141 Days: The Battle of
A soldier’s duties were many and varied. There was much work to
be done beyond attacking the enemy or defending a position. Carrying
parties moved supplies such as piquets (stakes), barbed wire, ammunition
and food to the front line. Working parties were frequently called in to
repair trenches and dig new trenches.
Carrying party of the 1st/4th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster
Regiment on the Somme, 1916.
Accession Number: KONeg1064
Lancaster’s own 1st/5th Battalion supplied men for working parties at
the start of August. Nearly 400 officers and men were detailed to build
a new communication trench. Night after night they continued their duty,
but the casualties mounted. During the night of 4th August an attack by
enemy artillery killed 12 other ranks and wounded two officers and 40
other ranks. It left four men missing, somewhere in the dark of no man’s
The news of the losses made it back to Lancaster in a few days and the
Lancaster Guardian of 26th August had some interesting reports:
Private Harry Higginson, number 3700, of the 1st/5th King’s Own, is
reported killed by a shell on 3rd August 1916. He worked at Queen’s Mill
in Lancaster. He had married on 3rd January 1916 whilst he was on
furlough awaiting posting overseas.
A Lancaster Pal writing home in a letter dated 15th August 1916:
“It has been hard, dangerous work, and all done under heavy shell and
rifle fire. Unfortunately our losses were rather large last night, owing
to our being so exposed and not having any cover until we had dug
ourselves in. I am still fit, safe and sound. We are now about to start
our long extended rest. We shall now have an opportunity to settle our
nerves and enjoy our rest and parcels.
Private Walter Robinson, number 4193, 1st/5th King’s Own, whose parents
live at 7 Abbey Terrace, Scotforth.
“We pioneers have the job of burying the dead, and today we have erected
some bonny crosses over three graves”
Private Robinson’s letter refers to the special wooden crosses
constructed by the battalion pioneers and painted by Lance Corporal
Robert Bell. Lance Corporal Bell, a pre-war painter and decorator, was
well suited to the job. He painted more than 200 crosses, including the
one to Sergeant Herbert Dobson MM, who was killed in action on 9th
August at Trones Wood. Maybe this is one of the very crosses mentioned
by Private Robinson.
Grave of Sergeant Herbert Dobson, MM, number 2746 of the 1st/5th
Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Herbert Dobson
enlisted on the 3rd September 1914 as one of the 'Lancaster Pals', and
he arrived on the Western Front on 5th May 1915. He was killed in
action on 9th August 1916 at Trones Wood in the attack on Guillemont.
He is buried in Quarry Cemetery, Montauban, Somme, France. He was
the son of Robert and Sarah Ann Dobson of 31 Dundee Street, Moorlands,
The cross is one of over 200 painted by Corporal Robert Bell, number
241639, of the 1st/5th Battalion.
More on Herbert Dobson
Accession Number: KO0534/01
Next: Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire
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