Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Private Herbert "Bert" Backhouse

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

S/23779
6th (Service) Battalion, Cameron Highlanders (Queens Own)
Died 28th September 1916, age 22

Cemetery : Wetherby Cemetery, Hallfield Lane, Wetherby, West Yorkshire
Grave Reference or Panel Number : U. "U". 13

Son of Albert and Sarah Backhouse of St. James Street, Wetherby.
 
Herbert was born at Wetherby in 1894 to parents Albert, occupation, a Reporter and Newspaper Proprietor, and Sarah Alice Backhouse (nee Whitfield), the family, including his younger brother Sidney, residing in 1901 in premises located in Grafton Square, off Walton Lane.
Herbert's father, Albert, had originally found employment as a young man with Henry Crossley, Proprietor of the Wetherby News as an Apprentice Printer however by 1891 and no doubt encouraged by Crossley, Albert found himself employed by the "News" as Reporter.
Whilst employed by Crossley, Albert came into contact with one George Henry Atkinson, the Foreman Printer of the "News". In 1891, both Backhouse and Atkinson acquired a rival newspaper and printing business, the "Northern Reporter" originally established by Robert Ryder, an Antique Book Seller and Stationer who had departed the town for Wednesbury, Staffordshire, some years previously. It would appear that Ryder had lost interest in the running of the "Reporter," the business subsequently being run by Jason Woodall (Senior), Postmaster at Wetherby, and then his son, Jason (Junior) before being acquired by Backhouse and Atkinson.
 
Running their newspaper business from the 'Old' Calvinist Chapel located in Victoria Street near the modern day Fire Station, tragically one child, Wilfred Whitfield Backhouse, would die in infancy in 1901. In 1903, a further son was born named John, Herbert having being sent at some point between this year and 1911 to Tadcaster Grammar School to receive further education. Upon leaving the school, Herbert then set about assisting his father in the family business, the 1911 Census describing his occupation of that of an Apprentice Printer.
With the family residence being established at Number 33, High Street, in early November 1915 Herbert made the decision to join the Colours. Tragically just a few weeks later, his mother Sarah would unfortunately die on the 26th of November at the untimely age of 53 years.
 
Enlistment & Home Service
 
Attesting for military service at Leeds in the early days of November 1915, his enlistment or attestation took place under the auspices of the Derby or Group Scheme i.e. voluntary enlistment. Subsequently placed on the Army Reserve, according to the year of his birth, 1894 respectively,  he was then classified as Group 4 and mobilised in January 1916. Despite the lack of surviving service documents, I surmise that he was initially posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Cameron Highlanders and after a period of training in Scotland, was then transferred to the 3/4th Battalion of the Regiment who by mid 1916 were stationed at Ripon, North Yorkshire. (Authors note:- The Medal Index Roll records service with the 1st Battalion. This possibly relates to the ultimate disbandment of both the 1/4th and the 3/4th Battalions, both eventually providing drafts for the 1st Battalion. As regards stations he served at, a newspaper article published after his death records service in Scotland and then Ripon).
 
Issued a four digit serial number, Ripon was at this juncture 'home' to the Third Line Training Centre, Highland Division. In March 1916, the 3/4th Battalion, Officer Commanding Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Horace William Kemble, had engaged in a 'lively' exercise with the 3rd Northallerton Battalion of the North Riding Regiment of Volunteers and in addition to field exercises, the various battalions of the Ripon Command had enjoyed a series of boxing and wrestling competitions held during the month at the Opera House, Ripon. Apparently not containing any pugilists of fighting prowess, the 3/4th Battalion however came to the fore in wrestling when on the 12th of April, Sergeant Urquart beat Private Harrison of the 3/7th Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders in a ten minute bout of "catch-as-catch-can" at the Opera House. (Source:- Leeds Mercury dated the 13th of April 1916). A football match was also played at Elland Road, Leeds, between the Glasgow Highlanders and the Highland Light Infantry on the 15th of April. With a crowd of three thousand attending, including many men from Ripon Camp, the Highlanders were victorious by two goals to nil. (Source:- Leeds Mercury dated the 17th of April 1916).
 
It was on the 8th of April that the 3/4th Battalion were now designated as the 4th Reserve Battalion. As the 1/4th Battalion had now been broken up in France some months previously, many officers now found themselves serving with the 4th Battalion. but the existence of the latter had already been decided. It was therefore instructed that the Battalion was also to be disbanded and absorbed by the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion based at Invergordon, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland. The excellent book, Steel And Tartan by Patrick Watt published by the History Press 2012 records that the 4th Reserve Battalion departed Ripon in two parties, one in July 1916 and another party in September respectively. I can only surmise therefore that Herbert was to be included in the last party but before his posting to the 3rd Battalion, he was subsequently posted overseas to the Western Front and active service.
 
Upon arrival in France in early August 1916, an analysis of other mens surviving service documents indicates that he was then posted to the 19th Infantry Base Depot located at Etaples. Destined as a draft to the 1st Battalion, this was changed at I.B.D. level and after a period of further training, Herbert, numbered S/23779, was posted to the 6th (Service) Battalion, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders later that month. Contained in one of a number of six batches of drafts to the battalion during the course of the month, the following are recorded as follows:-
 
2nd August   49 O/R's
15th August  50 O/R's
17th August  100 O/R's (From 2/4th Battalion)
21st August  30 O/R's
28th August  4 Second-Lieutenants & 4 O/R's
31st August  53 O/R's
 
If a newspaper article published after Herbert's death is accurate stating that he had only served two weeks at the front, I can only conclude that he was contained in the draft received by the battalion on the 31st of August 1916. Arriving whilst the battalion were holding trenches just to the north of Bazentin-le-Petit, Somme, the battalion, in division, were on the verge of participating in offensive operations to capture and seize the enemy held village of Martinpuich. As the division made their preparations for the "Battle of Flers - Courcelette," it is now that we turn our attentions to the 6th Cameron Highlanders and their respective division, the 15th (Scottish) Division.
 
6th (Service) Battalion, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
 
The 6th (Service) Battalion, Cameron Highlanders, were formed at Inverness in September 1914 as a consequence of the raising of Kitchener's Second New Army, "K2". Contained in the 45th Infantry Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division, the composition of the brigade was as follows:-
 
6th (Service) Battalion, Cameron Highlanders  O.C. - Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel James Cosmo Russell
 
6/7th (Service) Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers  O.C. - Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Ian Drumearn Gordon
 
13th (Service) Battalion, Royal Scots  O.C. - Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel George Martin Hannay
 
11th (Service) Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders  O.C. - Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Malcolm McNeill, C.M.G., D.S.O. 
 
Brigade Commander   Temporary Brigadier-General - William Henry Loraine Allgood
Divisional Commander - Major-General Frederick William Nicholas McCracken, C.B., D.S.O.
 
N.B. Ranks and designation of units as of September 1916.
 
15th (Scottish) Division:- The Formation & Training
 
Formed in September 1914 and moving to Aldershot, by the end of the month all units were virtually established. Despite a lack of trained officers and equipment, it was on the 26th of September that the fledgling division was inspected by His Majesty the King who was accompanied by the Queen, Princess Mary, Lord Kitchener and General Sir Archibald Hunter G.C.B, G.C.V.O., D.S.O., G.O.C. Aldershot Training Centre. Assembling at the Stanhope Lines (South Camp) and with the men parading in civilian clothes, upon dismounting the King and Queen then walked along the assembled men. Remarking on their good physique, upon the departure of the royal party, the men cheered enthusiastically. (Based on an article that was published in the Dundee Courier dated the 28th of September 1914).
As uniforms and equipment began to arrive albeit obsolete, a vile winter was spent in particular by the 45th Brigade in inadequate hutted accommodation at Bramshott Camp. As training continued, the local populace came to the assistance of the soldiers and a committee of local representatives was assembled that provided rooms for recreation, teas and suppers in addition to bathing facilities. The Y.M.C.A. also established huts that were capable of providing for over 12,000 men, one being opened on the 2nd of December 1914 by the Earl of Selborne. (Source:- Leeds Mercury dated the 4th of December 1914). Leave was granted for all men at Christmas however for those new recruits just posted to their respective units located at Bramshott, the possibility of leave granted was unlikely. Private Robert Lillie, S/7008, 11th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, had just arrived from the Regimental Depot located at Stirling. A native of Leitholm near Coldstream, Robert recorded his first impressions of the Camp in a letter, this being published in the Berwickshire News dated the 5th of January 1915, an extract of which reads:-
 
"On Thursday night, at 11 o'clock, 21 of us left for Bramshott. We had a long night journey in the train, arriving at our destination at 3 o'clock on Friday afternoon. There are a few thousand soldiers down here, all Scottish regiments. The camps are situated on a large moor, unfit for agricultural purposes. I don't think there are any drains about the place, for the mud is awful. Our work is by no means hard as yet, but we will likely get enough to do during the next few months. Some people say soldiers are not well fed, but I have no reason to complain about the food; it may not be just first quality, but there is always more than sufficient for everybody. The soldiers are all getting a week's holiday at New Year, but I don't know if I will get any, as I have just come from home. How are you getting on with your Recruitment campaign? I hope you can persuade some more Berwickshire youths to join the Army. Tell them from me it will make them better men than they will ever be by staying at home. -
I am, yours sincerely,
Pte. R. LILLIE,
11th Batt. A. & S. Highlanders.
Bramshott Camp, Liphook, Hampshire".
 
Robert would be posted overseas with the battalion in July 1915 but would be unfortunately killed in September 1918 whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment.
 
As Christmas passed and the New Year dawned, it was on the 22nd of January 1915 that the 15th (Scottish) Division was inspected by the French War Minister, Alexandre Millerand. Accompanied by Lord Kitchener and officers of the French Army, the inspection was brief after a trying march to Frensham Common. Appearing in kilt, the Regiments, though short of rifles, made a lasting impression on Millerand so cementing yet further the Entente Cordiale between the two nations. The Divisional History however paints a different picture of events, recording that the French Minister remarked to Lord Kitchener that " I see they have very few rifles".
In late February, the division ceased to be administered by the Aldershot Command and was transferred to the Southern Command with Divisional Headquarters being established at Cholderton, Wiltshire. Billeted in various locations, the 45th Brigade found themselves in billets at Basingstoke and as training contined apace, an issue of rifles enabled the men to conduct musketry training amongst other programmes of instruction.
As regards discipline within the ranks, an analysis of local newspapers records no instances of drunkeness or absenteeism as far as can be ascertained however their does appear to be various occurrences arising within other regiments billited in the town.
On the 22nd of March, Major-General Colin John Mackensie C.B. who had assumed command of the division in December 1914 viz Major-General Alexander Wallace C.B., was replaced by Major-General Frederick William Nicholas McCracken, C.B., D.S.O. An experienced officer, McCracken's ethos was discipline, and for this he was well respected both by his men and those in higher command.
 
In April, the division moved once again, Divisional Headquarters being established at Marlborough whilst the various brigades, namely the 44th, 45th and the 46th relocated to Chisledon Camp, Draycott Camp and to Parkhouse Camp located near Bulford respectively. Training continued that comprised of route marches and both brigade and divisional training as 'specialists' such as those trained on the Lewis gun, were finally issued 'real' guns as opposed to training on 'dummies' constructed from wood.
In relation to the 10th (Service) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, 44th Brigade, Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart MacDougall expressed his and the battalion's gratitude to the populace of Cirencester. In a letter addressed to the High Steward of Cirencester, Mr. Edward C. Sewell, the Gloucestershire Echo dated the 9th of April published the following article:-
 
"On Thursday morning, Mr. Edward C. Sewell, High Steward of Cirencester, received a letter of thanks from Lieut.-Col. MacDougall, commanding officer of the 10th Gordon Highlanders, who left Cirencester on Monday morning. The letter was addressed from Draycott Camp, near Swindon, and was as follows:-
Dear Mr. Sewell, - I wished before leaving Cirencester to have thanked you in person for your kind letter regarding my battalion, but owing to the amount of work consequent on moving to this camp I was unable to do so. I cannot tell you how much appreciated your letter has been by myself and by all ranks. Our stay in Cirencester was a happy one, and it will be long before the 10th Gordons forget your beautiful town and the many kindnesses of its inhabitants".
 
The division, in the coming weeks, was inspected by various officers and higher command but it was on the 21st of June that the officers and men of the 15th (Scottish) Division were visited by His Majesty the King once again. Assembling at Sidbury Hill on the edge of Salisbury Plain, a ceremonial march-past was performed, the divisional history recording that this was a remarkable feat as this manoeuvre had never been practised even before it was conducted. As the men retired to their various camps with no doubt many compliments being exchanged as to their 'performance,' it was in the evening of this very same day that a tragic accident befell the men of the 11th Argyll & Sutherlands.
As a party numbering 100 men of the battalion proceeded from Chisledon Camp (Draycott Camp) to bathe in Coate Reservoir near Swindon on the late afternoon of the 21st, two men of "A" Company became separated, their absence not being noted for some considerable length of time. It transpired that one Private Robert Robb, aged 35 years, had become entangled in weeds whereupon Private John Sneddon, aged 22 years, attempted a rescue. With both men now in difficulties, their cries for help were heard by Temporary Captain John Rennie Manderson who entered the water fully clothed but he too got into difficulties when about fifteen yards distance from the side of the reservoir. At this point, Temporary Second-Lieutenant James Farquharson entered the water and with the assistance of Temporary Lieutenant Reginald Redfern Langtry and others, the Captain was brought ashore. Farquharson then attempted to rescue Private Robb but as he managed to get hold of him, the latter struggled violently and unable to maintain his hold of him under the armpit, Robb unfortunately sank under the water. Farquharson now also found himself in some difficulties as his feet became tangled in the weeds but somehow he managed to struggle free. Langtry now attempted to rescue Private Sneddon but in a repeat of this whole tragic affair, he lost his grip of Sneddon who went under the water and did not rise again. Eventually the bodies of both men were recovered later, both men being buried with full military honours in Chiseldon Cemetery, Wiltshire. (Source:- Based on an article published in the Daily Record dated the 28th of June 1915).
 
Western Front
 
On the 4th of July 1915, orders were received for the 15th (Scottish) Division to mobilise. With officers and men recalled from leave, all necessary equipment was gathered, stores assembled and deficiences reported. The first parties to proceed overseas were the respective battalion machine gun detachments and transport who marched to Swindon and entrained for Southampton in the early hours of the 9th of July. At 4.45 p.m. on that evening, the Headquarters of the 6th Cameron Highlanders accompanied by "C" and "D" Companies entrained at Chiseldon Station and upon journeying southwards, arrived at Folkestone at about 10.30 p.m. that evening. Both "A" and "B" Companies were to follow and subsequently entraining at 5.05 p.m., they arived at Folkestone about half an hour after the leading parties respectively. Upon assembly, the battalion as a whole now embarked on the S.S. "Victoria" disembarking at about 1 a.m. early on the morning of the 10th of July. Proceeding to Ostrohove Camp located to the south-east of Boulogne, the other battalions that constituted the brigade also began to arrive to join the battalion at the camp however the stay of the brigade was to be of a very short duration.
 
At 6 a.m. on the morning of the 11th, the battalion marched from the camp and proceeded to the Pont de Briques Station south of Boulogne. It was here at 8.15 a.m. that the troop train containing both the Battalion Machine Gun Section and the Battalion Transport that had journeyed northwards from Le Havre was rendezvoused. With the 6th Battalion embarking on the train, the latter set forth once again northwards and at 12.30 p.m. Watten, north-west of St. Omer was reached whereupon the battalion detrained and marched a distance of four miles to Bayenghem (Bayenghem-les-Eperlecques) whereupon they proceeded to billet. Divisional Headquarters were then established at Tilques, whilst the remaining battalions of the brigade, the 11th Argyll & Sutherlands, 13th Royal Scots and the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers billeted at Nortbecourt & Mentque (Mentque-Nortbecourt) and the latter two battalions at Nortleillinghem (Nort-Leulinghem) respectively.
 
After a few days spent at Bayenghem, the battalion now commenced a series of moves. Setting forth from the latter place at 6 a.m. on the morning of the 15th, their destination was now Wallon-Cappel to the west of Hazebrouck which was reached at about 2.30 p.m. Covering a distance of over seventeen miles, the Battalion War Diary records that not one man fell out on the march and upon arrival the men proceeded to billet. Once again, their stay was of a short duration as on the following day at 7.50 a.m., the battalion marched a distance of over twelve miles to Ham-en-Artois north of Lillers whereupon they spent a wretched night bivouacked in a field in pouring rain. Proceeding to march into Fourth Corps area, First Army, the 6th Battalion moved to Hesdigneul (Hesdigneul-les-Bethune) on the 17th and bivouacked. There was now about to be a period of trench familiarisation and as a consequence on the morning of the 20th of July, orders were received that the Commanding Officer and Adjutant plus selected warrant Officers and N.C.O.'s were to be attached for a period of two days instruction to the 141st Infantry Brigade, 47th (2nd London) Division, and two days to the 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Division respectively. In addition to these orders, two companies were to be attached to a battalion of the 141st Brigade for two days instruction whereupon they in turn were to be relieved by the two remaining companies of the battalion. In due course, it was on the 20th that Headquarters plus "A" and "B" Companies were attached to the 20th London Battalion taking up positions with three platoons in the Firing Line, three platoons to "B" Line and two platoons respectively to Quality Street, "X" 1 Sector. Interchanging after a period of twenty-four hours, it was on the 22nd that Headquarters proceeded to Vermelles subsequently being attached to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Division, in the trenches in the "Y" 3 Sector. On this date also, "C" and "D" Companies relieved both "A" and "B" Companies in the "X" 1 Sector respectively. This period was however was not without incident as on the 22nd, Second-Lieutenant David Charles Heron Watson was wounded.