WW1

Remembrance Sunday

‘When you go home, Tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow we gave our today’

Ovillers Military Cemetery (Authors Own Photo)

Let us never forget all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice & all those who served & the many families & innocents who were affected by the cruelty of war, regardless of their nationality

Necropole Nationale Serre-Heburterne (Authors Own Photo)
Maissemy German Cemetery (Authors Own Photo)
Ayette Indian and Chinese Cemetery (Authors Own Photo)

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

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What is Remembrance?

Blue skies above Heckmondwike War Memorial ( Authors Own Photo)

Always a question that causes huge controversy & debates, especially so as we approach Remembrance Sunday which lets face it is going to seem incredibly strange this year. Most local services of remembrance will be cancelled or scaled back as the country continues to battle with Covid-19

Every year the nation gathers to remember its war dead on Remembrance Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of the month & the closest to the 11th November. The tradition originally began in 1919 a year after the end of the Great War where Mothers & Fathers who’d lost sons ( In some cases a daughter), Wives a Husband, Children a Father & Sweethearts a companion & lover joined veterans remembering their comrades at what was originally a temporary cenotaph in Whitehall, London on 11th November 1919. King George V had issued a proclamation calling on the whole nation to pause and observe a two minute silence in remembrance of those who had been lost in the Great War. Such was the popularity of the service in Whitehall that the cenotaph was made permanent in 1920 and continues to be the centre of our national commemorations to this day

King George V unveils the Centotaph in Whitehall 11th November 1920 (Image © IWM Q 31513)

War memorials were built in almost all cities, towns & villages up and down the country over the following years & these became the focal point of local remembrance services on 11th November

It wasn’t actually until 1939 and the beginning of the Second World War that it was decided that the Sunday closest to the 11th November would become the day of remembrance. The reason being that letting people pay their respects on a Sunday, their day off, would not disrupt important wartime production. Known as a day of dedication it lasted throughout the war & afterwards the government decided that this should continue & eventually it would become known as Remembrance Sunday with the 11th November becoming Armistice Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice which ended hostilities in the Great War

But for many families & veterans it would be all too much & too painful to remember loved ones & comrades at these large gatherings and many would prefer to remember in the comfort of their own homes alone or with family and even for some to try and forget their loss & experiences

I remember as a child watching on TV the service on Remembrance Sunday with my Grandad, who had served in WW2, transfixed with tears in his eyes & standing upright as they played the National Anthem

On 15th May 1921 The British Legion was formed and began selling it’s first Poppies as part of the Earl Haig fund and raised £106,000 which was used to help find employment & housing for veterans. Hardship for families who had in many cases lost the main bread winner of the family saw the Legion continuing it’s efforts to raise vital funds to support them as well as for veterans and this is something that continues to this day after years of supporting veterans & their families from the Second World War right up to more recent conflicts where most of their funds now go

The wearing of a Poppy after a donation to the fund became a well known tradition over the years but one that has been sadly hijacked by some. From the so called ‘Poppy Police’ who seem to seek out and are disgusted at anyone that doesn’t wear one or when they find somewhere wearing one tell them they are wearing it incorrectly to those that spread false stories to condone their own twisted views that somehow if you wear a Poppy you support & glorify war or that you’re racist

As an ex Chairman of my local Royal British Legion branch I can say it doesn’t matter how you wear one or even if indeed you wear one at all. People have that choice and it isn’t upto me or any organisation to say otherwise and the Legion have never said otherwise

Royal British Legion Poppy (Daily Mirror)

There is no doubt that over the years more & more people have donated to the Poppy Appeal and raised huge amounts of much needed funds. Some of this in part is due to more people researching their family trees and discovering long lost ancestors who had served as well as the Centenary of the Great War which was featured in many media outlets as well as in special events across the world. And like many other charities The Legion have had to adapt over the years to stay relevant, long are the days of just giving paper poppies away for a small donation they need to sell a wide variety of items from clothing, homeware, kids items, Pin badges, commemorative items & yes even cuddly toys. Remember the successful Tower Poppies that so many people bought? But in my opinion this isn’t disrespectful or cashing in on Remembrance it’s about learning,dare I say, who your audience are & ensuring that you stay relevant and that your charity can continue to have a future & continue with it’s amazing work

Similarly the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have modernised over the last few years and I believe become more open & engaging with the wider public. They haven’t always got it right of course but name me someone who has everytime. The recent Shine On/Name a star has provoked some debate but again I say it’s an example of trying to find ways of appealing to a modern audience

The amount of people that have been attending local Remembrance Day events over the years as also grown and it’s been heartwarming to see many younger generations involved ensuring that hopefully the act of remembrance will continue long into the future. Again on 11th November the scenes of people pausing in the supermarket, at railway stations & even in the streets to observe the 2 minutes silence is incredibly heartwarming

Poppy wreath at Heckmondwike War Memorial (Authors Own Photo)

We mustn’t forget the many veterans who also attend these events either. Of course all Great War veterans have now passed and sadly most of those who served in WW2 are sadly fading fast so today’s events tend to be filled with National Service, Korean, Falklands,Balkans, Northern Ireland & Iraq & Afghanistan veterans remembering their comrades. I’ve never served myself in any of the forces but have friends who have and I know that many of them have their own particular days or dates that they pause to remember lost comrades or a battle or incident that took place. Indeed the wonderful Harry Patch, the last surviving Tommy to serve on the Western Front, always said that his day to remember was the 22nd September when he lost his comrades in his Lewis gun team & was wounded himself

Harry Patch (Image Memoria.com)

I think what’s important for me is to recognise that we all can remember in our own way, for most of us with an interest in the Great War remembering is something I’d say we do everyday and also in our research and visits to the old battlefields. But for others it’s just one time a year. We all remember differently as well & we shouldn’t just focus on those who lost their lives but also on all those who served & came home many of them scared physically & mentally by their experiences. We should also remember the happy times we spent over the years with family members, friends or comrades

These are as ever just my opinions & observations and some of you will agree & others will disagree with me but I think in answer to the question that gives this blog it’s name it’s that we all need to approach remembrance with an open mind and respect each others thoughts,views & ways of remembering. The sacrifices over the years of those whom we are are all remembering was to ensure that we all have the choice to be freethinkers

Sources:

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk

Imperial War Museum Collection

The Last fighting Tommy by Richard van Embden & Harry Patch

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November Guest Feature

Welcome to another of the regular Guest Spots where this month I’m happy to be joined by Dr Irfan Malik, a Nottinghamshire based GP with an keen interest in the important contribution that troops from undivided India made in the Great War & who ensures that their memory lives on. He has a nice collection of Great War items that he takes with him when he goes to give presentations at schools or to other interested groups

Dr Irfan Malik (Own Photo)

Many thanks Wayne,
My name is Dr Irfan Malik, I was born and bred in Nottingham and have worked in the city as a GP for 25 years. I have an interest in India’s contribution during the First World War. I’d like to share with you all the amazing story of a small village which is now in modern day Pakistan


‘The Village with the Gun’

Dulmial Village is located in the Salt Range, Punjab, 100 miles south of Pakistan’s capital city Islamabad. It is my ancestral village, populated by the Malik Awan clan, a former ‘martial race’

Dulmial has been a military village for many generations and evidence exists that local soldiers had supported the British Army since the Indian Mutiny in 1857.
This small, dusty village is well known as in the First World War it supplied 460 men, a record for any South Asian village. Basically all the able bodied men joined the British Indian Army. Of these more than 100 were Viceroy Commissioned Officers. They were posted to all theatres of war around the globe

Soldiers of Dulmial (Dr Irfan Malik)


Both of my Great Grandfathers Subedar Muhammad Khan and Capt Ghulam Muhammad were part of these 460. The former was with the the 33rd Punjab Regiment and was fortunate enough to be invited to visit London in 1911 for the Coronation of King George V

During the Great War undivided India provided 1.5 million soldiers, of these 680,000 were Hindus, 400,000 Muslims and 124,000 Sikhs. 75,000 Indians died, of these 9000 on the Western Front

Indian soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross 11 times and overall received 13,000 medals for gallantry

Naik Shahamad Khan VC (© IWM Q36964A)

In addition to the men, 180,000 animals and 3.7 million tonnes of supplies were exported from the Indian Subcontinent & the financial cost to undivided India was a staggering £479 million (in today’s currency £19 billion!)


In the Second War War Dulmial contributed more than 800 men. After partition in 1947 the soldiers became well established in the Pakistan and Indian Armies. Both of my Grandfathers Capt Lal Khan and Subedar Habib Khan were Burma Star veterans


In recognition of Dulmial’s military services in the Great War the British asked Capt Ghulam Muhammad Malik, the village’s most highly decorated officer, ‘What award did the village want?’ He replied ‘a cannon’.
This was because the retired Captain was a lifelong artillery man, starting his career with the Derajat Mountain Battery on the Lord Roberts’ famous march from Kabul to Kandahar in the 2nd Afghan War of 1880


So in 1925 Dulmial was presented with an impressive 12 pounder, Blomefield design cannon. The former British Naval cannon weighed 1.7 tonnes and was made at Carron Ironworks, near Falkirk, Scotland in 1816, serial number 84049. It took 2 weeks for the cannon to be transported by train and oxen cart from the 1st Punjab Regiment base in Jhelum to Dulmial

The cannon itself in Dulmial (Dr Irfan Malik)


In the early years the cannon was referred to as the ‘Birdwood Gun’ as Field Marshal Lord William Birdwood, Commander in Chief of India had visited Dulmial and saluted at the cannon


Nowadays Dulmial is also known as the ‘Village with the Gun’.
In the village primary school a marble stone memorial or tablet is still proudly displayed on an impressive obelisk. It states ‘From this village 460 men went to the Great War 1914 -1919 of these 9 gave up their lives’

Village Memorial Tablet ( Dr Irfan Malik)


The lost soldiers are remembered at memorial sites all around the world, in Dar Es Salaam, Tehran, Delhi (India Gate) and Basra. One soldier, Lance Naik Ismail Khan, of the 33rd Punjab Regiment was killed in battle on the Western Front at the Battle of Loos, in France on 25th September 1915 and his name is engraved on the Neuve Chapelle Memorial

It is indeed unusual for a small Punjabi village to have such a well documented military history, giving it an international profile. It has given me great pleasure researching my ancestral villages history since 2014

Sources:

The Evening Telegraph and Post, Dundee (30.10.1914) ‘A Cradle of Soldiers’
War Speeches of Sir Michael O’Dwyer, Jhelum Darbar (1.11.1917)
The Punjab and the War, M.S.Leigh (1922)
Wisdom and Waste in the Punjab Village, M.L. Darling (1934)
The History of the Indian Mountain Artillery, C.A.L. Graham (1957)
For King and Another Country. Indian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914 -1918, S. Basu (2015)
The Indian Empire at War, G.Mortan-Jack (2018)

I’d like to thank Dr Irfan Malik for sharing this wonderful story and for highlighting, rightly so, the huge contribution as well as sacrifice that Indian soldiers gave in both World Wars

If you’d like to follow Irfan on twitter he can be found @dr_irfan_malik

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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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Favourite places Part 1

At the moment we’re all missing being out their on our visits and pilgrimages to the battlefields & surrounding areas of France & Flanders. And I’ll admit this week has really been a struggle with it all mentally with further measures being introduced not only here in my local area but over in France as well as Covid-19 cases continue to rise

If I’m honest I was toying with the idea of not even doing a blog post this week. The only thing that keeps me going is interacting with like minded folks who share a passion for the Great War & who continue to share their images and stories via social media, blogs & websites. There are some really talented people out there whether it be either in writing or photography. But on the flip side of that is that I then long even more to be out there & see with my own eyes

But life goes on and so looking fondly back at better times I thought I would share with you some of my favourite places to visit on the old front line. Some are places I’ve visited many times others maybe the once but it left a long lasting memory

The first on my list is the village of Hardecourt-aux- bois and more specifically the accommodation at Chavasse Ferme which has been the base for many years now on my battlefield visits. Whether it’s just myself & my mate Andy or with my partner Stacey or both Andy & I with our family this for us is the place to stay. A good base I feel is important to any visit which is why I’m featuring this first.( I have no affiliation with or any monetary gain from Chavasse, it’s just my personal recommendation)

View from Chavasse House to Dupres & Coury Houses & beyond the Vallée de Hardecourt (Author own Photo)

Owned by Ex Royal Marines Jonathan & Richard Porter it really does feel like a home from home & a warm welcome always awaits. Richard & Michelle generally live on site and are on hand to answer any questions or provide assistance if needed. Consisting of the original farm house, Chavasse House provides self catering accommodation for upto 12 people in 4 bedrooms. A fully equipped modern kitchen with everything you need and a nice cosy Lounge/ Dining Room with an open fire which is perfect on a cold evening are really welcoming. You’re surrounded by Great War relics and collections which have been accumulated over the years by the Porter brothers

Then in the old stables are Coury & Dupres Houses again with all the amenities you could want including WiFi, Freeview tv, under floor heating as well as again an open fire. They each sleep 4 people in either 2 twin bedrooms or a double and a twin. A private patio area outside each property and a communal bbq next to the rum ration bar for those warm summer evenings adds to the joy of this place. There is also a store house where you can purchase items for the fire, hire bikes or even buy some original Great War relics. Guided tours can also be pre arranged and are usually conducted by Richard, costs vary demanding on your needs. For larger groups Snowden House situated in Longueval is available sleeping upto 16 people in 5 bedrooms. Snowden has its own tragic story from the Second World War when some members of the family who lived there were rounded up by the Gestapo after being betrayed. The cellar was being used by the Resistance with a radio transmitter. Those who were arrested sadly didn’t return and died in Concentration Camps

You’re staying right in the heart of the Battlefields and Hardecourt-aux-bois itself was occupied by the Germans in September 1914 and was an objective of the French on 1st July 1916 however it wasn’t until 15th August that the village was fully captured. Lost again in March 1918 it was retaken by the 9th Royal Fusiliers on 28th August 1918

An evening walk past the church and up the road towards the site of Maltz Horn Farm, looking towards Trones Wood & Guillemont to the east and to the west Maricourt, Montuaban & Bernafay Wood, is essential after dinner. You’ll be rewarded by the most beautiful sunsets

Sunset above Montauban (Authors Own Photo)

Moving across the valley another favourite place is Carnoy & I park up at the entrance of Carnoy Military Cemetery. Originally begun back in August 1915 2nd Kings Own Scottish Borderers & 2nd Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry this cemetery remained in use until March 1917 .Field Ambulances moved into the area near here before the Somme Offensive & a camp was also established nearby. In German hands from March 1918 until August several burials were made just inside the entrance of both British & German dead and also a German cemetery was made by the side of the existing one. All these graves would be removed in 1924

Carnoy Military Cemetery (Authors Own Photo)

Here amongst others you’ll find buried Captain Wilfred Percy ‘Billy’ Nevill who on 1st July 1916 had bought 2 footballs to be kicked across no man’s land as his battalion 8th East Surrey Regiment, part of 18th Division, launched their part of the attack on Montauban. Captain Neville was actually attached to the East Surreys shortly after attestation & therefore his headstone bears the regimental badge of the 1st East Yorkshire Regiment. Leading B company across no man’s land reports suggest he made it to the German wire and was killed as he was about to throw a grenade. He was 21 years old

This cemetery will feature in a later Cemetery Focus with some more stories of those who rest here. So for now we wander up the road towards the village itself. Some very friendly locals live in the house on the left with a cute dog so if they’re in their garden please do take the time to say hello as you’re passing. Turn right as you reach the road junction and then head up the hill past the large barking dogs that always seem to be out. On reaching the village war memorial turn right. Dedicated to those from Carnoy who died in both world wars as well as those who died were deported and died in Nazi Concentration camps. Past the Mairie & Church you’ll eventually come to a track which is the original railway line which ran through here and beyond into Talus Bois. This is a great walk and will take you to Talus Bois as you walk along what was actually known as Rail Avenue Trench

Rail Avenue Trench looking towards Talus Bois (Authors Own Photo)

The area to your right is where 30th Division 21st Brigade consisting of 18th Kings Liverpool & 19th Manchester’s supported by 2nd Green Howards & 2nd Wiltshires in reserve would be on 1st July ready to go over the top. One hour after this initial assault, 90th brigade with the Manchester Pals of the 16th & 17th bn with 2nd Royal Fusiliers in support as well as companies of 18th Manchester’s at the nearby Cambridge Copse would occupy these same fields and launch their attack towards Montauban. It’s a wonderful walk up there to where the old lines including Vernon Street trench & cemetery were and as you go further over the crest to where the German front line of Silesia Trench was located. Some splendid views of the objective of Montauban can be seen with Germans Wood & Machine Gun Wood off to your right

But we continue along the track towards the left of the Talus Bois till the track veers to the left and up the hill. Now we’re in the British front line of 18th (Eastern) Division with 55th Brigade 8th East Surreys area reached first followed by 7th Queens & towards the Carnoy craters 7th Buffs areas

Standing on this site where so much death,destruction, gallant acts & sacrifice took place is very atmospheric. Yet these days it is so peaceful with just the birdsong heard in the skies above and a gentle breeze blowing across the ridge. It’s hard for us to imagine the scenes that day but you get a superb vista of the land and the scale of how much the men had to advance on that fateful day

As we near the end of the track you can see the site of the Carnoy Craters on your right overlooked by a couple of trees close to the Carnoy-Montuaban Road. Here we will turn left and head back towards Carnoy village but if you went right a wonderful walk into Montauban then down towards Maricourt can be made. I can’t recommend highly enough the book Walking the Somme by Paul Reed as a companion. Paul features a walk starting where we did at the cemetery in Carnoy and the book contains alot more information & stories for you to study. The excellent book Zero Hour Z Day by Jonathan Porter which has outstanding maps,aerial photos, analysis & stories of those involved is a must for this area but you’ll certainly struggle to carry this with you on your walk that’s for sure!

Site of Carnoy Craters near the trees with Montauban on the horizon (Authors Own Photo)

Just before we turn down the road look directly across and this was the positions of 53rd Brigade with the 8th Norfolks, 6th Royal Berkshires & beyond to 54th Brigade with 7th Bedfords & 11th Royal Fusiliers amongst others. A livens projector was also used on 1st July just across the road here

I’ve just touched on this area and I’d urge you to get those trench maps out or use Google maps to follow the route yourself and get yourself the aforementioned books or search out others. Also Tim Bell has an excellent blog on the 17th Manchester’s which is definitely worth a read

WW1

A Gunners Life

You’ll probably all know by now that research is my huge passion. I love finding out information about who a person was, their family, where they lived & worked & of course details of their Great War journey

I spend many hours researching online records, newspaper articles, war diaries & maps. I want to put myself & the person whom I’m researching for in their ancestors boots so to speak

People are amazed when I say I do this for free. I usually just ask for a donation to a veterans charity or sometimes a wee tipple to keep me going. For me it’s not about money it’s about reuniting a family with their long lost Grandfather or Great Uncle, a Great Aunt or Cousin

I was approached a year ago by a work colleague and asked if I would be able to carry out some research for them. To be honest it was a good start as they had quite a bit of information already & he was one of the where his service record survived. The family have kindly given me permission to share the story of their Great Great Uncle with you and to ensure that more people know his story

Gunner Horace Coleman (Image Coleman Family)

Horace George Coleman was born in Islington, North London in February 1895 to parents Arthur Alexander & Emma Coleman, the youngest of 5 children. They lived at 27 Queens Cottages before moving to South Tottenham and by 1911 were living at 14 Gorleston Road. Now aged 16 Horace was a Clerk for a Corn Merchants in the local area having not decided to follow his father and 2 older brothers as surveying Instrument makers

On October 18th 1915 Horace enlisted in the local 153rd (Tottenham) Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. Unlike most he didn’t have to go too far for his training it was just a few miles away in the nearby Woolwich Arsenal. He began his military career as a Gunner but shortly afterwards on 30th October he was promoted to Unpaid Acting Bombardier equivalent to the rank of Lance Corporal then Paid from 2nd November

As Heavy Artillery Horace would be trained on the use of generally 60 pounder or 5 Inch guns but some batteries still had the older 5 inch Howitzers as well

See the source image
British 60 Pounder (Image ww1westernfrontweapons.weebly.com)

On 14th February 1916 Horace was admitted to hospital for 19 days with what is reported as disease of the knees and during his time there he was stripped of his Acting Bombardier rank. A few months later he would find himself readmitted to hospital this time with boils on his left calf but before this he would commit his first offence whilst serving. He was charged with that on 23rd April 1916 he was absent from the stables at Charlton Park between 4.30pm & 9.40pm. He appeared before a Major R D Crawford DSO RGA & after hearing the evidence of 3 witnesses Major Crawford sentenced Horace to 7 days confined to barracks & the loss of 7 days pay

After this incident Horace’s training continued and on 25th July 1916. Sent to a Base Depot where he remained until 12th August he was then posted to the 176th (West Riding) Heavy Battery of the RGA. This battery embarked at Southampton on 29th September 1916 landing the following day at Le Havre. A section of the 176th, including Horace, was transferred to the 145th (E.Cheshire) Heavy Brigade RGA and Horace arrived on the Western Front at Anzin-St-Aubin, North West of Arras, where he would remain until 14th March 1917. Day to day operations such as firing on German working parties & back areas, calibration of guns & even shooting at aeroplanes flying over them was to be the life of Horace. Preparations at this point were being made for the upcoming battle that would form part of the Battle of Arras and the 145th moved positions in front of the village of Marceuil a few days later. They moved to nearer Neuville St Vast to support the upcoming battle but sadly the War diary was lost for this period in shell fire. By 30th April they are shown in positions South West of Thelus (map 51b.A.18.b.4.6) where they will remain until August before moving to near Bois de Bonval South West of Vimy. Here they supported the 2nd & 4th Canadian Divisons both at Vimy & in an attack on Lens on 15th August 1917. On August 22nd and 23rd its recorded that Horace’s Battery was heavily shelled by the Germans and also attacked by an Aeroplane.

On the 24th August they are relieved and Horace and his fellow Gunners can head to a rest camp well behind the lines at Divion near Bruay and they remain until 12th September then moved to Hersin, West of Lens

During September the Battery was divided up and men sent as working parties to help in digging new forward positions. On 22nd September Horace is once again promoted to Acting Bombardier. At this point they had no guns, these were being re calibrated and maintained so on 18th October, when they took over from 2nd Canadian Heavy Battery, the brigade had to use 3 of the Canadians guns until they were relieved on 23rd October

They departed Hersin on 24th October 1917 at 9.30am & arrived at 4pm in Belgium at Abeelee where they were billeted for the night before moving up to Zillebeke east of Ypres. Horace was now to play his part in the Battle of Third Ypres more commonly known now as The Battle of Passchendaele

Horace’s battery like so many had a really hard time of it here losing many of their guns in counter battery fire in early November as well as several men when in positions at Zouave Wood. One sad story in the war diary is that on 9th November Acting Corporal D.F Gordon was found dead by the side of a road having been run over by a caterpillar engine. No witnesses could be found or any evidence as to why he was there. Freak accident or maybe he just had enough we shall never know. He now lays at The Huts cemetery Plot XIV. B. 20 at Dickebusch

On 21st November 1917 Horace moves back to France to positions at Metern east of Ballieul before moving well behind the lines at Wandonne for rest, training & cleaning of equipment.

Horace was granted leave to return to England on 8th December until he rejoined his battery on 22nd December 1917. However he’s admitted to hospital with Tonsillitis and his tonsils are removed before returning to his battery on 21st January 1918. Arriving in Essigny near Saint Quentin they receive new guns and were busy recalibrating and ranging them. New positions were then prepared for the rest of January

A huge restructure took place in all British forces in January/February 1918 & the 145th now became part of 35th Heavy Artillery Group

They remained in the St Quentin area until 21st March 1918, the day the Germans launched ‘Operation Michael’ or Kaiserschlact. The War diary (WO95/390/3) for 21st March records ‘A misty morning saw the brigade heavily bombarded with High Explosives (H.E) & Gas shells and very quickly the brigade was called into action. As more information became known the brigade was ordered to retire backwards over the next few days through HAM, MAROEUIL LAMOTTE,ROCQUENCOURT arriving at PAILLART on 31st March all the time continuing to engage enemy troops

Over the next few days & weeks they would move back further arriving at Betrancourt, North West of Albert on the Somme on 25th April. From mid May they would be shelled with gas on a nightly basis. On 19th May 1918 Horace is gassed in one of these nightly bombardments and he is treated initially by the 3rd New Zealand Field Ambulance then taken to Casualty Clearing Station No 3 at Gezaincurt near Doullens before being transferred to No 47 General Hospital at Le Treport on the French Coast on 20th May

After a few weeks he was admitted on 13th June to the No 3 Convalescent Depot at LE TREPORT where he remained until 10th July being then returned to the Base Depot at HARFLEUR near LE HAVRE. His mother Emma was informed by the War Office on 22nd June that Horace was in hospital

Whilst back at Depot on 22nd July Horace commits his second offence and is charged with the offence of ‘Whilst on active service, attempting to service leave to England by false pretences’. His punishment sees him again stripped of his Bombardier stripe and back as a Gunner which to be honest for the offence seems rather lucky, men were shot for less

He’s sent to Base before he rejoins his battery on 26th July 1918, who by this time were to the east of the old battlefields of the Somme engaged at Aveluy Wood, Hamel & Mesnil

August 1918 sees them continue to launch bombardments around Albert from their emplacements at Varennes before moving to Martinsaart to assist in an attack on Thiepval. The Germans retaliated with their own bombardment on 22nd August knocking out 3 guns in Horace’s Brigade. On this day Horace is also admitted again to a hospital of 65th Field Ambulance this time he’s suffering from Influenza

He’s back with his battery on 30th August near Longueval where they were assisting the 38th (Welsh) Division in their attacks on Morval before moving to Ginchy. The batteries fired all day & night and the Germans were now in retreat leaving many of their artillery guns to be captured such was their haste to move it’s reported

The brigade moves forward to areas around Canal du Nord, east of Cambrai carrying out further supporting bombardments to assist various different Infantry Divisions in their attacks and by October the brigade has moved to Fontaine assisting 57th Division in their attack on the southern defences of Cambrai. This attack however is unsuccessful due to heavy German machine gun fire

On 8th October they supported the attack by 63rd (Royal Naval) Division to outflank Cambrai which was a huge success the Division capturing over 700 German Prisoners

The 24th Division then took over this area on 9th and at 5.20am launched an attack to find that the Germans had retreated considerably to a line near Cagnolles. Over the next few days the brigade moved forward, as the Allied infantry progressed, arriving finally in Saint Aubert on 12th October

They carried out hostile fire on enemy positions and it was in a counter battery fire on 14th October that Horace Coleman was killed. His body was buried nearby and his mother Emma received a telegram on 29th October informing her of her son’s death

On 21st February 1919 Horace’s personal effects were returned to his mother which were recorded as ‘A metal watch, a wallet containing photos, letters & papers, a wallet with note paper, scissors, 2 handkerchiefs, a metal watch case, a bundle of fabric & a pencil

On 5th April 1919 the War Office informed Emma of the location of his grave and on June 2nd wrote to her to ask where to send Horace’s Memorial Scroll & Plaque & On 1st May 1919 his mother, being his next of kin, was awarded a weekly pension

In March 1920 Horace’s body was exhumed and reinterred in St Aubert British Cemetery. This was common as many smaller or isolated cemeteries and graves were concentrated into larger cemeteries , gradually being formed with the new permanent stone headstones and cross of sacrifice to replace the earlier wooden cross Grave markers, so that they could be easily maintained by the then Imperial War Graves Commission (Later Commonwealth War Graves). His mother Emma again received information of where Horace now lay

In one of those family twists that us researchers love to uncover, the War Office had forwarded Horace’s medals to his mother on 21st April 1922 but these were signed for by a Mr G Salisbury, who was married to one of Emma’s daughters who upon her mother’s death had inherited her house. Mr Salisbury stated that he had been instructed by Emma’s son, Mr Bertie Coleman, to handle any correspondence, stating that Mrs Emma Coleman had since died. The R.G.A records office wrote back to Mr Salisbury on 1st May 1922 requesting that he forward a copy of Emma’s will and to inform them who now had the medals

Mr Salisbury replied that no will had been left and that the medals were now in the possession of his wife. On the death of Mrs Coleman the surviving sons & daughters had appointed Mr Bertie Coleman as executor of his mother’s estate and therefore they would now forward the medals to him at No 9 Cranleigh Road, Leytonstone and let him decide into whose possession they should go

In a further twist in October 1922 a Mr A Coleman of 59 Grosvenor Road, Camberwell (Possibly Horace’s father?) wrote to the War Office asking where Horace’s medals were. The War Office replied with the details previously mentioned above

Gunner Horace George Coleman Aged 23 now lies in Plot II Row C Grave 2 in St Aubert British Cemetery, France. If you’re in the area please take time to visit & remember his life

Horace’s Grave (Image Coleman Family)
Wendy Coleman at her Great Uncle Horace’s Grave on the centenary of his death 14th October 2018 (Image Coleman Family)
St Aubin British Cemetery (CWGC)

I am extremely grateful to the Coleman family for sharing the knowledge they had of Horace and for letting me get to know him further with my research

Thank you again for joining me on another of my blogs. Comments and further information is always welcome. Just get in touch here or @terriermcd on twitter

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October Guest Feature

Welcome to this month’s Guest Spot which I’ve decided to take a slightly different path with. I shall be inviting guests to write a feature article on something or someone that interests them from the Great War. And I’m very delighted, despite him being from Crewe ( It’s a long running joke between us!), to welcome my good friend Conor Reeves . Conor is someone who’s embraced various aspects of history from an early age and he was even I believe the youngest Battlefield Guide for Leger battlefield tours at just 15 years old!! He’s gone on to do many great things since including a war memorial garden at his old school, he’s currently studying history at Oxford & recently he became the sub editor of the new Great War Group journal. I’ll let him introduce himself below but I wish to extend to him my warmest of welcomes to Great War Reflections

Conor Reeves

Hello, everyone!

I was really humbled when Wayne asked me to contribute an article for this month’s Guest Spot on Great War Reflections (thanks for having me and assuming I’ve got something interesting to say!). I’ve been enjoying the blog so much over the last few months – I’ve got some quality acts to follow but I will do my best.

He’s asked me to start by telling you a little bit about myself before writing up a short article based on some of my research interests, so that’s exactly what I’ll do.

I’m in my early 20s and I was born in the North West of England. I’ve been interested in history since I was just 9 years old. In fact, one of my most enduring primary school memories was teaching a class of younger students about the Second World War. There were a few embarrassing hiccups (I taught them that the war began in 1937…oops!) but otherwise, I think I did a reasonably good job. I continued to be interested in history and when I was around 11 years old an English teacher recommended I read a book that turned out to be pretty formative for me. For those of you who don’t know, Private Peaceful is a 2003 Michael Morpurgo novel for older children/ teenagers which follows the story of a young Tommy’s First World War on the Western Front, culminating with the Battle of the Somme. Although it plays on some quite clichéd tropes, it did introduce me to many important themes which have re-appeared time and time again in the subsequent decade and is a wonderful way to introduce young people to the First World War.

Knowing I was interested in ‘the wars’, when I was 13, my parents offered to take me on a ‘once in a life-time’ trip to the Western European battlefields of my choice. At the time, it was a toss-up between a tour of the 1914-1918 Western Front and the legendary battlefields of the Battle of the Bulge. Little did they know at the time but, far from satiating my interest, it added fuel to the fire. Visiting the famous sites that I’d only ever read about before felt like entering a world dreamt up by a favourite author, only infinitely more emotional and affecting as each place was charged with the memory of sacrifice. As soon as I was home from the first trip, I was thinking about the next. In the time between, I began to look at the Great War history that lies amongst us. I was vaguely aware that once a year, on Remembrance Day, a school teacher would read aloud a list of names of those former pupils who had died in the two world wars. I decided that they ought to become more than just names. As a result, I embarked on a (still ongoing) research project which has seen me uncover relatives, photographs, letters and details pertaining to the lives and deaths of all of these men.

When the time came to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I knew that I wanted to be the first member of my family to go to University. I played around with the idea of war studies or military history as stand-alone subjects but I was again and again advised to study general history. This was some of the most useful advice I have ever received. As a History student at the University of Oxford, I’ve been able to study topics from the legacy of Romano-Britain to globalization in the 21st century. Although this means I’ve not been able to study the First World War as often as I’d have liked, I have been fortunate enough to study papers on the global nature of the war and I am currently completing an undergraduate dissertation on boxing and the First World War. The variation of theme and subject has greatly added to my ability to study the Great War. Now, almost a decade and more than a dozen visits since I returned from the old battlefields (in which the founder of this blog played an important role during the earliest!), my interest is stronger than ever and I visit the Old Front Lines as regularly as circumstances allow which always aids my studies. My academic and non-academic WW1 interests have expanded as a result of my study and battlefield trips. My main interests are the 1/7 Cheshire Regiment, 1 July 1916, masculinity, literature and, of course, sport and the war.

Anyway, that’s me! Below you’ll find a short article I’ve written which tells the story of a young boxer whose story I discovered whilst carrying out research for my undergraduate thesis. It recounts the life of Jerry Delaney. I hope you find it of interest!

P.S If perchance you happen to have any sources pertaining to Boxing in the British Army during the Great War then please get in touch (@InThatRichEarth). I’m particularly interested in diaries, memoirs or letters which mention boxing in training in England or behind the lines on the Western Front but I’m interested to hear any recommendations you may have.

I’m here to fight Germans’: Jerry Delaney’s war

With its densely packed, crowded rows of housing, the Broomfields area of Bradford was a tough place to live for its Edwardian inhabitants. This hard and sometimes dangerous setting bred generations of correspondingly tough working class families which made up 99.2% of the population. Amongst those were the Delaneys, an immigrant family originating from Tipperary, Ireland. Consisting of eleven boys and four girls, they had their fair share of tough Broomfields men and a number of the brothers channeled their attributes into the sporting ring as boxers, known collectively as ‘the fighting Delaneys’.

One of these, Jeremiah, or ‘Jerry’ as he was better known, was a particular pugilistic talent. At 5ft6 and ‘[o]f light frame’, newspapers declared him ‘almost ladylike in his appearance’. ‘At a guess,’ they wrote, ‘a boxer was almost the last thing you would have taken him for’ but, they revealed, ‘see him in the ring and it was a different proposition’. His ring IQ, powerful left hand and nurtured resilience more than made up for his lack of physical presence and by 1914 he was a very promising, unbeaten light-weight boxer of 9 st 9 lb. In fact, so good was he that he was widely tipped to fight and probably beat Freddie Welsh, the current British champion at the weight. It is certainly true, as others have recently observed that the ranks of Britain’s light-weight division were far from swelling – probably limited to around four genuine contenders – but it was largely agreed that he was the best of the best. Whilst a 1915 edition of The People cautiously asked ‘If not Delaney, then who have we in England more entitled to dispute the champions titles?’, some went as far as to say he was the ‘best prospect in the world’

When war was declared, however, the Broomfield boy was within reach of, but still devoid of his British and now world-title opportunities. Welsh had won the world championship less than a month before the conflict started and once again moved to America in search of big fights and bigger money. Welsh’s refusal to enlist led to widespread accusations of cowardice in the British press. Welsh refuted these criticisms, declaring ‘I can do far more for my country out of the trenches than in them’. He may very well have been on to something. Boxers played an important role both in and out of the armed forces. They fought in exhibitions to entertain troops, encouraged enlistment and raised large sums of money in charity boxing matches or by auctioning their gloves. Given the martial nature of the sport and the linguistic markers it shared with war, however, boxers were held to represent the perfect soldiers. The majority of Britain’s best boxers enlisted and those who did not were thus accused of cowardice or greed. These men who ‘shirked’, it was thought, were born to fight and continued to fight for money, whilst fathers, sons and brothers left factories and offices to fight in ‘the big fight’

Cigarette Card

No such criticism could be levelled at Jerry Delaney as the press celebrated his decision to turn down a lucrative offer to fight in Australia in order to join up for ‘a private’s pay’. In doing so, he represented the apotheosis of English patriotic masculinity, foregoing the selfish financial incentives and corruption which worried so many critics of modern boxing. As a well-known fighter, Jerry joined hundreds of fellow athletes, amateur and professional in bolstering the ranks of the newly-formed 23rd Royal Fusiliers (1st Sportsman’s). Undeterred in his quest for official recognition, Jerry remained very active during the war, fighting professionally several times in London and Liverpool and requesting his increasingly well-deserved clash with Welsh. Following respectively convincing and unexciting wins at the National Sporting Club over American Jack Denny and Londoner Willie Farrell (a second win during a rematch), the conflict and Jerry’s service commitments actually served to intensify the boxing community’s calls for Welsh to do the right thing and give the enlisted man his chance. Delaney himself stepped up his campaign, arguing quite prophetically that he might be sent away to war before he got the opportunity that he had so patiently earned.

Jerry Delaney in military service

During his military training in Essex, the boxer exploited his battalion’s symbiotic relationship with sport. He was able to make the most of the unit’s facilities and gain special dispensations as an elite athlete whilst his talent was greatly in demand for many exhibitions of sporting skill which kept his comrades entertained. In France, he repaid the favour further when he easily won the 1915 2nd Divisional boxing championships in which he had done ‘what he wanted’ with opponents far below his calibre.

Delaney’s time fighting on the Western Front was, of course not restricted to the squared circle though in both forms of conflict he proved to have ample skill, bravery and, perhaps most importantly, for a time at least, luck. On one occasion, the now the specially trained bomber was residing at the head of a bomb-throwing sap when, according to a letter home, a German sniper’s bullet went straight through his cap, literally parting his hair, scraping the top of his scalp and leaving him with nothing more than a bloodied trail marked on the top of his head. As a friend remarked after his death, that was ‘about as near a knock-out blow as you could get’.

Another remarkable moment in Delaney’s war occurred sometime in early May 1916. The exact details of the event are unclear as sources appear to contradict each other. Some claimed that Jerry recovered a seriously wounded colleague, despite personal injury. These reports suggest that the boxer was injured in the leg and abdomen during a routed attack on an entrenched German machine gun positon but, seeing a wounded comrade lying in the mud, he picked him up and struggled his way quickly back to the British lines. An article published after his death, however includes a slightly different but more detailed version. Recounted by an eyewitness, Corporal Coyle was one of the individuals responsible for reporting what he had seen in order to recommend his comrade for a gallantry award and is thus potentially more reliable, provides a variation on a theme.

Recalling the events of that bright, moonlit night in early May 1916, Coyle remembered ‘lying in a front line of trenches just where the enemy had made a gap with artillery fire’. To fix this breach, a bombing party was sent out consisting of Pte Mackay, Pte Jerry Delaney, Pte Hopkins and L/Cpl Whitlock. The first to breach the parapet and leave the relative refuge of their trench were Mackay and Whitlock. After a while had past, the rest of the party heard Whitlock shouting back. It became clear from his calls that Mackay was badly wounded and in desperate need of help. Apparently with little concern for personal safety, Jerry showed his stout boxer’s heart, immediately jumping up and over the parapet in search of Mackay. On finding his wounded friend, the boxer hastily moved to return them both to their terrestrial sanctuary, moving quickly towards their lines. As they came once more into view, the British opened a barrage of covering fire which the Germans appeared to mistake for the start of a raid. Their response was to lay down a combination of rifle, machine gun and artillery fire, throwing down shot and shell into a storm of steel through which Delaney continued, undaunted. Despite what seemed like an impossible task, contrary to other sources Coyle declared that Jerry displayed remarkable athletic agility and passed through this corridor of death completely unscathed.

Unfortunately, Delaney’s efforts to save Mackay were not enough. His injuries were too severe and he passed away on the following day. The Bradford man’s valour, which an observer described as ‘worthy of a V.C.’, did not go unnoticed and he was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal which was eventually downgraded to a Military Medal. Local and national newspapers around Britain rushed to publish notices of the well-known man’s award but confusion remained regarding his exact entitlement. It was widely and erroneously reported, as late as 1960s, that Delaney had been awarded the DCM.

The minutiae mattered little to the proud Irish community in the north of England who soon heard of his bravery ‘at the front’. In his home town, a testimonial fund was arranged in his honour and organisers conceived of a boxing tournament in a local Irish centre to contribute to the fund.

When festivities had subsided and he returned to the fray, he once more showed the bravery and ‘soldier’s spirit’ which he had effortlessly transferred from boxing ring to battlefield. The luck that had seen him escape certain death with a mere scrape to the scalp apparently avoid a wall of steel and fire could not last forever. Just before his death, Delaney’s colonel had offered him several weeks of leave in which to train for a forthcoming fight. Turning down this valuable and no doubt deserved reward for his sporting talent, he told the officer ‘I’d sooner go up, sir,’ ‘I’m here to fight Germans. What would my boxing pals in London think of me if I were to shirk my proper job now?’.

On 27 July he and a number of volunteers including Corporal Whitlock went up the line to Delvile Wood as part of a bombing section. Again the sources are contradictory and somewhat muddled. They variously claim that he was found by a search party lying within yards of the German line or that he was in fact ‘killed by a machine gun bullet, which struck him soon after he climbed the parapet to charge’. Whatever the truth of the matter was, it remains the case that this bombing raid was his last. The regiment had lost one of its bravest soldiers and the country one of its most talented athletes and proudest patriots as Jerry Delaney passed once more between the ropes, this time from life into death.

Thiepval Memorial (Authors Own Photo)

His passing caused sadness to all that knew him and many that did not. The Sporting Chronicle mourned his death on its front page. ‘Every sportsman in the country’, they solemnly but proudly declared ‘will this morning pay silent and noble tribute to the sacrifice made by the young boxer’ and many sporting fans wrote home of their disappointment and sadness.

Tributes continued to pour in and a fund was started in his memory. Aided by generous donations from Lord Lonsdale, it raised enough money to erect a significant memorial to him Bowling Cemetery, Bradford which read ‘ERECTED BY FRIENDS AND ADMIRERS OF A BRAVE SOLDIER AND NOTED BOXER’. Alongside the memorial, the fund provided for modest financial instalments to be paid to his grieving mother.

Delaney’s Memorial, Bradford (Photo by Alan Raistrick)

More than a century has passed since Jerry Delaney last laced up his gloves and his name has long passed from the memory of even the most ardent fan of the noble art. Those who make their regular pilgrimages to the old front lines tell stories of famous fallen athletes such a Ronnie Poulton-Palmer or Walter Tull but rarely, if ever, stand below the towering red arches of Thiepval and recall his name. His Bradford memorial today looks as impressive as the day it was built but stands today un-molested by grieving ‘FRIENDS AND ADMIRERS’ and the 23-year-old’s story remains just one of the many examples of pugilists who might have given so much to the sporting world, had they not died in what they saw as ‘the greater fight’ for civilization. This much is true but next time you are wandering between the trees in Delville Wood, and the flickering of light between trunks tricks the eye into seeing dark green figures of soldier-like appearance, or when you are staring up at the names carved indelibly into the stone, bathed in light or shadowed in darkness on the faces of Thiepval memorial think of ‘one of the most promising fighters the world has ever seen’ and remember ‘quiet’ and ‘gentle’ Jeremiah ‘Jerry’ Delaney.

Secondary Sources:

https://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/tahistory/11521543.jerry-delaney-was-on-verge-of-boxing-greatness-when-a-different-sort-of-fight-proved-his-undoing/

hthttps://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/208132-cpl-jeremiah-jerry-delaney-spts1431-23rd-royal-fusiliers/

https://bradfordsporthistory.com/2019/04/23/the-noble-art-a-history-of-bradford-boxing-part-one/

Primary Sources:

Evening Despatch, Friday 22 September 1916

Leeds Mercury, Wednesday 5 May 1915

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Tuesday 23 February 1915

Sport (Dublin), Saturday 27 May 1916

Sporting Chronicle, Saturday 5 August 1916

The People, Sunday 25 April 1915

The People, Sunday 2 May 1915

The People, Sunday 20 August 1916

Editor: Well I have to say that was an amazing story, well told, of one incredible man and I’m very grateful to Conor for sharing Jerry’s story with us all. A Yorkshire link as well what more could you want!

Conor can be found on twitter @InThatRichEarth if anyone would like to follow him, don’t stalk him of course!!

WW1

Terriers in the Great War

As well as the Great War my other passion in life is following my local football team Huddersfield Town (nicknamed ‘The Terriers’ due to us having a Yorkshire Terrier on our club badge) Woof!. If I’m honest for the past couple of seasons this has not been the most enjoyable of past times believe me. From the euphoria of our incredible & unexpected promotion to the Premier League a few years ago came the reality of relegation back to the Championship. And don’t even get me started on the start to this season!!

Across the country several players & club staff followed the fans into the armed forces and Huddersfield Town was no exception with several of their, at the time, current & previous players joining up. Sadly 6 of those who did so would give their lives in the war. Below is the story of some of those players

Larrett Roebuck (Image:FootballandtheFirstWorldWar.Org)

Larrett Roebuck has the sad distinction of being not only Town’s first player casualty but also the first professional footballer to be killed from the English Leagues. (William Urquhart Sutherland is believed to be the first footballer to die in the Great War on 26th August 1914. But he was a Scottish career soldier in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were stationed in England & therefore he had only semi professionally played for Southend United, Plymouth Argyle as well as Chatham)

Larrett lived quite a humble life being born in a place called Jump, near Barnsley on 27th January 1889 to parents Elias & Elizabeth Roebuck. In the 1891 Census he’s living with his mother at 117 Church Street, Jump but by 1901 the family had moved to Rotherham where his father works as a Coal Hewer and Larrett now aged 12 lives with his younger brother John aged 10 & sister Lucy aged 5 at 9 Barker’s Yard, off High Street

Tragically at the age of just 13 Larrett would lose his father who died aged just 40 and he left school to begin work at most probably the same colliery that his father had worked at where he worked as a trammer, the name given to a young mine worker. What he did I don’t know but I have seen a suggestion that he may have looked after the pit ponies

In 1904 things went badly for Larrett  when he was found guilty of stealing a watch and was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment. Having lied about his age saying he was 17 not 15 he was therefore convicted as almost an adult

On his release from prison in October 1904 he had lost his job and therefore decided to join the army at Pontefract where the York’s & Lancaster Regiment was based. On his service record he lied about his age stating that he was 18 not 16 and also not revealing that he had been in prison. He’s recorded as being only 5’4 1/2″ weighing 134Ibs (9.5 Stone) with a 37″ chest with a flush complexion, hazel eyes & dark eyes. He has a couple of scars one of which is on the right of his chest

He joined as Private S/N 8116 in the 1st battalion and after training went with them to serve in India stationed at Mhow between October 1906 & December 1907. Sport in the Army of course was encouraged in its various forms & it’s likely that whilst in India Larrett became part of the battalions football team

On his return to England he then joined the 2nd battalion who were at the time in Limerick, Ireland where they would remain until the outbreak of the Great War. Larrett would be promoted to Lance Corporal in December 1907

6th June 1908 saw Larrett marry Frances (Fanny) Walker at the Parish Church in Rotherham and 5 months later their son John Joseph Roebuck was baptised at the same church

In April of 1910 Larrett lost his rank due to misconduct and was back to being a Private but the birth of a daughter Violet on 10th September whilst his family were stationed at Princess Royal Barracks at Deepcut, Surrey must have made things seem better followed a year later by the birth of Lucy Francis in November at Limerick

In May 1912 Larrett was discharged to the Army reserve and went back to his native Yorkshire at Rotherham where he took work again in a colliery at Silverwood. The colliery had a well known football team which Larrett joined and they several times entered the FA Cup qualifying rounds and this is where Larrett came to the attention of the scouts of Huddersfield Town. Playing as a full back he would be signed by Huddersfield on 1st March 1913 and would make his debut as a left back in January 1914 where he played for 19 games upto 25th April 1914. He signed a new contract for £2 per week which would rise to £3 a week from September 1914 and given a rail pass to get him from either Rotherham or Sheffield

However on the outbreak of war on the 4th August at 10pm Larrett, as a reservist, received his orders to proceed firstly to Pontefract then to Cambridge & Newmarket to commence training with the 2nd bn who were part of 16th brigade 6th Division

The war diary records that on 9th September the battalion sets sail from Tilbury docks heading to a unknown destination which turned out to be St Nazaire on the French west coast. Larrett was reappointed to Lance Corporal at this point .On 11th they left by train heading North and after detraining marched to Crecy. Moving to Jouarre a few days later they then moved to Citrey near the River Marne. Further movements were made to near Soissions then later to Vailly from late September near Maison Rouge until their relief on 11th October by French troops

Arriving at Sailly they were ordered to move 1 miles south of Fleurbaix where on 18th October they received verbal orders to move to the Bois Grenier- Radinghem road near Touqet and after a successful attack on the Hau de Bas line with little resistance at 2.25pm they were told to advance & take the village of Radinghem & having done this to then take the high ground running South East from Chateau de Flandres .’A’ Company took the village. On reaching the high ground they came under heavy shelling but advanced to the Radinghem-Fromelles road. Heavy machine gun & shrapnel from their right forced them back to the road & despite companies managing to get into the woods of the Chateau de Flandres they were driven back on 3 occasions by machine gun, rifle fire & shelling before retiring to the road together with The Buffs. The York & Lancs suffered severe casualties and one of those posted as missing was Larrett Roebuck

The war office informed the family that Larrett was missing but having received no further information his mother placed an advert in a local newspaper asking for information. She received information from the families of 2 men serving with Larrett, one of them stating that he had been beside Larrett in the attack when he saw him killed

Up to this point of confirmation Huddersfield Town had been paying Larrett’s wife Fanny £1 a week since he was called up however in February 1915 the club wrote to her saying that they could no longer afford to pay this due to the dire financial state of the club. They forwarded her £2 5s that the other players had collected for Larrett for a present but thought it best to now give to his widow

34 men of the 2nd bn Y & L were recorded as killed on 18th/19th October 1914 with only 2 of them having known graves. The rest including Larrett had their names inscribed on the Ploegstreet Memorial to the Missing

Ploegstreer Memorial (Authors Own Photo)

However in November 2009 15 bodies were uncovered by builders at Beaucamps-Ligny and identified as men of the 2nd Yorks & Lancs. Whilst I won’t go into the actual excavation, from what I’ve initially read to say it was rather amateur I believe is an understatement. After the remains were given over to the CWGC an appeal was made for relatives of 58 Y & L men lost in October 1914 to step forward to provide DNA samples. One of these families were the descendants of Larrett but despite 11 of the men being positively identified the remaining 4 couldn’t be and Larrett wasn’t one of those identified but that’s not say there is a chance he could be one of the 4

Larrett was just 25 years old

The other of Huddersfield Town’s players to be killed whilst still on the books of the club was Sidney James( Called Sydney on some records)

Image result for sidney james footballer
Sidney James (Image:FootballandtheFirstWorldWar.org)

Born in 1891 at Tinsley near Sheffield to George Henry & Sarah James he was the youngest of 5 children at the time. By 1911 Sarah had lost her husband at a young age and now was bringing up 6 sons and 2 daughters the youngest of whom was only 3 at 11 Wharf Row Tinsley

By 1911 he’s still in Tinsley working a General Labourer in a Rolling Mill ( Steel) and his name has changed to Sydney which is how it’s eventually recorded on some records. How he got into football I’m unsure but he would sign for Huddersfield in 1913 as a centre forward and went on to 12 Appearances for Town scoring 2 goals

He joined up at Huddersfield in the 1/6th bn Duke of Wellingtons ,West Riding Regiment as Private 3/18263 and at some point is transferred to 1/5th bn King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry s/n 35274 before ending up in the 9th bn KOYLI as a Lance Corporal

On 9th April 1917 the 9th bn,as part of 21st Division, VII Corps, is South West of Arras at Boiry-St-Martin from where they then proceed forward to take part in an attack known as the First Battle of the Scarpe. Sidney was killed on this day and was buried in Cojeul British Cemetery, Saint-Martin-sur-Cojeul which had been set up by the 21st Division burial officer after the villages capture by 30th Division on 9th April. He was 26 years old

Of the players who had played for Town pre war but had since moved on and were lost in the war two particularly stand out for me. The first being the flamboyant Welsh International goalkeeper Leigh Richmond Roose who played a few games for Huddersfield in 1911. I can’t do his story justice here so I will post this link so you can read about him yourself https://thesefootballtimes.co/2017/11/20/leigh-richmond-roose-the-forgotten-hero-who-became-footballs-first-playboy/ . One sad end to his extraordinary life is that he is recorded as having no next of kin and his medals including his MM were returned to the War Office. This maybe due to the fact he served as Rouse and this name appeared on the Thiepval memorial for many years, you can now see the change clearly which was done in the last few years

The second one is someone I regularly say hello to on my visits to Dantzig Alley Cemetery and that is Charles Edward Randall. Born 1884 in Bearpark County Durham he was a footballer playing inside left for Newcastle United when he was sent out on loan to Huddersfield in the 1908/09 & 1910/11 seasons making 19 appearances & scoring 6 goals. He returned to Newcastle for another season before joining Woolwich Arsenal until the outbreak of war

Charles Edward Randall (Image:FootballandtheFirstWorldWar.org)

Charles enlisted at Newcastle into the Coldstream Guards as Guardsman (Private) 15469 and served with the 4th (Pioneer) battalion part of the Guards Division. He arrived on the Western front in November 1915. In September of 1916 the Guards Division were at Minden Post before moving to Lesboefs where they held the line as seen from the war diary map below on 25th/26th September. The Divisional casualties for just these 2 days were recorded as 19 Officers killed 30 wounded, Other Ranks Killed 275 Wounded 1255 & 437 Missing

War Diary Map (WO95/1192 Ancestry)

Charles Aged 32, along with 2 other Pioneers who died that day, was originally buried in Montauban village but all were concentrated into Dantzig Alley on 18th June 1919. Possibly the site of a field ambulance Charles may have died of his wounds in Montauban. If anyone knows what this cemetery was called I’d be very intrigued to know, below is its location

Location of Cemetery in Montauban (Great War Digital/Memory Map)

Of course not all the players who served would lose their lives but one story to be told is that of Frederick Edwin Bullock. A defender he joined Huddersfield in 1910 and in his 12 years with the club would go on to make 215 appearances

Fred Bullock seated far right (Image source thepfa.com)

Fred in February 1915 was one of those professional footballers who would join the newly formed 17th bn Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment known as the footballers battalion as Private F/629. He was promoted to Lance Corporal (unpaid) almost immediately. Action at Delville Wood on 28th July 1916 saw Fred wounded by GSW to his back &  right shoulder and sent back to Blighty where he would stay until October 1917 before returning to the front and he would later in June 1918 suffer a further wound this time to his left leg whilst playing football! Again he was returned to England where he saw out the end of the war

After being discharged in March 1920 Fred returned to Huddersfield Town and was made club captain in what was the start of the glory year for Town. Promotion to Division One at the end of 1920 Fred would also be the first Huddersfield Captain to lead his team out in the now famous Blue & White Stripes in the FA Cup final of 1920 sadly losing 1-0 to Aston Villa. Towns second season in the top flight saw Fred being called up to play for England in October 1920. However now aged 34 and suffering problems from the wound he’d received on his knee he played less frequently and wouldn’t feature in the 21/22 season when Huddersfield went on to win the FA Cup!

Shortly after Fred decided to retire as a player but he placed an advert in the Daily Mail newspaper offering himself as a manager but with no replies. In October 1922 Fred decided to invest his savings and became a pub landlord at The Slubbers Arms public house in Huddersfield where he was joined by his wife Maude & 8 year old son Kenneth

But on 9th November Maude found Fred on the floor of the pub, beside him was an empty beer bottle used for the storage of cleaning chemicals. A fee days later in hospital Fred died of Ammonia poisoning. At the hearing it was heard that Fred had suffered with ‘nervous trouble’ in the month before and the coroner recorded Fred’s death as suicide. The loss of his career or maybe even his experiences of war had become too much, what a sad end to an incredible player and club legend

Slubbers Arms (Image Flickr)

As for Huddersfield Town under the initial management of Herbert Chapman they went on to even more glory winning the charity shield against Liverpool in 1922. They then won the League in 23/24, 24/25 and, after Chapman had left to manage Arsenal, under new manager Cecil Potter they went on to win the league again in 25/26 becoming ‘Thrice Champions’ and one of only 4 clubs to this day to achieve this. The season after 26/27 they only just lost out being crowned again by becoming runners up to Newcastle United and again runners up in 27/28 of not only the league but the FA Cup. The 1930’s would see them at Wembley in the final against Arsenal with the now famous image of the airship Graf Zeppelin in the skies above the stadium.Town would feature as runners up again in the 1933/34 season and feature in 2 FA Cup finals in 1930 against Arsenal & in 1938 against Preston North End, the first televised FA Cup match

So that’s the story of my club and it’s links to the Great War. As I’m finishing this I’m dreading the result of tonights game against Nottingham Forest. As we fans say ‘Ooh to be a Terrier’ I do hope once again that you’ve found this week’s blog interesting and thanks for all the support and messages

Sources:

Ancestry.com Census & War Diary references WO95/1610/1 ,WO95/1192/1-6, WO95/2162, WO95/1284/1-3, Service Record Files, Medal Index Rolls & Cards

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Footballandthefirstworldwar.org

Westernfrontassociation.com

Huddersfieldtowncollection

Huddersfield Examiner Newspaper

WW1

Cemetery Focus: Bernafay Wood British

This is one of those cemeteries that really means something personal to me & the reason being is that this was the first one that I visited as an independent traveller many moons ago. I was staying nearby at the old Montauban-de-Picardie railway station which is now bed & breakfast accommodation run by Christine & Jean-Pierre Matte. If you’re looking for somewhere for a few nights to rest your head after a day spent on the battlefields this is a good place in an historic location. It’s maybe not for anyone who likes a few facilities or a bit of home from home luxury but it’s clean, very period French with good welcoming hosts

Bernafay Wood British Cemetery (Authors Own Photo)

The Cemetery itself is located approx 1.5km to the North East of the village of Montauban by the D197 road which runs from Maricourt in the South to Longueval about 2km to the North. Space is available for several cars to park up, just make sure you leave room for the CWGC gardeners to park their van! It sits on the opposite side of the road from the Western edge of Bernafay Wood or Bois de Bernafay as its locally known and it was one of many cemeteries designed by Sir Herbert Baker

By the Armistice it contained 246 burials mainly from when it was the site of an RAMC Advance dressing station from August 1916 & it was also used as a frontline cemetery until April 1917. Later additions were made afterwards with the closure of Bernafay Wood North Cemetery on the opposite side of the road & to the North of the wood itself, just off the track that exists today close to the old railway line which ran across here from Albert to Ham. Bodies were also concentrated here after being brought in from original graves or those found in excavations of the surrounding areas of the battlefields to the east towards Trones Wood, Guillemont & beyond

Probable site of Bernafay Wood North Cemetery with the railway line clearly visible

Now containing 945 burials & commemorations it also has 11 special memorials to those known or believed to be buried here and also memorials to 12 men originally buried in Bernafay North Cemetery & whose graves were lost due to shellfire. Most are from the United Kingdom but it also contains 122 Australians, 4 South Africans, 2 New Zealanders & 1 Indian. 417 of the buried are unknowns

©CWGC

As you enter the Cemetery you’ll see the Stone of Remembrance in front of you and the Cemetery then slopes to the left at the back of the Montauban Ridge & up to the rear where the Cross of Sacrifice sits. There were originally 2 stone shelters on either side of the entrance which existed at least until the early 1960s I believe. Although now gone some of their structure still exists as part of the entrance wall. When I first came here I’m pretty sure it had a small hedge which has now been replaced by a non obtrusive wire fence. I remember a few years ago the damage caused when a car crashed through the corner of the cemetery after losing control on the bend of the road as it headed from Longueval and it took out some of the hedge and several headstones in Row A. Think they must have spent too much time in the Calypso II !!

Original shelters at Bernafay Wood (AWM H12664)

Despite its location close to the battlefields of the 1st July none of those buried here fell on that day. There are several from the days following after the consolidation of Montauban and the capture of Bernafay Wood on 3rd/4th July by the 9th (Scottish) Division and the weeks & months after when battles raged for nearby Trones Wood, Longueval & Guillemont. The Australian graves are from December 1916 to early 1917. Later graves are from the Spring Offensive of 1918 when the 9th (Scottish) Division, back in Bernafay Wood, was pushed out by the Germans & then more from the recapture of this area on 27th August 1918 by the 18th (Eastern) Division who had been here before & had taken Montauban on 1st July 1916

Australian ambulance men at Bernafay assisting their comrades, who are suffering from trench foot (AWM E00081)

Nissen huts were erected here by units of the 14th Field Ambulance when the ADS was established here and these can be seen in the above photograph taken in December 1916

One of those buried here is Captain Percy Wellesley Chapman MC. An Australian from Goulburn, New South Wales he had enlisted aged 28 as a Private/Trooper service number 1008 in the 1st Light Horse Regiment, 6th Reinforcement on 9th March 1915. On 28th June 1915 he embarked at Sydney for Gallipoli. Percy would serve at Gallipoli for just 8 weeks. By 12th January 1916 he was serving with 1st Infantry battalion and after being recommend for a commission he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Infantry battalion whilst in Tel-el- Kebir, Egypt. In February Percy became part of the newly formed 55th Infantry battalion, part of 14th Brigade, 5th (Australia) Division II Anzac Corps and later was sent to defend the Suez Canal around Ferry Port

Captain PW Chapman MC (vwma.org)

In June 1916 it was the turn of II Anzac Corps to be transferred to the Western Front and they arrived at Marseilles, France in late June. They moved to Armentières to take over from I Anzac Corps who had been moved to the Somme and the 5th Division commenced training. However on the night of 12th July Percy & his battalion following the rest of 5th Division moved to Bois Grenier in preparation for a diversionary attack planned for the 19th at Fleurbaix (Fromelles). On 16th July Percy was promoted to Lieutenant & 3 days later the 5th Division, the Division with the least experience of trench warfare in France would go into battle at 6pm

The attack was a disaster with little planning & no clear objectives. The 5th & 8th Australian Divisions would attack with the British 61st Division after a 7 hour preliminary bombardment, the Germans knew they were coming!

Initially the 14th Brigade took around 1000 metres of the German trenches but due to the failure of the 15th Brigade,who had suffered severely in no man’s land, they had to withdraw the following morning

Percy was awarded the Military Cross on this day with the Citation for his Military Cross: ‘For conspicuous gallantry during an action. He repeatedly led bombing attacks along the enemy’s trenches and fought them back long enough to enable many of our wounded to reach safety’. (Source: Commonwealth Gazette No. 184, (Date: 14 December 1916)

It was a huge tragedy for the Australians over 5500 men became casualties with nearly 2000 of those being killed or dying of wounds. They lost a further 400 who were taken prisoner & for many months the 5th Division was taken out of the line to regroup & retrain. By October 1916 they were transferred to the Somme and the area around Flers. Percy was wounded with a gunshot wound to his leg not long after and after being treated in hospital in England he wouldn’t return to front line service until December however on 11th November Percy was promoted to Captain

Early 1917, after a bitter winter, saw the 5th Division became involved in the Battle of the Ancre & in March 1917 they followed the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. Involved in skirmishes with the Germans it was on 12th March that Percy was reported as missing after going out on patrol. 3 days later his body was found on the parapet of the German trench known as Sunray at Guedecourt. A report by a Pvt D Whalan of 10th Platoon C Company 55th battalion states that one of Captain Chapman’s legs and an arm appeared to have been blown off by a shell & that he was dead. His body was taken back to 14th Field Ambulance and buried alongside it in the cemetery already established at Bernafay Wood. In a condolence letter to Chapman’s father, Sergeant Stephen Philip Livingstone wrote, “…the boys respected him so much that they always referred to him as Captain Chappie, and I never heard anyone speak a single disrespectful word of him…

Captain PW Chapman’s original grave marker ( AWM P03788.004)

He now rests in Grave J.42 with the words “Our Beloved Son A.W.C & G.E.C” the initials of his parents, Archibald Wellesley Chapman & Gertrude Elizabeth Chapman engraved at the base

GS wagon passes Bernafay Wood in September 1916 (©IWM Q1541)

Percy’s story isn’t unique of course and it’s just one of dozens that’s waiting to be discovered in Bernafay Wood so I do urge you to please have a look yourself and try to search out the stories of those who rest eternally here. It’s not my intention to plagurise others hardwork in research so I won’t reproduce their work here. As a starting point Tim Bell on his 17th Manchester’s website has some further reading here https://17thmanchesters.wordpress.com and also worth a look is https://www.ww1cemeteries.com/bernafay-wood-roh-a-h.html by Brent Whittam & Terry Heard which has some information & many photos of those laid here

Spring sunlight at Bernafay Wood ( Authors Own Photo)

It really is a beautiful cemetery surrounded by wonderful yellow fields of rapeseed with views towards Delville Wood & Longueval to the North and Westwards across the Vallée de Longueval to Bazentin and South West to Montauban. A great place to spend a warm Spring or Summers evening with those wonderful Sunsets casting there rays across the horizon. For me it’s certainly a place you should visit

Iron Harvest at Bernafay, Look but never touch! (Authors Own Photo)

Thanks again for joining me this week and so get in touch or leave your comments here or on twitter @Terriermcd

Sources:-

Montauban, Battleground Europe by Graham Maddocks

cwgc.org

vwma.org.au

The Middlebrook Guide to the Somme Battlefields by Martin & Mary Middlebrook

WW1

A Yorkshire Territorial

Many years ago I lived in a small village just outside Huddersfield called Berry Brow. I’d bought a new build house on a road called strangely Deadmanstone. Local legend has it that it’s name comes from the stone with a hollow centre which still exists to this day. It was near an old inn long since gone and people coming by foot or horse & cart along the old tracks from nearby villages had to carry their dead for several miles to the parish of Almondbury to be buried and they would place the body inside the rock to keep cool whilst they took refreshment inside the inn. Like so much local folklore it’s unlikely this was true but it’s quite a story!

St Paul’s, Armitage Bridge (Authors Own Photo)

Just down the road is the area called Armitage Bridge where the church of St Paul’s has stood in its current form since 1848. In its grounds stands a quite simple designed war memorial inscribed with the words ‘Grant them O Lord eternal rest and may the light perpetual shine on them‘ as well as the names of 71 men & 1 woman from the Berry Brow & Armitage Bridge area who were lost in the Great War. A further 8 names were added to it from the Second World War. It contains at least 7 sets of brothers and several other possible relations such as cousins

War Memorial, Armitage Bridge (Authors Own Photo)

Staff Nurse Ada Stanley of the Territorial Nursing Service is the woman named on the memorial. She had been born on 8th December 1871 in Doncaster to Willam & Harriet Stanley. She trained as a nurse at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary but at the time of her enlistment she is recorded as living in Manchester. Ada was posted to the 3rd Northern General Hospital at Sheffield

In July 1915 she boarded a hospital ship heading to the Dardenelles & the ill fated Gallipoli campaign. It was on a return trip to England in December 1915 on board a hospital ship the ex Cunard liner Mauretania, the sister ship of the famous Lusitania, that Ada contracted dysentry but she refused to leave her post until all the sick & wounded were safely ashore. She then collapsed and was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, Hampshire where she died aged 46 on 22nd December 1915. Her body was brought back to Armitage Bridge where she was interred in the graveyard of St Paul’s church

Ada Stanley’s Grave (Authors Own Photo)

Now what has all this to do with the title of this post you may ask? Well at this point of my life I was still pretty new to research & a little green around the gills to be honest so I started to briefly look at the names on the CWGC website. One name in particular that stood out was A C Tong, who when looking at his details on his CWGC entry states that his parents lived at 15 Rock Cottages, Deadmanstone. Of course this then straight away caught my attention. I sourced an old map of the area and imagine my surprise when I saw that Rock Cottages, and in particular the Tong family home, had stood exactly where my house now stood!!

So of course I wanted to find out more about him. His full name was Arthur Clifford Tong and he had been born in January 1891 the second child of John William, a wool sorter & Sarah Elizabeth, a housewife in Elland, near Halifax. Their first child was a daughter Evelyn born in 1889. In 1891 the family were living with Sarah’s parents in Elland & in 1901 they lived with Sarah’s now widowed father but had been joined by Herbert their third child who had been born in 1894. By 1911 they had moved to Berry Brow living at 43 Birch Road possibly after Sarah’s father had died in 1904

Arthur attended the Berry Brow Board school just down the road from his home on Birch Road. He was a fine athlete & played both football & cricket. He became a member of the Armitage Bridge Conservative club & he also attended St Paul’s Church

Arthur worked close to Huddersfield town centre at the the large Central Ironworks owned by Thomas Broadbent Ltd which covered the area from Chapel Hill, down both Chapel Street & Stables Street to Queen Street South and his place of work was just around the corner from the local Drill Hall

His athleticism was maybe a reason why he joined the local Territorial Force, the 5th bn Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, part of 2nd West Riding Brigade ,at the Drill Hall in Huddersfield where A,B,C,D & E companies were based with a small detachment of E Company based in Meltham. Further companies also existed in nearby towns, F at Holmfirth, G at Kirkburton & H at Mirfield

Huddersfield Drill Hall now home to 4th bn The Yorkshire Regiment (Authors Own Photo)

On the outbreak of war Arthur immediately rejoined his battalion as it became part of the new reserve line battalions being set up and it was renamed the 1/5th battalion. As a first line battalion this was made up of men who agreed to serve overseas. From his medal index roll he rejoined as a Private with the service number 2613 before being renumbered in later years as 240345. The 14/15 star medal roll & index card names his Surname incorrectly as Long. The battalion was initially sent to the East coast to guard coastal defences before moving in November 1914 to training camps at Doncaster

The brigade would be renamed in May 1915 to 147th (2nd West Riding) Brigade of 49th (West Riding) Division. But before that the 5th battalion with the rest of 49th Division landed at BOULOGNE, France on 14th April 1915. They marched 4 miles to St Martin’s Camp and the men were issued with a blanket each, the weather being reported as immensely cold. On 16th they received orders to move to HERDIGNEUL but the march was terrible. Having only been issued with new boots 3 days earlier the men succumbed to bad feet on the 9 mile march. When they arrived they were then issued orders to move by train to HAZEBROUCK via ST OMER but when the train stopped at MERVEILLE at 9pm they were ordered to detain and move to ESTAIRES where exhausted they arrived at 1.30am

On their arrival in France the 49th Division became part of IV Corps, 1st Army under Lieut-General Sir Henry Rawlinson. The officers, NCO’s & other ranks of 147th & 148th brigade learnt about trench life by being attached to both 23rd & 25th Brigades of 8th Division over the first few days & weeks

The 49th Division took over their own sector at FLEURBAIX on 27th April but it wasn’t until 9th May, when the Division was to support an attack by 8th & 7th Division at FROMELLES (Battle of Aubers Ridge) ,when they were first expecting to see action. The attack however was a disaster & the 147th Brigade was confined to occasional supporting fire or relief duty in the trenches whilst still at FLEURBAIX. However on the 9th the battalion would suffer it’s first major casualties when 4 men of ‘D’ company were killed by shellfire whilst they were cooking their meal

The rest of May & June was rather quiet and what could be described as normal trench life ensued. However on 1st July 1915 the Division was transferred to VI Corps, Second Army and the next day they were inspected by General Sir Herbert Plumer, Second Army Commander. A few days later they received orders to move to the YPRES CANAL BANK sector to take over the trenches from 1st Bn Royal Warwickshire Regiment east of BRIELEN at midnight. They soon realised that this wasn’t an easy sector & in 2 days they had already suffered 27 casualties. Enfilade fire, shells & gas caused misery & in places their trenches were only 70 yds from the German lines

For the rest of 1915 life in this area would be the norm for Arthur and his fellow chums in 1/5th battalion. Whether being in the trenches at the CANAL BANK, in the COLNE VALLEY dugouts or at the farms such as MALAKOFF, HULL & SARAGOSSA or out at rest near ELVERDINGHE. On Christmas Day 1915 there would certainly be no truce as had happened in a few places the year before, despite at the point known as FORTIN 17 the Germans putting up a Christmas tree and calling out ” Don’t shoot and we won’t ” But the Tykes of the 5th opened fire regardless. After the war the 49th Division chose to site its Divisional memorial on the canal bank which overlooks ESSEX FARM Cemetery as they had spent so much time in this sector

49th Division Memorial (Authors Own Photo)

Finally on New Years Eve 1915 the battalion would leave the Ypres sector moving to WORMHOUDT for rest, re equipment & training remaining there until 2nd February 1916 where they entrained at ESQUELBECQ. Arriving NW of Amiens they stayed in various camps & billets carrying out training attacks from the practice trenches at AILLY-SUR-SOMME

On the 13th February orders were received to move to BOUZINCOURT, the 49th Division was heading to the SOMME!

For the next 2 weeks they carried out further training as well as providing working parties for the Royal Engineers around AUTHUILLE before reliving without incident the 5th K.O.Y.L.I in the AUTHUILLE DEFENCES on the 28th. In and out of the lines until relieved at midnight on 6th March they were then billeted in MAILLY MAILLETT at first without straw or any fuel supplies. On 8/9th Arthur and his battalion were sent to help clear sandbags from the mines at REDAN before the 147th Brigade became attached to 36th (Ulster) Division. Work continued at REDAN as well as training specifically of Lewis gunners, scouts & signallers. On 29th March the battalion left MAILLY MAILLET and headed to HARPONVILLE then the next day onto NAOURS where training continued until 13th April when they moved to AVELUY WOOD where they were billeted in tents. 50% of the Specialists remained at NAOURS for further training. The Royal Engineers needed help to build assembly trenches in the South corner of the wood and it fell to the battalion to provide the labour. They dug cable lines until 12th May when again they headed back to NAOURS before moving to RUBEMPRE

On 1st June they returned to huts in MARTINSAART WOOD where again the battalion provided working parties to the R.E, 36th Division & A.S.C. They marched to CONTAY in terrible wet conditions arriving in the early hours of 24th June. Various inspections & readying of equipment took place before they moved to WARLOY on 27th. On the evening of 30th they marched to AVELUY WOOD & took up their allotted positions in the assembly trenches on what would be the eve of the Battle of the Somme. By 1230am on 1st July all were in place but the battalion sustained 2 casualties in doing so

The 49th Division would not been part of the initial assault around THIEPVAL on the 1st July, they were in reserve. At the front was 36th Division on the left & 32nd Division on the right. At 11am the 1/5th battalion was ordered to move to the Southern Bluff at AUTHUILLE after earlier reports were received that all 3 lines had been taken & the Corps on the left had taken the high ground North of GRANDCOURT. However by 2pm the news was received that the 32nd Division was held up at LEIPZIG SALIENT & at THIEPVAL VILLAGE eventually being pushed back to their original lines due to intense machine gun fire. The 36th Division had successfully taken the 3rd line (C) but owing to lack of reinforcements and outflanking fire on their left & right had to retire. Parts of 146th & 148th Brigades were sent to assist 32nd Division and 2 Battalions of the 146th attempted to assault THIEPVAL but failed. Arthur and his battalion remained where they were in the assembly trenches suffering only 6 casualties

On the evening of the 2nd July the battalion moved up to the front line trenches at THIEPVAL WOOD. The relief was difficult as the trenches were in a terrible condition and only small isolated pockets of men could hold the line with the rest providing close support. Early on the 3rd they received orders to attack THIEPVAL taking the German front & support line then swinging round & attacking from the flanks whilst the 4th bn consolidated a new British front line. After making preparations orders were received from Corps level to call off the attack. Intense bombardment all day resulted in 6 Officers wounded, 7 OR killed, 4 OR missing, 49 wounded & 4 suffering from shell shock. Although the battalion war diary records these losses as severe, compared to what others had suffered over the last few days I’d personally say they were particularly light

The Battalion was relieved on 5th heading back to the assembly trenches in AVELUY WOOD. On the 8th they moved back into the front line between Q.24.c.8.6 & Q.30.b.9.9 opposite Mill Road & the current site of the Ulster Tower. For the next few weeks this would be Arthur’s routine a few days in the front, a few days in support until the 49th Division was relieved on the 19th August by 25th Division moving to HEDAUVILLE then to RAINCHEVAL to commence training for an upcoming planned attack

Whilst at FORCEVILLE on 30th August they were visited by the the Divisional Commander Major- General Edward Maxwell Perceval who left a sprig of white heather that Sir Douglas Haig had said hoped would bring the Division luck in the forthcoming battle

I don’t know when Arthur was promoted to Sergeant but on the morning of 3rd September 1916 at 3.45am he was acting as Bombing Sergeant in ‘A’ Company 1/5th bn next to ‘B’ Company with ‘D’ Company in support and they were back at THIEPVAL in newly dug assembly parallels in front of the old British front line about Q.24.d.8.4- R.19.c.1.1. The objective of 49th Division ran from approx this latter point down Mill Road to the River Ancre where the 39th Division would then take up the attack to the left of the Ancre. The 49th Division was tasked with taking the front & support lines that previous Divisions had failed to capture & hold on the first day of the Battle of the Somme

The infantry would advance after an intense artillery bombardment of 3 minutes began at 5.10am on the German front line then the barrage would move on to the support line at 5.13am for a further 5 minutes. Heavy artillery as well as 18 pounders fired on THIEPVAL, SCHAWBEN REDOUBT, STRASSBURG TRENCH & ST PIERRE DIVION

The Infantry brigades attacking would be the 146th & 147th. On the 147th front the 1/4th bn was on the right with objective R.19.c.8.4 to R.19.c.5.4 on the front line and Arthur’s battalion 1/5th on the left composed of ‘A’ & ‘B’ Companies attacking the front line R.19.c.5.4 to R.19.c.1.6 inclusive and the support line R.19.c.6.6 to R.19.c.3.8 would be taken by ‘D’ Company(See below trench map). From the Pope’s nose to just before the Schwaben Redoubt was the area covered by 1/5th battalion battalion

1/5th bn Objectives 3rd September (Memory Map/Great War Digital)

‘A’ Company was commanded by Lieutenant McLintock who like all officers had been ordered to wear other ranks uniform and to keep in line with his men not lead from the front. The attack commenced at the planned time but for some reason ‘A’ Company immediately swung to it’s right becoming mixed up with a left company of 1/4th battalion and they both attacked the reentrant point together between points 25 & 54. This bunching up of men was spotted straight away by the German defenders who turned a machine gun on them. The results were devastating and quickly, with the exception of one, all officers & most NCO’s became casualties. The men now leaderless split left & right leaving a gap which the Germans later used to their advantage in bombing down their own front line. ‘B’ company with no officers at all managed, after they had lost many men just getting out of the parallel lines, to get into the support line but couldn’t hold it due to their small numbers, only about a third made it to the line

Points 25 & 54 shown on Divisional Trench Map ( Ancestry.com)

Back at battalion HQ no news was received apart from snippets from returning wounded who stated that the German lines had been taken with little casualties. We now know this of course to be mainly incorrect. 2 officers who returned stated that despite the losses a good fight had been put up by the battalion

The remnants of the battalion retired to the parallels then back to the old British front line by around 1050am, being relieved later that night. Arthur however wasn’t one of them, he was missing and eventually posted as such in the daily list that was published on 12th December 1916

This was the worst day so far for Huddersfield & its surrounding villages with the weekly figures below showing how much damage was done to the 49th Division with most casualties occurring on 3rd September

  • Killed 14 Officers 196 Other Ranks
  • Wounded 47 Officers 994 Other Ranks
  • Missing 17 Officers 611 Other Ranks
  • The War Diary of 1/5th bn itself records for 3rd September 350 casualties out of 450 who had been involved in the attack

In his diary Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig was scathing of the 49th Division based I believe on incorrect information ”

Monday, 4 September :I visited Toutencourt and saw Gen.Gough. The failure to hold the position gained on the Ancre is due, he reported to the 49th Division. The units of that Division did not really attack and some men did not follow their officers. The total losses of this Division are under a thousand! It is a Territorial Division from the West Riding of Yorkshire. I had occasion a fortnight ago to call the attention of the Army and Corps Commanders (Gough and Jacobs) to the lack of smartness, and slackness of one of its Battalions in the matter of saluting when I was motoring through the village where it was billeted. I expressed my opinion that such men were too sleepy to fight well, etc. It was due to the failure of the 49th Division that the 39th (which did well and got all their objectives) had to fall back.”

Arthur’s parents posted a plea in the local newspaper ‘The Huddersfield Daily Examiner’ on 21st September 1916 asking for information on their son. The article states that a friend in ‘A’ company had last seen him resting in a shell hole whilst wounded which later passed into German hands. Did Arthur die of his wounds? Did he put up a fight & was killed by the Germans or did they just kill him as he lay wounded? Or was he taken prisoner & died later? For now we will never know

Newspaper Plea 21/09/16 (Huddersfield Daily Examiner)

Like so many of the missing of that day he wasn’t officially declared as presumed dead until the Summer of 1917 and on Thursday 23rd August an article was printed again in the local newspaper confirming his death, he was 25 years old

He is commemorated on Thiepval Memorial on Pier & Face 6A & 6B and I have often visited Arthur over the years

Duke of Wellingtons Panel Thiepval Memorial ( Authors Own Photo)

Arthur’s parents John & Sarah Tong must have moved to Rock Cottages, Deadmanstone after the war when the IWGC was collecting family information

Now you’d think this story would be complete wouldn’t you? However there’s a twist coming!

Back in 2017 on Twitter I noticed a retweet by someone for Mash Valley Militaria advertising their latest additions. I’ll admit that apart from family pieces & items that I’ve picked up myself whilst walking the old battlefields over the years I’m not a collector. I came to it all just it seems as everyone else did and the prices shot up. Oh for the days that my good friend Paul Reed talks about when the battlefields were still littered with remnants of the Great War or people and even museums were throwing stuff away! Yes incredibly you could get stuff for free or for a very low price or donation!

Anyway back to the tweet. Out of curiosity I decided to look at Mash Valleys website and browsing through I saw the Memorial Plaque ( Death Penny as commonly referred to) section and imagine my surprise when I saw the name on one of them, yes you’ve guessed it Arthur Clifford Tong! Of course I had to buy it and I successfully did and as it’s custodian it now sits proudly on my study wall. And another twist? The date I saw it was 3rd September 2017, exactly a 101 years ago to the day since Arthur was lost. I’m not religious really but something or somebody somewhere wanted this to be found and the stars aligned on this day to enable me to find it. I hope that one day I may find a photograph of Arthur, so far I haven’t been able to but I’ll certainly keep looking & never forget Arthur

Arthur’s Memorial Plaque ( Authors Own Photo)

Sources Used:-

Ancestry.Com War Diary 147th Brigade 1/5th bn Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment W095/2800/1-4

The West Riding Territorials in the Great War by Laurie Magnus

Great War Forum

British Newspaper Archive

Huddersfields Roll of Honour 1914-1922 by J Margaret Stansfield

Huddersfield Exposed

Thanks again for taking the time to read another of my blogs. Let me know what you think either here or on twitter @Terriermcd