Thursday 30 November 2017

Attacks at Cambrai and in Palestine

Friday 30th November 1917

Here at Cambrai the enemy have launched a surprise attack of their own, just as it seemed the year would end with our forces digging in to consolidate the gains they have recently made. The attack has covered the same area as the initial British attack, all the way from Bourlon Wood in the north to Honnecourt in the south. At times during the day it seemed as if the enemy might carry all before him and he has managed to advance nearly three miles in places. But Tommy Atkins is never as dangerous as when his back is against the wall and our men have fought with terrific spirit once the initial surprise was past.

Still, it must be admitted that the enemy have regained a good deal of the ground they lost ten days ago. Strangely enough it was the scene of the bloodiest and most frustrating fighting for our men, around Bourlon Wood, which has also seen the most successful defence against the German attack.
The adjutant of the 8th Bedfords, which began the day in Villers-Plouich has been able to let us know that they were called upon to go to the assistance of the right flank of 29th Division. They advanced to Dead Man’s Corner at 11.30 a.m. under light shell-fire. They were then ordered to move further forward and form a defensive line on Highland Ridge (the rough position shown in pink on the map above) covering the line from Beaucamp to Villers-Plouich. They were all in position by 2 p.m. and now wait to see whether the enemy puts in an appearance.

Yesterday in Palestine the 1st/5th Bedfords were also under attack. Just after midday the Turks began to shell their positions on Zeify Hill near Beit Nabala. This continued intermittently throughout the day. As the adjutant drily described it in his wire: “at same time the enemy infantry showed a disposition to attempt to gain ground”. They were fired on from Zeify Hill as they advanced on 10th Battalion, London Regiment, at Deir Tuweif. They were stopped about nine hundred yards from the Londoners’ position.

After dark, about 6 p.m. the Turks attempted a surprise attack with about a company of men on Zeify Hill, which they have clearly identified as the key to making any advance in the area. They managed to capture one of the Bedfords’ machine-guns but an immediate counter-attack organised by Captain F B Hobbs drove them out again at bayonet point, though they did bear their prize with them, much to the chagrin of Captain Hobbs and his men. The Turks left behind were counted as nine dead (including two Austrians(1)) and three prisoners. It was some emollient to losing the machine-gun that thirteen enemy rifles were captured. There were numerous dead Turks in front of the Bedfords’ position, most of which could not be collected for burial. The Bedfords have lost one officer and two other ranks killed and eight other ranks wounded.

Sources: X550/6/8; X550/9/1

(1) Probably from the German Asia Corps, part of the Turkish 7th Army.

Roll of Honour - 30th November 1917

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
  • 19608 Private Frederick BAGNALL, attached 16th Trench Mortar Battery, born Birmingham [Warwickshire], resided Southwark [London] (Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt)

Wednesday 29 November 2017

The Turks Try to Advance Again

Thursday 29th November 1917

Yesterday the 1st/5th Bedfords in Palestine again observed an effort by the Turks to get forward. The Bedfords again opened fire on them from Zeify Hill and from Beit Nabala which put paid to the enemy’s efforts. The Bedfords have established a small sniping outpost three hundred yards forward of their front line on Zeify Hill to further harass the enemy.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 29th November 1917

Killed in Action

1st/5th Battalion: repulsed a Turkish attack on Zeify Hill near Gaza
  • 200832 Private Arthur Henry LANCASTER, 20, resided Leighton Buzzard, son of Harry and Florence Lancaster of 42 Clifford Street, Watford [Hertfordshire] (Ramleh War Cemetery)
  • 34231 Private Joshua PERRY, 28, ex-7284 Middlesex Regiment, born Bow Common [London], resided Bromley-by-Bow [London], husband of Elizabeth Emily of 145 Upper North Street, Poplar [London] (Ramleh War Cemetery)

3rd/5th Battalion: 1st/5th Battalion repulsed a Turkish attack on Zeify Hill near Gaza
  • Second Lieutenant John Edward Mary Claude Pius Augustine WATERTON, attached 1st/5th Battalion (Ramleh War Cemetery) His brother Joseph Charles Edward Mary John Reginald Waterton died 18th February 1915 with 5th Battalion and is buried in Campton and Shefford Cemetery


8th Battalion
  • 22842 Private Israel John GOODMAN, 30, husband of Louisa of Church End,  Marston Moretaine (Saint-Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen)

Tuesday 28 November 2017

A Turkish Attack

Wednesday 28th November 1917

More news has reached us today from the 1st/5th Battalion in Palestine. Yesterday morning, about 2.30 a.m. an Arab gave himself up to C Company. He had useful news as to the disposition of the Turks.

An exciting day then developed as the Turks chose to attack the 54th Division of which the Bedfords form a part. About 8.15 around 150 Turks were seen by the Bedfords on Zeify Hill near Beit Nabala to advance down a wadi between that hill and a village called Deir Tuweif(1), held by 10th Battalion, London Regiment. The Bedfords duly opened fire at just under a mile range and scattered them with some loss. The Turks then went to ground and, as the adjutant described it, a sniping contest then took place.

At 10.30 the Bedfords pushed a strong patrol forward to a water cistern on a hill where an advanced post was established consisting to two Lewis guns and a section(2) of riflemen. At 3 o’clock last afternoon the Turks were once more on the move - estimated as about a battalion in strength, with transport. They moved east and about fifteen minutes later encountered the Bedfords’ advanced post at what they called Cistern Hill. Again fire was opened at just under a mile range by the section of men and two parties of Lewis gunners at the post. A good number of casualties were inflicted, especially on the transport and clearly the enemy had no idea that our men were there. The odds were about forty to one in the Turks’ favour, however, and once they recovered their composure they advanced in open order on the advanced post, which was evacuated when the Turks were about three hundred yards away. The Turks duly occupied the post and the hill, but the day has seen many casualties inflicted on them for the loss of two of the Bedfords’ officers, Captain Franklin MC and Lieutenant Pinchin, who have died of wounds. Attacks on the rest of the division have also been repulsed.

Here at Cambrai the offensive has ended after nine days. The units involved in the frustrating fight for Bourlon Wood have been ordered to dig in and prepare for any German counter-attack.

Source: X550/6/8

(1) These two villages were destroyed in the fighting between Arabs and Israelis in 1948. Beit Nabala is now occupied by the Israeli village of Beit Nehemia near Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

(2) A section would have consisted of about 8 to 10 men

Roll of Honour - 28th November 1917

Killed in Action

4th Battalion: at Houtkerke
  • Second Lieutenant Graham Sidney GILBERTSON, 19, attached 7th Battalion, son of George H and Beatrice M Gilbertson of Hitchin [Hertfordshire] (Tyne Cot Memorial)

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
  • 43421 Private Raymond Walter TREVOR, 26, born Stoke-on-Trent [Staffordshire] resided Tetford [Lincolnshire], son of Frederick Walter and Gertrude Trevor of Cecil House, West Street, Horncastle [Lincolnshire] (Étaples Military Cemetery)

Monday 27 November 2017

Battling in Bourlon Wood

Tuesday 27th November 1917

A week into the Battle of Cambrai things seem to have bogged down in an all too familiar fashion. Last Tuesday’s great offensive held out such great prospects of a breakthrough to the green fields beyond the front lines that, we are told, church bells were sounded at home, though we did not hear them here. Since then the right flank of the attack has simply dug in and consolidated whilst the left flank has become embroiled in a rather fruitless struggle for Bourlon Wood

Today 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division and thirty tanks made another attack on the wood. At first success seemed within their grasp but the inevitable counter-attack seems to have wiped out any gains made.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 27th November 1917

Killed in Action

7th Battalion: front line at Canal Bank, Ypres
  • 40815 Private John Thomas HOWARD, 26, ex-16364 Northamptonshire Regiment, born March [Cambridgeshire], husband of Lucy Ethel of Middleton’s Lane, Yaxley [Huntingdonshire] (Artillery Wood Cemetery)
  • 43312 Private Peter KELLY, ex-3698 Manchester Regiment, born Roscommon [Connaught], resided Manchester [Lancashire] (Cement House Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 19553 Private James William GILBERT, born Luddington [Northamptonshire], resided Stanground [Huntingdonshire] (Bois-Guillaume Communal Cemetery Extension)

1st/5th Battalion
  • Captain Thomas Alderman FRANKLIN MC (Jerusalem War Cemetery)
  • Lieutenant George Harold PINCHIN, 24, son of George Staples and Gertrude Elizabeth Pinchin of Lynton, Sevenoaks [Kent] (Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery)

8th Battalion
  • 22681 Private Charles HART, 27, son of Emma Atkin (ex-Hart) of Tyttenhanger Green [Hertfordshire] and late William Hart (Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt)

Sunday 26 November 2017

Jaffa and Cambrai

Monday 26th November 1917

On the night of 24th/25th two battalions of 54th (East Anglian) Division, assisted by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade tried to cross the River Yarkon near Jaffa to drive out the Turks. The attack was unsuccessful. The adjutant of the 1st/5th Bedfords has wired and it does not appear that they took part in the attack. He does note, however, that a Turkish officer was captured yesterday as he made a visit to a well which was rather too close to one of the Battalion’s picquets. A line of posts had been made to prevent Palestinians moving backwards and forwards through the Battalion’s line. This was proclaimed in both nearby villages, there was also a proclamation to the effect that if any Turks were hidden by inhabitants of the villages, the villagers would be held responsible and hanged.

The 8th Battalion are bidding a fond farewell to the front line near Cambrai. They are in the process of being relieved and will move back to the support line near Ribecourt which they helped to capture six days ago.

Fighting for Bourlon Wood still goes on, without much real success.

Sources: X550/6/8; X550/9/1

Roll of Honour - 26th November 1917

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 30856 Private James BUTTERWORTH, 34, husband of Florence Louise of 5 Hillside Terrace, High Barnet [Hertfordshire] (Dozinghem Military Cemetery)
  • 4/7360 Private Joseph PARKER, born Cottered [Hertfordshire], resided Buntingford [Hertfordshire] (Artillery Wood Cemetery)


4th Battalion
  • 26758 Acting Corporal Frank Arthur BOTTERILL, 21, born Wollaston [Northamptonshire], son of William and Annie Botterill of Bozeat [Northamptonshire] (Étaples Military Cemetery)

Saturday 25 November 2017

Patrolling in Palestine

Sunday 25th November 1917

The adjutant of 1st/5th Battalion has wired with news. The Battalion continues to advance in far-off Palestine. It is thought an attack against the Turks in the vicinity of Jaffa is impending. The enemy are close to the port, on the north bank of the River Yarkon, and so preventing its use by allied shipping.

The Bedfords sent out scouts yesterday to try to determine the strength of the enmy positions. Apparently they saw around twenty enemy cavalry but no other sign of activity

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 25th November 1917

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 43198 Private George HILL, ex-2269 Essex Regiment, resided Southend-on-Sea [Essex] (Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension)

Bedfordshire Yeomanry
  • Second Lieutenant Norman Henry CLARK, 21, son of H A Clark of Brushford, Amersham [Buckinghamshire] (Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt)

Friday 24 November 2017

The Struggle for Bourlon Wood Continues

Saturday 24th November 1917

The battle for Bourlon Wood continues but we have received no word of any breakthrough - how the hopes of Tuesday night have been dashed! At least for now.

The 8th Bedfords, on the right of the offensive for Bourlon Wood, holding the front line between Noyelles and Cantaing, report that the activity at the wood is continuous. Occasionally the enemy searches Nine Wood, immediately behind the Battalion and has managed to destroy several sections of trench around Battalion Headquarters, nevertheless, casualties have been remarkably light(1)

Source: X550/9/1

(1) In the period 19th to 26th November, while the Battalion was in the front line it lost fourteen men killed in action and three who died of wounds. This shows how successful the attack on 20th November had been and how the Battalion was lucky to be merely an observer of the fight for Bourlon Wood.

Roll of Honour - 24th November 1917

Killed in Action

Bedfordshire Yeomanry: dismounted party at Boulon Wood
  • 30117 Corporal William John ENGLAND, 22, son of A England of 15 Lovers Walk, Dunstable (Anneux British Cemetery)

Thursday 23 November 2017

Fighting for Bourlon Wood

Friday 23rd November 1917

Today has seen a major attack against Bourlon Wood by the little men of 40th (Bantam) Division - most of whom are below the height of 5 feet 3 inches. The attack does not seem to be making much headway as the enemy has probably reinforced the area.

The adjutant of 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, in the front line between Noyelles and Cantaing remarked to me on the blower this evening that they had expected a German counter-attack against their position, but that it has not materialised. The enemy shelled the lines heavily from 10.30 this morning and nineteen unlucky men had their leave cancelled as a result. The Battalion could see the attack by the bantams but could make out little detail.

Source: X550/9/1

Roll of Honour - 23rd November 1917

Killed in Action

8th Battalion: Battle of Cambrai: front line at Nine Wood, heavy shelling
  • 39622 Private Joseph John TERRY, born Daventry [Northamptonshire], resided Drayton [Northamptonshire] (Cambrai Memorial, Louverval)

Wednesday 22 November 2017

German Counter-Attacks at Cambrai

Thursday 22nd November 1917

Today has seen more German counter-attacks, which have gained some ground. The 8th Bedfords, between Noyelles and Cantaing and in front of Nine Wood, were frequently shelled during the morning.

At 1 pm the enemy launched a determined attack from Fontaine-Notre-Dame towards Anneux. Towards dusk, at four o’clock a few of the enemy appeared to be approaching the Bedfords from a small wood north of Noyelles and were promptly driven off by machine-gun fire.

Meanwhile, the British line has not really moved. Bourlon Wood still remains in enemy hands.

Source: X550/9/1

Roll of Honour - 22nd November 1917

Died of Wounds

Bedfordshire Yeomanry
  • 30894 Private William Frederick LANCASTER born and resided Cranfield (Cambrai Memorial Louverval)

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Second Day of the Battle of Cambrai

Wednesday 21st November 1917

As the old sweats in the Press Corps predicted yesterday, the enemy evacuated Flesquières over-night leaving the exhausted highlanders to occupy it this morning. All the correspondents here at Montreuil-sur-Mer, headquarters of the British Expeditionary Force, have been frantically trying to get south to be closer to the battlefront, your correspondent among them.

This frantic behaviour by the non-combatants, however, has not been mirrored by similar actions on the field of battle itself. It was widely felt last night that a massive breakthrough was at hand. We have learned that, on 6th Division’s front, the cavalry were even sent forward, though they failed in their attempt to seize the village of Noyelles.

This morning Cantaing was quickly taken but the three assaulting divisions belonging to III Corps, including 6th Division and the 8th Bedfords, were told that their advance had ceased and they were to consolidate. The attack has thus been given into the hands of IV Corps alone, which was given orders to take Bourlon Ridge and Wood.

The fighting here and at the village of Anneux has been bloody. The enemy have been, as usual, very quick to counter-attack and the situation is confused though last we heard Anneux still holds out.

The adjutant of the 8th Bedfords tells us that headquarters moved into the old German support system for the Hindenburg Line during the day, south of the Escaut Canal and north of Ribecourt. A pack convoy brought up water for the battalion, which was most welcome.

This afternoon the Battalion moved into the a line just west of Marcoing, then moved again over Prémy Ridge to a quarry (marked in pink on the map above) under shell-fire and relieved the Guernsey Light Infantry of 29th Division in the new front line, holding a stretch in front of Nine Wood west of Noyelles running north-west towards Cantaing. This front line is, the adjutant informs us, not a trench system but just shellholes and posts quickly dug-in.

Source: X550/9/1

Roll of Honour - 21st November 1917

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
  • 31143 Private Arthur HOLLAND, born Harpenden [Hertfordshire], resided Colney Heath [Hertfordshire] (Tincourt New British Cemetery)


2nd Garrison Battalion
  • 34967 Lance Corporal Raymond KERSHAW, 20, ex-49422 Royal Fusiliers, son of William and Margaret Ann Kershaw of Darwen [Lancashire], resided Wandsworth [London] (Kirkee New Cemetery)

4th Battalion
  • 23634 Private W C PEARCE (Hitchin Cemetery)

Monday 20 November 2017

Hammer Blow Struck at Cambrai

Tuesday 20th November 1917

A massive attack has been delivered today, driving towards the town of Cambrai. Readers may remember the 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, mentioning that they had seen scores of tanks yesterday and, it is understood, it is these which have spearheaded the attack.

From all we have heard tremendous progress has been made and a breakthrough achieved. Often we at the front hear rumours of impending assaults, but nothing about this, which seems to have taken the enemy similarly by surprise.

As dawn was breaking the fury of a thousand guns pounded the German lines. Six divisions then went forward, along with over four hundred tanks. This huge blow drove like a steam-roller through the defences of the much-vaunted Hindenburg Line and we believe that, in some places, our men have advanced five miles. The villages of le Pave, la Vacquerie, Ribecourt, Marcoing, Havrincourt, and Graincourt have all fallen, though, annoyingly, Bourlon Ridge remains in enemy hands. 20th (Light) Division was about to cross the Escaut MasnieresCanal and attack Masnières but the weight of one of the tanks brought down the bridge it was crossing.

Only our friends the 51st (Highland) Division have encountered serious and stiff opposition. They have been held up attacking the village of Flesquières where, it has been reported, the enemy has been particularly effective at destroying and disabling the tanks. It is unknown whether they have some new weapon which has enabled them to hold up the land dreadnoughts(1). However this may be, old military hands have remarked that Flesquières now seems all but surrounded by the success achieved on both flanks and that the Germans will have to evacuate it or risk surrender.

Such a decisive stroke, it is hoped may finally land the knock-out punch which ruptures the enemy lines and results in widespread cavalry operations in the enemy rear.

We have heard from the adjutant of 8th Bedfords, part of 6th Division, which seized Marcoing and Ribecourt. The story of their day is as follows: they were ready for the attack before five o’clock this morning and just after six the tanks began their advance. Ten minutes later the artillery opened up “with a deafening roar and in blaze of fire”. The Germans were able to put only a feeble barrage into no-man’s land and at 6.35 the first wave of infantry passed over the line of enemy outposts “the Battalion going over well, men lighting pipes and cigarettes on their way” as the adjutant remarked.

By 6.45 the Hindenburg Line was in sight and just after seven, word came back that the Battalion had taken its first objective which was the main Hindenburg Line - front line and support trenches on a frontage of 650 yards running east from the road from Villers-Plouich to Ribecourt. At 7.20 a German officer and six of his men arrived as prisoners at Battalion Headquarters. Just before 8 o’clock B Company under Captain N C F Nixon had captured all its objectives. At ten minutes past eight another 23 prisoners arrived at headquarters which, a few minutes later re-located to the captured German trenches in the Hindenburg Line. Prisoners were now coming in thick and fast and the enemy was undoubtlessly on the run. Eventually five German officers and two hundred other ranks were captured by the Bedfords, including a battalion commander, a medical officer and a staff lieutenant. The Battalion now began to consolidate its position.

About 1.30 pm a pack animal convoy arrived with water and ammunition. As stock was taken it transpired that the 8th Battalion had lost one officer killed and two wounded, ten other ranks killed and 38 wounded or missing. The fine weather of the morning then began to turn to rain. The adjutant finished his report by saying: “A very successful day and all ranks in high spirits quite ready for further action. The tanks did very good work”.

An air of excitement prevails here, behind the lines. There will be many a sleepless night and when fitful sleep comes, it will be with fitful dreams of final victory.

Source: X550/9/1

(1) The Germans here, who knocked out 28 tanks, had trained especially in anti-tank tactics and had experience in fighting against French tanks en-masse in the Nivelle Offensive of Spring 1917. In addition 51st Division’s commanding officer, Major-General George Montague Harper, over-ruled the tactics which the Tank Corps employed elsewhere on the battlefield. It has long been thought that in supplanting these tactics with some of his own invention that Harper materially assisted in the poor performance at Flesquières, though some have now questioned this. He was promoted to command IV Corps in March 1918.

Roll of Honour - 20th November 1917

Killed in Action

5th Battalion
  • Second Lieutenant Hugh Frederick Raleigh AMESBURY, 27, attached 8th Battalion, D Company, son of Major Frederick Cholmondeley Dering Amesbury, Indian Army, and Henrietta Ferris Amesbury; husband of Emma Mary of London; born Gujranwala [India], served with 1st Division, Canadian Expeditionary Force and 2nd Battle of Ypres and on the Somme, wounded at Thiepval, July 1916 (Ribecourt British Cemetery)
  • Second Lieutenant Henry Noel Francis FORGE, 19, attached 8th Battalion, son of Rev John Francis and Anna Louisa Forge of Walmley Vicarage [Warwickshire] (Villers-Plouich Communal Cemetery)

8th Battalion: Battle of Cambrai: successful attack at Highland Ridge near Villers-Plouich
  • 16816 Private Frederick BOURNE, 21, born Deptford [London], son of James and Mary Bourne of 50 Godolphin Road, Shepherd's Bush [London] (Ribecourt British Cemetery)
  • 22792 Private Jack BUCKLE, 21, son of Rebecca Buckle of Chalton (Mogerhanger) (Ribecourt British Cemetery)
  • 40239 Private Sidney Walter DANN, ex-5512 Norfolk Regiment, son of Alfred Dann of 113 Bull Close Road, Norwich [Norfolk], and late Maria Dann (Ribecourt British Cemetery)
  • 40253 Private Sidney FOSTER, 23, ex-5346 Norfolk Regiment, born Norwich [Norfolk], son of M A Matthews of Millers Square, Attleborough [Norfolk] (Ribecourt British Cemetery)
  • 203058 Private Francis Charles FREESTONE, born and resided Wansford [Peterborough] (Villers-Plouich Communal Cemetery)
  • 33801 Private William GROOM, 20, son of Avis Groom of 16 Bower Lane, Eaton Bray (Ribecourt British Cemetery)
  • 19684 Private Alfred James HAMPTON, born Clerkenwell [London], resided Camden Town [London] (Ribecourt British Cemetery)
  • 40495 Private Leonard Augustus MAYNARD, ex-2505 Middlesex Regiment, born Dalston [London], resided Kilburn [London] (Ribecourt British Cemetery)
  • 22599 Private Henry Ernest MORTIMER, 21, son of Henry and Ethel Mortimer of 104 Spring Road, Kempston (Villers-Plouich Communal Cemetery)
  • 33285 Private Leonard PELLETT, 35, ex-19566 Suffolk Regiment, son of Albert and Elizabeth Pellett of Petworth [Sussex], resided Petworth, husband of Rose B M of Rumbold’s Hill, Midhurst [Sussex] (Ribecourt British Cemetery)
  • 25387 Private William James SCOTT, 23, born Leavesden [Hertfordshire], son of Flora Mary Scott of 59 Brighton Road, Watford [Hertfordshire] and late William Scott (Ribecourt British Cemetery)
  • 19673 Lance Corporal William Charles SIMS, born Islington [London], resided Kentish Town [London] (Villers-Plouich Communal Cemetery)
  • 20953 Private George Leslie WOODING, born Bedford, resided Luton (Ribecourt British Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 40803 Private Thomas WATSON, 29, ex-34353 Leicestershire Regiment, son of Henry and Mary Watson of Bradford [Yorkshire] (Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension)

8th Battalion
  • 33181 Sergeant George Stephen BABBINGTON, 27, son of Harry and Harriet Babbington of Stagsden (Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt)
  • 32935 Private George Henry BAILEY, born Kettering [Northamptonshire], resided Sharnbrook (Cambrai Memorial, Louverval)

Sunday 19 November 2017

Scores of Tanks

Monday 19th November 1917

The adjutant of the 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment tells us that Military Medals have been awarded to the following men for gallantry in action:

  • 12282 Sergeant N C Scruby(1);
  • 22008 Sergeant A J Turner;
  • 8179 Corporal J Mason;
  • 30292 Private G Ruggles;
  • 23499 Private G A Holdom;
  • 40629 Private C Cooper
The 8th Battalion are in the trenches at Fifteen Ravine near Gouzeaucourt. In the last hour they have, however, been moving forward to the front line. The adjutant was somewhat terse in his telegram but did mention seeing “scores of tanks”.

Sources: X550/5/3; X550/9/1

(1) Sergeant Norman Scruby MM died on 27th April 1921 aged 34, presumably of wounds

Saturday 18 November 2017

Yellow Devils on the Move

Sunday 18th November 1917

We have heard today of the doings of the 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, part of the expeditionary force in Palestine. Following the victory at Gaza at the beginning of the month, the army has been following the retreating Turks.

The enemy abandoned Gaza on night of 7th/8th November. The Bedfords then had a period of “cleaning and straightening up generally” to quote the adjutant. They moved from the Sheikh Hasan area to a bivouac on cliffs by the sea on 12th.

On 14th they proceeded by route march to Herbieh some miles north-east, on the mediterannean coast. The following day they marched to El-Mejdel just inland from Ashkelon. The next day, permission having been given to visit the village in the morning the Battalion began a march at dusk to Esdud(1), along the railway line to the north east - arriving at 10 pm.

Yesterday the men marched to Yebna, arriving at 4 pm. Today they are due to march to Ayun Kara. They will thus have advanced forty miles. As a postscript we heard this morning that the vital port of Jaffa fell to the army on Friday, though the harbour is not yet safe for ships to unload vital supplies.

The correspondent's very amateurish attempt at a sketch map of Palestine above may give some idea of the Bedfords' route from Gaza to Jaffa.

Source: X550/6/8

(1) These towns are now in Israel and so have Hebrew names - Esdud is Ashdod, Yebna is Yavne, Ayun Kara is Rishon leZion; Jaffa is now part of Tel Aviv.

Friday 17 November 2017

Tanks in the Wood

Saturday 17th November 1917

Intriguing news has reached us from the 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. They are at a beauty spot known as Fifteen Ravine, near Gouzeaucourt having just arrived this evening. Even in the dark they have seen a large number of tanks in the woods around them. To see so many of these metal monsters together must either mean that something is afoot or, as one wag speculated, that they are breeding.

That something is afoot seems unlikely. It is very late in the year to make any major attack. Gouzeaucourt is a few miles south-west of Cambrai and there has been no major offensive operation here - the place being given up by the enemy in their retreat in March this year.

Source: X550/9/1

Roll of Honour - 17th November 1917

Died of Wounds

1st/5th Battalion:
  • 201151 Corporal Robert Richard CHARGE MM, born Southall [Middlesex], resided Paddington [London] (Cairo War Memorial Cemetery)
  • 200864 Corporal Thomas Henry LODGE, 31, son of William and Esther Lodge of Luton (Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery)

Thursday 16 November 2017


Lewis Gun by Balcer on Wikipedia

Friday 16th November 1917

Salvage is important. That has been the word from British Expeditionary Force General Headquarters. Salvage means retrieving such items as weapons, ammunition and steel helmets from battlefields so that they can be re-used. This puts less stress on the factories at home and round the Empire which are running at full steam to produce enough of these items to feed a front which seems to have an inexhaustible appetite for the material of war, just as it does for the men that use it.

The adjutant of the 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, tells us that the battalion is in the front line near Hollebeke. Today A Company was shelled by our own heavy guns though, fortunately, no casualties have been reported. The adjutant reports that a great deal of salvage work has been done by the reserve company at Corner House. After so great a battle as the Third Battle of Ypres has been there will, sadly, be many former soldiers in need of burial and equipment in need of salvaging.

Men I have spoken to at the front, not unnaturally, express a preference for salvage duty over burial duty. A number of them have cheerfully requested that this organ of news make known their theory that salvage would be greatly increased by the payment of a bounty - perhaps sixpence for every dozen rifles retrieved, or a shilling for a usable machine-gun.

Source: X550/7/1

Roll of Honour - 16th November 1917

Killed in Action

1st Battalion
  • Temporary Major Eric Aylmer Goldney SNELL, 25, mentioned in despatches, attached 4th King's African Rifles, son of Dr George Snell of 29 Cecil Court, West Brompton [London], born Berbice [Guyana]; Assistant Commissioner, Uganda; educated at Bedford School and Royal Military College, Sandhurst (Dar-es-Salaam War Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 200569 Private William Samuel HAYES, 30, resided Dunstable, son of Robert Henry and Elizabeth Hayes, husband of Adah Eliza Andrews (ex-Hayes) of 9 Britain Street, Dunstable (Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord)

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Keeness and a Dashing Manner

Thursday 15th November 1917

This afternoon at about 4.30, 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment had to repulse an attack by the Germans on the junction of the French and British armies just south of Houthulst Forest. The adjutant mentioned to me on the blower that Colonel Carot commanding the 43rd French Regiment personally congratulated the 54th Brigade and in particular the Bedfordshire Regiment on their keeness and dashing manner in repelling the German attack.

1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has been relieved from its front line trenches today. A little excitement preceded this event, however; an enemy patrol of two men approached the trenches, were detected and attacked. One of the enemy was killed and the other was captured.

Lieutenant Primrose-Wells [X550/1/81]

A further three other ranks joined the 4th Bedfords today along with another officer, Lieutenant J B Primrose-Wells(1).

Source: X550/2/5; X550/5/3; X550/8/1

(1) James Bowen Primrose-Wells would be wounded in the same action in which his commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel J S Collings-Wells was killed. He would die of his wounds on 4th April 1918 as a prisoner-of war and now has no known grave, being commemorated on the Bécourt German Cemetery Memorial in Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille Wood.

Roll of Honour - 15th November 1917

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: relieved from the front line at Polygon Racecourse near Hooge
  • 40957 Private George Albert FORD, ex-56189 Labour Corps, born Old Southgate [Middlesex], resided South Mimms [Middlesex] (Tyne Cot Memorial)

7th Battalion: front line at Houthulst Forest, repelling a German attack
  • 3/7659 Sergeant Bertie William MEEKS, born Chatteris [Cambridgeshire], son of John William and Alice Meeks of 14 Adelaide Terrace, Godmanchester [Huntingdonshire] (Poelcapelle British Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 203966 Corporal Percy WINTER, 34, ex-31232 Suffolk Regiment, resided Ware [Hertfordshire], youngest son of John Winter of 3 Park Street, Cirencester [Gloucestershire], husband of Harriet of 48 Winstonian Road, Cheltenham [Gloucestershire] (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)
  • 290901 Private Jack Alfred WOLFE, born Otford [Kent], resided Sevenoaks [Kent] (Tyne Cot Memorial)


8th Battalion
  • 33286 Private James KEEMER, ex-22121 Suffolk Regiment, born Brighton [Sussex], son of James and Anna Keemar of 77 Colebrook Road, High Brooms [Kent] (Leeds (Harehills) Cemetery)

Tuesday 14 November 2017


Wednesday 14th November 1917

After their nasty day at the Paddebeek on 30th October, 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment have received much-needed reinforcements. Five new subalterns have arrived - Second Lieutenants W B Stimson, L Humphreys, A Hayes, P Shott and A V Clarke, together with 165 other ranks. These will go some way to making good the nine officers and 225 other ranks who became casualties then(1).

Source: X550/5/3

(1) Second Lieutenant Arthur Hayes would be killed on 25th March 1918, he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. 

Roll of Honour - 14th November 1917

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line at Polygon Racecourse near Hooge
  • 13357 Private Frederick James MEASURES, 28, born Stukeley [Huntingdonshire], son of Hannah Measures of 41 Great Northern Street, Huntingdon and late Charles Measures (Tyne Cot Memorial)

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 29328 Private Albert BUDREY, born Foulsham [Norfolk], resided East Dereham [Norfolk] (Trois Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerck)


1st/5th Battalion
  • 200280 Private William Thomas LOUGHTON, 32, husband of Edith of 49 Adelaide Street, Luton , son of William Loughton (Gaza War Cemetery)

Monday 13 November 2017

Better Homes

Tuesday 13th November 1917

The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is back in the front line near Polygon Racecourse. Over much of the battlefield at present the front line consists not of trenches and barbed wire but shellholes, scrapes in the earth, concrete pillboxes and blockhouses and advanced posts. During the day the Bedfords have sought to improve their temporary home, making it more habitable and stronger against attack. They have been drained of as much water as can be induced to leave and the shell holes have been joined up into a continuous line that more resembles a trench. During the hours of darkness a patrol surprised a German in No Man’s Land and captured him. He proved to be from the 26th Prussian Regiment.

Sources: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour - 13th November 1917

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line at Polygon Racecourse near Hooge
  • 12951 Private Andrew WOOD MM, born Falkirk [Stirlingshire], resided Luton (Tyne Cot Memorial)

7th Battalion: took over front line at Houthulst Forest
  • 40497 Private Jonathan Valentine GEDGE, ex-29112 Essex Regiment, born and resided Paston [Norfolk] (Tyne Cot Memorial)


3rd Battalion
  • 22549 Private Arthur Frederick DOBNEY, son of Emma Dobney of Cross Hall Ford and late Joseph Dobney (Eaton Socon churchyard)

Sunday 12 November 2017


Monday 12th November 1917

It seems clear, with winter drawing near and the weather worsening, that the Third Battle of Ypres must be drawing to a close, of it has not actually done so, especially now the all-important village of Passchendaele and its ridge have been taken. Certainly there seems to be no urgency to troop movements following the last attack on Saturday. This has led the gentlemen of the press corps to compare the great offensive here with that which occurred in the second half of last year on the Somme.

If the battle has indeed come to an end after the attack of 10th November this battle, which began on 31st July has lasted 103 days. The Somme began on 1st July and ended a week later on 18th November, for a total of 141 days. The length of front has, generally been shorter here, but the Somme was a joint attack by our own forces and the French whereas this battle has been carried on solely by British and Imperial forces.

It is reckoned that the Somme saw an advance of six miles at its greatest extent. The gains here have been less but still substantial. The most vexed issue, as always, is the number of casualties, for which there may never be a completely reliable number. Indeed, the numbers for the Somme are still in dispute, one year on. In the end we each did our separate research, each estimated a figure and found the average! We suggest 400,000 British and Empire and 200,000 french casualties (dead, wounded, missing) on the Somme as opposed to 450,000 German. We arrived at figures of about 250,000 for each side in this battle.

These figures are, obviously, guesses and, it may be said, irresponsible guesses at that. Each statistic is a man’s life. What is clear, however, is that this battle has been less hungry of those men's lives. Given the awful conditions prevailing for much of this battle and the fact that the enemy’s fortifications were of longer standing than those on the Somme this shows that our army is becoming more efficient and less destructive of its most precious resource.

I see from my notes that the battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment involved suffered 1,281 deaths. By my best calculations, after speaking to the various adjutants, the Regiment has suffered something like 339 casualties during this battle, a reduction in the order of two-thirds. Of course, the Regiment was less heavily involved in this battle, the 8th Battalion, for example, playing no part. Nevertheless the numbers are remarkable.