Rifleman Andrew King DANIELS

West Yorkshire Regiment
(Prince of Wales's Own)
(Formerly: Sherwood Foresters, 6th Training Reserve Bn.)
1st/8th Battalion
Service Number:
(Formerly: 85031 Sherwood Foresters)
Date of Death:
20 July 1918 - Killed in Action
Cemetery / Memorial:

Personal History:

Andrew was born in Gorton, Lancashire on 7th April 1899, the son of James Esplie (House Painter and Paper Hanger) and Ada Jane (née Lloyd) Daniels at 8 Rushton Street, Didsbury, Lancashire (1901 Census RG 13/3669)). Andrew had an older brother, James Esplie, and a younger sister and brother, Marcia Constance and Marcus Lloyd. 

By 1911 the family had moved to 56 Kings Road, Fairfield, Buxton (Census RG 14/21234). At the time of his enlistment in 1917 he was employed as a "V.A.D. Hospital Orderly".  At the time of his enlistment he was 5 ft.4½ ins. (1.64 m) tall.

Andrew's father James Esplie also served and died at home in Fairfield on the 4th January 1919. [See Footnote below.]

Military History:
Andrew originally enlisted into the Sherwood Foresters on the 22nd February 1917 at Buxton. As Private 85031 he was posted to the 6th (Training Reserve) Battalion on 1st May 1917, training at Rugeley. On the 17th September he was transferred to the 11th (Training Reserve) Battalion and later in the year, on the 1st December, transferred again to the 7th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment.

Andrew embarked for France on 1st April 1918 and on arrival joined the 8th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, on the 5th April, stationed at "H" Depot. He survived just 112 days before being killed in action on the 20th July 1918. He had served just 1 year 149 days with the Colours.

On the 30th January 1918 the 1/8th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment had transferred to the 185th (2/1st West Riding) Brigade, 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division, absorbing the 2/8th Battalion, and was renamed "8th Battalion". Between the 20th - 30th July 1918 the Division was engaged at The Battle of the Tardenois (part of the Battles of the Marne 1918) as part of XXII Corps (Godley) under the French Fifth Army (Berthelot).

On 14th July 1918 two famous Territorial Force formations, the 51st (Highland) Division and Andrew's 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division, were ordered to the Marne to act as a counter-attack force, and relieve General Mangin's French Tenth Army which had attacked successfully in the area of Villers-Cotterets on 19th July. XXII Corps was now placed at the disposal of French Fifth Army with a view to making an effort to stop German reserves being moved to face Mangin. Berthelot ordered an attack on 20th July, with some success resulting in a German withdrawal from the Marne on the night 20/21 July.

It was as a result of this French decision that the 8th Battalion (Leeds Rifles), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Norman Ayrton England, began their attack along valley of the River Ardre on the morning of 20th July. On their left flank were their comrades in the 2/5th Battalion. To their rear, in support, were Territorials of 1/5th Battalion. The ground was totally unlike the muddy terrain they were used to, the area was as yet unspoiled by war and the Battalion steadily advanced through ripe fields of corn and rich woodlands. The Battalion History reported the action as:
"The valley of the Ardre varied from 2,000 to 3,000 yards in width. Much of it was gently undulating corn land, with the crops ripe for cutting, and of sufficient height to afford excellent cover for attacking or defending troops. The villages of Marfaux, Chaumuzy and Bligny lay on the slope to the river, bounded by steep ridges and spurs, and thickly wooded crests."

Fighting of a kind vastly different from anything they had previously gone through now faced the West Yorkshiremen, and the 62nd Division generally. It could hardly be called open warfare for the attack would in places, have to be made through thick forests, and even to take up their assembly positions the attacking troops had to move up through almost impenetrable woods, in which the enemy still lurked. Guerrilla warfare was a more appropriate term."

The Battalion received supporting artillery fire from French and Italian gunners, but the barrage fell far too far ahead and left many German positions untouched. As they advanced they were met by a hail of enemy fire:

"It was not long before the enemy's machine-guns joined their barking to the scream of the shells of the French barrage passing overhead. And soon men began to fall rapidly. Cross-fire, from the edges of the woods high up above the right flank, and from Cuitron and Marfaux villages, swept the front of the attack and it was very evident that the barrage had affected the enemy not at all, for everywhere his machine-guns poured a perpetual hail of bullets into the waves of advancing Yorkshiremen.

The Lewis gunner was our first casualty. Birkell was killed by a sniper who seemed only a few yards away and somewhat in our rear. Connor was the next to be hit by another sniper just a few yards away who must have been hidden in a small clump of trees. Any slight move I made was immediately rewarded by a sharp crack from my attentive sniper and a neat little furrow curved along the rim of my shell-hole refuge. They suddenly began to shell this area of the copse. Heavies and gas shells followed each other in quick succession and I became covered with wet, muddy earth and almost choked with poison gas." (An account by Officer Commanding' D ' Company - probably Captain T P Reay. - quoted in the Battalion History)

[N.B. One of the soldiers named above is: C.S.M. C. Birkill, buried in Marfaux British Cemetery. However, there were many "Connors" in the West Yorkshire Regiment, none were killed at this time and we must assume he recovered from being shot.]

Andrew was one of 6 Officers 73 Other Ranks from the 8th Battalion killed on the 20th July 1918. If he was buried his grave has been lost and he is now commemorated with many of his comrades on the Soissons Memorial.

· Andrew's father 2/Cpl James Esplie DANIELS died at home on the 4th January 1919 and is buried in Fairfield Churchyard, Buxton.

· On the 1st December 1918 the General Officer Commanding 5th Corps (French Army) authorised the Award of the Croix de Guerre to the
  8th Battalion - only the third such award during the War. Part of the Citation read:
  "This élite Battalion under the forceful command of Lieutenant Colonel Norman  Ayrton England, from July 20th to July 30th, took a brilliant
   part in the heavy  fighting that won us the Valley of the River Ardre."

· I am grateful to John Steven for the photo of Andrew's name on the Soissons Memoiral
· "The West Yorkshire Regiment 1914-1918" by E Wyrall. [John Lane 1923.]

Link to CWGC Record
The Soissons Memorial
Rfl. Andrew Daniels name on the Memorial
The Croix de Guerre