Son of Joseph and Sarah Lister, of Wetherby; husband of
Emma Lister, of 15, Daw Green Avenue, Painthorpe, Crigglestone, Wakefield.
Joseph was born at Wetherby in 1876 to parents
Joseph or 'Josh,' a General Labourer, and Sarah Lister, the family residing at premises located in Angel
Court, Horsefair, Wetherby.
Joseph was married at Wetherby on December 19th, 1896 to Emma Ward a native of
Driffield. After the unfortunate deaths of four children either in child birth or due to illness or disease, the first of
two children who remained alive was born in November, 1900, a girl named Ada. In 1908 this was followed by the birth of a
son named Edward who would sadly die in 1913 aged just 5 years.
Early family life would suggest one of a transient lifestyle
as the 1901 Census records that Joseph was residing with his parents whilst Emma and Ada were living at Driffield where she
was employed as a Dressmaker.
The Lister family would see it's fair share of tragedy during the early part of the
twentieth century. Both Joseph's eldest brother Alfred and his youngest, George were to die in tragic accidents. One,
in a tractor engine incident at Woodhill View, Wetherby, and one who drowned in the River Wharfe. In addition to these tragedies,
Walter John, also known as 'Jack,' was to lose his eyesight due to the sting of an insect, however, 'Blind Jack'
as he was thereafter known, found employment as a Basket Maker.
After the death of Joseph's mother Sarah in 1911,
Joseph Seniors behavior became eccentric to say the least. Reputed to have come 'into money,' he was frequently seen
around the town of Wetherby with a rat perched on his shoulder attached by a piece of string to his button hole. With new
found 'friends' and the fondness for a quaff of ale, both the money and his 'entourage' suddenly disappeared
At this period Joseph and family are recorded as residing at 16, Westgate, Wetherby, his occupation
being that of a Bricklayer's Labourer.
Enlistment and Training
attested for General Service at Wetherby on the 9th December, 1915 and subsequently placed on the Army Reserve. Surviving
service documents record that Joseph was by no means a stranger to military life having previously served for a period of
8 years with the 1st West Yorks (Authors note: Difficult to discern on original Attestation document but possibly 1st West
Yorks (Volunteers) later to become the 5th West Yorkshire Regiment).
Mobilized on the 23rd June 1916 and medically examined
at York, his height is recorded as 5 feet 8 and 3/4 inches with a weight of 152 lbs. Physical development is described as
'good' although he is recorded as having a few bad teeth, not sufficient for rejection.
Processed by the Depot
at York and assigned the serial number 26045 he was posted to the 9th (Reserve) Battalion of the East Yorkshire
Regiment located at Harrogate on the 27th June.
After just over the period of one month spent with this reserve
unit, Joseph was posted to the 3rd (Reserve) battalion of the regiment located at Withernsea on the 29th August.
of training now ensued consisting of route marches, drill, musketry and field craft, no doubt, with Joseph being familiar
with all aspects of the Army 'way.' His time spent at Withernsea though was not without incident as his Regimental
Defaulter Sheet records that on the 5th October 1916 he was charged with; 'Overstaying his pass from 11.45 p.m.
till 6 p.m. 3rd instant.' Punishment awarded consisted of 5 Days Confined To Barracks and the Forfiet Of Two Days
On the 25th October, Joseph was pronounced fit for overseas service and embarked for the Western Front on this date,
however, ports of embarkation and disembarkation are not recorded. (Authors note: Possibly though, Folkestone-Boulogne).
On arrival in France Joseph was posted to the 37th I.B.D. (Infantry Base
Detail) located at Etaples, south of Boulogne.
At the Base Detail, new recruits and wounded soldiers returning to the
front were trained in all aspects of warfare, such as bayonet and musketry drill, the use of grenades, gas warfare etc. This
vast base at Etaples consisted of a complex of large hutted barracks, hospital facilities and a large area of beach and dunes
allocated for parade and exercise purposes. The latter area being referred to as the notorious 'Bull Ring.'
assigned as part of a draft to the 7th Battalion, East Yorks, 17th (Northern) Division, Joseph was re-assigned and posted
to the 13th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment on the 10th November. This was not an uncommon practice at I.B.D. level and
could even result in the posting to a completely different regiment of the British Army.
East Yorkshire Regiment (4th Hull Battalion)
The 4th Hull Battalion as it was originally designated
was raised in Hull on the 3rd November 1914 by the Lord Lieutenant Of The East Riding Of Yorkshire, Lord Nunburnholme, and
the East Riding Territorial Force Association. The Commanding Officer of the battalion was Lieutenant-Colonel John Leaf Stanley
V.D. who had previously served with the 5th (Cyclist) Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment Territorial Force.
of four 'Pals' battalions raised by the City of Hull from various social backgrounds they unofficially referred to
themselves with some irony as the 'T'Others.' Similarly, the three other battalions that had been raised
adopted unofficial titles that betrayed their origins; 1st Hull, the 'Hull Commercials' 2nd Hull, the 'Hull Tradesmen'
and the 3rd Hull, the 'Hull Sportsmen.'
After a period of initial training the 1st Hull Battalion were seconded
for coastal defence duties at Hornsea in November 1914 to combat the perceived threat of a German invasion. Also
during the month, Lieutenant-Colonel Stanley V.D. was replaced as Commanding Officer of the 13th Battalion by Lieutenant-Colonel
Robert Henry Dewing. The remaining battalions still under going training at Hull would also relocate to more suitable
training facilities with the 11th being stationed at Ousethorpe Camp near Pocklington, the 12th at South Dalton north of Beverley,
and the 13th to Beverley Westwood, a large area of common land situated to the west of Beverley.
In mid 1915 after
a period of reorganization of the New Armies, each of the four Hull Battalions were assigned to the Fourth New Army and officially
designated as the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th (Service) Battalions, East Yorkshire Regiment. The battalions now formed the 92nd
Brigade of the 31st Division which also comprised of the following units:
Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds City Battalion)
16th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Bradfords)
18th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (2nd Bradfords)
18th (Service) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (Durham
12th (Service) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment (Sheffield City Battalion)
13th (Service) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment (1st Barnsley Pals)
14th (Service) Battalion, York & Lancaster
Regiment (2nd Barnsley Pals)
11th (Service) Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment (Accrington Pals)
12th (Service) Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Leeds Miners)
During the months
of June/July 1915 all units that comprised the division began to assemble at Ripon Camp, North Yorkshire. Training continued
until late September/October when the division proceeded to move south to Fovant Camp located on Salisbury Plain. The
majority of the 92nd Brigade were billeted in Hurdcott Camp one of the many camps that comprised this vast area of hutted
As further training continued, it was originally intended that the 31st Division were to be posted to
the Western Front, however, orders were rescinded on the 2nd December with the divisions destination now being Egypt
and the Suez Canal defences.
Advance elements of the division and those of the 92nd Brigade began embarkation at Devonport
as early as the 8th December, with the 13th Battalion embarking on H.M.T. Minneapolis early in the morning of 14th
After a relatively quiet period of service in Egypt orders were received on the 27/28th February 1916 for
the 31st Division to prepare to move to France and the Western Front.
On the 29th the battalion proceeded by train to
Port Said where they embarked on S.S. Simla at 11.30 p.m. disembarking at Marseille at 4.30 p.m. on the afternoon
of the 9th March. Authors note: The War Diary only records that the battalion embarked on Simla. David Bilton's
excellent book 'Hull Pals,' Pen & Sword Books records the entries of the Brigade Diary. This states '4
officers and 271 other ranks sailed HT City Of Edinburgh, and also that '26 officers and 694 other ranks
of 13th Battalion on HT Simla.'
Heading northwards by train
and route march, the battalion arrived on the Somme front where they proceeded into billets at Englebelmer at 6.15 p.m. on
the evening of the 29th March.
A period of trench familiarization began almost immediately when at 4 p.m. on the 31st
March "C" and "D" Companies went into the right sub sector of the 92nd Brigade front relieving two companies
of the 11th East Yorkshire Regiment.
During the following day Headquarters and both "A" and "B" Companies
entered the line also relieving companies of the 11th Battalion positions now occupied by the battalion stretching from to
the west of 'Y Ravine' to the 'Picturedrome' located on the banks of the Ancre river. At 6 p.m., disaster
struck. A dug out had been hit and the men inside were trapped. Although the War Diary does not record the efforts or success
of extricating the trapped men, one man, Private Charles Watts 13/1396 was killed. The first man of the battalion to die on
At the end of May and early April, units of the 31st Division began to occupy the Colincamps Sector
facing the enemy occupied village of Serre. The battalion began a period of rotation in and out of the British Front Line
suffering numerous casualties primarily due to enemy artillery and trench mortar activity.
During June, the battalion
only spent two days in the trenches and offensive operations in the sector were conducted by the 92nd Brigade Machine Gun
Company who carried out a series of machine-gun barrages in conjunction with artillery and trench mortar brigades.
the 24th of the month the systematic bombardment of the enemy's front line commenced all along the length of the Somme
front. Initially, "Zero" hour had been fixed for 7.30 a.m. on the morning of the 29th but due to the deterioation
in weather conditions orders were now issued on the 28th that the offensive was to be postponed until the 1st July.
The attack on Serre was to be mounted by the 93rd and 94th Brigades with the 92nd Brigade placed in Divisional Reserve however
before leaving the front line trenches the 11th and 12th East Yorkshire's had carried out two trench raids on the
enemy's front line on the 27th and the 29th respectively.
On the eve of the attack the units that comprised the 92nd
Brigade began to retire to positions located to the north of la Signy Farm, however, "D" Company of the 10th Battalion
would remain in front line positions as the 94th Brigade prepared for the assault.
The attack at Serre of the 31st Division
requires an in depth study in its own right and therefore the Author will not include a narrative of operations in the course
of this commemoration. Suffice to say the attempt to sieze the village of Serre and its environs failed with the division
suffering over 4,500 casualties.
At the end of the month, the division began to entrain for positions located to the
north occupying trenches in the Laventie, Festubert and Givenchy Sectors to the east of Bethune. During the month of August
the battalion also witnessed the departure of their Officer Commanding, Lieutenant-Colonel Dewing who was to be replaced
by Major (Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) Arnold K.M.C.W. Savory. Authors note: The War Diary does not record this change of
command. The London Gazette however records that Savory is promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel (Temporary) on command
of a battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment dated 14th August 1916. One can only presume that this is the date in question.
As regards Lieutenant-Colonel Dewing, the gazette records posting to a battalion of the Training Reserve dated March 1917.
The spectre of the Somme battlefield loomed once again when in early October the division proceeded southwards. This time,
the 92nd Brigade and the Hull 'Pals' Battalions would find themselves in the thick of the fighting as the Somme offensive
ground on in a sea of mud with ever mounting casualties. One more attack was about to commence to try and break the deadlock.
The Battle Of The Ancre.
The return to the Serre/Hebuterne Sector
at Candas, located to the south-west of Doullens early on the morning of the 9th October, the 13th Battalion East Yorkshire
Regiment proceeded by march to Vauchelles-les-Authie to the west of Louvencourt. After a few days training the battalion arrived
at Sailly-au-Bois by motor-bus on the 16th whereupon "D" Company immediately proceeded into the British Front
Line trenches for familiarization duties with the 12th East Yorks. The remainder of the battalion entered the trenches during
the following day relieving the 1/7th Black Watch, 51st (Highland) Division.
On the 21st the battalion were relieved
by the 16th West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Bradford Pals). Marching to Couin located just to the rear, the battalion commenced
a programme of training for the forth coming attack with the battalion issuing Battalion Attack Order No. 1 on the 23rd as
a direct response to 92nd Brigade Order No. 73. The battalion then moved to Warnimont Wood located just to the south of Couin
where huts and tents were occupied as training continued.
On the 10th November the battalion moved to huts located at
Coigneux and as final preparations were made for the attack it was also on this date that one Private
Joseph Lister 26045 joined the battalion 'In The Field' however there is no record on this date in the War Diary of
any drafts being received.
The Battle of the Ancre, 13th November 1916
On the 12th November the battalion set forth for their assembly positions which were reached at 11 p.m., "Zero"
hour being set for 5.45 a.m. the following morning.
On the left flank of V Corps attack, the 31st Division, now transferred
to VIII Corps, would assault the enemy's positions on an attack frontage of over 500 yards. The assault was to be performed
by the 92nd Brigade with the 12 and 13th Battalions East Yorkshire Regiment, left and right battalions respectively, with
the 10th East Yorks in Brigade Reserve at Vercingetorix Trench and the 11th in support at Caber Trench. On the right flank
of the 92nd Brigade attack and that of the 13th East Yorks, the 2nd Suffolks of the 76th Brigade, 3rd Division would have
as their objective the German third line of defence. The 13th East Yorks would maintain the latter battalions left flank and
in conjunction with their assault would also have the third line as their final objective.
The question is now
to be asked if Joseph Lister actually took part in any capacity during the attack. Due to a number of factors the answer is
most likely no. First of all training for the attack had commenced on the 22nd October and continued at least until the 9th
November, one day before Joseph had even joined the ranks of the battalion. Secondly, it was common military practice at the
time that before any major assault a battalion would leave behind a cadre or reserve to re-build the unit if losses
had been significant. The War Diary records the following who were to be left at camp and to be used as a reserve if necessary:
All Bandsmen, Pioneers, Company Cooks, Tailors, Shoemakers, Battalion Transport, Quarter Master and
Orderly Room Staff, Regimental Police, Company Quartermaster Sergeant and Storemen.
50% Signallers, 15% Warrant Officers
and N.C.O.'s including the Regimental Sergeant Major.
As the War Diary does not record the strength of the
battalion prior to the attack it is impossible to calculate how many men were actually left behind to form this cadre.
A conservative estimate however, if the battalion was declared to be at full strength may be in excess of 100 men.
It is without doubt though that Joseph would have witnessed the aftermath of the attack. Meticulously planned and well executed,
the assault however was doomed to failure for a multitude of factors, many, beyond the control of the East Yorkshires.
The attack itself was to be carried out in three waves:
1st Wave "A" Company
2nd Wave "B"
3rd Wave "C" & "D" Companies
Captain Richard M. Wooley, Officer Commanding "D"
Company, the most senior officer of the battalion to go into the attack in a post battle analysis dated January 1919 considered
the following points to be the underlying causes of the failure to capture and maintain a position in the German third line
of defence. Wooley was himself wounded during the morning of the attack by shell-fire and captured by
the enemy during the afternoon of the 13th.
1. The condition of the battlefield to be traversed. Mud, standing water
that impeded the advance in particular between the 1st and 2nd German lines. Wooley in his account states that two captured
men had to be dug out of this mire the following day by the enemy such was the condition of the terrain.
2. The Suffolk's
of the 3rd Division, right flank of the 13th East Yorkshire's losing direction. Consequently failing to take a Communication
Trench, this left a gap on the right of the East Yorks which the enemy reinforced, working along the length of the trench
with bombing parties. Subsequently, the enemy placed machine-guns in this position that gave them flanking fire on men in
exposed positions. In one instance, Wooley heard Lewis gun-fire on his flank, initially concluding that this was a party of
the Suffolk's, it soon became apparent that the enemy were utilizing captured British weaponry.
3. The hour of the
attack. At "Zero" hour it was pitch black with fog and tactics would have been more suitable for those of a
night attack. Due to this darkness and lack of visibility, it proved very difficult if nigh on impossible for the identification
of tracks that would assist progress across the quagmire that the lines of assault had become. The result of this was that
the infantry, advancing in files, could not gain touch between the platoons that were advancing left and right of the enemy's
uncut barbed wire defences in front of the German 1st line.
Casualties sustained by the battalion during the advance
had been heavy, the War Diary at length recording the following, numbers approximate:
3 Killed 11 Killed
8 Missing 202 Missing
35 Wounded and Missing
100 Wounded (Not including those who remained at Duty)
A search of the Soldiers Died In The Great War Digital
Database, Naval & Military Press lists that between the 13th/14th November, 7 Officers were Killed or Died of Wounds
in addition to 141 Other Ranks. This figure does not take into account those that may have succumbed to their wounds in the
days or months that followed.
At 7.30 p.m. during the evening of the 13th, the battalion were relieved in the line by
the 11th East Yorkshire's. By 11 p.m., Battalion Headquarters had reached a position at Rossignol Farm located between
Couin and Coigneux, and, although the diary does not record the movement of the men, one can only presume that the latter
location was also their rallying point.
During the afternoon of the following day, the battalion, or what remained
of it, proceeded back to the once serene surroundings of Warnimont Wood by now itself a quagmire. In this dreadful environment
of mud and churned up earth, one can only imagine the stories that circulated amongst the survivors.
Here the battalion
remained until the morning of the 22nd when they then set forth by march to Thievres on the banks of the river Authie and
The battalion remained at Thievres until the 3rd December when they then proceeded into billets located
at Famechon just to the north. Here the battalion remained until the 21st where they were then ordered to move into Brigade
Reserve at Bayencourt to the west of Hebuterne. Joseph spent his first Christmas on the Western Front at this place and know
doubt his thoughts would have been those of separation from his wife and daughter at Wetherby. Unlike them and the Lister
family, the battalion performed no Christmas festivities.
There was to be no respite from the War, when, on the 27th,
the battalion moved into the L3 Sector of the Hebuterne defence system relieving the 12th and 10th Battalions of
the East Yorkshire's on the right and the 1/6th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment) of the
139th Brigade, 46th (North Midland) Division on the left.
Authors note: The War Diary of the 13th East Yorks incorrectly
states the latter battalion as the 2/6th Sherwood Foresters. This Second Line Territorial unit of the 59th (2nd North Midland)
Division did not enter the Western Front until February 1917. The inaccurate recording of unit designations of the 46th Division
is also apparent on more than one occasion.
1917: The German Retreat
tour of the Hebuterne defence system continued until 2nd January during which the 12th East Yorkshire's occupying positions
on the left had been relieved by the 1/5th Sherwood Foresters, 46th Division.
Relieved by the 18th West Yorkshire Regiment
(2nd Bradford Pals), Joseph and the battalion marched out of the line and proceeded to Coigneux Camp located to the west
of Hebuterne, the camp itself consisting of hutted accommodation and tents.
On the 10th, the battalion marched to Amplier
to the south-east of Doulllens and here a programme of training was instituted however the diary does not record any specific
schedule or form. Authors note: The War Diary of the 11th East Yorkshire's however records this training schedule as 'New
Organization Of Platoons.' The diary of the 18th West Yorkshire Regiment, 93rd Brigade is more specific as regards
this new form of training. Officers at platoon and company level were now to assume full responsibility for the training of
the units under their command. An emphasis was to be placed on the utilization and training of 'skilled' troops such
as the battalion bombers, Lewis gunners and rifle grenadiers. Such tactics would enable any future offensive operation mounted
to be more 'flexible' in adapting to various situations encountered in the field, for example, the elimination of
enemy strong points or pockets of stout resistance.
A further movement commenced on the 22nd when the battalion
marched to Longuevillette to the south-west of Doullens where 'further training' continued. Finally, at the
close of the month of January, the battalion once again took to the march and proceeded to Franqueville, further to the rear.
On the 3rd February 1917, Joseph was admitted by the 94th Field Ambulance suffering from haemorrhoids. After two days of
treatment he rejoined the battalion who were still undergoing training at Franqueville.
Towards the end of the month
the battalion proceeded back towards the Somme arriving at Couin on the afternoon of the 20th and moving into billets
at Rossignol Farm.
Intelligence had now suggested that the German Army were now abandoning their positions along the
whole length of their line in this sector in favour of a retreat to the formidable defences of the Hindenburg Line. At 11
p.m. on the night of the 24th, two patrols of the 11th East Yorkshire's moved across No Man's Land in the L 2
Sector of the Hebuterne defences to ascertain if the enemy were still maintaining a force in the front line. In
addition to the above patrols, two more were sent out early on the morning of the 25th consisting of a 'Northern'
and 'Southern' Patrol, the latter reporting at 7.50 a.m. that they had captured the enemy's front line. This patrol,
under the command of Second-Lieutenant John Harrison, continued to penetrate further into the German defences and by 9 a.m.
another message had been received that Harrison and his patrol had reached the third line and had captured one prisoner.
|Puisieux -Au-Mont, Edition 1.A. Trenches Corrected To 17.2.17
Of the 'Northern' Patrol under
the command of Second-Lieutenant Alfred Thackray, there was no information received as regards their progress until 10 a.m.
when they reported that they too had reached the German third line. Prior to this message it was reported at 8.50 a.m. that
a patrol of the 12th East Yorkshire's on the right had failed to occupy the enemy's front line after meeting
'considerate' opposition and were now back in their own trenches. The War Diary of the 12th East Yorks
suggests that this patrol had indeed penetrated the German first line and as far as the second as this 'opposition'
was met at Trench Map Reference K17 D34, the co-ordinates given equating to a position close to an enemy
trench annotated as Pub St. To compound matters, a further message was received at 9 a.m. that stated units of the 93rd
Brigade on the left respectively had also been ordered to withdraw.
This brigade's incursion into the German lines
commenced at 5 a.m. under very misty conditions.
The 18th West Yorkshire's (2nd Bradford Pals) sent forward patrols
that penetrated as far as Gommecourt Park that initially encountered minimal resistance. However, as the patrols
attempted to push forward further, enemy artillery began a bombardment of their own front line trenches that gradually intensified
as the operation progressed. A platoon of "C" Company had reported that they had met a strong force of the enemy
that had compelled them to retire, but, further advancement was consequently ordered with support if necessary. The 93rd Brigade,
under the command of Brigadier-General John D. Ingles D.S.O. were constantly being notified as various situations unfolded
during the operation either by runner or telephonic communication. At 7.47 a.m. the brigade was informed that the Divisional
Reserve consisting of the 18th Durham Light Infantry had still not arrived in position. Orders were then issued by the G.O.C.
'If enemy were too strong for us patrols were to retire.'
At 8 a.m. Battalion Headquarters
had now received reports from Second-Lieutenants Staff and Holt, Staff reporting that his platoon had reached an enemy trench
from which smoke had been observed that had been interpreted previously as the enemy burning his dug-outs, possibly indicating
the intention to abandon his positions. He also reported that the enemy contact was too strong forcing him to withdraw. Headquarters
then issued instructions that they were to return, and, if possible, hold the position. If it proved, as the War Diary states,
'absolutely impossible' to maintain a foothold in the enemy's line, they were to retire. Shortly after
these reports were made, brigade issued orders that all units engaged were to withdraw due no doubt to the lack of the
reserve force being in place.
At 8.50 a.m. Lieutenant- Colonel Reginald E. Cheyne and Major William D. Lowe
of the 18th Durham Light Infantry reported to the 18th West Yorkshire's headquarters whereupon Lieutenant Colonel
Cheyne spoke to brigade on the telephone who confirmed that the attack was cancelled. Relief would be completed as normal,
this being accomplished by 2 p.m.
In the meantime, the 'Southern' Patrol of the 11th East Yorks under the command
of 2/Lt. Harrison had infiltrated even deeper into the German defences and had by now reached the fourth line. Due to the
condition of this, which was described as 'Bad,' a decision to withdraw to the third line was made no doubt
due to the latter being in a more suitable condition for consolidation and subsequent defence. However, due to the cancellation
of operations on both flanks and unknown intelligence as to the strength of the enemy in this sector, Brigadier-General Oliver
de Lancey Williams D.S.O., Officer Commanding 92nd Brigade, issued orders for all patrols to withdraw, this being carried
out successfully under the cover of a British barrage.
The following morning, the 13th East Yorks now moved up
to the front and proceeded to occupy the reserve trenches. At 6.35 a.m. on the 27th as "A" and "C" Companies
moved up in close support of the 10th East Yorks near Rossignol Wood, a disaster was about to unfold before their eyes. On
their left flank, the 16th West Yorks, 93rd Brigade, had been ordered forward to mount an attack on the wood. This would be
carried out on a two company frontage with two companies in support. Crossing the Gommecourt-Puisieux Road, the right hand
company approached the southern face of the wood and entered the enemy's trench system. Almost immediately they were subjected
to concentrated enfilade machine-gun fire resulting in severe losses to three platoons of the Bradfords, one further platoon
being pinned down in the open to the west of the wood. On the left flank of the Bradford's attack, one platoon advanced
across the road towards the enemy trench Pioneer Graben but were counter-attacked and forced to retire to a position
at the Crucifix to the west of the wood. Regaining the initiative, a party of bombers was sent forward, bombing their way
along Pioneer Graben eventually establishing a defensive 'block' in this trench and at the junction of the latter
with Moltke Graben, a bombing post. An incursion was made by a small party of men into the wood but the remainder of the West
Yorks consolidated positions in Stump Alley and Pioneer Graben under a continuous enemy barrage until relieved during the
At 8 am orders were received by the 10th East Yorks that 13th battalion would
commence a relief, the latter War Diary recording this event at 8.25 a.m. Consequently, Battalion Headquarters and "B"
and "D" Companies moved into the line, occupying positions in the vicinity of German Lane, Dug Out Lane and the
junction of the latter to Nameless Trench. At 4 p.m., the diary of the 10th battalion records the first relieving
company of the 13th East Yorks as having arrived, relief being completed at 7.15 pm.
During the morning of
the 28th, the Officer Commanding "D" Company reported that there had been an extension of the battalions frontage,
Dug Out Lane now being occupied to the junction of the Sunken Road where a strong point was subsequently constructed. By mid
morning contact had also been established with the 10th Royal Warwicks of the 19th Division on the southern flank of the positions
An attempt was made at 2 a.m. on the morning of the 1st March, to attack Slug Street Trench to the east of la Louviere
Farm utilizing two companies and one platoon, however, this was aborted by 5 a.m. due to what is recorded as a thick
barbed wire entanglement. Returning to their positions the battalion were relieved by the 12th East Yorks, this relief commencing
at 5.45 p.m. and being completed by 9 p.m. whereupon the battalion proceeded into billets at Rossignol Farm.
the 11th East Yorks in former enemy positions located to the east of Rossignol Wood and due south of Bucquoy on the 5th, "D"
Company were ordered to attack a point in the enemy line at L2.d.3.3., a length of Biez Trench. This attack proved
most costly with Second-Lieutenant Frederick Brown and 16 Other Ranks posted as 'missing,' the majority later reported
as killed and 9 men wounded.
During the evening of the 9th March, the battalion were relieved by the 10th East Yorks,
this being completed by 1 a.m. on the morning of the 10th. The battalion then proceeded into billets at Sailly-au-Bois,
one half of the battalion billeting in the village itself and Headquarters and the remainder of the men billeting in hutments
in the Dell to the west of the village. Two companies, "A" and "B" were then sent by march to Euston Camp
on the 13th however the reason for this movement is not recorded both companies rejoining the battalion at Sailly five days
Authors note: The two companies of the battalion were possibly engaged as 'Working Parties.' It is of
interest to note that the War Diary of the 12th East Yorks records that at this period a similar number of men were tasked
with moving trucks along tramlines from Euston Dump to Star Wood. Evidence of the course of this 'Light Railway' can
still be seen in the form of the track that runs parallel to the Sheffield Memorial Park at Serre.
To The Somme
On the 19th March, the battalion began a movement northwards away from the Somme battlefields.
After six days of route marching across northern France, they eventually arrived at billets located at Hamet Billet, Saint-Venant
just to the south of the Foret de Nieppe near the border with Belgium.
The battalions activities during the next thirteen days
are not recorded in the pages of the War Diary, however the diaries of the 10th and 11th battalions of the Regiment provide
an insight into a varied training schedule and that of general routine. Of the 10th, this programme consisted of cleaning
up, resting, and the training of 'specialists.' The diary of the 11th battalion is more precise as to the training
programme initiated in that it records that companies were trained in outpost work, village fighting and the training
in flank and rear guard actions.
On the morning of the 8th April, the battalion once again prepared to move
with orders received to proceed southwards to the Arras Sector where the awaited offensive was due to be launched on the following
day, Easter Monday. After nearly four hours of route march Allouagne located to the west of Bethune was reached whereupon
the battalion moved into billets. The now familiar routine of march ensued when on the afternoon of the 11th a further march
of two hours in duration brought the men to the town of Camblain Chatelain to the south of Marles-les-Mines where they would
remain in billets for the next ten days.
As a vanguard, "A" Company under the command of Captain Clement W.
Waite moved southwards to Ecoivres located to the north-west of Arras on the 21st. During the following day this company then
marched to Roclincourt situated due east of Arras where they then proceeded into the trenches and were subsequently attached
to the 2nd Division no doubt for trench familiarization. The nucleus of the battalion, following on the 24th, were this
time spared the endless route march and were transported in comparative luxury by motor-bus to Ecurie to the rear of Roclincourt
whereupon they also took up positions in the trenches.
One man however did not make the journey to the Arras Sector.
Private Joseph Lister was to be seconded for duty with the XIII Corps Infantry School, this posting being dated as the
24th April 1917. The reason for this attachment is unclear as Joseph is not recorded as having any specialist training or
trade, but, with over 8 years previous service with the Army prior to the War, no doubt it was deemed that this experience
would prove to be an invaluable asset.
XIII Corps Infantry Training School: Pernes
at Pernes between St. Pol and Lillers, the XIII Corps School conducted a variety of instructional courses in warfare as well
as providing reinforcements to units of the Corps.
The War Diaries of the units contained in the 31st Division commonly
refer to Pernes as, in part, a 'Musketry and Reinforcement Camp' but no doubt training ensued of a more specialist
nature. Shortly after being posted to the school Joseph was appointed the rank of Acting Lance-Corporal (Paid) on the 26th
April. No doubt the extra income as well as the privilege of rank proved most welcome however, affairs at home in Wetherby
as regards Joseph's father were possibly proving to be disconcerting to say the least.
A newspaper article dated
July 1917 was published recording that Joseph Senior had 'appeared' before the local 'Beak.'
- At Wetherby, Joseph Lister, labourer, 75 years of age, was charged with stealing two eggs from a basket in the Wetherby
market. Eggs had been previously missed, so a number were marked. Defendant was seen by a constable to take two of the eggs.
Defendant, who has resided at Wetherby for 53 years, and never been in trouble before, was discharged with a caution.'
Granted leave to the United Kingdom on the 24th October 1917, Joseph returned home to Wetherby and his family.
Returning to France on the 3rd November, Christmas was spent at Pernes and no doubt a most pleasurable time was had, compared
to the festive season of 1916, when Joseph and the men of the 13th East Yorks had no opportunity to celebrate the yuletide.
As the year of 1918 dawned the British Army, due to a lack of available manpower, began a period of restructure. Infantry
brigades were now to be reduced from a composition of four infantry battalions to three, and, as a consequence of this, the
12th and 13th Battalions of the East Yorkshire Regiment were disbanded in early February.
On the 10th April, Joseph,
although still attached to XIII Corps School, was taken on the strength of the 11th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment. There
are several factors that indicate the reasons for this transfer, the most obvious being the disbandment of his parent unit.
The question is why did he remain at Pernes? The possible answer may lie in the War Diary of the 11th East Yorks that
states that on the 5th April a draft of 209 Other Ranks had been received from the XIII Corps School, with a further draft
of 5 officers and 105 O/R's arriving on the 9th. However, the source of this latter draft is not recorded.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that this initial draft contained men originally attached to the establishment
at Pernes in an instructional capacity. If this assumption is correct, one can only deduce that a cadre or nucleus
of men would remain to ensure the continuing operational duties of this unit.
In a little over two months time however
the inevitable was about to happen. On the 19th June, Joseph was posted to Etaples near Boulogne, where surviving service
documents record that he was posted to the Depot, possibly suggesting an associated I.B.D. (Infantry Base Detail) providing
further drafts for the East Yorkshire Regiment. Reverting to the rank of Private on the 28th June, the following day he joined
the ranks of the 11th East Yorks who were now occupying positions near Hazebrouck.
31st Division: The
The early months of 1918 had seen a complete restructure of the 31st Division in
accordance with the disbandment and amalgamation of various units due to a shortage of available manpower to the British Army. The
94th Brigade had by now been completed disbanded apart from the 13th Yorks & Lancs (1st Barnsley Pals) and the 11th East
Lancs (Accrington Pals) who were now attached to the 93rd and 92nd Brigades respectively. The division was also further supplemented
by the addition of the 4th Guards Brigade consisting of three battalions.
On the 21st March the German Army launched
its spring offensive the 'Kaiserschlacht' or 'Operation Michael' along a fifty mile front with the objective
of dividing the British and French Armies and driving westwards.
As the enemy advanced westwards to the south of Arras,
units of the 31st Division fought a costly rear guard action near Moyenneville on the 27th March.
On the 9th April the
enemy launched another offensive code-named 'Operation Georgette' on a front between Armentieres and the La Bassee
Canal. Thrusting through Portuguese forces holding front line positions at Neuve Chapelle the enemy pressed home his
attacks northwards. To the south-west of Bailleul near Vieux-Berquin, the 31st Division were hurried forward on the 11th
and thrown in to stop the enemy's advance. After heavy fighting in the weeks that followed by various composite brigades
such was the nature of the actions that comprised the Battle of the Lys, this sector of the front line finally stabilised
to the east of the Foret de Nieppe.
The 31st Division, between the 9th and 30th April, had suffered in excess of 4000
The East Yorkshire battalions of the 92nd Brigade were withdrawn on the 27th April. The 11th East Yorks
under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Clement Henderson Gurney D.S.O. on relief by the 1st King's Own Scottish Borderers,
29th Division, then proceeded into billets at la Brearde to the north of Hazebrouck.
As the month of May dawned,
large working parties were constantly formed for the digging of trenches and the construction of breast works that constituted
the Hazebrouck system of defence. As a precaution against any enemy attack against the Meteren Sector to the west of Bailleul
the latter positions being occupied by the 1st Australian Division, reconnaissance had been performed in the area as early
as the 30th April however further intelligence as regards to the lines of approach was gathered during the 3rd May.
the 6th May Lieutenant-Colonel Gurney was awarded a Bar to his D.S.O. the officers and men of the battalion being awarded
26 decorations also for conduct in recent operations.
the day and night of the 9th instant, the 31st Division moved forward to perform a partial relief of the 1st Australian Division.
For this relief the 10th East Yorks were to be temporarily attached to the 93rd Brigade. Operational orders dictated
that the 15th/17th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment were to move into the right sub-sector of the front line west
of Meteren, whilst the 13th Battalion Yorks & Lancs were to hold the left sub-sector respectively. The support line would
be occupied by the 18th Durham Light Infantry, whilst the 10th East Yorks would relieve the 3rd Battalion A.I.F. in reserve
positions located at Fletre to the north-west. The 92nd Brigade minus the 10th East Yorks was to be placed in reserve
whilst the 4th Guards Brigade were to remain in Divisional Reserve. The 11th East Yorkshire's on the relief of the 6th
Battalion A.I.F. consequently moved into the billets vacated by the outgoing Australians located at Thieushouck
to the north of Fletre, accomodation consisting of farmhouses and barns.
The battalion performed salvage work during
daylight hours in addition to the construction and improvement of the reserve positions. These duties were carried out until
May 15th when the 92nd Brigade commenced a relief of its sister brigade in the front line.
During the night of the 15/16th
the 11th East Yorks relieved the 13th Yorks & Lancs in the left sub sector of the line. In the right sub sector, the 15/17th
West Yorks on relief by the 11th East Lancs, proceeded into billets previously vacated by the 11th East Yorks at Thieushouck.
The 18th Durham Light Infantry on relief from the support position would then move into reserve and remain attached to the
92nd Brigade, their former position then being taken over by the 10th East Yorks.
As noted in the War Diary of the outgoing
15/17th West Yorks, the sector was generally quiet during daylight hours however the enemy's offensive activities during
the day consisted of sniping and machine-gun fire that hindered access to forward positions in the front line from
the rear. Active patrolling during the night of the German line revealed that they were protected by a strong belt of
barbed wire defences and it was also ascertained that some machine gun positions were only utilized during the hours
On the left flank of the brigade the front line was occupied by the 160th French Regiment, 168th French
Division whilst the right flank was manned by units of the 3rd Australian Brigade.
As a means of communication an
'International Post' was established, Lieutenant Henry Smith of "B" Company being assigned to the French
as Liaison Officer. Active patrolling commenced however the War Diary only records the minimum of details stating that
several were carried out successfully. The diary however does record that one of these patrols was not without incident resulting
in the mortal wounding of Captain Francis Wallis of "A" Company on the night of the 16/17th.
Under cover of
dark on the night 19/20th, dispositions of the brigade were altered with "D" Company occupying the right of the
battalions frontage being relieved by the 10th East Yorks who, in addition to this movement, also relieved the left company
of the 11th East Lancs. On completion of this re-organisation "D" Company of the 11th East Yorks now moved into
support of "A" and "B" Companies occupying the left sector of the line, "C" Company remaining
in reserve positions.
Further rotation of brigades in the front line took place during the night of the 21/22nd when
the 93rd Brigade commenced a relief. The 11th East Yorks would remain attached to the 93rd Brigade as a reserve, their frontage
being taken over by the 13th Yorks & Lancs, whilst the 10th battalion on relief by the 18th D.L.I. would march into billets
located at Thieushouck. In the right sub-sector, the 11th East Lancs would be relieved by the 15/17th West Yorks respectively.
The relief of the 11th East Yorkshire's was not to pass without incident whan a deserter crossed over to the British
lines towards the location of the 'International Post.' After identification it was ascertained that this soldier
belonged to the 8th Company, 10th Battalion, of the 12th Reserve Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 11th Reserve Division.
During the night of the 23/24th the battalion were relieved in reserve by the 8th Royal Highlanders (Black Watch), 9th (Scottish)
Division. On completion of the relief during the early hours of the morning of the 24th, the battalion proceeded to a tented
camp located at Lumbres to the south-west of St.Pol.
The remainder of the month was spent by the battalion in the training
of specialists, musketry practice and lectures. The battalion also rehearsed a ceremonial parade that was to be
performed by the 92nd Brigade on the inspection and presentation of awards by the Divisional Commander, Major-General John
June: The action of La Becque
On the first day of the month
at 11 a.m. Major-General Campbell performed the Brigade review at Val de Lumbres. At the conclusion of this review Campbell
commented that he was 'very pleased with the bearing of all ranks and expressed his appreciation of their smart appearance
and steadiness on parade.' There then commenced a presentation of medal ribbons to those who had gained awards in
recent operations. On the morning of the 3rd, the 93rd Brigade were also reviewed by the Divisional Commander and during
the afternoon an inspection also was carried out by the Second Army Commander, Sir Herbert Plumer G.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O.,
A.D.C. who presented medal ribbons to those awarded decorations.
A programme of various aspects of training resumed
within the ranks of the 11th East Yorks during the days that followed until the 8th June when the battalion and the remainder
of 92nd Brigade relocated and proceeded into camp at Racquinghem to the south-east of St. Omer. A series of tactical manoeuvres
and further training then commenced in the Wardrecques area to the north-west with one element being placed on night
operations by a platoon of "A" Company.
Further training continued as a prelude to a brigade exercise but instruction
was received on the 13th that the proposed manoevres were to be cancelled. Operation Order Number 254 was issued
the following day directing the 31st Division to move to the Wallon-Cappel area west of Hazebrouck. By way of march the 11th
East Yorks proceeded to an area located about 1500 yards to the north of Wallon Cappel arriving at 5 p.m. whereupon the
battalion bivouacked but with orders to move either to the West Hazebrouck system of defences or the Le Peuplier Switch
to the west of Caestre at an hours notice.
The occupation of the Wallon Cappel area was to prove very short indeed as
Brigade Order Number 254 was issued on the 16th stating 'that if the tactical situation permits the battalion will
probably move back to the Racquinghem area.' It is unclear at present as to why the 31st Division moved forward
into the Hazebrouck defences as there is no evidence to be found of any perceived German threat and no record of any
'unusual' enemy activity to be found in either the War Diaries of the 10th or the 11th Battalions of the East Yorkshire
Regiment. As a consequence of this 'tactical situation' whatever the circumstances of this may be, the
11th East Yorks proceeded by march at 5.30 p.m. on the 17th June to the Racquinghem and Blaringhem area whilst the 10th
Battalion distributed its companies in and around the Renescure and Lynde areas to the east of St.Omer.
Once again a
programme of training was initiated however inclement weather interrupted the implementation of an outpost scheme. On the
20th all Small Box Gas Respirators were inspected by the Brigade Gas N.C.O., orders being received on this date also that
the 92nd Infantry Brigade were to relieve the 29th Division who were holding the line in the area of Le Grand Hasard to the
west of Morbecque. Prior to moving forward to the line, Major Joseph Shaw and all Company Commanders carried out a preliminary
reconnaissance of the forward area as the battalion set forth from Blaringhem to relieve the 15/17th West Yorks who were
holding positions to the west of Morbecque.
During the following day the battalion moved forward to Le Grand Hasard and
proceeded to relieve the 1st Battalion, Border Regiment of the 87th Brigade, 29th Division. Preparing to move into Brigade
Reserve, the battalion were placed under the orders of the General Officer Commanding, 87th Infantry Brigade until the brigade relief
was completed. The 10th East Yorks meanwhile moved forward to the La Motte Sector whereupon they commenced a relief in the
front line of the 1st Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers also of the 87th Brigade. The remaining battalion
of the brigade, the 11th East Lancs subsequently moved into the Left Sector of the line.
Whilst in Brigade Reserve, "D"
Company of the 11th Battalion carried out an 'exhibition' of the proposed attack consisting of the crossing
of streams and bridges and the detonation of 'Bangalore Torpedoes,' the latter consisting of a tube packed
with explosive that could be 'pushed' under barbed wire entanglements and detonated.
It is of particular interest
to note that on this date, as the 10th East Yorks were holding front line positions, officers of the 12th Norfolk Regiment
(Norfolk Yeomanry) entered the line to conduct familiarization duties. In addition to these British officers, 2 officers
and 5 Other Ranks of the 177th Regiment, 78th Division, United States Army were also attached for instructional purposes.
Authors note: After severe losses sustained by the 31st Division during the actions of the Lys in April it was proposed
that the division be disbanded. This proposal was later abandoned with the effect that the 4th Guards Brigade were to be now
attached to the G.H.Q. Reserve. In their place the 94th Brigade would be reconstituted but would now consist of Yeomanry Battalions
transferred to the Western Front from Egypt. The brigade would now consist of the following:
12th (Norfolk Yeomanry)
Battalion, Norfolk Regiment
12th (Ayrshire and Lanarkshire Yeomanry) Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers
Yeomanry) Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers
On the 24th, the 11th East Yorks relieved the East Lancs in the line
and during the following day officers commenced to reconnoitre positions in the Bois D'Aval located to the east of La
Motte. It was proposed that offensive operations were to be mounted in this area with the objectives being enemy positions
located around Verte Rue and the enemy line to the north. Once this task was completed, the battalion were relieved in the
line by the newly arrived 12th Royal Scots Fusiliers of the 94th Brigade whereupon the battalion proceeded back to Le
Grand Hasard to continue training.
The War Diary of the 15/17th West Yorks records that in the days prior to mounting
offensive operations the method of the attack was imparted to the battalion by means of a model constructed by the Royal Engineers.
There is no record however of the utilisation of this means of explanation recorded in the diaries of the 10th and 11th East
The battalion received 92nd Brigade Order Number 262 on the 26th June as regards the proposed attack of the 31st
Division as the officers and men of the East Yorks conducted final preparations over terrain located to the east of Le Grand
Hasard. Authors note: The initial proposal or order for operations would seem to date from around the 20th of the month but
unfortunately surviving documents located in the various diaries are fragmentary or not conclusive. There is however a multitude
of revised orders that date from around the 26/27th June as regards the 10th East Yorkshires in particular. Therefore, the
Author in due course of continuing research will consult the Brigade War Diaries located at T.N.A.
28th, 1918: 'Borderland'
The attack, code named 'Operation Borderland,' would be
launched at 06.00 hours on the morning of the 28th June in conjunction with units of the 5th Division to the south. The
objective of the 93rd Brigade consisted of the enemy line in the vicinity of La Becque Farm whilst the 92nd Brigade with
the 15/17th West Yorks forming their left boundary, the right, the 12th Gloucester's of 5th Division, would attack,
capture and consolidate the enemy front line system in the vicinity of Gars Brugghe, Gombert Farm and Verte Rue, south to
The division would be supported by 5 brigades of artillery with additional assistance being provided
by the 1st Australian Division who would conduct flanking fire operations and also extend a barrage northwards. As the
element of surprise was crucial to the success of the attack, there was to be no preliminary bombardment of enemy positions.
The men would therefore advance under the cover of a 'Creeping Barrage' that would commence at 'Zero' hour
lifting 100 yards every four minutes. This barrage would then halt half-way through the advance of the infantry, remaining
stationary for the period of ten minutes, before lifting once again to create a Final Protective Barrage that would cease
at 'Zero' plus ninety minutes. The key element of the advance of the attacking battalions would therefore be their
ability to follow quickly on the heels of this 'curtain' of protective fire.
Precautions to assist concealment
before the attack consisted of the covering of helmets with canvas material (possibly the utilisation of a sand-bag) or that
they were to be 'dulled' by some method. Further to the above, orders were issued that no bayonets were to be
fixed until the barrage commenced.
At 8.00 p.m. on the evening of the 27th June the 11th East Yorks departed Le
Grand Hasard to assemble in pre-arranged positions in and to the east of the Bois D'Aval (Front Line Positions in Square
E.28.a. - E.28.c.) Assembly being completed by 12.45 a.m.
The battalion was to attack in the following dispositions:
"C" Company (Left Company)
"D" Company (Right Company)
"B" Company (Support
"A" Company (Reserve)
Note: Frontage of attacking companies "C" and "D"
respectively, about 500 yards. All companies consisting of 4 Platoons. Leading wave consisting of specifically allocated rifle
and Lewis Gun Sections.
|Map Extract From War Diary 10th East Yorks. TNA WO/95/2357
A narrative included in the War Diary
as regards the attack of the 11th East Yorks only provides a brief outline of the operation at La Becque. Using a distillation
of various sources the Author will now provide an objective overview of the key phases that ultimately led to the successful
advancement of the British line in this sector.
At 6.00 a.m. the barrage erupted on the German positions as the 18-pounders
set about their task of providing the 'Creeping Barrage.' As this fire swept forward across No Man's Land, 4.5
inch Howitzers and Medium Trench Mortars commenced a series of timed 'lifts' as the Heavy Artillery further to the
rear commenced a programme of both standing and lifting barrages as well as counter-battery work.
In this maelstrom the
men of the 31st Division fixed bayonets and proceeded to the attack passing through lanes that had been cut previously in
their own barbed wire defences before dawn.
On the right of 92nd Brigade's attack, the 10th East Yorks advanced close up
to the barrage before the latter lifted. Due to inexperience or what the battalion War Diary describes as the 'impetuosity
of the men' some casualties were sustained by the battalion as they pushed too far ahead and were killed by their
own barrage. Impetuous or just either 'eager,' one thing that remains clear about the loss of these men is that
some of the British guns were actually firing 'short.' On the extreme right flank of the battalion at the juncture
with the left flank of the 12th Gloucester's, 5th Division, the diary suggests that there was clear evidence, of
which is not recorded or alluded to, that a number of 18-pounders were indeed firing 'short' before the first lift
had commenced. "C" Company under the command of Major Colin Balfour Traill M.C. was particularly badly hit resulting
in the death of Major Traill himself during the first five minutes of the advance.
(Authors Note; As regards Major Traill
and the location of "C" Company there appears to be some anomalies recorded in the diary as to the actual position
and intended line of advance. Operation Order Number 2 dictates that the following companies would advance:
"C" Company (Left)
"B" Company (Right)
A narrative and brief summary of this 'friendly fire' incident that the Author has quoted in the
above text clearly states that Major Traill was killed whilst commanding the Right Front Company exposed to this unfortunate
loss of life. As there are no records of any amendments to operation orders it may suggest that the aforementioned narrative
is either incorrect or that changes may have been made at some stage during the final planning stages of the attack.
It is therefore a possibility that these orders may have been of a verbal nature, or that documentary evidence that has recorded
this has no longer survived.
At about 6.05 a.m. the War Diary of the 11th East Yorks records that the enemy
now began to put down a barrage that is described as 'rather feeble and ragged.' This bombardment concentrated
on two major points; the eastern edge of the Bois D'Aval and the rides "A" and "B" that ran through
the wood. In contrast to the above account, the 10th East Yorkshire's record that they were subjected to a heavy enemy
counter-barrage from 6.14 a.m. The bombardment on this sector of the 92nd Brigade attack however fell on the recently vacated
front line positions of the battalion and the eastern fringes of the wood for over half an hour. Although some casualties
were sustained, the response of the enemy artillery had proved to be too slow no doubt due to the effectiveness of the British
As the men of the 11th East Yorks crossed No Mans Land and pressed on towards their objectives "C"
Company on the left flank of the battalion attack frontage began to suffer casualties. During the 12 minute halt of the British
barrage on this the extreme left flank of the attack of the 92nd Brigade some men had unfortunately advanced
too close to the barrage and were killed. In his summary of the operation as a whole Lieutenant-Colonel Gurney also states
that some casualties occurred during this period by the barrage once again falling 'short' with a number falling
victim to enemy machine-gun fire. Commenting on the latter, Gurney states that individual machine-gunners put up a 'splendid
fight to the last' often necessitating an outflanking manoeuvre to be carried out. These positions would no doubt
have been dealt with by the battalion's 'specialists' allowing the assault wave to press home the attack. On the
10th Battalion front, little opposition was met by enemy machine-gunners however one stubborn pocket of resistance located
at Gars Brughe was outflanked and the hostile machine-gun position silenced by a Trench Mortar team.
Prisoners had by
now began to arrive at 11th Battalion Headquarters at 6.50 am. and of these it was identified that they were soldiers
of the 102nd R.I.R. (Reserve Infantry Regiment) of the 32nd Reserve Division.
Pressing on to their final objective "C"
Company of the 11th East Yorks began to drift slightly to their left causing a worrying gap to develop between its right
flank and that of the left flank of "D" Company. The War Diary records that an N.C.O. of "B" Company located
in support positions to the advance, and, acting on his own initiative, rushed his platoon forward at this critical moment.
Both "C" and "D" Companies with the platoon of "B" Company now filling the gap pushed on
and captured the final objective simultaneously. Authors note: Gurney's narrative records that the signal for capture
was fired by "C" Company at 7.19 a.m. and at 7.25 a.m. by "D" Company respectively. Lieutenant-Colonel
Edward Rigg, Officer Commanding 10th East Yorkshire's reports in his narrative of operations that final objectives were
reached at 7.20 a.m.
On completion of all objectives "C" Company adjusted their position whilst the gallant
platoon of "B" Company under the command of this unknown 'Tommy' returned to their positions in support.
The forward companies now sent out patrols to ascertain the location of the enemy. It soon became apparent that there was
no enemy force in position west of the Plate Becque and that during his retirement a number of bridges had been
blown up and destroyed that crossed the stream.
At noon as the forward units were still consolidating their positions
the German artillery put down a heavy barrage inflicting numerous casualties. In addition to this enemy artillery fire the
10th East Yorks were harassed by long range machine-gun fire as they attempted to consolidate their positions.
the cover of darkness during the night 28/29th June the 11th East Yorks were reinforced by Battalion Details. As regards the
composition of this 'Detail' or origin, the War Diary unfortunately does not record the source. As Private Joseph
Lister is recorded as joining the battalion on this date, one can only assume that some members of this reinforcement if not
all consisted of personnel from the Base Depot or Infantry Base Detail located at Etaples. It is also of no coincidence that
Joseph was posted to "C" Company, the latter evidence would suggest suffering the most casualties during the action.
The reinforcement of front line positions was however not without incident. During the early morning of the 29th the left
flank of the position occupied by "C" Company was being subjected to heavy harrasing fire by the enemy inhibiting
contact with "D" Company on the right flank respectively. This forced Lieutenant-Colonel Gurney to make a tactical
change in the disposition of his left flank that proved to stabilise the situation however the exact manoevre is not recorded.
The battalion awaited the the inevitable enemy counter-attack but non materialised. On the night of the 30th June - 1st
July the battalion were relieved in the line and proceeded back to Le Grand Hasard where the day was spent in resting and
Casualties sustained by the 11th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment are not recorded in the War Diary, however,
an analysis of Soldiers Died In The Great War (A Searchable Database) provides the following casualties incurred
by the battalion during the period 28th June - 1st July:
37 (Killed or Died of Wounds)
Of the 10th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, casualties during the action are
recorded in full in the War Diary, Soldiers Died data is listed in italics:
Officers 1 Killed,
Other Ranks 24 Killed, 136 Wounded, 2 Missing, 1 Wounded (Believed Killed), 9? Wounded (Remaining
1 Officer Killed, 38 Other Ranks Killed or Died of Wounds
Consolidation Of The Front
On the 2nd July the battalion were allocated bathing facilities at
Le Grand Hasard with platoons and companies being reorganised during the following day. It was not long however before
the 11th East Yorks were to once again return to the front line when, on the night 4/5th July, the 92nd Infantry
Brigade commenced a relief of the 93rd Infantry Brigade.
At 9.30 p.m. as the battalion moved into the line to relieve
the 15/17th West Yorkshire's, German artillery put down a barrage on the support line and the left front of the sector
occupied by men of the 1st Australian Division. The War Diary of the West Yorks records that this barrage lasted for over
half an hour however no casualties were sustained by the incoming or outgoing battalions.
The battalion now occupied
positions in the Grand Sec Bois R4 Sector to the north-west of Vieux-Berquin. Joseph, now once again acclimatising
to the vagaries of trench routine found himself with "C" Company in support positions to the other three companies
of the battalion. During the night of the 6th however the dispositions of the battalion were altered with "D" Company
moving into support positions on the left with "C" Company occupying support positions on the right respectively.
Enemy activity was described during this period as 'normal' with other battalions of the division remarking
that enemy artillery and machine-gun activity was minimal. As the days passed the men of the battalion worked on constructing
and consolidating the front and support line positions, the latter being referred to in the days that followed as the Main
Line Of Resistance.
On the night of the 8th "C" and "D" Companies moved into the front line on the
relief of "A" and "B" Companies this being accomplished without sustaining any casualties. The main enemy
would appear in the form of the weather as on the 10th July thunderstorms drenched the area making the vast majority of tracks
impassable. Far from remaining static the companies occupying the front line had pursued a programme of active patrolling
at night and this offensive attitude was about to pay dividends.
On the night of the 11/12th one of these patrols stummbled
across a party of the enemy that it would appear had lost direction. Unfortunately the War Diary does not elaborate on this
contact with the enemy however it is recorded that one prisoner was secured and identified as a soldier serving with the 213th
Reserve Infantry Regiment.
No doubt encouraged by the positive identification of the enemy occupying positions opposite,
Lieutenant-Colonel Gurney was about to seize the intiative. At midday on the 12th July and after a conversation with the Officer
Commanding the 1st Australian Infantry Battalion on his left flank it was decided that an attempt was to be made
to capture Tern Farm. It had transpired that the right company of the Australians had gone out in daylight and captured 28
prisoners with minimal opposition being encountered. Both officers agreed that the situation needed to be exploited. The 'scheme'
Gurney decided to advance on the right flank of
Australians utilising a formation of small patrols with each patrol being led by a pair of battalion Scouts. To maintain
surprise further Gurney surmised that a preparatory bombardment would be sure to alert the enemy so he decided that the advance
would be made without artillery support. It was a risky strategy but the terrain that was to be crossed was full of standing
corn that Gurney remarked was "the height of a man's waist." If the assault failed to penetrate the
enemy's positions and strong opposition was encountered a tactical withdrawal could be made that would be covered
by the crops. One point in the sector that Gurney envisaged to be a major problem was a copse located in E.17.d.
Authors note: It is difficult to determine the exact position of this wooded area but it would suggest a position
to the north-east of Ankle Farm and adjacent to the western edge of the Vieux Berquin Road.
The tactical situation
now had to be exploited with the utmost speed. Lieutenant Harry Smith, Officer Commanding "D" Company was summoned
whereupon the Colonel explained the line to be occupied and the method of the advance to be employed to gain their objectives.
The Commanding Officer however instructed Lieutenant Smith that he was to act on his own initiative as and when the tactical
situation changed on the battlefield. Liaison with the advance of the Australians on the left flank was to prove paramount
in the conduct of this operation so Smith with the assistance of the Battalion Intelligence Officer immediately contacted
his opposite number and both reached agreement that the advance would commence at 2.30 p.m. Gurney then proceeded to contact
Brigadier-General Oliver de L. Williams C.M.G., D.S.O., 92nd Brigade Commander to explain the situation and his proposal.
In addition to this conversation the 170th Brigade R.F.A. were contacted who provided a Forward Observation Officer (F.O.O.)
to initiate the formation of a new S.O.S. Line should the operation be successful or should it ultimately fail. It is of interest
to note that Gurney, in his narrative of the operation, states that both the Brigadier-General and the artillery were contacted
by means of telephonic communication. Such was the need for expediency to impart information, the Colonel admits in all honesty that
telephonic discipline in the front line "had to be conveniently forgotten in the rush of the moment."
|A Schematic Based On An Original Rough Sketch By Lieutenant-Colonel Gurney
The above schematic is based on an original
rough sketch from one of two narratives by Lieutenant-Colonel Gurney. Of the narratives in question one is dated the
14th July 1918 that details a comprehensive account of the attack whilst the other it would suggest was compiled at some
considerable time after the event and entitled 'An Adventure of the 11th Battn.' Gurney himself remarks that
the sketch is "only very rough and not for publication" but for the purpose of an examination of the events
of the 12th July this simplistic sketch provides an objective overview that best describes the situation as the attack unfolded.
The main advance was to be conducted by "D" Company. Two platoons would advance from Points 2 and 3 with
one section of the company moving off from Points 4 and 5. On the right flank two platoons of "C" Company would
advance from Points 6 and 7 near Ankle Farm. They would then move in a north-easterly direction operating in conjunction with
the right of the attack of "D" Company and carry on the line as and when the opportunity arose.
As the men
of the East Yorks prepared for the operation to be launched at 2.30 p.m. it suddenly became apparent that the Australians
had commenced their advance at 2.15 p.m. due to some, as Gurney records, "misunderstanding."
Lieutenant Smith ordered his men forward in response to the situation, this advance commencing at 2.25 p.m.
As the men
advanced through the corn it was ascertained that the enemy's front line consisted of a number of machine-gun posts sited
along the length of the position. At point 'B' little opposition was offered and the garrison seemed all too willing
to surrender. This position however could have proved most problematic if it had not been for the actions of Australian
patrols earlier in the day who had eradicated enemy machine-gun posts to the north along the edge of the Vieux Berquin Road.
As the advance approached strong point 'C,' it appeared that the enemy garrison here too were ready to surrender
without putting up a fight until one N.C.O of the East Yorks had a different idea. As Gurney records, "Owing to an
excess of zeal" the N.C.O. opened fire on the enemy who, no doubt assuming that there was to be no quarter given,
decided to put up a stubborn resistance. Eventually the post was surrounded on both flanks whereupon the garrison finally
With these to forward posts pacified the advance continued onwards to point 'D' where resistance
was offered and some casualties were sustained. Conforming to previous instructions issued as to if the opportunity arose,
Number 9 Platoon of "C" Company commenced an advance from point 6 in a north-easterly direction. Identifying the
enemy point of resistance at 'D' the platoon attacked the position from the rear with one section resulting in the
capitulation of the enemy garrison.
Now well and truly into the fray, Number 9 Platoon now commenced an attack
on point 'E' but were subsequently held up until the arrival of one section of Number 10 Platoon also of "C"
Company. The latter had advanced from point 7 and proceeded to attack the enemy position from the rear with the outcome once
again being the surrender of the enemy strong point.
The final enemy position located at point 'F' was surrounded
by the remaining sections of Number 10 Platoon and was taken without a fight. In little over an hour the whole of the enemy
line in this sector was in the hands of the 11th East Yorkshire's.
To the north with the boundary of the attack between
both operations conforming to the line of the Vieux Berquin - Mont de Merris Road, the Australian advance found itself held
up by an enemy strong point located at point 'A.' At this juncture Lieutenant Smith O.C. "D" Company
detached one section from the company who advanced from point 1 to assist and if possible advance the line held by a
platoon of the 1st Australian Infantry Battalion. Assessing the situation, Lt. Smith, mindful of his need to maintain close
contact with the Australians on his left flank, decided after consultation with his opposite Company Commander, to fall
back from his advanced positions and to consolidate.
At 3.30 p.m. Lieutenant-Colonel Gurney sent forward reinforcements
from the support company (Possibly "A" Company) to the now old positions vacated by the advance of "D"
and "C" Companies. Two sections of the company set forth from Mere Farm located to the west at 3.30 p.m. followed
by one platoon at 4.30 p.m. respectively. This reinforcement proceeded forward by the men moving in couples the most likely
reason for this choice of manoeuvre being to minimise any effect of a predicted or supposed enemy artillery barrage. As Gurney
concluded in his narratives, the men "dribbling forward."
With the objectives captured the Colonel
moved forward to consult with his Company Commanders and to arrange the newly gained front line with its subsequent support.
Relief was due to commence during the night by the 10th East Yorkshire's but as a precursor to this the enemy put down
a heavy barrage on the old front and support positions and tracks and roads to the rear but this failed to inhibit the forward
movement of reinforcements. Finally, at 3 a.m. on the morning of the 13th, the relief was completed by the 10th East Yorks
and the battalion, minus "A" Company who would remain in support to the 10th Battalion, proceeded into Brigade Reserve.
The attack had been a resounding success with a minimal loss of life. Gurney's narrative records that the battalion
sustained the following casualties. Soldiers Died data is listed in italics.
2 Other Ranks,
5 Other Ranks, Killed
2 Other Ranks, Died of Wounds (13th July
In losses to the enemy, Gurney records about 50 killed with 1 officer and 60 captured. In addition to this, the
battalion had captured four machine guns. More importantly, the attack had indicated that German morale was either very low
or non existent judging by their willingness to surrender.
The East Yorkshire's, at least in this sector, now had
the upper hand.
Le Grand Hasard
Whilst in Brigade Reserve the battalion continued
training where possible as well as working on their respective areas in the right sector of the line. The weather by now had
once again turned to rain no dampening enthusiasm after the elation of victory. On the night of the 16/17th the 92nd Brigade
were relieved by the reconstituted 94th Brigade, the 11th East Yorks being relieved in reserve by the 12th Norfolks.
The battalion then proceeded to Le Grand Hasard where they occupied their old billets with the following day being spent
at rest, cleaning of equipment and most welcome of all, bathing facilities being allocated to the battalion.
were now placed at the disposal of their respective commanders whilst the Armourer Staff Sergeant and the Brigade Gas
N.C.O. were allocated to the companies. Not only weapons and respirators were in need of inspection as the battalion Medical
Officer also came along to 'do his rounds.'
On the 19th companies were inspected by Major Sydney Streeton Smith
M.C. whilst "D" Company and Number 10 Platoon of "C" Company carried out a rehearsal of a demonstration
of the attack performed on the 12th. The attack it would seem had generated much interest and this 'performance' was
to be acted out under the watchful eyes of the General Staff, XV Corps, Second Army, and the officers of the 31st Division
and the 92nd Brigade.
It was not long though before the battalion once again returned to the front line when on the 21st
an advance party of the officers of the battalion reported to the 15/17th West Yorkshire Regiment Headquarters to reconnoitre
the line prior to a relief to commence the following day. During the night 22/23rd July the battalion commenced the relief
in the R1 sector, this being completed at 2.30 a.m. on the morning of the 23rd.
This sector of the line it would
appear was relatively 'quiet' with virtually no enemy artillery however aerial activity by both sides was quite
commonplace. As regards British aircraft these were frequently engaged by German anti-aircraft batteries but British artillery
kept up a frequent and harassing bombardment of the enemy's positions in particular areas to the rear. Very little
was seen of the enemy himself but at night his machine guns would open fire and sweep the ground with low traverses.
11th East Yorks took up the following dispositions:
"A" Company Right Front Company
Company Left Front Company
"C" Company Right Support Company
"D" Company Left
In these positions the battalion remained in appalling weather conditions until the night 26/27th
when they were relieved by the 10th East Yorkshire's, this relief being completed by 2 a.m.
The battalion now
set about work on tasks constructing and improving the reserve line or 'Main Line Of Resistance' but on the night
of the 28th one platoon of "A" Company moved back into the R1 sector for a more sinister purpose.
11.30 p.m. 1 Officer and 29 Other Ranks sallied forth to carry out a raid on an enemy post located at K12a.6.9. ,
this raid being proceeded by a creeping barrage. Authors note: Position equates to a location on the western bank of
the La Becque Stream, north of Vierhouck. The War Diary of the 11th battalion contains no Nominal Roll as to the composition
of this party and only the minimum of details are provided by the diary of the 10th that record that during the raid no
enemy were to be found.
During the night 29/30th July the battalion relieved the 11th East Lancs in the R2 sector
of the line. Dispositions of the companies were as follows:
"C" Company Right Front Company
"D" Company Left Front Company
"A" Company Right Support Company
Company Left Support Company
Whilst the forward companies maintained watch for any signs of enemy activity,
the companies in support carried out work on the reserve line positions. Referred to in this sector as the 'Z'
Line, this construction was carried out under the supervision of the Royal Engineers.
As the month ended and August
beckoned, the sector remained eerily quiet. It would seem once again that Joseph and his comrades would have to take the fight
to a reluctant enemy.
August: Rockets And Feints
During the night of the 1st
August enemy artillery sprung into life placing a heavy barrage on Number 2 Mule Track possibly in an attempt to interdict
supplies or men into the sector.
On the night of the 2/3rd the front line companies attempted to entice the enemy into
some form of offensive response. Rockets were fired in similar code colours used by the enemy, in this case, green and red,
but this feint failed to provoke any reaction.
Relief was due in the form of the 18th Durham Light Infantry, 93rd Infantry
Brigade on the night of the 3/4th but the latter were delayed in the process due to being relieved themselves. The relief
however was eventually completed at 4.30 a.m. during the morning of the 4th.
The battalion then proceeded to Trocadero
Camp where the remainder of the day was spent in cleaning with the provision of bathing facilities allocated.
to the traditions of the British Army, on the 5th a reorganisation was carried out with the purpose of drill in mind, no doubt
this being enthusiastically received by all ranks. As the Medical Officer once again inspected the men of the battalion, the
correct methods of drill and those that were incorrect were demonstrated by the Junior N.C.O.'s. All companies it is recorded
During the following days classes were held for instruction in the Lewis gun accompanied by various courses
attended by junior N.C.O.'s.
Once more the battalion prepared to move into the front line when on the night of the
9/10th a relief was completed at 12.30 a.m. of the 18th Durham Light Infantry in the R2 sector. It is commented
that the quickness of the relief was due to the battalion being familiar with the terrain. As the men settled down for what
remained of the night, British artillery kept up a harassing fire on enemy positions with very little reply by the German
Dispositions during the completion of this relief were as follows:
" A" and "B"
Companies, Front Line
"C" and "D" Companies, 'Z' Line
The day was quiet
with desultory shelling by both artilleries but this would prove to be a precursor to a more active period in this sector.
On the night of the 10/11th August, British artillery performed two strafes, both of two minutes in duration and conducted
at 12.20 and 12.35 a.m. respectively with additional fire being provided across the sector by machine guns. The enemy appeared
to react as though this precluded some offensive action and opened fire on trails and woods located in the forward areas.
A programme of active patrolling in daylight hours was instituted on the 11th with activity by the enemy being reported
as quiet. It was artillery that appeared to be the dominant factor during the day with British artillery firing on rear areas
in particular tracks that led into the sector. As day turned into night, patrols still continued their work whilst the enemy
launched red rockets or lights into the air, these signals though were not followed by any offensive action.
Tuesday 13th August 1918: The Death Of Private Joseph Lister
Enemy artillery once again
remained active during the day of the 12th August but as night fell this increased in intensity. Patrols had been sent forward
during daylight hours and these continued into the night. During the hours of darkness the enemy also continued to fire rockets
but this time these consisted of a 'split' green signal that seemed to indicate his intention to open fire with his
artillery pieces. Once again he seemed reluctant to launch any offensive action but his attitude was described by the War
Diary as "uneasy".
It is unfortunate that the diary does not record any precise details of the events
of the 13th August other than the fact that German aeriel activity was most pronounced during the periods of dusk and dawn,
but that his aircraft were kept at a distance by British sorties over the sector.
So, the question remains as to the
exact circumstances surrounding the unfortunate death of Joseph. With the lack of any official notification or a subsequent
obituary in a newspaper, possibly one will never know. However, during the night of the 13/14th August, "A" Company
occupying the right front of the battalion were relieved in this part of the sector by the 15th Battalion, King's
Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 120th Brigade, 40th Division. Subsequently, this company moved into reserve in the Bois
In addition to this "D" Company relieved "B" Company, the latter moving into the 'Z'
Line, whilst "C" Company were temporarily attached to the K.O.Y.L.I. for "tactical purposes"
occupying front line positions at Le Cornet Perdu. All movement was concluded by 11.30 p.m. on the night of the 13th
It is widely recognised that any manoevre in and out of the line, if detected by the enemy, could have disastrous
consequences if he placed down a barrage on known exit and entry points. Was Joseph killed in this movement into front line
With the absence of any concrete proof it is impossible to reach a conclusion, however, an analysis of Soldiers
Died indicates that 7 Other Ranks were Killed or Died Of Wounds on the 13th August 1918.
Hasard Military Cemetery
The cemetery was begun at the end of June 1918 by units of the 31st Division
and was also utilised for burials of men of the 40th Division. Closed at the end of August after only two months, the original
Plots consisted of I and II but after the Armistice scattered graves were brought from the battlefields surrounding Hazebrouck
these burials now forming Plots III and IV.
The cemetery now contains 300 Commonwealth burials of the Great War
in addition to over 100 graves of the Second World War. There are 58 burials that are unidentified and within the
cemetery there are also located special memorials to those who fell in World War Two.