Follow by Email

Thursday, 26 September 2013

IDLE and DISSOLUTE – The History of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery

IDLE and DISSOLUTE – The History of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery
Written by Phil Adams published The Memoir Club and printed at JASPRINT 12 Tower Road, Washington NE372SH

This month (March 2015) has witnessed a number of events coinciding with the centenary of the formation of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade.  On 2nd March, his Right Worshipful the Mayor of Sunderland Cllr. Stuart Porthouse and the lady Mayoress Mrs Marie Porthouse unveiled a blue plaque at Houghton Hall, Houghton-le-Spring, Co. Durham, the place of the original H.Q. of the Brigade.
Philip W. Adams author of IDLE and DISSOLUTE – The History of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery was also present to say a few words at the unveiling and attended the post event gathering and display of WW1 Memorabilia held at the nearby Keiper Hall, organised by the Heritage Department of Sunderland City Council and local Cllr. Shelia Ellis.
On Saturday 14th March – Phil Adams gave a talk on the history of the Brigade at the invitation of the FoSUMS at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. The Deputy Mayor Cllr. Barry Curran and the Deputy Lady Mayoress Mrs. Curran attended as did nearly one hundred members and guests (some of who had travelled from as far away as Portsmouth).
Finally Phil is proud to announce that a Limited Hardback Edition (160 copies) of IDLE and DISSOLUTE has been produced by the Memoir Club and Jasprint. Copies are now available, priced at £30.00 each and can be obtained by contacting Phil directly via email by (Mobile) telephone 07749-403942 or by visiting the website
Also anyone wishing to learn more about Phil's ongoing search for more of the men that served with the 160th Brigade or the 15 years research behind the book is welcome to visit the Brigade Facebook page via the following link:

A tribute to Wearside war heroes is to be unveiled. Sarah Stoner reports.

THE bravery of a ‘forgotten’ band of Wearside war heroes is to finally be remembered – 100 years after fighting for King and Country.
The soldiers of the close-knit ‘Idle and Dissolute’ unit saw action across Europe in battle after bloody battle during the Great War – winning dozens of gallantry awards.
But, a century after the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery was raised, the courageous deeds of its 2,500 troops have been largely forgotten – until now.
Next month will see council bosses erect a blue heritage plaque honouring the unit at Houghton Hall, its former HQ – 100 years and one day after the brigade was formed.
And the move has delighted author Philip Adams, who has campaigned for greater recognition for the 160th since publishing a definitive history of the unit in 2013.
“Their deeds were just as heroic as those of their illustrious infantry comrades of the Durham Light Infantry, but there was no proper memorial to them until now,” he said.
“These men carried the Wearside name into battle. I wrote the book to ensure their sacrifices were not forgotten and I’m delighted there will now be a plaque as well.
“As a final gesture, I would love to see a standard or a flag dedicated to the brigade, which could be displayed at Sunderland’s Remembrance Parade each November.”
More than 25,000 Wearside men stepped up to fight for King and Country in the ‘war to end all wars’ – a conflict the like of which had never been seen before in Britain.
Such was the show of patriotism that, in 1915, the Mayor and Recruiting Committee raised both the 160th (Wearside) Brigade and the 20th Battalion Wearside DLI.
The losses would be grievous – one soldier in every ten – but the courage of the men was supreme. The 160th won 157 medals for gallantry, while the 20th collected 163.
“Public subscription helped raise the Wearside Brigade in March 1915, with shipyard workers and miners providing the backbone of the new unit,” said Phil, from Stoke.
“But every trade skill was represented, from bakers to hat makers, dairymen and lawyers. University graduates fought alongside hewers, boilermakers and riveters.
“The capabilities and skills of these men, particularly those from the mines, as well as their capacity for hard work, would prove to be invaluable on the battlefield.
“Indeed, the 160th officers were immensely proud of their men for numerous reasons – not least their ability to dig the deepest and safest trenches in double quick time.”
Months of training in artillery and horsemanship followed the creation of the brigade until, in January 1916, the troops embarked for the battlefields of northern France.
Action at the Battle of the Somme, Arras, Passchendaele and Ypres soon followed. Tragically, 135 men would lose their lives in battle, with many more being wounded.
“The ironic tag of The Idle and Dissolute was given to the men of the 160th as an affectionate tribute to their formidable fighting prowess,” said Phil. “Initially it started as an insult from their commanding officer during early training, when commenting on their inadequacies, but it was later worn as a badge of honour.
“It just goes to show how much this unit of miners and labourers made other people stand up and take notice.”
Phil’s interest in the 160th was sparked by family history research into his great uncle William Henry Adams, who fought with the brigade and was killed in March 1918.
Unfortunately, as the majority of the unit’s personnel records were destroyed during World War Two, Phil’s investigations ground to a halt with little further information.
“To make up for my disappointment of not knowing what happened to William, I decided to research the 160th instead. I saw it as a debt of honour and a labour of love.
“That the men won 157 gallantry medals, including four Distinguished Service Orders, 19 Military Crosses and ten Distinguished Conduct Medals, is a real tribute to them.”
The brigade was officially disbanded in August 1919, just over four years after being raised, but reunions for old comrades were held at the Palatine Hotel until the 1960s.
“These men should never be forgotten. They were so modest about their part in the war that stories of their brave deeds were not recorded in their lifetime,” said Phil.
“It is therefore very fitting that a plaque to these brave soldiers is to be unveiled a century after they joined up to fight. I’m very, very pleased this is finally happening.”
The unveiling of the plaque on March 2 forms part of a programme of events and activities organised to mark the centenary of WWI by Sunderland City Council and its partners.
Councillor John Kelly, the council’s portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, today applauded the bravery of the men of the 160th and said: “During the First World War the brigade was the only artillery unit to be afforded the official “Wearside” title, which they carried into battle many times. This commemoration event gives our city the opportunity to take pride in the contribution these brave men made to the war effort and to remember the many sacrifices they made while fighting for our freedom.”
Extraordinary tales of Wearside heroes
THE men of Wearside’s 160th Brigade were in the middle of the storm when German attackers launched a barrage of 1,160,000 shells on March 21, 1918.Death and destruction rained down on the Allied battlefront during the Battle of St Quentin, leaving thousands dead, gassed, captured or wounded.But, although many British troops were forced to retreat, one Wearsider rode straight into the heart of the conflict - to retrieve abandoned guns.George Moses, a former horseman from South Hylton, was awarded a Military Medal for his bravery - but rarely spoke about his actions after the war.
“I am very proud of my grandfather; my whole family is,” Stephen Scrafton revealed in 2013. “He was an ordinary, decent man who did something extraordinary.”
WALTER Robinson was barely 18 when he signed up to fight for King and Country with the 160th Wearside in 1916 - and his service would last just a year. The youngster, son of award-winning police officer Fairley Robinson, left his job as an apprentice boilermaker to take up arms, quickly winning promotion to corporal.After arriving in France on January 23, 1916, Walter fought his way across the country at battlegrounds including Fleubaix, Albert and the first day of the Somme. The corporal survived the bloody carnage without injury but, within days, was summoned back to work in Sunderland - due to a chronic shortage of boilermakers. “I am very proud of him,” said his son Jack in 2013.
“He developed a love of horses during the war, going on to join the mounted section of Sunderland Borough Police.”
•WEARSIDE teenager James Moody Donaldson was so desperate to fight for King and Country that the 16-year-old lied about his age to join the army.The Southwick lad saw action at some of the Great War’s bloodiest battles, including Passchendaele and Arras, as a driver with B Battery of 160th (Wearside) Brigade.Young James concluded his war with a role in the bloody Offensive of Picardy, in which the 160th Brigade helped to halt the German advance to channel ports.But, although the brave young man made it home safely once peace was declared in 1918, he would die during the next war – after an accident in the shipyards.“James Donaldson was destined to be one of history’s heroes and is greatly remembered by his family,” said his great nephew Kevin Donaldson.

Some of the 160th’s award-winning soldiers
Richard Baggott. Born in Washington. Awarded Military Medal and Bar.
Richard Collins. Miner from Grangetown. Military Medal.
Thomas Cowan. Labourer from Sunderland. Military Medal.
Charles Curle. A shoeing smith from Chester-le-Street. Military Medal.
Thomas Dixon. Sunderland coal miner. Military Medal.
John Dryden. Miner from Fordland Place, Sunderland. Military Medal.
Thomas French. Born 1885 in Burnhope. Military Medal.
Mark Glancey. Born Southwick 1897, died February 19, 1919. Military Medal.
Abner Harrold. From Sunderland. Meritorious Service Medal.
Charles Hamill. Born in Sunderland, killed in action 1918. Military Medal.
George Herring. Born 1896 at Bishopwearmouth. Military Medal and Bar.
Thomas Hudson. of Southwick. Killed in action 1918. Military Medal.
Oscar Jepson. Blacksmith of Milburn Street, Sunderland. Military Medal.
John Johnson. From Sacriston. Distinguished Conduct Medal.
John Lowther. From Gragetown. Military Medal.
Frederick Mackel. Of Hind Street, Bishopwearmouth. Military Medal.
Thomas McManus. Policeman from 8 Marlborough Street. Military Medal.
George Moses. South Hylton horseman. Military Medal.
John Naden. Plater from Ward Street. Military Medal and Croix De Guerre.
Reevel Pounder. Of Hendon Street, Sunderland. Military Medal.
John Reynolds. Miner from Pity Me. Military Medal.
William Sherrington. From Sunderland. Military Medal.
Edgar Spendley. Born 1891 in Sunderland. Military Medal.
Alfred Swinhoe. From Monkwearmouth. Meritorious Service Medal.
William Taylor. Born circa 1879, Southwick. Military Medal and Silver Badge.
Henry Wilson. Railway clerk from Monkwearmouth. Military Medal.

Just received a copy of your book in the mail this morning and it is amazing!  I own 200+ Great War unit histories and yours has to be the best of all!  An excellent model for anyone writing a unit history to emulate.  Congratulations on a job very well done.                           Dick Flory


Just received a newly published Royal Artillery unit history that has to rank as one of the best: Idle and Dissolute: The History of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery by Philip W Adams.  The book is 411 pages which are crammed full of information on the brigade and excellent maps and photos.  The first 150+ pages (Chapters I through VIII) cover the history of the brigade from 1915 through 1919 with excellent maps and numerous photos.  Each of these chapters gives details on the location, services, casualties, awards and war activities of the Brigade and are illustrated by many photos of members (both officers and other ranks) of the brigade. Chapter IX covers the numerous reunions of brigade personnel, again with numerous photos.  In terms of data, the best part of the book are the appendices (218 pages) which include annotated nominal rolls of both officers and men; profiles (with numerous photos) of the officers of the brigade and similar profiles of many NCOs and men; a detailed roll of honour; and lists of awards to personnel of the Brigade. 

In my opinion this is the way a unit history should be written!  Well worth the price (£24.99).  For those interested it may be obtained from The Memoir Club, Ltd, Dartmoor Suite, The Courtyard, Arya House, Langley Park, Durham DH7 9XE (0191-373-1739).

This book is without doubt the definitive history of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade. It has been meticulously researched by the author who describes it as both a 'labour of love' to a long lost relative and a ‘debt of honour’ to all 2,500 men that served with the unit. The title of the book The Idle and Dissolute is taken from the ironic nickname given to the soldiers of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery during the early days of training in Co Durham.  The 'I & D' name stuck and was proudly worn as a badge of honour by all who served. 
It was public subscription that helped raise the Wearside Brigade in March 1915, with local miners and shipyard workers providing the backbone of the new unit. However during the course of WW1 men from all parts of the British Isles as well as from South Africa, America, Australia, Canada, Mexico, China, France, Argentina and later India would swell the ranks.
The 160th Brigade embarked for battlefields in northern France during January 1916 and proceeded to take part in the famed battles of The Somme, Arras, Passchendaele and the Great Offensives of 1918.
The author Philip W. Adams interest in the 160th Brigade dates back to his childhood, when he became fascinated by a photo of a soldier hanging on a wall. All he knew was that it showed his grandfather's brother, William Henry Adams, a Gunner with the Royal Field Artillery who had been killed in the First World War. 
The old picture proved the inspiration Phil needed to start a 10 year research project into his uncle William and the 160th (Wearside) Brigade. His investigations revealed that William and 59 of his comrades were among the 38,000 casualties suffered by the British Army on the 21st March 1918 – a fateful day that would prove to be both the darkest and finest hours in the history of the Brigade.
By the end of the Great War, the Wearside Brigade had suffered many casualties. From the original 766 volunteers, that enlisted in Co Durham during 1915 and marched off to France in 1916, only 156 marched back into Sunderland, for their ‘Welcome Home’ parade in 1919.
The men of the Brigade were awarded 157 medals for gallantry. This included four Distinguished Service Orders, nineteen Military Crosses and ten Distinguished Conduct Medals. The Brigade was officially disbanded in August 1919, but those who survived remained close friends. The first of many reunions was held at the Palatine Hotel, in 1919, and the meetings continued until the 1960s.

This book is a must have, it weaves together private documents, photographs, memories, letters and diaries, to tell for the first time the full story of the Idle and Dissolute. Soldiers, so modest and humble about their part in the Great War that the story of their deeds was never fully recognised in their own lifetime.