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The Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War by H Fitzmaurice Stacke published Kidderminster Cheshires 1926

pp275 -277

3rd Worcs, 7th - 10th Aug 1917

3/Worcs moved forward to Halfway House on the night before the battle. Orders came to relieve 8th Division on the ridge. From evening of Aug 1st to that of Aug 5th remained in position. Heavy rain and shell fire almost continuous. At night the front of the ridge was plastered with gas shells - removal of wounded very difficult due to deep slime. The worst trials were those of 'D' Coy on the defensive flank down to the Menin Road. The position was shelled heavily and the Coy lost half its strength killed or wounded. Survivors cheered by gallantry of 2Lt A Brewer (awarded MC) who showed great bravery and coolness. Other companies behaved equally well, but their casualties were almost as severe. When at last, after dark on Aug 5th, 3/Worcs were relieved, one fourth of the battalion had been put out of action. After relief, 3rd Worcs moved back down the Menin Road through Ypres to Halifax Camp.

The rest of the 3rd Worcestershire at Halifax Camp was brief. On August 5th came orders

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 the 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 Glencorse 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 August 9th the 3rd Worcestershire moved into the support trenches

on the Bellelvaarde 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

the right battalion of the attacking Brigade, the 13th Cheshire.

THE CAPTURE OF WESTHOEK.

At dawn (a) on August 10th the British artillery opened fire simultaneously with one

tremendous crash, and the assaulting battalions charged forward as swiftly as was possible in the

heavy 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 Worcestershire

lying in close support suffered more severely than did the attacking troops who, taking the enemy

by surprise, fought their way forward up Westerhoek Ridge, topped the crest-line and pushed 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 held up and sent back messages for help.

"A '' and " C '' Companies of the 3rd Worcestershire were ordered forward. 2nd Lieut

A. W. Vint led '' A '' Company up and over the Ridge. By the time he reached the forward platoon

of the Cheshire the protecting barrage had lifted and the enemy's machine-guns were sweeping

bare ground. He organised an attack and led his men forward, working from shell-hole to shell-hole

across several hundred yards of bare ground till he could close on the block-house, which was captured

by a bold rush (B) . Within half-an-hour from the start the objective of the attack had been gained

and the victorious troops were endeavouring to establish defensive posts along the swampy valley

of the Hannebeek. Orders were sent back for '' B '' and '' D '' Companies of the 3rd Worcestershire

to move up to the old front line below the Westhoek Ridge.

Then, as had been anticipated, began the severest trial. From north, east and south the

enemy's shells came tearing to burst along the captured ridge : worse still, on the right flank the

18th Division after a hard struggle in Glencorse Wood had been driven back to that wood's western

edge, thus exposing the right flank of the 13th Cheshire. Soon they were taken in enfilade by machine

guns from the wood on the slope above them. By I1 o' c1ock all the senior officers of the Cheshire

battalion had been hit and, at the request of their wounded C.O., Lt.-Colonel P. R. Whalley, com-

manding the 3rd Worcestershire, went forward, and took command.

By that time enemy counter-attacks were beginning. Bodies of the enemy could be seen

struggling forward through the swamps of the Hannebeek. Again and again as they came on, but

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 both battalions

inspiring all with his courage and determination © .

Darkness closed down. The 3rd Worcestershire reassembled west of the Ridge and reckoned

their losses-some fifty in all, including three officers (d) : marvellously light considering the intensity

of the fire.

Next day (August 11th) the defence of the captured ridge was continued. Lewis-gun teams

of the Regiment went forward over the Ridge to assist the 13th Cheshire. Word came to send help

to the right flank against an enemy counter-attack. All movement was perilous under the hill at

shells, but Sergeant G. H. Tucker bravely led his men forward through the fire to the threatened)

dank. There he established his Lewis-guns in positions from which their fire checked the enemy

movement (e).

Two great losses fell the Battalion during that mowing, which deeply affected all ranks ;

the Rev. E. M. Evans, M.C. who had been attached to the Battalion as Chaplain for more than two

years was killed, and the not less devoted Medical officer, Captain H. D. Willis, was mortally wounded. At last on the fo11owing night the 3rd Worcestershire were relieved and withdrawn to a

position in reserve. In the two days of fighting the Battalion had lost a third of its battle strength(a) .

On the next day (August 12th) the 3rd Worcestershire moved back through Ypres to Vlamer-

tinghe and thence by bus to Steenvoorde to rest. At Steenvoorde were found the 1st Battalion,

who had been resting and reorganising during the previous Week.

(a) 4.25 a.m.

(B) 2/Lt. Vint was awarded the M.Ce In that advance Pte. D. Godson led a Lewis gun team forward with .x great bravery :

he was awarded the D.C.M. © Lt.-Colonel Whalley was awarded the D.S.O,

(d) Killed, one officer (Lt. C. Greenhill, M.C.) and 10 men. Wounded two officers (2/Lt. T. H. Handle

(afterwards died

of wounds) and 2/Lt. H. S. Hemp) and 4I other ranks.

Sorry about the note form and shaky text as I only have a pocket scanner!! Hope it helps - lookups in Stacke always available, time allowing!

Simon

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Is there any chance of a look up in the book? for the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiments whereabouts on the 12th March 1915

This is the date we have from the CWGC as the day my wifes Grandfather was killed.

any help most appreciated John

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  • 3 weeks later...
Simon_Fielding

nick - i'm scanning this in bit by bit and it will be with you very soon. there's about three long pages!

sorry for the delay!

cheers

simon

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  • 2 weeks later...
Simon_Fielding

Here we go Nick - sorry it's taken so long! I've a weeny scanner :D and a fragile book! Hope it's still of use!

Simon

The Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War by Captain H. FitzM. Stacke MC Kidderminster Cheshire and Sons 1929.

p. 64 - p.66

THE ATTACK ON SPANBROEK MILL. (Ypres SF)

From the 4th till the 11th of March the 3rd Worcestershire had lain in billets at Locre. On the morning of March 10th the rumble of the bring at Neuve Chapelle to the southward could be distinctly heard. Next day came orders for the attack. The 7th Brigade would take and con-solidate the Spanbroek Mill, as a preliminary to a further advance. The battalions detailed for the attack were the 3rd Worcestershire and the 1st Wiltshire, with the 2nd South Lancashire support. The assault was timed for 8-40 a.m. next morning (April 12th).

The frontline trenches of the 3rd Division were then held by the battalions of the 85th Brigade (a) and the assaulting battalions, after a night march from their billets at Locre, formed up at dawn of March 12th in newly dug assembly trenches behind the front line. Then came orders that the assault was postponed. The previous two days had been misty. On the morning of March 12th the mist, which further south was even then veiling the Bavarian counter-attack against Neuve ChapeIle, had deepened on the Messines Ridge to a dense white fog through which nothing could be seen. The British artillery had been bombarding the enemy's positions since 7 am. but the mist made it impossible to observe the result. Waiting before an attack is never pleasant. The assembly trenches were only half dug and were full of water. In such cover as those shallow trenches afforded the two battalions crouched all the morning while the German shells crashed down about them in answer to the British fire.

Slowly the mist cleared, and as it cleared the German fire became more accurate. There were many casualties. Even to the Staff in rear the success of the attack appeared problematical, "I think there was still some doubt whether the assault would take place,'' wrote an officer at 7th Brigade Headquarters, “when a message arrived to say that the First Army were making excellent progress down south, that there were indications of the Germans withdrawing troops from these parts, and that therefore our attack should not be delayed a moment longer than possible.'' The die was cast ; the British artillery definitely opened their bombardment at 2-30 p.m. , and at 4

4-10 p.m. the leading companies of the two battalions rose from the waterlogged ditches, crossed the front- line trenches by temporary plank-bridges under a hail of bullets and I)lunged forward through knee-deep mud to the assault.

“C'' Company, led by Captain J. Goff, rushed forward up the slope, followed closely by '' A '' company under Captain G. E. Hewett. The enemy's fire was fierce and deadly, and officers and men went down at every step. The survivors plunged on through the mud, reached the German wire entanglements and struggled through such gaps as they could find. The leading party was headed by 2/Lieut. A. HoIland (B), closely followed by Sergt. R. Drinkall, Sergt. A. E. Ince and W. Mansell. They broke through the wire and stormed the hostile parapet. A few minutes fierce fighting sufficed to clear a short length of trench. Then the subaltern rallied his party under cover in the trench and prepared to make good the ground gained. He had with him no more than 40 N.C.O's and men. Lieutenant C. G. Martin of the Royal Engineers had reached the trench and directed the work of consolidation. Another Worcestershire subaltern, 2/ILieut. W. H. Clarke, was dragged into the trench, mortally wounded, only to die shortly afterwards.

Further to the right another small party had succeeded in breaking through the German lines and seizing a group of ruined houses. That was the total success. The rest of the two attacking companies of the 3rd Worcestershire had been shot down, and were lying killed or wounded on the broken mud between the trench-lines. The other two companies of the Battalion had been

ordered not to move from the assembly trenches. On the left the attack of the 3rd Wiltshire had failed as signally : not a man had reached the German lines.

Soon the enemy began to press inwards along the trenches with bomb and bayonet against the two little parties which had penetrated their position. Isolated though they were, the Worcestershire lads held firm and repulsed all attacks for over three hours. But no help came : instead the British artillery, misinformed as to the position, commenced again to bombard the German

front line, and annihilated the hapless party in the ruined buildings.

If 2/Lieut. Holland's party was to avoid a similar fate it was urgently necessary that news of their position should be sent back : and it was not possible to establish signal communication.

Corpl. W. Mansell volunteered to take back a message, and boldly worked his way across the open from trench to trench. He was fired on all the way and was hit three times ; but he persisted in the attempt , reached safety and made his report. Then, after having his three wounds dressed, he bravely returned again to the battle, worked his way again across the open to the captured trench and resumed his place in the defence © .

The defence was maintained until dusk. Lieutenant C. G. Martin R.E. showed great bravery (d) , and Sergeants Ince and Drinkall were conspicuous for ability and determination, grimly holding an improvised sandbag block under a continuous fire of bombs (a) . Outside the trench efforts were made to rescue the wounded. Two of the Battalion stretcher-bearers, Corpl. B. Whittington

and Pte. W. Suffolk crawled forward across the open under heavy fire and brought back stricken men from the German wire entanglements (f).

Darkness closed down, and a report on the situation was carried back by Sergeant Ince and Private .I. C. Wooton, who returned to Lieut. Martin bearing orders to evacuate the captured trench. The General had decided to accept the failure rather than uselessly to sacrifice more lives. The little party under Lieuts. Martin and Holland made their way back. Game to the last, they sent back all their wounded (a) before they finally withdrew.

The losses in that disastrous attack were severe. The two attacking companies were almost annihilated. The casualties of the Battalion were nearly 180, including nine officers killed (B).

After the return of 2/Lieut. Holland's party, the companies of the 3rd Worcestershire made their way back to billets behind Locre. There the Battalion rested and reorganised for three days.

On March 16th the 3rd Worcestershire again moved forward and once more took over the same trenches. Many of the dead still lay there awaiting burial, and that sad duty was the principal occupation of three depressing days. Firing on both sides had died down, and there was little activity to record © .

(a) During February this Brigade had replaced the 9th Brigade in the 3rd Division.

(B) Dorsetshire Regiment, attached .

© Capt. Mansell was awarded a bar to his D.C.M.

(d) Lt. Martin, R.E., was awarded the V.C.

(e) Sergts. Ince and Drinkall were awarded the D.C.M.

(f) Corpl. Whittington and Pte. Suffolk were awarded the D .C.M.

(a) The work of removing the wounded was carried out by Sergt. Ince, who personally rescued several men.

(B) Killed : Nine officers -Captain G. E. Hewett, It. C. G. D. Loos, 2/Lts. C. F. Moore, W.H. Clarke, F. B. Burr, T. Freeman, E. M. Mansell-Pleydell (Dorsets, attached) , M. J. Murphy, W. B. Barling, and 38 other ranks.

Wounded, 99. Missing 32.

© Casualties, 16th - 19th March, 1 killed.

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  • 3 years later...
Guest lee johnson

John W,

Did you get a copy of the War Diary for the period you were after, if not I may have it on my computer and could send it on,

Let me know.

Lee

leejohnson1@talktalk.net

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