Beever, George Harold
Private 90934, aged 19, from Grenoside, near Sheffield, died 22 June 1918 and was buried at Étaples Military Cemetery. He was a conscript, assigned 11th DLI, B Company, from 4 April 1918.
Beever was 17 yrs and 10 months when he attested on 10 Feb 1917. He was not mobilised until 4 June 1917, when he attended for medical. A drill grinder from Grenoside (Kings Terrace, Main Street) he was born 17 April 1899, was 5ft 7in, 35in chest, 128lbs, dark brown hair, with a scar on his left wrist and forearm, C of E. His father was Joseph Beever. His mother Mrs Eleanor Beever was provided a 12/6 pay allowance (allowed until 27 Jan 1919 after his death). He had three brothers and three sisters all at home. His will dated 5 April 1918 left all his personal effects to his mother.
From 4 June 1917 he went to 12 Training Reserve Battalion at Brocton with the regimental number 17386, and then on to 27 TRB from 19 September 1917. On 1 November 1917 he was allocated to 52 DLI at Chelmsford. He was passed fit for overseas duty on 4 April 1918 and became part of the new intake for the badly depleted 11 DLI, with his new number 90934, serving with B Company.
His active service life was brought very short when he was admitted to 62 FA on 11 June 1918 with pleurisy. By 14 June he was at 57 CCS who passed him quickly on to 42 Stationary Hospital, where he died on 22 June 1918 of ‘pleurisy with effusions’. Among his papers is a full post mortem report, which indicates that he had previously had tuberculosis.
His personal effects were sent home, received 6 October 1918. They comprised: letters, photos, cards, pocket case, photo case, metal wrist watch and strap, set of shoulder titles, cap badge, 2 collar badges, 2 sleeve badges.
Beilby, George Sidney
Private 375150, aged 35, from Hull, killed in action, 22 March 1918, buried Serre Road Cemetery No. 2. Beilby’s service records have not survived. His medal index card indicates that his next of kin was Mrs M E Cotton of 31 Short Street, Canning Street, Hull. However, it would appear that Beilby ‘died intestate’ and that the medals were disposed of in 1923. His regimental number indicates that he was probably a conscript and the award of British War Medal and Victory Medal alone confirms that he did not serve before 1916. The CWGC website indicates that Mrs Mary Emma Cotton was his mother and that they had his name as Beilry.
What is particularly odd is the location for the burial. Beilby died early in the March Retreat, when 11 DLI was a long way from the old Somme battlefield, but the Serre Road Cemetery is near Beaumont Hamel. It is possible that his remains were removed there after the war, but it seems an unusually long distance when there were concentration cemeteries much closer to where he must have fallen, near St Quentin and the Somme Crossings.
Bell, Arthur Wesley
Private 9911, miner from Horden Colliery, missing in action 23 March 1918, commemorated Pozières Memorial. Originally served with 2nd DLI, wounded 9 August 1915. Joined 11th DLI on 19 March 1918. Bell spent only four days with 11 DLI immediately before the German Offensive of March 1918. Most of his service was spent with 2 DLI, as he was a very early volunteer.
Born in Low Spennymoor, aged 28 yrs and 155 days, a coal miner, Bell attested at Bishop Auckland on 8 August 1914, signing on for a full six years as a regular soldier. He was 5ft 3½in, 128lbs, 37 in chest, good eyesight, brown eyes, light brown hair, and Wesleyan Methodist. His father was John Bell of 5 Warren St, Horden Colliery and he had two older brothers (Joseph and Frederick) and a younger half sister Elizabeth. His father was paid 8/9 separation allowance.
He was posted to 3 DLI for basic training before joining 2 DLI on 26 January 1915 in France. While serving with them he received a gun shot wound to the head on 9 August 1915 and was returned to England for treatment. Once recovered he was re-attached 3 DLI on 9 Oct 1915, returning to France to 2 DLI on 10 Feb 1916. He reported sick 27 July 1916 with a rectal abscess and was returned to England again for treatment at Keighley War Hospital. For many months he remained with 3 DLI in England, promoted to Acting Lance Corporal on 4 Oct 1917. He returned to France on 13 March 1918, was attached very briefly to 18 DLI before transfer on 19 March to 11 DLI. He was reported missing on 23 March 1918 and later presumed dead.
There is some distressing correspondence in the collection of service papers (although in very poor condition and difficult to read). These indicate that, due to a clerical mix up, the family were not informed as they should have been on 27 April 1918 that he was missing. The fault was not corrected until 22 April 1919, by which time the father had written to find out what had happened to his son. He had probably heard rumours from returning demobilised soldiers and he was trying to establish whether or not his son was still alive. The short time that Arthur Bell spent with 11 DLI will have compounded the problem, as he would have had no time to get to know anybody.
Bennett, Robert David
Private 17203, miner aged 22, from Shotton Colliery, killed in action, 20 September 1916, commemorated Thiepval Memorial. D Company, machine gun section 3.
Robert Bennett attested at West Hartlepool on 1 Sept 1914. A coal miner, born in Llanberis, he was 20 yrs 93 days old, 5ft 5in, 114lbs, 34 chest, fresh complexion, brown eyes, light brown hair, Cof E, with an anchor tattoo on his right forearm.
His family consisted of (12 Aug 1919): William and Kate (Catherine) Bennett, brothers David (18) and Peter (10), sisters Elizabeth Julia Davison (23, m), Catherine (16) and Hilda (9). The family lived at 135 Victoria Street, Shotton Colliery.
Bennett had a clean conduct sheet, with none of the usual misdemeanours before embarkation. He left with the battalion on 20 July 1915. He was admitted 26 FA with scabies on 19 Aug 1915 and was back to duty on 31 Aug. He served with D Company and was a qualified machine gunner, killed in action serving with machine gun section 3.
Very few possessions were returned: testament, pocket book, post card, 5 photos (form marked 15th DLI). Medals and scrolls arrived during May 1920.
However, the family had a collection of eighty letters written by Robert during training and from his time in France. These letters offer a remarkable, soldier’s viewpoint on the experience and form a significant part of the book, The 11th Durham Light Infantry: In Their Own Names (Amberley, 2011).
Private 25252, George Berry was born in Newcastle, enlisted in Stanley, and resident at South Moor. He was reported missing in action, 21 March 1918, which was the first day in which 11 DLI saw action during the German March Offensive, Operation Michael. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial. His service records have not survived and there is no family information on the CWGC website.
At the time of the 1911 Census a George Berry, aged 18 was living at 19 South Crescent, Cold Heseldon, Murton, Co Durham. He was a ‘colliery belt boy’, born Murton Colliery. His father was Samuel Berry, 65, a miner, originally from Worcestershire, and his mother Emma Jane, 54, originally from Dorset. This is possibly the same person, having moved for work to South Moor, near Stanley, Co Durham. He would therefore have been 25 at the time of his death and his parents may have been dead, hence the lack of family information.
Biglin, Joseph Edward
Private. Biglin was a railway clerk from Hull, conscripted in 1917. He attested 10 August 1917 and wanted to join the Royal Engineers, Signals, but was assigned to the Depot of the East Yorkshire Regiment. He was transferred to 2 Training Reserve Battalion at Rugeley in Staffordshire and later to Danbury Camp in Essex. He was assigned to 52 DLI at Stockton on Tees in January 1918 and was sent out to France in April 1918 to help provide reinforcements following the March Retreat. At Étaples he was assigned to 11 DLI and joined them at Huppy in France, where further recruits joined them from 22 DLI after the latter battalion’s disbandment (they had been mauled twice in the German Spring Offensives). He served with 11 DLI until the end of hostilities, spent a short time with a Royal Engineer unit on detachment, and returned to 11 DLI in February 1919. The following month he transferred to 20 DLI as part of the Army of Occupation in Cologne. He was demobilised October 1919. [Source: Imperial War Museum, Oral History Cat No 11342].
Private 25721, George Blackburn, aged 26, was from Newcastle-on -Tyne, though born in Durham City. He was killed in action, 5 September 1916, during the successful but costly capture of the village of Guillemont on the Somme. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. He was the son of Hannah Blackburn of 30 Rosedale Street, Shieldfield, Newcastle and the late George Blackburn.
Private 24121, from Manchester, died of pneumonia, subsequent to the war, 23 February 1919, and was buried at Pont-Remy British Cemetery. He was the son of Julia Blakeway of 27 Bangor Street, Hulme, Manchester and the late Walter Henry Blakeway. There is unconfirmed information that his brothers, James, Stanley, Robert and Walter all died, either in action during the war, or as a consequence of war work.
Private 21511 Reuben Blencowe enlisted on 21 September 1914, and was assigned to 6th Ox & Bucks Light Infantry. He was a bricklayer, aged 41, from Banbury in Oxfordshire and had served previously in the 4th Ox & Bucks. By the time he went overseas, he had been transferred to 11th Durham Light Infantry, because of his trade (2 February 1915). He was discharged on 26 March 1917 with the Silver War Badge, at which time he was with 2nd Training Reserve Battalion with the regimental number 5/4829. He returned to his home in Banbury after discharge. There is nothing in the war diary to indicate when he may have been wounded or where the battalion were at the time, as there would be a gap between that occasion and his medical treatment and eventual discharge, once it was decided he was no longer fit for war service. As he was allocated to the Depot from 1 July 1916, he was most likely wounded while doing trench work in the Brandhoek area during late June 1916. He was 5ft 9½ inches tall, weighed 182 lbs and had a 41 inch chest – a big man by the standards of the day. He was tanned, had hazel eyes and medium brown hair, professing Church of England. Although only with limited information, his pension records have survived. In the 1911 census he lived at 5 Union Street, Banbury, with his wife Ellen Elizabeth (35), and children: Reuben, newsboy (14), twins Joseph and Thomson (12), Bertie Mafeking (10), Alfred (6), Annie May (4), Charles (2) and baby Ellen Elizabeth (6 weeks).
Sergeant (later CSM, WO Class 2) 18689 Bert Bolam from Birtley served with 11 DLI from the beginning, going overseas with the battalion on 20 July 1915, and may figure in the photograph of Sergeants from 10/11 DLI. He was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette, 21 December 1917) and awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (Peace Gazette, 3 September 1919).
Bond, Richard Nicholson
Private 32862, aged 27, from South Shields, died of wounds, 5 October 1916, buried Grove Town Cemetery, Méaulte.
Bond was a conscript, attesting at South Shields on 19 December 1915. He was a fish curer aged 27 yrs and 9 months. He lived with his wife Annie at 27 Reay Street, South Shields (married 2 June 1912) and their son Richard Hinman Bond (born 24 October 1913). His father was George Bond and mother Agnes Ann, with a brother George 36 and sister Edith Agnes 33, living at 77 Dale Street, South Shields.
He was called upon 29 May 1916 at Sunderland. Born in Sheffield, C of E, he was then aged 28 yrs 2 months, 5ft 2¼in, 118lbs, 37in chest. He had his vaccinations and inoculations thefollowing month and was sent for training with 21 DLI. As of 1 September 1916 he was attached 4 DLI, sent out to IBD on 14 Sept 1916 and posted to 11 DLI.
Twenty-two days later he was dead, dying at 34 CCS of wounds received in action on 5 October 1916 while serving with A Company 11 DLI. He suffered gun shot wounds, with compound fracture to the left arm and in both legs. The battalion were working in ‘Tatler Trench’ near Trônes Wood, working on trenches overnight under heavy fire, including gas shells.
His wife was awarded a pension of 18/9 from 14 April 1917.
Private 18093 Edward Bonner, was born and resident in Dunston, enlisting in Gateshead. He was killed in action, 23 October 1915, and is buried at Rue-du-Bacquerot No. 1 Military Cemetery. His service records have not survived and there is no family information on the CWGC website.
In 1911 he was aged 16, living at 130 Ravensworth Road, Dunston and working as ‘coal miner helper up below ground’. His father, Joseph William Bonner, 47, originally from Sunderland, ran a newsagent’s business. His mother was Hannah Bower, originally from Framwellgate Moor, aged 46. He had two older brothers: James William 24, who helped in the newsagent business, and Joseph 21, who was a boiler rivetter. There were five sisters: Martha, 18, Hilda, 13, Ethel, 11, Norah, 9 and Evelyn, 4.
Sergeant 18688, miner aged 22, from Ouston, near Birtley, killed in action 31 March 1918, buried at Moreuil Communal Cemetery. D Company.
Thomas Bonney enlisted and was medically examined 15 September 1914 at Birtley, Co Durham. He was 5ft 6 ins tall, 152 lbs, chest expansion 2 inches to 36 inches. Fair complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair, and Church of England.
In 1911, he was living at 200 Ouston Square, Birtley. His father was John Bonney, 51, a coal miner hewer. His mother was Jane, known as Jennie, aged 48. He had two older brothers, Richard, 23 and William, 19 (see below), both coal putters. Thomas was a colliery driver, underground. There were two younger brothers, James 9 and Ralph 7, as well as a sister Margaret,13, living at home. From his service records we also know that he had an older, married sister, Annie Henderson aged 33 [in 1919] of 80 C Street East, Pelton, Co Durham.
Served during training from 15 September 1914 to 19 July 1915, leaving for France on 20 July 1915 and serving there until 31 March 1918. Bonney served in D Company, 11 DLI. He was confirmed Corporal in December 1915. He suffered from a bout of influenza from 25 March 1916 to 28 March, being treated by 60th Field Ambulance. On 16 July 1916 he was promoted to Lance Sergeant, and was confirmed as full Sergeant on 22 October 1916, having been originally appointed 29 August.
On 10 April 1917 he was reported ‘D.U.O.’ having been admitted to 62nd Field Ambulance on 24 March 1917. He was sent to 35 IBS on 7 April but was back with his unit on the 12th. There are a number of other pencil notes on his record regarding illnesses but these are illegible. The last entry shows him as killed in action on 31 March 1918. This was the last counter attack mounted by 11 DLI to help maintain the line at Thennes in the wake of the German assault. The following day, the remnants of the battalion were pulled out of the line.
The last dated item in the file is a letter dated 22 July 1920 to his widow Mrs Elizabeth Bonney, Institute Terrace, Ouston, Birtley, Co Durham explaining that his grave had been exhumed and the remains reburied at Moreuil as part of the process of concentration of cemeteries.
His widow, née Lizzie Greener, re-married after the war and moved abroad. Her new family always accepted that Thomas Bonney had been her first love and joined in the commemoration of his death, including to the present generation.
Lance Corporal 24145 William Bonney, aged 25, from Birtley, was killed in action 20 September 1917, and buried at Cement House Cemetery, Langemarck. His service records have not survived, but he was the older brother of Sergeant Thomas Bonney. He was the husband of Margaret Jane Bonney of 298 North Street, Ouston, Pelton, Co Durham.
At the time of William Bonney’s death, 11 DLI were based on the Yser Canal Bank at Ypres, helping to consolidate the gains of 20th Division in the capture of Langemarck, and extending their hold on the area round through the capture of Eagle Trench. They were involved both directly in the fighting and in trench consolidation work. Several were killed and wounded and Captain Sear was awarded the MC for his bravery during these actions.
Company Sergeant Major 25203 William Bousfield survived the war. He served with 11 DLI from the early days of training and went out with the battalion to France on 20 July 1915. However he was court-martialled at Laventie on 1 November 1915 for drunkenness. He was ordered to be reduced to the ranks, but this was mitigated to Lance Corporal. He later worked his way back to the rank of Sergeant. He finished his war service with the regimental number 534551 in the Labour Corps.
The implications are that he was not a young man, and may have been a former regular soldier before the war. His service records have not survived.
Bowlt, James Alexander
Private 17199 James Alexander Bowlt enlisted 29 August 1914 aged 31 years and 117 days. He was a dock labourer from West Hartlepool, born Bill Quay, Felling, Co Durham. He had brown eyes and dark brown hair, stoof 5ft 5½ins, weighed 114lbs and his chest expanded 2 inches to 33 inches. He was posted to C Company 11 DLI. His wife was Mrs E Bowlt of 102 Cumberland Street, West Hartlepool and there were five children, James, John, Tom, Nellie and Winifred.
He was the first overseas casualty of 11 DLI, suffering an accidental death on 4 August 1915. The war diary reported: ‘17199 J A Bowlt accidentally killed C Coy’. The company was working near Fleurbaix constructing fortifications on behalf of 25 Brigade, 8th Division. The service papers and correspondence indicate that Bowlt fell out of an upstairs window. Witness statements report him being found lying on his back in a pool of blood in front of the billets used by 9 and 10 Platoons. One of the witnesses, 15082 Private R McKenzie stated that while Bowlt had been in training at Larkhill he had reputedly been prone to sleep-walking.
The bizarre circumstances led to some delay in settling whether or not the widow would be entitled to a pension, but this was finally agreed 22 May 1916. Mrs Bowlt must have suffered grievously while this issue was resolved, and was helped in the process by the Hartlepools branch of Soldiers and Sailors Families Association.
The service records made a very specific note of his place of burial: ‘buried at Fleurbaix in a corner of a field opposite the Mairie, 145 yards NW and 45 yards WW of the Mairie entrance, maked by a wooden cross, ref map 1/10000 Hazebrouck 5a’. Despite this attempt at accuracy, the grave was lost and Bowlt is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.
Bowlt, Thomas Short
Private 14970, Thomas Short Bowlt was also a docks labourer from West Hartlepool, but any relationship to James Alexander Bowlt has not so far been established. He may have been a younger brother or cousin.
He enlisted at West Hartlepool on 29 August 1914, aged 28 years and 353 days. He was 5ft 6 tall, had a 35in chest, brown eyes and hair and a fresh complexion. His next of kin was his mother, Mary Bowlt, of 34 Derwent Street, West Hartlepool.
Although originally assigned to 11th DLI, he transferred to 14th DLI on 31 December 1917 and then to 22nd DLI, 9 Platoon, C Company, on 6 February 1918. He was captured while serving with that battalion on 26 March 1918. He died of pleurisy at Stendhal camp on 1 May 1918. His remains were re-interred at Grand-Seraucourt British Cemetery, close to St Quentin.
The only possession returned to the family was his service disc, which went to his sister Mrs Eleanor Caroline Smith of Ealing House, 55 Stockton Road, West Hartlepool on 9 April 1920.
Boyne, James A
Private 21508 James A Boyne of Sheffield went out with 11 DLI on 20 July 1915. At the rank of Corporal he was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette, 25 May 1917). He was promoted to Sergeant and awarded the Military Medal (London Gazette, 13 March 1918). He ended the war as Sergeant 103023, 2nd DLI.
Boynton, Francis Robert
Private 23/358 Francis Robert Boynton, from Murton, North Yorkshire, reported missing in action, 25 March 1918, is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial.
Born and living in Murton on the outskirts of York, Boynton first attested on 12 December 1915, was placed in the reserve and called up for examination at Richmond, Yorks, on 14 June 1916. He was a cowman by trade, 5ft 2½in tall, 113lbs, 34in chest and of fairly good physical development, and C of E. He was placed with 23rd DLI, completing his training with D Company and a clean conduct sheet.
He went overseas on 10 October 1916 and arrived at 35 IBD Étaples on 11 October and on 27 October was assigned to 11 DLI. He contracted dysentery, suffering diarrhoea and vomiting on 25 January 1917 and quickly admitted to hospital. He was sent back to England on the ship Formosa on 9 March 1917, and was treated at 1st Southern General Hospital, Edgbaston, Birmingham. After tests showed negative results he was passed fit for duty on 24 April 1917, and attached to 3 DLI. He returned to France on 10 June 1917 and after being initially assigned to 20 DLI by 35 IBD at Étaples, he was transferred back to 11 DLI on 4 July 1917.
On 25 March 1918, in the first few days of the March Retreat, he was initially reported wounded, then wounded and missing. He was struck off the roll on 9 June 1918, and officially regarded as dead from 11 July 1919. As at 2 November 1919, records showed that his father was deceased and his next of kin was his mother, Mrs Annie Boynton of Prospect Dairy Farm, Murton. He had two brothers, Horace 31 and George 23 and three sisters, Margaret (Gowland) 27, Alice 19 and Annie 18. Mrs Boynton was paid a separation allowance of 8/3 until 9 December 1918.