30th August 1918
On the 30th August the 6th Battalion relieved the 5th Battalion near to Route A Keep
Trench map from June 1918 showing the location of the British (red) and German (blue) trenches (LOCON 36A S.E. 4). The Keep was located just to the north of the cross roads and very close to the German wire. The Germans had fortified a number of Posts including Richebourg, Epinettes, Scotts, Hunters, Rag & Bones (see below). Furthermore, behind was a second line of defence situated around WINDY CORNER and included Orchard, Dog’s, Edward, Hens and Lansdowne Posts.
The ground here was very flat and divided by numerous drainage ditches that were often filled with water and mud. Large stretches of barbed wire and shell holes from the 1915-16 fighting made the entire area treacherous.
31st August 1918
At dawn on the 31st August “A”, “D” and “B” Companies (with “C” Company in Reserve) sent fighting patrols forward to the first lines of fortified posts.
Order of Battle for the 1/6th Battalion on 1st September 1918:-
[names deduced from Men of the High Peak]
- Lt Leonard Victor Burrows
- 241160 Pte Thomas Broadhead
- 240318 Sergeant Percy Marper
- Pte Buxton [Possibly 3198/240944 James William Buxton, 3455/241121 William, 3665/241163 Arthur Buxton]
“B” Company: Captain Hubert Selwyn Pink
- 5 Platoon: Lt Henry Thorley Wood; 1828/240289 Sergt Claude Hancock
- 6 Platoon: Lt Cyril Ernest Wardle
- 7 Platoon: 2/Lt Charles Russell Frears
- 8 Platoon:
“C” Company” Captain Frank Skinner Rowland
- 9 Platoon
- 10 Platoon: 2/Lt Lancelot Alleyn Blakeney Becher, 240610 L/Sgt Charles Lievesley, 102767 Sergt. Sidney Caines, Sergt Mills, L/Cpl Thornton, 72919 Pte George HJ Halliday, Sergt Vaughan, Pte Moss, 266206 Pte. Albert Owen Hewson
- 11 Platoon: 2513/240616 CSM Peter Beardsley
- 12 Platoon
- 13 Platoon:
- 14 Platoon:
- 15 Platoon:
- 16 Platoon:
“D” Company advanced on the left by closely following a creeping artillery barrage and successfully occupied EPINETTE E KEEP/POST.
Patrols carefully moved up the dykes and ditches to the LOISNE RIVER on the left.
“A” Company were on the left of the attack and advanced through ruined buildings under heavy machine gun fire and along the sides of King George’s Road. At this time 240318 Sergeant Percy Marper was wounded whilst bombing an enemy post. He was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for this action.
The 1/6th Battalion now found themselves holding a small salient and during the night they came under sustained machine gun and rifle fire.
1st September 1918
Account of Lt Henry Thorley Wood
“B” Company was ordered to take Hunter and Scott posts as a starting point for a further attack later.
“The operation was to commence at 3 p.m. and the posts were to be gained at all costs. Some delay was caused due to messages to B.H.Q. re-barrage. No barrage was ordered, so the attack started about 3.45 p.m. ‘under its own steam’.
“7 Platoon under 2nd Lt. Charles Russell Frears was to do the actual attack, while 5 Platoon under Lt. Henry Thorley Wood was to support it on the right with 6 Platoon still further on the right under 2nd Lt. Cyril Ernest Wardle (8 Platoon had been lent to “D” Company)”.
The jumping off ground was around some farm buildings near to King George’s Road and about 100 yards ahead in the direction of the Germans was a wide deep stream edged with tall grass and willows [La Loisne].
306187 Pte. Charles Swift and several other men had crawled to this stream and managed to get a plank across, over which 7 Platoon was to pass while No. 5 gave supporting fire.
As soon as the men moved forward they were met with machine gun fire and sniping from carefully concealed positions so that it was some time before the edge of the stream could be reached. A few men of No. 7 managed to get across the plank when they were spotted and machine gun fire was directed on them.
“No. 5 were now lined along the stream to the right of 7 but were held up by a thick belt of wire woven among the trees, hence it was impossible to cross. (this wire was invisible until close upon it, due to tall grass). There was also wire on the further bank. A few more men of 7 had managed to cross by crawling in single file, so Lt. Wood ordered No. 5 to follow as no support could be given from these present positions.”
The crossing was accomplished by crawling and making a dash for the plank.
7 Platoon had now advanced about 60 yards beyond the stream and 5 Platoon was about 30 yards behind them. There was more protection here as ground was shell torn.
7 Platoon had sustained high casualties and were some-what rattled due to the unseen fire of snipers. (It was impossible to discover the hiding places of the enemy due to so much grass and many trees).
The attack now seemed to be held up – another 100 yards or so to go – so Lt. Wood decided to pass through 7 Platoon with 5 Platoon, which had been more lucky with regard to casualties.
6 Platoon still further on the road had by now spotted enemy machine gun fire up a tree, with well directed Lewis Gun fire they brought him down, which helped to ease the situation for 7 and 5 Platoons.
No. 5 now advanced by small rushes, odd men here and there and when within sight of the wire of Hunters Post, an enemy Very Light went up. This must have been enemy signal to retire, as their firing ceased from this time.
The wire was not a great obstacle so shortly afterwards 5 Platoon gained the post, which was empty but showed signs of having just been left (German candles and newspapers of recent date)
7 Platoon was now signalled to advance. As it was now getting dusk they were able to come forward with no difficulty and walked from Hunters Post to Scotts Post without further incident.
“Pink was in charge of “B” Company but took no part in the attack. I was in charge of the operation and think that if we had had a light barrage, we could have gained the objective with practically no casualties. As it was, we suffered fairly heavily. The men were in fighting order, but I wore no kit so was able to crawl up to the wire of Hunters Post without being spotted, which decided me to take 5 Platoon through 7 Platoon. All did a good day’s work. Sgt. Hancock was very good.”
“It was awkward ground for an attack as we had to ascend a slope. At the top there were tall leafy poplars which overlooked us. When we “got there” we found several poplars had been used for observation, spikes were driven in so that they could be climbed.”
(Copy Editors Note: The address on this un-named work is 85 Scalpcliffe Rd., Stapenhill, Burton-on-Trent.)
UPDATE: Thanks to ‘Nermal’ we now know that this account was written by Lt Henry Thorley Wood.
3rd September 1918
“A” Company advanced on the left of “B” Company and were successful in capturing Richebourg Post.
However, Lieutenant Burrows was killed in the advance, whilst 241160 Pte Thomas Broadhead and Pte Buxton performed individual acts of bravery.“The enemy were on one side of the stream; he and his platoon were on the other, and he was ordered to cross the stream and drive the enemy out of a post which was important we should secure for future operations. In this he succeeded so skillfully that he completed his part without any loss of men. After establishing himself he proceeded to gain touch with a platoon on his flank, and here had a further brush with the enemy and was hit with a bomb splinter”.
[Major James A Sheddon]
The advance by “A” Company on the left placed them ahead of the main body to troops. “C” Company was therefore moved from Reserve and took up a defensive flank along King George’s Street and captured an anti-tank gun in doing so.
3rd September 1918
During the evening the Battalion Headquarters were moved to a cluster of disused gun pits and numerous patrols were sent out to reconnoitre the German positions.The 19th Division attacked the German positions on the left and as they did so the Germans began to withdraw from the strong points facing the 1/6th Battalion; namely Orchard, Albert and Dogs Post, which were subsequently occupied by men of “B” Company.
Men of “A” Company carefully proceeded up the many ditches and dyes towards EDWARD POST and despite heavy casualties some of the men reached as far as this fortified area. However, it was found to be impossible to attack this post frontally.
Pte. Bird crawled back to the 1/6th Battalion positions across ground that was being raked by machine gun fire and reported the situation.
On hearing that the 19th Division has captured LANSDOWNE POST, which just beyond HENS POST, Captain Fank Rowland and “C” Company (No. 9 & 10 Platoons) moved towards the St Vaast Tramway in short rushes and crawls intending to out flank both EDWARD and HENS POSTS.
However, the attack on LANSDOWNE POST by the 19th Division had failed and stalled about 600 yards short.
Captain Rowland then sent scouts Ptes Belfield and Moss along the tramway who reported that the were no Germans for some considerable distance. No. 9 & 10 Platoons then moved up the tramway towards LANSDOWNE POST but were met with heavy machine gun fire when they were within 300 yards. Both platoons were then order to crawl forward using the available ditches until they were close enough to rush the post.
During the attack there was several acts of individual bravery including those by:-
- Captain Frank Skinner Rowland, Awarded Bar to MC (LG 11.1.1919)
- 240616 Sergeant-Major Peter Beardsley, Awarded the DCM
- 240810 Sergeant Charles Lievesley, Awarded the DCM
- Sergeant Ward
- Lieutenant A Jepson
- Broom [Possibly 4252/241416 Percy Broom or 92039 Cpl Fredrick Boom]
- 202274 L/Sgt Frank Mayne
- 20500/269715 Pte. George Moss, Awarded the MM LG 3.9.1919
- L/Cpl Thornton, possibly Awarded the MM
The Battalion suffered 32 men killed, 191 wounded and 1 man missing during the attacks around Essars and Richebourg in the summer of 1918.
Casualties from 31st August to 4th September 1918
The four men killed during the attacks on the 31st August were:-
- 3588/241139 Pte Walter Gratton aged 25 and the son of Benjamin and Mary Gratton of 3 Rose Cottages in Upper Town near Bonsall, Matlock. Walter enlisted in November 1914 and would have arrived in France during 1916.
- 60573 Pte Albert Edward Hook aged 21 and the son of Emma Annie and the late Frederick Hook of West View on Alfreton Rd. in Derby. Albert had previously served with the 15th and 1/7th Battalions.
- 91366 Pte. Edwin Harold Hoyle who was the husband of Alice Hoyle of 6 East St. Ilkeston in Derbyshire. Edwin was conscripted in early 1917 and posted to the Sherwood Foresters.
- 3052/240873 L/Cpl Peter Ryan aged 32 and a fitter from Chapel-en-le-Frith. Peter was from Ballynahinch in County Tipperary and enlisted in October 1914. He went to France with the 46th Division in February 1915. He had served a total of 3 years and 317 days overseas, but had only just rejoined the 1/6th Battalion on 31st July. He is commemorated on the Ballynahinch and Chapel War Memorials.
All four men are buried in FOUQUIERES CHURCHYARD EXTENSION, Plot IV, Graves F1-3 & 8.
The four men killed on the 1st September were:-
- Second Lieutenant Leonard Victor Burrows aged 26 and the son of JR and Florence Burrows of Belper and Husband of Jessie Burrows of Stirton Grange in Skipton, Yorkshire.
- 5040/235021 Pte. Albert Victor Jackson aged 21 and the son of William and Emma Jackson of Hyson Green in Nottingham. Albert enlisted into the 3/7th Battalion in September 1915 and after service with the 5th Reserve and 1/5th Battalions he was posted to the 1/6th Battalion on 29th January 1918 with the 45th Reinforcement.
- 82872 L/Cpl Frederick Murfin aged 24 and husband of Nellie Murfin, of 48 Brook St. in Derby. Frederick attested in January 1915 and was mobilised in March 1917 and posted to the 3rd Battalion. He was transferred to the 1/6th Battalion on 20th January 1918 with the 43rd Reinforcement and joined the Battlion in the field on 18th February.
- 97990 Pte Lewis Spencer aged 19 and the son of George Thomas and Lilly Flora Spencer of Dunston in Lincolnshire. Lewis attested in January 1917 and was mobilised in March 1917. He was initially posted to the 11th Training Reserve Battalion before transferring to the Sherwood Foresters in December 1917. He was transferred to the 1/6th Battalion from the 2nd Battalion on 10th February 1918 with the 48th Reinforcement and joined the Battlion in the field on 25th March.
All four men are buried in FOUQUIERES CHURCHYARD EXTENSION, Plot IV, Graves F4-6 & 9.
The six men killed on the 3rd September were:-
- 1769/73444 L/Cpl Harold Marsh aged 23 and the son of Ben and Mary Hannah Marsh; husband of Fanny Marsh of 3 Station Rd. Spa Lane in Chesterfield. Harold was a pre-War Territorial who enlisted in 1912 and arrived in France with the 46th Division in February 1915. He was wounded in 1915 and returned to England for treatment.
- 20043/269262 Pte. Charles Norman Comins aged 23 and son of the late Charles and Mary Jane Comins of Lincoln. Charles had previously served with the 1/7th Battalion.
- 93551 Pte. Frederick William Clay from Leek in Staffordshire. Frederick was a conscripted soldier who only served in France with the 1/6th Battalion.
- 31847 Pte Francis William Dennis from Leabrooks in Derbyshire. Had previously served with the 16th Battalion.
- 3815/266206 Pte. Albert Owen Hewson aged 21 and the Son of the late George Edward and Sarah Jane Hewson of 4 Harrington Drive on Derby Rd. in Nottingham. Had previously served with the 1/7th Battalion and arrived in France in 1916.
- 3642/241152 Pte Joe Maxwell Moore aged 25 and the son of Harry and Sabine Moore of Whaley Common in Langwith Derbyshire.
All six men are buried in FOUQUIERES CHURCHYARD EXTENSION, Plot IV, Graves F13-16 & G2-3.
In addition to the men killed, 3 men also died of their wounds:-
1699/240220 Sergt. George William Wall the son of William Wall of North Wood in Darley Dale Matlock. George was a pre-War Territorial who had enlisted in May 1912 and arrived in France with the 46th Division in February 1915.
1537/240149 Cpl. Archibald Galbraith aged 28 and son of Thomas and Emily Galbraith; husband of E Galbraith of 21 Market St. Whaley Bridge. Archibald was a pre-War Territorial who had enlisted in January 1912 and arrived in France with the 46th Division in February 1915.
“Archie got badly wounded last night. It is serious but the doctor does not think it’s dangerous. He was very lucky for it missed his eye and missed his temple. It was a bullet and it passed through the right eye in the right ear about four inches long and about an inch wide. He walked to the aid post and from the lines but we made him a stretcher case. He was very patient and he bore it well while we dressed him. Will let you know where he gets and how he goes on “
[George Potter Bagshaw]
2879/240778 Pte. Richard Milnes wounded by a bullet on the 4th September and died in the 22 Casualty Clearing Station 10 days later. Richard enlisted in October 1914 and arrived in France with the 46th Division in February 1915.
All three men are buried in PERNES BRITISH CEMETERY Plot VI.
“Re-adjustments of the Divisional front became necessary, owing to the continued withdrawal of the enemy, and on September 1st, we crossed over to relieve our 6th Battalion in the left Brigade sector. Here the withdrawal had been fairly rapid, Lacouture and Vieille Chapelle both having been evacuated, and the enemy were now holding a line roughly running from Richebourg St. Vaast through “Windy Corner” to Richebourg L’Avoué, the general direction of our advance being North-East. At the time we relieved them, the 6th Battalion were engaged in sharp encounters trying to dislodge the enemy from a number of posts just West of Windy Corner. We continued this hole and corner fighting, and on September 3rd, C Company occupied “Hens Post,” Windy Corner, and “Edward’s Post,” after some sharp scrapping, taking one wounded prisoner, whilst B Company occupied “Dogs Post” without opposition”.
[The Sherwood Foresters in the Great War 1914 – 1919, History of the 1/8th Battalion]
2014 and the legacy of battle
The remains of the German defensive works around EDWARD and HENS POSTS can be clearly seen in the field after harvesting the crops.
I dont know why you are surprised at the interest for your pages, I found it by accident and look forward to the mails, day to day really interests me and Sherwood Foresters in particular, come on the lads. Well done.
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.
Mike, The unnamed source of information from Scalpcliffe Road is Lt Henry Thorley Wood (mentioned in this post) who used to live at this address.
Just thought you’d be interested to help connect a few dots.
Geoffrey thats great! many thanks, I was just wondering the other night if I could try to identify him. Always good to join the dots. Cheers Mike
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Charles Norman Comins is my great uncle. I have just started to research him and I have a postcard of him in uniform. Written on the back is a note in pencil, I believe it reads Pts Charles Comins 269262 Died of wounds received in action Sept. 3rd 1918 from V. and the last name is unreadable it starts with a clear L but that’s all I can discern. There is no address on the postcard so I believe it must have been sent with a letter.
There is a family legend that Charles died carrying a wounded man back. That he was hit and fell and that the wounded man asked Charles whether he was OK, he said he was ok and could carry on. He picked the man up again but was hit a second time this time he told wounded man he would have to make his own way back and died. Could there be any truth to this story? I’m more than happy to forward the images of the postcard and would love any light that can be thrown on it.
I have discovered the author of the post card it was sent by his fiancee Vera to his family shortly after his death.
How sad (for Vera) – but excellent that you have identified the sender of the card. It would be great if you could email a copy of the post card – might be able to give a place and date (if you could scan back as well). I’ll see if there is anymore info in the Brigade War Diary, cheers Mike
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Mike , have you any information about my grandad , sgt William Hopkinson 7407 who was killed on Albert , 30th June 1916 , and what action was being undertaken that day ?
Thank you John Hopkinson
Hello John – he died of wounds on the 31st July 1916 so it’s hard to pin down the day he was wounded. He was with the 11th Battalion which were badly mauled on the 1st day of the Somme. He died in the 57th Field Ambulance which suggests that he was wounded on the 31st or a day or two before (and didn’t make it to a base hospital). The Battalion history is available here