The first day of the Somme

The first day of the Battle of the Somme, the 1st July 1916, is widely known to have been the worst day in the history of the British Army. There were over 50,000 British Army casualties that day of whom 20,000 were killed. Although ten Lancastrians were killed that day, it was only the 8th equal worst day of the war for the city. The two worst days were both in 1915: the 8th May during the Second Battle of Ypres and the 25th September during the Battle of Loos. 19 Lancastrians died on both of these days. The first day of the Somme was not even the worst day of 1916 for the city, that was 15th August with 12 deaths.

The first day of the Somme was, however, different from other high casualty days. On most of these days the majority of casualties were from one, or at most two, battalions that took very heavy casualties. On the 8th May 1915 for example, 15 of the casualties were from the 1st/5th and 2nd Battalions (Bn.) of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. On the 25th September ten of the casualties were from the 8th or 7th Bns. of the Seaforth Highlanders. These units had recruited heavily from Lancaster so, when the unit took heavy casualties, the city was badly affected. On the first day of the Somme, however, the ten casualties came from seven different units as shown below. This shows how many units were involved that day and how widespread the casualties were. The third column of this table gives the total number of men killed from the unit that day. A battalion would typically have between 500-1000 men.

Battalion Lancastrian deaths Total Deaths
(Source: CWGC website)[1]
1st Bn. King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment 3 119
1st Bn. King’s Own Scottish Borderers 2 125
Tyneside Scottish Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers 1 161
16th Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers 1 131
2nd Bn. Border Regiment 1 87
2nd Bn. Yorkshire Regiment 1 66
9th Bn. Cheshire Regiment 1 5


The 1st Bn. of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment was in the centre of the assault on the villages of Thiepval, Beaumont Hamel, Serre and Gommecourt. They suffered 8 officers killed, 12 wounded and 2 missing with 387 other ranks casualties out of 507 who went into action. “By the evening [they] were back in their own trenches with nothing to show for their day’s work but casualties”[2]

The Lancastrians killed that day were:

John Bleasdale: Aged 30, married. He lived at 8 Bank Rd, Skerton and his parents at 3 Clarence St. After the war his wife Lily moved to 87 Main St, Skerton. He had previously been wounded at Gallipoli and his brother Thomas has been killed on the 25th Sept 1915 at Loos.

Bryant S Browning: Aged 29, married with 4 children. His addresses are given as 1 Marton St and 1 King St. He was awarded the Mons Star for his service early in the war. His younger brother Arthur was killed the following day, also on the Somme, aged 19. Two other brothers also served but are believed to have survived.

Percy Denman: Aged 41 he was married with two children. His sister lived at 31 Oswald Street and was head teacher at St. John’s School. He had been in the army for 21 years.

Thomas Hudson: Aged 36, he lived at 2 St. John’s Place and had been educated at the National School. Like some other older men, he had previously fought in the Boer War and re-enlisted to fight in the Great War.

Stephen Kelly: A married man who lived at 43 Balmoral Rd, Moorlands.

Frederick Lupton: Aged 27, he was single. His family lived at 77 Willow Lane, he had moved to Tyneside before the war having been educated at St. Thomas’ School.

David Plant: Lived on Bridge Lane, a street that has now largely disappeared due to the development of the one-way system but used to run from the end of China St, past the Three Mariners pub to near where the Millennium Bridge is now.

Joseph Rowley: Aged 29, he lived at 29 Havelock St, Bowerham and had gone to Scotforth C of E and Bowerham Schools. He was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Bn. King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment and had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Joseph Standen: Aged 25 and single. He had been educated at St Peters and Lancaster Royal Grammar School and had moved to Newcastle to work as a teacher. His mother and brother, Edward, lived at 36 North Road. Edward was killed in April 1918.

Benjamin Tyldsley: Aged 32, married to Shannah with whom he lived at 17 Albion St. His younger brother Alfred was wounded in 1916 from which he subsequently died in August 1921. Alfred is buried in Lancaster Cemetery.



[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

[2] J.M. Cowper, The King’s Own: The story of a royal regiment. Volume III. 1914-1950. (Aldershot: Gale & Polden, 1957)  p. 115