At 7.20 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, 1st July, 1916, the leading
platoons of the 15th West Yorkshire's ventured out into No Man's Land and proceeded to lie down on white tapes laid
in preparation for the advance.
With the British
artillery barrage now reaching a crescendo as "Zero" hour approached, a final 'Hurricane Bombardment' by
2 inch Stokes Mortars positioned in forward saps and in the front line added to the cacophony. To the south under the German
redoubt located on Hawthorn Ridge, 252nd Tunneling Company now detonated their mine consisting of 40,600 lbs of ammonal.
As the leading platoons rose to the advance they were immediately met by
heavy rifle and machine-gun fire. In addition to this, the enemy now put down a heavy artillery barrage on the Serre sector,
fire being directed from enemy batteries located in the German rear areas that had failed to be dealt with previously. One
unknown Leeds 'Pal' in a letter quoted in the local press described the advance:
"It was just slaughter....we never had a chance of getting across.
The artillery and machine-guns combined made it an impossibility. However we were told to go over and we tried our best.
It was wonderful to see the lads walking into that hail of metal, even
though they could see the "waves" in front of them being wiped out."
The first wave of the 15th West Yorkshire's attack was virtually wiped
out within minutes of "Zero," the following waves of the battalion advancing from Leeds Trench meeting
a similar fate.
Of the twenty-four officers
who went into the attack, eleven were killed and thirteen were wounded, the latter including the temporary Officer Commanding,
Major Redmond Barry Neill, attached, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. In Other Ranks the 15th West Yorkshire's had
suffered 504 casualties (Source: Battalion War Diary).
At "Zero" hour, the forward companies of the 16th West Yorkshire's commenced
their advance (Authors note: No exact time is recorded in the War Diary, Battalion or Regimental Histories).
Now fully exposed to enemy fire, the leading companies of the 1st Bradford's,
"A" and "C" respectively along with the attached company of the Durham Light Infantry were decimated by
artillery, machine-gun and rifle fire as they left their respective assembly trenches.
Major Guyon, Officer Commanding the 16th West Yorkshire's, moved his
Headquarters forward to the British front line at 7.25 a.m., five minutes before "Zero" hour. Accompanied by Second-Lieutenant
Charles Fraser Laxton, Battalion Intelligence Officer and Lieutenant Cecil Talbot Ransome, the Battalion Adjutant, they had
now took up a position near or in Sap "A." The party had only been at this location for about two minutes
when Major Guyon was hit through the helmet by a bullet, the latter penetrating his temple. Unconscious and apparently dying,
nevertheless both Laxton and Ransome bandaged the unfortunate Major but by this juncture Sap "A" was coming
under increasing artillery and machine-gun fire that forced the abandonment of the position.
Urging the men on as further columns advanced or attempted to advance from
Leeds Trench, some of the men were led forward by Captain Robert Pringle, O.C. "C" Company but they were
at once met by enemy machine-gun and rifle fire before they had even advanced over the front line.
With any attempt to advance being met by a hail of fire, Laxton found Second-Lieutenant
Ralph Stead occupying the front line along with a few men. Gathering together for a 'rush' both Laxton and Stead followed
by the few men available exited the trench only to be mown down by machine-gun fire. Stead was killed almost immediately on
leaving the trench whilst Laxton managed to advance about fifteen yards before being hit in the left knee by a bullet and
also receiving a shrapnel wound to his right thigh. Managing to gain the comparative safety of a shell-hole some distance
in front of the British line, Laxton pondered his next move. After about fifteen minutes and removing surplus equipment he
managed to make it to a further shell-hole closer to the line where he was observed by Lieutenant Ransome, the latter officer
leaving the trench attempting to assist Laxton in regaining the line. It was however no doubt too dangerous for one man to
attempt to carry a wounded comrade over the bullet swept ground so Ransome returned to the line so as to indicate a safe point
of entry into which the wounded officer could crawl, Laxton, following his movements behind and eventually reaching safety.
As the leading companies
of the 16th West Yorkshire's and that of the Durham's were virtually destroyed as a fighting force, the two remaining
companies, "B" and "D" respectively rose to the advance from Bradford Trench. "D" Company,
under the command of Captain Alan Clough, exited the trench relatively unscathed albeit under a heavy and concentrated enemy
artillery barrage that fortunately caused no significant casualties. "B" Company, under the command of Captain Donald
Charnock Smith however had come under intense enemy machine-gun fire that swept the parapet of their trench prior to "Zero"
hour with the communication trenches leading to their assembly trench being subjected to an intense artillery barrage primarily
emanating from the direction of Serre. These two companies in trying to advance suffered a similar fate to the leading wave
of the battalion with both Company Commanders being killed and most of the men either being killed or wounded just after rising
to the attack. The Battalion War Diary records in an entry made on the 4th July 1916, the following casualties;
Officers: 10 Killed, 1 Died Of Wounds, 1 Not Accounted For, 10 Wounded.
In Other Ranks: 58 Killed, 11 Died Of Wounds, 111 Not Accounted For, 323
A sobering total of 515 casualties
of a battalion that at no time turned back in the face of the enemy despite its suffering.
|Unexploded British And German Ordnance, Serre.
The Advance Of The 18th Battalion, West
Yorkshire Regiment (2nd Bradford 'Pals)
At 8.20 a.m. a message was received by the 18th West
Yorkshire's from Brigade that their sister battalion the 1st Bradford's were held up. Owing to most of the battalion's
assembly positions being located in 'dead ground' and with observation limited, these orders also stipulated that
the Officer Commanding, Lieutenant-Colonel Maurice Nicholl Kennard, was to move forward to the British front line and proceed
to the location of Sap "A" to investigate. Upon the Colonel moving forward to assess the situation, he
was unfortunately killed by artillery fire about 8.30 a.m.
Officer Commanding "D" Company, Lieutenant Frederick William Whittaker reported his and his companies
experiences as they exited Dunmow Trench;
"Owing to our assembly positions being in dead ground, I saw nothing of the enemy during
the preliminary bombardment.
came into heavy enemy fire about 100 yards in front of the assembly trench which my Company occupied, i.e. DUNMOW, between
BLENEAU and FLAG AVENUE. This was machine gun fire from the right, apparently from the German front line from SERRE RD. South.
If these guns had been put out of action my Company would have reached the curtain of fire with very few casualties."
The machine-gun fire
from the right flank that Whittaker refers to was possibly emanating from either the German position known as the Heidenkopf,
or, a strong point located on the top of the Redan Ridge behind the latter enemy position. The 4th Division, advancing
on the right flank of the 93rd Brigade, were tasked with the capture of these positions however their advance also faltered
under withering machine-gun and artillery fire despite a ferocious engagement in attempting to secure and capture the Heidenkopf.
Whittaker continues his narrative as the survivors of his company
attempted to continue their advance;
also observed machine gun fire from the left, N.E. of our line of advance, evidently firing at a very long range.
The curtain of fire fell on our first line trenches, and consisted
of shrapnel, apparently coming from behind SERRE village, and H.E., which seemed to come from PUISIEUX.
The enemy machine guns were placed all along the line, and
I noticed no particular emplacements.
saw nothing of the enemy in front, but a small number advanced on my right flank for about 200 yds in the neighbourhood of
SERRE RD, and were enfiladed by machine guns which were attached to my party."
"A" Company, Officer Commanding, Cecil Horace
Case Keevil, met a similar fate as they too advanced from Dunmow Trench, Exposed to heavy enemy artillery, machine-gun
and rifle fire the men were cut down in swathes, Keevil himself being seriously wounded.
The Officer Commanding "B" Company, Lieutenant Arthur
Howarth, led his men forward from Languard Trench whereupon they immediately came under heavy machine-gun fire. Upon
advancing towards South Monk Trench not only were they subjected to what he described as cross-fire from the south,
they were now also exposed to the full ferocity of the enemy's artillery fire from the direction of Puisieux as they attempted
to continue the advance towards Sap "A."
Howarth, now raises some criticism as regards the tactics employed by the British artillery barrage. In the
context of his report compiled after the battle it would appear that he was actually being critical of the preliminary bombardment's
failure to neutralize the enemy's elaborate system of dug-outs providing shelter for the numerous German machine-gun teams
that brought the advance to a standstill.
"It seemed to me that the artillery played too long on the enemy's front line instead of putting
out the Huns guns, owing to the wonderful dugouts used by the Huns."
Second-Lieutenant Arthur D. Stephenson, O.C. "C" Company led his men forward from Languard
Trench and they too ran into the storm of steel and high explosive put down by the enemy as they crossed the open ground
just in front of Dunmow Trench. Stephenson observed that the vast majority of the enemy machine-gun fire sweeping
the ground as they attempted to advance was emanating from the Quadrilateral (Heidenkopf), this fire enfilading the
men as they left the trench. Although no large bodies of the enemy were observed, Stephenson, like Howarth, alluded to the
fact that the enemy must have been protected from the British barrage in dug-outs or tunnels as some were observed manning
Despite suffering casualties,
all four platoons comprising "C" Company reached the British front line. It is at this juncture that Lieutenant
Stephenson replicates comments that abound throughout many eyewitness accounts of the advance by units of the 31st Division
on this fateful day, the response and the effect of the enemy's artillery on the outcome of the battle. It was perceived
that the preliminary bombardment prior to the commencement of the Somme offensive would have achieved all its objectives,
i.e. cut the enemy barbed wire defences sufficiently, destroyed known strong points and impede forward movement/resupply of
enemy units holding their front line positions. The failure to cut the enemy barbed wire on many sectors of the Somme battlefield
is well documented as is the lack or distribution of heavy artillery available to destroy deep dug-outs and strong points
but specifically at Serre, the lack of counter-battery work or the ability to locate and destroy enemy artillery positions
proved to have disastrous consequences.
would be learned and technologies improved as the Somme offensive ground on but at a cost. For the 18th (Service) Battalion,
West Yorkshire Regiment, like their sister battalions of the Regiment, the "Butchers Bill" was a heavy price to
pay for no ground gained. Casualties amounted to 16 Officers 400 Other Ranks (Source: War Diary. WO95 2362).
During the remainder of the 1st July, parties were sent out to
collect the survivors of the 93rd Infantry Brigade as well as recovering the dead where possible from the carnage of the battlefield.
With an enemy counter-attack a distinct
possibility, 93rd Brigade Headquarters now ordered the 18th Durham's under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh Bowes
to hold the front line where possible. Consequently "A" and "B" Companies moved forward to organize survivors
of the 18th West Yorkshire's in Monk Trench however upon exiting Maitland Trench, both companies were
subjected to heavy enemy artillery fire as they advanced over the open ground.
"B" Company were now ordered to reorganize in Dunmow Trench as parties were sent
forward to Sap "A" to report to the 15th West Yorkshire's or what remained of the battalion.
Shortly before midday the D.L.I. now reported to 93rd Brigade Headquarters
its dispositions as thus;
Platoons "A" Coy. in Monk Trench with 1 Platoon in Flag Avenue and 1 Platoon in Maitland Trench
"B" Coy. West of Monk (presumably still holding position
in Dunmow Trench)
Coy. in Maitland Trench
Headquarters in Legend Trench
18th Durham's by this juncture had suffered heavy casualties in all companies. "D" Company who had gone into
the attack along with the 16th West Yorkshire's had virtually ceased to exist. The War Diary records that 4 Officers were
wounded in the attack along with 17 Other Ranks, however, due to the lack of a nominal roll, it is not known if the true strength
of the company with one additional officer attached, was that recorded when the men were in training at Gezaincourt.
The survivors of the 16th West Yorkshire's numbering only about
50 Other Ranks were collected in Sackville Street during the late afternoon before being ordered to form
up in in Legend Street. After a period of two hours, chronology varies in accounts, the men received further orders
to proceed to Dunmow Trench whereupon reinforcements began to arrive from Bus-les-Artois, this reinforcement consisting
of the "10 Per Cent," men of the battalion left in a position to the rear so as to reconstitute
the formation should it suffer considerable loss.
Henry Richard Watling upon reporting to Brigade Headquarters was informed by Captain Joseph Kayll that the remains of the
battalion were in Languard Trench but the captain also observed some men of his battalion in occupation of Legend.
Assisted by Lieutenant Geoffrey A.
Armitage and Second-Lieutenant Frank O. Burnley, Captain Watling now set about putting Languard Trench into a state
of defence. Watling now sourced ammunition and water from the battalion's dump but orders were received at 7.30 p.m. for
the remnants of the battalion, Watling estimated his group to consist of about 120 men, to move forward to Old Dunmow
Trench, situated between Worley and Bleneau Trenches, i.e. east of Languard, Major Humphrey
Hayes Kennedy, Second-in-Command, now assuming command of the battalion.
At 4 p.m., Major Herbert F.G. Carter under instructions from the 31st Divisional Headquarters reported
to 93rd Brigade H.Q. located in Legend to take over command of the survivors of the 18th West Yorkshire's. The
remnants of the battalion the War Diary records were "very broken up and separated" however Lieutenant-Colonel
Bowes of the 18th D.L.I. was making endeavours to collect together the scattered men.
It was soon ascertained that there were about 60 men occupying both Dunmow and Old Dunmow
trenches, Major Carter then moving forward to perform a search of Grey, Bradford, Monk and East Bleneau
trenches as well as Posts 1, 2, 3 and Sap "A" for further survivors of the battalion but
apart from a few wounded men these trenches were found to be "entirely evacuated."
Orders were received from Brigade at 8.45 p.m. for the battalion,
now comprising of 6 officers, Major Carter, Lieutenant Roland S. Cross, Lieutenant Arthur H. Howarth, Lieutenant Frederick
W. Whittaker, Second-Lieutenant Arthur D. Stephenson and Second-Lieutenant John R. Thornton, the latter officer obtaining
rations at Euston Dump and about 120 Other Ranks to hold Monk Trench. Along with "C" Company of
the D.L.I. and a number of machine guns, the battalion moved into a position from Worley to Bleneau whilst
the Battalion Headquarters were established at the Bomb Dump located in Monk Trench.
Guides were now sent out to meet reinforcements bringing up rations
from Euston under the command of Second-Lieutenant Thornton. At 9.30 p.m., Second-Lieutenant Walter Peace reported
for duty from the front line. Peace and a party of men had been totally isolated all day in the front line trenches, Peace
himself being wounded twice during the course of the morning. Despite his wounds, the Second-Lieutenant had to be ordered
by Major Carter to return to Bus-les-Artois as "he was wounded and looking terribly ill."
A remarkable individual and just one of many who showed exemplary
conduct and dedication to duty throughout the day.
the Leeds 'Pals,' Major John Cabourn Hartley, who had been attached from the Royal Fusiliers as Second-in-Command
on the 29th June, now assumed command of the battalion. What remained of the latter began to attempt to search and bring in
their wounded and dead but it proved to be an impossible task.
Private Harold Jackson, 15/1040, a teacher in civilian life, searched for a former pupil and a soldier of
his platoon, one Private John William Jessop, 15/1530. Both men had 'gone over the top' with Number 13 Platoon, "D"
Company, under the command of Second-Lieutenant Tom Willey, along with Number 10 Platoon, "C" Company, under the
command of Second-Lieutenant Arthur Norman Hutton.
sooner had the men exited the trench to lie down in No Man's Land to await the advance, they were at once exposed to the
full ferocity of the enemy's bombardment. As the men rose to the advance, those that had survived the bombardment were
cut down by enemy machine-gun fire. Willey, commissioned from the ranks, was killed by shell-fire almost the instant he proceeded
forward, Hutton fell also, wounded in the right shoulder as both leading platoons of their respective companies were decimated.
Private Jackson, writing to Mr. Willie Jessop, John's father, recounted the scene of the search for the dead and wounded,
sadly replicated all over the battlefield;
"I can't tell you how sorry I am to have to tell you that your son is reported missing after
the great offensive on July 1st and nobody knows anything about him. I fear the worst as many of our chaps were killed and
we were unable to get their bodies in. I have known him intimately since he came into our platoon over a year ago, and I knew
him before that, as I used to teach him at school. Nobody is more deeply mourned than "Young Jess" as he was called.
He was a general favourite with everybody. Though only a lad in years he has done a man's work manfully and stuck it well,
in fact better than many older fellows. He was always bright and cheery and always willing to learn, and that was the secret
of his popularity. We few who are left miss him very much and we can really sympathise with you in your irreplaceable loss,
as we have lost one of the best chums and good fellows. Yet we cannot help but feel proud of him and I am sure you have cause
to be, when time will mercifully have softened your sorrow to know he died a heroes death, going forward as calmly, steadily,
and unflinchinbly as on parade, giving his life freely in a noble cause. I cannot say more as I miss too many of the lads,
but I do assure you of my very deepest sympathy. We made all the search possible for our lads, but you can understand it was
a big task for our decimated battalion......"
John's body was not identified after the War and now, like so many others of the battalion who
fell on this day, his name is now inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial.
As the evening drew on, the front line, where possible, was placed in a state of defence. It was
intended that the 92nd Infantry Brigade would launch an attack however orders were received early on the morning of the 2nd
that at present the attack would not take place, ultimately, the whole proposed attack being cancelled.
In the days that followed, wounded men still managed to crawl in
from their exposed positions in No Man's Land, some having lain out in the open for a number of days. Despite intermittent
shelling by the enemy during the night and an intense British artillery barrage of the German line conducted during the afternoon
and early evening of the 2nd, a subdued and rather nervous atmosphere manifested itself over the battlefield.
Finally, on the 4th July, arrangements were made for the relief
of the 93rd Infantry Brigade, 31st Division, by the 144th Infantry Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division. Despite heavy thunderstorms
that flooded the trenches, the relief was commenced by battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment, all battalions of the 93rd
Infantry Brigade then proceeding westwards to Louvencourt.
No sooner had the units of the 31st Division settled into their respective billets, reinforcements
joined or rejoined from a variety of sources.
by route of march on the 6th July to Beauval, south of Doullens, the 16th West Yorkshire's then marched to Fienvillers
to the south-west of the latter during the following day. The stay was to be once again of a very short duration as on the
8th, the battalion proceeded to Conteville, south of Auxi-le-Chateau, where a meal was taken prior to entrainment at 10 p.m.
All units comprising the 93rd Infantry
Brigade entrained on this date albeit at different times. The train of the 18th West Yorkshire's was delayed for a period
of two hours but no doubt the serving of tea, rum and hot stew issued earlier in the evening, plus, some light entertainment
provided by the battalion band placated the men somewhat.
The 16th West Yorkshire's, their train steadily making their journey northwards, arrived at Berguette,
north of Lillers, early on the morning of the 9th, whereupon they proceeded to billets located at La Miquellerie near Busnes.
Similarly, their sister battalion the 18th West Yorkshire's arrived at Berguette a few hours later despite their initial
delay. After being served hot tea from the Y.M.C.A., the outlay being absorbed from regimental funds, the battalion then proceeded
by route of march to Busnes via Guarbecque. After having rested, late in the afternoon Headquarters accompanied by "A"
and "B" Companies and the battalion band proceeded to billets located at L'Ecleme, "C" and "D"
Companies plus battalion transport following suite during the following day.
Of the 18th D.L.I. and the 15th West Yorkshire's, these two battalions also arrived at Berguette
on the 9th, the D.L.I. proceeding into billets located at la Pierriere near Busnes whilst the West Yorkshire's went into
billets located at Busnes respectively.
31st Division were now transferred in this sector of operations to the First Army, 11th Corps. The First Army at this juncture
were now under the command of General Sir Charles Monro, 11th Corps under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Haking
On the 10th July, G.O.C.
31st Division, Major-General Robert Wanless-O'Gowan made an address to the assembled men. During the afternoon a brigade
conference was convened with a view to initiating specialist training as soon as was feasible to replace losses during operations.
At 11 a.m. on the morning of the 13th,
the Corps Commander, Lieutenant-General Haking, gave an address to all officers of the 93rd Infantry Brigade. The emphasis
of this talk was on inspiring an offensive spirit when raids were conducted with the Major-General also providing an overview
of all operations in all theatres of war as they stood at present.
Authors note Haking was at this point making final preparations for the combined Australian and British
diversionary attack at Fromelles.
days that followed, orders were issued for the 31st Division to prepare for movement to the trenches at a few hours notice.
Officers and men alike worked feverishly as Quartermasters, Transport Officers and Company Commanders assembled or procured
essential equipment required to effectively complete mobilization.
Subsequently upon the issue of movement orders, the 93rd Infantry Brigade began to rendezvous at
Robecq, north-east of Busnes, during the afternoon of the 15th July. By route of march via Calonne-sur-la-Lys, the brigade
arrived during the early evening at Lestrem, south-west of Estaires, the 15th, 16th and 18th Battalions, West Yorkshire Regiment
proceeding to billets at Lestrem, whilst the 18th Durham's occupied billets located to the south at la Fosse.
As drafts in officers and men continued to arrive, parties also
departed for specialist training. Although in Reserve, the sound of artillery fire from the east increased during the following
days, the report of the guns of both sides being the prelude to the attack on the German lines near Fromelles.
On the 19th July, the War Diary of the 15th West Yorkshire's
5th Australian Division & the 61st Division attacked the enemy's front line trenches north-east of Fauqissart. The
Australian Division captured & held their objective while the 61st were reported to be holding their original line."
In truth of fact, the
attack had been an unprecedented disaster, the Australians suffering over 5000 casualties alone.
The 93rd Infantry Brigade were inspected on the afternoon of the 21st by General Sir Charles Munro
however as the General inspected the troops, one man of the 16th West Yorkshire's, Private Samuel Wilkinson, 16/1128,
of "C" Company, was ordered to be sent to the Base Depot at Etaples for disposal. It transpired that Samuel, a native
of West Bowling, Bradford, had enlisted underage, his declared age on attestation on the 8th December 1914 being stated as
19 years and 94 days when actually he was only aged 16 years and 3 months. At the request of his mother who had produced his
birth certificate, Samuel was sent back to England on the 29th July and after serving in various battalions of the Training
Reserve, he would eventually be posted back to the Western Front in late 1917, serve with both the 1/7th and the 1/8th Battalions,
West Yorkshire Regiment, and survive the war.
Right Sub Sector, Neuve Chapelle: The Enemy Raid
As all battalions of the brigade continued to carry out their respective
training programmes, there were some changes in the distribution of the battalions. On the 24th "B" and "D"
Companies plus Headquarters and Transport of the 18th West Yorkshire's moved into 'fresh' billets located in Lestrem
and L'Epinette, whilst the 16th West Yorkshire's proceeded by route of march on this date to Les-Lobes, south of Le
It was on the 26th July that the
93rd Infantry Brigade received orders to prepare to relieve units of the 94th Infantry Brigade, 31st Division.
During the morning of the 27th, the 18th West Yorkshire's took
to the march, battalion Lewis gunners, snipers, signallers and observers formed an advance party under the command of Second-Lieutenants
Arthur D. Stephenson and Walter R. Humphries that proceeded directly to the trenches. Marching via La Fosse and Richebourg
St. Vaast, the main body of the battalion halted at the latter place for lunch. Continuing towards the front line trenches
the battalion were met by guides at the junction of Edward and Forresters Roads who led them towards the
front line to complete their relief of the 13th York & Lancaster Regiment (1st Barnsley 'Pals'), 94th Infantry
Brigade, 31st Division. With the relief being completed in the early evening, Captain Joseph P. Kayll, attached to the battalion
as Second-in-Command from the Machine Gun Corps, took command of the men for this, their first tour in this sector, the Right
Sub Sector, Neuve Chapelle.
As the Captain
did his rounds making sure that correct positions had been adopted, arrangements with the artillery, should retaliatory fire
become necessary, were confirmed. The artillery support available comprised of "B" and "D" Batteries,
165th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, 18-pounder and 4.5 inch howitzer batteries respectively, and "C" Battery,
170th Brigade, R.F.A, comprising of an 18-pounder battery, all batteries forming part of the 31st Divisional Artillery. In
addition to this, in the centre of the position there was located a trench mortar battery and at Port Arthur a machine
gun position was established to provide further support, 6 Lewis guns also being located along the length of the line.
On the left flank of the
2nd Bradford's, the 18th Durham's had moved into position completing a relief of the 14th York & Lancaster Regiment
(2nd Barnsley 'Pals') also of 94th Brigade. To the left flank of the Durham's, this part of the front line was
held by the 2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment, 184th Infantry Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. Forming the right flank
of the position, i.e. to the right of the 2nd Bradford's, the 12th East Yorkshire's, the 'Hull Sportsmen,'
of 92nd Brigade who had relieved the 14th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment on the 24th, remained in their positions.
Of the 16th West Yorkshire's, orders had been issued that dictated
that the battalion was to form a Composite Company to be attached to the 2nd Bradford's whilst the latter occupied the
front line. Designated "X" Company and consisting of 4 officers and 160 Other Ranks, these men took up their stations
on the right of the 2nd Bradford's position.
remaining companies of the 16th West Yorkshire's set forth from Les-Lobes at noon on the 27th and by route of march reached
Croix Barbee (La Croix Barbet, north of Richebourg) by mid afternoon and occupied billets. Posts were then taken over from
the 11th East Lancashire's (Accrington 'Pals'), 94th Infantry Brigade, the 15th West Yorkshire's who had moved
from Lestrem to Vieille Chapelle on the 24th, joining the 16th West Yorkshire's in Brigade Reserve at Croix Barbee.
|Neuve Chapelle: Right Sub Sector. Source, War Diary 18th West Yorkshire's, TNA WO95 2362
Companies were now disposed as follows:
"X" Company 16th West Yorkshire's Right Section
103 men* O.C. Captain George S. Blagbrough
"A" Company 18th West Yorkshire's Centre Section 90 men* O.C. Lieutenant Roland
18th West Yorkshire's Left Section 90 men* O.C. Refer To Notes
"C" Company 18th West Yorkshire's Reserve Captain Bernard Tooke &
Second-Lieutenant John L. Wood
Company 18th West Yorkshire's Battalion Support O.C. Lieutenant Arthur Howarth
Battalion Headquarters 18th West Yorkshire's Ruined
Farm Square S.3.d.
Company Headquarters Square S.10.d.
Notes * Denotes actual number of men in the front line
Support and Reserve numbers of men equates to 130
Officer Commanding "B" Company. No name recorded in the War Diary however both the Histories of Raw and
Hudson record this man as Lieutenant L.C. Watson ( Authors note: Lionel Cassels Watson). Watson, commissioned from the 16th
(Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment and Gazetted to the 18th Battalion on the 30th April 1915 (Dated 5th March 1915).
At 9.30 p.m. on the evening
of the 27th July the enemy commenced a heavy bombardment of the British front line, this bombardment consisting of H.E. (High
Explosive), shrapnel and the dreaded German trench mortar, the Minenwerfer.
Immediately all telephonic communications to companies of the Bradford's and the Durham's was cut with the
enemy's fire being concentrated on the left hand company, "B" respectively, of the 16th West Yorkshire's.
It would appear that the enemy now attempted to isolate both front companies of the D.L.I. and that of Bradford's by initiating
a "Box Barrage" method of artillery fire, as the term suggests, a box or curtain of artillery fire placed around
one specific position.
the front line now being swept by rapid machine-gun fire, telephonic communication to the companies in front was severed due
to the effects of the enemy's bombardment. To add to this confused and developing situation, communication with the right
flank battalion, the 12th East Yorkshire's, was lost also. With men attempting to repair the lines, communication with
93rd Brigade Headquarters was maintained by a series of runners and it was at 10.27 p.m. that information was received at
brigade by a runner from "D" Company that the enemy had broken into their sector of the line, message timed about
10.17 p.m. The message also stated that Lieutenant Howarth, O.C. "D" Company, had no bombers but to remedy the situation
he had requested that some of these be sent forward from Port Arthur.
A report compiled later of the raid ascertained that the enemy had entered
the front line in two parties, one near Bay 80 and the other, close to Bay 100. Each party consisted of
about 16 or 17 men who were dressed in black and were commanded by an officer. Armed with revolvers and grenades, the raiding
parties, covered by the smoke of their own bombardment entered the line as their artillery performed a lift. Upon entering
the trench, both parties then worked inwards moving so rapidly that many men were totally surprised in their dug-outs, many,
only realising that the enemy were in their line when torches were shone into their faces and the dug-outs illuminated. One
witness recorded that some of the men had wounds inflicted upon them being captured, the report presuming that this was carried
out so as to prevent their escape. One man however upon being wounded first of all by a bomb and then revolver stated
that he was bandaged up by one of the raiders.
a summary of a statement recorded by Lance-Corporal Thomas Denton, 18/148, "B" Company, the report details Denton's
initial capture and then fortuitously his escape. Upon being ushered out of the trench and taken about 300 yards towards the
German front line, the Lance-Corporal managed to knock over his guard and escape, finally returning to the British line at
10 a.m. the following morning albeit slightly wounded.
Unbeknown to the drama that had unfolded in the front line, at 10.37 p.m., Brigade Headquarters ordered "D"
Company of the 18th West Yorkshire's to prepare for an immediate counter-attack but the enemy raid on the Bradford's
line was effectively over by this point, estimates of its duration varying from 15 minutes to half an hour.
Orders were now issued for "D" Company to launch their attack at
11.15 p.m. Accordingly, the Durham's on the West Yorkshire's left flank who had also witnessed attempts by the enemy
to gain a foothold in their trenches were notified of this advance, their Officer Commanding, Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh Bowes
assigning "A" Company, their right company, to co-operate with this attack.
The West Yorkshire's reported that the enemy was still in their lines
between Hun Street - Oxford Street and with direct telephonic communication with 93rd Brigade broken, the actual
situation seemed confused albeit communication was still possible via the lines laid to the artillery batteries and via 92nd
At 11.30 p.m., two men of "B"
Company, who had been in position between Pioneer Trench - Oxford Street reported the events that had unfolded in
their sector. Private Herbert L. Riley, 18/1015, who had brought the wounded Corporal Joshua Lee, 18/1152, down the line,
stated that an enemy trench mortar round had exploded near a sentry post and shortly afterwards the enemy had come over and
infiltrated their position. Riley's testament confirmed what would later be reported by Lance-Corporal Denton, but like
the latter soldier, both men seized the opportunity to escape from their captor, Corporal Lee receiving gunshot wounds in
Authors Note: Private Herbert
Leonard Riley would unfortunately not survive the War and was killed in action at Gavrelle, near Arras, on the 3rd May 1917.
After recovering from his wounds, Joshua Lee would be posted to the 1/6th West Yorkshire Regiment in February 1918. Reported
'missing' near Wytschaete, Belgium, on the 25th April 1918, the promoted Lance-Sergeant Lee was captured by the enemy
and repatriated in January 1919.
to the report made by Private Riley that stated that the Germans were still in possession of the above area of trench system,
both "B" and "D" Companies, 18th West Yorkshire's were asked to furnish reports on the situation at
present, time, 11.37 p.m.
At 11.50 p.m. a
message was received from 93rd Brigade Headquarters that a party of 11 officers and 150 men of the 15th West Yorkshire's
under the command of Captain Frank H. Boardall were being sent forward as reinforcements. This party took up three posts in
the reserve at Lansdowne but did not reach the front line trenches in time to engage in any fighting.
"C" Company of the 18th West Yorkshire's were now ordered to
be ready to move via the Covered Way, a trench running parallel to the Estaires - La Bassee Road, Pont Logie
- Port Arthur, north to south respectively. Orders were issued to reinforce "D" Company as soon as the party
of 15th West Yorkshire's arrived.
was now just after midnight and it soon became apparent that the enemy bombardment was beginning to ease in intensity. With
telephonic communication still cut by the bombardment, information was received from runners that "B" Company, 18th
West Yorkshire's, were still in possession of a portion of the line to the south of Port Arthur but that the
situation on the their left flank remained obscure.
to the uncertainty as to the actual location of the enemy, Brigade Headquarters were notified that a bombing party would now
extend towards the left flank, clearing the line as they moved along the trench.
Enemy artillery and machine-gun fire by 12.30 a.m. was now described as desultory and less
active and at this juncture telephonic communication had been re-established with the rear. Rifle fire had been observed in
the left company's sector, "B" Company, and it was apparent that this fire was being directed towards the enemy.
The front line trench in parts was now incapable of being placed in a state of defence and the support lines impassable due
to the effects of the enemy artillery bombardment therefore a request was made for sappers to be sent forward to effect immediate
As to the situation of both "X"
Company, the composite company of the 16th West Yorkshire's attached, and that of "A" Company of the 18th Battalion,
a runner was sent out to ascertain their status. Information was about to be received however from the O.C. "D"
Company, message timed 11.35 p.m., that proved the critical nature of the situation on "B" Company's front;
"Am in front line
of "B" Coy. Have found Williams but practically only 10 "B" men.
I am manning front line with 25 men. Several wounded, but cannot spare
men to bring them out. No Boches. Lt Burton + Lt Fletcher with me."
Authors note: Officers, Eric Williams, Bruce Burton and Thomas Ralph Hind-Fletcher.
As regards the fortunes of
"X" Company, the composite party of the 16th West Yorkshire's attached, by 1 a.m. runners sent out by the O.C.,
Captain Blagbrough, reported that the latter officer intended to obtain touch with the O.C. "A" Company, Lieutenant
Cross. Shortly after this message was received, the centre of the line was bombarded by enemy artillery for a duration of
about fifteen minutes, the O.C. "D" Company, Lieutenant Howarth, then receiving orders to obtain communication with
companies on his flanks at once, reinforcements, when available, being sent forward to assist.
Just after 2 a.m., Lieutenant Howarth reported that he now held the front
line with 25 men of his own company and the survivors of "B." Howarth also reported that "A" Company frontage
was "alright," but that unfortunately Lieutenant Roland Cross had been killed along with Acting Colour
Sergeant Major George H. Upton, 18/140.
battalion casualties for the period of 24 hours, recorded at 12 noon on the 28th in the Battalion War Diary amounted to:-
Officers 2 killed, Lieutenant Roland Cross and Second-Lieutenant Walter
Rawleigh Humphries, 3 missing (later recorded as Prisoners of War)
Ranks 4 killed, 38 wounded (4 dying of wounds 28/7/16), 33 missing, 2 wounded but at duty.
An analysis of both Soldiers Died and the records of the Commonwealth
War Graves Commission confirms that the total killed in the enemy raid amounted to 2 Officers and 6 Other Ranks, four succumbing
to wounds the following day. The 3 Officers captured were Lieutenant Arthur Howarth, Lieutenant Leslie Stevens Walton and
Lieutenant Lionel Cassels Watson. (Source: Cox & Co Published 1919).
"X" Company, of the 16th West Yorkshire's attached to the 2nd
Bradford battalion, suffered five men killed and three wounded. One of the wounded men, Private Heber Holmes, 16/1060, a resident
of Cross Hills near Keighley, would have his left leg amputated to the thigh and eventually be discharged in late 1917. The
five men killed in the raid, all now lie at peace in graves located at St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg L'Avoue,
close to where they fell.
the German unit that performed and executed this audacious raid, the only information that was procured was a document found
on a dead raider, a leave pass dated April 1916 that stated that he was a soldier with the 3rd Ersatz Company, 248th Ersatz
Battalion, R.I.R. (Reserve Infantry Regiment). In addition to this identification, a belt was also found in the British
trenches, reported to be belonging to a wounded man of the 121st Regiment.
note: 248th Ersatz Battalion, R.I.R., XXVII Reserve Corps, 54th Reserve Division, 108th Reserve Infantry Brigade, Corps
Commander, General der Artillerie, Richard von Schubert.
origins of the belt are unclear however this may have belonged to a man serving with the 121st, R.I.R.
One of the 18th West Yorkshiremen
who was killed in the raid, Private William Edgar Rumbold, 23940, hailed from the locality. Born in Tadcaster and a resident
of Ulleskelf, detailed research can be found on the following excellent website compiled by Dave and Andy Morris:
Tadcaster WW1 Memorials
|Private William E. Rumbold, St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery
On the 4th August,
the 93rd Infantry Brigade were relieved by units of the 92nd Brigade, 31st Division, and proceeded to their respective billeting
15th West Yorkshire's
La Croix Barbet
16th West Yorkshire's
18th West Yorkshire's
the course of the following days, all battalions of the brigade experienced transfers of various ranks for specialised training
in addition to new officers arriving at the front to be posted to their allocated battalions. One transfer relating to matters
at home however was granted on the 5th August when Lieutenant Frederick Reynold Webster, a Yarn Agent in civilian life, was
granted permission to return to England until the 12th to attend to urgent business matters, this leave, later extended to
a period of one month as under Army Council Instruction Number 1026.
On the 9th August the 93rd Infantry Brigade on receipt of orders to relieve the 118th Infantry Brigade, 39th Division,
proceeded to their appointed billets in the Le Touret area.
Subsequently at 4.30 p.m. on the 9th instant, the 16th West Yorkshire's departed Les Lobes and by route of march
proceeded to Le Touret. Arriving at the latter place at 7.30 p.m., the battalion then took over billets vacated by the 4th/5th
Battalion, Black Watch, 118th Brigade, and settled for the night.
At 9 p.m. on the 10th, the 16th West Yorkshire's proceeded by sections to commence a relief of the front line
trenches at Festubert, this relief of the 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment, 118th Brigade, being completed at midnight
without incident. The battalion had however departed Le Touret without Captain George Stanley Blagbrough who had been admitted
to the 95th Field Ambulance, cause unknown.
The battalion now occupied the Left Sub-Sector, Festubert, with dispositions as follows:
18th West Yorkshire's Left Flank
18th Durham's Right Flank
15th West Yorkshire's & 1 Company ("A") 11th East Yorkshire's
Brigade Reserve (Le Plantin)
Artillery, 30th Divisional Artillery "A" 150 Battery 18-Pounder guns
"D" 149 Battery 4.5 inch Howitzers
As the first day dawned in this sector,
the War Diary of the 16th West Yorkshire's recorded that the situation in the trenches was "normal."
Trenches in name only as in this sector, not
unique to the Western Front, any attempt at excavation into the ground rapidly filled with water due to the lack of drainage.
Although the landscape was extensively farmed and proved to be most fertile, for agriculture to succeed, the terrain necessitated
the digging of a system of drainage ditches. These, as well as the natural lie of the land had been subjected to the attentions
of artillery for a number of years and to adopt a defensive position required the construction of breastworks, layers of sandbags,
elevated as high or higher than a man. Often, in this sector particularly, these positions were referred to as "islands,"
not one continuous trench line, but a series of posts interconnected.
It was on the 11th August that the War Diary of the 16th West Yorkshire's recorded the award of the Distinguished
Conduct Medal to Acting Company Sergeant Major George Cussins, 16/842, "A" Company, for gallantry and devotion to
duty in action. His citation for the award published in the London Gazette dated 22nd September 1916 states:
"For conspicuous courage and ability throughout the campaign. He
has shown admirable coolness and pluck in times of stress. He took charge when his officer was wounded and organised his line,
though wounded. He subsequently did valuable work as Regimental Sergeant Major."
Company Sergeant Major Cussins, a Police Constable in civilian life and a
resident of Bingley, would also be awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in June 1918 and survive the War.
The sector remained reasonably quiet with the occasional strafe by enemy
artillery but one characteristic of this part of the line was the presence of snipers who effectively prevented active patrolling
During the day to day routine
of manning the line, the first casualties to the 16th West Yorkshire's were suffered, when on the 12th, one Other Rank
was killed and three wounded in an enemy artillery strafe, Private James Frederick Hodgson, 16/733, aged 24 years and a native
of Laisterdyke, Bradford, being the unfortunate O/R to lose his life. Of the wounded men, one O/R, Private Ernest Jones Davies,
16/177, possibly succumbed to his wounds the following day however both Soldiers Died and Ernest's corresponding
Medal Index Card record that he was "killed in action." As there are no casualties recorded in the battalion
diary for the 13th instant, it is most likely that Private Davies, aged just 19 years, was also a victim of this shell fire,
both men now lying in adjoining graves at Le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg-l'Avoue.
The first significant draft of N.C.O.'s now began to arrive since the
battalion's experiences during the Somme offensive when on the 14th August, 40 men were posted to the 16th West Yorkshire's
from the 33rd Infantry Base Depot (Detail) located at Etaples, near Boulogne. As well as the arrival of this batch of men
to bolster the battalion, Second-Lieutenant's Ernest Crowther and Bertram Hubert Hardy.
Crowther had been commissioned from the ranks of the 9th Battalion, Yorkshire
Regiment (Green Howard's). Prior to receiving his commission, Ernest was awarded the D.C.M. for actions during a raid
on the enemy's trenches near Bois Grenier in January 1916, a raid that resulted in the award of six Distinguished Conduct
Medal and two awards of the Military Cross, Supplement to the London Gazette dated 15th March 1916. Second-Lieutenant Crowther
would also receive a further award for gallantry in the field when he would be awarded the Military Cross, London Gazette,
dated April 1917, for rescuing a desperate situation at Rossignol Wood, Somme, in February 1917.
As both officers and men proceeded on various courses of instruction, the
battalion received notification on the 16th that Captain Blagbrough had been transferred from the 95th F.A. to the 2nd London
Casualty Clearing Station (sic), the 1/2nd London Casualty Clearing Station located at Merville. The day previous had also
witnessed the loss of another O/R, Private William Rushworth, 16/246. Once again the War Diary records no losses on this date,
William's Medal Index Card simply recording the term, "deceased." Was William possibly yet another
victim of the enemy artillery strafe that had been experienced on the 12th?
The sector was becoming more active with more frequent artillery strafes
that were responded to by the 93rd Trench Mortar Brigade firing both light and medium trench mortars.
On the 17th/18th, both the 16th and 18th West Yorkshire's were relieved
by the 11th East Yorkshire's, 92nd Infantry Brigade, whilst the 15th West Yorkshire's relieved the 18th Durham's
in the right sub sector. All three battalions however provided detachments of men to assist the 15th West Yorkshire's
in their tenure of the line and were placed in reserve in the O.B.L. (Old British Line), the original line prior
to the capture of the village in May 1915. Men allocated to form this Reserve Company consisted of; "B" Company,
150? men, D.L.I., 4 officers and 75 men, 16th West Yorkshire's and 45 men of "B" Company plus 30 of "A"
Company, 18th West Yorkshire's.
The situation in the trenches remained relatively quiet but throughout the 20th August the German artillery bombarded
the front line trenches with heavy calibre artillery and trench mortars. As a consequence, along the length of the line the
breastworks were breached at a few points with the resulting bombardment destroying one "island" in the process.
More worrying, the wire had been destroyed in numerous places and large gaps had been created that potentially could afford
the enemy a choice of entry points should they wish to mount any offensive action.
No doubt waiting for the hours of darkness to descend so that immediate repairs could be effected, suddenly, at 8
p.m., a large explosion was heard and felt on the right of the position to the north of Givenchy. About fifteen minutes later,
an intense barrage descended on the trenches, this barrage then lifting at 8.45 p.m. and proceeding to fall on the O.B.L.
As this lift commenced, the enemy had attempted to infiltrate the line, and as their barrage returned to fall on the
front line trenches at about 9.10 p.m., it suddenly ceased about twenty minutes later. The response by the supporting British
artillery batteries had proved to be most effective with fire continuing until 9.50 p.m., a well directed fire plan that no
doubt helped to save what could have been a repeat of the events of the 27th July.
It was soon ascertained that the enemy had attempted to break into the left of the line held by the 15th West Yorkshire's,
positions held by "C" and "D" Companies. Raiding equipment was also found, consisting of a hatchet, wire
cutters, bridges so as to negotiate wire obstacles, two land mines and a large quantity of bombs. Patrols were then sent out
into No Man's Land to try and find any dead or wounded of the enemy raiding party however no trace of the raiders could
Casualties to the
15th West Yorkshire's throughout the day consisted of one officer killed, Second-Lieutenant Thomas Appelbee, and Second-Lieutenants
Lawrence and Walter J. Cantell, wounded.
Tom, Walter and Second-Lieutenant Lawrence had only joined the battalion about a month previously. In Other Ranks, the War
Diary records that six men were killed and 17 wounded. (Authors note: the records of the C.W.G.C. record five men
killed on the 20th instant, one man Private Frederick Lancaster, 15/567, recorded as killed in action (Medal Index Card,
Died of Wounds S.D.G.W.) and commemorated by the C.W.G.C. as date of death, the 21st August.
Of the five men confirmed through the above sources as dying on the 20th
in the attempted enemy raid, all these men now lie in Le Touret Military Cemetery, Lancaster, buried at Gorre British and
Indian Cemetery, located to the east of Bethune.
Of Frederick, a newspaper article dated the 1st September 1916 confirms that he succumbed to wounds received, the
cemetery at Gorre being utilised for the burials of wounded evacuated from units in the front line. Donald Frederick Lancaster
to give him his true family name, also possessed a link to the Wetherby district, his birth in 1890 being registered at Collingham.
As a consequence of his father's vocation, a Police Constable, Donald led an early transient lifestyle that ultimately
led to himself and his family taking up residence in Burley, Leeds. Recorded as a Printers Compositor in the 1911 Census,
on the outbreak of the Great War Donald enlisted at Leeds Town Hall in September 1914 under the name of Frederick Lancaster
and was allocated to "B" Company of the Leeds Service Battalion, Leeds 'Pals.' Serving as a Regimental Policeman,
Frederick survived the horrors of the opening day of the Somme offensive without being numbered amongst the wounded, only
to fall in this largely forgotten incident, so typical of the daily events experienced by all battalions on the Western Front.
The epitaph on the grave
of one Private Frank Saxby, 15/784, aged just 20 years and a native of Pontefract, just one of the men who fell on this date,
for me personally, encapsulates the actions and experiences of the men of the 31st Division at this juncture of the War;
"It is well with the lad....Mother."
During the events of the 20th August, the 16th West Yorkshire's had "Stood To" but no casualties are
recorded during the attempted raid.
24th August information was received by the battalion that Major Humfrey Hays Kennedy was to be granted the temporary rank
of Lieutenant-Colonel, official notification being announced in the London Gazette dated 24th October 1916.
It was on the evening of the 26th that the battalion proceeded to return
to the trenches when a relief from posts in the Village Line was commenced by "A," "B" and 40
men of "D" Company of the 11th East Yorkshire's, 92nd Infantry Brigade, the remainder of "D" Company
of this battalion forming a mobile reserve should they be required. With the relief completed between 11.30 and 11.45 p.m.,
the battalion were now once again holding the Left Sub-Sector, Festubert, accompanied by the 18th West Yorkshire's
on their left flank and the 18th D.L.I. on their right respectively.
The situation on entering the line was described as quiet however during the daylight hours of the 27th, enemy artillery
commenced a series of bombardments throughout the day of artillery of various calibres. This series of "hates" caused
particular damage to one of the "islands" in the sector held by the 18th West Yorkshire's and included the use
by the enemy of aerial darts, more than likely describing bombs fired by the Granatenwerfer, a type of spigot
mortar, as opposed to flechettes dropped from enemy aircraft.
As if a "welcoming party" was being staged for their benefit, 4 N.C.O.'s and 20 men of the 17th (Service)
Battalion, Manchester Regiment, 90th Infantry Brigade, 30th Division, were attached to the 16th West Yorkshire's for duty
in the line.
During the following day, British trench mortars commenced to fire on the
enemy's front line with virtually no retaliatory fire being experienced apart from a few rifle grenades and aerial
darts being sent over from the opposing lines. It is of interest to note however that the "island" targeted
the day previously, Island 30, was once again subjected to attentions of 77mm artillery shells. Was this yet another
attempt to create a gap in the defences as a precursor to a projected raid?
Although both machine gun and sniper activity was virtually non existent, the actions of the enemy artillery that
had been primarily experienced during the course of the morning resulted in the death of Private Herbert Muff, 16/1291, of
Horton, Bradford, aged just 18 years. "He Died For England."
|Private Herbert Muff, Le Touret Military Cemetery
The attached party of the Manchester Regiment returned to their
parent unit on the 29th, however one man was evacuated sick to one of the Divisional Field Ambulances for treatment.
Finally, on the 30th August, a relief of both battalions of the West Yorkshire
Regiment was commenced by the 11th East Yorkshire's. The relief of the 18th West Yorkshire's was completed by 10.45
p.m. and that of the 16th by 10.30 p.m., the 11th East Yorkshire's War Diary stating that all movement was completed by
Both battalions now moved back into
the Village Line Defence, the 18th West Yorkshire's leaving two Lewis guns and their respective teams in the
front line. The relief had not been without incident though as one man of the 18th battalion was wounded (rifle), and one
man of the 16th, when he was struck through the foot by a machine-gun bullet, both men receiving a 'coveted' "Blighty
wound" that would no doubt necessitate their evacuation to England if they were lucky.
The start of the month did not bode well for the 15th West Yorkshire's.
Orders previously issued to relieve the 18th D.L.I. on the night of the 30th August had to be postponed due to a suspected
outbreak of cerebrospinal meningitis, believed to have been contracted by Captain Frank Harwood Boardall and as a consequence,
the Durham's tenure of the line continued in cold, windy and showery weather. With Captain Boardall deemed 'clear,'
on the evening of the 1st September, the 15th West Yorkshire's, plus detachments from the other units that constituted
93rd Brigade as disposed 17th/18th August, took up their stations in the line.
Repercussions as regards the enemy raid on the 20th August were now instigated.
On the 2nd September, Corporal Cecil Lister, 15/598, 15th West Yorkshire's, was tried by Field General Court Martial,
the alleged charge being that of cowardice. Found guilty, Lister was reduced to the ranks and sentenced to 10 years penal
servitude, however Lister was not to be sent to prison until further notice was received.
Cecil Lister, a Law Clerk of Armley, Leeds, had enlisted in the Leeds 'Pals' on the 12th September 1914.
Posted to "C" Company and serving in Egypt and on the Somme, Cecil escaped the carnage of the first day of the battle
It is unclear if Cecil actually
served his sentence, but full medal entitlement was granted after the cessation of hostilities whereupon he was finally discharged
in 1919. Surviving pension documents dated 1921 however declared after a medical examination that Cecil was suffering a form
of anoxia/hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the individuals blood to a specific area or part of the body. As a consequence, Cecil
suffered tremors of the hands, palpitations and lethargy amongst other symptoms, the conclusion of this medical examination
that his sufferings were of a "nervous origin."
In the absence of further documentation, it is uncertain if Lister's condition was a congenital disorder, or
brought about through War Service, the latter however remains a distinct possibility.
Of those who had distinguished themselves on the 20th August in the eyes
of their superiors, they would not be meted out the treatment afforded to Corporal Lister. Privates George Robson, 15/1300,
Harold R. Oddy, 15/690, and Harold Child, 15/195, would be awarded the Military Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty,
the men being presented the aforementioned awards in a ceremony conducted at Merville by the Corps Commander, Lieutenant-General
Haking, on the 16th September.
Both Oddy and
Child would survive the War but sadly Private George Robson, a native of Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was killed in an artillery
strafe whilst his company, "D," were in support positions near Hebuterne, Somme, on the 23rd November 1916.
Of the 16th West Yorkshire's, a detachment of 3 officers and 75 Other
Ranks were attached to the 15th West Yorkshire's as they moved into the line on the 1st September. As this detachment
rejoined their respective battalion on the 3rd, the latter were relieved in the Village Line Defence at 9.p.m. by
the 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, 90th Infantry Brigade, 30th Division, and proceeded by route of march into billets
located at Les Lobes.
well as the usual postings of men and officers to various establishments for training purposes, on the 4th the battalion were
notified that Lieutenant A.S. Gibson who had been wounded on the 19th August, was evacuated to England for further treatment.
In addition to this officer, notification was also received that Captain Blagborough had been granted three weeks sick leave
to England, officers with front line experience that the battalion could ill afford to lose.
The award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal to Private Tom Pearson, 16/1154,
was announced in the War Diary on the 7th September for gallantry and devotion to duty in operations on the Somme on that
fateful day in July. His citation in the London Gazette dated 26th September 1916 states:
"For conspicuous gallantry in action. When he and one other man
were all that remained of a machine gun team they continued to work the gun in "No Man's Land" under heavy shell
and machine gun fire. When the other man was knocked out and he himself was wounded, he continued to fire the gun single-handed
for an hour until assistance arrived."
Tom would rise to the rank of Sergeant and be eventually posted to the Northumberland Fusiliers. Attaining the rank
of Acting Company Quartermaster Sergeant with this battalion, he would survive the war.
On the 11th September, the 16th West Yorkshire's once again moved back
into the line to take over the trenches from units of the 94th Infantry Brigade, 31st Division, consequently competing a relief
of the 14th Battalion, Yorks. & Lancs. (2nd Barnsley 'Pals'), in the Right Sub-Sector, Neuve Chapelle Section.
This relief was completed without incident by 2 p.m. during the afternoon, the 18th West Yorkshire's moving up into Brigade
Reserve at Croix Barbee and taking over posts previously occupied by the 11th East Lancs. (Accrington 'Pals'). As
part of this changeover, the 15th West Yorkshire's moved into the centre, relieving the 12th Battalion, Yorks. & Lancs.
(Sheffield 'Pals') whilst the 18th Durham's moved into the line to complete a relief of the 13th Battalion, Yorks.
& Lancs. (1st Barnsley 'Pals').
the men settled down for yet another tour in the line, the sector remained rather strangely quiet apart from the odd attentions
of the enemy's trench mortars that caused no significant damage.
Machine-Gun Sergeant Ellison Murgatroyd, 16/573, accompanied by Signalling Sergeant James Johnson, 16/116, departed
the 16th battalion on the 13th instant and proceeded to the G.H.Q. Cadet School located at Blendecques, near St. Omer. Both
men would return to the battalion upon receiving their commissions as Second-Lieutenants on the 21st November and subsequently
posted to "D" Company.
two men commissioned from the ranks, Sergeant Murgatroyd would be gazetted the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal the
following month for his actions during the opening day of the Somme offensive. A married man who eventually rose to the rank
of Captain and who would also serve with the 18th West Yorkshire's after the disbandment of its sister battalion in early
1918, he would unfortunately be killed on the 26th March 1918 near Bucquoy whilst serving with the 8th Battalion, West Yorkshire
Regiment, 62nd (West Riding) Division.
Johnson, would go into the attack of the 31st Division at Gavrelle on the 3rd May 1917 as Acting Signals Officer. Surviving
the devastating losses of the battalions that went into this attack, James would be admitted 'sick' to the 95th Field
Ambulance some days later. Recorded as "remaining on leave" during the month of July from "D"
Company, he would return to the battalion whilst they were holding the Willerval Sector to the east of Arras, later in the
Attached to "C" Company in
August, on the 25th of this month and with no doubt his signalling skills proving to be a major factor, James would be transferred
to the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force respectively and survive the conflict.
The weather had by now turned turned wet followed by bright but cold days
during this tenure of the line. British artillery and trench mortars however made their presence felt firing on the enemy
wire out across No Man's Land but the situation in general remained relatively quiet except on the line held by the Leeds
'Pals.' On the 14th, and as a retaliation against the fire directed against the enemy's wire, German heavy calibre
trench mortars bombarded the positions occupied by "A" Company of the battalion. Although damage was slight to the
front line, this bombardment resulted in the deaths of Second-Lieutenant Archibald Patrick Glenn, Lance-Corporal Albert Edward
Althorp, 15/15, and Private Frederick Wood, 18/1471, the latter soldier transferred to the battalion from the 18th West Yorkshire's
and who subsequently died of his wounds. In addition to these fatalities, a further 11 Other Ranks were wounded.
Second-Lieutenant Glenn, the son of the late Reverend Richard John Glenn,
Vicar of St.Mary's, Alfrick, Worcestershire and the late Charlotte Kate Browning Glenn, had only joined the battalion
on the 16th July 1916.
After the death of
his father in 1904 and followed by the death of his mother in 1911, Patrick as he was also known was sent to be educated at
St. Edmund's School, St. Thomas Hill, Canterbury, a school founded for the education of orphans of clergymen of both England
Serving in the schools O.T.C. (Officer
Training Corps) as a Bugler, Archibald enlisted in a Public Schools Battalion, specifically raised for service with the Royal
Naval Division, his enlistment being recorded as taking place on the 11th November 1914. Due to losses sustained by the latter
division during the defence of Antwerp in early October 1914, the Hawke Battalion had virtually ceased to exist as a fighting
unit with many of its number either killed or captured and subsequently made prisoners of war. As a consequence of this costly
engagement, the Hawke Battalion were reconstituted, Archibald at first being posted to Victory VI, a shore based
training establishment located at Crystal Palace, London. Appointed to Victory III on the 9th March 1915, Authors
Note: Possibly an administrative allocation and actually still in training at London, Ordinary Seaman Glenn, London Z/812,
joined "?" Company (annotation is unclear) of the Hawke Battalion at Blandford, Dorset, on the 3rd May, 1915.
Although no actual date for posting overseas is recorded on surviving service
documents, Ordinary Seaman Glenn and the men of the Hawke Battalion joined the remainder of the Royal Naval Division who had
landed at Gallipoli in April 1915, on the 30th May.
It was whilst serving on the Peninsula that on the 1st July, 1915, Archibald was admitted to the 15th Stationary
Hospital, located at Mudros, suffering from "Debility," a lack of strength and possibly one of the first
symptoms of dysentery to manifest itself.
to the 26th Casualty Clearing Station also located at Mudros on the 6th, he was discharged to duty two days later. It is more
than likely that Archibald was still suffering the early symptoms of dysentery, but with the Royal Naval Division about to
mount offensive operations at Helles, a need for manpower may have proved to be factor that necessitated his discharge from
the medical facility.
It is now unclear if
he was once again admitted to hospital but whatever the circumstances, Archibald was evacuated from the Peninsula suffering
"Debility and Dysentery" on the 2nd August 1915. Once again, surviving service documents are unclear but he
was invalided to England from Malta, via the Hospital Ship "Somali," a commandeered passenger/cargo liner
that had been built for the Peninsula and Orient Steam Navigation Company and launched in 1901.
Upon arrival in England, Archibald was now appointed to the 3rd Reserve Battalion,
R.N.D. at Blandford. After various phases of sick leave and leave granted, on the 26th November 1915, Archibald Patrick Glenn
was discharged to a temporary commission in the Regular Army. Granted his commission as a Second-Lieutenant on Christmas Eve
1915, he would be transferred to a reserve battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, London Gazette dated 24th August 1916,
seniority dated to the 24th December 1915 respectively.
Killed on the 14th, Archibald's only surviving immediate relative, his sister, Doris Kathleen Sharp Glenn who
now resided with her mothers brother, one Sharp Archibald Garland who had succeeded his father as Mayor of Chichester, received
a War Gratuity Docket for services rendered by her brother with the R.N.D. of £5.10 shillings, small comfort for his
service and his life for King and country.
now lies buried in St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-l'Avoue, France, along with so many of his comrades. In
addition to his burial in a "foreign field," the young Second-Lieutenant is also commemorated on the Chichester
City War Memorial located in Litten Gardens.
|Second-Lieutenant Archibald P. Glenn, St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery
On the 14th September, 16 Other Ranks joined the 16th West Yorkshire's
and were taken on the strength of the battalion. The source for these drafts is not stated in the pages of the War Diary however
it is more than likely that they originated from the 33rd Infantry Base Depot/Detail located at Etaples, near Boulogne.
The situation in the trenches remained 'normal' during the following
day with bombardments of the enemy's front line being conducted by both artillery and trench mortars. Retaliatory fire
had little impact on the British front line trenches, the only casualty sustained by the units holding the front positions
being one O/R of the 16th West Yorks. wounded. On this date also, Captain Blagbrough rejoined the battalion from England due
to the termination of his sick leave in England.
A relief on the 16th September was conducted by the 10th East Yorkshire Regiment, 92nd Infantry Brigade, this being
completed without incident, the 16th West Yorkshire's then proceeding to billets at Gorre, located to the north-east of
With units of the
31st Division mounting various small scale offensive operations, the 10th East Yorkshire's, the 'Hull Commercials,'
were about to take their turn and exact revenge for the incessant German trench raids in a manner of their own choosing. Described
by the War Diary as a "minor enterprise," during the night of the 18th/19th September, a raid was to be
performed on the enemy's trenches with the intentions of entering their line, to kill and if possible capture for identification
purposes, any of the enemy present, bomb dug-outs and generally wreak as much havoc to their front line system as possible.
At midnight, a number of raiding parties entered the line and completed a successful operation resulting in the capture of
9 of the enemy and one machine gun, the prisoners being from various constituent units of the 40th Saxon Division, the latter
estimated to have suffered 30 men killed. Although some men of the raiding party were wounded slightly, one of the raiders
failed to return, the War Diary recording this man as "one Sergeant missing." This 'missing' man
was one Lance-Sergeant Arthur James Tindale, 10/45, aged 28 years. Arthur had enlisted at Hull in September 1914, one of the
first to enlist in the battalion. A clerk at a paint manufacturers, Arthur's body could unfortunately not be identified
after the war, therefore, he is now commemorated on the Loos Memorial.
Of the participants in this successful operation, 7 men would be awarded the Military Medal. Of these men, two would
die of wounds later in the war, one, whilst serving with the battalion, another, discharged to commission and serving with
a different unit. Private Lawrence Nowell, 10/868, was to be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and survive the conflict
whilst Second-Lieutenant William Sowerby Clark, a native of Hull who had led a party of "C" Company men in the raid,
was to be awarded the Military Cross. Rising to the rank of Captain, William would unfortunately be killed on the 10th July
1917 whilst serving with the battalion near Arras.
Whilst the East Yorkshire's were making final preparations for their raid, on the 17th September, the 16th West
Yorkshire's commenced a relief of the 19th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, 21st Infantry Brigade, 30th Division, in the
Right Sub-Section at Givenchy. Dispositions during this tour in the line consisted of the 18th D.L.I. in support
with the 15th West Yorkshire's in reserve, whilst the 18th West Yorkshire's, augmented with one company of the XI
Corps Cyclist Battalion proceeded to occupy the Left Sub-Section after completing a relief of the 2nd Battalion,
Yorkshire Regiment, 30th Division.
The situation in the trenches remained relatively quiet with the usual artillery and trench mortar duels but it was
at this juncture that men of the brigades that constituted the division were placed on attachment for labour duties to the
254th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. One tunnelling company, the 257th, under the command of Captain Harry Hannay, at
this period were in the process of driving various mine shafts in the "Duck's Bill" and "Colvin"
Sectors in addition to the construction of communication trenches across No Man's Land by means of high explosive.
Whilst conducting these operations, one man, Private Charles Jones, 20/134,
attached from the 18th West Yorkshire Regiment, was charged under the Army Act for desertion or attempting to desert. Charles'
service origins lie with the 20th (Reserve) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment. Part of a draft to the 18th West Yorks. (Second
Bradford 'Pals') prior to the Battle of the Somme, on the 25th September 1916, a Field General Court Martial was convened
at the Hospice Saint Jean, Laventie, charging Private Jones, 20/134, with offences under the Army Act, Section 12, 1 (A).
Sentence, although unknown, was promulgated to all ranks on the 28th September whilst they were on parade.
Charles, whatever the sentence passed, eventually went on to serve in the
ranks of the 13th East Lancashire Regiment however it must be noted that his Medal Index Card entry notes that due to his
conviction(s), his medals were forfeited. There is no record of this man or his subsequent fate in the War Diary of the 18th
the 16th West Yorkshire's continued their occupation of the trenches, the enemy, as if a precursor to the intended raid
to be launched by the East Yorkshire's on the night 18th/19th, kept up a constant and considerable amount of machine gun
fire from the hours of 7p.m. to midnight. One O/R was wounded during this period of harassment, but was not evacuated from
During the following day, the
19th, the following notification was received that Captain George Stanley Blagbrough had been appointed to the rank of Temporary
Major and was subsequently promoted to second-in-command of the 16th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment as from
the 2nd August 1916, Supplement to the London Gazette dated 1st November 1916. In addition to Captain Blagbrough's promotion,
on this date also, four officers joined the ranks of the 1st Bradford's for duty; Major Harold V.B. Byles, Second-Lieutenants
Oswald N. Tugwell, Herbert S. Mercer and Leonard Ashworth.
Herbert Stovin Mercer had originally enlisted in the 15th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, the Leeds
'Pals' in September 1914. Granted a commission in May 1915 into the 17th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment,
the '2nd Leeds' Battalion, a 'Bantam' formation, he would not serve overseas with either unit, until being
posted to France to join the ranks of "B" Company of the 1st Bradford 'Pals.' Upon disbandment of the battalion
in February 1918, Temporary Lieutenant Mercer was posted to the 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, finally
relinquishing his commission due to ill health in February 1919.
Herbert, in civilian life, would find employment as a Bank Manager and die at the ripe old age of 84 years in 1967.
As this tour of the line
continued, the main characteristic of this period of occupation of the sector was the constant attentions of the enemy's
trench mortars, replied to in turn, by their British equivalents. Sickness was also rife amongst both officers and men, Second-Lieutenant
H.P.M. Williams being admitted to the 95th Field Ambulance on the 20th instant whilst on the same day, and due to enemy action,
Second-Lieutenant Bernard W. Long of "D" Company was wounded in the arm. On recuperation of his wound, Bernard would
be attached to the 2nd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment in July 1917. In a little over a month, he would be killed in action
in the Ypres Salient aged just 21 years.
On the 21st of the month, the 16th West Yorkshire's were relieved from their duties in the line, this relief
being completed by the 15th West Yorks, Leeds 'Pals' between noon and 1 p.m. Whilst the relief was being undertaken,
Second-Lieutenant Bertram Reed of "D" Company, who had only joined the 15th Battalion a few weeks previously, was
wounded by a snipers bullet.
the 16th West Yorkshire's proceeded to billets located at Gorre, both officers and men continued to be posted to various
establishments for courses of instruction or posted home to England for a period of leave granted. Sickness still remained
prevalent however, Second-Lieutenant George T. Bogie being transferred to Number 32 Casualty Clearing Station from the XI
Corps Rest Station on the 22nd.
25th would witness a return to the trenches of the Right Sub-Section, Givenchy Section, a relief of the 15th West
Yorkshire's being completed at 4 p.m. without incident. The situation in the trenches remained much the same as previous
tours in the line; both British and German trench mortars active during some periods of the day, followed by periods of relative
calm. During the next day however and following a strafe by enemy artillery followed by retaliatory trench mortar fire, a
shell or shells fired from a German minenwerfer blew part of the front line in held by the battalion resulting in
the wounding of three O/R's. Evacuated from the front, it is most likely that one of these men, Private Percy Tolson,
16/1024, succumbed to his wounds on the 29th. A native of Birkenshaw, Bradford, and a married man with a young daughter aged
7 years, Percy now lies in Chocques Military Cemetery, north-west of Bethune where despite treatment at Number 1 Casualty
Clearing Station, he lost his fight for survival.
As the month of September drew to a close, as well as those departing the battalion for training and welcome leave
to England, two new officers joined the ranks of the 1st Bradford 'Pals' from the 33rd I.B.D. on the 27th; Second-Lieutenants
John M. Barrow and Daniel T. King respectively. Sergeant George Wheatley Ashforth, 16/483, (Authors note: Recorded as number
480, A.W. Ashforth in the Battalion War Diary) was also granted a commission as a Second-Lieutenant in the battalion on the
28th. Ashforth's rise through the ranks would eventually witness him being Gazetted the Military Cross as a Temporary
Captain in October 1918 whilst serving with the Leeds 'Pals,' 15th West Yorkshire Regiment, eventually rising to the
rank of Temporary Major with the latter battalion and survive the war.
It is now that we once again turn our attention to the Backhouse brothers. Herbert had, by the middle of September,
been drafted to the Western Front to join the ranks of the 6th (Service) Battalion, Cameron Highlanders. Forming part of the
45th Infantry Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division, Herbert had only been at the front for a matter of about two weeks when the
Division were committed to the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, one of the ongoing phases of the Battle of the Somme. With their
objective being assigned as the village of Martinpuich, Herbert was unfortunately seriously wounded during the offensive which
had commenced on the 15th September. Passed along the casualty clearing line to the coast of France, he was evacuated to England,
a telegram reaching Wetherby a few days later summoning his father to London where Herbert was hospitalised with severe shrapnel
wounds to his back. News no doubt filtered through to Sidney as to the seriousness nature of his brother's injuries, an
ill omen for another young man about to enter the theatre of war.
For a comprehensive account of Herbert's service and commemoration, the reader may wish to follow this link:
Private Herbert "Bert" Backhouse
October: An Offensive Imminent
The first day of the month of October witnessed the arrival of a draft of
98 Other Ranks from the 33rd I.B.D. accompanied by two officers, Second-Lieutenants Joseph L. Stanley and Gerald Alexander
McKay Morant. Rising to the rank of Lieutenant, Morant would assume duties of Battalion Signalling Officer in 1917. Performing
the role of Acting Adjutant at various periods during the same year, he was promoted to the rank of Temporary Captain
in November whilst the battalion were located in the Arras Sector. Gazetted the award of the Military Cross in December,
no citation but possibly awarded for consistent good work, upon disbandment of the battalion, Captain Morrant would be posted
to join the ranks of the 2/5th West Yorkshire Regiment, 62nd (West Riding) Division and would unfortunately be killed in April
To the 'Old Sweats' in the 31st Division, a vast influx of drafts no doubt encouraged the 'rumour
mill' to gain momentum, the consensus of opinion being drawn from 'those in the know' that the division were
about to be engaged in some form of impending operation. Withdrawn from the Village Line, Givenchy Sector on the
3rd, the 16th West Yorkshire's, on relief by the 1st Battalion, Duke Of Cornwall's Light Infantry, 5th Division, proceeded
to billets located in the town of Bethune, the other constituent units of the 93rd Infantry Brigade and the division as a
whole also being withdrawn from the sector in the days that followed. The 18th West Yorkshire's consequently moved to
billets located at the Orphanage, Bethune on the 3rd, relieving the 1st Devon's, 5th Division, who in turn, relieved
the 15th West Yorkshire's. The latter battalion finally being relieved by the 1st Battalion, East Surrey's, also of
the 5th Division, on the morning of the 5th, whereupon they proceeded to billets at Montmorency Barracks located
in Bethune. Of the 18th Durham's, they too were relieved on the 5th by the 12th Gloucester's of the 5th Division,
proceeding to billets located in Bethune.
More drafts began to arrive to the 31st Division in the days that followed. Even as the 16th West Yorkshire's
arrived in Bethune fresh from the front line, on the 3rd, 50 Other Ranks were posted from the 33rd I.B.D., accompanied by
Second-Lieutenant Harry K. Mason.
orders were now dictated that the 31st Division were to leave the 1st Army area, men on attachment to various duties in 11th
Corps returning to their respective units.
At 9 a.m. on the morning of the 5th October, the 16th West Yorkshire's by route of march proceeded westwards
to billets located at la Miquellerie to the north of Lillers. Their sister battalion, the 18th West Yorkshire's, also
prepared for movement as per battalion orders, and on the 6th, the battalion proceeded by march to billets located at l'Ecleme.
Both the 18th Durham's and the 15th West
Yorkshire's moved in conjunction westwards on morning of the 6th, the Durham's arriving at billets located in la Pierriere
in the commune of Busnes at 1 p.m. whilst the 15th West Yorkshire's proceeded by route of march via Chocques and Le Hamel
arriving in billets located at Busnes.
With the units of the 31st Division now located in their respective concentration areas, the constituent units of
all battalions sent forth billeting parties to ensure that accommodation was available on commencement of orders to proceed
to a new, as yet unknown destination, the latter only being the preserve of the officer cadre. In response, a billeting party
of the 16th West Yorkshire's consisting of Second-Lieutenant Edgar Wilson and Sergeant Harry Drake, 16/170, proceeded
to Bethune en route for Doullens, the latter town an important railhead and logistical centre for men and supplies
for the Somme front.
The 31st Division were
about to return to Picardy and the Somme, for many, it would be a return, for some, it would be their final journey.
On the back of new men arriving to bolster the ranks of the division, the
latter began to mobilise, gathering together men, stores and equipment for movement and deployment. On the 8th, the 16th West
Yorkshire's departed la Miquellerie and proceeded southwards to Lillers, here, the battalion entrained, arriving at Doullens
at 4.30 p.m. in the afternoon. Upon detrainment, the battalion assembled and by route of march proceeded to their respective
billeting area located at Famechon to the east of Doullens which was reached at 9.p.m., a pleasant village nestling north
of the Authie river.
Of the remaining battalions
of the 93rd Infantry Brigade, the 18th West Yorkshire's entrained at Lillers on the 8th, and upon arrival at Doullens
they proceeded to their allocated billeting area located at Thievres, south of Famechon on the banks of the Authie. The 15th
West Yorkshire's also followed suit, entraining at Lillers early on the morning of the 8th and arriving at Doullens at
noon, they too proceeded into their respective billets also located at Famechon. Later on in the day at 4.45 p.m., the Durham's
entrained at Lillers arriving at Doullens at 11.30 p.m. By route of march, they finally reached their billets located at Orville
just to the south-east of Doullens at 2.15 a.m. early on the morning of the 9th.
With all battalions in the division arriving in their respective concentration and billeting areas, the 31st Division
now came under the command and control of 13 Corps, Reserve Army, G.O.C., Lieutenant-General Aymler Hunter-Weston.
As men still returned to the 16th West Yorkshire's from various duties,
a number of officers were struck off the strength of the battalion; Second-Lieutenant Henry A. Pickford (October 2nd), Lieutenant
Frederick R.B. Jowitt and Second-Lieutenant Francis M. Gray (with effect from the 1st September). In addition to these officers,
Second-Lieutenants James M.H. Hoffman and Donald G.O. Hepworth were also struck off the establishment (1st September).
Due to Lieutenant-Colonel Kennedy
being detained in England whilst on leave due to sickness, Major John C. Hartley temporarily assumed command of the battalion
on the 10th October, Colonel Kennedy rejoining the battalion on the 14th. Various courses of instruction now ensued in all
forms of training whilst the battalion were located at Famechon. Included amongst the training schedule was a course of instruction
with the Royal Flying Corps in Contact Patrols, this liason between air and ground would in effect enable
accurate reporting of the location and progress of any infantry unit during an assault. As a consequence of this programme,
Lance-Corporal Thomas Tuson 16/783, was attached to Number 5 Squadron R.F.C. on the 12th October, the Squadron at this juncture
operating from Marieux airfield to the south of Thievres.
Two drafts of men arrived on the 14th October from
the 33rd I.B.D., one consisting of 5 Other Ranks and the second, a larger draft, consisting of 70. Contained in one of these
drafts was the young Sidney Backhouse, like his brother before him, now about to be thrust into a surreal world dominated
by shell, bomb and bullet. If there was any comfort to be found in these alien surroundings, he now found himself in a battalion
that despite previous engagements, still retained its Yorkshire identity. For one draft of men comprising of 50 Other Ranks
received on the 16th from the 9th Infantry Base Depot, this was a luxury unfortunately not afforded, as these men were
primarily drafts from the 1/4th Lincolns, men such as Private Sidney Howden, born in Leverton near Boston, Lincolnshire. In
civilian life a Grocer's Assistant with the family residence in 1911 located at Holbeach, Sidney would unfortunately be
killed in action on the 27th February 1917 aged just 22 years.
The pleasant and tranquil surroundings of Famechon were left behind when on the 17th October the 16th West Yorkshire's
proceeded to hutments located in Warnimont Wood, near Bus-les-Artois. The stay here was of a very short duration, thankfully
for the men, as by this period of the Somme offensive the camp and its surroundings had degenerated into a quagmire after
prolonged periods of heavy rain.
following day, the battalion journeyed the short distance to the the north to the village of Couin whereupon they proceeded
into hutments, no doubt in the same condition as those previously vacated.
A further draft of men numbering 44 Other Ranks also arrived on this day from the 33rd I.B.D. followed by the departure
on the 19th of Second-Lieutenant Morant and Private Walter Tetley, 16/320, for further instruction in aeroplane signalling,
a course of a duration of two days whilst attached to No. 5 Squadron R.F.C.
After the disbandment of the 16th West Yorkshire's in February 1918, the by now Lance-Corporal Tetley, a native
of Bradford, found himself posted to join the ranks of the 15th/17th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, the latter formed
from an amalgamation of the 15th (1st Leeds) and 17th (2nd Leeds) battalions of the Regiment. Awarded the Croix de Guerre
(Belgium), London Gazette dated 12th April 1918, Walter died on the 11th May 1918 as a Prisoner of War, the action in which
he was captured unknown.
well as attachment to the R.F.C., Major Blagbrough, plus his batman, were attached for a lengthy period to 170th Brigade,
Royal Field Artillery, 31st Divisional Artillery for duty on the 19th. As 6 O/Rs also arrived for duty with the battalion
on this date, a more 'desirable' posting was allocated to Second-Lieutenant Burdette William Harmon.
Harmon, a Canadian, had served on the Western Front since March 1915 and
had performed valuable service with the 1st Field Company, Canadian Engineers, attached 1st Canadian Division. Awarded the
Distinguished Conduct Medal for actions in 1915 (London Gazette citation, 10th March 1916) he received his commission into
the West Yorkshire Regiment in December of the same year. Posted to the 16th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Bradford
'Pals') in July 1916 after the disastrous first day of the Battle of the Somme, he now received orders to return to
England and report to the Officer Commanding, Canadian Training Division, located at Shorncliffe Camp, near Cheriton, Kent.
Posted to the 32nd (Reserve) Canadian Infantry Brigade, it was not long before
Harmon arrived back on the Western Front and was allocated to "B" Company of the 52nd Canadian (North Ontario) Infantry
Battalion, 9th Canadian Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division.
At this juncture the battalion, in division, were occupying positions in the Thelus Sector, north of Arras and to
the south-east of Neuville-St. Vaast. Shortly after his arrival, Lieutenant Harmon was appointed duties as the Intelligence
Officer to the battalion, an appointment that far from being clerical, would place him straight into active operations. In
the early hours of the 6th December, a Raiding Party under the command of Harmon and consisting of one further officer and
40 Other Ranks would perform an audacious incursion into the enemy's line, the objective, to cause as much casualties
in the allocated time frame, and, to secure prisoners for identification. For his actions during the raid, and a number of
his fellow officers, Harmon was awarded the Military Cross. Supplement to the London Gazette dated 13th February 1917;
"For conspicuous gallantry in action. He lead a raiding party into
the enemy's trench bombed three dug-outs , inflicting many casualties on the enemy, and brought back two unwounded prisoners."
service now becomes somewhat ambiguous however he is placed on the General List and then seconded for duty with the Royal
Flying Corps from the 21st September 1917 (London Gazette dated 26th October 1917).
Posted to 56 Squadron located at Valheureux, south-west of Doullens, the unit were equipped with S.E.5a's, arguably
one of the most successful fighters of it era.
the 10th May 1918, Harmon flying S.E.5a D5993 took off from Valheureux and headed eastwards and along the valley of the Somme
river. Somewhere in the vicinity of le Hamel, Harmon's aircraft was attacked by a Fokker D VII flown by Vizefeldwebel
Fritz Rumey of Jagdstaffel 5 (Jasta 5), operating from Cappy airfield further along the valley to the east. In the ensuing
combat, Harmon was shot down and killed by Rumey, his 17th 'Kill' of the war.
Harmon now lies buried in Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in the shadow of the impressive Australian National
Memorial. Of Fritz Rumey, promoted to the rank of Leutnant the following month, his tally began to increase rapidly, ultimately
leading to the award of the Pour le Merite also referred to as the "Blue Max" in July 1918.
Rumey was killed on the 27th September 1918 although the exact circumstances
surrounding his death are unclear. Colliding mid-air with an S.E.5a flown by Lieutenant George E.B. Lawson, the latter pilot
managing to regain control of his aircraft, Rumey bailed out of his stricken aircraft only for his parachute to not deploy,
the unfortunate pilot plummeting to his death. An unfortunate end to an ace credited with 45 victories. Authors note: As regards
the fate of Rumey the author would like to thank the 'pals' of the Great War Forum and the Aerodrome website.
On the 21st October the 16th West Yorkshire's made preparations to move
into the line. The battalion departed their billets at Couin at 8 a.m. proceeding into the line to relieve the 13th East Yorks.,
92nd Infantry, in the Right Sub-Sector of the Hebuterne Section. The relief was completed without incident although
it was noted that the artillery of both sides was 'active.'
As the men settled down to their first tour in the line, 10 more new drafts arrived during the course of the following
day, this day also witnessing the evacuation of Second-Lieutenant Oswald Norman Tugwell who was admitted sick to 94th Field
For Sidney and
the new drafts to the battalion, the devastation wreaked on the village of Hebuterne over the previous two years of fighting
in this sector must surely have emphasized the full destructive power of the war. Villages, such as Hebuterne that had stood
for countless years, were now just reduced to pile of rubble, men seeking safety in the surviving cellars and ruins adopting
an almost troglodyte lifestyle.
On the 21st also, the 18th West Yorkshire's moved
into the line relieving the 10th East Yorkshire's in the Left Sub-Sector, this relief being completed between
2 - 5 p.m. without incident. Whilst moving into the line, both the front and rear positions to be occupied by the battalion
was subjected to artillery fire by German 77 mm field guns, the infamous 'whizz bang,' Sonis and Rualt
trenches being blown in in "one or two places."
The 16th West Yorkshire's now occupied a frontage extending from John Copse - Jena Trench
(south to north respectively). On their left flank, the position was held by the 18th West Yorkshire's, a frontage
extending from Jena Trench - Sunken Road (south to north), who had on their left flank in turn, the 1/5th Yorks.
& Lancs. of the 148th Infantry Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division.
An offensive was now imminent as artillery
began to register on pre-allocated targets. In the rear areas, men and materiel began to be concentrated as working
parties constantly brought supplies either into the reserve areas or into the front line itself. One such working party furnished
by the 18th West Yorkshire's on the night 18th/19th October had a most ominous task, at least for those carrying their
potentially lethal burden. Consisting of four parties in total, each party comprising of two officers and 86 Other Ranks,
their task was to carry gas cylinders into the Hebuterne Sector for a Special Company of the Royal Engineers attached to V
Corps, this task being repeated during the following night. Arrangements were made for yet a further transportation of cylinders
into the sector on the night of the 20th/21st but no doubt to the relief of those entrusted with this fatigue, these 'arrangements'
were cancelled. Authors note. A gas discharge on the night of the 28th was to cause numerous casualties to the 15th West Yorkshire's
whilst they were attempting a raid on the German line. The source, even after inquiry into its origins, remained unresolved.
The planned offensive would be conducted be conducted by Fifth Army under the command of General Gough utilising II
Corps, V Corps and XIII Corps, south to north of the Ancre river respectively. North of the Ancre, XIII Corps
under the command of Lieutenant-General Walter N. Congreve would attack Serre with the 3rd Division, the 92nd Infantry
Brigade of the 31st Division launching their attack just to the north-west of the village whilst 93rd Infantry Brigade, 31st
Division, would hold the line just to the south of Hebuterne and to the north of the assaulting brigade of their division.
The Battle of the Ancre as it was to be later named by the British Battles Nomenclature Committee, was originally scheduled
to have been launched on the 25th October, was postponed due to heavy rainfall in the days proceeding the planned attack.
The trenches had by now become virtually impossible to move in. To the rear, roads were awash hindering the supply
of men and shells to the front although artillery and trench mortars continued to fire on the enemy's trench systems or
what remaind of them despite the ready availability of ammunition.
Still, the drafts continued to arrive to all constituent units of the 31st Division. Men were assigned
to the machine-gun companies, many of these units providing valuable service on the same battlefield on the 1st July, where,
many of their comrades still lay, as yet, if at all, to be recovered.
Second-Lieutenant Albert Osman North was attached
to duty with the 31st Divisional Artillery, this secondment being performed with a trench mortar battery on the 23rd instant
whilst one O/R was accounted for as wounded, "shell shock."
Heavy artillery fire by both the British and German artilleries characterised the 23rd October, British
trench mortars adding to the carcophony as they fired at the enemy's barbed wire defences and trench system throughout
the day. As darkness fell, a party of men assembled in the front line. The battalion was about to raid the enemy.
A raiding party led by Second-Lieutenants Charles P. Graham and
Daniel T. King along with 30 Other Ranks ventured out into No Man's Land and up to the German barbed wire however it was
found that a gap in the latter, reconnoitered previously, had now been filled in. With British artillery still firing on the
enemy front line, the men searched in vain for another entry point but unable to find another gap, the party retired, miraculously,
without incurring any casualties.
In the days
that followed, artillery continued to pound the British front line. Casualties began to mount steadily; 24th, 2 O/R's
wounded, on the 25th, 12 men. On the 26th October, after suffering a further 6 O/R's wounded, the 16th West Yorkshire's
were relieved by the 15th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds 'Pals') and proceeded back into reserve at Sailly-au-Bois
whereupon they took over bivouacs. For some though, their nights 'work' was just about to begin.
Once again a party assembled in the front line under the command
of Second-Lieutenants Graham and King along with 30 Other Ranks. This 'Fighting Patrol' set off from the front line
at 9.20 p.m. for the German wire after a heavy preparatory bombardment of his trench system and barbed wire defences. Upon
reaching the wire it was found to be uncut and despite numerous attempts to cut their way through, the raid returned without
suffering casualties to the British front line at 11 p.m. Undeterred, another raiding party was assembled, this time, under
the command of Second-Lieutenants John Luke and Harry K. Mason accompanied by the usual complement of 30 Other Ranks. Exiting
the front line at 10 p.m. on the 27th, as the advance paries of the group made attempts to negotiate the wire, they were heavily
fired on compelling the raiders to retire. This time, the raiders were not so lucky suffering one Other Rank killed plus Second-Lieutenant
Luke and three O/R's wounded. The body of Lance-Corporal George Jones, 10193, was unfortunately not recovered therefore
he is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.
the 30th October the 93rd Infantry Brigade were replaced in the Hebuterne Sector by the 94th Infantry Brigade, also of 31st
Division. The 28th had witnessed the death of one O/R, Private Willie Smith, 24153, and the wounding of two others whilst
on a working party.
With the battalion now
in billets located at Thievres, the usual routine of both officers and men departing for training courses, joining the battalion
or going on leave commenced. Major Blagbrough returned to the battalion on the 2nd November after his lengthy attachment to
the Royal Field Artillery, a timely arrival as on the 7th, the 93rd Infantry Brigade returned to the Hebuterne Sector, the
16th West Yorkshire's being transported by motor-bus and lorries to support billets located at Sailly-au-Bois.Two officers
however reported sick, Second-Lieutenants John S. Carter and Joseph J.G. Greenwood, both officers being admitted to the 94th
Field Ambulance, 2nd/Lt. Carter being transferred to the 44th Casualty Clearing Station located at Puchevillers.
On the 10th October, two small parties of men assembled in the
trenches for the purpose of patrolling. One party under the command Second-Lieutenant Graham set forth to reconnoitre No Man's
Land in the vicinity of Blind Alley, north of John Copse and just south of a position known as The Point,
no doubt gathering valuable intelligence as regards the state of the enemy's line and his wire defences. The second
party under the command of Second-Lieutenant Alan Middleton also proceeded to the trenches for the purpose of patrolling but
this party at some stage during the operation was subjected to a bombardment launched by the enemy suffering an unknown number
To the rear, German artillery,
fully aware of the build up of men and material in both the front line and the rear areas, commenced a heavy bombardment
of Sailly-au-Bois. The bombardment, consisting of high explosive and gas shells commenced at 10 p.m. and continued until 3
a.m. on the morning of the 11th. It was at 6 p.m. on the 11th instant that disaster befell one group of men in one of the
battalion's billets. A high explosive shell obtained a direct hit as the men sheltered, resulting in the deaths of 8 Other
Ranks and the wounding of Second-Lieutenant Geoffrey Nicolls in addition to a further 11 O/R's. Exact dates of death for
all men during this period are difficult to establish but between the 9th and 10th November the battalion suffered 15 Other
Ranks killed or died of wounds.
once again resumed during the night of the 11th despite the attentions of enemy artillery. The recently wounded Second-Lieutenant
Luke leading a small party out across No Man's Land to a position close to The Point and just to the north of
Blind Alley. There was now also to be a change of dispositions in the units of 93rd Infantry Brigade holding the
front line in the Left Company Sector of the Right Sub-Sector, Hebuterne. "A" and "C" Companies of the
16th West Yorkshire's now commenced a relief of the 15th West Yorkshire's (Authors note: War Diary states this latter
unit but the diary of the 15th West Yorkshire's records that the relief was carried out by the 11th East Yorkshire's
of 92nd Infantry Brigade, 31st Division. It may be that this relief was only a partial one as one company of the East Yorkshire's
were removed to billets located at Rossignol Farm between Coigneux and Bayencourt).
Upon completion of this relief the two companies of the 16th West Yorkshire's now came under
orders of the Officer Commanding 18th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (2nd Bradford 'Pals'), Lieutenant-Colonel
Herbert Francis George Carter. As battle was due to commence on the 13th November, the Commanding Officer 16th (Service) Battalion,
West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Bradford 'Pals') Lieutenant-Colonel Humphrey H. Kennedy in anticipation of command and
control structure, moved forward his Headquarters from bivouacs at Sailly to Vercingetorix Trench (the continuation
of Sackville Street, the latter changing its name to Vercingetorix as it continued over the rise towards
Dispositions of the two companies
was altered on the 12th; "C" Company still in positions in the front line however "A" Company was withdrawn
to Vercingetorix Trench as a precursor to the mounting of offensive operations. The two remaining companies of the
16th West Yorkshire's, "B" and "D" respectively, remained in bivouacs at Sailly-au-Bois under the
command of Major Blagbrough pending further orders.
13th November, 1916: The Death of Private Sidney Backhouse
As Sidney and the men of the 16th West Yorkshire's waited for the drama to unfold before them,
the men of 92nd Infantry Brigade comprising of the Hull 'Pals' battalions made their final preparations for the attack,
"Zero" hour being set for 5.30 a.m. on the morning of the 13th November. As the hour of the launch of the offensive
approached, the night was pitch black as men tried to settle down as best they could in the cold and mud.
The Battle of the Ancre as the offensive was later defined by the
British Nomenclature Committee, was to be launched on either side of the Ancre river valley by Gough's Fifth Army. Fifth
Corps would advance eastwards north of the Ancre whilst Second Corps would advance south of the river respectively. On the
extreme left flank of Fifth Corps,13th Corps containing the 31st Division and the 120th Infantry Brigade, 40th Division, occupied
the British front line extending northwards towards Hebuterne. The right flank of the 92nd Infantry Brigade, 31st Division,
would therefore launch their attack on the left of the 3rd Division, the 120th Infantry Brigade, 40th Division, holding the
line in the vicinity of Hebuterne.
Corps front alone, over 600 artillery pieces of all calibres would lay down a bombardment on the German positions however
the weather would prove to be a major factor as to the outcome of this bombardment.
Although the 93rd Infantry Brigade were not to be committed to the attack, should the advance of
92nd Infantry Brigade be successful, orders were issued that the Brigadier-General, Oliver De Lancey Williams, had the option
"If he thought the troops sufficient for purpose," to extend the original plan of attack to the
left to the position known as The Point. If this was the course of action taken, "C" Company, 16th West
Yorkshire's, would remain holding the front line system of trenches in the Left Company Sector of the Right Sub-Sector,
Hebuterne. Upon consolidation of trenches around The Point, "A" Company would move forward and 'open
out' Blind Alley as a communication trench linking it to the original British front line. After dusk, 13th instant,
"D" Company would be moved forward to dig a fire and communication trench from the top of Jena Trench to
the German front line at The Point. "B" Company, less two platoons and carrying four Lewis guns, would
then take up a position in Fore (Authors note: Should read Labour) north of The Point with a view
to protecting "D" Company as they constructed their trench. The two remaining platoons of "B" Company
would remain in Vercingetorix Trench and act as Battalion Reserve.
Promptly at "Zero" hour and according to the artillery
programme, the barrage commenced firing shell after shell onto the German trench system. As the leading waves of the 92nd
Brigade, the 12th East Yorks and the 13th East Yorks rose to the advance in thick fog, the artillery concentrated their fire
on the enemy's front line. Breaking through into the German front line and then into his second line position with relative
ease many prisoners were captured however the complete failure of the attack of the 3rd Division on their right flank primarily
due to men floundering in the mud and losing direction exposed this flank to counter-attack by the enemy. In the 93rd Brigade
sector, the War Diary now records the experiences of the 16th West Yorkshire's as they witnessed events unfolding.
From "Zero" hour until 7.45 a.m., the enemy made no attempt to
fire on the forward positions held by "C" Company, 16th West Yorkshire's, the only casualty to this company
being one O/R. It was at the latter hour that a report was received at Headquarters located in Vercingetorix Trench stating
that the 92nd Infantry Brigade had obtained their objective(s) but fifteen minutes later, German artillery tentatively began
to shell the British trench system. This desultory shell fire began to fall predominantly on Brisoux and Knox
Street trenches but began to decrease in intensity as noon approached.
It was after midday that the German artillery fire began to increase in intensity,
possibly due to the fact that the fog had started to lift slightly allowing for greater observation. Artillery fire now began
to concentrate on Jena, Jean Bart and Knox trenches and at the junction of Jena and Vercingetorix.
Casualties to the battalion at this juncture numbered about ten men but as artillery rained down on the communication
trenches in an attempt no doubt to interdict supplies and reinforcements to the front line, the enemy now put down a heavy
barrage on his own front line positions south of The Point.
Counter-attacks began to develop against the East Yorkshire's throughout the morning,
most holding out in small parties in forward positions as the heavy mist started to encompass the battlefield one again at
about 1 p.m. At 2 p.m. German artillery fire consisting of all calibres once again increased fire on the British front line
trenches in addition to a heavy bombardment of Jena, Jean Bart, Knox and Brisoux trenches and their environs.
This barrage ceased at about 4.45 p.m. with the 16th West Yorkshire's suffering ten casualties but about fifteen minutes
later, the barrage opened once again for a duration of twenty minutes.
At 6 p.m., the artillery fire from both artilleries slackened considerably, the War Diary
of the 16th West Yorkshire's recording that though they had sustained barrages throughout the day, they were not intense.
As men from the attacking battalions of the East Yorkshire Regiment drifted back into the British line, the night remained
quiet whilst men brought in the dead and wounded.
the following day, the 16th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment were relieved by the 11th (Service) Battalion, East
Lancashire Regiment (Accrington 'Pals') of 94th Infantry Brigade. Proceeding back to The Dell at Sailly-au-Bois
to reunite with the two companies that were in reserve, the battalion then proceeded to Rossignol Farm where the true cost
of men killed or wounded could be ascertained.
War Diary of the 16th West Yorkshire's does not contain a record of casualties sustained during the 11th November 1916.
An analysis of both the Commonwealth War Graves Database and that of Soldiers Died in the Great War indicates
that the battalion suffered 10 Other Ranks killed or died of wounds, amongst their number, Sidney Backhouse, the young lad
from Wetherby who had only been at the front for a period of nearly four weeks.
Sidney, in common with the vast majority of the men of the battalion who
fell on this day, now lies buried in Plot 1, Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, Somme, France. His grave is situated behind
the headstones of two of his fellow 'Pals' who also fell, Private Whitehead Busfield, a native of Pateley Bridge,
Yorkshire, and Private Charles Frederick Titchener, a native of Newark and aged just 19 years. Two brothers in arms almost
as if standing guard over a fallen comrade, all united by death.
Euston Road Cemetery
Euston Road Cemetery is located to the east of the village of Colincamps.
Burials commenced in the cemetery after the attempt to take the German held village of Serre on the 1st July 1916, but after
the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line the cemetery was barely used. The cemetery fell into German hands during March
1918 but the cemetery marked the high water mark of their advance as the line was held to the east of the village of Mailly-Maillet
whereupon the New Zealand Division advanced the line allowing the cemetery to be used for burials in the months of April and
Plot 1 with the
exception of five graves located in the last row, forms the basis of the original cemetery consisting of 501 burials. Over
750 burials however were brought in to the cemetery after the Armistice from small burial grounds located in neighbouring
communes and the battlefields, the cemetery now containing 1,293 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the Great War.
Of these, 170 burials are unidentified but there are also located in the cemetery, special memorials to those known or believed
to be buried here including two soldiers whose graves in nearby cemeteries were destroyed in later battles.
|Sidney Backhouse, Plot 1, Row G, Grave Number 55
|Euston Road Cemetery, April 2008