William Henry Woods
Photograph and text kindly supplied by Christopher Woods.
6 February 2015
I have been conducting research into 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.
His name is William Henry Woods, 241392 Private of the 2/5th Lincolnshire Regiment.
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 inadequate 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 their 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:
"04:00 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 [the quarry] about 40 prisoners which would not subsequently be held in the Quarry, they [platoons] were met by heavy rifle and M.G [Machine Gun] fire...
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 his men'.
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 lay in places, 'known only to God'.
Private William Henry Woods is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 1 C.
I thank you for taking the time to read and include Pte Woods to the Lincolnshire Regiment Website for the world to see and remember his sacrifice.
Kindest Regards, Christopher Woods