The attack on Oppy Wood, which was part of the wider Battle of Arras, would become the battle for which the Hull Pals would be best remembered. Today, for the first time, the Mail can reveal that men and officers of the three battalions, including those on attachment from other units, were killed. The youngest recorded soldier to die was year-old Private Edward Ingram, while the oldest killed was year-old Corporal.
William Bishop. Both served with the 11th Battalion. Private John Beeken, a member of 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, would later paint a vivid recollection of the battleground in his memoirs. It was hell. Our shells were shrieking over us and bursting just in front. It was a creeping barrage advancing as we moved forward.
Machine gun fire. Different coloured very lights and rockets went up over the German line.
The fumes. FOR years, there has been confusion regarding the numbers killed at Oppy Wood. From the villagers of Oppy. Extensive research by the Hull Daily Mail, using records held by the Commonwealth. This figure includes soldiers attached to those battalions, but does not include those who died later of their wounds.
The other East Yorkshire Regiment unit engaged on. As we walked on we saw a number of dead lying about. Inside the wood was a myriad of communication trenches, linking countless machine gun posts and trench mortars — the nemesis of infantry soldiers. The war diary of the 11th Battalion describes some of the challenges faced by the attackers.
Oppy Wood (Battleground Europe)
Some even attacked a third time. Aerial reconnaissance noted that some elements of the Hull Pals made it through the wood to Oppy village. I am still amazed at the casual way we piled those bodies like so many huge logs, without any sense of horror at such a gruesome task. Recommended reading: Hull Pals, by David Bilton, published by www.
Following the initial wave of enthusiasm and patriotism that followed the declaration of war in August , recruitment across the UK waned. A solution was mooted by our correspondent. Men would train and, ultimately, fight harder if they were with their friends. Other towns and cities in the UK soon followed suit, with battalions raised by committees,.
Lord Nunburnholme was asked to recruit the 1st Service Battalion in Hull. This is his remarkable account of that bloody day. And on May 3, Harrison demonstrated, once again, that he was not just a hero to the crowds he thrilled at the Boulevard, by sacrificing his life for the men under his command in the battle for which the Hull Pals would be best remembered.
I make no apology for writing this reminiscence of an occasion that affected the people of Hull as much as any other single incident in the whole struggle. I shall attempt no reconstruction of the battle, no criticism of the strategy, but set it down as Jan Ridd put it — a simple tale told simply. So far as I remember, round about Easter , the Canadians captured Vimy Ridge, and towards the end of April we marched over the Ridge and encamped in the recently occupied German trenches.
We were there four days, doing nothing in particular, and I suppose being held in reserve for the attack on Oppy. On the night of May 2nd, in fighting order and prepared for the worst, we moved up to the front.
It was a fine moonlight night, and as the front was new to us and the stupendous feat of the Canadians in taking the Ridge still fresh in our minds, we found enough to interest us in our surroundings. We were marching in column of route over a flat moonlit plain when a salvo of shells bursting amongst us suddenly scattered us. I was attached to a Lewis gun team and we occupied adjacent shell-holes and deepened them for protection. As soon as I felt safe I fell asleep. I awoke to the sound of renewed shelling and found another occupant in my shell-hole.
It was Captain Reeve, and he was as cool as though it was merely a field day. He was annoyed because B Company, or rather some members of that valiant company, in moving about had drawn the enemy artillery fire. I gathered that it was within a minute or two of zero and Captain. Reeve feared that the movement would make the enemy suspicious. Then hell broke loose, and in response to the call of the team commander I staggered out of the shell hole and ran across the broken ground.
It was dark and a heavy pall of smoke hung around. Moreover, I am not what is popularly known as built for speed, and, handicapped with panniers of ammunition and the rest of infantry kit, I was soon outdistanced. I knew shells were dropping round about simply by the sudden eruption of the ground close by.
The noise was too great for single explosions to be heard. I ran on hopefully and soon became conscious that it was getting light very quickly. After a few minutes I came up to some of the battalion and was told to lie down and keep still. I obeyed the injunction and flung myself down, glad of the respite. A chap close to me told me that the attack was a hopeless failure, and then I became conscious of a disagreeable smell. I soon discovered that I was on a dead Englishman and from all appearance a shrapnel shell had burst just above him.
At any rate, his haversack, head and shoulders, and steel helmet bore marks that would correspond to such an occurrence. So I hastily wriggled to a part of the trench that was about two feet deep, and from that position surveyed the front.
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By this time it was full daylight and the shelling had stopped. Slightly to my left the ill-fated wood splintered, but still distinctly a wood, showed clear and distinct. To my right front a few figures in grey moved about unconcernedly, searching the ground somewhat after the fashion of children looking in the pools at the seaside after the tide has gone down.
Oppy Wood th anniversary special edition by Hull Daily Mail - Issuu
I saw one group make a beckoning movement and then three khaki figures got up and moved away with them — prisoners. No one in our trench attempted to fire and we were passionless spectators of a scene that was, to me at least, dangerously near farce. A message was passed down the left to the effect that we were to move out towards our left, which sent me crawling down the narrow trench to a wider spot.
I also found that it grew deeper and I found a part with a kind of seat and quite good cover. The only drawback was that about six feet from me, and facing me, was a dead British soldier. He looked as though he was asleep, with his head resting on the side of the trench, his eyes closed, and with just a thin trickle of dried blood from the corner of his mouth.
I imagined he had been killed by the concussion from a shell exploding, because he was buried up to his waist and appeared otherwise unhurt. I thought of his relatives and wondered if they knew. It was too dangerous to move him, so I resigned myself to his quiet company for the rest of the day. The British Army Andrew Rawson. Durham Pals. Delville Wood. Nigel Cave. West Country Regiments on the Somme. Tim Saunders. Fire and Movement. August Surrender at St Quentin. The Gas Attacks. John Lee. The Western Front Diaries. Jonathan King. Villers Bretonneux. Dr Peter Pedersen. Retreat and Rearguard Jerry Murland.
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