Sunday, 27 April 2014

4/8173 Private Arthur CONDRON (1897 – 1916)

I wrote in my last blog post about the first weeks of the Battle of the Somme. After the initial phase, the offensive evolved into a series of battles for prominent towns, woods and high grounds. Significant amongst these were the Battle of Delville Wood (14 July – 3 September 1916) and the Battle of Pozieres (23 July – 7 August 1916).

The Battle of Delville Wood, which involved an Allied offensive and German counter-offensive, was one of the last examples of close hand-to-hand infantry fighting on the Western Front. Casualties were high on both sides. Notable is the heroic action of the South African 1st Infantry Brigade, which suffered 80% casualties but held the wood. Amongst the British troops involved in the battle were the 3rd Division of the Fourth Army under General Rawlinson, including the West Yorkshire Regiment.

The Battle of Pozières involved the 1st Australian Division (Australian Imperial Force) as well as British troops. The fortified village of Pozières was captured by the Australian forces early in the battle, and the village was held against heavy German bombardment in the days that followed. The Australians lost as many men in the Battle of Pozières as in the whole of the Gallipoli campaign.

The Somme offensive was also notable for the first deployment of tanks on the battlefield by the British. Tanks were used in the battles of Flers-Courcelette, Morval and Thiepval Ridge.

The Battle of the Somme continued through September and October until the middle of November. Particularly in the latter stages of the battle, the Allied forces made what by then seemed significant advances. But overall, the gains by the Allies amounted to advancing the front line by a few miles. The total combined casualties on both sides in the battle, though still debated, undoubtedly amounted to more than one million men, including three hundred thousand killed. In human lives, it was one of the costliest battles in history.

Private Arthur CONDRON (service no. 4/8173) died on 18 August 1916 in the Battle of the Somme.

Arthur CONDRON was born in Leeds in 1897, the third child of Thomas and Mary Ann (née THAXTER) CONDRON. In the 1911 UK census, Arthur is recorded as a steam hammer driver and is living at home with his parents, brother and two sisters. Arthur enlisted in the West Yorkshire Regiment (“Prince of Wales’s Own”) in Leeds and, at the time of his death, was serving in its 12th Battalion.

Arthur’s father Thomas CONDRON was born in Aldershot in 1858: his birth is registered as Thomas CONDRAN in the registration district of Farnham in the second quarter of that year. In the 1871 census he is recorded as a valet in Portsea, near Portsmouth. In 1877 he enlisted for a 12-year term of duty in the British Army, at which time his occupation was recorded as seaman, and he served in India (1877-78, 1880-85, 1887-89), Afghanistan (1878-1880) and Burma (1885-87). Thomas was discharged from the army in 1889, and married Mary Ann THAXTER on 2 June 1890 at St. George’s church, Leeds. The couple had four children: Thomas Francis (born 1891), Elsie Margaret (1894), Arthur (1897) and Gladys (1901). All four children were baptised at Christchurch, Leeds. Thomas is recorded as an inspector of telegraph messages (1891), town postman (1911) and attendant (1920): he died in 1938, and Mary Ann died the following year.

Arthur’s grandfather was also a Thomas CONDRON, and according to Arthur’s parents' marriage certificate, Thomas CONDRON senior was a tailor.

Arthur CONDRON is memorialized on the Thiepval Memorial in northern France.

For other blog posts about CONDR*Ns in the First World War, click on "First World War" in the Labels list on the right of the blog web page. Comments and corrections welcome, either by leaving a comment below or by email to me: CONDRAN[AT]ONE-NAME.ORG

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A/7579 Private Patrick CONDRON (1894 - 1916)

The Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November 1916) still has a particular resonance, especially in the United Kingdom. It was one of the costliest battles of the First World War in human lives, with more than one million casualties and more than 300,000 killed or missing. On the first day alone, British forces suffered 57,000 casualties including more than 19,000 men killed.   

The location of the Somme offensive in northern France was chosen in large part because it was planned as a join French-British action where the forces of the two allies were both engaged on the front line. It was not ideal militarily, since the German front line was strong there and commanded the high ground. British Commander-in-Chief General Haig would have preferred to mount an attack further north in Belgium. In fact, the Somme offensive was largely a British military action because the German offensive of 1916 against Verdun drew French efforts away to defend against that.

The area of the Battle of the Somme, showing the Allied front line on 1 July 1916 (solid line) and on 19 November (dashed line). Image courtesy of Cruttenden Connections.
The initial battle plan was founded in the optimistic conceit that the bombardment of the German lines by Allied artillery would cut the barbed-wire defences and leave no-one alive in the opposing trenches, meaning that the infantry troops of the British Fourth Army would be able to cross no-mans land and take the German trenches unopposed. In fact, many German troops saw out a week of artillery bombardment sheltering in dug-outs. Thus on the fateful morning of 1 July 1916, as the British infantry advanced from their trenches at 7.30am and walked across no-mans land, they were assailed by machine-gun fire from the German front line. The British battalions advanced at a slow walk, wave after wave in slow formation, their rifles held aslant in front of them with bayonets upwards. By the end of the day, many of the battalions (initially one thousand men strong) were left with hardly one hundred men.

Although the British barely made any advance around Thiepval, on the left and right flanks they had greater success. The British commanders were slow to capitalize on those successes in the coming days, but General Rawlinson leading the Fourth Army subsequently formed a plan to break through the German defences on the right in the area of Longueval. Advancing under cover of darkness after a brief artillery bombardment, the British troops started an assault early on 14 July against the Bazentin Ridge, and eventually captured Longueval on 18 July. The 33rd Division, including the 1st Battalion of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), were part of that action and the attack on High Wood on 20 July.

I shall write more of the Battle of the Somme in my next posting.

Private Patrick CONDRON (service no. A/7579) was killed in action on 20 July 1916 in the Battle of the Somme.

Patrick CONDRON was born in Queen’s County, Ireland, in late 1894, and baptised in Doonane Roman Catholic parish. His parents were Michael and Catherine (née KELLY) CONDRON. He moved with his family to Scotland, where he is listed in the 1901 census for New Monkland, Lanarkshire. In the 1911 census he is a coal miner (hewer) living in New Monkland with his father, two brothers and four sisters. Patrick enlisted in Maryborough, Queen’s County, with the Leinster Regiment (service no. 3157). At the time of his death he was serving in the 1st Battalion of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).

Michael CONDRON and Catherine (Kate) KELLY married on 22 October 1893 in Mayo church in the parish of Doonane, Queen’s County, Ireland. Michael is recorded as a miner in the 1901 Scottish census and as a coal miner (hewer) in the 1911 census. Catherine, who was born in about 1874, died in the first months of 1911. The couple had the following children: Patrick (1894), Mary (1896), Elizabeth (1898) and Bridget (1900), all born in Ireland; and Catherine, John and Michael, all born in New Monkland, Scotland.

Patrick CONDRON’s grandfather was also a Michael CONDRON. It seems likely that Patrick’s father Michael was baptised in Doonane in 1870. In that case, Patrick’s grandmother was Mary KEATING. Michael CONDRON and Mary KEATING married in Doonane in 1857. They had a number of children, including Mary (1858), John (1859), Michael (1870), Alicia (1872), James (1874), John (1876), Catherine (1878) and Bernard (1882). Michael CONDRON senior was a farmer, according to Michael CONDRON junior’s marriage certificate.

Patrick CONDRON is buried in the London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval, northern France.

The London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval (courtesy

For other blog posts about CONDR*Ns in the First World War, click on "First World War" in the Labels list on the right of the blog web page. Comments and corrections welcome, either by leaving a comment below or by email to me: CONDRAN[AT]ONE-NAME.ORG