1895 - 1916
Researched and written by Bob HOUGHTON
Coal Mining and the Witton Family
In 1800 Burntwood, Woodhouse and Edial were tiny hamlets in the Cannock Forest. The population was only 582.
It was not until the 1st Marquess of Anglesey opened a pit (known as the Marquess) in 1849 that the area began to change. The Anglesey Branch Canal was cut to transport the coal and a second pit known as the Uxbridge Pit was opened in 1852, it was later renamed No 2 Pit. Later that year a railway was built to the South Staffordshire Railway.
In 1854 the pits were leased to the Cannock Chase Colliery Company. During the next few years the company opened many new pits including Cannock Chase (The Plant) No 3 in 1861, No 5 in 1862, No 7 & 8 in 1868 and Nos. 9 & 10 in 1869.
The area around these pits was essentially heathland with little housing to accommodate the miners. So following the enclosure of the heath in 1861, the landscape was transformed and the mining villages of Chasetown and Chase Terrace were established.
By 1865 nearly 2000 men and boys were employed in the company’s four pits
The company needed to attract local labourers as well as experienced miners from further afield to work in the mines. So they offered competitive wages as well as building schools and chapels in the area. Two of these buildings were the Chase Terrace School on Cannock Road built in 1875 and the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Princess Street built in 1870.
One such family to take up this offer was the WITTON’s of Sedgley. William and his sons, Thomas and Joseph, were labourers in the Black Country coal mines. They were attracted to the rural life in Chase Terrace as well as working at the new coalfields being developed there. So in 1876 William together with his wife and five children moved to Chase Terrace. His eldest son Thomas with his wife and their young son James also made the move with them. William’s eldest daughter, Sarah Ann, was 17 years old and decided to stay with her grandmother in Sedgley.
William, Thomas and their families moved into the new houses built specially for the miners in Two Oakes, Chase Terrace.
In 1880 Williams second son, Joseph, had married Ann Marie PORTER and also moved into Two Oakes. The following year William’s wife Elizabeth died leaving William with four children Rhoda, William, Elizabeth and James. Rhoda married the following year at 16 years old leaving the 18 year old William (Jnr) to help his father bring up his two younger siblings, Elizabeth and James.
By this time William Jnr was also a coal miner, so having both his brothers family living nearby they were never short of help in bringing up the youngsters.
Elizabeth married Richard WESTLEY in 1887 and William Jnr married Elizabeth STUBBS three years later. William continued to live with his youngest son James even after he got married and raised his family.
William and his sons continued to be a close family. In 1901 William, his four sons and their families all lived in the Spinney, Boney Hay. Together with Thomas’s youngest son and his family there were 36 WITTONs living in the same lane. Rhoda was living with her family in nearby Wimblebury, but his other two daughters were living further away, Sarah Ann still in the Black Country and Elizabeth had moved to Yorkshire.
William had worked in the coal industry all his life and even at the age of 67 was a banksman at one of the local pits. He had brought up a family of seven children and had such a close relationship with his family that he still lived in the same road with his four sons, The Spinney, right up to his death in 1916 age 81 years.
William Witton Jnr
Williams third son was also named William was born in Sedgeley in 1863. He moved to Chase Terrace with his father in 1876. After his mother died in 1881 he was the eldest child living in the family home and would have helped bringing up his younger siblings. He was a coal miner working at the local pit.
William met Elizabeth Stubbs from nearby Hammerwich and they were married in 1890.
Elizabeth family came from Little Aston in Warwickshire and they had moved into Hammerwich in the 1870’s. Her father Abraham was also a coal miner.
In 1888 Elizabeth had an illegitimate daughter, Ellen. She married William 18 months later. Because of the close family ties they moved into The Spinney, Boney Hay near his father and brothers. Their second daughter Lily was born in 1890 followed by: William Henry, b. 1892; Joseph, b. 1895; George, b. 1897; Abraham, b. 1899; Ann Elizabeth, b. 1901; Thomas, b. 1903; Elizabeth, b. 1906 and Eliza, b 1910.
At times they were up to 13 people living in the small three roomed house. Most of the children were baptised at St Anne’s Church, Chasetown. The exception being Joseph who was baptised at Mount Calvary Primitive Methodist Chapel, Chase Terrace.
Most of the children attended Chase Terrace School on Cannock Road that had been built by the colliery company. However after 1907 the girls would have gone to the new school in Rugeley Road.
By 1911 the two eldest boys William Henry and Joseph had left school and were working in the coal mine as pony drivers below ground.
In the same year Lily who had already had an illegitimate son, Harold, married Herbert Carter.
At the outbreak of war in 1914 most of the boys were working in the pits. The younger children were still at school.
William was a miner in the coal industry throughout his life right until his death in 1933 age 60 and his wife Elizabeth died in 1940 age 70.
Joseph Witton was born in The Spinney, Boney Hay on 5th March 1895. He was baptised at the Mount Calvary Primitive Methodist Chapel, Chase Terrace on 1st May 1895.
Along with most of his siblings he attended Burntwood School Board No 2 on Cannock Road, Chase Terrace. The School had been built by the Cannock Chase Colliery Company in 1875 for 300 children. By 1896 the school had expanded to take up to 600 children. Joseph would have started school when he was 5 yrs old in 1900 and remained there until 1909. The school took boys, girls and infants until 1907 when the school in Rugeley Road was opened and took the girls and infants, leaving the Cannock Road school as a boys school. The school was closed in 1931 because of mining subsidence.
The whole family along with all their uncles and cousins all lived in The Spinney, which was at the edge of the village with easy access to the open countryside all around.
After leaving school Joseph went to work at No 3 pit as an underground pony driver with his elder brother William Henry. They walked the mile each way to the mine which was near to the school they had just left.
Joseph had spent all his life living in The Spinney so at the outbreak of war in 1914 he took up the call to join the army to help defend the country and see some of the world. So on the 6th November 1914 he walked to Hednesford and enlisted with the Royal Welch Fusiliers. This came as a complete surprise to his mother as he had not told her before. Joseph was the only one of his brothers to join the army.
At the time Kitchener has launched his campaign for a volunteer army, but Joseph had decide to join the regular army.
Joseph spent the next six months in training with the 3rd reserve battalion at the regimental headquarters at Wrexham. On completion of his training he embarked to join the 1st battalion on the French front on 25th May 1915. Details of Josephs time in the army are given later.
1st Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers
The 1st battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers had been decimated at the battle of Aubers Ridge & Festubert on 16th May. 19 of it’s 25 officers and 559 of the 806 other ranks were listed as killed, wounded or missing on that fateful day. So after the battle the Battalion was moved to billets in St Hilaire and over the following days reinforcements arrived to build it back up to strength. Joseph joined the battalion along with Lieutenants G. S. Morgan and S. Williams and 343 rank and file on 28th May 1915.
The Battalion along with 2nd Royal Warwickshire, 2nd The Queen's Royal West Surrey and the 1st South Staffordshire formed part of the 22nd Brigade in the 7th Division. The 7th division was in the 1 Corps and the 1st Army under General Sir Douglas Haig. The C-in-C of the British Army in France was General Sir John French
The next few months were a quiet period of static warfare with no general change in the western front. The army suffered average losses of 300 men a day from sniping and shellfire, while they continued to gradually improve and consolidate the trenches. Both sides increased the tempo of underground mine warfare, which was feared greatly by the infantry in the front positions.
Bethune was the “social centre” for the troops when on relief. Every one who could borrow a horse or bicycle or jump a lorry went into Bethune. Peasants, workpeople and townspeople of all sorts crowded the streets together with hundreds of officers and men representing every arm of the service.
The 7th Division were involved in the 2nd action at Givenchy on 15 and 16th June, but the 1st battalion RWF were in support and not directly involved in the action. The battalion held various positions in the trenches at Givenchy, The General Head Quarter Line nr Marais, Rue du Bois at Richbourg, Princes Road off Rue du Bois and Vermelles.
On 5th July the battalion was visited by General Sir Douglas Haig, Commander of the 1st Army. On 2nd September the Battalion was addressed by Major General Sir Frances Lloyd Commander of the London District and Colonel of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
Battle of Loos
It was not until 25th September 1915 that Joseph got his first taste of front line action when the allies started their offensive at Loos. The British had been asked to support the French in their attack on Artois. General Sir Douglas Haig had recommended that the attack be delayed until the spring of 1916 as the British were under strength and has a shortage of ammunition. He also felt that the ground in the area was not suitable for such an attack. However he was overruled and the attack took place. The attack of six Divisions was a mighty offensive indeed, when compared to the small scale efforts in the spring of 1915 - so much so that it was referred to at the time as 'The Big Push'.
Due to the shortage of heavy artillery, the British used chlorine gas and smoke barrages for the first time to conceal the front. But because of a wind change many of the British were affected by the gas.
The 7th Division was one of the few major successes of the first day. The battalion in support of the 1st South Staffs and 2nd Warwicks penetrated through the German lines to Cite St Elie. It had suffered 434 casualties on the first day. But without support they retreated to their original positions on 27th September.
Joseph Witton was one of the lucky ones that escaped without serious injury
The battle continued until 16th October and there were 61,000 British casualties, including 5,224 in the 7th Division.
Winter of 1915
Over the following months the weather conditions meant that hostilities were reduced and the battalion spent much of their time in mining operations, Blowing craters under enemy lines as well as repairing work and constructing new trenches, breastwork and keeps.
Following the battle of Loos it became clear that the British Army were not prepared for modern trench warfare. Their principal weapon being the rifle and Bayonet. So the Lewis gun and Mills bombs were introduced. This meant training in their use and tactics to be employed. So during December and January the battalion attended the training camp at Montagne, near the village of Saleux, for a period of intensive training. During this period the Battalion was reorganised into 5 companies, the fifth company to be known as the Grenadier or Bombing Company. The Grenadier Company was supplied with the best all round men at arms from the other 4 companies and the Battalions 4 Lewis guns. This Company specialised in the use and training of the Lewis gun, rifle grenade, Mills Bomb and the rifle.
The Company was organised into four platoons that mirrored the other four company’s structure and were placed under their respective commanders to assist in the defence of the line and to carry out intensive training amongst the rank and file of their Company. Joseph Witton was one of the first recruits into the Grenadier Company.
During the winter of 1915/16 The British Army in France underwent many changes. General Sir John French was replaced as C-in-C of the British Army in France by General Sir Douglas Haig, The army was reinforced by five armies, Nos. 1 to 4 and the reserve Army. The 7th division was transferred to the XV Corps in the fourth Army under the command of Lieutenant General Sir Henry Rawlinson. The 1st Battalion RWF remained in the 22nd brigade of the 7th division, but the 2nd Queens and 1st South Staffs were replaced by the 20th Manchester (Manchester Pals) and 24th Manchester (Oldham Pals).
On 9th January 1916 Major General H Watts Commander of the 7th Division inspected the Battalion.
After the period at the training camp, the Battalion moved to billets at Mourlancourt and to a new front line at Bois Francois, near Fricourt, in preparation for the Somme Offensive. The Brigade remained there until the offensive began on 1st July. The trenches in sub section C1 were held by the 1st RWF and the Manchester Pals. Each battalion spending seven days on the front followed by seven days in the billets.
The brigade front of about 500 yards occupied bare rolling ground on a chalk ridge facing the devastated village of Fricourt. Much of it consisted of a series of mine craters, for both the British and Germans tunnellers frequently exploded charges in the front line area.
A strong point established at the rear of the trenches, Maple Redoubt, was to be held at all costs in the event of an enemy breakthrough. It accommodated Battalion HQ, the bombing platoon, medical officer and stretcher-bearers. As a tempting target for the Germans, it often came under heavy fire. Beyond and out of enemy site but still within artillery range was an area of dugouts known as the Citadel, about 1200 yards to the rear.
On 22nd May 1916 the Oldham pals were replaced by the 2nd Royal Irish in the 22nd brigade.
Battle of the Somme
Saturday 1st July 1916 on the Somme battlefield has been described as the British Armies blackest day of any war as by nightfall they had suffered over 57,000 casualties for virtually no ground gained.
The attack was planned over a 25 mile front with 11 divisions of the British fourth army covering most of the front line. Two divisions of the British third army was involved in diversionary tactics to the north and 11 divisions of the French sixth army in the south.
The attack began with an intensive bombardment 11000 tons of explosives were used but much of it was ineffective as most of it was shrapnel and only 820 tones was capable of penetrating the German Bunkers. The German trenches were generally 300 yards from the artillery and the gunners lacked the accuracy to get close to the German trenches, so many of the German fortifications were untouched by the bombardment.
At 7.20 am a mine was set off under Hawthorne Ridoubt and soon after the remaining mines were set off. When zero hour (7.30) came, there was a brief and unsettling silence as artillery shifted their aim to a new line of targets, and the time of the infantry to advance had come.
North of the Albert – Bapaume Road the attacks were almost a complete failure.
In the south however some advances were made. The 18th and 30th divisions and the French corps to the south achieved all their objectives early in the afternoon.
Just to the south of the Albert – Bapaume Road the 21st division were to outflank the village of Fricourt by going in to the north of the village and the 22nd Brigade of the 7th Division would go to the south. The 50 brigade of the 19th Division would cover the front of the village between them.
The rest of the 17th Division would go on to the village of Mametz.
Both the 21st division and the 50th brigade suffered heavy losses. The 10th Battalion the West Yorkshire regiment suffering the worst loss of any battalion on the day.
One of the major successes of the day was that of the 7th Division, which captured Mametz and with the Germans outflanked, Fricourt was abandoned during the night. The 1st Battalion RWF played its part in the success by supporting the 20th Manchester in the attack on Sunken Road and Bois Francais Trenches and the Rectangle with a final objective of Rose Alley.
The attack on Bois Francais was successful but the action against Sunken Road and the rectangle were curtailed due to the severe machine gun fire from Wing Corner. Joseph with the bombing teams were sent in to hold both trenches and protect the Brigades left flank.
4 men were killed and 35 wounded, 200 prisoners were taken.
Over the next few days the battalion were in action bombing and taking a number of trenches as they advanced towards the German’s second line. On the 2nd July they took Sunken Road, Copper, Kitchen & Thorn trenches and captured Rose Alley. By 5th July they had taken and consolidated Quadrangle Trench. Thus the battalion was one of the biggest successes of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Joseph had seen some serious action and had been at the forefront bombing and clearing the enemy trenches.
Following the early days of action the Battalion was withdrawn to Heilly and the Citadel for rest, but they were again called into action for the second phase of the battle where the orders were to attack the Germans second line at Bazentin and on towards Delville Woods.
Battle of Bazentin Ridge
The second phase, the battle of Bazentin Ridge, began on the 14th July and the 7th Division were to take the centre sector between Bazentin-le-Grand and Bazentin-le-Petit Woods. The orders for the 22nd brigade was to capture Bazentin-le-Petit village. The 2nd Irish and 2nd Royal Warwick to lead the attack with the 1st RWF and 20th Manchester in support. The 2nd Irish were in Bazentin-Le-Petit village before 11:50 and the Brigade moved forward to consolidate a line north of the two villages between the Cemetery and the Windmill. Several counterattacks were fought off and the lines held.
On that day the Battalion had 2 officers and 7 other ranks killed and 4 officers and 28 other ranks wounded.
Over the next few days the battalion was withdrawn into Mametz wood, but returned to hold the line North of Bazentin Village during the unsuccessful attack on High Wood on 20th July.
For the rest of the month the Battalion was moved to billets in La Chaussee until late in August when they were moved back into the line in preparation for the attack on Ginchy.
Battle for Ginchy and Delville Wood
On 26th August the Battalion, in Beer Trench, along with the DLI attempt to clear Ale Alley. Taking both ends of the Alley, but not consolidating their gains. Over the next two days bombing attacks were mounted on Ale Alley to clear it of the enemy. The battalion were entrenched in Beer Trench with the enemy in Vat and Ale Alleys. Several bombing attempts had been repulsed because of the machine gun in a straight section of the trench. Joseph as a key member of the bombing team was heavily involved in these attacks.
The battalion consolidated it’s position and later were moved to the camp at Bonte for rest and recovery.
On 1st September the battalion received orders to return to the line ready for the attack on Ginchy. Upon returning they found that the S Staffs had completely lost their hold on the top corner of Delville Wood and Ale & Hop Alley and Beer Trench.
On the morning on the 2nd September the battalion suffered from gas shells. During the day plans were made for the assault in Ginchy. The 22nd brigade orders were to capture Pint Trench and Ginchy Village, 1st RWF to capture Pint Trench. Difficulties were expected because of the machine guns in Ale and Hop Alleys. Casualties on that day were 3 ranks killed, 1 officer and 4 ranks wounded. Most of these being due to the gas attacks in the early hours.
On the following day the attack commenced at 12:00 noon and advance as far as Vat Alley. Any further advance was held up due to the machine gun fire from Hop and Ale Alley. Two sections of bombers had been sent in earlier with a few to clearing these Alleys, but without success.
The 91st Brigade Bombing Officer asked for reinforcements to continue his attacks on Hop & Ale trenches at 1:50 and was sent 25 bombers from the 2nd Royal Irish. The brigade ordered an artillery attack on Ale trench to take place at 17:00. Orders were also received for the 1st RWF to organise 1 company and 4 sections of bombers to attack Hop Alley. The attacks were delayed until 17:15.
At 17:50 the four remaining bombing sections of the 2nd RWR relieved the bombers of 91st brigade and were led by their Bombing officer.
Over the course of the day the battalion had moved forward to Stout Trench, but they had till not cleared the enemy from Hop and Ale Alleys . The battalion had lost 3 officers and 22 other ranks with 7 officers and 129 other ranks wounded on that day.
After the Fighting
According to the records Joseph died on either 2nd or 3rd September. His death certificate and war graves inscription gives it as 2nd September. If that was the case then he would have been preparing for the action on the following day and could have been one of the 3 other ranks killed that day. He would have been killed in the gas attack in the early morning or by sniper fire.
But it is much more likely that he was killed in one of the many bombing attacks on Hop and Ale Alleys on 3rd September. He was a key member of the bombing Company and would have been at the forefront of the action. A full transcript of the Battalion war diaries for the last days of Joseph’s life are given later.
Back in Chase Terrace his mother got the telegram and refused it as she did not want to believe her son was dead. She was very close to Joseph, as was the rest of his family. His death was recorded in the Lichfield Mercury and the Burntwood Parish magazine.
Joseph's death was also recorded on the Thiepval Memorial in France and on five memorials in Burntwood.
Joseph was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1914 - 1915 Star which his mother received for him posthumously. She was so attached to them that she took them to her grave.
Joseph's Company Officer in the 1st Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers wrote of Joseph:
“He had with the Company for some considerable time, and had obtained the respect of everyone, and he held the honour of being the best bomb thrower in the Brigade. Please accept my sympathy and that of the Company under my command. He died the death of a man, and a better no Englishman, I am certain could wish.”
Item, Source and Credit
1. Family tree William WITTON Snr © Bob HOUGHTON (BFHG)
2. Photograph William WITTON Jnr, © Norman WITTON
3. Photograph Elizabeth WITTON (Nee STUBBS), © Norman WITTON
4. Photograph St Anne's Church © Alan BETTS (BFHG)
5. Photograph Mount Calvary Primitive Methodist Chapel © Alan BETTS (BFHG)
6. Family tree William WITTON Jnr © Bob HOUGHTON (BFHG)
7. Photograph Joseph WITTON © Norman WITTON
8. Photograph Mills Bomb, © Jean-Louis Dubios, with permission of (Wickipedia)
9. Photograph Lewis Gun, with permission of (Wickipedia)
10. Photograph Grenadier Company of 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers, © Norman WITTON
11. Map Somme Battlefield, 'The 1919 Experience' by Julian THOMPSON, 2007 Edition © Carlton Experience
12. Map 1916 Trench Map of Delville Wood and Ginchy village. Sheet No. 57c SW3, Accension No. 1803 © Imperial War Museum
13. Extract Lichfield Mercury 22nd Sept 1916, with permission of (Lichfield Mercury)
14. Extract Burntwood Parish Magazine - Feb 1917, with permission of Norman WITON
15. Photograph Thiepval Memorial © CWGC
16. Photograph Christchurch Burntwood © Alan BETTS (BFHG)
17. Photograph St Anne’s Chasetown © Alan BETTS (BFHG)
18. Photograph Chase Terrace War Memorial © Alan BETTS (BFHG)
19. Photograph Burntwood Memorial Institute © Alan BETTS (BFHG)
20. Photograph Chase Terrace Methodist Chapel © Alan BETTS (BFHG)
21. Joseph Witton's Medal Roll Card © Ancestry
22. 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal © Ghillie Mòr website
23. Joseph WITTON’s Memorial Card, with permission of Norman WITTON
1. The Victoria County History of Staffordshire, Volume XIV, Burntwood, Hammerwich and Wall reprint by M W Greenslade and N J Tringham, 1999, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=285 ;
2. Our Local Schools: A History of the Schools in Burntwood, Chase and the Surrounding District by Noreen Handy, 2004
3. On the Trail of the Poets of the Great War - Graves & Sassoon by Helen McPhail and Philip Guest, 2010;
4. 1st Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers War Diaries – 1915 – 1916, National Archives, Kew;
5. Royal Welch Fusiliers, http://www.1914-1918.net/rwf.htm
6. 7th Division, http://www.1914-1918.net/7div.htm
7. Battle of Loos, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Loos
8. Battle of Loos 1915, http://www.1914-1918.net/bat13.htm
9. Regimental Records of the Royal Welch Fusiliers – Volume III 1914 - 1918 compiled by Major C H Dudley DSO., MC, 1928; Somme 1916,
10. Battle of the Somme, http://www.1914-1918.net/bat15.htm
11. Battle of the Somme, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Somme
12. Capture of Mametz, http://www.1914-1918.net/bat15G_Mametz.html
13. The 1916 Experience – Verdun and the Somme by Julian Thompson, 2007;
14. Battle of Bazentin Ridge, Wickipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bazentin_Ridge
15. Battle for Delville Woods, Wickipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delville_Wood
16. Mapping the Front – Somme - squares 57C & 57D, CD set published by the Western Front Association, maps from The Imperial War Museum;
17. Extract from Lichfield Mercury, 22nd September 1916
Appendix 1: Joseph Witton – 1st Battalion – Royal Welch Fusiliers
6th November 1914
Enlisted into the Royal Welch Fusiliers at Hednesford.
25th May 1915
Embarked for France. Joined up with the 1st Battalion, which formed part of the 22nd brigade in the 7th division.
25th May - 8th June
Billeted at St Hilaire, Battalion reinforced after battle at Festubert. Moved to billets at Les Choquaux, 2nd June, and Marais, 5th June.
8th June - 14th June
In trenches north of Givenchy. One man killed; one officer and 10 other ranks wounded.
14th June – 17th June
Billeted near Les Choquaux and Locon.
17th June – 19th June
In trenches at General Head Line near Marais. One man wounded.
19th June – 21st June
Billeted near Les Choquaux.
21st June – 25th June
In bivouac at Gorre Wood. Six men killed; one officer and four other ranks wounded.
25th June – 1st July
In trenches at General Head Line near Marais.
1st July – 12th July
March 16 miles & Billeted at St Hilaire.
12th July – 13th July
March 16 miles & Billeted at Vielle Chapelle.
13th July – 18th July
In trenches at Rue Du Bois, Richebourg. Four men killed; nineteen men wounded.
18th July – 22nd July
Billeted at Vielle Chapelle.
22nd July – 26th July
Billeted at Calonne Nr Robecq.
26th July – 31st July
In trenches near Princes Road off Rue Du Bois. One officer and four men wounded.
31st July – 17th August
March 14 miles & Billeted at Busnes near Robecq.
17th August – 22nd August
In trenches near Princes Road off Rue Du Bois.
23rd August – 28th August
In forward trenches near Princes Road. Two men killed; eight men wounded.
28th August– 30th August
Billets at Les Choquaux.
30th August – 2nd September
Billets at Ham eu Artois.
2nd September – 5th September
Billets at La Vallee & Fouquereuil.
5th September – 9th September
In trenches in front of Vermelles. Three men wounded & thirteen to hospital.
9th September – 14th September
Billets at Verquigneul & Lebourse.
14th September – 16th September
In trenches in front of Vermelles. One man wounded & six to hospital.
16th September – 24th September
Billets at Lebourse, Gonnehem & Lebourse.
First day of the battle of Loos: One officers killed; 7 officers wounded; 43 men killed; 246 men wounded; 135 men missing and 2 men gassed.
26th September – 29th September
Battallion held the line for the first day and the dropped back into the old British Line.
29th September – 30th September
Moved to Sailly La Bourse.
1st October – 4th October
In trenches near Cambrin. One man killed.
4th October – 6th October
Billets at Le Preol south of Bethune.
6th October – 10th October
In trenches A2 Section at Cuinchy. Two men wounded.
10th October – 14th October
Billets at Le Preol.
14th October – 17th October
In trenches at Cuinchy. No Casualties.
17th October – 24th October
Billeted at Busnes.
24th October – 29th October
Billeted at Hinges.
29th October – 1st November
In trenches at B2 section Givenchy. One man killed: five men wounded.
1st November – 3rd November
Billets at Bethune.
3rd November – 5th November
In the line at Givenchy. No Casualties.
5th November – 7th November
Billets at Le Quesnoy.
7th November – 9th November
In the line at Cuinchy. No Casualties.
9th November – 14th November
Billets at Bellerive, 5 mile north of Bethune, then to Le Breol.
14th November – 16th November
In the line at Cuinchy. No Casualties.
16th November – 18th November
Billeted in Harley Street.
18th November – 20th November
In the line at Cuinchy. No Casualties.
20th November – 24th November
Billeted in Le Preol then Bethune.
24th November – 30th November
Dug High command trenches at Le Touret.
30th November – 3rd December
Billets at Gonnehem.
3rd December – 6th December
Billets at Bourecq & Lillers.
6th December 1915 – 30th January 1916
March 18 miles to Montagne for extensive training.
30th January – 2nd February
Marches to Billets 12 mile to Vaux En Amien, 10.5 mile to Pont Noyelles & 11 miles to Mourlancourt.
2nd February – 6th February
In trenches D1 Sector East of Meult. Seven men wounded.
6th February – 10th February
Moved into support at Citadel dugout. 2 men killed: 6 men wounded.
10th February – 18th February
Billets in Mourlancourt.
18th February – 22nd February
In trenches at Maple Ridoubt. One officer sick: 4 men sick or wounded.
22nd February – 26th February
Moved into support at Citadel dugout. 1 man killed: 14 men wounded.
26th February – 2nd March
Billets in Mourlancourt.
2nd March – 8th March
In trenches C1 Subsector including Maple Redoubt. 3 men killed: 8 men wounded.
8th March – 14th March
Billets in Mourlancourt.
14th March – 20th March
In trenches C1 Subsector. 3 officers killed: 4 men killed: 7 men wounded.
20th March – 26th March
Billets in Mourlancourt.
26th March – 1st April
In trenches C1 Subsector. 3 men killed: 8 men wounded.
1st April – 7th April
Billets in Mourlancourt.
7th April – 13th April
In trenches C1 Subsector. 2 men killed: 4 men wounded.
13th April – 16th April
Billets in Mourlancourt.
16th April – 20th April
In trenches C2 Sector.
20th April – 23rd April
In trenches C1 Subsector. 3 men wounded.
23rd April – 29th April
Billets in Mourlancourt.
29th April – 5th May
In trenches C1 Subsector. 7 men killed: 15 men wounded.
5th May – 11th May
Billets in Mourlancourt.
11th May – 17th May
In trenches C1 Subsector. 4 men killed: 3 men wounded. Morning of 17th enemy troops shouted “Bonjour Taffy”.
17th May – 23rd May
Billets in Mourlancourt.
23rd May – 29th May
In trenches C1 Subsector. New battalion renamed Rhonda. 1 officer wounded: 4 men killed: 10 men wounded.
29th May – 4th June
Billets in Mourlancourt.
4th June – 10th June
In Trenches C1 Subsector. 3 officers wounded: 2 men killed: 12 men wounded.
10th June – 12th June
Billets in Mourlancourt.
12 June – 26th June
Move to rest billets at Bussy-les Daours. Battalion Training.
26th June – 28th June
Billets in Mourlancourt.
Move up to line in support of 20th Manchester.
Took over the whole of C Section. Z day postponed by 48 hours.
Relieved by 20th Manchester. Took up Assembly as follows: A coy in 71S; B coy in 71N, C Coy in Kingston Road; D Coy, Reserve Lewis Gun and Bombers in Quarry. 5 men killed; 7 men wounded.
First day of the battle of The Somme: The battalion was in the 22 brigade, 7th Division of the XV Corps and was one of the few successes of the first day. The 22nd brigade’s objectives on the first day was to take the Sunken Road and Bois Francais Trenches and the Rectangle with a final objective of Rose Trench. The attack was led by the 20th Manchester with the 1st RWF in support.
The attack on Bois Francais was successful but the action against Sunken Road and the rectangle were curtailed due to the severe machine gun fire from Wing Corner. The bombing teams were sent in to hold both trenches and protect the Brigades left flank.
4 men killed and 35 wounded, 200 prisoners taken.
The bombers and A coy were ordered to bomb down Sunken Road, Copper, Kitchen & Thorn trenches to support 17th Division in its attack on Fricourt. The battalion successfully occupied Rose Alley. One of the Battalion patrols was the first to enter Fricourt. 1 man missing, 4 wounded and 30 prisoners taken.
Battalion rested. At night orders received to consolidate position on the southern edge of Mametz Wood. Ordered to withdraw.
In the evening the battalion ordered to capture and consolidate Quadrangle, Wood and Strip Trench.
Battalion take and consolidate Quadrangle Trench and support.
March to Heilly after 7 days strenuous work.
7th July – 10th July
Moved forward to Citadel.
10th July – 14th July
The start of the second phase of the battle of the Somme. The 22 Brigade was ordered to attack and capture Bazentin Le Petit Village. The attacks were led by the 2nd R Warwickshire and 2nd R Irish and supported by the 1st RWF. The Battalion achieved their objectives.
Battalion held position at Bazentin Le Petit village.
Battalion withdrew to Hammerhead in Mametz Wood.
17th July – 18th July
Battalion in Mametz Wood.
Move to Caterpillar Valley, Bazentin Le Grand.
The battalion was in support of the 33rd Division in their attack on High Wood, Delville Wood and switch Trench. Relieved at 12:30 a.m.
Moved to Halte at Mametz.
Moved to billets at La Chaussee.
23rd July – 11th August
At La Chaussee.
Moved to Dernancourt.
12th August – 26th August
Moved into line N sector of the E Front of Delville Wood.
Combine with 10th DLI to attack Ale Alley. DLI took 50 prisoners and established a block 20 yards up Ale Alley. 1st RWF bombed back.
Bombing attack along Ale gain 100 yds of trench.
Further Bombing Attacks ordered in Ale but repulsed by MG in a straight piece of trench. Moved to camp near Bonte redoubt.
In Camp near Bonte.
Move to Montauban Alley. Ale Alley and Hop & Beer trench had been lost to the enemy. A block had been set at 150 yds S of junction with Ale and Delville Wood.
Battalion had suffered from Gas shells on the night of 1st / 2nd. Spent the day preparing for attack on PINT TRENCH and GINCHY village. 3 other ranks killed.
Attack on PINT TRENCH and GINCHY village. Heavy gunfire from ALE and HOP TRENCHES slowed progress. Bombers in action along front especially in attack on HOP and ALE Trenches. Neither objective achieved.
3 officers and 22 other ranks killed.
For detailed report see War Diary Extract (below)
Appendix 2: Extract from War Diaries 1st Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers
September 1st – 3rd 1916
1st September 1916 12:40 a.m.
Orders received for C.O. to push on to 91st Brigade H.Q. at MONTAUBAN and Battalion to Follow. Battalion moved off 1:25 a.m. reaching MONTAUBAN and going into MONTAUBAN ALLEY at 4:30 a.m.
The situation was a follows on the previous evening :
South Staffords had lost their hold on ALE ALLEY, the corner of DELVILLE WOOD, and also BEER & HOP TRENCHES. They had established a block about 150 yards S of the junction of HOP VALLEY and DELVILLE WOOD – Staffords counterattacked but gained nothing.
2nd September 1916
During the day several efforts were made by 91st Brigade but do not seem to have been made with either energy or skill.
Battalion remained in MONTAUBAN ALLEY (suffering from gas shells a good deal) the night of the 1st – 2nd September. Further attack by the Queens bombers resulted in block being made 100 yards nearer Hop. Brigade on left could not or would not co-operate.
Sept 1st: CASUALTIES : to hospital 2 sick; REINFORCEMENTS : 8 from Hospital.
Division decided with 91st Brigade that we must attack on the 3rd, and the following plan was decided on. 91st Brigade. Bombers and Queens Bombers at 5 min before zero to make a bombing attack under cover of smoke so as to distract the enemy’s attention from our advance – 2” T.M. to co-operate. It was, however, recognised that the situation was bad as it was probable the Battalion would be enfiladed by Machine Guns from HOPE & ALE.
2nd September 1916 5:30 p.m.
Orders issued for attack on next day. Objectives of 7th Division allotted to 22nd Infantry Brigade capture of GINCHY and PINT TRENCH. On right 20th Division to attack GUILLEMONT. On left attack to be made on BEER TRENCH. 1st R.W.F to take PINT TRENCH and northern portion of village. 20th Manchester to take remainder of village.
On the night of the 2nd – 3rd, the battalion took over the trenches from QUEENS’ dispositions –
Front Line. – B. Coy. On left, D. Coy. On right in trench just inside eastern edge of DELVILLE WOOD.
A. Coy. In support of B. and C. Coy . in support of D. dug in close behind.
Disposition of Bombers : 1 platoon under Lieut. NEWTON to work with right of C. Coy. And clear up dug-outs and houses. On completion of this task, two sections to be handed to O.C. right half of attack, remainder to dug outs in PINT. Two sections to attack ALE ALLEY from trenches of Battalion on the left. 1 section each to support Coys.
Lewis Guns allotted 5 to left half, 4 to right half.
2nd September 1916 7:05 p.m.
The order as to two sections of bombers to clear ALE ALLEY cancelled. There were to be in Battalion reserve in LONGUEVAL ALLEY.
2nd R. Warwick. Rgt. In close support in FOLLY TRENCHES and YORK ALLEY.
2nd R. Irish in Brigade Reserve in MONTAUBAN ALLEY.
Battalion headquarters in YORK ALLEY, 309 yards N. of junction with LONGUEVAL ALLEY.
Owing to the situation in HOP and ALE ALLEYS, the Companies were not able to take up their proper front from which to assault, and consequently had to correct their line direction during the advance.
Killed : Officers Nil Other Ranks 3
Wounded : Officers 2nd/Lt C.W.Lightfoot (Gas) Other Ranks 4
Missing : Officers Nil Other Ranks 3
Reinforcements : 2 other ranks from base, 1 other rank from Hospital
3rd September 2016 11:00 a.m.
The two sections of bombers sent up to report to O.C. B. Coy. with orders to carry out original plan of bombing along ALE ALLEY – not as previously arranged from front of Battalion on the left, but from left of B. Coy. 1st R.W.F. This was agreed to after consultation with O.C. E. Surreys and 91st Brigade Bombing Officer.
3rd September 2016 11:15 a.m.
Capt. Dadd, O.C. A. Coy. Warned by telephone that he must be prepared to clear up in HOP and ALE ALLEYS, and to watch his left flank. Companies sent in position and prepared to advance and thoroughly understood all instructions.
Lieut. Davie took over command of D. Coy. From Capt. E. T. JONES, the latter having lost his memory. Carrying party of 1st South Staffs. Of two Officers and 70 O.R. passed up to dump with orders to carry up store close behind our support line.
22nd Infantry Brigade sent word that E. Surreys on our left had been ordered to co-operate strongly with a view to obtaining ALE ALLEY at zero, which had been fixed at 12:00, noon.
3rd September 2016 11:40 a.m.
B. Coy. Reports bombers under 91st Brigade Bombing Officer in position ready to assault ALE ALLEY in conjunction with 2” T.M. and E. Surreys at zero.
3rd September 2016 12:00 noon
Telephone message from front line that Companies had gone forward creeping under the barrage to assault. Enemy’ artillery was not heavy on front line.
3rd September 2016 12:04 p.m.
2nd R Warwick Rgt. passed Battalion Headquarters in support
3rd September 2016 12:15 p.m.
Officer i/c South Staffs. carrying party returned saying that party had lost its way and dumped the material about the front line. He was sent back with a map as he did not possess one, and ordered to carry up all available material to PINT TRENCH – N.E. corner of Ginchy – the objective of 1st R.W.F.
3rd September 2016 12:30 p.m.
Enemy’s barrage on back area very slow. Message received from Brigade that 22nd I.B. appears to have been checked, but continued their advance and 2nd R. Warwick Rgt. reported to have reached their objective, viz. BLUE LINE.
3rd September 2016 1:00 p.m.
O.P. reported GUILLEMONT apparently taken and our troops in possession of north of Ginchy.
3rd September 2016 1:20 p.m.
Message received from Capt. Peter O.C. B. Coy., dated 12:50 p.m. stating that left of the attack was held up by Machine Guns in HOP and ALE ALLEYS, and that they had only reached point T.13. a. 20. 30., C. and D. Companies had advanced along VAT ALLEY.
3rd September 2016 1:25 p.m.
Lieut. C.M. DOBELL, who came down wounded, reported at Battalion H. Qrs. That the bombing attack on HOP and ALE had been quite ineffective. The smoke bombs were dropped on to our own men.
3rd September 2016 1:50 p.m.
91st Brigade Bombing Officer came down an asked for reinforcements. He said he was held up outside HOP ALLEY.
3rd September 2016 2:25 p.m.
25 bombers of 2nd Irish Regt. sent under 91st Brigade Bombing Officer to reinforce position south of HOP ALLEY
3rd September 2016 2:50 p.m.
Message from Lieut. FINDLAY (A. Coy.) saying that Captain E. W. DADD, and Lieut. N. JONES were killed and that A. Coy. Was held up 200 yards S. of HOP ALLEY and had no communication with right or left, or with Warwick supports.
3rd September 2016 3:20 p.m.
Brigade order to artillery to shell ALE ALLEY until 5:00 p.m.
3rd September 2016 3:30 p.m.
Message received that 12th King were rapidly consolidating in PORTER TRENCH.
3rd September 2016 3:40 p.m.
Message from Brigade placing 1 company and 4 sections of bomber of Royal Irish Regt. Under 1st R.W.F. for him to organise and attack on HOP ALLEY from the south and from the west with Bombers.
3rd September 2016 4:15 p.m.
Attack was to have been at 5:00 p.m. but was postponed till 5:15 p.m. (vice o/orders)
3rd September 2016 4:25 p.m.
O/C 2nd Royal Irish received message from his B. Coy. saying that our troop were falling back in disorder from Ginchy, and that his O/C B. Coy. Was trying to reorganise them.
3rd September 2016 4:30 p.m.
Information received that we were being pushed out of GINCHY VILLAGE all along the line. Verbal orders from Brigade that if this was so, the remainder of 2nd Royal Irish were to counterattack, all stragglers to be collected and sent up in support.
Message from 20th Manchesters that remnants of Manchesters and Royal Irish were holding STOUT TRENCH.
3rd September 2016 4:45 p.m.
Message from Captain Peter (B. Coy.) saying he was holding a line from south of BEER to approximately T.13.a.50.20. Heavy casualties – had not heard from C. or D. Coys.
3rd September 2016 5:00 p.m.
Message from 2nd Lieut. CARTWRIGHT, (A. Coy.) that he was holding a trench running at right angles to HOP ALLEY (presumably BITTER TRENCH)
3rd September 2016 5:10 p.m.
Remainder of 2nd Royal Irish left to counterattack towards GINCHY.
3rd September 2016 5:50 p.m.
Four remaining sections of Royal Warwick bombers, relieved bombers of 91st Brigade. They were led up by 91st Brigade Bombing Officer
3rd September 2016 6:10 p.m.
Message from counter-attack Companies of 2nd Royal Irish that owing to casualties they were unable to carry out the attack on GINCHY. They were holding a line 400 yards from the village under heavy rifle fire.
3rd September 2016 6:35 p.m.
Message from counter-attack Companies of 2nd Royal Irish on HOP ALLEY that they had got to within about 40 yards from objective and had found 1 officer and 7 men of 1st R. W.F., and in all he had about 30 men left.
3rd September 2016 6:40 p.m.
Message received from 2nd Lieut. FINDLAY to same effect. (He was the #1 officer referred to in the above message)
3rd September 2016 6:50 p.m.
Message from E. Surreys on the left asking for our situation. Reply sent by return. An officer of 2nd Royal Warwicks reported that at 6/30 p.m. he saw red flares in GINCHY about the centre of the village. He rallied stragglers of Warwicks, Irish and Welch, and put them in STOUT TRENCH.
3rd September 2016 6:55 p.m.
Message from O/C A. Coy. 2nd Royal Warwicks ( sent at 6/15 p.m.) that they were holding line T.13.d5.2 to D.19.b.4.8. He had about 60 men and reported enemy in WATERLOT FARM (this was the farm in the village and not the Sucrerie on the LONGUEVAL road) T.13.d.5.3. Enemy holding line N.E. to VAT ALLEY. He also reported signal lights in batches of two red and two white lights due north.
3rd September 2016 7:05 p.m.
Fatigue party of south staffs. Ordered to stand by in case of need. 91st Brigade Bombing Officer reported that 2nd Royal; Irish were falling back, but that an officer rallied them and took them forward again. Heavy barrage on near side of HOP ALLEY.
3rd September 2016 8:45 p.m.
Arrangements made for relief of Brigade by 21t Manchesters who were to take over disposition and relieve the remnants of the Brigade. The 20th Brigade was on its way up in motor lorries to take over the front and also to make an attack on GINCHY.
Killed: Officers Capt. E.H.Dadd, 2/Lt. H. Jones, 2/Lt. J.I.J.Davies (Died of Wounds); Other ranks 22
Wounded: Officers 2/Lt. J.Dadd, 2/Lt. C.M.Dobell, 2/Lt. H.LI.Jones, 2/Lt. V.F.Newton, 2/Lt. F. Fisher, 2/Lt. P.Poutney, 2/Lt. W.E.Evans; Other ranks 129
Missing: Officers Capt. E.T. Jones; Other ranks 87
Sick : 4 other ranks
Reinforcements : Lieut. E.E. BARNES, R.A.M.C Other ranks Draft of 76. One man from hospital.