ROTD AUG 15 LARGE

 

The Western Front Association rembers soldiers who served and died, from the Allies and Central Powers, during the First World War.

 

There will usually be a picture, though not always. There is a short personal biography: when and where they were born and what they did before the war, followed by their enlistment, training, and service.

 

All WW1 forces, all sides, on all fronts, east to west remembered as individual soldiers, nurses, labourers and others on the home front, their lives, service, their loss, burial and commemoration. 

 

Some can be more detailed than others. Included will be their final action or cause of death and their final resting place. 

 

Research by David O'Mara.

 

Readers are invited to add their comments and to submit ideas for people to feature.

13 April 1918 Pte John William DuxburyPte John William Duxbury, 12th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Miners' Battalion)

In 1914 many local organisations were motivated to assist the war effort by recruiting men who were associated with the organisation or area, and formed these recruits into battalions. The majority of these battalions were recruited geographically, and battalions such as the Leeds Pals, Bradford Pals and Grimsby Chums were formed. Other battalions were formed not on geographic lines, but by public schools, or those with a common interest such as football. Other groups, such as employers, formed other units, including the West Yorkshire Coal Owners' Association which raised the ‘Miners' Battalion'.

John William Duxbury (aged 26) from Ravensthorpe was probably influenced to join the Miners' Battalion by his elder brother, Arthur (aged 38) who lived at Bradbury Street, Ravensthorpe. On Tuesday, 10 August 1915 they went together to the recruiting office in Dewsbury and were given consecutive regimental numbers, Arthur was 1788 and John 1789. Another two brothers also joined the army: Fred aged 22 lived with John and their mother at 76 Sackville Street, Ravensthorpe and joined the 8th Battalion, KOYLI; and James Duxbury (aged 28 and married) joined up but was sent to India. The Miners' Battalion was clearly open to all trades - Arthur worked for the Mirfield Colliery Company, and John was employed by Pickles and Smithson, chemical manufacturers in Ravensthorpe.

After undergoing training at Otley, the Miners' Battalion (which had by now become the 12th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) became part of the 31st Division and, in view of the obvious labouring skills of the majority of its members, they became the divisional pioneer battalion. Towards the end of November 1915 orders were received to prepare for service overseas.

Much to everyone's surprise the division was not sent to France, but was instead ordered to Egypt where they were to guard the Suez Canal. After a short period in Egypt, the 31st Division was sent to France where, on 1 July 1916, they took part in the opening day of the Battle of the Somme.

Despite being wounded in April 1917 (receiving treatment in France), John survived until 1918. In March of that year the Germans launched a series of offensives, one of which was aimed at capturing the vital railway junction at Hazebrouck. It is against this background that John and Arthur Duxbury were involved in the battalion's severest fighting of the war.

The Miners' Battalion's War Diary describes how, in early April 1918, the battalion was out of the line, undergoing training. Orders were received on 10 April, giving instructions to move. On the following day the battalion de-bussed near Vieux-Berquin, and from there marched to Merris. At 8.00pm orders came through to take up positions astride the Estaires to Caestre road, covering the crossroads in the village of La Couronne. The Miners' Battalion was in position by 9.30pm.

On 12 April the battalion was in much the same position; most of the morning was probably spent constructing trenches. The battalion was unable to gain touch with the troops on either their right or their left. At 3.00pm enemy machine gun and artillery fire became heavy, and troops on the battalion's left (who, according to the War Diary were from the 29th Division) started falling back. In accordance with its orders the battalion "..refused its left flank, and pivoting on La Couronne covered the village with its right flank facing east and south-east." They dug in and spent the night there. The War Diary gave casualties for the day as being two officers and 40 other ranks.

The German attack on the following day (Saturday, 13 April) developed at 8.30am. The battalion's left flank easily beat off the attacks by the Germans, all four of which failed. At the crossroads in La Couronne, however, the enemy succeeded in working up a trench that the battalion had constructed, but had been forced to abandon the previous day. From this position, with the aid of trench mortars, the Germans managed to dislodge the defenders who, although forced to fall back, formed another line under heavy fire.

The new line faced south-east with its right on a stream; the line extended to the main road where the rest of the battalion was holding off German attacks. Despite now being in touch with the Irish Guards on the right there was a gap here which the Germans exploited and it was from this direction that the battalion was enfiladed at 1.30pm. Shortly after this the Germans, working through the village, broke the line. The battalion's right was forced to fall back, and the troops on the left were partially surrounded, many being taken prisoner.

The remnants of the battalion rallied at La Becque Farm, but machine gun fire made the position untenable, and a further withdrawal was made, falling back on posts held by Australian troops on the Route du Bois.

On the morning of 14 April the Miners' Battalion was withdrawn from the line. The War Diary describes how, after going into action with nineteen officers and 510 other ranks, the battalion suffered casualties of twelve officers and about 275 other ranks (Soldiers Died in the Great War gives fatalities on 13 April as 59, plus a further two on 14 April).

The battalion had, however, accomplished its task: it had delayed the German advance sufficiently to enable troops from the 1st Australian Division to be brought up.

As might be expected, there is no clue in the War Diary of what happened to John and Arthur Duxbury. After sticking closely together throughout the war, on 13 April the brothers' paths diverged. Arthur was captured, probably wounded, by the Germans; he was, together with other prisoners, sent to the rear and eventually arrived in Germany, where, just over a fortnight after being captured, he died.

Nothing is known of John's fate. The family may have realised something was wrong when they failed to receive a regular letter, or possibly an officer or pal may have written to his mother to say that he had not returned after the battle. Although Arthur was reported as missing towards the end of May, it was not until 29 June that The Dewsbury Reporter printed a few lines to say that "Private John William Duxbury, son of Mrs Duxbury of 40 Fearnley Street, Dewsbury is officially reported missing since April."

The names of 47 of the 59 men killed on 13 April are inscribed on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing, just across the border in southern Belgium. Of the remaining 14 casualties from 13 and 14 April,* thirteen have known graves, which leaves one man unaccounted for.

Because of the chaotic circumstances during and after the Great War, it seems that a number of casualties were overlooked by the authorities. It was initially the responsibility of the War Office and not the Imperial War Graves Commission to compile lists of casualties. Somehow the name of John William Duxbury failed to be included in the lists the Imperial War Graves Commission took over from the War Office and, consequently, his name was not inscribed on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing. For nearly 80 years, John Duxbury was not officially commemorated by the War Graves Commission.

This oversight was pointed out to the Commission and, after requesting evidence in November 1995, they confirmed on 14 April 1997, 79 years and one day after his death, that John William Duxbury's name had been added to the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing.

John's older brother, Arthur, is buried along with several hundred men who died as prisoners of war in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission plot in Ohlsdorf Cemetery near Hamburg.

Fred Duxbury was one of the casualties of 1 July 1916; he died whilst serving in the 8th Battalion, KOYLI and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

Only James Duxbury came home.

* One is buried at Ebblinghem Military Cemetery, one at Aire Communal Cemetery and one at Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery. A further ten are buried at Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, being two miles north-east of where the battalion fought on 13 April. (It may be fair to assume that some of the unknown headstones in this cemetery stand over the graves of the 47 men named on the Ploegsteert Memorial.)

13 April 1918

Source - A Village Goes to War: David Tattersfield

13 April 1918 Inf Jakob MaierInf Jakob Maier, 1 Komp Kgl Bay Inf-Leib-Regiment

A holder of the Iron Cross 2nd Class, Jakob was a labourer from Untervilslern, Bavaria. Born in 1896, he was called into full time service within the first few weeks of the war and saw service on the Western Front and on the Italian Front throughout the war.

A veteran of the Somme and Verdun, he took part in the great German offensives of the spring of 1918 and was killed in action near Bailleul during the Battle of the Lys on 13 April 1918. Jakob is buried in the kameradengrab of the German military cemetery of Lens-Sallaumines, Pas de Calais.

13 April 1918 killed in action 

Research by David O'Mara

11 April 1918 Pte Jack WhiteleyPte Jack Whiteley, 1/6th Northumberland Fusiliers

At 8.45am on Tuesday, 9 April 1918, after a 4½ hour artillery bombardment, 14 German divisions attacked on a front of 12 miles, aiming at capturing Hazebrouck with its vital rail junction. This was the German 'Georgette' offensive and was the Germans' last ‘best chance' to win the war.

The following day a further series of attacks were made by the Germans, forcing the abandonment of the Messines Ridge and the town of Armentieres on 11 April. It was on 11 April that Haig issued his now-famous ‘Special Order of the Day', which included:

"...There is no other course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end."

It is unlikely that Jack Whiteley would have heard this message as he was killed on this day.

Jack Whiteley was born in about 1899 to Mr and Mrs Fenton Whiteley. He was sent to France in March 1918, joining ‘B' Company of the 1/6th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (part of 50th (Northumbrian) Division). The War Diary of the division's 149 Brigade (made up of the 1/4th, 1/5th and 1/6th Northumberland Fusiliers) states that the brigade ("400 all ranks") was relieved on 1 April, moving to the town of Lillers. There, the battalions were made up to strength with men drafted from home. It is likely that Jack was with this large group of reinforcements. From Lillers the division moved north to Merville.

At Merville, on 9 April (the opening day of 'Georgette'), the 1/6th Northumberland Fusiliers was ordered to be prepared to move at short notice, probably to support the 40th Division who were holding the line astride the River Lys. At 7.30am the battalion, together with the 1/5th Northumberland Fusiliers, were moved up to Le Trou Bayard, a small village east of the town of Estaires. From there, a series of small moves were ordered, but no contact was made with the Germans. The situation must have been very confusing for the battalion and brigade commanders, with reports of German advances and the sound of heavy fighting nearby.

On 10 April, nervous of being attacked from the south, where the Germans had broken through, the 1/6th Northumberland Fusiliers was instructed to form a defensive flank facing the line of the German breakthrough. At 7.15am the battalion was ordered to attack and retake Estaires which had fallen into German hands, and they were successful in regaining most of the town. The battalion was shelled for the rest of the day, incurring heavy casualties, and it was forced to give up part of Estaires that evening.

On Thursday, 11 April, the 1/6th Northumberland Fusiliers was placed into brigade reserve. Despite this, there was to be no rest for the men. At 7.00am a report arrived to say that the Germans had occupied Le Trou Bayard, and the battalion was therefore ordered to move forward. By 1.50pm the battalion's advance had been halted and, due to German pressure, was being forced back. The battalion was in serious trouble. With an open flank to the right, the brigade (according to its diary) "...seemed to be in touch with the 29th Division on the left." A verbal report that Neuf Berquin (a village north west of Estaires) was in the hands of the enemy put in doubt the existence of troops on the left. At 11.00pm that evening, after consulting with brigades from the 29th Division, 149 Brigade fell back to Vierhoek.

Further withdrawals proved necessary on following days, but in this confused fighting, the 1/6th Northumberland Fusiliers lost (according to Soldiers Died in the Great War) 98 men. One of these was Jack Whiteley.

No obituary appeared for Jack in the local newspapers; there was, however an appeal in January 1919 by his parents who lived at 273 Scout Hill for information concerning their son. Presumably he was still officially "missing" at this stage, which must have been very difficult for his parents.

Jack has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing. This Memorial, in southern Belgium, lists the names of 11,500 soldiers killed in the area throughout the 1914-1918 period who have no known grave.

11 April 1918


Source: David Tattersfield - A Village Goes to War

9 April 1917 Gnr Ewart DoodsonThe date of 15 September 1916 was a historic day in the history of warfare: it was the first day that tanks were used in battle. The tank had been under development in late 1915 and early 1916 as an attempt at overcoming the seemingly impenetrable trench system the Germans had constructed. Gunner Ewart Doodson from Ravensthorpe took part in the first attack by the tanks and was a crew member of the first tank into battle. He survived the day, but he was to be killed less than a year later.

Ewart was born in Elland, near Leeds, in November 1898. After the deaths of his natural parents he was adopted by Mr and Mrs Tyas Wood; he is reported to have attended the Congregational Church and Sunday School in Ravensthorpe. After completing his education Ewart went to work as a junior clerk at the Yorkshire Electric Power Company in Thornhill. He volunteered in October 1915 aged just 16, joining the Machine Gun Corps.

A component of the MGC was the Motor Machine Gun Service. This unit was originally organised to provide mobile machine guns which were to be mounted on side-cars of motorcycles; however, because of the stalemate that had developed in France, the need for such mobile machine guns ceased. During late 1915 and early 1916 with tanks under development, the MMGS became associated with this new weapon, changing its name to Heavy Section, Machine Gun Corps in May 1916. In November 1916 its name changed to Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps, and in July 1917 it became known as The Tank Corps.

The unit was split into six companies, ‘A' to ‘F'. Just two of these (‘C' and ‘D') were ready to take part in the battle. Ewart was probably excited by his involvement with this new weapon and continued his training with the unit until August 1916, when the tanks and men of these two companies moved to France.

During the 15 September 1916 attack Ewart Doodson was part of the crew of tank D1 (probably called ‘Daredevil 1'); this tank was assigned to the 14th (Light) Division and attacked a strong trench system known as The Brewery Salient to the east of Delville Wood on the Somme Battlefield. Ewart's tank was to go down in history as the first ever tank to go into action, starting from south of the Longueval-Ginchy road at 5.15am; Ewart's role in the tank was that of gearsman. He and another gearsman were responsible for applying brakes to the tank's gigantic tracks; it was hot, noisy work and, despite the tank's size and weight (28 tons), it was vulnerable to artillery fire. Shortly after clearing out the German troops in the trenches of the Brewery Salient, Ewart's tank was hit by a shell and put out of action. He described the action in a letter to his parents:

"...We went over almost before it was first light on Friday morning, and our tank was out of action with a shell through our driving wheels within almost half an hour....It was supposed to be an exceptionally difficult position and hot too.....Fritz simply bunked and well he might to see this thing coming on him in the half light. We got through this redoubt and were well towards the German main trench when we got hit. There was plenty of flames and smoke but no one was hurt."

Ewart goes on to describe how the crew got back safely, bringing with them two wounded infantrymen. They recovered the equipment from the tank the next day; Ewart mentions that Fred Gomersall, an acquaintance from Ravensthorpe, was helping out. The last part of Ewart's letter relates how one tank crew who were also forced to abandon their tank were mistaken for Germans (due to their unusual uniform) and were held prisoner for a while by some British infantrymen. Ewart finishes his letter by thanking his parents for a parcel they had sent him.

Two weeks later on 1 October 1916 Ewart received injuries to his leg and face resulting in treatment in the Australian General Hospital in France.

By April 1917 new tanks had arrived but, due to production difficulties, in the six months since their first use the number of tanks had only risen to 60. For the Battle of Arras, of these 60 tanks, just eight were allocated to the Canadian Corps, all of these being given to the 2nd Canadian Division. These eight tanks were from 12 Company, ‘D' Battalion. Once again Ewart Doodson was destined to be in the thick of the fighting. The eight tanks of 12 Company moved to Mont St. Eloi at the end of March and from there moved forward on the night of 7/8 April to a sunken road called Elbe Trench, north of the village of Neuville St Vaast. At 5.30am on 9 April - zero hour - four of the tanks moved forward with Canadian troops (6 Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division) and four with 13 Brigade (a British brigade which was on loan from the 5th Division).

Due to the speed of the assault, the tanks were left far behind by the infantry, whose advance captured the German trenches, and a position known as Hill 135, at relatively low cost. The terrain after the bombardment proved to be too difficult for the tanks and it was not until 7.15am that they managed to reach the German front line. The War Diary of ‘D' Battalion describes how "...the ground proved utterly impossible for tanks, all tank commanders got out and led their tanks on foot, but despite this precaution all tanks became ditched between the German second and third line. There they remained until dug out by their crews on succeeding days." Four of the tanks had become struck in a sunken track called Blenpense Ditch, the others in trenches.

Despite not engaging German troops, there were some casualties to ‘D' Battalion, the War Diary stating that two officers and eight other ranks were killed with nearly forty men wounded. Ewart was one of those who lost their lives.

A letter was published in the Dewsbury Reporter on 27 April from one of Ewart's comrades. The letter, from James Anderson, was dated 18th April and describes how three of the crew of the tank had

"...got outside to make a necessary adjustment and were working together when a shell dropped a yard behind us. Ewart and the sergeant were immediately unconscious. The sergeant died in a few minutes and Ewart lived for about half an hour but never regained consciousness and had no pain whatever....The wound was in his skull. I was with him till the end with his head on my knee. Every possible aid was given....I have his wristlet watch and some of his private things and will send them...."

Neither Ewart Doodson nor the sergeant (who was probably Charles McNamee) have a known grave and both are commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing. The Memorial stands in front of the Faubourg d'Amiens British Cemetery and commemorates some 36,000 men who fell in the Arras area between 1916 and 1918 who have no known grave; the majority of the names are from the 1917 Battle of Arras.

9 April 1917 was killed in action

Source: A Village Goes to War - David Tattersfield.

 Pte John Dean of the Machine Gun Company killed in action
 Pte John Dean

 

124388 Pte John Thomas Dean, 61st Coy Machine Gun Corps (Infantry)

 

Born in Padiham, Lancashire John was conscripted into the army in Burnley in 1916.

Initially serving as 36184 in the East Surrey Regiment, he was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps prior to embarkation on active service.

He was killed on 12th April 1918 and reported as missing in action.

Having no known grave, John is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium.

12 April 1918 killed in action.

 

 

Research by David O'Mara.

 

 

References:

Ancestry.com. British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Army Medal Office. WWI Medal Index Cards. In the care of The Western Front Association.

The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls; Class: WO 329

The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries; Class: WO 95

The Burnley Express 19th April 1916

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org )

Soldiers Died in the Great War – HMSO 1921

 

10 April 1917 Pte Moses Johns219503 Pte Moses Johns, 50th Bn CEF

Born as St Regis, Quebec on 21 December 1891, Moses was employed as a labourer prior to enlistment. He enlisted into the 80th Bn CEF at Barriefield, Ontario on 9 October 1915 and underwent training in Canada and the UK before transferring to the the 50th Bn CEF in April 1916 with whom he was to see active service on the Western Front.

In September 1916, Moses arrived in France and took part in the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme and in operations on the Ancre before partaking in the Battle of Arras in April 1917.

He was killed in action on Hill 145 on Vimy Ridge on 10 April 1917 and is buried in Canadian Cemetery No 2 at Neuville St Vaast, Pas de Calais.

10 April 1917 killed in action

Research by David O'Mara

8 April 1918 Pte Arthur Pickles MM325151 Pte Arthur Pickles MM, 2/7th Bn Ryl Warwickshire Regt.

From Newchurch-in-Pendle, Lancashire, Arthur was born in 1896. He was conscripted into the army in the spring of 1916 and allocated to the 2/7th Warwicks the following year after being sent to the Western Front in June 1917. After taking part in the 3rd Battle of Ypres and the Battle of Cambrai in 1917, Arthur was heavily involved in the defencive actions against the German Spring Offensives of 1918.

He was awarded the Military Medal for actions during the German Offensive after operating a machine-gun despite having suffered a gun-shot wound to the leg on 21 March 1918. Initially posted as missing (this was the last time any of his comrades saw him alive), it later transpired that he had been taken prisoner by the advancing Germans, but died of his wounds in a German medical facility on 8 April 1918.

Arthur is now buried in St.Souplet British Cemetery, Nord.

8 April 1918 died of his wounds

Research by David O'Mara

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