Charles Woodhouse

Area: Brotherton
Born: 1899
Died: 11.10.1918
Service number: 48661
Rank: Private
Regiment / Service: West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own)

War Service

Charles Woodhouse was enlisted into the 1/6th Battalion of the Prince of Wales Own (West Yorkshire) Regiment. This was formed in August 1914:in Bradford as part of West Riding Brigade, West Riding Division. Moved on 10 August to Selby and at the end of the month to Strenshall and late October to York. In March 1915 moved to Gainsborough. On the 15 April 1915 they landed at Boulogne and the formation became 146th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division.

Charles, however, would not have been part of the early movements. Two things suggest this. Firstly his age - he would not have been 16 until the end of 1915 and, secondly, he was not awarded the 1915 Star. It is likely, therefore, that he joined the regiment whilst they were in France.

The following is a list of the action that his division took part in.

1916

  • The Battle of Albert*
  • The Battle of Bazentin Ridge*
  • The Battle of Pozieres Ridge*
  • The Battle of Flers-Courcelette*

The battles marked * are phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916

As part of Fourth Army, the 49th Division was part of Rawlinson's offensive at the start of the Battle of the Somme (July 1916). 49th Division (Commanding Officer: Major-General Sir EM Perceval) was transferred to Gough's Reserve Army (later Fifth Army) and we look at the division's action as part of II Corps' attack on the Thiepval Ridge in September 1916 (part of the Battle of Thiepval, 3 September 1916).

The division's attack was on a fortified German position between St Pierre Divion and the Schwaben Redoubt. The objective was to take three lines of German trenches with the objective the Strasburg line. 1/8 West Yorks and 1/6 West Yorks (146 Brigade) attacked to the left of 1/5 Duke of W and 1/4 Duke of W (147 Brigade). In front of 1/5 Duke of W was located a strongly defended German position known as the Pope's Nose. Machine guns sited here could enfilade the entire battlefield. The attacking division on the 49th Division's left (39th Division) had to be successful to prevent enfilading from German positions across the Ancre valley. When this attack was a failure, 1/8 West Yorks were machine gunned from two directions.

1/6 West Yorks came under shrapnel attack as the German bombardment opened. The second wave of men, who were carrying ammunition and grenades, did not make it to the German line and so the survivors in the first German line were dependent on rifle and bayonet to defend themselves. As they too were enfiladed by the machine guns from the Pope's Nose, they too fell back by 0800 that morning. The number of casualties for the division in this action was 1,728 (of which 471 were killed). The casualty rate amongst officers was 70 per cent.

1917

  • Operations on the Flanders Coast (Hush)
  • The Battle of Poelcapelle**

The battle marked ** is a phase of the Third Battles of theYpres.

In 1917, the 49th Division took part in the Third Battle of Ypres (commonly known as Passchendaele). After Haig had passed the command of the battle from General Gough to General Plumer, 49th Division took part in II Anzac Corps' attack at Poelcapelle on 9 October 1917. The advance was to take the men over a featureless terrain.

There were no outstanding features to aid the men in finding the direction of attack so the men advanced on compass bearings. The rain had started to fall on the afternoon of 4th October. It did not cease until the day before the battle. The artillery preparations suffered badly from this change in the weather as the guns could not be sited on firm ground and the shells required for the initial bombardment and for the creeping barrage were not arriving in the numbers required as the mules had to carry them up the corduroy line. When the men advanced, they were well armed but not weighed down.

The plan indicated the men were to advance 150 yards behind a creeping barrage. The direction of the advance (across the Stroombeek and up Belle Vue Spur) was up a gentle incline but the Germans had a very strong position above them. Well-sited machine guns at Wolf Farm and on Belle Vue Spur itself gave them the ability to sweep the entire battlefield with machine gun fire. The artillery were intended to fire

50 per cent shrapnel and 50 per cent high explosive with smoke flares to disguise the exact direction of attack. The men had been given SOS flares the call down artillery barrages on German positions which had been missed.

In the attack 1/8 West Yorks, 1/7 West Yorks and 1/5 West Yorks of 146 Brigade advanced on the left of 1/5 Yorks and Lancs and 1/4 Yorks amd Lancs of 148 Brigade. There had been no aerial spotting since 5th October due to the weather.

The men had found the advance to their own lines very difficult - it took them the best part of 11 hours to walk the two and a half miles from where they had been billeted. At 05.20 the attack started. The artillery barrage was feeble as the guns slipped back into the mud after firing and had to be re-sited. The short falls (which became increasingly more common) caused casualties even before the German machine guns opened up. The men crossed the Stroombeek with difficulty, some of the troops had brought up impromptu 'bridges ' to get across.

The machine guns at Belle Vue Spur prevented the right hand attack from keeping up. The troops of 146 Brigade were able to take Yetta Houses just in front of their first objective. The gaps between the attacking battalions opened up and there was a very high casualty rate amongst officers and NCOs especially in 148 Brigade.

When the German artillery opened up, the reserve battalions were unable to advance. Most of the first objective was taken but advance on the second objective was patchy. Eventually reserves were brought up to consolidate the first objective and to 'dig in' in front of the German wire.

1918

  • The Battle of Estaires^ (9-11 April)
  • The Battle of Messines^ (10-11 April)
  • The Battle of Bailleul^ in which the Division defended Neuve Eglise (13-15 April)
  • The First Battle of Kemmel Ridge^ (17-19 April)
  • The Second Battle of Kemmel Ridge^ (25-26 April)
  • The Battle of the Scherpenberg^ (29 April)

The battles marked ^ are phases in the Battles of the Lys or the 4th Battle of Ypres.

The Hundred Days Offensive was the final period of the First World War, during which the Allies launched a series of offensives against the Central Powers on the Western Front from 8th August to 11 November 1918, beginning with the Battle of Amiens. The offensive forced the German armies to retreat beyond the Hindenburg Line and was followed by an armistice. The Hundred Days Offensive does not refer to a specific battle or unified strategy, but rather the rapid sequences of Allied victories starting with the Battle of Amiens.

Charles Woodhouse was killed in action on 11 October 1918 and is remembered on the World War

I memorial located near the commune of Vis-en-Artois in the Pas-de-Calais départment of France. The memorial bears the names of over 9,000 men who fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and who have no known grave.

Family Life

The Woodhouse name was not one found in Brotherton until Charles's father moved into the village. He was born in the Derbyshire coal field area and was a ''Miner - Hewer'. On the 25 May 1895 he married Amelia Richardson who's family connection with the village can be traced back at least 100 years. The daughter of Sophia Richardson, her grandparents were Mary Pickering and William Richardson.

By 1901 Charles aged 1 year old had one brother - Joseph William born in 1896, and a sister - Mary, born in 1901. In that year they could be found living in Joy's Fold off the High Street. By 1911 the family had expanded somewhat with Gladys (born 1904), Harry (1907), Willie (1909) and Fred (1910). By then they were living in Quarry Yard, High Street and Joseph had joined his father at the colliery as 'Pit pony driver". Charles was still at school.​

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