This interesting photograph attached (WWS064) shows some King’s (Liverpool) Regiment soldiers, of the 8th (Irish) Battalion, immediately after their return from a night raid on the German trenches on the 18th April 1916.
The raid was a success, killing 60 German soldiers, with only one British casualty. Some of the men can be seen with trophies from the raid in the form of spiked German helmets.
Some of the men hold bayonets, they would have been the leaders of the raid, charged with the responsibility of leading the attack into the German trench. The men who are carrying just rifles would have provided supporting fire on the trench covering their comrades.
The man missing from the photograph was 2/Lt. Edward Baxter, the Battalion’s Bombing Officer, who was killed during the raid. Baxter, a champion motor bike rider had only been in France since January 1916. He had been born in Kidderminster but had moved to Liverpool before the war to become a teacher at Skerry’s College, he lived in Blantyre Road, Sefton Park. He was posthumously awarded a V.C., one of only six men in the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment to receive the military’s greatest honour during World War One. The official record of Baxter’s V.C. explains that he was awarded it,
‘For conspicuous bravery. Prior to a raid on the hostile line he was engaged during two nights in cutting wire close to the enemy’s trenches. The enemy could be heard on the other side of the parapet.
Second-Lieutenant Baxter, while assisting in the wire cutting, held a bomb in his hand with the pin drawn ready to throw. On one occasion the bomb slipped and fell to the ground, but he instantly picked it up, unscrewed the base plug, and took out the detonator, which he smothered in the ground, thereby preventing the alarm being given, and undoubtedly saved many casualties. Later he led the storming party with the greatest gallantry, and was the first man into the trench, shooting the sentry with his revolver. He then assisted to bomb dug-outs, and finally climbed out of the trench and assisted the last man over the parapet. After this he was not seen again though search parties went out at once to look for him. There seems no doubt that he lost his life in his great devotion to duty.’
The man on the far left of the second row, whose face is only half in the picture, was Private James Condon. He was an Irishman who lived in Chester. He had been dispatched from the Cheshire Regiment Territorials shortly before the war because he was too old to serve. However such was Condon’s determination to fight in the First World War he lied about his age so that he could join the Liverpool Irish. At the time of the photograph military records showed him as 44, however he was in fact 46. Condon died of wounds sustained in action on the 12th September 1916, five months after this photograph was taken.
The man on the left of the front row was Captain James Mahon, the leader of this night raid. He was 27 years old at the time and had been born in Liverpool and lived in Wallasey. He worked for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board as a clerk, but had also been a soldier in the Territorial Army since 1910. The man third from right on the second row, with his face blacked, was 2/Lt. Paul Limrick, the Battalion’s Intelligence officer. He was born in Liverpool and joined the Battalion in 1915. He was only 19 years old at the time of this photograph having joined up straight from the Liverpool Institute School where he had been a Sergeant in the OTC. On the same day as James Condon died, 12th September 1916, Limrick and Mahon were standing next to each other when a shell exploded. Limrick was killed instantly whilst Mahon was very seriously wounded in the head and chest. He died the next day of his wounds having never regained consciousness.