RFA West Lancs Bdes
680061 SGT. E. CALDERBANK. R.F.A.
Evan Calderbank was born at the end of 1893 or beginning of 1894 in Preston and baptised at Preston St Luke on 31 January 1894. His father was Robert Calderbank (b. 1863 in Preston), a moulder in an iron foundry. His mother was Mary McGraw (b. 1866 in Preston). Robert and Mary were married in 1886 and they had five children, though one died in infancy. The survivors were Andrew (b. 1886), Ellen (b. 1888), then Evan, and finally Frances (b. 1898). In 1911, the family lived at 2 Malt Kiln Yard, Preston, though by 1915 they had moved to 2 Mill Bank Yard, Church Street, Preston. That year Robert (yes, Robert, the father) attempted to join the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He signed the attestation papers on 23 July 1915, claiming to be 40 years old (when in fact he was 51!). He was posted to the reserve and discharged as medically unfit on 25 May 1916.
Evan had probably served in the Territorials before the War. When he enlisted he was assigned service number 759 and posted to “B” Battery of 276 Brigade. His service number was later changed to 680061 and at some stage he was promoted to Serjeant.
276 Brigade formed part of 55th (West Lancashire) Division. Evan landed in France with his Division on 30 September 1915. 55th Division fought at Guillemont and Ginchy (on the Somme) in September 1916, suffering severe losses especially at Guillemont. 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.
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."
55th Division spent the period from 7 August to 12 September either at rest or in training. The weather throughout August had been appalling but in early September, as the Division prepared to return to the front, it became fine and dry. They took up their position in the line on 15 September, in almost exactly the same place they had left back in August. As they prepared to enter the line, between Frezenberg and St Julien, the various sections of the Division were constantly harassed by enemy fire. 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.
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. Evan was killed in action on 11 December 1917. He was 23 years old.
Service No: 680061
Date of Death: 11/12/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “B” Bty, 276th Bde.
Grave Reference: III. B. 3.
Cemetery: ROISEL COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
Additional Information: Son of Robert and Mary Calderbank, of 2 Mill Bank Yard, Church Street, Preston.