Wood T.E.

THOMAS EDGAR WOOD (1897-1918)

277236 Private T.E. Wood, 1/7th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 26 March 1918 and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, France.[1]  He was 20 years old and is commemorated on the Cockfield War Memorial, the Methodist Church memorial plaque, Cockfield and the Roll of Honour, Cockfield Council School.

Family Details

Thomas Edgar was born 13 November 1897 [2] at Cockfield, the son of Robert and Ann Elizabeth Wood.  There were at least 9 children, all born at Cockfield:

  • Mary Elizabeth bc.1884
  • Stephen bc.1890
  • Robert Edwin bc.1892
  • Herbert William bc.1894
  • Alice bc.1896
  • Thomas Edgar born 1897
  • Lilian bc.1900
  • Wilfred and Edna bc.1905

In 1911, the family lived at Front Street, Cockfield.  Father Robert and Stephen were coal miners (hewers) and son Robert worked above ground as a breaker.  Herbert was a house painter.  13 year old Edgar was still at school.[3]  He attended Cockfield Church of England until entering Cockfield Council School 14 January 1907.  He left 10 November 1911 upon reaching the qualification age, ie 14 years.[4]

Service Details

Thomas Edgar Wood was a member of the Territorial Force, 6/DLI and given the regimental number 7049.[5]

  • 7 June 1915: embodied to serve overseas [6]
  • 1 October 1915: left Southampton, landing at Boulogne, France 2 October 1915 and joined the No.3 Entrenching Battalion.
  • 19 January 1916: joined 6/DLI “Z” Company.
  • 24 April 1916: No.8 Stationary Hospital, at Wimereux and eventually sent back to England with abscesses on both feet. [7]
  • 13 November 1916: landed in Boulogne and posted to 1/7 DLI, allotted a new regimental number 277236, joining the battalion 28 November 1916.
  • 16 April – 11 May 1917: in hospitals, 20 Clearing Casualty Station, No. 22 General Hospital, No.6 Etaples with “I.C.T. fingers”, to base.
  • 8 June 1917: re-joined unit in the field.
  • 22 June 1917: awarded Good Conduct Medal. [8]
  • December 1917: granted 14 days leave, suffered from a septic mouth having some teeth removed by Dr. Robinson, Barnard Castle. [9]
  • 29 January 1918: re-joined unit, 1/7 DLI “C” Company. [10]
  • 26 March 1918: killed in action in the field. [11]

The 1/6th and 1/7th Battalions, DLI were both Territorial units and both formed part of the 151st Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division.  In November 1915, the 1/7th left the brigade to become a Pioneer Battalion for the 50th Division.

The 1/6th Battalion was formed in Bishop Auckland in August 1914 as part of the Durham Light Infantry Brigade, Northumbrian Division and in May 1915 became the 151st Brigade of the 50th Division. The Division moved to France 16 April 1915 and served with distinction on the Western Front throughout the war. [12]   Other battalions were:

  • 1/7th Battalion, DLI
  • 1/8th Battalion, DLI
  • 1/9th Battalion, DLI
  • 1/5th Battalion, the Loyal North Lancs. joined June 1915

Following heavy casualties in June 1915 the battalion merged with the 1/8th to become the 6/8th then it returned to its original identity 11 August 1915 and was then joined by:

  • 1/5th (Cumberland) Battalion, the Border Regiment joined December 1915
  • 151st Machine Gun Company formed February 1916
  • 150th Trench Mortar Battery formed June 1916

Other units joined in 1918:

  • 1/5th Battalion, DLI joined February 1918
  • 6th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined July 1918
  • 1st Battalion, the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, joined July 1918
  • 4th Battalion, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps joined July 1918

Following the German Spring Offensive it was reduced to cadre strength in July 1918 and transferred to Lines of Communication. [13]

The Division took part in the following engagements on the Western Front:

  • 24 April – 25 May 1915: The Second Battle of Ypres.  Private E. Wood did not enter France until 1 October 1915.

Then, in 1916, the Battle of the Somme:

  • 15-22 September: The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, 6th phase of the Battle of the Somme 1916
  • 25-28 September: The Battle of Morval, 7th phase of the Battle of the Somme 1916
  • 1-8 October: The Battle of Le Transloy, 8th  phase of the Battle of the Somme 1916

Private E. Wood was in hospital between 24 April and 13 November 1916.

Then, in 1917, Battles of Arras and Passchendaele:       

  • 9-14 April: The First Battle of the Scarpe, 1st phase of the Arras Offensive
  • 23 & 24 April: The Second Battle of the Scarpe, 2nd phase of the Arras Offensive
  • 26 October-10 November: The Second Battle of Passchendaele, 8th phase of the Third Battle of Ypres

Private E. Wood was in hospital between 16 April and 8 June 1917.

Up until the death of Private E. Wood 26 March 1918, the Division took part in the following 3 battles, known as the First Battles of the Somme, part of the German offensive in Picardy, France.

  • 21-23 March: The Battle of St. Quentin
  • 22 & 25 March: The Actions at the Somme Crossing
  • 26 & 27 March: The Battle of Rosieres [14]

The German Offensive, spring 1918 – an overview

 3 March 1918: Soviet Russia made peace with Germany and her allies by virtue of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.  As a result, Germany could now transfer troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.  More importantly, these Divisions included the original elite of the German Army – the Guards, Jaegers, Prussians, Swabians and the best of the Bavarians. In all, 192 Divisions could be deployed in the West.  The Allies could field 178 Divisions. [15]  A single division numbered about 19,000 men [16] so Ludendorff could call upon about 3,650,000 men as opposed to the Allies 3,380,000.  Thus, the Germans now held superiority in numbers.

The German High Command needed victory to be gained before the American Forces arrived in Europe in huge numbers.  America had entered the war 6 April 1917 and in the July, the U.S. Commander-in -Chief Pershing asked for an army of 3 million men.  The first of her troops arrived in France 26 June 1917. [17]  The training and build-up of troops obviously took time but eventually by June 1918, the Americans were receiving about 250,000 men a month in France.  This amounted to 25 divisions in or behind the battle zone and another 55 in the United States ready to join the action.[18]  Elsewhere in the Alliance, the French were able to draw on a new annual class of conscripts after a year of inactivity but the British were worn down by continuous fighting during the summer of 1917 with major offensives at Arras, Messines, Passchendaele and Cambrai.[19]   The strength of the British infantry had fallen from 754,000 in July 1917 to 543,000 in June 1918 producing a manpower crisis.[20]  The German Spring Offensive was launched 21 March 1918 and took 5 phases:

  • 21 March – 5 April: Operation Michael, the Battle of Picardy (otherwise known as the First Battle of the Somme 1918) against the British
  • 9 – 11 April: Operation Georgette, the Battle of Lys against the British sector near Armentieres
  • 27 April: Operation Blucher-Yorck, the Third Battle of Aisne against the French sector along Chemin des Dames
  • 9 June: Operation Gneisenau, the Battle of the Matz against the French sector between Noyan and Montdider
  • 15 – 17 July: Operation Marne-Rheims, the final phase known as the Second Battle of the Marne. [21]

The Germans enjoyed spectacular territorial gains particularly during the initial phases of the offensive which, 23 March, led the Kaiser to declare a “victory holiday” for German schoolchildren.  But, the cost in manpower was enormous:

  • Between 21 March and 10 April, the 3 main assaulting armies had lost 303,450 men – 1/5th of their original strength.
  • The April offensive against the British in Flanders was eventually computed to have cost 120,000 men out of a total of 800,000 [22]

The German High Command calculated that it required 200,000 replacements each month but only 300,000 recruits stood available taking into account the next annual class of 18-year olds.  There were 70,000 convalescents available from hospitals each month but even counting them, the strength of the German Army had fallen from 5.1 million to 4.2 million men in the 6 months of the offensive.  It could not be increased on the estimated scale required. [23]  To add to this dilemma, in June 1918, the first outbreak of “Spanish Flu” laid low nearly 500,000 German soldiers.  This epidemic was to reoccur in the autumn and wreak havoc throughout Europe and the wider world. [24]

Added to this the poor diet of the German troops, battle fatigue, discontentment with the military leadership, social unrest at home and a general realisation that their great effort was beginning to wane, the Allies counter attack in mid-July began to seize the initiative.  Sweeping victories over demoralised German forces eventually led to the resignation of Ludendorff 27 October, the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, 9 November and the signing of the Armistice 11 November 1918.[25]

 The German Spring Offensive

First Phase 21 March to 5 April 1918

Often called “the Kaiserschlacht” the offensive was Germany’s last big effort to win the war before the arrival of huge numbers of American troops.   The German plan, Operation Michael was to punch through the British and French Armies at St. Quentin, cut through the Somme and then wheel north-west to cut the British lines of communication behind the Artois fronts to bottle up the BEF in the narrow neck of Flanders.  The British Army would be surrounded with no means of escape and would inevitable surrender.  The target of the first phase of the offensive was the British Army who the German High Command believed to be exhausted by the four major efforts of 1917, namely Arras, Messines, Passchendaele and Cambrai.

By mid-February 1918, there were 177 German Divisions in France and Flanders out of their world-wide total of 241.  Of these, 110 were in the front line of which 50 faced the short British front.  A further 67 were in reserve with 31 facing the BEF.  The British had 62 under strength divisions defending a recently extended front line.

At the same time as the German forces were growing, the British Army was depleted having faced a manpower crisis during the second half of 1917.  Lloyd George produced official figures to confirm that there were some 324,000 additional men on the Western Front (i.e. British and Dominion forces) giving a total of 1,850,967 on the 1st January 1918 as opposed to 1,526,182 on the 1st January 1917 but the effective fighting strength had fallen by as much as 7% in the year.

The 50th Division together with the 1st Cavalry, the 8th, the 16th, the 24th, the 39th and the 66th Divisions formed the XIX Corps of the Fifth Army.  The immense German attack 21 March 1918 enjoyed a numerical superiority of 56 Divisions against 16 British. Enemy superiority was overwhelming. The main weight of the attack was between Arras and a few miles south of St. Quentin.  The XIX Corps occupied the line to the east of Peronne and to the north of Vermand facing 9 German Divisions on an 8 mile front.  German superiority was approx. 4.5 to 1.  The German success was spectacular and in 2 days the Fifth Army was driven back over 12 miles:

  • 23 March: Peronne fell     
  • 24 March: Bapaume
  • 26 March: Albert, capital of the old Somme battlefield

The Third Army held firm near Arras but had to swing back its right hand forces to maintain contact with the retreating Fifth.

21 March: the casualty figures have been estimated as:

  • British: 38,500
  • German: 40,000

However, “only” 2/3rds of the German casualties were wounded so a substantial number would return to the fighting at a later date.  By contrast, 28,000 of the British would not return – 7,000 were dead and 21,000 had been taken prisoner.

27 March: the Germans were able to cross the Somme at Chipilly which compelled Gough’s Fifth Army to retreat to a line running from Bouzencourt to Rosieres.  The British held the line throughout the day but to the south the French were driven out of Lassigny and Montdidier.

Private E. Wood was killed in action 26 March 1918.  Later research records that between 21 and 31 March, 1/7 DLI lost 20 Officers and 45 Other Ranks, killed in action or died of wounds, including 3 Officers and 8 O.R.s on the 26 March.

Private T.E. Wood was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[26]

Commemorations

Private E. Wood is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.  Pozieres is located some 6km north east of Albert, Somme, France.  The Pozieres Memorial relates to a period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields and the months before the Advance to Victory which began 8 August 1918.  The memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the UK and 300 South African Forces who have no known graves and who died on the Somme between 21 March and 7 August 1918.

The Regiments represented with the most casualties are:

  • The Rifle Brigade with over 600 names
  • The Durham Light Infantry with approx. 600 names
  • The Machine Gun Corps with over 500 names
  • The Manchester Regiment with approx. 500 names
  • The Royal Horse and Field Artillery with over 400 names. [27]

Private E. Wood is commemorated on the Cockfield War Memorial, the memorial plaque in the Methodist Church, Cockfield and the Roll of Honour, Cockfield Council School.

References:

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] Cockfield Council School Admissions Register &  England & Wales 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.278 Teesdale 1897 Q4

[3] 1911 census

[4] Cockfield Council School Admissions Register

[5] Medal Roll card index

[6] Army Form

[7] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form-Active Service

[8] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form-Active Service

[9] Various memos from No.74 T.F. Sunderland and Superintendent Riddell, Barnard Castle, Durham County Constabulary

[10] Army Form

[11] Army Form

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

[13] http://www.1914-1918.net/50div.htm

[14] http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles

[15] “The Somme” P. Hart p.421

[16] http://www.cwgc.org/somme

[17] http://www.firstworldwar.net/timeline

[18] Hart p.437

[19] http://www.1914-1918.net/batt22

[20] Hart p.437

[21] Hart p.426 & http://www.firstworldwar.net/timeline

[22] Hart p.435

[23] Hart p.439

[24] Hart p.438

[25] http://www.firstworldwar.net/timeline

[26] Medal Roll card index

[27] CWGC

Photographs:

POZIERES CEMETERY & MEMORIAL ENTRANCE

POZIERES CEMETERY & MEMORIAL ENTRANCE

WOOD E Inscription Pozieres Memorial

WOOD E
Inscription
Pozieres Memorial

Cockfield Methodist Church Memorial Plaque

Cockfield Methodist Church Memorial Plaque

2 thoughts on “Wood T.E.

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

  2. Pingback: Cockfield Schools: Some Details | 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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s