Noah Lysons and Nonnie Lysons Pritchard

Cousins from the Cannock Chase Colliery
who went to war but never came home

Researched and written by Malcolm Lysons and Chris Graddon

 

Photograph of Noah John Lysons and Nonnie Lysons Pritchard (standing)

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Part 2 - Noah's Story

Photograph of Noah John Lysons

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Noah John Lysons
14 February 1898 – 27 August 1918

The grave of Private Noah John Lysons

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Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Private Noah John Lysons

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Suzanne Military Cemetery Number 3, Suzanne, Somme, Picary, France

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Suzanne Military Cemetery Number 3, Suzanne, Somme, Picary, France

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Plan of Suzanne Military Cemetery Number 3, showing the location of the grave of Private Noah John Lysons in Plot I Row B Grave 1

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Nonnie Lysons Pritchard and Noah Lysons were cousins who grew up in the mining area around Chasetown. Nonnie’s mother, Margaret Ellen Lysons, was a younger sister of Noah’s father Job Lysons. Over the years, the cousins’ lives followed similar paths, with both working for the Cannock Chase Colliery Company once they left school, so it was perhaps inevitable that Noah would follow the example of his older cousin Nonnie and join the army. Sadly, neither of the cousins came home from the Western Front, both sacrificing their lives in service of their country in the Great War.

This is Noah’s story.

Photograph of Noah John Lysons

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Noah John Lysons was the youngest child and second son of Job and Clara Lysons. He was born in Norton Canes in Staffordshire on 14 February 1898 in the heart of the South Staffordshire coalfield where his father worked. He was baptised at the Norton East Primitive Methodist Church on 6 March 1898.

The baptism register for the Norton East Primitive Methodist Church, Norton Canes, Staffordshire, showing Noah John Lysons’ baptism

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Copy of Noah John Lysons’s birth certificate

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Noah’s elder brother, Francis, known in the family as Frank, was born five years before Noah, on 28 October 1892, and his elder sister, Florence May Lysons, was born on 9 May 1896. Another brother, John Davies Lysons, was born on 18 June 1894 but died just 3 months later and was buried at the Parish Church of St. James the Great in Norton Canes.

Sadly, Noah’s mother Clara Sophia died when he was just two years old. Her death certificate records that she died of “exhaustion after parturition”, i.e. after giving birth. There is no record of that baby’s name. Clara’s father, John Davies, was with her when she passed away.

Copy of the death certificate for Noah’s mother Clara Sophia Lysons

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After he left school, Noah Lysons worked as a miner at the Cannock Chase Colliery Company No. 9 Pit at Cross Keys, Hednesford, close to the present-day site of the Hednesford Town football ground. Also known as the Hednesford Pit, this mine opened in 1869 and it continued in operation until 1951, when it merged with the Cannock Chase No. 8 pit on Wimblebury Road at Heath Hayes; the mine closed for good in 1962.

Map showing the location of the mines in the Cannock area

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Noah’s cousin, Nonnie Lysons Pritchard, also worked for the Cannock Chase Colliery Company, at the No. 8 pit. He was the second son of Job’s sister Margaret Ellen Lysons and her husband John William Pritchard. On 19 February 1917 Nonnie enlisted at Walsall and joined the 5th South Staffordshire Regiment (Territorial Force) with regimental number 203135 until 6 June 1917 when he went to the Western Front in France.

On 2 July 1917, Nonnie was given a new regimental number 260045 as he was transferred to the 1st (Reserve) Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment and was posted to the 11th (Service) Battalion (2nd Gwent) South Wales Borderers – part then of the 115th Infantry Brigade, 38th (Welsh) Division.

Nonnie remained with the 11th Battalion South Wales Borderers until it was disbanded in the re-organisation of Brigades that took place in France in February 1918. On 16 February, 7 officers and 150 men were transferred from the 11th Battalion to the 10th Battalion South Wales Borderers but the bulk of the battalion {including Nonnie} was kept together for some little time longer under the title of the 2nd Entrenching Battalion. Nonnie fought on with the 2nd Entrenching Battalion until he was killed on 12 April 1918 during the rearguard defence of the French town of Merville.

The attestation and service papers for Noah Lysons have not survived; like so many others, they were destroyed during the bombing of London in the Second World War.

When he attested, Noah was assigned to the North Staffordshire Regiment with regimental number 61365. However, when he was sent to the Western Front, he was posted to the 7th Battalion London Regiment, with service number G/63009.

Extract for Noah Lysons from Walsall and District: The Roll of the Great War 1914 - 1918

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The report on Noah’s death in “Walsall and District: The Roll of the Great War 1914 - 1918” states that he joined up in May 1918 and went to France in August 1918, however these details were printed in the early 1920s and must be viewed with caution, especially so as that source records Noah’s death as occurring on 18 September rather than 27 August 1918. Unfortunately, Noah’s Medal Index Card does not provide any information as to when he first entered the theatre of war. His award of the British War Medal and Victory Medal indicates only that he served his country overseas at some point after December 1915.

The medal card for Private Noah John Lysons (61365), 3rd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, (G/63009) 7th Battalion London Regiment, Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment

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However, Noah’s entry on the medal roll shows that he was one of 82 men from the 3rd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment and 32 men from the 3rd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment that were transferred to the Middlesex Regiment and posted to the 7th Battalion of the London Regiment. The 3rd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment was a reserve battalion; it remained in the United Kingdom throughout the war providing training and depot facilities. Although Noah and his comrades in arms were drafted to the Middlesex Regiment, it is unlikely that they ever saw service with the Middlesex battalions overseas; almost certainly, on arrival in France they were ordered to link up directly with the 7th Battalion London Regiment.

Private Henry Beardsmore of Walsall Wood, Private Alfred Frank Cowley, also of Walsall Wood, Private Leonard Charles Evans of Cannock, Private George Langley of Stonnall and Private Francis Victor Waltho of Newtown are 5 of the 113 soldiers from the North and South Staffordshire Regiments whose names are recorded on the medal roll with that of Noah Lysons. These soldiers were also included in “Walsall and District: The Roll of the Great War 1914 - 1918”; all five were mobilised in April 1918 and sent to France in August 1918, so it is reasonable to assume that Noah Lysons was also posted to France in August 1918.

The medal roll for Private Noah John Lysons (61365), 3rd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, (G/63009) 7th Battalion London Regiment, Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment

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One of the five, Private Henry Beardsmore, sustained major wounds to both legs while fighting on the Somme. Those to his right leg were so severe that it was necessary for that limb to be amputated. His casualty records have survived and they indicate that Henry Beardsmore was transported by ship from Dover to Calais on 7 August 1918, that date being taken also for his formal transfer to the British Expeditionary Force. The document also shows that he was transferred to the Middlesex Regiment and posted to the 7th Battalion London Regiment as of 12 August 1918. Once again, it seems reasonable to assume that all 114 soldiers from the North and South Staffordshire Regiments were attached to the 7th Battalion London Regiment formally as of 12 August 1918.

 

The casualty record for Private Henry Beardsmore (61312), 3rd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, (G/62972) 7th Battalion London Regiment, Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment

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An entry in the War Diary for the 7th Battalion London Regiment provides further confirmation. It records the arrival, on 15 August 1918, of a draft of eleven 2nd Lieutenants and 298 other ranks, transferred from the North Staffordshire, South Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and Berkshire Regiments.      

Extract from the War Diary of the 7th Battalion London Regiment recording the arrival of a draft of 298 other ranks transferred from the North Staffordshire, South Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and Berkshire Regiments

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The 7th (City of London) Battalion, nicknamed the “Shiny Seventh”, was a volunteer unit of the British Army recruited, initially, from working men in London. Created as a “Working Men's Corps”, it began holding parades at the City of London's Guildhall in the autumn of 1860. Its first officers were commissioned in April 1861 when the unit was adopted formally as the 3rd City of London Rifle Volunteer Corps. Its recruits were generally poorer than those of other London Rifle Volunteer Corps, especially those that recruited from the professions and middle classes. They did not have their own drill hall so drill parades were held in Regent's Park, Gray's Inn Square and the ditch that surrounds the Tower of London; church parades took place at St. Bride's Church in Fleet Street. Although it continued to use its former title, in 1881, under the Childers Reforms, the 3rd City of London Rifle Volunteer Corps became the 11th Volunteer Battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps.

“Black Week” was a disastrous week for the British in South Africa in the Second Boer War. Between the 10th and 17th of December 1899, the Boer Republic inflicted devastating defeats on the British Army at Stormberg, Magersfontein and Colenso. These reverses made it evident to the British government that – contrary to expectation – the Boers were not going to be defeated easily, that new tactics and more modern weapons were essential. The government called “for able-bodied men willing to abandon their homes and families and risk their lives to serve their country”. In response, the 3rd City of London Rifle Volunteer Corps provided a contingent for the City Imperial Volunteers and the actions of that contingent in South Africa earned the Battalion its first battle honour. Volunteers from the 3rd City of London Rifle Volunteer Corps also served with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in South Africa.

Lord Kitchener recruiting poster

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The Haldane Reforms of 1908 brought about the formation of the Territorial Force and resulted in the 3rd City of London Rifle Volunteer Corps being included – as the 7th (City of London) Battalion – in the newly formed, all-territorial London Regiment, part of the 2nd London Brigade within the 1st London Division. Unlike many of the other battalions of the London Regiment, the 7th (City of London) Battalion had no traditional name so was nicknamed the “Shiny Seventh” because its uniforms had brass buttons when all the other battalions in the brigade wore black “rifle” buttons.

On Sunday 2 August 1914, as the 7th (City of London) Battalion arrived in Eastbourne for their annual training camp, news reached them that the European powers had begun to mobilise. The men of the 7th Battalion returned to London immediately by train and went back to their homes awaiting mobilisation by the British government, which came on 5 August.

Call to Arms poster

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A week later, following Lord Kitchener’s call to arms, the 7th Battalion Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Grosvenor Arthur Alexander Hood, 5th Viscount Hood of Whitley, appealed to his men to volunteer for foreign service. Practically the whole battalion did so. The volunteers became the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion and were commanded by Colonel Edward Faux, a long-serving officer of the regiment, Viscount Hood having been forced to relinquish command on medical grounds. The men who chose not to go, or – like Viscount Hood – were deemed unfit for active service overseas, formed a second battalion – the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion – and it was to the 2/7th that new recruits were assigned. A reserve battalion, the 3/7th (City of London) Battalion, was created later, in April 1915; when the 2/7th became an active unit, it took over the task of training and supplying drafts of men to serve in the two battalions that were fighting abroad.

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Following mobilisation, the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion undertook a 3-day march to Bisley in Surrey; further marches the following month took them to the Sussex town of Crowborough. On 5 November 1914 they moved again, this time to Watford in Hertfordshire, at which time they were transferred to the 4th London Brigade, 2nd London Division; in May 1915, this unit was re-designated the 140th Brigade, 47th Division. The men of the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion spent the winter of 1914–1915 training at Watford. On 17 March 1915, they were transported by train to Southampton. There, 30 officers and 1065 other ranks boarded the S.S. Empress Queen for France, disembarking at Le Havre at 6 a.m. the following morning. The Battalion’s transport (men, horses and vehicles) crossed The English Channel on the S.S. Blackwell.

Photograph of the S.S. Empress Queen which took the men of the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion to Frances in March 1815

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{SS Empress Queen was a steel paddle steamer owned and operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. Built in 1897, she sailed between Douglas and Merseyside until 6 February 1915 when she was chartered by the Admiralty to transport troops to and from France. She did this with very great reliability until 1 February 1916. On her final journey, returning from Le Havre to Southampton in poor visibility, with 1,300 men on board, she ran aground on rocks off Bembridge in the Isle of Wight. Destroyers took the troops off but the crew remained on board as efforts were made – unsuccessfully – to pull the Empress Queen off the rocks; the weather changed, a gale blew up and the 110 people on board had to be rescued by the Bembridge Lifeboat and other vessels.}

The 1/7th (City of London) Battalion was actively engaged on the Western front for the remainder of the war, in 1915 fighting at the battles of Aubers Ridge, Festubert and Loos, and in the actions at the Hohenzollern Redoubt. In 1916 they faced the German attack at Vimy Ridge, where a number of men from the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion were taken prisoner. In the Battle of the Somme, the 1/7th fought at High Wood, Flers-Courcelette and Le Transloy, and in the fruitless assault on the Butte de Warlencourt. In the fighting at High Wood and the Butte de Warlencourt, the 1/7th lost 30 officers and 600 other ranks killed, wounded or missing in action. However, on 20 November 1916, their numbers were boosted by a draft of 300 officers and men from the 25th (County of London) Cyclist Battalion.

On 8 January 1917, the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion entrained for the Ypres Salient where, over the next few months, they undertook regular tours of duty in the front line in the Hill 60, Bluff & Hedgerow, and Spoilbank sectors. The troops in this part of the line were being trained and prepared for the Battle of Messines which began on 7 June with the detonation of huge British mines that blew the crest off the Messines-Wytschaete ridge, killing approximately 10,000 enemy soldiers and destroying large parts of the German defences, which were quickly overrun. The 1/7th attacked from the Spoilbank and took the German front line but were then held up at the White Chateau; however, this was surrounded and taken with the assistance of the 1/6th Battalion London Regiment. The captured area was then held despite German shelling and enemy counter-attacks. However, during the three days of this attack the battalion lost 64 officers and men killed, 275 wounded and 13 missing in action.

On 15 September, a week after moving to the Glencorse Wood sector, a specially trained 60-man party from the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion made an afternoon assault on a troublesome German strongpoint in front of “Clapham Junction” on the Menin Road. This position had resisted several previous attacks but the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion took it, naming it “Cryer Farm” after 2nd Lieutenant Bernard Noel Cryer who was killed while leading the attack. The 1/7th reinforced the position that night and held off three German counter-attacks before handing it over to the 1st Australian Infantry Battalion. After 11 months in the Ypres Salient, the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion finally left the area a few days later, moving initially to Roundhay Camp near Roclincourt in the Arras area. Their time there was relatively quiet but at the end of November they were on the move again, eventually reaching Doignes in the Cambrai area after dusk on 27 November.

Over the next two days the Battalion moved forward, first to trenches in the Hindenburg Line, then across the until they occupied Kangaroo Trench, in the support line, overlooking the village of Graincourt. In front was the Bapaume-Cambrai Road and on a ridge beyond that lay Bourlon Wood, thick in undergrowth. The 47th Division had been assigned the task of defending the precarious foothold the British had gained on Bourlon Ridge during the previous week’s fighting at the start of the Battle of Cambrai.

World War 1 trench maps showing the changes to the battlefield region to the west of Cambrai
Above: Trench Map 57C NE Scale 1:20000 Edition 7A Trenches corrected to 20 September 1917
Below: Trench Map 57C NE Scale 1:20000 Edition 8A Trenches corrected to 21 September 1918
British trenches in red             German trenches in blue

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The Sweep Up To Bourlon Ridge {from The Illustrated London News}

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The morning of 30 November 1917 broke fine, sunny and peaceful but at 8.30 a.m. the enemy guns opened up, raining shells down on Graincourt and Bourlon Ridge. The British artillery responded and the Germans launched an assault on the British positions. At 10 a.m. the men of the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion could clearly see the enemy advancing over the ridge beyond the Bapaume-Cambrai Road. The 1/7th resolutely defended their position in Kangaroo Trench but the open trenches that they had occupied overnight provided no cover and were now being machine gunned by enemy aeroplanes flying so low overhead that their occupants could be clearly seen. All the while, the men expected to receive an order at any moment to move forward in support of the front line. However, thanks to counter-attacks made by the 6th and 8th Battalions of the London Regiment, the area occupied by the 47th Division held firm, though in Kangaroo Trench the 1/7th lost one man killed and one officer and 6 other ranks wounded. 

At midnight, the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion worked their way around the village of Anneux and crossed to the opposite side of the Bapaume-Cambrai Road where they halted briefly. The position of the front line was far from clear and, after a short wait, A Company and B Company made their way up a sunken road that led towards Bourlon Wood. Dead and wounded lay everywhere and there were desperate cries for help from the injured as the men made their way up the road. Near the top they endeavoured to dig in to the right of the road but shortly after 3 a.m. on 1 December they were ordered to cross to the left; silhouetted by the moonlight they suffered several casualties as the enemy machine-gunners opened up. Once again the men began to dig in using their rudimentary entrenching tools; by daylight they had connected a series of slit trenches but these were only 3 feet deep and provided little cover. Rations and water were in very scarce supply and intermittent enemy shelling resulted in the Battalion losing 4 men killed and 6 more wounded. Later in the day the men of C Company and D Company joined them towards the top of the sunken road saying they had orders to attack up the slope of Bourlon Wood.

At 8.10 p.m. a battery of British guns opened up as these two companies and several men from A Company went forward. The attack was met with heavy machine gun fire and at first it appeared that the assault might fail but the enemy opposition was quickly overcome and, within 2 minutes, enemy prisoners and Battalion wounded began entering the Battalion’s lines. The attack resulted in the capture of 52 prisoners and 18 machine-guns and the Battalion advanced their front line between three and four hundred yards. Then, at 9.35 p.m., a platoon from A Company was ordered forward to fill a gap in the line; they succeeded in doing so but 8 of the 10 officers who took part in that attack were wounded. The men of the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion had to spend the remainder of that bitterly cold night in the open trenches of Hughes Switch but daylight brought a hot breakfast, the first decent meal the men had tasted for quite some while. They were also able to wash and shave for the first time, water having been in particularly short supply during the attack. On 4 December, the Battalion was pulled back to a more defensible position on the Hindenburg Line.

Writing later the Military Correspondent of the Times Newspaper described the defence of Bourlon Wood as the finest achievement in military history of any London formation. But it came at a cost. Altogether, during the two days of fighting, the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion lost one officer and 14 other ranks killed, with a further 121 men wounded and 35 more missing in action; in addition, another officer died of his wounds 10 days later.

After two brief but much quieter periods in the area around Flesquières, the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion went by train to Méricourt-l’Abbé, and from there marched to billets at Ribemont-sur-Ancre where they spent Christmas and the New Year.

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The 2/7th (City of London) Battalion began the war as a non-active battalion and became part of the 174th Brigade, 58th Division. In May 1915 they moved from their base at Burgess Hill to Crowborough, then to Norwich, and then to Ipswich. In May 1916 they moved again, to Foxhall Heath 4 miles outside Ipswich where they were had a first experience of life under canvas. During their time in East Anglia 2/7th (City of London) Battalion sent over 800 NCOs and men to France to reinforce the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion; all the while, training of new recruits continued at home to replace the men sent to the Western Front. When the 58th Division was prepared for active service overseas, the 3/7th (City of London) Battalion took over the training duties.

In July 1916, the 58th Division left its coastal defence role and went to the village of Sutton Veny in Wiltshire where they were trained for active service overseas. On 26 January 1917, the battalion entrained at Warminster for Southampton Docks where its men embarked for France aboard the Isle of Man paddle steamer SS Mona’s Queen, with Battalion Transport aboard a captured German boat that had been renamed SS Huntscraft. The men were very relieved when they eventually landed at Le Havre the following day as the seas had been extremely rough and the weather bitterly cold.

On 8 February the battalion went into the front line for the first time at Monchy-au-Bois, about 10 miles south-west of Arras. For the first 2 days, the men received training in trench warfare from two battalions of the South Staffordshire Regiment but they took to it so well that they were left to it. Although the Battalion experienced some severe shelling during this tour, and suffered a few casualties and fatalities, the area was relatively quiet.  work parties occupied their periods out of the line, with the men employed on road mending and carrying duties.

A more gruesome task awaited them during the first fortnight of April 1917 in the area around Mailly-Maillet where their salvage duties included unearthing the bodies of hundreds of the dead, identifying them where possible and then giving them a proper, formal burial.

As May 1917 began, the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion were in the Bullecourt area and it was here that they were to fight their first major battle.

The first attack on the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt was scheduled to begin at 4.30 a.m. on 10 April. The plan was for 12 tanks to break through the barbed wire defending the German positions east of the village; infantry from the 4th Australian Division would then follow them through the gaps; meanwhile, the British 62nd Division would attack the western side of Bullecourt. The attack had already been delayed for 24 hours when reconnaissance photos showed that artillery fire had destroyed far less of the barbed wire protecting the Hindenburg Line than had been expected. It was 600 yards across No Man's Land at that point, roughly 500 yards to the enemy barbed wire defences.  

As planned, the Australians advanced at 4.30 a.m. in the pre-dawn darkness. But the tanks had not arrived – they were still an hour and a half from their start points – so, with six Australian assault battalions lying exposed on the snow-covered ground, the decision was taken to postpone the attack. Amazingly, the Australians were able to withdraw without serious loss although 21 men were killed or wounded by enemy artillery fire as they withdrew. However, the 62nd Division – attacking the west of Bullecourt – were not informed of the Australian decision to pull back; they advanced as ordered and suffered 162 casualties, the men being cut down by machine gun fire as they approached the enemy barbed wire. 

The attack was postponed for 24 hours and the British 5th Army General, Hubert Gough, decided that the assault would follow the original plan. When the attack started, fifteen minutes late, at 4.45 a.m. on 11 April, only 4 of the 12 tanks had made it to the starting point, 1 of the remaining 8 having already broken down on the way with mechanical faults. The Germans saw the tanks approaching and switched their artillery to target them. In the end, the Australian Infantry attacked with the support of just three tanks which – being slow-moving – they quickly overtook. They captured the first two German trenches by 5.16 a.m. and by 7 a.m. the Australian Division had taken nearly all of the sections of the Hindenburg Line that they had been assigned. 

At this point, officers on the ground realised that they were running seriously short of ammunition and repeatedly requested artillery support so they could maintain their momentum and push the assault forward. But that help did not arrive until much later in the day because Divisional Headquarters received misleading reports that exaggerated the extent of the Australian gains; those accounts also encouraged the British 62nd Division on the western side of Bullecourt, but their advance met with little success. At 10.00 a.m. a series of German counter-attacks forced the Australians to withdraw back across the open ground towards their original positions; as they retreated, the German machine gunners inflicted heavy casualties, and it was not until 11.00 a.m. that the British finally resumed their bombardment of the German trenches and artillery. 

From some 3000 that went into this action, the Australian 4th Brigade suffered 2258 men killed, wounded or missing. The Australian 12th Brigade lost 909 and altogether 1,142 Australians were taken prisoner. By contrast, German casualties are believed to have been around 750, Only one of the 12 tanks managed to reach Bullecourt, and 52 of the 103 men in the tank crews were killed or wounded. Enemy reports commented later that the German defenders at Bullecourt were alarmed initially when they saw the tanks approaching but, by the end of that first battle, they realised that these frightening weapons were far from reliable mechanically and, more significantly, that they were also vulnerable to attack.

The first battle of Bullecourt was followed by a second that started at 3.45 a.m. on 3 May. In preparation, British bombardment reduced much of the area around Bullecourt to rubble during the week prior to the attack. As well as the artillery having a more prominent role, the unreliability of the tanks in the first battle had resulted in the Australians reverting to the tried and tested creeping barrage. The second battle began with eight successive waves of infantry, supported this time by artillery fire. The Australians broke through the partially destroyed barbed wire entanglements, passing the bodies of comrades that had been killed the month before still lying in the mud. The Germans were well dug in and the Australian 5th Brigade was cut to pieces by machine gun fire, forcing the survivors to withdraw before they had breached the barbed wire. This halted the waves of infantry that followed. By the end of the day the Australian attack had faltered and it appeared that the second battle would deteriorate into a tragic repetition of the first. However, the Australian 6th Brigade did manage to take 400 metres of the German front line and then pressed on to the second line, receiving reinforcements under cover of night.  

In their first major engagement since arriving in France, the 185th, 186th and 187th (Territorial) Brigades of the 62nd Division were prominent in the British attack on the western side of Bullecourt, and had the support of 10 tanks. Some men from the 186th and 187th Brigades managed to get through to the factory north of the village and, from the 185th Brigade, the 2/5th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment made it through heavy fire and close-in fighting to penetrate the northern outskirts of Bullecourt itself, but reinforcements were unable to reach them there. Three of the tanks also managed to enter the village, and others got through the Hindenburg Line north-west of Bullecourt. The slow-moving tanks were quickly outpaced by the infantry but the men on the ground then began falling back as the Germans counter-attacked. Attempts were made to reinforce the groups that had made the furthest advances but by noon the majority of those men had been killed or captured.

The Australians strengthened their position over the next few days, bringing forward fresh munitions and evacuating the wounded. Following a German counter-attack the day before, the British 7th Division managed to gain a foothold in the ruins of Bullecourt on 7 May and established a link to the Australian bridgehead. In the days that followed, the British and Australians were subjected to continuous shelling and in some areas the Germans counter-attacked with flamethrowers. Sporadic fighting continued over the next few days but, with the Allies having achieved their main objectives, the action in Bullecourt ceased on 17 May and moved to the surrounding area.  

In the fortnight’s fighting, this Second Battle of Bullecourt inflicted 7,000 more losses on the Australians who had very little to show for their efforts apart from the capture of a small portion of the Hindenburg Line. In total, the two attacks on Bullecourt resulted in 10,000 Australian casualties. The second attack did demonstrate, however, that the Hindenburg Line was not the impregnable barrier the Germans claimed.

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At the start of May 1917, the men of the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion were in the Bullecourt area, organised into large working parties carrying trench mortar ammunition up the line. For some days the British artillery had been bombarding the German lines as a prelude to the second major attack on the Hindenburg Line at the village of Bullecourt.  During the night of 2nd May, one of the 2/7th carrying parties was caught in the enemy shelling; two men managed to return safely through the German barrage but several others had to lie low for 5 hours before they were able to make their way back, losing one man killed and four others wounded.

The next fortnight was spent preparing to “go over the top”, which included training in how to deal with poisoned gas attacks. Some working parties were involved constructing the main communication trench to the eastern side of Bullecourt while others built a large dump of 18-pounder ammunition behind the village of Écoust-Saint-Mein, one mile to the south-west of Bullecourt. This work did not go unnoticed by the German aeroplanes and observation balloons and, 3 days later, enemy shelling blew the whole lot up.

On 15 May, the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion moved three miles nearer the front line and occupied tents and shelters in and around the village of Mory. The Germans had launched a counter-attack, in the early hours of that morning, aimed at the 173rd (3/1st London) Brigade who had relieved the 15th Australian Brigade three days before. During the night of 15 May, the 174th (2/2nd London) Brigade relieved the 91st Brigade whose men were exhausted after 12 days of action; the 2/5th and 2/8th Battalions of the London Regiment took over the front line with the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion in support. The 174th Brigade had been given orders to capture the western half of Bullecourt and, at 2 a.m. on 17 May, following a two-minute British artillery bombardment, the 2/5th Battalion London Regiment led an assault which saw the capture of 5 machine-guns and 23 prisoners.

The following night, 18 May 1917, the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion moved forward in battle order, each man carrying two days’ rations. A Company moved to what remained of a railway embankment, where funk holes provided the only shelter; the other companies occupied the cellars of the village of Écoust-Saint-Mein. {Funk holes were scraped out of the sides of embankments and trenches and were usually only big enough to give cover and shelter to one man. When it rained, soldiers would drape a waterproof sheet over the opening as they tried to get some rest and sleep.} The 6th Battalion London Regiment had taken over in the British front line, which had previously been the enemy-occupied Hindenburg front line; they were facing the German front line which was now in “Bovis Trench”, formerly the Hindenburg support line. At 4 a.m. on 21 May, the 6th Battalion London Regiment launched an assault on Bovis Trench, with the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion moving up to occupy the positions vacated by the 6th Battalion. Virtually all of the trenches had been obliterated by the incessant shelling so the 2/7th had little by way of cover. Sadly, the attack was not successful and survivors and wounded from the 6th Battalion were forced to return to the British front line; they remained there, with the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion, for the rest of the day, one which saw two officers and two men from the 2/7th wounded.

Although reports from the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion in the British front line contradicted the view, 174th Brigade Headquarters believed that the Germans were not defending their new front line in any great numbers. Accordingly, Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Noel French, commanding the 2/7th, was given the order to capture Bovis Trench. After being shelled repeatedly throughout the day, the 2/7th began their attack at 7 p.m. on 22 May. A bombing party of 13 men made it through No Man’s Land and entered Bovis Trench, which was strongly defended; they made progress along the trench for about 40 yards before superior numbers forced them to retire. For some time, machine gun bullets and grenades flew about in No Man’s Land, and the artillery also joined the fray.

A Company, who were due to “go over the top” and occupy Bovis Trench once the bombing raiders had succeeded in reaching the dead tree that marked the opposite end of that trench, now found themselves the target of a German counter-attack but with rifle fire, grenades and Lewis guns they managed to hold their position. Just before dawn, B Company moved forward across open ground to reinforce them and together they managed to repel the attack, but at a cost. C Company and D Company also sustained casualties in the heavy shelling. Lieutenant Alexander Mantle, killed by shellfire, became the first officer from the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion to lose his life on the Western Front, and altogether, 120 men from the 2/7th Battalion were killed or wounded at Bullecourt. In recognition of his gallant conduct in leading the bombing party, Corporal Hugh E. Lydiart was awarded the Military Medal. Lieutenant Lewis Michell, who organised the A Company defence line during the German counter-attack, was awarded the Military Cross.

The Official British History of Bullecourt records: “At Bullecourt a fierce and bloody struggle, in which on the British side from first to last six divisions were engaged upon a few acres of ground, raged for a full fortnight. By the end the dead on both sides lay in clumps all over the battlefield and in the bottom or under the parapets of the trenches, many hundreds had been hastily covered with a little earth. Losses of ours totalled over a thousand a day for the fortnight. Second Bullecourt had the reputation of a killing match, typifying trench warfare at its most murderous, its only redeeming feature being the courage shown on both sides.”

In the early part of the night of 22 May, what remained of the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion was relieved in the front line and made their way wearily back to Mory, which they reached at dawn the following morning. On 28 May, the Battalion moved back up to the front and the weather was fine as they relieved the 2/10th (City of London) Battalion. At night the men were busy improving the trenches. They also recovered and buried the dead from both sides, an unpleasant job at any time but particularly then when they were dealing with bodies that, for some time, had been lying out in the open exposed to the heat of the day. Shelling was fairly heavy during this tour and amongst the casualties was the stretcher bearer Private Sidney Cownden who was killed on 31 May. Relieved on 3 June, the Battalion returned to the front between the 9th and 14th of June when Corporal Percy George Endall was killed.

Further casualties, and more fatalities, occurred in the second half of June as the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion held part of the recently captured Hindenburg Line in a sector close to Saint-Léger, two miles to the north of Mory and 4 miles west of Bullecourt. The men were facing the villages of Fontaine-lès-Croisilles and Cherisy and, although the artillery fire was heavy, it did not compare to the bombardment they had experienced at Bullecourt. On 6 July, after a week’s hard training at Courcelles-le-Comte, the battalion moved via Bapaume to Metz-en-Couture, four miles south of Havrincourt. They took over a section of the front line there on 9 July and, as the enemy front line was 800 yards away, the Battalion immediately began constructing a forward trench much closer to the enemy.

Hoping to take advantage of the changeover, the Germans shelled the area at dawn on the first morning the 2/7th were in the line. About 100 yards in front of their sector was a small wooded area, Boar Copse, about 90 yards in length. The Germans raided the front line using this copse as cover but the 2/7th were not caught napping and the enemy was repulsed, leaving eight of their number killed and the battalion with several casualties. Private Ernest Ashley was killed and A Company lost six men wounded. To counter future raids, it was decided to patrol the area around Boar Copse. Everything went well on the first two nights but, on the third, one German was killed in the skirmish when the squad from B Company was ambushed by the enemy. Before they were relieved on 18 July, the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion established a sniper post in Boar Copse.

The men were caked in mud when they moved back to Metz-en-Couture on 18 July. As all the houses had already been destroyed, the men were forced to occupy the reserve trenches in front of the village but, while they were there, the men were able to pick plenty of fruit from the local orchards. Ten days later, the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion marched to Bertincourt; the following day they were taken by lorry to Bapaume, where they entrained to Beaumetz-lès-Loges; from there they marched to huts at Simencourt, which they reached in the small hours of 30 July. They had made their rail journey in ordinary carriages rather than the usual army rail trucks but, wearing full marching order and packed 12 to a compartment, the men did not experience the comfort they might have anticipated when they first boarded the train.

The war had not reached the village of Simencourt, six miles south-west of Arras. To men who had spent four months sheltering in trenches, cellars and bombed-out houses, it must have seemed a world away from the life they had come to know. They took baths at Berneville and were billeted in clean huts in orchards. After four months of devastation without seeing a civilian, evening concert parties provided an occasional, welcome relief from the usual working parties. The battalion had changed a lot since it had arrived in France at the end of January. Then the officers had looked on themselves as well-meaning amateurs leading men that were well-trained but raw. Bullecourt had changed all that and had demonstrated beyond any doubt that the 2/7th could match the exploits, determination and courage shown by their comrades in the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion.

The battalion had received a few small drafts to replace the good men it had lost, but not in sufficient numbers, so the fighting strength was now only about five hundred. There was, of course, no let-up at Simencourt, with hard training that included field work, route marches and night digging. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, the men enjoyed their stay there. But all good things come to an end, and on 24 August the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion marched to Arras. While A Company remained there loading limbers, pontoons and ambulances on to rail trucks, the three remaining companies travelled 40 miles north by train to Godeswaersvelde where they marched, via Poperinghe, to Brownlow Camp near Vlamertinghe, 3 miles west of Ypres. A company joined them there the following day and there were reunions with friends and comrades from the 1/7th Battalion who were in a camp nearby. The 58th Division – including the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion – were now part of the British 18th Army Corps.   

On 27 August, the 2/7th Battalion moved forward to occupy dug-outs along the banks of the Yser Canal, near Essex Farm in the Saint Julien sector. In the rain, the muddy inhabitants looked like troglodyte cave dwellers but the men were comfortable in these dug-outs. On the bank of the canal a row of dug-outs opened off the tow-path and shafts ran into the bank at intervals, linking to an electrically illuminated tunnel that ran parallel to the bank.

British officers outside their dug outs on the banks of the Yser Canal, Ypres, in August 1917

Picture 26

On the night of 28 August, the 2/7th moved forward from the canal bank, past Oblong Farm and Kitchener Wood on the left and two hundred yards further on to the concrete machine-gun pillbox position known as Alberta; this was to be Battalion Headquarters. The rest of the men moved further along the track past a line of pillboxes on the right until they reached the Steenbeek river.

Section of the British WW1 Trench map 28 NW Scale 1:20000 Edition 6A showing the trenches in the Saint Julien sector in July 1917

Picture 27

The trenches the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion took over had been captured by the 48th Division only recently and consisted of little more than a series of shell holes linking Triangle Farm – just south of the point where the Langemark-Zonnebeke Road crossed the road from Saint Julien to Poelkappelle – to the northern edge of what remained of the village of Saint Julien. The main route into this section of the front was Bath Track: it began at Goldfish Chateau, about a mile and a half west of Ypres, and from there it ran via Reigersberg Camp until it crossed over the Yser canal bank. Although it was shelled constantly, the Labour Corps worked hard to maintain the track in a reasonable state of repair. However, because of the large number of craters, it zig-zagged more and more the closer it got to the front line, where it culminated in 300 yards of thick mud. The village of Saint Julien was an island of rubble in a sea of mud and the Steenbeek river – which pre-war maps showed as being ten feet wide, eight feet deep and with banks five feet high – no longer followed its original path, its banks having been pulverised in the shelling by both sides. The stream that remained found its own level and course, making the muddy ground – already waterlogged from the heavy rain – even worse.

The 2/7th (City of London) Battalion went into the line in battle dress order, haversacks on their backs; the men were well loaded with rations, mills bombs, sandbags and extra small arms ammunition. They took extra water in petrol cans and Tommy cookers that proved invaluable when they were in position in shell holes. Picks, spades and trench stores all added to the loads the soldiers carried and, with all that equipment, it was a difficult journey to the front and support lines. About half way, beside the duckboard path, they saw stretcher bearers from the 2/7th and 2/10th Battalions busily dressing soldiers that had been wounded as they had tried to make their way forward; then, near Oblong Farm, they passed a dump of 18-pounder ammunition that had been set ablaze by the enemy artillery.

Having relieved the battalion from the 48th Division, the 2/7th tried to dig in; however, they soon gave this up when they found the water was filling up dugouts as fast as they could dig them. The men were strung out four or five to each crater and it was a pretty isolated existence during the daytime as runners rarely got to them. Company commanders were forced to pass on orders at night to avoid giving the Battalion’s locations away. Once the men got into position, their rifles and Lewis guns required constant cleaning to keep them working effectively in that sea of mud and water. The Germans shelled them regularly and on 29 August, the Battalion’s first day in the line, 352170 Private Charles Wickers was killed. The following night, 354815 Private Alfred William James Mitchell was killed; he had only recently joined the Battalion, at Simencourt. The names of Private Wickers and Private Mitchell are recorded on the panels of Menin Gate Ypres Memorial. Two privates were also wounded when a shell exploded in the entrance to their shelter; 353857 Private William Albert Martin was injured so seriously that he died three days later at the Number 46 Casualty Clearing Station. On the night of 1st/2nd September, the 2/6th (City of London) Battalion relieved the 2/7th. Because the enemy artillery was pounding the area with clockwork regularity, gaps of 100 yards were left between the platoons as they moved back towards the canal dug-outs, each platoon waiting for the end of a burst of 5.9-inch shellfire before dashing for safety along the duckboard path. Sadly, 351052 Sergeant Reginald Jonathan Byham was killed despite these precautions. On their return, the men received a rum issue before settling down to some much needed rest and sleep.

The Battalion provided carrying parties – mostly at night-time – while they were at the canal dug-outs. The majority assisted the Royal Engineers who were laying a light railway track but others carried ammunition up to the Alberta pillbox. On one of these trips, the enemy began targeting the duckboard path with heavy artillery; the officer in charge of the party from the 2/7th wisely took his men off the track to the shelter of some old trenches; a company from another unit were not so fortunate, they stayed on the path and suffered a number of casualties. Whilst there was not much for the men to do during daylight, there were numerous aerial dog-fights to watch. They could also see British observation balloons being set on fire by bursts of machine-gun fire from the enemy airplanes, forcing the spotters to make unscheduled descents by parachute.

On 5 September, the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion moved about a mile further back, to Reigersberg Camp, where the never-ending round of working parties continued. They remained there until 11 September when they began six days intensive training at Dambre Camp, near Elverdinghe, preparing for the forthcoming attack. They returned to Reigersberg Camp on 17 September and the following night the uninjured men from the Battalion moved forward to occupy assembly trenches, D Company in the front line, A Company, B Company and C Company in the support and reserve trenches. The waiting period through the following day and night was very trying, the men doing their best to pass the time playing cards; sleep did not come easily because of the non-stop firing of a battery of field guns close by. Although the assembly trenches had been rebuilt and roofed over, several men from the Battalion were wounded during the long wait, and 350934 Corporal Percival John Rollings was killed.

Numerous previous failures in the Ypres salient had followed a common pattern: the British would attack the enemy front line along its length, making quick gains, then press on until their line became stretched and fragmented; the Germans would then counter-attack in strength, retaking the ground that had been lost and inflicting heavy Allied casualties. In the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge (20 – 25 September 1917), General Herbert Plumer opted for a new approach. The British would now target a small section of the enemy front line with heavy bombardment and then attack it in strength; once they had penetrated 1,500 yards, the Allied troops would halt their advance and dig in. At that point, they would have overrun the German front line and perhaps some of the strong points behind it. When the Germans launched their counter-attack, they would come up against a well-organised Allied defence rather than exhausted and disorganised men at the limit of the advance. Once the first wave had consolidated the ground they had gained, a second wave would then “leapfrog” them and push the Germans further back again.

The attack, on an 8-mile front, was covered by an intense artillery barrage, one gun every six-and-a-half yards. Better weather in the days leading up to the attack made the going a little better than it had been, but it remained heavy in places. The 2/5th and 2/8th (City of London) Battalions had orders to cross the Steenbeek river and take the German-held Hübner trench while another battalion from the 173rd Brigade captured the cluster of pillboxes on the right. At the same time, the 2/7th were to attack up both sides of the Stroombeek valley – the valley floor being marshy, waterlogged and difficult to negotiate – with the 2/6th going on to London Ridge, about half a mile farther on.

Section of the British WW1 Trench map 28 NW 2 & 28 NE 1 (Saint Julien - Zonnebeke) Scale 1:10000 Edition 6A, trenches corrected to 30 June 1917

Picture 28

At 5.40 a.m. on 20 September, the British artillery began their barrage, a sheet of flame lighting the countryside with a huge roar; behind this creeping barrage went the attacking troops, the German positions briefly lost to view in the wall of smoke and spouting earth. The 2/7th (City of London) Battalion were held in the assembly trenches as the other three London battalions went into action but, eventually, orders came for them to move forward by half platoons at 100-yards distance. In the enemy shelling it was not long before the 2/7th suffered casualties but the men carried on through the enemy counter-barrage, passing captured prisoners carrying back wounded men from the 2/5th, 2/6th and 2/8th. They continued forward and made a double line of half platoons behind Hübner trench. Previously a strong position, and still recognisable as a trench despite the severe battering it had received from the Allied artillery, its defenders now lay dead along its length. The men of the 2/7th took what shelter they could from the enemy shelling, waiting to attack the strong points in front of them and the London Ridge beyond.

Casualties occurred during this waiting period but at last the order came for the 2/7th to move forward about 200 yards, round Hübner trench to the area of Genoa Farm. This brought an immediate increase in the enemy shelling, killing one man and injuring 6 more from Number 4 platoon. One Sergeant engaged an enemy plane with his Lewis gun; fortunately, the plane did no damage as it dived down on the 2/7th with its machine-gun spitting fire. Genoa Farm appeared to be a death trap, yet stretcher bearers carried on – risking their lives with every step – doing everything they could to extract the wounded.  One captain recalled the 2/7th Medical Officer coming over the top, in full daylight, in a lorry converted into a makeshift ambulance in order to rescue the injured commanding officer of a neighbouring battalion; “I have always marvelled how any driver got a vehicle so far forward with nothing but shell holes, mud and water everywhere”. Major Horace Salkeld Green was killed near Wurst Farm as he went from platoon to platoon. Shortly afterwards, the Battalion received orders to return to their previous position behind Hübner trench, where the shelling was less heavy, but they suffered a further loss there when Company Sergeant Major George Thomas Frost, from C Company, was killed.

At dusk, on 20 September, the 2/7th received orders to move forward. While C Company remained at Hübner trench, A Company, B Company and D Company gathered their packs, digging tools and water cans and moved off in file. They were apprehensive but not sorry to be leaving for the front line, feeling it could not be any worse than the area they were leaving. To their surprise, there was very little shell fire once they got past Genoa Farm, and the front-line area on London Ridge was quiet, which must have seemed too good to be true, surely the lull before the storm. The 2/6th (City of London) Battalion held a line of posts on the crest of the ridge with others on the forward slope. The ground on the ridge was reasonably dry and the three companies from the 2/7th were able to cover the gaps between the 2/6th posts with trenches that were about three feet deep. The first night of the battle then passed quietly, apart from a gas alarm caused by British shells falling short, one of which caused the death of 352386 Lance Corporal Robert Knight Winter.

The men of the 2/6th and 2/7th were alert when dawn broke on 21 September. They were ready for the expected enemy counter-attack, but that did not materialise. London Ridge gave the men a clear view for over a thousand yards and the red and white buildings of Poelcappelle could be seen clearly in the distance; German movements were easily observed with the naked eye and the Battalion snipers had a field day. It was a perfect day weather-wise and repeated enemy attempts to re-establish positions in the Stroombeek valley were thwarted by the Battalion’s rifles and Lewis gun.

By mid-day things had quietened down and, with the enemy now wary of providing easy targets, a lull occurred in the early afternoon. Fearing that the ominous silence might be the prelude to a major German counter-attack, messages were sent back to Division Headquarters, provoking a British artillery bombardment and the Vickers guns raining a steady stream of bullets on the enemy positions in Stroombeek Valley. At first, the men of the London Regiment crouched for cover in their shell holes on London Ridge; however, when there was no reply from the enemy, they began to stand up so they could get a better view of the German strongholds being destroyed. Hostilities subsided once the artillery barrage ended, until the evening when the enemy shelled London Ridge for the first time.

Soon after dusk the men of the 2/7th were relieved by a battalion from the 175th Brigade. The journey back to Reigersberg Camp passed fairly quietly, C Company and D Company getting a lift part way on a light railway; however, D Company did sustain casualties when a shell burst near the rail trucks. A Company and B Company had to march back; A Company fell in behind men from the 51st Highland Division and had their spirits lifted by two of their bagpipers. The 2/7th reached Reigersberg Camp in the early hours of 22 September, where the exhausted men dropped their kit and were soon asleep. The 2/7th (City of London) Battalion displayed great discipline during their action in the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, and they achieved all their objectives but at a cost of 120 men killed, wounded or missing.

The following day, the Battalion moved to Brake Camp near Dirty Bucket Corner, where the men enjoyed Retreat played by the massed pipes and drums of the 51st Highland Division. On 27 September, the Battalion marched to Elverdinghe, and from there they were taken by train to Audruicq, 50 miles to the west of Ypres. Another march took them to the small village of Bonningues-lès-Ardres, about 17 miles south of Calais, where the men occupied good billets and enjoyed their first real rest period amongst civilians. The weather was pretty good and the nearby river offered excellent bathing facilities. The river had once been well stocked with fish but previous groups of soldiers staying in the village had lobbed hand grenades into the deeper water so they could collect and eat the fish that were killed by the concussion.

The Battalion’s rest period ended on 20 October and 5 days later the men were back in the dug-outs along the banks of the Yser Canal, this time near Boesinghe. The British front line was now about 300 yards in front of the village of Poelcappelle, where the wrecked houses hid nests of enemy pillboxes. To make matters worse, the recent bad weather had once again turned the area into a quagmire for miles around.

Section of the British WW1 Trench map Poelcappelle: [3rd Battle of Ypres] Scale 1:10000 Edition 1, trenches corrected to 3 August 1917

Picture 29

On 26 October, the men of the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion set out for the front carrying 2 days' rations; they crossed the Yser Canal and then followed the Langemarck Road for almost a mile to the Kempton Park crossroads in what remained of Pilckem. The men continued straight on along the main road to the pillbox Minty Farm, which was being used as a dressing station, then followed the track that led to Pheasant Trench; this was as far as they could go in daylight and it was only poor visibility in the steady rain that had enabled them to get that far. The men resumed their march at dusk, along a winding track made ten times worse by the hundreds of men who were trying to reach the front, or return from it; as a result, progress was reduced to a crawl.

Every now and then a man would get stuck in the mud and those nearest to him would grab his hand or equipment, or pass him a rifle butt to cling onto; speed was essential as several others were likely to start sinking as they tried to pull that man free. Often, a man’s comrades would have to haul him free using ropes strung over hastily-rigged beams if he slipped on the edge of a crater and fell in. The mud in the shell holes and craters frequently behaved like quicksand and one man from the 2/7th was stuck in it for over five hours.

When they finally reached the front, the 2/7th relieved the 2/2nd (City of London) Battalion, C Company and D Company taking over the front line with A Company and B Company in support. One platoon from A Company took over the area around the flooded pillbox at Beek Houses on the Lekkerboterbeek River, where the ground had turned into a vast swamp. The 173rd Brigade had suffered heavy casualties when their attack over treacherous ground to the east of Poelcappelle stalled; although the 173rd had failed to capture the pillbox at Papa Farm, they had taken Tracas Farm. When D Company took over from them there, they found about 40 stretcher cases inside the pillbox – men from both sides of the conflict – with several more lying outside and close by, the muddy ground having made it difficult to evacuate the wounded. With the pillbox at Tracas Farm now being used as a dressing station, the men of the 2/7th had to find what cover they could. The men were on high alert that first night, unfamiliar with the disposition of friendly and hostile troops in the section they now held.

There a thick mist when dawn broke on Saturday 27 October. It persisted for some hours, but there was no let-up in the steady rate of shell fire from both sides. Towards dusk, A Company and B Company moved to relieve another battalion at Poelcappelle; B Company went into the front line with A Company in support and Company Headquarters at the Poelcappelle Brewery pillbox. Little occurred that night, and the Sunday that followed was marked only by further shelling and yet more incessant rain. Meanwhile, the stretcher bearers struggled on heroically, trying to get the wounded away, at times having to push the stretchers over the mud like sledges; thankfully, the enemy snipers allowed them to continue with their grim work despite having a clear view.

The 2/7th were relieved by the 2/6th (City of London) Battalion during the night of 28 October and – totally exhausted – made it back to the Yser Canal dugouts in the early hours of the following morning. Rain had poured down for most of this tour and a planned attack by the 2/8th (City of London) Battalion was called off when the 2/7th reported to Brigade Headquarters on the appalling conditions at the front. Although no further attacks were made in the Poelcappelle area that year, hostilities did continue to the south-east, where the ground was higher, until the capture of Passchendaele on 6 November brought an official end to the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

The 2/7th Battalion moved back further on 30 October, but the rain continued to fall and the men had little opportunity to dry out. The infrequency of baths made it difficult to get clean, let alone stay clean, and vermin added to the discomfort caused by the mud and rain. On 3 November, 300 men from the Battalion returned to the Yser Canal dug-outs to dig a cable trench. The rest of the men joined them 3 days later and, during the night of 8 November, the 2/7th left the Canal to relieve the 2/10th (City of London) Battalion in the Poelcappelle area.

Guides from the 2/10th led them along a different route to the one the Battalion had used before but once again the final 300 yards proved treacherous in the pitch-black night. Laid on top of the undulating mud, the track sloped at a variety of angles and, time after time, men had to be pulled to safety when they slithered off the duckboards. Fortunately, intermittent enemy shelling caused little damage as the men felt their way along the path in the dark, the shells disappearing into the mud then exploding in fountains that soaked the men and covered them in sludge. And there was still a further – equally-hazardous – 300 yards from the end of the track to the water-filled craters that comprised the front line, A Company taking over positions beyond the village adjoining Requete Farm. The ground beyond the front line was almost impassable which at least made it reasonably secure from enemy attack.

Much of the infantry fighting had died down by then, leaving the men of the 2/7th to make what they could of the awful conditions and the rain that fell throughout this two-day tour. However, casualties were sustained from enemy shelling on the first day, 9 November. Responding to a Brigade Headquarters request, a patrol of one N.C.O. and two men went out that night to investigate whether the Spider Cross Roads in the next hamlet of Westroosebeke was being held by the enemy. The three men came under machine-gun fire when they approached the pillbox at the crossroad and were forced to stand still, waist deep in water, until the firing died down, when they were able to return safely to the rest of the Battalion.

On the night of 10 November, the 2/6th Battalion (City of London) Battalion relieved the 2/7th at the front. However, several men were suffering from exposure and had to be left at pillboxes to be brought back by stretcher bearers the following day. The journey back from the village of Poelcappelle was another slow one but eventually the men reached the huts at the Kempton Park crossroads in Pilckem where hot soup was served while they waited for lorries to transport them back to Siege Camp. Upon arrival there, the men were given porridge and hot tea, which was well laced with rum, and in their tents they found new sets of underclothing so they could finally get out of their muddy khaki.

The following day was spent cleaning up. Some of the men were suffering so seriously from trench foot that they had to be sent to hospital. On 17 November, after a week at Siege Camp, the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion left for Elverdinghe; from there they began zigzagging their way across Belgium. Trains took them first to Proven and then on to Herzele; after a week there, they went by train to Wizernes, the men’s spirits lifted as they anticipated a lengthy rest period out of the line. Two days’ marches brought them to Selles in France where they were billeted in and around the village. However, the men did not overly enjoy their stay there as the billets were cramped and the weather was miserable. Then, on 6 December, news came through that they were to return unexpectedly to the Ypres Salient. By 9 December, the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion was back at the Kempton Park crossroads, where they remained for nearly a month, providing carrying parties and excavating dug-outs in the Pheasant Trench area of Poelcappelle. The weather changed to snow and ice over the Christmas and New Year period but, overall, life was not too bad.

In mid-January 1918, the men finally bade farewell to the mud of Ypres. Many were now missing from the 2/7th Battalion that had first set foot in France just a year earlier, and while some soldiers had returned home wounded, many others had given their lives for King and country.

The Battalion spent one night at Proven before a train journey took them to the pleasant town of Moreuil, some ten miles to the south-east of Amiens. A week later they moved to Domart-sur-la-Luce, which the Battalion were later to see in flames when they went into the line at Hangard Wood in April 1918.

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The heavy toll of casualties had left many infantry units seriously depleted and, in February 1918, several British battalions were disbanded as infantry brigades were restructured into three battalions instead of four. The 1/7th (City of London) Battalion was among those that were broken up. On 29 January, 14 officers and 375 men from A Company, B Company and D Company were the first group to leave, despatched to join the 19th Battalion London Regiment in the 141st Brigade of the 47th Division. The next day, 5 officers and 140 men from C Company went to the 1/7th Middlesex Regiment in the 56th (1st London) Division. On 2 February, Battalion HQ and 200 men –  selected from pre-war Territorials and those who had served longest with the Battalion –  joined up with the 2/7th (City of London) Battalion at Domart-sur-la-Luce. From this date the 1/7th and 2/7th ceased to exist, the new combined unit becoming the 7th Battalion London Regiment, the "Shiny Seventh". It was transferred to the 174th Brigade of the 58th Division and served in that brigade until the end of the war. The remaining men from the 1/7th were sent to join the remnants of nine other battalions and together they formed the 6th Entrenching Battalion.

In February 1918, the restructuring of the British Army brigades – from four battalions to three – led to the disbanding of several – often under-manned – infantry battalions. This generated a large pool of men which was used, initially, to bring the remaining battalions up to strength. The men left over were allocated to 25 temporary Entrenching Battalions. These battalions were put to work improving the Allied defences in anticipation of a major German Spring offensive. When the need arose, they supplied drafts of replacements to build up the strengths of the surviving infantry battalions. They also provided a readily available reserve force whenever one was needed to meet the German offensive. With irregular drains on their manpower, the Entrenching Battalions tended not to last too long. They were disbanded in April 1918, their troops being sent as reinforcements to the infantry battalions to make good the losses suffered during the German Spring offensive. Some of the 1918 Entrenching Battalion War Diaries are housed in the National Archives at Kew, but those for the 1st, 6th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 15th and 17th Entrenching Battalions have not survived.

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On 3 March 1918, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed between Germany and Lenin’s fledgling communist government in Russia. This enabled the Germans to transfer large numbers of troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front. 

By early 1918, the Allied troops on the Western Front were weary. They’d spent three long years fighting the Germans, in campaigns that too often ended in failure or stalemate. They were overstretched and short of manpower. By contrast, bolstered by the troops it had been able to withdraw from the Eastern Front, the German Army was busy preparing for a Spring Offensive, the Kaiserschlacht. The first phase was scheduled to begin in March and the British knew it was coming.  

General Erich Ludendorff’s plan was for a series of four separate German offensives. He envisaged that the main assault, Operation Michael, would create such a decisive break in the Allied lines that the British forces holding the front line from the Somme to the English Channel would be outflanked and defeated, leaving the French to seek terms for an armistice. The subsidiary operations – Georgette {the Battle of the Lys}, Blücher-Yorck {the Third Battle of the Aisne} and Gneisenau {the Battle of the Matz} – were designed primarily to divert Allied troops to those areas and away from the main German offensive on the Somme. 

The Germans prepared meticulously for the assault which began with an enormous bombardment of the British lines in the dark, early hours of 21 March 1918. Shaken out of their sleep as the earth reverberated around them, the British did their best to respond to the attack, but their command centres and communication trenches, their reserve and forward lines, had been all but destroyed in the concentrated barrage which had also targeted the Allies heavy artillery positions. After around 5 hours, the devastating bombardment ended, leaving the British soldiers in a state of confusion. However, there was to be no respite, as highly trained German infantry then left their trenches to cross No Man’s Land, which was shrouded in mist and fog that morning. Still recovering from the intense shelling, and not expecting enemy troops to suddenly appear out of the mist right on top of them, the British troops in the forward positions were quickly overrun.  

The Germans then pressed on, the speed and power of their breakthrough causing despair amongst the British soldiers, many thinking the onslaught heralded the end of the war and a German victory. But, though it was severely weakened, the British line did not break. In many places, British troops put up a stout defence. But their determined resistance could only delay, not check, the German advance, and, as orders were issued for the British troops to fall back, large parts of the front were given up in a hasty and confused retreat. 

The Germans made swift and significant gains in their initial onslaught. The British responded by hurriedly moving up reserve troops to reinforce the Allied line, including men from the Entrenching Battalions. Some men marched all day to get to the front, having been nearly 20 miles away when the bombardment started. The intense fighting continued through until the end of March as the Germans pushed the British further and further back. Lacking the organisation of their normal supply lines and daily routines, the retreating men had to resort to finding food, shelter and sleep as and when they could. The Allies suffered heavy casualties and had a large number of prisoners taken, some twenty-one thousand on the opening day of the Spring Offensive alone.

Map showing the territory gained during the German Spring Offensive of 1918

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By early April 1918, the Germans had advanced around 40 miles into Allied territory. Although the situation was dire, British morale remained high. Then, on 9 April, the Germans launched their second offensive, Operation Georgette, further to the north in Flanders. Like the main offensive, it opened with a massive bombardment of the British lines; this was followed in turn by intense fighting that brought further British losses. German gains continued over the next few days and once again the situation looked critical for the Allies, so much so that General Haig, the British commander in chief, issued a special order on 11 April urging his men to fight to the last.

But Operation Georgette ran out of momentum, despite its initial successes, and towards the end of April it was abandoned. A third phase of fighting began on 27 May, when the Germans attacked along the Chemin des Dames ridge, where the Allied line was held mainly by the French. This push towards the River Marne threatened both Paris and the Paris - Verdun rail link. Once again, the Germans made substantial gains initially, inflicting heavy casualties on the Allies who were forced to make yet another desperate defence in the face of the enemy onslaught. Then, in early June, with the Allies pushed back on several fronts, the German offensive began to falter. The German soldiers were exhausted by then and they had advanced so far and so fast that they had out-run their supplies of food, equipment and reinforcements.  

The Ludendorff offensive had certainly delivered stunning successes in terms of territory gained but the salients that the German army now occupied were of limited strategic value. The speed and extent of the German advance had undoubtedly dented Allied morale but the British front line had only been pushed back, it had not been broken. Crucially, the supply line to the English Channel remained intact. The extended duration of the German offensive, and the sheer number of troops taking part, resulted in both sides suffering heavy losses, the British losing 236,000 men between 21 March and 29 April. Relatively few of these were killed; a significant number were taken prisoner, many others were missing in action. The Germans lost 348,000 men in the same period, and this heavy cost left them incapable of holding their new front line when the Allies began their counter-offensive in August 1918. The German Spring offensive had come very close indeed to turning the tide of the war in Germany’s favour but, when the fifth and final German offensive failed in July 1918, the Allies were able to mount a series of decisive counter-attacks that led, in due course, to the surrender of the German Army. 

The first action for the newly amalgamated 7th Battalion came on 9 February when they took over in the line from the 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment at Buttes de Ruoy, 90 miles north east of Paris and 16 miles south of Saint-Quentin, in the southern section of the 58th Division sector. Several isolated posts were being held there along the edge of a wide clearing in the forest in front of the village of Servais. It was quiet and peaceful for the first 10 days but then a French battery of 75 mm field guns – which were being moved out – decided to fire off all their ammunition rather than transport it and this provoked a response from the Germans. Away from the line, the men of the 7th Battalion discovered a cider apple orchard to the left of their position. Some of the fruit had been left unpicked, and more had fallen under the trees but was still edible, so for a considerable time the troops ate the apples raw, stewed, baked or in puddings. To compound matters, someone came across an old cider press in one of the cottages and this led to several men going down with violent diarrhoea, apple juice being an excellent purgative.

On 18 March, the 7th Battalion relieved the Post Office Rifles (8th Battalion London Regiment) in the front line at Barisis. Battalion working parties began reconstructing the defence system in that area while the men quickly began to fraternise with the French troops on their left, exchanging surplus commodities with them. Everything was normal until the afternoon of 20 March, when information was obtained from a prisoner captured on another part of the front that a German attack was imminent. The 7th Battalion stood ready from 3 o’clock that afternoon but it was not until a quarter past four the next morning that the heavy bombardment began away on the left. At 5.25 a.m., the 7th Battalion’s front line came under heavy shell and mortar fire; this lasted for about 5 hours but, fortunately, casualties were relatively light. Meanwhile, north of the River Oise, the Germans advanced against the 173rd Brigade at 6.10 a.m. and by 9 a.m. there was heavy fighting in that area despite the thick fog. Although visibility remained limited, the fierce fighting continued there until nightfall, when the 173rd Brigade withdrew across the Crozat Canal, heavy casualties having severely reduced its fighting strength.

There was no sustained attack south of the River Oise, and it was not until the following day, 22 March, that the 7th Battalion learned of the serious set-backs north of the river. However, one 7th Battalion post did fight off an enemy attack on 21 March, at a cost of 2 men missing. The weather in the Barisis sector was fine, on the whole, with morning mists that lasted until about 10 o’clock in the morning. On 24 March, a German officer walked, unarmed, through the forward area of No Man's Land, thinking he was quite safe in the mist, and was taken prisoner by a 7th Battalion post in the support line. An enemy raid was repulsed later the same day and resulted in the capture of a German Sergeant Major.

Between 21 March and 5 April 1918, the German spring offensive drove British forces back as the months of stalemate in the trenches gave way to a rapid enemy advance. On 4 April, the Germans nearly captured the town of Villers-Bretonneux but Australian and British troops managed to resist them. However, on 24 April, almost three weeks later, the Germans did break through into Villers-Bretonneux; they seized the town and then began to advance westward towards Amiens.

The 7th Battalion left Barisis on 2 April and, after a 6-mile march, were taken in French lorries to Vic-sur-Aisne, where they received letters and parcels from home. At 8 p.m. they boarded trains for Longueau, 5 miles south east of Amiens, which they reached at midday the following day; from there another march took them to Boves, where they spent the night. At noon on 4 April, the 7th Battalion moved off in the pouring rain to reserve positions astride the road from Longueau to Villers-Bretonneux, where they relieved the remnants of several battalions that were completely exhausted after fighting their way back from Saint-Quentin. During this tour the men made several fine stews with ingredients obtained from a huge warehouse in Villers-Bretonneux that was full of tinned food, wine, candles and other items that were in short supply. The warehouse was guarded by Australian Infantry: if they wanted some wine and had no corkscrew, they would line up a bottle at the far end of the building and shoot the neck off with a bullet.

The 7th remained in this area until the evening of 12 April when they withdrew briefly, to Blangy Wood, having been relieved by the 59th Battalion of the Australian Infantry Force. The next day they moved forward again, to a support position, taking over from the 6th Battalion London Regiment in a sunken road to the west of Villers-Bretonneux at Bois d'Aquennes. The ground there was saturated and had been heavily shelled and, each night, working parties went out to reinforce the barbed wire. On 14 April, 2nd Lieutenant Harry Edwin Benstead and 352053 Private James Harris were killed; in August 1917, James Harris had been awarded the Military Medal whilst serving with the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion. Company Sergeant Major Leonard Walpole Everson was seriously injured; one of the 7th Battalion’s best all-round sportsmen, he died later, on 28 April, as a result of the wounds he sustained. On 16 April, the 7th Battalion replaced the 6th Battalion London Regiment in the front line beyond Villers-Bretonneux, with Battalion Headquarters located in the village itself. 352354 Lance Corporal Harry Moss Erwin was killed that day and the 7th Battalion suffered further casualties in the line during the fairly quiet night that followed, including the death of 350619 Lance Corporal Percy Henry Coles who had been awarded the Military Medal in December 1916 whilst serving with the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion.

At 5 a.m. on 18 April, the enemy began firing 15,000 shells into Villers-Bretonneux, saturating the village with mustard gas. Woken by the bombardment, the troops occupying Battalion Headquarters quickly put on their respirators, and kept them on until the shelling ended at 8 a.m. The men tried to prevent gas entering the Battalion Headquarters dug-out, and to clear the gas that had already seeped in, but these efforts turned out to be in vain as Battalion Headquarters then received a direct hit, its occupants having to crawl out and establish a new headquarters in a nearby lime kiln. The weather turned fine and sunny as the morning wore on and the new headquarters soon became hot and stuffy. The soldiers began to complain of blisters on their necks and wrists, and of burns to their bodies, caused by the gas that had permeated their clothing. Nearly all the Headquarters personnel were affected and some also suffered impairment to their eyesight. Several men from the 7th Battalion died from the effects of the mustard gas at Villers-Bretonneux; many more had their lives shortened, and suffered ever after, because they were gassed that day. Among the men who died on 18 April, or from their injuries over the next few days, were: Private Richard Emmett, Private Alfred Frank Meader, Corporal Richard Grey Newton and Corporal William Norford, all of whom had previously received the Military Medal. Lieutenant-Colonel Sydney Lory Hosking was among those temporarily blinded. He had joined the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion in 1909 as a Second Lieutenant and, after a sequence of promotions, had been appointed as its Commanding Officer in September 1917, then becoming Commanding Officer for the amalgamated 7th Battalion in February 1918. He was so badly gassed that day that he had to be evacuated back to England; however, he survived the war and lived on until his death at the age of 73 in 1952.

The 7th Battalion were relieved by the 8th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment during the night of 19/20 April and began to make their way back to Boutillerie. While they were halted at a crossroads, two platoons from A Company came under enemy fire and suffered several casualties, many of them fatal. Among them were the Irish man Captain Ambrose Augustine Shearman, who had landed in France in January 1917 in the first group of soldiers from the 2/7th to serve on the Western Front, and Lieutenant Cecil David Metcalf, who had joined the 1/7th in France in October 1916 as a Lance Corporal.

Medical inspections at Boutillerie revealed that most of the men were displaying the effects of the mustard gas shelling at Villers-Bretonneux. Several had lost their voice and the majority were reduced to speaking in a whisper. Many had raw blisters on their bodies where the poison had come into contact with their skin. Serious cases of gas poisoning were treated at Casualty Clearing Stations and Field Hospitals, and the worst cases were evacuated home. The cooking equipment had also been contaminated by the gas and nearly all the company cooks were casualties, so catering arrangements had to be improvised. Fortunately, the Battalion was able to borrow dixies from the Royal Army Service Corps thanks to a chance meeting between Company Quarter Master Sergeant Frederick Scothorne and an R.A.S.C. officer who had served with the 7th Battalion earlier in the war. 

The Great War saw the earliest use of chemical weapons. They were used primarily to demoralize and injure enemy troops. For both sides, the indiscriminate, slow-moving gas clouds were most effective when targeted against stubbornly entrenched defences. The gases ranged from disabling chemicals, such as tear gas, to the lethal agents phosgene, chlorine, and mustard gas. Chemical warfare became a major feature of the First World War. Gas attacks claimed some 1,300,000 casualties, though only 90,000 of these were fatal. Nevertheless, they did have a profound psychological impact on the troops and their effects were – in many cases – long lasting. Unlike other weapons of the period, effective counter-measures were developed – especially more reliable gas masks – so, in the later stages of the war, gas warfare became less effective even though its use increased.

British troops, blinded in a gas attack during the Battle of Estaires, wait in line at an Advanced Dressing Station near Bethune, 10 April 1918

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The use of poison gas by the major protagonists in World War I constituted a war crime. It violated the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, which prohibited the use of poison or poisoned weapons in warfare. The Geneva Convention “Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare” bans the use of chemical and biological weapons in international armed conflicts. It was signed on 17 June 1925 and came into force on 8 February 1928, but several countries have flouted it since, and many continue to do so to the present day.

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These two photographs show pages from the first edition of Wilfred Owen's poems. The anthology was edited by Wilfred Owen’s friend and mentor Siegfried Sassoon, with the assistance of Edith Sitwell, and was first published in 1920. His poems – which vividly depicted the horrors of trench warfare in the hell on earth that was the Western Front – were quite unlike the patriotic verse most people were exposed to at the time. Only five of Wilfred Owen’s poems were published during his lifetime. He was killed in France on 4 November 1918, just a week before the armistice was signed.

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen was born in Oswestry, Shropshire, on 18 March 1893 and was brought up in Birkenhead and Shrewsbury. In September 1913, Owen went to Bordeaux in France to teach English at the Berlitz School; in 1914 he worked as a language tutor for a French family at Bagnères-de-Bigorre, in the Pyrenees, and then for an English family at Bordeaux. He returned to England in October 1915 and enlisted in the 3/28th County of London Battalion (Artists' Rifles); in June 1916, he was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant.  

After spending the remainder of the year training in England, Wilfred Owen left for the Western Front at the start of 1917, where he joined the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment in command of A Company. On 12 January, he went into the Somme front line. During the action at Serre, Owen led a half platoon and occupied a former German bunker in No Man's Land; during the ensuing enemy bombardment, a sentry was blown from an observation ladder in their trench and left blinded; this incident became the subject of Owen’s poem "The Sentry".  

Following a Transport Course at Abbeville, Owen re-joined his battalion in the line near Le Quesnoy-en-Santerre. On 14/15th March, he fell into a fifteen-foot-deep shell hole while searching in the dark for a soldier overcome by fatigue; two days later he was taken to the No.13 Casualty Clearing Station at Gailly suffering from concussion. He re-joined his battalion on 4th April near Selency and for the remainder of that month was in and out of the front line, first at Savy Wood and then at Saint-Quentin. One night, while he slept, a trench mortar explosion blew Owen into the air and for the next few days he lay in a hole opposite the dead body of a friend and fellow officer.  

On 2 May, the acute headaches Owen was suffering were diagnosed as shell-shock and he was evacuated home, going first to Netley Hospital in Hampshire and then, on 25 June, to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. In August, he met Siegfried Sassoon who encouraged him to incorporate his war experiences in his poetry. In June 1918, he was again passed fit for active service and in August, after more than a year away, he returned to the Western Front. At the start of October, Owen took part in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line at Joncourt and was awarded the Military Cross in recognition of his courage and leadership. He was killed in action on the banks of the Sambre-Oise canal on 4 November 1918, just 7 days before the Armistice.  

Wilfred Owen wrote virtually all the poems for which he is now remembered during a creative burst between August 1917 and September 1918, but only five were published prior to his death.

The Shiny Seventh were expecting a 5-day break for reorganisation and refitting at Boutillerie, on the south-eastern edge of Amiens but, on the night of 21 April, a captured German sergeant-major gave the Allies information that the enemy were planning an attack at Villers-Bretonneux for the morning of 23 April. The 7th Battalion stood ready from dawn that morning and at dawn on 24 April they moved up to reserve positions in the Cachy sector.

It was a foggy morning, with visibility down to around 30 yards, and the heavy German bombardment that began at 3.45 a.m. lasted for over two hours. Covered by the noise of the barrage, enemy tanks reached and breached the front line, taking the village of Villers-Bretonneux and pushing further west, threatening the safety of Amiens itself. With no preliminary artillery bombardment – and hence no forewarning for the enemy – the Australian infantry launched a surprise night-time counter-attack. Two battalions from the 13th Australian Brigade attacked to the south of Villers–Bretonneux while three battalions of the 15th Australian Brigade attacked to the north. By the morning of 25 April, the Australians had virtually surrounded Villers–Bretonneux, encircling its German defenders. However, it was not until 26 April that the village was finally secured, with a new front line established to the east of it. Although much of the lost ground had been regained, the old front line was not reached anywhere along the 4-mile front. The success of the Australian Infantry Force in this Second Battle of Villers–Bretonneux ensured that, for the remainder of the war, no German ever set foot in Villers–Bretonneux except as a prisoner of war.

“ Night attack by 13th Brigade on Villers-Bretonneux” painted by the Australian artist Will Longstaff {Captain William Frederick Longstaff (1879–1953)}

Night attack by 13th Brigade on Villers-Bretonneux” painted by the Australian artist Will Longstaff {Captain William Frederick Longstaff (1879–1953)}

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Although the 7th Battalion was not engaged directly in the fighting on 25 April, they still suffered several casualties and were on notice to take part in the counter-attack on Villers-Bretonneux. That night they moved forward to a position in the front line, where they remained for 48 hours providing fire power onto Hangard Wood where enemy machine-gunners were holding up the Australian counter-attack.

The heavy fighting around Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918 resulted in 9,529 British and 2,473 Australian casualties; French losses were estimated to be 3,500 while the Germans lost 8,000 to 10,400 men killed or wounded. The losses to the Allied 58th Division – which included the 7th Battalion – were 153 officers and 3,377 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.

It was during this period that Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Alan Hanbury Sparrow, D.S.O., M.C., took command of the 7th Battalion. Formerly with the Royal Berkshire Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Sparrow had already been wounded three times on the Western Front; after the war, he wrote about his experiences there in his book “The Land-locked Lake”.

The Shiny Seventh were relieved by French infantry from the Moroccan Division on the night of 27/28 April, and were transported about 30 miles north-east, by bus, to Caours, near Abbeville, where a draft of officers and other ranks joined the seriously-depleted battalion. After a period of reorganisation, refitting and training, the 7th Battalion moved to Molliens-au-Bois on 6 May; on route, the men’s spirits were lifted as they passed thousands of colonial and American troops heading for the front. A route march on 8 May took them to the small village of Mirvaux, about ten miles west of Albert, which had been in enemy hands since its capture by the German army in March 1918 during the German Spring Offensive. Training continued until 15 May when they relieved the 21st Battalion London Regiment of the 47th Division at Millencourt, just over two miles west of Albert. The relief was completed about midnight, with both the German and British artillery active throughout the change-over. The men were relieved in turn by the Post Office Rifles (8th Battalion London Regiment) on the night of 19 May and went to the area around Hénencourt Chateau, which the 7th had been detailed to counter-attack should it be captured by the enemy. Enemy planes regularly dropped bombs on that sector, which was also the target for German artillery and gas shelling. At 1 a.m. on 21 May, the 7th Battalion moved forward to battle positions, having been apprised of an enemy attack; 3 hours later they trudged their way back, having been withdrawn when the assault did not materialise.

On 23 May, the men relieved the 6th Battalion London Regiment in the right section of the Millencourt sector. With cornfields between the trenches rather than muddy craters, the ground there was not what the "old timers" were used to. Night intelligence gathering and working parties filled this 5-day tour and 365103 Private William Thomas Stonehouse was killed by machine gun fire on 26 May as his patrol returned from scouting the German trenches. During the night of 27/28 May, the 9th Battalion London Regiment relieved the 7th, who moved to bivouacs in Hénencourt Wood, where they stayed until 31 May. The men were able to take baths while they were there; they also carried out practice attacks and had their respirators, rifles and Lewis guns inspected. The 7th Battalion was ordered to provide a large working party for the night of 30 May. This turned out to be a stroke of good fortune for those involved, as the enemy subjected the men that were left behind to heavy bombardment with high explosive shells, mustard gas and tear gas; those that could evacuate their bivouacs were forced to make for near-by trenches. Without doubt, the casualties that night would have been a great deal heavier had it not been for that working party; even so, 4 other ranks were killed, and 21 wounded; also injured were 2nd Lieutenant John Francis Robert Vaughan-Russell and D Company Quarter Master Sergeant William McDonald Cameron Norie.

Section of the British WW1 Trench map Senlis [Albert] Parts of 57D SE, 57D SW, 62D NE and 62D NW, Scale 1:20000 Edition 1, trenches corrected to 18 May 1918

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At 4.30 p.m. on 31 May, the 7th Battalion was relieved by the 2nd Battalion Berkshire Regiment and, the following day the men marched to the Baizieux area where they took over from the 7th Buffs (the 7th Battalion East Kent Regiment) in the Baizieux System. For the first half of June, parades, drill and training were the order of the day as the Battalion’s command structure was bolstered by the arrival of additional officers.

On 10 June, the Battalion moved to Picquigny-sur-Somme, with rumours circulating that they were headed for the Italian front. These proved unfounded and the men returned by bus to reserve positions in the Baizieux System on 17 June. The next day they moved forward to take over from the 19th Battalion London Regiment in the front line, positions they occupied until they were relieved during the night of 24/25 June. The hand-over provided an opportunity for reunions to take place with friends from the former 1/7th (City of London) Battalion, several of whom had been transferred to the 19th rather than the 7th in the battalion reorganisation of February 1918. The Shiny Seventh suffered a few casualties while they were in the line, including 351069 Sergeant Harold Frederick Charles Pulham who died of his wounds at the 41 Casualty Clearing Station on 22 June. They also had some American troops attached to their ranks for training and instruction. However, this particular tour was notable for the Battalion having to fight off a different enemy. An epidemic – possibly trench fever, but most likely Spanish influenza – swept through the ranks and resulted in the 7th’s Second-in-Command, their Chaplain, two company commanders and five other officers being hospitalised.

The first report of Trench Fever in the trenches of the Western Front was in 1915. All the armies were affected and it wasn’t until the final year of the war that doctors and researchers finally discovered the cause. The main symptoms – sudden high fever and loss of energy, headaches and dizziness, skin rashes and inflamed eyes, severe muscle and bone pain (particularly in the shins) – resembled those of typhoid and influenza, though the condition was less serious. Most patients generally recovered after 5 or 6 days, but recurrences were common and, in extreme cases, prolonged hospitalisation was required.  

In military terms, Trench Fever was one of the major causes of sickness amongst the troops. In 1918, it was ascertained that the disease is caused by the bacterium Bartonella quintana, which is found in the stomach walls of the body louse. The crowded conditions in the trenches, and the lack of regular opportunities for soldiers to wash themselves and their clothing, predisposed the men to this disease. Infection occurs when a person is bitten by an infected louse or when they scratch their skin and rub the faeces from an infected louse into an irritated area. Among those who suffered from it were the authors J. R. R. Tolkien, A. A. Milne and C. S. Lewis. 

The “Spanish flu” pandemic began in January 1918, and ran through to December 1920. It was an unusually deadly strain of influenza and involved what is now referred to as the H1N1 virus. It infected 500 million people around the world and resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million people (getting on for 5% of the world's population). This one outbreak lowered average life expectancy by about 12 years. To maintain morale at home, wartime censors restricted early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States, but news agencies were free to report the epidemic's effects in neutral Spain, creating the false impression that Spain was particularly badly affected; this gave the pandemic its nickname, Spanish flu.

A third company commander went down with the sickness while the 7th Battalion were in the area around the deserted village of Baizieux; it also affected every one of the Battalion’s runners, making it even more likely that it was indeed Spanish influenza. During the night of 27 June, the enemy bombed the 7th Battalion’s Baizieux positions no less than 3 times. Fortunately, two companies from the 7th had moved earlier that day to relieve the 6th Battalion London Regiment, so June 1918 ended with two Shiny Seventh companies in the Laviéville Line and two back in the Baizieux System.

The 7th Battalion spent the first fortnight of July in the 58th Division left subsector on the western edge of Albert, where they served two spells in the front line separated by a period in the support trenches. The men were relieved during the night of 13/14 July and returned to their earlier positions, with two companies in the Baizieux System, two in the Laviéville Line, and Battalion Headquarters in what remained of Baizieux. Their time at Albert had been hard, the worst day being 12 July when one officer, 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Rhodes Featherstone, and 12 men were wounded. Altogether, in the first half of July, the 7th Battalion lost 6 men from the ranks killed and 18 wounded. Then, on 15 July, the 7th Battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Alan Hanbury Sparrow, became the latest victim of the virus and was transported back to England.

Three days later, the men of the 7th Battalion were back in the muddy trenches on the western edge of the Albert front, where they remained until the night of 27/28 July. The condition of the line was not improved when the enemy struck back following a daylight raid by the Post Office Rifles (8th Battalion London Regiment) that was launched from the 7th’s line; the retaliation resulted in several 7th Battalion casualties. A corporal from the 7th Battalion later described the heroic actions of one of his comrades on that day: “This man {probably 352747 Corporal Arthur William Golland} went into No Man's Land to bring in a wounded man from the Post Office Rifles. On the way back with the wounded man, he was fired upon and hit. He dropped his man but picked him up again and, although wounded himself, brought the injured man to the trench parapet, where he was hit again and killed. But he got his man in. He lost his own life saving another.”

7th Battalion casualties were again heavy during that tour, with 2 officers killed in action – 2nd Lieutenant Felix Ramon Arthur Dansey and 2nd Lieutenant Harold John Alexander – along with 14 others from the ranks: 350390 Corporal William George Victor Neale {who had been awarded the Military Medal in December 1917}, 351436 Private Victor Albert Edward Haynes, 352747 Corporal Arthur William Golland {who was awarded the Military Medal posthumously in November 1918}, 353112 Private Alexander Knight {who had been awarded the Military Medal in March 1918}, 353664 Private George Thomas Marchant, 351869 Private Albert Gartner, 353938 Lance Corporal Herbert Victor Tickell, 365157 Private Alfred Thomas Robinson, 368083 Private George Frederick Gover, 368088 Private Frederick Henry Daniel Kees, 368108 Private Albert Corps, 368126 Private William Henry Ramm, 368147 Private James William Sutton and G/92967 Private Albert Stirzaker. In addition, 6 officers and 27 other ranks were wounded, and 351529 Private Robert Frederick Ferrett and 354921 Private Charles Ernest Rennell both died of wounds they sustained earlier.

After ten days in the Albert front line, the Shiny Seventh were replaced by an American Infantry Regiment; following three more days in the support line, they were relieved at the end of July by the 12th Battalion London Regiment and withdrew to Round Wood Camp, between Franvillers and Behencourt , at which time Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Evelyn Johnston, D.S.O., M.C., assumed command of the 7th Battalion.

The weather was glorious at the start of August 1918 as the enemy resumed night-time bombing. On 2 August, the 7th Battalion were transported by bus and then endured a long march before arriving at Halloy-lès-Pernois, 25 miles east of Albert and 15 miles north of Amiens. The men were hoping for a 3-week rest period but they were soon advised that on 8 August they were to take part in the Battle of Amiens {the Third Battle of Picardy}, the opening phase of the Allied “Hundred Days Offensive” that would eventually bring Germany to her knees and end the First World War. Fresh from a major victory in the Second Battle of the Marne, Marshall Ferdinand Foch was to take command of the Allied forces for the Battle of Amiens. {The Second Battle of the Marne (15 July – 6 August 1918) was the last major German offensive on the Western Front and it ended the string of enemy victories that had begun with the launch of the German Spring Offensive in March 1918. The Second Battle of the Marne saw the Allies inflict 168,000 casualties on the Germans; they also took over 29,000 enemy prisoners.}

Having been informed of the part the 7th Battalion was expected to play in the coming battle, the new commanding officer travelled, with senior officers from the 6th and 7th Battalions of the London Regiment, to a position near Vaux-sur-Somme to reconnoitre the ground in front of Malard Wood. On 4 August, the buses transporting the Battalion were frequently held up by tank convoys, so it wasn’t until 4.30 a.m. the next morning – following a route march –  that the men finally reached Bonnay. After a brief rest, the men moved forward again to relieve the 11th Battalion Royal Fusiliers in a valley near Vaux-sur-Somme.

Section of the British WW1 Trench map 62D NE, Scale 1:20000 Edition 3B, trenches corrected to 3 August 1918

Picture 36

The 7th Battalion moved forward from the valley in J.22.c at 10.20 p.m. on 7 August, and proceeded via Bega trench, Cootamundra street and Crump lane to their assembly positions in K.25.a; because the approach routes were so congested, the assembly positions were not reached until 3.30 a.m. the next morning, just 40 minutes before zero hour. Battalion Headquarters was located in a trench at Lone Tree Cemetery and the Battalion line was organised with A Company on the left flank, then B Company, then two companies of the 6th Battalion London Regiment, then D Company on the right flank. Altogether, the men occupied a 120-yard front and were formed up in two waves of small columns with a skirmishing line in front. C Company was in reserve, 250 yards behind A Company and B Company. On the 7th Battalion’s left flank – north of Crump Lane – were men from the 36th Infantry Brigade. The two remaining companies of the 6th Battalion were on the 7th Battalion’s right flank; they were supported, behind, by the 8th Battalion London Regiment, their task being to mop up and then occupy the western edge of the wood.

There was little response from the enemy prior to zero hour, which had been set at 4.20 a.m. on 8 August; later reports showed that the Germans were not expecting the Allies to launch a major push that morning, especially not one on such a wide-scale. The objective for the 7th Battalion was the high ground north-east of Malard Wood, but troops were under orders not to go through it. The plan was for A Company and B Company to move around the north side of the wood, supported by C Company, while D Company controlled its north-west corner. Meanwhile, the 6th Battalion were to pass round the north and south ends of the wood and take the high ground to the east; the 2/10th Battalion London Regiment would take the village of Sailly Laurette. One hour into the battle, the 173rd Brigade was to move through the Battalion line and occupy a position on Chipilly Ridge, in K.29, overlooking the Somme River.

A dense fog came down at 4 a.m. on 8 August, reducing visibility to no more than 25 yards for quite some time. Malard Wood, which measured 2,000 yards from north to south and 1,000 yards from east to west, was about 1,500 yards from the 7th Battalion assembly positions. The Allied artillery barrage opened at 4.20 a.m. and the men of the Shiny Seventh went forward; they were without their tank support which had only just passed Battalion Headquarters. The mist made it difficult to maintain a sense of direction and platoons became separated. Soon the men from the 6th, 7th and 8th battalions had become mixed; even so, the batches of prisoners and wounded men that were making their way back from the forward positions gave an indication that good progress was being made as far as Malard Wood.

To achieve their objective, the 7th Battalion had to cross a deep ravine leading out of the northern edge of the wood. The ravine had shelters and dugouts but the enemy had obviously left it in a hurry because a consignment of undistributed Iron Crosses was found there, as well as a number of machine guns and rifles, and various other items of equipment. Several of its officers and N.C.O.s had already become casualties by the time groups from the 7th Battalion reached the ravine, so the new Commanding Officer and the Adjutant – Captain Kenneth Oswald Peppiatt – made their way to the forward positions where they found the nucleus of the Battalion. They rapidly organised the different units and, by 7.15 a.m., defences had been established along the high ground north of the wood. Meanwhile, the 173rd Brigade had become hopelessly scattered in the fog and were in no position to carry out their task of taking Chipilly Ridge.

As the morning of 8 August wore on, the mist lifted and visibility improved. The enemy shelling of the ravine, which had been heavy, also began to diminish, allowing supply tanks to bring up rations, which they dumped at the corner of Malard Wood. Aeroplanes also dropped additional ammunition for the 7th Battalion, who appeared to have the situation under control. At 5 o’clock that afternoon, the 173rd Brigade finally launched their assault on Chipilly Ridge. Unfortunately, by that time, the enemy had moved men and machine-guns forward and the attack withered away in the face of heavy fire.

The next day, 9 August, the German artillery observed Allied tanks assembling in the ravine and the 7th Battalion suffered casualties when their positions were hit in the resulting shellfire. During the afternoon, the Commanding Officer gathered the scattered remnants of his Battalion, 6 company officers and about 200 other ranks. The Battalion was due to be relieved that night but their Commanding Officer received verbal orders that, at 5.30 p.m., they were to push forward and capture Chipilly Ridge while – on the Battalion’s left flank – American troops were to attack and take Gressaire Wood. Captain Percival Halley-Jones was given command of the main body of the 7th Battalion, which now comprised men from all four companies; from these, one platoon was detached to flush out machine gun nests on the Battalion’s right flank.

The American troops did not arrive until shortly after the attack had begun, but the tanks advanced and helped to break the opposition. The men of the 7th Battalion faced heavy enemy machine-gun fire as they advanced, and suffered numerous casualties, including Captain Halley-Jones who was mortally wounded early in the attack. Later in the fighting, 2nd Lieutenant Edward Woodraffe Pinnock, who had also been wounded, managed to get back to Battalion Headquarters where he reported that the 7th had no officers left at the front. Captain George Graham Jackson was sent forward by the Commanding Officer and he found the remnants of the battalion at the south end of Gressaire Wood. Despite being wounded in the leg in the action that followed, Captain Jackson led those men forward and succeeded in capturing Chipilly Ridge, although only 30 from the ranks remained when they took the ridge.

The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston, and the Adjutant, Captain Peppiatt, followed up the advance with the Lewis gunners from Battalion Headquarters and joined up with Captain Jackson on the ridge where the men were busy digging in. By this time, opposition was decreasing and the Americans had begun to drive the enemy from Gressaire Wood. However, two German machine-gun positions on the left flank were still causing trouble for the men on the ridge; Captain Peppiatt organised and led a group of Americans and cleared out those posts, capturing 11 prisoners.

Chipilly Ridge, which had previously seemed so formidable, had been successfully stormed and was finally in Allied hands. Their job done, the remnants of the 7th Battalion were relieved and moved back to Malard Wood during the night of 10 August. The following day, they moved further back to Copse Cemetery, in J.18, on the Bray-Corbie Road. Three days later, the Battalion marched, via Heilly, back to Round Wood, which they reached at 7.35 p.m.

The 7th Battalion sustained heavy casualties during the two days fighting around Malard Wood and Chipilly Ridge. Nevertheless, they achieved all of their objectives and, in the process, captured 500 prisoners, 10 trench mortars, 25 light machine-guns, 10 heavy machine guns, 3 howitzers and 4 field guns. However, they lost 300 men killed or wounded, including 4 officers killed and 10 wounded. The severity of the losses can be judged by the number of N.C.O.s that were killed: 8 sergeants, 3 corporals and 2 lance-corporals.

The Military Medal was awarded to 24 men from the ranks in connection with the fighting during those two days. Particular mention was made of the courage, initiative and devotion to duty displayed by 350268 Corporal John Chetland who found himself in sole charge of his platoon during the action at Chipilly Ridge, all officers and senior N.C.O.s having become casualties. Captain Philip Barnet Berliner, Captain Kenneth Oswald Peppiatt, 2nd Lieutenant Alan Cumming Fraser and 2nd Lieutenant Edward Woodraffe Pinnock received the Military Cross and Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Pictures 37, 38, 39 and 40

Picture 37:  Citation that appeared on page 13146 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 7 November 1918 regarding the award of the Military Cross to Captain Philip Barnet Berliner
Picture 38:  Citation that appeared on page 13153 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 7 November 1918 regarding the award of the Military Cross to 2nd Lieutenant Alan Cumming Fraser
Picture 39:  Citation that appeared on page 13165 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 7 November 1918 regarding the award of the Military Cross to Captain Kenneth Oswald Peppiatt
Picture 40:  Citation that appeared on page 13165 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 7 November 1918 regarding the award of the Military Cross to 2nd Lieutenant Edward Woodraffe Pinnock © London Gazette

The remnants of the 7th Battalion London Regiment spent the next three days cleaning, refitting and training. On 12 August 1918, 82 men from the 3rd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment and 32 men from the 3rd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment were posted to the 7th Battalion London Regiment. The War Diary records their arrival with the Battalion on 15 August 1918, in a draft of eleven 2nd Lieutenants and 298 other ranks that were transferred from the North Staffordshire, South Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and Berkshire Regiments. It is reasonable to assume that Noah Lysons was among them.

The newcomers were inspected by the Medical Officer the following day, after initial training with the companies to which they had been assigned. On 16 and 17 August, the new arrivals, and those who had survived the fighting at Malard Wood and Chipilly Ridge, were allotted bath times at Franvillers, enabling them to have a good wash and shave. Then, on Sunday 18 August, the Battalion attended the 174th Brigade Church Service. Intense training resumed and – from 19 to 21 August – the men’s days were filled with drill, practice attacks and time on the rifle range. They left Round Wood at 6 a.m. on 22 August, moving – over the next 2 days – first to a ridge north-west Heilly, then to a point on the road from Albert to Amiens, and finally to shell holes south west of Morlancourt.

At 1.30 a.m. on 25 August 1918, the men began to move forward and, by 7 o’clock that evening, had assembled on the east side of Happy Valley, with the 6th and 8th Battalions of the London Regiment in support behind their right and left flanks respectively. They were to advance and occupy a line east of Billon Wood that had been captured by men from the 175th Brigade.

Section of the British WW1 Trench map 62D NE, Scale 1:20000 Edition 3B, trenches corrected to 3 August 1918

Picture 41

Australian forces were to provide support on the right but communication problems with them delayed the start of the advance until 10.15 that night, by which time a torrential thunderstorm was raging. The men moved forward in the pitch darkness, making their way through a small wood; the troops were soon saturated and found it difficult to maintain their footing on the clay soil. Eventually, after advancing nearly two miles, the battalion reached and dug in on the other side of Billon Wood, where they relieved the men from the 175th Brigade and re-established contact with the Australian troops in Copse H. The trek to get there had been extremely trying, and had not been completed without casualties, but there was to be no rest. The men might be extremely weary but Battalion Headquarters at Trigger Wood had received orders that the 7th Battalion was to carry out an attack in the early hours of 26 August, the aim being to gain ground towards a line south of Maricourt.

Section of the British WW1 Trench map 62C NW 1:10000 Edition A, trenches corrected to 3 January 1916

Picture 42

A creeping artillery barrage began at 4 a.m., lifting forward at 4.30 a.m. until it reached the intended final objective of the old British line in A.23.a and A.23.c. The 7th Battalion – with the 8th Battalion in close support and the 6th Battalion in reserve – met considerable opposition as they made their way forward across the open ground in the face of heavy enemy machine-gun fire. Progress was slow and difficult, and casualties were heavy, but in the end the men gained 1,000 yards, reaching a position in A.27.a just west of D Copse, on the contour running from there to C Copse, capturing two German field guns in the process. Their flanks and the slope in front of them were heavily defended by enemy machine gunners, making further progress impossible. The men who reached D Copse did manage to hold that position for 8 hours despite being subjected to incessant machine gun fire; led by Captain John Hope Jackson of B Company and Lieutenant Lionel Henry Walsh of D Company, they beat off several attempts to surround and capture them. They did receive reports that elements from the 173rd Brigade had reached C Copse, but this was not visible from D Copse and it was impossible to establish communication with that position.

While the 6th Battalion was held, in reserve, at Trigger Wood, the 8th Battalion dug in to the north and in front of Billon Wood. Meantime, under the command of Captain John George Holtzapffel Budd, A Company had become scattered, with some men still on the edge of Billon Wood; Battalion Headquarters Lewis gunners were sent to reinforce them. Meanwhile, part of C Company had become isolated on the left flank and had been taken prisoner, including Lieutenant Francis Edward Moylan and 2nd Lieutenant Harry Cockcroft.

During the afternoon of 26 August, the Australian troops made a sweeping movement up the valley on the Battalion’s right, establishing contact with the men defending D Copse; this manoeuvre would have been impossible had the men of the 7th Battalion not held on so resolutely; their tenacity was remarkable given that many of them were untried in the field, having only recently arrived on the Western Front. For their gallant conduct during the defence at D Copse, 350958 Company Sergeant Major John Archdeacon was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and 352825 Sergeant Hubert Percy Precious was awarded the Military Medal. The Battalion suffered nearly 100 casualties before nightfall on 26 August. The situation then eased, allowing preparations to be made for another assault on the Maricourt line the following morning.

Citation that appeared on page 2414 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 18 February 1919 regarding the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal to Company Sergeant Major John Archdeacon

Picture 43

Picture 43: Citation that appeared on page 2414 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 18 February 1919 regarding the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal to Company Sergeant Major John Archdeacon

Once again, the objective was the old British line in A.23.a and A.23.c, reaching down as far as Fargny Wood in A.29.a. The action resumed behind an artillery barrage at 4.55 a.m. on 27 August, with the 6th Battalion on the left, the Shiny 7th on the right and the 8th Battalion in support; the 173rd Brigade provided the left flank, the Australians the right flank. The 7th Battalion was seriously depleted as a result of the attack the previous day and 2nd Lieutenant John Edwards Trollip had been sent to collect and take charge of the remnants of C Company. The remnants of the Battalion assembled east of D Copse and worked their way forward behind the barrage, which lasted for 6 minutes. This second attack went well, and rapid progress was made, but enemy machine-gun nests once again caused trouble; these were dealt with speedily, though not without casualties. At 7.25 a.m. Battalion Headquarters moved forward to the quarry in A.28.a. The situation forward of that position was far from clear but a steady flow of prisoners began arriving at Headquarters and it quickly became clear that the 6th Battalion and the Shiny 7th had not only reached but had taken the whole of the old British front line. They became firmly established there but no further advance was attempted because the ridges beyond that point were strongly defended. Although seriously short of men, the 7th Battalion had again performed heroically, and had captured another enemy field gun. However, this second attack further drained the Battalion of its officers and N.C.O.s, and once again there were heavy casualties among the ranks.

The 7th Battalion spent the night of 27/28 August reorganising in the old British front line, then pushed forward again, this time in support of the attack launched at 4.55 a.m. on 28 August by the 6th and 8th Battalions which took the old German reserve line. This further success enabled defence posts to be established in front of the old British line but the 7th Battalion suffered additional casualties from the enemy’s counter barrage. The Battalion was relieved that night, and reached B Copse in A.15.c the following morning. 

Altogether, 13 officers and 280 men from the ranks were killed or wounded during the 2-day assault on the Maricourt line. Among the officers killed were four 2nd Lieutenants: Claude Leighton Moore, who died on the first day, William Alfred Tyler, Eric Herbert Justus Maule-French and John Edwards Trollip who were all killed on the second day. 2nd Lieutenant John Edwards Trollip was a popular South African officer whose conversation usually turned to farming; his comrades described him as 15 stone of cheerfulness, humour and efficiency. In addition, Captain Lionel Henry Walsh, M.C., D.C.M. was so seriously wounded in the fighting that he succumbed to his wounds two days later, on 29 August.

Noah John Lysons was among those killed during the second day. The 7th Battalion War Diary gives no indication as to when, where or how he died. At least 4 men from the ranks of the 7th Battalion were killed during the fighting on 26 August 1918:

350550 Lance Corporal William Alabaster         351571 Corporal William Green
355319 Private Michael Lazarus         351187 Private Frank James Whitfield

355218 Private Clifford Smith also died on that day, from wounds received earlier.

At least 27 men from the ranks died alongside Noah Lysons on 27 August 1918. Like Noah, 18 of these were from the group of 82 men from the 3rd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment and 32 men from the 3rd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment that linked up with the Battalion for the first time on 15 August 1918:

350520 Private Harry Archibald Bishop         356199 Private Thomas Laurie Coningsby
G/97134 Private Alfred William Cooper         G/63087 Private Edwin Cund
G/62907 Private Arthur John Durose             G/63072 Private Samuel Thomas  Eccleston
G/62984 Private Leonard Charles Evans        G/62988 Private Thomas Green
G/62911 Private John Hemmings                   G/63188 Private Elisha Horace Hopkins
G/63121 Private William George Hunt           G/62952 Private Sidney Jones

352783 Private Dennis Lane                           G/63011 Private George Langley
G/63097 Private George Harry Larner          
352713 Corporal Albert Leonard Lock
352655 Private Alexander Edward Malcolm   352191 Private James Frederick Mutton
G/63020 Private Herbert Nicholls                  365081 Private George Norris
368060 Private Frederick John Peek               G/63103 Private John Reynolds
G/63041 Private Arthur Saunders                  G/63044 Private Hubert Isaac Smith
G/63043 Private Joseph Stackhouse               G/63047 Private Alfred Treadwell
G/63050 Private Alfred Turner

All those in italics transferred to the 7th Battalion in the same group as Noah John Lysons.  

Page showing the entry for Noah John Lysons in the Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901 – 1929

Picture 44

Enlargement showing the entry for Noah John Lysons in the Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901 – 1929

Picture 45

The men that survived were not allowed much time to rest – barely enough to clean up – before being sent back up the line again during the night of 30/31 August; buses took them as far as Hem Wood in B.27 and from there they marched to Junction Wood in B.28.b. The 7th Battalion were expecting to be in reserve but, at 1.30 a.m. on 31 August, they were ordered to support an attack on Marrières Wood that was to be launched at 5.10 a.m.

As the Battalion was making its way to the assembly position, an enemy shell fell close by, wounding the Adjutant in the leg; fortunately, Captain Peppiatt was able to carry on.

Section of the British WW1 Trench map 62C NW Scale 1:20000 Edition 4B, trenches corrected to 6 March 1918

Picture 46

The Battalion line was to be led by C Company and D Company; they were under orders not to enter Marrières Wood – unless assistance was required – until it had been cleared by the battalions that were leading the attack, the 6th and 8th Battalions of the London Regiment. A Company and B Company were to remain west of the wood, in reserve. However, there had been insufficient time to properly communicate these orders before the attack began, and two platoons from C Company – that had been following behind the 6th Battalion – carried on, right through the wood, across the valley east of it in C.20.d, then along the far slope to the old quarry in C.20.b. The men – led by 2nd Lieutenant Randal Brooks Cooke – pressed 500 yards beyond their original objective, cutting off and taking several enemy soldiers prisoner as they tried to retreat down the eastern slope of Marrières Wood.

Citation that appeared on page 9724 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 30 July 1919 regarding the award of the Military Cross to 2nd Lieutenant Randal Brooks Cooke

Picture 47

Later in the day, D Company and the remainder of C Company were pushed forward from positions west of the wood. D Company occupied one old quarry in C.20.d while the remnants of C Company joined the two platoons in the other old quarry, in C.20.b, where their Lewis guns held back small groups of enemy soldiers that were attempting to filter back into the area from the village of Bouchavesnes. Meanwhile, A Company and B Company had moved forward to the centre of C.19.a, inside Marrières Wood.

300 prisoners from the German 232nd Division were taken in the fighting that day, and the 7th Battalion also captured two field guns and 2 light mortars; the morale of the prisoners was understandably low as it was becoming clearer that the Germans were losing the war. The Shiny 7th also suffered further losses, with 3 more officers and 17 men from the ranks killed or wounded. 2nd Lieutenant Alan Cumming Fraser of C Company was killed while stalking an enemy sniper that was firing on and causing casualties amongst the men of C Company holding the old quarries; his Commanding Officer described the South African as a gallant, fearless and first-class fighting officer. In addition to the injury to the 7th Battalion Adjutant, 2nd Lieutenant Leonard Harbott was also badly wounded.

The 74th Division took over from the Battalion on 1 September and that evening the 7th moved back about two miles to a position between Battery Copse and Hem Wood, where they spent the next few days cleaning up, refitting and making shelters in shell holes; most of these were washed away by a powerful thunderstorm on 5 September. The next day buses took the 7th to Moislains, and from there they marched to Nurlu Wood, arriving in support positions at 5 a.m. on the 7 September. That night the battalion assembled at Saulcourt in preparation for an assault on Épehy that began at 7.30 a.m. on 8 September. The resistance at Épehy was greater and more determined than any the Battalion had recently encountered and they met very stiff opposition from enemy machine-gunners in the village. Some prisoners were taken, but the 7th – already badly depleted – suffered further casualties. By the time they were relieved, and went to old huts at Liéramont on 11 September, the Battalion had been so reduced in numbers that it had re-organised as a single company. 

Following a general clean up, the battalion was refitted and reorganised once more, but any rest the men might have had was rudely interrupted on 15 September by unexpected orders to return to the support line in front of Épehy. There, the companies occupied isolated positions, cut off from any communication, and that night a huge storm broke, quickly saturating the men. The day after was quiet but the night that followed was wet again and, to make matters worse, the men’s rations failed to arrive. A further assault was made on Épehy on 18 September and the 7th Battalion again met considerable resistance until they were withdrawn midway through the afternoon. At 5 p.m. on 22 September, the Battalion moved to the village of Ronssoy, which the Allies had just captured; the cellars the men occupied there felt comparatively safe compared to the bolt holes they had inhabited in recent weeks, though the enemy did shell the village the following day and again on the night of 24 September.

American troops relieved the Shiny 7th towards the end of September, buses and trains taking the men, via Heilly, to the area around Aubigny-en-Artois; by the start of October they were involved in the fighting once more, this time north of Lens. The 7th (City of London) Battalion had left the devastated Somme battlefield behind at last, but for the comrades who had forfeited their lives – and, in particular, for Noah Lysons – it would remain a resting place forever.

Family notice from the 28 September 1918 edition of the Cannock Advertiser

Family notice from the 28 September 1918 edition of the Cannock Advertiser

Picture 48

Enlargement of the family notice from the 28 September 1918 edition of the Cannock Advertiser

Picture 49

Photograph and notice of the death of Noah John Lysons from the Walsall Pioneer & District News. 

Pictures 50 and 51

Family notices from the 5 October 1918 edition of the Cannock Advertiser

Family notices from the 5 October 1918 edition of the Cannock Advertiser

Picture 52

Enlargement of the family notices from the 5 October 1918 edition of the Cannock Advertiser

Picture 53

Photograph of Noah John Lysons from the Walsall Pioneer & District News

Picture 54

The Family of Noah John Lysons

Noah’s paternal grandfather Job Lysons was a coal miner. He was born in Shropshire around 1828 and was baptised in Pontesbury on 19 April 1829, the son of John and Margaret Lysons. Job married Emma Sophia Hill in Wolverhampton in the first quarter of 1855 and by the time of the 1861 census the couple were living in the Wednesfield area with their son Thomas who had been born in the first quarter of 1860. Shortly after the census the family moved to the Brownhills area and over the years that followed they had 7 more children, 4 boys – Job, Timothy John, Edwin George and Ernest Edward Lysons – and 3 girls – Margaret Ellen, Noah Eliza and May Lysons.

Noah’s paternal grandmother Emma was born about 1837; the census records are unclear about her place of birth, some recording it as Birmingham and others as Walsall. Emma died in Chasetown at the age of 67 and was buried at St. Anne’s Church on 8 January 1904. Her husband, Job, lived to the age of 79 and survived his wife by 3 years; he was buried at St. Anne’s Church on 30 April 1907.

Sadly, Job and Emma’s eldest son Thomas died when he was just 2 years old; he was buried at St. James Church, Brownhills with Ogley Hay, on 9 April 1862. In early 1863 the couple had a second son, Job Lysons, Noah’s father, and in due course, Job joined his father working in the mines.

Photograph of Noah's father, Job Lysons

Picture 55

Noah’s father, Job, married Clara Sophia Davies at the Parish Church of St. James the Great in Norton Canes on 5 October 1891. Clara was the daughter of John and Sophia Davies. She had been born in the Longton area of Stoke on Trent during the third quarter of 1868 but her parents – like Noah’s grandfather Job – had also moved away from the Pontesbury area of Shropshire, her father seeking work as a miner in the South Staffordshire coalfields.

Job and Clara's first child, their eldest son Francis – known in the family as Frank – was born on 28 October 1892 and baptised the following month, on 20 November, at the Norton East Primitive Methodist Church.

The baptism register for the Norton East Primitive Methodist Church, Norton Canes, Staffordshire, showing the baptism of Noah’s elder brother Francis Lysons

Picture 56

A second son – John Davies Lysons – followed two years later, in June 1894, but he survived only a few months and was buried at the Parish Church of St. James the Great in Norton Canes on 3 October 1894.

The baptism register for the Norton East Primitive Methodist Church, Norton Canes, Staffordshire, showing the baptism of Noah’s other brother John Davies Lysons

Picture 57

The couple’s only daughter, Florence May Lysons was born 9 May 1896. She married her husband Arthur Cartwright in 1917 and lived to the age of 75.

Copy of the birth certificate for Noah’s sister Florence May Lysons

Picture 58

Job and Clara's fourth and last child, their third son, Noah John Lysons was born on 14 February 1898. Like his two brothers, he was baptised at the Norton East Primitive Methodist Church, on 6 March 1898.

The baptism register for the Norton East Primitive Methodist Church, Norton Canes, Staffordshire, showing the baptism of Noah John Lysons

Picture 59

Tragedy struck the family for a second time with the death of Noah’s mother, Clara Sophia Lysons, at Norton Canes on 15 July 1900; she was just 31 years of age and the death certificate (see picture 11 above) records the cause of death as “exhaustion after parturition”, i.e. after giving birth. Job’s medical records (see picture 63 below) imply that Clara and Job were expecting a further addition to their family in 1900 but that the baby did not survive; this is confirmed by the absence of any record of a birth or death. The death certificate shows that Clara’s father, John Davies, was with her when she passed away. She was buried on 19 July 1900 at the Parish Church of St.  James the Great in Norton Canes.

For the next few years, Job continued to work in the mines as a stallman (a miner at the coal face in charge of a "stall" or narrow working place) and banksman (the man at the pit surface who was responsible for the loading and unloading of the cage when it reached the top of the shaft, taking tubs full of coal from the cages and replacing them with empty ones; he also supervised the miners entering and leaving the cage, and signalled to the engineman when the cage was ready to be lowered). In due course, Job’s sons Frank and Noah were also to work in the South Staffordshire collieries. The 1911 census shows 18-year old Frank employed in the mines, as a horse driver, while 13-year old Noah was still at school. By this time, the two brothers were living in Heath Hayes in the home of Clara’s younger brother Noah Davies, his wife Charlotte Elizabeth Parker and their 4 young children.

1911 Census entry for Noah and Frank Lysons

Picture 60

Meanwhile, their sister Florence May Lysons was an apprentice dressmaker; she was living in Cannock with her uncle, John Davies – Clara’s eldest brother – and his wife Mary Jane Fidoe. 

1911 Census entry for Florence May Lysons

Picture 61

These domestic arrangements were made by Clara’s extended family because, on 18 July 1907, her husband, Job, had been admitted to St. Matthew’s Hospital in the Woodhouses area of Burntwood. Job had suffered from epileptic seizures ever since he was a boy and the irregular occurrence of attacks over the years resulted in him remaining in St. Matthew’s Hospital for the rest of his life.

Extract from the 1911 Census entry for Noah’s father Job Lysons when he was a patient at St. Matthew’s Hospital.
{N.B. The names of other patients have been hidden}

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Job died there on 12 March 1941; he was 75. The death certificate gives the cause of death as a combination of epilepsy and fatty degeneration of the heart.

Entry page in the St. Matthew’s Hospital Lunacy Patients Admissions Register for Noah’s father Job Lysons, recording his admission date 18 July 1907 and date of death 12 March 1941
{N.B.  The names of other patients have been hidden}

Picture 63

Copy of the death certificate for Noah’s father Job Lysons

Picture 64

Noah’s elder brother Frank Lysons was born in Norton Canes on 28 October 1892 and began his working life in the local coal mines. On 25 March 1917, he married Alice Harrison at the Heath Hayes Primitive Methodist Church. She had been born on 19 July 1895 in the Ogley Hay area of Brownhills, the daughter of William and Susannah Harrison; her father was a coal hewer.

Copy of the 1917 marriage certificate for Noah’s brother Francis (Frank) Lysons and Alice Harrison

Picture 65

Photograph of Noah’s brother Francis (Frank) Lysons and his wife Alice Harrison

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Frank and Alice had 3 children:

Their eldest child, Dorothy May Lysons, was born in Cannock on 30 May 1918 and married Fred Harding in 1941; sadly, their only child, Geoffrey F. Harding, who was born in the last quarter of 1952, died in 1953 before reaching his first birthday. Fred and Dorothy later adopted their son Gordon. Dorothy died in South Staffordshire at the age of 80 in early 1999, nine years after the death of her husband Fred.

Frank and Alice’s second child, a second daughter, Hazel Joan Lysons, was born on 23 September 1920. She married Richard Vincent Speake at Heath Hayes Methodist Church in 1941 but the couple had no children. Hazel died in Stafford at the age of 78 in the second quarter of 1999, her husband Richard having died in the last quarter of 1989.

Frank and Alice’s only son, Brian Frank Lysons, was born in Heath Hayes on 2 June 1926. He married Barbara Sylvia Wilkes at St. Peter’s Church, Hednesford, in 1948 and, during the years that followed they had 6 children, 3 daughters – Carolyn in 1949, Dorinda in 1958 and Julia in 1959 – and 3 sons – Malcolm in 1952, Robert in 1970 and Craig in 1972. Their eldest son, Malcolm, is the co- author of this biography.

Noah’s sister Florence May Lysons was born in Norton Canes on 9 May 1896.

She married Arthur Cartwright in the second quarter of 1917 at the Mill Street Methodist Church in Cannock. Together the couple had four children – John in 1918, Howard in 1919, Mary in 1932 and Edward in 1935. Florence died in Cannock in 1971. The group photograph shows Arthur Cartwright back left, Florence May Cartwright back right, and their two sons Howard on the left and John on the right. Clara’s brother John Davies is seated on the left with his wife Mary Jane Fidoe (known in the family as Polly) seated on the right.

Group photograph showing Arthur Cartwright back left, Florence May Cartwright back right, and their two sons Howard on the left and John on the right.’s brother John Davies (brother of Noah’s mother Clara) is seated on the left with his wife Mary Jane Fidoe seated on the right

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Tragedy was to strike this family once again in the Second World War.

Noah’s uncle on his father’s side of the family, Ernest Edward Lysons, was born in 1874. In the first quarter of 1898, he married Cecilia Westwood at Lichfield Register Office. Their son Archibald Aubrey Vernon Lysons was born on 11 April 1903 but, sadly, he died at the age of 15 and was buried on 17 November 1918 at Burntwood Christ Church. Ernest and Cecilia then adopted Ronald Cecil Lysons, who was born in 1921. (1180195) Flight Sergeant Ronald Cecil Lysons was a navigator with 196 Squadron of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; tragically, at the age of 23, he was killed in an air crash in February 1944.

Extract from the 3 March 1944 edition of the Lichfield Mercury regarding the death in an air crash of Ronald Cecil Lysons

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Extract from the 10 March 1944 edition of the Lichfield Mercury regarding the death in an air crash of Ronald Cecil Lysons

Picture 69

Commonwealth War Graves Commission Certificate in memory of Flight Sergeant Ronald Cecil Lysons

Picture 70

Photograph of the War Memorial inside Burntwood Christ Church

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Photograph of the panel on the War Memorial inside Burntwood Christ Church bearing the name of Ronald Cecil Lysons

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Reference, item and source

1.     Photograph of Nonnie Lysons Pritchard (standing) and Noah John Lysons © Malcom Lysons

2.     Photograph of Noah John Lysons © Malcom Lysons

3.     The grave of Private Noah John Lysons © The War Graves Photographic Project

4.     Certificate in memory of Private Noah John Lysons © Commonwealth War Graves Commission

5.     Suzanne Military Cemetery Number 3, Suzanne, Somme, Picary, France © The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

6.     Suzanne Military Cemetery Number 3, Suzanne, Somme, Picary, France © The War Graves Photographic Project

7.     Plan of Suzanne Military Cemetery Number 3, showing the location of the grave of Private Noah John Lysons in Plot I Row B Grave 1 © The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

8.     Photograph of Noah John Lysons © Miss E Woolletter and the WW1-Heath Hayes website http://www.heathhayes-ww1.co.uk/

9.     The baptism register for the Norton East Primitive Methodist Church, Norton Canes, Staffordshire, showing Noah John Lysons’ baptism © Lichfield Record Office

10.   Copy of Noah John Lysons’s birth certificate © General Register Office

11.   Copy of the death certificate for Noah’s mother Clara Sophia Lysons © General Register Office

12.   Map showing the location of mines in the Cannock area © The Coalmining History Resource Centre http://www.cmhrc.co.uk/site/home/index.html

13.   Extract for Noah Lysons from Walsall and District: The Roll of the Great War 1914 - 1918 © Walsall Local History Centre

14.   The medal card for Private Noah John Lysons (61365), 3rd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, (G/63009) 7th Battalion London Regiment, Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment © The National Archives and Ancestry

15.   The medal roll for Private Noah John Lysons (61365), 3rd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, (G/63009) 7th Battalion London Regiment, Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment © The National Archives (Service Medal and Award Rolls, First World War, WO329) and Ancestry

16.   The casualty record for Private Henry Beardsmore (61312), 3rd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, (G/62972) 7th Battalion London Regiment, Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment © The National Archives (British Army Service Records, First World War, WO364) and Find My Past

17.   Extract from the War Diary of the 7th Battalion London Regiment recording the arrival of a draft of 298 other ranks transferred from the North Staffordshire, South Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and Berkshire Regiments © The National Archives

18.   Lord Kitchener recruiting poster © Imperial War Museum

19.   Call to Arms poster © Imperial War Museum

20.   Photograph of the S.S. Empress Queen which took the men of the 1/7th (City of London) Battalion to France in March 1815 © Wikipedia website https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Empress_Queen

21.   Section of the World War 1 trench map 57C NE Scale 1:20000 Edition 7A showing the region to the west of Cambrai in 1917 © The National Library of Scotland

22.   Section of the World War 1 trench map 57C NE Scale 1:20000 Edition 8A showing the same region west of Cambrai in 1918 © The National Library of Scotland

23.   The Sweep Up To Bourlon Ridge © Illustrated London News

24.   Photograph of “The Bullecourt Digger” at the Australian Memorial Park © the website http://www.webmatters.net/

25.   Photograph of “The Bullecourt Digger” at the Australian Memorial Park © the website http://uk.france.fr/en/discover/bullecourt-australian-memorial-park

26.   British officers outside their dug outs on the banks of the Yser Canal, Ypres, in August 1917 © Imperial War Museum

27.   Section of the British WW1 Trench map 28 NW Scale 1:20000 Edition 6A showing the trenches in the Saint Julien sector in July 1917 © The National Library of Scotland

28.   Section of the British WW1 Trench map 28 NW 2 & 28 NE 1 (Saint Julien - Zonnebeke) Scale 1:10000 Edition 6A, trenches corrected to 30 June 1917 © The National Library of Scotland

29.   Section of the British WW1 Trench map Poelcappelle: [3rd Battle of Ypres] Scale 1:10000 Edition 1, trenches corrected to 3 August 1917 © McMaster University Digital Archive

30.   Map showing the territory gained during the German Spring Offensive of 1918 © Wikipedia website https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_Offensive

31.   Photograph showing British troops, blinded in a gas attack during the Battle of Estaires, waiting in line at an Advanced Dressing Station near Bethune on 10 April 1918 © Imperial War Museum

32.   Photograph showing “Dulce Et Decorum Est” as it appeared in 1920 in the first edition of Poems by Wilfred Owen (published by Chatto & Windus) © The British Library and The Wilfred Owen Literary Estate

33.   Photograph showing the portrait of Wilfred Owen that appeared in 1920 in the first edition of Poems by Wilfred Owen (published by Chatto & Windus) © The British Library and The Wilfred Owen Literary Estate

34.   “Night attack by 13th Brigade on Villers-Bretonneux” painted by the Australian artist Will Longstaff {Captain William Frederick Longstaff (1879–1953)} © Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australia

35.   Section of the British WW1 Trench map Senlis [Albert] Parts of 57D SE, 57D SW, 62D NE and 62D NW, Scale 1:20000 Edition 1, trenches corrected to 18 May 1918 © McMaster University Digital Archive

36.   Section of the British WW1 Trench map 62D NE, Scale 1:20000 Edition 3B, trenches corrected to 3 August 1918 © McMaster University Digital Archive

37.   Citation that appeared on page 13146 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 7 November 1918 regarding the award of the Military Cross to Captain Philip Barnet Berliner © London Gazette

38.   Citation that appeared on page 13153 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 7 November 1918 regarding the award of the Military Cross to 2nd Lieutenant Alan Cumming Fraser © London Gazette

39.   Citation that appeared on page 13165 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 7 November 1918 regarding the award of the Military Cross to Captain Kenneth Oswald Peppiatt © London Gazette

40.   Citation that appeared on page 13165 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 7 November 1918 regarding the award of the Military Cross to 2nd Lieutenant Edward Woodraffe Pinnock © London Gazette

41.   Section of the British WW1 Trench map 62D NE, Scale 1:20000 Edition 3B, trenches corrected to 3 August 1918 © McMaster University Digital Archive

42.   Section of the British WW1 Trench map 62C NW 1:10000 Edition A, trenches corrected to 3 January 1916 © McMaster University Digital Archive

43.   Citation that appeared on page 2414 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 18 February 1919 regarding the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal to Company Sergeant Major John Archdeacon © London Gazette

44.   Page showing the entry for Noah John Lysons in the Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901 – 1929 © Ancestry and the National Army Museum

45.   Enlargement showing the entry for Noah John Lysons in the Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901 – 1929 © Ancestry and the National Army Museum

46.   Section of the British WW1 Trench map 62C NW Scale 1:20000 Edition 4B, trenches corrected to 6 March 1918 © The National Library of Scotland

47.   Citation that appeared on page 9724 of the Supplement to the London Gazette on 30 July 1919 regarding the award of the Military Cross to 2nd Lieutenant Randal Brooks Cooke © London Gazette

48.   Family notice from the 28 September 1918 edition of the Cannock © Walsall Local History Centre

49.   Enlargement of the family notice from the 28 September 1918 edition of the Cannock Advertiser © Walsall Local History Centre

50.   Notice of the death of Noah John Lysons from the Walsall Pioneer & District News © Walsall Local History Centre

51.   Photograph of Noah John Lysons from the Walsall Pioneer & District News © Walsall Local History Centre

52.   Family notices from the 5 October 1918 edition of the Cannock Advertiser © Walsall Local History Centre

53.   Enlargement of the family notices from the 5 October 1918 edition of the Cannock Advertiser © Walsall Local History Centre

54.   Photograph of Noah John Lysons from the Walsall Pioneer & District News © Walsall Local History Centre

55.   Photograph of Noah’s father, Job Lysons © Malcolm Lysons

56.   The baptism register for the Norton East Primitive Methodist Church, Norton Canes, Staffordshire, showing the baptism of Noah’s elder brother Francis Lysons © Lichfield Record Office

57.   The baptism register for the Norton East Primitive Methodist Church, Norton Canes, Staffordshire, showing the baptism of Noah’s other brother John Davies Lysons © Lichfield Record Office

58.   Copy of the birth certificate for Noah’s sister Florence May Lysons © General Register Office

59.   The baptism register for the Norton East Primitive Methodist Church, Norton Canes, Staffordshire, showing the baptism of Noah John Lysons © Lichfield Record Office

60.   1911 Census entry for Noah and Frank Lysons © Ancestry

61.   1911 Census entry for Florence May Lysons © Ancestry

62.   Extract from the 1911 Census entry for Noah’s father Job Lysons when he was a patient at St. Matthew’s Hospital © Ancestry

63.   Entry page in the St. Matthew’s Hospital Lunacy Patients Admissions Register for Noah’s father Job Lysons, recording his admission date 18 July 1907 and date of death 12 March 1941 © Ancestry

64.   Copy of the death certificate for Noah’s father Job Lysons © General Register Office

65.   Copy of the 1917 marriage certificate for Noah’s brother Francis (Frank) Lysons and Alice Harrison © General Register Office

66.   Photograph of Noah’s brother Francis (Frank) Lysons and his wife Alice Harrison © Malcolm Lysons

67.   Group photograph showing Arthur Cartwright back left, Florence May Cartwright back right, and their two sons Howard on the left and John on the right.’s brother John Davies (brother of Noah’s mother Clara) is seated on the left with his wife Mary Jane Fidoe seated on the right © Malcolm Lysons

68.   Extract from the 3 March 1944 edition of the Lichfield Mercury regarding the death in an air crash of Ronald Cecil Lysons © Lichfield Mercury

69.   Extract from the 10 March 1944 edition of the Lichfield Mercury regarding the death in an air crash of Ronald Cecil Lysons © Lichfield Mercury

70.  Certificate in memory of Flight Sergeant Ronald Cecil Lysons © Commonwealth War Graves Commission

71.   Photograph of the War Memorial inside Burntwood Christ Church © Burntwood Family History Group

72.   Photograph of the panel on the War Memorial inside Burntwood Christ Church bearing the name of Ronald Cecil Lysons © Burntwood Family History Group

73.   Photograph of the panel on the Heath Hayes War Memorial bearing the name of Noah John Lysons © Burntwood Family History Group

74.   Photograph of Heath Hayes War Memorial © Burntwood Family History Group

75.   Photograph of St. Anne’s Church, Chasetown © Burntwood Family History Group

76.   Photograph of the memorial plaque on the walls of St. Anne’s Church bearing the name of Noah John Lysons © Burntwood Family History Group

Photograph of the panel on the Heath Hayes War Memorial bearing the name of Noah John Lysons

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Photograph of St. Anne’s Church, Chasetown

Picture 75

 

Photograph of Heath Hayes War Memorial

Picture 74

 

The memorial plaque on the walls of St. Anne’s Church bearing the name of Noah John Lysons.

The plaque is one of four that were dedicated to miners from No. 2 Pit, No. 3 Pit, No. 8 Pit and No. 9 Pit who served their country and lost their lives in the First World War. The plaques were originally located at No. 2 Pit in Church Street but, when that pit closed down and was demolished, they were removed and transferred to St. Anne’s Church.

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