinctive presence of gas was first noticed and just thirty minutes later, the
gas discharge appeared to be at a maximum density. Without the wearing of a Smoke Helmet, breathing was found to
be difficult but not impossible, but disconcertingly, the men of "C" Company under the command of Captain Bonner
marched off at 6.55 a.m. without wearing them at all. Ten minutes later, "D" Company set off but as both companies
advanced along Oxford Street Trench, due east of Halfway House, they were barraged by a number of gas shells,
the vast majority of cases of gassed men in the battalion being suffered at this location. With Captain Hulk, O.C. "D"
Company gassed, tools were drawn at the "B" Company Dump located at the Breastwork, Oxford Street, but
were not used due to the nature of the ground being impossible to dig.
As both RS 3. & RS 4. were reached, it was at 10.30 a.m that a message was received with the Headquarters
of the Northumberland Fusiliers at Halfway House and to report any "unusual occurence". Orders
were then received at 11 a.m. to clean rifles and draw bombs from the Brigade Bomb Store at the junction of Oxford Street
and Regent Street Trenches, these being subsequently returned at some point during the day. It appears that
the two companies then spent the remainder of the day relatively 'static' until orders were issued by the Northumberland
Fusiliers at 8.45 p.m. to return to Zillebeke Lake Dug-outs. Here, the companies remained, Captain Bonner reporting
to the G.O.C. 52nd Brigade at 11 p.m. whereupon further orders were issued to "stand by in dug-outs".
I will close the actions of these two companies by recording the deeds of
two Signallers (Linesmen) who were left behind at Zillebeke Lake as the two companies went forward, Private Horace
Waugh, 12770, and Private George Edward Newton, 3/3748. These two men were left in charge of the Signal Station established
at this location whilst the others of this section advanced along Bonner's party. Working on the line continuously throughout
the attack and under heavy shell fire, their work on the line which was over three miles in length was of paramount importance.
Not only did they repair and maintain the line, they also sent and received vital communications from 52nd Brigade Headquarters,
this line being one of only a few that continued to be operated without interuption during the course of the days events.
Private Waugh, a native of
Cudworth, had enlisted attested for military service at Barnsley on the 31st of August 1914. Aged 20 years and a Miner, he
was posted to the 7th Battalion on the 8th of September and allocated to "A" Company. A 'colourful' character,
for his actions on the 19th of December 1915, Private Waugh would be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the citation
for this award being published in the Supplement to the London Gazette dated the 15th of March 1916:-
"For conspicuous gallantry when he repeatedly repaired the cable
under heavy fire, thus maintaining communication".
Private George Edward Newton, a native of Killamarsh, Derbyshire, had attested for service in the Army Reserve
(Special Reservists), on the 29th of August 1914. Aged 21 years and also a Miner, employed by the Kiveton Park Colliery
Company, he was subsequently posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment and allocated the serial
number 3/3748. Transferred to the 7th Battalion on the 8th of the following month, for his actions Private Newton would be
awarded the Military Medal, Supplement to the London Gazette dated the 3rd of June 1916.
|Derbyshire Courier Dated The 10th Of June 1916
Finally as regards the actions of the Pioneers, one detachment
of the Machine Gun Section had been established some days previously on the northern embankment of the Roulers Railway,
a short distance to the west of Railway Wood at map reference I.11.a.8.2. Initially placed under the
command of Second-Lieutenant Elliot Lindsay Blee, before the events of the 19th of December, this position had witnessed the
attentions of enemy artillery on at least two occasions. This no doubt took its toll on the young 2/Lt. Blee who the War Diary
records was sent to a Field Ambulance, "nerves apparently". (Authors note:- Suffering from "shock"
and subsequently evacuated to England). Command of this position now devolved on Temporary Lieutenant George Wilson Smith,
his party numbering 11 Machine Gunners. This party remained unmolested by gas or artillery throughout the course of the day,
their only actions being to fire bursts of machine gun fire along the length of the Menin Road held by the enemy
until daylight of the next morning. Casualties to the battalion as recorded in the War Diary numbered 1 officer and 11 Other
Ranks gassed, 4 Other Ranks wounded (shrapnel etc.) and 1 Other Rank wounded (slightly and at duty).
The Cost & Lessons Learned
During the course of the early morning, the 50th Brigade were "Stood
To" ready to move up into support if required. Although gas had been detected as far back as Busseboom, no casualties
were sustained and normal routines were resumed at 10 a.m. Casualties as a whole numbered by the 17th (Northern) Division
amounted to 11 officers and 205 Other Ranks (Source:- 17th Division General Staff War Diary). Numerous points were made about
various arrangements in the Defensive Scheme, most notably, the requirement to have supports closer to hand due to
the difficulty in exiting Ypres whilst under bombardment. Smoke Helmets, if used correctly, provided adequate protection
against chemical agents and imbued confidence in the men but Gas Goggles proved to be ineffective. Artillery arrangements
had proved to be effective and timely, despite battery positions coming under heavy fire and the loss of communication. Medical
evacuation both from the front and to the rear areas had also proved to be efficient and not 'strained' as the situation
The 17th Division
had resolutely performed its task in preventing a suspected enemy assault receiving many platitudes for its actions.
Along this sector of the line, three divisions had stood against a gas attack but what actually were the actual intentions
of the enemy? The weather was ideal for the release of a gas discharge, the latter moving forward slowly, possibly a little
too slowly, but dense and unbroken. Opposite the 6th Division, minimal attempts were made by the German infantry to advance,
the Divisional War Diary recording the possible reasons for his actions:-
"The Germans reported to have left their trenches were probably
patrols sent forward to ascertain the effects of the Gas. No attack appears to have been intended, but the hostile trenches
were manned probably with a view to taking full advantage of a successful effect from the Gas.
(1) It is doubtful whether their wire was prepared, and they did not
cut ours deliberately with gun-fire. If they intended to attack they must have relied solely on the effect of the Gas. Possibly
the heavy rifle fire from our trenches & the F.A. barrage was too much for them.
(2) A sudden change in the wind (which veered much to the north) may have caused them to cancel their orders
for an attack, whilst they were unable to cancel orders for the gas. Gas was apparently let out from the left of the 49th
Div at their junction with the French up to the WIELTJE salient in our line, a front of about 2 3/4 miles apparently from
gas batteries about 200 yards apart + the whole lasting 30 - 40 minutes.
(3) The Germans may have decided that our systematic bombardment of their front trenches, which had been going
on for over a week, with a view to searching out for these gas batteries, was too accurate and that it was better to make
use of them before they were destroyed. The 19th was certainly the first favourable day that they had, as the day was very
fine and the wind about 2 1/2 miles an hour (a little too slow for gas).
(4) The whole attack may have been intended as a big retaliation for our constant + ever increasing shelling
of the German trenches.
(5) The whole
affair may have been a demonstration to attract attention from an attack elsewhere.
(6) It may have been a test of a new gas. Patrols being sent to see effect. Gas is believed to be chlorine +
It transpired that the gas was both a mixture of chlorine and phosgene, discharged on the front held by the 26th Reserve
Corps, 4th Army. The intentions of the enemy were not to perform a full scale infantry advance but to move forward in a series
of parties to observe the effects of the gas and to infiltrate the British line to capture both prisoners and materiel.
Met by both heavy rifle and machine gun fire, most of the men were shot down crossing No Man's Land, three small
parties of the enemy being shot down by the 1/5th West Yorkshire's of the 49th Division. The 49th Divisional War Diary
recorded casualties on the 19th as 4 officers and 46 Other Ranks killed, 2 officers and 106 Other Ranks wounded and 8 officers
and 191 Other Ranks gassed (Source:- WO95/2765/4/1). In front of the trenches held by the 14th Durham's of the 6th Division
just south of Wieltje, it appeared that the enemy had attempted an advance but had been caught by rapid rifle fire, a number
of their dead being observed in front of their parapets opposite A8, north of Warwick Farm. The 1st K.S.L.I.
of the 6th Division also observed bodies of the enemy advancing, one party numbering about ten, the other, about thirty. Heading
for the Morteldge Salient east of Turco Farm, they were engaged by rapid rifle fire and quickly driven back,
an officer and one man of the smaller party being shot by "A" Company under the command of Captain Timothy Cecil
Nelson Hall. Seen to fall, their bodies were subsequently recovered by 2nd Yorks and Lancs on the 22nd and after the officer's
body being searched, a valuable map was recovered that showed accurately our positions in both the Morteldge Estaminet
and Forward Cottage 'Schemes'. (Authors note:- The officer was identified as belonging to the 235th Reserve
Infanterie Regiment, 51 Reserve Division, contained in the XXVI Reserve Korps). Casualties to the 6th Division
are not recorded as a whole however A Short History of The 6th Division edited by Major-Gen. T.O. Marden, C.B., C.M.G.,
published in 1920 by Hugh Rees Ltd., London, records casualties as 660 officers and men, many of the wounded being evacuated
by the Field Ambulances of the 17th (Northern) Division. Spirits were high despite casualties suffered by the three divisions
in the line but I think it best to let the men of "A" Company of the 1st Battalion, King's Shropshire Light
Infantry, 16th Brigade, 6th Division have the last word. They were heard to sing in the trenches......
"We whacked them on the Marne,
We whacked them on the Aisne,
Let them come,
And they won't come here
To The Trenches
following day dawned fine but misty as enemy artillery continued to shell the exits of Ypres, communication trenches and the
Menin Road continuously with gas. British artillery comprising of the 17th Divisional Artillery, 6th Seige Battery
and Heavy Artillery however performed retaliatory 'shoots' first of all concentrating on the right sector of the line
early in the morning followed by fire on both the left and the right sectors by the evening. On the 21st, the weather had
changed to rain with visibility compounded by mist but during the night, hostile artillery continued to shell Ypres and communication
trenches to the rear of Hooge with both conventional and gas shell. This was no doubt a response to an organised 'shoot'
by the Divisional Artillery and howitzers on roads and communication trenches between the Roulers Railway and the
Menin Road, the 81st Brigade, R.F.A. (Howitzers) firing 40 rounds, A/79 Battery of the 79th Brigade suffering
one man seriously wounded during operations, one Corporal George Appleby, 24283, of Rusholme, Manchester.
Retaliatory artillery fire continued during the course of the next day, the
Right Group particularly targeting the German trench system opposite C. 3 and C. 4 early during
the morning after a party of Bombers had reported that these sectors were occupied by the enemy. To this end, a 'scheme'
was formulated to launch a "bombing expedition" opposite the enemy trenches in C.4, this 'expedition'
comprising of two parties led by Temporary Lieutenant Arthur Dixon Haslam of the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers and Temporary
Lieutenant Gilbert Wansborough Thacker of the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers respectively. The Northumberland Fusiliers party numbered
sixteen men as did that of the Lancashire Fusiliers, the plan being that both parties would commence to bomb down the enemy
trench from different directions working towards one another. Upon commencing their attack, the Lancashire Fusiliers bombed
a 'Listening Post' and then progressed into the enemy's fire trench throwing between 150 - 200 bombs. It was soon
apparent that the line was manned, the "expedition" causing much commotion amongst the ranks of the enemy
who retaliated with just a few bombs and rifle shots, one man being slightly wounded due to an 'accident'. Of the
Northumberland Fusiliers, their attack was equally successful, throwing up to 70 bombs into the enemy trench without suffering
any casualties. Receiving congratulations from the Brigadier-General as to the conduct of the operation, the names of Lieutenant
Haslam and Sergeant Edward McConnell, 14801, the latter who had led a second squad of the Northumberland's, were brought
forward for the attention of Higher Command. A resident of Willington Quay, for his actions, McConnell would be awarded the
Military Medal. For Lieutenant Haslam, their was to be no award. This young officer aged 25 years would unfortunately be mortally
wounded on the 24th of October 1918 in an attack on the village of Bermerain, south of Valenciennes. Evacuated to the 18th
Casualty Clearing Station located at Ytres, Lieutenant Haslam would succumb to his wounds on the 2nd of November, just nine
days before the Armistice would be declared.
The enemy response to this 'raid' was one of caution when at 10.45 p.m. on the 22nd, four of their number
crept up to the British line in the C.4 sector opposite Hooge and began to throw bombs. Driven off by rifle fire,
this small party left behind one of their dead, no doubt an attempt, although very small, in retaliation for the morning raid.
Visibility improved on the 23rd enabling the 9.2 inch howitzers to be brought to bear on the enemy's trench system just
to the north and to the east of Sanctuary Wood with good effect. German artillery batteries remained relatively quiet
with sporadic shelling throughout the course of the day including some heavy calibre shells being fired into Ypres.
Divisional Operation Order No. 32 was now issued on the 24th that
dictated the relief of the 52nd Brigade by the 50th Brigade respectively. This relief was due to be carried out on both the
25th/26th and the 26th/27th, the right hand battalion designated for relief on the first night. As a consequence, the Bombers
and Machine Gun Section of the 7th East Yorkshire's were the first men of the battalion ordered up to the trenches, the
relief of the 12th Manchester's being completed by all the battalion without incident on the 25th. Moving from their camp
located at Busseboom, the 7th Yorkshire's also on this date commenced a relief of the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers and proceeded
to occupy both the Ramparts and the cellars of ruined houses in Ypres, this relief also passing without incident.
There was no time however for any festive celebrations for these battalions, the 6th Dorset's being the exception who
ate their Christmas dinners whilst being billeted in the Ramparts at Ypres. Opposite A.1, the German's
had different thoughts, possibly hoping for some form of 'truce' or 'live and let live' attitude during the
Christmas period. Attempting to erect a Christmas tree on his parapet, fire was opened and one man was seen to fall, the events
of Christmas 1914 at Ploegsteert, to be sure, were now a distant memory.
Although providing working parties on two consecutive nights for fatigues on the Breastwork, it was on the
25th that the Bombers and Machine Gun Section of the 10th West Yorkshire's moved forward to the trenches to commence a
relief of the 9th West Riding's, the remainder of the battalion completing this relief at 10 p.m. on the night of the
26th. Taking over C.4 on the right near the Stables, their frontage extended westwards through C.5 and
C.6 through to C.7 on their left, encompassing the position known as the Fish Hook. The exact dispositions
of the companies are not recorded in the pages of the Battalion War Diary although C.7.S, the support line and the
Culvert were occupied in addition to Headquarters and half a company being established at Halfway House.
A further half company were also sent to man the Fortins in I.K & I.H. With the 6th Dorset's minus
half of "C" Company who returned to camp, the battalion relieved the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers at Kruisstraat,
this movement finally completing the relief of the 52nd Brigade.
The morning of the 27th of December dawned a fine day with excellent observation
enabling Corporal Albert Edward Ashley, 13210, of the 7th East Yorkshire's, to continue to send in detailed observations
to Brigade Headquarters from his Observation Post located at I.18.b.5.4., opposite the Chateau. With conditions
ideal for artillery, it was during the morning that the 6th Siege Battery opened fire on the enemy's front line trenches
south of Bellewaarde Farm. During this 'shoot,' one round appeared to hit a gas cylinder as a cloud of green
'smoke' was seen to rise by Captain William Henry Fry and Second-Lieutenant Owen Fiennes Temple Roberts, Forward Observation
Officers. (Source:- WO95/472/8). In reply, German artillery were also active, the areas between the Zillebeke Lake and
Ypres itself coming in for particular attention as well as the Menin Road, Outpost Farm and Railway Wood. His
infantry however were observed to be occupied in repairing their front line trenches to the east of Bellewaarde Lake and
in the vicinity of Bellewaarde Farm. During the night, the Kaaie Salient, located just to the north of Ypres
on the Canal Bank came in for intermittent shelling but at some point during the day, Privates Wilfred Ball, 18041, and Thomas
Bland, 12016, were killed, along with Lance-Corporal James Wigglesworth, 12293, being mortally wounded.
Little information is known about Wilfred Ball other than he was born at
Newport, Wales, in 1898, the adopted son of William and Sarah Ball, the family residence being recorded in the 1901 Census
as Number 14, Rudry Street. His adopted father, William, a General Labourer, unfortunately died in 1908 aged 48 years leaving
his wife a widow with two children, William and Wilfred. By the year of 1911, the family had relocated to Number 1, East Usk
Road, Wilfred now declaring his name as one Wilfred Day, aged 13 years and at School. At some point after this period, Wilfred
moved south to Bath, Somerset, and here he attested for military service in early February 1915. Posted to the 10th West Yorkshire's
and allocated the serial number 18041, he was posted overseas on the 13th of July 1915 and killed in action on the 27th of
December 1915 aged just 17 years. Denied a known grave, Wilfred is now commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial and in his
home town of Newport.
|Menin Gate Memorial
|Author, September 2007
Thomas Bland was born at Hunslet, Leeds, in 1891 to parents Thomas,
a Mechanic/Fitter, and Lydia Jane Bland, the family residing at Number 29, Jack Lane, Hunslet. By the year of 1901, the family
had relocated to premises in Croisdale Court, Kirkgate, in the City Centre. In the following year, his father would unfortunately
die at the untimely age of 45 years at the Workhouse and would be buried in that year at the nearby cemetery located at Beckett
Street. Sadly, by the year of 1911, five of Thomas' siblings had also died, the family now comprising of their widowed
mother and three children residing at Number 5, Fawcett Street, Richmond Hill, Thomas now aged 19 years employed as a Labourer
at the Taylor Brothers and Co. Iron Works, Clarence Road, Hunslet. Prior to the war, Thomas found a change of occupation and
was employed by Combes Brewers of Melbourne Street, North Street, Leeds, at their brewery located off Regent Street.
Attesting for military service at Leeds on or about the 2nd of September
1914, service is now somewhat ambiguous however an analysis of surviving service documents of men in this number range suggest
that he was posted to either the 3rd or 4th (Reserve) Battalions of the Regiment. Granted leave in August 1915, he would enter
a union of marriage with one Alice Saville, of Thrift Terrace, Bramley, at St. Peter's Church, on the 2nd of the month.
On the 11th of August, Thomas was posted overseas and on the 23rd he was posted to the 10th West Yorkshire's as part of
a draft of one officer and 39 Other Ranks whilst the battalion was billeted at La Clytte. Killed in action on the 27th of
December, Thomas has no known grave and is therefore commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial and on the Bramley War Memorial,
James William Wigglesworth
was born at Leeds in 1888, the son of James, a Mechanic, and Emily Wigglesworth, the family residence being located in New
Church Place in the Mabgate area of the City. In 1891, James was residing with his grandparents in premises also located in
New Church Place, his parents it would appear, having separated. James would enter a union of marriage with one Clara Brown
in the year of 1906 and in the February of 1907, a daughter, Florence would be born. Recorded in the 1911 Census as residing
at premises located in Line Fold in the Quarryhill area, his occupation is described in this census return as that of a 'Soap
Cooler'. In that same year, a further child was born, Francis, followed in 1913 by James William.
Attesting for military service on or about the 1st of September 1914 at Leeds,
James was posted overseas with the battalion in July 1915, his home address on Pension Documents dated 1916 recorded as Number
44, Acorn Street, York Road, Burmantofts. Wounded on the 27th of December, he was subsequently evacuated by the 51st Field
Ambulance to the Advanced Dressing Station located at Brandhoek. The nature of his wounds were that of "Wounds, Chest,"
(Source:- T.N.A. MH 106/70) but unfortunately nothing could be done to save his life. Buried at Brandhoek Military Cemetery,
he is incorrectly named as "Wrigglesworth" and no further details as to his life were furnished by his family.
During the night of the 27th/28th, the 10th West Yorkshire's vacated
their positions in the Fortins and proceeded to take over C.3, C.3.S and F.1. With the weather
continuing to be fine, it was during the course of the morning of the 28th that the enemy trench system was subjected to trench
mortar fire. One of their number was observed being blown up into the air and it soon became obvious that the enemy were panicking
and fleeing their trenches. Denied the secure of their front line, the position was now shelled with shrapnel and in reply,
enemy artillery began to fire on the support and communication trenches south of Railway Wood. Further to this barrage,
it was at about 1 p.m. that Ypres was bombarded by 17 and 11 inch projectiles, many of the 17 inch shells though it was recorded,
failing to detonate. It was surmised, in the words of the 17th Division Headquarters War Diary, that the enemy appeared to
be rather "jumpy," possibly indicating that a relief was about to take place. During the hours of darkness,
the enemy were heard 'out' of his trenches opposite Hooge, at the same time, a patrol of the West Yorkshire's
under the command of Second-Lieutenant Edward John Smith had ventured across No Man's Land to reconnoitre the enemy's
barbed wire defences. Although the numbers of men that comprised this party are not recorded, they were discovered and attacked
by the enemy with bombs on three separate occasions. Casualties sustained by the 10th West Yorkshire's during this period
are documented, at least, in both brigade and divisional diaries but are difficult to ascertain chronologically with any degree
of accuracy. To that end, the CWGC Database records the death of one man on this day, Private Thomas Sadler.
Thomas was born at Leeds in 1880 to parents Joseph and Ann Sadler, the 1881
Census recording that Joseph was employed as a Boot Riveter, the family residence at this juncture being located in Venables
Street, Burmantofts. By the year of 1891, the family, now comprising of a further two children, had relocated to Fairfax Street,
also located in the Burmantofts area of the City. At the recording of the next census in 1901, both Thomas and his brother
Joseph were residing as Boarders in the same street as that of his family, possibly due to the fact that another child had
been born to the family, Thomas describing his occupation as that of a General Labourer. Entering a union of marriage in 1902
to one Agnes Parker, a widow, at St. Hilda's Church, Cross Green Lane, the couple set up their marital home in Hugo Street,
Cross Green, and in the following year their first child, Annie, would be born. A further five children would be born, Agnes,
1905, Fred, 1908, William, 1909 and Walter in 1911 but unfortunatley he would die in that very same year aged just nine months.
In the 1911 Census, Thomas now describes his occupation as that of a Coal Heaver employed in an Iron Works, two further children
recorded as having died in their ten years of marriage. In 1912, their last child would be born, Mary Eliza, a child who would
no doubt grow up with only distant memories of her father.
It appears that Thomas had previous experience of military life when in 1899, and employed at this juncture by the
Midland Railway Company, he attested at Leeds for service in the Militia, namely the Yorkshire Artillery (W.D.R.A.). Numbered
3148, he would attend all annual camps up until being discharged due to the termination of his engagement in the year of 1905
after a total of six years service.
for military service at Leeds in early September 1914, Thomas was subsequently posted to the ranks of "B" Company
of the 10th West Yorkshire's and numbered 12121. Posted overseas on the 13th of July 1915, a surviving medical document
records that Thomas was treated for "trench feet" on the 28th of November by the 51st Field Ambulance and
after two days recovery at the Divisional Rest Station, he was posted back to his unit. (Source:- MH 106/68). Wounded at some
point I surmise on the 28th/29th, Thomas succumbed to his wounds aged 36 years. Denied a known grave, he is therefore commemorated
on the Menin Gate Memorial. The Yorkshire Evening Post dated the 30th of December 1918 published a small memoriam notice from
his mother and siblings which contained the following verse:-
"This day brings back our memories fresh of one who's called to rest, and those who think of him to-night
are those who loved him best".
The Closing Days Of 1915
The 30th of December was a fine day with good visibility. Described as a 'quiet' day in the various diaries,
some rather disconcerting information was forwarded to the Brigade Headquarters from the O.P. located in C.3. The
enemy were observed working to the south-west of Bellewaarde Lake at map reference I.12.c.9.1. and it was
suspected that at this location they were conducting mining operations, a report subsequently being sent to the division.
Further observations noted that the soil excavated from this Mining Sap was of a dark colour and placed in sandbags
to repair his parapet, the bags being placed on the latter only half-way in an attempt to avoid detection. (Source:- 7th East
Yorkshire War Diary, WO95/2002/1). In the sector held by the West Yorkshire's, both C.3. and C.4. were
subjected to intense artillery fire, some dug-outs being blown in burying four men who were fortunately extricated. During
the course of the day, the Battalion War Diary records that two men were killed and two wounded, the West Yorkshire's
being relieved by the 6th Dorset's, this relief being completed at 8.30 p.m.
Regarding casualties, an analysis of medical history documents reveals that
three men were wounded on the 30th of December in addition to the two men killed. The wounded were Private David Dawson, 11671,
Lance-Corporal Arnold William Darley, 11250, and Lance-Corporal Thomas "Tom" Billingham, 10638. Darley, a member
of "B" Company and a native of Gateshead would return to duty after treatment at the 51st Field Ambulance for wounds
received to his left arm. A 'colourful' character, he would eventually be awarded the Military Medal, Supplement to
the London Gazette dated the 21st of October 1918. Thomas Billingham, a resident of Leeds, had originally enlisted into the
ranks of the 8th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment in the year of 1912, but had resigned his service commitment due to family
issues. Born in Daventry, the family had at some point relocated to Leeds residing in Shakespeare Street in the Burmantofts
area of the City. A 'complicated' service history records that Thomas also served in the ranks of the 3rd (Reserve)
Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry as a Special Reservist before being mobilised in August 1914. Posted to
"C" Company of the 10th West Yorkshire's, on the 30th of December he would receive wounds to his head and right
shoulder and after treatment at the 51st Field Ambulance, he would then be evacuated to, I surmise, the 17th Casualty Clearing
Station located at Lijssenthoek. Thomas would eventually serve with a variety of units before his discharge in 1919 and would
die at Leeds in 1968 aged 73 years. As regards David Dawson, he would unfortunately succumb to his wounds aged 23 years.
David Dawson was born at Allerston, near Pickering, in 1893, the family residence
being located in the hamlet of Crosscliffe. The son of William, occupation, a General Agricultural Labourer, and Rachel Dawson,
he was one of six children born however one of his siblings, Agnes, would die in 1908 aged 26 years. By the year of 1911,
David aged 18 years, akin to his father, was employed as an Estate Labourer on the Crosscliffe Estate. Attesting for military
service at York on or about the 31st of August 1914, he was subsequently posted to the 10th West Yorkshire's and allocated
the serial number 11671. A member of "C" Company, David received a wound to his right hip and after treatment at
the 51st Field Ambulance was evacuated to the 17th Casualty Clearing Station where he succumbed to abdominal wounds at 3.30
a.m. on the morning of the 31st and buried that same day at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. (Source:- WO95/343/3). In addition
to his place of burial, David is also commemorated on his fathers grave located in St. Peter's Churchyard, Langdale End,
Scarborough, and on the Pickering War Memorial.
|Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. Author, October 2019
Of the two men killed in action on the 30th of December, one was
Private Albert Gatenby, 19823. Born at Bawtry near Doncaster in 1893, he was baptised at Alne, near Easingwold, in the February
of the following year. It appears that Albert Ernest was illegitimate child of Hannah Gatenby and upon his birth, his mother
and her child took up residence with Albert's maternal grandfather, one George Gatenby, recorded in the 1901 Census as
a retired Blacksmith residing at Alne. In 1907, his mother would marry one Charles Freeman at Hemsworth, near Wakefield and
by the year of 1911, Albert, now aged 18 years, had found employment as a Horseman on a farm owned by Richard Barker at Danby
Wiske, near Northallerton, his place of birth being recorded as "not known". Enlisting or attesting for
service at Doncaster, an analysis of surviving documents indicates that this took place in May 1915. Issued the serial number
19823, it is surmised that Albert then joined the ranks of the 13th (Reserve) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment who at this
juncture were stationed at Harrogate. Posted to France on the 17th of August 1915, Albert was no doubt contained in a draft
that was posted to the battalion numbering 1 officer and 39 Other Ranks on the 23rd of August whilst the former were billeted
at La Clytte. Killed in action just after arriving on the Western Front four months previously, Albert is now commemorated
on the Menin Gate Memorial. In addition to this, his name is now inscribed on the War Memorial located in St. John the Baptist
Church, Misson, Nottinghamshire.
final man to fall action on the 30th of December 1915 was one Alfred Pickersgill. Born in 1890 at Knostrop, Leeds, his parents
were Benjamin, occupation, a Coal Miner, and Martha (Margaret) Pickersgill, the family established by the year of 1891 at
Back Parkfield Place, Hunslet. At the recording of the next census, the family had relocated to White House Cottage, Knowsthorpe,
commonly referred to as Knostrop, his father now describing his occupation as that of a 'Traveller in Horse Foods'.
(Authors note:- White House Cottage, in fact a series of cottages, close to the now demolished Knowsthorpe Hall).
By the year of 1911, the family had moved the short distance to Rose Cottage, Benjamin now describing his occupation
of that of a Market Gardener, Alfred, now aged 20 years, finding employment as a Tractor Engine Driver.
At some point it appears that Alfred had enlisted into the Special Reserve
and as a consequence he was posted to the ranks of the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment and issued the serial
number 3/10127. Mobilised at Leeds in September 1914, he was then posted to the 10th West Yorkshire's and entered the
theatre of war with the battalion on the 13th of July 1915. The Leeds Mercury dated the 6th of January 1916 published a small
article surrounding the circumstances of his death, the unfortunate news being conveyed in a letter sent to his parents by
Temporary Lieutenant Eric James Reynolds stating that "Pickersgill was killed by a piece of shrapnel that struck
him in the head". Lieutenant Reynolds also paid tribute to him by saying that "the deceased soldier was
one of those the battalion could least afford to lose".
a known grave, Alfred, aged 25, is now commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial. Tragedy was to strike the Pickersgill family
once again in July 1916. After only one month overseas their eldest son, George William, was killed in action whilst serving
with the 2/19th Battalion, London Regiment. Aged 27 years and a married man, he is now buried in Ecoivres Military Cemetery,
Mont-St. Eloi, France.
|Alfred Pickersgill. Leeds Mercury Dated The 6th Of January 1916.
January 1916 :- Relief
December had proved to be a costly month for the 17th (Northern) Division as regards casualties. The Divisional
History records that during the month, a total of 135 officers and men had been killed, 629 wounded and 23 Other Ranks
missing. In addition to casualties sustained "in the field," 29 officers and 758 Other Ranks were evacuated due
Upon their relief by the Dorset's,
the 10th West Yorkshire's moved to reserve positions at Kruisstraat on the 31st of December, one company being sent to
the "Huts". Required to furnish working parties, there was to be no rest, and on the 31st the battalion
formed five parties for duties, numbering about 205 men in total. On the 1st of January 1916, the 17th Divisional Headquarters
issued Operation Order No. 33, this stating that the division was about to be relieved by the 24th Division whereupon
it would move to a "rest area west of St. Omer". The West Yorkshire's however still continued to provide
working parties, five being formed on the 1st and one party per day up until the 4th of January respectively. Although no
casualties were suffered during this period by the battalion, sickness in various forms was quite prevalent in the units of
the division, influenza, gastroenteritis, trench foot and tuberculosis cases being administered by the 51st Field Ambulance.
It was on the 5th that orders were now issued
for the 10th West Yorkshire's to relieve the 8th (Service) Battalion, Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment), 72nd Brigade,
24th Division. Moving into Camp T8 located at map reference H.19.b.2.4., north-west of Ouderdom, the battalion
and the 17th Division as a whole were withdrawn for a well earned rest. (Authors note:- It was on the 8th of January that
the relief of all the infantry units of the 17th (Northern) Division had been completed. The Divisional Artillery commenced
relief movements on the 1st of January, all batteries completing this relief by the 11th/12th of January. Command of the Divisional
Artillery now being assumed by Temporary Brigadier-General Ralph Glyn Ouseley C.M.G, D.S.O. on the 3rd of January).
As regards the relief of the 50th Brigade, they were relieved by units of
both the 52nd Brigade and the 24th Division, the 7th Yorkshire's by the 12th Manchester's on the 2nd, the 6th Dorset's
by the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers on the 3rd, and finally the 7th East Yorkshire's by the 1st Battalion, North Stafford's,
of the 72nd Brigade, 24th Division, on the 7th respectively. Both the Yorkshire's and the Dorset's were now placed
under the orders of the Brigadier 52nd Brigade, the Manchester's and Northumberland Fusiliers under the command of the
Brigadier of the 50th Brigade respectively. The 52nd Brigade were relieved, in rotation with the attached units of the 50th
Brigade, between the 5th -8th of January. The 51st Brigade were withdrawn from the line between the 6th - 8th, their positions
being taken over by the 71st Brigade, 24th Division.
The stay of the 10th West Yorkshire's at their camp was of a short duration as the battalion, in brigade and
division, were preparing to entrain to their 'rest area'. At 7.15 a.m. on the morning of the 6th, the West Yorkshire's
proceeded to Quinten Sidings south of Poperinghe and entrained for Audruicq located in the Pas-de-Calais area of
Northern France. Crossing the border of Belgium and into France, Audruicq was reached in the early evening whereupon after
detrainment, the battalion marched to Ruminghem which was reached at 7 p.m. Upon the return of the two battalions attached
to the 52nd Brigade, the battalions of the 50th Brigade were now billeted in the following areas:-
10th West Yorkshire Regiment Ruminghem
7th Yorkshire Regiment Polincove
6th Dorsetshire Regiment
7th East Yorkshire Regiment
their first day in 'camp,' Charlie and the men of the battalion were allowed a days rest but in respect of a number
of men, they had been 'lucky' to obtain leave to England. Amongst their number was Ernest Hopkinson who whilst granted
six days to visit his home at Mytholmroyd, related his experiences to family and friends of the gas attack on the 19th of
December and the circumstances relating to the deaths of Calder Valley soldiers of the West Riding Regiment. Returning to
the battalion at about this period, 'Light work,' possibly just generally cleaning up of their billets was conducted
on the 8th followed by Church Services on the 9th. Of course, this was too good to last and it was on the 10th that a programme
of training commenced that included company drill, musketry, the inspection of arms and early morning physical parades. On
the 18th, a distinguished 'visitor' presented himself, the 50th Brigade marching past the G.O.C. 2nd Army, General
Plumer in column of route along the St.Omer at Nordausques, the Regimental Band of the 6th Dorset's playing the brigade
past. To assist in the training of Bombers, a Bombing Practice Trench was completed on the 20th and a Rifle Range was also
in the process of being constructed for musketry practice. For those of a more 'sporting bent,' a football competition
had commenced on the 19th, the first tie resulting in the Dorset's being beaten by a team formed from the 17th Divisional
Train, Army Service Corps, by a margin of five goals to one. On the 21st, it was the turn of the West Yorkshire's who,
in what would appear to be a close match, beat a team of the Royal Engineers by three goals to two. Inspected by the G.O.C.
17th Division on the 24th, musketry practice commenced on the 27th followed by an interesting lecture on the fighting at Loos
in September 1915, the 'guest speaker' being one Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Spencer Edmund "Tom" Hollond
D.S.O., of the General Staff, 9th (Scottish) Division, a close friend of Winston Churchill.
On the last day of the month, a Divisional Tactical Scheme took
place east of the Foret de Tournehem, the 50th Brigade forming the Advanced Guard. Trenches had been prepared representing
the German system of trenches and all battalions of the division took their turn in practising attacks over this model during
the early days of February. Unofficial orders eminating from Divisional Headquarters and received by one battalion at least
reported that a move to a 'new' area was about to take place on or about the 10th of February, probably to the First
Army area near Armentieres. Suffice to say, this was incorrect however a move was imminent, orders being received on the 2nd
to relieve the 3rd Division in the St. Eloi Sector as soon as it was possible. As a consequence, Operation Order No.18
was issued on the 4th and all units began to make urgent preparations for their move back to the Ypres Salient.
|Courtesy Of The Geneanet Community
February:- Relief Of The 3rd Division
Between the dates of the 1st - 20th of February, the pages of the War Diary
of the 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, as of 2021 are unfortunately 'missing.' As a consequence,
their movements up until the latter date are now compiled from a variety of sources. Orders were received by the 50th Brigade
on the 6th of February to prepare for entrainment, the various battalions that comprised the brigade making their way by route
of march to their allocated stations. Entrainment began early on the morning of the 6th, the 7th Yorkshire's entraining
at 8 a.m. at Audruicq for Poperinghe whereupon they proceeded to a 'Rest Camp' that was recorded as being located
"halfway between Reninghelst and Westoutre". On the following day, both the 7th East Yorks and the 6th
Dorset's proceeded by route of march to St. Omer to prepare for entrainment. Of the East Yorkshire's, they departed
their billeting area in two parties, the first comprising of the Battalion Transport plus one company, followed by the second
party comprising of the remainder of the battalion. Entraining at 11.50 a.m., the East Yorkshire's arrived at Godewaersvelde
at 2.36 p.m. and after a halt made for dinner, the battalion arrived at Reninghelst at 9 p.m. whereupon the proceeded to billet.
As previously stated, the movements of the 10th West Yorkshire's cannot be deduced with a complete degree of accuracy
but one may surmise that they too entrained at Audruicq, the nearest station to their billeting area, before departing for
Poperinghe on the 7th of February. Arriving in the Reninghelst area at sometime during the course of the evening, Wyrall's
History records that the battalion were billeted in New Camp, the precise location not being recorded.
The movements of the 52nd Brigade to the front involved a complex series
of entrainments from different start points, original orders for entrainment being modified. Commencing early on the 5th,
the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers entrained at Audruicq at 2.55 a.m, arriving at Poperinghe at 6.30 a.m. After a halt of four
hours for something to eat and a rest, the battalion accompanied by the Battalion Transport marched to Reninghelst which was
reached at 12.10 p.m. Billeting arrangements had been made previously to take over Camp "D" from the 7th
(Service) Battalion, King's Own Shropshire Light Infantry of the 8th Brigade, 3rd Division, who had vacated the latter
some days previously. Proceeding from their rest area at Bayenghem-les-Eperlecques on the 5th, the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers
marched to Watten at 3 a.m. and entrained for Reninghelst which was reached at 12 noon however upon their arrival, both the
Machine Gun and Bombing Sections were immediatley despatched to Battalion Headquarters. Orders for the 'specialists'
now dictated that they were to take over the respective details of the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers holding positions both
north and south of the Ypres - Comines Canal. The 9th West Riding's had marched out of their respective camp
located at Eperlecques on the 4th and after passing through St. Omer, the battalion entrained at Arques early on the morning
of the 5th and journeyed onwards to Godewaersvelde. Upon detrainment, they then marched via Westouter to Reninghelst and proceeded
to billet at Camp "J" located to the south-west near Heksken. Finally as regards the movements
of the 52nd Brigade, the 12th Manchester's departed their camp Eperlecques on the 5th at 6.30 a.m. and upon reaching Arques
entrained at 11.49 a.m. as per Brigade Orders. Detraining at Godewaersvelde, they then proceeded by route of march to Reninghelst
and went into camp north of Heksen, the camp previously being occupied by the 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers of the
9th Brigade, 3rd Division.
As regards the 51st
Brigade and their journey back to the front, the 8th South Staffordshire's departed their camp located at Serques at 2.15
a.m. on the morning of the 6th. Detraining at Godewaersvelde, the battalion then proceeded by route of march via Poperinghe
to their allocated camp located to the west of Dickebusch, H.31.d. Battalion Bombers, the Machine Gun Section and
Signallers were however ordered to be sent up to the trenches that night to relieve their counterparts of the 8th (Service)
Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster's, of 76th Brigade, 3rd Division, in the Verbrandenmolen Sector. The movements
to the front of the 10th Sherwood Forester's were to be conducted in a series of moves. "A" Company accompanied
by one 'Cooker' would depart their rest area at Houlle and entrain at St.Omer at 5.30 a.m. early on the morning of
the 6th of February. Also detraining at Godewaersvelde, they would then proceed by route of march to Poperinghe and from there
to reserve dug-outs close to the Ypres - Comines Canal at map reference I.33.a. The "Poachers,"
the 7th Battalion, Lincoln's, departed their camp at Hellebrouck in a series of movements conducted on the 6th of February.
The first party comprising of the battalion 'Specialists' were to depart Audruicq at 7.39 a.m. and proceed by rail
to Poperinghe whereupon they would be taken by bus to the trenches, relieving the 'Specialists' of the 76th Brigade,
3rd Division, on the night of the 6th/7th. The second party, less "B" Company and Battalion Transport, would entrain
at St. Omer for Godewaersvelde which was envisaged to be reached at 1.35 p.m. and upon detrainment, would proceed by route
of march via Poperinghe to Reninghelst. Finally, the third party comprising of "B" Company and the Battalion Transport
would entrain on the same train as that of the second party at St. Omer, all of the battalion, minus the 'Specialists,'
taking up billets in "B" Camp, located to the south of Reninghelst at map reference M.6.a.2.7.
The 7th Border's departed their camp located at Ganspette on the 7th, "A" Company and Battalion
Transport departing the camp at 8 p.m. followed by the remainder of the battalion at 10.30 p.m. respectively. Entraining at
Audruicq, the train departed at 2.45 a.m. arriving at Poperinghe at 6.15 a.m. early on the morning of the 8th. Marching to
Camp "A" located some distance to the east of Reninghelst, it was found that the camp was still occupied
by the 2nd Suffolk's of the 76th Brigade, 3rd Division, but at noon, the latter departed to entrain at Poperinghe.
With the infantry of the 17th (Northern) Division now about to complete the
relief of the 3rd Division, the remainder of the units that comprised the division had also put in motion their return to
the front. Equally complex, the Divisional Artillery for example commenced movements on the 6th of February and by the 12th,
the Divisional Ammunition Column finally completed the relief of their counterparts of the 3rd Division. The Divisional Pioneers,
the 7th Yorks & Lancs. had commenced their movements on the 5th, this being completed on the 8th. Of the medical units
attached to the division, orders were issued on the 4th to commence the movement of advanced parties on the 6th, this being
completed by the 8th. Engineers, Signals, the Divisional Train to name but a few units of the division, also moved by rail
and route march to the front but on closing this chapter, it is now that we will examine the dispositions of the division
on their allocated front.
St.Eloi - "The Bluff"
under the orders of the Second Army, G.O.C. (Plumer), the 17th (Northern) Division were now contained in V Corps under the
command of Temporary Lieutenant-General Hew Dalrymple Fanshawe C.B. Deemed to have relieved the 3rd Division on the night
of the 7th/8th of February, the 50th Infantry Brigade were subsequently placed in V Corps Reserve and remained in their respective
camps in the Reninghelst area. As previously noted, 'Specialists' of the 51st Brigade had already entered the line
and these were subsequently joined by their respective battalions; the 8th South Staffordshire's relieving the King's
Own Royal Lancasters on the evening of the 7th, relief completed by 9.15 p.m., and the 7th Lincoln's completing the relief
of the 2nd Suffolk's one hour later. Under orders of the brigade, two companies of the 10th Sherwood Foresters were sent
to reserve positions in R.10 & R.11 to garrison the Fortins (Redoubts), located east
of La Chapelle and at Gordon Post, south-east of the Spoil Bank, the remainder of the battalion
staying in Camp "B" south of Reninghelst. The Border's were subsequently placed in Divisional Reserve
and as a consequence, remaind in camp however their activities are not recorded in their respective War Diary. Upon the relief
of the Brigade Front being completed, command now passed to Brigadier-General Fell at 10 p.m. on the 7th, the respective battalions
of the 51st Brigade now being disposed as follows:- 7th Lincoln's, Right Section, 8th South Staffordshire's,
Left Section. The two companies of the Foresters, to the rear of Right Section.
The dispositions of the units of the 52nd Brigade are more detailed in their
respective positions. Upon the relief of the 9th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Division in the St. Eloi Sector, the
frontage of the 52nd Brigade extended on their right flank from the Bois Confluent, west of St. Eloi, to their left
flank, located on The Bluff. With Brigade Headquarters established just to the north of Vijverhoek, the 9th Northumberland
Fusiliers held the left flank of the brigade frontage from trenches P1 - P4B (both inclusive) with a Strong Point
being established S.8.. Battalion Headquarters were located at Dead Dog Farm, south-west of Voormezeele,
the unit of their right flank being the 21st Canadian Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division respectively. To the left
of the Fusiliers, the line was held by the 9th West Riding's, their Headquarters being established at Voormezeele. The
battalion were distributed in various positions along the line at St. Eloi as follows; one company (less one platoon) at Q2,
one company at Q1 and Q1A, and one company in the line between R1 and R2. Two platoons
were placed in positions at R2S whilst the Battalion Bombers occupied positions in R7, located to the east
of Bus House. The remaining three platoons were placed close to Battalion Headquarters east of Voormezeele. On the
left flank of the West Riding's, the 12th Manchester's took up their positions in trenches to the east of St. Eloi,
the battalion frontage extending from T1 - T3 (both inclusive) south of Shelley Farm, and with one company
along with Battalion Headquarters being established at Voormezeele. The extreme left of the 52nd Brigade line was held by
the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers between U23 - 28 (both inclusive), with one platoon being stationed on the north bank
of the Ypres - Comines Canal, between the latter and the end of the position known as The Bluff. Three platoons
were placed in reserve and positioned along with Battalion Headquarters at the Spoil Bank.