Somme July 1916

- Private Robert William Deighton
- Private Robert Henry Morris
- Private Charles Francis Morris
- Private George Robert Costello
- Private Albert Costello
- Private Edward Wilkinson Bean
- Lance Corporal William Henry Bean
- Private George William Rutledge

Despite having suffered over fifty seven thousand casualties during the first day of operations ‘on the Somme’, the British Expeditionary Force had continued to carry out its ‘new offensive’.

Following their savage mauling on the 1ST of July, the surviving officers and men of the 2ND Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment had been withdrawn to ‘Headquarters Avenue’ where the battalion had been given the gruesome task of clearing ground and burying the hundreds of British and German dead that had littered the battlefield. However, by the fifth of July the unit had been ensconced in the Bois Tailles, where the battalion had spent the next few days ‘reorganising and cleaning up’.

Rest for the 2ND Battalion had nonetheless been short lived for on the 6TH of July the unit had received orders to take part in an attack on heavily fortified enemy positions in Trones Wood. The Battalion had duly been paraded that evening to return to the front line, however, the attack on Trones Wood had in the meantime been postponed, and it had not been until the early overcast and wet morning of Saturday the 8TH of July that the operation had been launched.

At 7-15 that morning the men of 2ND Yorkshire, each loaded down with over a hundred pounds of battle equipment had entered Bernafay Wood in preparation for their attack, which had duly begun three quarters of an hour later. Without the benefit of a cover artillery barrage, Wylly describes the fatal assault of the 2ND Yorkshire Regiment;

‘At 8am, under severe shell fire, which caused a certain number of casualties before starting, and under the added difficulties of getting through the wood ‘C’ Company passed through and commenced to cross the open ground between Bernafay Wood and Trones Wood. For the first eighty yards of this advance the rising ground afforded a certain amount of cover, but on ‘topping’ this a very heavy machine gun and rifle fire was opened on the advancing troops from the edge of Trones Wood, and the whole of the front line was hit almost to a man. Some few of the Green Howards got into Trones Alley, a communication trench between the two woods, and Lieutenant Field, with the Battalion bombers, endeavoured to bomb up it and get into the wood, but snipers located amongst the branches of trees defeated this attempt; and now, seeing that in the absence of a powerful and prolonged artillery preparation, any direct attack was hopeless, a withdrawal to Bernafay Wood was ordered at 8-30am. Even here, however, there was small respite; the Germans bombarded the wood heavily and without intermission throughout the day with great guns; the cover was indifferent and the Battalion could do no more than just hold on under this severe shelling; casualties were many and the evacuation of the wounded was a matter of the gravest difficulty’…[1]

The remnants of the Battalion had ‘held on’ to their positions until the evening of the 8TH, when the depleted unit had received orders to withdraw to their start point at Headquarters Avenue, where a post battle roll call had revealed the 2ND Battalion had lost over four hundred casualties out of a complement of over seven hundred officers and men that had gone into action but a few hours earlier. Amongst them had been nineteen years old; 16482 Private Robert William Deighton.

Born during 1897near Hackness in one of the handful of cottages that make up the hamlet of Everley, Robert had been the eldest son of Annie and farm labourer Robert Deighton, who during 1916 had been residing in Scarborough at No.8 Friars Gardens.

Although born on the outskirts of the town Robert Deighton had, nonetheless, spent most of his life in Scarborough. A former bell ringer at St. Mary’s Parish Church, Robert had also attended St. Mary’s Parish Church, and Friarage Board Schools before he had left education at the age of thirteen to become an apprentice in the grocery trade, with local grocer and provisioner Mr. W.C. land & Co.

Employed in Mr. Land’s South Cliff shop at the outbreak of war, Robert Deighton had enlisted into the army [at Scarborough] soon after the premises, located on the corner of South Street had been gutted by shellfire during the German bombardment of Scarborough during the early hours of Wednesday the 16TH of December 1914.

Issued with a travel warrant at the time of his enlistment, Deighton had duly exchanged the piece of paper for a rail journey to the North Yorkshire market town of Richmond, where he had found the Regimental Depot of the Yorkshire Regiment. Initially attached for training purposes to the 3RD [Reserve] Battalion, after eight weeks of square bashing, Deighton had been considered fit for active duty and had found himself amongst a draft of replacements destined for service with the 2ND Battalion of the Regiment.

A pre-war Regular Army formation before August 1914 the 2ND Battalion had been stationed in Guernsey, however, shortly after the outbreak of hostilities the battalion had returned to Britain where it had been attached to the 21ST Brigade of the 7TH Division. This formation had landed at Zeebrugge during October 1914 and had eventually taken part in the so called ‘First Battle of Ypres [19 October— 22 November 1914], the Battle of Neuve Chapelle [10-13 March 1915] and Aubers Ridge [9 May 1915].

Woefully decimated by these actions, Deighton had joined the 2ND Battalion shortly after the unit had suffered heavy casualties at Aubers Ridge, and had received his ‘baptism of fire’ during the Battle of Loos, which had begun on the 25TH of September 1915. Often described at the time as ‘the big push’, Loos had once again torn the heart out of the 2ND Battalion, the unit losing over three hundred casualties in an attack on strongly held enemy positions known as ‘the Quarries’ that had taken place on the opening day of the Offensive.

Amongst a large number of 2ND Yorkshire’s wounded, Robert Deighton had been badly injured in both legs by enemy machine gun fire and had eventually been evacuated to ‘blighty’ where he had spent many weeks in Sheffield Military Hospital. Finally discharged as fit for service during May 1916, Deighton had returned to Scarborough for two weeks of recuperation leave before returning to France during June 1916, in time to take part in the attack that had ultimately cost him his life.

Robert Deighton had been reported as missing in a casualty list that had appeared in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 13TH of October 1916. Eventually reported as killed in action on the 8TH of July 1916, the remains of Private Deighton had eventually been located and interred where the young soldier had fallen. After the war Robert Deighton’s remains had been re-interred in Delville Wood Cemetery at Longueval. The scene of much bitter fighting during the Somme Offensive that had earned the wood being christened by the Tommies as ‘Devil’s Wood’, Delville Wood Cemetery contain the graves of almost two thousand casualties of the Great War [over 3,000 of which are unidentified burials], Robert’s final resting place is located in Section 12, Row M, Grave 7.

Locally, apart from Scarborough’s Oliver’s Mount Memorial Robert William Deighton’s name is commemorated in the town’s Manor Road Cemetery [Section N, Row 34, Grave 34/ A] on a moss-encrusted gravestone that also bears the name of younger brother Richard Deighton. Born in Scarborough during 1907, Richard had died at the age of nineteen years on Tuesday the 21ST of September 1926. The memorial also bears the name of Robert’s mother, Annie Deighton. Born in Scarborough during 1871, Annie Pearson had married Robert Deighton at Hackness during 1892, and had eventually died at her home at No 8 Friars Gardens during Tuesday the 2ND of January 1934, at the age of sixty-three years. Born at Boyton during 1866, Robert Deighton had continued to reside in Scarborough, at No 8 Friars Gardens until his death at the age of seventy seven years, on Monday the 12TH of January 1943, his name is also commemorated on the gravestone in Manor Road Cemetery. This memorial also bears the inscription - ‘At rest. Re-united’

Although not involved in the first day’s operations, on Wednesday the 5TH of July units belonging to the 69TH Brigade of the 23RD Division had been ordered to attack an enemy position known as ‘Horseshoe Trench’. Zero Hour had been fixed for 6-45am that day and at the appointed hour the men of 10TH Duke of Wellingtons and 11TH West Yorks had begun to move into No Mans Land in the direction of their objective. Inevitably the advancing lines of khaki had been seen and soon the Yorkshiremen had come under an intense enemy artillery bombardment that had caused many casualties. Despite this the surviving British troops had gained a foothold in Horseshoe Trench. The Germans had then mounted a concerted counter attack during the afternoon, which had retaken most of the territory they had lost during the morning.

At 6pm that evening the two depleted attacking battalions had been replaced by the 8TH and 9TH Battalions of the Yorkshire Regiment that had renewed the assault on Horseshoe Trench. Once again the trench had been taken and after a terrific fire fight by the fall of night on the fifth this position had securely been in Yorkshire hands. During the following day the remnants of the eighth and ninth battalions had been relieved by fresh troops the two units falling back to bivouacs in rear.

Five days later, on Monday the 10TH of July, the 69TH Brigade had been given the task of capturing a heavily defended enemy position known as ‘Bailiff Wood’ and the equally tough stronghold that had once been the peaceful village of Contalmaison. The 8TH and 9TH Battalions of the Yorkshire Regiment had duly assembled in the northern part of Horseshoe Trench in preparation to taking part in the operation.

Consisting of numerous piles of rubble by this stage of the Offensive, Contalmaison had been a village in name only nevertheless; the position had already defied a number of attempts at its capture three days earlier. It was not going to be the walk over’ that had initially been planned.

The assault had begun at 4-30 during the afternoon of the tenth and had been spearheaded by the 11TH West Yorkshire, whilst the 9TH Yorkshire had formed the second line of assault. Forming the third line of assault had been the 8TH Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. Wylly has this to say about the unit’s actions that day;

…’The Battalion advanced to the attack at 4-50pm from Horseshoe Trench and came under shrapnel fire from Contalmaison Wood. As the Battalion advanced further and when within about five hundred yards from the village, heavy machine gun and rifle fire was opened on them by the enemy from the front and left flank. On reaching Trench 23-41 the wire was found to be practically intact and proved a serious obstacle, while a second obstacle in the shape of a hedge and wire netting held up the line outside the village and fifty percent of the casualties occurred between the trench and the hedge.

This obstacle was, however, surrmounted and the line advanced to the village, firing on the enemy who were now retreating. At this point unexpected machine gun and rifle fire took the men in rear and caused some further casualties, not more than four officers and one hundred and fifty men reaching the village [1]

Despite heavy losses the 8TH Battalion had taken its objective and had captured eight German officers and over a hundred and sixty men along with six machine guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. However, later that evening the Germans had mounted an extensive counterattack, which had been beaten off by the Yorkshiremen's remaining machine gunners and bombers from the 9TH Battalion. Throughout the remainder of that night and the following day Contalmaison had been shelled by German artillery but no further counter attacks had materialised.

Relieved during the night of Tuesday the 11TH of July, the tired and depleted remnants of the 8TH Battalion had made their weary way to billets at Belle Vue Farm, where the customary post battle roll call had revealed that the unit had lost 6 officers and 19 other ranks killed, a further six officers and two hundred and forty one other ranks had been wounded, whilst another officer and twenty seven men had been recorded as missing. Amongst them had been; 12240 Private Robert Henry Morris.

Born at Harwood Dale during 1892, Robert, popularly known as ‘Harry’, had been the fourth of six children of Mary and ‘roadman’ Robert Morris, who, at the time of the Somme Offensive had been residing a handful of miles from Scarborough in the hamlet of Suffield.

A former farm labourer at Suffield, Harry Morris had enlisted into the army at Scarborough shortly after the outbreak of war and had been a veteran of over eighteen months of continuous service on the Western Front at the time of his death, reportedly on the 10TH of July 1916. Robert’s parents had duly received a letter from their son’s commanding officer [Lieutenant Colonel Arthur James Stephen] at the end of August 1916 telling of them of a extraordinary act of self sacrifice that had been committed by their son that had taken the twenty three years old’s life, but had saved the lives of many of his comrades during those desperate hours of the battle for Contalmaison.

‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 1ST of September 1916 had subsequently reported of a ‘Suffield man’s heroic sacrifice - The parents at Suffield of Robert Henry Morris have this week received tidings from his commanding officer that he is missing, and that further inquiries are being made. Young Morris if he proves to have been killed, will have given his life in a most heroic manner, sacrificing himself in a purely voluntary act it save his comrades near him. According to the letter from the commanding officer, he threw himself on an enemy bomb and was not seen again after the explosion.

Two or three of his comrades how were by his side at the time of the self sacrificing deed of heroism have also written to his parents stating that they saw him deliberately throw himself on the bomb, and that afterwards they could find no trace of him. The gallant young soldier, whose father, Mr. Robert Morris, is a roadman at Suffield, joined the army in the first week of the war, answering the call within a day or two of the outbreak. He has been at the front for eighteen months without once getting home on leave. He belongs to the Yorkshire Regiment. Before the war he was engaged in farm service, being last employed with Mr. Leadley, Suffield’

A short time after the above had appeared in the local press Robert and Ann Morris had been informed that their son had been killed in action, probably on the 10TH of July 1916. No identifiable remains of Private Robert Henry Morris had ever been recovered from the Somme battlefield. A similar act of self-sacrifice had been committed by Rifleman William Frederick McFadzean of the Royal Irish Rifles on the opening day of the Somme Offensive, however, unlike Billy McFadzean; Robert Henry Morris had never received a posthumous Victoria Cross for his unselfish sacrifice. Nevertheless, both men are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, Morris’s name can be found amongst the names of the missing of the Yorkshire Regiment recorded on Pier and Face 3A and 3D, whilst twenty years old Billy Mc Fadzean’s can be found amongst the men of the Royal Irish Rifles that are remembered on Pier and Face 15A and 15B.

Almost two years after the loss of their elder son, during April 1918 the Morris family had been informed that their youngest son; 205198 Private Charles Francis Morris, had also lost his life to enemy action.

Born at Suffield during 1896, Charles had enlisted into the army [also at Scarborough] shortly after Robert and had served for over three years on the Western Front with the 18TH [Service] Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. Popularly known as the ‘1ST Tyneside’, the 18TH Battalion, although formed during October 1914 as a conventional infantry unit, during June 1915 the unit had been converted to a Pioneer Battalion and had served in this role until 1918, when the Battalion had reverted back to the role of infantrymen and had been attached to the 34TH Division.

Located in Flanders at the time of the German Spring Offensive on the Lys during April 1918, the 18TH Northumberland Fusiliers had taken part in the Battle of the Lys [9TH--29TH April] during which, on the 13TH of April 1918, the twenty-one years old Charles Morris had been killed by enemy shellfire. Like brother Robert, no identifiable remains of Charles Morris had ever been located, and his name had eventually been included on the Ploegsteert Memorial, which is located in Flanders, some 12 kilometres to the south of the city of Ypres that commemorates over 11,000 British and South African servicemen who had lost their lives in that area of Belgium who posses no known graves. Charles Francis Morris’s name is located on Panel 2.

Locally, Harry and Charles Francis Morris are commemorated on Hackness’s War Memorial located outside the village hall at Hackness, which commemorates another eleven men of the district that had given their lives during the Great War of 1914-1919. In addition, Charles’s name is included on a ‘Roll of Honour’ to be found inside St Peter’s Church at Hackness. However, for some obscure reason Robert’s name is not amongst the memorial’s twelve-recorded names.

During the attack of the 10TH of July Scarborough had also lost; 15606 Private George Robert Costello. Born in the town at No 51 Dumple Street during 1884, George had been the son of Catherine and ‘general labourer’ Peter Costello. Married in Scarborough during 1908 George had also been the husband of Alice [formally baker], and father of Mary Emily [born Scarborough 1901], George Robert [1911], and Nora Costello [1914], who, during 1916 had been residing in Scarborough at No.1a Atlas Place, George had been serving with the 9TH Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment during the attack on Contalmaison. Wylly describes the unit’s part in the assault;

‘The trenches named for the start point were found, some of them, to be wholly destroyed; nearly all were at an angle which necessitated correction of alignment after starting, but there was no hesitation; officers and men fell into their places and the long advance 12-1500 yards] went on without check…The enemy’s artillery soon observed the movement, Very lights being fired in profusion by the German infantry calling for artillery support. No finer sight has been seen than the advance of these brave Yorkshiremen in quick time across the open amid bursting shells and all the machine gun and rifle fire the enemy could bring to bear on them. The 9TH Green Howards on the left first reached the enemy’s main trench and, bursting through the wire, entered the village. The sight of gleaming bayonets was too much for the enemy who ran in all directions, only to be shot down by artillery and machine gun fire from guns which had earlier been placed in position to flank the village’ [1]

Although Contalmaison had been won, the cost to the 9TH Battalion had been expensive. During the night of the 10TH the customary post battle roll call had revealed the Battalion had by then merely consisted of its commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel H.G. Holmes, and second in command Major H.A.S. Prior, five junior officers and one hundred and twenty eight other ranks.

Amongst the 9TH Battalion’s twenty three officers and four hundred and fifteen other ranks that had lost their lives in the fighting for Contalmaison, Private George Robert Costello had been reported as ‘killed’ in a casualty list that had appeared in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 21ST of July 1916, no further information regarding his demise had been reported in the local press, and, despite numerous ‘sweeps’ of the battlefield, no identifiable remains of the soldier had ever bee recovered from the detritus of the Somme battlefield. George’s name, like that of Harry Morris, is commemorated on Pier and Face 3A and 3D of the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. [2]

Commemorated on the Oliver’s Mount Memorial, in addition to the name of George Robert Costello, Scarborough’s War Memorial also contains the name of; 1825 Private Albert Costello. The son of Ellen and John Costello of No 55 Rothebury Street, Albert had been born in Scarborough during 1898 and had lost his life at the age of eighteen years on the Somme, the 17TH of September 1916, whilst serving with the 1ST/5TH Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment in operations between High Wood and Martinpuich. A pre war Territorial Force soldier, the remains of Albert Costello are interred in Section 6, Row K, Grave 31 in Adanac Military Cemetery, at Miraumont. [3]

Shortly after the death of Privates Morris and Costello, on the 11TH of July 1916, General James M. Babington, the General Officer Commanding 23RD Division, had issued the following ‘Special Order of the Day’ that had been a fitting tribute to two very courageous men of Suffield and Scarborough, along with the remainder of the gallant 8TH and 9TH Battalions of the Yorkshire Regiment;

…’The G.O.C. the Division cannot allow the action of the 69TH Brigade on July 10TH to pass without special recognition. Nothing could have exceeded the steadiness and gallantry with which they carried out the attack and bore themselves in the hard fighting that followed. The example of gallantry and devotion to duty, which they set calls for the highest admiration, and the Division is proud to possess such gallant comrades in their ranks’

On the 14th of July the British had launched an attack on the German second line [‘The Braune Stellung’], the trenches of which ran just in front of Delville Wood, Longueval, Bazentin Le Grand, and Bazentin Le Petit Woods on Bazentin Ridge. From it the Germans had complete mastery of observation and could see several miles behind the old British front line of July 1st.

The plan of attack had been unique and audacious. Instead of the murderous frontal attacks in broad daylight following a prolonged artillery bombardment, which had given the Germans ample warning that an attack was imminent, the hallmark of the earlier days of the Somme Offensive. Fourth Army planned to begin the attack under the cover of darkness just before dawn of the 14th. Which would entail moving seven Divisions of Infantry in total darkness half a mile into No Man’s Land, ready to begin the assault immediately after a ‘hurricane’ bombardment of the German positions that would last for only half an hour.

Another innovation of the attack would be for the first time in the war the infantry would be advancing under the cover of a creeping barrage, a rolling curtain of shellfire [usually shrapnel which filled the air with lethal shards of metal on explosion] preceding about a hundred yards in front of the infantry with the object of keeping the enemy’s ‘nuts down’, this was in complete contrast to the bombardment of July 1st when the infantry had left their trenches only after the lifting of the shellfire.

The Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, General Sir Douglas Haigh, was initially opposed to the plan put forward by Fourth Army’s commander [General Sir Henry Rawlinson], on the grounds that he doubted that the troops who were to be involved in the attack were ‘not experienced in that kind of manoeuvre’, the French moreover, believing it to be total madness would have nothing to do with the attack, in spite of this discouragement, Rawlinson went ahead with his planning. Further arguments between the British Generals ended with Hag at last relenting. On the 12th of July 1916 the final decision was made the attack would begin at 3-25am on the fourteenth.

As I have already related seven Divisions of Infantry were to be used in the forthcoming assault, they were from left to right; 18th [start point west of Trones Wood], 9th, [north west of the village of Montauban] 3rd, [Caterpillar Wood] 7th [east of Mametz Wood], 21st [north west corner of Mametz Wood] 1st, north east and 34th north west of the village of Contalmaison. In addition there were to be four Divisions of Cavalry, who were held in reserve ready to ‘exploit any breakthrough’ that may take place.

My narrative however, is primarily concerned with the actions of the Third Division, and in particular the Ninth Infantry Brigade, which occupied almost the centre of the attack and with the Ninth Division would see much hard and desperate fighting in the forthcoming battle.

An old Regular Army Division, the Third had landed in France during the first tentative breaths of the war in August 1914, and had fired it’s first rounds of ammunition during the battle of Mons on Sunday the 24th [in which it had sustained 1,185 casualties, the highest of the British divisions who where engaged in the battle]. It seems reasonable to assume that the majority of the Regular Army ‘Old Sweats’, who had landed with their Battalions in those early days had in all probably been killed off, wounded or made prisoners of war in the intervening two years of war, their places taken by ‘Kitcheners Men’, indeed two battalions in the Division were all from the new ‘Citizens Army’.

One of them, the 12th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment had formed at York in September 1914, and had gone to France with its original Division, the 21st, with which they had suffered terribly in their ‘Baptism of Fire’ during the battle of Loos in September 1915. The Battalion had consequently been transferred to the Third Division in November 1915, to serve in the 9th Brigade with the First Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, Fourth Royal Fusiliers [both Regular Army] and the 13th King’s Own Royal Regiment [Lancaster], who were like them, ‘New Army’, or ‘Kitcheners Men’.

The 12th West Yorks had been at La Pann on the coast of Flanders on the first day of the Somme offensive, where on this momentous day the Battalion had according to the Battalions Diary;

‘Received orders to be ready to march off at 6am, moved to Audrigges and then entrained for Doullins, marching thence to Bernaville’, where they had ‘rested’ on the second of July. [1]

By the thirteenth the Battalion was in reserve on the Somme and were in a position known as ‘The Loop’. Here the commanding officer of the 12th, Major W. O. Oswald, had been summoned by Divisional Headquarters to receive his orders for the forthcoming operation which were:

‘Undercover of darkness an approach from the Montauban Ridge was to be made to a line roughly 250 yards from the enemy’s front line of wire, where the troops would be deployed for the attack. The 8th Infantry Brigade on the right and the 9th on the left were to attack, each Brigade having two assault Battalions with a Battalion in support and another in reserve. The assaulting Battalions were to attack in four lines, the supporting Battalions being in similar formations in rear… [1]

The objective of 3rd Division was to be the enemy’s second line running from just east of the communication trench between [Map References] S.16.b.6.5., and S.16.b.5.2. to s.15.a.2.1., and the village of Bazentin Le Grand. The task of 12th West Yorkshires had been by no means easy. The Battalion had first to capture and ‘consolidate’ the enemy’s support line, then establish a defensive line from a road junction at the north east corner of Bazentin Le Grand Wood, there they were to construct strongpoints and in addition keep in touch with, and assist the attack of the 20th Infantry Brigade [of 7th Division] on their left. Zero Hour was set for 3-25 am on the fourteenth.

A few hours after nightfall on the thirteenth men had been sent out into No Mans Land armed with reels of white tape to mark out a track for the assaulting troops along their 1,000-yard approach to their starting point. More tapes were laid at right angles to form a giant ‘T’ marking out the forward line on which the men were to form, so that they could begin their attack parallel with their designated objectives, which was of the utmost importance if success was to be achieved.

Meanwhile the assault troops would have been making their final preparations, the customary pre attack issue of Rum had been ‘dished out’ to calm the nerves of the men apprehensively adjusting their equipment, and perhaps wondering what the next few hours had in store for them.

At 9-45pm over 22,000 men began to assemble in the shelter of a ravine known to the men as ‘Caterpillar Valley’, moving up in long wormlike lines of companies in single file. Incredibly only one man was wounded in this operation. By 3-15am the assaulting and supporting Battalions of the 9th Infantry Brigade had crept forward until they were a mere hundred yards from the German front line and lay down to anxiously wait for the signal to attack. As planned at 3-20am the hurricane bombardment of the German front lines began. An Officer not involved in the attack would later describe the onslaught in a letter to his wife:

‘It is now 5-35am and we have been up since about 3. A big assault, on our right came off at 3-25 with an intense bombardment which lasted five minutes and which was a sight to be seen. The whole horizon seemed to be bursting with shells in front of us and behind us flashing guns. No news of the assault has yet reached us, but we think the Boche must have had rather a disturbed morning’.

Following the ‘lifting’ of the bombardment the attacking troops rose to their feet and advanced on their allotted targets, some units came up against strong belts of barbed wire which had not been cut by the artillery, and despite their best efforts made little headway.

The ‘Old and Bold’ [the nickname of the West Yorkshire Regiment] however, had no such trouble and made good progress. The Battalions War Diary records;

----‘Found the enemy first line practically obliterated and took the second line with very slight opposition. At about 4am word was sent back [to Brigade Headquarters] that we had occupied second line’

By 4-30am however the situation had changed drastically as the Battalion came under heavy fire from Bazentin Le Grand Wood and village, referring to the War Diary again;

‘By this time the enemy had somewhat reorganised and were very active with machine guns and artillery and we were losing officers and men, so much so that at 5-15 all officers in reserve had to be called for’

Three companies [about a 160 men] of the Northumberland Fusiliers were rushed forward to support the struggling troops and with their assistance the men of the King’s and West Yorkshire Regiments had forced their way into the devastated Bazentin Le Grand and began the hazardous task of clearing the Germans out of the ruined buildings and labyrinth of cellars, each a potential haven for snipers. By 6-30 am it was all over, the German second line and the village had been secured.

In the attack on Bazentin Le Grand the 12th West Yorkshires had suffered thirteen officers killed and wounded, including their commanding officer, Major Oswald, who was to die of wounds received ironically after the attack, from a British shell fragment. In ‘Other Ranks’ the Battalion had lost forty-six killed, a hundred and seventy wounded, and a further twenty-four posted as ‘missing’. Amongst them: 19185 Private Edward Wilkinson Bean.

‘Ted’ Bean had been born in Scarborough, at No1 St Sepulchre Street in 1892 [Baptised at St Mary’s Parish Church on the 18th of May], and had been the eldest of four sons [two elder Daughters, Mabel and Frances Annie had been born in 1886 and 1888] of Sarah Jane and Merchant Seaman Charles Edward Bean, [Charles Edward Bean and Sarah Jane Stonehouse were married at St Mary’s parish Church on the 9th of June 1885].

At the time of their son’s death the Bean’s were living at No3 Long Greece Steps, which like so many of the old yards, courts, and alleyways of the old town are no longer there. [Charles and Sarah Bean had subsequently lived at No 3 Quay Street post war]. The steps however still remain, albeit new ones where the Bean family had once lived.

The name of Ted Bean had appeared in an extensive casualty list that had appeared in the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday July 28th 1916, therefore I have very little information regarding his life prior to his enlistment [in Scarborough] in late 1915. I do know however that his body was never recovered in the days and eventually years following the battle of Bazentin Ridge, his name therefore is commemorated like so many of the Somme Offensive of 1916 and the later campaign of 1918 on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing [Pier and Face 2A, 2C, &2D].

He is also commemorated on a ‘Roll of Honour’ in St Mary’s Parish church, in Castle Road, and on a black marble headstone in Manor Road Cemetery [Plot L, Row 27, Grave 32]. Which also commemorates his London born Father, who had died on the 6TH of June 1931 aged 72 years, and his Whitby Mother who had subsequently died on the 5TH of August 1936 at the age of seventy years.

Also commemorated on the stone is the name of his younger brother who had been killed in action on Wednesday the twelfth of December 1917; 21458 Lance Corporal William Henry Bean.

Attached to ‘Y’ Company of the 1ST battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, Harry popularly known as ‘Totty’ Bean was born at No 1 Coverley’s Court in Lower Conduit Street in 1896. A former pupil of Friarage School in Longwestgate he had enlisted like his elder brother into the Army at Scarborough in late 1915 also into the West Yorkshire Regiment [No 18454]. Harry’s name had appeared in the Scarborough Mercury of Friday January 4th 1918 and had been afforded a few more words than his brother:

‘Second son killed - The parents of Lance Corporal W. H. Bean [Totty] have learnt that their son was killed on December 12th. He was 21 years of age and lived at 3, Long Greece Steps, and had served two years and six months in France. Another son was killed on the Somme in 1916. The Father and another son [Charles] are serving’…
[Merchant Navy and the London Rifles respectively].

‘Totty’ Bean had been one of eleven men from the First Northumberland’s who had been captured by the Germans during ‘severe and confused fighting’ which had taken place at a position known as ‘The Apex’ near the village of Bullecourt in the Arras sector of the Western Front. At the time of his death Totty and his comrades were being escorted to the rear when the party had come under artillery fire, possibly British, which had killed him and a number of others. The Scarborough Mercury had eventually reported the incident in the edition of Friday the 25TH of January 1918;

‘Killed when taken prisoner - We recently reported the death of Lance Corporal Bean, 3 Long Greece Steps. It appears that he had been taken prisoner and was killed by a shell whilst being escorted back to the German lines’

Harry Bean had been buried by the German’s where he had fallen and his marked grave had subsequently been found at the end of the war by the Imperial War Graves Commission who had re-interred his remains in Mory Abbey Military Cemetery in Northern France, [Plot 2, Row F. Grave 15.] near the village of Mory, which is in the Department of Pas- De- Calais, and lies between the town’s of Arras and Bapaume.

He is also commemorated with his elder brother in St Mary’s, on a small tablet of stone which had been presented by Mr and Mrs H. Wright [as a token of thanksgiving to Almighty God] commemorating the men of the ‘Bottom End’ of the Town who had died whilst on active service in the Great War, which had originally been placed in St Thomas’s Church in East Sandgate, and had subsequently been taken to St Mary’s with the closure of ‘the Fisherman’s Church’ on the 2ND of February 1969.

The other son of the Bean’s who had seen active service in the Great War had been their third, Charles, who had been born in Scarborough in 1898. Charles had served with the Territorial 1ST/5TH [City of London] Battalion
[London Rifle Brigade] of the London Regiment and had been wounded in the latter stages of the War. His name had appeared in a casualty list that had appeared in the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday October 11TH 1918, exactly a month before the end of hostilities:

‘Rifleman Charles Bean, London Rifles, has written to his mother at 3, Long Greece Steps saying that he is wounded in the thigh. He is 20 years of age and previously worked for Mr George Sutton, Fish Merchant. His two Brothers, Private Edward, in the West Yorkshires, and Lance Corporal Harry, in the N.F.’s have been killed’.

Charles Bean had survived his wounds, and the war, and I had believed that that my story of the Bean Brothers would end here, until I found, not so long ago, the grave of Charles and his wife Harriet, in Manor Road Cemetery, [Plot V, Row 4, Grave 45], who had both died on the same day, Saturday November 12TH 1938. On further investigation into the micro film archive of the ‘Scarborough Evening News’ covering this period I had found an article in the Newspaper of the same date which reads:

‘Man and Wife Found Fatally gassed in an Eastborough Café - A man and his wife were found dead in the Kum-a-Gen café, Eastborough, [No. 40A] this morning when the police forced the doors of the shop. They were Charles and Harriet Bean, proprietors of the café. The discovery of the tragedy was made by a man who called to deliver some goods. He received no reply to his knocking and, detecting a smell of gas; he became suspicious and notified the police.

When the ambulance arrived the doors were forced, and the police found Mrs Harriet Bean lying in the kitchen. In the bakehouse they discovered her husband Charles Bean also dead. Both had died through the inhalation of coal gas. They were about 35 years old, [Charles was in fact 40 years old and Harriet was aged 27 years]. The couple had been in business for about six years. They had no children. Mrs Bean was the daughter of Mr George Blades a former playing member of the Scarborough Football Club’

Whether the death of Charles and Harriet was due to an accident or suicide was never explained. The couple were buried together in Manor Road Cemetery in the afternoon of Wednesday November 16TH 1938; a little over twenty years after Charles had been wounded in the Great War.

The fourth son of Charles and Sarah Bean was Sidney, who appears in the Electoral Rolls for Scarborough in 1930, which means that he had probably reached the age of 21 years by this time giving him the right to vote, and his name to appear in the Rolls. He had also lived at 3, Long Greece Steps.

Having briefly mentioned the First Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers in the foregoing text it is now necessary to return to them to elaborate on the part that they had played on the 14th of July. But first we are stepping back a few days to note the Battalions movements in the days leading up to the attack.

The Battalion had been in reserve to Fourth Army at the beginning of the Somme Offensive being in ‘billets’ in the village of Prouville by the second of July The Third Division had been earmarked as early as the 3RD of July for the attack on Bazentin Le Petit, and on this date the Fist Northumberland’s had moved to the village of Vignacourt [seven miles north west of Amiens] where they joined with the remainder of 9TH Brigade. From here the men marched, mostly under the cover of darkness through La Housoye, and Morlancourt, reaching the battle area on the 8TH of July to bivouac in the old British front line at Carnoy.

Over the next three days, to familiarise the men with the terrain that they were attack, the men were detailed to carry rations and ammunition to the troops in the front line, whilst their company commanders reconnoitred the front. In the course of these activities the Northumberland’s lost eleven men killed and an officer and twenty-seven other ranks wounded to German shellfire in retaliation for the British artillery bombardment that had already opened on the enemy barbed wire on the front of the forthcoming attack.

On the night of the thirteenth the men of 9Th Infantry Brigade had assembled in a sunken road about 250 yards from the German front line in readiness to begin their attack at 3-25am. The task of the four companies of the First Northumberland’s, with ‘W’ and ‘Y ‘in front and ‘X’ and ‘Z’ behind was to take up a position on the reverse slope between the Montauban--- Bazentin Le Grand road and Marlborough Wood. The Battalion were there to be held in readiness to reinforce the leading troops in the attack [the afore mentioned 13TH King’s, and 12TH West York’s Regiments] and alternatively, in the event of the nearby 7TH Division failing to go forward, to form a defensive flank in the north of Marlborough Wood in protection of the left flank of their own 3RD Division.

As the two assaulting Battalions had moved off at Zero Hour into Bazentin Wood two companies of the Fusiliers had taken their places at the start point to await developments. Initially they merely played a supporting role, but as time went by and the two leading Battalions began to take heavy casualties, the First Northumberland’s had taken a more prominent role and by the time they had fought their way into Bazentin Le Petit they too had begun to sustain casualties. The Battalion’s History [The Fifth in the Great War; Stanilands] takes up the story:

‘All four companies of the Fifth [Regiment of Fusiliers] were employed in clearing the village. The searching of the houses and cellars was at the best a difficult task, and their ruined condition, made it in some cases impossible. Nonetheless the enemy’s snipers were steadily dislodged, though the work was greatly hampered by rifle and machine gun fire from a fortified ‘Keep’ [Some would later call it a large farmhouse] in the eastern quarter of the village.

Both ‘X’ and ‘Y’ companies on first entering the village had suffered severely from fire directed from this point. Ultimately on the orders of Captain Rutledge, Lieutenant Lynch led a bombing attack against the ‘Keep’ and succeeded in driving the enemy from the position and capturing 20 prisoners and four machine guns. The Germans however, still clung obstinately to some trenches to the east and to a gully to the north east of the village. All efforts to oust them from these positions for long proved vain, and cost the Fifth dear’.

The ‘obstinate’ German opposition was eventually quelled by the Battalions Grenadiers, [known by the rest of the men as the ‘suicide club’ on account of their often very hazardous work], who under the covering fire of Stokes Mortars drove the Germans from the trenches and eventually the gully. By 9-30am it was all over. The surviving Germans had escaped into the nearby High Wood leaving the derelict Bazentin Le Grand in the hands of its new owners, who had set to almost immediately organising the defence of their newly won prize against counterattack which it was usual for the German Army to do after every loss of ground.

Sometime after the battle the roll call was made by the First Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers to find who had and had not made it through the days fighting, it was eventually found that they had one officer and twenty three other ranks killed, six officers and a hundred and forty eight other ranks wounded, and a further forty men were missing. Mortally wounded in the fighting: 21393 Private George William Rutledge.

Born at Huddersfield, West Yorkshire during 1879, George had been married in Scarborough during 1904 and had been the husband of Frances Rutledge [formally Appleby] and the father of six children, Jane Elizabeth [born Scarborough 1906], Frances [1909], William E. [1912], Charlotte, Annie, and Alice [1915], who were living at No 100 Longwestgate in July 1916.

Rutledge had already been a veteran of the Boer War of 1899-1902 at the beginning of the Great War, and had been serving his time as a Reservist until his recall to the colours [at Scarborough] upon the general mobilisation of the Army in August 1914, joining the 1ST Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers at Portsmouth, where the Battalion had been mobilising preparatory to joining the British Expeditionary Force that was about to set sail for France..

Eventually landing at Le Havre on the fourteenth of August 1914, Rutledge had served in all the major actions of the opening rounds of the war that had begun with the Battle of Mons on August 22ND1914. George Rutledge had indeed been a fortunate soldier to have survived until 1916.

George Rutledge’s name had appeared in the ‘Scarboro Casualties’ column of ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 18TH of August, he had, however, been mentioned a little more extensively in ‘The Hull Daily Mail’ of Monday August 14TH in the newspapers ‘Roll of Honour’ section:

‘Private G.W. Rutledge, Northumberland Fusiliers, whose wife and seven children reside at 100, Longwestgate Scarborough was killed in action on July 14TH. He was 36 years of age, and served in the Boer War’…

In the above article it is stated that George had been killed in action, i.e. killed outright. However, the volume of ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ dealing with the casualties of the Northumberland Fusiliers [Part 10] states that he had ‘died of wounds’, in which case he may have been evacuated from the battlefield to a Dressing Station situated at Bronfay Farm, which had been near the village of Bray-sur-Somme, eight kilometres south east of Albert, where he had succumbed to his wounds some hours later, and had eventually been buried in the burial ground attached to the Dressing Station, which is now known as Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery where his grave can be found in Plot 2, Row A, Grave 21.

Frances Rutledge had never remarried in the years following her husbands death and had lived with her children in Longwestgate until the 1930s, when she had moved into the brand new East Mount Flats, living at No 9 with daughters Annie and Alice, whilst son George William had been living, during 1934, next door at No 10, with sister and brother in law George and Charlotte Appleby. By the end of the Second World War, however, Frances Rutledge had left the old town to live in the burgeoning Barrowcliff Housing Estate, with daughter Charlotte, who by this time had married Harry Cammish- Rowntree and had lived at No 27 St Leonard’s Crescent, where Frances Rutledge had lived for the rest of her days, passing away in the house on Friday the 26TH of August 1949 at the relatively young age of 64 years following; ‘A long illness patiently borne’

The remains of Frances Rutledge had been interred in Section V, Row 17, Grave 13 of Scarborough’s Manor Road Cemetery during the afternoon of Monday the 29TH of August 1949. A headstone marks her final resting place and has inscribed upon it her name, and that of her husband, along with a poignant epitaph: ‘Her life is a beautiful memory, her absence a silent grief. Reunited’ [4]

After being employed for five days in holding and consolidating the positions captured in the battle of Bazentin Le Grand, the exhausted and depleted 9TH Infantry Brigade were withdrawn on the 19TH of July to Divisional Reserve, to bivouac in the old British front line at Talus Boise, where the formation had rested and awaited reinforcements.

Although Bazentin’s Le Grand and Petit, and Trones Wood had been taken within a few hours, and in addition 6,000 yards of the German Second line had fallen into British hands, part of the village of Longueval resisted all the effort to dislodge its German defenders. The tide of the British advance had even lapped at the edges of Delville Wood [soon to be known quite rightly by the British Tommie’s as Devil’s Wood] and High Wood, [which was also to receive an evil reputation in the weeks to follow]. But the pockets of German resistance in the village of Longueval, now heavily reinforced remained as the stumbling block to complete victory.

As early as 10am on the fourteenth the 3RD and 7TH Divisions had stood before High Wood that appeared unoccupied. Their orders however forbade them to go beyond their designated objectives. A proposal by 7Th Div’s commander to push through the wood was turned down on the grounds that the wood was a cavalry objective, but the cavalry, experiencing difficulty in travelling over the muddy shell cratered ground were miles away. By noon the cavalry had still not appeared’ and Fourth Armies Commander, Rawlinson finally gave 7TH Div permission to advance into the wood, but misinformation and poor communications meant that the attack be postponed until seven in the evening. At first little in the way of opposition was encountered, but thick undergrowth made progress difficult, and the advance was eventually brought to a halt by intense fire from the Germans. By nightfall all operations had ceased and it would take two months of the most savage fighting to capture High Wood, the common soldier of both sides suffering appallingly.

The Battle of Bazentin Ridge had closed down on the 17TH of July 1916. Of the ‘Dawn Attack’ of the Fourteenth, John Terraine describes it as; ‘an amazing feat’, and goes on to say. ‘Most of the men belonging to the New Armies, their staffs were the same men whose inexperience had weighed so heavily in the first planning of the Somme battle. Both now revealed those hidden qualities of adaptability and military instinct, which had been stifled in the debacle only thirteen days before. There was no mistake about this assault’

[1] The Green Howards in the Great War 1914-1918; Wylly

[2] During its operations at Contalmaison the 9TH Battalion’s Second Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell had been awarded with a posthumous Victoria Cross for an act of the ‘most conspicuous bravery’ that had been performed by this officer during the attacks on the village. A former professional footballer, the twenty-five years old had also been killed in action during the attack of the 10TH of July 1916. His remains are interred ‘on the Somme, in Gordon Dump Cemetery at Orvillers-la Boiselle.

[3] Interestingly, Albert’s elder brother William [born Scarborough 1894] had enlisted into the British Royal Field Artillery before the First World War, however, by the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914 he had been living in the city of New York where he had enrolled for military service in the American Army during 1917. A veteran of service on the Western Front with the American Expeditionary Force, William had survived the war to return to his truck-driving job in Brooklyn.

[4] A copy of 12TH West Yorkshire’s War Diary was kindly supplied to me by Mrs Pat Boyd of the Regimental Headquarters, of the Prince of Wales Own Regiment,
Tower Street, York.

[5] George Rutledge is also commemorated on a ‘Roll of Honour’ in St Mary’s Church in Castle Road, which had originally had been in St Thomas’s Church in East Sandgate, now the Headquarters of the Scarborough unit of the Sea Cadet Corps.

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