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 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.
Note: Updated 11 January 2022 in the light of recent research.
Robert Lane was born 26 May 1873 in Halewood near Liverpool, Lancashire, the son of George and Mary Lane. Aged 23, Robert Lane married Sarah Annie Dun, 31 December 1897 at St. Helen Auckland, Bishop Auckland. Robert and Sarah had at least 3 children, perhaps 4: 
- Florrie born c.1898 at West Auckland
- George bc.1899 at West Auckland
- Mary Hannah born 13 July 1900 at West Auckland
- Sarah Annie born 15 September 1902 at St. Helen’s Auckland
Sarah Annie Dunn was baptised 15 December 1875 at West Auckland. Her parents were William Dunn and Hannah Taylor. In 1901, a Sarah A. Lane lived with Jacob and Hannah White at West Auckland with her children George aged 1 and Mary H. aged 8 months. At this time, Robert Lane was serving in the Regular Army and was on active service in South Africa. It is known that Private Robert Lane had previously served with the 1st Battalion, The South Lancashire Regiment in the South African Campaign (Boer War) and was then given the regimental number 2771. He was awarded the South Africa Medal and the following clasps Orange Free State, Transvaal, Tugela Heights, Relief of Ladysmith and Laing’s Nek. It is therefore highly likely that his wife Sarah and their children stayed with relatives. In this case it is possible that Hannah White was her mother and Jacob her step father, although I have not undertaken an exhaustive search to find if her father William Dunn had died.
In 1911, Robert and Sarah Lane lived at 6 Gladstone Terrace, West Auckland with 3 children, Florrie, Mary Hannah and Sarah Annie. Robert worked as a coal miner (hewer). Later, Sarah Annie Lane lived at 18 Whitwell Terrace, St. Helen’s Auckland, known locally as “the Square”.
The service records of Private R. Lane have not been researched. Private Lane was a member of the Territorial Force and enlisted into his local battalion, the 6th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry (6/DLI) which was based at Bishop Auckland. He was allocated the regimental number 2490. The 1/6th Battalion was formed in Bishop Auckland, August 1914 as part of the Durham Light Infantry Brigade, Northumbrian Division. In May 1915, it came under the orders of the 151st Brigade of the 50th Division. Other battalions were:
- 1/7th Battalion, D.L.I
- 1/8th Battalion, D.L.I.
- 1/9th Battalion, D.L.I.
- 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:
- 1/5th (Cumberland) Battalion, the Border Regiment joined December 1915
- 151st Machine Gun Company formed 6th February 1916
- 150th Trench Mortar Battery formed 18th June 1916
- 1/5th Battalion, D.L.I. joined February 1918
- 6th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined July 1918
- 1st Battalion, the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, joined July 1918
- 4th Battalion, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps joined July 1918
The Division moved to France, 16 April 1915 and served with distinction on the Western Front throughout the war. The 50th Division took part in the Second Battle of Ypres 1915, 22 April – 25 May 1915 including:
- the Battle of St. Julien, 24 April – 4 May,
- the Battle of Frezenberg 8 – 13 May
- the Battle of Bellewaarde 24-25 May.
Private Lane entered France 20 April 1915  with his battalion and it is highly likely that he was involved in fighting within 4 days of arriving in France. The following detail records this action: 
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.” Second Lieutenant 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.
A Casualty List dated 8 May 1915 issued by the War Office included 2490 Private Robert Lane as “wounded”. Further information confirms that he was entitled to wear a “Wound Stripe” as authorised under Army Order 204 of 6 July 1916. However, Private Robert Lane died 6 June 1915, before such an award could be conferred. He died of septicaemia and jaundice caused by gunshot wounds (GSW) received in action at Fazakerly Military Hospital, Liverpool. He was 42 years old. It is likely that Private Robert Lane was one of the 218 other ranks wounded in the action of 2 May 1915.
Later analysis confirms that between 24 April and 4 May, 6/DLI lost 3 officers and 51 other ranks, killed in action or died of wounds.
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.” 
Awards and Medals
Private Lane was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals. All 12 soldiers of 6/DLI entitled to the 1914-15 Star, on Roll, on the same page as Private Robert Lane, service numbers 2489 to 2504 were all accompanied by the notation, “Dead”. Similarly, all 7 soldiers on the Roll for the Victory and British War medals, on the same page as Private Robert Lane were noted, “Deceased”.
Private Lane is buried in West Auckland Cemetery, grave reference C.C. 648. The following words, provided by his widow, Sarah Annie Lane, are inscribed on his headstone:
Gone but not Forgotten
Effects and Pension
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.
 Commonwealth War Graves Commission
 England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.8b p.555 Prescot, Lancashire 1873 Q2 and Liverpool, England Church of England Baptisms 1813-1919
 England, Select Marriages 1538-1973 Film No. 1894175 Reference ID p202
 1901 & 1911 census & Dependants Pension card index. Note: an exhaustive search has not been undertaken.
 England Select Births and Christenings 1538-1975 Film No.1894174
 1901 census Is this the correct Sarah A. Lane?
 UK Military Campaign Medals and Awards Roll 1793-1949
 1911 census
 Medal Roll card index
 “The Faithful Sixth” Moses H. 1995 p.28-40
 Forces War Records Archive Reference DT25051915
 Claimant’s Pension card index
 UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Record No.214046
 Soldiers & Officers Died in the Great War
 Moses p.34
 Medal Roll card index and Rolls dated 4 October 1919 & 25 March 1920.
 Roll of Individuals entitled to the 1914-15 Star dated 4 October 1919
 Roll of Individuals entitled to the Victory and British War medals dated 25 March 1920
 UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Record No.214046
 Claimants’ Pension card index