TAGUE William 1895 – 1915

WILLIAM TAGUE 1895 – 1915

26928 Lance Corporal William Tague, 14th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 28 September 1915, aged 20.  He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, France[1] and the Witton Park and Escomb war memorials.

Family Details

William Tague was born 1895, the son of William and Margaret Tague.  There were at least 8 children, all born at Bishop Auckland, other than the 2 shown:[2]

  • Mary bc.1894
  • William bc.1895
  • James bc.1897 at Escomb
  • Margaret bc.1899
  • Katherine bc.1902
  • Ellen bc.1906 at Escomb
  • Michael bc.1910

In 1901, William and Margaret lived at Hunwick Colliery where William worked as a labourer.  William was born at Leitram, Ireland and Margaret at St. Pancras, London.[3]  By 1911, 55 years old William and 44 years old Margaret lived at California, Witton Park where William senior and his 16 years old son, William junior, both worked as general labourers. [4] 

By May 1917, Margaret lived at 63 Low King Street, Witton Park in May 1917.[5]  William  senior died in 1919.[6]  Margaret Tague emigrated to the USA and lived at 323 15th Street [7]and later at 282A, 19th Street, Brooklyn, New York.[8] William’s sister Margaret probably went to the USA with her mother since she is recorded on the 1920 census, living in New York.

Military Details

The service details of Lance Corporal William Tague have not been researched.

As a volunteer, it is likely that he was sent to the Durham Light Infantry depot in September 1914, posted to the 14th (Service) Battalion, (14/DLI) and given the regimental number 26928.  14/DLI was formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s New Army K3 and came under orders of the 64th Brigade, 21st Division.[9]  At that time, infantry battalions in the 64th Brigade were:

  • 9th Bn., the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
  • 10th Bn., the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
  • 14th Bn., the Durham Light Infantry
  • 15th Bn., the Durham Light Infantry [10]

Training took place at Aylesbury, Halton Park, High Wycombe and Witley Camp.[11] 

DLI Cap Badge

2 September 1915:  Advanced parties embarked for France and the main body began to cross the Channel five days later.  The battalion landed at Boulogne 11 September 1915.  Lance Corporal William Tague entered France with his battalion.[12] Units moved to assemble near Tilques, completing concentration 13 September. [13] 

The 64th Brigade was soon heavily involved in action at the Battle of Loos, 25 September – 8 October.[14]  Its first experience was truly appalling.  Having been in France for only a few days, lengthy forced marches brought it into the reserve for the British assault at Loos.  GHQ planning left it too far behind to be a useful reinforcement on the first day, but it was sent into action on 26 September, whereupon it suffered over 3,800 casualties for very little gain. [15]

The Battle of Loos:  25 September – 8 October 1915 [16]

The Battle of Loos formed a part of the wider Artois-Loos Offensive conducted by the French and British in autumn 1915, sometimes referred to as the Second Battle of Artois.  The Artois campaigns comprised the major allied offensive on the Western Front during 1915.  Along with the attack against Loos by the British, French troops launched offensives at Champagne (the Second Battle of Champagne) and at Vimy Ridge near Arras. [17]

The strategy involved:

  • A four-day artillery bombardment of the German positions
  • Full scale infantry attack in the area between Loos and the La Bassee Canal
  • Diversionary attacks to the north at Bois Grenier and Pietre (between Armentieres and La Bassee Canal). 
  • Once the German positions fell, reserves aided by cavalry, would pass through the gap and attack the German second line.  

The following British units took part in the battle:

  • The I Corps: 2nd Division, 7th Division, 9th Division, 28th Division
  • The IV Corps: 3rd Cavalry Division, 1st Division, 15th Division, 47th Division
  • The XI Corps: Guards Division, 12th Division, 21st Division, 24th Division
  • Indian Corps: 19th Division, Meerut Division.

Subsidiary attacks 25 September 1915

Pietre                                                   

  • Indian Corps: Meerut Division

Bois Grenier

  • III Corps: 8th Division

Second attack on Bellewaarde

  • V Corps: 3rd Division
  • VI Corps: 14th Division

Subsequent action of Hohenzollern Redoubt:  13 -19 October 1915

  • IV Corps: 1st Division, 47th Division
  • XI Corps: Guards Division, 2nd Division, 12th Division, 46th Division

Two “New Army” Divisions, the 21st and 24th were in reserve.  They had not seen the trenches and were untested in battle.

20 September: The Divisions started moving from St. Omer with marches of over 20 miles throughout successive nights and finally, moved by a night march into the Loos Valley.  Progress was slow and exhausting.  They had been on the move constantly for several days.  The ground was unfamiliar, roads and tracks were jammed with transport going in both directions and communication trenches were flooded and packed with men.  

25 September: The Loos offensive began following a 4-day artillery bombardment in which 250,000 shells were fired including 140 tons of chlorine gas discharged from more than 5,000 cylinders. 75,000 British infantry made the initial attack. 

The southern section of the attack, conducted by the IV Corps made significant progress, capturing Loos and moving forward towards Lens.  However, the need for supplies and reinforcements brought the advance to a halt at the end of the first day.  Delays whilst travelling meant that the reserves arrived at night time. 

Fortunes on the first day of battle were mixed, to the north, the I Corps made less progress than the IV Corps but the 7th and 9th Divisions managed to establish a foothold on the Hohenzollern Redoubt.

There was some “bad luck”, for instance poison gas released with smoke into light winds before the infantry went forward, hung between the lines and in some places blew back at the British forces!  Along the length of the front advancing masses of troops emerging from the smoke screen were met with devastating machine gun fire.  Losses were appalling and the worst yet suffered by the British Expeditionary Force – there would be 8,500 dead by the end of the first day.  

The delay in bringing up the reserves was a critical failure as the Germans were able to pour in their reserves and counter-attack the following day.  Thus, any realistic chance of success had been lost on the first day.

The 21st and 24th Divisions saw action in front of the formidable second line defences at Hulluch and Hill 70.  The British infantry advanced without any preliminary artillery bombardment and were decimated by German machine gun fire.  The inexperienced New Army divisions, already exhausted by their long march, fought hard but were driven back.

27 September: The arrival of the Guards Division stabilised the line thereafter the offensive disintegrated.   After several days of sporadic fighting, the British eventually were forced to retreat and Fosse 8 and the Hohenzollern Redoubt were lost in the following days. 

13 October:  The Loos attack was renewed and further heavy losses, more than 2,000 killed, combined with poor weather caused the offensive to be called off.

19 October: The offensive was called off.

During the battle the British suffered 61,000 casualties, (20,000 dead) 50,000 of them in the action between Loos and Givenchy and the remainder in the subsidiary attacks. Many New Army units, rushed into the battle area for the first time only a matter of days after landing in France were devastated.  German casualties were estimated at half the British total. 

                                                                                   14/DLI in action                     

14/DLI War Diary is scant on detail.  [18]

11 September 1915: On leaving Witley Camp, the battalion strength was 29 Officers and 967 Other Ranks, entrained at Milford and arrived at Folkestone at 9pm and landed at Boulogne at 11.45pm.  Next day entrained at Pont de Brigues, detrained at Audruico and marched to Neilles-lez-Ardres to billets.  20 September marched out of billets to Arques, left on the 21st at 8.15pm and arrived at Lambres at 1.45am.  Left there at 7.30pm to arrive at Ecquedecques billets at 9.30pm. 

24 September, 7pm, 14/DLI left Ecquedecques billets with a strength of 29 officers and 903 Other Ranks.  Arrived at Four-a-Chaux at 1.45am, 25 September left 12.15pm arriving at Neux-les-Mines 3.30pm, leaving at 7.50pm heading towards Loos, Hill 70 where they arrived at 4.30am, 26 September.

The following is an extract from 14/DLI War Diary:

“64th Brigade had instructions to go into action – objective ANNAY via HILL 70 in support of 62nd and 63rd Brigades.  About 9AM the battalion deployed and attacked Hill 70 but the whole Brigade was driven back on reaching the crest of the hill.  They reformed and again attacked the Hill but were again driven back and occupied the original front line English trenches and went into bivouac.

Casualties 2 officers killed, 13 wounded

      8 men killed, 263 wounded

27 September, HOUCHIN 9am arrived bivouac”

From Houchin, 14/DLI reached Westreham on 29 September via Neux-les-Mines and Berguettes.

Captain Miles provided the following details.    

At 1.00am 26 September, the 14/DLI and 15/DLI passed the old British front line and at 2.00am reached the old German front line north of the mining town of Loos.  14/DLI was selected to reinforce the 63rd Brigade which was facing a hostile German counter attack in Chalk Pit Wood.  By 10.30, the advance was under considerable shell and machine gun fire and a general advance was ordered at 11.00am.  The Durhams suffered from heavy enfilade machine gun fire from Chalk Pit Wood.  The position of the 64th Brigade was subject to intense shell fire and the bombardment continued until dusk.  They were relieved in the early morning of the 27th.  Losses in the ranks amounted to 277 and 450, 14/DLI and 15/DLI respectively. [19] 

Later research records that between 25 and 29 September, 14/DLI lost 4 officers and 51 Other Ranks, killed in action or died of wounds.  27 September saw the loss of 3 officers and 31 Other Ranks.  Lance Corporal William Tague was killed in action 28 September.[20]  During the same period, 15/DLI lost 2 officers and 95 Other Ranks with 25 September being the worst day with 1 officers and 69 Other Ranks being killed. [21]

The New Army units had taken part in an offensive action for the first time and suffered heavily.  The typical attacking strength of a battalion at the time was 650-750 men, casualties were approximately 66%.

The battle witnessed some significant “firsts”:

  • the first “Big Push.”
  • the first blooding of Kitchener’s New Army.
  • the first use of poison gas by the British army.

It had been a costly failure and consequently, Field-Marshal Sir John French, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force resigned 10 December 1915.  General Sir Douglas Haig was appointed as his successor.  Little operational analysis was carried out and regrettably, many lessons of the failure at Loos were not learned.  Many mistakes were repeated with uncanny similarity on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. 

Awards and Medals

Lance Corporal William Tague was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the Victory and British War medals.[22]

Medal Roll Card Index

Effects

William Tague’s mother received his effects[23] and pension.[24]

Commemoration

Lance Corporal William Tague, 14/DLI has no known grave and is commemorated at panel 106 & 107, Loos Memorial, Loos-en-Gohelle, Pas de Calais, France.  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.   There are 20,597 identified casualties in the cemetery.  [25]

Dud Corner Cemetery: The Loos Memorial is along the back wall.

Summary

William Tague was an early volunteer, joining the 14th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry.  It was sent to France to take part in the Battle of Loos, 25 September to 8 October 1915.  It was, effectively, the first British “Big Push” of the war.  The men of Kitchener’s New Army had never seen battlefield conditions and were untested in warfare.  After several days of lengthy night marches, they were thrown into battle facing machine gun fire and intense shelling.  Lance Corporal James Tague was one of many casualties suffered by 1/DLI and 15/DLI.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial along with about 20,000 officers and men.


REFERENCES

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1901 & 1911 census

[3] 1901 census

[4] 1911 census

[5] Dependant’s Pension card index

[6] England & Wales Death Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a p.242 Auckland 1919 Q2

[7] Dependant’s Pension card index

[8] CWGC

[9] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[10] http://www.1914-1918.net/21div.htm

[11] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[12] Medal Roll card index

[13] http://www.1914-1918.net/21div.htm

[14] www.1914-1918.net/21div.htm & http://www.warpath.orbat.coom/battles_ff/1915.htm

[15] http://www.1914-1918.net/21div.htm

[16] “The Great War: a History – Volume 1” F.A. Mumby et al p.52: www.firstworldwar.com/battles/loos.htm:

www.1914-1918.net/BATTLES/bat13_loos/bat13_oob.htm: CWGC 1915: The Battle of Loos leaflet

[17] www.firstworldwar.com/battles/loos.htm.

[18] War Diary 14th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry

[19] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18” Captain W. Miles 1920 p.20-24

[20] Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War

[21] ODGW & SDGW

[22] Medal Roll card index and Rolls dated 25 October 1919 and 1 May 1920

[23] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901 – 1929 Record No.231002

[24] Pension Claimant card index

[25] CWGC