Gas Attack, 1915

The Battle of St. Julien began on the morning of 24th April 1915 with the German army firing chlorine gas canisters at Canadian forces to the west of the village. The shocked allied troops soaked their handkerchiefs in urine and held them to their noses. The bodies of those that died turned black within 15 minutes. The Germans took St. Julien.

The next day, the York and Durham Brigade units of the Northumberland Division counter-attacked but failed to recapture the village. The 5th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment formed part of the York and Durham Brigade and included a number of young men from the Yorkshire coast who had enlisted in Scarborough shortly after the war began. Local newspapers would identify them as The Scarborough Terriers. (The Northumberland Division was the first Territorial brigade to go into action in the Great War.) The Canadians called them “The Yorkshire Gurkhas” and D Company was known as “Filey Company”.

Amongst their number was Thomas JENKINSON, 19, and during the counter-attack of the 25th, he was killed while attempting to capture an isolated farmhouse to the south-east of St Julien, at Fortuyn, now Fortuinhoek. His regiment had been in France for just one week.

Fortuyn_TomJenk_ge

On the 26th, three battalions of the Northumberland Brigade attacked St Julien and gained a brief foothold before being forced back, having suffered 1,954 casualties.

StOs_JENKINSONtom_1Tom Jenkinson has no known grave and is commemorated at Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. The plaque in St Oswald’s church (inset) places him with the wrong regiment. (The 5th East Yorks was a Cyclists Battalion that remained in England for the duration of the war, guarding the home front.) The family headstone in the churchyard tells us where he died, and his parents, Thomas Robert and Elizabeth Towse née SHEPHERD, named their house in Mitford Street “Fortuyn”.

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Also Pte. THOMAS JENKINSON 5th Yorks. grandson of the above

killed in action at Fortuyn, France, April 25th 1915, aged 19 years

‘Out in France in an unknown grave

Our dear soldier son lies sleeping

For his King and Country his life he gave

Into his Saviour’s keeping.’

Tom is not yet on FamilySearch Tree but you can find him at Filey Genealogy & Connections. He was a third cousin once removed to Richard Baxter COWLING, lost from Emulator in 1919, (Sunday’s post).

On the First Day

The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge (Third Ypres) began a hundred years ago today. The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial lists the names of over a thousand men who lost their lives during those 24 hours. Amongst those whose bodies were not recovered was John James TOMBLIN, a Huntingdonshire man who came with that county’s Cyclists to Filey – and found a wife. He married Elizabeth CAMMISH on the 19th April 1916, taking a respectable place in several of the other Old Filey families – Cappleman, Cowling, Haxby, Jenkinson, and Skelton. A son, Jack Crane TOMBLIN, was born on 29th April 1917 and made fatherless five months later.

There is a short but powerful video on YouTube that gives some context to the loss of life from all corners of Empire – there were many Australian and South African casualties – and the last letter written by Captain Reginald Henry GILL of the 28th Battalion AIF is a poignant reminder, if one is needed,  that cannon fodder had loved ones back home.

Many more died in this battle, on this day, but they rest elsewhere in Flanders. G/17480 Private JENNINGS, Wilfred Walter but recorded as Fred, is about five kilometers away at Hooge Crater Cemetery and his story can be found here. A similar distance further east at Tyne Cot there are 2,000 more men remembered for whom this was their last day.

With the help of Kath’s Filey Genealogy and Connections database and some further research, I have added a little to the TOMBLIN pedigree on FamilySearch Tree. If you haven’t done so already, check out John James and Elizabeth’s wedding photo on the Hunts Cyclists website.

TOMBLINjjJ J is remembered on the Filey War Memorial but not on the ‘Honours Board’ in St Oswald’s Church. Peterborough brought him home.