Tag Archives: Sir Stuart Wortley.


WHO  –  WHY  &  WHAT?

1WW JoffreEarl Haig.

Sir John French

General Sir Richard Cyril Byrne Haking. 1862 - 1945.
General Sir Richard Haking. 1862 – 1945.
General Plumer.
General Herbert Plumer. 1857-1932.








The Battle of Loos and Hohenzollern Redoubt was an attempt by the Allies to break the stalemate of trench warfare in 1915.  Despite initial success at Loos on 25th September, the ‘Big Push’ failed with enormous loss of life; Sir John French was made to take the blame and was replaced by Sir Douglas Haig. 

Marshall Joseph Joffre, Commander in Chief French Forces, planned a renewal of offensives on 13th October with an attack on a 20 mile front between Arras & La Bassee. The French Army was to attack in Champagne and a joint French British Army was to attack in Artois – along the Line between Bethune and La Basse from Auchy-les Mines to Loos-en-Gohelle.

Rough Map/ modern roads deleted: Artois Region, France : Hohenzollern Redoubt. Approx Front Line in Red. October 13th 1915.
Rough Map/ modern roads deleted: Artois Region, France : Hohenzollern Redoubt. Approx Front Line in Red. October 13th 1915.

The 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt under the command of Field Marshall Herbert Plumer (Officer Commanding 2nd Army) was ordered to leave Ypres Salient, Hill 60 & the Caterpillar and move south to join the 1st Army now commanded by Sir Douglas Haig (they later come under the command of Lt Gen R.C.B. Haking 11th Corps 46th Midland Division.

Marshal Joffre’s plan was for the British to capture Hohenzollern Redoubt and Fosse 8, a Bethune Colliery Pithead.  Loos_fosse8_trenchesBritish Generals were not happy with this plan for the Hohenzollern Redoubt, (a fortification built in front of the original German Front Line of 1914) was considered to be the strongest German defensive- work on the whole of the Western Front.  It was a heavily developed industrial mining area with Pitheads (Fosses) Spoil Heaps (Crassiers) and auxillery Shafts (Puits).

'Tower Bridge' Pithead.
‘Tower Bridge’ Pithead.

The face of the Redoubt was 300 yards long with excellent views over the British Lines. Both British & German sides had tunnelled into it to create communication trenches, observation posts and machine-gun nests.  It curved with extensions to join Big Willie at southern end and Little Willie at the northern end (named of course after Kaiser Wilhelm).  The Germans dominated the high ground for in front of Fosse 8 there was a 20ft high Crassier (of mine ‘deads’)  an excellent observation post for German sniping in  all directions.

Soldiers' Graves at Vermelles.
Soldiers’ Graves at Vermelles.

To reach the Hohenzollern Redoubt and the Vermelles Trenches, the 1/5th South Staffords had a long march to pass through small colliery villages, like Cuinchy, Cambrin and Vermelles; to compound the difficulties there was a distance of a mile between the entries to the communication trenches and the assembly trenches for the Charge.  The Vermelles Trenches, too, were badly damaged with no dugouts to shelter in; soldiers had to contend with the distressing remains of dead bodies lying unburied.< www.ww1.battlefields.co.uk>

Edward James Montague-Wortley.
Edward James Montague-Wortley.

Sir Stewart Wortley (C.O. Staffordshire Regt) warned that the area was not suitable for the ‘Big Push’ attack and would cause ‘useless slaughter of infantry’.  Tragically his warnings were ignored, as they were again at Gommecourt, Battle of Somme 1st July 1916.

The Long Long Trail: The British Army of 1914-1918 is a must for family historians who wish to gain an insight into why this plan was put into action and what their relatives were expected to do on those three days in October, a hundred years ago.  InFrance & Flanders & the Western Front : The Battle of Loosthere is a comprehensive account of the background history of the Battle and of relations between the French and British Generals.  Especially interesting is the section Loos Lessons Learned or Not’ giving a list of reasons  why the Battle failed despite initial success. It too makes tragic comparison with what was to happen on 1st July 1916, the Battle of the Somme, when the same mistakes were made.

Another View of Tower Bridge, Loos.
Another View of Tower Bridge, Loos.

Andrew Thornton’s website: Staffordshire Territorials and Assault on Hohenzollern. ‘We had done all that was expected of us, does great service with its comprehensive and vivid description of the Battle of Loos & Hohenzollern Redoubt.  <www.hellfirecorner.co.uk  >.

From this website we learn that the troops were given 3 days rations, carried 220 pounds of ammunition, (Bombing Parties carried only 100 pounds of ammunition).  They were to carry great coats on their backs instead of packsThey also carried 3 empty sandbags, and two smoke helmets.


NB. My father was training to throw hand-grenade bombs before he left for Hospital in Rouen).

Andrew Thornton’s selection from diaries and letters, of individual soldiers’ eyewitness accounts and reactions to the Battle, provides moving  insight into their horrific experiences and why the attack failed.

Robert Graves’ ‘Goodbye to All That contains eyewitness descriptions of the mining villages and experiences of individual soldiers. He himself was billeted in Vermelles in June 1915.

These excellent websites and many others help to give the What ? and the Why? to the Battle of Loos Hohenzollern Redoubt and make the 1/5th South Staffordshire War Diary come alive. The more I read of this Battle the more I wonder how my uncle, Corporal Sydney Hibbett and his QMS Walsall pals could possibly have survived  it – many 1/5th Staffords did not.  In the first few minutes, 3,643  were killed or wounded. (See Casualty List in previous Post).

Above all, my reading of those three days in October 1915, makes me wonder about my own existence  – and that of my brother & sisters – for  my father arrived from Hospital in Rouen too late.  Otherwise he would, with the rest of ‘A’ Company, have been in the thick of this hell.

NEXT POST: 15th Oct. 1915.  The Finest March Past I ever saw.



South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


14th – 16th July, Fri: Bivouacs.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT:  LETTER to HIBBETT FAMILY, 95, Foden Rd.Walsall.

Bully Beef Bungalow’.  Friday July 16/ 15.

Dear People,

I must first say how comfi  the socks, I mean the khaki socks, were. I don’t know how the grey ones kind Mrs Barrans* knitted feel  – for Sydney needed a pair so I gave him those & I kept the soft onesthey are nice and soft too. I thank you so very, very much.  How lavishly the gifts were stowed in the parcel & something even in each letter.  A bit a cash in Mother’s & what I thought by feeling a pencil but turned out to be a cigarette holder silver too my word.

I was especially pleased to have a letter from Dodger* & I read Corp. Penning’s letter with great interest (& enclose it with this letter as Dodger said he wanted to answer it).  We have seen many of the RGA (1) & thought I might have overlooked him.

I had a letter from Miss Foster* the same day as Mother’s  & it was written on Sunday & posted on Monday.  She said that Nottingham had a storm which lasted all that Sunday from 7 in the morning till 9 at night, so all the Midlands must have had the large storm, if not all England.  I was going to head this letter ‘Raining’ for the weather here has been unsettled.

Well ‘you do surprise I’ – at promising to send us another parcel next week.

Harold’s gifts to us both you would like to know – sugar sweets, Bovril, Chocolate, Country Life Cigs, Bottle of Lemonade Crystals, Tin of Mineral Spring Salts (2), toothpaste etc. & a nice long letter.

Tins of Mineral Salts. 1915.
Tins of Mineral Salts. 1915.

In my letter to Okoo* thanking him for the parcel I have got confused as to whether I said the same in my letter to MotherDid I tell you I was delighted with Dad’s few lines at the end & amused at his witty little bits?  I often think of you when the post comes to you.  Do you generally have our  letters in the morning & do you generally  breakfast in the dining room?

I have a sunny  recollection of Dodger at table and the morning bright light through the lovely curtains & window on a white tablecloth & flowers on it.  Dodger is finishing his breakfast, in a hurry to catch the train, when he sees the form of the postman through the stained glass window.  Ida hears the sound of his feet from the kitchen & races to the door in a  desperate effort to out do Basil Dodger  – as he coolly pops his hand through the window & secures a letter from his affec. brother,  


PS Mother will be interested  to hear that I got a photo of the kiddies (3) at Sutton today. Miss Bore* sent me some Boardman’s & Player’s bacca  & a card of Sutton Keeper’s Pool (4).

Sutton Park: Keeper's Pool.
Sutton Park: Keeper’s Pool.

I recognised the path along the side of the lake, where the kiddies flocked round me & I had to keep a sharp eye on them for fear they fell in.

Players Navy Cut Tobacco.
Players Navy Cut Tobacco.


Well goodbye for a time.

PS  My Dear Dodger,  I have just re- read Penning’s* letter. It is now raining miserably & into the tent & I am smoking a pipe of Miss Bore’s bacca to cheer meself up -somewhat like once – (well on the 18th of May I look in my diary, & see we were in camp).  We returned from the trenches on previous Sunday night & it was Sydney’s birthday on the Monday we were in camp.  As for the 29th of June we had a Route March & saw the pipers & spent most time in camp drilling in full pack.

Edward James Montague-Wortley.
Edward James Montague-Wortley.

Sir Stuart Wortley* (5) came to see the Reserves – in which is Charlie Harrison*, who’s foot seems quite all right now.  We will keep a sharp look out & it will be a hearty hand shake.  You will picture us looking up at him on his horse & us squeezing his hand – so if the palm of your hand itches you’ll know that I have nearly  rung his hand off see (6).  Bertie.

PS  Looking forward to Ida’s Champion chatty letter.  We are always marching, marching – went digging all day again on Thursday & saw Harold  Hinde* who is in the Cycle Corps (sic) (7).

Army Cyclist Corps Badge.
Army Cyclist Corps Badge.

His brother Cyril*, who has been with us all along, has gone to a Rest Camp.

I will stop now – got a lot more correspondence.   Bertie.



(1) RGA: Royal Garrison Artillery (active 1899 -1924) manned heavy gun batteries attached to each infantry division, with cavalry. After Battle of Marne (Allied Victory, 5-12 Sept. 1914 ) RGA was positioned well behind infantry, firing on unseen targets, often supported by Royal Flying Corps using wireless telegraphy. cf. Wikipedia.

(2) Harold the chemist’s gifts of Mineral  Salts & Bovril indicate concern at Army’s unhealthy diet.  (3) St Paul’s Sunday School Outing, Walsall.

(4) Sutton Keepers Pool. Sutton National Nature Reserve, 7th largest urban park in Europe.  WW1 Convalescent Camps in the Park. <www.scnhsc.org.lakes> originally built as medieval fishpond (lido built 1887, closed 2003).

(5Edward James Montague Stuart-Wortley. 1857 -1934. Kings Rifle Corps. Distinguished colonial service. WW1: General Officer Commanding (G.O.C.) 46th Midland Division.T.A.  Kept King George V informed re- activities of the Division. Controversely dismissed  for ‘lack of offensive spirit’ 1st July 1916, Battle of the Somme.

(6) Charlie Harrison*: before War, one of Arthur Hibbett’s clerks in Education Office, Walsall. (7) Cyclist Corps : chief role – armed reconnaissance & communication. Also security patrols along canals. See Website Old Sweats Centurion. Often used as manual labour & in Front Line.

NEXT POST: 19th July 1915.