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252 brigade rfa, help wanted

kevin donaldson

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Hello folks, I have been researching members of my ancestors for a few years now, and one of little projects I am currently on with is my great grandfather, Gunner Robert Laybourn MM 760085, 252 brigade rfa, then later 242 brigade.

One of my main inspirations to gain more information on gunner laybourn is I am doing this for my uncle, gunner laybourns grandson, who has kindly handed down gunner laybourns 1914/15 star to me, the only surviving medal in the family.

I have the fortune of having a photograph of him in uniform and a copy of the 252 brigade war diary, but what I lacking is possibly any other photographs, maps etc of the battalions actions.

I do know that his regiment served a lot in Belgium, Ypres and quite a lot in Zillibeke area, any information, pictures etc would be gratefully appreciated, so I can complete my little project.

Thanks for reading


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All my notes on 252 Brigade aka 3rd Northumbrian (County of Durham) Brigade R.F.A.

Apologies if it is bit of a dump of information.


The 3rd Northumbrian


Source: Her Majesty's Territorial Army

The 3rd Northumbrian (County of Durham) Brigade R.F.A. represents the late 2nd Durham R.G.A., with one battery from the late 4th Durham R.G.A. The Durham Artillery ranked high amongst the Volunteer contingents of the force, and the old 2nd Durham can point to a distinguished record. It was raised in 1859 at Seaham where the headquarters still are, and was one of the corps which exemplified the happy adaptation of the old feudal ideal to the territorial spirit, for its formation was chiefly due to the initiative and influence, "the energy and enthusiasm" of Frances Ann Marchioness of Londonderry. The first commanding officer was Earl Vane, afterwards the late Marquis of Londonderry, and the present holder of the title is Lieut.-Colonel of the brigade. The corps may be said to have leaped into distinction. At the famous Volunteer Review in 186o, the “Seahams “, as they were colloquially caled, were the only Volunteer Regiment present from the district North of Manchester, and elicited universal admiration by their bearing and equipment. The whole expense of their visit to London was, it is believed, defrayed by the Marchioness. The prizes won by the corps testify indisputably to the efficiency it attained. Amongst them - for a full list would be impossible here-were the National Artillery Prize, two Queen's Prizes,* the Prince of Wales' Prize, the Canadian Prize, and the Challenge Cup of Scotland. At one time the corps numbered twelve companies, and when its passing -bell tolled on the 3ist March 1908 consisted of ten Garrison Companies and a Heavy Battery.

Within two months from the institution of the Territorial Army, the 3rd Northumbrian Brigade R.F,A. recruited its full complement of men, and being the first to be recognised received the designation of the 1st Northumbrian R. F. A. But the term Northumbrian covers a large area; some of the Yorkshire and Northumberland corps, when formed into brigades, claimed the precedence which the parent corps held under the Volunteer regime, and the unit under consideration received its present numerical appellation of 3rd. As may be imagined, the change was not altogether appreciated by the descendants of the old "Seahams."

The brigade has never fallen short of its full strength, and possesses an equipment of twelve 15-pr. converted guns. It is believed that it set the example to other Artillery brigades in inducing the County Association to provide a certain number of horses permanently. At any rate the brigade have eighteen horses en permanence for training purposes.

The Licut.-Colonel of the brigade (on the Supernumerary List) is the Marquis of Londonderry, K.G., and the commanding officer Colonel F. J. M'Kenzie, V.D. The 1st and 2nd Durham Batteries are at Seaham [sic - Army list 1914 has 2nd Bty in Durham] , and the officers in command Majors J. 0. Clazey and F. H. Richardson respectively. The 3rd Durham Battery is at Hartlepool, the officer in command being. Captain G. T. Pearson. The 3rd Northumbrian (County of Durham) Ammunition Column is at Seaham, the officer in command being Major W. Warham Jun. The unit belongs to the Divisional Troops of the Northumbrian Division in the Northern Command.


On the outbreak of war in 1915 the 3rd Northumbrian Brigade as commanded by Lt Col JF Innes Doyle

Re-Organisation 1st Line Units - May 1916

  • 10 May 1916 - 3rd Northumbrian Brigades forms 4th Batteries from a nucleus of the existing Batteries and new drafts [/size]
  • 16 May 1916 - Brigades re-designated [/size]252 Brigade[/size]
    • Howitzer batteries from 4th Durham Howitzer Brigade join s 252 Brigade - ex D/61 (Gaurds Division) [/size]
    • Fourth Battery of 252 Brigade transferred to 253 Brigade [/size]
    • Brigade Ammo Colums transferred to Divisional control to form Divisional Ammunition Columns [/size]
    • Orbat 252 Brigades - three 4 gun Batteries and one 4 gun howitzer Battery

      Note: 252 Brigade broken up February 1917 [/size]


Army List 1914 - 726[/size]


Sub Units[/size]





Seaham Harbour - Drill Hall[/size]

Bty 1[/size]

1st Durham Bty [/size]

Seaham Harbour - Drill Hall[/size]

Bty 2[/size]

2nd Durham Bty[/size]

Durham Gilesgate[/size]

Bty 3[/size]

3rd Durham Bty[/size]

West Hartlepool - Armoury[/size]

Bty 4[/size]

Ammunition Column[/size]

Seaham Harbour - Drill Hall[/size]



The 3rd Northumbrian Brigade deployed as part of the 50th Divisional Artillery to France in April 1915. The Division concentrated around Cassel and was complete by 22nd April 1915. Initially the Division was expecting to undergo additional training before moving into the line. However, with the gas attack in the Ypres Salient on that day, the Division was rushed to Ypres. The infantry would be deployed to reinforce other Divisions, the Divisional Artillery did not take part in the intial Battles. It was only later the Howitzer and Heavy Batteries were attached to other divisions. The 3rd Northumbrians remained out of the line.[/size]

In June 1915 the 50th Division deployed into the area of Sanctuary Wood in the South West of the Ypres Salient. The 3rd Nortumbrian Brigade relieved gunners from the 3rd Division 6th - 7th June 1915. The Divisional Artillery's first major action was in support of an attack on the Bellewaarde Ridge. However, due to the shortage of ammunition their firing was limited to 10 minutes of firing.[/size]

On the 17th June 1915 the 50th Division moved to the Kemmel area in the South of the Ypres Salient. This was a quiet sector, and the shortage of ammunition continued. A ration of 3 rounds per gun per day had been applied, and unless ordered to fire by a higher authority, the gunners would save their ammunition up and have a 'firing day' on Saturdays.[/size]

The Division moved to the Armentieres sector 17th-18th July 1915, the 3rd Northumbrian's deploying in reserve with the batteries being at Pont de Nieppe. The Division remained in the sector till 12th November 1915, before moving to Meres. It was during the period October to November that the Divisional Artillery re-equipped with QF 18 Pounders.[/size]

In December 1915, the 50th Division returned to the Ypres Salient, the relief of the 9th Division being completed 22nd December 1915. The Divisional Artillery went into action around the Zillebeke Lake, the 3rd Northumbrians near Blawepoort and French Farms. Conditions were not good, so Christmas 1915 was not celebrated in the best of circumstances. The gunners did celebrate New Year by every gun in the 50th Divisional Artillery firing on the German trenches for 5 minutes.[/size]

The Division occupied the trenches till April 1916, actions including supporting the defence and re-capture of the Bluff. At the beginning of April the Division moved to Wytscaete, just East of their previous location. The gunners main activity here was engaging enemy artillery. They moved to rest areas at the end of the month.[/size]

In May 1916 the Royal Artillery was re-organised, and as part of this process, the 3rd Northumbrian Brigade was re-numbered as 252 Brigade RFA. By the end of May the Northumbrians were back in the trenches at Wytschaete, remaining there till 9th - 10th August 1915.[/size]

The opening of the Battle of the Somme occured on 1st July 1916, and all had not gone to plan. There 50th Division was ordered to entrain, and move South to the Somme arriving in the Montigny area 17th August 1916.[/size]

The Divisional Artillery deployed ahead of the rest of the Division. Two Brigades, 251 and 252, relieved the gunners of the 34th Division in the Contalmaison area 18th - 19th August 1916. By the morning after their occupation of their gun positions they were heavily engaged. The remainder of the Division would not be complete in the line till 10th September 1916. The 50th Division would engage in their first set piece Battle on the Somme, with Battle of Flers Courcellete (15th to 22nd September 1916). This was also the first battle where the Divisional Artillery would fire a creeping barrage in support of the infantry, and was the first battle where tanks were used. The guns were deployed in the area of Caterpillar valley, and 252 Brigade were augmented by a Battery from 250 Brigade.[/size]

The 50th Division would remain on the Somme until mid November, engaging in the Battle of Morval (25th - 28th September 1916), Battle of Transloy (1st to 18th October) as well as actions in Warlencourt (4th - 6th November 1916), and the Grid Trench and Hook Sap (13th - 16th November 1916). The Divisional Artillery were relieved on the night of the 14th November 1916. Conditions for the Artillery were very bad, with horses and men exerting extreme effort to extract themselves from the mud.[/size]

On the 16th November, another re-organisation of Artillery saw the number of guns per battery increase from 4 to 6.[/size]

The 50th Division were out of the line for rest and to maintain their equipment. However, for the gunners the rest was short lived, with Brigades being rotated back into the line from the 23rd November 1916. The full Division would be back in position on the Somme by the beginning of the New Year 1917.[/size]

Between the 16th and 20th January 1917, another Artillery re-organisation took place. It was during this reorganisation 252 Brigade was broken up;[/size]

  • A Battery to 242 Brigade RFA [/size][/size]
  • B Battery to 72 Army Brigade RFA [/size][/size]
  • 1/2 D Battery to 250 Brigade 1/2 D Battery to 251 Brigade. [/size][/size]
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My word thanks very much for that info. Plenty to extract there, thanks again


I cant access the photos though without your permission, don't suppose you could help please

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No problems once I sort out the technology.


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  • 4 months later...


I am looking into the life of Major Thomas P Guthe, commander of the 1st Durham bty RFA (later part of 252 brigade). He died from this wounds in mid January 1916, and I was wondering if anyone had access to see what happened to him.


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