Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Rifleman William Wheelhouse Smith

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

R/25069
18th (Service) Battalion (Arts and Crafts), Kings Royal Rifle Corps
Died, 9th October 1916, age 23
 

Cemetery : Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France
Grave Reference or Panel Number : Pier and Face 13A and 13B

Son of the late William Smith and Elizabeth Mary Smith, of Linton Hill Farm, Linton, near Wetherby.
 
William was born at Linton on the 27th of June 1893 to parents William, a Farmer (Own Account), and Elizabeth Mary Smith (nee Moscrop).
According to the 1881 Census, the farm comprised of 56 acres and no doubt offered a comfortable lifestyle to the then single William (senior) who employed a Housekeeper/Domestic in addition to a Farm Servant.
Married in 1883 at Richmond, North Yorkshire to Elizabeth Moscrop, the daughter of a Land Agent from Aske, their first child, Mary Elizabeth was born at Wetherby in 1889 followed by William in 1893 respectively.
William (Senior) in addition to being a reasonably wealthy landowner, had also acquired a certain social status in the Wetherby District. In 1880 he had acquired a seat on Wetherby Rural District Council and in addition to this roll he also held a seat on the Wetherby Board of Guardians that administered the Wetherby Workhouse, both positions he would hold for 38 years until his resignation in 1918.
 
Education
 
Developing an interest in agriculture, William's place of early education is unknown however in 1905 he was admitted into Leeds Grammar School where he would remain until the year of 1911. Further education was conducted at Leeds University and in April 1914 he sat the annual examination for the national diploma in Agriculture at the University of Leeds. One of 139 candidates who presented themselves, he numbered amongst the 19 candidates who were successful in passing the final examination and was subsequently awarded the diploma, five amongst their number students from Leeds University. (Source: The Leeds Mercury dated 25th April 1914).
Returning to work on his father's farm at Linton Hill, William no doubt had the prospect of a promising future before him. As the storm clouds of war loomed and with many a young man enlisting, he avoided the patriotic fervour that enveloped the district and resisted the temptation to enlist immediately. With a duty to his father to work the land, it was in December 1915 that William Wheelhouse Smith answered his country's call.
 
Enlistment
 
William attested for military service under the auspices of the Derby Scheme, i.e. voluntary enlistment, at Wetherby. The terms of his service was that of "Short Service, For the Duration of the War." Issued the serial number R/25069, it would seem most probable, despite the lack of surviving service documents, that William had been initially recruited to join the ranks of the Yeoman Rifles, but we will return to his enlistment in due course. Raised in September 1915 as part of an initiative to raise an infantry battalion comprising of farmers and farmers' sons, the 21st (Service) Battalion, (Yeoman Rifles), King's Royal Rifle Corps were to be commanded by Lord Feversham of Duncombe Park near Helmsley, North Yorkshire. The men who subsequently joined the battalion would train and serve together, a concept not dissimilar to that of the raising of the New Army "Pals" battalions in September 1914. The Yorkshire Post dated the 27th of November 1915 published the following appeal for recruits:-
 
"To the Editor of the Yorkshire Post.
Sir, - I do not think that it is adequately known to and sufficiently realised by the Northern agricultural industry that there is now being raised a battalion composed almost exclusively of farmers, farmers' sons, their relations, and personal friends. The idea is soldier-comradeship, plus community of interest on the part of those who live on or by the land.
Just in the same way as the various cities have raised a "Pal" battalion of townsmen of their own class, who are engaged in more or less similar trades, so is this 21st Battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps a "Pal" battalion of country men who are interested in pastoral and sporting pursuits of the countryside. Hence it is to be popularly known as the "Yeoman Rifles," thus linking up the important farming class with the famous yeoman farmers in the old English armies, which yeoman class rendered such staunch and powerful aid that the expression "to do yeoman's service," is the last word in effective loyalty to a cause.
The farming class and similar sort of men have now a rare opportunity, which is not likely to recur, of training and serving with men of similar position and tastes to their own. Recruits should be 5ft. 4in and upwards, with corresponding chest measurements; age 19 to 40. Only desirable men of good character are wanted in the "Yeoman Rifles" of which there are to be 16 platoons. A thoughtful and considerate has been made, whereby various platoons are allocated to seperate counties, and, in Yorkshire, there are three separate ones for the different Ridings.
A man can enlist at any Recruiting Office, where, after being medically examined and attested, he will receive, on stating he wishes to join the "Yeoman Rifles," a free railway pass to Helmsley, where is quartered in Duncombe Park the 21st Battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps, of which the Commanding Officer is Lieut.-Colonel the Earl of Feversham. A private's full kit, underclothing, and everything is provided free, in addition to which there is, of course, the usual daily pay of a private.
I may just add that I shall be very glad to give any further information in my power to anyone in our immediate neighbourhood, writing to or calling on me, as I can speak from firdt-hand knowledge of the merits of the scheme, and, from personal inspection, of the capital class of men of all ranks that are already associated with the "Yeoman Rifles."
 
The letter was signed by Theodore P. Brocklehurst of Well House, Giggleswick. The Reverend Theodore Percy Brocklehurst, Vicar of Giggleswick, actively recruited students from Giggleswick School, his address being recorded on surviving service documents of those who enlisted in the Corps whilst being resident at the school.
 
Helmsley, Aldershot And The Formation Of The 24th (Reserve) Battalion
 
The 21st Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps, had been formed in September 1915 under War Office jurisdiction. Commanded by the Earl of Feversham, the first recruitment meeting for the raising of the battalion was held at Helmsley on the 6th of August 1915, Colonel Charles William Ernest Duncombe presiding.
 
As the men began to arrive at Helmsley, conditions were far from ideal. Helmsley Workhouse was appropriated for billeting the men with the permission of the Helmsley Board of Guardians, an arrangement that no doubt continued for some period of time until orders were issued to move to the south of England to complete their final stages of training.
 
Proceeding to Aldershot in January 1916, the battalion were still short of 100 men to complete their establishment with yet more men required to fill the ranks of the Reserve Companies. By May however, the battalion was deemed to have reached establishment and the War Office now at this juncture sanctioned the formation of a Reserve Battalion. Titled the 24th (Reserve) Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps, this battalion's function would be to supply drafts to the Yeoman Rifles with recruitment being conducted on a similar basis to that of the 21st Battalion. Formed at Skipton in April, the battalion comprised of the Depot Companies of the 21st Battalion, "A" and "B" Companies respectively, in addition to those men being recruited at this point in time. Due to the absence of surviving service documents, I can only therefore surmise two scenarios; one, that when the 21st Battalion reached 'establishment,' William, either as part of one of the Depot Companies, was posted to join the ranks of the 24th Battalion or, enlisting in December 1915, he was then placed on the Army Reserve and mobilised in the spring of 1916 joining the 24th (Reserve) at this period.
 
24th (Reserve) Battalion, K.R.R.C.
 
The King's Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle of 1916 records the both the formation, initial attachment to the 21st Reserve Infantry Brigade and the eventual absorption into the Training Reserve in September 1916. The nucleus of the battalion, "A" and "B" Companies, comprised of just four officers and 368 Other Ranks whilst they were stationed at Raikeswood Camp, Skipton. The four officers numbered Lieutenant and Adjutant, John Armour, Lieutenant William Gregson, Second-Lieutenant William Alan Jeune Willans and Second-Lieutenant Harold Arthur Attwood.
As new officers began to arrive during the month of May, Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Leonard Paul Irby assumed command of the battalion shortly before a move was made to Gloucester Lodge Camp near Blyth. Their stay at this camp however was to be of short duration as a further move was made to the North Camp located at Cambois on the north-east coast.
 
Of the new cadre of officers, many were drawn from the Reserve Battalion's of the West Yorkshire Regiment, namely the 13th and 14th respectively as well as the 11th (Reserve) Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. As yet more officers began to arrive, a draft of 112 was received from the Regimental Depot located at Winchester on the 3rd of June, this draft necessitating the formation of another company that was subsequently designated as "C" respectively. On the 13th of June, Major Guy Colin Campbell arrived to take up duties as Second-in-Command, the Major also being accompanied by a further draft of men numbering 226 from the Depot. On the following day "D" Company was formed, Captain Eliot Victor Pringle joining the battalion on the 16th of the month and assuming the duties of Adjutant, his arrival also being accompanied on the same day by yet another draft comprising of 119 men. The 24th (Reserve) Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps now numbered 37 officers and 1153 men, the officer cadre being increased to 38 on the 21st of June with the arrival of the recently commissioned Second-Lieutenant Graham Brooke Barber.
 
As recruits continued to arrive, battalion strength was recorded as 1271 as of the 10th of July. With a programme of training already initiated, the battalion proceeded each week to Whitley Bay to fire their General Musketry Course resulting in the achievement of high averages. The battalion's results would witness them top of the 21st Brigade's averages each week after after the first and second weeks of firing and as a whole, musketry in the battalion was recognised as being very good all round.
 
Drafts
 
It was on the 10th of July that the 24th (Reserve) Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps, proceeded to send its first drafts overseas. This first draft commeced when the first of eleven men was posted was posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion, 14th (Light) Division, who were occupying trenches near Arras. A further draft of 25 men was also sent overseas on the 15th, destined to join the ranks of the 20th (Service) Battalion, Pioneers to the 3rd Division, who were heavily engaged in the Battle of the Somme. The final draft for the month of July comprised of 35 men who entrained for France on the 24th, this draft being sent to the 16th (Service) Battalion, 33rd Division, this battalion also just being relieved after offensive operations at High Wood on the Somme.
 
In August, on the 17th of the month, a draft of 60 men proceeded to France to join the 10th (Service) Battalion of the 20th (Light) Division, also in offensive operations on the Somme battlefield. As the latter offensive required extensive drafts to replace severe losses, other theatres of war would also bear witness to men formerly serving with the Rifle Corps. On the 23rd of August for example, a draft comprising of 50 men entrained for Cosham, Portsmouth. Here, they would join the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Oxford & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry to be fitted out prior to overseas service in Mesopotamia. (Authors note: For service with the 1st Battalion, Oxford and Buckinghamshire's).
The 24th of August would witness the posting overseas to France of a draft of 44 men (no unit designations), and on the 28th, a last draft comprising of 17 trained and 107 untrained men also proceeded to France. This draft was divided between the 8th, 9th, 17th and 18th (Service) Battalion's, training being completed at an Infantry Base Depot before the men were posted to their respective units.
 
I surmise therefore that William was included in this last draft to the Western Front. An analysis of the 18th (Service) Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps War Diary indicates the arrival of a draft of 75 men on the 6th of September, a total of 77 men and one officer being received during the week commencing the 4th respectively. As a total for the month, reinforcements amounted to 3 officers and 100 Other Ranks. (Authors note: The 122nd Infantry Brigade War Diary confirms both date and draft of these men to the battalion albeit with a variance in the number received. Brigade War Diary (T.N.A. WO95/2632/2/1.) records the arrival of 72 men).
 
The Author would like to express his gratitude to Mr. Mark Brockway of the Great War Forum for his expertise and vast knowledge of the King's Royal Rifle Corps in compiling the above history of the 24th (Reserve) Battalion.
 
18th (Service) Battalion, (Arts & Crafts), King's Royal Rifle Corps: Ploegsteert Sector
 
The battalion, Officer Commanding Lieutenant-Colonel George Algernon James Soltau-Symons, had disembarked at Le Havre on the 3rd of May 1916. Contained within the 122nd Infantry Brigade, 41st Division, the battalion entered the trenches for their first period in the line north of Ploegsteert Wood on the 30th of May. It was on this date that the battalion suffered its very first casualty, Rifleman Charles Arthur Bruce, C/6820. A married man and a native of Sandal near Wakefield, prior to enlistment Charles had been employed as a miner at Walton Pit. Enlisting in early August 1915, he was killed by a bullet whilst in the firing line aged just 23 years. (Source: Leeds Mercury dated 10th of June 1916). Originally buried to the east of Hyde Park Corner, his body was exhumed in 1919 and reburied at the Strand Military Cemetery, Hainaut, Belgium.
 
On the 13th of June, Colonel Soltau-Symons was invalided 'home,' Acting Major Edward Robert Henry Herbert assuming command. Major Herbert's command of the battalion was however of a short duration as on the 25th of June, Temporary Major Charles Peter Marten, 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment and Second-in-Command of the 32nd (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers assumed command. (Authors note: Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel, 24th of June 1916, London Gazette dated the 9th of October 1916).
 
A Wiring Party was sent out on the night of the 13th/14th of June to work on the British side of the barbed wire defences. At just after 10 p.m., Lieutenant Frank William Parish left the party to return to his company trench but was never seen of again despite search parties being sent out to investigate in an attempt to ascertain his fate. There had been rifle grenade activity during the early course of the night and the enemy had also fired a large number of flares but as for Lieutenant Parrish, he was simply reported as "missing." In the following month however, notification was received at the "Highlands," Romford, that although having been seriously wounded, Frank was now a Prisoner of War in Germany. (Authors note: Not an uncommon phenomenon for men to become 'lost' or disorientated. On the 4th of August, one Second-Lieutenant William Menzies Grant Calder, 15th Hampshire's, returned to the British lines after wandering behind the enemy line for 22 hours. Source: Brigade War Diary T.N.A. WO95/2632/2/1). 
 
The early morning of the 25th dawned relatively quiet until about 11 a.m. when the enemy launched numerous rifle grenades into the British front line. Holding the centre of the latter were "B" Company under the command of Captain John Stanley Ryan and it was this company that faced the full ferocity of this sudden deluge of grenades. Captain Ryan, a prominent Rugby Union player for Middlesex County who had trialled for England, was unfortunately killed along with Company Sergeant Major George William Bulman. Both Bulman, originally a native of Redcar and a married man of Portsmouth and Captain Ryan, now lie in Berks Cemetery Extension not far from where they fell. Also wounded during this incident was Second-Lieutenant Wallace George Langford, a native of Lyndhurst, Hampshire. Evacuated to Bailleul, Wallace succumbed to wounds received on the 27th of June and now lies buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul.    
 
It was on the 28th of July that the battalion were relieved from the line whereupon they proceeded to Papot Huts at Papot to the north-west of Nieppe. Technically at 'rest' and in good billets, on the 30th, the 18th Battalion were addressed by the G.O.C. 122nd Infantry Brigade, Temporary Brigadier-General Francis William Towsey. Upon complimenting the battalion, the G.O.C. pinned the ribbon of the Miltary Medal on the uniform of Rifleman Reginald Jones, C/6304 for actions in a trench raid on the night of the 12th/13th of July. Two other recipients, Sergeant Douglas Gywn, C/6055 and Rifleman Kenneth Chamberlain, C/7306, were unfortunatley not available to attend the ceremony. (Authors note: Second-Lieutenant Thomas James Harold Fryer also awarded the Military Cross for actions during the raid).
 
As the men carried out a programme of training, a particular emphasis was placed on the training of Signallers in 'visual signalling' as a direct response to what was perceived as there being too much reliance on communication by wire. A move back into the line however was imminent and on the 3rd of August the battalion relieved the 26th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, 141st Infantry Brigade, in the trenches north of Ploegsteert Wood they had occupied previously. Taking up positions in Trenches 124 - 127, Mud Lane & St. Andrew's Drive, Headquarters was established in the wood itself, the relief being completed without incident.                  
 

wood124.jpg
Part Of Sheet 28, St. Yves, Sheet 10. Trenches Corrected To The 5/5/16

August: A Move South
 
As the Battle of the Somme ground on to the south, the men of the 18th King's Royal Rifle Corps were about to end their costly 'association' with Ploegsteert Wood. Casualties in their last tour of this sector roughly amounted to 26 men either killed or died of wounds, countless others being evacuated along the casualy clearing line to either Base Hospitals in France or to hospitals at home where they succumbed to wounds received in action.
 
During this tour in the line, the battalion and the 228th Field Company, Royal Engineers under the command of Captain Edward Carlton Baker greatly improved the line advancing the front line trench in this sector. Receiving congratulatory messages from both the Brigadier-General, the Divisional Commander and the 5th Corps Commander, their hard work was duly recognised as an ideal example of co-operation between infantry and engineers.
 
Early on the morning of the 9th, the battalion were relieved by the 26th Royal Fusiliers. Taking precautions so as not to be observed by hostile aircraft, the battalion proceeded back to Papot and their associated Hutments whereupon a programme of training was conducted for Signallers, Machine Gunners, Bombers and Snipers. Conducting route marches, on one march on the Nieppe - Bailleul Road, the battalion was reviewed by His Majesty the King from his car, no doubt recalled in countless letters home albeit subjected to the attentions of the Censor.
 
Orders were now received that a relief was about to commence on the 15th. Subsequently, the battalion was relieved by the 11th (Service) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts. & Derby), 70th Infantry Brigade, 23rd Division, the latter, having being virtually destroyed during the opening day of the Somme offensive. The Rifles now marched to billets located at La Creche to the south-east of Bailleul via Le Pont d'Achelles and the Bailleul main road reaching their destination at about 8 a.m. in the morning after a two hour march. With the 122nd Brigade now in the Fifth Corps Reserve area, on the following day the battalion took to the march once again and proceeded to Meteren where they billeted to the south-west but further orders dictated that on the 16th, they were to proceed westwards to Fletre. Although the battalion were in scattered billets in the locality, the weather was good enabling a programme of training to be initiated, an emphasis being placed on company training and route marches in addition to co-operation exercises in the field with Lewis gun teams, one gun being allocated to each company.
 
Operation Order No.19. issued on the 23rd of August dictated that the battalion would commence entrainment at Bailleul Main Station on the following day. The destination was to be Longpre (Longpres-les-Corps-Saint), south-east of Abbeville. Entrainment orders were finely detailed with the time of departure from Bailleul Station being designated as 17.28 hours, the train itself comprising of one carriage designated for officers, 14 'Flat Trucks' for Battalion Transport Vehicles and 33 'Covered Trucks.' 10 'Covered Trucks' would be designated for Horses and Transport Personnel with the remaining 23 being allocated to for Battalion Headquarters and Companies, each 'Covered Truck' to contain 40 Other Ranks. As the train headed southwards through Artois and into Picardy, after a journey of about 10 hours, Abbeville was reached at 3.20 a.m. early on the morning of the 25th. Continuing their journey to Longpre, the train halted at the final destination at 4.25 a.m. whereupon the battalion detrained, paraded, and proceeded by route of march to Brucamps located to the north of the Somme river.
 
With the other constituent units of the 122nd Brigade also billeted in the area and with Brigade Headquarters established at the palatial Chateau de Vauchelles, the countryside in this rural backwater of France was rolling and ideally suited for training purposes. Allocated an area west of the Brucamps - Vauchelles-le-Domart Road, training was conducted in techniques and methods now either being learned or applied in the Somme offensive to the east. It is of interest to note that the War Diary of the 12th East Surrey's (T.N.A. WO95/2634/2) records that this training programme consisted of attack and consolidation drill and wood fighting, lessons bitterly learned in the fight for the woods of Mametz, Trones, Delville and the Bois des Fourcaux (High Wood). Training between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., this programme consisted of numerous other elements culminating in a large 'attack' on the 2nd of September observed by the Divisional Commander, Temporary Major-General Sydney Turing Barlow Lawford C.B. A Special Order of the Day was now issued, the only surviving transcribe being located in the pages of the War Diary of the 12th East Surrey's:-
 
"Major-General Lawford C.B., commanding 41st Division has expressed himself well pleased with all he saw at his Inspection today & was good enough to add that he felt entire confidence that the 122nd Inf Brigade when called on would do it's duty. The Brigadier General Commanding trusts that all ranks will endeavour to show that this confidence is not misplaced. Gwyn Thomas, Major, B.M. 122nd Inf. Bdge."
(Authors note: Brigade Major Gwyn Gwyn-Thomas). 
 
As final training continued, it was on the 5th of September that the Brigade Transport, under the command of Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Walter William Molony, Army Service Corps, departed the area and by route of march under brigade arrangements proceeded eastwards towards Dernancourt, south-west of Albert. Orders were now also issued for the battalion to prepare for entrainment and as stores and equipment were gathered together, the final act that the men performed at Brucamps was the cleaning of their billets. The men no doubt settled down for an early night as operation orders stipulated "Reveille" at 2.15 a.m. on the morning of the 6th. The battalion, in brigade, was now about entrain and take their part in the Somme offensive, for many, in a little over a week, they would lie dead or seriously wounded on the battlefield.
 
The Somme: The Battle Of Flers - Courcelette
 
At 2.15 a.m. the men were roused from their slumber and began to dress and assemble their equipment. Parade was designated to take place at 3.30 a.m but prior to this taking place, "Gunfire Tea" (Tea with Rum), was issued to all ranks. As the road was ordered to be kept clear for the march of the 11th Royal West Kent's, Officer Commanding Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Fitzhenry Townshend, this battalion duly marched past the Rifles Headquarters at 3.25 a.m. as it journeyed to Longpre to prepare for its entrainment.
The 18th Battalion now readied themselves as at 3.30 a.m., "D" Company led the march followed by Headquarters, "A" Company, "B" Company and finally "C" Company. Upon entrainment, the train departed Longpres at 7 a.m. and headed eastwards towards Mericourt-l'Abbe, south-east of Albert, which was reached at 12.15 p.m. Detraining, the battalion now took to the march in pleasant weather and heading via Dernancourt, they proceeded onwards towards the allocated billeting area of the 122nd Brigade situated to the north of the latter and to the north-west of the Moulin du Vivier. Battalion Transport arrived later that evening as the 41st Division now found itself contained in the Reserve area of 15th Corps, the latter under the command of Lieutenant-General Henry Sinclair Horne C.B.
 
Contained in the Fourth Army under the command of Rawlinson, the 15th Corps were about to engage the enemy in a series of combined Allied attacks. Scheduled to commence on the 15th of September 1916, these attacks were to pivot on high ground south of the Ancre river and to the north of the Achiet-Bapaume Road. The Fourth Army in forthcoming offensive operations, would concentrate its complete effort on what was the original German Third Defensive System between Morval and Le Sars. If the attack developed and suitable progress was made against this line, plans were also put in place to extend the left of the attack frontage to encompass the villages of Martinpuich and Courcelette, south and to the further north of the Albert-Bapaume Road respectively. It was anticipated that as soon as the advance had reached the enemy line in the Morval Sector, a thrust would be made on the left flank to advance positions in the vicinity of Thiepval. On the extreme right flank, operations would continue to be conducted by the French Sixth Army, assisted by the British on their left, as they would continue their advance towards Combles. Their main line of advance however was to be conducted to the east of the villages of Rancourt and Fregicourt so as to in effect isolate Combles as a prelude to an attack on Sailly-Saillisel.
 
Training continued under company arrangements in good weather but it was at 2.30 a.m. early on the morning of the 11th of September that the battalion, in brigade, were ordered to move forward by route of march to Fricourt Camp and its environs. Situated not at Fricourt as the name suggests, the camp was actually located to the south-east of Becordel-Becourt and it was here that the 18th K.R.R.C. halted and bivouacked. Training now commenced once again but orders were now received for the men to prepare for offensive operations. It is at this juncture that we will now examine operation orders in relation to the attack to be made by the 122nd and that of the 124th Infantry Brigades, 41st Division. Complex and detailed as they are, the attack would be supported by the first use of Tanks. Fifteenth Corps would assault the enemy trench systems with the New Zealand Division on the left between High Wood and Delville Wood, the 41st Division in the centre, north-east of Delville Wood, and the 14th (Light) Division on the right flank of the latter. Along the length of the whole front, 11 Divisions had been assembled with the Canadian Corps attacking at the extreme north, north of Pozieres, and the 56th (London) Division to the south, west of Combles.
 
Operation Orders: 122nd Infantry Brigade Order No.40.
 
In an abridged format, the above Operation Order stated:-
 
"Situation. 1.
 
The 41st Division will attack as the Centre of the XVth Corps attack, and will have on its right the 14th Division, and on its left, the New Zealand Division.
The 122nd Infantry Brigade will be on the left of the 41st Division, with 124th Infantry Brigade on our right, and the New Zealand Brigade on our left.
The 123rd Infantry Brigade will be in Divisional Reserve.
 
Intention. 2.
 
The 122nd Infantry Brigade will attack in (4) four stages with 15th Hampshire Regiment and 18th King's Royal Rifle Corps in Front Line and 11th Royal West Kent Regiment and 12th East Surrey Regiment in Second Line.
 
Assembly. 3.
 
The units of 122nd Infantry Brigade will assemble in their assembly area in accordance with the attached assembly table, ready to attack next morning.
Units will indent on the Brigade Dump (Known as the GREEN DUMP) for the S.A.A., Grenades, Lewis, Vickers and Stokes Gun ammunition, S.O.S. Rockets, Flares, Tools, R.E. Stores, Food and water, they require.
 
Approach Avenue. 4.
 
MILK LANE and FLARE LANE are the only 2 approach avenues allotted to the 41st Division.
MILK LANE is allotted to 122nd Infantry Brigade.
FLARE LANE is allotted to 124th Infantry Brigade.
Troops are not to use Y. and L. ALLEY.
 
Formations. 5.
 
The order of battle will be as follows:-
First Line, - 15th Hampshire Regiment on Right.
                 18th Kings Royal Rifle Corps on Left.
Second Line.  11th Royal West Kent Regiment on Right.
                     12th East Surrey Regiment on Left.
Battalions will advance in four waves at 70 yards distance, each battalion on a four company front.
The Second Line preferably in small columns.
 
Directing Flank 6.
 
The right of the 15th Hampshire Regiment will direct.
 
There is now included in the Orders a detailed set of map references as regards the dividing lines between both brigades of the 41st Division and that of the New Zealanders, on the left flank of the 122nd Infantry Brigade, respectively. As this commemoration is specific to that of the 41st Division, these are abbreviated to that of the latters attacking brigades:-
 
Dividing Lines. 7. Between 122nd and 124th Infantry Brigades.
 
S.22.c.8.6. to S.17.b.3.4. (inclusive to 124th Infantry Brigade.)
LONGUEVAL - FLERS ROAD to Junction S.6.b.9.3.
T.1.a.4.8.
N.31.c.85.45.
N.31.b.15.15.
N.31.b.2.6.
Track to N.20.c.4.4. 
 
   
  
 
 
 

Flers.JPG
Brigade Boundaries: 122nd Infantry Brigade War Diary, T.N.A. WO95/2632/2/2

Artillery. 8. The Artillery bombardment of the enemy's defensive system commenced on 12th September.
Our Artillery will form creeping barrages. The attacking troops will advance immediately behind these barrages, and not more than 70 yards distance between waves.
An Artillery Liason Officer will be with each Battalion Headquarters.
 
Hour of Assault and Objectives. 9. At Zero hour which will be notified later, the leading waves of battalions will be in position as close as possible to the creeping barrage. As each wave moves forward, its place will be taken up by the next troops in rear, and so on backwards.
 
In due course, we will examine the objectives of the 41st Division but at this juncture of the commemoration, it is now that we follow the 122nd Brigade as it prepared to move to its assault positions.
 
The Move To Assault Positions
 
It was on the 12th of September that parties of the 122nd Infantry Brigade proceeded up the line to Delville Wood to reconnoitre the sector of which the respective battalions of the brigade were to take over. Making their final preparations, the 18th King's Royal Rifle Corps departed Fricourt Camp at 2 a.m. on the night 13th/14th of September and proceeded by route of march via Mametz to Pommiers Redoubt, east of the former village, where a halt was ordered. Directed by guides from the battalion who had met both the 12th East Surrey's and the 11th Royal West Kent's at the latter location, the battalion now moved up into the area of Green Dump (S.16.d.), the location of the Brigade Dump, whereupon they proceeded to draw their various trench stores. Relieving the 10th (Service) Battalion, Royal West Surrey's of the 124th Brigade, 41st Division, the battalion now occupied the following trenches:-
 
"A," "B" & "D" Companies - Orchard, Carlton & Savoy Trenches respectively
Headquarters & "C" Company - York Trench
 
At 9 p.m. on the evening of the 14th of September, the 18th King's Royal Rifle Corps proceeded forwards to the front line. Moving via Milk Lane communication trench, the battalion now took over positions from the 11th Royal West Kent's in Tea Trench, the relief being completed at about 1.30 a.m. early on the morning of the 15th. The relief however was not without incident as enemy artillery opened a barrage on the sector utilising 77 mm field artillery, "Whizz Bangs," resulting in ten casualties. (Authors note: The War Diary of the 15th Hampshire's who had also moved up into the front line records one barrage falling at around 4 a.m.).
 
Method & Objectives Of The Attack
 
The attack of the 122nd Infantry Brigade was to be made in four stages and to a pre-arranged time table. These four stages or objectives were to be designated as follows:-
 
Green Line (First Objective)
Brown Line (Second Objective)
Blue Line (Third Objective)
Red Line (Fourth Objective)
 
The 122nd Infantry Brigade would launch their attack in two waves with the 15th (Service) Battalion, Hampshire Regiment and the 18th Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps in the front wave, right and left flanks respectively. The second wave would comprise of the 11th (Service) Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment and the 12th (Service) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, also echeloned right to left. The respective battalion's were to commence the advance in four waves at a distance of 70 yards, each battalion on a four company front. The second line it was preferred however, were to advance in small columns, in effect, adopting the essence of an "artillery formation." The line of the brigade advance would be directed by the 15th Hampshire's.
 
The artillery barrage that would support the attack was commenced on the 13th of September. Conducting a systematic bombardment of the German trench systems in the Flers Sector, at the designated hour of advance, the artillery would form a 'Creeping Barrage,' i.e. moving forward to a pre-arranged time table. The infantry would keep as close to this barrage as possible, Artillery Liason Officers from numerous artillery brigades being allocated to each infantry battalion. The artillery massed for this operation comprised of the 41st Divisional Artillery, Fifteenth Corps Heavy Artillery, 31st Heavy Artillery Group and the 23rd Heavy Artillery Group. (Source: 41st Division Order No. 41. WO95/2632/2). Artillery orders, as complex as they are, were complicated even further as this was the first operation that would involve the use of the Tank as an offensive weapon of war. We will in turn examine their use specifically in relation to the advance of the 41st Division later however ten Tanks of "D" Company of the Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps were assigned to deal with pockets of enemy resistance during the advance of the infantry assault.   
     

Objectives.JPG
122nd Brigade War Diary. T.N.A. WO95/2632/2

The Attack

Upon all units being assembled, "Zero" hour was set for 6.20 a.m. on the morning of the 15th of September. As the officers and men of the 18th King's Royal Rifle Corps made final preparations, they would commence the advance with "A" Company on the right flank, followed by "B," "C" and "D" Companies, right to left respectively. Shortly before "Zero" hour however, enemy desultory artillery fire found its mark when a shell detonated directly on the location of Battalion Headquarters. Even before the assault had commenced, Colonel Marten, the Adjutant Captain Frederick Walton M.M., Captain Douglas Scott Dalrymple-Clark (attached Trench Mortary Battery) and Lieutenant William Scott Mathews (Signals Officer), had all been killed. Although this unfortunate event is not recorded in the pages of the Battalion War Diary, a detailed narrative of this incident is included in the pages of the King's Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle dated 1916. At some juncture, a cross was erected some distance from the front line to the north of the village of Longueval commemorating all the officers, N.C.O.'s and men of the battalion who fell in action on the 15th of September however upon a search of the area by the then Imperial War Graves Commission, no bodies could be found in this location. It was not until 1931 that the bodies of the above officers were exhumed from a location close to Tea Trench, map reference S.12.a.03.82. and reburied in the large concentration cemetery, Serre Road Cemetery No.2.

Despite losing their Commanding Officer, the battalion rose to the attack at 6.15 a.m. and proceeded forward towards their first objective, the Green Line. As the barrage began to move forward at a rate of 50 yards per minute, of the Tanks assigned to support the infantry, there were none present at the moment of advance. The latter had assembled in four groups designated "C," "D," "E" and "F" to the north-west of Delville Wood close to the Flers-Longueval Road with "C" Group leading the advance with the sole Tank of this section, designated "D" 6 under the command of Lieutenant Reginald Charles Legge. (Authors note: Although the Tanks were detailed to advance well before "Zero" hour, mishaps occured even before their progression to their start positions. Both Tanks  "D" 9 and "D" 14, under the respective commands of Second-Lieutenants Victor Huffam and Gordon Frederick Court fell into an abandoned dug-out somewhere on the north-west corner of Delville Wood.