Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Private Edmund Frederick Durham

Introduction
Gunter, R B N
Durrant, C M
Weston, C G
Kelly, K G
Armitage, G J
Durrant, H M L
Hargreaves, J P
March, G
Dukes, W
Fowler, R
Westerman, H
Kirk, J C
Wiggins, T A
Telford, G
Harper, J W
Alexander, H W
Mason, T F
Wilkinson, W
Brown, C
Adkin, J
Barton, F
Hobman, A
Webster, A E
March, E A
Miller, G
Hannan, E
Utley, G
Walker, F
Bygrave, E W
Chapman, E
Varley, N W
Bowen, F J
Byrom, F
Backhouse, S
Dalby, M
Crossland, A
Crossley, J S
Dean, R
Frost, A E
Hodgson, F H
Holt, J
Hood, W H
Hill, W
Kitchen, T
Linfoot, E
Metcalfe, J C
Marsden, J
Pawson, W
Precious, G
Scutt, T G
Shields,P
Wiggins, J
Walker, E
Wood, A
Young, T
Pratt, W
Taylor, H
Dawson, G W
Lister, J
Binge, T
Atack, G
Durham, E F
Precious, G R
Wheelhouse Smith, W
Backhouse, H
Swann, J W
Burnsides, G A
Coles, W
Kelly, H W
Miles, J G
Tapsell, K
Acknowledgements
Dardanelles

23539, 40th Company, Labour Corps (Formerly 1st Infantry Labour Company, 33759, Lincolnshire Regiment)
Died, 16th September 1917

Cemetery : Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Grave Reference or Panel Number : I. E.1

Son of John and Mary Durham of 13, Aston Street, Bramley, Leeds; husband of Eva Evans (late Durham) of Number 27, St. James Street, Wetherby.
Edmund Frederick Durham was born at Bramley, Leeds, in 1890 to parents John, occupation a Joiner/ Carpenter, and Mary Durham, the family residing in premises located at 7, Mount Pleasant, Whitecote Hill, Bramley.
At the recording of the 1901 Census, the family had been blessed by the birth of two further children, Sidney Pearce aged 7 years and Arthur William aged 4 years respectively, the family having now relocated at this juncture to Number 1, Beechwood View, Burley.
The 1911 Census now records that the family had relocated once again, possibly due to the birth of a further child, Reginald, in 1903, however Edmund had not moved with the family to their new home at Aston Street but had instead journeyed south to take up employment as a Domestic Gardener. Residing as a Boarder at Church Street, Brixworth, Northamptonshire, one would surmise that Edmund had found employment on the associated estate of Brixworth Hall. His father had an established connection with the county having been born at Hannington to the east of Brixworth and had resided for a number of years in the village of Pitsford located to the south. Family connections I surmise may therefore have been the reason as to why Edmund had taken the decision to relocate to Northamptonshire. 

Back To The North: Wetherby

The exact year that Edmund moved back to the north of England is unknown but prior to the outbreak of the Great War a newspaper article records that he had found employment as a Gardener at Linton Manor, Collingham. An analysis of the 1911 Census details records that Edmund's employer was one Charles Solomon Allaun, a Furniture Dealer of Linton Manor, Collingham Bridge.
Little is known about Edmund's early life in the district or even if he was residing in the town of Wetherby but in a little over five months after the commencement of hostilities Edmund no doubt received news that his brother Arthur William had enlisted into the ranks of the Royal Marine Light Infantry in January 1915, the only member of the Durham family other than Edmund to serve in the conflict.
Either through his connections in horticultural circles or spending his leisure time at Wetherby, Edmund met one Eva Pratt, daughter of James Pratt, a Domestic Gardener, the family residing at St. James Street. Eva is recorded in the 1911 Census as a Servant in the employ of Reginald Henry Bowman, a Shoe Manufacturer of Moor Allerton House, Leeds. On the 18th of December 1915, the couple entered a union of marriage at Wetherby, subsequently establishing their marital home at Number 27, St. James Street, Wetherby.

A Family Tragedy

Edmund's brother, now serving as Private Arthur William Durham, Royal Marine Light Infantry, PO/18357, the latter prefix denoting the Portsmouth Division, was now at this juncture serving on board H.M.S. "Indefatigable," a Battlecruiser of the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron, the latter under the command of Rear Admiral William Christopher Pakenham.
It was on the 31st May 1916 that the British engaged the High Seas Fleet of the German Imperial Navy under the command of Admiral Reinhard Scheer at the Battle of Jutland. Shortly after the opening of the battle, H.M.S. "Indefatigable" was engaged by the German Battlecruiser "Von der Tann," along with the Battlecruiser "Derfflinger," the ships responsible for the bombardment of both Scarborough and Whitby in December 1914.
A little after ten minutes of the opening of the battle, "Indefatigable" under the command of Captain Charles Fitzgerald Sowerby R.N. was hit by two or three shells fired from the "Von der Tann" causing severe structural damage with the ship falling out of formation. Listing to port and sinking by the stern, at about 4.03 p.m. after further hits from the "Von der Tann's" 11 inch shells, a large explosion in the forward magazines of the ship erupted sending debris, smoke and flame into the atmosphere. Of the ships complement of 1019 men, there were only two survivors.
Arthur aged 19 years, is now commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial in addition to being commemorated on the Bramley Church Roll of Honour, Leeds. A tragic blow to the Durham family of a Bramley lad who had escaped the confines of employment in a Woolen Mill to answer his countries call.

Called To The Colours

With Eva heavily pregnant with their first child, it was on the 7th of October 1916 that Edmund was summoned to York for a preliminary medical examination. Deemed to have enlisted however under the auspices of the Military Service Acts of 1916 on the 24th of March 1916, his declared age was 27 years, height, 5 feet, 8 1/2 inches with a weight of 129 lbs. One crucial factor was discovered however during the course of the medical examination, Edmund was found to be blind in his right eye. It is unclear if this was a permanent disability but some annotations recorded on surviving service documents, although difficult to decipher, suggest some form of eye infection rendering him 'unfit' at this juncture for military service. As he was approved for service by the Lieutenant-Colonel of the Medical Board, one can only assume that he was deferred from military service due to this 'ailment' until a later date and subsequently placed on the Army Reserve.
On October 25th 1916, Edmund and Eva's first child was born, Arthur Cyril Durham, but in February 1917 the inevitable call up for military service arrived on the doorstep of their home.
Summoned to Harrogate on the 26th February 1917, after stating answers to various questions, Edmund was approved for military service by the Approving Officer, 14th Recruiting Area, on the same day at York. Allocated the serial number 33759 and posted to the 1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment, his movements in the days and months that followed are not recorded but on the 12th March 1917, Edmund along with the Company sailed from Folkestone to Boulogne to join the British Expeditionary Force.

1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment

The exact date as to the formation of the 1st Infantry Labour Company is obscure however it may have simply existed for just a couple of weeks before its posting overseas. We do know through surviving service documents however the ages, medical conditions and occupations of those who enlisted. 
For example, and with a specific search criteria being placed on an enlistment taking place in Yorkshire, there was one William Carney. William, a Painter, attested for service in December 1915 and was placed on the Army Reserve. A married man and a resident of Burley, Leeds, Carney was mobilized on the 27th February 1917, allocated the serial number 33114 and posted to the 1st Infantry Labour Company. Posted overseas on the 12th March 1917, upon being transferred to the 40th Labour Company he was renumbered 23511 and eventually demobilised in January 1919.
Percy Cavanagh, also from Leeds and a native of Armley. Graded medical category "B2" ( Authors note: Class A, "Fit For General Service," Class B, "Fit For Service Abroad But Not Fit For General Service," Class C, "Fit For Home Service Only." Class B would comprise would comprise of three classifications: B1, "Garrison Or Provisional Units," B2, "Labour Units Or On Garrison Or Regimental Outdoor Employment," B3, "Sedentary Work As Clerks Or Storemen Only") Percy was deemed to have enlisted in June 1916 and mobilised on the 26th February 1917. Allocated the serial number 33125, Percy would be posted to the ranks of the 1st Infantry Labour Company on the 28th February. Renumbered 23510 upon the formation of the 40th Labour Company, he would be demobilised in 1919 after serving two years and two hundred and forty-two days with the Colours. 
The town of Tadcaster would also provide one man who would eventually serve in the ranks of the Company. Frederick Clewer, of Bridge Street, a Tobacconist, was deemed to have enlisted in September 1916. Mobilized in February 1917, Frederick was also posted to the ranks of the 1st Infantry Labour Company and allocated the serial number 33816. Transferred to the 40th Labour Company and renumbered 23522, he would be discharged in January 1918 after being wounded at Ypres by a machine gun bullet fired from a 'friendly' aircraft on the 9th of September 1917.
 
Operations On The Western Front
 
Akin to the vast majority of Labour units, a War Diary or record of their activities is virtually non existent. In an attempt to plot the movements and activities of the unit however, I will utilise sources such as casualties and newspaper articles in a similar format to the commemoration of Fred Walker of the 22nd Labour Company also killed at Ypres in September 1917.
Under the command of Major William Robert Rook, this officer had been seconded for service with the Lincolnshire Regiment since the 5th of March 1917 and he previously served with the 1/7th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire) Regiment. A Wine Merchant in civilian life and a resident of Ruddington near Nottingham, both his brothers would serve during the course of the War. Second-Lieutenant Ralph Hinde Rook would be awarded the Military Cross in August 1917 for actions with the 11th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment and Maurice would serve as a Captain also with the 1/7th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters. Two sisters of the Rook family, Elsie Sarah and Kathleen Mary would also rally to their country's call. Both posted overseas for service with the Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.) in 1915, Elsie would serve in France at the Number 1 General Hospital located at Etretat, north of Le Havre and the Number 1 Stationary Hospital located at Rouen until June 1916. Of Kathleen, her services extended from No. 1 General Hospital to the Number 1 Stationary Hospital, No. 13 Stationary Hospital located at Boulogne and the No. 30 General Hospital located at Calais.
 
In late March, the 1st Infantry Labour Company were located in the St. Pol area of northern France however their duties at this juncture are unknown. It was on the 18th of March that the Company suffered its first 'casualty' in a theatre of war when Private William Gibson, 33155, died of pneumonia.
William was born at South Cliffe near Market Weighton in 1885 to parents George, occupation, a Mineral Water Drayman, and Mary Jane Gibson, the family recorded in the 1891 Census residing in premises located at Number 3, York Terrace, Market Weighton. It is of interest to note that the Enumerator records William as being blind in one eye and this fact is also recorded in the following census taken in 1901. In this year, the family had relocated to the City of York and taken up residence in premises located in Bean Street, Bootham, William at this juncture and now aged 15 years finding employment as a Labeler of Ale and Stout (Cellar), an occupation that both his father and elder brother were also engaged in. By the year of 1911, the family had relocated once again to Leeds and in this year were residing in premises located Hoxton Mount, Holbeck. The family's fortunes at this point in time were no doubt in crisis as George and William's elder brother were unemployed, William and his youngest brother Fred supporting the family by being employed as a Brewer's Labourer and Apprentice French Polisher respectively.
Deemed to have enlisted at Leeds under the auspices of the Military Service Acts in February 1917, despite his disability he was passed fit for military service and posted to the 1st Infantry Labour Company and posted overseas on the 12th of March 1917. Dying of the effects of pneumonia at the 12th Stationary Hospital located at St. Pol on the 18th of March 1917 aged 32 years, William is now buried in St. Pol Communal Cemetery Extension.
 
Disease in the Company would appear to be quite prevalent during the course of the month no doubt as a consequence to men being cramped into camps and the weather frequently comprising of falls of snow and severe frosts. With these factors taken into account, these conditions possibly led to the death of another man, Private George Conner, 34315.
George was born at Leeds in 1878 to parents James, occupation, Hay Cutter, and Ann Conner, the family residing in 1881 at Number 1, Mills Yard, Halton, Leeds. At the next census taken in 1891, the family are now recorded as residing in premises located in the High Street, Halton, his father having changed his occupation to that of a Coal Miner. Upon the death of his father in 1894, the family comprising of his now widowed mother and sister had relocated to Backhouse Fold, Seacroft, the 1901 Census recording that George had now secured employment as a Drapers Assistant. (Note: George appears to be recorded twice in the Census. Firstly at Seacroft, and secondly as a Visitor to the house of one John Rollinson, also a Drapers Assistant, of Ellerby Terrace, located in the Richmond Hill area of the City). Residing with John Rollinson was his sister, Mabel, and it is of no surprise that George was visiting the house as in January 1903, the couple entered a union of marriage at St. Matthew's Church, Little London, their address on marriage being recorded for George as Number 23, New Camp Road, and for Mabel, as Number 19 New Camp Road respectively. In July 1903, a daughter, Muriel was born, the family at this point in time residing in premises located at Number 3, Bagby View, a modest terraced house located in the Woodhouse area of the City. Describing himself as a Draper, it appears that George's fortunes would improve over the coming years and by the year of 1911 the family were residing at Number 192, Dewsbury Road, Hunslet, George now describing himself as a Draper (Own Account) with Mabel assisting him in the business. At some point in time it is believed that he opened a shop at Number 67 Great George Street however at present the Author can find no further details other than a probate record that records this address.
Deemed to have enlisted at Leeds in February 1917, George was then posted to the 1st Infantry Labour Company and numbered 34315. Posted overseas with the Company during the following month, it was on the 24th of March 1917 that George, aged 38 years, succumbed to "Cerebo Spinal Fever" at the 12th Stationary Hospital. Buried in St. Pol Communal Cemetery Extension, in addition to his place of burial it is believed that he is also commemorated on the St. Peter's War Memorial, Dewsbury Road, Leeds, however he is commemorated as one "C" Connor.
 
The 24th of March would also witness the death of another soldier of the Company from Leeds, one Private George Atkins, 33117. George was born at Hunslet, Leeds, in 1883 to parents Joseph, occupation, Machine Moulder, and Rose Atkins, the family recorded in the 1891 Census as residing in premises in Vine Street, Hunslet. Upon the death of his father in 1898, the 1901 Census records that the family had relocated to Clarence Road. Rose now supported the family by finding employment as a Charwoman whilst George, now aged 17 years, was employed as a Tinners Labourer and his sister Amelia, aged 15 years, employed as a Domestic Servant. In this same year, Rose remarried one Joseph Guy, a Boarder also residing in Clarence Road however by the year of the 1911 Census, Rose is recorded as a Widow. At this juncture, the family were now residing at Number 24, Albury Terrace, Hunslet, George now aged 27 years, stating his occupation of that of a Nail Casters Labourer. Deemed to have enlisted at Leeds in February 1917, he was also posted to the ranks of the 1st Infantry Labour Company and proceeded overseas in March. Simply recorded as "Died" on his Pension Record, George, aged 33 years, is also now buried in St. Pol Communal Cemetery Extension. 


IWM (Q 4723) By Kind Permission
astationaryhospitalundersnowStPolFebruary1917.jpg
A Stationary Hospital Under Snow, St. Pol, February 1917

Deaths in the Company continued when on the 26th of the month, Private William Forsyth Parnaby unfortunately died of respiratory complications. William was born at Pelton Fell, near Chester-le-Street, Durham, in 1881 to parents William, occupation, a Stationary Engine Driver, associated with the Pelton Fell Pit, and Ann Parnaby, the family residing in 1891 at premises located in Club Row. By the year of 1901, the family had relocated to premises in East View however during this very same year, William had entered a union of marriage to one Emily Dawson, the couple taking up residence with Emily's parents at Number 1, North Row, Pelton Fell. In November 1902, their first child was born, Mary Isabella, followed by a son, John, in April 1905. In October of the following year, another child was born, David William, and by the year of 1911 the family were residing in premises located at Number 39, Wesley Street, Low Fell, Gateshead, William being recorded in the census of that year as occupation, Colliery Fireman.
Deemed to have enlisted at Gateshead in February 1917, William along with a number of men from the north-east of England was posted to the ranks of the 1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment and numbered 33032. Posted overseas with the unit, he was to die of "congestion of the lungs and syncope" contracted on active service. (Source:- W.W.1. Pension Ledgers). With his address being recorded as 289 "A," Bensham Road, Gateshead, William now lies in a solitary grave located to the south-east of St. Pol in Foufflin-Ricametz Churchyard.
 
Another death due to cerebrospinal meningitis occurred on the 27th of March when Private Ernest Sage of Millom, Cumberland, unfortunately died. Born Ernest Henry Arthur Sage in 1883 at Millom, he was the son of Simon, occupation, an Iron Miner, and Emma Sage, the family in both 1881 and 1891 residing in premises located in Concrete Square. By the year of 1901, the family had relocated to a Boarding House situated in Sea View, his father now describing his employment of that of a Fisherman. Ernest, now aged 18 years, had found employment as an Apprentice Printer and at this juncture the Author will now rely on two newspaper articles published in the Millom Gazette dated the 31st of January 1908 and the 5th of April 1917 respectively.
Employed at the Millom Gazette as an Apprentice, Ernest proved to be an "energetic and willing worker" and eventually rose to perform the duties of a Linotype Operator at the newspaper. Upon the expiration of his apprenticeship however, he then took up a new postion at a Barrow Newspaper Office but no doubt inheriting his father's spirit of adventure, he subsequently resigned and took up the life of a seafaring man. It is of interest to note that his father, originally a native of Chawleigh, Devon, had joined the British Army at the age of 18 years and had served with the 65th Royal Infantry, titled the 65th (2nd Yorkshire, North Riding) Regiment of Foot. Enlisting for a period of ten years, he spent nine years in India whereupon he then took part in the Afghanistan War and was discharged from the service in 1876.
Circa 1905, Ernest now became a crew member of the wooden schooner, the "Bessie Arnold," owned and operated by the Hodbarrow Mining Company transporting iron ore. In January 1908, his father unfortunately died after a period of ill health at the age of 59 years, the family residing at this juncture in premises located in Lonsdale Road. Once again Ernest decided to depart his occupation in this very same year, a rather fortuitous decision as on the ships very next voyage, she ran aground on rocks south-west of Arran in bad weather on Christmas Eve with the loss of four crewmen and one saved. (Source:- Millom Gazette dated the 31st of December 1908, Page 4).
Courting one Miss Ethel Ann Northcote also of Lonsdale Road, the couple headed north to Gateshead in the north-east of England and were married in 1909, Ernest establishing himself as a Fish Merchant (Own Account) from premises located at Number 6, South Beech Grove, West Ryton, near Gateshead. Successful in business and also taking up an allotment farm, in April 1910 the marriage was blessed by the birth of their first child, Margaret Alice, followed in January 1917 by the birth of a son, Frederick respectively.
Ernest attested for military service at Newcastle and was originally posted to the ranks of the Durham Light Infantry and numbered 65436. An analysis of surviving service documents with this number sequence indicate an attestation in early December 1915, i.e. voluntary enlistment under the auspices of the Derby Scheme. Placed on the Army Reserve, he was then mobilised in February 1917 and posted to the ranks of a Labour Company of the D.L.I., most likely in this instance the 25th (Works) Battalion who at this point were stationed at Skipton, Yorkshire. (Authors note:- The Millom Gazette states "after a short period of training in Yorkshire" which would seem to confirm this initial service). Posted within a matter of a week to the 1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment, he was then issued the serial number 33753 and posted overseas on the 12th of March 1917. Dying in hospital as stated in the aforementioned newspaper article, I can only surmise that this was the 12th Stationary Hospital however this is not recorded on the various official documents relating to his death. Aged 35 years, Ernest is now buried in St. Pol Communal Cemetery Extension and in addition to his place of burial, he also commemorated in his home town of Millom.
 
Formation Of The 40th Labour Company
 
The exact location of the 1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment, during the month of April is not known at present. In terms of casualties or deaths, an analysis of various sources record as far as can be determined no loss of life. Major Rook however managed to keep the men 'on their toes' so to speak with one man being issued Field Punishment Number 2 for being dirty on parade and a number of others deprived pay for the lack of carrying their "emergency rations".
It was on the 14th of May 1917 that the men were officially transferred to the newly formed 40th Labour Company under Army Council Instruction (A.C.1. 611 of 1917). All the men were now renumbered as a direct consequence, Edmund himself being issued the serial number 23539. By late May, the 40th Company were now located in Belgium and it was here that they would be placed under the administration of the newly formed 31st Labour Group with Headquarters established at Poperinghe west of Ypres. Coming under the control of 18th Corps of the Fifth Army, there would now begin a long association with the infamous Ypres Salient, from which, some men of the Company would never return.
 
31st Labour Group
 
It was on the 16th of May 1917 that Lieutenant-Colonel James Ralph Truscott, formerly of the Army Service Corps, assumed command of the Group. Headquarters was then established at Number 3, Rue de la Balance, Poperinghe, 31st Labour Group as of this date comprising of the following units:- Numbers 131, 32, 194 and 85 Labour Companies. On the 21st of May, the now designated 40th Labour Company joined the Group, Officer Commanding, Major Rook, followed on the 22nd and 23rd by the the 3rd Canadian Labour Battalion along with its Battalion Headquarters. Requiring Staff, it was on the 26th that Second-Lieutenant J. ?, A.S.C., of No. 6 Labour Company, A.S.C., was attached to the Group as Quartermaster.
 
The 2nd of June would witness the Group 'expanding' when on this date, 144th and 24th Labour Companies joined however as these units were assimilated, 131 Labour Company departed the Group. In need of an Adjutant, Temporary Captain Sydney Ralph Jenkins M.C., Royal Engineers, also joined on this date and assumed his duties. Between the 5th - 9th of the month and as the "Battle of Messines" commenced on the 7th of June, five further Labour Companies joined the Group, the 102nd, 172nd, 93rd, 13th and 25th, however on the 9th, the 24th Labour Company departed, being replaced on the following day by one platoon of the 1st Middlesex Labour Company. As the 194th Labour Company departed the Group on the 12th, Headquarters of the latter were moved to a position just to the south-west of Coppernollehoek at map reference Sheet 28, A.14.c.8.    

Elverdinghe, Edition 2, 28 N.W.1.
Elverdinghe.jpg
Ordnance Survey, April 1917

On the 13th of June, two companies of the 3rd Canadian Battalion are recorded as departing the Group for Second Corps Area (11/6/17). As the "Battle of Messines" drew to a successful conclusion, the entry for the 15th records that on this date, the 65th, 75th, 101st and 121st , joined the Group but as these units were now administered, the 32nd, 85th, 40th, 3rd Canadian Labour Battalion - 118th, 144th, 102nd and 172nd departed. (Authors note:- Surely a transcription error as the 40th Company did not depart the Group until late July). More changes occurred in the structure of the Group in the days that followed when on the 16th, the 72nd Labour Company joined the group only to depart the following day for duties on the Peselhoek Railhead along with the 93rd Labour Company who were transferred to Second Corps and sent to a position near Reninghelst. (Source:- T.N.A. WO95/537/6 ).
It was on the 18th that disaster struck the 13th Labour Company resulting in the deaths of 6 men and the wounding of 32 more, some of the wounded dying in the following days at Casualty Clearing Stations. The exact circumstances surrounding their deaths is unknown but it is most likely that they were the victims of long range artillery or aerial bombs. (Authors note: The War Diary of the 133rd Field Ambulance, T.N.A. WO95/2578/2 whilst they were based in Poperinghe records that between the 16th - 19th, "Shelling and bombs on Poperinghe. R.E. yard shelled, many casualties"). One man of the 13th Company, Private John William Norman, a resident of Southwark, had only joined the unit three days previously.
On the 19th, the 65th Labour Company fell prey to enemy artillery whilst they were working on one of the railways or railheads behind the lines resulting in three men being killed and four wounded. (Authors note:- A revised figure for casualties reveals that four men were killed whilst two succumbed to wounds received). Of their number was Private George Edwin Allen, a married man of Burnley who would leave a widow and three children to mourn his death. Originally enlisting into the 17th (Reserve) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment in August 1916, George was subseqently posted to the 22nd (Labour) Battalion of the Regiment in November of that year. Posted overseas in December, he was then transferred to the 65th Labour Company on its formation in May 1917. The Burnley Express dated the 30th of June 1917 reported his death, extracts of which follow:-
 
"Captain Roberts writes of him thus:- It is with much sorrow that I write you of the sad loss you have sustained. In this terrible war your husband has loyally given himself for his country's sake. With others, he was working on railways a few miles behind the front, when a long-distance shell fell amongst a group of our men. I can surely say he will be greatly missed. The officers, N.C.O.'s and men join me in expressing my deepest sympathy with you in your great loss".
(Authors note: Identified by the Author as Richard Lee Roberts, Shropshire Light Infantry, Cheshire Regiment, Labour Corps).
 
His "Pal," Private Bridge, identified by the Author as one Private William Edward Bridge, 48735 (38431), a native of Bury, accompanied George as he was evacuated to the 133rd Field Ambulance stationed in Poperinghe:- 
 
"Just a few lines to inform you that your husband was killed yesterday, the 19th. I was only a few yards from him. I was knocked down myself, but escaped injury. I did all I could for him, and I was with him until he died on the way to the hospital. He only lingered about ten minutes, and never spoke a word after being hit. He died about half-past four. He was my best pal; we were like brothers".     

Allenpop.JPG
The Burnley Express Dated The 30th Of June 1917

It was on the following day that the 65th Company departed the Group and were duly replaced by the 172nd Labour Company. Although not recorded in the War Diary of the 31st Group, an analysis of the 133rd Field Ambulance Diary records that on the 21st of June, Lieutenant William Low Johnston joined the Group under the command of the Medical Officer.
Six men of the 25th Labour Company were wounded on the 21st but also on this date the 40th Labour Company lost another man, Patrick McGlade, a native of Middlesbrough.
Patrick McGlade was born at Middlesbrough in 1884 to parents Patrick, occupation, a Labourer, and Mary McGlade. In 1888, his father would unfortunately die at the untimely age of just 32 years, the 1891 Census recording that Patrick and his mother were now residing with his maternal widowed grandmother at Number 45 Randolph Street, in the St. Hilda's Parish of Middlesbrough. At the recording of the next census in the year of 1911 and now aged 16 years, Patrick and his sister were still residing with his grandmother but of his mother there is no record. (Authors Note:- The Army Register of Soldiers' Effects in addition to Pension Records, the latter dated 1917, indicate that his mother was residing at the address but may have simply not been at the family residence when the Enumerator called).
Enlisting at Middlesbrough, it is impossible to state with some degree of accuracy if Patrick actually 'volunteered' for military service under the auspices of the Derby Scheme. Despite the lack of surviving service documents however, he was posted to the ranks of the 1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment in February 1917. Numbered 33657 and posted overseas, on formation of the 40th Labour Company he was subsequently renumbered 23691. The exact circumstances surrounding his death are unknown, but one may surmise that akin to many other Labour Companies operating in the area from Ypres to Poperinghe, he was a victim of enemy artillery or aerial bomb. Patrick McGlade, aged 32 years, now lies in Poperinghe New Military Cemetery.
 
One man would succumb to wounds received in action on the 24th of June, one Private Herbert Law, 23667, a native of Batley, Yorkshire. Born in 1884 at Batley, Herbert was the son of Giblin, occupation, a "Mechanic on a Spinning Machine," and Ada Law. In 1881, the family were residing in premises located in Blakeridge Lane however by the next census recorded in 1891, the family had relocated to Tillotson Street. At the recording of the next census in 1901, Herbert, now aged 16 years, had found employment as a Coal Miner, his father's occupation at this juncture being recorded as that of a Mechanics Labourer. In the year of 1903, his father died at the age of 56 years and by the year of 1911 and still residing with his widowed mother in Tillotson Street, Herbert had found employment as a Cloth Warehouseman. On the 13th of April 1914, Herbert married one Miss Dorothy Ottewell, Weaver of the High Street, Hanging Heaton, the couple setting up their marital home in Tillotson Street. In June 1915, their first and only child was born, Norman, and in February 1916, Herbert attested for military service.
An analysis of surviving service documents indicates that Herbert attested for military service at Batley in February 1916 and was then subsequently placed on the Army Reserve. Mobilised in February 1917, he was then posted to the 1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment and issued the serial number 33658. Posted overseas in March of that year, upon transfer to the 40th Labour Company he was subsequently renumbered 23667. The exact circumstances surrounding his unfortunate death are unknown but he died of "G.S. Wounds and a compound fracture received in action" at one of the number of Casualty Clearing Stations located at Lijssenthoek. (Authors note:- "Gun Shot Wounds," a euphemism for a number of wounds relating to bomb, bullet or artillery). Buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Herbert is also commemorated on Batley War Memorial in addition to also being commemorated on the Hanover Street Congregational Sunday School Young Men's Class Memorial, Batley. (Authors note:- Formerly located in the Central Methodist Church, according to the I.W.M. War Memorial Register circa 2000, the memorial was removed and is now 'lost').
 
 
It was on the 25th that the 31st Group Headquarters moved to map reference A.27.c.1.1. where they would now establish themselves near the Polo Ground located north-east of Poperinghe. As the 121st Labour Company departed the Group, Numbers 40, 65, one quarter of "D" Company, 5th (Labour) Battalion, Royal Engineers, and both the 4th and 88th Battalions of the British West Indies Regiment joined and were administered by the Group. The 31st Group Headquarters were now established in an area that was under a massive development programme regarding the improvement of existing railway networks and their expansion to supply the front with the necessary materiel for the continuation of offensive operations. The extract below of a schematic clearly depicts the network of railways of various gauges eminating from the rear to the railheads located in the vicinity of Poperinghe. Existing Standard Gauge Lines (600mm) are shown in 'Red,' Metre Gauge Lines in 'Blue,' whilst Narrow Gauge Lines (600mm) are depicted in 'Green'. Of points to note specific to Poperinghe are 'Red Blocks' denoting Standard Gauge Railheads for example 'Oakhanger' and Standard Gauge Crossing Stations denoted by a 'Red Circle'. The symbols annotated around the 'Peselhoek Railhead,' a 'Crossed Pick & Shovel,' 'Red Shell' and a 'Shamrock' denote a Royal Engineers Railhead, an Ammunition Railhead and a Supply Railhead respectively. Other features to note are a 'Red Cross,' the location of Casualty Clearing Stations, for example Remy, and the large 'R' Symbol which denotes Railheads established for Reinforcements.   

Second Army Area
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Existing & Proposed Railways, Dated 17th Of May, 1917

It was on the 26th of June that the 6th Labour Battalion, Royal Engineers, joined the Group after being transferred from 19th Corps. On the following day, the 101st Labour Company suffered three casualties wounded, one of their number, Second-Lieutenant Ernest Varley, a native of Pudsey and attached from the King's (Liverpool Regiment). A further three men of the 6th (sic) Battalion, British West Indies Regiment were wounded on the 28th and it was also on this day that the 6th Labour Battalion, R.E., departed the Group. (Authors note:- As regards the wounding of the three men of the B.W.I.R., this no doubt refers to the 4th Battalion who had joined the Group on the 25th of the month).
 
As the month of July dawned, yet more Labour Companies had arrived in the Fifth Army area during the remaining days of June. Routine Order 1030 received by the Assistant Director of Labour, Fifth Army, now stipulated that from the 30th inclusive, the A.D.L. was to allott exclusive permits for civilian labour. To administer this task, a Civilian Labour Bureau was opened in the town of Poperinghe and by the middle of July, in excess of 2,700 civilian men and women were employed in a variety of tasks ranging from laundries, the construction of roads etc. (Source:- T.N.A. WO95/537/6).
A total of eight Labour Companies were now about to be lent to the First French Army on a temporary basis that would ultimately be administered by the 38th Labour Group. These companies, the 126th, 128th, 148th, 150th, 154th, 155th, 161st and the 171st respectively (Source:- 38th Labour Group, WO95/571/1), these companies would remain under the control of the D.A.D.L. 8th Corps and although employed by the French, they would draw their rations from the nearest British Railhead. With camps and billeting arrangements allocated by the French, the A.D.L. Fourth Army would later take over the responsibility of this Group.
It was on the 2nd of July that both the 4th and 88th Battalions of the British West Indian Regiment departed 31st Group but it was on the 8th of the month, that two men of the 13th Labour Company were unfortunately killed, Private Gavin Brown and Private Francis McCormack, both formerly of the Seaforth Highlanders. (Authors note:- Both men recorded in the narrative of the 31st Group, T.N.A. WO95/537/6 as killed on the following day). The exact circumstances surrounding their deaths are unknown but both men are now buried in Poperinghe New Military Cemetery. On the following day, another man was killed, Private George Banks of the 101st Labour Company, who had formerly served with the Royal Fusiliers. George, a native of Birchhanger, Essex, had originally attested for military service in February 1916 at Richmond, North Yorkshire, whilst employed as a Bricklayer by Boots & Co., Contractors, at Canada Camp. Mobilised in the following month, in April he was subsequently posted to the 34th (Labour) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, and posted overseas on the 7th of May to the newly formed 101st Labour Company. Killed in action on the 9th of July, George is now buried in Poperinghe New Military Cemetery. (Authors note:- His brother, John, would also serve but would unfortunately die whilst serving with the Royal West Kent Regiment of sickness on a hospital ship bound for India).
Number 104 Labour Company were added to the Group on the 10th of July but it was unfortunate that on the following day, Private Alfred John Pearce, a native of Burnham Westgate, Norfolk, was killed in action and four men of the Company wounded. An analysis of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Database reveals that one of these wounded men, Private William Joseph Newman, 62087, a native of Deptford, Kent, succumbed to wounds on the same day at one of the Casualty Clearing Stations located at Lijssenthoek.
It was on the 12th of July that the establishment of the 31st Group was to be drastically reduced when Numbers 101st, 172nd and the 75th Labour Companies departed in addition to "D" Company of the 5th (Labour) Battalion, Royal Engineers. Colonel Truscott now made a 'veiled comment' as to the situation he and the Group found themselves stating "I am now left with 5 Companies only i.e. 13 - 25 - 40 - 65 - 104".
His Majesty the King also accompanied by the Prince of Wales visited the area in July to view the battlefields at Messines and Wytschaete in addition to a tour of some of the areas to the rear. As Queen Mary conducted a series of visits to hospitals, the Royal Party concluded their visit to France and Flanders, a fourth visit to the front that had lasted for a duration of twelve days and that had encompassed tours of the Somme, Vimy Ridge and an 'amusing ride' in a 'Tank'. Although the War Diary of the A.D.L., Fifth Army (WO95/537/6) records the visit by the King to the 'vicinity' as on or about the 15th, it was in fact some days previously but possibly not recorded due to the need for utmost secrecy.        

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The Graphic Dated The 21st Of July, 1917

Captioned "Talking To An Infantryman In His Marching Kit," the above photograph actually depicts a Private of the 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment in conversation with His Majesty the King, the original photograph being catalogued by the I.W.M. Photographic Archive as taking place at Wormhoudt (Q 5600) with a production date of the 6th of July 1917. Although there is no record of the King visiting labour units during his tour in Flanders, a Special Order issued by General Headquarters and dated the 14th of July paid particular attention to those performing duties behind the front and at home, an extract of which follows:-
 
"Nor do I forget the valuable work done by the various departments behind the fighting line, including those who direct and man the highly developed system of railways and other means of communication. Your comrades, too - the men and women of the industrial army at home - have claims on your remembrance for their untiring service in helping you to meet the enemy on terms which are not merely equal, but daily improving".
 
There were however plaudits issued by the D.A.D. Q.M.G., Fifth Army, Temporary Major-General Harry Neptune Sargent, C.B., D.S.O., from the Eighteenth Corps Commander, Major-General (Temporary Lieutenant-General), Sir Frederick Ivor Maxse, K.C.B., C.V.O., D.S.O. (Source:- T.N.A. WO95/537/6).
 
"The Army Commander wishes to express his satisfaction of the good work done in arranging and handling the very large amount of ammunition which has been brought into the Army Area during the last 6 weeks.
 
The work carried out in this connection reflects great credit on all concerned owing to the punctuality of completion of the necessary dumps and the adequate arrangements made at railheads and smaller dumps to protect the ammunition against damage.
 
Excellent service has been rendered, often under very difficult and dangerous conditions, by the railway personnel, mechanical transport drivers, ordnance, artillery, and other personnel employed in off-loading and dumping duties; and by the Labour Companies and native West Indian Troops employed at railheads".
 
(signed)
 
H.N.SARGENT
Major General
19-7-17.         D.A. & Q.M.G. Fifth Army
A.D.L., FIFTH ARMY. L5/1175
 
This build up of vast quantities of ammunition was necessary for the next offensive operation to be conducted in the Ypres Salient, namely the "Battle of Pilckem Ridge" which was to be launched on the 31st of July. Both Second and Fifth Armies were to be supported by over 2000 artillery pieces of various calibres performing a complex fireplan that for the 'Creeping Barrage' alone would witness over half of the field guns employed on this task firing over one thousand five hundred tons of ordnance per hour.
As the stockpiling of ammunition continued and other various tasks were performed by the 31st Group, it was on the 22nd of July that two men of the 13th Labour Company were wounded.
On the following day, the 1st Canadian Labour Battalion arrived in addition to the 6th Battalion, Royal Engineers and the 159th, 126th, 73rd and 32nd Labour Companies. With these units now administered by the Group, there were also changes in the establishment when at midnight, the 13th, 25th, 40th, 65th and the 104th Labour Companies departed, the 40th and the 13th Labour Companies being subsequently posted to the 59th Labour Group respectively.
 
59th Labour Group
 
Under the command of Brevet Colonel Herman Witsius Gore Graham D.S.O., the 59th Labour Group Headquarters had been formed in May 1917 from the Battalion Headquarters of the 20th (Labour) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment). During the following month the Group departed the Somme area and proceeded to Belgium, Headquarters initially being established west of Brandhoek. Subjected to numerous instances of hostile shell fire, it was on the 3rd of July that the camp occupied by the 24th Labour Company, formerly the 12th (Labour) Battalion, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment), was shelled resulting in the deaths of four men and the wounding of eight others of which two men remained at duty. Of the four men killed, three are buried in Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery whilst Private Henry Dobinson aged 28 years, a resident of Hunwick, County Durham, is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.
On the 4th and the 5th, 59 Group Headquarters moved twice, finally establishing a position in Brandhoek itself and after a series of further casualties, it was on the 12th that Headquarters moved once again to a position just on the western outskirts of Poperinghe.
It was then on the 24th that the 40th Labour Company along with the 13th and 144th Labour Companies now joined the Group, the latter as part of 18th Corps, comprising of the following units:- "D" Company, 5th (Labour) Battalion, Royal Engineers, 13th, 40th, 144th Labour Companies and the 48th Chinese Labour Company.
In preparation for the forthcoming offensive and with many labour units operating in a relatively confined area, it was deemed by the A.D.L., Fifth Army, that a new scheme for operational activities was to be adopted. To ease congestion, Labour Groups were now as of the 26th, to be arranged on specific tasks as opposed to being allocated to areas. To this end, 1 Group in each Corps were to be allocated for Army Railheads, whilst 1 Group in each Corps were to be allocated for Corps Railheads. Further to this reorganisation, 1 or 2 Groups would be allocated for Transportation, in Second Corps, 1 Group for Broad Gauge and 1 Group for Light Railways. This change in organisation would come into effect on "Z" minus 2, i.e. two days before the commencement of offensive operations, all Groups then positioned or placed where they were to be required on "Z" Day by was was termed as their "Employers".
As of the 24th of July, both the 40th and the 144th Labour Companies were employed by the A.D. Roads whilst "D" Company, 5th (Labour) Battalion, R.E., and the 13th Labour Company along with the 48th Chinese Labour Company were employed on Railheads. Exposed to long range enemy artillery fire, it was on the 29th that the camp occupied by the 40th Labour Company was shelled, 2 men being subsequently wounded. A further addition to the Group was added when on the 29th of July, the 56th Chinese Labour Company were taken on strength but it was on the last day of the month, the day of the commencement of the "Battle of Pilckem Ridge," that the 40th Labour Company suffered three more casualties when two men and Second-Lieutenant J.D. Davidson was wounded. (Authors note:- Not traced).
 
August: Transfer To The 57th Group
 
As offensive operations were hampered by rain on the opening afternoon of the battle, the 13th Labour Company also suffered one man wounded by enemy artillery fire. The 1st of August would witness the redesignation of "D" Company, R.E., to that of "D" Platoon, 704th Labour Company, and it was also on this date that the 58th Chinese Labour Company joined and were subsequently administered by the 59th Group. In the following days, the 40th Labour Company suffered three more casualties from hostile artillery fire, one man of the 13th Labour Company, Private John Cruickshank, a native of Darnick, being killed during an air raid on the 5th of August. On the following day, the 70th Labour Company joined the Group but it was on the 7th that an unfortunate accident occurred to some men of the 144th Labour Company. The exact circumstances of the incident are unknown however possibly during the course of unloading ammunition, Private Henry James Barden, a married man with a family of Greenhithe, Kent, was killed in an explosion that also wounded three other men.
There was now about to be another change in administration when on the 8th of August, Edmund and the men of the 40th Labour Company departed the Group for the 57th Labour Group under the command of 19th Corps, Fifth Army. Formed at Bapaume on the 14th of May 1917 and under the command of Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Kyme Cordeaux, at the end of the month the Group had journeyed northwards to the Ypres Salient and had established its Headquarters at 90, Rue d'Elverdinghe, Poperinghe. (Authors note:-Later documents record the address as Number 40). The month of July would witness the relocation of Group Headquarters to 44 Rue de Cassel, Poperinghe, due to their former location being placed outside of the administrative area of 19th Corps respectively. July, as of the month previously, consisted of the Group employed on Army and Corps Ammunition Dumps and also Railheads under the commands of the Corps Roads Officer (C.R.O.) and the Assistant Director Roads (A.D.R.).
 
The units that comprised the Group, had, as during the previous month, been exposed to sporadic shelling by long range enemy artillery. Typically, the enemy would send over about half a dozen shells, followed by a lull of a number of hours. In one such incident recorded on the 12th in the narrative of the Group contained in T.N.A. WO95/571/1/2, 30 casualties were sustained when one shell detonated. Although this may have occurred some days previously and the unit not identified, the outcome may have been even more devastating. The high explosive shell in question, possibly fired from an 11 inch naval gun, exploded on contact with the ground within 10 yards of Group Headquarters just as a party of men were being marched along the road to the baths. Detonating in meadowland that happened to be quite soft, those who were either killed or wounded were 15 yards from from the explosion, the latter it was noted, of a more horizontal nature as opposed to the vertical.
 
The shelling by enemy high velocity guns continued targeting roads and railways and their associated sidings. In addition, enemy aerial activity continued unabated, both threats resulting in yet more casualties being sustained by the Group. It was on the 18th of July, no doubt as a consequence of requests by the A.D.L. Fifth Army for more Chinese Labour Companies, that the 49th Chinese Labour Company under the command of Acting Captain Thomas Patrick McFarlane reported for duty and were subsequently administered by the Group. Both the 124th and the 22nd Labour Companies, the latter containing Private Fred Walker, now departed the group on the 24th whilst joining to replace them on this date were the 188th and the 194th Labour Companies respectively. Changes in the dispositions of two companies occurred on the 25th instant when the 31st Labour Company moved from map reference L.14.d.7.2. (north of Abeele) to H.7.c.6.3. (south-east of Brandhoek), and the 188th Labour Company from the latter position to G.14.a.1.7. on the southern outskirts of Poperinghe. Joining the 188th Labour Company at this location on the 28th were the 55th Chinese Labour Company, the latter, suffering their first casualty on the last day of the month when Labourer Yu En P'eng met his death of causes unknown. "A Good Reputation Endures Forever".
 
On the 1st of August another Chinese contingent arrived to bolster the Group, namely the 59th Chinese Labour Company who were to be located at L.9.c.2.4. some distance to the north of Abeele. To increase the establishment yet further, the 746th Area Employment Company, under employment of the Provost Marshall, arrived on the 6th and subsequently took up billets at the Rue de l' Hopital, close to the famous officers club, "Skindles". The establishment received yet another unit, the 40th Labour Company, on the 8th, whereupon Edmund and his company proceeded to camp at map reference H.2.d.6.4. west of Vlamertinghe. Their arrival however was met in the evening or night by an unknown quantity of enemy artillery shells that ultimately resulted in the company suffering eight casualties, five of the men being unfortunately killed.          

Private Percy William Baxter
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Hull Daily Mail Dated The 3rd Of September 1917

Percy William Baxter was born in 1878 at Sculcoates, Hull, to parents Henry, occupation, a Builder, and Mary Hannah Baxter, the family residing in premises located in Arthur Street. A relatively middle class family, by the year of 1901 his father was employed as a Clerk of Works, Percy at this juncture finding employment as a Fish Trader, a profession he would be associated with for the remainder of his life. With his father dying in 1911, at this point in time, his whereabouts are unknown but he was possibly residing in Bradford employed as a Fish Merchant. Surving service documents dated 1917 record his address at this period as Number 2, Shearbridge Road, Listerhills, Bradford. Having deemed to have enlisted on the 26th of February 1917 at Bradford, his recorded age was that of 39 years and 316 days, his next of kin, his mother, residing at 31 Exmouth Street, Hull. Originally allocated to the 6th Infantry Labour Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and numbered 65554, in just a matter of a few days Percy was transferred to the 1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment. Renumbered 33575 and posted overseas on the 12th of March 1917, he was subsequently renumbered upon formation of the 40th Labour Company, 23448. As regards health, Percy suffered from numerous health complaints as stated on his initial medical examination and it was on the 17th of May that he was admitted to the 6th London Field Ambulance, 47th Division, located at Remy Siding (Lijssenthoek) suffering from an inguinal hernia. Transferred to the 17th Casualty Clearing Station also located here, he was then later transferred to the 13th General Hospital located at Boulogne. His condition was recorded as "serious" and would, as recorded "will interfere with his future efficiency as a soldier". There is no record of Percy undergoing an operation but in all probability this happened as he was then posted to the 1st Convalescent Depot also located at Boulogne June. The following annotation in his documentation is at the least difficult to decipher however upon posting the 3rd Rest Camp, he was classified as "unfit" but proceeded to rejoin the 40th Labour Company on the 21st of June. Killed during the incident that occurred on the 8th of August, the Hull Daily Mail dated the 3rd of September 1917 published the following article:-
 
"Mrs M. Baxter, 31, Exmouth-street (late 44, Granville-street), has received the news that her second son, Private Percy W. Baxter, Lab. Batt., has been killed by a shell while on active service in France on August 9th, 1917. He was well known on the Hull Fish stage, but for some time previous to joining the army was manager for a high class fish and game dealer in Bradford, and was to have been married this year. Mrs. Baxter has received kind letters of sympathy and condolence from his Majesty the King and Queen, Lord Nunburnholme, Colonel Easton, Major Hood, of the Lb. Batt., and many others. She has also four other sons in his Majesty's forces, two of whom have been seriously wounded - one badly gassed and one has just recovered from trench fever. Another son joins the army in a few weeks, while another in the merchant service out of Liverpool has been twice attacked by submarines. The eldest is conditionally exempted".
 
Raistrick Holmes, a native of Bradford, Yorkshire. Raistrick was born at Bradford in 1896 to parents Benjamin, occupation, a Tailor, and Alice Ann Holmes, the family were residing at Hill Top, Thornton, Bradford. Employed as a Dyers Labourer, he attested for military service at Bradford on the 9th of October 1916 and was subsequently called up for service on the 27th of February 1917. Surviving service documents point to the fact that he may have been originally destined for service with the Durham Light Infantry however he was subsequently transferred to the 1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment and numbered 33046. Upon transfer to the 40th Labour Company, Raistrick was renumbered as 23613 and killed on the 9th of August 1917 aged 21 years. Both he and Percy Baxter are now buried in Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery.
 
Tom Harry Downes, of Halifax. Born in 1876 at Halifax, Tom was the son of Edward Downes, occupation, a Carpet Weaver, and Fanny Downes, the family residence being established at Crossley Hill in the Skircoat Green area. With his father dying during the course of the following year, by the year of 1881 the family were still residing at the same address and being financially supported by the eldest members of the family who were employed in the textile industry. In the year of 1891 and now residing at premises located in Chapel Lane, Tom aged just 14 years had also found employment within the industry. Upon the death of his mother in 1895, by the year of 1901 Tom had taken up residence with his brother, Arthur, residing in premises located in Cobden Street, Sowerby Bridge, Tom now describing his occupation as that of a Brewers Carter. In the census of 1911 and now aged 33 years, he was residing with his married sister Betsey at Number 19, Belmont Place, Parkinson Lane, Halifax, and was now employed as a Cart Driver for a Grocery Dealer. (Authors note:- Messrs. G. Webster and Son's of Silver Street).
Deemed to have enlisted on the 24th of June 1916, Tom was called up and mobilised for military service on the 26th of February 1917 aged 41 years and 112 days. Akin to Raistrick Holmes, he was also originally destined for service with the Durham Light Infantry but transferred to the 1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment, and numbered 33631. Transferred to the 40th Labour Company upon formation and renumbered 23540, Tom was also a victim and is now buried in Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery. A newspaper article published in the Halifax Evening Courier and dated the 31st of August 1917 offers a few short lines:-
 
"SEVEN TIMES REJECTED - NOW KILLED.
 
Pte. Tom Harry Downes (23540), 19, Belmont place, Halifax, was killed on Aug. 9 by a shell explosion. He was attached to one of the Labour Battalions in France, joining in February of this year, having previously been rejected seven times. 41 years of age he was in the employ of Mr. Webster, grocer, Silver-street. He received his early education at Dudwell School".   

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Halifax Evening Courier Dated The 5th Of September 1917

"Harry" (Henry) Brown, a native of Earsdon, Tyne and Wear. Henry Brown was born in 1890 to parents William, occupation, a Railway Signalman with the N.E.R. Co., and Ann Ellen Brown (nee Coulson). The youngest of five children, the family were residing in 1891 at premises located at Store Cottages. A further child, Sarah, was to be also born later that same year however tragically she would die in 1893 aged just two years. In the year of 1900, William would unfortunately die at the untimely age of 44 years after 25 years service with the Railway at Holywell Siding. Financially, the family must now have struggled to make ends meet with four sons working in the coal mines, possibly at Holywell Colliery, a dangerous occupation that resulted in numerous fatalities at this particular 'Pit'. His mother would remarry in the year of 1904 and by the recording of the next census in the year of 1911, Harry would be residing with his mother and stepfather at Earsdon, his occupation being described as a Coal Mine Labourer (Above Ground). Entering a union of marriage in that same year with one Miss Florence Harrison, the daughter of Mr. Henry Harrison, a Coal Miner (Hewer) of New Delaval, an influential and well respected member of the local community. The marriage would be blessed by the birth of two children, Catherine Ann in 1912, and a son, Ernest, in September 1915 respectively.
Despite the lack of surviving service documents, Harry enlisted or attested for military service at Whitley Bay circa mid 1916. Mobilised in February 1917, he was subsequently posted to the 6th Infantry Labour Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, before being transferred to the 1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment, and numbered 33839. Posted overseas in March 1917, upon formation of the 40th Labour Company Harry was renumbered 23461. Killed in action on the 9th of August, the Morpeth Herald dated the 31st of August published a small article as to his death:-
 
"Private J. (sic) Brown, of Earsdon, has been killed in action. He was a surface worker and was employed at Holywell Colliery. He was a member of the Labour Battalion. Several of his comrades were killed on the same day by a shell. He leaves a widow who is a daughter of Councillor H. Harrison, New Delaval. There are two children".
 
Buried in Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, in addition to his place of burial, Harry is also commemorated on the Earsdon War Memorial in addition to being commemorated on his parents grave located in St. Alban's Churchyard.
 
Joseph Dyson, a married man and a native of New Mills, Derbyshire. Joseph was born at New Mills in 1881 to parents Robert, occupation, a Stone Fettler, and Alice Dyson, the family comprising of three other children residing with their maternal grandmother at premises located in Bridge Street. Unfortunately in the year of 1883, Joseph's brother Robert would die aged just seven years. In the next census taken in 1891, his father would now describe his occupation as that of a Stone Quarryman, Joseph, now aged ten years, attending school. The fortunes of the family appear to have progressed when in the year of 1901, Robert had now become an 'employer' managing a Stone Quarry, Joseph's brother William also being employed in the business. Of Joseph himself, now aged nineteen years, he had found employment as a Printer's Labourer. Courting one Miss Annie Clarke, the couple were married at the Church of the Annunciation (St. Mary's Roman Catholic Chapel), New Mills, on the 26th of October 1909. Establishing their marital home at Number 31, Bridge Street, the couple were blessed with the birth of twin daughters in the month of January 1915, Winifred and Alice respectively. Describing his occupation as that of a Paper Cutter, Joseph would in the year of 1916 attest for military service.
 
Attesting for military service at Buxton on the 31st of August 1916, it appears that he had some previous military service however this is impossible to decipher on surviving service documents. In a continuation of the latter, there are ambiguous annotations in Army Form B. 178A 2 that point to the fact that Joseph may have enlisted into the Special Reserve in November 1912 but was rejected for service in the Regular Army after a medical examination conducted on the 7th of December 1915 that concluded that he had 'Flat Feet' and was "unfit for service".
On the 11th of September 1916 at Derby, he stated that he suffered headaches due to a kick in the head ten years previously in addition to the Medical Officer recording that he had varicose veins " but not sufficient to cause rejection". Army Form B. 178A, "Used for Special Reserve recruits and Special Reservists enlisting into the Regular Army" which contains the above details then records his eventual posting to the Durham Light Infantry and the Lincolnshire Regiment respectively.
Placed on the Army Reserve on the 1st of September 1916, he was then mobilised on the 31st of March 1917. Initially posted to the 25th (Works) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and numbered 71594, on the 13th of April, Joseph was then transferred to the 1st Infantry Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment on the 30th of that same month and renumbered 41040. Posted overseas on the 1st of May 1917 and killed in action just over three months later, Joseph is also buried with his comrades in Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery. In addition to his place of burial, Joseph is also commemorated on a Memorial Tablet at the Church of Annunciation and on the New Mills War Memorial located in St. George's Churchyard. A simple announcement of his death appeared in the Manchester Evening News dated the 24th of August 1917:-
 
"Private JOSEPH DYSON, of New Mills, a well-known Roman Catholic and a member of the Amateur Dramatic Society, has been killed. He was 36, married, and had two children".
 
Edmund and the men of the 40th Labour Company no doubt felt their loss deeply. On the following day, the Company moved camp to map reference G.6.c.0.4., a position just to the north of Red Farm, also known as Gwent Farm, north-west of Brandhoek. As the "Battle of Third Ypres" was about to move into its next phase, the "Battle of Langemarck" that would commence on the 16th of August, the Group, in 19th Corps area, would be constantly asked to perform the impossible with casualties ever increasing.      

Extract Of Trench Map
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Belgium, Edition 5, Sheet 28 N.W. Ordnance Survey June 1917

As of the 5th of August, the number of men employed on a variety of duties is simply staggering. A report, recorded as D.468., A.D.L., Fifth Army. L5/1023/3 and dated the 7th of August, states that there were 41,531 personnel employed with an average of 10.6% of them resting on a daily basis. With an effective strength 46,606, the report, compiled by Second-Lieutenant Hew Congreve Kennedy, D.A.D.L., 19th Corps, is contained in the Fifth Army Assistant Director of Labour War Diary (WO95/537/6) and is lengthy and concise. Despite these vast numbers, yet still more men were required for duty. As a consequence, an application was made to General Headquarters on th 12th requesting for three more White Companies for A.D. Roads for 14th, 18th and 19th Corps respectively. It was envisaged that one of these Companies, on arrival, would relieve the 53rd Labour Company who had been working in the forward area for some considerable time under 29th Group, 2nd Corps administration.. For Private Ernest Henry Sutcliffe, a married man of Carr Lane, Slaithwaite, Yorkshire, this relief would come too late. Killed in action on the 17th of August, Ernest is now buried in The Huts Cemetery, near Dickebusch, and would leave behind a widow and son to mourn his death.
 
57th Group was to be expanded further when on the 18th of August, the 26th Labour Company arrived from the Third Army and proceeded to map reference G.12.c.4.7., south-west of Brandhoek and to the east of Yoke Cottage. Allocated to A.D. Roads, upon the arrival of the 123rd Labour Company from Third Army, the latter was subsequently posted to the 29th Labour Group thus relieving the 53rd Company who now came under the administration of the 57th Group on the 21st and proceeded to map reference G.12.c.3.4. south of Yoke Cottage.
 
As of the 21st of August, the 57th Labour Group now comprised of fourteen units:- 31st, 131st, 178th, 188th, 194th, 40th, 26th, 53rd Labour Companies, and the 746th Area Employment Company, Bermuda Royal Garrison Artillery, 4th Battalion, British West Indies Regiment and the 49th, 55th, and 59th Chinese Labour Companies. Up to this date, the 31st, 178th, 40th, 26th and the 53rd Labour Companies were employed on forward road work from Vlamertinghe to Ypres and in the latter itself. It was these companies therefore that bore the brunt of the casualties sustained by the 57th Labour Group up until this date. The 31st Labour Company for example, formerly the 17th (Labour) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, appears to have suffered numerous casualties, Privates Sidney Heathcote, William Welch and Herbert Dawson all succumbing to wounds received on the 17th of August at one of the numerous Casualty Clearing Stations located at Lijssenthoek. Of the 40th Labour Company, one man was killed on the 22nd, Private Isaac Jackson Davidson, 23541, whilst on attachment to the 31st Labour Group Headquarters. Located west of Brielen, it was on the night of the 22nd that the area was subjected to heavy enemy artillery fire forcing the men to take cover in dug-outs. Unfortunately, one dug-out next to that of Colonel Truscott was blown in killing four Other Ranks, three from Headquarters Staff, Privates Davidson, George Herbert Ball, 122403 and Frank Harry Fenton, 78056, and one man attached from the 126th Labour Company, Private Albert Watkins, 75452, respectively. As regards the exact circumstances surrounding their deaths, two letters were published in the Bury Free Press dated the 8th of September 1917 in relation to Frank Fenton, a married man and a native of Ingham, Suffolk. The first was from the Group Adjutant, Temporary Captain Sydney Ralph Jenkins, M.C. Royal Engineers:-
 
"Dear Mrs. Fenton, - I very much regret to have to inform you that your dear husband was killed by a shell this morning while asleep in his dug-out. Death was instantaneous, so he suffered no pain. His personal effects will be forwarded to you as soon as possible. His funeral was to-day, and was attended by his comrades. He was an excellent man in all ways, and his loss will be felt by the whole group. Sympathising with you in your very great bereavement. - Yours faithfully, G. Jenkins (sic), Captain and Adjutant, No. 31 Labour Group".
 
A second letter dated the 25th of August was posted to Mrs. Fenton by another member of the Headquarters Staff of the 31st Labour Group. Identified by the Author as one Corporal Francis Herbert Appleyard, 18644, a Law Clerk in civilian life and a native of Halifax, Yorkshire, Francis would be eventually awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
 
"Dear Mrs. Fenton, - On behalf of the N.C.O.'s and men on the staff of the 31st Labour Group Headquarters, I write to express our deep sympathy with you and the other members of your family on the death, early Wednesday morning last, of your husband. He and three others were, I am sorry to say, instantaneously killed by a shell while asleep. There are only 16 of us in these Group Headquarters. During the past few months  we have come to know one another very well indeed, and you will be able to realise the sad effect produced upon us when we lost four at the same time. Your husband's services were much appreciated, and he was always found cheerful and willing to do whatever he could. It will be some, if only poor, consolation to remember that death was instant and painless. The remains of the four men were interred in Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, and a cross, No. 12, with inscription, was placed upon the grave of your husband, which is situated in Row E, Plot 7. I return unopened some letters which have arrived since your husband's death. - Again assuring you of our united sympathy, I remain, yours very truly, Corpl. F.A.(sic) APPLEYARD".
 
Upon the conclusion of the "Battle of Langemarck" on the 18th of August, 'mixed' results were achieved both by infantry and artillery due to a number of factors. To the rear, it was now of paramount importance to resupply the guns and the infantry with all manner of materiel to continue the offensive. To this end, the 59th Chinese Labour Company were moved map reference G.10.a.8.5. to the east of Poperinghe and the location of the vital railhead known as Pacific Sidings. A hub of activity, the Company subsequently set about the unloading of ammunition trains and supplies, and rather disconcertingly "defective ammunition". These assigned duties however proved to be rather problematic as on the 28th, the camp occupied by the company was shelled. According to their contract, they were not to be exposed to shell fire or any area that was likely to be shelled and in due accordance they were subsequently moved to their original camp located at L.9.c.2.4. to the west of Poperinghe.
 
The month of August had witnessed the 57th Labour Group suffering one officer wounded, whilst ten Other Ranks had been killed and thirty-nine wounded. There was now about to be yet another restructure of some labour units that would inevitably include the 40th Labour Company. As the heavy rains of the month of August subsided, it was at the beginning of September that the weather had started to gradually improve. There had been however an unavoidable interval in offensive operations due to the condition of the terrain and the expenditure of ammunition by the artillery. With a need to ressuply, the continuation of offensive operations would therefore be resumed at a later date but as the new month now dawned, it is at this juncture that we will return to operations conducted by the 57th Labour Group.
 
September:- Transfer To The 38th Labour Group
 
On the 1st of the month, the 59th Chinese Labour Company were yet again shelled whilst performing duties at Oakhangar R.E. Dump located to the east of Poperinghe. Rather 'unkindly' it was recorded in the pages of the 57th Group narrative that the "Coolies scattered and could not be induced to return to work in any great number". It almost appears that their contracts or obligations had been ignored but finally they returned to camp, no doubt under some form of guard until a decision could be reached about their future duties. Although no casualties had been sustained during the incident, it was in future decided that only Chinese Labour units were to be employed outside areas likely to be subjected to shell fire, this being confirmed by the A.D.L., Fifth Army, on the 13th of September.
 
As of the 2nd of September, the units of the 57th Group were employed as follows:- 26th, 31st, 40th, 53rd and the 178th Labour Companies by the C.R.O. (Corps Road Officer) on forward roads, specifically the Vlamertinghe - Ypres Road, roads in and around Ypres itself, and the Ypres - Dickebusch Road respectively. Both the 4th Battalion, B.W.I. and the 131st Labour Company found themselves under the command of the O.O. (Ordnance Officer) Railhead Ammunition whilst the 188th Labour Company, under the command of the A.D. Roads, were employed at the Poperinghe Stone Siding and on the Poperinghe - Vlamertinghe Road. The 194th Labour Company were located at Brandhoek employed by the D.M.S. (Director of Medical Services) and were assisting at the Casualty Clearing Stations established in the area whilst the Bermuda R.G.A. were employed by the Corps Ammunition Railway Officer. Employed on the Quintin Stone Sidings west of Poperinghe were the 55th Chinese Labour Company whilst both the 49th and 59th Chinese Labour Companies performed a number of duties on roads, lorry standings and railheads in parties varying from 200 and 15 in strength.
 
On the the nights of the 3rd/4th and the 4th/5th respectively, the area around Poperinghe was subjected to bombing raids by enemy aircraft. Although numerous bombs were dropped over the area occupied by the 57th Group, fortunately there were no casualties. It was on the 7th of September that 19th Corps were relieved by 5th Corps and due to the illness of the D.A.D.L. (Deputy Assistant Director of Labour), the duties of the latter were temporarily administered by the 57th Group. There was now to be yet another reorganisation of units that constituted the Group but as this change was about to be realised, the 59th Chinese Labour Company was to be moved from their Compound to a position near Oakhanger, just to the east of Poperinghe. Subsequently on the 9th, the 1st and 22nd Labour Companies, the latter containing Fred Walker of Wetherby, moved into the Group from the 66th Group. In addition to this movement, the 26th, 53rd, 31st and the 178th Labour Companies now moved to the administration of the 66th Group whilst both the Edmund and the men of the 40th Labour Company and the 194th Labour Company were transferred to the 38th Group.
 
38th Labour Group
 
Formed at Fosseux, west of Arras on the 10th of May 1917, the 38th Group were placed under the command of Temporary Major Gilbert Stanley Heathcote formerly of the Notts. & Derby Regiment. His command of the Group was of a very short duration however and whilst the Group were stationed at Avesnes-le-Comte, west of Arras, it was on the 17th of May that Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Julian Simeon Marks, formerly of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, assumed command. At the close of the month, the 38th Group comprised of the following units, the 69th, 76th, 123rd, 154th, and the 155th Labour Companies. Having relocated the short distance to Fosseux during the month of May, it was on the 4th of July that the Group moved from Fosseux and journeyed northwards to Belgium and proceeded to come under the command of the 1st French Army at Roesbrugge, north of Proven. Now in Fifth Army area, the following Labour Companies, the 126th, 128th, 148th, 150th, 154th, 161st, 171st respectively, now came under the administration of the D.A.D.L., 8th Corps. As of the 7th of July, the 38th Group comprised of the following units:- 20th, 24th and the 102nd Labour Companies. Employed on railways and with Headquarters established near Red Farm, north-west of Brandhoek, the Group was now under the command of 19th Corps, Fifth Army.
It was on the 6th of August that Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Marks relinquished command of the Group, command now being assumed by Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Knox Armstrong, late Indian Army on the 9th. The day previously, the 85th Labour Company had joined the Group and as the month of August drew to a close, Temporary Captain and Adjutant Lionel Arthur Howard Stovell departed for hospital and then base, ultimately relinquishing his duties on the 22nd of September.
 
As far as can be ascertained, a search of the Commonwealth War Graves Database reveals that the Group had suffered minimal casualties during the month of July however on the 3rd of the month, four men of the 24th Labour Company, formerly the 12th (Labour) Battalion, West Riding Regiment, were killed in action. (Authors note:- At this juncture this Company were administered by the 59th Labour Group. The day in question witnessed two unfortunate incidents, one when the Vlamertinghe - Ypres Road was shelled whilst the men were proceeding to work, second, when their camp was shelled. Casualties amounted to four men killed and seventeen wounded). One man of the 20th Labour Company had succumbed to pneumonia on the 16th of July at the 63rd Casualty Clearing Station located at Mendinghem however at this juncture, the Company were administered by the 18th Labour Group. The month of August reveals that on the 6th of August, two men of the 20th Labour Company were killed in action, one man, admitted to the 62nd Field Ambulance attached to the 20th (Light) Division and located west of Elverdinghe, was however found to be dead on arrival. Of the 24th Labour Company, one man was killed in action on the 20th of the month, these respective casualties being buried in Canada Farm and Bedford House Cemeteries respectively.
 
September
 
Preparations were now proceeding for the next phase of the offensive that would ultimately lead to the commencement of the "Battle of the Menin Road Ridge," 20th - 25th of September 1917. As both the Second and Fifth Armies made preliminary preparations for the attack, the Labour Companies to the rear and in the forward areas were engaged on a multitude of tasks. It was on the 8th of September that the 24th Labour Company were transferred to the 66th Labour Group, the 102nd Labour Company having departed Fifth Army area completely and ceasing to be administered by the 38th Labour Group. As of the 8th, the Group now comprised of the following units:- 40th, 103rd, 194th, 124th Labour Companies and the Bermuda R.G.A. The 12th of September would witness the movement of two of the constituent units that comprised the Group, the 124th Labour Company moving from map reference H.9.a.44. that equates to a position in Vlamertighe itself to L.10.c.2.6. due west of Poperinghe, the 194th Labour Company moving from map reference G.6.a.3.4. to the north-west of Brandhoek and Vlamertinghe respectively. There is at this juncture no precise location for Edmund and the men of the 40th Labour Company however one may surmise that they were either performing duties in Ypres town or on the roads in close proximity. It was on the 16th of September 1917 that Edmund was unfortunately killed in action.
 
Sunday, 16th September 1917:-  The Death Of Private Edmund Frederick Durham
 
At some point during the course of the day, Edmund was killed by the explosion of an enemy artillery shell. (Source:- Yorkshire Evening Post dated October the 2nd, 1917). As Eva received the War Office Telegram notifying her of the death of Edmund, no doubt curtains were drawn in St. James Street as a mark of respect by families also waiting for news of their loved ones at the front. After serving a total of 189 days on the Western Front, Edmund was buried in Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, the final resting place of a number of his comrades who had also fallen. Containing 2,613 burials, 1,034 of their number are unidentified due to the cemetery being enlarged after the cessation of hostilities. In addition to his place of burial, Edmund along with his brother Arthur, are both commemorated on Bramley War Memorial, Leeds.
Eva would remarry in 1918 to one David Evans at Knaresborough and die in 1983 at the ripe old age of 93 years. As regards their only child Arthur, he would die at the untimely age of just 19 years on the 26th of July 1936 at Crookhill Hall Receiving Home, Conisborough, South Yorkshire. Possibly dying of tuberculosis, a notice of his death appearing in the South Yorkshire Times and Mexborough & Swinton Times dated the 31st of July 1936.                      

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