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Somme Intelligence - Fourth Army HQ 1916, William Langford

Somme Intelligence - Fourth Army HQ 1916, William Langford

Somme Intelligence - Fourth Army HQ 1916, William Langford

Somme Intelligence - Fourth Army HQ 1916, William Langford

This book reproduces the hand-written journal of Harry Platt, a soldier working in the Intelligence staff at the Fourth Army HQ during the Battle of the Somme. In his journal Platt recorded many of the German documents that were available to the British on the Somme, including letters to and from the front, diaries, official communications and other captured material. These sources provided an insight into the morale of the German army on the Somme and the German home front, and would have played a part in the British high command's attitude on the Somme.

As you read these materials it becomes clear why the Allied high command believed that a major victory was possible on the Somme. The sources are full of complaints. The most common (both at the front and in Germany) was of a shortage of food, with resulting food riots in German cities. The troops also complained about the long periods they were being forced to spend at the front, even after suffering heavy losses, the damage inflicted by Allied artillery bombardments, the apparent domination of the skies by the Allied air forces and the absence of German aircraft. There was also evidence of wide-scale friction between Prussian and Bavarian units.

Sadly it is now clear that most of these complaints were rather overblown. As events proved the morale of the German army was not as bad as these sources suggested, and it took another two years of fighting before its morale finally broke under the pressure of the Allied offensives of 1918. This work tells us what material was available to the commanders making decisions in 1916, and helps to explain why the battle went on for so long.

Chapters
1 - An Der Somme
2 - The Allied Attack - July 1916
3 - Fighting in August 1916
4 - The Month of September 1916
5 - Drawing to a Close, October 1916

Author: William Langfdord
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 160
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2013



Somme Intelligence - Fourth Army HQ 1916, William Langford - History

For the Somme offensive, British Fourth Army headquarters was situated in a chateau at Querrieu on the Albert-Amiens road. In the buildup months to Haig's Great Push a steady flow of intelligence was being compiled captured German documents, intercepted messages, prisoners' letters, diaries and information gleaned from prisoner interviews were entered into foolscap-size ledgers where the planners could peruse them.

A former soldier of the 11th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment, (Accrington Pals), Harry Platt of Burnley, originally compiled the hand-written journal of intelligence reports upon which this work is formed. In 1916, he was a sergeant working on intelligence duties at Fourth Army GHQ. He was later commissioned in the Royal Engineers. Harry also served in the Second World War in the Royal Artillery reaching the rank of Major. He was Mentioned in Despatches in both conflicts. Harry died in August 1951 aged 56.

In 2002, the handwritten journal was lodged with the Imperial War Museum at the instigation of historian William Turner, military historian and author of books on the Accrington Pals.

As the reader goes through these reports it would be helpful to keep in mind that members of the British staff at Querrieu chateau, including Generals Haig and Rawlinson, would have had their impressions colored by the words you are reading and doubtless their optimism for a successful outcome to the Somme offensive greatly enhanced. They would have noted the effect the British bombardment was having dominance of the Royal Flying Corps as its machines seemingly operated unmolested over the trenches growing unrest in German cities as food shortages drove the populace to riot and the relentless call-up to the colors of ever-younger youths as that nation&rsquos manhood bled in the great battles taking place.

About The Author

The author has been employed in printing and publishing for fifty years. His works include five fictional titles, two books on aviation topics, five further titles on the First World War and one covering the actions of the SS Totenkopf Division in the invasion of France in May 1940.

REVIEWS

"This summer we have been inundated with a bewildering array of new (and not so new) Somme titles, few of them offer any new insight or fresh information. This book however does offer the Somme Guide the opportunity to get inside the thinking of Haig and his staff. Packed with examples of the intelligence gained from POWs, captured letters, diaries and documents it provides an array of useful snapshots of German morale and the British analysis of the intelligence gained."

- Despatches

The 7th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry were a unit of the Territorial Force. HQ, A, B, C, D, E and F Companies were all based at the Drill Hall, Livinstone Rd, Sunderland with G and H Companies based in Stanhope Rd, South Shields.

They were part of the DLI Brigade, Northumbrian Division. When war broke out in August 1914, they had just departed for their annual summer camp and were recalled immediately their home base. They were at once mobilsed and moved to the coastal defences by mid August, then to Ravensworth Park for training and by October were at Newcastle undertaking final training.

They proceeded to France on the 17th of April 1915, landing at Boulogne and concentrating in the area of Steenvoorde, just as the German army attacked Ypres, using poison gas for the first time. The 50th Division were rushed into the battle.

On the 14th of May 1915 the DLI Brigade was redesignated 151st Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division. They saw action in The Battle of St Julien, The Battle of Frezenburg Ridge and The Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge.

On the 16th of November 1915 the 7th Durhams left 151st Brigade and converted into a Pioneer Battalion for 50th (Northumbrain) Division. In 1916 They fought on the Somme at The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, The Battle of Morval and The Battle of the Transloy Ridges. In 1917 they were in action at Arras during The First Battle of the Scarpe, The Capture of Wancourt Ridge and The Second Battle of the Scarpe before moving north for the Third Battle of Ypres.

In 1918 they fought on the Somme, in the Battles of the Lys and The Battle of the Aisne, leaving the troops exhausted. On the 20th of June 1918 they transferred to 8th Division and on the 3rd of July absorbed the 22nd Durhams taking their place as Pioneer Battalion of the 8th Division and were in action in The Final Advance in Artois including the capture of Douai.

4th Aug 1914 Durham Territorials break camp At Conway Camp in North Wales, reveille was sounded at 4am. The Territorials of the 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions Durham Light Infantry quickly broke camp and marched to the station to board special trains back to their County Durham bases to mobilize for war.


Remembrance – Ralph Pattison

Yesterday we remembered local Bourne man Lance-Corporal Ralph Pattison who was killed in action on this day, 3rd July 1916, serving with the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment at the Battle of the Somme.

Ralph was born in 1883 to Richard Newton Pattison a tailor for 40 years of Eastgate Bourne and his wife Fanny, nee Kettle.

Richard Newton Pattison was born in Redbourne, Lincolnshire in 1845 and although a master tailor has served 10 years with the 10th (North Lincoln) Regiment of Foot being discharged in August 1871, after seeing service across the world. including time in Yokohama, Japan.

Richard Pattison settled in Bourne after his discharge and married Fanny Kettle of Bourne in 1878. Fanny was born in Bourne in 1857 although currently her parents are not known to us.

A year later their first child, Richard Newton Pattison was born in Bourne and the couple went on to have 14 children including one set of twin girls. The children were:-

• Richard Newton Pattison, 1879, Bourne (Royal Flying
Corps)
• John Pattison, 1880, Bourne
• Alice Annie Pattison, 1882, Derby
• Ralph Pattison, 1883, Bourne – (1st Lincs)
• Frank Pattison, 1884, Bourne – (Australian Colonial
Force)
• Stephen Pattison, 1886, Bourne – (farrier Sergeant)
• Fanny Pattison, 1888, Bourne
• Arthur Pattison, 1890, Bourne
• May Pattison, 1891, Bourne (Twin)
• Rosamond Pattison, 1891, Bourne (Twin)
• Harry Pattison, 1893, Bourne (Bugler 3/4th Lincs)
• Elizabeth Mary Pattison, 1895, Bourne
• Charlie Pattison, 1897, Bourne (Northants Field
Artillery)
• Emma Pattison, 1900, Bourne

In 1891 Ralph can be found living with his parents and siblings in Eastgate Bourne. At the time Richard was a Tailor being employed. John, Alice, Ralph and Frank were all listed as scholars with youngest son Stephen aged 4.

Ten years later the census of 1901 shows that the family now lived on Willoughby Road and by now Richard is a Master Tailor working at home on his own account. Robert (sic, Richard) was working as a journeyman tailor, Ralph now 17, was working as a Maltster’s Labourer and Frank as a wheelwright. Stephen, May, Rosamund, Harry, Charlie and 4 month old Emma was still in the household.

Ralph, married Florence Rimmington in 1904, she was born on 1st August 1884 in Grantham Lincolnshire.

By 1911, Ralph Pattison, now married to Florence, was living on Willoughby Road, Bourne with his wife and they had two children of their own,
• Florence Daisy (better known as Daisy) born in 1904 in
Bourne.
• Gladys May Pattison, born 1905 in Bourne, died 1906.

Ralph was by now working as a Horse Slaughterer, now doubt at the Slaughter House on the outskirts of Bourne at the end of Eastagte.

Before the war Ralph Pattison was also the Band Master of the Bourne Brass Band, and all six of the Pattison Boys that enlisted during the war were musicians.

Ralph enlisted into the Lincolnshire regiment in Bourne, just after 4th November 1914. His residence on enlistment or during the war changed to Pagnall, Newark, Nottinghamshire.
Ralph’s full service records cannot be found and it is assumed, that along with 60% of WW1 men’s service records, were destroyed in a London warehouse fire in the Blitz.

The following description of Ralph’s war story has been pieced together from other records and the Battalion diaries of the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment.

The 1st battalion embarked for France between the 11th and 16th August 1914, although at this time Ralph had not enlisted.
From his War Gratuity Payment (Made to his widow Florence after his death) we can calculate that he enlisted in the month following the 4th November 1914 and then following his basic training he was shipped to France to join the 1st Battalion in he field, 24th April 1915.
At this time the Battalion was based in Dickebusch, 3 miles South West of Ypres.

The Battalion Diary notes:
27th April 1915 – Quiet on our front all day. Artillery active on both sides until noon. Dickebusch again bombarded. 2nd Lt Brook who had returned from divisional rest camp was wounded. Lt Quartermaster F W Masters slightly wounded, The Sergeant Drummer Killed. A draft of 79 other ranks joined at Dickebusch in the evening. Owing to Dickebusch being shelled the transport was ordered to move to a place about 1 mile N.W of the village. Casualties 2 officers wounded, 1 other rank killed.

The 79 other ranks left Dickebusch and arrived at Rosenthal Chateau on the 28th April and were posted to companies on the 29th April.
That night B company relieved C Company in the fire trenches. This swapping of companies in the front line trenches would continue until the 26th May when the Battalion was finally relived by the 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers and were moved back to billets at Outerdom where they would rest for two days before dropping back to Vlamertinghe. Here they formed an overnight party of 600 to dig new trenches in the rear of the Royal Fusiliers. The rest of the month would be seen out based around the same area, still resting and with working parties being formed each night.

In June the Battalion formed part of the attack on Bellewaarde on the 16th June in which local men Edward Backlog and James Burt were killed and this would be Ralph’s first taste of a planned action and this was described in detail in the Battalion Diary. This description can be found on our posts of remembrance to Edward Backlog.

In a report dated the 21st August 1915, added to the War Office Casualty list, Ralph Pattison was listed as wounded although no further details have been found. It was usual for the reports to take up to 4 or in some cases 6 weeks to filter through the system and so the locations and exact date is also largely unknown.
In the days immediately before this report the Battalion had been moved from billets at Ouderdam to sanctuary wood and were involved in holding position around the Hooge area. There were only a couple of wounded casualties reported through the diary, although they had previously been in the trenches between the 3rd and the 14th August during which time they had reported between 3 and 14 wounded per day.

The Battalion remained in the area and were also involved in the second Attack of Bellewaarde in September.

As we do not know the nature of Ralph’s wounds or the period it took for him to re-join the Battalion we are not sure of his exact movements and so we can only take up the story of Ralph and the Battalion in June 1916.

On the 20th June 1916 the Battalion evacuated billets in Buire at 6-30am and marched via Meulte to the trenches of the left sector of the 62nd Brigade front, relieving the 10th Battalion Yorks and lancs Regiment. The relief was completed at about 12 noon. The trenches occupied extended from the left X26.b.5.2 to F.2.b.9.7 on the right (Roughly from Becourt to west of fricourt). The extent of the front was about 1400 yards and the distance t the enemy front line was about 300 yards on the left and 180 yards on the right. On their immediate left were the 12th Northumberland Fusiliers and right were the 10th Lincolns. A, B and D companies occupied the right, centre and left fire trenches C company and B.V.R.C (Bermuda Rifle Volunteer Corps) occupied the support trenches Mareschall Street and Bon Accord to the east of Becourt with the battalion HQ at Sausage Valley in dugouts.
They stayed in these trenches and were present to witness the opening of our Bombardment on the 24th June the precursor to the action that was to follow.

In the following days the bombardment would continue. On the fourth day of the bombardment, 27th June, it was noticed that the enemy’s retaliation was greatly reduced according to the description in the Battalion Diary. ‘His artillery retaliation was feeble and his machine guns and rifle fire was only heard at long intervals and was very ineffective. At 11:30am an opportunity of the wind being in our favour was taken, and gas was released from cylinders in our front line trenches. There was no response from the enemy either with artillery or rifle fire.
During the night our Lewis Guns continued to sweep the enemy front line and communication trenches to prevent repairs being carried out.
The early morning, 3am, of the 28th saw the Battalion being relieved on the fifth day of the Bombardment and being taken back to billets in Meaute and remaining on Divisional Reserve.
During this reserve period they received 79 other rank reinforcements on the 30th June.

The description of the commencement of the Battle of the Somme is told from the Battalion Diary.

1st July 1916
The first day of the attack launched by the British in conjunction with he French at the Battle of the Somme.
The 62nd infantry Brigade being in reserve to the 21st Division, the Battalion was ordered to carry S.A.A Mills Grenades and Stokes Mortar bombs to a dump immediately north of the Eastern end of Patch Alley on Sunken Road (X27.b.2.8)
At 8am billets at Meaute were evacuated and the Battalion proceeded as detailed to a position at Bon Accord Street and Mareschall Street where loads were picked up. Battalion Headquarters was established in Aberdeen Avenue. At 1-30pm carrying parties proceeded across the open to the first line captured German trenches and thence to the dump. Parties then returned to the first line captured position and the work of consolidation began in sector X20.d.7.2 on the left to X26d.7.8 on the right. Owing to the terrific effect of our artillery fire during the bombardment of this position, the task proved a very arduous one and was more difficult owing to the fact that the Battalion was subjected to heavy machine gun and artillery fire.
During the works of consolidation, Battalion Headquarters was moved to the captured front line at X26.d.7.9 (half way between Becourt and Lozenge Wood).
At 6pm we were ordered to reinforce the 64th Brigade and proceeded as follows:
B Company to Crucifix Trench (X27b to X28a) with D Company and B.V.R.C. on their right, A and C Companies in support at Sunken Road, the latter company joining up with the 34th Division on our left. Battalion Headquarters was established on the sunken Road at the Dingle (X27.b.2.8).
The position taken over did not appear to have been consolidated at all, thus necessitating working continuously until 3-0am on the Morning of the 3rd July.
The weather was fine and night quiet.
The total strength of the battalion including employ with transport on the morning of the 1st July stood as follows:-
Officers 40, Other Ranks 994

The following casualties were sustained-
Wounded Officers – Captain H Maistall, Lieutenant S A Kirk, 2/Lt E V Edwards, 2/Lt Jacques, 2/Lt G M Rowlands, 2/Lt J J Taylor, 2/Lt Catton, 2/Lt F H Robinson, P T Price. Other ranks killed 3, wounded 105, missing 2, Total all ranks 119.

2nd July 1916
The Battalion still held the position taken up in Crucifix trench and Sunken Road on the 1st.
During the day positions of the Battalion front were heavily shelled, particularly by 16cm Howitzers directed on the junction of C Company with 34th Division in front of Round Wood.
At 6pm orders were received to prepare to attack Birch Tree and Shelter Woods at a moments notice, but another later notice was received that the attack had been postponed.
The night of the 2nd.3rd was quiet and this opportunity was taken to bring in the wounded.
Patrols were sent out during the night and reported all quiet within the enemy’s lines on the front.
The weather was fine the whole day.
Casualties:- Officers Nil, Other ranks Killed 3, Wounded 11. Total all ranks 14.

3rd July 1916
At 5.30am orders were received that the Battalion would attack Birch tree and Shelter Woods. Details were given to companies as follows:-
The Battalion was to attack on a 2 company front and each company on a 2 platoon front. A company was to attack on the left from Birch Tree Wood to the re-entrant in the forward line of trees in Shelter Wood. B company was to attack on the right from A Company on their left to right hand corner of Shelter Wood, joining up at this point with 10th Yorkshire Regiment. C and D companies were to support A and B Companies respectively, BVRC to act as carrying party to the Battalion for SAA Bombs, rations and water.
The Objective was the trench running along the Northern Edge of Birch Tree and Shelter Woods as far as the light railway on the right. The Battalion was supported by the 12th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers with the 13th Bn N. Fus., in reserve.
The attack was preceded by at 20 minute bombardment by guns of all calibres, commencing at 8.40am.
At 8.58am the bombardment became intense and 5 stokes guns which were positioned in Crucifix trench opened rapid fire.
At 9am our leading platoons left the trench to rush the enemy, and on reaching the ridge in front of the wood, came under heavy machine gun fire from both flanks. A Company suffered heavily and their supports and C company were immediately rushed up. B Company on the right were more fortunate and reached the objective without serious loss. Their supports and D Company then reinforced and after disposing of the enemy in the trench immediately commenced the work of consolidation.
About the time when C company had reinforced A Company the commanding officer, Lieut Colonel D H F Grant DSO who had lead A Company was seriously wounded in the head. The command of the Battalion now devolved upon Captain T G Newbury. Both Flanks were strongly opposed by bombing parties and machine guns particularly on the left where one squad of the Battalion Bombers, in spite of enemy bombs and machine gun fire, succeeded in holding up a strong party of the enemy who were seriously troubling that flank, until reinforcements from the 12th N. Fus were able to get up and after very little further resistance. This party of the enemy was captured and made prisoners. The centre encountered little opposition until the objective was reached when it was discovered that the enemy who had taken refuge in dug-outs, were coming out in large numbers and endeavouring to surround us, Bombing parties were sent to deal with these and the enemy, who put up a stubborn resistance, suffered heavily. On the right the resistance was not so determined and a large number of prisoners was taken. At about 2.30pm, the wood was clear and the left flank secure, but the right flank, which was being protected by the 62nd Brigade machine gun company only, was not secured until 4.30pm. When we got in touch with the 10th Battalion Yorks Regiment who had come up and were digging themselves in to join up with the 17th Division on the right. The whole Birch Tree and Shelter Woods was now in our hands and from 5pm to 5.30pm the captured position was heavily bombarded by the enemy’s 15cm Howitzers.
After consolidating the position the Battalion was relieved by 12th N. Fus, withdrew to the Sunken Road (X27b-X27d) and formed a local reserve.
Lieut-Col R H G Wilson now assumed command of the Battalion. The Battalion claims to have captured during the days fighting, 700 prisoners of the 110th, 111th + 186th Regiments, the majority of which belonged to the 86th Regt, including the Battalion Commander and his staff.

The casualties sustained by the Battalion during the days fighting were:-
Officers,
Killed- Lieut R F R Herapath, 2/Lt F Hilton, 2/lt F C Hills
Wounded- Lieut-Col D H F Grant DSO, Lieut G McI S Bruce, Lieut G H Hanning, 2/Lt J H P Barrett, 2/Lt G M Minnifie, 2/Lt W Godfrey-Payton.
Other Ranks,
Killed 34, wounded 191, missing 9.
Total all ranks 243.

4th July 1916
The Battalion withdrew from Sunken Road at about 3.0am, marched to Dernacourt and entrained at 9am. Proceeded by Train to Ailly-Sur-Somme arriving at the latter place at 1.15pm, detrained and Marched to Billets at Argoeuves.

Lance-Corporal Ralph Pattison was killed on the 3rd July 1916 during the action described in the Battalion Diary in the taking of Birch Tree and Shelter Woods.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
• In memory of Lance Corporal Ralph Pattison, 11946, 1st Bn., Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 3 July 1916 Age 32. Son of Mr. and Mrs. R. N. Pattison, of Bede House, Banks, Bourne, Lincs. husband of Florence Reynalds (formerly Pattison), of Field Farm, Ragnall, Newark, Notts. Remembered with honour, Thiepval Memorial

Ralph left a widow, Florence and also 12 year old Daughter Florence Daisy Pattison who had been living on Spalding Road, Bourne during the war. Florence remarried one year later to Fred Reynalds a Farm Labourer.

The Pattison Family was featured in a newspaper article in 1916 in the Spalding guardian with a headline “The Most patriotic in the district” referring to the number of them serving during he war”.
Mr and Mrs R N Pattison, of Eastgate, had six of their sons in the Army, three of them serving in France. In addition another son had twice offered himself, but been rejected.
This is a record of which they may be justly proud. Undoubtedly the sons have inherited the military instincts of the Farther, for over half a century ago Mr Pattison Snr., joined the Army and has served in four quarters of the globe.

Their names from left were Richard Newton Pattison, o the Royal Flying Corps Mr Pattison a tailor in Eastgate for 40 years and his wife L-Corpl Ralph Pattison, Lincs Regiment Farrier-Sgt Stephen Pattison Frank Pattison, who joined the Colonial Force in Australia Bugler Harry Pattison, of the 3/4th Lincs Regiment Charlie Pattison, of the Northants Field Artillery. All men were musicians. (Photograph attached)


  • The Battle of Messines, in which the Division captured Wytschaete
  • The Battle of Langemarck part of the Third Battles of Ypres 1917
  • The Cambrai Operations, including the capture of Bourlon Wood
  • The Actions at the Somme Crossings - Somme 1918
  • The Battle of Rosieres - Somme 1918
  • The Battle of Messines - Battles of the Lys
  • The Battle of Bailleul - Battles of the Lys
  • The First Battle of Kemmel Ridge - Battles of the Lys
  • The Battle of Ypres - Final Advance in Flanders
  • The Battle of Courtrai - Final Advance in Flanders
  • The action of Ooteghem - Final Advance in Flanders
  • 8th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (East Belfast) renamed as 8/9th from August 1917 and disbanded 7 February 1918
  • 9th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (West Belfast) merged into 9th Bn from August 1917
  • 10th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (South Belfast) disbanded 20 February 1918
  • 15th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (North Belfast)
  • 107th Machine Gun Company joined 18 December 1915, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
  • 107th Trench Mortar Battery joined 1 April 1916
  • 1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers joined August 1917, left for 108th Brigade February 1918
  • 1st Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined February 1918
  • 2nd Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined February 1918
  • 11th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (South Antrim) renamed as 11/13th from 13 November 1917 and disbanded 18 February 1918
  • 12th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (Central Antrim)
  • 13th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (County Down) merged into 11th Bn on 13 November 1917
  • 9th Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers (County Armagh)
  • 108th Machine Gun Company joined 26 January 1916, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
  • 108th Trench Mortar Battery joined 1 April 1916
  • 7th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined October 1917, merged into 2nd Bn November 1917
  • 2nd Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined November 1917, left February 1918
  • 1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers joined from 107th Brigade February 1918
  • 9th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (County Tyrone)
  • 10th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Derry) disbanded January 1918
  • 11th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Donegal and Fermanagh) disbanded February 1918
  • 14th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (Young Citizens) disbanded February 1918
  • 109th Machine Gun Company joined 23 January 1916, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
  • 109th Trench Mortar Battery joined 1 April 1916
  • 1st Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined February 1918
  • 2nd Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined February 1918
  • 16th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (County Down Pioneers) Divisional Pioneer Battalion
  • 1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers joined August 1917, left for 107th Brigade same month
  • 266th Machine Gun Company joined 17 January 1918, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
  • 36th Battalion MGC formed 1 March 1918
  • Service Sqn, the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons left June 1916
  • 36th Divisional Cyclist Company, Army Cyclist Corps broken up 31 May 1916
  • CLIII Brigade, RFA
  • CLIV (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA broken up late September 1916
  • CLXXII Brigade, RFA broken up 31 January 1917
  • CLXXIII Brigade, RFA
  • 36 Heavy Battery RGA raised with that Division but broken up while still at home
  • 36th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA
  • V.36 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, RFA joined 20 June 1916 disbanded 11 February 1918
  • X.36, Y.36 and Z.36 Medium Mortar Batteries, RFA formed 1 June 1916 on 11 February 1918, Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each
  • 121st Field Company
  • 122nd Field Company
  • 150th Field Company
  • 36th Divisional Signals Company
  • 108th Field Ambulance
  • 109th Field Ambulance
  • 110th Field Ambulance
  • 76th Sanitary Section left April 1917
  • 36th Divisional Train ASC 251, 252, 253 and 254 Companies.
  • 48th Mobile Veterinary Section AVC
  • 233rd Divisional Employment Company joined 21 July 1917
  • 35th Divisional Motor Ambulance Workshop disbanded April 1916

1st September 1914 Recruitment of 16th (Service) Battalion Royal Irish Rifles 16th (Service) Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers). [Second County Down Volunteers]

Introduction: This summary of the history of the 16th Battalion from September 1914 to May 1919, is recorded mainly on a monthly basis with events listed on the 1st day of each month except in circumstances requiring further breakdown when details of other dates entered will be listed on the 1st of each month as a guide to the reader. The actual War Diaries did not commence until the move to France in October 1915. Since I do not have direct access to the diaries, I have, by kind permission of the Somme Heritage Centre, used extracts from the book "The Terrors" by Lt.Col SN White (deceased)as the source.

Formation: At the outbreak of war in 1914 the Home Rule Issue in Ireland had a considerable effect on volunteer recruitment. The Ulster Volunteer Force had over 80,000 armed volunteers in its ranks, but there was a reluctance to enlist due to the Home Rule concerns which existed at the time. It was thought that resistance to Home Rule would be weakened by reducing the force available should armed opposition prove necessary. The issue was eventually set aside for the duration of the war and it was then agreed between Lord Kitchener and Sir Edward Carson that 10,000 volunteers would be raised in the war effort with uniforms and equipment ordered for that number. Home Rule meant a parliament in Dublin at which Ulster Protestants felt they would be outnumbered and they might eventually finish up as a minority in a Catholic State separate from the United Kingdom.

  • 15th (Service) Battalion (North Belfast), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 8th (Service) Battalion (East Belfast), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 9th (Service) Battalion (West Belfast), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 10th (Service) Battalion (South Belfast), the Royal Irish Rifles (until February 1918).
  • 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Fusiliers (from August 1917 until February 1918).
  • 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles (from February 1918).
  • 2nd Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles (from February 1918).
  • 107th Brigade Machine Gun Company (from 18 December 1915, moved into 36th Divisional Machine Gun Battalion on 1 March 1918).
  • 107th Trench Mortar Battery (from 1 April 1916).
  • In August 1917 the 8th and 9th battalions of the Royal Irish Rifles amalgamated to form the 8/9th Battalion, which disbanded in February 1918. Between November 1915 and February 1916 the brigade swapped with the 12th Brigade from the 4th Division.
  • 9th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
  • 12th (Service) Battalion (Central Antrim), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 2nd Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles (from November 1917 then moved to 107th Brigade. in February 1918).
  • 11th (Service) Battalion (South Antrim), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 13th (Service) Battalion (County Down), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Fusiliers (from 107th Bde. February
  • 1918).
  • 108th Brigade Machine Gun Company (from 26 January 1916, moved into
  • 36th Divisional Machine Gun Battalion on 1 March 1918).
  • 108th Trench Mortar Battery (from 1 April 1916).
  • In August 1917 the 11th and 13th battalions of the Royal Irish Rifles amalgamated to form the 11/13th Battalion, which disbanded in February 1918.

1st November 1914 Pioneering Work

Typical Trench System Layout (Not to scale)

16th Bn Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers)'

Reader guidance note:There are entries on 2,3,4,5 and 6th November 1914.

Trench Warfare in WW1. After the initial assault by Germany was finally halted, the remainder of the war was fought from entrenched positions on both sides. Basically the two Front Line trenches faced each other from varying distances. They were not in straight lines as firing along the trench by the enemy would have had catastrophic consequences, rather in zigzag formations making a continuous line to adjoining defences - either a physical barrier or a neighbouring military unit. So for years the trench positions continuously changed hands as battles were won or lost. In particularly bad weather this led to virtual seas of mud in what was termed "No Man’s Land" from the combination of weather and artillery shells.

Behind the Front Line trench were supporting trenches similarly fashioned and linked by communication trenches. Dugouts to provide safe shelter were provided in strategic areas together with strong points such as machine gun and mortar emplacements.

Trenches were further protected by Wiring in front. This was basically lines of barbed wire to hold back attacking forces.

Trenches were initially dug to existing old military manuals, but from early experience were found to be too shallow and too narrow for the rapid movement of supplies and equipment, so a lot of work would be needed in widening and deepening the earlier trenches.

Other trench works included: Revetment, which is lining the sides of a trench with padding materials ( to help protect from back-blast from exploding shells) which could be sandbags, timber or earthworks and in some cases concrete. This also included firing steps and duckboards to facilitate drainage.

Dugouts as the name suggest are deep enclosures providing some degree of safety during bombardments.

Saps, these were smaller trenches dug from the Front Line towards the enemy’s front lines. They were used as listening posts or for locating a machine gun or mortar and could also provide a jumping off point for an attack.

Other Structures: Craters and Camouflet - Another tactic employed was the use of explosives underground to either blow up the enemy trench positions themselves (mines) or disturb ground in no-man’s land exposing craters which could be connected up to their own front line, bringing them closer to the enemy’s front line. Sometimes the explosion would result in an underground cavern (called a Camouflet) which could be worked on under cover from enemy observation and often an initial start to Sapping itself as the surface could be quickly collapsed leaving the Sap ready for use.

Screening - This was simply erecting simple screens alongside roads and other locations which needed to be kept out of sight from the enemy, usually when the enemy occupied higher ground overlooking support and communication rear areas. This was to minimise observation opportunities for snipers or artillery observers.

Pioneer support work in attack or defence: During an offensive operation the Pioneers would have to turn around the firing positions in captured trenches provided the gains were held. They would also have to join up their former front line with the captured trenches by new communication trenches often using their own saps as starting points closer to the former enemy trenches.

The reverse was also true and if their lines were overrun they would have prepared previous positions for troops to fall back on and if given sufficient time try to render the lost trenches virtually useless to the enemy.

Road works. Naturally a huge logistic problem was supply of Ammunition, rations and equipment which had to be got to the Front Line troop positions. Roads had to be drained in bad weather, repaired when damaged by explosives, flooding and heavy traffic.

Railways. Main line railways were vital to forward movement of bulk material, equipment, men and animals over longer distances. However there were also some light, narrow gauge - systems and trench railways. Equipment would be transported by main line railway to large depots from which it would be forwarded by road or smaller gauge light railways closer to the front. It would then be brought through the communication trenches manually or using the trench tramways to the front itself. The trench railways or tramways involved hauling trolleys through communication trenches to keep the front lines supplied and remove salvage and waste materials on return journeys. They were operated by a party of 6 to 8 men per trolley. It was also used to return casualties to rear areas for treatment. This was the main reason for the extensive programme of trench widening and deepening so that men and trolleys could move freely on tracks out of sight from the enemy though still in danger from enemy artillery if targeted.

2nd November 1914 Recruitment of 16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles

Brownlow House

  • "You may talk about th’Irish Guards and Fusiliers of course
  • You may talk of Inniskillings and the gallant Irish Horse
  • Or of any other regiment under the King’s command
  • But the 16th Irish Rifles are the Terrors of the Land."

3rd November 1914 Pioneering work - trenches

Cross-section of trenches

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers Trenches were typically constructed to provide shelter for forward troops and fell into two general categories. Fire Trenches as the name suggests were trenches from which the enemy could be engaged in offensive or defensive actions (see cross section in diagram). Communication Trenches were the means by which men and equipment could move in relative safety to and from the Forward (Fire) Trenches.(see cross section in diagram).

4th November 1914 Pioneering work - trenches

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneering Work in the Trenches. Trench Revetment or Revetting is basically the fitting out of the basic trench. The construction depends largely on the geology of the region and the type of ground encountered. Much depends on the surrounding water table levels. Where water is encountered close to the surface trenches can only be dug to a shallow depth and protection is enabled by building up earthworks, sandbags or even concrete parapets above ground level. This was the problem in Flanders (The Low Country Regions). In other areas trenches were mainly below ground level up to about 8 feet deep to allow men to walk about out of view from enemy snipers and artillery observers.

Communication trenches mainly required lining with sandbags, timber or concrete to protect against the back-blast from exploding shells.

Fire trenches were more complicated with fire steps needed to get men into firing positions in the event of an enemy attack or help get them out of the trench if they are attacking. The back of the trench was lined to minimise damage from explosives. In areas where water ingress was a problem upright timber inverted A-frames were used at intervals to lay duck-boarding leaving a void below the walkway to maintain relatively dry underfoot conditions for movement through the trenches. (see diagram for cross-sections of revetment work.)

5th November 1914 Pioneering work - trenches

  • 400 long pickets
  • 800 short pickets
  • 180 coils of barbed wire (65 yards each)
  • 40 coils of barbed wire (130 yards each)

6th November 1914 Pioneering work - screening

Pioneering - Screening Work

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers) - Screening Work. As the title suggests the object of this work was to disrupt the enemy's line of vision if they occupied higher ground. This was very much the case in Flanders near Mount Kemmel and in preparation for the Battle of Messines Ridge.

From the Ridge the Germans had a commanding view of both Front and Rear Allied positions and it was essential to hide the meticulous build up for the Allied attack. So all roads and important locations had to have screens installed on the enemy side to conceal troop and equipment movements. Screens were made from light equipment, wooden poles and mainly hessian materials to a height sufficient to obscure the enemy's view of traffic on roads, movement in and out of buildings and movement of men and equipment in the assembly, communication and assault trenches.

23rd of November 1914 Reorganisation

1st December 1914 Recruitment and Training 16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles. Recruitment efforts continued and helped raise Battalion strength from 230 at the end of November to 500 by the 19th December 1914. Training began to bring recruits up to the physical requirements for battle fitness with physical exercise and route marches of increasing intensity. A large batch of service rifles arrived on the 19th December which meant that military weaponry drill could be incorporated within the training timetable. Route marches got longer and, on the 7th December, the men marched to Banbridge and back (16 miles) in 3 ½ Hours. Initially training would have concentrated on infantry skills including drill, musketry, bayonet fighting and training in the Lewis and machine guns. Route marches and PT (Physical Training) would also have featured. Selected Officers and NCOs on appointment were sent to infantry training schools to become instructors in these fields. A rifle range was constructed at the rear of Brownlow House. The pioneers were basically riflemen and in the Royal Irish Rifles had to learn to drill at "rifles pace" which was 160 paces to the minute as opposed to the normal infantry rate of 120 paces to the minute. Field-craft with elementary infantry tactics at section, platoon and company level were gradually introduced as potential section leaders were identified, trained and gained in confidence and experience.

19th January 1915 Recruitment and Training 16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles

Parade at Brownlow House, Lurgan.

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers Recruitment continued making slow progress with numbers reaching 800 all ranks by the 19th January 1915. Training continued in various stages as more recruits joined and had to work hard to catch up with the standard of earlier enlisted ranks. There was little sympathy for newer recruits who had to catch up with the others. The young animal must keep up with the herd in migration or else - so time was not on their side.

Early in January it was announced that the 2nd County Down Volunteers were to become the Pioneer Battalion for the Ulster Division. Training in pioneering skills was to commence while maintaining physical fitness and military discipline. There was now more concentration on manoeuvres at both day and night trying to gain experience in mock attacks and defence methods before the real battles ahead. That would have left the battalion ready for normal action but this was not a normal battalion. Alongside this training they now had to learn the skills of the pioneer which involved all aspects of transportation in offensive and defensive positions including river crossings. Afternoon classes taught joinery and other skills for battle planning. Sections were sent by rotation to work on local roads, railways and buildings all of which they would have to service under enemy fire in the front line areas in France and Belgium.

In recognition of their additional duties they were to be paid an extra 2 pence a day on top of the infantry rate of one shilling per day. It was later raised in parliament that this compared unfavourably with the Royal Engineers who received 1/10d per day and the Labour Corps which received 3 shillings per day. Even though it was like work the government refused to interfere with what it termed as set army rates of pay.

An article entitled trench warfare has been included in November 1914 pages which, with relevant sketches, details the type of construction carried out with some description of offensive and defensive related works. (These appear in the date range 1st to 6th November 1914.)

So the 16th were a very special unit indeed as we shall see from their performance up to and after the cessation of hostilities in 1918.

On the 12th January 21 horses arrived and the Transport Officer got to work on his teams for transporting equipment necessary to support the men in their work locations. Certain officers were also required to have mounts to fulfil their command roles.

Railway Training. On the 21st January 4 Officers (including 2/Lt. White WR, the author's father) and 50 men were sent to Belfast, Carrickfergus and Antrim to receive instruction on Railroad Construction. A similar party of 4 officers and 39 men were sent to Newtownards for pioneer railway work. It seems likely that Antrim had a Royal Engineer Field Unit which would have helped considerably in the training.

1st February 1915 Recruitment and Training

16 RIR parade in Lurgan, County Armagh.

  • February 15 Dromore
  • 16 Ballynahinch
  • 17 Dromara
  • 18 Saintfield and Crossgar
  • 19 Downpatrick
  • 20 Clough, Seaforde and back to Downpatrick
  • 21 Downpatrick
  • 22 Comber via Killyleagh and Killinchy
  • 23 Donaghadee via Newtownards
  • 25 Comber via Bangor
  • 26 Hillsborough
  • 27 Lurgan via the Maze, Moira and Maralin.

1st March 1915 Recruitment and Training

Bridging Training near Lurgan, County Armagh.

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers Recruitment figures were not published for March 1915. Recruitment efforts were mainly concentrated on Brownlow House as a showpiece for many inspections by high ranking officers and politicians, the public also in attendance.

Training. Much more intensive military manoeuvres took place by night and day increasing the demands on all officers and men to harden them for future demands on active service.

Trench works. During the week ending 20th March the Battalion carried out several very interesting operations including day and night outpost schemes with trench digging and sapping by night. Sapping is cutting out trenches from the front line forward towards the enemy trenches, used for listening posts, mortars, machine guns or jump off points for attacks.

Road works. Work continued on projects with local councils alongside council workers in County Armagh and County Down.

Railway works. A great deal of railway training was undertaken in March. On the 21st March 3 Officers and 7 NCOs were sent to Crumlin, where a railway bridge was being erected. Other works were carried out on the rail lines near Antrim, on the Lurgan to Moira railway line and a course was attended at Stewartstown.

Bridging. While it is not recorded what types of bridging works were done, we can assume they had to construct bridges capable of taking Divisional Horse drawn transport including artillery pieces. There were various exercises carried out on lakes in local parks and bridge building on the Lagan near Donacloney and Dynes Bridge. Barrel rafts capable of supporting wagons and artillery pieces were constructed.

Demolition. Training in explosive and demolitions was limited from a practical point of safety and shortage of materials. Demonstration of grenades, land mines and the use of gun cotton on rocks and metal were done with reduced charges leaving the observers to imagine the effects of a full charge. They were also introduced to jam pot type grenades and the use of warning flares including methods of firing trip wire, cut wire and pull by defender. Other examples included explosive traps already experienced in early fighting at the Front.

General Field Training. There is no evidence to suggest that any form of formalised field training was available prior to leaving Lurgan and that progress in this area would be based on ad hoc solutions devised in training exercises or live situations. There is evidence of training courses being held at Reading in Berkshire.

1st April 1915 Recruitment and Training

Bridge training work near Lurgan County Armagh

16th Btn Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers

Major Leader was promoted to Lt.Colonel.

Recruitment resulted in Battalion strength of 971 on the 17th April 1915. Other houses in Wellington Street were acquired for accommodation purposes as Brownlow House capacity was reached.

Training continued in areas demanding greater stamina in general field-craft exercises involving units in offensive and defensive roles. This included some larger scale exercises with the Ulster Division as a whole. The whole Battalion took part in route march to Portadown on the 3rd April.

Road Works. Continuing work in County and District areas including drainage and sewer systems together with building and construction works.

Railway Work 2 officers and 20 other ranks helped the Great Northern Railway when a stretch of about a mile of track was re-laid between Dromore and Hillsborough. 3rd April - 2 officers and 5 men went to Stewartstown for a Railway Engineers Course. 10th April - attended railway bridges installations at Adelaide and Windsor. 17th April, 2 officers and 18 men sent to Crumlin for railway bridge building.

1st May 1915 Recruitment and Training

Belfast Parade 36th Ulster Division - 8th May 1915

16th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers)

Recruitment figures not published and Training continued to improve both infantry and trade efficiency.

150 men took part in preparation of the ground for the Grand Parade by the Ulster Division in Belfast on the 8th May 1915.

The 36th (Ulster) Division was drawn up at noon on the 8th May in review order at Belfast, between the Lagan and Malone, for inspection by Major General Sir Hugh McCalmont and then marched into Belfast where the salute was taken again by Sir Hugh, The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Sir Edward and Lady Carson, Sir George and Lady Richardson and the City High Sheriff with his wife at the City Hall. The 16th (Service) Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers) brought up at the rear of the column. They travelled to and from Belfast by special train from Lurgan.

1st June 1915 Recruitment and Training

16 RIR Departing from Lurgan enroute to England.

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers. Recruitment was brought up to the required total by the transfer of 200 members of the Belfast Young Citizen Volunteers.

Training was nearly complete and preparations were in hand for the move to England.

Officers and men were sent to Belfast and Dublin for courses on Railway Transport and Embarkation obviously with a view to organising the Battalion’s planned movements which would include both rail and ship embarkation and disembarkation.

All the men were given 4 days embarkation leave and returned fit and ready for the move to England.

A Military Gymkhana was held in Lurgan with over 25 events many of which were novelties giving great amusement to all onlookers.

1st July 1915 Relocations

Twelfth July celebrations at Seaford County Sussex.

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers.

The Move to England.

This was well reported in the Lurgan Mail issue on the 10th July 1915 which read: "The secret about the move on Sunday night 27th June leaked out that the first contingent was to move off on the following morning and early on Monday everyone was alert. There was much stir and bustle at the barracks, but it was not until half past two o’clock p.m. that a move was made. At that hour preceded by both bands of the battalion, 170 of the riflemen swung round Windsor Avenue corner into Market Street and proceeded to the Railway Station in command of Captain Jewell and several Lieutenants. Soon the streets were crowded, the route to the station being lined by friends and admirers, and many were the leave takings as the men passed by, many were the greetings and good wishes shouted to them. The public were wisely excluded from the station premises, but the footbridge and every vantage point was crowded. The leave taking on the platform over, the men quickly entrained and the train departed southward amid salvos of cheers from the onlookers. The destination was understood to be Dublin but it has since transpired that the party proceeded the same evening to Liverpool en route for the Seaford Camp.

The next move was made on Tuesday, when the Transport section with their horses, mules and equipment, and in command of Lieutenants White (TJ) and Johnston proceeded by road to Belfast en route, via Liverpool, for the new camp.

Wednesday evening following saw a grand parade of the remaining men of the Battalion with their several officers, through the principal streets of the town, as the farewell march of the regiment in the district, and on Thursday afternoon the entire remaining force moved out in two sections, the first being in command of Colonel Leader and the second of Major Gardiner, two trains being required for their accommodation. The farewell demonstration of Monday was repeated, but on a scale of greater magnitude. All work was temporarily suspended in the town and district, and the line of march from Windsor Avenue to the railway station was crowded with a dense throng. The same arrangements were in force at the station and the entraining was carried out with expedition. Then came the last goodbye of those privileged few who had gained access to the platform and each train was followed by the cheers and kindly wishes of the onlookers"

Seaford, County Sussex. Finally they were on their way to the south of England and the small town of Seaford in Sussex (not to be confused with Seaforde, County Down, spelt with an ‘e’ at the end!). Seaford had a population of about 4,000 at that time.

For the first time apart from the review and march past in Belfast, the 36th Division was concentrated in one place. It was within walking distance of Brighton with its shops and attractions. Only 20 miles away across the English Channel was the coast of France and, when the wind was blowing in the right direction, the sound of heavy artillery fire could be heard. The Division was accommodated in the North and South Camps with the Pioneers in the latter. To the north of the camps was the Downs whose rolling valleys and hills provided an excellent area for military training. The first priority was musketry training which was carried out at a range close to the camp at Cuckmere Haven.

The River Cuckmere provided a good site for bridging practice within a quarter of a mile from its entry to the sea. The Pioneers had to contend with a lack of proper equipment and the ebb and flow of the tide.

Despite the urgency for battle readiness they were able to celebrate the 12th July with a parade, entertainment and guests from home. Several inspections took place early in July and on the 20th Lord Kitchener paid a surprise visit. The unit impressed Lord Kitchener who thought them very smart and ready for action, but it was pointed out they had not yet had musketry and machine gun training. He ordered this to be prioritised and it was partially completed at nearby ranges beside Cuckmere Haven.

1st August 1915 Training and recreation 16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers.

The Downs were fully utilised for Divisional training exercises with the Pioneers acting as the enemy in day and night exercises of increasing intensity. Sport and training courses were also intensified in final preparation for the move to the Front.

There was a meeting of the Pioneer’s Masonic Lodge No. 420 which had been granted a travelling warrant at its inaugural constitution in Lurgan Masonic Hall.

There was also a visit by Sir Edward and Lady Carson on the 3rd August at which everything was declared to be in good order.

The Battalion’s stay on the Downs came to an end as an advance party moved to Borden on the 31st August and an advance Divisional Command Group including General Nugent and Colonel Leader paid a short familiarisation visit to France.

1st September 1915 Training and move preparations 16th Btn.Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers.

The comfort and scenic stay near the Downs and Sussex villages came to a close at the end of August when the whole 36th Division moved to Bordon and Bramshott . This was mainly to allow the Division the use of numerous ranges in the area to complete their weapon training with live ammunition including bombing, mortars, Lewis and machine guns.

During the month most men got 4 days home leave and all returned to the battalion fit and ready for action. Colonel Leader, back from his visit to France, was pleased to note that the Battalion’s training had covered most of the requirements for active service. Finally most of the "comforts" gathered from friends at home, were distributed to the men for the winter season ahead.

So the Battalion consisting of Headquarters and four companies was now ready for the move to France, there to be tested in extreme conditions, in which their training and sense of comradeship would enable them to maintain their discipline and military bearing over a lengthy and arduous campaign.

1st October 1915 Relocations 16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers.

The Move to France.

On the 1st October at 1900 the Battalion left camp at Bordon for embarkation at Southampton but on arrival no one knew anything about it and there was no transport awaiting them. This proved quite a common problem over the next month or so. They had to eat their rations while further food was sought for them and spend an uncomfortable night sleeping at the docks.

Next day the Empress Queen arrived to take them across the channel. The ship was licensed to carry 600 passengers between Greenwich and London Bridge whereas the battalion was over 1000 strong and the vessel was crossing the English Channel not plying between points in the River Thames. Despite a gale blowing they crossed safely and arrived in Le Havre.

Once again no one knew anything about the unit but it was eventually sent to tented accommodation and a hot meal organised and the men had to dig trenches around their tents as it was raining. Despite an order to move to entrain for the front Colonel Leader insisted the men had their hot meal first.

On arrival at the station it was no surprise that no one was expecting them, but eventually Colonel Leader was informed of an incoming train which would be put at their disposal. Again the CO got his men to a Red Cross canteen and fed before boarding the train. Apparently there was a bit of a commotion at the Red Cross Unit as it was run by Miss Lloyd George, daughter of the Prime Minister (the Home Rule instigator) and the men preferred to go hungry rather than give her any business. So they were directed to the girl serving on the other side of the station "same firm but you needn’t tell them that", was the advice given and the men got their meal.

At 1000 on the 4th October the train left on a 130km journey to Longueau on the outskirts of Amiens, arriving at 1900. As usual they were unexpected and there was no information regarding their destination. Fortunately the CO met an officer from the Division who gave him general directions to Villers Bocage on the Amiens-Doullens Road. They marched on, passing through Amiens, and arrived at their destination around midnight. The war diaries do not reveal any more details of the journey but they must have met a divisional advance party and perhaps one of their own battalion representative possibly one for each of the 4 companies, Headquarters and Transport.

They spent the next 7 days (4th to 11th October) in this village giving them a chance to settle after their journey. They were assigned light carpentry work and built a road for the Casualty Clearing Station.

A Church Service on Sunday 10th October was conducted by Captain A Gibson, appointed by his church in Lurgan as officiating chaplain to the Battalion and who was now billeted with them, but also attended to some other units. The remainder of the time must have been spent sorting out their tools and equipment together with loads for their pack mules and other transport arrangements for their future operations. The sound of gunfire was never far away and indeed the village had already been overrun and occupied by the Germans in the initial onslaught before the establishment of trench warfare brought it back under Allied control.

The campaign was soon to start and on 12th October the Battalion marched about 8 miles to be based at Raincheval and camped there to work on an army defence line in that area. This was about 7 miles from the firing line and was in a shocking sanitary state having been taken over from the French.

The village was in a low lying hollow and the men were billeted in barns and other surrounding buildings with an ample supply of straw underfoot. Such was the progress of the pioneer’s work that on 1st November the Battalion regimental canteen, library and reading room were opened. The Officers Mess and Battalion Headquarters were seemingly located in Raincheval Chateau.

The 20th October marked the first anniversary of the founding of the Battalion and was celebrated by a smoking concert at headquarters and smaller events in other detachments. RSM J Gordon sent a very detailed report on the central event to the Lurgan Mail.

On the 21st October the unit was inspected by the Second Army Sanitary Officer and although the war diary does not record his report, again RSM Gordon writing to the Lurgan Mail recorded that "he made a most complimentary report on the sanitation and added that our work should serve as a pattern to the rest of the army". Thus we begin to see evidence of the professionalism and pride in their work by this exceptionally fine Battalion.

Third Army Defence Line 14th October 1915 to 28th December 1915

The Battalion was now tasked with work on the Third Army Defence Line which initially covered a length of about 3,600 yards extending from a position south east of Toutencourt to Creftel Wood. Half the Battalion under the command of Major Bowen was moved to Toutencourt to cover work in the area of the Raincheval to Vauchelles Road. It was very hard work and an 8 hour day would have exhausted the strongest of men. It must be noted that they had no excavating or levelling machines so everything was done by hand with manual tools.

The ground consisted of heavy clay for a few yards then sand, limestone and chalk. Work continued every day in the week except for the odd half day for the very important tasks of washing clothes and bathing.

At the same time No 2 Company under the command of Captain SJ Platt was sent to Vignacourt about 5 miles west of Villers Bocage to cut down forest and prepare various timber components for use in the construction of earthwork defences by the rest of the Battalion.

Further sites were allocated on the 20th October.

Small parties were attached in rota to the 8th Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers who were also a pioneer battalion to give the officers and men experience of operations at the front under enemy fire. This gave them experience in erecting barbed wire defences, Wiring as it was termed.


Commemorating the Fallen of WW1

The grave of Lewis Sheppard at Varennes. Photographed for Marching in Memory, July 2015

Lewis Sheppard. B Social 1910. Royal Flying Corps. Killed in a flying accident

Lewis Sheppard left Radley in 1914 to join up as a 2nd Lt in the Somerset Light Infantry. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916.

He was a boy of more than average ability. A great talker and with many interests, he has left his mark, though he was not here long enough to become distinguished. He joined the Flying Corps and was killed on April 21 by an accident on his way back to the advanced base in Flanders.

2nd Lt Lewis Sheppard, RFC


The Irish on the Somme

Many words have been written about the Battle of the Somme, which began 100 years ago in July. But an interesting and lesser-studied aspect of the early part of the Somme Offensive was the contribution made by Irish soldiers – particularly, two Irish Divisions: the 36 th (Ulster) Division and the 16 th Irish Division. The former was heavily involved in the traumatic first day of battle, the latter in capturing two German-held villages in September 1916. My own research – which will culminate in a panel display at The National Archives in July – explores the participation and commemoration of the two divisions and their crucial part in the conflict. It also looks at how the memorialisation and perception of sacrifice has differed between the unionist and nationalist communities of Ireland.

My research draws together a range of sources from The National Archives, the Public Records Office Northern Ireland the Ulster Museum, as well as the National Library of Ireland, in order to tell a more complete narrative of the events from the first day of this most significant of battles:

On the morning of 1 July 1916, the soldiers of 14 th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, part of the 36 th Ulster Division, climbed out of their trenches into ‘no mans land’ to attack the enemy and capture a fortified installation – the Schwaben Redoubt a network of machine-gun emplacements near Thiepval. George Hackney was a member of this battalion and was able to take a photograph early on the first day of the capture of numerous German prisoners. The incident is also recorded through official war diary entries, with reference to ‘prisoners passing down the trench’ (WO 95/2511/1) and ‘prisoners now coming in very fast…received word at 9.30am that 200 prisoners had passed through [Brigade Headquarters]’ (WO 95/2507/2).

Capture of German Prisoners 1 July 1916. George Hackney, permission of National Museums Northern Ireland.

Further embellishment of the first day can be gleaned from reading the war diary of the 109 th Infantry Brigade (WO 95/2507/2) and an account written by the Commanding Officer of the 10 th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers(‘The Derrys’), Major Sam Macrory (WO 95/2491/5). Macrory’s account exemplifies both the pride in his men but also the confusion of minute by minute battlefield manoeuvres. He describes, for example, the intermingling of Ulster battalions at a particular location on the battlefield –the “Crucifix”: ‘Portions of the left Coys were at least 200 yards left of their objective, having followed the wrong direction from the start. The men of our battalion were more or less intermingled with representatives of all other Brigades of the Ulster Division.’ Sadly, all four of the battalions’ commanders were killed or wounded on the morning of 1 July.

Macrory also highlighted the bravery of one particular individual, Lieutenant Ernest McClure, who failed to receive any recognition for his actions as no officer witnessed his courage in holding the Crucifix position. McClure’s body was never recovered.

Photograph of officers of ‘The Derrys’, including McClure and Macrory. Image by kind permission of United Services Club, Limavady, Northern Ireland.

Crucifix corner, Theipval Wood (present day)

The display also informs the viewer of the part played by the 16 th Irish Division and their heroism at Guillemont and Ginchy, south of Thiepval. Both battles are recorded in detail in our WO 95/1969, WO 95/1970 and WO 95/1955/3 records, describing the men of the 47 th and 48 th Brigades launching an assault with bombs and bayonets, but enduring heavy casualties as part of their own barrage. Part of this attack was Private Thomas Hughes of the 6 th Connaughts, who, despite being wounded, took out a machine-gun post and captured several prisoners. He was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Emmett Dalton was a member of the 16 th Division, a division composed of mainly Catholic Nationalists who hoped for a form of Home Rule once the war was concluded. Dalton, of the 9 th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was awarded a Military Cross at the battle of Ginchy for ‘conspicuous gallantry in action’. Yet after the war in 1919, he would join the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and fight in the War of Independence (1919-21) against the British state. In WO 35/206, a War Office and Army of Ireland record, he is described as being the co-ordinator of several prisoner escapes during the War of Independence and as a Major-General in the Free State Army during the Irish Civil War. Such was the complexity of the period that men once fighting side by side were later at odds.

The final element of the display explains how the commemoration of the war became so problematic in Ireland as a consequence of the revolutionary movement, which ultimately led to the partition of the country. Using images and letters from the inter-war period specifically, the research compares the fascinatingly different rationales employed by the new Free State and the province of Ulster in remembering the fallen.

The war was fought by many countries for many reasons, and my research on the Irish contribution to the Battle of the Somme attempts to bring into focus the stories of the individuals on the ground, as well as the intense backdrop of political and social motivation that proved a particularly unique endurance for Irish soldiers.

‘It’s a Long Way From Tipperary: The Irish on the Somme’ will be on display in the first floor reading rooms, 1 July-17 September.

The panel display also touches on many of the themes discussed in The National Archives’ upcoming symposium Ireland and 1916: Isle of Saints and Soldiers? (Saturday 18 June). For more information or to book tickets, visit our website.


Somme Intelligence - Fourth Army HQ 1916, William Langford - History

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World War I

Those who served as police officers in the Northern Territory Police Force and later in the Australian Army during the First World War

World War Two, introduced the horrors of war to the population of the Northern Territory. The courageous action and devotion to duty of the Northern Territory Police during that War and especially during the bombing of Darwin has been well recorded. Little however has been written about those Northern Territory Police who enlisted for overseas service in World War One. Of the eleven men mentioned, in this article, only one James Harcourt Kelly, returned to serve in the Northern Territory Police. Sadly, Richard Hanson and Horace Higgs were both killed in action. Frederick Taylor survived after being wounded in action on four separate occasions. Several others were also wounded in action, or suffered from debilitating illnesses and injuries caused by the physically demanding nature of active military service. The service of the former Northern Territory members added to both the ANZAC legend and the enduring history of the Northern Territory Police Force.

This paper seeks to recognize those who served as a police officer (or Special Constable.) in the Northern Territory and who had later served in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in World War One. Richard Hanson, Horace Higgs and James Kelly have had their service recognised by the Northern Territory Government by the naming of Darwin streets in their honour. It appears that the Police Force has never specifically commemorated the War service of its former officers even by the instillation of a simple specific honour roll or scroll.

World War one had a massive impact upon Australian society. From a population of about 2,700,000, Australia sent 331,814 or 13.43% of its population as volunteers to the War. During the hostilities, 59,330 Australians were killed in action (That figure includes those who died of wounds or who were listed as missing in action.) a further 152,171 instances were recorded where members of the AIF were wounded in action.

When war against Germany and its allies was declared in August 1914, the Northern Territory Police staffing establishment was twenty-two sworn officers who were positioned all over the Territory. During the course of the War, eleven enlistments into the Australian Imperial Force were from those who had served at some time as Police Officers serving in the Northern Territory. Some had served in the Territory as South Australian Officers at a time when the Northern Territory was part of South Australia.

Graham, the son of John Dow because he had served briefly as a Special Constable in Alice Springs is included in that group. To complete the Dow family contribution to the Nation, the AIF service of John Dow’s Territory born and raised son McFarlane is included in this account. Of the eleven full time officers who enlisted, two of those did not see active service. One enlisted (Mcbeath) and the act of enlistment appears for whatever reason to be the extent of his military service. John Dow, who was serving in the South Australian Police at Burra, was commissioned into the Australian Imperial Force as a Lieutenant.

He served in South Australia but it appears that medical grounds may have precluded him from service overseas. The transition of the administration (Including the Police) of the geographic area of the Northern Territory from the South Australian Government to the Commonwealth Government[1] was still under way when war was declared in 1914. The transition of the administration created four categories of engagement of those who served in both the Northern Territory Police Force and in the AIF.

 Serving members who were recruited directly into the Commonwealth administered Northern Territory Police Force after the transition of administration in 1911. eg.Richard Hanson.

 The second group were those who were South Australian Police seconded by way of a contract with the Commonwealth to ensure continuity in Northern Territory policing following the transfer of the administration of the Northern Territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth Government. eg. William Johns.

 The third category includes those from South Australia who had returned to the South Australian Police after service in the Northern Territory of South Australia and who later enlisted in the AIF whilst serving as South Australian Police. eg. William Gordon.

 The last category includes those who served in the Commonwealth administered Northern Territory Police Force and who had left the Northern Territory for a short period most likely to arrange their affairs prior to enlisting. eg. Horace Higgs.

No officers actually enlisted whilst still serving as a member of the Northern Territory Police Force. Several recorded their former employment as Mounted Constable in the Northern Territory. John Gilruth[2] the Northern Territory Administrator (1912-1919) did not open an Australian Imperial Force enlistment depot.

The Government maintained a policy of not providing assistance to those wanting to enlist. The policy was introduced on the part of the Northern Territory Administration to deter volunteers from travelling interstate to enlist. This quite restrictive policy was clearly designed to deter enlistment. Primarily the reason was to ensure the retention of skilled workers who were required for the essential maintenance and the economic advancement of the Territory.

Most of the details on the individuals mentioned in this paper are drawn from the individual soldier’s files, which are available via the Internet at the Australian Archives (www.aa.gov.au). Other sources detailed, include the excellent research carried out by Lawrie Debnam. His quite detailed research has identified which particular officers served at what location and at what time. Those records are now available from the Northern Territory Historical Society.

Richard Davies Hanson

Richard Hanson [Also spelt Hansen in some documents] was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1884. He was the grandson of Sir Richard Davies Hanson, Chief Justice of South Australia. He joined the Northern Territory Police on the 1st of December 1911. His prior occupation was recorded as “clerical”. A single man on enlistment, he was described as being 5 feet 9 inches tall and 9 stone in weight.

He was posted to Anthony’s Lagoon Station from 3rd March 1912 to the 15th May 1914. From the 18th August 1914, he was stationed at Borroloola. He is also reputed to have served for sometime at Newcastle Waters after leaving Borroloola. It is not known exactly when he left the Northern Territory Police Force. He recorded his occupation when enlisting in the AIF in 1916 as ‘Mounted Police’. Later when supplying information to the Australian War Memorial for the memorial scrolls his family added ‘Commonwealth Force’to his occupation.

Richard enlisted as No. 417, of the Fifth Reinforcements, Ninth Machine Gun Company on the 21st June 1916. He embarked from Melbourne on HMAT[3]A38 ‘Ulysses’ on the 25th October 1916. Disembarkation took place in Plymouth England, on the 28th December 1916. He had several postings in England before joining the Machine Gun Base in France on 2nd March 1917. He was admitted to hospital in France described as ‘sick’ from the 10th to the 27th of April 1917.

He subsequently joined the Ninth Machine Gun Company. On the 8th June 1917 during the Battle of Messines in Belgium, a bullet wound or wounds to the abdomen fatally wounded Richard. He died of his wounds at the Eleventh Australian Casualty Clearing Station, Messines, Belgium on the 8th of June 1917.

Richard Hanson is commemorated in France in the 285 Bailleul Communal Cemetery extension and on panel 178 of the Australian War Memorial Canberra. Richard died participating in the Battle of Messines, which was part of the series of actions collectively known as the Battle of Paschendale or the Third battle of Ypres.

The Australian official history records the action on 7/8th June 1917 as involving advances by eight attack Battalions of the Third Australian Division.

Prior to the advance nineteen great mines, which had been tunnelled out under the German trenches and packed with hundreds of kilograms of explosives, [This event has recently been the subject of an Australian movie.] were exploded under the German Lines.[4] Describing the battle the Australian official historian Charles Bean, at 593[5] said, ‘With a roar the machinegun barrage broke out.’

It can be assumed that the Ninth Machinegun Company, in which Richard was serving, was in the forefront of this action. The official history recorded that in this action the Ninth Machinegun Company suffered nineteen casualties [Casualties included fatalities, wounds, missing in action and those taken prisoner.]. One of the fatalities sadly was Richard Hanson. During action by the Company during the previous night, the Companies war diary records that four of its members were killed and seven others were wounded in action.

The Officer Commanding the Company maintained the war diary of the Ninth Machinegun Company. That diary is now held in the Australian War Memorial Canberra. It is also available on the internet. [www.awm.gov.au] the daily extract details Richards’s death.

Horace Higgs also known as “Jerry” was born on the 8th March 1884 in Birmingham, England[6]. He migrated to Australia with his family when he was aged about seven years. He joined the South Australian Police Force on the 1st March 1907, after active military service in the South African Boer War.

He had enlisted as an eighteen-year-old Australian with the First Commonwealth Horse on the 6th June 1902. Before Federation Australians served in the Boer war as members of the military forces of the Australian State, in which they had enlisted. Later on his enlistment attestation form, Horace stated that he had also served in the South African Constabulary.

Five foot eight inches tall, Horace as a member of the South Australian Police transferred on 1st July 1908 to the Northern Territory. At that time, the Northern Territory was still part of South Australia. He arrived in Darwin on the 14th July 1908. Later that month he commenced duties at Borroloola, remaining there until 30th August 1910. From the 8th December 1911 to 9th September 1912, he was stationed at Katherine. He is recorded as being stationed in Darwin from December 1912, until his departure back to Adelaide on the 21st December 1913. During that period he was also appointed acting Officer of Customs.

Horace returned to the South Australian Police after serving out his five-year secondment in the Northern Territory. Life in the’ Top End’ must have been appealing as Horace returned to the Northern Territory Police Force on the 20th August 1914.

The transfer to the Commonwealth of the administration of the NT and with it, its police had taken place in 1911. Therefore, it is supposed that Horace would have had to resign from the South Australian Police Force before joining the Northern Territory Police Force. He commenced duties in Pine Creek on the 5th October 1914. It is not known when he left Pine Creek or the Northern Territory. He is recorded as being on duty at Pine Creek Police Station on 16th April 1915. He signed the prisoner record book in Katherine on 15th March 1915. He may well have transferred the prisoner from Pine Creek to Katherine for Court proceedings.

The NT Times and Gazette reported in its 17 June 1915 edition on page 8. “Constable Horace Higgs had the misfortune to break one of his legs on Friday last, the 11th instant. He was riding into Darwin, and when near Dr. Jensen’s residence his horse crossed its legs and fell heavily upon him.”

Trooper John Johns (Lewis.1998. p.78) commonly known as Jack Johns, made mention of meeting Horace Higgs in Darwin just before Horace transferred to Leichardt’s Bar in his book ‘patrolling the ‘Big Up’.

‘On my return home I was advised by the next mail that Trooper Horace Higgs (Jerry Higgs) was to be my successor at Leichhardt’s Bar. Jerry Higgs had been a trumpeter. Before leaving Darwin to come to Roper River, he was thrown from a horse and broke his leg. I therefore had to handover to Trooper Hunt.

I handed over my plant at Pine Creek and at last reached Darwin. Here I met Trooper Higgs. He went out to Leichardts bar, shortly afterwards.’

In any event, Horace left the Northern Territory and moved to Mount Gambier, South Australia, where on the 6th April 1916 he enlisted as No. 3707, with the ninth Reinforcements of the Fifth Pioneer Battalion.

On his attestation papers, he listed his occupation as ‘Mounted Constable’ and recorded his wife Mary and one child[7] as his dependents.

As a veteran of the Boer war, Horace knew the risks of engaging in military service. Added to his personal experience of combat, was the knowledge that his 48-year-old father Private John Higgs, No. 1108 of the Twelfth (South Australia / Tasmania) Battalion had already been killed in action. His family were advised that he was killed by a shot to the forehead on the 26th April 1915[8], the day after he landed on Gallipoli. Policing was family tradition as John Higgs file states that he was a Constable in Adelaide prior to his enlistment.

Between the 30th August 1916 and the 24th October 1916, Horace attended and passed a School of Instruction for Candidates for Commissions in the Australian Imperial Force. There are no official records of him being commissioned as a Lieutenant as reported in the place names extract of the Northern Territory Department of Planning and Infrastructure. His personal records held by the Australian Archives show him to have been a private at the time of his death.

His embarkation for active service took place on the 10th February 1917 when he boarded HMAT Sesang Bee, A48. Disembarkation took place in Devonport, England on the 2nd May 1917. Horace was appointed as an acting Sergeant in the 10th [South Australian Battalion] [5th Pioneer Battalion[9]] in France on 26th July 1917.

He reverted to the rank Private after the period of acting higher duties ceased on 11th August 1917.

On the 7th October 1917, Horace was initially reported as missing in action. Later that day he was recorded as having died of wounds. He was buried in Polygon Woods. He is officially commemorated in the 112 Hooge Crater Cemetery Zillebeke Belgium and on Panel 59 at the Australian War Memorial Canberra.

Horace remained on the Missing in Action list until the Major, Officer i/c Base Records in a letter a copy of which is attached to his personal file, dated 23rd September 1918, officially advised his wife Mary of his fate.‘ With reference to the report of the regrettable loss of your husband the late No.3707 Private H. Higgs, 10th Battalion. I am now in receipt of advice, which shows that he was buried by a high explosive shell burst in support line of the Battalion on 7/10/17. He was dug out by his comrades and carried to Reg. Aid Post. He was then in a semi conscious condition and died on the way down. His body is reported to have been buried near Battalion Headquarters, near Polygon Wood.’

According to the Northern Territory Department of Planning and Infrastructure, Place Names Register, Higgs Street in the Darwin suburb of Moil, was registered on the 25th September 1968, to honour his memory.

Horace Higgs was killed during the Third Battle of Ypres also known as Paschendale. The battle was characterised by some significant advances by the Australians but memorialised by the horrendous suffering and huge casualties, which occurred after heavy rain, drenched the battlefield turning it into a debilitating field of deep mud in which some of the wounded were drowned.

The Australian component of the fighting occurred in the successive battles of Menin Road, Polygon Wood [Where Horace was killed] and Broodseine. On the evening of the 3rd of October 1917 in accordance with a Tenth battalion’s operational order[i], the Battalion with Horace in its ranks moved into the front line.

Frederick William Murray Taylor

Frederick was born on the 4th April 1884 in Bandalong, Victoria. He joined the Northern Territory Police Force on the 5th July 1911. He served in Katherine from the 14th November 1912 until the 17th February 1913. It is not known when he left the Northern Territory Police. However when he enlisted on the 29th May 1916 as No. 6568 of the Twenty First Reinforcements of the Sixth Battalion of the Second Infantry Brigade. He gave as his occupation ‘Mounted Constable Northern Territory Police Force’. He was single when he enlisted.

Frederick embarked for active service from Melbourne on HMAT Nestor A71 and disembarked at Plymouth, England on 16th November 1916. He joined the Sixth [Victorian] Battalion in the field in France on the 22nd March 1917.

Frederick was wounded in action the first time on the 11th May 1917 during the Battle of Bullecourt, when he received a gunshot wound to the mouth. After recovering in hospital, he rejoined his Battalion on the 9th June 1917.

He was wounded a second time whilst in action in the Battle of Menin Road, during the Third Battle of Ypres on the 20th September 1917. One report states that he had sustained a gunshot wound to the left forearm. His wound was also cited several times in the records as being to his hand. Another medical entry says he had a severe gunshot wound to his left shoulder. Shrapnel [metal fragments] from artillery could cause wounds in several places. From experience reading soldiers records, gunshot wound is a term often used, when in fact the wound could have been shrapnel wound. In any event, his injury involved being wounded in a manner sufficiently serious for him to be evacuated from France to the English County of Middlesex War Hospital. He was admitted to that English Hospital on the 2nd of September 1917. He was later listed as being on furlough and repatriation at Weymouth England. During the action on the Menin Road, the Sixth Battalion of which Taylor was a member, advanced through the debris of what was at that time known as the Glencourse Wood.

Whilst doing so in heavy action with the enemy, they captured some concrete strong points known as pillboxes. During this action, Lieutenant Birks one of Taylor’s platoon commanders carried out the action, which resulted in Birks, being awarded the Victoria Cross.

Second Lieutenant (2nd Lt) Frederick Birks VC MM, 6th Battalion. 2nd Lt Birks was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for "most conspicuous bravery in attack when, accompanied by only a corporal, he rushed a strong-point which was holding up the advance" on 20 September 1917 at Glencorse Wood, Belgium. After the corporal was wounded, 2nd Lt Birks killed the remaining enemy soldiers occupying the position and captured the machine gun. He later organised a small party and attacked another strong point occupied by approximately twenty five of the enemy, killing most and capturing one officer and fifteen men. A shell at his post killed 2nd Lt Birks on 20 September 1917 while he was attempting to rescue some of his men who had been buried by a shell explosion.

In July 1916, Birks was award the Military Medal[10] for "consistent good services" in the operations at Pozieres. Wounded Frederick Taylor was one of the 258 casualties sustained by the Sixth Battalion in this action. Frederick rejoined his Battalion in France on the 2nd of January 1918.

On the 15th of April 1918 during action to counter the large German offensive[11], Frederick was wounded for the third time when he was shot in the shoulder. He was hospitalised once again and after recovery, he returned to the Sixth Battalion on 7th May 1918.

On the 10th August 1918 in action near the French city of Amiens, Frederick was wounded for the fourth and last time. He received what the Medical Board described as a penetrating gunshot wound to the chest and the left arm with his injuries classified so severe that his next of kin were advised. He was admitted to the Thirteenth United States of America General Hospital at Boulogne France. Following treatment, he was moved on to the King George Hospital in England for specialist treatment. He was discharged from that hospital on the 21st of September 1918.

He embarked to return home to Australia on HMAT Nestor on the 12th of December 1918, arriving in Melbourne on the 1st February 1919. He was discharged from the Army as medically unfit on the 11th March 1919. His disability being listed as gunshot wound to the chest [perforating lung] and a gunshot wound to the left arm [Injury to the Ulna Nerve]. His disabilities would have terminated any thoughts on his part to resume his policing career.

William Mathew Alexander Gordon

William was born in the Bay Road (Glenelg) area of Adelaide South Australia on the 24th November 1882. After active service in the South African Boer War, as Private No. 2679 of the Fourth Battalion Australian Commonwealth Horse, William joined the South Australian Police Force, on 1st November 1903. As a member of the South Australian Police Force, he transferred to the Northern Territory on the 1st June 1904. He was stationed at Palmerston from May until July 1907.

Then he moved to Borroloola on the 1st August 1907 where he served until the 13th February 1908. He moved to Anthony’s Lagoon Station on the 13th February 1908, remaining there until the 12th November 1908. William is reported to have been at Powell’s Creek Police Station in August 1908. He may have been passing through whilst he was at Anthony’s Lagoon.

Alternately, he may have been stationed there, but the Station appears to have been unmanned after Mounted Constable Johnstone left in March 1905 until Mounted Constable Noblet took over the Station in 1910. William transferred back to South Australia on the 8th November 1909.

William who was 5 foot 11 inches tall, enlisted as private No. 2741 of the Nineteenth Reinforcements to the Ninth (South Australian / Tasmanian) Australian Light Horse Regiment on the 28th of September 1915. In his enlistment attestation papers, he recorded his occupation as ‘Colt Breaker’. His dependants were listed as his wife Rose and two children. He embarked to Egypt as an acting Sergeant on the HMAT Mongolia on the 13th July 1916 and was taken on the field strength of the Ninth Australian Light Horse Regiment on the 12th of August 1916.

William transferred to the Eleventh Company of the Third Battalion Imperial Camel Corps on 1st September 1916. The Camel Corps comprised mostly Australian volunteers. The Cameleers saw a lot of action in the Egyptian and Palestine desert operation.

Those actions included the three battles for Gaza. Apart from their unique mode of transport, the tactics for the Camel Corps differed operationally from the Light Horse. The Camel Corps would ride to a point and then dismount and they would operate as infantry. The Light Horse would also engage the enemy on foot but if circumstances dictated, they would take aggressive mounted action, such as engaging in mounted charges or running the enemy troops down in or about the trenches as occurred on a number of occasions such as during the mounted charge in the Battle of Beersheba.

As military operations against the Turks passed out of the sand and the waterless Sinai desert into Syria, the operational advantage of the Camel was surpassed by the use of horses, which were more adaptable to the various military operations such as were unfolding in the new terrain. To put more adequate horse mounted troops in the field, the Camel Corps were disbanded. The Thirteen / Third Regiment's of the Australian Light Horse were formed from the Australian cameleers. William transferred to the Thirteen / Third Regiment and served with it until the 25th of May 1918 when he was appointed as an acting Sergeant on the instructional staff of the Australian Light Horse. With the war over, he embarked on the HMAT Berrima in Suez on 15th January 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 6th April 1919. He was not wounded in action but was hospitalised twice for dysentery and other infections, the last admission being for Diphtheria.

After his return to Australia he was assessed as being, 40% debilitated from his infections. After he was discharge, a scribbled note on his personnel file listed him as being employed as a surveyor with the South Australian Railways.

John was born in Penola South Australia on 10th June 1872. He joined the South Australian Police Force on the 1st May 1900. As a member of that Force, he was transferred to the Northern Territory on the 1st February 1904.

He arrived in Darwin on 23rd February 1904. He served at the Timber Creek Police Station from 28th July 1904 until June 1908. He then moved to Palmerston until he took up duties at the Brocks Creek Police Station in May of 1909. He sailed from Darwin back to Adelaide on the 29th August 1910, the reason being listed as illness. He spent several months in a private hospital. He resigned from the South Australian Police Force 1st January 1911.

It is interesting to note that John had to personally request reimbursement of the 12 pounds fare he had to pay personally to travel by ship from Darwin to Adelaide. Reimbursement of his passage was begrudgingly approved with the comment ‘it was the practice’.

Forty three year old John, who listed his occupation as a labourer, enlisted as No.748 in the Third Squadron, First Australian Remount Unit on the 6th October 1915. He embarked to Egypt on the 12th November 1915. He was classified as vision defective but he was still recruited. The army no doubt recognised the value to them derived from his farrier skills and other experience with horses.

Accordingly, he was attached to a remount support unit. The remount units provided replacement horses to the Light Horse Regiments in the field and looked after wounded and sick horses, they also broke in and trained remounts. John’s service was mainly in Palestine and Egypt. He was admitted to hospital suffering from influenza from the 23rd November until the 19th December 1918. He departed Port Said, Egypt on HMAT Burma on the 26th March 1919 arriving in Australia on the 27th May 1919.

John’s military service ended with his discharge on the 20th October 1919. He was residing in Loxton in South Australia on the 22 December 1924 when he signed for his war medals. His file includes a scribbled notation detailing that he had died on the 20th July 1953.

John was born on the 5th January 1867 at Branfield, West Coast of South Australia. He joined the South Australian Police Force on 1st June 1893 and was transferred to the Northern Territory. In 1893, he was stationed at Burundi. He was also stationed in Palmerston that year from September to November. He was again posted to Palmerston, January through to November of 1895. He was then stationed at Pine Creek from 8th November 1899 until April 1901. He returned on posting to South Australia on 1st August 1901. John transferred back to the Northern Territory on 21 September 1908.

John Dow took over as the keeper of the Heavitree Gap Goal on 1st October 1908, then at Stuart (now Alice Springs) until 6th October 1908. He was absent from Alice Springs for a short period from 8 March 1910. It is thought by Lawrie Debnam that he was possibly at Tempe Downs during that period.

John submitted a report as requested by the Prime Minister’s Office on police staffing in the Alice Springs locality. He did so as Officer in Charge Alice Springs on the 16th of May 1911. He returned to the then copper mining and pastoral mid north town of Burra, South Australia on 1st February 1912, citing family matters as his reason.

John was married with at least two sons, Graham and McFarlane. Life in the early settlement of Alice Springs for the Dow family would have been quite arduous. To get to Alice Springs for example, would have required a move from South Australia up to the Alice. There was no rail service and the road would have been no more than a rough track. Personal effects and rations would have had to be carried on pack animals or drawn on some sort of wagon.

John Dow enlisted as a private with the 14th Reinforcements of the Third Australian Light Horse Regiment. He was promoted to second Lieutenant with that Regiment on 17th January 1916. His Commission was promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 12, dated the 6th January 1916. His Kings Commission as a Lieutenant was terminated on the 6th November 1919 due to cessation of hostilities. However, despite his early promotion, he was not embarked to join his Regiment in Palestine. In correspondence dated earlier than the 2nd May 1916, he was a Lieutenant with the Base Light Horse (reserve). In August 1918, he was serving as the Lieutenant recruiting officer at Port Pirie. It is possible that due to his age or some unrecorded medical condition he was classified medically fit for Australian service rather than active service.

The eldest son of John Graham Dow, Graham Dow was born in Burra, South Australia in 1893. He served as a Northern Territory Police Special Constable at Alice Springs in May 1911, apparently whilst Mounted Constable MacKay was at Illamurta.

Graham enlisted as No. 1128, of the Third Australian Light Horse Regiment (South Australia) on 25th August 1914. He served with the Third Australian Light Horse Regiment on Gallipoli, where he was wounded by a gunshot wound to the shoulder. Following treatment, he rejoined the Third Regiment in Palestine. He was later promoted to Sergeant. He was serving in the Middle East with the First Light Horse Brigade Headquarters when he contracted and almost died from the disease Anthrax.

On his file is a note from Lieutenant John Dow seeking information on his son Graham dated 29th October 1918.

John’s other son McFarlane Dow, was born in Port Darwin in 1894. McFarlane enlisted as No. 89, Third Australian Light Horse Regiment on 25 August 1914. It was the same day as his brother Graham. He served with the Third Regiment on Gallipoli. Evacuated due to sickness he was sent to Cambridge England for medical treatment. After retraining as a machine gunner, he served with the First Machinegun Battalion. He was badly wounded by poison gas and evacuated back to Australia.

Noel was born 1880-81, in Cork Ireland. He joined the NT Police on 28th June 1911 (Actually arriving on 17th July 1911.) He brought with him two and half years of active service in the British Army in the Boer War along with five months active service in Somaliland[12] and a further six months service in the 1906 Zulu[13] uprising. He also declared that he had served in the South African Mounted Constabulary for nine years. Horace Higgs also served in the Constabulary. [The South African Constabulary was a force of 8,500 mounted officers created by the British to police the former Boer lands in South Africa.] .

From the 9th to the 21st of August 1911, Noel was stationed at Borroloola. He then transferred to the Roper River Police Station where he served until May 1912.

He was then stationed at Horseshoe Creek from July 1914 until the 26th September 1914.

It appears that on the 26th September 1914, he joined the Commonwealth Railways at Pine Creek, NT as a clerk. He is recorded as leaving the Railways on the 30th September 1915 to joining the Expeditionary Forces (AIF). A minute attached to his personal file, from the Secretary of Commonwealth Railways enquired if ‘Collins, N.T, Clerk, Pine Creek enlisted 30 September 1915, had yet been discharged.’ The Railways record him on the 19th October 1919 as having failed to return from military service. [Actually, he was serving with the Australian Army in the former German Colonies in New Britain.] It is possible that Noel engineered his transfer to the Railways in 1914 as a way of circumventing the Northern Territory Administrators restriction on AIF enlistments.

Noel Collins enlisted as No.5660 in the 18th Reinforcements of the Seventh (Victorian) Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force, on 31st March 1916. On his enlistment attestation form, his occupation was listed as clerical and later in 1918, when applying to go to New Guinea he listed himself as an accountant. He stated that he was married and residing at ‘Coonac’, Clendon Road, Toorak, Victoria.

Noel embarked for England on the transport ship ‘HMAT A33 Ayrshire' on 3rd of July 1916. He was take on strength ‘in the field’ by the Seventh Battalion. He joined his battalion after it had suffered heavy losses in action around Pozieres during the Battle of the Somme. In action at Mouquet Farm, in the Somme Valley France, his Battalion had suffered thirty-four killed and two hundred and twenty three other casualties.

On the 22nd of October 1916, Noel was promoted to Lance Corporal. After two months of field service, he was returned to England to recover from an illness. He was diagnosed with Myalgia in the knees and legs. His medical condition was attributed to his prior active service in South Africa during the Boer War. In a file note the examining Medical Officer noted, ‘is older than above [46 years] an old campaigner. Declared medically unfit for field service he was returned to Australia on the 21st July 1917. He disembarked in Melbourne on the 8th August 1917 classified as fit only for home not active service.

In 1918, he enlisted into the Permanent Australian Military Forces as an acting Sergeant Major. Shortly after that, he is recorded as being sick for two months with influenza. On the 16th November 1920 when he was approaching fifty years of age he enlisted in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, which had taken over the former German colonies, which had been captured by a joint Australian Navy and Army expedition in New Britain and New Guinea in 1914.[14]

Noel’s service recorded showed him as having been seconded from the uniformed occupation force to the civilian administration as a clerical officer. He was an acting Sergeant in the military component on Rabaul on the 2nd December 1922 when he signed a receipt for his Victory Medal.

James Kelly was born at One Tree Hill South Australia, on 3rd November 1867[15]. He joined the South Australian Police Force on 1st May 1891. He transferred to the Northern Territory on the 1st March 1894. He is recorded as being on duty at Burundi on the 1st of July 1897. He resigned on the 31st March 1896. Whatever venture he embarked upon ended with his return to the police in the Northern Territory on the 1st of May 1897. From October 1899 to the 13th October 1903, he was stationed at Camooweal. He was then moved to Borroloola where he was stationed from 1st November 1903 until the 19th February 1904.

He then was moved to and served as a Mounted Constable at Palmerston from February 1904 to November 1906. The Government Resident Dashwood CHS appointed him on the 4th October 1904 in a Government Notice to be the Clerk of the Palmerston Local Court. James then moved to Pine Creek where he commenced duty on the 13th November1906. He returned to South Australia on the 14th January 1911. It appears that James had returned to the Northern Territory because Government Notice 251 -14 signed by J.A. Gilruth the Northern Territory Administrator, appointed James Kelly on the 2nd of December 1914 to be Keeper of H.M Northern Territory Gaol Borroloola.

On the 22nd December 1916, the 6 foot 2 inch tall James at the age of 42 years and declaring his occupation as “Mounted Police Constable”, enlisted in the AIF and became Private No. 3348 of the 28th Reinforcements’ of the 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment. Leaving his wife Margaret, he embarked on the troop ship A17 HMAT Port Lincoln from Melbourne for Egypt on the 22nd June 1917. He disembarked in Suez on the 8th August 1917 and he proceeded to join the First Australian Light Horse Training Unit. On the 3rd January 1918, he was transferred to the Third Regiment of the First Australian Light Horse Brigade.

At the time of James arrival, his Regiment was deep in the Sinai Desert undertaking aggressive actions in the direction of Jerusalem against a now retreating Turkish Army following the capture on the 31st October 1917 of the fortified city of Gaza. During that battle, the Fourth and Twelfth Australian Light Horse Regiments’ carried out a daring mounted charge against the Turkish and German forces who were well entrenched and defending the township of Beersheba with machine guns and artillery.

On the 21st February 1918, the First Australian Light Horse Brigade of which James 3rd ALH Regiment was now a member, was in action near the town Kh el Auja ET Tahtani, which is near the biblical city Jericho. Three Regiments with a designated strength of 1000 to 1500 mounted troops would have made up a Light Horse Brigade at that stage of the Desert campaign.

This was a huge change in operational circumstances for James who was used to patrolling the wilds of the Northern Territory with one or two Police trackers. Shortly after that action, the First Australian Light Horse Brigade took part in the heavy fighting, which culminated in the advance on Jericho.

On the 3rd March 1918, James was struck off his Regiments active strength when he was admitted to the Field Ambulance for medical treatment. He had fallen heavily on a stone causing a contusion to his chest. His service record does not record how he actually received his injury. His injury was serious enough to delay his return to his Regiment until the 6th July 1918. He returned to his Unit, which was in action in the Jordan Valley. It was a most inhospitable location where the daily temperature was often in the high 40 C’s. The heat, poor sanitation and rations coupled with mosquito borne illnesses were causing a huge increase in medical evacuations. The numbers of medical evacuations were threatening the First Australian Light Horse Brigades’ ability to undertaken operations.

The Official History states at page 633, Bell had only about 210 rifles available for the line.

James served with the Third Light Horse Regiment, until the end of hostilities. He was a participant in the large campaign, which forced the Turks and Germans to retreat into Syria where they eventually sought an armistice. He embarked for Australia on the HMAT Port Sydney on the 4th March 1919. He was discharged due to the cessation of hostilities on 10th March 1919. It is not known when James and his family returned to the Territory. [It is not known what children James had. On his recruitment attestation form he stated that he had no children less than 16 years of age. That indicates that he may have had children older than 16.] He returned to the Northern Territory Police and served until his medical retirement on the 27th November 1927. In Government notice 241.21 dated 30th November 1921, Mr F.C. Urquhart the Northern Territory Administrator appointed acting Sergeant James Harcourt Kelly, of Borroloola, to be Sergeant of police from 1st July 1921.

The Northern Territory Department of Planning and Infrastructure when naming Kelly Place in Rapid Creek in his honour recorded: ‘Named after Mounted Constable James Harcourt Kelly who was appointed in June of 1897. He served in the NT at Camooweal District, 1901-03 appointed keeper Borroloola Goal Nov 1903 Pine Creek 1907 Roper River, 1908-09. Enlisted in 1917 and served until his retirement from the Police Force in 1928 after some 31 years in the Territory.’

Frederick James Ockenden

His Police records are brief and essentially only record Frederick joining then leaving the South Australian Police Force. He was born at Mount Pleasant, South Australia in 1876.

He joined the South Australian Police in 1897. He is believed to have served at Illamurta during 1900. He is thought to have left the Force in 1900.

There is no record of his employment between the Northern Territory and his enlistment. into the Seventh Reinforcements of the Forty Third (South Australian) Battalion as No. 3106 on Australia day 1917. On his attestation papers he answered the question, have you ever been rejected as unfit for His Majesties Service? To which he answered “Yes Heart.” Forty one year old Frederick was duly passed as fit for overseas service. He embarked for France on HMAT A30, ‘The Adelaide’ from Port Adelaide on 23 June 1917. He disembarked at Plymouth, England, on the 25th August 1917. He was taken on the strength of the Forty Third Battalion on 19th February 1918. He was admitted to hospital with Hepatitis on 6th May 1918. He was transferred from France to an English hospital where he was declared unfit for active service and was returned to Australia on the 25th September 1918. He was discharged on 1st February 1919.

William Francis Johns CBE OstJ. [Order of St John]

William rejoined the South Australian Police after his discharge from the AIF. His career as a police officer in the Northern Territory and South Australia culminated in his being appointed in 1944, as the Commissioner of the South Australian Police Force. The King also recognised his long and successful policing career by bestowing upon him The Order of the British Empire – Commander (Civil) on 1st January 1946.

William was born at Hambly Bridge South Australia on the 23rd March 1885. He joined the South Australian Police and he arrived in Darwin on the 15th October 1909. He served in the Territory, as did his brother John until his five-year secondment to the Northern Territory was completed in 1915. Whilst in the Northern Territory he served from November 1909 to July 1911 at the Roper River. From July to August 1911, he was stationed at Stirling Creek. From March 1912 until July 1913, he was stationed in Darwin.

William was appointed as the Goldfields Warden for District D in November 1911. He was at Boomoondoon (Bulita) in January 1914 and at Victoria River in March 1914, but these appear to have only been visits.

William was involved in a life threatening incident when he was thrown from his horse into the flooded Wilton River and was saved from drowning by his prisoner. His brother Robert (Jack) who was also, an NT Police Officer recorded the incident in his book, 'Patrolling the Big Up ‘Neighbour had been a prisoner some three or so years before on a charge of stealing when my brother was second in charge under Trooper Kelly at Leichhardt’s Bar. They had reached the Wilton River when it was in flood. They attempted to cross and my brother became unseated from his horse and thrown into the river.

Neighbour, though in chains went to my bothers aid and succeeded in bringing him to the shore, He was liberated from the charge because of his action and afterwards awarded the Royal Albert Medal.

He enlisted on the 18th February 1918 as No. 64886 of the Ninth Australian Light Horse Regiment. [7th Company S E.Egypt]. He embarked from Sydney on HMAT Malta on 10th October 1918. He arrived in Suez on 22nd November 1918. He joined the Ninth Australian Light Horse Regiment, which at that time was on active operations, which involved armed actions aimed at suppressing the Egyptian uprising. He returned to Australia on the Oxfordshire on the 10th August 1919. He was discharged on the 26th August 1919.

It appears that William had been required to wait for permission to enlist and had almost missed the war. The enlistment of forty-five South Australian Police into the Australian Imperial Force by 1917 had placing a strain on the resources of the South Australian Police.

Commissioner Edwards decided in 1917, that in order for the Force to remain functional, he had to restrict police enlistments. It appears that William may have been given a late dispensation from that rule, which allowed him to arrive at the war at its climax.

Alexander Francis McBeath

Alexander was born at Mount Pleasant South Australia on 17th January 1877. He claimed[16] 16 months of active service with the First Imperial Bushmen in the Boer War. He joined the South Australian Police Force on the 1st January 1902. He transferred to the Northern Territory on the 1st September 1906 (Arrived on 16 September 1906.) He returned to South Australia in October 1911.

In the Northern Territory, Alexander was stationed from the 16th to the 25th September 1906 at Palmerston. From the 25 September 1906 until the 14th November 1906, he was stationed at Pine Creek from the 17th December 1906 until the 10th May 1909. He was at Anthony’s Lagoon. From June to September 1909 he was again at Palmerston. From November 1909 until June 1911, he was stationed on the Tanami gold fields. Lawrie Debnam, records Alexander McBeath as having travelled to Tanami with Mounted Constable Vaughton from Palmerston in October 1909, passing through Pine Creek on the 19th October 1909. It appears that in April 1909 he received notice of his transfer to the Tanami Police Station.

Alexander enlisted as private no.1968 in the Australian Imperial Force in Townsville on the 4th September 1915. He listed his employment as Constable Mounted. It is assumed that because he was in Queensland and his wife was residing in Cooktown that he might have joined the Queensland Police Force. He joined the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the number 7 Depot Battalion on 1st December 1915. The records do not show any further military or police service.

On the 6th January 1916 he was the subject of a report of him being a deserter. The report lists him as having deserted from the Exhibition Camp Townsville on the 21st November 1915. On the 1st of March 1916 a Warrant of Apprehension no. 99 was issued under the Defence Act 1901-11 for him having deserted the AIF on the 21st November 1915. There are no further details of him after the issue of the warrant.

There is a record of an 85-year-old Alexander Francis McBeath being buried in Wallaroo South Australia in 1963.

It appears that the Northern Territory Police Force as previously mentioned did not commemorated the service and sacrifice of its former members in the Great War of 1914 – 1918. The Government has recognised Richard Hanson and Horace Higgs on the various war memorials and by the naming of streets in their honour. The history of the Northern Territory Police Force adds to the culture and identity of those who serve and have previously served in the Force. Those mentioned were in a reserved occupation but they still decided to leave their families to serve Australia.

Those who went overseas to serve were issued with campaign medals. They were eligible to be awarded bravery and other conspicuous service medals. None of the individuals mentioned were awarded medals other than campaign medals. Apart from campaign medals, periods of active service and individual wounds were recognised by chevrons made from cloth of different shapes and colours attached to their tunics.

  • Length of service chevrons were worn on the lower right sleeve. Long service and overseas chevrons were issued to recognise service from the date of embarkation. 1914 service was further recognised in the form of a red chevron.
  • The chevron for wounds was issued to recognise individual wounds. Frederick Taylor would have been issued with at least four chevrons.
  • All those returning from active service were awarded with a Return from Active Service badge. The purpose being to make those returning recognisable when they were out of uniform.

Bean. C.E.W O’Neill R. series ed (1982) The official History of Australia in the war of 1914 – 1918. Volume IV. The AIF in France 1917, University of Queensland Press.

Debnam, Lawrie. 1990 “Men of the Northern Territory Police 1870 – 1914: they were” / Lawrie Debnam L.Debnam, [Elizabeth, S. Aust]:

H.S.Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine 1914 – 1918(t Lucia, Australia: Univesity of Queensland Press 1984.

Lewis Darrell (1998) Patrolling the ‘Big Up’, Historical Society of the Northern Teritory, Darwin.

Langley, G.F. &e.M, (1976) Sand, Sweat and Camels, Seal Books, Dingley Victoria.

[1] The Commonwealth Parliament pursuant to its powers under Section 122 of the Constitution passed the Northern Territory Administration) Act providing for the Government of the Territory by an Administrator appointed by the Governor-General. Transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth took place on the 1st January 1911.

[2] John Anderson Gilruth was the first Commonwealth Government Administrator of the Northern Territory to be appointed. He was appointed on 25th March 1912 and served until June 1919.

[3] His Majesties Australian Transport

[4] Two Australian Tunnelling Companies were involved in the excavations. Tunnelling involved excavating the tunnel with all the risks that involved. On occasion, ferocious hand-to-hand fighting often with picks and shovels would take part deep under the ground when tunnellers from either side broke into the opposition’s tunnel.

[5] C.E.W.Bean,The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18,Vol.4, The AIF in France: 1917 (St. Lucia, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 1982), 593

[6] On his enlistment papers, Horace recorded his place of birth as Stoke on Trent Staffordshire England. His wife when completing the details for the War Memorial’s Honour Roll recorded his place of birth as Birmingham.

[7] In his last will and testament, which he made whilst he was, departing overseas Horace refers to his son Guy and his unborn child. He made a provision for both children but it appears that the unborn child had not survived until 1918 when a pension was awarded only to his son Guy. There is no record on his personnel file in respect to another child receiving a pension. The child may have passed away.

[8] Two members of his unit submitted statements detailing what they knew of his death. On 2/5/1915 “Chas G. Wightman No 582 stated. Informant states that “On June 1915 Alf Farnell told me while I was at No.2 Australian General Hospital at Cairo that he saw Higgs shot through the forehead about three hours after he himself (Farnell) had been wounded. He was instantly killed. I do not know the address of Alfe Farnell, neither his number. He is a Tasmanian in C Company. 12th Batt /A.I.F.

[9] Witness Pte H. Pearse 1116 C Co 25 Batt B Details Seitoun Cairo states “Witness said he is certain that Higgs was reported to Capt Rafferty as killed on the 2nd day after the landing. This fact was read at roll call on the Thursday of the first week when the first roll call was taken. Higgs and witness were in the same reinforcements and knew one another very well. Higgs was a tall man, he had been a constable in Adelaide. It appears that the 5th Pioneers were amalgamated with their South Australian colleagues in the 10th Infantry Battalion to bolster unit numbers for the forthcoming action.

[10] The Military Medal (MM) was (until 1993) a military decoration awarded to personnel of below commissioned rank, for bravery in battle on land.

[11] The Russian revolution and the withdrawal of the Russians from the War allowed a large number of German troops to be shifted to the western front to participate in the huge German 1918 offensive.

[12] The Somaliland Campaign refers to a series of military engagements fought early in the 20th century in East Africa by British and Italian colonial forces

[13] Also known as, the Bambatha Rebellion [http: African history.about.com/od/military history/a/BambathaReb.htm] Bambatha ka Mancinza was a moderate level Zulu chief who became involved in issues surrounding the imposition of a poll tax. Violence resulted between the Zulus and the police. During the violence, Zulus killed two white police officers. Twelve Zulus were subsequently arrested for murder and executed. On the night of the 4th April 1906, Bambatha gathered his warriors and attacked a police patrol killing four white officers. A state of emergency was declared and the militia [reserves] were called out. In subsequent fighting 3000 to 4000 Zulus were killed [some fighting for the British] 25 colonial troops were also killed.

[14] During a landing party action on New Britain on the 11th September 1914, Royal Australian Navy Able Seaman J Walker and G Williams along with Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander C.B Elwell were killed in action. They and crew of the Submarine AE1 [Lost with all hands] were the first Australian Casualties of the War.

[15] Some confusion exists with an age for James. Lawrie Debnam recorded his birth as being 3/1/1867. His enlistment attestation of 22/12/1916 has him advising his age as being 42 years and 1 month. It appears that he was 49 years when he enlisted

[16] Whilst he recorded the service on his attestation form the Boer War records do not recognize his service. It is most likely that his service was not recorded because of a clerical error. It is mot unlikely that he would have falsely claimed military service when enlisting.


[i] SECRET

TENTH AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY BATTALION

BATTALION Headquarters

1. Move. The 10 th . Australian Infantry Battalion will move forward to night, at a time to be notified later, to relieve the 3 rd Battalion and occupy line on ANZAC Ridge in support to 1 st Brigade. In reserve the 12 th . Battalion will rest on Westhoek Ridge.

2. Starting Point Battalion. Starting Point – Birr Cross Roads. Time to pass starting point to be notified later.

3. Guides. Three other ranks will meet the Intelligence Officer at Birr Cross Roads for the purpose of being posted as corner guides, time to be notified later.

4. Route. The route which this Brigade will use moving backwards and forwards is 1 st Brigade Track.

5. Order of march. ‘A’, ‘C’, ‘B’, ‘D’, & HQ Distance to be maintained. 100 yards between Companies, 50 yards between Platoons.

Personnel except Signallers, Runners, and Lewis Gunners will carry 120 rounds S.A.A [Bullets] 4 Sandbags, 2 Bombs and one ground flare.

In addition, Bombers will carry 6 extra bombs. Rifle Grenadiers 6 extra rifle grenades.

Officers and No.1 Lewis Gunners carry S.O.S Signals. All ranks, 48 hours rations, blankets bandolier.

7. Relief. On completion of relief Companies will notify Battalion Headquarters either by runner or wire, using code word.


  • The Battle of Messines, in which the Division captured Wytschaete
  • The Battle of Langemarck part of the Third Battles of Ypres 1917
  • The Cambrai Operations, including the capture of Bourlon Wood
  • The Actions at the Somme Crossings - Somme 1918
  • The Battle of Rosieres - Somme 1918
  • The Battle of Messines - Battles of the Lys
  • The Battle of Bailleul - Battles of the Lys
  • The First Battle of Kemmel Ridge - Battles of the Lys
  • The Battle of Ypres - Final Advance in Flanders
  • The Battle of Courtrai - Final Advance in Flanders
  • The action of Ooteghem - Final Advance in Flanders
  • 8th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (East Belfast) renamed as 8/9th from August 1917 and disbanded 7 February 1918
  • 9th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (West Belfast) merged into 9th Bn from August 1917
  • 10th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (South Belfast) disbanded 20 February 1918
  • 15th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (North Belfast)
  • 107th Machine Gun Company joined 18 December 1915, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
  • 107th Trench Mortar Battery joined 1 April 1916
  • 1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers joined August 1917, left for 108th Brigade February 1918
  • 1st Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined February 1918
  • 2nd Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined February 1918
  • 11th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (South Antrim) renamed as 11/13th from 13 November 1917 and disbanded 18 February 1918
  • 12th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (Central Antrim)
  • 13th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (County Down) merged into 11th Bn on 13 November 1917
  • 9th Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers (County Armagh)
  • 108th Machine Gun Company joined 26 January 1916, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
  • 108th Trench Mortar Battery joined 1 April 1916
  • 7th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined October 1917, merged into 2nd Bn November 1917
  • 2nd Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined November 1917, left February 1918
  • 1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers joined from 107th Brigade February 1918
  • 9th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (County Tyrone)
  • 10th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Derry) disbanded January 1918
  • 11th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Donegal and Fermanagh) disbanded February 1918
  • 14th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (Young Citizens) disbanded February 1918
  • 109th Machine Gun Company joined 23 January 1916, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
  • 109th Trench Mortar Battery joined 1 April 1916
  • 1st Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined February 1918
  • 2nd Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined February 1918
  • 16th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (County Down Pioneers) Divisional Pioneer Battalion
  • 1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers joined August 1917, left for 107th Brigade same month
  • 266th Machine Gun Company joined 17 January 1918, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
  • 36th Battalion MGC formed 1 March 1918
  • Service Sqn, the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons left June 1916
  • 36th Divisional Cyclist Company, Army Cyclist Corps broken up 31 May 1916
  • CLIII Brigade, RFA
  • CLIV (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA broken up late September 1916
  • CLXXII Brigade, RFA broken up 31 January 1917
  • CLXXIII Brigade, RFA
  • 36 Heavy Battery RGA raised with that Division but broken up while still at home
  • 36th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA
  • V.36 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, RFA joined 20 June 1916 disbanded 11 February 1918
  • X.36, Y.36 and Z.36 Medium Mortar Batteries, RFA formed 1 June 1916 on 11 February 1918, Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each
  • 121st Field Company
  • 122nd Field Company
  • 150th Field Company
  • 36th Divisional Signals Company
  • 108th Field Ambulance
  • 109th Field Ambulance
  • 110th Field Ambulance
  • 76th Sanitary Section left April 1917
  • 36th Divisional Train ASC 251, 252, 253 and 254 Companies.
  • 48th Mobile Veterinary Section AVC
  • 233rd Divisional Employment Company joined 21 July 1917
  • 35th Divisional Motor Ambulance Workshop disbanded April 1916

1st September 1914 Recruitment of 16th (Service) Battalion Royal Irish Rifles 16th (Service) Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers). [Second County Down Volunteers]

Introduction: This summary of the history of the 16th Battalion from September 1914 to May 1919, is recorded mainly on a monthly basis with events listed on the 1st day of each month except in circumstances requiring further breakdown when details of other dates entered will be listed on the 1st of each month as a guide to the reader. The actual War Diaries did not commence until the move to France in October 1915. Since I do not have direct access to the diaries, I have, by kind permission of the Somme Heritage Centre, used extracts from the book "The Terrors" by Lt.Col SN White (deceased)as the source.

Formation: At the outbreak of war in 1914 the Home Rule Issue in Ireland had a considerable effect on volunteer recruitment. The Ulster Volunteer Force had over 80,000 armed volunteers in its ranks, but there was a reluctance to enlist due to the Home Rule concerns which existed at the time. It was thought that resistance to Home Rule would be weakened by reducing the force available should armed opposition prove necessary. The issue was eventually set aside for the duration of the war and it was then agreed between Lord Kitchener and Sir Edward Carson that 10,000 volunteers would be raised in the war effort with uniforms and equipment ordered for that number. Home Rule meant a parliament in Dublin at which Ulster Protestants felt they would be outnumbered and they might eventually finish up as a minority in a Catholic State separate from the United Kingdom.

  • 15th (Service) Battalion (North Belfast), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 8th (Service) Battalion (East Belfast), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 9th (Service) Battalion (West Belfast), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 10th (Service) Battalion (South Belfast), the Royal Irish Rifles (until February 1918).
  • 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Fusiliers (from August 1917 until February 1918).
  • 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles (from February 1918).
  • 2nd Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles (from February 1918).
  • 107th Brigade Machine Gun Company (from 18 December 1915, moved into 36th Divisional Machine Gun Battalion on 1 March 1918).
  • 107th Trench Mortar Battery (from 1 April 1916).
  • In August 1917 the 8th and 9th battalions of the Royal Irish Rifles amalgamated to form the 8/9th Battalion, which disbanded in February 1918. Between November 1915 and February 1916 the brigade swapped with the 12th Brigade from the 4th Division.
  • 9th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
  • 12th (Service) Battalion (Central Antrim), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 2nd Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles (from November 1917 then moved to 107th Brigade. in February 1918).
  • 11th (Service) Battalion (South Antrim), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 13th (Service) Battalion (County Down), the Royal Irish Rifles.
  • 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Fusiliers (from 107th Bde. February
  • 1918).
  • 108th Brigade Machine Gun Company (from 26 January 1916, moved into
  • 36th Divisional Machine Gun Battalion on 1 March 1918).
  • 108th Trench Mortar Battery (from 1 April 1916).
  • In August 1917 the 11th and 13th battalions of the Royal Irish Rifles amalgamated to form the 11/13th Battalion, which disbanded in February 1918.

1st November 1914 Pioneering Work

Typical Trench System Layout (Not to scale)

16th Bn Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers)'

Reader guidance note:There are entries on 2,3,4,5 and 6th November 1914.

Trench Warfare in WW1. After the initial assault by Germany was finally halted, the remainder of the war was fought from entrenched positions on both sides. Basically the two Front Line trenches faced each other from varying distances. They were not in straight lines as firing along the trench by the enemy would have had catastrophic consequences, rather in zigzag formations making a continuous line to adjoining defences - either a physical barrier or a neighbouring military unit. So for years the trench positions continuously changed hands as battles were won or lost. In particularly bad weather this led to virtual seas of mud in what was termed "No Man’s Land" from the combination of weather and artillery shells.

Behind the Front Line trench were supporting trenches similarly fashioned and linked by communication trenches. Dugouts to provide safe shelter were provided in strategic areas together with strong points such as machine gun and mortar emplacements.

Trenches were further protected by Wiring in front. This was basically lines of barbed wire to hold back attacking forces.

Trenches were initially dug to existing old military manuals, but from early experience were found to be too shallow and too narrow for the rapid movement of supplies and equipment, so a lot of work would be needed in widening and deepening the earlier trenches.

Other trench works included: Revetment, which is lining the sides of a trench with padding materials ( to help protect from back-blast from exploding shells) which could be sandbags, timber or earthworks and in some cases concrete. This also included firing steps and duckboards to facilitate drainage.

Dugouts as the name suggest are deep enclosures providing some degree of safety during bombardments.

Saps, these were smaller trenches dug from the Front Line towards the enemy’s front lines. They were used as listening posts or for locating a machine gun or mortar and could also provide a jumping off point for an attack.

Other Structures: Craters and Camouflet - Another tactic employed was the use of explosives underground to either blow up the enemy trench positions themselves (mines) or disturb ground in no-man’s land exposing craters which could be connected up to their own front line, bringing them closer to the enemy’s front line. Sometimes the explosion would result in an underground cavern (called a Camouflet) which could be worked on under cover from enemy observation and often an initial start to Sapping itself as the surface could be quickly collapsed leaving the Sap ready for use.

Screening - This was simply erecting simple screens alongside roads and other locations which needed to be kept out of sight from the enemy, usually when the enemy occupied higher ground overlooking support and communication rear areas. This was to minimise observation opportunities for snipers or artillery observers.

Pioneer support work in attack or defence: During an offensive operation the Pioneers would have to turn around the firing positions in captured trenches provided the gains were held. They would also have to join up their former front line with the captured trenches by new communication trenches often using their own saps as starting points closer to the former enemy trenches.

The reverse was also true and if their lines were overrun they would have prepared previous positions for troops to fall back on and if given sufficient time try to render the lost trenches virtually useless to the enemy.

Road works. Naturally a huge logistic problem was supply of Ammunition, rations and equipment which had to be got to the Front Line troop positions. Roads had to be drained in bad weather, repaired when damaged by explosives, flooding and heavy traffic.

Railways. Main line railways were vital to forward movement of bulk material, equipment, men and animals over longer distances. However there were also some light, narrow gauge - systems and trench railways. Equipment would be transported by main line railway to large depots from which it would be forwarded by road or smaller gauge light railways closer to the front. It would then be brought through the communication trenches manually or using the trench tramways to the front itself. The trench railways or tramways involved hauling trolleys through communication trenches to keep the front lines supplied and remove salvage and waste materials on return journeys. They were operated by a party of 6 to 8 men per trolley. It was also used to return casualties to rear areas for treatment. This was the main reason for the extensive programme of trench widening and deepening so that men and trolleys could move freely on tracks out of sight from the enemy though still in danger from enemy artillery if targeted.

2nd November 1914 Recruitment of 16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles

Brownlow House

  • "You may talk about th’Irish Guards and Fusiliers of course
  • You may talk of Inniskillings and the gallant Irish Horse
  • Or of any other regiment under the King’s command
  • But the 16th Irish Rifles are the Terrors of the Land."

3rd November 1914 Pioneering work - trenches

Cross-section of trenches

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers Trenches were typically constructed to provide shelter for forward troops and fell into two general categories. Fire Trenches as the name suggests were trenches from which the enemy could be engaged in offensive or defensive actions (see cross section in diagram). Communication Trenches were the means by which men and equipment could move in relative safety to and from the Forward (Fire) Trenches.(see cross section in diagram).

4th November 1914 Pioneering work - trenches

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneering Work in the Trenches. Trench Revetment or Revetting is basically the fitting out of the basic trench. The construction depends largely on the geology of the region and the type of ground encountered. Much depends on the surrounding water table levels. Where water is encountered close to the surface trenches can only be dug to a shallow depth and protection is enabled by building up earthworks, sandbags or even concrete parapets above ground level. This was the problem in Flanders (The Low Country Regions). In other areas trenches were mainly below ground level up to about 8 feet deep to allow men to walk about out of view from enemy snipers and artillery observers.

Communication trenches mainly required lining with sandbags, timber or concrete to protect against the back-blast from exploding shells.

Fire trenches were more complicated with fire steps needed to get men into firing positions in the event of an enemy attack or help get them out of the trench if they are attacking. The back of the trench was lined to minimise damage from explosives. In areas where water ingress was a problem upright timber inverted A-frames were used at intervals to lay duck-boarding leaving a void below the walkway to maintain relatively dry underfoot conditions for movement through the trenches. (see diagram for cross-sections of revetment work.)

5th November 1914 Pioneering work - trenches

  • 400 long pickets
  • 800 short pickets
  • 180 coils of barbed wire (65 yards each)
  • 40 coils of barbed wire (130 yards each)

6th November 1914 Pioneering work - screening

Pioneering - Screening Work

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers) - Screening Work. As the title suggests the object of this work was to disrupt the enemy's line of vision if they occupied higher ground. This was very much the case in Flanders near Mount Kemmel and in preparation for the Battle of Messines Ridge.

From the Ridge the Germans had a commanding view of both Front and Rear Allied positions and it was essential to hide the meticulous build up for the Allied attack. So all roads and important locations had to have screens installed on the enemy side to conceal troop and equipment movements. Screens were made from light equipment, wooden poles and mainly hessian materials to a height sufficient to obscure the enemy's view of traffic on roads, movement in and out of buildings and movement of men and equipment in the assembly, communication and assault trenches.

23rd of November 1914 Reorganisation

1st December 1914 Recruitment and Training 16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles. Recruitment efforts continued and helped raise Battalion strength from 230 at the end of November to 500 by the 19th December 1914. Training began to bring recruits up to the physical requirements for battle fitness with physical exercise and route marches of increasing intensity. A large batch of service rifles arrived on the 19th December which meant that military weaponry drill could be incorporated within the training timetable. Route marches got longer and, on the 7th December, the men marched to Banbridge and back (16 miles) in 3 ½ Hours. Initially training would have concentrated on infantry skills including drill, musketry, bayonet fighting and training in the Lewis and machine guns. Route marches and PT (Physical Training) would also have featured. Selected Officers and NCOs on appointment were sent to infantry training schools to become instructors in these fields. A rifle range was constructed at the rear of Brownlow House. The pioneers were basically riflemen and in the Royal Irish Rifles had to learn to drill at "rifles pace" which was 160 paces to the minute as opposed to the normal infantry rate of 120 paces to the minute. Field-craft with elementary infantry tactics at section, platoon and company level were gradually introduced as potential section leaders were identified, trained and gained in confidence and experience.

19th January 1915 Recruitment and Training 16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles

Parade at Brownlow House, Lurgan.

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers Recruitment continued making slow progress with numbers reaching 800 all ranks by the 19th January 1915. Training continued in various stages as more recruits joined and had to work hard to catch up with the standard of earlier enlisted ranks. There was little sympathy for newer recruits who had to catch up with the others. The young animal must keep up with the herd in migration or else - so time was not on their side.

Early in January it was announced that the 2nd County Down Volunteers were to become the Pioneer Battalion for the Ulster Division. Training in pioneering skills was to commence while maintaining physical fitness and military discipline. There was now more concentration on manoeuvres at both day and night trying to gain experience in mock attacks and defence methods before the real battles ahead. That would have left the battalion ready for normal action but this was not a normal battalion. Alongside this training they now had to learn the skills of the pioneer which involved all aspects of transportation in offensive and defensive positions including river crossings. Afternoon classes taught joinery and other skills for battle planning. Sections were sent by rotation to work on local roads, railways and buildings all of which they would have to service under enemy fire in the front line areas in France and Belgium.

In recognition of their additional duties they were to be paid an extra 2 pence a day on top of the infantry rate of one shilling per day. It was later raised in parliament that this compared unfavourably with the Royal Engineers who received 1/10d per day and the Labour Corps which received 3 shillings per day. Even though it was like work the government refused to interfere with what it termed as set army rates of pay.

An article entitled trench warfare has been included in November 1914 pages which, with relevant sketches, details the type of construction carried out with some description of offensive and defensive related works. (These appear in the date range 1st to 6th November 1914.)

So the 16th were a very special unit indeed as we shall see from their performance up to and after the cessation of hostilities in 1918.

On the 12th January 21 horses arrived and the Transport Officer got to work on his teams for transporting equipment necessary to support the men in their work locations. Certain officers were also required to have mounts to fulfil their command roles.

Railway Training. On the 21st January 4 Officers (including 2/Lt. White WR, the author's father) and 50 men were sent to Belfast, Carrickfergus and Antrim to receive instruction on Railroad Construction. A similar party of 4 officers and 39 men were sent to Newtownards for pioneer railway work. It seems likely that Antrim had a Royal Engineer Field Unit which would have helped considerably in the training.

1st February 1915 Recruitment and Training

16 RIR parade in Lurgan, County Armagh.

  • February 15 Dromore
  • 16 Ballynahinch
  • 17 Dromara
  • 18 Saintfield and Crossgar
  • 19 Downpatrick
  • 20 Clough, Seaforde and back to Downpatrick
  • 21 Downpatrick
  • 22 Comber via Killyleagh and Killinchy
  • 23 Donaghadee via Newtownards
  • 25 Comber via Bangor
  • 26 Hillsborough
  • 27 Lurgan via the Maze, Moira and Maralin.

1st March 1915 Recruitment and Training

Bridging Training near Lurgan, County Armagh.

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers Recruitment figures were not published for March 1915. Recruitment efforts were mainly concentrated on Brownlow House as a showpiece for many inspections by high ranking officers and politicians, the public also in attendance.

Training. Much more intensive military manoeuvres took place by night and day increasing the demands on all officers and men to harden them for future demands on active service.

Trench works. During the week ending 20th March the Battalion carried out several very interesting operations including day and night outpost schemes with trench digging and sapping by night. Sapping is cutting out trenches from the front line forward towards the enemy trenches, used for listening posts, mortars, machine guns or jump off points for attacks.

Road works. Work continued on projects with local councils alongside council workers in County Armagh and County Down.

Railway works. A great deal of railway training was undertaken in March. On the 21st March 3 Officers and 7 NCOs were sent to Crumlin, where a railway bridge was being erected. Other works were carried out on the rail lines near Antrim, on the Lurgan to Moira railway line and a course was attended at Stewartstown.

Bridging. While it is not recorded what types of bridging works were done, we can assume they had to construct bridges capable of taking Divisional Horse drawn transport including artillery pieces. There were various exercises carried out on lakes in local parks and bridge building on the Lagan near Donacloney and Dynes Bridge. Barrel rafts capable of supporting wagons and artillery pieces were constructed.

Demolition. Training in explosive and demolitions was limited from a practical point of safety and shortage of materials. Demonstration of grenades, land mines and the use of gun cotton on rocks and metal were done with reduced charges leaving the observers to imagine the effects of a full charge. They were also introduced to jam pot type grenades and the use of warning flares including methods of firing trip wire, cut wire and pull by defender. Other examples included explosive traps already experienced in early fighting at the Front.

General Field Training. There is no evidence to suggest that any form of formalised field training was available prior to leaving Lurgan and that progress in this area would be based on ad hoc solutions devised in training exercises or live situations. There is evidence of training courses being held at Reading in Berkshire.

1st April 1915 Recruitment and Training

Bridge training work near Lurgan County Armagh

16th Btn Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers

Major Leader was promoted to Lt.Colonel.

Recruitment resulted in Battalion strength of 971 on the 17th April 1915. Other houses in Wellington Street were acquired for accommodation purposes as Brownlow House capacity was reached.

Training continued in areas demanding greater stamina in general field-craft exercises involving units in offensive and defensive roles. This included some larger scale exercises with the Ulster Division as a whole. The whole Battalion took part in route march to Portadown on the 3rd April.

Road Works. Continuing work in County and District areas including drainage and sewer systems together with building and construction works.

Railway Work 2 officers and 20 other ranks helped the Great Northern Railway when a stretch of about a mile of track was re-laid between Dromore and Hillsborough. 3rd April - 2 officers and 5 men went to Stewartstown for a Railway Engineers Course. 10th April - attended railway bridges installations at Adelaide and Windsor. 17th April, 2 officers and 18 men sent to Crumlin for railway bridge building.

1st May 1915 Recruitment and Training

Belfast Parade 36th Ulster Division - 8th May 1915

16th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers)

Recruitment figures not published and Training continued to improve both infantry and trade efficiency.

150 men took part in preparation of the ground for the Grand Parade by the Ulster Division in Belfast on the 8th May 1915.

The 36th (Ulster) Division was drawn up at noon on the 8th May in review order at Belfast, between the Lagan and Malone, for inspection by Major General Sir Hugh McCalmont and then marched into Belfast where the salute was taken again by Sir Hugh, The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Sir Edward and Lady Carson, Sir George and Lady Richardson and the City High Sheriff with his wife at the City Hall. The 16th (Service) Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers) brought up at the rear of the column. They travelled to and from Belfast by special train from Lurgan.

1st June 1915 Recruitment and Training

16 RIR Departing from Lurgan enroute to England.

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers. Recruitment was brought up to the required total by the transfer of 200 members of the Belfast Young Citizen Volunteers.

Training was nearly complete and preparations were in hand for the move to England.

Officers and men were sent to Belfast and Dublin for courses on Railway Transport and Embarkation obviously with a view to organising the Battalion’s planned movements which would include both rail and ship embarkation and disembarkation.

All the men were given 4 days embarkation leave and returned fit and ready for the move to England.

A Military Gymkhana was held in Lurgan with over 25 events many of which were novelties giving great amusement to all onlookers.

1st July 1915 Relocations

Twelfth July celebrations at Seaford County Sussex.

16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers.

The Move to England.

This was well reported in the Lurgan Mail issue on the 10th July 1915 which read: "The secret about the move on Sunday night 27th June leaked out that the first contingent was to move off on the following morning and early on Monday everyone was alert. There was much stir and bustle at the barracks, but it was not until half past two o’clock p.m. that a move was made. At that hour preceded by both bands of the battalion, 170 of the riflemen swung round Windsor Avenue corner into Market Street and proceeded to the Railway Station in command of Captain Jewell and several Lieutenants. Soon the streets were crowded, the route to the station being lined by friends and admirers, and many were the leave takings as the men passed by, many were the greetings and good wishes shouted to them. The public were wisely excluded from the station premises, but the footbridge and every vantage point was crowded. The leave taking on the platform over, the men quickly entrained and the train departed southward amid salvos of cheers from the onlookers. The destination was understood to be Dublin but it has since transpired that the party proceeded the same evening to Liverpool en route for the Seaford Camp.

The next move was made on Tuesday, when the Transport section with their horses, mules and equipment, and in command of Lieutenants White (TJ) and Johnston proceeded by road to Belfast en route, via Liverpool, for the new camp.

Wednesday evening following saw a grand parade of the remaining men of the Battalion with their several officers, through the principal streets of the town, as the farewell march of the regiment in the district, and on Thursday afternoon the entire remaining force moved out in two sections, the first being in command of Colonel Leader and the second of Major Gardiner, two trains being required for their accommodation. The farewell demonstration of Monday was repeated, but on a scale of greater magnitude. All work was temporarily suspended in the town and district, and the line of march from Windsor Avenue to the railway station was crowded with a dense throng. The same arrangements were in force at the station and the entraining was carried out with expedition. Then came the last goodbye of those privileged few who had gained access to the platform and each train was followed by the cheers and kindly wishes of the onlookers"

Seaford, County Sussex. Finally they were on their way to the south of England and the small town of Seaford in Sussex (not to be confused with Seaforde, County Down, spelt with an ‘e’ at the end!). Seaford had a population of about 4,000 at that time.

For the first time apart from the review and march past in Belfast, the 36th Division was concentrated in one place. It was within walking distance of Brighton with its shops and attractions. Only 20 miles away across the English Channel was the coast of France and, when the wind was blowing in the right direction, the sound of heavy artillery fire could be heard. The Division was accommodated in the North and South Camps with the Pioneers in the latter. To the north of the camps was the Downs whose rolling valleys and hills provided an excellent area for military training. The first priority was musketry training which was carried out at a range close to the camp at Cuckmere Haven.

The River Cuckmere provided a good site for bridging practice within a quarter of a mile from its entry to the sea. The Pioneers had to contend with a lack of proper equipment and the ebb and flow of the tide.

Despite the urgency for battle readiness they were able to celebrate the 12th July with a parade, entertainment and guests from home. Several inspections took place early in July and on the 20th Lord Kitchener paid a surprise visit. The unit impressed Lord Kitchener who thought them very smart and ready for action, but it was pointed out they had not yet had musketry and machine gun training. He ordered this to be prioritised and it was partially completed at nearby ranges beside Cuckmere Haven.

1st August 1915 Training and recreation 16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers.

The Downs were fully utilised for Divisional training exercises with the Pioneers acting as the enemy in day and night exercises of increasing intensity. Sport and training courses were also intensified in final preparation for the move to the Front.

There was a meeting of the Pioneer’s Masonic Lodge No. 420 which had been granted a travelling warrant at its inaugural constitution in Lurgan Masonic Hall.

There was also a visit by Sir Edward and Lady Carson on the 3rd August at which everything was declared to be in good order.

The Battalion’s stay on the Downs came to an end as an advance party moved to Borden on the 31st August and an advance Divisional Command Group including General Nugent and Colonel Leader paid a short familiarisation visit to France.

1st September 1915 Training and move preparations 16th Btn.Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers.

The comfort and scenic stay near the Downs and Sussex villages came to a close at the end of August when the whole 36th Division moved to Bordon and Bramshott . This was mainly to allow the Division the use of numerous ranges in the area to complete their weapon training with live ammunition including bombing, mortars, Lewis and machine guns.

During the month most men got 4 days home leave and all returned to the battalion fit and ready for action. Colonel Leader, back from his visit to France, was pleased to note that the Battalion’s training had covered most of the requirements for active service. Finally most of the "comforts" gathered from friends at home, were distributed to the men for the winter season ahead.

So the Battalion consisting of Headquarters and four companies was now ready for the move to France, there to be tested in extreme conditions, in which their training and sense of comradeship would enable them to maintain their discipline and military bearing over a lengthy and arduous campaign.

1st October 1915 Relocations 16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers.

The Move to France.

On the 1st October at 1900 the Battalion left camp at Bordon for embarkation at Southampton but on arrival no one knew anything about it and there was no transport awaiting them. This proved quite a common problem over the next month or so. They had to eat their rations while further food was sought for them and spend an uncomfortable night sleeping at the docks.

Next day the Empress Queen arrived to take them across the channel. The ship was licensed to carry 600 passengers between Greenwich and London Bridge whereas the battalion was over 1000 strong and the vessel was crossing the English Channel not plying between points in the River Thames. Despite a gale blowing they crossed safely and arrived in Le Havre.

Once again no one knew anything about the unit but it was eventually sent to tented accommodation and a hot meal organised and the men had to dig trenches around their tents as it was raining. Despite an order to move to entrain for the front Colonel Leader insisted the men had their hot meal first.

On arrival at the station it was no surprise that no one was expecting them, but eventually Colonel Leader was informed of an incoming train which would be put at their disposal. Again the CO got his men to a Red Cross canteen and fed before boarding the train. Apparently there was a bit of a commotion at the Red Cross Unit as it was run by Miss Lloyd George, daughter of the Prime Minister (the Home Rule instigator) and the men preferred to go hungry rather than give her any business. So they were directed to the girl serving on the other side of the station "same firm but you needn’t tell them that", was the advice given and the men got their meal.

At 1000 on the 4th October the train left on a 130km journey to Longueau on the outskirts of Amiens, arriving at 1900. As usual they were unexpected and there was no information regarding their destination. Fortunately the CO met an officer from the Division who gave him general directions to Villers Bocage on the Amiens-Doullens Road. They marched on, passing through Amiens, and arrived at their destination around midnight. The war diaries do not reveal any more details of the journey but they must have met a divisional advance party and perhaps one of their own battalion representative possibly one for each of the 4 companies, Headquarters and Transport.

They spent the next 7 days (4th to 11th October) in this village giving them a chance to settle after their journey. They were assigned light carpentry work and built a road for the Casualty Clearing Station.

A Church Service on Sunday 10th October was conducted by Captain A Gibson, appointed by his church in Lurgan as officiating chaplain to the Battalion and who was now billeted with them, but also attended to some other units. The remainder of the time must have been spent sorting out their tools and equipment together with loads for their pack mules and other transport arrangements for their future operations. The sound of gunfire was never far away and indeed the village had already been overrun and occupied by the Germans in the initial onslaught before the establishment of trench warfare brought it back under Allied control.

The campaign was soon to start and on 12th October the Battalion marched about 8 miles to be based at Raincheval and camped there to work on an army defence line in that area. This was about 7 miles from the firing line and was in a shocking sanitary state having been taken over from the French.

The village was in a low lying hollow and the men were billeted in barns and other surrounding buildings with an ample supply of straw underfoot. Such was the progress of the pioneer’s work that on 1st November the Battalion regimental canteen, library and reading room were opened. The Officers Mess and Battalion Headquarters were seemingly located in Raincheval Chateau.

The 20th October marked the first anniversary of the founding of the Battalion and was celebrated by a smoking concert at headquarters and smaller events in other detachments. RSM J Gordon sent a very detailed report on the central event to the Lurgan Mail.

On the 21st October the unit was inspected by the Second Army Sanitary Officer and although the war diary does not record his report, again RSM Gordon writing to the Lurgan Mail recorded that "he made a most complimentary report on the sanitation and added that our work should serve as a pattern to the rest of the army". Thus we begin to see evidence of the professionalism and pride in their work by this exceptionally fine Battalion.

Third Army Defence Line 14th October 1915 to 28th December 1915

The Battalion was now tasked with work on the Third Army Defence Line which initially covered a length of about 3,600 yards extending from a position south east of Toutencourt to Creftel Wood. Half the Battalion under the command of Major Bowen was moved to Toutencourt to cover work in the area of the Raincheval to Vauchelles Road. It was very hard work and an 8 hour day would have exhausted the strongest of men. It must be noted that they had no excavating or levelling machines so everything was done by hand with manual tools.

The ground consisted of heavy clay for a few yards then sand, limestone and chalk. Work continued every day in the week except for the odd half day for the very important tasks of washing clothes and bathing.

At the same time No 2 Company under the command of Captain SJ Platt was sent to Vignacourt about 5 miles west of Villers Bocage to cut down forest and prepare various timber components for use in the construction of earthwork defences by the rest of the Battalion.

Further sites were allocated on the 20th October.

Small parties were attached in rota to the 8th Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers who were also a pioneer battalion to give the officers and men experience of operations at the front under enemy fire. This gave them experience in erecting barbed wire defences, Wiring as it was termed.


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16th June 2021

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Pte. Dennis Henry Berry 24th Btn. London Regiment

My Uncle Harry Berry was a furrier at Debenham & Peabody's store in Wigmore Street London when he enlisted in the 24th London Territorial Army on the 10th of June 1914. He embarked for France on the 15th of March 1915 and fought at Battle of Festubert. His regiment fought with great distinction standing firm when the regular army retreated and winning the day. On the 25th of March 1915 he was wounded in his left arm and left leg. He was hospitalized at Rouen nd afterwards given home leave. He returned to active service on the 9th of October 1915 and fought at the Battle of Loos and the second Battle of the Somme. He was blown up and gassed but he survived the war and was Honorably discharged on the 3rd of January 1919.

They Were All Heroes and deserve to be remembered.

2nd Lt. William George Beaumot-Edmonds 1/22nd (County of London) Btn. London Regiment (d.17th Sep 1916)

William Beaumont-Edmonds was born at Stockwell, June 2, 1883. He was educated at Merchant Taylors School from 1896-1900 and Gray's Inn, Inns of Court and was admitted to the Bar in 1909. Edmonds served in the 16th London Regiment (Westminster Rifles) as a Lance Corporal for seven years prior to the Great War. He was promoted to 2nd Lt and joined 1/22nd London Regiment in 1915 and served 10 months in France prior to his death.

2nd Lt. Beaumont-Edmonds was killed in action on the 17th of September 1916 in a trench about 1/4 mile northeast of High Wood by an artillery shell. His identity disc was recovered and he was buried close to the trench. However, due to the fortunes of war his grave location was lost and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

Pte. Francis Albert Thomas 15th Btn. (Civil Service Rifles) London Regiment

Pte. G V Vainstein 23rd Btn. London Regiment (d.10th November 1915)

Private G. V. Vainstein, at the time of his death was serving with the 23rd Battalion London Regiment. On the 4th of November 1915 the 23rd London Regiment of the 142 Brigade, 47th Division, were relieved from the front line near Loos in Northern France and moved back to the reserve trenches. From there they moved to Philosophe, Mazingarbe, France.

On the 10th November 1915 a shell landed on one of the billets occupied by C Company, 23rd Battalion London Regiment killing seven men outright including Private Vainstein. He is buried in the Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, Pas de Calais, France. The personalised inscription on his headstone simply says "Mother with you".

Pte. Walter Robert Martin 23rd Btn. London Regiment (d.10th November 1915)

Walter Martin served with the 23rd Battalion London Regiment. On the 4 November 1915 the 23rd London Regiment of the 142 Brigade, 47th Division, were relieved from the front line near Loos in Northern France and moved back to the reserve trenches. From there they moved to Philosophe, Mazingarbe, France.

On the 10th November 1915 a shell landed on one of the billets occupied by C Company, 23rd Battalion London Regiment killing seven men outright including Private Martin. He is buried in the Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, Pas de Calais, France.

L/Cpl. W W Lincoln 23rd Btn. London Regiment (d.10th November 1915)

Lance Corporal W. W. Lincoln. At the time of his death he was serving with the 23rd Battalion London Regiment, service no. 3786. On the 4 November 1915 the 23rd London Regiment of the 142 Brigade, 47th Division, were relieved from the front line near Loos in Northern France and moved back to the reserve trenches. From there they moved to Philosophe, Mazingarbe, France.

On the 10th November 1915 a shell landed on one of the billets occupied by C Company, 23rd Battalion London Regiment killing seven men outright including Lance Corporal Lincoln. He is buried in the Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, Pas de Calais, France.

Pte. Ernest Leslie Jenner A Coy. 23rd Btn. London Regiment (d.10th November 1915)

Private Ernest Leslie Jenner, son of Frederick William and Emma Matilda Jenner, of Martins Road, Keevil, Trowbridge. At the time of his death he was serving with A Company, 23rd Battalion London Regiment. On the 4 November 1915 the 23rd London Regiment of the 142nd Brigade, 47th Division, were relieved from the front line near Loos in Northern France and moved back to the reserve trenches. From there they moved to Philosophe, Mazingarbe, France.

On the 10th November 1915 a shell landed on one of the billets occupied by C Company, 23rd Battalion London Regiment killing seven men outright including Private Jenner, he was aged 22 years. He is buried in the Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, Pas de Calais, France. He is not listed on the War memorial, Keevil, Wiltshire, reason not known. The personalised inscription on his headstone says "Greater Love hath no man than this".

Pte. A Harriss C Coy. 1st/23rd Btn. London Regiment (d.10th November 1915)

Pte. W Faulkner 23rd Btn. London Regiment (d.10th November 1915)

L/Cpl. Frederick George Whatling 1st/23rd Btn. C Coy. London Regiment (d.10th November 1915)

Frederick Whatling was born in Walthamstow in 1893, son of John Arthur and Eunice Whatling. The 1911 census shows the family living at 1 Cowper Road, Acton, London Frederick was an entering clerk.

He enlisted with the British Army in 1909 and at the time of his death was serving with C Company, 1st/23rd Battalion London Regiment. On the 10th November 1915 a shell landed on one of the billets occupied by C Company killing seven men outright, including Frederick, he was aged 23 years. He is buried in the Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, France and is remembered on the War Memorial, St Mary's Church, Acton, London.

Capt. George William Ashby 6th (City of London) Battalion London Regiment (d.25th Sep 1915)

Rfn. Archibald Sidney "Harry" Saunders 1/21st (Surrey Rifles) Btn. London Regiment (d.22nd Mar 1918)

Pte. William Ernest Woodbridge 23rd Btn. London Regiment

Rfmn. Frederick William Mcleod MM. 18th (London Irish Rifles) Btn. London Regiment

Frederick Mcleod, known as Old Mac was my Grandfather and he served throughout the first world war. He was at Loos and I believe he took part in the valiant Footballer of Loos incident. He won a Military Medal in Oct. 1918.

Having survived during the war he went to Ireland with the Black and Tans. He then tried to re-enlist in 1939 but was rejected as too old and served in the London Fire Brigade during the blitz, with all the danger and trauma that implies.

He survived until the 1980s and to us this brave hero was just Grandad.

Pte. Frederick Francis Brooks 19th Btn. London Regiment

Harry Clifford Ashworth 236 Brigade Royal Field Artillery

Harry Clifford Ashworth’s Great War with Royal Regiment of Artillery, 236 Brigade, 47th London Division. Taken from his only surviving war diary covering August to November 1918

22nd August 1918. Expecting a move at any moment. Have just read news of capture of Courcelles by NZ and English also Achiet Lepetit read communiqué re Achiet le Grand. Places of lasting memory. Also Bucquey.

31st August. On the morning of the 23rd we moved to a field just outside Warloy. Cookhouse in middle of a field and a long way to go for water because the water carts being left up the line owing to straffing. The guns were near Albert. Early on the 24th after having spent a cold night in a hut at Warloy, an early reveille brought news of an 8 o’clock move. After a quick pack to move, passing across the open by Henencourt and Senlis, we arrived at gun position. The vicinity of the old front line had been terribly desolate. One or two of the dead from the retreat were still lying about. A first glimpse of the Cathedral showed what terrible havoc had been wrought in the city. After waiting for a little we set out on our way to cross Albert. The first row of houses, railway bridge, showed what to expect. The road which had been cleared , ie over the bridge to left, past Cathedral to La Boiselle, was 2 or 3 inches in dust. Not a whole wall of a house was standing. Having arrived here we found a large flooded area close to which we pulled in. At first we pulled the water from the river. Later obtained from pump where we had row in general. Round about were dead men and horses which stank somewhat. Our little bivouac most noted for dirt. Two days later, on 27th August, moved to a place not far from La Boiselle. Here water problem was rather difficult. First night was one to remember. Going forward in afternoon water was not available in Contalmaison. Harwood was sent us back. After tea set off again with Macarthy and Plumer. After going back and along Pozieres Road we obtained about 2/3 load. Got practically in position and could not find way. Started loading and went back . Stanley came up and delivered load. First time at guns since Fonquevillers. Got supply alright on return and got in about 4 am. In time to waken Harrington. On 27th got up about dinner time . In evening went up again but only could get a small load on return. On 29th Carney, Byford and Woods returned from leave. Got water in the morning towards Becourt and on return saw C Bat. moving off. We did quick move . I went up to the guns in cart where I dumped material from cart and left in charge.. Later the wagon line came to the same place in Mametz Wood where water point is just down the road. On 29th we were awakened early and told to be ready to move about 6am Owing to stubborn resistance by the enemy we did not move and unpacked. In afternoon went to guns in most desolate country. Along railway ralway track and saw German signs with familiar names as Troneswood, , Ginchyy, Longueval, Combles, Montauban etc. A few shells were sent over but nothing to mean anything. Scotty says I must go up every day No ban. Today, 31st is a rotten day – drizzzly and cold. Everything is standing still at present.

5th September. Things have now moved pretty quickly for us lately On 1st we moved to Guillemont and guns to Fregicourt through Combles ie early in the morning. In this part there were a good many dead dead lying about and plenty of stench accompanied it. While guns pulled in, an aeroplane was brought down and it seem pretty clear that position was given away. Filled up cart at Delville Wood. In the evening we went up again and saw shells falling along Combles - Sailly - Saillised road, consequently we had to move quick. We found guns had been severely bombed. Having loaded our cart , shells immediately commenced to fall. Horses unhooked etc. In lull we got away safely. Next day we moved up - 2nd in the afternoon. A mistake cause death in B Battery . Here water was a big problem. On 3rd we were waiting in Combles for a very long time. Fortunately Battery were coming out. On 4th got up about 6am to fill up and was fortunate. 10 am moved to Bouchavesnes after many stops on way. Was out all night trying to get water at Clery and finally got it at Le Foret. Bund being the driver. On 5th ie today Dervene and Martin killed and Slack wounded. Report of Douai Cambrai, Lens etc captured.

Tuesday 6th September 1918 The same night ie 5th , guns came out of action and after having remained the night. Set off next morning to Ville-sur-Ancre. Passing through Maricourt and Fricourt . Landing there we found a village very much knocked about but plenty of material still about. It escaped in the first stint and was just behind the lines. This time it had been very hurriedly evacuated.

On the evening of the 7th we set off to Merricourt to entrain. Rather a tedious business. We decided to sleep under GS Wagon. And would have been well of if it had not rained. All the same we stuck getting up when train stopped at Doullens. We stuck close to the grub. Passing through Marles – lez – Mines and Allouagne we came to Lillers and detrained, making the grub in the rain. Lillers had caught it badly in the latest push. Passing through Ecquedecques, Faucqueheme Nedon we arrived at Nedonchelle on evening of the 8th . This is a slow place but we have a decent old woman in the billet. Then there are Henri, Suzanne, Louise etc : all helped to make the fun. We had one concert by DAC . For two days we have had rumours of a move but nothing happens. During the time there has been good news characterised by taking of St Mihiel. Austrian peace move is the latest gag. The pig has had a litter.

Wed 18th September. Today all is excitement, bustle and uncertainty . What seems pretty certain is that we are going a long train ride. Bonner, the all-knowing one says we must be going a sea journey because only one horse may be taken ie OC. On the other hand the Captain asked West to get all his money changed into Italian as soon as possible so for the present, a visit to Italy may be taken as official. On Sunday we were to move at 9. Monday - we did not but orders were issued to move at 9. Wednesday, today - we were settled down for a move to Hesdenon . Late last night I was coming along the road and Stevens came along and said in a frightfully fed up way “cancel all orders” I being the first to be informed , I spread the news and some people were glad and some the reverse . We had the wire from West before and were not surprised. This morning points to Italy . Every possible thing is to be left , or dumped and now am waiting for developments.

1pm 19th Sept. We are not being told much news but we have various rumours. (1) Only fighting units to go to Italy (?) (2) Move to spot close to Pernes in early morning and where handing over the entraining will take place. This is practically a certainty . It appears that more material is likely to go with us – mess carts, cooking materials, artificers, tools etc. The captain's gone on leave . Another rumour says eight days journey. Sounds rather a long time , still I’m looking forward to a journey more than anything.

Saturday 29th September. On the 20th we left Nedonchelle and passing through Pernes came to Bours where we met certain French people , vis Marie, Louise, Julien Alice etc. This cookhouse was near water point . After being there a day or two days we cancelled for two days owing to train smash. When sweating again move cancelled for a week. Each time spirits fell to zero. I felt certain that we would go into action on the same front. After a few days rumour came through that we were in wrong area hence came to Monchy Cayeau yesterday. We thought that it was the first move to action but it was backwards to railhead and Amiens, hence we are sweating on going to Italy. Lately have had a couple of letters from Cyril. News on all fronts has been good. Allenby rushing forward. Balkans going well and American gain at Argonne .

Sunday 30th Sept. Mother’s birthday. Now we are getting night frosts and pretty cold sleeps. Today , however, is lovely. Marshall has been taken to officers’ mess and Mac has been put in. The same uncertainty still prevails in regards to moving.

1st October. Early on1st [October] we were called up early and told to prepare to move everything. Later it became Nedonchells and apparently back up to action.

On the morning of the 2nd had to move to Merville sector, more as support. After a long trek through Lillers came to Robecq. On 3rd made long journey through Merville to Meurillon and after tea on again. Dark overtook us and causing much delay etc owing to mines. At the moment Jerry was retreating quickly and so passed our appointed place and came to Fromelles. Day following to Quesnoy ou Gd Mansuar

10th October While here at Quesnoy we have had much good news. Some time ago Bulgaria packed up. A couple of days ago an offer from Germany which has not been accepted. Now we hear that Germany is routed at Cambrai . So let the great big world keep turning and turn us to peace.

14th October Still at Quesnay and nothing much doing. Been straffed once or twice - 4000 yards from Jerry. Italian rumour is very strong again. Infantry man says he has been over the top this morning.

16th October It looks as if Italy is off again for the moment and the Germans having evacuated a little way up here. Infantry and ambulance had gone out but are returning again. On tenterhooks again.

Sunday 20th October. Just written home to say am sweating on top line. 17th October, left Fromelles about 11.am a little after Germans evacuated Lille. While on the way was ‘torpedoed’ at Laventie but fortunately little harm was done . About tea-time landed at Estaives. (17th) and spent the night. 18th October. Left morning to arrive at St Venant where now we are in good billet once an asylum. Beds are the rule. DArty gone to Lillers. It has been a fine place but has suffered a good deal. Canal runs here. Fitted YMCA with water this morning. The war seems to be going good . Ostend and Bruge taken. Italy seems to be off altogether and is never mentioned. Where we are going we do not know. Burges says here for a few days. 1st December. Many things have happened. After St Venant, Riez Balleul and Haubourdin which which we left on 28th to go on leave After leave and Armistice (11th ), 13th Bulougne, 14th St Pol, 15th Lille and Hellemmes. 16th A day in Lille and a night in a good bed. Joined the battery on the Sunday at Bourghelleses where we had a good time. Return to Fouquieres via Fournes. During this time demob and education scheme is topic.

29th December 1918 Up to present Ed. Scheme does not appear to have come up to much. There has been much messing about with demob but no one seems to know exactly how it is working. I’m waiting communication from Reading and House. Have been advised to send Form 56. Christmas has been a lively affair. Inebriation has been the rule. On Christmas Day many men were well away before dinner , which had a sobering influence. Rum punch, beer and private stocks of drinkables soon put men out again. Officers came and made asses of themselves. The concert was far from most men’s thoughts. The object in view from the start was a glorious drunk and rough house. Thomson was out to make a violent nuisance of himself and succeeded so much so that he had to be persuaded to leave. Noakes, Hancock, Lorah, Bonner, Keyes, Cross, Daley, Talman are worthy of mention. What a night we had with Daley. Many men were never sober on Boxing Day. Cooks were determined to have a day. Wilkinson was helpless at 10 a.m. Hancock and Cramp rolled Daley in the mud after dinner and then went out to dinner. Cramp, Heyes returned in a horrible state. Former had D.T ’ s. Paddy repeated Christmas day performance and today in a sad state. ‘I shall die ‘

6th January 1919. Today played football for F sub and C subs. Lost 3-0. Credit £3. 8. 11d. Sweating on demob. two going tomorrow, O’Neill and McAra. Bonner gone away to Fromes. Good chance of getting away soon. Dunbar anxous to take up maths and desired me as Instructor. Letter from House a few days ago . Says fares will be more. 19th On 9th it came to my knowledge that I was to proceed to England the following day

On 10th left for imaginary camp at Hesdigneul. After which lorry jumped to Colanne – Ricouart and walked to Camblain Chatelaine and stopped night at 47th Division Camp

On 11th proceeded to Ligny by lorry where stopped for the night in dismal circumstances at X1 Core rest camp.

On 12th to Brias where train never came. On station form 9.30 p.m to 2a.m after which turned in. Boarded train on 13th at 12 but did not leave St Pol until 5 p.m. Arrived on 14th at Havre were we were deloused and sent to embarkation camp. We stayed all 15th - a very wet day at Havre and on 16th left France at 4 p.m. Boat sailed at 6 p.m after which most people were sick. Arrived outside Southampton at 12.50 a.m on 17th where we stayed until 9 a.m. At 12 we left Southampton and arrived at Camp at Clipstone at 7 p.m . After eating and passing doctor, giving in kit etc. I received my ticket at 1.30 am 18/1/19. Left there at 5am and arrived home at 1.30 a.m 18th January 1919 After buying suit came home and changed. Saturday evening Stannary and Sunday evening.

Civvie life Monday 20th January /1919 Have written to Knapman House and Cyril. Wretched day.

Pte. Reginald Grant Willis 1/6th (City of London Rifles) Battalion London Regiment

Recently my mother talked about her father's WW1 experiences. Not having the best of home life my grandfather, Reginald Willis, ran away to fight, seeing it as a better way out. He was 15 and by time his father found out what he was up too he was on his way to France. That was all my mum knew until, as a youngster, she walked into the normally locked bathroom to find my grandfather washing. From that brief encounter, and my grandfather's acute embarrassment (covered up by lots of shouting), saw the wounds that he had suffered. Almost one side of his body was held together by a metal plate. While at Ypres serving with the The City of London Rifles he was badly injured. How he received his injuries, I don't know. His friends moved him under a bush and said they'd come back for him later, which they did. What happened after that is not known.

I do have one of three medals he received, The Allied Victory Medal. He received the usual, The British War Medal, Silver War Badge, Allied Victory Medal. The other two he either sold or binned, the one my mum retrieved from a dustbin after he had thrown in there with the words 'the war hasn't done anything for me'. As a child I remember him being around then disappearing never seeing him again, the rest of the story is not for here but suffice to say that he was probably still suffering 50 years on. We'll never know.

Pte. William James Disley 141st Light Trench Mortar Battery Royal Field Artillery


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