Lee J.C.

 JEREMIAH CAMERON LEE (1893-1916)

 3666 Private Jeremiah Cameron Lee, 6th battalion, the Durham Light Infantry, was killed in action 1 October 1916 and is buried at Warlencourt British Cemetery, France. [1]  He was 23 years old and commemorated on Cockfield War Memorial, the memorial plaque in the Methodist Church, Cockfield and the Roll of Honour, Cockfield Council School.

Family Details:

Jeremiah was born 19 April 1893 [2] at Cockfield, the son of John and Elizabeth Lee.  There were at least 6 children:

  • William bc.1882 at Newbiggin
  • Laura bc. 1886 at Snawgill
  • Emma bc.1889 at Middleton
  • John Frederick bc.1892 at Middleton
  • Jeremiah Cameron bc.1893 at Cockfield
  • Minnie bc.1896 at Cockfield [3]

In 1901, Elizabeth was a widow living at Main Street, Cockfield.  Her husband John died in 1898 aged 43.  He had worked as a lead miner in Roseberry, near Middleton-in-Teesdale [4] but as was common, with the closure of the lead mines, the miners moved east to seek work in the coal mines of the Auckland Coalfield.

Before starting his working life, Jeremiah attended Cockfield Church of England School then from 14 January 1907 until 19 April 1907 Cockfield Council School.[5]  He left school upon reaching the school leaving age ie 14 years.

By 1911, Jeremiah’s brother William was not at home.  19 year old Fred and 17 year old “Jerry” worked as coal miners, Fred as a putter and “Jerry” as a braker. The family lived at Front Street, Cockfield. [6]

In 1913 Jerry Lee married Mary Jane Corner.[7]  They lived at 13 Jubilee Terrace, Evenwood. [8]

Military Details:

Jeremiah Cameron Lee enlisted into the 6/DLI at Durham and was given the regimental number 3666. [9] The service record of Private J.C. Lee has not been traced.  The 1/6th Battalion was 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. The Division moved to France 16 April 1915 and served with distinction on the Western Front throughout the war.  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 11 August 1915 and was then joined by:

  • 1/5th (Cumberland) Battalion, the Border Regiment joined December 1915
  • 151st Machine Gun Company formed 6 February 1916
  • 150th Trench Mortar Battery formed 18 June 1916 [10]

Up to the date of the death of Private J.C. Lee, the Division took part in the following engagements on the Western Front:

  • The Second Battle of Ypres (from 24 April – 25 May 1915)
  • The Battle of Flers-Courcelette (6th phase of the Battle of the Somme 1916)
  • The Battle of Morval (7th phase of the Battle of the Somme 1916)
  • The Battle of Le Transloy (8th  phase of the Battle of the Somme 1916) [11]

  Private Jeremiah Cameron Lee entered France 1 October 1915.[12]  The following section will examine the circumstances surrounding his death.  He died of wounds 1 October 1916 in the same action as Private O. Rushford from the nearby hamlet of Wind Mill and Lance Corporal F.M. Britton from Evenwood were awarded Military Medals and his commanding officer Lieut.-Col. R. B. Bradford, the Victoria Cross.  The following accounts provide an overview and then some details of events.

 1 July – 18 November 1916: The Battle of the Somme: an overview [13]

 The Battle of the Somme was viewed as a breakthrough battle, as a means of getting through the formidable German trench lines and into a war of movement and decision.  Political considerations and the demands of the French High Command influenced the timing of the battle.  They demanded British diversionary action to occupy the German Army to relieve the hard pressed French troops at Verdun, to the south.

General Sir Douglas Haig, appointed Commander-in-Chief in December 1915, was responsible for the overall conduct of British Army operations in France and Belgium.  This action was to be the British Army’s first major offensive on the Western Front in 1916 and it was entrusted to General Rawlinson’s Fourth Army to deliver the resounding victory.  The British Army included thousands of citizen volunteers, keen to take part in what was expected to be a great victory.

The main line of assault ran nearly 14 miles from Maricourt in the south to Serre to the north, with a diversionary attack at Gommecourt 2 miles further to the north.  The first objective was to establish a new advanced line on the Montauban to Pozieres Ridge.

The first day, 1 July, was preceded by a week long artillery bombardment of the German positions.  Just prior to zero-hour, the storm of British shells increased and merged with huge mine explosions to herald the infantry attack – at 7.30am on a clear midsummer’s morning the British Infantry emerged from their trenches and advanced in extended lines at a slow steady pace over the grassy expanse of a No Man’s Land.  They were met with a hail of machine gun fire and rifle fire from the surviving German defenders.  Accurate German artillery barrages smashed into the infantry in No Man’s Land and the crowded assembly trenches.

The British suffered enormous casualties:

  • Officers killed: 993
  • Other Ranks killed: 18,247
  • Total Killed: 19,240
  • Total casualties (killed, wounded and missing): 57,470

In popular imagination, the title, “Battle of the Somme” has become a byword for military disaster.  In the calamitous opening 24 hours the British Army suffered its highest number of casualties in a single day.  The loss of great numbers of men from the same towns and villages had a profound impact on those at home. The first day was an abject failure and the following weeks and months of conflict assumed the nature of wearing-down warfare, a war of attrition, by the end of which both the attackers and defenders were totally exhausted.

The Battle of the Somme can be broken down into 12 offensive operations:

  • Albert: 1 – 13 July
  • Bazantin Ridge: 14 – 17 July
  • Delville Wood: 15 July – 13 September
  • Pozieres Ridge: 15 July – 3 September
  • Guillemont: 23 July – 3 September
  • Ginchy: 9 September
  • Courcelette: 15 – 22 September
  • Morval: 25 – 28 September
  • Thiepval: 25 – 28 September
  • Le Transloy: 1 – 18 October
  • Ancre Heights: 1 October – 11 November
  • Ancre: 13 – 18 November

Adverse weather conditions i.e. the autumn rains and early winter sleet and snow turned the battlefield into morass of mud.  Such intolerable physical conditions helped to bring to an end Allied offensive operations after four and a half months of slaughter.  The fighting brought no significant breakthrough.  Territorial gain was a strip of land approximately 20 miles wide by 6 miles deep, at enormous cost.  British and Commonwealth forces were calculated to have 419,654 casualties, the dead, wounded and missing of which some 131,000 were dead.  French casualties amounted to 204,253.  German casualties were estimated between 450,000 to 600,000.  In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

 The Battle of Le Transloy: the 8th Phase of the Battle of the Somme 1916.

 This action commenced 1 October 1916.  The village of Eaucourt L’Abbaye was captured and the attack is notable for the action of Lieut.-Col. R. B. Bradford who was awarded the Victoria Cross.

For the attack 151 Brigade consisted of 1/6DLI, a composite battalion made up of 1/5 Border Regiment and 1/8DLI and 1/5 Northumberland Fusiliers, attached from 49 Brigade.  The 1/6DLI suffering in the wake of 1/7 London’s lack of success had their right flank exposed and only gained a footing in Flers Trench.  Their commanding officer was wounded so 1/9 DLI, who were in support, came up and rallied the front troops and by 9.30pm elements of both battalions had secured Flers Trench.  In the centre and on the left the composite Battalion and 1/5 NF captured the Flers Lines with little difficulty.

The following extract describes operations:

 “By dawn all preparations, including the alteration of watches to winter time, were completed for the attack, which had been ordered for the 1st October.

The preliminary bombardment commenced at 7.00am and continued till zero hour (3.15pm) when it changed to a barrage.  Unfortunately there were some casualties from shells falling short, the total casualties for the day being about 40, including the Commanding Officer wounded.  Lieut.-Col. R. B. Bradford, now commanding the 9th Battalion, asked for and was given permission to take command of the 2 Battalions and for his subsequent work that day was awarded the V. C.  He arrived at Battalion H.Q. at zero and at once went up to the front line.

The attack commenced at 3.15pm but partly on account of the failure of the 47th Division on the right and partly owing to the wire not being properly cut, the attackers were held up by machine gun fire and suffered heavy casualties.  After considerable fighting with bombs and rifles 3 Lewis gun teams of X Company, under 2nd Lieut. T. Little and 2nd Lieut. C.L. Tyerman and one team of W Company under 2nd Lieut. Barnett succeeded in getting a footing in the first objective.  During these operations Lieut.-Col. Bradford arrived on the scene and immediately took charge of the situation and under his direction and leadership the whole of the first objective was gained.  A Company of the 9th Battalion then came up and using the new position as a starting point advanced and took the final objective after dark.

About dusk a counter-attack was attempted by the enemy on the front right.  Advancing in extended order, about 20 of the enemy were challenged and they all cheered, shouting “Hooray”.  As they showed no further friendly signs they were fired on and driven off.  During the night a further counter attack developed from the valley on the right but this was also repulsed.

The following day, by organised bombing, the whole of the final objective was captured and held and communication trenches were dug back to North Durham Street.

The casualties during the 2 days had been very heavy and included amongst the officers, in addition to those already mentioned 2nd Lieut. Peacock killed and 2nd Lieut. Lean, Capt. Peberdy, Lieut. Cotching, 2nd Lieut. Barnett and 2nd Lieut. Appleby wounded.  Amongst the decorations gained were Military Medals awarded to Corporal Dixon and Privates Rushford and Atkinson, all signallers, and Private Turnbull of X Company.  Good work was also done by Sergeants Gowland and Winslow.

On the night of the 2nd October Lieut.-Col. Bradford handed over the command of the Battalion to Lieut. Ebsworth, and it was relieved by the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers the night after.” [14]

 The 6/DLI War Diary for October 1916 (Vol. 19) is brief on detail:

“Somme 1916 Oct.1 At 1am summer time altered back to normal by putting clock back 1 hour, this is to 12 midnight. 2Lieut Yaldwyn (Sniping Officer) attached to Y Company for duty.  Commanding Officer saw all Company Commanders at 3am to talk over details of the attack.  Completed jumping off trenches about dawn and occupied them in battle order by 6am.  60 men (draft and details) brought up from the Transport Lines to act as Carrying Party for the battalion.  Artillery bombardment of German trenches from 7am to 3.15pm. 2Lieut. Yaldwyn wounded about noon.  The Commanding Officer Major Wilkinson wounded about 1.30pm.  Lt. Colonel Bradford of the 9th Durham L.I. took over command of the Battalion for the period of the operations.

3.15pm Assault delivered. 1st objective gained ?on the left later on the right also. 2nd Lieuts ? Cotching, Barnett & Appleby wounded.

Considerable amount of hostile Machine Gun fire from the right during the attack.  German trenches not much damaged by Artillery fire.  Block established on the right as troops on the right had not obtained their objective.  1 Company of the Durham L.I. sent up to re-inforce.  About midnight 2nd objective was gained by combined assault.

2  German bombing attack on our 2nd line right repulsed in the early morning.  Fairly quiet day but wet.  During the night of the 2/3rd 6 Durham L.I. and 9 Durham L.I. relieved by 7 Northumberland Fusiliers.

Relief completed about 4-30am.  Lt. Colonel Bradford ceased to be in command and Lieut. Ebworth assumed command of the battalion.  Battalion moved to Starfish Line.  At 1pm Battalion moved off by platoons at 150 paces interval to BECOURT wood where it took up quarters it had previously occupied there

Wet morning – spent in packing up.  Battalion moved at 11-45am by platoons to HENENCOURT WOOD, arriving about 4pm, having had dinners en route.  Good camp.  All battalion in tents.”  [15]

 There is no summary of casualties for the month of October in the war diary.  Private J.C. Lee died of wounds 1 October 1916.  There were 65 casualties, 2 officers and 63 other ranks died between 1 and 3 October 1916.

The 2 officers killed in action were:

  • 1 October – 2/Lt William Little.
  • 2 October – 2/Lt David Ronald Peacock.

Other Ranks:

  • 1 October – 48 other ranks killed in action, 1 died of wounds, Private J.C. Lee.
  • 2 October – 8 other ranks killed in action, 5 died of wounds.
  • 3 October – 1 other rank died of wounds. [16]

Private J.C. Lee was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals. [17]

Burial

Private J.C. Lee is buried at grave reference VIII.J.12 Warlencourt British Cemetery.  Warlencourt village is 5km south west of Bapaume, Pas de Calais, France.  The cemetery was made in 1919 when graves were brought in from 5 small cemeteries and the battlefields of Warlencourt and Le Sars.  The cemetery now contains 3,505 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War, 1,823 unidentified and 1,682 identified.  Warlencourt Cemetery holds 121 DLI burials, casualties who lost their lives in actions of October and November 1916 including the following who died 1 October 1916:

  • 4106 Private J. Holliday, at grave ref. VIII.H.9 and also commemorated on Cockfield War Memorial.
  • 3506 Private Robert William Gray, at grave ref. VIII.A.1 of Etherley Dene, Bishop Auckland.

Other local men to have been killed in action or died of wounds in these actions were:

  • 4463 Lance Corporal Charles Lowther, of Butterknowle, killed in action 1 October 1916.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial and Butterknowle War Memorial.
  • 3974 Private Robert William Wallace, of Cockfield, killed in action 1 October 1916.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Cockfield War Memorial and the memorial plaque in the Primitive Methodist Church, Cockfield.
  • 3914 Private John Alfred Wardle, born at Lands, killed in action 1 October 1916.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial and Chilton War Memorial.
  • 3429 Private Fred Brunskill of High Etherley, at grave ref.VIII.B.11 Warlencourt British Cemetery who died 5 November and is commemorated on Etherley War Memorial.
  • 2211 Corporal Ralph Hebdon of St. Helen’s at grave ref.VIII.B.6 Warlencourt British Cemetery who died 5 November 1916 and is commemorated on the St. Helen’s Colliery War Memorial Cottage.
  • 1672 Private Alfred Brown, born at Evenwood, at grave ref. VIII.B.7 Warlencourt British Cemetery who died 5 November 1916 and is commemorated on the memorial in St. Mary’s Church, Staindrop.
  • 3472 Serjeant George Thomas Cox of Evenwood, killed in action 5 November 1916.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial and Evenwood War Memorial.
  • 3124 Private Robert Wilson of West Auckland, killed in action 5 November 1916.   He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the Roll of Honour in West Auckland Memorial Hall and West Auckland War Memorial.[18]

It is highly probable that these service men would have been known to each other, coming from such tightly knit communities as they did.

References:

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=241614

[2] Cockfield Council School Admissions Register

[3] 1901 census

[4] England & Wales Death Index Vol.10a p.143 Teesdale Durham 1898 Q1

[5] Cockfield Council School Admissions Register

[6] 1911 census

[7] England & Wales Marriage Index Vol.10a p.447 Auckland Durham 1913 Q4

[8] CWGC

[9] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[10] www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm & http://www.1915-1918.net/50div.htm

[11] http://www.warparth.orbat,com/battles

[12] Medal Roll card index

[13] Various sources including http://www.1914-1918.net; Peter Hart “The Somme” 2005; John Keegan “The First World War” 1998

[14] Capt. Ainsworth “The 6th Battalion DLI in the Great War & H. Moses “The Faithfull Sixth”

[15] National Archives Catalogue Reference: WO/95/2840

[16] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[17] Medal Roll card index

[18] CWGC

Photographs:

LEE J.C.  Headstone

LEE J.C.
Headstone

LEE J.C.   Medal Roll

LEE J.C.
Medal Roll

2 thoughts on “Lee J.C.

  1. Pingback: COCKFIELD | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

  2. Pingback: Cockfield Schools: Some Details | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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