Private 17535 Ralph Daglish of Annfield Plain went out with 11 DLI on 20 July 1915. He was briefly Lance Corporal, but it was at the rank of Private that he was awarded the Military Medal (London Gazette, 20 August 1919). He survived the war, discharged Class Z reserve.
Sergeant 53242 William Dale did not serve overseas before 1916, but clearly became NCO quite quickly. He was awared the Meritorious Service Medal, London Gazette 17 June 1918 while still at the rank of Corporal, for devotion to duty. Nothing further is known.
Corporal 24345 Richard Danby of Houghton le Spring went overseas on 25 August 1915 at the rank of Lance Corporal, possibly originally with 12 or 13 DLI or as part of an additional draft to 11 DLI. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Peace Gazette 3 June 1919, for devotion to duty.
Private 20879 Stephen Davies was killed in action 4 September 1916, and is buried at Guillemont Road Cemetery, Guillemont.
Born Bilston, Staffs, age 34 yrs 8 mths, married, Davies enlisted Stockton on Tees 20 October 1914, ironworker (labourer at rolling mills), address 34 Lawson St, Stockton. He was 5ft 5 in, 152 lbs, 38¼in chest, fresh complexion, hazel eyes, fair hair, C of E. He had several tattoos: right forearm, woman and flags, left forearm ‘Stephen’, as well as scars between eyes, on left arm, legs and right shoulder, probably arising from his work. Originally allocated to 10 DLI, he was transferred to 11 DLI on 30 October 1914. At his medical it was noted that he had a slightly infected sebaceous cyst on his left breast, for which he was eventually sent to Tidworth for an operation. He was in hospital for 30 days, from 9 June 1915 to 8 July 1915.
In terms of conduct there were a number of minor offences during training. At Pirbright, 19 December 1914 he overstayed pass from 12 mn to 12 am on 22 December and was awarded 7 days CB and loss of 3 days pay. At North Chapel on 14 March 1915, for speaking in an improper manner to his superior NCO, he was awarded 7 days CB and loss of 1 days pay. At Lark Hill on 4 April 1915 he was drunk on duty, and got 5 days CB and loss of 2 days pay.
While in France he was slightly wounded, receiving an injury to the knee on 24 September 1915. Initially treated at a CCS and sent back to his unit, he was quickly back at 60 Field Ambulance and sent on for hospital treatment at Boulogne and Wimereux. He spent time at No 4 Convalescent Unit before being sent back to Étaples on 10 October 1915. He returned to his unit on 21 October.
The Stockton branch of the SSFA sent a telegram on 17 April 1916 requesting that he be allowed home on leave due to death of his child. The request was accompanied by a death certificate to show that Dorothy May Davies, aged 12, died 17 April 1916 of tuberculosis of the peritoneum. There is however no sign on his record that he went home on leave at this time.
While serving with A Company in the attack on the village of Guillemont, Davies was killed. The casualty form states 3 September, which would indicate that he was involved in the early assault on the village, though the official date given in other records is the following day.
Davies left a widow, Phoebe Ann Davies, and there were four surviving children: Sarah Ellen, Violet, Horace and Lilian. She received a pension of 25/- from 26 March 1917.
There was some confusion at the time of his death. It would appear from a letter from SSFA to the Territorial Office of DLI in Durham, that his mother, Mrs Sarah Ann Davies had received a field postcard, postmarked 24 September, after he was killed. It was one of the usual postcards sent by soldiers and Mrs Davies stated that it was her son’s handwriting. Naturally she was anxious to know whether there was any possibility that he is still alive.
His widow also wrote 26 October 1916: ‘Dear Sir or Madam, Anxious Wife of Stephen Davies killed in action Sep 4th 1916 I received the official News of my husbands death on the 22 of Sep and I send to you my marriage lines and my 4 childrens certificates and I have not heard of them sense (sic) it is all I have left know after my dear husband as been took away from us Wife and Children of Stephen Davies anxious for News of all this is left of the Dear husband and Father Marriage lines children certificates send away on 22 of Sep 1916 and as not been heard of sense. Mrs S Davies.’
After the war Mrs Davies was informed that the body had been exhumed from its original burial place to be moved to Guillemont Road British Cemetery. It does not indicate where the body was originally buried.
Sergeant 21999, David Davison was killed in action on 13 December 1916, and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. D Company.
A miner from Wardley Colliery (54 Reservoir Street), aged 34 yrs 8 mths, Davison was married when he enlisted at Newcastle on 13 November 1914. He was 5ft 9¼in tall, 36½ in chest, 164lbs. His medical was at Felling. His wife was Isabella Jane Davison (f. Osbourne, a widow), married 12 February 1910 at St Mary’s Heworth. At the time of his enlistment there were five children at home: Sarah Osbourne (2/11/1902), Annie Mclean (6/11/1911), David (4/9/1913), Thomas (5/1/1916) and an adopted son Benjamin Alderton (3/1/1901).
Davison was attached to DLI Depot from 13 November 1914, transferring next day to 17 DLI assembled at Barnard Castle. On 23 July 1915 he was appointed temporary unpaid L Cpl, on 11 August temporary Corporal, before going out to France as Corporal with 11 DLI on 17 August 1915. He was made up to Acting Sgt on 25 April 1916 and full Sergeant on 22 July 1916. He was killed in action with D Company on 13 December 1916. His will dated 7 March 1916 left everything to his wife.
The only conduct problem seems to be in a letter issued by the authorities on 15 May 1916 reporting him absent from his unit from 7 May 1916, though he had rejoined by 12 May 1916. He is described in the letter as of ruddy complexion, with brown eyes and hair and a moustache, 5ft 9, slender and erect build, walks with a slight limp and an apparent age of 42 ( several years more than his real age). Nothing appears in the FGCM records to suggest a problem requiring disciplinary procedures, so the event is unexplained. It did not affect his full promotion a few weeks later. It is possible he was on one of several work parties and records had been incorrect, or even a case of mistaken identity.
His wife later moved to 48 Waggon Way Row, Wardley Colliery by 2 July 1917, when she was awarded a pension of of 31s 3d for four children (either Sarah or Benjamin had left). By the end of the war when medals were sent out only the three natural children of the marriage were still at home.
Davison, George Markham
Brevet Colonel George Markham Davison was the original Commanding Officer for 11 DLI, brought in from retirement. He retired from 2nd DLI in India in 1906. He took the battalion overseas on 20 July 1915 and remained in command officially until 15 October 1915, when Major Collins was promoted to Lt Colonel in his stead. He made application for his 1914-15 Star on 27 August 1919 from an address at the Army and Navy Club, Pall Mall, London. In the 1911 Census he was living at 12 York Street, St James, Westminster. He was single and aged 55, retired Colonel.
Davison, Joseph William
Private 16046, Joseph William Davison was killed in action 5 October 1916, and is buried Bancourt British Cemetery.
Born Willington, Davison enlisted Durham 8 September 1914 ,aged 23 y 11 mths, married, miner. He was 5ft 5 ¾ , 157 lbs, 37 in chest, dark complexion, hazel eyes, dark brown hair, C of E. His wife was Mrs Dorothy Ann Davison (née Snowdon), of 2 Rutters Yard, Mill Street, Willington, and they were married 22 November 1913 at Bethel Chapel, Durham. One child, Mary Dakers Davison, was born during the war on 2 September 1916.
Initially assigned to DLI Depot, he was transferred on 17 September 1914 to 13 DLI, with the regimental number 16530. There was one small blemish on his conduct sheet in training when he was absent from 9.30 am Inspection Parade to 10.35 am, for which he was deprived of 5 days pay. He went overseas with 13 DLI, but on 27 October 1915 he returned to Depot via hospital at Étaples with a hernia. Following treatment he was assigned briefly to 16 DLI on 10 January 1916, but on 13 January was sent to IBD Étaples. On 19 January 1916 he was assigned to 11 DLI, but to recover his fitness he was put with an Entrenching Battalion from 11 February 1916. He joined his unit on 5 April 1916 and was killed in action with A Company on 5 October 1916. His Company had working in ‘Tatler Trench’ on the Somme battlefield near Waterlot Farm during the previous few days, but on 5 October they moved to Montauban. They were under constant artillery fire, including from gas shells, with eight men killed and more than thirty wounded.
His wife was awarded a pension of 18s 9d a week from 14 May 1917. She re-married, becoming Mrs Dorothy Ann Sands before receiving the medals etc. Davison’s other family included father William John, mother Elizabeth Jane (living at 38 Railway Terrace, Willington) and he had two brothers, Henry and Luke, and four sisters, Mary, Matilda, Edith and Eliza Jane.
Dawson, Arthur William
TNA reference: WO339/20827 [Contains only his medical records]
In civilian life Captain Arthur William Dawson was a married schoolmaster from Clervaux Terrace, Jarrow on Tyne, born 1873. Captain Dawson was the adjutant responsible for writing up the war diary for 11 DLI from 2 August 1915 to 31 July 1916, and again 21 January 1917 to 15 July 1917, being replaced by Lt. G. H. Tollit.
The medical records indicate that he suffered continuously from ill health, especially in the later stages of the war. He would have been at least 40 when he enlisted in 1914. On 21 August 1917 he was sent home via Boulogne and Folkestone, having been granted three weeks sick leave by a medical board at Étaples [11 September 1917 to 1 October 1917]. He was described in a report dated 24 September 1917 as ‘suffering from a severe nervous breakdown, incapable to exertion and shows lack of co-ordination between mind and action. In my opinion a further period of rest under home conditions would not only be beneficial but is essential.’
On 4 October he was reported ‘in poor general health but improving, He is still nervous and shaky and easily tired. He has been instructed to report to the 3rd Reserve Battalion DLI at South Shields for light duty’. By 5 November ‘his general health is still poor, but is improving gradually. He is only able to walk short distances and he tires easily. Heart action is weak. He is instructed to resume duty’. On 20 February 1918 he was described as ‘very much improved. To continue duty with unit.’ His age was given then as 44 years and 7 months. On 20 May 1918 he was described as recovered.
Dawson’s illness almost certainly saved his life. Having survived Passchendaele (probably the final straw in his decline), he missed both Cambrai and the March Offensive. He had been previously diagnosed with trench fever in 1916. This was probably the occasion when he was relieved of duty as adjutant after various outbursts in the war diary.
In due course, apparently remaining in England after his convalescence, he was promoted to Acting Major, a rank to which he was given the right to use in civilian life on 21 December 1921. He was demobilised on 20 January 1919 at Ripon No 1 Dispersal Unit.
Dawson’s birth certificate bears the GRO Reference of Whitby Jul-Sep 1873 9d 430. At the time of the 1911 Census he lived at 3 Clervaux Terrace, Jarrow, and was a secondary school teacher aged 37. He had by then been married for five years to Edith Mary [or May] Dawson [née Snowdon], aged 33, but there were no children recorded.
Sergeant 13308 John Dawson served with 11 DLI from the outset, going out with the battalion on 20 July 1915. He was mentioned in despatches, London Gazette 15 May 1917. He was discharged from 11 DLI to take up a commission on 30 October 1917. He became 2nd Lieutenant, but died of wounds serving with 9 DLI on 22 July 1918. He was the son of James and Hannah Dawson and the husband of Hilda Hill (formerly Dawson) of 9 Woodland Terrace, Station Road, New Washington, Co Durham. He is buried at the Sezanne Communal Cemetery.
In 1911 he was one of a large family at Colliery Yard, Springwell, Gateshead, Co Durham, working as an apprentice joiner aged 18. His father James was a colliery overman aged 52 and his mother, Hannah Maria, aged 49. There were ten children in all, the older boys working in the mine, the older sisters not apparently employed, though a younger sister aged 16 was a pupil teacher for the local council. The children were all born in Usworth, Co Durham.
Dawson, Thomas Edward
Private 22525, Thomas Edward Dawson was a miner (putter) from Boldon Colliery. He went out to France on 2 September 1915. He may have served with other battalions of DLI apart from 11 Battalion. Unfortunately his service papers have not survived. He survived the whole of the war, returning to England in November 1918. He died of a combination of influenza and pneumonia, aged 28, at the Sunderland War Hospital, 20 November 1918. His mother-in-law, Mrs M Robinson was present at his death. Her address was 114 Charles Street, Boldon Colliery.
At the time of the 1911 Census, Dawson was still single and living with his parents at 32 Fenwicks Row, Boldon Colliery. His father was Thomas Dawson, 58, stoneman in a coal mine, born Tyne Docks, and his mother was Eliza Dawson aged 54, born South Shields. They had been married 37 years. There was a married daughter staying with them, Jane Isabella Welson aged 27; a younger sister Alice Eveline Dawson aged 15 and a strangely named sister, Gwendoline A Coranation, aged 8, all born in Boldon Colliery. Thomas Edward Dawson had married at some point between 1911 and his death, possibly to someone called Robinson.
Dennis, George Stanley
TNA Reference: WO 339/60079
Lieutenant George Stanley Dennis was born 31 May 1880 at Thornaby on Tees, the son of Mr S D Dennis and Mrs M Dennis. Both parents were alive on 15 September 1914 when he joined the ranks in Westminster, but his father had died by the time of his own death. The family were then living at 26 Newton Road, Bayswater, London.
At the time of enlistment, he was a mechanical engineer and until 1902 had been an apprentice in Germany at Farbe Lehmeyer & Co in Aachen. He had been in the Cadet Corps for three years attached to the London Rifle Brigade and was posted to A Company, 19th Royal Fusiliers. He was 5ft 9½in tall, weighed 161 lbs, was aged 34 years and 3 months and professed to Church of England, unmarried. Originally he was refused entry on medical grounds beacuse of defective eyesight (6/36 without glasses), but this was over-ruled. He was of brown complexion, with brown hair and grey eyes.
He was promoted to Corporal on 9 May 1915 and to Lance Sergeant 1 October 1915. The Fusiliers went to France 14 November 1915. He applied for a commission 22 January 1916 with the support of his unit, left France on 13 March and joined No 6 Officer Cadet Battalion, Balliol College, Oxford on 15 March 1916. On 7 July 1916 he was commissioned and posted to 23rd Battalion DLI, gazetted 26 July 1916.
On 5 October 1916 he joined 11th Battalion DLI. And served with B Company According to his Casualty Form, he was treated at 14 and 21 Casualty Clearing Stations on 28-29 October 1916 for scabies, returning to duty on 3 November 1916. He was given leave to the UK from 18 January to 1 February 1918, but sent back to England for a six month tour of home duty from 15 March 1918 – thus missing the experience of the March Retreat. He did not return to 11 DLI until 14 November 1918, by which time the war had finished. On 7 January 1919 he assumed command of B Company and on 22 January 1919 was promoted to Acting Captain.
His army career then took an interesting turn, no doubt building upon his (presumed) knowledge of the German language, gained when he was an apprentice in Aachen before the war. Reverting to his rank of Lieutenant he was attached to 2nd Intelligence Corps Company, Cologne on 28 March 1919. On 17 June 1919 he was attached ‘for record purposes’ to 20th Battalion DLI. He died from influenza on 1 July 1919 at 47 Casualty Clearing Station, of influenza. He was originally buried Sudfriedhof Cemetery, Cologne, later Cologne Souther Cemetery.
His mother was informed by telegram on 30 June 1919 that he was dangerously ill and on 2 July that he had died. Mrs Dennis was by then a widow and requested financial support from the War Office through her solicitor. Letters of administration showed a gross estate of £423.5s.4d, including net credits of £130.7s.0d. There survives a very full inventory of Lt Dennis’ personal effects as these were returned to his mother. They contained: field glasses in case, compass in case, wallet, eye glasses in case, whistle, two buttons, tape measure, cheque book, revolver in case, 2 pairs small scissors, brown case with papers and letters, two keys, Offices AB 439, manicure file in case, shaving brush, 3 pairs glasses, treasury note case, Boston garters, 4 blue chevrons, safety razor blade, stropping machine, penknife, mirror, advance pay book, papers, comb, receipted bill, tobacco pouch, tooth brush case, four letters, watch, wrist watch, two hair brushes, pair kid gloves, silver cigarette case, leather photo case, tooth brush, Gillette safety razor, soap case, two pipes and two cheque books.
Private 46283 Alfred Dickenson enlisted 13 November 1914 and was discharged 25 April 1918, but was not issued with the 1914-15 Star. He had previously served as Private 22/1063 in 22nd Northumberland Fusiliers (3rd Tyneside Scottish). That battalion did not arrive in France until January 1916 and was disbanded in May 1918. Dickenson must have been transferred to 11 DLI before that date. He was discharged with the Silver War Badge, which suggests he had been wounded or otherwise rendered unfit for further duty, possibly as a result of experiences during the March Retreat.
Dobson, John George
Lance Corporal 16268 John George Dobson was a miner from 51 Pine Street, South Moor, Stanley. Born in Lanchester, aged 27 yrs 6 months, Dobson signed up 28 August 1914 at Stanley, and was one of several Durham men who amended the terms of engagement on their attestation form to read ‘If however the war is over in less than 3 years you will be discharged with all convenient speed’.
He was allocated to 11 DLI as a Private and only committed a couple of minor infringements during training. At Pirbright on 24 December 1914 (Christmas Eve), he was found drunk in his barrack room at 9.45 pm and was given five days CB. Again at Pirbright, he was absent from 12 pm on 9 January 1915 to 11 January and was given four days CB and forfeited two days’ pay.
On 6 July 1915 Dobson was appointed unpaid Lance Corporal. He was made full Lance Corporal on 5 January 1916. He died of wounds on 23 March 1916 and is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. During March 1916, 11 DLI were based in the grounds of a château at Elverdinghe near Ypres, Belgium. From there they ventured out every night to do work in the trenches, digging new ones, repairing existing ones and improving communications. Both in the grounds of their billet and in the trenches they came under constant fire, particularly from artillery. More than half a dozen men were killed and many morw wounded this way.
The surviving service papers are incomplete. His wife. Mrs Alice E Dobson, moved to 11 Pavilion Terrace, Burnhope Colliery, near Lanchester by the end of the war (returning to her birth family – see below). The papers include a reference to a letter checking on the relationship to a child, John Thomas Dobson, born 1910 out of wedlock but acknowledged by the father.
In 1911, John George Dobson was still single, aged 24, and living at 12 Oliver Street, Stanley, with his parents: Thomas Dobson, 46, stoneman at coal mine and Margaret Dobson, 43 – they had been married for 25 years. There were three sons as well as a nephew boarding with his family and another boarder.
John G Dobson married Alice E Dobson in Lanchester, GRO Reference Jul-Sep 1912, Lanchester 10a 669. They were probably cousins. In 1911, Alice E Dobson was aged 18 and living at 11 Pavilion Terrace, Burnhope with her parental family: John George Dobson, 43, coal miner hewer and wife, Florry, 38, and siblings George W, Sydney J, Ernest and Rhoda Dobson, as well as John T Dobson aged 10 months.
Private 18/1518 Tom Dobson from Sunderland was aged 27, when he was reported missing, presumed killed in action, 23 March 1918. He is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial.
His service records have not survived, but his medal index card shows that he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star, and must have therefore not gone overseas before 1916. He was married and his wife Dora re-married after the war to become Mrs Dora Snaith, with an address at 67 Roker Avenue, Sunderland.
Though he is of the same age as John George Dobson’s younger brother Thomas William Dobson, this is unlikely to be the same person. Tom Dobson was registered born in Sunderland Apr-Jun 1891 reference 10a 746. His regimental number indicates that he originally served with 18 DLI, but was transferred to 11 DLI at a later date, possibly in early 1918.
Private 91083 Samuel Dodd was a conscript and joined 11 DLI (D Company) during the early part of 1918. He survived the war. The regimental numbers on his medal index card are slightly confusing. He is listed first as 91083 and later as 52nd (Grad) Battalion as 66809, though the latter was normally a training battalion for conscripts on home service before assignment overseas. He may have continued to serve in the Army of Occupation after the war.
Sadly the incident for which he is most notable was the accidental shooting of Private Henry Cunliffe on 5 June 1918. The reports and witness statements for this incident have survived in Cunliffe’s service papers. Dodd’s account was more or less accepted by the CO, but he was nevertheless court-martialled on 13 June 1918. It was agreed that the shooting was an accident but Dodd was found culpable and given 56 days Field Punishment No 1.
In his statement he recorded that he had been out on duty during the night with his rifle loaded, returning at 8.30 am and sleeping until after noon. He was cleaning the rifle in the billet in the evening, left to go to the latrine, and was ordered to fall in just as he got back. In his haste he replaced the magazine in the rifle, shot the bolt home and pulled the trigger, forgetting that the rifle was loaded. A shot was fired and hit Cunliffe, who died later the next day.
Private 20757 Nathan Donkin was killed in action on 16 August 1917, and is buried at Bard Cottage Cemetery, Boezinge.
He was born Sunderland, attested Sunderland 20 August 1914, 27y 4m, labourer, previously having served with 4 DLI for 6 years. He was 5ft 7 in, 156lbs, 37 in chest, fresh complexion, brown eyes, brown hair, C of E. He was initially allocated to 10 DLI. On 1 December 1914 he was appointed unpaid Lance Corporal, paid from 4 March 1915. On 2 August 1915 he was promoted Corporal.
While on leave in England he wrote on 7 January 1916 asking for an extension of leave by one day, as follows:
‘Please Sir, I write these few lines to let you no if I could get my 1 day extra account of the Boat been delayed. We left Poperinghe 3 o’clock on Sunday morning landed in Bullong ½ past 10 on Sunday we had to stop their all night got into Folkestone ½ past nine left their by the train to Victoria Station ¼ twelth at night and we had to stop their all night and I did not get home till Monday night’.
The request was not approved, but he was nevertheless five days late returning to his unit, for which he was given a sever reprimand and a deduction of five days’ pay. Probably related to this incident, on 17 January 1916 he asked to revert to Private.
On 12 March 1916 he received a wound to the right thigh from fragments of shell: wounds on the front of the thigh at a position of lower to middle third and a little higher up on the underside. From the hospital at Rouen he was sent back to England via the converted ferry St Denis, and nominally attached to DLI Depot with effect from 19 March 1916. There then followed a bizarre series of desertions.
On 2 May 1916 he deserted, returning to the Depot on 28 July. He was court-martialled on 2 August and given 28 days detention, and put back to duty on 26 August with four days remitted. The service papers include a copy of a memorandum dated 22 August 1916 to Depot DLI Newcastle to collect him from the Detention Barrack, York Castle at 2 pm on 25 August. Within days Donkin was absent again, struck off the roll of 3 DLI on 6 September 1916. This time he was away for almost six months, returning on 19 March 1917. On 2 April he was sentenced by District Court Martial, found guilty of desertion and losing his regimental clothing and equipment. He was given 18 months gaol plus stoppage of 18s 6d from pay.
As was common practice he was offered remission of sentence in return from embarking for the front, which he did on 16 April, arriving at Étaples on 17 April. He joined 11 DLI on 11 May 1917. On 16 August he was killed in action serving with A Company. The battalion were working on communications lines in the Canal Bank area at Ypres, under heavy fire.
Donkin’s wife, Margaret Jane Donkin of 43 Abbot St, Gateshead, had been paid a total of 28s 0d allowances. On 2 September 1917, her son Nathan Farrow Donkin died from enteritis in an epidemic, the death being registeres by the grandmother, Mary Ann Mahon. Mrs Donkin was awarded a pension of 22s 11d for self and children, Richardson (b 1911) and Catherine (b 1917).
Private 39099 Frank Donoghue, born Sunderland, enlisted Newcastle and resident Southwick, was reported missing in action on 22 March 1918, and is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial. His service papers have not survived, but his medal index card indicates that he was not an early volunteer and did not serve overseas before 1916.
Searches of the census data for 1901 and 1911 have failed to identify anyone of this name in County Durham, though the Donoghue name is common in both Sunderland and Southwick. Similarly, there are no family details on the entry for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
On 22 March 1918, the various Companies from 11 DLI were separated and supporting different parts of the defensive lines against a massive German offensive that had commenced the day before. They were manning various points along the Somme Canal alongside the infantry brigades of 20 Division. They retreated under heavy fire and twelve men were killed, many more wounded and/or taken prisoner.
Douglas, Charles Bayard Elton
Charles Baywood Elton Douglas served as 2nd Lieutenant with 11 DLI, going out with the battalion on 20 July 1915, before transferring to 184th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, in which he served at the rank of Captain. He was awarded the Military Cross in this capacity for saving bridges under attack, London Gazette 8 March 1919. He applied for his medals 11 February 1922 while serving in Germany with the Army of Occupation. He gave a home address of Monks Path, Warwicks Bench, Guildford, Surrey.
Private 15536 William Douglass was reported missing in action on 24 March 1918, and is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial.
Douglass was born at Craghead, near Chester le Street and enlisted in Sunderland 7 September 1914, aged 26 yrs 11 months, married but living with his parents at 2 Lilburn Place, Southwick. He was a miner, 5ft 6 ¾, 140 lbs, 35 in chest, fresh complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair, professing Church of England. His wife was Caroline Douglass (née Paget) and they had been married at Southwick Parish Church on 10 May 1913. They had one son, William Henry Douglass, born 13 October 1913.
Douglass was first allocated to 14 DLI as a Private, and rose to unpaid Lance Corporal on 27 February 1915, paid from 16 June 1915. The battalion departed for France on 10 September 1915, but Douglass was wounded 29 September 1915, in the left foot (later described as slight), and was sent back to England for hospital treatment (2nd Western General at Manchester).
There was a mistake with his regimental number (incorrectly assumed to be 16321) and he was reported killed, a letter being sent to his wife. She in turn got a letter from her husband dated after his supposed death. The situation was investigated and it appeared that Douglass had recovered sufficiently to leave hospital on 19 October 1915. He was assigned to DLI Depot and remained in the UK for some time afterwards.
Meanwhile his conduct had slipped. On 9 January he was absent tattoo, admonished and lost four days’ pay. He was absent again on 22 January, severely reprimanded and lost three days’ pay. While stationed in Jarrow on 30 September 1916, at the rank of Corporal, he was absent until 2 October and severely reprimanded, losing a further three days’ pay. While at Rugeley with the Training Reserve Battalion on 10 November 1916 he was late for parade when warned as Company marker and reprimanded again. On 11 August 1917 he broke out of camp and was reverted to Lance Corporal. He lost that stripe on 30 October 1917 for neglect of duty.
After a long period on home duty, Douglass was sent back to the BEF on 13 March 1918, was initially allocated to 18 DLI but transferred to 11 DLI on 19 March 1918. The German attack was launched on 21 March and on 24 March Douglass was reported missing. The battalion’s Companies were separated at the time around Offoy, Canizy and Villeselve and engaged in a retreat towards Ham and Nesle.
During 1915 Mrs Douglass moved to 33 Nelson Street, Southwick, and after the war to number 28. She had received a 19s 6d allotment of pay, which became a pension of 20s 5d from 17 March 1919.
Sergeant 11659 William Dowding survived the war and applied for a pension. The surviving pension papers are the source of information about him.
Dowding enlisted at Newcastle on 7 September 1914. He was former regular soldier, having served for 12 years with 1 DLI until 19 January 1906 (Reg. No. 5741) from the age of eighteen. He served in the South African War. On re-enlistment he was 38 yrs and 248 days, working as a miner. Although born in Stafford he was living at 44 Thames Street, Chopwell. He was 5ft 7 ½ , 161 lbs, 40 in chest, grey eyes and brown hair. C of E. He was married to Sarah Dowding (née Waugh) at St John’s Chopwell on 19 January 1907. They had five children: Margaret Elizabeth (b 1906, illegitimate), Mary Olivia (1907), William James (1908), Sarah Ann (1910) and Letitia (1912).
Dowding was posted to 11 DLI and quickly promoted to Corporal, Lance Sergeant from 30 October 1914 and full Sergeant from 17 November 1914 as Signalling Sergeant. At North Chapel on 25 February 1915 he was severely reprimanded for being drunk on duty as Company Orderly Sergeant, otherwise his record was clean. He was awarded the Military Medal [LG 3 June 1916].
Details are sparse in the surviving pension papers, but Dowding was posted to DLI Depot with effect from 22 April 1918. He was discharged as no longer physically fit from 16 January 1920. He had been wounded in the right foot, which had been amputated. This had most probably occurred at some point during the March Retreat.
Sergeant 16996 John Doyle was a former railway works labourer from Darlington. He was taken prisoner, probably during March 1918, survived the war, but died in 1922 of illness aggravated by the effects of the war.
John Doyle was born 1888, the son of Lawrence and Mary Ann Doyle, at 2 Palace Yard, Darlington. He married Mary Ellen Kane at St Augustine’s RC Chapel on 26 December 1907, at which time he was an ‘engine works labourer’ (most probably the North Road Locomotive Works of the North Eastern Railway). There were six children: Lawrence (1908), John (1909), Winifred (1913), Mary (1914), James (1918) and Joseph (1920). At the time of his imprisonment the family were recorded at Middleton’s Yard, King Street, Darlington
Service papers have not survived, but his medal index card indicates that he did not join up immediately and did not serve overseas before 1916. He therefore did well to rise to the rank of Sergeant. He was taken prisoner at Aubigny on 23 March 1918 while serving with B Company. They had already been badly mauled and it was an amalgamated A and B Company that was defending the canal crossings against the German onslaught. They were forced to retreat towards Ham overnight and it was probably at this time that Doyle was captured.
Initially Doyle was taken to the PoW Camp at Giessen in western Germany. He was transferred to Meschede in June 1918. He may have attempted an escape from one of these camps but was recaptured. He was then sent to Stargard (on the modern Polish border) before transfer to Altdamm on 12 October 1918. Both of these camps had a formidable reputation for poor and harsh treatment. Doyle was quickly repatriated after the armistice, arriving at Leith on board SS Lacour on 23 November 1918.
Doyle was not in good health when he returned to the UK and was bed bound for several months with nephritis. Once recovered he took a job as a school caretaker and the family were living at 10 Coniscliffe Road, Darlington. John Doyle died of valvular heart disease aged 34 on 8 June 1922. Because of the date, his grave is not marked by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, though it is almost certain that the ill health he suffered was brought on by his experiences as a prisoner of war.
Duckett, Vincent George
TNA Reference: WO339/114623
Second Lieutenant, aged 22, was reported missing in action 23 March 1918, and is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial.
Duckett was born 23 April 1895 (though his mother’s form of application for remission of estate duty gives the month as March) and originally enlisted at the age of 19 years and 141 days at Christchurch, Preston on 10 September 1914 and was posted Private 18/989 to the 18th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. He stood 5ft 7 ¼, weighed 125 lbs and his chest expanded by 2½in from 36 inches. With fresh complexion, he had both brown hair and brown eyes. In civilian life he had been a bank clerk. He was officially mobilised on 25 September 1914. During training he was awarded 10 days confinement to barracks and four days forfeiture of pay for over-staying his leave from 11.30pm 1 August 1915 to 9.15 am on 4 August 1915. He had already received two days confinement to barracks for being absent from tattoo till 11.30pm on 1 May 1915.
His first overseas posting was with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force from 6 December 1915 to 4 March 1916, before being transferred to France on 5 March 1916 where he stayed until 6 May 1917. During the period in France he was confined with scabies from 10 May 1916 to 14 May 1916, treated by 94th Field Ambulance. There were further attacks of scabies to his legs during the year. On 20 June 1916 he was attached to 93rd Light Trench Mortar Battery. On 1 March 1917 he was promoted to unpaid Lance Corporal before being posted to DLI Depot as full Lance Corporal on 7 May 1917, prior to selection for a commission.
Duckett received his commission on 6 July 1917. He was unmarried and his next of kin was his mother Mrs Duckett of 39 Chaddock Street, Preston, Lancashire. While still a Lance Corporal with 93 LTMB, he made out a will dated 18 April 1917, leaving everything to his mother, Mrs MA Duckett then of Elm House, Bow Lane, Preston. Following his commission Duckett was initially allocated to 14 DLI, proceeding via Boulogne on 16 December 1917, Étaples on 17 December and arriving with his battalion on 23 December. He would have had very little time with this battalion, which was broken up and he and his men were transferred to 11 DLI on 6 February 1918.
Early on the morning of 23 March the battalion had retreated across the Somme blowing the bridges behind them at Offoy. Lt Cooper with three platoons from D Company manned the forward positions on the Canal, while Duckett and the fourth platoon held a post 1 mile further west in defence. As the front line was progressively driven back ,2nd Lt Duckett was sent forward to support a company of the 12th King’s Liverpool Regiment near Cugny. That was the last that was seen of any of them.
The final items in the file contain information about Mrs Margaret Alice Duckett’s request for remission of estate duty and details of the payment to her of £64.17s.6d.
Private 25232 William Duffy, born Heworth, Co Durham, enlisted Felling on Tyne, was killed in action 10 November 1915 and is buried at Aubers Ridge British Cemetery.
Duffy’s service records have not survived and no family information appears on the CWGC lists. His medal index card shows that he went overseas with 11 DLI on 20 July 1915, so probably enlisted in the late summer or autumn of 1914 and was appointed directly to 11 DLI for training.
On 10 November 1915, the battalion was billeted at Épinette on the Laventie sector, from where they were engaged in work on repairing trenches. The billets received a direct hit from German artillery: three were killed instantly (including Duffy), seven wounded and two more died later.
Details above derived from ‘Soldiers Died’, CWGC database and medal index cards. Difficult to identify in the census, due to their being several of the name in the County Durham area, but probably identified in 1911 as William Duffy, aged 22, miner living with his family at 21 Holly Street, Felling on Tyne, son of William and Mary Ann Duffy.
Dunn, Thomas Henry
Private 36618 Thomas Henry Dunn died aged 24, on 26 December 1916, and is buried at St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen.
He enlisted as a conscript at Bishop Auckland on 28 February 1916 and was called up at South Shields on 26 June 1916. From 4 Randolph Terrace, Evenwood, he was a miner/ surface worker aged 23 yrs 10 months and was sent to 3 DLI for training.
His father was William Dunn, his mother Hannah and he had 6 brothers and 1 sister. He was posted to 11 DLI via IBD Étaples on 27 October 1916. He served in 6 Platoon, B Company. He left his effects to his mother in a will dated 11 October 1916. He died of a wound to the thigh at 6th General Hospital, Rouen on 26 December 1916. In the preceding days the battalion were digging trenches and laying railway in the Montauban/Combles area, as always likely to be shelled by German artillery, day or night.
His personal effects were sent to the family on 24 May 1917: 3 coins amounting to 2½d, disc, 4 letters, cards, wallet, mirror, upper denture, religious book, cigarette case, hair brush, watch, nail brush and purse.
The following letter is held at the Durham County Record Office:
Copy of letter dated Nov 4th (no year – but will have been 1916, when stationed at Bourdon en route to a rest at Picquigny, near Amiens)
Dear brother and sister
I am writing to tell you that I am in the Pink, I hope you are both the same. I am sorry that I have not been able to get hold of anything for the bairns yet, but I will look out for something for them without fail. I am at a very pleasant place here, within sound of the big guns, but I can still sleep alright. I was sorry that our Nelson and Matty could not get with us. I am enclosing a photograph which you can give to Mother. It is of a pal of mine from Etherley. You can send a few Woodbines if you like. We cannot get them here, that is the only drawback here. I think that this is all at present, promising to write again soon. I will close with Best Love and hoping to see you all again soon.
From your loving brother Tommy
Pte TH Dunn 36618
6th Platoon, B Company
11th DLI (Pioneers)
20th Division, BEF France