WILSON R.W.

ROBERT WILLIAM WILSON (1896-1916)

16202 Private Robert William Wilson, 6th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment died of wounds 3 October 1916 in Hampstead Hospital, England and is buried in Evenwood Cemetery.[1]  He was 20 years old and is commemorated on the Evenwood and Etherley War Memorial, the Rolls of Honour in St. Paul’s and St. Cuthbert’s Churches, Evenwood and Etherley

Family Details:

 Robert William Wilson was born 1896 [2] at Evenwood the son of Moses and Elizabeth Wilson.  There were at least 8 children:[3]

  • George bc.1891 at Evenwood
  • Frederick bc.1893 at Evenwood
  • Robert bc.1896 at Evenwood
  • Moses bc.1899 at Evenwood
  • Emma bc.1905 at Evenwood
  • John bc.1906 at Evenwood
  • Elizabeth Ann bc.1909 at Wackerfield
  • Mary bc.1900 at Toft Hill

In 1901 the family lived at Alpine Terrace, Evenwood.  By 1911, Elizabeth had died and Moses had been married to Mary for 6 years.  They lived at High Etherley where Moses, now 46 years old worked as a miner as did his 2 oldest sons Fred aged 18 and Robert aged 15.

Military Details:

 Robert Wilson enlisted 17 November 1914 at Bishop Auckland into the Yorkshire Regiment, [4] was allocated the regimental number 16202 [5] and joined the 6th Battalion.  The 6th (Service) Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own) was formed at Richmond, 25 August 1914 as part of K1 Kitchener’s New Army.[6]  It came under the orders of 32nd Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division.[7] At the time the Regiment was unofficially but popularly known as “the Green Howards” – a name which was officially recognised in the 1920’s.

Other battalions in the 32nd Brigade were:

  • 9th (Service) Battalion the West Yorkshires, joined August 1914
  • 6th (Service) Battalion, the York & Lancaster Regiment, joined August 1914
  • 6th (Service) Battalion the East Yorkshires, joined August 1914 left December 1914
  • 2nd Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment, joined May 1918
  • 32nd Brigade Machine Gun Company, (formed March 1916)
  • 32nd Trench Mortar Battery, joined July 1916.

The Gallipoli Campaign

 The 11th (Light) Division was formed of volunteers and by spring 1915, the recruits were judged to be ready for action and it was sent to Gallipoli.  Turkey entered the war 29 October 1914 on the side of the Central Powers.[8]

The 11th Division sailed from Liverpool 1 July 1915, landing at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli 7 August 1915 and was involved in fighting as soon as it landed.  The 6th Battalion lost nearly every officer and almost 75% of the men from fighting and disease.  One local soldier to be killed in action 7 August 1915 was 16381 Private Robert Bagley from neighbouring West Auckland.[9]

Private R.W. Wilson joined the 6th battalion with a detachment of reinforcements 28 September 1915.  The Regimental History states:

“The diaries for September and October contain little more than the repeated statement, “Nothing to report” but …casualties went on steadily mounting up and young Jennings who only joined on the 29th September died of wounds on the 7th November and Oppe, joining on the 10th October was killed by a sniper on the 5th of the following month.” [10]

The evacuation of the Helles Peninsula commenced 10 December and from then until 18 December, the withdrawal proceeded gradually.  The last party of the 6th Green Howards, 7 officers and 107 non-commissioned officers and men, fell in at 1.30am 20 December and by 5.30am the last man had left the trenches at Sulva.  Later that day, the whole battalion disembarked at Imbros. [11]

The remainder of the war was spent on the Western Front.

The Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916 [12]

 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.  This action 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.

The first day, 1 July, was preceded by a week long artillery bombardment of the German positions.  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 Battles of Flers-Courcelette, Morval & Thiepval Ridge: an overview [13]

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette started 15 September 1916 and is notable for the introduction of tanks.  This offensive employed 12 Divisions and 49 tanks.  They proved notoriously unreliable – only 15 rolled onto No Man’s Land at the start of the attack.  The BEF and Canadian Corps made initial gains of some 2 kilometres within the first 3 days including the capture of the ruined villages of Martinpuich, Flers and Courcelette and much of the sought after High Wood.  However a combination of poor weather and extensive German reinforcements halted the advance and the Allies again suffered high casualties.  The attack was called off 22 September.   Haig renewed attacks in this area between 25 & 27 September in the Battle of Morval and the Battle of Thiepval Ridge.  Advances were limited but positions were consolidated.

Peter Hart concluded:

“The pattern of the fighting on the Somme had now been clearly established.  It was fundamentally a battle of artillery.  The British could not advance without it: the Germans could not defend without it.  The roar of guns was unceasing.  It could grind away and erode the courage of all but the bravest.”   

The 11th Division formed part of the II Corps together with the 18th Division alongside the Canadian Corps (1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions).  The Division was also involved in offensive action that followed at Thiepval Ridge. The II Corps occupied positions to the north of the offensive line, to the immediate south of Thiepval.  The 32nd and 33rd Brigades were in the vicinity of Nab Valley 15 September 1916. By 26 September 1916, at the beginning of the Thiepval offensive, the 33rd and 34th Brigades were on the front line in the same area.

6th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment: in action

2 September:  the 6th Battalion were in billets at Etre-Wamin then moved by road to Frevent, by rail to Puchenvillers then road to Raincheval where they occupied billet and undertook training, particularly with the Lewis gun.

7 September:  the Battalion moved to Senlis

8 September:  moved to reserve dug outs near Crucifix Corner and near Athuille.  Frequent enemy shelling and retaliation by British batteries.

9 September: front line trenches near Athuille

The following extracts are taken from the War Diary:[14]

“10th 7.30 – 8.30 a.m. – Battn. Relieved 9th W. YORKSHIRE REGT. In front line trenches near ATHUILLE.  A quiet morning; enemy shelling comparatively little…In the afternoon and evening enemy shelled front line and communication trenches with H.E. and 15 pounders shrapnel. AUTHEUILE VILAGE shelled between 8 & 9 p.m.

11th – Enemy artillery continued to be active on whole sector.  On our left from KILMAN STREET up to and including FIFTH AVENUE front line & common were shelled in the afternoon with H.E. and shrapnel.  THIEPVAL AVENUE was also blown in places. AUTHEUILE was heavily shelled in the evening.

12th – Enemy shelling continued till 6a.m. then quiet.  At noon our artillery bombarded enemy line.  Enemy retailiated on our front line & communication trenches and also AUTHEUILE.  This shelling continued throughout the afternoon and evening.  A reconnoitring patrol went out at 10.00 p.m. under 2nd Lt. Boot.

13th – Artillery were again very active.  At noon and again ain the afternoon the enemy retaliated and shelling continued well into the night.  A patrol went out under 2nd Lt. Boot at 12 midnight.  Brigade Operation on Order No. 18 received in the afternoon.

14th – The morning was very quiet: 32 reinforcements from Base Depot. 12 noon A further detailed order for the proposed attack in the afternoon was received.  5.30 p.m. Companies and Battn. Headqrs. Were in their respective battle positions

6.30p.m. Artillery put barrage on Turk Street.  6.33.p.m. Front attacking wave of D Company left Assembly trench 78 – 68 and assaulted enemy trench 91 – 69.  The enemy trench had been untouched by our artillery and the attacking force was met with heavy rifle and grenade fire.  Part of the attacking force was reached the objective.  One platoon West Yorkshire Regt. Was sent up to reinforce at 91.  At about midnight trench 91 – 69 was gained by bombing down.  A bombing block was established at about 70 yds. from 91 post.  The enemy made 3 violent bombing attacks which were successfully repulsed.

Casualties in nights operation Lt. Col. FORSYTHE, DSO & 2nd Lt. C.E. Hurst killed CAPTN. J.K. EARLE, 2nd Lt. T.F. SHIPMAN wounded & 2nd Lt. MACFARLANE wounded & missing & 130 other ranks casualties.

15th – The early morning and the whole of the day was spent in consolidating Princes Street and trench 91 – 69.  The enemy were very quiet.  At about 10.15p.m. the enemy launched a strong attack on trench 91 – 69, Post 68, 78 & 46.  Enemy drove out and gained possession part of trench 91 – 69.  A counter attack was delivered by us which was successful.  We regained the lost ground and successful.  We regained the lost ground and successfully held it.  The enemy attacks at points 68, 78 & 46 were successfully repulsed.  Before delivering the attack the enemy bombarded our positions.

16th – The Battn. was relieved by 7th Duke of Wellington’s Regt.  Relief completed by 4.30 a.m.  The Battn. marched to HEDAUVILLE to Rest Billets.  20 reinforcements from Base Depot.”

The battalion then marched to Hedauville to rest billets.

17 September:   took 20 reinforcements.

18 September:  moved into camp at Bouzincourt,

20 September:  receiving another 20 reinforcements.

22 September:  relieved the 9th Sherwood Foresters near Oveilers.  British and German artillery exchanged shelling for the next 4 days

26 September: the battalion were relieved by the 9th Sherwood Foresters and the 7th South Staffs.

During this period casualties totalled 4 OR killed and 5 wounded.  A draft of 30 arrived and the battalion marched to Bouzincourt, moving onto Ribble Street and occupying dug outs south of Crucify Corner.

27 September:  Orders were received to support the 34th Brigade in Ration and Sulphur trenches then orders given to attack Stuff Redoubt at 3.00p.m.  The attack was postponed but commenced at 4.6p.m.

30 September:  relieved by the 10th Cheshires.

The following extracts are taken from Battalion War Diary:

“27th – 4.6 p.m. – C & D Coys assaulted and took trench 91 – 45 afterwards gaining with WEST YORKSHIRES 45 – 18.  WEST YORKSHIRES attacked on our right but failed to gain objective.  A Coy moved to ZOLLERN TRENCH & D Coy to Assembly Trench.

9.15p.m. – Disposition – B Coy d.91 – c.34; C. Coy c34 – c45

Part of c & WEST YORK c.45 – c.18 2 platoons of A with C. Coy 2 Platoons of A in ZOLLERN TRENCH

11.20p.m. – D Coy moved up to ZOLLERN & 1 Platoon A. to 91 – 45.  Casualties amongst officers 2/Lt. A.H.B. SHIPLEY killed, 2/Lt. A.O. VICK, w 2/Lt. C.E. SOWERBY & Capt. K. HUTCHENCE wounded, 2/Lt. W.A. BOOT & 2/Lt. G.A. RICHARDSON missing.

28th –12.30a.m. Report received that we had twice got to 87 but could not hold it owing to heavy shell and machine gun fire.  At dawn attack made on 38 but failed.

5.a.m. – 1 Coy. 8th WEST RIDING REGT. Sent to ZOLLERN and D. Coy to STUFF REDOUBT.  Orders received that an attack would be made at 6.p.m. on Task allotted to troops in STUFF REDOUBT was to bomb round enemy flanks.  Attack was postponed but message did not get to STUFF REDOUBT.  Troops there attacked at 7.42 p.m. and gained 38 & 87 but could not hold it owing to lack of ammunition and bombs.

9.28 p.m. – Message received that Germans would probably make a strong attack.  This did not come off.

29th Orders received that an attack would be made on

  1. 21.C.97 – 99
  2. c.18 – 38 – 58 – 87

½ troops in STUFF REDOUBT were to assault northern face of STUFF REDOUBT.  The assault was carried out and positions captured.  These could not be held owing to no bombs or ammunition being sent up.

30th – Orders were received that attack would be made, object being to occupy whole of HESSIAN TRENCH from 21.d.99 – C.55.  This was to be carried out by three bombing parties.  First party to 97, second from 13 to 97, the third found from garrison of STUFF REDOUBT to bomb from 5 – 97.  This was successfully carried out and captured ground was consolidated.  Orders received that Battn. Would be relieved by 10th CHESHIRE REGT.

Total casualties.  Officers 4 killed. Capt. N.P. SHEPHERD-TURNEHAM, 2/Lt. A.H.B. SHIPLEY, 2/Lt. H.C. Hurst, 2/Lt. G.F. STOUT. 3 missing. 2/Lt. W.A. BOOT, 2/Lt. G.H. RICHARDSON, 2/Lt. F.A. RUSHWORTH. 8 wounded Capt. K. HUTCHENCE, 2/Lt. H.O. VICK, 2/Lt. C.E. SOWERBT, 2/Lt. G.B. ANDREWS, 2/Lt. N.K. MACLEAN, 2/Lt. J.T. COLBERT, 2/Lt. L.A. GROSS, MAJOR W.B. SHANNON O.R.381.

C.R.WHITE

Major

Commanding 6th Yorkshire Regt.”

Private R. W. Wilson died of wounds 3 October 1916 in hospital in Hampstead, England.  It is assumed that his wounds were received in action sometime between 8 and 30 September 1916 in the vicinity of Thiepval.  It is difficult to be more precise.   The Green Howards Gazette of December 1916 states that Private Wilson was wounded then the edition of January 1917 reports that he had died of wounds. [15]

Later research records that between 8 and 30 September, 6/Yorkshire Regiment lost 6 officers and 176 other ranks either killed in action or died of wounds, 5 officers and 117 between 27 and 30 September 1916.[16]

Private R.W. Wilson was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals. [17]

Burial

 Private R.W. Wilson is buried in Evenwood Cemetery.  The Auckland Chronicle reported as follows:[18]

 “Military Funeral

 The first funeral of a military character took place at Evenwood on Saturday when the remains of Pte. Robert Wilson were laid to rest.  His death took place at Hampstead Hospital from wounds received at one of the battle fronts.  He was a son of Mr. Moses Wilson, Ingleton late of Evenwood and the funeral took place from the house of his uncle and aunt Mr. and Mrs. William Hodgson, Chapel St.  The cortège was a very large one nearly the whole village turning out to do honour to the fallen hero.  Among other floral tributes was a large wreath sent by nurses of the hospital.  An impressive service was conducted in the Wesleyan Church by Mr. John Cox who also read the last rites at the graveside.”

 References:

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales 1827-1915 Birth Index Vol.10a p.225 Auckland 1896 Q1

[3] 1901 & 1911 census

[4] “Regimental Recruiting or Militia and Volunteer Artillery District” Yorkshire Regiment p.25

[5] Soldiers Died in the Great War

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

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

[8] http://www.firstworldwar.com/timeline/1914.htm

[9] CWGC

[10] “The Green Howards in the Great War” Colonel H. Whylly p.186

[11] Whylly p.188

[12] “The Somme” P. Hart various pages, & http://www.firstworldwar.com/battles/somme.htm

[13] http://www.firstworldwar.com/battles/flers.htm

[14] 6th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment War Diary 10 – 16 September 1916

[15] Green Howards Gazette

[16] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[17] Medal Roll card index

[18] Auckland Chronicle 12 October 1916

Photographs:

WILSON R.W.  Headstone

WILSON R.W.
Headstone

WILSON R.W. The Victory Medal is missing

WILSON R.W.
The Victory Medal is missing

WILSON R.W. Medal Roll

WILSON R.W.
Medal Roll

2 thoughts on “WILSON R.W.

  1. Pingback: ETHERLEY | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

  2. Pingback: EVENWOOD | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s