HOWSON George Arthur 1894 – 1917


62902 Private George Arthur Howson, 13th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers was killed in action 11 April 1917 and is buried at Monchy British Cemetery, Monchy-le-Preux. [1] He was about 23 years old.  We have not traced his name on a local War Memorial.

Family Details

George Arthur was born 1894 at Bishop Auckland, the son of George and Letitia Simpson.[2]  There were at least 5 children:[3]

  • Oliver bc.1887 at Burnley
  • Frederick bc.1988 at Burnley
  • Lettice Ann bc.1889 at Burnley
  • Hubert bc.1891 at Burnley
  • George Arthur bc.1894 at Bishop Auckland

George Watson Simpson[4] [George Arthur’s father] was born at Witton Park, County Durham and the family moved around the Auckland coalfield as work permitted, living at Blue Row [Bishop Auckland], Etherley Lane and Escomb.  By 1871, they were at St. Helens.  George was then 12 years old.[5]  By 1881, 22 years old George, lived at Burnley boarding with William and Sarah Bessy and worked as a coal miner.[6]  By 1891, George, now 31 years old, was married to Lettice Ann,[7] the family lived at Fylands Bridge, Bishop Auckland and he worked as a coal miner.[8]  By 1901, the family were at Fylands Bridge now with 5 children including 7 years old George Arthur. [9]  By 1911, still living at Fylands Bridge, 17 years old George Arthur worked as a coal miner [driver]. [10]

Military Details

2 April 1915: George Arthur [Simpson] Howson enlisted into the Army Service Corps being given the service number R4/062304 and served until 2 September 1916.  He transferred to the Middlesex Regiment, regimental number 50842 and served from 26 December 1916 to 22 March 1917.

23 March 1917:  Private G.A. Howson was transferred to the 13th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers [regimental number 62902],[11] also known as the City of London Regiment.

The Royal Fusiliers raised 47 battalions in the Great War.  The 13th [Service] Battalion was formed 13 September 1914 as part of the New Army [K3], attached to the 24th Division.  In March 1915, it came under the command of 111th Brigade, 37th Division and landed in France 30 July 1915.[12]  By 1917, the 111st Brigade comprised:

  • 10th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers
  • 13th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers
  • 13th Battalion, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps
  • 13th Battalion, the Rifle Brigade
  • 111th Machine Gun Company
  • 111th Trench Mortar Battery

The Division remained on the Western Front and took part in the Battle of the Ancre 1916 and in 1917, phases of the Arras Offensive  – The First Battle of the Scarpe including the capture of Monchy-le-Preux and the Second Battle of the Scarpe and the Battle of Arleux.[13]

23 March 1917, Private G.A. Howson was transferred to the 13th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers and took part in action at the First Battle of the Scarpe.  The Battalion War Diary provides details: [14]

7th April: DUISANS: Arrived at DUISANS…in huts at DUISANS.  Fairly comfortable but very cold.

8th April: LOUEZ: Left DUISANS at 8am and marched to LOUEZ where the battalion bivouacked in a field about ½mile wide, south of the St. POL – ARRAS road.  Weather fine and warmer.

9th April: BLANGY: ZERO DAY.

4.45pm The Brigade moved forward to commence the attack on Monchy.  The leading battalions, the 10th and 13th Royal Fusiliers, were hit by machine gun fire from the brown line, previously thought to be in British hands.  The brown line was attacked until the push was brought to a standstill neat the Feuchy to Feuchy Chapel road.  The left flank was “in the air” and unprotected.   A tank assisted the attack by silencing the enemy machine gun which was inflicting heavy casualties.  13/RF dug-in under the cover of darkness and sent out patrols to locate enemy positions.

10th April:13/RF was ordered to withdraw to Broken Mill, the move being completed before daylight.  Casualties during the previous day were numerous.  At noon, 13/RF were ordered to move along the railway line to the vicinity of Orange Hill towards the outlying woods wets of Monchy.  10/RF were on the right.  The line went forward under a heavy barrage and considerable losses were sustained.  The advance was halted due to heavy machine gun and rifle fire and the enemy’s barrage.

“Great daring was shown by all ranks in hunting out enemy snipers and light machine guns.”

10/RF was to the right and the 8/Somerset Light Infantry to the left and progress was halted.  Arrangements were made to “stalk the M.G positions after nightfall.”

7.40pm: an order was given to move forward following a barrage.  A slight advance was achieved but there were many casualties.  Most 13/RF officers were either killed or wounded.

11th April: about 1.00am a trench line was dug, 30 yards to the rear of the woods.  This joined up with the line of 10/RF.  Work was completed by 4.00pm.  At 5.00am, an order was received to attack again with 13/Rifle Brigade and 13/King’s Royal Rifle Corps in the front line and 10/RF and 13/RF supporting.  Tanks co-operated in silencing machine guns.

“The attack was delivered with much vigour that the enemy was driven out of the town and park and retired.”

13/RF became mixed up with the forward troop.  Isolated groups fought their way forward independently.

“Much good work was done by the Battalion in this final attack and great initiative was displayed by all ranks at a time when NCO’s and men had to act for themselves to fulfil the common objective.”

Immediately after the enemy was driven out a terrific bombardment came down on the village which continued until dark.  An enemy counter-attack did not materialise. During the day, enemy shelling was intense.

10.00pm: 13/RF was relieved and moved back to Battery Valley.

12th April:  moved back to Arras.  Weather very cold and snow fell every day.

“I consider that the Battalion behaved magnificently and I have nothing but praise for everyone in it.”

Lieutenant Colonel A.B. Layton

Total casualties between the 9th and 12th April were 15 Officers and 281 Other Ranks.

Later research records that between the 9th and 12th April, 13/Royal Fusiliers lost xx Officers and xxx Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds.[15]  62902 Private George Arthur Howson, 13th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers was killed in action 11 April 1917.  He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[16]


Private George Arthur Howson is buried at Monchy British Cemetery, Monchy-le-Preux at grave reference I.B.18. [17]


We have not yet traced Private George Arthur Howson on a local War Memorial.


Private G.A. Howson’s cousin was 4/8776 Lance Corporal Joseph Simpson Howson, 4th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry who died 19 January 1915 and is buried in West Auckland Cemetery.[18]


HOWSON George Arthur Medal Roll


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] The Simpson and Howson families for some reason yet to be explained, used both names.  Census details for this family, use Simpson as their surname but the military information provided for George Arthur uses the surname of Howson.

[3] 1881, 1891, 1901 & 1911 census

[4] 1871 census George Watson Simpson was the older brother of Isaac Simpson bc.1868/9 who was the father of Joseph Simpson Howson

[5] 1871 census

[6] 1881 census

[7] Born at Burnley

[8] 1891 census

[9] 1901 census

[10] 1911 census

[11] Victory and British War medal roll



[14] 13th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers War Diary from 1st April to 30th April 1917 including a narrative of the action 9 – 12 April 1917 by Lt. Col. A.B. Layton 15th April 1917

[15] Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War

[16] Medal Roll

[17] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[18] Commonwealth War Graves Commission