18/1748 Private Thomas Saltmarsh, 15th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 10 April 1917 and is buried at Cojeul British Cemetery, St. Martin-sur-Cojeul, France.[1]  He was about 23 years old and is commemorated on the memorial in St. Mary’s Church, Staindrop, County Durham.

Thomas’ older brother 16916 Company Serjeant Major Frederick Saltmarsh M.M., 13th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry died of wounds 18 October 1918 and is buried at Doingt Communal Cemetery Extension [2] and is commemorated on the memorial in St. Mary’s Church, Staindrop, County Durham.

Family Details

Thomas Saltmarsh was born 1894[3] at Shildon, County Durham the son of Fred and Elizabeth A. Saltmarsh.  There were at least 4 children:

  • Frederick P. born 1892[4] at Staindrop
  • Thomas born 1894 at Shildon
  • Annie H. born 1896[5] at Staindrop
  • Ernest born 1900[6] at Staindrop

In 1901, the family lived at Staindrop (near Staindrop Hall) and 31 year old Frederick worked as a coal miner (hewer). [7]  By 1911, the family lived at Church Street, Staindrop.  Fred was employed as a coal miner (hewer), 18 year old son Frederick as a coal miner (braker below ground) and 17 year old Thomas worked as a coal miner (driver below ground).

Thomas’ father Fred hailed from Latchingdon, Essex[8].  The family lived in the Purleigh Parish in the Ecclesiastical Parish of Rochester[9] and worked as agricultural labourers.  Thomas moved north to County Durham with his parents, Samuel and Elizabeth and his brothers Walter, Joseph and Samuel about 1883/84.  At that time there was a large scale migration of families from Essex to work at the brickworks at Butterknowle, County Durham although many men found work in the coal industry as miners or cokemen.  A terrace of houses at Butterknowle was in fact called Essex Row.

Service Details

Thomas Saltmarsh aged 21 years 4 months attested 9 August 1915 and joined the 18th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry being allocated the regimental number 18/1746.[10]  Thomas underwent a medical examination on that day.  He stood 5ft 7¼” tall and weighed 130lbs.[11]  Thomas was posted to 17/DLI 9 August 1915 then transferred to 15/DLI 26 April 1916.  Private T. Saltmarsh landed in Boulogne, France 26 April 1916 and joined his battalion in the field 7 May 1916.  He served with “B” Company and had a qualification, “Bombing.” [12]

The 15th (Service) Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was formed in September 1914 as part of K3, Kitchener’s New Army and came under the orders of the 64th Brigade, 21st Division.[13]  At this time, the 64th Brigade comprised:

  • 9th, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI)
  • 10th, KOYLI
  • 14th, Durham Light Infantry (DLI)
  • 1st, East Yorkshire Regiment (EYR)
  • 64th Machine Gun Company (MGC) joined 4 March 1916
  • 64th Trench Mortar Battery (TMB) joined 16 June 1916

The Division landed in France at Boulogne 11 September 1915 and served with distinction on the Western Front seeing action at the Battle of Loos, 25 September 1915. [14]  Private T. Saltmarsh did not enter France until 26 April 1916 therefore did not see action here.  Up until his death 10 April 1917, the Division was involved in the following actions. [15]

1916: The Battle of the Somme, the following phases: [16]

  • Albert: 1-13 July
  • Bazentin Ridge: 14-17 July
  • Flers-Courcelette: 15-22 September
  • Morval: 25-28 September
  • Le Transloy: 1-18 October

1917: [17]

The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line: 14 March-5 April and The Arras Offensive, The First Battle of the Scarpe, 9-14 April.

The First Battle of the Scarpe: a summary

The Battle of Arras opened in the early morning, 9 April 1917.  The major British assault of the first day was directly east of Arras, with the 12th Division attacking Observation Ridge, north of the Arras—Cambrai road.  After reaching this objective, they were to push on towards Feuchy, as well as the second and third lines of German trenches. At the same time, elements of the 3rd Division began an assault south of the road, with the taking of Devil’s Wood, Tilloy-lès-Mofflaines and the Bois des Boeufs as their initial objectives.  The ultimate objective of these assaults was the Monchyriegel, a trench running between Wancourt and Feuchy and an important component of the German defences.  Most of these objectives, including Feuchy village, had been achieved by the evening of 10 April though the Germans were still in control of large sections of the trenches between Wancourt and Feuchy, particularly in the area of the heavily fortified village of Neuville-Vitasse.  The following day, troops from the 56th Division were able to force the Germans out of the village, although the Monchyriegel was not fully in British hands until a few days later.   The British were able to consolidate these gains and push forward towards Monchy-le-Preux, although they suffered heavy casualties in fighting near the village.

One reason for the success of the offensive in this sector was the failure of German commander von Falkenhausen to employ Ludendorff‘s new Elastic Defence.   In theory, the enemy would be allowed to make initial gains, thus stretching their lines of communication. Reserves held close to the battlefield would be committed once the initial advance had bogged down, before enemy reinforcements could be brought up.  The defenders would thus be able to counter-attack and regain any lost territory. In this sector, however, von Falkenhausen kept his reserve troops too far from the front and they were unable to arrive in time for a useful counter-attack on either 10 or 11 April. [18]

15/DLI: in action [19]

9 April:  The 64th Brigade did not attack until about 4pm.  “C” Company on the right.  “D” Company on the left led the advance.  “B” and “A” Companies followed in support.  “C” Company took the first German trench and joined up with the East Yorkshires on the right.  “D” Company was held up.  Machine gun fire prevented the advance of 9/KOYLI and bombing action led by Second Lieutenant K.H. Saunders took 300 yards of trench but failed to quieten the machine gun.

““B” and “C” Companies had now arrived but in passing through the gaps in the German wire they had been caught by a very heavy barrage….Ordered to attack the German second line, these companies found the captured first trench wide and difficult to cross…further advance was impossible without fresh artillery preparation….The work of consolidating the captured trench went steadily on.  Enemy bombers made a decided inroad upon the left flank and Capt. S.D. Thorpe, now in command of the front line had a strong point constructed to meet this danger…..Three platoons of the battalion in reserve were pushed up as reinforcements…Thus passed the night.” [20]

10 April: at 5.00am another German bombing attack came down the trench from the left.  This was only repulsed after a fierce fight lasting an hour and a half.  Another counter attack from the left was repulsed.  At 7.15pm bombing was heard on the right and the East Yorkshires were seen retiring to the sunken road.  The isolated 15/DLI had to give up the trench they had won.  The 15/DLI was ordered to retire to the second line of assembly trenches.

Losses in the ranks amounted to 241.  Of the officers Second Lieutenant R. Weir was killed and 7 others wounded.  [21]  Private F. Saltmarsh was reported missing then killed in action 9/10 April 1917.  Later research records that 15/DLI lost 1 officer, Second Lieutenant R. Weir and 18 other ranks 9 April and 54 other ranks, killed in action or died of wounds 10 April 1917. [22]

Private T. Saltmarsh served a total of 1 year 246 days.[23]

  • Home: 9 August 1915 to 25 April 1916…………………261 days
  • France: 26 April 1916 to 10 April 1917…………………350 days

Private T. Saltmarsh was awarded the British War and Victory medals. [24]


Private Thomas Saltmarsh is buried at grave reference B.24 Cojeul British Cemetery, St. Martin-sur-Cojeul, south east of Arras, France.  The cemetery was commenced by the 21st Division in April 1917.  There are 349 burials. [25]


Private Thomas Saltmarsh is commemorated on the memorial in St. Mary’s Church, Staindrop, County Durham.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] CWGC

[3] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.193 Auckland 1894 Q2

[4] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.269 Auckland 1892 Q3

[5] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.261 Teesdale 1896 Q3

[6] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.285 Teesdale 1900 Q3

[7] 1901 census

[8] 1901 census

[9] 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 & 1891 census details

[10] Army Form B.2505

[11] Army Form B.178A

[12] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service


[14] http://www.warpath.orbat/battles_ff/1915.htm


[16] http://www.warpath.orbat/battles_ff/1916.htm

[17] http://www.warpath.orbat/battled_ff/1917.htm


[19] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18: The Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry” Capt. W. Miles 1920 p.135-137

[20] Miles p.136

[21] Miles p.137

[22] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[23] Military History Sheet

[24] Medal Roll card index

[25] CWGC





Medal Roll

SALTMARSH T. Headstone


Saltmarsh Staindrop Headstone

Staindrop Headstone