Reference Library – Infantry Regiments – Yorkshire Regiment
The invasion of Iraq led to the deaths of 179 British personnel between March 2003 and February 2009. Tony Blair told the Chilcot Inquiry into the conflict he had “deep and profound regret” about the loss of life suffered by British troops and the countless Iraqi civilians. Some of the Britons who died were just 18 years-old.
Here is a roll of honour of the British personnel who died on service during Operation Telic in Iraq:
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
To the French it is a river. But to the British it sums up the horrors of the First World War. In the first in a week-long series marking its centenary, Chris Bond looks back at the Battle of the Somme. as the countdown to 7.30am drew closer, a frisson of tension and fear rippled through the massed ranks of British soldiers as they waited in their filthy trenches for the sound of whistles being blown – the signal for them to go over the top.
British soldiers waiting to advance on the first day of the battle, on July 1, 1916. (PA).
With their bayonets fixed, some let their thoughts wander to loved ones back home, others took a swig of rum or tried to focus their minds on the task ahead, shutting out any thoughts of their possible impending demise. But none of those men who clambered up the ladders and staggered out into the honeyed light on the morning of July 1, 1916, could possibly have known what was to follow.
Not only was the Battle of the Somme the single most catastrophic day in the history of the British Army, it left whole communities in mourning and is now seared into the national consciousness – a symbol of the carnage and horror of the First World War. In all some 120,000 men went over the top on that fine summer s day along a 16-mile front of marshy flatlands in northern France bisected by the River Somme.
Serre Road Cemetary No. 2, near the Somme in northern France. (Mike Cowling).
A significant proportion of those were from Lord Kitchener s Pals battalions who had responded so unflinchingly to his rallying cry two years earlier after war broke out. For many of them this would be their first, and last, battle. Units such as the Sheffield City Battalion, the Leeds, Bradford and Barnsley Pals and the Grimsby Chums, perished on the idealistic notion that they were made of the right stuff , every bit as good as the men and boys from the neighbouring town or district.
By nightfall on that first day the number of men killed stood at 19,240, almost enough to fill Headingley cricket ground – a high price to pay for gaining just three square miles of territory. Some battalions such as the 10th West Yorkshires, which recruited men from in and around Harrogate and Leeds, were all but wiped out in a matter of hours. The West Yorkshires also had the grim distinction of losing more men during the first day on the Somme than any other battalion – of the 1,050 that went into battle, 710 became casualties, 60 per cent of whom were killed. Many didn t make it out of their own trenches, most never got further than 100 yards. For every yard of the 16 mile front between Gommecourt and Montauban there were two casualties in the first 24 hours.
According to Edward Spiers, Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of Leeds, a fifth of the British soldiers involved on that first day came from Yorkshire battalions. Out of 57,470 casualties overall, around 9,000 came from Yorkshire which was considerably more than any other county or region in the country. Compare these dreadful statistics to the British losses at other notable battles in our history – 8,400 at Waterloo, 12,000 over 11 days fighting at El Alamein and 255 in the Falklands campaign – and it perhaps explains why a century on the Somme still looms large in our collective consciousness. The widely held view is that the generals were to blame for that calamitous first day, yet it s worth noting that a high percentage of the casualties were borne by regimental officers.
To understand what went wrong that morning we need to look at why the British launched the offensive in the first place. By the spring of 1916 the French were struggling to contain the Germans as they attempted to smash through to Paris and bring the war to an end. One of the aims of the British offensive along the Somme was to relieve this pressure. Originally, it was to have been a Franco-British attack, but heavy demands on the French at Verdun meant that for the first time in the war, the British would play the leading role. The plan, led by the commander-in-chief, Sir Douglas Haig, and Sir Henry Rawlinson, involved a remorseless artillery bombardment ahead of the attack. For seven days and nights 1,500 British guns fired over a million shells on the German lines.
In addition to this 19 mines dug by members of the Royal Engineers were detonated under enemy positions on the morning of the first attack. This, so the top brass believed, would leave the enemy so demoralised that any resistance would be non-existent. But the Germans had long expected an Allied offensive against their heavily-fortified lines on the Western Front, and despite the ferocity of the bombardment it proved ineffective against such well-trained troops, who were able to retreat into their network of underground bunkers. Although the mines took the Germans by surprise the creeping artillery barrage that preceded the infantry attack moved too quickly giving the enemy time to get back into position. Not only that but in many places the barbed wire, which was supposed to have been destroyed by the artillery bombardment, remained intact. So when our young men went over the top into No Man s Land they walked straight into a murderous hail of gunfire and shrapnel and, as one observer described at the time, were mown down like meadow grass.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post in 1994, George Gledhill, who was the oldest surviving veteran of the Somme, talked lucidly about his memories of that harrowing first day when he saw many of his friends in the 1/5th West Yorkshire Regiment perish. I never once got hit – I was lucky, he said. I made a lot of friends in the army but many of them fell at the Somme. My eldest brother Horace died there.
On that first day of the battle in July, so many thousands were killed – the poor beggars. It was a horrific place, muddy and littered with dead bodies and animals.
We were thankfully based further down from the frontline but had to move to the trenches to supply the frontline troops. Despite the carnage we just carried on and did as we were told. That s all you could do. But that hideous first day wasn t the end of it. In the following weeks and months, the Somme became the graveyard of a generation as the Allies repeatedly sought a breakthrough, while the enemy was ordered to defend every single yard of its front line. Back in Britain news slowly began to filter through of the scale of the devastation, and where families once looked forward to receiving a letter from their loved ones on the front now they dreaded the sight of the post boy heading in their direction clutching a telegram.
Across towns and cities blinds were drawn, church bells tolled, and local newspapers printed ever growing lists of their local fallen heroes. By the time the Somme Offensive ground to a halt amidst the squalor, exhaustion and mud in November, more than a million soldiers from the British, German and French armies had either been wounded or killed. There are some who argue that such high casualty rates were almost inevitable given the size of the armies pitched against one another, and point out that lessons were learned and strategies improved – it was here where tanks were used for the first time – in a conflict that couldn t be avoided.
For others, though, the Battle of the Somme was nothing but an orgy of slaughter with July 1, 1916, the darkest day in what Ted Hughes called that huge, senseless war .
The Somme in numbers
At 7.30am on the morning of July 1, 1916, officers sounded their whistles and the men went over the top. Around 120,000 Allied soldiers fought on the first day of the battle. By the end of that day the number of British casualties stood at 57,470. Yorkshire battalions made up 20 per cent of the British forces involved in the action on July 1.
For five months the British and French armies fought the Germans along a 16-mile front. Sixty per cent of those wounded or killed during the First World War were the victims of artillery. By the time the Somme offensive ground to a halt in November, more than one million British, French and German soldiers had been killed or wounded.