One of our researchers, John Groves, revealed that his grandfather had been a Leeds Pal! This is his story. Words and images are reproduced with kind permission of John.
Harry Brown (1890-1977)
His life and times
The Early Years 1890 – 1914
Harry was born in Ripon in 1890 and lived at 19 Low Skellgate Ripon with his mother, Sarah Hannah and father John Thomas. In the Census of 1901 he lived at 7 Sunnybank Street Leeds with his mother and father, sister Annie (8), and brother Ernest (5).
In the Census of 1911 he lived at 16 Delaware Street Meanwood Road Leeds with his widowed mother, his brother Ernest and his grandmother (Rebecca Orme aged 75).
At this time he was working as a warehouse man in a small ware business and his brother was an errand boy working for a draper. In the summer of 1909 he would be nearly 19 years old and it would appear he was in the army then, possibly the Territorials as I understand they went to summer camp at Marske by the Sea.
Above is a postcard to Miss F. Brown (his Aunt Florrie) from Marske by the Sea in August 1909. Harry is marked with a * on his right leg.
“Having a good time, better weather, on Sunday rained all day. Pillers (sic) and beds wet through had to change our tents round. Tomorrow we are out for a day leave at 7 o’clock and come back at 7 – on Friday. Harry.”
In this image below, Harry appears to be in the Territorials. He is fourth from left in the middle row.
The War Years
He joined the 15th (Service) Battalion (1st Leeds) (Leeds Pals) when it was formed in September 1914 in Leeds by the Lord Mayor and then moved to Colsterdale.His number was 15/120. In June 1915 he moved to Ripon and joined the 93rd Brigade of the 31st Division.
On 10th August he moved to Fovant, Salisbury Plain.
In December 1915 he set sail for Alexandria in Egypt to defend a section of the Suez Canal defences.
In March 1916 he left Port Said with the 31st Division aboard HMT Briton bound for Marseilles in France, a journey which took 5 days. They travelled by train to Pont Remy, a few miles south east of Abbeville and marched to Bertrancourt arriving on 29 March 1916.
He was engaged in various actions on the Western Front including the Battle of Albert and the Battle of the Ancre. In 1917 he was in the operations on the Ancre, the third Battle of the Scarpe and the capture of Oppy Wood.
On 17th December the Battalion was amalgamated with the 17th Battalion to form the 15/17th Battalion.
In 1918, Harry was involved in the Battle of St Quentin, the Battle of Bapaume, the first Battle of Arras, the Battle of Estaires, the Battle of Hazebrouck, the defence of Nieppe Forest, the attack at La Becque, the capture of Vieux Berquin, the Battle of Ypres and the action of Tiegham.
Finally, on 11.11.1918 the War ended at Renaix, Belgium.
On the Nominal Roll he is given as 15/120 Pte Brown, no initial, Machine Gun Section, driver of M.G.Wagon No.9, with Nos. 38 & 44, who could be other men with him i.e. 15/38 (unknown) and 15/44 William Ayrton)
On the Application List there is an H.Brown of 16 Delaware Street, Meanwood Road, Leeds,
enlisted 5/09/14, medical 10/09/14.
Harry is fourth from the right in this image, holding a brush
He sent the postcard below to both his Aunt Flo and Annie Schofield – his future wife. Harry is fourth from the right, holding a shovel.
Will write letter later
A Company 120.
Dear Aunt Flo.
Having a very good time, very cold and raining hard tonight. We are getting plenty to eat. I have joined the pioneers, do not go out of camp. Harry
Photographs from 1915
He was married on 5th June 1915 although beforehand there had been an exchange of letters between his mother and his Aunt Florrie (28th April) and also between his Aunt Florrie and him (2nd May). He also had to write to his wife asking her to get a Special Licence (Friday) and there was an exchange of letters with Leyburn S.O. (22nd and 26th May)
The first is a letter from Harry’s mother to his aunt Florrie, dated 28th April 1915.
Your letter took me by surprise, as I was told last week, that Harry was thinking of getting married, he had told the other officers servants wife (sic). When I asked him, he said he was only teasing them. I told him that Annie had a right to wait as if I could save a little now I might take a little business after, but I am not going to stand in his light, if he wants to get married, let him do so as I shall try to get some work, but I think they ought to allow me something, and still save, as I expect Annie would still work at home, and I have given them 2 shillings and 6 pence or 3 shillings every week out of mine and he had nothing stopped out of his money until Dec. as I paid all the 3 shillings and 6 pence after I got mine. I am busy cleaning too, I have had the bedrooms papered and new oilcloth. I shall finish them today, perhaps if I had known I should have been afraid to speculate. I don’t know anything wrong about Annie, and he should know his own mind, if he does marry I hope he will try and make a good husband. I shall pull through alright, but when he ask the Colonel consent, he ought to let me know. I have not heard from Ernest yet, I wrote a postcard to Strensall yesterday to know if he was there as I want to send him something, he as never (sic) been so long in writing before I hope he is not ill.
We are all fairly well
What does Annie think about it?
The next letter is one to Harry from his aunt Flo, dated 2nd May 1915.
My Dear Harry
You have no idea how disappointed I was at not seeing you on Thursday night. I stood for an hour and a quarter at the Clock Tower waiting for you and then missed you after all. Were you very tired when you got back to Colsterdale? I hear that you are moving this week to Denton Park near Ilkley. Is it true? I was rather surprised as to the contents of your last letter. Really Harry, I don’t know what to say – I wish you had talked the matter over with your mother when you were at home. I thought your mother ought to know and have a voice in the matter so I wrote her and am enclosing the letter for you to read. Please destroy when you have read it.
Are you quite sure that you would be able to save money if you got married. I hope you have really thought seriously about it, Harry, for you know, it is no use getting married
unless you can afford to keep a wife. You know it costs more to keep 2 than 1 and have you got anything saved wherewith to start a home. Even a little house needs may things – more than you think of and you are always wanting something. It is foolishness getting married and having a hard struggle afterwards. It is much better to have saved something first. If I was in a position to help you I should be most happy to do so, but I have had a hard struggle this last year or two to keep things going to make business pay. You know Harry there are three of us to keep and I have had a lot of expenses in various ways for Father and I am not strong myself and have heavy doctors bills. No one knows what a worry business has been to me lately. Now, Harry I hope you quite understand that I am not at all against you being married if you are sure you are in a position to do so, but I do want you to realise what a very serious matter it is and not to make either Annie I – or yourself miserable. So far as I know, Annie seems a nice girl and I hope that she may make you a good wife, but you must also remember to do your part and make her a good husband.
Will you think the matter over carefully, both of you, as if you do get married my one wish for you both would be perfect happiness and I know this would not be if there were drawbacks in other ways. I want you Harry to do the best for your Mother, for Annie I and for yourself. I do not wish you to do anything but what you know to be right towards Annie. Do write and tell me what she thinks about it.
I think Cyril would be married very quietly in the I of Man on Thursday but we have not heard anything since.
– No guests – just the clergyman and 2 witnesses. – Don’t you think it best? I shall look for a letter from you in reply to this telling me what you think best. – Annie says that you ought to wait until the war is over.
Much love, Flo
The following is a letter that Harry sent to his future wife referring to the solicitor’s letters and telling her to get a Special License from St. John’s Church, Leeds.
My dear Nance,
Just a few lines in answer to your letter.I think Annie’s letter was very nice. Well pet I have had another letter from Leyburn, it is no use wasting our time with him, what you better do is go down to St.John’s Church and tell him you want a Special Licence so that we can be married June 5th do not let us have to postpone it as it is very bad luck, you must let me know by Sunday how you go on,as me and Dick will have to put in for leave by Tuesday, also let me know how much it will cost. I believe there is a reduced rate for soldiers, do not let there be anymore blunders. I should go down tomorrow, also to the Registrars and tell him what you think about him. I shall have to go down to Healey Church on Sunday for the Certificate that is no good. Well pet only another week and then all being well you will be my little wife. I have a lot of news to tell you when I see you, but I have not time to write it all down. I have not wrote (sic) to Blackpool yet, but will so as soon as ever you let me know for certain that you have made everything right for us to be married on Saturday so don’t forget to let me know by return, because of having to put in for our leave.
So goodnight pet
Your loving hubby
PS Excuse writing post time
The next is a letter from Leyburn S.O. regarding the wedding –
I received your letter this morning but do not understand the position.
The Superintendent Registrar at Leeds sent me a copy of the Notice given to him and as explained in my last letter so far as I am aware a corresponding Notice should have been given to me. St John’s Church, New Briggate, Leeds is I assume Church of England and that the consent of the Incumbent has been given to the marriage taking place there.
Unless a Notice is given to me I cannot issue a Certificate and then only 21 days after as explained. I am writing to the Leeds Officials about the case as I wish to assist you as far as I possibly can.
There was a further letter from Leyburn S.O. on 22nd May 1915 –
I am informed by the Superintendent Registrar of the Leeds District that on the 11th.May inst. Annie Schofield of 58 Queens Place, Leeds gave a Notice of Marriage with you to take place at St.John’s Church, New Brigggate, Leeds.
I have now to point out to you that the marriage cannot take place until a corresponding notice has been given to me as the Superintendent Registrar of the District in which you reside and 21 clear days shall have elapsed from the date on which you give the notice.
If you will write me saying on what day and time you propose coming to give the notice I will arrange to be at home and under the circumstances I will not object to you coming after office hours if this will be of any convenience to you.
Following this – an apology from the registrar office –
1st June 1915
Dear Mr Longbottom,
Thanks very much indeed for your letter which has relieved me greatly. I returned
on Saturday from a weeks holiday(?) and was rather upset to find a mistake has been made. Will you be good enough to return to the parties the 2/- paid at this office
Above is the certificate of Banns, and below is the marriage certificate.
The happy couple – pictured above.
Below is a letter from Harry to his wife, in which he tells her he is going to Fovant.
My darling wife
Just a few lines in answer to yours, sorry could not answer before I have no time everything is upside down, last night it was 9 o’clock when I got back from the station. I have been in Ripon 3 or 4 times with my waggon. I called down at P Rd (36 Princess Road Ripon) twice yesterday in the morning and at 8 o’clock last night, they must have thought I got nothing to eat with having been on C.B. as they sent me a letter
yesterday morn with 6 in, when I called in the morning they gave me a parcel of pies etc also 2/6 at night another parcel also. I saw Aunt Emily she gave me 3 packets of cigs,also a parcel of Buns, so don’t you think I have done well. I felt awfully upset on Sunday night it cut me up quite.
As much as you love and to make matters worst the Corporal starting having a say about pulling up when I met you, I told him off. I said if the Colonel had been in front I would have pulled up, we are just like slaves but there will come a time someday when we can straighten up with such bugars.(sic) Well about seeing me it has been given out that we leave here Friday night 6.20, we don’t touch Leeds we change at Holbeck, that means it will be about 7.30 when we arrive. I will look out for you pet, but I do not know whether I shall be able to get to you. I have seen a P.C. from one of the Advance Party and they say that this place is worse than Colsterdale, so we look like having a good time, I don’t think. Well pet I shall have to close as it is now time for stables
Goodbye for the present
From your loving Husband
Kind regards to all, if I hear anything different will let you know.
This undated postcard was sent to his uncle John and shows the Battalion Transport School.
On Active Service.
Dear Uncle John,
I am sending you a PC of the fellows which have been with me on the course. You will notice that nearly every regiment in the British Army is represented. Hoping that you are in good health. love to all, Harry
This postcard was sent to his wife, from Fovant in October of 1915.
Thanks very much for parcel. This is a view of our camp. Will write a letter later. I am now at Tilbury expect to arrive back in camp about 1 o’clock in the morning, was 11 o’clock last night when I got in, very bad travelling, the mules were sliding all over the place.
Fovant to Egypt and France (December 1915-June 1916)
In December 1915 he went to Eygpt and the Battalion took over a section of the Suez Canal defences. In March 1916 he went to France and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including the Battle of Albert and the Battle of the Ancre.
The Battalion left Fovant at 10.25pm on 15th December 1915. Harry was in ‘A’ Company under Lt. Colonel S.C.Taylor. They entrained on 6th at 12.25am for Liverpool arrived at 9.45am and embarked on HMT Empress of Britain.
They set sail on 7th (a day late due to damage to stern), passed Straits of Gibraltar on 11th. On 13th they ran into and sank SS Dajarana carrying mail from Salonika and Malta and berthed in Valetta harbour at 6.00pm. They set sail again on 17th and on 18th they sighted and fired at a submarine which gave up the chase. They arrived at Alexandria on 19th and set sail for Port Said the next day.
They arrived on 21st, disembarked on 22nd/23rd and took up their Quarters at No.8 Camp near Port Said Railway Station. On 28th some men went to El Kab Port, 18 miles down the line on the Suez Canal bank, some to Kantara 25 miles down the line and some to Ballah 32 miles down the line. The Battalion left Port Said on 30th and ‘A’ Coy took up position at Spit Post 22 miles away.
On 19th January 1916 all posts were recalled to Kantara. An advance Party went to Point 80, 8 miles east of Kantara on 20th to prepare camp for the remainder of
the Battalion. The remainder of ‘A’ Coy left Kantara on 22nd for Point 80
‘A’ and ‘D’ Coy started digging the front line trenches N.E. of Point 80 on 28th and on 31st at Point 80 E of Kantara they held field firing practice.
Two Platoons of ‘A’ & ‘D’ Coy were at Point 80 E of Kantara on 1st February 1916
General Sir Archibald Murray K.C.B.,K.C.M.G.,C.V.O.,D.S.O. Commander-in-Chief (MED. Exp. Force) inspected trenches built by 15th West Yorks Regiment at Point 80 on 12th February and congratulated them through Lt. Col.S.C. Taylor the Commanding Officer. 3 & 4 Platoons moved from Hill 80 to Hill 40 as an advance party on the 19th and the rest of ‘A’ Coy moved to Hill 40 on 21st.
The remainder of the Battalion moved to Hill 40 on 23rd, 93rd Brigade HQ
On 29th the Battalion moved to Kantara from Point 40. The Battalion moved out of camp on 1st March and went by train to Port Said where they embarked on H.M.T. Ascania bound for Marseilles.
They disembarked on 8th and caught a train, destination unknown.
They arrived at Pont Remy on 10th and marched to Neuville-au-Bois and Forceville ‘A’ Coy were billeted at Neuville-au-Bois. Their billets were vacated on 25th and the Battalion arrived at Araines at 12.10pm and billeted for the night. They left Araines on 26th, passed through Soues, Hangest and Bourdon before arriving at Vignacourt and billeted for the night. They left Vignacourt next day passing through Flesselles, Talmas, Le-val-de-Maison to Beauquesne and billeted for the night.
On 28th they left for Mailly-Maillet passing through Marieu, Vauchelles, Lovencourt, Bertrancourt and Beaussart. The Battalion paraded in Mailly-Maillet on 29th and marched to the trenches 800 yards ESE of Auchonvillers. where they relieved the 8th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.
Coys ‘C’ and ‘D’ were in the front line, ‘B was in support with ‘A’ Coy in reserve at Auchonvillers. The sector of trenches taken over was from a position exactly opposite Hawthorn Redoubt to a point 600yds west of the Redan. On 3rd April The Battalion was relieved in the trenches by the 1st Battalion K.O.S.B.Regiment and
marched through Auchonvillers to and billeted at Mailly-Maillet. Next day they marched to and billeted at Bus-les-Artois. They marched to and billeted at Courcelles on 20th for four days.
On 25th they went into the trenches to relieve the Bradford Pals, ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ Companies went into the front line and with ‘D’ in reserve.
On 26th the Pals suffered their first casualty due to enemy action
The Battalion was relieved on 28th April by the 14th York and Lancaster Regiment (Barnsley Pals) and marched by sections via Colincamps and Courcelles to Betrancourt where they were billeted.
The second tour of duty in the trenches had been a salutary experience for the Pals and the Battalion was now at war. In early May The Pals moved to billets in Bus-Les- Artois and Lt. Colonel Taylor went home on leave. They moved to Courcelles on 14th May and next day to Bus-Les- Artois.
On 19th The battalion marched along the communication trenches. ‘A’ and ‘D’ Companies went into the firing line on the left and right respectively with ‘A’ Company in Monk trench and ‘D’ in the Catacombs.
On 20th May 1916, the same day Colonel Taylor was wounded in the leg, Harry sent this Post Card to his wife:
Dear Nance, In the pink. Writing letter tomorrow. Hoping you are all well With love, Harry.
On 22 May The Germans tried to get into trenches but were driven back and later the German artillery shelled the front trenches. This was the Leeds Pals’ first encounter with the enemy, 15 men were killed, 34 wounded and 3 missing.
The 93 Brigade was relieved by 92 Brigade on 24th and the 12th Battalion.The East Yorkshire Regiment took over the trenches held by the Leeds Pals.
Sunday 28th – Day off.
On 3rd June the Pals were ordered to prepare themselves for another spell in the trenches. The Battalion took over the centre of the divisional sector on 4th June with ‘A’,’B’ and ‘C’ Coys in the trenches and ‘D’ Coy in reserve. They were under fire in the trenches for 8 days in miserable weather.
They left for billets in Bus-Les-Artois on 12th
Orders were issued on 19th that most of 93 Brigade [The three WY battalions in the Division, the 15th (Leeds Pals), 16th (1st Bradford Pals) and 18th (2nd Bradford Pals) with the 18th D.L.I. formed the 93rd Infantry Brigade] would move to Gezaincourt for training for the forthcoming battle but the Leeds Pals and three companies of the 18th D.LI. had already been briefed just behind the lines and returned to Bus-Les-Artois on 25th. The artillery bombarded the German trenches on 24th with the day of the attack drawing nearer. The Leeds men held a party in the evening of 24th the at Bus-Les-Artois.
On 28th Zero hour was postponed from 29th June to 1st July because of appalling weather and the conditions of the trenches.
The Leeds Pals were to lead 93 Brigade into the attack followed by the 1st and 2nd Bradford Pals and the 18th D.L.I. Their objective was to link up with 94 Brigade to create a defensive line North of Serre and to advance on a two-company front in successive waves. The enemy trenches had been marked in different colours on briefing maps and each man was given a coloured ribbon to tie on his shoulder to ensure he ended up in the right place.
On 29th just before their march into the trenches the Pals paraded for inspection in a courtyard at Bus-Les-Artois when two primed grenades being redistributed went off killing one man and wounding fourteen others.
On 30th The Pals began their log march into their trenches and while they waited in the assembly trenches for Zero hour (7.30.am 1st July) they came under heavy German artillery fire. ‘C’ and ‘D’ Coys in the front line and ‘A’ and ‘B’ in the second.
‘A’ Coy reached its allotted position during the night 30th June/1st July.
France: July 1916-1918
The Battles of the Somme, 1916
The attack on Serre and Pendant Copse
On 1st July all troops were in position by 4.30am and by 6.00am a thick haze hung over the battlefield. The artillery stepped up the bombardment for an hour before Zero hour to make doubly sure that the Pals met no resistance and the air was full of the noise of war.
The 15th were to assault the enemy trenches facing the 93rd Brigade front from opposite Matthew Copse to approximately where Ten Tree Alley cut into the
Sunken Road running South West from Serre. They were to assault the first three lines of the enemy’s trenches and establish themselves in the fourth line i.e. the first
At 7.20am waves of ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies climbed out of the trenches and lay
down on the tapes in no mans land to await the signal to attack. In their trenches the
Germans had survived the bombardment and when the platoons in no mans land stood up at the signal and tried to advance they were wounded or killed where they lay.
Under heavy enemy fire terrible casualties were suffered by the Pals and by 7.30am they had been almost wiped out. The attack eventually ground to a halt under heavy fire and the Pals who had not been killed outright took cover in shell holes.
In the trenches of the British front line, the men who were to follow the fighting waves prepared to go over although it was clear that the attack had fallen into chaos under the murderous fire pouring from the German lines.
By nightfall on 1st July the 15th Battalion had lost 24 officers and 504 other ranks and was practically non existent. Of the 1275 volunteers when the Pals were first recruited 107 were lost on this day.
On 2nd July they were in Legend and spent time collecting the wounded, burying the dead and reorganising the scattered ranks together with the Bradford Pals.
The Pals stayed in the line until 5th July and when the battalion was relieved in the afternoon an estimated 47 of the men who had gone into the attack marched out.
On 6th July the battalion was paraded and addressed by Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Watson, the V111 Corps Commander and every man received a printed letter of congratulations from him.
The men then marched to Beauval. On 7th they marched to billets at Fienvillers and on 8th they marched on to Contevilliers and put on a train for Burette. Eventually they marched to Busnes where on 10th they were addressed by Divisional Commander, Major-General Wanless O’Gowan who also congratulated them.
The men who survived the attack had also been addressed soon after their return by their Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Ingles whose speech was not well received.
He said “You’ve done a good job chaps,you’ve done a very good job.” When a soldier said “We’ve hell as like,we’ve lost” the Brigadier said “Don’t talk like that”
The soldier replied “Have we won? because if we’ve won, God help us if we lose”!
On 15th July The Pals marched to Lestrem where they stayed for 10 days and on 24th the Battalion marched to billets at Vieille Chapelle in readiness for the next spell in the line. On 27th the Brigade took over the sector with Leeds Pals in Brigade Reserve, but after heavy bombardment they went into the trenches
By 4am next day they were stood down. Later that morning a company from the Battalion was sent to support the 18th Durham Light Infantry in their sector of the line.
On 4th August the men in the trenches were relieved and on 9th moved to Festubert and took over the second line while the rest of the Brigade went into the front line.
On 18th The pals moved into the front line. They came under heavy bombardment on 20th and on 26th the battalion was relieved.
On 1st September they returned to the front line. During the night 3rd/4th they were relieved and went back to billets at Vieille Chapelle. They went back into line on 11th and on 14th came under artillery bombardment and heavy trench mortaring.
They came out of the trenches on 16th and during the rest of September and early October The Pals had three more spells in the trenches as always with some casualties
On 3rd October the 31st Division was relieved in the line and 16 &18th Battalions moved to Bethune and on 15th to Gorre On 7th October the 31st Division was transferred from X1 Corps to X111 Corps and the Battalion moved by train to Doullens and marched to billets at Famechon. On 17th they moved to Brigade Reserve at Courcelles ready to take its turn in holding the line on Hebuterne Plain.
Training commenced and reinforcements arrived
On 20th 102 of Colonel Taylor’s “Old Boys” were given good conduct stripes
From 20-30th when in the line in the Helvert sector all ranks had an arduous time, rain, heavy shelling, gas attacks, and young inexperienced men drafted in after a few weeks training delayed work. On 28th a raid made by The Pals came under gas attack
On 30th 93 Brigade marched back to Couin,Thievres & Coigneux and on 31st the 15th Battalion was in the right support in the Hebuturne sector from John Copse to the sunken road in K.17.a On 7th November 93 Brigade moved back to Hebuturne sector and suffered heavy shelling with 55 casualties killed and wounded during the day.
On 11th November the Battalion was relieved but after a short rest the Pals were back in the front
line with ‘A’ & ‘B’ Coys in the front line and ‘C’ & ‘D’ in the support lines
They were shelled continuously until they were relieved on 27th
They were paraded next day and given an opportunity to have a bath
On 29th working parties resumed and during December the Pals had two more duties in the trenches. On Christmas Day all work stopped and they were given Yorkshire Pudding, turkey and goose, beef, potatoes and cabbage plus a bottle of Bass beer, a tin of fifty Gold Flake cigarettes, an apple, an orange and two candles. There was a concert in the evening in a Church Army hut at Authie.
On 31 December 1916 two companies of the 15th West Yorkshires were in Autheux and two in St Leger.
On 5th January the battalion was paraded and each man was issued with a new “small box
respirator” which was more efficient and comfortable than the old ‘PH’ gas-helmets
The rest of the month was spent training with special stress placed on getting the men fit as all had to take place in Divisional and Brigade sports in February.
On 25th February The Pals returned to the trenches at Hebuterne and ‘C’ Coy entered the German front line without opposition.
Next day they found the enemy had vacated its second and third lines. By 28th the Brigade was in control of Rossignol Wood which had been the German fourth line, more than one mile from the British Line of July 1916.
Now that the Germans had withdrawn and left Serre the Pals had the opportunity to search their July 1st battlefield thoroughly to see if they could identify fallen comrades and give them decent burials.
March and April were spent working training and moving from billet to billet.
During the night 29/30th April the Pals took over trenches in the right sector of the line just North-East of Arrass.
At 3.45am on 3rd May they attacked and got into the German front line but under heavy enemy fire they returned to their own lines. The survivors of the battle were relieved late at night on 4th. Early next day they arrived at St Catherines and were back in camp later that morning but in the evening after resting and cleaning equipment were formed up and marched to the trenched to relieve the 12th York and Lancasters in Brigade Reserve.
They were relieved on 13th May and on 16th went again to support lines in Reserve. They were relieved again on 19th and marched to Ecurie where they were reunited with the details left behind while they were in the trenches.
On 9th June the Pals went into trenches again in Gavrelle until 15th and suffered casualties before moving to Brigade Reserve.
They moved back in line on 21st June and after relief on 28th until 18th July they were called on for working parties.
Brigade Sports were held at Mont St Eloy the following day and again the Pals came on top
They went into trenches near Neuville St Vaast on 21st and remained there until the end of the month.
At the beginning of August the pals were in reserve providing working parties andreturned to the trenches on 16th. They moved into the support line on 24th August and remained there until 4th September when they moved to Ecurie for two weeks where they were joined by reinforcements. On 17 they went into the trenches again in Arleux Sector
They were relieved on 25th and moved into the support line to work on the trenches
On 6th October Lt. Colonel Taylor resumed command and the Pals proceeded to Ecoivres for training. They returned to front line trenches again on 13th October and on 19th went back into the support line for a week during which time they spent nights working on the trenches.
After returning from the trenches on the 25th they spent the rest of the month working behind the lines often under artillery fire.
The Battalion moved to Ecurie and continued its training and providing working parties. The Pals went back into the trenches on 9th November in the support line before taking over the front line on 16th. After their relief on 27th they went back into the support line and on 29th they took over from the 18th Durham Light Infantry in “close support.”
On 4th December they were relieved and went to Brigade Support at Roclincourt Camp
On the morning of 7th they were joined with the “Leeds Bantams” (17th Battalion) to form the 15/17th Battalion.
The Pals went back into the front line trenches at Arleux on 22 December and spent Christmas there. When the Battalion returned from the trenches on 28th it made its way to Ecurie Wood Camp where next day it celebrated its belated Christmas.
A marquee had been erected and after Christmas Dinner, served in three sittings, the pantomime Aladdin was performed by the ‘Owls” who were the Battalion concert party society. The whole Battalion had supper in the marquee and every one was given a present by the Colonel, the men a silver-plated cigarette-case engraved with a New Year message of good wishes signed by Stuart Taylor.Christmas card and dinner menu, 1917
So ended the Pals’ second year of trench warfare in France. The surviving few of Colonel Taylor’s “Old Boys” were now tough soldiers of two major offensives looked up to by the conscripts sent to replace the nerve ending casualties. On their tunics the original volunteers now sported good conduct chevrons.
a selection of Harry’s postcards – including a Christmas card sent to his wife (top)
The 15th/17th spent a comfortless January in the trenches of the Arleux sector or in Lancaster Camp, Mont St. Eloy. The whole of February was spent in billets in Mont St. Eloy or in support at Arleux or providing working parties near St. Catherine.
At the beginning of March the Pals were in G.H.Q. Reserve at Caucourt undergoing training and on 12th March a Battalion Sports day was held which ‘A’ Coy won and records show that Entry 13 in the long jump at 12 noon was Pte Brown ‘A’ Coy (could this have been Harry?)
THE SECOND BATTLE OF THE SOMME
When the German offensive opened on 21st March the 15/17th (31st Division) were still at Caucourt in training and next day they were taken by bus to Blairville. On the night of 23rd they took up position near Judas Farm just west of St Leger.
Early on 24th the Germans attacked and during the night attacked again. On 25th March the Battalion withdrew by night to Bayelles-Ervillers road. There was further withdrawal on the 26th to the Cemetery at Hamelincourt, where under heavy artillery and
machine gun fire they had many casualties.
The withdrawal continued on 27th to a position south east of Moyenneville and they suffered many casualties with fire so heavy that wounded could not be withdrawn.
The enemy attacked from the flank and rear and only seven officers and 101 soldiers were taken prisoner when the Battalion was finally surrounded
On the 28th four officers and 114 other ranks who had remained behind when the fighting began proceeded from Bienvillers to the line and established themselves in the support line east of the road from Boiry to Ayette.
At last on 31st the Battalion was relieved and all that remained of the Leeds Pals moved into billets at Guadiempre. Resuming their journey on 1st April they ended up in Hermin on 2nd. On 5th 503 other ranks joined from England to bring the Battalion up to strength. They were inspected by Lt. Col.S.C.Taylor who informed them that he would not be returning to command them as he had been promoted Brig. General in command of the 93rd Infantry Brigade.
The Battalion returned to billets at Caucourt where it had been in March and training recommenced on 9th April.
Later that day the Germans mounted a second offensive between Armentiers and La Bassee Canal with the main force of the attack on trenches around Neuve Chapelle manned by Portuguese troops who fled. At noon on 10th the Pals HQ received orders to go to the line but orders changed and they were bussed to Merris arriving at 5am next day where they were taken to billets and told to rest as they would be needed as Brigade Reserve.
On 11th the Battalion went into the reserve lines in support of the Barnsley Pals and 18th Durham Light Infantry who were attacking Le Becque in attempt to link up with the 40th Division. Le Becque was taken and next day the Pals were brought up from reserve to hold the left of the line east of Le Becque, as the Brigade frontage extended nearly 3000yards.
The Germans pressed on with their offensive and the Leeds Pals left out of the line were driven back under heavy fire to Merris but by the evening of 12th had left Merris and dug in along the road between Meteren and Baillieul. In the meantime the main body of the Pals took up a defensive position with the 11th Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment just north of Baillieul.
On 15th the composite Battalion was relieved and rejoined 93 Brigade HQ by then at Hondeghem, while the main body held held on to their position until 16th and arrived at Hondeghen on 17th having tried to find Brigade HQ in Borre. By this time two composite companies had been formed from those who had returned on 15th and these had been sent to take up a defensive position in front of Hazebrouck.
During the last five days in action the Pals had again suffered heavy casualties. On the 20th, the Pals went back to digging and manning a defensive line and were joined next day by 177 reinforcements and by about 35 men who had lost touch during the recent fighting
Work continued until 24th and the Pals stayed in line until 27th April. On the morning of their relief Battalion HQ as bombarded with high-explosive and gas shells and suffered casualties. It was temporarily moved to ‘B’ Company HQ in the trench. The month of May was spent in training but ready to counter attack or reinforce any part of the Corps line. Enemy activity was fairly slight.
Training continued throughout June to ensure new recruits would be able to work efficiently alongside the more experienced men in forthcoming operations. Towards the end of the month an attack was to be made by 92 & 93 Brigades on La Becque Farm and the front line advanced to the road west of the farm.
Assembly trenches were dug during the night 27/28th by the 12th KOYLI and at 2.30am the Pals arrived in their positions. At zero hour, 6am artillery and trench-mortars started their bombardments and the Pals attacked with complete success, the Germans fled as the Battalion advanced and by 6.45am the objective had been taken with 26 dead, 143 wounded and 1 missing.
An expected German counter-attack did not materialise and the Pals spent July taking their turn in holding the new line which on 19th July was advanced to the stream east of La Becque Farm.
Earlier while out of the line they were entertained by the “Owls” and on 9th July inspected by S.C.Taylor, their old Colonel. The enemy was quiet during July and at the end of the month the Pals went into the trenches once more.
During this tour which lasted until 9th August they were bombarded with gas shells from time to time resulting in 4 officers and 90 other ranks requiring hospital treatment. On 24th the Pals took over the line in the Meteren area and by the end of the month there were reports that the enemy was retreating.
The Pals spent the first two weeks of September in camp training. On 13th they advanced through Bailleul and on 18th made a successful attack on Soyer Farm in the Ploegsteert sector capturing 60 Germans. They were then in camp just east of Bailleul undergoing more training until 28th September when they were called upon to form the advance guard of a brigade attack into Belgium through Neuve-Englise aimed at reaching the River at Warneton south of the Ypres Salient. Under shell-fire the attack was making good progress when Brigadier-General Stuart Taylor on his tour of inspection was seriously wounded in the head.
The advance continued despite German resistance and by 3rd October the Pals had reached the River Lys. On 11th Stuart Taylor died and was buried next day with full military honours at La Kruele Military Cementry near Hazebrouck; the scene of the Pals gallant stand in April.
The Battalion remained close to the west bank of the River Lys and the men resumed training, cleaning clothing and equipment and patrolling along the bank. On 15th October following receipt of information that the Germans were retreating orders were received to cross the River Lys and by 18th 93 Brigade had entered Tourcoing where it was enthusiastically received. The advance continued the following day across the canal at Roubaix and on the night 21/22 October an attempt was made to cross the River Escaut and establish posts on the east bank.
This time however they had caught up with the Germans and came under fire as the leading patrols attempted to cross the river. The Germans then counter attacked and tried to cross the River but were driven back suffering
heavy casualties. On 24th October the Pals patrol attempted to cross the River but under heavy fire was forced to withdraw and the following day the same happened. The 93 Brigade was relieved on 25th October, moved into billets at Mouscron and after a day cleaning up and resting moved to Staceghem arriving on 28th. On 3rd November it moved again to Ronq and on 7th to Marcke.
The Pals were ordered to advance on 9th November as the enemy had retired from the River Escaut and in the evening arrived and spent the night at Orroir. Next day they continued their pursuit and arrived at Rennaix in the afternoon
At 9.45 next day, 11th November they set off to march to Rigaudrue and at 11am while on the road the Armistice came into operation and the war was over.
Apart from a ceremonial parade on 19th when gallantry awards were presented there was little in the way of celebration.
Military training was replaced by vocational training to prepare the men for demobilisation.
Above is the card Harry sent to his wife for Christmas 1918
In February 1919 the Battalion was dismantled in Belgium.
There was to be no “welcome home” parade in the City of Leeds to echo the enthusiastic scenes of 1914/15.
Harry was discharged on 12th February 1919.