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In memory of my great-grandmother's brother who, like so many, fought for his country and did not come home. 

Winfield in uniform.jpg

This is the story of just one man from one family in one village who was called up to fight for his country and never came home.


Winfield Crawshaw was my great grandma Clara Crawshaw's younger brother.  He was born at Horner House, Stocksbridge, on the 15th April 1896, one of twelve children born to Thomas Henry Crawshaw and Sarah Hannah Evans.  Winfield had worked in the Spring Mill at Fox’s and lived with his family at 215 Pearson Street.  Britain declared War on Germany on the 4th August 1914 and two of Thomas Henry and Sarah Hannah's sons enlisted in the army; Winfield in December 1914 at the age of 18, and his oldest brother Harry Weston Crawshaw.  Harry survived the War but Winfield did not; he was killed in action on the 3rd May 1917 during the 2nd Battle of Bullecourt in France.

Winfield & Shep.jpg

Winfield as a child, with dog Shep.

L-R, Bernard Hill, Winfield, Thomas Finkhill.jpg

In the photograph above, Winfield is stood at the back.  The man on the left is Bernard Hill, and the man on the right is Thomas Henry (Harry) Finkill.  Both Winfield and Harry were killed in the War.  The boys grew up together in the Horner House area of Stocksbridge.


Private Thomas Henry Finkill was the son of Fred and Emily Gertrude Finkill of Horner House; he was killed in action on Friday 3rd August 1917 aged 20, and his name is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium – meaning he has no known grave. 


The other boy in the photograph, John Bernard Hill, married Winfield's cousin Lucy Liles in 1916.  John Bernard Hill’s younger brother, Reginald Walter (or Walter Reginald) (born 1897) was killed in France on 3rd October 1918, just over a month before the cessation of hostilities.  He is buried in Guizancourt Farm Cemetery, Gouy, Aisne.  His nephew Ernest Hill related to Michael Parker (author of Poppy People) that he was always told that his uncle was shot whilst showering outside his tent. 

In December 1914, Winfield signed up for four years with the 4th battalion, York and Lancaster (Hallamshire) Regiment, service number 3128.  This Battalion was a Territorial unit based in Sheffield.  The Territorial Force had come into existence in 1908, providing an opportunity for men to join the army on a part-time basis. Territorials were not initially obliged to serve overseas but were enlisted on the basis that in the event of war they could be called upon for full-time service (“embodied”).  Army men could not be sent abroad until they were 19 years old, but I am not sure that this applied during war time, although plenty got there by lying about their age.


The Secretary of State for War, Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener, issued a call for volunteers to increase the size of the army. He introduced a new form of “short service” in August 1914, under which a man could serve for “three years or the duration of the war, whichever the longer.”  Men joining from September 1914 were expected to sign the “Imperial Service Obligation,” which gave the army powers to send them overseas or transfer them to a different Territorial Force unit if required.


Winfield’s army record tells us that he was aged 18 years and 8 months, was 5’ 5” tall, and had good physical development and vision.


On the 30th January 1915 the Battalion was re-organised into four Companies, A, B, C. and D.  Winfield was in B. company when he died in 1917.  On the 5th February 1915 the designation of the 4th Battalion was altered to the 2/4th (Hallamshire), whilst that of the Service Battalion was altered at the same time to the 1/4th (Hallamshire) Battalion.  It seems as if the York & Lancaster Territorial Force were re-organised prior to sending the 1/4th and the 1/5th overseas as first line Battalions.  1st Battalions were Front Line units, and usually sent out first.  The 2nd went later, and the 3rd stayed in this country.  The 1st/4th York and Lancaster set sail for France on the 13th April. 


Winfield did not go overseas until January 1917, but stayed in England, attending various camps around the country. 


Before joining up, Winfield was a member of the Young Men’s Class at the Primitive Methodist church in Stocksbridge, and it was reported that five months after joining the army he, along with another member of the class, Willie Crownshaw, “broke camp” on Whit Monday [24th May] 1915, to return home.  With or without permission we don’t know.


In a booklet celebrating the centenary of the Primitive Methodist church, Fred Hampshire wrote:

With the commencement of the First World War in August 1914 a number of our young men responded to Kitchener’s call for volunteers and quite naturally something of a gloom seemed to be cast over our worship and other activities, but Mr. Clarence Morris is to be commended for encouraging the younger members of the Christian Endeavour to join in Saturday afternoon and holiday-time rambles thereby encouraging and strengthening the ties which bound our young people to the Church.  It is worth recording here that on Whit Monday 1915 two members of our Young Men’s class, Winfield Crawshaw and Willie Crownshaw, who had joined His Majesty’s Forces, broke camp and returned to Stocksbridge to carry their Sunday School banner in the procession.” [1]  They were stationed at Strensall, north of York, at this time.


Winfield is commemorated on a Roll of Honour which was originally in the West End Primitive Methodist Church (now the Rugby Club) but is now in Christ Church, Stocksbridge.  The other names are Lucy Castledine (a nurse), Fred Castledine, Thomas Finkhill, Reginald W. Hill, Arthur Brailsford, Douglas Shaw, Alfred Sutton, Horace Smith, Fred Fieldsend and Clifford Orchard.

[1] “Stocksbridge Primitive Methodist – West End Methodist Church 1866-1966 Centenary Handbook.”  Compiled by Fred Hampshire.  This is also mentioned by Harry Eastwood in his MS “The History of Stocksbridge and District,” an unpublished manuscript that, upon his death in 1979, was donated to Sheffield libraries by his widow.  There is a reference copy in Stocksbridge library and one in Sheffield Local Studies library.

Winfield Crawshaw attestation 1914.jpg

ATTESTATION RECORD, Territorial Force, dated 6th December 1914.

Winfield signed up for four years with the 4th Bn. York and Lancaster Regiment, service number 3128.  His address was 215 Pearson Street, Stocksbridge.  “Assumed Dead” was later written across the top

Note: A reorganisation of the Regiment put Winfield in the 2nd/4th Battalion.  Service numbers were altered in 1917 and his changed to  201198.

3. Agreement.jpg

AGREEMENT to serve in any place outside the United Kingdom in the event of National Emergency. 

I, 3128, Pte., Winfield Crawshaw of the 4th (Hallamshire) Bn. York & Lancaster Regt. do hereby agree, subject to the conditions stated overleaf, to accept liability, in the event of national emergency, to serve in any place outside the United Kingdom [...] Sheffield Dec 6 1914

4. Medical inspection report.jpg


Age: 18 years 8 months; Height: 5’ 5”; Weight: 172 lbs (just over 12 stone) or 112 lbs (8 stone); Chest expanded: 34” [?]; Range of expansion: 4”; Vision: good; Physical Development: good; Passed fit: 6 December 1914

Winfield at a training camp in about 1916..jpg

The photograph above shows Winfield (marked with the arrow) at an unknown training camp somewhere in England.  A military expert has provided an interpretation of this photograph. 


Winfield enlisted in 1914 and other photographs show him wearing a uniform with pleated top pockets; anyone that joined after 1915 is wearing an economy tunic (with plain pockets).  As some of these men have the latter uniform, this dates the photograph to about 1916.  At the outbreak of war in 1914, the huge number of volunteers answering Kitchener’s recruitment appeal resulted in the problem of providing uniforms for all these men.  Many trained in their civilian clothes for weeks. So a highly simplified version of the uniform was produced instead.  These were dark blue, because the original khaki dye, which before the war had been produced in Germany, proved difficult to acquire from other sources; this gave the uniform the nickname "Kitchener's Blues".  Around 500,000 sets of these uniforms were produced and worn during basic training.

The man at the front with two stripes/chevrons is the Corporal, who commanded the section.

The man behind him with one stripe/chevron is the Lance Corporal (L/Cpl is the lowest rank of Non-Commissioned Officer or N.C.O.), and he would be second in command after the Corporal.

l.anyards were worn on the left shoulder until the mid 20s; the Corporal has his on his right shoulder.  He is not showing his right hand on this photograph, perhaps he had an injury preventing him from using it?

The man on the right with the stick is a Military Policeman. 

The man sat down on the duckboard on the right has black cloth on his 2nd. button showing a loss of a close family member.  Another tragic story.  I wonder how many of these men made it home from France?

On the 4th March 1915 Winfield’s Battalion moved from Sheffield to Nottingham where it went into billets and formed part of the 2/3 West Riding Infantry Brigade.  The strength of the Battalion was 20 officers and 1152 other ranks. The Brigade marched through the city of Nottingham on the 17th March, and the Brigadier complimented the Commanding Officer on the “steadiness and excellent marching” of the Battalion.  The Battalion were issued with their first five horses in April. 


On the 10th April the Battalion moved from Nottingham to Strensall (north of York), and three days later the 1st Line Unit embarked for service with the British Expeditionary Force in France.  It was on the 24th May that Winfield Crawshaw and Willie Crownshaw “broke camp” to return home.  The Battalion left Strensall for Beverley in June, billeting for the night at Market Weighton.


On the 15th of July 1915 the Brigade was inspected by Major General Sir J. K. Trotter H.C.B., commanding the 21st West Riding Infantry Division, and the following letter was received and published in the Brigade and Battalion orders: “I was very glad to have had the opportunity of seeing your Brigade yesterday.  My inspection more than justified my expectations.  The men were well turned out, steady under arms, and marched well.  They are a very fine body, and what I value more than their appearance from a physical point of view, is the spirit which is clearly so strong in them.”  This was one of several letters written by those who had inspected the men, all very positive.


Officers and men regularly left to join the 1st line units in France.  At the end of October 1915, the Battalion in England consisted of 42 officers and 796 other ranks.  The men left Beverley for Bentley near Doncaster by march route, billeting at Market Weighton & Selby on the nights of the 27th & 28th.


An unpopular move was made on the 26th November 1915 when the Battalion was sent to Gateshead-on-Tyne.  The men were not happy, because they were now far from home.  It had been possible for them to get home to Sheffield from Bentley, a distance of 18 miles, for very little expense.  However, the Battalion had important work to do at Gateshead in connection with the defence of the Tyne district.  The Battalion occupied several schools whilst there.  They were on the move again in January, back down south to Larkhill camp on Salisbury Plain, for Divisional Training.  It was expected that this move would be the last one prior to going to serve in France, but this was constantly being delayed, and in the end, they did not go until January 1917. 


In 2017, a network of “practice tunnels” was uncovered under Salisbury Plain.  Archaeologists working with the Ministry of Defence, which was building hundreds of military homes at Larkhill, made the discovery.  The site was used to emulate the conditions soldiers would face in trenches in France and Belgium during the war.  More than 100 pieces of graffiti were uncovered in the chalk walls of the trenches and tunnels. [1]

There was another move in June 1916 to Flixton Park Camp near Bungay, Suffolk. 

The men practiced digging trenches and learnt the principles of trench warfare, mirroring what was happening at the Front.  The Division carried out a Concentration March, which covered 22 miles on a hot day through narrow country lanes.  Only one man fell out, and it was reported that this showed that the Battalion was “well trained in marching,” and it was hoped that “should units be subsequently called upon to carry out a still higher test, they will prove equal to the occasion.”  There was a three-day route march to Southwold a month later, with two nights spend there before marching back to camp.  In September the Battalion carried out an attack practice at the trenches at Ditchingham, followed by another march to Halesworth.  The men spent the night there, marched to Southwold the next day, and then returned to camp.


It wasn’t all work and war practice though.  A Divisional assault at arms [2] was held in Flixton Park in September 1916, and the Unit won several competitions.  There was a drill competition, a Lewis Gun team competition, a tug of war, a sniper competition, a signalling competition and even an individual bomb throwing competition.

On July 27th 1916 the Division was inspected by His Majesty the King … who was “graciously pleased to express his high appreciation of the appearance and marching of the Division.”  


In October 1916 the Battalion moved again to Rushden, Northamptonshire.  Officers had previously visited the town to arrange billets for the men (private houses where they would sleep).  The Rushden Echo of 27th October 1916 reported that over 1,000 men from the 2/4 Battalion of the York & Lancaster Regiment had arrived and were accorded “a hearty welcome” by the townsfolk.   They arrived by two trains from Flixton Hall where they had been encamped for the past fourteen weeks.  Their journey to Higham Ferrers Station was via March, Peterborough, Kettering, and Wellingborough, and they detrained in the goods yard, their journey from Bungay having been uneventful.  A & B Companies arrived at 1.45pm and C & D Companies at 4.45pm.  They then marched direct to Rushden. The battalion quartered in Rushden was composed mainly of men from the Sheffield district, and the men, who had been under canvas for some time past, were apparently extremely glad to get into comfortable billets.  The men were in billets for sleeping purposes, but mess accommodation was provided in various public buildings.  Rushden House was taken over as the Officers’ mess.  Several churches turned over their rooms as recreation rooms, and were provided with refreshments, notepaper,  envelopes, games and billiard tables, &c. [3]


[2] A display of skill-at-arms performed as public entertainment. 

[3] See

Arras Memorial2.JPG

OFF TO FRANCE.  Orders were received for the Division to be deployed to France in January 1917.  The following was published on January 3rd: “… the General Officer commanding wishes to express his appreciation of the high state of discipline and the keen spirits which all ranks have maintained during the long and strenuous period of training which they have undergone, and of the standard of efficiency which they have attained.  He feels confident that this standard will be maintained at the Front in all circumstances, however trying, and that it will be a point of honour with everyone belonging to the Division to uphold, from the first moment they set foot in France, the good name which the 62nd (West Riding) Division has justly earned for itself in England.


And so, after two years of training, Winfield and his fellow soldiers were off to France.  Had they any idea of the horrors that awaited them?

Extracts from the War Diary in italics.



Three trains left nearby Irchester station on the 13th and 14th January 1917.  The Commanding Officer issued Move Orders, detailing the times of the trains and the order of the parade to the station.  The turn-out had to be good, as did the men’s conduct, and water bottles filled but not used unless under the instructions of an Officer.  The passage across the channel was to be treated in all respects as a night march, and no lights, or noise of any kind, was permitted.  N.C.O.s and men were cautioned regarding the consumption of the unexpended portion of the rations for the day of the journey.  No other food would be obtainable, and that issued on the night of the voyage was for consumption on the day of disembarkation.  On no account was the iron ration, or any part of it, to be used without a definite order from an Officer.  “Any breach of this Order must be reported.”  Finally, N.C.O.s and men were cautioned against leaving the train at stopping places unless orders were given to do so.


The War Diary of the 2/4th Battalion noted that the men embarked for France at Southampton on the 13th January 1917 in three separate boats, and that they arrived in Le Havre the following day.  Winfield’s Service Record confirms these dates. 

Troops embarking at Southampton for the Western Front, France 1917.jpg

Troops Embarking for the Western Front in 1917,” an oil painting by the war artist John Lavery of Southampton docks.  This painting is part of the war art collection held by the Imperial War Museum.  It depicts a view from the quayside showing troops boarding an already crowded dazzle-camouflaged ship [1].  Horses and cannon can be seen.  Southampton newspapers reported that, “Never within memory have such scenes been witnessed in the Solent as during the past few days. Throughout day and night there have been constant departures of huge steamers laden with troops, guns and horses forming part of the expeditionary force. As the troopships passed Cowes the Royal Yacht Squadron signalled ‘Good Luck.’”


The locals played a big part in keeping up the moral of the troops, with thousands visiting Southampton Common with gifts. A writing room was set up with free paper, envelopes, and stamps. The WMCA [Y.M.C.A?] set up and provided free refreshments, tobacco, and cigarettes, whilst the ladies of the Avenue Congregational Church provided tea and watered horses.

[1] A type of camouflage used on ships in WW1.  It was not intended to conceal the ships, but to to make it difficult for the enemy to estimate a target's range, speed, and heading. Each ship's dazzle pattern was unique to avoid making classes of ships instantly recognisable to the enemy.  The result was that a profusion of dazzle schemes was tried, and the evidence for their success was at best mixed. So many factors were involved that it was impossible to determine which were important, and whether any of the colour schemes were effective.  See

Horse being loaded onto a ship.jpg

The men disembarked at Le Havre in poor weather - heavy rain, sleet and snow.  The roads were deep in mud.  The men went into No. 2 Rest Camp at Le Havre before entraining for Frévent.  They then marched to Barly where there was “nothing to report” for several days apart from some officers and N.C.O.s being sent for instruction in the trenches.  On the 22nd January they marched to Candas, where they stayed the night before marching on to Famechon where they spent a few days digging trenches for practice attack. 


There was a very severe frost which lasted into February, and many of the men suffered from exposure.  The War Diary stated that, “This is no doubt due to the fact that the men left comfortable billets in England, and are not yet hardened.”  On the 26th January, the Brigade carried out another attack practice in trenches dug for that purpose and it was noted that, “from criticism received there are still many minor points require attention.”  There were many days in January when there was “nothing to report,” except for the continuation of the frost and a delivery of Lewis Guns - light machine guns - (bringing the total up to 12, 3 for each Company.)  The Battalion was detailed for railway construction, and Winfield’s company, B, were sent to the Sarton area.  The strength of the Battalion at the end of the month was 36 officers and 981 other ranks including an interpreter.


February saw a few men being sent to the Casualty Clearing Station (no reason given), and it was reported that large numbers of men were reporting sick because of the frost.  Instruction in the trenches continued, with parties of specialists (bombers, Lewis gunners and signallers) being sent there for 24 hours at a time.  No casualties had so far occurred amongst them.  Box Respirators were issued, and all ranks attended the Lachrymator [1], where it was found that the Respirators were very effective.  This would give “great confidence to all ranks later when it is our duty to go into the line.”  Railway construction continued.  The Brigade Baths were opened at Authie on the 8th February, and Winfield’s B. Company attended there & were issued with clean clothing.

[5] Lachrymator: a substance that irritates the eyes and causes tears to flow [tear gas]


As if fighting for their country wasn’t enough, a lecturer attended the men to explain to all ranks the necessity of everyone investing all their spare cash into the War Loan.  It was necessary to make sacrifices for the purpose of providing the Government with as much money as possible to successfully carry on the war.


A demonstration was given to the Officers in the use of Rifle Grenades, flares, smoke bombs, rockets, etc., but this training was not given to all ranks.  The frost finally broke and a thaw set in.  A. & C. Companies were detailed as working parties on tramways, and the Battalion moved to Bertrancourt and then on to Auchonvilliers, also for work on tramways.


On the 20th and 21st February 1917, the Battalion moved to Beaumont Hamel to take up position in the Line to relieve the 3/5th West Yorkshire Regiment.  They occupied old dugouts in ground held by the Germans previous to the Battle of the Somme.  There was great difficulty in supplying food to the men owing to the nature of the ground.  There was no real system of trenches, and sentry positions were being pushed forward into shell holes.  The Diary noted that “this is a severe test for a Division which has not previously been tested in trench warfare under Active Service conditions.  Our men, however, are in excellent spirit, & it is hoped that this Battalion will come out of the test well.” 


On the 22nd they moved forward to relieve the 2/5th Bn. King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (K.O.Y.L.I.) who were holding a Line.  The 2/4th held the Line until the evening of the 24th, and the German artillery was “not very active”.  However, “a certain annoyance had been caused by an enemy sniper during occupation by the previous unit, wounding 2 officers of the 2/5 Bn. K.O.Y.L.I. & he was also responsible for the wounding of Capt. W. N. Gale.  Capt. Gale had a most miraculous escape, his revolver which he was carrying on the right-hand side being struck by a bullet, the bullet afterwards causing a flesh wound in the forearm.  I am pleased to report that one of the posts under the command of Lt. Fitzgerald succeeded in locating this sniper, & a Machine Gun worked by 3255 Pte. Wycherly H. was turned on to a place where a slight movement had been seen.  On reconnaissance being made afterwards this enemy sniper was found dead with a number of bullet wounds in the head.  The body was warm when found.


At 3.15pm on the 24th instructions were received to move forward.  “I wish to record that at this time the men holding advance posts had been without food or water, in many cases for 12-24 hours, which was due to the great difficulties in getting to them, & getting forward supplies.” 


The advance was made, but touch was not found with the enemy, and as darkness closed in the line halted and consolidated its position.  Information was received during the night of the 24/25th that the ground won by the 2/4th Battalion would be taken over by the 2/4th K.O.Y.L.I. and the relief was commenced at 5am on the 25th and completed about 6.30am.  The morning was misty, which, had the Battalion been in touch with the enemy, would have greatly assisted in the relief.  The Battalion then withdrew to Dugouts in “Y” Ravine.


It is only fair to record the splendid spirit in which the men moved forward on receiving instructions to do so.  No direct information was to hand that the enemy had totally vacated his previous line, & this unit has the honour of being the first Battalion in the 62nd Division to be sent forward against the enemy.”


On the 26th, the Battalion left Beaumont Hamel and rested at Lytham Camp near Mailly-Maillet.

Map showing some of the locations Winfield served in France.jpg

MARCH 1917

It was in March 1917 that Winfield’s service number changed from 3128 to 201198.  The 4th York and Lancasters (Hallamshire) were allocated the numbers 200001 to 240000.  Winfield’s service record says that he was in the 2nd/4th Bn. from the 3rd May 1917 but this was the day he died.  Records were amended and new ID discs made, to be stamped with the man’s name, his new regimental number, the corps (but not the unit), and his religion.  The old discs were to be collected, defaced and disposed of.  The men were told that it was important to notify their next-of-kin etc. about their new numbers.


The first three days in March were spent in rest at Lytham Camp, with nothing to report.  On the 5th, the Battalion moved into the Line to relieve the 2/5th West York Regiment and moved into dugouts at Bois D’Holland.  Winfield’s B. Company were in reserve, whilst C. and D. Companies were in front on the right and the left, with A. Company in support.  A patrol was sent out with a Lewis Gun section from C. Company to ascertain the condition of the wire in front of Achiet le Petit.  The patrol went forward in file but encountered a “strong patrol of the enemy” after only 400 yards, who opened fire on them.  The British patrol rushed them, but they “got away.”  The patrol returned having failed in its mission.  Private Frost was wounded and subsequently died and was buried by the men.  Several other men were wounded.  At this time casualties were low enough for the War Diary to mention them by name. 


The Line was held by the Battalion until the night of 7th / 8th when they were relieved by the 2/4th K.O.Y.L.I.  They withdrew to dug outs in & about Miraumont.  This place was heavily shelled during the time they were there, and one man was killed, and four men injured.  They went back to relieve the K.O.Y.L.I. on the 9th March during which time 11 men were wounded, one of whom died of his wounds.  They were heavily shelled on the 11th March, including the Battalion HQ, but there were no casualties that day.  


That night Captain Stuart went forward with a patrol and met an enemy patrol who ordered them to “hands up.”  Captain Stuart gave the order to charge, firing his revolver into the enemy patrol.  The enemy patrol “cleared off,” leaving one man behind, who was captured by the Captain.  The following night Captain Stuart tried to establish a new line of posts.  There was a German machine gun position just beyond this point.  He went out with a party from B. Company and was in the process of establishing the new posts when they came under heavy machine gun fire.  Captain Stuart, considering the position untenable, gave the order to withdraw to the line of established posts.  He was severely wounded during the withdrawal & two men were missing when the roll was called.  It is believed that Private Bellairs had been killed and that Private Harrison had fallen into the hands of the enemy.  News was later received that Captain Stuart had died of his wounds, and the body of Private Harrison was later found by a search party.  Later that night the Battalion was relieved by the 2/4th K.O.Y.L.I. & returned to Miraumont in support.  In addition to the three men referred to, eleven more men were named in the casualty list: two killed, two died of wounds, and seven wounded.


Winfield’s father Thomas Henry Crawshaw died on the 9th March 1917.  The news would have taken some time to reach him, but he was unable to be granted leave to return home. 


On the 13th March, A. and B. Companies were still accommodated in dugouts at Miraumont (this would include Winfield).  D. Company were in a 20’ ravine and C. Company were in Shelters.  That night C. Company were ordered to move forward to occupy position in a dry ditch.  Winfield’s Company was ordered to take up a support line in the Brickfield Trenches.  More casualties were recorded; Private Bell was gassed, Corporal Rowbotham, Captain Jenkinson and Private Dossett were wounded, Private Jackson was suffering from shell shock, and Corporal Richardson was killed.


The Battalion was relieved by the 5/5th Duke of Wellington Regiment on 15th March and went into rest at the Puisieux shelter with instructions to move to Forceville on the following day.  Private Benton was wounded.  They moved in to billets at Forveville on the 16th.  They moved again on the 19th into dugouts at Beaumont Hamel (apart from A. Company who were sent to Englebelmer for work on salvage).  There was another move into dugouts at Miraumont on the 21st, the men being engaged on railway construction.

APRIL 1917

On the 1st April the Battalion, which was still engaged on railway work, moved to Candas.  A. Company remained at Englebelmer on salvage duties.  They were at Achiet le Grand on the 2/3rd April, and on the 3rd April Winfield wrote a letter home to his older sister Leah.

B.E.F. [British Expeditionary Force], France

3rd April 1917


My Dear Leah

Just a few lines hoping you are all in the best of health as this leaves me at present.  I received your parcel last night and thanks very much for contents, I shall enjoy them up to the […] best food I’ve had for some time.  Haven’t you received my letters I sent home?  I’ve sent a lot home since word came Father died. [1]  I got the Regt. letter alright and sent word straight back.  I have seen Moorhouse, Ellson [2] and [?] Walker.  They are alright.  Well I’ve not been up the line since I saw Moorhouse, but had a lively time when I were up a [fast time?] I had last time.  Pleased to hear Seth his [is] trying his best and hope he will succeed as soon as he can.  I could not get leave for father’s death.  It came as a shock to me I can tell you.  I have heard Lillian is knocking about with different fellows, but don’t say anything to her.  Elsie Jordan [3] sent me cigs and a letter yesterday and surprised when I saw who had sent them.  They [keep?] getting married at Stocksbridge yet.  I’m alright as I am for a year or two anyway.  Billy Walker told me their [Ted / Fred?][4] is getting married at Easter.  I forgot it was Cyril’s birthday last time I wrote [5].  It will soon be mine 15th of this month [his 21st].  This is the third in the Army and hope it will be the last for I think this War is over any day now.  I heard about cousin Lucy [6] hope she will get [letters?] alright.   I shall have to be writing to [?] Hill and C? Marsh and ask them how they find married life (I know).

Remember me to all at home, will close now.

Your living brother Winfield xxxx

P.S. Do you want me to write to [?] Jones?

Kisses for Evelyn xxxxxxx [7]

[1] Winfield's father Thomas Henry Crawshaw had died on the 9th March 1917

[2] Possibly Albert Elson, born c1889, who, in 1911, was living at 47 Haywoods Park, aged 22, umbrella frame hardener, son of Albert and Frances Lucy.

[3] Elsie Jordan was Winfield's cousin, and about the same age as he was.  Elsie's mother was Mary nee Evans, sister of Winfield's mother Sarah Hannah.  They lived on Pearson Street, as did Winfield's family.

[4] There was a Fred Walker married Doris Gertrude Burtoft at Bolsterstone 10th April 1917.  Fred was the son of Wilfred Walker, a stone mason.  Billy Walker is probably his brother, Willie, who served with the West Yorkshire Regiment.  He left for France on the 6th January 1917, less than three months after enlisting, and was wounded on the 3rd May 1917 (the day Winfield was killed), receiving a gunshot wound to the arm and the left thigh.  He returned to England on the 9th May, serving at Home from the 10th May 1917 to the 8th November 1917 before being posted  back to France on the 9th November 1917.  He was reported as suffering from Trench Feet in January and February 1918, and was evacuated to hospital on the 1st February from the Field to the hospital at Etables.  He returned to England on the 16th February 1918.  Willie was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal

[5] His younger brother Cyril Crawshaw

[6] Lucy Liles, daughter of his father's sister Harriet Crawshaw and her husband Jesse Liles.  She had married Winfield's friend John Bernard Hill in November 1916 (he is in the photo at the top of this page).

[7] His sister Evelyn, was born 18th Oct 1910 so she’d be 6½ years old

I have not identified the other people that he mentions in the letter.  

Many thanks to my cousin David John Bradbury, Leah's grandson, for sending me this letter.

Letter to Leah final paragraph.jpg

Winfield stayed at Achiet le Grand for about a week, the men being re-joined by A. Company.  They practised attack as laid down in “Instruction for the training of Divisions in offensive action.”  Time was spent in Sapignies, Béhagnies and Mory. 


On the 15th April, twelve men from A. Company were accidentally wounded as the result of defective bombs.  No mention is made of Winfield in the War Diary but his Service Record states that he was received from the Home Counties Field Ambulance on that day, but the writing is almost illegible.  The next two days were spent at Mory filling mine craters and repairing roads. Seven men were wounded on the 18th, including Captain Vickers.  Three days were spent practising forming up for a night attack.  Private Marshall of C. Company was wounded on the 19th.  Winfield’s Service Record states that he was received from the 2nd/3rd W.R.F.A. [West Riding Field Ambulance] on the 19th from the Field, with a headache.


The Battalion were at rest in Ervillers on the 1st May; the strength was 41 officers and 804 other ranks.  The battle they had all practised for was almost upon them – to attack and take Bullecourt (or what was left of it – it had been virtually destroyed).  Bullecourt village was well behind the Front Line and in German occupation from 1914.  During late 1916 and early 1917 the formidable construction known as the Siegfried Stellung (Hindenburg Line) incorporated the village into the defensive system, heavily fortifying it with belts of barbed wire, machine guns and Front-Line trenches.  German forces withdrew from the Somme area in March 1917 and Bullecourt became a Front-Line location when the British Army advanced.


This would be the second assault on Bullecourt.  The initial assault had taken place in April but failed to penetrate the German Lines, and so British commanders made preparations for a second attempt.  Although the infantry assault was planned for 20 April, it was pushed back a number of times and finally set for the early morning of 3 May. 

Map showing some of the locations Winfield served in France more detail.jpg

Bullecourt marked in purple on the right.  Frévent (top left) was their first stop after Le Havre.  For scale, Ervillers to St. Leger is about 2½ miles.


On the 2nd May, orders were issued for the attack.  Winfield was in B. Company in the 2/4 Battalion, which was part of the 187th Brigade, which in turn was part of the 62nd Division.  The 62nd Division, in conjunction with the 1st Anzac Corps (a combined Australian and NZ Corps) was ordered to attack the Hindenburg Line.  The village of Bullecourt was the objective of the 185th Brigade, with the 186th Brigade on their left and the 187th Brigade - of which the 2/4th York and Lancaster, and therefore Winfield, was a part - on the left of the 186th Brigade.  The objective of the 2/4 battalion were the 1st & 2nd Line trenches of the Hindenburg.  A. and C. companies were given the task of capturing the 1st Line German trench; B. and D. Companies were to move forward over the 1st Line enemy trench through A. & C. Companies and occupy the 2nd Line German trench.  The communication trench was to be dealt with by C. Company.

The 2/4 battalion was to attack in 4 waves of 8 lines, the first three lines extending to 10 paces, the fourth line remaining in artillery formation.  The leading four lines were to close up and form one line whilst a barrage was delivered on the First Line German trench, so that as much weight as possible should be given to the final short rush into the German trench the moment the barrage lifted.  The near four lines were all to be in artillery formation until they crossed the first line German trench when the first three of these lines deployed.  Just as the leading four lines attacking the Front-Line German trench formed one thick line for the final rush, so the rear four lines closed to one solid line to rush the enemy second line the moment our barrage lifted. 


With the exception of the distance between the 4th and 3rd lines which was to be 100 yards, the distance between lines was 20 yards & between waves 50 yards.  These distances were obtained on the “tape line” as the lines in front moved off. The tape line was very important because it guided the troops in the right direction when the attack was launched.


Runners Relay Posts were to be established at two points.


Dugouts were to be made for Battalion Headquarters and the Regimental First Aid post.  There was to be a permanent Howitzer barrage on the Hindenburg trench and support trench.  There would be 1 gun to 14 yards of front.  15 Heavy batteries were to maintain fire on enemy trenches & lines of approach throughout the Divisional front.


The War Diary noted that two “Tanks” [their inverted commas] were to operate on the Battalion front.  The name “Tank” was initially a code word to maintain secrecy and disguise its true purpose.  Tanks were developed during WW1 to break the stalemate of trench warfare.  They could survive machine gun and gun fire, travel over rough ground, crush barbed wire and cross trenches.  They were also used to carry supply and troops.  They did break down and/or get captured though. 

The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry also received orders, to capture a trench and a road, establish a defensive flank, reinforce the troops, and push forward to Fontaine should the opportunity present itself.  The 5th York & Lancasters were to attack and capture the Hindenburg Line and Hindenburg support Line at certain co-ordinates and were to establish strong points and bombing blocks.  Strong Points were temporary defences until the line could be “consolidated” by bringing up Machine Guns & sandbags & turning it into a “strong point.”  A bombing block was where men would be brought up to the trench to throw Mills bombs (hand grenades) into trenches not held by them, in order to protect their own side from an enemy attack.  Bombers would have gone here with periscopes to catch any German patrols.


They were also to push strong patrols along the Hindenburg trench and Hindenburg support trench and were to make good the communication trench running as soon as its objectives had been captured.


Each battalion was to be responsible for “mopping up” and for consolidating its objective.  Mopping up refers to killing or capturing any remaining enemy troops still in their area so they can consolidate their objective.  A directive from November 1917 refers to clearing the trenches, and states that, “Mopping up” will probably be the principal role of the Infantry, and here it becomes necessary for the Infantry to disassociate themselves at once from their tank and take on the defenders with rifle and bayonet irrespective of their tank [rank?].  Rapid re-assembling after “mopping up” should be practiced and tanks and infantry reformed.”


A carrying party of 2 platoons under Lieut. McKenzie from 2/4th K.O.Y.L.I. was attached to the battalion.  Carrying parties were involved in carrying routine deliveries of rations, supplies, ammunition etc. to the Front Line in defence and in the build-up to an attack.  They could also be detailed as part of attacking waves, taking up supplies and ammunition for troops holding newly won territory / trenches.  They also helped with carrying machine guns and trench mortars. Recently arrived battalions were often given this detail as a way of acclimatising soldiers to the Front Line. 


It was reported that the Battalion was in excellent spirits, and in all attack practices held previously every man had appeared to know what was required of him.


Winfield’s Company, B. Company, was commanded by Captain R. C. Barnes, with Lieutenants Seagrave and Ward.  There were also a liaison officer, a medical officer (also in charge of the stretcher bearers), an assisting medical officer, and men in charge of machine guns, light trench mortars, artillery liaison, Battalion Dump, and runners.


A. Company had 99 men, B. Company had 115, C. Company had 109 and D. Company 111.  There were 32 stretcher bearers, 20 runners and 12 signallers.


At 8pm on the 2nd May, the Battalion arrived at St. Leger, where a hot meal was served from the Field Kitchens.  Officers had supper in a ruined house and their watches were synchronised.  The Commanding Officer issued the information that zero hour was 3.45am the next day, and made final arrangements.


The Battalion paraded at 10.15pm and arrived at the rendezvous – the cross-roads in St. Leger – at 10.45pm, whence it marched to the mine crater on the Croisilles-Ecoust St. Mein road.   At this point Lieut. Walker, Captain Sharrard, Signallers, Runners, Stretcher Bearers and Carrying Party branched off and went direct to Battalion Headquarters.  The Battalion plus Machine Gun Corps and Trench Mortar Battery detachment moved along the road where it was met by the Brigade Major.  They came under some shell fire about this time, and six men were wounded.  One of these was possibly Private Albert Pridmore 201859 of Sheffield, who was wounded on the 2nd May, and died in Bradford Hospital 22 June 1917 of his wounds.  The Brigade Major conducted the Battalion to the “Tape line.


On the 3rd May 1917, the men marched onto the tape line, extended and formed waves as ordered, each man fixing his bayonet and lying down into his place.  Just as the head of the 6th line came into its alignment, a shell burst close by, wounding the Commanding Officer and about six other ranks.  The C.O. said, “Don’t mind me, get the lines out,” and although the enemy were shelling heavily at the time the operation was carried out exactly as it had been on the Practice Attacks.  The Commanding Officer, with the assistance of his servant, then made his way to Battalion Headquarters.  The Adjutant found the lines to be absolutely correct and it was noticed that in many cases men were lying close to shell holes had not taken cover in them because they didn’t want to miss their interval.  The tape line of the 186th Brigade was found to have been laid down 60 yards to the rear of the 187th, which made their front line in the same alignment roughly as the 187th's sixth line.  Captain Beely and Captain Barnes went over to see the Company Commanders of the left companies of the 186th and arranged that at zero hour [3.45am] the 18th's front line should advance very slowly until overtaken by the front line of the 186th.


A rum ration was issued to the men at 3am.


The first line advanced at zero minus eight minutes (3.37am).  Major Richardson arrived at 3am and took over command of the Battalion.  The front line moved off on time, and the barrage started precisely at 3.45am but owing to the darkness, the dust and the smoke made by the barrage, it was extremely difficult for men to keep their intervals and for lines to keep their distance and direction.  The Battalion had to advance 900 yards before reaching the first German trench.  All was going well until the left Battalion of the 186th lost direction and came right across the 187ths, in between the 4th & 5th lines.  Great confusion ensued and a West Riding Subaltern gave the order to withdraw & reorganise.  About 70 men of the right rear company of the Y & L.  got their order and withdrew to the railway cutting; the remainder under Lieut. Rodgers (D. Company), 2 Lieut. Seagrave (B. Company), 2 Lieut. Mitchell (C. Company) and 2 Lieut. Ward (B. Company) reorganised and pushed on and although greatly disorganised by the mixture of units they reached the first German trench and took up positions in it and in shell holes close by. 


The 4 rear waves had become so mixed up that it was impossible for them to advance in correct formation to the second German Line.  However, many men did go on but found the second enemy Line very strongly held and were unable to take it and therefore took up positions in shell holes.  As no runner had managed to get back to the railway cutting with a message, no one at Battalion Headquarters was able to find out what was taking place.  However, a carrying party under Lieut. Lonsdale & 2 Lieut. McKenzie set off at 5am to the first German trench with stores of bombs, ammunition etc.  They managed to get up to their comrades and deliver their stores.  Lieut. Lonsdale remained in the trench to supervise the Bombing squads.  Lieut. McKenzie led the carrying party back to the railway cutting and arrived there only having had one casualty.  Lieut. Walker, who had already been out with a stretcher party bringing in wounded from the tape line went out with his signallers at about 4.30am to lay an armoured cable from Battalion Headquarters to the cross-roads.  This was recalled by the Brigade, and Lieut. Walker went on to the sunken road to establish runner posts and remained there until 9am.  About 5 o’clock Major Richardson went out from the Railway cutting with the artillery Liaison officer to see if he could find out what was happening.  He came back and reported that as the enemy barrage appeared to be playing on the first German trench, he assumed that our side had taken it, and he asked for, and received, permission to go up to the advance Brigade Headquarters.  He got up to the road and in spite of very heavy machine gun and rifle fire and of repeated warnings that it was unsafe to go on, he pushed on, but he was shot in the head by a German sniper.  His servant managed to drag him into a shell hole and 2 Lieut. Higgins bound up his wound, but he subsequently died.


About 9pm the Brigade major arrived from Headquarters and issued instructions that all available men were to be paraded in the cutting and that a second attack was to be made.  The 70 men of the unit (a huge reduction from their starting strength) were lined up in extended order with men of the 4th & 5th K.O.Y.L.I. who had returned to the cutting.


After consultation with Major Watson, Captain Barnes, who showed conspicuous gallantry in organising and leading the second attack, decided to advance in two lines.  The advance was carried out and reached where heavy machine gun and shell fire was encountered and it was decided not to attempt to advance further, and positions were taken up in shell holes.  This advance had been watched by the men who had pushed forward to the German 1st Line in the first attack.  For some time the position remained unchanged, men simply hanging on in shell holes or parts of trenches, but as it was found impossible to get reinforcements up to the Front Line.  Many men were being killed “to no useful purpose,” and at around 4 o’clock orders were issued to retire to railway cutting.  A line of posts was established by the 5th York & Lancs. Regt. in front of the cutting.  The 2/4th York and Lancaster was ordered to take up a support position on the Ecoust-Croisilles road, where they remained until 4pm the following day when orders were received to camp near Mory Copse, which was carried out without casualties.


Throughout the 3rd May and on the morning of the 4th May, the Regimental First Aid Post was very busy, treating around 80 casualties.  Assisting in there was Captain The Rev. G. W. Stainsby, Chaplain to the Forces, who, prior to receiving his commission, had served in France as a Royal Army Medical Corps man.


During the 4th May it was ascertained that Captain Jenkinson, Lieut. Rodgers and Lieut. Lonsdale had all been wounded and taken to the Casualty Clearing Station.  2 Lt. Seagrave was slightly wounded but rejoined the Battalion at Mory Copse.  Captain Beeby [1] and 2nd Lieut. Clively [2] were both killed in front of the German second line trench and Lieut. Conmee [3] was killed in the second attack.  There was no information about the whereabouts of Captain Gale.


Casualties of other ranks were:  6 killed, 130 wounded, 18 wounded and missing, 18 missing believed killed, 57 missing.


The Australians suffered very heavy losses in this second attack.  Elements of the 2nd Australian Division had attacked east of Bullecourt with the intention of breaching the Hindenburg Line and capturing Hendecourt, just beyond Bullecourt.  British Troops from the 62nd W.R. Division attacked Bullecourt, which was finally taken by the British 7th Division and held by the 62nd despite fierce resistance.  German attacks to dislodge the Australians the following morning resulted in some of the bloodiest trench fighting of the war. The attack coincided with a renewed British offensive around Arras.  A final German counter-attack on 15th May was defeated after which the Germans withdrew from the ruins of the town.  The Australians were in possession of much of the German trench system between Bullecourt and Riencourt-lès-Cagnicourt but had been unable to capture Hendecourt. To the west, British troops managed to push the Germans out of Bullecourt but incurred considerable losses, failing also to advance north-east to Hendecourt.  When the offensive was called off on the 17th May, few of the initial objectives had been met.  The loss of life was huge.

According to the website First World War - On this Day - 7,371 men died on the 3rd May 1917 (all locations).  This included 81 men from the 2/4th York & Lancasters.

[1] William Sorby Mardon Beeby, died 3rd May 1917, 4th Bn. Y&L, commemorated on the Arras Memorial

[2] John Harold Clively, died 3rd May 1917, 4th Bn. Y&L, commemorated on the Arras Memorial

[3] John Alphonsus Conmee, died 3rd May 1917, 4th Bn. Y&L, commemorated on the Arras Memorial

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Winfield was initially reported as “missing,” and the 3rd May would be the last day he was seen alive.  The words “presumed dead” were written across the top of his Attestation Paper, and his mother would have been informed that he was missing.  Amongst his Service Record is a letter from his mother Sarah Hannah asking if there was any further news about her son and informing the Army that his father had died and any information should be addressed to her.


215 Pearson Street, Stocksbridge

Dear Sir, having received […] news today from you that my son Private Winfield Crawshaw is reported missing from the 3rd May, his father Thos. Hy. Crawshaw is dead please forward any other information to his mother Mrs S. A. [sic] Crawshaw, 215 Pearson Street, Stocksbridge, nr. Sheffield 201198

Stamped as received by the Territorial Force Records 6th June 1917

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The above letter was written on the 8th May and was written by Lieutenant Seagrave of B. Company informing Winfield's mother of his death.  He wrote that Winfield was in his platoon.  Each battalion was divided into four companies and each company consisted of four platoons, each with about 50 men, under a Lieutenant or Second-Lieutenant, assisted by a Sergeant.  Within a platoon were four sections of 12 men. 


This letter states that Winfield was killed by a bullet while advancing towards the German first Line and that he died instantly.  This is unlikely; he was reported to be missing.  Perhaps Lieut. Seagrave really did see Winfield get shot, but it is more likely that this was something he wrote to try and minimise the distress of his relatives.  I am told by experts in these matters that sometimes the relatives were told this to save them further pain.  Seagrave was slightly wounded on the 3rd/4th May but re-joined the Battalion at Mory Copse. 


2/4 York & Lancs


May 8th 1917


Dear Mrs. Crawshaw

I am sorry to inform you of the death of your son Pt. Crawshaw, W.

He was killed while we were advancing towards the German first line on May 3rd by a bullet, and died instantly.

He was in my platoon and I found him a very reliable and trustworthy fellow.  It is all very hard to bear, but there is a glorious side, in that he has made the supreme sacrifice in dying for his country.  All my platoon join in sending you our sympathy and I trust this letter will be a little comfort to you in this time of hardship.

I am, yours faithfully

H. G. Seagrave

The attack had failed & the Battalion was driven back pretty much to where they had started from.  The men who had been killed were left where they were.  The Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Debt of Honour Register records that Winfield has no known grave.  He is remembered with so many others from the Battle of Bullecourt on the Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France (Bay 8).


Winfield’s sister Lottie thought that his position as a machine gunner put him at greater risk, because he would have had to sit up to fire the gun and would not be able to take cover.  He had been in France just 4 months and had only turned 21 years old three weeks before.


The Battalion was still at Mory Copse on the 5th May and moved back to Ervillers, to the old camp on the 6th before moving onto Courcelles later the same day or on the 7th.  There was more training, 10 Lewis guns were delivered to make up for those lost on the 3rd May, and on the 12th May baths at Ablainzeville were placed at the disposal of the Battalion.  But for Winfield, the War was now over.

Winfield’s name is inscribed on the Roll of Honour at the War Memorial at Stocksbridge Clock Tower.  There are 107 names on the list of World War 1 dead.  He is also on the War Memorial plaque which was originally in the West End Primitive Methodist chapel ( now in Christ Church, Stocksbridge).  His name is inscribed on the Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France (bay 8).

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported Winfield’s death in its edition of 8th June 1917, along with a photograph of him.  This one page in the paper for one day carried long lists of the dead and wounded, lists of those reported missing but now confirmed dead, those reported as wounded and now dead, prisoners of war, men reported missing presumed drowned and so on.  The longest list was one of those reported as “missing.


Winfield’s entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website reads: In Memory of WINFIELD CRAWSHAW Private 201198 2nd/4th Bn., York and Lancaster Regiment who died on Thursday, 3rd May 1917.  Age 21.  Additional Information: Son of Thomas Henry and Sarah Hannah Crawshaw, of 118, West Crescent, Garden Village, Stocksbridge, Sheffield.


Winfield in remembered on the family gravestone in Bolsterstone churchyard.  His name was added to his father’s stone, because he died just two months after (and the actual gravestone can take several months to obtain).  Some men were buried in their home towns, but Winfield lies in a “foreign field.


In loving memory of Thomas Henry the beloved husband of Sarah Hannah Crawshaw of Stocksbridge who died March 9th 1917 aged 53 years.  Also of Thomas son of the above who died February 13th 1904 aged 17 years.  Also of Private Winfield 2/4 Y. + L. Regt son of the above killed in action in France May 3rd 1917 aged 21 years.  His duty nobly done.  Also the above Sarah Hannah Crawshaw who died August 29th 1932 aged 64 years.  Reunited.

The Arras Memorial is in the Faubourg-d’Armiens Cemetery, which is in the Boulevard du General de Gaulle in the western part of the town of Arras.  The cemetery is near the Citadel.  The memorial commemorates almost 35,000 casualties of the British, New Zealand and South African Forces who died between Spring 1916 and 7th August 1918 (with the exception of the casualties of the battle of Cambrai in 1917), and who have no known grave.  The names of the casualties are carved on stone panels fixed to the cloister walls.


The design of the memorial is by Sir Edwin Luytens and consists of a cloister 25 feet high and 380 feet long.  It is built up on Doric columns and faces west. 


Panel List: these are lists of individuals commemorated on memorials or screen walls and reflect the details and layout inscribed on the panels. Individuals are commemorated in this way when their loss has been officially declared by their relevant service but there is no known burial for the individual, or in circumstances where graves cannot be individually marked, or where the grave site has become inaccessible and un-maintainable.


Click here for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website