The shelled ruins of Arras.
[Photo from Old Postcard.]
23rd APRIL. 4.15 a.m. The two Front line Btns were reported "in position and OK."|
4.40 a.m. Two tanks attached to the 50th Division moved slowly forward.
4.45 a.m. 84 Eighteen pounder guns and 30 4.5 in howitzers opened fire at once and the Infantry began to
German rockets signalled to their own Artillery and their barrage descended about 40 seconds afterwards.
About 100 yds ahead of their own trenches the two Yorkshire Btns ran into their own barrage which was "creeping" forward
at too slow a rate. The 4th Btn suffered several casualties from our own guns.
"W" Company, on the right, met considerable opposition from rifle and machine gun fire and had to take shelter in
shell holes about 50 yds from the enemy's trenches. Not until the Company had established superiority of fire and
a tank had passed through was it possible to rush the trench which was found to be strongly held. But the Green
Howards beat down opposition and many prisoners were taken. Many dead and wounded Germans littered the trench which,
however was not in bad condition.
In the centre "X" Company had reached the enemy trench a little earlier and had less opposition, but had some 30
casualties from machine gun and artillery fire.
British burial party at Arras.
[Picture courtesy of - "The Heritage of the Great War".].
On the left "Z" Company, which had been facing North East at zero hour swung
round, aligned themselves with "X"
Company and reached the German front line with few casualties and less opposition than the other Companies.|
The Battalion, by now considerably thinned out, but still a continuous line, then moved East to the German Support
5.25 a.m. The Support Trench was reached and found to be broad and literally filled with dead Germans, except
for the occupants of two deep dug-outs on "X" Coy's front. No prisoners were taken here.
By this time our line had become very thin. No East Yorks were observable on the right and the 44th Infantry Brigade
appeared not to have progressed on the left. The Battalion, however, moved forward and captured a 3 gun howitzer
[This was the dilemna of trench warfare. Here the 4th Yorks Bn were strong enough and brave enough to punch a hole in the opposing
trenches. But the forces at either side had not made the same advance and therefore the Yorks ended up being fired on from three sides.
The other problem was re-supply of weighty ammunition. Each man carried 150 rounds of ammo which must have been quickly fired off and
therefore many offensives soon stalled.]
6.05 a.m. Began to dig in along a line 100 to 200 yds West of the first objective. Enemy rifle and
Artillery fire had practically ceased, but Machine Gun fire was increasing in intensity and a particularly deadly
stream of bullets was directed on to our left flank from a farm North of the Cojeul River and East of
Guemappe. Captain Hirsch [now the only Officer left] therefore established a defensive flank with half of "Y" Company
along a line above and parallel to the River Cojeul. With the remainder of the Battalion [about 150 men] he decided
to hold on to his position and sent back for reinforcements and Small Arms Ammunition.|
The Battalion had no contact with the East Yorkshires on the right. They had lost all their Officers earlier in
the attack. Neither had the Divisions to either side progressed and the 4th Yorks Btn found themselves surrounded
by Germans on three sides.
6.30 a.m. "A" Coy of the 5th Durham Light Infantry were sent up to reinforce and with ammunition, the special
object of this Coy was to try to extend our line on the right across the railway and if possible get in touch with
the 5th Yorks Btn.
They finally reached our line and established themselves across the railway but found their right
flank as much "in the air" as "W" Coy's had previously been.
7.15 a.m. Capt Hirsch [who had previously been wounded was killed and Mr Luckhurst of the T.M Battery appears to
have taken over the Btn for a short time. His fate is now uncertain.
7.40 a.m. The Btn appears to have maintained itself near the first objective ["Z" Coy being slightly forward,
"W" Coy swung back and forming a defensive flank facing South East.] for a matter of something over an hour and a
half. But by 7.30 the Germans were seen massing for a counter-attack. One party were creeping down the low ground
along the Cojeul. Others were seen coming forward from the trenches in from of Vis En Artois. A third block of men
on our right rear previously mistaken for the East Yorks were now observed to be Germans. A retirement in successive
phases was therefore undertaken - first to the German 2nd line, then to his first and finally to our front line.
The whole withdrawal was carried out under heavy Machine Gun fire and directed by not more than half a dozen junior
N.C.Os, who state that throughout the line was under control and that with sections of riflemen constantly fought
rearguard actions to cover the retirement of the rest.
8.10 a.m Our men were back in our Front line. They state that to their knowledge no unwounded prisoners were
taken. Casualties since 21st were 3 Officers killed, 7 wounded and 1 missing, believed killed.
352 other ranks were killed, wounded or missing; the proportions not immediately ascertained.
6.0 p.m. The remnants of the Btn under Major Stead remained in our front line in support to the attack by
the 9th Durham Light Infantry and the 5th Border Regt. Btn HQ moved back to Wancourt.
150th Brigade Diary report of the day:-
[kindly contributed by Mike Cave of Darlington.
His Great Uncle was 3863/241494 Pte Frederick Vincent.
He was a native of Lingdale, N Yorks and like most people in the area was an Ironstone Miner. He had enlisted at Whitby, age 19, in the 5th Yorks Battalion and first went to France on 12th May 1916.
In the offensive on the Somme in September 1916 he had received several wounds to his arm, face and back. After treatment at Abbeville and Le Treport he rejoined his Battalion in October.
In January he was treated for chilled feet, an indication of conditions in the trenches in the Somme area in Winter.
He was badly wounded this day, repatriated to the UK and eventually discharged from the Army.
He returned to work as a miner in Liverton Mines, N Yorks and died in 1972.]
VI and VII Corps resumed the attack on the enemy today.
In accordance with O.O. 92 dated 22nd April 1917 and appendixes &c attached 150th Inf Brigade being the assaulting Brigade of 50th Division attacked the enemy at 445am. 149th Inf Brigade being in support and 151st Inf Brigade in Reserve.
30th Inf Brigade 30th Division on right.
44th Inf Brigade 15th Division on left.
Order of Battle:-
Right assaulting Batt’n. 4th East Yorks. Lt Col W T Wilkinson DSO Cmdg.
Left assaulting Batt’n. 4th Yorks Regt. Lt Col F F Deakin DSO Cmdg.
In support on right. 5th Yorks Regt. Lt Col C H Pearce Cmdg.
In support of left. 5th Durham LI. Lt Col G O Spence DSO Cmdg.
On their way to assembly positions, or previous to zero several officer casualties occurred; at least two company commanders being put out of action.
4.15am. Capt Hart (at N.24.c.0.5.) reported both front line battalions OK. Night had been quiet in front line.
Barrage started punctually – if anything a trifle early.
Within two minutes of zero enemy started putting up red lights on our front; these broke into two red stars.
By zero plus 20 minutes the enemy had ceased putting up flares.
At 430am. Two tanks were moving slowly up to their positions, one following the other at 150yards distance. At zero minus 4 minutes the leading tanks was at N24 Central moving N.E.
445am. One 18 pdr battery opened rapid fire a few seconds before zero, but otherwise the burst of fire was simultaneous from all guns and hows.
The creep of the barrage was too slow at this point, all taking part in the assault seem to agree. The men could not be got to move slowly enough, this resulting in considerable loss from our own artillery.
At 5.50am first message came in from Capt Hart N.24.c.0.5. (Advance Bde H.Q.) stating that 25 prisoners had just passed. Apparently 4th Yorks moved forward too rapidly for the barrage as they suffered from our own gunfire within the first 100 yards.
Both tanks went over punctually; enemy barrage was severe on either side of WANCOURT at 6am.
6.15am. An urgent appeal for ammunition arrived; half a Company 5th DLI was sent up to carry. This half company melted away, portions only dribbled back, mostly wounded; a certain amount of SAA was delivered to 4th East Yorks Regt.
Owing to the fact that the officer casualties were so heavy at the outset, practically no reliable information could be obtained, a few runners came in, mostly with verbal reports, those coupled with accounts of wounded were the only data from which to fix where the frontline actually was.
At 6.25am. 4th East Yorks reported that they were well on their way. Several men had been hit by our own barrage. Enemy only put up slight resistance to this battalion at the beginning of the attack.
At 6.30am. The first batch of prisoners reached Divisional cage.
4th Yorks wire timed 6.5am, stated that they were in the German second line.
At 6.40am. Telephone message from N.24.c.0.5. stated that 1st objective had been reached in our extreme right : also that a field battery had been captured, position not stated; our troops were being held up in wood 0.19.d., and position on left obscure.
At 6.44am. 4th East Yorks (Right battn) wired Support Company reported that they were in first objective.
6.45am. Message received from F.O.O. 251st Arty Bde stating that our troops had reached 1st objective in 0.20.c. and were consolidating.
At 6.55am. 4th East Yorks wired that wood in 0.19.d. was not yet taken; but that their right was in the first objective.
At 7.03am. One company of 5th Yorks was placed at disposal of 4th E Yorks. Two companies 5th Yorks moved to reinforce centre of Brigade just S. of railway about N.24.d.8.0 along O.G. frontline.
At 7.20am both assaulting Battalions were reported to have reached their 1st objectives, but no definite news of the capture of wood 0.19.d. was received.
At 7.21am. Following message timed 6.55am. Was received from OC 4th Yorks Regt :-
Situation at present is as follows:- On left 4th Yorks Regt have got 1st objective 300 prisoners, 1 battery, and personnel ; am out of touch with 4th E Yorks. 4th E Yorks have objective on right flank but are held up in neighbourhood of wood 0.19.d. by MG fire. One company 5th DLI have been sent to reinforce 4th Yorks and 1 Coy 5th Yorks sent to reinforce left flank 4th E Yorks. A MG firing from E. Of GUEMAPPE was still giving trouble at this time.
At 7.45am. 4th E Yorks reported that their left still held up by wood in 0.19.d. though some men appear to be past the wood.
At 7.55am. Capt HIRSCH Cmdg left company 4th Yorks Regt. Reported that it was impossible to check the rate of advance owing to the large number of Germans who surrendered, the men pushing on to take them, in this way the left Battalion created a very exposed outer flank.
At 8am a message timed 730am was received from liaison officer with 44th Inf Bde. To say that 2 tanks were burning on 0.19.d. and that 44th Inf Bde were held up in N.18.b. & 0.7.c.
90th Inf Bde reported their left flank forward towards 1st objective with 2 M.G.s - remainder held up in QUARRY in N.30.b.
8.05am. 100th MG Coy reported it had lost 2 guns and 1 and a half teams. Enemy barrage at this time was across N.17.d. and N.24.a.0. heavy guns and MG fire in N.15.s. and N.21.n.
At 8.07am. OC, 5th DLI was ordered to send one company up to cutting in N.19.a.1.7. He stated he thought 4th Yorks Regt were 250 yards short of their objective and that the enemy were advancing up COJEUL valley.
At 8.10am. 4th E Yorks that they are held up with left flank resting in 0.19.d.6.7. and not in touch with Battalion on their left – the enemy was massing for a counter attack.
At 8.30am. It became obvious that the situation was obscure – the flanks of each Battalion being in the air. This was actually the case, and touch was never maintained with Brigades on right and left who were always in rear; left Battalion of right Brigade is thought to have lost direction to it’s right and this would account for the enemy being able, as he undoubtedly was, to push in a counter attack through the gap thus formed.
At 8.15am. 1 Coy 5th DLI was ordered to cutting O.19.a.1.7. to guard our left flank. 24 guns were ordered to search valley from St Roharts factory to O.20.a.5.9.
BGC had had intended to move forward to N.24.a.o.5. at 8.30am but in view of the situation he decided to remain at N.15.d.4.4. until situation was cleared up.
At 8.40am. Reports from OP’s came to the effect that our men were seen moving towards wood in O.19.d. Centre and right of 15th Divn held up N and S of GUEMAPPE; enemy was seen in trench S of GUEMAPPE and N of River COJEUL, in strength.
Two companies (one 5th DLI and one 5th Yorks Regt) were pushed up to right of the tower to old German line.
At 8.50am. A wounded NCO (SGT BECKETT 4th East Yorks) reported the wood 19.d was in our hands and that A Coy had dug in E of it. This was the first definite information received on the subject; this NCO had left the firing line at about 8am.
At 9.15am. 4th Yorks were reported by Tanks to be in O.19.b.9.5. FOO reported that enemy had been seen retiring from the wood O.19.d. and that his artillery was shelling it.
At 9.30am. A message arrived from Capt Hart in N.24.c.0.5; “ At 8.15am. Brigade on left advanced against GUEMAPPE and apparently were not checked”.
9.30am. Message was received by 4th East Yorks from 17th Manchester’s (timed 8.30am.) to say they had reached 1st Objective.
9.55am. 4th East Yorks HQ telephoned that SOS signal had gone up and that enemy was massing in sunken road O.26.c. H.A.C. were at once informed as also were 90th Inf Bde and 50th Div.
9.40am. Enemy put gas and lachrymatory shells over COJEUL valley.
Capt HART telephoned that all was going well on our extreme left and right. Situation in centre still obscure. No touch with either of flanking Brigades.
9.55am. Information was received from 150th M.G. Coy that a Sergt. with 3 of the reserve M.G.’s had reported being in QUARRY N.30.b.8.3. with Manchester’s.
Capt David Philip Hirsch. V.C.
Capt Hirsch was awarded the Victoria Cross for his outstanding bravery on the
Despite being twice wounded he continued to rally his men until
he was killed.
10.0am. B.G.C. issued orders for the Brigade to resume it’s advance at 11.45am – 5th Yorks and 5th DLI being the assaulting battalions. A message was received that 2 sections of 149th and 151st M.G. Coys had moved forward to second position.|
10.20am. Following message was received from 151st Inf Bde (Addressed 5th Borders) timed 945am. “Copse in O.19.d. is reported to be in our hands. Leading lines of 150th Inf Bde are in 1st objective though line is apparently not continuous. Your leading two companies will move according to programme. Be prepared on receipt of further orders to move remainder of Battalion to bank running from N.23.d.3.0. to N.24. c.O.6. with HQ at N.24.c.O.6.
10.30am. Situation of 44th Inf Bde was sent by liaison officer.
10.50am. B.G.C informed 50th Division of situation on our left, - as it was apparent that left flank of this Brigade was in the air.
11.05am. OC 5th DLI reports by telephone to B.G.C that enemy has counter attacked heavily and broken through 4th Yorks Regt in COJEUL valley. Orders for attack on second objective were cancelled after reference to the Division.
11.20am. 5th Division wire timed 11am. “As situation of 15th Division is uncertain left of 150th Inf Bde will conform to this movement and occupy a line O.26.b.O.4. O.2.d.O.5. O.13.b.6.4. A verbal message was received at the same time from OC 4th East Yorks Regt to the effect that his Battalion was holding its original trenches with both flanks in the air.
11.25am. Flanking Brigades were informed of the change in the situation. Message was received from 50th Division timed 11.15am. “Further advance will not take place; 5th Borders will move up to bank N.24.c. at once and come under orders of 150th Inf Bde. 9th DLI will move up at once to NEPAL trench. BLUE line will be consolidated.”
11.20am. Message received from 5th DLI timed 1140am. “One Company holding sunken road in O.19.a.3.s. – Heavy casualties from M.G. fire and gas shells. There are also some men of 4th Yorks. They have sent forward an officer to reconnoitre and clear up the situation.”
Capt Geoffrey Arnold Tugwell.
11.30am. OC 5th DLI telephoned to say 5th Yorks hold tower . 4th E Yorks on their right are back in original line. 1 half Coys 5th DLI are on left of 5th Yorks.
At least 109 men of the 4th Yorks Battalion were killed in action on the 23rd.
The following 86 have no known grave and are commemorated on the Arras Memorial.
Capt David Philip Hirsch Age 20. Killed in action. Home at Westwood Grove, Leeds, Yorks.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross and had previously been wounded and mentioned in despatches.
"The London Gazette", dated 14th June, 1917, records the following:- "For most conspicuous
bravery and devotion to duty in attack.
Having arrived at the first objective, Capt. Hirsch, although already twice
wounded, returned over fire-swept slopes to satisfy himself that the defensive flank was being established. Machine
gun fire was so intense that it was necessary for him to be continuously up and down the line encouraging his men to
dig and hold the position. He continued to encourage his men by standing on the parapet and steadying them in the face
of machine gun fire and counter-attack until he was killed. His conduct throughout was a magnificent example of the
greatest devotion to duty."
Capt Geoffrey Arnold Tugwell.
Killed in action. Age 24. Home at 40, Esplanade, Scarborough.
He was born at Scarborough on the 25th of November 1892, the second son of Frank Alfred Tugwell, an architect, and Louisa A Tugwell.
He was educated at Eastman's School at Southsea and at Lancing College, Sussex, where he won an Exhibition and was in Olds House from
September 1906 to December 1909 and a member of the Officer Training Corps.
On leaving school he travelled in France and Germany to study languages there.
Following the outbreak of war he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Yorkshire Regiment on the 5th of September 1914 and was posted
to the 1/4th Battalion.
He embarked with his Battalion from Folkestone on the 17th of April 1915 and went through all the fighting at Ypres.
On the 24th of April 1915, the 1/4th Yorkshires were on the Western bank of the canal at Ypres near St Julien, where they were
moving up to help prevent a German breakthrough following their gas attack of the 22nd of April. |
While they were lying there they came under intermittent shell fire which wounded Geoffrey Tugwell and four or five other men.
He returned to the front when he took part in the fighting for the "Bluff" at Ypres in February 1916 and in the attacks on the Somme between
High Wood and Martinpuich later that year.
He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 27th of March 1916 with precedence from the 1st of August 1915.
On the 26th of September 1916, the 1/4th Yorkshires were ordered to attack the German trench known as "Crescent Alley" and to bomb their
way up it. In the event, the Division who was supposed to attack on their flank did not, and although the Yorkshires managed to get into
the German trench they were forced back to "Starfish Trench" to reform. During this attack Geoffrey Tugwell was dangerously wounded.
Read the story of how he was rescued from a shell hole in no-mans land by Sgt J F Atkinson, who was awarded the MM for his bravery:-
Tugwell was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s despatches of the 13th of November 1916 and was promoted to Captain while in command of a Company on
the 11th of March 1917.
In April 1917 50th Division, of which the 1/4th Yorkshires were part, were ordered to attack on a front of about nine miles from Croiselles
to Gavrelle to the west of Cherisy as part of the ongoing Battle of Arras.
At 4.15am on morning of the 23rd of April 1917 the 1/4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment reported that they were in position for the attack and
at 4.40am two tanks which had been attached to the Division began to roll slowly forward.
At 4.45am 84 eighteen pounder guns and 30 howitzers began firing on the German positions which immediately prompted the defenders to fire
flares in the air to signal to their artillery that an attack had begun. 40 seconds later the German counter fire came down on the attackers.
About one hundred yards from their own trench the 1/4th Battalion ran into their own barrage and suffered a few casualties. "W" Company on
the right of the attack came under fierce rifle and machine gun fire and were forced to take cover in shell holes 50 yards from the German
When the tank caught up with, and went ahead of them, they managed to rush the trench which was heavily defended but the defenders were
overcome in a brief but bloody fight.
In the centre of the attack "X" Company met less opposition and took the enemy trench with about 30 casualties from artillery and machine
At 5.25 am the surviving men of the two companies set out for the attack on the German support trench which was found to be filled with
At 6.05am they began to dig in on a line 100 to 200 yards to the west of their first objective. By this time there was only one officer
remaining from the original attack and he was soon wounded then killed.
At 7am the Germans counterattacked and by 8.10am the Yorkshires were back in own their front line where they had started some three and
half hours before.
Casualties were 11 officers and 352 other ranks killed wounded and missing.
His Colonel, F.F Deakin, wrote:-
"I regret to tell you that your son, Captain Tugwell, was killed in action on 23rd April. He was killed instantaneously and did not suffer at all. On behalf of all ranks I beg to send you our most sincere sympathy.
He was a gallant and promising officer, I had the very highest opinion of him-and his men would follow him anywhere-at the time of his death he was leading his men most gallantly in a very successful attack.
You can be very proud of him, as we all are.
Once more I send you our very sincere sympathy, and anything we can do, if you let me know, I will see it is done."
Capt Tugwell's father wrote back to one sympathiser with these far-seeing words:-
He never gave any account of what he had done or seen, never seeming to refer to the war, it was a matter of duty so manifest that there was nothing to be said about it.
Still I am as clear now as I was on the day war was declared that there is no escape from the sacrifices necessary to leave England great and free as our forebears left it for us.
If the country were to sure for a dishonourable peace, the next generation will have to again face this horrible situation.
Another officer wrote:-
"How much he was loved; how sadly he will be missed--he was one of our finest officers."
"I need not tell you what we thought of Geoffrey. He was friend to everyone-officers and men alike. His men worshipped him and would
follow him anywhere. We all knew his sterling worth on the Somme in September and I don't think his men will ever forget him."
One of his NCOs wrote:-
"To know him was to love him."
One of his men, who was on sick leave in England, wrote:-
"We're losing one of our finest young officers today, going back to France, tho' mind you he ought not to go (his broken thigh was
not perfectly healed), but he's that keen. When asked which officer he was referring to he said "Oh! we always call him "Our Tuggy".
His brother applied for his medals in February 1922.
Lt Isaac Hinton Scarth Killed in action. Age 23. Home at Stanghow House, Stanghow, Boosbeck, Yorks. Before the War he was an
articled clerk to W Richardson, Solicitors of Guisborough, N Yorks. He had been commissioned into the Bn in May 1915 and just been
promoted to Lt.
2Lt William Luckhurst. Killed in action. Age 21. Home at South Mundham, Chichester, Sussex.
202329 Pte Bailey Arthur. Home in Irthlingborough Northants. Enlisted in Northampton.
Ex 3172 Northants Regt.
200897 Pte Archer Robert. Home at 22 Boosbeck Rd, Skelton Green, N Yorks. Born Boosbeck, N Yorks.
Enlisted at Skelton in Cleveland. Age 21.
200861 Cpl Bainbridge Thomas, Lawrence. Home at 5 Castle Terrace, Richmond, N Yorks.
Enlisted at Northallerton. Age 25.
201035 Pte Baker Albert Edward Home at Scarborough, N Yorks. Enlisted at Skelton in Cleveland,
Private Thomas Edward Bell's Medals.
202226 Pte Barnett Sydney. Home at Kingsthorpe Northants, town of birth. Enlisted
at Northampton. Ex 5371 Northants Regt.|
202273 Pte Bartlett Henry, James, Edwin. Born and enlisted at Northampton.
Ex 5357 Northants Regt.
202219 Pte Bateman Harry. Home at The Lion and Lamb Inn, Daventry Northants. Enlisted at
Northampton. Age 26. Ex 5357 Northants Regt.
203108 Pte Bell Thomas, Edward. Home at 20 Beaumont St, Newcastle on Tyne, town of birth
and enlistment. Age 22.