August 1915

During August 1915, 11th DLI were based near Fleurbaix, working mostly around the small village of La Rue du Bois, just to the south of Armentieres. They were still learning the ropes, but mainly ‘on the job’, repairing and maintaining the fortifications and keeping the trenches fit for use. Those working directly in the trenches were in a vary precarious position as the gap between the British and German lines was quite short, and the village itself was a ruin. Others worked on making hurdles: woven from willow, hazel and other whippy types of wood, and used to reinforce the sides of wet trenches. Ironically, such things are now considered a ‘green’ form of fencing for the suburban garden.

The battalion suffered its first fatality on 4 August, when Private Bowlt sleep-walked out of a first storey billet window and fell to his death. Others suffered various injuries, mainly from accidents rather than hostile fire. New recruits arrived from 16th and 17th DLI (among them Corporal Thomas Bashforth, my grandfather). As an act of compassion, the McLean brothers were allowed home to West Hartlepool following the death of their father.

For more information read the book, Chapter Four, Into the Line of Fire.

More names, more discoveries

The Roll of Honour page now contains all the names of 11th DLI men for the letters A and B, spread over four pages for ease of browsing. New information keeps coming my way at regular intervals. The latest piece of such magic has been the emergence of the diaries of Sergeant George Richardson of C Company, 11 DLI. He only served with the battalion until October 1915, being transferred to the Army Service Corps as a driver in support of artillery batteries for the rest of the war. He kept a personal diary from just before he went overseas that is full of names and little stories: including incidents with his friend Sergeant Arthur Appleby. George was from Consett, survived the war, and kept many personal mementoes that are now being brought into the public domain by a grandson. This very morning I was sent a copy of the latest find: a postcard photograph of Lance Corporal Harry Seggar, who was reported missing in action 28 March 1918. Between now and 2014, we can expect the emergence of many more mementoes like this.