When static trench warfare took hold over most of the Western Front in late 1914, following the First Battle of Ypres, it meant that many areas were fought over almost continuously.
Although we may associate certain dates with a particular place, it doesn’t mean that men weren’t fighting and being killed there throughout the conflict.
In the Ypres Salient, Hooge Chateau and its stables were the scene of very fierce fighting throughout the First World War. On 31 October 1914, the staffs of the 1st and 2nd Divisions were wiped out when the chateau was shelled. On 21 February 1915, the Germans exploded the first mine beneath the trenches at Hooge. From 24 May to 3 June 1915, the chateau was defended against German attacks and on 19 July 1915, the British exploded one and a half tons of ammonal beneath the German positions and consolidated the huge crater torn in the German lines.
On 30 July, the Germans took the chateau. It was the first notable use of the Flammenwerfer (or flame-thrower) against the British and in the attack at 03.15 the Germans made effective use of this terrifying weapon, operated by soldiers with gas cylinders strapped to their backs and a lit nozzle attached to each cylinder. The effect of the surprise attack caused panic in the British opposition but although initially pushed back, their line was stabilised later the same night. In two days of severe fighting the British lost 31 officers and 751 other ranks.
On 9 August, the chateau and the crater were regained by the 6th Division. Although on 25 September 1915 a further British attack was an expensive failure, costing some 4,000 casualties the British continued to hold the crater until 6 June 1916 when the Germans detonated four mines beneath the British trenches and retook the crater and the British front line. On 31 July 1917 Hooge and the surrounding area was again captured by the British on the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), when the 8th Division advanced one mile beyond. It was lost for the last time on 21 March 1918 when the Germans recaptured Hooge and almost took Ypres during their Spring Offensive. It was regained by the 9th (Scottish) and 29th Divisions on 28 September 1918 as the final British offensive of the war (the “100 days” offensive) pushed the Germans inexorably eastwards before the Armistice brought hostilities to an end.
By the end of the war there was nothing left of the chateau and although the landscape itself has recovered and many of the houses were rebuilt soon after the war, the chateau never was. Flemish houses are built of brick and bricklayers the world over a familiar with the “Flemish Bond” method of bricklaying. James Hudson would have probably been aware of the technique also. He was a bricklayer from a family of bricklayers, his father John and elder brother John William also plying that trade. In the 1911 census James is shown as living at 29 Southgate, Market Weighton, with his father and mother Rose Hannah, elder sister Annie Elizabeth, who worked as a domestic servant and younger sister Fanny, a school girl. Following the outbreak of war, James Levi Hudson enlisted with the 1st Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment and landed in France on 9 November 1914. The 1st East Yorkshires were part of the 18th Brigade, itself part of the 6th Division and would take part in the battle to retake Hooge on 9 August 1915.
Sadly he was killed, aged 20, in that fighting and as we approach the centenary of his death we remember the sacrifice he made and that of hundreds of thousands like him. Like many who were killed in the Ypres Salient, particularly those killed in the early years of the war, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate.
If you’re interested in researching your ancestors who fought in the Great War then I would recommend this website as a first port of call: http://www.1914-1918.net/
If you have any information or stories behind the names of the men on Market Weighton War Memorial then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at The Mortgage Advice Centre and Yorkshire Building Society agency on 01430 871112.