Thursday, 31 August 2017

Thirty Second Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Friday 31st August 1917

This latest offensive by the British Expeditionary Force began on 31st July and so is now one month old. It has seen steady progress, even though greatly hampered by the poor weather which has resulted in a glutinous mess difficult to walk through, impossible for tanks to operate in and requiring superhuman efforts by gunners and gun teams to bring their pieces up following an advance.

2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, are presently in support south-west of Kemmel. The adjutant tells me that today one officer and nineteen ranks from the Royal Navy were attached to the Battalion and shown round Wytschsaete Ridge by company commanders. This strongly suggests that 63rd (Royal Naval) Division, in whose ranks can be found 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, may shortly be entering the line. They are currently in the vicinity of Oppy Wood near Arras(1)

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) In fact it would be October before the division was deployed at Ypres and then significantly further north than the Wytschaete Ridge.

Roll of Honour - 31st August 1917


Died of Wounds

9th Battalion
  • 17285 Lance Corporal Reginald MEADOWS, 25, attached 7th Battalion, born Tring [Hertfordshire], son of Henry Meadows of 98 Sunny Side Road, Chesham [Buckinghamshire] (Chesham Burial Ground)


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Thirty First Day of the Third Battle of Ypres


Thursday 30th August 1917

Two days ago we heard of a position abandoned by the enemy in 11th (Northern) Division’s sector. Today the same thing seems to have happened in the sector of 38th (Welsh) Division where a strong-point called The White House, due east of Langemarck, has been entered by patrols, unopposed.

1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, are still in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge where three companies are employed each night wiring the front lines whilst the other company works on maintaining railways. Today the Battalion has been joined by four new subalterns - Second Lieutenants E F K Graham, V E Farr, L J Hobson and H G Baker.

Source: X550/2/5

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Thirtieth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres


Wednesday 29th August 1917

With more rain today there have been no attacks, but 11th (Northern) Division, which yesterday occupied Vielles Maisons has been relieved by 58th (2nd/1st London) Division and 29th in the northern sector has been relieved by the Guards Division which performed so magnificently on 31st July. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

Twenty Ninth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Tuesday 28th August 1917

11th (Northern) Division have had an unexpected windfall today. Yesterday they managed to advance up to the walls of a strong-point called Vielles Maisons, but could not breach it. Overnight the enemy decided the place was untenable and abandoned it and the 6th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment has occupied it with alacrity.

We understand that, after the recent fighting in this sector of the battlefront, there are many men alive in No man’s Land, too wounded to reach safety for treatment. Something of a truce seems to have descended and there are reports of stretcher-bearers from both sides bringing in the wounded while ignored by those with weapons in their respective front lines. There are reports of wounded Germans being brought in by our men and, it seems, the reverse has also been true. In a war in which killing sometimes seems to have achieved the cold ferocity of a machine this is, to this correspondent, at any rate, a welcome reminder of our shared humanity. 

Roll of Honour - 28th August 1917


Died

8th Battalion
  • 33207 Private Charles Edward PATTISON, son of J Pattison of 2 Town Yard, Higham Ferrers [Northamptonshire] (Higham Ferrers Cemetery)

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Twenty Eighth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Monday 27th August 1917

A number of small attacks have again been made today, scattered across the battlefront around Ypres. 41st Brigade of 23rd Division, aided by two tanks, made an attack, in the rain, on about 600 yards of enemy trench running from the Menin Road through the western edge of Inverness Copse, without success.

To the north, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division attacked a line from Schuler Farm to Gallipoli Farm, again without success. On their right flank 15th (Scottish) Division tried to take Gallipoli Farm itself. On reaching the remains of the farm buildings heavy machine-gun fire forced the men of the Highland Light Infantry back. On the left flank of 61st Division, 144th Brigade of 48th (South Midland) Division attacked the strong-points of Springfield, Vancouver and Vampire Farms. As I write this there is word that Springfield Farm has finally fallen to the men of 1st/8th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, otherwise little of the muddy ground could be gained, the ooze being knee-deep in most places.


11th (Northern) Division, just to the north of 48th Division, They managed a short advance but were faced with severe machine gun fire from the German strong-points at Vampire, Vancouver and Pheasant Farms. However, we understand that the outer buildings of Vielles Maisons have been reached and part of Pheasant Trench has been taken. On the left flank of 11th Division, 38th (Welsh) Division tried to go forward but, we are given to understand, fell too far behind the barrage because of the bad going and were subjected to such intense fire that they could not advance.

Away from the mud of Flanders, we heard this morning that yesterday the 1st/5th Bedfords, in front of Gaza are occupying a position picturesquely entitled Wart Hill, a way behind the front line on Sire Ridge south of the enemy-occupied town. About 10.30 last night a man was killed while sleeping in a dug-out, the earth gave way and buried him(1). For the last ten days of so the Battalion has been digging communication trenches on Sheikh Abbas Ridge south-east of Gaza

Source: X550/6/8

(1) 200728 Private S Kirby, he is now buried in Gaza War Cemetery having been buried in Essex Cemetery at 18.30 on 27th August by Captain Rev. Marriot, Chaplain to the Forces.

Roll of Honour - 27th August 1917


Killed in Action

4th Battalion: work on Railway, Marine and Earl Trenches south of Oppy Wood
  • 30929 Private James BARNES, born Doddinghurst [Essex], resided Brentwood [Essex] (Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Saint-Laurent-Blangy)

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Twenty Seventh Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Sunday 26th August 1917

There has been rain again today, in this blighted month of August - steady at times, which has made the battlefield once again into a stagnant lake in places. With a temperature of 70 degrees(1) it has also been muggy and sapping. It has been the enemy’s turn to launch small, local attacks today. An outpost of 24th Division was seized in the vicinity of Shrewsbury Forest, but it was immediately retaken.




At dawn the Germans attacked four posts of 23rd Division south of Inverness Copse. Using flame-throwers they managed to force one of these posts back, but the men at the others beat them off.

(1) 21˚C

Roll of Honour - 26th August 1917


Killed in Action

4th Battalion: work on Railway, Marine and Earl Trenches south of Oppy Wood
  • 16563 Private John NEWMAN, born and resided Biggleswade (Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Saint-Laurent-Blangy)
  • 21275 Private Joseph SMITH, born Islington [London], resided Holloway [London] (Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Saint-Laurent-Blangy)
  • 40663 Private Bertie STEVENSON, ex-45161 Suffolk Regiment, born Wymondham [Norfolk], resided Drayton [Norfolk] (Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Saint-Laurent-Blangy)

Died of Wounds

4th Battalion
  • 10643 Lance Corporal James POTTER, born Bushey [Hertfordshire], son of J Potter of 32 Elfrida Road, Watford [Hertfordshire] (Duisans British Cemetery, Étrun)

Died

1st Battalion
  • 33357 Private Fred MURPHY, ex-135110 Royal Field Artillery, born Handsworth [Staffordshire], resided Smethwick [Staffordshire] (Condé-sur-l’Escaut Communal Cemetery)

1st/5th Battalion
  • 200728 Private Sidney KIRBY resided Renhold (Gaza War Cemetery)

Friday, 25 August 2017

Twenty Sixth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Saturday 25th August 1917

Again today the 15th (Scottish) Division has been in action, attacking Gallipoli Farm, which they had assaulted without success two days ago. Today’s attack, by the Black Watch, has again been unsuccessful, though the front line has been advanced by nearly 200 yards. The Division also attacked a strong-point called Iberian Farm, again without success. Meanwhile the Worcesters of 61st Division have also made another unsuccessful attack on Aisne Farm. 48th Division, however, have taken some enemy gun pits near Saint-Julien which the enemy had retaken yesterday.


These small-scale attacks fit the mould to which we became used last year during the battle of the Somme. Grand sweeping attacks would be followed by days of small, piecemeal attacks to straighten the line here, or seize a strong-point there to assist those in the area launching the next grand attack. Again, like the Somme, the lesson has been relived that taking strong-points such as farms, with their ruined buildings and deep cellars is difficult and costly.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Twenty Fifth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Friday 24th August 1917

There has been fighting again today around the Ypres Salient. 14th (Light) Division are at the old stamping ground of the 18th Division - Inverness Copse. This morning the front line ran through the middle of this blasted wood and at 4 a.m. the enemy unleashed a powerful barrage upon it and the ground north of it, as far as Glencorse Wood. They then launched an attack by men with grenades and flame-throwers. On the open ground just south of Glencorse Wood and east of Fitzclarence Farm the Germans were successful in driving the Division back somewhat. They were less successful in Inverness Copse, as shattered trees make very effective obstacles to progress of any attacker. As I write this the Division is still holding the western edge of the wood.


Again, as I write the Worcesters of 61st Division are attacking an enemy strongpoint called Aisne Farm(1)

After their day at the seaside yesterday the 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, are back to training today. The adjutant tells me that 5th Army musketry range was allotted to the Battalion. The men were taken there by lorries starting at 9 a.m. The rifle shooting of the men was good each man fired 15 rounds at a figure target, and Lewis gunners fired at a plate.

Source: X550/8/1

(1)This was unsuccessful.

Roll of Honour - 24th August 1917


Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line south of Arleux, heavily shelled
  • 33595 Private John BARTLETT, ex-2497 Bedfordshire Yeomanry, son of John Brown Bartlett of Saint Neots [Huntingdonshire], husband of Alice (Roclincourt Military Cemetery)
  • 22938 Private John CATLIN, 39, husband of Bessie of 36 George Street, Bedford (Roclincourt Military Cemetery)
  • 30167 Private William Charles UFFINDELL, born London, resided Thornton Heath [Surrey] (Roclincourt Military Cemetery)

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Twenty Fourth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Thursday 23rd August 1917

It has been raining again today, though, in truth, much more of a drizzle than a downpour. It has also been warm, so the stickiness of recent times has not abated. There has only been action today at a place known as Gallipoli Farm, which was attacked, without success, by 15th (Scottish) Division.

We have heard from the adjutant of the 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, who have not long been out of the line after a grueling spell including a major attack on 10th August. At 6.30 this morning they all got on a fleet of buses and went off to Dunkirk to spend the day at the seaside for a holiday. Such a simple delight must be met with relish by men who have endured Hell.


Source: X550/8/1

Roll of Honour - 23rd August 1917


Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line south of Arleux, heavily shelled
  • 37837 Private Charles Henry PAGE, 22, born All Saints Green [Suffolk], son of Charles Henry and Ellen Page of Saint James, Halesworth [Suffolk] (Roclincourt Military Cemetery)

6th Battalion: front line trenches near Hébuterne
  • 40681 Private John OWENS, ex-23790 East Yorkshire Regiment, born Barnsley [Yorkshire], resided Hull [Yorkshire] (Tyne Cot Memorial)

Died of Wounds

6th Battalion
  • 204006 Private William NEAL, 31, ex-330797 Cambridgeshire Regiment, husband of W Neal of 11 Manor Street, Cambridge (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)

Died

3rd Garrison Battalion
  • 205183 Corporal John ADAMS son of late John Adams of Taunton [Somerset] (Rangoon War Cemetery)


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Twenty Third Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Wednesday 22nd August 1917

Today, another day without rain, has seen a number of attacks, the main effort being made by four divisions between Frezenburg and Langemarck. The divisions involved (south to north) have been 15th (Scottish), 61st (2nd South Midland), 48th (South Midland) and 11th (Northern).

15th Division attacked with two brigades but was able to achieve little against a solid wall of machine-gun fire. We understand some yardage has been gained but the strongpoints of Potsdam, Vampire and Borry Farms remain in enemy hands.

61st Division attacked with 184th Brigade which was able to make a little more progress, taking Hindu Cottage. 48th Division, using 143rd and 144th Brigades, captured some enemy gun pits, but the enemy was able to retake these. We understand that here, again, the advance has been quite limited, the men consolidating just west of Springfield and Winnipeg Farms.

11th Division’s attack was made by 33rd Brigade which began its attack from a sideways V-shaped position, the centre being west of the two flanks. Bulow Farm has been taken, ironing out the kink in the line.



All these attacks have been made in high temperatures through stinking mud and foul standing water. A number of tanks were deployed but they were hamstrung by having to operate only on roads, their great weight bogging them down in the quagmire if they left the firmer surface. Given these dreadful conditions, to make any progress at all has been creditable.

Roll of Honour - 22nd August 1917


Killed in Action

4th Battalion: 3rd working on Earl Trench near Courcelles-le-Comte
  • 13836 Private Frederick William ROLLE, born Saint George's, Bristol, resided Bedminster [Bristol] (Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Saint-Laurent Blangy)
  • 29129 Private Alfred SEAR, born Leighton Buzzard, resided Dunstable (Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Saint-Laurent Blangy)

Monday, 21 August 2017

Twenty Second Day of the Battle of Ypres

Second Lieutenant W R Shaw [X550/1/81] 

Tuesday 21st August 1917

As I indicated yesterday, the rumours we hear of impending attacks are seldom to be trusted. Today is a case in point, action today was promised by the “millers” yesterday but has not come to pass. Still, I doubt Tommy Atkins minds.

At the moment the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, is in camp, training. Today they have had a new recruit - Second Lieutenant W R Shaw. We have also had news from far-off Palestine where 1st/5th Bedfords find themselves still in front of the enemy-held town of Gaza. Yesterday they heard that five of their number previously simply listed as missing after the first raid on Umbrella Hill on 20th July are, in fact, prisoners-of war. While glad that they are alive, none of their fellows is under any delusion about how dreadful being a prisoner-of-war of the Turks is(1).

The men concerned are: 200497 Sergeant Cleaver; 200573 Private A. Cook; 201316 Private H A Miles; 201326 Private W Patterson and 200696 Private F D Smith.

Source: X550/3/wd; X550/6/8


(1) The Turks were reputed to routinely starve, beat and abuse their prisoners, including sexual abuse. 200573 Private G Cook died on 4th November 1918 and is buried at Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery. 201326 Private William Patterson, from Ely [Cambridgeshire], died on 30th October 1917 and is commemorated on the Jerusalem Memorial.  

Roll of Honour - 21st August 1917


Died

Depot
  • 48003 Private Archibald HARVEY, 37, born Tower Hamlets [London], husband of Alice Elizabeth of 33 Cornwall Road, Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] (Saint Albans (Hatfield Road) Cemetery)

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Twenty First Day of the Third Battle of Ypres


Monday 20th August 1917

Today has, once again, been largely devoted to consolidating, bringing up supplies, bringing up and registering artillery pieces and planning, with only minor skirmishes. The rumour-mill, which feeds we war correspondents with more chaff than wholesome grain has it, however, that tomorrow or the day after will see more activity.

Roll of Honour - 20th August 1917


Died of Wounds

6th Battalion
  • 43213 Private Leslie WRIGHT, ex-1885 Essex Regiment, born and resided Colchester [Essex] (Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul)

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Twentieth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Sunday 19th August 1917

Again there has been no rain today, though it has been cloudy. Today 48th (South Midland) Division has made a determined attack, assisted by a number of tanks. They have taken four strongpoints which had held up their attack on Thursday - Hillock Farm, Maison du Hibou, Triangle Farm and Cockcroft. The enemy is thought to have taken very heavy casualties and all four tanks are reported to have returned from the fight. 

Roll of Honour - 19th August 1917


Killed in Action

6th Battalion: battalion at rest at Siege Farm near Hébuterne
  • 32130 Private Harry William HULATT, 22, son of Elizabeth Hulatt of 24 Gwyn Street, Bedford (Voormezeele Enclosure No. 3)

Friday, 18 August 2017

Nineteenth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres


Saturday 18th August 1917

Another day without rain. 43rd Brigade of 14th (Light) Division went into action today. They have been given the unpleasant duty of attacking Inverness Copse, graveyard of so many of the hopes of 18th Division, as well as temporary resting place of so many of its men. Men from the Somerset Light Infantry and Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, with support from tanks, have been able to advance half-way through this troublesome wood and are consolidating their positions. These woods - Inverness Copse, Glencorse Wood, Nonne Bosschen and Polygon Wood are, once again, underlining how difficult large bodies of shattered trees are to take, as did the numerous woods on the Somme last year.

We have heard from 7th Bedfords. They got on trains at Dickebush Railhead and have moved to the town of Arneke some miles to the west of Ypres, in France. They will be heading for billets in a village called Buysscheure a few miles to the south-west of Arneke as I write these lines.

Source: X550/8/1

Roll of Honour - 18th August 1917


Died of Wounds

6th Battalion
  • 204267 Private Alfred PARKER, son of F A Parker of 10 Green Street, Northampton (Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord)

7th Battalion
  • 33472 Sergeant Bert Walter EDKINS, 36, born Aldridge [Staffordshire], son of George Henry and Sarah Edkins of 72 Sandwell Street, Walsall [Staffordshire] (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)

Died

1st Garrison Battalion
  • 24043 Private Thomas James SADLER, 28, ex-8306 Royal Sussex Regiment, born Croydon [Surrey], resided Brockley [London], son of Thomas Elgar Sadler (Ranikhet New Cemetery, India)

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Eighteenth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Friday 17th August 1917

We have grown accustomed to days of intense activity followed by “down days” where the new lines are consolidated, the men relieved and new plans made. Today has been such a day. Virtually no attacks have been made and three of the divisions taking part in yesterday’s struggle, 16th, 20th and 36th have been relieved by new units. The only attack has been made early this morning, while it was still dark, when the Worcesters of 48th (South Midland) Division tried to take Maison du Hibou, a thorn in the division’s side yesterday, but were unsuccessful.

There has been no rain today.

One feature of today which we had been expecting was enemy counter-attacks of features taken in yesterday’s fighting. There have been none. This leads the armchair generals amongst us to speculate that the enemy’s resources are getting fewer by the day and that they can no longer afford the manpower for costly counter-attacks. Needless to say this is a cheering thought.

The 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, is still in the front line at Stirling Castle, though their neighbours, 6th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, have been relieved by 12th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. The adjutant tells me, however, that the men are expecting to be relieved tonight after a long and difficult time in the front line. He has prepared a list showing casualties since the beginning of the month, as best he can reckon, which I give below.

Second Lieutenant Craig [Z550/1/82]

Officer Casualties

Second Lieutenant S. M. Connor - killed in action 10th August;
Second Lieutenant F. Halsey - missing 10th August(1);
Captain H. Driver DSO - wounded 10th August;
Second Lieutenant E. C. H. Conyers - wounded 10th August;
Captain J. C. M. Ferguson - wounded 10th August, still at duty(2);
Lieutenant H. F. Trewman - wounded 7th August, still at duty;
Second Lieutenant G. R. Craig - wounded 8th August, still at duty(3);

Summary of Casualties Other Ranks

Killed - 35
Wounded - 163
Died of wounds - 5
Missing - 47
Missing believed killed - 6
Missing believed wounded - 3
Total - 259

Source: X550/8/1

(1) He was, in fact, killed and is buried in Hooge Crater Cemetery; he lived at 7 Wellington Street, Bedford.
(2) He would die on 19th November 1918 and is buried at Saint-Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen.
(3) He would be killed on 3rd April 1918 and is buried at Namps-au-Val British Cemetery.

Roll of Honour - 17th August 1917


Killed in Action

7th Battalion: 3rd Battle of Ypres: front line at Stirling Castle
  • 14298 Sergeant Leonard H BOWSHER, 23, born Abbot's Langley [Hertfordshire], son of M Bowsher of Nash Mills, Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire] (Tyne Cot Memorial)
  • 9624 Lance Sergeant William PECK DCM, born Finchley [Middlesex], resided High Barnet [Hertfordshire] (Tyne Cot Memorial)

Died of Wounds

6th Battalion
  • 204032 Private Harry HINTON, ex-328953 Cambridgeshire Regiment, born and resided Maidstone [Kent] (Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord)

7th Battalion
  • 39673 Private William Edward BODDY, 31, ex-M2/266534 Army Service Corps, born Castle Eden [Durham], resided Easington Colliery [Durham], husband of Elizabeth of 8 Milford Terrace, Broom [Durham] (Étaples Military Cemetery)
  • 15374 Company Quarter Master Sergeant Henry James GILHAM, C Company, son of J Gillham of  Aldershot [Hampshire], resided Earlsfield [London] (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)
  • 16217 Corporal Joseph Edward WALL, 23, born Hendon [Middlesex], son of William David and Annie Wall of 4 Prospect Road, Cricklewood [Middlesex] (Menin Road South Military Cemetery)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Seventeenth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres


Thursday 16th August 1917

Today we have, so far, seen no rain. It has been a day of great activity with more attacks than at any time since 31st July. Eight divisions have been in action over the whole northern part of the battlefront and we will begin with 56th (London) Division because their attack was supported by the gallant B Company of 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. They were detailed to attack a strongpoint in the north-west corner of Inverness Copse but were unsuccessful. 


Second Lieutenant Craig told me: “B Company, having formed up on the tapes put out by me during the night, attacked the enemy strong-point marked with an x on the map above which shows the attack made on 10th August. This attack was carried out in conjunction with a large offensive by the Division on our left; a heavy shrapnel barrage opened at zero hour (4.45 a.m.) and 4.5 inch howitzers shot on strong-points. Owing to some mistake a battery of 4.5 howitzers detailed to shoot on the enemy's strong-point we were attacking fired short and on to our company about to move forward to the attack, knocking out 50% of our effectives out. Captain Ferguson at once supported with a platoon of D Company but owing to the heavy enemy machine-gun fire little could be done and the attempt to capture the strong point was abandoned. From 7 a.m. the day was chiefly spent in artillery duels, no further infantry activity taking place on our sector”. The 4th Battalion, London Regiment, managed to make a defensive flank along the south edge of Glencorse Wood, which the Bedfords had taken on 10th but been driven out of due to lack of artillery support.

Two brigades of 56th Division (167th and 169th) attacked towards Glencorse Wood and Nonne Bosschen. 169th Brigade took Glencorse Wood but, like the Bedfords before them, were driven out again and, we understand are back in their starting trenches as I write these words. Part of 167th Brigade are thought to have penetrated Polygon Wood but, sinisterly, we have been told that nothing has been seen or heard from those men for a long time. Overall the brigade is reckoned to have pushed the front line eastwards by about a quarter of a mile.

8th Division are in the line immediately north of 56th Division and they also attacked with two brigades (23rd and 25th). 25th Brigade attacked north -eastwards towards Hanebeek Wood and Iron Cross Redoubt, they passed through the wood and have managed to take the latter strongpoint. Two other strongpoints further on, Anzac and Zonnebeke Redoubts have also been taken. As I write the Brigade is reckoned to be consolidating on the line of their final objective. The 23rd Brigade attack was hampered by slow going of 16th (Irish) Division on their left flank but the position called Sans Souci was taken but enemy counterattacks meant that the brigade could not advance further than Hanebeek Wood.


The attack by Irishmen of 16th Division was unable to make as much initial headway as hoped. 48th Brigade initially got as far as Vampire and Potsdam Farms. We understand they may have subsequently gone beyond Vampire Farm, though this is uncertain(1). 49th Brigade took a strongpoint called Beck House and then Delva Farm and so have advanced a good distance. Now, of course, they will be expecting an enemy counter-attack.

Moving north again, we find the Ulstermen of 36th Division going into action, as they did on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, side-by-side with their compatriots from the south of Ireland. Their attack, like their neighbours, was in a north-easterly direction. Sadly, they were much less successful than the 16th Division. 108th Brigade encountered withering fire from strongpoints and could make to gains at all. 109th Brigade did manage a short advance, taking Corn Hill and Fort Hill a hundred yards or so in front, but were well short of the objectives they had been set.


145th Brigade of 48th (South Midland) Division also attacked north-eastwards towards Saint-Julien. The village was taken after a severe struggle. Their objective was Springfield Farm but the few that got this far seem to have been killed or captured. Overall the brigade has been able to advance between a third and half way to its objective, having got further in the north of its sector, just short of a place called Maison du Hibou.

34th Brigade of 11th Division, to the north of 145th Brigade has managed an advance of some distance, though, again, more successful towards the north of their sector. A building called Cockcroft was taken without resistance, a place close to their overall objective which, we understand, they have not quite reached. Further north the brigade took a position called Pheasant Trench, just in front of Pheasant Farm, a little way beyond their objective. Because of the uneven advance of the brigade the troops at Pheasant Trench have had to form a defensive flank along a stream called the Lekkerboterbeek and reports are that this may be vulnerable to any German counter-attack overnight or tomorrow.


20th (Light) Division began today south-west of Langemarck and had orders to take it, advancing north-eastwards. Two brigades were used in this attack, 60th and 61st. 60th Brigade achieved a considerable feat in taking the village, having, at times, we are told, to advance in single file in the narrow gaps between water-filled craters. The Brigade managed to take its final objective well beyond Langemarck but we have just heard that it was attacked in mid-afternoon and lost some ground but we think they may have retaken all or most of it. 61st Brigade, to the north of 60th, took Langemarck Station and is now, we believe, moving towards its final objective. This division has done splendidly and seems to have been the most successful today.

The final division attacking today has been 29th. Its two brigades, 88th and 87th have taken their objectives, too, having advanced as far as a position called Japan House and almost to the road running from Langemarck north-west to Veldhoek.

That any advance at all has been made today is little short of super-human. The battlefield is a sea of claggy mud interspersed with little islands of broken bricks, former houses and barns, or concrete, enemy strongpoints. The enemy has been his usual defiant self and used his defensive advantages well. The men who have come through today can feel very proud of themselves and their fellow soldiers.

(1) They had, but were forced to withdraw later that night.

Roll of Honour - 16th August 1917


Killed in Action

7th Battalion: 3rd Battle of Ypres: abortive attack by B Company on a strongpoint near Stirling Castle, foiled by British artillery killing or wounding half the company
  • 30904 Private George Samuel ANTHISTLE, 38, son of Edward and Mary Anthistle of Banbury [Oxfordshire], husband of Ada of 49 Sebright Road, Barnet [Hertfordshire] (Tyne Cot Cemetery)
  • 27665 Lance Sergeant Arthur Roland BOTWRIGHT, 23, born Abbot's Langley [Hertfordshire], son of Emma Botwright of Church Road, Bedmond [Hertfordshire] and late John Botwright (Tyne Cot Memorial)
  • 202688 Private Joseph GROVER, born and resided Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] (Tyne Cot Memorial)
  • 3/7592 Sergeant Carl HILL, born Saint Albans [Hertfordshire], resided Luton (Hooge Crater Cemetery)
  • 203088 Private John HOARE, 25, son of George and Elizabeth Hoare of 154 Semilong Road, Northampton, husband of Harriett Elizabeth Morris (ex-Hoare) of 44 Marlboro’ Road, Six Bells, Abertillery [Monmouthshire] (Tyne Cot Memorial)
  • 40724 Private Albert HUGHES, ex-36181 South Staffordshire Regiment, born and resided Wolverhampton [Staffordshire] (Tyne Cot Memorial)
  • 39445 Private John James MILLER, born Bromley-by-Bow [London], resided Grays [Essex], son of late John James Miller of 29 High Street, Plaistow [London] (Tyne Cot Memorial)
  • 18824 Lance Corporal William George RANDALL, born Peckham [London], resided Toddington (Tyne Cot Memorial)
  • 18263 Private Charles RAYNER, 23, son of George Henry Rayner of George’s Yard, Therfield [Hertfordshire] and late Mary Esther Rayner (Tyne Cot Cemetery)
  • 203494 Private George SALMONS, 19, son of John Salmons of 135 Musley Hill, Ware [Hertfordshire] (Tyne Cot Memorial)
  • 27854 Corporal George SQUIRES, born Thame [Oxfordshire], resided Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire] (Tyne Cot Cemetery)
  • 3/6214 Private James Henry WARD, born and resided Stanground [Huntingdonshire] (Tyne Cot Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion:
  • 30122 Private John ROBINSON, 40, born and resided Royston [Hertfordshire], son of late John and Hannah Robiosn, husband of Annie Wilson (ex-Robinson) of 1 Berkeley Road, Regent’s Park [London] (Tyne Cot Memorial)

Died

7th Battalion
  • 29284 Private Allan BRIDGES, 36, son of George and Jemima Bridges of Flitcham [Norfolk] (Flitcham (Saint Mary) churchyard)

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Sixteenth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Wednesday 15th August 1917

More rain has fallen today, though temperatures have not been so stifling. I can only remember two days this month where we have had no rain, which must, I am sure, be a rarity in August. Rain, of course, means mud, which means everything on a battlefield has a greatly increased order of difficulty. Today, once again, there has been no major action and one would have thought, over a fortnight in to a major offensive that we would have had far more fighting than we have had. This can only be down to the rain and the mud.

Generals in modern warfare have a timetable by which they try to run their battles, almost with the efficiency of a railway service. Of course, such efficiency is never realised because the enemy are doing their best to delay the timetable. In the present offensive it seems the enemy are being aided very materially by the weather and, certainly, we hear rumours of high command tearing its hair out over the state of the ground and the state of the offensive. Those of us who are old hands out here have no doubt such rumours are greatly exaggerated, nevertheless the commander-in-chief of this offensive, General Gough, must be far from happy(1).

 Second Lieutenant Craig [X550/1/82]

The only Battalion from the Bedfordshire Regiment to be close to action at this point is 7th Battalion. Their adjutant told me today that the night having passed off quietly at Stirling Castle, with only the usual amount of shelling, the Battalion continues to hold the line. Heavy shelling of their positions took place during the day. B Company has been detailed to carry out an attack on an enemy strong-point at the north-west corner of Inverness Copse tomorrow (marked with an x on the map at the top of the page). Second Lieutenant Craig will be in command and today examined the ground and explained the situation to his company.

Source: X550/8/1

(1) Gough would lose the overall command of the battle to 2nd Army’s General Herbert Plumer on 25th August. 

Roll of Honour - 15th August 1917


Killed in Action

6th Battalion: trenches at Siege Farm near Hébuterne
  • 9929 Private Arthur Albert ELY, born and resided Norwich [Norfolk] (Kemmel Château Military Cemetery)

7th Battalion: 3rd Battle of Ypres: front line at Stirling Castle, heavily shelled
  • 39658 Private Charles Peter BEEDIE, ex-M2/266229 Army Service Corps, born Saint Cyrus [Kincardineshire], resided Dundee [Forfarshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 40707 Private Elijah BOWEN, ex-35821 South Staffordshire Regiment, born and resided Wolverhampton [Staffordshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 29038 Private Charlie BROWN MM, 23, born and resided Magdalen [Norfolk], husband of Daisy Ellen Lakey (ex-Brown) of 10 Council House, Long Sutton [Cambridgeshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 32996 Private Charles LINE, born Flitwick, resided Darlington [Durham] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 43324 Private Victor Reginald NIGHTINGALE, ex-3/8909 Suffolk Regiment, born Trumpington [Cambridgeshire], resided Cambridge (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Monday, 14 August 2017

Fifteenth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres



Tuesday 14th August 1917

Today has been quite insufferable with temperatures approaching eighty degrees(1) and intermittent rain. Everyone at the front has been sweating profusely all day, whether engaged in moving to new positions, bringing up guns and supplies, manning the front line or lounging around behind it as a war correspondent.

There has been some action today, we have been told. 20th (Light) Division crossed the Steenbeek north-east of Ypres and managed to consolidate the far bank under fire. The whole battlefield is a morass of standing water and mud but at least they were assisted in crossing the channel of the stream by makeshift bridges they brought up with them. Four enemy strong-points at a place called Mill Mound (top right corner on the map above) have been taken.

The adjutant of 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, spoke to me a little while ago. Early in the morning they received orders to relieve the 10th Battalion, Essex Regiment, of 53rd Brigade, at Stirling Castle near the front line. Guides were at once sent up to arrange the relief. Orders were then received to make an attack in two days’ time on Inverness Copse where the Royal Fusiliers and 53rd Brigade failed on 10th August.

The adjutant said to me, in some bitterness: “We were surprised after what the general had said only two days before”. He referred to the divisional commander General Lee stating that the battalion would not be used in offensive actions unless absolutely necessary. Then, remembering himself, the adjutant went on: “but all are cheery and ready to do all they can”.

As you can imagine, I think twice about relaying this information as I have no wish to bring troubles on the officer concerned or give comfort to the enemy. Remember, however, that this battalion has been reduced to three hundred or so by severe fighting less than a week ago. If a unit with so good a reputation for attacking spirit as this has begun to grumble I feel it must send a signal to higher command.

Source: X550/8/1

(1) between 26 and 27˚C

Roll of Honour - 14th August 1917


14th August 1917

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 40487 Private Charles James BROWN, 34, ex-28745 Essex Regiment, born Benfleet [Essex], husband of Martha Agnes of 14 Burnaby Road, Southend-on-Sea [Essex] (Mont Huon Military Cemetery, le Tréport)
  • 14499 Sergeant Augustus Edwin WILSON, born and resided Great Berkhamsted [Hertfordshire] (Brandhoek New Military Cemetery)

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Fourteenth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres


Monday 13th August 1917

Today Major Bridcutt, the 7th Bedfords’ commanding officer, as promised a couple of days ago, spoke to me further about the action they took part in on 10th August.

On the night of the 9th/10th each man was given a cup of hot tea and rum as he filed up the line into the attacking positions. Each platoon commander and sergeant was handed copy of the situation map. Each platoon commander was allotted a guide to conduct him to Surbiton Villas A white tape had been laid previously to Surbiton Villas along which each platoon moved and could not possibly miss their way.

As each platoon arrived at a spot near Surbiton Villas they were met by a platoon guide and the company commanders and were conducted to their battle formation. Here they laid down in perfect quietness until the first note of the guns sang out. A Company (the company in immediate support) moved from their cover in a tunnel on the Menin Road by platoons to their place in battle formation, under the same arrangements as the assaulting Companies.

D Company (already in place and holding the line) furnished a covering party (one platoon) who were posted about 150 yards in front of the forming up tapes, pieces of trench which were almost identical to their forming up position afforded this company protection in case of Bosche barrage being turned on; this they occupied, moving forwards to Jargon Trench as previously ordered as the attack went forward.

The arrangements for forming up went without a hitch and at the appointed time (4.35 a.m.) the guns opened and the attack went forward in a most determined manner to the final objective which was reached at 5.13 a.m. Some 100-150 of the enemy were in Glencorse Wood on the Battalion front as well as two machine guns; these were knocked out and the teams destroyed in such a rapid manner that any organised resistance by the enemy was at once overcome and most of them that had not been killed at once cried "Kamerad" and ran forward into our lines most of them wounded and fearfully frightened.

After the objective had been reached battle patrols were sent out and posts established in the usual way, along the south-western end of Nonne Bosschen Wood as near to the protective barrage as it was safe to get. (i.e. about 200 yards). The Battalion then commenced to consolidate.

During the day the enemy made repeated attempts to form up and deliver what appeared to be a counter-attack of some strength. He was prevented time after time from doing so by rifle and machine gun fire, but owing to the expenditure of ammunition and the difficulty of replenishing it, care rose to anxiety and the probability of the foremost line and right flank, where the 11th Royal Fusiliers had retired, being overcome.

Major Bridcutt went on: “At this stage of the operation I considered it advisable if the position was to be held with any degree of certainty it required artillery support in the form of a few shots every few minutes on the only places the Bosch could use to form up under cover from view i.e. Nonne Bosschen Wood, Inverness Copse and the south-western portion of Polygon Wood”.

“This was suggested over the telephone but so far as could be understood it could not be arranged, consequently it appeared to me and others at the front that it was a question of an SOS appeal for artillery or nothing at all and this signal was repeatedly seen in the air at various points along the line but no SOS was asked for by the 7th Bedfords until towards the evening when it was too obvious that the Bosch intended to have a final struggle to get back the ground we held, as troops were seen emerging from each of the three woods above mentioned, and a dense cloud of smoke and gas was being sent over which obscured everything from view. At this time I cannot state the exact clock hour, the artillery opened and with terrible execution, but the Bosch line came on delivering their attack on the right flank of the Battalion”.

“The advanced posts were either killed or captured, it is impossible to say which, but judging from the very intense barrage which the Bosch rolled over Glencorse Wood they were undoubtedly killed. A certain amount of confusion set in on our right and it was only by firm determination that the strong point which I had taken over from the 11th Royal Fusiliers and Jargon Trench was held”.

“When the attack was fully developing reinforcements (two companies) of the Royal Berkshire Regiment arrived and were sent forward to hold our original front line in case the Bosch succeeded in his object to gain the strongpoint and the high ridge running from Stirling Castle through the strongpoint taken from the Royal Fusiliers and Jargon Trench”

The attack however did not materialise and only the enemy’s advanced line got near the position. The situation quietened down and the relief of the Battalion by the Royal Berkshire Regt was carried out by 2 a.m. and the Battalion withdrew to Chateau-Segard. Major Bridcutt stated: “It is worthy of record the splendid manner in which the two companies of the Royal Berkshire Regiment came up to reinforce”.

Finally, Major Bridcutt told me the lessons he believes should be learned from this operation.

1. I venture to think had a fresh Battalion been close at hand when the situation on the right became obscure and pushed in, in attack formation, a good deal more ground would have been taken and the Bosch routed from his position.

2. Artillery should not cease firing on protected lines until the Battalion Commander is satisfied all is well. Artillery ceased on the 10th without any reference to battalions (at least not to 7th Bedfords). I consider it of great importance that Battalion Commanders should be able to convey to Artillery which fire other than SOS is required.

3. No telephone wire to be laid beyond Brigade Headquarters, as it is used for all kinds of things that hopelessly give away arrangements, and too many other ranks have access to it and the commanders of the sector having no knowledge of many things happening on the wire unless he or his Adjutant sits by it. The telephone was a nuisance and not the least assistance to the Battalion on the 10th inst.

4. It took from 5 to 6 minutes before the Hun Barrage got really going on our lines, it was severe when it did do so.

5. The 54th Brigade arrangements for ordering up the reserve companies and the companies for mopping-up was excellent, timing was also extremely good.

6. To avoid any platoon going astray I placed Battalion Police posts 100-200 yards apart along the ATN Track from the RITZ area to the Menin Road passing point.

7. Our own Artillery inflicted many casualties on our troops by firing very short, what appeared to be one 8 inch gun in particular.

8. The Bosch attack was guided by a line of his men at a few paces apart firing Very lights, during the advance these were with the first wave.

Source: X550/8/1