The Military Army Blog

Remembering the brave soldiers of Alnwick and district who gave their lives for their country

More than 200 men from the wider Alnwick district were killed in action or died of wounds received during the Battles of the Somme one hundred years ago. The database compiled last year by Alnwick District WW1 Centenary Commemoration Group (now held by Northumberland Branch of the Western Front Association) records the number of men from Alnwick district who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the 12 separate battles and countless lesser actions in 1916.

Remembering The Brave Soldiers Of Alnwick And District Who Gave Their Lives For Their Country

The Somme battlefield

More than 60 per cent of them served with the county regiment, the Northumberland Fusiliers: 53 with the 1/7th Battalion Territorial Force, whose pre-war station was Alnwick; and 37 with the four battalions of the regiment making up the Tyneside Scottish Brigade, later numbered 102nd Brigade as part of 34th Division 20th -23rd (Service) Battalions (1st-4th Tyneside Scottish). Up until February 1918, 1/7th Battalion TF was one of the four infantry battalions of 149th Brigade as part of 50th (Northumbrian) Division. The principal aim of this article, the first in a three-part series spread over coming months, is to mark the centenary of the Somme campaign, which lasted from June 24 to November 18, 1916, by reflecting on its impact on the wider Alnwick district an area bounded by Bamburgh; Kirknewton; Elsdon; Longframlington; Felton; and the northern end of Druridge Bay. This will be achieved through use of statistical data, relating background information on some of those who lost their lives, and providing a brief overview of events on the Somme battlefields one hundred years ago, to provide context. There were three phases to the campaign the opening attacks on July 1 through to a successful night attack on the Bazentin Ridge on July 14 and follow-up attacks over the next three days which briefly opened the possibility of a major advance before the attack was closed down following the capture of the ridge, Mametz Wood and Contalmaison (the Battles of Albert and Bazentin); the second phase, a series of costly random attacks with only limited objectives and limited successes ran from mid-July to early September; and a final phase began on September 15 until the campaign was finally closed down on November 18.

This article (running over two weeks) focuses on the first phase. For many throughout Britain, the events on July 1, 1916, and in later battles of the Somme campaign stands as testament to the futility of war. Blackadder Goes Forth, the fourth and final series of the BBC sitcom lampooned leadership of the British Army during the First World War which presents an oversimplified view of the war, reinforcing the ever-popular notion of lions led by donkeys .

Remembering The Brave Soldiers Of Alnwick And District Who Gave Their Lives For Their Country

A brief line in the Alnwick and County Gazette on July 1, 1916, reporting the death of Randolph Flintoff.

Forty Alnwick district men were killed in action or died of wounds received on July 1. Most served with the Tyneside Scottish Brigade which, along its sister Tyneside Irish Brigade, was virtually wiped out as it attacked German positions around La Boisselle. Of 100,000 men who went over the top on that day across a front 20 miles wide, 19,240 were killed and 38,500 were wounded, which represents the worst day for casualties in the history of the British Army. Casualties sustained by the Tyneside Scottish and Irish Brigades during the first three days of July were amongst the highest of any brigades involved in the Battle of Albert.

A massive eight-day bombardment of German defences by 400 heavy guns and 1,000 field guns preceded the July 1 attacks, which gave many British commanders supreme but ultimately misplaced confidence in the crushing impact the artillery would have. So sure of this were they that decisions were taken not to allow the largely inexperienced infantry to advance by the tried and tested means of fire and movement , with disastrous consequences. The bombardment began on June 24 and it was on that day that the first local man died. He was Lieutenant Randolf Alexander Flintoff serving with the East Yorkshire Regiment, 10th (Service) Battalion (1st Hull) who succumbed to gas wounds. He was the son of Churchill and Susan Hephzibah Flintoff of Alnwick and he s buried at Bertrancourt Armyrats © Military Cemetery.

Remembering The Brave Soldiers Of Alnwick And District Who Gave Their Lives For Their Country

A report in the Alnwick and County Gazette of the death of William Laidler.

The principle of an offensive campaign by each of the Entente Allies Russia, France, Britain and Italy during the 1916 summer had already been decided, on 14 February of that year. The decision to attack the Germans on the Somme was a political one. It was where British and French positions met on the Western Front. The Somme campaign was conceived as a joint Franco-Anglo affair with the British playing a subsidiary role and in so doing providing opportunities for Kitchener s New Armies to build their experience before it was expected that the British would assume a greater, possibly leading role on the Western Front in 1917.

However, only a week after the principle of a summer offensive was agreed the Germans pre-empted things with a ferocious attack of their own around Verdun aimed at bleeding the French Army dry , and everything changed after that. As German pressure at Verdun grew, increasingly it became necessary for Britain to shoulder more and more responsibility for the summer offensive on the Somme. Although it remained a joint operation, for the first time the British Army was the principal partner in that campaign.

Remembering The Brave Soldiers Of Alnwick And District Who Gave Their Lives For Their Country

A report in the Alnwick and County Gazette reporting the death of Robert Brewis.

The timing of the July 1 attack was governed by events around Verdun with the French exerting pressure on Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commander-in- Chief, to delay no longer so as to cause the Germans to shift their reserves from Verdun to the Somme. The Somme battlefields had not been contested since the first weeks of the war.

The Germans had almost two years to construct tremendously strong defences on higher ground dug-outs 30 feet below ground level were impervious to artillery fire; networks of well-concealed inter-supporting machine gun nests with large, clear arcs of fire; each defensive trench line protected by dense barbed-wire entanglements which were death-traps to attacking troops unless the wire was well-cut beforehand; and several defensive lines, each with several lines of trenches, would have to be overcome to achieve one of Haig s original objectives, to break though the German lines and return to open, mobile warfare. Preparations for the July offensive were necessarily elaborate and took considerable time and resources to complete. Vast stocks of ammunition and stores had to be accumulated; miles of new railways were laid to carry them; new roads built; dug-outs had to be built to accommodate and shelter attacking troops and for later use as dressing stations and casualty clearing stations; reliable water supplies were needed for countless thousands of men and animals; miles of communication channels and trenches had to be dug; and much more besides.

All of this can have meant nothing to those men and their families caught up in the tragedy of what happened on July 1 and in following days. Private Robert Brewis was one of those killed on July 1. He served with the Northumberland Fusiliers, 22nd (Service) Battalion (3rd Tyneside Scottish). The 1911 Census shows Robert to have then been 22, working as a carter, and living at Wooperton with his widowed mother Hannah, 59, younger brother James, 18, a horseman, and younger sister Isabella, 16.

Born at Bedlington about 1889, the son of John and Hannah Brewis (n e Grieve), he had an older brother and two older sisters. Robert enlisted at Newcastle and he s one of 125 local men killed during the Somme campaign who are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Robert is also commemorated at St Bartholomew s Church, Whittingham and on Branton Presbyterian Roll of Honour.

The second part of this first feature of the Battles of the Somme, including the second part of the roll of honour up until July 17, 1916, will appear in next week s Gazette.

Roll of honour part one

For each entry, the format is the name and rank; regiment/battalion; date of death; age; where commemorated (or buried if found). Lieutenant Randolf Alexander Flintoff; East Yorkshire Regiment, 10th (Service) Battalion (1st Hull); 24 June; 33; Bertrancourt Armyrats © Military Cemetery.

Private William Laidler; Northumberland Fusiliers, 12th (Service) Battalion; 26 June; 35; Dartmoor Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt. Private John William Croyle; Northumberland Fusiliers, 21st (Service) Battalion (2nd Tyneside Scottish); 27 June; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Private Thomas Murphy; Northumberland Fusiliers, 12th (Service) Battalion; 28 June; As yet, unknown; M aulte Armyrats © Military Cemetery.

Private John Arthur Barcroft; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Lance Corporal William Saunders Bolton; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; 24; Thiepval Memorial. Private Robert Brewis; Northumberland Fusiliers, 22nd (Service) Battalion (3rd Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; 27; Thiepval Memorial.

Private Ralph Campbell; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Private Thomas Charleton; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Lance Corporal John Chrisp; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial.

Private Henry George Clark; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish; 1 July; 38; Thiepval Memorial. Private William Farrow Douglas; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Private John Dunn; Northumberland Fusiliers, 23rd (Service) Battalion (4th Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial.

Private Jonathan Chalder Hutchinson; Alexandra, Princess of Wales s Own (Yorkshire Regiment), 7th (Service) Battalion; 1 July; 29; Fricourt British Cemetery. Private John Stevenson Jobson; Northumberland Fusiliers, 24th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Irish); 1 July; 19; Thiepval Memorial. Private James Kerr; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; 21; Ovillers Armyrats © Military Cemetery, Ovillers-la-Boisselle.

Lieutenant Walter Lamb; Northumberland Fusiliers, 22nd (Service) Battalion (3rd Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; 26; Thiepval Memorial. Private Thomas Henry Lee; Northumberland Fusiliers, 23rd (Service) Battalion (4th Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; 31; Thiepval Memorial. Private Thomas Henry Logan; Northumberland Fusiliers, 23rd (Service) Battalion (4th Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; 32; Thiepval Memorial.

Private James Lothian; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Private Thomas Lowther; Northumberland Fusiliers, 23rd (Service) Battalion (4th Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; 42; Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, Beaumont-Hamel. Private Herbert Luke; Northumberland Fusiliers, 22nd (Service) Battalion (3rd Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; 26; Thiepval Memorial.

Lance Corporal John Armstrong Macdonald; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Private Robert Woodcock Mason; Northumberland Fusiliers, 22nd (Service) Battalion (3rd Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; 21; Thiepval Memorial. Private Francis Alexander McGregor; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; 37; Thiepval Memorial.

Private James F McTear; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Private Thomas Miller; Durham Light Infantry, 15th (Service) Battalion; 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Private Joseph Nicholson; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial.

Private John D Nisbet; Northumberland Fusiliers, 20th (Service) Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Private Robert Alexander Padley; Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment); 1 July; 22; Thiepval Memorial. Private Robert Blagburn Pattinson; Northumberland Fusiliers, 16th (Service) Battalion (Newcastle); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial.Private James William Pattison; Northumberland Fusiliers, 23rd (Service) Battalion (4th Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; 30; Thiepval Memorial.

Private Michael Philipson; Northumberland Fusiliers, 21st (Service) Battalion (2nd Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Private George William Pilkington; Northumberland Fusiliers, 23rd (Service) Battalion (4th Tyneside Scottish); 1 July; As yet, unknown; Thiepval Memorial. Private William Drysdale Pringle; Northumberland Fusiliers, 25th (Service) Battalion (2nd Tyneside Irish); 1 July; As yet, unknown.

Thiepval Memorial

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