The 1st King's (Liverpool Regiment )

This section of the Long, Long Trail will be helpful for anyone wishing to find out about the day to day activities of the army.


This short extract covers 1st January to 3rd June 1916 covering operations at Givenchy, Calonne and Vimy Ridge. For many people, 1916 means only one thing: the Battle of the Somme, which commenced, for the infantry, on 1 June. This diary is an excellent illustration of the continual fighting and loss of experienced soldiers, even during relatively quiet times, before the Somme began


1st January to 16th January 1916
The regiment marched to La Perriere for the Divisional rest. During the period the men were trained daily in open warfare, (skirmishing and attack formations being frequently practiced). There was a Brigade Field Day, when an attack from the trenches was practiced. For instructional purpose an interchange of officers was arranged between this Regiment and the 17th Battalion Middlesex (Sportsman's Battalion). This arrangement began when the regiment went out on the Divisional rest and was carried on until the 17th Middlesex Regiment had completed three tours in the trenches, on 1st February, 1916. During the rest a Divisional boxing and football tournament was organised. The weather was very bad the whole time.

16th January
On this date, B and C Companies of the King's were attached to the 17th Middlesex Regiment, and A and D Companies of the 17th Middlesex were attached to the Kings. The regiment marched to Bethune.

17th January
Marched to trenches, B2 section near Givenchy.

18th and 19th January
B2 section, a few casualties chiefly from rifle grenades and trench mortars.

20th January
On this date our headquarters were heavily shelled, and a shell hit a house near our Battalion Headquarters and it was reported that two men were badly wounded. Captain Kerr RAMC and a Lieutenant Towers dashed across the road to give them assistance. As they were clearing away bricks and rubbish which had fallen on the men, another shell landed in the same place and Lieutenant Towers was mortally wounded and died on his way to Bethune. The regiment marched to Gorre.

21st January
Lieutenant Towers funeral took place in Bethune cemetery on the 21st.

23rd January
Marched back to the trenches in B2 sector. Germans were still active with a rifle grenades and trench mortars. On the night of the 26th we exploded a small mine in front of Duck's Bill. Our guns bombarded the German trenches very heavily during the night of the 26th. The Germans did not reply. All precautions were taken to meet a German attack in case they had planned to attack on the Kaiser's birthday.

27th January
Marched back to Gorre.

30th January
Marched back to trenches in B2. All quiet.

1st February 1916
Some shelling and rifle grenades.

2nd February
Minenwerfers and rifle grenades. Relieved by 1st Hertfordshires(?). Went into billets at Le Quesnoy. B and C Companies rejoined, and the two companies of the 17th Middlesex departed.

3rd February
Brigade rest. Marched about midday to Essars. Lieutenant-Colonel Potter went on leave.

4th February
Billets. Captain Goff promoted Temporary Major. A Company go off to Chocques as bodyguards to GOC I Corps.

6th February
Major Gill and Captain McE--- delivered a lecture to 17th Middlesex at Gorre.

7th February
Marched to Bellereve. Captain Derwiche Jones and Lieutenant Hutchison delivered a lecture to 17th Middlesex. Major Goff attends a Brigade conference.

8th February
Billets. During this rest period the usual training was carried out, particular attention being paid to bomb throwing.

11th February
Marched off at 3pm to Gorre and relieved 17th Middlesex. Very wet march. Arrived 5:30pm.

12th February
Billets. During this period the battalion was used as a pioneer battalion and furnished and lot of fatigues in Givenchy and Festubert sections under direction of the RE.

17th February
Marched to Ecleme. Captain Widdrington joined.

18th February
Wet day. Cleaned up billets. CO returned. Draft of 106 NCOs and men arrived.

19th February
Billet inspection by CO. Men bathed. German aeroplanes flew over by night.

20th February
Morning church. In afternoon, CO delivered a lecture on a “modern weapons” to Officers School in Bethune.

22nd February
Snowing hard. The battalion marched to Gonnehem and went through gas chamber.

23rd February
Snowing hard. Route march. Division under short notice to move south to take over from French near Souchez.

24th February
Still on a short notice. D Company and Band went to Busnettes to assist in farewell to the 1st Hertfordshires. A Company brought back hurriedly from Corps HQ. Later on we received orders to move the following [day] to Petit Sains. All leave stopped.

25th February
Marched at 8:45am to Petit Sains via Bethune and Noeux-les-Mines. Difficult march owing to slippery state of roads. Transport broke down immediately but arrived ultimately. Still very wet and ground covered with snow.

26th February
CO and company officers went up to Calonne early in the morning and made the necessary arrangements to take over from the French 32nd Regiment. The Battalion came up after dusk and got in without much trouble. B Company being on right, C in centre, D on left and A in support. The 66th Regiment d’Infanterie being on our right, and the 17th Middlesex on our left, 2nd South Staffs in immediate support and 13th Essex in Brigade reserve. Very comfortable and well-constructed trenches.

27th February
Quiet day. Some shells over in the morning.

28th February
Some shelling. The French torpees did some very good shooting.

29th February
German observation balloon blown over our lines. Heavily shelled about dusk. During this period considerable work was done by the companies in cleaning up the trenches, and clearing communication trenches.

1st March 1916
Some shelling. Changed over with South Staffs after dusk and went into their billets in cellars at the end of the village.

2nd March
In billets. Men very comfortable. Second Lieutenant Thompson takes over Adjutancy [and made Temporary Lieutenant].

5th March
In billets. Took over front-line from South Staffs. Some shelling. The Brigade area has been moved south about 500 yards. A company being on the right, D in centre, C in left and B in support, with the 24th Royal Fusiliers on our right and the 17th Middlesex on our left. During our four days in billets the Battalion was employed at work on the village line by day, and by night on Brigade fatigues, under supervision of the RE.

7th March
A strafe by the French torpees resulted in considerable shelling in retaliation.

8th March
Quiet day. Lieutenant-Colonel Potter made a Brigadier-General, and left to take over his new duties. Major Goff takes over.

9th March
Quiet day. Relieved by South Staffs after dusk and went back to billets at Bully-Grenay.

10th March
Major Goff promoted to Temporary Lieutenant Colonel. Captain Derwiche Jones goes off to Brigade for instruction. Men bathed.

12th March
Church service. Several aeroplane duels in morning. CO went up to see over trenches.

13th March
Some shelling in the morning. Relieved South Staffordshire Regiment in Calonne. A few bombs exchanged with enemy in the evening. One man killed by a rifle grenade.

14th March
Considerable artillery activity on part of the enemy. Some good shooting by our Stokes gun . Our artillery retaliated in evening.

15th March
Test helmet practice. Officers of 10th and 11th Northumberland Fusiliers inspect our line. They belong to a Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Page [---]. OC sent in a Battalion Scheme of Defence for part of line occupied by us. D Company bombed enemy’s working party. Lewis and Stokes gun took part in operation. The lights of a Zeppelin distinctly visible, moving east at 11:05pm.

16th March
Very quiet morning. Stokes gun fired some rounds and destroyed house opposite B Company’s line.

17th March
Quiet morning. Enemy shelled D Company line at 3.50 with light HE . Shooting good. Relieved by 10th Northumberland Fusiliers about 8.30pm marched to Hersin and billeted.

18th March
Left midday for Bruay. Glorious day but almost too hot for comfortable marching. Arrived at 2.30pm. Billets fairly comfortable.

19th March
Leave opened. Church parade.

21st March
Battalion paraded with rest of Brigade for inspection by Corps Commander. Parade went off very well. Men were exceptionally steady and marched past in remarkably good style. Corps Commander expressed his appreciation of the appearance of the Battalion.

22nd March
Weather overcast and cold. Parades and special class for NCOs. A football ground has been opened and matches arranged.

23rd March
Usual parades. Excellent bathing accommodation at mines. Men are really enjoy the opposition opportunity of bath. They seem to like Bruay. Very little crime.

24th March
Snowing hard. Work unpleasant. All arrangements for parades and games cancelled. Concert and picture show organised by Captain Beeman and Lieutenants [---]. The entertainment was attended by 700 men and was much appreciated.

25th March
Played the 1st Middlesex at rugby. Not very good game owing to ground being in very bad condition. Middlesex won by 42 points to nil.

26th March
Company training in the morning. Weather cloudy.

27th March
Musketry and bomb throwing. Inter-company football in the afternoon. A versus B Company. A won by four goals to one.

28th March
Working parties, 250 men. Played 1st Essex Regiment in afternoon, we won by three goals to nil.

30th March
Final of the inter-company football was played between A and D Companies, resulting in a draw.

31st March
Concert held in the evening.

1st April 1916
Usual Company training. Lecture by GOC IV Corps on the “European situation”.

2nd April
Entrained to Barlin and marched from there to Hersin where the battalion billeted. Captain Hope temporarily takes over the duties of Adjutant.

3rd –11th April
Battalion supplied large fatigue parties averaging 300 men every night. They were employed on work in the Bully-Grenay and Souchez sections and were often under fire. Only one man wounded. The work in the Souchez was carried out under gruesome circumstances, owing to the number of French and German corpses. Hersin was shelled the first eight afternoons of our stay there, between the hours of 4pm and 7pm. Most of the shells were small. Only one man of the regiment was wounded. The South Staffs had a few casualties and several civilians were killed.

12th April
Moved to Bruay by train.

13th April
Marched to Calonne Ricouart and entrained for Aire. Marched from there to Coyecque 12 miles distant. Good march – no one fell out.

14th April
Company training in morning. Captain Witherington went to Brigade HQ to get details of forthcoming field day.

15th April
Successful Brigade field day. Attacked skeleton enemy under Captain Derwiche Jones. Essex attacked in centre, King’s did a flanking attack, Middlesex in support, South Staffs in reserve. CO attended Brigade conference in the evening.

16th April
Successful Brigade field day. In support at first but afterwards attacked.

17th April
Marched to Aire. Entrained for Calonne Ricouart and from there marched to Bruay. Good march. No one fell out. Some rain.

18th April
Entrained for Hersin. Billeted there and marched up to Calonne about 7.15pm. Very wet. Relief complete about 10pm. South Staffs and Essex in line, King’s in support, Middlesex in reserve.

19th April
A lot of shelling. Few casualties from a chance shell. About 250 men on a fatigue under instruction of the RE.

20th – 21st April
Quiet days. Usual fatigues.

22nd April
Relieved South Staffs in Calonne. Order of Companies from right to left A, B and C, D being in support. 5th Brigade on our right, Middlesex on our left. Essex in support and South Staffs in Divisional Reserve. Very wet day and night.

23rd April
Intermittent shelling. Some rifle grenades in afternoon.

24th April
Shelling and grenades in morning. Quiet afternoon and night.

25th April
Captain Reid wounded in the morning but remains at duty. A lot of hostile shelling and rifle grenades. “Gas alert” ordered in evening. Lt Hutchison dangerously wounded by a rifle grenade. Leave re-opened.

26th April
Quiet day. Relieved by 2nd South Staffs. Moved to billets at Bully-Grenay. Lt Hutson(?) arrived.

27th April
Hostile gas attack about 4am about three miles north. Noisy day. Gas warning again in the evening.

28th April
Quiet day. Men bathed. Lt Hutchison died of wounds.

29th April
Hostile gas came across about 5am. Quite ineffective. Captain Reid went to hospital.

30th April
Quiet day. Morning Church service. Marched up at 2.30pm and relieved 2nd South Staffs at Calonne. B Company on right, C in centre, D on left, A in support. During the period the battalion was at Bully about 400 men were on fatigue every night under direction of RE.

The diary for May is missing. According to the British Official History, Military Operations, France & Flanders, 1916 Volume 1, the 2nd Division was enjoying a period of rest in Corps Reserve when the enemy attacked in force on Vimy Ridge, on 21 May 1916. The Division was alerted and rushed to the support of the Divisions involved in the fight, and over the next few days carried out a number of localised attacks to halt the enemy and attempt to recapture the ground lost. No major effort was made once the line was stabilised however, as the high command did not wish to divert resources away from the imminent offensive to take place to the south, on the Somme. By 1 June, the King’s were preparing for yet another of these local affairs.

1st June 1916
Quiet morning. Heavy shelling all afternoon increasing in violence until it died away about midnight after the attack. After a bombardment of the enemy line, which left the section we were to attack very much as it was before, three bombing parties attacked up Ersatz Alley, Boyau Hartung and Boyau Gobron. The intention was that these three parties should establish themselves in the enemy line and each bomb to the left. After they had cleared the trench and had got in touch with each other, they were to dig in and consolidate. In the event of their being successful a fourth party was ready at the top of B. Tanchot to get into communication with them at Momber Crater. Reserve parties were ready to support the attack and advanced dumps of bombs and RE stores were established. The party on the right under Lt Jamieson came under a shell barrage on their way up the communication trench and were wiped out without being able to close with the enemy. Their supporting party had no better luck. The centre party under Lt Head effected an entrance into the hostile trench, and though subjected to a severe fire, remained there for about three quarters of an hour. Finally they were ordered to withdraw, as the two parties on their flanks had been unsuccessful. This they did slowly and in good order. The left party under 2/Lt Hewson found themselves enfiladed by machine gun fire. They made several attempts and lost heavily and finally were ordered to abandon the enterprise. There were about 80 casualties including the Adjutant, Lt Thompson. 2/Lt Hewson and 2/Lt Head wounded.

2nd June
Very quiet day.

3rd June
Camouflet blown by Germans near Kennedy Crater. Lt Wilson killed by gas in endeavouring to effect the rescue of two miners caught in the fallen gallery. Several NCOs and men also went down suffering from gas poisoning. Shelling in morning.

This is a transcribed extract from the battalion war diary which is held at the National Archives, piece WO95/2430.


3 Named casualties:
Lieutenant Grainger Towers, 27, died of wounds received while rescuing wounded men in Givenchy on 20 January 1916. A native of Richmond in Surrey, he is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery.
Captain W. Murray Hutchison MC, 22, died on 27 April 1916 from wounds received by explosion of a rifle grenade two days earlier in trenches near Calonne. He is buried in Bruay Communal Cemetery Extension. He was a civil servant in Edinburgh, and volunteered for a commission in the Special Reserve on outbreak of war, which was gazetted on 21 August 1914. His Military Cross was gazetted on 2 July 1915, and the citation reads "During the action on 16th May, 1915, near Rue du Bois, at 3 p.m., in response to calls for ammunition, he led a party of men across the open under a very heavy machine gun fire, and succeeded in getting through with most of his men. The last part of the journey had to be done.on hands and knees. On the 18th May he organised and conducted an attack and led the bombing party, and by his work forced the surrender of 200 Germans and caused 200 more to retreat, leaving their arms and equipment". This brave young man had been appointed tio the Staff of his Brigade and was to join them when he came out of the tour of the trenches in which he was killed. The second son of Mr & Mrs W. Innes Hutchison of Sefton Park, Liverpool, and brother to Innes Owen Hutchison, who had been killed in Mesopotamia four months earlier.
Second Lieutenant Frank Wilson died on 3 June 1916 from gas poisoning received in the attempted rescue of tunnellers who had been buried underground at Kennedy Crater. He is buried in Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez.
Deduced casualties, determined from other sources:
27782 Pte James Hesford, 43, a native of Leigh, died on 10 January 1916. He is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery.
8892 Pte James Johnson, a native of Liverpool, killed in action on 18 January 1916 in the B2 Givenchy trenches. He is buried in Vieille-Chapelle New Military Cemetery, La Couture.
11302 Pte Walter Jobling, 20, a native of Darlington, killed in action on 20 January 1916 in the B2 Givenchy trenches. He is buried in Vieille-Chapelle New Military Cemetery, La Couture.
12299 Sjt William Rix, served as Foster, a native of Liverpool, killed in action on 21 January 1916. He is buried in Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy.
11836 A/Cpl William Richardson, 23, a native of Saffron Walden, died of wounds on 22 January 1916. He is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery.
26458 Pte Joseph Byrne, 21, a native of Ireland but of parents from Chorlton-on-Medlock, died of wounds on 29 January 1916. He is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery.
12829 Pte Michael Carty, a native of Widnes, killed in action on 31 January 1916 in the B2 Givenchy trenches. He is buried in Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy.
30527 Pte Neil Durning, a native of Glasgow, killed in action on 31 January 1916 in the B2 Givenchy trenches. He is buried in Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy.
28264 L/Cpl Harry Hetherington, 25, a native of Stockport, killed in action on 31 January 1916 in the B2 Givenchy trenches. He had previously served with the Manchester Regiment. He is buried in Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy.
11529 Pte Philip Duncan, a native of Liverpool who was born on the Isle of Man, killed in action on 5 March 1916 in the Calonne trenches. He is buried in Loos British Cemetery.
28018 Pte Edwin Pollitt, a native of Bolton, killed in action on 7 March 1916 in the Calonne trenches. He had previously served with the Manchester Regiment. He is buried in Loos British Cemetery.
13946 Cpl William McNamee, 31, a native of Liverpool, killed in action on 9 March 1916 in the Calonne trenches. He is buried in Loos British Cemetery.
11708 Pte John McKeown, a native of Liverpool, killed in action on 14 March 1916 in the Calonne trenches. He is buried in Loos British Cemetery.
10251 Pte Charles White, a native of Bury, died of wounds on 25 March 1916. He is buried in Lapugnoy Military Cemetery.
12731 Pte Charles Christy, a native of Liverpool, killed in action on 19 April 1916 in the Calonne trenches. He is buried in Loos British Cemetery.
11900 Cpl William McGregor, 19, C Company, a native of Liverpool born in Belfast, killed in action on 23 April 1916 in the Calonne trenches. He is buried in Loos British Cemetery.
10316 Pte William Fisher, 20, a native of Liverpool, died of wounds on 24 April 1916. He is buried in Bruay Communal Cemetery Extension.
30689 Pte George Johnson, 30, a native of Liverpool, died of wounds on 27 April 1916. He is buried in Bruay Communal Cemetery Extension.
30604 Pte William Sephton, 33, C Company, a native of Aughton, died of wounds on 4 May 1916. He is buried in Bruay Communal Cemetery Extension.
11518 Pte Charles Breeze, 22, C Company, a native of Liverpool, killed in action on 4 May 1916. He is buried in Bruay Communal Cemetery Extension.
30055 Pte James Morley, a native of Liverpool, died on 4 May 1916. He is buried in Fosse No. 10 Communal Cemetery Extension, Sains-en-Gohelle.
27126 Pte John Molland, a native of Liverpool, killed in action on 8 May 1916. He is buried in Loos British Cemetery.
30505 Pte Allan Booth, a native of Liverpool, died of wounds on 26 May 1916. He is buried in St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen.
The following men were killed in action on Vimy Ridge on 1 June 1916 and are buried in Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez unless othewise mentioned.
13681 Pte Leonard Beamer, a native of Liverpool.
27811 Pte James Capewell, a native of Failsworth.
10301 Pte Thomas Garland, 20, a native of Liverpool.
11752 L/Cpl James Govey, born in Bethnal Green.
10955 Pte Alexander Hamilton, a native of Bootle.
11943 L/Sgt Charles Hayward, born in Birmingham, a resident of Hemel Hempstead. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing. Charles had already won the Distinguished Conduct Medal, which was gazetted on 10 March 1916. His citation reads "After an attack on the enemy it was necessary to ascertain in what strength their lines were held. Corporal Hayward led a patrol, in broad daylight, under heavy artillery, machine-gun and rifle fire, almost to the enemy's lines and brought back valuable information".
27755 Pte Thomas Higham, a native of Wigan.
30780 Pte Samuel Hilditch, born in Flintshire, a resident of Liverpool.
23325 Pte Peter Lewis, born in Rhodesia.
10396 Pte George Logan, 20, a native of Bootle.
27017 Pte William Mather, a native of Liverpool.
8971 Pte James Nolan, a resident of Preston.
27816 Pte Thomas Richards, a native of Darwen.
8278 Pte James Whalen, a native of Liverpool.
29377 Pte Thomas Whelan, a native of Liverpool.
14699 Pte Charles Carr, a native of Liverpool, died of wounds on 2 June 1916.
12180 Pte Edgar Hall, a resident of Burnley, died of wounds on 2 June 1916. He is buried in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension.
26408 Pte Peter Rigby, a resident of Leigh, killed in action on 3 June 1916, possibly by poisoning from the mine blown by enemy camouflet. He is buried in Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez.
28914 Pte George Turner, 20, a resident of Levenshulme, killed in action on 3 June 1916, possibly by poisoning from the mine blown by enemy camouflet. He is buried in Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez. He had previously served with the Manchester Regiment.
28268 Pte John Houghton, 25, D Company, a native of Pemberton, died of wounds on 4 June 1916. He is buried in Le Treport Military Cemetery. He had previously served with the Manchester Regiment.
1 Named officer who became a casualty later in the war:
Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Raymond Head MC, 34, died on 24 November 1918. He is buried in East London Cemetery, Plaistow.