Part Three WESTHOEK

WESTHOEK

At dawn on Wednesday the 8th of August came welcome
news that the 19th Division was to be relieved and taken
back for training. That evening troops of the 37th Division
took over the line and the 10th Battalion Worc’s marched
back to Corunna Camp near Westoutre. On Saturday the
11th of August the 10th Battalion Worc`s marched to
Bailleul and commenced training, then were carried
westward to Wizernes. The Battalion marched to billets at
Nielles lez Blequin. On Wednesday the 22nd of August the
10th Battalion Worc’s moved to Escouelles and Surques
where training was carried out until the end of the month.

The rest for the 3rd Battalion Worc’s at Halifax Camp was
to be brief. On Thursday the 9th of August orders arrived
for the line, and the Battalion again tramped forward up the
Menin Road for a fresh attack.
The failure on the first day to capture Westhoek Ridge and
Glencorse Wood had resulted in a terrible casualty roll in
the Battalions on the Bellewaerde Ridge and in the valley
beyond, exposed as they were to the direct observation of
the enemy machine gunners in those strongholds. To
safeguard the position it was essential that those points
should be taken. Plans had been made for a local attack
with that object by two Divisions, the 18th Division against
Gencorse Wood, and the 25th Division against Westhoek.
The attack of the 25th Division was to be made by the 74th
Brigade, with the 7th Brigade in close support. After dark
on Thursday the 9th of August the 3rd Battalion Worc’s
moved into the support trenches on the Bellewaerde Ridge,
the trenches which they had held a week before. An hour
before the attack was due to start, A and C companies were
ordered forward to take position close behind the right
Battalion of the attacking Brigade, the 13th Cheshire.

29
On Thursday the 9th of August at 7.00pm the 3rd Battalion
Worc’s moved to Bellewaerde Ridge in support of the 74th
Infantry Brigade, two companies going in to trenches part
in rear of the Ridge, and two companies relieving the 8th
Border Regiment at Lake Farm and Railway dugouts.
At dawn about 4.25am on Friday the 10th of August the
British Artillery opened fire simultaneously with one
tremendous crash, and the assaulting Battalions charged
forward as swiftly as was possible in the heavy soaking
mud. They just avoided the reply of the enemy’s artillery,
which in three or four minutes struck all along the line of
the British front trenches. The two companies of the 3rd
Battalion Worc’s lying in close support suffered more
severely than did the attacking troops, who by taking the
enemy by surprise, fought their way forward up Westhoek
Ridge, topped the crest line and pushed on down the further
slope. There the advance was checked. The reverse slope of
the ridge sheltered several concrete block houses, still
undamaged. The 13th Cheshire were considerable held up
and sent back messages for help.

Looking eastward towards the Hannebeek from Westhoek Ridge.

A and C companies of the 3rd battalion Worc’s were
ordered forward. 2nd Lt A.W.Vint led A company up and
over the ridge. By the time he reached the forward platoons
of the 13th Cheshire the protecting barrage had lifted and
the enemy’s machine guns were sweeping the open and
bare ground. He organized an attack and led his men
forward, working from shell hole to shell hole across
several hundred yards of bare mud soaked ground until
they could close on the block house, which was captured
and put out of action by a bold rush. 2nd Lt A.W.Vint was
awarded the M.C. and in that action Private.D.Godson led a
Lewis gun team forward with great bravery and he was
awarded the D.C.M. Within about half an hour from the
start, the objective of the attack had been gained and the
block house put out of action. The victorious troops were
endeavoring to establish defensive posts along the swampy
valley of the Hannebeek. Orders where sent back for B and
D Companies of the 3rd Battalion Worc’s to move up to the
old front line below the Westhoek Ridge.
Then, as had been anticipated, began the severest trial.
From the general directions of north, east, and south the
enemy’s shells came pouring down bursting all along the
captured Westhoek Ridge. Worse still, on the right flankthe
18th Division after a hard struggle in Glencorse Woods had
been driven back to that woods western edge,
31
thus exposing the right flank of the 13th Cheshire. By 11
o’clock all the senior officers of the 13th Cheshire Battalion
had been hit and, at the request of their wounded C.O., Lt
Colonel P.R. Whalley commanding the 3rd Battalion
Worc’s, went forward, and took command.

Lt Colonel P.R. Whalley
Commander 3rd Worc’s 1917-18.
(Stackes)

By that time enemy counter attacks were beginning. Bodies
of the enemy could be seen struggling forward through the
mud and swamps of the Hannebeek. Again and again they
came on, but due to the extreme conditions and mud they
were easily shot down by the British fire.
All counter attacks were repulsed, though the fire from the
machine guns still swept the ground from the right flank.
Throughout the day, Colonel Whalley commanded his own
Battalion the 3rd Worc’s and the 13th Cheshire’s, inspiring
all with his courage and determination.
Lt Colonel Whalley was awarded the D.S.O.

32
74th Infantry Brigade gained all their objectives. 3rd
Battalion Worc’s HQ and the remaining two companies
moved up to the right end of the Westhoek Ridge, which
was being very heavily shelled, the 3rd Battalion suffered
considerable losses during the morning, Lieut. C. Greenhill,
M.C. being killed and Lieut. Randle fatally wounded. Total
casualties during the day officers, one killed, two wounded,
Other Ranks 10 killed, 41 wounded.
Darkness closed down. The 3rd Battalion Worc’s
reassembled west of the Ridge and reckoned their losses,
marvelously light considering the intensity of the enemy’s
fire.
One must remember the dreadful conditions for this time of
the year, as mentioned earlier it was the worst August for
seventy years, the rain kept splashing down, and the area
was reduced to sodden shell holes bypassed by terrain that
was knee deep in mud at worst and ankle deep at best.

The next day Saturday the 11th of August the defense of the
captured Westhoek Ridge area was continued. The 3rd
Battalion Worc’s remained in proximity supporting the
13th Cheshire Regiment (which had lost very heavily) and
assisting them in maintaining the new line gained. Lewis
gun teams of the Regiment went forward to assist the
battered 13th Cheshire’s.

Westhoek Ridge August 1917 (FH)

The German counter attack probably started around 5.30am
– 6.00am on the morning of Saturday the 11th of August,
the attacking German troops would have found it difficult
to regain the ground they had lost the previous day Friday
the 10th, this being due to the muddy conditions, and the
defensive lines the British would have prepared.
Word came to send help to the right flank against an enemy
counter attack. All movement was perilous under the hail
of shells that came crashing down, but Sergeant Tucker
bravely led his men forward through the fire to the
threatened flank. There he established his Lewis guns in
position from which their fire checked the enemy’s
movement.
Sergeant Tucker was awarded the D.C.M. for his actions.
During the morning the Reverend G. M. Evans, M.C. who
had been attached to the Battalion for 2½ years as chaplain,
and who was universally liked by all ranks was killed, and
Captain H. D. Willis, R.A.M.C. medical officer of the
Battalion was mortally wounded. He died the next day
Sunday the 12th of August.
During the night of Saturday the 11th and Sunday the 12th
the 3rd Battalion Worc’s (and 13th Cheshire’s) after heavy
losses, were relieved by the 2nd South Lancashire
Regiment and proceeded to the Railway dugouts, where at
4am they moved by march route to Vlamertinge and thence
by busses to Steenvoorde.
From Monday the 13th of August until Sunday the 19th of
August the 3rd Battalion Worc’s were in billets near
Steenvoorde, training and refitting.
On Sunday the 19th the 3rd Battalion marched to Dominion
Camp relieving the 1st Battalion 24th London Regiment.

Casualties for the last 24 hours were, Other Ranks 12
killed, and 49 wounded, giving a total for the two days of
40% of the strength in the line.
After more research it appears that 21 were killed on
Saturday the 11th of August, and the 3rd Battalions battle
strength on the morning of Friday the 10th of August would
have been approximately 287 all Ranks.
Captain H.D.Willis died of wounds on Sunday the 12th.

Reverend Geoffrey Maynard Evans Divisional Collecting Post Cemetery.

Captain H.D. Willis R.A.M.C. Brandhoek New Military Cemetery

A. German Concrete Block House.
B. Cross Dedicated to the 3rd Battalion
Worcestershire Regiment. The 22 who were killed
probably died from shell fire, as the British could
easily “hit” the Germans trying to counter attack
through the heavy mud.
C. Hannebeek where the Germans counter attacked
from unsuccessfully in the swampy mud.
D. Glencorse Woods where the 13th Cheshire were
held up.
E. Westhoek Ridge.
F. The 3rd Battalion Worc’s would have defended
here about 50 yards forward ( North Easterly )
from the captured Concrete Block-House. The
Germans would have heavily shelled the Concrete
Block-House positions,

Cross Dedicated to the Men of the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment
who died on the 11th of August 1917.

Unknown Soldier of the Worcestershire Regiment.
“Known unto God”.

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9 Responses to Part Three WESTHOEK

  1. Jeremy Davis says:

    Very Interesting information about the battle during Jul-Aug 1917 for Westhoek Ridge. I know from the 11th Battalion Royal Fusiliers unit war diary that they were also engaged in this battle and suffered very heavy losses of over 100 men on the 10th August, including my great uncle. All truly very brave men.

    • ww1ieper1917 says:

      It must have been very difficult in all that mud, I think the loses were much worse than recorded and in many cases battalions were virtually wiped out as an effective fighting force. My great Uncle was killed on the 11th Aug aged 19. He was a sniper, and the Germans had about 10 snipers to the Brits 1. when in general combat the snipers were used just the same as normal infantry.

  2. John Cadman says:

    Thank you for posting this account, which helps to contextualise a piece of family history. My father was 10 years old at the time of these events and I have only recently found out that he had three brothers fighting on the Western Front. One brother, Samuel Cadman, belonged to the 3rd Battalion of the Worcester Regiment and was killed on 10th August 1917. He was 25 years old and is buried in the Huts Cemetery.

    • Joy Marshall says:

      There is a detailed biography of Samuel Cadman in the book The Lost Sons of Wall Heath and Kingswinford published by the Wall Heath & Kingswinford War Memorial Research Group. They can be contacted through their website.

  3. Peter Kingham says:

    I am interested to read your account of this battle. My Grandad Private Ernest Kingham was severely wounded on 10th August serving with 11th Royal Fusiliers and I have been trying to get more information about him and the unit he served in. I have a photo of him and the rest of his unit which I believe was taken at the end of his training and before going to France. He used to tell us that he was caught in a shell blast and was nearly buried alive in the mud, it was a stretcher bearer treading on him and hearing him moan that saved his life although he lost his leg.

    • steve huxley says:

      Hi Peter, My grandfather Private Alfred Huxley was also in the 11th Royal Fussiliers and like yours was injured and then died on the 15th August. I have no photo of him so would love to see the picture you have of the unit. Many thanks Steve. srhuxley@hotmail.com

    • Hope MacCrostie says:

      My Uncle Thomas Palmer also was with the 11th Battalion Royal Fusilliers, and died on August 10,1917 and is memorialized at Menin Gate as they never recovered his body. I have no photo of him and would very much like a copy of the unit if possible. Thanks for now.
      Hope (Palmer)MacCrostie.

  4. My great uncle, L/cpl Alfred Cottrell of the 13th Cheshire’s, was KIA on the 10th August at West Hoek and has no known grave, we have been to the battlefield where he and his mate’s still patrol.

  5. Jack Holmes says:

    My father Walter Holmes won the MC with the Loyal N. Lancs Reg at Westhoek Ridge.

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