Husband of Hannah Hood, of 9, Cambridge Place, Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
William Henry Hood was born in 1874 at Goole to parents Samuel, occupation, a Master Coach Builder,
and Mary Hood. (Authors note: The 1881 Census records his father as Samuel, the baptism record of Ethel, one Charles Samuel.
To confuse matters further, his name upon his death is recorded as one Charles Vincent).
It would appear that the family led a rather transient lifestyle and were residing previously to
William's birth at Skipton. In the late 1870's the family had relocated to Wetherby, the 1881 Census details recording
that the family consisting of Samuel aged 10, William aged 6 and John Charles aged 2 were residing in premises located at
Scott Lane. In 1889, William's father unfortunately died, the 1891 Census now recording that the family had moved to premises
located in Westgate at this juncture. The family had also increased with the birth of Lillian Vincent in 1882, residing with
her fathers parents at Adel, and the birth of Ethel Rachel in 1885. William is now recorded as occupation, Groom, whilst his
brother had followed in his fathers footsteps as Coach Maker. The 1901 Census records that the family had now relocated to
Angel Court this yard being originally located behind the Angel Hotel. With Lillian returning to Wetherby, their mother Mary
is now recorded as blind, John finding work as a House Painter, Samuel, carrying on the family business. Of William, there
is no trace in the 1901 Census however by the year of 1911, it transpires that he was now residing in the spa town of Harrogate,
Now recorded as aged 38 years, William
Henry Hood had now found employment as a Painter with Messrs. Jessop & Cosgrove (Painters) finding lodgings at the house
of one Thomas Baker, a Cab Driver, at Number 9, Ship Yard, Harrogate. In this year also, William entered a union of marriage
with one Hannah Hutchinson in April, the family taking up residence at Number 9, Cambridge Place. In 1912, the couple were
blessed with the birth of a child, Emily, their only child, who sadly must have had just a brief recollection of her father
for the remainder of her life.
Due to the absence of surviving service documents, it is
now that we must turn our attention to the serial number issued to William, 3/10123 respectively. Enlisting at Harrogate,
the number issued suggests his date of enlistment into the West Yorkshire Regiment as September 1914 however it is more than
likely that William had served with the Colours previously, the "3" Prefix denoting a soldier of the Special Reserve.
Posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion (Special Reserve), West Yorkshire Regiment based at York, the battalion would witness
service on the north-east coast of England as part of the Tyne Garrison based at Whitley Bay. Initially serving with this
battalion, William would be posted overseas on the 27th October 1914 to join the ranks of the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire
Regiment, 18th Infantry Brigade, 6th Division.
I will now
cover the first action of the battalion in some detail so as to provide an explanation of to how and why William was posted
to this specific battalion of the Regiment.
Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
Army unit, the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment formed part of the 18th Infantry Brigade, 6th Division, the brigade
originally comprising of the following battalions:-
Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
1st Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment
2nd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters
Durham Light Infantry
Divisional Commander Major-General John Lindesay Keir C.B.
Brigade Commander Walter Norris Congreve V.C., C.B., M.V.O., D.S.O.
At 12.30 a.m. on the 7th August 1914 after receiving orders to mobilise, the 1st
Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, Officer Commanding, Lieutenant-Colonel Francis William Towsey, paraded in two parties
and commenced entrainment at Trent Valley Station, Lichfield, at 6.15 a.m. and 7.15 a.m. for Dunfermline. Arriving in the
late afternoon of the 8th, the West Yorkshire's and the remainder of the brigade now proceeded into billets until a move
was made to a camp located one mile distant on the 10th. With mobilisation more or less completed as early as the 8th, on
the 13th August, the 1st West Yorkshire's, in brigade, entrained once again in two parties, the strength of the battalion
being recorded as 25 officers and 991 Other Ranks. The destination of the 18th Infantry Brigade was now Cambridge where they
would be joined by their sister brigades, the 16th and 17th respectively who had been on miltary service in Ireland. The battalion,
arriving at Cambridge on the morning of the 14th August, now proceeded to camp on Midsummer Common in the centre
of the town, the remainder of the 6th Division also concentrating in both the Cambridge and Newmarket areas.
The time spent in camp at Cambridge was that of a happy duration, the towns population
showing much kindness to the soldiers encamped in their locality. Appeals were made in the local press for instance for socks
and shirts for the soldiers and a number of recreation tents were established on the common for the mens entertainment and
comfort. Instances of drunkeness were few and far between if at all despite the local populace offering alcoholic liquor a
plenty but there were a few accidents incurred due to recreational activities and general mishaps. Private George Edward Graham,
8509, 1st West Yorkshire's, was admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital shortly after arrival in camp after sustaining
a broken arm during a game of football, one Private Charles Howard, 2nd Sherwood Foresters, a broken ankle after falling over
a tent peg.
Embarkation For St. Nazaire
7 a.m. on the morning of the 7th September, the 1st West Yorkshire's struck camp and proceeded by route of march to Newmarket
arriving at the latter town just after noon. Forming into two parties, the battalion commenced entrainment for Southampton
at 3.15 p.m. and 4.45 p.m. arriving at the port at 9.45 p.m. and 11.30 p.m. respectively. With the strength of the battalion
recorded as 27 officers and 959 Other Ranks, their complement also comprised of 57 horses, 17 vehicles and 9 bicycles. The
battalion were to embark on the S.S. Cawdor Castle, formerly owned and operated by the Union - Castle Line and requisitioned
as transport ship. In addition to the West Yorkshire's, the ship also carried the 1st Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment
under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Erle Benson, their strength being recorded as 27 officers, 958 Other Ranks
in addition to 58 horses, 8 four wheeled and 2 wheeled vehicles, and 9 bicycles in addition to 20 officers and 3 Batmen proceeding
to France to join various units of the British Expeditionary Force. Of the 2nd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters, they would commence
embarkation at Southampton on the 8th September accompanied by the Brigade Commander and his Staff on the S.S. Georgian,
of the 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, they would also embark on the 8th but in two parties, one on the City of
Benares, the other party on the Bellerophon respectively. The destination of the constituent units of the 18th
Infantry Brigade was St. Nazaire and after a quiet and calm crossing the Cawdor Castle proceeded to anchor at 9 p.m.
on the evening of the 9th September, the West Yorkshire's disembarking at 7 a.m. on the morning of the following day.
The Military Situation
There now follows a breif summary of events that led to the deployment of the
6th Division in France. Following the retreat from Mons and the subsequent action at Le Cateau, the British Expeditionary
Force (B.E.F.), Commander-in-Chief Sir John French, had continued their retirement southwards closely followed by the German
First Army (von Kluck) and the Second German Army (von Bulow) following on their right flank. Ultimately leading to an attempt
by the German Armies to push the French Armies in a south-easterly direction from Paris, this forced the enemy to fight a
series of engagements with the B.E.F. at Nery, Crepy and Villers-Cotteret, the B.E.F. eventually establishing a position south
of the Marne River. With the French Sixth Army now on their left flank (Maunoury) and the French Fifth Army on their right
(d'Esperay), von Kluck's First Army attempted to cross the front held by the B.E.F. but after a being dealt a striking
blow by both the French and the British, the right flank of the German First army was pushed back from the west to the Ourcq
River by the French Sixth Army and from the south to a position on the Marne River by the French Fifth Army. In addition to
this thrust by the French, the latters Sixth Army (Gallieni) also brought pressure on von Kluck, advancing as they were from
the north-east of Paris. There was only one course of action for the German Armies, a retirement of their First and Second
Armies, the latter being pressed by the French Fifth Army with the French Ninth Army (Foch) on their right flank forcing them
back upon the Marne River.
a rearguard action that would lead to the Battle of the Marne, by the 7th of September a wide wedge had developed between
the German First and Second Armies as elements of the French Fifth Army pushed northwards towards Chateau Thierry with the
B.E.F. also advancing northwards on their left flank. As the enemy retired to a line north of the Aisne River, bridges were
destroyed as they now took up a strong defensive position on the spurs of high ground along the length of the Chemin des
Dames overlooking the river. On the foggy night of the 13th of September, the B.E.F. forced a crossing of the Aisne River
over destroyed or hastily erected pontoon bridges establishing itself on the northern bank between Bourg-et-Comin on the right
flank and Venizel on the left east of Soissons. With the French Fifth Army crossing the river at Berry-au-Bac and the Sixth
French Army establishing a position to the west of Soissons, all combatants entrenched and it was into this sector of the
line that the 6th Division were now to enter.
|Extract From The Official History
|Battle Of The Aisne (First Day), Nightfall On The 13th September, 1914
The Journey To The Front
disembarkation the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment proceeded to a Rest Camp. (Authors note: Possibly the same camp
that was occupied by the 1st East Yorkshire's and located at Chantier). As the 6th Division as a whole disembarked in
the days that followed, it was not without incident. A number of vehicles of the East Yorkshire's for example had either
been damaged upon loading or during the crossing. To compound matters further, some vehicles had to be unloaded by ship's
derricks due to the unavailability of dockside cranes, this delay ultimately leading to some battalions proceeding onwards
without their vehicles.
At 11.45 p.m. on the 10th,
the West Yorkshire's paraded and began entrainment in one train, the train finally departing at 4.35 a.m. early on the
following morning. This entrainment was also not without difficulties for some battalions, the by now 'accursed' transport
vehicles and limbers having to be loaded onto their respective trains sideways by a system of moveable ramps and on to low
As the train departed St. Nazaire
and headed eastwards the men knew little of what lay ahead, the train, halting at various points during the journey for refreshments.
Coulommiers was reached early on the morning of the 12th of September whereupon the battalion detrained and proceeded by route
of march to Croupet, north-east of Coulommiers, which was reached at 4.30 p.m. The 6th Division now began to concentrate in
a wide area to the north-east, west and south of Coulommiers whereupon they proceeded to billet.
On the 15th September the 6th Division began to assemble, the 1st West Yorkshire's
(in Division) proceeding by route of march to Chateau-Thierry, a distance of over 20 miles to the north, "C" Company
acting as the battalion rearguard marching to the rear of the Ammunition Column. The battalion set forth from Croupet at 7.30
a.m. and after crossing the Marne River, the battalion halted for three hours at Charly-sur-Marne where teas were taken. Continuing
their march, Chateau-Thierry was reached at 10 p.m., "C" Company arriving at 5.40 a.m. on the morning of the 16th
where the men, no doubt footsore, billeted. At 6 a.m. the battalion paraded and resumed their march continuing northwards
to Tigny, south of Soissons, the battalion halting at 1 p.m. for the duration of an an hour and a half. Arriving at Tigny
at 6 p.m., the battalion billeted after a march of over eighteen miles. (Authors note: "C" Company were now relieved
as the rearguard by one company of the 1st East Yorkshire's).
The 18th Infantry Brigade assembled at 8 a.m. on the morning of the 17th and marched a short distance, four miles,
to Chacrise which was reached at 10 a.m., one company of the Sherwood Foresters now performing the rearguard. The West Yorkshire's
once again billeted however a party or parties were sent forth to collect tools from the village of Nampteuil (Nampteuil-sous-Muret)
which were duly sent on to the Headquarters of the 5th Division at Serches, the division itself holding the line opposite
Sainte Marguerite and Missy-sur-Aisne to the east of Soissons. It is of interest to note how ill prepared the B.E.F. were
for what had now become static 'trench' as opposed to 'open' warfare.' Due to a shortage of suitable tools
for the construction of rudimentary trenches and dug-outs, it was common place for these to be sourced from the local population.
As the 18th Infantry Brigade, 6th Division, continued their journey to the
front, upon the Chemin des Dames, the men of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Division, witnessed an act of enemy treachery.
In what appeared to be an act of surrender on the 17th, the men of the 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, observed
a party of the German's approaching their front line positions. The War Diary of the unit (T.N.A. WO95/1271/1 records
"An unfortunate incident
occurred in which 2 officers + many of our men were killed. The enemy showed the white flag + some few surrendered but it
was a trap + when our men were exposed they fired under cover of the Flag (sic)."
A more detailed observation of this alleged breach of the rules of war is
recorded in the pages of the War Diary of the 2nd Battalion, King's Own Rifle Corps, also of the 2nd Infantry Brigade,
"About 4.30 p.m.
a party of Germans came forward towards C Company with two Officers advancing at about a distance of 20 to 30 yards in front
of their men. The whole party, Officers and men, advanced with their hands raised about their heads, seemingly as a token
of surrender, but with their rifles slung over their shoulders. Lieutenant Dimmer (Lieutenant John Henry Stephen Dimmer)
of the King's Royal Rifle Corps and Captain Savage (Captain John Ardkeen Savage) of the Northants Regiment
went forward to meet them. On nearing them however, Dimmer heard the bolt of a rifle being opened and closed and suspected
treachery. He called out the (sic) Captain Savage, and himself dropped down in the turnips. The Germans immediately
opened fire from their hips and Savage, checked by his sword as he was in the act of dropping down, was instantly killed,
while many of the Riflemen who had been standing up in their trenches beckoning the Germans to come in, fell victims to the
same ruse. Immediately after this instant a large body of about 300 to 400 Germans were seen advancing in a similar manner
(arms raised and rifles slung) on our left towards the Chemin des Dames. Our Brigade Major, Captain C.F. Watson (Captain
Charles Frederick Watson), of the Queen's, came up and rode out towards the German troops, ordering our men to cease
fire as he went pass them, as he thought the Germans intended surrender but, after speaking to the enemy he galloped back,
whilst the Germans continued to advance towards a company of the Northants who were dug in on the south side of the road.
They, like the Riflemen stood up in their trenches, expecting the Germans to surrender but Lieutenant Percell (Raymond
John Hugo Purcell), in command of our Machine gun detachment, turned his guns on them as he did not trust them. The Germans
continued their advance, and when they reached the Chemin des Dames, they opened fire on the Company of the Northants in the
same manner. The Northants, taken by surprise, fell back 40 or 50 yards, but our machine guns at once opened fire on the Germans,
who turned tail and fled, being mowed down as they ran across the flat. They were also exposed to Rifle fire from our trenches
to the north of the road, and very few if any of them escaped."
Northampton Mercury dated the 25th of September 1914 reports the perpetrators of this act as the German 53rd Reserve Infantry
Regiment. Without conclusive evidence however, the exact identity of the German unit cannot be confirmed beyond reasonable
doubt. The dispositions as regards the frontage occupied by the Seventh Reserve Corps and their respective divisions as they
moved into the line on the 13th of September confirms that the 14th Reserve Division, comprising of the 28th Infantry Brigade
and that of the 27th Reserve Infantry Brigade in which I.R. 53 were contained, were in positions above Troyon. One may surmise
therefore that in addition to the 53rd, the 16th Reserve Infantry Regiment (I.R. 16) also of the 27th Brigade were present
in some capacity either in the line or in support positions. There are further newspaper articles of varying quality in existance
that convolute matters still further; the displaying of a 'White Flag' during the incident in addition to accounts
of numerous alleged atrocities performed by the retiring German Army. It is also of interest to note that General
von Zwehl, commander of the Seventh Reserve Corps, laid similar accusations against the British, recording specifically that
those forces opposing the I.R. 16, 27th Brigade, had 'pretended' to surrender and then opened fire.
It was at 2.30 p.m. on the afternoon of
the 18th September that the 18th Infantry Brigade set forth from Chacrise on a march to Bourg-et-Comin to the east. Bivouacking
at Braine for the night, in cold and heavy rain the brigade marched on to Bourg whereupon the Aisne was crossed by means of
a Pontoon Bridge, Bourg being reached early on the morning of the 19th September where the men proceeded to occupy billets.
In the days previously, the British line had been subjected to a series of infantry attacks proceeded by heavy bombardments
and it was during the course of this day that the 2nd Division found themselves heavily engaged, repulsing two enemy attacks.
It was at this juncture that the French Commander-in-Chief,
General Joffre, had formulated plans for the formation of a new army that would operate on the left flank of Manoury's
Sixth Army. With the latter occupying the line west of Soissons to Choisy, north of Compiegne, Joffre's intention was
to turn the right flank of von Kluck's First Army and it was these plans that he laid before Sir John French on the 18th.
Although battle would have to be protracted, this would provide time for the British Commander-in-Chief to form a reserve
and in turn organise a system of relief for the exhausted men in the front line. The 6th Division had originally been placed
in General Reserve to Third Corps and placed to the south of the Aisne River however the opportunity now arose due to Joffre's
newly formulated plans to utilise the infantry of the 6th Division for this purpose.
|Destroyed Bridge At Bourg-et-Comin (Courtesy Of The Geneanet Community)
Now forming part of First Corps under the command of Lieutenant-General
Sir Douglas Haig, early on the morning of the 19th, Commanding Officers and Company Commanders made a reconnaisance of the
line to be taken over in this sector. It was now that the men made final preparations for the impending move into the forward
line located to the north on the Chemin des Dames in the vicinity of the village of Troyon. At noon, Bour was shelled
by enemy artillery however an analysis of the various unit War Diaries record that during this bombardment no casualties were
suffered by the brigade. With orders to relieve various units of the 1st Division, the men of the 18th Infantry Brigade, 6th
Division, now moved up into the line during the course of the afternoon. Under an enemy bombardment, the respective battalions
of the brigade proceeded to march uphill in platoons at intervals via the village of Vendresse and onwards towards Troyon.
At some point on the road, Private John Arthur Hipkiss, 7736, of "A" Company, 1st Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment,
was hit by enemy artillery fire and was unfortunately killed. A native of Hockley, Birmingham and a married man, John has
no known grave and is now commemorated on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, Seine-et-Marne, France.
The 18th Infantry Brigade were now moving into the firing line opposite the
Seventh Reserve-Korps under the command of General Johann von Zwehl. Recently attached to the Seventh German Army under the
command of General Josias von Heeringen after seige operations at Maubeuge, the Seventh Korps comprising of the 13 and 14
Reserve Infantry Divisions moved into the line from the east of Cerny-en-Laonnois to the west of Ailles respectively. Taking
up this position on the eastern flank of von Kluck's First Army on the 13th September, von Zwehl's arrival was timely
indeed and closed a worrying gap that had developed between the First and Second Armies. With a breakthrough by the British
being narrowly avoided, the situation in the days to come would be finely balanced with attacks by both sides being pressed
home and equally repulsed. Orders were issued however for a general attack by the whole of Seventh Corps on the 20th, this
attack being made in conjunction with a composite force, the Gersdorrf Detachment (Generalmajor Georg von Gersdorff),
comprising of the 63rd Infantry Brigade and artillery of the 32nd Infantry Division, Twelfth Korps, Third Army.
One man who was making final preparations before he went into battle was
one Landwehrman Hermann Refke, of 4th Kompany, Landwehr Infantry Regiment 16. A native of Oberbilk, Dusseldorf, for him and
some of his comrades, this would be their last battle.
Holding The Line: The "White Flag" Incident
Upon reaching Troyon, the 1st West Yorkshire's now moved into the line
after dark to commence a relief of the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards and at 11 p.m., all reliefs were completed. The battalion
now found itself holding the extreme right flank of the British line, to their right, the 1er Bataillon du 1er Tirailleurs
Algerians of the 38e Division d'Infanterie, French Fifth Army held the line in positions above Paissy. "A" and
"B" Companies of the West Yorkshire's under the command of Major Alexander Wighton Ingles now moved into the
firing line with Battalion Headquarters and "C" and "D" Companies placed in support trenches, the latter
two companies echeloned in the right rear of the two front line companies respectively. Battalion Transport was placed in
a position at the foot of the hill, presumably south of Troyon.
Both the firing and support lines were subjected to artillery fire before the battalion had completed the relief,
the night being spent by the men improving their positions and in the construction of overhead cover. The 'trenches'
were however just meagre excavations in the ground with no communication 'trenches' extending to the rear, communication
to the firing and the support lines being maintained by telephone.
It was at 3.30 a.m. on the morning of the 20th of September that the West Yorkshire's received orders to Stand-to-Arms.
Shortly after these orders were issued, enemy artillery placed a heavy bombardment on the locality and at 4.15 a.m. it soon
became apparent that the French troops on the right flank were being subjected to a maelstrom of both shell and rifle fire.
Suffering heavy casualties in both officers and men, the 'Turcos' were observed retiring over the Paissy
Hills on the right at about 5 a.m. To ascertain the situation on this right flank, an officers patrol of the West Yorkshire's
under the command of Lieutenant Thomas Gilliat Meautys, Battalion Machine Gun Officer, was duly sent out but on moving foward
this patrol came under fire forcing it to return. With the right flank 'in the air' and the situation unclear, Colonel
Towsey ordered "D" Company under the command of Captain Percival Edward Hurst Lowe to move forward and take up a
position in the open facing right but on doing so they came under heavy rifle fire from the right. In the confusion of battle,
it soon became apparent that this rifle fire originated from the French troops on the right, the order for "D" Company
being issued to return to the trenches at once. The situation by now had become obscure to say the least, Towsey himself going
out to reconnoitre the flank returning a few minutes later. "D" Company were once again ordered to move forward
to the advance and after opening fire and moving forward about 300 yards, none of the enemy were observed whereupon they once
again returned to the line. The battalion had however suffered casualties at this point, one man being reported as killed
in addition to twenty six being wounded. Amongst the latter was one Lieutenant George Vyvyan Naylor-Leyland, Royal Horse Guards,
attached to the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment. A rather ambiguous newspaper article reported that Lieutenant Naylor-Leyland
had been seriously wounded whilst carrying messages from the front line to Headquarters, possibly on horseback. Unfortunately
succumbing to his wounds on the following day, Naylor-Leyland is now buried in Vendresse Churchyard.
|Positions Of The 18th Infantry Brigade
|Positions Schematic Only (Author)
Despite the situation, the men found time to eat a rather hurried
breakfast but it was at 8 a.m. that heavy rifle and artillery fire once again erupted onto the firing line, the Colonel accompanied
by Lieutenant Meautys once again proceeding forward in yet another attempt to ascertain and evaluate the situation. Crossing
the open ground and under fire, the following is an extract of a letter published in The Globe dated the 27th October
(sic) and Meautys ran forward over the exposed ground under fire to see what was taking place. The colonel came back in
about an hour's time and said Meautys had been wounded. He had told Meautys to look for a place for his machine guns,
and to signal him with his hat if he found one.
He saw Meautys return to the trench, but he did not signal, and fell forward into the trench, apparently wounded.
He was hit in the stomach and lay in the trench all that day and late into the night. It was impossible to recover the wounded
owing to the heavy fire from artillery and rifles. However, during the darkness he was brought back to the hospital at Troyon."
We will return to the
fate of Meautys later during the course of this commemoration but with his Battalion Machine Gun Officer wounded, Colonel
Towsey now ordered forward "D" Company to reinforce the firing line. As heavy firing continued all morning, it was
observed that the French on the right had also commenced yet another retirement at about 1 p.m. Upon receiving a report of
this retirement and that of the West Yorkshire's, two companies of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, 2nd Infantry
Brigade, 1st Division, were rushed forward from caves located at Paissy to stem the flow of an enemy attack that had now developed
on the Paissy Hills. In addition to the Sussex, the 18th Hussars (Queen Mary's Own), 1st Cavalry Division, had already
established themselves at 3.30 a.m. in support of the French at Paissy. At about midday, the Hussars then moved up to the
plateau to the north of the village in support of the 'Turcos,' "B" Squadron under the command
of Major Charles Henry Leveson D.S.O. moving forward apace and dismounted in an attempt to retake the second line of trenches.
So what events had transpired
that had witnessed the forward positions of the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment being overun? The first inclination
that an attack was underway was when a man ran back from the firing line at about 1.30 p.m. reporting that the companies in
front had been captured and that the enemy were advancing. The enemy it was ascertained later from the wounded apparently
approached the front line under a White Flag, a recognised sign of a truce, a ceasefire or even surrender. Private
Alfred Midgley, 6511, a married man of Henry Street, Leeds, recounted his experiences to his wife in a letter wrote at the
4th Scottish General Hospital, Glasgow, the latter being published in the Yorkshire Evening Post dated the 7th of October:-
"I have never read
about a more cruel war than this. The battle at which I was hit was supposed to be the worst since the war started. It was
called the battle of Piassy (sic). The morning I was hit, we had just started marching up the field, when our officer
got his field glasses out and saw some Germans in a big wood, so we got the order to load our rifles and fix our bayonets.
We started firing at them. There only looked to be about 100 of them, and we charged them. They showed the white flag, telling
us they were going to surrender and when we got up to them they started firing on us. There would be about 700 of them, all
hiding. They made our company and another prisoners, and those that were wounded and killed they left.
I was placed in a hole they call a trench with two of our fellows and
was left there, and I saw nobody else until I was carried away on Sunday night by three of the Dragoons."
Private J. Thompson of the 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, wrote a
letter to a friend at Monkwearmouth from hospital at King's College, Chelsea, describing his experiences of the incident.
The following is an extract of the letter published in the Sunderland Daily Echo on the 12th of October 1914:-
"One of their cowardly tricks was played on the West Yorkshire Regiment.
They were lying on our right, next to us. We were firing from our trenches when an order came along to cease fire. We wondered
what was up, and then we heard the officers shouting "The Germans have surrendered." We let the Germans come in
with their white flag and their rifles above their heads. About 200 of them got to our men and stood still. Our men were going
to take their rifles off them when suddenly the Germans seemed to spring from nowhere and opened fire with rifles and machine
guns. Good God, it was wilful murder; and if we had not got reinforcements I would not have been here to tell the tale."
Of the 18th Infantry Brigade: Defend The Right Flank At All Costs
Although the chronology of events that transpired during the course of the
afternoon are difficult to determine, on the left flank of the West Yorkshire's, the 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry,
Officer Commanding, Colonel Bernard William Lynedoch McMahon, now began to be enfiladed by an enemy machine gun causing numerous
casualties. Due to the right flank of the battalion being pinned down and suffering considerable losses, one company plus
half a company were ordered to advance from the left flank of the battalion front. Upon rising and advancing to the attack,
they too were hit by this enfilade machine gun fire and after gallantly trying to press on, they returned to their original
trenches after enduring severe casualties in both officers and men.
Due to the retirement of the French, the enemy had been able to manoeuvre his force around the right flank above
Paissy, the West Yorkshire's suffering numerous casualties in men killed, wounded or missing. At 2 p.m., Colonel Towsey
gave the order for "C" Company and Battalion Headquarters to advance immediately towards the front line trenches
in an attempt, if possible, to save the forward companies. Fixing bayonets and advancing at the double, they were met with
both heavy fire from the front and the right flank however fire was opened to the front and two platoons were detached to
the right to form a defensive flank. With Colonel Towsey now wounded, the alarm was now raised and the 2nd Battalion, Sherwood
Foresters who were in reserve positions at Troyon under the command of Colonel Cyril Randell Crofton-Atkins, now rose to the
attack. Upon observing a column of the enemy marching prisoners off to the rear, "A" and "C" Companies
under the commands of Captains Robert Stewart Popham D.S.O. and Charles Colville Parkinson M.V.O. respectively, moved forward
at a moments notice and upon assuming a position at the head of the Paissy Valley, they were there joined by Major Philip
Leveson-Gower. The Foresters were met by intense heavy machine gun fire from both the front and the right flank as they attempted
to deploy, the terrain being deviod of cover and confined due to the topography of the landscape. Their advance was initially
checked until the remaining two companies of the battalion were brought forward to reinforce the line, a general advance then
being ordered which was conducted with "great dash" and despite heavy losses, the battalion re-took the
Between 2 and
3 p.m. during the afternoon, "B" Squadron of the 18th Hussars were re-enforced by two Squadrons of the 4th (Royal
Irish) Dragoon Guards, also of 1st Cavalry Division who held their line against repeated attacks. It is now that we turn our
attention to the extreme left flank of the 18th Infantry Brigade, that held by the 1st Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment.
The battalion had left their trenches in support
of the attack made by the Durham's and upon advancing eastwards up the rising ground and crossing the spur, they were
at once hit by machine gun and artillery fire. Before they could retire to their original trenches, Colonel Benson and four
officers were wounded in addition to two officers and countless men being recorded as missing or wounded.
The final action of the day as recorded by the War Diary of the 1st Battalion,
West Yorkshire Regiment, states that at 3 p.m., Major Godfrey George Lang was sent forward to reconnoitre and ascertain the
positions out front. Signalling an advance, Headquarters and "C" Company moved forward and after joining up with
the East Yorkshire's on their left flank, the trenches previously held by "A" and "B" Companies of
the battalion were reoccupied. With the dead and wounded of the 18th Infantry Brigade strewn across the battlefield, the West
Yorkshire's were eventually relieved by the 2nd Sherwood Foresters in the line at about 8 p.m. and the battalion, or what
remained of it, proceeded into reserve at Troyon arriving at 5 a.m. on the morning of the 21st of September after burying
their dead and collecting the wounded. Their Roll Call to say the least was pitiful, numbering just five officers and an estimated
250 Other Ranks. (Authors note:-Major Lang now assumed command and compiled the War Diary for this period on the 1st October.
There are therefore, some inaccuracies as to the strength of the battalion after the actions of the 20th September. Five officers
is a conservative estimate, and one may surmise after an analysis of the Army List dated August 1914 that amongst their number
were also the Adjutant, Captain William Henry Astley De la Pryme, Captain Alfred Morey Boyall D.S.O., Lieutenant John Lawson-Smith,
Honorary Lieutenant and Quartermaster Ernest George Butler, Second-Lieutenant Jasper Carew and Second-Lieutenant Frank Lowndes
Wright. The full composition of the battalion however warrants further study).
|18th Infantry Brigade Front, Troyon, 20th September 2014 (Author)
The Losses: Killed, Wounded & Missing
analysis of the War Diary of the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment records that on the 20th September 1914, 7 officers
had been killed, 3, wounded including Lieutenant-Colonel Towsey, and 7 posted as missing. In Other Ranks, 71, were reported
as killed, 110 wounded and 436 missing. The officers and their true fates are recorded as follows:-
Major Alexander Wighton Ingles, killed, commemorated, La Ferte-sous-Jouarre
Captain Mortimer Fisher, killed, commemorated,
La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial
Captain John Francis
I'Anson, killed, commemorated, La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial
Lieutenant William Lawrence Eliot, killed, commemorated, La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial
Lieutenant Offley Charles Wycliffe Thompson, killed, commemorated, La Ferte-sous-Jouarre
Lieutenant Thomas Gilliat Meautys, died
of wounds, buried, Vendresse British Cemetery
Eric Western Wilson, killed, commemorated, La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial
Captain Percival Edward Hurst Lowe, missing, subsequently reported as a Prisoner of War
Captain Eustace Foster Grant-Dalton, missing, subsequently reported as a
Prisoner of War
Captain Percy Spencer Fryer, missing,
subsequently reported as a Prisoner of War
Henry Harington, missing, subsequently reported as a Prisoner of War
Lieutenant Kenneth Saumarez Seton Henderson, missing, subsequently reported as a Prisoner of War
Lieutenant Leslie Alfred Davies, missing, subsequently reported as a Prisoner
Second-Lieutenant William Henry Langran,
missing, subsequently reported as a Prisoner of War
Bertram Louis Ratcliffe, missing, subsequently reported as a Prisoner of War
the wounded, at this point will return to Lieutenant Thomas Gilliat Meautys who had been severely wounded in the stomach and
removed to the village of Troyon. Educated at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, a fellow officer of the battalion writing home
described his last hours in a letter forwarded to The Globe by the College's Headmaster, St John Basil Wynne
Willson and published on the 27th of October 1914:-
saw him about 5 a.m. the next morning; he was lying in a cave, which was used as a hospital. He seemed very tired and weak,
and I did not stop long, but he wanted to know all about the regiment and what had happened the previous day. Again that afternoon
I went to see him, and, although he was in pain, he told me all that happened in the trench where he lay that day. He seemed
to me to be better, and the doctors had some hopes. About five a.m. next morning I went into the hospital and went to his
bed, but was told by the attendant he had died at 12.30 p.m. He was not allowed to eat or drink after he was hit. It was a
great shock to me to find he was gone. I was very fond of him and I admired his bravery during the fight. He was an excellent
officer and we were all very sorry indeed to lose him. He was buried beneath the hospital at Troyon in the village and his
grave was marked with a wooden cross. One can well say, 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.' He died a soldier's
death on the field of honour. He was a very gallant fellow."
Originally buried in Troyon Churchyard in Grave Number Three, after the war had ceased, the village, church and graveyard
had been virtually erased from the map. The wooden cross had been destroyed but Meaultys' burial plot was fortunately
identified through French burial records and his body was subsequently exhumed in April 1925. Thomas Gilliat Meautys now lies
in Vendresse British Cemetery along with Private William Richardson, 8045, a native of Warwick and a resident Harrogate who
died of wounds on the 25th, and Colour Sergeant James Missett, 6564, of Hunslet, Leeds, who also died of wounds received on
the 20th. Both men are now commemorated on Special Memorials having being known to have been buried in Troyon Churchyard.
The Missett family would also receive one more telegram informing them that John Edward, the nephew of James, had also fallen
in action in action on the 20th of September. John, a resident of Zulu Street, Burmantofts, Leeds, is now commemorated on
the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial.
Featherstone Woodcock, 9243, a native of Burley, Leeds, lay out in the open for over a day. Writing a letter to one Miss Maria
Rogers of Lichfield from his hospital bed at the 1st Scottish General Hospital, Aberdeen, the following is an extract describing
" I was knocked over
about 4 o'clock in the afternoon (Sunday, 20th September), and I was picked up at midnight on Monday, having lain there
wounded about 34 hours. I was pretty near done for, but I have the cap of the German who shot at me, and he was a bad shot
or else very frightened, as he could only hit me in the leg at seven yards. I managed to improve greatly on his shooting.
Well, all those hours I laid there wounded
I wondered if I should ever see you again, and I really began to think I should not, as I made sure they would come and finish
us during the night. However, we were lucky enough to get out of it, and were put into a train and sent down country, a three
days' journey, in cattle trucks. Words cannot describe it. We arrived, the, at St. Nazaire, and here we were taken to
a decent hospital, where we stayed about five days, and were then taken on board the hospital ship, "Carisbroke Castle"
(sic) (which is very comfortably fitted up), and brought to Southampton, where we were put into hospital trains fitted
up like palaces, and where we were treated like kings, until we arrived at this place. This is a great hospital, and we are
very well looked after indeed."
Having received a gun shot wound to his right thigh, John now concludes his letter to Maria describing the extent of
"Now comes the painful
part of my letter - I dread to write it almost. When the bullet went through my leg the main artery was severed, and it has
so affected my foot that they are going to take part of it off and leave me a cripple for life. I shall have to leave the
Army, although I shall get a small pension."
Bringing in the wounded was both impossible and problematic due to the heavy machine gun and artillery barrage
that was sweeping across the battlefield. In trying to do so, there were many heroes amongst the ranks of the men of the 18th
Infantry Brigade. One man of the West Yorkshire's, Private Charles Bell, 7558, a resident of Morley near Leeds, set out
to bring in the survivors of his company after a charge was made on the enemy line. (Authors note: One may surmise the charge
of "C" Company). Bell assumed that due to the heavy losses during the charge, there were only three men surviving
in his midst, himself, a Sergeant, and Private Robert Gee, 7236. Gee disappeared and it was unbeknown to Bell that he had
in fact fallen wounded. It was then that the unidentified Sergeant also fell wounded whereupon Bell bandaged him up as best
he could and crawled away with the N.C.O. on his back. Under fire, Bell it was reported crawled for over two hours until a
wood was reached, presumably the wooded slopes below Troyon, whereupon the Sergeant was handed over to the Battalion Transport.
Surprisingly, Bell would receive no award for gallantry and after a long recuperation spent at a number of hospitals, he led
what could be best described as a rather 'colourful' life before returning to the Western Front. Subsequently serving
with the 10th (Service), 21st (Service) Battalions of the Regiment before returning to his original unit, the 1st Battalion
respectively, he would be discharged in January 1918.
|The Graphic, October 31st, 1914
|Artist: Ernest Prater
The Missing, The Dead & The Prisoners
The casualty lists of those missing, dead and presumed Prisoners of War are to say the least extensive in both the
local and national press. To try to record all those who were engaged in the action of the 20th September would require unlimited
research, therefore, the Author will attempt to provide a cross-section of the men engaged and their ultimate fates.
News was received in mid October of the death in action of Private Fred Boyington,
7797, a Reservist and a married man of Halton, Leeds. Prior to being recalled to the Colours, Fred was employed by the Aire
and Calder Navigation Company. His brother George, also a Reservist and serving in "A" Company of the battalion,
was later reported as a Prisoner of War. George would unfortunately die in captivity at Doberitz Camp in April 1917 and before
the war was employed as a Carter by Messrs. Vaux, Leeds. George now lies in Meza (Nikolai) Cemetery, Latvia.
Sarah Esther Croft also received the news of the death of her husband, Private
Albert Croft, 7610, of Recreation Grove, Holbeck, Leeds. Prior to the war, Albert was employed by Messrs. Joseph Watson and
Sons, Soap Works, ("Soapy Joes"), of Whitehall Road, Leeds. Shot through the head, he is now commemorated on the
La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial along with Fred Boyington.
Lance-Corporal Harry Appleby, 7236, born at Market Weighton and a Cooper by trade, was residing at Victoria Terrace,
Tadcaster. A Reservist recalled to the Colours, prior to the war he was employed by John Smith's Brewery.
At Bridlington, Mrs Violet Biggins had received notification from the War
Office that her husband, Lance-Corporal Elijah Biggins, 5481, a Postman at Bridlington Post Office, had been reported as missing
since the 22nd September (Authors note: Red Cross Prisoner of War records confirm his place and capture as Bourg-et-Comin,
20th September). The Leeds Mercury dated the 22nd of October reported that the couple had three small children, the eldest
being only three and a half years old, the youngest being born whilst Elijah had left home to join the Colours. Fortunately
for Violet and her young family, Elijah was eventually confirmed as a Prisoner of War at Doberitz Camp, Germany.
The Hull Kingston Rovers Rugby League team had also suffered the loss of
a member of the squad. Charles Brain, 7374, a native of Harrogate, had originally enlisted into the Regiment in 1904. A Forward
with an impressive record, Charles was recalled to the Colours and posted as missing on the 20th September but notification
was received that he was in fact a Prisoner of War at Doberitz by the Club Secretary on the 6th of November. Four other members
of the team would also serve at the front during the course of the war, Pierre Boltman, Arthur Moore, who would have a finger
amputated, William Sandham and D. Lewis. (Source Yorkshire Evening Post dated 31st of October 1914).
In relation to Wetherby men contained in the ranks of the battalion, there
is only one man who can be positively identified as being present during the action of the 20th of September, Sergeant Edgar
Leonard Adkin, 5845. Edgar enlisted into the West Yorkshire Regiment in 1900 and would witness service with the 2nd Battalion,
West Yorkshire Regiment in South Africa. With the Adkin family moving from Guisley to Wetherby, Edgar would be married at
Saint James Parish Church in the year 1905. Completing his service and being subsequently placed on the Army Reserve as per
his service obligation, he would take up the duties of Town Postman at Otley in 1909, the family residing at 39, North Parade.
Prior to mobilisation in 1914, Edgar was employed as a Sorting Clerk and Telegraphist at Bedale Post Office, North Yorkshire.
Captured during the action he would be imprisoned at Cassel, Germany, before being repatriated via Holland in December 1918.
I will conclude this stage
of the commemoration of William Henry Hood by including one more man who was captured on the 20th of September, my mother's
grandfather, Lance-Corporal James William Drane, 7063. A resident of Jack Lane, Hunslet, Leeds, James had enlisted at Leeds
in 1903. Completing his three year service obligation with the Colours in 1905, he was then placed on the Army Reserve until
being mobilised in August 1914. Unofficially reported as a Prisoner of War at Parchim, Germany, in October 1914, James was
later transferred to Gustrow in northern Germany before being repatriated to England via Switzerland in 1917. Never fully
recovering from his experiences, James would die aged 58 years in 1942 at Leeds General Infirmary.
Rebuilding The Battalion
The survivors of the battalion were now formed up as Headquarters, one company
("C" Company) and one platoon. Standing to on several occasions throughout the course of the 21st, at 6 p.m. on
the 22nd, the composite battalion proceeded into support positions for the 2nd D.L.I. Here they remained until 6.30 p.m. on
the 24th when they took over the firing line from the Durham's whereupon the began to construct new trenches throughout
the course of the night.