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Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft
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21st August - The Second Battle of Bapaume

British and New Zealand forces went into action against German forces holding the French town of Bapaume – which had been a British target on the first day of the Somme in 1916. The attack was designed to keep up the pressure of the Allied attacks on Amiens that had begun to stall in the face of the German defence. Though the battle was successful for the Allies, advancing over 20 miles and capturing 8000 prisoners, there were over 11,000 casualties, falling heavily on the three New Zealand divisions that led the attack.

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New Zealand troops passing through Bapaume after its recapture. Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Editor’s note: Pre 1930’s, the swastika did not have any of the later associations with the horrors of Nazism, and was a commonly used symbol, appropriated from the Hindu symbol for luck.
  • Keighley News, 17th August 1918

Abram Ackroyd

Pte. Ackroyd, Abram    62221   ‘C’ Coy  30th Reinforcements, 1st Battalion Canterbury Infantry Regiment.   New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

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Abram Ackroyd was born on 3 April 1888, third of six children;  Hannah, Alice, Abram, Ethel, Philip and Arthur. His parents were Mary and Jonas Ackroyd of Rose Cottage Farm, Wilsden.  At the time of the children’s births, Jonas was a blacksmith with his brother, John, at the smithy in Wilsden but he later became a farmer.

Abram lived in Wilsden until 1911 when, at the age of 22, he emigrated to New Zealand in search of a better life in the New World. He became a dairy farmer in Te Pu, Rotorua.

By mid May 1917, the Allied troops had made their most significant advances in the two and a half years of war so far, despite heavy casualties in the Battle of Arras. Abram joined up on 7 July 1917, he had not married and had no dependents.

The 1st Canterbury Regiment embarked on the ship ‘Corinthic’ from Wellington, New Zealand and arrived at Liverpool on 8 December 1917. By the end of February 1918 his regiment was on the Western Front near Rouen.

By the end of July 1918, the German Army was being driven back across a good deal of the Front.

“On August 7 French, British and Dominion troops prepared for a new assault on the Western Front which was to begin the following day....The attack was to be the first of what [French General] Foch called his ‘liberating attacks’ against the new German line, aimed at driving its defenders back along a fifteen-mile front....The Battle of Amiens was a turning point, the Canadians advanced six miles, taking twelve villages, 5,000 prisoners and 161 guns...Australian troops were also successful that day, taking seven villages, nearly 8,000 prisoners and 173 guns.”

‘First World War’ by Martin Gilbert

In the next few days Luddendorff and the German High Command lost confidence in there ever being a German victory and started to plan the terms on which the war could be ended. Although Luddendorff within a fortnight was feeling more bullish, the beginning of the end was in sight.

On 15 August 1918, Abram was severely wounded in the face, arm and leg and though he was operated upon, he died two days later on 17 August 1918 at No. 56 Casualty Clearing Station, Rouen, aged 30.  He was buried at Bagneux British Cemetery,  Gezaincourt.  Grave Ref.   IV.C.30.   Abram is also listed on the Rotorua cenotaph in New Zealand.


Percy Binns

Lieut. Binns, Percy   2nd Battalion  25th Reinforcement  Australian Imperial Force.

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Percy was born on 27 January 1892 at Binns Fold (named after his family), the second of four children of Aethelbert and Ann Binns. He had an older brother, Arthur, and two younger sisters, Louie and Edith. Aethelbert was Wilsden’s Printer, Stationer, Post Office and publisher of the ‘Wilsden Almanac’.  Ann was a Professional Photographer.

Percy went to Wilsden Board School, he was an intelligent boy and won a place at Keighley Grammar School.   In 1907, when he was 15, the family emigrated to 12 Belle Vue Parade, Cornelian Bay, Hobart, Tasmania, the name of the house was ‘Birchlands’ – a little reminder of Wilsden.

Percy became an Advertisement Writer, then a Sub-manager in a Department Store.

He signed up for the Australian Army at Sydney Showground on 12 May 1916 and spent a year in Australia training with the A.I.F.

The 2nd Battalion 25th Reinforcements embarked at Sydney on H.M.A.T. A20 ‘Hororata’ on 14 June 1917, disembarked Liverpool 26 August 1917 and reached the Front on 5 January 1918. They served in and out of the trenches all through the Spring and Summer of 1918. The 2nd Battalion took part in the Allied offensive east of Amiens on 8 August 1918. Percy Binns was killed in action five days later at the age of 26.

The report of his death said;

“The above-named Officer was killed in action whilst on patrol at ‘Creepy Wood’, East of Harbonnieres at about 2.30p.m. on 13th August last. Whilst on patrol with a N.C.O. and a couple of men he encountered an enemy strong-post heavily manned. He immediately gave the order to charge, and when about two yards from the Strong Post he was hit in the face by a revolver bullet, death being instantaneous. Owing to extremely intense rifle and machine gun fire, also heavy shelling, the party was unable to recover his body. About fifteen minutes later another party went out in search of the body, but were unsuccessful. Lieut. Binns was not buried by this unit.

The unit was relieved on night of 14th August, by the 15th and 49th Battalions.”

Percy’s body was never found and he is commemorated on the Villers Bretonneux Memorial (The Australian National Memorial) Panel No.31. He is also remembered with a tree on ‘Soldiers Walk’ in Hobart, Tasmania.

 

Fred Hardy

Pte. Hardy, Fred   46432   15th Battalion   Durham Light Infantry

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Born in Wilsden in June 1899, Fred was the son of Hannah and Joshua Hardy of Norr Green, Wilsden. He had an older brother, Tom, and two older sisters, Ada and Mary. They lived at 10, New Brighton, Cottingley at the time he enlisted in Bradford in November 1917. He had previously been employed as a Dyer at Lister’s Manningham Mills.

Originally in the 4th Btn. Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regt)  No. 91965, Fred was transferred to the Durham Light Infantry in June 1918.

Fred was killed in action on 15 August 1918, aged 19, and is listed on Special Memorial 8 in the Serre Road Cemetery No. 1, Somme.

A disproportionate number of Wilsden’s casualties were killed on the Western Front during the months of August and September 1918. The Allies were making significant gains during this time, which would later be called the ‘Advance to Victory’ but at great cost to the young men who had been conscripted into the Army when they turned eighteen.  Between 8 August and 26 September 1918, the British lost 189,000 men, a large proportion of them youths of eighteen or nineteen.

 

 




The Battle of Amiens


“We cannot win this war any more, but we must not lose it”

  • General Erich Ludendorff, German Quartermaster-General

 On the 8th August, Allied troops on the Western Front began a massive assault around the area of the Somme, counter-attacking the German forces that had made huge territorial gains in Spring 1918. Due to the secrecy leading up to the attack, and the Allies beginning the assault without a preliminary artillery barrage, the German forces only began to return fire five minutes after the attack began, and then at the positions the Allied forces had assembled at the start of the battle. Many German staff officers were captured still eating their breakfasts. In five hours, Allied troops had advanced on average over 8 miles into the German lines, punching a hole 15 miles wide along the front. Support from aircraft and tanks kept the retreating Germans from rallying. General Ludendorff, along with the comment above, also described the battle as the ‘Black Day of the German army’, not because of the losses inflicted, but because the morale of the German forces had collapsed completely, with more and more soldiers surrendering. German officers who attempted to rally their troops were accused of wanting to prolong the war. The Battle of Amiens, though not known at the time, marked the end of the static trench warfare on the Western Front, and began the final phase of the war. However, the British, French and German governments were still thinking of renewed offensives, re-entrenchment, and the coming war of 1919 – David Lloyd-George, the British Prime Minister, was setting out plans to postpone the next major offensive on the Western Front until 1920.

 Cyril Holroyd

Gunner Holroyd, Cyril   77621   Royal Garrison Artillery  146th Siege Battery

 
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Cyril was born in 1893 in Halifax, the only child of Emily Ann and John Holroyd, an insurance salesman. In later childhood Cyril was brought up in Allerton, then found employment as a woolsorter. He married Emily Greenwood in April 1916 when he was on leave, having enlisted in December 1915, and she set up their home at Wilsden Hill.

 Bradford Weekly Telegraph  30 Aug 1918; -   “Gunner Cyril Holroyd, of 39, Wilsden Hill of the RGA and son of Mr John Holroyd 430, Allerton Rd, was killed in action on August 6th. He was previously employed as a woolsorter by Messrs B Parkinson & Co, Sunbridge Rd, Bradford.”

 The Siege Batteries had the largest guns and howitzers, mounted on railways or on massive fixed concrete emplacements and were consequently rather immobile. A heavy battery had four of these guns. They had a range of 10,000 yards and could drop shells well into land behind the enemy’s lines. Being placed about a mile and a half behind the front line, heavy artillery had the least vulnerability and the greatest capability of all the weapon groups for it was vulnerable only to the fire of hostile heavy guns and could attack infantry and field guns without direct retaliation.

Information from ‘Trench Warfare’ by Tony Ashworth

 Cyril was killed in action on 6 August 1918, aged 25, the result of a bombing raid and was initially buried near the place of his death, but in October 1919 his remains were brought for reburial to

Ribemont Communal Cemetery extension, 8 km south-west of Albert, Somme, France.     

Grave No. II. G. 3

He is also listed on the Allerton War Memorial in Lady Hill Park and on the memorial in Thornton Methodist Church which was formerly in the Egypt Methodist Chapel