Dunn TW

THOMAS WILLIAM DUNN (1888-1916)

3166 Private Thomas William Dunn, 1/6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 17 September 1916.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France, [1] the St. Helen’s Colliery Memorial Cottages and the West Auckland War Memorial.  He was about 28 years old, the son of Thomas and Mary Dunn. [2]

Family Details

Thomas William Dunn was born 1888 to Thomas Edward Dunn and Mary, nee Stobbs.  There were at least 8 children all born at St. Helen’s Auckland:

  • Thomas William born 1888
  • Sarah Jane born c.1891
  • Mary Elizabeth born c.1894
  • Mable born c.1895
  • Edward born c.1898
  • Cecilia born c.1900
  • Olive born c.1902
  • Cuthbert Stobbs born c.1904

In 1911, both Thomas Edward and Thomas William were coal miners, father Thomas being a hewer and son Thomas being a putter.  The family lived at Pease Street, known locally as the Square, St. Helen’s Auckland.

Service Record

The service record of 3166 Private T.W. Dunn and the 1/6 DLI Battalion War Diary have not been researched.

The 1/6th Battalion was a territorial force and in August 1914 as part of the DLI Brigade, Northumbrian Division moved from Bishop Auckland to Boldon Colliery, Ravensworth Park then were stationed at Newcastle in October.  The battalion landed at Boulogne, France 17 April 1915 and 14 May 1915 became part of the 151st Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division.  The 50th (Northumbrian) Division comprised the 149th (Northumbrian), 150th (York & Durham) and 151st (Durham Light Infantry) Brigades.  The 151st included the following units:

  • 1/6th DLI
  • 1/7th DLI left 16 November 1915 to become a Pioneer Battalion
  • 1/8th DLI
  • 1/9th DLI
  • 1/5 Loyal North Lancashire Regiment joined 11 June 1915 left 21 December 1915
  • 1/5 Border Regiment joined 149th Brigade December 1915

After taking heavy casualties at the Second Battle of Ypres throughout April and May 1915, the 1/6th and 1/8th Battalions merged to form the 6/8th battalion in June but its original identity was resumed by August 1915. [3]  The Division served with distinction on the Western Front throughout the war.

Private T.W. Dunn entered France 27 June 1915. [4]

The Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916

Total Allied casualties numbered over 600,000 including 146,000 killed or missing.  British and Commonwealth forces lost over 95,000 men.  Germany suffered about 450,000 casualties including about 164,000 deaths.[5]

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette began on the morning of 15 September and lasted until the 22 September.  The 47th London Division held the area to the right of the 50th Northumbrian Division and on the left was the 15th Highland Division.  The 50th Division held the salient between High Wood and the village of Martinpuich.  The battle plan had 3 objectives:

  1. Hook Trench from the north west of High Wood to just south east of Martinpuich (the Brown Line)
  2. Martin Trench, The Bow and a portion of Starfish Line (the Green Line)
  3. Prue Trench and the left of the Starfish Line (the Blue Line)

The 149th attacked on the right, the 150th Brigade was on the left and the 151st was in reserve. [6]

Following a 3 day bombardment of German positions, the British attack went in at 6.20am under a “creeping barrage” put down by the 50th Divisional Artillery.  Tanks were used for the first time (for experimental purposes) and 2 were put at the disposal of the 50th Division being worked on the left moving between the left flank and the village of Martinpuich. [7]

15 September:  149th Brigade (4th Northumberland Fusiliers & 7/NF) and the 150th Brigade (4th East Yorkshires, 4th Green Howards & 5/GH) advanced and took the first objective, Hook Trench by about 7.00am.  Little progress was made by the 47th Division which meant that any further progress onto the Starfish Line by the NF battalions would be subject to enfilade fire from machine gun fire in a German strong position in High Wood.  NF casualties were severe and 9/DLI from 151 Brigade was called up to support the attack on the Starfish Line.[8]

As the attack started, 6/DLI moved from Shelter Wood to the south west corner of Mamtez Wood and then later in the day into the wood itself.  Orders were received that 151st Brigade was to attack Prue Trench.  6/DLI and 9/DLI moved into the recently captured Hook Trench.

By 7.20am the 149th and 150th Brigades advanced and captured the second objective, Starfish Line, The Bow and Martin Trench but firing from both flanks caused very heavy casualties and the 4/NF were driven back to Hook Trench.  Both 5/NF and 6/NF were now involved in the battle.  On the left, 150th Brigade experienced heavy fire from the ruins of Martinpuich but the 4/EY reported that their second objective had been reached.

By about 10.00am the 150th Brigade reported the capture of their third and final objective and the situation appears to have been 4/EY in Martin Trench, 4/GH and 5/GH holding 30 yards of the extreme left of Prue Trench and about 100 yards of the extreme left of the Starfish Line.  The Divisional Front ran in a north-westerly to south-easterly direction between High Wood and Martinpuich.  The 149th Brigade met with the greatest opposition.

By 10.00am Martinpuich fell to the 15th Division and by 1.00pm, High Wood had been cleared of the enemy by the 47th Division.  But by about 4.00pm the 150th Brigade had been driven pout of the Starfish Line.  Martin Trench and Martin Alley were held.  Estimated casualties up to 6.00pm were 31 officers and 1,265 other ranks. [9]

At 6.05pm, 151st Brigade received orders to attack Prue Trench, the assault to be made from Hook Trench.  6/DLI and 9/DLI were already in this trench but 5/Borders’ guides got lost finally arriving at Eye and Hook Trenches, 30 minutes late.  8/DLI having been placed at the disposal of 150th Brigade moved up to Eye and Swansea Trenches.  The battalion was heavily shelled throughout the day.  The attack on Prue Trench commenced at 9.40pm but failed.  An account of 6/DLI progress follows;

“The advance was made down the slope towards Prue and Starfish Trenches under heavy machine gun fire.  Captain Badcock was wounded.  The enemy fire became so accurate and fierce that the advance came to a halt and men took cover in shell holes and ditches.  A few men who had reached Prue and Starfish quickly became casualties and were driven out by German counter-attacks.” [10]

16 September:  During the night of 15/16 September, orders were received to resume the attack:

  • 151st Brigade to capture Prue Trench east of The Crescent and attack with all 3 battalions that had already been fighting ie 5/BR, 6/DLI and 9/DLI
  • 150th Brigade to capture Prue Trench west of The Crescent
  • 149th Brigade in reserve. Since, 14 September, it has suffered about 1200 casualties (killed, wounded and missing). [11]

The results of the attack were the occupation of a short portion of Prue Trench and about 100 yards of the Starfish Line nearly as far as The Crescent.  By 2.00pm the Divisional Line ran from the eastern end of Hook Trench, The Bow, part of Crescent Alley, Martin Trench, Prue Trench and Starfish Line, west of Crescent Alley to Martin Alley.  The 151st Brigade was on the right and the 150th Brigade was on the left.  At 8.20pm 5/DLI was ordered to make another attack on the Starfish Line and Prue Trench but it was not until noon on the 17th that anything was known of the result.

17 September:  6/DLI was scattered across the battlefield and Lieutenant-Colonel Jeffreys attempted to recall various units as far as was possible.  By morning he had the following under his control – half of W Company under Capt. Cook, part of X Company under Lieut. Harris, a platoon of Z Company under Lieut. Hansell.  Y Company was in reserve in a sunken road under 2nd Lieuts. McVicker and Richardson.  Isolated groups lay out in front.[12]

At 5.30pm 5/DLI attempted to bomb the remainder of Prue and Starfish Trenches as far as The Crescent.  They were assisted by bombers from 6/DLI and 8/DLI.  Further attacks were made at 8.36pm and 9.24pm but all met with a heavy artillery barrage from the enemy. The 6/DLI action is reported as follows;

“An assault was made upon the German strongpoint known as The Crescent.  It was carried out by 2 bombing parties, one each from the 6th and 8th Battalions under the command of the Brigade Bombing Officer, Second Lieutenant J.F.G. Aubin.  The parties left Crescent Alley about 6.00pm but became considerably disorganized on coming under severe enemy artillery fire and were driven back.  A further attempt was made a little later with the same end result.” [13]

5/BR remained in The Bow.  During the evening, orders were received to capture Prue Trench at 5.50am on the 18th.

3166 Private T.W. Dunn was killed in action 17 September together with 9 other ranks serving with 6/DLI viz. Private Anderson (Leadgate), Corporal Britton (Crook), Private Dufty (Bishop Auckland) Private Hall (Crook), Private Heighington (Bishop Auckland), Corporal Hope (Willington), Private Roberts (Bishop Auckland), Private Suddes (Quebec) and Private Wallace (Cockton Hill). [14]

18 September:  Heavy machine gun fire broke up attacks.  Twice 8/DLI tried to reach The Crescent.  Heavy rain had fallen all day and mud proved to be an impassable obstacle.  Even ration parties had difficulty getting food up to the half-starved men.  No fires could be lit.  9/DLI was relieved and returned to Clark’s Trench.[15]

19 September:  6/DLI back in Sixth Avenue, Intermediate Trench and Jutland spent the day repairing trenches and salvage work.

20 September:  8/DLI held practically the whole line from The Bow to Martin Trench standing in 2½ feet in mud.  During the evening, 151st Brigade was relieved by the 149th and moved back to Mametz Wood.

The total number of casualties suffered by the 151st Brigade from the 15th to the 20th September was 43 officers and 903 other ranks.  9/DLI lost 44% of the Battalion’s strength which went into action.

21 September:  Information had been received that the enemy had retired and the 6/NF and 7/NF occupied both Starfish and Prue Lines without opposition.[16]

22 September:  By the morning, the position was that 4/NF and 2 companied of the 5/NF held Prue Trench, 6/NF held Starfish Trench, 7NF were in their original front line and support positions and 5/NF HQ and remaining companies were in Clark’s Trench.  After a week of fighting, the 50th Division had reached its final objective, the Blue Line, ie Prue Trench. [17]

The Divisional Narrative gives the total casualties, killed, missing and wounded, between 15 and 24 September as “about 3,750 all ranks” and this will include those from the Divisional Pioneers and Field Companies, Royal Engineers, both of which suffered many casualties. The 1st Northumberland Field Company alone, on 16 September had 29 killed or wounded. [18]

Research carried out at a later date confirms that between 15 and 24 September 1916, 1039 officers and other ranks died whilst serving with the 3 infantry brigades of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division:

149th Brigade: 9 officers, 449 other ranks

  • 4/NF: 5 officers, 219 other ranks
  • 5/NF: 26 other ranks
  • 6/NF: 1 officer, 99 other ranks
  • 7/NF: 3 officers, 105 other ranks

150th Brigade: 11 officers, 332 other ranks

  • 4/EY: 2 officers, 60 other ranks
  • 4/GH: 3 officers, 82 other ranks
  • 5/GH: 5 officers, 93 other ranks
  • 5/DLI: 1 officer, 97 other ranks

151st Brigade: 14 officers, 224 other ranks

  • 6/DLI: 3 Officers, 56 other ranks
  • 8/DLI: 2 officers, 37 other ranks
  • 9/DLI: 4 officers, 69 other ranks
  • 5/BR: 5 officers, 62 other ranks

Total: 34 officers and 1005 other ranks.

The most severe casualties were suffered on 15 September 1916 when the Northumberland Fusiliers lost 375 men including 4/NF losing 5 officers and 189 other ranks, 6/NF losing 1 officer and 71 other ranks and 7/NF losing 3 officers and 88 other ranks.[19]

Objectives achieved, the fighting moved on to the Battles of Morval (25 – 28 September) and Le Transloy (1 – 18 October).  Horrendous casualties were suffered by the 50th Division at the Butte de Warlencourt, 5 November before the Somme offensive was called off as winter closed in.

Private T.W. Dunn was one of the 56 Other Ranks who died whilst serving with 6/DLI during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.  He has no known grave.  Private T.W. Dunn was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War and Victory medals. [20]

Commemorations

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme: Private T.W. Dunn is commemorated on this memorial which bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. [21]

References:

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1911 census and England Select Births & Christenings, 1538-1975 ref:yr1887-1895 p.14

[3] http://www.1914-918.net/dli.htm

[4] Medal Roll card index

[5] en.wikipedia.org/wikki/Battle_of_the_Somme

[6] “The Fiftieth Division 1914-1918” Everard Wyrail 1939 p.143

[7] E. Wyrail p.148

[8] E. Wyrail p.149 & “The Faithful Sixth” H. Moses 1995 p.69-70

[9] E.Wyrail p.152

[10] H.Moses p.70

[11] E.Wyrail p.155

[12] H.Moses p.71 and “The Story of the 6th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry” Capt. R.B. Ainsworth MC

[13] H.Moses p.71

[14] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[15] E. Wyrail p.156-157

[16] E. Wyrail p.158-159

[17] E.Wyrail p.159

[18] E.Wyrail p.160-161

[19] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[20] Medal Roll card index

[21] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Photographs:

THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

DUNN T.W. Inscription Thiepval Memorial

DUNN T.W.
Inscription
Thiepval Memorial

DUNN T.W. Medal Roll

DUNN T.W.
Medal Roll

2 thoughts on “Dunn TW

  1. Pingback: ST.HELEN’S | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

  2. Pingback: WEST AUCKLAND | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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