After the final phase of the campaign in November 1916, military operations by both sides were mostly restricted to survival in the rain, snow, and shell-holes.
The army was ordered to keep German attention on the Somme front, by making localised attacks to deflect attention from preparations for the Allied offensive at Arras, planned for April 1917. During one of these operations, Driver Tom Beesley died of wounds on 13 January 1917: “Driver Beesley was engaged with a fatigue party near the trenches, on the return journey a shell burst near the party, and mortally wounded ... He was buried the same afternoon in a military cemetery”. His grave marker must have been lost in later fighting as he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.
He was probably the first conscript ? but certainly the first member of the local Church Lads’ Brigade ? to lose his life in the war.
Large scale operation on the Somme may have petered out because of exhaustion and the winter’s rain but in Mesopotamia [Iraq] conditions were ideal for fighting and the British Army under new General Maude were determined to avenge the disastrous surrender at the fortress of Kut at Easter 1915.