Category Archives: Casualties

On this day 21st April 1917 two men were wounded and John Brown and Victor Bonsall were killed in action

Both John (242122) and Victor (242335) were original members of the 2/6th Battalion and are buried next to each other in Templeux-Le-Guerard British Cemetery.

John was the husband of Louisa Brown of 141 Fairfoot Rd., Bow in London. He was born in London.

Victor was the son of Richard and Louisa Bonsall of Monyash, Bakewell in Derbyshire.

Pension Record for Victor Bonsall
Pension Record for John Brown

103039 Pte Frederick Blaydon – one of the ‘Bedfordshire Lads’………

Sherwood Foresters Cap Badge

Unfortunately, I carelessly let this Medal Pair ‘get away from me’ on a well known internet auction site last night, but I thought that I would still try to piece together Frederick’s story.

Frederick was one of approximately 112 men who were transferred to the 2/6th Battalion, the Sherwood Foresters from the Bedfordshire Regiment and issued the new Regimental numbers running from 103024 (Herbert Meekins) to 103137 (George Webster). Many of these men had previously been numbered with a post-1917 6-digit Bedfordshire Territorial Force Regimental number (see below).

Section of the Sherwood Forester Medal Roll showing the transfer of Men from the Bedfordshire Regiment to the 2/6th Battalion.

But when and why did this transfer happen?

Fortunately the Service Records of at least two of this group of 112 men still exist:

103035 Pte John Male from Bath (see above).

103065 Pte Horace Crowle from Cornwall.

Casualty Form – Active service for 204038 Pte John Male
Casualty Form – Active Service for 103035 Pte John Male
Casualty Form – Active Service for 103065 Pte Horace Crowie

These documents confirm that Pte John Male and Pte Horace Crowle – and by inference Pte Frederick Blaydon – were posted to the 5th Reserve Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment, before proceeding to France from Folkestone on the 28th March 1918.

They arrived at “L” Infantry Base Depot and were transferred to the 2/6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters on the 31st March 1918. This transfer was due to the losses suffered by the 2/6th Battalion (178th Bde, 59th Division) on the 21st March 1918 during the German Spring Offensive.

Neither John Male or Horace Cowle would survive the month

59th Division Casualties for April 1918

John Male was killed in action with B Company, 2/6th Battalion on the 16th April aged 48. He was the Son of Mr and Mrs Male of 13, Maytree Rd., Bitterne, Southampton. John’s body was exhumed near Kemmel Hall in July 1919 and he is now buried in La Clytte Military Cemetery.

Mount Kemmel – John’s body was found at 19 D, near to Kemmel Hall

Horace Cowle served with B Company and was listed as ‘missing in action’ during the defence of Kemmel on the 18th April 1918 aged 19. He was the son of Mr and Mrs Crowle of 1 Chapel Terrace, St. Blazey, Cornwall. Horace is commemorated on The Ploegsteert Memorial.

Horace had enlisted underage in November 1915. He arrived in France in December 1916 and was posted to the 1st Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. However, in January 1917 he was returned to England.

Frederick Blaydon was later transferred to the 1/6th Battalion when the 2/6th was reduced to Cadre in May 1918 and survived the War.

Undated sick and wounded list with two original* members of the 6th Battalion……

*By ‘original’ I mean before Conscription started and they were issued with Territorial Force Regimental numbers

Undated sick and wounded list

240627 Sergeant Joseph Hughes

Joseph Hughes was a print works labourer from Birch Vale, near New Mills in Derbyshire. Joseph married Sarah and they had three girls; Dorothy (b 1907), Annie (b 1908) and Gertrude (b 1910). He enlisted in October 1914 and most likely arrived in France with the 2/6th Battalion in February 1917. He only served overseas with the 2/6th Battalion. According to the sick list (above) he suffered from slight myalgia (muscle aches and pains).

Limburg Camp Record
Joseph’s record recording his wounding

Joseph was later captured on the 4th December 1917 during the Battle of Cambrai and interned in Limburg POW Camp.

Silver War Badge Roll

Joseph was discharged in May 1915 aged 32 and received a pension.

2/6th Battalion Reunion held at Bakewell in 1935

It is possible that Joseph attended the reunions of the 2/6th Battalion held in Bakewell during the 1930s. Joseph died in July 1963.

241979 Sergeant Percy Walker

Medal Index Card
Medal Role

Percy Walker enlisted in July 1916 and was posted to the 1/6th Battalion in France in August 1916 according to his Medal Index Card. He would later serve with the 15th Battalion and was wounded (GW) with VI(I) [gunshot wound of back and spine (simple flesh contusions and wounds)] and IX(I) [gunshot wounds of lower extremities (simple flesh contusions and wounds)] – see ‘wounded and sick’ list above.

Record of the 31 Ambulance Train for May 1917

The undated ‘sick and wounded list’ ties in with the 7th-12th May 1917 record of the 31 Ambulance Train (above), which conveyed Percy Walker from Nesle to Rouen on the 12th-13th May 1917. Note: from April to June 1917 Nesle was the site of No. 21 Casualty Clearing Station.

15th Battalion War Diary – May 1917

At the time of his wounding the 15th Battalion were holding the front line and support trenches.

King’s Certificate of Discharge for Percy Walker (authors collection)

Percy was discharged in January 1918 aged 35 years and was awarded a Silver War Badge and a King’s Certificate of Discharge. He also received a pension.

100055 Pte Samuel Atkinson

100055 Pte Samuel Atkinson

Samuel was born in Essex in 1899 to Samuel Arthur and Annie Louisa in 1899 and was one of four siblings. In 1911 the family was living at 7 Nettleham Road in Lincoln.

Samuel enlisted into the 2/1 Derbyshire Yeomanry in September 1916 aged 18 at which time he was a Bank Clerk. He was examined by the medical board on 15th February 1917 when he was passed fit for military service.

1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters

Service Record for 100055 Pte Samuel Atkinson

Following basic training Samuel embarked from Folkestone on Christmas Eve 1917 and going ‘K’ Infantry Base Depot, where he was transferred to the 2/7th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (for record purposes). Samuel was amongst a number of soldiers who at that time were transferred to the Sherwood Foresters from the Derbyshire Yeomanry and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry (Sherwood Rangers).

Samuel served was transferred the 1st Battalion on the 29th December and served with them until his wounding in May 1918.

On 27th May 1918 the 1st Battalion were engaged in the front line trenches:-

“1 a.m. Enemy barrage opened. VENTELAY neighbourhood + transport lines gassed. About 4.30 a.m. Battalion ordered forward to AISNE LINE……casualties heavy”

Samuel suffered a severe gun shot wound to the head and was admitted to the 11th Stationary Hospital in Rouen.

Service Record for 100055 Pte Samuel Atkinson

1/5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters

Following his recovery Samuel was sent to ‘D’ Infantry Base Depot and then posted to the 1/5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters on July 14th 1918.

1/5th Reinforcements – July 1918

Samuel was one of 130 men that were posted to the 1/5th Battalion in July 1915.

Service Record for 100055 Pte Samuel Atkinson

Samuel was wounded a second time on the 22nd July 1918 whilst the Battalion was holding front line trenches in the ESSARS Sector and were raided by the Germans.

1/5th Battalion casualties – July 1918

Samuel was on of 30 men of the 1/5th Battalion who were wounded in July 1918, he appears to have remained ‘at duty’.

Storming the Hindenburg Line

1/5th Battalion War Diary October 1915.

Samuel died of his wounds on the 3rd October 1918 as the 1/5th Battalion were attacking the villages of Ramicourt and Montbrehain.

“Killed in action or died of wounds on or since 3.10.18. Body buried by Rev M H ?? and 32 MGC 11.10.18”

Magny La Fosse Map
Magny La Fosse burial record

Samual was originally buried in Magny La Fosse Churchyard Extension [62b. H.25. a.9.2.] alongside 14077 Driver Arthur Johnson from Kiverton Park near Sheffield.

MAGNY-LA-FOSSE CHURCHYARD EXTENSION was made by an Advanced Dressing Station in October 1918, and contained the graves of seven soldiers from the United Kingdom and one from Australia and three men of the Chinese Labour Corps.

In 1924 Samual and Arthur’s bodies were exhumed and they were reburied in Tincourt Cemetery.

The last stand of the 178th (2/1st Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire) Brigade: 21st March 1918

[a short blog post]

“Very heavy enemy barrage on front line from 5.0am to 9.30am. Enemy attacked at 9.30am. Battn suffered very heavy casualties”

So wrote KJ Bunting, Captain and Adjutant  to the 2/6th Battalion; however, this short sentence belies the enormous casualties that the 2/6th Battalion, along with the 2/5th and 7th Battalions of the 178th Brigade, suffered during the first day of ‘Kaiserschlacht’; the German Spring offence of 1918.

Unlike the 2/5th and 7th Battalions, the War Diary of the 2/6th Battalion does not record the precise numbers of casualties suffered that day (i.e killed, wounded or missing).

However, the 178th Brigade War diary does provide a total number of casualties for each Battalion. The strength of the 2/6th Battalion on 1st March 1918 was 53 Officers and 883 Other Ranks, thereby suggesting that approximately 20 Officers and 220 men were left in reserve and took no part in the fighting.

The 59th Division War Diary gives slightly higher casualty figures of 34 Officers and 722 men wounded or missing. In addition, they acknowledge that the numbers of wounded men were not reported by Medical Units, and therefore a proportion of other ranks listed a ‘missing’ may have in fact been wounded.

Personal Accounts

Very few personal accounts exist of those chaotic few hours, several Officers wrote of their experience after the War and a few stories appeared in local newspapers at the time.

Below are a few examples.

George Robert Yeomans

“We were holding the line on March 21st 1918. I was wounded in the left leg by a gun shot and taken prisoner a few hours afterwards. My leg was amputated April 8th 1918 at Cassel Germany”

George Robert Yeomans, Lewis Gunner, B Company, 2/6th Battn, aged 20 from Upper Marehay.

265746 Corporal Joseph Page

“Our Battalion was in the support trenches, having come out of the first line trenches two days earlier. We found the Germans putting down a barrage of gas shells. We stood to until eleven o’clock, by which time the trenches had been blown flat and many casualties sustained. A runner came up and said the Germans had broken through. I had to take that message to our Battalion headquarters, and after I had been there about 15 minutes I was surprised to see hundreds of Germans all round us.

            By this time part of the Battalion had already been taken prisoner, but the rest of us were told to get behind a sunken road and fight it out. There were machine guns at either end, and although we fired as hard as we could at the oncoming Germans they swarmed forward in mass formation, other parties coming down the communication trenches. We put up a hard fight until by one o’clock we had no ammunition left. Our last lot of bombs were useless, as somebody had left the detonators behind.

            After having done a lot of execution we retired from the sunken road into a trench, the end of which was blocked so that we could not get out. About twenty of us scrambled up, however, and made a rush under heavy machine gun fire to another trench on the right, fifty yards away. There we met some Lincolnshire reinforcements, with whom we put up a big bombing attack. Fritz bombed us back until our casualties became so heavy that we found it was hopeless to go on fighting, so one of the sergeant-majors ordered us to put our arms down and are hands up.”

[The Mansfield Reporter and Sutton Times, Friday, May 19, 1918]

Lt Conrad Stark, “C” Company, 2/6th Battalion

“We were very quickly surrounded and our lines became too hot to hold from crossfire. Retired to our support line; shall never know how I reached same untouched, was walking through our own and the enemy’s barrage. Had a great number of casualties whilst crossing. On reaching support managed to put up a show there but was surrounded about 9:40 a.m. and taken prisoner about 45 minutes after the enemy left his front line.”

The last stand of the 178th Brigade

The vast majority of men that were killed that morning have no known grave and are Commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing. 

However, by examining the exhumation and reburial records held by the CWGC it is possible to identify the locations of 65 Officers and men of the 178th Brigade whose bodies were recovered after the War. Assuming that they were buried close to where they died, either by the Germans or through shell fire, it is possible to trace the last actions of the 178th Brigade.

There are several important inferences that can be made:-

Major John Warren MC, 2/Lt Albert Catterall and a few men of the 7th Battalion were able to escape from the German’s surrounding their front line positions and make a ‘final ‘stand in sunken road in 4d – see 1), 2) and 3).

CSM John Tomlinson, although recored as serving with the 2/5th Battalion, had mostly likely been attached to the 2/6th Battalion when he was killed – see 4).

Several men from the 2/6th Battalion, most little from the HQ Company, were able to escape being surrounded in Railway Reserve – see 6), 7) and 9).

Very few of the 2/5th Battalion made made it away from Noreuil – see 8). In fact Joseph Hudson is the only man serving with the 2/5th Battalion who’s body was exhumed and identified after the War.

35748 Pte George Chambers Woolley, The Welbeck Rangers…….

Prior to Enlisting

George was born in New Mills to ?? and Mary Chambers and was one of 8 surviving children. In the 1911 Census the Wolley family were living at Ollersett, New Mills in Derbyshire. At this time George was cloth packer in the local bleach works.

George Attested into the British Army in December 1915 – possibly under the Derby Scheme – and was mobilised into the 3rd Battalion Sherwood Foresters on the 5th June 1916.

George married Maria Roughly in Hayfield Parish Church in October 1916 and four months later their first daughter Matha was born. A son George was born on 30th December 1918.

Arrival in France and wounded at the Battle of Passchendale

Following basic training George arrived in France (Calais) on the 2nd July 1917 and was posted to the 17th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, the Wellbeck Rangers at the 14th Infantry Base Depot.

George was present with the Wellbeck Rangers when they took part in the 3rd Battle of Ypres and attacked Steenbeek near St Julian.

1.15am. Assembly of Battalion was complete and carried out without casualties.

3.50am. The advance commenced across “No Man’s Land”.

4.16 am. The Blue Line was reached without opposition. Slight casualties were incurred due to the protective barrage.

5.13 am. The advance on Black Line commenced. Slight opposition was met with by two enemy machine guns in the vicinity of Oblong Farm. These were at once engaged. The advance continued until held up by machine guns and snipers from Canoe Trench.

5.33am. Undercover of Lewis guns and barrage Canoe Trench was the captured. The advance was then continued by the second wave through Kitchener’s Wood to the dotted black line. On arrival on the eastern side of the Wood two enemy machine guns opened up on us from Alberta. These were engaged…….with the assistance of two tanks……and captured the farm.

6.50 am. The Dotted Green Line Companies and Hugel Hollow Platoon formed up behind protective barrage.

7.30 am. Advance behind protective barrage began. Very little resistance was met. Several prisoners taken from Hugel Hollow and concrete dug-outs to the North East of Alberta.

7.55 am. The Steenbeek was reached and advanced over and consolidation commenced on the Eastern side.

Total casualties were 331 Officers and men including George who was serving with “B” Company.

George was taken to the 134th Field Ambulance before being transferred to 2nd Australian General Hospital at Wimereux. He was returned to England on the 9th August 1917 and did not return to France.

George was granted 9 days leave in mid-September 1917, before being transferred to the 501s5 Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps in April 1918 and was stationed at Derby with the Northern Command.

The dwindling men of the ‘Original Deployment’ of the 2/6th Battalion during 1917-18

The 178th Brigade of the 59th Division landed at Boulogne at the end of February 1917. This closely coincided with the Territorial Force renumbering that occurred in March 1917 and before the 2/6th Battn (59th Division) was engaged in any major operations on the Western Front.

By the time the 59th Division were engaged during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line at the end of April 1917, all the men that were serving with the 2/6th Battn at that time had been renumbered with a 6-digit (24****) service number.

We can identify these men as the ‘Original 1917 Deployment’ of the 2/6th Battalion.

Therefore, by studying the service numbers of the 2/6th Battn men who were killed in action during the 11 months between April 1917 and April 1918 it is possible to see how the composition of the ‘Original 1917 Deployment’ was slowly diluted due to the ever increasing numbers of casualties (killed, wounded and missing) and subsequent reinforcements.


My first thoughts…….to be revised……

By mid-April 1918, and at the time of the last action of the 2/6th Battn (before being reduced to Cadre in May 1918), less that 1 in 5 men still serving were from the Original 1917 Deployment.

William Bryan Davies (1881-1916)

William Bryan was the eldest child of Thomas William and Mary Bryan Davies of Welshpool in Montgomeryshire.

William was Commissioned into the Sherwood Foresters in January 1916 and joined the 1/6th Battalion in France on the 18th July of that same year. He was posted to the 139th Trench Mortar Battery on the 1st August along with 4 Officers and 12 other ranks of the 1/6th Battalion.

Sometime in early September William was referred to the ‘Officers Hospital’ at Lucheux. This facility was provided by the 37th Casualty Clearing Station and catered for ‘Sick Officers’.

During the afternoon of the 17th September William died “the result of a revolver bullet wound of the head, self inflicted, in our opinion during a state of temporary insanity”.

The proceeding investigation the Court of Enquiry heard witness statements from two Officers.

“I last saw the deceased at 12 noon today, he was then apparently in the best of spirits. he was absent from lunch and as he had not appeared by 3 o’clock and was due to return to duty I instituted a search party”

[Lt AF Grattan Guiness RAMC]

“For the last seven days I shared a bedroom with Lt Davies at the Officers Hospital Lucheux; he appeared quite normal all the time but rather quiet. We were both to return to duty today. His kit was packed up on his bed but he did not come to lunch and when the car arrived for us he was not to be found”

[Lt Frank E Rowe, 1/5th South Staffs R]

William was buried in Avesnes-le-Comte Communal Cemetery Extension in France.

His younger brother Idwal also served in France with the 1/6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters from February 1915 until he was wounded and returned to England in June 1915.

265626 L/Cpl Joseph Poole and his sister Jess

Dear Joe

Wears [sic] having a lively time but showery. though we had always managed to be in doors during the showers.

With Love


[Posted from Sheffield 16 Aug 1917]

265626 Pte Joseph Cole served with “B” Company the 2/7th Battalion Sherwood Foresters during WW1and was in the front line trenches on 21st March 1918 at the start of the German Spring Offensive.

Like many of the men of the 178th Brigade George was reported as missing.

Joseph was made a Prisoner of War and would be later repatriated.

42144 Sergeant George Richard Carter……a thread

George enlisted into the Sherwood Foresters in 1916 and was posted to the Depot of the 4th (Reserve) Battalion. Following training he was posted to the 9th Battalion on the 14th August 1917 and proceeded to France. On arrival at the 14th Infantry Base Depot he was transferred to the 2/7th and joined the Battalion in the field on 14th September 1917 and posted to A Company.

By November 1917 George had been promoted to Sergeant, but had also contracted ‘trench foot’ and was returned to the 16 General Hospital in England. On his return to France on 8th March 1918 he returned to the 2/7th Battalion.

George and his comrades were in the front line trenches at dawn on 21st March when the Germans commenced their Spring Offensive.

Like many of the men of the 178th Brigade George was reported as missing.

In the Summer of 1918 Nellie Carter submitted a request to the Red Cross (presumably via the War Office) if there was any information on her missing husband. She was later to hear the terrible news that George had been killed on the 21st March 1918.

His body was never recovered and he is now Commemorated on the Arras Memorial.