Service Number 10520
Battalion 2nd Battalion
Regiment West Riding Regiment
Fred Inman was born on the 16th June 1894, the son of Herbert and Ada Inman in Hopetown, Yorks
In 1901, Fred was living with his parents at Copmanthorpe Grange Cottage and his father was a horseman on a farm. Unfortunately, we have not been able to trace Fred Inman on the 1911 census.
Fred Inman's service record has survived and shows that he enlisted in the Army in Halifax on the 6th February 1913. After some basic training, Fred was posted to the 2nd Battalion of the West Riding Regiment on the 17th June 1913. At the start of the Great War, Fred was therefore a regular soldier serving with the 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment. As war started the battalion was in Dublin and immediately started mobilisation. The next few days must have been hectic. 350 new recruits joined the battalion at Portobello Barracks from the depot on the 5th August and days were spent drilling in Phoenix Park and on route marches. On the 13th August, Fred and the rest of the battalion were posted overseas. Two train loads of troops left the barracks and went to the docks to embark on the SS Gloucestershire. They sailed from Dublin on the 14th passing Land's End at pm and the Lizard Point at 6.30pm. On the 15th August the Gloucestershire was met by a number of French torpedo boats, but after establishing its identity was allowed to proceed and laid off Le Havre dock at 4pm on the 15th August. On the 16th, after making their way 5 miles to Bleville, the battalion entered the rest camp there. The battalion war diary tells us that "The rain descended in torrents and everyone was wet through on reaching camp at 8am. The remained of the day was spent in camp. At 5.30pm the commanding officer read out on parade (a) BGC's message to the brigade, (b) Field Marshal Earl Kitchener's message to all troops and (c) H.M. The King's proclamation to his soldiers. Three cheers were given for His Majesty and for the Colonel. The battalion entrained at Havre for an unknown destination."
Their destination was actually in Belgium - on the 17th August the battalion detrained in Landrechies and marched 2½ miles to a camp at Maroilles. There they remained in billets until the 22nd August when they moved forward to meet the German Army at Wasmes. This was the battalion's first taste of battle and they ended on the 23rd having pulled back to Dour. The war diary records Captain Carter and Lt Baune wounded and 6 other ranks killed and one missing.
Map 1: Fred Inman and 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment's journeys in 1914 (click for full size). Dotted lines show journeys by train. Red - journey from landing in Le Havre to the Battle of Mons. Blue - the retreat from Mons, the Battle of Le Cateau and the retreat towards Paris and stabilisation of the line. Green - redeployment towards Flanders. Fred Inman was wounded near Festubert and was evacuated to the UK, but we do not know which route he took.
On the 24th August the battalion took part in the Battle of Mons. This was a bad day for the battalion, as recorded briefly in the war diary. "The Battle of Mons. Casualties Major Stafford, Captain Denman-Jubb, Lt Russell, Lt Thomson killed. Lt Col Gibbs, Major Townsend, Lt Oliphant, Goney, Captain Jenkins, Price wounded. Other ranks 9 killed, 50 wounded, 244 missing."
Fighting was not over for the battalion, on the 25th they retired to Le Cateau and on the 26th took part in the Battle of Le Cateau. A further 4 men were wounded and 61 were reported missing. On the 27th the battalion was retired to Noyons via St Quentin and on the 29 and 30th August they were in Le Pomeroy and Janvy.
The first half of September was spent by the battalion in a major retirement and retreat from Mons and then a stabilising as the armies approached Paris:
|Sept 1 1914||Crepy||Rear guard action. Very hot weather. 2 wounded|
|Sept 2 1914||Cuisy||Rear guard action.|
|Sept 3 1914||Coulomnes||Left Cuisy and arrived Coulomnes|
|Sept 5 1914||Tournan||Arrived and rested|
|Sept 6 1914||Villeneuve - Guerard||Arrived Villeneuve 8am left 2pm, arrived Guerard 9pm. Germans retiring|
|Sept 7 1914||Guerard - Boissy le Chatel||Left Guerard 3pm. Arrived Boissy le Chatel 7pm|
|Sept 8 1914||Boissy le Chatel - St. Cyr||Left Boissy le Chatel 4am. Arrived St Cyr 7pm. Very cold.|
|Sept 9 1914||Le Limon||Crossed river Marne. Advanced guard action. Very wet day.|
|Sept 10 1914||Chezy||Arrived Chezy 6pm. Very cold and damp. Draft of 172 other ranks joined.|
|Sept 11 1914||Chezy-Hartennes||Arrived Hartennes 6pm. Very wet.|
|Sept 12 1914||Hartennes - Serches||Arrived Serches 4pm. Wet.|
|Sept 13 1914||Serches - Ciry||Left Serches 4.30am. Arrived Ciry. Very heavy artillery fire.|
|Sept 14 1914||Ciry||Eleven wounded, three missing|
|Sept 15 1914||Sermoise||Arrived Sermoise. Battalion advanced under very heavy shrapnel fire to a position in the woods. Captain Healing wounded. Other ranks 4 killed.|
|Sept 16 1914||Sermoise||Arrived Missy sur Aisne. Crossed river Aisne on rafts, arrived at Missy sur Aisne and entrenched, fortifying houses.|
This appears to have been a very busy and hectic time for the battalion, and indeed the war diary contains a note that it had been completed from a private diary of Lieut Cughill who was with the battalion at the time. On September 17th the Battalion was in outpost positions at Missy and they stayed in those positions until the 24th when they were relieved by the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, recrossed the Aisne and went into reserve at Goebenwood near Sermoise. There they stayed, sometimes under heavy shelling, until the 2nd October when they marched to Violane.
This was the start of a redeployment of the 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment. With the front on the Aisne stabilised, a series of outflanking movements which came to be known as the 'race to the sea' between the Allied and German armies began. The Belgium army was positioned behind the Yser, roughly from Nieuport at the coast to just north of Ypres, and the British Expeditionary Force was secretly withdrawn from the Aisne to cover the Flanders area, roughly around Ypres, Armentieres and La Bassee. With more British reinforcements arriving from England this was the start of the rigid Allied-German front line and trench warfare operations. As part of this set of moves, the 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment moved from Violane (3rd Oct) to Hartennes (3rd) and on to Largny (4th) and to Fresnoy (6th) and Verberie (7th Oct) via Orrouy and Bethisy St Martin. On the 8th October the battalion entrained at Longueil for a two hour train ride, disembarking at Abbeville at around noon, and then marching through Millencourt, Agenvillers and Gapennes to Noyelles where they were billeted for the night. Next day (9th) they marched via Gueschart, Vitz, Villeroy Le Ponchal, Vaulx and Haravesnes and on the 10th they were transported by motor buses via St.Pol to Dieval where they again billeted. On the 11th they marched on from Dieval to Bethune and bivouaced near Vaubricourt, then further on the 12th to Beuvry and then on to Annequin. The battalion was based in Annequin all day on the 13th October where they were heavily shelled all day. By the 15th they were in and to the north of Le Quesnoy from where they moved forward to the trenches at Rue D'Ouvert.
Between the 21st and 26th October the 2nd West Riding Regiment were in a running battle with the Germans in around Festubert. At several stages breaks in the line had to be quickly retaken. The war diary records for the period recorded 15 men killed, 43 wounded and 5 missing during this period.
At some stage during this fighting Fred Inman was wounded. His wounds were severe enough that he was repatriated to England arriving back on the 26th October and being transferred to 3rd Battalion. Fred's service record does not tell us where he was treated in the UK, but a newspaper report gives a little more detail of his stay back in England.
Fred Inman returned to France on the 26/27th January 1915 and was posted back to the 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment in France. He may well have been one of the draft of 1 officer and 121 other ranks reported in the war diary as joining the battalion on the 26th January 1915 while the battalion was in billets in reserve at Bailleul.
February and March 1915 were spent by the 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment with short periods in the front line trenches and rest/reserve periods further from the front at Dranoutre and then on the 19th March they marched to Vlamertinghe, spending front line service in trenches near Zillebeke and rest and reserve periods in Ypres and Ouderdom. This pattern of front line duty interspersed with periods behind the lines continued until the 18th April 1915.
On that day the war diary records:
Private Fred Inman came through this battle and moved with the battalion through Ypres to reserve at Zevecoten.
The action described was the capture of Hill 60. The ground south of Zillebeke rises for 2,000 yd to a ridge between Zwarteleen and Zandvoorde. Roads ran north-west to south-east through the area and the Ypres–Comines railway ran roughly parallel to the roads from Ypres and 600 yd from Zillebeke, the railway ran through a 15-20 feet cutting. The earth excavated when the railway was built had beem dumped making small hillocks. Two, named the Caterpillar and the Dump were on the west of the railway, while the other third mound, named Hill 60, was on the east. Hill 60 was strategically important as it gave good views of the ground around Zillebeke and Ypres. Hill 60 had been in German hands since the 11th November 1914 in the First Battle of Ypres.
The battle in which the 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment took part to capture Hill 60 was the first British operation of its kind. Royal Engineer tunnelling companies laid six mines in three tunnels beneath the Germans. Two mines in the north were charged with 2000lb of explosives each, the two central ones had 2700lbs each and the single sountherly mine contained 500lb. On 17 April at 7:05 p.m., the first pair of mines were blown and the rest ten seconds later. Débris was flung almost 300 ft into the air and scattered for 300 yd in all directions. These mines killed the German front line troops and the survivors were overwhelmed, those capable of resistance being bayoneted. They also produced the craters described in the war diary above. After consolidation a series of German attempts were made to retake Hill 60.
From the 1st to the 5th May 1915, the Germans successfully retook Hill 60 using a series of gas attacks.
A first unsuccessful attack took place on the 1st May when chlorine was released from fewer than 100 yds away. The gas arrived so quickly that most of the British troops were unable to put on their improvised respirators. As soon the gas reached the British positions, the Germans attacked from the flanks with bombing parties, as artillery laid a barrage on the British approaches to the hill. Some of the British garrison were able to return fire, which gave enough time for reinforcements to arrive, after rushing through the gas cloud. The German infantry were forestalled and bombing parties forced them back. The original garrison suffered severely for holding on despite the gas and lost many casualties.
At 8:45 a.m. on 5th May a second attack was made. The Germans discharged gas from two places opposite the hill, and this time the wind blew the gas along the British defences rather than across them. Only one sentry was able to sound the gas alarm. The British defence plan required troops under gas attack to move to the flanks but the course of the gas cloud made this impossible. The gas hung so thick that even after re-damping cotton respirators, it was impossible to remain in the trenches and those troops who stood their ground were overcome. German infantry advanced fifteen minutes after the gas cloud and occupied nearly all of the front line on the lower slope of the hill. British reinforcements arrived and bombed their way up a communication trench and two more battalions were sent up but before they arrived, the Germans released more gas at 11:00 a.m. to the north-east of the hill.
The British right flank at the Zwarteleen salient was overwhelmed, increasing the gap left by the first discharge; enough men on the left survived to pin the German infantry down until 12:30 p.m., when a battalion arrived after advancing through the gas cloud and an artillery barrage. Constant counter-attacks forced some of the Germans back and regained several lost trenches. The Germans held on to the crest and released more gas at 7:00 p.m., which had little effect and an infantry attack which followed was repulsed by rifle-fire. The British were ordered to retake the hill, but at 10pm, after a twenty minute artillery bombardment the attacking British found that the darkness, the broken state of the ground and alert German infantry made it impossible to advance, except for one party which reached the top of the hill, only to be forced to withdraw at 1:00 a.m. Both sides were exhausted and spent the next day digging in before a final attempt on the 7th May when two companies of infantry and attached bombers using hand grenades attacked but all were killed or captured and Hill 60 remained in German hands.
Fred Inman and the rest of the 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment missed the first part of this battle, being held in the rear or in reserve until the 4th May 1915 when they were ordered to relieve the Devonshire Regiment in Trenches 38, 39, 40, 42, 43, 45 and Hill 60. The relief was complete by 3.30am. They were now back in the front line near Hill 60 at Fromelles which they had so recently taken. The war diary continues the story:
One of the many casualties that day was Private Dryden mentioned above. However Private Fred Inman survived the attack and was captured (at Fromelles) and became a prisoner of war on the 5th May 1915. He was initially held at Dulmen and then at at a POW camp at Munster, built on the racecourse, and hence named Munster II (Rennbahn). Fred saw out the war as a POW. After the end of hostilities, on the 17th December 1918, Fred was repatriated to the UK and posted back to the West Riding Regiment Depot. On the 27th July 1919 he was re-posted to 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment. Fred was eventually discharged from the Army on the 9th March 1920.
Fred Inman's discharge papers show he left the Army and went to live at Sicklinghall, but we have no further definite traces of Fred Inman after the war. We have found a burial of a Fred Inman aged 34 at St Mark's Church, Low Moor near North Bierley, Bradford on the 19th February 1927. This particular man had lived at 7 Church Street but we don't know if this was 'our' Fred Inman.
Biography last updated 05 April 2022 13:54:44.
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 2nd Battalion Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment) WO95/1552/1 The National Archives.
International Committee of the Red Cross Prisoner of War Records.
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