Son of John Thomas and Hannah
Dean of Wentworth Terrace, Wetherby.
Reginald was born at Wetherby in 1892 to parents John
Thomas, occupation, a Coal Carter (Own Account) and Hannah Dean.
The eldest of three children, the 1911 Census details record at this juncture that Reginald had found employment
as a Gardener (Worker) however his employer is not recorded.
Enlistment & Mobilisation
for military service at the Leeds Central Recruiting Office located in City Square, Leeds, on or about the 20th November 1915.
The terms of his enlistment were that of a Short Service Obligation, i.e. "For the Duration of the War,
with the Colours and in the Army Reserve."
Placed on the Army Reserve, Reginald was allocated the serial number 21/185 and assigned to the 21st (Service) Battalion,
(Wool & Textile) Pioneers. Mobilised in February 1916, Private Reginald Dean was then posted to this fledgling unit.
Authors note: 21/184
allocated to Private Peter Tosney, aged 20 years, a Labourer (Cloth) and a native of Burmantofts, Leeds. Number 21/186 allocated
to Private George Jameson Ivinson, aged 21 years, a Piecer of Tar Cloth and a native of Dewsbury.
Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Wool & Textile Pioneers)
The 21st (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
were formed at Halifax on the 24th September 1915 by the Lord Mayor and the City of Leeds, Headquarters being established
at Lloyds Barracks, Halifax. The Yorkshire Post dated Tuesday 19th October 1915 stated the requirements for men joining the
"Recruitment begins forthwith. Men can join at any recruiting depot in the West Riding. The age limit is
from 19 to 40, and the class required are those accustomed to the use of pick and shovel, as, for instance, blacksmiths, miners,
carpenters, masons and labourers."
In point of fact, the battalion drew its recruits from a wider variety of
occupations as to those stated. Men such as William Threapleton of Pudsey, Leeds, a Carter, Hyman Abrahams, a Tailor/Machinist
and a resident of Merrion Street, Leeds, as well as George Arthur Chadwick, a Cotton Twiner and a married man of Brighouse,
Appointed to command the newly formed battalion was one Colonel Sir Edward Henry St. Lawrence Clarke, 4th Baronet
of Rossmore, Cork, Ireland. Joining the ranks of the 36th Foot in 1876, Clarke was to rise through the ranks of the then amalgamated
Worcestershire Regiment and would perform distinguished military service in the South African War of 1899 - 1901 being both
Mentioned in Dispatches and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, Reserve of Officers in 1901. Succeeding his cousin
as the Fourth Baronet in 1903, Colonel Clarke was placed on the Reserve of Officers shortly after the outbreak of the War
but he was recalled to the Colours from the 6th (Reserve) Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment and placed in command of the
12th (Service) Battalion, Worcester's, on the 4th November 1914. Upon redesignation of this battalion to that of a training
unit, Colonel Clarke relinquished his command on the 13th October 1915 taking up his appointment with the West Yorkshire Regiment
on this date.
Colonel Clarke had suffered personal tragedy in the years proceeding the outbreak of the war. In February 1913, his
wife, Lady Susan Douglas Langton Clarke sadly died whilst residing at Boscombe, Bournemouth. As the storm clouds of war erupted
over Europe, further tragedy was to strike the family when during actions on the Aisne, his first son, John Edward Langton
Clarke M.C., a Lieutenant serving with the 50th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, was killed in action on the 14th September
1914 aged 24 years. The following year, Colonel Clarke's second son, William Hamilton Clarke, was also to fall in the
Ypres Salient whilst serving as a Second-Lieutenant with the 3rd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, aged 22 years.
As a consequence of
an Army Order published in December 1914 the War Office decreed that a Pioneer Battalion was to be attached to each division
of the British Army. Some battalions were simply converted for this purpose, for example the 7th (Service) Battalion, York
& Lancaster Regiment, 17th (Northern) Division whilst others, such as the 11th (Service) Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment,
6th Division, were specifically raised for the purpose.
Trained as infantry and equipped as such, the battalion's tasks were varied and encompassed road building and
maintenance, the construction and repairing of trenches and the construction of dugouts and shell proof cover. In short, the
unit would perform a myriad of tasks that also utilised the skills of carpenters, bricklayers and those adept at working metal.
In February 1916 the 21st (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment moved into Raikes Camp, Skipton, located to
the north of the town. Although the experiences of the battalion whilst in camp are not recorded, the camp's establishment
and construction owed its being to the Bradford Citizens Army League, formed in September 1914 for the raising of
the Bradford "Pals" battalions. The camp consisted of hutted accommodation for both officers and men including bathing
and cooking facilities as well as stabling but it's location was on high ground making it vulnerable to the vagaries of
the Yorkshire weather.
Training then ensued for the New Army battalion recruits in picturesque countryside of North Yorkshire. Route marches,
drill, entrenching on the hills above Skipton as well as the ever present kit and barrack inspections. Although the battalion
were to be assigned for labour duties, a musketry course would have been fired by each recruit as would an infantryman during
the course of his training.
were the men of the 21st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment to know, this course would stand them in good stead as they were
about to face the enemy in their first engagement.
Embarkation For France
At 10 a.m. on the
morning of the 14th June 1916, the 21st (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment paraded at full strength at Skipton and
in full marching order to be inspected by Major-General The Hon. Cecil Edward Bingham C.V.O., C.B., Officer Commanding Ripon
Reserve Centre. The strength of the battalion comprised of 30 officers and 1007 Other Ranks, Regimental Transport consisting
of 61 horses, 57 mules, 8 Wagons (General Service), 8 R.E. and 4 Kitchen Limbers, 2 Water Carts, 1 Maltese Cart, 1 Officers
Cart and 9 Bicycles.
On the following day at 1.35 p.m., 10 officers and 400 men assembled and commenced entrainment for Southampton. A
second party, under the command of Temporary Major Robert Cecil Bamford then commenced entrainment at 3.25 p.m. followed by
a third party at 7.15 p.m. under the command of Colonel Clarke.
With the last party arriving at Southampton at 11.30 a.m. on the morning of the 16th June, before they commenced
embarkation, the battalion had a short respite from travelling and ate lunch.
Embarkation commenced in two parties, one party consisting of 10 officers,
108 men plus Regimental Transport on the S.S. Courtfield whilst the remainder of the battalion embarked on the S.S.
Marguerite. With all the men onboard by 6 p.m., the 21st (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment commenced the crossing
of the English Channel, port of disembarkation allocated as Le Havre.
At 7 a.m. on the morning of the 17th June the Marguerite
tied up in the port of Le Havre whereupon the battalion disembarked and proceeded by route of march to Number 5 Rest
Camp, the men then commencing a clean up of their accomodation. Authors note: The exact location of the camp is unknown
at present but an analysis of secondary sources suggests that the camp, comprising of tented accomodation, was located upon
the cliffs with panoramic views over the sea. Transport plus personnel that had embarked on the Courtfield arrived
at the camp at some point during the afternoon however no exact time is recorded in the pages of the War Diary.
10 officers and 400
men then proceeded to entrain at Les Marchandises (Gare de Marchandises) at 3.35 p.m. on the afternoon of
the 18th, this party proceeding to the railhead under the command of Major Gordon, the remainder of the 21st Battalion, West
Yorkshire Regiment with orders to follow on during the course of the following day.
Authors note: With the absence of a Nominal Roll of officers who embarked
with the battalion and after conducting an analysis of various research sources, at present, Major Gordon, if attached to
the battalion, is unidentified.
It was on the 19th June that the battalion entrained for Belle Eglise, a railhead situated to the west of
Acheux, north-west of Albert, Somme. The first parties arrived at this location about noon and upon lunch being taken they
then proceeded by route of march to Vauchelles to the north-west and into camp. The remainder of the battalion arrived at
the camp at 5 a.m. on the following day whereupon the battalion as a whole was greeted in the afternoon by the G.O.C., 4th
Division, Major-General The Hon. William Lambton who had rode over to meet them. The General made his intentions clear that
he was to inspect the new battalion under his command during the following day no doubt initiating a frenzied clean up of
the camp and the appearance of the men.
Promptly at 8 a.m. on the 21st June, Major-General Lambton inspected the battalion however his comments are not recorded
by the Adjutant, Temporary Captain Arthur Walker, in the pages of the War Diary. Orders were then issued to proceed to billets
located at Bertrancourt, north-east of Acheux, this movement being conducted after the conclusion of a Mess Dinner, the battalion
arriving at the latter place at 5 p.m. whereupon they moved into bivouacs.
|Extract Of Map, France, Edition 2, Sheet 57 D
Although there is no apparent or surviving Nominal Roll of the
officers of the battalion that embarked for France during June 1916, at this juncture the Author has attempted to compile
a roll after an analysis conducted of various sources including the London Gazette, Army Lists, Medal Index Cards, Commonwealth
War Graves and the Regimental History (Everard Wylly).
Officer Commanding, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Edward Henry St. Lawrence Clarke
Second-in-Command Major Robert Cecil Bamford
Adjutant, Temporary Captain Arthur Walker
Honorary Lieutenant & Quartermaster Henry Williams
Temporary Captain, Arthur Hamilton Sampson
Temporary Captain William Langton Trench
Temporary Captain Sydney John Brazier
Temporary Captain George Seymour Noon
Temporary Captain Edmund Boulnois
Temporary Captain Henry Bardell Adamson (M.I.C. States Entry into Theatre
of War as 1/7/16, Army List, Unattached List T.F. )
Temporary Lieutenant Ernest Henry Jamison
Temporary Lieutenant Eustace William Oakey
Temporary Lieutenant John McN. Wingate
Temporary Lieutenant James Bruce Mackay
Temporary Lieutenant T. Jackson
Temporary Lieutenant Edward Russell Noble
Temporary Lieutenant Dennis Onslow Dighton
Temporary Second-Lieutenant Sidney John Beardshaw
Temporary Second-Lieutenant Harold Riviere Waller
Temporary Second-Lieutenant Arthur Noel Glover Wood
Temporary Second-Lieutenant Thomas Pratt
Temporary Second-Lieutenant William Reginald Gill
Temporary Second-Lieutenant James Philip Padgett
Temporary Second-Lieutenant Frank Allen Hanson
Temporary Second-Lieutenant James McGregor
Temporary Second-Lieutenant John Frederick Towers Christie
Temporary Second-Lieutenant Ralph Leonard Brazier
Temporary Second-Lieutenant Thomas Stewart Evans (M.I.C. States Entry
As May 1916)
at compiling a Nominal Roll of the battalion leaves a shortfall of two officers; Major Gordon is possibly one officer, whilst
the officer contingent would have no doubt included a Medical Officer, attached from the Royal Army Medical Corps.
Division: Beaumont Hamel Sector, Somme
The 4th Division, a Regular British Army Division, had commenced landing in France in August 1914. Fighting its first
major engagement at Le Cateau during the Retreat from Mons, the division would witness fighting on the Aisne and Marne in
September 1914 before heading northwards to Belgium in the autumn to take part in offensive operations at Messines. Fighting
in the actions of Second Ypres during April and May 1915, the 4th Division headed southwards to the chalky uplands of Picardy
in July 1915 taking over the Beaumont Hamel Sector from the French.
It is at this juncture, that the Author will provide an in depth evaluation of the activities of the Field Companies
of the Royal Engineers attached to the 4th Division in this sector as well as the mining operations conducted by the 252nd
Tunnelling Company, R.E., attached, 3rd Army.
The Field Companies, R.E.
The sector inherited was in a poor condition with trenches, wire entanglements and emplacements, if any had been
constructed at all, in need of vast improvements. Upon the arrival of the 1/1st (Durham) Field Company, Royal Engineers in
September 1915, the men, under the command of Major Arthur Michael Terry set about their work both day and night along with
their sister Field Company, the 1st (West Lancashire). Familiarisation of one line of the sector was conducted by Lieutenant
Vincent Francis Stapleton-Bretherton of the West Lancashire Company who escorted a party of the Durham Engineers under the
command of Lieutenant Thomas Henderson Weir around the 2nd Line Trench System at Vitermont, the latter locality
being situated on the north-eastern extremity of the village of Englebelmer. Whilst working on wire entanglements between
Vitermont and the village of Mailly-Maillet the Durhams suffered their first casualty in this sector when on the 22nd September,
Sapper Henry Ernest Eccles, 475, was wounded in the head by shrapnel.
In the months to come, the R.E. Field Companies carried out numerous tasks across the sector under constant and present
danger. The 1st (West Lancashire) Company departed the 4th Division in February 1916 to join the ranks of the 55th (West Lancashire)
Division and as a consequence of this movement they were then replaced by the 1st (Renfrew) Field Company, Royal Engineers
in May 1916, Officer Commanding, Major Charles Hordern. The constituent engineer units of the 4th Division now comprised of:-
9th Field Company R.E.
1/1st (Durham) Field Company R.E.
1/1st (Renfrew) Field Company R.E.
C.R.E. (Commander Royal Engineers) Harry Balfour Jones C.B.
Underground Warfare: The Tunnellers
Activity was not just confined to improvements of the trench system as below ground, the Royal Engineers were engaged
in a more sinister and almost medieval type of warfare.
In early November 1915, the recently formed 252nd Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, arrived in the Beaumont Hamel
Sector to commence operations. Under the command of Captain Reginald Graham Trower M.C., work commenced immediately driving
shafts under the German positions located on the Redan Ridge to counter enemy mining activity. Working swiftly and having
driven out a shaft to a distance of 35 feet, a charge of 500 lbs of Guncotton was exploded on the 5th November destroying
an enemy gallery.
the enemy were frequently heard on occasions working and it soon became apparent towards the end of the month of November
that another enemy gallery just to the south of Hawthorn Ridge had penetrated the first parapet and that the enemy were now
working under the second line at Point 52, (Map Reference Q.10.c.9.7.). Captain Trower himself then descenced
into the British workings listening for sounds of enemy activity but after spending the day and the night underground, no
sound of the enemy miners was heard however due to continuing reports of enemy mining activity at this position, a shaft was
sunk on the incline to push forward a gallery towards the German lines in the vicinity of "Y" Ravine.
|Extract, Beaumont, Edition 2D, 57D, S.E. 1 & 2 (Parts Of)
Upon the Redan Ridge, progress on two shafts sunk was going on
apace when in one, enemy underground activity was detected to the south-east. Reacting to the situation once again, Captain
Trower immediately proceeded to the mine shaft and ordered everything "to be held ready." With the tunnellers
working throughout the night, a chamber was constructed to contain 980 lbs of Guncotton and 'Tamped'
so as to concentrate the force of the explosion. With the charge set and tamping completed by 4 p.m. on the 28th November,
just before the men came out of the shaft, the enemy could be heard at work. At 4.30 p.m., the charge was detonated and the
enemy were heard no more.
To the south on
Hawthorne Ridge, two further galleries were dug both north and south of Point 52, these being handed over to the
infantry for listening purposes but it was on the Redan Ridge that the offensive mining activities of both sides began to
As another mine
was opened upon the Ridge, gas in the British workings resulted in the temporary cessation of mining operations. With the
enemy clearly heard to be working, it was not long before they blew a charge of their own when on the 21st December a mine
detonated to the north of the main gallery that resulted in the destruction of the British mine designated (RII (2) (1).
It was most fortunate that the mine had been evacuated ten minutes previously due to bad air but despite slight damage
to the main gallery, no casualties were sustained.
Such were the problems with gas in the workings, an expert in gas was summoned. Descending into the workings to take
samples of air, Captain David Dale Logan, Royal Army Medical Corps, was poisoned by the presence of Carbon Dioxide (C.O.2)
but fortunately recovered quickly.
On the 28th December a new mine, R4 was commenced and a location was chosen for a vertical shaft and ground
broken for an adit in Roman Road Trench. (Authors note: Parallel and north of the Mailly - Serre Road)
During the following day the sound of the enemy working underground could
be distinctly heard so as a consequence preparations were made in mine R2 for a charge placed at 50 feet along the
main gallery to be detonated on the approach of the enemy miners. With a chamber excavated for the charge, the latter consisting
of 1 ton of Guncotton and Cheddite (Authors note: An explosive material containing a high proportion of
inorganic chlorates mixed with nitroaramatics and also containing a moderant agent such as castor oil for the chlorates),
the charge was detonated at 1.45 a.m. on the 31st December, work resuming in the shaft that was in reasonably good condition
despite the explosion at 8 a.m.
|The Last Vestiges Of Mine Craters Upon The Redan Ridge, April, 2011
As the year of 1916 dawned, Captain Reginald Graham Trower
was appointed the rank of Temporary Major whilst in command of the 252nd Tunnelling Company.
On the Redan Ridge, the German tunnellers now sprang into action. At 5.30 a.m. on the morning of the 2nd January,
an enemy mine was detonated under the south corner of the Redan but its effects were minimal due to the enemy charge being
determined to be quite small.
At 3.30 a.m. on
the morning of the 8th January, the explosion of a Camouflet, essentially a small explosive charge for the purpose
of collapsing mine workings, was detonated by the enemy to the south-east. Detonated above the chamber that had been constructed
in mine RIII, the latter was "broken in" and the South Drive of the mine was
also "completely smashed in" resulting in two men being cut off at the face of this Drive, RIII (1).
A rescue attempt was commenced immediately with the whole of the company performing shifts in duration of three to five minutes
as they excavated a new Drive from the shaft. Digging through virgin ground that had not been broken by the force
of the explosion, the men dug forward through solid chalk a distance of 22 feet towards the collapsed Drive whereupon
they then commenced to dig through broken ground to a distance of 48 feet and the two entombed men were reached. Miraculously,
the two men were pulled from the face of the smashed tunnel alive after being trapped for a period of 21 hours. Although the
names of these two men are not recorded in the pages of the War Diary, the conduct of the officers and men of the 252nd Tunnelling
Company in even attempting to mount a rescue operation under extremely dangerous circumstances bears witness to their comradeship
and camaraderie born of a silent and deadly war fought underground.
It would appear that the enemy were gaining the upper hand when on the following day had detonated another large
Camouflet destroying 33 feet of RII (R) (I) and crushing in RIII (I). This large charge had been
exploded apparently just above the British workings but little damage was done underground and no casualties were
sustained. Indications on the surface however revealed that the 252nd Tunnelling Company had at this juncture driven the enemy
back to a distance of 30 feet outside the parapet of the British front line but the ever present danger of artillery of various
calibres bombarding the line in the sector placed the entrances to the tunnel system in constant jeopardy.
On the 14th January, British artillery commenced a bombardment of the German
trenches opposite the Redan. No doubt due to anticipated retaliation by the enemy's artillery, the Redan position was
cleared of troops and it was not until 2 p.m. on the afternoon of the 14th that the tunnellers returned to continue their
work. As they made their way forward, an enemy trench mortar shell or shells exploded in the trenches instantly killing
Lieutenant Frederick Crathorne.
a South African by birth, had witnessed previous military service in the South African War with the Natal Carbineers. At the
conclusion of the conflict, Frederick sailed to England and enrolled at the Camborne School of Mines, Penryn, Cornwall, where
he studied mining techniques for a period of three years. Travelling extensively in Africa in his occupation as a Mining Engineer,
upon his return to England in 1915 he was granted a commission into the 11th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment on the 21st
May 1915 as a Temporary Lieutenant. Placed on the General List on the 3rd November 1915, Frederick was then attached to the
252nd Tunnelling Company on the 4th November 1915. Authors note: Medal Index Card records date of entry into the Theatre of
War as 5/11/15, France. Lieutenant Frederick Crathorne, the first man of the 252nd Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers to
fall in action, now lies in Toutencourt Communal Cemetery, Somme, France. The War Diary records its own epitaph for Lieutenant
Crathorne simply recording that "such a good officer will be muched missed."
Operations continued apace under the Redan Ridge when on the 16th at 6 a.m.
a charge of 3000 lbs of Guncotton was detonated in the right gallery of mine RII (I) resulting in the loss
of 60 feet of the British workings. On the following day a further charge of 2600 lbs was detonated in RIII (I) (I) at
6.23 a.m. It is of interest to note that the enemy were heard to be working just before the charge was exploded and that the
different tasks of work they were undertaking at the time were clearly audible to the naked ear. Ammonal, an explosive charge
consisting of ammonium nitrate and aluminium powder was now available and a charge consisting of 3000 lbs was placed in a
chamber excavated in RII (2) on the 18th and detonated at 5 p.m., the results being described as "satisfactory"
however 50 feet of the gallery was lost due to the effects of the explosion.
|Copyright IWM (Q 115)
|Battle of Albert. Laying A Charge In A Mine Chamber. Note The Officer Using Geophone. July 1916.
As work continued in RII, RIII and RIV, it was
on the 24th January that the enemy blew yet another large Camouflet to the south-east of RII (I) at 7.20
p.m. Although no substantial damage was caused to the gallery, as a result of the explosion the end had become closed in killing
one man and wounding another. The man killed underground was one Sapper Edwin Orr, 121852, a married man of Littlethorpe Hill,
Hartshead, Liversedge, Yorkshire. A Coal Miner prior to the war, Edwin is now buried in Auchonvillers Military Cemetery, Somme,
France, as well as being commemorated on the war memorial located in St. Peter's Church, Hartshead. The first man of the
252nd Tunnelling Company to lose his life underground.
Even out of the line, the men were susceptible to danger. On the 25th, one man was killed and one man wounded by
enemy artillery fire whilst in advanced billets located in cellars at Auchonvillers. Sapper George William Osborne, 139245,
a married man of New Basford, Nottingham, now lies buried in Mailly-Maillet Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France.
As the month of January 1916 drew to a close, a chamber was constructed in
the gallery of RIII (I) (2) and a charge of 3000 lbs of Guncotton was detonated at 1.35 a.m. on the morning
of the 27th. It was noted that just before detonation, the enemy were close at hand and that due to the presence of water
in the workings, ammonal could not be used due to the lack of rubberised bags to protect the latter explosive from the effects
Work resumed as per normal routine
when on the 29th, a vertical shaft was dug and timbered in RIV to a depth of 34 feet and then on the following day,
the workings at C52 were taken over from the infantry, 252nd Company then placing 'listeners' in this location
under the Hawthorne Ridge.
Mining Activities Escalate
At the beginning of the month of February, R II (1) & RII (2) (1) (2) were each charged with 2000 Ibs
of Guncotton as the enemy were detected working towards both these galleries. Although listening continued, it was
not until the 5th however that the enemy were heard once again working close by and as a consequence both charges were detonated
simultaneously at 12 p.m.
the departure of the 4th Division who moved northwards, the 252nd Tunnelling Company now came under the administration of
17th Corps, G.O.C. Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng and the 36th (Ulster) Division and no doubt as a consequence of this
command restructure, all work on fatigues stopped from the 3rd - 7th February.
In the vicinity of Trench 58, the 107th Infantry Brigade, 36th Division,
reported enemy mining activity. An officer was at once dispatched with listening equipment however after a period
of listening for enemy activity it was determined that there was no mining operations being conducted in the area.
With Headquarters of the 252nd T.C. moving to Raincheval on the 9th February
on account of Sixth Corps, it was on the following day that upon the Redan Ridge the enemy were detected by means of Geophone
in R I (1) and R II (1) (1). As this situation developed underground, on the surface danger was also
ever present, one Sergeant, a Corporal and five men being seriously wounded by shell fire in advanced billets located at Auchonvillers.
The War Diary now resumes
on the 1st March recording that the enemy detonated a large Camouflet of about 3000 lbs of high explosive directly
to the east of RIII (2) (3) upon the Redan Ridge at 11.57 a.m. This charge destroyed 62 feet of the gallery with
the unfortunate result that three men were killed whilst working at the face. Although their bodies could not be initially
recovered, the following men killed in this explosion now lie in Auchonvillers Military Cemetery, Somme; Sergeant Albert Dean,
139255, of Bignall End, Staffordshire, Sapper James Bernasconi, 132108, of Holbeck, Leeds, and Sapper William McManus, 132062,
a former miner at Mitchell Main Colliery, Darfield, and a native of Batley, West Yorkshire.
As the British Third Army moved northwards, the 252nd Tunnelling Company
now became attached to the Fourth Army on the 4th March 1916. On the 6th, Number Two Section, comprising of two officers and
61 Other Ranks, were sent to the Headquarters of the 174th Tunnelling Company Headquarters located at Bray for a period of
one month to assist in operations.
In the sphere
of operations of the 252nd T.C., work had to be suspended temporarily on the following day due to a shortage of available
manpower from the 107th Infantry Brigade, 36th (Ulster) Division, the detachment of Number Two Section no doubt a contributing
factor resulting in the cessation of activities.
Upon Hawthorn Ridge and opposite the German Hawthorn Redoubt, two mines, designated HI and HII
were commenced on the 15th March whilst on the Redan Ridge, the upper levels of the workings were prepared for a protective
scheme and plans made for driving up the face part of the salient. Consequently on the 17th, a charge of 3000 lbs of ammonal
was detonated at 6.30 a.m. at the end of RIII (2) (2). Prior to detonation the enemy were heard with the naked ear
to be working close by and above the gallery, but it appeared that they had in fact passed the position of the charge and
were driving towards the British parapet. After the explosion a long depression was visible on the surface indicating the
collapse of the enemy gallery and that the blow had indeed been successful no doubt inflicting numerous casualties in the
process. In response, the enemy detonated a large charge on the 22nd, the charge in question possibly being situated only
at a depth 30 feet below the surface resulting in cratering of the ground outside of the parapet but fortunately with no casualties
It was on
the 29th March that the first gallantry medals were awarded to the 252nd Tunnelling Company when Second Corporal Edward Brown,
147480, and Sapper John Burns, 139417, were both awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for their actions on the 1st March.
Brown's citation in the London Gazette dated the 15th April 1916 reads:-
"For conspicuous devotion to duty in rescuing men who had been incapacitated
after the blowing in of a camouflet. Later he re-entered the mine to rescue incapacitated tunnellers and worked strenuously
till exhausted to extricate men who were entombed in a destroyed gallery."
Due to the frequent shelling of the advanced billets located in cellars at
Auchonvillers, the camp moved to the village of Beaussart near Mailly-Maillet and into canvas huts near the burnt out Chateau
de Beaussart. Although the camp was some distance to the rear, on the 29th March a German aircraft flew over the camp dropping
two bombs, the ensuing explosions seriously wounding four men.
An analysis of the Commonwealth War Graves database suggests that one man succumbed to wounds as a result of this
aerial attack. Sapper George Fisher, 121953, a native of Cudworth near Barnsley, occupation, Coal Miner, had enlisted at Darfield
whilst possibly employed at either the Mitchell Main or Darfield Main Collieries. Passed down the casualty clearing line,
George succumbed to his wounds at one of the many hospitals located on the southern outskirts of the city of Rouen and is
now buried in St. Sever Cemetery.
On the following day another enemy aircraft flew over the camp at Beaussart this time dropping five bombs but fortunately
on this occasion there were no casualties sustained. Almost as if in an act of revenge for the enemy's aerial activities,
two mines were detonated under the Redan Ridge on the 31st. One, comprising of 2000 lbs of ammonal was detonated in RII
(I) (3) at 5 p.m.catching the enemy unawares and destroying their gallery and half an hour later, an identicle charge
was detonated in RIII (2) (4) that also resulted in the destruction of an enemy gallery. As a consequence of these
explosions, the mines became rapidly flooded with gas, a large number of infantry holding the position being affected.
On this date, the 252nd T.C. was now attached to the 31st Division and VIII
Corps. The 31st Division, a New Army Division recently arrived on the Western Front from service on the Suez Canal Defences,
now took over this sector for trench familiarisation duties from the 36th Division.
VIII Corps frontage commenced near the village of Hebuterne to the north and then snaked
its way southwards to the banks of the River Ancre. In the weeks to follow, 252nd T.C. would be called upon to construct numerous
Russian Saps along the length of the corps front to assist the infantry in crossing No Man's Land but it was
upon the Hawthorn Ridge that the tunnellers now concentrated their efforts on eliminating and neutralising a German strong
ironically, on the 1st April, 'April Fools' Day,' RI (1) was charged with 3000 lbs of ammonal and exploded
at 9 a.m. The resulting detonation as the enemy were working close by destroyed their gallery, no doubt inflicting casualties.
As the 29th Division now came into the line
after arriving from Egypt, another mine, H3, was driven a distance of 35 feet through solid chalk upon the Hawthorn
Ridge on the 11th April. This feat, broke all works for the Army for work completed during a duration of twenty four hours.
Authors note: Mines HI and HII were designated as defensive, H3 being driven forward from
a position near Pilk Street Trench.
|Courtesy Of McMaster University
|Extract Of Beaumont, Edition 2B, 57D S.E. 1 & 2 (Parts Of) 28/4/16.
Activities continued upon the Redan Ridge but it soon became apparent
that the enemy were working very close to the chamber located in RI (2) (1). Not only had he proceeded to mine past
the latter and working in a north-westerly direction, it was also apparent that he was working inwards towards the British
lateral. The danger was obvious and if allowed to proceed unchallenged it was just a matter of time before he broke in to
the 70 foot gallery.
Stealthily, a charge
of 5000 lbs of ammonal was placed in the chamber and at 6.30 a.m. on the morning of the 13th April as the enemy miners continued
their work apace, the charge was detonated. The results to the enemy workings and his personnel must have been catastrophic
with the gallery beyond doubt destroyed and the men entombed.
The enemy retaliated on the 17th by exploding a large charge however the distance of the
charge detonated caused no damage to the British workings and fortunately no casualties. The German miners appeared to be
cautious and it would appear at face value that luck was indeed on the side of 252nd T.C. due to more construction work on
a variety of tasks being allocated across the sector for the infantry of both the 31st and the 29th Divisions.
The 252nd T.C. now had over 1900 infantrymen attached as work began on the
construction of mines/saps located at various points along the frontage of both divisions. It is of interest to note that
in the Serre Sector, two forward saps, "A" and "B" located in K.29.C.8.4.
and K.29.C.8.6. respectively and in positions south of Matthew Copse, were under construction by the men of
the 13th Yorks. & Lancs. (1st Barnsley "Pals"), 94th Infantry Brigade, 31st Division, under the direction of
the O.C. 252nd Tunnelling Company.
Number Two Section returned from attachment with the 174th T.C. at Bray on the 23rd, they proceeded to take over the northern
mines/saps located near John Copse, Serre. On the following day at this location, Second-Lieutenant Charles Thomas Andrews
was severely wounded by an enemy artillery shell.