(3rd Tyneside Irish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (see:
As I followed the path of my grandfather
from his beginnings in the CEF (Canadian Expeditionary
Force) through to his war time service with the 26th
Northumberland Fusiliers, I came across a number of web sites
that helped me learn the story of the "Fighting
Fifth". What I found has been summarized as
follows, with links to the web sites where the details are
This web site of Chris
Baker, tells not only of the NF but of the British Army
from 1914-1918. The specific page on the Fusiliers
provides a history from the 1st battalion beginnings in
1914, up to and including the formation of the 34th
Reserve Battalion (Tyneside Irish), formed at Hornsea in
This shows the formation
of the 34th Division, formed in Great Britain in June 1915
from the Locally Raised or Pals Battalions mainly from the
North East of England and Scotland. The web site reports
that they arrived in France in January 1916 and then served
in France and Flanders until May 1918 when the Division was
reduced to Cadre. The Division was reconstituted in June
1918 and then served in France and Flanders until the
Armistice. The 26th NF is shown to have been formed in June
1915 and disbanded on February 27, 1918.
The regimental site of
the "warpath" site shows the Northumberland
Fusilier's (5th Regiment on Foot - "The Fighting
Fifth") regimental history, starting in 1914.
This shows the 26th NF as a locally raised battalion formed
at Newcastle by the Lord Mayor and City in November 1914
(103rd Brigade, 34th Division). The site shows the
26th NF was formed in June 1915 and disbanded on February
This site is dedicated to
the Tyneside Scottish and the Tyneside Irish and most
recently shows the photo of George Van Wyck Laughton, M.C.
since the start of my research. The site notes the
Tyneside Irish were the first to complete a brigade of 4
battalions (5,400 men per brigade required and as many as
13,000 raised). They first entered action at La
Boiselle on July 1, 1916 (Battle of the Somme), the worst
day in the history of the British Army (60,000 casualties -
2,100 of them from the Tyneside Irish).
This site commemorates
the return of the Colours of the 25th and 7th Battalion of
the Tyneside Irish and provides a brief and telling history
of their battle in France:
The hour of destiny
and tragedy for the Tyneside Irish came on the 1st of July
1916. It was the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the
"big push" which was to break the brutal stalemate
of trench warfare. The B.E.F. was to attack on a broad front
over about 25 miles. The Tyneside Irish were in the middle
of the line and the most dangerous part; where the Germans
were most deeply and most strongly entrenched. The ground
sloped gently downwards. It offered no cover whatsoever.
As it turned out, few
of the first wave reached the German trenches. Those who did
held on with difficulty. The Tyneside Irish quickly came
within range of the machine guns. They took heavy casualties
even before they reached the British front line. Once beyond
it, they were reaped, an eyewitness said, like rows of
Please see the main page of REFERENCE
LINKS for additional information on the Tyneside Irish
Brigade, 34th Division and the 26th Northumberland Fusiliers.
Key Dates for the 26th
The 26th Northumberland Fusiliers
formed in Newcastle on November 23, 1914 and moved to
Gateshead in January 1915, then to Woolsington Park in May
1915 (all in the vicinity of Newcastle (note: an area in
northern Scotland, not in Ireland).
The Tyneside Irish Brigade first came
under the direction of the War Office on August 27, 1915 on
the Salisbury Plain.
On January 4, 1916 after nearly a year
of training, the 34th Division ordered the mobilization of
the Tyneside Irish Brigade for service in France. At
the time Lieutenant-Colonel M. E. (Morris Ernald)
Richardson, DSO was the Commanding Officer.
The 26th Battalion sailed from
Folkestone England to Boulonge France on January 10, 1916.
From here they entrained for St. Omer and then to the
village of Blendeques. From here the 26th was
marched to billets in Wizernes.
The 26th Battalion received its
baptism of trench warfare on February 10, 1916 in the Bois
On May 4, 1916 the Tyneside Brigade
entrained at St. Omer and Wizernes for Amiens, for the
subsequent march to the front lines of the Somme. The
26th marched from Franvillers in May 1916 leaving the
trenches of Armentieres behind. On May 11th to 16th,
1916 the 26th Battalion was to the right of La Boiselle,
leading to the start of their trench raids in June 1916.
The Battle of the Somme started on
July 1, 1916. The 34th Division attacked in 4 colums
with the 103rd Tyneside Brigade in reserve along the
Tara-Usna line, with the 26th Battalion next to Becourt
Wood. Here they faced the German 56 Reserve Infantry
Brigade. That day the 26th lost 8 officers killed, 11
wounded and 148 other ranks killed and 322 wounded.
The survivors in the 26th on July 2,
1916 made their way from Belle Vue Farm and Long Valley to
Hennencourt Wood The 25th and 26th were combined and
replacements began to arrive and the Tyneside Irish was no
longer "just Irish". As we know, the
territorials even became a part! The battles continued
throughout the remainder of the year, with battalions
rotating between the front line and the reserves. In
September 1916 the 26th was sent back to the billets in
Armentieres but were back in the front lines in November
As noted on the introductory page to
the Tyneside Irish Brigade, John Sheen reports that t
The Battle of Arras was the story of
the 26th Northumberland Fusiliers in 1917, and entrance of
Grandfather George Van Wyck Laughton in March 1917.
The 34th Division was transferred from the 2nd Army to the
3rd Army on January 18, 1917 - and the movement to the Arras
Front got underway. By the beginning of March 1917,
Sheen reports that the Tyneside Brigade was assembled in the
area of Ecoivres in a camp known as "X Hutments".
A number of crossings took place into
the German lines, such as that by 2nd Lt. Hopper at the
"Pope's Nose" on March 15, 1917. The main
attack took place on April 9th and 10th, 1917 in concert
with the Canadian's at Vimy on the left flank. The
34th Division was to take High Ridge on which stood the farm
"Le Point du Jour". We are now at the
point that Grandfather Laughton's ROCLINCOURT Trench Map and
his battle orders tell the story of that fateful Easter
Sunday of April 9, 1917:
the Battlefield Notebook of George Van Wyck Laughton, April
At zero hours we leave our
assembly trenches and push forward as soon as possible. The
whole idea being to get into "No Mans Land"
before Hun barrage starts. 24th & 25th take first two
german lines. Short yards at first line. Barrage works back
until it reaches Black Line. At 0+34 barrage lifts and 20th
B takes Black line. Meanwhile we lie at N front line
trench. Each cmp then move up without orders to German 3rd
line and try and re-organize. Do not bother about
straightness of line but follow the barrage. Barrage halts
about 300 yards in front of black line and remains about 1
hr. * 24th B organize and as barrage they creep forward at
0+2.6 . 15 minutes before this A & B leave Black Line
and move forward to within 100 yards of Barrage. As A &
B leave black line we immediately push forward into it.
When we get into BLACK we immediately organize and
Battalion - 300 yards
26th Battn - 600
* Insert here. Each cmp sends
up one platoon to take over strong point so as to leave
24th & 25th free.
Barrage remains in front of
Blue Line for 0 + 6 hours. 46 min. If we are more or less a
complete battalion 26th & 2th will take Brown line 1200
yards beyond BLUE LINE. When orders are received we will
move up beyond Blue Line and organize for attack. At 0 + 6
hrs + 31 will move up under barrage and will then work
forward about 1000 yards. Each cmp ? on 2nd Platoon front
with each platoon in two lines. 27th move up on our left.
Moppers Up will move up with leading company and clean up
trench ?. Blue and Brown lines and stick there until other
two platoons come up and then act as reserve.
leading companies take two lines in BROWN Line and third
cmp remains in first trench of Brown line and mop up.
Barrage halts in from of Brown line and we send out patrols
and LEWIS GUN sections sent forward to dig in and at night
these positions will be connected up and eventually will
become our front line.
Flank Platoons must keep
touch with people on their flanks whenever we halt in a
trench. The best way to do this is to crawl along top and
best way to get Hun is to crawl along parapet and shoot him
in the bottom of the trench. (Here remind Lewis Gunners
that they must use ? bombing fight). Also impress men of
importance of rifle and bayonet.
Each little section
freeze until any little bit of ground they get hold of and
try and get touch with remainder of platoon. Bombs carried
forward by men are not for his own use but he is merely a
carrying parties. At Brown line collect all bombs, very
lights, etc. etc. into dumps.
Prisoners. be careful that
man is sincere. IF prisoners show slightest objection leave
them there. One man ought to be enough to take care of
Trophies. none to be collected until orders are
Tricks. no helmets, flags, etc. to be
Pea Bombs. Throw one down entrance and stand
Dugouts. see that everyone is clear.
On the 27th and/or 28th of April 1917,
the 26th Northumberland Fusiliers went forwards to Roeux and
were involved in the well documented battle to take over the
Chemical Works. This is described in detail in the
Shakspear book on the 34th Division, and others. It
was at this time that the records show that Grandfather
Laughton was nearly struck by an artillery shell (the
Sergeant with him was) resulting in the burial of George for
some 5 days without food or water, and his ultimate
discharge from the service due to the "Shell Shock"
that he endured. Not only did the 26th Battalion
suffer extensive casualties at the front but it also found
that it was being fired at from the rear.
In May 1917 (Grandfather Laughton
is now on his way to Hospital in England) the Tyneside
Irish Brigade moved back to training areas in Bonneville,
returning to the front line at the end of the month to take
over the Garvelle Line in the areas of Hagricourt and
Poelcapelle. Patrolling No-Mans-Land became a way of
life for the 26th, with at least 3 patrols out every night.
The next major report for the 26th Battalionis the attack on
Triangle Trench on the night of September 3, 1917.
After 4 days at the front in late September 1917 at
Hagricourt the 26th was moved by train to the VI Corps rest
area and a hutted camp at Blairville, with the 34th Division
now in Corps Reserve. Word shortly arrived that the
34th Division was to be moved to the 5th Army and the
battalions were moved to Flanders by train, where the 26th
moved into Paddington Camp, at which the training of a host
of new recruits began.
On October 12, 1917 to battalions once
again entrained, this time for Boesinghe. Upon arrival
the battalions marched to Stray Farm, and a sea of mud,
where the 25th and 25th NF were to relieve the 4th Division
Chapter Ten of Sheen's text refers to
the disbandment of the Tyneside Irish Brigades in 1918.
In order to be able to supply the necessary reinforcements
for the western front, the Imperial War Office issues orders
for reorganization. Included in this order was the
call for the breaking up of the Service Battalions
(Kitchener's new army), which included the 26th
Northumberland Fusiliers. This order was received at
the 26th on January 31, 1918 and on February 1, 1918 the
Commanding Officer, lieutenant-Colonel M. E. Richardson read
the letter from General Byng, Commander 3rd Army to the
men. The drafts left the 26th Battalion on February 3,
1918. The unit was formally disbanded on February 27,