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Loyal North Lancashires, The - Actions in First World War (WWI, World War 1, First Great European War) to 1915

Updated on February 5, 2015
Loyal North Lancashire Regiment Badge
Loyal North Lancashire Regiment Badge | Source

Lancashires' Wild Rush

“The battalion will advance. Quick march !”

On the morning of Friday, October 23rd, 1914, Major A.J. Carter, D.S.O., the officer commanding, gave this familiar order to the 1st Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

Throughout the night the men had been marching, practically without food or rest, and after a brief halt they were on the move again, for there was grim business ahead.

Near the road running from Bixschoote to Langemarck the British had dug some trenches, and during the first Battle of Ypres the Germans captured them.

If they had been allowed to stay there, Sir John French would probably have been forced to give up Ypres.

The Loyal North Lancashires and two other battalions of General Bulfin's Brigade were ordered up, and to them was given the task of regaining the lost trenches.

The Lancashire men were sent towards the village of Pilckem, about half-way between Bixschoote and Langemarck, and by a series of short rushes they advanced steadily towards the enemy.

In a little while they were near enough for the final charge. A wild rush, and the trenches were taken.

First Battle of Ypres - Trench Warfare Begins

"Hushed is the shriek of hurtling shells : and, hark !
Somewhere within that bit of deep blue sky.
Grand in his loneliness, his ecstasy,
His lyric wild and free, carols a lark.
I in the trench, he lost in heaven afar;
I dream of love, its ecstasy he sings ;
Both lure my soul to love till, like a star,
It flashes into life : O tireless wings
That beat love's message into melody -
A song that touches in this place remote
Gladness supreme in its undying note,
And stirs to life the soul of memory -
'Tis strange that while you're beating into life
Men here below are plunged in sanguine strife." - Corporal John William Streets

Lancashires' Major and His Chair

In this little engagement the Lancashires had two officers killed and four wounded, while about a hundred and fifty men were hit.

One of the wounded was Major H.G. Powell, and his conduct on that day was remarkable for coolness and pluck.

It seems that some time previously the major had sprained his ankle, so when the advance began he took a chair out of a house nearby and hobbled along with it in one hand and his stick in the other.

At the end of each rush, when the men set down on the ground, he put down his chair and sat on it, directing his section all the time.

Against all odds, he got to within two hundred yards of the German trenches without being hit, but then his luck ran out; he was wounded and was carried off to the dressing-station.

These Lancashire lads had been fighting hard for two months. The battalion was among the first to land in France, and as part of the 1st Division it fought at Mons and retreated to the Marne.

During the retreat its commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel G.C. Knight, was killed.

Retreat to the Marne - WWI

Fight for a Sugar Factory

At the Battle of the Aisne the North Lancashires crossed that river under heavy fire near Bourg, and then pressed uphill towards Vendresse.

On the top of the hill, parallel to the river, there was a high-road called the Chemin des Dames, and near this was the hamlet of Troyon.

In Troyon there was a sugar factory and this had been turned into a strong little fortress, by the Germans .

Again the men moved forward through the wet grass and about mid-day the North Lancashires, who were leading, got quite close to it.

Then, with a shout, they rushed into the factory, drove out the Germans, and it was taken.

About this time the battalion's new colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel W.R. Lloyd, was returned as missing, and it was some time before it was known that he had been killed during this fighting on the Aisne.

From the Aisne the gallant battalion, then under Major Carter, went to Ypres, where it stayed through October and November.

The story of the fight on October 23rd has been told already, and soon after that the North Lancashires were moved to Klein Zillebeke.

There, on November 4th, they were fiercely attacked, but they succeeded in driving back the enemy.

Major Carter, the leader of the charge at Pilckem, was killed, whilst directing this defence - the third commanding officer of the Loyal's to be killed in less than three months.

Battle of the Aisne

German East Africa Campaign

The troops reached the port of Tanga, German East Africa, near where they landed, and on November 4th all was ready for the attack on the German town.

The men moved forward through the bush, the Lancashire men being on the right, and although the Germans had placed all kinds of obstacles in their way, and had arranged excellent ways of finding the ranges for their guns, they managed to get into the town.

That, however, was all !

In Tanga itself nearly every house was a fortress; and fired on from every side, the troops were ordered to return to the boats, which they did.


Caption: The North Lancashires arriving at Nairobi; the first European regiment to arrive in British East Africa. A far cry from the freezing, muddy plains of Flanders and France.

Tanga, German East Africa, during WWI:
Tanga, Tanzania

get directions

Bees as German Allies

In this fight the Lancashires lost about one hundred and fifty officers and men, the killed including Major F.J. Braithwaite, commanding the battalion.

For bravery on this day the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.) was given to nine non-commissioned officers and men.

One cunning dodge, borrowed by the Germans from the natives, was to utilise the services of bees. Along the sides of the road they had hidden hives of bees, which were stupefied by smoke.

As the men passed, the covers of the hives were jerked off by wires, and the enraged insects, defending their hives from attackers, flew out and stung the advancing soldiers.

It was reported that over a hundred stings were extracted from one of the men of the North Lancashires.

On March 9th, still in British East Africa, at Mwaika Hill, part of Loyal's had a skirmish with the Germans .

The British were victorious. For his gallantry in this encounter, in taking ammunition to the firing-line, the D.C.M. was awarded to Private M. Sullivan of the regiment.

During the first Battle of Ypres, which lasted until the middle of November, the 1st Battalion was continually in the thick of the fight, and during the whole winter it was doing something or other.

For instance, on December 21st, Sergeant W. Jeffrey led some of the Lancashire men in a night attack on some trenches which the Germans had captured at La Quinque Rue.

This was part of a move to help the Indians who had been attacked at Givenchy, and the result of it was the recapture of the trenches and the saving of the British line.

At Cuinchy, in January, 1915, the North Lancashires were sent to hold a dangerous part of the front.

Second-Lieutenant M. E. Callard
Second-Lieutenant M. E. Callard | Source

A Loyal Regiment

During the spring the exhausted battalion had a rest, but it was wanted again during the second Battle of Ypres.

In May, the Loyal's, with the 2nd Brigade, 'did their bit'. A short time after the 4th Territorial battalion of the Lancashires, was given an opportunity to show what it could do. This occurred at Rue d'Ouvert during the attack of June 15th.

The 1st Battalion of this regiment, distinguished by the prefix Loyal, was raised in Scotland in 1740.

It was known as the 47th Regiment of the Line, and was sent to Nova Scotia about 1758.

At the siege of the great French fortress of Louisburg it was in Wolfe's Brigade, and it was known for a time as “Wolfe's Own”; it was in the centre of the thin British line in the famous battle of the Heights of Abraham, which made Canada a British possession.

From Canada the 47th went to serve against the American Colonists, and after fighting hard at Bunker Hill, it was part of the force captured at Saratoga Springs.

After the peace it was made a Lancashire regiment, but it remained in Canada for some years.

Second Battle of Ypres - WWI

Captain W.J. Henderson
Captain W.J. Henderson | Source

Caption: Captain William J. Henderson, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was educated at Forest Hill School and Dulwich College. He also gained a classical scholarship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. For some years a member of the Dulwich O.T.C., he received a commission in September, 1914, and just prior to his death was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross.

Persian Gulf Service - 1815

The old 81st, now the 2nd Battalion of the North Lancashires, first made a name for itself at the Battle of Maida in 1806, when it had a big share in defeating the French.

Both the 47th and the 81st took part in the Peninsula War, one or both of them fighting at Corunna, Tarifa, and Vittoria.

At the storming of San Sebastian the 47th did wonders, but at a cost of two hundred and fifty-two officers and men killed or wounded.

After the conclusion of the peace of 1815, the regiment was busy rooting out the pirates who infested the shores of the Persian Gulf, and in fighting in India and Burma.

During the Crimean War the Lancashire men fought at the Alma and at Inkerman, and they were in Afghanistan in 1878.

During the Boer War part of the regiment, under Colonel Kekewich, formed the garrison at Kimberley, and throughout the campaign its high reputation was increased.


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