4th Battalion at Mons, 22nd Aug 1914
The 4th Battalion under Lt-Col McMahon arrived at Le Havre on 13th Aug 1914. It was made up of 734 reservists, and as they marched along the quay they were cheered by French soldiers. The Fusiliers began to whistle the Marseillaise and that was followed by 'Hold your hand out you naughty boy' which the French mistook for the British national anthem because they respectfully removed their hats. The march took them up a steep hill to the rest camp but their tents weren't ready and they had to sleep in the open. It rained heavily that night and they were soaked to the skin. The next day a train took them to Landrecies and one can only imagine the strong smell of wet uniforms in the crowded carriages. They marched to Noyelles and by the evening of the 22nd Aug they were at Nimy just north of Mons.
The Battle of Nimy, 23rd Aug 1914
The 4th Royal Fusiliers moved up to the village of Nimy, on the outskirts of Mons, on the eve of the battle. It had been a long march to Mons, and the men were weary, but setting up position alongside the Conde canal bank offered little protection for the rifle companies, so the night was spent in digging in or using material found in the surrounding area to make improvised firing positions. At Nimy itself Y Company (Captain L.F.Ashburner) of the battalion was set up with its left flank on the Nimy railway bridge and the right flank on a swing bridge, which had been closed to stop the movement of traffic. In the early hours of 23rd August 1914 a German patrol was heard and at first light was spotted and fired upon, hitting four of the men and wounding the officer who was taken prisoner. It transpired that this officer was Lieutenant von Arnim, son of the commander of IV German Army Corps who had been observing the Fusiliers from the Nimy road.
German attacks on Nimy soon began, and artillery fire fell on the area between the two bridges. Lieutenant Maurice Dease, in command of the machine gun section, had placed his two guns on the south side of the railway bridge in two sandbagged emplacements. These laid down deadly enfilade fire into the ranks of the advancing German infantry, but they soon came under fire themselves;
The machine gun crews were constantly being knocked out. So cramped was their position that when a man was hit he had to be removed before another could take his place. The approach from the trench was across the open, and whenever a gun stopped Lieutenant Maurice Dease... went up to see what was wrong. To do this once called for no ordinary courage. To repeat it several times could only be done with real heroism. Dease was badly wounded on these journeys, but insisted on remaining at duty as long as one of his crew could fire. The third wound proved fatal, and a well deserved VC was awarded him posthumously. By this time both guns had ceased firing, and all the crew had been knocked out. In response to an inquiry whether anyone else knew how to operate the guns Private Godley came forward. He reached the emplacement under heavy fire and brought the gun into action. But he had not been firing long before the gun was hit and put completely out of action. The water jackets of both guns were riddled with bullets, so that they were no longer of any use. Godley himself was badly wounded and later fell into the hands of the Germans. For their bravery Lieutenant Maurice Dease and Private Sidney Godley were both awarded the Victoria Cross - the first British soldiers to receive the award in the Great War.
The attacking German Infantry were from German 84th Infantry Regiment (1st Schleswigsches Infanterie-Regiment 84) and the men of the 4th R Fusiliers shot down the "feldgrau" in masses as they advanced in parade ground fashion. The German 84th Infantry recoiled from the rapid fire that they put down. Each British infantryman was firing at a rate of approximately one round every four seconds, a rate of fire so great that many of the Germans believed it to be from massed machine-guns. The hail of lead that flew across the canal into their advancing massed ranks reaped a heavy toll. This rapid fire was a result of training given by their CO Norman McMahon the Musketry Maniac who had been Chief Instructor at the British Small Arms School at Hythe between 1905 and 1914.
Meanwhile the right flank of Y Company at the swing bridge was also under threat. A German soldier called Niemeyer had jumped into the canal and swum to the bridge, set the swing mechanism in motion again and re-opened the bridge. Germans began to stream across towards Nimy and about 1.40pm McMahon gave the order to withdraw. This was done in "perfect order" according to the regimental history, and the Retreat From Mons began.
Captain Ashburner's Y Company at the Nimy bridges had suffered around 75 casualties, and in total the battalion lost about 150 officers and men. The majority are commemorated on the La Ferte sous Jouarre Memorial to the missing, while a few are buried at St Synphorien Cemetery, just outside Mons; including Maurice Dease VC. He was originally buried close to the Nimy railway bridge, but his grave was moved to this cemetery in the 1920s.
Rouge Maison Salient, The Aisne, Sep 1914
The retreat from Mons took the 4th Battalion through Le Cateau where they were in reserve but suffered some casualties. They crossed the Marne unopposed but sustained more casualties at Veuilly on 10th Sep. On the 13th They crossed the Aisne via a narrow plank bridge and set themselves up to the left of Rouge Maison Farm to spend a wet night in the open. On the 14th they realised that they were too far forward and the Germans were able to fire on their right flank. Under heavy firing from machine-guns and artillery the enemy attacked and although some positions were held, others were forced to withdraw. Four officers were killed, one wounded, and 200 other ranks were killed or wounded. On the 19th Sep they came under heavy bombardment but a German attack was beaten off and they spent eight nights in the trenches there before they were relieved by the Lincolns. Total casualties for the battle of the Aisne were 5 officers killed and 300 other ranks killed or wounded.
Herlies, Oct 1914
The 4th Battalion was divided at Herlies, with Colonel McMahon taking 3 companies around to approach the village from the north while Captain Swift and W Company accompanied the Lincolns in forcing the Germans out with the bayonet. The company lost an officer killed and 10 other casualties. One officer in McMahon's wing of the battalion, was killed in unfortunate circumstances on the 17th Oct. Lt Longman was having tea with 3 other officers of Z Company in a farm at Petit Riez when a bombardment started at 5pm. The three officers ran out of the building while Longman thought he had a better chance inside. But a shell burst into the room and he was killed as he sat at the table. Lt Moxon's platoon supported the Royal Irish at Le Pilly while the battalion held the west side of Herlies. On the 20th a heavy bombardment turned the village into a devastated ruin and enemy infantry came in. Captain Carey was sent with a company to give support to the Northumberland Fusiliers but he was severely wounded as they went over open ground. Moxon was also wounded. The regiments withdrew from the area in such a hurry that ammunition and rations had to be abandoned. They made a night march to Pont du Hem which they reached on 23rd Oct. They had suffered the loss of 5 officers and 150 other ranks killed or wounded.
Neuve Chapelle, 25th-27th Oct 1914
The 4th Battalion were given little rest and were ordered to retake lost trenches on the outskirts of Neuve Chapelle. Sir Francis Waller led Z Company in a charge against the enemy, and was mortally wounded. They captured the trenches and the town was cleared of Germans. Y Company and half of Z Company all under the command of Major Mallock remained in the front line while the rest went into billets. On 26th Oct the Germans attacked in the early hours and a fierce engagement took place in which the trenches were defended until most of the Fusiliers had been killed or wounded. The whole battalion was involved as the day wore on and some trenches were lost, but on the following day, the 27th, they were aided by French Alpine troops and almost regained the lost positions, but at a heavy cost in casualties. Major Mallock was severely wounded and the battalion was reduced to 8 officers and 350 other ranks. They were relieved on the night of the 29th Oct and marched to Merris. They were later complimented by General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien:
"I simply cannot find words enough to express my admiration for the way in which your regiment has behaved. All through the campaign up to now they have had the hardest work of any regiment in the brigade, and any work they have had to do they have carried out exceedingly well. In fact, I can say that there is no better regiment in the British Army than the Royal Fusiliers."
Herenthage Wood, Ypres, 6th-8th Nov 1914
On the night of the 6th Nov the battalion took over positions from the 6th Cavalry brigade east of Hooge and were placed on the edge of Herenthage Wood between French Zouaves and the Northumberland Fusiliers. On the 7th the Zouaves were destroyed by artillery fire and on the 8th there was shelling and an attack that was dealt with by Y Company. The enemy occupied the wood and threatened the battalion's flank. Two officers, Stapleton Bretherton and Jackson led 62 men of Y Company in a brave counter-attack which, along with the advance of the West Riding regiment restored the line. But the 2 officers and their men had all sacrificed their lives.
Ypres, Nov 1914
On 11th Nov there was a bombardment, the worst the men had ever seen, which went on for two and a half hours. Many men in the front trenches were killed or buried. Captain Routley was in command of these trenches, and in a desperate situation. He was wounded in the head but led the men in fending off an attack by the German 4th (Queen Augusta's) Guard Grenadiers. Some of the men retreated and caused panic amongst the new arrivals to the battalion who were manning the reserve trenches. Colonel McMahon tried to rally the men as they attempted to run away but he was hit and fell on one knee, then a shell burst near him and he was killed. By the evening only 2 officers and 50 men were left fit enough to carry on. They were reinforced by 50 more the next day and held on until 21st Nov when they handed over to French troops. On that day they were reinforced by a further 300 reservists and some officers from the 1st Battalion headed by Major Hely-Hutchinson who became CO in place of the badly missed Colonel McMahon. The new CO had to deal with discipline in the ranks which had become slack with the shortage of NCOs. In the space of 4 months the 4th Battalion had lost over 50 officers and 1,900 other ranks, killed, wounded or sick.
1st Battalion at Fleurbaix, Oct-Nov 1914
The 1st Battalion marched south and reached Fleurbaix on 23rd Oct to support the right flank of the Welsh Fusiliers. They went into trenches and were shelled and sniped at by the Saxon soldiers 150 yards to their front. On 5th Nov they sustained 20 casualties and on the 9th a shell made a direct hit on a trench and killed one and wounded 3 men. Sergeant Tuersley was wounded in assisting Cpl Taimer who had been hit, but continued to help him though the trench was still under fire. Three days later a dug-out in which Capt H J Shaw was sleeping was knocked in at 3.30am and when the earth was removed he was dead.
The 3rd Londons at Neuve Chapelle, March 1915
The 3rd (City of London) Battalion were one of the Territorial battalions that were originally known as Volunteers. They had been the 11th Middlesex (Railway) Volunteers until they were joined to the Royal Fusiliers in 1890. They had fought in the Boer War and had been reduced from 13 to 11 companies after that. Now as the 3rd Londons, as they were known, they entered France in January 1915 and were with the Garhwal Brigade of the Meerut Division at Neuve Chapelle. Their first experience of battle was on 10th March 1915 while they were in position along the Estaires-La Bassee road. They had to move forward in the morning to replace infantry who had advanced. Two companies went forward to support the advance and another two went to a circular breastwork on the right of the trench called Port Arthur. One of the advancing companies was ordered to secure a house on the corner of the village which was thought to contain 12 Germans. Captain Pulman led his men towards it but there was a whole company of Germans in the house well armed with machine guns. Pulman and 12 men were killed and the rest took cover. A popular officer by the name of Lieut Mathieson shouted "Come on boys, don't be shy!" and led the nearest men onward but was shot dead almost immediately. The company, however, managed to capture the house.
The companies in 'Port Arthur' were then ordered to deal with an enemy trench that was blocking the advance, and they made a heroic charge to capture this position. Lieut Crichton was one of the first casualties of this action but after the first wound he still urged his men forward until another bullet killed him. Many of the Londons were killed in this charge but the survivors reached the trench and captured it. They remained there for 4 days, beating off counter-attacks and sending out patrols under the command of Captains Livingston and Moore. In one patrol Sergt W Allen won the DCM when he discovered bridges which had been placed by the Germans in preparation for an attack. He removed them, thus foiling the enemy attack. The 3rd Londons lost 8 officers and 340 other ranks in the battle of Neuve Chapelle 1915.
The 4th Londons at Neuve Chapelle, Mar-Apr 1915
The 4th (City of London) Territorial Battalion originated in 1860 when several rifle corps were raised in the Tower Hamlets area. They served in the Boer War as the 1st or Tower Hamlets Rifle Volunteer Brigade and afterwards were placed initially in the Rifle Brigade, then in May 1904 they became the 4th Volunteer Battalion Royal Fusiliers. They were the 4th (City of London) Territorial Battalion in 1908, with their HQ at 112 Shaftsbury Street. The 4th Londons went into the trenches for the first time on 12th/13th March 1915, at Rue des Berceaux, Neuve Chapelle, with their battalion HQ at Vieille Chapelle. Later they were visited and praised by Major-General H Keary, commander of the Lahore Division for 'their admirable conduct under the most trying conditions.' They made a forced march to Ouderom on 25th April and delivered an attack in support of the Connaught Rangers at St Jean which was unsuccessful because of poison gas. Another unsuccessful attack was made the next day, on 26th April, with heavy losses; Lt Coates and 32 other ranks were killed, 7 officers and 165 men wounded.
3rd Battalion in the 2nd Battle of Ypres, April 1915
In March 1915 the 3rd Battalion were in trenches east of Kemmel. It was here that on 9th March their CO Lt-Col Guy du Maurier was killed during a bombardment by a direct hit on battalion HQ. They then took over trenches from the French at Gravenstafel in the Ypres area on 20th April. They were to the right of a Canadian battalion and it was there on 22nd April that they experienced the first gas attack by the Germans. It was mostly French troops that were affected, to the left of the Canadians. On 25th April the Germans attacked the Surreys on the right of the Fusiliers. They gave their neighbours machine-gun support, killing many Germans. But the next day the battalion was almost surrounded when the enemy penetrated to the left rear of their position. The enemy infantry was ejected but there was a heavy bombardment which prevented any movement. Between 22nd April and 3rd May the 3rd Battalion lost 7 officers and 100 men killed, 13 officers and 363 other ranks wounded, but they had not lost any ground. On 3rd May the battalion was ordered back but on 8th May they had to support an attack by the East Surreys during which time they lost an additional 2 officers and 40 men killed, and 3 officers and 141 men wounded.
The 2nd Battalion returned from India in December 1914 and were in England until March 1915 when they sailed to Malta on the Alaunia and after a few days went on to Alexandria where they practiced disembarkation onto landing craft. They then went to Lemnos on 11th April for more practice, and then on 23rd April embarked for final preparations on Tenedos. Here they were split; W and X Companies with HQ went on HMS Implacable at 7pm on 24th April while Y and Z Companies boarded a minesweeper. The approach to Gallipoli was made at night in bright moonlight. But the moon had set at 3.30am when the companies on Implacable were loaded onto boats. These were towed in while the fleet bombarded the well-prepared Turkish positions on the peninsula.
The 86th Fusilier Brigade was chosen to land first, to cover the landing of the other units. The landing place of the 2nd Battalion was X Beach, a 200 yard long beach with a 100 foot high cliff rising steeply with no natural path up. The men of W and X Companies, under the command of Lt-Col Newenham, rowed their boats rapidly and beached them before jumping in the water. They were soaked through which made their task all the more difficult. However, under cover of bombardment from Implacable they scaled the cliff and captured the first trench. Y and Z Companies followed a little later and Newenham took part of the battalion to the right to link up with the Lancashire Fusiliers who had trouble reaching the landing place.
A hill between the two landing places, known as Hill 114 had to be taken despite the landmines. They charged the trenches with bayonets fixed and dislodged the Turkish defenders. Meanwhile X Company at first achieved success having moved off to the left of X Beach, but the second line of Turks proved less easy to deal with. Y Company had to come to their aid as heavy fighting ensued. The whole battalion effort look as if it would fail but Col Newenham contacted the 87th Brigade who were landing at X Beach. With the help of the Border Regiment and the Inniskilling Fusiliers they managed to hold the line despite constant attack though the night. The Turks pulled back when dawn broke and the battalion had achieved it's objective but at the cost of half its strength in killed and wounded. Included in the list of wounded was the CO, Lt-Col Newenham whose injury was serious enough for him to lose a leg. On the 26th April there were concerted attacks made by about 2,500 Turks but they were unsuccessful, the enemy withdrawing to Achi Baba. On 27th there was a general advance and the 86th Brigade was in reserve.
The Royal Fusiliers and the Lancashire Fusiliers were tasked with attacking a spur northeast of Krithia but the battalion, under the command of two officers, Cripps and O'Connell, had to dig in under heavy fire and were unable to proceed. Cripps was wounded and the casualties were mounting. The progress that they did manage was wasted because there was a lack of support and the ground was lost. The battalion had started out with 26 officers and 948 other ranks and finished the 3 days fighting with 12 officers and 481 other ranks.
The Forked Nullah, 1st-2nd May 1915
The Gallipoli campaign now stagnated into trench warfare but on 1st May the Turks made a determined attack on the right of the 86th Brigade held by the Munster Fusiliers which, due to the loss of officers, was the weakest part of their line. After heavy shelling a force of 16,000 Turks attacked and entered a forked nullah that divided the Munsters from the rest of the brigade. There was a fierce bayonet fight that penetrated to Scots troops in the reserve trench. The Royal Fusiliers were in a further reserve trench and sent in Z Coy under Capt North-Bomford and Lt Jebens to assist the beleaguered Munsters and Scots. They charged into the nullah which was full of the enemy and succeeded in restoring the situation, even managing to send back 40 prisoners. With the help of Y Coy the line was held throughout the night despite repeated attacks. Lt John Anstice distinguished himself keeping the men tirelessly supplied with ammunition, water and rations but was killed, thus earning a (rejected) recommendation for the VC. Both North-Bomford and Jebens were wounded and another officer, popular with the men, Capt Thomas Shafto, was killed while examining the front line early on the morning of 2nd May.
Second Battle of Krithia, 6th-8th May 1915
The battalion was now down to 6 officers, the commanding officer being Capt Hope-Johnstone. Other ranks numbered 425. On May 6th they were on the left of a brigade advance, in support of the Hampshires. Their left flank was on the Saghir Dere (Gully Ravine), and in 4 hours hard fighting they took the line forward several hundred yards but had to dig in fast under fire. They then had to support the Essex Regiment when they went forward and were shelled all day on the 7th. After more shelling on the 8th they went into reserve.
Third Battle of Krithia, 4th June 1915
They were back in action again on 17th May, and on the 22nd they captured a Turkish trench. However this had to be abandoned after a counter-attack and they suffered 40 casualties. The third battle of Krithia began on 4th June in which W Coy under Captain Amphlett charged a machine-gun redoubt that they discovered was manned by German sailors from SMS Breslau. They captured 4 heavy naval machine-guns and, according to RSM Huband, "one ugly looking customer ...evidently the naval equivalent of a military pioneer sergeant. He was armed with a rifle, revolver and a serrated sword." The officer, Capt Amphlett, who had been a police magistrate in Grenada before the war, was killed. The battalion was able to sweep past the redoubt and achieve the objective. But they had to advance further to strengthen the gains made by the Manchester Brigade of 42nd Division, thus creating an irregular salient in the Turkish lines.
The 5th June was a quiet day but on the 6th, after some loud bombing, a large body of men were seen retiring and they went into the Fusilier trench on the left of the position. The trench was becoming choked with men and Major Brandreth had to clear the trench to restore order. But Turks attacked the position from the rear and many men were shot in the back. The rest of the battalion were unable to support them and they suffered heavy loss. Ten new officers were lost, including Major Brandreth, leaving only one, 2nd Lt Cooper. On the 7th June the battalion was relieved and they marched to Gully Beach with only 2 officers and 278 men. They were later reconstituted with young semi-trained men and a draft of officers, one of whom was Captain A A C FitzClarence, the 6th member of that branch of the royal family to serve in the Royal Fusiliers.
The new officers were all but wiped out on 28th June when the battalion made an attack which advanced them 1,000 yards. They impressed The Times correspondent with their steadiness under fire which was mostly shrapnel. There was hand-to-hand fighting during the night and they finished the 24 hour battle in a state of exhaustion and desperately thirsty. 3 officers, including Capt FitzClarence, and 27 men were killed; 3 officers and 175 men wounded, and 3 officers and 57 men were missing. Not long after this, on 15th July the battalion was sent to Lemnos for rest and recuperation, and a new CO took over, Major Guyon. They also received fresh drafts of men from the 3rd 5th and 7th Battalions who came from France.
Scimitar Hill, Sulva, 21st Aug 1915
They returned to the trenches in early August and relieved the Border Regiment. The trenches were, in places, only 15 yards from the enemy and the Turks were able to throw grenades into their trench. The Fusiliers retaliated with 'jam-tin' bombs and trench mortars. On 19th Aug they were moved to C Beach at Sulva and marched to Chocolate Hill. From here the two bigades, 87th and 86th, were ordered to take Scimitar Hill. After the bombardment which started at 2.30pm, they filed along a trench which was exposed to enfilade shrapnel fire so that the way was blocked by dead and wounded. The artillery fire also set the bushes on fire beside the trench. During the night there were desperate attempts to dig a connecting trench to the Yeomanry on their right but the men were sniped at and progress was slow. The horrors of this type of warfare continued until 8th Sep when they were shipped off to Imbros, but sickness with diarrhoea was rife. The casualty figures up to 14th Sep 1915 were:
Dead: 19 officers, 260 other ranks
Wounded: 40 officers, 914 other ranks
Sick: 24 officers, 376 other ranks
Missing: 7 officers, 96 other ranks
Total casualties: 1, 736
The Great Flood, 26th Nov 1915
At 5pm on 26th Nov it started to rain, so heavily that the trenches soon filled with water. Then a tremendous flood swept over them from the Turkish trenches bringing dead animals and men into their trenches. Several men were drowned and the area turned into a lake. Men stood in small groups, soaked and without rifles, on any ground available. There was a short truce as both sides were in this predicament. By 10pm the men were in a terrible situation because the wind was now very cold and two men from W Coy froze to death. It snowed on the 27th and the next day the battalion was evacuated with great difficulty as the men were hardly able to walk. A brave group of men were sent back to their trench, as an outpost, commanded by 2nd Lt Camies where they suffered from intense cold. They were supposed to be relieved by another regiment but unfortunately the relief force became lost and Camies and his men were finally found at 4am on 30th Nov, in a pitiful condition. The battalion was now down to 10 officers and 70 effective men. The 2nd Battalion, along with 2/3rd Londons who had joined them in September, remained in Gallipoli until they left for good, arriving in Alexandria on 8th Jan 1916.
The 1st Londons at Aubers Ridge, 9th May 1915
The 1st (City of London) Territorial Battalion was formed originally in 1859 as the 19th Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps, became the 10th in 1880 as part of the KRRC, and in 1883 joined the Royal Fusiliers as their 1st Volunteer Battalion. They were based at 33 Fitzroy Square and became part of the Territorial Army in 1908. In the area adjoining Neuve Chapelle, on 8th May 1915 four companies of the 1st Londons moved to assembly positions south of the Rue Petillon. The next day, after a bombardment to clear the German wire traps, the battalion advanced by platoon rushes. In this action the battalion lost 3 officers and 120 men killed, with 2 officers and 194 men wounded. Conan Doyle's history of WW1 he says of this heroic attempt: 'They advanced over 400 yards of open with the steadiness of veterans.' They were unable to achieve their objective and were ordered to withdraw to the crossroads at Rue du Quesnes.
3rd Battalion, Bellewarde Ridge, 24th May 1915
After a 10 day lull in the fighting the Germans inflicted more damage on the Royal Fusiliers in one day than they had sustained in their history: 536 dead. The 3rd Battalion had suffered from a poison gas attack between Shelltrap Farm and Bellewarde Lake. Then the bombardment started. This was so intense that many men left their trenches in panic, exposing the left flank of the battalion which was south of the Ypres-Roulers railway. A half company under 2nd Lts Sealy and Holleny was sent to occupy the deserted trenches north of the rail line. The seperated sections of the battalion were cut off from each other because shell-fire had cut the lines. Major Johnson was ordered to make a counter-attack on Bellewarde Ridge with support from the Buffs and East Surreys but it was unsuccessful and Johnson was wounded. The enemy worked their way around to the south of the railway and were firing on the battalion flank. They had been in possession of the Fusiliers' fire trenches since early morning and could not be dislodged. The third line of trenches was held by a small remnant of the regiment plus 200 survivors from the Buffs. The effects of the gas had made the fighting that much harder. By the end of the day, 24th May, the only officer left was Major Baker, and the 3rd Battalion had sustained 536 men killed and 194 wounded leaving only 150 men out of 880.
4th Battalion at Bellewarde, 16th June 1915
As one of the battalions in the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Division, the 4th Btn Royal Fusiliers were ordered to straighten the line that had been dented by the German possession of Bellewarde Lake with an attack on the Ridge. They were in position east of Cambridge Road trench at 1.30am on 16th June 1915. The Royal Artillery bombardment was effective in removing the barbed wire and demoralising the Germans so that the capture of their trenches was easier than usual. However the two supporting companies of the battalion advancing on the west bank of the lake advanced too quickly and became victims of our own artillery fire. Major Hely-Hutchinson went into the wood to bring the remaining men back to a communication trench which became subject to enemy counter-attacks until they were ordered to retire. Many acts of bravery were performed by men of the battalion throughout the day, Lance Cpl Filter and Sgt Jones manned machine-guns while wounded, Sgt Smith tended 2 wounded men under fire, Private Beckett was killed while helping a wounded soldier, and Private McGee continued to deliver messages through shell-swept areas, receiving two wounds. At the end of the day the ground gained had been lost to the enemy. Out of 22 officer there were 15 casualties, and out of 820 men, 376 were wounded or killed, victims of gas, shells and bullets. The battalion was now commanded by Captain de la Peverelle.
Battle of Loos, Sep 1915
By the time that the battle of Loos began there were 9 regular and service battalions on the Western Front. Service battalions were those raised by Lord Kitchener's recruiting campaign to augment the regular army. The 12th Service Battalion arrived in France on 1st Sep 1915. They were in the 73rd Brigade of the 24th Division, and reached Beuvry on the 24th Sep after a series of tiring marches. The 73rd Brigade were directed to the area of Fosse 8 where the battle of Loos was most intense. The CO, Col C J Stanton was promoted to command a brigade so that Major Garnons-Williams was placed in command of the battalion. They relieved the Black Watch but became split in two parts in the confusion of taking over trenches under shell-fire. Garnons-Williams had part of 1 Coy and the whole of 2 Coy with him and he unfortunately was killed on the first day of arriving at Loos. His men were forced to retire as they were under attack from both sides. The other part of the battalion, under Major Compton, had halted in the dark and came under fire whilst out in the open. They were placed in the old British firing line, a precarious position, from the 26th to the 28th, suffering continual bombardment in that time and taking heavy casualties. Four officers were killed, 6 wounded and 2 captured. Of the other ranks, 20 were killed, 27 wounded, and 206 captured or missing.
The Hohenzollern Redoubt, 27th Sep 1915
The 3rd Battalion was ordered to attack the Hohenzollern Redoubt at 2am on the morning of 27th Sep 1915. The battalion, under the command of Major Baker established themselves on 3 sides of the redoubt with the East Surreys on the other. The redoubt was partially occupied by the Germans and they attacked the north face with grenades. They were repulsed by 3 Coy, and another attack on the south face was repulsed by 2 Coy but they came under a fierce attack and were driven back to a communication trench. A counter-attack was made by a company of the Yorks and Lancs, and joined by 2 and 4 Coys Royal Fusiliers which was successful. There were more grenade attacks on the 30th Sep but at 4am that night they were ordered back to Beuvry. They had lost 6 officers killed and 12 wounded. The other ranks sustained 337 casualties.
The Chord, 2nd Mar 1916
There were two defensive areas of the Hohenzollern Redoubt that were called Big Willie and Little Willie, after the Kaiser and his son. Between these two was a connecting trench called The Chord which was the objective of an attack made by the 8th and 9th Battalions The Royal Fusiliers. They exploded mines to destroy the Chord but it was only partially successful so 50 men of A Coy, 8th Btn under Captain Mason and Lt Wardrop, and 50 men of B Coy, 9th Btn under Captain The Hon R E Phillips made a rush to the Chord. But a mine exploded and buried 20 of Phillips's men and wounded Phillips. Of the other party only Lt Wardrop and one other man survived to reach the Chord. Other companies sent forward reinforcements and the objective was reached. There were still Germans in the Chord, dazed by grenades so would not surrender, and had to be killed. C Coy of the 8th Btn under Major Elliott-Cooper made a rush and seized a crater in the area known as the Triangle as well as other craters. Sergeat Cronyn rushed down the southeast face of the Triangle into Big Willie throwing grenades into the crowded dug-outs until he was held up by a group of Germans. The position was secured and held throughout the night when the enemy counter-attacked with grenades. The CO of the 9th, Lt-Col Gubbins was awarded the DSO, Elliot-Cooper, Phillips and Lt E W T Beck won the MC, and the DCM was awarded to Sgt Cronyn, Lance-Cpl A Lowrey and Private McIntosh. Both the 8th and 9th Battalion had lost heavily but their operation had been a success.
The St Eloi Craters, 27th Mar 1916
The British high command seemed preoccupied with keeping a straight line along the front and any 'bump' had to be smoothed out. There was such a bump, or salient formed by the Germans at St Eloi in the Ypres area, 600 yards in length and 100 yards deep. The units chosen to deal with this were the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers and the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. O'Neill's account has this footnote to the page:
'There is little use in amplifying this account. The episode seems, on calm reflection, to have been the most tragic of any in which the Royal Fusiliers figured. There can be no possible doubt as to the skill of command. No troops could have done better, but a certain glamour surrounded the action of the Northumberland Fusiliers because of their greater success. It is one of the many instances in which the caprice of fate involved a great injustice.'
On 27th March 1916 six huge mines were detonated which killed many Germans. The explosions were so big that they were felt many miles away. Half a minute later the two Fusilier battalions charged forward, the Northumberlands to the right where they met little opposition but the 4th Battalion were met by intense fire from machine-guns and artillery. The enemy were fully alert and the wire was still intact. Some of them reached the first trench which was captured but they could make no further progress. These men were cut off and could not be relieved for 24 hours. Many of the wounded had to stay where they were for two days while a brave rescue was carried out by Rev N Mellish for which he received the VC. Captain Moxon and 5 other officers were killed, 4 others wounded. The other ranks lost 255 killed and wounded. The attacks and counter-attacks continued in this area until 19th May.
The Somme, July 1916
Beaumont Hamel, 1st July 1916
As if their experience at Gallipoli was not enough suffering the 2nd Battalion were in the worst part of the line when the battle of The Somme opened on 1st July. Beaumont Hamel was a formidable German redoubt, north of the Ancre, that was the target of the 2nd Battalion's attack. The barrage started at 5.15am and at 7.20 a huge mine was exploded. At once D Coy rushed forward with machine-guns to occupy the crater but were unable to get beyond the nearest lip. The rest of the advance was futile because they couldn't even reach the German wire. The Royal Artillery concentrated on firing at the enemy rear trenches so the front line was able to continue firing. The men who were stuck in no-man's land had to retreat. The CO, Lieut-Col A V Johnson was wounded and half buried in a trench by a British shell and had to be evacuated. The rest of the battalion suffered heavy casualties, 3 officers killed and 28 wounded. The other ranks lost 490 in killed and wounded. It took 48 hours for the wounded to be cleared from the field. They were relieved on the 4th July and left the Somme area before the end of the month.
Gommecourt, 1st July 1916
Further north the 2nd Londons were at the Gommecourt salient, in the 169th Bde of the 56th Div. At 1.30pm D Coy were ordered to attack the Ferret Trench in the German first line but Lt H W Everitt and his men were under fire a soon as they went over the top and made no headway. A and C Coy were also sent in but Capt Percy Handyside of C Coy was killed and in A Coy only 35 men survived. In all ten officers were killed that day and 241 other ranks. There was a truce for an hour while both sides collected their wounded.
During this time the 3rd Londons in the same salient had to abandon an attempt to dig a communication trench. German shelling almost wiped out no.15 Platoon so that only the officer and one man survived. The 3rd lost 3 officers and 120 other ranks. The 4th Londons were on the right and were unable to provide support at Fetter Trench. They sent out 6 runners with messages and only one returned without having found his objective. Both A and C Coy lost all their officers and were brought back by CSM Davis. Out of 23 officers and 700 men the roll call that night registered only 7 officers and 356 men. Five officers were killed and eleven wounded or captured.
Montauban, 1st July 1916
Many acts of individual bravery were recorded in the part played by the 11th Battalion in their advance and attack on Pommiers Redoubt. A machine-gun was rushed by Lance-Corporal Payne. 2nd Lt John H Parr-Dudley was killed after he led his men in a charge to deal with Germans who were impeding the battalion's progress. Private W T Taverner stood up on the emplacement to direct men forward in the face of machine-gun fire, thus winning the MM. Private J Nicholson killed 6 enemy snipers and knocked out a machine-gun. During a pause in the fighting singing was heard which indicated high morale in the battalion. Capt Johnson was able to attack the redoubt from the rear and assist the Bedfords in their frontal advance. 2nd Lt Savage dealt with snipers in Beetle Alley. The battalion had made good progress and were below Mametz Wood but they had some hard digging to do to secure their position, a difficult task when the men were so tired from lack of sleep, but they kept going all day and night. Four officers had been killed and 49 other ranks. 148 were wounded, 4 were shell-shocked and 17 missing.
La Boisselle, 7th-8th July 1916
On 7th July the 13th Battalion were in front of La Boisselle and had lost contact with their brigade. On his own initiative the CO ordered them to advance and Major Ardagh led off with 1 and 2 Coys. No2 Coy was held up but managed to get through and the right flank was swung back to within 1,000 yards west of Contalmaison. They were shelled by artillery while 3 and 4 Coys under Capt Nelson pushed on to the next line. They advanced well so that after two days they had captured a battery of field guns, some machine-guns and nearly 200 prisoners. One officer of the battalion had been killed, 2 wounded while the other ranks lost 20 killed, 127 wounded and 13 missing.
Ovillers, 7th July 1916
The 8th and 9th Battalions in 36th Bde, 12th Div were sent in to capture the village of Ovillers on 7th July. The 8th was on the right and suffered so heavily that they were practically destroyed. The bombardment began at 4.30am and at 8.26am A and D Coys crawled over the parapet and lay down until the barrage was over. Lt-Col Albermarle Cator Annesley DSO ordered them up and led with stick in hand. They were cut down by machine-gun fire but they captured the first and second trenches. Colonel Annesley was wounded in the wrist and then in the ankle. The 8th Battalion had reached its objective just before the Colonel was shot above the heart and fell into a shell-hole. He lay there until evening when he was retrieved and sent to Albert where he died the next day. Out of 800 the battalion ended up with only 160. All the officers were either killed or wounded. Amongst the dead were Captains G R A Featherstonhaugh, Robert Chard and Henry Franklyn. The Adjutant, Capt Arthur Robertson-Walker was never seen again. Among the other ranks Lance Corporals William Green and Fred Baston, and Privates Frank Sharples, Tom Gurney, Ernie Shelvey. The 9th Battalion fared almost as badly. Officers killed included Capt Gerald Rawlins, 2nd Lt Arthur Cook, Captain The Hon Rowland Philipps Street, 2nd Lt Robert Osborne, 2nd Lt Bindett, 2nd Lt Edward Peacock, 2nd Lt John Manson and 2nd Lt Evelyn Vere-Smith. Lt Garrood was missing and 7 others wounded. The survivors numbered 180.
15th July 1916. The 10th Battalion were directed towards the orchard on the south west of Pozieres. Some success at 9am when Lt F M Taylor and D Coy captured the orchard but the other companies were pinned down by machine-gun fire. A second advance at 6pm failed. They sustained such heavy losses that the battalion was taken out of the line.
High Wood, Bazantin-le-Grand. 19th July 1916. 20th Battalion. 6 officers killed, one missing, 7 wounded. 375 other ranks killed wounded or missing.
20th-24th July 1916. 4th Battalion 2nd Lt Sparkes killed. 12 officers and 340 other ranks killed or wounded.
Longueval Alley, Delville Wood.
25th-27th July 1916. 17th Battalion. Lt Richmond and 15 others gassed on the first day. 118 casualties in 3 days.
27th July 1916. 23rd Battalion lost 12 officers (5 killed) and 276 other ranks. 22nd battalion lost Capt Grant killed and 4 officers wounded, and 189 men killed, wounded or missing.
Waterlot Farm, Delville Wood.
30th July 1916. 24th battalion. Capt Meares and 2 officers killed from C Coy. Eleven survivors out of 114 other ranks.
3rd Aug 1916. 8th Battalion with the 6th Btn The Buffs. Lt Wardrop and 2nd Lt Stiles were killed, and 150 casualties.
Ration Trench, Pozieres.
4th-7th Aug 1916. The 8th and 9th Battalions with the Sussex Regt. and New Zealanders. L-Cpl Camping and 2 other men of the 8th Btn braved snipers to speak German to the Jaegers and persuade them to surrender. The 9th Btn were subjected to flame-throwers and there were heroic incidents. Pte Leigh Rouse MM continued to throw grenades even though burned and choking. Sgt Charles Quinnell DCM set a fine example and led patrols to gain information. L-Cpl Cyril Cross DCM took a Lewis gun to a shell-hole and inflicted many enemy casualties to curtail the flame-throwers. Pte Tom Crow DCM continued to fight in the face of great danger and was wounded while pursuing Germans. All these men belonged to A Coy, commanded by Captain G L Cazalet MC DSO who led his men across the open on the night of the 5th and in less than 45 mins had achieved his objective, and was responsible for the defence of 500 yards of Ration Trench the flank of which was held by the enemy. Though wounded he refused to leave the trench, and it was owing to his fine example that his company, though almost quite new to warfare, behaved so finely. The 8th Btn lost Lt J A Pearson killed and 30 others killed or wounded. The 9th lost 5 officers killed, 7 wounded. Other ranks lost 281 in killed, wounded and missing. The survivors marched to Bouzincourt and on 10th Aug were inspected by the King and Prince of Wales.
16th-18th Aug 1916. The 4th Battalion commanded by Major Meade failed to make headway. All the officers were killed or wounded and the men suffered 160 casualties. 1st Battalion had 23 casualties from Royal Artillery fire on 10th Aug and Lt W van Grierson bravely rescued men who had been buried but was killed in the process. Pte Tanner and Cpl Silcox rescued Pte Lynch from no-man's land in daylight, under machine-gun fire. The 1st Battalion succeeded in capturing Guillemont station on 17th Aug but had 66 casualties.
21st Aug 1916. The 1st Battalion coped with a fire in the ammunition dump at Bernafay Wood. The mortar ammunition caused continual explosions which threw men into the fire. RSM Hack won the MC when he rescued injured men in the face of flying fragments. 2nd Lt Tiffany of the 12th Battalion rescued men from the fire. In the afternoon of the 21st Aug the battalion was in battle against targets named as Hill Street and Brompton Road. Capt Bell led 70 men of A Coy and won the DSO, and Lt Jacobs won the MC for displaying courage and coolness. Sgt Pye volunteered to deliver a message which won him the DCM.
Ginchy 9th Sep 1916
On 3rd Sep Ginchy was siezed but then recaptured by the Germans so that another attack was launched on 9th Sep. In this, A Coy of the 2nd Londons took up a position in Leuze Wood, suffering heavy casualties. Capt Long and 2nd Lt Lockey were killed so the company was commanded by CSM Pellow. B Coy attempted to support them but failed with severe losses. However the battalion had contributed to the advance of the 56th Division.
The Introduction of the Tank 15th Sep 1916
The 2nd Londons were part of an important advance that began on 15th Sep after a 36 hour bombardment. This action was different in that the tank was introduced for the first time. The area of advance was south of the Ancre and north of the Albert-Bapaume road heading towards Flers. The Royal Fusiliers were also represented by the 26th (Bankers) Battalion and 32nd (East Ham) Battalion which were in the 124th Brigade, 41st Division commanded by General Lawford, an ex-Fusilier. Both these battalions had been in France for 4 months but this was their first experience of battle. They were in support of the Queen's West Surreys and the KRRC with 3 tanks allotted to their brigade. The 32nd was reduced to two groups, one under Capt Robinson which reached Flers, captured three guns and about 50 prisoners, and the other under Lt Aston which followed a tank beyond Flers. The 32nd Battalion lost 10 officers wounded and 283 men killed, missing or wounded.
In the 26th Battalion Capt Etchells won the MC for reorganising the battalion after they were hit by their own barrage and protecting his men behind a tank. This enabled them to reach the northeast of Flers but the battalion lost 5 officers killed and 4 wounded, with 255 men killed, wounded or missing. The medical officer attached to the 26th, Lt J McIntyre was awarded the MC for his persistence in helping wounded men despite him being buried by shell explosions on 4 occasions. The 2nd Londons attacked Loop Trench but lost 3 officers killed, 2 wounded.
Thiepval 26th Sep 1916
The 11th Battalion took part in the capture of Thiepval, in 54th Brigade. In this action D Coy was led by Capt Richard Thompson, described as the best company commander the battalion ever had. He led his men on to the Brawn Trench near Thiepval Village but was hit in the head. He carried on but was hit again and killed. The battalion fought every yard of the way but were held up west of the chateau. They were helped by a tank and Lance-Corporal Tovey of B Coy single-handedly captured a machine-gun. Another heroic officer was Major Arthur Hudson who commanded A Coy. He was wounded in the shoulder but carried on fighting in an area near the chateau until they had won their objective. He was then shot in the thigh and died of his wounds on 2nd Oct.
The battalion came across well constructed dug-outs one of which was very deep and garrisoned like a fortress. This had to be burned out as the Germans refused to surrender. Most of the occupants were either shot as they ran out or burned to death. They took 14 prisoners. Lt Sulman commanded C Coy which came across a German Telephone HQ, found by Corporal Rudy DCM. He and 4 men cut the wires which prevented communication with the enemy artillery. They were fighting alongside the Middlesex Regt and part of the Northants and had to continue through the night but they finished up having captured Thiepval which had withstood attacks for two years. Capt Johnson and Lt Sulman were awarded the MC. Private Edwards of the Middlesex Regt won the VC and was later transferred to the Royal Fusiliers in April 1918.
Bayonet Trench 7th Oct 1916
When the French army advanced on Sailly-Saillisel the 4th Army was operating in support on a front between Les Boeufs and Destremont Farm. Four battalions of the Royal Fusiliers were on a line just north of Flers with the 26th (Bankers) on the left and the 9th on the right. The attack began at 1.45pm on 7th Oct in which the 8th and 9th Btns suffered heavy losses and failed to reach Bayonet Trench, their first objective. The Germans were being relieved at the time of the attack and so were in greater numbers and able to pour heavy fire on the Fusiliers. The 9th had 15 officer casualties and 250 men. B Coy was reduced to 12 men. The 8th had 9 officers and 244 men killed and wounded. The 26th and 32nd (East Ham) Btns fared almost as badly. The 20th (Publics Schools) Battalion were in trenches near Morval in the last week Oct and suffered 75 casualties, 5 of which were officers. They then moved to positions to the east of Flers and made 3 attempts to establish a bombing post which cost them another 100 casualties.
The Battle of Ancre 13th-16th Nov 1916
This important action, along with the other actions that had taken place since 1st July 1916, came under the all-embracing title Battle of The Somme. Royal Fusilier battalions in the Battle of the Ancre were the 4th 7th 10th (Stockbrokers) 13th 17th (Empire) 22nd (Kensington) 23rd (1st Sportsmen's) 24th (2nd Sportsmen's). The German defences were very strong in the area of Beaucourt-sur-Ancre and Beaumont Hamel and became the subject of a 2 day bombardment prior to the advance. The initial advance of the 2nd Division involved the 24th (2nd Sportsman's) Battalion. This was one of the units raised by the efforts of Mrs Cunliffe-Owen. They left the trenches at 5am on the 13th Nov, in a dense fog. The barrage was still firing, with British shells landing 20 yards ahead of them as they progressed. Some shells fell short causing casualties but the attack was a success and shell-shocked Germans surrendered readily.
On the left of the 24th Btn was the 2nd HLI supported by the 17th (Empire) Btn Royal Fusiliers, raised from ex-pats living in the Americas encouraged to join up by Sir Binden Blood. They linked up with the 2nd Ox & Bucks LI to progress beyond the third line of enemy trenches. Their advance had reduced their 4 companies to 180 men but they reached Munich Trench and hung on there until the next day. The 22nd (Kensington) Battalion and the 23rd (1st Sportsmen's) supported the left of the attack but the 22nd were not able to make progress until 15th Nov when they seized the Quadrilateral. The 4th Battalion reinforced them, suffering only 8 casualties and the position was relieved on the 16th Nov. The 23rd Btn supported other units on 14th Nov in the attack on Munich Trench.
The 7th Battalion was engaged immediately north of the Ancre on 13th Nov and were fired on from a strong redoubt on their left. The leading companies pulled back to a trench where men from other units had gathered. Captains Foster and Clarke took all these men forward and rushed a German trench. Casualties were suffered but they captured the trench and left a detail under Sergeant Bright to defend it against counter-attack. The rest of the men advanced to the Green Line which was held until 9pm on the 13th Nov. Bright's men worked hard all day and Private Hawkesley heroically lay on the parapet with a Lewis gun to deter the enemy. Meanwhile, D Coy of the 7th Btn under Captain Cyril Rattigan had been isolated and reduced to 50 men. They were pinned down in front of enemy wire and Rattigan was killed. They were brought back by Lt Downing using a mine shaft.
On 14th Nov the 13th Battalion moved off too eagerly and were casualties of their own barrage. They then came under fire from Beaucourt village. Captain Goddard joined the remnants of the 7th and 13th Btns to add to the attack on Beaucourt which had been the subject of a charge of a force under Lt-Col Bernard Freyberg VC. The crowning moment of the battle, however, was the capture of the redoubt by the 10th (Stockbrokers) Battalion who employed the services of a tank to intimidate the Germans so that they took 270 prisoners and rescued 60 British prisoners. The battle of the Ancre had lasted 4 days and ended in a great victory for the British against impregnable fortifications. General Ludendorff, in his War Memories called it 'a particularly heavy blow, for we considered such an event no longer possible.'
Boom Ravine 17th Feb 1917
This battle was fought by the 11th Battalion, who were in the 54th Bde, 18th Division and is remembered in Royal Fusilier history for being led mostly by the NCOs. Their objective was South Miraumont Trench which had to be reached by crossing a 40-foot deep sunken road called Boom Ravine. The early hours of 17th Feb 1917 were dark and misty and the mud was very slippery because of a thaw. The assembly place was very crowded and made dangerous by a German barrage, since the element of surprise had been lost. By the time the attack was signalled there were only 2 unwounded officers and it was not long before these became casualties. CSM Fritterer was now in command and they took 100 prisoners at Boom Ravine. Up until then they had followed a creeping barrage but the artillery had no way of knowing that the infantry were delayed at the Ravine. So the Germans were able to respond to the attack and inflicted heavy casualties. They were held up by wire and had to take cover in shell-holes. Officers from battalion HQ, including Lt-Col C C Carr, managed to reach them and the line was halted. The casualties were 3 officers killed, 11 wounded, and the other ranks lost 36 killed, 162 wounded and 69 missing. The advance was maintained and the action achieved its objective.
Sergeant Palmer's Heroism 17th Feb 1917
On the same day, 17th Feb, the 22nd Battalion, which had been raised by the Mayor of Kensington, in the 99th Bde, 2nd Division, started off as a flank battalion from a position between the east and west Miraumont roads. They were held up by machine-gun fire which jeopardised the attack, so Lance-Sergeant Palmer cut his way through wire under fire, rushed the trench and was able to neutralise the machine-gun. He and some other men remained in place for 3 hours to ensure the battalion's progress. They were subjected to repeated attacks which were repulsed with grenades. When the supply of these ran out he he made his way to battalion HQ for more. The position had been lost by the time he returned and Palmer was shaken by an explosion. But he gathered some men together and restored the situation so that the flank was guarded once more. He was awarded the VC for his actions and later promoted to lieutenant. Other acts of bravery were carried out by the 22nd Btn that day including the Lewis gun section and Major John Walsh's greatly mourned death.
Arras 9th April 1917
After the Somme the Germans were in retreat and there were successful advances made with few casualties. The 4th Battalion, however, suffered heavy casualties in their sector. They moved off from south of the Arras-Cambrai road at 7am and kept their line steady despite shell-fire. W Coy on the right suffered more than the rest from machine-gun fire from a well organised defence below Tilloy, called the Harp. All the officers of the company were wounded and command fell to 2nd Lt the Earl of Shannon, who, though wounded, led the company from Nomeny Trench and was the first man into String Trench where many losses were suffered. Altogether the battalion lost 225 killed and wounded. Capt Alvan Millson and 2nd Lt William Paddock were killed, Capt Furnie and 2nd Lt Marlowe were severely wounded, and 7 others were wounded. The Earl of Shannon was killed four days later on 13th April.
Monchy le Preux 11th April 1917
Two battalions of the Royal Fusiliers worked together to advance on Monchy le Preux a village on a small 90ft hill. The 13th Btn and 10th (Stockbrokers) Btn were brought to a halt at the Feuchy-Feuchy Chapel road and they dug in for the night. At noon on 10th April they reached the outlying woods of Monchy but were now subjected to a heavy barrage which caused many casualties. They dug trenches west of the village which were completed by 4am on 11th April. At 5.30am the 13th dashed forward and ended up north of Monchy where they stayed all day. The 10th stormed the village itself under a heavy bombardment and entrenched on the west side. There was a blinding snowstorm during these operations and they lost heavily. The 10th had 12 officers and 240 other ranks wounded, while the 13th suffered somewhat less. The battalions were highly praised for their courage, tenacity and skill.
Guemappe 13th April 1917
On 13th April the 4th battalion was in action again in a move against Guemappe. They approached the target under fire from both sides and nearly all the officers became casualties. The Earl of Shannon was killed as well as 2nd Lt B Martin. Capt Gibson was severely wounded and two other officers wounded. Despite depleted numbers they continued for another 3,000 yards adding Capt Barrett to the list of wounded officers and 86 other ranks. The advance had caused equal destruction to 3 other battalions including the Northumberland Fusiliers. They were ordered to withdraw at 1am on the 14th April having failed to achieve their objective.
Second Battle of the Scarpe 23rd April 1917
In the preparation for this battle the 7th Battalion, consisting of 18 officers and 358 men, must have been exhausted having had to dig a line of trenches 200 yards from the enemy. These were destroyed by artillery and had to be dug again before 8pm on the 22nd April. At 4.45am they set off behind a creeping barrage but found the enemy wire uncut apart from one narrow opening where they became congested and vulnerable to bombing and machine-gun fire. The gunners and bombers were rushed and neutralised, and positions were established 25 yards from the railway with trenches dug to link up with 6th Brigade on the left. The attack was a success but the battalion was almost destroyed. Four officers were killed and 8 wounded. The 10th and 13th Battalions were also engaged in this battle, and the 2nd Battalion suffered heavy losses in their attack launched from Shrapnel Trench.
2nd Lieut Jeffcoat's Action 29th April 1917
The German defences at Oppy were the subject of an attack by the 24th (2nd Sportsmens) Battalion on 29th April. They suffered losses as a result of advancing further than the units on their flanks. Further south the 22nd Battalion were held up by wire and a whole platoon was killed. 2nd Lt Stanley Jeffcoat who had recently joined the battalion took some men and found a gap in the wire through which they gained access to a trench and proceeded to bomb it up. He enlisted help from men of the 63rd Division and progressed along the trench, ably assisted by CSM Roger, fighting and bombing with great skill and tenacity. He was fatally wounded and was recommended for the VC. His actions brought about the battalion's success that day.
The Scarpe 3rd May 1917
The 8th and 9th Battalions fought together on the 3rd May with a combined total of 900 men. Their task was to advance 1,000 yards and attack an enemy position that stretched 9,000 yards in width. This seems like an impossible target as it meant that each man was responsible for a 10 yard portion of German trench, assuming they reached their objective alive and unhurt! The 9th started at 3.45am from a trench, south of the Scarpe, that was blocked at one end, with Germans the other side of the block. A small party of the 9th had got too far ahead and were cut off. They were captured but later escaped. In this battle Major Maurice Coxhead, acting CO of the 9th, was killed. He had provided a valuable diary of events for historians. At the start point he had greatly improved the chances of his men when he reorganised them in the confusion of the German counter-attack from the other side of the block. The 8th Btn was fired on from a machine gun position at Roeux so that they sustained heavy casualties. By nightfall the battalion formed one company after losing 282 killed and wounded. The combined battalions were now commanded by Lt-Col Elliott-Cooper. Some men who were taken prisoner were placed in a dug-out by the Germans and were in great danger when a British grenade was thrown in. Corporal Jarratt immediately jumped on it and had his legs blown off. The severe injuries killed him but he had saved his fellow prisoners from death or injury and was awarded a VC. The 4th Battalion also sustained 299 casualties after attacking from a line 1,000 yards east of Monchy and reaching the east side of the Bois des Aubepines.
Territorial Battalions, May 1917
The 2nd Londons made an advance in the dark on 3rd May to capture Cavalry Farm on the Arras-Cambrai road. They held onto the buildings for 24 hours but had to relinquish them as they were exposed on both flanks. A sergeant volunteered to go out and find the battalion that was supposed to be on their left flank but walked into a dug-out that was occupied by the enemy. He was taken prisoner but by dawn on 4th May he had persuaded the 17 Germans to surrender! The 1st Londons had fought on the 3rd May with considerable loss, but they re-captured Cavalry Farm on 14th May.
It was in May that the 4th Londons and the 2/3rd Londons took over from the Australians at Bullecourt. On the 14th, after a bombardment of 19 hours they were attacked by the 3rd Prussian Guard. They defended themselves tenaciously and held off the enemy but at heavy cost to themselves. Lt-Col The Rev Percy Beresford commanded 3rd Londons and was awarded the DSO. He died on 26th Oct 1917, aged 42. A very brave individual action was fought by 2nd Lt Wilfred Hall of 2/3rd Londons who was killed at the second battle of Bullecourt on 15th May 1917.
Messines-Wytschaete 7th-10th June 1917
There were two phases to the battle, the first was to seize the German defences on the Messines-Wytschaete ridge and the second was the Oosttaverne line. Mines had been dug under the positions and these were detonated at 3.10am on 7th June 1917. A bombardment followed that, and then the infantry advanced. The 26th (Bankers) Battalion of the 41st Division had a trouble-free attack to reach the Dammstrasse, and the 32nd (East Ham) Battalion followed on to dig in beyond Obstacle Trench. They had started out with 17 officers and 551 other ranks and achieved their goal having lost 6 officers and 167 men, killed and wounded. This was considered to be acceptable loss weighed against their success.
The 1st and 12th Battalions in the 17th Brigade were ordered forward after mid-day when the temperature was uncomfortably hot. The 12th reached the Dammstrasse and beyond after 2pm while the 1st Btn, advancing at 3.10pm, made rapid progress because the wire had been cut by the barrage and the enemy demoralised. 2nd Lt Field's men from D Coy rushed a strong point and captured 25 prisoners and 2 machine guns. Another strong point was rushed by 2nd Lt Edward Shoesmith who was killed. There was a danger that a gap between two companies would be exploited by the enemy but it was filled by 2nd Lt Mander and his platoon. Sgt Haldane distinguished himself tending to the wounded and carrying them back despite being wounded himself. He collapsed from loss of blood. The Rev George Studdert Kennedy was awarded the MC for his work with wounded men. The battalion established themselves near the road running northeast of Oosttaverne having lost 5 officers and 110 men.
The 12th Battalion moved forward to relieve the front line near the Roozebeek stream with their HQ at Oosttaverne Wood and at 9.30pm on 9th June they suffered a serious loss of officers when a shell landed on their HQ wounding 4 of them. The CO, Lt-Col Harold Compton and two others later died of their terrible wounds. The command was replaced by Major Neynoc and the battalion was relieved in the following evening. During the withdrawal they were shelled and lost another 52 killed and wounded.
Battle Wood 14th June 1917
On the 12th June the 12th Btn relieved the DLI at Impartial Trench to prepare for an attack on the concrete pill-box fortifications north of the railway at Battle Wood. The attack, in conjunction with the 8th Buffs started on 14th June at 7.30pm. The artillery bombardment had not affected the pill-boxes and no.4 Coy had to deal with one that contained 20 men and a machine gun. After a fierce fight they killed the occupants, while another pill-box was captured when 40 Germans came out. Half of then were killed and 20 taken prisoner. The battalion were ordered to establish 5 strong positions which they managed to do as well as capture the pill-boxes which had been a thorn in the side of other battalions. Their casualties were 3 officers killed and 4 wounded and 92 other ranks killed or wounded. By an unfortunate coincidence the battalion HQ was again destroyed by a German shell on 31st July, which buried, gassed and killed Lt Harold Martin and injured and gassed 5 other officers, including the CO, Major Neynoc. Another shell caused 19 more casualties a few days later.
Ypres 31st July 1917
The fighting at Messines was a prelude to the Third Battle of Ypres that began on 31st July 1917. The 26th Btn were fighting in heavy rain at Battle Wood on that day and lost 160 killed, wounded and missing. To their right was the 24th Division in which were the 1st and 12th Btns who both suffered heavy casualties. They advanced towards Shrewsbury Wood but were held up at the German trench between Clonmel Copse and Shrewsbury Wood. Lt Wilfred Flack and his men in the 1st Btn rushed a machine-gun and knocked it out with a rifle grenade. When C Coy reached the trench their officer, Capt Leeming was killed near Bodmin Copse. The worst of the fire was coming from Lower Star Post and it caused the battalion on their right to swerve, and this resulted in a corresponding swerve of the 1st's right hand company.
The 12th Btn passed through the 1st at Jeffrey Avenue after suffering heavy loss. Six officers had been killed and two wounded before they reached that point. Beyond that they were halted by fire from the west edge of Bodmin Copse. No.3 Coy rushed this strong point but there was another halt on the eastern edge of the copse. The advance was abandoned and a final line established 500 yards west of Bassevillebeek. This was held by both battalions as well as the 3rd Rifle Brigade and the Leinsters. Lt-Col Henry Hope Johnstone, CO of the 12th was killed as they moved into position and Capt Simkins assumed command. The 1st Btn had lost 3 officers killed, 9 wounded, and 277 men killed and wounded. The 12th lost 9 officers and 170 other ranks killed and wounded, and because of the lack of officers the 12th were relieved at 11pm. The men trudged back across the hard fought ground which was now even boggier due to the heavy rain. The 1st were relieved on the following day, leaving many wounded lying in no-man's land because the stretcher-bearers had become victims themselves.
Klein Zillebeke, 5th Aug 1917
The 32nd (East Ham) Btn had moved up to the front at Klein Zillebeke, and at 4.10am on 5th Aug the Germans advanced on them after a barrage through a smoke screen. They penetrated the left flank and threatened their rear. At noon the enemy were in Jehovah Trench just north of Klein Zillebeke road but a brave action led by Major Robinson, Capt H L Kirby and 2nd Lt G W Murrell cleared the enemy from these danger spots.
10th Aug 1917
The 11th Battalion in the 54th Brigade suffered heavy casualties when there was an unsuccessful advance on 10th Aug. B and D Coys were on the right flank near the Menin road and came under sustained fire from Inverness Wood. They swerved left and penetrated Glencorse Wood which was defended with pillbox emplacements. Capt Gray of D Coy reached Fitzclarence Farm with some of his men. He was shot in both knees but was firing from a shell-hole, and Capt Fuller of B Coy was hit in the head whilst rushing a machine-gun. The battalion became detached from the brigade and trapped by German counter-attacks. There was courageous leadership from NCOs Sgts Wilson, Berry and Burch, and Cpl Hallett. Most of the men retreated to where the 55th Bde were established, but some were cut off and had to fend for themselves. Private Arthur Jakes spent the day sniping from an advanced shell-hole and after dark, found his way back through German lines. The battalion were relieved early next morning but had lost 17 officers and 328 other ranks killed and wounded.
Langemarck 16th Aug 1917
The Territorial Battalions fared badly in the second attack on 16th Aug. One platoon of the 2nd Londons was forced to surrender when they were surrounded and ran out of ammunition at Polygon Wood. The CO Col Kellett and almost all the officers were casualties. They finished up with only Capt Stevens and 50 men fit for action. The 4th Londons were sent up against the German pillbox defences and were unable to avoid suffering heavy casualties. The 3rd Londons also failed to capture their objectives.
Bodmin Copse 22nd Aug 1917
A small-scale but significant action was fought by a platoon of the 1st Battalion near Bodmin Copse on 22nd Aug. It's success prompted the GOC to urge all other units to follow their example. At zero hour two trench mortars opened fire on an enemy strong point, quickening the rate of fire at zero plus 5 mins. At zero plus 7 the range was lengthened and the men advanced, 20 men under 2nd Lt Stonebanks in 2 waves under fire from the German strong point. Stonebanks ordered the two flanks of his lines to converge on the enemy flanks while the centre kept up a sustained covering fire. The enemy was enveloped and surrendered so that a machine-gun was captured and brought into action against German positions, and 35 prisoners taken. Only 4 men out of the 20 were wounded.
Menin Road Ridge 20th Sep 1917
The 20th Sep was the date for a general push along an 8 mile front between the Ypres-Comines Canal and the Ypres-Staden Railway combining British, Australian and South African troops. The territorial battalions of the London Regiment in the Ypres area had second and third line battalions but the first and second had been amalgamated in May 1916 so that the third lines were now second. The 2/3rd Londons were in the 173rd Brigade, 58th Div, and operated on the right of the Division, north of St Julien. They and the other battalions were successful in taking their objective, and the 2/4th Londons made a brave charge with the 8th Liverpool Irish and 2 tanks on Schuler Farm.
Tower Hamlets Spur 20th-24th Sep 1917
The 26th and 32nd Btns were in support but had to take the Tower Hamlets Spur. They had heavy casualties, the 32nd losing most of its officers. The men were down to half their number but they succeeded in causing the enemy to surrender. The 26th lost their CO, Lt-Col McNichol, killed, while Major Maxwell was awarded the DSO for his leadership. The other officers were either killed or wounded. Some men of the 26th were trapped in a forward position and without food. On 22nd Sep Private Sturgis volunteered to go back for supplies but was buffeted by explosions and fainted when he arrived at HQ. He accompanied a small party of men with food and ammunition but they were caught in a barrage which held them up. The men were inclined to give up and go back but Sturgis threatened to shoot them if they did not carry on with their task. They eventually succeeded in finding the front line and the battalion was withdrawn on the morning of the 24th Sep. They had suffered 363 casualties including 23 officers.
Polygon Wood 26th-30th Sep 1917
In the Zonnebeke area the 3rd Division attacked at 5.50am on 26th Sep, and the 4th Btn stood to. It wasn't until 5.30pm that they were ordered forward to occupy the old British front line at Bremen Redoubt. This was a dangerous move that brought them many casualties from enemy aircraft and artillery. On reaching the redoubt they were again bombarded and moved forward 300 yards to a position where, under the command of Major Winnington-Barnes, stragglers were rallied. They moved forward once more at 1am on 27th Sep, to a position west of the road running north-west of Zonnebeke. They had the 13th King's on their right and the 59th Division on their left. At 2pm they went forward again 200 yards to Jacob's House to connect up with the East Yorks and KSLI. Many more casualties fell from fire coming from Hill 40. They dug trenches in two lines and were finally relieved on 30th Sep having lost 205 men.
Gheluvelt Wood 30th Sep 1917
The 13th Btn came under heavy bombardment of trench mortars on 30th Sep while they were on the Menin Road near Gheluvelt Wood. They had an advanced post in a blockhouse commanded by 2nd Lt Shorman, which was attacked by German flame-throwers and captured. The men inside were all killed or wounded. The battalion counter-attacked by sending no.2 Coy under Capt Whitehead and the blockhouse was recaptured. The fighting was bitter and hand-to-hand, resulting in a total of 26 casualties. Capt Whitehead received the MC while CSM Edwards and Private W Digby were awarded the DCM.
Broodseinde 4th Oct 1917
The success of Capt Whitehead's men on 30th Sep did not help the 13th Battalion at the beginning of October 1917 when they were nearly wiped out. They had already suffered from an enemy bombardment but on 2nd Oct, no.1 Coy was severely reduced at Bodmin Copse. They then made an attack on the morning of the 4th after a night of heavy blustery rain, with a strength of 13 officers and 233 other ranks. They advanced at 6am closely following a barrage, but the artillery had failed to destroy a blockhouse called Lewis House lying to their right front. Machine-gun fire reduced the leading platoon under 2nd Lt Allen to 2 men. To add to their troubles the Royal Artillery field guns were firing short on the Fusiliers, especially no.3 Coy. Their were able to cover the flank of the 5th Division but did not deal with German defences to the north of Gheluvelt Wood. This partially successful attack left them with only 38 effective officers and men.
Poelcapelle 9th Oct 1917
The weather deteriorated in the early days of October and heavy rain impeded the artillery so that there was less chance of advancing under cover of a barrage. At 5.20am the 2nd Battalion launched an attack in the pitch dark, in support of the Lancashire Fusiliers. They were south of the Ypres-Staden Railway and were part of a British effort combined with the French. Capt Hood with 2 platoons of Y Coy pushed forward to reinforce the leading battalion but came under heavy fire from Conde House on the Poelcapelle road. However this group consolidated the line 250 yards north of Conde House. 2nd Lt Saul with a platoon from Z Coy followed Capt Hood, as all the other officers of Z Coy were now casualties. W Coy advanced through the Lancashire Fusiliers with the Worcesters on their left but were held up by inaccurate friendly fire from the artillery who were firing short. At Conde House, Sgt Jack Molyneux of W Coy was awarded the the VC for is bravery. He organised a bombing party to deal with a machine-gun that was holding up the battalion. He cleared the trench, captured the gun and then led his men on to Conde House which he reached first, and was engaged in hand-to-hand fighting when the men caught up with him. They captured around 25 prisoners, and Molyneux's action allowed the Fusiliers to continue. The 2nd Battalion was unable to achieve the objective that it had been given because no troops were to be found ahead of them. They established a line 200 yards below the road that ran from the Poelcapelle-Houthulst road northeast to the Ypres-Staden railway. They had performed their task in dreadful mud and persistent rain and lost many men.
The Territorials at Passchendaele 26th Oct 1917
The terrible fate of the second line battalions of the London Regiment at Passchendaele makes sad reading. They were positioned with the 58th Division below the Poelcapelle-Spriet road on 26th Oct. A Coy of the 2/2nd Londons under Capt Harper were successful in clearing 4 pillboxes, and D Coy commanded by 2nd Lt J P Howie captured 32 prisoners when he stormed another pillbox. D Coy spent the day there under attack, and C Coy also had a difficult day pinned down by fire from Moray House. The 2/2nd Londons sustained 386 casualties in this attack plus 11 officers, 3 of whom were killed. The regimental history then goes on to say that the 3rd Battalion 'were not so fortunate'.
For this battalion, the 2/3rd Londons, the horrible conditions were their undoing. Although the rain had stopped, the mud was wet and thick. As the men tried to push their way through it they were cut down by German snipers. They lost their popular CO Lt-Col Beresford and had to retreat ending the day with only 2 officers and 17 effective men. The 2/4th Londons were also greatly reduced on this day, suffering the loss of 11 officers and 368 men killed and wounded. Many men were drowned in shell-holes.
7th Battalion 30th-31st Oct 1917
The 7th Battalion moved into position below Lekkerboterbeek on 28th Oct and went into the attack at 5.50am on the 30th. The communication with their HQ failed and they lost 4 runners in the attempt to gain contact. The left of the line was held up by a German strong point that remained a problem throughout the day and was a thorn in the side of the 63rd Division. 2nd Lt Hawkins was sent in with a party to operate 2 Stokes Mortars but they were soon out of action. An enemy shell destroyed one gun along with its double crew, and the other malfunctioned due to the mud. To the east of this, 600 yards away, the progress was not successful although a pillbox was captured. The battalion were relieved on the evening of 31st although they were still in their advanced positions. All the wounded had been evacuated including Cpl Hancock who was taken prisoner but handed back on the condition that he did not reveal any information about German dispositions. Their withdrawal to Irish Farm took them through a gassed area and they were attacked by aeroplanes but there were no more casualties to add to the 65 men and 2 officers killed, and the 148 men and 4 officers wounded. 19 men were missing.
The End of the Battle of Ypres Nov 1917
The 11th Battalion saw the closing stage of the Battle of Ypres in Nov 1917. On 10th Nov they took over a position south of Houthulst Forest. The shell-holes were filled with water contaminated by Yellow Cross gas, caused by shells that had killed and gassed 21 of their men. The adjutant, Capt Ormonde Whiteman was killed by a shell on 22nd Nov whilst sheltering behind a pillbox. On the night of the 24th/25th Nov Private T Wright accompanied an officer in the Houthulst Forest area when they saw a German officer and a large corporal approaching. They hid and waited for them to pass towards the British lines before confronting them with a demand to surrender. The Germans tried to get away but the officer was shot in the leg and Private Wright knocked down the corporal. They were both captured and found to have maps and documents with useful information. Wright was awarded the Military Medal for his action.
Cambrai: Noyelles 20th Nov 1917
On 20th Nov 1917 the battle of Cambrai began, advancing against a section of the formidable Hindenburg Line that was not so strongly defended. The 2nd Battalion approached the front via Peronne and Equancourt so that they were in position behind and to the right of the 16th Middlesex at Fins and Queen's Cross, at 5.20am on 20th Nov. One hour later they advanced in diamond formation, W Coy in front, X Coy on the right, Y on the left, and Z in support. Their progress was rapid until they were held up at Marcoing where 2nd Lt Burton was killed by machine-gun fire and 2 other officers were wounded. There was some street fighting before the village was cleared and 100 prisoners taken. They encountered more resistance on the road to Noyelles but with the help of tanks managed to reach their objective, and dug in at 3.15pm. A patrol from W Coy went forward to secure the canal bridge but the River Escaut had to be crossed. This caused a hold-up because the river bridge had been destroyed. There was a wooden bridge intact at the Chateau to the southeast of the village which was seized and secured so that strong points could be established.
21st Nov 1917
On the following day there was a determined counter-attack by the Germans at 7.30am which took advantage of the lack of defence on the outskirts of Noyelles. They set up a strong point at the church which made life difficult for the 2nd Btn. 2nd Lt Robert Sparks was killed but 2nd Lt Peel managed to take out two of the enemy machine-guns. The 18th Hussars reinforced the battalion and two tanks were brought in which forced the enemy out and the Royal Fusiliers, who had captured 400 prisoners, were able to hand over to the 1st Btn The Buffs.
La Vacquerie 20th Nov 1917
The 8th and 9th Btns operated on the south flank of the advance, following the tanks from the Gonnelieu Trenches to Barrier Trench south of la Vacquerie. The 8th lost one officer and 15 men killed, while the 9th Btn, commanded by 21 year-old Lt Col W V L van Someren DSO, lost 94 men including 3 officers. In the evening they occupied trenches between Bleak House and Bonavis Farm. The 8th then took over from the 9th Btn on 22nd Nov and carried out a local attack on Pelican Trench along with the 35th Brigade. They ere initially successful but were counter-attacked and lost 400 yards of trench. However they set up bombing blocks to the rear of the lost trench and were relieved by the Sussex Regt. They suffered the loss of 58 men in this short action.
Tadpole Copse 25th Nov 1917
Tadpole Copse west of Moeuvres was a tactical point on the Hindenburg Line, on the left flank of the Bourlon Ridge position. It was stormed by the Queen's Westminsters on 22nd Nov but recaptured by the Germans two days later. The 4th Londons attacked and recaptured the trenches again, and a patrol under Capt Duthie gathered in 3 enemy machine-guns. They also beat off a German attack in the night. The 2nd Londons fought for several days on the left of the position and needed to stay on the alert between attacks. 2nd Lt Long of the 1st Londons distinguished himself on the night of the 22nd when his patrol captured an enemy patrol.
The German Counter-Attack 30th Nov 1917
The initial success of the battle at Cambrai had created a salient in the line which the Germans intended to squeeze from either side. The 8th and 9th Battalions suffered heavy casualties on the southern side of the salient near Bourlon Wood, when, on 30th Nov the enemy infantry advanced after an intense artillery bombardment. On the right of the 9th Btn, the 35th Brigade was pushed back but B Coy managed to forced their opponents back 200 yards. D Coy were surrounded and nearly wipe out. The battalion engaged in bombing encounters all day and were harassed by planes. They were helped by some men of the Norfolks but finally withdrew to the reserve line having lost 4 officers killed, 9 wounded and 208 men killed or wounded. The 8th Btn, meanwhile found that the Germans had moved around to their right rear and were cut off. Most of the battalion withdrew to the reserve line and were facing strong opposition only 50 yards away. At this point the CO of the 8th, Lt-Col Elliott-Cooper collected all available men and charged forward. The impetus of their attack took the enemy by surprise and forced them back but there was machine-gun fire to bring them to a halt and the CO was wounded. He ordered a withdrawal and was himself captured. He died in captivity so that he never received his VC medal. The 8th had 10 officers and 247 men on their casualty list.
1st Dec 1917
The ordeal of the 2 battalions did not end there because the Germans repeatedly attacked them, and at 12.30pm opened up a bombardment and sent in bombing attacks. The battalions were forced to withdraw 150 yards to just north of the Cambrai road, and held their position. They had performed very impressively and were able to hand over an organised position to relieving troops. The 9th Btn was the only unit to hold its positions south of the Cambrai-Gouzeaucort road for these two days, during which time they received no rations and their supply of bombs had depleted.
Masnieres 30th Nov 1917
A speedy attack by the Germans at 7am on 30th Nov threatened the British artillery and exposed the left flank at Masnieres. The 2nd Btn played a significant part in the fight to hold them off. Two companies were brought back from the other side of the canal to form a defensive flank as far as Les Rues Vertes. Two platoons of X Coy were sent to help defend the ammunition dump, but that had already fallen into enemy hands. Captain Robert Gee was at brigade HQ when he received the order to gather whatever men he could to deal with enemy incursions. They built a barricade and fought off Germans for 5 mins before a Lewis gun came up. Gee was determined to reach the ammunition dump beyond his barricade, and he knocked a hole in a house wall big enough to crawl through. There he found the storemen dead and the QM sergeant missing. On climbing over a wall to the bomb store he was seized by two Germans. He managed to escape from them with the help of an HQ orderly. He got onto the road to find that 30 more men had arrived to reinforce his group. He split the men up for various tasks and set about recapturing the bomb store. More men arrived from the Guernsey LI and he had enough to establish posts on the 3 bridges over the canal. A bombing party also cleared the houses on the Marcoing road, an action that convinced the Germans that a counter-attack was in progress and they began to fall back.
They had enough ammunition and bombs to supply troops on the other side of the canal and they were able to take control of the chateau. Capt Gee went onto the roof of this building and was able to see the Germans digging in 100 yards away. Enemy machine gun posts were targeted with a Stokes mortar but one machine gun at the end of the village was putting up a stubborn resistance. In order to bring up a mortar the Captain had to reach the barricade from the shell-hole where he was sheltering. He ran back and was just jumping over the barricade when he was shot by a sniper and wounded in the knee. He asked to be allowed to carry on but was ordered to go back for medical attention. His actions on that day earned him the Victoria Cross. The defences of Les Rues Vertes were taken over by W Coy under Capt Lathom Browne, and one platoon of W Coy under 2nd Lt Brain held a lock bridge near the sugar factory. These positions were staunchly defended for the rest of the day and throughout the following day, despite a determined enemy assault. The exhausted 2nd Battalion were withdrawn just before midnight on 31st Nov.
Bourlon 30th Nov 1917
Another VC was being won on the same day, in the Bourlon area, by Captain Walter Napoleon Stone, a 3rd Btn officer attached to the 17th Empire Battalion. These men were British subjects recruited from North and South America by the British Empire Committee chaired by Sir Bindon Blood. They were placed in a long trench called the Rat's Tail which took the brunt of a huge attack made by 4 German Divisions. Capt Stone was ordered to withdraw his exposed company. He sent back 3 platoons but remained behind with a rearguard to give them time. His last stand was one of the great heroic feats of the war. He and his men fought with rifles bayonets and grenades while Capt Stone stood at the forefront, with telephone in hand to report back vital information. It was a suicidal act of defiance and they were all killed. The battalion was, for the most part, withdrawn to a safer part of the line but C Coy remained in the Rat's Tail behind a block and fought throughout the day. An official account stated that: 'the men were really enjoying the experience of killing Germans in large numbers at point-blank range.'
Bapaume-Cambrai Road 6th Dec 1917
Four men of the 24th Btn won the Military Medal for their actions on 6th Dec when the enemy attacked one of their bombing posts, 100 yards south of the Bapaume-Cambrai road. Thanks to the bravery of Sgts A F Wood and E Tarleton, and L-Cpl G Day, the Germans were driven off. Later a patrol under Sgt D McCabe was sent out to locate enemy troops that had entered the village of Graincourt. Not only did the patrol locate them but they engaged them and inflicted heavy casualties. The unsuccessful battle of Cambrai was brought to a close at this stage.