Eales W

WILLIAM EALES (c.1875-1916)

16389 Private William Eales, 2nd Battalion, Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment) was killed in action 8 July 1916. [1]  He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, the St. Helen’s Colliery Memorial Cottages, West Auckland War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, West Auckland Memorial Hall.  William Eales was about 41 years old, a widower and father of Irene Eales.

Family Details

William Eales was born c.1875 at Tottenham (now known as Leeholme), near Bishop Auckland and was the son of John and Jane Eales. [2]  There were at least 7 children:

  • Ralph born c.1872
  • William born c.1875
  • Annie born c.1879
  • Frank born c.1883
  • Edward born c.1885
  • John born c.1888
  • Frederick born c.1890

All children were born at Tottenham with the exception of Edward who was born at Willington. [3]  In 1900 William married Maria Clark at Auckland. [4] By 1901, they lived at High Road, Leasingthorne.  William worked as a coal miner (hewer). [5]  By 1911, William was a widower boarding with Ann Cooper at Dale Street, St. Helen’s Auckland.  Also boarding was 8 year old Irene Eales, born at Leasingthorne, likely to be his daughter.  William was employed as a coal miner (hewer). [6]

Service Details

The service record of 16389 Private W. Eales and the war diary of the 2nd Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment (otherwise known as the Green Howards) have not been researched.  The official history, “The Green Howards in the Great War” by Colonel H.G. Wylly 1926 is a prime reference.

The 2/Green Howards (2/GH) at the beginning of the war came under the orders of 21st Brigade, 7th Division and landed at Zeebrugge 6 October 1915.  The 21st Brigade was transferred to 30th Division 20 December 1915. [7] The 7th and 30th Division saw action in Flanders and France throughout the war.

During March and April 1915, the 2/Green Howards received drafts numbering 19 officers and 493 other ranks. [8]  The 2/Green Howards, 21st Brigade was under the command of the 7th Division at this time.

22 April 1915: Private W. Eales entered France. [9] Within 3 weeks of his arrival, the battalion saw action at the Battle of Festubert.

25 April: billets at Laventie

28 April: marched to Strazeele, billets at Rouge Croix.  21st Brigade was reserve to the troops engaged in the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April – 24 May)

4 May: left Rouge Croix

15-25 May: Battle of Festubert

  • 12 May: C Company and the machine gun section went into the trenches
  • 13 May: D Company in the trenches
  • 15 May: enemy shelling, 7th Division to attack in the direction of Violaines (20th & 22nd Brigades in the front line, 21st Brigade in reserve).
  • 17 May: 2/GH moved up to the front line, D and A Companies assisted the Royal Scots Fusiliers;
  • 19 May: 2/GH relieved by the Canadians. Battalion losses amounted to 6 officers and 25 non-commissioned officers and men killed or died of wounds, 2 officers and 135 other ranks wounded and 8 men missing. [10]

The 7th Division saw action in other offensives of 1915: [11]

  • 15-16 June: Second Action of Givenchy
  • 25 September – 8 October: the Battle of Loos

20 December 1915: The 21st Brigade was transferred to 30th Division. [12]

The Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916

The Battle of Albert 1-13 July

The next major offensive in which the 2/GH was involved was the Battle of the Somme which commenced 1 July 1916.  The objective of the 30th Division was the village of Montauban and the division advanced with the 89th Brigade on the right and the 21st on the left.  The battalion HQ was Avenue Trench.  Two platoons of D Company were detailed to 18/King’s and 19/Manchesters for “cleaning-up” operations.  The front to be attacked by the Brigade extended from the junction of Glatz Redoubt with Dublin Trench on the right to the railway line to the left.

1 July:  The assaulting battalions were the 18/King’s and the 19/Manchesters with the 2/GH in support and responsible for occupying and consolidating the German front and support lines once captured.  Immediately after crossing No-Man’s Land, A Company came under heavy machine-gun fire and suffered severely – the battalion had some 200 casualties crossing No-Man’s Land.  The survivors pushed on and reached the German trenches to consolidate the gains but were engaged by an enemy machine-gun.  By 3.00pm, the CO decided to hold the German front line only and withdrew B Company into it.  90th Brigade had gone through other trenches and occupied the village of Montaubin by about 9.00am but the 2 “cleaning-up” platoons had been practically wiped out while crossing No-Man’s Land and only Corporal Peat and one or two men reached the enemy trenches.  Work of consolidation continued.  7.30pm the battalion was withdrawn to Headquarters Avenue.

2 July:  Parties told to clear the battlefield (under enemy shelling)

3 July:  Clearing ground, burying the dead

4 July:  Relieved by a battalion of the South African Brigade.  Marched back to Bois des Tailles

5 July:  Reorganising and clearing up.

6 July:  21st Brigade informed that it was to attack Trones Wood next day.

7 July:  Attack postponed, marched to Talus Boisee to a position west of Bernafay Wood with orders to attack and capture the southern portion of the wood.

8 July:  7.15am – C Company entered Bernafay Wood followed by the Battalion Bombing Sections, D Company, B Company and A Company.

“At 8.00am, under severe shell fire, which caused a certain number of casualties before starting and under the added difficulties of getting through the wood C Company passed through and commenced to cross the open ground between Bernafay Wood and Trones Wood.  For the first 80 yards of this advance the rising ground afforded a certain amount of cover but on “topping” this, a very heavy machine and rifle fire was opened on the advancing troops from the edge of Trones Wood and the whole of the front line was hit almost to a man.  Some few of the Green Howards got into Trones Wood, a communication trench between the two woods and Lieutenant Field with the Battalion Bombers endeavoured to bomb up it and get into the wood but snipers located among the branches of trees defeated this attempt and now seeing that in the absence of a powerful and prolonged artillery preparation any direct attack was hopeless a withdrawal to Bernafay Wood was ordered at 8.30am.  Even here, however, there was small respite: the Germans bombarded the wood heavily and without intermission throughout the day with great guns; the cover was indifferent and the Battalion could  do no more than just hold on under this severe shelling; casualties were many and the evacuation of the wounded was a matter of the greatest difficulty; the strain was unceasing and it was with great relief that at 7 that evening orders for a withdrawal were received, when A Company went back to La Briqueterie and the remaining companies, what was left of them, to Headquarters Avenue.”[13]

During the first week there were 433 casualties all out of a compliment of 712 officers and men who went into action, comprising 7 officers and 71 other ranks killed, 11 officers and 309 wounded and 35 men missing. [14]

Later research records that between 1 and 8 July 1916, 2/GH lost 4 officers and 121 other ranks, 4 officers and 62 ORs on the opening day and 45 ORs on the 8 July, [15] one of whom was Private W. Eales.  He has no known grave.

The 30th Division is credited with the capture of the village of Montaubin.  The Battle of the Somme continued with the Battle of Bazentin and many more offensives.

16389 Private William Eales was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[16]


The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme:  Private W. Eales 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. [17]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1881 census

[3] 1891 census

[4] England and Wales Marriage Index

[5] 1901 census

[6] 1911 census

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

[8] “The Green Howards in the Great War” Colonel H.G. Wylly 1926 p.58-59

[9] Medal Roll card index

[10] Wylly p.59-60

[11] http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1915.htm

[12] http://www.1914-1918.net/yorks.htm

[13] Wylly p.78

[14] Wylly p.78

[15] Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War

[16] Medal Roll card index

[17] Commonwealth War Graves Commission




EALES W. Thiepval Inscription

Thiepval Inscription


EALES W. Medal Roll

Medal Roll

2 thoughts on “Eales W

  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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