Second Battle of the Scarpe

Summary of events

With the exception of the 4th Bn (ordered to move to the old German line north of Beaurains) and two sections of the 149th MGC who were to support the attack of the 150th Bde, the 149th Bde was to remain in billets at Ronville 2 and Guemappe 3 was taken. The 4th Bn reached Buck Trench 4, and the Divn frontline was advanced to a point not far from the outskirts of Cherisy 5. HQ was established at Telegraph Hill 6

23rd April 1917 (St Georges Day)

At 4.15am the front line Bns were reported in position. The 150th Bde attack was to be carried out by the 4th Bn East Yorkshires on the right and the 4th Bn Green Howards on the left. Five minutes before Zero hour two tanks nosed their way to the front and moved slowly in a north-westerly direction.

At 8am the Bn moved forward again to the O.G. 1st line (map ref: N.5.b) and remained there during the day at half an hour notice. The Bn moved forward at five minutes notice at 7.45pm to the Brown Line 7 and for tactical purposes came under the orders of the GOC 151st Bde.

During the early morning of the 24th the 151st Bde relieved the 150th Bde, who moved back into reserve in the Harp area 8; the 4th Bn were attached to the 151st Bde, the remainder of the 149th being in support.

At about 11.30am, the enemy was reported retiring in front of the 30th Divn, and the GOC of the 30th Divn stated that he was going to push on to the Blue line 9.


The Bn moved forward from the Brown Line under the orders of the 151st Bde. ‘B’ Coy were sent forward to the front line and came under the orders of the 5th Bn DLI. They dug and occupied a new trench connected to the right flank of the 9th Bn DLI. Their covering party captured four Germans. No contact was made on the right flank until 3pm at which time communications were established with the 5th Bn Border Regt who were to the rear and slightly right of them. The 5th Bn Borders agreed to come forward at night and dig and occupy a trench that would be connected with ‘B’ Coy on the left.

‘A’, ’C’ and ‘D’ Coys and Bn HQ arrived at the old British front line north of Wancourt Tower (dispositions as per sketch) 2.30am. Rations were brought up to the 5th Bn Border HQ in the Long Lane 10 and brought up to ‘A’, ‘D’ and HQ by ‘C’ Coy. There was insufficient time to deliver rations to ‘B’ Coy before daylight so the men had to consume their second lot of iron rations. ‘B’ Coy were subjected to continuous, heavy shellfire and persistent sniping. 2nd Lt R Johnson and five men were killed and 16 men were wounded.

('B' Coy or the Bn) Lewis Guns identified good targets at ranges varying round 1000 yards and inflicted several casualties on the enemy. One Lewis gun was destroyed by shellfire. The areas occupied by the remaining Coys were also subjected to considerable artillery fire, which was especially violent between 2.30am and 7am and again between 1.30pm and 2pm. No direct hits were obtained on the trench and no casualties were sustained in this line during daylight.

2pm A part of ten stretcher-bearers and ten men were sent out to collect wounded still lying on the battlefield.

The GOC 151st Bde was instructed to advance at 4pm under an artillery barrage. But, meanwhile, the 30th Divn had already reached the Blue line, and was digging in on it, and the 151st Bde was, therefore, ordered to conform immediately to the movement of the 30th Divn. The 5th Borders Regt swung up their right flank and obtained touch at about 4pm. But the 9th DLI, in the centre, with a Coy of the 4th Bn attacked, and had a sharp tussle with the enemy before occupying the Blue Line 11. (50th Divn)

3pm ‘B’ Coy under 9th Bn DLI orders (2.25pm) went forward one platoon to reconnoitre and capture an enemy trench 600 yards long astride the railway. The platoon captured the trench sustaining three casualties in the process.

Bn HQ received Operation Orders at 3.30pm stating that the 15th Divn were advancing on the left and 9th Bn DLI would support their advance with rifle, Lewis Gun and MG fire. Also that they would push forward patrols to reconnoitre and capture the German trench six hundred yards long astride the railway. OC 9th Bn DLI detailed ‘B’ Coy for this work and captured and held the trench as described above.

At 5.22pm 4th Bn HQ received a wire from OC 9th Bn DLI stating that one of the 'B' Coy platoons had just captured an enemy trench (from map ref: O.20.7.6. to O.20.C.1.9) and was holding it. Only three casualties were incurred. Fine piece of work. Lt Col B.D. Gibson and 2nd Lt Burton went forward to reconnoitre the new positions occupied by ‘B’ Coy and ‘A’ and ‘D’ Coys.

Another platoon was sent forward under heavy artillery and machine gun fire to help hold it. Under cover of darkness one more platoon of ‘B’ Coy was sent forward to the trench and three strong points were constructed, two north and one south of the railway. [zotpressInText item="{4R6FADJ9,}"]

10pm ‘A’ and ‘D’ Coys dug a new support trench between the railway and the Cojeul River and occupied it. One machine gun was attached to each Coy. At 10.30pm Bn HQ moved to a dugout at the old German gun pits at the north end of old German support line between Cojeul River and the railway. ‘C’

2nd Scarpe - Military Units

15th (Scottish) Division - Comprised of the 44th, 45th and 46th Infantry Brigades

The 44th Bde - Comprised of the 9th Bn - Black Watch, 8th Bn - Seaforth Highlanders, 8th & 10th Bns - Gordon Highlanders, 7th Bn - Camerons.

The 45th Bde -Comprised of the 13th Bn - Royal Scots, 6th & 7th Bn - Royal Scots Fusiliers, 6th Bn - Camerons, 11th Bn - Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

The 46th Bde - Comprised of the 10th Bn - Scottish Rifles, 7th & 8th Bn Kings Own Scottish Borderers, 10th & 11th Bn - Highland Light Infantry, 12th Bn - Highland Light Infantry.

30th Division - Consisted of the 89th, 90th and 91st Bde.

The 89th Bde comprised of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Bns - The Kings Liverpool Regiment

The 90th Bde comprised of the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th Bns - The Manchester Regiment.

The 91st Bde comprised of the 20th, 21st, 22nd and 24th Bns - The Manchester Regiment.

50th (Northumbrian) Division Consisted of the 149th (Northumberland) Bde, 150th (York & Durham) Bde and 151st (Durham Light Infantry (DLI)) Bde.

The 149th Bde comprised of the 1/4th, 1/5th, 1/6th and 1/7th Bn Northumberland Fusiliers

The 150th Bde comprised 1/4th Bn East Yorkshires, 1/4th Bn Green Howards, 1/5th Bn Green Howards and 1/5th Bn Durham Light Infantry

The 151st Bde comprised the 1/6th, 1/8th, 1/9th Bn - DLI and 1/5th (Cumberland) Bn - Border Regt.

149th MGC -


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Gird Trench, Hook Sap

12th November 1916

‘B’ and ‘C’ Coys moved into Snag Trench 1 and Snag Support 2, ‘A’ Coy to Abbaye Trench 3 and ‘D’ Coy the Flers Line 4. The Bn was warned to be ready for an assault on Hook Sap 5. Lt Col. Gibson visited the front line system of trenches and reported that the communication trench was impassable in many places and the condition of Snag front line and support was extremely bad.

Snag Trench was 6ft wide and it was almost impossible to move along. In several instances men had become completely stuck in the mud and took over an hour to be dug out. Rifle fire was fairly heavy during early morning of the 12th. The German 5th Bn Grenadier Guards were now in the trenches opposite the Bn and were much more active than the Saxon Regt who were opposite on the previous tour in the trenches.

At 7.45am the enemy front line very heavily shelled.

At 10am the Bn received word that the attack on Hook Sap was postponed until the 14th and would be carried out by the 6th and 7th Bns. Work continued on Snag new support trench. Front line system was heavily shelled during the morning with the Bn suffering about twenty casualties with several men temporarily buried as well.

13th November 1916

Orders were received stating that the 1st Divn would relieve the 50th Divn between the 17th and 19th of November.

At 6.30pm, Bde HQ issued an operation order, detailing the 5th Bn to attack on the right flank and the 7th Bn on the left. The 4th Bn were to be held in support with two Coys in Hexham Road 6 and two in the Flers Line (with 5th Bn Green Howards attached). The 6th Bn were to hold the front line from the left of the 7th Bn to the Bde Boundary on the left and support the attack with Lewis Gun and rifle fire.

During the night of the 12th/13th Snag new support trench was dug and completed and Pioneer Alley 7 was cleared as far as possible. To make it passable approximately two hundred duck-boards were laid cross wise in Snag Trench.

At 5.45am a Chinese barrage 8 was laid down on Hook Sap and the Gird Line 9. With the artillery suddenly opening and the barrage steadily creeping forward, it gave the Germans the impression that an infantry assault was in progress.

'This of course, alarms the Bosche, who thinks we are coming over, and brings down all his artillery barrages too. These bombardments took place at 6am for several days’ [zotpressInText item="{ZZCPTDHK,76}"]

Enemy retaliation was very severe especially on Hexham Road 10, where an intense barrage was put up for an hour. Bn once again had several casualties from shell-fire.

The relief of the Bn by the 5th Bn commenced at 8pm, ‘C’ and ‘D’ Coys moved back to the Flers Line, but ‘A’ and ‘B’ Coys remained at Hexham Road. The relief was completed at 11.45pm.

the 5th and 7th Bns moved into position during the night ready to attack Hook Sap and the Gird Line at 6.45am.

‘The position was now as follows. The 1st Divn had pushed the enemy back to a line running along the top of a ridge running from the Butte of Warlencourt practically due east. This ridge prevented our seeing the enemy’s approaches and support position in Le Barque. On the other hand from Loupart Wood the whole of our approaches and support trenches were in full view of the enemy, as far back as High Wood. Across these two miles no one could move in daylight without being seen by the enemy, and there was practically no position to put our field guns forward of High Wood. The enemys’ front line consisted of two trenches - Gird Line and Gird Support - with a forward trench on top of the ridge, called on the left ‘ Butte Trench and on the right ‘Hook Sap’. Our front line Snag Trench and Maxwell Trench lay this side of the ridge and about two hundred yards away from the German forward trench’. [zotpressInText item="{Z5UXG9XQ}"]

‘The Butte of Warlencourt was a round chalk hill, rising about one hundred feet above ground level; and had been mined with deep dugouts and made into a formidable strong point. From the Butte, machine guns defended the approaches to Hook Sap, and the Hook Sap and the Gird line, machine guns defended the approaches to the Butte. The ground between and around the opposing trenches had been ploughed up with innumerable shells, some of huge calibre, and it was now a spongy morass, difficult to cross at a walk and impossible at a run. As events proved, unless both the Butte and the Gird Line could be taken at the same time, the one would render the other impossible to hold. This then was the problem that faced the 50th Divn, a problem that would have been difficult enough in the driest of weather, but rendered four times more so by the rain which fell in deluges on three days out of four during the whole of October and November’. [zotpressInText item="{Z5UXG9XQ}"]

‘A’ and ‘D’ Coy were in Hexham Road and ‘B’ and ‘C’ Coy in the Flers Line when the 5th and 7th Bns went ‘over the top’ to attack Hook Sap, alongside troops from the 2nd Australian Divn. On this occasion mist obscured the attacking troops from the troops in the Flers Line. The enemy defensive barrage was very prompt, opening up within two minutes of zero hour.

The 19th Australian Bn in conjunction with the 5th and 7th Bns took Gird Support. However, the trench was waterlogged, so they fell back to Gird Trench. The 7th Bn appeared to have taken Hook Sap, but they came under severe fire from Butte Trench and nothing more was heard from them. The day wore on and counterattacks were fought off. Two Coys of the 20th (New South Wales) Bn attempted a move against the Maze at 4.45pm but were stopped by machine gun fire. [zotpressInText item="{XGEW4MF2,156}"].

At 10am Capt R.W. Cranage was slightly wounded by piece of shrapnel in Flers Line.

On receipt of this news a sap was begun running out from Snag Trench to Hook Sap, the men digging hard. This sap was begun by 'D' Coy of the 4th Bn, who had been detailed for the work in operation orders. But at 11.30am they had to cease digging as the enemy machine gun fire was too heavy (50th Divn)

‘D’ Coy, under the orders of the 7th Bn, proceeded from Hexham Road to the head of Pioneer Alley to continue this Communication Trench towards Hook Sap. Machine Gun fire was so heavy that the party returned to Hexham Road.

At 2.35pm ‘A’ Coy was placed at the disposal of the 5th Bn. At 5pm 2nd Lt T. Bonner and fifty men reinforced the Gird Line on right (held by 5th and 7th Bns) with bombs and occupy left flank portion of line next to enemy. This party was engaged in heavy bomb fighting all next day.

3.30pm Trenches .

CO moves to Hexham Road to meet GOC 149th Bde

At 5pm ‘B’ and ‘C’ Coys move up to Hexham Road. ‘D’ Coy moves up to Snag trench front line.

At 6.30pm ‘B’ Coy moved to Snag trench to dig a Communication Trench from the head of Pioneer Alley to Hook Sap. ‘C’ Coy moved to Snag left of Pioneer Alley. Capt J.W. Robinson (OC ‘B’ Coy) was killed while leading a patrol reconnoitring Hook Sap.

At 11pm Lt Col B.D. Gibson and Maj N.I. Wright (5th Bn) went forward to reorganise the front line prior to an attack. For this task they had one Coy from the 4th and 7th Bns on the left and another Coy from the 4th Bn and the remains of 'A' Coy from the 7th Bn about thirty men.

The two coys in Starfish Trench went forward and occupied positions in Prue Trench vacated by the 7th Bn, who had gone further forward. Later in the day these Coys were recalled as the 7th Bn were returning there. The Bn expected to be relieved that night, but at 3pm orders were received that stating the the 4th and 7th Bn should relieve the Durhams in the front line. The 4th Bn relieved the 8th Bn DLI and 5th Bn Borders. The weather and the mud was appalling and a large number of bombs had to be carried forward, so the men were absolutely exhausted. The relief was not completed until about 9am on the morning of the 3rd.

15th November 1916

Trenches, Hexham Road & Snag Trench

At 12.30am the 4th and 5th Bns launched an attack but owing to intense enemy barrage and heavy rifle and Machine gun fire the attack failed. Capt J.W. Robinson and 2nd Lt F.J. Larken were killed, Lt Col B.D. Gibson and 2nd Lt T. Bonner were wounded and 2nd Lt A.V. Berrick was missing.

At midnight a detachment of the 4th and 5th Bns attacked on the other flank and similar results were achieved. (McCarthy. p.156).

At 2am the Bn was ordered to reorganise and defend Snag Trench. Lt Col Gibson and Wright returned to Bn HQ as nothing more could be done for the present.

Enemy shelling fairly heavy all day.

16th November 1916

The Bn, including the party in the Gird Line, was relieved by the 4th Bn East Yorks and moved back to the Flers Line. The Bn War Diary shows that the operations between the 14th and 16th of November resulted in the 4th Bn suffering 21 men killed, 62 wounded and 5 missing.

On the afternoon of the 17th the Bn was relieved by the 10th Bn Gloucesters (1st Divn) and move back to Bazentin Le Grand 11.

At 12 noon on the 18th the Bn proceeded by rail to Albert and was billeted in Felix Faure.


Records show that at least 40 fusiliers from the 4th Bn were killed in action or died of wounds during the fighting for Gird Trench and Hook Sap. For information on 4th Bn burial and memorial sites for casualties sustained in this battle, select the link.

Gird Trench, Hook Sap - Military Units

1st Division - Comprised of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Infantry Brigades.

The 1st Bde - Comprised of the 10th Bn - Gloucestershire Regt, 1st Bn - Black Watch, 8th Bn - Royal Berkshire Regt and 1st Bn - Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.

The 2nd Bde - Comprised of the 2nd Bn - Royal Sussex Regt, 1st Bn - Loyal North Lancashire Regt, 1st Bn - Northamptonshire Regt and 2nd Bn - King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

The 3rd Bde - Comprised of the 1st Bn - South Wales Borderers, 1st Bn - Gloucestershire Regt, 2nd Bn - Welsh Regt and 2nd Bn - Royal Munster Fusiliers.

Pioneer Battalion - 1/6th - Bn Welsh Regt.

50th (Northumbrian) Division - Comprised of the 149th (Northumberland) Bde, 150th (York & Durham) Bde and 151st (Durham Light Infantry (DLI)) Bde.

The 149th Bde was comprised of the 1/4th, 1/5th, 1/6th and 1/7th Bns - Northumberland Fusiliers.

The 150th Bde was comprised 1/4th Bn - East Yorkshires, 1/4th & 1/5th Bn - Green Howards and 1/5th Bn - Durham Light Infantry.

The 151st Bde was comprised the 1/6th, 1/7th, 1/8th and 1/9th Bns - Durham Light Infantry (DLI). 1/5th (Cumberland) Bn, Border Regt.


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Battle of Bellewarde

Summary of events

Monday, 24th May 1915

It was on this day that the battle now known as Bellewarde Wood began. Around 2am the Germans opened with a gas attack between Hooge1 and Turco Farm 2backed up by a very heavy artillery bombardment. The wind was favourable for such an gas attack, so many officers in the front line were on the alert and the Germans lost the element of surprise. Nevertheless, the troops had little time in which to fit and adjust their primitive respirators before the gas cloud enveloped them. The German infantry assault immediately followed the gas, but in only one part of the line near Mouse Trap Farm3 did they succeed in overrunning the British position.

At the time of the attack the 4th Bn was occupying dugouts near the Chateau des Trois Tours, Brielen4. The CO (Col Foster) of the 4th Bn, awakened by the noise, was already dressing when an orderly arrived with orders for the Bn to be ready to move at a moments notice. This was quickly followed by another orderly and another message which requested Col Foster to report to General Hull (OC 10th Bde) at No2 pontoon bridge5. Col Foster, accompanied by his Adjutant (Capt Cruddas), set off across the fields in the direction of the bridge having left orders for Major Gibson to follow on with the battalion immediately.

'We moved off about 5am, there having been no time for breakfast and most of us had to go with our water bottles empty, as the water carts were not up, and the water at the farm near at hand had been condemned' [zotpressInText item="{6C9UZ7VX}"].

As the Colonel and Capt Cruddas walked north east towards the canal the smell and effects of poison gas grew stronger. By the time they reached 10th Bde HQs6 near the canal, the gas was quite dense even though they were nearly three miles from where the Germans had released it.

General Hull gave instructions for the 4th Bn to be held in reserve on the canal bank and await further orders. It was not long before the Bn came into sight marching along the road from Brielen. The Seaforths, who had been occupying dugouts on the canal bank, moved forward to make space for them and left a very welcome supply of food and water behind. The density of gas in the canal cutting by this time was quite bad, so Col Foster ordered his men to lie just below the top of the bank. They were more exposed to exploding shells, but the CO considered it the lesser of two evils. The heavy shelling continued until approximately 7.30am.

At 10am orders were received to move to the 2nd Divn line west of the St Jean7 - Wieltje8 road. To try and minimise casualties the Bn crossed the fields in single file and entered a deep ditch on one side of the road. Although they all wore their respirators the gas was affecting many in the Bn.

This line was full of troops so the Bn advanced again to the support line at View Farm9. , 'A' & 'D' Coys, under a shower of shells, then recrossed the road and advanced to some trenches near Hill Top Farm10. Capt Robinson, already half blinded by the gas, stumbled into a shell hole and sprained his ankle. Lt Bunbury assumed command of 'A' Coy, but it was not long before he was hit in the foot by a machine gun bullet and had to hand command of the Coy to Lt Turner.

Gas shells were falling around the fusiliers, so at some stage during the afternoon half of 'B' and 'C' Coys were moved out of their trenches and west along the road. Orders were then received to send a Coy to Mouse Trap Farm, a short distance to the north east of the Bn position, to assist the Dublins. The OC of the 1st Bn Warwickshire Regt stopped 'C' Coy stating that the Germans had already driven the Dublins out and captured the farm. 'C' Coy returned during the afternoon with remnants of the 7th Bn and East Lancashires.

At 6pm Col Foster received a service instruction sheet from the OC Warwickshires:

"As soon as it is dusk, please send two Companies into the support lines to prolong the line now held by the Seaforth Highlanders. Also please be in command of the line for the present during my absence, at the telephone in a house which will be shown you on arrival here".

The Bn was then ordered to support a counter-attack by the Somersets and Monmouths set for 10pm. However, this was countermanded because the Germans captured an orderly carrying a message to the Dublin Fusiliers referring to the attack. By this time gas shells were falling heavy and one burst in the trench, killing one man and wounding another. Although the gas was painful to the eyes, no further harm was done. Half of 'B' and 'C' Coys were moved west along the road to avoid the shelling.

In compliance with the Service Instruction issued earlier, B' Company moved forward at dusk to the first line trench to the east of the St Jean-Wieltje road and 200 yards south of Wieltje village, 'A' & half of 'C' Company occupied a trench on the left flank between the road and the Seaforths position . Half of 'D' Coy were placed in support behind them, west of road. The other half of 'C' Coy were placed behind them (map 2). The other half of 'D Coy had been missing since the morning.

At 11.30pm an Orderly arrived with instructions for all available men to be redeployed to the right of the roadway, and for Col Foster to report to General Hull in the village of St Jean. It was a bright moonlit night and the German machine guns were very active, so Col Foster had a lively walk back, guided by the Orderly. Col Poole of the Warwicks was there when he arrived. Col Foster was instructed to dig in to the right of the road and as far east as a small clump of trees. He was also instructed "to stick it at all costs".

Tuesday, 25th May 1915

Col Foster returned to the Bn positions in the support trench to discover that only 'B' Coy were still there. Lts Bradley and Cranage were dispatched to try and locate the missing half of 'D' Coy. Bradley returned to report that they had been commandeered by another Brigadier, attached to the East Lancashires11 and were now filling a gap at Turco Farm. Lt Cranage failed to return because he had been severely wounded shortly after setting off, but fortunately he was spotted by the Bn stretcher bearers and taken to a casualty clearing station.

Trench digging commenced, but with so few men available little progress was made before daybreak when exposed work of this nature had to stop anyway.

The remaining half of 'C' reached 'A' Coy at 2am.

The half of 'D' Coy manning the support trench to the west of the road were hit by half a dozen artillery shells at 2am, some containing gas. A cloud of gas rolled down into the trench but no one was harmed. By 6am this half of 'D' Company were in the support trench east of road. Barricade of support trench on road and house in rear crumped. 'B' & 'C' Companies dug in all night and all day. Shrapnel hit some men from 'B' Company.

The day broke in brilliant sunshine. The fusiliers were awakened by a tremendous boom to the west of Ypres, followed by a sound like an express train drawing near and then passing overhead. Those who peered over the parapet witnessed a 'Grannie' shell score a direct hit on the German occupied Shell Trap Farm.

Flames, red dust and dark masses of debris flung themselves into the sky, followed by volumes of dense black smoke.

About six smaller shells of 9.2 or 6 inch calibre subsequently fell in the same area.

The men were greatly cheered by this episode, feeling a little compensated for the vile gassing of yesterday and the loss of their trench. But the Monmouths celebrated the event a trifle too enthusiastically by lighting fires in front of their dug-outs, against their officers’ orders, of course, and the smoke attracted the enemy’s fire at once (Col A.J Foster).

British artillery shelled the trenches Bellewarde Farm12 all afternoon.

Throughout the 24th of May the 4th Bn, along with several other Bns, were moved in response to orders and counter-orders to try and stem the advance of German troops. Although not directly involved in front line fighting, the constant shelling and exposure to gas resulted in 6 men killed, 27 wounded and 1 missing.

Letter from Pte J Moody (‘A’ Coy) published in the Hexham Courant - 17th of June 1915.

On Sunday night a terrific bombardment started, and early on Monday morning we got the order to leave our dugouts and advance. The Germans were using those gases so we had to use our respirators. I do not know how we could have come on without them, and we passed a lot of unfortunate soldiers making their way back, some of them badly gassed. The effects of the gas are to awful for words. The sweat was teeming down the men’s faces and they were gasping and choking for breath. Thanks to my respirator I was able to go on although I thought my head was going to split. Once, as we advanced towards some trenches a German machine gun started to play on us and Lt Bunbury, one of our officers was wounded. Whenever we crossed a field it was ploughed up by ‘Jack Johnsons’13

They were bursting all over, and how we got so far up with so few casualties is little short of a miracle. When night fell we went forward again and took our place in the firing line. Things were pretty quiet just then, only a few stray bullets flying about, but we had to keep a sharp lookout as the German trenches were only some 500 yards in front of us. We were only in the front line two days and are now back in some reserve trenches not far behind the front line. I expect we will be going further back for a rest shortly and will give you further news then'.


Records show that at least 6 fusiliers from the 4th Bn were killed in action or died of wounds during the Battle of Bellewarde. For information on 4th Bn burial and memorial sites for casualties sustained in this battle, select the link.


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If would like to read the full story of the 4th NF in World War 1, then please select here



Chapter 2d – Wulverghem

Wulverghem The following morning the officers reconnoitred the front line east of Wulverghem village in readiness for the Bn moving up to the trenches later that day. Foster: “All CO’s and Captains of Companies…

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Commanding Officers

1 Nov 1860 - 10 Jul 1874 - Lt Col. The Earl of Tankerville

Charles Augustus Bennet (1810-1899) styled Lord Ossulston between 1822 and 1859, was a British peer and Conservative politician. He served as Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms between 1866 and 1867 and as Lord Steward of the Household between 1867 and 1868.The family seat was Chillingham Castle

11 Jul 1874 - Dec 1879 - Col. The Earl of Durham

George Frederick D’Arcy Lambton (2nd Earl of Durham)


21 Feb 1880 - 6 Sep 1881 - Lt Col. J Nicholson

7 Sep 1881 - 20 May 1887 - Lt Col. The Right Honourable Frederick William Lambton (4th Earl of Durham) (1855-1929)

(19 June 1855 – 31 January 1929) was a British peer, a Liberal (and later Liberal Unionist) politician, and the son of George Lambton, 2nd Earl of Durham. He inherited the Earldom from his twin brother, John Lambton, 3rd Earl of Durham, when the latter died with no legitimate children.

21 May 1887 - 7 May 1892 - Col. William Lisle Blenkinsopp Coulson(1840-1911)

The Coulson family owned property on and around the line of Hadrian’s Wall. William had restored and extended Blenkinsopp Castle, one of the family’s medieval homes, in 1877 (it was destroyed by fire in the 1950s).

He was a prominent figure in the area, known for his 'untiring efforts for the kindly treatment of animals' and for the unusual plaid that he habitually dressed in. Born in Haltwhistle, he served in the army from 1860 to 1892, retiring as a colonel. Subsequently he served as a magistrate and on the boards of many charities concerning themselves with child and animal welfare. He toured schools and borstals throughout the country giving lectures on morality, and published essays on the welfare of children and women, and 'Musings on Moor and Fell'. He died in Newbrough, Northumberland, leaving a wife and daughter.

Tyneside Dail Photo

17 Sep 1892 - 1 Jan 1900 - Col. Robert Weddell VD

Robert was a member of the original volunteer force and died in Berwick in February 1909. He entered as a bugler boy and served for mora than forty years, never missing a camp. He was a solicitor, and sometimes town clerk for Berwick and election agent to Sir Edward Orey.

2 Jan 1901 - 1 Feb 1907 - Col. Wilfrid Gibson VD

The Hexham firm of Gibson & Co was founded in 1815 by Jasper Gibson and in 2011 it was England's oldest family-run solicitors' practice; with offices in Hexham, Bellingham and Newcastle.

Wilfrid Gibson (b.1850), the great great grandson of Jasper, was born in Salford and educated at Ushaw. He married (m.1874) Ann Margaret Dees and their first child Bertrand Dees Gibson was born in 1876. In 1881 the family was residing at Acomb House, Acomb and Wilfrid was a practising solicitor and a Captain in the 1st VB NF. During his career Wilfrid was Treasurer of St Cuthbert's Society; Member of Catholic Education Council; Vice- President of the Hexham and Newcastle Voluntary Schools Association. Wilfrid attained the rank of Lt Col and commanded the 1st VB from 1901.

Col. Lewis Chalmers Lockhart VD
Col. Lewis Chalmers Lockhart VD

1907 - 14 Apr 1910 - Col. Lewis Chalmers Lockhart VD

In 1914 Lewis Chalmers Lockhart, (Lockhart LC & HK) was a dynamic solicitor, who in addition to holding a commission in the Fusiliers was leading figure in Hexham society. Throughout his life he was activily involved in a number of the town’s affairs; commissioner toadminister oaths in the Supreme Court of Judicature, registrar of the county court, clerk to the managers of Hexham Council Schools and treasurer to the Hexham Union Workhouse and Rural District Council. Lewis owned several Hexham properties including the Old Gaol, the Manor Office and the Moot Hall. He cared deeply about education and was a prime mover of the scheme to shift the old Hexham Grammar School to a larger site in Fellside. Lewis was also renowned for falling out with Canon Sidney Savage over the plans to rebuild Hexham Abbey chancel. Along with his brother he was responsible for the construction of the Alemouth Road almshouses to commemorate his uncle, Henry King. (Kelly's Directory, p. 166) (Hexham Courant, 2009)

His son Henry followed into the same profession. (Kelly's Directory, p. 166). (Hexham Courant, 2009).

Col. John McClare Clark VD
Col. John McClare Clark VD

14 Apr 1910 - 13 Feb 1912 - Col. John McClare Clark VD

Unlike many of his contemporaries John McClare Clark (b.1854) was Haltwhistle born and bred. He followed in his father’s footsteps as a land agent, but he was also the manager of the Haltwhistle branch of the London Joint Stock Bank Ltd.

In his time he was also treasurer to Haltwhistle Rural District Council, treasurer of the Haltwhistle Union Workhouse, Justice of the Peace (JP) and magistrate for the Haltwhistle Petty Session (Kelly's Directory)

John married Marion, one of Hexham doctor Daniel Jackson’s ten daughters. Daniel was a highly regarded Hexham general practitioner, a district health officer and the owner of Bellister Castle. Daniel completed the restoration and enlargement of the castle before his death in 1911 and John and Marion McClare resided there. Daniel’s son Scott was a GP with a practice in Alnwick and held a commission in the 7th NF. John was listed in the London Gazette of 30 Dec 1902:

War Office, 30th December, 1902.

The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Volunteer Officers' Decoration upon the undermentioned Officers of the Volunteer Force, who have been duly recommended for the same under the terms of the Royal Warrant dated 25th July, 1892 :— NORTH-EASTERN DISTRICT.

RIFLE. 1st Volunteer Battalion, The Northumberland Fusiliers.
Major George Hogarth Bell.
Major John McClare Clark.

Appeared in the London Gazette again on 29 September 1908

4th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers; the undermentioned officers, from the 1st Volunteer Battalion, The Northumberland Fusiliers, to be Lieutenant-Colonels with the honorary rank of Colonel, with precedence as in the Volunteer Force. Dated 1st April. 1908 : —
Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant and Honorary Colonel Lewis Chalmers Lockhart.
Lieutenant-Colonel and Honorary Colonel John McClare Clark.

Lt Col Alfred James Foster
Lt Col Alfred James Foster

19 Jul 1913 - 17 Aug 1915 - Lt Col. Alfred James Foster

It is not clear how he first became involved in the lead manufacturing business; however Alfred’s grandfather James (b.1819) was the joint managing partner in the Tyneside firm of Locke & Blackett until 1856. The family then moved to Sussex, but returned to Tyneside in 1862 whereupon James set up the rival lead manufacturing plant of Foster, Blackett & Wilson at Hebburn in partnership with Robert Blackett and John Wilson . The company specialised in the production of white, red and orange lead as well as chemical sheet lead and lead pipes .

In 1871 seven year old Alfred (b.1864) was boarding at ‘The Mount School’ in Northallerton. His father James was listed in the census as a ‘Lead Refiner and Manufacturer’ employing 198 men and 102 women.

In 1874 James purchased the Hindley Hall estate near Stocksfield and relocated his family from Newcastle. On his death, five years later, the family moved into Hindley House, a smaller property on the estate, and rented the Hall out to colliery owner Matthew Liddell and family. 

The 1891 Census lists Alfred as a Lead Manufacturer and Magistrate. He was now married to Mabel and along with his two children, was living in Hindley House along with five servants and a nurse. The Hall itself was still occupied by Matthew Liddell, his wife Hannah, one daughter and seven servants including a governess. The Liddells were colliery owners and philantropists in nearby Prudhoe. Matthew Liddell's father had bought three hundred acres in Prudhoe upon which he built Prudhoe Hall (more recently Prudhoe Hospital).

Alfred continued with the lead manufacturing business, but in another house move, probably linked to the general downturn in the fortunes of the lead manufacturing industry towards the end of the 19th Century, the family took up residence in Anick Cottage, a more modest property on the North bank of the Tyne, purchased from Mrs Isabel Clayton of ‘The Chesters’.

By 1903 the Liddells had relocated to Cheeseburn Grange, Stamfordham and the Richardsons had taken up residence in the Hall. John Wigham Richardson’s (1837-1908) father owned and ran a leather tanning business, but John was to make his fortune in the shipbuilding industry and founded the Neptune Works at Walker-on-Tyne. John’s first move up the property ladder occurred in 1866, when he moved his family from Elswick to Wingrove House, Fenham. The subsequent move to Hindley Hall coincided with a merger between the Neptune works and the Swan Hunter yard. The new company, Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, became the most technically advanced ship building firm in the world and one of it most famous products, was the Cunard line’s RMS Mauretania, launched in 1906 (Wikipedia). The Richardson’s occupation of Hindley Hall was shortlived, the Fosters finally selling the Hindley estate to the Pumphrey family in 1907 (Baker A. P.).

Led the battalion into battle at Ypres during April 1915. However, he fell ill during July 1915 and returned to England to convalesce.

Appointed Deputy Assistant Director at the Ministry of Munitions 16th Sep 1915.

Major Bertrand Dees Gibson
Major Bertrand Dees Gibson

18 Aug 1915 - 1917 - Maj. (Temporary Lt Col.) Bernard Dees Gibson

Bertrand was admitted to the Bar in October 1899 and joined his father in practice as W. & B. D. Gibson, Hexham. Bertrand was also commissioned into the 1st VB and married in 1907 at Kingston, Middlesex. .

Gibson joined the old 1st Volunteer Battalion in 1900, and after passing through the Musketry Course at Hythe, was appointed Musketry Instructor to the Battalion. In 1906, he became Hon. Secretary to the Northumberland Rifle Association. He was mobilised in August 1914, embarked for France with his Battalion in April 1915, and promoted Lt Col in August 1915 to command the 4th NF. Promoted substantive Lt Col in March 1918. Bertrand was ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ four times in all, awarded the D.S.O. and the Croix de Guerre with Palms (French)

1917 - 1917 - Capt. (Temporary Maj.) James Allan Herriott

Lt (Temporary Capt) Cecil George Arkwright
Lt (Temporary Capt) Cecil George Arkwright

1917 - 1917 - Lt (Temporary Capt) Cecil George Arkwright

Cecil’s father was a mechanical engineer originating from Barthomley in Cheshire. Cecil was born in Newcastle. At the time of the 1901 Census the family was living at 68 Park Road, Elswick, but Cecil was boarding at Sea Bank School in Alnmouth. Cecil was the Great Great Great Grandson of Sir Richard Arkwright the inventor of the Spinning Jenny.

Born 1890 and married Mary Adeline, 4th daughter of the late Col.W.H.S. Heron-Maxwell of Teviot Bank, Roxburgh. Went to reach rank of Lt Col. and was awarded the MC.

Captain Frank Robinson
Captain Frank Robinson

1917 - 1917 - Capt. (Temporary Lt Col.) Francis Robinson

Frank (b.1885) was the eldest son of John William and Elizabeth Anne Robinson. The Robinson’s drapery business was on Fore Street in Hexham. His father and grandfather had been drapers. Francis was at Cambridge University in 1901 (1901 Census)

Lt. Col. Frank Robinson succeeded Colonel M.C. Lake as the commander of the Aden Protectorate Levies (APL) in 1929; a post he was to occupy until 1939. In 1928, when he first arrived, the APL comprised two British officers and six platoons of Arabs (each one officer and thirty four men) recruited from tribes in the Western Protectorate states, they had 48 camels and 8 mules. The APL recruited from various tribes living in the foothills and the higher mountainous regions of the protectorate. (Pickering) Aden Airways

Captain William Robb
Captain William Robb

1917 - 22 Mar 1918 - Capt. (Temporary Lt Col.) William Robb

The Robb brothers were born in Hexham and educated at George Watson’s Boy’s College in Edinburgh, where all three served in the school Officer Training Corps. In 1907 William was gazetted as a 2nd Lt in the 1st Volunteer Battalion, NF and John Ridley joined the 4th NF in March 1909. Both were promoted to full lieutenant in June 1910, then captain in Dec 1912. They were mobilised in August 1914 and served to the end of the war.

William made a career out of the army, taking a regular commission in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He later served as the Commanding Officer of the North Staffordshire Regiment and was the Brigadier commanding the 9th Infantry Brigade in the British Expeditionary Force during WW2.

22 Mar 1918 - 27 Mar 1918 - Capt. Thomas Alexander Lacy-Thompson

Thomas was the great grandson of James Thompson. The Thompson family lived at Farlam Hall on Lord Carlisle’s estate. James Thompson’s keen activity and interest in the progressive development in the Naworth coalfield and waggonway was to stand him in good stead for in 1819 he was to succeed Thomas Lawson and become Lord Carlisle’s colliery agent. (Gordon, p. 6). In 1838 James became the lessee of the waggonways and the coalfield. On his death in 1851 his wife Maria took control of the business, assisted by two of her sons, George Africanus and Thomas Charles. Maria passed away in 1891 and the lease was seen out by Charles Lacy Thompson (b.1857) and James Thomas Thompson, the sons of Thomas Charles Thompson who had married Gertrude Lacy Thompson. By the end of the 19th century the Thompson’s had financial worries, coal workings were close to exhaustion, Midgeholme colliery closing in 1893. James was to give up the lease in 1908. (Whittle, p. 161)

Lt Thompson was transferred from the 15th to the 4th NF on the 23rd of August 1915. He was appointed Acting Adjutant on the 16th of December 1916 and continued these duties until the 22nd of March 1918. He was awarded the MC in 1917. Promoted …… Assumed command of the battalion on 22nd of March 1918 when the CO (Lt Col Robb) was wounded. He himself was wounded in action on the 27th of March and this appears to have brought to an end his active service. Padre Wilfrid Callin said “In whose courage and judgement we had the completest confidence. ''Tock,'' as we call him, was perhaps our most popular officer, as he was also one of our best soldiers”. (Callin)

Thomas married Vera Dixon in 1917 and daughter Audrey was born in 1920, followed by Robert in 1922. Thomas and Vera were both keen tennis and golf players and it is believed they won some tennis tournaments at county level. Thomas apparently was also "a good shot". (a brace of pheasants were sent every year to his son’s family. The family seat at Farlam, which was sold on the death of Vera in 1963 and is now a hotel.

At some point Tom and Vera moved to Newcastle and settled at 28 Osborne Avenue, opposite Jesmond cricket ground. Tom was a chartered accountant, secretary and director for Scott and Turner, the manufacturers of Andrews Liver Salts, who were subsequently bought by Winthrop, then Sterling Drugs. In later years they moved south to live with Audrey in Hindhead. Thomas contracted Parkinson's Disease and his health gradually deteriorated over 15 years; he died in 1984.

27 Mar 1918 - 30 Mar 1918 - Lt (Temporary Capt) E.L Dobson

Photo 1 – Capt J.V. Gregory (Courtesy Mrs H. Day)
Photo 1 – Capt J.V. Gregory (Courtesy Mrs H. Day)

30 Mar 1918 - 12 Apr 1918 - Lt (Temporary Capt) John Vessey Gregory

Awarded MC for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at Trou Bayard, Pont Levis, Pont Le Meuse, Neuf Berquin, and Vieux Berquin in the Estaires district. During the period 9th to 12th, he commanded his Battalion, and through his coolness and clever leadership his men were able to put up a very spirited resistance against repeated enemy attacks.

Lt Col. B.D. Gibson
Lt Col. B.D. Gibson

- . - . 1915 to 27 May 1918 - Lt Colonel Bertrand Dees Gibson

Lt Col Gibson joined the old 1st Volunteer Battalion in 1900, and after passing through the Musketry Course at Hythe, was appointed Musketry Instructor to the Battalion. In 1906, he became Hon. Secretary to the Northumberland Rifle Association. He obtained his majority in 1914, and went to the front with his Battalion in 1915, where he speedily rose to the command of the Battalion as Lieut Col., a position he held for nearly three years. He was invalided home last winter suffering from neuritis but returned to the front last April, and was killed leading his men on the 27th May last. His Brigadier General writes; -

" He was the bravest of the brave and a soldier in whom I had complete confidence, and I have seldom met a man with more commanding power, greater determination or self confidence."

To his widow and children we beg to tender our sincerest sympathy. (St Georges Gazette - 31st May 1918).

Captain John Ridley Robb
Captain John Ridley Robb

27 May 1918 - 10 Nov 1918 - Lt Col. John Ridley Robb

7 Feb 1920 - 26 May 1922 The Robb brothers were born in Hexham and educated at George Watson’s Boy’s College in Edinburgh, where all three served in the school Officer Training Corps. In 1907 William was gazetted as a 2nd Lt in the 1st Volunteer Battalion, NF and John Ridley joined the 4th NF in March 1909. Both were promoted to full lieutenant in June 1910, then captain in Dec 1912. They were mobilised in August 1914 and served to the end of the war.

John took charge of the battalion when Colonel Gibson was killed on the 27th of May and was the Commanding Officer for the next four years. At the end of the war he returned home to run the family business.

Lt Col Charles Osborne Provis Gibson
Lt Col Charles Osborne Provis Gibson

May 1922 - 26 May 1927 - Bt Col. Charles Osborne Provis Gibson

Charles Gibson was born in Newcastle on October 1876 and educated at Uppingham School and Oxford University. He played rugby as a forward for school and university, then for Northern, the Barbarians and Northumberland teams. On one occasion in 1901 he played for England in a test match against Wales. His brothers, George Ralph Gibson and Thomas Alexander Gibson were both Barbarians and international rugby players. Gibson was a solicitor admitted to the bar in October 1904 and practised with the firm of Clayton & Gibson, No7 Grey Street, Newcastle. His professional colleagues were William Waymouth Gibson, and John Ernest Gibson. Charles was commissioned in the 4th NF on 16th September 1914, having trained with the Uppingham School Contingent (Junior Division) of the Officers Training Corps (OTC). He was a staff Capt with the 62nd Infantry Bde in November 1915. He was awarded the Military Cross on the 3rd of June 1916, ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ in 1915 and 1918 and wounded in France on the 27th of May 1918. Staff Capt with the Cromarty Garrison in January 1919. (Solicitors War Memorial Fund, 1920)

Charles died aged 55 on the 9th of November 1931 in Stocksfield, Northumberland (Tilley, 2007) . His grave is located in the grounds of Bywell Castle

Captain Bernard Cruddas
Captain Bernard Cruddas

27 May 1927 - 26 May 1932 - Bt Colonel Bernard Cruddas

Bernard was born on the 1st of January 1882 in Stoke Bishop/Barton Regis near Bristol, Gloucestershire and educated at Winchester College. His father was from North Shields, but his mother was a local from Bristol. He was commissioned into a volunteer battalion of the North Staffordshire Regiment in 1899, but the following year transferred to the Regular Army and the Northumberland Fusiliers. The 1901 Census shows him at Strensall barracks near York. Bernard was transferred from the 1st NF to the 4th NF on …….. and served as the adjutant until …., whereupon he was transferred to …… In 1914 Bernard was living at The Lea, Riding Mill. (Kelly's, p. 97). Bernard was awarded the Distinguished Service Order during WW1.

His daughter Evelyn Margaret Cruddas was born in 1919

He was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Wansbeck at the 1931 general election, and returned at the 1935 election. He stood down in 1940. Bernard was High Sherrif of Northumberland in 1942 and living at Middleton Hall, Morpeth. Bernard died on the 23rd of December 1959. His wife, Dorothy Wilkinson died in 1964 and daughter in 2001 at Hexham.