Victims of a ‘Stunt’

During October 1915, 11 DLI was involved in a bizarre piece of trench theatre, with what can only be described as the most likely consequences. The Pioneers were having one of their regular training stints in the front line trenches. Some bright spark in the military hierarchy decided that it would be a good idea to provoke the Germans with a bit of a stunt. Bear in mind that on this stretch of the line the distance across No Man’s Land was not very far at all.

On 13 October (an unlucky day for some) the lads were issued with dummies on sticks that they proceeded to wave about above the parapet of the trench, drawing the inevitable interest of the enemy. Smoke was laid down to make it look as if this was part of an attack. Not surprising then that the German artillery immediately opened fire on the British trenches, the position of which was perfectly well known to them. Three men from 11 DLI died instantly and 14 were wounded, of whom one died the following day.

Sadly I don’t know much about the four fatalities, so if anyone out there has any information I would be glad to hear from them. The four men were:

Lance Corporal 18830 Gawin Cowell

Private 3/10374 William McGregor

Private 18685 George William Ledger: aged 30, husband of Mary Jane Ledger of 2 St Bede’s Row, Birtley

Lance Corporal 13002 George Pearson: aged 23, the husband of Gladys Pearson of 71 Westminster Street, Gateshead, originally from Carlisle

Even in 1915, surely there was a less idiotic and humanly expensive way of pinpointing the location of German artillery than that? In any case they probably moved position fairly regularly. The first three men are buried at Rue du Bacquerot No 1 Cemetery and the last one, who died the day after the event, at Sailly sur La Lys Canadian Cemetery.

Remember Danny Lister

Of all the guys from 11 DLI who lost their lives 100 years ago in September 1915, perhaps the most poignant is the case of Daniel Lister. Private 17430 Daniel J Lister served in the machine gun section of C Company. It is probably fair to say that he was a ‘bit of a lad’, as he would have been described in his home town of Wingate in County Durham. During training in the UK he was confined to barracks on at least four occasions for overstaying passes and being absent from parades. It was in the pursuit of his laddish behaviour that, sadly, he was to lose his life. The events happened in the trenches near Laventie and are vividly described by his comrade Robert Bennett in a letter home:

There was a lad killed in No 2 section he belongs to Wingate it was his own fault he was getting pears about 100 yards behind the first line trench a sniper fired 10 rounds at him and he come away. He went back and was hit in the head with the 11th. He is some relation of Catherty they call him Danny Lister. He only lived a few minutes.

Danny lies buried at No 1 Cemetery, Rue du Bacquerot in the village of Laventie, not far from where he fell.

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Danny Lister’s Grave