Norman Caines

Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Born: 1898
Died: 23 March 1918
Service number: 48085
Rank: Private
Regiment / Service: Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment)
Family information: Son of Ezra and Clara Caines of Hatfield Farm, Outwood

War Service 

On 15 May 1917 Norman Caines was called up for Military Service. He was posted to France on 15 January 1918 and drafted to the 2nd Battalion, Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regment), known as the Green Howards.

The 2nd Battalion, Green Howards, was based in Guernsey when war was declared, but immediately returned to mainland England. On 28 August, the 2nd Battalion, attached to the newly formed 21st Brigade, 7th Division, landed at Zeebrugge. The Division moved forward to assist in the defence of Antwerp. However, by this time that city was almost lost and all that could be done was to assist in the evacuation of the Belgian Army. The 7th Division withdrew to the town of Ypres, where they were involved in heavy fighting, which led to the formation of the Salient. In 1915, the 7th Division was involved in fighting at Neuve Chapelle, Aubers, Festubert, Givenchy and Loos. However, on the 20 December 1915, the 21st Brigade, including the 2nd Battalion, Green Howards, was transferred to the newly arrived 30th Division.

At the Battle of the Somme, which began on 1 July 1916, the 2nd Green Howards was involved in all three phases of the battle, with attacks at Trones Wood, Guillimont and Bayonet Trench. During their time on the Somme, the 2nd Battalion incurred large numbers of casualties, including 433 in the first week of the battle.

In the Spring of 1917, the 30th Division was involved fighting at the Battles of the Scarpe during the Arras offensive. Later they moved north to Flanders and in October, the Division was involved at Pilckem Ridge, during the Third Battle of Ypres.

On 20 March 1918, the 2nd Green Howards was based near the village of Fluquieres, south west of St Quentin. The following day, the 21 March, the German Army launched a major offensive on a fifty mile front, centered on St Quentin, with the aim to breakthrough to Amiens.

At 04.50 hrs. on a very misty morning, the 2nd Green Howards was ordered to proceed to battle positions at Roupy. Here the trenches occupied by the battalion were continually shelled by the enemy artillery. At 11.00 hrs. the battalion was informed that the front line had been penetrated and by 13.00 hrs. the Support Redoubt had been surrounded by the enemy. At 13.20 hrs. the enemy was advancing towards the trenches held by the 2nd Battalion, but their assault on the left front failed. At 16.30 hrs. the second strong attack commenced, the enemy having massed troops, taken from the left. The enemy attacked persistently and succeeded in gaining the battalion’s front line trench.

At 07.00 hrs. on the 22 March, under cover of the mist, the enemy resumed their attacks. They soon penetrated the battalion’s left flank and began enfilade fire from the north-west corner of Roupy. During the afternoon the platoon Keeps were captured and the 2nd Battalion was driven back to the western lip of the Redoubt. At 17.10 hrs. the 2nd Battalion was forced to withdraw to Fluquieres. Here they were heavily shelled, forcing a further withdrawal to the ridge between Fluquieres and Aubigny. Enemy attacks followed, and at 18.45 hrs., the 2nd Green Howards was ordered to withdraw to Ham and then on to Muylle-Vilette.

Early on 23 March, with the enemy having penetrated the Aubigny defences, the battalion withdrew towards Ercheu, before proceeding to Esmery Hallon, to take up defensive positions.

Private Norman Caines, along with fifteen other soldiers from ‘B’ Company, 2nd Battalion, Green Howards, was reported killed by machine gun fire on 23 March 1918. He is buried in the British Cemetery at Savy, which was made in 1919, when graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefield. There are now 850 casualties commemorated on the site, more than half of which are unidentified.

Family Life

Born in 1898, Norman Caines was the eldest son of Ezra Caines and his wife Clara, formerly Smith. His father was a farmer and lived at Coach Road, Outwood. At the time of the 1911 census, Norman and his brothers, Harry and Herbert, were attending school and the family was living at Ouchthorpe Lane, Outwood. Later the family moved to Hatfield Farm, at Outwood. In addition to assisting his father on the farm, Norman Caines was a member of the Outwood Primitive Methodist Church and Sunday School. He was also deputy organist at the church, having been organist at the Sunday School since he was young boy.

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