Category Archives: Actions

Joseph William Jeffcoate and the lost graves of Lens

On the 1st July 1917 the 1/5th Battalion attack the German forward positions at N13 (white circles). See report here Pages from WO-95-2693-21:5th 1st July 1917

Map showing the area of attack by the 1/5th Battalion (white circles) and the locations of the four bodies identified after the War

What remains a mystery is why the bodies of Alfred Burnett, Frank Praill and Joseph Jeffcoate were found so far from the area of attack by the 1/5th Battalion.

5th Casualties July 1917Forty six men of the 1/5th Battalion were killed on the 1st July 1917 although many of these were originally posted as missing.

The graves of only four men are now known and these were recovered during the battlefield clearances of the 1920s

201347 Pte Joseph William JeffcoateJeffcoate casualty

Joseph was originally posted missing after the 1st July 1917, but his widow was not awarded a pension until February 1918.

JeffcoateJeffcoate discJoseph’s body was discovered at M6b in 1922-23 and identified by his disc and name on cross. He is now buried in Loss British Cemetery.

203506 Sergeant Arthur Edward Trenam aged 26Trenam

Trenam reburialArthur was recorded as killed in action on the 1st July and his body was later exhumed from N.13.c.6.5. close to where the 1/5th Battalion originally attacked.

203475 L/Cpl Alfred William Burnett aged 29

Burnett casuallty

BurnettAlfred was originally posted missing after the 1st July 1917 but his body was later exhumed in 1919 and he was reburied in MAROC British Cemetery.

Alfred’s sister later wrote to the War Office complaining about them sending blood stained possessions belonging to her brother (see below).Burnett Letter

202191 Pte Frank PraillPraill casualty

praill gravePraill spoon

Frank was originally posted missing after the 1st July 1917 but his body was later exhumed in 1919 and identified by his spoon. He was now reburied in Loos British Cemetery.

For more information on Frank see here

On this day 23rd April 1917

23.4.1917 LIEVIN: The Battalion attacked FOSSE 3 De LIEVIN see report attached.

See here for full account of the action.Fosse 3 arial

Casualties in this action:-

OfficersBrown CA

Cecil Arthur Brown (1893-1917)

  • Wounded & missing Lt Cecil Arthur Brown
  • Wounded Capt Evelyn Brownlow Johnson, 2/Lts Vernon Hay Armitage, Bertram Noel Parker, Walter Archer, Kenneth Hills Bond (at duty)

Other Ranks

  • Killed 21.
  • Wounded 71 with 5 at duty. The names of 40 wounded man are known.
  • Missing 3.

23.4.1917 LIEVIN: The Battalion by 5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters and marched into billets at MARQUEFFLES FERME (Divisional Reserve).

1/6th Battalion War Diary [WO/95/2694]

To be completed

139 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters War Diary [WO95/2692]

On this day 16th April 1916

16.4.1916 CAPPEL FERMONT: Lt F.W. HIPKINS & 5 men proceeded to Lewis Gun Course CAMIERS for 1 weeks course.

Grange Crater 2015Night of 16th/17th April: The French Miners exploded two mines 1) at head of GRANGE C.T. at 11.55 P.M. & 2) and at head of BIRKIN C.T. (under old crater) at 11.59 P.M.

2/Lt HOLDERNESS killed & 1 other rank [4536 Pte Arthur Brown from Matlock] ; 3 O.R. wounded [3127 Pte Percy Holford from Rotherham].

2/Lt HOLDERNESS had been most useful as an Interpreter for the Battalion.

"I suppose you heard of the death of Arthur Brown from the Warehouse, he was shot while he, with several others were taking a crater that had just been blown up under the Germans by our sapper, both he and the Officers in charge were killed"

1839 Pte Stanley Wykes a Clerk Attendant from Matlock

War Diary [WO/95/2694]

At midnight this evening we exploded mines at points of BIRKIN & GRANGE (See O.O. No 53 attached).

The former mine was exploded 6 minutes before time & the letter 2 minutes.

The Germans apparently were quite ready for both these explosions & opened a hot Machine Gun fire, in addition to rifle fire as soon as the mines went up.

All the orders for consolidating the craters worked very well & both positions were snug [sic] by the morning.

Raiding parties were sent out from each Crater with the object of getting into the enemy trenches during the confusion, using their bayonets & returning with prisoners. Neither were successful in attaining their objective though the party from Grange actually got into the German trench which they found strongly held & prepared.

The Officer in Command was very fortunate under the circumstances in being able to withdraw his party without any casualties except himself slightly wounded.

The GRANGE CRATER is a very large one, some 100 yards in diameter & the BIRKIN CRATER has wrecked the enemy’s front trenches & knocked out a sniping & strong point he had in rear of the original Crate.

The G.O.C. Division sent his congratulations & appreciation for the manner in which the operations had been arranged & carried out.

139 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters War Diary [WO95/2692]

Operation Order No. 53


Brig.-General C.T. Shipley C.B.

Commanding 139th Inf Brigade


Reference     Trench Map 1/5000     April 16th 1916

1. The following mines will be exposed tonight the 16th/17th instant at 12 midnight:-

(a) P.75. “P” at point of BIRKIN

(b) P.75. “O” at point of GRANGE

2. These Operations will be under the Command of the following Officers.

(a) BIRKIN MINE Lieut.-Colonel GOODMAN, 6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, Commanding the RIGHT SECTOR.

(b) GRANGE MINE Lieut.-Colonel BLACKWALL, 8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, Commanding the LEFT SECTOR.

Report on Operations

The trenches specified in Bde Orders were cleared by 11.45 pm and at 11.52pm it was reported to me that our parties were in place. At 11.53 pm a shock wave was felt which proved to be the explosion of the GRANGE MINE before the given time. This tended to cause confusion. However at 11.59 pm the second shock was felt and the artillery were directed to start firing.

At 12.10 am 2/Lt HOLDERNESS reported that his digging party were enfiladed from the right and unable to out to dig. I sent CAPT JACKSON forward and by 12.18 am received a further report that that the digging party were being posted.

Eventually a trench was dug a few feet in rear of the original CRATER TRENCH linking up the outpost line as before. An observation post was not fully completed.

Shortly before 4 am I regret to say that 2/Lt HOLDERNESS was fatally wounded while employed in fixing wire palisades, and I regret to say that he died.

An inspection of the crater from the observation post showed that it was about 30 yards inside diameter and about 15 feet deep. It must have carried away the enemy loophole post. barricades and a good deal of his front line trench. It is of an unusual length and the ground to the south is covered in chalk. The new crater projects to the right of the old outpost line and it is a question whether it is desirable to make a short trench joining the new CRATER TRENCH with a portion of COMMON C.T. beyond our present one. Both ends of the the new CRATER TRENCH are occupied by Bombers.

I attach 2/Lt EVANS’ report on his attempted raid I directed him to make a second attempt if he saw any way of doing it successfully as I thought he had mistaken the direction first time. Fortunately, although his party came under heavy rifle fire, he was able to withdraw without loss.

On viewing the ground at daybreak I saw that the attempt could not have succeeded. Apparently the post we intended to seize and the adjacent position was obliterated and it would have been practically impossible to cross the chalk without being seen.

Our shrapnel appeared to burst very effectively. Unfortunately the 2″ French Mortar and the Stokes Gun could not fire. The former had not registered owing to shortness of notice and the latter was defective at the time.

My Lewis Guns did good work. One of the 3 on the left took on the German Gun that was enfilading the CRATER TRENCH, eventually silenced it.

The total casualties are killed 1 Officer, 1 Other Ranks. Wounded 4 Other Ranks

17.4.16 6.50 am    (Sgd) G D Goodman    Lt.-Col. 6/Sherwood Foresters.

On this day 26th March 1916

ACQ 25.3.1916: A & B Companies under Capts E.B. JOHNSON and J. TOLSON proceeded to trenches for 6 hours work in marching order without packs. On arrival at the trenches they were detained as the 5th Battalion had attempted to seize the near lip of a crater caused by enemy mine explosion early that day, and had been drives back by enemy bomb attack. About 11 p.m. Lt.-Col. GOODMAN was ordered to proceed to the trenches and organise an attack with the two Companies.

Capt DICK, 2/Lieuts BOND & LYLTE with Battn Grenadiers & Scouts also proceeded to the trenches. Brig.-Gen. SHIPLEY & the Brigade Major were also there. It was found impossible to launch the attack before dawn & on reference to the Division it was postponed.

new trenchesTRENCHES 26.3.1916: The attack was organised in accordance with instructions. Great coats were sent up for the men in the evening also a hot meal. Owing to unavoidable delays in issuing meal the attacking party did not commence to dig until about 2 p.m. Operations were conducted with the utmost quietness and by dawn a trench 3′ deep had been dug to the new lip of the crater linking up existing trenches, and this without a single casualty.

It was snowing at times & the men throughout the 48 hours bore discomfort very cheerfully.

War Diary [WO/95/2694]

26 March 1916 Orders and Report

My regiment was in reserve, when word came through one night that a Battalion in our Brigade had been blown up by a mine, we were ordered at the double to take from the Germans the Crater they had occupied. All night long and well into the next morning we bombed and counter bombed, and in the end decided it would be better to dig a new trench round the Crater, all the following day we remained quiet, listening and watching, but as soon as it was dark we commenced digging the new trench, and completed it by daylight, all but the section of half Platoon was withdrawn from the battle, but I remained with the people in this line. On the third morning our half Platoon was withdrawn a few yards behind the new trench, we were instructed to get some rest, for we had been without sleep for three nights. We occupied some old French dug-outs.

 [2305 Pte Frank Longson]

 2 Companies of the 6th Battalion S.F. with the 139/1 Trench Mortar Battery under Lieut.-Col GOODMAN gained the near lip of the Crate and dug a trench across jointing up with the extremities of the old line trench, without casualties or opposition.

By dawn a tench a trench of over 3′ deep had been dug and a look out post constructed overlooking the Crater. The extremities of the trench were occupied by two posts.

139 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters War Diary [WO95/2692]

26 March telegram


On this day 25th March 1916

12.25 a.m. mine explosionMine March 1916

At 12.25 a.m. the enemy exploded a mine in front of the junction between P74 and P75, blowing in a portion of our advanced trench at this point & immediately occupied the crater & part of the trench on each side. A protracted grenade dual took place resulting in our re-occupation of trench on each side of the crater. The crater itself was occupied by the enemy.

[War Diary 1/5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, WO/95/2695]

25th: At 12.25 AM the enemy blew up a mine in front of BIRKIN Communication Trench blowing in about 25 yards of the parapet. The 5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters occupied the part of the line. Some 6 or 8 casualties were occasioned.

139 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters War Diary [WO95/2692]

On the 25th March I was the Officer on duty between 12 mdnt and 3 a.m. in the trenches then occupied by “A” Company near NEUVILLE-St-VAAST. The right hand sentry post was then occupied by three men whose names I did not know then. I visited the right listening post and saw there No 2875 Pte D Males, No 2952 Pte A Allsopp & a third man whose name I did not know. About 12-30 a.m. I was standing at the corner of GRANGE CT & the fire trench when I heard an explosion which proved to be a mine. I went straight towards the sound & found that the right sentry post had been blown up.

[2/Lieut. Edwin Francis Ann, 1/5th Sherwood Foresters]

On the 25th March I was in charge of No 3 Platoon holding that part of the line in which the crater appeared. At about 12-5 a.m.m I posted threes men viz:- No 4009 Pte Whitmore, No 2560 Pte F Corden and No 4040 Pte T Swain at the Right Sentry Post. A few minutes later I posted three men, viz 2952 Pte A Allsopp, No 2875 Pte D Males and another at the Right Listening Post and 2486 L/Cpl W Greensmith took charge of both posts.

short barbed wire knife rests

I returned to the Retrenchment Line. About 12-30 a.m. I heard an explosion. I was unable to visit the two Posts until about 5 a.m. I went first to the Listening Post and found that one of the short barbed wire knife rests had been swung round thereby making a way into the Post from the enemy’s side. – & footprints in the snow showed that somebody had entered the Listening Post by sliding down the bank from the left side and had apparently proceeded to the dead end of the Post & left the same way by climbing over the shelter using a grenade box as a step.

I found the third man originally posted there lying dead about seven yards from his post. The other two men (Privates D MALES & A ALLSOPP) were not there. Then I went towards the right sentry post and found it covered by earth thrown up from the mine & presumably the men who had occupied the post were buried there – I concluded that Privates Males and Allsopp were taken prisoner

[4171 L/Sergt T Henson “A” Coy 1/5th Sherwood Foresters]

On the 26th March I was in charge of the Right Sentry Post & the Right Listening Post in the trenches occupied by my Company. I was on my way between these two Posts about 12.30 a.m. when an explosion occurred & looking round I saw that a mine had been sprung close to the Right Sentry Post, burying it with earth – A few moments before I had seen the three men (Privates F CORDON, W WHITMORE & F SWAIN) at the post. There was no doubt in my mind that all three were buried there. I visited the Listening Post shortly after Sgt HENSON had been there & found things as stated by Sgt HENSON in his evidence which I have heard.

[2486 Cpl W Greensmith, “A” Coy 1/5th Sherwood Foresters]

8 p.m. Counter Attack

A counter attack was made at 8 p.m. on the crater, which gained its objective but was subsequently bombed out of its position before it had consolidated.

[War Diary 1/5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, WO/95/2695]

The 5th Battalion S. F. counter attacked at 8 p.m. and gained the near lip of the Crater but were a gained driven out by bombs losing about 50 Casualties. Later in the evening it was intended to attack again with 2 Companies of 6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters under Lieut. Col. GOODMAN. However, it was found that there was not enough time to complete all arrangements so the attack was postponed till the evening.

139 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters War Diary [WO95/2692]

The men killed and captured

Missing presumed killed and Commemorated on the Arras Memorial:-

  • 2121 Pte Frederick William Rainbow
  • 1944 Pte Arthur Compton
  • 2560 Pte Frederick Corden
  • 592 L/Cpl Nathan Earl
  • 4040 Pte Thomas Swain
  • 4009 Pte William Whitmore
592 Earl

Service record of 592 L/Cpl Nathan Earl recording that he was missing believed killed on the 25th March 1916

Captured by the Germans:-

  • 2875 Pte Dolah Males
  • 2952 Pte Arthur Allsopp2875 Males

Red Cross Record confirming the capture of Dolah Males near St Eloi on the 25th March 1916

Killed in the counter attack:-Aldous

  • Captain Stewart John Aldous aged 38 and eldest son of the Rev. John Clement Primrose Aldous and Alicia Mary Aldous of St. Ann’s Vicarage in Nottingham.
  • 4003 Pte Alfred Brown from Heanor.
  • 4700 Pte Albert Dean aged 29 and son of William and Mary Ann Dean of Clay Cross in Derbyshire.
  • 2997 Sergeant William Hyde a Pre-War Territorial who re-enlisted in October 1914.
  • 3372 Pte Jack Edward Orme aged 19 and the son of George Henry and Louisa Orme of 74 Walbrook Rd. in Derby.
  • 3931 Pte Harry Smith aged 33 and the son of Elizabeth Smith of 42 Ranby Rd. in Sheffield.
  • 3252 Pte Thomas Albert Kniverton aged 19 and son of Thomas and Jessie Elizabeth Kniveton of Derby.
3373 Orme

Ecoivres Military Cemetery near Mont St EloyEcoivresMarch 1916 gravesEcoivres March 1916

Sherwood Foresters killed during the counter attack on the mine crater

1915 In Review

April to December 1915

  • The 6th Battalion left Southampton with the North Midland Division on the 25th February 1915.
  • The Battalion held the front line trenches 21 times between March and December 1915; including 1 major battle (the attack on Hohenzollern Redoubt).severne dickinson
  • Two Officer were killed during these 9 months; 2/Lt Henry Severne in May and 2/Lt Lewis Dickinson in September.
  • At least 10 Officers were also wounded during this time.
  • According to the War Diary 81 men were killed in the 9 months between March and December.
  • This does not include the 12 missing after the mine explosion on the 30th September; which was the biggest single loss of life to date.Redfern
  • The 1st man to be killed was 1470 Allen Redfern of Buxton who was shot by a sniper on the 10th March 1915 and is buried in Ploegsteert Wood Military Cemetery.Bombing
  • The last man to be killed was 3065 Joseph Brown, a miner from Grassmoor, who was last seen bombing in the German trench as the raiding party retired and was reported as missing on the 26th November. His body was never recovered or identified after the war and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.
  • The War Diary records that 323 men were wounded during these 9 months; research suggests that this number is in fact much higher. Indeed the 139th Brigade War Diary records the following Casualties:-

1915 Casualties

On this day 15th October 1915

15.10.1915: Major John Eaton Blackwell took over Command of 8th Sherwood Foresters vice Lt.-Col. George Herbert Fowler (killed in action).Fowler

15.10.1915: Total casualties:-

  • Officers wounded 2 (2/Lts JL Percival & GF Gardner)
  • Other Ranks killed 13
  • Missing believed killed 1
  • Wounded 48

Bn moved to billets at Verquin.

War Diary [WO/95/2694]

The names of the dead and wounded can he found here.

Oct 15th. Slept on dump till about 6 a.m. then drew rations & went back & relieved 4th Leics in reserve trench. Many dead & wounded in front of their trench, but as morning was misty S.Bs. fetched them in till mist cleared. Shells & whiz bangs at intervals all day. Much bombing about 6 p.m. Relieved about 10 p.m. by Grenadier Guards. Very glad to get out. Only had bread, biscuits, jam, bully beef for 3 days, & only water to drink – no fires. 7th & 8th Sherwoods charged & took Hohenzollern Redoubt, but lost many men. (About 6000 cas in div).

[3289 Pte George William Beardsley]

HohenzollernThe bodies of all of the men of the 1/6th Battalion who were killed in action were not recovered or identified after the War and they are now commemorated on the Loos Memorial.

The fact that so many bodies were not recovered is a testimony to the severity of the fighting and only Bernhard White from Grassmoor, who died in a casualty clearing station in the Chateau at Vermelles, has a known grave.

For more information see the ‘Lost Cemeteries of Hohenzollern’.


The ‘Official’ Casualties for the 46th North Midland Division 13th – 15th October46 Division Casualties Hohenzollern

On this day 14th October 1915

14.10.1915: Battn relieved by Guards and ordered to take over HOHENZOLLERN REDOUBT West face which had been captured. Owing to lateness of which only 3 platoons & 3 M Gun teams arrived before dawn & these were left with 5th Bn S.F. who took over. Capt HEATHCOTE with them.West face Hohenzollern

War Diary [WO/95/2694]

Oct 14th. Still in reserve trenches. Wounded still being brought out. Enemy shelled communication trenches heavily. About 9 p.m. relieved by Guards & set off to Vermelles. Got lost in commn trenches for a time, but got to dump near Vs. about 4-30 a.m. – very tired. George Tagg killed.

[3289 Pte George William Beardsley]

As soon as it was dark enough we were told that reinforcements would be joining us to help stave off the expected counter attack, we thought it would be members of our own division, but instead it was members of the Guards Division, they had gone out of this trench system whilst we made this attack, now they were returning. They filed into the captured Redoubt and took over the position, we were informed that the Germans were preparing to attack and that our Regiment would remain along side the Guards to defend the Redoubt. It was very stimulating and heartening to see those fine six footers preparing to fight. The rush came about eleven p.m. by the Verey lights our sentries had seen the Germans creeping across No-Mans Land. We were told to let them approach to within a bombs through and then the command was given to let them have it. The Guards and us let them have such a withering fusillade of bombs, rifle fire and machine gun fire that the attacking force, what was left of them soon thought better of the attempt and skulked back to their trenches.

The following night October 14th my regiment was ordered to leave the scene of this battle and concentrate on the back area, we had the satisfaction of a feeling of some kind of success to our venture, but the cost had been very severe, I could not be sure of the exact figure but it was whispered at the time that the Division had sustained about one third casualties.

[2305 Pte Frank Longson]

On this day 13th October 1915

46th DIVISION attacked enemy trenches on a line from DUMP TRENCH to North of HOHENZOLLERN REDOUBT.

137th Brigade on Right, 138th Brigade on Left, 139th Bde in Reserve.138th Brigade

Attacking positions of the 138th Brigade (4th & 5th Lincolns; 4th & 5th Leicesters; 1st Monmouths)137th Brigade

Attacking positions of the 137th Brigade (4th & 5th North Staffs; 4th & 5th South Staffs)Gordon Alley

6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (139th Brigade) in Reserve

At 12 noon Battalion came under orders of 137th Brigade to which it was in immediate support. Artillery opened at noon – gas attack at 1.0 pm. Infantry attacked at 2pm.

Hohenzollern 5

“A” Company (Capt VO Robinson) moved to front line trenches. “B” Company (Capt Dick) & “D” Company” (Capt CJ Wheatcroft) ordered to push on to DUMP supporting S. STAFFORDS but MAJOR BLACKWALL found attack unsuccessful & kept them in trenches. All Companies (less 3 platoons & M.G.) eventually in front line and immediate support trenches.Balckwell JE October 1915

“Great congestion in trenches owing to evacuation of wounded & carriage of S.A.A & bombs. Battn Bombardiers under 2/Lt LYTLE twice attacked BIG WILLIE but attack unsuccessful.”HohenzollernLytle WA October 1915

Oct 13th. Heavy bombardment of German trenches 12 till 2 p.m. Then Staffs, Lincs & Leicesters charged & took line. Gas many losses. About 4-30 p.m. we (Sherwoods) moved up into reserve trenches. Saw many wounded come down, some an awful mess. Nice day.

About four thirty on the morning of the thirteenth the artillery fire commenced, the whole area seemed to shake, of course the Germans joined in. This Redoubt to be attacked was about a hundred and fifty yards in front of our assembly trenches, and for about two hours was subjected to such a hail of shell fire that we were quite sure that no one could possibly remain alive to defend the position against our attack.

The first unit of our division at a prearranged time leapt from their trenches to the attack, and as soon as they left the protection of the deep front line all Hell broke loose. The enemy concentrated still further heavy artillery fire. This was to smash the next wave attempting to get out. In the awful stretch of ground the attacking first wave was met by such a withering scythe of machine gun fire that the Brigade lost fifty per cent of its strength in the first twenty five yards, the remainder somehow struggled on through that murderous hail, and only a very small part got a foot hold in the Redoubt.

It was now the turn of my Battalion to try and join them, but the fire was so great and effective that it was decided to wait a while to try as a sort of surprise. It will be appreciated that a frontal attack over the top was out of the question, as the artillery had not destroyed the German machine guns. In the meantime remnants of the attacking waves and some members of my Brigade had succeeded in worming their way along an old trench to join up with the lucky few in the Redoubt, they were established and consolidating the position, they mounted their machine guns and the artillery was asked to concentrate their fire on the German front line, to stop them gathering for a counter attack to regain the lost position.

About two thirty in the afternoon a message was received from the captured position that they badly needed bombs to repel the counter attack which surely would come at night fall. I was detailed to take a party of twelve men to carry bombs across this dreadful stretch of ground, with instructions that if we reached the captured position which was very doubtful to remain there and help in the defence.

Never shall I forget that dreadful journey, we started up by the disused trench, but it was so packed with dead and dying men also debris, that it was impossible to proceed, I therefore gave instructions to scramble out into No Mans Land, this I knew was very dangerous but could not be helped. We scrambled across guns, bodies, arms, legs and heads, the carnage had been complete. The first attacking wave had been completely wiped out, and any moment I expected the German fire to wipe us out. I imagined that every moment the trigger minded Germans would spot us and that would be the end, but somehow our little party struggled on. We were lucky in the extreme, either the Germans were resting, or they did not contemplate any attempt to cross that miserable stretch of ground in daylight. We made it in one piece.

Our crossing had been observed by the men in the Redoubt, in fact when we arrived along side them they told us that with every step of our journey they expected us all to be blown to smithereens, I shall always remember the words of one of the Officers who had observed our progress – “good show – here take a pull of this”, as he handed me his brandy flask, and although I was not a habitual drinker that brandy was very refreshing.

[2305 Pte. Frank Longson]