A Yorkshire Territorial

Many years ago I lived in a small village just outside Huddersfield called Berry Brow. I’d bought a new build house on a road called strangely Deadmanstone. Local legend has it that it’s name comes from the stone with a hollow centre which still exists to this day. It was near an old inn long since gone and people coming by foot or horse & cart along the old tracks from nearby villages had to carry their dead for several miles to the parish of Almondbury to be buried and they would place the body inside the rock to keep cool whilst they took refreshment inside the inn. Like so much local folklore it’s unlikely this was true but it’s quite a story!

St Paul’s, Armitage Bridge (Authors Own Photo)

Just down the road is the area called Armitage Bridge where the church of St Paul’s has stood in its current form since 1848. In its grounds stands a quite simple designed war memorial inscribed with the words ‘Grant them O Lord eternal rest and may the light perpetual shine on them‘ as well as the names of 71 men & 1 woman from the Berry Brow & Armitage Bridge area who were lost in the Great War. A further 8 names were added to it from the Second World War. It contains at least 7 sets of brothers and several other possible relations such as cousins

War Memorial, Armitage Bridge (Authors Own Photo)

Staff Nurse Ada Stanley of the Territorial Nursing Service is the woman named on the memorial. She had been born on 8th December 1871 in Doncaster to Willam & Harriet Stanley. She trained as a nurse at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary but at the time of her enlistment she is recorded as living in Manchester. Ada was posted to the 3rd Northern General Hospital at Sheffield

In July 1915 she boarded a hospital ship heading to the Dardenelles & the ill fated Gallipoli campaign. It was on a return trip to England in December 1915 on board a hospital ship the ex Cunard liner Mauretania, the sister ship of the famous Lusitania, that Ada contracted dysentry but she refused to leave her post until all the sick & wounded were safely ashore. She then collapsed and was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, Hampshire where she died aged 46 on 22nd December 1915. Her body was brought back to Armitage Bridge where she was interred in the graveyard of St Paul’s church

Ada Stanley’s Grave (Authors Own Photo)

Now what has all this to do with the title of this post you may ask? Well at this point of my life I was still pretty new to research & a little green around the gills to be honest so I started to briefly look at the names on the CWGC website. One name in particular that stood out was A C Tong, who when looking at his details on his CWGC entry states that his parents lived at 15 Rock Cottages, Deadmanstone. Of course this then straight away caught my attention. I sourced an old map of the area and imagine my surprise when I saw that Rock Cottages, and in particular the Tong family home, had stood exactly where my house now stood!!

So of course I wanted to find out more about him. His full name was Arthur Clifford Tong and he had been born in January 1891 the second child of John William, a wool sorter & Sarah Elizabeth, a housewife in Elland, near Halifax. Their first child was a daughter Evelyn born in 1889. In 1891 the family were living with Sarah’s parents in Elland & in 1901 they lived with Sarah’s now widowed father but had been joined by Herbert their third child who had been born in 1894. By 1911 they had moved to Berry Brow living at 43 Birch Road possibly after Sarah’s father had died in 1904

Arthur attended the Berry Brow Board school just down the road from his home on Birch Road. He was a fine athlete & played both football & cricket. He became a member of the Armitage Bridge Conservative club & he also attended St Paul’s Church

Arthur worked close to Huddersfield town centre at the the large Central Ironworks owned by Thomas Broadbent Ltd which covered the area from Chapel Hill, down both Chapel Street & Stables Street to Queen Street South and his place of work was just around the corner from the local Drill Hall

His athleticism was maybe a reason why he joined the local Territorial Force, the 5th bn Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, part of 2nd West Riding Brigade ,at the Drill Hall in Huddersfield where A,B,C,D & E companies were based with a small detachment of E Company based in Meltham. Further companies also existed in nearby towns, F at Holmfirth, G at Kirkburton & H at Mirfield

Huddersfield Drill Hall now home to 4th bn The Yorkshire Regiment (Authors Own Photo)

On the outbreak of war Arthur immediately rejoined his battalion as it became part of the new reserve line battalions being set up and it was renamed the 1/5th battalion. As a first line battalion this was made up of men who agreed to serve overseas. From his medal index roll he rejoined as a Private with the service number 2613 before being renumbered in later years as 240345. The 14/15 star medal roll & index card names his Surname incorrectly as Long. The battalion was initially sent to the East coast to guard coastal defences before moving in November 1914 to training camps at Doncaster

The brigade would be renamed in May 1915 to 147th (2nd West Riding) Brigade of 49th (West Riding) Division. But before that the 5th battalion with the rest of 49th Division landed at BOULOGNE, France on 14th April 1915. They marched 4 miles to St Martin’s Camp and the men were issued with a blanket each, the weather being reported as immensely cold. On 16th they received orders to move to HERDIGNEUL but the march was terrible. Having only been issued with new boots 3 days earlier the men succumbed to bad feet on the 9 mile march. When they arrived they were then issued orders to move by train to HAZEBROUCK via ST OMER but when the train stopped at MERVEILLE at 9pm they were ordered to detain and move to ESTAIRES where exhausted they arrived at 1.30am

On their arrival in France the 49th Division became part of IV Corps, 1st Army under Lieut-General Sir Henry Rawlinson. The officers, NCO’s & other ranks of 147th & 148th brigade learnt about trench life by being attached to both 23rd & 25th Brigades of 8th Division over the first few days & weeks

The 49th Division took over their own sector at FLEURBAIX on 27th April but it wasn’t until 9th May, when the Division was to support an attack by 8th & 7th Division at FROMELLES (Battle of Aubers Ridge) ,when they were first expecting to see action. The attack however was a disaster & the 147th Brigade was confined to occasional supporting fire or relief duty in the trenches whilst still at FLEURBAIX. However on the 9th the battalion would suffer it’s first major casualties when 4 men of ‘D’ company were killed by shellfire whilst they were cooking their meal

The rest of May & June was rather quiet and what could be described as normal trench life ensued. However on 1st July 1915 the Division was transferred to VI Corps, Second Army and the next day they were inspected by General Sir Herbert Plumer, Second Army Commander. A few days later they received orders to move to the YPRES CANAL BANK sector to take over the trenches from 1st Bn Royal Warwickshire Regiment east of BRIELEN at midnight. They soon realised that this wasn’t an easy sector & in 2 days they had already suffered 27 casualties. Enfilade fire, shells & gas caused misery & in places their trenches were only 70 yds from the German lines

For the rest of 1915 life in this area would be the norm for Arthur and his fellow chums in 1/5th battalion. Whether being in the trenches at the CANAL BANK, in the COLNE VALLEY dugouts or at the farms such as MALAKOFF, HULL & SARAGOSSA or out at rest near ELVERDINGHE. On Christmas Day 1915 there would certainly be no truce as had happened in a few places the year before, despite at the point known as FORTIN 17 the Germans putting up a Christmas tree and calling out ” Don’t shoot and we won’t ” But the Tykes of the 5th opened fire regardless. After the war the 49th Division chose to site its Divisional memorial on the canal bank which overlooks ESSEX FARM Cemetery as they had spent so much time in this sector

49th Division Memorial (Authors Own Photo)

Finally on New Years Eve 1915 the battalion would leave the Ypres sector moving to WORMHOUDT for rest, re equipment & training remaining there until 2nd February 1916 where they entrained at ESQUELBECQ. Arriving NW of Amiens they stayed in various camps & billets carrying out training attacks from the practice trenches at AILLY-SUR-SOMME

On the 13th February orders were received to move to BOUZINCOURT, the 49th Division was heading to the SOMME!

For the next 2 weeks they carried out further training as well as providing working parties for the Royal Engineers around AUTHUILLE before reliving without incident the 5th K.O.Y.L.I in the AUTHUILLE DEFENCES on the 28th. In and out of the lines until relieved at midnight on 6th March they were then billeted in MAILLY MAILLETT at first without straw or any fuel supplies. On 8/9th Arthur and his battalion were sent to help clear sandbags from the mines at REDAN before the 147th Brigade became attached to 36th (Ulster) Division. Work continued at REDAN as well as training specifically of Lewis gunners, scouts & signallers. On 29th March the battalion left MAILLY MAILLET and headed to HARPONVILLE then the next day onto NAOURS where training continued until 13th April when they moved to AVELUY WOOD where they were billeted in tents. 50% of the Specialists remained at NAOURS for further training. The Royal Engineers needed help to build assembly trenches in the South corner of the wood and it fell to the battalion to provide the labour. They dug cable lines until 12th May when again they headed back to NAOURS before moving to RUBEMPRE

On 1st June they returned to huts in MARTINSAART WOOD where again the battalion provided working parties to the R.E, 36th Division & A.S.C. They marched to CONTAY in terrible wet conditions arriving in the early hours of 24th June. Various inspections & readying of equipment took place before they moved to WARLOY on 27th. On the evening of 30th they marched to AVELUY WOOD & took up their allotted positions in the assembly trenches on what would be the eve of the Battle of the Somme. By 1230am on 1st July all were in place but the battalion sustained 2 casualties in doing so

The 49th Division would not been part of the initial assault around THIEPVAL on the 1st July, they were in reserve. At the front was 36th Division on the left & 32nd Division on the right. At 11am the 1/5th battalion was ordered to move to the Southern Bluff at AUTHUILLE after earlier reports were received that all 3 lines had been taken & the Corps on the left had taken the high ground North of GRANDCOURT. However by 2pm the news was received that the 32nd Division was held up at LEIPZIG SALIENT & at THIEPVAL VILLAGE eventually being pushed back to their original lines due to intense machine gun fire. The 36th Division had successfully taken the 3rd line (C) but owing to lack of reinforcements and outflanking fire on their left & right had to retire. Parts of 146th & 148th Brigades were sent to assist 32nd Division and 2 Battalions of the 146th attempted to assault THIEPVAL but failed. Arthur and his battalion remained where they were in the assembly trenches suffering only 6 casualties

On the evening of the 2nd July the battalion moved up to the front line trenches at THIEPVAL WOOD. The relief was difficult as the trenches were in a terrible condition and only small isolated pockets of men could hold the line with the rest providing close support. Early on the 3rd they received orders to attack THIEPVAL taking the German front & support line then swinging round & attacking from the flanks whilst the 4th bn consolidated a new British front line. After making preparations orders were received from Corps level to call off the attack. Intense bombardment all day resulted in 6 Officers wounded, 7 OR killed, 4 OR missing, 49 wounded & 4 suffering from shell shock. Although the battalion war diary records these losses as severe, compared to what others had suffered over the last few days I’d personally say they were particularly light

The Battalion was relieved on 5th heading back to the assembly trenches in AVELUY WOOD. On the 8th they moved back into the front line between Q.24.c.8.6 & Q.30.b.9.9 opposite Mill Road & the current site of the Ulster Tower. For the next few weeks this would be Arthur’s routine a few days in the front, a few days in support until the 49th Division was relieved on the 19th August by 25th Division moving to HEDAUVILLE then to RAINCHEVAL to commence training for an upcoming planned attack

Whilst at FORCEVILLE on 30th August they were visited by the the Divisional Commander Major- General Edward Maxwell Perceval who left a sprig of white heather that Sir Douglas Haig had said hoped would bring the Division luck in the forthcoming battle

I don’t know when Arthur was promoted to Sergeant but on the morning of 3rd September 1916 at 3.45am he was acting as Bombing Sergeant in ‘A’ Company 1/5th bn next to ‘B’ Company with ‘D’ Company in support and they were back at THIEPVAL in newly dug assembly parallels in front of the old British front line about Q.24.d.8.4- R.19.c.1.1. The objective of 49th Division ran from approx this latter point down Mill Road to the River Ancre where the 39th Division would then take up the attack to the left of the Ancre. The 49th Division was tasked with taking the front & support lines that previous Divisions had failed to capture & hold on the first day of the Battle of the Somme

The infantry would advance after an intense artillery bombardment of 3 minutes began at 5.10am on the German front line then the barrage would move on to the support line at 5.13am for a further 5 minutes. Heavy artillery as well as 18 pounders fired on THIEPVAL, SCHAWBEN REDOUBT, STRASSBURG TRENCH & ST PIERRE DIVION

The Infantry brigades attacking would be the 146th & 147th. On the 147th front the 1/4th bn was on the right with objective R.19.c.8.4 to R.19.c.5.4 on the front line and Arthur’s battalion 1/5th on the left composed of ‘A’ & ‘B’ Companies attacking the front line R.19.c.5.4 to R.19.c.1.6 inclusive and the support line R.19.c.6.6 to R.19.c.3.8 would be taken by ‘D’ Company(See below trench map). From the Pope’s nose to just before the Schwaben Redoubt was the area covered by 1/5th battalion battalion

1/5th bn Objectives 3rd September (Memory Map/Great War Digital)

‘A’ Company was commanded by Lieutenant McLintock who like all officers had been ordered to wear other ranks uniform and to keep in line with his men not lead from the front. The attack commenced at the planned time but for some reason ‘A’ Company immediately swung to it’s right becoming mixed up with a left company of 1/4th battalion and they both attacked the reentrant point together between points 25 & 54. This bunching up of men was spotted straight away by the German defenders who turned a machine gun on them. The results were devastating and quickly, with the exception of one, all officers & most NCO’s became casualties. The men now leaderless split left & right leaving a gap which the Germans later used to their advantage in bombing down their own front line. ‘B’ company with no officers at all managed, after they had lost many men just getting out of the parallel lines, to get into the support line but couldn’t hold it due to their small numbers, only about a third made it to the line

Points 25 & 54 shown on Divisional Trench Map ( Ancestry.com)

Back at battalion HQ no news was received apart from snippets from returning wounded who stated that the German lines had been taken with little casualties. We now know this of course to be mainly incorrect. 2 officers who returned stated that despite the losses a good fight had been put up by the battalion

The remnants of the battalion retired to the parallels then back to the old British front line by around 1050am, being relieved later that night. Arthur however wasn’t one of them, he was missing and eventually posted as such in the daily list that was published on 12th December 1916

This was the worst day so far for Huddersfield & its surrounding villages with the weekly figures below showing how much damage was done to the 49th Division with most casualties occurring on 3rd September

  • Killed 14 Officers 196 Other Ranks
  • Wounded 47 Officers 994 Other Ranks
  • Missing 17 Officers 611 Other Ranks
  • The War Diary of 1/5th bn itself records for 3rd September 350 casualties out of 450 who had been involved in the attack

In his diary Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig was scathing of the 49th Division based I believe on incorrect information ”

Monday, 4 September :I visited Toutencourt and saw Gen.Gough. The failure to hold the position gained on the Ancre is due, he reported to the 49th Division. The units of that Division did not really attack and some men did not follow their officers. The total losses of this Division are under a thousand! It is a Territorial Division from the West Riding of Yorkshire. I had occasion a fortnight ago to call the attention of the Army and Corps Commanders (Gough and Jacobs) to the lack of smartness, and slackness of one of its Battalions in the matter of saluting when I was motoring through the village where it was billeted. I expressed my opinion that such men were too sleepy to fight well, etc. It was due to the failure of the 49th Division that the 39th (which did well and got all their objectives) had to fall back.”

Arthur’s parents posted a plea in the local newspaper ‘The Huddersfield Daily Examiner’ on 21st September 1916 asking for information on their son. The article states that a friend in ‘A’ company had last seen him resting in a shell hole whilst wounded which later passed into German hands. Did Arthur die of his wounds? Did he put up a fight & was killed by the Germans or did they just kill him as he lay wounded? Or was he taken prisoner & died later? For now we will never know

Newspaper Plea 21/09/16 (Huddersfield Daily Examiner)

Like so many of the missing of that day he wasn’t officially declared as presumed dead until the Summer of 1917 and on Thursday 23rd August an article was printed again in the local newspaper confirming his death, he was 25 years old

He is commemorated on Thiepval Memorial on Pier & Face 6A & 6B and I have often visited Arthur over the years

Duke of Wellingtons Panel Thiepval Memorial ( Authors Own Photo)

Arthur’s parents John & Sarah Tong must have moved to Rock Cottages, Deadmanstone after the war when the IWGC was collecting family information

Now you’d think this story would be complete wouldn’t you? However there’s a twist coming!

Back in 2017 on Twitter I noticed a retweet by someone for Mash Valley Militaria advertising their latest additions. I’ll admit that apart from family pieces & items that I’ve picked up myself whilst walking the old battlefields over the years I’m not a collector. I came to it all just it seems as everyone else did and the prices shot up. Oh for the days that my good friend Paul Reed talks about when the battlefields were still littered with remnants of the Great War or people and even museums were throwing stuff away! Yes incredibly you could get stuff for free or for a very low price or donation!

Anyway back to the tweet. Out of curiosity I decided to look at Mash Valleys website and browsing through I saw the Memorial Plaque ( Death Penny as commonly referred to) section and imagine my surprise when I saw the name on one of them, yes you’ve guessed it Arthur Clifford Tong! Of course I had to buy it and I successfully did and as it’s custodian it now sits proudly on my study wall. And another twist? The date I saw it was 3rd September 2017, exactly a 101 years ago to the day since Arthur was lost. I’m not religious really but something or somebody somewhere wanted this to be found and the stars aligned on this day to enable me to find it. I hope that one day I may find a photograph of Arthur, so far I haven’t been able to but I’ll certainly keep looking & never forget Arthur

Arthur’s Memorial Plaque ( Authors Own Photo)

Sources Used:-

Ancestry.Com War Diary 147th Brigade 1/5th bn Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment W095/2800/1-4

The West Riding Territorials in the Great War by Laurie Magnus

Great War Forum

British Newspaper Archive

Huddersfields Roll of Honour 1914-1922 by J Margaret Stansfield

Huddersfield Exposed

Thanks again for taking the time to read another of my blogs. Let me know what you think either here or on twitter @Terriermcd

2 thoughts on “A Yorkshire Territorial”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s