Monday 25 September 2017

Fifty Seventh Day of the Third Battle of Ypres

Tuesday 25th September 1917

Today is the second anniversary of the Battle of Loos. It seems remarkable, looking back, how momentous an event that attack was. It was the largest battle of the war so far to involve the British Expeditionary Force, the largest battle we as a nation had fought since Waterloo a century before. It involved six divisions and lasted eighteen days. In some ways it seems a life-time ago. Last year the opening day of the Battle of the Somme involved fourteen divisions and the battle itself lasted four and a half months. So far this year we have had the Battle of Arras which lasted for just over five weeks and had a similar number of divisions involved in the opening stages as did the Somme, and now we have a battle in its fifty-seventh day which involved fifteen divisions on the first day. The army has come a long way in just three years, from a war of manoeuvre which the Duke of Wellington would have recognised to a modern killing-match of industrial proportions involving battles of hundreds of thousands of men and weeks of struggle more akin to siege warfare than the battles of old.

Today the struggle has been taken up by 100th Brigade of 33rd Division, which has succeeded 23rd Division in the line on Westhoek Ridge between Inverness Copse and Polderhoek. During the relief of one division by the other, we believe the Germans tried to seize their chance by attacking the newcomers, resulting in 1st/9th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry losing ground. Rallying, the men from Glasgow, retook part of the ground they had lost and, supported by other battalions, any attempt to exploit the gains the enemy had made was extinguished.

Elsewhere, the 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, in the front line between Shrewsbury Forest and Gheluvelt have been under continuous shelling all day. Second Lieutenant N W Rycroft and eleven other ranks have been killed and sixteen other ranks wounded. The adjutant told me on the blower that, incongruously, the battalion transport is well behind the lines at Sint-Jans-Kappel, at the 37th Divisional Horse Show, where, in the cooker and limber competition, the battalion’s entry maintained an unbeaten record!

Second Lieutenant H Hutchinson [X550/1/82]

Finally, we believe that 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, part of 15th Brigade of 5th Division, may well be on its way to Ypres. Today it marched to Tincques, west of Arras, where it took the train to Saint-Omer, then marched to Zudrove, near Setques. Two new officers, Second Lieutenants W W White and H Hutchinson joined today(1).

Second Lieutenant W White [X550/1/81]

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/7/1

(1) Herbert Hutchinson would be killed on 27th September 1918 and is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial 

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