Monday 22 May 2017

This One's For John

John McDonnell, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is from Liverpool. I wonder if the Robert McDonnell listed for the 4th Pals, 20th Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment in World War is his grandfather? Perhaps, perhaps not, but anyhow, here is their war history below:


Extracts from PRO War Diary

“The History of the The Kings Regiment (Liverpool) 1914-1919”
Everard Wyrall, in 3 volumes, 1928-1935, Published by Edward Arnold

Chapter 2, “The Hell They Called High Wood – The Somme 1916”, Terry Norman, Published by Kimber, 1984

“Liverpool Pals”, Graham Maddocks, Published by Leo Cooper, 1991
ISBN: 0 85052 340 0

Note:  The place names given below are as written; in some cases they may not appear the same on modern maps or other sources.


On 16th October 1914 the battalion was raised by Lord Derby in parallel with other battalions of the regiment, at various locations in Liverpool and district.  The Pals, the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th were mustered at Knowsley Park, the family seat of the Earls of Derby, who took their title from the ancient Hundred of West Derby in South West Lancashire and whose family name was Stanley.  The Pals battalions were for War Service only, hence the “Service Battalion” designation.  As equipment and arms were in short supply, as well as organising the officers, there was a lengthy period of preliminary training, before the Pals were ready to move.


On the 30th April, 1915 the Pals moved to Belton Park, Grantham, were they were constituted as the 89th Brigade in the 30th Division for battle training.  Belton House is now a National Trust property, and although there is minor mention of the Machine Gun Corps training there from 1916 onwards the presence of the Liverpool Pals in the previous year and so many of whom were lost in the war has been air brushed out of the history of the House.

The House today is best known as a location for period TV productions; and as a quiet country place that the Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII and Prince of Wales would retire to with close friends and Wallis Simpson for private weekends.  At one time there were a number of soldiers’ names etc. scratched into the walls of the stable block and working buildings, but these have been removed.

27 August 89 Bde and 20 Bn came under War Office Orders.
15 September 20 Bn to Larkhill on Salisbury Plain.
30 October Instructions to move from Larkhill.

6 November 1st group, Southampton to Le Havre.
7 November 2nd group Folkestone to Boulogne
9 November at Pont Remy (Amiens), drill etc.
17 November to L’Etoile
18 November from L’Etoile to Vaux-Amenois on wet roads.
19 November Kit, route marches, Drill, Stand To.

28 November Bde to Bernaville, weather cold, route via Fienvillers and Doullers to Halloy
29 November to Lamerliere and billets.
30 November to Mondicourt, and La Belle Vue

1 December at Lamerliere inspection and cleaning village
2/3 December Work on 7 Corps lines, Lt. GS Sutton dealt with dropped grenade
4 December 20 Bn had baths
5 December weather wet
6-15 December works, gas drill, etc.
15 December orders to Berles-au-Bois (110 Bde)
16 December Orders under 110 Bde in 37 Div
17 December to Berles-au-Bois via La Herliere, alongside Leicesters, wiring, digging, and trenches.
25 December to Halloy via Pommier, St Armand, Henu Pas Grenas.
26 December L’Esperance, Doullens, Hem, Fienvillers to Bernaville (Lens)


1 January Bernaville
2 January march via Canaples, Wargenies, to Naours
3 January via Talmas, Pierregot, Molliens-aux-Bois, St Gratien, Querrieu to Pont Noyelles
4 January via Corbie, Vaux-sur-Somme, to Sailly Laurette (Amiens)
5 January va Chailly Etinehem, Bray Road, Suzanne (Albert) to Maricourt, between 16 Manchesters and   Queen Victoria’s Rifles

8 January relieved by 17 KLR and to Suzanne (Albert)
9 January baths
10 January Sector A4 Maricourt
To 16 January tunnelling
To 19 January trench routines
26 January shelling at Maricourt and on Albert-Peronne road sniping
27 January trenches
28 January bombarded
31 January trenches, Sgt Amster shot a German.

1-11 February trenches, shelling, sniping, grenades etc.
12 February relieved and to Bray and Etinehem
16 February back to Maricourt in trench on 17 February and whizz bangs
20 February Etinehem, then Maricourt
25 February snow

2 March relieved, 4 March heavy snow
5 March at 30 Division depot at Etaples
8 March relieved via Bronfay to Etinehem
13 March trenches Maricourt to Germans Wood
16 March relieved, marched to Corbie via Chipilly, Sailly-Larrette, Sailly-le-Sec, Vaux-sur-Somme
25 March football match and concert
28 March Corbie to Bray and Froissy (Albert), digging, street cleaning, works.

8 April general training and machine gun training
12 April construction of light railway Suzanne to Maricourt
1 May Etineham
5-9 May return to Maricourt, shelling
10 May Briqueterie Road
25 May Bn marched to St Saveur via Daours, Amiens, Fort St. Maurice, a long march indeed (Amiens)
26 May to 5 June practising attacks

10 June Brigade attack dress rehearsal
12 June entrained Ailly-sur-Somme to Heilly then the Billon Wood, where relieved 18 Manchesters, trenches (Maurepas).  Also, entrenching in Maricourt.
23 June Bn HQ moved Billon Wood to Maricourt
25 June Operation Order No. 40 issued for 1 July
29/30 June Copse Valley, Maricourt, Bn HQ Cobham Street,


1 July, Battle Of The Somme, 0625 hrs, bombardment, 0730 hrs advance to attack in four waves, ground unrecognisable, little cover, opposition speedily overcome. 
2 July holding captured trenches
4 July relieved, then to Bois-des-Tailles (Albert)
8 July returned to Maricourt and Trigger Wood Valley
11 Enemy attacked at Trones Wood and Waterlot Farm
12 July relieved
13 July Bois-des-Tailles
14 July Vaux-sur-Somme (Amiens), Corbie area

15 July congratulatory messages to 30 Div from Lord Haig, and the Earl of Derby (Corps Commander), Maj-Gen JCM O’Shea promised they would attack again.

The Battle of The Somme has been extensively researched and is the subject of a literature of its own, as well as bitter debate about its inception, planning, conduct, and consequences.  This is not the place to attempt any analysis or comment.  It is enough to say that 30 Div, and the Liverpool Pals attained their objectives early in the day, and with light casualties.  That here and at some other places along the line breakthroughs that were made were not taken advantage of or the attack pressed forward and supported meant that the opportunities were lost.  The Pals Brigade did attack again and paid a heavy price a few days later.

18 July Vaux-sur-Somme
19 July Somme Valley, road to Etinehem to Happy Valley (!)
30 July Trench at Maurepas, 4.45 attack, mist, could not see more than 10 yards, therefore no connection between waves.  Chaos, machine gun fire, patrols lost, heavy casualties.

31 July relieved, Pals congratulated by Div GOC, Maj-Gen O’Shea

Note:  According to one listing on 30 July 1916 the Pals Brigade, the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Battalions lost 456 men, few of whose bodies were recovered.  There was a high incidence of other casualties, a large number of men sent to the rear and later to England for treatment and convalescence.  Of those who returned to combat some were posted to other battalions, notably the 13th KLR in 3 Inf Div (The Iron Division).

2 August Longpre, Huppy, Pont Remy Station, Merville, then Le Sart
7 August Vieille Chapelle
14 August concert by “Very Lights” group
18 August Locon
27 August Givenchy section, (Bethune) trenches

7 September Gorre
9 September Hingette
18 September La Pierrierie
19 September Doullens, Gazeincourt
20 September Vignacourt via Candas, Monstrelet, and Canaples (Amiens)

5 October buses to Dernancourt (Albert)
10 October to Mamets, Bazentin-le-Grand, trench Evacourt L’Abbaye/Gueudcourt
11 October near Eaucourt L’Abbaye

12 October Battle of Flers, a major Army attack by both British and French, 20 KLR advanced in four waves, intense machine gun fire, gained approximately 200 yards and then consolidated.  Note: Over 100 Pals deaths listed for that day.

14 October between Montauban and Bazentin-le-Grand
16 October back in trench, Flers support trench
18 October attack 

Note: the attack failed being attempted in the face of heavy shelling, gas, and very wet muddy conditions.  The four waves became confused and losses led to a retreat to the start trenches.

19 October near Guendecourt
22 October Bivouacs near Mametz Wood
24 October Buire
25 October Talmas
27 October Halloy (Lens)
29 October Pommier

11 November BienLillers, opposite Monchy? (Ransart)
22 November Humbercamps
7 December Berles, then Ransart
25 December our artillery bombarded German lines
29 December Berles


1 January Blaireville, a typewriter was issued to Bn HQ
31 January Brigade Cross Country Run, won by 20 KLR
4 February to Agny (Neuville Vitasse)
13 February Monchiet

8 March Arras, concert the “Very Lights” the Bn Follies!
14 March Neuville Vitasse
26 March Agny and Grosville
28 March Bavincourt

1 April Bavincourt, preparation for attack on Hindenburg Line
7 April Battles of The Scarpe, Henin –sur-Cojeul, attacked and occupied St Martin-sur-Cojeul, heavy fighting
9 April St Martin, fierce fighting
12 April Billets in Blaireville
15 April Bayencourt
21 April Beurains
24 April occupied Heninel in Hindenburg Lines system
28 April relieved
29 April Neuville Vitasse, march to Arras, train to Petit Houvin (Vaulx)

20 May left Vaulx, 30 Div ordered to march to Ypres Salient via St. Hilaire,
28 May at Brandhoek Camp
7 June Messine Ridge, mine blown at Hill 60
10 June relieved by 2 Royal Scots
11 June Brandhoek, training, trench duties, working parties

July Dikkebus Reserve Camp
30 July Chateau Segard, Hooge,then Sanctuary Wood
31 July attack at 3.50 a.m. Battle of Pilkem Ridge, Third Battle of Ypres, heavy fighting, shelling, a number of men lost, 42 in 20 Bn, and other casualties.
3/4 August relieved, to Chateau Segard and then Brandhoek

Through the Autumn and winter of 1917 into 1918, the brigade were in general service in the Ypres Salient, and the 18th were merged with the Lancashire Hussars as it was then accepted that cavalry units were of limited use. 

There was no other major battle, although there was involvement in some trench raids, and casualties occurred as a consequence of general shelling in the Salient.  At Christmas the 20 Bn were at Swan Chateau, and then at Reninghelst.  During the seven months spent in the Ypres Salient 540 men were lost, and three times that number wounded.

In early 1918 development in the political situation at home meant that fewer troops were being sent from England, and a number of reorganisations had to be made both for the new conditions, and in anticipation of a German offensive.  This was known to be likely, as Russia had surrendered on the Eastern Front, allowing their troops to be moved to the West, and the Americans had yet to deploy their forces.

Consequently, on 8 February 1918 the 20th Battalion Liverpool Pals were disbanded at Chauny, East of Noyon, and their surviving men posted to the remaining KLR units.  Although most Pals were demobilised not long after November 1918, the 17th were unluckily enough to be sent to Northern Russia in the Murmansk Expedition to protect British interests during the Russian Revolutionary war.

1 comment:

  1. My grandfather was in the Lpool Pals 20th and was also in the Very Lights concert party playing the violin. His name was Harry Lloyd and he died in 1972. He was born in Liverpoool in 1895.