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Edward O’Hara was born and enlisted in Bolton, Lancashire. He was the son of Catherine O’Hara, of 1 Robert Stanley Street, Bolton. His father was James O’Hara (deceased).
By the time Edward sailed for France on 31st July 1915 with the 10th Battalion, he already held the appointment of Company Serjeant Major. He was just 23 years old.
C.S.M WOII Edward O’Hara was killed on 11th August 1916 during a trench raid near Pozieres Ridge- An account of this raid is transcribed below.
Unfortunately, his service record has not survived.
Rank: Company Serjeant Major
Service No: 15821
Date of Death: 11/08/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 10th Bn.
Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
Report of Operations – B.G.C 112th Brigade. 11th August 1916
06:30 am Aug 11th.
I beg to forward herewith a preliminary account of the operation against the intermediate line which my Battalion undertook early this morning.
The objective was that part of the intermediate line from the Barricade at about S2D96 to the road westwards where it crosses the intermediate line.
In order to avoid as far as possible the enemy barrage, I determined to attack in enfilade in preference to a frontal attack.
The dispositions were that two companies were employed. I withdrew from the remaining two companies all their best bombers and mixed them with the fighting groups of the companies detailed for the attack.
Lt Gravett, C Coy was detailed to lead the attack, with A Coy, Lt Proctor in support.
These two companies occupied the line previous to the attack, ‘C’ in the left, ‘A’ in the right, their place being taken by the company in close support as they formed their dispositions previous to zero time.
A ramp was constructed to enable the men to get out of the trench quickly. By 01:55 am – (zero being 02:00 am), the leading company were all above ground in proper formation.
I ordered the O.C ‘A’ Coy to sweep the objective and either side of it thoroughly with Lewis Gun fire from 01:55 am till 02:20 am and stationed four rifle grenade men on the top, near the barricade to continue firing rifle grenades over the attacking infantry into the trench and along each side of it.
Lt Gravett led the attack with twenty bombers carrying waistcoats, ten bombs in each. Each man with rifle bayonet fixed, slung.
Behind him, four fighting groups under their own NCOs with whom they have (their) instructions – nine men in each group, bombers wearing waistcoats, ten bombs each – every man in addition carried two bombs each. Behind these, trench clearers and men carrying buckets of bombs (all these in the trench).
The Lewis Guns were on the right flank, one fired ahead, the second swept the ground to the North, i.e. the right flank.
A right flank guard, 50 yards from the trench was to sweep up snipers.
As soon as the last men of ‘C’ Company passed the Barricade, the orders were for the leading group of ‘A’ Company to get into the trench and follow-on. The two last groups to carry one pick and one shovel each – Two groups carrying buckets of bombs.
In addition, one selected NCO and twelve expert bombers and determined men were selected to advance along the left side of the trench – in order to support ‘C’ Company if held up, and take the enemy in rear.
The artillery barrage is reported to have been weak and ineffective, in fact, the Officers inform me that they could not have told when the barrage lifted at zero, had they not been accurately clocked. It did not keep the enemy snipers heads down nor apparently interfere with their machine-gun fire.
At zero precisely, Lt Gravett and his twenty bombers rushed along the trench, as they passed the Barricade, throwing bombs into the trench and pressing on at the double. The remaining groups followed on, some in the trench, some outside as detailed. There was little opposition for 100 yards, when the enemy began to throw bombs from the trench and put up the SOS signal, and many flares.
The men took cover in shell holes and crept forward throwing bombs, the groups doing their work in the trench.
At about 150 yards, the enemy opened machine-gun fire with two guns from the road, and enfiladed the trench and both sides. Under a shower of bombs our men fell back, there being many casualties. Lt Gravett was also wounded by shrapnel and incapacitated from throwing bombs.
Lt Proctor and party now came up on the left side of the trench and attacked the Bosche vigorously, driving them back and carrying on the whole attack again.
The men shouted out “Bolton” – “Bolton” – being apparently mostly men from that town.
They charged forward in the trench, some men still under Lt Gravett still on top and bombing; they finally drove the enemy back over the road.
The last forty yards being quite straight and a machine-gun firing from behind the road directly into the trench – after several men had been knocked out it was decided to block the trench at this point, which was done and a second barricade erected forty yards further back. The first barricade being held by Lewis Guns in position.
The enemy fired great numbers of rifle grenades as the attackers advanced into the trench and on either side. Lt Gravett was a second time wounded in the head by a bomb, but remained most gallantly in command of his men till the trench was finally taken and consolidated. Lt Proctor was also wounded in two places by bullet and bomb. These were the only two officers concerned in the actual attack and are the only officers in the companies which took part in the operation.
The enemy bombarded the captured trench heavily at once and continuously and the officer who was placed on guard at the new barricade has just been severely wounded. The leaves me actually with four 2nd Lts, myself, my Second in Command, and my Adjutant.
The men have suffered heavily and although I have not yet received the total list of casualties – I fear that the two companies have lost 50% in killed and wounded. Both the Company Serjeant-Majors were killed. I am informed by the medical officer and by my 2ic that the men are however in good spirits and have got unlimited pluck in them notwithstanding.
At 04:45 am the enemy made a determined counter attack – crossing the road and attacking our barricade in the trench whilst large numbers attacked across the open, from another trench near the road. These attacks were all beaten off and the enemy driven back over the road. The Lewis Guns killed a considerable number in the open.
In the trench itself, twenty Germans were killed. The remainder scattered across the open and across the road. The Lewis Guns doing good execution.
I cannot speak too highly of the gallantry and determination of Lt Proctor, and Lt Gravett who personally let their men with very great courage and I wish to recommend these officers for the Military Cross. Lt Proctors jaw is smashed, Lt Gravett I trust is not so severely wounded.
R. Cobbold, Lt Colonel, Comd 10th Loyal N. Lancs.
Paul McCormick is the creator and administrator for the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment website. Since 2010 he has been researching the soldiers that served during the First World War and sharing their stories on his website. You can contact Paul through the website 'Contact Me' page or on Twitter and Facebook.
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- “I firmly believe I will pull through,” he proudly stated “The Germans can break my head, but they can never break my heart”
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