Alexandra,  Princess   of   Wales's   Own
Page 37. Dec/Feb 1917. Flers. Move to flank of French Sector.

The Front in January 1917,
The red line marks the furthest extent of ground gained in this area by the 1916 Battle of the Somme.
The 4th Yorks Btn were in the Trenches around Eaucourt.

1st to 29th DECEMBER The Btn were training at Contay. The Diary remarks that so many orders were issued from Higher Command that they understood paper was to replace coal and wood as fuel.
Btn and Bde Sports and Football competitions were held and Pork provided for Christmas dinner.
It was noticed that the Transport men with a strength one third of a Company consumed twice the amount of beer than any Company drank.

3883 Pte Hudson Harold. Home at - Leeming Bar, Bedale, N Yorks. Enlisted at Northallerton, N Yorks. Died of wounds on the 4th. Age 19. Buried at St Sever [Hospital] Cemetery Extension, Rouen.
6135 Pte Patrick William, Arthur. Home at Giddington Northants, place of birth. Enlisted at Kettering, Northants. Died on the 21st. Age 25. Buried at Contay British Cemetery.
30th/31st DECEMBER The Btn moved back to Becourt, near Albert and on New Years Eve moved back to the trenches near Bazentin Le Petit, where they took over from the 2nd Munsters.

1st to 7th JANUARY. The Btn were in Nissen huts near Bazentin Le Petit.

5434 Pte Longfield Leonard. Home at Darlington Durham. Born at Leeds and enlisted at Northallerton, N Yorks. Killed in action. Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial
8th to 11th JANUARY. They moved to Flers reserve trenches where they relieved the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers. The wet conditions are described by a letter of the time -
"Wherever one looked, one saw the same endless extent of black mud and water, christened all over the place with the remains of old trenches, and wherever one walked, one slipped or slithered about among the innumberable shell holes. Almost every day both British and Bosche lose their way and get into the enemy lines. Wandering about in the mud at night was rather an uncanny business as there were a great many dead bodies lying about, some already sunk in the mud. The mud will have swallowed them all up before the winter is over......We found two men sitting in the mud.

Section of the above map showing the Allied and German Trench systems.

Their gum boots had been sucked off by the mud, their feet had gone wrong and they were absolutely done to the world. They both went to hospital next day with "trench feet."
The Diary describes the area as a series of gun positions connected by trenches into a miniature Hampton Court maze. Several thousand rounds of ammunition had been left as a legacy by a battery which formerly occupied the position. A quiet 4 days.

11th to 19th JANUARY. The Btn moved to a left sub-section of the Front line in relief of the 5th Btn D.L.I. with Btn HQ at Hexham Road. [Hexham Road was the British name for the road that connected Warlencourt to Eaucourt.] The Front line is described as a series of isolated posts where 2 half Companies were positioned. 4 prisoners came in during the tour and they had one case of trench foot.
Work was done on improving and revetting advance posts. On the night of the 11th the Btn walked into a German barrage at Hexham Rd.

3313 Cpl Leeks Harry. Home at 57 Wharton St, North Skelton, N Yorks. Enlisted at Skelton in Cleveland, N Yorks. Killed in action on the 11th. Age 21. Buried at Warlencourt British Cemetery.
15th to 23rd JANUARY. The Btn were back in reserve at Bazentin, where they provided working parties for roads, light railways and cable burying. From the 17th to the end of the month there snow and hard frost and the Diary describes attempts at bombing and musketry as something less than serious, but the Btn persevered.
9116 Pte Hamp Frederick. Home at 32 Sheep St, Northampton, town of enlistment. Born at St Sep, Northants. Died at home, age 29, on the 13th and buried at Hipswell (St John) Churchyard.
The following 2 men died of wounds on the 15th January and are both buried at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery, Extension.
1662 re-numbered 200235 Pte Allen Fred. Born and enlisted at Guisborough, N Yorks. He was one of 4 brothers who all served in the First World War.
Cpl Richard Allen was also in the 4th Yorks and had died of wounds on the 22nd of July 1915. The other two survived and not known which Regiments they were in.
1828 Cpl Cook Herbert. Home at 51 Park St, Skelton in Cleveland, N Yorks, place of enlistment. Born at Guisborough, N Yorks. Age 37. He had been awarded the Military Medal for some unknown action in 1916. Prior to the War he had been a Plate layer at Park Pit Ironstone Mine, Skelton.
He left a widow, Elizabeth, [my Grandmother] and an 8 year old daughter, Ethel.
Many war widows re-married, as they had to survive on the princely War Pension of 37 shillings [1.85]. Elizabeth, being then aged 39 had to give up her home and move in with her sister, never to have her own place again.

Cpl Harry Leeks of North Skelton, North Yorks.
Killed in action, aged 21, on the night of 11th January 1917.
Buried at Warlencourt British Cemetery.
[Photograph kindly contributed by his great nephew, Andrew Berwick.]

7605 Pte Everett Edward, William. Home at Ely Cambs, place of birth. Enlisted at Cambridge. Died at home on the 19th. Age 22. Buried at Ely Cemetery Cambs Ex Cambs Regt.
23rd to 27th JANUARY. The Btn moved on the 23rd into Flers Reserve trenches in relief of the 7th Btn Northumberland Fusiliers.
The hard frost made conditions much more pleasant and the Btn lost many of its amphibious habits. Bosche aeroplanes active and during the last 2 days his gunners appeared to have discovered the position.
On the 27th the Btn were relieved by the 3rd Btn Australian Imperial Force and they moved back to site 3 at Bazentin Le Petit.

28th JANUARY. Btn moved to Camp B at Fricourt, just East of Albert, where they were billeted in Nissen Huts with "plenty of fuel".

30th JANUARY. Moved to Buire sur L'Ancre, a village about 7k South West of Albert.
Two and a half Companies were in billets and the rest in tents.
Diary During the last month the Btn was in the Front line 4 days only and very few men did more than one spell of 24 hours in advanced posts. Casualties were few and sickness was chiefly confined to diarrhoea when in Reserve. The Btn was working with Companies of an average strength well under 100 and with 3 Officers per Coy. The divisional area was left in a much better condition than it was taken over in and this Unit had no experience of the entente cordiale reputed to exist between the front lines of the respective armies.
Diary is signed off by Capt W. F. Mott as Officer Commanding the Btn.

1st to 8th FEBRUARY. The Btn stayed at Buire where they learnt the true functions and composition of a platoon. The ancients appear to have referred to it as a Company. A great deal of bombing done.

Captain John Kenneth Stead.

241007 Pte Metcalfe N. Enlisted at Beverley Yorks. Died at home 2nd Feb. Buried at Beverley (St Mary) Church Cemetery.
Capt John Kenneth Stead. Attached to the Royal Flying Corps, he died of wounds at the Bailleul Casualty Station on the 4th Feb 1917, aged 25.
He was the son of Dr John Edward Stead and Mary Elizabeth Stead of Everdon, Redcar, N Yorks
He was born in Redcar on the 26th August 1892 and educated at Mill Hill School, Durham University and the Armstrong College, where he studied with a view to becoming a mining engineer.
He obtained a commission in the 4th Yorks on the 7th September 1914 and went out to France when the Battalion first went on the 18th April 1915.
He was wounded at Ypres on the 29th April and invalided home, rejoining at Northallerton in September for light duties.
In March 1916 he became attached to the RFC and returned to France on the 18th July.
His CO wrote:-
"He was hit in an air fight a long way over the enemy lines. The wound is in his leg. It is a bad bullet wound and has caused a compound fracture of his shin bone and also severed the main artery.
How he got back, I do not know.
It was simply due to his marvellous courage and determination, of which we have had so much evidence ever since he has been with the squadron.
He was exceptionally keen on his work, both on the ground and in the air.

Stead Memorial Stone in Redcar Cemetery.
Contributed by Ray Wilkins of Middlesbrough.

And so well did he look after his engine and machine that he held the proud record of never having failed to do his job on account of engine failure and that over a period of 7 months means a lot.
His last piece of active work was typical of him.
He flew 20 miles with a fractured shin and severed artery and made a perfect landing at the end of it.
I do not think a man can have a finer testimonial than that. He saved the life of his observer and saved his machine from falling into the hands of the enemy.
His observer helped him as much as he could by binding up his leg, to try to stop the bleeding.
But even so, I think that most men would have gone under before reaching home."
A Brother Officer said:-
"We all admired him and respected him as one else in the whole Flying Corps. Personally I have lost one of my very best, if not closest, friends in the truest sense of the word. kind and thoughtful, I simply cannot imagine a more perfect gentleman and soldier. He had absolutely no fault that I could discover and we lived in the same hut and loved each other like brothers even."

He is buried at Bailleul Community Cemetery.
9th FEBRUARY. Leaving its billets scrupulously clean the Btn proceeded to Morcourt [a village on the River Somme, due South of Albert and a 10 kilometres march from Buire]. Here they spent one night in "a pleasantly situated French camp"

10th FEBRUARY. Btn marched 9 kilometres towards the Front to the village of Foucaucourt, where they were billeted in the Camp De L'Eglise.

11th FEBRUARY. At night they relieved parties of the 218 and 18th Regiments of the French Infantry in the right subsector, right Brigade of the new Divisional area. "The entente cordial must have been cemented by this relief which was completed with no confusion and much cordiality. All ranks of the Btn appreciated being the right Btn of the British Armies and the close neighbours of our gallant allies. So long as the frost continued the new sector was an admirable home and moderately quiet.
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