DIXON Gordon 1885 – 1916

GORDON DIXON 1885 – 1916

14508 Lance Serjeant Gordon Dixon, 15th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 18 October 1916, aged 31.  He is buried at Cambrian Churchyard Extension, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France[1] and commemorated on Escomb War Memorial.

Family Details

Gordon Dixon was born 1885[2] at Escomb, the son of William and Elizabeth Dixon.  There were 5 children, all born at Escomb:[3]

  • Emily bc.1880
  • Percival bc.1882
  • Edna May bc.1884
  • Gordon born 1885
  • Cecil bc.1888

In 1891, the family lived at Escomb village and William was employed as a “Foreman at the coke ovens”.[4]  By 1901, the family lived at Prospect House, Escomb and William was now recorded as a “Coke Inspector”, 19 years old Percival worked as a, “colliery clerk”, and 15 years old Gordon worked as a, “colliery screen worker”.[5]

7 October 1908, Gordon married Ruth Ethel Pattinson at the Wesleyan Chapel, Bishop Auckland.[6]  They had 3 children:[7]

  • Percival Norman born 15 August 1909
  • Hilda Mary born 7 April 1911
  • Mary 8 July 1914

By 1911, 25 years old Gordon and his 21 years old wife, Ruth lived at Durham Road, Chilton, Ferryhill with their 1-year old son, Percival, Ruth’s sister 18 years old Hilda May Pattinson and Ralph Parkin, a 20 years old boarder.  Gordon was employed as a, “coal tipper at washer”.[8]  The family later lived at 11 Bridge Row, Escomb.[9]

Service Details

10 September 1914, aged 28 years 11 months, Gordon Dixon attested at Bishop Auckland and joined the 15th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry, being given the service number 14508.[10]

He was examined at Bishop Auckland.  He stood 5’6½” tall, weighed 129 lbs., and was of good physical development.[11]  He had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.  He was C of E.  He was considered fit for the Army.  His occupation was a painter.[12]  

His service details are as follows:[13]

  • 1 November 1914: appointed paid Lance Corporal
  • 4 August 1915: reverted to private at his own request
  • 10 September 1915: embarked for France
  • 16 April 1916: Lacerated wound to left hand, “in the field”, sent to 63 Field Ambulance, 21 Casualty Clearance Station, 22 Field Ambulance, 1 Stationary Hospital at Etaples and for treatment.  A report states:[14]

“On the 16th April 1916, at La Neuville, he was employed in the trench digging and, turning round rather suddenly, he was struck in the left hand with a pick.  I do not consider that the soldier was in any way to blame.”

  • 14 June 1916:  re-joined the battalion, in the field
  • 1 July 1916: appointed paid Lance Corporal
  • 3 July 1916: promoted to Corporal
  • 13 October 1916: appointed paid Lance Sergeant

The 15th (Service) Battalion was formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K3, Kitchener’s New Army.  It came under the orders of the 64th Brigade, 21st Division.  The 64th Brigade consisted of the following units:

  • 1st Bn., the East Yorkshire Regiment joined November 1915
  • 9th (Service) Bn., the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) joined October 1914
  • 10th (Service) Bn., the KOYLI joined October 1914
  • 14th (Service) Bn., the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) joined September 1914 left November 1915
  • 15th (Service) Bn., the DLI joined September 1914 [15]
  • 64th Brigade Machine Gun Company formed March 1916 left February 1918 to the MG Battalion
  • 64th Trench Mortar Battery formed June 1916
DLI Cap Badge

The Division crossed to France in September 1915 and served with distinction on the Western Front throughout the war taking part in the Battle of Loos in September 1915.  Private G. Dixon entered France with the Division and his battalion.  He would have seen action at Loos and on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, both truly horrendous:

  • 1 July 1916 the Battle of Albert
  • 14 – 17 July 1916, the Battle of Bazentin 

The 64th Brigade were then transferred to the 41st Division for the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, 15 – 22 September 1916. [16]  There follows some detail of the battle and the role of 15/DLI.

15 DLI: in action [17]

The 64th Brigade was to be used for a fresh attack on the Gird system of trenches. 

16 September: 2.00am the battalion headed for the start line but because of congested roads the place of deployment was not reached until 5.30am rather than dawn.  9/KOYLI was in the sunken road east of Flers which led back to Ginchy and 1/EYR occupied Flers Trench.  15/DLI formed up on the right of the attack in a position to the east of Flers village.  At 8.45am, “C” and “D” Companies moved forward to get in closer touch with “A” and “B” Companies who were to lead the way.  A shrapnel barrage came down ¾ mile ahead of the battalion.

“A storm of German high explosive burst behind them but shrapnel and machine-gun bullets smote them almost from the start.”

After covering about ½ mile the Lesboeufs road was reached and the line was re-organised.  15/DLI and 9/KOYLI to the left advanced again into a hail of shell, machine-gun and rifle fire.  Survivors of the battalion came to a halt sheltering in shell holes some 70 yards from the German line.  Some advanced posts were overrun and prisoners taken.  The men could not indicate their positions using red flares because the equipment was too damp to ignite.  Thus a British barrage came down on “friend and foe alike.”  At dusk came a withdrawal.  15/DLI occupying Flea Trench and at dawn on the 17th September, the sunken part of Ginchy road.

17 September:  15/DLI moved back to a position south of the village and withdrawn to Pommiers Redoubt in the evening.  The battalion was now about 200 strong.

Casualties were estimated to be:

  • Officers: 5 killed, 1 died of wounds, 10 wounded and 3 missing and presumed killed
  • Other ranks: 419 killed, wounded and missing.
  • Total: 438

These casualties were the heaviest in the Brigade.

“And bore tragic witness to the determination which the Fifteenth had gone forward.  In the words of the Brigadier, “Success was beyond the power of the very best troops.  All did excellently.”   

Later research records that 4 officers plus 4 officers attached to the 15/DLI and 125 other ranks were killed in action or died of wounds between 15 and 17 September. [18]  The remnants of the battalion went into the line again, 25 to 30 September before relieved and bussed to Ribemont.  Between 22 and 30 September, 15/DLI war diary reports that it suffered a further 57 casualties – 1 officer wounded and missing, 1 officer wounded and 1 accidentally wounded; among the ranks 7 killed, 37 wounded and 10 missing.[19]

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette was regarded as a major success particularly when compared with the results of August and early September.  A considerable stretch of the German front line had been captured and their second line system had been breached in the Flers sector.  High Wood and the Bazentin Ridge had been captured and opened up an improved tactical position for the British – enhanced observation positions over the German lines.  The Germans made a tactical retreat to the Le Transloy Ridge.  But, the British casualties were atrocious and were comparable in percentage terms to the debacle of July.  It was estimated that the Fourth Army suffered over 29,000 casualties. 

15/DLI Move to Bethune [20]

From the Somme, the battalion moved north to the Bethune to serve on the Loos Salient in the Cambrin sector.  1 October, it left Ribemont and travelled via Longpre, Vauchelles-les-Quesnoy, Abbeville, Chocques, Burbure arriving at their billets at Bethune by 12.30pm, 11 October.  Three days later, they were back in the trenches.

14 October, 15/DLI relieved 2/KOYLI on the front line where it was posted until the 19th.  The war diary reports:

“The sector had the appearance of being a quiet sector but on the night of the 19th inst., the Germans subjected our front line to a heavy bombardment with trench mortars doing some damage to the Crater posts and the communication trenches.  This same night was eventful also in so much that the enemy between 6pm and 7pm opened a most unusual burst of machine gun fire from at least 6 M. Guns on our battalion front sweeping the parapet, the wire and all the ground in rear as far as CAMBRIN VILLAGE.  2nd Lieutenant F. Good was wounded during the burst.  The T.M. Bombardment was responsible for six casualties – three men being buried entirely.  Their bodies were subsequently recovered by 2nd Lieut. Coxon and men of their company.  Our T.M.s and artillery replied vigorously throughout.”

Lance Sergeant G. Dixon was one of five 15/DLI men who were killed in action or died of wounds between 17 and 20 October 1916.  They were:[21]

  • 18 October: 14508 L/Sgt. G. Dixon killed in action
  • 19 October: 45676 Private J.W. Laidlaw died of wounds (from Shildon)
  • 20 October: 42454 Private W. Foster killed in action (from Dawdon)
  • 20 October: 22382 Private F.W. Redman killed in action (a Londoner residing at Durham)
  • 20 October: 45666 Private E.E. Rudling killed in action (a Norwich man who enlisted at Bishop Auckland)

L/Sgt. Dixon, Pte. Redman and Pte. Foster are buried at Cambrin, Pte. Laidlaw at Etaples and Pte. Rudling has no known grave and commemorated on the Loos Memorial.[22]  Lance Sergeant served a total of 2 years 39 days in the army, as follows:[23]

  • Home, 10 September 1914 to 10 September 1915…………………..1 year 1 day
  • France: 11 September 1915 to 18 October 1916……………………..1 year 38 days

Awards and Medals

Lance Serjeant G. Dixon was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the Victory and British War medals.[24]  Corporal G. Dixon (as he was then) was Mentioned in Despatches.  The 15/DLI War Diary dated 17 September 1916 reports the following:

“The CO wishes to record the names of the following Officers, N.C.O.’s and men…”

There follows a list of 5 Officers and 17 N.C.O.’s and men including 14508 Corpl. Dixon G. A Coy.  Others from A Company were 10568 Sergeant F. Bushell (killed in action), 9235 Lance Sergeant T. Hunlon (wounded), 21431 Lance Corporal T.A. Needham and 19773 Private R. Nattress (stretcher bearer).  

Medal Roll card index

Burial

Lance Serjeant G. Dixon is buried at grave reference S.11, Cambrian Churchyard Extension, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.  His headstone bears the following epitaph:

Until the Day Breaks and the Shadows Flee Away

Lance Sergeant G. Dixon’s headstone[25]

Effects and Pension

Gordon Dixon’s widow Ruth received his effects[26] and pension.[27]

Summary

GORDON DIXON 1885 – 1916

14508 Lance Serjeant Gordon Dixon, 15th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 18 October 1916, aged 31.  He is buried at Cambrian Churchyard Extension, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France[28] and commemorated on Escomb War Memorial.  Gordon was born at Escomb in 1885, worked as a painter, was a married man with 3 children. He enlisted in September 1914, went to France in September 1915, saw action at Loos in 1915 and the Somme 1916.  He was Mentioned in Despatches in September 1916.  He was a casualty of the usual violence of warfare – enemy shelling, particularly trench mortars.  He left a widow and 3 children.


REFERENCES

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales 1837-1915 Birth Index Vol.10a p.39 Auckland 1885 Q3

[3] 1891 & 1901 census

[4] 1891 census

[5] 1901 census

[6] Army Form Particulars of marriage

[7] Army Form Particulars of children and Dependant’s Pension card index

[8] 1911 census

[9] Army Form B.104-90

[10] Army Form B.2065 Short Service (Three years with the colours)

[11] Army Form B.178 Medical History

[12] Description on Enlistment

[13] Statement of the Services, Army Form B.103

[14] Army Form B.117 dated 17 April 1916

[15] www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[16] www.1914-1918.net/21div.htm & W. Miles p.83

[17] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914 – 1918: The Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry” 1920 Captain W. Miles p.83 – 85                                                

[18] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War Note: The 15/DLI Officers were C.K.O. Graham, A.S. Morley, H. Royley and G.H. Wesselhoeft.  The other 4 officers were E.B. George 4/DLI, G.A. Garland 21/DLI, A.R. Jacobs 4/DLI (died of wounds) and Capt. E.R. Welch RAMC. 

[19] 15/DLI War Diary National Archive reference WO-95-2161-1

[20] 15/DLI War Diary National Archive reference WO-95-2161-1

[21] SDGW

[22] CWGC

[23] Military History Sheet

[24] Medal Roll card index and Rolls dated 9 October 1919 & 10 April 1920

[25] Find a Grave website

[26] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Record No.409486

[27] Dependant’s Pension card index

[28] Commonwealth War Graves Commission