17114 Private William Teasdale 9th Bn., the Yorkshire Regiment was killed in action 19 September 1916 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.[1]  He was 26 years old and is commemorated on the West Auckland War Memorial and the Roll of Honour West Auckland Memorial Hall.

Family Details

William Teasdale was born 1890 [2] at West Auckland the son of Margaret Teasdale.  There were 4 children, all born at West Auckland:[3]

  • Henderson bc.1886 died June 1916
  • John bc. 1887
  • William born 1890
  • Robert H. bc.1893

In 1891 Margaret was 40 year old, single and head of the family.  They lived at Foundry Yard, West Auckland.  In 1901, the family lived at East View, West Auckland and 50 year old Margaret was described as a “charwoman” and 15 year old John was employed as a “driver in a coal mine”.[4]  In 1911, the family were still at East View, 24 year old John worked as a coal miner (putter), 20 year old William as a coal miner (labourer) and 18 year old Robert as a coal miner (labourer).  It is recorded that 26 year old Henderson had an accident when 11 year old and could not work.[5]

William’s older brother John was killed in action – 14551 Private John Teasdale 6th Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment was killed in action 12 July 1917 and is buried in Brandhoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.[6]  He was 30 years old and is commemorated on the West Auckland Memorial and the Roll of Honour, West Auckland Memorial Hall.

Military Details

William Teasdale enlisted at Bishop Auckland and joined the 9th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’ Own) otherwise known as the Green Howards and was given the regimental number 17114.[7]  His service details have not been researched.

The 9th (Service) Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment was formed at Richmond in September 1914 as part of K3, Kitchener’s New Army and came under the orders of 69th Brigade, 23rd Division.  It moved to France 26 August 1915.[8]

Private W. Teasdale entered the Balkan Theatre of War 28 September 1915.[9]  In which case, he must have served with the 6th (Service) Battalion which came under the orders of 32nd Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division which served in Gallipoli from 6 August – December 1915.[10]  It is confirmed that the Green Howards received large reinforcements in officers and other ranks during the months of August and September.[11]  The battalion left Gallipoli 20 December 1915 [12] and spent time in Egypt defending the Suez Canal before being required on the Western Front.  The battalion disembarked at Marseilles 2 July 1916.[13]  It must be assumed that Private W. Teasdale was transferred to the 9th Battalion, soon after his arrival in France.

The 69th Brigade comprised the following units:[14]

  • 11th (Service) Bn., the West Yorkshire Regiment
  • 8th (Service) Bn., the Yorkshire Regiment
  • 9th (Service) Bn., the Yorkshire Regiment
  • 10th (Service) Bn., the Duke of Wellington’s
  • 69th Machine Gun Corps joined March 1916
  • 69th Trench Mortar Battery joined June 1916

The Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916 [15]

The Battle of the Somme was viewed as a breakthrough battle, as a means of getting through the formidable German trench lines and into a war of movement and decision.  Political considerations and the demands of the French High Command influenced the timing of the battle.  They demanded British diversionary action to occupy the German Army to relieve the hard pressed French troops at Verdun, to the south.

General Sir Douglas Haig, appointed Commander-in-Chief in December 1915, was responsible for the overall conduct of British Army operations in France and Belgium.  The battle was to be the British Army’s first major offensive on the Western Front in 1916 and it was entrusted to General Rawlinson’s Fourth Army to deliver the resounding victory.  The British Army included thousands of citizen volunteers, keen to take part in what was expected to be a great victory.

The main line of assault ran nearly 14 miles from Maricourt in the south to Serre to the north, with a diversionary attack at Gommecourt 2 miles further to the north.  The first objective was to establish a new advanced line on the Montauban to Pozieres Ridge.

A week-long artillery bombardment of the German positions preceded the first day, 1 July.  Just prior to zero-hour, the storm of British shells increased and merged with huge mine explosions to herald the infantry attack.  At 7.30am on a clear midsummer’s morning the British Infantry emerged from their trenches and advanced in extended lines at a slow steady pace over the grassy expanse of a No Man’s Land.  They were met with a hail of machine gun fire and rifle fire from the surviving German defenders.  Accurate German artillery barrages smashed into the infantry in No Man’s Land and the crowded assembly trenches – the British suffered enormous casualties:

  • Officers killed 993
  • Other Ranks killed: 18,247
  • Total Killed: 19,240
  • Total casualties (killed, wounded and missing): 57,470

In popular imagination, the Battle of the Somme has become a byword for military disaster.  In the calamitous opening 24 hours the British Army suffered its highest number of casualties in a single day.  The loss of great numbers of men from the same towns and villages had a profound impact on those at home. The first day was an abject failure and the following weeks and months of conflict assumed the nature of wearing-down warfare, a war of attrition, by the end of which both the attackers and defenders were totally exhausted.

The Battle of the Somme can be broken down into 12 offensive operations:

  • Albert: 1 – 13 July
  • Bazantin Ridge: 14 – 17 July
  • Delville Wood: 15 July – 13 September
  • Pozieres Ridge: 15 July – 3 September
  • Guillemont: 23 July – 3 September
  • Ginchy: 9 September
  • Flers-Courcelette: 15 – 22 September
  • Morval: 25 – 28 September
  • Thiepval: 25 – 28 September
  • Le Transloy: 1 – 18 October
  • Ancre Heights: 1 October – 11 November
  • Ancre: 13 – 18 November

Adverse weather conditions i.e. the autumn rains and early winter sleet and snow turned the battlefield into morass of mud.  Such intolerable physical conditions helped to bring to an end Allied offensive operations after four and a half months of slaughter.  The fighting brought no significant breakthrough.  Territorial gain was a strip of land approximately 20 miles wide by 6 miles deep, at enormous cost. British and Commonwealth forces were calculated to have 419,654 casualties (dead, wounded and missing) of which some 131,000 were dead.  French casualties amounted to 204,253.  German casualties were estimated between 450,000 to 600,000. In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

The 23rd Division took part in the following engagements of the Battle of the Somme, up until 19 September 1916 when Private W. Teasdale was killed in action: [16]

  • 1 – 13 July: the Battle of Albert in which the Division played a part in the capture of Contalmaison
  • 14-17 July: the Battle of Bazentin Ridge
  • 23 July – 3 September: the Battle of Pozieres
  • 15-22 September: the Battle of Flers-Courcelette

10 & 11 July:  the 9/Green Howards played a leading part in the assault on the village of Contalmaison when it was reported that the battalion had sustained losses, killed, missing and wounded of 23 Officers and 415 Other Ranks.[17] Second Lieutenant D.S. Ball was awarded the Victoria Cross following this action.[18]  His citation reads:[19]

“For most conspicuous bravery.

During the attack a very heavy enfilade fire was opened on the attacking company by a hostile machine gun.  Second Lieutenant Bell immediately and on his own initiative crept up a communication trench and then followed by Corporal Colwill and Private Batey rushed across the open under very heavy fire and attacked the machine gun, shooting the firer with his revolver and destroying the gun and personnel with bombs. 

This very brave act saved many lives and ensured the success of the attack.

Five days later this gallant officer lost his life performing a very similar act of bravery.”

Later research records that between 10 and 13 July 1916, 9/Green Howards lost 1 Officers and 55 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds.[20]

Whether or not Private W. Teasdale took part in this action is, to date, unknown.  He may have been a draft reinforcement to take the battalion up to strength following these losses.

9/Green Howards remained in the Somme area either in the front line or in reserve trenches until 11 August.  The 23 Division went north to join the Second Army in Flanders, the Ploegsteert area by the end of the month.

4 September: training near St. Omer

11 September: entrained for the Somme

12, 13 & 14 September: Hennencourt

15 September: marched to Millencourt

18 September: moved up to the front line trenches.

19 September: “C” and “D” Companies occupied Prue Trench:[21]

“The enemy attacked “C” Company’s right flank and after heavy bombing forced their way along Prue Trench and Starfish trench for a short distance when they were held up.  Bombing continued until dusk and the ground lost was regained later.”

Private W. Teasdale was killed in action 19 September 1916 and was the only man serving with 9/Green Howards to be killed that day.[22] He has no known grave.  Later research records that between 19 and 21 September 1916 9/Green Howards lost 1 Officer and 25 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds.[23]

Private W. Teasdale was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.


Private W. Teasdale has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, which bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the UK and South African forces who died in the Somme sector and who have no known grave.  Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916, the duration of what we now call the Battle of the Somme. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 31 July 1932.[24]

Private William Teasdale is commemorated on the West Auckland War Memorial and the Roll of Honour West Auckland Memorial Hall


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] Either England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.222 Auckland 1890 Q1 or p.230 1890 Q4

[3] 1891 & 1901 census

[4] 1901 census1

[5] 1911 census

[6] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[7] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[8] http://www.1914-1918.net/yorks.htm

[9] Medal Roll

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

[11] “The Green Howards in the Great War 1914-1919” Col. H.C. Wylly 1926 p.186

[12] Wylly p.188

[13] Wylly p.190&191

[14] http://www.1914-1918.net/23div.htm

[15] Various sources including “The First World War” J. Keegan “The Somme” P. Hart

[16] www.1914-1918.net/23div.htm & http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1916.htm

[17] Wylly p.300

[18] Wylly p.300

[19] London Gazette 8 September 1916

[20] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[21] Wylly p.301

[22] ODGW & SDGW

[23] ODGW & SDGW

[24] CWGC