RAINE Robert 1883 – 1916

ROBERT RAINE 1883 – 1916

175601 Sapper Robert Raine, 258th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers was killed in action 15 October 1916, aged 34.  He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, France[1] and the Witton Park war memorials.

Family Details

Thomas Robert Raine was born 1883 [2] at Fylands Bridge, Bishop Auckland.[3]  It is likely that his parents were Joseph and Alice Raine and there were 6 children:[4]

  • Barbara bc.1876 at Escomb
  • Mary E. bc. 1879 at Escomb
  • Thomas bc.1880 at Escomb[5]
  • Thomas Robert bc.1884 at Fylands Bridge
  • Alice bc.1886 at Fylands Bridge
  • Jane Hannah bc.1889 at Sunnybrow

In 1881, the family lived at Bowman’s Yard, Escomb and Joseph worked as a coal miner.[6]  In 1891, the family lived at Thornley Road Ends, Tow Law and 35 years old Joseph worked as a coal miner.[7]  Joseph Raine died about 1900, aged 46.[8]  In 1901, widowed Alice lived at Thompson Street, Witton Park with 17 years old Robert and 12 years old Jane.  There is no record of Robert’s employment.[9]  In 1907 Thomas Robert Raine married Mary Ann Kennedy.[10]  Evidently, he was known as Robert [11] and they had 4 children:[12]

  • Barbara Ann born 2 May 1907 at Escomb
  • Joseph born 21 July 1909 at Escomb
  • Ethel born 9 October 1910 at Stockley (near Oakenshaw)
  • William born 10 October 1911

In 1911, Robert and Mary Ann Raine and their 3 children lived at 43 Single Row, Oakenshaw near Willington, County Durham where 26 years old Robert worked as a coal miner (hewer).[13]  When he enlisted, it is recorded that he lived at Byers Green Colliery.[14]  In May 1917, Mary Ann Raine lived at 18 Garden Street, Witton Park[15].  In 1919, Mary Ann Raine remarried to Philip Fenwick[16] and lived at 71 Garden Street, Witton Park.[17]

Military Details

The service records of Sapper Robert Thomas Raine have not been traced.  Robert Raine enlisted into the Royal Army Service Corps being given the service number R/4/089473.  The prefix R4 indicates that he served with ASC Remounts, this service was responsible for the provisioning of horses and mules to all other army units.  He transferred to the Royal Engineers, 258th Tunnelling Company (258 Coy RE) and was allocated the service number 175601.[18]  The date he was transferred is not known.

Royal Engineers’ Cap Badge

The following account briefly chronicles the work of the 258 Coy RE from its formation in May 1916 to November 1916 and provides the background and circumstances surrounding Sapper Robert Raines’s death.[19]

In April 1916, the 258th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers was formed at Rouen under Captain W.A Pope.  1 May, they proceeded to the First Army, 11 officers and 50 NCOs and men.  5 May, they were joined by 294 infantrymen for fatigue work and were billeted at Bracquemont, near Noeux-les-Mines, northern France.  Two sections commenced work at Hill 70 under the care of 173rd Coy RE, the other two took over at Chalk Pits sector.  100 men from R.S.F. joined 18 May. [20]      

19 May, Lieutenant F. Bell was the first casualty, hospitalised as a result of a fragment from a rifle grenade causing a chest wound but a more serious incident occurred 26 May when the Germans exploded a camouflet[21] opposite No.23 Mine.  Five men were killed by gas and 2 were missing.  The British miners retaliated 10 June, blowing a mine resulting in a crater 30’ across and 25’ deep.  On the 12th, the Germans hit back by detonating 2 camouflets, then another the following day.  3 men were killed.  A 1500 lbs. ammonal charge was fired by the British on the 25th amidst German shelling of the trenches.

This exchange of “blows” continued through July, 4th the British fired a 2500 lbs. mine; 6th and 13th, the Germans replied with more camouflets, 1 man was killed; 14th and 15th the British exploded 2 charges.  On the 31 July, the company received reinforcements – 122 tunnellers and 92 tunnellers’ mates.  If Sapper Robert Raine was not part of the original company, he would have been one of this draft.

August brought much of the same – on the 3rd an enemy camouflet was fired, on the 6th a mine incline was blown in by trench mortars and 1 man was killed, on the 9th Chalk Pit was blown, 14th another camouflet caused the death of another 5 men.  On the 21st, the British fired a mine but, by all accounts, it did not inconvenience the enemy too much.

September 3, the enemy blew a heavy charge but there were no casualties since their work was audible and the British galleries and trenches were evacuated in anticipation of the explosion.  Clearing work over the next few days was hampered by the presence of gas.  On the 18th, the British fired a 6000 lbs of ammonal charge; the response came 3 days later on the 22nd, when a small camouflet was blown – there were no casualties; another British mine was blown on the 22nd. 

A report into the action of the 18th stated that there was,

“urgent need to blow a charge, as enemy had reached striking distance of our trench.”

The gallery was filled with gas coming from broken ground.  14 miners wearing Proto Apparatus worked from a vertical shaft 80’ deep and a gallery 3’ x 2½’ (Proto Apparatus is self-contained breathing apparatus comprising a chest mounted canvas covered breathing bag, oxygen cylinders, supply tubes, a nose clip, a mouth piece and a skull cap.)  Sapper Trueman, Corporal McDougall, Lance Corporal Lynch and Sergeant Lambert were signalled out for praise. [22]

In October, the British exploded a mine in No.3 Mine.  On the 15th:

“At 12.30AM Enemy blew a big mine between No.3 & No.28 Mines.  Much damage was done, No.3 Mine Shaft destroyed.  No.23 closed & No.22 R closed for 80 feet, we lost Infantry Working Party 8 killed, Trench Garrison nil, RE 12 killed.”

On the 16th, No.21 Mine was gassed; on the 19th a 5000lbs of ammonal charge was blown by British miners; on the 23rd the Germans raided Cameron Alley, there was little damage and on the 24th, 6 men were wounded by a small gas explosion in No.21 Mine. 

7 November: It was reported that No.3 Australian Mining Company was to relieve the 258 Coy RE and it was to join the Fourth Army.

10 November:  The company left Noeux-les-Mines at 6.30pm

11 November: It arrived at Belvue Farm Camp, Albert on the Somme.

The War Diary reported that 12 RE men were killed 15 August 1916.  175601 Sapper Robert Raine, 258th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers was killed in action on this day.  Other sappers serving with 258 Coy RE who died on this day included 158513 H. Allen, 158551 W. Copestake, 86132 J. McCain, 175597 G. Peacock,  175577 J. Wilson,[23] 86132 J. McCall and 132192 W. Salmon .[24]   Of these men, 2 have burials – Sappers H. Allen and J.P. Wilson lie in Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe.  Sappers W. Copestake, J. McCall, G. Peacock, R. Raine and W. Salmon have no known grave and are commemorated on the Loos Memorial.  To date, I have not traced a resting place for 86132 Joe McCain, (formerly 5064, Irish Guards) born May, Co. Tyrone, Ireland [25] or the names of the other 4 RE casualties for this day.

Awards and Medals

Sapper Robert T. Raine was awarded the Victory and British War medals.[26]

Medal Roll Card Index


Sapper Robert T. Raine’s widow Mary Ann received his effects [27] and pension.[28]


Sapper Private R. Raine has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial located in Loos-en-Gohelle, Pas de Calais.  The memorial forms the side and back of Dud Corner Cemetery.  It commemorates over 20,000 officers and men who have no known grave who fell in the area from the River Lys to the old southern boundary of the First Army, east and west of Grenay.  The name “Dud Corner” is believed to be due to the large number of unexploded enemy shells found in the neighbourhood after the Armistice.  On either side of the cemetery is a wall 15ft. high, to which are fixed tablets on which are inscribed the names of those commemorated.  There are 20,597 identified casualties.  [29]

Dud Corner Cemetery with the Loos Memorial along the back wall


Robert Raine was born 1883 at Fylands Bridge, near Bishop Auckland, lived at Escomb, Tow Law and Witton Park and worked as a coal miner.  He was married to Mary and they had 4 children.  He enlisted into the Army Service Corps Remounts before transferring to the 258th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers.  The unit worked in the Loos sector in northern France.  Aged 34, Sapper R. Raine was killed in action 15 October 1916 when he and 11 others were working at the face and the Germans blew a mine.  He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.  Robert left a widow and 4 children.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.188 Auckland 1883 Q4 Note: His full name was Thomas Robert Raine.  Soldiers Died in the Great War (SDGW) record that Robert Raine was born at Fylands Bridge, which is Bishop Auckland, County Durham which seems to be this person.  There is another Robert Raine who lived at Witton Park bc.1883, the son of Thomas and Mary Raine but significantly, he was born at Witton Park, not Fylands Bridge. 

[3] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[4] 1881, 1891 & 1901 census

[5] In 1882, a Thomas Robert Raine’s death was registered at Auckland aged 1 year.  Source: England & Wales Death Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.108 Auckland 1882 Q1

[6] 1881 census

[7] 1891 census

[8] England & Wales Death Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.135 Auckland 1900 Q1

[9] 1901 census

[10] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.337 Auckland 1907 Q1

[11] See 1911 census return were Robert is clearly the lead name & Pension Claimant’s card index where Thomas has been added later & both the St. Paul’s church and War Memorial Institute tablet have R. Raine rather than T.R. Raine.

[12] Pension Claimant’s card index

[13] 1911 census

[14] SDGW

[15] Pension Claimant card index

[16] England & Wales Marriage Index Vol.10 p.598 Auckland 1919 Q2

[17] CWGC

[18] SDGW & Medal Roll card index

[19] 258th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers War Diaries, National Archives Catalogue reference: WO 95/406/4

[20] “Tunnellers: The Story of the Tunnelling Companies, Royal Engineers, during the World War” 1936 Captain W. Grant-Grieve and Bernard Newman p.109

[21] Camouflet – a mine so charged and place that its detonation will destroy enemy mining tunnels and/or an underground or sub surface explosion of a bomb or shell that leaves a sealed pocket of smoke or gas.

[22] 258th Tunnelling Company R.E. Report on Charging and Tamping a gassed mine HILL 60 September 1916” 22 September 1916 G. Williams Lieut.-Colonel R.E. Controller of Mines, First Army and supplementary reports.

[23] SDGW Note:  The war diary reported that there were another 6 RE men killed but, to date, I have not traced them.

[24] CWGC

[25] SDGW

[26] Medal Roll card index 

[27] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901 -1929 Record No.344998

[28] Pension Claimant card index

[29] CWGC