Monday 9 December 2013

Lance Corporal John Thomas Saunders


In April 1940 the 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish (Black Watch) deployed to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. The Battalion formed part of the 70th Infantry Brigade in the 23rd Northumbrian Division.

The TS were  tasked with the construction of airfields in the area of Frevant in Northern France. In May 1940 the Germans unleashed their Blitzkreig and invaded France and the Low Countries. As the Panzers rolled across France, the TS formed a blocking positions at Ficheux, and Mercatel, both near Arras.

The Battalion, along with the rest of the Brigade, had been moving between defensive positions when the Panzers arrived unexpectedly.  There were three separate Panzer columns – one of which was commanded by Rommel - and the Brigade troops, with little by way of transport, no radios or artillery, were both outflanked and outgunned

They held the advancing German armour for vital hours, sustaining heavy casualties and many TS were taken prisoner before the remnants withdrew to Dunkirk. Only around 140 men from 1 TS made it back to the UK. Many of those captured were wounded in the battle before being made PoWs. 

 Amongst those taken prisoner was the Lance Corporal John Thomas Saunders.

Initially held in Stalag VIIB PoW Camp, he was transferred to the Lamsdorf camp, in an area of Germany that is now part of Poland.

Lamsdorf PoW Camp Guards

Lamsdorf PoW Camp

On 21st July 1944 Lance Corporal Saunders was working in woodland with some other prisoners when an argument broke out.  The guard who felt threatened as the workers had saws and axes, shot and killed two men, Lance Corporal Saunders and Trooper  Thomson of the Lothian and Borders Horse.

The men were buried in unmarked graves in Popielow, Poland

Harder Than Hammers - 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish 1947
The Lamsdorf Website

Northern Echo




Lance Corporal Saunders nephew, Tom Hutchinson, worked for several years to have two unmarked graves in the cemetery in Popielow recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission . The CWGC accepted Tom's research and in November 2013 erected headstones to Lance Corporal Saunders and Trooper Thomson. 

CWGC Headstones
Trooper Thomson & Lance Corporal Saunders

CWGC Headstone
Lance Corporal Saunders
CWGC staff erecting headstones

CWGC graves Popielow Poland
Trooper Thomson & Lance Corporal Saunders

CWGC Information


Monday 12 November 2012

3 TS Gas Incident June 1916

Brigadier Ternan’s The Story of the Tyneside Scottish records on page 87

" One of the most disliked duties was the carrying up of gas cylinders for installation in the front trench, from time to time, hundreds were planted under the parapet ready for use as soon as the wind should be favourable” Accidents from gas occasionally occurred to carrying parties, and enemy shells sometimes exploded the cylinders with fatal results to the men in the vicinity.

On one occasion we lost seventeen men in our front trench owing to a shell having struck the parapet a short distance away, and though it did not hit the cylinder it’s self , the latter was bulged sufficiently to allow gas to escape.”

The war diary of the 22nd Battalion NF (3rd Tyneside Scottish) details the event described by Brigadier Ternan:

On the night of 22/23 25 men were gassed while our own gas cylinders were being placed in the front line"
Located in the Albert Communal Cemetery are a row of Tyneside Scottish graves which all belonged to men of the 22nd Battalion who were killed on the 22nd June 1916. It is believed they were all killed as a result ofthe gas incident.
Pte M BROWN '22/937' I. E. 28. CWGC information
Cpl F DOUGLAS '22/871' I. E. 29. CWGC information
Pte W FELTON (18) '22/486' I. E. 27. CWGC information
Pte A LUNHAM '22/825' I. E. 25. CWGC information
L/Cpl A McPHERSON (27) '22/142' I. E. 24. CWGC information
L/Cpl R W NELSON (29) '22/539' I. G. 21. CWGC information
Pte R PATTERSON '22/1001' I. E. 30. CWGC information
Pte T W RICE (35) '22/105' I. G. 24. CWGC information
L/Cpl G S THOMPSON (28) '22/744' I. E. 26. CWGC information

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Tyneside Scottish Brigade Roll of Honour

The losses killed attributed to the Tyneside Scottish on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) database are 2,286.

Northumberland Fusiliers
20th (Tyneside Scottish)
1st TS
21st (Tyneside Scottish)
2nd TS
22nd (Tyneside Scottish)
3rd TS
23rd (Tyneside Scottish)
4th TS
29th (Tyneside Scottish)
33rd (Tyneside Scottish)
Battalion not identified
Casualties Died
Sources:  Commonwealth War Graves Commission    Geoff’s Search Engine
Those losses included those who joined up on the formation of the Battalions in 1914, and replacements for casualties sustained in the battles and actions from 1916 to 1918. Some died in the UK prior to the TS deploying to France, most are buried or commemorated in the cemeteries and memorials of France and Belgium. Others died in the UK from wounds and are buried in churchyards, their graves maintained by the CWGC. Graves of Tyneside Scottish prisoners of War (POW) have been identified in Germany and Poland.

Prior to the departure of the TS to France, the first casualty attributed to the Tyneside Scottish is Private P Lockey  of the 2nd TS who died 30th January 1915,   (CWGC Information). Private Lockey’s number is 21 / 69, one of the original Tyneside Scots. He is buried at Earsdon (St Alban’s) Churchyard in Northumberland.

Private Lockey's grave Earsdon St Alban's Churchyard

The first burial in France is Private R Armstrong 1st Tyneside Scottish died 30th January 1916 (CWGC Information). He is buried Y Cemetery Bois Grenier, a small village in the Department of the Nord, about 4 kilometres due South of Armentieres.

By the 30th June on the eve of the first day of the Somme, 155 losses (UK and France) are recorded.

The casualties killed listed for 1st July 1916 are 726. These include the Commanding officers of the 1st and 4th Tyneside Scottish.

Lieutenant Colonel CCA Sillery
Lieutenant Colonel
(Indian Army, Retired)
CO 1st Tyneside Scottish

Lieutenant Colonel W Lyle
CO 4th Tyneside Scottish
Killed in Action 1st July 1916 La Boisselle
Buried in Bapaume Post Military Cemetery Albert

For many lost that day, there is no known grave and they are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. The number of Tyneside Scots listed on the memorial totals 816, including one of the original Tyneside Scots, Corporal Henry Stokoe(CWGC Information)  whose service number is 20/16.

Private F Smeatham
3rd Tyneside Scottish
Killed in Action 1st july 1916 La Boisselle
Commemorated on Theipval Memorial

 The losses on the Somme were such that the Brigade was from withdrawn from the line the line together with the Tyneside Irish. Men would continue to die from wounds received. The depleted Battalions were replaced from reserves and from UK based units such as the Northern Cyclists Battalion over the remaining months of 1916.

Despite the move to quieter sectors to regenerate, casualties continued throughout 1916.


4th Tyneside Scottish

Died from Wounds in Ipswich 14th August 1916

Buried Gosforth St Nicholas Churchyard Newcastle upon Tyne

2 / Lt WB Catto

3rd Tyneside Scottish

Killed in Action

11th September 1916

Buried Erquinghem –Lys Churchyard, France.

The next major engagement for the Tyneside Scottish was the Battle of Arras. The casualties recorded from 9th April to the 17th May amounted to 275, of which 149 were lost on the first phase, the Battle of the Scarpe, 90 being lost on the first day.

Corporal Robert Darling

1st Tyneside Scottish

Died of Wounds

April 1917

Buried Rouex Military Cemetery

near Arras, France.

 In October 1917 the Tyneside Scottish moved to Ypres and the mud of Paschendeale. Though only involved in one small operation, 90 men were lost.
The casualties sustained by the Tyneside Scottish took their toll. By November 1918 the 1st and 2nd Tyneside Scottish had been disbanded, the 4th TS had returned to the UK as a training unit, only the  3rd Tyneside
Thelast to die prior to the armistice was Private C Levitt 3rd Tyneside Scottish (CWGC Information), a Prisoner of War, who died 8th November 1918. He is buried at Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel.  The cemetery was used by the Germans for the burial of prisoners of war who died at the local camp.

November 11th did not end the deaths in the Tyneside Scottish. Recorded as died 12th November 1918 is Private Henry Wood 4th Tyneside Scottish (CWGC Information), another POW, who is buried in Pozan Old Garrison Cemetery, in Poland. After the First World War, the graves of Commonwealth servicemen who had died in Poland as prisoners of war were gathered together in this cemetery.
Although the war had ended deaths still continued, 14 casualties are listed for 1919, and 4 for 1920. On the 20th October 1920 the Tyneside Scottish Committee was wound up. Up to that date 2,283 men were dead or missing.

A further 3 losses are recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1921.
The last named casualty is Private CB Slipper, 1st Tyneside Scottish (CWGC Information) who died 5th May 1921. The son of the local vicar, he is buried in Grosmont (St Matthew’s) Churchyard.
Graves to fallen of the Tyneside Scottish Brigade can be found in United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany and Poland. Many have no known graves being commemorated on memorials to the missing.

On the 20th April 1922, a memorial to the Tyneside Scottish and Irish Brigades was unveiled by Marshall Foch at La Boisselle, where the Tyneside Scottish had fought on the First Day of the Somme.

The losses of the Tyneside Scottish affected many communities, the memories of those lost being commemorated on local memorials

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Hexham War Memorial Northumberland

Sergt. J Nevison

1st TS

Died 16 Oct 1917

Tyne Cot Memorial

Pte F. Newman

1st TS

Died 13 Apr 1917

Arras Memorial

Pte. T. Pencott

2nd TS

Died 1st Jul 1916

Ovillers Cemetery

Pte. C.W Potts

2nd TS

Died 9th Apr 1917

Arras Memorial