Minor operations in World War One

- Second Lieutenant Harry Cliff Brown
- Private Robert William Normandale
- Second Lieutenant Harold Sinclair
- Private Henry Ferguson
- Private Ernest David Robinson
- Private James Fidler
- Driver William Fox
- Private James Robert Gibson
- Sergeant John Hollingsworth
- Private Reginald Hollingsworth
- Sergeant Charles Wesley Proud Lyth
- Sergeant Walter Thompson

The winter of 1916/17 had been the severest for thirty years, the bitterly cold and invariably wet conditions had debilitated thousands of allied [and German] servicemen with trench foot, pneumonia, arthritis, frost bite, and a myriad of other ailments, an officer had subsequently wrote of the period;

‘No one who was not there can fully appreciate the excruciating agonies and misery through which the men had gone in those days. Paddling about by day, sometimes with water above the knees; standing at night, hour after hour on sentry duty, while the drenched boots, puttees and breeches became stiff like cardboard with ice from the freezing cold air’…

Regardless of the atrocious conditions the fight for supremacy of the ‘Western Front’ had continued. In the early hours of Saturday the seventeenth of February elements Hubert Gough’s Fifth Army had launched an attack in the Ancre Sector of the Somme on the German front line that ran through the village of Serre to the nearby village of Miraumont.

Amongst the units that had taken part in the operation had been the 188TH Brigade of the 63RD [Royal Naval] Division that had consisted of the 1ST and 2ND Battalions of the Royal Marine Light Infantry [R.M.L.I.] and the Howe Battalion. The Brigade’s objectives had been the capture of a sunken road running north from Baillescourt Farm, which had been about half a mile in front of the British front line, and the seizure of two strong point, one of which had been known as ‘The Pimple’.

The attack had begun at the appointed ‘Zero Hour’ of 5-45am on the seventeenth. The terrain some days prior to the attack had been frozen, however on the 16th a thaw had set in. An idea of the conditions which had been the Ancre at the time is described in the ‘Official History’ [1917 Volume one P 76]; - ‘at dawn on the 17TH there was dark cloud, overhead, wet mist near the ground and underfoot a slippery surface, which soon degenerated into deep greasy mud once more’. In these conditions and due to a navigational problem the assault had immediately gone awry, nonetheless the attack had continued and the marines had taken all their objectives albeit at a heavy price;

‘During the advance Captain Pearson commanding ‘A’ Company looking to his left saw an enemy machine gun being got up out of its hole and brought into action; he picked off one man with his rifle and shot another, he was then joined by Lieutenant Sanderson and between them they picked off five men and the enemy gave up the attempt. If the gun had been brought into action it would have swept the sunken road, which was packed with men as they were re- organising and would have turned a great success into a dreadful failure’[1]

[for his actions that day Captain Pearson had received the Military Cross].

The ‘Pimple’ had eventually been taken by Major Ozanne’s ‘D’ Company shortly after 6-40am following an assault by Sergeant W.G. Scott who had attacked the entrance to the strongpoint with hand grenades. [Sergeant Scott had eventually received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions].

For the remainder of the seventeenth the Royal Marines had been subjected to a heavy enemy artillery bombardment. 1ST RMLI had eventually been relieved during the night of the following day, the weary and shell-shocked Marines making their way to the rear. At Martinsart the survivors had been met by the band of the Royal Marines Depot at Deal that had played them into billets in the nearby village of Engelbelmer, where shortly after their arrival the remains of the battalion had been mustered to ‘Call the Roll’. Of the sixteen officers and five hundred men of the Battalion who had commenced the attack only three officers and a hundred men had answered to their names. Amongst those who had not, had been; Temporary Second Lieutenant Harry Cliff Brown.

Born at Norwich on the 29TH of October 1882 Harry had been the only son of Emma and James Brown, who at the time of his son’ death had been a retired civil servant of the Republic of Eire living in Scarborough at a house named ‘Eborville’, No 8 St Johns Avenue. Before the war Harry Brown had been living in Dublin where he had been employed as a surveyor with the Irish Land Commission. At the outbreak of the conflict the thirty-two years old Harry had enlisted into the Territorial Force at Dublin on the 16TH of October 1915. Standing at a height of five feet ten and a half inches, and possessing a ‘good physical development’ Brown had eventually served as a Private [Regimental Number 6936] with No.7 Officer Cadet Battalion, which had been based at Moor Park, in County Cork. However, on the 20TH of October 1915 he had enlisted at London’s Lincoln’s Inn into the Inns of Court Officer Training Company. Promoted to the rank of unpaid Lance Corporal with effect from the 10TH of May 1916, Brown had remained with this unit until the 25TH of October 1916 when he had been ‘gazetted’ with the rank of Second Lieutenant and had been granted a temporary commission in the Plymouth Division of the Royal Marine Light Infantry [R.M.L.I.], this unit’s Headquarters being at the time located at Stonehouse Barracks in Plymouth.

Harry Brown had remained at Stonehouse until the 27TH of November 1916, when he had received orders to proceed to France and the First Battalion of the R.M.L.I.. The C.O. of the establishment had included a couple of comments on Brown’s Service Record his General Conduct had been ‘Satisfactory’, had made no comment of his ability, and had written that he was; ’Interested in his work’, appears suitable’[2]

Brown had eventually joined ‘C’ Company of 1ST R.M.L.I. in France on the twenty ninth of November 1916 with a draft of replacements for the three hundred and sixty three officers and men of the battalion who had recently [13TH November] become casualties during the capture of Beaucourt, one of the last acts of the Somme Offensive, The Battle of the Ancre [13-18 November]. At the time that Harry had joined the formation it had been in billets at Engelbelmer, a village four and a half miles north west of Albert, from where it had rotated with the Second Battalion in very wet front line trenches on the southern bank of the Ancre, near to the enemy held village of Grandcourt.

The final two and a half months of Harry Cliff Brown’s life had inevitably been immersed in the routine of life on the Western Front, rotation in and out of the line, trench raids, patrols, and localised attacks on the enemy. By the thirteenth of February 1917 the battalion had been ‘resting’ in the village of Martinsart, during that day the officers had been briefed about the forthcoming attack on the Pimple the news had been relayed to the men who had begun to make their preparations for battle. During the night of the 14TH/15TH of February the Battalion had relieved the 10TH Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in ‘Puiseux Trench’ on the north bank of the Ancre. At 10pm on the following night the battalion had made their final preparations for the attack that had begun a few hours later.

The fateful telegram from the Admiralty informing James Brown that his son was ‘missing in action’, had arrived at his home in St John’s Avenue towards the end of February, the tidings had subsequently been reported unusually not in a casualty list, but the ‘Local News’ section of the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 2ND of March 1917;

‘Scarborough officer missing’.

‘Mr. Jas. Brown, of Eborville, [No 8] St John’s Avenue, has received a notification from the Admiralty that his only son Harry C. Brown, Second Lieutenant, R.M.L.I., has been missing since operations in France on the 17TH inst. Sec. Lieut. Brown joined the Inns of Court O.T.C. in October 1915, and was gazetted in November last to the R.M.L.I., being sent to France three weeks later. This young officer before joining up was a surveyor in the Irish Land Commission, and was stationed in Dublin’

A week later, on Friday the ninth of February the newspaper had reported;

‘Sec. Lieut. Harold C. Brown’.

‘We recently announced that Sec- Lieutenant Harold C. Brown, R.M.L.I., only son of Mr. James Brown, Eborville, St John’s Avenue, was missing. Official intimation has now been received that he is dead’…

In the days immediately after the battle for the Pimple, the Second in Command of 1ST RMLI [Captain Huskisson] had taken a burial party back to the scene of the fighting where they had recovered ninety-five bodies, including Harry Cliff Brown’s. These had been taken to River Trench Cemetery at Pusieux where they had been buried, each grave being marked with a cross with the dead man’s number and name written on a piece of paper and placed in a bottle at the foot of each cross. These had later been replaced with engraved zinc plates, which had been attached to the crosses. At the end of the war the bodies had been exhumed by the then Imperial War Graves Commission and taken to the nearby ‘Queens Cemetery’ just to the south of the small village of Bucquoy in the Pas de Calais Department of France. Harry Cliff Brown’s grave can be found in Plot 2, Section H, [Grave 7] of the Cemetery.

At the end of the war James Brown had received through the post a brown paper package from the Admiralty, it had contained the medals that had been bestowed on his son by a grateful nation, the customary, War Medal, and a Victory Medal.

Apart from the War Memorial, in Scarborough Harry’s name had at one time been commemorated on a ’Roll of Honour’ inside Holy Trinity Church, in the town’s Trinity Road. Alas the church is now [2003] being converted into private housing, the whereabouts of the memorial commemorating the names of twenty eight members of the church who had lost their lives during the ‘Great War’ is not known. The fallen officer’s name can, however, be found on a broken monument in Scarborough’s Manor Road Cemetery [Plot K, Border, Grave 43] which also commemorates the name of his mother, Emma A. Brown, who had died on the 5TH of October 1915 at the age of sixty one years, and his father who had passed away at the age of 79 years on the 12TH of July 1925. [By the 1920’s James Brown had been living in Scarborough at No 31 West Bank].

Inevitably, having been cut to ribbons by machine gun fire, blown to pieces by shell fire, or drowned in the many flooded shell holes, many of the bodies of the marines who had lost their lives during the operation had never been located, amongst them had been;

Chatham /Service/ 1007 Private Robert William Normandale.

Attached to ‘A’ Company of 1ST R.M.L.I. ‘Bob’ Normandale had been born in Scarborough on the 9TH of February 1895 at No2 Adelaide Place [Spreight Lane], and had been the eldest son of Elizabeth, and ‘Drapers Porter’, Robert William Normandale [Robert William Normandale and Elizabeth Ollett had been married at St Mary’s Parish Church on the 25TH of October 1890]. [3]

Fatherless from the age of six, [Robert William Snr. had died at the age of thirty during January 1901, and had been buried on the 7TH in an unmarked grave in Scarborough’s Manor Road Cemetery; Plot P, Row 12, Grave 5] Robert had been a pupil of Friarage Infants and Junior School until the age of thirteen when he had left the institution to become an apprentice Joiner with local building contractor John Jaram with whom he had remained until just before the outbreak of the war, when he had left his home at No 8 Church Stairs Street, in Scarborough to take up work in a factory in Newcastle.

Aged twenty years, seven months, and three days, Robert had enlisted into the Royal Marines at Newcastle on Tuesday the 14TH of October 1915, and had been the one thousand and seventh recruit to be enlisted into the Corps under a recently [September 1914] introduced ‘Special’ or ‘Short Service’ scheme which had allowed men to enlist for the duration of the war only, before this all recruits into the Royal Marines had had to enlist for a minimum of twelve years service with the colours. According to his service record, at the time that Normandale had enlisted he had stood at five feet five inches in his stocking feet, had had a fresh complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair. His previous employment had been recorded as a Joiner/Labourer, his religion being Church of England. [2]

Robert Normandale had eventually been sent with a draft of recruits to the Royal Marines Depot at Deal in Kent, where he and his comrades had begun a basic course of training. Before the war the training of ‘regular’ Royal Marines recruits had lasted for a year, however, by 1915 this period had been shortened to twelve, or as in Normandale’s case, six weeks, during this period he had learned the basics of military arms drill, undergone strenuous physical exercise, and most importantly for an infantryman, taught the rudiments of handling and firing a rifle.

On the 29TH of November 1915 Normandale had completed his infantry training and had been sent to his divisional depot at Chatham where he had undergone further training in preparation to being sent to one of the two Battalions of Royal Marines which had been serving at the time with the Naval Brigade on the Gallipoli peninsular. His posting had

Subsequently arrived early in the New Year. On the fifteenth of February 1916 Robert had embarked in troop transport at Plymouth and had eventually arrived at the Egyptian port of Alexandria early in March to take up residence for a while in Mustapha Barracks before being posted to the First Battalion, which had been stationed on the Greek island of Lemnos following the unit’s evacuation from the Gallipoli Peninsular in December 1915.

Shortly after Normandale’s arrival, on the 29TH of April 1916, the Royal Naval Brigade had been transferred from the authority of the Admiralty to that of the War Office and had eventually [19TH of July] been renamed the 63RD [Royal Naval] Division. Fiercely proud of their naval beginnings the formation had nonetheless, much to the chagrin of many senior Army officers, continued with their naval customs and traditions. Naval ranks had remained, and many of the men, including Royal Marines had maintained the naval custom of growing ‘full sets’ [beards]. In addition the White Ensign had continued to be flown at divisional headquarters.

The Division had inevitably been posted to France, the 25 officers and 1,021 men of First Royal Marines Light Infantry arriving at Marseilles on the fifteenth of May 1916. Soon the battalion had begun training in the arts of living and fighting according to the rules of the ‘Western Front’, an art form that had evolved in two years of very bitter fighting. The division had been introduced to the theatre gradually. In quieter sectors behind the lines the units various battalions had undergone platoon, company, battalion, and brigade training, as well as being attached to another division for tours in the front line. These tours had been far from peaceful; raids and local attacks had brought in a steady stream of casualties.

Normandale had been spared from the blood letting of the earlier phases of the Somme Offensive, however, he had been amongst the men of 188TH brigade as they had filed into the front line of the Ancre sector on the 12TH of November 1916 preparatory to their taking part [with the remainder of 63RD Division] in an assault planned to begin in the early hours of the following day on the heavily fortified village of Beaucourt-sur-Ancre. First RMLI’s objective had been a complex of three lines of enemy front line trenches which had been know as ‘The Dotted Green Line’ and the ‘Yellow Line’ a trench running across the south western edge of the ruined village.

At about 3am in the morning of Monday the thirteenth of November platoons of 1ST RMLI had moved out into no man’s land, and crawled up to the German wire to wait for ‘Zero Hour’. At the appointed hour [5-45am] the men had rose to their feet and had advanced into the darkness accompanied by a heavy mist. Despite the poor visibility they had been spotted almost immediately, the German artillery and machine guns pouring a fearful fire into the ranks of the advancing marines, about fifty per cent of casualties had occurred in no man’s land before they had reached and crossed the German first line of trenches, including every company commander in 1ST RMLI killed. The ground had been a quagmire, making movement virtually impossible, nonetheless, the remains of 1ST RMLI had reorganised in the first and second German lines but only small parties had reached the third line beyond.

Desperate hand-to-hand fighting had continued throughout the night of the thirteenth, during the following day Beaucourt had finally fallen after two tanks had gone forward to make short work of a strongpoint that had caused immense problems the previous day.

The 63RD Division had remained in position until relieved by the 37TH Division on the fifteenth of November. 1ST RMLI had gone into action with four hundred officers and men and had come out with only a hundred and thirty eight having suffered 47 killed, 210 wounded, and 85 missing. Of the twenty-three officers, six were killed, twelve wounded, and three missing, all the missing had actually been killed, although this was not established until much later. [During the month of November 1916 the 63RD Division as a whole had lost a hundred officers and sixteen hundred men killed, and one hundred and sixty officers and 2,377 men wounded].

Elizabeth Normandale had received a letter from the Commanding Officer of ‘A’ Company [Captain Pearson] at the end of February informing her of Robert’s death. The news had been relayed in the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 9TH of March 1917;

‘Reported death of Scarboro soldier’.

‘Although no War Office notice has been received Mrs. Normandale, 34, St Mary’s Walk, has had news which causes anxiety on account of her eldest son, Private R.W. Normandale, R.M.L.I.

A letter from the commanding officer has reached her expressing regret at the death of Private Normandale, and stated that a parcel which had arrived which had been divided amongst his comrades [it had been the usual practice throughout the war to divide the contents of a dead mans parcels between the members of his platoon]

Mrs. Normandale has not heard from her son for three weeks. The parcel had been sent for his birthday. He would be 22 on February 11th.

Private Normandale formerly worked at Armstrong’s Works, Newcastle’…

A week later the newspaper of Friday the sixteenth of March had reported;

‘Officially confirmed’.

‘Official information of the death, announced last week, of Private R.W. Normandale has been received. He was in the R.M.L.I. and had served in France and Egypt. His home was 34, St Mary’s Walk and he was 22 years of age. He had been in hospital three times suffering from shell shock’…

Despite the six extensive searches which had been made by the Imperial War Graves Commission of the Somme battlefield after the war the identifiable remains of Robert Normandale had never been located, his name had been included with those of 73, 077 other missing officers and men on the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval, it can be located on Pier and Face 1A of the Memorial.

After the war Whitby born Elizabeth Normandale had been living in Scarborough at No11 Batty Place when she had received the brown paper parcel from the Admiralty containing her lost son’s medals [a British War Medal and Victory Medal], she had remained there until 1938, when she had moved to the brand new No 32 Northstead Flats in the burgeoning Northstead Estate, she had lived there until her death on the 25TH of September 1943 at the age of seventy three years. Elizabeth Normandale’s funeral had taken place during the afternoon of the 25th of September, her remains had been interred with those of her eldest daughter, Sophia, the wife of Ben Hargreaves, who had recently [January 1943] passed away at the age of forty eight years, in Woodlands Cemetery [Plot C, Row 3, Grave 11,] her final resting place, alas, is unmarked.

In the wake of the operation at Miraumont the British Commander in Chief, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig had thrown aside his usual disregard for the men under his command by sending a congratulatory message direct to the commander of 188TH Brigade, an act which had until then had been virtually unheard of. The telegram had said; ‘Warmest congratulations on success of your operations on 17TH’

The Royal Marines had suffered terrible casualties at Miraumont, worse was to come during the forthcoming Arras Offensive, and the capture of a ruined windmill at Gavrelle.

Many of the men featured in my text had lived very short lives on the Western Front, especially officers. As we have seen Lieutenant Harry Cliff Brown had barely experienced three months active service at the front before being killed in the action at Miraumont. There had been another officer on the Ancre that day that had survived for much less time. His unit had taken their place in the front line of the Ancre Sector for the first time during the fifteenth of February, scarcely forty eight hours later the young man had been killed by enemy shellfire; Second Lieutenant Harold Sinclair.

Born in Scarborough during 1894 at ‘Ivydene’ in Stepney Road, Harold had been the youngest son of Alice Maud and Building Contractor and Justice of the peace, Andrew Worke Sinclair. A pupil of Gladstone Road School, Harold had left the establishment at the age of fourteen to begin an apprenticeship with Scarborough drapers, Messrs Marshall and Snelgrove at No 4-11 St Nicholas Street, however, by the outbreak of the war Sinclair had been working in the drapery department of ‘Jenners’ department store in Edinburgh’s fashionable Princes Street.

Sinclair had initially enlisted in Edinburgh into the Territorial Force’s 1ST/9TH [Highlanders] Battalion of the Royal Scots [which had also been known as ‘The Dandy Ninth’] at their Headquarters that had been in the city’s East Claremont Street. At the time the unit had formed part of the Lothian Brigade of the Scottish Coast Defence Force until the 26TH of February 1915, when it had joined the 81ST Brigade of the 27TH Division. The unit had eventually arrived in France on the 21ST of December 1914 and had been transferred to the Ypres Sector in time to take part in the Second Battle of Ypres, notably the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge [8TH-13TH May 1915] during which the division had faced numerous German attempts to break through the British line and had suffered severe casualties as a consequence, nonetheless, the unit had been credited with having contributed substantially to the saving of the front. The Division had remained on the Western Front in a severely weakened state until November 1915 when it had been sent to the Salonica [Greece] Front, where it had remained until the Armistice.

During October 1915 however, Harold Sinclair had undergone an operation to remove an infected appendix, and had been consequently been invalided to Scarborough to recuperate. During January 1916 he had received a commission with the Second Line Territorial Force 2ND/4TH Duke Of Wellington’s [the Second Line T.F. Battalions had been raised following the departure of the original battalion to the front. The First Line 1ST/4TH Battalion of the D.O.W.’s had existed before the war and had served with the 49TH Division] which had formed at Halifax, West Yorkshire during September 1914. At the time that Sinclair had joined the Battalion the unit had been training on Salisbury Plain, where it had remained until it’s embarkation for France during January 1917.

The Sinclair’s had received news of their son’s death during Sunday the eighteenth of February 1917; the tidings had been included in the following Friday’s edition of the ‘Scarborough Mercury’;

‘Scarborough Magistrate’s loss’

‘On Sunday afternoon a telegram was received by Mr. A.W. Sinclair, J.P., Stepney Road, stating that his youngest son, Lieutenant Harold Sinclair, had been killed n action on February 17TH.

Lieutenant Sinclair joined the 9th Royal Scots [Highlanders] in Edinburgh on the day of

Army mobilisation [August 4TH 1914]. He went to France in February 1915, was in the Second battle of Ypres, and later, after an operation for appendicitis, was invalided home in October 1915. In January 1916, he had received a commission in the 2ND/4TH Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, was promoted to full Lieutenant in the July following, and returned to the front five weeks ago. H e specialised in bombing and held a brigade instruction certificate. Before joining the Army Lieutenant Sinclair was engaged in the drapery trade, at Messrs Marshall and Snelgrove’s, Scarborough, and later, at Messrs Jenner’s Edinburgh. He was 23 years of age, and single’…

The body of Harold Sinclair had initially been buried near to where he had fallen, however, during May 1917 Fifth Corps had removed the Ancre battlefield burials to a newly created concentration of cemeteries named ‘Serre Road Cemetery, Numbers One and Two’, which are situated near the hard fought for village of Serre Les Puiseux, eleven kilometres north-north west of Albert. Sinclair’s grave can be located in Serre Road Cemetery Number Two, in Plot 2, Section D, [Grave 18]. There are over seven thousand World War One casualties commemorated in this Cemetery, over two thirds of these are unidentified.

In addition to the town’s War Memorial, Harold’s name is commemorated in Scarborough on a ‘Roll of Honour’ located in the hall of Gladstone Road Infant and Junior School, in Wooler Street, and on a gravestone in the town’s Manor Road Cemetery which also bears the names of his North Shields born father, Andrew Worke Sinclair, who had died on the 31ST of December 1922 at the age of sixty five years, and Scarborough born mother, Alice Maude, who had passed away at the age of eighty four years on the 10TH of July 1946. Also included on the now fallen stone is the name of Harold’s elder sister and only daughter of the Sinclair’s [born in Scarborough during 1892] Eleanor Maude, who had died on the first of October 1958 at the age of sixty-six years. The Sinclair’s had also included an epitaph for their son on the stone, the often used paragraph from Chapter 15, verse 13, from the Book of St. John;

‘Greater love hath no man that this. That he should lay down his life for his friends’

A few days after Sinclair’s death the brigade major [Captain C.H. Hoare] of 187TH Brigade of 62ND Division, aroused by a lack of activity on the German side of the front had stepped gingerly into ‘No Man’s Land’ to find out what had been happening. He had eventually walked for nearly a mile without drawing fire, the German’s had vanished.

Long before the Battle of the Somme had ended the Germans had begun to secretly construct another line of formidable defensive positions ten miles behind the original ‘Western Front, thus shortening their front by twenty five miles and releasing thirteen divisions into their reserve. They had name the new position ‘Seigfried Stellung’, however, to the British it would become infamously known as the ‘Hindenburg Line’. The Hindenburg line had ran from Arras in the north to the Aisne in the south and had consisted of a series of superbly sited concrete blockhouses and machine gun emplacements all of which had been protected by dense seemingly impenetrable fields of barbed wire.

The Germans had begun their withdrawal to the new position on the fourth of February, at first they had melted away in drips and drabs, however, the withdrawal had soon become general. In their wake the Germans had left a wasteland, they had systematically devastated the area between the old front line and the Hindenburg Line by blowing up houses, burning farms, uprooting orchards, chopping down trees, and obliterating roads so that the advancing Allies would find nothing that would be of use to them.

By the time the Allies had caught up with their enemy it had been entrenched in positions that looked impregnable, all the privations and deaths of the previous grim year had seemingly been for nothing. The war for ‘Tommie’ and ‘Fritz’ had still got a hard and bloody road to tread.

Following the German withdrawal the British Third Division had occupied a sector of the newly formed British front line to the east of Arras. The Division’s Ninth Brigade had been stationed in a section of the line near the village of St Sauveur; where during Tuesday the twenty seventh of March the Germans had mounted two attacks with infantry and artillery. These assaults had been repulsed; nonetheless, there had been casualties. Amongst them had been a soldier who two days before had celebrated his twenty first birthday; 62196 Private Henry Ferguson.

Born in Scarborough on the 25TH of March 1896 [Baptised at St Mary’s Parish Church on the 19TH of April] at No1 New Queen Street, ‘Harry’ had been the only son of Jane Ann and Henry Ferguson, who had been a ‘photographers assistant’ by profession. A pupil of St Mary’s Parish School from the age of four, Harry had eventually secured a scholarship to Scarborough’s Municipal School [the equivalent of today’s comprehensive school] where he had studied between 1908 and 1912, when Ferguson had left the institution to work in the City of London for the government.

At the time of the outbreak of war in August 1914 Ferguson had been living in London at Stroud Green, during the following year the eighteen years old had enlisted as a Private [Regimental Number 4730] at the Chelsea Headquarters of the Territorial Force’s, 3RD/1ST County of London Yeomanry, [Middlesex Duke of Cambridge’s Hussars], with which he had served in England until he had been transferred with a number of replacements to the 4TH Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers during August 1916. At the time the Battalion, a pre war Regular Army formation, had been recuperating following the heavy fighting for Delville Wood that had taken place the previous month.

At the time that their son had been killed [by shell fire], Henry and Jane Ferguson had been living in Scarborough at No1 St Sepulchre Street, it had been here that they had received a telegram from the War Office nearly a month after Harry’s death on Tuesday the twenty fourth of April 1917. The news had subsequently been transmitted in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the twenty seventh;

‘Former Municipal Scholar killed’.

‘Private H. Ferguson, son of Mr. And Mrs. Ferguson, 1 St. Sepulchre Street, Scarborough, who has been killed in action, was 21years of age. The family formerly belonged to Newcastle, but have lived here for some years. The young soldier was formerly a student at the Municipal School, and afterwards obtained a government appointment in London. He joined the Middlesex Yeomanry, and was later transferred to the Royal Fusiliers’…

The remains of Harry Ferguson had eventually been buried in Ronville British Cemetery which had been near to St Sauveur, however, during August 1918 they had been amongst those of a hundred and sixty six British soldiers which had been re-interred in Beurains Road Cemetery, which is just north of Beurains, a village on the southern outskirts of Arras. His Grave can be found in Section E. [Grave 7].

A former bell ringer at St Mary’s Parish Church in Scarborough, at the end of the war Harry Ferguson’s name had been included on the Church ‘Roll of Honour’, which is located on the north interior wall. In addition, Harry’s name had been commemorated in St Columba’s Church in Dean Road, and upon a ‘Roll of Honour’, which for many years had graced a wall of the Municipal school, and eventually the Scarborough Boy’s High School, which had been situated in Westwood. The Memorial, which had originally been erected by ‘The Old Scholars Club’ [bearing the names of over sixty former pupils who had lost their lives during the Great War] is now located in Graham Comprehensive School, located on the outskirts of Scarborough in Woodlands Drive.

A short distance from Graham School can be found Woodlands Cemetery in which can be found another memorial bearing the young soldiers name. The memorial is situated in Section C, Row 4, Grave 32, and also bears the names of Harry’s father who had been born at Belford [Northumberland] during 1866, he had died in 1944, and Scarborough born [also1866] mother, who had passed away ten years later. In addition can be found the names of Harry Ferguson’s two sisters, Elsie Hannah who had been born in Scarborough on the 6TH of December 1895, she had died on the 11TH of January 1977, and Edith Dorothy who had also been born in the town, during 1903, she had passed away during 1969.

The battle worn Second Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, belonging to 30TH Division, had moved northwards from the Somme towards the end of January 1917. By the 28TH of March the unit had found themselves near to the village of Ficheux, holding an outpost line to the west of the tiny hamlet of Henin -sur-Cojeul, which is located some six miles to the south west of Arras. A village of around a thousand inhabitants before the war, and with a small stream, the Cojuel, running through it, Wylly describes the village in 1917 as being; ‘on level ground, fairly well wooded, with gardens and orchards on the east of it, while the houses of the village, though badly battered, had for the most part the walls still standing’… Skirting the north west side of the village and leading right into the British position was a deep and wide German communication trench known as ‘Nagpur Trench….

Considered to be lightly held by the British, the task of ‘squeezing’ the enemy out of Henin had been detailed to the Second Yorks, which, during the early hours of Saturday the 31ST of March had launched an attack using ‘A’ [Commanded by Captain G.N. Smith] and ‘B’ [Captain R.A. Field] Companies who had been given the objective of; ‘placing posts quietly round the village and then induce the enemy to leave it’. Garrisoned by four hundred officers and men of the 99TH Regiment of Prussian Infantry, a unit noted for their determination in battle, the British High Command had been over optimistic, to say the least, in their belief that there would be little resistance. Nonetheless, the fiasco had gone ahead, Wylly says of the attack;

‘B’ Company made a fine attempt to succeed, reaching a point in line with the centre of the village in Nagpur Trench, where they captured a machine gun post and a few prisoners. Here a gallant little subaltern, [Second Lieutenant] Smith, who had recently joined from a public schools battalion, showed his mettle by assaulting an enormous Prussian, thus proving that his heart was bigger than his body. After dawn the enemy became too aggressive for any forward positions to be held, so our advanced parties were withdrawn into our outpost position. Field as usual had behaved gallantly and performed several feats of daring. Much useful information about Henin was obtained as a result of this small affair’…

The ‘small affair’ had been expensive. The casualties incurred by the two companies had been one officer and six other ranks killed, eighteen men wounded, and a further eighteen men missing. Amongst the latter had been the nineteen years old; 32974 Private Ernest David Robinson.

Born in Scarborough on the 18TH of October 1898 at No 41 Castlegate, Ernest had been the eldest of two sons of Eliza and William Barber Robinson, a butcher by trade. A pupil of Friarage Board School between the ages of four and thirteen, Ernest had left the institution during 1910 to become an apprentice in the Linotype Department of the ‘Scarborough Evening News’ newspaper, which had been [and still is] based in Scarborough’s Aberdeen Walk. By this time the Robinson family had been living nearby at No 43 Victoria Street, William Robinson being the proprietor of a butchers shop situated near the town’s indoor market at No 8 St Helen’s Square. At the beginning of the war, however, during September 1914, Mr. Robinson had closed his shop to enlist into the Army, he had served as a butcher in the Army Service Corps throughout the conflict, unlike his son he had survived.

Ernest had eventually followed in his father’s footsteps towards the end of August 1916, by enlisting into the Yorkshire Regiment at Scarborough’s Recruiting Office, which had been situated in St Nicholas Street. The eighteen years old had eventually been sent to the battalion’s depot in the North Yorkshire market town of Richmond where he had been ‘kitted out’ with a uniform, a pair of boots, Whilst there he had also been introduced to the basics of soldiering, which had entailed blistered feet from the seemingly endless hours spent route marching, and being harried round the parade ground by a foul mouthed Non Commissioned Officer.

Robinson had also learnt how to handle and fire the standard British Army fifteen rounds per minute with the infantryman’s primary weapon of war, the.303 Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifle. By December 1916 he had been considered fit enough to be sent abroad, therefore, towards the end of the month he had been included in a draft of battle replacements destined for the Regiment’s Regular Army Second Battalion, which had been serving on the Western Front.

Robinson and a large draft of replacements had joined the battalion near the Somme village of Bailleuval during late December 1916. At the time the men of the unit had licking their wounds after suffering over fifty per cent casualties in the Somme Offensive between July and October 1916. The battalion had remained in this area for the remainder of 1916, the time being taken up by training the newly arrived replacements. Despite heavy falls of snow, during early January 1917 the unit had been set to cutting wood in the forest of Lucheux, however, on the twenty sixth, the battalion had been moved to Mondicourt where the men had been employed for ten days by the Royal Engineers in the building of a light railway system.

The Second Yorks had eventually gone into the front line near Achicourt, by Somme standards a relatively quiet sector where they had remained for a short time until relieved by another battalion. The battalion had then gone into Divisional Reserve at Beaumetz where the unit had furnished many working parties for the engineers, especially for the construction of a Corps telephone cable trench between the village and Berneville. By the end of January the 2ND Yorks had received orders to move to Arras where they had again been used as labour for the Royal Engineers.

With two of her men folk serving in France one can barely imagine the anxiety that Eliza Robinson had gone through each waking day as she had waited for news, good or bad, regarding her husband and son. Sadly her worst fears had come to fruition on Monday the twenty third of April 1917, when she had received a telegram from the War Office informing her Ernest had been wounded, the tidings had been included in the ‘Scarboro Casualties’ section of ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the twenty seventh;

‘Young Soldier Wounded’.

‘Official news was received by his mother, Mrs. W. Robinson, 45, Victoria Street, [Monday] morning, that Private Ernest Robinson, Yorkshire Regt., was wounded on March 31ST. Anxiety had been felt for some time owing to the absence of letters, and it is hoped that favourable news as to his condition will be forthcoming. He was nineteen and a half years of age and the son of Mr W. Robinson who is a butcher with the A.S.C. in France, and who formerly carried on business at 8. St Helen’s Square. Private Robinson was a member of the ‘Evening News’ Lino-room staff, joining up at the end of August, and proceeding to France in Christmas week’

Mrs. Robinson had received no further news regarding her son’s condition until mid May when she had received a letter from the Commanding Officer of ‘A’ Company, Captain Smith, informing her that Ernest had been killed. The ‘Scarborough Mercury of Friday the eleventh of May had subsequently reported;

‘Private E.D. Robinson feared killed’.

‘Mrs. Robinson, Victoria Street, about whose son there has been some uncertainty for some time, has had a letter from an officer in which he says: ‘I regret to say that I am afraid that you son, Private E.D. Robinson, has been killed’. The officer goes on to describe Private Robinson, who was not 20 years of age, as a gallant fellow who was liked by all his comrades. He expresses sympathy with the parents’…

After being told that her son had been killed one would have thought that no further news would be forthcoming, this had not been the case. On Monday the fourteenth of May, Eliza Robinson had received official notification from the War Office informing her that Ernest had been recorded as ‘missing in action’ from the 31STof March 1917. The distraught mother had heard nothing more until October when she had received word that there had been a sliver of a chance that Ernest had been a Prisoner of War in Germany. The Scarborough Mercury of Friday the nineteenth of October had revealed;

‘A record in Germany’

‘Further enquiries regarding Private E, Robinson, Victoria Street, who has been missing many months show that there is a record of him in Germany, but it is only relates to a list of effects left and little hope is held out that he can be alive. It seems probable that Private Robinson died of the severe wounds he was known to have sustained. The present news comes through Switzerland’

Again there had been a terrible wait for news. The final scrap of information regarding her lost son had reached Eliza Robinson via the British Red Cross just before Christmas 1917. On Friday the four of January 1918 ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ had announced;

‘Died in Germany’

‘Mrs. Robinson, 45, Victoria Street, Scarborough, has received the sad news from the British Red Cross Society that the name of her son Private E.D. Robinson, Yorks Regt., appears on an official German list of dead. Mrs Robinson has also received tidings to the same effect from the War Office, who notify the death as having occurred on the 8TH of April. Private Robinson being a Prisoner of War. The cause of death is not stated. Before enlistment he was an apprentice to Linotype operating at this office’

Eighty-six years on the operation at Henin is long forgotten. Where and why Ernest Robinson had died will never be known. One can only surmise that he had been so badly wounded during the action at Nagpur Trench that his retreating comrades had left him behind to be taken prisoner by the Germans, they had given the wounded soldier as much medical attention as they could before packing him off on a train bound for Germany. He may have subsequently died during the journey and had been buried near to the railway, or he may have succumbed to his injuries inside a Prisoner of War camp in Germany, whatever had happened to him his grave had never been discovered after the war and his name had been included in Bay Three of the Arras Memorial, which commemorates the names of the men of the Yorkshire Regiment who had lost their lives during the Arras Offensive and the German Spring Offensive of March 1918, for whom there is no known grave.

In Scarborough Ernest’s name can be found on a memorial in the town’s Manor Road Cemetery [Section V, Row 16, Grave 21], which also bears the name of his Scarborough born mother, who had died at her home in Victoria Street on Friday the 6TH of January 1939 at the age of 67 years, and an inscription that reads;

‘No loved one stood beside him to hear his last farewell.
No words of comfort could he have from those who loved him well’.
‘Till we meet again’

[Born at Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire during 1871, William Robinson had moved to the West Midlands following the death of his wife, to live with his youngest son John Leslie Robinson [born in Scarborough during 1912], who’s last known address is No.86 City Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham].

The Memorial to the Missing at Arras commemorates the names of over 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and New Zealand who had died in the Arras Sector between the spring of 1916 and the 7TH of August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, who have no known grave.

In addition to that of Ernest David Robinson the Memorial also bears the names of a number of other men native to Scarborough; 241842 Private James Fidler. Born in Scarborough during 1897 James had been attached to the 2ND/5TH Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, and had been reported as missing believed killed in action from the 21ST of March 1918, aged 20 years, James had been the son of John and Emma Fidler of No. 87 Caledonia Street. [Bay3 and 4].

755176 Driver William Fox. Born in Scarborough during 1899, William had been attached to the 107TH Battery, 23RD Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. Missing believed killed in action from the 22ND of March 1918, he had been aged 21 years and had been the son of William and Katherine Fox of No.6 Hope Street. [Bay 1].

24383 Private James Robert Gibson. A soldier in the 7TH Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. James had been born in Scarborough during 1893 and had been reported as missing believed killed in action from the 12TH of May 1917. Aged 24 years at the time of his death James had been the son of William and Helen Gibson of No.40 Oak Road and the husband of Beatrice Alice Dawson [formerly Gibson] of No.40 Trafalgar Street West [Bay 5].

22081 Acting Sergeant John Hollingsworth. Born at Nottingham during 1896 ‘Archie’ had been attached to the 12TH Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, and had been reported as missing, assumed killed in action from the 3RD of May 1917. Aged 21 years at the time of his death, Archie had been the first of two sons of William and Lois Hollingsworth of No. 41 Moorland Road that had lost their lives during the war [Bay 4].

[Coincidentally commemorated on Panel 4 of the Ploegsteert Memorial located in Western Flanders; 240442 Private Reginald Hollingsworth had lost his life on the 12TH of April 1918 whilst serving with the 4TH Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. Also possesing no known grave Reg had been aged twenty-six years at the time of his death]

31409 Private James Lightfoot Born in Scarborough during 1890, James had been attached to the 8TH Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment and had been reported as ‘missing, assumed killed in action’ from the 13TH of April 1917, at the time aged 27 years he had been the son of John and Sarah Lightfoot of North Street. [Bay 4 and 5].

42535 Sergeant Charles Wesley Proud Lyth. Attached to the 76TH Company of the Machine Gun Corps [Infantry], Charles had been born in Scarborough during 1885 and had been ‘assumed killed in action’ from the 5TH of May 1917. Aged 30 years at the time of his demise Charles had been the husband of Carrie Lyth of No.73 Falsgrave Road. [Bay 10].

4508 Sergeant Walter Thompson, Military Medal. Attached to the 8TH Battalion the Northumberland Fusiliers, Walter had been reported as ‘missing, assumed killed in action’ from the 27TH of November 1917. Aged 25 years at the time of his death Walter had been the son of Arnold and Esther Thompson of No. 2 Clark’s Yard Princess Street. [Bay 2-3]

[1] Royal Marines in the war of 1914-1919; Author unknown, courtesy of the Curator of the Royal Marines Museum, Eastney Barracks, Portsmouth.

[2] All the Service Records of the officers and men who had served during the First World War in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and Royal Naval Reserve are preserved in the Public Records Office at Kew. Harry Cliff Brown’s can be located in file; PRO ADM 196/97. Robert William Normandale; PRO, ADM171/92.

[3] Despite over four years of research I have never found the name of the Normandale’s younger son, at the time of the 1901 Census of Scarborough’s population the by then widowed Elizabeth Normandale had been living at No8 Church Stairs Street with her ten years old daughter Elizabeth [born in Scarborough during February 1891], eight years old Sophia, six years old Robert William, and two years old Rhoda [who had been Baptised at St Mary’s Parish Church on September 1ST 1898], there is no mention of a second son.

[4] Colonel H.C. Wylly C.B., The Green Howards in the Great War, 1926.

Part Two

Casualties of the Battle of Arras.

[April 8TH – May 11TH 1917].

‘Good Morning, Good Morning!’
the General said, when we met
him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at
Are most of ‘em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for
Incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card’,
grunted Harry to Jack
as they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack’.
‘But he did for them both with his plan of attack’.

[‘The General’ composed by Siegfried Sassoon whilst at Denmark Hill Hospital, where he had been recovering from wounds received at Arras during April 1917].

- Private George William Storry
- Fitter William Tindall Wiffen
- Sergeant Robert John Mason
- Private Charles Lancaster
- Private Frederick Henry Knowles
- Private John William Inchbald
- Lance Corporal Frank Royle

The ancient fortress town of Arras, the capitol of the Artios Region of Northern France, lies in a gentle depression in the Artios plain. Overlooked from the east by a semi circle of low rolling hills, from which the entrenched German Army had enjoyed uninterrupted view into the once beautiful city, [which by the spring of 1917 had been devastated by German shell-fire]. Built alongside the River Scarpe, which runs from east to west cutting a deep valley through the surrounding hills Arras had always been a major centre of communication—and a valuable asset to any would be conqueror or defender. The city had never been captured by the Germans during the ‘Great War’; nonetheless, by the winter of 1914 they had shed copious amounts of blood to wrest from the French Army the commanding position of Vimy Ridge, which lies just over three miles to the north east of the town.

The ridge, some four miles long is the highest point of the semi circle of hills standing before the town. From the allied side the ridge does not look very impressive and resembles a long bluish grey half submerged whale, however, from the German side, that is, looking from the east, Vimy appears far more formidable, being visible for miles and plunging 200 feet or more down to the Douai plain. To the southeast the ridge slopes gently down towards a village named Monchy-Le Preux. Stretching over seven miles Vimy Ridge was to become the most formidable, and notorious, German fortress on the Western Front and was to play a major part in the forthcoming British Spring Offensive of 1917, an operation which would inevitably be named the Battle of Arras.

Considered as the most bloody infantry battle of the war, the Battle of Arras had officially lasted from the 9TH of April to the 17TH of May 1917, during those thirty nine terrible days the British Expeditionary Force had suffered over a hundred and fifty nine thousand casualties, at an approximate daily rate of over four thousand officers and men, almost twice those incurred daily on the Somme and at Passchendaele.

The fate of the B.E.F. at Arras had been orchestrated by the rising new star of the French Army, General Robert Nivelle. A hero of Verdun had recently taken over the reigns of the French Armies on the Western Front from Joffre who had been steered in to retirement during the latter of December 1916.

Bristling with self-confidence, Nivelle had been certain that he had found the means of a rapid breakthrough of the German defences by the scientific handling of artillery. This, in theory, had called for a saturation bombardment followed by a ‘creeping barrage’ of considerable depth accompanied by violent infantry assaults, thus enabling his troops to penetrate the German defences and reach the enemy’s gun line in one bound, thereby achieving a decisive breakthrough or ‘rupture’ within forty-eight hours. In Nivelles plans, British and French forces would undertake preliminary attacks between the Oise and Arras to pin down German reserves, while the French would deliver the main blow on the Aisne, with a ‘mass of manoeuvre’ of some twenty-seven divisions.

At first impressed by Nivelle’s extraordinary plan, the British Commander, Haig, [who had been promoted to Field Marshal on the 27TH of December] had given the proposed scheme his general support, if not without misgivings. In effect the B.E.F. had been relegated to a subsidiary role for the proposed offensive and had been required to take over another twenty miles of front, as far as the Amiens to Roye road, to free French divisions for the anticipated ‘mass of manoeuvre’.

Sickened by the battles of attrition at Verdun and the Somme the allied politicians had succumbed to the charm and eloquence of the plausible Nivelle, and had allowed themselves to be seduced by his promise of a rapid breakthrough. Even Britain’s new Prime Minister, David Lloyd George [Herbert Asquith had resigned on the 6TH of December 1916] who would have preferred to mount an offensive on the Austria Front, had been taken in by Nivelle’s plan.

The final act before the adoption of the offensive at Arras had taken place at a meeting in London on the 15TH of January 1917. The conference had been attended by Lloyd George

Robertson [the Chief of the General Staff] Foreign Secretary Balfour, Nivelle and his staff, and the French Ambassador. Like Lloyd George, the War Cabinet had equally been impressed by Nivelle, who had a British mother and a fluent command of the language. He had been able to put over his ideas lucidly and logically, [unlike Haig, who tended to be in articulate]. He had maintained that he was not a believer in prolonged bloody battles of attrition like the Somme, he preferred one short decisive ‘rupture’, achieved within forty eight hours, followed by the destruction of the enemy’s reserves in open warfare. Lloyd George’s fears of another Somme had therefore been dispelled and it had finally been agreed that more British troops would be sent to France, and that the British would relieve the French up to the Amiens –Roye road, and that the offensive would be launched no later that the first of April. [‘Z Day’ had eventually been postponed until the ninth of April].

Once the overall plan had been adopted the gargantuan task of mounting the operation had begun. Behind the British lines huge dumps were built for the vast array of artillery being marshalled. On top of this were great quantities of other stores, food, and fodder that would be required to maintain the greatly increased numbers of troops and horses that where gathering in the Arras Sector.

Twenty-eight miles of road had to be repaired and maintained. Eleven trainloads of building materials and gravel were brought in every day. Three miles of wooden plank road were constructed, and specialist foresters were used to provide wood from local forests. The arrival of fifty thousand horses [mainly to provide the motive power for all the wagons moving the supplies] required a dramatic improvement in the water supply, new reservoirs were built, bore holes driven, forty five miles of pipeline laid and pumping stations installed to produce over 600,000 gallons of water a day. In addition, twenty-one miles of signalling cable were buried seven feet deep to protect them against all but the heaviest shells; a further sixty-six miles of cable were laid above ground.

In addition to the activities above ground had been those that had taken place below. Underneath Arras had been [and still are] large cellars and sewers. Apart from these had been, especially in the southeastern suburbs of the city, large networks of caves. These caves had originally been the quarries from which the chalk had been excavated to build the city above, and it had been an inspired decision by the British to join up the cellars to the sewers and drive tunnels from them to the caves.

Eventually two shafts had been bored which had emerged at the front line; however following the German retreat, by March only one had actually done so. Marvels of engineering and a credit to the men who had carried out the digging, by the time that the system had been completed they had been capable of sheltering over 24,000 men, lit by electric lights, equipped with a tramway, capable of piping fresh water from an under ground pumping station, and fitted with a fully equipped hospital. Their greatest value however, had been that they could be used to pass men underground and unobserved to the front line in the eastern suburbs, little more than a mile from the centre of town.

The planning of the offensive operation had been placed into the hands of General Sir Edmund Allenby, the Commander of the British Third Army. Consisting of three Corps [6TH 7TH and 17TH] Third Army’s objective had been the breaching of four heavily wired and defended defensive lines, known as the Black, Blue, Brown and Green Lines. In addition the Divisional objective had been an advance of eight miles to the ‘Drocourt-Queant Line, thus opening the way for cavalry exploitation and an advance on Cambrai. Six and Seventh Corps were to attack to the south of the River Scarpe and 17TH Corps were to assault to the north.

Zero hour had been set for half past five in the morning of Easter Monday the ninth of April for Sixth and seventeenth Corps, whilst the Seventh Corps on the extreme right of the attack would begin their assault later in the day. The Seventh ad been tasked with attacking the formidable Hindenburg Line and it had been hoped that the earlier assaults by the other two Corps would make their task easier. Timing had been crucial, the Black Line [the German front line] had to be taken by Zero Hour plus thirty five minutes, the Blue [the enemy second line] at Zero plus two hours forty four minutes to three hours, the Brown [Wancourt-Feuchy] at Zero plus ten hours, and the Green [Fampoux-Monchy] at Zero plus twelve hours.

Allenby’s original plan had included a proposal for an intense artillery bombardment of the enemies positions lasting only forty eight hours, this had been dismissed by Haig on the grounds that the wear and tear on the guns and their crew’s would be too great and there would be no guarantees that the barbed wire defences would be cut effectively. The artillery plan had therefore been revised to last over four days. The total number of guns to be employed during the operation had almost been double the number used leading up to the Somme attack of first of July the previous year, but this was for a shorter frontage, twelve miles instead of the eighteen of the Somme.

To the north of the Scarpe and Third Army had been the Canadian Corps of General Sir Henry Horne’s First Army. Commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Julian ‘Bungo’ Byng the Corps had consisted of four Canadian Divisions, the First, Second, Third, and Fourth, their objective had been the seizure of the hitherto impregnable Vimy Ridge, the capture of which had been considered vital in order to form a defensive flank for the simultaneous Third Army assault to the south.

The attack on Vimy had been planned in two stages, the four Canadian Divisions [with a Brigade from the British 5TH Division] would deliver the main thrust on a four mile front extending from the village of Ecurie to Givenchy. Given success, the northern edge of the ridge, with a prominent feature known as ‘The Pimple’, would be assaulted, as would Bois en Hache, on the southern extremity of the Notre Dame de Lorrette Ridge [in effect a continuation of Vimy Ridge but separated by the valley of the River Suchez].

The area to be attacked had represented the shape of a triangle, with the apex pointing north –westwards, the Canadians on the western arm and the summit of the ridge, the objective on the eastern. Thus at the base of the triangle the advance would have to cover some four thousand yards of ground, in contrast to the attack at the apex where the distance had narrowed to about seven hundred yards. To say that the enemy position had been strongly defended would be an understatem

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