Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

11th Lancashire Fusiliers and Tolkein


Recommended Posts

Hi all,

Can anyone please help me with the following which has come the French forum 14-18.


Hello everyone, I turn to you to help a passionate friend of writer JRR Tolkien and "subterra" quarries, mines, pit, etc.. She writes an article about the underground world of Tolkien as the author says he was inspired by the underground to places he saw during his short war.
Behold, wholesale his career:
Tolkien was assigned to the 25th Division, Lancashire Rifle (11 battalion?).
arrived in France June 6, 1916, on the forehead area from July 3, crowded places during the offensive Bouzincourt, Ovillers, trenches Auchonvillers, Colincamps, Acheux, wood thiepval is Salient Leipzig, Hesse trench, trench regina. It will officiate transmission from July 21. Sick, he was repatriated October 18, 1916 in England.
Specialists of the Somme battles of this period, the British troops, can they help us to see if in these sectors and to the rear, the Lancashire Fusiliers was be stationed in villages are quarries, muches see military structures in the basement?
Regards and thank you in advance to all of you,

From a PM:

" I am a french caver looking for some informations concerning the underground places where Tolkien (Tolkien belonged to the 25th division, 11th Lancashire Fusiliers) could have spent time, during his stay in France, for the battles of the Somme. Indeed, I am writing an article on the undergrounds in his books, and I studying the influence of what he really saw.

I would like to know if he went in quarries, "muches" or other undergrouds during his stay in France, their names, and their localisation if possible. I plan to go in theses places and take some pictures and look for some writings on the walls of theses places.

I'll be glad for any clue that could be provided and want to thank you all for the amazing job you're dowing here retrieving all this memories."

Ms. Sylvie Delaire, Paris

Any help would be greatly appreciated



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, I think she has already posted on the site and had answers!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...

Rather than start a new thread, may I tag on the end of this one?

My grandfather was Lt J A Nathan, who served in 11th Lancashire Fusiliers from September 1914 until January 1919. In that time he served 21 months on the front line and was wounded four times.

He would never speak of the First War. It was strictly forbidden to mention it in his presence. I do have his service record, which is largely a medical record, he was wounded so often. I also know that he was the only person in his school class to survive the war. He died in 1973.

The only record I have of his activity is

  1. a mention in his medical record that in 1916 he was blown from his horse in a bombardment and the horse subsequently kicked him in the head, resulting in serious head injuries and
  2. the following
On the 22nd of January 1917 the Lancs took over the trenches at St Yves nearPloegsteert.That afternoon the Germans opened a heavy bombardment which caused great damage to the defences.The Germans then attacked with three groups of about 30 men.The first group were driven back by Lewis gun fire but the other two made it t the front line at BrokenTree House and began advancing in both direction down the trench.2nd Lt Nathan organised his men,despite being wounded by a bomb and held off the attackers on both flanks.Meanwhile 2nd Lt Rufus put together a bombing party and set off for the enemy.Captain Beswick,who had been in reserve,set up a platoon and a Lewis gun team.The three officers parties converged on the Germans who did not hang around for a fight.In this pointless action the enemy had gained nothing and the Fusiliers had lost 1 officer and 18 other ranks killed with another 29 wounded.

I had already worked out that he served alongside J R R Tolkein, and, again, wished I had known that when he was alive, but, again, we could never have discussed it.

Anyway, this is a long way about asking the experts on here what would be the best way of finding out what he did do? How do I get a copy of the Regimental War Diary? (I have a Kew card, but last time I went there I couldn't track the War Diary down, probably my incompetence.)

But even better, would the War Diary have been digitised? The idea of reading hundreds of pages of what will probably be scrawl to find the odd snippet about my grandfather doesn't really appeal!

Any thoughts or suggestions would be very welcome.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



The excellent LF Regimental History for the Great War, based on the War Diaries together with additional sources, should also be consulted. I don't have a copy to hand to check if Lt Nathan is mentioned by name. Battalions also submitted articles to the regimental magazine during the war. Coverage is a bit haphazard with the activities of some battalions in certain periods of the war covered in great detail while others are rather sketchy. These articles were used in the writing of the LF History which was published quite late, after the Second World War , but often contain additional details. The Fusilier Museum in Bury has copies of these. Tolkien's time in the battalion is discussed at length in John Garth's outstanding book 'Tolkien and the Great War'.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you. I have now downloaded the War Diary (I did find it) but, as I thought, it is impenetrable. I have also written to the Fusilier Museum asking them for details.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Second Lieutenant J A Nathan is mentioned in the LF Regimental History during an account of a large-scale German trench raid on 11th LF positions at St Yves near Ploegsteert on 22nd January 1917. During the course of this attack 2/Lt. Nathan in command of D Company in the centre of the battalion line found himself with an enemy raiding party in the front line on both flanks. 'But he at once collected collected all the men near him and, although wounded in the foot by a bomb, continued to hold off the Germans until reinforcements arrived.' ( p 181-182).

During the raid the LFs lost 1 officer and 18 ORs killed and 2 officers and 29 men wounded.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Usually the 9th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment took over the 11th LF's positions in relief in the trenches. Not so on the 22nd. January 1917. But they were close by apparently and 'in reserve' at Regina Camp, but they also came under heavy German artillery attack on the 22nd Jan 1917. German raiding parties followed the barrage and the 9th were 'sent up the line' in answer to an SOS from the 13th.Cheshires. ( 9th.LNL War Diary).

My Grandfather served in the 9th. LNL, so I am very interested in the 11th LF's too. And of course very interested in Tolkien.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

People interested in the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers in this period may be interested in this book. The authors sent it to me very promptly, but I haven't really looked at it yet, so cannot critique it either way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for that. My wife's Grandfather won the DCM with them on the Somme in 1916.


Latest -

Got a copy and it is very good - especially as it has a photo of my wife's Grandfather and mentioned his DCM :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...