have been conducting research in to my family tree and have come across
a member of my family, a heroic solider of the Great War whom may be
in danger of being lost to time. As William was a member of the GPO
before enlisting in the Territorial Regiment, his name is etched in
to the World War One Bronze memorial plague in Grimsby Post Office.
I will therefore tell the story of this, a hero of our nation so that
the historical records can be reflected as such.
name is William Henry Woods, 241392 Private of the 2/5th Lincolnshire
2/5th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment was formed in Grimsby on the
6th of February 1915 as a Second Line Territorial Battalion. In July
they joined 177th Brigade, 59th (2nd North Midland) Division. Pte William
Henry Woods enlisted 26th January 1916 in Grimsby most probably assigned
to A company (From my research the Service Number was given to those
who enlisted on this date and only A and B companies were assigned to
Grimsby) The regiment was sent to French shores sometime in February
1917 to Mericourt.
On the 11th April 1917 the 2/5th battalion Lincolnshire regiment, A
and D Companies (This is an assumption to William Woods being a part
of A company) were sent in to battle at 04:00 to capture what was thought
to be a lightly defended quarry next to Cologne Farm to the east of
Villeret and Hargicourt villages. The earlier patrols carried out was
unfortunately in adequate and the German forces had strong presence
in the area, although the attack progressed well to start with, quickly
petered out and was successfully countered by the Germans, forcing the
attackers back to there original lines. The 2/5th Lincolns fought a
heroic battle only to be pushed back to there own trenches. In the space
of around an hour, 5 Officers and 254 men were dead, wounded or missing.
William had spent approximately two months in France before his death.
Extract of 2/5th Lincolnshire Regimental War Diary:
A Company formed up for the attack in a 2 platoon frontage with two
waves to each platoon......[as the attack started] A heavy barrage was
laid down about them but casualties were few at this stage and the formation
adopted seems to have been quite suitable....... ........After capturing
[Quarry] about 40 prisoners which would not subsequently be held in
the Quarry, they [platoons] were met by heavy rifle and M.G [Machine
04:30 The attacking Coy [Company] in the Quarry was strongly counter
attacked from the direction of VILLERET and being much outnumbered was
forced to retreat to the positions held the previous night...... ........really
strongly counter attacked from the direction of COLOGNE FARM by a force
estimated at about 250 men. They appear to have been surrounded and
mostly captured because they few men returned. No clean idea of what
had actually happened could be obtained”
Signed Capt [signature illegible] 2/5 Lincs Regt.
Extract of the account of Lieutenant Walker whom was present and subsequently
also lost his life on that tragic morning
John West Walker was a Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion of the Lincolnshire
Regiment and served in a number of places in England and Ireland, where
he took part in the repression of the rebellion in 1916.
The battalion was sent to the front in February 1917. He was killed
in action, aged 19, on 11th April 1917 near Hargicourt in France. Hargicourt
was a very heavily defended village, being on the left flank of the
German line of defences, which became known as the Hindenburg Line.
It was the chalk quarries there, with the waste heaps and higher ground,
which gave to whoever held them the advantage of observation, and being
able to call on artillery fire to check any movement of opposing troops.
The 2/5th Lincs launched an attack at the Quarries and Cologne Farm
just east of Hargicourt. At first John was reported missing and there
was some hope that he had been taken as a prisoner of war. Information
from German prisoner of war camps revealed that as he lay on the ground
wounded, the area came under artillery fire. One informant reported,
“ I saw him lying behind the wire severely wounded. This spot
was bombarded very heavily afterwards.” Another said,” The
last that was seen of him was that he was hung up across some German
wire, and wounded in both legs. He was then still issuing orders to
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission currently have 62 names for the
2/5th Lincolnshire Regiment that lost there lives on 11th April 1917.
Most have no graves and were buried, “known only to God”
Private William Henry Woods is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial,
Pier and Face 1 C.
In Loving Memory of William Henry, Dearly beloved Son of William and
Ellen Woods. Killed in action 11th April 1917 Aged 21 years.