Monday 31 July 2017

Roll of Honour - 31st July 1917

Killed in Action

5th Battalion
  • Second Lieutenant Antonio Marie GALLO MC (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres) the 1st/5th were in the Near East and 2nd and 3rd/5th were home service battalions so he must have been attached to a different unit


4th Battalion
  • 240451 Private Bertie BAINES, 27, son of Harry and Alice Baines of Colchester [Essex], husband of Lilian A of Cooling Cottage, Cliffe-at-Hoo [Kent] (Calais Southern Cemetery)

A New Offensive Begins Successfully at Ypres

 This map shows the original front line in pink with the line gained at the Battle of Messines in orange and today's front line in blue

Tuesday 31st July 1917

A major offensive began today around the Belgian city of Ypres. So far news is very encouraging and everyone is in high hopes that significant progress can be made. Readers will remember comments on past offensive operations to the effect that a successful first day does not necessarily mean continuing success over future days; the enemy is tough and shrewd and will usually launch determined counter-attacks to regain lost ground. Also, much planning goes into the beginning of an offensive, where enemy positions are known and can be countered. After the first day the situation becomes much more fluid and planning, accordingly, much less precise. This often means offensives halting after a few days for an appraisal of the new situation to be made and new plans made accordingly. Thus modern offensives are often a series of starts and stops rather than a free-flowing advance.

On 1st July last year the first day of the great Somme offensive was a very mixed picture. Some thirteen divisions went into the attack, of which two were completely successful (18th (Eastern) including the 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment and 30th Division, including the 2nd Battalion), one was partially successful and the other ten were not able to make any progress. Today fifteen divisions attacked across a front stretching, in an arc from Warneton in the south to Boesinge in the north. All of these had at least a little success and some obtained all their objectives, making this a much more satisfying day.

Despite this being the last day of July the weather, though warm enough, has been wet, with nearly an inch falling during the day. As can be imagined this added to the difficulty of the troops. They had to cope with a certain amount of mud, where the rain mingled with the fresh earth thrown-up by shells exploding and the humidity made one sweat of one was simply sitting idly, never mind rushing into a life-or-death attack. In conditions like these a man’s water bottle can empty horribly quickly.

To look at each division’s activities in detail would make a very long piece, so your correspondent will content himself with an overview. He will try to illustrate each action in this battle with maps but craves readers' pardons as information is not aways accurate, he is not a natural artist and the conditions in his dugout are not always conducive of concentration!

From what we have been able to glean so far the attack has been most successful at either end of this arc, north and south. The smallest progress has been made in the centre of the battlefield, around the infamous Menin Road and it is here that, by chance, 18th and 30th Divisions have again found themselves, though we understand that no battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment has been engaged in the attack today.

In all maps the area hatched in blue is ground gained during the attack and orange lines, if shown are boundaries between the attacking units

The southernmost attack, undertaken from the vicinity of Messines towards the town of Warneton (which is a border town and actually lies in France) has been undertaken by the New Zealand Division and 3rd Australian Division. So far both these formations seem to have reached their objectives, which are short of Warneton itself. Both these colonial divisions have a fine reputation which they seem to be upholding today, particularly the New Zealanders, who effectively represent their small nation’s entire army.

Immediately north of the Australians is 37th Division. This formation has also taken a number of its objectives. Only one brigade has been in action and we understand that the brigade including 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, is still well back and not involved. Progress here seems a little less than that made by the colonials but the attack by 19th (Western) Division on the left flank of 37th Division seems to be doing splendidly.

Moving north we come next to 41st Division. Their attack was difficult insomuch as they had one brigade south of the canal from Yser to Commines and another north of it. The canal here does a dog-leg south so that by the end of the attack the brigade south of the canal was west of it and that to the north was east of it. The two brigades, 122nd and 123rd, have, we are told, taken their two objectives and are only a little short of the final objective.

It is the two divisions north of here which have had most difficulty as they are attacking across the middle of the battlefield, which has seen the most action in past campaigning seasons and where defences are at their strongest for this reason. 

24th Division has attacked through Shrewsbury Forest which, we understand, they have taken. However, they have not been able to go much further. In places they have reached their first objective and in others they are still short of it. 

30th Division, so successful on the first day of the great Somme offensive last year, has had a trying day today. 21st Brigade, which includes 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, has taken Bodmin Copse, a little short of its first objective, but could get no further. The Bedfords have not been involved in their brigade’s attack. The adjutant told me a few moments ago that they had received orders at 4.50 this afternoon to attack Glencorse Wood(1) but fifteen minutes later the order was cancelled and the Bedfords were withdrawn 200 yards, when they came under heavy shellfire. This wood was one of the division’s objectives but this evening is still firmly in enemy hands. 90th Brigade has taken Clapham Junction and Stirling Castle astride the Menin Road and, in places, reached its first objective.

One Brigade of the 18th Division, 53rd, was to leap-frog 30th Division once Glencorse Wood had been taken`. In the event, it seems as if 30th Division’s attack was so ill-co-ordinated that 53rd Brigade assisted them by taking a fortification known as Jargon Trench a few hundred yards short of Glencorse Wood at the northernmost part of the division's line(2). The 7th Bedfords are in 54th Brigade and their adjutant informs me that during the day they have moved up close to the battlefront.

North of Glencorse Wood the 8th Division took Bellewaarde Lake(3) and are currently just short of their second objective. 

15th (Scottish) Division have also had a reasonably successful day, taking the hamlet of Frezenburg and their first two objectives. North of them 55th (West Lancashire) Division has been even more successful, taking their first two objectives and also capturing, we are hearing, no less than five batteries of enemy field guns, so rapid was their advance.

39th Division, attacking towards Saint-Julien, took both their first two objectives and are currently part way to their final objective. Our old friends, 51st (Highland) Division, whose war base was in Bedford until they moved to France in 1915, have, by all accounts had a great day. Attacking towards Langemarck they have taken all their objectives and, indeed, gone some way beyond their final objective. Well done the Highlanders!

In the northern part of the battlefield the 38th Division have also taken all three objectives and, like the Highlanders, have overshot and advanced some way beyond. Those magnificent men of the Guards Division, on the left flank of the British Armies and side by side with the 201st French Regiment, attacked towards Wijdendrift from the neighbourhood of Boesinge and again took all their objectives and advanced on beyond them almost to Wijdendrift.

As I write these lines the enemy are massing for counter-attacks in a number of places so this first day of the great offensive is not yet spent. Let us hope that tomorrow will see another successful day(4)

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/7/1; X550/8/1

(1) This wood would be attacked by the 7th Bedfords on 10th August.
(2) This trench formed the jumping-off point for the 7th Battalion’s attack on Glencorse Wood.
(3) Today a water-based amusement park

(4) These counterattacks were frequently dispersed by British artillery, though they did make some progress against 37th Division near its boundary with 19th Division.

Sunday 30 July 2017

6th Battalion Anniversary

Monday 30th July 1917

The adjutant of the 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has spoken to me on the blower this afternoon. Today is the second anniversary of their arrival in France. He reckoned that during that time they have taken part in eight significant actions. Their “blooding” was to be the victim of a German trench raid on 4th May 1916 at Monchy-au-Bois. During the Somme battles they formed a defensive flank for operations resulting in the capture of Contalmaison on 10th July and five days later participated in an unsuccessful attack on Pozières. On 9th August they were involved in fighting around Bazentin-le-Petit and their final action on the Somme was an unsuccessful attack on Munich trench on 15th and 16th November.

This year they fought two actions during the battle of Arras. They were part of the seizure of Folie Farm on 10th April and participated in the successful attacks on Monchy-le-Preux. From 23rd to 28th April they were involved in the partial gains at Greenland Hill.

With resignation the adjutant revealed casualty figures to me. The Battalion lost 11 dead in 1915, 253 in 1916 and, due to the exceptional ferocity of the Arras battles they have had 211 fatalities so far this year. Thus 475 men have made the noblest sacrifice since they landed in France, or nearly half the strength of the Battalion.

Source: X550/7/1

Roll of Honour - 30th July 1917

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: two companies in the front line north of Oppy and two in camp at Roclincourt
  • 32911 Private Albert ANDREWS, 19, son of R Andrews of 8 Princes Street, Ware [Hertfordshire] (Roclincourt Military Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

6th Battalion
  • 33579 Private Eustace Leonard LEE, 19, ex-27655 Northamptonshire Regiment, son of Ada Poole of Grange Cottages, Sudborough [Northamptonshire], resided Northampton (Sudborough (All Saints) churchyard)

Saturday 29 July 2017

The Second Raid on Umbrella Hill

Map of Umbrella Hill from The History of the 5th Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (TA)

Sunday 29th July 1917

1st/5th Battalion carried out a second raid on Umbrella Hill, south of Gaza on the night of 27th. We have today received their report of the action. The Zero hour was fixed for 21.00 (9 p.m.) as before. At dawn it was found that the gaps which had been cut by our guns in the enemy's wire had been mended in the night. During the afternoon their wire was again cut by the guns.

At 21.00 in accordance with the programme the artillery bombardment started then and the raiders and their support moved through the gap in our wire. Again our barrage seemed perfect but it did not have the same demoralizing effect as before on the Turks, who opened fire at 21.03 and kept it up till our men dashed into the work at 21.06. A machine-gun was on the Turkish parapet firing but it was rushed, captured and passed back to the supports, where the two men detailed to carry it lost it!

A stubborn resistance was met with everywhere, but the raiding parties were of a more handy size than before and there was no crowding or confusion but each dashed for its objective and, after a number of hard bombing duels, the Turks began to give way and everything appeared to be going in the raiders’ favour when a whistle was blown, it is thought by the Turks, and as this was taken for the evacuation signal, the raiders and supports withdrew.

There had been no time to collect prisoners or booty, but in all some fifty Turks had been killed. The raiders’ casualties were three killed, seven missing and twenty-three wounded including four who remain at duty. Second Lieutenants Coate and W H E Smith were also wounded.

As before the enemy put down a heavy barrage of high explosive on the Bedfords’ lines. Owing however to the more flexible arrangements for the return of the raiding party few, if any, casualties occurred and the enemy barrage was successfully negotiated.

At 11 p.m. a patrol went out to look for the lost machine-gun and returned about half-an-hour later.  The machine-gun was not found, but two Turks who fired on the patrol were killed.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 29th July 1917

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: in reserve at Château Segard
  • 18476 Private Frank JEFFS, born Hemingford Grey [Huntingdonshire], resided Fenstanton [Huntingdonshire] (New Irish Farm Cemetery)
  • 39615 Private Arthur KIRBY ex-20476 Suffolk Regiment, born and resided Victoria Docks [Essex] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 201576 Private Walter RANDLE, born and resided Hunsdon [Hertfordshire] (New Irish Farm Cemetery)
  • 20867 Private John WHITE, 27, born Bishop's Stortford [Hertfordshire], resided Hunsdon [Hertfordshire], son of William and Mary White of Birch House Cottages, Stanstead Abbotts [Hertfordshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 200271 Private Francis James HEMMINGS, 22, son of Mary Ann Thornton (ex-Hemmings) of Eaton Socon and late Thomas Hemmings (Dickebusch New Military Cemetery Extension)
  • 3/8246 Sergeant Ernest Edward WATTS, 38, son of Joseph and Hannah Watts of Great Waltham [Essex], husband of E F Watts of 10 Nursery Road, Hoddesdon [Hertfordshire] (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)

4th Battalion
  • 22966 Private Alfred BALL, 21, son of H and A Ball of 22 Bailey Street, Luton (Point-du-Jour Military Cemetery, Athies)

Friday 28 July 2017

Patrols to See if the Enemy are Retiring

The area patrolled by the 2nd Battalion - Jeffrey Trench shown in red, Jeffrey Support Trench in yellow and Jeffrey Reserve Trench in blue. The objective for B Company is the trench line immediately north of Jeffrey Support Trench and continuing it north-east

Saturday 28th July 1917

Last evening, 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, in the front line east of Zillebeke received a report that the enemy was evacuating his front line trenches north of Ypres. Accordingly, at half-past midnight this morning two strong patrols were ordered to go out and reconnoitre the enemy's front line to ascertain if they were withdrawing on the front opposite the Battalion.

Lieutenant Jacob [X550/1/81]

Patrols from A and B Companies went out. A Company patrol, under Lieutenant G R Jacob, was 3 officers, 14 non-commissioned officers and 43 men. Each man carried two bombs and 220 rounds of small arms ammunition. Nearly all men had shovels and two boxes of bombs were sent to the second line to be carried up as a Company Reserve. The Company went out into No Man’s Land under their platoon sergeants.

Second Lieutenant Collins [X550/1/81]

Jeffrey Trench was safely reached and men came back with the message that it was clear. On this supposition Second Lieutenant I T M Collins and three men were sent out to link up with them and move on to Jeffrey Reserve Trench. He sent back a runner with a message. The runner was wounded and lost the message. All the other patrols in Jeffrey Trench came back without orders and it is assumed that Second Lieutenant Collins is left now with two men somewhere in front of Jeffrey Trench(1).

Captain Holbrook [X550/1/81]

B Company patrol under Captain W J Holbrook consisted of one other officer and forty other ranks with the intention of occupying the enemy line as shown above. With this party were two Lewis Gun Teams. The sentry on duty in an advanced sap reported six Very lights fired from 11 pm to midnight from the enemy’s first line, second line, and also behind the ridge, this was confirmed by Captain Holbrook’s own observation.

He despatched immediately a patrol of five men. On returning they reported having reached enemy wire wire roughly at the spot marked on the map by a pink cross. A Very Light was put up and several forms were seen moving in the trench. They were this time lying on the parapet. As only half of the party returned Captain Holbrook sent out a second patrol to find the remainder. Both parties however returned individually but their reports were identical, additionally one party heard mumbling in the enemy front line and movement on their duck boards. The other party was sniped at on their way back.

At 1.15 a.m. British artillery shelled the enemy’s front line system and fifteen minutes later machine guns fired into No Man’s Land. At 1.45 the battalion on the left of the Bedfords reported that none of them had gone over from their front and said the enemy was still there. At 2 a.m. the enemy traversed the whole of Captain Holbrook’s front line some few times with machine-guns so he dedcided not to go forward.

At 2.30 a.m., however, he sent out two patrols each of five men, with instructions to establish themselves in the enemy's front line. Both parties going to different parts of the trench reported they were fired on by machine-guns and rifles. Captain Holbrook got into touch with the Trench Mortar Officer who arranged to put a barrage on the enemy system from 5 a.m. to 5.15 a.m. This he did, and at 5.15 a.m. our own Artillery barrage opened. The enemy then opened heavy artillery fire on the front line system combined with machine-gun and rifle fire.

Captain Holbrook told me on the telephone: “I did not consider it advisable for a party to leave the trench until 5.35 a.m. when matters had eased somewhat. This they did under cover of smoke and dust and got through the wire and on to Bosche parapet. A sentry on their left immediately shot at them, shouted, and our patrol heard answering shouts in the near neighbourhood. They retired and reached our front line without casualties”.

So it seems the enemy is not making any retrograde movement.

Yesterday 1st/5th Battalion in Palestine carried out another raid on Umbrella Hill. We are still awaiting details.

Source: X550/3/WD

(1) He seems to have been taken prisoner, at any rate he is not listed as dead by Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Roll of Honour - 28th July 1917

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: front line at Zillebeke, B Company patrol to see if enemy retiring from trenches north of Ypres
  • 18459 Private Robert William AMBROSE, born and resided Earith [Huntingdonshire], son of Herbert and Annie G Ambrose of Hillrow Causeway [Huntingdonshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 30457 Private Herbert John CROXFORD, born Barroway Drove [Norfolk], resided Downham [Norfolk] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 18434 Private Horace GODFREY resided Flamstead [Hertfordshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 9094 Private Frederick James GOFF, born and resided Bedford (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 21368 Private George James GOULD, born and resided Cambridge (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 33634 Private Joseph William HARE, 26, B Company, born Shillington, resided Luton; son of Henry and Emma Hare, husband of Alice Custance (ex-Hare) of 17 William Street, Luton (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 33007 Private Arthur GRAY, born Shoreditch [London], resided Bow [London] son of Arthur and Mary GRAY of Haggerstown [London] (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)

Thursday 27 July 2017

Raid Practice and a Solemn Dinner

Friday 27th July 1917

The adjutant of the 1st/5th Battalion has wired with news of practise for the next raid on Umbrella Hill. He noted that, profiting by the first raid the dug-outs were on ground unregistered by enemy artillery - as evidenced by no shell holes being about. They are also smaller and fitted with overhead cover to a depth of about 4 feet 3 inches of sand. The dump for supplies, too, has been made unostentatious and concealed by sand bags.

Captain Oliver Kingdon [X550/1/82]

The adjutant of 7th Battalion, Captain Colley, notes that today is the second anniversary of the Battalion’s arrival in France. A celebratory dinner is to be held in Steenvoorde and which the following, who landed with the Battalion in 1915 will be present: Brigadier-General G D Price (the former commanding officer, now commanding 55th Brigade, in the same Division as 7th Bedfords), Lieutenant-Colonel G P Mills, now commanding 7th Bedfords, Major J H Bridcutt (as a guest), Major A E Percival, Captain W W Colley, Captain H Driver, Captain O Kingdon, Captain H Ramsbotham, Lieutenant S R Chapman, Lieutenant and Quarter Master F Corner. Captain L H Keep will not attend, so soon after the death of his brother, which will cast something of a pall over proceedings.

Sources: X550/6/8; X550/8/1

Roll of Honour - 27th July 1917

1st Battalion: training at Ecurie Wood Camp
  • 3/7032 Private Frank GOING, born and resided Leighton Buzzard (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 20168 Private Tom HIGGINS, 23, D Company, son of Charles John and Alice Higgins of Sandfield Cottages, Woburn Sands [Buckinghamshire] (Arras Memorial)

4th Battalion: front line south of Oppy Wood
  • Temporary Lieutenant Roy TIMBERLAKE (Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Saint-Laurent Blangy)
1st/5th Battalion: partially successful raid
  • 203114 Private John William CATLING, ex-2461 Cambridgeshire Regiment, born and resided Whittlesey [Cambridgeshire] (Jerusalem Memorial)
  • 201222 Private Arthur Cyril GARRETT MM, born Takeley [Essex], resided Great Dunmow [Essex] (Jerusalem Memorial)
  • 201248 Private William HIPGRAVE, son of Elizabeth Hipgrave of Roe Green, Hatfield [Hertfordshire] (Gaza War Cemetery)
  • 201050 Private Harry JOHNS MM, resided Bedford (Jerusalem Memorial)
  • 2006026 Private Joseph LOMAS, son of S A Lomas of Clophill (Jerusalem Memorial)
  • 200868 Private William MILLS, resided Bedford (Jerusalem Memorial)
  • 200327 Lance Corporal William MOSS, son of late Joseph and Emily Moss, born Headley [Hampshire], resided Watford [Hertfordshire] (Jerusalem Memorial)
  • 200943 Private Sidney ODELL, son of Ellen Miller of 26 Bridge Street, New Bradwell [Buckinghamshire] (Jerusalem Memorial)
  • 203465 Private Charlie SELLS, resided Hichin [Hertfordshire] (Gaza War Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 43457 Private Arthur Edgar ABLETT, 36, ex-18752, Northamptonshire Regiment, husband of Mary Lizzie of 33 Spring Terrace, Irthlingborough [Northamptonshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • Temporary Second Lieutenant Gerald LENTON, 33, son of Henry and Lucy Lenton of 8 Victoria Avenue, Hunstanton [Norfolk] (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)
  • 31136 Private William PECK, 24, born Barton-le-Clay, husband of Elizabeth Sear (ex-Peck) of 28 Regent Street, Luton (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)

Wednesday 26 July 2017

A Round-Up from All Our Battalions

Thursday 26th July 1917

The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is in camp, training. Over the last few days they have had ten new officers join them. They are as follows: Second Lieutenant F Hague (B Company); Second Lieutenant S Allport (B Company); Second Lieutenant A W Matson (C Company); Second Lieutenant P N J Christie (C Company); Second Lieutenant A E Croockewit (C Company); Second Lieutenant R C Hare (B Company); Second Lieutenant F Flavell (D Company); Second Lieutenant J Cotchin (D Company); Second Lieutenant J T Dickinson (A Company) and Second Lieutenant J T Laughton (C Company) (1)

Bedford House shown in red on the extreme left

The 2nd Battalion are, like the 7th Battalion, in the vicinity of Zillebeke, east of Ypres. Today Major R O Wynne went to the staff of 30th Division as a liaison officer and Lieutenant-Colonel Bunbury proceeded to the trenches to take command of the Battalion. Two hours ago the 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment and 18th Battalion, Manchester Regiment combined to raid the enemy near the Bedfords’ positions. For his assistance in this raid 8718 Corporal F Aveling was immediately awarded a Military medal. Second Lieutenant G Lenton. Eleven other ranks were killed and nineteen wounded during the day. These included Company Sergeant Major R Kirby and a seventeen-strong party returning to the front lines who were hit by a shell near Bedford House, killing six, wounding six and inflicting fatal wounds on five more(2).

Lieutenant Timberlake [X550/1/81]

The 4th Battalion are in the front line at Oppy. Lieutenant R Timberlake, commanding a party bringing up rations was killed by a machine-gun.

As the 1st/5th Battalion continue to practise their second raid on Umbrella Hill, they have been collecting stores. The adjutant wired me no note that this is not such an easy task as might appear on the surface, material, safety pins and cotton (for identification armlets to be worn on every raider’s sleeve) had to be got from Cairo!

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/3/WD; X550/5/3; X550/6/8

(1) Second Lieutenant Paul Norman Jones Christie would be killed on 9th October 1917; Second Lieutenant Alexander Edward Croockewit, of Bedford School, would be killed on 26th October 1917; Second Lieutenant Joseph Cotchin, from Ridgmont, would be killed on 9th October 1917; Second Lieutenant Joseph Thornton Laughton, from Bedford, would die on 29th September 1918.

(2) The six fatalities are buried in Bedford House Cemetery, including Sergeant Major Robert Kirby.

Roll of Honour - 26th July 1917

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: Retaliation for a raid by other units in the division, Kirby and five others were killed by a shell near Bedford House
  • 202698 Private Edward BANKS, 38, born Birchanger [Essex], resided Sawbridgeworth [Hertfordshire], son of James and late Harriet Banks, husband of Annie of 90 London Road, Sawbridgeworth (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 25328 Private W CLARK (Bedford House Cemetery)
  • 31676 Private Harry COLLIN, 19, born Newstead [Nottinghamshire], resided Huntingdon, son of John Henry and Elizabeth Ellen Collin of 72 Hawthorn Bank, Spalding [Lincolnshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 201524 Private Henry CREAMER born Heath and Reach, resided Hockliffe (Bedford House Cemetery)
  • 29264 Private Sidney John HEWITT, born Gissing [Norfolk], resided Harleston [Norfolk] (Bedford House Cemetery)
  • 25690 Acting Corporal Vincent William George IVORY, son of Maria Ivory of 23 East Avenue, Park Street, Luton and late William Ivory (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • Company Sergeant Major Robert Gladstone KIRBY MM, born Felixstowe [Suffolk], son of Charles and Elizabeth Kirby of 57 Alan Road, Ipswich [Suffolk] (Bedford House Cemetery)
  • 18674 Private Ernest Albert MARSHALL, born Saint Neots [Huntingdonshire], resided Bedford (Bedford House Cemetery)
  • 8785 Lance Corporal Henry Richard PHILBEY, 30, born Bovingdon [Hertfordshire], resided Tring [Hertfordshire]; son of Edward Phibey of Chesham [Buckinghamshire], husband of Lilian of 11 Bunstux Hill, Tring (Dickebusch New Military Cemetery Extension)
  • 10916 Private Christopher SMITH, 19, born Middlesborough [Yorkshire], son of John and Sarah Ann Smith of 33 Moses Street, Stockton-on-Tees [Durham] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 29628 Private Ernest Oliver TOMPKINS, born Leighton Buzzard, resided Watford [Hertfordshire] (Bedford House Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 39816 Private Fred BONE, born Redbourn [Hertfordshire], resided Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire] (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)
  • 18332 Private Alfred James HAWKES, born Gloucester, resided Bedminster [Bristol] (Dickebusch New Military Cemetery Extension)
  • 18731 Private Richard WALLDOCK born Saint Albans [Hertfordshire], resided Watford [Hertfordshire], husband of L E Worrell (ex-Walldock) of 45 Church Road, Watford (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Another Raid Planned on Umbrella Hill

Wednesday 25th July 1917

The adjutant of 1st/5th Battalion has wired to tell us that the Battalion has been ordered to carry out another raid on Umbrella Hill in a few days time. Preparations were started at once and the various modifications - especially in the size of the parties employed were discussed and decided on. Practice started at once. Turkish prisoners report that there are still three machine-guns and three mortars in the works, also one light 37 mm quick-firing gun.

The raiding party will be split into two groups - raiders and support, it being felt that no reserve is necessary. Instead a trench party of sixty one under the Regimental Sergeant Major will man the Battalion’s own front line trench to assist the raiders and support after withdrawal, directing them as to the best way through the lines in case of a hostile barrage. The size of each of the two raiding groups has been reduced to avoid bunching at the end of the raid, which presents targets for other Turkish positions.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 25th July 1917

Killed in Action

6th Battalion: relieved from the front line near Kemmel
  • 39782 Private Albert Leonard BUXTON, 20, born Stowmarket [Suffolk], son of John and Alice Buxton of Rectory Road, Combs [Suffolk] (Messines Ridge British Cemetery)

Monday 24 July 2017

Medals and Gassing

Tuesday 24th July 1917

The adjutant of the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, tells me that three officers and three other ranks have been decorated. Military Crosses have been allotted to Captain H A W Pearse, Second Lieutenant P D Sisley and Second Lieutenant A S Trotter. Meanwhile 8721 Sergeant R T C Lansbury and 10055 Sergeant Puddiphatt have been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and 28207 Sergeant Sinclair a bar to his Military Medal(1).

Captain Pearse [X550/1/81]

The adjutant of the 1st/5th Battalion has wired to say that “gongs” have been handed out there, too. Nineteen Military Medals have been given to members of the recent raiding party at Umbrella Hill, sixteen of them being members of the Bedfords.

Second Lieutenant Sisley [X550/1/82]

Yesterday the 6th Battalion, in the front line near Kemmel, was gassed. Today there have been five more gas casualties as well as one man wounded and one killed by other means. Three officers have arrived as reinfocrements.

Source: X550/2/5; X550/6/8; X550/7/1

(1) Company Sergeant Major R T Lansbury DCM, MM would be killed in action on 20th July 1918. Sergeant J Sinclair DCM, MM would die near Ypres on 12th November 1917.

Roll of Honour - 24th July 1917

Killed in Action

6th Battalion: front line near Kemmel, heavy shelling
  • 32230 Private Albert HART, born and resided Studham (Cabin Hill Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

6th Battalion
  • 28167 Private Robert BENDELL, born and resided Wereham [Norfolk] (Cabin Hill Cemetery)

Sunday 23 July 2017

Gas Cases in the 6th Battalion

The Gables, Flitwick

Monday 23rd July 1917

About a week ago your correspondent was tooling around near Ypres when he came across someone he know. He is currently 208898 Driver Munns, C., of 146th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery but in happier times was plain Cyril Munns of The Gables in Church Road, Flitwick. This lovely old house was, until quite recently, an old inn dating back to at least the 17th century named the Swan.

Driver Munns was not a happy man. he had just received a letter from the solicitor of his landlady, Miss Brooks of Flitwick Manor. It seems that the garden of The Gables does not look the way it should and evidently Miss Brooks had cause to disparage it on her way past it either to or from the manor. The way their loved ones at home are treated matters a good deal to T. Atkins, esquire and if he perceives unfairness he is quick to anger. I let readers decide for themselves on whether Driver Munns has cause for upset by reproducing the letter he sent to the learned gentleman.

“Dear Sir, I am in receipt of a notice from you regarding the way my garden is kept, and you say it is in a very untidy and not cultivated condition. Sir, I beg to inform you that I am on active service in France, fighting for the likes of such as you and the good lady at the Manor who makes the complaint. Dear Sir, kindly inform Miss Brooks from me Driver Munns that I am here fighting to protect her estate and if she wishes me to cultivate that little piece of garden ask her to get me out of the army and I will do so. Otherwise it won’t worry me if her estate gets burnt down so long as it does not burn that lovely shanty (The Gables) down at the bottom of the hill and ask her if she is doing as much for her King and country as I am in threatening to turn my wife out of home in my absence. This letter is only as good as my wife received.”

Source: SF84/5/168/6

Roll of Honour - 23rd July 1917

Killed in Action

6th Battalion: front line near Kemmel, thirty men affected by gas
  • 10496 Corporal William FREEMAN, 25, son of Edward and Anna Maria Freeman of The Council Houses, the Baulk, Beeston (Pond Farm Cemetery)
  • 12906 Private Charles William HARRIS, son of H Harris of 39 Wallon Street, Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] (Pond Farm Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 13077 Private William Henry TURNER, 27, born Saint Pancras [London], resided Kentish Town [London], son of Edward and Ellen Turner of Malden Road, Hampstead [London], husband of Ellen Elizabeth of 2 College Lane, Kentish Town  (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)
  • 13016 Private George WOODWARD, 23, son of Thomas George and Sarah Woodward of Mill Lane, Stoke Bruern [Northamptonshire] (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)

Saturday 22 July 2017

An Account of the Umbrella Hill Raid

Umbrella Hill from The History of the Fifth Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (TA)

Sunday 22nd July 1917

Colonel Brighten, commanding officer of the 1st/5th Battalion has sent an account of the recent raid on Umbrella Hill: “In accordance with orders received the party detailed for the Raid assembled at the entrance to K39 trench at about 20.15. Stores were issued, four bridges thrown across our trenches, our own wire gapped and all preliminaries completed by 20.50”.

“The night was then dark and everywhere along the line things were quite quiet. Zero was fixed for 21.00. At 20.55 two flashes in the distance were seen and after what seemed a long time two dull roars and a heavy droning noise, growing louder and louder, were heard, then two vivid flashes on Umbrella Hill followed almost at once by the tremendous crash of two 8-inch shells exploding shook the night. Two minutes of silence then two more 8-inch shells: two more minutes and yet another pair hurtled over. A minute more and at Zero started a veritable inferno. Flashes were all over the sky from the guns behind and from the shells bursting in front lit up Umbrella Hill and showed that it was wreathed in a bank of smoke which grew denser each moment. The noise was deafening so that when the machine-gun barrage from 24 guns started at 21.05, at first there appeared to be little more added to the din than the noise of a stick being run over a split-oak fence and later, one was quite oblivious of any machine-gun fire at all”.

Lieutenant B W Smythe

“At 21.00 the Raiders, closely followed by the supports, moved quickly over the trench bridges and disappeared through the gap in our wire. So rapid was the advance across "no-man's land" that it was found necessary to halt for one minute at the Beanfield. At 21.06, a minute ahead of time, the screen under Lieutenant B W Smythe dashed up to the wire with the shrapnel of our barrage bursting right over their head and soon found the gaps in the wire. They shouted through the smoke to the Raiders, who, though close on their heels, were quite invisible and so guided, they later dashed into the front trench at about 21.07, bayoneted the few Turks who offered any resistance and captured a machine-gun which was found in position”.

“Having arrived and established touch with the enemy, Captain H S Armstrong fixed his headquarters and the various parties as detailed in orders began to move to their allotted objectives, though at first some confusion occurred owing to the dense smoke & the large number of men crowded together. Lieutenant B W Smythe, after his first task of guiding the Raiders through the gap had been accomplished, collected a small party and dashed across the open to Cross Cut, which he cleared and made good, thus affording a measure of local protection while the deployment mentioned above took place”.

“To follow briefly the fortunes of various parties. The Left Sector party under Lieutenant W A Shaw moved along Side Trench, Silk Alley and finally obtained touch with the Right Sector at Tassel Corner. Bombing sections were quickly pushed up Cover Alley and Side Trench. So thoroughly demoralised were the Turks in most cases that they had to be bombed in their dugouts, each of which contained from three to six and refused to come out or indeed to do anything except cower down on the ground. A few Turks offered resistance in Cover Alley but they were speedily overcome. Soon after the evacuation signal went and in consequence the time was found insufficient for reaching Stick Alley and Point Trench”.

“The Right Sector party under Second Lieutenant R H Smith entered the enemy trenches at Stay Alley, passed through Echelon and made for Tassel Corner, where there was some congestion of troops. Dug-Out Alley was then visited and a large number of Turks killed. As before, little resistance was encountered. When the evacuation signal went, this party had just reached the bottom of Dug-out Alley”.

“Meanwhile a section of bombers had been working successfully along Echelon Trench. They killed some ten Turks and took several prisoners. A large minenwerfer(1) was met with and being far too bulky for removal, was put out of action very ingeniously by the Section who exploded bombs in its working parts”.

“While these parties had been at work killing or capturing the garrison, a party of Royal Engineers under Lieutenant Mendham, 484th Field Company, had been systematically destroying the enemy works and wrecking the trenches. They left several heavy charges of gun-cotton in the principal dug-outs which were exploded subsequent to the evacuation by time fuses”.

“Soon after the raid started, the enemy began to shell the Hollow about 50 yards in the rear of our front line very heavily with 5.9-inch high explosive shells and some shrapnel from much smaller guns. It was afterwards calculated that about 500 shells fell during the night here. By sheer bad luck the shelling was limited to an area of little more than 150 yards radius and in that was situated the signal office, headquarters dugout and aid post. The area was fairly full of people, orderlies, stretcher bearers, a dump party and headquarters details found themselves in the open under this heavy fire. For about two hours an intense bombardment was maintained, the heavy shells falling in salvos at first and later in quick succession. Later the bombardment died down to intermittent shelling with a single gun and this finally died down altogether. During the bombardment candles were continually blown out by the concussion, wounded were killed in some cases at the aid post and the dense smoke rendered the evacuation of wounded a matter of great difficulty. Though it was successfully carried out and by 02.30 all the wounded had been evacuated”.

Captain Miskin

“When it was perceived that the returning raiders and supports would suffer heavily if allowed to enter the shelled area, which practically did not touch our front line, parties were organised by the Reserve Commander, Captain  C H Miskin, who was wounded while so engaged, to direct them. Partly owing to this organisation and partly owing to the control still exercised by the officers over the raiders and supports most of these were held up at our front line and after a short interval worked away to the left flank and evacuated by the communication trenches leading back from the neighbourhood of Samson Ridge. Many casualties were undoubtedly avoided in this manner”.

“About 01.00 it was found possible to hand over the defence of bays 21-28 to the 5th Battalion, Devonshire Regiment and our reserves were withdrawn except for a small party repairing our wire and those attending to the wounded”.

“An officer’s patrol of six worked in no man's land for an hour in search of wounded and dead but none were found. By this time a thick mist had added to the difficulty to seeing anything so no good could be done”.

“At dawn and just before the mist lifted a patrol of two went out again for a short time. A revolver and some equipment was found, but none of our casualties”.

“Artillery Support. This was perfect and completely demoralised the Turks. Not one of our men was hit by our own guns.The machine-gun barrage also worked without a hitch”.

“The elaborate system of telephones was found of little value, at any rate forward of Battalion Battle Headquarters. Nothing could be heard and the wires were soon cut”.

“Booty was brought in as follows: 25 rifles; 6 bayonets; 1 revolver; 1 machine-gun on a sledge mounting, complete; 7 belt boxes; 6 full belts of ammunition; 1 37mm gun; 79 shells for the gun; 1 bag of spare parts; 1 set of equipment; 2 gas masks”.

“Enemy Casualties. No count was possible in Cover Alley and Stay Alley and those killed by our guns are not included. The counted casualties are: Echelon Trench 24; Front Trench and Cross Cut 15; Side Trench 1 officer, 30 other ranks; Dug-Out Alley 35. Total 105”.

Source: X550/6/8

(1) “mine thrower” a German trench mortar.

Roll of Honour - 22nd July 1917

Killed in Action

6th Battalion: front line near Kemmel, German gas attack
  • 204024 Private Percy Alfred NORTON, 19, ex-330854 Cambridgeshire Regiment, son of Robert and Harriet Norton of Blackwater, Reymerston [Norfolk] (Messines Ridge British Cemetery)
  • 203994 Private Charles ROSE ex-331075 Cambridgeshire Regiment, born and resided Felsham [Suffolk] (Messines Ridge British Cemetery)

8th Battalion: relieved from the front line near Hulluch
  • 16801 Lance Corporal Sidney Arthur CAMFIELD, 23, born Codicote [Hertfordshire], son of William John and Mary Camfield of New Wood Cottages, Rabley Heath [Hertfordshire] (Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe)
  • 15792 Private George SMITH, born Eaton Socon, resided Eynesbury [Huntingdonshire], husband of F G Smith of Cambridge Street, Saint Neots [(Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe)

Died of Wounds

6th Battalion
  • Lance Corporal Francis Joseph MURRAY, 21, A Company, born Hertford, son of Michael and Ellen Murray of 102 Saint George’s Road,  Aldershot [Hampshire] (Locre Hospice Cemetery)


3rd Battalion: killed by a bombing raid on Landguard Camp
  • 33781 Private Alfred John ALDER, 40 (Bedford Cemetery)
  • Second Lieutenant Frederick Thomas AMESS, 29, son of James and Esther Amess of 60 Carlyle Road, Greenbank, Easton [Somerset] (Bristol (Greenbank) Cemetery)
  • 40588 Private George GARROD, 23, ex-24318 Northamptonshire Regiment, born Lakenham [Norfolk], resided Norwich [Norfolk], husband of Lily Agnes of 62 Trafalgar Street, New Lakenham (Norwich (The Rosary) Cemetery)
  • 20947 Private Charles MASSAM, 21, son of William and Sarah Ann Massam of Birchwood Cottage, Hatfield [Hertfordshire] (Bishop’s Hatfield (Saint Luke) churchyard)
  • 30029 Private Herbert John Taylor PHIPPS, born Bow [London], resided Tooting [London] (Streatham Cemetery)
  • 14715 Private James Henry PRATT, 24, born Brixton [London], resided Clapham [London], son of Abraham and Eleanor Pratt of 31 Portslade Road, Wandsworth [London] (Streatham Park Cemetery)
  • 31553 Private George SMITH born and resided Upper Gravenhurst (Lower Gravenhurst (Saint Mary) cemetery)
  • 27806 Private Albert WILTON, 30, son of William and Martha of High Street, Henlow (Henlow (Saint Mary) churchyard)