WW1

A Green Howard

This week I’m keeping it local again & we will take a look at my partner Stacey’s Great Great Great Uncle Abraham Outram of Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire

Abraham was born in Gomersal in 1877 to parents Levi & Martha Outram. His father was a Mechanic & his Mother a housewife. When born he was the 7th child of Levi having been preceeded by a half sister Martha Hannah (Levi had been married and lost his wife in childbirth before marrying Martha in 1869), a brother Ben, Hiram, sister Lizzie, Robert, Ruth followed in 1885 by a further sister Hannah where from the information that I can glean Abraham’s mother Martha died in childbirth or soon after

Growing up at Spen Dwellings on Spen Lane near Cleckheaton it must have been a huge struggle for his father Levi to bring up 7 children and to loose a wife for the second time & Levi dies in 1898 aged just 53

Now it becomes harder to trace Abraham. By the 1901 census Martha Hannah has married and is still living in Gomersal, Ben is married & lives in Cleckheaton, Hiram has emigrated to Australia arriving in Sydney on 27th June 1896, Lizzie is married & lives in Cleckheaton, Robert is married & lives Brighouse, Ruth is married & lives at Liversedge & at 16 years old Hannah lives with her sister Martha. But Abraham doesn’t show in 1901 or 1911 census at all

The next time that I find Abraham is in the Leeds Mercury newspaper of Monday 3rd April 1911 where an article for Doncaster records “ The minds of the relatives of Abraham Outram, the Cleckheaton missing man, have been relieved. It will be remembered that nearly a month ago Outram left work without any intimation. A letter has just been received showing that he is in work in Yorkshire town, and is quite well

Newspaper Article The Leeds Mercury (©The British Library Board)

At the outbreak of war Abraham, now aged 37, enlisted at Cleckheaton as Private 3/8825 into the 10th (Service) bn Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment) known commonly as the Green Howards who had held this title since the 1700s. The battalion was formed on 30th September 1914 at Richmond & Abraham began his training & would have been at Halton Park near Tring by October. They then moved to billets in Aylesbury in November until May 1915 before their return to Halton Park. In preparation for moving to the Western Front as part of 62nd Brigade ,21st Division they moved again in August 1915 to Witley Camp

See the source image
Postcard of Witley camp (Image: tudorrow.com)

On 9th September 1915 Abraham & the battalion left Folkestone and landed the day after at Boulogne. Movements saw them only 2 weeks after arrival in France at Noeux-les-mines then Vermelles and preparing for an attack on Hill 70 supporting the 18th London Regiment. What a baptism of fire this was! The battalion war diary records that A,C,D & part of B company took up their positions on the right of the Slag Heaps at Loos Pylons, the rest of B company across the road at the Chalk Pits on the right of the London’s on 26th September and at 3.15pm attacked & successfully took the first line. Casualties were recorded as heavy. During the night the companies moved to the left of the Slag Heap with the elements of B company remaining at the Chalk Pits and were preparing for a further attack

This attack came the day after at 9am on 27th and lasted all day with varying degrees of success. They lost heavily the Official History records including losing their CO Colonel Hadow who after going over the top rushing forward shouting “CHARGE” to spur on his men was killed, The Second in Command, Major Dent, did exactly the same and he was killed as well a further 11 Officers including the next 2 senior officers killed or wounded. The battalion casualties were around 300

What went wrong? A multitude of things to be honest. The Lack of experience was one thing with only 1 Officer out of the 4000 strong brigade had any experience. The orders that were received were extremely vague, only battalion commanders were shown objectives on a map and told to take Hill 70 IF the Germans still held it. Roads were extremely congested and the Green Howards moved along still wearing their full packs & along with their Battalion Transport all marching together in column they presented a prime target to the German Artillery who quickly spotted them and opened fire. The road was soon littered & blocked with what remained of the transport and dead & dying animals as well as men

They were also without guides now and were unfamiliar with the landscape and very soon they were lost. They couldn’t find Hill 70 and wandered straight on across the trenches into heavy German machine gun fire despite warnings from forward units. There are even reports of men rushing back who were mistaken for Germans and fired upon by their own men. Units got mixed up and stayed where they were. Hungry, cold & wet and without any leadership they received no commands. Towards the end of the day the men retreated back to bivouacs at Philosophe initially in good order but then as a rabble. It was a disaster and the lack of experience and disorganisation led to over 50,000 British casualties at Loos

Sadly like so many Abrahams service record doesn’t survive but from his medal roll he it states he was posted to 8th Battalion before rejoining the 10th battalion again so it’s possible that he was wounded at Loos and was then posted to this battalion whilst recovering before his return to the 10th. I can’t see any evidence of men in the 8th/10th War diaries that makes any mention of a transfer of troops in or out. If anyone has any ideas then please do let me know

By October the battalion has moved to the Armentieres area and the war diary is actually quite good for detail (bit macabre I know) as it records all those killed or wounded on each day regardless of rank with rank number and even company recorded. A researchers dream!! Abrahams name however doesn’t appear

The battalion remains in the trenches around Armentieres until mid April 1916 when they then move to the Somme arriving at Corbie then around Meaulte & Becordel. Despite the Battle of the Somme not yet commencing casualites continue to rise on a day to day basis as the battalion is subjected to shellfire and casualties occur in routine trench life & this is often overlooked when we talk about the Somme

Incredibly the War diary for 1st-3rd July records only that they took part in the Battle of the Somme & got as far as Crucifix Trench but that they couldn’t record any diary details as Colonel Eddowes had been sent back to England sick and had taken the details with him!!! A report however was made to 21st Division & the following details were obtained from the Divisional HQ diary & other sources

The 21st Division was assigned the area around the village of Fricourt to capture and move onwards past the Willow Stream, Fricourt Wood, Crucifix Trench & towards Bottom Wood. 62nd brigade & 10th Green Howards (Less 1 Company) were in reserve on 1st July in the area of Queens Redoubt as shown below

Trench Map showing 21st Division area 1st July

At 7.28am 3 mines dug by 178th Tunnelling Co Royal Engineers of 25,000, 15,000 & 9,000lbs were fired opposite the Tambour as a distraction to create craters to hopefully block German enfilade fire. A further mine of 2,000lbs was blown at The German Tambour and the 63rd Brigade, 10th West Yorkshires, with a front of 600yds, began their attack & were initially successfully but then the Germans turned their machine guns located in the Tambour & in Fricourt on them and disaster struck. They were quickly annihilated & only a small number of men made it to the German front line. To their left the 4th Middlesex despite coming under fire crawled into no man’s land & managed to advance in small parties to the German Support Line near the Sunken Road. Further North in 64th Brigade the 9th & 10th KOYLI supported by 15th Durham Light Infantry & 1st East Yorkshires closely behind them pushed on despite coming under the same heavy machine gun fire from Fricourt but also from their left at La Boiselle where the Royal Scots had been unsuccessful in their attack. The Sunken Road was captured by 8am and Crucifix Trench was reached by some men. Round Wood ( Toten Wald as the Germans called it) was taken by 9.45am. A German counter attack took place but was repulsed later and it was at this point that the 10th Green Howards were called up as reinforcements. They were sent to help the 64th Brigade. But despite further attacks no more advance could be made and the order was received at 4.35pm to consolidate. The 10th Green Howards moved from Lozenge Wood along Crucifix Trench to Round Wood at 10pm where they eventually made contact with 34th Division by 6am on 2nd July

To the South on the 7th Green Howards ( Who had been attached from 17th Division) front the attack got off to a bad start when one company advanced without orders at 7.45am and within 20 yds were wiped out. The 7th were not to attack until 2.30pm accompanied by the rest of 50th Brigade who remonstrated that it was useless to attack until the area assigned to the 10th West Yorkshires had been captured but orders were still received to attack. This was the strongest part of the defences around Fricourt between Wing Corner & German Tambour. The artillery had been unsuccessful in cutting the wire and only 4 small gaps were available and the deep dugouts were untouched. A familiar story by now of the 1st July is that within yards they were mown down. 15 officers & 336 men were lost. A handful who made it into Fricourt would be killed or captured later that night

The following day the Green Howards successfully pushed back German patrols near Fricourt Farm capturing 75 men & 2 machine guns. By 2pm the Green Howards had moved to the copse known as ‘The Poodles’ and were told to then link up with 17th Division. But this Division was being held up so the 10th occupied Crucifix Trench

By 12 noon 62nd Brigade had finally made contact with 34th Division and just over 3 hours later word was received that 21st Division would be relieved that night by 17th Division. The 10th Green Howards by evening had 2 companies in Crucifix Trench with the remaining 2 companies in the hedge joining Shelter Wood & Bottom Wood

On 12th July 62nd brigade was ordered to send patrols down the Contalmaison road towards Mametz Wood to link up with 1st Division And by the evening of 14th July 10th Green Howards found themselves on the Eastern flank of Mametz Wood & in 200yds of the Northern edge

The following day the war diary records that they buried their own & German dead then moving to billets in Boire on 17th July before moving to Arras on 28th July where they remained until September. They returned to familiar ground on the Somme and were posted to trenches at Guedecourt

Again going back to Abraham he’s shown next on his Medal roll as being with 7th bn Green Howards. When he joined them I don’t know, could he have been wounded on Somme and after recovery moved was posted to 7th? All just guess work I’m afraid unless anyone can help?

By early 1917 the 10th battalion is back where they started in and around Loos and in October they moved to the Ypres Salient to take their place,like so many others in the action known as Third Ypres or commonly as The Battle of Passchendaele

On 4th October in the Battle of Broodseinde they were in trenches at Black Watch Corner upto their knees in mud & water & this battle would cost them 334 casualties. The 7th bn would also take part here and so Abraham would likely have been involved in some form or another

The losses that both the 10th & 7th bn suffered saw both being disbanded in the changes made to the British Army in February 1918. And on 10th February 10 Officers & 200 Other Ranks are recorded as being transferred to 13th Bn Green Howards, part of 40th Division

The 13th were at this time at Belfast Camp Ervillers west of Mory before moving further back to billets at Bailleulval for training including with tanks. On 12th March they were at Hendecourt again in training but managing to take advantage of nearby baths in Blaireville

Always on readiness for an attack, on the night of 20th & in the early hours of 21st March 1918 they heard German gun fire. We know of course that this was the Spring Offensive launched by the Germans that I’ve mentioned in previous blogs

At 6am orders were received to ‘Stand To!’ and at 1.15pm the battalion left Hendecourt and were told to move to Hameloncourt. Once they moved further orders instructed them to move across open ground and to occupy the third line of defence near to St Leger together with the 12th Suffolks

They moved off in a diamond formation with C Company on the right front in touch with 12th Suffolks, A Company on the left front keeping in touch with C company with D company protecting the flanks and B company was in reserve

At 6pm battalion HQ was established at B.2.d (see Trench map 57c.NW) with B company close by. D company occupied the Army line astride Sensee Valley. At midnight A company sent a report that they had occupied the front line after German opposition

Battalion HQ then moved to the Sunken Road B.4.g with the support company in gun pits in the copse and the B company at battalion HQ

A & C companies attempted to approach their lines via the communication trench due east of b.4.b but a patrol reported that the enemy held it. A Lieutenant Beal then took a Lewis gin team and worked his way up bombing and firing the Lewis guns until they drove the Germans out and captured 4 machine guns. A Company then occupied the front line trench at the SE corner of St Leger Wood at B.5.a.40.70 running SSE for 250yds. C Company attempted something similar in the trench to the right but were met with heavy machine gun fire

At 7am on 22nd C Company with 2 platoons bombed the enemy out of the remaining trench killing 20 Germans and capturing further guns. However the Germans with an estimated 300 men launched an attack and drove them out

The situation was now critical and B Company in reserve were ordered to carry out an frontal attack to protect the right flank of A Company and the left flank of the Suffolks at Banks Wood. Leaving B.10.a at 11.45am they attacked NE alongside both sides of the reentrant with Artillery support. Covering 700yds they came within 50yds of the trench in the first barrage then as this lifted they attacked & took the line. Linking up with the Suffolks the line was complete at 12 noon

At 6.45pm orders were received that if the 34th Division retired the battalion was also to move back to the Army Line. This they were seen to do moving through St Leger and to the North of the Wood. Gradually the 13th retired much to the disgust of B Company who had to cover & were almost surrounded as the Germans advanced. Some were captured but most got away

It is at some point on this day 22nd March that Abraham Outram Aged 41 is presumed to have been killed. Losses for this period for 13th bn are recorded as 2 Officers killed, 45 OR ,7 Officers Wounded 109 OR and 104 OR missing

Abraham’s body was never found and he may still lay in this field pictured below around St Leger Wood

St Leger Wood (Authors Own Photo)

He is named on the memorial to the missing at Arras and also on the War Memorial in Cleckheaton

Abraham’s name Arras Memorial (Authors Own Photo)
Cleckheaton War Memorial (Authors Own Photo)

On 18th September 1919 his 6 brothers & sisters were each given a payment of £3 4s 8d and were awarded his medal the 1915 Star, BWM & Victory Medal

On a side note when we were visiting the St Leger there is a cemetery literally across the road from the wood and strangely this doesn’t contain any unknowns! However a few miles away at L’Homme Mort British Cemetery there are 104 unknowns and in particular an Soldier of the Great War Yorkshire Regiment. The chance that this is Abraham of course is slim but Stacey has adopted this man and we try and visit him whenever we’re in the area

L’Homme Mort British Cemetery (Authors Own Photo)

Sources:

The History of the Green Howards by Geoffrey & John Powell

Ancestry.com War Diaries 10th & 13th bn Yorkshire Regiment, 21st Division

Slaughter on the Somme 1 July 1916 Martin Mace & John Grehan

The Somme Day by Day Account Chris McCarthy

NLS Maps online

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