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681649 DVR. R. TOONE.  R.F.A.


Ralph Toone was born in the third quarter of 1896 in Nether Hoyland, near Barnsley, in West Yorkshire.  His father was James Toone (b. 1866 in Litchurch, Derby), a mechanic and wire rope minder in a colliery.  His mother was Alice Ann Bidwell (b. 1867 in Wootton, Oxfordshire).  James and Alice were married in 1890 and they had 8 children: Ada (b. 1892), Mabel (b. 1894), then Ralph, then George (b. 1899), Louisa (b. 1903), Marguerite (b. 1905), Cissy (b. 1907) and finally Thomas (b. 1910).  In 1911, the family lived at 29 Conway Street, Stairfoot, Barnsley.  Ralph was an apprentice to a pawnbroker.


Ralph joined the Royal Field Artillery in 1915 and was assigned service number 681649.  He is among about 30 men with service numbers 681626-681653 from Barnsley and West Yorkshire who were posted to “B” Battery of 286 Brigade.

681649 Ralph Toone.jpg

After training, the Brigades left for France in early 1917 and were involved in the heavy fighting to defend the town of Armentières, on the French-Belgian border.  In July 1917 they suffered their first attack by the new mustard gas.  In late September the Brigade was relieved from the front line and withdrew for a period of training, and returned to the line at Langemark about 35km north of Armentières, not far from the small village of Passchendaele, which would be the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the War.  On 9 October 286 Brigade returned to action engaging in harassing and destructive fire on enemy strongpoints, but also suffering their heaviest losses of the war so far, with many soldiers being gassed.  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.  On 28 October, the War Diary reports: “Bombardment and barrage against enemy strong-points and harassing fire by 57th Divisional Artillery Group on front of the XVIII Corps. …  11th Bde RFA took part in barrage and bombardment of enemy strong-points on our own front.  1 Other Rank killed in action.  5 Other Ranks wounded.”  These operations were repeated on the following day, and 5 Other Ranks were wounded in action, 11 Other Ranks were gassed and 1 Other Rank was missing (later confirmed dead).  From 1-7 November, 286 Brigade were at Langemark engaged in the defence of the village and were under heavy shelling from the enemy, including gas attacks every day.  Ralph was presumably wounded or gassed during these later days of action and was in the process of being evacuated back to England when he died at No 10 Stationary Hospital, at St Omer in north-east France, on 28 November 1917.  He was 21 years old.


Rank:   Driver

Service Number:   681649

Date of Death:   28/11/1917

Age:  21

Regiment/Service:  Royal Field Artillery, “B” Bty, 286th Brigade.

Cemetery/memorial reference: IV. F. 12.


Additional Information: Son of James and Alice Ann Toone, of 2 Hoyle Mill Road, Stairfoot, Barnsley. Native of Hoyland, Barnsley.

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