Second Lieutenant Thomas William Applegarth, 11th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry died of wounds, 8 April 1918 and is buried at Caix British Cemetery, France.[1]  He was 23 years old and is commemorated on the Evenwood War Memorial and memorials in St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood, Darlington Grammar School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Family Details

 Thomas William was born 15 October 1894 [2] at Piercebridge to Thomas and Hannah Applegarth.  There were at least 8 children, 5 died in infancy: [3]

  • George died 1890
  • John died 1891
  • Thomas William born 1894
  • Eva May died 1900
  • Eleanor May died 1900
  • Cicely Ann born 1899 at Piercebridge
  • Ruth Lavinia died 1902
  • Maurice George bc.1908

In 1901, the family lived at Piercebridge where 38 year old Thomas was a “thrashing machine owner” and he and Hannah lived with their 2 surviving children, Thomas and Cecily and a 16 year old servant, Lizzie Walton.[4]  By 1911, Thomas and Hannah had been married 21 years and lived at West End, Staindrop.  Thomas William was 17 years old and still at school, Cicely Annie was 12 and at school and brother Maurice George was 3 years old.

Thomas won educated at Piercebridge Elementary School (1898-1906), Ingleton Elementary School (1906) and Staindrop Elementary School (1906-07) before winning a scholarship to Darlington Grammar School (1907-12).  He was admitted to Emmanuel College, Cambridge 7 October 1912 and gained a B.A. in 1915.  He was employed as a schoolmaster at Derby.[5]

The family moved to Evenwood.  Thomas senior died aged 55 years being buried 8 March 1919 at Evenwood. [6]  Hannah Applegarth later lived at 2 Delaware Avenue.[7]

Service Details

11 January 1916:  Thomas Applegarth enlisted at Bishop Auckland into the Army Service Corps (ASC) originally being assigned to 431 Company, ASC Horse Transport.  He later served with 212 Company ASC at Clipstone Park, Nottingham and 878 Company at Woolwich Dockyard as Driver, service number T4/088917.  Aged 24 years 2 months, he was 5’9½” tall and weighed 144lbs.  30 October 1917, he was commissioned to 3rd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry.  At some time between December 1917 and March 1918 he was assigned to 11/DLI and went overseas.  There was a major re-organisation of the Army in February 1918 to adjust to the heavy losses of the previous year so this could be the date of his move. [8]  He entered France 14 February 1918 [9] having been on leave at home.[10]  According to the 11/DLI War Diary Second Lieutenant T.W. Apllegarth was one of three officers captured on Good Friday 29 March 1918 during an attempt to recapture Mezieres.[11]

The German Spring Offensive 1918 – an overview [12]

 3 March 1918:  Soviet Russia made peace with Germany which meant that Germany could transfer divisions from the Eastern to the Western Front.  More importantly, these Divisions included the original elite of the German Army, the Guards, Jagers, Prussians, Swabians and the best of the Bavarians. In all 192 Divisions could be deployed in the West so that the Germans held superiority in numbers.  The Allies could field 178 Divisions.  A single division numbered about 19,000 men so the German High Command could call upon about 3,650,000 men as opposed to the Allies 3,380,000.

It was essential that final victory was gained before the American Forces arrived in Europe in huge numbers.  America had entered the war 6 April 1917 and the first of her troops arrived in France 26 June 1917.  In July 1917, the U.S. Commander in Chief of the American Expeditionary Force General J.J. Pershing asked for 3 million men.  The build up of troops took time but eventually by June 1918, the Americans were receiving about 250,000 men a month in France.  This amounted to 25 divisions in or behind the battle zone and another 55 in the United States.

The French were able to draw on a new annual class of conscripts after a year of effective inactivity.  However, the British were worn down by continuous fighting following the major offensives at Arras, Messines, Passchendaele and Cambrai during the summer of 1917.  The strength of the British infantry had fallen from 754,000 in July 1917 to 543,000 in June 1918.

21 March 1918:  The German Offensive was launched and took 5 phases:

  • 21 March – 5 April: Operation Michael, the Battle of Picardy (otherwise known as the First Battle of the Somme 1918) against the British
  • 9 – 11 April: Operation Georgette, the Battle of Lys against the British sector near Armentieres
  • 27 April: Operation Blucher-Yorck, the Third Battle of Aisne against the French sector along Chemin des Dames
  • 9 June: Operation Gneisenau, the Battle of the Matz against the French sector between Noyan and Montdider
  • 15 – 17 July: Operation Marne-Rheims, the final phase known as the Second Battle of the Marne.

The Germans enjoyed spectacular territorial gains particularly during the initial phases of the offensive.  23 March, the Kaiser declared a “victory holiday” for German schoolchildren.  The cost in manpower was enormous:

  • Between 21  March and 10 April the 3 main assaulting armies had lost 1/5th of their original strength – 303,450 men
  • The April offensive against the British in Flanders was eventually computed to have cost 120,000 men out of a total of 800,000

The German High Command calculated that it required 200,000 replacements each month but even by drawing the next annual class of 18-year olds, only 300,000 recruits stood available.  Also 70,000 convalescents from hospitals were available each month but even counting them, the strength of the German Army had fallen from 5.1 million to 4.2 million men in the 6 months of the offensive.  It could not be increased on the estimated scale required.

To add to this dilemma, in June 1918, the first outbreak of “Spanish Flu” laid low nearly 500,000 German soldiers.  This epidemic was to reoccur in the autumn and wreak havoc throughout Europe and the wider world.

Added to this the poor diet of the German troops, battle fatigue, discontentment with the military leadership, social unrest at home and a general realisation that their great effort was beginning to wane, the Allies counter attack in mid July began to seize the initiative.  Sweeping victories over demoralised German forces eventually led to the resignation of Ludendorff 27 October, the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II 9 November and the signing of the Armistice 11 November 1918.

 20th Division 29 March 1918

 The Division History records events as follows: [13]

“The French withdrew from Mezieres about 1pm.  The 59th Brigade held out with its flank turned until 1.30 then having exhausted all available reserves, the brigade was forced to fall back to Villers…….the 6th KSLI and 11th DLI just north of Villers in reserve…..11th DLI with the 11th RB of the 59th Brigade on their right worked through a wood on the northwest….Zero was fixed at 4pm……..The 11th DLI, 10 officers and 130 men strong came under a trench mortar barrage and enfilade machine-gun fire about 300 yards west of Mezieres and lost heavily.  Nevertheless the survivors worked their way forward.  Lt. King on the left got into the village and retired only when all his men had been hit.  Captain Pemberton with a small party succeeded in pushing right through but as he had then only two men left, he also had to fall back.  Another party entered the square and destroyed three German trench mortars….”

The description shows that the whole 11/DLI was involved in the attack and 3 officers including Second Lieutenant T.W. Applegarth were wounded or captured.

 11/DLI during March and April 1918 [14]

 It should be pointed out that companies and platoons were required to undertake many tasks and it is impossible to detail all action.  However, it is understood that 2nd Lieut. Applegarth was a member of “A” company therefore this account refers to that company only.

21 March: The German forces attacked the whole front – no DLI Service Battalions were in the line.  11/DLI came under the orders of the 20th Division and was in reserve located at Golancourt and Voyennes.  In the afternoon the battalion left for Villers St. Christophe, north of the Somme canal.

22 March: heavy firing heard to the north east in the direction of Holnon Wood and St. Quentin.  11/DLI was required to fill a gap between the 61st and 60th Brigades on the line Tugny-Lavesne.

“By 8pm, when A and B companies arrived, the King’s had had to evacuate Tugny and the support line thus became the front line.  A and B companies, from left to right filled the gap between D company and the Shropshires of the 60th Brigade in position further north.  Before 9.00pm Capt. Endean reported that D company and the King’s had retired leaving the right flank of A company exposed.  A thick fog had gathered and the enemy in Tugny could now be heard shouting in English and making a lot of noise…Soon after midnight B company were rushed from the right rear and there was  confused fighting with the Durhams, Shropshires and Germans all mixed together in the fog.  On the right Capt. Endean and A company fought stoutly but in withdrawing one party came under machine gun fire at close range and were all killed or wounded.

About 70 men of the 11th with 30 Shropshires and some Machine Gun Corps were collected south-west of Aubigny and withdrew down the Ham road, leaving a rearguard under 2nd Lieut. English to support 2 Vickers guns which were still in action.  On the way to Ham, Colonel Hayes received orders to hasten to Offay and hold the bridgehead there.

Meanwhile Capt. Endean and 2nd Lieuts. Galey and Craig and about 40 men of A company had fought a way out in the fog through Dury to Ham. C-S-M T.J. Craggs of Bishop Auckland had done the same with a party of B company and some men of the Rifle Brigade.  For his gallantry in the retreat this warrant officer was afterwards awarded the DCM.”

23 March: early morning:

“Colonel Hayes reached Offay and organised the men who were left with him into one company under the command of Lieut. Bushell, 2nd Lieuts. Martin, Naylor and English were also available and so was C-S-M Craggs who had managed to rejoin.”

At dusk German snipers were active and after dark there was German machine gun and trench mortar fire.

24 March:  4.00am, Captain Endean, 2nd Lieut. Galley and over 30 men of A company rejoined.

6.00am: German artillery and mortar attack.  Despite a request, there was no reply from the British artillery.  Daylight – thick fog, Germans advanced from Canizy village, were fired upon by the British then retreated.  B Company regained their trench.

“A German aeroplane flew over their position and Capt. Endean reported that the enemy were coming down the Ham-Nesle road.  Other retiring troops of many units now helped to form a defensive flank on the right and a counter attack kept the enemy in check.”

25 March: 5.00pm: Germans attacked again and the Durhams covered the withdrawal of the French.

26 March:  11/DLI was detailed to dig defences in the neighbourhood of le Quesnel then march off down the Amiens-Arvilles road to dig and repair trenches.

27 March: 11/DLI began to retire.

28 March: The French were to take over early 28 March and had already begun to do so when a short fierce bombardment was followed by a German advance.  German infantry were seen massing in the woods.  A counter attack was organised but it was obvious that the enemy was too strong but the position was maintained until orders were received to retire to Fresnoy later in the day.  By the evening, 11/DLI was in reserve.

29 March: next morning the Germans attacked along the Amiens road and entered Mezieres.  At 3.15pm, 11/DLI was called upon to recapture the village though they only had 130 men left.

“Crossing open ground, a trench mortar barrage was encountered and enfilade machine gun fire smote them.  Only here and there could small groups of men get through the barrier of bursting shells and Capt. Pemberton had about 20 Durhams with him when he entered the village.  He pushed on until only 2 survived and then withdrew.  On the left 2nd Lieut. R.H. King had also reached Mezieres but all his party were killed and wounded and after working a Lewis gun with great effect he returned alone.  Both officers were awarded the Military Cross.”

11/DLI was now withdrawn to a position between Thennes and Hourges and passed the night in peace.

30 March: The Germans were now in Moreuil Wood and the battalion formed a defensive flank in this direction.

31 March next morning:  The enemy attacked again.  At 4pm came a determined advance but rifle and Lewis gun fire stopped the enemy who retreated leaving many dead and wounded behind.  Capt. Endean was wounded during this action.  There was some shelling after this but the evening and night passed without further incident.

1 April: no attack.  In the evening came relief.  Marching to the Amiens road, the battalion now the strength of a strong platoon journeyed by bus to Quevavillers some 12 miles south-west of the city.

“Losses in the ranks during these 10 days totalled 455 and there were 19 casualties to officers.  Among the killed or missing were 2nd Lieuts. W.G Craig, R.R. Galley, H. Rutherford, W.T Alexander, W. Banks, V.G. Duckett, F. Arnott, D.E Ellwood, T.W Applegarth and C.A. Morris and Lieut. R. Bushell.  2nd Lieuts. P. Naylor, E.W. English, N.F. Gibson, J.H. Dodds, A.E. Wilkinson and H.J. Whitfield and Capts. W.G.L. Sear MC, W.J. Endean were all wounded”

10 April 1918:  A telegram was sent to the family of Second Lieutenant T.W. Applegarth stating that he was missing believed wounded.  At that time, the authorities had a note dated 6 April that he was wounded and suffering from “traumatic tetanus shot wound chest” at Wundstarr, Krampf, Bruslschuss.  A further note to T. Applegarth [his father] reported that he had died 8 April 1918 as a prisoner of war at Feldlagartl, Beaufort and he had been buried at the Military Cemetery, Beaufort at grave 74.

30 June 1918:  The family were notified in a response to an enquiry on their behalf by Mrs. E.A. McQueen of Winston that he had died. [15]

Later research records that between 21 March and 9 April 1918, 11/DLI lost 2 Officers and 78 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds.[16]

Second Lieutenant T.W. Applegarth was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[17]

Reports of his Death

The Evenwood Church Magazine reported as follows: [18]

  • May 1918: reported as “wounded and missing”
  • June 1918: reported as a POW
  • August 1918: reported “died of wounds”

Details are:

“Our wounded include Adam Cree (2nd time), T. Braddick, 2nd Lieut. W.C.H. Hobson (in hospital in Newcastle) Rudge Howard (2nd time) Sergt. John Walton MM (3rd time) 2nd Lieut T. Applegarth, BA (and missing) and Jacob Hodgson (in hospital in Devonport) I grieve deeply to announce that two more of our gallant lads have fallen in action viz. John Ellerker and John Luther Simpson both of whose people live in the Oaks.”  [19]

 “Our local monthly military news includes the following items.  Norman Dowson is missing.  We hope and trust that he is a prisoner and safe.  2nd Lieut. T. Applegarth is now definitely reported as a prisoner.  Joseph Hutchinson of Evenwood Gate is also missing and nothing has been heard of him for a considerable time.”  [20]

 “And now I come to the last and most sorrowful task in this monthly letter to you all and that is to chronicle the death in their country’s service of four of our bravest and best.  The first we heard of was 2nd Lieut. T. Applegarth BA whose parents live in Delaware Avenue.  A short time ago he was reported as missing then we heard of him as a prisoner in Germany, and now as having died of his wounds there.  No words of mine can express what I feel and I am sure what we all feel in the way of deep and solemn sympathy for those who are his chief mourners.  Separated from friends in a hostile country cut off from all the tender intercourse of those who could have best comforted him on earth, he passed over from cruel strife to perfect peace.  I am quite certain that what we could not provide for him God would.  There would be an angel by his bedside comforting him and soothing him up to the last and then bearing his soul off in triumph to join the great host of the Grand Army yonder.” [21]

 The following obituary appeared in a local newspaper: [22]

Capt. T. W. Applegarth

(Died of Wounds)

 “Official news has been received by Mr. & Mrs. T. Applegarth, Evenwood that their son, Second Lieut. T. W. Applegarth who was wounded and taken prisoner on March 29th, died in Germany on April 8th.  His death is much regretted, as he had worked strenuously to attain the position he held when the call for men came.  His earliest education was received at Piercebridge School and Staindrop National School.  After being at the latter one year he won a scholarship tenable at Darlington Grammar School.  Here he had a most successful career from 1907 to 1911.  In 1910 he passed the Cambridge Senior Local Exam first class honours, with distinction in Latin and geography and also won the Sir David Dale Memorial Exhibition of £40 per annum, being the first recipient of the benefit.  He played for the school football team in the 1911 season.  In October 1912, he won an entrance to Emmanuel College, Cambridge.  He obtained a third class, in Part 1 of the Historic Tripos in June 1915 and after taking his B.A. degree became a schoolmaster at Derby.  He joined the A.S.C. in 1916 and afterwards obtained a commission in the 11th D.L.I.  Much sympathy is extended to Mr. and Mrs. Applegarth in their sad bereavement.”


 The body of Second Lieutenant T. W Applegarth was exhumed from Beaufort German Cemetery and re-buried at grave reference II.I.10 Caix British Cemetery. [23] Caix is located about 20 miles south east of Amiens in the region of the Somme, France.  The village was lost to the Germans during the advance of March 1918 and it was recaptured by the Canadian Corps 8 August 1918.  The cemetery was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields and small cemeteries in the area.  It contains 365 Commonwealth First World War burials.  [24]

Commemorations [25]

Second Lieutenant T. W Applegarth is commemorated on the Evenwood War Memorial, the Roll of Honour in St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood, and memorial plaques at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and Darlington Grammar School.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] Emmanuel College details state 18 September 1893 where as a family tree states 15 October 1894.

[3] Family Details

[4] 1901 census

[5] Family details and Emmanuel College

[6] Evenwood Church Magazine

[7] CWGC

[8] Details from Martin Bashforth, additional to his book “The 11th Durham Light Infantry: in their own names” 2012

[9] Medal Roll

[10] Evenwood Church Magazine

[11] Martin Bashforth

[12] “The First World War” 1998 J. Keegan;; http://www.1914-1918/batt22

[13] Martin Bashforth

[14] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18: The Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry” 1920 Capt. W. Miles Note:  It is understood that 2nd Lieut. Applegarth was a member of “A” company therefore this account refers to that company only.

[15] Martin Bashforth

[16] ODGW & SDGW Note: ODGW records 2/LT. TW Applegarth 11/DLI as having died of wounds 20 March 1918

[17] Medal Roll

[18] Evenwood Church Magazines May, June & August 1918

[19] Evenwood Church Magazine May 1918

[20] Evenwood Church Magazine June 1918

[21] Evenwood Church Magazine August 1918

[22] Probably the Auckland & County Chronicle

[23] 12 October 1920 letter on file

[24] CWGC

[25] Family details courtesy of the late Mrs. Iris Walker, Carol Gater and Diane McDougal.  Emmanuel College, Cambridge details courtesy of Amanda Goode, Emmanuel College Archivist. Military details from Martin Bashford who researched TWA’s record and 11/DLI – his book is quoted above