Six Spalding men die on same day 100 years ago

No Caption ABCDE ANL-150930-135924001
No Caption ABCDE ANL-150930-135924001

A hundred years ago on Tuesday six men from Spalding and five from the wider district lost their lives on the battlefields of the First World War.

A hundred years ago on Tuesday six men from Spalding and five from the wider district lost their lives on the battlefields of the First World War.

They were all members of the Spalding Territorials, one as young as 19, taking part in what is known as the Hohenzollern Redoubt, at the end of the Battle of Loos.

They all died on the same day – October 13 – during what was described in these newspapers at the time as a “great attack” during which the young men behaved “as all true Britishers are expected to do, showing a dash, bravery and skill”.

However, that was probably official propaganda, says John Chester, chairman of Spalding and District branch of the Western Front Association.

John says: “It was an event which need not have happened. It was not necessary. It wasn’t going to gain anything.”

He explains that the Battle of Loos had officially ended a week earlier when the 12th Eastern and 46th North Midland divisions were tasked with getting a foothold on the German front line.

Unfortunately, John says the men had only been in France a short time and had no battle experience. The terrain didn’t help as it was flat and open.

John adds: “It was the first battle where we had used gas and it was all done in penny packets and the cloud of gas only lasted for half and hour and started to drift across the Germans and then came back to our own troops.”

The attack took place at 1.30pm on a clear afternoon, rather than at dawn, and John says that by the time the Spalding and Boston Territorials managed to get through the few gaps in the wire there was so much massed machine gun fire they were driven out.

It was over in just a few hours and the North Midland division had lost 180 officers and 3,583 other ranks as well as lots of casualties. Some of these were so badly injured they had to be discharged, and some were as a result of our own gas.

The report in these newspapers on the Hohenzollern Redoubt said: “The attack in which the Spalding contingent played such a noble part, and its successful result, proves it to be an achievement which will stand to the honour and glory of our local ‘Terriers’ for all time.”

The men will be remembered for all time – their names appear in memorials to the war dead in Spalding and in the villages.

Cheryl Arnold, who has researched both the First and Second World War for many years, has compiled a list of those who died on October 13.

They were C S Adams, of Hawthorn Bank, W G Edwards of Pennygate, A Gibbons, of Cross Street, H Goodrum, of Little London, R A Hayes, of Albert Street, G E Sanders, of Gore Lane – all from Spalding – as well as B Van Elk, who was staying with his uncle in Little London.

In addition, S Saunders of Deeping St Nicholas, H Elsey and T Townsend, both of Donington, and S Fox and Lance-Cprl Coy, both of Moulton Chapel, died on October 13, 1915.

Cheryl has been visiting the battlefields for 22 years and went to the official launch of the Loos Memorial in Dud Corner cemetery six years ago. On Tuesday, Cheryl, John Chester and other Western Front Association members will be going to the special commemoration being held at the Loos Memorial to honour the men who gave their lives in 1915.