Lane R

ROBERT LANE c.1873-1915

2490 Private Robert Lane, 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry died of wounds 6 June 1915 and is buried in West Auckland Cemetery[1] and commemorated on the St. Helens Colliery Memorial Cottages, County Durham.  He was 42 years old, husband of Sarah Annie Lane and father of 3 children.

Family Details

Robert Lane was born c.1873 in Lancashire.  He married Sarah (born West Auckland) in 1897 and they had 3 children:

  • Florrie born c.1898 at West Auckland
  • Mary Hannah born c.1901 at West Auckland
  • Sarah Annie born c.1903 at St. Helen’s Auckland

In 1911, they lived at 6 Gladstone Terrace, West Auckland.  Robert worked as a coal miner (hewer).[2]  Later, Mrs. Lane lived at 18 Whitwell Terrace, St. Helen’s Auckland, known locally as “the Square”.[3]

Service Record

The service records of Private R. Lane have not been researched.  He died of wounds at Fazakerley Military Hospital, Liverpool. [4]

Previously, Robert Lane served with the 1st Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment in the South African Campaign (Boer War)[5] and given the regimental number 2771 and was awarded the South Africa Medal and the following clasps Orange Free State, Transvaal, Tugela Heights, Relief of Ladysmith and Laing’s Nek.[6]

Private Lane was a territorial with the 6/DLI and was given the regimental number 2490.  He entered France 20 April 1915 with the battalion.[7]

The 1/6th Battalion were formed in Bishop Auckland in August 1914 as part of the Durham Light Infantry Brigade, Northumbrian Division and in May 1915 became the 151st Brigade of the 50th Division. Other battalions were:

  1. 1/7th Battalion, D.L.I
  2. 1/8th Battalion, D.L.I.
  3. 1/9th Battalion, D.L.I.
  4. 1/5th Battalion, the Loyal North Lancs. joined June 1915

Following heavy casualties in June 1915 the battalion merged with the 1/8th to become the 6/8th then it returned to its original identity 11th August 1915 and was then joined by:

  1. 1/5th (Cumberland) Battalion, the Border Regiment joined December 1915
  2. 151st Machine Gun Company formed 6th February 1916
  3. 150th Trench Mortar Battery formed 18th June 1916
  4. 1/5th Battalion, D.L.I. joined February 1918
  5. 6th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined July 1918
  6. 1st Battalion, the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, joined July 1918
  7. 4th Battalion, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps joined July 1918

The Division moved to France 16th April 1915 and served with distinction on the Western Front throughout the war.[8] The 50th Division took part in the Second Battle of Ypres 1915, 22 April – 25 May 1915 including:

  1. the Battle of St. Julien, 24 April – 4 May,
  2. the Battle of Frezenberg 8 – 13 May
  3. the Battle of Bellewaarde 24-25 May.[9]

Private Lane entered France 20 April 1915[10] and it is highly likely that he was involved in fighting within 4 days.  It is highly likely that Private Lane was wounded in the above action and died of his wounds.  The following detail records this action: [11]

24 April: Vlamertinghe, waiting for orders, French and Canadian wounded and gassed passed through, refugees streamed westwards.  6pm: marched through Ypres where buildings burned, the Cloth Hall still recognisable but damaged, past the Menin Gate, onto Zonnebeke and the ruined village of Potijze then at midnight relieved the 2/Shropshire Light Infantry.

25 April: 9pm left the trenches and marched to Zonnebeke, stopped at Verlorenhoek and lay in hedgerows.

26 April: 10am ordered to take the line from a level crossing to Hill 37 and drive the Germans back:

“As soon as we showed ourselves the German batteries opened a heavy fire on us which was maintained for some time.”                                                               2/Lieut. Lyon

The men, carrying their packs and 170 rounds of ammunition, advanced as quickly as they could.  Under a storm of enemy artillery and machine gun fire some lost direction:

“We lost heavily (8 officers and 140 men) but we did well, all they were told to do.”

Captain Jeffreys

6pm: the battalion was ordered to move in support of the 7/DLI and a battalion of the Shropshire Light Infantry and attack a hill held by the enemy.  The advance was made through the usual heavy bombardment.  B Company was ordered to fill a gap in the front line alongside 1/Hampshire Regiment.  A & D Companies were to stand by in case they were needed to give further support.  B Company remained in the line for 5 days until relieved, 30 April.  They were constantly shelled during the day and needed to repair trenches at night.  Food and sleep was limited.  B Company’s casualties were 14 men killed, 1 officer and 55 men wounded.

2 May: 4.30pm the Germans commenced a violent bombardment of the front line and released gas.  These were early days in the use of gas and the means of protection was limited and not particularly effective – cloth soaked in any liquid available, urine was used and held over the mouth and nose.  There were no respirators at this time.  Behind the bombardment came the German infantry but the attack was foiled and the front line was held.  At 10.30pm the DLI was relieved.  Casualties – 3 officers killed, 12 wounded, 2 sent home with shock, 27 NCOs and men killed, 218 wounded, 34 missing.

There is a record that 1 man was wounded on the 26 May – this casualty may be Private Lane.

Later analysis confirms that between 24 April and 4 May, 3 officers and 51 other ranks died.  There were far fewer casualties from then up until the end of May, with a total rising to 4 officers and 64 ORs killed.[12]

24 May 1915:   The Times reported on these events and the exploits of the Northumbrian Division of which 6/DLI was a part:

“Consider what is meant by the fight of these Northern Territorials.  Men only lately out from home, most of whom had never seen a shot fired in battle, were plunged suddenly into the most nerve racking kind of engagement.  They had to face one of the worst artillery bombardments of the war and the new devilry of the poison gas.  There was no time for adequate staff preparation, the whole was a wild rush, a crowding up of every available man to fill the gap and reinforce the thin lines.  They were led by officers who, a year ago, were architects, solicitors and business men.  The result was a soldiers’ battle like Albeura where we escaped annihilation which by all the rules were our due, by sheer dogged fighting quality of our men and their leaders.  The miners of the North are a sturdy race in peace, both in work and sport.  The second battle of Ypres has proved them to be one of the finest fighting stocks on earth.” [13]

Private Lane was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[14]

Burial

Private Lane is buried in West Auckland Cemetery, grave reference C.C. 648.

Commemoration

The St. Helen’s Colliery Memorial Cottages:  4 cottages built near the Colliery Institute, St. Helen’s Auckland constitute the local war memorial.  2 were erected (at a cost of £4,200) by Messrs. Pease & Partners, owners of the colliery and 2 by subscriptions of the men employed there.  The formal opening took place Saturday 12 November 1921.  Mr. F. Chapman presided and mentioned that the men employed at the colliery had subscribed no less than £2,600 for the benefit of the wives of soldiers during the war and since and were continuing the fund for the benefit of the widows and children.  Mrs. R.A. Pease, Richmond and Mr. M.H. Kellett, Chilton, formerly manager of the colliery declared the respective pairs of houses open.  Memorial tablets on the front of each pair of houses bear the names of the fallen and these tablets were unveiled by Mr. J.E. Brown-Humes.  Mr. James Robson President of the Durham Miners’ Association made a few remarks.[15]

REFERENCES

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1911 census

[3] CWGC

[4] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929

[5] CWGC

[6] UK Military Campaign Medals and Awards Roll 1793-1949

[7] Medal Roll card index

[8] http://www.1914-1918

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

[10] Medal Roll card index

[11] “The Faithful Sixth“ Moses H. 1995 p.28-40

[12] Soldiers & Officers Died in the Great War

[13] Moses p.34

[14] Medal Roll card index

[15] Darlington & Stockton Times (North) 19 November 1921 and http://www.newmp.org.uk

 

Photographs

R. Lane Headstone

R. Lane
Headstone

One thought on “Lane R

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

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