A Gunners Life

You’ll probably all know by now that research is my huge passion. I love finding out information about who a person was, their family, where they lived & worked & of course details of their Great War journey

I spend many hours researching online records, newspaper articles, war diaries & maps. I want to put myself & the person whom I’m researching for in their ancestors boots so to speak

People are amazed when I say I do this for free. I usually just ask for a donation to a veterans charity or sometimes a wee tipple to keep me going. For me it’s not about money it’s about reuniting a family with their long lost Grandfather or Great Uncle, a Great Aunt or Cousin

I was approached a year ago by a work colleague and asked if I would be able to carry out some research for them. To be honest it was a good start as they had quite a bit of information already & he was one of the where his service record survived. The family have kindly given me permission to share the story of their Great Great Uncle with you and to ensure that more people know his story

Gunner Horace Coleman (Image Coleman Family)

Horace George Coleman was born in Islington, North London in February 1895 to parents Arthur Alexander & Emma Coleman, the youngest of 5 children. They lived at 27 Queens Cottages before moving to South Tottenham and by 1911 were living at 14 Gorleston Road. Now aged 16 Horace was a Clerk for a Corn Merchants in the local area having not decided to follow his father and 2 older brothers as surveying Instrument makers

On October 18th 1915 Horace enlisted in the local 153rd (Tottenham) Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. Unlike most he didn’t have to go too far for his training it was just a few miles away in the nearby Woolwich Arsenal. He began his military career as a Gunner but shortly afterwards on 30th October he was promoted to Unpaid Acting Bombardier equivalent to the rank of Lance Corporal then Paid from 2nd November

As Heavy Artillery Horace would be trained on the use of generally 60 pounder or 5 Inch guns but some batteries still had the older 5 inch Howitzers as well

See the source image
British 60 Pounder (Image ww1westernfrontweapons.weebly.com)

On 14th February 1916 Horace was admitted to hospital for 19 days with what is reported as disease of the knees and during his time there he was stripped of his Acting Bombardier rank. A few months later he would find himself readmitted to hospital this time with boils on his left calf but before this he would commit his first offence whilst serving. He was charged with that on 23rd April 1916 he was absent from the stables at Charlton Park between 4.30pm & 9.40pm. He appeared before a Major R D Crawford DSO RGA & after hearing the evidence of 3 witnesses Major Crawford sentenced Horace to 7 days confined to barracks & the loss of 7 days pay

After this incident Horace’s training continued and on 25th July 1916. Sent to a Base Depot where he remained until 12th August he was then posted to the 176th (West Riding) Heavy Battery of the RGA. This battery embarked at Southampton on 29th September 1916 landing the following day at Le Havre. A section of the 176th, including Horace, was transferred to the 145th (E.Cheshire) Heavy Brigade RGA and Horace arrived on the Western Front at Anzin-St-Aubin, North West of Arras, where he would remain until 14th March 1917. Day to day operations such as firing on German working parties & back areas, calibration of guns & even shooting at aeroplanes flying over them was to be the life of Horace. Preparations at this point were being made for the upcoming battle that would form part of the Battle of Arras and the 145th moved positions in front of the village of Marceuil a few days later. They moved to nearer Neuville St Vast to support the upcoming battle but sadly the War diary was lost for this period in shell fire. By 30th April they are shown in positions South West of Thelus (map 51b.A.18.b.4.6) where they will remain until August before moving to near Bois de Bonval South West of Vimy. Here they supported the 2nd & 4th Canadian Divisons both at Vimy & in an attack on Lens on 15th August 1917. On August 22nd and 23rd its recorded that Horace’s Battery was heavily shelled by the Germans and also attacked by an Aeroplane.

On the 24th August they are relieved and Horace and his fellow Gunners can head to a rest camp well behind the lines at Divion near Bruay and they remain until 12th September then moved to Hersin, West of Lens

During September the Battery was divided up and men sent as working parties to help in digging new forward positions. On 22nd September Horace is once again promoted to Acting Bombardier. At this point they had no guns, these were being re calibrated and maintained so on 18th October, when they took over from 2nd Canadian Heavy Battery, the brigade had to use 3 of the Canadians guns until they were relieved on 23rd October

They departed Hersin on 24th October 1917 at 9.30am & arrived at 4pm in Belgium at Abeelee where they were billeted for the night before moving up to Zillebeke east of Ypres. Horace was now to play his part in the Battle of Third Ypres more commonly known now as The Battle of Passchendaele

Horace’s battery like so many had a really hard time of it here losing many of their guns in counter battery fire in early November as well as several men when in positions at Zouave Wood. One sad story in the war diary is that on 9th November Acting Corporal D.F Gordon was found dead by the side of a road having been run over by a caterpillar engine. No witnesses could be found or any evidence as to why he was there. Freak accident or maybe he just had enough we shall never know. He now lays at The Huts cemetery Plot XIV. B. 20 at Dickebusch

On 21st November 1917 Horace moves back to France to positions at Metern east of Ballieul before moving well behind the lines at Wandonne for rest, training & cleaning of equipment.

Horace was granted leave to return to England on 8th December until he rejoined his battery on 22nd December 1917. However he’s admitted to hospital with Tonsillitis and his tonsils are removed before returning to his battery on 21st January 1918. Arriving in Essigny near Saint Quentin they receive new guns and were busy recalibrating and ranging them. New positions were then prepared for the rest of January

A huge restructure took place in all British forces in January/February 1918 & the 145th now became part of 35th Heavy Artillery Group

They remained in the St Quentin area until 21st March 1918, the day the Germans launched ‘Operation Michael’ or Kaiserschlact. The War diary (WO95/390/3) for 21st March records ‘A misty morning saw the brigade heavily bombarded with High Explosives (H.E) & Gas shells and very quickly the brigade was called into action. As more information became known the brigade was ordered to retire backwards over the next few days through HAM, MAROEUIL LAMOTTE,ROCQUENCOURT arriving at PAILLART on 31st March all the time continuing to engage enemy troops

Over the next few days & weeks they would move back further arriving at Betrancourt, North West of Albert on the Somme on 25th April. From mid May they would be shelled with gas on a nightly basis. On 19th May 1918 Horace is gassed in one of these nightly bombardments and he is treated initially by the 3rd New Zealand Field Ambulance then taken to Casualty Clearing Station No 3 at Gezaincurt near Doullens before being transferred to No 47 General Hospital at Le Treport on the French Coast on 20th May

After a few weeks he was admitted on 13th June to the No 3 Convalescent Depot at LE TREPORT where he remained until 10th July being then returned to the Base Depot at HARFLEUR near LE HAVRE. His mother Emma was informed by the War Office on 22nd June that Horace was in hospital

Whilst back at Depot on 22nd July Horace commits his second offence and is charged with the offence of ‘Whilst on active service, attempting to service leave to England by false pretences’. His punishment sees him again stripped of his Bombardier stripe and back as a Gunner which to be honest for the offence seems rather lucky, men were shot for less

He’s sent to Base before he rejoins his battery on 26th July 1918, who by this time were to the east of the old battlefields of the Somme engaged at Aveluy Wood, Hamel & Mesnil

August 1918 sees them continue to launch bombardments around Albert from their emplacements at Varennes before moving to Martinsaart to assist in an attack on Thiepval. The Germans retaliated with their own bombardment on 22nd August knocking out 3 guns in Horace’s Brigade. On this day Horace is also admitted again to a hospital of 65th Field Ambulance this time he’s suffering from Influenza

He’s back with his battery on 30th August near Longueval where they were assisting the 38th (Welsh) Division in their attacks on Morval before moving to Ginchy. The batteries fired all day & night and the Germans were now in retreat leaving many of their artillery guns to be captured such was their haste to move it’s reported

The brigade moves forward to areas around Canal du Nord, east of Cambrai carrying out further supporting bombardments to assist various different Infantry Divisions in their attacks and by October the brigade has moved to Fontaine assisting 57th Division in their attack on the southern defences of Cambrai. This attack however is unsuccessful due to heavy German machine gun fire

On 8th October they supported the attack by 63rd (Royal Naval) Division to outflank Cambrai which was a huge success the Division capturing over 700 German Prisoners

The 24th Division then took over this area on 9th and at 5.20am launched an attack to find that the Germans had retreated considerably to a line near Cagnolles. Over the next few days the brigade moved forward, as the Allied infantry progressed, arriving finally in Saint Aubert on 12th October

They carried out hostile fire on enemy positions and it was in a counter battery fire on 14th October that Horace Coleman was killed. His body was buried nearby and his mother Emma received a telegram on 29th October informing her of her son’s death

On 21st February 1919 Horace’s personal effects were returned to his mother which were recorded as ‘A metal watch, a wallet containing photos, letters & papers, a wallet with note paper, scissors, 2 handkerchiefs, a metal watch case, a bundle of fabric & a pencil

On 5th April 1919 the War Office informed Emma of the location of his grave and on June 2nd wrote to her to ask where to send Horace’s Memorial Scroll & Plaque & On 1st May 1919 his mother, being his next of kin, was awarded a weekly pension

In March 1920 Horace’s body was exhumed and reinterred in St Aubert British Cemetery. This was common as many smaller or isolated cemeteries and graves were concentrated into larger cemeteries , gradually being formed with the new permanent stone headstones and cross of sacrifice to replace the earlier wooden cross Grave markers, so that they could be easily maintained by the then Imperial War Graves Commission (Later Commonwealth War Graves). His mother Emma again received information of where Horace now lay

In one of those family twists that us researchers love to uncover, the War Office had forwarded Horace’s medals to his mother on 21st April 1922 but these were signed for by a Mr G Salisbury, who was married to one of Emma’s daughters who upon her mother’s death had inherited her house. Mr Salisbury stated that he had been instructed by Emma’s son, Mr Bertie Coleman, to handle any correspondence, stating that Mrs Emma Coleman had since died. The R.G.A records office wrote back to Mr Salisbury on 1st May 1922 requesting that he forward a copy of Emma’s will and to inform them who now had the medals

Mr Salisbury replied that no will had been left and that the medals were now in the possession of his wife. On the death of Mrs Coleman the surviving sons & daughters had appointed Mr Bertie Coleman as executor of his mother’s estate and therefore they would now forward the medals to him at No 9 Cranleigh Road, Leytonstone and let him decide into whose possession they should go

In a further twist in October 1922 a Mr A Coleman of 59 Grosvenor Road, Camberwell (Possibly Horace’s father?) wrote to the War Office asking where Horace’s medals were. The War Office replied with the details previously mentioned above

Gunner Horace George Coleman Aged 23 now lies in Plot II Row C Grave 2 in St Aubert British Cemetery, France. If you’re in the area please take time to visit & remember his life

Horace’s Grave (Image Coleman Family)
Wendy Coleman at her Great Uncle Horace’s Grave on the centenary of his death 14th October 2018 (Image Coleman Family)
St Aubin British Cemetery (CWGC)

I am extremely grateful to the Coleman family for sharing the knowledge they had of Horace and for letting me get to know him further with my research

Thank you again for joining me on another of my blogs. Comments and further information is always welcome. Just get in touch here or @terriermcd on twitter


October Guest Feature

Welcome to this month’s Guest Spot which I’ve decided to take a slightly different path with. I shall be inviting guests to write a feature article on something or someone that interests them from the Great War. And I’m very delighted, despite him being from Crewe ( It’s a long running joke between us!), to welcome my good friend Conor Reeves . Conor is someone who’s embraced various aspects of history from an early age and he was even I believe the youngest Battlefield Guide for Leger battlefield tours at just 15 years old!! He’s gone on to do many great things since including a war memorial garden at his old school, he’s currently studying history at Oxford & recently he became the sub editor of the new Great War Group journal. I’ll let him introduce himself below but I wish to extend to him my warmest of welcomes to Great War Reflections

Conor Reeves

Hello, everyone!

I was really humbled when Wayne asked me to contribute an article for this month’s Guest Spot on Great War Reflections (thanks for having me and assuming I’ve got something interesting to say!). I’ve been enjoying the blog so much over the last few months – I’ve got some quality acts to follow but I will do my best.

He’s asked me to start by telling you a little bit about myself before writing up a short article based on some of my research interests, so that’s exactly what I’ll do.

I’m in my early 20s and I was born in the North West of England. I’ve been interested in history since I was just 9 years old. In fact, one of my most enduring primary school memories was teaching a class of younger students about the Second World War. There were a few embarrassing hiccups (I taught them that the war began in 1937…oops!) but otherwise, I think I did a reasonably good job. I continued to be interested in history and when I was around 11 years old an English teacher recommended I read a book that turned out to be pretty formative for me. For those of you who don’t know, Private Peaceful is a 2003 Michael Morpurgo novel for older children/ teenagers which follows the story of a young Tommy’s First World War on the Western Front, culminating with the Battle of the Somme. Although it plays on some quite clichéd tropes, it did introduce me to many important themes which have re-appeared time and time again in the subsequent decade and is a wonderful way to introduce young people to the First World War.

Knowing I was interested in ‘the wars’, when I was 13, my parents offered to take me on a ‘once in a life-time’ trip to the Western European battlefields of my choice. At the time, it was a toss-up between a tour of the 1914-1918 Western Front and the legendary battlefields of the Battle of the Bulge. Little did they know at the time but, far from satiating my interest, it added fuel to the fire. Visiting the famous sites that I’d only ever read about before felt like entering a world dreamt up by a favourite author, only infinitely more emotional and affecting as each place was charged with the memory of sacrifice. As soon as I was home from the first trip, I was thinking about the next. In the time between, I began to look at the Great War history that lies amongst us. I was vaguely aware that once a year, on Remembrance Day, a school teacher would read aloud a list of names of those former pupils who had died in the two world wars. I decided that they ought to become more than just names. As a result, I embarked on a (still ongoing) research project which has seen me uncover relatives, photographs, letters and details pertaining to the lives and deaths of all of these men.

When the time came to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I knew that I wanted to be the first member of my family to go to University. I played around with the idea of war studies or military history as stand-alone subjects but I was again and again advised to study general history. This was some of the most useful advice I have ever received. As a History student at the University of Oxford, I’ve been able to study topics from the legacy of Romano-Britain to globalization in the 21st century. Although this means I’ve not been able to study the First World War as often as I’d have liked, I have been fortunate enough to study papers on the global nature of the war and I am currently completing an undergraduate dissertation on boxing and the First World War. The variation of theme and subject has greatly added to my ability to study the Great War. Now, almost a decade and more than a dozen visits since I returned from the old battlefields (in which the founder of this blog played an important role during the earliest!), my interest is stronger than ever and I visit the Old Front Lines as regularly as circumstances allow which always aids my studies. My academic and non-academic WW1 interests have expanded as a result of my study and battlefield trips. My main interests are the 1/7 Cheshire Regiment, 1 July 1916, masculinity, literature and, of course, sport and the war.

Anyway, that’s me! Below you’ll find a short article I’ve written which tells the story of a young boxer whose story I discovered whilst carrying out research for my undergraduate thesis. It recounts the life of Jerry Delaney. I hope you find it of interest!

P.S If perchance you happen to have any sources pertaining to Boxing in the British Army during the Great War then please get in touch (@InThatRichEarth). I’m particularly interested in diaries, memoirs or letters which mention boxing in training in England or behind the lines on the Western Front but I’m interested to hear any recommendations you may have.

I’m here to fight Germans’: Jerry Delaney’s war

With its densely packed, crowded rows of housing, the Broomfields area of Bradford was a tough place to live for its Edwardian inhabitants. This hard and sometimes dangerous setting bred generations of correspondingly tough working class families which made up 99.2% of the population. Amongst those were the Delaneys, an immigrant family originating from Tipperary, Ireland. Consisting of eleven boys and four girls, they had their fair share of tough Broomfields men and a number of the brothers channeled their attributes into the sporting ring as boxers, known collectively as ‘the fighting Delaneys’.

One of these, Jeremiah, or ‘Jerry’ as he was better known, was a particular pugilistic talent. At 5ft6 and ‘[o]f light frame’, newspapers declared him ‘almost ladylike in his appearance’. ‘At a guess,’ they wrote, ‘a boxer was almost the last thing you would have taken him for’ but, they revealed, ‘see him in the ring and it was a different proposition’. His ring IQ, powerful left hand and nurtured resilience more than made up for his lack of physical presence and by 1914 he was a very promising, unbeaten light-weight boxer of 9 st 9 lb. In fact, so good was he that he was widely tipped to fight and probably beat Freddie Welsh, the current British champion at the weight. It is certainly true, as others have recently observed that the ranks of Britain’s light-weight division were far from swelling – probably limited to around four genuine contenders – but it was largely agreed that he was the best of the best. Whilst a 1915 edition of The People cautiously asked ‘If not Delaney, then who have we in England more entitled to dispute the champions titles?’, some went as far as to say he was the ‘best prospect in the world’

When war was declared, however, the Broomfield boy was within reach of, but still devoid of his British and now world-title opportunities. Welsh had won the world championship less than a month before the conflict started and once again moved to America in search of big fights and bigger money. Welsh’s refusal to enlist led to widespread accusations of cowardice in the British press. Welsh refuted these criticisms, declaring ‘I can do far more for my country out of the trenches than in them’. He may very well have been on to something. Boxers played an important role both in and out of the armed forces. They fought in exhibitions to entertain troops, encouraged enlistment and raised large sums of money in charity boxing matches or by auctioning their gloves. Given the martial nature of the sport and the linguistic markers it shared with war, however, boxers were held to represent the perfect soldiers. The majority of Britain’s best boxers enlisted and those who did not were thus accused of cowardice or greed. These men who ‘shirked’, it was thought, were born to fight and continued to fight for money, whilst fathers, sons and brothers left factories and offices to fight in ‘the big fight’

Cigarette Card

No such criticism could be levelled at Jerry Delaney as the press celebrated his decision to turn down a lucrative offer to fight in Australia in order to join up for ‘a private’s pay’. In doing so, he represented the apotheosis of English patriotic masculinity, foregoing the selfish financial incentives and corruption which worried so many critics of modern boxing. As a well-known fighter, Jerry joined hundreds of fellow athletes, amateur and professional in bolstering the ranks of the newly-formed 23rd Royal Fusiliers (1st Sportsman’s). Undeterred in his quest for official recognition, Jerry remained very active during the war, fighting professionally several times in London and Liverpool and requesting his increasingly well-deserved clash with Welsh. Following respectively convincing and unexciting wins at the National Sporting Club over American Jack Denny and Londoner Willie Farrell (a second win during a rematch), the conflict and Jerry’s service commitments actually served to intensify the boxing community’s calls for Welsh to do the right thing and give the enlisted man his chance. Delaney himself stepped up his campaign, arguing quite prophetically that he might be sent away to war before he got the opportunity that he had so patiently earned.

Jerry Delaney in military service

During his military training in Essex, the boxer exploited his battalion’s symbiotic relationship with sport. He was able to make the most of the unit’s facilities and gain special dispensations as an elite athlete whilst his talent was greatly in demand for many exhibitions of sporting skill which kept his comrades entertained. In France, he repaid the favour further when he easily won the 1915 2nd Divisional boxing championships in which he had done ‘what he wanted’ with opponents far below his calibre.

Delaney’s time fighting on the Western Front was, of course not restricted to the squared circle though in both forms of conflict he proved to have ample skill, bravery and, perhaps most importantly, for a time at least, luck. On one occasion, the now the specially trained bomber was residing at the head of a bomb-throwing sap when, according to a letter home, a German sniper’s bullet went straight through his cap, literally parting his hair, scraping the top of his scalp and leaving him with nothing more than a bloodied trail marked on the top of his head. As a friend remarked after his death, that was ‘about as near a knock-out blow as you could get’.

Another remarkable moment in Delaney’s war occurred sometime in early May 1916. The exact details of the event are unclear as sources appear to contradict each other. Some claimed that Jerry recovered a seriously wounded colleague, despite personal injury. These reports suggest that the boxer was injured in the leg and abdomen during a routed attack on an entrenched German machine gun positon but, seeing a wounded comrade lying in the mud, he picked him up and struggled his way quickly back to the British lines. An article published after his death, however includes a slightly different but more detailed version. Recounted by an eyewitness, Corporal Coyle was one of the individuals responsible for reporting what he had seen in order to recommend his comrade for a gallantry award and is thus potentially more reliable, provides a variation on a theme.

Recalling the events of that bright, moonlit night in early May 1916, Coyle remembered ‘lying in a front line of trenches just where the enemy had made a gap with artillery fire’. To fix this breach, a bombing party was sent out consisting of Pte Mackay, Pte Jerry Delaney, Pte Hopkins and L/Cpl Whitlock. The first to breach the parapet and leave the relative refuge of their trench were Mackay and Whitlock. After a while had past, the rest of the party heard Whitlock shouting back. It became clear from his calls that Mackay was badly wounded and in desperate need of help. Apparently with little concern for personal safety, Jerry showed his stout boxer’s heart, immediately jumping up and over the parapet in search of Mackay. On finding his wounded friend, the boxer hastily moved to return them both to their terrestrial sanctuary, moving quickly towards their lines. As they came once more into view, the British opened a barrage of covering fire which the Germans appeared to mistake for the start of a raid. Their response was to lay down a combination of rifle, machine gun and artillery fire, throwing down shot and shell into a storm of steel through which Delaney continued, undaunted. Despite what seemed like an impossible task, contrary to other sources Coyle declared that Jerry displayed remarkable athletic agility and passed through this corridor of death completely unscathed.

Unfortunately, Delaney’s efforts to save Mackay were not enough. His injuries were too severe and he passed away on the following day. The Bradford man’s valour, which an observer described as ‘worthy of a V.C.’, did not go unnoticed and he was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal which was eventually downgraded to a Military Medal. Local and national newspapers around Britain rushed to publish notices of the well-known man’s award but confusion remained regarding his exact entitlement. It was widely and erroneously reported, as late as 1960s, that Delaney had been awarded the DCM.

The minutiae mattered little to the proud Irish community in the north of England who soon heard of his bravery ‘at the front’. In his home town, a testimonial fund was arranged in his honour and organisers conceived of a boxing tournament in a local Irish centre to contribute to the fund.

When festivities had subsided and he returned to the fray, he once more showed the bravery and ‘soldier’s spirit’ which he had effortlessly transferred from boxing ring to battlefield. The luck that had seen him escape certain death with a mere scrape to the scalp apparently avoid a wall of steel and fire could not last forever. Just before his death, Delaney’s colonel had offered him several weeks of leave in which to train for a forthcoming fight. Turning down this valuable and no doubt deserved reward for his sporting talent, he told the officer ‘I’d sooner go up, sir,’ ‘I’m here to fight Germans. What would my boxing pals in London think of me if I were to shirk my proper job now?’.

On 27 July he and a number of volunteers including Corporal Whitlock went up the line to Delvile Wood as part of a bombing section. Again the sources are contradictory and somewhat muddled. They variously claim that he was found by a search party lying within yards of the German line or that he was in fact ‘killed by a machine gun bullet, which struck him soon after he climbed the parapet to charge’. Whatever the truth of the matter was, it remains the case that this bombing raid was his last. The regiment had lost one of its bravest soldiers and the country one of its most talented athletes and proudest patriots as Jerry Delaney passed once more between the ropes, this time from life into death.

Thiepval Memorial (Authors Own Photo)

His passing caused sadness to all that knew him and many that did not. The Sporting Chronicle mourned his death on its front page. ‘Every sportsman in the country’, they solemnly but proudly declared ‘will this morning pay silent and noble tribute to the sacrifice made by the young boxer’ and many sporting fans wrote home of their disappointment and sadness.

Tributes continued to pour in and a fund was started in his memory. Aided by generous donations from Lord Lonsdale, it raised enough money to erect a significant memorial to him Bowling Cemetery, Bradford which read ‘ERECTED BY FRIENDS AND ADMIRERS OF A BRAVE SOLDIER AND NOTED BOXER’. Alongside the memorial, the fund provided for modest financial instalments to be paid to his grieving mother.

Delaney’s Memorial, Bradford (Photo by Alan Raistrick)

More than a century has passed since Jerry Delaney last laced up his gloves and his name has long passed from the memory of even the most ardent fan of the noble art. Those who make their regular pilgrimages to the old front lines tell stories of famous fallen athletes such a Ronnie Poulton-Palmer or Walter Tull but rarely, if ever, stand below the towering red arches of Thiepval and recall his name. His Bradford memorial today looks as impressive as the day it was built but stands today un-molested by grieving ‘FRIENDS AND ADMIRERS’ and the 23-year-old’s story remains just one of the many examples of pugilists who might have given so much to the sporting world, had they not died in what they saw as ‘the greater fight’ for civilization. This much is true but next time you are wandering between the trees in Delville Wood, and the flickering of light between trunks tricks the eye into seeing dark green figures of soldier-like appearance, or when you are staring up at the names carved indelibly into the stone, bathed in light or shadowed in darkness on the faces of Thiepval memorial think of ‘one of the most promising fighters the world has ever seen’ and remember ‘quiet’ and ‘gentle’ Jeremiah ‘Jerry’ Delaney.

Secondary Sources:




Primary Sources:

Evening Despatch, Friday 22 September 1916

Leeds Mercury, Wednesday 5 May 1915

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Tuesday 23 February 1915

Sport (Dublin), Saturday 27 May 1916

Sporting Chronicle, Saturday 5 August 1916

The People, Sunday 25 April 1915

The People, Sunday 2 May 1915

The People, Sunday 20 August 1916

Editor: Well I have to say that was an amazing story, well told, of one incredible man and I’m very grateful to Conor for sharing Jerry’s story with us all. A Yorkshire link as well what more could you want!

Conor can be found on twitter @InThatRichEarth if anyone would like to follow him, don’t stalk him of course!!


Terriers in the Great War

As well as the Great War my other passion in life is following my local football team Huddersfield Town (nicknamed ‘The Terriers’ due to us having a Yorkshire Terrier on our club badge) Woof!. If I’m honest for the past couple of seasons this has not been the most enjoyable of past times believe me. From the euphoria of our incredible & unexpected promotion to the Premier League a few years ago came the reality of relegation back to the Championship. And don’t even get me started on the start to this season!!

Across the country several players & club staff followed the fans into the armed forces and Huddersfield Town was no exception with several of their, at the time, current & previous players joining up. Sadly 6 of those who did so would give their lives in the war. Below is the story of some of those players

Larrett Roebuck (Image:FootballandtheFirstWorldWar.Org)

Larrett Roebuck has the sad distinction of being not only Town’s first player casualty but also the first professional footballer to be killed from the English Leagues. (William Urquhart Sutherland is believed to be the first footballer to die in the Great War on 26th August 1914. But he was a Scottish career soldier in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were stationed in England & therefore he had only semi professionally played for Southend United, Plymouth Argyle as well as Chatham)

Larrett lived quite a humble life being born in a place called Jump, near Barnsley on 27th January 1889 to parents Elias & Elizabeth Roebuck. In the 1891 Census he’s living with his mother at 117 Church Street, Jump but by 1901 the family had moved to Rotherham where his father works as a Coal Hewer and Larrett now aged 12 lives with his younger brother John aged 10 & sister Lucy aged 5 at 9 Barker’s Yard, off High Street

Tragically at the age of just 13 Larrett would lose his father who died aged just 40 and he left school to begin work at most probably the same colliery that his father had worked at where he worked as a trammer, the name given to a young mine worker. What he did I don’t know but I have seen a suggestion that he may have looked after the pit ponies

In 1904 things went badly for Larrett  when he was found guilty of stealing a watch and was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment. Having lied about his age saying he was 17 not 15 he was therefore convicted as almost an adult

On his release from prison in October 1904 he had lost his job and therefore decided to join the army at Pontefract where the York’s & Lancaster Regiment was based. On his service record he lied about his age stating that he was 18 not 16 and also not revealing that he had been in prison. He’s recorded as being only 5’4 1/2″ weighing 134Ibs (9.5 Stone) with a 37″ chest with a flush complexion, hazel eyes & dark eyes. He has a couple of scars one of which is on the right of his chest

He joined as Private S/N 8116 in the 1st battalion and after training went with them to serve in India stationed at Mhow between October 1906 & December 1907. Sport in the Army of course was encouraged in its various forms & it’s likely that whilst in India Larrett became part of the battalions football team

On his return to England he then joined the 2nd battalion who were at the time in Limerick, Ireland where they would remain until the outbreak of the Great War. Larrett would be promoted to Lance Corporal in December 1907

6th June 1908 saw Larrett marry Frances (Fanny) Walker at the Parish Church in Rotherham and 5 months later their son John Joseph Roebuck was baptised at the same church

In April of 1910 Larrett lost his rank due to misconduct and was back to being a Private but the birth of a daughter Violet on 10th September whilst his family were stationed at Princess Royal Barracks at Deepcut, Surrey must have made things seem better followed a year later by the birth of Lucy Francis in November at Limerick

In May 1912 Larrett was discharged to the Army reserve and went back to his native Yorkshire at Rotherham where he took work again in a colliery at Silverwood. The colliery had a well known football team which Larrett joined and they several times entered the FA Cup qualifying rounds and this is where Larrett came to the attention of the scouts of Huddersfield Town. Playing as a full back he would be signed by Huddersfield on 1st March 1913 and would make his debut as a left back in January 1914 where he played for 19 games upto 25th April 1914. He signed a new contract for £2 per week which would rise to £3 a week from September 1914 and given a rail pass to get him from either Rotherham or Sheffield

However on the outbreak of war on the 4th August at 10pm Larrett, as a reservist, received his orders to proceed firstly to Pontefract then to Cambridge & Newmarket to commence training with the 2nd bn who were part of 16th brigade 6th Division

The war diary records that on 9th September the battalion sets sail from Tilbury docks heading to a unknown destination which turned out to be St Nazaire on the French west coast. Larrett was reappointed to Lance Corporal at this point .On 11th they left by train heading North and after detraining marched to Crecy. Moving to Jouarre a few days later they then moved to Citrey near the River Marne. Further movements were made to near Soissions then later to Vailly from late September near Maison Rouge until their relief on 11th October by French troops

Arriving at Sailly they were ordered to move 1 miles south of Fleurbaix where on 18th October they received verbal orders to move to the Bois Grenier- Radinghem road near Touqet and after a successful attack on the Hau de Bas line with little resistance at 2.25pm they were told to advance & take the village of Radinghem & having done this to then take the high ground running South East from Chateau de Flandres .’A’ Company took the village. On reaching the high ground they came under heavy shelling but advanced to the Radinghem-Fromelles road. Heavy machine gun & shrapnel from their right forced them back to the road & despite companies managing to get into the woods of the Chateau de Flandres they were driven back on 3 occasions by machine gun, rifle fire & shelling before retiring to the road together with The Buffs. The York & Lancs suffered severe casualties and one of those posted as missing was Larrett Roebuck

The war office informed the family that Larrett was missing but having received no further information his mother placed an advert in a local newspaper asking for information. She received information from the families of 2 men serving with Larrett, one of them stating that he had been beside Larrett in the attack when he saw him killed

Up to this point of confirmation Huddersfield Town had been paying Larrett’s wife Fanny £1 a week since he was called up however in February 1915 the club wrote to her saying that they could no longer afford to pay this due to the dire financial state of the club. They forwarded her £2 5s that the other players had collected for Larrett for a present but thought it best to now give to his widow

34 men of the 2nd bn Y & L were recorded as killed on 18th/19th October 1914 with only 2 of them having known graves. The rest including Larrett had their names inscribed on the Ploegstreet Memorial to the Missing

Ploegstreer Memorial (Authors Own Photo)

However in November 2009 15 bodies were uncovered by builders at Beaucamps-Ligny and identified as men of the 2nd Yorks & Lancs. Whilst I won’t go into the actual excavation, from what I’ve initially read to say it was rather amateur I believe is an understatement. After the remains were given over to the CWGC an appeal was made for relatives of 58 Y & L men lost in October 1914 to step forward to provide DNA samples. One of these families were the descendants of Larrett but despite 11 of the men being positively identified the remaining 4 couldn’t be and Larrett wasn’t one of those identified but that’s not say there is a chance he could be one of the 4

Larrett was just 25 years old

The other of Huddersfield Town’s players to be killed whilst still on the books of the club was Sidney James( Called Sydney on some records)

Image result for sidney james footballer
Sidney James (Image:FootballandtheFirstWorldWar.org)

Born in 1891 at Tinsley near Sheffield to George Henry & Sarah James he was the youngest of 5 children at the time. By 1911 Sarah had lost her husband at a young age and now was bringing up 6 sons and 2 daughters the youngest of whom was only 3 at 11 Wharf Row Tinsley

By 1911 he’s still in Tinsley working a General Labourer in a Rolling Mill ( Steel) and his name has changed to Sydney which is how it’s eventually recorded on some records. How he got into football I’m unsure but he would sign for Huddersfield in 1913 as a centre forward and went on to 12 Appearances for Town scoring 2 goals

He joined up at Huddersfield in the 1/6th bn Duke of Wellingtons ,West Riding Regiment as Private 3/18263 and at some point is transferred to 1/5th bn King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry s/n 35274 before ending up in the 9th bn KOYLI as a Lance Corporal

On 9th April 1917 the 9th bn,as part of 21st Division, VII Corps, is South West of Arras at Boiry-St-Martin from where they then proceed forward to take part in an attack known as the First Battle of the Scarpe. Sidney was killed on this day and was buried in Cojeul British Cemetery, Saint-Martin-sur-Cojeul which had been set up by the 21st Division burial officer after the villages capture by 30th Division on 9th April. He was 26 years old

Of the players who had played for Town pre war but had since moved on and were lost in the war two particularly stand out for me. The first being the flamboyant Welsh International goalkeeper Leigh Richmond Roose who played a few games for Huddersfield in 1911. I can’t do his story justice here so I will post this link so you can read about him yourself https://thesefootballtimes.co/2017/11/20/leigh-richmond-roose-the-forgotten-hero-who-became-footballs-first-playboy/ . One sad end to his extraordinary life is that he is recorded as having no next of kin and his medals including his MM were returned to the War Office. This maybe due to the fact he served as Rouse and this name appeared on the Thiepval memorial for many years, you can now see the change clearly which was done in the last few years

The second one is someone I regularly say hello to on my visits to Dantzig Alley Cemetery and that is Charles Edward Randall. Born 1884 in Bearpark County Durham he was a footballer playing inside left for Newcastle United when he was sent out on loan to Huddersfield in the 1908/09 & 1910/11 seasons making 19 appearances & scoring 6 goals. He returned to Newcastle for another season before joining Woolwich Arsenal until the outbreak of war

Charles Edward Randall (Image:FootballandtheFirstWorldWar.org)

Charles enlisted at Newcastle into the Coldstream Guards as Guardsman (Private) 15469 and served with the 4th (Pioneer) battalion part of the Guards Division. He arrived on the Western front in November 1915. In September of 1916 the Guards Division were at Minden Post before moving to Lesboefs where they held the line as seen from the war diary map below on 25th/26th September. The Divisional casualties for just these 2 days were recorded as 19 Officers killed 30 wounded, Other Ranks Killed 275 Wounded 1255 & 437 Missing

War Diary Map (WO95/1192 Ancestry)

Charles Aged 32, along with 2 other Pioneers who died that day, was originally buried in Montauban village but all were concentrated into Dantzig Alley on 18th June 1919. Possibly the site of a field ambulance Charles may have died of his wounds in Montauban. If anyone knows what this cemetery was called I’d be very intrigued to know, below is its location

Location of Cemetery in Montauban (Great War Digital/Memory Map)

Of course not all the players who served would lose their lives but one story to be told is that of Frederick Edwin Bullock. A defender he joined Huddersfield in 1910 and in his 12 years with the club would go on to make 215 appearances

Fred Bullock seated far right (Image source thepfa.com)

Fred in February 1915 was one of those professional footballers who would join the newly formed 17th bn Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment known as the footballers battalion as Private F/629. He was promoted to Lance Corporal (unpaid) almost immediately. Action at Delville Wood on 28th July 1916 saw Fred wounded by GSW to his back &  right shoulder and sent back to Blighty where he would stay until October 1917 before returning to the front and he would later in June 1918 suffer a further wound this time to his left leg whilst playing football! Again he was returned to England where he saw out the end of the war

After being discharged in March 1920 Fred returned to Huddersfield Town and was made club captain in what was the start of the glory year for Town. Promotion to Division One at the end of 1920 Fred would also be the first Huddersfield Captain to lead his team out in the now famous Blue & White Stripes in the FA Cup final of 1920 sadly losing 1-0 to Aston Villa. Towns second season in the top flight saw Fred being called up to play for England in October 1920. However now aged 34 and suffering problems from the wound he’d received on his knee he played less frequently and wouldn’t feature in the 21/22 season when Huddersfield went on to win the FA Cup!

Shortly after Fred decided to retire as a player but he placed an advert in the Daily Mail newspaper offering himself as a manager but with no replies. In October 1922 Fred decided to invest his savings and became a pub landlord at The Slubbers Arms public house in Huddersfield where he was joined by his wife Maude & 8 year old son Kenneth

But on 9th November Maude found Fred on the floor of the pub, beside him was an empty beer bottle used for the storage of cleaning chemicals. A fee days later in hospital Fred died of Ammonia poisoning. At the hearing it was heard that Fred had suffered with ‘nervous trouble’ in the month before and the coroner recorded Fred’s death as suicide. The loss of his career or maybe even his experiences of war had become too much, what a sad end to an incredible player and club legend

Slubbers Arms (Image Flickr)

As for Huddersfield Town under the initial management of Herbert Chapman they went on to even more glory winning the charity shield against Liverpool in 1922. They then won the League in 23/24, 24/25 and, after Chapman had left to manage Arsenal, under new manager Cecil Potter they went on to win the league again in 25/26 becoming ‘Thrice Champions’ and one of only 4 clubs to this day to achieve this. The season after 26/27 they only just lost out being crowned again by becoming runners up to Newcastle United and again runners up in 27/28 of not only the league but the FA Cup. The 1930’s would see them at Wembley in the final against Arsenal with the now famous image of the airship Graf Zeppelin in the skies above the stadium.Town would feature as runners up again in the 1933/34 season and feature in 2 FA Cup finals in 1930 against Arsenal & in 1938 against Preston North End, the first televised FA Cup match

So that’s the story of my club and it’s links to the Great War. As I’m finishing this I’m dreading the result of tonights game against Nottingham Forest. As we fans say ‘Ooh to be a Terrier’ I do hope once again that you’ve found this week’s blog interesting and thanks for all the support and messages


Ancestry.com Census & War Diary references WO95/1610/1 ,WO95/1192/1-6, WO95/2162, WO95/1284/1-3, Service Record Files, Medal Index Rolls & Cards

Commonwealth War Graves Commission




Huddersfield Examiner Newspaper


Cemetery Focus: Bernafay Wood British

This is one of those cemeteries that really means something personal to me & the reason being is that this was the first one that I visited as an independent traveller many moons ago. I was staying nearby at the old Montauban-de-Picardie railway station which is now bed & breakfast accommodation run by Christine & Jean-Pierre Matte. If you’re looking for somewhere for a few nights to rest your head after a day spent on the battlefields this is a good place in an historic location. It’s maybe not for anyone who likes a few facilities or a bit of home from home luxury but it’s clean, very period French with good welcoming hosts

Bernafay Wood British Cemetery (Authors Own Photo)

The Cemetery itself is located approx 1.5km to the North East of the village of Montauban by the D197 road which runs from Maricourt in the South to Longueval about 2km to the North. Space is available for several cars to park up, just make sure you leave room for the CWGC gardeners to park their van! It sits on the opposite side of the road from the Western edge of Bernafay Wood or Bois de Bernafay as its locally known and it was one of many cemeteries designed by Sir Herbert Baker

By the Armistice it contained 246 burials mainly from when it was the site of an RAMC Advance dressing station from August 1916 & it was also used as a frontline cemetery until April 1917. Later additions were made afterwards with the closure of Bernafay Wood North Cemetery on the opposite side of the road & to the North of the wood itself, just off the track that exists today close to the old railway line which ran across here from Albert to Ham. Bodies were also concentrated here after being brought in from original graves or those found in excavations of the surrounding areas of the battlefields to the east towards Trones Wood, Guillemont & beyond

Probable site of Bernafay Wood North Cemetery with the railway line clearly visible

Now containing 945 burials & commemorations it also has 11 special memorials to those known or believed to be buried here and also memorials to 12 men originally buried in Bernafay North Cemetery & whose graves were lost due to shellfire. Most are from the United Kingdom but it also contains 122 Australians, 4 South Africans, 2 New Zealanders & 1 Indian. 417 of the buried are unknowns


As you enter the Cemetery you’ll see the Stone of Remembrance in front of you and the Cemetery then slopes to the left at the back of the Montauban Ridge & up to the rear where the Cross of Sacrifice sits. There were originally 2 stone shelters on either side of the entrance which existed at least until the early 1960s I believe. Although now gone some of their structure still exists as part of the entrance wall. When I first came here I’m pretty sure it had a small hedge which has now been replaced by a non obtrusive wire fence. I remember a few years ago the damage caused when a car crashed through the corner of the cemetery after losing control on the bend of the road as it headed from Longueval and it took out some of the hedge and several headstones in Row A. Think they must have spent too much time in the Calypso II !!

Original shelters at Bernafay Wood (AWM H12664)

Despite its location close to the battlefields of the 1st July none of those buried here fell on that day. There are several from the days following after the consolidation of Montauban and the capture of Bernafay Wood on 3rd/4th July by the 9th (Scottish) Division and the weeks & months after when battles raged for nearby Trones Wood, Longueval & Guillemont. The Australian graves are from December 1916 to early 1917. Later graves are from the Spring Offensive of 1918 when the 9th (Scottish) Division, back in Bernafay Wood, was pushed out by the Germans & then more from the recapture of this area on 27th August 1918 by the 18th (Eastern) Division who had been here before & had taken Montauban on 1st July 1916

Australian ambulance men at Bernafay assisting their comrades, who are suffering from trench foot (AWM E00081)

Nissen huts were erected here by units of the 14th Field Ambulance when the ADS was established here and these can be seen in the above photograph taken in December 1916

One of those buried here is Captain Percy Wellesley Chapman MC. An Australian from Goulburn, New South Wales he had enlisted aged 28 as a Private/Trooper service number 1008 in the 1st Light Horse Regiment, 6th Reinforcement on 9th March 1915. On 28th June 1915 he embarked at Sydney for Gallipoli. Percy would serve at Gallipoli for just 8 weeks. By 12th January 1916 he was serving with 1st Infantry battalion and after being recommend for a commission he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Infantry battalion whilst in Tel-el- Kebir, Egypt. In February Percy became part of the newly formed 55th Infantry battalion, part of 14th Brigade, 5th (Australia) Division II Anzac Corps and later was sent to defend the Suez Canal around Ferry Port

Captain PW Chapman MC (vwma.org)

In June 1916 it was the turn of II Anzac Corps to be transferred to the Western Front and they arrived at Marseilles, France in late June. They moved to Armentières to take over from I Anzac Corps who had been moved to the Somme and the 5th Division commenced training. However on the night of 12th July Percy & his battalion following the rest of 5th Division moved to Bois Grenier in preparation for a diversionary attack planned for the 19th at Fleurbaix (Fromelles). On 16th July Percy was promoted to Lieutenant & 3 days later the 5th Division, the Division with the least experience of trench warfare in France would go into battle at 6pm

The attack was a disaster with little planning & no clear objectives. The 5th & 8th Australian Divisions would attack with the British 61st Division after a 7 hour preliminary bombardment, the Germans knew they were coming!

Initially the 14th Brigade took around 1000 metres of the German trenches but due to the failure of the 15th Brigade,who had suffered severely in no man’s land, they had to withdraw the following morning

Percy was awarded the Military Cross on this day with the Citation for his Military Cross: ‘For conspicuous gallantry during an action. He repeatedly led bombing attacks along the enemy’s trenches and fought them back long enough to enable many of our wounded to reach safety’. (Source: Commonwealth Gazette No. 184, (Date: 14 December 1916)

It was a huge tragedy for the Australians over 5500 men became casualties with nearly 2000 of those being killed or dying of wounds. They lost a further 400 who were taken prisoner & for many months the 5th Division was taken out of the line to regroup & retrain. By October 1916 they were transferred to the Somme and the area around Flers. Percy was wounded with a gunshot wound to his leg not long after and after being treated in hospital in England he wouldn’t return to front line service until December however on 11th November Percy was promoted to Captain

Early 1917, after a bitter winter, saw the 5th Division became involved in the Battle of the Ancre & in March 1917 they followed the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. Involved in skirmishes with the Germans it was on 12th March that Percy was reported as missing after going out on patrol. 3 days later his body was found on the parapet of the German trench known as Sunray at Guedecourt. A report by a Pvt D Whalan of 10th Platoon C Company 55th battalion states that one of Captain Chapman’s legs and an arm appeared to have been blown off by a shell & that he was dead. His body was taken back to 14th Field Ambulance and buried alongside it in the cemetery already established at Bernafay Wood. In a condolence letter to Chapman’s father, Sergeant Stephen Philip Livingstone wrote, “…the boys respected him so much that they always referred to him as Captain Chappie, and I never heard anyone speak a single disrespectful word of him…

Captain PW Chapman’s original grave marker ( AWM P03788.004)

He now rests in Grave J.42 with the words “Our Beloved Son A.W.C & G.E.C” the initials of his parents, Archibald Wellesley Chapman & Gertrude Elizabeth Chapman engraved at the base

GS wagon passes Bernafay Wood in September 1916 (©IWM Q1541)

Percy’s story isn’t unique of course and it’s just one of dozens that’s waiting to be discovered in Bernafay Wood so I do urge you to please have a look yourself and try to search out the stories of those who rest eternally here. It’s not my intention to plagurise others hardwork in research so I won’t reproduce their work here. As a starting point Tim Bell on his 17th Manchester’s website has some further reading here https://17thmanchesters.wordpress.com and also worth a look is https://www.ww1cemeteries.com/bernafay-wood-roh-a-h.html by Brent Whittam & Terry Heard which has some information & many photos of those laid here

Spring sunlight at Bernafay Wood ( Authors Own Photo)

It really is a beautiful cemetery surrounded by wonderful yellow fields of rapeseed with views towards Delville Wood & Longueval to the North and Westwards across the Vallée de Longueval to Bazentin and South West to Montauban. A great place to spend a warm Spring or Summers evening with those wonderful Sunsets casting there rays across the horizon. For me it’s certainly a place you should visit

Iron Harvest at Bernafay, Look but never touch! (Authors Own Photo)

Thanks again for joining me this week and so get in touch or leave your comments here or on twitter @Terriermcd


Montauban, Battleground Europe by Graham Maddocks



The Middlebrook Guide to the Somme Battlefields by Martin & Mary Middlebrook


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


September Guest Spot

In this month’s Guest Spot I’m very pleased to be joined by Valentin Pesant, a young French Commonwealth War Graves Commission gardener, who gives us an insight into his work & his inspirations. Valentin is still learning English so his answers have been translated using an online translator ( My French isn’t that good either!). Hopefully Valentin’s answers come across correctly after translation but for added assurance I’ve also shown his original answers in French for all you clever bilingual folks out there

Valentin Pesant, CWGC (Source Valetin Pesant twitter)

Bienvenue Valentin, Can you begin with telling us a little about yourself and your family?

Je m’appelle valentin, j’ai 22 ans je vis dans un petit village dans le Nord Pas De Calais plus précisément à Ligny Saint Flochel entre Saint Pol Sur Ternoise et Arras.je suis jardinier pour la CWGC, ma soeur et coiffeuse, ma mère et secrétaire médical chez les sapeurs pompier, et mon père et agent de sécurité

My name is Valentin, I am 22 years old. I live in a small village in the Nord Pas De Calais more precisely in Ligny Saint Flochel between Saint Pol Sur Ternoise and Arras. I am a gardener for the CWGC, my sister is a hairdresser, my mother a medical secretary for the fire department, and my father is a security guard

You’re a gardener for the CWGC based in the Ecoivres Group. Which area of France does this cover? Are there any cemeteries or memorials that people will be familiar with?

Je suis jardinier a la CWGC et ma base et a Ecoivres petit village du Nord Pas De Calais. Mon secteur concerne les alentours d’Ecoivres mais aussi dans le Ternois (Saint Pol Sur Ternoise, Hesdin, Fillièvres) nous appelons cela la Vallée car le secteur d’Hesdin et entourée de vallée.Dans mon secteur nous n’avons pas de mémoriaux mais de très grand cimetière par exemple le cimetière d’Ecoivres fait 1 hectare et comptes 1728 stèles du Commonwealth et 786 Français et Allemands. Le cimetière qui a le plus de tombes de guerre que j’entretien et celui de  Duisans, il compte à lui seule 3289 stèles. Mais nous avons aussi un cimetière qui attire beaucoup de visiteur et surtout de fans des Pink Floyd car le grand père de Roger Water repose au cimetière britannique de Maroeuil et il y’a quelques années Roger Water et venu ici au cimetière de Maroeuil avec ses enfants et il y a tournée une vidéo pour rendre hommage à tous ces hommes, ainsi que son grand père pour tous ce qu’ils ont pus faire pour la France, et cette vidéo  est passer pendant un de ces concerts

I am a gardener at the CWGC and my base is at Ecoivres, a small village in Nord Pas De Calais. My sector concerns the surroundings of Ecoivres but also in the Ternois (Saint Pol Sur Ternoise, Hesdin, Fillièvres) we call it the Valley because the Hesdin sector is surrounded by a valley. In my sector we have no memorials but very large cemeteries for example the cemetery at Ecoivres is 1 hectare and counts 1728 Commonwealth Headstones ,786 that are French & German. The cemetery which has the most war graves that I maintain is that of Duisans, it alone has 3289 headstones. We also have a cemetery which attracts a lot of visitors and especially fans of Pink Floyd because Roger Waters Grandfather rests in the British cemetery of Maroeuil and a few years ago Roger Waters came here to the cemetery of Maroeuil with his children and he made a video there to pay homage to all these men, as well as his grandfather for all that they did for France, and this video is shown during one of these concerts.(Editors note: The video is part of a film/ documentary made in 2014 of Pink Floyd’s The Wall by Roger Waters himself. His Grandfather was Sapper 158540 George Henry Waters 256 Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers killed on 14th September 1916. He was from County Durham. The war diary of 256 Tunnelling Co (WO95/488/10) actually records that at 9.50am he was killed by an aerial torpedo and a Private 27559 J Astbury was wounded whilst they were at Agney Les Duissans. Roger Waters father Lt Eric Waters 8th Royal Fusiliers would be killed in the Second World War on 18th February 1944 in Italy and is the inspiration for many songs on the album The Wall)

Grave of Sapper George Henry Waters (Image Valentin Pesant)

How long have you worked for the CWGC and how did you become involved?

Je travaille a la CWGC depuis 2 ans, et ma date d’entrée à CWGC ne peut pas s’oublier car je suis arrivé un 6 juin 2018, alors que 74 ans avant le débarquement avait lieu, je suis devenu impliqué car j’aime mon travail pour qui je le fais et pourquoi je le fais, j’ai beaucoup de respect pour ces hommes et ces femmes qui se sont battue pour notre liberté, je suis très fière de faire parti de la Commonwealth War Graves Commission, voir les familles venir des 4 coins du monde pour prier devant la tombe d’un grand oncle d’un arrière grand père ou d’autre membres de la famille et toujours émouvant a voir mais aussi un grand plaisir d’avoir les remerciements des familles pour l’entretien du cimetière

I have been working at the CWGC for 2 years, and my date of joining the CWGC cannot be forgotten because I arrived on June 6, 2018, 74 years after D Day took place. I became involved because I love my job for who I do it for & why I do it. I have a lot of respect for these men and women who fought for our freedom, I am very proud to be part of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. To see the families come from all over the world to pray in front of the grave of a Great Uncle or a Great-Grandfather or another member of their family is always moving to see but it is also a great pleasure to have the thanks from the families for the maintenance of the cemetery

You and your colleagues all work so hard to keep the cemeteries & memorials looking so clean & tidy,that must give you a great deal of pride but also it must be very hard work? Can you describe a typical working day and what your work involves? 

Il est vrai que notre travaille peu paraître facile à première vue, mais nous devons tenir une qualité irréprochable, je vais donc  vous décrire une journée d’hiver. il faut savoir que l’hiver le gazon et en sommeil il ne pousse donc plus ainsi que les fleurs et les arbres, l’hiver notre travail consiste à planter des plantes devants les stèles la ou il en manque car peut être que l’été d’avant le soleil a brûlé la plantes et celle ci n’a pas survécu, mais si je change une seule plante il faut que je regarde sur toute la bordure si celle ci y est encore et  si je dois la changer aussi, il ne faut jamais laisser une stèles sans plante elle doit être toujours fleurie le long de l’année, notre travail consiste a garder le cimetière propre et fleurie tout le long de l’année chaque plante que nous plantons pousse dans chaque saisons, une plante qui fleurit au printemps quand celle ci ne fleurit plus celle d’été reprend la relève et quand celle d’été et terminer celle de l’automnes arrive. toujours de la couleur le long de l’année, mais il y’a aussi du desherbage et du binnage avant l’ariver du primtemps.

It is true that our work may seem easy at first glance, but we have to maintain impeccable quality, so I will describe a winter day to you. You should know that in winter the grass is dormant and therefore no longer grows as well as the flowers and trees. In winter our work consists of planting plants in front of the headstones where they are missing because perhaps in the summer the sun had burnt the plants and this one did not survive. But if I change a single plant I have to look over the entire border if it is still there and if I have to change it too, we must never leave a headstone without a plant & it must always be in bloom throughout the year. Our job is to keep the cemetery clean and in bloom throughout the year each plant that we plant grows in each season, a plant that blooms in the spring when it no longer blooms, the summer one then takes over again and when the summer one finishes that of the autumn arrives. Always colour throughout the year, but there is also weeding and hoeing to be done before the spring arrives

Is there a cemetery or memorial that you like the most? And why?

J’aime beaucoup le mémorial de Vimy, Thiepval, Villers Bretonneux, ils sont d’une architecture incroyable qui représente les forces du Commonwealth venu ici en France se battre pour un pays qui n’était le leur et venir mourir pour nous libérer des nazis, quand le 10 novembre arrive ici en France il y’a une cérémonie au monument Canadien de Vimy j’y vais tous les ans et je peux vous dire que l’émotion est très grandes, un joueur de cornemuse et la ainsi qu’un trompettiste  quand il joue les hymnes aux morts ou les hymnes nationaux et que cela résonne dans les plaines de Vimy vous attraper des frissons dans le dos

I really like the memorial of Vimy, Thiepval,Villers Bretonneux, they are of an incredible architecture which represents the forces of the Commonwealth who came to France to fight for a country which was not theirs and they died to free us from the Germans , when November 10 (sic 11th) arrives here in France there is a ceremony at the Canadian Vimy monument. I go there every year and I can tell you that the emotion is very great. A bagpipe player as well as a trumpeter & when it plays hymns to the dead or the national anthems and it echoes across the Vimy Plains it sends chills down your spine

You take some beautiful photographs that you kindly share via twitter. Has photography been something that you have always had an interest in?

Je dois avouer que la photographie n’était pas  une chose au quelle je me suis intéressé étant jeune, mais au début de mes premiers  mois a la CWGC  j’ai commencer a prendre des photos de nos sites, et poster sur Twitter, et c’est avec stupéfaction que les personnes sur twitter aimer mon travail pour qui je le faisais   ils ont aussi un respect envers le travail que j’effectue, des responsables de la CWGC on commencer a me suivre sur le réseau Twitter et il y’a aussi une personne a la CWGC qui m’a donné envie de continuer dans la photos de nos sites mais aussi des fleurs qu’on peut planter et des mémoriaux. il y’a aussi le  drone il m’a appris a l’utiliser a prendre de magnifique vidéo et photos maintenant on se donne chacun de petit conseil pour la qualité de nos photos ou vidéo. Maintenant quand j’arrive dans un site je vais prendre une photo d’une rose mais essayer de jouer avec le soleil, l’emplacement de la rose avec la steles derrière si la rose et rouge et la steles et blanche les couleurs ressorte, j’essaye de prendre une photos différente de celle qu’on peut prendre tous les jours. mais je ne pourrais plus me passer de mon téléphone ou mon drone pour prendre des vidéos ou photos de nos sites

I have to admit that photography was not something I was interested in as a youngster, but at the beginning of my first months at the CWGC I started taking pictures of our sites, and posting on Twitter, and it is with amazement that the people on twitter loved my work for who i was doing it for & they also have a respect for the work i do. Officials from the CWGC started following me on twitter and there was also a person at the CWGC who made me want to continue in the photos of our sites but also of the flowers that can be planted & the memorials. There is also the drone he taught me how to use. It takes wonderful videos and photos now we each give each other a little advice for the quality of our photos or videos. Now when I arrive in a site I will take a picture of a rose but try to play with the sun, the location of the rose with the headstones behind. If they are pink or red roses the headstone and it’s white colours stand out. I try to take a different picture than the one you can take every day. But I can no longer do without my phone or my drone to take videos or photos of our sites

Duissans Cemetery (Image Valentin Pesant)

Do you have any personal family connection to the Great War or indeed the Second World War?

J’ai un arrière grand père qui a fait la première guerre mondial il était caporal de la cavalerie, nous avons récemment retrouvé une photos de lui en uniformes, j’ai ma grand mère aussi qui a aujourd’hui 91 ans qui a vécu la seconde guerre mondial les allemands sont venu chez elle pour chercher les matelas, et quand les anglais sont arrivés ma grand mère et aller les voir  et un anglais a donné une petite vierge a ma grand mère qui a son tour me la donner elle est toujours dans mon polaire de travail

I have a great-grandfather who fought in the First World War he was a cavalry corporal, we recently found a picture of him in uniform. I also have my grandmother who is now 91 years old who lived through WWII the Germans came to her house to look for mattresses. When the English arrived my grandmother went to see them and an Englishman gave a little Virgin Mary to my grandmother who in turn gave it to me. She is still in my work fleece

France suffered greatly in both world wars and lived for many years under German occupation. How is the Great War or La Grande Guerre viewed in France today? Is there much interest?

Il y’a beaucoup d’intérêt en France pour la première comme la deuxième guerre mondial surtout dans ma région le Nord Pas De Calais ainsi que la Somme et aussi en Normandie

There is a lot of interest in France for the First and Second World War especially in my region the Nord Pas De Calais as well as on the Somme and also in Normandy

Do you have any plans or career aspirations in working for the CWGC?

Oui,j’ai des projets au seins de la CWGC je souhaite monter dans l’avenir encadrer mon équipe puis un groupe et par la suite je voudrais être superviseur de l’assurance et qualité de nos cimetière partout en France

Yes, I have projects within the CWGC. I would like to go up in the future to supervise my team then a group and then I would like to be supervisor of the assurance and quality of our cemeteries throughout France

If the CWGC gave you the chance to work anywhere in the world where would you choose?

Si la CWGC je me donnait la chance de travailler n’importe ou je choisirai la Normandie je suis attiré depuis tout petit par cette région passionnée de l’histoire des 2 grandes guerre, oui j’irai en Normandie j’envisage de partir d’ici quelques années, après peut être en UK pour apprendre a parler Anglais

If the CWGC gave myself the chance to work anywhere I would choose Normandy. I have been attracted from a very young age by this region. I’m passionate about the history of the 2 major wars, yes I will go to Normandy. I plan to leave here in a few years, after maybe i visit the UK to learn to speak English

A few quick questions if I may

Rugby or Football fan?


Red or White Wine?

Je ne bois pas de vin

I don’t drink wine

Favourite Celebrity?

Célébrité je ne sais pas Série oui Game Of Thrones un acteur et venu visiter notre musée mais personne ne me la dit j’étais déçu 

Celebrity I don’t know. Series yes Game Of Thrones. An actor came to visit our museum but nobody told me I was disappointed

Favourite season of the year?


Spring / Winter

Valentin, I would like to thank you for being my guest this month & to say a huge Thank You to you & all your colleagues for the work you do. Is there a final message that you’d like to say to the readers or the families of the fallen of the UK & Commonwealth that you so lovingly look after? 

Ne jamais oublier nos soldats que leur mémoire vivent a jamais

Never forget our soldiers whose memory lives on forever

You can follow Valentin on twitter @valetinpst and see his wonderful photos and the work that he and his colleagues carry out for the CWGC

Join me next month for another Guest Spot taking a slightly different route whereby it’ll be a Guest feature article


What are we?

One thing that I and others who aren’t professional historians or academics can struggle with is how we identify ourselves amongst the Great War community

I call myself an Amateur but refrain from adding the word historian. Firstly, because I feel a fraud if I use that as I’ve never worked on or studied for a degree or have any formal qualification in the subject (I never even got the chance to go to college nevermind University), nor am I a published author or a battlefield guide. I feel, whether that’s rightly or wrongly, that it takes away something from those who have studied & worked so hard to gain that recognition

Secondly, I’ve also seen other’s remonstrated for daring to use that sacred word, as some believe it is, by a minority of recognised professionals & academics in the past & when someone has asked a question or asked for some advice they have just been told to “Go read my book!” Whilst this is very rare something like this can put someone off from contributing to debates in the future

Of course this can happen amongst the amateur world as well. You only have to look on social media, online forums or attend meetings of supposedly like-minded individuals to find a Billy Big Balls strutting their stuff and thinking they know it all, that their version of events is the only correct one despite evidence contradicting this or relishing in the fact they’ve spotted that you’ve made a mistake in something that you’ve either said or posted & want to let the whole world know about it! Personally I welcome any feedback both good & bad. It’s how we learn from our mistakes after all, but there are ways to go about providing it in a way that doesn’t totally squash someone’s confidence. As someone who’s always struggled with self confidence it can be soul destroying at times & I know from speaking to others they can feel the same

I’m leaning heavily into research these days but strangely I don’t have the same apprehension about calling myself an Amateur Researcher (Ducks for cover now as Professional Researchers come after me!). I do often wonder why that is. But for certain I don’t like the use of the word fan or enthusiast as a description. To me it feels disrespectful when connected with the Great War (I’m probably just an odd one which is what you may already be thinking about me anyway!!)

From top to bottom we are all part of this amazing community of Great War history and all of us have a wealth of knowledge & information to share that others may not be aware of. For example we may know where exactly our local battalion was raised or where the Territorials used to do their training on a weekend. We can tell you about those named on our local village war memorial as well as share the incredible stories & experiences of many of our own family members. We may even have some wonderful personal mementos from the Great War that have either been inherited or picked up over the years and those of us who are lucky to be able to visit the old battlefields can share our experiences of these pilgrimages

Some of us will have a general interest in the Great War, others will concentrate on say a regiment or division , a particular individual, a specific battle or year, weaponry, uniforms, medical & nursing services, animals or life on the home front & social history

Respected & recognised historians & authors such as Paul Reed, Taff Gillingham, Peter Doyle & Chris Baker to name but a few have embraced social media in its various forms & have always been willing to engage & to freely share their knowledge or offer advice for which many of us are eternally grateful for. They, I believe, recognise that we all have something to contribute & that history is not some exclusive club and that we can all learn from each other regardless of our level of experience. The phrase ‘Everyday is a school day’ is certainly something which rings true for me

For everyone of course there will be a limit to what you may wish to share. If you’re writing a book say, involved in a TV project or creating a website resource you don’t want to be giving away everything or you’ll never sell any copies of the book ,get anyone visiting your website or watching you on the tellybox!!

In this 21st Century there is sadly still the added pressures & prejudices if you’re female. In our still predominantly male dominated community the question “What possibly could a woman know about the Great War?” still raises it’s ugly head. Now that is a load of old tosh! It’s great to see in recent years that many talented individuals who just happen to be women such as Lucy Betteridge-Dyson, Alexandra Churchill , Alina Nowobilska & Sandra Gittins are giving women historians a strong & powerful voice and producing & sharing some great stuff ,as well as excellent battlefield guides such as Genevra Charsley & Jo Hook, amongst many others, who have established themselves through the quality of their work. Not forgetting of course all the amazing ‘amateur’ ladies out there who share their Great War stories and research, yes I include you fairylight! Gender should have no bearing on anything at all is my honest opinion

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we are all students of history in some form or another so at the end of the day does it really matter if we were to call ourselves Amateur historians or not? I still have my personal doubts of course but I’d really love to hear your views on this and to get views from across the whole spectrum so please do share your comments here or tweet me @TerrierMcD

Join me next week when it’s time for another Guest Spot, giving a voice again to someone who may not normally have the opportunity to share their work & knowledge with the wider world


A family mystery

I was raised by my Grandparents and I’d say that they were most probably my biggest inspiration for becoming interested in history. Both of them had served in the Second World War, my Grandma in the ATS & my Grandad in Kings Liverpool Regiment  both being attached to the Royal Signals and posted to Huddersfield where they met. After my Grandad returned to the UK in 1946 after serving in Eritrea, India, Tunisia & Libya they settled in Huddersfield hence my connection & why I’m a Yorkshireman!

My Grandparents on their wedding day in 1947. They couldn’t afford a wedding dress or suit so dug out their old uniforms (Authors own Collection)

I remember when I was little that we used to visit my Great Grandma, who was my Grandad’s Mum, in Heywood, Lancashire where my Grandad was originally from and I asked my Grandma where her Mum was. She replied she didn’t have a Mum & that she had been brought up in foster care. Being young & probably not understanding what this meant  I didn’t ask anymore

A few years later as I was older the question popped up again and my Grandma told me that she had been born in Saltburn by the Sea in the North East and her maiden name was Franklin. She couldn’t remember anything of her childhood apart from growing up with a couple in Egton Bridge near Whitby and going to school & attending the local church and being confirmed there. After she left school she went into domestic service at a house in Whitby and I always remember her saying that the son of the house had a big posh car. (Only a few years ago I learnt that she had worked for the Headlam family a wealthy & prominent local family who had made their fortune in the Ship owning business. There were 2 brothers who were into racing cars, one of them Leonard Headlam being killed in an car accident in 1930 on his way to take part on the famous Brooklands circuit & the other William Headlam whom my Grandma worked for owned a custom built Aston Martin. Another brother John had been killed Aged 19 in the Great War on 30th May 1918 whilst on active service as a Lieutenant with the Royal Flying Corps. William Headlam bought Raithwaite Hall, Whitby in 1939 & continued to live there until his death in 1990 aged 81. He left his £7 million fortune to his nurse who had cared for him for many years & Raithwaite Hall is now a 5 star hotel). I always wondered why we went on holiday to Whitby so much as a child and I guess this was the reason why & because of those holidays it’s a place very special to me and where I still visit several times a year. By 1941 my Grandma had joined the ATS and also married a local lad from nearby Sleights who was serving in the RAF. She never told me this info but my Mum has since said that Grandma had revealed this to her almost 40 years after & said it was a wartime romance & that they should never have got married, they later got divorced

One day my Grandma showed me a copy she had of her birth certificate which showed she had been born on 21st November 1918, just 10 days after the Armistice. Her Mum was called Lindsley Franklin nee Pelmear & her Dad John Francis MacDonald Franklin a Deputy in an Ironstone mine and the address shown was 24 Dixon Street, Skelton which it turns out was Lindsley’s parents home but it also showed that my Grandma had been born at 23 Pearl Street, Saltburn by the Sea. The mystery deepened as this wasn’t a hospital that I could find but one of those large Victorian seaside terrace houses with several floors. I remember when I was about 11 yrs old going on holiday to Saltburn with my Grandparents and them asking local people if they knew anything about Pearl Street and it being remarked on by someone that is was some kind of Children’s home. Even then I could see how much this upset my Grandma. But how true this is I’ve yet to research fully to find out. I’m pretty sure a few years ago you could research a particular house or street online or am I imagining this?

If you’re still with me at this point you’re probably thinking what the hell has all this to do with the Great War? Well next to her father’s name in the father’s Occupation section together with his mining job was written, Sapper 175488 Royal Engineers. Now I’ve got your attention haven’t I!

Of course all this info would come well before the internet & in later years before any records had been digitised online. So at this point I couldn’t do anymore research. And sadly in February 2003 I lost my Grandma Aged 84 followed a year later in May 2004 by my Grandad Aged 82. Both lost to that horrible disease Alzheimer’s/ Dementia. So she went to her grave not knowing anything about her family

It was years later that I discovered online research and how to find the right stuff & I amazingly found that my Great Grandad’s service record had survived and this opened up a whole lot of answers but also raised many more questions

My Great Grandfather’s Service Record ( © Ancestry.com/TNA)

Originally joining the Army Service Corps (RASC) as Pvt 141497 on 14th October 1915 at West Hartlepool Aged 42 years & 2 months my Great Grandad was given a medical where it shows he was 5’8″ in height, weighed 172lbs with a 42 1/2″ chest. He had no distinctive marks but its recorded that he had bad teeth. Another mystery popped up here as he gives his address as 50 Eleventh Street, Horden, Peterlee some 36 miles north of Skeleton where he supposedly worked in an Ironstone mine, more on this later. He’s shown as living with his wife at this address and their 2 children Ina born 1912 & Mavis born 1914. It shows that he had married Lindsay Pelmear on 14th May 1910 at the United Presbyterian Church in Middlesbrough

On 15th June 1916 my grandfather was transferred to a Royal Engineers Tunnelling Company at Clipstone Camp as Sapper 175488. A month later he disembarked in France on 17th July at the General Base before joining the 174th Tunnelling Company on 29th July 1916

Details of clothing issued to Sapper 175488 J. Franklin (© Ancestry.com/TNA)

A few days after he was transferred to 178th Tunnelling Co who were at this time based on the Somme. They were to be involved in the tunnelling of a mine at High Wood which the 178th began in early August. They dug down 25 feet and then constructed a gallery 310 feet long which they packed with 3000lbs of ammonal right below a German machine gun position. On 3rd September this mine was blown only 30 seconds prior to the infantry attack by 1st bn Black Watch & the explosion created a large crater taking out the machine gun & it’s crew. On the right near Wood Lane the 1st Cameronians & 8th Berkshires attacked, their advance made easier by the lack of the machine gun position. Vicious hand to hand fighting took place & losses were high. A counter attack by the Germans eventually pushed the British back & the attack had failed to not only take the Wood itself but also Wood Lane

On 8th September another attack was to be made this time by 1st Gloucesters & 2nd Welch Regiment on the Western side of the wood. John & his comrades in 178th Tunnelling Co had filled the gallery underneath the earlier crater on the Eastern side with the same amount of ammonal as before & again blew it just before an infantry attack on 9th Sept by 2nd Royal Sussex & 2nd KRRC who successfully managed to capture Wood Lane to the east but High wood still stood firmly in German hands. It would be another 6 days before a further attack on the 15th September led by 47th (London) Division supported by the New Zealand Division on the right & the 50th Division on the left that saw High Wood finally fall

Tunnels at Vimy Ridge giving a an idea of the conditions and incredible work that Tunnellers achieved ( Authors own photo)

My Great Grandad is recorded as being wounded on 8th September suffering shrapnel wounds to his face & left eye. He was admitted to 1/3 N ‘bn Field Ambulance (which I can’t trace, Possibly Northumberland?) before ending up in a Casualty Clearing Station at Rouen

Discharged on 16th October he then rejoins his tunnelling company. He takes 9 days leave in November 1916 but after his return on 12th November he is further admitted to 22 General Hospital at Camiers, Etaples for 10 days on 6th December and doesn’t rejoin his unit until the 18th December. 1917 sees John transferred back to 174th Tunnelling Company on 7th February until he’s granted leave from 4th- 18th December. In the final year of the war in 1918 John is admitted to hospital again on 17th July and is transferred back to Blighty on 5th August to 3rd General Hospital. For John the war is over and he’s transferred to Shoreham on Sea London Command in late September eventually to the RE Tunneling Company depot on 29th November 1918 at Chatham, transferred to a dispersal station at Ripon on New Year’s Eve 1918 before being discharged on 29th January 1919

His address on discharge is given as Catnab Farm, Saltburn by the Sea but this is later altered on records to 6 Oliver Street, Linthorpe, Middlesbrough

Of course you don’t have to be a genius to work out if my Grandma was born on 21st November 1918 then she would have been conceived in February 1918 when John was back in in France/ Flanders. This is likely to explain why my Grandma was given up and maybe to avoid any shame her mother registered John as her father even though he couldn’t be. It’s one of those stories that we’ll never know the real truth about what went on I don’t think

Now as mentioned earlier another little mystery John’s record states he was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland but I can find no record of his birth. On his Service Record by his age he was born August 1874 but on both the 1911 & 1939 census he’s recorded as born in 1876 which isn’t unusual I’ve found this before over my years of research. In the 1911 Census he’s also shown living at Skelton which is where there’s the twist I referred to earlier.

A letter in his service record from the Mine Manager says he has worked at the Longacre mine in Skelton for over 15 years. So why in 1910 when he’s married does say he’s living in Middlesbrough? Why on joining up does he say he lives at Peterlee? In another twist on his marriage certificate he shows himself as John Alfred Frankland and living at Glenhow Cottage Saltburn & his wife is shown as Linda not Lindsley her address given as Bolckow Street, Middlesbrough. Her father is John Pelmear another Deputy at an Ironstone mine which does match up with her family tree

Of course you could say “Oh well it’s a different person! But with a same date of marriage? Same Church? Same first names? Similar Surnames? Same connections with Skelton & Saltburn? Same children? On the 1911 census they are shown as John & Linda Frankland. And their children are registered as Frankland when they are born but this becomes Franklin on John’s Service Record but when the children go onto marry they revert back to Frankland? In the 1939 census John is again shown as Franklin but this is amended next to Lindsley to Frankland by someone later in Green Ink. MacDonald is converted to McDonald on his Service record, maybe a simple clerical error? Was Frankland changed to Franklin on my Grandma’s birth certificate to protect the family? We’re they illiterate or even something like a strong accent and the name got lost in translation? All guesses I know but maybe some are true

I can’t find any reference to my Great Grandad’s death in any sources and what I find sad is that in 1921 they had another child named after my Grandma’s mother Lindsley. Her mother lived for many years dying in 1968 and I believe the last of her sisters died in 1987. I wonder if she ever thought of my Grandma or her sisters even knew? All those years alone not knowing what happened or if any family was still around yet in there was family including Grandparents still living in the same area around Skelton

One day I hope to solve at least some more of this family mystery, it’s too late for my Grandma but I hope I can find something or even make connect with that side of the family. If you think you can help then please get in contact either here or via twitter @TerrierMcd

Thanks as ever for taking the time to read & to add if you want to know more about the RE Tunnelling Companies there is a wealth of info out there by the likes of experts such as Jeremy Banning, Peter Barton, Simon Jones & Peter Doyle amongst others so please do check them out for yourself


Cemetery Focus: Dantzig Alley

In the first of a series where I look at individual cemeteries on the Western Front I’ve decided to start with Dantzig Alley which is one that has drawn me back many times over the years

Dantzig Alley British Cemetery (Authors own photo)

Located on the Somme by the side of the D64 road which runs from Montauban-de- Picardie to Mametz, the cemetery was one of many designed for the IWGC (Imperial War Graves Commission) by Sir Herbert Baker

It contains 2,053 graves & commemorations of which 518 are unidentified, 17 special memorials to those known or believed to be buried here as well as a further 71 special memorials to those known to be buried elsewhere but their grave lost

As you enter the cemetery, up a few short steps, if you look to your right you’ll see the Stone of Remembrance surrounded by rows of headstones. This is the original plot of 183 graves now known as Plot 1. These were started not long after the 1st of July & later used by Field Ambulance units stationed nearby as well as fighting units who took over the area at various times

The cemetery stands across the road from the German trench known as Danzig Alley, how this evolved into Dantzig is unknown. On 1st July 1916 this was on the boundary of 18th Division at Montuaban & 7th Division at Mametz, the latter to whom this area fell as part of their sector. 91st Brigade consisting of the 22nd Manchester’s & 2nd Queens were given this objective and successfully took it but with heavy casualties & requiring the assistance of 21st Manchester’s to support the final push

Many of those of 7th Division who fell on that day around Mametz & Fricourt now rest here together with casualties of the 18th & 30th Division concentrated from individual graves & long gone battlefield cemeteries some near Montuaban such as Vernon Street near the tip of Talus Bois, only 43 however of the 110 known to be buried here were ever recovered possibly due to the depth of the original trench (Source: Zero Hour Z Day, Jonathan Porter)

Others are from the surrounding areas as the battle progressed towards Longueval, High Wood, Delville Wood & further on Ginchy, Lesboeufs. You’ll see many of those in particular of the Pals battalions of Manchester & Liverpool with their familiar regimental badges engraved on this headstones. The area was lost in the Spring Offensive of 1918 and it wasn’t retaken by the allies until August of that year so you will find a few graves from this period of August/September 1918

The cemetery offers some superb views of the Somme battlefields, to the east are glimpses of Mametz village & towards Fricourt & beyond to Albert, on the far SW horizon Mansell Copse & Bois Francais can be seen, to the north Mametz Wood and across the Longueval ridge and on a clear day towards Contalmaison & Poziéres

As we move back to the entrance of the cemetery on the wall just beyond the shelter of brick & Portland stone, which can be a godsend at times from a heavy shower or a strong wind, is a plaque remembering the men of the Royal Welch Fusiliers who fell on the Somme 1916-18 and at the very back of the cemetery can also be found a seat dedicated to the 14th bn Royal Welch Fusiliers who had a baptism of fire between here and at Mametz Wood. Very apt that this looks towards a panorama of that infamous wood itself

The Cross of Sacrifice sits at the back of this cemetery and a further bench can be found beyond the Stone of Remembrance,a perfect place to sit & reflect in your own thoughts despite it being so close to the road all external noise seems to disappear

Dantzig Alley looking North (Authors Own Photo)

Those buried or commemorated here lay side by side regardless of rank and as ever are equally looked after by the CWGC and on my many visits I’ve always found it to be immaculate

Many of you will no doubt have heard of Captain Charles May of B company 22nd Manchester’s buried here after being killed by shellfire on 1st July in the German trenches that his battalion had successfully taken

He had some stories published but it was from the publication of his diaries that he is probably well known. I won’t reproduce the details except to say a copy of To Fight Alongside Friends: The First World War Diary of Charlie May edited by GERRY HARRISON is worth adding to your collection

Diary of Charlie May

I have a few connections with individuals in this cemetery that I always like to visit one of them being Pvt Charles Edward Randall. A professional footballer from County Durham he had signed for Newcastle United in 1908 before being loaned out to newly formed (& my team) Huddersfield Town between 1908 & 1910 playing a forward position where he made 19 appearances scoring 6 goals. He moved to Woolwich Arsenal in 1911 before enlisting with 4th bn Coldstream Guards as Private 15469 in March 1915. In the Battle of Morval 25th-28th September 1916 the Guards Division were near Lesboeufs and it’s likely Charles was wounded there and then brought back by Field Ambulance units where he died on 27th September Aged 32 and was buried here at Dantzig Alley Plot I.D.6

Charles Edward Randall (FootballandtheFirstWorldWar.org)

My other connections are to two of the London Road railwaymen who I’ve mentioned previously in the blog ‘Railwaymens Memorial’

One of these men was Pvt 26999 William Birtwistle 21st Manchester Regiment who now rests in Plot III .G.7. A Goods Porter employed by the London & North Western Railway Company at Manchester London Road Station ( Now Piccadilly) he had enlisted & joined the 21st battalion. On 1st July as part of 91st Brigade 7th Division they found themselves behind their sister battalion the 22nd Manchester’s in support of the 1st bn South Staffordshire Regiment. This battalion would be the first to fight their way into Mametz village being submitted to heavy shell & machine gun fire yet they still managed to take several prisoners but we’re soon held up at around 7.45am near Cemetery Trench to the south of Mametz. At 8am men of the South Staffs entered the outskirts of the village but heavy casualties were taken so B & C companies of 21st Manchester’s were sent to assist. Another company of the 21st Manchester’s were sent to support their sister battalion the 22nd who had suffered a counter attack and had been pushed out of Danzig Alley. After several bombardments Danzig Alley was finally taken again at 1.30pm and the South Staffs together with the afformentioned companies of 21st Manchester’s successfully held the left part of Danzig Alley down in Mametz. William was killed in one of these attacks and he was buried amongst others in the site of an farm Orchard in Mametz village. 113 Labour Company would exhume & rebury William in later years. All that they had to go on was 2689 W.B Manchester when they found his original Grave marker

Pvt William Birtwistle ( Authors own Photo)

The second of the London Road men is Private 17241 James Thomas 20th bn Manchester Regiment. A native of Ancoats, Manchester he worked at the nearby railway station as a Goods Checker. On 1st July he was in the front line. A & B companies were in front of Aeroplane Trench with D company on their right in a quarry and C company just in front of D company with Bois Francais at their front & the craters. They were to be part of the subsidiary attack which would take place later in the day with the 7th Green Howards on their left & supported by 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers who amongst their numbers that day was Siegfried Sassoon. The frontage of the Manchester’s attack was huge in comparison to others that day and it was almost certain that things would not go well for them

At 2.30pm they went over the top 400 men walking 6 paces to cheers from the reserves of ‘Bravo Manchester’s’ Good Luck’. The first wave crossed without many casualties(Approx 40) most from a machine gun sited in Fricourt & disappeared from the sight of Sassoon 20 min’s later.

However on the far left near Wing Corner things weren’t so well. Tasked with bombing down Kitchen & Copper trenches towards Fricourt they were almost all wiped out. By 5pm A company 2nd RWF had sent over support but we’re met shell & machine gun fire.

The Manchester’s wounded lay everywhere & it had been reported they they were held up at Bois Francais Support. Hearing this 20th bn CO Lt Colonel H Lewis went to investigate and was killed almost immediately. James was killed in this area and dies aged 30. Together with his CO James would be buried close to where he fell close to Bois Francais being moved again by 113 Labour Company to Dantzig Alley where he now lies in Plot III.I.10

Pvt James Thomas (Authors own Photo)

I hope that you’ve enjoyed joining me on this brief visit & that you’ve maybe learnt a little about this cemetery & those that sleep here eternally that you didn’t know before. I really hope that it spurs you on to want to research some of those yourself and to share your own stories & memories that you have of Dantzig Alley

I hope you will join me again soon for another Cemetery focus


August Guest Spot

Welcome to the second of my monthly Guest Spots. I’m very happy to say I’m joined by fellow amateur & Great War enthusiast Roger Hildreth who I’ve had the pleasure to know by the medium of Twitter for many years

Roger Hildreth

Welcome to the blog Roger! Can you start by telling us a little about yourself & your background?

First, can I start by thanking you for inviting me to take part, but having read Chris Baker’s contribution, he is going to be a very hard act to follow! I am 68, retired, and have been happily married to Kath for nearly 41 years and we live in Solihull. We have 2 grown up children; a son who lives in Cardiff with his wife and our 2 grandchildren, and a daughter who lives a few miles away in Birmingham. I have had a bit of a nomadic life in my early years – I was born in Gosport, Hampshire then moved to Malta when I was 2, returning to London when I was 5. The family then moved to Bath in 1960 where I finished my junior & secondary education. The latter at the City of Bath Boy’s School, the alma mater of Roger Bannister who still held the cross country record when I was there! After that I went to Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University). For virtually all of my working years I was a Civil Servant with the Department for Work and Pensions, and its various predecessors, at various locations throughout the West Midlands. My last role was as Deputy Manager of the Pension Centre in Birmingham which closed in 2018. I was very fortunate to be able to take up an early retirement offer at that point (a golden handcuff offer to stay to the bitter end and close it down). It was a very easy decision to make and I have never regretted it.

We have a connection I believe with Heckmondwike where I live? 

Ah, Heckmondwike. We must be two of the few who can it spell it correctly! Yes, we certainly do have a connection because that is where my maternal grandfather, Arthur Hollingworth, enlisted in the Territorial Force on the 8th May 1913, but more of that later. He was a proud Yorkshireman having been born near Halifax. Which brings me on to another issue. All of my ancestors on both my mother’s and father’s side were born in one of the 3 Ridings (there is no such thing as South Yorkshire!!), and unfortunately I was the first to break the mould. Even my elder brother was born in Wetherby! Can I still call myself a Yorkshireman?

There’s Yorkshire blood in your veins so I think you can! Can you share with us some of the story of your Grandfather and his remarkable military career during the Great War? You’ve written a wonderful personal account of his life that I’m honoured to own

Thank you for your kind comments Wayne! My grandfather enlisted in the Territorial Force (as I previously explained) and he was assigned as a Bombardier to the 6th Battery of II West Riding Brigade Royal Field Artillery. This Brigade was to become 246th Brigade RFA upon reorganisation. At the outbreak of war Arthur & his chums were at their summer camp but were immediately recalled to base at Heckmondwike, and by the 14th August they were encamped in Doncaster. Here is a postcard of Arthur franked “Doncaster” and dated 25th September 1914:

Arthur Hollingworth, Doncaster 1914 (Private Collection)

On the 14th April 1915 Arthur’s RFA Brigade, along with the rest of the 49th Division, left for France and they headed to an area to the north of Neuve-Chapelle where they came into action for the first time on the 23rd April. They remained in this area as part of the 49th Divisional Artillery until the end of June 1915 when they headed to the dreaded Ypres Salient. Arthur’s guns were destined for the Brielen area, a village approximately 3 kilometres north west of Ypres. Some of their targets bear familiar names – Caesar’s Nose, Krupp Farm, Kiel Cottage etc. On the 18th November 1915 Arthur was promoted “in the field” to 2nd Lieutenant and on the following day suffered the effects of the first use of Phosgene gas by the Germans. Unfortunately, I lose touch of Arthur’s whereabouts during nearly all of 1916. The names of Officers promoted at about the same time appear in the War Diaries of 246th RFA Brigade, but Arthur’s does not. His Officer’s records are very thin and I don’t pick him up again until September 1916 when his name appears in the Army List as having being posted to B Battery of 3/II West Riding Brigade RFA which was in England. Whether he was injured and/or undergoing training before this time, I do not know. However, he was quickly transferred to 311th Brigade RFA (ex 2/II West Riding Brigade RFA) and he was back in France with them (as part of the 62nd Divisional Artillery) on 7th January 1917 and he remained with this Brigade until the end of the war. Initially 311th Brigade were in the Ancre Valley area before the Germans retreated to the Hindenburg Line – Beaucourt, Bois d’Hollande, Miraumont etc. At the end of March 1917, 311th RFA Brigade headed towards Arras having by then become an “Army” Brigade. They were then involved in the First Battle of the Scarpe which started on the 9th April, with the guns initially being just to the south of Roclincourt. 311th Brigade then headed further north and having being attached temporarily to the NZ Division, supported them in their attack during the Battle of Messines. Their ammunition dump was hit by hostile artillery on the 5th June and Arthur was awarded the Military Cross for removing and dressing the wounded and helping to extinguish the fire. Following a spell in the “Plugstreet” area, Arthur headed back to the Ypres Salient in October 1917 and became attached to the 4th Canadian Divisional Artillery. The guns were sited in the area of the road between Frezenberg and Zonnebeke and the Brigade played their part in the capture of Passchendaele by the Canadians. Early 1918 saw Arthur in the Vendelles area to the north west of St. Quentin and 311th Brigade were then caught up in the German Spring Offensive of the 21st March 1918 which saw them having to retreat a total of about 52 kilometres (as the crow flies) over a period of 11 days. April 1918 saw them back in the Arras area, this time south of the River Scarpe and at various locations. They were back north of the river at the beginning of August, supporting the final push to victory as they advanced. Arthur was awarded a bar to his Military Cross for an incident on the 15th October. When in command of an advance battery of guns he silenced some German machine guns which were holding up an Infantry advance. At the time of the Armistice on the 11th November, 311th Brigade was attached to the 2nd Canadian Divisional Artillery and Arthur was 6 kilometres to the south of Mons. Interestingly, as acting Major, he signed off the November Brigade War Diary

Major Hollingworth’s signature, 311 Army Brigade RFA War Diary (WO95/205 National Archives)
Major Hollingworth at Buckingham Palace after being presented with his Military Cross & Bar (Private Collection)

Editors Note: Arthur would have been in the 6th West Riding Battery RFA at the same time as Naylor Keach mentioned in my previous blog ‘On Your Doorstep’ & must have known him & maybe even were friends

Certainly a fascinating story & journey your Grandfather had! Was he the inspiration for you becoming interested in the Great War & did any other family members serve as well?

Yes, he was. And I wanted to ensure that I kept my mind active when I took early retirement. Other family members that served were my paternal Grandfather Herbert Hildreth of the 5th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment who was thrown immediately into the deep end at Ypres on the day of the gas attack in April 1915. He had a blighty wound in July 1915 and served the rest of the war as a musketry instructor. My Great Uncle Richard Hildreth of the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment who was transferred to the 23rd Middlesex when arriving in France at the end of June 1917. Unfortunately, he was injured on the 31st July at the start of the Third battle of Ypres and died of wounds the following day. He is buried at Godewaersvelde. The poor lad didn’t last long. Another Great Uncle James Vokes, also of the 5th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, was killed in action in March 1918 during the German spring offensive. He still lies out there somewhere and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial

Sjt Volkes, Pozieres Memorial,Somme(Authors Own Photo)

Is there any particular period or aspect of the Great War that interests you the most?

I think I would have to say 1917. There was so much going on in the Western front during this year – Retirement to the Hindenburg Line, Arras, Messines, Third Battle of Ypres etc. And it is also interesting to look at the artillery aspects of the war. Often neglected

I believe that you’re a lover of Belgian beer? Why would anybody not be! Any personal favourites that you can recommend people to try?

Stone the crows, a difficult one! But I can say I prefer the Blond beers. I haven’t tried them all (but I’m working on it) but so far if pushed I would have to say Tripel Karmeliet

I’ve seen from some of your twitter posts that you’re a huge cycling fan as well. Do you have a favourite rider, team or competition? Any favourite moments?

I don’t have a particular favourite rider or team; I tend to follow a rider I fancy for any individual race. I do love the Spring Classics, particularly the Tour of Flanders (which crosses many well known battlefield locations) and Paris-Roubaix. Of the stage races, a toss up between the Giro D’Italia and the Tour de France. I would love to have another French or Belgian winner again soon

And you’re a fan of Rugby? What’s your hopes & predictions for your team next season?

My team is Birmingham Moseley. Moseley was a fantastic team in the 80’s but now play at level 3. For this season, I just hope we can play at sometime or other. I can’t see us starting until the new year

On your Battlefield trips is there anywhere that you’ve been that’s a favourite place or has meant the most to you to visit?

Another difficult one! I do like the Arras area with my Grandfather having spent such a long time there. I am so grateful to Jeremy Banning (@jbanningww1) and Jim Smithson (@boiry62128) for their support in helping me understand the area. For some unexplained reason I really felt it at Bunyans Cemetery near Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines on Observation Ridge looking down to Battery Valley. A lot of RFA men lie in that Cemetery

Bunyans Cemetery (Private Collection)

Do you have any collections of Great War items? If so would you care to ?

I have started collecting a few WWI sweetheart brooches but my prized Great War item is the Bible that belonged to my Great Uncle James (Jas) Vokes, in which he has inscribed his details

Vokes Bible (Private Collection)

And now if I may a few quick fire questions

Chinese or Indian?


Bath or Shower?


Summer or Winter?


Tea or Coffee?


France or Belgium?

If I HAVE to choose, France

Well that concludes this month’s Guest Spot, and I’d like to thank you Roger again for agreeing to take part. It was great to be able to give a fellow Amateur a voice. And it was a really wonderful feature & I really do appreciate you sharing your Grandfather’s story especially. You can follow Roger on Twitter @hildreth_roger

If anyone would like to feature on these Guest Spots please do get in touch with me here or via Twitter @TerrierMcD