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Vernon Horsfall – Killed in Action 1916

Vernon Horsfall

Vernon Horsfall was commissioned in the 1st/4th battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment) in July 1915 . Prior to service he was with his father in the worsted business of Messrs. Clay & Horsfall, Sowerby Bridge. Vernon Adams Horsfall was killed in action at Schwaben Redoubt, Somme, on 3 September 1916, aged 23. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. James Clay Horsfall, Kingston Dene, Flopwood lane, Halifax. He is buried at SERRE ROAD CEMETERY NO.2, Somme, France


The Battle of Pozieres, 23 July – 3 September 1916

Pozieres was a small, straggling village on the main Albert-Bapaume road. It is situated on high ground that gives the occupier observation southwards along the road towards Ovillers, La Boisselle, Albert and beyond; to the east across to High Wood, Delville Wood and beyond; and westwards to Thiepval. Possession of Pozieres was key to making possible any further advances towards Bapaume, the capture of the Thiepval ridge and the breaking of resistance at High and Delville Woods. The battle for Pozieres and nearby Mouquet Farm became an epic in its own right, with tenacious German defence keeping determined British-Australian attack at bay for several weeks. This was the first large-scale Australian battle in France and proved to be its costliest in terms of total casualties.

War Diaries – 1/4Th West Riding Regiment – September 1916


Battalion in huts at FORCEVILLE


Battalion moves by route march in fighting order to MARTINSAAT wood, arriving at about 5.30pm. moves from there via NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE – to the AUTHVILLE, NORTH BLUFF to the assembly trenches in the forward Parallel in sector arriving at

Ref. maps. operation

The brigade attack was made by two battalions – the 4th on the right with objectives

German front line from 54 to 84 – allotted to B Company. Capt C HIRST, 2/Lt  POHLMAN, 2/Lt HORSFALL

German Communication trench – 84 to 95 allotted to  D. Company. Lt JT. RILEY, 2/Lt  EC MEE, 2/lt TOMLINSON

German Support line 66 to 95 allotted to  A. Company. Capt W.N. Everett,2/lt A E Hurst, 2/Lt ROBERTSHAW

The 5th battalion on the right being responsible for the capture consolidation of the German front & Support line from Points 16 to 54 and 38 to 36, inclusive.  The scheme being to advance from the assembly tranches at 5.10 am under Cover of an intense Barrage which lifted to the support line at 5.13 the assaulting troops to approached as closely as possible to the barrages and be down – when the first lift took place B Company to assault the front and (54 to 18) dugouts clearing parties being appointed.

at the same time two platoons of D Coy seize the first half of the Communication trench between points 84  & 95 – The other half of Company & whole of A Company pass over the German front line under cover of the lifted barrage get as near as possible to the German Support line – the barrage on which was lifted 8 minutes after Zero (5:10 am – these troops would hold & Consolidate the line from point 66 to 95. push bombing parties forward top communication trench from 86 – 100 yards towards point 19. D Company to push bombing parties out about 50 yards to the right towards point. 13 & p. 91.



the bombardment by bevies of all Calibres on the STRASBURG TRENCH & SCHWABEN REDOUBT. to be kept up for 1 hour after zero.


 The bombardment began & the troop left the trenches for the assault


 a wounded man reported B Company had gained objective & A Coy were attacking


Casualty reports A company in support line – from then until 8.40 and no definite news was received – four runners sent out did not get through – attempts were made without success to get carrying parties machine guns & STOKES guns up the EAST KOYLI trench – but owing to the fact that the 5th battalion had been unable to capture the POPES. NOSE between points 16 & 25 – & the confusion, owing to casualties in the EAST KOYLI. Trench presented any men getting into the captured line


About 30 men returned reporting that had been driven in – & from account The Battle took all the objectives – B Company losing Capt C. HIRST before reaching front line & 2/lt V.A. HORFALL soon after – the front line was smashed up by our previous bombardment & in trying to consolidate practically in the open – exposed to cross enfilade machine gun &  rifle fire – a large number of Casualties resulted.

A Coy reached the German Support line & did a great deal of exectution about 40  to 50 Germans being killed and several prisoners Taken – who however were killed getting back to our line. 2/Lt A E Hurst killed almost immediately – CAPT EVERETT showed great courage consolidated the support line  & repelled several attacks was reinforced by B company & finally when owing to failure of the battalion surrounded and cut off fought his way back to the front line  where he was not seen & is missing. 2/Lt ROBERTSHAW wounded before reaching trench

D Company reached objective right flank trench, but it was badly knocked about and exposed to front t & right flank fire.

Lt RILEY fought with great courage the twice wounded – late was killed in the trench.

2/Lt Tomlinson wounded and missing. They were driven back after three

hours hard fighting when all bombs were exhausted & all messages. failed to get across no mans land – The men came under heavy machine gun fire & found Cover in shell holes until night when 2/Lt POHLMANN & about 20. men returned – Sgt major MEDLEY, Sgt Brooke. W, Pt GIBBS, Pt WALKER, SEGT LANGDALE, Pt. BARKER all mentioned to Divisional Commander for exceptional bravery – Total day Casualties included 2/Lt INNES Killed, 2/lt SMITH. Other Ranks 334 Killed wounded & missing & 11 officers out of 618 (OR) & 18 (Officers). The Battle was relieved the same night & moved to MARTINSAAT wood.


MAJOR R E SUEDENDSO returned from England & assumed Command of the battalion

battalion moves to HEADOUVILLE to refit and train

 2/Lt CRC.PURVIS. 2/Lt. EJ. YELLAND joined the Battalion


 2/Lt G RAWNSLEY joined the Battalion


Lt Col. E.G. SAUBYN to England sick.


Promotions Lt. W.N EVERETT to be temporary Captain

Lt. H.H. Aykroyd to be temporary lieutenant.


Battalion  leaves by route march to MARTINSAAT WOOD

16/9/16 5pm

battalion mores to Crucifix Corner dugouts AVELUY in Support


The 7th West Riding Rgmt attacks trenches South of THIEPVAL- The 4th West Riding providing the Carrying & Consolidating parties 315 0R. the attack was successful


4th West Riding Regmt moves into LEIPZIC SALIENT. In Support of 5th West Riding who take over Captured Trenches from 7th battalion


4th WEST RIDING relieves 5th W.Riding The trenches are in a very bad state owing to wet & unburied bodies.


battalion relieved by 12th Bat MIDDLESEX Regmt & move by busses to LEALVILLERS.


battalion moves by route march to HALLOY

2/Lt G. GROWTHER. 2/Lt EM. HILL. 2/Lt J. COPELAND. 2/Lt S. BALDWIN, 2/lt WT SCHOLES, 2/Lt E.V. BLAKEY. 2/Lt C N. RHODES. 2/Lt W OLDROYD. 2/Lt  L DENBY 2/Lt E RODGERS, 2/Lt  N. GELLARD Join the battalion.


 2/Lt MANDER appointed transport officer vice Lt WB. YATES who proceed to England

battalion relieves 20 ROYAL-WELSH. Fusiliers at Trenches HANNESCAMPS Sector

Press Announcements

Halifax Courier – 9th September 1916

Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment)

1/4th 1/6th & 1/7th Battalion Territorial Force
04.08.1914 The 1/4th stationed at Halifax, the 1/6th stationed at Skipton-in-Craven and the 1/7th stationed at Milnsbridge all as part of the 2nd West Riding Brigade of the West Riding Division and then moved to Hull and Grimsby as part of coastal defences.
05.11.1914 Moved to Doncaster.
14.04.1915 Mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne.
12.05.1915 The formation became the 147th Brigade of the 49th Division which engaged in various actions on the Western front including;
The Battle of Aubers Ridge, The defence against the first Phosgene attack.
The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, The Battle of Pozieres Ridge, The Battle of Flers-Courcelette.
Operations on the Flanders Coast (Hush), The Battle of Poelcapelle.
The Battle of Estaires, The Battle of Messines, The Battle of Bailleul, The First Battle of Kemmel Ridge, The Second Battle of Kemmel Ridge, The Battle of the Scherpenberg, The pursuit to the Selle, The Battle of the Selle, The Battle of Valenciennes.
11.11.1918 Ended the war at Auby north of Douai, France.

Personal Life

Vernon Adams Horsfall was born in 1893 to James Clay and Annie Carlotta (nee Adams) Horsfall at Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, England. At that time he had a sister, Olive Mary , born 30 Jan 1890 in Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, England. His father was a Worsted Spinner.

A brother. Stuart Clay, was born 20 Jan 1896 in Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, England.

Vernon was age 8 and living with his parents in the 1901 UK Census on 31 Mar 1901 at Woodleigh in Sowerby Bridge, Halifax, Yorkshire, England.

Vernon was age 18 and Learning to be a Worsted Spinner, living with his parents in the in the 1911 UK Census on 2 Apr 1911 at Elsinore Heath Villas Halifax in Halifax, Yorkshire, England.

Vernon served in the military Regiment: Duke Of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment); Rank: Second Lieutenant in 1916.

Vernon was killed in action at Schwaben Redoubt, Somme, on 3 September 1916 at age of 23 years and is buried in Serre Road Cemetery No.2, France

His father died on 11 Nov 1935 at age of 75 years and his mother died on 25 Mar 1942 at age of 73 years both in Southport, Lancashire, England.

His sister, Olive Mary, died in Aug 1975 at age of 85 years in Maidstone, Kent, England and his brother, Stuart Clay, died about Nov 1977 at age of 81 years in Halifax, Yorkshire, England.

Census Records

1901 Census
1911 Census

 Probate 14 Feb 1918

HORSFALL Vernon Adams of Kingston Dene Halifax second lieutenant West Riding regiment died 3 September 1916 in France Administration London 14 February to James Clay Horsfall spinner. Effects £295 35. 3d.

Clay and Horsfall

They were worsted spinners at Wharf Mill, Sowerby Bridge and Regulator Mill, Sowerby Bridge. They were founded at Luddendenfoot by brothers-in-law, James Clay and John Horsfall in 1863. They were at Luddendenfoot Mill [1872]. The partnership superseded that of Clay & Priestley which was dissolved in 1863.

Partners included James Clay Horsfall, Frank Clay, James Reginald Clay, Stanley Clay, and Frank Barber Clay.
The company evolved into John Horsfall & Sons Limited.

Grave Details

His war grave details can be seen here.  This links to the Commonwealth Grave Commission’s website.

Vernon Adams Horsfall
Grave details

The grave photograph was taken by the War Graves Photographic Project. A copy of this photograph can be ordered from their website.

Remembered in Birkdale Cemetery.

Vernon Horsfall
Vernon is remembered on his parents headstone in Birkdale Cemetery – Section C1



Cemetery Details – SERRE ROAD CEMETERY NO.2

The village of Serre is 11 kilometres north-north-east of Albert. Using the D919 from Arras to Amiens you will drive through the villages of Bucquoy, Puisieux then Serre-les-Puisieux (approximately 20 kilometres south of Arras). On leaving Serre-les-Puisieux, 1.3 kilometres further along the D919, Serre Road No.2 Cemetery can be found on the left hand side.

In June 1916, the road out of Mailly-Maillet to Serre and Puisieux entered No Man’s Land about 1,300 metres south-west of Serre. On 1 July 1916, the 31st and 4th Divisions attacked north and south of this road and although parties of the 31st Division reached Serre, the attack failed. The 3rd and 31st Divisions attacked once more on the 13 November, but again without success.

Early in 1917, the Germans fell back to the Hindenburg Line and on 25 February, Serre was occupied by the 22nd Manchesters. The village changed hands once more in March 1918 and remained under German occupation, until they withdrew in August.

In the spring of 1917, the battlefields of the Somme and Ancre were cleared by V Corps and a number of new cemeteries were made, three of which are now named from the Serre Road. Serre Road Cemetery No.2 was begun in May 1917 and by the end of the war it contained approximately 475 graves (Plots I and II, except for Row E, Plot II which was added in 1922 and Row AA, Plot I which was added in 1927), but it was greatly enlarged after the Armistice by the addition of further graves from the surrounding area, including graves from the following smaller cemeteries:-

BAIZIEUX COMMUNAL CEMETERY (Somme): one United Kingdom grave March 1918.

BOISMONT CHURCHYARD (Somme): one United Kingdom grave of October 1914.

BUCQUOY COMMUNAL CEMETERY (Pas-de-Calais): 25 United Kingdom graves of August 1918.

ERCHEU CHURCHYARD (Somme): one United Kingdom grave of March 1918.

FRETTECUISSE CHURCHYARD (Somme): one United Kingdom grave September 1916.

HERVILLY CHURCHYARD (Somme): one R.F.C. grave of September 1916.

HOLNON COMMUNAL CEMETERY (Aisne): five United Kingdom graves April 1917.

LABOISSIERE CHURCHYARD (Somme): one United Kingdom grave of April 1917.

LE SARS GERMAN CEMETERY (Pas-de-Calais): one United Kingdom grave.

MADAME MILITARY CEMETERY, CLERY-SUR-SOMME (Somme): three United Kingdom graves of February 1917.

MEAULTE CHURCHYARD (Somme): one United Kingdom grave of April 1916.

POZIERES COMMUNAL CEMETERY (Somme): one Canadian grave of September 1916.

REMIENCOURT COMMUNAL CEMETERY (Somme): one United Kingdom grave of April 1918.

SOMME AMERICAN CEMETERY, BONY (Aisne): two United Kingdom graves of July and October 1918, and one Australian of September 1918.

VOYENNES CHURCHYARD (Somme): seven United Kingdom graves of March 1918.

YTRES CHURCHYARD (Pas-de-Calais): 14 United Kingdom and four New Zealand graves of September 1918, mainly from the 15th Field Ambulance.

There are now 7,127 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in the cemetery, mostly dating from 1916. Of these, 4,944 are unidentified.

The cemetery, which was not completed until 1934, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

You can view the details for this cemetery on the Commonwealth Grave Commission’s website here.

Sources of Information

Commonwealth War Graves Commission.


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