26th NF

The Great War: Vimy Ridge
George Van Wyck Laughton, M.C.

Canadian - Serving in the British 3rd Army, 34th Division,  
26th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (Tyneside Irish)

                               


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Platoon Records

26th NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS

 

26th (3rd Tyneside Irish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (see: link)

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 located:

http://www.1914-1918.net/northfus.htm 

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 June 1916.

http://www.warpath.orbat.com/divs/34_div.htm

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.

http://warpath.orbat.com/regts/nor_fus.htm

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 27, 1918.

 

http://www.tyneside-scottish.co.uk/page3.html

                  

 

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).

http://www.stmaryscathedral.org.uk/history_architecture/tyneside_irish/index.html

                

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 wheat.

 

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 Northumberland Fusiliers:

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 Grenier Sector.

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 1916.

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:

 

From the Battlefield Notebook of George Van Wyck Laughton, April 9, 1917:

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 consolidate.
...............
Frontage
Brigade - 600 yards
Battalion - 300 yards
26th Battn - 600 yards
...............
* 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.

Two 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 10.

Trophies. none to be collected until orders are given.
Tricks. no helmets, flags, etc. to be collected
Pea Bombs. Throw one down entrance and stand at other.
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 at Poelcapelle.

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, 1918.


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