Part Four 3rd BATTALION CASUALTIES Saturday the 11th of August 1917

3rd Battalion Casualties
Saturday the 11th of August 1917

The attack on Tuesday the 31st of July had only been a
partial success. The first system of the German trenches
had indeed been overrun, but the enemy’s supporting
defenses, aided by the heavy rain and muddy conditions
held up the attack. Now a fresh attack was planned all
along the front of the Salient. That new attack was to be
delivered for the most part by Divisions from the reserve,
except on the front of the II’nd Corps where the heavy
fighting around Westhoek had already necessitated a
complete change over of the Divisions under Sir Claud
Jacobs command.

On the northern flank of the British front, side by side with
the French XXth Corps, the attack on the XIVth Corps
front was to be made by the 29th and 20th Divisions, the
former including the 4th Battalion Worcestershire
Regiment. On their right the XVIIIth Corps would attack
with the 11th and 48th Divisions, thus bringing into action
the two First Line Battalions of the Worcestershire
Territorial. Further still on the right the XIXth Corps attack
would be delivered by the 36th and 16th Divisions, but
behind them the reserve would be the 61st Division, the
Second Line Territorial of the Worcestershire and the other
South Midland Counties. South of Ieper the II’nd Corps
would continue to front the attack, with the 8th Division,
including the 1st Battalion Worc’s on its left front.
Thus four Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment, the
1st, 4th, 1/7th, and 1/8th were to be immediately engaged in
the action, while two more, the 2/7th, and 2/8th, would be
brought into action if the success should not prove to be
The concentration for the new attack began on the second
week of August. The 4th Battalion Worc’s moved on
Tuesday the 7th of August from camp in the woods near De
Wippe Cabaret, ( the Battalion had marched there on
Monday the 6th from Crombeke Camp.) to camp by
Bedford Farm, where final preparations were made.

Further south the Territorial Battalions were also on the
move. On the first day of the offensive Tuesday the 31st
July the 1/7th and the 1/8th Battalions Worc’s had moved
from Poperinghe to a camp two miles to the eastward. Then
followed several shifts from camp to camp ending on
Wednesday the 15th of August with both Battalions in
Reigersburg Camp on the Ieper Brielen Road.
On the same day, Wednesday the 15th of August, the
Second Line Territorial Battalions also came forward into
the Salient. At the end of July the 61st Division had moved
up from the Hesdin area into reserve behind Cassel. The
Division moved from Wednesday Thursday the 25th and
26th of July. The 2/7th Worc`s marched from Vieil Hasdin
to Flers on Tuesday the 24th of July, and then on Thursday
the 26th to Petit Houvin. The 2/8th Worc’s marched from
Linzeux via Flers to Petit Houvin on the 25th. Both
Battalions trained at Petit Houvin.
There beneath the Duke of York’s historic Hill, ( The
nursery rhyme is usually said to be based upon the events
of the brief invasion of Flanders by Prince Frederick, Duke
of York and Albany, the second son of King George III and
Commander in Chief of the British Army during the
Napoleonic Wars. In 1793, a painstakingly-prepared attack
on the northern conquests of the French Republic was led
by the Duke himself. He won a small cavalry victory at
Beaumont (April 1794) only to be heavily defeated at
Tourcoing in May and recalled to England.

The specific location of the “hill” in the nursery rhyme has
long been presumed to be the town of Cassel which is built
on a hill which rises 176 metres (about 570 feet) above the
otherwise flat lands of Flanders in northern France). the
2/7th and 2/8th continued training. It was an energetic
training, closely supervised by Staff Officers of all grades
up to the Corps Commander, one of the most remarkable
soldiers of the Army, who vividly impressed his personality
on the Territorial officers be causing them to repeat after
him in chorus a salutary maxim, “The natural corollary of
delegation of authority is intelligent supervision”

On Wednesday he 15th of August training ended and the
61st Division moved forward. The two Worcestershire
Battalions went forward to Esquelberg and were carried
forward to Poperinghe. There they marched to camps east
of Poperinghe.
Sunset on Wednesday the 15th of August was red and
stormy, and in its glow the 4th Battalion Worc’s fell in at
Bedford Farm and marched forward towards the front line.
After darkness fell the march proved to be very difficult.
Beyond Elverdinghe the whole Battalion had to march in
one long single file through heavy wet mud past the British
heavy guns, which were firing continuously into the
darkness. The Battalion filed across the causeways over the
canal, and entered the wilderness of the battle area, the
Pilckem Ridge captured by the Guards Division on
Tuesday the 31st of July.
So intense had been the fire of the British artillery that
hardly one flat yard of ground remained. The shell holes
everywhere met or intersected each other, and all the shell
holes were full of slimy filthy rainwater. Across the
desolate morass the long file of heavily laden men
stumbled in the dark, guided only by duckboard tracks laid
during the previous days and already broken in many
places by the enemy’s shells. To leave the duckboard track
was to be lost in the dark amid that wilderness of muddy
pits. Several times halts had to be called to rescue men who
had slipped and fallen into the rain soaked shell holes often
above shoulder deep. Colonel Linton personally led the
Battalion followed by his headquarters staff.
As the long file of men reached the crest of Pilckem Ridge
they met heavy fire from the enemy’s guns.

Ieper 1917 – Barely a building was left undamaged by shell bombardment
in three years of fighting.

Through the darkness the great shells came crashing down,
and their blaze dazzled the struggling troops. Several shells
struck close to the duckboard tracks, causing casualties
which further delayed the march. Several of the Battalion
hit during this approach march were lost to sight in the
darkness and were later reported missing. Notably on
subaltern, and excellent officer, terribly wounded by a
shell, he must have crawled in a dazed state away from the
duckboard track. Several days afterwards the trail he left
was followed and he was found dead in a shell hole.
At length the head of the Battalion reached Signal Farm.
Colonel Linton waited to see the companies pass to their
positions of deployment. Three platoons struggled past.
Then no more came. It became clear that the platoons
behind had been confused by the shell fire and had lost
their way in the darkness. Not more than an hour remained
before dawn, and unless the Battalion was in position the
attack must fail. The Adjutant went back and aided by luck
and an electric torch, succeeded eventually in finding all
the missing platoons, the last of which struggled into
position just ten minutes before the hour fixed for the
attack. Even then many men had to be left sunk in the mud
up to the waist or even further, helpless under the enemy’s
shell fire.

Making the best of it, waiting for orders.

Soldiers of an Allied machine gun company sit in crater holes of the
devastated landscape, conditions where unbearable during the month of
August due to heavy rain that turned the ground into deep and heavy mud

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

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