Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Acting Sergeant Thomas Alfred Wiggins

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

5th  Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Died Wednesday 26th November 1919, age 33

Cemetery : Wetherby Cemetery, Wetherby, West Yorkshire
Grave Reference or Panel Number : BB. "U"38

Son of Thomas and Sarah Wiggins of 4, Grafton Square, Wetherby.
Thomas Alfred Wiggins was born at Wetherby in 1886 to parents Thomas, occupation, a Tailor, and Sarah Wiggins (nee West), a native of Milton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, the family residence at this period being located at 4, Victoria Street. The 1901 Census details record that at this juncture Thomas, aged 14 years, had found employment as a Wood Sawyer, possibly in the employ of the Westerman family at Wetherby Mill. By the year of 1911, Thomas had changed his occupation to that of a Tailor akin to his father, the family residence now being located in premises consisting of five rooms located in Grafton Square.
Despite the lack of any surviving service records, an analysis of various serial numbers issued to Thomas during his military service reveals the following information. Thomas had initially enlisted at Harrogate into the ranks of the 2/5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment circa mid 1916. Numbered in a sequence 439*, possibly 4394, he was re-numbered in 1917 as were all the Territorial Regiments of the British Army to 201991 before being transferred to the 5th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in August 1918 upon the disbandment of the 2/5th West Yorkshire's due to a lack of reinforcements. Many of the men were to be sent to the 8th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, to bring it up to establishment, whilst the remainder were to be distributed amongst the Yorkshire Regiments that were contained in the 62nd (West Riding) Division. The news was broken to the men on the afternoon of the 9th of August at Vauchelles, west of Louvencourt, Somme, by the Commanding Officer, Acting Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Henry Waddy D.S.O., the battalion, officially ceasing to exist on the morning of the 18th of August 1918. As a consequence, Thomas, in a draft numbering 40 men, were now posted to the ranks of the 5th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, a sad end to one of the best battalions in the division. 

5th K.O.Y.L.I. :- The Advance To Victory

The tide of the War had finally began to turn in the Allies favour in early August. On the 8th, the Battle of Amiens resulted in the Canadian and Australian Armies, cooperating with the French First Army, advancing eight miles at a great cost to the Germans in men and materiel.

The 62nd Division mounted two offensive operations in the month of August. On the 24th, the division attacked high ground in the area of Mory and Ervillers, and on the 27th, operations were mounted to harass the retiring enemy at Vaulx-Vraucourt. Both these actions resulted in heavy casualties to the division.

On the 2nd September, the British First Army attacked a section of the Hindenburg Line known to the Allies as the Drocourt-Queant Switch Line. The 62nd Division would advance eastwards from the village of Vaulx-Vraucourt towards Morchies, the 187th Brigades attack supported by eight  Mark IV tanks. The attack proved successful but once again proved very costly in casualties particularly to the two attacking battalions of the K.O.Y.L.I.

The German Army had by now, retreated to positions located along the eastern banks of the Canal du Nord. The next phase of the Allies assault involving the 62nd Division would take place in the Havrincourt Sector near Cambrai, thus, the division would find itself attacking over familiar ground which it had previously attacked in November 1917. At 5.25 a.m. on the 11th September the 5th K.O.Y.L.I, in brigade attacked, and by noon had taken all its objectives including the capture of the village itself. Further objectives were added later in the day in which the 5th Battalion, in fading light, and in a difficult military manoeuvre performed without sufficient reconnaissance, occupied positions east of the village. Once again, the attack had proved to a resounding success albeit at a high price. The enemy had been well beaten by well trained and determined attackers. The road to victory was open.

The Battle Of The Canal Du Nord

This attack was to be made by both the Third and First Armies on a frontage of about thirteen miles from Gouzeaucourt, south-west of Cambrai, to Sauchy-Lestree to the north-west of Cambrai. Just to the north of Moevres, it was vital that First Army seized the crossings over the Canal du Nord, thus securing the northern flank of the Third Army. The Canal in this sector was heavily defended with a veritable spider web of various defensive lines converging in the locality and it would require a complex military manoeuvre, once the Canal had been crossed, to maintain the momentum of attack. Fourth Corps, Third Army, in which the 62nd (West Riding) Division were contained, had already witnessed their fair share of action during the month of September. In these actions, the Authors Great Aunt's husband, one Sergeant Harry Drage, 18805, a native of Ackworth, was awarded the Military Medal. Harry had previously witnessed service with both the 7th and 8th Battalions of the Regiment, entering the theatre of war in August 1915.

The objective of Fourth Corps was to engage the enemy and drive them back across the Canal at both St. Quentin and de l'Escaut. The 3rd Division were to launch the initial stages of the attack on the right flank, in conjunction with the Guards Division on the left flank respectively. Following on behind the 3rd Division, the 62nd Division were then to leapfrog the latter division, the 2nd Division performing a similar manoeuvre behind the Guards Division. The advance of the 62nd Division was to be conducted by the 187th Infantry Brigade on the right flank, the 185th Infantry Brigade on the left flank, "Zero" hour being set for the 5.20 a.m. on the morning of the 27th of September. The objectives of the 62nd Division were thus as follows;

The 187th Infantry Brigade were, upon the capture of the Brown Line, east of Flesquieres by the 9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Division, to pass through this latter brigade and press on to Marcoing and secure the crossings over the Canal de St. Quentin. The advance would be led by the 2/4th York and Lancaster's and the 2/4th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry with the 5th K.O.Y.L.I. in Brigade Support. On the night of the 26th/27th, the 187th Brigade moved forward to their assembly positions from Fremicourt, the 2/4th Y. & L. to Jargon Trench, west of Hermies, the 2/4th K.O.Y.L.I. to the east of Velu and the 5th K.O.Y.L.I. to Hermies Switch, just to the north-west of Hermies. Brigade Headquarters were established just to the west of Hermies near Jaw Trench whilst the 187th Trench Mortar Battery, minus one section attached to the leading assault battalions were positioned near the southern aspect of Jargon Trench. "B" Company of the 62nd Battalion Machine Gun Corps established themselves to the west of Havrincourt Wood near Long Valley (map reference P.5.).   


Extract of France Edition 8a (Local) Sheet 57c N.E
Enemy Organisation As Of The 22nd September 1918

Commemoration Under Construction