Men from the Darwen area commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
46th Company Machine Gun Corps, 3328
Corporal Ainsworth’s mother and father were John Ainsworth and Sarah Ann Cowell who married in 1871. Arnold was one of a large family and his siblings were William Albert, who was born in1872, Hannah Marie in 1874, Clara 1878, John Edwin 1882, Sarah Elizabeth 1883 and Herbert Cowell Ainsworth in 1884. By the 1911 census Arnold (34 years), and his wife, Ada Ainsworth (36 years) were living at Rydal Mount, Darwen. Sadly, the same entry records a crossed out entry of one female child who was still born. Arnold, at this time is listed as being employed an Estates Agent Assistant.
Corporal Arnold Ainsworth’s death September 15, 1916 was widely reported in the Darwen newspapers:
“The Darwen News”, Saturday September 30th, 1916:
The death in action is reported of Corporal Arnold Ainsworth of Rydal Mount, Leach Street, Belgrave Road. The Captain of his regiment writes to Mrs. Ainsworth as follows:-
‘’I very much regret to have to inform you that your husband, Corporal Ainsworth was killed in action on the 15th instantly. Whilst leading his team forward into action against the enemy. I am most extremely sorry to have lost your husband. He was one of the trustworthy N.C.O’s in my company and always willing to do any dangerous task. About a month ago I had offered to make him a sergeant, but he asked time to think it over. He was also thoroughly liked and respected by all officers, N.C.O.’s and men in his company and will be missed by everyone. He was buried on the battlefield by his men in a spot which he had just helped to capture from the enemy.’’
Corporal Ainsworth, who was 40 years of age, was a well-known townsman, being the son of Mr John Ainsworth, of Post Office Chambers, with whom he was in business as estate agent and tax collector. He enlisted voluntarily in a Liverpool Regiment and was latterly in the machine-gun section. Before joining the army, Corporal Ainsworth moved in many public circles. He was for many years identified with the United Methodist Church and Sunday School, where, amongst other official positions, he was a local preacher, Sunday School superintendent and Sunday school secretary. Interested in amateur theatricals, he was on many occasions a performer at the annual Café Chantants, being and was also prominent in Temperance circles. Being connected with the old Temperance Society.
Corporal Ainsworth was one of the promoters locally of the Athletic Volunteer Force and was treasurer up to the time of enlistment. During the long number of years that Mr. John Ainsworth was secretary to the Agricultural Association Corporal Ainsworth was closely identified with the work and during the latter years he was assistant secretary. By his untimely end a promising career is cut short and indeed the supreme sacrifice has been made.
Mr. and Mrs. John Ainsworth, the parents of Corporal Ainsworth, have this week received the following letter from the United Methodists Church, with which Corporal Ainsworth was so closely associated:-
At a meeting of the church and congregation held last evening (September 27th. 1916), the following resolution was unanimously passed:
‘’That we place on record our deep regret at the loss of Corporal Arnold Ainsworth, who was killed in action, when leading men against the enemy, on Friday 15th. September 1916, somewhere in France; and that we convey to Mrs Arnold Ainsworth, Mr and Mrs. John Ainsworth and family our sincere sympathy with them in their bereavement.’’
‘’ This meeting remembers with thankful appreciation the late Corporal Ainsworth life long association with our church and school, his interest in every department of our life and work and the many years of faithful and willing service he has rendered as, teacher, secretary, superintendent , choirmaster of the Band of Hope, leader and local preacher.’’
‘’ It rejoices to know that by his heroic courage and conscientious devotion to the perilous duties of his calling, he won the confidence and esteem of the officers and men of his Company; recognizes that in his death he has the supreme sacrifice for his King, his country, humanity and the Kingdom of God; and prays that the Divine consolation may be given to those whose hearts are stricken by his loss.’’
We forward the above in the hope that you may derive a little comfort in your sorrow from the knowledge of the sympathy of your many friends.
On behalf of the meeting,
H.C. Renshaw (Chairman)
James A Greenwood (Secretary).
The Darwen Weekly Advertiser, Friday September 29th 1916 also covered the obituary:-
We regret to announce that Mrs Ainsworth, 201 Bolton Road, has received a letter from Captain Morragh of the Machine gun section, stating that her husband corporal Arnold Ainsworth was killed on the 15th. Inst. The captain says:- ‘’ I very much regret to have to inform you that your husband, Corporal Ainsworth was killed in action on the 15th Inst., while leading his men forward into action against the enemy . I am most extremely sorry to have to lose your husband. He was one of the best and most trustworthy N.C.O’s in my company and always willing to do any dangerous task. I had offered to make him a sergeant, but he had asked for time to think the matter over. He was also thoroughly liked and respected by the officers, N.C.O’s and men in the company and will be missed by everyone. He was buried on the battlefield by his men in a spot which he had just helped to capture from the enemy.’’ Corporal Ainsworth was 40 years of age; and enlisted in June last year. He was a son of Mr. John Ainsworth formerly secretary of the Darwen Agricultural Association, to whom he acted as assistant. He was prominent in connection with the Duckworth Street United Methodist Church as a local and with the Sunday School as secretary and superintendent.
The Darwen News dated Saturday October 21st. 1916 also carried a very interesting article, this reads as follows:-
The Late Corporal Ainsworth;
Rev. H.C. Renshaw a tribute,
On Sunday morning, the company of the 10th. Battalion Volunteer Regiment, under commander J. Bradbury, attended public worship at the United Methodist Church, Duckworth St. out of respect to the memory of Corporal Arnold Ainsworth, who was killed in action a fortnight ago. Corporal. Ainsworth was one of the promotors of the Volunteers in Darwen and up to his enlistment was treasurer. The large congregation to which the Volunteers contributed was evidence of the regret felt at the loss of one so promising as Corporal Ainsworth.
In the course of the address The Reverend H. C. Renshaw said:-
‘’Has the war brought us nearer to God? Has it induced the spirit of repentance for our national sins? Has it raised and spiritualised our ideals? Has it remedied the widespread indifference of our people to the Churches? Has it reduced the drink bill? Has it seriously affected the extravagance and self- indulgence of the rich? Has it delivered us from the lust of gold that sees the war as an opportunity for making abnormal profits and of earning abnormal wages? Has it cleansed the lips of our people from filth, impurity and blasphemy? Before the war we were fast lapsing into Paganism. Can we honestly say that tendency has been arrested? We all are longing for the end of the war; but why are we doing so? Is it that we may return into the state of things that obtained in the former days of peace? We are hoping and praying for victory but why are we doing so?
Is it that having been freed from the German menace, we may be more at liberty to peruse again our Pagan way? Do our prayers really mean that we should like to make a convenience of God and attach Him to our side as our Grand Ally? – That we should like to make use of him now to beat the Germans but with the tact and understanding that we should ignore Him again after Victory has been won. If so we might as well save our breath. The only prayer that avails with God is the prayer of the righteous whether it be the righteous man or righteous nation. The fundamental conditions of effectual prayer is that we shall be right with God and the first step towards right relations with God is that which was taken by the Publican in the Temple: ‘’Lord have mercy upon me, a sinner’’ We do not enter into the Kingdom of God through the gateway of pride, but through the gateway of humiliation and repentance – and repentance means a change of mind. So the true patriot will care first and supremely for the moral life of England. He will recognise that the foundation of real greatness and stability for the nation is the character of its people and humanity of its laws and institutions. If England is to be exalted among the nations of the earth it will be by its righteousness and not by its brute force. ‘’Where there is no vision the people perish.’’ Men must not only die for England, but men must live for England – else the sacrifice of the flower of our manhood will have been made in vain. Hundreds of thousands of our brothers have laid down their lives for us – and innumerably more have been maimed and broken. And that fact raises the very serious and heart searching question as to whether we are worthy of the sacrifices that have been made. May we hope that the agony of the present conflict shall become the birth pangs of a new and better Age. Are we to come out of this war with a new vision, a new ideal, of a new England a new world, wherein shall dwell righteousness? Wherein God shall come to his own. If so, the event may help to reconcile us to the losses and sorrows that we have suffered.
THE CHURCH LOSS.
As a church, we have already made the priceless contribution of some of our sons to the end for which we hope and today we remember with sadness and with gratitude, the heroic devotion of H.A. Woodburn and Arnold Ainsworth. H. A. Woodburn was a scholar in our Sunday School in his youth, and after hardships and wounds endured in the course of the war, was recently laid low. He has given his life: he could do no more.
Arnold Ainsworth has been intimately associated with this church and school from infancy. He has done almost everything and filled almost every place that a man may fill. He has been a scholar, a teacher, a secretary in various departments, a singer, a choirmaster, a reciter, a superintendent, a member of the church, a leader and a local preacher. He has been associated with every aspect of our life and work and has always given of his best cheerfully and willingly. It was the invasion of Belgium and the atrocities perpetrated upon the helpless women and children of that unhappy land, that roused his moral indignation and impelled him to volunteer for service. And the thoroughness and conscientiousness with which he did his work at home, revealed themselves in the zeal with which he entered upon his military duties. He had been promoted to the rank of Corporal and had been offered the stripes of a Sergeant and by his uprightness and courage had won the esteem of his officers and men. He
He was fearless in the presence of danger and met his death like a brave soldier, with his face toward the foe. HE also has given his life: he could do no more. From the far off field of battle our fallen brothers call us today. They call us to courage, to fortitude, to devotion to those high things that alone can make England great.
They call us, to justify their sacrifice, and to make good its gains. Let us keep before our eyes the ideal of righteousness as the goal of our individual lives and as the end to which our national energies should be directed. So shall we work for the accomplishment of the purpose of God in this present world and so may we hope to enter into the higher service in the world that is to come.
Arnold Ainsworth’s will is listed as:- Ainsworth Arnold of 5 Leach St. Darwen, Corporal 46 Company Machine Gun Corps. died 16 September 1916 at Maitinpinch, France on active service. Probate: London, 21st February to Ada Ainsworth widow. Effects £370.
His brother Herbert Cowell Ainsworth’s will reference appears on the same page and reads:- of 136 Tockholes Road, Darwen, Lancashire, private 26 battalion R.F. died 4rh. October 1916 in France on Active Service Administration (with will) 24th July to Sarah Ann Ainsworth (Wife of John Ainsworth). Effect £216. 16s. 7d.
Herbert’s Obituary appeared in “The Darwen News” dated December 2nd 1916 and it reported the following:-
Private H Ainsworth.
Information has been received that Private Herbert Ainsworth, the youngest son of Mr. John Ainsworth, accountant, Union St. was killed in action on the 7th. October. Private Ainsworth was 27 years of age and was educated at Darwen Secondary School, leaving there to take up a position in the Manchester and County Bank at Darwen. He was transferred to Blackburn about six months before he enlisted, in 1915, in the Royal Fusiliers. He went to the front in May last and was engaged in the battle on September 15th, in which his brother Arnold, was killed. Before enlisting he resided with his sister, at 136 Tockholes Road, his parents residing at Grange Over Sands. Information of Private Ainsworth’s death has been received by a friend in Whalley Hospital, from an officer of the same regiment as Private Ainsworth was in. For many years he had taken active part in the work of the United Methodist Church and Sunday School, Duckworth St and was Sunday School secretary for some time.
Mr and Mrs. John Ainsworth have thus suffered a second loss; two sons out of three having made the great sacrifice, probably within a few days of each other. To them every sympathy will be extended.
2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 17172
Private Frank Almond of the 2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers (No. 17172), was the son of John Almond and Margaret (nee Sailsbury). He was killed 20th July, 1916 at the Battle of Delville Wood on the Somme.
Frank was born on 27th October 1895 at 52 Tithebarn Street, Darwen and was baptised on 20th November 1895 at Holy Trinity, Darwen. By the time the 1901 census was taken the family had moved to 67 Bury Street, Darwen. He attended St. Aidan’s Mission Church and, when old enough, he commenced work as cotton weaver at Holme Mill.
By the time war began the family were living at 129 Beatrice Terrace, Darwen (Redearth Road). Frank enlisted in November 1914. Following his initial training he was sent to France 4th May 1915, as part of the 6th Division. His Regiment was transferred to the 27th Division, 31st May 1915, and later on (19th August 1915) to the 2nd Division and then by 25th November 1915, to the 33rd Division. Throughout all this time Frank saw action on the Western Front, including Battle of Hooge, and the Battle of Loos.
July 1916, saw Frank, with his Battalion, on the Somme where he lost his life at Battle of Delville Wood, 20th July 1916. Initially, his family were informed that he was missing and it would be another ten months before they received news of his death.
Frank is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, and has no known grave.
Following the war his family received Frank’s war medals – Victory & British War Medals and the 1914-1915 Star.
2nd Lancashire Fusiliers, 192
Corporal James Aspin of the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers (No. 192) was killed on 23rd October 1916 at Battle of Le Transloy on the Somme.
James was born 8th November 1885 at Brook Street, Darwen. He was the son of John Aspin and Margaret Ellen (nee Atkinson), and he was baptised at Holy Trinity (now St Peter’s), Darwen, 16 December 1885. The couple had 15 children (four had died in infancy). By the time the 1901 census was taken the family had moved to 23 Corporation Street, Darwen by which time James was working as a cotton weaver and was employed by James Halliwell.
He attested on 23rd September 1902 at Darwen and joined the Lancashire Fusiliers 6th Bn (No. 1180) for six years. On attesting, he stated that had been a member of the 1st East Lancashire Volunteers. His height was 5ft 4ins; weight 109lbs; chest: 31ins with an expansion of 2ins; complexion: fresh; eyes: brown; hair: brown and he gave his religion as Church of England. He had tattoo on his left forearm and back of left hand. His full army record has not survived so it is not know where he stationed.
On returning to Darwen, he lived with his family at 17 Henry Street and worked at Messrs Place’s Pipe Works at Eccleshill. When war commenced he joined his Regiment, 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers (No. 192) and landed at Boulogne on 19th August 1914. He saw various actions on the Western Front including The Battle of Le Cateau, The Battle of the Marne, The Battle of the Aisne, The Battle of Messines 1914. In December, his Battalion took part in the Christmas Truce of 1914. He saw action at the Second Battle of Ypres. During all this action he was gassed twice and also wounded.
On 21 October the Division was moved away from the fighting area towards Abbeville, where it spent most of the winter of 1915-16 continuing training. From Abbeville the regiment moved to the Somme where James lost his life at the Battle of Le Transloy on 23rd October 1916. It would be another 10 months before his family were informed of his death and at the end of the war they received his medals - Victory & British War Medals; 1914 Star and Clasp.
James Aspin is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme and has no known grave.
back to top
Banks, Thomas | Baron, Samuel | Beal, William | Bell, John | Blackburn, Charles| Briggs, Joseph Briggs, Robert | Brindle, John | Burke, John | Burns, James | Bury, Amos
11th Company Machine Gun Corps, 16006 (18006)
Private Thomas Banks of the 11th Company Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) (No. 18006) was killed on 1st July 1916 at Battle of Albert on the Somme.
Thomas was born in Preston during 1895, the son of John Banks and Hannah (nee Collinson) and the couple had ten children (two had died in infancy). Shortly after Thomas’ birth, the family moved to 261 Blackburn Road, Darwen and, by the time the 1911 census was taken, they were living at 37 Devon Street, Darwen. Thomas worked as a creeler at a local cotton mill and later at Belgrave Mill. He attended St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church and he was a member of the Darwen Athletic Club, where he took part in several boxing competitions.
On the outbreak of war, Thomas he enlisted at Darwen and joined the Rifle Brigade (No. 2/2245) and went to France on 25th May 1915. When in France he was later transferred to the to the Machine Gun Corps (No 18006 but some sources give is number as 16006). However, as his army record is not available, it is unclear.
By 11th June 1916, his Battalion was in the Somme area at Beauval where for the next nine days they carried out assault practices over trenches. On 22nd June, the Company marched to Vauchelles, north of Albert in preparation for the Battle of the Somme. Thomas last his life on 1st July 1916 at the Battle of Albert.
Thomas’ family were first informed that he was missing and by August 1916 they received information from one of their son’s colleague that he had been killed in action but his body was never found.
Thomas Banks is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, and has no known grave. He is also remembered on the St Joseph’s War Memorial.
At the end of the war his family received Thomas’ medals - Victory & British War Medals; 1914-1915 Star.
16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, C/313
Samuel Baron, born in 1895, lived a 2 Peel Street, Darwen. He was the son of Edmund, a stonemason, and his wife, Mary. Samuel and his sister Alice would become weavers as soon as they finished school, and Samuel worked at Britannia Mill. He was also connected with St Barnabas’ Church.
Samuel enlisted in September 1914, joining the 16th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. It would be more than a year of training with them, at Perham Down, before Samuel would ship out to France, on 16th November 1915.
After fighting for many months at the early Battles of the Somme, the Battalion, as part of 100th Brigade, would go on to fight at the Boritska and Hazy Trenches. This was an attack by the 6th French Army, which the Brigade was supporting.
The War Diary reads:
16th K.R.R. and 1st Queens from front and 2nd Worcesters from right flank. Zero time 11.00am. Heavy artillery bombarded all localities in rear and BORITSKA and HAZY TRENCHES in front. Rolling barrage in front of flank attack lifted at 25 yds per min. Platoons went over in echelon as barrage lifted.
Battn. Headquarters remained in Sunken Road.
2nd Lt. Cholmondley was wounded leading his platoon. A huge gap occurred between our right flank and 2nd Worcesters owing to 1st Queens not attacking. Communication was, however, established with ‘A’ Company of the Worcesters under Capt. Bennett, and Capt. Hon. H. Lindsay took command of our line and consolidated the position. 2nd Lt. Sighton was wounded during consolidation. Casualties were comparatively few. 2nd Lt. Goody was severely wounded outside Battn. H.Q. Letters of congratulations and hearty thanks were received from Div. Gen and Bgr. Gen, special mention being made of Capt. E.P. Bennett of 2nd Worcestershire Regt. and Capt. Hon. L. Lindsay, 16th K.R.R. for their example of courage and resolution, and for the splendid behaviour of the troops under their command.
It was here, on 6th November 1916, that Samuel was killed.
The Darwen News Saturday Nov 18, 1916 reported Samuel’s death as follows:
Mr E Baron, an inspector on the Darwen Corporation trams, of 507 Bolton Road, has received an intimation that his only son, Acting-Sergeant Samuel Baron (27), of the King’s Royal Rifles has been killed in action. The sergeant of his company had fallen, and Corporal Baron was leading the men in an attack when he was shot down by a sniper. He enlisted in September, 1914, prior to which he was a weaver at Britannia Mill, and was connected with St Barnabas’ Church.
Samuel has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 13a and 13b.
Royal Field Artillery L/9112
William Beal, born 1887, was the son of Armand and Ruth Beal, of 21 Lloyd Street, Darwen. The son of a clerk, William would become a warehouse packer in Darwen before the war broke out.
William enlisted into the 150th Brigade Royal Field Artillery 150th (Blackburn) Brigade of the County Palatine Royal Field Artillery which was part of 30th Division.
In most cases, after commencing training near home, the units were moved to concentrate near Grantham in April 1915. There were severe shortages of arms, ammunition and much equipment, for example, there was only one gun carriage available even by mid-July and even that was for funerals! It was not until October that the Artillery was in a position to commence firing practice, a few weeks after the Division had moved to the area of Larkhill on Salisbury Plain.
On 4th November the Division was inspected by Lord Derby, and entrainment began two days later. The Division sailed to Le Havre and Boulogne and all units concentrated near Ailly le Haut Clocher (near Amiens) by 12th November 1915. The 30th Division subsequently remained in France and Flanders and took part in the Battle of Albert in July 1916, and the Battle of the Transloy Ridges.
It was here, on 10th October 1916, that William was killed. From the war diaries, it appears that they suffered losses from a heavy enemy barrage. The war diary reads:
Heavy hostile barrage put up between Guadecourt and Les Boeufs which ceased on appearance of our aeroplanes – one British aeroplane fell in flames in the enemy’s lines.
William has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 1a and 8a.
1st Border Regiment, 18303
Private John Bell of the 1st Border Regiment (No. 18303) was killed on 1st July 1916 at the Battle of Albert.
John was born on 17th August 1892 at 32 Pickles Row. Lower Darwen. He was the son of George Bell and Alice (nee Aspden). The couple had 14 children (six had died in infancy). By the time the 1901 census was taken the family had moved to 27 Bog Height Road, Darwen. He worked as a weaver.
When war broke out he enlisted at Darwen and joined the 1st Border Regiment. Following initial training he went to Gallipoli arrived at Cape Helles on 8th December 1915. He saw action at Krithia; Christmas Day was far from peaceful for him with the trenches being heavily shelled. On 8th January 1916, his Battalion received orders to withdraw and on 9th January he left Cape Helles for Egypt via Mudros. Whilst in Egypt, the Battalion was based in the Suez area and underwent further training. Orders were received on 25th February for a move to France. Embarking in March, they arrived at Marseilles and moved to concentrate in the area East of Pont Remy between 15th – 29th March 1916 where John saw action on the Somme.
In April 1916, the Battalion moved to Amplier Beauval and then the following month to Englebelmer (North of Albert) on the Somme. By 1st July 1916, the Battalion arrived at the frontline at Beaumont Hamel. At 7.30am the Regiment rushed the parapet and advanced from the support line. They made a right incline into No Man's Land at a slow walk as ordered. The advance continued until only small groups of men (6 or 7 in number) were left scattered; finding no reinforcements in sight, they took cover in shell holes. At 8am (in just 30 minutes of action) the advance was brought to a standstill. At the start of the day 23 Officers and 809 other ranks took part in the advance. By the end of the day 87% had been killed, wounded or missing.
Amongst the missing was John Bell. Towards the end of July his parents had been informed that he was missing but it would take almost another 12 months before they were officially informed that he had been killed in action. When the local newspaper reported his death it mentioned that four of John’s brothers had enlisted; two were still serving and two others had been discharged, one as the result of shell shock.
John Bell is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme and has no known grave.
At the end of the war he parents received his war medals - Victory & British War Medals; 1914-1915 Star.
Lance-Corporal Joseph Robert Briggs
8th East Lancashire Regiment, 26883
Joseph was the son of John Bury Briggs and Jane Ann Green. By the 1891 census, the family had moved to 8 William Street, Darwen. Ten years later they were living at 8 Exchange Street. The 1911 census shows that Joseph was working as a cotton weaver at Messrs. Harwood Brothers, Heyfold Mill, and he lived with his married sister, Susannah Parr at 239 Olive Lane. By 1914, he was married, and lived at 24 Hollins Grove Street, Darwen.
Joseph enlisted much later than his peers, on 12th October 1915. Joseph was transferred to 8th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment as a replacement, arriving early 1916, after only a short period of training.
In the early hours of 15 July 1916, Lieutenant-Colonel Mackay OC 8th East Lancashire received the specific orders that 112 Brigade would attack at 9.20am after an hour’s bombardment of the village of Pozieres, the key to the German 2nd line of defence. The Battalion lead the Brigade in the assault on the village - the men's first experience of going 'over the top'. They were to lose over 350 casualties including almost 100 killed outright. The Battalion would never be the same again
At 8.30am on 15 November 1916, after the preliminary bombardment of their objective Frankfurt Trench, the men advanced between Crater Lane and Lager Alley in two waves. In the fog they got to within 50 yards of Munich Trench, ‘A’ and ‘D’ Companies leading the way, followed by ‘B’ and ‘C’. Suddenly they were fired upon by machine guns and rifles at very short range. The men went to ground, before being forced to pull back. Ten of their officers were killed in this attack on the Redan Ridge between Serre and Beaumont Hamel. Allegations were made that many of the 150 casualties were caused by 'friendly-fire'. The battalion's second assault in the Somme battle had ended in failure.
It was here that Joseph went missing. He was listed as killed on 16th November 1916 but his wife was officially informed of his death in April 1917.
Joseph has no known grave, and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
Private John Brindle
East Lancashire Regiment, 6353
John Lawrence Brindle, born 1877, was the son of Elizabeth Brindle, of 19 Bury Street, Darwen. He, like his brother and sister, was a cotton weaver in a local mill. He married Betsy Greenwood in 1903, and joined the Army in 1912.
John enlisted into the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, who he had served with during the Boer War. He joined the Battalion as it shipped out to France in 1914, and fought with them all the way to the Somme Region in 1916.
On the morning of July 1st the bombardment of the enemy trenches became intense, but German machine-guns continued to fire from Beaumont-Hamel throughout the bombardment.
At 7.26 a.m., the leading platoons of the assaulting companies moved out to a line taped-out in " no-man's-land," so as to be in line with the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers, of the 29th Division, who were to attack Beaumont-Hamel.
At 7.32 a.m. " D " Company and Battalion Headquarters followed the attacking companies and established themselves in shell-holes. A signaller accompanied the leading platoon of " A " Company, carrying a telephone and wire with orders to open communication from German front line, where Battalion Headquarters were to be established.
The personnel of the Headquarters followed up the wire and found the signaller in a large shell-hole just outside the German wire. Of course the wire was cut before it could be used, but the Headquarters remained in the shell-hole until 6 p.m.
Immediately the guns lifted from the German front-line trenches, heavy machine-gun fire was opened from the German front line; from Beaumont- Hamel and Ridge Redoubt, Lieut.-Colonel Green personally counted eight machine-guns firing on the battalion front. Simultaneously the German artillery barrage came down some 200-230 yards in front of the front line and on all assembly trenches.
In spite of this terrific fire, the Battalion advanced as steadily as if on manoeuvres until practically the whole battalion became casualties. Actually a few of the leading troops entered and passed the German front-line, but on the front of the right and centre companies the wire was found intact and no way through it could be found. Many men were killed on the wire while attempting to force a way through.
Many sought cover in the shell-holes close to the wire which they had vainly attempted to pass. The survivors of the battalion occupied shell-holes in "no-man's-land " until they were able to retire to our trenches at dusk. All wounded capable of crawling were sent back first, followed by a rear-guard of unwounded men.
About 7 p.m. the battalion was relieved by the 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment of the 10th Brigade which, with the 12th Brigade, was relieving the 11th Brigade. On relief the Brigade went into billet at Mailly-Maillet. The strength of the battalion on July 1st was twenty-two officers and five hundred other ranks, of 41 officers and 950 other ranks.
John Brindle Lawrence was one of the men killed in this attack. He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6c.
back to top
Sergeant Robert William Briggs
East Lancashire Regiment, 12319
Robert William Briggs was born on 2nd April 1896 at 13 Waterside Terrace, Eccleshill, Darwen. He was the son of John T. Briggs and Alice Gabbatt who, like many families in the area, were weavers. Robert also became a weaver when he was old enough.
Robert enlisted into 7th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment and immediately began intense training, first at Tidworth, and then, Andover, followed by a stint on Salisbury Plain. The Battalion was sent to France on 18th July 1915, where it would become accustomed to trench warfare. By November 1916, Robert and his comrades had seen action at Pietre, Albert, High Wood, Pozieries Ridge, and then the Ancre Heights. It was here, in November 1916, that Robert would be killed.
During the first twelve days of November the Battalion did two tours in Stuff trench and two in Brigade and Division reserve. The enemy made no more attacks, but shelled the back areas very heavily, causing many casualties during reliefs.
"This was our first experience of following a barrage. However, in a very few minutes we found that the difficulty lay in restraining the men from walking into it rather than in keeping them up to it. The barrage was timed to move forward very slowly, which no doubt was essential, for the troops on the left had very rough ground to cover and a considerable way to go, but it proved most irksome on the right. The fog which hid our advance proved a great hindrance in keeping direction and discovering objectives.
We walked into German trenches without realizing that we had reached them. The enemy were in no mood to fight and surrendered directly we arrived. D Company had gained all its objectives in the first ten minutes and was busy digging in before the others had reached theirs. B Company met with similar success on arrival at their line, but C Company became separated in the mist and was missing for some time. Colonel Torrie at once moved A Company, who had been held in reserve, into the gap C's disappearance created and was able to report that all objectives had been taken and the position consolidated by 7 a.m. Officers' patrols were sent out from B and D Companies to try and find out what had become of C Company and what was going on in the mist in front of us. It was most uncanny work, as it was impossible to distinguish friend or foe until within hands grip of one another.
By now the enemy were fully aroused and began sweeping the face of the hillside with machine-guns. It was most eerie the way these bullets came whispering through the mist. Wheal, in charge of the B Company patrol, stumbled right into a small party of the enemy in the Lucky Way. He was armed with a weighted pick-handle, which proved an ideal weapon for the occasion and in the hand-to-hand scuffle that followed did great execution. The officer with D Company met with another party of the enemy lining a small trench and facing the wrong way. He and the three men with him succeeded in killing two of the enemy and routing the others. While pursuing them through the mist they came across C Company.”
Robert William Briggs has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
2nd East Lancashire Regiment, 12362
Lance Corporal John Burke, 2nd Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment, was killed on 5th April 1917. The son of Christiana Burke, John was a drawer in Messrs. Ashton’s Mill. He worked with his brothers, Henry and Ralph, whilst Thomas and Christopher were still too young for such work.
John enlisted into the 2nd Battalion East Lancashire Regiment on 27th August 1914, and following intensive training, joined with the Battalion in France on 5th January 1915.
Following bitter battles in 1916 during the Somme, in March 1917, the German armies on the Somme carried out a strategic withdrawal known as Operation Alberich. They destroyed everything on the ground that they left: flattening villages, poisoning wells, cutting down trees, blowing craters on roads and crossroads, booby-trapping ruins and dugouts. The withdrawal was to an immensely powerful and shorter line, positioned to take every tactical advantage of ground. The construction of this line - or rather, series of lines - had been spotted by British and French aviators in late 1916. British patrols began to detect the withdrawal of German infantry from the Somme in mid-February 1917 and a cautious pursuit began, halted only as the Hindenburg Line itself was approached.
Lance-Corporal John Burke was killed in action on the afternoon of the 5th instantly. He was going to an outpost with a sergeant when they were hit by a shell, their bodies being found in a shell hole. Lance-Corporal Burke who was in the Lewis Gun Section was 22 years of age.
Unfortunately, his body was never recovered, and John has no known grave. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6c.
back to top
32nd Royal Fusiliers, 16497
Private James Burns of the 32nd Battalion the Royal Fusiliers (Number 16497) was killed on 4 October 1916, aged 19.
James was baptised 7 July 1897. He was the son of John Burns and Margaret Elizabeth Parkinson, who had married at the church during the previous year. By the time of the 1911 Census his father John is a widower and the family are living with the Parkinson grandparents at 13 Park Road. James is shown to be a Loomer at the cotton mill and has a younger brother and sister.
Private James Burns’ service record has not survived but the Medal Rolls indicate that he first went abroad with the 2nd Battalion the Royal Fusiliers as part of the Expeditionary Force to Gallipoli and the Aegean Islands, joining the 29th Division there on 23 September 1915.
He subsequently joined the 32nd Battalion (presumably after recovering from his injuries) under command of 124th Brigade, 41st Division arriving in France on 5 May 1916.
This Division was formed at Aldershot in September 1915. The majority of the units that comprised the Division were originally locally raised ones, primarily from the south of England. The Division was inspected by King George V and Field Marshal Lord French on 26 April 1916.
The units of 41st Division moved to France between 1 and 6 May 1916 and by 8 May had concentrated between Hazebrouck and Bailleul. The Division then remained on the Western Front until October 1917 and took part in the following engagements:
The Battle of Flers-Courcelette
The Battle of the Transloy Ridges
James was probably taking part in the battle of Le Transloy (1 -18 October 1916) when he was killed. Like many, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
In ‘Soldiers Effects’ his grandparents John W and Mary Parkinson are listed as sole legatees and would receive his 1914-1915 Star and British War and Victory Medals.
1st East Lancashire Regiment, 26355
Private Amos Bury of 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment (Number 26355) was killed on 18th October 1916, aged 32.
He was the son of Moses and Mary Bury of Carr Street, born 5th March 1884 and baptised at St Paul’s, Hoddlesden, 24th August 1884. On the 1911 census Amos is recorded as living at Carr Street, with his sister, Rachael Bury. Amos is shown as a weaver.
Amos joined the 1st Battalion in France, after spending some nine months in training. Following some of the earlier battles of the Somme, Amos was killed in bitter fighting at Le Transloy.
The War Diary shows:
18 October 1916
“At zero hour (3.40 am) the weather conditions were appalling – pitch black, extremely cold and pouring with rain. The three waves advanced up the line under cover of the barrage. The advance was begun on the left. ‘C’ Company on the left had the LES BOEUF – LE TRANSLOY road to guide it. The right company (‘A’ Company) in the darkness went too much to the right and got somewhat mixed up with the 1st Rifle Brigade. Machine gun fire was opened by the enemy immediately the first wave advanced and severe losses were incurred. Owing to the tremendous shell fire concentrated on the enemy’s trenches for some days past, it was extremely difficult to tell where RAINY and DEWDROP trenches were but from the distance traversed the first two waves must have got past these trenches.
No organised lines held by the enemy were met, but heavy machine gun and rifle fire was directed on our lines from front and flanks and owing to the absolute darkness, it must have been impossible for any Officer or N.C.O. to organise the digging of any advanced posts at the limit of the advance.
The few remaining men withdrew to RAINY where ‘D’ Company had arrived having suffered fairly heavy casualties in getting there. O.C. ‘D’ Company seeing that two first waves were practically non-existent, and that the enemy had Machine Guns trained on RAINY, decided to withdraw to our original front line trenches, and hold that line. The situation in front was always obscure. No Officers or senior N.C.Os. of ‘A’ and ‘C’ Companies came back and no messages were received back. I think that no rifles of the men who went forward could have been in working order 10 minutes after they left our lines. The ground was terribly torn up by shellfire, and as slippery as ice. The men kept on slipping and falling into the holes in the dark. The few who returned were one mass of mud from head to foot, and completely exhausted. I consider that a considerable portion of the missing (8 Officers and 53 O.R.) are in all probability prisoners.”
Amos Bury has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. His sister Rachael would receive His British War and Victory Medals.
East Lancashire Regiment, 26255
Balfour Butterworth, born 1890, was the son of Annie Butterworth. Like many Darwen families, Balfour, his Brother and two sisters, were cotton weavers before war broke out in 1914.
Balfour enlisted into the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment in 1915, and undertook intensive training before being sent to France in early 1916 as a replacement.
Balfour survived the first day of the Battle of the Somme, one of only 150 unscathed (of 1000 in a battalion). It would be October 18th when Balfour was finally killed, at the Battle of Le Transloy.
The Battalion history reads:
The ground was in the most appalling condition; heavy rain had fallen for weeks and continued throughout the attack, with the result that the terrain was a vast lake of mud, pitted with shell-holes. The night was pitch black and the enemy's line was extremely vague; German trench maps had been issued, but they were of little use for the German line really consisted of detached machine-guns in shell-holes. At zero hour a barrage was put down on Dewdrop trench which lasted for 4i minutes. At the same time the battalion and the 1st Rifle Brigade floundered into the mud of "no-man's land."
The men, wearing full equipment and carrying extra bombs, made slow progress; some were utterly exhausted and scarcely mobile, only to be shot down, drowned in shell-holes or rounded up at daybreak.
The advance was by the left. "C" Company on the left had the Les Boeufs—Le Transloy road to guide it. " A " Company on the right, in the darkness went too far to the right and got somewhat mixed up with the Rifle Brigade. Directly the first wave advanced it was met with heavy machinegun fire and casualties were numerous. Moreover, it was difficult to find Dewdrop and Rainy trenches, which had been heavily shelled by our artillery.
However, from the distance traversed by the two leading waves, the two trenches must have been passed.
No organized German line was found, but heavy rifle and machine-gun fire was directed on our waves from front and flanks, and owing to the darkness it was impossible for any officer, or non-commissioned officer, to organize the digging of advanced posts at the limit of the advance. The few remaining men who had reached Dewdrop, and beyond, withdrew to Rainy trench where "D" Company had arrived, having had many casualties. The Company Commander, then seeing that his two leading waves were practically wiped out, and that German machine-guns were trained on the trench, withdrew to the original front-line trenches.
The situation now, in the front trenches was very obscure. No officers or senior N.C.O.'s of "A" and "C" Companies had come back and the few men who did come back were clothed in mud from head to foot and completely exhausted.
There was no counter-attack by the enemy, though the front trenches were heavily shelled and swept with machine-gun fire until dawn.
The day (18th) was quiet, and after dark "B" Company relieved "D" Company. "A," "C" and "D" Companies then went into support in Shamrock. Patrols were sent out who were met by hot rifle-fire as they approached Rainy and Dewdrop. Wounded men were sought for and a few brought in, also wounded men in the trenches, unable to walk, were evacuated by special stretcher parties after dark.
The casualties of the action were heavy and included all the officers in the two leading companies. In "A" Company Lieutenants R. A. C. Matthews, W. F. Curran, T. A. Ritchie were killed, and the O.C. Company Captain A. N. Scott made prisoner of war. In "C" Company 2nd-Lieutenant E. W. Graham was killed and Captain C. Waddington (O.C. Company), 2nd-Lieutenants M. Quayle and J. M. Wilks were captured. C.S.M.s W. Ashcroft and J. Cunliffe were killed, C.S.M. W. Vaughan made prisoner, and the total casualties in the other ranks were killed 12, wounded 58, missing 292.
Balfour Butterworth has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6c.
Royal Scots Fusiliers, 15643
The son of a Corporation labourer, James Chappell, was born in 1893 to George and Hannah Chappell, of 63 Hindle Street, Darwen.
James was a cotton weaver, along with his brothers and sisters: Sarah Alice, Annie, Ethel, Mary, Victoria and George.
On the outbreak of war, James signed up, and joined the 1st Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers. Following nine months of training, in April 1915, James was finally sent to France. James would see actions at Hooge and Bellewarde in Belgium in 1915, before moving to the Somme Region in June 1916 for the major offensive.
The 3rd Division, of which the Battalion was a part of, was selected to attack Bazentin le Grand, on 14th July 1916. On the right, attacking between Bazentin le Grand and Longueval were the two XIII Corps Divisions, left to right, the 3rd Division and the 9th (Scottish) Division. The 9th Division, which also contained the South African Infantry Brigade (in reserve near Carnoy), took Longueval and reached the fringe of Delville Wood which flanked the village but were unable to take the German redoubt at Waterlot Farm.
In the centre, things did not go well for the 3rd Division attacking from Montauban towards Bazentin le Grand. The German wire was uncut and the defenders alert. The German defensive barrage laid down in no man's land missed the assaulting battalions but caught the supporting waves.
In this attack, James, aged 23 years was killed, 14thJuly 1916. He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 3c.
East Lancashire Regiment, 24829
William Cooper was born 1887 to James and Jane Ellen Cooper of 12 Primrose Street, Darwen. Like most Lancashire families, William, his brothers Samuel, Joseph and Albert, and his parents, worked in the Cotton industry. William was, in fact, one of eight children.
William had joined the army prior to the First World War, and he was on the Reserve list. He was immediately recalled, and posted into the 1st East Lancashire Regiment. William would be one of the first British soldiers to fight in the war, as the Battalion landed on 22nd August 1914.
William would spend the next two years fighting with the Battalion, across Flanders and France, before finally arriving at the Somme. On July 1st, the Battalion took part in the Battle of Albert, and suffered horrific casualties. After that, the Battalion was sent for rest and refit, returning in the October to fight in the Battle of Le Transloy.
“On the 15th orders were issued from XIVth Corps Headquarters for the 4th and 6th Divisions to make another attack, on the 18th, on the trenches of the Le Transloy line.
The ground was in the most appalling condition; heavy rain had fallen for weeks and continued throughout the attack, with the result that the terrain was a vast lake of mud, pitted with shell-holes. The night was pitch black and the enemy's line was extremely vague ; German trench maps had been issued, but they were of little use for the German line really consisted of detached machine-guns in shell-holes. At zero hour a barrage was put down on Dewdrop trench which lasted for 4 ½ minutes. At the same time the battalion and the 1st Rifle Brigade floundered into the mud of "no-man's land."
The men, wearing full equipment and carrying extra bombs, made slow progress ; some were utterly exhausted and scarcely mobile, only to be shot down, drowned in shell-holes or rounded up at daybreak.
The day (18th) was quiet, and after dark " B " Company relieved " D " Company. " A," " C " and " D " Companies then went into support in Shamrock. Patrols were sent out who were met by hot rifle-fire as they approached Rainy and Dewdrop. Wounded men were sought for and a few brought in, also wounded men in the trenches, unable to walk, were evacuated by special stretcher parties after dark.
The casualties of the action were heavy - other ranks were killed 12, wounded 58, missing 292.”
William was one of the missing from that day. His body was never found. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6c.
3rd King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 9107
Acting Corporal Herbert Cox of the 3rd King’s Royal Rifle Corps (No. 9107) was killed 25th September 1915 at Frise on the Somme.
Herbert was born 17th March 1888 at 63 Kay Street, Darwen. He was the son of Walter William Cox and Elizabeth Ann (nee Bottrell) and Herbert was baptised at Holy Trinity (now St Peter’s) on 20th May 1888. The family had moved to Darwen from Oxfordshire during the early1880s and had settled in India Street and later Kay Street. At the time of the 1901 census, Herbert was aged 13 years and he was working as a cotton weaver.
Herbert was an all-round athlete and around 1908 he won the first prize at the Darwen Sports Day. Shortly after winning the sports prize, he enlisted in the Army and joined the 3rd King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Prior to the Great War, he saw service in England, India and Malta where he continued with his running and carried off various prizes. On the outbreak of War, his unit was recalled to England and then to France where they arrived 26th September 1914.
In France, his unit was concentrated in the area between Aire and Arques where Herbert saw action at St Eloi (14-15 March 1915), and, at the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April – 25 May 1915). During quiet moments Herbert found time to take part in races which his Battalion organised and, in August 1915, he won the 100 yards and 400 yards races. Prince Hiram Sing also gave him a prize for the best all-round athlete.
By mid-September, the Battalion had moved to Frise on the Somme and on the night of 19th/20th September had taken over the trenches from the French 414th Regiment (6th Corps). The Battalion’s War Diary for 25th September 1915 reads “Frise: In the trenches. Rained almost all day but cleared at sunset. Germans shelled us killing one of our machine gunners. In the afternoon and evening we shelled the Germans. Battalion relieved in the evening by 4th KRR relief was complete by 10.15 p.m. and Battn marched to the huts at Frosissy reaching them by 1 a.m. (last companies)." The man killed referred to in the above entry was Herbert Cox.
Herbert Cox is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, and has no known grave.
East Lancashire Regiment, 14710
Lance-Corporal John Crompton, 7th East Lancashire Regiment (14710) who was killed on the 5th July 1916, was formally an employee at Messer’s Shaws’ Glazed Brickworks, Hoddlesden.
Born in 1894, the son of John and Priscilla Crompton, he was one of 4 children: Hilda, Isabel, John and Walter.
In September 1914 he enlisted, and, in July 1915, he was drafted to the front.
Captain Pone, the Company commander, sent a very sympathetic letter to Mrs. Crompton expressing his sympathy with her in her bereavement. N.B. Her other son - Private Walter Crompton is now in a London Hospital. He enlisted in January, 1915 and went to the front early this year. He was injured in action and removed to a hospital in London, where his right foot has been amputated. Before enlisting he worked at Messer’s Place’s Sanitary Pipe Works. Both brothers were connected with St. Pauls Church, Hoddlesden.
The War Diary reads:
The Batt was ordered to attack GERMAN front line X 15 C 2.4 X 14 D 5.8 - X 14 D 3.8 by bombing up communication trenches (92 - 24,33 - 58, 96 - 38) 57th Brigade operated on the left; 23rd Div. on the right. Attack was proceeded by a heavy bombardment of 1 hour's duration. Operations commenced at 2 p.m. The Battalion gained its objective on the left but owing to the right being held up by heavy machine gun fire it had to fall back to its
Casualties were as follows officers 4 killed 6 wounded O.R's 31 killed 49 wounded.
"At 2.30 p.m. on the 5th, after a short bombardment by our guns we attacked all along the battalion front ; ' A ' and ' D ' Companies on the left assaulted across the top, while ' B ' and ' C ' Companies made bombing attacks up the communication trenches. At first considerable progress was made; the left-flank company got well into the village, but were then met by heavy machine-gun fire, Major Tyser being killed and Russell and Humphries wounded.”
John was killed outright, but has no known grave. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6c.
East Lancashire Regiment, 20772
Private John Dockerty of the 8th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment (Number 20772) was killed on 15th July 1916, aged 37. He had married Anne Maria Higgins in Holy Trinity Church (now St Peter’s), Darwen on 18 December 1897. The 1911 census shows that John is living with his wife and five children at 79 Crown Street and that he was employed as a labourer.
His obituary in a local newspaper says that prior to enlisting into the army he was employed as a “moulder” at Messrs. Henry Livesey’s Greenbank Foundry in Blackburn, and was associated that he was associated with St Joseph’s Church.
John’s enlistment papers do not survive but it is known from the medal rolls that he embarked to France on 15 September 1915.
The War Diary shows:
“15 July 1916 Pozieres
At 9.20am after heavy bombardment of POZIERES for one hour, the Battalion led a Brigade attack on the village: A and B companies in the Front Line and C and D companies in support.
Owing to Artillery Barrage and Machine Gun Fire the Battalion was unable to achieve its objective but was joined by other units of the Brigade and consolidated existing trenches to East and South East of POZIERES. At 5.00pm a further bombardment of POZIERES was carried out and the Battalion with remainder of the Brigade attempted another assault on POZIERES at 6 - 8.00pm. This assault was again held up by Machine Guns and the wire not being cut in the hedges surrounding the village. The Battalion handed over the trenches to the 10th Battalion.
Loyal North Lancashire Regt. at 2.30am and proceeded to Trenches in Close Support. Casualties: Officers Killed 1, Wounded 8. Other Ranks Killed 56, Wounded 276, Missing 33.
16 July 1916
The Battalion was relieved by a Northumberland Fusiliers Battalion at 3.15pm. The Battalion proceeded to billets in ALBERT.”
John Dockerty has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. His widow would receive his 1914-15 Star together with the British War and Victory Medals.
8th City of London (Post Office Rifles) Regiment
Edgar Ethelbert Eccles was son of Joseph Eccles and Margaret Ann Catherall of Darwen, He was born in 1877 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Some of his siblings were also born in Russia before they moved to Darwen.
Edgar joined the Darwen Post Office as a telephonist, before transferring with his sister Margaret to Manchester. Prior to leaving Darwen, Edgar had spent some time at the Duckworth Street Congregational Church.
As war broke out, Edgar joined thousands of others to enlist, and like so many others, joined with his work colleagues. The Post Office had formed their own “Pals Battalion”, the 8th City of London Regiment (Post Office Rifles).
After fighting successfully across the Somme for months, the Battle of Le Transloy Ridge began. It started well with the capture of Eaucourt L'Abbaye by the 47th Division, as well as an advance along the Albert–Bapaume Road towards Le Sars.
The advance was resumed on 7 October and Le Sars was taken by the British 23rd Division but progress along the Canadian lines stalled. The 47th Division failed to take Stag Trench but was able to get posts onto the Eaucourt l'Abbaye–Warlencourt road. It was fighting at Stag Trench where Edgar was killed.
Edgar Eccles has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
150th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery/Royal Field Artillery, L/9144
Gunner Harry Eccles of the 150th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery (No. L/9144) was killed on 28th September 1916 at the Battle of Albert on the Somme.
Harry Eccles was born on 16th September 1895 at 25 Heys Lane, Darwen. He was the son of Hugh Eccles and Jane (nee Snape). Harry was baptised at Redearth Road Primitive Methodist Church. By the time the 1911 census was taken, the family had moved to 31 London Terrace by which time Harry was working as a reacher in Sudellside Mill.
On the outbreak of war, Harry enlisted and arrived in France on 28th November 1915. He would have seen action at Vimy Ridge. The German’s attack on 21st May fell most heavily on 47th (London) Division, which was to the 23rd Division's right in the area of Berthonval. Shellfire fell heavily around Aix Noulette from 4.30pm. The Divisional Artillery was very active in support of the 47th Division until 24th May, and again, on 1st June when 2nd Division continued operations to recover lost ground. The 23rd Division was relieved by 47th (London) Division on 11th June and moved to Bomy, with the Artillery going to Chamblain Chatelain ("Charlie Chaplin") and Therouanne. It was here that intensive training commenced in preparation for “The Big Push.”
The Division took part in the Battle of Albert (part of the Battle of the Somme) in which the Division played a part in the capture of Contalmaison. Contalmaison village was destroyed during the Battle of the Somme. The fortified village was an objective on 1st July 1916. Although elements of the 34th Division reached it that day, it was not secured and bitter fighting continued. On 7th July reinforcements from the 23rd Division fought their way into the village, releasing some of the British soldiers captured earlier in the battle. Contalmaison did not finally fall until 10th July.
Harry later saw action at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge. The battle commenced on 14th July 1916 and marked the start of the second phase of the Battle of the Somme and lasted until 17th July. He later saw action at the Battle of Pozières was a two-week struggle and lost his life at the Battle of Morval on 25th September 1916.
Harry Eccles is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, and has no known grave. He is also remembered on the war memorial for Redearth Road Primitive Methodist Church.
East Lancashire Regiment, 17480
Richard Edwardson was originally born in Liverpool, in 1868. By 1901, he had moved to the area with his wife Margaret and his children: Edward, Elizabeth, Richard, Margaret, Edith and William. Like most families, they were in the cotton industry, working at Howard & Bullough, Accrington.
Richard had already served his country during the Boer War, and after the First World War began, he re-enlisted, into the 8th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment. At 46 years he was an old soldier, but his experience would have been invaluable.
After months of training, the Battalion left for France in mid-1915, and saw action. The Battalion was again thrown into battle in July 1916 at Pozieres, on the Somme.
In the early hours of 15 July 1916, Lieutenant-Colonel Mackay, Officer Commanding, 8th East Lancashire’s received the specific orders that 112 Brigade would attack at 9.20am after an hour’s bombardment of the village of Pozieres, the key to the German second line of defence. The Battalion led the Brigade in the assault on the village - the men's first experience of going 'over the top'. They were to lose over 350 casualties including almost 100 killed outright. The Battalion would never be the same again. The war diary states:
At 9.20 am after heavy bombardment of POZIERES for one hour the Battalion led a Brigade Attack on the Village. A &B Company’s in the Front Line, C and D Company’s in Support. Owing to Artillery Barrage and Machine Gun Fire the Battalion was unable to achieve its Objective but joined by other Units of the brigade and consolidated existing trenches to East and South East of POZIERES.
At 5.00pm a further Bombardment of POZIERES was carried out and the Battalion with remainder of Brigade attempted another assault on POZIERES at 6.30pm, this assault was
again held up by Machine Guns and the Wire not being cut in the Hedges surrounding the Village.
The Battalion handed over the Trenches to the 10th Loyal North Lancashire Regt, at
2.30am and proceeded to Trenches in Close support. Casualties Officers 4 killed 1 Wounded
It was during this assault that Richard was killed. He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.
back to top
East Lancashire Regiment, 12218
Private James Elder of the 7th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment (Number 12218) was killed on 3 July 1916, aged 27. He was the son of James Elder and Betsy (nee Snape). On the 1911 Census James is living with his widowed mother and three sisters at 82 Tockholes Road, where he is shown to be a “Reeler” at a paper staining works.
A newspaper obituary noted that before the war he was employed at Belgrave Mills and that he was connected with the Baptist Church.
His enlistment papers have not survived but we know from the medal rolls that he embarked for France on 14th October 1915.
Opening phase: the Battle of Albert, 1 - 13 July 1916
In this opening phase, the French and British assault broke into and gradually moved beyond the first of the German defensive systems. For the British, the attack on 1 July proved to be the worst day in the nation's military history in terms of casualties sustained. It is the aspect of the battle that is most remembered and most written about, and for good reason - but to concentrate on the failures is to entirely miss the point of the Somme and why the battle developed into an epic period of the Great War. On the first day, British forces at the southern end of the British line made an impressive advance alongside the French Sixth Army, capturing the villages of Montauban and Mametz and breaking through the enemy's defensive system. North of Mametz the attack was an almost unmitigated failure. The situation led to a redirection of effort, with the offensive north of the River Ancre effectively being closed down and all future focus being on the line south of Thiepval. There was a stiff fight for Trones Wood and costly, hastily planned and piecemeal attacks that eventually took La Boisselle, Contalmaison and Mametz Wood during the rest of the period up to 13th July.
James Elder has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. His sisters received his 1914-15 Star and British War and Victory Medals.
back to top
8th Border Regiment, 12909
Private John Entwistle of the 8th Border Regiment (No. 12909) was killed on 5th July 1916 at Aveluy Wood, during The Battle of Albert.
He was the son of Andrew Entwistle and Ellen (nee Ashworth). John was born on 31st July 1894 at 60 Cranberry Lane, Darwen. His mother died in 1904 and his father remarried the same year to Thirza Blandford. John attended Lower Chapel Sunday School, for whom he played cricket and football. He worked as a weaver at Mr T. D. Pickup’s mill in Marsh House Lane.
When war was declared he attested on 9th September 1914 at Darwen and he was posted to the 8th Border Regiment on the same day. He joined his Regiment at Carlisle. According to his army record, his height was given as 5ft 5½ins, weight 119lb, chest 32½ins (expansion 3ins), complexion fresh, eyes hazel, hair brown and his religion was Congregationalist. He had a scar in the middle of his forehead.
As soon as the Battalion was at strength they were deployed on training from 10 September 1914 to Codford at Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. On 16th September 1914, John was granted one week’s leave on account of his brother being ill. (This may have been George or Edmund.)
In early 1915, the Battalion moved to Aldershot for Brigade training. Here, the men learned the arts of soldiering in large formations. On completion of their training, it was time for the 8th Border Regiment to move for service overseas in the war zone. After a spell of leave at home they gathered at Codford Camp and prepared to travel to the Western Front.
They left Aldershot on the 25th September 1915, arriving in France on the 27th, at the Port of Boulogne. On arrival in France they travelled by train to Hazebrouck, marched to Strazeele and took lorries to Nieppe then marched on to Le Bizet where they were billeted. From here they went into the line at Ploegsteert for the first three months of "acclimatisation", as they learned the 'arts and tricks' of Trench Warfare under the guidance of the 48th Canadian Highlander Battalion.
Once they were trench ready they commenced trench warfare's cycles on front line, reserve line, rest and fatigues, as and when needed The Battalion started a period of turn and turnabout with the 10th Cheshire’s in line at East of Ploegsteert.
The nights of 4th to 9th October were full of sniping and machine gun fire from the enemy as the 8th Border tried to repair and reinforce the trenches in their sector. On the 9th they were relieved to billets at Ploeagsteert, exchanging places with the 10th Cheshire’s who went into line, in their place. The 10th -15th October was spent in the second line, doing fatigues and physical drills, followed by bathing. On the 15th October they went back into the front line to relieve the Cheshire’s again. The front line was as active as the first tour and the following gives a flavour of the action.
Poor weather was experienced during November and December 1915. Most of the Battalion activity concerned trench repairs and sniping duels. On a lighter note, one of the British snipers bagged a pheasant! Christmas this year was most definitely not a time for fraternisation and although the 8th Border were out of line and had Christmas Eve bath and a service on Christmas Day.
During the early part of 1916, the 8th Border were in training for the upcoming Offensive of the summer months, with which the British and French planned to break the German lines and win the war. Periods of training were alternated with periods in line and a gradual progression to be in the area of attack in time for the 'Big Push' (The Battle of the Somme). On 26th January 1916 the 8th Border, part of the 75th Brigade, 25th Division moved via La Creche, to Strazeele, where the men had Company Training. General Plumer and Lord Kitchener inspected the Brigade during route marches and some men attended a demonstration of the new German weapon, the Flammenwerfer.
On the 10th March 1916 they left Strazeele and moved to Nedon and Bryas for more training, all in preparation for the upcoming summer offensive. Sir Julian Byng inspected the men on 20th March 1916 and Sir Douglas Haig on the 31st, all while the men were on route marches. Things were beginning to ramp up now, as Wood Fighting in defence and attack, night fighting, bombing, training against the German Flammenwerfer and musketry and Lewis Gun firing were practised.
In early April, training continued for preparation to go in line north of Neuville St Vaast on the 21st April 1916. Whilst in line early during their stint, in the pouring rain and struggling to maintain the trenches, the Germans decided to test the 'new boys'. On 25th and 26th April 1916, the front line was subjected to a set of bombing raids which cost the lives of two men. May 1916 was spent in and out of line in the Neuville area and it was here the 8th Border got their first real taste of two notorious facets of Western Front warfare; mining and gas. On 4th May 1916 John was granted 8 days leave.
The 8th Border went out of line on the 20th May 1916, but they were harassed in Neuville by gas shells and heavy calibre shelling during the time in billets. They returned to the front line in late May and experienced a spate of casualties, due to mining, bombing and shelling as the enemy sought to make the area as uncomfortable for the troops as they could. Rumours of the build up to the “Big Push” must have been rife on both sides of the line. June 1916 saw the Battalion moving towards the Somme Area, training and exercising as they went. The training was aimed at getting the men into a peak of battle readiness for the Battalion’s part in the Somme Offensive, set for the end of June or early July.
When the Battle of the Somme commenced, the 8th Battalion was stationed at Forceville, some four miles behind the front lines, but were ordered to be ready to move up at short notice, if events required. On the 2nd July 1916, they were marched to Martinsart Wood and the front lines south of Thiepval, to take part in an attack at 6 a.m. on July 3rd, in an area which had resisted attackers the previous day. With no attack taking place either side and severe enfilade fire from these flanks, the attack was costly to the 8th Border. The German trench was only captured for 200 yards in the centre of the attack and this was too badly damaged by shellfire to hold against counter attack. The men had to hold the line for another night as the battered 32nd Division who had attacked on the 1st July in this area, were in greater need of relief due to their higher casualties. The 8th Border were relieved on the night of the 4th July and bivouaced in Aveluy Wood as they and other Division battalions recovered from the failed attack. It was here that John lost his life but his body was never found.
John’s father received his son’s 1914-1915 Star on 19th September 1921 and the Victory & British War Medals 22nd September 1921.
John Entwistle is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, and has no known grave. He is also remembered on the Lower Chapel war memorial.
King's Royal Rifle Corps., R/11390
Joseph Entwistle, born 1890, was the son of Joseph and Betsy Entwistle of 13 George Street West, Darwen. He was employed as a weaver at George Street Mill, and attended Duckworth Street Chapel.
Joseph Entwistle enlisted into the 7th King’s Royal Rifle Corps in February 1915, following in the footsteps of his brother Albert, who was serving with the East Lancashire Regiment in Gallipoli. Tragically, Albert was killed in September 1915.
Joseph was sent to France at the beginning on 1916, just in time to prepare for the Somme Offensive in July.
On 18th August 1916, the Battalion was engaged in the Battle of Delville Wood when Joseph was killed. He was shot through the heart. His body was never found, but he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 31800
Private Walter Entwistle of 1st Battalion the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (Number 31800) was killed on 15 November 1916.
He was the son of John Edwin Entwistle and Hannah (nee Bury). On the 1911 Census the family are recorded as living at 83 Sudellside Street, Darwen and Walter’s employment is shown as an “Apprentice Clogger”.
Walter’s enlistment papers are not available but the medal rolls show his Battalion and service number.
The 1st Division, of which 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was a part, had been involved in the battles of the Somme from the beginning of July, namely the Battle of Albert, the Battle of Bazentin, the Battles of Pozieres, Flers-Courcelette and Morval.
They were still in the area of Mametz Wood at the end of 1916.
Walter Entwistle has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
His parents would receive his British War and Victory Medals.
1st East Lancashire Regiment, 18998
Private Joseph Henry Eva of the 1st East Lancashire Regiment (No. 18998) was killed on 1st July 1916 at Beaument Hamel on the Somme.
Joseph was born on 10th February 1896 at 73 Bury Street, Darwen, the son of Thomas James Eva and Rachel Ann (nee Green). When Joseph was nine years old his mother died and his father remarried in 1909 to Elizabeth Ann Green. The family later lived in Finch Street, Darwen and Joseph attended Blackburn Road School and worshiped at Blackburn Road Wesleyan Church. When he enlisted in 1915, he was working as a weaver at Messrs. Ward’s in Moss Bridge Mill.
He sailed with his Battalion and arrived in France on 9th June 1915 and saw action on the Western Front. By 5th May 1916, the Battalion was at Bernaville; here training and musketry commenced. They marched to Carmont 15th May, on the edge of French manoeuvre ground, near Yvrench. At Yvrench, they underwent further training ready for “the Big Push.” Six days later the Battalion marched to Berrnaville and on the following day to Bertrancourt and then to Beaussart. They were billet about four miles west of Beaumont Hamel where further training took place.
On the morning of 1st July the bombardment of the enemy trenches became intense, but the German machine-guns continued to fire from Beaument Hamel throughout the bombardment. The 1st East Lancashire Regiment, as part of the 4th Division, attacked between Serre and Beaumont Hamel and captured the Quadrilateral ("Heidenkopf") but could not exploit the success, because of the repulse by the Germans of the attacks by the flanking divisions. Cross-fire from Beaumont Hamel and Serre and determined counter-attacks held up the Division. No other gains were made and German counter-attacks recovered the position early on 2 July, by which time the Division had suffered 4,700 casualties. Joseph was one of these causalities and towards the end of July 1916 his mother received a letter from a Sergeant saying that her son was reported missing. It would be another 12 months before Joseph’s family received official news of Joseph’s death.
Joseph Henry Eva is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, and has no known grave.
King's Own Scottish Borderers, 14025
Private Thomas Flannery of 7/8th Battalion the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (Number 14025) was killed on 8 August 1916.
He was the son of John and Ellen Flannery, one of six siblings, who resided at 42 Cavendish Street on the 1911 Census. A former pupil of St Edward’s School, Thomas Flannery was a weaver at Hindle Street Mill prior to enlisting in the army.
The War Diary for the 7/8th Battalion shows:
8 August in trenches near Franvillers:
“Battn Hd.Qrs. moved to Dugout built by our troops in WELCH ALLEY – ‘D’ Coy. Hd Qrs going to dugout were evacuated. Orders were received to hand over our left of line to 12th H.L.I. (three platoons), ‘A’ Coy moving back to O.G.2. Relief was completed by 3.30pm, our left then being from WELCH ALLEY inclusive. At 8.10am a party of 12 German, preceded by a Red Cross flag, was seen leaving the extreme left house in MARTINPUICH moving across the open to their front line. This was reported by Artillery to be a daily occurrence so Lewis Guns were turned on. Only 9 Germans regained the cover of the house. Remainder of the day was quiet, little movement being seen. Casualties in the evening mounted up, a work party of ours on LANCS SAP on extreme right of our line suffering heavily from shell fire.
2nd Lt. J. B. WALMSLEY, a gallant young Officer, was taking a patrol out from that area at 11pm, when a sniper’s bullet killed him. Casualties: 3 killed in action, 30 O.R. wounded in action. Right company – work party – in LANCS SAP were working in conjunction with 6th Berkshires, who attempted to take the corner of INTERMEDIATE TRENCH running up to road in S.2.C. The extension of LANCS TR. would have been joined up to this line if attack had been successful. At 12.15am the attack was reported a failure and our work party withdrawn.”
A colleague of Private Flannery wrote to his parents to say he had been with him prior to his death, and that he had buried him at the time. This grave must have subsequently been lost during the extensive fighting in the area, as Thomas is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial along with the many thousands of other soldiers with no known grave.
His parents would receive his 1914-15 Star together with the British War and Victory Medals.
East Lancashire Regiment, 201192
Ernest Fowler, born 10th January 1893, was the son of John Fowler and Emma Lomax. His father, John, died when he was young, leaving his mother with six siblings. Emma remarried, adding a further three step-siblings to their house on Star Street.
Before the war, Ernest was employed as a “back-tenter” at Darwen Paper Mill, and spent his free time at the Railway Road Wesleyan Chapel.
He enlisted early on, joining the 1st/4th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment before it shipped out to Gallipoli in July 1915. He served in the Dardanelles before being shipped to France in early 1916, just in time for the Somme campaign.
Ernest would survive this bitter campaign, but sadly died in 1917. On the night of April 24th /25th an attack was made by the 1/4th East Lancashire and I/9th Manchester on an enemy position north of Tombies Farm and east of Quarry Vendhuille and Little Priel Farm. This section, which comprised a knoll and quarry, was occupied by about 250 Germans, and the attack was immediately successful, the enemy being driven out and chased to the bank of the canal by " D " Company of the 1/4th East Lancashire, who captured a machine-gun, although no prisoners were taken.
Ernest was then listed as missing in the war diaries. His body was never found. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
Royal Irish Regiment, 691
Private Edgar Frisby of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment, number 691, was killed on14th July 1916, aged 24.
Edgar was born in 1891 in Oundle, Northamptonshire to Charles and Amy Rebecca Frisby. By 1911, however, the family were living at 2a Portland Street, Darwen. His father was a retired Brickmaker and Edgar was a weaver at a cotton mill. He had previously attended Bolton Road Wesleyan School and Church, for whom he played cricket.
Private Frisby’s enlistment papers have not survived but it is known that he originally served in the 5th Battalion before transferring to the 2nd Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment:
5th (Service) Battalion (Pioneers)
Formed at Clonmel in August 1914 as part of K1 and came under orders of 29th Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division.
About June 1915, converted to Pioneer Battalion of the same Division.
7th July 1915: embarked at Liverpool and sailed to Gallipoli via Mudros. Landed Suvla Bay
7th August 1915.
30th September 1915: moved via Mudros to Salonika.
14th March 1915: transferred to 12th Brigade, 4th Division.
26th July 1915: transferred to 11th Brigade in same Division.
22nd May 1916: transferred to 22nd Brigade, 7th Division.
On the 1st July 1916 the Somme offensive was commenced. These operations were designed to place our army at one stride within striking distance of the German second line, which ran, roughly, on the line at Pozieres, southern side of Bazentin le Petit, Bazentin le Grand, and Longueval. The principal attack of the British Forces was made by the Fourth Army, operating on a front of some fifteen miles to the north of the Somme. The French were operating on our right with one Corps. on the North of the Somme and other troops continuing for some distance to the South.
BAZENTIN RIDGE –on the 13th they moved into position of assembly at Mametz Wood. At 4.30am. On the 14th the attack started. The 1st Royal Warwickshire’s captured the enemy’s front line trenches. The Royal Irish passed through them and C Company, under Captain Tighe, and captured the village of Bazentin le Petit, taking 150 prisoners.
The Royal Irish assembled on the south side of the village and thence marched into bivouacs in Mametz Wood. The Royal Irish captured and held the objectives assigned to them in the orders for the day’s operations but their losses were very heavy:
3 officers killed and 11 wounded.
24 men killed, 208 wounded and 80 missing.”
Edgar Frisby has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
His parents would receive his 1914-15 Star and British War and Victory Medals.
Lancashire Fusiliers, 15747
Corporal Harry Gee of the 18th Lancashire Fusiliers (No. 15747) was killed on 15th April 1917 on the Somme.
Harry was born in 1896 at Chesterfield, Derbyshire. He was the son of Walter Gee and Sarah Ann (nee Finney). The couple had 13 children, five who died in infancy. The family moved into Darwen shortly after the 1901 census and they lived in Atlas Road. Harry’s father was employed as a verger at St James’ and the family attended the church. Harry was employed as a cotton weaver and he later worked at Messrs. Place’s Brick Works.
On 4th January 1915, Harry enlisted in the 18th Lancashire Fusiliers, a Bantam Battalion, so he was less than 5ft 3ins tall. He sailed with his Battalion and saw action on the Western Front. He was at the Battle of the Somme and, at the end of the year, the Divisional commanding officer (Major General H. J. S. Landon) submitted a report complaining that the replacement drafts he had received were not of the same tough physical standard as the original Bantams but were undeveloped, unfit men from the towns. A medical inspection was duly carried out and 1439 men rejected from the ranks. A second inspection removed another batch, bringing the total to 2784. These men were, in the main, transferred to the Labour Corps. Their places were filled with men transferred from disbanded yeomanry regiments; they had to be quickly trained in infantry methods and a Divisional depot was formed for the purpose. Brigades were then ordered that no more Bantams were to be accepted. Original Bantams that passed the medical inspection remained in place. Harry was one who passed.
In April 1917 Harry was on the Somme and his Battalion was involved in pursuing the Germans during their retreat to the Hindenburg Line. During action on 15th April he was reported wounded and missing after a successful charge. In a letter of regret to his mother, the Captain of the Battalion states: “He was one of the best lads in the Battalion, and always did his duty, and often more than his duty.”
Harry Gee is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, and has no known grave.
King's Own Scottish Borderers, 15607
Richard Gillibrand was born in 1887 to John Thomas and Martha Jane Gillibrand. By 1911, he had married Margaret Teresa Appleton, and they had one child. The family lived at 112 Exchange Street, Darwen and Richard was employed by Messr’s Joseph Place and Sons, Hoddlesden.
Prior to the outbreak of war, in 1910, Richard enlisted into the local territorial unit. As war was declared, he re-enlisted with four pals. Only one of them would survive and even he would lose a leg.
Richard was sent to the 7th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers. They had formed at Berwick-on-Tweed in September 1914 and came under orders of 46th Brigade in 15th (Scottish) Division. They moved to Bordon and in February 1915 went into billets at Winchester. They then moved to Park House and Chisledon Camps (Salisbury Plain) in April 1915.
The Battalion landed at Boulogne on 10 July 1915. From then on, Richard would have seen action, particularly in the summer of 1916, at the Battles of Pozieres, where Richard would lose his life.
Pozieres was a small, straggling village on the main Albert-Bapaume road. It is situated on high ground that gives the occupier observation southwards along the road towards Ovillers, La Boisselle, Albert and beyond; to the east across to High Wood, Delville Wood and beyond; and westwards to Thiepval. Possession of Pozieres was key to making possible any further advances towards Bapaume, the capture of the Thiepval ridge and the breaking of resistance at High and Delville Woods. The Battle for Pozieres and nearby Mouquet Farm became an epic in its own right, with tenacious German defence keeping determined British-Australian attack at bay for several weeks.
Richard has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 4a and 4d. He is also remembered at St John the Evangelist Parish.
Durham Light Infantry, 28017
Walter Gillibrand was born 22nd May 1894 and he was baptised 8th August 1894. His parents, John and Elizabeth Gillibrand, were living on Higher Gillibrand Street, Darwen at the time of William’s birth.
By 1901, the family had moved to Oswaldtwistle and were living at 94 Roe Greave Road,
The 1901 census showed that Walter, aged six, had a sister Maggie who was eight years old.
The 1911 census shows that the family were living at 19 Stanhill Street, Oswaldtwistle and included another child, Henry, aged twelve.
Walter enlisted 5th January 1916 and left for France 4th May 1916.
The Division took part in many of the significant actions on the Western Front.
On Saturday 23rd September 1916 an announcement was placed in “The Darwen Gazette” entitled: "A GOOD SOLDIER" AN OFFICER'S TRIBUTE
Mr. Gillibrand, who lives at 77, St. Albans's road, has received from a Lieutenant of the West Yorkshire Regiment, a letter stating that his son, Private Walter Gillibrand, was killed on the 3rd inst whilst in action. Private Gillibrand was connected with St. Cuthbert's Church and was a weaver Messrs. Gillibrand's Hollins Grove Mill before he enlisted on the 3rd of January, this year. He joined the Durham Light Infantry, but was afterwards drafted to the West Yorkshire's. He was 22 years of age. The Lieutenant's letter is as follows:_
"You will already have heard of the death of your son on the field of honour on the 3rd September. It was a sad day for the Battalion and we lost many of our bravest boys. But surely their supreme sacrifice will gain for them eternal glory. To die fighting for King and country and to save the homes of England from the devastation which has overtaken France and Belgium, is the finest death a man can die. It must be a terrible blow to you, and all his officers and comrades join you in mourning a cheerful and brave soldier."
Private Walter Gillibrand was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal
Royal Fusiliers, 10562
Henry Green, born in 1897, was the son of Wesley Green and Eleanor Louisa Green of 43 Green Street, Darwen. Wesley was a boot maker, whilst Henry’s sister Eleanor was a teacher. Henry was one of six siblings. He worked as a clerk, alongside his brother, at Messrs. John Catlow and Sons, Olive Mill, and he was in the choir at the Railway Road Wesleyan Church.
Henry enlisted into 8th Battalion Royal Fusiliers in March 1915. His Battalion was part of 12th Division which had been fighting on the Somme in July and August during the battles around Albert, Pozieres, and then, at Le Transloy in early October 1916.
His Battalion marched for five days after leaving Somme and relieved the 11th (Northern) Division on the Arras front on 22nd August. It was a comparatively quiet time, punctuated by trench raids. They were relieved on 26th-27th September and moved back to the Somme, taking over forward positions in appalling conditions at Geudecourt.
The Fourth Army mounted an attack on 7th October: the objective for the Division was Bayonet Trench and 500 yards beyond. A small gain was made in spite of heavy enemy fire. So few men made it to Bayonet Trench that it could not be held. Troops came under machine gun fire from German aircraft on 9th October. More efforts were made on 12th and 19th October, that got no further. The Division - except its Artillery - was relieved on 19th October and returned to Arras. Another 135 officers and 3176 men had become casualties. In all, almost 11000 casualties had been sustained in a total of just 43 days fighting on the Somme.
In this chaos, Henry was killed. He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
The King's (Liverpool Regiment), 25118
The Greenhalgh’s were a very close family, but one blighted by tragedy.
Jack’s father died in November 1914 as the result of an accident at the spinning mill where he worked. The family all attended St. John the Evangelist Church in Darwen and Jack was also a member of St. John’s Institute and St. John’s Minstrel Troupe. Jack was a weaver at Bowling Green Mill.
Jack was well known in sporting circles in Darwen, being a referee in the Darwen and District Sunday School league, and a former secretary of the league.
Together with his brothers, David and Joseph, Jack enlisted as a volunteer in the King’s Liverpool Regiment in January 1915 and he was sent to France in May of that year. Before he was posted abroad, he married his sweetheart, Nellie, who was carrying his child. His son, John Thomas, was born in August 1915. Jack was granted leave at Christmas 1915 and returned to Darwen; hence the photograph of the three family members.
His brother, David, was killed in action at Ypres in April 1915, probably at Lange Mark.
Jack was wounded at Loos in September 1915, but returned to the front. He was promoted to Lance-Corporal shortly afterwards.
War Diary Regiment's War Diary 8th August 1916 reads as follows:
Front line ‘new trench’ west of Guillemont.
At zero hour (4.20a.m.) B, C and D coys (under Capt Wichington) advanced to attack 1st objective, german front line from Brompton road to strong point near 22.214.171.124.. Lt Goff, Capt King (adjt), Major Mccael behind artillery coy. 1st objective was taken except strong point as the coys were hove off to the right during the advance.
Very misty when attack was launched, very hard to see more than 10 yards. At 4.50a.m. A coy moved forward to occupy the line vacated by A, B, C and D coys. A coy were met with severe machine gun fire and bombs from strong point. Meanwhile B, C and D coys had gained their 1st, 2nd and third obfectives.
Ist objective German front line
2nd objective Guillemont railway station
3rd objective High Holborn (trench n of s74)
At this stage whilst A coy was engaged with Germans at strong point, large numbers of Germans came streaming down the original german front trench at Guillemont. This was due to the fact that our Battalions on our right had failed in their objectives.
Cpt Last, who was wounded in the leg when with his company, crawled back towards our lines. There he met Lt Hudson, coy A, where he was informed that about 150 of our men were consolidating their newly gained positions at High Holborn (3rd objective} and about 70 men the same at Guillemont station (2nd objective).
Orderlies were dispatched by officer in charge to B, C and D companies to inform them that their right flank was being encircled and threatening the line of communication. Reinforcements were called for by A coy. Repeated attempts to reach leading companies failed. No further news was received from B, C and D coys.
(early next morning (9th) aeroplane reconnaissance produced a photograph showing that our companies were still holding out and digging in.
During the night of 8/9, a coy of 2 South Staffordsmade a bombing attack by the left to try to reach our men. This attack failed.
13th Essex were ordered by GOC 6th batt. To attack to reach our men. This attack was launched at 5.00 a.m on 9th, after an hours intense bombardment owing to the large amount of barbed wire that the enemy had put out during the night. Attack failed. With the exception of a message sent by carrier pigeon no further news was received from the leading coys. Early in the operation major mccael received a wound in the leg.he was being conveyed back to our front line but just before reaching it he was killed by a bullet which passed through his head.
killed wounded missing/taken total
Officers 1 6 18
Other ranks 235
Jack was killed in action at Guillemont on 8th August together with 62 of his comrades. He has no known grave and his name is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
Ten days later on 18th August his brother, Joseph, was also killed in action whilst helping a wounded comrade.
West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales' Own), 38110
Private James Hartley of the 16th West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own) (No. 38110) was killed 27th February 1917 on the Somme.
James was born in 1880 at 2 Moscow Mill Street, Oswaldtwistle. He was the son of Seth Hartley and Jane (nee Sutcliffe). By the time the 1891 census was taken the family had moved to Darwen and his father was working as a grocer at 19 Grimshaw Street. The family business was a success and ten years later they had shops in Darwen and Oswaldtwistle. James was a member of the Darwen Grocers’ Association, in which he took great interest and occupied the position of president in the year 1910. The family attended Bolton Road Wesleyan Sunday School. In 1901, James married Jane Kitchen at St Mary, Lancaster and they had three children Harold (1903), Eric (1904) and Doris (1907).
By the time war commenced James and his family had moved to Barnoldswick. As his army record has not survived it is not clear as to when he joined the army but it is known that he enlisted at Halifax in the 16th West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own). By 1917, he was with his Battalion on the Somme. On 26th February they were at Bayencourt and had moved into the line at Hebuterne Sector to take part in the operation against the enemy who were known to be evacuating their position. At 6.30am on the following day the Battalion made an attack on Rossignol Wood – two companies were attacking and two in support. The Battalion suffered heavy causalities, chiefly from machine gun fire and shrapnel. It was in this action that James lost his life.
James Hartley is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme and has no known grave.
At the end of the war his wife received his war medals - Victory & British War Medals.
Rifle Brigade Z/2333
Rifleman James Harwood of 1st Battalion the Rifle Brigade, Number Z/2333 was killed on 1st July 1916. He was born on 23rd July 1895 and baptised at St John’s Church, Darwen to parents John and Ellen, who were living at the time in Pine Street. By the 1911 Census James was living on Exchange Street with his parents and siblings. He worked as a Reacher-in at a Cotton Mill.
James Harwood enlisted into the army on 31st August 1914 at Darwen (aged 19 years) but by the time he joined his joined his unit at Southend he had taken to using the name John Harwood. He was subsequently married under this name to Dorothy Clare Golding at Southchurch Tabernacle, Rochford, on 24 April 1915.
Opening phase: the Battle of Albert, 1 - 13 July 1916
In this opening phase, the French and British assault broke into and gradually moved beyond the first of the German defensive systems. For the British, the attack on 1 July proved to be the worst day in the nation's military history in terms of casualties sustained. It is the aspect of the battle that is most remembered and most written about, and for good reason - but to concentrate on the failures is to entirely miss the point of the Somme and why the battle developed into an epic period of the Great War. On the first day, British forces at the southern end of the British line made an impressive advance alongside the French Sixth Army, capturing the villages of Montauban and Mametz and breaking through the enemy's defensive system. North of Mametz the attack was an almost unmitigated failure. The situation led to a redirection of effort, with the offensive north of the River Ancre effectively being closed down and all future focus being on the line south of Thiepval. There was a stiff fight for Trones Wood and costly, hastily planned and piecemeal attacks that eventually took La Boisselle, Contalmaison and Mametz Wood during the rest of the period up to 13 July.
John Harwood (otherwise James Harwood) has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
His widow received his 1914-15 Star and British War and Victory Medals.
Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 33535
Private John Healey of 10th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers (Number 33535) was killed on
16th August 1916. He was the son of John Patrick and Margaret Healey and was baptised at St Joseph’s Church, Darwen 15th April 1875. In 188, the family were living at 28 Water Street. John enlisted at Blackwood, Monmouthshire 7th September 1914 initially into the South Wales Borderers with the Regimental Number 17656. He was transferred to 10th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers on 8th May 1916.
John Healey’s enlistment papers show he was 5 feet 61/2 inches tall and weighed 144 lbs. Complexion – dark, Eyes – blue, Hair – turning grey. He gives his brother James’ address in Darwen as Sunnyhurst Wood. He states his age as 33 years and 5 months.
The attacks on High Wood, 20th – 25th July 1916
The fight for High Wood, which had begun on 14th July, went on until mid-September. The wood sits on ground that gives the occupier militarily vital observation south to the Montauban ridge, east to Delville Wood and north east towards Flers and Guedecourt. The first British units entered the wood late on 14th July 1916, but the Germans had recovered from the British breakthrough at Bazentin earlier that day and were now manning the "Switch Line" trench system which ran through the back of the wood. Both sides fought tenaciously to possess the wood. It became an epicentre of the bloody attack and counter-attack attritional fighting that characterised much of the Somme offensive after 14th July.
The Battle of Delville Wood, 15th July – 3rd September 1916
Delville Wood, which is within sight and today an easy walk of High Wood, was also fought over countless times for similar reasons and became a charnel house, choked with the dead of both sides. It is perhaps most remembered for the sustained attack mad by the South African Brigade of the 9th (Scottish) Division, a formation which was to all intents and purposes destroyed during its valiant efforts.
John Healey is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial and has no known grave. He was entitled to the British War and Victory Medals.
When John Healey’s affairs were finally resolved his parents were both deceased and his estate was divided between his brothers Hugh, James of Lyndhurst Road, and his sisters:
Mary, Bridget, Julia, Ellen, Ann and niece Miss Martha Billington, daughter of his sister Margaret.
Coldstream Guards, 6360
Charles was the son of John Thomas and Sarah Sophia Hearth, nee Mellish. He had joined the Coldstream Guards in 1903 as a Regular and served with them for three years. He married May Parkington in 1910 and they had two sons, James and Charles who were born in 1912 and 1914.The family lived in Atlas Road, Darwen. Prior to the War, Charles was a varnish manufacturer at Walpamur, Darwen.
Being a Reservist, Charles was called up in August 1914 and went to France immediately. He was wounded in the shoulder but returned to the ranks, and by 1916, he was fighting on the Somme. Charles, aged 30 years, was killed 25th September 1916.
WAR DIARY 25th SEPTEMBER 1916
The Battalion moved forward to Green Line at 1.35pm, No. 3 Company were then sent forward to bomb through the Northern end of Les Boeufs, then to take up a position in front of Les Boeufs – Gaudecourt Road, in support. No. 1 Company advanced to Brown line and started to dig in followed by No. 4 Company and half of no. 2. Battalion HQ moved up to Sunken Road, West of Les Boeufs, at about 4p.m. No 1 Company, 4 Company and half of 2 Company went forward from the Brown Line and dug in immediately in front of Les Boeufs, in close support to the Irish.
The remaining half of no. 2 Company were kept at Battalion HQ as reserve.
War diary 26th September 1916
Consolidation of line. Heavy hostile shelling. Relieved at about 9 p.m. by company of 2nd Irish Guards. Moved to bivouacs at Carnoy. Casualties 1 officer and 136 other ranks.
Charles has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
He attended St John the Evangelist Church, Darwen and is commemorated on this war memorial.
Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 18983
William Lawson Holgate, born 11th September 1895, was the son of Thomas Edward and Angelina Holgate of Blackburn Road, Darwen.
He was educated at the Municipal Secondary School Darwen, and Manchester Grammar School, where he held a Lancashire Junior Exhibition. William was a student at the Municipal School of Technology at Manchester and was taking University courses in Mechanical Engineering. He was a member of the University Officers' Training Corps, and had twice been recommended by the Colonel commanding the Battalion for a commission in October 1915 and again in April 1916.
William served with the 16th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers in France and Flanders from 15th December 1916, and was killed in action, aged 20 year, at Mametz Wood on 10th July, 1916.
The Darwen Gazette, Saturday July 22nd, 1916 recorded William’s death as follows:
His Commanding Officer wrote: "The battalion was joining up to attack the German position, when a shell burst close to him, killing him instantaneously. He was one of the very many brave soldiers who fell that day, but there is none whose loss will be more keenly felt by his comrades or by myself personally. His bearing throughout his period of service, especially in France, was invariably that of a true and loyal soldier, and a comrade: * He was first wounded in the cheek by a bullet, and soon after a shell burst just in front of him, killing him instantaneously."
No greater sacrifice can a patriot make for the country he loves and the King he honours than to lay down his life in defending their cause against a barbarian and ruthless enemy.
Many of Darwen's bravest and best lads have gone out to face the foe, and have fallen in battle in this sorry and terrible war. When the roll of all our lost heroes is compiled, and to them some splendid permanent memorial is set up in the town, an honoured place will be given to Lance-Corporal William Holgate, the youngest son of our esteemed townsman, Councillor Thomas E. Holgate, who, whilst in action with the Public Schools Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, was killed by a shell.
The sad news was conveyed to the family at their home in Hollins Grove, on Wednesday morning in a letter received from Private W. Farrer Lonsdale, son-in-law of Mr James Duxbury, Atlas House, and it was confirmed by another letter received yesterday morning.
With the death of Lance-Corporal Holgate a career of great promise is closed. Only twenty years of age, he was educated at the Manchester Grammar School, where he won distinctions and then he passed on to the Manchester School of Technology where he was studying when the troops of the Emperor of the Huns invaded Belgian territory. In month following the declaration of war he joined the Officers Training Corps and went to the front in December last year.
To Councillor Holgate and his family we offer our sincere sympathy in their terrible bereavement.”
Coldstream Guards, 11381
Harry Houghton was born15th December1891. He was the son of Edward and Martha Houghton of Scholes Fold, Pickup Bank, Darwen who were farmers. Harry helped his father and his brother William on the farm.
Harry enlisted into the 3rd Coldstream Guards in September 1915, having initially avoided army life as a reserved occupation as a farmer.
It was during the Battle of Morval, on 26th September 1916, that Harry was killed. The preliminary bombardment began at 7am on 24 September; the assault troops waiting in muddy ‘jumping-off’ trenches early next morning witnessed a barrage of unprecedented ferocity on German positions, which intensified just before zero hour. At 12.35pm on 25th September, as the creeping barrage pounded down on No Man’s Land, the infantry advanced. On XIV Corps front 5th, 6th and Guards Divisions methodically gained ground and both Morval and Lesboeufs were occupied by 3.30pm. XV Corps divisions had difficulty approaching the formidable Gird Trench and considerable disorganisation was caused by determined German resistance. It was not until early morning on 26th September that a section of Gird Trench was cleared, with the assistance of a tank, opening the way into Guedecourt village, which was taken that same evening. Earlier in the day Combles had been occupied by British and French forces. Further attacks were made by XV Corps on 27 September and the following day saw the handover of the extreme right of XIV Corps line to French forces.
During this engagement, it was initially reported that Harry was wounded, with shrapnel in his left hand, but he was later listed as killed, presumably suffering from complications due to the wound. Despite getting to an aid station, Harry’s body was never found, and he has no known grave. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
Lancashire Fusiliers, 13530
Private Robert Ingham of the Lancashire Fusiliers (No 13530) was killed in action on the 1st of July 1916. John was born in Darwen in 1890. His siblings were Nancy Alice, James and Annie.
Prior to the war he was a footballer who played for Darwen. He was employed at Messrs. Places Pipeworks Eccleshill and attended Blackburn Road Wesleyan School.
Robert enlisted into the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers in March 1915. He travelled with the Battalion to Gallipoli and engaged in actions at the Battles of Krithia and the Achi Baba heights on the Gallipoli Peninsula. In January 1916 they were evacuated to Egypt due to the severe casualties from combat, disease and harsh weather. From here, they embarked for France, landing at Marseilles on the 29th March 1916. For the next three months, Robert would get an understanding of the Western Front, before being sent into action on 1st July 1916. The Battalion were based at Beaumont Hamel. The Sunken Road was in “No Man’s” land on the morning of the 1st July 1916. Its situation made it too dangerous to hold by either side, though the Germans probably held the advantage through their dominance of the higher ground. The Lancashire Fusiliers would have been advancing from left to right. The German’s position, called the Bergwerk, was slightly to the right of the small British Cemetery on the hillside.
By 0300 hours on 1st July 1916 two companies of the Fusiliers had moved into the Sunken Road. The British bombardment was still going on and this would have helped keep German patrols away. At 0720 hours the Hawthorn mine was detonated and of course the British bombardment in the area had to stop because on the far side of the hill the 2nd Royal Fusiliers were rushing the crater.
By now it was broad daylight and the Germans had already spotted the Lancashire’s waiting below them. The German artillery put down a bombardment of their own.
At 0730 hours – ZERO hour – the Lancashire’s rose up out of the Sunken Road moving leftwards. They were cut down within a matter of metres.
The remaining Companies advancing from the British front line into the Sunken Road also suffered heavy casualties whilst leaving their own trenches.
By lunchtime the Sunken Road was simply a point of refuge for the dozens of wounded. These were evacuated during the remainder of the evening and the position was held through the night by just one officer and 25 men.
The Battalion had lost 163 killed, 312 wounded and 11 missing.
Robert has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 3c and 3d.
East Lancashire Regiment, 14917
Private Richard Thomas Davenport Jackson of the 8th East Lancashire Regiment (No. 14917) was killed on 15th July 1916 at Pozieres on the Somme.
Richard was born 5th July 1880 in the Ashton area of Wigan and baptised 26th July 1880 at All Saints, Wigan, the son of William Jackson and Ann (nee Davenport). By 1891, the family had moved to Darwen and were living at 7 Back Bolton Street, Darwen. At this time Richard was working as a “half-time” cotton weaver. Later the family moved to 16 Star Street, Darwen. Richard subsequently was employed as a full-time weaver at Springfield Mill. He attended Holy Trinity Church where he married Betsy Jane Bennett in 1902. They had one child, William Henry, who was born in 1903. They later lived at 35 Essex Street, Darwen.
Richard enlisted by November 1914 when he was living at 35 Queens Street, Darwen and joined the 8th East Lancashire Regiment. The Battalion was formed at Codford, Wiltshire and moved to Pokesdown Bournemouth in November of the same year. It is most likely where Richard joined the Battalion. Towards the end of March 1915, the Battalion had moved to Salisbury Plain and were concentrated at Cholderton. On 25th June, the units were inspected by George V at Sidbury Hill. On 22nd July 1915 the Division began to cross the English Channel, with Richard arriving at Boulogne on 1st August 1915. By 2nd August all units were concentrated near Tilques.
By June 1916, the Battalion was based at Bienvillers on the Somme ready for the “big push.” For some weeks prior to 1st July 1916 the role of the Brigade had been to induce the enemy to expect an attack from the Brigade front. With this object the Battalion’s patrols had been very active in no-man’s land and several raids had been carried out and much ammunition used. On 1st July the role of the Brigade was to form a defensive flank to cover the flank of the 46th Division during its attack on Gommecourt. Between 1st and 14th July the Battalion had suffered heavy losses. At 8am on 15th July the Battalion received orders to attack Pozieres and capture the village. The Battalion again suffered heavy losses and it was here where Richard lost his life.
His widow was informed of the loss a few weeks later and received the following letter from a colleague of her husband’s which published in “The Darwen News”, Saturday August 12th, 1916:
“It is with much regret that I write you these few lines to offer you the deepest sympathy of my comrades and myself in conveying to you the news that your husband, Richard, was killed in action on Saturday, July 15th whilst bravely doing his duty. He was a splendid fellow and he will be very much missed in the machine gun section, and by all who knew him. He was quite near to me when he fell, and he did not suffer much pain; he died almost instantaneously. My chums and myself sincerely hope that you will bear up as well as you can in your sad bereavement. We have the consolation that he died bravely fighting for his King and country. So once again we offer you our heartfelt sympathy in your loss.”
Richard Thomas Davenport Jackson is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme and has no known grave.
East Lancashire Regiment, 6187
Private Joseph Jefferies of the 1st East Lancashire Regiment (No 6187) was killed on 1st July 1916 close to by Redan Ridges on the Somme.
Joseph was born on 19th March 1882 at Catlow Fold, Darwen. He was the son of William Jeffers and Mary (nee Rush). On 29th July 1899 he attested at Preston for the 3rd Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 47th & 81st Foot (No 6454) and gave his age as 17 years 4 months. At the time, he was working as a labourer for Mr Shorrock of Darwen. His details were recorded as follows: height 5ft 7½ ins; weight 126lbs; chest 32½ins (with an expansion of 2ins); complexion fresh; eyes grey; hair brown; religion Roman Catholic; scar back of left hand; brown mark right hip. Joseph joined the Regular Army 19th October 1899. Attested: 19th October 1899 East Lancashire Regiment – 30th & 59th Foot (no. 6095) and gave his age as 18 years; occupation labourer. Height 5ft 7¼ ins; weight 122lbs; chest 33½ins (with an expansion of 2ins); complexion fresh; eyes grey; hair brown; religion Roman Catholic; scar back of left hand and left eye brow.
His army record shows that he saw service at home from 19th October 1899 – 27th June 1900. He later saw action in South Africa from 28th June 1900 – 24th April 1902. Further service followed in India 26th April 1902 – 18th March 1908, and again, 4th September 1908 – 1st November 1911. He was discharged on the completion of 12 years’ service on 4th November 1911. On 13th November 1900, whilst in India, he received a Court Martial for sleeping whilst on duty as a sentry and he was imprisoned for 56 days. Joseph was promoted to Lance-Corporal on 9th November 1903 and then to Corporal on 14th July 1905. He was appointed as Lance-Sergeant on 3rd October 1908 and Sergeant on 20th January 1910.
He received the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasp for Orange Free State, Cape Colony and Transvaal and the King’s South Africa Medal with clasp for 1901 and 1902.
On the outbreak of war he re-enlisted at Blackburn and joined the 1st East Lancashire Regiment (No. 6187). At this time he was living at 35 Exchange Street, Darwen. He was drafted on active service in January 1915. He was with his Battalion at the Second Battle of Ypres. From Ypres the Battalion moved south and in May 1916 they were undergoing intensive training for the forthcoming offensive. Platoon training and musketry took place at Bernaville. On 11th June the Battalion marched to Mailly-Mailett and on 1st July the Battalion was just north of Beaumont-Hamel close by Redan Ridges and, it was here, that Joseph lost his life. It would be almost twelve months before his mother was informed of her son’s death.
“The Darwen News” published his obituary notice on 16th June 1917 and mentioned that a brother had been killed on 21st April 1916. This would have been John who was killed in Iraq and he his remembered on the Basra Memorial.
Joseph Jefferies is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme and has no known grave. He is also remembered on the War Memorial at Sacred Heart and St. Edward’s.
At the end of the war his mother received Joseph’s war medals - Victory & British War Medals; 1914-1915 Star.
Border Regiment, 16464
Lance-Corporal Herbert Jepson of the 8th Border Regiment (No. 16464) was killed on 5th July 1916 at Aveluy Wood, part of The Battle of Albert.
Herbert was born in Burnley on 1894. He was the son of James Robert Jepson and Mary (nee Jones). His birth was registered under the name of Ebbe Herbert. The family moved into Darwen shortly after 1897 and, by the time the 1901 census was taken, the family were living at 3 Ellen Street, Darwen. He attended Bolton Road Congregational Sunday School and worked as a weaver at Greenfield Mill.
When War was declared Herbert attested 2nd November 1914 at Darwen and was posted into the 8th Border Regiment on 7th November 1914. His army record gives his height as 5ft 8ins, chest 33ins (and an expansion of 2ins), complexion: sallow, eyes: hazel and his religion as Congregationalist.
He received his initial training at Codford at Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. In early 1915, the Battalion moved to Aldershot for Brigade training, where the men learned the arts of soldiering in large formations. Having completed this training it was time for the 8th Border to move for service overseas into the war zone. After a spell of leave at home, the men gathered at Codford Camp and prepared to travel to the Western Front. Whilst at Aldershot, Herbert got a taste of army discipline when on 19th July 1915 he was confined to barracks for ten days for not complying with an order to shave upper lip. On 12th August 1915, he was appointed unpaid Lance-Corporal.
The Battalion left Aldershot on the 25th September 1915, arriving in France on the 27th , at the Port of Boulogne. On arrival in France, they travelled by train to Hazebrouck, marched to Strazeele and took lorries to Nieppe then marched on to Le Bizet where they were billeted. From here, they went into the line at Ploegsteert for the first three months of "acclimatisation", as they learned the 'arts and tricks' of Trench Warfare under the guidance of the 48th Canadian Highlander Battalion.
Once they were trench ready they began trench warfare's cycles of front line, reserve line, rest and fatigues, as and when needed. The Battalion started a period of turn and turnabout with the 10th Cheshires in line at East of Ploegsteert.
The nights of 4th – 9th October were full of sniping and machine gun fire from the enemy as the 8th Border tried to repair and reinforce the trenches in their sector. On the 9th they were relieved to billets at Ploeagsteert, exchanging places with the 10th Cheshire’s who went into line, in their place. The 10t -15th October was spent in the second line, doing fatigues and physical drills, followed by bathing. On the 15th October they went back into the front line to relieve the Cheshire’s again. The front line was as active as the first tour and the following gives a flavour of the action.
November and December 1915 were spent in poor weather in this area. Most of the Battalion activity concerned trench repairs and sniping duels. On as lighter note, one of the British snipers bagged a pheasant ! Christmas this year was most definitely not a time for fraternisation and although the 8th Border’s were out of line and had Christmas Eve bath and a service on Christmas Day.
During the early part of 1916 the 8th Border were in training for the upcoming offensive of the summer months; the British and French planned to break the German lines and win the war. Periods of training were alternated with periods in line and a gradual progression to be in the area of attack in time for the 'Big Push' (The Battle of the Somme). On 26th January 1916 the 8th Border, part of the 75th Brigade, 25th Division moved via La Creche, to Strazeele, where the men had Company Training. General Plumer and Lord Kitchener inspected the Brigade during route marches and some men attended a demonstration of the new German weapon, the Flammenwerfer.
On the 10th March 1916 they left Strazeele and moved to Nedon and Bryas for more training, all in preparation for the upcoming summer offensive. Sir Julian Byng inspected the men on 20th March 1916 and Sir Douglas Haig on the 31st, all while the men were on route marches. Things were beginning to ramp up now, as Wood Fighting in defence and attack, night fighting, bombing, training against the German Flammenwerfer and musketry and Lewis Gun firing was practised.
In early April, training continued for preparation to go in line north of Neuville St Vaast on the 21st April 1916. Whilst in line early in their stint, in the pouring rain, struggling to maintain the trenches, the Germans decided to test the 'new boys'. On 25th and 26th April 1916 the front line was subjected to a set of bombing raids which cost the lives of two men. May 1916 was spent in and out of line in the Neuville area and it was here the 8th Border got its first real taste of two notorious facets of Western Front warfare; mining and gas.
The 8th Border went out of line on the 20th May 1916, but they were harassed in Neuville by gas shells and heavy calibre shelling during their time in billets. They returned to the front line in late May and received a spate of casualties, due to mining bombing and shelling as the enemy sought to make the area as uncomfortable for the troops as they could. Rumours of the build up to the “Big Push” must have been rife on both sides of the line. June 1916 saw the Battalion moving towards the Somme Area, training and exercising as they went. The training was aimed at getting the men into a peak of battle readiness for the Battalion’s part in the Somme Offensive, set for the end of June or early July. On 12th June 1916, Herbert reverted to Private at own request but it is unclear as to when he was appointed as Lance-Corporal.
When the Battle of the Somme commenced, the 8th Battalion was stationed at Forceville, some four miles behind the front lines, but ordered to be ready to move up at short notice, if events required. On the 2nd July 1916, they were marched to Martinsart Wood and the front lines south of Thiepval, to take part in an attack at 6 a.m. on July 3rd, in an area which had resisted attackers the previous day. With no attack taking place either side and severe enfilade fire from these flanks, the attack was costly to the 8th Border. The German trench was only captured for 200 yards in the centre of the attack and this was too badly damaged by shellfire to hold against counter attack. The men had to hold the line for another night as the battered 32nd Division who had attacked on the 1st July in this area, were in greater need of relief due to their higher casualties. The 8th Border were relieved on the night of the 4th July and bivouaced in Aveluy Wood as they and other Division battalions recovered from the failed attack. It was here that Hebert lost his life but his body was never found.
By July 1916 Herbert’s father had been informed that his son was missing but it would be another ten months before his death was confirmed. His family received Herbert’s 1914-14 Star on 21st June 1921 and his Victory & British War Medals on 10th December 1921.
Herbert Jepson, aged 22, is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, and has no known grave. He is also remembered on the Bolton Road United Reformed Church’s War Memorial.
back to top
East Surrey Regiment, 10131
Royal Irish Regiment, 846
Jeremiah Leach was born in 1890 to Thomas and Jane Leach of 35 Carr Street, Darwen. Jeremiah had an older brother, George, and, by 1911, he was an apprentice joiner. He was also married, to Edith Eccles.
Jeremiah enlisted into the Somerset Light Infantry at the outbreak of war, although was quickly transferred to the 2nd Royal Irish Regiment, in time for training for the Gallipoli Campaign. He took part in the historic landing at Suvla Bay but was wounded and sent home. He recovered in enough time to return the Battalion, which had moved to France.
In July 1916 the Royal Irish Regiment were transferred to 7th Division, and took part in the Battle of Bazentin Ridge.
On their right of the ridge was the 7th Division which, having been faced with over 1,000 yards (910 m) of no-man's land to cross, had crept its assaulting Battalions within 100 yards (91 m) of the German wire when the bombardment lifted. The 7th Division were faced with a complex of German trenches — Flatiron Trench, Marlboro Trench and The Snout — beyond which lay Bazentin le Grand Wood but they reached all their objectives. By mid-morning these two XV Corps divisions had captured the village of Bazentin le Petit.
It was here that Jeremiah was killed. Sources differ on the date, although officially killed on the 14th July 1916. He had two photographs in his hand when he died, one of them being his wife. His body was never found.
Jeremiah Leach is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
East Lancashire Regiment, 24622
William was the second son of James and Hannah Leach of Hoddlesden, Darwen. A healthy family, his mother had 6 children all of whom survived infancy. The family would spend their working life as labourers, whilst William worked as a “Rover” in a cotton mill.
William enlisted into the 8th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment in 1915. Leaving for France in early 1916, William arrived just in time for the Somme Offensive, where the Battalion was engaged throughout the summer.
It was November 16th, however, when William was killed. The war diary for the Regiment reads:
At 1.30a.m. the battalion proceeded to the trenches north east of Beaumont Hamel arriving in trenches about 7.45 a.m. in a thick fog. At 8.30 a.m. after a preliminary bombardment the battalion advanced in two waves.
It advanced a considerable distance (200 yards) in the fog before the enemy knew the attack was in progress. As soon as the enemy observed the attach, he opened a heavy machine gun and rifle fire. The forward wave got up to within 50 yards of Munich trench when our filed gun barrage commenced. It was owing to this barrage being short, the thick fog and the wire in front of our trench being uncut that the main attack failed.
The casualties during this attack were very severe. By 10.00a.m. the attack had ceased. The rest of the day was occupied in consolidating a position.
On 16th/17th the battalion was relieved by one company of a border regiment.
William’s date of death is given as 16th November but it would appear likely that he was actually injured on the 15th and subsequently died of his wounds. He has no known grave but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
Lancashire Fusiliers, 24622
Eustace was born in 1889 in Whalley and he was son of Arthur Longworth and Susan Margaret Peterkin. His father, Arthur, of Clerk Hill, Whalley was the Chairman of the Darwen Division Conservative Association.
He was a student at university when war broke out in 1914. Given his advanced learning, it is unsurprising that he received his Captain’s Commission quite quickly in 1915. He enlisted into the 9th Lancashire Fusiliers, just in time to join the Battalion as it set of for the Gallipoli Campaign.
On 17th July 1915 the Lancashire Fusiliers arrived in Alexandria and then moved to Imbros. They finally landed at Sulva Bay, Gallipoli on 6th August and then the Division engaged in various actions including the Battle of Scimitar Hill and attack on Hill 60.
They were evacuated to Mudros in December 1915 due to the severe casualties from combat, disease and harsh weather.
After six months in Egypt defending the Suez Canel, the Battalion moved to France landing at Marseilles and then engaged in various actions on the Western Front including the capture of the Wundt-Werk (Wonder Work) and The Battle of Flers-Courcelette. It was at Flers-Courcelette that Captain Longworth was killed.
Captain E C Longworth, aged 27 years, was killed in action on 26th September 1916 and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 3 C and 3 D.
His name is also recorded on Mostyn House School War Memorial and at Manchester University.