This site commemorates the men and women of Collingham, Linton and Micklethwaite who served during World War 1. Today we especially commemorate Captain Eric Donaldson of the 1st London Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps who died on this day in 1970.
Danby, Reginald
(1892-1971)

Rank and Unit at End of World War One

Rank Private

Service Number 27172

Service Army

Battalion 82 Company

Regiment Machine Gun Corps

Other service during World War One
Information from Medal Index Cards (WO372), Medal Rolls (WO329), Service Records (WO363) and/or Pension Records (WO364) held by The National Archives.
Rank Number Unit
Private 2489 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers
Private 27172 9th and 66th Battalion Machine Gun Corps

Biography

Family background

Reginald Danby was the brother of Sidney Herbert Danby, listed on these pages. While Sidney lived in Collingham (in 1911) with their widowed father, John, we are not certain whether Reginald ever lived in Collingham.

A brief article in The Wetherby News gives a little detail of his family ties:

Wetherby News January 14th 1916

Two Soldier Brothers.


"Syd" Danby, elder son of Mr. J. Danby, of Harewood Road, East Keswick, has risen rapidly in the 11th West Yorkshire Regiment, and now holds the position of Quarter-Master Sergeant. He is now in France.
His younger brother, Pte. Reginald Danby, of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers, is now on active service again in the Dardanelles. He took part in the first landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula, losing seven of his most intimate pals, and some time later was wounded in the elbow while helping to take some Turkish trenches. After five weeks in hospital in Egypt he has returned to the fighting line.

 

Reginald's early life contains a few mysteries. He was born on the 27th April 1892, the son of John and Sophia Danby. The family at the time were living at 89 Wallace Street, New Wortley and Reginald was baptised at the Holbeck Wesleyan Methodist on the 10th May 1892. John and Sophia seem to have had a nomadic lifestyle - their children being born in several places: Archibald (1885) in Sowerby, Florrie (1886) and Sophia (1887) in Chelsea, Sidney Herbert (1889) in Fulham and Reginald (1892) in Wortley, Leeds. John was a bricklayer, so perhaps he was travelling for work. Reginald's mother, Sophia, died in 1894 in Thorpe, Yorkshire.

Interestingly, Reginald was not with his widowed father on the census nights of either 1901 or 1911. In 1901, while John was at Potter Newton, Leeds, with his other children (Archibald, Florrie, Sophia and Sydney Herbert), the eight year old Reginald was staying at 5 Holgate, York with his uncle Edwin Fletcher, a groom, his wife and three sons. In 1911, his widowed father was living in Collingham with some of his children, but Reginald (who by then would have been 18) was not with them and we have been unable to find him in the 1911 census.

Service record

Reginald's service record has survived - but it highlights a further intriguing mystery! Reginald enlisted for military service on the 5th January 1912 and joined the Lancashire Fusiliers in Bury. On enlistment, Reginald gave his name as John Taylor, a 20 year 9 month old, canal boatman on the Leeds and Liverpool canal. He listed his brothers as Archibald Taylor and Sydney (address unknown). His father is listed (although perhaps added later to the form) as John Danby, Limekiln House, East Keswick, Leeds. We do not know why he gave a false name at that time.

Reginald was posted to the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers on the 24th April 1912. On the 13th January 1913, he was in Dover, where he was passed as fit for service in India and he arrived in India on the 4th March 1913 and was posted to the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. On the 13th January 1914, in Hyderabad, Reginald admitted to the Army that he had enlisted under a false name and he showed a birth certificate - his army record was amended at that point to show his true name.

DECLARATION

I, Reginald Danby, do solemnly and sincerely declare that I was enlisted on the 8th day of January, 1912, under the name of John Taylor, which name I now declare to be incorrect. The name of Reginald Danby contained in the accompanying certificate of birth, I now declare, to be my true name, and I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of an Act made and passed in the sixth year of the reign of King William the Fourth, chap: 62, entitled "The Statutory Declaration Act, 1836". Signed Reginald Danby, Private, 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. Declared before me at Hyderabad Sind this thirteenth day of January 1914.

From the 1st July 1914 to the 17th September 1914, Reginald served in Karachi and then from the 27th September 1914 to the 16th December in Aden. At that time regular British troops were being recalled to the UK for service on the Western Front and elsewhere and Reginald served in the UK from 17th December 1914 to the 15th March 1915 when he went with his Battalion to Gallipoli. The original newspaper article (above) suggested he had been wounded in the elbow. His service record records a gun shot wound to his foot suffered on the 9th May 1915 in Gallipoli.

The statement in the Wetherby News article that Reginald had been involved in the first landings in Gallipoli and had lost some of his closest colleagues in the attack does not perhaps reflect the true horror of the landings that Reginald took part in.

Gallipoli and the Lancashire Landings

From the 1st to the 11th March 1915, Reginald and the men of the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers were in training at Nuneaton, practicing entrenching and night work. They were inspected by H.M. The King on the 12th March and on the 16th they left Nuneaton and travelled to Avonmouth where they embarked on the troopships HT Alaunia and HT Mercian and sailed for the Mediterranean. Their journey took them via Malta (23-25 March 1915) to Alexandria, where they arrived on the 28th April. The battalion disembarked and went to MEX camp, from where they took part in a number of exercises in embarking and disembarking from naval cutters onto beaches. On the 8-10th April, they moved from Alexandria to the island of Lemnos, where they continued landing practice. On the 23rd they left Lemnos and on the 24th April 1915 25 officers and 918 other ranks embarked on HMS Euryalus, ready for landing in Gallipoli on the 25th April 1915.

The purpose of the landings in Gallipoli was to assist the Royal Navy in forcing their way through the Galipoli Straits by taking from the rear the Ottoman forts that dominated the straits. The Allies chose to make two landings with two diversions. The Anzac Corps would make a surprise landing between Gaba Tepe and Fisherman's Hut, with the covering force landing just before dawn, with no preliminary bombardment. After consolidating the left flank the force was to advance eastwards towards Maidos to cut Ottoman communications with the garrisons further south. On the Gallipoli peninsula on either side of Cape Helles, landings would be made by 86th Brigade and additional units supported by naval bombardments. After a successful landing and securing of the beaches, a main force would then be landed which would follow up and advance to the first day objectives, the village of Krithia and the hill of Achi Baba. Five beaches were selected for the landing, from east (inside the straits) to west (on the Aegean coast), named S, V, W, X and Y beaches. The main landings were destined for V and W beaches near the tip of the peninsula, either side of Cape Helles itself.

Reginald Danby was part of 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers which formed part of 86th Brigade of 29th Division. This brigade was scheduled to land in the first landings on W beach. This Beach lies on the coast to the north-west of Cape Helles, just south of Tekke Burnu and is the site of a small gully. The beach is only about 350 yards long and from fifteen–forty yards wide, with steep cliffs at the ends and a relatively easy approach over sand dunes in the centre, to a ridge with a view of the sea. The beach had been mined and defended with extensive barbed wire entanglements, including one along the shore and trip wires just under the surface of the water, a few yards offshore. W beach is overlooked by high ground making it suitable for strong defence and two machine-guns were hidden in the cliffs, to cover the wire in enfilade. The ridge beyond the centre of the beach was commanded by entrenchments on higher ground to the north-east and south-west and 600 yards away lay one of two redoubts close to Hill 138, both extensively wired and behind slopes with no cover. Another barbed-wire entanglement ran from the southern redoubt to the cliffs near a lighthouse which blocked an advance from W Beach towards V Beach. This formidable beach was the landing area for the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.

The men of the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers transferred to thirty-two cutters from HMS Euryalus at about 4:00 a.m. and Euryalus closed in on the beach at around 5:00 a.m. An hour later, the six tows from Euryalus sailed towards the shore, in line abreast at 50 yards intervals, with tows from HMS Implacable to the left. As the tows got to within 50 yards of the shore they were cast off and the sailors in the cutters began to row. The shore had been silent but as the first boat landed, enemy small-arms fire swept the British and caused many casualties. The naval bombardments had been lifted from the enemy 10 minutes before the British landed, and this had given the defenders enough time to emerge from cover and cut down the men landing. This bombardment had also failed to cut the wire defences along the shore and the surviving Fusiliers were fired on from three sides as they cut the wire or crawled underneath. Survivors from the initial onslaught jumped from the cutters and tried to rush ashore but many leapt into deep water and sank under the weight of their own equipment. Colonel Wolley-Dod, a witness to the landing later wrote: "It appeared as if the whole battalion must be wiped out. The wire on the beach was intact and to those watching anxiously from the Euryalus the situation appeared hopeless. It looked as each man was shot down as he left his boat."

Small parties of the Lancashire Fusiliers did get through the wire, reached the dunes behind the shore and captured the trenches beyond and this, coupled with more naval bombardment eventually diminished the enemy fire against the beach but fighting continued through the night. The war diary, which recorded that the Lancashire Fusiliers had started the attack with 25 officers and 918 other ranks, reported at 6am the following day that their strength was now only 15 officers and 411 other ranks - a staggering loss of 40% of the officers and 55% of the men. The Soldiers Died in The Great War database records 165 men of the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers dying on that day, suggesting that around 342 of the losses were due to wounding.

Captain Richard Willis, who led C Company 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers during the attack, was one of several survivors to record the events of the day: "Not a sign of life was to be seen on the peninsula in front of us. It might have been a deserted land we were nearing in our little boats. Then crack!… The signal for the massacre had been given; rapid fire, machine-guns and deadly accurate sniping opened from the cliffs above, and soon the casualties included the rest of the crew and many men. The timing of the ambush was perfect; we were completely exposed and helpless in our slow-moving boats, just target practice for the concealed Turks, and within a few minutes only half of the 30 men in my boat were left alive. We were now 100 yards from the shore, and I gave the order ‘overboard’. We scrambled out into some four feet of water and some of the boats with their cargo of dead and wounded floated away on the currents still under fire from the snipers. With this unpromising start the advance began. Many were hit in the sea, and no response was possible, for the enemy was in trenches well above our heads. We toiled through the water towards the sandy beach, but here another trap was awaiting us, for the Turks had cunningly concealed a trip wire just below the surface of the water and on the beach itself were a number of land mines, and a deep belt of rusty wire extended across the landing place. Machine-guns, hidden in caves at the end of the amphitheatre of cliffs, enfiladed this. Our wretched men were ordered to wait behind this wire for the wire-cutters to cut a pathway through. They were shot in helpless batches while they waited, and could not even use their rifles in retaliation since the sand and the sea had clogged their action. One Turkish sniper in particular took a heavy toll at very close range until I forced open the bolt of a rifle with the heel of my boot and closed his career with the first shot, but the heap of empty cartridges round him testified to the damage he had done. Safety lay in movement, and isolated parties scrambled through the wire to cover. Among them was Sergeant Richards with a leg horribly twisted, but he managed somehow to get through.”

In honour of their sacrifices, W beach was renamed the "Lancashire Landing" and a regimental cemetery, constructed on the 13th May 1915, is known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Lancashire Landing Cemetery. It holds the burials of 1114 First World War personnel.

Six Victoria Crosses were eventually awarded to troops who took part in the landing on W Beach, three in August 1915 and three more two years later in 1917, an event hailed in the Allied press as the winning of "six VCs before Breakfast". The citations read "On the 25th April, 1915, headquarters and three companies of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers in effecting a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the West of Cape Helles, were met by very deadly fire from hidden machine guns, which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained. Amongst the many very gallant officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking, Captain Bromley, Sergeant Stubbs, Corporal Grimshaw, Private Keneally, Sergeant Richards and Captain Willis have been selected by their comrades as having performed the most signal acts of bravery and devotion to duty."

After the initial landings fighting settled into a grim trench battle. The Wetherby News article about Reginald's service suggests he was wounded while helping to take some Turkish trenches and that he had five weeks in hospital in Egypt before returning to the fighting line. Reginald's service record does not show any evacuation to Egypt at the time, but does record a gun shot wound to his foot suffered on the 9th May 1915. The war diary does not record any casualties on that day, but half of the Battalion had been involved in supporting an Australian attack on the 8th May and we can only assume that Reginald was wounded during this battle. Reginald's service record shows he remained with the Battalion throughout their time in Gallipoli. Their suffering was made worse by the weather during the winter of 1915, with intense cold and very heavy rain causing misery. The British were eventually withdrawn from Gallipoli, the last Allied troops leaving on the 9th January 1916.

On the 25th April 1965, fifty years after their landing, the Lancashire Fusiliers held a reunion dinner, and a photograph of the event shows that Mr R. Danby had attended.

We do not know exactly when Reginald left Gallipoli, but he service records shows that on the 5th January 1916 he was in the UK and that he served with home forces until the 4th July 1917. This service included a furlough from the 19th February to the 28th February. Also during this time, Reginald was transferred to the 3rd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (on the 28th February 1916) and again on the 10th March 1916, to the 9th Battalion Machine Gun Corps.

Another transfer, this time to the 66th Battalion Machine Gun Corps on the 5th July 1916, was immediately followed by embarkation to sail to serve in Salonika.

Reginald served in Salonika from the 14th July 1916 to the 4th August 1918. In Salonika the normal dangers of fighting in a war were supplemented by illness and disease. Many men suffered. Reginald did not escape - in early August 1917 Reginald was taken sick and was diagnosed with malaria.

Reginald was posted to 82 Company Machine Gun Corps on the 7th January 1918 and embarked for the UK on the 13th July. His service record shows that he was invalided from Salonika and became a transport driver in 82 Company MGC. However this was not the end of his Army career. On the 3rd October 1918, Reginald was posted to France. His illness still clearly troubled him and he was admitted to hospitals in St. Omer and Dieppe in November 1918.

Return from hospital saw a posting to 2nd Battalion Machine Gun Corps on the 5th January 1919. He was then taken off the strength of the British Expeditionary Force on the 20th April 1919 and joined the Rhine Army. He served there until the 3rd May 1919, when he returned to the UK for demobilisation on the 10th May. About one month later, on the 8th June 1919, Reginald was discharged from the Army under King's Regulations paragraph xvi (a) "Surplus to military requirements having suffered impairment since entry into service." Due to his injuries, as well as the British War Medal and Victory Medal, Reginald was awarded a Silver War Badge.

After the war

After the war, we believe Reginald Danby returned to the UK and settled in Cheshire where he died in 1971.


Sources

The Wetherby News 14/1/1916
The Collingham Parish Magazine Dec 1914 & Feb 1915
First World War Medal Index Cards. The National Archives (WO372).
First World War Medal Index Rolls. The National Archives (WO329).
First World War British Army Service Records. The National Archives (WO363).
War Diary of 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (WO95/4310) The National Archives.

If you have any photographs or further details about this person we would be pleased to hear from you. Please contact us via: alan.berry@collinghamanddistrictwararchive.info