The 3rd Battalion sailed from Gibraltar in the Ghoorkha on 25th October 1899, and arrived at the Cape about 15th November. Along with the 1st and 2nd Coldstreams and the 1st Scots Guards they composed the 1st (Guards) Brigade.
General Buller was in overall command but the Division was independently commanded by Lt-Gen Lord Methuen of the Scots Guards. Maj-Gen Henry Colville of the Grenadier Guards was the Brigade commander assisted by ADC Captain G C Nugent and Brigade Major Captain H G Ruggles-Brise, both Grenadier officers.
Gun Hill, Belmont 23 Nov 1899
Advancing to relieve Kimberley at the beginning of the war, Methuen attempted a night attack at Belmont on 22-23 November 1899. He sent Colville off with his brigade to assault Gun Hill: although 'They were guided by my Brigade Major, Captain Ruggles-Brise, who led them to the exact spot', Colville admitted that he had miscalculated the distance, and that the commanding officer, Lt-Col Crabbe of 3rd Grenadier Guards attacked the wrong hill. Crabbe was wounded and the attack was led by Major Kinloch. The hill was in fact the objective of the Coldstream Guards, and a faulty map was to blame for the error. The Grenadiers displayed great bravery in the assault and sustained heavy casualties: 2 officers and 23 men killed, 7 officers and 97 men wounded. These losses represented half the total loss of the whole force.
Modder River 28 Nov 1899
The Boers were entrenched either side of the Modder River at the confluence of the Reit and Modder where a railway bridge remained undamaged. The Transvaalers were commanded by De La Rey and Cronje, and the Free Staters by Prinsloo. Methuen chose to send the Guards Brigade into a frontal attack with the Scots Guards on the right coming in on the enemy flank. The 3rd Grenadiers were in the middle with a mile-long front. The Boers were well armed and able to direct accurate fire on the exposed troops. They were pinned down for many hours in hot sun and suffering from thirst and hunger. One Guards officers wrote afterwards:
"We had no cover except little scrub bushes about 6 inches high, and the ground sloping gently down to the Boers from about 2000 yards. I don't suppose troops have ever been in a more damnable position. I sat up occasionally to see how things were going, but only for a moment, as it was always the signal for a perfect storm of bullets. My ammunition-bearer had his head blown to bits by a 1lb shell from a 37mm Maxim, a most damnable gun. I happened to be in the line of it just before dark, and they pumped 6 rounds at me. The first 4 pitched in a line about 20, 10, 15 and the fourth 4 yards in front of me, and threw dirt all over me, and the next two just pitched behind me. I didn't like it a bit...it was the worst I have ever spent in my life. Twelve hours under constant and heavy fire of Maxims, 12-pounders, and other quick-firing guns and rifles, a hot sun, no cover, no water, and no food is more than enough for yours truly... The guns [Royal Artillery 18th, 75th and 62nd Batteries] yesterday fought magnificently, and I believe fired more rounds per gun than have ever been fired in a battle before... We had a lovely wash this morning. I washed shirt and drawers, besides myself - I wanted it. My clothes have not been off since we left the Orange River on November 21."
The battle continued into the night but the Boers would not have been forced from their defensive positions but for the bravery of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and others who forded the river and took the enemy by surprise. The battle was a victory and gained a battle honour for the regiment. Grenadier Guard casualties: 3 officers wounded, 12 men killed, 50 wounded. The whole Division: 68 men killed, 3 officers killed, 16 officers and 368 men wounded. One of the best known casualties was Major Count Gleichen who was badly wounded. Also wounded was Lt Hon E Lygon and 2nd Lt A H Travers. Lord Methuen mentioned the following from the 3rd Battalion in his despatch: Sgt Brown and Private Martin who helped Count Gleichen and were both shot. Sgt-Major Cooke who displayed remarkable coolness under fire. Lt the Hon A Russell showed great coolness in working a machine-gun, which he did with marked success. Capt Hervey Bathurst, Grenadier Guards was of great value in rallying a number of Grenadiers and Coldstreams shaken by the fire.
The 3rd Battalion was at Magersfontein on 11 Dec but were not heavily involved. Thereafter they marched with Lord Roberts' army through the Orange Free State and Transvaal, arriving at Komati Poort on the eastern border by late Sept. In Nov 1900 they were brought down to Cape Colony to guard drifts on the Orange River. To the end of the campaign they were employed in the Colony in suppressing Boer insurgency.
The 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards commanded by Colonel F Lloyd sailed on the Dunera on 18th March 1900, and arrived at the Cape about 11th April. Along with the 2nd Scots Guards, 2nd East Yorkshire Regiment, and 1st Leinster Regiment, they formed the 16th Brigade under Major General Barrington Campbell, and part of the 8th Division under General Leslie Rundle.
Buddulphsberg 28 - 29 May 1900
Rundle's Division was called on to relieve Colonel Spragge's Yeomanry at Lindley but were unable to reach them. Rundle decided to relieve the pressure on Spragge by moving towards Bethlehem. They encountered the Boers in strength at Kuring Kraus and fought an indecisive battle generally known as Biddulphsberg. Little was achieved on the 28th but on the 29th a flank movement was made. The enemy gun was able to cause them much trouble despite artillery efforts to silence it. Then the long grass caught fire which added to the suffering of the wounded, and killed some of them. While the flames and smoke were hampering Rundle's men the Grenadiers were ordered to advance. They were soon met with rapid and accurate rifle fire which brought about many casualties. All accounts agree that the Grenadiers behaved with the most perfect steadiness throughout a very trying day. Their losses were approximately 35 men killed and 5 officers and nearly 100 men wounded. Colonel Lloyd was wounded three times, the last in the abdomen. It was while holding his hand on his colonel's wound that Drummer Haines had his arm smashed.
The Road to Harrismith 26 Oct 1900
On 26 Oct Rundle, moving from Bethlehem to Harrismith, had stiff fighting with a strong force of Boers who held hills commanding the road. The troops engaged that day were the 2nd Grenadiers, 2nd Scots Guards, and Hampshire and Gloucestershire companies of the Imperial Yeomanry. The position was cleared "in spite of a very stubborn resistance", Rundle's losses being 3 killed and 20 wounded.
Some of the battalions were always on garrison duty, and others trekking with columns to denude the country of supplies, to take convoys to the garrisons and to the mounted columns, and to capture commandos, while blockhouse-building also occupied a great part of their energies between August 1901 and the close of the campaign. During that period the 2nd Grenadiers were mainly employed in the Brandwater basin or about Harrismith and Bethlehem.
Thirty-three officers and 36 non-commissioned officers and men of the Grenadier Guards were mentioned in Lord Roberts' final despatches of April and September 1901. These mentions embraced both the 2nd and 3rd Battalions. In Lord Kitchener's despatches during the war 2 men of the 2nd Battalion were mentioned, and in Lord Kitchener's final despatch 8 officers and 9 non-commissioned officers and men of the Grenadiers were mentioned.
The Grenadier Guards earned 4 CBs, 9 DSOs and 16 DCMs in the Boer War. The casualties were, 3rd Battalion: Five officers and 53 men killed, 11 officers and 183 men wounded. These were the highest casualty figures out of the 6 Guards battalions. 2nd Battalion: 2 officers and 40 men killed. Seven officers and 132 men wounded. The regiment was awarded battle honours (regimental distinctions) for MODDER RIVER and SOUTH AFRICA 1899-1902.
The British Expeditionary Force
The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 saw the 1st Battalion as part of 20th Infantry Brigade in the 7th Division (IV Corps). The 2nd Battalion was the first to embark - in 4th Brigade, 2nd Division (I Corps) of the BEF. On 5th Aug a 4th Battalion was formed, for the first time, and sailed to France. The 2nd Battalion was involved in the battle of Mons and the Retreat, with actions at Landrecies and Villers Cotterets. They were also fighting in the battle of the Marne, heavily involved at Polygon Wood.
First Battle of Ypres Oct 1914: 1st Battalion
At the beginning of the war the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards was brigaded with the 2nd Scots Guards, the 2nd Border Regiment and the 2nd Gordon Highlanders. This, the 20th Brigade, commanded by Maj-General Ruggles-Brise, was part of the 7th Division which started out disastrously after becoming isolated and pursued soon after arriving in Belgium in Oct 1914. They arrived at Ypres to join up with the BEF and prepared to give battle between Zonnebeke and Hollebeke. On 17 Oct the brigade was ordered to occupy the ridge at Kruiseik and on the 19th to advance on Menin. However the attack was aborted when the strength of the German opposition was discovered. The Battalion withdrew to a position around Kruiseik. On 20 Oct the German artillery pounded their trenches and then attacked unsuccessfully with infantry. On the night of the 22nd two platoons from no.4 Company were sent forward to occupy vacated trenches by the 21st Brigade on the left. On the morning of the 23 Oct the enemy artillery again bombarded Kruiseik and their attack was directed at the 21st Brigade. Two Battalions of Germans descended on the Grenadier platoons and inflicted heavy casualties including the deaths of the platoon commanders, 2nd Lieuts S Walter and N A H Somerset. The King's Company were sent to support the Border Regiment who were in trouble from collapsed trenches, and were in turn bombarded with some loss. They had to pull back which they did in good order.
On 24 Oct the enemy attacked and gained Polygon Wood. They tried to break through on the left of the battalion but no.4 Company under Major Lawrence Colby managed to drive them back. In this brilliant action Colby and Lt Antrobus were killed along with 100 of the men. The only officer not wounded was Lieut Sir G Duckworth-King. Another platoon became isolated on 25th when the Germans took the trench on their left and the houses behind. Lt Lambert sent 3 messengers for help but only one got through. A platoon was sent up and the enemy was cleared from the houses. Later that night the Germans tried to approach the platoon by shouting out that they were the South Staffords but the silhouette of their helmets gave them away. Lambert ordered the men to open fire causing the death of 40 of the enemy. Lt Lord Claud Hamilton, the battalion machine-gun officer, was also alerted by the shape of German spiked helmets moving along the road behind his position and trained one of the guns on them.
On 25 Oct 1914 the shelling was so concentrated and heavy that many men suffocated under the weight of the soil from collapsed trenches. 60 shells a minute were counted on each trench. The Germans broke through and surround and captured the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards. The Grenadiers were now in a desperately exposed position and Lt-Col Earle ordered them to retire. The King's Company under the command of Major A W O C Weld-Forester was occupying a fire trench and they did not hear the order so became cut off and surrounded. Lieut Pilcher managed to reach Major Weld-Forester and inform him of the withdrawal, and Lt G E Hope brought some more men to him. The major decided to gather his men and make a bold dash for it in the open. The Germans were astounded at their foolhardy action but were prevented from firing on them because their own men were so close. They reached the trenches of the Black Watch and rejoined the battalion the next day. At this stage the battalion had lost 9 officers and 301 men.
The 20th Brigade were moved to a new position on 28 Oct, south of the Menin road, where the trenches were in a poor state. They had to spend the night digging and repairing defences. On the morning of the 29th the Germans decided to force their way through the British line and chose the point where the 1st Battalion were in defence. The enemy attack was expected at dawn but did not materialise so some of the support troops that had been brought up in the night were sent back. When the attack did happen the only support was the King's Company which was rushed forward to assist the frontline companies. Many were killed in this endeavour. The Germans occupied houses to the left and were firing on the battalion which was exposed to enfilade fire as well as from the left rear. The King's Company were led by Major Stucley 200 yards to join up with the support trenches but no.4 Company was still in the fire trenches on the right.
The enemy had decided upon a close formation charge using a mass of men concentrated on a narrow front. This was intimidating for the defenders but it presented an easy target for soldiers who could keep a cool head. To encourage the men and dispel their fears some officers went out in front and were soon gunned down. Major H St L Stucley and Captain Lord Richard Wellesley were killed outright. Major Weld-Forester and Lieut the Hon A G S Douglas-Pennant were mortally wounded, and Captain C M B Ponsonby was wounded. The battalion was ordered to retire to a wood. Here the Grenadiers were reinforced by a company of the Gordon Highlanders from their right, commanded by Captain Burnett. They decided on an offensive action and advanced bravely towards the wood and were enfiladed by enemy machine-gun fire. Past the wood they gained the brickfields but were forced to take cover. A second attempt gained them the cover of a ditch south of the road but this was as far as they got and they had to retreat to their former position.
The CO, Lt-Col M Earle was badly wounded but in too dangerous a place to be moved. The medical officer, Lt J G Butt, was shot dead as he tended the Colonel. It was deemed too dangerous to collect him and he was captured by the Germans. Eleven officers of the battalion had been killed, and 9 wounded. The battalion had started off with 1,000 men and ended up with 250. The only remaining uninjured officers were Capt Rasch, Lt Lord Claud Hamilton, Lt Pilcher, Lt W R Mackenzie, Lt J Teece (QM), 2nd Lieuts Darby and Sir G Duckworth-King. It would be reasonable to assume that the men were due a good rest but incredibly the remnants of the 7th Division were sent in once more to hold the line from Veldhoek to a point 500 yards north of Zandvoorde.
On 31 Oct the brigade was heavily shelled and the 21st and 22nd Brigades, who were in front, had to be pulled back. The Grenadiers were led forward to help stem the enemy advance. They went into the trenches vacated by the 21st Brigade after proceeding through shell and gunfire. They got into the trenches just in time to receive the attack from a huge horde of Germans. But the enemy were disorganised and badly led so that the Grenadiers were able to cut them down with rapid fire. However, things looked very serious for them, and a staff officer who managed to reach them decided to ride off and inform General Capper, the Divisional commander. But this did little good as there were no support troops, although the 4th Guards brigade, which contained the 2nd Battalion Grenadier, was advancing through the wood and would soon be making a counter-attack. The officer rode back expecting to find the battalion on its last legs. Instead he found them in good spirits and beating off repeated attacks. They were soon relieved and replaced by the shattered 21st Brigade. The casualties were not too heavy on the last day of the battle but they had lost 50 more men. They were sent back to Chateau Herenthage where the officers found that their quarters had been destroyed by a direct hit which would have killed the last remaining 4 officers of the battalion if they had been sent to the Chateau instead of going back into battle on that last day. The decimated battalion had fared no worse than the other regiments in the Division in the 3 weeks of fighting. Out of 400 officer there were only 44 left; and out of 12,000 men only 2336 remained. It was acknowledged by the High Command that the 7th Division had performed incredibly and held off the German advance to the sea against all odds. The Germans themselves praised the 'brilliant feat of arms' and expressed their shock at finding out that only a single division had held them up.
Neuve Chapelle, 10-14 Mar 1915
Supported by a 35 minute artillery bombardment, 4 Divisions of the 1st Army advanced along a two mile front, despite being exposed to enfilade fire by German guns which were brought to bear with devastating effect. It was rapidly apparent that the faltering front wave was on the verge of being massacred but incredibly the order went out to continue the action 'regardless of loss'. It was carried out to the last letter.
In the afternoon of the 12th, the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards was ordered to support the Scots Guards and the Border Regiment who were to attack Moulin St Pietre. Owing to the obliteration of landmarks and an almost total breakdown of communication, the Grenadiers became lost in a labyrinth of trenches before finally finding their proper place. After a gallant assault, the Scots Guards and the Borders succeeded in capturing certain sections of the German trenches. Then the grenadiers, seeing further opportunities, moved in support, hurling grenades at the retiring Germans. But the event that overshadowed all else was the advance of the party under Captain W E Nicol, the battalion bombing officer, which was watched with admiration by the whole line. To the fore were Lance-Corporal Fuller and Private Barber who set off separately into the maze of trenches. Fuller and Barber received the VC but Capt Nicol was awarded the DSO when many thought he also deserved a VC. The battalion was decimated and the Divisional General expressed his 'appreciation of the steady conduct of the 1st Battalion GG, which maintained a difficult position in the open under very adverse circumstances.'
The Guards Division
In Feb 1915 the Welsh Guards was in the process of being raised. The Grenadier Guards supplied 634 other ranks and 5 officers. In August the Guards Division was formed at the instigation of Lord Kitchener. This consisted of 3 Guards Brigades, the 4th (Pioneer) Battalion Coldstream Guards, 4 Brigades of Artillery, 3 Companies of Engineers, a Household Cavalry Squadron, a Cyclist Company from the Household Cavalry and various others like the ASC, the Medical Corps, Vets etc. The 3 brigades were made up as follows:
1st Guards Brigade
2nd Bn Grenadier Gds
2nd Bn Coldstream Gds
3rd Bn Coldstream Gds
1st Bn Irish Gds
1st Guards Brigade Machine-Gun Coy.
2nd Guards Brigade
3rd Bn Grenadier Gds
1st Bn Coldstream Gds
1st Bn Scots Gds
2nd Bn Irish Gds
2nd Guards Brigade Machine-Gun Coy
3rd Guards Brigade
1st Bn Grenadier Gds
4th Bn Grenadier Gds
2nd Bn Scots Gds
1st Bn Welsh Gds
3rd Guards Brigade Machine-Gun Coy
The 1st Brigade had been the 4th (Guards) Brigade of the 2nd Division and remained intact. The infantry element of the Division remained unchanged until 1918 when the 4th Grenadier Bn and two others went to the 31st Division as the 4th Guards Brigade.
The Battle of Loos 27 Sep 1915
The Guards Division moved into the battle area behind the 21st and 24th Divisions towards the end of September 1915. These two Divisions suffered badly in the initial attack and had to be relieved by the Guards. The relief was carried out under difficult conditions, and with harassing fire from the Germans. At 1.50pm the Guards left their trenches and advanced to attack the Chalk Pit and Puits no.14 bis on the Lens-La Bassee road, and Hill 70. With the 1st Guards Brigade forming a defensive left flank, the 2nd and 3rd Brigades, under the cover of artillery fire and a discharge of smoke, fought their way forward to seize their objectives with 'vigour and determination'. But the resistance put up by the Germans meant that the Puits had to be evacuated, with dire consequences for the infantry of the Division attacking Hill 70. They came under enfilade fire from the Puits. The Guards already were under heavy shrapnel and HE fire from the enemy, and now they were subjected to a gas attack as they went forward. Although they had suffered heavy casualties and also worked with poor communication of orders, the men of the 4th Grenadier Battalion and the newly formed Welsh Guards managed to reach the crest of Hill 70. They were reinforced under cover of darkness, and dug and wired the position they had seized at such cost. The Guards Division now held a firm line of defence along the slopes of Hill 70 and northward, which established the British position at Loos. They were relieved on the night of the 29th Sep and by 1st Oct they were in billets behind the lines. They had to continue their struggles on the 3rd Oct and the 2nd Brigade repulsed an attack on the 8th Oct in which a VC was won by a Coldstream Guards Sergeant, Oliver Brooks. They were again relieved on the 13th Oct but two days later the 2nd and 3rd Brigades assaulted the Hohenzollern Redoubt and were driven back by enfilade machine
4th Battalion 1915
The 4th battalion was raised in July 1915 and proved themselves at the Battle of Loos in September. Their CO Lt-Col Hamilton fell victim to gassing in the early stages so the battalion was then commanded by Major the Hon Myles Ponsonby. The attack on Hill 70 on 27 Sep 1915 resulted in the death of Major Ponsonby and his adjutant Captain Thorne. The machine-gun section under Lieut Williams had remained isolated in an exposed spot on Hill 70 and on the following day formed an oasis to which wounded men could crawl back.
'About 8.30 that night Lieutenant Williams saw a party of Germans crawl out and advance toward some of our wounded who were unable to move. They appeared to be quite unaware of the handful of men in this trench. Feeling sure they intended to take the wounded prisoners, when their injuries would, no doubt, be dressed, he gave orders that no one was to fire. The Germans crept on slowly, but on reaching the wounded, to Lieutenant Williams' horror, they proceeded to bayonet them. It was hardly necessary for Lt Williams to give the order to fire, as the men with the machine-guns had seen this dastardly act, and the 2 machine-guns soon wiped out the whole party of Germans.'
The casualties in the 4th Battalion from the battle of Loos were 4 officers killed and 7 wounded. The total casualties amongst the other ranks was 342.
Bombing Raid 12 Dec 1915
By December the 4th Battalion was commanded by Captain J A Morrison with a total of 14 officers, but on 10 Oct Major Lord Henry Seymour came to take temporary command. They carried out a daring raid on 12 Dec 1915 which was made possible by the bravery of Capt Sir Robert Filmer who crawled along the front of the German trenches to make a detailed reconnaissance. He was accompanied by Sgt Higgins and 3 men of no.3 Company. The bombing party was then prepared, consisting of 33 men of no.3 Coy. Capt Filmer led the covering party but had to join the bombers who had lost their way in the dark. They were delayed because of the wire but that was soon cut, and Sergeant Higgins led the party into the enemy trench for a frantic fight involving bayonets and grenades. The casualties of the Grenadiers were light and the raid was highly praised by Sir Douglas Haig.
The Ypres Salient, Mar-May 1916
At the end of 1915 the Guards were moved to trenches between Neuve Chapelle and Pincantin. They spent a rain-soaked January improving the defences and in February went to the area occupied by the 2nd Army in Flanders. There was a period spent in reserve camp but then on 16th Mar they were moved out and after 4 days reached the Ypres Salient. The conditions were terrible and they spent some weeks repairing the damaged trenches under constant enemy bombardment. They were relieved in May but came back for more in June and then were moved south for the great Somme offensive.
Captain Vaughan's Company 10 Sep 1916
The 1st Battalion in the 3rd Guards Brigade were moved up to the front line at Ginchy on 8 Sep 1916. The battalion was in reserve, but a gap had become apparent between the 4th Battalion Grenadiers and the Welsh Guards so two companies were sent forward. No.3 Company under Captain E N E M Vaughan was sent to report to Lt-Col W Murray-Threipland of the 1st Bn Welsh Guards. At 3am on 10 Sep the Germans attacked and put the Welsh Guards under great pressure. When Vaughan and his company arrived the CO ordered him to defend the trench to the right of them which had been manned by the Munster Fusiliers, now in a poor state. They relieved the Munsters by sections which took until noon to complete. The trench was at right angles to the Welsh Guards and Vaughan placed his two Lewis guns on each end with a 'double-block' and strong bombing section on the left end, as that was where he was told to expect the attack.
The Germans attacked at 10pm that evening and the situation became serious when they were cut off from the Welsh Guards who were forced to pull back. They were defending a long trench and the enemy were now on all sides. When some of the enemy actually got into the trench they were bayoneted. Sergeant Whittaker showed great courage and skill with the bombing party and was responsible for killing a large number of Germans as well as holding up the enemy's attack on the left. The other company officers Lieutenant Sharp and 2nd Lt Stein were both wounded. 56 men were killed but the rest fought stubbornly, determined to hold out to help the Welsh Guards. Eugene Vaughan's citation for the DSO read: 'Throughout this difficult operation Capt Vaughan directed the proceedings with great coolness, and his messages were clear, precise and cheerful. His stubborn defence of his trench undoubtedly saved the Welsh Guards from being surrounded.'
1st Battalion, The Quadrilateral 12 Sep 1916
The 1st Battalion were placed at Guillemont on 11 Sep and their companies operated separately so that the King's Company under Captain W D Drury-Lowe captured 50 prisoners while filling a gap in the line, and no.4 Company under Capt L G Fisher-Rowe filled another gap. Captain A C Graham led his no.3 Company on a bombing and blocking raid on a trench south of the Ginchy Telegraph Road. Each of the 3 bombing parties was made up of 10 men and an NCO, and the 2 blocking parties had 4 men and an NCO, carrying 25 empty sandbags and a shovel each. The rest of the company carried rifles or Lewis guns. Graham was killed by a shell as they advanced. No.2 Company was within 100 yards of the Quadrilateral Redoubt when it was held up by machine-gun fire. At 6am the whole battalion made another attempt to seize the Quadrilateral along with the 6th Division but the assault failed after they lost many men.
The Somme 13 Sep 1916
The Guards Division did not arrive in the Somme area until the beginning of September so were not present when it began on 1st July 1916. However they covered themselves with glory in the attacks on the 15th and 25th September. In the preparations for the first attack it was assumed that the battalions would be wiped out so a nucleus of officers and NCOs was detailed to remain behind to rebuild the battalion from fresh recruits.
For three days the 2nd Battalion held the northern section of the Ginchy line and on the night of 13 Sep, No.4 Company were ordered to 'straighten' the line with the rest of the Battalion in support. The attack was heralded by 30 or 40 shrapnel shells but this alerted the enemy. They were also illuminated by moonlight and sustained several casualties but they managed to drive the enemy out of Ginchy Orchard. The whole battalion suffered greatly from having no greatcoats for the last 3 days.
2nd Battalion at Ginchy 15 Sep 1916
On the 15 Sep the 2nd Battalion was in the initial advance near Ginchy with three battalions of the Coldstreams who gained so much of a reputation in this attack. The battalion under the command of Lt-Col de Crespigny was in support of the Coldstreams with their right flank on the Ginchy-Lesboeufs road. Their advance was made through heavy rife fire and a constant barrage of heavy shells, and when they reached the enemy trenches they found them in the full control of the enemy, because the Coldstreams had lost direction and gone too far to the left. They had to form in line for the attack on the German trenches and at this time had no artillery support. The division on their right had failed so that flank was exposed, and a gap had become apparent on the left so that flank also was in danger. Machine-gun sections were sent out to cover these gaps while the centre rushed the trench in front with bayonets. Once in the trench they were threatened by German bombers but Sergeant-Major J Norton led a bayonet charge against them. However the attack was beginning to fail and the battalion was forced back. At this point Captain G C FitzH Harcourt-Vernon and Captain the Hon W R Bailey, who was armed with an automatic pistol, led another bayonet charge over the top of the trench and overcame the enemy bombers, killing many and taking others prisoner. The first objective had been achieved by the 2nd Battalion with one of their companies having also reached the second along with other Guards units. The casualties suffered by the battalion were 108 killed and 235 wounded.
3rd Battalion at Ginchy 15 Sep 1916
The 3rd battalion, in the 2nd Guards Brigade, were at Carnoy on 12 Sep and ordered to make up the reserve with the 1st Coldstream. However, for the attack on the 15th they were the right front battalion with the 1st Coldstream on the left front, the 1st Scots Guards as right support and 2nd Irish Guards as left support. They were allotted a front of 500 yards north east of Ginchy. The attack began at 6.20am and they headed for the first objective 600 yards away through ground that was a battered mass of irregular ridges and shell-holes with no landmarks to guide them. Unexpected groups of Germans were encountered which were dealt with but which slowed the advance. No.4 Company was leading which brought about the death of its commander, Capt A K Mackenzie who was initially wounded by a shell but urged his men on before collapsing and dying in the ambulance. Lt Raymond Asquith, son of the Liberal Prime Minister H H Asquith, was shot through the chest and killed as he led the first half of No.4 Coy. He had recently given up a safe staff appointment to fight with his regiment. Another officer, Lt C G Gardner, was also killed. The whole brigade was committed to hard and continuous fighting under difficult circumstances because the tanks which were supposed to flatten the wire never appeared. The battalions became intermingled and formations were forgotten. The advance was quick so that the brigade's right flank was exposed. Lt-Col Sergison-Brooke, CO of the 3rd Battalion ordered one of his companies to guard the flank while the rest made progress with their assault of the first objective. The wire made difficulties for them but when the trenches were reached the Germans were ready to surrender.
The enemy prisoners were sent back in batches but had to run as they were machine-gunned by their own side. The advance had not moved according to plan, the Coldstream battalion having moved too far to the left leaving a gap that remained in German hands. Capt Oliver Lyttelton, the adjutant, took 100 men to attack this gap and became detached from the rest of the 3rd Battalion. They were aided in their task by the 1st Coldstream and a bombing party from the 2nd Bn Grenadiers. It was now discussed as to whether the next phase of the attack could be undertaken since the right flank of the Division was exposed. Patrols were organised to pursue the Germans who were retreating towards Bapaume. Capt Ian Colquhoun of the Scots Guards and Capt Lyttelton led 120 men for this purpose and were joined by Major Rocke and two other Irish Guards officers. They covered 800 yards before occupying a trench and calling up reinforcements. But they did not get them. They remained isolated and exposed to the enemy who were coming back to their former position and surrounding the party. They were forced to retreat but Colquhoun, Lyttlelton and Rocke fought it out hand-to-hand. Lyttleton had a lucky escape when, having run out of ammunition, he threw his revolver at the Germans. They thought it was a Mills bomb and took cover, giving him time to clamber out of the trench and run for it. The Germans did not pursue and the officers and men reached the safety of the Brigade with surprisingly few casualties. However, the casualties for the battalion as a whole were very heavy. Nine officers of the 3rd Bn were killed. As well as Mackenzie, Gardner and Asquith, Capt the Hon R Stanhope, Capt G G Gunnis, Lt E H J Wynne, Lt W A Stainton, 2nd Lt E G Worsley and 2nd Lt G D Jackson were all killed or died of wounds, and 8 officers were wounded. The other ranks suffered 400 killed, wounded or missing. The Guards Division lost 172 officers and 4,792 men killed, wounded or missing.
1st Battalion at Ginchy 15-20 Sep 1916
On 14 Sep the 1st Battalion marched to Carnoy and then to Trones Wood where it spent the night huddled together in shell-holes. It was so bitterly cold that it was difficult to get any sleep, and next morning everyone was chilled to the bone. They moved to positions southwest of Ginchy and spent the day supplying carrying parties for the 1st and 2nd Brigades. 2nd Lt L G E Sim was in charge of 100 men who braved enemy fire to bring ammunition etc to the front line. 2nd Lt Samuelson was sent forward to ascertain the positions of the brigades and found the front trench occupied by a mixed mass of Guardsmen. On 16 Sep Drury-Lowe and Fisher-Rowe were sent to advance through Ginchy with their companies during which operation they were struck by a shell that killed or wounded 5 NCOs.
The battalion was then ordered to advance with the Welsh Guards on their left and the 4th Grenadiers in support, and pass through the front line and attack the 3rd objective that had not been reached the previous day. The COs of the 3rd Brigade protested the lack of artillery covering fire but Divisional HQ over-ruled the objection and ordered them to attack at once. When they reached the high ground west of Lesboeuf they came under heavy fire which killed 2nd Lt Sim and wounded Samuelson and several others. They consolidated their position and were relieved by another unit to rest up in bivouacs at Carnoy until 20 Sep when they returned to Lesboeufs.
1st Battalion, Lesboeufs, 25 Sep 1916
The attack on 25 Sep began at 12.35pm with the 3rd brigade having the 2nd Scots Guards on the right and the 4th Grenadiers on the left, followed by the 1st Grenadiers and the Welsh Guards. The first two objectives were achieved relatively easily and the 1st Battalion began their approach with the intention of passing through the Scots Guards and the 4th Bn. "The German artillery at once directed a barrage on them with considerable accuracy, causing a number of casualties. Necessarily the advance was slow, but the military precision with which every order was carried out under this shell fire was truly remarkable. It might have been a Wimbledon field day judging by the cool way in which the NCOs gave their orders, interposed with cautions such as "Steady by the right," etc. And all the while the shells were falling and exploding hideously.' They had to dig in at the first objective, named as the Green Line, and wait impatiently for the order to advance. They were given the task of attacking the third objective and capturing Lesboeufs.
Their flanks became exposed as they made good progress so that the enemy were able to hit them with enfilade fire. No.3 Company was nearest the firing and took many casualties before they turned to face the left flank. The advance continued in well controlled lines but casualties were heavy. Sergeant Brooks led his platoon, no.14, with great coolness and was untouched, but his numbers were now down to only two men alive and uninjured. Later that afternoon he had his hand blown off by a shell. Sgt Martin was awarded the DCM for keeping the Lewis Gun in action all day. The King's Company lost its commander, Capt W D Drury-Lowe, killed by a shell while consulting with an officer of the Irish Guards. The objective was achieved and the men dug in at Lesboeufs, making themselves secure and protected from the intense German shelling that followed. The total casualties in the 1st Battalion during the consolidation of Ginchy and the two attacks: 4 officers killed, 12 wounded. 80 other ranks killed and 431 wounded. 84 missing.
2nd Battalion, Lesboeufs, 25 Sep 1916
After a short respite from the battle on the 15th the Division was back in the line at Lesboeufs on 21 Sep. On 25 Sep they were sent into the attack following a creeping barrage. The 2nd Battalion achieved their objective in capturing Lesboeufs in a 'thoroughly well planned and admirably conducted feat of arms which reflected the greatest credit upon every unit in the Division.' However they went through a field of standing crops which concealed uncut wire. The men were ordered to lie down while four officers took the very great risk of going forward to clear the way with wire cutters. They were Capt A K S Cunninghame, 2nd Lt G A Arbuthnot, Lt W A D Parnell and Lt A F Irvine. Cunninghame, Arbuthnot and Parnell were killed and Irvine was wounded. But the way was clear for the battalion to charge the first objective. The enemy position was strongly held and the Grenadiers were badly mauled. Lt H G Wiggins was killed by a shell and also Lt M A Knatchbull-Hugessen after he had operated a Lewis gun with great effect while wounded and covered in blood. For the second objective there were only two company officers left and the leadership was mostly down to the sergeants who carried out the work with great efficiency and were highly praised later by the CO Lt Col Champion de Crespigny. Many Germans emerged from their subterranean passages and surrendered, enabling the battalion to move on to the third objective which was taken with comparative ease. They established themselves 100 yards east of Lesboeufs, with the Irish Guards on their left and the 1st West Yorks in the 5th Division on their right.
Arrangements had been made for the artillery barrage to be put down 200 yards east of the final objective, but the position of the trench was marked differently on the artillery and infantry maps, and the shells fell short. This not only caused a good many casualties amongst the men who were digging in, but also prevented the attacking force from pushing forward patrols and occupying the best ground for observation. A furious message was sent back by Capt Bailey: "Our artillery are blowing us out. Please stop it at once." But either the message did not get through or the maps were so inaccurate that the order was not understood, the barrage continued for nearly 2 hours. When the firing did stop it was found that there were no Germans in front as they were retreating towards Le Transloy having abandoned equipment and rifles. Ponsonby's history of the regiment gives the same figure of 108 killed in the 2nd Battalion as in the attack on 15 Sep. But the wounded numbered 222 with 12 missing.
4th Battalion, Lesboeufs, 25 Sep 1916
The 4th Battalion, although in reserve on 15 Sep, had been very much involved, suffering considerable casualties, but on 25th they played a prominent role in the capture of Lesboeufs and went through some of the toughest fighting of the whole battle of the Somme. They were in the front of 3rd Brigade's attack on the 1st and 2nd objectives. For the last five nights they had been kept busy with intensive digging and had only slept, as much as they could, during the day. On the night of the 24th they took up positions in front of Ginchy and in Trones Wood. After a 2 hour bombardment the attack began at 12.35pm preceded by a creeping barrage. Between the objectives were shell-holes containing enemy to be dealt with. These groups of machine-gunners and snipers caused many casualties but were attacked with fixed bayonets. More than 150 Germans were bayoneted at this stage. By comparison the first objective was gained easily. The attack on the 2nd objective began at 1.35pm, making good progress on the right but the left flank was exposed and subjected to bomb attacks.
The 1st Battalion passed through to take the lead and the battle went on into the night during which enemy counter-attacks were fought off. When the final objective was reached the battalion was facing towards the left of the Division to defend the flank. One enemy trench had to be cleared by a tank which flushed out 300 Germans at 6am on 26 Sep, and the DLI took possession of this. The Guards Division had now captured Lesboeufs and were in control of trenches that had been abandoned but still supplied with German rations. The men were able to enjoy these, and at noon had the satisfaction of seeing the Germans fleeing towards their positions between Gueudecourt and Transloy. There were still isolated pockets of resistance that sniped at the Guards but they were eliminated by patrols. At 10pm the battalion was relieved by the 2nd Brigade and they went into bivouacs at Carnoy. Between the 18th to 26th of September the rank and file had suffered 445 casualties. Eight officers had been killed or died of wounds, and 4 others wounded.
CSM Bradbury, 5 Feb 1917
All accounts of the First World War talk of the terrible winter of 1916/17. The cold and wet made the already intolerable conditions almost impossible. The strong sense of regimental spirit and discipline helped men to survive. One story that exemplifies this is the story of CSM G Bradbury of the King's Company, 1st Battalion Grenadiers, who on 5 Feb had both legs blown off by a shell. He asked to speak to the Adjutant, so Capt Pearson-Gregory hurried to him, expecting a farewell message to the dying man's family. "You won't forget, Sir," he said "the battalion has to find a fatigue party of a hundred men tomorrow early." He died soon after.
Pilckem Ridge, 31 July 1917
In early 1917 the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line leaving a scorched earth and booby traps for the Allies to contend with. The Division were moved north to Flanders and went into the line before Boesinghe. Here they engaged in the battle of Pilckem Ridge. On 27 July 1917 one brigade crossed the Yser Canal and established an outpost line. At 3.50am on the morning of 31 July the attack began. All four battalions were engaged in this battle. The 3rd Battalion started off on the west bank of the canal and their attack was concentrated on pill-box defences. Captain the Hon F O H Eaton and his 2nd Company dealt with many of these German defences with bombs and Lewis guns. One block-house put out a white flag and 50 men with 3 officers surrendered. Captain W W S C Neville of 3 Company noticed that the 38th Division was held up by two pill-boxes and sent a party of men under Sergeant Browning and Private Baker to clear them with bombs. This was successful but Browning and Baker were wounded. Neville's Company were ordered to move back to act as support and Captain Neville was organising this when he was shot and wounded. The 3rd battalion achieved their objectives and finished the day with 28 killed and 117 wounded. Twelve men were missing.
The 1st Battalion sustained casualties among the officers and senior NCOs from the start. But they captured 4 machine-guns and 2 Minenwerfers. They lost 31 men killed and 88 men wounded. The 4th battalion, commanded by Viscount Gort advanced through Abri Wood and dealt with pill-boxes, several of which surrendered. Colonel Gort was wounded along with 100 of his men, and 20 were killed. It was in this attack that Capt Pixley had a lucky escape when he was asked to vacate a concrete dug-out. It was destroyed by shell-fire immediately afterwards. The commander of the 2nd Battalion, Colonel de Crespigny, was careful to avoid casualties under his command, ordering the platoon commanders to use the cover of shell-holes. A direct hit on the Battalion HQ caused serious loss but the CO escaped injury. A situation arose on the right of their advance where the Welsh Fusiliers were held up. 2nd Lieut Drummond's platoon was sent to guard the flank but he was wounded by a shell and then shot in the neck. He remained with his company until the battalion was relieved and acted with great coolness. Sergeant Sharpe and two men captured one blockhouse, securing 21 prisoners. Heavy rain caused great problems for the men of the 2nd Battalion that night and they were all caked in thick mud. The casualties for the 2nd were 46 killed and nearly 200 wounded. 15 men were missing.
The Guards had fought their way forward under a creeping barrage and drove the Germans back 2.5 miles along a front of 1,500 yards. This was achieved by 10am, and many prisoners and weapons were captured. However, the rain started that evening and continued for several days, turning the battlefield into a dangerous quagmire. They were relieved and sent back to rest after suffering days in the rain, but were brought up again at the end of August for more of the same. Things improved in September but by October the battle of Poelcapelle and the first battle of Passchendaele were under way and many more lives were lost for the sake of a few more yards gained. This theatre of operations was known as the third battle of Ypres and remembered mostly for the mud and indescribable squalor.
Cambrai, Nov 1917
A new strategy was employed at Cambrai in an effort to break through the Hindenburg Line. There was to be no prelude of several hours of artillery bombardment. The attack was intended to be a surprise and tanks were to play a prominent part. On 20th November the advance began under a creeping barrage, but the Guards were in reserve at this point. The early part of the day proved the success of the strategy but by evening the tables had turned and the Germans asserted themselves and contained the British short of their objectives. The following day the Guards Division were ordered to relieve the 51st Highland Division at Fontaine-Notre-Dame but the relief was not completed until 24 Nov. It is worth noting that the 1st 2nd and 3rd Guards Brigades were now commanded by Grenadiers, Brigadiers De Crespigny, Sergison-Brooke and Seymour.
Fontaine-Notre-Dame, 27 Nov 1917
The objective of the 2nd Guards Brigade was Bourlon Wood along with the village of Fontaine-Notre-Dame. It was a formidable undertaking, because the enemy were known to have been reinforcing their positions for the last few days. Orders for the attack did not reach the Brigade until the afternoon of the 26th, and company commanders were not briefed until midnight for the attack 6 hours later, over unknown ground against unknown defences. The Divisional commander protested that it was an impossible task, but he was over-ruled. The 62nd Division were to attack on their left. The 3rd Grenadiers, with the 2nd Irish Guards and the 1st Coldstream began the attack at 6.20am on 27 Nov under the usual creeping barrage which was not properly coordinated. The tanks were too few and too late, and the Guards were heavily outnumbered. The battalions achieved their objectives despite severe setbacks but they had no reinforcements, while the enemy had plenty.
By the end of the day the Grenadiers and Coldstreams had lost every officers and most of their NCOs, and the Irish Guards had lost 320 all ranks out of 400. Any prisoners they had were able to escape through lack of men to guard them. The Germans launched a powerful counter-attack on 30 Nov and advanced 3 miles, breaking through the former British line. So far the brunt of the fighting had been restricted to the 2nd Guards Brigade but the rest of the Division was now brought forward and ordered to counter-attack at Gouzeaucourt and Gonnelieu. The 1st Brigade captured the village of Gouzeaucourt without artillery support, and the 3rd Brigade regained Quentin Ridge. It was in the latter action that Captain George Paton of the 4th Battalion won a posthumous VC in a gallant defence of a vulnerable flank. The German offensive petered out as a result of the Guards Division's determined fight and both armies prepared for their fourth winter of deadlocked trench warfare. The casualties sustained by the Guards from 25 Nov to 5 Dec were 118 killed and 2882 wounded.
Arleux Loop 19-20 Feb 1918
In Feb 1918 the newly formed 4th Guards brigade joined the 31st Division and the 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards under Lieut-Col Pilcher, as part of the brigade went into trenches at Arleux Loop. The Germans were aware of these fresh troops entering the area and planned a bombing raid with great care and rehearsal. This was undertaken by 60 picked men of the 469th German Infantry Regiment who were especially armed with a short light rifle, trench dagger, automatic pistol, wire-cutters, a watch and a bag of stick bombs. There was a preliminary bombardment which obliterated some of the brigade's trenches. The party of Germans then approached and a fierce fight took place at Brandy Trench. Second Lt Wrixon was sent from no.2 Company HQ to find out what was happening. He passed through the enemy barrage to meet up with men from no.7 and no.8 outposts and he and these 14 men made a stand at Beer Trench. One section of the raiding party crossing open ground was seen off by a Lewis gun but another section came stealthily down the trench and Wrixon ran at them shooting the leading man dead. The next German threw a bomb which injured him but private Coles shot the bomber at point-blank range.
The rest of the raiders withdrew and tried the trick of calling out in perfect English, "Take off your gas respirators and return to your support line." Some of the Grenadiers were about to obey this order but Wrixon shouted out that it was a trick. During the fight Private Taylor had been sent back to no.8 post to collect some grenades but was captured by the enemy raiders. They threatened him and made him lead them back to their lines but although he pretended to agree he led them to the strongest post in the line and as they came near he shouted out and dropped to the ground so that grenades could be thrown at his captors. Taylor sustained wounds from one of the grenades but was brought to safety by Private Cunliffe.
At Alston Post another section of the raiding party attacked but three of them were disposed of by Corporal Horan with grenades. There were Engineers working there and their officer had a narrow escape from a stick grenade. A grenadier called Moore was stabbed to death but Corporal Horan shot the German and the rest retreated. The raiders managed to remove some of their wounded and dead but they left behind 2 dead and 5 wounded, 4 of which died later. The casualties in the 4th Battalion were 2 dead, 2 died of wounds and 5 other wounded. The well-planned German raid had failed in its objective to gain information about the new troops.
Ervillers to Ayette, 4th Battalion 23 - 31 Mar 1918
The 4th Battalion, in the 4th Guards Brigade were moved to an area east of the road between Ervillers and Boyelles. There followed a period of 8 days that were to take its toll on the men. It started badly when they were shelled by the artillery of both sides whilst being attacked by infantry. The next day, 24 Mar, they were under constant attack until nightfall. On the 25th a recce partol reported the approach of the enemy in force so the brigade was ordered to retire to Courcelles. The retirement was carried out under bombardment and many wounded men had to be rescued. The shells were not always fired by the Germans. Our own artillery caused many casualties including 2nd Lieut C J Dawson-Greene who was so badly wounded that he died some days later. The brigade moved to the Crucifix at Moyenneville where they dug fresh trenches. This was a waste of time as they were then moved again to Ayette. On 27th Col Pilcher was ordered to loan 2 of his companies to the Coldstream and Irish Guards battalions for the next few days. The enemy assembled near the aerodrome outside Ayette and were destroyed by our artillery thus giving the battalion a respite of 3 days until they were relieved by the Lancashire Fusiliers. During the 8 day period from 23 to 31 Mar 1918 they lost 11 men killed, 61 wounded and 7 missing.
Ayette, April 1918
The 2nd Battalion went up into the line on 3 April after the capture of Ayette but the trenches were very wet and a shell landed in the trench of no.1 Company killing Lieut the Hon Harold Lubbock and Corporal Teague, and wounding 6 others. They occupied trenches in the Ayette area for several weeks while enemy shelling steadily increased. On 27 May shells killed 9 men and wounded eight. The 3rd Battalion were billeted for 10 days in April 1918 at Larbret and returned to the front line where they were subjected to heavy shelling on 27 April, killing 6 and wounding 6. On 10 May they lost a further 10 killed and 15 wounded including Lt Montagu Towneley-Bertie, the future Earl of Abingdon, who had been wounded before in 1916.
Vieux Berquin (La Couronne) 12-14 April 1918
The 4th Guards Brigade in the 15th Corps took part in some of the fiercest fighting of the war in April 1918. They were required to hold the line at Neuf/Vieux Berquin and Vierhoek near Hazebrouck until the Australian Division could be brought up. The situation was so perilous that the Corps commander issued a directive that no retirement must be made without an order in writing, signed by a responsible officer who should be prepared to justify his action before a court-martial. The composition of the brigade was 4th Grenadiers, 3rd Coldstream and 2nd Irish Guards. The officers and men of the 4th Grenadiers were commanded by Lt-Col W S Pilcher DSO, and arrived at the destination tired, hungry and lacking in digging tools. Their position on the left of the front line extended south west of La Couronne but they were insufficiently dug in by daybreak. At first light the Germans greeted the new arrivals with a heavy bombardment which severely hampered their trench-digging.
On 12 April the battalion was ordered to advance with the objective of capturing Vierhoek and Pont Rondin. The Vierhoek attack failed but Capt Thomas Pryce led no.2 Company in a brilliant house-clearing operation to eliminate enemy machine-gun posts. They killed 30 Germans in this operation and Pryce accounted for 7 himself. They were under constant fire from small-arms and artillery. No.3 Company came up in support of Pryce's men but their commander Lt C S Nash had his hand shot off by a shell. The situation was bad for the brigade because the Coldstream Guards had been held up by stiff opposition and could not make contact with the 50th Division on their right. Capt Pryce's left flank was also exposed and he was ordered to fall back. No.1 and no.4 Companies fared better when they repelled attacks. The Battalion HQ was heavily shelled causing the deaths of the Intelligence Officer, Capt M Chapman, and Lt N R Abbey, and wounding many more. They were greatly helped by an artillery officer, Lieut Lewis, and his team in 152nd Brigade RFA who inflicted heavy enemy casualties. The battalion expended 70,000 rounds killing many Germans who were lying dead in heaps in front of the trenches. The cost on 12 April was the loss of 250 men and 8 officers.
That evening Brigadier Butler ordered the brigade line to be altered so that the Grenadiers had to dig new trenches, helped by the a field company of the RE. The new battalion frontage was to be 1,800 yards long with its left on La Couronne, manned by 9 officers and 180 other ranks. However they were all exhausted from fighting and lack of sleep. Col Pincher had to harange Captain Pryce to force the men to wake up, move to the new position, and dig. The engineers did not appear and there were not enough men to complete the continuous line of trenches that was needed. The weary men had to dig separate rifle pits but were they were not sited properly. This went on all night and at dawn Capt Pryce had to go to La Couronne to fetch 5 boxes of ammunition which were urgently needed. Luckily it was foggy that morning, but this allowed the Germans to move their machine-guns nearer.
When the enemy attack began it was against the 3rd Coldstream on the right, aided by a German tank. The pressure was soon applied to the whole brigade line and Col Pilcher gave orders that the Grenadiers must fight to the end. There was a battalion of the KOYLI on the left but they had to retire from La Couronne so that the Germans were able to work their way round to the rear of the Grenadiers. The enemy was reported to be gathering in force to overwhelm the 4th Battalion but the Grenadiers kept up a good rate of fire which slaughtered many Germans who did not have the advantage of good cover. A company of Irish Guards was sent to reinforce them but they were cut off and reduced to a sergeant and 6 men who had to escape back as well as they could. A Lewis gun of no.2 Company was disabled and had to be abandoned. Lt Philipps in charge of this gun was wounded in the hip.
The enemy moving around to the rear of the position were stalled by the officers and men of the Grenadier and Coldstream Headquarters who held them off, but the real heroics were performed by Captain Pryce's Company who were surrounded and standing back to back to fend off the attacks. They were reduced to 30 men but the Germans assumed the defenders were in greater numbers because of their discipline and rate of fire. This lasted until 8.15pm at which point there was no ammunition left and only 18 men. When the Germans were within 80 yards of their trench Pryce told them to fix bayonets and charge. This was a suicidal attempt but the Germans were so astonished, and aware that any firing would endanger their own men who were all around the company that the Grenadiers were able to complete their charge and return to the trench having lost 4 men. Captain Pryce urged his exhausted men on for one final charge, and that was the end of them. They died fighting to the finish and earned a place in history that should rightfully rank with the Charge of the Light Brigade.
No.1 and no.4 Companies had been subjected to enfilade fire all day and lost their officers. The survivors managed to escape after dark and find their way to the 1st Australian Division who came to relieve them. No.3 Company were surrounded and had to surrender. The rest of the brigade suffered similar fates but they had heroically held the line for 3 days and nights of continuous fighting and digging. Five officers had been killed, Captains Sloane-Stanley, M Chapman, Thomas Pryce, Lieutenants Abbey and Lyon. Lt H Stratford died of his wounds and nine others were wounded. The other ranks lost 504, representing 90 per cent of the 4th Battalion. Over all the 4th Guards Brigade lost 39 officers and 1244 men. Captain Thomas Pryce was posthumously given the VC, an award that should rightfully have been given to all those under his command. Sergeant E Shaw managed to collect some men and find his way to the Australians. He refused to be taken to their battalion HQ, but asked to stay in the line until he was instructed to join his battalion. The Australian officer, Lt Kerr wrote:
'The men of my company and battalion are full of admiration for the manner in which the Guards fought. We watched the fighting in the village and farms whilst consolidating the new line. The moral effect on our troops of the stubborn resistance offered by these troops in denying ground to the enemy, the orderly withdrawal to our line, and the refusal of their sergeant to leave the line when offered the choice of comfortable quarters, was excellent.'
The depleted battalion went into billets for a well-earned rest but on 16 April a shell landed amongst them, killing 3 and wounding 5. The 4th battalion and the 3rd Coldstream Guards were briefly amalgamated, under Lt-Colonel Pilcher's command, for a spell in support of the Australians and on 22 April they went into the front line to relieve the KOYLI. This lasted 3 days and they then went back to receive new drafts of men and were split into two battalions once more.
Moyenneville 21 Aug 1918
On 20 Aug 1918 the 3rd battalion under Lt-Col A Thorne took up positions east and south-east of Boiry St Martin. They were instructed to attack Moyenneville along with the 1st Coldstream and 1st Scots Guards. The 21st Aug was very foggy and this caused some platoons to lose direction. To make matters worse smoke shells were used in the opening barrage. The men had to wear gas masks and this confounded the use of compasses because the helmet and mask had to be removed to use the compass. The Scots Guards and the Coldstream were to go first and the Grenadiers were supposed to leapfrog them for the 3rd objective. But the Scots Guards had missed some of the enemy machine-gun posts, and these made themselves known after the Grenadiers had passed them so that they were subjected to fire from behind. In the confusion two platoons of the Scots Guards charged the Grenadiers Battalion HQ by mistake. No.4 Coy and half of no.3 Coy lost their way completely, and no.11 platoon found themselves heading back to their own trench.
No.10 Platoon under 2nd Lt Duff Cooper also lost direction and met up with a platoon of the KSLI. With the aid of a tank that had appeared through the fog they actually managed to find the third objective, Halte on the railway, and captured it. Lt-Col Thorne sent Captain Fryer with no.1 Coy to meet up with Duff Cooper's platoon. When they came together they made a most valuable reconnaissance of the railway under fire. They then decided to make a daring attack on the German posts that they had discovered. Duff Cooper's platoon captured one post that was holding up the progress of no.2 Company commanded by Lieut Allan Shafto Adair. This allowed them to capture 5 machine-guns and 60 prisoners, earning Lieut Adair, later Colonel of the Regiment, the first of his two MCs.
Mory Switch Trench 23-26 Aug 1918
In August 1918 Lieutenant-Colonel Gort VC was put temporarily in command of the 1st Guards brigade leaving the 1st Battalion under the Command of Major Wifred Bailey. On 23 Aug the battalion was ordered to move east of Moyenneville in conjunction with the 2nd Division and capture Mory Switch trench. They first came under fire at the Ervillers-Hamelincourt Road and moved forward in echelon. They overcame resistance at Jewel Trench and took 50 prisoners. The rest of the advance was a success and objectives were accomplished by 5.45pm at the cost of one officer killed, 2nd Lieut C O Rocke of King's Company and two officers wounded, and 40 other casualties. At 7am on 24 Aug they continued the advance on a 1,000 yard front echeloned in depth. The Germans opened up intense machine-gun fire from Mory Copse and Hally Copse which pinned them down. They had to wait for the 2nd Division to come up on their right but their advance failed. Communication between the companies was almost impossible because they were too far apart. After dark they were able to pull back to the trenches but 2 officers had been killed and 5 wounded including Major Bailey. The other ranks, mostly of nos. 2 and 4 Companies had lost 150 men. Viscount Gort returned to command the battalion that night.
The battalion was now down to 212 men and 7 officers. The King's Company were without a commander so Capt P Malcolm was instructed at 10pm on the evening of 24 Aug to make his way to the battalion. He was determined to reach them and had to ride and walk all night to do so. He made it by 4.30am just in time for the start of the attack on 25 Aug. The ground was covered in thick mist and the tanks which accompanied them could not find their direction. No.3 Company were unsupported when the tank they followed broke down. Their officer was wounded and they were down to 40 men so he ordered them to fall back. Other tanks were disabled because the Germans now had armour-piercing bullets. Heavy fire from the enemy forced the battalion to retire and they were driven out of Mory Switch by enfilade machine-gun fire. However, the 62nd Division managed to deal with a counter-attack and this allowed the battalion to retake Mory. It was now the turn of the 62nd to pull back but the 1st Battalion were able to maintain their position and clear Hally Copse of the troublesome machine-guns. That night they were relieved by the 2nd Battalion Grenadiers and retired to Boiry St Martin. They began the 3-day operation with 489 men and 18 officers and ended with 231 men and 5 officers. Among the dead officers was Captain Malcolm who had made such an effort to take part in the final attack. They had captured 250 prisoners, one field gun, 20 machine-guns and several trench mortars. The commander of the 3rd Guards Brigade, Brigadier G Follett, wrote of the 1st Battalion action to Colonel Streatfeild in glowing terms: "..the finest attack in open warfare that has ever been made."
2nd Battalion 27 Aug 1918
The 2nd Battalion, under the command of Lt-Col Rasch, relieved the 1st Bn Grenadiers on 25th at Mory Trench, and during the night a patrol went out to make contact with the enemy but did not return. The bodies of 2nd Lieut H A Finch and his 8 men were later found 1,000 yards in front of the line. The 26th was a quiet day but the 27th saw many of their number wiped out. They were ordered to advance with the 2nd Coldstream on their left and the 62nd Division on their right to capture the German trenches in and south of Ecoust and Longatte. The companies were organised so that no.3 was to be in front and 2 and 4 in support. No.1 Company was in reserve but as they moved into position one of their platoons was wiped out by a shell. Lt M Ponsonby was mortally wounded and only 3 men were unhurt. No.3 Coy moved forward at 7am under a creeping barrage but came under immediate and heavy machine-gun fire. No.2 Coy was reduced to half its number as they emerged from Hally Copse. They were pinned down under fire from the enemy who were 200 yards in front on higher ground.
The main trouble spots that needed to be neutralised were Homme Mort, Banks Trench and the outskirts of St Leger. Homme Mort was captured at the cost of many men including two officers mortally wounded. Captain Cornforth MC, commanding no.3 Coy decided to rush Banks Trench and most of his party were cut down. But he gained access to the trench with only 3 men left. There they found a good supply of grenades which they used to clear the position for 500 yards, knocking out 6 machine-guns and taking 40 prisoners. More men joined his group and increased it to 25 but they were cut off from the others.
No.4 Coy had a successful day, avoiding heavy casualties and advancing 2,000 yards into the enemy position. They captured a German battalion commander and 180 men but they were so far forward that they were unsupported and had to come back. During the night the enemy retired form their positions leaving only isolated pockets of resistance to be mopped up the next day. On the night of the 28th-29th they were relieved by the 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders. They had only 4 officers left fit for duty. Seven had been killed, mostly from no.3 Company, and 5 wounded. The other ranks casualties amounted to 278. Despite loosing all his officers and leading a heroic attack on Banks Trench, Captain Cornforth survived without serious injury and gained a bar to his MC.