World War One - France 1917

- Second Lieutenant John Francis Newlove
- Major Valentine Fowler
- Corporal John Henry Devlin
- Lance Corporal Isaac Yaxley
- Private William Cockerill
- Private Alfred Hansom
- Private Robert Moore
- Lieutenant Eberhardt Steuart-Corry

Whilst the Second Army had been making final preparations for its forthcoming great offensive at Ypres, across the border in France it had been business as usual for Sir Julian Byng’s Third Army. Exhausted by it’s exertions during the recently [May] ended Arras Offensive, by June 1917 many of the formations had still been under strength and in a weakened condition. Typical amongst these units had been the Territorial Force’s 1ST/9TH [Glasgow Highlanders] Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry. A part of the 90TH Infantry Brigade of the Thirty-third Division, the battalion, nicknamed ‘The Dandy Ninth’, should have consisted of around a thousand men, however, by mid May the unit had numbered jus four hundred and ninety six all ranks. Despite their lack of rifles, on the twentieth of May the Highlanders had been involved on a frontal attack against enemy positions on the Hindenburg Line in the Sensee Valley.

The assault had begun at three minutes past five in the misty morning of the twentieth, due to the torn up nature of the terrain the going had been difficult, nevertheless the Highlanders, advancing quietly, had managed to get within yards of their objective without a shot being fired, however, once they had been spotted the enemy they had come under heavy artillery, and machine gun fire from the enemy’s support line, especially from machine guns sited in two concrete bunkers. Nevertheless, despite terrible losses the surviving Highlanders had ran forward and had little difficulty in breaking through the enemy wire, which had fortunately been well cut by British artillery. The work of consolidation had then begun, and Lewis Guns had been sighted to cover the advance on the enemy’s second line. Hampered by the hail of fire coming from the two bunkers the assault had been broken up into small parties, which had been led by N.C.O.’s due to the majority of the unit’s officers being either killed or wounded.

The mist and smoke of battle had made it difficult to located the enemy’s trenches, which by this time had virtually ceased to exist, and the formation of the enemy’s wire had caused various groups of Highlanders to attack in different direction, this had soon been rectified and as soon as the British ‘creeping barrage’ had lifted the Highlanders had once again pressed forward.

Some of the Highlanders had reached the enemy second line and had captured or driven out the garrison. Again the Highlanders had begun to consolidate whilst grimly holding on to their prize. However, the cards had been stacked against them and soon due to heavy fire and a determined counter attack, the Highlanders had been forced to give ground, thus, after half an hour’s vicious fighting all that had remained to the battalion had been the enemy’s front line and about twenty five prisoners, by this stage only four officers had remained in the Battalion’s four companies.

Throughout the remainder of the day the surviving Highlanders had fought off repeated enemy counter attacks and had endured a severe artillery saturation of their newly gained prize. Darkness had brought little relief to the weary troops, as the wounded had had to be found and carried back to the British front line. As usual there had been no lack of willing stretcher bearers and their work had been little hampered by the enemy in the forward areas, however, further back, near the Sensee River, parties of stretcher bearers had come under heavy shell fire.

The remains of the Battalion had eventually been relieved during the early hours of the twenty second of May, the weary men making their way to the rear, and welcome billets in the ruined village of Moyennville. The cost of this limited success had been tremendous. Of the 496 officers and men who had gone into action, seven officers had been killed, three wounded, of the ‘other ranks’ thirty eight had been killed, and one hundred and ninety eight had been wounded, or reported as missing.

The unit had been allowed to rest until the twenty six of May, when, following the arrival of seventy eight battle replacements the unit had made it’s way into the section of the Hinderburg Line which they had captured at such high cost six days earlier. The following day the unit had been involved in an effort by 19TH Brigade [also from 33RD Division] to capture the elusive and deadly enemy second line. The Highlanders task had been to support the assault with their rifle and Lewis Gun fire, and to bomb up an enemy communication trench known as ‘Nelly Lane’. The assault had begun at five minutes to two in the afternoon and had soon degenerated into a bitter hand-to-hand fight for survival in front of the German positions, the British infantry eventually being forced back by a withering hail of machine gun fire. By 4pm the fighting had ended, the cost to the ’Dandy Ninth’ being one officer and sixteen men killed, and a further fifteen men wounded.

During the night of the 31ST of May the Highlanders had been relieved from their duties in the British front line and had marched back to Moyennville, leaving behind another dead and two wounded comrades, before moving the next day to Bienvillers.

During June the Battalion had moved to the village of Boiry-st Martin where the unit had spent three weeks recuperating from their ordeals and awaiting the arrival of replacements for their casualties. Whilst there a number of Highlanders had been decorated for their gallant efforts during the attack of the twentieth of May. Following this ceremony the Battalion had moved off by platoons to take over the British support lines behind Croisilles, a village lying some thirteen kilometres south east of Arras. During the evening of the following day, Monday the 25TH of June 1917, The enemy had shelled the Highlander’s positions scoring a direct hit on ‘B’ Company’s Headquarters killing one, and wounding two officers, plus fifteen men. [1]

The dead officer had been the twenty eight years old; Second Lieutenant John Francis Newlove.

Born in Scarborough, at No 25 Ramshill Road during 1890, Frank had been the youngest son of Elizabeth Camilla, and Mark William Newlove, a ‘Milliner, Draper, and Dress maker’ who had carried on a business at No 13 South Street. A student at St Martins Grammar School beginning the Michaelmas Term of 1900, Newlove had remained at the College until the summer of 1905 when he had left to assist his father in the family business. New love had eventually ‘gone up’ to London, where he had initially worked in the drapery firm of Jones& Higgins, at Peckham until he had secured a post with Messrs. D.H. Evans, in their Oxford Street Departmental store.

Newlove had remained in London until the outbreak of war during August 1914 when he had returned to Scarborough to eventually enlist into the Yorkshire Regiment during that first autumn of the war. [2]

One of the thousands of Britons between the ages of nineteen and twenty five who had joined the ranks of Kitchener’s ‘New Army’ during those early stages of the conflict, Newlove had eventually been sent to the Yorkshire Regiment’s Depot, at Richmond, North Yorkshire, where he had been posted to the then forming 10TH [Service] Battalion of the regiment.

Following training [with broom sticks, and no uniforms] at Richmond, the 10TH Battalion had been posted to Tiring in Hertfordshire, where the unit had been integrated into the 62ND Brigade of the newly formed 21ST Division, the most senior of Britain’s ‘New Army’ Divisions. The division had undergone further training in the Aldershot area until September 1915, when the unit had been considered fit enough to be sent abroad for active service. The Division sailing for France between the seventh and fifteenth of the month.

Newlove, by September 1915 promoted to Sergeant, had received his ‘Baptism of Fire’ soon after landing on foreign soil when the 21ST and 24TH Divisions had gone into action for the first time during the catastrophic Battle of Loos. During the second day of the battle, the 25TH of September 1915, the two inexperienced units, attached to the reserve Eleventh Corps, had been thrown into the furnace of Loos with little more than faith to guide them. Without artillery support, and already in an exhausted state due to a lack of food and sleep, the men of the two divisions, nearly twenty thousand apiece, had attacked enemy positions at Hill 90, where they had found the wire to be uncut and protected by a veritable hurricane of artillery and machine gun fire.

Inevitably the attack had been broken up by the concentrated enemy fire, leaving the division’s units confused, split up, and under heavy attack. Some survivors had begun to fall back, and eventually most of both divisions had withdrawn in what was little more than a rout, losing much of the ground that had been captured during the previous day of fighting. Both units had suffered what had been considered ‘medium’ casualties, roughly four thousand each, but most importantly the action of these two divisions had been judged, rather unfairly, to have disgraced the ‘New Army’. Amongst the casualties had been Frank Newlove who had been severely wounded in his right arm. Initially invalided to Southport Military Hospital with his ‘blighty wound’, the sergeant had eventually returned to Scarborough to recuperate, before returning to the Western Front at the beginning of 1916.

On the opening day of the Somme Offensive [July 1ST 1916] Frank had gone over the top with his comrades during the Battle of Albert, in an assault on the village of Fricourt. Meeting intense machine gun fire the 10TH Battalion had initially hesitated in their assembly trenches until Temporary Major S.W. Loudoun-Shand had jumped onto the parapet of the trench to help his men over the top, and ‘had encouraged them in every way’, until he had fallen mortally wounded [a Boer War veteran, Loudoun-Shand, had eventually been awarded with a posthumous Victoria Cross for this act of bravery].

Despite this initial setback the unit had fought well over the next three days of intense fighting until it had been relieved during the fifth of July.

During January 1917 Newlove had received a field commission and had been promoted to Second Lieutenant, the award had, however, meant that he had had to transfer to another unit, which in Frank’s case, had been the 1ST/9TH Highland Light Infantry. Dubbed ‘The Glasgow Highlanders’, the brand new Second Lieutenant had joined at Moyenneville at the beginning of February. On the twentieth of May 1917, Frank Newlove had been on leave in England, where he had married by special license on Thursday May 24TH at Camberwell Registry Office to Dorothy Charlotte Hobbs, the youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs Hobbs, of No86 Holmedene Avenue, Herne Hill, London. Shortly after the ceremony Newlove had returned to Scarborough for the first and last time with his brand new bride, shortly he had returned to the front, his wife had never again seen him.

News of Newlove’s death had reached his bride barely a month after they had married, the news of the tragedy had subsequently been transmitted to Frank’s parents South Cliff home, the tidings appearing in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday July 6TH 1917. A segment of the lengthy article reads…

’Lieutenant Newlove was the second son of Mr and Mrs M.W. Newlove, draper, Ramshill Road. It is only a month ago since he was married in London, and during the leave, which he was then taking, he visited Scarborough for a few days. His return to the front took place only quite recently. He was well known in Scarborough, particularly in football and cricket circles, various local sides having the benefit of his services. Lieutenant Newlove, who was twenty-seven years of age, was of a genial disposition, a very good athlete, and he was much liked amongst a wide circle of friends and acquaintances’…

Shortly after his death, on Tuesday the 10TH July 1917, a memorial service dedicated to Frank Newlove had taken place in Scarborough’s Holy Trinity Church, where he had been a member of the congregation. The Reverend H. Merryweather speaking of his former parishioner had noted the character of Frank Newlove, ‘his joyousness, dependability, and his Christian qualities’.

In Scarborough, apart from the town’s War Memorial, Frank Newlove’s name is commemorated on a ‘Roll of Honour’ to be found inside St Martins Church, and also on the badly weathered ‘Cross of Sacrifice’ outside the Church. His name can also be found on a Gravestone in Scarborough’s Manor Road Cemetery [North Terrace/Border/D/15] which also bears the names of his Allerston born father Mark William Newlove, who had died in Scarborough on the 2ND of June1933 at the age of seventy nine years, and mother, Northampton born Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’, Camilla Newlove, who had subsequently passed away also at the age of seventy nine years, on the 25TH of May 1944.

The remains of Lieutenant Newlove had been taken by a burial party from the Glasgow Highlanders to a cemetery at Croisilles, which, after the war had been named Croisilles British Cemetery, Frank’s grave is located in Section One, Row G, Grave 15 of the cemetery. Also to be found in this Cemetery is the grave of former Scarborough Auctioneer and Estate Agent; Temporary Major Valentine Fowler.

Killed in action, by shellfire, on Saturday the 2ND of June 1917, Valentine Fowler had been born in Scarborough on the 21ST of June 1877, and had been the only son of Liz [formally Oates] and ‘auctioneer and valuer’ Valentine Fowler. The Commanding Officer of Frank Newlove’s former unit, the Tenth Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, at the time of his death, Fowler had been married in Scarborough’s St Mary’s Church during 1896 to Ida Nellie Dawes-Sarony, and at the time of his death had been the father of three children, who had been residing in Scarborough at No.17 Princess Royal Terrace during 1917. A former Captain of Scarborough Football Club Fowler had been aged forty years, and like Newlove had been a veteran of the Loos fiasco and the subsequent Somme Offensive. Valentine Fowler’s grave is located in Plot 1, Section C, [Grave 6] of the Cemetery.

A former member of the congregation of Scarborough’s St Saviours Church, situated on the corner of Gladstone Road and Belle Vue Street, Valentine Fowler’s name is commemorated on a ‘Roll of Honour’ located inside the Church.

Following the operations at Wancourt which had taken place between the twenty third and twenty fourth of April 1917, the sorely mauled Fifth Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment had been relieved by the Regiment’s Second Battalion and marched through Arras to the village of Halloy where the weary and badly battered unit had been allowed to rest, reorganise, and refit, until the first day of May 1917, when the unit had been moved to Coigneaux. By the following day the battalion had been in Ficheaux in Corps Reserve preparatory to Third Army’s attack heralding the Third Battle of the Scarpe, which had begun on the next day. The battalion had played little part in these operations, and on the fourth the unit had returned to their billets at Halloy.

At the beginning of June 1917 the 5TH Battalion had been occupying the front line trenches to the west of the village of Fontaine-le-Croisilles, where, on the twenty sixth of the month the battalion, with the 5TH Durham Light Infantry’ had attacked and captured a number of trenches known as ‘Rotten Row’ to the north west of the village, which although successful, had resulted in the death of one officer, and four men, with a further eleven men being wounded, and one reported ‘missing in action’. For this the unit had captured four prisoners and one machine gun. [3]

By July 1917 the Battalion had been in trenches to the west of the village of Cherisy, where, on Thursday the nineteenth the enemy, who for some days had been showing signs of launching an attack had put down a heavy artillery barrage o the unit’s forward, and support lines. This bombardment had been followed by an infantry attack on three points of the battalions sector the most westerly of which had been at a series of trenches known as ‘Dead Bosche Sap’ on the extreme right of the battalion’s front. A party of three or four Germans had succeeded in penetrating the battalion’s front line at this point, but had been driven out by the garrison of one of the trench posts, leaving behind a dead comrade and several sacks of abandoned bombs. This assault had cost the Fifth Yorks fifteen killed, and eighteen wounded. Amongst the dead had been the twenty years old; 240417 Corporal John Henry Devlin.

Known affectionately as ‘Harry’, Devlin had been born in Scarborough at No84 North Street during 1897[Baptised at St Mary’s Parish Church on the 25THof February] and had been the only son of Sarah Jane and John William Devlin [professional soldier John William Devlin and Sarah Jane Rainton had married at St Mary’s on the 26TH of June 1895]. A pupil of Scarborough’s Friarage Infants and Juniors School from the age of four, Harry had left the institution at the age of twelve to become an apprentice to local Plumber, Glazier, and Gas Fitter, Septimus Bland of No38 Bar Street.

The eighteen years old Devlin had enlisted into the Territorial Force Yorkshire Regiment during December 1914 at their Scarborough Headquarters, which had been situated in North Street [later to become the Y.M.C.A. building, the site in 2004 is occupied by the ‘T Max Superstore’], and had initially served with his father in the recently [September] formed 2ND/5TH Battalion, which would eventually provide drafts of reinforcements for the original 1ST/5TH Battalion, which had been on active service in Belgium.

Devlin had remained with this unit until May 1915, when he, and a number of other men had been sent as replacements for the hundred and thirty-one casualties incurred by the 1st/5TH Battalion during eleven days [23RD April-4TH May] of bitter fighting at St Julien. Promoted to Corporal following the Somme Offensive of 1916, Devlin had endured the rigours of life on the Western Front throughout the bitterly cold and wet winter of 1916/17 and had lived long enough to be counted as one of the Battalion’s veterans.

News of their son’s death had initially reached the Devlin’s via a letter written by his Company Commander, Captain E.H. Weighill, which John Devlin senior had received whilst on leave at the family home at No.13 Bedford Street. The tidings had subsequently been transmitted in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday July 27TH 1917;

‘Killed by trench collapse - A letter from an officer has been received by his father, Private John Devlin, Yorks Regiment, and formerly a gunner in the R.G.A. [Royal Garrison Artillery], 13 Bedford Street, that, Corporal H. Devlin, Yorks. Regiment, died in action on July 19TH. The writer says; ‘we were in support trenches [‘Mallard Trench’] and about dawn were subjected to a heavy bombardment. Parts of the trench were blown in, and I regret to say your son was buried. We rescued him as soon as possible and applied artificial respiration, but without success. Corporal Devlin was only 19 years of age, and went to France with the 5TH Yorks. Regiment in April 1915’…

[Although the above article states that Devlin had gone abroad during April 1915, it is highly probable that he had not due to his regimental number consisting of more than the four digit number which ad belonged to the men who had gone out in April with the original 1ST/5TH Battalion. Devlin may have been amongst the cadre of men that had remained in Scarborough to form the 2ND/5TH Battalion]

The remains of Corporal Devlin had eventually been taken to the local cemetery in Heninel, a village some ten kilometres south east of Arras, where they had been interred in Plot C, Grave number sixteen. After the war the cemetery, by then containing the graves of nearly a hundred and fifty casualties of the conflict, had been renamed Heninel Communal Cemetery Extension by the Imperial War Graves Commission.

In Scarborough, apart from the town’s War Memorial, Harry Devlin’s name is commemorated in the town’s Manor Road Cemetery, [Section V, Row16, Grave19] which also bears the name of his father John William Devlin who having survived the war had live in Scarborough until his death at the age of seventy eight years on Monday the 7TH of November 1938. The stone also bears the name of Harry’s sister, Eva Maud, who had died during infancy. Harry’s mother Scalby born Sarah Jane Devlin had lived at the family home in Bedford Street until her death on Thursday the fifth of February 1942 at the age of seventy eight years, her funeral taking place in Manor Road Cemetery on the ninth of February [although buried in the same grave as her husband there is no inscription for her]. The Memorial also bears the inscription;

‘In memory of our beloved only son…War’s bitter cost The same shell that had buried and killed Corporal Devlin had also caused the death of another twelve men from the Fifth Battalion. Amongst them had been three men with local connections;

240268 Lance Corporal Isaac Yaxley had recently [June] been awarded with the Military Medal. Born in Scarborough during 1895, the twenty-one years old had been the eldest son of Louisa and Robert Yaxley, a Grocer, who had been living in Scarborough at No.88 North Street at the time of his son’s death. Formerly employed by Plumber William Tindall of Victoria Road, Yaxley had been a pre war Territorial soldier with the 1ST/5TH Battalion and had already been wounded whilst serving with the unit in the Somme Offensive of 1916.

240491 Private William Cockerill; Born at York, Cockerill had been the son of Mrs Wilson of Bridge Cottages, West Ayton, formerly of No 1 Durham Cottages, in Scarborough. Another holder of the Military Medal, Private Cockerill had been killed just three days after his twenty second birthday.

241219 Private Alfred Hansom. Aged 24 years, Private Hansom had been the son of Thomas and Mary Elizabeth Hansom who had lived for a number of years in Scarborough at No38North Street. A former employee of the Scalby Road Brickworks Hansom had enlisted into the 2ND/5TH Battalion at Scarborough, and had subsequently joined the 1ST/5TH Battalion during September 1916, when his parents had moved the West Riding to reside at No.64 Stoney Rock Lane, Leeds.

The remains of Lance Corporal Yaxley and Privates Cockerill, and Hansom had also been buried in the Cemetery at Heninel [Plot C, Graves 14, 23, and 27 respectively].

Near to the graves of the men who had died on the 19TH of June can be located the last resting place of another soldier from Scarborough who had been amongst the almost two hundred casualties which the Fifth Battalion had suffered during the operations at Wancourt on the twenty third of April 1917;

242719 Private Robert Moore. Born in Scarborough during 1883, Bob had been the son of Joseph and Mary Moore. A former Scarborough ‘Cobleman’ [inshore fisherman], Moore had resided for a number of years at No.81 Longwestgate in the ‘bottom end’ of town, however, by the time that he had enlisted into the 2ND/5TH York’s [at Scarborough] during September1915 he had been living at No.33 Stepney Avenue with wife Florrie Banks Moore [remarried Williams] and three children. Aged 38 years at the time of his death, Bob Moore’s grave is located in Plot D [Grave 2], at Heninel.

The 1ST/9TH Highland Light Infantry and 1ST/5TH Yorkshire Regiment had been transferred to the dreaded Ypres Sector during the autumn of 1917 to takke their places in the Third Battle of Ypres, where, once again, the men of the two battalions had been sacrificed for very limited successes.

[1] I would like to thank Major [Ret’d] W. Shaw M.B.E., the Regimental Secretary of the Royal Highland Fusiliers Regimental Headquarters in Glasgow, without his assistance the story of the 1ST/9TH H.L.I. would not have been possible.

[2] During the 1901 Census of Scarborough’s population the Newlove family had been residing at No13 South Street, and had consisted of; Mark W. 46 years, Draper, born at Allerston, Yorkshire, Lizzie C. 36years, born Northampton, William R. 14 years, Gertrude M. 13years, John F. 11years, Gladys M. 9years, Mabel C. 7 years, all of whom had been born at Scarborough.

[3] The son of Susanne and Dr. Walter William Steuart-Corry, of No5 Pavilion Square, twenty four years old; Lieutenant Eberhardt George Steuart-Corry had been a Private in the pre war Scarborough based ‘E’ Company of the Fifth Battalion and had also taken part in the Battalion’s ‘Baptism of fire’ at St Julien. Following the battle, Corry, described as ‘an athletic young man who enjoyed football and boxing as well as the less strenuous pastimes of being a part time actor and vocalist with a Scarborough amateur dramatic society’, had been sent to England for officer training and had rejoined the unit in France on the 17TH of July 1915. The remains of Lieutenant Corry had never been recovered and his name is commemorated in Bay 5 of the Arras Memorial to the Missing, and Scarborough’s Oliver’s Mount War Memorial.

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