DINSDALE W.

WALTER DINSDALE 1884-1917

 203309 Private Walter Dinsdale, 22nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry died of wounds 13 September, 1917 and is buried at Trois Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerck, Belgium[1] and commemorated on the War Memorial in St. Andrew’s churchyard, South Church and the Roll of Honour in St. Ann’s Church, Bishop Auckland.

Family Details

 Walter Dinsdale was bc.1884 at Evenwood, the son of George and Mary Dinsdale.  In 1901, the Dinsdale family were still living at Gordon Lane, Ramshaw but Walter was not detailed on the census – his whereabouts are unknown.  By 1911, George and Mary had been married for 29 years and were living at 8 Boddy Street, Tindale Crescent, Bishop Auckland.  Walter was 27 years old and lived with them.  He worked as a grocer’s assistant.

Military Details

 Walter Dinsdale attested 11 December 1915 aged 31 years 11 months and went onto the Army Reserve.  He was mobilized 18 March 1916 and posted to the 18th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry being given the regimental number 203309. Walter was 5’7” tall, worked as a grocer and lived at 10 Boddy Street, Tindale Crescent. [2]

The 22nd (Service) Battalion (3rd County Pioneers) was formed 1 October 1915 by the Durham Recruiting Committee and moved to France 17 June 1916 attached to the 19th Division.  2 July 1916 the battalion was transferred to the 8th Division.[3]  The 8th Division was formed during October 1914 by bringing together regular army units from various points around the British Empire.  The Division moved to the western front in November 1914, a badly needed reinforcement to the BEF which had been all but wiped out at Ypres.  It remained on the Western Front throughout the war taking part in many actions.  The 23rd, 24th 25th & 70th Brigades were accompanied by the Divisional Troops which included the 22nd (Service) Battalion, the DLI.  [4]

The Third Battle of Ypres

Passchendaele: 31 July – 10 November 1917

The offensive had 8 distinctive phases:

  • Battle of Pilckem, 31st July to 2nd August
  • Battle of Langemarck, 16th to 18th August
  • Battle of the Menin Road, 20th to 25th September
  • Battle of Polygon Wood, 26th September to 3rd October
  • Battle of Broodseinde, 4th October
  • Battle of Poelcapelle, 9th October
  • First Battle of Passchendaele, 12th October
  • Second Battle of Passchendaele, 26th October to 10th November (/)

Many Divisions visited the Ypres Salient during the 3rd Ypres and on more than one occasion.  A total of 54 Divisions were thrown into battle.  For example, the 8th Division saw action at Pilckem and Langemarck.

The offensive cost the British nearly 310,000 casualties, the Germans slightly less and it consumed all of the available reserves.  On the 6th November, the village of Passchendaele was entered and the whole campaign ended a few days later when more of the ridge was taken.  It achieved none of its objectives although the Germans could no longer look down on the Ypres Salient which had been deepened by about 5 miles and they had been prevented from attacking the French when its army was in disarray following the failure of the Nivelle Offensive.  From the outset, it was obvious to the German Fourth Army that a new attack was being prepared and the previous year they had begun to strengthen their defences.  The British did not force home their initial advantage and it was not until the 11th July that an air offensive began.  On the 18th, a massive artillery bombardment commenced.  The attack itself began on the 31st July when the British Fifth Army attacked north-east from the Ypres salient.  Initially, good progress was made but a strong counter-attack resulted in only a 2 mile advance.  Heavy rain fell on the first night flooding the swampy ground whose drainage system had been totally destroyed by the 10 day bombardment.  As a result the whole operation was held up.

 22/DLI Pioneering at Passchendaele

 1 July 1917:  the battalion was at Swan Chateau and work was in hand to prepare for the attack against the German Army in Flanders.  An example of their work is as follows:

16 August: the 8th Division was ordered to attack again – the problem was that the leading battalions had to get across the Hannebeek before they could get to grasps with the enemy.  To achieve this, the 22/D.L.I. were tasked to bridge this stream prior to the attack – 200 men were needed, others to act as guides, leaders etc.

“The work was extraordinarily well done in practically complete silence – our men were a picked lot, drawn from all companies, most of them the rather older men.” [5]

At 33 years of age, perhaps Private Walter Dinsdale took part in this operation.

Two battalions of the 23rd Brigade advanced towards the enemy lines and went over the bridges, bayonets fixed.  In anticipation of the German artillery barrage, 22/DLI withdrew slightly but stood by to attend to the bridges if required.  In the swampy conditions little damage was done unless there was a direct hit.  The Pioneers of the 22/DLI remained in position repairing the bridges and assisting wounded infantrymen who came trickling back from the fighting.

“These operations of Pioneers do not have the glamour of those charging with bayonets fixed, nor do they engender that hot blooded mixture of funk and fierceness which an assault upon the actual enemy positions calls out.  All the same the endurance and cold determination to remain under fire without retaliation, takes a deal of supporting.  But again no one received any award though the battalion was thanked by the General of the Division.”

Major Davidson recorded the Hannebeeke crossing.[6]

In late August 1917, the 22nd moved up to Nieppe to repair communication trenches leading to the front line south of Warneton and west of the river Lys.  There had been 2 advances in this sector since the 6th June and although little ground had been gained there was much work to do.  D Company were employed on tramways forward of Ploegsteert wood and B Company repaired roads.  There was little interference from the enemy and great progress was made.[7]  Work at the front continued throughout September and October before the 22/D.L.I. was relieved 12 November by the 3rd Canadian Pioneer Battalion.

“All through these 2 months there was a steady trickle of killed and wounded men, which reduced the amount of effective men available for work.” [8]

Private Walter Dinsdale was one of those casualties confirms that random hostilities were ordered from Haig during early September as a diversion from the build up to the planned offensive on the Menin Road:

 “Occasionally fighting flared up in accordance with Haig’s instructions that the Fifth Army should harass the enemy in the direction of Poelcapelle.  The plan was to distract the enemy from the vast preparations under way by the Second Army.  Accordingly 2 divisions attacked on 6 & 7 September and one on the 10th.  All 3 assaults neither won ground nor harassed the Germans and about a 1000 British casualties were suffered.  In disgust sir Douglas advised Gough to discontinue further such operations and additional ones scheduled for 3 subsequent days were also cancelled.” [9]

13 September:  the bombardment began in earnest. [10] Private Walter Dinsdale died of wounds on the day.  Perhaps he was killed as a result of retaliatory German artillery fire.

Burial

 Trois Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerck: The site of the Trois Arbres Cemetery was chosen for the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station in July 1916 and was used by that hospital until April 1918 when Steenwerck and Trois Arbres passed into German hands.  After the Armistice, graves were brought in from Sreenwerck, Nieppe, Bailleul and Neuve-Eglise.  Walter Dinsdale is buried at grave reference I.Y.26. [11]

References

[1] CWGC

[2] Army Form B2512

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

[4] www.1914-1918.net/8div.htm

[5] John Sheen “Durham Pals – 18th, 19th & 22nd Battalions of the D.L.I in the Great War” p195

[6] John Sheen “Durham Pals – 18th, 19th & 22nd Battalions of the D.L.I in the Great War” p.195

[7] W. Miles “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-1918” p216

[8] John Sheen “Durham Pals – 18th, 19th & 22nd Battalions of the D.L.I in the Great War” p.197

[9] Leon Wolff “In Flanders Fields” 1959 p.160

[10] Leon Wolff “In Flanders Fields” 1959 p.161-163

[11] CWGC

Photographs

DINSDALE W.  Headstone

DINSDALE W.
Headstone

DINSDALE W.  Headstone Detail

DINSDALE W.
Headstone Detail

St. Andrew's Churchyard War Memorial

St. Andrew’s Churchyard War Memorial

St. Andrew's Churchyard War Memorial Detail

St. Andrew’s Churchyard War Memorial Detail