Why we fight

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Poppies, the symbol of remembrance seen here near Stonewall, Chorley in 2014 – our young people fell, and continue to do so, so that these fields remained untroubled by war.

In the anger, outrage and recrimination over the plans to curtail the annual Remembrance Sunday parade in Walsall Wood which came to light last week, it’s easy to lose sight of what Remembrance is about.

Nearly a century ago to the day on the 13th October 1915, the dreadful assault upon the Hohenzollern Redoubt took place – a final, awful act of the battle of Loos. In the forces that fought and died in this endeavour were a number of Walsall Wood lads.

David Evans has suggested that so close to the centenary of this awful, inhuman conflagration, blog followers and those concerned with Remembrance read Andrew Thornton’s remarkable and harrowing account of the battle.

I feature the introduction here as it’s clearly a thing of great passion, and I’d rather direct readers to the work itself. I salute Andrew in his diligent account, and can only imagine the continued horror  one must confront when researching such material. A necessary, but hugely difficult task.

Thank you.

At the foot of the post, I also feature a list, again compiled by David Evans from extant documentation. This is a roll of honour for Walsall Wood – not of the men who died in the Great War, but many of those who came back injured. These are the men – many with familiar names, many whom older readers may remember – who continued to fight long after hostilities ended.

Remembrance is about those men, too. And this is why a tradition that has continued in Walsall Wood and across the country for nearly a century shouldn’t be truncated in the interests of cost, austerity or prudence.

People who fell, or those injured, either physically or mentally from any conflict, paid huge personal costs for us. We owe it to them, and to future generations to remember and salute our warriors.

The cost of Remembrance to us as a society should never be too great to stand, and could never equal the cost to those whom we should never forget.

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Photograph showing the British 46th (North Midland) Division attacking the Hohenzollern Redoubt during the Battle of Loos. A cloud of smoke and gas appears in the centre and left. Image and caption via Wikimedia Commons.

Andrew Thornton wrote:

Staffordshire’s Territorials and the Assault on the Hohenzollern Redoubt  13th October 1915

“It was absolute hell with the lid off. Dying and wounded all over the place.
Shall never forget this day.”

Private Sidney Richards
Machine Gun Section, 1/5th Battalion, The South Staffordshire Regiment
Entry in his pocket diary for 13th October 1915

Introduction

On the road between Vermelles to Hulluch stands a stone cross commemorating an action largely forgotten today. The memorial is that of 46th (North Midland) Division and commemorates the sacrifice made by their comrades on one afternoon in October 1915.

The year sees the 85th Anniversary of the North Midlanders’ attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt. This action took place during the final stage of the Battle of Loos, a battle that does not receive the same coverage as later battles on the Somme and Third Ypres. The losses experienced by the units of the 46th (North Midland) Division were just as devastating as those suffered by the “Pals” Battalions of 31st Division at Serre on 1st July 1916 – the “First Day of the Somme” – the same day that the North Midlanders were again in action at Gommecourt. The communities from which the units recruited also had many of their sons killed, but the impact of the casualties suffered on 13th October 1915 was diminished by other battles as the war progressed. Few people have heard of the Hohenzollern Redoubt, but most have at least some awareness of the Somme.

This narrative is primarily based on the letters and diaries of soldiers from Staffordshire who took part in the Division’s assault on the Hohenzollern Redoubt on 13th October 1915. Their impressions of the battle were often written within days of the events described taking place. War Diaries and Battalion Histories were used to construct the description of the planning and preparations that took place before the assault. The same sources provided information regarding the sequence of events during the battle, supported by the personal testimony of the survivors. Information about casualties, as well as details of the cemeteries and memorials around the battlefield where the fallen of the Staffordshire Brigade are buried and commemorated, has also been included.

Click here to read more at Andrew Thornton’s remarkable website

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Walsall Wood War Memorial – image by David Evans.

From the book, The Roll of the Great War
Some local returning Walsall Wood servicemen, and where they lived.

A B Casserley, rifleman, Kings Royal Rifles. Wounded and gassed. Aldridge Road, Walsall Wood

CW Coley, 1/5th South Staffs. Vigo Road, Walsall Wood

A Fennell, 62nd Field Ambulance, wounded and gassed then returned to duty. Holly Bank, Walsall Wood

G Biggins, Sgt,The Border Regiment, was wounded at Passchendale, returned to action, was gassed at Arras.     Coppice Road, Walsall Wood

H Beardsmore, ; 7th London regiment; injured and right leg amputated, also injuries to left leg. Aldridge Road, Walsall Wood ++

F Stokes, 500th Labour Corps; gassed at Souchey. Returned to action. Holly Bank,Walsall Wood

W Woodhouse, 2nd South Staffs. Camden Street, Walsall Wood

G Neville, Royal Garrison Artillery.action at Ypres, Arras, Bapaume. Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood

E Thompson, Royal Field Artillery. Action at Ypres, Messines, Cambrai. Injured right foot amputated.Green Lane, Walsall Wood

H Brockhurst, North Staffs, Military Medal;joined as private..”became 2nd lieutenant was seriously wounded.” Holly Bank,Walsall Wood   ** (not confirmed in any British Army official military records)

J Morris, Sherwood Foresters, transferred to Royal Army Medical Corps. served at Brocton Prisoner of War hospital(Cannock Chase, U.K.).. Coppice Road, Walsall Wood

A Morris 3rd South Staffs, 3 wound stripes. Wounded at Festubert, sent to Dardanelles, seriously wounded. Transferred to Egypt.  “Eppleby House” Coppice Road, Walsall Wood

D Swann, 1/6th South Staffs. Action at Ypres, shell shock and deafness.Coppice Road WalsallWood

F Chandler, Royal Garrison Artillery. Wounded and gassed at Armentieres. Returned to action and wounded again. Brookland Road, Walsall Wood

J Blakemore, Royal Engineers. In action in Mesopotamia,, battle of River Tigris, invalided to India, contracted malaria.   Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood

S Addis, Royal Garrison Artillery. Two wound stripes, action at Arras, Hohenzollern redoubt and Loos. Injured and suffered frost bitten feet.   Brookland Road, Walsall Wood

T Addis, 2nd Manchester regiment. One wound stripe. Taken prisoner of war in August 1914 till end of hostilities.   Brookland Road, Walsall Wood.

N Horton, South Staffs. Two wound stripes. Action at Loos and the Marne, where seriously wounded and hospuitalised until discharge. Streets Corner, Walsall Wood

H Cooper, Royal Horse Artillery. Seruosly wounded at retreat from St Quentin,March 1914, recovered and returned to France until discharge. Camden Street, Walsall Wood

E Cresswell, 5th South Staffs, joined August 1915. Engaged in Secret Service as Interpreter to Military Police. Saw action in the Hohenzollern redoubt where was killed by shell burst.”Oaklands”, Shire Oak, Walsall Wood

J Jones 1/6th South Staffs. Two wound stripes. Seriously wounded to head, arm, thigh and knee from shrapnel. Coppice Road ,Walsall Wood

E Arrowsmith Royal Field Artillery. Three wound stripes. Joined in April 1918 .Brook Lane, Walsall Wood

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Another face of the memorial at Walsall Wood. Image by Dvid Evans.

S Fereday Royal Engineers. One wound stripe. Sent to Ireland in 1916 rebellion. In France was engaged in battles of Somme and Ypres where seriously injured. Brook Lane, Walsall Wood.

G Haines, Life Guards. Two wound stripes. Wounded in battle of the Somme. Hospitalised. Returned to the lines. Gassed in action.   Shire Oak, Walsall Wood

F Cooke. Royal Army Medical Corps.served in 1st Casualty Clearing Station in Bethune. Received Card of Honour from 1st Army Surgeon General. Shire Oak Hill, Walsall Wood

W Kirkman, Royal Air Force leading aircraftsman. “Reservoir House” Shire Oak Hill, Walsall Wood

T Swain, Royal Army Medical Corps. Saw action on the Somme, Ypres. Salters Road Walsall Wood

T Hough, Signaller Gunner, Royal Garrison Artillery.battles of Somme, Ypres and Cambrai, discharged on account of ill health. Shire Oak, Walsall Wood.

S Collins, Yorks and Lancs. One wound stripe.Neuve Chappelle and Ypres, wounded in left hand, was gassed and deaf through shell burst. On recovery returned to action. Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood.

F Crowe, Royal Field Artillery. Two wound stripes. Engaged in Irish rebellion, 1916 then action at Arras. Wounded , recovered, contracted fever, returned to action. Shire Oak, Walsall Wood

J Poxon. 2nd Black Watch. One wound stripe. Sent to Mesopotamia, contracted dysentery and malaria. On leaving hospital was sent to Syria, then back to Mesopotamia, wounded to knee. Shire Oak, Walsall Wood.

C Hale, 8th Royal Warwicks. One wound stripe. Seriously injured in 1st battle of Somme, leg amputated. Also injuries to face, back, left leg, arm and fingers..was sent to Netley hospital, then to Roehampton for prosthetic leg.   Shire Oak, Walsall Wood.

J Painter. Royal Fusiliers. “Military Medal. Three wound stripes. Injured in France at Bourlon Wodaction, On returning to home village was presented with Gold watch and Illuminated Address by residents of the parish”. Salters Road, Walsall Wood. ** ( not confirmed in any British Army lilitary records)

B Hughes, Royal Field Artillery. One wound stripe.action at Somme, Vimy Ridge, Messines and Ypres.Wounded in right foot. Salters Road, Walsall Wood.

A Litherland, 52nd Notts and Derbys. Joined July 1918, discharged Dec 1918. “Hawthorn Tree” Inn, Walsall Wood

J Litherland, Sherwood Foresters.one wound stripe. Action at Ypres, gassed with mustard gas at Passchendale Ridge. After discharge from hospital he returned to action at La Bassée,served until discharged. “Hawthorn Tree” Inn,Walsall Wood

A Litherland, 1st stoker, H.M.S “Prince of Wales” and later H.M.S. “P 38”. “Hawthron Tree” Inn, Walsall Wood

G Sutton, South Staffs. Sent home suffering from shell shock and trench fever. Queen St, Walsall Wood

W Merrick, Royal Engineers. One wound stripe. Battles at Ypres and Mons where he was wounded in the thigh, also malaria and shell shock. Returned to the lines after discharge from hospital. Hall Lane, Walsall Wood.

John Shaw, Lancs Fusiliers. Joined Aug 1917, discharged Dec 1919. Queen Street, Walsall Wood

James Shaw Durham Light Infantry. Gassed at Lens, returned to action after hospitalisation, action at Arras and Cambrai.   Queen Street, Walsall Wood

M Merrick, 9th Rifle Brigade. One wound stipe. Action at Messines, Hooge and Ypres, wounded in both shoulders, back and head. Sent back to England for treatment. King Street Walsall Wood

E Downes, 5th South Staffs. One wound stripe. Injured at Hohenzollern redoubt. Action at Neuve Chappelle, then Egypt. King Street, Walsall Wood

B Instone, Royal Field Artillery. Saw action at Ypres, Pilken Ridge, suffered from fever. Shire Oak, Walsall Wood.

W Rutland, Royal Garrison Artillery. Saw action at Armentieres where he was gassed, Steeneworke and Hazebrucke. Contracted dysentery and was sent home. Shire Oak, Walsall Wood

R Southall, 20 Hussars. Joined 1908, discharged 1919. Was in the retreat from Mons with the 5th Cavalry Brigade, and later in every engagement that followed, including the battles of Ypres, Loos and Cambrai. Finally sent home suffering from trench feet. Holly Road, Shire Oak,Walsall Wood.

J Darby, 5th South Staffs, one wound stripe. Received injuries to left leg. On recovery he returned to action, was gassed . He recovered and returned to action. Queen Street Walsall Wood

J Anslow, 149th Machine Gun Corps. One wound stripe. Saw first action at Kemmel, later action at HIgh Wood, Somme. Action at Peronne then Arras where he was wounded in the leg and feet. Unfit for service.. Walsall Road, Walsall Wood. ++

J Watson, 2/5 South Staffs. One wound stripe. Saw action at Ypres, Irish Rebellion, Passchendale Ridge where he was wounded in arm, back and head and sent home to hospital in Brighton. Walsall Road, Walsall Wood.

A Millership, South Staffs. Three wound stripes. Sent to Dardenelles, contracted frost bitten feet. Sent to Egypt and on recovery returned to action in France and was wounded again. Has since died of his injuries received during the war.   Queen Street, Walsall Wood

G Hitchin, 1st North Staffs.Two wound stripes, battles of Somme and Ypres where wounded. Was taken prisoner near StQuentin, march 1918.   High Street, Walsall Wood

P Cotton, 200th Machine Gun Corps. Two wound stripes. Actions at Somme, Delville Wood, wounded at Ancre, returned to action and wounded again.   Lichfield Road,Walsall Wood

T Jacques, 175thRoyal Field Artillery. One wound stripe. He saw action at the Somme and Armentieres. High Street, Walsall Wood

H Simmons, 6th South Staffs. One wound stripe. Saw action at Arras, Neuve Chappelle, La Bassée.Received serious injuries to face at Lens. Copice Villas, Coppice Road, Walsall Wood

T Allen 2nd South Staffs. Saw action in all major engagements in France. Mons, Aisne, Marne. Received broken ankle in accident. He has lost two brothers and another injured. Salters Road, Walsall Wood.

T Guy. South Staffs. Five wound stripes. Was in the Irish rebellion in 1916 where he was wounded; in France and battles of Cambrai and Arras where he received terrible injuries to left leg, necessitating amputation… Holly Road, Shire Oak, Walsall Wood

A Smith, South Staffs. One wound stripe. Battle of Somme, Ypres , Messines and Loos where he received terrible injuries.   Brownhills Road, Walsall Wood

H Griffiths. 7th South Staffs Two wound stripes. Served , in Dardenelles, later in Somme offensive, was wounded at Thiepville where he was wounded. Was wounded again in later action at Ypres. Terrible injuries to the left leg which necessitated amputation. Salters Road, Walsall Wood.

E Horobin.2nd South Staffs. One wound stripe. Saw action at Cambrai, lens and Ypres where he received serious wounds in the back. Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood

J Pallatine, Able-Seaman, Royal Navy Volunteer reserve. Saw action in the Mediterranean, was manning the gun that sank U 64.. Salters Road, Walsall Wood

J Horton. Notts and Derbys. Sent to Dardenelles where he contracted Enteric fever. On recovery in England was sent to France, later sent to Salonica where he contracted consumption . Died at his home. Aldridge Road, Walsall Wood.

G Miller, Royal Field Artillery. One wound stripe. Saw action in France. Camden Street, Walsall Wood

G Colley, South Staffs. Was in the landing of the Dardenelles, later sent to France, saw action at Ypres, Arras and the Somme.   Camden Street, Walsall Wood

A Boden, 466th Field Coy, Royal Engineers. Ypres, Arras and Somme. Suffered no injury. Camden Street, Walsall Wood

C Till, 98th Field Coy, Royal Engineers. Saw action on Western front. No injuries. Camden Street,Walsall Wood.

I Whitehouse, RFoyal Engineers. Saw action at Ypres, Loos and Cambrai, battle of the Somme where he was gassed.   Hall Lane, Walsall Wood

W Oakley, 7th Battalion attached 33rd LTMB one wound stripe. Irish Rebellion 1916, saw action on the Somme and Ypres where he contracted trench fever. On recovery re-embarked for France Brownhills Road,Walsall Wood

A Walker, Glamorgan Yeomanry. Was sent to Salonika in 1916, engaged on the Dorine front where he contracted Dysentry and Malaria fever.On way back to England was on board HMS Dover Castle when it was torpedoed. He was picked up by a Destroyer and landed in Africa. Was discharged ten days later.   “The Hawthorns”, Friezland Lane, Brownhills

T Powell. 65th General Field Hospital. Served in Salonika in a field hospital. Later sent to Mesopotamia where he contracted malaria.   High Street, Walsall Wood

W Neville, 14th Leicesters. One wound stripe. Saw service in Ypres, Bapaume. Suffered trench feet and returned to England. Queen Street, Walsall Wood

T Charles 21st Ambulance Train (RAMC) served on the ambulance train in France for 4 years. Walsall Road, Walsall Wood

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4 Responses to Why we fight

  1. Pingback: Walsall Wood Remembrance – We can work it out | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    spot on! Many thanks
    kind regards
    David

  3. John Anslow says:

    I didn’t know until reading this, Bob, that Walter Yates’s name was on the Walsall Wood memorial; I assume this is the same Walter Yates whose wedding photograph from 1910 you posted on 31 August 2014. The puzzling thing is that, although he had lodged with the Jacksons at the Thatched Cottage on Streets Corner and had worked as a coal miner in Walsall Wood, he had moved to Grimethorpe sometime before his marriage, so I expected his name to be on a memorial in Yorkshire; perhaps the family had returned to Staffordshire. I mentioned previously that his body was never recovered and that his name appears on the Thiepval Memorial.

  4. Thank you for the mention, Bob. Even though I wrote these articles 15 years ago, they are still being read. Compared to the situation when I wrote this, I think the part played by the Staffords during the failed assault on the Hohenzollern Redoubt (not forgetting the 1/2nd North Midland Field Company, which had a strong contingent from Brownhills) is now more widely known and remembered. It certainly was a dark day for Staffordshire.

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