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Sunday, April 12, 2015

43.1.j. Anzac Centenary - The Western Front and those who died fighting there.

The Western Front - 

There was no glory in this War, just thousands of young lives lost forever, witnessing death every minute.  How did they cope?

This poem was written by one of them.  John William Streets, and he wrote it in July 1916.

Behind that long and lonely trenched line
To which men come and go, where brave men die,
There is a yet unmarked and unknown shrine,
A broken plot, a soldier’s cemetery.

There lie the flower of youth, the men who scorn’d
To live (so died) when languished Liberty:
Across their graves flowerless and unadorned
Still scream the shells of each artillery.

When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot
Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,
And flowers will shine in this now barren plot
And fame upon it through the years descend:

But many a heart upon each simple cross

Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss

John William Streets, known as ‘Will’, wrote about the inspiration for his poems in a letter to the poetry publisher, Galloway Kyle:

    “They were inspired while I was in the trenches, where I have been so busy I have had little time to polish them. I have tried to picture some thoughts that pass through a man’s brain when he dies. I may not see the end of the poems, but I hope to live to do so. We soldiers have our views of life to express, though the boom of death is in our ears. We try to convey something of what we feel in this great conflict to those who think of us, and sometimes, alas! Mourn our loss.”

Unfortunately, Will's desire to live to see his poems published was never fulfilled.

On 1st July 1916 Sergeant John William Streets moved with the 12th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment into the assembly trenches behind John Copse on the Somme battlefield. The attack was launched at 07.30 hours. Will's battalion went in on the second wave. Will was wounded and made his way back to the British line to get his wound seen to. He was seen going to help another wounded man but he subsequently disappeared.

Will’s body was missing for 10 months before it was identified; it was found in the area of No-Mans Land. On 1st May 1917 he was officially listed as “Killed”.

John William Streets is buried at Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps. Reference: Special Memorial A. 6.

John William Street is just another name, added to the many engraved on the monuments, along with the following Durnfords.

Edmund George Durnford T/261335  Lance Corporal  1918  Royal Army Service Corps

Edmund Durnford Birth Place:  Castle Cary, Som Residence:  Midsomer Norton
Death Date:  18 Apr 1918 Death Place:  Home Enlistment Place:  Midsomer Norton
Rank:  DVR. Regiment:  Army Service Corps Regimental Number:  T/261335
Type of Casualty:  Died Theatre of War:  Home

Son of Edmund George and Eliza Durnford; husband of Bessie Durnford, of 6, Rock Rd., Midsomer Norton.

Edmund served in the Royal Army Service Corp.  827th Company.

The Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was a corps of the British Army responsible for land, coastal and lake transport, air despatch, barracks administration, the Army Fire Service, staffing headquarters' units, supply of food, water, fuel and domestic materials such as clothing, furniture and stationery and the supply of technical and military equipment. The corps is now part of the Royal Logistic Corps.

The ASC subsequently absorbed some transport elements of the Royal Engineers. In 1918, the corps received the "Royal" prefix for its service in the First World War and became the Royal Army Service Corps. It was divided into Transport and Supply Branches.

Before the Second World War, RASC recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 2 inches tall and could enlist up to 30 years of age (or 35 for tradesmen in the Transport Branch). They initially enlisted for six years with the colours and a further six years with the reserve (seven years and five years for tradesmen and clerks, three years and nine years for butchers, bakers and supply issuers). They trained at Aldershot.

Army Service Corps

Died on 18 April 1918 Age 38
Lance Corporal in the Royal army Service Corp, died in Durstan War Hospital Northampton.

Son of Edmund George and Eliza Durnford; husband of Bessie Durnford, of 6, Rock Rd., Midsomer Norton.

Edmund was a descendant of James Durnford b 1790 and his wife Amelia


Eric Charles Durnford 3289  Private  1916  Royal Warwickshire Regiment

E C Durnford Military Year:  1914-1915 Rank:  Private Medal Awarded:  1914-15 Star
Regiment or Corps:  Royal Warwickshire Regiment Regimental Number:  3289

Eric Charles Durnford Residence:  Bamford, Derby Death Date:  7 Jun 1916
Death Place:  France and Flanders Enlistment Place:  Aston, Birmingham
Rank:  Private Regiment:  Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Battalion:  1st 8th Territorial Battalion Regimental Number:  3289 Type of Casualty: Died of wounds
Theatre of War:  Western European Theatre

Eric Charles Durnford Age:  19 Birth Date:  abt 1897 Death Date:  7 Jun 1916
Cemetery:  Couin British, New British and Communal Cemeteries Burial Country:  France
Father:  Henry William Durnford Mother:  Ada Maud Durnford
Regiment:  Royal Warwickshire Regiment Regimental Number:  3289 Region or Memorial:  France

I. A. 3.  COUIN BRITISH CEMETERYSon of Henry William and Ada Maud Durnford, of 3, Grant's Crescent, Seaham Harbour, Co. Durham. Native of Rowsley, Derbyshire. Employee of General Electrical Lighting Co., Witton, Birmingham.

Eric Charles Durnford was the son of Henry William and Ada Maud Durnford.   Both he and his brother enlisted

1/8th Battalion
August 1914 : in Aston Cross. Part of Warwickshire Brigade, South Midland Division.
Landed at Le Havre 22 March 1915.
13 May 1915 : became 143rd Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division.
Moved to Italy with the Division in November 1917.
Moved to France 11 September 1918 and joined 75th Brigade, 25th Division.

Died of wounds 7th June 1916. Age 19. Son of Henry William and Ada Maud Durnford of 3 Grant's Crescent Seaham Harbour Co. Durham. Native of Rowsley Derbyshire. Employee of General Electrical Lighting Co. Witton Birmingham. I. A. 3

The Regiment gained 80 Battle Honours. During 1914 battalions were present at Le Cateau, the Retreat from Mons, Nery, the Marne, the Aisne, Armentieres, Ypres, Langemarck, Gheluvelt and Neuve Chapelle. The following year opened with 2nd Ypres followed by St Julien, Frezenberg, Aubers, Festubert, Bellwarde and Loos. During 1916 battalions were at Mount Sorrel, the Somme, Albert Canal, Bazentin, Delville Wood and a number of other engagements including Thiepval.

The big battles of 1917 saw battalions in action at Arras, Vimy, 3rd Ypres, Menin Road, Passchendaele and Cambrai.

Unfortunately Eric's medical records or service records are not available, as is the case with most British ones.  It is impossible to know which battle he was fighting.

Eric's brother Philip Sydney Devereux Durnford also enlisted.

While he did return home, he died 5th May 1925, as a result of injuries from the war.  He was a member of the Royal Engineers. He is buried at Seaham Cemetery Durham.


Henry Charles Durnford 19241  Private  1916  Somerset Light Infantry 

Henry Charles Durnford  Military Year:  1914-1920  Rank:  Private
Medal Awarded:  British War Medal and Victory Medal
Regiment or Corps:  Somerset Light Infantry  Regimental Number:  19241
Previous Units:  6th Som. L.I. Pte 19241
Son of Sylvester and Jael Durnford, of Great Toller, Maiden Newton, Dorchester, Dorset; husband of Laura A. Bowditch Durnford, of "Dulce Domum", 5, Wesley St., St. Helier, Jersey.


The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme is a war memorial to 72,195 missing British and South African men, who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918, with no known grave. It is near the village of Thiepval, Picardy in France. 

Henry was born 6th February 1879, in Toller Dorset England.  Henry worked in the railways and married Laura Ann Bowditch from St Helier in the Channel Island, in 1913.  Laura's father Walter was a livery manager on the island, and his wife was Caroline.
Empire Day 1917 in Somrset
They had two children and then he joined the Somerset Light Infantry the same unit as Horance Durnford.   He died 16th Septembr 1916

The Battle seems to be the Battle of Delville Wood fought between 15th July and 3rd September.

The Battle of Delville Wood (15 July – 3 September 1916) was a series of engagements in the 1916 Battle of the Somme in the First World War, between the armies of the German Empire and the British Empire. Delville Wood (Bois d'Elville), was a thick tangle of trees, chiefly beech and hornbeam (the wood has been replanted with oak and birch by the South African government), with dense hazel thickets, intersected by grassy rides, to the east of Longueval. As part of a general offensive starting on 14 July, which became known as the Battle of Bazentin Ridge (14–17 July), General Douglas Haig, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, intended to capture the German second position between Delville Wood and Bazentin le Petit.

The attack achieved this objective and was a considerable though costly success. British attacks and German counter-attacks on the wood continued for the next seven weeks, until just before the Battle of Flers–Courcelette (15–17 September), the third British general attack in the Battle of the Somme. The 1st South African Infantry Brigade made its Western Front début as part of the 9th (Scottish) Division and captured Delville Wood on 15 July. The South Africans held the wood until 19 July, at a cost in casualties similar to those of many British brigades on 1 July. When captured, the village and wood formed a salient, which could be fired on by German artillery from three sides. The ground rose from Bernafay and Trônes woods to the middle of the village and neither the village or the wood could be held without the other.

Burying the dead and the original cemetery

Henry Charles Durnford is descended from Jacob Durnford and appears that he married a Betty Dicker in 1783.  Some records have been transcribed as Dunford and Danford.  Others are Durnford.

Sylvester was the son of Charles and Jane, and he had a dairyfarm.


Horace Agustus Reginald Durnford 28170  Private  1917  Somerset Light Infantry 
Horace Agustus Reginald Durnford Military Year:  1914-1920 Rank:  Private
Medal Awarded:  British War Medal and Victory Medal Regiment or Corps:  Somerset Light Infantry Regimental Number:  28170 Previous Units:  1st Som. L.I. Pte 28170

Horace Wiliam and Ellen Jane Durnford, of North Cheriton, Templecombe, Somerset.
Born 1896   Father was a market gardner at Holton in 1901.  

Horace Agustus Reginald Durnford
Death Date:4 Oct 1917
Burial Place:Zonnebeke, West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen), Belgium

Panel 41 to 42 and 163A.TYNE COT MEMORIAL

Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) burial ground for the dead of the First World War in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front. The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom in perpetuity by King Albert I of Belgium in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire in the defence and liberation of Belgium during the war. It is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war. The cemetery and its surrounding memorial are located outside of Passendale, near Zonnebeke in Belgium.

The Third Battle of Ypres was the major British offensive in Flanders in 1917. It was planned to break through the strongly fortified and in-depth German defences enclosing the Ypres salient, a protruding bulge in the British front line, with the intention of sweeping through to the German submarine bases on the Belgian coast. 

The battle comprised of a series of limited and costly offensives, often undertaken in the most difficult of waterlogged conditions - a consequence of frequent periods of rain and the destruction of the Flanders' lowlands drainage systems by intense artillery bombardment. As the opportunity for breakthrough receded, Haig still saw virtue in maintaining the offensives, hoping in the process to drain German manpower through attrition. The main battles associated with Third Battle of Ypres were:

- Pilckem, 31 July to 2 August
- Langemarck, 16-18 August

- Menin Road, 20-25 September
- Polygon Wood, 26 September to 3 October
- Broodseinde, 4 October
- Poelcapelle, 9 October
- Passchendaele (First Battle), 12 October
- Passchendaele (Second Battle), 26 October to 10 November.
Australian Divisions participated in the battles of Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle and the First Battle of Passchendaele. In eight weeks of fighting Australian forces incurred 38,000 casualties. The combined total of British and Dominion casualties has been estimated at 310,000 (estimated German losses were slightly lower) and no breakthrough was achieved. The costly offensives, ending with the capture of Passchendaele village, merely widened the Ypres salient by a few kilometres.

Mud everywhere it is mud.  The 3rd Battle of Ypres - Destroyed the town, craters were formed in the main streets, from the shells.

 The cemetery in 1920 and today

The fields - nothing has changed, the land is below sea level, and the mud still forms after rain.


1 comment:

  1. found image from Passendaele 1917 which I would like to use in biography I'm writing about my granda who fought at Langemark. Image 23 of 36 shows troops on duckboard and would be good illustration of conditions locally. Please may I have your approval to use this in my self published book which will soon be going to print. Please reply to :

    Many thanks, Ted Cooper