20 December 2009

Pte 17617 Daniel F Dowling

Daniel Dowling was born in Hackney and grew up at 9 Hamburg Street, the son of a leather cutter. Also living in the house was his uncle and his family. At the outbreak of War Daniel enlisted in the West Ham Battalion at Stratford.

He was killed during the initial stages of the failed attack on a heavily defended German position known as the Quadrilateral on the 13th November 1916 and now lies buried at Serre Road Cemetary. He was just 18 years old.

image courtesy of Bob Lamy - Daniel was related to Bob's great grandads second wife, Elizabeth Dowling.

3 October 2009

Now Available

Alan the Badge Man has organised these fantastic enamel badges for the West Ham Battalion memorial!

He's had a fantastic job done from my original sketch design!

Unlike some of the other badge sellers around the stadium, ALL the profits from the sale of these limited edition badges will be split between the Royal British Legion (East Ham Branch) in Castle Street and the Essex Regiment Museum to help in the funding of their redevelopment.

They'll also be available outside the ground during the buildup to the midweek Villa game and at the Memorial unveiling at the home game with Everton. Also from the Essex Regiment Museum Shop and from Alan on ebay.

Alternatively, you can order them here, just send me an email and I'll forward you Alan's details

Very reasonably priced at £6 (including p&p) for the pair!

Spread The Word!!

5 September 2009

17272 Pte Hugh Bannon

Hugh Bannon was born in 1878/9 in Stepney and was raised at 21 Albert Square.

In 1901, aged 22, he enlisted in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, and was given the number 9324.

He stood five foot ten, with brown hair and eyes and was covered in tattoo's: Brittania on his chest and various birds and ladies on both his arms.

Hugh served in South Africa in 1902, giving his London address as 28 Upton Avenue, Forest Gate, before moving to 40 Lucas Avenue, Upton Park.

On leaving the Guards he wanted to become a Metropolitan Policeman and was described by the Army as being 'smart, sober and trustworthy'. At some point he ended up working in the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs as a dock labourer.

His one story in later life of the War was of being one of only two survivors of his Platoon or Company. The attack was quite possibly at 'Oppy Wood', where the Hammers lost 240 men. The Germans got in behind and on the flanks of both the West Ham Battalion and the 17th Middlesex (Footballers). It was a disaster.

Hugh served his whole time with the Hammers. On the 28th March, 1918, after he had been posted to the 2nd battalion Essex Regiment, he was shot through the jaw, losing a number of teeth and gaining a scar on the right cheek. The day before he had been hit in the arm.

From the War Diary of 2nd Battalion, on the Front Line outside Arras:

28th March.

3am - 7am Heavy hostile bombardment on flank, support & reserve lines. Trench mortars cut wire on our front. Bombardment increased and is very severe. Still in communication with other Coys & B HQ

7:05am - 7:35am. Enemy seen massing on front lines. Communicatons cease, all wires cut. All Coys send up SOS rockets. Very severe fighting in support & reserve lines.

7:40am. Enemy breakthrough flanks and advance down Chili Trench. Bn HQ withdraw to the junction of Chili, Harry & Hussar trenches and with about 35 ORs form a strong point to block enemy. B HQ moved to 2nd lancs Hqdrs and remainder of men come under the command of 2nd Lancs Fusiliers.

By April 1st 1918, Hugh was out of France and in hosptal at Finsbury Square in the City. At the end of Ww1 he returned to his wife and five children at 40 Lucas Avenue, Upton Park.

He was a lifelong Hammers supporter, and his large family are still regulars, some with season tickets.

Images used are Courtesy of the Bannon Family, especial thanks to John Cumming for making contact

23 August 2009

18354 L/Cpl W Boulton

Simon contacted me about his GtGrandfather, Lance Corporal 18354 William Boulton, who lived with his wife Annie at 31, Breer St in Fulham, but enlisted at Canning Town. Simon only had the one photo, until William was spotted in one of the others which are coming to light

We dont know too much about William, other than that he was 40 when he was killed on the infamous 28 April 1917, during the Battle of Arras, in the fighting for the town of Oppy and Oppy Wood. The 13th Essex attacked alongside 17th Middx (Footballers) but found that the Germans had 'got in behind them' with terrible consequences. This engagement caused the largest loss of life to the Hammers Battalion overnight.

18589 Pte Asser

A bit of a mystery, is George Asser. All we know is that he was 40 years old and lived with his wife Matilda in Bromley (by Bow).

His GtGrandson Rob contacted me looking for any details, and it has stumped us all, which is a shame!

George is remembered on the memorial at Arras, as he died on 18th March 1916. However, the West Ham Battalion weren't in action at this time. They were marching to the town of Bruay on 18th March.

George's name wasn't recorded in the War Diary, which is very unusual for the Battalion in 1916. Also unusual is the fact that there are three whole days missing from the War Diary, the 14th, 15th and 16th: a period during which the Battalion were in the trenches at Calonne. Very strange. Rob ordered the Death Certificate but this only tells us 'missing presumed dead'.

Two days after George's death, leave for the Hammers battalion commenced, their first since hitting French soil.

17574 Pte Ayers

Stephen Ayers contacted me regarding his Grandfather Hubert Ayers who lived at 84 South Esk Road, Forest Gate. With his wife Alice Emily, Hubert ran a small coffee house in the local area.

He was Killed In Action at Delville Wood on July 30th, 1916. I cannot tell the full circumstances, as due to the nature of the attacks and counter-attacks over those few days the War Diary is a bit sketchy to say the least. This included intense and accurate artillery barrages which smashed the trenches and even at one point hit the HQ dugout and buried Lt-Col Papillon and the other officers alive.

A large group of skilled German snipers went hunting in the morning and were 'driven off' by 40 of the West Ham men, while several German infantry assaults were repulsed hand to hand in the evening.

It's always great to make contact with relatives of the Men, and Stephen is one of the many who will be attending the Memorial unveiling at the Boleyn Ground, 11am on November 7th to lay a wreath in memory of his GtGrandfather.

2 August 2009

West Ham Lane in France

Here's an enlargement from a June 1916 trench map of the Lens sector.

The 13th Essex were first located in this area from about the end of February 1916.

My GtGrandad was killed in this sector at the end of April 1916.

West Ham Lane now lies beneath the motorways surrounding the town of Grenay

Many thanks to Sgt Tony Kitchen for working out the Trench map overlay!

13 July 2009

Captain William Walter Busby, MC

I'm very pleased to announce that 2nd Newham Scouts & Leaders of 'Busby' Troop, will be attending the unveiling of the Memorial Plaque to the 13th Essex to parade and lay a poppy wreath. In 1908 William Walter Busby was a founding member of 2nd Newham Scouts and they not only changed the colour of their neckerchief to khaki in his memory but also renamed themselves Busby Troop in his honour.

Busby was raised a few streets up from the Boleyn, in Sherrard Road and was one of the first to sign up to The Hammers Battalion. He tragically had to write home after his cousin (or his nephew - further research is needed!) was overcome by the fumes from a coke brazier blocking the doorway and died alongside 8 other men trying to keep warm in their cellar billet at Calonne in March 1916.

Busby won his Military Cross for gallantry on the Hammer's first Trench Raid, July 1st, 1916

"Walter Busby tragically did not live to receive his medal. He was killed in action, as a Captain, on the 13th November 1916 as the Somme Battles drew to a close. His grieving parents Charles and Minnie received the award by post at their home in Sherrard Road, Forest Gate, in September 1917."

'WW Busby Portrait' courtesy of 2nd Newham Scouts; '2/Lt Busby On Parade' courtesy of the Essex Regiment Museum

18250 Pte Crispin

Thomas Crispin was born in April 30th 1890 in Lewisham and was the eldest son in his family.

He lived with his mother, Charlotte and siblings at 142 Walton Road in Manor Park. After attending Walton Road School he became a labourer.

He enlisted on February 20th, 1915, went over on the Princess Victoria and saw the Anglia blown apart. He may well have been informed of the death in November 1916 at Gallipoli of his brother, William Crispin, a 22 year old Private in 1st/4th Battalion of the Essex Regiment.

Thomas was killed on the 1st of June, 1916.

In a letter sent to his parents, Captain C Harford wrote this:
"I was his old Company Commander from the early days in Stratford until the end of January last, and always found him a good soldier and to be relied upon."

Lt William Walter Busby wrote this to his mother:

"I am writing on behalf of the officers and men of D Company to say how deeply we sympathize with you over the death of your son. We have just had a very trying time in the trenches and it was during this time that he actually met his death. At the time he was not actually in the Front Line, but doing his work in a shelter made in the hillside. A piece of shell penetrated this shelter and so severly wounded him that he died shortly afterwards.

Although anything I can say will do little to heal the wound caused by your bereavement, it may be some small comfort to you to know that he has always proved himself a very able and efficient soldier, carrying out orders with cheerfulness which was an example to his comrades, so that your loss will be ours too."

20 June 2009

A Date For Your Diary

The Memorial will be unveiled at the home game with Everton FC, November 7th 2009.

Perhaps, with a bit of luck, SkySports will change the fixture and make it their live SuperSunday match!

9 June 2009

Memorial SITREP

+ + + +

Good News!

After consideration, West Ham United have decided the Memorial will recieve greater prominence by being placed at the main reception entrance to the Boleyn Ground, rather than in Castle Street. Bricks are being removed so that it can be cemented in permanently!

+ + + +

Furthermore, it is with very sincere appreciation that I can announce that the Memorial will be crafted by H L Hawes & Son, a local family funeral directors, which has been in the area for over 160 years. The care, consideration and service shown to me is second to none and I cant rate them highly enough.

+ + + +

It is also hoped that we can get the 13th Essex 'Colours' brought along from The Essex Regiment Chapel in Warley Church.

+ + + +

14 April 2009

Memorial Update

West Ham United have agreed, indeed described it as an honour, to host a Memorial Plaque in memory to the men of the 13th Essex.

It will be located in Castle Street, on the outside wall of the Bobby Moore Stand and unveiled on the closest home match to Remembrance Sunday, this coming November.

I'll keep you all informed as to the progress of the project, but for now I'd just like to yell the old 13th Hammers battle cry of "UP THE IRONS!"

13 April 2009

18081 Pte William Bone

William James Bone was born in Mile End in 1876/7. It was in Poplar that he married Sarah Ann Lawson from Bromley (now Bromley-By-Bow). He became a bookbinder by trade and in 1901 had a son, also named William. By this time the family were living in Bromley at 31, Knapp Road.

Knapp Road and the surrounding streets were later totally flattened in WW2, but there is a small terrace of houses which survive to indicate the pleasant road it once was. By 1911, the family was living at 43 Eldred Road in Barking, beside the Tube lines.

When War came, William signed on the line and became Pte 18081 Bone and went over with the Originals in 1915. He was reported wounded in the Essex Chronicle of 15th September 1916. This list seems to include the 13th Essex casualties from 8th August 1916 during the night assault on Waterlot Farm (the sugar beet refinery area) at Guillemont when the Battalion suffered 90 casualties, mainly from C and D Companies.

William was badly shell shocked during this engagement, and never again spoke of the conflict for the rest of his life. His Gt-Grandson Andy and his father are sure Williams face appears in an episode about Delville Wood in the recent documentary series "Last Voices Of WW1 - Horror In The Mud".

31566 Pte Bertie Alan POWELL

Pte 31566 Bertie Alan Powell was born in Chelmsford. He Lived in Heybridge with his wife Nellie at 28 Well Terrace, Heybridge. Before the war (from 1906) he was the Hon. Sec. of Heybridge Football Club.

Bertie died 28/4/1917, aged 36, during the ill fated attack on Oppy.

He is remembered in perpetuity on the Arras Memorial (Bay 7)

Thanks to Stephen Nunn, Great war researcher from Maldon

25 March 2009

Happy Hammers!

quoting from a letter recieved this morning -

"It will be an honour to accommodate a memorial tablet at the stadium"


8 February 2009

Lt Col Carter, DSO + Bar, MC + Bar. Second Commanding Officer

When Lt Col Papillon was defeated by shell shock on October 1st 1916, his position was taken by Harry Carter of the South Staffordshire Regiment. Carter had already been in temporary command of the 17th Middlesex and he led The Hammers for six months. He was seen as an exceptionally brave man and set about getting the 13th Essex back up 'fighting fitness' from the moment he arrived up to his departure in April 1917.

Harry Carter was the son of William John Carter, a gas tube maker, from Wolverhampton and his wife, Annie Dingley. His mother was illiterate.

Harry enlisted as a private soldier in the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment in 1899, seemingly after failing to get on with his stepmother, and saw active service in South Africa. By August 1914 he had reached the dizzy heights of battalion signals sergeant. But the severe casualties that the BEF suffered in the epic fighting of 1914 opened unprecedented opportunities for a man like Carter.

On 4 January 1915 he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the field. In 1913 seven officers in the British Army were commissioned from the ranks. In the first month of the war alone five hundred warrant officers and NCOs were commissioned. During the Great War as a whole the figure was 6,713, 41 per cent of the total number of permanent commissions. The contribution made to the British war effort by officers promoted from the ranks has been little recognised. The war remains trapped in the familiar public school officer idiom.

After spells in temporary command of the 13th Essex and 17th Middlesex, Carter was made CO of the 7th South Staffords, 33rd Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division on 7 July 1917, commanding it for the rest of the war. He was 38. 11th Division has no published divisional history and is not well known. It served first on Gallipoli before being transferred to the Western Front in 1916. On 12 May 1917 Major-General H.R. Davies assumed command. Under his leadership 11th Division became one of the best in the BEF. The division performed particularly well at Third Ypres and spearheaded the First Army’s advance in the autumn of 1918. Davies came to have a high regard for Carter.

Carter’s dramatic rise and outstanding war record also attracted notice in his home town. He was given a civic reception on 21 March 1918, presented with a silver sword, had his portrait painted and a street named after him. (The street’s previous name was Bismarck Street!) He may, perhaps, have treasured more the watch given him ‘as a token of admiration from his friends in Blakenhall, Wolverhampton, upon his gaining high military distinction during the present world war’.

His DSO was awarded for gallantry at Guillemont on 6th Aug 1916. Here are his citations in London Gazette -

LG 23rd Dec 1915

Second Lieutenant William Henry Carter, 2nd Battalion, The South Staffordshire Regiment

“For consistent good work throughout the campaign, notably on 24th November, 1915.
The enemy exploded a mine under Gibson’s crater, south of the Le Bassée road, killing and wounding most of the garrison. Lieutenant Carter at once went up and commenced reorganising the defence of the crater. He was slightly wounded, but remained at his post, and it was mainly due to his courage and example that two hostile bomb attacks on the crater were repulsed. He also organised a bomb attack on the enemy, thus keeping them quiet for four hours, while the position was being consolidated.”

LG 9th September 1916

Awarded a Bar to his Military Cross
Lt William Henry Carter, S Staff R

“ For conspicuous and consistent gallantry.
Hardly a week passes without his name being brought to notice for some act of devotion and gallantry. Lately he carried out most gallant rescue work under fire after a night raid. He arrived in France in August, 1914, as signalling serjeant of the battalion, and has been with it in every action. Nothing affects his courage and nerve.
(The Military Cross was awarded in Gazette dated 23rd December, 1915)

LG 20th Oct 1916

Carter, William Henry Lieut (Temporary Major) M.C. South Staffordshire Regiment
“For conspicuous gallantry during operations. He commanded the battalion after his CO was wounded and displayed great skill and personal courage. He went about everywhere encouraging his men and making personal reconnaissances during three days of heavy fighting. He set a fine example to his command.

LG 10th Dec 1919

Carter, William Henry, DSO, MC, Capt and Brevet Major (Temporary Lieut Col), Royal Warwickshire Regiment attached to 7th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment
“For skilful leading of his battalion during the operations 8th and 9th Nov. 1918, in the advance from Autreppe to Geognies Chaussee. On 8th November 1918, he by his drive and initiative kept his battalion going forward through heavy enemy opposition and by a personal reconnaissance reported his exact dispositions at the end of the day. He has at all times set a very fine example to those under him. (DSO gazetted 20th October 1916)

Carter ended the war as a Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel, even reaching Temporary Brigadier-General in the Army of Occupation. His substantive rank, awarded on 11 December 1916, was Captain Royal Warwickshire Regiment. And it was in this rank that he returned to peacetime soldiering. He did not find the post-war army congenial, however, and in 1922 he left with a gratuity of £1,500. He invested this in a poultry farm near Kidderminster, but it was not a success. He later set up a taxi business, but this also failed. By the time a reporter from the Birmingham Post caught up with him in January 1934, he was living at Rose and Crown Cottages, Penn, near Wolverhampton, with his wife and five children. He had worked for five years at A.J.S. motor-cycles as a mechanic before moving to James Gibbons Ltd. as a steel erector.

Carter regarded his situation with equanimity. ‘Oh, I’m as happy as a king, and so long as I can get work it doesn’t matter, though I should welcome the opportunity to better my position,’ he told the Post’s reporter. ‘Some of the old chaps who used to know me in the army - chaps the same as myself, you know - come and see me, because even when I was an officer I hadn’t any bounce.’ It is typical of Carter’s life that as soon as war came again Gibbons put him in charge of their ARP precautions.

His Second World War service was interrupted by an old wound from the Great War that eventually necessitated the amputation of his foot. He recuperated from the operation as the guest of the Earl of Dartmouth, with whom he got on well. ‘My father was always the same, whether with commoners or kings,’ his daughter Betty recalled. In her sitting room, there is a photograph of him sitting astride his charger as CO of the 7th South Staffords. He looks every inch the Colonel and the officer and gentleman he was.

Carter died on 19 December 1951, aged 72, after a long illness and is buried in St Batholomew’s Churchyard, Penn.

[This account originally formed part of ‘Two British Officers of the Great War’, in The Response. An Occasional Magazine of the Northumberland and Durham Branches of the Western Front Association, 11 (2000), pp. 1-8.] and was taken from here

22 January 2009

Family Connections?

I've just noticed that among 'The Originals' of the West Ham battalion, at that first Parade and the dinner given by the Borough, there is a Lt A J Dyer.

I wonder, just wonder, if the Mayor of West Ham, Councillor Henry Dyer, the man who raised the Battalion, was his father or other close relative?

If you are a relative of a soldier who served in the 13th Essex, please feel free to send details: I'll gladly look up any detail which may help you discover what happened on the day of his death or during the time of his service.

15774 L/Cpl Warwick and 32349 Pte Henderson

Although both these men are late war replacements to the West Ham Battalion, rather than 'original' volunteers local to the east end, their info is included here due to the research done on the Stansted war memorial

15774 L/Cpl Peter Warwick

Peter Warwick was the son of Eliza and the late Henry Warwick, living at home with his mother and family at Lower Woodfields. Prior to the War he was employed by Messrs Mascall Bros., a local butchers. He volunteered in November 1914, enlisting at Saffron Walden and after combat in Egypt, was sent to France in early 1916 where he was soon wounded in the leg.

On sunday 30th September, the Hammers were in the Givenchy Sector. From midnight, the German's had been bombarding the positions with gas shells. It lasted until 3am when the all clear was finally sounded.

At daybreak, as the morning mist cleared, a hidden German sniper sighted a valuable prize: A dreaded Lewis Gunner, getting himself ready. With less than a blink, L/Cpl Warwick was shot in the head. He was 24 years old.

He had been home on leave only two months before his death.

His Lieutenant wrote to his mother: 'The morning before the battalion last came out of the trenches your son was hit by an enemy sniper and died before I could reach him, although at the time I was in the trench but a short distance away. It has been a great loss to the company, as your son was held in great esteem by all and was a steady and capable section leader. It is very difficult to offer you any consolation in such a great loss but I hope it will relieve your grief to know that his death was almost instantaneous and he was buried in the presence of the whole platoon. I hope you will accept my sincere sympathy.' A letter was also recieved from his Sgt Maj conveying the sincere sympathy of the NCO's and the men of the Company.

Peter Warwick's body was taken from the trenches and as the Chaplain told his mother, he was buried in a British cemetary in the presence of the whole Platoon.

32349 Alfred Henderson

Alfred William Henderson was born in Poplar in 1885, but at some point he relocated to Stansted, living at Lower Street. He was the son of Frederick Henderson and son in law of Mrs Ridgewell of Hospital Lane in Saffron Walden. He was formally in the service of Lord Peel and afterwards employed at Messrs Rochfords nurseries at Birchanger, then for the next two years he was the Prudential agent for Stansted.

Alfred was called up in October 1916 and arrived in France on January 1st 1917. He had only been there three weeks when he was granted leave to return home for a few days (until January 26th) because his wife Fanny had been taken seriously ill and removed to an institution (where she was still a patient at the time of her husband's death). They had two children, one aged five, the other only a month old.

Alfred is one of the many killed at Oppy on 28th of April, 1917, when over 240 men of the Hammers Battalion were killed during the attack.

Details of both men and the image of L/Cpl Warwick taken from the painstaking research of the Stansted War Memorial, undertaken by Glyn Warwick and published in his recent book "They Sleep In Heroes Graves" ISBN 978-0-9558964-0-8

18655 Pte Mellish

James John Mellish was born in Bow in 1886, the son of James and Esther Mellish. He worked as a fancy cord manufacturer and married Susannah E L Brown in West Ham in 1912. Mellish joined the Essex Regiment in 1914 and was posted to the 13th (West Ham) Battalion, going overseas with the original contingent of the 13th Battalion on 17th November 1915 on the Princess Victoria and, after witnessing the HS Anglia hit a mine in harbour, landed at Boulogne alongside my gtGrandfather and the other West Ham Pals at 6pm.

Guillemont 1916
James was wounded on 8th August 1916 during the night assault on Waterlot Farm (the sugar beet refinery area) at Guillemont when the battalion suffered 90 casualties, mainly from C and D Companies (see previous posts)

Moeuvres 1917
Lance Corporal Mellish was again wounded at the Battalion’s famous action at Moeuvres on 30th November 1917 when they held up the German counter attack in the Cambrai area. In total the battalion suffered over 370 casualties with D Company being surrounded and captured after an epic resistance

9th Battalion
When the 13th Battalion was disbanded in February 1918, Mellish was transferred to the 9th Essex. In April 1918 Acting Corporal Mellish was taken prisoner during the fighting around Albert, finally being discharged to Class Z reserve on 13th February 1919.

The Second World War
James is believed to be entitled to the Defence Medal, for service with the Home Guard.

biography courtesy of 'Owen' - many thanks to you, sir

21 January 2009

The Last Stand Of D Company

Here is a map of the Cambrai area uf operations in November 1917

(click to enlarge, click back to return)

The West Ham Battalion were again alongside their brigade friends The Footballers and facing the German front line ('The Hindenburg Line'), towards the town of Mouevres - in this image below, the Germans are positioned on the left with the British on the right.

You can clearly see the canal, Canal Du Nord, running through the google map image. In November 1917, that was still being built. It was something like 30 feet deep and lined with brick tiles on the walls and floor...

Here is an aerial recce photo taken a few days before the battle. You can see the empty canal and at the bottom of the picture, the lines of zigzagging British trenches. In the centre is Lock No5.

On the 30th November, at 6am (represented by the Yellow Line on the image below), D Company was dug in around the earthworks of Lock 5. They were facing the town on their left flank. On the other side of the canal gap in equally muddy building works was B Company.

Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, grey waves of Germans came flooding towards the British Lines, in a very well planned counter attack.

In the book "Up the Hammers!" I have plotted all the subsequent action and the epic two day defense, including research from audio interviews and the personal memoirs of men who were there that day. It is an incredible story.

I thought it might also be interesting to hear how "what happened" was told to young boys, just a few months after the battle, in 'The Children's Story Of The War'.

I cant imagine similar being published in these 'politically correct' days! The particular chapter is entitled "A Glorious Stand" and is on page 355.

"A correspondent, describing the fighting astride of the Nord Canal, says:

'There were desperate duels with bombs on the dry floor of the canal, while groups of Germans and British sniped from their shelters on the banks above. The enemy tried to overwhelm the tired garrison in the night, hoping to find our men exhausted and sleeping, or overcome with gas; but their reception was always the same. A staff officer said to me, a few days later, that these men, like their comrades on the right, appeared to have solved the problem of doing without sleep. Fresh ammunition came up steadily, and the fire never slackened. Prisoners expressed amazement when they found that positions which they had vainly sought to take were held by so few men ; and a German regimental commander reported that the British had received heavy reinforcements which was not the case.

'This fighting in the bed of the Nord Canal and on its banks was the strangest feature of the Battle of Cambrai. It was a battle within a battle, and when our troops came back to their present line a few days later the floor of this disused waterway was covered with German dead and wounded."

At this time a desperate struggle was taking place for the possession of that part of the Hindenburg Line which runs from Moeuvres westward to Tadpole Copse. You will remember that it was held by the right brigade of the 56th Division. The enemy made attack after attack, and actually managed to reach the headquarters of the 8th Battalion Middlesex Regiment.

Assisted by the headquarters staff, the battalion made a desperate rally. By means of bombs it held off the enemy until reinforcements arrived, and the position was recovered. Every battalion in this part of the line vied with its neighbour in the valour of its resistance.

Later in the evening the enemy made another attack in force to the south-east of Mceuvres, and again managed to enter our trenches. During this attack a company of the 13th (West Ham) Battalion Essex Regiment, 2nd Division, was holding a position along the west side of the Canal du Nord. The enemy waves flowed on each side of the Essex men and cut them off.

For some hours these gallant fellows held out, and about 4 p.m., seeing that relief was improbable, the two surviving officers, Lieutenant J. D. Robinson and Second- Lieutenant E. L. Corps summoned Company Sergeant- Major A. H. Edwards and Platoon Sergeants C. Phillips, F. C. Parsons, W. Fairbrass, R. Lodge, and L. S. Legg to a council of war.

I need not tell you what their decision was: they determined to fight to the last, and not to think of surrender. Two runners were sent back to the battalion headquarters to inform the commanding officer of the fact, and then the men betook themselves to their rifles and bombs, and continued the struggle with unfaltering courage.

All through the night strenuous efforts were made to send assistance to these devoted men, but in vain. They fought to the death, and maintained to the last a bulwark of valour and undying resolution against the tide of attacking Germans. With their lives they barred the way, and sacrificed themselves to relieve the pressure on the main line of our defence. They fought Britain's Thermopylae, and their glorious heroism must never be forgotten.

A correspondent thus sums up the result of the fighting on the north side of the salient:

" The net result of this carefully-planned German 'surprise', which sacrificed a number of perfectly good divisions in the battle area west of Cambrai, was to give our 2nd Division a better position at the end of the battle than they held when they took over the line from the Ulsters a few days before the attack, except on the left, where the canal lock was lost.

After this slight retirement the division never lost a yard of ground. Although worn out by constant fighting and digging, the men not only threw back the picked German storm troops, but pushed a fresh chain of posts into the enemy's country."

This is a just snippet from the after action report in the war diary. Battalion HQ was at that time codenamed 'Chingford':

The events were dramatically portrayed by the artist Richard Caton-Woodville in a double page spread for the Illustrated London News in February 1918. That young officer with his pistol raised would be Capt Reg Box from Manor Park.

In the book "Up The Hammers!" I have found the family of the officer in charge of B Company (an original volunteer to the West Ham Battalion) who have not only given me his memories of that day but also an audio interview with one of the Essex lads who was captured at the Lock 5 fighting...

It is eerie to hear his voice as he describes how "we were throwing grenades at each other as close as I am to you..."

359 CSM White

'Owen', good friend of 13th Essex blog, has sent some details of this fantastic gentleman and his lengthy service to the Essex Regiment.

James White was born in Stock near Chelmsford in 1863, the son of Joseph and Elizabeth. He enlisted in the Essex Regiment on 13th February 1882, age 19 years 3 months and was a brickmaker by trade. He became a Drummer on the 3rd of May 1883.

On 13th December 1886, James White married Hannah Cornish at the Parish Church in Warley. The couple had three children James (1891) William (1893) and Lilian (1901). White was appointed Unpaid Lance Corporal Drummer 22 January 1887. He later resigned as Lance Corporal Drummer at his own request on the 28th of March the same year.

1st Battalion
White transferred to the 1st Battalion on 1.4.87 as Lance Corporal. Appointed Paid Lance Corporal 15.2.88, promoted to Corporal 24.5.88 appointed Unpaid Lance Sergeant 7.11.89, Paid Lance Sergeant 1.3.90 and promoted Sergeant on 22.6.90

3rd Battalion
Sergeant White transferred to the permanent staff of the 3rd Battalion on 1.3.90. He was promoted Colour Sergeant on 2.2.92.

South Africa 1902
Colour Sergeant White sailed on the SS Orotava with the main body of the 3rd Battalion, on the 7th October 1902. He remained in South Africa with the Battalion until returning to England on 12th February 1903.

3rd Battalion 1902-1904
Colour Sergeant White served with the 3rd Militia Battalion until his discharge 20th October1904 after 22 years and 237 days’ service.

The Great War 1914-1919
Rejoined the Regiment in 1914 and was appointed as Company Sergeant Major of B Company, 13th Battalion. Landed with the main body of the 13th Battalion 17th November 1915.

Labour Corps
CSM White transferred to the Labour Corps as 345851 in April 1917 being finally discharged on medical grounds on 14th August1918 at the age of 55.

I dont, as of yet, know what actions CSM White was involved in, but April 1917 was the fighting at Oppy Wood, alongside the 17th Middlesex, during the Battle Of Arras. Specifically, 4.40 am, 28th April, when the 13th Essex were seriously smashed up, with over 245 men killed and every officer wounded or killed.

You can only wonder at the full nature of James White's career in the Essex Regiment and of his loyal service to our country.