Ypres - Menin Road Ridge - World War One

In Remembrance of;
- Private Arhthur Hougson Perryman
- Private Harold Cappleman
- Private John William Gowan
- Corporal George Thompson
- Private William White
- Rifleman John Ellis
- Gunner Walter Allan
- Private Herbert Allan

On Friday the 21ST of September 1917 ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ had included three lines of headlines, which had screamed;

‘The new British offensive’

‘Great success attended our troops’

‘Inverness Copse carried by North Country soldiers’

The headlining announcements had been accompanied by a lengthy communiqué, which had been issued by British General Headquarters during the evening of the previous day.

‘Our attack this morning east of Ypres was made on a front of about eight miles between the Ypres-Comines Canal and the Ypres-Staden Railway.

Great success attended our troops. Positions of considerable military importance have been won and heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy.

The assembling of the regiments detailed for the attack was carried out without incident, although rain fell steadily during the night. Our first objectives were captured at an early hour, including a number of concreted strong points and fortified farms for the possession of which heavy fighting had taken place during the previous attacks.

North Country troops carried Inverness Copse, Australian troops stormed Glencourse Wood and Nonnebushen [Wood]. Scottish and South African brigades took Potsdam, Vampir, and Bolly farms. West Lancashire Territorials carried Iberian farm and the strongpoint known as ‘Gallipoli, our troops then advanced to the assault of their final objectives.

On our right English county troops reached the line of their final objectives after sharp fighting in the woods north of the Ypres-Comines Canal and in the neighbourhood of Tower Hamlets [a heavily fortified enemy position near Gheluvelt].

In the centre North Country and Australian battalions penetrated German positions to a depth of over a mile, and captured the whole of their objectives, including the hamlets of Veldhoek, and the western portion of Polygon Wood.

Further north, Zevenkek was captured, and London and Highland Teritorials carried a second line of farms, including Rose Farm, Quebec Farm, and Wurst Farm, on the line of their final objectives.

During the morning the weather cleared and our aeroplanes were able to take a more active part in the battle, indicating the positions of our troops and reporting hostile concentrations to our artillery.

No accurate of the number of prisoners captured can yet be given, but they are known to exceed 2000. We also captured a few guns’….

Although the above article had, in essence, been correct, the Battle of the Menin Road had indeed been a ‘great success’, and Second Army, in it’s first major operation of the offensive, had overran five and a half miles of torn up Belgium. What the report does not disclose however, is the fact that Plumer had suffered over twenty one thousand killed and wounded for those few miles of ground, around 3,800 per square mile. Amongst the casualties had been thirty two years old, 28197 Private Arthur Hougson Perryman.

Although born at Manchester [during 1885] Arthur had spent the majority of his life in Scarborough and had been the only son of Elizabeth and Edward James Perryman, a former Merchant Seaman, and self employed carpenter, who had been living in Scarborough at No.70 Hoxton Road at the time of his son’s death [Edward Perryman and Elizabeth Pearson were married in Scarborough at St Mary’s Parish Church on the 9TH of July1879].

A former pupil of the Central Board School, by the turn of the century the teenage Perryman had been residing in Scarborough at No.21 St May’s Walk, and had been an apprentice to Mr Francis Fairweather, a tailor, whose premises had been located at No.38 St Thomas Street. By the time of the outbreak of war in 1914 Perryman had been the husband of Margaret Blanche Perryman, the couple by this time had been residing in the North Yorkshire market town of Malton, where during September 1915 he had enlisted into Alexandra Princess of Wales’s Own [Yorkshire Regiment].

Originally a Private in the 2ND/5TH Battalion of the regiment, soon after the end of the Somme Offensive [November 1916] he had been sent to France like many thousands more as a replacement for battle casualties, and had eventually joined the 9TH [Service] Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, which at the time that Perryman had joined the unit had formed a third of the 69TH Brigade of the veteran 23RD Division, a unit which had seen much hard fighting during the Somme Offensive, during which the division had gained no less than six Victoria Crosses.

For the Menin Road operations, which had begun on the 20th of September, the 23RD Division, attached to Tenth Corps of Second Army, had been given the task of capturing a line of enemy trenches which had ran south from a steam known as the ‘Reutelbeek’ across and below the Menin Road. During the night of the 19TH 65,000 men belonging to the eighteen Brigades of infantry earmarked to take part in the assault had begun to make their way to their appointed assembly positions.

At midnight it had begun to rain, the men’s approach march had become increasingly difficult as the ground had become churned up by the thousands of marching feet Perryman’s battalion had begun to make their way towards their start line at 1pm on that night when…‘H.Q. moved up to Clapham Junction under the Menin Road, and ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies moved up to the vicinity of Stirling Castle and Sanctuary Wood. At 9-30pm the companies commenced to move into their assembly positions ready for the attack, and all these positions were completed by 2am on the 20TH. [1]

By 5-29am in the morning of the twentieth the men, despite a generous tot of pre battle rum, had shivered in the dark wet sixty seconds leading up to Zero Hour. Overhead the British preliminary bombardment had risen to its insane as crescendo as the last of over 1.6 million shells fired during the preliminary bombardment had blasted into the enemy’s positions. One minute later ‘A’ and ‘D’ Companies of the 9TH Yorkshires had left their assembly positions to advance towards ‘Inverness Copse’, closely followed by the battalion’s ‘B’ and ‘C’ Companies…’The morning was dark and there was a considerable mist, and this combined with the dense clouds of smoke caused by our artillery barrage, rendered the question of keeping direction extremely difficult. But in spite of this, and in spite of the fact that the ground over which they were advancing was pitted with shell holes and strewn with broken tree trunks and barbed wire, very little loss of direction occurred until the battalion had advanced about one hundred and fifty to two hundred yards into Inverness Copse. Here according to arrangement a halt was called for about three quarters of an hour, the troops taking advantage of shell holes and natural cover. Even at this early stage of the action isolated instances occurred of fighting, individual Germans who had not been mopped up bombing our men from the rear, where the enemy also fired a green S.O.S. Very Light’ [flare]..

During this pause the troops had been reorganised, the direction of attack being checked by the Battalion’s officers using their compasses. Whilst this had been going on, the men, reportedly ‘in the best of spirits’, and in spite of heavy machine gun and rifle fire, had calmly sat in shell holes smoking German cigars whilst waiting for the order to resume their advance.

‘At Zero Hour plus 80 minutes the companies commenced to move forward, and it was while advancing from this position to the Red Line that some of the heaviest fighting occurred; for numerous small parties of Germans had remained in the wood in dug outs and shell holes, and many of these put up a strong resistance, attacking our men with bombs and causing many casualties by machine gun and rifle fire. All these parties were, however, successfully mopped up, at least sixty Germans being killed in the copse. By this time the battalion had suffered considerably from Germans in the wood, form machine gun fire from a strong point beyond, and from a hostile artillery barrage; and before reaching the Red Line eight of the sixteen Company officers had been hit, including two of the Company Commanders. All the same the men formed up well under the barrage ready to go forward at Zero plus 88 minutes according to programme’ [1]

Although the 9TH Yorkshires had been sorely decimated in Inverness Copse, the attack had continued and by the time that the survivors had reached the Menin Road, and their objective, a number of dugouts and concrete gun emplacements, where they had come under intense machine gun fire. Despite the intense fire the Yorkshiremen had gone on and had become involved in ferocious hand-to-hand fighting in the positions, giving no quarter to their enemy, many of whom had been killed by the bayonet. In these positions the battalion had captured no fewer than ten machine guns fifteen flame throwers, five trench howitzers, and four trench mortars.

Throughout the remainder of the 20TH the surviving members of the battalion had consolidated their newly gained positions.

During the night of the 23rd-24th of September the 9th Battalion had been relieved from the line by the men of 8TH York and Lancaster Regiment, the surviving Yorkshiremen moving back to a rest area near to the village of Dickebusch, where a post battle roll call had revealed the formation had suffered over two hundred and seventy casualties, including forty five killed outright, over two hundred wounded, and twenty eight missing. Soon afterwards, the Battalion’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel R.S. Hart, had begun the process of writing to the relatives of the casualties.

Somewhere along the line of communication between Belgium and Scarborough the letter informing Margaret Perryman of her husband being reported as ‘missing in action’ had also been lost, and it had been mid November, following numerous personal request’s for information, before the distraught woman had learnt of Arthur’s disappearance. The tidings had eventually been included in a casualty list, which had appeared in the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the sixteenth of November;

‘Missing - In response to enquiries an intimation has been received by Mrs Perryman, 24 Hoxton Road, stating that Private A. Perryman. Yorkshire Regiment, has been officially reported as missing since September 20TH 1917’…

Mrs Perryman had heard no further news until almost a year later, when during October 1918 she had been informed by the War Office ‘that as no further news regarding your husband has been received, it must therefore be assumed that he had been killed in action on the 20TH of September 1917’.

Considering the devastation caused by Third Wipers, and the following year of war, there is little wonder that, despite numerous searches of the battlefield no identifiable remains of Arthur Perryman, nor almost thirty five thousand other missing officers and men had been found. Perryman’s and the thirty five thousand names of the servicemen with ‘no known grave’ had eventually been commemorated on the ‘Tyne Cot’ Memorial to the Missing, at Zonnebeke. Arthur’s name is amongst those listed on the panels dedicated to the missing of the Yorkshire Regiment [52-4, and 162A].

In Scarborough, apart from the town’s War Memorial Arthur’s name is commemorated amongst the names of one hundred and fifty six former parishioners of St Mary’s who are featured on the Church ‘Roll of Honour’, which is located on the north interior wall. It can also be found on a grave marker in the town’s Manor Road Cemetery [Section R, Row 4, Grave 17], which also includes the name of his Irish born [Bandon, County Cork] father, Edward James Perryman, who had died at his home at No.10 Merchant Seaman’s Hospital [Friarsway] on Sunday the 2ND of November 1930 at the age of eighty years. Although not commemorated on the gravestone, the site is also the final resting place of Arthur’s Scarborough born mother, Elizabeth Perryman, who had passed away at the age of eighty seven on Saturday the 2ND of August 1941.

A former chorister of the Parish Church of St Michael in Malton, Arthur Perryman’s name is also included on the Church ‘Roll of Honour’, which is located near the main entrance.

Amongst the forty three officers and men of the battalion known to have been killed during the operation at ‘Inverness Copse’, had been the nineteen years old; 20679 Private Harold Cappleman.

Born in Scarborough at No.1 West Sandgate on the 16TH of March 1898 Harold had been the youngest son of Mary Ann [formally Wood] and William Cappleman, who had been a self employed fisherman at the time of Harold’s birth. [2]

A pupil of St Thomas’s School, in Longwestgate from the age of four, and subsequently Friarage Board School until the age of thirteen, Harold had left the institution during 1911 to work for Scarborough fish merchant John Ellis, whose premises had been located on the West Pier. By the outbreak of war in August 1914 the Cappleman’s had been living in Scarborough at a house named ‘Ocean Gift’, No.18 Scalby Road, from where, throughout the ensuing months all four of the Cappleman’s sons had enlisted into the army. Harold had ‘taken the King’s Shilling’ during May 1915, aged seventeen years and two months at the time, he had technically been under the legal age [eighteen years] for military service.

Sent initially to the Yorkshire Regiment’s Depot at ‘the Barracks’ at Richmond, North Yorkshire, for three months of basic infantry training, Harold had eventually been posted to the newly formed [September 1914] 9TH Battalion of the Regiment which had been training with the 69TH Brigade in the Bordon and Bramshott area of Hampshire.

The 23RD Division had received orders to embark for France on the 20TH of August 1915, nine days later the division had been concentrated around the village of Tilques, north west of St Omer. The 23RD Division had subsequently entered the Somme Offensive on the fourth of July, six days later the unit had captured the stronghold of Contalmaison. The division had remained ‘on the Somme’ until October 1916 during this period Cappleman had taken part in operations at Pozieres Ridge, Flers/Coucelette, Morval, the Transloy Ridges, and Le Sars. Following these operations Cappleman’s military career had ran along the same path as Private Perryman.

The news of Corporal Cappleman’s death had appeared in the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 2ND of November 1917;

‘One of five serving brothers killed’

Mr. And Mrs. W. Cappleman, 62 Scalby Road, have received official information of the death of their son, Lance Corpl. Harold Cappleman, of the Yorkshire Regiment, who was killed in action on the 20TH of September. Lance Corporal Cappleman joined the forces when only 17 years and two months, having thus seen two years and five months service. He is the youngest of five sons serving with the forces. Before joining he was clerk with Mr. John S. Ellis, fish salesman’….

The remains of Harold Cappleman had originally been interred in a small cemetery which had been known as ‘Kink Corner Cemetery’, which had been located at Zonnebeke. However, after the war his remains, and those of twenty nine other casualties had been exhumed to be re-interred in the much larger ‘Tyne Cot Cemetery’, the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world, which contains the graves of nearly twelve thousand casualties of the Great War, over 8,000 of which are unidentified. Harold’s final resting place is to be found in Section XL111, F, Grave 5 of the Cemetery.

A former member of the congregation of St Johns Road Primitive Methodist Chapel, Harold’s name may have been commemorated on the chapel’s ‘Roll of Honour’, however, since the memorial’s removal during the post war years the author has been unable to find any information about it. Despite this Harold’s name is to be found on a grave marker in Scarborough’s Dean Road Cemetery [Section E, Row 18, Grave 3,], which also bears the names of his Scarborough born parents Mary Ann Cappleman,

‘A loving mother and faithful wife’, who had passed away at the age of sixty five years on Wednesday the 31ST of December 1924, and William Cappleman who had subsequently died on Wednesday the 19TH of May 1926, also at the age of sixty five years. The memorial also commemorates the name of Annie Wood, Mary Ann Cappleman’s sister, who had died at the age of eight six on the 8TH of January 1950.

Also amongst the casualties of the 9TH Yorkshire Regiment had been; 28264 Private John William Gowan. Also born in Scarborough, John had been the husband of Rebecca Gowan, who had been residing in the town at No 20 East Sandgate, where she had received news of her husband’s death at the beginning of October, the tidings being included in a casualty list, which had appeared in the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 5TH of October;

‘Another local man kille - Private J. Gowan has been killed at the front.. Up to the time of joining the forces in May 1916, he had been head bottler with Messrs. Henry Chapman and Sons, mineral water manufacturers [located in 1917 at No.4 Elders Street] having gone to them as a boy in 1901. His widow resides at 20 Sandgate and she has received a letter from a Company Sergeant Major, stating that Private Gowan was killed on the 20TH inst after an attack on the enemy’s trenches, during which his conduct was admirable. ‘Before going to the trenches’, says the non commissioned officer, ‘he left with us a watch which he did not want to take with him. This I will forward to you’. The letter expresses deep sympathy’….

Also officially recorded as killed in action on the 20TH of September, unlike those of Private Cappleman, the remains of Private Gowan had never been located. His name is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing at Zonnebeke, Western Flanders amongst the names of missing fellow Yorkshiremen recorded on the Memorial’s Panel’s 52 to 54, and 162A.

15355 Corporal George Thompson. Another Scarborough born soldier, the twenty five years old Corporal had been the brother of Mrs. A. Holmes of ‘Sunny View’, Burniston [C.W.G.C. post war address], and had also been killed in action on the 20TH of September. However, unlike his above fellow Scarborian, George’s remains had been buried close to where he had fallen and after the war his gravesite had been located, the remains of the soldier being re-interred in Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, which is located a short distance to the north west of the city of Ypres. George’s final resting place is located in Section 9, B, Grave 28 of the Cemetery, amongst the graves of 2,613 fellow casualties of the Great War who are buried there.

Although the 8TH Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment [also belonging to the 69TH Brigade of the 23RD Division] had not acted as a whole unit during the operations of the 20TH of September, the battalion’s four companies had all been separately engaged. The Battalion’s ‘B’ Company, commanded by Captain Miller, had been attached to the 10TH Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s [West Riding] Regiment as a carrying party. The History of the Battalion has this to say of the Company’s role in the battle;

‘B’ Company had proceeded to Wellington Crescent Trench on Yeomanry Ridge at 11pm on the 19TH and had remained there during the night, but on the following morning the Company was ordered to move to the assembly position in New Cut at fifteen minutes after Zero Hour, carry with it all consolidation stores, and on reaching the assembly position still more stores were drawn. Three minutes after Zero ‘B’ Company followed the West Riding Regiment ‘over the top’, moving in half platoons in artillery formation. The barrage which the enemy had laid on Inverness Copse was passed through with some casualties, and the Company reached its objective-the four dugouts near a tower known as ‘Strong Point 1’. These dugouts were, however, found to be destroyed, so the Company dug in round them. Reconnoitring parties were sent forward to the Green Line at Northampton Farm and Strong Point ‘O’ to clear up the situation and to find out the positions of the other companies.

An hour after the arrival at the objective the Officer Commanding West Riding Regiment ordered two platoons of ‘B’ Company to reinforce the Green Line, and Nos 5 and 6 accordingly proceeded thither and dug in.

During the night of the 20TH –21ST, the platoons in the front line carried on consolidation, and by the morning a continuous line had been dug’. [1]

Throughout the 21ST of September ‘B’ Company had remained in the front line. During the evening of the same day the unit had been exposed to a heavy enemy artillery barrage, shortly afterwards a large number of the enemy had been seen massing in preparation for mounting a counter attack. This attacking force had been driven off by artillery and Lewis Gun fire. The Company had continued to do good work throughout the remainder of the night of the 21st/22nd of September. The following night the unit had been relieved, the weary men making their way to ‘Sanctuary Wood Craters’ where they had rested until the morning of the 24TH, when the men had been sent to rest at the rear of the British positions, at ‘Alberta Camp’, located near the village of Reninghelst.

Unfortunately Wyrall does not report the extent of the casualties that the 8TH Battalion had suffered during this operation, however, by the beginning of October he had reported that the battalion had incurred thirty two killed in action, forty seven missing, and one man missing, by the end of the month the battalion, usually numbering over a thousand officers and men, had been reduced to twenty six officers and fifty four ‘other ranks’. Officially recorded as having been killed in action during the 20TH of September had been; 15212 Private William White.

Born in the West Yorkshire town of Pontefract during 1879, ‘Bill’ had been the son of William and Rhoda White. A former Private in the Grenadier Guards, by 1902 White had been living in Scarborough at No 41 James Street with wife Charlotte Ann, and had been employed as a labourer by ‘Marine store dealer’ Robert Mc Lorriman, whose ‘yard’ had been located at No 28 James Street. The father of two sons, Thomas William [Bill], and James Alfred [Alf], by the outbreak of war [by which time the family had been residing in Scarborough at No36 Trafalgar Road] Bill White had rejoined the colours at Scarborough during September 1914 and had originally served as a Private in the newly formed 6TH [Service] Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, a part of the 32ND Brigade of the 11TH [Northern] Division, with which White had served for four months at Gallipoli.

Decimated by battle [the Division had suffered 75% battle casualties], the 11TH Division had eventually been evacuated from the Peninsular during late December 1916 and had remained on the nearby Greek island of Imbros until late January 1916, when White, and the remainder of his regiment had been sent to Egypt, where the division had eventually taken over the defence of ‘A’ Section of the Suez Canal. The 11TH Division had received orders to embark for France during June 1916, by the 16TH of July the Division had been concentrated around the village of Flers, where for the next few weeks the men of the division had begun to accustom themselves to war conditions on the Western Front.

Private White had gone into his first major action on the Western Front on the 16TH of September 1916, when his division had become involved in the ferocious fighting to the south east of Thiepval for the German stronghold known as the ‘Wonder Work’. At the end of September he had taken part in the four days of attrition, which had culminated in the capture of the ‘Stuff Redoubt’. The 6TH Battalion had remained ‘on the Somme’ throughout the remainder of the Offensive. During October 1916 Private White had been struck by shell fragments, which had fortunately warranted a ticket to ‘Blighty’ for treatment.

White had subsequently rejoined his regiment at their Depot at Richmond, North Yorkshire, from where he had been sent during June 1917 to France and one of the many infantry training area’s known as ‘Bull Ring’s’, located near to the town of Etaples for an intensive course of battle training before joining the regiment’s 8TH Battalion, which had been serving in the Ypres Sector, having recently taken part in the Battle of Messines [9-14 June]. He had been killed three months later.

The news of Private White’s death had appeared in the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of October the 12TH 1917;

‘Fought at Dardanelles - Private William White, Yorkshire Regiment, 36 Trafalgar Road, who has been killed in action, was 38 years of age. He joined the forces in September, three years ago, and previous to that had worked for Mr. Robert Mc Lorinan for sixteen years. He fought at the Dardanelles, and had been in Egypt. He was wounded last October in France, and had been out again just three months to the day he was killed, which was on September 20TH. He leaves a widow and two children’

Another Scarborough casualty with no known grave, the name of Private William White is also commemorated on the ‘Tyne Cot’ memorial to the missing at Zonnebeke. It is located amongst the names of missing belonging to the Yorkshire Regiment who are listed on Panels 52 to 54 and 162A of the memorial. One of two William White’s commemorated on Scarborough’s War Memorial, the missing soldier’s name can also be found amongst the one hundred and fifty six names included on the Parish ‘Roll of Honour’ located on the north interior wall of St Mary’s Parish Church. [3]

Following the death of her husband, Charlotte White and her two children had continued to live at No.36 Trafalgar Road, where, on Saturday the 2ND of January 1960 she had passed away at the age of seventy eight years. A former member of the congregation of St Paul’s Mission Chapel [which had been located in Regent Street] a service dedicated to Charlotte had been held during the afternoon of Wednesday the 6TH of January, shortly afterwards her remains had been interred in Manor Road Cemetery [Section T, Border, Grave 54] in a grave which is also the final resting place of her sister, Eliza Green, who had passed away on the 25TH of February 1956 at the age of 77 year. William White’s eldest son, Thomas William [Bill] White, the husband of the late Florence, and father of Ian and Angela, had eventually passed away on the 23RD of February 1995 at Scarborough’s Cross Lane Hospital at the age of 85 years.

North of Second Army, Gough’s Fifth Army had experienced some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle of the Menin Road. Eighteenth Corps had attacked Schuler and Hubner Farms, Pheasant Trench, Points 48 and 85, Quebec, Rose, and Delta Farms, and the White House, as well as a number of machine gun posts on the Poelcappelle Road. The machine gun fire here had in fact been so intense that some British units had been forced to retreat, the situation only being saved by the ‘energetic’ efforts of officers brandishing their revolvers who had rallied their troops on to their original front line where they had once again been driven forward. All objectives had eventually been carried albeit with high [2,500] casualties.

The fighting in Fifth Corps [5TH Army] sector had been even more ferocious. On the right, the Territorials of the 55TH [West Lancashire] Division had come under such intense fire from Iberian, Gallipoli, and Aisne Farms that the protective creeping barrage had been lost resulting in some of the attacking battalions suffering 80% casualties. Here again it had only been with the resolute actions of the follow up units that the day had been successful.

On the extreme left of Fifth Army’s assault had been the 9TH [Scottish] Division. Faced with some of the most formidable fortifications of the whole front, notably the notorious strong points named ‘Potsdam’ and the Zonnebeke Redoubt’. This formation had only been allowed to go forward because of a intensive artillery bombardment of a bristling hive of enemy machine gun positions and ‘pillboxes’ situated in Hannebeek Wood, which had lay directly in the path of the attackers. This bombardment had turned out to be crucial, as these strongpoints had been missed by the preliminary bombardment.

The Division’s 27TH [Lowland] Brigade, in conjunction with the South African Brigade, had faced the strongest defensive system of the lot. A row of five interlinked pillboxes forming a concrete chain straddling the embankment which had once carried the Ypres to Roulers railway along the Gheluvelt ridge. Four of those pillboxes, numbered R1 to R4 had been grouped on the southern side of the track, with the nearest, R1, about two hundred yards from the front line. A fifth pillbox, R5, had been sited on the northern side, 100 yards beyond the first post. This post had in turn been flanked by yet another pillbox known as A1. About two hundred yards beyond this system had stood a fortified farm known to the British as ‘Potsdam’ [‘Lindenhof’to the Germans].

The Brigade had made the assault with two Battalions of infantry, 6TH King’s Own Scottish Borderers [KOSB], and the 9TH Cameronians [Scottish Rifles], a third, the 12TH Royal Scots, had been in support. By 3am on the 20TH of September the various units had been formed up in front of the village of Frezenberg waiting for the order to move off. Fortified with a generous tot of rum the men of 9TH Cameronians had gone ‘over the top’ at 5-40am…

‘A thick ground mist after the rain enabled the men to advance unseen close to the barrage, the two leading companies moving in section columns and the two supporting companies in half platoon columns. ‘A’ Company followed by ‘C’ Company on the right encountered very little resistance and reached the first objective beyond the Hanebeek in good time. On the left, however, opposition was encountered from a pillbox, and two machine guns on the railway caused severe casualties and delayed the advance of ‘B’ Company. The concentrated fire of a number of Lewis guns against the post enabled ‘B’ and ‘D’ Companies finally to assault, whereupon the garrison surrendered. The advance was then continued to the Hanebeek. The men arrived somewhat disorganised, and with very little time to spare. When the companies on the left had reorganised, the barrage covering the advance to the final objective had moved forward, followed by ‘A’ and ‘C’ Companies, who soon discovered their left was exposed. To meet this emergency ‘C’ Company swung to the left of ‘A’ Company to bridge the gap. ’B’ Company, however, succeeded in catching up before the final objective was reached… [4]

The Cameronians had met little resistance at their final objective [The Green Line] apart from a pillbox between the Zonnebeke Redoubt and the ruined railway line, the fire from which had caused ‘a few casualties’ amongst the riflemen. This strongpoint had eventually surrendered and by about 8am the final objective had been in Scottish hands, the Cameronians making themselves as comfortable as they could in shell holes and captured pillboxes amongst the mud and rain of Flanders.

The battalion had been assailed by an intense enemy artillery barrage throughout the ensuing two days that they had remained in their newly acquired positions and had eventually been relieved during the night of the 22ND/23RD of September, the Battalion’s shell shocked and mud bespattered officers and men marching westwards through Vlamertinghe to a tented rest camp located near the village of Winnezeele, where a roll call had revealed the 9th Cameronians had suffered almost two hundred casualties during the two days of fighting, and shell fire. Amongst them had been; 203153 Rifleman John Ellis.

Born in Scarborough at No.94 Hampton Road during 1897, John had been the twenty one years old son of Mary, and George Ellis, a self employed shoemaker [By 1917 Mary Ellis had been a widow, George having died at the age of 48 years on the 1ST of December 1913] living in the town at ‘Cambridge Cottage’ [No.84] located in Cambridge Place, Scalby Road]. [5]

A pupil of the Falsgrave Board School from the age of four, John had later moved to Scarborough’s Central Board School for boys where he had remained a pupil until the age of thirteen, when he had left the School to begin work for Wine and Spirit Merchant Mr Tom Laughton at his ‘Silver Grid Assembly Rooms’, which had been located at No’s 4and 6 Huntriss Row.

By the outbreak of war seventeen years old Ellis had been employed as a porter at ‘The Silver Grid’. At the time under age for military service, John had eventually enlisted into the army at Richmond, North Yorkshire, during October 1916. How the Yorkshire born recruit had ended up in a Scottish Regiment is not known, however, due to the heavy casualties suffered by the British Army during the Somme Offensive it had not been an unusual occurrence for recruits to be directed to regiments outside their recruiting area.

Following enlistment Ellis had been directed to the Scottish Rifles Depot, which had been located at Hamilton Barracks in the South Lanarkshire town of Hamilton. Whilst there Private Ellis had been ‘kitted out’ and attached to the regiment’s 3RD [Reserve] Battalion, with which he had undergone three months of infantry training before being transferred to the 4TH [Reserve] Battalion of the Cameronians prior to being posted, during February 1917, to the 9TH Battalion, which had been serving in the Arras sector of Northern France.

A veteran of the subsequent Arras Offensive [April-May], including operations at ‘Greenland Hill’ on the 3RD of May, and the infamous ‘Chemical Works’ near Roeux. At the end of July 1917 Ellis and the remainder of hard fought 9TH Division had been moved to the by then comparatively quiet Somme Sector, where for the next few weeks the 9th Cameronians had been billeted near to the village of Hermies whilst taking their turn in trenches in the line of the Canal Du Nord to the east of the village.

The battalion’s period of rest had come to an end on the 29TH of August when the Battalion’s C.O., lieutenant Colonel W.V. Lumsden M.C., had received orders for his battalion to join the Fifth Army in Flanders.

Ellis and the remainder of the 9TH Battalion had begun to move up to the start point for the attack at dusk on the 19TH…’Well sign posted, trench board tracks had been prepared across country so as to leave the roads clear for the nightly stream of wheeled traffic. On nearing the line, white tapes, laid after dusk, guided the battalion to its destination. Heavy rain fell during, and after the approach march, but by 0500hours on the 20TH the battalion was formed up in the crater of No Man’s Land ready for assault’. [4]

Mrs. Ellis had received news of her son’s death on Monday the eighth of October 1917. The tidings had been included in a casualty list, which had appeared in Friday’s edition of the ‘Scarborough Mercury’;

Killed ‘in recent fighting - News has been received that Private J. Ellis, Scottish Rifles, whose relatives reside at Cambridge Place, Scalby Road, Scarborough, has been killed in action ‘in the recent fighting in which he behaved very gallantly’. Twenty one years of age, Private Ellis joined the forces last October, and before that was a porter with Mr T. Laughton’…

The grave of John Ellis had fortunately been found at the end of the war the remains of the soldier being exhumed and re-interred in Birr Cross Roads Cemetery, which is located some 3 Kilometres to the east of Ypres town centre. The cemetery contains the remains of 833 casualties of the war [336 of which are unidentified]. John Ellis’s final resting place is located in Plot 2, C, Grave 20.

Also amongst those killed during September 1917 had been; 731456 Gunner Walter Allan.

Born in Scarborough during 1896, Walter had been the twenty one years old youngest son of Elizabeth Ann the widow [by 1917] of Coal Merchant John Allan. By the time of her son’s death had been residing in Scarborough at No.10 Caledonia Street. A former employee in the Falsgrave branch of grocery and provision merchants Wallis and Blakely, Walter had been killed in action during the 19TH of September 1917 whilst serving in Flanders with ‘D’ Battery of the 189TH Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.

The remains of Gunner Allan had been interred in Klein-Vierstraat British Cemetery, which is located some six kilometres to the south west of Ypres, his final resting place is to be found in Section Three, Row C, Grave 16, of the Cemetery.

Walter had been the second son of the Allan’s to lose his life during the war. The first had been; 7392 Private Herbert Allan. Also born in Scarborough [during 1887], former Scarborough Postman Herbert Allan had been the husband of Elsie and father of one child who had been living at No.19 Caledonia Street during 1916. Aged thirty years at the time of his death, Herbert had also died in Flanders, on the 8TH of June 1916 from the effect of wounds received whilst serving with ‘D’ Company of the 2ND Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment [a pre war Regular Army infantry battalion, which had been serving with the 16TH Brigade of the 6TH Division]. Elsie had been notified of her husband’s death in a letter, which had been written by a sergeant [Flack] from Herbert’s Company. The letter had been included in the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 23RD of June 1916;

‘It is my painful duty to inform you of the death of your husband, who was killed in action on the night of the 8TH of June. At the time of his death he was performing his duty. He was well liked by officers, N.C.O.’s, and men of the company, especially by his platoon officer and myself. The officers, N.C.O.’s, and men of the company sympathise with you in your bereavement’…

During the post war years Elsie Allan had remarried [Smyth] and had migrated to Australia, her last known address, according to the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, had been ‘Hardelot’, Lake View, Griffith, New South Wales.

Herbert Allan’s grave is to be found in Essex Farm Cemetery which is located near the village of Boezinge, just to the north of Ypres. His final resting place is located in Section 2, Row S, Grave 2, of the Cemetery.

[A third son of John and Elizabeth Allan, John, born during 1884 had served in Egypt, and on the Western Front as a Private, and eventually Lance Corporal [Regimental Number 55407] in the East Yorkshire Regiment, he had survived the war to return to living in Scarborough with his mother at No.10 Caledonia Street.

[1] The Green Howards in the Great War 1914-18; Colonel H.C. Wylly; 1926.

[2] By the time of the 1901 Census William Cappleman had been the Master of a fishing vessel working out of Hartlepool. The family, residing at No.12 Blaydon Street Hartlepool, had consisted of the forty years old William, Mary Ann, aged 41 years, Herbert aged 18 years and employed as an ‘apprentice steam engine maker/fitter’, Harry aged 15years, employed as a ‘telegraph messenger’, Jane aged 12years, Walter, aged 10 years, Ernest, aged 8, Gertrude, aged 6, and Harold aged 6 years, all of whom had been born in Scarborough.

[3] The other is 399778 Corporal William White, a Mons veteran who had been killed in action on the 4TH of April 1918 at the age of twenty-three years [featured in the 1918 chapter of my text], whilst serving with the Machine Gun Corps [Cavalry].

[4] The History of the Cameronians [Scottish Rifles] 1910-1933. Colonel H.H. Story, M.C.. Many thanks to Lynsey Nicol, Assistant Museum Officer, The Cameronians Regimental Museum, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

[5] At the time of the 1901 Census the Ellis family had been residing in Scarborough at No.84 Cambridge Place and had consisted of George aged thirty five years, Mary also aged thirty five, George Jnr. Aged fifteen, employed as a ‘pork butchers boy’, Elizabeth, aged twelve, Louisa, aged ten, Maud, eight years old, Charles, aged seven, John aged four, and Lewis aged two years. All the family had been Scarborough born.

Share this article

Request our email newsletter for all our latest news and information
Contact us

01723 369361
45 Eastborough, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 1NH, England

We are here

Opening times

11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
Registered charity No 1144532. Company No 06755717.