Part Five THE BATTLE OF LANGEMARCK

THE BATTLE OF LANGEMARCK

At 4.45am, as the first light showed through the grey mist,
the British barrage came down upon the enemy’s front line
beyond Steenbeek, and the British battalions pushed
forward to the attack. At first the 4th Battalion Worc’s
where in the second line behind the Newfoundland
Regiment. The struggling platoons crossed the stream
behind the Newfoundlanders and advanced across the
slightly rising ground which lies between Steenbeek and
the Broenbeek, keeping direction by the embankment of
the Ieper Staden Railway, which formed the boundary
between the 29th Division and the 20th Division on their
right.
Just beyond the Steenbeek there occurred one loss much
felt by the Battalion. Captain H.J.Paddison was shot dead
while leading his company. His youth and bravery had
endeared him to all ranks. He was typical of the many
gallant boys whose lives were the price of victory. He was
awarded the M.C in October 1916 bringing in the wounded
after a unsuccessful raid on enemy trenches.
Captain Henry Jepson Paddison was killed on Thursday the
16th of August aged 20. He is buried at Artillery Wood
Cemetery I.B.16.*

Until July 1917, the village of Boesinghe (now Boezinge)
directly faced the German front line over the Yser canal,
but at the end of that month, the Battle of Pilckem Ridge
pushed the German line back and Artillery Wood, just east
of the canal, was captured by the Guards Division. They
began the cemetery just north of the wood when the
fighting was over and it continued as a front line cemetery
until March 1918. At the time of the Armistice, the
cemetery contained 141 graves, but it was then greatly
enlarged when graves were brought in from the battlefields
and small burial grounds around Boesinghe. There are now
1,307 First World War casualties buried or commemorated
in this cemetery. 506 of the burials are unidentified but
special memorials commemorate 12 casualties known or
believed to be buried among them. There are 801 identified
graves.

At Cannes Farm the Newfoundlanders halted to dig in. The
Worcestershire platoons passed through them and advanced
towards the Broenbeek. As they approached the stream at
Broenbeek the ground became much worse, and it was
through knee deep mud that the 4th Battalion Worc’s waded
rather than marched to their objective, the German trenches
just south of the stream. The trenches were taken without
difficulty. Private A. Deeley attacked a German blockhouse
single handed and captured its garrison of 10 men. He was
awarded the D.C.M for this brave action.
The work of entrenchment was at once commenced, under
an intermittent fire from the enemy’s machine guns beyond
the stream and a continuous bombardment from the
enemy’s heavy artillery.

The losses for the 4th Battalion Worc’s for Thursday the
16th and Friday the 17th of August were four officers killed,
Capt H.J.Paddison, 2/Lt R.T. Bowden, 2/Lt
V.R.Wordingham, and 2/Lt C.C.U. Newcombe. Wounded
3 officers, Capt H.Fitz M. Stacke Adjt, 2/lt P.J. Bonfield,
2/Lt N.M.Goodman. The attached Medical Officer, Lt R.M.
Vance U.S.Army Medical Service, was also wounded. He
was one of a number of U.S.Medical Officers attached to
British units, and was one of the first U.S. officers to be
wounded in the War. Other ranks killed and wounded, 113.
Throughout the night of Thursday the 16th of August until
nightfall of the following day Friday the 17th of August (
they were relieved after dark by the 1st R. Dublin Fusiliers)
the 4th Battalion Worc’s held the ground that they had won,
steadily digging in and improving the position under an
intermittent fire. No counter attack was attempted by the
enemy across the marshy Broenbeek, but all around the
thunder of battle continued. Beyond the railway
embankment the 20th Division had captured Langemarck ,
but on their right the 11th Division had found progress more
difficult. Still further to the right the 48th (South Midland)
Division had also made an attack.

The attack of the South Midland Territorial’s had been
delivered about two miles south of Langemarck, from the
line of the Steenbeek near the little ruined village od St
Julien. The first attack was made by the 145th Brigade. The
144th Brigade was in reserve, and the 1/7th and 1/8th Worc’s
passed the night before the battle at Reigersburg Camp.
In the darkness before dawn, the 1/7th Worc’ assembled and
moved forward across the Yser Canal. The Battalion
tramped onwards to Kultur Farm, whence D Company was
sent on to support positions at Regina Cross and Alberta.
That movement was still in progress when dawn broke and
the battle begun, once forward the enemy’s shell fire and
the general confusion made everything very uncertain.
The distained role of the Battalion was to support the attack
of the 145th Brigade in front, but definite news as to the
progress of that attack was difficult to obtain.
At 11.00am came orders for the 1/7th Worc’s to assist the
145th Brigade on the further side of Steenbeek. The
Battalion advanced in Artillery formation up the slope. As
the platoons crested the ridge they came under a very heavy
fire of shells, both high explosive and shrapnel. But the
mud smothered many of the heavy shells, the open
formation reduced the target and casualties were
astonishing light. Not more than about 15 all told during
the advance. D Company moved across the river, while the
other companies occupied the Western bank. Bursts of
machine gun fire as the platoons filed across the stream
showed that the enemy’s front line posts had not yet been
captured.
In plain fact the attack of the 145th Brigade had failed. The
enemy’s foremost defenses opposing the 48th Division
consisted of a chain of posts in strong concrete block
houses. Of those little forts the most important were the
Maison du Hibou, Hillock Farm, Jew Hill, and Border
House.
Further back were other supporting posts, Triangle Farm,
Vancouver, Springfield and Winnipeg. Those posts,
supported each other by machine gun fire, had effectively
stopped the attack. In the 145th Brigade most of the leaders
had fallen, the remainder, scattered and disorganized by the
intermixture of four successive waves, were crowded in the
narrow stretch of low ground between the stream and the
German posts.
46
All day the fight swayed across the open, and by nightfall
Border House and Jew Hill had been captured. Then came
orders that a fresh attack on the strongest fort, the Maison
du Hibou, was to be made by a company of the 1/7th
Worc’s. C Company was selected, and advanced across the
Steenbeek from Regina Cross. The attack was to be made
without artillery support. Relying on the cover of the
darkness C Company would rush the building, covered by
fire from the Lewis guns of D Company.
The bold plan failed. Gallantly led by Captain
A.B.Montgomery, C Company charged the fort, but they
were met with a hail of fire from front and flank. Captain
Montgomery and Lieut. G.H.Haslewood fell at the head of
their men, nearly all of the leading wave were shot down,
and the attack was stopped dead, while the support fire
from D Company was smothered by the German machine
guns on Hillock Farm. The survivors of C Company dug in
about 100 yards from the fort and there held on.
Losses of C Company in this atttack, besides the two
officers, were 7 killed, 37 wounded, 12 missing. Captain
Montgomery was a New Zealander and an excellent
officer. He died of his wounds next day.

Clearly the Maison du Hibou could not be taken without
artillery support. Presently came orders that a fresh attack
would be made after midnight, this time behind a barrage.
For the new attack B Company, commanded by Captain
W.N.S. Brown, was ordered up to replace C Company. In
the darkness and under heavy fire the two companies
exchanged positions. Final arrangements were completed
and B Company made ready to attack.
At 2.30am on Friday the 17th of August the British guns
opened fire, and B Company attacked. Aided by the shell
fire, the actually reached the buildings and fought their way
in. The attack was most gallantly led by 2/Lieut. H.B.Bates,
who was severely wounded. He was awarded the M.C.

Once they reached the buildings the enemy brought up
fresh men. A fierce fight with bombs in the darkness went
on round the fort, but eventually after Captain Brown and
many others had been hit the survivors were compelled to
fall back.
Captain A.O.Lloyd showed great bravery during this
operation in reconnoitering the enemy’s positions under
heavy fire. He was awarded a bar to his M.C. Other awards
included a bar to the M.M of L/Cpl. A.Breeze, and the
M.M to Private G.T.Bell, Private E.G.Kelly and Private
T.Smith.
By that time it was clear that the Maison du Hibou was a
formidable defensive work and that the enemy were
determined to hold it, but it was equally clear that the fort
must be taken. Until it was captured the position of our
foremost troops, cramped into some three hundred yards of
low ground with the stream at their back, would be very
dangerous. Preparations were made for a renewed attack.
No action was taken during daylight on Friday the 17th of
August, both sides remained motionless throughout the day
amid continuous gun fire. After dark the 1/8th Battalion
Worc’s were brought up from reserve to relieve the sister
Battalion. The relief was practically complete by midnight,
an extraordinarily good relief, recorded the 1/7th Worc’s,
taking into consideration the amount of hostile shelling. No
words could have borne better testimony to the good
feeling between the two Battalions.

Total casualties for the 1/7th Worc’s on Thursday the 16th
and Friday the 17th of August were Killed 2 officers and 21
men. Wounded 6 officers and 118 men. Missing 12.

Further to the right, the Second Line Territorial battalions
were then coming into the battle. On the right of the 48th
Division the 36th ( Ulster ) Division had successfully over
run the enemy’s front system of defense, and gained the
line of the Steenbeek from Border House southward to
Pommern Redoubt. But that effort had exhausted the 36th
Division, and the 61st Division was now brought up in
relief. The 183rd Brigade who had marched forward from
Poperinghe on Thursday the 16th of August to camp at
Goldfish Chateau West of Ieper were ordered to take over
48
the captured line, and on the evening of Friday the 17th of
August the 2/7th and 2/8th Worc’s came under fire.

The territorial battalions moved up by stages, first to
support positions and then right up to the front line. Shortly
after midnight the relief was complete.
The 2/8th Worc’ took over the right of the Brigade line,
with headquarters at Uhlan Farm and extending from
Pommern Castle to Spree Farm, while behind them the
2/7th Worc’s occupied the old front line trenches, with
headquarters at Warwick Farm. The fighting had died
down, and apart from intermittent shell fire which caused
few casualties, nothing happened of importance for several
days.

The 1st Battalion Worc’s also had borne a part in the battle.
The 8th Division had been ordered to attack from the
captured Westhoek Ridge across the valley of the
Hannebeek against the Anzac Ridge, which runs north from
Polygon Wood to where the Hannebeek joins the Steenbeek
east of Franzenberg. That attack was to be made by the 23rd
and 25th Brigades. The 24th Brigade was in reserve, and
thus the 1st Battalion Worc’s spent the morning of
Thursday the 16th of August at their billets in the Esplanade
at Ieper, listening to the thunder of battle in front and
awaiting the order to advance.
That order came soon after midday, and the Battalion
marched off up the Menin Road to the old from line at Birr
Cross Roads. There a long halt was made while streams of
wounded came past. Presently came definite news. The
battle in front was not going well. The first onslaught had
been successful and the defenses of the Anzac Ridge had
been carried, but sharp fire from the woods on the right had
enfiladed the captured position and strong counter attacks
had forced the attackers back into the valley. The enemy
were pressing their advantage, and help was needed.
At 5pm the 1st Battalion Worc’s were placed under the
orders of the 23rd Brigade in support just behind the crest of
the northern end of the Westhoek Ridge. The 23rd Brigade
in front were holding the forward slope, and there was
much heavy firing. Shells struck everywhere across the
desolate battle field, but no fresh counter attack developed,
and with the daylight the firing died down.
49
All next day Friday the 17th of August the Battalion
remained in waiting, suffering a few casualties from the
enemy’
`s intermittent fire. That evening the Worc’s moved
forward over the crest of the Westhoek Ridge and relieved
the 2nd Scottish Rifles on the forward slope. The left flank
of the Battalion rested on the railway embankment and the
front ran thence to the right along a sunken road. In front
was the little farm of Sans Souci and the swampy valley of
the Hannebeek, beyond rose the Anzac Ridge. There the 1st
Battalion Worc’s remained for twenty four hours under a
galling fire, but the struggle there was over, no move was
made by either side, and on the following night of Saturday
the 18th of August the 47th ( London ) Division came up to
take over the line. The 1st Battalion Worc’s were relieved
by the 17th Londoners, and tramped back down the Menin
Road to Ieper, where quarters were found in the ruined
Cavalry Barracks. Next evening Sunday the 19th of August
the Battalion marched eastward from Ieper to Halifax
Camp.
The casualties sustained by the 1st Battalion Worc’s August
18th till August the 19th were 13 killed and 39 wounded.

The 8th Division was being withdrawn to rest and next day
busses carried the 1st Battalion Worc’s to rejoin the 24th
Brigade at Caestre. There the Battalion found billets at La
Brearde and a big draft of reinforcements, 317 other ranks
from the Territorial and Reserve Battalions, on the whole a
very good draft. It was indeed unusual at that stage of the
war for so big a draft to be composed wholly of men of the
same Regiment.

Meanwhile the 4th Battalion also were due a rest.
Throughout August the 18th the 4th Worc’s remained in
reserve near General Farm, not without loss, for the
enemy’s artillery was active and several heavy shells struck
the reserve position. That evening the Battalion was
ordered back to rest, and marched back from General Farm
across the Yser canal into Boesinghe Chateau, but this rest
was short. Orders came next day for the 88th Brigade to
take over the front line of the Division. The 4th Battalion
Worc’s moved forward that night Sunday the 19th of
August to Monday the 20th of August.
50
Into support positions on the extreme left of the British
line, beside the French. Battalion Headquarters were at
Wijdendrift.
During the next days work was carried on to improve the
position, and outposts were pushed forward across the
Broenbeek, but nothing of importance occurred, nor did
the enemy’s shell fire cause heavy casualties. On the night
of Thursday the 23rd of August the 4th Battalion Worc’s
were relieved by the 2nd South Wales Borderers and
marched back, first to camp near Elverdinghe and next day
to camp in the woods near De Wippe Cabaret. The 29th
Division was moving back for rest and training. On Sunday
the 26th of August the 4th Battalion Worc’s moved to
Piccadilly Camp some two miles north east of Proven.
Casualties for the 4th Worc’s from Sunday the 19th of
August till Friday the 23rd of August. ! officer mortally
wounded(2nd/Lt. S. Cale.) On the Wednesday the 28th of
August Captain C.F.G. Crawford was severely wounded by
an accidental explosion in camp. For constant good work
during the preceding operations Lieut. & Quartermaster.
S.Parker was afterwards awarded the M.C.

Thus on both flanks the battle had subsided into trench
warfare, but in the center, about St.Julien, the position was
too unsatisfactory to be endured. More ground had to be
won, in order to improve the dangerous position east of the
Steenbeek, and during the following week there was mush
sharp fighting, in which the Worcestershire Territorial
Battalions were involved.
The first problem to be tackled was that of the Maison du
Hibou. That little fortress had defied all assaults for three
days. We have already told how two successive assaults by
the 1/7th Battalion Worc’s had failed and how the 1/8th
Battalion Worc’s had been brought up in relief. Throughout
Saturday the 18th of August all remained quiet except for
continuous artillery fire, but plans were being made and
orders were issued for an attack that night. By nightfall all
was arranged. Fortunately the during the day had been fine,
and a keen wind had helped to dry the mud sufficiently to
enable a additional reinforcement to operate with hope of
success. The renewed attack was to be made with the aid of
tanks.

51
At that time tanks were passing through a stage of
disfavour. Their first exploits in the Somme battles had
given rise to great hopes. But at Arras they had not been
very successful, and in the first phases of the Ieper
offensive they had met with absolute disaster. They had
been bogged down in the mud and smashed by gun fire.
Many Generals openly expressed disbelief in their powers.
But in this operation against the Steenbeek defenses the
tanks were at last to find conditions which suited their
capabilities.

The front line facing the Maison du Hibou was held by C
Company of the 1/8th Battalion Worc’s, with D Company
in support. B Company under Lieut.S.H Wilkes was
brought up after midnight Saturday the 18th of August to
deliver the attack. The advance was difficult owing to
darkness and also to a very heavy barrage fire which the
enemy, sensing danger, put down along the line of the
stream. Mant casualties had already occurred and it was
nearly daylight when B Company reached their allotted
position of deployment. As dawn broke at 4.45am the
British guns broke out in intense fire, putting down a
smoke barrage along the line of the Langemarck Road.
Under cover of that barrage seven tanks rolled forward
across the stream at St. Julien and then pushed northwards,
past Hillock Farm and the near by gun pits against Triangle
Farm. Then they circled round on the line of the
Langemarck road and opened fire on the Maison du Hibou
from the rear. C Company of the 1/8th Battalion Worc’s
were already firing fiercely from the front and with the
double support a platoon of B Company dashed forward
and into the buildings, killed a number of the enemy and
compelled the rest to surrender. The n by a swift advance B
Company carried Triangle Farm. Together with the tanks,
the Worcestershire lads pushed on to the line of the
Langemarck Road and finished up by consolidating a
position at the cross roads north of the Triangle.
It was a brilliant little success, which made the tactical
situation of the 48th Brigade comparatively secure. Some 30
of the enemy had been killed. 12 prisoners and a light
machine gun were captured as trophies of victory.
Lieut.S.H.Wilkes received a bar to his M.C.

52
From the broader point of view the affair is noteworthy as
being the first definite success gained by the use of tanks in
the offensive of 1917. That success silenced the
disbelievers, tanks were restored to general favour, and
plans were formed which led eventually to the great tank
attack at Cambrai.

On the evening of Monday the 20th of August the 1/8th
Battalion Worc’s were relieved and marched back to the
Yser canal bank. The losses of the Battalion during the
three days had totaled some 70 killed and wounded,
including two officers 2/Lt.J. Guilding, and 2/Lt.W.M.
Jotchem along with 19 men. Wounded 47 N.C.O’s and
men. During that day 2/Lt.W.J. Flower of the 1/7th
Battalion Worc’s was mortally wounded.
On the following day the Battalion marched back to
Reigersburg Camp, where the 1/7th Battalion had already
moved. The two Battalions rested and cleaned up for the
next few days.

Looking out from a captured German Blockhouse. (FH)

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Gallery | This entry was posted in The Worcestershire Regiment August 1917 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Part Five THE BATTLE OF LANGEMARCK

  1. Anthony Delmonaco says:

    This was excellent in the historical sense. I wa wondering what else you found out about the 2/8 battalion particularly the 17-20 of August.

  2. Frank says:

    little remark: it should be Broenbeek (not Broembeek), Steenbeek (not Stenbeek); but nice I could read this account ! Thx

  3. Rosalyn Holland says:

    My Gt. Uncle Charles WINN was killed 16 August 1917 serving with 4th. Batt Worcestershire Reg. This is the first time I have found out how his death happened so thanks for great article.

  4. DMonaghan says:

    My Great Uncle William Monaghan was KIA at Langemack 16th August 1917 serving with what was left of the 36th Ulster Division, Remains never found, His Brother Robert ( My Grandfather) did survive untill he was captured at San Quentin 1918. Thanks for the artical.

    • ww1ieper1917 says:

      Thanks for your comments..Interesting but very sad times. My Great Uncle Albert Bentley Newman, 3rd Worc`s was killed on the 11th Aug 1917 at Westhoek aged 19 remains also never found. Regards Martin Newman

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