20942 Private William Siddle, 1st Battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers was killed in action 16 June 1915 and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.[1]  He was 22 years old and is commemorated on West Auckland War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, West Auckland Memorial Hall.

Family Details

William Siddle was born 1893 [2] the son of William and Rachel Siddle.  There were 4 children, all born at West Auckland: [3]

  • Elizabeth bc.1886
  • Margaret Siddle bc.1889
  • Mabel Siddle bc.1891
  • William Siddle born 1893

Presumably William died sometime between 1893 and 1896[4] and Rachel Siddle married Lancelot Bell in 1896.[5]  They had 3 children, all born at West Auckland: [6]

  • Lily Bell bc.1898
  • Mary Ena Bell bc.1900
  • Gladys Bell bc.1901

In 1901, the family lived at Low End, West Auckland and 45 year old Lancelot worked as a coal miner (hewer).[7]  By 1911, the family lived at St. Helen’s Auckland and 55 year old Lancelot was employed as a coal miner (hewer) and 18 year old William Siddle as a coal miner (putter). [8]  Later Lancelot and Rachel Bell lived at Rosedale House, St. Helen’s Auckland.[9]

Military Details

William Siddle enlisted at Bishop Auckland into the 1st Battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers being given the regimental number 20942.[10]  The Northumberland Fusiliers known as “The Fighting Fifth”[11] raised 51 battalions for service in the Great War, the second largest after the London Regiment.  The 1st Battalion was part of the 9th Brigade, 3rd Division and landed in France 14 August 1914.  Between 17 February and 2 April 1915, the Brigade temporarily came under the orders of 28th Division. [12]     The 9th Brigade in May/June 1915 comprised the following units:

  • 1st, the Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 4th, the Royal Fusiliers
  • 1st, the Lincolnshire Regiment
  • 1/10th, the King’s (Liverpool Regiment)

The Division saw much action during 1914 and the Winter Operations 1915-15 and between 14 August and 31 December 1914, 1st Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers lost 358 Other Ranks.  Private W. Siddle entered France 3 May[13] and he would have been a draft to re-inforce the depleted numbers of the battalion.  Private W. Siddle’s service record and the 1/NF War Diaries for May and June have not been researched.  Some details are:

4 April 1915: 9th Brigade occupied the sector in the southern quarter of the Ypres salient.

22 April: the smell of gas from shells dropped on the St. Julien front was detected by men of the 3rd Division.  Men soaked their woollen caps and scarves with urine as a desperate defence against gas.

3 May:  Private W. Siddle entered France.  The battalion remained at St. Eloi until 26 May 1915.

26 May: 1/NF was withdrawn to Ouderdon.

6 June: 1.NF bivouacked at a farm near Ouderdon in reserve.

In the 7 months since the beginning of the First Battle of Ypres, the battalion had taken over 600 casualties and not yet seen a single German face to face.[14]

Their next engagement was the First Attack on Bellewaarde 16 June 1915. [15]

16 June 1915: First Attack on Bellewaarde [16]

The Germans were able to overlook ground to the east of Ypres from Bellewaarde Ridge.  An operation was planned to capture the ridge and, at the same time, straighten out the line between Hooge and Railway Wood.

Eight lines of newly dug Jumping off trenches were located by the Germans and heavily shelled.  The assault was entrusted to the 7th and 9th Brigades.  The 1st line was made up with 4/Royal Fusiliers, 1/Royal Scots and the 1/Northumberland Fusiliers with 1/Wiltshires to cover the right of the attack.  The 2nd line: 1/10 King’s (Liverpool Scottish) and 1/Lincolnshire.  The 3rd and 4th lines: HAC, 2/Royal Irish Rifles, 3/Worcestershire and 1/4th South Lancashire. The first objective was the German front line; the second was the line of the road from Hooge to Bellewaarde Farm and the final third objective was the trench on the edge of the lake.

16 June:  2.30 – 4.14am, artillery bombardment.  When it lifted the infantry assaulted and captured the German front line.  157 prisoners were taken.  As soon as the 2nd line rose to occupy its positions, the Royal Irish Rifles in the 3rd line rushed forward.  They were followed by the HAC.  The 3rd line was in reserve and was not to advance unless ordered to do so.  The result was disastrous – the 3rd line caught up with the 2nd which was waiting for the artillery barrage to lift but in the confusion the 4 battalions pushed on and ran into their own artillery fire.  The troops of the 1st line were in the German front line reorganising to attack the 3rd objective and they advanced too soon.  In the mayhem, trenches became overcrowded, units were mixed up and it was impossible to organise and control the fight.  Heavy and accurate German artillery fire shelled the position from 3 sides.  Nevertheless, the 2nd objective was reached and the Royal Scots Fusiliers got through to the final objective only to be driven out by their own artillery fire.  Fighting with bomb and bayonet ensued in the network of trenches.  The Germans made a counter attack which was repulsed.  Two further attempts were made and repulsed.

9.30am:  the British troops fell back to the first line of German trenches having no bombs left and still under heavy artillery fire.  1/4th South Lancashire (reinforcements) held on in trenches south of Bellewaarde Farm until 3pm.

6.00pm:  it was decided to consolidate what had been gained – the German front line between the Menin Road and Railway Wood and the area of No Man’s Land behind.  The enemy remained in possession of Bellewaarde Ridge.

3rd Division casualties were 140 officers and 3,391 men.  9th Brigade lost 73 officers and 2,012 men out of 3,663.

1st Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers casualties were 15 Officers and 442 NCO and men.  15 officers and 645 NCO and men took part in the attack.[17]

Later research records that between 16 and 20 June 1915, 1/NF lost 145 Other Ranks including 128 ORs 16 June 1915 killed in action or died of wounds.[18]

Private W. Siddle entered France 3 May 1915 and was killed in action 16 June 1915.  His military service on the Western Front lasted 45 days.  He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[19]

Commemorations [20]

Private W. Siddle has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.

The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates casualties from the forces of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and United Kingdom who died in the Salient and in the case of United Kingdom casualties, only those prior 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions). United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war.

The YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick, was unveiled by Lord Plumer on 24 July 1927.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.249 Auckland 1893 Q2

[3] 1891 & 1901 census

[4] Death has not been traced.  Divorce was rare at that time

[5] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.346 Auckland 1896 Q4

[6] 1901 & 1911 census

[7] 1901 census

[8] 1911 census

[9] CWGC

[10] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[11] Until 1881 it was the Fifth Foot


[13] Medal Roll

[14] “The Battle of Bellewaarde June 1915” C. McEntee-Taylor p.34 & 35


[16] “Military Operations France and Belgium 1915” Vol.II Compiled by Brig-Gen Sir James E. Edmonds

[17] Note: Most of the above information is taken from the Fusiliers Museum Friends Newsletter

[18] Soldiers Died in the Great War Note: ODGW show no data for officers serving with 1/NF

[19] Medal Roll

[20] CWGC


SIDDLE W. photo

SIDDLE W. photo

Siddle W. Menin Gate Inscription

Siddle W.
Menin Gate