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141 Days: The Battle of the Somme

Working Parties

 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 land.

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, Lancaster.
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

Supported by the Sir John Fisher Foundation and the Army Museums Ogilby Trust

© Images are copyright, Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum.
 You must seek permission prior to publication of any of our images.

Only a proportion of our collections are on display at anyone time.  Certain items are on loan for display in other institutions.  An appointment is required to consult any of our collections which are held in store.

© 2016 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum