(From original research by Andrew Mackay)

In the late 1990’s, a group of amateur archaeologists discovered the remains of a forgotten World War One battlefield at Boesinghe in Belgium, of which there is no mention in the history books. The village of Boesinghe is situated north of Ypres along the Yser canal. Fighting came to this area during the first gas attack of April 1915,when French forces, thrown back across the Pilckem Ridge, dug in just short of the Yser Canal and village.
The British troops who initially served in the trenches at Boesinghe were regular soldiers from the 4th Division. This Division had been in France since August 1914, and had fought in all the previous battles, suffering grievous losses during the fighting at Ypres in April and May 1915 . When they took over the canal area from the French in June, it was known as a relatively quiet sector, despite the daily bombardments, sniper, rifle grenade and machine-guns. However, chaos reigned on the battlefield itself and the men spent much of their time repairing and working on trenches. Slowly dugouts were added, along with machine-gun and mortar positions. Opposite the Germans were doing the same, building a strong front line across to a redoubt which was named Fortin 17 on the British trench maps.


The 1st East Lancashire Regiment embarked for France from Southampton on the 22nd August 1914 sailing on the Braemar Castle, landing at Le Harve. These men consisted of young soldiers in their late teens or older soldiers in their 30s and 40s, veterans of the Boer War (1899-1902). Their first action was at Le Cateau on August 26th, two days after disembarking .
By July 1915 the original men of the Battalion were few as they had taken many casualties since the start of the war.
Some of the original men who had been wounded had returned to the Regiment but the rest of the Battalion was reinforced with Territorial's. These were mostly young men, who before the war had enjoyed basic military training and two weeks summer camp. They had started to arrive in France in September 1914 and were attached to their regular Divisions and filled the gaps in the line.

LETTERS FROM A YOUNG BURNLEY SOLDIER (Burnley Express 18th August 1915.)

Interesting description of his experiences in the fighting line has been sent by Thomas Nightingale (5480), of the 1st East Lancashire Regiment, to his mother. As we announced on Saturday, Private Nightingale whose photo we gave has been recommended for recognition of conspicuous bravery.
A July letter stated: - “We have been praised by everybody and Sir John French. We did five days in the trenches just before we came for our rest, and we went through a bombardment each day. We made an advance and took two lines of trenches and several machine guns, and also 83 prisoners who were glad to get captured……They gassed us or tried to do so, and made eight or nine counter-attacks, but we drove them back each time”.

Private Thomas Nightingale was killed In Action on the first day of the Somme, 1st July 1916, Redan Ridge. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial for the missing. He was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Mentioned in Dispatches twice.

AMBULANCE MANS VIVID LETTER (letter dated July 12th 1915, from a Burnley Ambulance man in France & Flanders: - Burnley Express 24th July 1915)

I thank God I am through last week’s scrapping .I will tell you a little about it. I was up in the front in all for nine days. The first four were all right. We got an occasional souvenir during the day and when we were picking up and carrying during the night the snipers got on us, but luckily we got through all right. On the Tuesday morning, at five o clock sharp, all our guns that were round about started to work, the noise was awful. You had to shout in ones ear hole to make yourself heard. It was kept up for one hour, and at six o clock our boys made their attack. By seven o clock the Rifle Brigade were in the German trenches first line. A little later on we took another line by the good old East Lancashire’s, who had drawn the fire of the first attack and borne the brunt, and lost a fair number of men. Not being content with this, they charged the dogs, and wiped them out. It was fine work, but it was not all over. The two Regiments, assisted by other mobs, then took part of a road which the Germans were holding, and also another trench behind the road, that was the lot. They had got what they wanted. Then came the job of holding it. Well, that went all through the rest of the day and night, when the boys were reinforced by the Lancashire Fusiliers.
On the Wednesday came the Germans turn to bombard us, and they did it. It was hell let loose, shrapnel, Jack Johnson’s and all sorts, it was awful. They blew the trenches to bits, but still the boys stuck it-god bless them, and came out on top. I was hit by a piece of shrapnel on the arm, while coming down the communication trench with a poor wounded mortal. Luckily it only hit flat, and did me no harm beyond a good thump. For another two days they were shelling us and we were shelling them. We were at last relieved on the Friday night. We marched seven miles from the trenches, and then got in fields for a sleep utterly worn out. Having had practically no sleep for six days and nights we were up on the move at five in the morning happy with our thoughts of a victory, and we jogged merrily along. Often returning to seriousness and speaking of Pals who had gone under. Then we would brighten up again, and think of all the rest we were going to. For we, the good old fighting 4th Division, were coming out of action for a rest the first time since last August

(Burnley Express 24th July 1915.)

Private Thomas Launder, of the 1st East Lancashire Regiment, is at present in hospital suffering from wounds received on the battle field, and in a letter to his wife informing her of the fact; he describes the manner in which he passed a birthday under fire. He says: - “I received your letter and birthday cards, and shall never forget my birthday here as long as I live. The bombardment was on all day, and I was as near death as possible. It was terrible. Shells were bursting all around us, one morning I had even a worse affair. We had been out digging trenches, and had nearly finished when the German’s spotted us. I can tell you we had a very hot time they started to shell us, and they didn't’forget to give us plenty. One shell burst about twenty yards from me, but though I was covered with earth I came out with nothing worse than a finger touched. I would give the world to be in Burnley again”. A second letter says: - “At the time of writing I am in hospital slightly wounded in the head and slightly hurt about the body. I was hit during the bombardment of July the 6th, but don’t let this worry you. I shall be all right soon.

Private Thomas Launder survived the war.

( Burnley News October 1915.)

Corporal Ernest Winnaird of the 1st East Lancashire Regiment, whose mother lives at 79 Branch Road, Burnley, is at present on furlough at home, after spending several months in the trenches in France. The Corporals diary of his experiences in the Western fighting zone contains some thrilling reading. He has been recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Several times Corporal Winnaird was wounded but never severely enough to warrant his return home, until early July when he got his “knocked out”, being wounded in the head and body with shrapnel. He spent five weeks in hospital and seven weeks at a convalescent home in Sussex. Happily the Corporal has now almost completely recovered from his injuries.
Interviewed by a representative of the Burnley News, Corporal Winnaird related his battle storey’s, and producing the little diary now filled with close writing recording events right from the beginning up to the time he was wounded, he recalled the memorable truce with the Germans last Christmas when friend and foe fraternised half way between the trenches, and exchanged seasonable greetings.
Describing how he came to be out of action, Corporal Winnaird said: - “It was on July 6th near Ypres. We were going to make an attack on the German trenches about a hundred yards to the front with a view to straightening out our lines, for the enemy had a cross fire which was resulting in more deaths than we cared to admit. The bombardment by our artillery was to commence at 5am and we were to attack an hour later.
Exactly at 5 o’clock I heard a low, rushing, swishing noise, which grew louder and louder as it passed over our heads, a few seconds later to burst with a terrific explosion in the German trenches. Two more shells followed and then it started to rain shells. The bombardment proper had commenced. The Germans also started shelling, and shells of every description burst in and around our trenches, doing fearful damage. I was buried several times, and men were falling all about me, some being blown to bits before my eyes. It was like hell let loose. Then the kind hearted and cultured Germans started using their gas. We put on our respirators and gas helmets as quick as possible, and did the same for our wounded and helpless. It was then that I felt a longing to get at ‘em, I was reckless, and seeing red I jumped up on the parapet and loosed a bullet at every German I saw.
Then I got shrapnel wound in my right fore-arm, another splinter struck me on the forehead and temple. It was a piece of red hot shrapnel. I hadn’t time to pay much need to those wounds for our artillery were soon shelling further behind the enemy trenches to stop reinforcements coming to their aid. It was then that we got the order to prepare to mount the parapet. The bomb throwers led the way, and then some shouted charge! Go on East Lancashire’s give it em, lads. Show them what you can do-and we did with bombs, bullets, bayonets, eye and feet and fist as well. We cleared their first line trenches and dashed forward. Instead of taking one trench we took three, and would have gone on but for the fact that we should have been exposed to flank fire.
We took numerous prisoners we lost many men but the Germans lost more, we were shelled incessantly all day, and kept busy getting the trench ship shape, and getting our wounded away. About 8pm, I was binding up a flesh wound, which had commenced bleeding a fresh, when a big shell burst on the front of the parapet and buried me. I managed somehow to scramble from underneath the sandbags and earth, and then saw that six of our men had been killed by that shell. Then I felt an agonising, choking sensation like daggers cutting at my chest. It was German gas. I lost consciousness, and how long I lay there I don’t know, but when I opened my eyes again it was pitch dark. I started to crawl to the dressing station, a mile away. How I managed to reach it I can’t tell, but I was at my last gasp and must have fainted, for I remember no more until I woke up in Etaples(hospital).
After nine months of solid fighting in the trenches, I was at last out of action!
Corporal Winnaird states that he was recommended for the D.C.M by the late Major Rutter, during an action at Wieltje, when, with six others, he held a portion of a trench which was hard pressed, until relief came.”
A native of Burnley, Corporal Winnaird was employed before the war at Messrs J. Fairburns textile Machinist, Trafalgar Street, Burnley. He was in the Special Reserve’s of the 3rd East Lancashire Regiment, and proceeded from camp in Cumberland to the front shortly after hostilities began.

Corporal Ernest Winnaird survived the war and was not awarded a D.C.M.

( Burnley News, October, 1915.)

Since he went to France with the First British Expeditionary Force on 5th August, of last year (1914), 10895 Private Robert Leach of Greenhalgh Place, Burnley, has had some narrow escapes. He is in ‘C’ Company of the 1st East Lancashire Regiment, which he joined 2 years ago at the age of 19.
During the present campaign he on one occasion had his cap shot of his head, but was himself uninjured. Another hairbreadth escape was experienced by Private Leach when the spade with which he was digging a trench was hit by a bullet. Eventually, however, he was wounded whilst in the act of picking up a dead Burnley comrade, Private Foster of Greenhalgh Street. In civil life, Private Leach was a card-room worker at Temple’s Mill, Gannow Lane.

Private Robert Leach survived the War.

( Burnley News, August, 1915.)

A painfully unique experience had fallen to the lot of Private William Foster, of the 1st East Lancashire’s since the memorable battle of the Marne early last autumn until his career came to an untimely end on July 6th, when he was killed in Action. The late Private Foster, whose home was at Greenhalgh Street, Burnley, received at the battle referred to a bullet wound in his right side, and medical skills had never been able to extricate the missile. When he was wounded the deceased soldier was one of the advance guard attacking the rear gaud while the engineers were bridge building. Subsequently he came to England to convalesce. Since then he had undergone four operations to get the instrument of destruction out of his body, but all in vain. In the course of the last operation, he was for two hours under chloroform.
Eventually the late Private Foster returned to the front, still carrying the bullet. He was 23 years of age, and was unmarried. He had worked for the late Mr Jesse Simpson as a weaver. When war broke out he was at Colchester. The late Private Foster Had been four years in the army. It appears that he was picked up on the fatal day July 6th by a Burnley comrade named Robert Leach, who was wounded while so doing.

(Burnley News, August 11th 1915.)

Like many others5280 Corporal John Rushton, of 21, Clark Street, Burnley, was last year in camp when war broke out. He was a Special Reservist, and the order to report came to his colleagues and himself while they were training at Workington. The Corporal was drafted to France last October. During an engagement on Christmas Day he lost the middle finger of his left hand. This necessitated the spending of six weeks in hospital, followed by three weeks at home, subsequently he returned to the front, and was again on wounded on July 7th. At the time the casualty occurred he was in the trenches, and a shell bursting in the vicinity caused his left arm to be badly injured. Medical examination revealed the fact that in order to save the Corporals life the arm would have to be amputated. The operation has now been performed. Corporal Rushton, who is 25 years of age, is a single man; he had been employed as a weaver at Messrs Simpson and Baldwins premises.
His farther was also a soldier, and served in the early part of the South African War, in the York and Lancaster Regiment. Unfortunately he died of enteric fever three weeks after the relief of Ladysmith. He was in the triumphant march which Lord Dundonald made into that town in 1900, upon the raising of the siege.

BURNLEY SOLDIER AND HIS LOCAL COMRADES. ( Burnley News, August 14th, 1915.)

Private Ernest Barlow, of 82 Yorkshire Street, Burnley, has arrived home on furlough. He is in the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers. During the many months experience he has had in Flanders, Private Barlow has taken part in several exciting experiences. He is full of admiration for the Burnley and district young fellows who have won distinctions, and the way in which the men hold together and sacrifice for each other in the grimmest of battle is a source of pride to him. “Men may be free and easy sorts at home,” he remarks, “but out here they show that they are made of the right stuff.”
Amongst the men whom he has seen distinguishing themselves is a Burnley man named *Private John Carr (7912). Other comrades in Khaki from the district have also rubbed shoulders with him. He was speaking of Dick Thomas, of Padiham, half an hour before the engagement in which the latter met with his death. “Out there,” says Private Barlow, “it is more exciting than when Burnley won the English Cup.”



John William Bates Lance/Corporal 12258 1st East Lancashire Regiment 6th July 1915
Henry Bramall Private 4697 1st East Lancashire Regiment 9th July 1915
William Foster Private 10600 1st East Lancashire Regiment 6th July 1915
Allan Hopkinson Private 5720 1st East Lancashire Regiment 6th July 1915
John Mayor Lance/Corporal 5804 1st East Lancashire Regiment 6th July 1915
James McCarthy Private 6184 1st East Lancashire Regiment 6th July 1915
William Powell Private 18586 1st East Lancashire Regiment 6th July 1915
Joseph Rawstron Private 6832 1st East Lancashire Regiment 6th July 1915
James Smith Private 8475 1st East Lancashire Regiment 7th July 1915
William Elisha Smithstone Private 18921 1st East Lancashire Regiment 26th July 1915
Henry Stanworth Lance/Corporal 7349 1st East Lancashire Regiment 6th July 1915
Henry Taylor Private 4769 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers 7th July 1915