RFA West Lancs Bdes
276 Brigade formed part of the Dvisional artillery for 55th (West Lancashire) Division. They landed in France on 30 September 1915.
55th (West Lancashire) Division fought at Guillemont and Ginchy (on the Somme) in September 1916, suffering severe losses especially at Guillemont.
1340 Gnr Ezra Yates, 5 August 1916
16 Gnr William Graham, 8 August 1916
1151 Bdr Robert Room, 8 August 1916
1115 Gnr Joseph Matthews, 4 October 1916
They also fought at Flers-Courcelette and Morval later that month, and then in October 1916 they were moved to the Ypres Salient, at the time a relatively quieter part of the front. Although there were no major engagements in early 1917, there was constant harassment, shelling and raids.
680964 Gnr James Roskell, 7 February 1917
In January 1917, 55th Division were first in reserve at Houtkerque, on the French/Belgian border, and then, on 25 January, they were moved up to support the defence of Ypres. In March 1917, 276 Brigade were engaged in the bombardment of St. Julien (Sint Juliaan) in retaliation for German shelling of St Jean. 5 men from 276 Brigade were killed during the period 3-9 March.
680074 Sjt John Henry Edmondson, 3 March 1917
680020 Cpl Frederick Martin, 4 March 1917
696740 Gnr Thomas Bamber, 5 March 1917
680410 Dvr Walter Battle, 7 March 1917
680082 Bdr Ernest Kay, MM, 9 March 1917
656298 A/Bdr Alexander Brash Reid, 15 March 1917
In May 1917, they were still at Ypres and the War Diary relates that from 2-10 May, “the group engaged various targets in enemy’s lines and vigorously retaliated for enemy firing on our trenches etc.”
680142 Gnr William Corless, 6 May 1917
681837 Dvr Arthur Lund, 11 May 1917
In June 1917, 276 Bde were still at Ypres. The War Diary records that in the early days of the month they were engaged in wire-cutting and general harassing fire, and on 6 June they supported an infantry raid carried out by 1/8th Liverpool Irish Regiment.
55th Division was not actively engaged in the operation which resulted in the capture of Messines Ridge (7-14 June) but the Divisional artillery (inc 276Bde) did cooperate in the attack and was subsequently complimented by the Army Commander on its efficient work.
681194 Gnr Thomas Eaves, 8 June 1917
On 9 June they supported a raid by 1/4 Royal Lancaster Regiment and in the following few days engaged in retaliatory fire for shelling of their positions.
680398 Gnr Charles Hawes, 10 June 1917
680573 Dvr Ernest Guy Fox, 11 June 1917
And on 10-12 June they “vigorously engaged in retaliation for hostile fire on our trenches. D/276Bty carried out special neutralising fire on various enemy batteries”.
681838 Bdr Arthur Reginald Rodgers, 11 June 1917
680775 Gnr David Cranshaw, 12 June 1917
680177 Gnr William Livesey, 12 June 1917
They were engaged in shelling St Julien (Sint Juliaan) in retaliation for the shelling of St Jean.
681785 Gnr Martin Milne, 16 June 1917
681930 Gnr Albert Blundell, 21 June 1917
War Diary entries for July-October 1917 are missing from the file in the National Archives so information relating to that period is taken from the 55th Division history.
680892 Gnr James Isherwood, 3 July 1917
680516 Gnr Thomas Sawyer Marshall, 5 July 1917
680295 Gnr Joseph Harvey, 12 July 1917
895049 Gnr Robert George Bunn, 24 July 1917
Third Battle of Ypres
From 55th Divisional History: "The objective of what was called the Third Battle of Ypres was the capture of the enemy's Gheluvelt-Langemark system... The weather during the whole of June and during the greater part of July had been ideal for campaigning purposes. Unfortunately, on Sunday 29 July a particularly heavy thunderstorm filled up the shell holes and turned roads and tracks into a morass. The succeeding days were dull and hazy, making the completion of the artillery preparation peculiarly difficult and typical Flanders weather conditions prevailed on the morning of the 31st - the moment chosen for the attack. Low lying clouds which made aerial observation and cooperation as difficult as could be imagined; a dampness of atmosphere, threatening rain at any moment; a half sodden ground, greasy and depressing; such was the luck of the weather at 3.50am on 31 July 1917, when the barrage opened. Not since the war began had so intense a barrage been put down, and of its wonderful effectiveness all ranks in the line bore eloquent testimony."
680668 Gnr William Fisher, 31 July 1917
680071 Sgt. Ernest Garland, 31 July 1917
680360 Gnr Frank Peter Hockey, 31 July 1917
681768 Bdr Harry Jessop, 31 July 1917
680380 Gnr Albert Edward Smith, 31 July 1917
681869 Gnr Hugh Stanley Thomas, 5 August 1917
681752 Gnr Percy Gainham Jones, 8 August 1917
55th Division was withdrawn from the line on 7 August and was not called forward again until 12 September. This was a period of recreation, re-equipping and training, but there were also several casualties.
681128 Gnr Joseph Doran, 22 August 1917
687305 Dvr William A C Rothwell, 24 August 1917
681920 Gnr William Thomas Hall, 25 August 1917
681157 Dvr Joseph Thomas Jones, 3 September 1917
680581 Dvr Percy Cleminson Whalley, 5 September 1917
681915 Gnr Alfred Ernest Craven, 9 September 1917
On 12 September, 55th Division began to make preparations to return to the line, between Frezenberg and St Julien. When they returned to action on 15 September, the location was exactly the same as where they had left 6 weeks earlier.
681830 Gnr Alfred Edward Dixon, 13 September 1917
681813 Bdr John Thomas Godwin, 14 September 1917
680319 Dvr John Kellett, 16 September 1917
680133 Cpl John Edward Gardner, 16 September 1917
After the heavy rain in August, the first few days of September had been warm and dry. On the night of 19/20 September, as they prepared their assault on the Schuler and Pond Farms, the rain began to fall once again. The assault was nevertheless successful and after this operation, the Division was withdrawn and moved to the south of Cambrai.
656231 Gnr Thomas Ferguson, 18 September 1917
681402 Gnr Reginald George Wood, 18 September 1917
681708 Gnr John Pattinson, 22 September 1917
680767 Gnr Joseph Fairclough, 4 October 1917
680126 Dvr James Brennan, 20 October 1917
680163 Cpl George Henry Pennington, 3 November 1917
55th Division occupied a length of the front of about 8,000 yards, to the east of Épehy. On 20 November, when the main tank attack was launched at Cambrai, the Division launched its own diversionary attack to the south and this was costly but successful. However, when the Germans launched their counter-attack on 30 November, the Division was routed, the front line defence apparently crumbling and allowing the enemy to have a “rapid and almost bewildering” advance. The Divisional history remarks that “only two of our men passed through the straggler posts”; this may be so. But hundreds of troops had fallen into enemy captivity. “Not a man returned” from the 1/5th Bn, the South Lancashire. The Division’s reputation fell sharply in the eyes of the higher command. With the exception of the artillery, the Division was withdrawn from the area and sent to Bomy near Fruges for intensive training. Although the infantry suffered massive losses, casualties among the artillery were lighter. The artillery remained in the line for the first couple of weeks in December, after which they were withdrawn to billets, first at Allaines and by the end of the month at Orville.
681810 Gnr William Ashton, 28 November 1917
680054 Sgt Herbert Clough Jamieson, 30 November 1917
681909 Dvr/S/S/ John Herbert Taylor, 30 November 1917
681886 Sgt Cyril Edward Gourley was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry during the action on 30 November,
680061 Sgt Evan Calderbank, 11 December 1917
286 Brigade formed part of the Dvisional artillery of 57th (2nd West Lancashire) Division. Recruited in 1915 they spent the rest of that year and 1916 in training in Kent, Surrey and Salisbury Plain.
They landed in France in February 1917 and were first engaged in the defence of Armenitères.
On 2 May 1917 the War Diary reports that “a raiding party of the enemy, strength unknown, attempted to enter our trenches… but were at once caught in our barrage fire and withdrew”. Four men from “B” Bty were killed that day.
681643 Gnr George Millson, 2 May 1917
680970 Gnr Joseph Sharples, 2 May 1917
681606 A/Bdr Horace Victor Sheriff, 2 May 1917
681609 Gnr Frank Leslie White, 2 May 1917
In June 1917, 286 Brigade were defending Armentières and the War Diary reports regular enemy bombardment of the town and the artillery batteries. On June 8, they reported that 2nd Lt. B. E. C. Lamport of B/286 and one other rank had been wounded, and 1 other rank was killed.
681023 Gnr John Morgan Crabtree, 8 June 1917
681436 Gnr John Edward Collinson, 9 June 1917
On 11 June, the Diary records: “1 Other Rank D/286 wounded. A/286 Bde position heavily shelled with 5.9s. C/286 Bde 2 O/R killed in action, 14 O/R wounded. Wire-cutting. S.O.S. – Enemy succeeded in entering our front-line trench but did not get out again”.
681555 Gnr Herbert Davis, 11 June 1917
681561 Gnr Robert Hacking, 11 June 1917
680904 Gnr Tom Beardsworth, 12 June 1917
680867 Sjt Thomas William Boardman, 12 June 1917
On 12 June, a howitzer shell exploded prematurely, wounding four men from "D" Battery.
681469 Gnr James Kenyon Skelthorne, 13 June 1917
681468 Gnr Frederick Johnson Slater, 14 June 1917
680629 Gnr John William Gorst, 16 June 1917
The raids, shelling and counter-shelling, continued throughout the month. The OC 286 Brigade was killed by a shell which burst while he was accompanying the OC of 57th Division on an inspection of the batteries.
Lt Col William Ambrose Short, 21 June 1917
680882 Sjt John Stirzaker, 21 June 1917
681885 Gnr Frederick James Forsyth, 24 June 1917
680636 Bdr Herbert Sowerbutts Cornall. 26 Jun 1917
At 6.30am on 30 June a shell penetrated a gun pit of D/286 killing five men and wounding another.
681284 Gnr Alexander Dodgson, 30 June 1917
681415 Bdr William Lawson, 30 June 1917
681464 Gnr Hubert Odell Pearce, 30 June 1917
681422 Bdr Herbert William Wilson, 30 June 1917
680866 Gnr John Marsden, 30 June 1917
In early July, B/286 was heavily shelled, including gas.
681623 Gnr William Richard Northall, 7 July 1917
681488 Dvr Tudor Galvani, 7 July 1917
681290 Dvr Herbert Gillibrand, 8 July 1917
Shelling and retaliation continued throughout the month.
681716 Gnr John William Swanton, 14 July 1917
(681435) 2nd Lt John Thompson Baxendale, 17 July 1917
681449 Gnr George Gregg, 22 July 1917
286 Brigade remained in Armentières during August and September, suffering only relatively light casualties as the main focus of the fighting moved north.
680863 S/Sgt Matthew Kennedy, 29 September 1917
The Brigade was withdrawn from Armentières at the end of September and began to prepare to move north. They arrived at their new location, near Langemark, on 9 October.
680662 Gnr Harry Whalley, 8 October 1917
681022 Dvr Cuthbert Benedict Nickson, 9 October 1917
680566 Gnr George William Steward, 10 October 1917
680220 Sgt Norman Allison, 11 October 1917
681475 Dvr Arthur Creswell, 11 October 1917
681425 Bdr Henry Rainford Hunt, 11 October 1917
681371 Gnr Donald McNee, 12 October 1917
Lieutenant Kenneth McCulloch, 12 October 1917
681615 Gnr Charles Leslie Eglington, 15 October 1917
680617 Dvr Joseph Holmes, 15 October 1917
681442 Gnr Reginald John Cuff, 26 October 1917
On 27 October, 285 and 286 Brigades were placed under temporary command of the Canadians as they began the final attack on the village of Passchendaele.
680983 Gnr Richard Wallbank, 28 October 1917
681595 Sgt William Bowdler, 29 October 1917
On 1 October, 286Bde had 30 Officers, 788 Other Ranks and 663 horses. At the end of the month, they had 26 Officers, 496 Other Ranks and 476 horses. At the end of the month, they withdrew to Langemark. From 1-7 November, they were under constant enemy bombardment, using high explosives and gas. They were withdrawn on 8 November and spent the rest of the month in training.
680960 Gnr William Edward Parker, 2 November 1917
681038 Cpl Charles Rall, 3 November 1917
680555 Whl James Henry Whittle, 3 November 1917
681033 Dvr Thomas King, 4 November 1917
680898 Gnr John Almond, 7 November 1917
680935 Gnr John Hall, 15 November 1917
681723 Bdr Ernest John Raffe, 20 November 1917
680954 Gnr John Nuttall, 26 November 1917
681649 Dvr Ralph Toone, 28 November 1917
They returned to the line in the Steenbeck valley in early December. The War Diary records that they “engaged in usual harassing fire on enemy’s tracks, roads etc.”
681665 Cpl. Albert Probert, 11 December 1917