La Targette British Cemetery, Neuville-Saint-Vaast, Pas-de-Calais, France
Son of William and Rose Ann Metcalfe of River Cottage, Wetherby.
The Early Years
John Claude Metcalfe was born on the 4th October 1889 at Halifax to parents William, occupation,
a Blacksmith, and Rose Ann Metcalfe (nee Ward). John was the second child of this union of marriage, Jenny Metcalfe his sister,
being born at Colne, Lancashire, in 1887. The 1891 Census details record that at this juncture the family were residing in
premises located at Number 2, Gladstone View, Southowram.
During the intervening years and after relocating to Horsforth near Leeds, a second son was born, Herbert, in 1897,
the family now residing at premises located in Back Lane, Horsforth, a terrace of substantial stone built houses. The 1901
Census records that at this period William was still employed as a Blacksmith (Own Account), and that Jenny, only aged 13
years, had found employment as a Textile Dyer no doubt in one of a number of mills situated in the locality.
An analysis of the Electoral Registers for West Yorkshire indicate that the Metcalfe family
relocated to Wetherby in the year 1906 originally residing in premises located at Kirk Deighton and then in North Street.
By the following year, the family had moved to 'River Cottage,' a quaint house located on the bend of the River Wharfe
next to the modern day Tennis and Squash Courts at the foot of Scott Lane.
Up on moving to the flourishing Yorkshire market town of Wetherby, for John it was an opportunity
to display his sporting prowess. Joining the Wetherby Junior Football Club as a Left Half-Back, the Secretary being one Joseph
Henry Clay, a Newspaper Reporter and resident of Victoria Street, the team played their games on land owned by George Gunter
at Heuthwaite, off Walton Road. It is of interest to note the team as it was circa 1906-07, many of the young men ultimately
serving in the Great War:-
Mellor (Army Cyclist Corps, 62nd Division)
Bertie Arthur Wood (Arthur Wood, Captain & Goalkeeper, 5th West Yorkshire's?)
John Claud Metcalfe (Left Half-Back, 18th West Yorkshire's K.I.A.)
John Edwin Skirrow (Royal Navy)
Joseph Wiggins (9th West Yorkshire's K.I.A.)
William Wharldall (Training Reserve & West Yorkshire's)
George Rothwell Ellis (9th West Yorkshire's)
Tomlinson (5th Lincolns)
Attracting the affections of a young lady, John married one Edith Wood aged 20 years, the daughter
of George Wood, a Tanner of Victoria Street, Wetherby, on November 12th 1910 at Saint James Parish Church. Now employed as
a Wood Turner at Westerman's Wood Mill, tragically, Edith died just a few months after their marriage, the cause of death
unknown at present. John returned to reside with his parents at 'River Cottage' to continue his employment at the
Mill no doubt with a heavy heart.
outbreak of the Great War and with many young men from Wetherby responding to their country's call, John enlisted in to
the British Army in 1915.
As is so often the case, service documents
relating to John's military service unfortunately did not survive the bombing of the archives located in London during
the Second World War. Amongst Medal Rolls and other documents however, an entry regarding his military service is to be found
recorded in the pages of the 'De Ruvigny's Roll Of Honour,' a subscription being apparently required
to enter one's details as per 'The National Roll Of Honour.'
The aforementioned entry in 'De Ruvigny' states that John enlisted in to the
ranks of the Yorkshire Hussars at York on the 23rd September 1915 however an analysis of serial numbers issued proves his
allocation to the Hussars as inaccurate. Initially issued the number 3799, John was then re-numbered to 201568 (West Yorkshire
Regiment), the latter number indicating a re-numbering sequence to a Territorial Battalion of the Regiment. Although commonly
occuring in 1917, men issued this series of numbers also appear in the ranks of the 1/5th as early as mid 1916. The Medal
Rolls record John as formerly serving with the 1/5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment but amongst this allocation of numbers
there may be also be found a number of men whose service was conducted with the 2/5th Battalion of the Regiment. It is plausible
that initial service was conducted with the 2/5th before being posted to the 1/5th Battalion, the latter, who had been serving
on the Western Front since April 1915. In conclusion, a possible enlistment scenario utilising what by the Author is deemed
more 'plausible' information contained in the 'De Ruvigny' entry is as follows:-
Enlistment, York, circa Autumn/Winter 1915 under the auspices
of the Derby Scheme (i.e. Voluntary Enlistment).
Placed on the Army
Reserve and Mobilised in March 1916. (Authors note: It is of interest to note that the War Diary of the 2/5th West Yorkshire's
records that on the 8th March 1916, "Drafts of Derby Recruits from ADMINISTRATIVE CENTRE arrived." This
'centre' possibly refers to the Regimental Depot located at York. Source: T.N.A. WO95/3081/1).
Posted overseas to the 1/5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, June 1916. (Authors note:
94 Other Ranks joined on the 3rd June whilst the battalion were located at Vignacourt. On the 21st, 178 Other Ranks reported
at Puchevillers, these men originating from the 1st Garrison Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment. On the 24th, 34
Other Ranks arrived at Puchevillers from Le Havre and finally on the 26th, 25 Other Ranks joined, these men originating from
the 3rd Line Territorial Battalion(s)).
strength of the 1/5th West Yorkshire's on the 26th June 1916 is recorded as 940 men of all ranks. It is no coincidence
that the strength of the battalion was bolstered as the battalion, in division, were about to take their part in the opening
day of the Battle of the Somme. Although in support to the attacks of both the 32nd and the 36th (Ulster) Division, the battalion
would suffer numerous casualties even though being not directly involved in the attack. For a more detailed narrative of events
of the 1st July 1916, the reader may wish to refer to the commemoration of Ernest Walker:-
Private Ernest Walker
The Opening Day Of The Somme Offensive: The Aftermath
1/5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Ernest Wood C.M.G., had gone into action
on the 1st July with a fighting strength of 25 officers and 725 Other Ranks, a detachment of remaining officers and men under
the command of Captain Donald Paly MacKay being sent to Bouzincourt to replace losses. The War Diary records that during the
1st July, the battalion suffered 3 officers wounded (Second-Lieutenants Bernard Ernest Ablitt, Bernard Edwin Brown and Reginald
Frankland White) and in Other Ranks, 5 were killed and 53 wounded. An analysis of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database
now concludes that 12 men were actually killed on this date. Numbering amongst the wounded was one Private Fred Barton, 1451,
of the Farm Cottages, Stockeld Park, who received a gun shot wound to his right shoulder and Harry Skelton, 1424, of Bank
Street, nature of wounds received unknown.
note: The battalion were not effectively relieved until the afternoon of the 3rd July and therefore during the 1st/2nd July,
to establish the exact dates for casualties proves to be problematic. Primarily, this is due to the actions of a small party
under the command of Colonel Wood that had proceeded to the Schwaben Redoubt on the night of the 1st/2nd to ascertain
the situation of the 36th (Ulster) Division. No doubt as a result of this operation, Major Frederick Charles Thompson was
posted as missing, Lieutenant and Adjutant Rowland Telford Casebourne killed, dates of death recorded as the 2nd July. During
the course of this day also, both Lieutenant James Leslie Jameson M.C. and Second-Lieutenant Arthur Basil Lee were reported
as wounded ( both officers subsequently recorded by C.W.G.C. as died on the 2nd July and now commemorated on the Thiepval
Memorial). In addition to the deaths of these officers, Second-Lieutenants Robert Edward Hopper, Andrew Daniel Clubb and Wilfrid
Dresser? were wounded. In Other Ranks, the War Diary records that 3 men were killed and 50 wounded. Once again an analysis
of the Commonwealth War Graves database now records that four men were either killed or died of wounds on this day.
In the days following the attack, the battalion furnished carrying and burial
parties, Colonel Wood departing the battalion on the 3rd suffering from shell shock, command now devolving on Major Hugh Delabere
Bousfield D.S.O. After a further 5 O/R's were wounded on the latter date, the battalion marched to billets located in
Martinsart and after providing further parties for the burial of the dead, orders were received to proceed to Hedauville,
south-west of Forceville, at 4.30 p.m. on the afternoon of the 5th. Despite being shelled whilst departing the village, no
casualties were sustained, Second-Lieutenant Joseph Bell? and William Pallister remaining behind in their appointed roles
as Town Major of Martinsart and officer in charge of the Divisional Dump respectively.
The Leipzig Salient (Granatloch)
The 1/5th West Yorkshire's now set about a programme reorganisation and training but the respite from the trenches
was to be of a short duration as on the 6th, Major Bousfield accompanied by Captain Pierce Mandeville and the now Adjutant,
Walter Hanson Freeman, made a reconnaissance of trenches to the north of Thiepval "with a view to attack." As
a consequence of these orders, the battalion now moved from Hedauville at 10 a.m. on the morning of the 7th to Martinsart
Wood and here they remained in this position until the evening. Orders then stipulated that they were to take over positions
in the Authuille Defences from the 25th Division, these positions being reached in driving rain by 1 a.m. on the
morning of the 8th. About one hour later, they were then ordered up into the line to support two companies of the 3rd Battalion,
Worcestershire Regiment of the 7th Infantry Brigade, 25th Division, the remaining companies of the Worcester's being withdrawn
from the line during the mid morning.
now about to commence a long association with one key feature of the Thiepval battlefield by the 49th (West Riding) Division.
Referred to by the German Army as the Granatloch, the British, the Leipzig Salient, this position, encompassing
a quarry, had been gained at a hard cost by the 97th Infantry Brigade, 32nd Division, on the 1st July. One of just a few tentative
gains established in the German trench system at Thiepval, the position was exposed and vulnerable to counter-attacks. After
numerous attempts to expand the position, it was on the 7th July that both the 1st and 3rd Battalion's of the Wiltshire
Regiment managed to exploit a footing gained in the enemy's front line position in the Salient, the Hindenburg
Stellung, this being duly consolidated but at a severe cost to both battalion's. The enemy were determined to take
the position back and push out the defenders of the Granatloch at all costs, the position itself and it's environs,
becoming a charnel house for both attacker and defender alike.
The Leipzig Salient itself, in part, was located on a reverse slope, not directly visible from the west
and the British front line positions of the 1st July. The southern aspect however covered all approaches from the south, west
and east and offered excellent fields of fire. Some distance to the east of the position and situated on high ground to the
north of Ovillers was the German position known as the Nordwerk. This dominating position, well sited, also had excellent
observation over Nab Valley and had proved to be the nemesis of both the attacks of the 70th Infantry Brigade, 8th
Division, and that of the 14th Infantry Brigade, 32nd Division, on the 1st July.
Despite the foothold gained in the Salient, the enemy still had in their possession a number of commanding
trenches and positions to the north and north east, the Lemberg Stellung, Turken Stellung and the
Hohenzollern Stellung, the latter containing a fortified redoubt complete with dug-outs and also sited on a reverse
slope, the Wundt Werk. The defenders however did possess some good points of observation in the line, particularly
in the length of Hindenburg Stellung wrested from the enemy by the Worcester's on the 7th July. Two saps had
been established from this position, "H" and "K" Saps respectively, these, offering
excellent observation over the complete German support and reserve positions from the garrisoned buildings of Mouquet Farm
to the heavily defended village of Pozieres further to the east.
The Granatloch itself contained several large dug-outs constructed to a deep depth with numerous
exits and entrances. Fitted with electricity and well stocked with provisions, the old enemy front line to the west also contained
numerous dug-outs and saps extending outwards into the former No Man's Land. Communication with the Old British Front
Line was established by utilising a Sap (Sanda Sap), constructed by the 17th Northumberland Fusiliers, Pioneers to
the 32nd Division, prior to the commencement of the Somme offensive. The Sap however had been blown in at various
points and needed urgent improvements so as to assist in the movement of men and materiel into the captured position.
To this end the men set about not only the improvement of the Sap, but also the trench system that had been virtually
destroyed in many areas. It was inevitable that casualties would be sustained but how many would no doubt exceed all expectations.
|The Leipzig Salient
|Extract Of Ovillers, Edition 3A, Sheet 57D, S.E.4. Trenches Corrected To 1/9/16
Holding The Salient
In driving rain, at about 2 a.m. on the morning of the 8th July, the men
of the 1/5th West Yorkshire's set forth from the Authuille Defences. "B" and "C" Companies
remaining in the latter defence system whilst "A" and "D" Companies now prepared to enter the Salient
and associated trenches. With Battalion Headquarters being established at Campbell's Post, the relief was
completed at around 6 a.m. but not without incident, Second-Lieutenant William Charles Seagar Prest and 6 Other Ranks being
wounded and 1 O/R unfortunately killed. In addition to the presence of the 1/5th, the 1/7th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
(Leeds Rifles), Officer Commanding Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Edward Kirk V.D., had also received orders to proceed to the
line from their positions in Aveluy Wood along with 6 mortars of the Brigade attached. Tasked with the relief of the 8th Battalion,
Loyal North Lancashire Regiment also of the 7th Infantry Brigade, 25th Division, their relief was completed at about 6 a.m.
No casualties are recorded in the War Diary of the 1/7th Battalion however an analysis of the CWGC database records that on
the 8th, the battalion suffered 4 Other Ranks killed.
both battalions took stock of their new surroundings, it soon became apparent that of paramount importance was the task of
the repair of the trenches, the organisation of various stores and posts, and trenches dug in order to connect the Salient
with the Old British Front Line. All day of the 9th was dedicated to these various tasks but the die was cast as the
men were undertaking their labours with a further 4 O/Rs of the 1/5th being wounded. At 8 p.m., the 1/7th Battalion were relieved
by the 1/6th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, Officer Commanding, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Edward Scott, whereupon the
former battalion proceeded to the South Bluff, Authuille, near Black Horse Bridge (W.6.a.3.2.).
Orders issued to the 1/6th were spelt out in no uncertain terms the operational
need as regards the position...."to be held at all costs."
Tempest's History of the Battalion records that the 1/6th moved to the Salient via
Campbell Avenue and a recently dug trench across the former No Man's Land that was rather shallow in depth. The
men were in fighting order minus pack and as they entered the position, they now became custodians of a large supply of Mills
Bombs and Small Arms Ammunition. During the course of the relief, there was considerable enemy artillery fire resulting in
3 Other Ranks of the battalion being killed.
the men continued to repair the trenches and consolidate the Old Front Line, "A" & "D" Companies of
the 1/5th West Yorkshire's were relieved by "B" & "C" Companies respectively during the afternoon
of the 10th. Once again, the battalion suffered numerous casualties during the course of the day, 1 man being killed and 15
O/R's being wounded. The pattern was similar during the following day with 1 man of the 1/6th killed and 4 O/R's of
the 1/5th wounded as the German artillery continued to shell heavily both the Salient and the sector as a whole.
At 1.15 a.m. on the morning of the 12th July,
the enemy would show his hand and launch an attack and attempt to break into the line. The exact nature of his enterprise
is not recorded in substantial detail in both battalion's War Diaries however the Author, in part, will draw on Tempest's
History Of The Sixth Battalion and the Brigade War Diary to explain events as they transpired.
It was at 11.30 p.m. on the night of the 11th July that the 1/6th Battalion
had sent out a patrol consisting of two officers with scouts and bombers. It had been observed that during the course of the
previous evening, the enemy had come out into No Man's Land from a Sap just to the north of the Salient,
the objective of the patrol being to surround them and no doubt take prisoners. As the patrol lay out waiting, they were suddenly
attacked and bombed at about 1.15 a.m. but somehow they managed to retire, fighting as they did so. At 1.30 a.m. a message
was received at Brigade Headquarters from the O.C. 6th West Yorkshire's that his left Company Commander ("A"
Company) reported that he was being driven back from his trenches by an enemy bombing attack on Sap "H"
but it was quite fortuitous that during the course of the previous day, the 1/7th West Yorkshire's had brought up
to the line thousands of Mills Bombs. The support company in the "crater" (Granatloch/Quarry)
were at once immediately sent forward to reinforce this left company that was under attack, their support position in turn
being taken over by the Reserve Company of the 6th West Yorks. The men had began to fire their S.O.S. rockets, a
signal to initiate artillery fire on designated lines at 1.27 a.m., but due to the confusion of various signals fired by both
attacker and defender, the supporting British artillery units did not bring their fire down until forty minutes after the
commencement of the bombing attack (Tempest), 7 men of the 1/6th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment being killed whilst the
enemy party attempted to breakthrough the line. Casualties to the 1/5th amounted to Second-Lieutenant John Victor Battersby
Harford being wounded, Harford having only joined the battalion a few weeks previously, and 3 O/R's wounded.
With the 1/7th West Yorkshire's relieving the 1/6th Battalion on the
night of the 12th/13th, two new officers joined the 1/5th Battalion on the 12th, Second-Lieutenants Cyril Goodwill and William
Allan Banks. During the course of the following day, "A" & "D" Companies once again moved up into
the line to relieve "B" & "C" Companies respectively. During this relief, Second-Lieutenant James
Henry Armistead and 7 O/R's were wounded, a familiar pattern as the Granatloch 'consumed' yet more victims.
Fire Demonstration: 1/7th West Yorkshire's
It was at 2.15 a.m. on the morning of the 14th July that a barrage commenced
on the enemy's positions, this being put down to assist a bombing attack that was to be launched by the 1/7th West Yorkshire's.
With the 1/6th being brought forward in support with orders to consolidate the ground taken, "Zero" hour was set
for 2.25 a.m. This operation, not only envisaged to expand the position to the north, would also detract German forces from
the large scale attack being launched on the villages of Bazentin-le-Petit, Bazentin-le-Grand and Longueval by 8th and 15th
Corps, Fourth Army.
Orders stated that the 1/7th would attack with "A" and "B" Companies, three companies of the 1/6th attached
and placed under the orders of the Officer Commanding the 1/7th, Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Edward Kirk V.D. Both the 1/5th,
and the 1/8th Battalions would remain in their present positions, north-east of the Granatloch, and just to the west
of Nab Valley between Lime Street and Mersey Street respectively in the event of a counter-attack.
Headquarters of the 1/6th Battalion and 3 companies of the 148th Infantry Brigade would be placed in Reserve at the South
Bluff, Authuille, under the orders of the Commanding Officer, 1/6th, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Edward Scott.
Orders for the artillery were complex, but at 2.15 a.m., the artillery would
open a "usual" barrage for a period of ten minutes and then at "Zero" in conjunction with the
attack of the 1/7th, lift on to a line designated as "A," "E" & "D" for the duration of
fifteen minutes. In basic terms, fire would be brought to bear on a designated line just to the south of Thiepval Village,
south of this line, map references R.31.a & b, there was to be no barrage unless requested by the attacking infantry.
To the north of Thiepval, a barrage would also be brought to bear stretching from a point just to the north of Mill Road,
to the south of St. Pierre Divion, eastwards to a point near the Cemetery (references Q.24.d.7.7. - R.25.b.2.5.).
After "Zero" hour, "Special Tasks" would be initiated, i.e. a bombardment that would be primarily
fired at reference R.31.c. (directly north of the Granatloch and on the modern day line of the track leading
from the Thiepval Memorial). The barrage would be performed by a variety of groups and various calibres of artillery from
the 32nd and 49th Divisional Artillery augmented by attached French Artillery of the 37th and 20th Artillery Regiments and
the 10th Corps Heavy Artillery.
assist the attack, 1/8th West Yorkshire's would launch smoke ("P" Bombs) in conjunction with Number
1 Company Special Brigade, 5th Battalion, Royal Engineers from Mersey Street to Lime Street in an attempt
to fill the Nab and its associated valley with smoke as far north as Mouquet Farm. The R.E. would
deploy their smoke discharge from detachments of 4 inch Stokes Mortars, four guns under the command of Lieutenant Hugh Gordon
Nourse on the right of the 146th Infantry Brigade and four guns under the command of Lieutenant William Harold Elliker on
the left of the 147th Infantry Brigade who would discharge smoke up the Ancre valley. One hundred and twenty bombs would be
allocated for each detachment deposited by either road or tramway as close as possible to the detachments positions, the time
for the smoke discharge being set for 15 minutes before "Zero" hour.
|Leipzig Salient & Environs
|146th Brigade Headquarters. T.N.A. WO95/2792/3
At "Zero" hour, the 1/7th West Yorkshire's launched
their attack on the "A,"E" & "D" Line to the north of the Granatloch. One half of "B"
Company proceeded forward towards the enemy lines up "A" & "B" Trench with the remaining half of the
company advancing up "C" & "D" Trench respectively. Following behind this latter half company
were one half of "A" Company, assigned the specific task of 'mopping up' the numerous enemy dug-outs located
in the area of this sector of the advance. The remaining half of "A" Company would subsequently advance up "A"
& "B" Trench with the objective of the occupation of the German trench system, whereupon, they would form a
defensive line and consolidate the latter facing eastwards, no doubt forming 'trench blocks' to prevent any interdiction
by enemy forces. With one company of the 1/6th West Yorkshire's assembled in the Crater/Granatloch with various
quantities of trench materiel to assist in consolidation, one half of this company would follow on up "A"
& "B" Trench, the remainder, proceeding forward up "C" & "D" Trench.
Accounts of the operation vary as does chronology but it would appear that
from the outset, one party, moving over the open between "B" & "A" and "C" & "D"
Trenches had met a large body of the enemy in both the open and in their trenches. Pushing this force back a distance of about
50 yards under a heavy bomb barrage, this party of "B" Company of the 1/7th West Yorkshire's became engaged
in a ferocious bombing duel that eventually drove them back to their start point, the line "C" & "B"
Trench, a message being received at Brigade Headquarters to this end timed at 3.10 a.m.
The barrage was now requested to 'shorten,' i.e. to bring down fire
on the rapidly advancing enemy force who were making good progress to the left of the failed attack. Companies were now reorganised
as repeated requests were sent to the artillery to continue or alter their barrage as the attack developed yet further and
as a consequence of mounting pressure, "C" & "B" Trench was subsequently abandoned. With nearly all
of the Bombers of the 1/7th West Yorkshire's now either killed or wounded, two companies? of the 1/6th were now sent forward
in an attempt to repel the counter-attack. Although "C" & "B" Trench had been abandoned, the position
was defended to the last man by Bombers of the latter, greatly assisted by Stokes mortars and their crews who moved up into
the open behind the British front line.
The 1/5th West Yorkshire's now reported that the enemy counter-attack
was developing yet further to the left at about 4.40 a.m., a verbal message being received to this effect at Brigade Headquarters.
First hand accounts of the fighting are scarce, however the 1/6th Battalion Bombers, under the command of Lieutenant George
Hargreaves Speight, gave a good account of themselves on this flank at Point "C" (Tempest's History).
Lieutenant Hargreaves was awarded the Military Cross for his actions on this date, his citation in the London Gazette dated
the 25th August 1916 reads as follows:-
"For conspicuous gallantry. When the enemy obtained a foothold in our front trench, occupied by another
unit, he led his bombers with great dash and drove them out. On another occasion he drove off the enemy with bombs, inflicting
the 1/7th, Lieutenant Frederick Joseph Baldwin was also awarded the M.C. His citation in the same edition of the London Gazette
" For conspicuous
gallantry. When, at a critical moment his company commander was wounded, he took command, cleared away the wounded and organised
the company to resist a counter-attack. He was wounded by a bullet in the leg, but stuck to his post and set a fine example."
At about 6.35 a.m. on
the morning of the 14th, a message was received from the the front line reporting that it was "all quiet" despite
the attentions of a few bombs, rifle grenades and trench mortar rounds. The Brigade War Diary records that the 1/7th West
Yorkshire's had suffered 3 officers wounded and about 80 men either killed or wounded however the Battalion War Diary
furnishes no details as to casualties sustained. An analysis therefore of the Commonwealth War Graves database now indicates
that 1 Officer, Lieutenant Norman Wilson, and 20 men were killed or died of wounds in the attack. The 1/6th Battalion had
suffered 4 men killed, and the 1/8th Battalion, one man, the indomitable Regimental Sergeant Major William Henry Fear M.C.
In support positions to the north of the Granatloch, the 1/5th West Yorkshire's casualties numbered Second-Lieutenant
Sidney Walker Birbeck and three O/R's wounded plus one man killed, Lance-Sergeant Arthur Boldison M.M., a native of York
and a married man who was awarded the Military Medal posthumously in February 1917.
During the following day, the 1/5th West Yorkshire's set about repairing
the trenches whilst the 1/6th Battalion took up station in the front line trenches. At about 3.30 a.m. (Brigade War Diary,
1/6th records 4 a.m.) on the morning of the 15th July just as dawn was beginning to break, an enemy bombing attack preceded
by a heavy bombardment erupted along the length of the line. An alien sound was then heard followed by three jets of "liquid
fire." Almost immediately an S.O.S. call was sent to the artillery followed by the firing of three red rockets
in addition to a visual signal message being sent but the latter proved difficult to observe due to the misty conditions that
prevailed. Two more sets of rockets were fired and a call was made from the artillery liason officer at 3.50 a.m. but it was
not until six minutes later that the artillery responded and even then, the barrage was weak and far from adequate.
Once again the enemy were attempting to infiltrate the line on the left in
the vicinity of "C" & "D" Trench/Sap and at 4.15 a.m. a further telephone call was made to the artillery
followed by another rocket signal to increase their barrage. The Bombers of "B" Company, 1/6th West Yorkshire's,
now became engaged in a bombing duel and to assist in the defence of the position, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Edward Scott,
O.C. 1/6th Battalion, now sent forward one platoon of the 1/7th Battalion who were in support in the Crater to reinforce
the trench between Fifth Avenue (north-west of the Granatloch) and "C" & "D"
Trench/Sap to support "B" Company.
Both the Brigade and the Battalion War Diaries record no specific details as to companies engaged but the Author
surmises from various sources that the Battalion held the position as follows:-
"B" Company Left Flank O.C. Captain Eric Walter
Right Flank O.C. Captain Richard Alexander Fawcett M.C.
"A" Company Centre O.C. Captain Norman Muller
"D" Company Support/Reserve O.C. Temporary Captain
John Lister Heselton (Wounded 1st July)
Lieutenant Speight, "B" Company, was once again in the forefront of the action (see second part of M.C.
citation) albeit slightly wounded. At 4.25 a.m., the centre company reported that "B" Company were holding the attack
and that the machine gun on that flank withheld it's fire "against the possibility of the enemy succeeding in
Scott received a message timed at 4.45 that the left flank company, "B," was "all right" and
shortly afterwards the centre company reported its situation as the same. It soon became clear that the main thrusts of the
enemy attack were, on the left down "C" & "D" Trench/Sap, eastwards down "B" & "A"
Trench/Sap and "H" Trench/Sap. The whole action was characterised by the necessity for an adequate supply of bombs,
this supply diminishing at an alarming rate throughout the course of the attack. To this end, the right flank bombing post,
manned by "C" Company, received orders to forward bombs to "B" Company however Tempest's History records
that Lieutenant Hornshaw (Frederick Geoffrey Hornshaw) of "C" Company replied that "his Bombs are not in
Boxes, and that he is sending as many as he can, but he has only 400 Bombs left."
At this critical period and with the left flank coming under increasing pressure,
Stokes mortars under the command of Captain Pike were brought forward and commenced a bombardment of the advancing enemy.
Assisted by the 146th Brigade Machine Gun Company under the command of Captain John Muller, the effects of the mortar fire
drove parties of the enemy into the open whereupon they were engaged at first by snipers and then by one machine gun under
the command of Lance-Sergeant Harry Haigh,1927, the latter firing 1500 rounds with effective results.
It later transpired that the enemy force consisted of men of the 185th Infantry
Regiment (185 Infanterie Regiment). An analysis of the action by Colonel Scott reported that "C" & "D"
Trench was full of their dead however the defenders had learned costly lessons themselves. The necessity to have ample supplies
of hand grenades begged numerous questions as to how many were actually adequate to deal with any prolonged assault. Although
the Bombing Officer of the 1/6th West Yorkshire's was asked the specific question as to how many bombs were actually used
in the defence of the line, no estimate was, or could be, provided. Scott himself recommended at the least a "couple
of thousand boxes" but upon consultation with his aforementioned officer the latter deemed this to be "excessive."
It was a fair point, bombs could be damaged or in the worst case scenario, a substantial dump could fall prey to the effects
of enemy artillery. Yet another point to consider was the loss of experienced Bombers during the course of the attack, this,
resulting in those who were untrained, throwing bombs without a correct setting adding to expenditure. In the case of Stokes
mortar rounds, in excess of 400 mortar rounds were fired, the reserve of this ammunition, about 700 rounds, proving to be
Colonel Scott estimated his
casualties during the action as two officers killed and one wounded (Lieutenant Speight). In Other Ranks, this estimate concluded
that 3 had been killed and 30 wounded. An analysis therefore of the C.W.W.G database now indicates that the two officers killed
were Second-Lieutenants Clarence Rueil Harper, "B" Company of Rawdon, near Leeds, and Richard Moore, "A"
Company of Ripon, both officers now buried in adjoining graves in Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille Wood, Somme. In Other
Ranks, the battalion suffered 8 men killed however two men are buried in cemeteries some distance behind the lines suggesting
that they succumbed to wounds received previously. Amongst the dead was one Sergeant Joseph Sayers D.C.M., 2626, of "B"
Company, a married man and a native of Bradford. Sayers, then a Private, had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal
for actions on the Canal Bank Sector at Ypres in 1915, his citation in the London Gazette dated the 22nd January 1916 reads:-
For conspicuous gallantry
on the 19th November 1915, in the isolated trench known as the "Pump Room."
During a very heavy bombardment, when 6 men of the platoon were killed,
7 wounded and all the remainder more or less buried, Corporal Meekosha took command after all his seniors were killed or wounded,
and commenced digging out the wounded in full view of the enemy and at short range from his trenches. By his gallant behaviour,
and with the assistance of Privates Johnson, Sayers and Wilkinson, who stuck to him and most stoutly assisted him throughout,
the lives of 4 men were saved."
Along with Sayer, Private Eli Johnson, 3225, and Private Edgar James Wilkinson, 1266, would also be awarded the Distinguished
Conduct Medal, Wilkinson, being killed in action the following month aged 19 years. Corporal Samuel Meekosha, 1147, for his
actions, would receive the highest award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross.
Bombs And Gas
Once again the line stood to in a heightened sense of alert as at 12.25 a.m.
as on the night of the 15th/16th of July, the 1/8th West Yorks were subjected to a heavy bombing attack by the enemy. With
the one of the company's battalion bombers being forced back by a heavy counter-attack, the remaining bombers of the battalion
stabilised the situation but at the cost of 5 men killed. One of these men was Harry Yarborough, a Cloth Cutter of Number
34, Bellbrooke Grove, Harehills, Leeds. Aged just 24 years, Harry is now recorded in the Book of Remembrance located in Saint
Agnes' Church, Burmantofts, Leeds. (Authors note: There are a number of men recorded as killed or died of wounds on this
date by the C.W.G.C. Database however some died some distance from Thiepval of wounds received at Field Ambulances or Base
Hospitals, I surmise therefore wounded at an earlier date. Of the five men killed or died of wounds, all are recorded on the
West Yorkshire's now relieved the 1/5th Battalion in the Old British Line trenches at Campbell Post, this relief
commencing at 8 a.m. on the morning of the 16th and concluding at 4 p.m in the afternoon. The 5th Battalion now moved into
reserve positions, Headquarters and "A" and "D" Companies to Black Horse Bridge, South Bluff, Authuille,
"B" Company to Oban Avenue Trench in the Authuille Defences and "C" Company to the Granatloch
in support of the 1/8th West Yorkshire's, 4 Other Ranks being wounded during the course of the day. During the following
day, the 5th Battalion relieved the latter in the Leipzig Salient, "C" and "D" Companies moving
into front line positions, "B" Company in support in the Granatloch and "A" Company in reserve
respectively. Enemy artillery was fairly active shelling the front line positions and the whole of the sector in general.
"K" Gas Shells (Sulphuretted Hydrogen) were also liberally used during the course of the day, the battalion
suffering one man killed and six wounded. Private Harold Pryor, 3930, of Parkfield Place, Sheffield, was the unfortunate man
to be killed. Drafted to the battalion in 1916, Harry now lies in Authuille Military Cemetery, Authuille, a short distance
from where he made the ultimate sacrifice.
|View From The Northern Face Of The Granatloch. April 2013. Author.
The Right Sector, i.e. to the right of the 49th Division,
was held by units of the 144th Infantry Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division, who had been engaged south of Authuille Wood
in the fight for the village of Ovillers and its associated trench systems to the north. The Left Sector was occupied
by the 147th Infantry Brigade, 49th Division, the 1/5th West Ridings on the extreme left flank, and the 1/6th West Ridings
on the right respectively. The 1/5th Battalion now set about wiring saps and positions in and around the Granatloch
in addition to a process of general consolidation but despite there being little artillery activity by the enemy, one man
was killed and three were wounded. (Authors note: A search of both the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Database and that
of Soldiers Died reveals no trace of the man presumed to have been killed on the 18th of July).
A relief of the 1/5th Battalion was carried out by the 1/8th West Yorkshire's
on the 19th July, Headquarters and "A" and "B" Companies subsequently proceeding to the South Bluff
at Black Horse Bridge, "C" Company to Caithness Trenches and "D" Company to Oban
Avenue, the latter two companies being located in the line in the Authuille Defences, one O/R being wounded
during the course of the day. At 10 p.m., a digging party of the 1/5th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 148th Infantry
Brigade who had been placed at the disposal of the 146th Brigade, commenced to dig a trench from the Nab on the right
of the latters sector to link up positions north of Ovillers occupied by the 144th Infantry Brigade, 48th Division. One man,
Private Arthur Convey, 4337, a Scotsman by birth, was unfortunately killed whilst conducting these operations and is now buried
in Authuille Military Cemetery.
Expansion Of The Salient Position
On the night of the 19th/20th of July, an attack was conducted by the 1/8th West Yorkshire's in an attempt to
expand the Leipzig Salient positions. With the 1/5th Battalion in support, the objectives of this attack were the
points in the line to the east designated as "X," "H," "K" and "L." The
attack would be carried out by two companies who would advance over the open towards their objectives. An artillery barrage
would be fired on Points "A" - "B," "C" - "D," "H" - "J,"
"M" and "N" - "R." In addition to this artillery barrage on the aforementioned
positions, a Stokes mortar barrage would also be performed, three guns, one each on "A" - "B,"
"C" - "D" and "H J" (sic), two Stokes mortars on "H - K - M" and
one mortar on "P - N - R." Two inch mortars would also lay down a barrage on the area "S - T -
V - W" and heavy mortars on the area "O - Y - Z." 146th Machine Gun Company would also participate
in the 'enterprise,' Second-Lieutenant Richard Cecil Groom moving two guns into the Salient whilst Second-Lieutenant
John Rotherford Bellerby took up positions in the Wood Post Sector to cover the approaches along Nab Valley and
to fire a barrage on high elevation towards Mouquet Farm. A rather hurried attack in conception, "Zero"
hour was set for 3.30 a.m. on the morning of the 19th/20th July.
There is virtually no information as regards to the attack contained in the pages of the War Diaries of the constituent
units of the 146th Infantry Brigade. An analysis however of messages received during the course of the attack by Brigade Headquarters
enables us to piece together a simplistic overview of events as they unfolded.
As both the artillery and mortar barrage commenced at "Zero" hour,
the two companies of the 8th West Yorkshire's, "A" and "D" respectively, proceeded towards their objectives,
"K" and "L" Trench. "A" Company, advanced as per orders across the open in two
lines, the first wave completely taking the enemy by surprise as they jumped in the trench. The second wave however was less
fortunate and as it neared the objective four minutes after "Zero," it was hit by enemy machine guns firing from
the line "X," "H" and "K" suffering some casualties in the process. About
three minutes later and after overcoming the initial shock and surprise of attack, the enemy launched his S.O.S. signal
comprising of three red rockets but the advance now developed on the left of "A" Company as the Battalion Bombers
proceeded to bomb their way forwards. Upon arrival at "K" and "L" Trench, the bombers
now advanced to their left fighting their way up towards Point "K," orders stipulating that
one party was to advance along "K" and "M" Trench and establish a 'Bombing Block,'
a rudimentary barricade, to prevent enemy forces from infiltrating the battle zone. A second bombing party then advanced along
"K" and "X" and began to work their way forwards towards Point "X" where
other bombers were advancing downwards. A battle dominated by bomb now ensued, this weapon of trench warfare being handled
by specially trained men adept at their use and well versed in military tactics however at this point in the engagement, enemy
resistance now began to stiffen.
"D" Company who had also advanced over the open had
by now also come to grips with the enemy. Bombing down "X" and "H" and in a northerly
direction up "H" and "J" Trench, they too established a 'Block' about twenty
yards up the latter trench with little difficulty. So as to ascertain the position of "A" Company, a section was
detailed off to advance over the top and in the open on the south side of "X" and "K" Trench
but it soon became apparent that the men of this company had been held up by a large enemy force in "X"
and "K" Trench. Battalion bombers were now also held up by snipers at Point "K"
firing from behind 'sniper plates,' steel plates no doubt incorporated into the German defense system. Despite the
efforts of the Lewis gun teams who lost heavily in trying to dislodge them from their position, this strong-point in the enemy
line held on tenaciously forcing the Officer Commanding 1/8th, Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel James Whitelaw Alexander D.S.O.
to order a tactical withdrawal from Point "K" down "K" and "L" and
"K" and "X" Trenches so that the position could be bombarded by Stokes mortars for the
duration of three minutes. There were problems however even before the mortar barrage could commence as the carrying party
detailed to bring the rounds forward could not find them and brought up a cache of Mills bombs in error but as the mortar
barrage came to a conclusion, the men prepared for a final push to seize all their objectives.
Both companies now made a final rush and a little progress was made forward
despite a counter-attack. Resistance finally dwindled at about 6.20 a.m. after a three hour fight and it was reported that
the enemy were withdrawing leaving many of their dead and wounded behind. At Point "K," both "A"
and "D" Companies now linked up and a further 'block' was established about twenty yards down "K"
and "M" Trench. During the whole operation, the enemy had made strong counter-attacks down "A"
- "B" and "D" - "C" Trenches but these attacks were successfully repulsed with
the assistance of mortars. At 9 a.m. the German artillery began to shell the whole of the brigade front, the Salient and
Point "K" and it was now imperative that the men set about wiring and consolidating the captured trenches
as the enemy once again launched a small bombing attack in "H" Trench. To assist in consolidation, both
"A" and "B" Companies of the 1/5th West Yorkshire's were sent up to the Salient, the battalion's
bombers being sent forward to assist in driving out small pockets of enemy resistance. "C" Company also moved up
to assist in the clearing of communication trenches and blown in Russian Saps aswell as "D" Company who
were assigned the duties of carrying up water.
The captured trenches were badly knocked about by artillery and in parts very shallow indeed. As the men feverishly
attempted to improve their positions, full stock of the situation they found themselves in and the number of casualties could
now be assessed.
An analysis of the Commonwealth
War Graves Database now indicates that the 1/8th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds Rifles) suffered 12 Other Ranks
killed. Amongst their number were three men from Leeds whose loss represents the bitter fighting by the Battalion Machine
Gun Section to take Point "K." Private John William Clayton of Rossall Road, Harehills, aged 21 years,
Lance-Corporal Joe Mellor, Landlord of the Belmont Inn, Holbeck, aged 32 years and Private William Wilkinson of St. Peter's
Street, aged just 19.
John Clayton, prior
to enlistment in September 1914, had been employed by Messrs. David Little and Co., Wholesale Clothiers of York Place. Joe
Mellor, a married man with two children, was reported to have been killed instantaneously by a German Sniper, his officer
remarking that he was the best gunner that he had and Private William Wilkinson, sniped through the head whilst "using
a Lewis gun to good effect." William had only been at the front for about ten weeks.
John William Clayton now lies in Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille, whilst
both Joe Mellor and William Wilkinson, unidentified after the war, are now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
Although not directly engaged in operations and holding positions in Authuille
Wood, the 1/6th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment had also suffered one casualty, Private Frederick Blakey of Southey Place,
Bradford. A member of a working party digging a communication trench to connect with advanced trenches gained by 4th Gloucesters
to the north of Ovillers, Frederick, one may surmise, was killed by what the War Diary records as "Intensive Shelling."
Frederick, aged about 18 years, is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
Of the 1/5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, the War Diary records that
Second-Lieutenant William Singleton Macartney was wounded, 6 Other Ranks killed, and 31 Other Ranks wounded. An analysis of
the Commonwealth War Graves Database between the dates of the 19th July - 21st July records however only five casualties.
Amongst their number was one Private Alfred
Crofts of 103, Rydal Road, Sheffield. A death notice published in the Yorkshire Telegraph & Star dated August the 14th
simply expressed the words from a grieving family, "The unknown grave is the bitterest blow, None but the aching
heart can know."
Frederick Jordan aged 31 years, a married man with one child from Number 19, Carlton Street, Hestle Road, Hull. Formerly employed
by Messrs. Allen & Hanburys, Cod Liver Oil Merchants of Blanket Row, Frederick had originally enlisted into the ranks
of the East Yorkshire Regiment in January 1915 but was later transferred to the West Yorkshire.
Private James Sunley, aged 21 years of Lowther Street, York. Recorded in
the 1911 Census as occupation, a Bookbinder, James is the only man of the 1/5th Battalion who fell in action on this date
to have a known grave. His body exhumed from a point just to the north-east of the Granatloch, James, identified
by his boots, uniform and shoulder titles now lies in A.I.F. Burial Ground, Flers along with two other unidentified men of
the West Yorkshire Regiment.
particular action in the expansion of the Salient position also resulted in the death of one man of the 1/5th Battalion
who I, the Author, feel a personal connection. A number of years past, my wife happened to chance on a medal for sale on a
local internet auction site, the British War Medal being inscribed to one George Ishmael Mackridge, 2461. George was born
in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, on the 19th of July 1897, the son of Thomas and Paulina Mackridge of Denmark Street. Enlisting
at York in September 1914, the family at this juncture residing at Number 43, North Lodge Avenue, New Park, George witnessed
service on the Western Front from April of the following year. Granted a few days leave in June 1916, he was killed the day
after his 19th birthday. George Ishmael Mackridge, his body lost, is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, a short distance
from where he fell.
|Ackrills War Souvenir
|George Ishmael Mackridge. Image Courtesy Of John Sheehan.
As fighting continued on the 21st on
the left of the Salient position, the 146th Brigade, minus both the 1/6th and the 1/7th Battalions of the West Yorkshire's
who were placed at the disposal of the 148th Brigade, were relieved. At noon, a relief of the 1/5th West Yorkshire's was
commenced by the 1/4th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 148th Brigade, the relief being completed by 4.30
p.m. with two O/R's being wounded in the process. The 1/8th Battalion were also relieved by the 1/4th Yorks & Lancs.
and proceeded to billets at Forceville, the 1/5th to billets located at Hedauville respectively. Now placed in Corps Reserve,
both battalions, for the meantime, could at least forget the horrors that they had witnessed on the Somme battlefield as their
sister battalions of the brigade continued to endure their continuing tour of the lines. (Authors note: On the 24th of July,
Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Edward Scott and Captain Eric Walter Knowles, Second-in-Command of the 1/6th West Yorkshire's
were seriously wounded whilst touring the line in The Nab. Colonel Scott would eventually succumb to his wounds in
hospital at Etaples on the 9th August aged 49 years).
and the men of the battalion now proceeded about checking and cleaning their kit after the rigours of their tour in the line.
The time spent at so called 'rest' at Hedauville were of a very short duration as on the following day, orders were
issued to prepare for a move at half an hours notice. A Church Service was conducted at 9.45 a.m. in the morning followed
by the training of 'Specialists' such as Bombers, Signallers and men adept and familiar with the use of Rifle Grenades.
At 7.30 p.m. on the evening of the 23rd, the 1/5th Battalion proceeded by route of march to Bouzincourt wherupon they proceeded
into billets. Still remaining in Corps Reserve, a programme of training was initiated under the auspices of Company Commanders
and 'Specialist' Officers, Major Robert Cattley returning from hospital whilst Captain Donald P Mackay and Quarter-master,
Hon. Lieutenant Frank Veal proceeded to hospital 'sick.'
Whilst at Bouzincourt, "A," "B" and "C" Companies had a chance to have a welcome bath
and as training continued, the battalion moved once again on the 25th into billets located in the village of Forceville. Training
was once again the order of the day and on the 26th, both Headquarters and "D" Company had the opportunity to bathe
at Hedauville. On the 27th of July, the day dawned with rain and the respite from the trenches had come to an end. Orders
had now been issued to commence a relief in the line of the 1/6th West Yorkshire's and at 7 a.m. the battalion proceeded
by route of march to the front line.
Moving into trenches at Quarry
Post near Authuille Wood, "A" and "B" Companies moved into the line supported by "D" and
"C" Companies respectively. The men set about repairing and improving the trenches, a particular emphasis being
placed on the deepening and widening of a 'new' trench constructed across No Man's Land south of The Nab.
This position in effect formed a reserve line located to the south of the Leipzig Salient, a prominent feature
of the position being referred to as the "Dead Man's Bank," a site that had witnessed many deaths on
the 1st July during the opening day of the Somme offensive. During the course of the day, the battalion suffered 9 Other Rank
casualties, 2 remaining at duty.