Posts Tagged ‘West Yorkshire Regiment’

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: F. Hanlon
Born: 9 April 1890
Date of Death: 31 March 1918
Age at death: 27
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: West Yorkshire Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 15th (Service) Battalion (1st Leeds Pals Battalion) which later merged with 17th Battalion to become the 15th/17th Battalion
Enlisted: Leeds
Rank: Private (Service No. 15/425)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign Medals – Victory Medal, British War Medal, 1914-15 Star
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders) and WW1 (Egypt)
Manner of Death: Died of Wounds (whilst in German military field hospital)
Family Details: Son of James and Annie Hanlon of 19 Brudenall Road, Hyde Park, Leeds
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Yorkshire and East Midlands Division)
Civilian Rank: 
Cemetery or Memorial: Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Pas de Calai (XX.E.14); Breary Banks Memorial to Leeds Pals; Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour, now hanging in Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1; and the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London);



Frank’s mother and 4 sisters (Copyright: Cathy Ready)

Frank Hanlon was born on 8 April 1890, the oldest son and child of James Hanlon (1860-1931), a machinist an his wife Annie Shackleton (1867 – 1953) who came from Burley in Leeds. The growing family can be found in successive censuses, first in 1891, and then 1901 and 1911. In 1891 the Frank is living aged just 11 months together with his parents at 13 Carberry Place, Burley. By 1901,  the Hanlon family have moved to 180 Burley Road. Frank (aged 10) now has 4 younger sisters –  Shirley (1892 – 1970), Jeannette (1894 – 1993), Edith (1896 – 1979) and lastly Mildred (1898 – 1990). In 1911, the whole family are all living at 10 Beechwood Crescent, Burley. In this census, Frank is now aged 20 and working as a clerk for Leeds County Council in the Education Department.

At some point between 1911 and 1914, Frank joined the Yorkshire and East Midlands Division of the Labour Department (which at the time formed part of the Board of Trade).

In his private life, we know that Frank and his family had a life long connection with St Andrew’s Church located on Burley Street, Leeds, just a stone’s throw from their home in Burley Street. Sadly the church no longer exists, since it closed in 1958, as a result of a reorganisation of church boundaries. What was previously St Andrew’s parish now falls under St George’s parish.

However, we still know that Frank was baptised at St Andrew’s in May 1890. We also know that his father, James Hanlon was a choirmaster there as, according to family records, the church wrote to him in 1909 thanking him for his service in this role and asking him to continue. Frank was also active in church life and was one of the sidesmen (also known as ushers or assistant churchwardens). In this capacity he would have been well known to the congregation and local community, as he was responsible for greeting churchgoers, overseeing seating and taking the collection. As is common practice, he would most likely have been appointed by the church’s Annual Parochial Church Meeting.


“The Leeds Pals” book

Motivated by his faith and strong personal and moral upbringing, Frank enlisted as a Private in the 15th (Service) Battalion of the Prince of Wales’ Own (West Yorkshire Regiment). This  was one of the so-called “Pals Battalions” formed by local authorities or private organisations who provided the necessary clothing, accommodation and food alongside the army providing weapons and training. The young men of Leeds (as in other places across the UK) heeded the call of Lord Kitchener to enlist (and bolster the small standing professional army of 120,000 men). The connection between the volunteers and the city was intrinsically linked – for instance, as the authors of the Leeds Pals Researchers say “the city was part of them and they were part of the city”.

According to details of the regiment published on “The Long Long Trail” the battalion was formed in Leeds in September 1914 by Lord Edward Brotherton, the Lord Mayor and the City. Frank (alongside his friends and work colleagues) would undoubtedly have seen a recruitment poster similar to the one published here.

He enlisted alongside hundreds of other clerks, engineers, schoolteachers and other men from the city and so it is likely he knew a highly educated Leeds University graduate originally from Bengal in India, Jogendra Sen (1887 – 1916) who was also one of the first men to enlist in the Leeds Pals.

The regiment initially trained locally before moving to Silkstone (near Barnsley in South Yorkshire) in December 1914. In June 1915, the battalion came order of the 93rd Brigade, 31st Division. In December 1915 the battalion saw its first service overseas when it was sent to Alexandria in Egypt to defend the Suez Canal (according to Frank’s medal card he landed on 22 December 1915 which would have made for an unusual Christmas away from home). It would very likely have been Frank’s first time far from home and first time on a long sea journey.  The memories of the voyage to Egypt are remembered on the Remembering the Leeds Pals Battalions website by a fellow Leeds Pal who survived the war, Private Arthur Pearson. He recalls that the food served on board was ‘most unappetising and most of it uneatable. Boiled mutton day after day. We swore we got the same piece of mutton day after day too, as we couldn’t touch the stuff.’

Then in March 1916, the battalion was subsequently reassigned to serve in France.

Frank would undoubtedly have fought  alongside his friends on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916). During this action, the Leeds Pals were stationed near the village of Serre, where they were ordered to attack the Germany positions. This was a deadly day and the Pals were decimated by the German artillery and machine guns. By the end of 1 July 1916, 248 members of the Leeds Pals were either killed or fatally injured. Only 72 members of the Battalion were uninjured. As Private Pearson, again remembered: “The name of Serre and the date of 1st July is engraved deep in our hearts, along with the faces of our ‘Pals’, a grand crowd of chaps. We were two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying.”

Frank at this time was one of the ‘lucky’ ones and he went on to fight in the Battle of Arras (9 April to 16 May 1917) with the Leeds Pals. He was subsequently part of the remaining Leeds Pals who merged with the 17th Battalion or Leeds Bantams to form the 15th/17th Battalion on 7 December 1917.

By 1918, the surviving Leeds men spent the start of the year training and in reserve, in preparation to provide reinforcements to the front line. We also know (thanks to a Leeds Live online newspaper report from 11 November 1918 the circumstances which most likely led to Frank’s ultimate death). The 15th/17th Battalion that Frank served in was sent back to the front in March 1918 and so he would have have faced the German Spring Offensive, code-named Operation Michael. This German military operation consisted of an intensive bombardment on the British trenches across a 50 mile front line (stretching from Arras to La Ferre). On 26 March 1918, the Leeds Pals were isolated whilst fighting on the outskirts of Moyenneville. The Leeds Pals launched a counter attack to drive off the Germans but they continued to hit back and were able to hold out. The battalion was ordered to withdraw and hit by another attack on 27 March 1918. Subsequently, with the German’s looking to be gaining advantage, a Sergeant Alfred Mountain volunteered to take charge of 10 men and a Lewis gun to protect the battalion’s flank, killing up to 100 German soldiers. This action successfully repelled the German attack. For this action Sergeant Mountain (who ultimately survived) was awarded the Victoria Cross. The Germans however continued to advance and the Pals were were again outflanked and whilst 44 were able to retreat, the rest were captured. In all, during this whole 9 day battle, 74 soldiers in the West Yorkshire Regiment were lost and more than 1,070 men serving in the 93rd Brigade were either, dead, wounded or missing.

This reason for focusing in on this particular time period, is that we know that at some point during this military action, Frank Hanlon was captured by the Germans, after being injured. Frank was one of 10 million people, servicemen or civilians who were captured and sent to detention camps or treated in military hospitals.

Thanks to surviving Prisoner of War historical archives from the International  Committee of the Red Cross, we know that Frank was reported missing since 24 March 1918. An index card (Reference no A. 40491) also details that Frank died, aged 27, at a field hospital at Aniche on 31 March 1918 having been shot in the lung.

As a wounded prisoner, Frank Hanlon’s fate would have fallen under the 1864 Geneva Convention which stated in Article 6 that “Wounded or sick combatants, to whatever nation they may belong, shall be collected and cared for”.

The ICRC, an independent, neutral organisation, was founded in 1863 to “protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and violence and to provide them with assistance”. Their work continues to this day and you can find out more about supporting and donating to their ongoing work.

From records, we also know that Frank left a will and and probate (dated 10 September 1918) totalling £47 1 shilling 6 pence. Also touchingly his next of kin is named as his fiancee, Lucy Markinson.

Cabaret Rouge1

Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, France (Copyright: www.cwgc.org.uk)

Frank was initially buried at Auberchicourt Cemetery, in what was then German territory. However, in 1924 his body was re-interred in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France where it remains to this day. Frank’s reburial is not unusual during the period after WW1 as the battlefields were cleared of ammunition and debris and known burial sites were examined and moved to larger cemeteries. As a result, alongside over 3000 fellow British and Commonwealth soldiers, Frank has a uniform gravestone which bears a simple inscription chosen by his family – it says: “HE IS RISEN” MARK XVI. 6″.

As their eldest son and as a brother, Frank’s loss must have been deeply felt by the rest of the Hanlon family, and his death was rarely spoken of according to living descendants. His nephew Frank Hanlon Pollard was named after him.

The then vicar of St Andrew’s wrote beautifully and movingly of Frank in his Annual Report in 1918 as follows:

“There are other and sadder losses…Mr Frank Hanlon, one of our sidesmen, and all his life connected with St Andrew’s Church, has lost his life in battle. He was one of the best and we mourn his loss. He gave his life for his country and he could do no more.” 

Frank is remembered at the Commonwealth War Grave cemetery of Cabarat-Rouge in France. He is also remembered on two Civil Service War Memorials in London – the Ministry of Labour War Memorial located in Tothill Street and the Board of Trade War Memorial located at 3 Whitehall Place. A stone cairn memorial also stands in honour of the 15th Battalion (The Leeds Pals) which is located on Breary Banks. The memorial was unveiled on 25 September 1935 on the site of the first training camp of around 1,275 men who formed the Leeds Pals battalion.

The memorial in St Andrew’s Church, Burley has sadly been lost in the years since the church closed in 1958, however a photo of it still survives. It would be amazing to see if the memorial could be found or alternatively replaced. This happened as recently as 2017 when Leeds City Council rededicated the war memorial from the former  St Columba Church which also previously located in Burley, Leeds. As reported in the Yorkshire Post the restoration of war memorials is deeply symbolic, hence the ongoing work of the Department for International Trade‘s War Memorial Research Group, which cuts across all faiths, beliefs and places of origin (and other national organisations such as the War Memorial Trust). 

Chris Page, local Leeds branch secretary of the Western Front Association, who campaigned for the restoration of the St Colomba memorial, said in 2017: “It’s not really about us – it’s about them and their sacrifice which was really important.”


War Memorial from former St Andrews Church, Burley Street, Leeds

With massive thanks to the relatives (Cathy and Neil Ready) of Frank Hanlon for very kindly sharing surviving photos of Frank and his family.

(Note: Many more details of the history of the Leeds Pals can be found in books by Laurie Mills or the Leeds Pals Researchers).

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Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: W. Robinson
Born: About 1889
Date of Death: 29 September 1918
Age at death: 29
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own)
Unit, Ship, etc: 15th (or 5th) Battalion, attached 16th Battalion Tank Corps
Enlisted: October 1914
Rank: Second Lieutenant
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Killed in action
Family Details: Son of William and Lucy Ann Robinson of Haworth, Yorkshire
Residence: 19 Victoria Avenue, Mytholmes, Haworth, Yorkshire
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Yorkshire and East Midlands Division)
Civilian Rank:
Cemetery or Memorial: Unicorn Cemetery, Vend’huile, France (IV.C.22); Haworth War Memorial; Ministry of Labour War Memorial (located at Caxton House, Tothill Street, London) and the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London)



Walter Robinson (Copyright: Keighley News)

When I first started working on researching the Board of Trade War Memorial men, I wasn’t at all sure what to find. Only a very small handful of the men had either photos or an extensive background history published on our group’s original website. I wanted to go beyond the original research and locate more details about those who weren’t as lucky with any remembered stories about them. One of the names that caught my eye was that of Walter Robinson for whom we had no census or even birth details recorded.

All I knew was a small amount of information recorded from the index of All UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919  – these details comprised the facts that Walter served as a Second Lieutenant in the 15th (or 5th Battalion) attached to 16th Battalion Tank Corps of the West Yorkshire Regiment. I also knew he was killed in action on 29 September 1918 and is buried in Unicorn Cemetery, Vend’huile (IV.C.22). I also knew that he worked for the Board of Trade Labour Department in the Yorkshire and East Midlands Division).

Not much to go on given no relatives were listed and his name is fairly common. How then to locate more details about Walter Robinson?

I searched on a few internet forums including the Great War Forum and from here managed to identify that there was a Walter Robinson who served in the Tank Corps who was remembered on a War Memorial in Keighley. From here I contacted volunteer researchers for the Men of Worth project to pass on the details I knew and to confirm if my hunch was right and if ‘my’ Walter came from Haworth.

With this lucky break I now knew Walter was born in about 1892 in Denholme, Yorkshire and I managed to locate him recorded in the censuses of 1891, 1901 and 1911.

In 1891 he is living with his parents – William Robinson and Lucy Ann Robinson and one of seven brothers and sisters in Thornton, Yorkshire. In 1901 the family were living at 5 Back Minnie Street, Haworth. I then found him again listed aged 22 in the 1911 census living at 19 Victoria Avenue, Mytholmes, Haworth, Yorkshire. He is living with some of his other siblings and is working as a railway clerk. Another useful source are probate records and luck was at hand again as Walter Robinson has a probate recording him still at the same Victoria Avenue address. His probate dated 28 May 1919 lists Emily Robinson (spinster) and effects of £389 14s 3d.

Looking again at the Keighley War Memorial it is clear that there is another Robinson named. Further research revealed that one of Walter’s brothers, Clifford Robinson (born in 1897) also died in World War one (he died two years earlier on 16 September 1916 due to an exploding shell). He has no known grave and is named on the Thiepval Memorial.

A further insight of Walter’s life and character came from a brief article in the Keighley Gazette  dated 12 October 1918 published at the time of his death. This reports:

“Second Lieutenant Walter Robinson, of 19, Victoria Avenue, Mytholmes, Haworth, was killed in action on September 29. He joined the forces in October, 1914, before which he was engaged at the Labour Exchange at Doncaster. He went to France with the Green Howards, and soon reached the rank of sergeant. He came home last year to take up a commission, and was gazetted to the West Yorkshire Regiment. Shortly after his return to France he became acting captain. In the early part of this year he volunteered for the Tank Corps, and took up training for the purpose in Dorset. He again went to France in August last, but had only held his new post a month when he was killed. He was a clever and intelligent young officer of considerable promise, and much regret is felt in Haworth at his death. This is especially so at the West Lane Baptist Church and Sunday School, with which he and his family have been actively connected for many years.”

What’s more this article had the added bonus of containing a picture! Thanks to the efforts of Andy Wade and other researchers with a similar interest, finding his photo kickstarted a target of trying to locate as many photos of the 305 Board of Trade men as possible.


Map of the Somme Offensive (August – November 1918)

But to return to Walter’s story. As mentioned in the brief extract from the Keighley News, we know that Walter Robinson was a talented young man. Before the war, he worked his way up from manual work as a woollen doffer (ie someone who removes bobbins or doffs from spinning frames) at a mill to becoming a railway clerk and then to finding employment in one of the Board of Trade’s new Labour Exchanges. As referenced in the Keighley News article, this ambition and leadership ability, also prompted him to rise through the army ranks and seek new opportunities. He initially joined the Yorkshire Regiment (commonly referred to as the Green Howards) before rising to the commissioned officer ranks and posted to the West Yorkshire Regiment as acting Captain (with up to around 200 men under his command). He promptly volunteered for the 16th Battalion Tank Corps and returned in August 1918 to the front line only a month before his death. He died on 29 September 1918 in the first 90 minutes of the Battle of the St Quentin Canal, which was an important battle for a vital supply route of the Riqueval Bridge. The battle which ultimately lasted until 10 October 1918 involved British, Australian, American and French forces whose objective was to break one of the most heavily defended sections of the Hindenburg Line. The battle ultimately resulted in victory for the allies and set the road for the Armistice on 11 November 1918.

During the first day of action in the battle, the British were trying to take a ridge near to Quennemont Farm. However the British Mark V tanks faced heavy artillery fire, anti-tank rifles and mines. (Source: https://www.keighleynews.co.uk/news/16293348.metal-coffin-for-haworth-man-walter/). For instance, four heavy tanks and five medium tanks were destroyed in just 15 minutes by the German field guns.battle-of-st-quentin-canal-prisoners-bringing-in-wounded-and-mark-v-tanks-advancing-near-bellicourt-29-september-1918-iwm

According to the website, “The Long, Long Trail“, the idea of some type of armoured vehicle or “land battleship” was only initially suggested in the British army in the autumn of 1914, by a Lieutenant-Colonel E.D. Swinton, which were followed by the first experimental machines and their first use on the battlefield of the Somme at Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916. The Tank Corps was formed as a separate British army unit a year later on 28 July 1917, in acknowledgement of the specific requirements for tanks in terms of logistics, transport, maintenance and reconnaissance. The Tanks Corps was seen as something of an elite force, so Walter Robinson’s choice to join the unit was a good career move.  The early tanks were however slow and hard to manoeuvre and were open to attack by heavy artillery, machine gun fire and explosives    By 1918, when the Mark V design of British tank was produced and deployed on the battlefields,  the tank was more developed but still not a war winning machine and the Germans had found ways to attack and destroy tanks.

According to the 16th Battalion War Diary for the time, the morning of 29 September 1918 was fine but there was dense fog, making it extremely difficult to see the progress of the battle. The tanks were immediately heavily attacked. Ultimately all tanks were were put out of action and almost 66% of the battalion were lost with 2 officers killed (including Walter Robinson), 16 wounded and 1 missing. Additionally 21 were killed, 31 wounded and 16 were reported missing. (Read more about the capture of the St Quentin Canal on The History Press website).

Walter Robinson is buried in France at the Unicorn Cemetery, Vend’huile (IV.C.22) although his name is wrongly recorded as William Robinson by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Back in England he is remembered in his home town on the Haworth War Memorial as well as in London on the memorials to civil servants on the Ministry of Labour and Board of Trade War Memorials.


Researching Walter Robinson has been very rewarding. From little more than a name to go on, I have been able to put a face and flesh to his bones. Walter’s life and sacrifice has become very real to me.

In the words of the Tank Corps motto, “Through mud and blood to the green fields beyond”, I hope that both Walter Robinson and the many thousands of men and officers of the Tank Corps of WW1 are now at rest and at peace.



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