|Gunter, R B N
|Durrant, C M
|Weston, C G
|Kelly, K G
|Armitage, G J
|Durrant, H M L
|Hargreaves, J P
|Kirk, J C
|Wiggins, T A
|Harper, J W
|Alexander, H W
|Mason, T F
|Webster, A E
|March, E A
|Bygrave, E W
|Varley, N W
|Bowen, F J
|Crossley, J S
|Frost, A E
|Hodgson, F H
|Hood, W H
|Metcalfe, J C
|Scutt, T G
|Dawson, G W
|Durham, E F
|Precious, G R
|Wheelhouse Smith, W
|Swann, J W
|Burnsides, G A
|Kelly, H W
|Miles, J G
9th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
Died 15th September 1916, age 22
Cemetery : Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France
Grave Reference or Panel Number : Pier and Face 2A, 2C and 2D
Son of Mrs Elizabeth Hodgson and the late William John Hodgson of 18, Bank Street, Wetherby.
William and Elizabeth married in Leeds in 1890 but shortly after this union the couple relocated
to Stockton-on-Tees in the north of England residing in premises located at 35, Ann Street.
In 1892 the first of three
children was born, Arthur William, followed by Francis in 1895, and Albert Edward in 1900.
Upon the death of William
who died in 1901 at the untimely age of just 34 years, Elizabeth and her three sons relocated to Wetherby where in the
town resided a large number of the extended Hodgson family.
The 1911 Census records the family residing at premises located
"Off Bank Street" however the 1911 Summary Book precisely records the family dwelling located in Hodgson's
Yard. Authors note: The latter record suggests that this may be the small yard located adjacent to the New Inn Public House,
the yard at this period being in the tenure of one branch of the Hodgson family for over 100 years, however, this may
possibly be another term for "Fox Yard," located to the rear of the former "Fox Inn."
By this juncture,
Elizabeth was employed as a Charwoman whilst Arthur had found employment as a General Labourer. Francis was employed as an
Apprentice Butcher, possibly with the well known Wetherby family of Butchers, Ellis, of the High Street, whilst Albert remained
Between 1911 and the outbreak of the Great War, it would appear that Francis acquired an interest or at least
some skill in mechanics that would lead to a change of vocation. Prior to his enlistment he found himself in the employ of
one Henry Crossley, proprietor of the Wetherby News as a Chauffeur.
It was whilst in Crossley's employ that Francis
would make friends with Thomas Beasley aged 19 of Kirk Deighton, an Apprentice Printer at the 'News.' A friendship
that would survive the horrors of the Dardanelles but one that would end for both men on the battlefields of the Somme in
Recruitment & Attestation
Francis attested for service at Wetherby
Town Hall on or about the 31st August 1914. The terms of enlistment were a Short Service obligation, i.e. three years with
the Colours however it was stated that if the War lasted longer than three years, the recruit would be retained until the
cessation of hostilities.
As the men awaited to enlist, Army protocol declared had the prospective recruit received Notice
and understood its meaning and who gave it to them. On confirmation by the potential recruit, Army Form B. 2065 was
first signed by Roland Meyrick, the issuer of the Notice before recruitment. The latter had proved to be very
brisk, principally due to the efforts of a number of individuals, but it was Mr. Rowland Meyrick of Hall Orchards, an
agent for the Montague estates, that was the major protagonist encouraging many a young Wetherby man to "take the
A newspaper article dated September 1914 provides an insight as to his activities as an unpaid Recruitment
"Day and night he worked with the greatest enthusiasm and wherever young men were, in the cottage,
in the harvest field and street, there he was to be found, exercising his persuasive powers and the young men answered nobly
to his call.
Some men, at first however, had their reservations on joining the Colours;
One young fellow, anxious
to enlist, was troubled about throwing up his work and he went to Mr. Meyrick. Would he guarantee him work when he returned
home? The answer was thoroughly satisfactory, and the young fellow is probably now clad in khaki. That is the way to get recruits."
Concerns prior to enlistment were also raised for the soldiers dependants, therefore, Wetherby Steeplechase
Committee made the following offer to stimulate and encourage recruitment.
A further newspaper article dated September
"The Wetherby Steeplechase Committee have announced that they will give 1 shilling a week
each to the wives of men who have joined the Colours, and any others volunteering in the town, in order to augment the Army
allowance while they are on service."
Agreeing that he now understood the terms of his engagement,
Francis now declared that all his answers to questions declared on the Army Form were true and that he was willing to
fulfil the engagements made. On signing the document, it was witnessed by John McEvitt, a former soldier with the 1st Battalion,
Connaught Rangers and a veteran of the Boer War. Former Colour Sergeant McEvitt in civilian life was the Caretaker of the
Conservative Club located in the Market Place, who although recorded in the 1911 Census as an Army Pensioner, fulfilled the
roll of Acting Recruitment Sergeant.
A preliminary medical examination was now conducted by Lieutenant Harry Winstanley
Shadwell of the Royal Army Medical Corps to determine vital statistics; height, weight, expansion of the chest. Deemed 'fit'
as the vast majority of men were at this early stage of enlistment, the final signature that would approve the man for military
service was that of the Approving Officer, 14th Recruiting Area, Colonel Harold P. Ditmas, late Durham Royal Garrison
That final signature would witness over forty-five recruits from the locality joining the ranks
of the fledging 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, the first Service Battalion of the Regiment to be raised
as a response to the outbreak of the Great War.
In the first week of September, the men prior to leaving for the Regimental
Depot located at York, were entertained to a dinner by the townsfolk of Wetherby. After the event and bidding their farewells,
the men of 'Kitchener's Army' were conveyed to York in a fleet of motor-cars amidst, what was described as, "much
scenes of jubilation and enthusiasm."
Of the men, many would never return.
Of The Battalion
The 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment was formed
at York on the 25th August 1914 and designated a K1 Battalion as formed under Lord Kitchener's first 'Call to
Arms,' an appeal for 100,000 men to join the Army for 3 years or for the duration of the war between the ages of 19 and
30 years. The battalion was contained in the 11th (Northern) Division, a New Army Division which was formed under Army Order
No. 324, published on the 21st August, 1914. This order approved of the addition to the Army of six divisions, the 8th,
9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th respectively.
The 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, O.C. Lieutenant-Colonel
George Frend (attached from the 3rd Battalion, West Yorkshire's), were contained in the 32nd Infantry Brigade that
also comprised of the following units:
6th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)
6th (Service) Battalion, Yorks & Lancs Regiment
8th (Service) Battalion, West Riding Regiment (Duke of Wellington's)
Brigade Commander Brigadier-General Henry Haggard
Major-General Frederick Hammersley C.B.
Basic training ensued
for the recruits from Wetherby at the Regimental Depot where they became accustomed to the vagaries of life in the British
Army. Possibly the first blow to patriotic 'fervour' was the issuing of a Serial Number to each man; an individual
in civilian life but now a number throughout his service in the Army. It is of interest to note that the numbers issued
to the recruits from Wetherby follow no alphabetical sequence as is sometimes the case. An analysis therefore conducted of
this specific batch of numbers issued reveals that proceeding Francis the number 11875 was allocated to Francis John Bowen,
a native of Bridgnorth but resident in Wetherby, 11877, i.e. the man behind, to Ernest Linfoot, a native of Harewood and employed
in Wetherby as a Grocers Assistant.Settling into their new surroundings 'The
Optimist' remarked that the change of weather and that of the scenery was most welcome. He also noted that the
extensive heathland and commons so characteristic of the area proved more condusive for military manoevres as the men were
about to experience.
York at this juncture with the Depot processing more men that had answered
the 'Call to Arms' was fit to bursting point with men. Therefore a move to larger training facilities at Belton
Park, Grantham, was initiated in September by the 9th West Yorkshire's where they were joined by the remainder of the
Following this movement, a second medical examination, more thorough than the Primary Military Examination
that had taken place on Attestation was carried out in mid October. Many men from Wetherby were discharged due to either
being found medically unfit with ailments ranging from chronic bronchitis to a hernia, or, a lack of general ability.
These men in Army 'parlance' were "Discharged not being likely to become an efficient soldier,"
their departure being confirmed by the Adjutant, Captain
An analysis of Army Pension
records reveal that of the men who enlisted at Wetherby Town Hall in August, 6 were medically discharged who had a direct
link to the town in addition to one man from Kirk Deighton. Some would eventually serve in some military capacity as the War
The winter of 1914 and the spring of 1915 was most notably wet resulting in the camp at Belton turning
into a veritable quagmire. By the end of February, all ranks had been issued 1914 Pattern Equipment, made under contract in
the United States and despite the weather, training proceeded apace with the usual musketry drills, marching
By late March orders had been issued of an impending move away from Lincolnshire. On the 5th April 1915,
the 9th West Yorkshire's, in Brigade, were ordered to entrain at Rugby, the destination being Witley Camp, near Godalming,
Surrey. Leaving Belton Park on this date, the Brigade proceeded by route of march via Scalford, Thrussington and Whetstone
reaching Rugby on the 8th. Here the brigade entrained during the following day after an eventful march. An account of this
may be found in the Green Howard's In The Great War by H.C. Wylly. 'The Optimist' as he is referred
to in the account writes:
"Our march on the Wednesday took us through Leicester where the Division was
accorded a really wonderful reception; all work was suspended and the streets were lined by an ethusiastic and cheering multitude
who showered all kinds of gifts on the troops."
The camp consisted at this stage of the War primarily of tented accomodation with a few huts
but the camp would rapidly expand and become more permanent as the conflict progressed.
During April, Francis
no doubt received news from home that his eldest brother Arthur, who had enlisted in the 5th Battalion, West Yorkshire
Regiment a few days after Francis's enlistment into the 9th Battalion, had proceeded overseas with the then 1st West Riding
(Territorial) Division, later renamed the 49th (West Riding) Division. Arthur was eventually discharged due to sickness in
August 1917 (a news paper report however states that he had been wounded twice). Arthur would live to the ripe old age
of 79 years and die in the Barkston Ash district in 1971.
On the 1st May the 11th (Northern) Division played
host to two distinguished visitors, namely His Majesty the King who was also accompanied by Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State
for War. After inspecting the men, the following Divisional Order was issued:
"His Majesty the King has
desired the G.O.C. to convey to the troops his appreciation of the splendid appearance and steadiness of the men on parade
yesterday. His Majesty also remarked on the good condition of the horses. Finally His Majesty said to the G.O.C., It has been
a very great pleasure to me to see such a splendid body of men, and I desire you to so inform the troops."
was also during early May that Colonel Frend was replaced by another officer from the 3rd West Yorkshire Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel
John O'Brien Minogue. An experienced officer who had risen through the ranks, Minogue had served with a variety of
regiments however the Colonel had an affiliation to the West Yorkshire Regiment dating back to 1893.
Towards the end
of June there must have been rumours of an impending move to active service circulating as the American equipment previously
issued to the men was replaced by the British made 1908 pattern webbing. Suspicions were no doubt aroused further when
all the men were issued khaki drill and helmets of the 'Foreign Service' variety, the latter also referred to as the
The men of the West Yorkshire's were soon to find out as orders were issued to the 32nd Infantry
Brigade at 3 p.m. on the afternoon of the 31st June to prepare for entrainment the following day, destination, as yet unknown
to the men, was to be the Dardanelles.
For a comprehensive account of the actions of the 9th West Yorkshire
Regiment during the Dardanelles campaign the reader may wish to follow this link:
Developments In The East
With the failure of the offensive conducted during August, the Dardanelles campaign was about to reach a turning
point. Despite Sir Ian Hamilton's requests for more reinforcements during mid August and with the prospect of winter
looming, both opposing forces had ground to a stalemate. The huge logistical effort that would have to be initiated to
maintain any offensive operations during the winter months detracted from what was envisaged by some as the primary sphere
of military operations being conducted on the Western Front. The situation as regards the future conduct of operations on
the Peninsular however was about to become even more complex.
It was on the Western Front that as both
the British and French Armies prepared for offensives, at Loos and in the Champagne region respectively, that the Admiralty
received a request from the French Naval Attache on the 1st September. This sudden and surprise communique requested assistance
by the French Ministry of Marine in the despatching from Marseilles of four new French divisions bound for the Dardanelles.
The French government now proposed to form an independant Army of the East comprising of six divisions which would be placed
under the command of General Maurice Sarrail. This army it was proposed would land on the Asiatic coast of the Dardanelles
during the month of October. This force would then advance upon the Turkish forts located at Chanak (Canakkale) in conjunction
with further renewed assaults on the Peninsula.
The proposal was accepted but this would warrant the withdrawal
of two French divisions from Helles to join those arriving from France. To replace the outgoing French troops, Kitchener promised
Hamilton two Regular Divisions, the 27th and the 28th, however, there was to be one opponent to the scheme, General Joseph
In principal Joffre agreed but whilst exercising his influence both politically and in circles of the General
Staff, he proposed certain conditions before the release of the divisions. Due to the impending operations in the Champagne
area, Joffre stipulated that the French divisions allocated for the Dardanelles would not be released until he could ascertain
the outcome of the forth coming offensive. To a certain extent, Joffre was brought to heel by the French government on the
7th September with orders to send the required four divisions in early October with a view to commencing operations during
the following month.
It was at Calais on September 11th that Kitchener along with Field Marshall Sir John French met
Joffre, General Sarrail, and the French Minister of War, Alexandre Millerand. Joffre still argued his case as regards the
dispatch of vital men and materiel to a front that could ultimately become a protracted affair if any success could
not be accomplished in a relatively short time scale. It also became clear of Joffre's lack of confidence in Sarrail,
Joffre having dismissed the latter as commander of the French Third Army in July 1915. Furthermore Joffre had his own staff
formulating plans for the Asiatic scheme which although not as yet completed, did not look promising.
pressed for a definitive answer to the time as when French troops would be relieved from the offensive and assigned to
the Dardanelles. Joffre replied that he would be able to ascertain the success or failure for that matter of the offensive
after the first week. If the objective of forcing the enemy to retreat from his positions was not achieved, all units destined
for the Peninsula would be withdrawn for the Asiatic operation.
News of further developments in the east however had
reached London on the 20th September.
On the 6th September it became clear that Bulgaria had formed an agreement
with the Central Powers, Germany and Austria, over the invasion of Serbia that would ultimately lead to the Bulgarians mobilizing
in mid September. With Serbia now under threat of invasion and with Austro-German forces massing north of the Danube, Serbia
sent a request to the Greek government for support in the form of 150,000 men. Obliged by treaty to support the Serbs, the
Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos approached the Allies and urged them to send troops to Salonika so that the Greeks
could honour their treaty obligations and enter the war. Facing this developing crisis the only assistance the Allies could
provide in time were one British Division, the 10th (Irish) and one French, the 156th that ultimately had to be sent from
the Dardanelles in late September.
Political tensions in Greece began to boil over resulting in a conflict of opinions
between the monarch, King Constantine and his Prime Minister, Venizelos. Constantine, with a Prussian wife, Sophia, of the
House of Hohenzollern, and accused by some of a political leaning towards being pro-German, was dismayed not
only by his Prime Ministers request to the Allies for assistance, he had not been consulted on the matter, but also that he
envisaged that the withdrawal of two divisions from the Dardanelles signified the conclusion or abandonment of military operations
on the Peninsula. He concluded that if this was the case, the Turkish Army would be freed from operations in the Dardanelles
and proceed therefore to reinforce the Bulgarians.
On the Western Front the offensives of both the French and the
British had commenced on the 25th September. Casualties sustained during these two offensives as they ground on numbered
in excess of half a million men with very little ground gained.
In Greece the political tensions between King Constantine
and his Prime Minister had boiled over resulting in the latter being forced to resign. The Allies now found themselves effectively
on the threshold of launching an offensive in a neutral country who had little or no intention of honouring treaty obligations
Still, there was one alternative put forward, the prospect of the British Navy forcing the Straits in the
Dardanelles in an attempt to prevent Bulgaria from invading Serbia.
Commodore Roger Keyes, Chief of Staff to Admiral
de Robeck, proposed that the British Navy now had the ability, unlike the initial stages of the campaign, to effectively
mine-sweep the Straits and enter the Sea of Marmara. If this could be achieved, and Keyes plan was adventurous and did not
follow the conventional naval strategies of the period, Turkish lines of communication could be harassed forcing the
Turks to transport all their neccessary supplies via the Bulair Isthmus.
Keyes not only had the support of Kitchener
and Churchill, but more importantly that of Rear Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss. However De Robeck harboured concerns over the steering
capacity of the use of Monitors, the latter designed with a shallow draft and with the ability to sail close to the coastline.
Churchill noted that if De Robeck's lack of faith in the ability of the Monitors was based on sound knowledge of the limitations
of this type of vessel, it would be neccessary to use battleships to accomplish Keyes plan. These could be protected from
damage by enemy mines using a variety of methods such as 'mine bumpers' and nets.
De Robeck however along with
the First Sea Lord, Sir Henry Jackson would not commit themselves to any attempt despite the ultimate responsibility if Keyes
plan failed falling on the shoulders of the First Lord of the Admiralty Arthur Balfour.
The British Government
and that of the French now faced the question of the adoption of a common war policy. In a view to adopting a course
of action that would decide the future conduct of operations the British Cabinet after protracted discussion decided to consult
the opinion of both the navy and the military under the auspices of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Archibald
J. Murray and the First Sea Lord respectively.
It was on the 9th October that the conclusions of the above were
released to Ministers in the form of a document. For those that supported the continuation of offensive operations in the
Dardanelles this would prove to be the first nail in the coffin. It was the recommendation of both the General Staff in accordance
with that of the General Headquarters, France, that operations should continue on the Western Front with the primary objective
of maintaining the offensive at Loos.
However, the question of opening a new front in Salonika also came to the fore;
both the General Staff of the Army and that of the Admiralty War Staff favoured the continuation of offensive operations in
the Dardanelles. The French Government it must be said had firmly settled on decisive action in Salonika but the British continued
to discuss the various options available unable to decide amongst themselves on an agreed course of action.
9th October all options were discussed by the War Council. Unable to reach a conclusion as to the pursuance of future operations
either in the Dardanelles or Salonika, one consensus of opinion was reached however that reinforcements should be sent to
the east. Six divisions would therefore be withdrawn from operations on the Western Front however the theatre of war in which
they would be deployed was still undecided. As an interim measure these divisions would be sent to Egypt to await further
It was as if the fate of the men destined for Egypt had already been decided when on October 7th, German and
Austrian forces commenced an invasion of Serbia. Just two days later Belgrade was occupied. In conjunction with the latter
offensive, the Bulgarian First Army commenced their invasion on the 11th. The die was now cast.
With the French
unshakable in their determination to support an expedition to Salonika, further discussions in the British Cabinet ensued
as to where to send the British divisions that were to be diverted to Egypt. If these units were to be destined for Salonika,
surely this would, at least, witness any proposed reinforcement of the Dardanelles and the conduct of future operations in
this theatre questionable.
It was as if the British Government had their hands tied. Joffre had threatened to resign
his command of the French Armies unless the opening of a new front at Salonika was not enthusiastically supported by British
forces. With this threat, and despite the objections of the General Staff, the Cabinet agreed. It was now clear as to the
theatre of operations the reinforcements destined for Egypt were about to operate. It is a matter of some conjecture as to
whether these forces could have influenced the future conduct of operations on the Peninsula. Nearly half of the force as
Hamilton himself stated were incapacitated through illness. It seemed that adding a virtual transplant of life blood to an
already dying patient seemed futile to some. In addition to this, a possible evacuation was being muted in certain corridors,
suggested in part by Hamilton as early as August. This 'suggestion' was about to be examined.
Of The Peninsula?
In some circles of both the military and political establishments many were beginning,
if they had not already, to lose faith in Hamilton and the Dardanelles campaign per se. Due to the ongoing developments in
the east, and those of a leaning more to prosecuting the war on the Western Front, an evacuation of the Peninsula was
being muted much to Hamilton's disgust and dismay. To this end Kitchener cabled Hamilton on the 11th October with regards
to his estimate of casualties should an evacuation take place. Hamilton, enraged to say the least, stoked the fire that would
ultimately lead to his own dismissal by concluding that casualties, should an evacuation take place, number about 50%. Consequently,
at a meeting of the Dardanelles Committee on the 14th October, those that favoured the abandonment of the campaign and ultimately
Hamilton's dismissal got their own way. He was to be recalled along with his Chief of the General Staff, Major General
Walter Braithwaite, and replaced by General Sir Charles Munro along with his own C.G.S., Major General Arthur Lynden-Bell.
On Hamilton's departure, Lieutenant-General William R. Birdwood, commander of the ANZAC forces was placed in
temporary command whilst awaiting the arrival of Munro.
Munro, arriving at Imbros on the 28th October, quickly set
about his task of assessing the situation. His conclusion was that offensive operations were not feasible and more worrying,
if the Turks were able to mount a sustained operation in an attempt to drive the occupying force from their positions, these
being on the whole most unsatisfactory, the outcome would at the least be difficult to predict. With Turkish forces gaining
in strength on a daily basis both in men and materiel, in particular a steady supply of German munitions were being
transported to the Turks via Bulgaria, Munro telegraphed Kitchener on the 31st October with his final assessment; the
recommendation of the evacuation of the Peninsula.
Kitchener, still believing that the Admiralty would agree to
Keyes audacious plan to force the Straits, cabled Birdwood. He assumed that there would be a change of command in the navy
with De Robeck being replaced by the more sympathetic Rear Admiral Wemyss.
With little or no support likely from the
the navy at this stage of affairs, even Keyes began to have doubts as regards the proposed landing at Bulair.
to the War Committee, the renamed Dardanelles Committee, that the ultimate decision lay as to ascertain the true
situation that now existed on the Peninsula.
To this end Lord Kitchener himself was dispatched to the Dardanelles by
the War Committee arriving on the Peninsula on the 9th November. Before he departed a cable was sent to Birdwood on the 4th
November that directed him to take command of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force whilst Monro was to be transferred to
the new front at Salonika.
Following an inspection of the defences and men over a period of several days, Kitchener concluded
that positions could be maintained on the Peninsula that is, if the enemy remained static and were not reinforced by vast
numbers of troops. On the subject of the proposed forcing of the Straits, after lengthy discussion with Admiral de Robeck,
Keyes proposal that had initially been accepted as viable in some quarters of the establishment was dismissed. In yet another
twist a new landing was suggested that would provide a dual function. Supported by Monro and General Sir John Grenfell Maxwell
it was proposed that this landing would take place at Ayas in the Gulf of Alexandretta on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.
It was anticipated that not only would this threaten Turkish supply lines to Egypt and Mesopotamia but also deflect the magnitude
of what would effectively be seen by the wider world as a victory by the Turks of Allied forces in the Peninsula, should an
evacuation of the latter front be authorised. In the eyes of the War Committee and the Admiralty, the proposed plan to open
yet another new front was dismissed.
As a result of Kitchener's inspection and his conversations with Corps Commanders,
his earlier decision to replace Monro with Birdwood was rescinded. Birdwood was to be appointed to local command at Gallipoli
whilst Monro was to be placed in overall command of British forces in the Mediterranean sphere outside of Egypt. Lieutenant-General
Sir Bryan Mahon, commander of the 10th (Irish) Division, was to assume command of British forces in Salonika
With regard to the evacuation of the Peninsula, Kitchener had by now assessed the situation. Reluctantly, and still
harbouring a view to continue at least some future operation in the Dardanelles, his recommendation was that both Suvla and
Anzac be evacuated. Concerns were however expressed by Admiral de Robeck that should Helles be abandoned, the Turks would
sieze the opportunity to establish a base in the Straits for submarine operations that would ultimately threaten
shipping routes to Salonika. On the 22nd November, Kitchener cabled the War Committee in London with his proposals. The reply
he received the following day was that although the Prime Minister Asquith accepted Kitchener's general recommendations,
the War Committee disagreed opting for an evacuation of all three positions. Despite these deliberations it was to be
at the next meeting of the Cabinet that the ultimate decision was to be taken.
As Kitchener departed for England
on the 24th November, two days later a violent thunderstorm broke over the Peninsula flooding and destroying the trenches.
It is as well that preparations for an evacuation, should one be ordered, were already in hand.
Meanwhile, the British
Government and the War Committee still remained undecided. The political wrangles between both factions as to remain
in the Dardanelles, evacuate or to adopt Keye's proposal to force the Straits, supported by Rear Admiral Wemyss who had
by now replaced De Robeck, still continued.
Finally, at a meeting of the full Cabinet convened on the 7th December,
the decision to evacuate Gallipoli was reached, influenced by pressure from the French and the opening of the new front in
Anzac and Suvla were to be evacuated however as per Kitchener's reccomendation, Helles was to be retained.
Evacuation: The Three Stages
Even before the decision to evacuate the Dardanelles
was confirmed, a joint naval and military committee had been assembled to compile the basis of a plan of evacuation.
plan would be implemented in three stages:
The Preliminary Stage
This would commence
at once evacuating men, horses and mules etc and materiel that were non essential for adequate defence throughout
the winter months. Once the decision to commence evacuation was confirmed by the British Cabinet, a second stage was to implemented.
The Intermediate Stage
This stage was to be conducted over a period of ten days whereupon there would
be a reduction of the garrisons that remained. The latter would consist of a sufficient number of men should a Turkish attack
materialize and the weather impede the conduct of the evacuation.
The Final Stage
To be conducted
when sufficient numbers of men had been reduced but dependant on the weather. This would be initiated as early as possible
over a short time scale of no longer than two nights.
Birdwood had initiated the Preliminary Stage immediately
even before confirmation was received at the Dardanelles Army Headquarters of the decision to evacuate by the British Cabinet.
This fateful decision was received by the latter on the 8th December whereupon the Intermediate Stage was commenced
at Anzac and Suvla. By the 18th December and after a series of elaborate schemes designed so as not to alert the enemy as
to an evacuation in progress, all was ready to commence the Final Stage.
Evacuation Of The 9th
(Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
Following the failure of the August offensives
the Battalion had remained in a position of static trench warfare. Casualties had slowly mounted due to sickness and frostbite
as opposed to the actions of the enemy. There had also been major changes in personnel. Lieutenant-Colonel Minogue had reported
sick on the 16th August, the command of the Battalion temporarily being assumed by Major Algernon Hubert Cuthell. Major Cuthell
was unfortunately killed in action on the 22nd August whereupon the Battalion, after severe losses, was placed under the command
of Lieutenant Oswald Vernon Guy and temporarily attached to the 6th Battalion, Yorks. & Lancs under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel
Henry Montague Eustace. Designated "No. 1 Battalion," and with a strength of just 4 officers, 196 N.C.O.'s
and men, command eventually passed to Major Reginald W. Isacke on the 22nd September. There had also been a change in
command of the 32nd Infantry Brigade when Brigadier-General Haggard, who had been wounded in the leg by a shell splinter
on the 12th August, was replaced by Brigadier-General Alister Grant Dallas in September.
In the months that
followed reinforcements began to arrive in increasing numbers to reconstitute the Battalion. In December however with the
Final Stage of the evacuation in progress, the 9th West Yorkshire's were about to depart the shores of the Dardanelles
At 8.30 p.m. on the evening of the 18th an advance party consisting of 9 officers, 502 N.C.O.'s and men
under the command of Second-Lieutenant Alfred Kay Day Lewis proceeded to withdraw from Suvla. This party consequently embarked
on a Lighter at 11.30 p.m. and were taken to H.M.S. Magnificent, a Majestic-class battleship that was moored in Suvla
With this party safely onboard without
sustaining any casualties, the Magnificent proceeded to Kephalos. At 6 a.m. on the morning of the 19th, the men disembarked
on Lighters arriving at camp at 7.30 a.m. whereupon they began to pitch their tents.
During the evening of the 19th,
a second party under the command of Captain Bertram Saxelbye Evers consisting of 6 officers, 154 N.C.O.'s and men proceeded
to withdraw from Suvla at 7.40 p.m. whereupon they headed down to West Beach also referred to as West Beach Harbour. Here
they proceeded to embark on H.T.S. Redbreast, a composite-hulled gunboat at 10.30 p.m. arriving at Kephalos at 2
a.m. on the morning of the 20th and proceeded to erect camp.
Finally, a third party comprising of Battalion Headquarters
and "A" and "C" Companies consisting of a strength of 12 officers, 196 N.C.O.'s and men under the
command of Lieutenant-Colonel Isacke commenced a withdrawal from Suvla. As the men assembled for this final act, "A"
and "C" Companies held positions behind the 3rd Line of Defence and 'The Keep' until embarkation commenced
on a 'K' Lighter, a motorised landing craft, at 5.15 a.m. during the early hours of the morning of the 20th. This
final party arrived at Kephalos at 8 a.m. and proceeded to camp.
One can only imagine the feelings of the men as
they departed the Dardanelles. Of those who had been on the Peninsula from the landing, to those who had joined the Battalion
as reinforcements, they had not only endured the actions of a tenacious enemy, but also that of the extremes of the weather.
The 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment had suffered 11 officers and 397 N.C.O.'s and men killed or died
of wounds *, many more had been severely wounded. The Battalion would now reconstitute itself for an even greater test, however
for the time being, rest was in order.
* Authors note: Casualties derived from an analysis of both Soldiers
Died In The Great War, Wyrall's History and the Commonwealth War Graves Database.
The 32nd Infantry Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division now found itself under canvas at Kephalos
on the island of Imbros, the strength of the Brigade on the 1st January 1916 including Headquarters being numbered as 92 officers
and 3,562 men. Of the 9th West Yorkshire's, the Battalion now numbered 26 officers and 829 Other Ranks.
The War Diary
of the Battalion records little of importance however the Brigade Diary records that for the majority of January the Brigade
instituted a programme of training. On the 7th January there was a change in the command structure when Brigadier-General
Dallas departed to assume command of the 53rd Division, command of the 32nd Infantry Brigade now being assumed by Temporary
Brigadier-General Thomas Herbert Francis Price. Before his departure Dallas issued a complimentary farewell letter 'thanking
all ranks for loyal support and good work done during the most trying circumstances under constant fire both of shell and
rifle and remarking upon the good discipline displayed by all ranks of the battalion. His departure was hailed with cheers
by the assembled troops.'
Still, sickness prevailed in the Battalion with one officer returning from hospital,
Second-Lieutenant John Lewis Richard recorded in the War Diary as J.S. Richard but Army List dated 1916 confirms him as this
man, whilst another, Lieutenant and Quartermaster Alfred William Taylor was granted three weeks sick leave and proceeded to
On the 12th January the Battalion was inspected by the incoming Brigadier-General. Also on this date four
new officers arrived along with a draft of 20 N.C.O.'s and men from the 11th Division Base Detail located at Mudros; Captain
Kenneth E.S. Stewart, Lieutenant Ralph E.M. Cherry, Second-Lieutenant John F. Spencer and Second-Lieutenant John J. Fyffe.
Even though the men had left the shores of the Peninsula thet were still not safe from the attentions of the enemy.
Shortly before midnight on the 20th a hostile aircraft, type not recorded, flew over the camp and dropped bombs, fortunately
there were no casualties.
It would appear that the first inclination to the men of a further movement to an unknown destination was
witnessed during the following day when an advance party assembled consisting of 6 N.C.O.'s under the command of
Second-Lieutenant H.E. Lee and proceeded overseas.
This unknown destination soon became clear to the Brigade when at
8 p.m. on the evening of the 28th, the 6th Battalion, Yorks. & Lancs. Regiment, strength, 998 All Ranks, embarked for
Egypt. Due to unfavourable weather conditions however, the embarkation of the remainder of the 32nd Infantry Brigade was suspended.
With an improvement in the weather embarkation of the 9th West Yorkshire
Regiment commenced on the 2nd February when "B" Company, Battalion Machine Gunners and Signallers embarked on H.T.S.
Redbreast at 9.20 a.m. This party, strength, 5 officers and 277 Other Ranks under the command of Captain Evers then proceeded
to Mudros where they then were taken onboard H.M.T. Empress of Britain, a former transatlantic ocean liner that had
been requisitioned as a troop transport ship in May 1915.
|H.M.T. Empress Of Britain, Liverpool, 1905
During the afternoon of the 2nd, Headquarters
and "A," "C" and "D" Companies departed Imbros at 4.30 p.m. embarking on Lighters that transferred
them to the S.S. Alberta.
This second party consisting of 23 officers and 580 Other Ranks under the command
of Lieutenant-Colonel Isacke then departed Kephalos Bay onboard the Alberta at 11 a.m. on the morning of the 3rd
arriving at Mudros Bay at 4 p.m. whereupon the party were transferred to the Empress of Britain.
With all the
Battalion onboard, strength, 29 officers and 857 Other Ranks, the Empress departed Mudros Bay at 8 a.m. on the morning
of the 4th February.
After an uneventful period of two days at sea, the ship arrived at Alexandria, Egypt, at about 7.30
a.m. on the morning of the 7th whereupon the Empress berthed with the men commencing disembarkation at 2.30 p.m.
in the afternoon. Once assembled and all men and equipment accounted for the Battalion proceeded by route of march to Sidi
Bishr Camp, located about ten miles to the north-east of Alexandria, at 6.30 p.m.
With Turkish forces threatening the Suez Canal, a defence line had been established along the banks
of the Canal facing the Sinai Desert. After early attempts by the Turkish Army in February 1915 that were beaten back
by Indian forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir John Maxwell, it became clear that the evacuation of the Dardanelles
now presented the Turks with a further opportunity to wrest control of the Canal.
With British forces now massing in
early 1916 to counter this perceived threat, the 9th West Yorkshire's were about to move southwards. To this
end, Second-Lieutenant Spencer, acting as Railway Transport Officer, accompanied by his servant, were sent forward to El Ferdan,
near Ismalia on the banks of the Canal on the 18th.
Despite a period of relative inactivity by the Battalion whilst
in camp at Sidi Bishr, sickness still remained prevalent. On the 14th, Lieutenant Cherry was admitted to the 17th General
Hospital located at Alexandria whilst on the 26th, Second-Lieutenants Charles W.J. Davison and George R. Ramsay also reported
sick and were sent to hospital.
As regards personnel, 150 N.C.O.'s and men had arrived as reinforcements from the
11th Division Base Detail on the 8th whilst on the 17th, Lieutenant George W. Holloway assumed command of "D" Company.
During the early days of March at Sidi Bishr the Battalion commenced a programme of Company and Battalion training.
It was on the 12th instant that the first inclination of an impending move became obvious when the 32nd Infantry Brigade
Headquarters left for El Ferdan, Lieutenant-Colonel Isacke remaining at the Camp to take command of the remaining details
of the Brigade.
On the following day "C" and "D" Companies of the 9th West Yorkshire's consisting
of 18 officers and 470 Other Ranks under the command of Captain Oswald V. Guy departed Sidi Bishr Camp at 6 p.m. Marching
to Sidi Gaber Railway Station located in the central district of Alexandria where they proceeded to entrain for El Ferdan
arriving at the latter place at 4 a.m. during the early hours of the 14th.
A second party consisting of Battalion Headquarters
and "A" and "B" Companies, a strength of 15 officers and 463 Other Ranks, Lieutenant-Colonel Isacke O.C.,
followed the advance party two hours later. Entraining, this final party arrived at El Ferdan at 6 a.m. on the morning of
the 14th and after unloading their baggage which was placed on transport, both parties assembled and proceeded to El Ferdan
Camp arriving at 8 a.m.
No sooner had the Battalion arrived in their new surroundings, yet further drafts to the Battalion
arrived; Second-Lieutenants Ernest M. Adlington and Thomas W. Renn from the 11th Division Base Detail, and on the 16th, Second-Lieutenants
Henry R. Broomhead, Christopher Hird and Charles Wilcocks, plus 150 Other Ranks, from the same Detail.
set to work improving their defences. On the 16th, "A," "B" and "D" Companies commenced digging
in the Reduit, a fortified keep like structure constructed into the lines forming an inner sanctum.
As the weeks
passed, the War Diary of the Battalion records more or less on a day to day basis, "nothing of importance."
Further drafts of both officers and men arrived; on the 18th April, 54 N.C.O.'s and men from the 11th Division
Base Depot/Detail and on the 21st, Second-Lieutenants Cyril J.S. Wright and John L. Hoult. A final draft of one further officer
was received when Second-Lieutenant Ross C. Alford joined the Battalion on the 28th from the Base Depot.
|Suez Canal Looking North To El Kantara: Authors Collection
It was not until the 12th May that the
situation and position of the Battalion altered. On this date orders were received to proceed to relieve the 8th Battalion,
Northumberland Fusiliers, 34th Infantry Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division at Abu-El-Uruq (Abu-Al-Uruq), to the east of El
Ferdan. The 9th West Yorkshire's, now numbering 39 officers and 1096 N.C.O.'s and men, henceforth took over the camp
vacated by the Fusiliers and the defences in this sector consisting of Works 45, 46 and 47.
month of May drew to a close without incident, yet further drafts arrived when 22 Other Ranks joined for duty on the 31st
from the Base Detail.
Unbeknown to the men, the month of June was to be their last spent in Egypt. Lieutenant Charles
W. Price rejoined the Battalion from England on the 17th after being admitted to hospital, sick, on the 6th December 1915.
As well as those rejoining, there were those that departed; Second-Lieutenants C. Hird, C. Wilcocks, B. Townsley and
J. Widdison along with 105 Other Ranks proceeded to join the 11th Division Base Depot located at Sidi Bishr.
A more senior departure was witnessed when on the 21st June, Lieutenant-Colonel Isacke, who had overseen the rebuilding
of the Battalion after their most trying times on the Peninsula, was granted five weeks leave and proceeded to Alexandria.
Command now devolved on Major Vincent T.R. Ford, 6th Battalion, Yorks. & Lancs. (Attached).
During the following
day the Battalion were relieved by the 1/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, 126th (East Lancashire) Infantry Brigade, 42nd
(East Lancashire) Division. Still under the temporary command of Major Ford, the 9th West Yorkshire's, strength, 33 officers
and 972 Other Ranks, proceeded to camp to the east of El Ferdan on the eastern bank of the Canal. On arrival at the latter
place, the Battalion were greeted with the arrival of their original Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Minogue who had
rejoined from Base after being posted sick in August 1915, whereupon, Major Ford proceeded to rejoin his own unit.
Orders had now been received for the Battalion to commence movement. In response, the West Yorkshire's began to entrain
at El Ferdan on the 24th, strength now recorded as above but with an increase in 1 Other Rank, one could speculate this being
the Colonel's batman.
Departing Ferdan Siding at 6.50 p.m. the 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment arrived
at Alexandria Docks at 3.50 a.m. on the morning of the 25th June 1916. Commencing embarkation on the H.T. Arcadian,
before the war owned by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and converted to a cruise ship, all troops were onboard by
6 a.m., the Arcadian departing the port at 7.30 a.m.
Authors note: Also onboard the transport were 32nd Infantry
Brigade Headquarters and the 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards), strength, 35 officers and 979 Other Ranks,
O.C. Lieutenant-Colonel Cusack Grant Forsyth, D.S.O.
Frank and Tom had survived the horrors of the ill fated expedition
to Gallipoli. With no doubt murmurs circulating as to their destination, the Battalion were now bound for the Western
Front. The war in France and Flanders had by now escalated into that driven by industry and the development of weapons technology
to try and break the deadlock and stalemate of trench warfare far distant terms than that waged on the Peninsula. The
British Army were on the verge of launching their major offensive of 1916. The men of the 9th West Yorkshire's were about
to play their part in the Battle of the Somme in the weeks to come.
Arrival On The Western Front
After an uneventful voyage the Arcadian docked at Marseilles at 4 p.m. on the afternoon of
the 1st July 1916. The Battalion remained onboard until 7.50 a.m. on the morning of the 2nd whereupon they proceeded to disembark.
"B" Company, strength, 6 officers and 212 Other Ranks, with an additional 37 O.R.'s comprising the First Line
Transport now moved independently to Camp Fournier, Marseilles.
"A," "C" and "D" Companies
then proceeded to entrain at Arenc, in the docks area of the town. Some men had however succumbed to sickness during the long
sea voyage, Second-Lieutenant J. Richards and 5 other Ranks being hospitalised and remaining at Marseilles.
of the outwood bound companies from the port by rail can be ascertained from the War Diary albeit with some confusion as regards
to halts made for meals at various stations recorded by the Battalion Adjutant, Captain Harold Gough. The route taken by the
train is therefore as follows:
Orange North of Avignon
Macon To the north
Les Laumes North-west of Dijon
Montereau South-east of Paris
Possibly Juvisy-sur-Orge, also south of Paris.
The continuation of the journey northwards from Paris is not
recorded and it may be that the Battalion made no further halts. At 4.30 p.m. on the afternoon of the 4th July the Battalion
concluded their journey detraining at St. Pol to the north-west of Arras whereupon by route of march they proceeded to billets
located at Croisette, south-west of St. Pol.
Arras Sector: Introduction To Trench Warfare
Almost immediately the 9th West Yorkshire's commenced a period of training consisting of route marches etc. Developments
and new techniques in trench warfare had also to be imparted and to this end 29 Other Ranks were sent to the 3rd Army Corps
School of Instruction located at Auxi-le-Chateau to the south-west of Frevent on the 6th.
The stay at Croisette however
was to be of a short duration when on the 8th an Advance Party consisting of Captains Guy and Cherry accompanied by Lieutenant
Price and 9 Other Ranks proceeded to arrange and takeover billets. The destination of this party is not recorded however an
entry in the Diary for the 11th instant records that this party returned from Arras.
During the following morning the
Battalion, strength, 21 officers and 673 Other Ranks marched the distance to Averdoingt arriving at 3 p.m. and billeted whilst
Captain William B. Surtees and 2 O/R's departed for the School of Instruction.
A further movement eastwards
during the 10th, witnessed the West Yorkshire's moving to Agnez-les-Duisans, west of Arras arriving at the latter place
at 3 p.m. The Battalion now comprised of a strength of 20 officers and 656 Other Ranks, possibly a decrease in the latter
due to men left behind to clear up the previous billets. During this day also yet another party departed for a course
of instruction this consisting of Second-Lieutenant Wright plus 16 Other Ranks, to a Stokes Gun Class held at Le Haut
Barlet (St. Pol?) whilst Captain Stewart rejoined the Battalion from a period of attachment to the 33rd Infantry Brigade,
11th (Northern) Division.
The comings and goings for periods of instruction now became quite prolific with Second-Lieutenants
Coyne and Ernest F. Walsham accompanied by 2 Other Ranks to the Anti Gas School, 35th Division Headquarters on the 12th. It
was also on this day that the Battalion had a most distinguished visitor when at 3.30 p.m. the 9th West Yorkshire's, 21
officers and 670 Other Ranks on parade, were inspected by Lieutenant-General Sir John Lindesay Keir K.C.B., Commander, Sixth
Army Corps. No sooner had this inspection concluded, a party consisting of 7 officers and 323 Other Ranks under the command
of Lieutenant Price departed for Arras, command of this party would later be assumed by Captain Cherry on the 13th as Second-Lieutenant
Fyffe and 3 O/R's also departed for the Anti Gas School at the Headquarters of the 3rd Army for a course of instruction.
Further officers were to follow; on the 14th Second-Lieutenants Alfred M. Benn and H.E. Lee proceeded to the Anti Gas School,
55th Division Headquarters whilst Second-Lieutenants Coyne and Walsham rejoined the Battalion from their period of instruction
in gas warfare.
A further movement now commenced when on the morning of the 15th July at 9 a.m., the Battalion,
strength, 17 officers and 356 Other Ranks, proceeded by route of march to Wanquetin located just a few miles south of
Agnez-les-Duisans arriving at 11.30 a.m. No sooner had the men settled into yet another new environment, at 8.30 p.m. on the
evening of the 17th the West Yorkshire's took to the march once again and proceeded to Dainville on the western outskirts
of Arras arriving at 11 p.m. Whilst proceeding to billet, the Battalion was reunited with the compliment sent forward on the
12th under the command of Captain Cherry, strength now comprising on amalgamation of the two parties as 24 officers and 662
O/R's. One officer, Second-Lieutenant William S. Brown departed however for instruction at the Trench Mortar School located
at Ligny (possibly Ligny-St. Flochel located north of Averdoingt).
It was on the 18th that "B" Company, strength
now comprising of 6 officers and 208 Other Ranks, rejoined the Battalion at 6.30 p.m. from Marseilles whilst another officer,
Second-Lieutenant Adlington followed those who went before him and proceeded on a course of instruction at the 3rd Army Headquarters
Anti Gas School.
Dainville now became the location where the 9th West Yorkshire's would first experience warfare
of the variety akin to the Western Front. Sporadic enemy artillery fire commenced to fall on the town on the evening of the
20th for a period of one and a half hours however no casualties were sustained.
A similar enemy artillery strafe was
experienced on the 25th, also lasting for the duration of one and a half hours, with no casualties incurred.
month of July now drawing to a close, still the departures for instruction continued; Second-Lieutenant Pratt plus 3 O/R's
to an Anti Gas School located at Gouy-en-Artois north of the Arras - Doullens Road whilst on the 29th, Captain Stewart departed
for temporary duty at Divisional Headquarters.
On the last day of the month the Battalion were sent to relieve
the 6th Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) in G Sector of the front line. Marching from Dainville at 9.30 p.m. the
relief was conducted quickly and without incident with all men in position by 1.30 a.m. on the morning of the 1st August.
For some however, this first tour in the front line, initially described as quiet, was to end in the Battalions first casualties
on the Western Front.
The War Diary concludes for the month of July 1916 with an extract from a private letter
dated the 10th July in relation to the departure of Major-General Edward Arthur Fanshawe, appointed command of the Division
since mid August 1915. With the Battle of the Somme raging to the south, Fanshawe's words of the 11th (Northern)
Division's past experiences and of what was expected of them in the future, strike a particular chord.
you please say Goodbye to the 11th Division for me, and tell them how sorry I am to have to leave them, just as they are likely
to be put to the test again, when I am sure that they will all "play the game." It was always a regret to me that
I could not say that I had been with them at the landing; nor could I claim General Hammersley's good original training.
But I did see the Division pull itself together after hard times; and I cannot thank everyone too much for the way they helped
to do it under no easy circumstances. Everyone played up so well that things were made very easy for me. The best of luck
to the Division and to you all individually."
Agny: "G" Sector
9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, now occupied the trench system near Agny, to the south-west of Arras, the
Battalion being disposed as follows:
"B" Company G13 - G16 inclusive
Company G17 - G20 inclusive
"D" Company G21 - G24 inclusive
"A" Company G.B. Line
Three platoons of each company, less "A" Company now
occupied positions in the front line, referred to as the G.S. whilst one platoon of each company, less "A"
Coy. respectively, occupied positions in the support line, Battalion signallers, snipers and bombers being located along with
Headquarters at Agny.
|Trench Map Extract, Neuville-Vitasse, Sheet 51B, Corrected To 4/3/17
Although the above trench map is dated to March 1917,
one can appreciate the strength of the opposing lines as they had evolved in the vicinity of Agny. There was good reason for
this constant improvement and expansion of the British position in this sector. On occupation by the West Yorkshire's,
the sector was plagued by the actions of the enemy's trench mortars and rifle grenades, the firing of one of the latter
weapons was about to cost the Battalion their first casualties on the Western Front.
It was on the 1st August that a
section of the line, G13, held by "B" Company, was hit by a rifle grenade or grenades resulting in the
death of 1 O/R and the wounding of 3 others. In addition to this action, "C" Company, holding point G17 were
also subjected to the attentions of this form of weapon resulting in the wounding of one man. During the following day, "D"
Company, holding point G21 also fell victim to enemy artillery fire when a "Whizz Bang," an enemy 77 mm
artillery shell, landed in the latter sector killing one man and subsequently wounding three others. As well as the use
of rifle grenades, the enemy was also reported as being very active with his trench mortars.
The Battalion had suffered its first
casualties on the Western Front. An analysis of both Soldiers Died In The Great War and that of the Commonwealth
War Graves Commission identifies these two men killed as Privates John Willie Pape, 21563, a married man and a Cabinet Maker
from Bradford, West Yorkshire, and Myles Knight, 3/9321,a native of West Harlepool, died, 1st and 2nd August 1916 respectively.
Both men had joined the ranks of the 9th West Yorkshire's in October 1915 and now lie in adjoining graves at Agny Military
Cemetery on the outskirts of Arras. Two other men, Privates Wilfred A. Bagley, 19032, and John William Peel, 11078, unfortunately
succumbed to wounds received and now lie buried in Avesnes-le-Comte Communal Cemetery Extension and Habarcq Communal Cemetery
Enemy artillery also became more active when on the 3rd the town of Agny was shelled for a period
of one and a half hours however no casualties were sustained. In his front line positions, the enemy remained uncharacteristically
The town was shelled once again during the following day and the trenches occupied by the West Yorkshire's
were now subjected to an occasional strafe by enemy artillery along with the ever present firing of rifle grenades. No material
damage was caused to the trenches but during the strafe one man of "B" Company was wounded. It was on the 5th as
the town was once again subjected to the attentions of the enemy's artillery that further losses to the Battalion were
sustained by the explosion of an 'aeriel torpedo' launched from one of the Germans most feared weapons, the minenwerfer,
a trench mortar. The losses to the Battalion were two Other Ranks, Private Albert Edward Hardisty, 19842, a native of Scarborough,
and Private George Hopkins, 18746, of Leeds. Both men are now buried at Agny Military Cemetery.
Of paramount importance
to any infantry battalion holding the front line was the identification of the opposing unit this being in most cases obtained
by trench raids into the enemy's positions or the aquisition of a deserter. It was at 3.45 a.m. on the night of the 5th/6th
August that in No Man's Land opposite G Sector that one of the enemy was shot and his body retrieved. The German
soldier was found to be carrying two hand grenades, type not recorded, and the unfortunate individual was identified as the
War Diary records as belonging to the "3 Coy, 1st Batt. Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment." The German
soldier killed can now be identified as Infanterist, Karl Hagnhofer, 10. / Bayer. R.I.R. 7. Hagnhofer is now buried in Agny
Military Cemetery. No doubt in retaliation for the loss of one of their comrades, a rifle grenade was fired by the enemy resulting
in the wounding of one man.
At 10 a.m. on the morning of the 7th the trenches held by the West Yorkshire's were
inspected by Lieutenant-General Sir Charles L. Woolcombe, K.C.B., G.O.C. 11th (Northern) Division but unfortunately any comments
made if there were any are not recorded.
The enemy opposite remained quiet in the days that followed until he was provoked
into action by a bombardment of his trenches by British artillery for a duration of about one hour on the 10th. The enemy
response was rapid with his liberal use of trench mortars, the latter causing some slight damage to the British trenches,
but this retaliatory bombardment had resulted in the serious wounding of Captain Reginald William MacLuckie. Authors note:
The War Diary of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Light Trench Mortar Battery to which MacLuckie was attached graphically describes
his wounds as to the neck, arm, lung and stomach and he was immediately evacuated to the "Convent," Arras.
MacLuckie, a native of Stirling, Scotland, who had served with the 9th West Yorkshire's upon his attachment from the 3rd
Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders from September 1915, succumbed to his wounds the following day and is
now buried at Habarcq Communal Cemetery Extension. The first officer to fall on the Western Front.
On the night
11th/12th August the first patrol made by the West Yorkshire's left the comparative safety of their lines and headed off
into No Man's Land at 2.30 a.m. Although the composition and size of this party is not recorded, some incident had occured
that resulted in one officer, Lieutenant George James Warner Holloway and 3 O/R's being reported as missing. It was not
until the night of the 12th that the exact circumstances regarding the disappearance of this party were known when two of
the missing men returned to the British lines however there is unfortunately no record of events that transpired recorded
in the War Diary. Miraculously, the one Other Rank that was still missing, Sergeant Leonard John Smale, 20029, was brought
in by a patrol of the 6th Yorkshire Regiment on the 18th August. Despite suffering from exposure, Sergeant Smale was admitted
to hospital and would rejoin his unit at a later date. Authors note: Lieutenant Holloway it would transpire had been captured
and made a Prisoner of War.
On the 12th instant at 8.30 p.m., the enemy continued his familiar routine of firing
rifle grenades into "G" Sector but in addition to this, enemy artillery opened up sending over numerous
shell of 77mm calibre, the "Whizz Bang" resulting in the further wounding of one O/R.
A relief was commenced
on the night of the 13th by the 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, 32nd Infantry Brigade. Although this was carried out without
incident or casualties and completed by midnight, one man had been previously wounded. Upon their relief the Battalion proceeded
into billets at Agny previously vacated by the 6th Battalion, Yorks & Lancs, also of the 32nd Infantry Brigade.
Battalion had been 'bloodied' in their first tour of the trenches on the Western Front.
It was with
some sadness that on the 16th August news was received by the Battalion of the departure of Lieutenant-Colonel Minogue. On
his relinquishing his command, the Colonel announced in a message to the Battalion:-
command of the Battalion for the second time, I wish to thank all ranks for the able support they have given me at all times.
I hope that they will continue that support to my successor. I wish you all 'Goodbye' and the best of good luck and
I feel confident that the distinction the Battalion gained for itself in Gallipoli last year will be more than maintained
in any future effort it may be called upon to make."
Plagued by ill health for the remainder of his life,
Colonel Minogue, made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. John in February 1916, died in London on the 26th October
1916 aged 55 years. He now lies in a simple, sadly neglected grave at Mortlake (St. Mary Magdalen) Roman Catholic Churchyard,
On the Colonel's departure, temporary command of the 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
now devolved on Captain Stewart.
Other departures had previously consisted of a more routine nature; Second-Lieutent
Fyffe accompanied by 9 Other Ranks to Etaples on a Lewis gun course (11th August), whilst on the 12th, Lieutenant Ramsay
and 3 O/R's proceeded to the Divisional School located at Gouy-en-Artois. Finally on the 13th, one further departure would
witness Lieutenant Benn and 2 Other Ranks proceed to the School of Musketry, a Machine Gun Corps establishment located at
Camiers, near Etaples whilst on the 17th, Second-Lieutenant Coyne was appointed the 32nd Infantry Brigade Bombing Officer.
With orders issued to proceed south-west to Simencourt, the West Yorkshire's were relieved at Agny by the 9th
Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, 36th Infantry Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division, the latter unit having fought costly actions in
the ongoing Somme offensive to the south.
Of the men wounded, two Other Ranks had unfortunately succumbed to their
wounds whilst being evacuated along the casualty clearing chain. Private Matthew Cameron, 14829, a 'veteran'
of the landing on the Peninsula now lies in St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen, dying of wounds on the 10th August, whilst Private
John Foster, 21208, who had joined the Battalion in October 1915, also succumbed to his wounds on the 10th and now lies in
St. Hilaire Cemetery, Frevent. One further rank, who Soldiers Died In The Great War simply records as 'Died,'
was Lance-Corporal Norman Ernest Brown, 12261, attached to the 32nd Brigade Trench Mortar Battery. Norman was born
at Wetherby in 1894 to parents John Henry Brown, a Butcher and a native of Knaresborough, and Mary Alice G. Brown (nee Ingham),
of Wetherby. Shortly after his birth the family relocated to Starbeck, Harrogate, and in the 1911 Census Norman's occupation
was recorded as that of a Jewellers Apprentice. The exact circumstances surrounding his death are not known but Norman, aged
just 22 years, was buried at 6 p.m. on the evening of the 17th August and now lies with a number of his comrades in Agny
From Simencourt To Manin
By route of march during
the early hours of the 21st the Battalion set forth for Simencourt arriving at 3 a.m. whereupon they proceeded to billet.
Still the familiar schedule of sending men and officers for specialist training continued even though the Battalion was on
the move. No sooner had the men settled in their new surroundings Second-Lieutenant Adlington accompanied by 6 O/Rs proceeded
for a course of instruction at the Lewis gun School, possibly the one located at Etaples, whilst Second-Lieutenant
Fyffe and the 8 Other Ranks who had been sent to the latter place on the 11th, rejoined the Battalion.
The time spent
at Simencourt was to be very brief indeed as further orders were issued to proceed to Manin, located to the north-west. Duly
at 10.30 a.m. on the morning of the 21st, the 9th West Yorks., strength, 24 officers and 776 Other Ranks arrived at the latter
place at 2.30 p.m. and proceeded into billets.
As Second-Lieutenant Ramsay and the 3 O/R's rejoined the Battalion
from the School of Instruction located at Gouy which they had attended since the 12th, another yet 'newer' face joined
the Battalion on this date when Major Cecil Loraine Estridge, 6th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, assumed command of the
Estridge had risen through through the ranks of the York & Lancaster Regiment before being posted to
the East Yorkshire Regiment in 1899. Serving as a Lieutenant with the 2nd Battalion during the Second Boer War he would rise
to the rank of Captain by 1910 however he eventually resigned his commission later that year and was placed on the
Reserve of Officers. Shortly after the outbreak of the War, he rejoined the Colours and was reinstated as a Captain and assumed the
role of Adjutant of the 6th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment. Promoted to the rank of Major (Temporary) in
the spring of 1915 he would be granted the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel (Temporary) in October of that year and placed in command
of the 6th East Yorkshire's, who had previously been assigned as a Pioneer Battalion to the 11th (Northern) Division
performing sterling service to the latter throughout the Dardanelles Campaign. Ceasing to command the Battalion in March 1916
and relinquishing his temporary rank, upon appointment to the 9th West Yorkshire's, his rank was reinstated.
With the men settling into their new surroundings there is no account of any specific detail recorded in the War Diary but
one can assume that the men set about cleaning their equipment, conducted a programme of various types of drill
As well as the arrivals, Second-Lieutenant Townsley rejoined the Battalion from Etaples on the 25th, there
was also to be departures when on the 23rd, Second-Lieutenant Renn proceeded to England to join the ranks of the Machine Gun
Corps and its associated school located at Grantham.
Finally, as the month drew to a close, new officers joined the ranks
of the Battalion on the 29th; Captain Francis H. Tounsend and Second-Lieutenants Arthur James Doyle, Guy Baldwin Hay and Francis
The month of September started unfortunately with the accidental wounding of Second-Lieutenant
Coyne the Brigade Bombing Officer although the exact circumstances surrounding the incident are not recorded.
was on the morning of the 2nd at 10.30 a.m. that the Battalion departed Manin and proceeded westwards by route of march. Upon
reaching their allocated billeting areas east of Frevent, the following components of the Battalion were distributed at the
following locations; Battalion Headquarters, "A" and "B" Companies plus the 1st Line Transport at Rebreuviette,
"C" Company at Rosiere and "D" Company at Brouilly. Small yet pleasant hamlets situated on the banks of
the River Canche.
During the following day rumours as to a final destination must have been circulating amongst the Battalion
when the latter were ordered to form up on the road at Rebreuviette in full marching order. On completion of
this rally, at 4 p.m. the West Yorkshire's began to march towards Frevent to prepare for entrainment, the latter commencing
at 5.15 p.m. Departing at 6.30 p.m., the train headed southwards to Beauquesnes located to the south-east of Doullens. It
was quite clear no doubt to the men which part of the battle front they were now ultimately destined for.
the 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, once again on the march to the sound of the guns, headed to Arqueves
whereupon their arrival at 3.30 p.m. on the afternoon of the 4th September, the Battalion proceeded into billets.
Whilst assembly was completed, a further departure would witness the newly arrived Second-Lieutenant Mattock, accompanied
by 4 O/R's, proceed on a course of instruction at the Lewis gun School.
Rested after a stay of just 24 hours, early
on the morning of the 6th September at 7.40 a.m. the West Yorkshire's, strength, 23 officers and 837 Other Ranks set forth
for Senlis, north-west of Albert, arriving at the latter place at 11 a.m.
Introduction To The Somme
The Somme offensive had now ground on for a little over two months. In the Thiepval Sector
to which the 11th (Northern) Division were now about to enter, little or no substantial gains had been obtained since the
opening day of the offensive on the 1st July. The Division were now contained in 2nd Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General
Claud William Jacob, forming part of the Reserve Army, renamed the Fifth in October 1916, under the command of General Sir
Early on the morning of the 7th September, the 9th West Yorkshire's in conjunction with the 8th
Battalion, Duke of Wellington's, were ordered to take over front line trenches near Authuille with orders issued
to relieve the 10th (Service) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment and the 8th (Service) Battalion, Border Regiment, 25th
Division. Authors note: The War Diary of the 8th Dukes records the Cheshire unit as that of the 11th Battalion.
order and time of the commencement of the march to the front line trenches were as follows:
"B" Company 6 a.m.
"C" Company 6.15 a.m.
Company 6.30 a.m.
This time scale was no doubt formulated to one, avoid congestion on the "Up"
route, i.e., the entry point into the front line, and secondly, to minimise casualties if forward movement was detected by
The Battalion was to be disposed as follows:
"D" and "C" Companies
plus two platoons of "B" Company Front Line
"A" Company and two platoons of "B"
The relief was carried out, as the War Diary records, "satisfactorily"
by noon however not without incident as one man was wounded. Authors note: An analysis of Soldiers Died In The Great
War and that of the Commonwealth War Graves records one man, Lance Corporal Hubert Hemsley, 10053, as died on this day
albeit SDGW records his death as Killed in Action. Hubert, who had served on the Western Front since December
1914 was possibly a draft from either the 1st or 2nd Battalions, West Yorkshire Regiment. A resident of Burley, Leeds, unfortunately
his body could not be identified after the War therefore Hubert is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial To The Missing.
The line in this sector had advanced some distance on the rank flank to the north of Ovillers over the days proceeding
the commencement of the Somme offensive. The line then occupying high ground, descended into a valley, referred to as "Nab"
or later "Blighty Valley." Climbing westwards, the line then incorporated a small section of a quarry, known to
the Germans as the "Granatloch," or to the British as "Authuille Quarry." The quarry was incorporated
into the German defensive system in this sector of the line referred to as the "Leipzig Salient" by the British. It
was here in the quarry that on the 1st July units of the 32nd Division managed to gain a tentative, if priceless foothold,
in this strategic position.
|The Site Of The Granatloch Or Authuille Quarry, 2013
In the weeks that followed this vital
gain, numerous units held the position under constant artillery fire, probes and bombing raids by the enemy. Attempts by the
enemy to dislodge the defenders even involved the use of "Liquid Fire," the Flammenwerfer, a Flamethrower,
that was used in an attack on the 1/6th West Yorks, 49th (West Riding) Division, on the 15th July.
As the position was
expanded and outposts extended, the key to the enemy's ability to hold and continue to attack and probe in this sector
lay in a cleverly sited position. Known as the Wundt Werk (Wonder Work), this position occupied a reverse slope to
the north, shielded by rising ground to the west making it invisible to direct fire by the artillery. With its
associated trench system this position contained a myriad of dug-outs, trench mortar, and machine-gun positions with extensive
fields of fire if an attack was to be made from the west over the slope or spur, and to the east covering any approach along
"Nab" or "Blighty Valley." Further back, although by now a heap of rubble, lay the remains of Thiepval
Village, its defenders tenaciously holding on due to a network of subterranean defences.
It was into this volatile position
that had claimed so many lifes in its subsequent defence, that the 9th West Yorks were introduced into the offensive on the
chalky uplands of Picardy.
During the following day as the men settled into an unfamiliar position, the German
artillery commenced a sporadic bombardment, so characteristic of events experienced by units that had previously
held this sector of the line. Shells smashed into the parapets resulting in the deaths of four men and the wounding of nine
others. Feverishly the men worked to repair the damaged trenches but ultimately this baptism of fire must have had, one would
presume, a demoralising effect on the men as this was the greatest loss of life in one incident as yet experienced by
the Battalion on the Western Front. Soldiers Died and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission record these men as
Privates, Clifford Duffy, 21147, George Jennings, 19920, Richard Watson, 21670 and Tom Worsnop, 21778. All of these men were
'veterans' of the Dardanelles Campaign and are now commemorated in Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille, Somme either
by known graves or Special Memorials.
Despite the Battalion holding the front line, the by now familiar routine
of officers either joining the West Yorkshire's for duty or departing continued. Second-Lieutenant Broomhead who had joined
the Battalion in March 1916 departed for England and the Machine Gun Corps School located at Grantham whilst Second-Lieutenants
Eric Joseph Woods and Harry Oldham joined the Battalion on the 8th and 9th September respectively.
Enduring further bombardments
that luckily resulted in no further casualties, the West Yorkshire's were relieved at 8 a.m. on the morning of the 10th
by the 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, the 8th Dukes, by the 6th Battalion, Yorks & Lancs. With this relief being
completed by the West Yorks at 11.30 a.m. and without incident, the men proceeded into dug-outs located at Crucifix Corner
The site of Crucifix Corner is still
today, as it was in 1916, marked by a Calvary, with the remains of dug-outs still visible in a rather unsightly quarry situated
For a period of three days the Battalion remained in Reserve, far from an ideal place of rest with future operations
imminent. On the 11th, Second-Lieutenant Hay was admitted to hospital sick whilst on the following day the first of two drafts
arrived consisting of 26 Other Ranks from the 33rd Infantry Base Detail (Depot) located at Etaples, 24 O/R's arriving
on the 13th respectively. On the latter date also, Brigade Operation Order No. 18 was issued for future operations however
more detailed orders were to be forthcoming during the afternoon of the following day.
On The "Wundt Werk"
In preparation for any future operations to sieze the Thiepval defences
and the infamous "Schwaben Redoubt" (Feste Schwaben), Sir Douglas Haig recorded in his official
despatch published in the London Gazette, Issue 29884 and dated Friday 29th December 1916 (War Office dated 23rd December)
"The Thiepval defences were known to be exceptionally strong, and as immediate possession of them was
not necessary to the development of my plans after the 1st July, there had been no need to incur the heavy casualties to be
expected in an attempt to rush them. The time was now approaching, although it had not yet arrived, when their capture would
become necessary; but from the positions we had now reached and those which we expected shortly to obtain, I had no doubt
that they could be rushed when required without undue loss."
With the commencement of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette
due to take place during the following day, this final key to the launching of a successful attack on Thiepval and its associated
ridge would be the capture of the Wundt Werk, this task was to be undertaken by 32nd Infantry Brigade, 11th (Northern)
Zero Hour was to be fixed for 6.30 p.m. during the early evening of the 14th September. The assault was
to be led by the 9th West Yorkshire's in the centre, jumping off positions from "Hindenburg Trench" (Lemberg
Stellung), R.31.c.7.6. - R31.d.0.7., objectives, "Turk Street" (Turken Stellung) and
the "Wonder Work" (Wundt Werk). On the right flank, the 8th Dukes would also advance from
"Hindenburg Trench", R31.c.7.6. - R.31.d.0.7., objectives also being the "Wonder Work" and also
that of "Hohenzollern Trench" (Hohenzollern Stellung). To the left of the West Yorkshire's, the
6th Yorkshire Regiment would assist the attack by performing a bombing demonstration, in effect a bombing attack. The 6th
Yorks & Lancs would remain in reserve.
The assault was to be supported by heavy artillery batteries of 2nd Corps
assisted also by three batteries of French 75 mm field guns, the 11th Divisional Artillery, and batteries of both the 25th
and 48th (South Midland) Divisions. In addition to the artillery, the 32nd Machine Gun Company under the command of Captain
Hugh Alvar Geaussent would supply close support as and when needed establishing their Headquarters at "Gloucester Post"
in Authuille Wood.
|Schematic Derived From An Original Sketch Contained In The War Diary Of the 8th Dukes, WO/95/1809
Both the Dukes and the West Yorkshire's
would advance on a two company frontage with one company in support and the remaining company in reserve. Orders for the 9th
West Yorkshire's dictated that both attacking companies "D" and "C" respectively, were to attack in
four waves, a wave consisting of one platoon with its complement of bombers. The front waves were to advance on to the
final objective but before continuing the advance they would leave behind "care takers" in "Turk Street"
as the men pressed home their attack. The fourth wave was to act as a "clearing up" party.
The Battalion were
disposed as follows:
"D" Company Right Flank
"C" Company Left
"B" Company Consisting of two platoons, to clear "Prince Street" by bombing attack
and protect "C" Companies Left Flank
"B" Company (two platoons) in support of "D"
and "C" Companies
"A" Company Battalion Reserve in "Hindenburg Trench"
8th Dukes (Exact dispositions not recorded in War Diary)
"X" Company (Left Flank?)
"Z" Company (Right Flank?)
"W" Company Support
6th Yorkshire Regiment
"D" Company Assembly Positions
Points 78 - 68
On the morning of the 14th September the 8th Dukes accompanied by the 9th West Yorks proceeded
towards the front line relieving "A" Company of the 6th Battalion, Yorks & Lancs in "Hindenburg Trench." Regarding
the latter battalion, both "A" and "B" Companies moved into positions at "Wood Post," Authuille
Wood, whilst "C" and "D" Companies took up positions in reserve, close at hand, should they be required.
Authors note: Chronology varies between War Diaries (time not recorded by 9th West Yorks) but relief of the company of the Yorks
& Lancs commenced or concluded between 8 - 8.30 a.m.
On the way up to the front line, enemy artillery fire,
as recorded in the War Diary of the West Yorks was "desultory" however, Lieutenant Cecil Beaumont
Robinson aged 32 years, who had been with the Battalion since October 1915, fell victim to the explosion of a shell. Lieutenant
Robinson's body was unfortunately not identified after the War therefore like so many of his comrades he is now commemorated
on the Thiepval Memorial To The Missing.
Prior to the first offensive operation to be mounted by the 9th (Service)
Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, the two Wetherby "Pals," Frank and Tom who had survived the Gallipoli campaign
and their first introduction to warfare on the Western Front, met up prior to the commencement of the attack. A newspaper
article dated October 1916 recounts this last meeting of the two friends; Tom writes;
"I saw him just
before we went over, and we wished each other 'the best of luck.' I told him I was going over with the first wave,
and he said he was with the second. He was wonderfully cool."
With the trenches crowded with men, it
is not surprising that difficulty was experienced issuing the various stores such as ammunition, bombs and materials to assist
consolidation to the attackers, no doubt in part to the distance to be covered from the relevant 'dumps' located to
In anticipation of the bombardment that was timed for 6.30 p.m., the men left the relative safety of "Hindenburg
Trench" at 6.28 p.m. and debouched into No Man's Land. Upon performing this act, the enemy reacted with spasmodic
firing from the direction of "Turk Street." From this trench signal flares of a greenish colour were also observed
being fired into the sky, possibly a signal to his artillery to respond to what the enemy perceived correctly as a developing
It was then that a machine-gun position located in "Turk Street" began to open fire but
no sooner had this weapon come into action, the bombardment commenced and the rapport of the gun was not heard of again.
The barrage was now timed to fall on
"Turk Street" for the duration of three minutes and for a few moments the men watched in awe as this storm of metal
wreaked destruction on the already badly damaged German trench. Advancing across No Man's Land unmolested by rifle or
machine-gun fire the men entered the remains of the trench as the barrage lifted onto the "Wonder Work" where it
would remain for a period of three minutes. Casualties had however been sustained as the War Diary records due to the closeness
that the men kept to the barrage, this only affording effective protection to the men if this closeness was maintained sadly,
and all to common, resulting in death by what we would now term as 'friendly fire.'
On the right flank,
the 8th Dukes had obtained their objectives by 6.40 p.m. The attacking companies, "X" and "Z" respectively,
continued the advance a further 40 yards northwards whereupon they proceeded to 'dig in.' Immediately construction
of a communication trench commenced to assist consolidation.
Despite the enemy now putting down an accurate artillery
barrage on the sector, the West Yorks pressed on to their final objective, the "Wonder Work." Only two officers
had made the objective and these were both wounded; Captain Oswald Vernon Guy, son of the Vicar of Christ Church, Harrogate,
had been hit by shrapnel in three places, and Second-Lieutenant Noel Thomas Hartley, a married man residing in Scarborough,
was wounded in the arm. Sadly, in 1918, Captain Hartley, aged 23, would be killed just days before the end of the War.
It was on the left flank, as the barrage had lifted towards the "Wonder Work," that stout resistance was
met by "D" Company of the 6th Yorkshire's. Advancing from their assembly trench located between Points
78 - 68, the men attacked the enemy trench between Points 91 - 69. Untouched by the artillery bombardment and
with the site of Point 91 containing numerous dug-outs, it is of no surprise that the enemy took full advantage of
the unfolding situation unleashing heavy rifle fire and attacks with bombs.
At 8.15 p.m. orders were received by Second-Lieutenant
Clement Bromley, 32nd M.G.C. to move his 4 guns up from their postions in "Angel Tunnel," R.31.c.3.4.,
a sap located near "Campbell Avenue." Due to the intense enemy bombardment however, 2/Lt. Bromley was unable to
move his guns forward until about two hours later.
A party of "D" Company had however managed to reach their
objective, Point 91, and although under heavy fire, they were reinforced by one of the platoons of "B"
Company, 9th West Yorks. The fight in this sector of the line continued until midnight when the enemy trench from Points
91 - 69 was gained by a bombing party. A 'Bombing Block,' an obstacle constructed of either barbed wire
and wood or simply sandbags was established about 70 yards from Point 91. As S.O.S. signals illuminated
the night sky indicating the need to act quickly should positions be overun by the enemy, the British artillery responded
with a heavy barrage. At 32nd M.G.C. Headquarters located in Authuille Wood, Second-Lieutenant Albert Brunning was ordered
forward with one gun to take up a position in Prince Street which was reached by 1 a.m. however Second-Lieutenant
Leslie Bassnett was wounded whilst moving forward. The enemy were determined to retake the lost positions but despite three
attacks being made their efforts were repulsed and the positions consolidated.
Throughout the next day, attempts
were made by the enemy to retake the lost positions. On the right flank the War Diary of the 8th Dukes records "Counter-attacks
repulsed with heavy losses to the enemy. The attack a complete success."
Indeed the attack had proved successful
but as the 8th Dukes were relieved at 4 p.m. on the afternoon of the 15th by the 1/6th Duke of Wellington's, 147th Infantry
Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division, their casualties amounted to 8 officers and 250 Other Ranks, Killed, Wounded or Missing.
An analysis of both Soldiers Died In The Great War and that of the Commonwealth War Graves databases, search criteria
from the 14th-15th September, indicates this figure as 3 officers and 54 Other Ranks Killed or Died of Wounds. Curiously however,
if the data is accurate and there are anomalies in both sources, one man Private Herbert Skinner, 11622, is commemorated
on the Arras Memorial. Amongst the dead there are two brothers who joined the Colours together; Private William Thompson,
17227, and Private Harry Thompson, 17228. Residents of Leeds, William is now buried in Lonsdale Cemetery, Aveluy, whilst Harry
is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, both brothers commemorated or buried close to where they fell, separated in death
by just a short distance.
Of the 6th Yorkshire's, during the early hours and for the remainder of the 15th,
the men set about consolidating Prince Street and the captured trench between Points 91 - 69. The enemy
it is recorded remained very quiet that is until 10.15 p.m. when a strong attack proceeded by a bombardment was launched
against Posts 68, 78 and 46 and also on the trench at Points 91 - 69, a section of this trench falling into
the hands of the enemy. With the situation critical and with enemy assaults eminating from a sap east of "Hohenzollern
Trench," i.e. from the bottom of "Nab Valley," the attacks on 68, 78 and 46 were driven off
and a counter-attack against the section of the trench held by the enemy proved to be successful, all ground lost being regained
and the positions held.
During the early hours of the 16th September, the 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment were relieved
by the 1/7th Duke of Wellington's, also of the 147th Infantry Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division, this relief being
completed by 4.30 a.m.
The War Diary records casualties sustained by the Battalion as 5 officers and 130 Other Ranks
Killed, Wounded or Missing. An analysis of both Soldiers Died In The Great War and that of the Commonwealth War Graves
databases, search criteria this time from the 14th-16th September indicates this figure as 3 officers and 40 Other Ranks Killed
or Died of Wounds.
The Author has included in the latter figure, one Private James Wilson, 18658, a native of Spennymoor,
County Durham, who Died of Wounds on the 16th (Soldiers Died records the 15th) and who is now buried
at Contay British Cemetery.
Another sad example of a family suffering more than one death can be found with Privates
Matthew Heseltine, 20348, and Matthew Heseltine 20349. Both men, sharing the same name were in fact cousins and residents
of Aysgarth, North Yorkshire. Enlisting together in the picturesque Yorkshire market town of Leyburn, they both fell in action
on the 14th September and are now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
The Battalion had also lost its gallant Lieutenant-Colonel,
Cusack Grant Forsyth D.S.O.
Forsyth possessed an association with the Yorkshire Regiment dating back to 1906. Steadily
rising through the ranks and appointed Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion in April 1912, he would witness the actions of
First Ypres and eventually rise to the rank of Major. Forsyth assumed command of the 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment whilst
the Battalion were located in Egypt. Awarded the D.S.O. in January 1916 for services rendered and during the following month
the Croix de Chevalier, he had proved already to be a most competent officer with the prospect of a bright future. One of
six brothers who served in the Great War, five were killed.
The Green Howards In The Great War by H.C. Wylly records
the circumstances surrounding his death:
"A report had been received that "D" Company was in
difficulties; it proved to be unfounded, but Colonel Forsyth at once went up to the extreme front, where he was shot through
On the night of the 15th/16th, the 9th West Yorkshire's were relieved by the 1/7th Duke
of Wellington's however this was not without incident. Prior to the commencement of the relief the night was described
as fairly quiet that is until the bombardment commenced prior to the assault by the enemy on the 6th Yorkshire's at 10.15
p.m. Due to this action beginning to unfold the relief was made even more difficult by enemy artillery shelling the communication
trenches along which the West Yorkshire's had to pass, this no doubt resulting in further casualties.
By 3.30 a.m.
on the morning of the 16th the relief was completed and the men proceeded back to dug-outs at Crucifix Corner where they slept
for the night. Casualties had been heavy, mainly due enemy artillery. Prior to the attack on the "Wonder Work,"
the 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment had gone into the action with a strength of 20 officers and 780 Other
Ranks. The War Diary records the losses of the Battalion as 8 officers Killed and 4 wounded.
Captain Bertram Saxelbye Evers
Lieutenant Cecil Beaumont Robinson
Second-Lieutenant John James Fyffe
Second-Lieutenant Bryan Hill Townsley
Second-Lieutenant Charles William Joseph Davison
Second-Lieutenant Ronald Hugh MacGregor Pierce
Second-Lieutenant Ernest Mason Adlington
Captain Oswald Vernon Guy, Captain, Ralph Eric Maxwell Cherry, Second-Lieutenants Noel Thomas Hartley and Eric Joseph Woods,
the latter officer only being with the Battalion for a matter of days.
In Other Ranks, the War Diary records 33
Killed, 33 Missing and 240 Wounded. An analysis of the sources SDGW and that of the CWGC indicates that
the total number of O/Rs Killed or Died of Wounds between the 14th-15th September as 71.
Included in the losses to the
Battalion was Sergeant Leonard John Smale who had survived that fateful patrol near Agny in August resulting in his hospitalization
due to exposure. Leonard, a native of Sandford, Devon, is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
was also to fall in the attack. At the time of his death, 'Frank' had acquired the miltary qualification of a Lewis
gunner, possibly being selected for training in this vital role due no doubt to his mechanical knowledge. Tom
Beasley describes the exact circumstances surrounding the death of his friend in a letter home published in
a local newspaper dated October 1916;
"Frank's death was instantaneous, he being struck down by a
shell. We had been close chums during the whole of the time we had been with the regiment."
The letter continues:-
"Frank got his Lewis gun into action in the new position before he was killed and he didn't half mow the Boches
down. He was killed in the trench, and was buried alongside the commanding officer of the Yorkshire Regiment."
The words "killed in the trench" could possibly refer to "Turk Street" but without further
evidence we will possibly never know the exact location of Frank's death.
Suffice to say, Tom mentions that Frank
was buried alongside Lieutenant-Colonel Forsyth. This may possibly be some words of comfort to a bereaved family as was so
often the case, but if this statement is accurate, we now know that Frank's body could not be identified during
the battlefield clearances that took place after the Armistice and therefore he is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Colonel
Forsyth, his body recovered and identified, now lies buried in Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille Wood. I for one
would like to think that Francis Hodgson now lies buried as an unknown soldier and at peace along with those men that
could be identified of the Battalion in Lonsdale Cemetery, Aveluy. The remainder of the men who succumbed to their wounds
and are buried under a named headstone now lie in numerous cemeteries located throughout Northern France. Of those like
Frank who could not be identified, the edifice of the Thiepval Memorial stands as a monument to their sacrifice.
|The Thiepval Memorial, Somme
Despite the loss of his best friend Tom had to carry
on, he had no choice in the matter anyhow.
After a few days respite the Battalion along with the 6th Yorkshire Regiment
once again entered the trenches on the 27th September in support of the actions of the 34th Infantry Brigade of the 11th Division
who had commenced an attack on the German line in the vicinity of Mouquet Farm the day previously. Ultimately this attack
in conjunction with advances on the left and right flanks would lead to the capture of both "Zollern" and "Stuff"
Redoubts to the north of the Farm but once again casualties to the 9th West Yorkshire's were to prove very heavy indeed.
Of a strength of 20 officers and 780 Other Ranks prior to the attack, upon relief on the 1st October by the 8th Battalion,
South Lancashire Regiment, 75th Infantry Brigade, 25th Division, of the four companies less two platoons that had attacked
and occupied "Stuff Redoubt" on the 27th, only 1 officer and 24 Other Ranks answered the Roll Call on the morning
of the 1st October. The action had resulted in the loss of Captain William Beverley Surtees who died of wounds, and Lieutenant
Alfred Maurice Benn, a native of Burley-in-Wharfedale who was posted as "missing" later pronounced killed. A further
10 officers had been wounded including the Adjutant, Harold Arthur Gough, in addition to 28 Other Ranks killed, 177 wounded
and 59 "missing."
Marching to Varennes north-west of Albert, Tom and the surviving men of the Battalion
proceeded to Acheux where they entrained for Candas located to the south-west of Doullens. Arriving at the latter place at
midnight, during the early hours of the 2nd October the West Yorkshire's boarded motor buses and journeyed north-west
to Beaumetz to the west of Bernaville whereupon they occupied billets.
During the days that followed a large number
of new officers began to arrive to replace the losses sustained during recent operations. Authors note: So many in fact that
it would require a study in depth of these reinforcements for the month of October alone.
It was on the 7th October that
the Battalion, in Brigade, welcomed the first visitor to offer his congratulations to the officers and men of the 11th (Northern)
Division when the Corps Commander, Jacobs, carried out an inspection. Once concluded, a Special Order Of The Day was
issued by Lieutenant-General Sir Woolcombe, K.C.B., G.O.C. 11th (Northern) Division:
"The Corps Commander
has read the report of the operations carried out by this Division with much gratification and interest. All through the officers
and men of every unit in the Division have shown what good leaders and fighters they are. Their powers of endurance have been
splendid and the way they have "stuck it out" under the heaviest bombardments and the worst of weather conditions
shows how well they have been trained and commanded. Great efforts were demanded and the response from all units was first
rate. Will you please accept the grateful thanks of the Corps Commander for all the efficient and successful work that has
been put in and convey his thanks to the Commanding Officers and all ranks of the units in this Division."
Battalion now started to receive on the 7th the first of a number of large drafts when two officers, two had joined in the
days previously, and 70 Other Ranks arrived from the 33rd Infantry Base Detail located at Etaples. During the 10th and 11th
a further 5 officers plus 243 O/R's also joined to swell the ranks of the West Yorkshire's. It was on the 11th also
that the Division received a second distinguished visitor in the shape of the Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshall Sir Douglas
Haig. The Field Marshall congratulated the G.O.C. 32nd Infantry Brigade on the smart appearance of the men and remarked most
favourably on their actions during recent operations.
For a few that were lucky, leave was granted when on the
12th, 2 officers and 8 O/R's proceeded to England. Two further officers joined the Battalion on the 14th and during the
following day the men had the chance to enjoy a welcome break from the monotony of inspections and camp life in general when
the 32nd Infantry Brigade Transport put on their show. With races held that no doubt attracted the opportunity for some men
to gamble and to become lighter in the pocket, the 9th West Yorkshire's Transport Section came in 1st place with the Battalion's
"Cookers," 2nd place with their Pack Ponies, 2nd in the Company Commanders race and 3rd in the inter units race.
During the following days, one further officer joined the Battalion, one proceeded on a course of instruction whilst
another was granted leave to England. It was on the 18th that Major Worsley departed to take over temporary command of the
9th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, 34th Infantry Brigade whilst on the 20th as well as one officer and 19 O/R's joining
the ranks, the Divisional Commander presented ribbons to those who had been awarded the Military Medal.
By the close
of the month a further 8 officers and 53 Other Ranks had joined the Battalion. On the last day of October Lieutenant-Colonel
Estridge, O.C. departed to take over command of the 11th Division's School of Instruction, command now passing to the
returned Major Frank Pickford Worsley. As a fitting gesture before his departure, it was announced that Second-Lieutenant
Edgar Westcott had been awarded the Military Cross for his actions in recent operations and 7 N.C.O.'s and men had been
granted the award of the Military Medal. One of the men to gain this award was Lance-Corporal David Quinn, 4/8021. Quinn,
a native of Murton, County Durham, had enlisted in Sunderland and joined the ranks of the West Yorkshire's in September
Both the fate of Tom and that of Lance-Corporal Quinn would be inextricably linked in the weeks to come.
With the Battalion still quartered at Beaumetz, the month of November would herald
the continuation of the Somme offensive. General Gough's Fifth Army would launch an attack north of the Ancre river, this
thrust having originally being destined to take place during September. Due to adverse weather conditions and after numerous
postponements the day scheduled for this attack would now be the 13th November.
the first two weeks of the month the War Diary of the 9th West Yorkshire's repeatedly records the phrase "nothing
of importance" but it is apparent from the Diaries of the constituent units of the 32nd Infantry Brigade that the
men were far from idle undergoing route marches, musketry drill and practice attacks. As the Battle of the Ancre commenced
on the 13th, the results were mixed to say the least with little or no ground gained in the vicinity of Serre and astride
the Redan Ridge. The villages of Beaumont Hamel and Beaucourt or what remained of them were however captured during
the attacks by the 51st (Highland) Division and that of the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division, objectives originally planned
to be taken during the opening day of the Battle of the Somme on the 1st July.
It was during the afternoon of the
13th that orders were received by the 32nd Infantry Brigade to prepare and commence for an impending movement the following
day. Duly at 8.20 a.m. on the morning of the 14th the 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, strength, 28 officers
and 715 Other Ranks departed Beaumetz. By way of route march and in the following order of companies, "B," "C,"
"D" and "A" the men marched to Pernois located to the south and upon arrival at the latter place at about
noon, the Battalion proceeded to billet.
Moving ever eastwards during the following morning the men of the West Yorkshire's
departed Pernois at 10.50 a.m. marching in the following order; "A," "C," "B" and "D"
Companies, destination, Herissart to the north-west of Contay which was reached at 4.45 p.m. Once again the stay at the latter
place was to be of short duration when at 3 p.m. on the afternoon of the 16th November "A," "B," "C"
and "D" Companies marched the short distance to Lealvillers, south of Acheux, the distance being covered in a march
lasting two hours.
No doubt much to the relief of the Battalion, they remained at Lealvillers for a period of three
days whereupon two drafts of men were received amounting to twelve men from the 33rd I.B.D. As well as the new, a familiar
face to some arrived back to the Battalion when on the 19th Lieutenant Francis S.E.B. Kennedy who had joined the 9th West
Yorkshire's whilst they were on the Peninsula in October 1915 returned. Authors note: Kennedy is not included in the Battalion
Nominal Roll for December 1915 or that of the officers proceeding to France in July 1916. His service therefore after October
15 is ambiguous and no transfer is recorded in the War Diaries.
Once again Tom and the men were on the move during the
following day after this short but welcome respite from the rigours of marching. At 10.30 a.m. on the morning of the 20th
the men set forth for Puchevillers a short distance to the west with the order of march dictated by orders as follows; "B,"
"C," "D" and "A" Companies. The village was once a pleasant hamlet surrounded by orchards and had,
prior to the commencement of the Somme offensive, witnessed a transformation into one of the main locations transporting
ammunition to the front by rail and in return bringing back the wounded. Of these, many would succumb to their wounds at one
of the many Casualty Clearing Stations that in turn occupied the northern approach to the village.
closer to the Somme battlefield the battalion departed Puchevillers during the following day and proceeded by route of
march with "C" Company in the vanguard and "A" Company at the rear arriving at Varennes at 1.45 p.m. One
officer however, Second-Lieutenant Louis Bertram Hawkswell who had been with the Battalion for little over a month, departed
for posting to the Intelligence Corps, G.H.Q. Hawkswell who had been commissioned from the 3/6th West Yorkshire's was
to die in 1918 from injuries received in a flying accident whilst attached to the fledgling R.A.F.
It was on the
22nd that the West Yorkshire's set forth once again to the sound of the guns and the undulating terrain of the Somme albeit
by now a desolate wilderness of shell holes, shattered woods and wrecked villages.
Departing Varennes at 10.30 a.m. the
men marched towards Martinsart arriving at 1 p.m. and proceeded to camp in Martinsart Wood. Authors note: The form of accomodation
is not recorded in the War Diary but in existence in mid 1916 was a hutted camp located in the confines of the wood. For a
period of three days the Battalion remained at this location but their activities are unfortunately not recorded and are just expressed
in the vague terminology of the Diary as "nothing of importance." An examination of the Diaries of the
constituent units of the Brigade however indicates that during this period the battalions were providing working parties clearing
Despite this period of what would seem at first glance as relative inactivity, the Battalion were on the move
once again on the morning of the 26th November when at 5.45 a.m. they proceeded to Engelbelmer. Though located a short
distance away from Martinsart, the latter place was reached at 9 a.m. suggesting a circuitous route being performed during
the order of march by "C," "D," "B" and "A" Companies respectively.
despite suffering the attentions of German artillery, remained relatively intact as Tom and the men went into billets and
hutments, this terminology would possibly suggest that as well as the hutted accomodation, houses in the village were
also utilized for billeting purposes.
On the 28th November the 9th West Yorkshire's were ordered to proceed
forward and complete a relief of the 6th Border Regiment, 33rd Infantry Brigade of the 11th Division in reserve trenches located
to the south of Beaucourt. Likewise, the 6th Dukes would also commence a movement forward but their orders dictated a relief
of the 6th Lincolns, also of the 33rd Brigade, in front line positions located to the north of Grandcourt in the Bois d'Hollande.
With an order of march of "A," "B," "C" and "D" Companies, the first platoon of
"A" Company departed the comparative safety of Engelbelmer at 9 a.m., each platoon of each company then moving off
at twenty minute intervals with relief being finally completed at 6 p.m. with no casualties sustained.
During the daylight
hours, the War Diary is once again vague as to activities engaged upon but one would surmise that the men set about cleaning
up their reserve position and acquainting themselves with their new surroundings. Occupying a trench located on a steep slope
that descended northwards towards Station Road, south of Beaucourt Station, the area was frequently subjected to the attentions
of German artillery and it was at 10.30 p.m. on the night of the 29th that disaster struck. Enemy shells began to fall on
the trenches held by the West Yorkshire's at this hour for an unknown duration. The resulting casualties caused by
this 'hate' were 4 men killed and a further 4 wounded. Amongst the number of men killed was the young Tom, aged just
Thomas now lies in Hamel Military Cemetery, Beaumont Hamel, Somme, along with his comrades who were also killed,
albeit their dates of death being recorded as the 30th November; Privates John Richard Sowrey, 34578, of Leeds, Lance-Corporal
David Quinn, 4/8021, of Murton, County Durham and awarded the Military Medal only weeks previously, and Private John William
Slingsby, 40945, from Bradford, married in July.
I have visited this area of the Somme for the past twenty years.
It is often that I think of 'Frank,' just one of 72,000 men commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial as I walk the battlefield,
sometimes in the company of family or friends, but for the most time in solitude.
It is then that I visit the grave of
'Tom' and remember some of my friends, sadly those that have past as well as the living. A friendship born from
the place of work or just a casual aquaintance, Tom and Frank had endured battle and hardship together. I would like to think
that this friendship, due in small part to this commemoration, still 'lives' on.
|Private Thomas Beasley, 11785, 9th West Yorkshire Regiment
|The Authors Daughter, Molly, At The Graveside Of 'Tom' Beasley, Hamel Military Cemetery, Somme