Friends' Articles

From time to time a Friend of Lochnagar has an item that may be of interest to others with an interest in the Great War.


Click on the name to jump to the relevant entry
Bonnell Joseph: Austro-Hungarian Infantry Officer
Collecting Osborne Medals
Disbrey Les: Eulogy.
Fellows Harry: Reflections of a Veteran
Foley John. KIA 1st July 1916
Harwood George: Eulogy.
Kirchner Karl
New Lochnagar Crater Cross (Warren's story)
Rachel Sang - A poem by David Walsh
RAF Mountain Rescue Association Lochnagar Remembrance Stone
Road to Lochnagar - by Rick Allard
Shirley Cook on a Battlefield Tour, October 2017.
Simmes Robert William, Private. 20808.
Vinny's Story - by Vinny Felstead
Wenches in Trenches: Memorial seat.
When the Somme ran red.
Worcestershire Regiment, 10th Battalion 3rd July 1916.

Josef Bonell, Austro-Hungarian Infantry Officer

His Grandson Giuseppe Clemente

Josef Bonell Spring 1918
Josef Bonell, Spring 1918
Image courtesy of Giuseppe Clemente © 2011

I'm living in the past, in the WW1 days, probably I have inherited this from my maternal grandfather, a WW1 Austro-Hungarian infantry officer. In our family nobody really was interested in his past and only in the later years of his life did he open himself with details. I was listening to his accounts for days and I was lucky to be able to visit one of his former front lines on the Tyrolean front, the mountains known as Coni Zugna near Rovereto. Very rocky area, so the trenches are still there, and I listened to many of his memories. Only later I realized that he spared me the most gruesome details of trench warfare.

Josef Bonell was born 1898, Brixen Suedtirol (today the province of Alto Adige Italy). After 24 May 1915 he enrolled in the Volunteer Railroad patrol, private citizen guarding the rail lines. In 1916 after being called on duty he volunteered for the Tiroler Kaiserschuetzen (Tyrolean Riflemen) as on officer candidate, first because it was a local unit, it was Alpine troops, he loved the "edelweiss" as a symbol and the buttons of the uniform were of silver.

Tiroler Kaiserschuetzen
Badge of the Tiroler Kaiserschuetzen

Basic training was already tough, with its main focus on trench warfare, infantry charges and close quarter combat (he disliked all the training for hand to hand combat, but accepted it). When ready for combat duty he was transferred to his unit on the Southern Trentino front near Rovereto, II Tiroler Kaiserschuetzen Regiment (2nd regiment Tyrolean riflemen). His battalion, supplying the regiment with men to replace the losses, was the No 24 (Marsch Battalion Nr 24), so since August 1914, this regiment was in a need of 24 battalions by fall 1916 to replace the losses.

Here it was plain trench warfare, many nights in no mans land, trench raids, small scale attacks and counterattacks, snipers and rats, many rats. By June 1917 the Regiment was send to the Asiago Plateau, to counterattack the Italian offensive on the Ortigara Mountain. Very rocky open terrain, no cover, extended use of gas shells, endless attacks by the Italians and no water, every single drop of water had to be delivered. Many times trench raids were made to look for food or water. A comment that impressed me here was "at night I was convinced I was marching in a muddy area, I soon realised it was human remains".

October / November 1917 on the Isonzo front for the big Austro-German offensive. He witnessed the big bombardment with gas shells and a German unit was fighting near his regiment, he is not sure but almost positive that he met a Captain named Rommel (after reading his memoirs, Infantry attacks). During this offensive it's self explanatory to understand his comment, "I was so tired and hungry, I prayed God many times to send me a bullet to put an end to all this and let me be in peace". Also very dramatic are the encounters with Italian soldiers being gassed and begging to be shot. I still can see my grandfather's watery eyes, telling about an Italian Captain, on his knee, with foam coming out of his mouth and nose, asking/begging in the old Latin language to be shot. To respect to my grandfather's past I never asked him more details about this.

After December 1917, again trench warfare on the Monte Grappa front, after a trench raid he was promoted Lt and got the Silver Star. At this point trench warfare was getting more horrible, knives, shovels, picks, and hand made weapons were quite usual.

My grandfather was from a very peaceful, well educated family, with formal manners. I can only imagine how difficult all this was for him. In spring 1918 he contracted one of the many trench diseases, trench foot, pneumonia and a heavy infection on his chest, and was sent to a military hospital. Late September 1918 he was selected for a Captain's course. On 4 Nov 1918 the war ended. His military transport was 50 kilometres away from his home town, so he just walked home, witnessing what soldiers without officers or discipline can do. All the nationalities of the Austrian Empire were trying to reach their homeland before being captured by the Italians.

So this is a brief story of an Austro-Hungarian Infantry soldier, he became a school teacher and superintendent, and would not harm any living entity. We grandchildren, knew that around grandpa, don't kill any spider of fly or aunts, or we would get a long preaching.

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Collecting Osborne Medals

Victory Medal
Victory Medal (Obverse on left, Reverse on right)
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2010

Recently I bought two Osborne Victory medals on ebay, both named to W. Osborne, with consecutive numbers 2509 and 2510, and both in the Sussex Regiment. The vender offered no more details. At the time I assumed they might be brothers, lots of brothers joined together and some even died together and are buried together; there is at least one pair in Flatiron Copse Cemetery. A sad fact, as I can think of nothing else in the world that would hurt me more than the loss of one or more of my children.

A quick search of the Medal Index Cards revealed that 2509 was to a William Osborne and 2510 was to a Walter Osborne, and this is where it started to get interesting for me. They both changed to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and kept consecutive numbers. However now William was 241852 and Walter was 241851. In the years that I have been researching Medals and soldiers I had never come across this before.

I had previously done a CWGC search, and drawn a blank because I had been looking for the wrong regiment and numbers. Searching again using the new regiment and numbers, I found that William is buried at Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt. So now I had a little more information, he was in the 2nd / 6th Battalion Warwick's but still no age or family details. I still didn't have enough to pinpoint them in the 1901 census as it came up with 17 William and Walters as brothers. Also it dawned on me that both Victory medals are impressed with the wrong numbers and regiment. As the Victory medal was the last to be issued, they should be impressed with their last regiment and number. I have in my collection, medals that have been returned for the correct numbers etc to be added, and this also ties up with the Medal Index cards that state "returned for correction"

So then I turned to good old Google and entered William's details. Pay dirt, someone has already done all the hard work!! On a web site are all of his details, his Father's and Mother's name and address and where they lived, so now I can find out if they are brothers or cousins or may be even twins. But there is another slight twist, on the site are also listed three other Osborne's and two of them are William's brothers. And the sad fact is that they all died in 1917. So if Walter is William's brother he was the only one to survive out of four brothers who went to war. How must their mother and father have felt to lose 3 sons, and how must have Walter felt, firstly to fight the rest of his war knowing that he is the sole survivor of four brothers, and secondly, when he returned home to his parents. You can only guess how high emotions must have run.

Further research has proved that, sadly William died of wounds 9 December 1917, just think how Walter would have taken this as these boys would have done everything together! William was 29 when he died and Walter was 22 or 23.

Another twist is that William and Walter had two other brothers who joined up, an elder brother Frank and a younger brother called George. They also had two sisters, Mabel and Alice-Lucy. George also served in the Royal Sussex Regiment and Frank, originally in the Dorset Regiment later joined the Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians).

Both George and Frank were killed and guess what? Both in 1917, so all three brothers were lost in 1917. What a sad year for this branch of the Osborne family. George was aged 21 when he was killed on 22 October 1917, at Ypres, and is commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial.

Frank was 31 and was killed in action at Messines on 6 June 1917 and is buried in Irish House Cemetery Ypres Belgium.

Their parents where called John and Kate. John would have been aged 56 and Kate aged 54 when the brothers died, sister Mabel would have been 27 and sister Alice-Lucy 18. John and William were both wood sawyers, and Frank was a groom. I have not been able yet to find out more but will send for the War dairies for the week they all died and hopefully something else will come up, and I will be looking to see if any of their service records have survived. I now plan to visit Singleton Church to see the scrolls that are there, and the Singleton War Memorial as they were all born in Singleton or in Charlton.

I cannot imagine what Walter's first leave would have been like or when he finally made it home. Had Walter and William been killed on the same day they would have joined the 225 known sets of brothers to have been killed on the same day in the Great War. How would he have felt walking down his path to the front door knowing he was the only one to be returning.

I can only think that the household was a very sad place. The loss of our own dear brother-in-law in the Falklands has left a pain that the women of our family still bear to this day.

Researching the lives of the men whose medals I collect helps to keep their memory alive and also adds a little something to collecting their medals. Sometimes a great deal of information can be found, but on other occasions very little. I brought a medal last week to Private H. Osborne 1773 4th London Regiment and can find nothing out about him at all, he hasn't even got a medal Index Card.

Warren Osborne © 2010

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Harry Fellows: Reflections of a Veteran

Harry Fellows 1896-1987
Harry Fellows

Harry Fellows was born on the 5th May 1896, the son of a Nottingham coal miner. His mother had been in domestic service until she married. In Harry's youth, the principal industries in Nottingham were Raleigh Cycles, John Player Cigarettes and coal mining.

Times of course were hard, but as long as you remained in work you got by. Harry supplemented the family's income by becoming a butcher's delivery boy. He also collected and delivered, in a little cart his father had made for him, the washing that his mother took in to make ends meet. The family grew and Harry became the eldest of four, with a sister and two brothers.

In later years when asked by a student if he learned his poetry skills from listening to his mother read to him Harry replied. "The only time I can remember my mother sitting down was at meal times and on a Sunday afternoon, and even then she was either darning or mending old clothes. The kitchen of the house in winter was always covered in clothes hanging up either drying or airing. The poor soul didn't have time to read to me!" In addition to all this his mother took in two girl lodgers from Birmingham who came to find work at Raleigh.

If it was necessary to help support the family, and providing a certificate of education had been achieved, a child was able to leave school at the age of thirteen. Harry therefore left school on Friday and started work at Raleigh on Monday for the weekly wage of five shillings. The year was 1909.

Harry worked hard and moved from department to department learning the various skills of bicycle manufacture, and finished up in the wheel-making department. Little did he know that in a few years time these skills would possibly play a great part in saving his life. However, there was always the threat of 'lay off' or 'short time working', and the disastrous effects that had on a family's income and ability to cope.

In 1912, Harry's mother died at the age of 42. He never did believe the old saying that hard work never killed anyone. There then followed a long unsettled period of lay offs and short time. In 1914 Harry's father changed pits because of the possibility of more reliable work, the only problem being that to preserve family finances he had to walk seven miles each way to work, and then on arrival a further mile to the pit face. One day he arrived home, having walked in freezing rain, and running a high temperature. Harry sent for the doctor who arrived two days later and his father was taken to hospital where he died of pneumonia at the age of 47.

Harry was now an orphan, and the breadwinner for a family of four. He was eighteen years of age and still on short time working. His sister went into domestic service, in which capacity she stayed for the rest of her life, and Harry made arrangements with some members of the family living in Melton Mowbray to look after the boys.

War had been declared. Harry had made up his mind; he was going to join the army. Years later when asked if he joined up out of patriotism and for King and Country, he was adamant in his reply. "Not for patriotism, but to escape poverty, and not for King and Country, for neither had done very much for him. I didn't want to kill anyone, I wanted to get clothed and fed and have a shilling or two in my pocket". When he went to sign on there were hundreds there like him of the same opinion.

Being only 18 and the official age for joining being 19 was not a problem. No one asked! Everyone of course wanted to join the Cavalry, but that was to be denied them, their lot in life was to be Poor Bloody Infantry. There was a choice of two Regiments, The Notts & Derby's or the Northumberland Fusiliers. Harry's mind was easily made up for him. He fancied the long train journey to Newcastle, and so he became a Private Soldier in 'C' Company, 12th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, 62nd Brigade, 21st Division.

Out of chaos, order and organisation gradually took place, and after training at Alnwick, Tring and Halton Camp the Battalion took shape and were up to full strength. Harry had been selected for specialist training, and having passed his course, was now a fully qualified Lewis Gunner. They were now considered well enough trained to go overseas on active service. On the evening of the 5th September 1915 the Battalion transport left Southampton for Le Havre. They joined up with the rest of the Battalion at Eperleques in Northern France.

On the 20th the Battalion left Eperleques for a series of five night route marches, marching through the night, no singing or smoking, and only sleeping and eating during the day. To where they did not know! On the road with them was the 24th Division and much confusion and stopping took place, but the sound of the guns kept increasing.

Eventually the Company Commander Captain Pole addressed them. He said they were entering a battle that commenced in the early hours of that morning, and they were going in to relieve a Scottish Battalion, which had done rather well. "We all cheered like mad", said Harry, "little did we know ... We were nearing Loos".

We joined the Royal Scots, but did not relieve them. Some of our men got into the trench with them if room allowed, we others lay along the back of it. We were at the bottom of a shallow incline, the brow of which was 400 yards away. Skirting the top we could see belts of barbed wire. We were looking for the first time at the infamous 'Hill 70'.

About mid morning the order was given for 'C' Company Lewis Gunners to go to the transport and collect their guns and ammunition. My No. 2 and best pal Pip Henson, a Geordie from Ashington, and I started to make our way to the transport. When we got there an appalling sight met us. An ammunition limber had been hit by a shell and had exploded, inflicting carnage around. Men and mules were lying dead and dying, and men were shooting the wounded animals. We returned empty handed.

As we passed H.Q. the adjutant asked me to take a message to our Company Commander. I waited, Pip left me to walk back to the trench...and out of my life...I never saw him again.

The message the Adjutant gave me read :- "The C.O. wishes the attack to be carried out with the bayonet in the true Northumbrian manner".

"I reached the trench looking for Captain Pole just as the attack got under way, with the men cheering as they moved up the hill, and not a shot being fired. I went after them. The leading men would be about 100 yards from the German wire when their machine guns opened up on us. I was about a 100 yards from our trench and saw the Battalion being decimated, men falling to the ground like scythed corn, some rising to fall again and many lying in their agonies on the ground. I hit the earth behind a young lad who had received a bullet through the head, he would move no more. It seemed like hours, but in fact it was only ten minutes. Ten minutes, which killed 150 of the Northumberlands. Ten minutes which gave us casualties of over 600".

The firing stopped and those that were able moved back down the hill, some helping each other. There were no stretchers, they had been left with the transport!! There was nothing that could be done for those who were left on that deadly, deathly slope of "Hill 70".

The German Commander of this sector at the time is reputed to have said, "My machine gunners were so filled with remorse, pity and nausea at the Corpse Field of Loos that they refused to fire another shot". Harry believed him!.

It was back at the rendezvous in Vermelles that Harry was at last able to deliver his message to Captain Pole. "But isn't that what we tried to do", he said with tears in his eyes.

They were eventually withdrawn to begin their prelude to their first winter in the trenches at a place called Houplines. It was a quiet sector, and a live and let live attitude prevailed. They settled down to trench life, if in fact it can be called trench life. The water table in this area was so high that water was usually found after about only a foot of digging, so the alternative was to build parapets of sandbags. Fortunately the enemy didn't bother them, but the rats did, the place was swarming with them. In Harry's own words, "As soon as you killed one, another ten would come to the funeral".

Harry reported. "Early in 1916, whilst out at rest, a notice was one morning posted on Battalion Orders. It read: - 'All men previously employed in the Mining and Shipbuilding Industries wishing to return to their previous employment may seek particulars from the Orderly Room.' I think that it would be safe to say that 50% of the men in the Battalion fell into that category, and one would have imagined a stampede to return home. However, nothing like this happened. Whether they were looking for certain trades, or if the men thought they would be letting the side down I don't know. The fact is that only about 20 took up the offer. If the same offer had been repeated six months later I would not have guaranteed the same result".

Harry had such a mate who would surely have qualified. He was Robert 'Geordie' Appleton a miner from Earsdon in Northumberland who admitted he was well into his forties, and indeed had a grandson. Regrettably, Geordie declined the offer, an offer that would have saved his life. On May 21st just prior to the great Somme Battle, Geordie was killed in action, and lies forever in Norfolk Cemetery.

Harry at Norfolk beside Geordie Appleton's Grave
Harry at Norfolk beside Geordie Appleton's Grave

It was then down to Amiens for reorganization and accepting in new drafts to restore the Battalion to full strength. They were then moved on to Meault near Albert. Training was in progress for the forthcoming Somme Battle. It was then that they learned that they were going to be in support of the 10th Green Howards who were to attack Fricourt on July 1st 1916.

"We were glad we were only in support, but we prayed that the Howards would be successful, otherwise we would have to go in, in any case. The bombardment started up, the scale of which is now legendary, and we were rather confident it was going to be a walkover. It continued in increasing ferocity, until, just before 'Zero' the ground began to shake".

"For a few seconds there was a strange silence, then cheering. Then the sound of machine gun fire reached us; this worried us because it wasn't the sound of our guns, they were enemy guns, weren't they supposed to have been destroyed in the weeklong bombardment?

We started forward up the communication trench and already we were meeting the odd walking wounded coming back. Just as we got to the junction with the front trench we stood aside to let two stretcher-bearers carrying the body of a dead Officer pass. One of our own Officers was following this little cortege, and as he passed he said in a trembling emotional voice. 'We Northumberlands should go down on our knees and praise that Officer this morning".

They found out later what had happened. At 'Zero' when the Howards began to climb out of the trench to start the attack, the enemy machine gunners, who had been left unscathed by the bombardment, poured a withering fire across the top of the trench. The Green Howards began to falter and momentum was being lost. Their Commanding Officer, Major Stewart Walter Loudoun-Shand, jumped on top of the parapet and started to pull his men up and exhort them to greater effort. Very soon he was hit, but he still insisted on being propped up and continued to urge his men forward. They responded and their objectives were taken. Alas, Major Loudoun-Shand succumbed to his wounds and died. For this brave action he was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. The importance of this brave action was not lost on the Northumberlands, or in particular on Harry Fellows.

Harry always believed it was this man's actions which saved many lives. In later years when he was able to visit the battlefield areas he always on July 1st laid, in an emotional little ceremony, a wreath on Loudoun-Shand's grave. This act of remembrance is still carried out by a member of Harry's family to this day.

The old Somme battlefield has many woods, both large and small. Fricourt, Mametz, Bernafay, Trones, Delville and Thiepval to name but some. Nowadays these are tranquil, peaceful places, of solitude and birdsong. Not so in 1916, and on the 11th July the 12th Battalion Machine Gunners got their orders to enter Mametz Wood and relieve the 115th Brigade who had captured the wood, but in doing so had suffered such alarming losses that they would be unable to hold it in the event of a counter-attack. Horrendous fighting had been going on for days, which had left the wood a shambles. Shelling had brought down the branches of trees and the forest floor was virtually impenetrable. Mixed up in all this were the dead of both sides, many of whom had lain in the summer heat for days. Harry's section moved off through the wood to a new position, leaving their colleagues behind. After not too many yards a salvo of shells fell on the position they had just left, killing all but one of the other gunners.

After three days in the wood they were eventually relieved, but instead of going back they had to remain and 'tidy up the wood'. This meant only one thing, 'bury the dead'. Harry was by now no stranger to violent death and appalling sights, but what he witnessed in Mametz Wood remained with him for the rest of his life.

March 1917 found Harry on the Bapaume - Arras road near Boiry Becquerelle. They had wintered in the trenches at Hulloch and now as the fighting moved eastwards they were preparing for the battle of Arras.

Harry now had a new No. 2 in his gun team. A lad called Dick Turnbull from Wallsend on Tyne. The weather was bitterly cold. At night they devised a method of sleeping to try and keep warm. Each man had a blanket, groundsheet and greatcoat, not a great deal to help you keep warm. But if you multiplied that by four, that is four men sleeping tightly together, you were able to keep much warmer. The method was two groundsheets on the ground to start with, then two blankets. Then the men got in covered by two blankets, which in turn were covered by four greatcoats. Two groundsheets topped off the whole lot. The two outside sleepers were responsible for lacing up the top and bottom groundsheet. There you were very much warmer, but if the call of nature came during the night, one either had to endure the wrath of his mates or suffer. One particular night, Harry woke up with stomach pains, which he endured for a while, but which he eventually had to attend to. His decision to move was made a little easier by the fact that he was an 'outside man'. He walked away to attend to his business. Within a few minutes the area was hit with a salvo of shells. Harry went running back to his mates to find a shell had landed only feet from where they had been sleeping. Two were killed and Dick Turnbull his mate suffered terrible leg injuries.

Harry at Boyelles, friends Dyson & Gunnel killed alongside Harry just before the Hindenburg Line attacks. Dick Turnbull was severely wounded in this attack and lost his legs.
Harry at Boyelles, friends Dyson & Gunnel killed alongside Harry
just before the Hindenburg Line attacks. Dick Turnbull was severely
wounded in this attack and lost his legs.

Stretcher-bearers quickly came and took the victims away. Dick eventually got back to Wallsend to spend the rest of his life without legs in a hand propelled invalid chair. The two soldiers killed were John Dyson and George Gunnell, and they were the first soldiers to be buried in Boyelles Communal Cemetery Extension on 31st March 1917.

It would seem that Harry had been blessed with a charmed life. He believed in the maxim: 'Old soldiers are cautious soldiers, that's why they are old soldiers'.

The battle for Bullecourt had been going on for many weeks. Both Australian and British forces had been fed into a dreadful inferno and the casualties on both sides had been enormous. Bullecourt had earned the sobriquet 'The Blood Tub'.

Harry's luck did eventually run out in June 1917. An attack had just started and he was following the 'creeping barrage', when he felt a heavy blow to the head. That was all he knew for some time. When he regained consciousness he was lying in a shell hole with a pounding head and his tunic covered in blood. It suddenly dawned upon him that he had got his 'Blighty'. He staggered back to the aid station where a small crowd of walking wounded had already gathered. He was told that if he waited for a stretcher he could be there some time, but, if he were able, he would be better off trying to make his own way back. This he did, and although feeling wretched, managed to get to the aid post where his wound was dressed and he was laid down to await an ambulance. He was in considerable pain, but the thought of a precious Blighty wound cheered him up considerably.

The ambulance took him to Achiet le Grand where the medical facilities were situated next to a complex of railway sidings. After a while he was placed aboard a train which was staffed by female nurses. When he asked one of the nurses if he was going home to England she replied 'No, Rouen!'.

This was a great disappointment to him, as he thought if he got to Rouen he would be treated there and then sent back to the front. However that was not to be, for his journey continued from there to Le Havre, across the channel to Southampton and on to Eastleigh in Hampshire. After some time here awaiting assessment he was sent on to Lincoln for an operation.

From August to November was spent recuperating at Alnwick in Northumberland, until the need for more and more men, to replace the mounting losses on the Western Front, brought Harry into the reckoning again. So after draught leave, over which he delayed his return, and which cost him his Corporal's stripes, he found himself once again in France, at the hellhole of Etaples.

Here there was a regime of bullying and intimidation by the base staff, who tried to convince those unlucky enough to be there that it was a much better billet at the front. Harry remarked that one of the saddest things he remembered was men with three or four wound stripes being hounded by yellow tabbed base staff who had never been anywhere near the front.

A parade was called one day to which all men had to bring their paybooks. The C.O. went along the ranks noting the mens' peacetime jobs. Miners, shipyard workers, toolmakers draughtsmen etc., were sent home for discharge and to resume their civilian occupation. Men with trades such as bricklayers, plumbers and joiners were retained and transferred into the Royal Engineers. Electricians and fitters, if suitable went into the Flying Corps. The others without skills were transferred into the Labour Corps.

When the C.O. approached Harry he asked him his trade. "I'm a wheel truer sir", said Harry. "What the hell's a wheel truer?" replied the C.O. When Harry told him what his job entailed and whom he worked for, the Colonel said. "Raleigh!, damn fine bikes, I ride one myself, Sgt. Major, put this man down for a Flying Corps test". Harry breathed a great sigh of relief when he realised his soldiering days at the front were at an end. Thank God for Raleigh and the wheel truing shop!

Along the right hand side of the road from Etaples to Bolougne was a long line of hospitals for British, Australian, Canadian and South African units. On the left hand side between the dunes and the road was a large cemetery. Midway between the hospitals and the road was a mortuary. During Harry's stay there he was placed on permanent 'Burial Detail'. He would report to the mortuary where they would collect the first body of the day. This would be placed on a wheeled stretcher and covered with the Union Flag.

Then the cortege would set off led by a Corporal, followed by the Padre, four Guards of Honour and four escorts. When it reached the main road, which was an extremely busy road, the Corporal would step out and halt the traffic. As the procession crossed over, Drivers would get down from the vehicles and salute. Even Staff Officers would dismount and show their respect.

When they reached the cemetery, where the requisite number of graves for that day's business had been dug, the Padre read the committal, a volley of shots was fired and the ceremony completed. Then they would return the way they had come and repeat the process. In the time Harry was at Etaples, he reckoned he assisted in about 200 burials, but he said he never once stood at the graveside without thinking 'of those poor boys in Mametz'.

Harry with Duke of Kent at Thiepval
Harry with Duke of Kent at Thiepval

At last, and not before time, orders came through for him to go and take his trade test at St. Omer. This he passed quite easily and he moved into the Royal Flying Corps repairing motorcycle wheels, which despatch riders had managed to bend.

We now are coming to the end of Harry's service life. In the great German push of March 1918, Harry's unit was moved to within two miles of the sea where, it seemed, he enjoyed the life of Riley. When events turned once more in favour of the Allies, the unit was posted near to Rouen. The Armistice duly came, but demob came slowly for the men. Raleigh sought his release and he was eventually demobbed in March 1919.

He immediately started work again in the wheel shop at Raleigh. It could be said that Harry Fellows had been recycled. He went on to devote all his working life to Raleigh and reached the position of General Foreman. He retired in 1962 after 53 years loyal service.

Harry's memorial in Mametz Wood
Harry's memorial in Mametz Wood

A flavour of Harry's poems can be found in the following poem 'THEY GROW NOT OLD', which Harry wrote for the 70th. anniversary of the Somme.

As I sit in my chair content with my pipe,
In smoke clouds some faces come clear
Of those who are gone, cut off in their youth
But whose memory I hold so dear.
Like the flow of a stream, time passes by,
It's seventy years on I am told
But the faces I see still seem to be young
But I, who was left, have grown old.

My pal, 'Pip' Henson, a North country lad,
Our dialects so far apart,
He called me 'Marra', I called him 'Mate',
But our friendship came from the heart.
"I'll be gannin' Marra!"
He walked from my side
The great reaper took him to his fold,
But the face that I see is still just nineteen
But I, who was left, have grown old.

Grey hairs, baldness, arthritis,
Glasses and similar aids,
These things never entered their minds,
Their thoughts centred more on the maids.
The mud and the rats of the trenches
And other discomforts untold
Seem never to alter the visage of youth,
But I, who was left, have grown old.

The walls of the Thiepval Memorial
Carry thousands of names which tell
Of those who were lost, with no known grave
Just dumped in the ground where they fell.
In my smoke clouds I see them all marching,
Singing with manner so bold,
Full of the vim and vigour of youth
But I, who was left, have grown old.

They fought and died for their country
To make a land in which heroes could live,
Just like pipe dreams of those at Westminster
Had they lived, would they ever forgive?
We returned to find nothing had altered,
Some men had a base greed for gold,
And we still had to fight - for a living,
It's a wonder we lived to grow old.

Harry Fellows. 1896 - 1987.

REFLECTIONS of a Veteran:  HARRY FELLOWS:  His Life and His Poems CD of Harry talking about his experiences in Mametz Wood

A small A5 sized book entitled 'REFLECTIONS of a Veteran: HARRY FELLOWS: His Life and His Poems', plus a CD of Harry talking about his experiences in Mametz Wood, can be purchased for £10 (postage and packing included). Cheques made payable to 'The Friends of Lochnagar' and sent to George Heron at 8 Glendue Close, Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough, Cleveland, TS7 0QN. For further information, George can be contacted by email .

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25th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (2nd Tyneside Irish)
Killed in Action 1 July 1916, aged 29

Capt John Foley
Capt John Foley
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2015

John Foley was born in 1887 in Ballyhea, Charleville, Cork, Ireland, the son of David and Minnie Foley.

When the 1901 census was taken John, aged 14, was living with his parents, 39 year old David and 37 year old Minnie, and eight siblings, in Newtown, Ardskeagh, Cork. The family employed three servants.

By the time of the 1911 census John was boarder at 8 Allendale Terrace, Haswell, near Sunderland, the home of John and Eleanor Turner and their three children. John was working as an 'Assistant Teacher' with the County Council. In 1911, John's future wife Mona was recorded as a 20 year old student teacher living in Haswell with her parents and five siblings. Her father was a 56 year old veterinary surgeon.

On 2 November 1912, at the age of 25 John, a student at the Sunderland Day Training College, attested in Sunderland into the 7th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI), a Territorial Army unit, and was given service number 1672. He was 5 feet 7 inches tall, had a chest measurement of 38 inches with an expansion of 3 inches, good vision and good physical development. His next-of-kin at this time was his father David, of Ballyhea, Charleville, Cork, Ireland.

On 19 September 1914 John was promoted to Lance Corporal. Territorial Army soldiers were not compelled to serve overseas but on 10 November John signed Army Form E. 624 agreeing that he would serve overseas, and on 17 December he was promoted to acting Corporal. John was commissioned temporary 2nd Lieutenant into the 25th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers on 2 January 1915, announced in the London Gazette dated 2 April 1915, and was promoted Temporary Captain on 1 June 1915, announced in the London Gazette dated 18 June 1915.

John married Mona Emily Hunting on 4 October 1915 in the Registry Office in the St. Martins registration district, London. John and Mona were both teachers from Durham and presumably they met through their work as teachers. John and Mona had a daughter Joan born on 29 August 1916 in the Sunderland registration district, but John was destined to never see his daughter.

John's battalion, the 25th Northumberland Fusiliers was in the 103rd Brigade, 34th Division. The battalion left England from Sutton Veny camp on 11 January 1916, travelled by train to Southampton and landed at Havre, France the next day. John is mentioned in the battalion war diary on 28 April when he and six other officers went on leave until 4 May.

The 25th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers attacked German trenches on 1st July 1916 just north of and adjoining La Boisselle, and the German strongpoint known as 'Y Sap'. They were not in the first wave of attackers that went 'over the top' at 07-30am but were a few hundred yards further back on Usna Hill, attacking at 7-45am. The battalions of the 34th Division leading the attack had orders to capture the first and second lines of German trenches, which would allow John's battalion to 'pass through' them and on to Contalmaison, a village about a mile and a half away`. Twenty officers and 730 other ranks attacked.

The German defenders were supposed to have been destroyed by the previous seven day bombardment, plus the explosion of 'Y Sap' and 'Lochnagar' mines. But the German defenders were not destroyed, and emerging from deep dugouts were able to pour torrents of machine gun and rifle fire onto the attacking battalions. John's battalion was scythed down by the intense fire, and failed to take any of their objectives, not through lack of trying; the task was impossible.

The war diary tells us that by 10-30am the survivors were collected in British front trenches near 'Keats Redan', a British strongpoint, but the work of collecting wounded and stragglers went on all night. Bombing parties were posted on flanks and the trench held under a heavy fire. 16 officers and 610 other ranks were missing.

Captain John Foley was one of those killed in the attack. He is one of the many thousands whose body was not recovered and therefore has no known grave. John is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial to the missing, one of 72,000 plus men named on the memorial.

On 4 September 1916 John's widow was granted a gratuity of 250 and a pension of 100 per year for herself. Then on 13 October her daughter Joan was granted a compassionate allowance of 24 a year with effect from 29 August, and a gratuity of 83 6s 8d.

On 16 September 1916 a few items of John's personal possessions were returned to his widow, consisting of, 1 Flask, 1 Revolver and 1 Identity disc.

John had been working as a teacher for the London County Council (LCC) and his name appears in the book 'RECORD of WAR SERVICE, London County Council Staff 1914-1918', which simply states:
Foley, John (1914-1916); Captain, Northumberland Fusiliers; France 6 Months; Died of Wounds, 1st July 1916.
The Assistant Education Officer of the LCC wrote to the War Office on 13 November 1916 seeking a name and address for his next-of-kin, in order that a letter of sympathy could be sent. The reply stated that his next-of-kin was his wife, living at Ivy Cottage, Haswell, County Durham.

John died intestate and on 1 May 1917 Letters of Administration were granted to his wife Mona Emily in the sum of 109 3s 6d.

John's uncle, William Trelfall Carr, a QMS with the RGA, wrote to the War Office on 14 October 1918 seeking information about John, as letters he had sent to John were returned, 'Present address not known'. The War Office duly replied that John had been 'Killed in action on 1st July 1916'.

On 1 February 1921, whilst living at Ivy Cottage, Haswell, Co Durham, John's wife wrote to the War Office:
Dear Sir,
     I have been informed that a year or more ago you advertised in either one of the weekly papers or one of the dailies for the nearest of kin of Captain John Foley 25th Northumberland Fusiliers who fell in action on July 1st 1916. If the above is true and it is not too late to apply I may say that I, his widow, am his nearest of kin. I you desire confirmation of this fact I shall be pleased to do so, and shall send you any other particulars you may ask for.
     I remain
          Yours faithfully
               Mona E. Foley
John's surviving service record papers provide no further information relating to the above letter.

John's widow Mona married Alfred Carnot Mansfield on 5 January 1929 in Bradford, Yorkshire. On the marriage certificate Mona was described as a 37 year old widow, working as a school teacher. Alfred was a 34 year old widower, working as a manager.

A brief biography of one of the many thousands of men killed on 1st July 1916.

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Karl Kirchner

Born 16 September 1899. Died 25 December 1988.

Karl aged 18.Karl aged 64
Karl Kirchner aged 18 and 64
Images courtesy of Gertrud Quast © 2010

Karl was a farmer and served as "Kanonier" (Gunner) in the 2nd Regiment, 2nd Bavarian Foot Artillery, IInd Mobile Replacement Battalion, 2nd Recruit Training Depot (according to his military service book).

He kept a diary whilst at the front, part of which can be read by clicking this link.

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The new Lochnagar Crater Cross (Warren's story)

The original Cross in early morning mist
The original Cross in early morning mist.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2010

It is hard to imagine our Crater without its iconic Cross. In the 10 months that it has been missing I still have not got used to it not being there. Very few of the Friends had ever seen the site without it. After all it was always the first thing you saw as you approached the Crater from the village. So when the phone call came from Richard that it had blown over in a storm it was a bit of a panic to begin with.

As word spread through the Friends, Richard's phone must have been glued to his ear. Over the next few weeks many ideas came in about what to do and what to replace the Cross with. Many ideas, that included a metal or plastic cross, a statue along the lines of the Shot at Dawn or the Longueval Piper. But really there was only one piece to replace the Cross with, and that of course was another wooden Cross.

I know many people tried to locate wood and in fact I located some red pitch pine from a 400 year old manor house in Newcastle, similar wood that the original Cross had been made of.

But cometh the hour, cometh the man and up to the bar stepped Vinny Felstead, who located some green oak and a wood merchants, Job Earnshaws who were willing to help in every way. But that part of the story is for Vinny to tell.

Iain Fry and I travelled to France last September to see for ourselves the damage and what sort of job it would be to replace it. Once again there were many plans put forward, but again it came to Vinny.

Warren and Iain
Warren & Iain with the remains of the broken
Cross at The Old Blighty Café, La Boisselle.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2011.

Driving up to the Crater was very strange as I had never seen the site without its Cross and it was so noticeable that it was missing. The base was a sorry site and Iain and I cleaned it up as much as possible to make it look cared for.

The base showing the extent of the rot.
The base showing the extent of the rot.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

Some of the stones had been displaced and as the remains of the Cross had already been removed out of the Crater itself by Jon Haslock down to Old Blighty Café, we thought it best to also take the stone there as well. And at the time we also thought that a piece of stone had been stolen as there was a piece missing, but as it turned out Martin Pegler had picked it up and taken it back to Orchard Farm to stop it being stolen. The November ceremony we hold each year was also strange as the Cross is the focal point of the site.

A cold wet November 11th 2010 with wreaths being laid at the tided up base of the Cross.
A cold wet November 11th 2010 with wreaths being laid at the tided up base of the Cross.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

And really the story stops there till this year. As Vinny will be telling the story of the making of the Cross and metal sleeve that it will sit in, my own involvement in this part is very limited. The small amount of work I did in drilling the holes for the securing rods for the base, well that is just a small amount. There were several challenges that day as the concrete base proved too hard and heavy to remove. But once again Vinny proved king with his years of building experience.

From left to right Roger, Vinny and Richard in deep deliberation.
From left to right Roger, Vinny and Richard in deep deliberation.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

Iain working hard on the base.
Iain working hard on the base.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

The story must know turn to transporting the finished Cross over to France. Originally we had been quoted by a company a very reasonable price for moving it. But as it turned out they were not very enthusiastic and to date I am still waiting for the paperwork from them to open an account with them so they can move it! But as we were going to use an outside company they asked for the Cross to be placed in a packing crate. Another small problem to overcome, well two really, one was wood to make the crate and the other was making it. Vinny once again was the answer to the last problem. The first I solved. At work we have an engineering company that look after all the machinery in the factory. As it happened they had had some bits of machinery delivered and I went to see Stefan Sockienk, who is the chief engineer. He was only too willing to give us the wood for our good cause. Now it was just a case of getting the wood to Vinny's.

This was not too hard to sort out as I have one of our lorries pass very close to Vinny and Lynn's house every day. One of the packing cases was just about the right size for the Cross's cross piece, the other packing cases had to be dismantled because, as they stood they were no good for what we had in mind for them. So after a few hours work and a lot of splinters they were dismantled and ready for shipping to Vin's. This I did with one of my company drivers, Michael Smith a few days later. Michael has been with me a couple of times to France and was only too willing to help as well. And once again the hard work had fallen on Vinny's shoulders.

When I finally got to Job Earnshaws to collect the Cross I was very impressed with Vinny's work on the packing crate, it was a very professional job and kept the Cross safe all the way to France.

As our haulage company had dropped out, well more failed us then dropped out I spoke to Richard about this at length and we came up with the plan that I would transport it to France. Another friend of mine at work Royce Sims was only too willing to lend me his car as it had a tow bar fitted and mine didn't, so now I had a vehicle all I had to find was a trailer and after a couple of phone calls I found one to do the job at my local Indespension Trailer hire company. Here, Damian Ransome, the branch manager was more than helpful, and put up with me nipping in a couple of times to make sure everything was okay. A problem now occurred. Because of the size of the trailer, Royce's car was not big enough to pull it as the trailer was rated at 3 tonnes and Royce's big Volvo was only rated up to 2.5 tons. After a few more phone calls, I found I could hire a Land Rover from a company, but they did not do insurance as they normally rent to companies who would run the Land Rovers on their own insurance. After 30 or more phone calls to insurance companies and having no luck in finding insurance, the words "hire vehicle" and "short term" seem to send most of them into near suicidal melt down.

However some other friends of mine was now to come to the rescue. Barry & Christine England who again have both been with me on a Somme visit, own a Land Cruiser Amazon. Barry said it was the least he could do to let me borrow it to take the Cross. He duly insured the Land Cruiser and made sure that the trailer was insured as well. So a big thank you to Barry and Christine for such an unselfish and most generous act. I had set a date for delivering the cross to France for the 11th June. Though I had to collect the cross from Job Earnshaw's at Midgley near Wakefield on Friday morning.

Different stages of loading at the wood yard.Different stages of loading at the wood yard.
Different stages of loading at the wood yard.
Images courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

Next it was a 75 mile drive back home, for me this was quite useful as l could see how the trailer towed loaded and how well the Land Cruiser handled towing. Any worries evaporated within a few short miles. So back home it was to load the car and get everything sorted for the journey ahead. And, also to add another precious cargo, two daughters and a son.

Jamie and Olivia Osborne
Jamie and Olivia Osborne.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

After sorting everything out it was time to get some sleep before the overnight drive to Dover. After an uneventful drive down to Dover we arrived and were promptly pulled over for a security check. These always make me smile as they never seem to care or do more than want to look in your boot and ask if you have packed the bags yourself, but the lady did show some interest in the Cross. And after an explanation we were allowed on to check in. After check-in we were first in one of the rows which meant first on to the boat and therefore first off in France. As some of you must know this can be a real advantage to getting out of the docks on both sides off the water.

On the Docks waiting to load on to The Spirit of Britain.
On the Docks waiting to load on to The Spirit of Britain.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

When we had loaded on the boat, two of the crew were looking at the packing crate and saw the signs that I had had made. They mentioned that they had seen the Crater on the BBC on Friday and complimented us on what a good job we were doing.

Warren's sign on the crate
Warren's sign on the crate.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

After another uneventful crossing on P&O's new Spirit of Britain, which is an excellent boat, and of course all the hold ups at French Customs as normal! We were off on to the French motorway network for the 100 mile last leg of our journey. A small hiccup on this stage, but nothing a 'bungy' and a couple of cable ties didn't put right. We arrived at the Crater around 8am CET (Central European Time).

Cross safely at the Crater. And, giving some idea of the overall length of just under 12 meters.
Cross safely at the Crater. And, giving some idea of the overall length of just under 12 meters.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

With an hour to spare before we were due at Jean-Luc's farm at Contalmaison, where it will be stored till later in June. We spent it looking around the Crater and looking at more of Vinny's super work on the base for the Cross, with the sleeve fixed in and almost ready to go.

More of Vinny's excellent work
More of Vinny's excellent work.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

When we got to Jean-Lucs farm, it was a chance for Emma to practice her French and time to pass on our precious cargo. As my French is limited to Bonjour Emma performed a sterling service at this point.

Jean Luc was soon sliding his barn doors open and firing up his fork lift, as Jamie and I started undoing the straps. Emma was on photo duty at this point, as Jamie and I were concentrating on getting the Cross off without damaging it on the last part of its journey in our care. At this point Vinny also turned up to make sure I had not cut the end off the Cross and that I had not harmed it in any way!

Unloading at Jean-Lucs farm in Contalmaison.
Unloading at Jean-Lucs farm in Contalmaison.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

I think Vinny and I both did a sigh of relief as it finally disappeared into the barn, both knowing it now only had a short 2.5km trip back to the Crater on the 29th June. As we were staying overnight with Martin & Kate Pegler at Orchard Farm over in Combles, we said our goodbyes to Jean-Luc and his wife and Son and took the trailer over to Orchard Farm for safe keeping rather than driving around with it all day. Martin supplied me with some spanners and a few tie wraps to finish off the little problem we had had with the Land Cruiser. After having refreshments and dropping off our bags we then set off to visit Lonsdale Cemetery to visit our family grave, and later over to Jon and Alison's Old Blighty Café for dinner, which I must say Jon & Alison were so kind to us and would not allow me to pay and said that the meal was free, for bringing the Cross over. This was a most generous and thoughtful jester on their behalf.

At the end of the day it was back to Orchard Farm and the thoughts of Katie's home cooking and soft beds for a well deserved sleep.

The only part of the return journey to mention, it was the same P&O crew we had travelled out with, the same two deck hands that had spoken to us on the way out, said "see you got it delivered then" And this sums up what the whole trip had been about.

On the boat on the way Home
On the boat on the way Home.
Image courtesy of Warren Osborne © 2011.

Warren Osborne June 2011

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Rachel Sang - A poem by David Walsh

Rachel Sang

Above that bloody hole
the deep concussed earth
a ball pein scar at La Boisselle
in the chalk of Picardy,
Rachel Sang, Adieu la vie,

Above that bloody hole
two black swallows flew
the sun burning mist from
early morning fields,
Rachel sang, adieu l'amour

Above that bloody hole
we gathered in July
to remember with respect
as Rachel sang
adieu, adieu, adieu.

David Walsh - July 2014

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The two Lochnagars, one a mountain in Scotland, the other a Great War Crater in France and now a Peace Memorial, are linked together by having the same name.

Lochnagar Mountain
The Lochnagar mountain
Image courtesy of Has Oldham ©2015

With the advent of the Centenary year of the Great War we felt we should honour it in a seemingly fitting way. As a service organisation trained to save lives, we felt particularly poignant about the many that had lost theirs, particularly under such testing conditions witnessed in the trenches.

The very nature of mountain rescue means we are also used to operating in testing conditions and rather than just record our thoughts in words, we wanted to undertake a project that would be challenging and require some physical effort. Typifying our motto 'Action speaks louder than words'.

Chairman Brian Canfer explains:
Way back in the spring of 2014 Michael Bell advised that he intended to write an article about the existence of the Lochnagar Crater on the Somme.

Has Oldham heard about this and remembering many 'happy' hours spent training, searching and rescuing on Lochnagar Mountain, he suggested that as the nation is commemorating World War1, it might be appropriate if the RAFMRA took a piece of Lochnagar granite, suitably engraved, across to the Somme and place it on the Lochnagar Crater, thus linking the two spiritually and physically. This would entail close co-operation between present and past members of RAFMR - and thus this project was born.
We first obtained the green light from the owner of the crater. Next the Royal Estate at Balmoral agreed to a piece of granite being removed from the mountain and D' FLT 202 Search and Rescue Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth agreed to lift a suitable stone to the nearest road and most importantly, RAF Lossiemouth MRT (Lo.MRT) agreed to do the donkey work, which turned out to be considerable.

The picture following shows Micky Coombes Deputy Team Leader (Lo.MRT) with the selected stone, its size being determined by the maximum weight four men could carry. It was recovered to RAF Kinloss near Inverness together with a 'smaller spare' last summer.

Preparing the stone for airlift
Preparing the stone for airlift, with Lochnagar and Eagle's ridge behind and to the right of the persons head.
Image courtesy of Has Oldham ©2015

The stones were taken to RAF Valley in Anglesey and thence to a specialist stone mason in Shrewsbury. The project was informally discussed at last year's reunion.

The association raised the necessary funds and a group of four, Paul Duckworth, Has Oldham, Alister Haveron and Brian Canfer volunteered to transport and 'set' the finished stone at the crater over the 5th-8th June 2015, in preparation for the annual (although this year's special) 1st July remembrance service.

The team at work at the Crater.
The team at work at the Crater.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2015

The stone in place at the Crater.
The stone in place at the Crater.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2015

Has Oldham, RAFMRA, July 2015

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The Road to Lochnagar - by Rick Allard

Rick Allard 1 July 2009
Rick Allard 1 July 2009
Image courtesy of Rick Allard ©2011

Its 4am on Tuesday 1st July 2008, Simon Pettett and I are driving south out of Arras on the N17 a long roman road heading towards Lochnagar. Somewhere to the east in the direction of Neuville Vitasse the sun is rising and is absolutely stunning - I stop to take a photograph. I can see a number of wind turbines silhouetted against the morning sky. Rather than rotating hypnotically they are eerily still and silent reminding me of the large cross which presides over Lochnagar. At that moment my thoughts were with the lads who at that precise time 92 years ago were waiting in the trenches all watching the sunrise anticipating the events that would unfold that day.

Anybody who has an interest in military history, especially World War I, can generally recall how they became hooked. For me that time was around 1980 when with my Royal Engineer pal, Ian Wyllie, we visited my paternal grandfather in his last few days at Heath Road hospital in Ipswich. When he died shortly after his medals from the first and second world wars were given to me. This stemmed my interest so much so that they remained shut away and untouched somewhere in the house for the next 19 years!

I attended my first battlefield trip around 1999 with a headmaster from a local secondary school in Horley, Surrey. He had been taking pupils across the channel for the last 20 years and as demand from the parents grew, he began running trips for adults. Over the next 3 - 4 years I attended 7 - 8 trips, either for the day or weekend overnighters. The headmaster was Andy Thompson who runs Eyewitness Tours, he had the ability to capture the moment whilst speaking to a group and I for one never tired of listening to him. I brought along various friends and work colleagues on the trips during which we visited all the usual sites around the Somme and the Ypres salient. On more than one occasion we stopped at Lochnagar and took in the peace and tranquility peace which prevails there. At this stage neither Simon nor I knew the significance of this place or the part it would play in our lives during the coming years.

I recall being at the crater sometime in 2000/2001 with Andy Thompson. He was standing on a bench by the edge of the crater addressing a large group of us, on seeing this Les Disbrey who was working close by took him to task for climbing on the bench. So, instead of being the headmaster reprimanding naughty schoolboys, the roles had been reversed and he received a taste of his own medicine! Thankfully that incident was merely an introduction and Andy is now a committed 'friend' and raises funds from his trips to help with the upkeep of the crater.

Simon and I have been members of the 'Friends of Lochnagar' since 2002 and for the last 6 years have enjoyed attending the services on 1st July. This has now taken over as our annual commitment to and connection with the Somme as we feel more inclined and confident to undertake our own trips and the flexibility which comes with this as opposed to organized tours. Throughout this time we have thoroughly enjoyed our involvement, plus meeting and making friends with many of the Lochnagar 'stalwarts'. Each year, we have undertaken a little more responsibility than before, mainly revolving around the day of the ceremony with general assistance and stewardship. We have seen the tenacity of Richard Dunning and his unswerving commitment to the cause which to a large degree has taken over his life.

'5am, 1st of July 2011. Rick Allard and Simon Pettett making sure that the wreaths are placed in their correct order, ready to be laid, later in the ceremony'
'5am, 1st of July 2011. Rick Allard and Simon Pettett making sure that the wreaths
are placed in their correct order, ready to be laid, later in the ceremony'
Image courtesy of Rick Allard ©2011

Over the last couple of years we have become much more aware of the demands this places upon him and have witnessed the stresses and strains etched on his face in the lead up to and throughout the day itself. We decided we would like to become more involved to help alleviate some of this pressure by utilising our experience gained during 25 years in the police. This led to a series of e-mails between the three of us throughout the summer of 2007 tentatively exploring ways of assisting with the planning. This culminated in a brainstorming session at Richard's house in December 2007 along with Clive Gilbert. The intention was to review the ceremony overall and to come up with a procedure to improve the day as a whole. We had identified the most pressing issue as the queuing system for those waiting to lay wreaths. At the end of a long working day we came up with a plan which put in place a one-way system whereby those waiting to lay wreaths kept moving to avoid bunching. Richard compiled a comprehensive report which was shared with committee members. It received full approval and was set to be rolled out on the morning of 1st July 2008.

Having photographed the stunning sunrise along the N17 Simon and I arrived at the crater at 4:30am to put our planning into operation. After one or two failed attempts we eventually laid out the route and wreaths to our satisfaction and waited for the ceremony to begin. As the crowds started to arrive and the wreath layers assembled apprehension and nervousness began to build in anticipation as to whether all our hard work and planning was going to pay off.

Throughout the service Simon remained at the front of the queue and I was at the rear in an attempt to keep the people moving. Although this was more difficult than envisaged, the system worked sufficiently to ensure the process was a major improvement on previous years and received numerous comments of approval. However, the main bonus for us was Richard smiling and enjoying himself with the ability to be able to do the 'front of house' bit which he is so good at.

The day as a whole was fantastic for us and brought together seven months of planning and preparation. The crater and everything it stands for is a credit to all involved especially Richard Dunning and the sense of belonging and camaraderie is immense. We both feel extremely privileged to be a part of something which is now an integral part of the Somme battlefield and can only encourage as many others to join as possible. A really pleasing aspect is the small but ever increasing number of young people becoming involved as this is where the future rests if the honour and memory of all those who died on the Somme is to be kept going for many years to come.

As you can see for Simon and myself the road to Lochnagar has been a long one, but being a 'friend' has been a hugely positive experience with many wonderful and friendly people to meet. We encourage as many to join as possible to keep the memory alive.

Rick Allard August 2011

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Shirley Cook on a Battlefield Tour, October 2017.

Shirley Cook Battlefield Tour October 2017
Shirley Cook Battlefield Tour October 2017

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Simmes Robert William, Private. 20808.
2nd Battalion Royal Scots.
Shot at dawn 19 May 1918, aged 28.

Robert's gravestone at Chocques Military Cemetery
Robert's gravestone at Chocques Military Cemetery, France.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2015

Robert William Sims was born at Haltwhistle, Northumberland in 1890 (GRO reference: Jun 1890 Haltwhistle 10b 347), to sixteen year old Amy Simes. Note: Census, BMD, CWGC, medal, and service records variously spell the family name Sims, Simes, Simms and Simmes.

The 1891 census shows 1 year old Robert living with his widowed grandmother Amy Sims at Bridge Street, Haltwhistle, Northumberland. Also living there were his grandmother's son, 24 year old George, and daughter, 13 year old Hannah.

In 1895 Robert's mother Amy, married George Routledge. The GRO marriage record spells Amy's surname as Sims, and not as her birth was registered, Simes.

The 1901 census records 11 year old RobertSims as the son of 38 year old George Routledge, a general labourer. Also recorded was Robert's mother, 27 year old Amy, and half brothers James aged five and John George aged three, and two year old Elizabeth R Sims, noted as a boarder. The family address was Fenton, Brampton, North Cumberland.

In 1911 Robert's family was living at Temon Low Row, Thirwall, Northumberland. Robert's father George was a 47 year old Stone Breaker at Whinstone quarry. His mother stated that she had been married for 15 years, that the marriage had produced six children and that five were still living. The children were James aged 15, John aged 13, Amy Mary aged nine, Edwina aged six and Amy aged four, all presumably Robert's half siblings. Robert aged 21, working as a store man in a coal mine, was a boarder with George Edward Connor living at 5 Rock Terrace, Sleetburn, Durham. Also living there was 60 year old Sarah Jane Swift described as the mother-in-law of the head of the family, George Edward Connor. Robert's service papers show that a George Edward O'Connor was his uncle and next-of-kin and that later Mrs S J Swift, grandmother, became his next-of-kin.

Robert attested on 27 February 1915 into the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots, at Glencorse, Scotland. He gave his age as 25 years 5 months, his occupation as miner (coal), and his address as 5 Rock Terrace, New Brancepeth, Co Durham. He stated that he was unmarried and had previously served with the Yorkshire Light Infantry. He made no allotment of pay and claimed no separation allowance. Robert was 5 feet 5 inches tall and had a chest measurement of 37 inches with an expansion of 2 inches. His stated next-of-kin was his uncle George Edward O'Connor of 5 Rock Terrace, Durham.

Robert went to France on 19 May 1915. The following information is taken from Robert's service record:

24 June 1915Admitted to No. 6 General hospital, Rouen. Diarrhoea
08 July 1915Discharged to duty
14 July 1915Admitted to No. 5 General hospital, Rouen. Hernia
31 July 1915Discharged to duty
13 October 1915Admitted 7th Field Ambulance. Myalgia
17 October 1915Discharged to duty
04 March 1916Admitted 53rd Field Ambulance. Myalgia (Exposure)
19 March 1916Admitted 8th Stationary hospital. Wimereux. Influenza
31 March 1916To 5th Convalescent depot, Boulogne
06 May 1916When on active service: Absent from parade at 8.15am and remaining absent until reporting himself at 9.20 pm.
Punished by 14 days Field Punishment No. 1
14 July 1916Shell Shock
16 July 1916Wounded in action near Montauban, Somme
16 July 1916Reported missing near Montauban, Somme
19 July 1916Admitted 11th General hospital, Camiers. Shell shock
22 July 1916Joined from hospital. Etaples
02 September 1916Etaples. Absented himself without leave from 2pm roll call 2/9/16 until 9.30 pm 4/9/16 when apprehended by Regimental Police in No 32 I.B.D.
Punished by 21 days Field Punishment No.2
16 September 1916Reporting sick without a cause.
Punished by 7 days C.B.
20 September 1916-22 September 1916On Service. Absent from 9pm to 9.45pm.
i. Falling out on the line of march without permission.
ii. Not complying with an order.
Punished by 10 days loss of pay
14 October 1916i. Smoking on parade
ii. Stating a falsehood to a N.C.O.
iii. Using threatening language to a N.C.O.
Punished by 7 days Field Punishment No. 1
13 November 1916Wounded in action during attack near Serre, Somme
14 November 1916Admitted to No. 13 General hospital, Boulogne. Gun Shot Wound (GSW) left arm
16 November 1916To No. 1 convalescent depot, Boulogne
17 November 1916To Base Detail. Fit
09 April 1917Wounded in action
11 April 1917Admitted 32nd Casualty clearing station. Gun shot wound (GSW) left arm
11 April 1917Admitted 16th General hospital. Le Treport. GSW left arm
13 April 1917Admitted 3 Convalescent Depot. GSW left arm
17 April 1917Rejoined 2nd Battalion. Etaples
02 May 1917In the field. Absent from camp from 9am and remaining absent until found in camp at 9pm.
Punished by 4 days loss of pay
23 May 1917To T.M.B. (Trench Mortar Battery) Field
15 July 1917Admitted to 11th General hospital, Camiers, suffering from 'Shell Shock'
19 July 1917Transferred to 6th Convalescent camp, Etaples
28 September 1917In the field.
i. When on active service Drunk.
ii. Absent without leave from 9a.m. 28.9.17 until apprehended by Military Police at 10pm on 1.10.17
Punished by 28 days Field Punishment No. 1
12 November 1917Admitted 20th General hospital. Camiers. Scabies
15 November 1917Discharged to duty

Robert was held awaiting trial from 10 December 1917 and was tried by F.G.C.M. (Field General Court Marshall) on 30 February 1918. He was charged as follows:
  1. When on Active Service "desertion". Section 12(1) A.A.
  2. When on active service "being in arrest escaping". Section 22 A.A.
  3. When on active service "desertion". Section 12 (1) A.A.
  4. When on active service "striking his superior officer being in the execution of his office". Section 9 (1) A.A.
He was found guilty of all the charges described and was sentenced to death. The sentence was confirmed by C-in-C on 16 May 1918, and the sentence of death was carried out by shooting at 4.18am on the 19th May 1918.

Robert was buried in grave III. A. 19 in Chocques Military Cemetery, France.

Even though Robert had been awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War medal and the Victory medal, these were forfeited because of his desertion.

Robert is remembered on the Scottish War Memorials Project.

On 8 November 2006 a mass pardon was granted to the 306 British Empire soldiers executed for military offences.

Robert's Memorial plaque at the Lochnagar Crater
Robert's Memorial plaque at the Lochnagar Crater.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2015

Clive Gilbert, August 2015.

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Vinny's Story - by Vinny Felstead

Vinny Testing Cross Joint
Vinny Testing Cross Joint
Image courtesy of Vinny Felstead © 2011

Losing the cross was a very sad moment, however our thoughts were with Richard and what could be done to help.

I put forward suggestions to Richard and once he had looked at all eventualities the go ahead was given, and the search for a specialist wood yard began.

The history and durability of the wood needed to be established. It's size correct.

The metal sleeve that the cross would need to be housed in was easier to organise. Our neighbour's son Tony offered his services and after discussions I knew he was the right man for the job.

At last after trawling the internet I found what appeared to be right wood yard for the job. I made contact and found they were eager to help. Tony [No 2] would be my main contact.

After a few phone calls work was under way. Oak was chosen and this became one of the most rewarding pieces of work I have ever been involved in.

Cross At Job Earnshaw's Woodyard
Cross At Job Earnshaw's Woodyard
Image courtesy of Vinny Felstead © 2011

Lochnagar Crater once again became a focal point of interest and topic of conversation with the team I worked alongside at the wood yard who also became new friends and are now eager to visit the crater. The oak came from Lincolnshire where it was cut to size. When it arrived was laid it out on sleepers ensuring it remained perfectly flat.

To give the oak the desired effect we planed it by hand. Markings were made to ensure correct proportions. Joints were made to strengthen and therefore lengthening the life of the cross. Throughout this work the conversation was around the crater and the boy's who fought there.

Phone calls, regular visits to the wood yard, and anxiety around "getting it right" were the order of the day.

Being involved in the making of the cross has at times been overwhelming. However I feel privileged to have been involved in its construction and preparation for safe transportation.

It's eventual purpose always foremost in our minds.

The wood yard both stored and cared for the cross until Warren arrived to ensure its safe arrival to its new home.

Shuttering Preparation Showing The Metal Sleeve
Shuttering Preparation Showing The Metal Sleeve
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2011

Each person present on the day the cross was erected will have their own account of that day. For me it was a worry and a pleasure, as well as a triumph for all who were there.

Vinny Felstead - October 2011

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Wenches in Trenches: Memorial seat

Wenches in Trenches are a group of women, from all walks of life, who raise money for military charities by doing a sponsored walk each year, around September time, on the Western Front.

The Great War saw large number of women serving as nurses or with the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) and many of these died as a result of their service, either through disease or enemy action.

No memorial to these brave women had ever been erected, on the Western Front until 1st July 2015 when an eight seat memorial bench was unveiled at the Crater. The bench was hand made by Friend of Lochnagar Vinny Felstead.

Each of the eight seat backs take the form of a Red Cross, and written across the top of the semi-elliptical bench are the words: IN MEMORY OF THE NURSES AND VADs OF ALL NATIONS WHO SERVED IN THE GREAT WAR. The words being repeated below in French.

The eight seat Nurses Memorial Bench.
The eight seat Nurses Memorial Bench.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2015

After a wreath was laid in honour of the Nurses and VADs, the Chaplain of Friends of Lochnagar said a blessing and the founder of 'The Wenches', Sue Robinson, made a small speech thanking everyone who had helped the project. Richard Dunning then also made a small speech and presented a wooden plaque to Sue, beautifully carved by Tim Rogers, depicting a scene of nurses attending a wounded soldier.

Sue Robinson with her beautiful wood carving.
Sue Robinson with her beautiful wood carving.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2015

In 2016 a granite stone was placed in front of the nurses bench 'Dedicated to all the valiant women who served in the Great War'.

The Nurses Bench and Womens StoneWomens Stone
The Nurses Bench and and the Granite stone dedicated to all the women who served in the Great War
Images courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2017

Clive Gilbert, January 2017.

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When the Somme ran red

Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore

Part of a drawing by Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore
Part of a drawing by Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore 1916

One of our tasks while in Bécordel was to furnish work parties to assist the tunnelling companies who were engaged in mining under the German lines. About half of our men had to go each night for this work, and most unpopular work it was, both for officers and men, especially during wet weather. The enemy knew exactly where our mine heads were situated and amused himself regularly each night by dropping shells and rifle grenades among the work parties. The previous occupants of our village had suffered heavy casualties in this way, so we were not surprised when during the following night work the officers reported several wounded and one killed. Later on when the men had finished their allotted task earlier than usual some of them were seized with the souvenir-hunting craze and crawled out in No Man's Land to look for unexploded grenades. Unfortunately they discovered a few and in coming through the narrow trench on their way back to the village one let his fall; it exploded and caused no less than ten casualties. This resulted in an order that under no condition was any man allowed to touch unexploded shells or grenades.

The following day two of the victims of this unfortunate tragedy were brought through the village for burial in the little cemetery nearby. It was the first time I had seen one of those pathetically simple funerals. The bodies were sewn up in Army blankets (which the Germans with their high degree of efficiency would have considered criminal waste) and borne on light two-wheeled stretcher carriers ; there was no guard or firing party, no one but the Padre and the men who pushed the stretchers, and so they were taken to their last resting place over which two more small crosses would be added to the thousands, yes hundreds of thousands that will remain in France to mark England's dead, her part in the great sacrifice for the rights of humanity.

Many strange things happened during the night operations. I was told that on several occasions the Germans had sent a man over dressed in our uniform. The fellow would crawl along and watch his chance to join our work party, with them he would work until an hour or so before daylight and then vanish with complete lack of ostentation, probably carrying valuable information regarding our mining operation. Such a task certainly requires courage and no one could help admiring a man who would take the risks.

Each of our officers took turns in conducting the work parties, and my turn happened on a fine and fairly quiet night. After handing over my men to the various tasks allotted to them by the mining officer, I visited their dugout, had a bite of supper and then accepted the invitation to go down the shafts. These were about one hundred feet deep and we went down on rope ladders. I was glad that many years of my early life had been spent at sea as it made the ladder descent a little less unpleasant.

On arriving at the bottom, I was allowed to take one of the listening devices, a sort of microphone which was fastened in the ground. By listening carefully I could hear the Germans working at their mines, apparently very near. It was an uncanny, queer, and not at all pleasing sensation being down there in the dark damp hole listening to men working with the sole object of blowing you to pieces, and I could not help thinking of what would happen should they decide to set off their mines while I was down in the stuffy, heated and very cramped place. To tell the truth I did not enjoy the experience and was only too glad when my guide had finished his inspection and suggested returning to the surface again, but my joy was short lived for on arriving at the top I found that I was expected to go down two more of the shafts. Pride alone prevented my saying that I had had quite enough to satisfy my curiosity, especially as I was being entertained by blood-curdling stories of how mines had been fired by the Huns at unexpected moments with horrible results to the wretched men who were working below.

In going along the trenches I noticed cages of canaries and thought how nice it was for the men to have their pets with them, they gave a sort of touch of home. I was however, surprised to learn that these birds are taken down the saps as a test of the purity of the air. If they die the men know that the air is foul and unfit for human beings to breath so the supply of fresh air sent down by the pumps must be increased immediately. 'Not so very home-like after all!

It appeared that when we first took over this part of the line, the Germans had the advantage in the mining, but that for some time past our fellows had gained in every point. We had found a way of ascertaining when the enemy intended to fire his charge and thereafter we invariably fired ours first, with results entirely satisfactory from our point of view. This underground form of fighting is one of the many strange and ghastly developments of modern warfare and perhaps none calls for a greater degree of nerve control. It is no wonder indeed that the men frequently break down under the long-continued strain of working in awkward, cramped positions, the terrible suspense, and the long hours spent in the foul air, and it is astonishing that human beings can be found who will volunteer for it, knowing well what hardships it entails.

Shortly before daylight appeared, I was told that the men had completed their tasks and that they had given entire satisfaction and only one had been wounded (they were nearly all miners and thoroughly understood everything connected with the work they had been doing), so we made our way out along the narrow crooked trenches and arrived at our village in good time for breakfast.

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10th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment 3rd July 1916

Extract from
'The Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War' by Captain H. FitzM. Stacke MC.

Private Thomas George Turrall winning his Victoria Cross
Private Thomas George Turrall winning his Victoria Cross

That afternoon the 58th Brigade attacked the La Boisselle salient, securing a lodgment on the southern face; and orders were sent for the 57th Brigade to move up after midnight. Rather than risk another jam in the communication trenches, the 10th Worcestershire moved forward across the open in three lines of platoons, reached the British front line opposite the extreme western end of the hostile salient, and lay down to await the moment of attack. The other battalions of the Brigade formed up to flank and rear. Flares and bursting shells disclosed their position to the enemy, and a heavy fire of shrapnel caused many casualties: but all lay still, awaiting the hour fixed for the attack.

Shortly after 3 a.m. amid the blazing gun-fire all around, a warning order was passed along the line. A few minutes later a second order, unheard amidst the din but quickly sensed, rippled down the ranks. The men rose to their feet, and the order was given to advance. The platoons rushed forward, crossed "No Man's Land " and charged the German defences.

A fierce fight followed with bomb and bayonet over successive lines of trenches. The companies became confused, control became impossible and the platoons stormed forward as best they could, led by their subalterns and N.C.O's. One party was led by Lance-Corporal A. J. Gardner, who dashed ahead of the rest carrying a Lewis-gun under his arm which he fired as he ran. A party of the enemy gave way before him and he seized their trench. He was hit, but continued to fire his Lewis-gun till he fainted from loss of blood.

In small groups the Worcestershire platoons fought their way onwards into the ruins of the village. Ten days of intense bombardment had shattered every house; but the enemy had previously constructed deep dugouts and had strengthened the cellars. In those underground strongholds they had survived the bombardment, and now they swarmed up from their cover to meet the attack. In and around the smashed heaps of masonry which had once been houses, the British platoons fought with enemies who appeared suddenly and unexpectedly from every side. Only by momentary light of flares and shell-bursts was it possible to distinguish friend from foe. The fighting was hand-to-hand or at point-blank range, with bomb, bullet or cold steel.

At various points individual officers established some sort of order for a moment and attempted a systematic destruction of the German defences. Explosive charges previously prepared were brought up and were thrown down such dugouts as were discovered. But the fighting was too involved and the casualties too rapid for any permanent control.

Battalion Headquarters of the 10th Worcestershire had followed the companies forward across the trenches. The Commanding Officer, Colonel Royston-Piggott, made his way forward with his Adjutant up to a large mine-crater-the crater of the mine which had been fired on July 1st. There he made certain that his Battalion had reached the village. He dictated to his Adjutant a message to be sent back to Brigade reporting the progress. Just as the message was finished, the Colonel was shot through the heart. A few minutes later the Adjutant also was hit and, for a time, Battalion Headquarters ceased to exercise control.

The first light of dawn enabled the fighters in the village to recognise each other with certainty, and the struggle reached its climax. Most of the defenders had by that time been killed or captured, although a few strong points still held out. Several of the Worcestershire platoons had fought their way right through the village to the more open ground on the far side. That ground was a tangle of broken hedges in a wilderness of shell-holes. Small parties of troops pushed forward in the excitement of victory, shooting, bombing and collecting prisoners.

Lieutenant R. W. Jennings led one such party, collecting such stray men as he could find. In the dim light he recognised one of the "Battalion bombers", Private T. G. Turrall, and called him to follow. Private Turrall, a powerfully built soldier, went forward with the bombing party.

The daylight grew. A hidden machine-gun suddenly opened fire on the group. Private Turrall flung himself on his face and escaped the hail of bullets. When they ceased he peered around. The subaltern was lying close to him, badly wounded, with a shattered leg. No other survivor of the party could be seen.

Private Turrall crawled to his wounded officer and dragged him slowly to shelter in a shell-hole. Then he set to bandaging the wound, using the haft of his entrenching tool as a splint, and binding it with one of his own puttees.

As he worked, a bomb burst close to his head: then another. A German bombing party had seen him moving in the shell-hole. He picked up his rifle and opened fire on the bombers, who were working forward along a hedge. A gap in the hedge enabled him to shoot two of them: the others gave up the attack.

Peering from the shell-hole he saw a wave of German infantry pouring forward from the east-a strong counter-attack. Resistance to such a force was useless, but he did not think of surrender. The subaltern had fainted. Private Turrall flung himself flat and feigned death. He was prodded with bayonets and then left. The counter-attack swept on to break against the Battalion in the village.

Throughout that day he tended and defended the helpless subaltern. When darkness came he cautiously made his way towards the village, with the officer on his back. By good fortune they reached safety.

Lieutenant Jennings' wounds proved mortal, and he died within a few hours; but not before he had dictated an account of his soldier's deed; and Private Turrall's brave devotion was rewarded by the Victoria Cross.

In the village itself the last brave remnant of the enemy fought on, holding individual posts for several hours. Those posts were gradually isolated, surrounded and reduced. Strong German counter-attacks were made against the village; but a defensive line had been hastily organised on the eastern outskirts of the village and the counter-attacks were withered by machine-guns and musketry. By midday the fighting in the village was over: the last German post had been taken, and reorganisation was in progress.

The 10th Worcestershire had reason to be proud of their first battle; for the captured position was of immense strength. The dugouts were so deep and of such solid construction that even after the terrific bombardment of the previous week many of them were still undamaged; and the defenders-troops of the German 13th, 23rd and 110th Reserve Regiments-had fought to the last. The 57th Brigade captured 153 prisoners-nearly all wounded. But the success had been dearly purchased. The Battalion had lost a third of its fighting strength, including the Commanding Officer and Adjutant.

The survivors of the Battalion held on throughout the remainder of the day in such cover as they could find or make, and in the evening the supernumerary officers who had been left behind with the Battalion Transport came up and took over command of the companies. After dark the 10th Worcestershire were relieved by the 7th South Lancashire and withdrew to rest. Orders were to proceed to a trench named "Ryecroft Avenue," but in the darkness the weary troops wandered to and fro for some time before the location of that reserve position could be discovered. Eventually the platoons were housed in crowded dugouts. All next day (July 4th) officers and men slept the sleep of exhaustion, broken at intervals by heavy shelling.

At 9 p.m. on July 4th the 10th Worcestershire moved forward again to the old British front line, in support to the fighting still in progress beyond La Boisselle. Rain and shell-fire made all ranks damp and miserable but the Battalion was not actively engaged. Next morning the Battalion again moved back to the Tara-Usna line. Orders came for the 57th Brigade to be relieved; and after dark that evening the 10th Worcestershire marched right back to billets in Albert.

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