The shelled ruins of Arras.
[Photo from Old Postcard.]
23rd APRIL. 4.15 a.m. The two Front line Btns were reported "in position and OK."|
4.40 a.m. Two tanks attached to the 50th Division moved slowly forward.
4.45 a.m. 84 Eighteen pounder guns and 30 4.5 in howitzers opened fire at once and the Infantry began to
German rockets signalled to their own Artillery and their barrage descended about 40 seconds afterwards.
About 100 yds ahead of their own trenches the two Yorkshire Btns ran into their own barrage which was "creeping" forward
at too slow a rate. The 4th Btn suffered several casualties from our own guns.
"W" Company, on the right, met considerable opposition from rifle and machine gun fire and had to take shelter in
shell holes about 50 yds from the enemy's trenches. Not until the Company had established superiority of fire and
a tank had passed through was it possible to rush the trench which was found to be strongly held. But the Green
Howards beat down opposition and many prisoners were taken. Many dead and wounded Germans littered the trench which,
however was not in bad condition.
In the centre "X" Company had reached the enemy trench a little earlier and had less opposition, but had some 30
casualties from machine gun and artillery fire.
British burial party at Arras.
[Picture courtesy of - "The Heritage of the Great War".].
On the left "Z" Company, which had been facing North East at zero hour swung
round, aligned themselves with "X"
Company and reached the German front line with few casualties and less opposition than the other Companies.|
The Battalion, by now considerably thinned out, but still a continuous line, then moved East to the German Support
5.25 a.m. The Support Trench was reached and found to be broad and literally filled with dead Germans, except
for the occupants of two deep dug-outs on "X" Coy's front. No prisoners were taken here.
By this time our line had become very thin. No East Yorks were observable on the right and the 44th Infantry Brigade
appeared not to have progressed on the left. The Battalion, however, moved forward and captured a 3 gun howitzer
[This was the dilemna of trench warfare. Here the 4th Yorks Bn were strong enough and brave enough to punch a hole in the opposing
trenches. But the forces at either side had not made the same advance and therefore the Yorks ended up being fired on from three sides.
The other problem was re-supply of weighty ammunition. Each man carried 150 rounds of ammo which must have been quickly fired off and
therefore many offensives soon stalled.]
Capt David Philip Hirsch. V.C.
Capt Hirsch was awarded the Victoria Cross for his outstanding bravery on the
Despite being twice wounded he continued to rally his men until
he was killed.
6.05 a.m. Began to dig in along a line 100 to 200 yds West of the first objective. Enemy rifle and
Artillery fire had practically ceased, but Machine Gun fire was increasing in intensity and a particularly deadly
stream of bullets was directed on to our left flank from a farm North of the Cojeul River and East of
Guemappe. Captain Hirsch [now the only Officer left] therefore established a defensive flank with half of "Y" Company
along a line above and parallel to the River Cojeul. With the remainder of the Battalion [about 150 men] he decided
to hold on to his position and sent back for reinforcements and Small Arms Ammunition.|
The Battalion had no contact with the East Yorkshires on the right. They had lost all their Officers earlier in
the attack. Neither had the Divisions to either side progressed and the 4th Yorks Btn found themselves surrounded
by Germans on three sides.
6.30 a.m. "A" Coy of the 5th Durham Light Infantry were sent up to reinforce and with ammunition, the special
object of this Coy was to try to extend our line on the right across the railway and if possible get in touch with
the 5th Yorks Btn.
They finally reached our line and established themselves across the railway but found their right
flank as much "in the air" as "W" Coy's had previously been.
7.15 a.m. Capt Hirsch [who had previously been wounded was killed and Mr Luckhurst of the T.M Battery appears to
have taken over the Btn for a short time. His fate is now uncertain.
7.40 a.m. The Btn appears to have maintained itself near the first objective ["Z" Coy being slightly forward,
"W" Coy swung back and forming a defensive flank facing South East.] for a matter of something over an hour and a
half. But by 7.30 the Germans were seen massing for a counter-attack. One party were creeping down the low ground
along the Cojeul. Others were seen coming forward from the trenches in from of Vis En Artois. A third block of men
on our right rear previously mistaken for the East Yorks were now observed to be Germans. A retirement in successive
phases was therefore undertaken - first to the German 2nd line, then to his first and finally to our front line.
The whole withdrawal was carried out under heavy Machine Gun fire and directed by not more than half a dozen junior
N.C.Os, who state that throughout the line was under control and that with sections of riflemen constantly fought
rearguard actions to cover the retirement of the rest.
8.10 a.m Our men were back in our Front line. They state that to their knowledge no unwounded prisoners were
taken. Casualties since 21st were 3 Officers killed, 7 wounded and 1 missing, believed killed.
352 other ranks were killed, wounded or missing; the proportions not immediately ascertained.
Capt Geoffrey Arnold Tugwell.
6.0 p.m. The remnants of the Btn under Major Stead remained in our front line in support to the attack by
the 9th Durham Light Infantry and the 5th Border Regt. Btn HQ moved back to Wancourt.|
At least 109 men of the 4th Yorks Battalion were killed in action on the 23rd.
The following 86 have no known grave and are commemorated on the Arras Memorial.
Capt David Philip Hirsch Age 20. Killed in action. Home at Westwood Grove, Leeds, Yorks.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross and had previously been wounded and mentioned in despatches.
"The London Gazette", dated 14th June, 1917, records the following:- "For most conspicuous
bravery and devotion to duty in attack.
Having arrived at the first objective, Capt. Hirsch, although already twice
wounded, returned over fire-swept slopes to satisfy himself that the defensive flank was being established. Machine
gun fire was so intense that it was necessary for him to be continuously up and down the line encouraging his men to
dig and hold the position. He continued to encourage his men by standing on the parapet and steadying them in the face
of machine gun fire and counter-attack until he was killed. His conduct throughout was a magnificent example of the
greatest devotion to duty."
Capt Geoffrey Arnold Tugwell.
Killed in action. Age 24. Home at 40, Esplanade, Scarborough.
He was born at Scarborough on the 25th of November 1892, the second son of Frank Alfred Tugwell, an architect, and Louisa A Tugwell.
He was educated at Eastman's School at Southsea and at Lancing College, Sussex, where he won an Exhibition and was in Olds House from
September 1906 to December 1909 and a member of the Officer Training Corps.
On leaving school he travelled in France and Germany to study languages there.
Following the outbreak of war he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Yorkshire Regiment on the 5th of September 1914 and was posted
to the 1/4th Battalion.
He embarked with his battalion from Folkestone on the 17th of April 1915 and went through all the fighting at Ypres.
On the 24th of April 1915, the 1/4th Yorkshires were on the Western bank of the canal at Ypres near St Julien, where they were
moving up to help prevent a German breakthrough following their gas attack of the 22nd of April. |
While they were lying there they came under intermittent shell fire which wounded Geoffrey Tugwell and four or five other men.
He returned to the front when he took part in the ighting for the "Bluff" at Ypres in February 1916 and in the attacks on the Somme between
High Wood and Martinpuich later that year.
He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 27th of March 1916 with precedence from the 1st of August 1915.
On the 26th of September 1916, the 1/4th Yorkshires were ordered to attack the German trench known as "Crescent Alley" and to bomb their
way up it. In the event, the Division who was supposed to attack on their flank did not, and although the Yorkshires managed to get into
the German trench they were forced back to "Starfish Trench" to reform. During this attack Geoffrey Tugwell was dangerously wounded.
He was mentioned in Sir Doulas Haig’s despatches of the 13th of November 1916 and was promoted to Captain while in command of a Company on
the 11th of March 1917.
In April 1917 50th Division, of which the 1/4th Yorkshires were part, were ordered to attack on a front of about nine miles from Croiselles
to Gavrelle to the west of Cherisy as part of the ongoing Battle of Arras.
At 4.15am on morning of the 23rd of April 1917 the 1/4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment reported that they were in position for the attack and
at 4.40am two tanks which had been attached to the Division began to roll slowly forward.
At 4.45am 84 eighteen pounder guns and 30 howitzers began firing on the German positions which immediately prompted the defenders to fire
flares in the air to signal to their artillery that an attack had begun. 40 seconds later the German counter fire came down on the attackers.
About one hundred yards from their own trench the 1/4th Battalion ran into their own barrage and suffered a few casualties. "W" Company on
the right of the attack came under fierce rifle and machine gun fire and were forced to take cover in shell holes 50 yards from the German
When the tank caught up with, and went ahead of them, they managed to rush the trench which was heavily defended but the defenders were
overcome in a brief but bloody fight.
In the centre of the attack "X" Company met less opposition and took the enemy trench with about 30 casualties from artillery and machine
At 5.25 am the surviving men of the two companies set out for the attack on the German support trench which was found to be filled with
At 6.05am they began to dig in on a line 100 to 200 yards to the west of their first objective. By this time there was only one officer
remaining from the original attack and he was soon wounded then killed.
At 7am the Germans counterattacked and by 8.10am the Yorkshires were back in own their front line where they had started some three and
half hours before.
Casualties were 11 officers and 352 other ranks killed wounded and missing.
His Colonel, F.F Deakin, wrote:-
"I regret to tell you that your son, Captain Tugwell, was killed in action on 23rd April. He was killed instantaneously and did not suffer at all. On behalf of all ranks I beg to send you our most sincere sympathy. He was a gallant and promising officer, I had the very highest opinion of him-and his men would follow him anywhere-at the time of his death he was leading his men most gallantly in a very successful attack. You can be very proud of him, as we all are.
Once more I send you our very sincere sympathy, and anything we can do, if you let me know, I will see it is done."
Another officer wrote:-
"How much he was loved; how sadly he will be missed--he was one of our finest officers."
"I need not tell you what we thought of Geoffrey. He was friend to everyone-officers and men alike. His men worshipped him and would
follow him anywhere. We all knew his sterling worth on the Somme in September and I don't think his men will ever forget him."
One of his NCOs wrote:-
"To know him was to love him."
One of his men, who was on sick leave in England, wrote:-
"We're losing one of our finest young officers today, going back to France, tho' mind you he ought not to go (his broken thigh was
not perfectly healed), but he's that keen. When asked which officer he was referring to he said "Oh! we always call him "Our Tuggy".
His brother applied for his medals in February 1922.
Lt Isaac Hinton Scarth Killed in action. Age 23. Home at Stanghow House, Stanghow, Boosbeck, Yorks. Before the War he was an
articled clerk to W Richardson, Solicitors of Guisborough, N Yorks. He had been commissioned into the Bn in May 1915 and just been
promoted to Lt.
2Lt William Luckhurst. Killed in action. Age 21. Home at South Mundham, Chichester, Sussex.
202329 Pte Bailey Arthur. Home in Irthlingborough Northants. Enlisted in Northampton.
Ex 3172 Northants Regt.
200897 Pte Archer Robert. Home at 22 Boosbeck Rd, Skelton Green, N Yorks. Born Boosbeck, N Yorks.
Enlisted at Skelton in Cleveland. Age 21.
200861 Cpl Bainbridge Thomas, Lawrence. Home at 5 Castle Terrace, Richmond, N Yorks.
Enlisted at Northallerton. Age 25.
201035 Pte Baker Albert Edward Home at Scarborough, N Yorks. Enlisted at Skelton in Cleveland,
Private Thomas Edward Bell's Medals.
202226 Pte Barnett Sydney. Home at Kingsthorpe Northants, town of birth. Enlisted
at Northampton. Ex 5371 Northants Regt.|
202273 Pte Bartlett Henry, James, Edwin. Born and enlisted at Northampton.
Ex 5357 Northants Regt.
202219 Pte Bateman Harry. Home at The Lion and Lamb Inn, Daventry Northants. Enlisted at
Northampton. Age 26. Ex 5357 Northants Regt.
203108 Pte Bell Thomas, Edward. Home at 20 Beaumont St, Newcastle on Tyne, town of birth
and enlistment. Age 22.