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2nd/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers


nellie92001

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Hi

I am researching my Great Grandfather Samuel Whiteley born Bury who was in the 2nd/6th Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers. He died at Poelcappelle 9/10/1917 aged 32, he left a wife and two baby daughters. I am looking for any information on the Battalion. There is a family story that he was rejected initially from enlisting because he had a finger missing which he lost in a foundry, some say his trigger finger!! In his obit, his brother - in - law states that he was in the Army 6mths and in Europe 6wks!!! Would this be documented anywhere? Would he have appeared before the magistrates for medical exemption initially? Obviously they weren't to fussy eventually!!!!

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Regards

Leanne

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That was a particularly awful battle, Leanne, an attack on Passcehdaele Ridge. Describing the 2/4th East Lancs of the same division, Philip Gibbs wrote " The night march seems to me one of the most heroic episodes. It took 11 hours to get up and then, worn out, wet to the skin, cold, hungry and muddy, they lay in the water of shellholes. They then went forward through heavy fire". Not surprisingly, he has no known grave. Phil B

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Leanne

The first bit of advice is to check out the mother site (wjen it's back on-line). Click the link to the Long Long Trail (top left of the page) and read the research section. It shoudl tell you all you need to know about how to go about finding more.

Whilst it's possible that he was initially rejected because of the missing finger, it seems to me most unlikely that this could have been his trigger finger. Not even the army is daft enough to recruit a soldier who can't shoot properly. But, then again........

In terms of the day he was killed, this link to my website should give you some information:-

Clickety click

John

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Hi Leanne

As Phil B says conditions were awful that day, the 2nd/ 6th fighting to the right of the East Lancs, and were to loose 231 O. R. and 11 Oficers killed/wounded/missing the Reg history has 5 pages on it. In short the 2/6 after an 11 hour night march through heavy sticking mud arrived at the 'taped' paths Jack and Jill at 7:30 instead of 3:30 only getting into position some ten minutes before the battle started The Germans launched 2 counter attacks during the morning but suffered from the same ground conditions. due to the heavy shelling the Batt was ordered to withdraw. Orders to retake 'the blue line' at 4:30pm were given but just before 3pm the C.O. and M. O. were wounded and the Adj killed, the attack was put back to 5:15.

At 5:13 the Germans opened up a heavy barrage for 30 minutes and all plans were abandoned

Sorry if ts a bit sketchy

Dave.

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John, Dave & Phil

Thank you all for your info and advice, I very much appreciate it.

I am hoping to get over to visit the Tyne Cot Memorial next year. I have found the website also of the Museum of Passchendaelle which claims to hold the largest collection of WW1 material etc, this would have to be on the visit list. It is only relatively recently that I discovered my Great Grandfather, like other stories I have read he wasn't talked about, I didn't know he existed. I have fully immersed myself in WW1 now, I can't believe it is not taught about properly in school. I think it would be a good idea for all British children to be educated of the sacrifice our descendents gave for our liberty. Less Stone Age man more of the history which is not so distant but forgotten by many!

Regards

Leanne

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Leanne,

The 2/6th Lancashire Fusiliers were in the 197th Brigade of the 66th Division. I have researched this division extensively as my Great Grandfather was in the artillery of this Division. My Great Grandfathers unit supported the infantry as they went into Battle that fateful day in October of 1917. I have collated details of the action taken by various units of the 66th Division for the 9th of October 1917, including the 2/6th Lancs Fusiliers. Please find these details below which I hope you will find useful.

The 66th Division moved to France in late Feb/Early March of 1917, initially they served in the area of La Basse Canal, then they moved North to Nieuport in July of 1917, if your relative served with the Division for 6 weeks this is when he would have joined the unit. From July 1917 to early October 1917 they manned the line on the Belguim coast at Nieuport. Early October saw them moved South to Passchendaele, just in time for the big push on the 9th of October. Here is a descripiton of the events in October.

As the guns prepared to move forward the infantry of the 66th Division moved into the line. The Infantry of the 66th Division moving forward on the 8th of October was nightmarish, they had just endured 4 days of severe trench warfare conditions and now they had to make a move at night in the terrible muddy conditions, here is a description of their move forward that night.

The nightmare began on 8 October. 197 and 198 Brigades assembled in the vicinity of the FREZENBERG RIDGE at 6 p.m. and were subjected to very heavy shelling even as they assembled. Only one track was allocated for each brigade and these were already torn up by pack animals. The troops were subjected to constant shelling as they filed along the tracks in the inky darkness. Frequent stops were made to save those who had been blown of the tracks into the quagmire. By 12:30 a.m. on 9 October it was clear that troops would not be in position on time unless they got a move on. The order went out – they were not to stop for any reason.. The troops marched on desperately trying to ignore the screams of their fallen comrades who were drowning in the liquid mud. 2 ½ miles before the jump off point the tracks ended and the men struggled on through driving rain in knee deep mud. Despite Herculean efforts they arrived late. In the case of 197 Brigade the head of the 3/5 Lancashire Fusiliers was at the start line. The 2/8 LF’s still 400 yards behind the start, whilst the 2/7 and 2/8 LF’s were still some 6-800 yards in the rear. Anticipating this problem 199 Brigade was put on alerts and the 2/5 and 2/7 Manchesters who fully expected to be cheering their chums on suddenly found themselves ordered into the attack..

The opening barrage was feeble and most troops could not even see it let alone follow it. What followed rapidly descended into tragic chaos.

The attack began next morning at 5.20am. 330th Brigade brought forward 25 guns to take part in the battle. ( This is my Great Grandfathers unit) The infantry of the 66th Division went over the top and began moving forward. The conditions however hampered their efforts greatly. The mud stuck to their thighs, making walking almost impossible. The German machine gunners used this to their advantage and fired directly on to the stricken infantry. The machine guns swept along the advancing lines, mowing them down. The men could not take cover on the water filled craters. There was nothing else for it but to just keep on going and prey the bullets and shrapnel by some miracle missed you.

Diary entryof 330th artillery Brigade for 9th October 1917 reads.

9th 25 Guns were brought into action in full view of the enemy, but were not fired on. The attack was launched at 5.20am – 66th Divs Infantry participated in the attack (see Barrage map App XI attached) Heavy rain fell throughout the day. Casualties 1 OR rank wounded 330 Brigade, 2 OR wounded 331st Brigade.

The rain fell throughout the day making the conditions even worse. Men were suffering from the cold and morale was extremely low. The men of the 66th however did not give up and they battled on. Below is a description of the action taken by the 66th Division on the 9th of October.

66th Division was part of II ANZAC Corps. They came into the line on 5th October, relieving the 3rd Australian Division.

On 9th October, they took part in the Battle of Poelcapelle:

'The Division attacked at 5.20 am, zero hour, with two brigades.

198 Brigade attacked with the 2/9th Manchesters and the 2/4th East Lancs; the 2/5th East Lancs were in support and the 2/10th Manchesters in reserve. The assaulting troops immediately came under severe artillery and machine-gun fire. The 2/5th East Lancs came under heavy fire from Hamburg Redoubt, which they attacked without success.

By midday it became apparent that the Brigade had only reached the first objective. Consolidation was begun. The remnants of the 2/5th were pulled back to form a line behind the two front-line battalions in anticipation of counter-attacks.

At dusk the enemy launched a counter-attack, which was repulsed by artillery and small-arms fire, the 2/5th East Lancs being usefully employed.

197 Brigade, comprising four battalions of the Lancashire Fusiliers, attacked with the 3/5th Lancashire Fusiliers. The attack was then taken over by the 2/6th and 2/8th, with the 2/7th in reserve. The Brigade advanced in dribs and drabs owing to the state of the ground.

The 3/5th Lancashire Fusiliers advanced with their right on the Roulers railway and took the Red Line. They linked with the 2/6th at about 9.30 am and joined 198 Brigade in Augustus Wood on the right.

Meanwhile the 2/8th and part of the 3/5th were pushing on towards the Blue Line, which they reached by 9.30 am and started to consolidate. Patrols were sent out and some reached the outskirts of Passchendaele itself. Bodies of the men from these two battalions were found when the village fell on 6 November.

The Germans launched two counter-attacks in the morning but were driven off with small-arms fire. A defensive flank was formed on the left but troops of the 66th Division, seeing the defensive withdrawal, mistook it for a general withdrawal and they fell back to the Red Line at about 1.30 pm.

The Red Line was firmly held by the 3/5th, 2/8th and 2/6th Lancs. Orders were received to retake the Blue Line but they were later abandoned.

The Division was in touch with the 2nd Australian Division and the 49th Division on their flanks.'

On the 10th October, the Division repulsed a counter-attack. That night it was relieved by the 3rd Australian Division.

Leanne, I hope the above has proved helpful for your research. If you require any further details of actions prior to October 1917 I can also help.

Kindest regards Aaron.

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Aaron

Thank you very much for the invaluable information you have provided for me. It would appear that my Great Grandad's last 36-48hrs were a living hell. It makes me want to burst with pride and also there are no words to express the deepness of the sorrow.

Again thank you very much.

Another of my Great Grandfathers served with the 1st/5th Lancashire Fusilers and lost a leg. I don't know much more than that at the moment. I have just learned though that maimed soldiers had to purchase their own false limbs at a cost of £25????????

Leanne

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I shall be retracing the attack of 197 Brigade with my pupils during my October battlefields tour. Several old boys of Bury Grammar School took part in the attack, mostly in the ranks of 3/5th Lancashire Fusiliers. One of them, Captain Frank Bentley, won the MC for leading a patrol into Passchendaele itself. An unidentified LF soldier from the 9th October battle, believed to be an officer from 3/5th, was discovered two years ago on the line of the Ypres/Roulers railway and will be buried in July this year at Cement House Cemetery near Langemark. There is a beautiful stained glass memorial window to 66th division, featuring the coats of arms of the Lancashire towns from which the men came, in Passchendaele Church. Have you tracked down your great-grandfather's obituary? The Bury Times tended to feature very full biographies with accompanying photographs. I assume that you have from your original post but I will be able to track it down if you have not,

Mark Hone

Head of History

Bury Grammar School

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Hi Mark

I am very pleased to hear that you still teach the youth about our heroic fore fathers. Unfortunatley this doesn't seem to be reflected in state schools. I know that Bury Grammar has a long historic link with the Lancashire Fusilers. The school cadets became The Officers Training Corp in 1908 which had been a deliberate association with the 5th Battalion of Fusiliers. The officer in command of 1st/5th at Gallipoli Lt-Cl Woodcock was a Bury Grammar boy too. 97 Bury Grammar boys killed in WW1!

Anyway enough of my rambling!

I have been to the library for the obit but I am afraid it was disappointing in some respects but absolutely fantastic in another. There is a photo of Sam but unfortunately he is not in military uniform, it is a civvy picture which isn't very good. It has a black background, he is wearing what looks like a black t-shirt and he has black hair!!! There was no other mention of him other than the photo. I found an obit for a weeks after and found one from his brother-in-law but it was very brief and didn't really tell me anything. But on the plus side I now have some idea of what he looked like as I had never seen his face before. I checked also with the Bury Guardian but it had the same photo!!! I think the only option I have left is getting down to Kew to see if his army record is one of the surviving, a long shot I know!!

I am hoping to get to Belgium next year and the church is definately on my list. Thank you very much for your reply it was very interesting and keep up the good work with our youth :)

Regards

Leanne

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Thanks, Leanne. Various reports and photos of our 15 (to date) school battlefield tours can be found scattered about the forum archive. Each tour highlights some of the 97 World War One or 46 World War II BGS war dead. You might be interested in an account of our special 2006 Somme tour at:

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceN...sAtTheSomme.htm

Bury Grammar School Captain John Hartington, killed in July 1917, is one of the soldiers featured in the 'Ordinary Heroes' section of the 'Long Long Trail' website.

To be fair, the Great War is a topic taught at most schools in the UK these days, albeit in varying amounts of detail.

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Leanne, I hope the above has proved helpful for your research. If you require any further details of actions prior to October 1917 I can also help.Aaron.

Hello Aaron

Do you have any information on the 2nd/6th Lancashire Fusiliers on, and leading up to, 16th November 1917.

One soldier I am researching for friends, 240839 Pte James William Mitchell, died on that day and I would very much like to give them some backgraound information of the place and actions in which he was killed.

Thanks in anticipation

Peter

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Hi Punjab,

I dont have a lot Im afraid for the winter of 1917/1918. My research centered mostly around the artilliery of the 66th Division as Great Grandfather served in that area. However I do know after a spell of rest the Division was back in the Ypres line mid November of 1917. I suggest you PM Trenchman, who is a member on the forum, he is researching the 66th Division extensively and I have advised him to expect your message. If anyone has detailed info on units of the 66th it will be him. I have managed to scrap together details as I followed the movements of the artillery who were obviously supporting the infantry units. As the village of Passchendaele had been occupied by the Canadians on the 6th of November, there were no more further offensives in the Ypres sector from that time. it would apear your man was a casualty of static trench warfare which continued right throughout the winter in that area.

Kind regards Aaron.

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14th - 19th Nov 1917, the 2/6th were holding the line at Broodseinde. The Regtl History makes no mention of any action. Phil B

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Do you have any information on the 2nd/6th Lancashire Fusiliers on, and leading up to, 16th November 1917.

Peter

The Battalion war diary gives no real detail during this tour of duty. One of my Stockport chaps was kileld on the 15th Click here for a link to his write-up on my website. Hope it's some use.

John

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  • 5 years later...

Two questions about the 2/6 Lancs Fusiliers:

1. Who was the CO on 21st March 1918? Was it Lt Col Robinson? If so does anyone have his initials and christian name please.

2. Is there anything more known about B/330 Battery commanded by Major W R Cuncliffe on 21/22 March 1918? Any idea what W R stands for?

Cheers

Jerry

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