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Claude Mitchell Lawrence

Private Claude Mitchell Lawrence, 301205, Royal Scots, 9th Battalion

Claude Mitchell Lawrence was born in February 1891, the first child, and only son of two children born to Ossett mungo manufacturer John Lawrence and his wife Clara (nee Walsh), who married in Spring 1890. John Lawrence had previously married Hannah (nee Machell) in late 1880, but she died in early 1889, aged only 27, leaving John Lawrence, a widower with three children from their short marriage.

In 1891 and 1901, John and Clara were living on Dale Street Ossett (possibly Elder House), latterly with two of John’s boys from his first marriage and three children, two boys and a girl, from his second marriage. All of the children were born in Ossett between 1882 and 1897. In 1911, John and Clara were still living in their seven roomed home, 'Elder House', on Dale Street, Ossett, with three of John’s children by Clara, and one by his first wife, Hannah. Claude Lawrence was now 20 years of age and was working as a clerk in his father’s mungo business.

At the age of 24 years and 10 months, on the 6th December 1915, Claude Lawrence, an assistant mungo manufacturer, of 'Elder house', Dale Street Ossett, enlisted at Ossett and was posted to the Army Reserve for training and development. He was 5’ 1½” tall, weighed 106lbs, with a chest measurement of 32½” and had a deformed little finger on his left hand. Otherwise his physical development was classed as 'satisfactory' and he was mobilised on the 7th February 1916, joining the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI).

On the 15th April 1916, Claude Lawrence was transferred to the 7th Battalion, Royal Scots. Between the 1st and 30th September 1916, he was 'released for farm work'. In early 1917, he was in Dublin with his unit when, in January, he was treated for astigmatism (an eye defect) and in May 1917, he was charged with overstaying his leave pass by one day and was punished with 10 days confined to barracks.

Claude embarked for France on the 8th June 1917 and was at Etaples Depot on the following day. Two weeks later, on the 26th June 1917 he was posted to the 9th Battalion, Royal Scots, joining them in the field on the same day. On the 3rd August 1917, he was reported wounded and missing.

1/9th (Highlanders) Battalion of the Royal Scots (nicknamed the 'Dandy Ninth') was formed in August 1914 at 89, East Claremont Street, Edinburgh as part of Lothian Brigade, Scottish Coast Defences. On the 26th February 1915, they landed at Le Havre and transferred to 81st Brigade, 27th Division. On the 24th November 1915, the battalion transferred to 14th Brigade, 5th Division and then on the 25th January 1916 they transferred to Third Army Troops. On the 1st March 1916, they transferred to 154th Brigade, 51st (Highland) Division. In 1917 They took part in the Arras Offensive, The Battle of Pilckem Ridge, The Battle of Menin Road Ridge and the Cambrai Operations. On the 6th February 1918, the battalion transferred to 183rd Brigade, 61st (South Midland) Division and on the 1st June 1918, transferred to 46th Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division.

When Private Claude M. Lawrence was killed in action, the 9th Battalion, Royal Scots was serving with the 154th Brigade, 51st (Highland) Division. They were involved in heavy fighting at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, a phase of 3rd Ypres, from the 31st July to 2nd August, 1917. 154th Brigade was in reserve when its two sister Brigades 152 and 153 attacked successfully, capturing the front lines and advancing on Langemark.

Private Claude M. Lawrence had served for 1 year and 241 days. On the 8th July 1918, his 'death was accepted for official purposes' by the War Office. In April 1920, his next of kin, his father, John Lawrence of 'Elder House', Dale Street, Ossett was required to provide the Army with the details of his Claude’s close relatives. He listed Albert and Clara Lawrence as 'full blood' siblings and Alfred, John and Frank Lawrence as 'half blood' siblings. All of the children, by then in their twenties, were still living at 'Elder House', Dale Street, Ossett.

Claude Mitchell Lawrence’s medal card records his posthumous award of the British and Victory medals and his Royal Scots service number 301205. His KOYLI service number is not recorded on the card but was 27410.

Pilckem Ridge August 1917

Above: British wounded at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, August 1917

Private Claude Mitchell Lawrence, aged 26 years, son of John and Clara Lawrence, 'Elder House', Dale Street, Ossett, died on the 3rd August 1917. He is remembered on Panel 11 at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, 1 Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Ypres (now Ieper) is a town in the Province of West Flanders. The Memorial is situated at the eastern side of the town on the road to Menin (Menen) and Courtrai (Kortrijk).

The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.

The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.

There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele.

The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success, but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September. The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates casualties from the forces of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and United Kingdom who died in the Salient. In the case of United Kingdom casualties, only those prior 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions). United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war. New Zealand casualties that died prior to 16 August 1917 are commemorated on memorials at Buttes New British Cemetery and Messines Ridge British Cemetery.

The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick, was unveiled by Lord Plumer on 24 July 1927.

References:

1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site