39208 Private Ernest Robinson, 7th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment, was killed in action 13 May 1917 and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, France.[1]  He was 22 years old and is commemorated on the Shildon War Memorial.

Family Details

 Ernest was born c.1895 at Evenwood the son of John and Mary Ada Robinson.  There were at least 7 children all born at Evenwood:[2]

  • Elizabeth bc.1886
  • Alice bc.1887
  • Cicily bc.1889
  • Ether bc.1892
  • Ernest bc.1895
  • Meggie bc.1897
  • Herbert bc.1898

The 1891 census indicates that John and Mary Robinson lived at Stones End, Evenwood with their 3 young children Elizabeth aged 5, Alice aged 4 and Cicily aged 2.  The Robinson family lived at Evenwood until 1898 at least.[3]  By 1901 the family lived at 9 Back Garbutt’s Buildings, Shildon.  John aged 39 worked as a coal miner [hewer].[4]  By 1911, John and Mary lived at the Club House, Front Street, Shildon, presumably being the club stewards.  Ernest now aged 16 was an assistant butcher.  [5]

Military Details

The service record of 39208 Private Ernest Robinson has not been researched therefore the date he enlisted and the date he went to France is unknown.  He did not enter France until after 31 December 1915 since he was not awarded the 1914-15 Star.[6]  He enlisted at Bishop Auckland and joined the Yorkshire Regiment [also known as the Green Howards] and was allocated the regimental number 39208.  [7]

The 7th (Service) Battalion was formed in September 1914 at Richmond and attached to the 50th Brigade of the 17th (Northern Division).  It was disbanded February 1918.[8]

The 50th Brigade also included:

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

The early days were chaotic.  Initially, the volunteers had few trained officers and NCO’s to command them, no billets or equipment but by early summer 1915, the Division was considered to be ready for France.

12 – 17 July 1915:  the Division landed in France and served with distinction on the Western Front for the remainder of the war taking part in most of the significant actions.  The initial period was spent holding the front lines in the southern area of the Ypres Salient.  It was involved in the first phase of the Battle of the Somme 1916 and then the Battle of Arras 1917.  In total, the Division suffered more than 40,200 casualties during the war.  Demobilisation was completed by May 1919.[9]

The Battle of Arras 1917: an overview [10]

9 April:  This offensive began on a 22½ km front following a 5 day artillery bombardment from 2,800 guns.  The 14 Commonwealth Divisions outnumbered the enemy but having withdrawn to the heavily fortified Hindenburg Line in the spring of that year, the German defences were strong.  In the north, the 4 Divisions of the Canadian Corps fighting side by side for the first time suffered heavy losses but scored a great victory with the capture of Vimy Ridge.  In the centre near Arras, there was an advance of 5 km but south of the river Scarpe, very little progress was made and the Australians suffered many casualties at Bullecourt 11 April.

23 & 24 April:  The arrival of German reserves and the launch of the French offensive on the Aisne [16 April] delayed the second phase of the attack when fierce fighting resulted in a further 1½ km advance.

3 May:  The action was renewed but further gains were negligible.  The French campaign did not go well.

By the time the action was brought to a close by the end of May, Commonwealth casualties had reached almost 170,000 dead, missing or wounded.

The offensive involved the following actions, amongst others: [11]

  • 9 – 14 April:  The Battle of Vimy
  • 9 – 14 April:  The First Battle of the Scarpe
  • 23 & 24 April:  The Second Battle of the Scarpe
  • 23 April:  Subsiduary action: the attack on La Coulette
  • 28 & 29 April:  The Battle of Arleux
  • 3 & 4 May:  The Third Battle of the Scarpe
  • 13 & 14 May:  Subsequent action: the capture of Roeux [12]

The actions of the 7th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment [13]

1 & 2 May:  the Brigade moved to Arras.

9 & 11 May:  the 17th Division took over the front held by the 9th Division in trenches north of the Scarpe.

11 May:  night, “B” & “C” Companies moved into Clover Trench and “A” was in Cushion Trench then “B” & “C” moved forward to new assembly trenches with “A” & “D” taking their place.

12 May:  6.30 am, the 4th and 17th Divisions joined an attack along the whole front.  The objective of the 17th was to advance to Cupid, Curly and Cash Trenches then onto Charlie Trench.  The 50th Brigade operated on the right with 7th Green Howards on the right and the 7th East Yorks. on the left.

“The attacking companies went forward under a very effective shrapnel barrage in two waves of two companies each “B” Company on the right of the first wave and “A” on the right of the second, each wave being composed of two lines.  “A” and “D” Companies detailed a mopping up party, consisting of one officer and 30 men from each, to clear Crook Trench which ran roughly at right angles to their objective.  Dust and smoke from the barrage made observation impossible once the attack was launched.

At 7.30am a message was received from Lieut. H.A. Wilkinson that Capt. R.W.S. Croft, “C” Company had been killed and that all objectives had been gained with the exception of the junction of Curly, Cupid and Crook Trenches and that the troops were consolidating the position.  Touch was maintained with the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade on the right but the left had been unable to gain their objective.  Further attempts were made to secure this trench junction but by dusk it was unoccupied by either side.”

This situation was confirmed by Second Lieut. Collins.  At 10.30pm Second Lieut. Fox led a bombing attack and established a block in Curly Trench, north of the junction and after encountering very heavy opposition eventually succeeded in occupying the junction.

13 May:

“Incessant fighting continued all next day in the neighbourhood of the “stop” in Curly Trench.  The battalion held its own however and was ably assisted by the Stokes mortar battery firing from Crook Trench.  At 10.00pm an attempt was made to push forward northwards in Curly Trench in conjunction with an above ground attack by the 7th East Yorks. Regt.  This attack failed but Lieut. H.A. Wilkinson seconded 2/Lieut. E.V. Fox by dint of hard fighting made their way yard by yard to 100 yards beyond the “stop”.  This success was only temporary and the enemy forced us to yield ground eventually leaving us with a net gain of only a quarter of that distance.  Wilkinson and Fox were severely wounded and only 3 officers were left with the companies after this operation.  The men in the front line were becoming very exhausted and there was a shortage of drinking water.”

14 May:  4.00am, the remnants of “A” Company withdrew to the Fampoux-Gavelle line and were relieved by the Dorsets.  The 3 remaining companies stayed with the Dorsets to which they were temporarily attached being heavily shelled by 4.2 and 5.9 inch shells.

15 May:  2.30am, “B”, “C” & “D” Companies were relieved by a company of the 7th Lincolns of the 51st Brigade.  The Battalion had gone into the trenches on the 9th May with 18 offices and 436 OR’s and came out on the 15th with 5 officers and 228 OR’s.


  • Killed:  4 officers and 23 OR’s
  • Wounded:  9 officers and 130 non commissioned officers and men
  • Missing:  42 men
  • Total Casualties:  208

Private E. Robinson was killed in action 13 May, has no known grave therefore it is assumed that he was recoded as one of the 42 missing men.  Later research confirms that that 1 officer and 26 OR’s were killed in action 13 May 1917.[14]  Private E. Robinson was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[15]

It was in this action that a V.C. was gained, 242697 Private T. Dresser, “B” Company:

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty

Private Dresser, in spite of being twice wounded on the way and suffering great pain, succeeded in conveying an important message from Battalion Headquarters to the front line of the trenches which he eventually reached in an exhausted condition.  His fearlessness and determination to deliver this message at any cost proved of the greatest value to his Battalion at a critical period.” [16]


 The Arras Memorial stands in the Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery in Arras and it commemorates 35,000 servicemen from Britain, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between spring 1916 and August 1918 who have no known grave.  It was unveiled in 1932.[17]

Shildon War Memorial

 Major General F. A. Dudgeon C.B. G.C.C. 50th Northumbrian Division unveiled the Shildon War Memorial on the 13th October 1923.  The cost was £875 and the money was raised by public subscription.  There are 255 names commemorated from the Great War and 137 from the Second World War.[18]


[1] CWGC

[2] 1901 census

[3] 1891 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] Medal Roll

[7] SDGW



[10] CWGC



[13] “The Green Howards in the Great War” H.C. Wylly 1926 p241 – 243

[14] SDGW

[15] Medal Roll

[16] Wylly 1926 p241 – 243 & London Gazette 27 June 1917

[17] CWGC

[18] NE War Memorials Project




Robinson E.  Detail

Robinson E.

Shildon War Memorial

Shildon War Memorial