Date of birth: 1893
Date of death: 5.7.1916
Regiment: King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of John and Elizabeth Hutchinson
Rank: Lance Corporal
Service number: 241223
James Gregg enlisted in the 1/5th Battalion of the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry which was formed in August 1914 in Doncaster as part of 3rd West Riding Brigade, 49th West Riding Division. 15 May1915: formation became 148th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division.
The West Riding Division was a formation of the Territorial Force. It was formed as a result of the reforms of the army carried out in 1908 under the Secretary of State for War, Richard Burdon Haldane and was one of 14 Divisions of the peacetime TF.
However, as no ‘Star’ was awarded it is unlikely that Gregory entered France until after the end of 1915.
The Battle of Albert, 1 July – 13 July 1916, was the opening phase of the British and French offensive that became the Battle of the Somme. As such it includes the first day of the Somme, the most costly day in British military history and one that has coloured our image of the First World War ever since.
The artillery bombardment began seven days before the infantry were due to go in. It was not as effective as had been hoped, leaving large portions of the German front line intact. The German lines on the Somme contained a large number of deep concrete bunkers, which protected the Germans from the British bombardment, allowing them to emerge once the bombardment ended. Worse, along most of the British front the bombardment failed to destroy the German wire. The attack on 1 July was made by eleven divisions along a fourteen mile front from Montauban to Serre. Haig hoped to capture the German front line along this entire front, then break through their second and third lines, before turning left and rolling up the German lines to the sea.
This would prove to be the most ridiculously optimistic plan. Along the northern two thirds of the front virtually no ground was taken. A few lodgements were made in the German front lines, but they were impossible to extend and difficult to support. The British suffered 57,000 casualties on 1 July, the most costly single day in British military history. Thirteen divisions at full strength contained 130,000 men, so the British suffered over 40% casualties in a single day.
On the right of the line the picture was a little less depressing. Between Maricourt and Fricourt the British XIII corps captured the entire German front line. To its left the 7th Division (XV corps) failed to take Fricourt, but the 21st Division, also of XV corps, captured 1,000 yards of the line, isolated Fricourt, which the Germans abandoned overnight.
At the end of the first day the British High Command had little idea of the scale of the disaster. Communications back from the front line were difficult or impossible, and it would take the best part of a week before the total casualty figures for the first day were known. Haig was encouraged to order a renewal of the assault along the entire front on 2 July.
2 July began with an unsuccessful German counterattack at the junction of the British and French armies, where both had advanced from their own front lines. During the day Haig’s planned attack was cancelled corps by corps as the scale of the losses suffered on the previous day became clearer. Very few brigades were still in a fit state to organise another major assault so soon.
The army was still in chaos on 3 July, when an attempt was made to capture Ovillers and Thiepval. The plan of attack was repeated changed, partly to allow units longer to prepare and partly in an attempt to save the already limited stocks of artillery ammunition. The German counter-bombardment had destroyed most of the field telephone wires connected various headquarters to their artillery batteries, so the changes in orders often failed to get through in time.
James Gregg Hutchinson was killed on 5th July 1916 probably in the attack on Thiepval as this is where he is commemorated. He has no known grave.
Before looking at the Hutchinson Family I will explain use of the name above. The name on the memorial is Gregory but the only match available on the CWGC list is the name James Greg Hutchinson. The following detail will explain this anomaly.
John Hutchinson was a Pontefract man who married a Brotherton girl called Elizabeth (Eliza) Ann Greenwood in 1880.
By 1881 they were living in Low Street, Brotherton and were to continue living there for at least the next 30 years. William was described as a ‘lime burner’ - there were many lime burning pits or kilns in and around Brotherton especially either side of the railway line towards Burton Salmon and further over towards the A1 Great North Road on the approach to Fairburn.
In 1891 30 year old John was a ‘coal miner’ and had 4 children - Mary (9), Louisa (6), George (4) and Eliza (2).
By 1901 there were 5 children in the family home – Louisa (16), Ethel (12), George (14), Gregory (7) and John William (4). William was then a ‘way cleaner’ underground, whilst 14 year old George was a ‘pit-pony driver’. There had also been a daughter called Lottie born in 1883 but died in 1884.
It is during the 1890’s that the ‘names’ issue can be explained. On 16th April 1893 Gregory Hutchinson was born but died later that year (3rd quarter- July-Sept). The following year on 5th April 1894 James Gregory Hutchinson was born. This would explain why in 1901 the Gregory was listed as being 7 years old. However, I believe the definitive evidence is contained in the 1911 census.
The Hutchinson’s were still in Low Street and though depleted, the household consisted of William, described as a ‘Coal Miner - Hewer’ and Eliza Ann along with James Gregg then 17 years old and a ‘Pony Driver- Coal’. Also in the house were John William (14) a ‘trapper’ in a coal pit. This was a horrible job often conducted in pitch blackness and entailed the opening of traps or doors to allow entry and exit from a shaft. Such doors were necessary as part of the ventilation system of the pit. There was also 5 year old Harriet and boarder named Walter Greenwood who, presumably, was Eliza’s brother.
It seems as though James Gregg did not marry and left no direct descendants. His brother George married a Ferrybridge girl in 1910/11 and in 1911 they were living in Mount Pleasant, Holes, Knottingley.