Moses W.A.

WILLIAM ALDERSON MOSES (1897 – 1918)

 220168 Private William Alderson Moses, 7th Battalion, The East Yorkshire Regiment was killed in action 8 June 1918 and is buried in Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery Number 1, Auchonvillers, France.[1]  He was 21 years old and is commemorated on Evenwood and Etherley War Memorials.

Family Details:

William Alderson Moses was born 1896 [2] at Bishop Auckland the son of Robert and Elizabeth Moses.  There were at least 6 children, all born at Bishop Auckland:

  • Emily bc. 1895
  • William Alderson bx.1897
  • Ethel bc.1899
  • Beatrice Ann born 1901
  • Robert Norman bc. 1904
  • John Joseph bc.1906

In 1901, the family then lived at Etherley Lane near the Bay Horse Inn where William’s father Robert worked as a “coal miner: stoneman.”[3]  By 1911, the family lived at Wind Mill, near the hamlet of Morley in the Parish of Evenwood and Barony. [4]

Service Details:

 William Moses enlisted at Bishop Auckland into the Yorkshire Regiment and was allocated the regimental number 204893.  At a later date he was transferred to the 7th battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment and given the regimental number 22016.  [5]

The service details of Private W. A. Moses have not been researched so the date he enlisted and transfer from the Yorkshire Regiment to the East Yorkshires is unknown however the Medal Roll indicates that he did not enter France until after 31st December 1915 since he was not awarded the 1914 or 1914-15 Star.

The 7th Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment.  It was formed 7 September 1914 as part of K2 and attached to the 50th Brigade, 17th (Northern) Division.[6]  Other units were:

  • 10th (Service) Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment
  • 7th (Service) Battalion, the Yorkshire (joined September 1914 disbanded February 1918)
  • 6th (Service) Battalion, the Dorset Regiment (joined March 1915)
  • 7th (Service) Battalion, the York and Lancaster (joined August 1914, left March 1915)
  • 50th Brigade Machine Gun Company (joined 12 February 1916, moved into 17th MG Battalion 24 February 1918)
  • 50th Trench Mortar Battery (joined 25 June 1916)

12 – 17 July 1915: The Division landed in France and served with distinction on the western Front throughout the war taking part in most significant actions.  The initial part was spent with trench familiarisation then holding the front lines in the southern area of the Ypres Salient.  The Division suffered more than 42,200 casualties during the war.  Demobilisation was completed by May 1919. [7]

The German Spring Offensive:

First Phase 21 March to 5 April 1918

Often called “the Kaiserschlacht” the offensive was Germany’s last big effort to win the war before the arrival of American troops.  The U.S.A had declared war on Germany 6 April 1917 but it naturally took time to build up forces and prepare them for battle.  The Russians had signed for peace with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in December 1917 so the Germans could now transfer their battle hardened troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front and prepare to attack the Allied forces.

The German plan, Operation Michael was to punch through the British and French Armies at St. Quentin, cut through the Somme and then wheel north-west to cut the British lines of communication behind the Artois fronts to bottle up the BEF in the narrow neck of Flanders.  The British Army would be surrounded with no means of escape and would inevitable surrender.  The target of the first phase of the offensive was the British Army who the German High Command believed to be exhausted by the four major efforts of 1917, namely Arras, Messines, Passchendaele and Cambrai.

By mid February 1918, there were 177 German Divisions in France and Flanders out of their world wide total of 241.  Of these, 110 were in the front line of which 50 faced the short British front.  A further 67 were in reserve with 31 facing the BEF.  The British had 62 under strength divisions defending a recently extended front line.

At the same time as the German forces were growing, the British Army was depleted having faced a manpower crisis during the second half of 1917.  Lloyd George produced official figures to confirm that there were some 324,000 additional men on the Western Front (i.e. British and Dominion forces) giving a total of 1,850,967 on 1 January 1918 as opposed to 1,526,182 on 1 January 1917 but the effective fighting strength had fallen by as much as 7% in the year.

The immense German attack of 21 March 1918 enjoyed a numerical superiority of 56 Divisions against 16. German superiority was overwhelming.

The Second Phase of the First Battles of the Somme 1918:

The First Battle of Bapaume

Along with the 2nd, 12th, 47th & 63rd Divisions, the 17th Division formed the V Corps, part of the Third Army which were involved in this action 24 and 25 March 1918, the First Battle of Bapaume which was part of the German Spring Offensive.  The next significant action, in which the 17th Division was involved was in early August 1918, the Battle of Amiens.  But, the Battle of the Aisne commenced 27 May and continued until 6 June, to the south of the front which the 17th Division occupied.

The War Diary [8] records that the 50th Infantry Brigade embarked upon a route march 1 June 1918 from Bleue Maison to L’Owerstel to Serques to Moulle.  From noon 3 June the enemy continued the practise of night-time shelling (trench mortars) together with machine-gun and rifle fire through to 14 June.  The Brigade responded with occasional shelling at day and night on positions behind the line and the village of Fricourt.  Work continued on a front line trench and an advance trench, preparing fire steps and bays.  The support line, Kingston Road was repaired to drain communication trenches leading to the front line.  Private W. A. Moses was killed in action 8 June 1918.  There were 13 other ranks serving with 7/EYR killed in action or died of wounds on that day.  Enemy artillery was particularly active 14 and 15 June and it was noted that:

“Machine-guns were traversed more than usual and rifle fire appeared to be well aimed as if night snipers were at work.”

 It seems that the battalion was under constant attack, particularly during hours of darkness.  Whilst the exact circumstances of the death of Private W.A. Moses are unknown it seems reasonable to assume that he was killed as a direct result of hostile enemy actions such as shell fire or machine-gun/rifle fire.

Since Private W.A. Moses is buried near Auchenvillers, to the north of Fricourt with others from the 50th Brigade, it is assumed that either the Brigade held trenches here or there were hospital facilities in this area.

Private W.A. Moses was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[9]

Burial

Private William Alderson Moses is buried at grave reference B.52 Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery No.1 Auchonvillers, Somme, France.  This cemetery was made by the V Corps when the Ancre battlefield was cleared in the spring of 1917.  Almost all fell on 1 July or 13 November 1916 but some in the cemetery died in June and July 1918 including Privates W.A. Moses and W. Fenby, both 7/EYR who are buried next to each other.  Others buried here who also died 8 June 1918 are:

  • 27878 Lance Corporal H. W. Cox, the Dorset Regiment
  • 19316 Private H. V. Webber, the Dorset

Both of whom served with 6/Dorsets and in the same Brigade as 7/EYR.[10]

References:

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.259 Auckland 1896Q4

[3] 1901 census

[4] 1911 census

[5] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[6] http://www.1914-1918.net/eastyorks.htm

[7] http://www.1914-1918.net/17div.htm

[8] War Diary 7th battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment 31May – 17 June 1918

[9] Medal Roll card index

[10] CWGC

Photographs:

The Moses Family
William in uniform

MOSES W.A. Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery No.1 Auchonvilliers

MOSES W.A.
Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery No.1
Auchonvillers

MOSES W.A. Headstone

MOSES W.A.
Headstone

2 thoughts on “Moses W.A.

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

  2. Pingback: EVENWOOD | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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