Fosse 3 de Lievin – April 1917

brownFosse 3 arialLievin


The nature of the ground held by the Brigade during this period in the line was very unsuited for operations. The right boundary of the Brigade was the Souchez River. Adjoining this was a large pond which tapered off into an impassable swamp (M.30.c & d).

East of this the enemy held FOSSE 3 – A mine with steep banks and strongly fortified buildings. Further to the North were rows of miners cottages running at right angles to the enemy’s lines. These houses were held by us and the enemy occupied the tenches and house on Hill 65.

Between the lines ran a railway embankment and sunken road. This line was strongly wired.

Further still to the North the country became more open. Our left post was at M.18.c.80.25.

Enemies attitude:

The troops opposite the Brigade were the 35th and 118th Regiments of the 56th Division. One of each being captured by us. The proved exceedingly good in defence but showed no enterprise or offensive spirit.

Most of the streets in the Cite de Riaumont were enfiladed by hostile snipers from positions on Hill 65 and from the Central Electric Generating Station (M.36.b). Our own snipers located several German sharpshooters and dealt with them effictively.

During this time hostile artillery was particularly active exclusive use being made of heavy shell. The whole of the front was shelled daily and the villages of Angres and Lieven received considerable attention.

Probing and reconnoitring 20th-21st April

Night attack on the 22nd April 1917

Report by OC A Coy 6th Sherwood Foresters on operations night 21/22/April 1917

Lens M30On the night 21/22 April “A” Company 6th Sherwood Foresters attached the groups of houses West of FOSSE 3 de LIEVIN in H30a.

The attack was carried out by 3 platoons with 1 platoon in Reserve.

The left platoon (Lieut Higham) carried its objectives; the West end of the row of houses M30.a.7.2. at 10.30 PM. The enemy opened rapid fire & machine gun fire & then ran away.

The centre platoon (Lieut Stubbs) met opposition from an enemy barricade at M30.a.5.1. This was rushed at a second attempt under cover of a barrage of rifle grenades from the platoon in reserve. Following the enemy up the centre platoon succeeded in causing him casualties with Lewis gun fire as they were getting through the wire in front of FOSSE 3.

The right platoon found the enemy in a house at M30.c.8.9. bombed him out of the cellar & as they bolted caught the enemy under the fire of men posted outside the house. Two being killed. They were unable to follow up further on account of our own Lewis gun fire from the centre platoon.

At 11 PM the position was consolidated & at 11.15 PM a party of enemy attempting to approach from FOSSE 3 were driven back by rifle fire 7 Lewis gun fire. Six bodies being subsequently found.

This operation was successfully carried out under heavy barrage fire & also trench mortar bombardment. Our casualties amounted to one man killed & seven wounded. The enemies’ casualties being considerably heavier.

V Robinson / Capt

OC A Coy

6th Sher Foresters

Attack on FOSSE 3 de LIEVIN

Report by OC 1/6th Sherwood Foresters on the attack on FOSSE 3 DE LIEVIN on 23rd April 1917


  1. The attacking force consisted of Letter “C” Company 6th Sherwood Foresters (Capt EB Johnson) with Letter “D” Company (Capt HH Jackson) in support.1917 Johnson Jackson

Evelyn Brownlow Johnson and Humphrey Henry Jackson

2. The attacking force and its supporting Company were distributed before ZERO as follows:-

Letter “C” Company as per sketch map A

Letter “D” Company:-

  • Company HQ at M.30.a.1.5.
  • 13 Platoon in cellars on either side of Company HQ
  • 15 Platoon at M.30.a.28.57.
  • 14 and half of 16 Platoon in cellars at M.30.a.40.65.
  • Half of 16 Platoon at corner house M.30.a.52.75.1917 D Company M30a

Letter “A” Company were close up in reserve as per sketch map (map not sent)

3. The objectives of the various platoons were as under:-April 1917 objective

“C” Company:-

  • 9 Platoon to establish posts on line M.30.c.90.18. to M.30.d.90.40. moving ALMANAC TRENCH.
  • 10 Platoon make good main group of buildings on FOSSE, moving by South Side of 2nd BIG ROW SOUTH.
  • 11 Platoon make good ALMANAC TRENCH from M.30.c.90.18. to M.30.b.50.50.
  • 12 Platoon buildings on FOSSE about M.30.b.20.20. and there to clear trench M.30.d.35.85. to 20.40. on howitzers ceasing fire.

“D” Company:-

  • 13 Platoon make good East end of 1st BIG ROW SOUTH.
  • 15 Platoon make good East end of 1st & 2nd SMALL ROW SOUTH.
  • Half 16 Platoon occupy trench junction at M.30.b.5.5. and clear trenches to north until touch was gained with 1/8th Battalion.
  • 14 and half 16 Platoon occupy 2nd BIG ROW SOUTH and act as immediate support to “C” Company.

4. At ZERO our advance began. The enemy put down an extremely accurate barrage within 1 minute in response to red lights sent up in pairs from numerous places. This barrage started at the east end of the house and moved forward for 2 minutes at which time it was on the west end and remained there. The number of guns employed in this barrage was not great.

Machine guns fired from ZERO onwards directly down all roads leading to the enemy, and one from the FOSSE obliquely across the spaces between the lows of houses. A machine gun from M.30.d.15.25. enfiladed troops crossing the road near the west end of the houses.Fosse 3 machine guns

5. The various Platoons on advancing progressed as follows:-

“C” Company:-

  • 9 Platoon fired on by machine guns from east end of 1st BIG ROW SOUTH and unable to get forward.
  • 10 Platoon went through a gap in wire at M.30.a.85.20. and along road towards north end of FOSSE. Fired on heavily by machine guns from buildings at east end of road, which were 20 to 30 feet above the level of the road. Came to wall 5′ high. Lieut Brown went over and was killed as he did so. Some men who followed found an uncut belt of wire just over the wall. They lay in shell holes till dark. Remainder of Platoon forced to withdraw to old enemy gun pits about M.30.d.80.15. till dark. 1 man of 266 Regiment (killed when trying to escape) set fire to house at M.30.a.72.12. as soon as our men advanced. Resulting flames showed up everyone plainly. Man must have been hidden in house since previous evening. Enemy must have re-occupied houses at east end of 1 & 2 BIG ROW SOUTH at ZERO. Much sniping and machine gun fire from these points.10 Platoon
  • 11 Platoon found wire in and near trench at M.30.b.10.50. uncut, though this had been specially asked for. Two sections got round through shell holes about M.30.b.10.40. and pushed on to trench junction M.30.b.35.50. Two sections held up by heavy machine gun fire from FOSSE. Two front sections forced to retire by strong German bombing attack from north.
  • 12 Platoon came under heavy aching gun fire from M.30.d.15.70., M30.b.40.30. and were sniped from house at east end of 2nd BIG ROW SOUTH. They took cover in gunpits and their Lewis Guns knocked out enemy machine gun firing from building M.30.b.40.30.

Capt EB Johnson was wounded by a sniper about 5AM and 2/Lt Armitage the only surviving officer about 6AM.

“D” Company:-

All platoons quickly gained their objectives except the half 16 Platoon. These were held up by “C” Companies lack of progress and took cover in a house in 2nd BIG ROW SOUTH. The Company had over 40 casualties in gaining it’s objectives, all from shrapnel and machine gun fire.

6. When it was obvious that no progress could be made, everyone took what cover was available and remained there till dark.

7. Enemy barrage and machine gun fire died down about 6am.

8. I was in touch with 1st DCLI on my right the whole time.

9. My general conclusions were as follows.

(a) Enemy position was a very strong and well prepared one. There was much wire and trip wires with short lengths of lead piping strung on them at the foot of the slag heaps.

(b) There were prepared machine gun emplacements in slag heap about M.30.b.20.35. and 15.30. Machine guns also covered all roads leading to the enemy & the ground between the roads.

(c) The wall marked on sketch map A with wire in rear of it is an impossible obstacle in the face of MG fire.

(d) The hostile artillery & machine gun barrage was very prompt in coming down & most accurate.

(e) The man who fired the house most materially helped to hold up our attack. He must have been an extraordinarily brave man.

(f) Every available position in the FOSSE buildings was occupied by a sniper.

(g) The enemy brought a trench mortar into position at M.30.b.35.15 on the 23rd inst.

(h) The enemy must have hidden saps leading out to the houses of most of the rows as he seems to re-occupy them at will.

(i) It was impossible to surmount the obstacles met with quick enough to take advantage of our creeping barrage.

24/4/17 Major

6th Bn Sherwood Foresters

The Casualties1917 April 139 Bde

139th Brigade recored that the 1/6th Sherwood Foresters suffered a total of 98 casualties

  • 1 Officer missing presumed killed: Cecil Arthur Brown
  • 5 Officers wounded (VH Armitage, EB Johnson, BN Parker, W Archer, KH Bond)
  • 21 other ranks killed (all but five are Commemorated on the Arras Memorial)
  • 68 other ranks wounded
  • 3 other ranks missing

Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial7640/242437 Cpl Francis Thompson aged 25 he was the son of John and Frances Amelia Thompson of 21 Marcus St., Chester Green in Derby. Formerly 2910 Derbyshire Yeomanry and enlisted at Derby.

2053/240392 Pte Birt Birley aged 20 and the son of George and Mahala Birley of North Church St., Bakewell, Derbyshire. Enlisted at Bakewell. A pre War Territorial and originally posted as missing.

3049/242393 Pte Harry Bostock aged 23 and the son of Mr and Mrs Samuel Bostock of 35 Heanor Rd., in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

3893/241265 Pte William Brothwell aged 22 and the son of Frank and Sarah Brothwell of Shirland in Alfreton, Derbyshire.

1863/240303 Pte Fred Carline aged 23 and the son of Job and Sarah Carline of 38 Hillside, Holloway in Matlock, Derbyshire. A Resident of Ashover.

7732/242522 Pte Bernard Cyril Staniland Dixon aged 20 and the son of CS and Anne Dixon of 129 Grange St. in Derby.

20038/242630 Pte Thomas E Flack aged 29 and the son of Frances Flack of “Croft House”, Rede in Bury St. Edmund’s, Suffolk and the late Aaron Flack.

2836/240756 L/Cpl Francis William Gee a resident of Yoxall Staffs he enlisted at Chesterfield.

7748/242538 Pte Wills Haywood aged 33 and the husband of Sarah Haywood, of 50 Spa Lane, Woodhouse in Sheffield. Born in Whiston Yorks and enlisted at Nottingham.

4205/241397 Pte Thomas Edward Kerry enlisted at Alfreton.

1868/240305 Pte John Thomas Mather a resident of Unstone he enlisted at Chesterfield.

1706 /240224 Sergeant Eric Scott Morgan  a resident of Monyash he enlisted at Bakewell.

3301/241003 Pte Percy Salt a resident of Middleton he enlisted at Bakewell.

1977/240353 Pte HW Stone aged 24 and the son of William Stone of Midland Cottages, Rosley in Derbyshire; husband of Florence Stone of 41 Morton Rd., in Leicester Leicester. A resident of Leicester he enlisted at Bakewell.

20033/242625 Pte Sydney John Swan a resident of Dover he enlisted at Rochester in Kent.

2164 /240446 Pte WH Tattersall a resident of Tideswall he enlisted at Monsal Dale.

 7682/242479 Pte George Frederick Wheatcroft aged 20 and the son of Lemuel and Harriet Wheatcroft of 3, Roman Rd., Chester Green, Derby. Formerly 2625 Derbyshire Yeomanry.

20031/242623 Pte Cecil Alfred Woodward a resident of Carlton he enlisted at Hucknall in Nottinghamshire.

Died of wounds

WOOLLEY, CHARLES WILLIAM, Sergeant, 1450 (240124), 1/6th Btn., d. of w. 23/04/1917 aged 23 and buried in CHOCQUES MILITARY CEMETERY. He was the son of John Samuel and Maria Woolley of 3 Park Square, Woolley Rd., Matlock, Derbyshire. Won the MM. No 1 Casualty Clearing Station was posted there. Most of the burials from this period are of casualties who died at the clearing station from wounds received at the Bethune front.

 THORPE, ARTHUR, Private, 3703 (241176), 1/6th Btn., d. of w. 24/04/1917 aged 27 and buried in FOSSE No.10 COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, SAINS-EN-GOHELLE. The son of Mrs. B. A. Thorpe of Silver St., Ruskington, Sleaford, Lincs. Enlisted at Chesterfield. It was begun in April, 1916 and used continuously (chiefly by Field Ambulances) until October, 1918.

 GASCOIGNE, WILLIAM, Private, 3880 (241267), 1/6th Btn., d of w 26/04/1917 aged 28 and buried in LILLERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY (V. D. 16). He was the son of Robert and Annie Gascoigne of 1 New Hall Rd., Brampton; husband of Amy Frost (formerly Gascoigne), of 61 Chester St., Brampton, Chesterfield. At that time it was a hospital centre with the 6th, 9th, 18th, 32nd, 49th and 58th Casualty Clearing Stations in the town at one time or another. These units buried their dead on the right of the central path of the communal cemetery, working back from Plot I.

SEASTON, GEORGE DONALD, Private, 3233 (240966), 1/6th Btn., d 29/04/1917 aged 20 and buried in WIMEREUX COMMUNAL CEMETERY (II. I. 17A). The son of Joseph and Annie Eliza Seaston of Chesterfield, Derbyshire. From October 1914 onwards, Boulogne and Wimereux formed an important hospital centre and until June 1918, the medical units at Wimereux used the communal cemetery for burials, the south-eastern half having been set aside for Commonwealth graves, although a few burial were also made among the civilian graves.

TOWN, WILLIAM, Private, 242472, 1/6th Btn., d of w 30/04/1917 aged 23 and buried in WIMEREUX COMMUNAL CEMETERY (II. J. 6). The son of John W. and Harriett Town of Woodville. Husband of Adelaide Town, of 10 Jackson Terrace, Simkin St., Nottingham. Formerly 1631 Derbyshire Yeomanry


Reburials from 1919

The bodies of five 1/6th Battalion men killed in action on the 23rd April 1917 were exhumed and re-buried in LA CHAUDIERE MILITARY CEMETERY on the 21st August 1919.

Plot IX, Row G graves 2-4N25c graves

  • The bodies of Lieutenant Cecil Arthur Brown, 7693/242490 Pte John William Jones and 1754/240246 Pte William Jodrell were discovered at N.25.c.
  • Interestingly, although John William Jones is buried in Plot IX G4, at the time of his exhumation he was recorded as an “Unknown British Soldier”.

Plot X, Rows F and GChaudiere Plot 10

  • The body of 3659/241159 Pte James Cooper bodies was recovered from N.25.b.
  • The body of 7689/242486 Pte Harold Raynor Handley was recovered from N.31.a.

1754/240426 Pte William JodrellJodrell1754 Jodrell 2

Lieutenant Cecil Arthur BrownBrown CA

“24th April 1917 – My dear Major, I am most awfully sorry to tell you that Cecil is both wounded and missing. ‘C’ Company made an attack and Cecil and his platoon were hung up by a wall with wire entanglement behind it. Cecil, with the utmost pluck and gallantry, began to climb the wall but was hit and fell down behind it. A few of his men got over but the rest had to withdraw. We sent out search parties after dark but we did not find him; and we were relieved the same night. I asked the Company who relieved me to make every effort to bring Cecil in, but it is possible he had been made a prisoner as our attack had failed. I haven’t had any news of him so far this all happened on the early morning of the 23rd”.

Honours and Awards

Gallantry Awards:-

Military Medal

240827 L/Cpl Albert Edward Bedford (23rd)

Whilst in charge of a bombing squad he came in contact with 30 of the enemy whom he immediately attacked and drove back, he himself being severely wounded. He followed the enemy up with the bayonet, eventually getting out of touch. When he used all his bombs he made a successful withdrawal.

242476 Private Kenneth Bresser (23rd)

As a Company runner, he took two messages forward under heavy fire and whilst taking a third was wounded. In spite of wounds he got through with his message and succeeded in bringing back an answer. He has previously performed excellent work.

241360 Private Albert Evans (23rd)

He was in charge of a Lewis gun which became isolated. He was heavily shelled by enemy TMs and his gun got buried. In spite of this and heavy casualties he held on and drove off with severe losses an enemy party who attacked his post.

240194 Private Thomas Wheatcroft (23rd)

The man acted as a Company stretcher bearer and during the whole of the day dressed wounded in the open, getting the badly wounded into cellars and evacuating all possible cases. He has has done similar good work since coming to France in Feb 1915.

240076 Sgt John George Ravey (23rd)

In spite of our barrage being short he reached his objective driving the enemy out of three isolated houses. He showed admirable leadership, keeping his platoon well in hand, and though out of touch and in spite of heavy shelling, he held his position, thereby safeguarding his Company’s flank. During the action he shot 2 enemy snipers who had been harassing the operations.

241233 L/Cpl F W Hobbs (23rd)

240981 Private Thomas Drabble (21st-23rd)

This man acted as runner and repeatedly kept up communications under rifle fire and MG fire in the open. Though in an exhausted condition, he volunteered for most dangerous journeys with messages, twice having to pass through the enemy artillery barrage.

242442 Private Leslie Beastall (21st-23rd)

This man acted as runner and repeatedly kept up communications under rifle fire and MG fire in the open. Though in an exhausted condition, he volunteered for most dangerous journeys with messages, twice having to pass through the enemy artillery barrage.

Military Cross

2/Lt Vernon Hay Armitage

He handled his platoon with the utmost coolness and courage under heavy fire. Although wounded himself he continued to direct operations, particularly assisting to rescue some of his the men who had become buried by hostile shelling. Throughout he set a fine example.

Capt Victor Robinson

By his skilful dispositions and personal energy he enabled his company to reach their objectives with small loos to themselves, at the same time causing heavy casualties to the enemy. His skill and experience were of the greatest assistance.

Distinguished Conduct Medal

240513 Frank Longson

He organised and led a squad of bombers against the enemy with the greatest skill and determination. Following up the retreating enemy, he inflicted severe casualties with MG and rifle fire.

Robinson VO June 1917Armitage VH June 1917Rowland MC April 1917Brown CA April 1917Jackson HH April 1917Archer April 1917Longson DCM June 1917240827 Bedford April 1917240853 Hadfield April 1917241360 Evans April 1917

4 thoughts on “Fosse 3 de Lievin – April 1917

  1. rudgwickps

    I am researching the wartime experiences of Captain Frank Skinner Rowland MC for Rudgwick Preservation Society. His daughter lives in the village in West Sussex. I have a photograph of him and photographs of his MC and other artefacts. i feel sure his daughter will want to share what she has and what she knows if we can correspond. I hope you can fill me in on further details too.

  2. Pingback: On this day 23rd April 1917 | Derbyshire Territorials in the Great War

  3. Pingback: On this day 20th May 1917 | Derbyshire Territorials in the Great War

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