HALEY Edward 1895 – 1915

EDWARD HALEY 1895 – 1915

2041 Lance Corporal Edward Haley, 1/6th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 26 April 1915 aged 20.  He is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium[1] and the Witton Park war memorials.

Family Details

Edward Haley was born in 1895,[2] at Oakenshaw near Willington, County Durham, the son of James and Lily Mary Haley.  There were at least 10 children:[3]

  • Edward born 1895 at Oakenshaw
  • Arthur bc.1896 at Oakenshaw
  • John James bc.1899 at Oakenshaw
  • Annie bc.1900 at Witton Park
  • Abraham bc.1902 at Witton Park
  • Elizabeth bc.1904 at Oakenshaw
  • Bertha bc.1905 at Witton Park
  • Florence bc. 1907 at Witton Park
  • Gladys bc.1909 at Witton Park
  • Margaret bc.1911 at Witton Park

By 1901, the family lived at Thompson Street, Witton Park and 28 years old James worked as a coal miner, (hewer).[4]  By 1911, the family lived at 22 High King Street, Witton Park where 38 years old James worked as a coal miner (hewer), and 16 years old Edward and 15 years old John worked as colliery pony drivers.[5]

Military Details [6]

Edward Haley was a territorial soldier and a member of his local force, the 6th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry (DLI).  Once war was declared, the territorial force was mobilized.  The 1/6 DLI was formed in Bishop Auckland in August 1914 as part of the Durham Light Infantry Brigade, Northumbrian Division and in May 1915 were under the orders of the 151st Brigade 50th (Northumbrian) Division. [7] Other battalions were:

  • 1/7th Battalion, DLI
  • 1/8th Battalion, DLI
  • 1/9th Battalion, DLI
  • 1/5th Battalion, the Loyal North Lancs. joined June 1915

19 April: The 6th Battalion, DLI landed at Boulogne[8] and they marched out of town to a tented camp known as St. Martin’s Camp.  In subsequent days, the various units of the 50th Division travelled to its concentration area, the town of Cassel in northern France and settled down to a training programme.  However:[9]

“Within a few short days the officers and men, who had not had shot fired at them in anger, were rushed into a cauldron of frightening violence and sudden death.”

The Division arrived just as the German army attacked Ypres using poison gas for the first time and it was rushed into battle, later to be called the Battle of St. Julien (24 April-4 May 1915) then saw action at the Battles of Frezenberg (8-13 May) and Bellewaarde (24-25 May).  Collectively, these 3 battles are known as the Second Battle of Ypres.[10] Following heavy casualties, in June 1915, 1/6 DLI merged with 1/8 DLI to become the 6/8 DLI then it returned to its original identity 11 August 1915.  Lance Corporal E. Haley was an early casualty of 1/6 DLI’s venture overseas.

22 April: To the east, the distant rumble of guns could be heard but at about 5pm, the intensity increased as the Germans commenced a violent bombardment of Ypres and the surrounding area.  Shortly afterwards, gas was released from the German trenches, both sides of the village of Langemarck.  The breeze carried the gas onto the unsuspecting French and Canadian troops, the severest concentration fell upon the 45th Algerian Division and 87th French Territorial Division.  Terrified troops streamed back, others died in their trenches or dropped dead on the sides of the rods and tracks as they tried to escape the deadly gas.  The extreme left of the Canadian Division’s flank was also affected.  A gap several miles wide was torn onto the French lines through which German troops advanced.  The situation was extremely serious.  The remaining Canadian and French troops fought gallantly to hold back the Germans.

23 April:  The 50th (Northumbrian) Division was called forward.  It was less than a week since its arrival in France. 6/DLI concentrated at Hardifort then marched to Steenvoorde.  Some men wrote their wills.  At 7pm, the men of the 6th and 8th DLI boarded London double decker buses which set of for Vlamertinghe via Abeele and Poperinghe where they were billeted in huts (other than D Company which slept out in the open).  Ahead of them Ypres was in flames.

Ypres in Flames

24 April: Most of the day was spent “standing to”, awaiting orders.  Refugees, wounded French and Canadian soldiers streamed westwards as reinforcements poured forward in the opposite direction.  At 6pm, orders were received for the battalion to move forward and they marched through the burning Ypres, past the ruined but recognisable Cloth Hall, down the short street through the Menin Gate and onto the road which led to Zonnebeke.  They came upon the ruined village of Potijze and at midnight relieved the 2nd Battalion, The Shropshire Light Infantry.  6/DLI was placed under the command of Brigadier Chapman, 85th Brigade, 28th Division.  Their position was known as the GHQ Line which was a support line built by the French which ran northwards to Zillebeke Lake to half mile east of Wieltje where it turned gradually NW to the village of Boesinghe.  The line was well sited with a good field of fire, a number of well-built redoubts some 400 or 500 yards apart, connected to each other by fire trenches.

25 April:  The battalion remained at the CHQ Line for most of the day under heavy shell fire.  3 men were slightly wounded.  It was the 2nd day of the Battle of St. Julien (to give the official name).  Confused and bitter fighting went on until the end of April.  8/DLI was experiencing its baptism of fire at Gravenstafel Ridge, a short distance away at Boreleer’s Farm.  5/DLI was in action in front of St. Julien. At 9pm, the battalion moved to take up positions outside Verlorenhoek behind hedgerows in hastily dug trenches, 300 yards beyond the village. 

26 April: At 10am the order came to advance, “instructions were vague in the extreme,”[11] there were no maps, no guides, no proper orders, the advance was signalled by the wave of the hand, but the order was given to drive the Germans back from Hill 37.  Under a storm of enemy artillery and machine gun fire, the men advanced until they came across men from other regiments holding out in isolated trenches and shell holes.  Captain Jeffreys is credited with organising the line amidst great confusion.  At 6pm, 6/DLI was ordered to move in support of 7/DLI and a battalion of the Shropshire Light Infantry and attack a hill held by the enemy.  The advance was made through the usual heavy bombardment.  For B Company, this was the start of a 5-day ordeal in front line trenches under constant shelling during the day.  They were finally relieved 30 April.  This company’s casualties were recorded as 14 NCOs and men killed, 1 officer and 55 men wounded.  

During the night 26/27 A and D Companies remained in a hedge expecting an attack.  C Company was in reserve.

27 April: A Company was sent forward to fill a gap between the Hampshires and Northumberland Fusiliers and remained in the trenches for another 4 nights under severe daylight shelling.

29 April: the battalion less 2 companies still in the line marched back to Verlorenhoek.

30 April: the 2 remaining companies were relieved and re-joined the battalion the following day, 1 May.

2 May: at pm, the battalion stood down as the front line had been held.  At 10.30pm, 6/DLI marched off through Ypres and into huts near Vlamertinghe and rest.

In a letter home, Captain Jeffreys told his wife that, “We lost heavily 8 officers and about 140 men.”[12] The total losses suffered by the battalion in 5 days of fighting were:[13]

  • 3 Officers killed, 12 wounded, 2 sent home suffering from shock
  • 27 NCOs and men killed, 218 wounded, 34 missing.   

Later research, records that between 24 April and 2 May, 6/DLI lost 3 Officers and 50 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds, 42 on 26 April including Lance Corporal E. Haley.[14]

The Divisional History, written in 1939, concludes: [15]

“Thus ended the Battle of St. Julien, which will for all time be memorable in the history of the Northumbrian Division.  Tried in the fire, the Territorials had not been found wanting; their pre-war training, their courage, their tenacity and endurance, had all been put to the critical test and they had emerged, praised and honoured by the Regular Army, by whose side they had fought the common enemy.”

At this time, nowhere within the Divisional records was there a statement relating to the collective casualties suffered by the 50th Division from the 26 April to 4 May but an estimate from the Diary of A and Q Staff provides the following total:

  • 17 Officers killed, 81 wounded and 14 missing
  • 445 Other Ranks killed, 1,915 wounded, 1.264 missing
  • Total casualties 122 Officers and 3,624 Other Ranks.

The Official Historian said of these Territorials: [16]

“The arrival of these very fine Territorial troops, ready to go anywhere and do anything, did much to hearten the troops with whom they came in contact and their subsequent help and sacrifices were gratefully acknowledged by their Regular comrades.”

Medals and Awards

Lance Corporal Edward Haley was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the Victory and British War medals.[17] Of the 12 men on the roll dated 4 October 1915, 1 was discharged in 1916, 6 were killed in action, 2 died of wounds, 2 assumed KIA and 1 was presumed dead.  Of the 11 men named on the roll dated 25 March 1920, 2 men were discharged, and 9 “deceased”.


Lance Corporal Edward Haley, 1/6 DLI has no known grave and is commemorated at panel 36-38, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium along with another 54,595 casualties.

Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial

The 50th (Northumbrian) Division Memorial is erected at St. Julien in memory of a successful counter attack made by the 4th Green Howards and the 1/4th East Yorkshires, 24 April 1915 which prevented the Germans from making any further advances.[18] It was unveiled by Field Marshal Lord Plumer 1 September 1929.

50 (Northumbrian) Division Memorial


Edward Haley’s father received his effects[19]and his mother received his pension.[20]


Edward Haley was a young miner who joined his local territorial unit, the 6th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry.  He went with the battalion to France 19 April 1915 and within 5 days, they were in the thick of it, in the front line holding back a German advance after a gas attack on French and Canadian positions near to Ypres, Belgium.  Within a week, he was killed in action, 26 April 1915, aged 20.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial along with about 54,500 others.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.270 Auckland 1895 Q3

[3] 1901 & 1911 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] The service details of Lance Corporal E. Haley have not been researched.  The prime source of these details is, “The Faithful Sixth: A History of the Sixth Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry”1995 Harry Moses p.24-33.

[7] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[8] Medal Roll card index Lance Corporal E. Haley landed in France 19 April 1915

[9] Moses p.24

[10] www.1914-1918.net/50div.htm & http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1915.htm

[11] Second Lieutenant Lyon, see Moses p.27

[12] Captain Jeffreys – Moses p.28

[13] Moses p.31

[14] Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War

[15] “The Fiftieth Division 1914-1919” 1939 Everard Wyrall p.48

[16] “Faithful The Story of the Durham Light Infantry” 1962 SGP Ward p.348

[17] Medal Roll card index, Roll of Individuals entitled to the Decoration (1914-15 Star) dated 4 October 1919 and Roll of Individuals entitled to the Victory and British War medals dated 25 March 1920

[18] Wyrall p.18

[19] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901 – 1929 Record No.187773

[20] Card Index